So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. "Dog Dad." Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete. Masters' Swimmer. USATF Certified Coach. USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT Certified Official, Category 3. Observer Of The Human Condition; sometimes it's smooth & drinkable. Other times it needs a little bit of lime & salt.

Monday, October 13, 2014

You're Not Cutting Back Everything

Boy, do I love mornings when I "feel" healthy.  By that definition - healthy - I mean "can run up to a half-marathon distance" and function the rest of the day.  Oh, and define functional as "can walk the d-a-w-g around the park without complaint."

It's easier to teach from ground level than from a bike saddle on the run.  Since Labor Day weekend Angela's Sunday runs are - in part or in full - solo, depending on whether the Sunday morning group sleeps in or goes to a race.  Two hours, tops, is what my tendons will tolerate...that means I bicycle along during two-and-a-half hour runs with extra water bottle and cell phone, just in case "stuff" hits the fan.

"You picked a great week to come back, Coach."

So began my rhetorical question time, at mile one, no less.  "Tell me what you already know about tapering."

"That's where you cut back on mileage during the last week or two before the race, up to one-half."

Very well.  She's read the articles that every other runner training for a marathon has.  Curve ball time; see if Angela puts this one into the bleachers...

"What's the ideal run intensity during the taper?"

Have you watched the first "Major League" movie, specifically the scene where the Cuban defector crushes a series of fastballs?  Then the assistant coach tells the batting practice pitcher to throw a few curve balls...therein lies the essence  of comedy.  Whiff.  Whiff.  Whiff.  "Easy-peasy."

Whiff.

My old college coach used to say, "you can run hard, you can run long, but you cannot run both at the same time."  In the final weeks before a target event it's either the intensity or the duration being run that needs to be cut back.  But not both.  The rule of thumb for rest, recovery and the ideal amount of time before to ramp up to full intensity after a race can be used in the opposite direction when approaching the home stretch of training before a race.

So, a target race of marathon distance can merit a taper period of three weeks, give or take.  A runner taking a three-week taper - sixty-mile weeks or more leading in - could trim a quarter of their duration or distance three weeks out, decrease by one-third the second week, and drop down to fifty percent on the last week.

What's important during this time is to maintain the overall intensity.  A runner doing sixty miles a week at a perceived intensity of five on a one-to-ten scale would ideally want to, during a three-week taper, run up to 45 miles the first week at a six.  The second week would be a 40-mile distance at a seven or eight...the first couple of days on the third week would be at a nine.

How many easy days would I recommend during the last week before the target race?  If my training were targeted toward a four-hour finish I would probably cut intensity and duration/distance during the last four days before the race.

"Taper madness" is only maddening for the athlete who fails to prepare.  Everything gets cut back but the dietary intake...next thing you know the athlete is five pounds heavier and sluggish, rather than rested, ready and sharp.  Needful things can be prepared during the two to three weeks before a marathon (or week before a half-marathon), such as pacing strategies, quality time with the family members who helped you get to the start.  Definitely not time to go out and hammer the roads into submission.  Take it easy, but don't take it too easy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Professional?

"pro-fes-sion-al:  1  a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession.  b : engaged in one of the learned professions. c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession. (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace. 2 a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs. b : having a particular profession as a permanent career. c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return. 3 : following a line of conduct as though it were a profession" - Merriam-Webster Dictionary On-Line

"I'm looking into possibly hiring a running coach. Does anyone know of a good professional in the area?"

Occasionally I see a post like this in social media; a "help wanted" advertisement of sorts. The very question or statement is at best incomplete, yes, in my humble opinion. It is, in many ways, the reason I act less emotional when the occasional phone call or e-mail comes about...

I wonder if the athlete who states they're looking for a professional coach wants a person who spends their waking hours working with athletes? "Economics 101, Rule Number One," states the world has unlimited needs and limited resources. Like chicken lips, prodigies along the lines of Mary Cain or Galen Rupp come around perhaps once or twice each generation. Odds are good that if a door is going to be beaten down in the courting dance of athlete and coach it will be the athlete doing the knocking.

Any coach who remembers the pub scene from the classic film Chariots of Fire can empathize with Sam Mussabini.  Mussabini, in the film at least, reserved the right to select who he wanted to train.

Athletes all want a coach who is good, but how many coaches have earned or subscribe to a technical or ethical standard? I've met good coaches who were world and Olympic caliber, but the "I Love Me" wall shouldn't be the only standard of quality. Patrick McCrann of Marathon Nation/Endurance Nation, and Jay Johnson in Boulder are smart guys in which I'd gladly place my trust and confidence; both possess knowledge and commuincation skills which far exceed their performance C.V. A coach who has undergone some sort of training which covers the psychology of coaching, injury prevention, principles of training, running physiology, and have been tested by a national-level governing body like the Road Runners Club of America or USA Track and Field could also meet the need. Both organizations have academically-challenging and rigorous certification programs, backed by the latest scientific information, and updated on a regular basis when science proves conventional wisdom wrong. RRCA also requires their certified coaches to renew their paperwork yearly; USATF has multiple levels which, like academic degrees, allow coaches to focus more closely on their area of passion.

If the coach is not in business for themself...or affiliated with an academic institution, civic organization or running club...are they aligned with what I would call for lack of a better term, a "training 'and'" entity? What is "training 'and'?" Like fitness trainers who work at a gym or fitness center, is run coaching something which attracts the masses through the front door, ideally to purchase something else within the emporium?

Enough beating on the coach and their incentive...what does the athlete bring to the coaching relationship? Does the athlete's passion for running match that of the professional they demand as a partner? Preconceived notions and personal philosophies of training have to be put aside, directly aligned...or at least be the "eighty-percent solution." Athletes want running to be fun, but there's a time and a place; every training session has to be approached as a day at the office, every race situation is a performance appraisal. Coaches can vary in their level of empathy, compassion and just plain "niceness" (my wife reminds me I CAN be a complete jerk when it comes to communicating...). Sometimes coaches are needful for little more than to say, to paraphrase one writer (Jack Daniels?) "you look good today." And I've worked with one or two runners on little more than preparing their head for the race; they did all the physical work on their own. But there are times when the coach has to say things the athlete doesn't want to hear, assign workouts they flat out hate, or recommend (shorter, usually) race distances they'd prefer not do? If there's money changing hands, remember: The coach isn't a friend, they're part of a business proposition.

Oops, there goes one preconceived notion.

Runners pay for coaching with the intent - at least what most say - to improve. How many times does a runner approach a training program or a coach grossly under-prepared physically or mentally for the demands? More times than I care to admit. A training program, especially one developed with a coach, is a collaborative process; give and take, trust and confidence.

Patience. Pace. Pace. And patience.

Before anyone reach out to bludgeon me because of my (percenved) cynical views, it's not that I don't want the "job," or don't want to help people become, as coach (and 1964 Olympic 5,000-meter champion) Bob Schul used to say, "a better engine." I know my potential clientele will most likely not clamber through the hatchway to the scholastic-to-professional running pipeline any time soon.

A runner should insist on a modicum of background knowledge and research, flexibility and intuition from their coach...if nothing else a professional approach to making average runners better...but they also need to take a long look in the mirror. Can they say they intend to approach run training in the same manner as if their livelihood depended on its success? If so, the purely "professional" coach will be the perfect fit for them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tacking On

So, most of the folks who read this stuff know I'm still barely 5,000-meter road racing fit; my high-end training distance is in the 6-to-8-mile range, four-to-five times a week...with a dash of repeats at threshold (for now) thrown in for good measure.  I didn't suspect it would be an issue at the beginning of the summer when I started laying out a plan for Angela, but who knew iliotibial band issues and strained hamstrings were going to happen?

Not this old guy, let me tell you.

Top the typical marathon training "embrace of the suck" with several months of physical and mental obstacles on her part, and you had a gal who was definitely long overdue for a really good day. This particular run was going to be the acid test - run well; I'd stay the course of training for the full.  A bad day would mean recommending she drop to the half...live to fight another day.

I pulled my bicycle out of the car with expectation of a perfect training morning. We had scheduled two and a half hours to run up to 16 miles, taking a familiar and well-shaded out-and-back path.

Angela's first three miles had me a little concerned for what the next two hours were going to be like. The worst possible thing a coach can endure is watching an athlete who's proverbial "wheels" have fallen off. In that particular case, it's all about the coach. I've been the "wheel-less one" on a couple of occasions, usually solo; all you want to do after a solo run of several hours which goes south more closely resembles a well-oiled temper tantrum.

Or suicidal ideation.

Throughout the run I kept a close eye. After the turn-around point I asked the question, "How you feelin'?" I was enthused to hear Angela say she was having the first really good day since we started the marathon training. She then told me she wanted to modify her training plan for the next four weekends leading to the marathon, specifically to do 18, 20 and 22-milers over the next three weeks. I had a ten, another 2:30, an eight and another ten penciled in.

Sure, she needed to increase the training volume

Rather than immediately agree, I felt it was time to ask whether she had enough mileage in during the week. Three miles here, four miles there, another five miles there...and the long run? Yes, there's a need for more mileage, but it surely does not need to be part of a single run on the weekend. Wise men and coachly rules of thumb advise runners to make the long run no more than 25 percent of their weekly training volume. So why is it that the training plans used by most recreational marathoners will have a long run which approaches one half of the week's training distance?

To paraphrase the tail end of a radio message sent by a hapless radioman serving in the World War II-era fleet of Admiral William "Bull" Halsey..."the world wonders."

Well, this coach does, to say the least.

I get it; the first reaction of most runners is to add mileage to the long run on the weekend - whether that be on Saturday or Sunday - because that's where the "spare" time is. However, the concept flies in the face of physiological truths, namely the 2.5 hour tipping point. Physiologists and researchers, the guys with initials after their names, with names like Daniels, Costill, and Noakes, just to name a few. They found that the runner is more likely to do ill than good to themselves with a run lasting longer than 150 minutes.

Look at the overwhelming majority of training plans, with very few exceptions, and it's a guarantee the long training run is based on DISTANCE rather than time. So why twenty miles? And more?

My first reaction was to think that the coaches writing the plans followed the guidance of Hippocrates of Cos...that's the first doctor, the guy who said "first, do no harm." Considering that the most notable of training plans was written in the early 1980s, when at least half of male marathon participants ran 8:00/mile pace or faster, it's possible the 150-minute window of effect was still considered. But that would mean that as the marathon distance became more democratic, as evidenced by Running USA's yearly State of the Sport data, the median finishing times slowed by almost two minutes per mile over the course of last quarter century...which could represent the de-evolution of marathoning, or at least a failure of training plan writers to be aware of the zeitgeist.

The second possible reason is that the writer needed to find a nice round number which to recommend as the upper limit. To account for individual differences would make things a little bit, er, entertaining. You think I'm kidding? When one looks at training plans written for runners who live in the world of meters, liters and grams the longest run is 30 kilometers.

That's 18.65 miles for us English-measuring folk.

The runner who feels a need to tack-on mileage usually does it more for the benefit of the mind than of the body. While it's a given the marathoner in training is eventually going to have to do the entire distance, it's not necessary to risk injury or excessive fatigue by lots of training runs which go longer than 2.5 hours. Add-ons of up-to-five miles can be safely done the afternoon before a long run, or the afternoon after. What the runner loses in raw endurance they'll make up for in a different form, specifically the ability to run on legs that have accumulated fatigue.

Personally, I'd rather see an athlete accumulate fatigue over the course of several weekdays, topped off by a decent-length run at the weekend. Big runs on the weekend, with little training mileage during the week, place too much physical and emotional stress on the runner. One bad weekend run can do more damage to the runner's mental state than a series of hard runs during the weekday ever could.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eighty-Twenty

"So, does the Pareto Principle have any relevance to run training, specifically to runs of three-to-four miles, runs of one hour, and runs of 1.5-to-2 hours?"

Leave it to my friend Carlos to drop a difficult question in my lap.

For those of you who have not dealt in matters economic or sociological, the Pareto Principle (not to be mistaken with the Peter Principle, where a person is always promoted one level beyond their competence), also known as the "80/20 principle," states that 80 percent of one measurable quality is produced by 20 percent of a population.

The first mention of the theory, attributed initially to an economist by the name of Vilfredo Pareto, had to do with crop yield; four-fifths of the harvest was produced by one-fifth of the farmland.

Management consultant Joseph Juran said that when it comes to gaining effectiveness in human endeavors, correcting 20 percent of the known weaknesses will, in theory, correct 80 percent of the problems. Once again, that's a theory.

When I began to think more closely about Pareto and the 80/20 ratio I found it aligned almost perfectly to several coaching observations:

"A person training for a marathon runs eighty percent of their training mileage at paces which are too fast, and twenty percent at a pace which is too slow."  In a perfect world, the longest training run during the week would not exceed 25 percent of the training volume. Unfortunately, most of the packaged plans, regardless of the coach, are not prescriptive enough as to how intense the long run should be.

I guess its the Donald Rumsfeld theory of coaching; those knowable known, unknowable unknowns and perfectly good running socks which end up going missing in the dryer.

A marathoner who is capable of running continuously for two and a half hours at eight minutes per mile can reasonably consider twenty miles as their longest marathon training run. What drives me insane is to see a runner with a marathon goal performance of three hours, thirty minutes doing all of their long runs at nine minutes per mile for every mile of their long training runs. Oh, and the same pace goes for every mile of their "recovery" runs during the training week.

In order to race at a particular pace it's important to train at that particular pace. Long runs which start at 30 seconds per mile slower than the target pace and finish up at the target pace or a little faster, averaging out to the target pace, that's good.

"Eighty percent of a runner's mileage ideally are 'easy' runs, with the other twenty percent at lactate threshold or faster."  Even the 5,000-meter race distance on the roads is an aerobic event, with more than nine-tenths of the race run using the aerobic energy system.

Dr. Jack Daniels recommends, in his "Running Formula," ten percent of the weekly training mileage to be run at the lactate (or aerobic) threshold, eight percent to be run near VO2max pace, and five percent at VO2max. The rest is to be run at intensities which are a minute slower than marathon goal pace...one where a runner could most likely engage in a discussion on the Pareto Principle.

A runner who takes the time to look at the biggest training bugaboos, having to do with training intensity and training mileage, are likely to take care of most all of the big problems which hold back their run performance.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's NOT All About You.

Q: "How did the girl know her blind date with a runner was half finished?"
A: "He said, 'Well, enough about me, let's talk about running.'"

I thought the "Navy blue and gold" water bottle and the hand towel on the console would have been a subtle hint.  In any case, there was absolutely no need for the elderly gentleman to shut down the treadmill on which I had been running.  ALL six treadmills in the room besides that one were NOT being used.  Fortunately for the both of us there were only three other persons exercising in the room, and a couple of staff members.  I raised my hands to shoulder height and said, "Whaaa?"

"I didn't notice your stuff was there until I got up here."  The gentleman in his mind was perhaps correct, but the white of the towel and the gold of the bottle...  I don't like to attribute to malice what might be more readily put down to ignorance, but every once in a while the passive-aggressive behaviors of the more seasoned citizenry in that gym facility borders on the dynamic of a kindergarten.  It gets more entertaining during certain times of the year.

The "it's all about me" mentality has gained more traction over time, to the point where journalists in the electronic media have started to discuss.  My trip last weekend to Virginia was also a brief detox from social media stuff; I left the computer at home, there were no e-mails worth reading on my cell phone.  But the missus and the kids had seen an article title, which got us to talking about polite society and the failure of people to behave in such a way.  Then, four days after I get home, I get the reminder that etiquette may not necessarily be dead, but appears in need of resuscitation.  And quickly.

Here are a couple of helpful reminders for those of you who run in a public place, with other persons, for recreation or fitness reasons...

At The Gym:
Are there specific time limits for the machines, especially when patrons are waiting?  Many gyms see treadmill workouts as a prelude to strength training; many runners, for that matter, would rather shove a sharp stick in their eye than stay on a treadmill for any longer than thirty minutes.  That appears to make half-an-hour the gold standard when others are waiting.

If you're playing music to help pass the time, keep the headphones turned to a reasonable level.  I've heard, in the past, music coming from headphones which were fifteen feet away.  On a runner's ears. MiracleEar stock, anyone?  Television sets for visual distraction and entertainment are lovely.  But I'll admit there are programs and channels I do NOT want to watch.  Always ask of your fellow patrons before doing the clicky-thing.

And ALWAYS wipe down the treadmill console.  The deck is also important, because you don't want to see the next person on the machine go slipping off the back.  At least, not until you have a video camera ready.  But wipe down - preferably with mild disinfectant - any surface where a runner is going to place exposed flesh.

At The Track:
If you have an all-weather facility for speed work, thank the school district or municipality which had the foresight to install it.  Now it's up to you to take good care of it; schools don't like throwing good money after bad, and will replace a worn-out polyurethane track with (cheaper) asphalt in nothing flat.  Most facilities will have signs which tell people to not bring strollers, skateboards, bicycles, roller skates and dogs; both for safety and for damage reasons.  A wheeled conveyance places more pressure in a smaller area for a longer period of time than most shod or shoeless runners.

How do you know if you should be in the inside or outside lanes?  Persons who are walking should almost always use the outer half of the track lanes.  As for runners, if you find that you are passing more people than you are passing you, you probably should use the inside-most lanes, and vice versa. In the case there are very fast persons doing speed work, or organized team workouts, it's best to stay wide.

Group Runs:
If you know one or more persons who have time schedules and ability levels which align with your own, you are blessed.  There aren't many things you need to do to make life nice for all.  When it comes to headphones, I say 'not unless everyone has them.'  If everyone has a pair of headphones and a music player, why would you want to be all together for a run?  Is it not a social thing?

The second concern has much to do with pace.  I would much rather have the overall group pace drop back to keep the slowest runner in the group with the group than faster and have them struggle.  The group can always get faster as people improve, right?  Dropping a person on a run is an unforgivable sin of the highest order.

Races:
"Racing," wrote the running philosopher-king Dr. George Sheehan, "is the love-making of a runner." Everyone fancies themselves a great runner, but when we toe the line with a hundred, thousand, or ten thousand of our closest friends, that's where all the inhibitions (and illusions) go by the wayside.

Jumping onto a race course without registering, or "banditing," is a cardinal sin of the highest order, and if one wishes to place legal terms, it's a form of theft.  A person who jumps into an event without paying the requisite entry fee is STEALING, from the race director (in all cases), the organization for which the event benefits (in the case of a non-profit) and the other stakeholders who have helped by their entry fee to pay for the insurance, course protection and whatnot.  Simply put, don't do it.

It's okay to wear the race shirt on the day of the event, but the one thing which will draw a runner out as a grade-A "newbie" is placing the run number on the back of the shirt.  If your name is recognizable by a single name to thousands of track or running enthusiasts and the race promoter provides a bib with your name to place on your front side, then it's acceptable to place the number on the back.  Otherwise, you're just a number like the rest of us.  It's okay.  You'll get used to it.

Self-seeding is good.  Race directors who place pace group signs are very good people.  Corrals are also very good.  People who think they're faster than they are and stage themselves too far forward, not so good.  Why?  When I have to place a hand on your shoulder as I'm running by in the first one-hundred yards and you look like I hit you with a cattle prod, it tells me that you placed yourself too far to the front of a race.  Moms and dads:  Your six-year-old standing at the starting line with the Kenyans might look cute, but you're obstructing the hard work and training of a lot of persons who have trained for longer than your child has been alive.  Mary Decker retired long ago.  Mary Cain deserves to be there..

While you're at it, think about how you move along the race course.  Three-or-four-deep running or walking abreast, playing like "red rover" is not a good thing.  Quite simply, you're obstructing other participants, in most cases this injustice is compounded by the sensory loss of headphone use.  The RRCA asks member clubs and events to discourage the use, and some have taken steps to ban them. How many of the top-shelf runners have you seen wear headphones at a race?  That should tell you something.  Don't do it.  If you absolutely have to, then TURN THE MUSIC DOWN.  Nine times out of ten you've got it on too loud, I guarantee it.

During The Rest of Your Life:
We all love running.  It permeates every aspect of our lives, from the sticker on our car to our personal e-mail address.  Trouble is that we live in a world with people who still think it's bad for our knees, leads to evil degenerative diseases, and is, in the words of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, a waste of perfectly good heartbeats.  We all love to talk about our training, the last killer workout we did and the epic race for which we just registered.  To the discomfort of our family, co-workers and non-running acquaintances.

I learned an important lesson during the first season of triathlon refereeing.  I knew I was going to see a lot of people I knew while working in the transition area before a race.  My mentor, Jay reminded me that it was all right to say hello and exchange pleasantries, but to limit my conversation to a brief thirty-second period of time.  That way I could help educate other athletes and remain as fair and impartial as possible.

If you feel the need to talk about running with non-runner companions or family, perhaps you can try to limit it to thirty.  Then ask them about their day.  At least by that point they'll know the date is half over.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Simplify, Simplify

"Our life is frittered away by detail.  Simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

Endurance, in the mind of a runner, is usually defined in terms of distance or time.  How far can you run?  How long can you run?  And, in the words of one of my favorite musicians, the hope is you may run long.  Thank you, Neil.

For the rest of the world it's pretty much the ability to suck it up and drive on; that seemingly endless move from one living space to another.  Less enjoyable than even the worst long run, in my humble opinion.  And, worse yet, often more social than we would care to admit.

A friend will help you move.
A good friend will help you move the body.
A parent will help you choose the body to be moved.

Suzanne and I managed to coincide our visit to Virginia Beach to run the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon with the weekend our son and his wife were to move from a 3,000 square foot house to an apartment of about one-half the size.  Thankfully, they divested themselves of a butt-ton of stuff before we came to help, er, visit.  When it was all said and done - more done than said, frankly - I was reminded that we fritter our training life with too may details.

Especially when I saw many of my fellow participants the next day.  A distance event produced by an organization who obviously are not participating in their first rodeo, like CGI, have most of the hydration, transportation and other (capitalistic) factors figured out.  Water bottle holsters and music players at these events: Needless fritter in light of thousands of fellow supplicants, a dozen bands and cheer squads of varying qualities, and plenty of aid stations, regardless of the recommendations of pseudo-scientific beverage-funded research groups and the American College of Sports Medicine.

But, back to the simple thing.  I knew from the outset of my training this summer the chances I would NOT be prepared for a strong half-marathon were strong.  Inflame an iliotibial band and strain a hamstring, and those chances become a near-certainty.

Face it; 5K fit is not half-marathon fit.  Never has been.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is most likely going to endure a good hour or two of discomfort on the course and a day or two of discomfort on the job.

Smarter coaches have pontificated on the deep specifics of what it takes to get ready for a race.  To me, it all boils down to four workouts.  I'm going to talk specifically to the five kilometer distance for purposes of simplicity.

Long run - six-to-eight miles.  Run at a pace where you can hold a conversation.  Once a week.

Tempo run - three-to-five miles, run at a pace which is "comfortably hard."  Once a week.

Race pace work - one-to-five minutes of fairly hard work with complete recovery in between.  When I say complete recovery, I mean where the runner can say "I can repeat this piece again."  And do it. No more than three miles a week.

Easy runs - four-to-six miles, run at a pace where you can talk in single sentences, at the least.  Rest of the week.

Naturally, as the time progresses from the beginning of the training year to the last six weeks. the runner can adjust the long/tempo run distance.  Listen to your body and keep things simple; it's likely you're going to have a good day more often than not.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stretchy Laces

When one has much to put in them, a day has a thousand pockets. - Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher.

I believe in empty spaces.  They're the most wonderful thing. - Anselm Kiefer, painter.

I've written about the joy of elastic laces in the past; I truly do like them for the obvious reason of comfort.  Tension, once set at the beginning of the run or workout, does not lessen.  Even better, the tension on the foot does not increase when the foot swells.

But what do you do when there's an eyelet-to-lace mismatch; too many eyelets or too little elastic lace for comfortable use?  A "snug" fit without need to adjust the toggle might be acceptable when sliding the foot into the shoe for many.  But take a runner with a highly-arched instep, caused by a foot broken many years before, and let's say there is such a state as "too snug" a fit.

A revelation of sorts came to me when dealing with that pair of Asics Gel Noosa I referred to in passing two months ago.  Perhaps the shoe manufacturers and the lace makers have seen a future shortage of elastic laces.  Maybe they're cutting back on the length of the stretchy strings, because when I looped all the elastic in the classic "bar at the bottom, X at the top" layout there was no room for the fastening toggle, much less any slack.

When I looked more closely at the problem it struck me that I didn't need to use every last eyelet to ensure the shoe upper fabric would securely cradle my foot.  In fact, a "blank" eyelet between every two used for lacing gave just the right mix of security and comfort.  Joy returned again to my running.

The issue with the shoe eyelets appears also as an allegory for run training.  Think of shoe eyelets as days of the week on the calendar.  Runners who can fit a run in every day of the week without risking an overuse injury - soreness and aching muscles is one thing, overuse injuries is another - live in the best of all possible worlds. Runners who regularly deal with overuse injuries would do well to leave a little empty space during the running week.  Empty space in the calendar is a little slack; it gives the runner the option to tighten things up or let things relax.

Our running life isn't always swell...but sometimes it is.  Be ready and willing to find a way to adjust rather than meekly submit to the pain.