An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm takin' what they're giving cause I'm workin' for a living

Some of you may be wondering how the interview went.

Well, we had our first day of employment at Mr. Crampy's Multisport last Saturday. I guess that means the interview went well.

The interview itself was pretty relaxed, much like the shop itself. Of the hour we were there, I think we talked a total of ten minutes between my wife and I. The rest of the time was spent with Kyle talking about the shop itself, and his vision for where he wants it to go in the future. I won't say that any one who was breathing would have gotten the job, but I think we fit what they were looking for pretty well -- some one who was customer-oriented, and knew a thing or two about the sports, and could turn a wrench.

The day went pretty well. Not that I was building bikes from bare frames all day or anything.

So now I'm also a professional bike mechanic. (Note -- I'm NOT a certified bike mechanic, but I know my way around them.)

And now I see that the Born to Run Store is looking for floor sales people...

Oh so true...

After seeing this on the Natural Running Center site, I had to share it. Just too funny!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Training, physically

I've now been through three sessions of physical therapy at Apple Physical Therapy, rehabbing my shin stress reaction.

I talked a lot with the PT during the first visit, and what it's coming down to is finding imbalances and addressing them. They really don't know what cause the stress reaction, but they know that something caused all the stress to focus on one location, and that was likely caused by an imbalance.

What have we found so far?

(1) Well, the big toes on both my feet seem to be shifted in opposite directions -- my left is shifted down, my right shifted up. I've kind of known this for many years, as the compression of midsole material on my right foot is always concentrated under the ball of my foot. I didn't realize just how dramatic it was, though. In the neighborhood of some 30 degrees of range of motion. So I'm stretching the toe ligaments (gently) to work on evening out that range. Here's the trick -- don't just push the toe in one direction or the other. All that does is activate the tendons. What you do is grab the toe and pull it out slightly, THEN start moving it. I don't understand why it does what it does, but it takes the tendons out of the equation and allows you to move the toe against the actual limiting ligaments of the range of motion.

(2) My hip abductors are relatively weak. The PT put me on a BOSU balance board (like a large circular board bonded to half a balance ball) to check. Uncontrollable side-to-side oscillations indicated that the hip abductors are weak relative to the adductors. Other than that, my balance is pretty good. So I'm working on strengthening those. How? By putting a rubber band (rubber hose tied into a circle) around my ankles and walking sideways... slowly... straight legged and completely upright, no swaying of the upper body. It's agonizing. And very humbling.

Will these things keep me from having a recurrance of the stress reaction? We don't know for sure, but it's addressing some underlying issues, and will contribute to better long-term health.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wrench for hire

I've got an interview this afternoon.

It's been a LONG time since I've had an interview, like 1988. Unless you count jury duty. Or the first date with my wife.

You see,
Mr Crampy's put out a message on Facebook calling for mechanics or salespeople for part-time work. I made comment about how I love wrenching, but that the shop isn't all that local -- 44 miles each way.

I got a message in return saying we should talk... I mentioned that my wife and I might be able to do a dual employment thing on weekends. So we're meeting tonight.

Now I really do love wrenching on bikes. I started in my freshman year of high school, when my mom bought my first "10 speed" at a garage sale for $25. It was actually a pretty nice bike as garage sale specials go. I went to the local library, which just happened to have a Barnett's manual (extremely rare), and I poured over that tome and soaked in as much knowledge as I could. I figured things out, and used what I had nearby in the garage (my dad was a pretty good wood-worker, a characteristic I definitely did NOT inherit). When I got to college, I started upgrading parts, then got another bike, started accumulating tools... I've worked on everything from building wheels to building up complete bikes from a bare frame, and a whole lot of trouble-shooting in between. The only things I haven't done are chasing threads and straightening bent frames.

But with a stable of eight bikes, wrenching is unavoidable. There's always at least one bike in a state of partial build. Sometimes the lesser-used bikes becomes parts-bins for repairing the more-often-used bikes.

Right now I've got three bikes in partial build state.

One is my track bike/single speed. It is a custom steel frame made by TiCycles with a Softride beam and taking 650c wheels. I gave them a little leeway in the build, so the "seat tube" that would normally hold a front derailleur is vertical, giving it a unique look. It's set up to take brakes front and rear. I haven't used this bike in several years, as the area I live in is far from flat.

Another is a custom funny bike frame built by Bunnyman from the Slowtwitch forum. It uses a 700c rear wheel and a 650c front. I've ridden this bike maybe 5 miles total, mostly experimenting with different components.

Finally, there's an old, retro-aero Javelin X-Frame that uses 650c wheels. I've had this bike on one ride, and it was sweet. The issue is that it takes a pretty big inner chainring (minimum of a 44), or else I need to have a frame builder do some work on it to lower the front derailleur hanger. I'm thinking I'll just go with one chainring and use a front derailleur like a chain keeper. Also, the cable stops at the "down tube" aren't set up to take the common square-mount bosses. I can run cable casing to the stops by the boom tube, which will work, but isn't as elegant as I'd like. But getting this bike running would be uber-cool. Fun to show up at a race sporting a Speedo and rocking this bike with an old Giro Aero-head helmet. Okay, maybe not...

Anyway, tonight my wife and I will meet with Kyle Watson, owner of Mr Crampy's, and we'll see how things fit.

It'd be fun to work in a shop with all professional-quality tools at my disposal.

The extra income would be nice. Discounts on gear wouldn't hurt either.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Strong enough?

Saw this posted on the Hunter Gatherer blog, and it's just too amazing to not pass along... Kind of makes one think that their strength routine is somewhat lacking. Enjoy.

A dilemma solved

There's an idea I've been struggling with for some time -- monetizing the blog.

Extra income is always welcome, I'm sure you'd all agree. I did some research on the topic, and while I don't have the traffic to justify ads and links to shopping sites, I'm also not looking to replace an engineer's salary via the innerwebs.

But I had made it a goal this year to monetize my blog. How many times have you heard the adage "do something you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life"? Of course, there's the flip side of that one that says making a job out of something you love is the fastest way to lose the love for it.

I can't count the number of spam comments I've gotten (thank you blogspot for providing the ability to censor the comments before they post) selling search engine optimization. Almost enough to make me think I'm in the wrong line of work... if I thought for a second that kind of spam worked. I've had spikes in traffic when I've posted on certain topics (*ahem* Skechers *cough* ). I know this, and can monitor my own traffic, thankyouverymuch.

But I have not, nor will I ever, tailor my content for the purpose of increasing random search hits, just to pad a number of hits in order to justify making money from people who stumble onto my blatherings.

I guess I just see it as selling out. Sure, the extra money would be nice, but I'm not going to bend my ethics to do so.

But then I read a
post by Jason Robillard earlier this week. Based on Seth Godin's book Linchpin, he proposes that people base their decisions on what allows them to give more. I made comment about how this helped me to decide on this dilemma -- whether to monetize or not. Is this blog my art? It is a creative outlet, in many respects, and I've freely given it to the world (and oh, aren't we all so much richer for it?).

But there's also another dilemma...

I mentioned
Lucky Cause Sports in my last post, and how, up to now, it's been self-funded by my own household. We have had to reschedule one event already, and due to some issues with my car eating up a good chunk of that household income in the last week, there's some risk of the event in May needing to be moved (won't be able to pay for the permits in the needed time frame).

And it hit me. The giving is Lucky Cause Sports, which will do far more good for people I'll never meet than the one's and zero's I store on some server somewhere for all to peruse. So if I moetize the blog, will that allow me to help with LCS more? Yes, it will.

It won't happen today, but at some point, you may see some links along the margins. They'll never cost any one anything, and everything will be above board. Just know that the reason they'll be there is to support a great cause or ten.

Belated Happy New Year

One things I've liked to do at the turning of the year is to reflect a bit on the past year and take a look ahead at the year to come. I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions. I've always figured that if you wanted to make some change, that you should just do it. There's nothing magical about January First that's going to make you stick to it any better than any other day. Except maybe February 30th.

Something about starting a new desk calendar, tearing off that last page of the previous year and opening up the box for the new one (this time I closed out a 1000 Places to See Before You Die calendar, and started an Argyle Sweater calendar -- both thanks to my sister) causes a pause, turning the head to see what was, maybe with a wan smile and a little sigh, and then project into what will be. In the best of all possible worlds that Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come isn't some hooded figure carrying a scythe.

This time around, though, it's a little difficult. Not to say that 2011 was a bad year. In fact, by all accounts it was a very good year. It's 2012 that's cloudy.

Starting the year injured can do that. I have a proposed running build up that will start early next month, assuming all is well, and it's very conservative. In fact, it doesn't have me running six miles straight until June. That is if I stick to it. I imagine I'll find some way to accelerate it. But the point is that, at least right now, I'm thinking conservatively with my running. I still have the long-term goal of running a half-marathon or two, a goal I had for 2011 which never happened (not for lack of trying).

The other thing is Lucky Cause Sports. I never knew that starting up a non-profit could be so... convoluted. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and the process with the IRS is VERY slow. As in a minimum of 6 months. And the application fee is some $850! At least we're through the state hoops. That doesn't mean we can't operate as a non-profit, it's just that the tax exemptions via Uncle Sam will take a LONG time to come through. And so far, the company has been self funded. Meaning funded by us.

But even with all the uncertainty, one thing IS certain -- no matter how prepared or unprepared I am, the year will march on, and the time will pass

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is this the best you've got?

I'm sitting on my couch at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning. Usually I'd be at work about now. Usually.

Friday, after posting, I went home for lunch. I'd planned to meet my wife for lunch, but she lost her house key while walking the dogs, and I had to come back to let her in. Our insurance company was insisting that we remove the moss from our roof (there isn't much, and I sweep it about twice a year). Our plan had been to do that in the afternoon after I got home, but with me already home, the opportunity was there. My wife, bless her, was insisting on going up to do it because I'm still booted from the periostitis/stress reaction in my shin. So up the ladder she went. And then down came the ladder, with her on it. She was writhing in pain, and I didn't know if she'd broken her leg or what.

I took her to the ER, and after some x-rays, it was determined that she had a bad sprin of the ankle. So now we're a matched set. It's even the same leg -- left. Good thing I was off crutches as of Wednesday.

Yesterday I got to work on time just fine. We'd gotten snow over the weekend, a rarity around Seattle, but my old 4 wheel drive Ford Escape (2001, 5-speed four banger) chugged out of my steep driveway without complaint, and the roads weren't bad at all. At about 10:45, just before lunch, it started to snow again. Big flakes that were moving almost horizontally. People were looking outside, and you could hear the tense jokes.

Now, I like snow. Really. I like running in it. I don't really even mind driving in it. It's nice to look at... I walked outside, and quoted Gary Sinise's Lt Dan Taylor, crying, "Is this the best you've got?"

Well... Not long after that, I had to head home to take my wife to a doctor's appointment. She can't drive. She can't put any weight on her foot at all. And we both have manual transmission cars.

I get home, we get ready, and head out to her car (she doesn't really like my car), but I can't get the boot to fit in the area of the clutch to push it far enough to even start the car. Plan B! We take my car. No problem -- it's already warmed up.

Get to the doctor's appointment fine, then stop for gas on the way home. Hop back in the car, turn the key, and... nothing. Barely even the "tick tick" of the starter.

So... We call the insurance company to get roadside assistance. About two hours later a tow truck arrives, and we get a short ride to Walt's. Battery is shot, and with it, possibly, the starter. All that would come to about 1/4 what the car is worth.

Eric and his wife come to pick us up and take us home.

And... it snowed another 4 inches over night, and it's coming down to beat the band right now. I'll need to shovel the drive before I'll be able to get my wife's car out. I think I'll wait for some daylight.

It hasn't been a great year so far... Hopefully it'll get better.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya?

Often times people will decry their bad luck in getting injured while training, or blame luck for a mechanical mishap during a race.

However, I think that luck, the alignment of the planets, the month you were born (or year, if you're one of the 2 billion Chinese), or that cast-iron bitch named Karma have nothing to do with it (unless, of course, your name really IS Karma).

If you want some one to blame, splash your face with water and take a look up. Yep, that now-dripping visage staring back at you is the one to blame.

The fact is that most mechanicals in races are the result of one of three things -- lack of maintenance, forcing a shift, or not doing a shake-down cruise. A bike is a machine, like your car. It needs periodic maintenance. Cables rust if not greased, and will eventually fail. Chains wear (contrary to popular thinking, they do not "stretch", it's wear at the pivots that causes it get longer), and if allowed to go too far, will start skipping on the gears. Worn gears will skip. Brake pads wear. Rims get thinner as the brake pads wear away at them (especially when ridden in wet environments). Ignore these things at your peril.

Likewise, there's an adage that says "nothing new on race day". Installing that new whatever on your bike right before a race is a recipe for disaster. Are you sure it's in the right place? Are you sure that cable tension is dialed in? Bolts torqued properly? Many of these things won't show up until you get on the bike and put a few miles on it. You don't want to be half-way into a tri course when that happens.

And those training injuries? Ninety percent of training injuries are due to a very small set of circumstances, all of which are under your control -- training methods, or lack of attention. Step off a curb wrong or into a rut and twist your ankle? Well, watch where you're stepping! Overuse injuries? Back off the mileage build-up! Knee issues? Likely due to overstriding! See something in common here? All these things are under your control.

Lest anyone think I'm getting preachy because some whiner wrote me a long-winded sob story... Nope. I'm talking to myself. Full disclosure time. Remember that shin issue I was talking about a couple weeks ago? Turns out it's something between periostitis and a stress reaction (and if it had gone long enough, would have become a stress fracture).

Yep. That was totally in my control. I could have taken more time off before it got to where I could barely walk. I could have stopped when the pain first showed up, instead of thinking I could push through it and hit 1000 miles by the end of the year (I ended up 2.5 miles short -- so close and yet so far). I didn't need to do three long-ish runs in a row, especially since I was already chopping my stride to run at all. Now I've got another 3 weeks in "the boot" before I can even start walking normally. Another week after than and I'll start running again.

I felt that today was a good day to give you the good news and the bad news.

The bad news first: It's all in your control.

Now the good news: It's all in your control.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eu de Footwear.

I love the smell of new shoes.

I think the shoe companies put some kind of opiate in the glue they use to assemble them, something that wafts out of the box and intoxicates the would-be owner in the store, lulling them into a euphoric state. All the better to facilitate the puchase, right?

Yes, it is a very distinct aroma. All too soon it fades, sometimes (especially if you run without socks) to be replaced by a different... aroma. Or stench, more like. Funk that is only second to mustard gas in fatal power. The dog won't even bury them. Weapons of mass destruction? Yeah, I got 'em. Washing them does no good -- the stench may be drastically reduced, but that new shoe smell is gone forever. Until the next new pair is introduced.

People talk about new-car smell. You can even buy car air fresheners and sprays with the scent of "new car". Seriously.

My wife.... Er, Santa... Got a pair of Stuff-Its for me for Christmas. Their supposed to help dry out your shoes after wearing, reducing the smell. No, they don't re-introduce new-shoe smell into the shoes. Dammit.

I think if Bed Bath and Beyond had one of those scented candles in new-shoe aroma, I'd buy it. And light it in my equipment cave (the laundry room). Just to keep things fresh, of course.

Would cologne be too much? Maybe. Non-shoe geeks wouldn't understand...

Why am I going on about this? Well, in November I got in contact with some marketing people at Skechers, and signed some non-disclosure agreements so that I could be a wear tester. Last night I had a box at the door. Three (!) pairs of new Skechers, preproduction models for me to thrash about in and give my impressions. Very cool.

That non-disclosure agreement prevents me from saying anything about them. But if and when I get the green light to spill, I will. In the mean time, I've got three new pairs of new-shoe smell sitting next to me on the couch.

Maybe I can use up all the new shoe smell before I have to send them back.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Simple things that work -- Pro-Tec Athletics Massage Roller

I've said it many times: I like simple things that do the job well. My mountain bike, until recently, was a single speed (and even now it's a 7 speed with non-indexed rear shifting). I prefer working with hand tools when it makes sense. And my shoe selection has always tended toward the simpler end.

Last June, I had a calf strain. Not the first time that has happened. My first go-around about 5 years ago became a repeated cycle of resting until it felt better (about two weeks), then re-injuring it the first time I started running again. I finally went through some physical therapy of lots of massage, strengthening, and a neoprene calf sleeve, and after over two months of this, I was finally cleared to start running again. START. Like I was starting from scratch.

So when it happened again this past June, I was bummed. I knew that I was in for a long recovery. But within a week, some one posted a link to a great article on Calf Heart Attacks. It goes into rehab and prevention, and step number two is to get as much massage as possible, even self-massage.

Enter the
Pro-Tec Athletics Massage Roller. I'd been given a gift card to The Balanced Athlete in Renton, WA, and I went in to look for something that might help. There on a peg were a few of these massaging devices, and at only $25 (competing products go for up to $40), I considered it money well spent. Okay, considering I got it on a gift card, it was kind of free -- even better!

What is the Massage Roller? Well, it consists of a piece of PVC pipe with foam cylinders glued to the outside, with a wooden dowel through the middle providing handles. Instructions are provided to massage many areas of the body, including using the handles (also foam-covered) for pressure-point application.

Calf massages are simple. There's that word again... But they are, rolling the device over the calves in an upward motion, then repeating. You control the pressure, so there isn't that feeling of wanting to punch a massage therapist because it hurts soooo much. Though it does help to make sure the calves are relaxed...

I used it almost daily during my recovery from the calf strain, and within three weeks I was back on the road, and building back up to my previous mileage. Now, whenever I feel calf tightness coming on, I sit down on my mat and grab the Massage Roller and roll away for 10-15 minutes of pleasant agony. I suppose I should have it scheduled as part of my regular training regimen.

And if you're making the transition from "traditional" shoes with a 10mm drop or more to something more minimal, do yourself a favor and pick one of these up along with those new low-drop shoes.

Such a simple thing, the Massage Roller. And it really works. Right up there on the top ten best $25 I never spent...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Balance kind of Christmas... and New Year

The first time I tried on the New Balance Minimus Roads, I had the same issues I have with most shoes these days -- the toe box. Similar to the issues I have with the Saucony Kinvara, the sweep of the toe box at the little toes came too far back, and pushed my little toe into the ones next to it, and forced my whole foot inward such that my big toe was pushed into the edge of the upper on the other side.

Later, I got a chance to try on the wide version at the Born to Run store in Bellevue, and found that it remedied every problem I had with the standard width model. All the width was added in exactly the right places -- the toe box goes out straighter before tapering in at the little toe, the area at the big toe runs straighter (straighter relative to a line from the heel to the metatarsal joint), and not wider in the heel.

I knew at some point I would be adding the Minimus Road to my running rotation of the Skechers GoRun, Altra Instinct, and Merrell Trail Glove.

Well, my wife surprised me.

Christmas morning, she had wrapped up for me a pair of New Balance Minimus MT10 cross trainers in black. Nice! (photo from the New Balance site)

"You seriously need to retire those sandals you've been wearing," she said. The sadder part was that my 10-yearold daughter agreed. Sandals? I've had these shoes for about 4 years, and they're the most comfortable knock-around shoes I have, and see the most wear of any I have (not for running though). I'll have to give them a proper retirement... Apparently Nevados doesn't make this particular model any more. The only other pair of shoes I've had longer than these is my Merrell Hiking boots, that are finally seeing the end of their life after some 20 years (and will be replaced this year).

Anyway, I wore the MT10's that afternoon, and they were very comfortable. My first impression was that the midsole and sole unit was very firm, but I didn't feel beat up at all by them. Even New Year's Eve, our first wedding anniversary, walking around downtown Seattle (for a few miles -- my shin seemed to either go numb or else I'd modified my walking gait enough to take some pressure off), they were great. Lots of toe room, no slipping of the heel, no hot spots, and my feet still felt great well into the night.

So when we got back on New Year's Day she surprised me with an anniversary gift: A pair of New Balance MR10 Minmus Road wides in the grey/orange color scheme. (photo from the New Balance site)

Even though I have some healing to do before I can put the MR10s to use (and I'll post a report after putting some miles on them), I really appreciate what she does for me.

She embraces my shoe-geekness. What a keeper!