Monday, March 27, 2017

Asphalt or Concrete, Which to Run On?

Here's one for which every running shoe shop employee thinks they know the best answer.
If you just apply a little common sense, and physics of course, you can figure out what's best for your training be you a 60 mile per week athlete or one with lesser aspirations.

Ready? They're equal.  Since both concrete and asphalt are easily 1,000 times harder than the sole of your new model running shoe, there's no significant hardness difference.  But having said that, blind fold an experienced runner, have him/her run on each surface, and even blindfolded they can tell you the difference.  Read on.

Kona concrete conveyor

There's this number called Young's modulus of elasticity. I'll reproduce it here in case you'd like to use it for your shopping list, to calculate the gas mileage in your Jeep, or perhaps the proper pH of the pool.

Young's Modulus

It's the measure of stiffness of a solid material. 

If you were to make a quick pit stop by Google you'd find a real range of answers like:

Livestrong  "The impact to your body's joints as you run is an important factor to consider. Although concrete and asphalt are each hard surfaces, concrete is harder and might result in more joint pain."

Runners World forum  "With all other factors being the same...the difference between the two surfaces is like the difference between a runner weighing 160 lbs or weighing 165 lbs." And I thought " a complete package...I probably gain 5 lbs from summer to winter just in extra clothing." Me, I don't avoid concrete surfaces."

Or the one that makes the most sense scientifically:

Slowtwitch  Johanthan Toker, Phd.  "The difference between concrete and asphalt is a bit like the difference between a standard HDTV and higher resolution TV, where the limiting factor becomes the eye's ability to observe the difference. The difference can be measured, but the difference is not significant in the greater context of the situation. In the case of running, both concrete and asphalt are very hard and deflect very little. The fact that one deflects a tiny bit more than the other scientifically does not translate to an observable difference in impact, especially when running is considered to include the impact absorbed by a running shoe and the sole of the foot."

So if we look at the quote that may best sum this up, from Paul Osepa*  

In running shoes, training on concrete is like adding one 
extra stride's worth of shock for every every thousand 
strides that you would take on asphalt, or about one stride per mile.
Since the cushioning difference between any two shoe models
is much more that 0.01%, I submit that shoe choice, and not
surface choice, is the only thing that matters for injury prevention
on hard surfaces.

It's worth noting that concrete is generally the most consistent surface material, while asphalt is typically cambered. 

But, can an experienced, blindfolded runner tell the difference between running on concrete versus asphalt?  Absolutely.  Maybe it's the friction difference between a porous surface and one that's less so.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that many asphalt roads are cambered, angled toward the curb for drainage.  Possibly the way a foot strikes a slightly porous substance is different.  I don't know.  But there's a difference in feel.  That said, a runner doesn't need to choose one over the other to have a successful workout without fear of increasing the potential for injury.  But if you have the option of grass, dirt or the track, I'd take it.


Paul Osepa, Cool Running

More J. Toker

The difference between concrete and asphalt is a bit like the difference between a standard HDTV and higher resolution TV, where the limiting factor becomes the eye's ability to observe the difference. The difference can be measured, but the difference is not significant in the greater context of the situation. In the case of running, both concrete and asphalt are very hard and deflect very little. The fact that one deflects a tiny bit more than the other scientifically does not translate to an observable difference in impact, especially when running is considered to include the impact absorbed by a running shoe and the sole of the foot.

The compressibility of rubber, EVA and a sock have considerably more contribution to the impact transmitted to the foot within the shoe than the difference between concrete and asphalt. Consider that the difference in hardness between concrete and asphalt is equivalent to adding less than 1mm of extra rubber to the sole of a shoe.

Beyond these hard surfaces, there are significant differences between road and track, trail, grass and sand. I would submit therefore that the goal of a runner trying to reduce the hardness of a surface explore these other options. 

For example, dirt trails have other benefits too, working the body's proprioception and dynamic lateral movements and stimulating the brain with changing conditions – reconnecting with nature, some might say. Barefoot running on grass or sand is another combination that is sure to reduce the force impact and trigger further changes in running form.

As studies have shown, our bodies adapt to running surfaces. Provided good biomechanical form is maintained, any running surface will work. It's also nearly impossible to change somebody's mind once they have made it up. You may disagree based on your personal experience – that's fine. As for me, I'll stick to the dirt trails and looking for mountain lions, or leaving footprints on the beach.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How to Get Out The Door on Those Mornings You Don't Want To

Not everyone can be an Ironman. Not everyone wants to be an Ironman. And, some that want to be an Ironman are told they don't have what it takes. But once you're an Ironman, you're an Ironman for eternity. It was an Ironman who came up with, "Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, and brag for the rest of your life."

                                   Navy SEAL Captain John Collins
                                   USNA 1959 

Navy SEAL David Goggins

If the above is the only thing you remember when you walk out the door on a lousy weather day, when you'd rather stay in bed, rather do almost anything else, let it be this! 

Everyone encounters days where it's easier not to get out of bed, not to think about working out, not see what your thermometer reads.  And some days you do go back to sleep.  Not often, but it does happen.  It's OK, not something to beat yourself up about or get too worked up over.  But keep it an only once in a while experience, OK?  On those other days, when you know it's cold, or windy, or both, just think about the transition area of a recent "A" race.  

Let's see, body marking was pretty smooth, oh, and look at the water, smooth as glass today.  I'll park my bike get the message.  Think about a carrot of some kind, the calorie expenditure of your five mile run and how close you are to your racing weight.  Just  a couple more miles and you'll have 40 for the week.  Play the mind game, get dressed from the "everything I'll need in the morning" pile of clothes you laid out last night and before long, when the first drop of sweat beads up on your forehead you'll think, "Whew and to think I almost slept in today.  I'm not going fast, but I'm going."  In the words of multiple national age group swim record holder Shirley Loftus-Charley, "A slow time is better than no time."*

You know she's right.

One of the athletes I profiled for Ironman Hawaii this year was Brett Kruse, a gent who works for Starbucks.

He has a very inspirational story involving breaking his foot five weeks before Kona but overcoming this for his 14th Ironman finish.  One of many take aways from his personal victory was, even though he was told by his doctor early on that he had no business going to Hawaii, he was going anyway.  His thought process?  "Well, I can stay home and watch the race on TV, bitter, or, I can go to Kona, do the swim, do the bike and see. See what happens.  If I can walk or run, fine.  If I can't then I won't be wondering for the rest of my life what if I'd tried."

He finished!

So for the rest of us, finishing, starting actually, is what we do.  "A slow time is better than no time."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Drink to Thirst or By Plan? The Big Guns Weigh In

How do we reconcile the thoughts of two respected, and usually correct triathlon information sources in this important matter?

Last weeks blog, Drink to Thirst?  Hah!  It Doesn't Hold Water was not only fun to write but one able to bring out a more complete picture of hydration.  In short, what works for one athlete, or one subset of athletes, doesn't necessarily work for all.  In this case, it definitely doesn't work for all.

Triathlete Magazine, recently quoted a study of cyclists where some drank to thirst and others followed a regimented drinking plan. "What they found? Prescribed drinking mitigated the impact of dehydration better than drinking to thirst."  They took that a step further and had the athletes rehydrate "to match their sweat loses, what we call individualized hydration protocol, they performed better, they cycled faster and they had lower body temperatures.” This suggests that prescribed drinking to match fluid loss in the heat provides a performance advantage."

We need to keep in mind that the studied athletes were elite level and other factors or variables may be involved as well.

It's been suggested that drinking to thirst is a recommendation that works for the slower athlete.  If you are going a bit faster it may be better to at least consider a plan.  It is good to use early parts of a race when the GI tract is working fine to absorb both carbohydrate and fluid.  Later in the race, even though you may be thirsty, the gut may not absorb as much. Don't drink excessively and use common sense.

Joe Friel, of the Triathlete's Training Bible, in personal communication noted, "Drinking to a schedule is not supported by the research. And the downside is that people come up with a schedule that is unrealistic and then drink themselves into hyponatremia. There have been several such deaths in marathons by back of packers. Even among those who should know better, i.e., a physician who died over drinking G-ade at Boston a few years ago. It’s dangerous to suggest this to people."

I believe both of these rehydration philosophies right and here's why.

A couple years ago, at the Ironman Sports Med course they have at the Royal Kona Resort in Kona the week before the World Championship, having previously been on the faculty, I was encouraged to attend a cogent lecture on Death in Triathlon.  The hydration issue was presented more like a spectrum rather than a yes or no situation.  

The speaker went through those hyponatremic deaths addressed by Joe Friel and common factors seemed be slower runner, cool day, women slightly more at risk than men, fluid overload thru overhydration - drinking excessively.  A little later, the speaker challenged the audience with a question like this.  OK, you’re supposed to, in one sentence, write the hydration plan for Pete Jacobs and Frederik Van Lierde, both winners in Kona, a 12 hr IM finisher and a 17 hour lottery finisher.  (Oh, on an 80 degree day and a 30 degree day.)

 In my mind, since the energy expenditure/ambient conditions are wildly different for this foursome, so would be their race plans.   Maybe Kona athletes are a subset unto themselves.  Potentially more knowledgeable, better experienced with trial and error of what works for them as individuals, that kind of thing.

Pretty ride for Women for tri (on top tube)

The actual percentages of our Kona hydration survey were as we obtained them in the blog, 86% either using a plan or “both.”  (Their words.)  I plan to repeat this study in October by the way.

So, we can see both sides of our street here.  I suppose that leaning more toward the athlete you’d find on the Kona pier at 6:00 am race day planning a 10 hour or less race, having at least the skeleton of an idea of both nutritional and fluid needs wouldn't be surprising.  However, the "everyday competitor" maybe a little newer to the sport or somewhat slower, hydration guidance would be to let thirst rule the day.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Drink to Thirst? Hah! It Doesn't Hold Water.

While strolling through Youtube recently, listening to a little Juke Box Hero by Foreigner,,  I found this below:

“At my school in 5th grade, some IT guy was leaving the school, so my class wrote a parody of this song called ‘Macbook Hero’ since he fixed the Apple Macbooks my school used.  The entire 5th and 6th grade classes sang it to him.  It was truly epic.” 

Following that, another poster noted, “He was a juice box hero!”

A big vote for originality!


Need a long day 2000y challenging work out?  Try this.  After a good warm up, we'll swim 4 X500, each 500 broken into 125's. Now this can be swum two ways.  The first time you try it swim the first 125 in the first 500 fast, next three easy.  The second 125 in the second 500 fast, 1,3,4 easy.  In the third 500, the third 125 fast, etc.

Then, next time you try this set, and you're feeling frisky, swim buddy Colin says, "In the first 500, swim the first 125 fast, 2-4 easy.  In the second 500, the first and second 125's are fast, 3 an 4 easy.  In the third 500, swim 1, 2, 3 125's fast, etc.  

Easy and fast are relative terms.  You want to be able to finish each 500, as well as finish the 2000y set, so set your pace accordingly.  When you finish, there's a real sense of accomplishment.

Drink to thirst. It's all the rage you know. Maybe they first heard it on American Idol

I could dazzle you with statistics.  Suffice it to say that a single hydration strategy is ineffective in the world of triathlon.  The only way for you to know what works best for you is to try various methods in training.  Try different strategies in shorter races.  I know more than one person who brings a bathroom scale to races, gets an accurate weight before the start of the event and also before the post-race (beer) rehydration recording both. The overly simple drink to thirst may indeed work for many, but it absolutely does not work for all. Two Kona veterans, obviously experienced in the sport, come to mind.  

One athlete, his sixth time in the Hawaii race, got to mile 95 on the bike and it was "either sit down or fall down.  I was dizzy to say the least."  He got this far on the bike, stopped at the mini med tent where Nurse Alice sat him down with a big glass of cool water.  30 minutes later, after his 3rd glass, he felt great, thanked Alice profusely and finished race. The next year he took a bouquet of flowers to the Kona hospital operating room where she worked to say thanks again.

Our 2nd athlete, with only one Kona slot available and a faster runner behind him as he approached the finish of what could be his first ticket to Hawaii, notes "I was pushing hard."  He won the age group and Kona slot.  "You can see that guy in my finisher's photo. He was 11 seconds behind me."  Looking a little grey, then a little light headed, he made the med tent and was immediately hooked up to an IV.

If it's assumed that those that qualify for Kona might be the most experienced in our sport what do the Kona qualifiers do?  It's an either/or question right?  Leave it to triathletes to come up with a third option of course.  So, this past October, 14% said they drank by thirst and 70% use a pre-race designed plan.  This leaves 16% who told us "both."  Thus, despite the teaching and preaching of a number of authorities, this group, which might be the finest and fittest on the planet that particular day have learned - likely though screwing it up - that for them some type plan will give them the highest chance of doing well in the endurance triathlon environment. 

Susan Lacke of Triathlete Magazine wrote the following:

Drink to Thirst or Drink on a Schedule?


"Drink to thirst is a recommendation that works for the slower athlete.  If you are going a bit faster it is better to go with a plan.  It is good to use early parts of a race is working fine to absorb both carbohydrate and fluid.  Later in the race, even though you may be thirsty, the gut may not absorb as much.  Don't drink excessively and use common sense.  The goal should be to lose a little weight (2 to 4 pounds) at the finish line. You definitely want to avoid weight gain, which clearly would be a sign of drinking too much.  In hot environments dehydration can definitely be a very important factor. Don't forget that good hydration starts before the race, and hydrate well in the days leading to your race."

Enough said.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Exercise More, Drink More Alcohol? They Talking About You?

 Whenever reassembling your bike, you'll get to a part that uses unique fasteners.  You will drop at least one. It will ping, tink and plunk off of 3 or 4 surfaces and then disappear from the space-time continuum!

Later, after you've had a new one FedExed in, at a cost near the value of your LBS entire inventory, the old one will turn up.  Often just after it has punctured your new fifty dollar bike tire.
                                                                                                    Thx, Mike McNessor


For some reason, it never occurred to me that after a swim workout I always put my gear back in my swim bag in the same order.  Seems that way.  Fins first, then snorkel, paddles, shampoo, etc. cause that's the only way all that stuff'll fit.  

BUT, it's become my 4X's/week transition practice.  Really, I hit my watch, stuff the bag and dress, while timing how long it takes me to get the locker room door.  I'm fast, but very orderly, because just like in a race, I've put everything in it's usual place and through practice, practice I know where that is.  It's fun.  Give it a try.  

You know you need the practice, we all do.

I read this last year after we did our no-alcohol January.  After thinking about it briefly, thought it was exactly correct.  Many of my best friend athletes also aren't shy about their relationship with bourbon or beer.  Read on.

People who exercise more also tend to drink more (alcohol)

Michael Bierer, MD

Michael Bierer, MD
I take care of adults in primary care and I treat addictions. So when I was sent a journal article titled “Daily Physical Activity and Alcohol Use Across the Adult Lifespan,” it piqued my interest. This paper describes the drinking and exercise habits of 150 largely white, low-risk, community-dwelling adults (meaning it didn’t include people who were in the hospital or a nursing home) in central Pennsylvania. In this study, volunteers used a smartphone to record their daily drinking and exercise habits in 3-week blocks. This smartphone technique made it possible to get good information and to analyze daily variations for each individual. What is clear from the analysis is that people tend to drink more alcohol on days when they exercise more. This is true whether they’re young, old, male, or female.
This is not a study of problem drinkers or risky drinkers, nor of people with alcohol use disorders (what we used to call alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence). This is also not a study of the effect of an intervention to change lifestyle behavior. That is to say, this study does not tell me what happens if I advise a patient to exercise more or to drink less. The study also does not suggest that if you decide to exercise more, it’s likely you will drink more. It is solely an observational study, not a study of change over time.
These are healthy people in general. The mode and median number of drinks per day was zero. That is to say, among this group, there was no drinking at all on half or more of the days recorded. So the results may have been different in a different population (for instance, a more economically challenged or urban population). The results of a similar study, I expect, would be different were it conducted among a high-risk group; for example, people working to drink less or exercise more might engage in a “virtuous cycle” whereby the enjoyment of a sense of more energy, less fatigue, or better physical strength would provide the power to make further healthy choices. Increased exercise might be linked to decreased drinking in this kind of population.

The challenge of making — and keeping — healthy lifestyle changes

What I’ve observed in my practice is that significant changes in health-related behaviors travel in packs: people who adopt healthier drinking habits (for instance, reducing their intake to one drink per day if female or two per day if male, on average) also get off the couch, walk more, lose a pound or two, and generally pay more attention to their health. The challenge for them — and me — is to sustain these healthy changes.
There is a lot of seriously unhealthy sedentariness among adults in this country. Many people do not move around this planet under their own steam other than to go to the car, fridge, or couch. No joke. Hours are spent every day sitting in front of a lit screen. We come home from work, having been typing and mousing, straining our neck and back and keyboarding muscles, only to collapse on the couch to click around on the remote. Maybe we’re tense, so we have a drink. When it’s time to go to bed, we’re not physically tired, so we’ll have a few more drinks. So we won’t sleep efficiently (because alcohol disrupts healthy sleep cycles). And then we’ll do it all again the next day.
Making even a small sustainable dent in this cycle can be challenging. The positive effects may not be evident quickly. Only patience and commitment are rewarded. But the rewards, accumulating bit by bit, can be great.

A few ways an “exercise prescription” can make a difference

Although this study wasn’t intended to look at addiction, I’d like to mention the role of exercise in the treatment of mood disorders and addiction. There is evidence that aerobic and muscle-building exercise have positive effects on depression; research is ongoing on their effects on addiction. The attractive aspects of a sensible “exercise prescription” include its relative “safety profile” (meaning lack of negative side effects), its known positive effects on brain health, and the ability to customize it to whatever a person’s favorite activity might be. Of course, pacing oneself is paramount so as not to over-train or sustain injury. Some of the changes in the central nervous system due to exercise — for instance, increases in some dopamine activity (similar to the effects of intoxicants) enhanced blood flow, and glial cell proliferation — may also be related to improvements in mood and cognitive function.
People who have substance use disorders often suffer from a lack of joy (other than the chemical high) and from isolation. Isolation both permits the use of drugs or alcohol without bothering others, and may drive the use of them as a salve for loneliness. So combatting isolation is part of addressing addiction. Exercise (in groups) is a pro-social activity: the sense of community, and the positive emotional impact of interpersonal contact (that is, the simple joy of being with others), may be essential ingredients of getting — or staying — on the road to recovery.