31 January 2010

What Do Running Shoes Actually Do?

In his blog post, Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control and Barefoot Running, Steve Magness challenges some strongly-rooted assumptions about the benefits of running shoes and puts forth his opinion that the current categories used for running shoes -- cushioning, neutral, stability, and motion control -- should be rethought and replaced based on what really happens in a runner's stride.

Magness surveys several research studies that tried to look at the real relationship between impact forces, shoe correction, and injuries. The thing that struck me the most was Magness' contention that shoes, or at least the wrong shoes, interfere with the body's natural adaptation to forces.

The human body is an incredible organism. Judaism and Christianity have long acknowledged that fact. The writer of Psalms said: ...I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14, NIV)

Science agrees and Magness affirms that viewpoint:
we underestimate the human body! It’s an amazing thing, and we never give it the credit it deserves. The body adapts to the surface that it’s going to strike, if you give it a chance. The body adapts to both shoe and surface adjusting impact forces via changes joint stiffness, the way the foot strikes, and a concept called muscle tuning.
My take-away from the article? For now, at least, I have no intention of giving up my running shoes. Though I love going barefoot*, I've worn shoes while walking and running for 55+ years and suspect that my feet have adapted, for better or for worse. Besides, they are definitely not tough enough for Nairobi roads. However, I think I'll work on mimicking the style of running that the body seems to naturally use when running barefoot -- attempting to ensure footstrike beneath my body's center of gravity rather than out in front, shortening my stride length, and increasing my turnover rate.

Provocative article. What do you think? Would a change in your stride or you shoes make a difference in your running?

Run well, y'all,

*...barefoot... -- I like the dress code for my current office. Since I office in my house, I can and do go barefoot a lot. It's great. TCK's (third culture kids) in Africa are notorious for going barefoot whenever and wherever possible -- I'm not one but in that respect, I'd make a great TCK! :-D

27 January 2010

Opportunity knocks…but not always at the front door

Have you ever been waiting for an opportunity but found you were waiting at the wrong door? Great story and lesson here:

Opportunity knocks…but not always at the front door

Run well, y'all,

21 January 2010

Everyday Life in Kenya

A good friend, Bert Yates, has posted, on Facebook, pictures of some common, colourful scenes in Kenya. Not sure if you can access them unless you're either a FB friend of Bert or myself.

Run well, y'all,

15 January 2010

Getting Back on Track

Well, if I run in the morning, I will have run about as much this week as in all of December. And, based on the last 4-5 years of running, this week has been a short mileage week.

The runs have been relatively short and slow, but I've been out there and building back my mileage:

Monday: 2.9 miles Pace: 9.43 mpm
Thurs: 4.1 miles Pace: 9.37 mpm
Friday: 3.3 miles Pace: 9.28 mpm
Saturday: Planning on 4 miles

I'm glad to be back on the road.

Run well, y'all,

12 January 2010

Look, Ma -- No Wires!

This has nothing to do with running but it's fascinating stuff.

My wife and I have said, many times, how much we wish someone would come up with a way to recharge stuff without having to have wires running everywhere. It's moved from Sci-Fi to real life. I had seen the PowerMat charging system for cell phones, etc, but the technology is moving ahead very quickly. The following was in a report of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) from TidBITS (#1009, 11-Jan-10)

Finally, we come to the blender. It was a perfectly ordinary blender, sitting on a black box. It whirred like all blenders do. Then I noticed that there were no wires attached to the blender. It ran, like the toaster that sat next to it, on inductive power. There have been inductive power pads around for a while for charging low-power devices like cell phones, but blenders and toasters are orders of magnitude more thirsty for electricity.

The magic in the black box comes courtesy of Fulton Innovation's eCoupled technology, which uses magnetic induction to create a current in receiving devices. eCoupled electronics communicate with the black box to tell it how much power it needs. Electronic devices within range of the box which do not communicate with it are somehow left out of the induction field. When I expressed concern that other devices would burst into flames while the wireless power was active, the presenter turned on the blender, put his cell phone down next to it, and offered to let me make a call.

I can't say that I have an engineer's understanding of electricity, but I was under the impression that magnetic induction is an all-or-nothing sort of thing. Fulton has apparently managed to create a power supply which can feed kilowatts to intelligent devices, without affecting other electronics within range. I think he probably could have cloned a cat, รก la Nikola Tesla in "The Prestige," and I wouldn't have been any more surprised by the demo.

Common implementation of ubiquitous wireless power would completely change our relationship with technology. Picture a laptop with a battery that never runs down, because it's constantly being charged. There isn't a single electrical device that couldn't benefit from this technology, and many would be transformed by it.

I can't say whether Fulton will be the company that succeeds in bringing inductive charging to the mass market, but it was immediately clear to me that this technology is the future.

Here are some web links to additional information. The Wikipedia article on inductive charging talks about the development of proximity transmission of electricity (versus the device having to actually be in contact with the power source as is the case with the Powermat and the above blender):

eCoupled Wireless Housing
Wikipedia Article on Inductive (wireless) Charging
Wikipedia Article on Wireless Energy Transfer

The techie/gadget-loving/geeky side of me sort of wishes I had gotten the Powermat. :-D This is really cool.

Run well, y'all,

11 January 2010

Clawing My Way Back

One of my reoccurring dreams has to do with running. I wish it was about running with some of the great East African runners and feeling good. But, it's usually an exhausting dream where I'm trying to run up a long, steep hill that's usually deep sand. Instead of running, I'm barely moving forward, digging my hands into the sand and pulling myself uphill.

Well, I think that's how my running is going to feel for the next couple of months. Due to a variety of reasons (travel, an odd injury, boredom with my routes, a cold), I've only run 6 times since 21 November with this morning's run being the first in 3 weeks. I'm not completely starting over but at 55 years old, I think I lose fitness more quickly than ever and it will take me longer to get it back. But, I'm committed to getting it back.

My goals:
• Get back to 100+ miles per month
• Run a half marathon in Nairobi in October
• Lose 20 pounds

There I've said it -- here goes. This morning's run was only 2.94 miles at a pace of 9:42 mpm -- SSD (short, slow distance). I'll bump up my mileage slowly and see what happens.

Have you ever come back from a running slump? Any advice?

BTW, if you want to listen to a running podcast by a regular guy, check out Ashland (VA) Dave's Running in the Center of the Universe

Run well, y'all,

09 January 2010

Cost of Running: Shoes

the Ringmaster, who blogs at Mile by Mile, posted an interesting blog the other day. She talked about the shoes she had used during 2009 and had figured out her cost per mile for shoes. As much as I like numbers, that is one calculation I hadn't done.

So, I went back and ran the numbers for all the shoes for which I've tracked miles over the last 3+ years. Interesting. In that time I've run in and retired 6 pair of running shoes. I currently have 2 active pair. My average cost per mile was $0.134 per mile. Some other stats that caught my attention:
Most expensive: Brooks Adrenaline GTS7 (2007)
$99.75, 454 miles - $0.22/mi
Least expensive: Etonic Jepara SC 1 (2008)
$72.00, 714.4 miles - $0.10/mi
Longest lasting: Etonic Jepara SC 2 (2008)
$93.00, 817.7 miles - $0.11/mi
During 2009, I used 4 pair of running shoes. One pair, Brooks Adrenaline ASR, was a pair that I bought at the end of 2005 for cold, wet runs. When Richmond, VA had 9+ inches of snow in March 2009, I dug out these shoes for 2 or 3 runs to keep my feet as warm and dry as possible. I would not have wanted to run on dry pavement or for very far with those shoes as they were worn out -- but, they kept me drier than other shoes would have done.

I wore out a pair of Etonic Jepara SC 2's that I had started wearing at the end of Oct 2008. I used those until June 2009 and had 817.7 miles on them. Then I started using a pair of Etonic Jepara SC 1's. When the rainy season started in Kenya in October, the SC 1's became my mud-run shoes and I added in a pair of Etonic Jepara SC 2's for drier runs. The SC 1's now have 504.6 miles and the SC 2's have a measly 62 miles.

Enough stats for now.

Run well, y'all,

Follow the Footprints

Living in another culture can be so interesting. Just before Christmas our daughter came home to spend Christmas with us in Kenya. I was in the US for a meeting when she arrived and before I returned, my wife and Stacey drove to the Kenya coast to visit some friends before we took a few days of vacation on the Indian Ocean coast. When I returned, I flew to Mombasa to meet up with them.

When I arrived at the Mombasa airport (Moi International Airport), we deplaned on the tarmac. As we headed to the terminal, the airport employee who was directing us told us to just follow the footprints and we would get to the right place. Sure enough....It was funny but effective.

Hmmmm. Life lesson here. If you follow the right footprints, you end up in the right place. Whose footprints are you following? (Joshua 24:15)

Run well, y'all,

08 January 2010

Why Do They Call It a "Dashboard"?

Earlier today, a co-worker was explaining a new online process for our personnel to use in accessing and tracking budget information. The new finance program, FE, uses an online dashboard. This co-worker did an excellent job of explaining how to use the process but then posed the question, Why do they call it a dashboard? I wish I knew. He quoted the definition from Wikipedia which only referenced the Dashboard module of the Macintosh operating system (OS X). Since I had struggled with the concept, I thought I might be of some help.

He said it helped him. So, perhaps, though not running related, this will help someone else. Here's my response to him:
More, I'm sure, than you want to know -- way more -- but when I saw the trailer on your note [his question and the Wikipedia definition], my geek side kicked in. This is a layman's understanding and may not be a technical explanation:

"Dashboard" was a confusing term when I first encountered it in computer usage. It helped me to think about the dashboard in a vehicle. It contains gauges or lights that give the driver information about the state of the vehicle -- speed, miles, RPM's, heat, fuel remaining. Newer or more expensive vehicles give even more information -- my daughter's Civic tells her when to change her oil; my mother-in-law's Buick shows her the air pressure in her tires and real time MPG. The dashboard also contains some "items" that are interactive, allowing the driver to control various aspects of the vehicle -- cruise control buttons, audio system controls, HVAC controls, One Star controls, etc.

In computer terms, dashboard is used in the same sense and it's used in a lot more instances than just the Mac OS X. For instance, web hosting sites use the term dashboard or control panel to talk about a web page where a user goes to get information about or to manage his/her account. The page will most often display icons that link to pages relating to various aspects of ones accounts. For instance, for the [regional] web site, my dashboard/control panel shows how much of my allotted disk space I've used, how many e-mail accounts I've set up, and icons for setting up e-mail accounts, setting up automatic forwarding, managing FTP sites, controlling filtering, managing files on the server, etc.

Every person who has a gmail account has a Google dashboard, that gives the user information about the overall account and allows him or her to manage settings for various accounts (Gmail, Calendar, Analytics, Blogger, Picasa Web Albums, Web History, etc.) under their Google account umbrella. Those who have a Blogger account (another Google "service") have a dashboard that shows all the blogs that one is managing and allows one to customize the appearance of the blog, manage settings, post/edit blog entries, etc.

In the Mac OS X, the dashboard is the virtual desktop that, when activated, shows mini-programs (widgets) that do various things. Though I can't recall the term that Microsoft uses, Vista has a similar functionality with some differences in implementation. On my Mac laptop, I have a bunch of those widgets installed: a program that shows the status of my battery, one that shows the status of my network connections and the heat output of various components of my laptop, one that gives baseball scores and division standings, one that shows the weather, one that shows keyboard shortcuts, one that will compute my running pace, etc. So, the concept is the same as Google or web hosting dashboards -- the dashboard contains programs that either give information or allow the user to manage various aspects of the computer.

Sounds like FE has adopted that usage of the term, dashboard. The dashboard is where the user gets information and manages, in this case, reports related to his/her finance account with the company.

Ahh. Forgive me. Now back to real work. :-D
There you have it. I hope that's helpful to someone. Now I really do need to get back to real work. I'd rather be running.

Run well, y'all,

07 January 2010

Everyday Traffic in Nairobi

Great blog post from a Daily Nation (Nairobi) writer. This kind of traffic is not an occasional thing but an everyday occurrence. It starts about about 6:30 AM and continues until 9:00 PM or later. The only day it's not like this is Sunday. Now showing on Nairobi roads

Because of the crazy traffic, I have to run at 6:00 AM or put my life at the mercy of some of these people.

Run well, y'all,