Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Subtle clues you might be in the home of a triathlete

Triathletes are an understated, quiet, and reserved group (hahaHAHAHA!!). Thus, it can be very difficult to determine if you are in the home of a fellow triathlete, where it is safe to bring up such topics as chamois butter, goggle fit, or the controversial issue of electrolytes. Here are just a few clues to help with that determination.

large collections of running caps and swimsuits 

unusual items plugged into a computer like goggles (iPod affixed)

hoarded nut butters and special powders

rolling devices of all sizes and shapes, magic healing gels, special water bottles

bike as furniture

large random numbers, found hung together in no obvious order

running shoes. and more running shoes.

wheels in odd locations

Any other clues?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What's your idea of a great Saturday morning?

Mine's been pretty cool so far:

5:00 am - wake up, coffee, breakfast, and GLORIOUS finish to 1000-piece puzzle!!  HOORAY!!! I loved this puzzle.

6:40 am - Hit the Virginia Tech track for my long run on a day with temps in the lower 20's and wind gusts up to 45 MPH. With the hip iffy, it just made sense (to me, at least) to go around, and around, and around the track for 18 miles rather than chance having an issue and being miles away from my car. Plus I didn't have to carry anything with me, I just set up a "pit row" for myself.
9:30 am - hot shower at the gym
10:00 am - deep tissue massage work by Mario, shown here cheerfully pointing out my "problem" area!!

12:00 - lunch...leftover sesame noodles with added chicken courtesy of April Walsh. mmmmmm.

1:00 pm - getting ready to snuggle up with two kids and a dog (and maybe a cat or two) to watch either Apollo 18 or the Smurfs. I have a bad feeling it's going to be the Smurfs. I'll deal.

And your idea of a great Saturday morning would be....?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Newsflash: Change takes effort!

At this morning's swim, per Coach Jim's suggestion, I played around with accelerating my hand entry to capitalize on the additional momentum it affords. I remarked "that's going to take some effort" to which he replied "you like effort"-- as if to remind me.

Even though I *know* I need to get out of my comfort zone to make progress, the occasional reminder is welcome. We need to mindfully attend to changes, accept they will feel weird for a while, and put in the effort for them to eventually become habit.

Last year I focused on raising my upper-80's run cadence to 90+. It took effort and constant self-reminders at first, but no longer. Last week's race was run in the 90-93 range without much thought. So I know I am at least capable of change!

With our training schedules, plans, and logs, it's all too easy to just check the boxes. But every workout is an opportunity to make an effort, to fine-tune, and to improve. Even on slow recovery runs, I try to take the time to think about parts of my body that I can't attend to as well on a tough run - arms, hands, head position, and shoulders.

Want change? Be prepared to make the investment and effort, both physically and mentally.

Don't want to make the effort or unwilling to change? Better be happy right where you are.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Roles of the Coach from A to Z

Coaches wear a LOT of different hats. I thought about that especially this past week as Coach Jim donned the extra hats of Sports Psychologist, Life Coach, and Psychic/Mind reader. I've been a little higher maintenance recently.

I try to be pretty low maintenance as a coached athlete - be clear on my goals, follow the plan, bring my best to workouts, log my data and times, etc. I strive to be positive, not complain (as differentiated from reporting valid concerns), and not question merely for the sake of questioning.

There are fluctuations in my level of neediness, and I might hit "high maintenance" for any number of reasons -- I am shopping for a big piece of gear and have a lot of questions, am honing in on an A race, planning for the year, or coping with an injury.

This past week made me think about all of the other roles in addition to "Coach" that he, and other coaches, may be called to fill for us, from A to Z (and a few specific examples):
  • Analyst
  • Bike tour guide (let's ride up to Mountain Lake and back!)
  • Bike mechanic (no, you won't notice a difference between an 11 and 12 on the cassette.)
  • Counselor
  • Drill Sargent (stick with those intervals at ALL COSTS!)
  • Efficiency expert (especially transitions)
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Financial planner (it's probably not worth $200 to save 8 grams)
  • Interventionist (2010 phone conversation: that bike might be just fine but you don't need to buy it tonight.)
  • Life coach (balance and family first)
  • Mind reader/psychic (please don't run this any faster, don't add more, ...)
  • Motivational speaker/writer
  • Philosopher
  • Physical therapist
  • Reference librarian
  • Sports nutritionist
  • Sports psychologist 
  • Strategic planner
  • Teacher
  • Timer
  • Technical consultant
  • Trail run leader
  • Videographer (I know it feels like you are swimming like that, but here's how it really looks)
  • Weather forecaster (you won't need a jacket on the bike leg, I promise you'll be fine)
  • Zen master (leave the GPS at home and hit the trails!)

I'm sure this list is not exhaustive (what am I forgetting?). But I am exhausted when I think about all the needs that he deals with and handles on a daily basis. Just the volume of email must be incredible.

As we head into race season, I just want to say THANKS to Coach Jim and to all the coaches for lightening our load and for wearing so many hats!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Running Styles - Unique as a FIngerprint?

I think running style must be unique like our fingerprint -- no two people run exactly the same. Footage from yesterday shows that my "signature" running style with my vroom-vroom motorcycle hands remains intact. Sigh! Well, it may be a little goofy but it seems to work well enough.

Kind of reminds me of this video of "Don't Be That Awkward Runner" that I find pretty funny.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sandbagger, no. Nut job, probably.

Despite anxiety of enormously disproportionate proportions (!) I ran the 10-miler without major incident or pain, and thankfully was not faced with the decision of whether or not to bail. My glute/hip is sore now, but nothing acute. I finished in 1:13:37 and won the master's division (7:22ish pace). Fourth female, 50/284 overall. [Results here] Yeah, I know....what was all that complaining about. No, I'm not a sandbagger, but I might well be a nut job.

There IS an issue. Thursday's run was cut short to 1.5 miles of inexplicable hip pain. I can't recall ever cutting a run that short. Thursday the chiropractor realigned me and Friday I saw the D.O. who diagnosed a "fired up" gluteus minimus and gave me a lidocaine/steroid injection (that was a first). Neither saw running today as a major injury risk so I went forward with it.

I can't believe what a headcase I have been the last few days. I was worried I had torn something, worried I had jeopardized Boston (again), and frustrated I apparently can't seem to detect warning signs in my body. I'd been feeling great.

By Friday night I was a fragile mess on the verge of tears. It's been a tough week post-conference and with Robert gone to Mexico, and there have been emotional issues with the kids, a close friend, and a family member going through some trying times. The last straw was when the oven stopped working last night. I stood there, kids' frozen pizzas in hand, shaking my head thinking, yup, one of those weeks. Thanks to my neighbor Debbie who is my trusty plan B!

Last night I decided needed to get off Facebook for a few days, unplug from the world, and get myself straight again. I was spent and had nothing left to offer anyone. Coach Jim helped me formulate my mental plan for the day and I was glad to know he (and his wife and his cute speedy twins) would be on the sidelines to either cheer me on or scrape me up. I restrained myself from pouring my panic on him and only sent him one venting text this morning. My friend Carla bore the brunt of my freak-out (yay, smartphones!)

Carla second from left - she's a TOUGH and STRONG runner, mom, and police officer
My time was within about 30s of my PR on this two years ago but it felt SO much easier this time. Two things kept coming to mind during this run. First - THIS is what I do. Second - nowhere else I'd want to be right now.
Coach Jim rocks.
Seven hours post-race, I'm still kind of sore but not bad. Coach said take a few days off from running to be sure all systems are go.

A positive takeaway from this race is that I know with a less-than-ideal lead-in to an event, I can still find my race focus and have confidence that my body knows what to do. I also learned that I still have work to do in the not-freaking-out department.

Mark Long, awesome runner and a Team USA triathlete!!
Praise God for his abundant grace today and every day.

Friday, February 17, 2012


The update on the hip or piriformis or glute or whatever I have going on is this -- I did a super short run yesterday morning and did not like how it felt. It started fine then hurt up the outside of my hip. It was early, I was half asleep, so I'm trying to remember what I felt exactly.

I have no pain walking, no pain jumping up and down, no pain sitting. No out-of-the-ordinary pain rolling or stretching. In fact, most normal people would not notice a thing. But they are not expecting to run a 10-mile race tomorrow with the larger expectation of running Boston in 8 weeks.

I can't recall anything specific that would have brought this on. I've been icing, gently stretching, taking ibuprofen, and added retail therapy - buying a balance ball to use as my office chair.

I feel like I've been sucker-punched. It's hard not to have flashbacks to missing Boston last year.

So now I'm faced with some choices:
  1. Run the 10-miler tomorrow and see how it goes, being prepared to bail
  2. Cut back to the 5K tomorrow and see how it goes, being prepared to bail
  3. Bail on the whole thing
With options #1 and #2 it will be hard not to be distracted and to keep that from taking away from my performance.

I have fears of my training being disrupted in some significant way.

I saw the chiropractor yesterday and he said I was most definitely out of alignment. He thought I would be OK for Saturday. But he is not looking at soft tissue so much. I'm seeing my sports med D.O. later this morning just to bounce it off her. She is really good at putting me in all sorts of strange positions to zero in on the problem area.

I have no doubts that if tomorrow was my "A" race I could put it out of my mind and go out there and tear it up. But it's not. So choices must be made. It may be a game-time decision.

This is the part of being an athlete that I hate, but I know it is part of the package deal. Blah.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tracking Workouts and Measuring Progress

A few weeks ago I saw some online dialog about workout tracking and my friend and fellow triathlete, Casey Mills, responded with a very comprehensive analysis with pros and cons. It seemed a waste to let all that work vaporize so I asked if he'd do a guest post on the blog discussing software options for tracking workouts.

Casey describes himself as "IT professional by day and an aspiring triathlete by morning, evening, and weekend." I can tell you he is a guy who reshaped his entire body over the past two years and in the process uncovered some amazing speed. His mantra is, "Your ability to change your habits will determine your success." Here's what he has to share:

It was just a few short years ago I started exercising on a regular basis to improve my health. It wasn’t until later I decided to attempt to become an endurance athlete.  I vividly remember how difficult each and every run was that first year.  Asking anyone to add one more thing could be overwhelming, but that is exactly what I am asking you to do.

What is the first thing everyone does when they start a weight loss plan? Stand on a scale to get your body weight.  More times than not this is the primary metric used to measure success. There are of course other metrics that can be used, like: body fat percentage, muscle percentage, measurements at various points, BMI, waist height ratio, and if you are brave enough, photos.

Why should your measurement for progress in fitness be any different? Yes, you can compare races on a yearly basis, but no one on a weight loss plan would wait a year to step on the scale.  Shorter foot races can more easily be compared but as races get longer or more sports are involved (triathlon) it becomes harder to judge progress depending on the course, weather, number of water stops, etc.


If you aren’t technology savvy one of the most basic ways, other than a pencil and notepad, is to track your activity with a spreadsheet. A quick Google search of “exercise spreadsheet” might help you find one to your liking.

Pros - Easy and simple to use. If you are a spreadsheet whiz you can customize it any way you like.

Cons - Only accessible from your PC and must have Microsoft Office or similar software installed.

* If you are a Gmail user you can upload a spreadsheet to your Google Docs account and have the spreadsheet accessible from any Internet connection. Be careful, not all formatting and formulas translate well to Google Docs.

Basic Online Tracking

As I have become more consistent with my workouts and try to slowly build my volume over time. I find www.dailymile.com more and more valuable. In a glance it displays your activity for the week in miles, time, number of workouts, and estimated calories. DailyMile.com doesn’t ask for age or weight so the calorie estimate is probably way off. While not an exact science, measuring my workout load with DailyMile.com keeps it simple.

Pros - Very easy to use with a simple and intuitive interface. Integrates a social aspect with Facebook and friends within the website. Friends compete on a weekly basis to see who can accumulate the most miles. Workouts can be imported from Garmin and Nike+ equipment so you don’t have to manually enter your workouts. Consumable items like shoes and bike tires can be added and mileage is tracked for each individual item. Has a great mobile website but also has 3rd party apps available in the Android and Apple app stores.

Cons - All workouts are stored in meters and kilometers. When exporting your workouts for a year end report you have to manually convert.

GPS Products and Software

Originally I started with a basic heart rate monitor watch. I can’t remember the exact cost but it was somewhere between $75-$100. These work great for showing current heart rate and after the workout your min, max, and average heart rate. But the cost of GPS based watches has dropped significantly in the past few years. Personally I own a Timex Global Trainer to track my triathlon races and day to day running. While my Timex can also track my cycling, I use a Garmin Edge on my bike. This is primarily because the Edge can display up to eight items instead of the four for the watch. I hear enough comments about how large GPS watches are; no one would ever want to wear a Garmin Edge on their wrist.

Garmin does a great job of bridging the PC and online gap. Garmin Training Center can be installed on your PC. Garmin Connect is their free online tool. While Connect is great for sharing workouts with your peers, it does not have the level of detail or give you the ability to compare workouts like Training Center.

This is the same workout in Training Center (Left) and Connect (Right).

In my opinion, comparing elevation over time is the best way to compare workouts. The above is two bike rides separated by about 4.5 months of hard work. It is hard to see progress even over that period of time.

Garmin has the Garmin Fit app in the Android and Apple app store for $0.99. Essentially turning you phone into a GPS workout tracking device. Workouts can be uploaded to connect.garmin.com and any history already on the Connect website can be viewed. Extra hardware is required for a smart phone to capture heart rate, running cadence, or cycling speed/cadence.

Pros - Garmin makes great equipment that is easy to use and very competitive on price. They provide software for the PC along with free online storage for your workouts. Mature low cost smart phone applications for 99 cents. Connect can easily calculate workout time and mileage over almost any period of time, based on all or individual exercises. Training Center is excellent for analyzing individual workouts or comparing two workouts.

Cons - You must own a Garmin device or a smart phone.


TrainingPeaks.com is the online only way to track EVERYTHING. You can track weight, sleep, sleep quality, appetite, glucose, blood pressure, fatigue, hydration, mood, motivation, body fat, pulse, sickness, soreness, stress, water consumption, calories, carbs, fat, protein, sugar, fiber, and much MUCH more. Oh yea, and your workouts. There is a small piece of software that installs on your PC. Device Agent transfers your workout data from your GPS based device to the website.

TrainingPeaks.com has a free basic version that has a fair amount of features. A slightly richer experience than conncect.garmin.com. When trying to use paid features you will constantly see a nag screen to sign up for a premium subscription.

$19.95 for one month
$49.00 for three months
$79.00 for six months
$119.00 for one year

Training Peaks also has a free mobile app in the Android and Apple app store. The Android app is still in beta.

Pros - Comprehensive tool to track ALL of your workouts, meals, and metrics. Easy to use free basic version. Free smart phone app. Works with more than 90 training devices of all brands. Twitter and Facebook integration.

Cons - Subscription required for premium features. Internet connection required. Nag screen pop-ups. Large learning curve for the website interface, it is very busy.


These are just a few available options that I have personal experience with. There are many free or low cost smart phone apps that can track your runs and rides, but I find it inconvenient to carry a large phone during a run. Especially if I am trying to hit a specific pace or heart rate. Running with a smart phone is one thing, running with it and viewing the screen is another.

Sadly I haven’t found a single product that does everything I want for the price I’m willing to pay (free of course, I need to save money for race entries and hotel stays). Over the past year I have started transitioning my workout log to TrainingPeaks.com. My Timex watch only works with TrainingPeaks.com, and since their site is also compatible with my cycling computer, I have a single destination to log all of my activities. Garmin Training Center is best for analyzing individual bike and run workouts, but I find myself doing that less frequently. The social aspect of DailyMile.com keeps exercise interesting while offering the ability to quickly log in and view my volume for the week. Hopefully one of these solutions will fit most of your needs. If you have any other suggestions please recommend them in the comments section.

~ Casey Mills

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's never dull...

Life is never dull around here. I've been wrangling the kids solo this week and it's been one exhausting misadventure after another with things like a car-pool mixup, a meeting with the teacher about a...ahem...behavior issue, and a new Guinness Book world record of forgetfulness achieved in the 6th grade division (swimsuit left on school bus, backpack left at pool...). I took Tuesday "off" of work which only made me look forward to a restful day Wednesday back at work.

One good thing is workouts are tapered back this week in anticipation of Saturday's Blacksburg Classic 10-Miler. I've been feeling great with 17 at marathon pace Saturday (unintentional pace, I swear) and a nice run yesterday where my heart rate from aerobic pace up through tempo stayed pretty steady and the short test of speed felt smooth.

Then last night I was sitting here at the computer and suddenly noticed pain in my outer hip! From what?! I skipped legs at the gym this week and even had some massage work. At my age (44 if you need a reminder) it could be from anything including pressing the space bar on my keyboard...or blinking....or existing. I don't know.

I've been popping some ibuprofen, stretching gently, and walking around in compression shorts so I can shove ice packs down the side. I wore them under nice pants at work today and looked like I had boxers on. Right now it's either feeling slightly better or I have gotten used to it. Whatever. I have no time or energy to fret.

Last year I missed out on the Blacksburg Classic -- it's the only non-5K road race in town and a big draw for local runners. I ran this race in 1:13.11 two years ago (race report) in an effort that still stands out in my mind as one of the times that I dug the deepest and pushed the hardest. I still recall the pain of that effort. It's hard to imagine equaling or surpassing that, and whether I do or I don't, I will be heading into the race prepared to dip into the well.

This will be my only "tuneup" race before Boston in 60 days and will hopefully give an indication of what I might be able to do there.

Did I mention that the race is at 1 pm and at 5 pm we have SIX 4th grade boys coming over for a sleepover birthday party?

Being an endurance athlete comes in handy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Who is best at even pacing in a marathon?

Even pacing has been found to correlate with faster marathon finishing times and is a desired race strategy. This was something I really tried to nail in my last marathon and did....but only for the first 22 miles.

Which runners do the best job of maintaining even pacing and minimizing drop off in the last 10K?

Researchers from the University of Dayton (March et al, 2011) compiled data from 319 experienced runners in the Last Chance for Boston Marathon, a flat course with cool temperatures. After examining the pacing differential of the first 20.2 miles compared to the last 6.0 miles,  they concluded that women do a better job of pacing than men. Researchers noted, “men have a more distinctive drop in velocity over the last 10 km than women.” (p. 389). Additionally, researchers found more consistent pacing with older runners and faster runners, owing perhaps to more marathon experience.

The authors suggest a potential contributor to the gender difference in pacing is that women tend to “oxidize more fast and less carbohydrate, thus sparing glycogen” (p. 391) and have more type I slow-twitch fibers.

This study was not able to control for variables such as experience, training or nutrition. However, it does perhaps suggest that if you are a young male runner, you may have a tendency to push a bit too hard in those first 20 miles!

March, D. S., Vanderburgh, P.M.; Titlebaum, P. J; Hoops, M. L. (2011) Age, Sex, and Finish Time as Determinants of Pacing in the Marathon. Journal of strength and conditioning, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp. 386 – 391.

(Adapted from my Google+ entry for Ben Greenfield Fitness

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Finish Line

That last bit was a little brutal, but I gave it everything I had. We closed with 1004 registered attendees.
I finished up thinking about what went well, what could have been done differently, and pretty quickly got excited for next year's conference. When you finish a race or conference already excited for the next one, you know you are doing something you really enjoy. It helps to have a great "Coach" a.k.a. our center Director.

I posted that top photo on Facebook and people were genuinely shocked that I own, and would wear, a skirt. Granted, I am the person in the office who sets the bar very low in terms of professional apparel, but I know how to step up my game as needed. Good thing since I sat with the Provost and Vice President for Undergraduate Education at the closing lunch.

One complaint I do have about this race finish is there was no t-shirt and no finisher's medal, only a name badge. And no massage tent. Maybe next year.

Back to the normal triathlon/running posts after this one.....got a 17 mile run on the schedule for this wintery weekend and am very much looking forward to it!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Run for Pedagogy

This morning a dream became reality with the first ever Run for Pedagogy (Pedagogy: art or science of teaching). Two years ago, when the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy was in its second year, I joked about holding a 5K Run for Pedagogy in conjunction with the event. This year, on a whim and with a shiny new conference Facebook page, I issued an invitation to our participants for a Thursday morning run. A group of eight left the conference hotel at 6:30 am for a 4'ish mile run. Probably another ten people later said something along the lines of they intended to come but 6:30 am turned out to be just too early! We had a great time, and as I always tell our Director, I do my best networking while running or cycling.

With nearly 1000 registrants, my goal is to get at least 25 out on the run next year. Maybe we could ask the Office of the Provost to set up an aid station -- coffee and scones? I'm thinking tshirts too. A technical tshirt, but more theoretical than applied-- an academic tshirt that is peer-reviewed and has references.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference and I have to say it's been quite the endurance event of solving problems, meeting needs, talking and smiling. It's kind of like a Ragnar Relay for our team.

I plan to start this final conference morning with a Swim for Pedagogy but so far there are no other takers ;-)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fartlek by Numbers

A fartlek appeared on my training schedule today for the first time and frankly, the instructions that accompanied it incited terror in me:
Keep it unstructured.
I am the queen of structure, patterns, order, round numbers, rows, and columns. I am also the queen of just tell me what to do and I'll do it.

I headed bravely to Virginia Tech's grassy South Rec Fields where I would be unconstrained by boundaries of road, trail, or walkway. Off I went. Just me....and the Garmin, the heart rate strap, the foot pod, the iPod....

Almost immediately and without trying, patterns emerged, compulsively.
  • 5 light poles; rev it up one gear as you reach each pole so you are sprinting between the last two.
  • 4 light poles: build from easy to sprint between each pair, back down again and repeat to next pole and so on.
  • 20 steps fast - 20 easy - 19 fast - 19 easy - 18 fast - 18 easy (need I go on?)
  • Long embankment? Straight up, down at a diagonal, repeat until hill is gone
  • Cooldown serpentine

I did try to tap into my creative side and make a flower pattern - bounding across the straight sides of the petals and jogging the loops. Except on that big grass field I kept forgetting where center was.

I skipped and leaped and walked. It was my version of reckless abandon.

The horse folks among you will recognize similarities to dressage (did I ever tell you about the show weekend where I rode SEVEN different tests from memory?). My fartlek included serpentines, diagonals, tempi changes, extended trot, medium trot, and halt!

Definitely a fun run in spite of a little structure. And maybe because of it!

Incidentally, I think I found my new swim partner. My 11-year-old has found some speed and has decided he likes racing!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gym Play with Grant and One-Arm Rocky Style Pull-ups

This afternoon Grant and I went to the gym for some playtime and quality time together. The last two days have been very rough and chaotic and this proved to be the absolute highlight, turning things around and clearing my busy brain. Grant is a great gym partner - he's focused on a quality workout, energetic, and happy! I did back and biceps and he hit all the major body parts and even hit the track.


Narrow Grip Lat Pulldowns

In the midst of our playing we talked about one arm pullups and on a whim I tried one. To my great surprise, I managed three sets of 3, 2, and 2 reps. They are actually not all that hard because you can use both biceps. I think now that I am over the surprise that I can even do them I think I could get more. How cool would it be to do a TRUE one-arm pullup??

Marathon of Party Planning

Next week I am hosting a three-day party for oh...800 some people. It's actually a conference - the 4th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy at Virginia Tech. Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching, but when you learn the secret faculty handshake, you also promise to use the word "pedagogy" in everyday conversation.

The last time I hosted an actual party at my house was maybe four years ago (pre-triathlon...coincidence? I think not!).  I'd agonize about whether there were enough places for people to sit and enough food for people to eat.

Little did I know that was only the 5K of party planning and that stressed me out plenty. Now, ironically, I do the marathon of party planning - three days, people from 34 states and 28 countries, 100+ sessions, 120+ posters, three lunches, session schedules, publishing guides and proceedings, organizing shuttles, working with sponsors, and fulfilling a multitude of special requests.

The worry remains the same -- whether there will be enough places for people to sit and enough food for people to eat. I have joked (or not) that we should include deodorant in everyone's participant packets because it could get cozy.

This morning, from 4 am - 5 am I was half-awake in bed obsessing over needing to get a few rolls of masking tape, among a hundred other details. Then at my morning swim, the only thing swimming fast was my brain, certainly not the rest of me. Ugh, I was slow and unmotivated!

The gang stuffing packets!

I'm keeping up with all my workouts and thankfully started the week with a killer swim and killer run that left me very happy so I'm just doing my best and not sweating the workout details right now.

I'm in that final 10K of the conference marathon...anything can happen. A week from now the finish line will be visible. Cheer me on, please. And have the massage table ready!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There's more than one way to lace a shoe

Most runners pay considerable attention to shoe choice but give little regard to the lacing pattern, defaulting to the factory-installed criss-cross lacing. There are alternative ways to lace up to reduce slippage and to improve the coupling between foot and shoe – which is important to make the most of the shoe’s cushioning and support features (Hagen, 2008). You may have noticed that running shoes often have an additional unused eyelet at the top of the shoe. It can be used for Lock Lacing to reduce heel slide and provide a more comfortable fit. A lacing change may also relieve some types of foot stress and pain.

I use lock lacing on some of my shoes. I first learned about it at our local running shop and find it works well even with the stretchy Xtenex laces (see my review here) that I use in nearly all of my athletic shoes.

For a comprehensive guide to lacing options see Ian’s Shoelace Site, and the Functional Considerations chart on the The Lacing Comparison page. It matches shoe fit issues with lacing suggestions. New Balance also provides remedial lacing patterns for issues like heel slip, high arches, top-of-foot pain, and a wide forefoot/narrow heel.

Hagen, M. (2008) The influence of different shoe lacing conditions on plantar pressure distribution, shock attenuation and rearfoot motion in running. Clinical Biomechanics.23(5), 673.