Saturday, November 26, 2011

Workout Friday #2: Mile Repeats

Back again with another butt-busting workout that runners both fear and love: Mile Repeats.
Mile repeats are a longer interval designed to push you just out of your comfort zone. The purpose of doing a mile repeat is to help build up speed, it's essentially like a weight workout for your legs because of the effort put forth.
Depending on the type of race you are training for, your number of reps will vary greatly. Since the workout I'm describing here has an 800m active recovery, or float, the number of reps is going to be lower than your typical mile repeat workout with a static recovery. Refer to the table below to find out how many reps you should do.
Workout Breakdown:
As with any sort of speed workout, start off with about a mile warmup.
Main Set
  • 1600m at a pace that is just uncomfortable for the distance you're training for
  • 800m float (pace that is just barely comfortable) for recovery
When you finish the 800m float, go straight into the next 1600. There is no stopping and resting in this workout. After all the repeats, take a minute or so to get your heart rate down and then go for about a mile cooldown.
Depending on how many reps you're doing, the total mileage will range from 6.5 miles all the way to 12.5, including the warmup and cooldown miles. If you have any doubts as to what pace you should be doing for this workout, I have included a pace calculator specifically designed for mile repeats to tell you your splits.
*To make this workout a little easier, replace the 800m float with a static rest (stand and wait) of about 3 minutes. Add on two repeats to get your mileage up, and you're good!
Now get out there, get fast, and enjoy The Life of a Runner!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #9 (Pearl Izumi Streak II)

Pearl Izumi Streak II
Support Category: Neutral/Lightweight
Weight: 7.6 oz (size 9)
Cost: $110
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 250 - 300 miles
Updates from Previous Model: Lower heel collar, Energy Foam forefoot cushion, Ortholite sockliner
Upper: Lightweight, supportive, mesh, seamless
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 9 mm (20mm heel, 11mm forefoot)

Shoe Specs
The Pearl Izumi Streak II is one of Pearl Izumi's few performance running shoes. Designed to be a racer for any distance from 5k to marathon, the Streak is a lightweight but sturdy shoe. Pearl Izumi prides themselves in making a 360 degree lacing system with internal eyelets to really cinch up the midfoot wrap around the instep. In addition, a new feature in the Streak II is that the lacing and lace webbing is made from 100% recycled materials.
  • Heel- This show has a very low heel collar, meaning it does not come very high on the Achilles. This can be a good and bad thing. It is a good thing because it won't rub at all when you are training/racing. However it can be a bad thing if you are prone to your heels slipping in a shoe because you are sitting much higher with this one than in others. In terms of fit, it is a snug, grippy heel, good for people with narrow heels.
  • Instep- With their top-notch lacing system, this shoe can really be as tight or loose on your instep as you want. This is definitely the best shoe brand for keeping the shoe fitting well on your instep. The upper hugs the entire midfoot by wrapping from the top almost to underneath the arch for maximum support and security.
  • Toebox- The Streak II offers a narrow toebox with low vertical height. This means the shoe almost comes down to a point at the toes with the upper being barely above the toes and hugging lightly on the sides of the feet. If you have wide feet at all, this would not be a comfortable shoe.
  • Flexibiliy- As a general rule, racing/lightweight shoes are going to be flexible. The same holds true with the Streak II. Rated on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 being most flexible), this shoe stands at about a 7, which is where you would want to be with a structured neutral shoe. It bends with the foot in every way possible while still holding true to the racing last it sits on.
  • A look at the lacing system
  • Cushion- A bit more padded than you would expect in a shoe from this category. Lots of cushion in the heel tapering down to a little bit under the forefoot, lead to an approximate 6 out of 10 on the cush scale. I will say that because of the extra cushion, it makes it a great shoe for longer speedwork days or even racing a long distance.
Personal Experience
I have only used this as a speedwork shoe. I've gone about 50 miles or so on it so far and it is holding up great. For the days where I'm running 8 to 10 miles of speedwork, there isn't really another shoe in my closet I would rather go to because of the durable cushion that protects my feet from the extended intense pounding. The only real negative I have to say about the Streak II is that the heel collar is really low and gives a slipping feeling if you don't tie a runners knot. Other than that, it's a great shoe. Reasons I like the Streak II:
  • Lightweight and Durable
  • Ties really well and holds my foot in place
  • Not any more expensive than other shoes on the market
  • I feel this is Pearl Izumi's first shoe they have done really well
So if you're in the market for a new racing shoe or lightweight trainer, go try on the Streak II. This is not a shoe I would go out to buy solely because it is the most comfortable shoe ever and that lasts longer than my other shoes. I would get it if I was in the market for a new pair and looking for something a little lighter weight than my other shoes. Or if I was having problems with shoes slipping, I might try this shoe with a runners knot. Overall this shoe gets a 6 out of 10 for me, it's a good shoe, but not my favorite.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Workout Friday #1: Advanced Speedplay

I'm back! At long last I have come back to help make everybody enjoy living the Life of a Runner! This time I'm back with a new weekly recurring article called "Workout Friday" where I break down a track/speed workout. This week we are going to talk about a workout I don't really have a great name for, so I call it "Advanced Speedplay".

This is a workout designed for people who are training for anything 10k or longer. A long 2500m set is repeated anywhere from 3-5 times depending on your skill level and distance you are training for. Follow this table to determine how many reps you should do.
 Workout Breakdown:
Start off with a 1 mile warmup at an easy relaxed pace, just to get your muscles loosened up.

Main Set
2500m without rest
  • 200m at 800m pace
  • 400m at 5k pace
  • 1600m at 10k pace
  • 300m at All Out Sprint pace
After the sprint take a 3 minute static rest (just stand around for 3 minutes), and hop right into the next one.

When you're done with all your reps, take about 3 minutes before going and doing a 1 mile cooldown.
Depending on how many reps you do, your total mileage can range anywhere from 6.7 to 9.5 miles (including the warmup and cooldown).

If you don't know what speed you should be going, I have included this pace program specifically designed for this workout to tell you your speed (a feature I plan on having for all Workout Fridays).

Good luck with this workout, and don't push yourself too hard. If you have any suggestions for a workout for next Friday, leave a comment below, or tell me how you like the workout either here or on Facebook! Thanks for reading and enjoying The Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #8 (Altra Instinct)

Altra Instinct
Support Category: Neutral/Minimalist
Weight: 8.8 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: No
Durability: 300+ miles
Updates from Previous Model: Debut!
Upper: Lightweight, soft, supportive, and airy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 0 mm

About Altra
Altra is a new shoe brand which focuses on natural running. Natural running is defined as a straight back, slight forward lean, midfoot strike, and a cadence of 180 (180 steps per minute). The way Altra achieves their goal is by designing shoes that have no drop from heel to toe and developing a naturally wide toe box which molds to normal foot anatomy. Zero drop in your shoes means the heel is the same height in the shoe as the toes. In your typical performance running shoe, you will see about a 12mm drop. With no drop, you are forced to land on your midfoot, which means you will not be heel striking and naturally landing with a softer more efficient foot strike. A naturally wide toebox is built into the shoe to allow for a weight bearing toe splay while running, which also emphasizes a gait similar to running completely barefoot. The reason runners would want a natural running form is to help prevent injuries and become more efficient, which leads to faster, longer runs.

Shoe Specs
The purpose of these running shoes is to be completely different than anything else out there by giving you the most natural stride possible while still protecting your feet from the ground. It is one of three gender specific shoes offered by Altra, the Intuition being the women's model. 
New Balance 890 (left) vs Altra Instinct (right) in forefoot width
  • Heel- An overall loose fit on the heel, but grippy enough where you won't feel like you are sliding out of it. The collar is cut much lower than other shoes, so you will feel nothing pressing up on your ankles or rubbing the back of your Achilles.
  • Instep- As with most shoes, the tighter you tie the laces, the tighter it's going to be on your instep. Unlike some shoes that have been coming out lately, the Instinct has very few overlays and seams, so there is no rubbing on the sides of the foot. In addition, it boasts asymmetrical lacing, which follows the natural curve of the fit, leading to a more biomorphic(form-fitting) instep.
  • Toebox- I mentioned earlier about the toebox being one of the features that makes the Instinct unique. It has a much wider toebox that does not come to a point like a typical run shoe. It gets wider toward the end then finally rounds off leaving it open for that natural toe splay.
  • Flexibility- With a shoe that focuses primarily on giving the runner a natural gait, flexibility it key. This shoe can bend in any direction with your foot while still maintaining a sense of stability where you won't feel off-balance. It provides a structured yet free-flowing feel.
  • Cushion- Yet another aspect that separates the Instinct from other shoes is that it comes with 2 different kinds of insoles. One is a super soft cushy insole to help give a little support, while the other is not as soft and is designed to help strengthen your muscles and tendons. Adding to the versatility, this shoe can also be worn without insoles, giving it a rigid barefoot feeling. So I would say depending on the insole you have in, it could be a 2, 6 or 9 out of 10.
A Little Personal
Being a minimalist by nature I saw these shoes and immediately decided I had to try them out. I placed my order and got them very promptly. As soon as they got in I took them out for a spin. My first run in them was a 6 miler and let me tell you, they are comfortable. Despite being a little heavier than my other minimalist shoes, I still consider these a top contender. The reason being is that when I wear these shoes, I don't feel like I'm running barefoot, I feel like I'm running natural. I have the same gait as if I was wearing Vibram FiveFingers, but I have the same support as if I was wearing the Nike Lunarglide. In that sense, the cushion is what sets it apart from other minimalist running shoes. Since my first run, I have taken it out a few more times, with the longest going up to 8 miles. This is a shoe I feel confident enough to do up to 20 miles in. For those of you who are thinking about going minimal, give this one a try before you go pick up the FiveFingers or the Minimus Trail. My favorite things about this shoe:
  • Gives me a natural gait while still providing a secure feeling
  • It will last much longer than other minimalist shoes
  • The multiple insole option
  • The softness of the shoe
Let me end my review with a little disclaimer. Do not expect to be able to run the same amount of mileage in these shoes right away. As with all minimalist/barefoot shoes, you need a transition period of about 1-4 weeks to allow your calves and tendons to strengthen up and get used to the new gait. Even though you will feel like going out and running 100 miles, don't do it. Just take your time and enjoy your new found natural stride. I hope you learned a little bit today about Altra Running Shoes and are enjoying living the Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #7 (Brooks Green Silence)

Brooks Green Silence
Support Category: Neutral/Racing
Weight: 6.9 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 250-300 miles
Updates from Previous Model: Original!
Upper: Lightweight, minimal, and meshy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 8 mm (21mm-13mm)

Shoe Specs
The Green Silence is a one of a kind shoe in that it is made from 75% recycled materials. The shoe as a whole is extremely eco-friendly. It uses 38% less solvent in glue and overlays, has non-toxic dyes and colorants, and contains 100% recycled shoelaces and webbing. Plus it is made with BioMoGo, which is the first ever biodegradable running shoe midsole, hence the name Green Silence.
A view at the lacing system
  • Heel- The Green Silence has a nice heel grip without being restricting. There isn't any room for play in the heel, but it doesn't feel like it's grabbing you. It gives a sense of security along with a minimal and light grip. The heel collar sits very low, so you don't have to worry about it rubbing on your Achilles or ankles.
  • Instep- Utilizing a sewn in tongue and alternative lacing system, the Green Silence really provides a customizable fit on the instep. Perhaps the best feature about the shoe is that no matter how loose you keep your laces, the shoe is immobile, meaning there is no slipping or sliding. 
  • Toebox- More on the narrow side, but not in a negative way. The toebox comes in and closes up pretty quick at the end, but it doesn't make the shoe feel narrow. It definitely runs true to width, but it doesn't allow for a lot of extra space. Keep in mind this is a competition shoe, and it is designed to hug the foot to stay the lightest weight possible.
  • Flexibility- Very flexible midsole, but it has enough rigidity to provide support to the foot. Bendy in the toe, this shoe gives a full range of flex no matter where you toe off in your gait cycle.
  • Cushion- 4 out of 10. This shoe is not super soft, it provides more of a "feel the road" sensation. In terms of impact absorption, this shoe is great, 9 out of 10, but on the soft scale, it will stay a 4. Despite being rigid, the shoe has a surprising spring in the step, making it a really good shoe for longer distances as well as shorter ones.
A Little Personal
I was very excited to try out this shoe. In every marathon and half marathon I have done in the past year and a half, I have seen the Green Silence on an elite's foot. In my eyes, if the elites wear it, it must be a good shoe, right? Right. I recently raced a half marathon in this shoe and it felt great. My half and full marathon shoe before has been the Brooks Launch, but since I have been racing a bunch of shorter distance races this past summer, I'm used to really lightweight shoes. The Green Silence is a good compromise to the lightweight/durable debate. It is light enough where you can actually tell a difference on your foot, but it also has enough cushion to it so your feet aren't aching at the end of a 13.1 mile race. In addition to my race, I have done several speed workouts on both track and grass and it holds up very well! Even when the shoe gets wet from dew or accidentally spilling water on it, the porous upper wicks it away in a flash, keeping my feet dry and slip resistant. Reasons I like this shoe:
  • Weight, 6.9 oz feels like I have nothing on at all!
  • Fit, this shoe has one of the best overall fits I have ever owned. The sewn in tongue makes the upper smooth everywhere, and the lack of overlays means you won't feel any seams in the shoe. Plus they did a fantastic job on the lacing system making it fit perfectly on your foot every time
  • Durability, typically with a racing flat, you get low mileage, but the buildup of midsole in the shoe makes it not only last longer, but make it a good option for longer distances as well.
Overall this shoe gets a 9 out of 10 for me. There really isn't anything I don't like about it. I'm saving that 10 out of 10 for the shoe that makes me go "This is the one," so that is why it doesn't get perfect marks from me. But this really is a great racing shoe, from 5k to full marathon, it will get you to the finish line. A little known fact for you, Scott Jurek broke the American record for the 24 hour run in this shoe, running a remarkable 162.46 miles. Follow in Scott's footsteps and live The Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #6 (Nike LunarGlide+3)

Nike LunarGlide+3 
Support Category: Neutral to mild stability
Weight: 11 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: Yes
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 300-500 miles
Updates from Previous Model:
  • Added grooves in the sockliner
  • Split the outsole down the middle for a springier step
Upper: Minimal with a breathable mesh
Arch Height: High
Heel-Toe Drop: 12 mm

My Take on the Shoe
The first step I took in this shoe sent mixed signals through my mind. Right off the bat, I could feel the infamous high arch that almost every Nike shoe I've ever had has. But it was way cushier than I am used to, and I liked it. A more detailed analysis of the shoe:
  • Heel- The LunarGlide+3 has memory foam in the heel so it is a nice snug feel that gets more and more comfortable the more you wear it, because it molds to your foot.
  • Midfoot Wrap- Because of the implementation of the flywire, the tighter you tie your laces, the tighter it is around your arch. With that being said, it really is up to you as to how loose or tight it fits on the midfoot(great amount of customizability here, great job Nike!)
  • Forefoot- A nice open toe is boasted in the LunarGlide+3, which in my opinion makes it a comfortable shoe for both walking and running. It isn't too wide though, so get your normal size.
  • Cushion- 8.5 out of 10. Very nice cushion, super soft, you don't have to worry about stepping on rocks or anything because you are running/walking on a cloud.

Grooved Sockliner? What is that/why would they do it?
The sockliner is the little insole that comes with the shoe. Nike recently added grooves to the bottom so when you cinch up the laces on the shoes, even the bottom part of your foot gets a customized fit. It pulls on the sides giving a full wrap around your foot, making an even more personalized fit.
Split the outsole?
On the bottom of the LunarGlide+3, it looks like there is a chunk missing from the heel leading up to the forefoot. If you look straight at it, you can see the midsole component, which is basically what cushions the impact when you run. By leaving a piece missing from the middle, there is almost a trampoline effect when weight is put on the center of the shoe. The midsole sinks down into the crevice and shoots back up giving you return in your step and an extra little boost of cushion.
A Little Personal
I used the LunarGlide+2 for my long run shoe for a while and I would say everything that shoe lacked, the new version has come in strong. The upper has just the right amount of support, the cushion is outstanding, the durability is amazing, and you can use it for pretty much anything. The good thing about the Dynamic Support system is that it really opens up the field for a bunch of runners. I have been using this shoe lightly so far, but first impressions are good. It's hard for me to find a shoe I don't like, but I genuinely do like the LunarGlide+3. Specific reasons I like the shoe:
  • Price, the $100 price point is starting to look more appealing because a lot of entry level performance running shoes are jumping up to $105 and $110.
  • Versatility, I know I say this about almost every shoe I review, but this one more than others because it can be used for sports other than running, cross training, etc... AND it can be used safely for neutral gait as well as for a pronating gait
  • Color options, like most Nike shoes, the LunarGlide+3 has a multitude of colors available, and you can design your own!
Overall this shoe gets a 7 out of 10 for me. It's going to last you a long time, be super soft for around 400 miles, and can be used for pretty much anything. Note, this is the entry level version of the LunarEclipse, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, so if you're on a budget, try picking this one up if you thought the Eclipse looked interesting. Now go enjoy The Life of a Runner.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    The Great GPS Test

    Many people out there wonder "Which GPS watch should I get? Garmin? Timex? The new Nike?" That question has been unanswered until now. I went and got all of the available watches with integrated GPS and tested them out with a series of runs. Here is the watch list:
    • Garmin Forerunner 305
    • Garmin Forerunner 405
    • Garmin Forerunner 210
    • Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    • Garmin Forerunner 610
    • Timex Ironman GPS
    • Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    • Nike+ Sportband (just for fun)
    To get a good feel of how all of them perform I took them on three runs:
    • Track workout consisting of 6x800m sprints with 400m jog rest
    • Trail run consisting of a 2.2 mile loop 3 times
    • Road run of 9.45 miles around White Rock Lake
    This is the fairest way to test all the watches because it gets them on a variety of terrain, varying distances, and tests the signal in both covered and uncovered areas. Before I go in depth on the results of the tests, let me break down the watches:
    Run #1: Track
    I took all 8 watches to the track for some 800m repeats. I stayed in lane one on the inside of the lane the whole time so I wouldn't stray from exactly .25 miles each lap. With the 400m recovery after each repeat, the total mileage for the run was 4.50 miles. Here are the results from the workout:
    So the total workout took me 29:32 for the 6 800's and the recovery jog. I didn't do splits for the run because that would have been way too hard to press the lap button on all those watches. But as you can see, the Nike+ GPS is the clear winner for sure. It was spot on for the whole workout. I am very impressed with Nike on the track. Both of their watches ranked in the top 3. As long as you have the Sportband calibrated properly, it can hang in there with the expensive watches. I threw in the column for displayed pace to show how much of a difference .05 of a mile makes even in a short run like this one. So from the best of the watches closing in at .01 miles off to the worst watch at .27 miles off, GPS has a long way to go for track workouts. Kings of the Track:
    1. Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    2. Garmin Forerunner 305
    3. Timex Ironman GPS
    Interestingly enough, even though I ran with 5 Garmins, only one made the top three. Another surprise is that the 305 and the Timex both measure less than the actual distance while all the others (disregarding the Sportband) measure farther.
    The reason GPS watches have such a hard time with distance on the track is the constant turning. Because the watch gets signals from the satellites every 3-6 seconds, the watch connects the points linearly instead of on a curve. When you think about it logically, however, the GPS path should be shorter instead of longer. It could be that the watch is trying to accommodate for the curve and adding extra distance, or it could be that people actually don't run on the 400m section of the track, they could waver a little bit and go into other lanes or not take the innermost section of the track.

    Run #2: Trail
    Depending on the trail, GPS watches have never really been the best in tracking distance. Elevation changes, switchbacks, and tree cover all make pinpointing a location very hard. Often you will see watches that are way off in distance both above and below the actual distance. So I hit the trail on a 2.2 mile loop that has tons of elevation change, loads of switchbacks, and about 75% tree cover. I did the loop three times to make sure I could really test to see how the watches were doing and see if they were consistent throughout the multiple laps. Here are the results from test #2:
    I expected there to be a big difference amongst the watches, but I had no idea it would be this bad. The closest to being the actual distance was the 310XT and it really was the stand out in the group. The probable reason for the watches performing so poorly was the tree cover. The signal gets blocked temporarily and then the watch has to guess where you went, which means you could lose an entire switchback or a long stretch of random trail. The only watch to display a farther distance than actual was the Sportband, and that makes perfect sense. The Sportband goes based off number of footstrikes, not GPS location. Since you take smaller steps when you are trail running, and your watch is calibrated for your typical longer stride, it thinks you are going further than you actually are. Kings of the Trail:
    Aerial view of the trail run
    1. Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    2. Garmin Forerunner 610
    3. Garmin Forerunner 305/Nike+ Sportband
    Looks like Garmin dominated this run. The Nike+ GPS and Timex GPS really were nowhere to be seen. Both had very poor performance pretty much from the beginning. For the second run in a row, the "old school" Garmin 305 has placed in the top 3, which for me is surprising. But without a doubt, none of the watches could even compare to the 310XT, so trail runners, go pick it up and hit the trails.

    Run #3: Road 
    Your typical runner is going to be running primarily on the roads, which is why this test was so important. I went and did a lap around a lake, which is typically 9.3 miles, but I took a wrong turn and it added .15 miles. So I did a 9.45 mile run on the road in a completely open area with no tree cover. I expected to get the most accurate results here and the tightest span from worst to best. Here are the results:
     Between the GPS watches, the span wasn't too bad. The worst was only .16 off, which isn't horrible over the course of 9.45 miles. The Sportband obviously wasn't calibrated correctly for this run, so it performed the worst of all of them. The 610 and 310XT were exactly correct which is very impressive by both watches! Looking at these results though, you can obviously tell Garmin is king of the road. Official Kings:
    1. Garmin Forerunner 610/310XT
    2. Garmin Forerunner 210
    3. Garmin Forerunner 405
    This was the first test that the 305 wasn't in the top 3, but it definitely was right there with them. This test is the most fair of all the tests since it was run in open air with nothing to interfere with the signal.

    Overall Results
     When we go based just off the average percent error of all 8 watches, here is the order of most to least accurate in varying conditions:
    1. Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    2. Garmin Forerunner 610
    3. Garmin Forerunner 305
    4. Garmin Forerunner 405
    5. Garmin Forerunner 210
    6. Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    7. Timex Ironman GPS
    8. Nike+ Sportband
    In the end, all Garmin's seemed to be the best. But the hands down winner for most accurate is the 310XT with an average of .13 miles off for 3 runs totaling 20.05 miles. The least accurate GPS watch was the Timex Ironman GPS with an average of .44 miles off. 
    Overall, very interesting results coming from these tests, I never would have expected what came about. I will leave you with my GPS watch accolades:
    • Best GPS Watch Overall: Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    • Best GPS Watch for Track Running: Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
    • Best GPS Watch for Trail Running: Garmin Forerunner 310XT
    • Best GPS Watch for Road Running: Garmin Forerunner 310XT and Garmin Forerunner 610
    • Best Value GPS Watch Based on Accuracy: Garmin Forerunner 305
    Well that wraps that up! I hope you found this review helpful and enjoyed The Life of a Runner.