Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peanut Arbol Salsa

A previous post Pork Shoulder Slow Cooked in Beer mentioned this salsa as a great pairing.  An in law introduced me to this salsa and it left a lasting impression.  I tend to love all things peanut butter and peanut related.

Peanut Arbol Salsa Ingredients are shown.

Olive Oil
1 large white onion - diced
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
+/-16 Arbol Chilies
1/2 head garlic - peeled
few sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup water
12 allspice berries
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Adjust the number of chilies for your heat tolerance.  Coat a frying pan with olive oil and heat on low.  Add Onion, peanuts, arbol chilies, garlic, thyme, and allspice.  Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly until onions remain crisp but begin to turn translucent.  Remove from heat and place in a blender with water, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend for 2-3 minutes and let cool before serving.  Other chilies can also be added for a different heat profile.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

My First Brick: Bike Run

My first brick was one of the most challenging workouts I have ever done.  It was a 14 mile bike followed by a 3 mile run.  Running after putting in a strong effort on the bike was unlike anything I have ever done.  I biked my heart out but my legs were fresh for the run.  The best I was capable of for the run was ½ marathon pace.  It was tough to finish out the run.  I thought about calling it after 2 miles but focused on my form to get past my physical and mental anguish.

My first foray into triathlon training was a great experience.  It is a fresh new challenge.  I am still trying to wrap my head around all the nuances and will be for some time.  I have read the Triathletes Training Bible but it did not prepare me for the awesome experience of actually applying theory in practice.
Turns out good cycling weather can make for lousy running weather.  Makes sense given the high velocity of the bike, which brings the effective temperature down.  It was a mildly hot and humid evening.  I felt the heat loosened me up, elevated my heart rate (in a good way), and made me faster on the bike.  The exact opposite effect happened on the run.  The heat and humidity were oppressive and my breathing was labored.

I was happy with the results.  44:21 bike averaging 19 – 20 mph on a course which featured traffic signals and some minor hills.  The run came in at 20:08 with splits of 6:26, 6:47, and 6:56.  My transition time was horrible – 6 minutes and was prolonged by my Garmin 410 Forerunner demanding I clear the lap memory before it would function again.

I am excited to do more bricks and include swimming too.  I am going to research sprint triathlons to see what kind of performance is competitive.  When I make my plan for the rest of the year this weekend I will have special consideration for scheduling a sprint tri.  The idea of competing in a tri makes me nervous unlike pure running.  I did not expect my training to take this turn but need to embrace something different since my foot injury.             

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Injury Update

It turns out my ankle injury was not an ankle injury.  I hurt the arch of my foot, which led to swelling in my ankle.  I assumed it was my ankle when my fears got the best of me.  My top goal this year was to rehabilitate my ankle and not hurt it again.  I have come a long way since having difficulty walking this past November to racing today.   

Not that an arch injury is any better.  Abandoning my running plan that I have stuck to since February was heartbreaking.  As far as racing goes I have achieved 2 of my 3 race goals for the year.  Recovering from injury and staying healthy is more important than meeting race goals.  Don’t compromise health and safety for performance!  I will need to delay satisfaction and achieve my elusive ½ marathon goal later rather than right now.  2011 goals:

5k 18:36  18:26  Storm the Bastille
10k 38:42  38:31  Pigeon River classic
½ marathon 1:25:45 

The pain in my arch has subsided after 10 days of abandoning running for low impact activity.  A dull ache persists when my form is incorrect, great biofeedback.  To ease back into running I applied progressive loading and paid close attention to my body afterward.  It is tempting to put in high mileage after taking time off but these transitions need to be gradual to reduce risk and avoid further injury.  This past Monday I ran 1 mile.  Tuesday I ran 2 miles.  Today I did my first brick, cycling 14 miles followed by a 3 mile run.

In failure is opportunity.  I have learned a lot from this injury and will become a faster runner because of it.  I thought long and hard about it, paid close attention to my form, examined event photos, examined video of other runners, and looked at old running shoes.  Turns out my tendency to roll ankles is the result of a multitude of interrelated factors that compound on each other.  These signs have been around for years and I conveniently ignored and rationalized them away.

An old pair of shoes retired to lawn mowing.  Excessive wear on the outside of the foot indicate an uneven foot strike in need of correction.  The wear should be even.

Bruising and blistering of the feet indicate the majority of the impact force occurs on the outside of the feet.  Before placing blame on shoes examine form.

In gray the leg is seen crossing the body's center line.  The arms and legs should be square, never crossing the center line.  The foot strike is on the outside of the forefoot.  An even impact should occur at the center of the forefoot.

I am a natural forefoot striker, always have been.  Turns out all these years I have had a touch of over stride, cross my centerline with my feet, and sub sequentially touch down on the outside of my foot.  My forefoot strike is exaggerated, more like a sprinter running on the forefoot without touching the heel to the ground.  All these factors coupled with an unstable landing leads to a lot of rolled ankles – some with disastrous results.  My form has often been praised but stands room for improvement – if only I had met a critic who would have broke it down.  I don’t need an orthotic or a special shoe to accommodate my sub optimal form.  I need to change my form and undo those years of muscle memory. 
Changing years of muscle memory takes effort and concentration and is greatly aided by minimizing distractions like music and watches.  I have reduced my stride and increased my cadence, which encourages an even foot strike.  I pay close attention to not cross my centerline with my legs or arms and run square.  In the next day or two I need to reevaluate my situation and create a new plan with new goals and rethink events I had planned.  This injury has briefly left me without goals, events, or a plan to motivate me.  These are all necessary ingredients for success.

I challenge everyone to leave there distractions at home and concentrate on their form for one workout.  There may be some easy changes to identify that gain speed with less effort than is expended today.  Thankfully I have sport variety to fall back on when running fails me.  All runners should have backup plans for maintaining fitness in the event of an injury.  Now that I am running again with Lefty at my side I am sure he will be happier and much less of a troublemaker.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Analysis Behind Run Faster: Shoe Weight and Performance

The previous post Run Faster:  Shoe Weight and Performance summarizes the conclusions of this post in a manner accessible to all readers.  In short a lightweight flat was found to improve 5k race times by 1.4% when compared to a full cushioned trainer.  The returns diminished for 10k and ½ marathon distances with improvements of 1.2 and 1.1% respectively.  This post is written for readers interested in the supporting mathematical analysis, which employs basic physics and a study of the Bio mechanics of running.  Please feel free to refute any assumptions or calculations.  I am happy to discuss.

 A visual examination of various runners and their form was necessary to create a proper model.  Using a side profile and a stationary video camera is the best way to capture form and can be done at home on a treadmill or a sidewalk.  In runners with good form over striding is absent.   Cadence or foot turnover is a constant 180 foot strikes per minute.  The trailing foot rises to the height of the knee.  This same model does not hold true for runners who shuffle at lower speeds.  This link contains good video examples of various running form midway down the page.

With respect to shoe weight no difference was found in the overall path of travel for forefoot vs. heel striking, thus the energy cost was assumed to be the same.  Some advocates of barefoot running compare the best of fore foot strikes to the worst of over striding heel strikes and are intellectually dishonest in this respect.  While heel striking may encourage over striding, over striding is a separate issue.  

During a stride the trailing foot is accelerated forward and becomes the lead foot.  The foot is then accelerated upward and becomes the trailing foot once again as the other leg strides forward.  Two distinct components exist, vertical and horizontal.  From basic physics the Energy required to accelerate a mass a certain distance can be found by:

E = F∆d

Where E is the energy in Joules, F is the force in Newton’s, and ∆d is the distance of each stride in meters.  The force can be found by:

F = ma

Where m is the mass in kilograms and a is the acceleration in m/s2.  The mass represents the weight of one shoe in this study.  The shoes selected for comparison were the Nike Free 3.0 V2 and Nike Voomero.  These shoes were selected as one represents a minimalist shoe and the other a full cushioned traditional trainer.  Weight can be converted from ounces to grams to kilograms by way of the conversion factors:

1 oz = 28.348 g
1 Kg = 1000 g
m1 = 6.7oz = 0.190 Kg (Nike Free)
m2 = 10.4oz = 0.295 Kg (Nike Voomero)

To find the vertical component of the energy EV required to accelerate one shoe is fairly simple.  Acceleration is set equal to gravity, 9.8 m/s2.  The distance traveled was found to be the height of the knee for all paces.  For me this distance is 0.457 m.  These values are substituted back into the Force and Energy equations to find the energy of the vertical component.   

aV = gravity
∆dV = Knee Height

The horizontal component of the energy EH required to accelerate one shoe requires additional consideration to first find the acceleration and distance.  Unlike the vertical component, the horizontal component is dependent on pace.  The horizontal change in distance is found by:

∆dH = (1608 m)/(pace • cadence)

Where pace is minutes per mile and cadence was earlier mentioned as 180 foot strikes per minute.  There are 1608 meters in 1 mile.  This calculation will give the distance of each stride in meters and varies according to pace.  Faster paces have longer strides than slower paces.  To find the acceleration of the horizontal component requires application of an equation of motion.  This is the same math behind foot pods that calculate speed and distance using an accelerometer and time.

∆d = ½ (a)( t2)

Which can be rewritten as:

aH = 2∆dH/t2

Where t is the time in seconds of one stride and is found by dividing cadence by 60 seconds.  The time is a constant 0.333 seconds for all paces.  Horizontal acceleration will be greater for faster paces.

t= Cadence / 60s = 0.333 s 

After solving for horizontal distance and acceleration these values are substituted back into the Force and Energy equations to find the energy of the horizontal component.  Once the Energy of the horizontal and vertical components are calculated they can be neatly summed together and converted in food calories.  Pace and race distance should be expressed in miles.

ETOT = (EH + EV)( pace • cadence • race distance)/4184

Where ETOT is the total energy required to accelerate the shoe in food calories for the calculated race distance.  EH is the horizontal energy component in Joules and EV is the vertical energy component in Joules.  The conversion factor of 1 C = 4184 J is used to convert Joules into food calories.   Once the total energy required to run with a shoe a fixed race distance is found and expressed in food calories the energy can be compared to empirical calorie data from runs.  The energy cost as a fraction of the calories burned per race distance can be found by:

η = ETOT / ((CalAVG - CalBMR) • Race Distance)

Where CalAVG  is the average calorie burn per mile taken from empirical data.  This value will increase for longer distances as a function of cardiac drift.  CALBMR represents calories burned by way of BMR per mile and is subtracted from the empirical value CALAVG to isolate the additional energy expended during running.  My personal BMR of 1800 C was used for this study.  This fraction can be multiplied by time and distance to find the associated time penalty tp in seconds incurred by shoe mass:

CALBMR = BMR /24 hours / 60 minutes • Pace 

tP = η • pace • race distance

The tables below summarize the results of the calculations:
Race Distance [mi]
Pace [min/mi]
∆dH [m]
aH [m/s2]
∆dV [m]
aV [m/s2]

5k (3.1)

10k (6.2)

½ mar (13.1)

Race Distance [mi]
CalAVG [C/mi]
CalBMR [C/mi]
5k (3.1)
10k (6.2)
½ mar (13.1)

Race Distance [mi]
tp [s]
5k (3.1)
10k (6.2)
½ mar (13.1)

Do these calculations make sense?  Yes.  The 1985 study Effects of shoes and foot orthotics on VO2 and selected frontal plane knee kinematics stated that oxygen consumption during running increased as the amount of mass they added to the foot increased; shoes and orthotics representing 1% of body mass increased oxygen consumption by 3.1%.  Using this rule of thumb and my own 140lb body weight and assuming the 3.1% increase in VO2 correlates 1:1 to the energy calculations in this post:

A pair of Nike Voomeros represents 0.93% of total bodyweight, scaling VO2 yields a 2.9% increase in the energy required.  A pair of Nike Free 3.0 V2 represents 0.6% of total bodyweight, scaling VO2 yields a 1.9% increase in the energy required.  These values are close to the ½ marathon value calculated for η.  The difference in value could be explained by the dampening effect of the cushioning which was not considered in this post.  Shoe weight was the only factor in this analysis.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Run Faster: Shoe Weight and Performance

Most everyone wears running shoes for good reason, without them the discomfort would be too great to run for any duration at speed over frequently encountered terrain.  Shoes protect our feet from sharp objects and extreme temperatures.  This protection comes at a cost.  Shoes are a mass on our feet that take energy to bring up and forward each stride.  To maximize performance, shoe weight needs to be minimized without prematurely fatiguing the feet.

Shoe variety is a good way to combat foot related fatigue and challenge different muscles in each run.  This is part of a good mitigation strategy against overuse injuries.  Road running and trail running require different footwear and different distances dictate different footwear as well.  It is good to have a mix of different shoes suited for long distance, tempo, intervals and races.  I will wear lighter shoes for a 5k that I cannot wear for half marathon due to blistering and discomfort at longer distances.    

Every serious runner should have several different shoes for different distances, terrain, and races.  Lightweight 5k flats are a great addition to high mileage trainers, have the largest performance payoff, can be used for intervals, some tempo work, and of course 5k races.

The real question is what do we stand to gain in minutes and seconds by way of shoe selection?  What potential performance gains exist by building foot strength to use lighter shoes for longer distances?  These questions are easy to answer by way of mathematical analysis utilizing simple physics and are just as easily verifiable in application.  I will spare these details for a follow up post for those interested.  

 I have a variety of shoes at home including pairs of Nike Voomero and Free 3.0 V2 that are used in this example.  The minimalist Free is a much quicker shoe than the Voomero, provided my foot strength is up for the distance.  How much quicker?  For a 5k event the lighter Free gives me close to a 17 seconds edge and a finish time of 18:23.  For a 10K this is a 27 second advantage leading to a finish time of 38:30.  For a half marathon the advantage is a little over 1 minute for a finish time of 1:28:12.  The biggest advantage is for the 5k with a 1.5% improvement.  The 10k and half marathon have diminishing returns of 1.2% and 1.1%.

Shoe weight is just one of many factors that impact running efficiency.  The 6.7oz Free requires 2.1% to 2.4% of total effort to accelerate the shoe up and forward during a run.  For the 10.4oz Voomero this is 2.9% to 3.8%.  With respect to the just the shoe, cushioning of the sole will also reduce efficiency.  This will be a subsequent post.  Keep an eye out for a post about the math behind this analysis and additional Run Faster posts covering all aspects of efficiency and bio-mechanics.  I am happy to customize these numbers for others, let me know.

Cucumber Dill Salad

This is a very crisp and refreshing summer classic that makes good use of garden cucumbers and dill.

2 cucumbers
1/2 lemon
2 Tbs Rice Wine Vinegar
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
Fresh Dill
Fresh Chives

Skin the cucumbers and discard the skins.  Thinly slice the cucumbers and combine in a bowl with the juice of 1/2 lemon, the vinegar, and sour cream.  Substitute plain yogurt for sour cream if desired.  Dice the Fresh Dill and add to taste, think a couple hand fulls.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add fresh cut onions or chives to enhance.

Cucumber Dill Salad with Tortellini.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Garden Update and Dill Caterpillar revisited

This heat has been hard on training but has been great for my garden, especially the tomatoes and peppers.  Some of the bell and jalapeno peppers are close to maturity and there is a healthy amount of roma tomatoes coming in.  Once these building blocks come in I will be able to reach the full potential of all the associated herbs as well.  I have big plans including gazpacho, cucumber tomato soup, tomato soup, tomato sauce and barbecue sauce to name a few.  Gardens are a great way to increase quality of life and get proper nutrition at the cost of time and sweat.

Dill caterpillar all grown up.

On the herb front the dill, chives, and cilantro have led everything else and flowered.  I will need to reseed or buy new plants to ensure continuity soon.  Since the dill has flowered it has become quite the hit with Swallowtail butterflies.  While I cannot be certain it is my dill caterpillar all grown up, this particular one appeared to be laying eggs. 

So why bother with dill?  It goes great in summer soups particularly tomato soup and tomato cucumber soup.  Dill is great with potatoes of any kind, cucumber salads, and dips.  The caterpillars are small in number and easy to remove without much effort.  There are far worse garden pests, like whatever has been eating all the fresh strawberries.  Even my dog is a garden pest when he rifles through the tomatoes and berries trying to find the ripe ones.  Thus far he has not taken to peppers or herbs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Milwaukee Weekend: Running, Kayaking, and Biking

Wisconsin offers a unique mix of opportunities for outdoor athleticism.  Plenty of quality running, cycling, and paddling opportunities offering a variety of challenges exist.  Just within cycling Wisconsin offers excellent road, trail, and mountain bike opportunities.  Paddling the fresh water Great Lakes or local rivers are options with very different considerations.  Numerous races and running opportunities exist from road to trail events.  Wisconsin features some true world class locations and events associated with them.

For Fourth of July week some friends and family came to visit for a long weekend.  This was a great vacation that included a little mountain biking, trail biking, running, kayaking and shooting sporting clays as well as cultural events to include Summerfest and a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game.  While most of this activity was contained to the Milwaukee area I do have aspirations to take part in the best Wisconsin has to offer.  

Cycling the Oak Leaf Trail in Grant Park.

The week started off with a trip to the John Muir trails for some mountain biking.  The trails were in great condition.  Even though it was a hot day there was plenty of cover on the trail to keep cool.  While not mountainous, like my most recent experience, these trails made good use of the rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine area, and featured a variety of terrain and technical challenges with rock gardens and banked curves being the most notable. 

The bikes pictured make for a rough day of mountain biking but excel at commuting and trails.

After a pass on the 1 mile beginner loop I had the confidence to tackle the 10 mile advanced loop.  Did I mention I did this using my upright, 30mm suspension, 700mm x35c tire, commuter bike complete with bell and kick-stand.  Of course it was ridiculous but the bike handled good enough, had plenty of gears, and I found myself passing many riders.  As for the downside, this was the roughest ride of my life with the consequences including great discomfort in my hands.  I plan to get a proper mountain bike and am considering building one in the winter for sport.  I have no further plans to take a trail bike or road bike onto off road trails.  Once in possession of this mountain bike I plan to visit Devil’s Lake and hit their much touted trails.     

Kayaking off South Shore and Bay View park.

Two days of kayaking were done in Milwaukee along the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.  The water was glassy and Coho Salmon were abundant within the breakwater and visible using polarized lenses.  I heard they were biting too but never did drop a line.  The pictures turned out great.  Next year I plan to take a trip to the Apostle Islands for paddling which is said to be among the best in the world and only a five hour drive away.

Lefty with a new training partner after a swim in the lake preceded by an easy run.

The main event of the week was the Rock ‘n Sole ½ marathon which I have previously blogged about.  In the days leading up to this event everyone took it easy with some casual cycling along the beautiful Oak Leaf trail and some light running.  I have not done any trail running this year but plan to break onto the scene this fall.  Next year I would like to compete in the well known Badgerland Striders Ice Age trail run which also takes place in Kettle Moraine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Proper Sleep, Nutrition and Associated Biofeedback

With some exceptions training makes up a small part of most athletes’ day.  Commitment does not begin and end with a good workout, proper nutrition and sleep are just as important.  Lacking proper rest and nutrition will lead to fatigue for training and prevent realization of peak performance in addition to increasing vulnerability to injury and illness.

The need to rest increases after taxing physical exertion.  This includes additional sleep over the standard 8 hours and reduced activity in our waking hours to guarantee recovery.  High impact activity such as running should be followed up by lounging around and getting off our feet.  Social and economic considerations don’t always allow for proper rest and sleep but it is something to strive for.
Proper nutrition means different things to different people and can and does reflect ideological beliefs.  The full spectrum ranges from Vegan to Paleolithic with much debate on the inclusion of various classes of foods, alcohol, and supplements.  To a large extent proper nutrition is driven by sport specific, environmental, and locality considerations. 
My ideal diet consists of striking an even balance between whole grains, fruits & nuts, vegetables (including beans), lean meats, and lean dairy.  Minimally processed fresh foods with few ingredients provide the building blocks.  Simple grains and processed foods are introduced to offset high calorie burning activities such as a day of cycling, paddling, or multi hour runs.  Salts and water are increased during high heat and humidity to stave of electrolyte deficiency.  Within this mix are special considerations for fiber, fat, and specific nutrients.  Diet variety to include an occasional fish goes a long way in ensuring no vitamin or mineral deficiency exists.

I say ideal because reality and what I strive for don’t always coincide.  Social and work considerations have from time to time forced me to turn to convenience, which undermines ideal diets.  Supplementing and multivitamins can mitigate these imperfect conditions but don’t substitute for a quality diet.  These diet shifts can be gradual and escape the conscious mind's observation.  For this reason every so often I engage in calorie and nutrient counting to get an accurate gauge of my current nutritional needs.  I apply this tool sparingly two to three times a year because of the overhead.  Far better indicators of diet quality exist.

Our bodies are made of what we eat.  Our nervous system does an excellent job communicating timely feedback on our diet.  It is important to take cues seriously, form a hypothesis, and take action to eliminate any ailments.  Fatigue and headaches cued me into a recent sleep and salt deficiency.  Getting your shit straight is not only excellent figurative advice but also excellent literal advice.  Gross mismatches in calorie intake and outtake can be seen measuring weight using a scale.  Nutrient deficiencies are harder to determine.  Before treating symptoms by turning to pharmaceutical solutions, while the underlying root cause persists, diet should be examined.