Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yeah, that was Stupid ...

When it comes to running shoes and knowing the Heel-to-toe drop/offset I am pretty much like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. Name the shoe and I can tell you the drop. It is an odd skill. Knowing this little tidbit about yours truly makes the story you are about to read that much more moronic.

"I get my Brooks shoes at K-Mart in Cincinnati"
First ... What is Heel-to-toe drop? Basically it is the difference (in millimeters) from the heel to the forefoot of your running shoe.  The lower the drop (0mm) the more minimal the shoe is considered. the theory is that a lower drop encourages a more natural forefoot to midfoot strike. If you want a very, very detailed description check out this post on the subject by Runblogger.

Pic Pirated w/o Permission from  (Thanks Google Images)

Okay, now that we are all experts on Heel-Toe offset, let us move on to how I made a rookie mistake and am now paying the price.

I usually run in 3 different shoes:

1) Brooks Pure Connect 2's (4mm drop) - Short Races, Tempo Runs, and Track:

2) Brooks Pure Flows 2's (4mm drop) -  Medium Long Runs to Long Runs and any race 13.1 or longer:

3)Brooks Launch (9.5mm drop) - Daily Trainer and Recovery Runs:

All three of these shoes are perfect for what I use them for and I love alternating between the 4mm Drop of the Pure Project Shoes and the 9.5mm Drop of the Launch. I feel it gives me a different strike angle and since I usually run a lot of miles I think this helps prevent over-use injuries. I know of zero studies to support this theory but I am going on 6-years of running using this method and have never had a serious running injury (yes, I just knocked on wood, we are good).

Now a few months ago I picked up the Brooks ST Racer 5's (12mm drop).  I decided to try these out because the Launch were supposedly being discontinued (Brooks has since announced they are not discontinuing the Launch - whew!) and, well, they looked cool:

And for some reason I never looked to see what was the Heel-to-toe drop?

I had these shoes sitting in my closet and last week I decided to give them a try. I wore them around the house and they were very light (8.6oz) and were a little stiffer then the Launch but I liked the way they felt. Then the next morning rolled around and I had a 14mi run with 9mi at Lactate Threshold on the schedule and I walked out the door wearing my new, cool looking ST Racer 5's.

Bad Idea #1: Wearing a style I have never worn before for a 14mi run w/9mi @LT pace.
Bad Idea #2: Not noticing that these shoes have a 12mm Heel-to-Toe drop.
Bad Idea #3: Not stopping the run after my calf's began to feel a tingling sensation.

Why happened?

If you have ever transitioned into a minimalist-type of shoe, whether it be the Brooks Pure Series, Newtons, Vibrams, etc ... you were surely warned that the transition needs to be done slowly. Start with short runs and gradually increase them over a long period of time. This is not a theory, it is an outright fact. It actually took me about a year until I was able to do the marathon distance in the Brooks Flows.

AND ... Apparently this rule also applies for transitioning in the other direction too? On Sunday night I pulled up the Brooks website and looked up the drop (12mm) of the Racer 5's and realized immediately the error of my ways. I think people just never go from low drop to high drop so I learned this lesson the hard way.

And I didn't even have the excuse of being drunk!

So, this was on Sunday morning. My left and right calf were inflamed by Sunday night and walking was difficult. The pain is more in the lower calf, upper achilles area (soleus maybe?) and the left is much worse then the right. I've been forced to skip all my scheduled swims/bikes/runs over the last two days due to the strain but was able to go to the track early this morning and do some slow 800m repeats.

I am hopefully to be back at full steam by the weekend and actually relived that this bone-headed mistake just caused a little strain and not a major injury. I am still going to run in the ST Racer 5's as they are really fast and responsive shoe but I will need to keep the runs much shorter as my legs get used to them.

What did we learn today?

Lesson #1 -  I am an idiot.
Lesson #2 -  Know the Heel-to-toe drop on your shoes.
Lesson #3 -  I am an idiot.

Do you know the Heel-to-toe drop in your shoes? Will you now go look it up?

Thanks for Reading,


Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Diet as an Endurance Athlete ...

Last week I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) that talked about performance gains I have been experiencing with a new focus on optimizing my body composition. Both of these posts focused on the outcomes of being much lighter than previous years but neither mentioned the "how" my diet has changed. I received a few emails and some comments asking to explain the "how"?:

Let's do that today.

First, let me step back and give you brief history of my ups and downs with weight loss over the years.

Like many people, after I got out of college and entered the real world I began to slowly pack on the pounds. One night back in 2008, at the age of 32, I stepped on the scale and was disgusted to see the digital read out before my eyes flashing a rather larger number - 210 LBS.

At 5'9",under any metric you choose, that weight would place me squarely in the category of "obese".

It was time to make some changes.

I ordered P90X, everyone's favorite at-home fitness program, and religiously followed the program for 6 months - it worked because I was back to my fightin' weight of around 170LBS (2nd Pic Below) and I looked and felt healthy. After these 6 months and a new appreciation for living a healthy lifestyle I needed a new challenge and found Triathlon.

After 14yrs of Beer and Pizza -
Day 1 of P90X
After 180 Days of P90X

After my first Sprint Triathlon, I realized quickly that compared to the fast people (which I was not one) that day I was still heavy. Through consistent training over the next couple of years I was able to get my weight down to around 155LBS. I looked skinny and felt fast, this was my perfect racing weight ... so I thought.

Now flash forward to October of 2012. I was coming off of being sick (and on the couch) and had once again packed on some extra insulation and was sitting at 163LBS. But what was more concerning to me was that I looked unhealthy and all the weight I had gained was in my stomach. Once again, it was time to make some changes.

This is when Annie, my better half, and I decided to hire a nutritionist who caters to Endurance Athletes.

Below is a description of how I now eat:

- Breakfast (5:30):  6 Eggs Whites, 2/3 Cup Starch

  • Egg White Omelets with Hashbrowns/Oatmeal or Egg White Waffle using Oatmeal.
- Mid-Morning (9:00-9:30): Shake or Yogurt/Fruit
  • 1 Cup Egg Whites mixed with 1/2 Cup Almond Milk and 2 tsps Sugar Free Nesquik.
- Lunch (12:00): 6oz LEAN Meat, 1 Cup Starch, 1 Cup Veggies, Vinegar dressings
  • Most of the time I make a bowl of Lean Turkey or Chicken with Corn or potatoes and Leafy Greens with Broccoli and Carrots. It is awesome.
- Mid-Afternoon (3-4pm): Protein Muffins or Balanced Snacks.
  • My Nutritionist gave us a bunch of recipes for this ... Bananas, Veggies, Fruits ...
- Dinner (6-7pm): 6oz LEAN Meat, 2 Cups steamed or raw veggies, fat free dressings.
  • I usually cook a low fat meat (Tilapia, 99/1 turkey breast, LEAN Chix Breast - no rib meat added) and eat a ton of veggies. Starch/carbs are not add for dinner unless a big workout or race is coming up.

So, overall this is pretty simple. We try and keep the fat in our Lean Meats extremely low (less than 10%) and eat a ton of vegetables and take in the carbs at breakfast and lunch.

The key to success for us has been to plan out our meals weekly. Each weekend we go to the grocery store and load up on our proteins. We will toss 6-8 LEAN Chicken Breasts in the crock pot on Sunday and they last us for most of the work week. We cook more than we need and refrigerate the rest for lunch.  

BUT the most important thing we did was buy a digital food scale. Portion control is key and without the scale we would not be able to do this like we have been. Get a scale.

I have heard many a person make the claim that eating healthy like this is expensive and I am not going to lie and tell you otherwise because our grocery bills have been higher then in the past. HOWEVER, our overall expense on meals has gone down slightly because we RARELY eat out anymore. Especially for lunch.

Another important fact that has helped me is having a solid support group in place. Annie, who probably does not want me posting her weight online, looks amazing right now and has been my dedicated partner throughout. We keep each other accountable and give each other a kick in the butt when faced with temptation (like cookies or cake). I have also leaned heavily on Jason, as we have been following very similar plans and have seen virtually identical results. Jason is a vegetarian and has really helped me with selecting the right veggies and preparing them. Check out his site for tons of great recipes for Endurance Athletes.

So, this brings us to the end, and you all are probably wondering where I am today?

-  On October 22nd 2012, my weight was 160LBS and my Body Fat Percentage was an embarrassing 17%. 

-  Today, February 17, 2013 - about 4mos later, my weight is 142LBS with a Body Fat Percentage of a lean looking 9%.  

More importantly, is that I look and feel fantastic. I have never slept as good as I have been in my entire life and between the extra sleep and healthy foods my recovery from hard training days is much quicker. 

Back in 2008 when I decided to "make some changes" I never imagined that would equate to being 68 LBS lighter today, but based on how I look and feel this is exactly where I need to be!

If you have any questions please feel free to email me ( and I'll do my best to answer.

Thanks for Reading,


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why Cyclists are so Damn Skinny ...

I train with power on the bike.

I believe everyone should train with power and hopefully after this brief analysis you'll see why?

Each year I usually cycle very sporadically over the winter and run lots of miles. By the time Feb/Mar roll around I am ready to get back in the saddle and this means I need to do a Functional Threshold Power Test(FTP).  An FTP test is simply the maximum amount of watts you can hold for one hour. This number is than used as your baseline for training and you retest every 6 weeks to track improvement and reset the baseline. Simple, right?

I did my FTP test last Wednesday and here are the results I wrote in my Training Peaks log:

- My FTP is 207.1 on 2/6//13.

- FTP is down from 218 on 3/18/12.

- In March 2012 my weight during that FTP Test was 153lbs, which is a w/kg of 2.98.

            - Sidebar: W/Kg stands for Watts per Kilograms. This is the avg watts push divided by my weight in kilograms. The higher the number the better.

- However, on 2/6/13 my weight was 142lbs** which makes my W/Kg 3.215 (nice).

So ...  I lost 11 watts from LYs FTP Test at the same time BUT my W/Kg went up by .23. This means I am pushing less Watts but climbing better and riding faster despite the drop in power. This is why Cyclists look like bean poles!

Now what the heck does this all mean to a Triathlete?

Well, this was my first FTP test after being sick and a long layoff. I expected it to be low and over the next 8 months my goal is to get my weight down another 3lbs to 139lbs and increase my FTP to 221w. If these two goals are accomplished my W/Kg's would be 3.51.

Now these numbers become relevant when you plug them into a calculator ( to figure out what can be accomplished on the bike course. My "A" race this year is Ironman Florida so it will be the course I use for the calculations.

Here is what things will look like:

At 139lbs and an FTP of 221, which would be 3.51 w/kg, the bike split on a flat course like Florida would be:

- @65% FTP = 144watts avg  = 5hr 29min

- @70% FTP = 155watts avg = 5hr 19min

If I rode the course today at an FTP of 207 and @65% FTP = avg watts 135 = 5hr 37min.  

These numbers do not take into account wind or road conditions but are nice to use when trying to estimate performance.

By training with power I have clear and concise metrics with clear and concise goals. An FTP of 221 is very attainable for me, even at a lesser weight then last year. It is something that I am very excited to go after because by training with power it is measurable and as I move through my training my fitness level will be a known entity as opposed to something I am guessing at.

Do you train with power? After reading this are you going on a crash diet?

Thanks for Reading,


** I have not weighed 142lbs since I was 13yo.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Race Report

Bridgefest 5K - 2/2/2013

This was the third consecutive year racing the Bridgefest 5K in my hometown of Kingwood, TX. The race is put on by the local YMCA and the proceeds go to helping local schools. It is always a fun event and the race is a simple out and back over the big Bridge across Lake Houston.

Going into the race I wrote about how this was going to be the lightest weight at which I have ever raced. I had 4 previous 5k's and wanted to see how I could run on what turned out to be very little fitness. As luck would have it, I got the flu 10 days before the race. It was wonderful. But by the time race day rolled around I was feeling healthy again and decided to give it a go.

I lined up in the front and tried to hold back as the 97lb High School Cross Country kids shot out like they were fired from a bazooka. After about 500 yards I was free from all the congestion and had a lot of open space to operate. Mile 1 hit and I glanced at my Garmin for the first time and saw a 5:56 pace. This was too fast. Immediately I new that I was going to pay for that first mile with a lot of hurt in the last mile.

By mile 2 I had passed a few of the skinny HS kids and was also passed by a few people. One guy who passed reminded me of the pre-shaved headed Walter White from Breaking Bad. As he ran past I looked up at the guy and thought to myself, "The meth must be giving him super speed."

"You were just passed by Heisenberg, bitch!"

By about mile 2.5 I was in a world of hurt and just trying to hang on. My legs felt okay but my lungs were burning like hell.

Here is my pained-self heading to the finish:

Thems are the new Brooks Pure Connect 2s

Final results were:

Finish Time: 19:53
AG M30-39:  2/49
OA: 13/724
Old Dude Place: 3/a lot
Race Day Weight: 143.2lbs

2012 Time: 19:11
2012 Weight: 151lbs

Some other stats to compare 2012 to 2013:

- Total Training Miles for 3 months before 2012 Race: (Nov- 178mi ;Dec- 252mi ;Jan- 251mi = 681mi)
- Total Training Miles for 3 months before 2013 Race: (Nov- 46mi ;Dec- 20mi ;Jan- 80mi = 146mi)

So what did I learn from this little comparison of weight vs fitness?

Not much.

I had a decent race but when trained I am much faster. The real test would be to do this race next year at 143lbs and 681mi running the 3 previous months. Until that happens the results are going to have to remain inconclusive.

Thanks for Reading,


Monday, January 21, 2013

Racing Weight ...

What is MORE important for speed, Fitness or Weight?

The above chart shows my times in the four 5k's I have raced and what my weight was on race day. Admittedly, my fitness has improved over the years but my weight has also dropped. So that brings us to the question of what is more responsible for the drop in times and the positive gains in speed - The weight or the fitness? The answer is probably a bit of both and the chart above makes the case for each side of the debate.

BUT, If you asked my opinion ...

I'd say dropping the pounds is more crucial to enhanced speeds then overall fitness. And I am not alone in this thought process:

Matt (author of the excellent book, Racing Weight) and I could be completely wrong and overall fitness could be the ultimate trump card but we will find out on February 2nd in an upcoming 5k I am racing. My fitness is very average right now and nowhere close to the levels of 2011 & 2012. However, my weight is as low as it has ever been as an adult, wait for it ... 144.2 lbs.

So what we learned today is that my unscientific test of Weight vs Fitness is going to be forever answered in two weeks. Good, moving on ...

Surely you are now wondering, "How'd you lose the weight to get down to 144.2lbs?"

I will try and break it down. If you are a regular reader, you'll probably recall that I was really sick back in   September and October with a virus. After getting over the sickness I ballooned up to 163lbs and decided it was time to make some changes to the diet and went and saw a nutritionist. My BF% was over 17% (up from 11-12% in August) and I looked flabby, especially in the mid-section.

The nutritionist devised an eating schedule that included cutting out fatty proteins, adding tons of veggies, consuming water like a camel, and eating 5-6x per day. I also choose to dramatically limit my Wheat consumption (including beer). It has worked. I have not been perfect and actually had a couple of relapses like when we traveled to Memphis and when I went to Pittsburgh around Christmas but for the most part I have followed the plan and it has worked.

My BF% is under 10% now and I can really feel the difference in my running and cycling and will be entering the 2013 at a perfect Racing Weight for the first time.

Do you agree with me and believe weight trumps fitness or do you reside in the fitness trumps all camp?

Thanks for Reading,