30 Days of Gratitude – Day #1


I very often talk about the things I am thankful for – particularly my wife Lisa and our boys Danny & Chris. They are the backbone of my life and the source of eternal springs of joy and happiness. I also write about many other things I am thankful and grateful for.

Since Thanksgiving is on my mind, I thought it would be a fun exercise to make a daily post noting something I am thankful for. Just a quickie, something I know I can do even with the very limited time I have for blogging these days.


Day #1 – My Oh-So Tolerant Feet and Legs

Look at those sorry, worn-out sad shoes above. They are the Saucony Virrata 2s I got with my birthday money back in early April. As I wore them just over a month ago for one of my normal daily runs, I could finally feel it – they were *done*.

But that wasn’t a surprise – I felt early on they wouldn’t last, but then they stabilized and held out really well. In that picture they have nearly 1350 miles on them. Yes, 1350. Given that pretty much every estimate of running shoe life says to change out shoes <500 miles, that is astounding. Most of my shoes have lasted over 1000 miles, with only the New Balance Minimus 2 dying at about 900 miles (ok, they died by 600 but I refused to give up and it was winter and I didn't want to put the weather-wear on new shoes).

These are not amazing shoes – I know many people who get only 400 miles on the Virratas (or Kinvaras or Nike Free and so on). They just work well with my body, and allow me to keep running comfortably long after the initial cushion has flattened out. My body it really great in how it allows this to happen, coupled with what is a pretty solid stride pattern – I am not a young guy, and I have friends who strike their feet away from the center of their body and really feel every mile.

So thanks to my feet and ankles and knees and hips for allowing me to push the life of my shoes without resulting in injury.

How do you deal with shoe life?

Six Things Saturday #IV – Running in the Land of Reality

Never Going to Burn Off Crazy

Image Source

Another week has come and gone, and there is no end to the cold weather … or the great running articles. Actually what I am talking about this week is a combination of new and old – some new things combined with a couple of drafts I’ve had sitting around since last year that I have stripped down. Do you ever do that? So let’s get right to it!

1. Dealing with Our Natural Limitations As Runners

I already mentioned the excellent posts by Amanda and Harold in my Tuesday post this week, but there is a quote that has stuck with me:

it will not change who I am and the limitations that I have as a runner.

What he was talking about was contrasting the reality of our own physical strengths and weaknesses with the blogs that seem to promote the idea that with the right food, right workout plan, right book, playlist or whatever we can suddenly become an elite runner.

So many runners get involved with the sport with dreams of running a marathon or competing to qualify for the Boston Marathon or some other lofty goal – then grab on to a plan they read somewhere and go gangbusters, and eventually run into the reality of their own potential. Maybe they are not overly fast, maybe long distances are not their forte, or perhaps they are able to reach their potential.

But wherever they land, it is based on based on their ability rather than some blog post or ‘essential tip’ from RW or Competitor or Greatist. And as we age, our body eventually reaches a point of decline. Those are all realities … and while finding the right online resource or hooking up with a coach can help maximize our potential or minimize certain negative impacts, it cannot change our physical reality.

2. Another Runner Killed Tragedy

Any time I read about the death of anyone, it is tragic – there is never a right time, a right place, any way to prepare. But I will admit that there are some cases – children and young parents in particular – that really strike a chord. Also, with how much I run and how often I am on the roads when cars go by and I see people distracted, speeding being aggressive or whatever … every time I hear about a runner being killed, it feels like a part of my extended family has been lost.

So when I read this post at Jessica’s blog about how a 31-year old single mother of two was struck and killed last week … it was very saddening. There is also a fund set up for the daughters which has nearly $90,000 of support already. It is unclear the status of the father of the girls.

It is yet another tragic reminder of (a) how important it is to maximize your safety when running and (b) there is absolutely no way to be ‘risk free’.

Today is a ‘Run for Jaime’, so if you DO go out today, post about it on Twitter using #runforjaime

3. Rotating Shoes Lowers Risk of Injury

One of the drafts I have had sitting around since I started the blog was about a NIH study that noted how rotating running shoes could reduce the risk of injury. The report, titled Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk?, was the first of its kind and noted that (statistical elements removed):

The adjusted Cox regression analysis revealed that the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor , while previous injury was a risk factor. Additionally, increased mean session distance and increased weekly volume of other sports were associated with lower RRI risk.

So what that tells us is that rotating shoes lowers risk of injury, whereas previous injury raises the risk. Also interesting is that running MORE is correlated with lower risk, as is more general sports activity. You can also read coverage of this study at Runner’s World.

This week at RunBlogger, Pete linked to a blog post at Running Research Junkie that covered a new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I will use the same quote as Pete:

“This was a prospective cohort study in which the runners that were recruited recorded training related data. They compared the training data between the group that got an injury and the group that did not.

What they found was:

those that ran more than 2hrs a week were at a lower risk for injury
parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was protective
the week-to-week absolute change in distance was protective
a previous injury was a risk factor (which pretty much every study has also shown)
I don’t have much of a critique of the study as what we know is just based on the abstract above, but nothing jumps out at me at this stage as being an issue.”

The researchers in both studies concluded that different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, which then lessens focused strain on any particular area.

So what do you think? Do you rotate shoes? I have never been good about this, but have known for a while that it is a good idea … but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

4. Tapering Pros and ? Cons ?

It wasn’t until just before my first half-marathon that I’d even HEARD of tapering, let alone done it! What IS tapering? It is a reduction in activity level leading up to an event such as a marathon, with the goal of getting the body to the best possible state to run a race.

Most people have some sort of training plan for a marathon or half-marathon that involves a build-up of weekly mileage and a change in your diet to better fuel your workouts and recovery periods. Recovery was another thing I never really knew about – that it was AFTER the workout your body built the muscle based on your activity. Which is why the importance of ‘recovery foods’ is touted so often.

Over the last two years I have learned that while training we are building up fatigue levels, to the point where many experts say you are better off running two semi-long 2-hour runs on consecutive days than an extra-long single day run because of how the body deals with the chronic fatigue and recovery.

So with week after week of constantly increasing mileage, you are continuing to create fatigue in your muscles but not giving them time to fully recover. This can only continue for so long until you either plateau or hurt yourself. This is where tapering comes into play!

You can find loads of resources about the benefits of tapering such as at Active.com, Competitor and MapMyFitness.

So I was surprised to read some posts on blogs proclaiming that tapering was useless or even bad. It didn’t make sense – until I looked and saw they were all one-person anecdotes based on a single race (I got a PR without tapering … therefore tapering is bad; or I had a crappy race … tapering is bad). The general advice is that – yes, you should taper if you have put in the considerable effort and mileage of most training plans (>30 miles/week for marathon training).

During taper we are looking at a compromise between glycogen storage/fresh nervous system (benefits of tapering), and the loss of aerobic fitness (drawbacks of tapering). For those preparing for a marathon using a typical training plan, tapering for two weeks before the race will provide a clear benefit. For somebody who does NOT run a whole lot of mileage tapering could cause enough of a drop of aerobic fitness that it is not compensated in other areas.

And that distinction makes sense – because like all things there is no absolute truth, and since athletes heading into a half or full marathon come from an incredible range of training programs, it is impossible for a one-size fits all solution to work. In fact, Greg McMillan had an article several years ago talking about ‘peaking’ rather than tapering, which talked about NOT reducing the number of days you run but dropping your volume. Other articles talk about how over-tapering (7 days no running or any sort of exercise) can leave you feeling leg-heavy and rubbery, and under-tapering can have you feeling fresh at the start but quickly fatigue over the first half of the race.

So what is YOUR tapering strategy?

5. Weight and Health

One of the more surprising recent findings in health studies is that the conventional wisdom of being overweight putting us at increased health risks might not be true at all, as summarized at Greatist:

Perfect health is a complete myth. We all exist on a spectrum from the most to least healthy among us, and these designations are affected by a huge range of factors, from genetics, to nutrition, to fitness, to socioeconomics. There is no conclusive proof that simply being overweight means that a person’s health is in trouble.

I’m going to be honest – I think the article is pretty lousy, meandering (I’m one to talk) and unfocused. The biggest criticism is of the use of BMI as a singular health metric, and really the entire thing could be replaced with a recommendation to ditch BMI and “Do you eat well? Do you exercise regularly? These questions are more important than the number on the scale, which is sometimes nothing more than a distraction.”

A few other cool health-related reads? There is one over at Greatist with 89 ‘swaps’ that could change your life. Here is one I keep saying I am going to do … eventually (should be a 2014 goal for me):

14. Foam rolling for static stretching. Need to get the knots out? Try using a foam roller instead of sitting and stretching to the toes. It’s almost like a personal massage.

Also at Greatist there is an article about 5 reasons to see a doctor even if you are healthy. This is something I STRONGLY recommend – you might be in your 20s and great health now, but if you don’t know how your numbers tend to run, you will have no basis for comparison later on … and since ‘normal’ is a fairly broad range, you DO want to know your numbers:

Feeling indestructible can lead young adults to overlook important components of health and wellness. Taking the time up-front to build a health portfolio with a physician acts as a safety net and helps to ensure that patients are able to accrue the benefits of wellness across a lifetime.

Do you see your doctor regularly? If not, please make it a priority!

6. The ‘Forbidden’ Shirt

As I seem to say every week, I love all of the blogs I discover and what I learn from them. Last week there was a post at Tripping the Kenyans called The Forbidden Shirt, which talks about whether or not you should wear the shirt for a race AT that race.

I remember my first few races where we got shirts, and I would ALWAYS put on the race shirt. I thought along the same lines as the position noted in the article:

You may think I’m crazy and wondering “Why shouldn’t someone wear the shirt given to them specifically for that race?”

I looked at it this way: getting a shirt is part of the sign-up fee, getting a medal is for finishing. But what if a race gives shirts but no medals (I’ve had several of those)? I had never thought about that …

But as he notes, for veteran runners things are simpler and more clear-cut:

And this “forbidden shirt” rule is one that numerous veteran runners told me before my very first race.

It’s a commonly held belief amongst runners that wearing the shirt for a particular race when you actually run that race is bad luck.


Because you haven’t crossed the finish line yet. You haven’t earned it.

To do this is to risk offending the running gods and have them punish you with a bad finish time, runner’s trots or even the dreaded DNF.

So that is the thought – anything related to your current race needs to be earned by completing the race. It sort of makes sense, even if I think it is a little bit of an over-thought. From now on, you can be sure I won’t wear the ‘forbidden shirt’, but I will definitely be looking around to see who does!

Bonus. Running in Space

OK, a friend on Google+ forwarded this great post at Gizmodo, which highlighted a Tweet from the International Space Station:

Ran for ~1 orbit today. 12 miles on the treadmill while the station travelled more than 25,000 miles. I’ve now run around the world.

Happy Saturday! Did you find any cool running links to share?

Six Things Saturday #III – Live Blogs, Running Shoes, Bad Science and More!

Last 2014 Cold Selfie1

Happy Saturday – and welcome to the warm-up if you live in the eastern states! We hit 40F yesterday afternoon and are supposed to get close to there today. I am terribly excited to get out for an afternoon run in this weather. So my lead image is from Thursday morning this week when it was still ‘Polar Vortex’ … and I am declaring it my FINAL SUB-ZERO SELFIE for this winter … let’s just hope that makes it true!

1. Live Blogging Your Run

In what was one of the coolest things I read all week, Laura from the Gluten Free Treadmill (formerly AndThisIsThirty) actually live-blogged her 32-mile treadmill training run yesterday.

Here is Mile 18:

Mile 18: the first thing to really get and stay consistently sore is my hamstrings, quads and IT Bands. Not in any debilitating way, but just sore. Makes stepping off the treadmill a little rough, so I’m going to try to avoid doing that as much as possible (e.g. Minimize bathroom breaks). And yes, Michael, that subtitle is appropriate (see comments).

Her remark has to do with one of my comments being “Subtitle: Laura’s treadmill-to-potty adventures …”

2. Helpful Articles and Tips

I love finding and sharing cool articles about running and everything else, but sometimes you find a post that already did that for you … so I am just going to point you to check out Sara’s blog post from Friday with a number of cool articles to read.

She took a look at a couple of articles that look at running performance that can predict your race-day readiness, ‘best advice ever’ from various elites (given how many of those types of articles there are, she found one of the few actually worth reading), hit on heart rate training similar to an article I cited last week (really looking forward to trying this out in the spring), and a few others. Check out her links, some good stuff there … oh, and one that blended small science with big claims. Leading me to …

3. The Danger of Taking Every Small Study as Law

As someone who makes a living in measurement science and statistics, it might seem odd that I would be so quick to call for skepticism when reading studies. In reality, that is EXACTLY what we should ALWAYS do. Don’t just say ‘oh – someone proved this, so it must be so’. Because in experimentation, all we can do is amass evidence to disprove things, or lack the evidence to disprove them. That isn’t the same as ‘proving things true’.

Sadly so much of science has become politicized, with only snippets of results being picked to put forward a point. Sometimes the actual conclusions say the exact opposite … but with enough of a push the ‘politicized results’ become fact.

This was definitely true with barefoot running, where in 2010 there were ‘conclusive findings’, only to be contradicted within a couple of years … except that many of the things from the original were not ever stated as being absolutely conclusive – but between blogs and traditional media it got cast that way. Oh, and people selling shoes LIVE for this sort of stuff.

I mention this because in Sara’s links is a study citing some positive results for the Spirulina additive. But the study used 9 people across 4 weeks, and all of the people in the study were young athletes in good physical condition.

The problem is that the study and at least this summary article state things in a fairly conclusive light. Oh – and that summary article talks about ‘reading between the lines’ and extrapolating to people never included in the studies. Which is pretty much the type of conclusion that will take off and be used to push marketing, and then be debunked in a few years.

For me it always comes back to this – researchers are generally looking to test hypotheses, and are fine with whatever happens. But when you see a study covered in a blog or media post … start looking for the ‘money trail’. Because if you start seeing more and more ‘spiraling’ sponsored blog posts soon pushing these benefits (there have already been a bunch in 2013 I have seen pushing other studies), then you can be sure it is all about the money.

4. Those Carb/Fat/Protein Percentages? All Wrong!

Of course, while that is what this article at competitor says, I would immediately counter by saying that they are simultaneously ‘all right’. What I mean is that based on how your body works, what your goals are and what your training looks like … your numbers will be different. Here is a quote:

“Percentages are meaningless, because it is the absolute amount of carbohydrate and protein that matters,” said Asker Jeukendrup, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of different amounts of carbohydrate and protein intake on endurance performance. “How much you need depends on your goals and the amount of training you do.”

In other words, what matters is not the relative proportions of carbs, fat, and protein you eat, but the basic quantity measured as total calories or grams. And since macronutrient needs vary depending on training volume, there is no single macronutrient ratio that could possibly meet the needs of every athlete.

Translation: What works for me … works for me. As athletes, we all want to find what will keep us full and fueled and satisfied and aid our recovery as well as boosting our performance. Some look to performance enhancers or additives or other ‘secrets’, others follow ‘guaranteed to succeed’ methods and blame themselves if they fail, and others just fuel with whole foods and do what works for them. Does anyone believe that balancing to a 1% error will be the difference between success and failure in our next race? I hope not!

Here is the conclusion that is the REAL message “Getting the right balance of macronutrients requires a little math, but it beats using a one-size-fits-all formula that doesn’t really fit all.”

5. What if Everyone Ran?

OK, so I just talked about ‘science as marketing’ … but sometimes there is something so obviously non-scientific that you can just have fun with it. Amanda at Miss Zippy had a post this week that took her usual fun approach covered a recent survey from the running shoe company Mizuno (yes, I just set the money trail).

Mizuno estimates that 270 million Americans could be runners, and cite benefits to marriages, boosts in productivity and the economy, dog happiness … heck, it could probably improve the pothole situation those of us in winter weather spots are dealing with!

But one area they cover is health benefits:

Health/Medical Impact
$143 billion savings in health-care costs
200 million inches lost from American waistlines
48.1 million fewer cigarettes smoked daily
116,000 fewer hip replacements annually
Increased average life expectancy of 6.2 years in men and 5.6 years in women

Of course, the report is based on extrapolating all of the POSITIVE benefits without addressing mitigating negatives. They assume all sorts of things, and take only the good impacts.

Oh – and expect to see this everywhere the ‘research’ is cited:

“Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Mizuno.”

Am I saying that running is NOT good? Absolutely not … but PLEASE let’s not pretend that it is right for everyone, that everyone will deal with it the same way, or that it is somehow the cure for all of life’s ills.

Because while I think any sort of ‘get moving’ campaign is a great idea (and totally necessary in our obese, sedentary culture), pretending that this sort of fluff is ‘science’ or ‘research’ is insulting to the scientific community and to the running community and to the intelligence of anyone who they pretend it isn’t just marketing.

[UPDATE] I just wanted to be clear that my intention wasn’t to blast Amanda at Miss Zippy, whose blog I follow and really enjoy. In fact, when I quickly browsed her post I totally loved her ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could get the joy from running that we do?’ approach. My issue was with Mizuno – rather than taking that same fun approach, they talk about partnering with a university and conducting exhaustive statistical analysis. C’mon guys, running is awesome and you make cool shoes … can’t we just go with that?!? 🙂

6. Common Running Injuries

Am I lazy for using two info graphics today? Oh who cares!?! Here is one that talks about common running injuries, and the link takes you to a page with 12 (!) running infographics:


Bonus: Infographic on Choosing Running Shoes

And this one on choosing the right running shoes has loads of information, including some stuff on lacing I had never even thought about (yes I lace my shoes identically to when I was a little kid way back when):


Happy Saturday! Did you find any cool running links to share?

Double Surprise – Run in Shorts with New Balance Minimus 10v2

Warm Morning Run 12-136

This morning I woke up at my normal time … which would have been great except that it is Saturday! I pretended I could go back to sleep for a bit, then gave up and got up and decided I would get in my run early. My expectation was that it would be about 35F outside since we were headed for 50F today, so I dressed in a base layer and tights. I came downstairs, took care of the dogs, cats, fish, dishwasher, coffee, etc … normal morning stuff.

Then I noticed it was 51F! O M G !!!

Warm Morning Run 12-135

So naturally I had to change. When the dogs were ready to head back to bed with Lisa, I grabbed my compression shorts and my Wineglass long-sleeve tech shirt. Since there was still snow on the ground and I could see the branches swaying in the breeze I decided for my light gloves. As has become habit, I strapped on my heart rate monitor and used the Magellan Echo with the Wahoo app on my phone.

On my feet? Interesting you should ask!

Last night I got a couple of things from UPS – I got the Vitalicious Sampler pack I’d won from Peace, Love & Ice Cream, and also a ‘Secret Santa’ gift – the New Balance Minimus 10v2 running shoes!

Warm Morning Run 12-134

I had mentioned that I loved the feel of the Minimus, but the back tore up my heel the first time I tried to run without socks, and also over time with socks. I ended up handing them off to Chris after a few hundred miles. The 10v2 revision was supposed to help with the (apparently common) heel issue, as well as making the shoes lighter, more flexible and some other stuff. These are also 4mm drop shoes similar to the Nike or Saucony.

They were immediately comfortable, and I noticed two things:
– There was much less ‘cushion’ than the Saucony Kinvara or Nike Free
– The heel issue felt MUCH better

Because I am an idiot, I decided to wear them even knowing I was going for a longish run. I did take a picture, knowing that because of the color these would look nasty really fast! As I headed out the door, it was just incredible having 50 degrees all around, so I wanted to enjoy it.

I did the extended loop that carries me through the ‘safe in dark’ area around my house – it was my long daily run when the kids were on vacation in the summer, and is a 10.25 mile distance.

The roads were very empty – even with dawdling and trying to go back to sleep I was out before 5AM – but with all of the cold and snow this week followed by the warm weather and some scattered rain, the biggest hazards were all of the salt, dirt, and puddles I encountered.

One thing on minimal shoes – the reason they are so light is there is very little to them – they ‘breathe’ well … and also let moisture back in. So at the end things were a bit messy!

Warm Morning Run 12-137

It was a fantastic run, and I got back, rehydrated and took my showed and hopped back into bed with Lisa and the dogs for a little while before she had to get up. This next few days is going to be crazy getting everything ready, so I was thrilled to get my run done early so I can focus on everything else.

I hope everyone has a great weekend – what are your plans?