Review: New Balance Zante

I was in the market for a shoe that was lightweight but had a good tread pattern for both roads and trails. While shopping in the New Balance store, the salesman explained that they have a new shoe that is named “2015 Shoe of the Year” by Competitor Magazine. Could this be the “Saucony Kinvara Killer” so many companies have tried to make? I was a bit skeptic since the Zante was only on the market for 2 days but I decided to check out what all the hype was all about.

Overview

The New Balance Fresh Foam category got a nice facelift this year coming out with two new Fresh Foam models: the Boracay, which basically a revamped Fresh Foam 980, and the lighter, more race-friendly Zante. Measuring 23mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot making for a killer 6mm drop half-marathon, marathon and possibly beyond shoe! Weighing in at 8.1 ounces (men’s size 9) the neutral support Zante is a great option for a lightweight shoe that can go the distance without weighing you down. Is it the right shoe for you? Continue reading to find out!

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Upper and Fit

My immediate reaction upon sliding my foot into the shoe was, “Holy smokes this upper mesh is soft!” The no-sew upper truly wraps around your foot, hugging it snug while leaving plenty of room for your toes to splay in the toe-box while running on technical terrain or roads.

The upper breathed well in both humid East Coast heat and dry California heat. My only concern is that the upper is so minimal that your feet would not be too happy in the winter months in the more frigid temperatures.

zante-heelcup

Midsole and Ride

My experience with Fresh Foam midsole material began with the 980 last year. They marketed the shoe as a highly cushioned, soft shoe but yet this was not the case. The Zante feels more cushioned than the 980 with a more supple and responsive ride making for a great race or up-tempo shoe.

Overall the midsole is softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot to create a more responsive ride. When I run I usually am a midfoot strike and there was plenty of cushion to support a runner wanting to use these in marathon distances.

One word of caution: there is a very distinct bump, called the Toe Spring by New Balance, near the forefoot. This bump feels like your foot is hanging off a ledge and does not feel natural but the feeling dissipates while you run. The bump put my foot in a mid-foot gait more naturally than with other shoes.

zante-side

Outsole

A fascinating feature of the Zante is how the weight can be 8.1 ounces yet have a full outsole. Many shoes in this category feature little pods of rubber for traction and the rest of the outsole is EVA foam like in the Saucony Kinvara and Hoka One One Clifton.
The full outsole is a low profile tread that can take the abuse from many road and trail miles. I ran a lot of trail miles in this shoe both in dry, dusty and sandy California as well as muddy Virginia trails after a fresh thunderstorm and the shoe gripped very well in all conditions for a road shoe.

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Conclusion

I bought this shoe as a “door-to-trail” shoe meaning I can run on the road to the trails and back all in the same shoe. I decided to wear this shoe at my last trail 50k while visiting family in California and the shoe held up wonderfully. The lightweight upper allowed my feet to stay cool and the full tread gave me plenty of confidence on the fast and steep downhills. The Fresh Foam midsole was protective enough on the rocks and roots to not leave my feet feel banged up after so many miles. It passed my final test with flying colors.

Is this the right shoe for you? The answer is yes if you are looking for a shoe with:

-A soft yet responsive neutral ride that can double as a daily trainer and race-flat.

-Has an upper that is sock-like.

-Has enough room in the toe-box for good toe-splay.

-You can run on the road or the trails with a full tread that will protect your feet through the miles but only weighing in the low 8-ounce mark.

This new lightweight cushioned option is what I believe to be the “Saucony Kinvara Killer” that New Balance needed to produce to stay relevant in today’s competitive shoe market.

Mitch-Purisma Crossover-452

You can find the New Balance Zante at our affiliate Amazon link below:

Review: Aminoskin

Getting nutrition down during a marathon can be a tricky thing. This is especially true in late miles when your stomach has shut down and you are hanging on for dear life. That is why the products at Aminoskin got me curious. Aminoskin offers a line of products developed in Germany that profess to supply amino acids during a workout from skin absorption.

I was eager to give the products a try. I had heard of vitamins and nutrients being applied to the skin for absorption and thought that might be an ingenious way to get some needed nutrients during a race. Previously though, amino acids were not thought to be absorbable through the skin.

Amino acid absorbtion through the skin is dictated by the size. Aminoskin has found a way to decrease the size enough to make absorption possible. Aminoskin points this out on their Facts page and The National Institute of Health study Interaction of nanoparticles and cell-penetrating peptides with skin for transdermal drug delivery appears to back the science up.

Before taking a chance on the product and skin allergies, I applied a little bit to my forearm and had no reactions of any kind for the day. It is very mild and has a very light citrusy scent. I then applied Aminoskin for two races on back-to-back weekends – a full marathon followed by a half marathon. For the full marathon, I applied Aminoskin Endurance.

Aminoskin Endurance contains taurine which helps to delay muscle fatigue during the activity. I dutifully applied the lotion to my quads exactly 20 minutes before the race in the porta-pottie. The consistency is very interesting. It is not as viscous as a standard lotion, it is almost frothy. That is good for me because I have always found lotion to be slimy. My wife likes to tease me about that. The product absorbs into the skin very quickly and was not noticeable as I exited the port-a-pottie.

There are other ingredients like mint in the product that may have exaggerated the effect, but I honestly didn’t feel my muscles as I started the race. It’s not like they were paralyzed and I had no control, but rather like they were gently held in a stasis and super relaxed. This may have influenced my decision to go out harder than I should have and I ran with a pace group 10 minutes faster than my goal.

For the first several miles, my legs felt outstanding and honestly I hadn’t run that well for a while. The miles were just clicking and felt effortless. Was this all the product? No. But I do think it made  a difference. Even if there was a placebo effect. The reason I credit the product is because I could tangibly feel the tingling and then numbness after application.

I shared my experience with Aminoskin and was advised to take a hot bath and apply some of the Recovery to help me the next day. I did this with Epsom salts and I will say that I recovered from the race better than I could have imagined.

The day after the race, I was able to walk down my stairs facing forward, not sideways (I still had to be gentle and used a handrail, but the difference was palpable). I saw my chiropractor the same day, and he was completely surprised. I was in better shape than I had been in 18 months of treatment. Was it all the product? No. But I do think it was a factor.

The rep at Aminoskin also advised me to use both the Power and Endurance product at the same time in my next race.

Amino skin Power contains Arginine which as described on their site as follows:

Arginine is used to make nitric oxid (NO) in the human body. NO dilates the blood vessels, faciliates an increased blood flow into muscle tissue and improves thereby the supplementation of oxygen and nutrients to increase the muscle power. AminoSkin Power is particularly suited to support your performance during sport specific interval and strength exercises, which are characterized by alternativ exercise phases and recovery phases (so-called intervals).

The rep also said to make sure I apply it to all muscles I will be using in the race. So, I made a port-a-pottie trip 20 minutes before the start of the Shamrock half-marathon and applied both to my quads, hamstrings and calves.

This time when I raced, I felt much the same as before. I started out the race tentatively because I was only one week off a marathon, hadn’t run a step all week and have a spotty injury history. My legs felt very good and I was able to set into a rhythm. I even was relaxed and comfortable enough to catch up to a friend that I sometimes run with and we ran the rest of the race together. I felt very good throughout the race and managed to get a 3.5 minute PR out of it.

I repeated the same process of recovery afterward and was feeling fine the next day. I actually was feeling so good that I was complaining that I wasn’t being allowed to run because I was in the middle of the recovery.

Again, the big question is are the results of my races and quicker recoveries caused by the Aminoskin? I would answer again. Not completely but they are a definite factor. But here is the bottom line, will I be using the product in the future. Absolutely. I will be applying some for my 20 miler this afternoon and I will be dutifully sneaking off to a port-a-pottie in 6 days for my third marathon and am very thankful I have this extra tool available.

Aminoskin is sold exclusively on their site at http://aminoskin.com (for English, click the American flag on the top right of the page).

Fit Challenge 2015 – April Challenge

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Fit Challenge 2015 kicks off April with a brand new challenge, burpees, from Steve Carmichael of RunBuzz.com.

Steve began road running in 1987 at Ft. Benning, Georgia while attending Infantry School for the U.S. Army National Guard. After returning from training, he continued running for about 3 years and ran many short distance road races up to a 20 mile run. In 1991, he gave up running and lived a sedimentary, fast food lifestyle until a health scare woke him up in 2006 when he took up running again to lose weight, lower cholesterol and to get back into shape. He has gone on to complete numerous 5k races and half and full marathons. Steve is a RRCA and USA Track and Field – Level 1 certified running coach and has coached runners locally through his running club as well as privately coached runners all across the United States and abroad.

Steve runs the RunBuzz Radio podcast, where he shares running tips, and interviews everyday runners and experts so that we can all learn more about the sport.

Steve’s own story has been featured on two podcasts Diz Runs With … Steve Carmichael as well as Concious Runner Episode 20: Steve Carmichael–From Overweight, Borderline Diabetic to Passionate Runner and More Part 1 and Episode 21: Steve Carmichael–From Overweight, Borderline Diabetic to Passionate Runner and More Part 2.

Please make sure that you check out the challenge page http://hamptonrunner.com/challenge to like the RunBuzz page and get directions for Final Surge so you can be eligible to win a monthly prize. Here is a burp demonstration:

Review: MilestonePod – Running Dynamics for $25

Not long ago, I saw a screenshot from Pete Larson of Runblogger showing results from a run that were collected from a device called MilestonePod. I immediately knew that I had to get my hands on one.

MilestonePod was initially introduced as a crowd funded Indiegogo project in early 2013. The initial devices were very straightforward. They automatically tracked the number of miles put on a pair of shoes. This was a valuable feature at the time because many running logs and sites were not tracking shoe mileage. Garmin for one just added this ability late in 2014 as an example.

While MilestonePod did not meet their funding goal, they were encouraged enough to release the product anyway. The original pods track shoe mileage and display the information in an app as shown below:

milestone-pod-version-one While the information is definitely useful and welcome, things have gotten really exciting in version 2. In this new version of the MilestonePod, the device tracks several valuable metrics. These include the following:

Distance: How far you ran
Pace: Average pace
Pace (peak): Fastest Pace
Duration: Total time of workout
Cadence: Average Number of steps per minute
Cadence (peak): Maximum steps per minute
Stance Time: Also known as ground contact time. Amount of time on average your foot remains in contact with the ground
Stance Time (peak): Average ground contact time taken from the fastest minute of the workout.
Stride Length: Average length of each step from the right foot and left foot touching the ground.
Footstrike: The percentage of time your foot contacts the ground first with the heel, midfoot, or heel.
Runficiency Score: A metric derived from cadence, stance time and stride length.

MilestonePod was kind enough to send me one of their version 2 pods and I excitedly put it on a pair of shoes to try out.

First Use

syncingWhen I received the MilestonePod, I immediately installed it on my pair of Skechers GoRun 4 and synced it with my iPhone. When it found the device, it started to update. I took a couple Facebook Messages and then went off to the gym and ran on the treadmill.

 

When I was finished, I tried to sync the data and there was nothing there. I popped the battery and replaced it and finally got the phone to see it. Unfortunately, it seemed like there was no data. I then reset the device to go with another pair of shoes, my Kinvara 5s and started to sync it. The app advised me again that it had to update the footpod and this time I was patient enough to see that it was asking me to not interrupt the process while it was happening. I didn’t and it updated successfully. It also gave me the option to set the number of miles that already existed on the shoes. This was a nice touch.

Second and Third Use

Now that I got the MilestonePod synced up and ready to go, I took it out on two long runs with my Kinvara 5s.

The first of these runs had the following results:

milestone_1st_run

 

I have been working on my foot strike for a while and increasing my cadence. I have been trying to hold a bit more of a mid-fore foot strike. Well, it appears that I may be missing the boat in the results.

I wore the footpad again and had slightly different results as shown below:

milestone_2nd_run

Well, there at least was some sign of a midfoot strike. Also, this was a 20 mile run and I was impressed that it got as close as it did for the distance. This was with no calibration, and the cadenced match my Garmin for both runs. After contemplating my foot strike issues, I decided that I should check the placement of the pod on my shoes and discovered that there may be a problem.

MilestonePod-placement

It appears that I suffered a case of failure to follow directions (it has happened in the past). I placed my MilestonePod between the first and second eyelet of the shoe instead of between the second and third eyelet as recommended in their video below:

So, I corrected the issue and put the MilestonePod on my shoe in the manner prescribed by the company. I then went on another run with the results below:

milestone_3rd_run

Sadly, it appears that my foot strike issue wasn’t caused by the placement of the footpad, but it is nice having the information. And that is the bottom line about this product. For $25, you are able to not only track miles on a shoe but also get some running dynamics to see if your form is as good as you would like it to be.

Keep in mind that getting this kind of information on a Garmin watch requires at least a Forerunner 620 which costs $400. Just this fact alone makes the MilestonePod an incredible bargain. It is inexpensive enough that you can buy more than one and have them on multiple pairs of shoes. You can then just reset them as you replace the shoes over time.

The MilestonePod can be bought at Amazon with my affiliate link below:

It appears that Amazon has sold out but more are on the way. In the meantime, you can visit the MilestonePod site at http://milestonepod.com/product/milestonepod/. Use coupon code “hamptonrunner” to get $5 off until 06/30/2015.

Review: Motigo App

motigo-logo

Sometimes in a race, you can find yourself in a very dark place. You are having to dig very deep and facing your own inner demons. It’s times like these, that a word of cheer or support can really help you find the light. Unfortunately, your family likely can’t be at every point in a race, or may not be able to attend an event. That is where the Motigo App for iPhone (Android coming soon) can be invaluable.

Motigo is an app that enables loved ones and supporters to record messages of up to 30 seconds that are played back for runners at different points during a race. These points are selected by whomever is recording a cheer.

The runner just starts the app at the beginning of the race, and as they cross the selected mile markers during the race, the music will fade and the message will play.

I used it in two races on back to back weekends.

In the first race, a marathon, things were going great for the first, but then I started having problems. As the race continued, I got cheers from my wife and my nephew. These really helped give me something to focus on. They were a lifeline. Especially when I was hurting so badly that I was walking at many points. Hearing my wife cheer me helped give me the motivation to get it together and start running so I could see her sooner at the finish.

In the next race, things were going extremely well. This time, getting messages from my wife just made the day more complete. They really enhanced an already great run for me and helped me maintain my effort all the way to a personal record. I love how the app can be there for both good and bad runs.

Another use for the app that I haven’t seen advertised could be for coaching. By having the ability to record messages at specific points during a race, coaches could offer guidance and strategy throughout the race.

These cheers remain available for future listens and that may its greatest feature. I lost my parents recently and they were very thrilled about my races. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend the events. I would have loved the opportunity to not only have heard from them during the races, but also I wish I had them recorded to hear now. I don’t know how long the cheers will be available and hope that we will be able to download them at some point, but having them archived with the service is a great start.

The only option I would request is the ability to change how the cheers are delivered. Currently, the music fades and the cheer is played over it. I would like to have the option of setting the app to pause the music and play the message. I had trouble hearing my nephew because he spoke softly in his cheer. I also know that I would have definitely struggled hearing my mother because she had Parkinson’s disease and her voice was very faint.

I highly recommend this app. It is very inexpensive to buy some cheers – about the same as a greeting card. And while you can’t hand your loved ones a card on the course, you can put a cheer in their ear.

You can find more information about the app in iTunes, or at http://getmotigo.com/. It is currently iOS only, but an Android version will be announced soon. You can sign up to be notified at http://getmotigo.com/.

Review: Mio Fuse

What is it?  The Mio Fuse is an activity tracker and heart rate monitor.  It is a pretty nifty little device.  As an activity tracker, you can set goals, monitor your heart rate, and keep track of steps, calories and distance.  It will show you, via the app, how many steps you have taken, and how many you need to reach your goal. The heart rate monitor is an optical sensor.  Meaning it shines a little light on your skin and the sensor pick up heart rate.

My interest in the Mio Fuse is primarily as a heart rate monitor.  As an athlete and coach who trains with heart rate based periodization, heart rate is an important piece of information.  Each athlete has their own individual heart rate zones.  No two people are alike.  Using a standard formula for everyone does not produce individual zones and is not useful for training (and in fact could be detrimental, as too much time in the wrong zone, or too high a zone can lead to burnout and injury).  I want to run in specific zones in my own training, and when I write workouts for athletes, they are assigned zones based on the intent of the workout (endurance, tempo, or recovery for example).  As a woman prone to chafing, I have some serious issues with the Garmin heart rate strap.  For me, it causes painful chafing under the sensor (for other people it can cause chafing anywhere under the strap itself).  Its not possible to put anti-chafe under the sensors, as that interferes with the signal.  The Fuse seemed to be the solution to this problem and I was excited to give it a try.

The Fuse comes in two sizes, depending on the size of your wrist.  I chose the small size and as you can see, even while wearing the Fuse high on the wrist (more on placement later), I have enough extra band.  The Fuse has 3 buttons, or touch points.  The two on the side scroll through time, calories, steps, distance and goal.  It will also display your heart rate.  The midde touch point is for finding your heart rate and starting, pausing, and ending an activity.  The Fuse finds heart rate pretty quickly.  Touch the middle point, it will say “find” then wait for heart rate to pop up.  To start a workout, touch the same point again.  It will read “go” as the timer starts.  Touch it again to pause, then hold it down, when paused, to end an and save an activity.

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Pairing the Fuse with the Garmin was easy.   Put the Fuse on and find your heart rate.  Then set your watch to scan for the heart rate device.  It pairs quickly, and since the first pairing,  Garmin finds it right away (no scanning again required).  Heart rate will then show on your Garmin/watch screen.  The Fuse does not have an “always on” screen, which I would like, but I imagine this is a battery life issue.  You can customize your zones in the app (which “talks” to the Fuse via Bluetooth) and the Fuse will vibrate for a split second to let you know when you have changed zones.  It will display heart rate at that point, so in that way you can see on the display when you putting out too much heart rate effort, or not enough, and stay in your proper zones.

The first run I did with the Fuse, I experienced long dips (into the low 100s when I should have been in the high 140s), and conversely, spikes into the high 170s/180s when I should have been high 140s/low 150s).  This happened after about 3 miles of perfect heart rate numbers (compared to rate of perceived exertion, which I know quite well, having been a heart rate based athlete going on 5 years now).  This was disappointing.  I then did a run wearing two Garmin watches (910xt and 110).  The 110 was paired to the strap and the 910xt was paired to the Fuse.  Here are the results.  You can see the Garmin strap (top in both examples) is accurate, whereas the Fuse has dips and long surges.

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I called Mio and left a message (there is an option for a call back, but if you just let customer service ring it will put you to voicemail).  Surprisingly I received a call back in a few minutes.  The rep made a couple suggestions.  One, put the Fuse on your wrist, with a little room on the strap. Then “snug” it up your wrist about 3-4 inches.  Let the strap conform to you, instead of putting it on tight.  The Fuse is meant to be worn high on the wrist, as it needs enough surface area to get an accurate reading.   Being female with small wrists, I need to wear it on the high side to get accuracy.  He also suggested wearing it on the inside on the wrist, although I did not find that in practice to be accurate.  The last suggestion was to wear it for a few minutes before pairing to the Garmin and starting a workout. On my next run, I did as suggested and the Fuse was accurate.  The take-away – wrist placement is key for accuracy.  I find I have to wear it high and a touch off center.  It does sometimes slip down and needs to be gently nudged back into proper position.  After wearing it for a few more runs, if it is place in the right spot, it is highly accurate.  When it deviates (either error in putting it on or it slides around), that is when the dips and spikes occur.

The Fuse will record distance a bit low.  For example, an 11.2 mile run on the Garmin read as 9.69 miles on the Fuse. The Garmin had another at 11.01 mi. with the Fuse reading 8.92 mi.  But not always.  A different time, Garmin had 10.22 mi. to the Fuse at 10.8 mi., and my 10k (with mile warm up) came up as Garmin 7.34 mi. and Fuse 7.35 mi.  Again, not a big deal for a runner using the Fuse paired with a GPS watch.

I also used the Fuse on the bike for trainer rides.  The weather hasn’t been conducive to outdoor riding so I have tested it indoors only.  The accuracy is 100% on the bike, most likely because your arms are in a more fixed position than when running.  The accuracy is the same whether the ride is recovery (low HR), endurance (Zone 2) or tempo and intervals (pushing into Zone 4 and beyond).  This is very encouraging and the Fuse getting very sweaty did not affect accuracy.  Again it paired easily with Trainer Road via Ant+.

TRMio

The Fuse was a pleasant surprise on the swim.  Unfortunately, the Garmin 910xt does not have an available heart rate data field under the swim function.  So there was no way to to pair it for a swim, and no way to get a heart rate graph from Garmin Connect.  I wore the Fuse by itself in the pool.  It stayed in place pretty well, and the heart rate readings were accurate as compared to perceived exertion.  The distance is not correct, but that doesn’t really matter, as athletes are typically following a written swim workout.  One swim I did was 2500 yards, it recorded .91 miles.  The next at 2600 yards recorded .89 miles.  Not quite right, but again, not an issue.

Mioswim

The Fuse needs to be synced via Bluetooth to the Mio app on your smartphone.   Cloud/web capability is currently in the testing phase (according to Mio).  Implementation with 3rd parties such as Garmin require business agreements and such.  This is good news, as hopefully a few months down the road (from publication of this review) there will be a way to export Fuse data.  It has a limited amount of storage, and if you don’t sync it frequently it won’t be able to record an activity.  This is no problem, syncing is fast and easy.  The app is easy to use.  You can set up your profile and customize heart rate zones, or set daily goals.  All very straightforward.  Where the app lacks currently, for me, is data analysis.  Select an activity (it asks you to confirm, you can choose from running, road biking, walking, mountain biking, climbing, swimming, rowing and hiking) and click on it.  Then you can see the stats (avg HR, time, distance, calories, most frequent zone, time, speed and pace) but for Android users, no heart rate graph.  It is shown only on the iOS app.   According to Mio they are testing this and it should be available for update for Android in the upcoming weeks (from publication of this review). A heart rate graph will be very nice to see, particularly for the swims (as there is no heart rate data field option on the Garmin 910xt, you can pair Mio to the 920xt in open water swim mode, not as a data field but it will show up in analysis on Connect). It sounds like Mio is very aware of what consumers want in terms of functionality and data analysis, and are in the process of making that happen.

All told, I am impressed with the Fuse and would recommend it to any athlete who is interested in an alternative to the chest strap, or to any active person interested in activity tracking.

Compatibility of the Mio Fuse to other devices and apps can be found on its product page. It can be purchased directly from Mio or at Amazon with the affiliate link below:
Save 20% on Mio heart rate monitor watches with promo code Mio-Bucks at checkout! Valid through 3/31/15 11:59PM

Fit Challenge 2015 – March Challenge

Fit Challenge 2015 continues with a new challenge for March, Lunges conducted by the amazing athlete and coach, Rebecca Adamson of KR Endurance.

As one of the head coaches and founders of KR Endurance, Rebecca has numerous certifications along with a B.A., including International Triathlon Coaching Association (ITCA), National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) Sports Injury Specialist and Lifestyle Weight Management Specialist, and is a US Masters Swimming certified Level 1&2 Coach.

In addition to helping many athletes find their own personal best, Rebecca has massive racing experience herself, having run the Boston Marathon in 2010, 2011, and 2012, New York in 2014, and has completed two Ironmans – Lake Tahoe 2013 and Coeur d’Alene 2014. Her race history can be seen on Athlinks.

Rebecca demonstrates proper form for the lunges below. Please make sure that you check out the challenge page http://hamptonrunner.com/challenge to like the KR Endurance page and get directions for Final Surge so you can be eligible to win a monthly prize.

Setting Expectations

rock_and_roll_halfI am within three weeks from my goal spring marathon and it’s time for me to start second… And third guessing myself. Time to think about setting my goal.
This race is going to be interesting. I’m super-excited because it is an inaugural marathon (I haven’t run an inaugural race before) in the city next to mine. It’s practically a hometown marathon. I’m also looking at the race with trepidation. I have had a nice dose of humility this past fall.

A little bit of history…

I was trying to train up with my eyes on the big prize – a Boston Qualifying time.
I was hitting training hard. Harder than ever before and something started happening. While my training runs seemed like I was getting strong and my Garmins showed my estimated VO2Max to be higher than I imagined, I started to fall apart at races.
It all started with the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach.
I had some issues in training. Early warning signs like a shin splint. I was pushing through it and decided that I would run the half marathon at a 7:15-7:26 pace. 7:26 being the BQ time for my age group. I started out on track with my first mile at 7:19 and my second 7:12, but it wasn’t coming naturally. Between the heat, humidity, and my shin splint, I was having to push myself. I held on through the 5K mark slipping to a 7:30. Then things just got ugly – 7:48, 8:11, 8:35, 8:48, all the way to 9:28 on my slowest lap. I was having to stop at aid stations to get water. Then I had to just stop and walk intermittently.
I wound up with a time of 1:51:27 – Rock ‘n Roll Half. This was a typical workout time, not a race.

 And things kept going downhill…

A week later, I ran an 8K and turned in another poor performance, albeit much better than the week before.
Two weeks later, I was running another half marathon. This time, I decided to just keep my pace around 7:30. Try to just turn in a respectable race that is close to my goal marathon pace.
I was starting to feel that there might be hope. I was holding the pace pretty well and felt like I had a good rhythm. I was in the zone and the miles ticked off until mile 10. Almost the second I crossed the mile 10 mark, my hip gave out. I’ve never had the sensation before, but it was quite distressing.
I never realized how complex it was to force your leg to track on a swing. I learned that morning. I forced myself through the last 5K of the race.

And the wheels fell off…

A couple weeks later, I was scheduled to run a challenge of a 5K on a Saturday with a Half Marathon the next day. This was a really important race for me. The half marathon course actually runs in front of my house and it is really exciting for me to have a real “home race.” I ran the 5K on Saturday and it was slow, but expected. I was trying to heal up for the half marathon Sunday.
Sadly, I woke up Sunday and was hurting as I got out of bed. As I stood in the shower, my legs were shaking and I could barely climb the stairs. I was done. There was no way that I could run the race. I bundled up and walked outside later that morning to wave at my friends running by.
I then deferred my goal marathon for a year.

Rebuilding…

I stopped running for a month and hit the pool for aqua-jogging. I also started to ride my bike and used my elliptical. I finally started to jog a couple miles here and there. After rebuilding for a few months, I am finally at the point where I feel that I can finish the race. But, I am in no shape to attempt a Boston Qualifying time. It’s time to reset my expectations.

Setting Expectations

I have a few basic principles that I try to follow. I am not perfect at doing so and have to often remind myself of these things, but I do attempt live by these views.
  1. Be audacious, not ridiculous – I believe that a goal should be big. There are two ways to set a goal. It can be tiny and easily achievable to build confidence. Or it can be a giant challenge that will strain your abilities to their fullest. I try to do the latter, but sprinkle some of the former on the path to the big goal.
  2. Don’t be in too big of a hurry – One thing about having a big goal is that it should be very difficult to achieve. By its nature, it should take a while. Why rush it? Consider the fact that once you achieve it, you will have to find another goal.
  3. Find satisfaction on the way – You often can sustain your journey by turning in little victories. There is a philosophy that it’s about the journey, not the destination. There is a lot of truth to this. I really try to find the joy in workouts. Try a different route. Tackle a tough workout. Find a new running buddy.
  4. Your goal is for you. Don’t focus on others – Whatever your goal is, it is your’s. Don’t worry about someone else’s. If you are trying to break 5 hours, get a BQ, or break 3 hours, it doesn’t matter. Your goal is meaningful to you. You are competing against yourself. Very finish is a victory.
Those are my thoughts and what I have been trying to use for perspective as I get ready to tackle my second marathon. I’m not always successful and a master at second guessing myself, but I am trying to grow.
How about you? What are your goals? How do you tackle them? What do you recommend? Please comment and share.

Review: Mio VELO

Heart rate is an important part of training for many athletes. It is an invaluable governor using biofeedback to keep them from trying to do too much at a time. Until recently, this training was accomplished using a strap worn around the chest. For many however, this strap was both inconvenient and aggravating. Worse, it causes chafing for some. As an alternative, optical heart rate monitors that can be worn around the wrist were created. Sadly, these are notoriously inaccurate. That is until Mio Global came onto the market first with the LINK, and now the VELO.

I received a Mio VELO and have really tried to put it though its paces. Surprisingly, it has met the challenge with aplomb.

velo-worn

Wear

The Mio VELO has a very comfortable silicone band. It is very easy to forget you are wearing it. It wraps around the wrist, through a buckle and has some posts to hold it in the band. This system works very well keeping it in place, but with winter clothing, you can sometimes accidentally unsnap the posts as you pull sleeves up and down. That can be a slight nuisance when it happens, but with the two part fastening system, you will still be getting a solid heart rate reading.

mio-velo-strap

Paired with a GPS Watch

I first wanted to pair it with a watch and compare the results to my Garmin setup of a 920XT with the HRM Run heart rate monitor. I used a Polar M400 and had no trouble pairing the VELO at all. I then ran several times and the results lined up. Here is an example 10 mile run with surges with the Polar results on the top and the Garmin on the bottom.

polar-garmin-velo-hr

The figures are very much in line with one another. If you look at the actual graphs below in the same order, you will see that the tracking was very close. There was a slight drop early with the Polar/VELO combo (about 1 minute in), but that often happens even with chest straps. Overall, I am happy with the results.

polar-garmin-mio-velo-graph

Paired with Android

The next test I wanted to conduct was pairing the Mio VELO with a smartphone. I started with Android for this purpose. Over the course of a couple weeks, I ran with both RunKeeper and MapMyRun. I had no trouble connecting the VELO and it work well in both apps as seen below:

velo-android

Paired with Windows Phone

I wanted to keep testing the VELO with different devices and next paired it with Windows Phone and the app Track Runner. The results were interesting. The mapping and pace were both disasters in the app, but the heart rate looked good.

windows-phone-mio-velo

 

Pairing with bike speed and cadence

One of the really interesting additions to the VELO is the ability to bridge Ant+ speed and cadence sensors over Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE). This is a very welcome feature. It allows you to turn your smart phone into a bike computer. All you need is the Mio VELO and a handlebar mount like the one below from Amazon.

It is really easy to set up the VELO for Ant+ sensors. Open the Mio Go app on your iPhone or Android device. Select one of the bike profiles and add your speed and cadence sensor. You may want to hold the bike up and crank the pedal with one hand to get the devices to register. Interestingly, when I added my separate Garmin speed and cadence sensors, they were picked you as Bike 2, but they registered fine.

mio-go-pairing-speed-cadence

Once you have added the speed and cadence sensors to the app, it updates the Mio VELO and as far as your smartphone knows, you have bluetooth speed and cadence sensors. It’s really quite clever. They also worked very well when I tried them working out. Both Strava and MapMyRide had no trouble picking them up in the apps.

strava-map-my-ride-velo

It also worked really well on my trainer with MapMyRide. It even showed that you will have a zero speed and cadence for a while when you forget to stop recording a ride when finished (operator error).

mio-velo-map-my-ride

I was able to track speed, cadence, and heart rate in one shot. Just like it was a bike computer. I even was using the VELO to feed my heart rate into my Garmin Edge 500 bike computer at the same time. The VELO does an outstanding job of broadcasting signals.

Conclusion

For an athlete who is tracking runs with a smartphone and wants to add in heart rate training and/or speed and cadence information from a bike; or for an athlete who can’t stand wearing chest straps, I think the VELO is an outstanding product at a reasonable price. It is very comfortable and does a great job of pairing with devices. I even was surprised to suddenly see a heart rate reading appear on a Polar Loop that I was also testing during a run. It picked up the signal from the Mio VELO with no interaction from me at all. You can find the VELO on Amazon or Mio Global with my affiliate links below. You can also find out technical information and a compatibility list for the VELO on its product page.
Save 20% on Mio heart rate monitor watches with promo code Mio-Bucks at checkout! Valid through 3/31/15 11:59PM

Restoration of a Burnout

I will come out and say this: I do not practice what I preach. For years I have read and told many new runners, “Recovery is important and after a long, hard race one must actively recover to benefit fully.” For my entire running life (past 7+ years of running) I have failed to recover correctly after a long training run or race. I kept wondering why my gains were not where I needed them to be and why my feelings of burnout were ever growing.

I was young, invincible and winning age group awards at most of my California Ultra races. My usual training pace was reckless and never below a race pace. I decided to make a New Years Resolution to run one Ultra marathon every month for a year. During that year, I ran nine 50k trail races and two 50-mile trail races. I kept PRing in the 50k distance going from a sub 6 hours to mid 4:40’s. I made the decision to run a 100-mile race: the 2012 Rio Del Lago 100, finishing 3rd in my age group and feeling immortal! After the high faded along with the aches and pains, I tried to go out to the trails and train for my next race.

This is when I noticed something was off. My race times soon were much slower and my ability to psychologically tell my legs to move was no longer there. I have read many times on various running websites that too much mileage without much recovery is unsustainable. I did not think this would happen to me because, frankly, I am a young and healthy. But it did happen and my fall was hard and sudden. I suddenly could not run more than 10-miles at a time and my ever-growing love for this sport was ever fading.

It took nearly 2 years to regain my love of the sport. It started by training my wife from a newbie to a competent trail runner and seeing the spark grow inside her reminded me of the wonderful memories I had of “the good ol’ days.” Every step further was a new adventure eventually building her up to an 11-mile long run. Soon we were making plans to train for a trail half-marathon when we go back home for Easter.

While I was training my wife I helped her push through the highs and the lows that every runner has felt. The grit and the determination to finish a training run in the Shenandoah mountains made me incredibly inspired and wanting to take my training to the next level again. As I continued to support my wife with her new distances, I would break away once or twice a week to run a longer run – usually in the 20-30 mile range. For the first time in a while I was enjoying the sounds, smells and textures that nature offers. The finishing time didn’t matter anymore as the experience left a more lasting impression within my own psyche.

mitch-amber

After a few months I made up my mind that I would run a 100k race in North Carolina. I decided to run a 50-mile trail race down in Tennessee called the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler as a training run for quality time on the feet. I was meeting an old California friend and we would run the first 20ish miles together and then run our own race. He ended up destroying me, passing me at the 24-mile mark and finished about 20 minutes ahead of myself. But my slow, methodical pace allowed me to feel “fresh” at the finish line with zero pains and most importantly: a positive attitude.

When I continued my training for my goal race two days later, my wife’s slower pace forced me to actively recover instead of letting my lactic acid continue to pool in my legs by being a couch potato or going too fast too soon. I was training her to become a better runner and she was training me to slow down and fully recover; it was truly something special. Instead of my usual race pace 30 miler the following weekend like I did a few years back, I was now running a conversational pace 10 miler. The recovery time to feel 100% went down to just a week and a half because of lowered intensity. It was something I have never thought about trying because before my head was far up my bum to listen to it.

mitch-beerA few weeks later came race day! I was amped up and ready to enjoy the entire day (and partial evening) ahead. I took the first 40 miles incredibly relaxed, taking pictures of the views and talking to all the runners and aid station volunteers. When I came to the 40-mile turnaround I learned that I was in 8th place overall and a few runners were just a few miles ahead. I ran harder than I think I have ever ran during this last 21.5 miles, catching 4 runners moving me into 4th overall by the finish line! It was by far the best race I have ever experienced but not because of the place. It was because of the no pressure attitude I had, enjoying myself and when it was time to put in work, I did.

Since training my wife, running is no longer monotonous or a chore. It is enjoyable because I can challenge myself sparingly while coaching my wife to become even better. When she crosses the finish line at her first half marathon this April, I will probably be just as excited as she will. The look on her face will once again reinvigorate my drive to feel the way she is at that moment. So we will continue to train together and lean on each other to keep each other healthy; for her physically and for myself mentally. I was able to learn how to recover not only my legs after a long run, but also to recover my love of this simple, yet so very complex sport of running.

 

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