Asking for a friend: Double or Single Knots?

A recent Facebook poll on my favorite Running group asked if we preferred double, or single knots on our running shoes. The results are a mixed bag, with a few write-ins for Velcro (I’m not sure if they are serious), Lace-locks, and bungees.

I’m a little torn b/c I’m an in-between kinda guy, maybe not in the Velcro. Okay, I realize that was joke, but still. Allow me to explain- it all boils down to the shoe laces.

**SCIENCE ALERT! What follows is a highly scientific and comprehensive review, I am a professional, do not try this at home, results will vary!**

My Brooks Launch 4’s laces are perfect for a single knot, they are semi-round /oval, soft with reinforced ridged edges. The laces don’t stretch or flex very much, but there’s enough give that they hold a knot very well. When tied correctly, a single knot will suffice for all activities.

Using my extensive and highly scientific methods of measurement we see that the shoelace has approximately a 5/16″ stretch for every 6″ of shoelace. This is not sponsored or endorsed by Lowes.

My Hoka Bondi 4’s laces are complete garbage (sorry Hoka) I would double knot those bad boys only to have them fall apart – even when tied correctly! I gave up on those solid ridged laces and replaced them with iBungee laces. The bungee laces have treated me very well and I actually feel like my feet breath a little better.

No stretch test- it’s bungee folks. Don’t get carried away.

My Merrell Agility’s are a double knot kinda of shoe. The laces are flat with no hard ridges, single knots seem to slip up too easily because they stretch a fair amount while running. Plus, when it comes to trail running, I’ll take the added assurance of a double knot.

Again, utilizing extensive and highly scientific methods of measurement we see that the shoelace has approximately a 13/16″ stretch for every 6″ of shoelace.

My Mizuno Wave Rider’s laces are round, super soft, super stretchy, and yet hold a perfect knot. I have these tied in a lace lock fashion, so I’m sure that is an added bonus.

Using my extensive method of measurement we see that the shoelace has approximately a 1-3/8″ stretch for every 6″ of shoelace.

My New Balance 880’s have a flat shoelace with a center reinforced stitch. These laces hold a single knot extremely well, and have very little to no stretch. No stretch has its drawbacks especially if you tie them too tight.

Finally, using my highly scientific method of measurement we see that the shoelace has approximately a 1/4″ stretch for every 6″ of shoelace.

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Running for Charity

Let me clear the air for those of you looking for the nitty-gritty details.  Here it is: Download the Charity Miles App – record your miles and raise money for charity or your choice.  Seems pretty easy, right?

For me, not so much. A few months ago I was getting frustrated with always having to run with a cell phone or iPod for my music.  I dabbled in fancy headphones and running belts to try to suit my needs, but just found myself wasting time trying to make it all work.  So I ditched the phone, the belt, and the headphones and run with no music or distractions.  I’m forced to listen to myself breathe and hear nothing but my feet hitting the ground beneath me.

Needless to say, I downloaded this app months ago and never logged in.  After guilt getting the better of me, I decided to open the app, sign-in, and start raising funds.  The interface is simple to use, and you can select between indoor or outdoor walking or running, as well as outdoor biking.  While I’m not 100% sure how comfortable I feel running with my phone again, I have been logging in almost daily to record my morning and afternoon walks – and knowing that I’m helping raise funds for a charity of my choice is pretty rewarding.

Question: What are some of your favorite running apps?

Race Recap: Ragnar Relay, Pennsylvania

Where should I start? Let’s rewind to January 2018, my friend asked me if I wanted to join him and his Ragnar Relay team – I scoped out the website, saw I had a couple hundred days to train and said, “why not?” After which I was promptly added to the team roster.  I came up with a fairly reasonable training plan and figured I had plenty of time to work out the details.

My friend hosted a couple of meetings, where we all got together and chose our “legs” based on runner number and also met to discuss logistics. For those of you that are new to Ragnar, it can be broken down like this:

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-ish mile race from one city to another.  The relay race is made up of teams.  Each team is comprised of up to 12 runners.  The 200-ish miles are divided into “legs”, ranging from 3 – to 9 miles each.  Each runner is assigned predetermined legs.  The first 6 runners are assigned to “Van 1” and the remaining 6 runners are assigned to “Van 2”.  Each runner runs 3 legs over the course of the entire race.

The race started from Lancaster area and ran all the way up to the Poconos.  Our team of 12 looked at each runner number and predetermined legs to find one that suited our running best.  Since this was my first relay, I chose one of the runner positions that had around 18 miles total – about the middle of the pack compared to the other available slots.  Anyway, not to bore you with the details, but due to some scheduling conflicts and last minute trades, I ended up in the Runner 4 position (totaling 16 miles).

My legs were: Leg 4 (4.6 miles), Leg 16 (3.45 miles), and Leg 28 (8 miles).

Enough talk here are some photos I took (enjoy!):

Gear Prep: I had packed 3 sets of running clothes, 3 pairs of shoes (2 to run, 1 pair to relax), various hats and bandannas, Feetures! and Mojo Socks, Running belt, headphones, safety gear, and a CamelBack waterpak.

Not shown, electronic prep included a portable battery pack (which was stolen or lost on race day) phone charging cables, iPad, iPhone, Garmin Charger, Garmin Forerunner 225, and two GoPro cameras and batteries.

At exchange 12-13, our van was looking pretty awesome.

In hindsight, we brought too much food. Everyone on the team thought it was great to bring trail mix, nuts, water, and snacks. I also thought it would be awesome to supply everyone with HoneyStinger products. Needless to say, no one was leaving or going hungry.  We had some much leftover food it’s not even funny – and despite grazing on snacks the entire time I constantly felt like I could just eat a nasty juicy burger.

Here I am at exchange 3-4 about to head out on a nice 4.6 mile run not too far from home (top) and coming in hot to hand off at the next exchange (bottom):

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It was awesome and exhausting. Our driver had backed out so our Team Captain and I took over driving and navigating responsibilities. Not ideal, but it really made this a hands-on adventure and added to my experience. Since I had roughly 12 hours between my legs, I was willing to tackle the job. I should also mention, we decided as a team to split up the driving for the ride home, so I was more than happy to pass out!

I snagged a few pics from my GoPro from my second leg. It was a nice 3.45 miles around a park along the water and ended up at a Church parking lot.  We were on time crunch, so I literally arrived and jumped right into the Van.

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After this things got blurry for me. We had about 6-7 hours of downtime which would have been ideal for rest, but being short on a driver required our Team Captain and me to stay awake and navigate to the overnight exchange. I will say, it was worth it- there is so much to take it we hung around a little too long at the second Van 1 – Van 2 exchange. This put us back a smidge and we got a late start to the overnight point.  We skipped going out to dinner or even stopped for fast food, we just had a laser focus on getting to the next exchange.

Sleep was (is) optional if you can sneak in a few Zzz’s I’d recommend it! All-in-all I got 3 hours of restless sleep, and that’s rounding up a little.  When I did sleep, it was one of those wild and crazy “I’m past the point of tired” dreams.  I dreamt that a girl named  Megan joined our team and was out to sabotage us, which became the running joke the following morning.

The next morning I was slated to run at 6:30 am and since we were running about 40 minutes ahead as fast as I could get ready, I was off!  I got to take in some truly beautiful scenery and since my portable power supply was gone, I didn’t get a chance to charge up my GoPros. This hill (above) lead to some amazing sights, my teammates captured some of the beauty.  The course ran along many dirt roads, the further north we traveled.  You could just feel how remote we were running along these winding roadways in the middle of the countryside with not a house in sight.

Our van by this point was looking pretty rough as well, but all in good fun.  I had added a few more tick marks to our miles and a few more sayings along the way.  Despite having backup cameras, we still couldn’t land the perfect parking job when reversing into spots.

Our final meeting was at a drive-in theater. We were all exhausted and over it, but still amped up for the finish.  Once we finished our legs, I drew Larry Enticer on the side of the window of our van, encouraging Van 2 to just send it to the finish line.

Drive-in pics:

All-in-all this post isn’t doing my experience justice. It was hands down awesome and I’d do it all again.  I knew 2 people on the team when I joined, and that’s being generous – when I left I never felt more comfortable with a group of new-found friends than I have before.  You wouldn’t think you’d go through so many emotions in such a short time, but we all laughed at the good times and shared in the pain when the running (and hills) got tough.  I walked away from this experience amazed at what the body is capable is doing despite fatigue, and feel an added boost of confidence in myself.

Here’s to the next one!

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Confessions of a Sock Aficionado

Hold up, before you go any further, this post is not sponsored, endorsed, or paid by Feetures!  This review is my own experience purchasing and using these wonderfully awesome socks.  Also, I know I’m getting older when the thought of a brand new pair of socks excites me, and these bad boys take the cake! Psst, Feetures! Call me, let’s get hooked up.

When it comes to socks, I have an obsession. I’m a stickler for comfort, and will destroy a laundry basket of perfectly clean wash in search for my go-to pairs. I become a sock archaeologist and will remove layer after layer in search of perfect pair. And when I discover my match, a sigh of relief from my feets and cry of joy from my heart.

You may all know of my love for Mojo Compression socks (and I still hold them in high regard), but I found out quickly that while they were great for recovery and road running activities, trail running proved to be a different beast.  Keep in mind, I used and swear by the Mojo Coolmax socks for recovery and for extended runs.  They are light, breathable, and offer full support, but this isn’t about Mojo socks.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk Feetures!  I was getting discouraged after being introduced to trail running when my Merrell shoes were giving me blisters after about 5 miles of activity.  I tried various socks, and combinations of socks, to no avail – I was starting to think I struck out and picked a bum trail running shoe.  I even doubled-up on socks and found they kind of helped, but my feet were still a little sore afterward – and who wants to have to double-up on socks? It just feels like a waste.

I was in my favorite local running store grabbing some supplies, when I spotted a wall of Feetures! socks and noticed they boasted a money-back-satisfaction-guarantee.  Insert my face, with a dark smirk, I knew the perfect test.  Enter the 7 miles of trails with my local running club aka HELL on shoes and socks, a true battleground for proving equipment claims and effectiveness.

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I grabbed the first pair of socks, sized to my foot (L), and decided it was on.  The next morning I woke up excited to hit the trails and slipped on my Feetures! socks.  It’s crazy to think that something like socks can be a game-changer, but you’d be surprised.  The trails were wet and flooded out following a recent rainfall, so I knew this would be a true test of quality.  After the first 3 miles, I was feeling good, and the socks were holding up well.  I was doing my best to avoid the puddles, when after hopping over a log lead me to a full on mud bath splash down.  I was soaked and started to get worried that maybe this wasn’t the proper way to break-in a fresh pair of socks – but I pressed onward.

By the end of the 7 miles, I was re-charged, I spent so much time focusing on where I was landing that I completely forgot about my feet and my socks.  In fact, it wasn’t until I got home and took off my socks did I realize there wasn’t a blister or soreness to complain about.  Feetures! YOU ROCK!

Since purchasing these bad boys, I’ve logged about 20+ miles on them and have no complaints – these are my go to brand now for all distance running activities.

 

The things we learn when we get older…

Strength training and stretching has been a long forgotten art throughout my running career – until recently.  These areas of exercise and fitness were two pages I would gloss over when working on my running program.  The thought of going to the gym and lifting weights created a rise in my anxiety levels, to the point where I would just convince myself running was all I needed.

Youth, the springtime of life, where running alone is all you need to stay in shape.  When I was 16 years old I started to come out of my shell and wanted to do more than just ride my bike – so I took an interest in surfing.  I was never any good at it, but would faithfully tag along with a bunch of kids from school and eventually got connected with a local surfboard maker.  I actually took the time and shaped my own surfboard, bought a wetsuit, and just like all my other hobbies found something else – running.

I would run 5-6 miles a night, averaging around 8-minute miles on a treadmill in my parent’s unfinished and dark basement.  It was 45-50 mins where I would shut off my mind and just run.  I had managed to drop weight and started to look somewhat athletic.  I could rinse and repeat this practice daily.  In fact, I kept this practice up until the treadmill eventually couldn’t handle the use and died.  It’s a sad story, it became a hanger for old clothes and “stuff” laying around the basement.  It remained in that tomb for years, until my parents decided to finish their basement and eventually put the treadmill to the curb.  Anyway, I digress:

Around 10 years years ago when I started to have issues with my weight.  I recalled how much I enjoyed running and also, how much weight I was able to lose – that was enough motivation for me to start running again.  I quickly found that running with all that extra weight came with an added cost.  I wasn’t as nimble as before, and the added weight really put a strain on my lower back.  It was like my body was punishing me for trying to get healthy.  In addition to the weight it didn’t help that a) I wore the wrong shoes and b) my form was horrible.  I ended up pulling a muscle or tendon in my foot (Peroneal Tendonitis) that put me out of service for months.

I learned, Adulthood was not the springtime of youth, and that I needed to improve all areas of my body in order to become physically fit enough to just run.  Once I had found success in weight loss through a proper diet, I started running again.  This time, I invested in running shoes and paid closer attention to my form.  I found that regularly running 3-4 miles a night was enough to keep me in shape, and also was just enough to avoid injury.  The occasional 6-8 miler was doable, but I would feel tightness in my lower back that would persist if I didn’t take a day or two to rest.  It was right after my first half-marathon that I discovered there was still a lot of work to do.

Fast forward to today, I’m able to pause in reflection of my errors and now include a slew of post running exercises to help improve my running form.  Now, the debate is out whether or not Pre or Post running workouts help, I prefer post running since cardio is my first love.  What works for you is between you and your doctor (insert seek health professionals approval before beginning a running program disclaimer here). This isn’t a definitive list, but here are the exercises that have found help lower my chances of injury and have made running enjoyable once again.

Strength Training:
Lower back extensions are a must, I’ve added these to my regiment to help strengthen my lower back muscles.
Situps and planking to help improve my core, I have found that this practice has helped reduce hunching over while running and keeps me upright throughout my running session.
Push-ups for good measure, because upper body strength helps pump me up those hills!

Stretching Routines
I don’t know the formalities on stretching, so here is what I do – I focus on my main muscle groups: hips, hamstrings, thighs, glutes, and calves.  Then stretch out my plantar fascia and work on focusing on my foot muscles by stretching them out with weird drunken yoga ballerina-type moves. There are plenty of focused stretching videos on the Runner’s World YouTube Channel.

iCare 5k

Every year a nearby food bank hosts a 5k almost in our backyard. Blessings of Hope has a huge yard sale, auction, food vendors, activities for kids, and of course a 5k race in beautiful Lancaster County. The company is predominantly Mennonite so it attracts the local Amish and Mennonite community at large. Turn out is always HUGE.

This year the 5k drew a much larger crowd as well. The course was the same as the previous year, a nice easy run on the back roads of Amish Country. There is a slight incline, at the very start, but for the most part it’s nothing too crazy and very runner friendly.

At the very beginning I noticed a lot of kids hanging around the starting line- in fact there were a lot of kids and I thought how fun it will be to blow past them at the half way mark. The announcer’s voice boomed over the handheld speaker as she yelled “GO!” and we were off. Truth be told: those Amish kids took off and I didn’t see a single one after that. Even though my first mile was complete in 7 minutes, and my second mile at 7:20, those kids were fast and long gone.

The course was beautiful as always, and the atmosphere and iCare event was a lovely experience. Even though I hit a few PRs, fastest mile (7:11), fastest 2 miles (14:31), I still finished 25th overall. I placed 3rd in my age group and received a fidget spinner medal- all-in-all, it was pretty fun.

Last year I ran a lot slower, with an average of 9:00 min/miles and placed 2nd in my age group. So this year I’d say the amount of competitors was a lot higher and the skill levels were just as high to match. This is a fast course and we saw some really fast times! Looking forward to next year!

Hot Chocolate 15k – Race Recap

Before we start, can I tell you how much I love this race? The Hot Chocolate 15k is just an awesome race all around.  The only complaint is finding a parking spot around the city, but hey, par for the course.  This year I hit another PR, beating my previous runtime by around 8 minutes.  I felt strong the entire race, and get this – NO MUSIC.  I decided to ditch the headphones and listen to myself breath, and it was an amazing experience.

Running without music really heightened my other senses and I felt like I was sincerely listening to my body.  It also afforded me a chance to really take in my surroundings and hear what was going on around me.  Life can be pretty crazy, and it’s almost sad to say this, but you never know what’s going to happen at an event like this.  There were over 5,000 participants in the 15K, plus spectators, staff, and volunteers – it was crazy busy!  So being alert and knowing my surroundings was extremely comforting.  Another comforting sight was seeing the sheer amount of awesome volunteers, police, fire, ems, and sanitation crews.  Major kudos to the men and women of the Philadelphia Law Enforcement, First Responder, and Public Works Departments.

The first half of the race takes you from the Philadelphia Museum of Art toward Center City and then loops you back around to cross over the Susquehanna into Fairmount Park.  You run up Martin Luther King Drive and catch the wonderful sights of Boathouse Row.  It’s an amazing sight and such a beautiful landscape.   The Philadephia Hot Chocolate Run is an Out-and-Back Course, so once you run the entire length of the Park, you turn around and come right back.

I didn’t carry much on me during this year’s race, last year I carried Sport Beans and two water bottles with Nuun in them, this year a single Stinger Gel Flask and one Orangic Honey Stinger Waffle was just enough.  Heck, I even forgot to eat the waffle until the very end!  The entire race was enjoyable, it wasn’t until mile 8 that I noticed some discomfort.  I’m not really sure what triggered it, but I decided to check my heart rate at mile 8 and noticed I was at my max threshold (red area for those Garmin users).  Maybe it was a lack of glucose in my bloodstream, but I just felt a little off.  I decided to walk for 1 min, and see if my heart rate would drop back to my Anaerobic zone (Orange) or if I could manage to calm myself my Aerobic zone (Green).  I chugged the rest of my gel flask and nabbed a Nuun water from the last aid station – I checked my watch and saw that I had managed to bring my heart rate into a comfortable zone, so I picked the pace back up.  I finished feeling pretty good with my average pace around 9:30 min/mile.  Could I have gone faster? Maybe, but let’s save that for next year!

Finish Time: 1:29:41