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?

All About the Food! Plant-based!

Physical fitness is a mental and physical game – but let’s not neglect nutrition! After all, it’s all about the food! This week I’m sharing the past three top Plant-based meals we’ve had that I just can’t get enough! Let’s balance this out with my weekly new favorite Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

Let’s kick it off with Breakfast! My favorite recent plant-based breakfast has to be: Banana Bread Pancakes These bad boys were filling and so delicious, especially topped with the crumbled nuts and maple syrup!  We paired our pancakes with fresh fruits and some savory peppery potatoes!

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Lunchtime doesn’t have to be heavy, so soups are a classic go-to for us.  This Lentil Soup recipe we tried was hearty and downright awesome!  Paired with some freshly baked bread, this meal is sure to satisfy and will fill you up but not weigh you down.

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Dinner time calls for all the carbs!  That’s why we love this Cauliflower Bolognese and matching salad!  Nothing rounds the day out like some whole grain pasta, covered with bolognese.

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Make sure you check out Beyond 24 Days for the most up to date recipes and meal ideas!

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.

My Weight Loss (and Gain) Storylines

I sort of realized as I’m typing this that there were so many factors in me gaining weight.  I decided to break this up into two parts.  Part I is like the foundation of my weight gain.  Part II will be the weight loss portion.  Sorry for the long read.

Part I, Weight Gain

When I was in high school I wasn’t involved in much.  I tried skateboarding, but I wasn’t into breaking bones as easily as my friends were. It was almost like a rite of passage, the skating kids wouldn’t include you if you didn’t break your arm attempting to pull off a fakie backside off their homemade box ramp.  I just found myself wanting to ride my bike or attempt skating and surfing. Needless to say, I wasn’t the star athlete of my hometown, I was just a regular teen just finding my place in life.

As a teen I never struggled with weight or body image, I was tall, lean, and always active. It wasn’t until I started dating my wife that we both discovered we had shared a love of many things, one most important: FOOD.

We never ate at home, all of our meals were either fast food, diner, or chain restaurants. We ate what we wanted whenever we wanted.  I went from being a lanky 168 lbs. to 200 lbs. in what seemed like overnight.  None of my clothes fit and I started to become very self-conscious and started building a negative body image.  I would try to hide behind bulky jackets and clothing during the cooler months and then squirm with self-doubt and discomfort in the warmer months.  I avoided my picture being taken and stayed away from anything that would draw attention to me.  Aside from my marriage and two wonderful children, nothing else seemed to ever go right.  I had no confidence, and no spine when it came to being bullied at work.  My co-workers and superiors had zero confidence in me and I was belittled and pushed into a corner.  I just assumed this was my place in life.

The only outlet I had I was being involved with the local volunteer fire company and would regularly attend weekly training exercises and drills.  I remember my skewed thought process when it came to physical fitness and wellness.  I thought one night of intense activity was my healthy gateway to justify eating garbage throughout the rest of the week.

“I thought one night of intense activity was my healthy gateway to justify eating garbage throughout the rest of the week.”

Then it happened, well two things happened: First, it was like I had something to prove, I obtained firefighting certification after firefighting certification and just never felt satisfied.  I was missing out on my young family’s early milestones and my wife and I hit a really rough patch in our relationship.  Second, I wasn’t feeling good, I was always sick, always out of breath and just tired all the time. One night during RIT (rapid intervention team) training I was the lucky firefighter that got the role of “victim” or “downed firefighter” and had to be rescued by my peers.  As I felt my fellow team members struggle to rescue me (my weight: 260 lbs plus the added weight of fire gear: 80+ lbs), I came to the scary realization that had this been a real scenario, we all would have been dead.

That’s when I knew, something had to change.  And here’s the thing about change; it can’t be comfortable or easy.  When you make a comfortable and easy change, you are setting yourself up for failure.  When you make a change, commit to the new process and don’t look back!

“… here’s the thing about change; it can’t be comfortable or easy.  When you make a comfortable and easy change, you are setting yourself up for failure.  When you make a change, commit to the new process and don’t look back!”

First, my work was a toxic environment, the management there was inadequate at best, and the atmosphere didn’t make it any better.  I was killing myself for mediocre pay and thought working overtime was the key to making a healthy living.  My boss would play mind-games with me and belittle my contributions.  I was reminded on a weekly basis how much I cost the company, and how it would be cheaper for them to outsource my work.  I was constantly in fear of losing my job.  Being in a constant state of worry led to stress eating and mentally just wore me out.  I was tired all the time and was starved for energy.  I would consume 2-3 energy drinks a day, eat fast food and candy (because it was convenient and easily obtained), and actually thought smoking would help curb cravings.  I even took caffeine pills on a few occasions to stay awake at work and dabbled in weight loss pills to help control my eating habits.

People, are you reading what I’m writing?! Looking back, I must have been mental!  There were so many warning signs that after 5 years of slogging it out, making the decision to quit was long overdue.  When I left that job, I weighed somewhere in the ballpark of 260+ lbs., I say ballpark because I refused to weigh myself because I knew the number would bring me down.

Part II, Weight Loss

Let’s take a look at a few things:  It wasn’t until I left my crappy, toxic career behind and decided to embark on a new journey, that I discovered a few life lessons.

Life Lessons Learned:
Lesson 1. Get rid of toxicity in your life!  Whether it be a nagging boss, negative influencers in your life, so-called “friends”, watching the news, social media, think about what brings you down and let it go.  Then take a moment and think about who you want to be.  Then surround yourself with like-minded people and take the first step in what I like to call a lifestyle cleanse.

Lesson 2. You can’t outwork a bad diet.  One night of intense physical activity is not enough to keep you in shape.  On the same token, smoking, or popping pills, or weight loss gimmicks are nothing but smoke and mirrors.  Ditch the gimmicks and commit to something more tangible and real.  Join a gym and meet with a trainer to develop a fitness program.  I stress, fitness program, and not weight loss program because you need to change your mindset and not view this as a once-and-done program.  This is a lifestyle change.

Lesson 3. Pardon my French, but EAT REAL FUCKING FOOD! Stop eating junk, stop eating what’s convenient and fast, and start eating shit you can pronounce! The simpler the ingredients the better.  Veggies are your friend, and friends help you out and lift you up.  Ditch the crap and start investing in your health with real food.

Lesson 4.  Love and encourage your partner.  So much of my success comes from the love and support of my wife.  Together we supported each other’s goals and together we’ve accomplished great things.  Take a moment and express gratitude for what/who makes you feel good and do what you can to reciprocate that positive energy.

Lesson 5. Do what you love.  Running can be a love/hate relationship and I find the more I run, the more I appreciate this lifelong friend.  We have our ups and downs, and we learn from one another – just like life. Live and learn and don’t give up what you love.