Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Do you know how to pace during a race?



It doesn’t matter if you are heading into your first race or you are a seasoned racing veteran, having a pacing strategy is very important to being successful.  If you don’t go into a race with a plan, your adrenaline will often times make you feel like you can run way faster than you should, causing you to run out of steam half way through your race.  I ran across another great article from Cometitor.com that talks about three different pacing strategies and when you should use them. 

Even Splits
If you are newer to running, you typically are not sure what you are capable of running, so one of the better strategies for you is to run even splits.  This is where you would run at a single pace for the whole race.  In your first few races, it is more important to understand how your body will react during a race than to try and do too much. That typically results in burning out mid-race or getting injured.  This strategy can also be useful for seasoned runners who are running marathons or ultra-marathons, where you keep a consistent pace for a long period of time that is sustainable.

“Hold On For Dear Life”
This approach is best utilized on races of 10k or shorter.  If you have been training hard and are hungry for a PR, you might consider this approach.  You would start out faster than your goal pace and “hold on for dear life” as the race progresses and you start to struggle.  Going into a race with this approach, keep in mind that it will get tough and you might need to muster every bit of strength to make it to the end. 

This approach typically would entail running 5-15 seconds faster per mile than your goal pace for the first 4 miles of a 10k.  You would try to keep that faster pace if you feel good at that point.  If you are struggling, do your best to slow down as little as possible.  For a 5k, you would start 10-15 seconds faster per mile than your goal pace and reevaluate after the first 2 miles.  In a 5k, if you are feeling good, maintain that faster pace and try to step it up at the finish. 

Negative Splits
One of the best ways to get a PR, weather you are a beginner or an elite athlete is to run a negative split race.  This is where you run the second half of the race at a faster pace than the first half of the race.  This is great for races ranging from one mile to half marathon distances.  You would start off the same way as an even split race, but speed up in the last 10-15% of the race, with a strong finish in the last .25 mile.  If you struggle at the end of a race, start off a little slower than your goal pace and pick it up part way through.  One reason why this approach is so effective is that you can save some of your energy for the end of the race.  If you start out too fast, you will burn through all of your available carbs before you can finish. 

One great tool that could help with keeping a negative split are pace bands. They will tell you what your pace for each mile should be based on your goal.  You can add pictures or inspirational words as well.  Check out Races2Remember where you can get 3 bands for $7.50.  Not a bad deal and it will help you stay on track.

Going into a race with a plan is the best recipe for success.  I want to thank Competitor.com
(click herefor their article) for the great information and hope that you will find this information helpful in obtaining a new PR.  Let me know what race strategy you typically utilize and how it is working.


Pictures: (1) http://photos2.demandstudios.com/DM-Resize/photos.demandstudios.com/getty/article/228/173/159302282_XS.jpg?w=1200&h=630&crop_min=1&keep_ratio=1 (2) http://www.races2remember.com/PaceBands.php?sh=1&

Data Reference: http://running.competitor.com/2015/04/training/3-pacing-strategies-to-pr-your-next-race_126544

Friday, April 24, 2015

Swiftwick Aspire Socks Review



So I ran across an add on Facebook for Swiftwick socks.  It said, “We make the best socks you will ever wear…GUARANTEED!”  I thought to myself, that is a very bold statement.  I have been running in Injiji toe socks for over a year now and they have been my go to socks.  They let my toes splay (or spread out) allowing for greater stability, especially in my wide toe box shoes.  I contacted Swiftwick and they sent me a few pairs of their Aspire series socks to try.  I have given them a thorough testing and here are my thoughts.

When I opened the packaging, I could tell from the start that these socks were very well put together.  Swiftwick prides itself on using the best technology to make the best socks in the industry.  They utilize a 200 needle knitting process, which is the highest thread count in the sock business, resulting in a sock that has a tighter knit.  This prevents dirt and debris from coming through your socks, causing irritation.  The socks fit so well that it felt like they were a part of my foot.  There is no bunching or movement of the socks, even when running on trails where your feet slide around a little. 

Swiftwick produces every single sock in the United States.  They feel that it allows them to have better control on the quality of the materials that they use and the product that they produce.  They want to not only create a great product, but do so using environmentally friendly means.  Swiftwick also wants to make sure the customer is always happy.  They offer a guarantee that is better than most companies offer.  “We unconditionally guarantee every Swiftwick product to be the best performance product you have ever worn, or we invite you to mail us the laundered socks and a request for a competitor’s replacement pair of equal value.”  I like that they do ask for you to clean it and not send your smelly socks.

I received the Aspire Zero in black, which is a light weight, thin sock that stops below the ankle.  It uses managed compression to support all three arches (I only thought we had one arch, who knew) and their Linked-Toe design to eliminate bunching, which can cause hot spots and blisters.  They wick moisture better than any sock I have tried and even after months of testing, they look just as good as the day I first put them on.

I also received the Aspire Four in Razzle Red.  The Four stands for four inches of ankle support, where the Zero has no ankle support.  The Aspire Four utilizes Swiftwick’s double cuff rises, which prevent the sock from slipping down, ever.  It also has all of the same features as the Aspire Zero.  

Pros:
Very comfortable
Hot spot and blister free
Extremely durable
Made in the USA
Best guarantee in the business

Cons:
I only have 2 pairs.
They start at $12.99, so they are a little pricey.

Do Swiftwick socks live up to their claims of being the best socks I will ever wear?  Much to my surprise, they do.  I love these socks!  While they might be a little pricey, they are extremely durable and will last for quite a while (longer than cheaper socks).  They are made in the USA and use the best materials and technologies available to create a superior product.  I have no problem spending a few extra dollars to get such a great product.  I will definitely be buying me a few more pairs to add to my collection. 

Give them a try and let me know what you think.  What do you have to lose?  If you don’t like them, Swiftwick will buy you a pair of your favorite socks as a replacement.  You can buy them starting at $12.99 for the Aspire Zero and $16.99 for the Aspire Four.  They also have various other sizes and several colors to choose from.  Go to Swiftwick or Amazon to get yours today.


Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Altra Instinct 3 Review



Altra is one of the innovators of the wide toe box and utilizing zero heel drop in their shoes.  I love Altra from the shoes they put out to the company’s belief that its shoes can help people run better and help them realize that there are zero limits to what they can accomplish. 

 

I received a pair of the Altra Instinct 3 to review and couldn’t wait to put them on.  I have been running in the Instinct 2 for quite a while and love them (click here for my Instinct 2 review).  My one complaint after all this time with the Instinct 2 is that while they are extremely comfortable, I feel that they are a little squishy and could rob you of power.  That being said, they are perfect for training, just not ideal for speed workouts or race day.  Will the Instinct 3 solve that issue?  Let’s compare the Instinct 2 and Instinct 3.


Stack Height
25 mm.
24 mm.
Heel Drop
0 mm (as with all Altra shoes)
0 mm (as with all Altra shoes)
Weight
9.5 oz.
8.1 oz.
Midsole Material
Dual Layer EVA/A-Bound Blend
Ultralight EVA/A-Bound Blend w/ Innerflex
Outsole Material
Footpod Outsole
Footpod Outsole
Insole
5 mm. Contour Footbed
6 mm. Contour Footbed

The Instinct 3 has a redesigned midsole and outsole.  The upper material is more durable.  The midsole is more flexible and therefore is more responsive.  The biggest change though is that they shaved off 1.4 ounces and made the ride less squishy.  I would be willing to take the Instinct 3 out for speed workouts or utilizing them on race day with the changes that Altra made. 

I only found one negative thing about the Instinct 3, which was more user error than anything.  The bottom of the tongue on the inside of the shoe, right near my toes, folded under and irritated my foot. This is a different design than the Instinct 2 and once I figured out what felt weird, I was able to correct it quickly.  It has not been an issue since that point.

Pros:
Very comfortable
Zero heel drop
Very light
Plenty of cushion
Great price (As low as $110 at Altra)

Cons:
Weird tongue design.

I have to be completely honest.  I love these shoes.  These are awesome shoes for anything from running hills to speed workouts to your long training runs.  Altra continues to make amazing shoes and they definitely did not disappoint me with the Instinct 3.  Give them a try and let me know what you think.  If you are not used to zero drop shoes, there can be a small break in period, but I have become a stronger, more injury free runner since I primarily switched to zero drop shoes. You can pick up a pair for around $110 at Altra or Amazon.


Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Do you know what your shoes are made out of?

So, have you ever been talking to a friend or reading an article that talks about uppers or outsoles and been lost at what they are talking about.  Comtetitor.com came up with a great article (click here) that explains it all.  I have combined their multiple slides into one post for your viewing pleasure.


The Upper:
This is the top of the shoe, typically made of mesh, which cinches your foot into the shoe.  Some winter shoes are made of Gore-Tex to keep the water out while letting the shoe breathe.  You can find uppers that have very little material and some that are rather thick.

The Heel Counter:
This can vary in stiffness depending on the type of shoe you have, but it typically is somewhat stiff and holds the heel of the shoe in its proper shape. The heel counter can either be found inside the shoe or outside.

The Heel Crash Pad:
This is a cushioned area under your heel that aids in taking some of the impact if you heel strike.  Some shoes have more of a crash pad than others, so take that into consideration when buying shoes.

Heel-Toe Offset:
This is the difference in the height of your toes from the ground and the distance of your heel from the ground.  If your shoe had 22mm of cushion under your toes and 25mm of cushion under your heel, that would be a 3 mm offset.  Brands like Altra, Topo Athletic, and Skora offer a zero-drop meaning that your toes and heel are equal distance from the ground.  This puts your body in a better alignment, but it can take some getting used to.  If you are a heel striker, a larger heel drop might provide a little more protection.

The Midsole:
This is the cushioning that provides you with protection, stability and comfort on your runs. Most companies have different materials that they use to achieve a lighter shoe or more comfort.  Asics uses gel while some other companies use foam or air.  You can find minimalist shoes with very little cushion or max cushioned shoes like Hoka One One and some Altra shoes that have tons of cushion.  It really comes down to what works best for you.

The Outsole:
This is the bottom of the shoe, the part that takes the most punishment.  The outsole provides traction and this is one of the areas of the shoe that will wear out the quickest.  Most shoes use some sort of rubber or harder material in this area.  Some companies only put rubber in some areas of the outsole and leave the midsole exposed in other areas.

The Sockliner:
This is also called the insole.  It is often times removable and can be replaced with insoles like Superfeet.  The sockliner is typically made out of fabric and foam.  Many companies use an antimicrobial coating to reduce smells and bacterial growth.

The Toe Spring:
This is located at the front of the shoe and arches upward.  This allows you to get more toe-off and push off a little better than if you had a flat shoe.  Hoka One One has a Meta Rocker design that allows you to have more of a flow in your gait, making it easier for your foot to roll from heel strike to toe off.

The Toe Box:
This is the area that covers your toes and protects them.  Some shoes have rubber covering the front of the shoe for protection while others use a light weight mesh that is more breathable and weighs less.  Trail running shoes tend to have more protection than road shoes.

The Tongue:
We all know what this is.  It is the fabric that rests between your laces and the top of your foot.  Some tongues are gusseted, meaning that they are attached all the way up the sides of the tongue.   This reduces the likelihood of dirt or rocks from making their way into your shoe from the tongue area.  A gusseted tongue is important for trail runners, but isn’t as necessary for road runners.

I had no idea what components made up my running shoes when I first started.  I remember going into the running store and felt like they were speaking another language.  Competitor.com put out a great article with pictures.  If you have specific questions on what features would be best for your type of running, please send me a comment and I will do my best to help you out.

Information and pictures are the property of competitor.com.