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Getting a Stryd Footpod

I ordered a Stryd footpod, whose purchase terms require a 6 month subscription to the Stryd service.

I’m now interested in getting and using the additional stats these sorts of accelerometer running pods provide: Running power, ground contact, etc. I’m now at a point in training where I may have a use for that data, and it could better inform my training going forward.

I previously considered ordering a Garmin Running Dynamics pod to pair with my Forerunner, but balked at doing it (I even had a Dynamics pod ordered, but thanks to ongoing general shipping delays it hadn’t shipped for a few days, giving me time to reconsider and cancel), and now am glad I went with Stryd instead.

First of all, Garmin’s support history for their pricey accessories is a bit spotty. They previously sold a footpod that has now been discontinued and decommissioned. I didn’t want to spend $70 on a running pod that would eventually become obsolete and useless.

Also, while I like the functionality of my Forerunner 245, some of the pod stats I’d want aren’t available for the 245. I’d have to upgrade to a new watch, and while I can afford that I don’t want to decommission this watch after only a year of use.

Also, others reported that the Running Dynamics pod, designed to clip to your waistband, had fallen off and been lost during runs for some people. Again, I don’t want to spend $70 on something and then lose it, especially if it’s that easy to lose (it’s a small, less than a walnut sized device). While I have solid running form with minimal bounce, I have had clips and other similar devices fall off my body or otherwise get lost during and after runs. I can see myself easily losing that pod during a run and not knowing until too far after the fact.

The Stryd pod, meanwhile, is a standard footpod clipped to your shoelaces, and in my experience those stay on solidly with no issues. Worst case scenario, I forget to transfer the pod to my current pair of shoes, and it sits at home.

The Stryd is also intended for use with their 3rd party Garmin Connect IQ app, which provides full functionality through any compatible Garmin watch (and my Forerunner 245 is one of them). I don’t need to change my watch to use it, and it shouldn’t compromise the regular Garmin data from my workouts (including maps, which for me are fairly important).

So that’s why I went with the Stryd instead of the Running Dynamics pod. Now what exactly am I looking to get out of a Stryd versus the regular data from my Forerunner?

Stryd, instead of focusing on pace and other standard running metrics, focuses instead on running power. Pace is subject to a variety of variables beyond your control, e.g. inclines and declines, temperature, humidity, wind, your ability to handle altitude, etc. Most devices spit out just your pace, and what metrics they have evaluate your pace in a vacuum, as if all runs were in equal conditions. That’s not totally accurate.

Meanwhile, your running power measures the force you produce per step, and can be measured regardless of pace or conditions. It can give you a much more accurate, objective idea of how hard you’re running and how hard or easy to run. This pod uses an accelerometer rather than your GPS, so readings are dead-on accurate no matter where you are.

Stryd’s metrics can objectively determine what you’re capable of doing in any time trial from a second to 90 minutes, and can give a more accurate estimate of your current and potential performance all the way up to a marathon.

For me, the difficulty with conventional metrics (mileage, pace, heart rate) was that changes in my pace or heart rate didn’t necessarily tie back to my current fitness or performance. Temperature, high winds, and substantial differences in altitude between locations in the Las Vegas Valley can make workouts of the same intensity and effort look completely different, and make algorithmic judgments of my fitness based on those subjective results.

So, presuming it gets here in one piece this next week, I’ll begin using a Stryd for runs and look forward to what it shows me during runs.

Quick thoughts on “foot strike”

Foot-strike is as big a misnomer as midfoot or forefoot running. This has created countless foot injuries from runners re-learning to basically tiptoe through their runs, or land forcefully on the ball of their foot.

Your foot is designed to make full contact with the ground. But that said, this doesn’t mean slapping the length of your foot against the ground flat-footed is correct either.

Your foot is also designed to roll through contact and carry momentum from back to front, more akin to a wheel than a peg-leg. So the notion of foot “striking” is incorrect, not to mention the source of so many common runner problems (stress fractures, ankle injuries, knee problems, shin splints, etc).

Unfortunately, so many runners and coaches pay attention to what part of the foot hits the ground rather than, more important, how momentum moves throughout the foot before, during and after each step.

What many think of as forefoot striking should instead be a focus on making sure your momentum propels through the ball of the foot and forward, rather than through the heel and into the ground.

A quick work/life update.

I am starting a new full-time position next week, a full-time consultant role where I step in with an agency’s local clients on a generally 2-3+ month basis assisting with accounting, admin and analysis needs, as well as working with the agency on filling staff with the client as needed.

It’s a more actionable version of what I did as a temp for years prior to working in education, and I’ll have more of a direct role in addressing client staffing concerns and agency/client objectives. I’m looking forward to a role far more engaged and directly relevant to my skills and experience than my last role. Plus, it’s a combination of my prior temp career, with the more advanced skillset of my prior full-time careers.

Going back to work follows about 7 weeks out of work, which I certainly put to good use in the interim with a lot of training and recovery.

Since I’ll mainly be working with standard offices, this means I get to return to the traditional 8 to 5, Monday to Friday schedule with standard holidays off. I actually began to miss it after several months on my prior, unconventional work schedule.

I will now commute every day again, after being remote for a good portion of the last few months. There are advantages to what should be a hassle, and the biggest applies to what’s left of the Vegas Indian Summer as well as next summer: Offices are typically air conditioned, and I may no longer have to struggle through midday heat in thinly insulated conditions.

This also will re-regiment my daily diet, which had been variable, unpredictable and a bit challenging to maintain during the last few weeks, despite more freedom. Having to bring a healthy lunch to work (in this role, eating out will be too much of a hassle) will help with nutritional consistency and energy levels.

Also, as you’d hope, it pays more than my last job. And my last job paid okay, so this is good news. The last couple months were understandably lean financially as I stretched out my savings to cover needed expenses. Working part of this month, I should be able to stretch out and cover October. Once I get a full set of paychecks in November, I’m once again in good shape with savings, as the job will allow me to save while paying down debt on schedule.

I’m looking forward to it all.


Ten Things You Should Do To Survive the 2nd Wave of Coronavirus

This is not necessarily a post about running, but more of a general health post. To some extent it definitely applies to everybody.

With regard to the Coronavirus and our continued lockdowns, I think re-opening society now is the right decision, even though I am certain a new dangerous wave of COVID-19 will hit the world in the fall or winter. And I don’t think it will make much difference how much we’re outside our homes during summer. Though instituting lockdowns was probably a smart decision, staying locked down now isn’t benefitting us.

We are actually a lot safer mingling in hotter conditions, especially given most will want to do so outdoors. As with most illnesses, the public exposure risk of Coronavirus is largely tied to people being confined together in close quarters for extended periods of time.

While the virus is continuously mutating and other strains of the virus are spreading now, these current mutations are not as substantially dangerous as the wave that forced our lockdowns in March. Our immune systems are equipped to handle it. However, I do believe a new wave will come later this year that probably will be dangerous and kill many.

Your health is the key

I also realize that the vast majority of the people who have died from the Coronavirus carried a variety of other health problems:

  • Many were of elderly age
  • Many are overweight or obese
  • Many have other contributing health problems that led to COVID-19 killing them

Some health problems aren’t necessarily curable or preventable. Obviously, you can’t avoid getting old. Of course, some chronic health conditions are not preventable. Immuno-compromising conditions make getting any illness or health issue a potential grave danger.

However, a lot of health conditions stem from obesity, poor diet and poor lifestyle habits. All of the above are avoidable and (at least over a long period of time) curable.

Anyone significantly concerned about the Coronavirus, whether they feel personally at substantial risk or believe that loved ones are at substantial risk, needs to approach this summer as their one opportunity to safeguard themselves against a likely 2nd wave of Coronavirus this winter.

If you’re out of shape… if you’re overweight… if your diet is poor… if you have health conditions stemming from any of the above… now is the time to tackle your personal health and improve these issues as best you can now, before the next seriously dangerous wave of the virus strikes later this year.

The 10 Things That Can Help You Survive A 2nd Coronavirus Wave

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Everything Is Cancelled and I Feel Good

To the surpirse of few, the 2020 Victoria Marathon was cancelled earlier this week. I now have no race plans.

With every large public gathering of any kind suspended for the beyond-foreseeable future, I don’t foresee organized races happening again anytime soon… certainly not in 2020, and possibly not anytime early in 2021. Even seeing a race held in the spring or early summer of 2021 would be a bit of a surprise.

If you’re of the mindset that you’re looking forward to races resuming this fall or next spring, you probably need to change your mindset, and (if your life revolves around group workouts and/or training for races) probably need to re-evaluate your life and goals going forward. Life has irreparably changed, at least in the foreseeable future and relative beyond.

If the old reality is going to come back and stay, it likely won’t be back to stay for at least another year. Even if everything re-opens, chances of a 2nd spike in coronavirus cases forcing another lockdown by the fall or winter are very high.

And no, I don’t believe it matters how much or how little we are locked down in the present. A 2nd wave is probably going to happen even if we had handled everything perfectly. So don’t hand-wring about people going back outside or to other public places now. If anything, getting some exercise and sunlight is better for their health and immunity than staying inside.

Now, all of that said, this worlwide lockdown hasn’t really bothered me much at all. I’ve briefly mentioned adjustments I’ve made, and that the closure of almost everything has calmed down and simplified my life a great deal.

There’s no fear of missing out, because nobody’s able to do anything right now. Everyone and I are in the same situation, regardless of economic or cultural status.

I had already shut down all training for a few weeks in April, and had just began ramping my running back up when I found out Victoria was cancelled. Now that there’s no need to train for a race, I can now finally focus on training in some way other than running.

After my CPT training, I knew I wanted to spend some quality time strength training. Strength training is a lot harder to do when you’re running a lot, so I wanted to work on it when I had a long break from run training. And now, with no need to seriously run this year, I now have plenty of time to focus on it.

My work schedule also shifted to more of an afternoon/evening swing shift, and my days off are now during the weekdays. It’s a slight bummer on the running front, only because this would have made a running schedule so much easier, but now there’s no races to train for.

However, the schedule is still great for strength training as well as being a much more relaxing schedule. I can sleep in as needed every day (though I still get up early; habits die hard after 20+ years of early rising).

Also, my weight finally began to consistently slim down. Of course, I cut my calorie consumption quite a bit once we went into lockdown, since obviously there’s little opportunity to move around. I’ve intermittent fasted almost every day. Without having to balance the calorie needs of run training, I’ve been easily able to consistently maintain a calorie deficit. And my weight, having plateaued around 178-180 with about 20-21% bodyfat, is finally down to about 170-171 at 18-19% bodyfat after a consistent downward trend.

I want to diet down to at least 15% bodyfat (it’s actually best to diet down to a good target weight with basic daily activity, before beginning a serious exercise plan) before beginning a 12-16 week bodyweight or weight training program.

I don’t want to “cheat up” through a “body-recomposition”, aka seriously adding muscle while trying to burn fat and lose the weight. I find it can actually dissuade some stubborn fat from burning off (note my prior training stagnating fat loss), and the dietary balance you need to strike to avoid muscle catabolization or excess fat retention/gain is too delicate to be worth the trouble right now.

I also want to get my weight as reasonably light as possible because it’ll be easier on my organs long-term to build muscle mass from a fundamentally lighter body weight… and currently without the continuous hormonal stress of running a boatload of miles every week.

My projected goal is to get to around 165 lbs before trying to seriously add any muscle, if I even want to. I’ll have started on a stabilization -centered fitness plan before this point, so any mass-building strength training will be a function of naturally progressing from stabilization training anyway.

This 4/6/2020 post seems quaint. “It will be weeks, possibly months, before we can resume what we previously knew as normal activity,” is particularly cute. “Weeks, possibly months.”

Obviously, with gyms closed and scalpers having bought up all the free weights on the open market, I’m probably not doing any serious weight lifting unless gyms happen to re-open. Even then, if a 2nd wave requires a lockdown, I would lose that gym access again. Depending on how robust of a bodyweight/home program I can develop, I might even give up my gym membership entirely if things break right.

The plan is to devise and develop a suitable, progressive bodyweight workout routine that will sufficiently challenge my muscles and produce growth and/or athletic improvement.

It’s probably best for the long term either way that my long term goal be to develop a gym-free routine, since my long term focus is on being an endurance runner and coaching endurance runners (… should road races resume being a thing in our future society). Plus, many people don’t ever have access to a gym for various fundamental reasons, and a safe sustainable no-equipment-required exercise program would be helpful to countless people.

Meanwhile, I’m working out some adjustments to my current living situation that, once final, will free me up immensely and allow me to start work on some of these ideas. Until then, I’m waiting along with everyone else.

Vancouver 2020 will not happen

The Vancouver Marathon was officially cancelled Friday night.

I don’t have issues with cancelling the race. Restrictions or not, if people are not comfortable with running it, then it’s best not to do it.

I guess it’s a bummer to train only for no race to happen, but I have other training goals I’d be more than happy to continue with. I was only halfway through my training plan, and while I was progressing I wasn’t quite making the progress I wanted.

My hotel is only lock-rate reserved and can be cancelled with no penalty. I imagine WestJet, who is already relaxing cancellation policies to accommodate travelers during this whole thing, will extend the courtesy to May flights if in fact the Marathon is cancelled and I want a refund. Right now they’re only offering to transfer or cancel March flights, so I have to play the waiting game with them. Worst case scenario, I can pay to defer the airfare and use it for Victoria in October.

VIMS basically had to pocket the 2020 entry fees, only allowing a slight discount on 2021 entries (they’re trying to negotiate something higher than 20%), or allowing you to use your paid entry towards a fall race (none of which are a marathon) if they happen. They’re also doing a ‘virtual race’, which isn’t any real consolation for those traveling.

I guess that’s a bummer, but I’ve thrown away paid entries for other reasons (I DNS’d a half marathon earlier this year, for example) and this would not be a huge deal for me.

So in some ways it works out. I can now work on some fundamental training and then start training for Victoria within a couple months.


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My best marathon training cycle

Right now, training and weight wise, I’m not where I want to be. I’m executing most of my scheduled weekly workouts, and made dietary improvements over even my best running days in Chicago. But I’m not creating the results I had during my better training cycle just a couple years ago.

Once again, I looked to the past for answers. Despite hiccups derailing my 2018 Chicago Marathon effort (which I finished with substantial difficulty), that summer had probably been my best marathon training cycle and (until the hiccups struck halfway through) I had run the race fairly well, feeling physically capable of finishing strong… if not for the whole being unable to breathe properly thing.

It was ultimately some stupid decision-making with nutrition that derailed me. I decided to use a thicker protein-based recovery drink for fuel, despite not having trained much with it. My stomach and epiglottis likely flipped me the bird because of its relative nutritional thickness.

Never mind the problems with using thicker nutrition as race fuel. I made the cardinal mistake of doing something in a race that I had not worked on in training. So, it was not the training that derailed the race. In fact, given my condition at mile 13, and even how good my bones and muscles felt in the later miles despite my plight… the training beforehand had been sound. So, what I did during the cycle is worth reviewing.

I took a look at that cycle and noticed several key factors. Sure, I built up to a pretty solid 40-50 weekly mile volume and was running without injury. I was able to hit goal paces in key workouts leading up to the race. But there were some other not as obvious factors that helped me enter that race prepared.

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