Back in October, once the triathlon season had ended for 2010, I got myself new running shoes and decided to give the Lock Laces product a try. You can read my previous summary, to learn about the product and my initial thoughts on them after a few runs. The company's webpage does a good job explaining the product and showcasing it as well. Now that I've had a couple of months of running with them, it seems about time to revisit my initial impressions and see if they have held up.
My initial impression of Lock Laces was that my shoes felt way too tight on my feet. They still feel tight when I have them on, but not painful or annoying tight, just tight. When running, the tightness has gotten to feel normal to me, where I love how my shoes feel on my feet. The nature of the product, being elastic, causes the pull on the shoe to be evenly distributed over the entire foot, as opposed to having tight or pinch points like you have with normal laces. This results in the shoe feeling more solidly connected to my foot, without any part being compressed more than the rest.
As you may recall, I have had an ongoing issue where my left foot would go numb about three to four miles into a run sometimes and this required me to stop running, adjust/loosen the lacing, walk the numbness off, and then start running again. This problem arose during the National Half-Marathon last year and, while I still made my goal time, slowed me down enough that I knew I could have done better. The root cause of this problem seems to be the pinching caused by traditional laces right at the top portion of my ankle. If changes in lacing could resolve this issue for me, I think this will go a long way to making this year's goal for the National. During my first few runs with Lock Laces, I did not experience this issue at all and I was hoping that this trend would continue. I am very pleased to report that it has, and I have had ZERO incidents of foot numbness since I've been running with these laces. This includes running flat courses, very hilly ones, well-paved roads, trails, and treadmills.
My only question about the product is the length. The idea is that you have a slideable lock that lets you adjust the tightness of the laces so that you can loosen them to get them on and just slide the lock down to tighten them up and go. However, for me, they are tight fully extended. I do not adjust the lock at all, leaving the laces as loose as they go. This keeps the shoes tight on my feet but also allows me to pull them on and off. This configuration does seem to work well...it's just not how the product is "supposed" to be used, as far as I can tell. Oh well, I'm happy with it. Here's a picture of them...those locks have not moved since I first installed the laces.
So, my conclusion about Lock Laces is that they rock. The even distribution of compression over the shoe seems to have solved my foot numbness problem and that really makes me happy. There is no time wasted lacing up shoes before a run anymore; this will be very valuable once the triathlon season starts up and I'll stop wasting so much time in T2 trying to get my running shoes tied just right. While my shoes still feel tight when I'm just walking around in them, it's not uncomfortable and they feel great while I'm running in them. I will continue using my Lock Laces and I encourage you to give them a try!
Over the past couple of weeks, I'd been really on top of training. I hit a really good time for a 10mi run (which put me right on target for my time goal for the National Half-Marathon), I swam a 5000yd set really strong and felt great afterwards, and finished more than one multiple-hour sessions on the bike trainer (while watching some amazingly good TV shows and some surprising good movies). I spaced the sessions out well and got something hard in every day. It was great and my motivation every morning was really high due to the momentum from the previous days. I was in the zone. Then...
I got sick. Ugh. There's something going around the area I live, which is a combination of a chest cold and some really bad sinus stuff. My wife got the chest cold version early last week, which resulted in some pretty miserable nights for her of coughing very deeply throughout the night (which, of course, kept me up too). She is pretty prone to sinus infections and such, so I didn't really think this was much worse the usual for the season. I, on the other hand, do not get sick very often (I attribute this to the great immune system that I got from my maternal grandfather who was the more resilient person I've ever met; he, also, just did not get sick). I get sore throats every once in a while (this is because I'm allergic to cats and we have, of course, a cat in the house) but that's about it. It is very rare that I'm sick to the point where my normal day-to-day activities are impacted.
So, come Thursday morning of last week, I woke up with a deep cough. Not a good sign. Then, by the end of the day, my voice started to go. In the middle of the night, my throat was really sore and it hurt quite a bit to cough and sneeze. Friday, I went to work and then had to leave after a few hours because I was coughing all the time and could barely talk. Even then, I was still able to get a long session in on the bike trainer, as cough drops were able to hold things back enough for that. Come Saturday, no hope. I spent all day interviewing potential new lifeguard candidates (not the best activity for someone with a horrible voice) and then coughed the rest of the evening away. Sunday was even worse and I spent the entire day on the couch, watching football, sucking down cough drops, and drinking hot tea. By the end of the day, I was coughing less but still quite a bit; things did not look good (for me...the wife was actually feeling better, probably due to her fruit-based smoothie recovery strategy).
It's Monday morning now and I feel somewhat better. The coughing has subsided (it's never as bad in the morning as it is in the late-afternoon/evening, but I'm hopeful this will last) and my voice seems pretty normal, but still somewhat deeper than usual. I told myself, when I went to bed last night, that I was, in no way, to consider running, biking, or swimming today, as my body needs recovery time. But...the motivation is there. My bike trainer is right next to me as I write this. It's less than 20 degrees outside, so running would need to be on a treadmill where I could have my own private TV to watch while I ran. Swimming...is out of the question. :) This is the hardest part about being sick...coming to terms with the fact that recovery time now, while putting my momentum in check, is absolutely going to be better in the long term. So, for today anyway, the bike trainer will sit idle, the treadmill will spin for someone else, and the pool will have one less person in it. I'm going to play this one smart and let my body get over this horrid sickness from beyond the moon.
Tomorrow, however, is another day. ;)
I, along with a number of other folks from the Columbia Masters Swimming team, went down to Annapolis, Maryland, on 16 January, for a meet at the Annapolis Swim Center. This is one of the larger meets in the series of local ones hosted by our LMSC (Local Masters Swim Committee), and the first swim meet we've done during the triathlon off-season. Let me first say that I love open water swimming so much more than pool swimming, especially racing. Almost all of my training is done in a pool, but I much prefer to race open water. This is largely because while I am a decently competent swimmer, I am horrible at anything I need to do on a wall (I cannot perform a good dive off a starting block, I cannot do a good flipturn - as previous entries will document - and I once lost a race by a touch because the pool in question had an odd gutter system and my touch did not find the timing pad). All of these issues go away with open water swimming but exist in abundance at swim meets. But these are available during the winter, and my wife loves them, so here I am, suited up on a Sunday afternoon and ready to go. :)
I typically swim whatever the longest available events are when doing meets like this and have posted decent times in the 1000 and 1650 free this way. Today, the longest event was the 500 free, which I signed up for. Before that, however, was the 200 free. Not being much of a competitive swimmer, I have not figured out the proper way to race this. The last time I did the 200 free, I did so at last year's Maryland LMSC Zones meet, where I started off way too fast and then died like a champ. The wife advised me to swim this as a 75 easy / 75 build / 50 sprint, so that is what I did this time, starting off easier, then building up, and then sprinting the last 100 yards (well, probably more like the last 75 yards). I was exhausted when I hit the wall but ended up catching the person that was ahead of me through most of the race and also smashing the time I set at last year's zone meet by 37 seconds. (UPDATE:The wife just pointed out that the Zones meet was in a meter pool and this one in a yards pool, so this is not nearly as impressive as it sounds. Nuts.).
The 500 free was, by comparison, less eventful. I know how to race this distance and I swam pretty well, a little faster than my total guess of a seed time. I do not recall swimming the 500 in a masters meet before, and I am unable to find any prior results in the USMS database, so I guess I'll be call this my reference time from now on. The entire race went pretty much as I planned it out in my head and I had just enough energy going in to the last 50yd to sprint it, all out. Very cool.
As for everyone else, the wife had a chest cold that made swimming difficult. She changed her seed time for the 500 free so that she would not be in the faster heat, but did not change it enough and ended up there anyway. This was fun because it ended up being a three way race between her, the world's best cycling instructor, and another really good swimmer on our team. Very fun to watch and she was right-on with her time. She also did very respectable in her other events, even with the chest cold. Others from our team did very well and this ended up being a very successful event for the Columbia Masters Swimming team, and for me personally. Afterward, we kept the tradition for this meet alive and went to Outback for steak and delicious cheese fries for dinner (swimming a total of 1000yd balances out the calories in this, right? :)).
There are a ridiculous number of benefits to running as part of a group. There is a huge sense of community and bonding, lots of distraction from the fact that you're putting your body though the constant impact of many miles of slamming your feet into the ground, some really good conversations, and sometimes you both rely on and are relied on, others to get each other through the run.
I have the good fortune to train with a wonderful group of people all of the time, ranging from a Kona competitor to people still training up for their first sprint triathlon. I count a large number of these folks as my closest friends. Each brings a different perspective and a collection of strengths to the group that makes it add up to more than the sum of each individual. This includes Masters group swim training and competition, lots of cycling classes (led by the best cycling instructor in the world, who is also the before-mentioned Kona competitor) and other organized group rides, to lots of running, both in the form of brick runs after each of those cycle classes to longer runs on the weekends. I love that I can train with these people and the benefits to me have been immense (indeed, I attribute the increase in my running speed over the past two years to the faster pace we run during those brick sessions).
That being said, I do not join said group for the longer running sessions that typically take the form of Bagel Runs, which is an informal but well-organized weekly event led by our local running club. You set the distance, anywhere from 5 to 30 miles, and join a big group that starts together at 7am every Saturday morning. Rather that do this, I typically do my long runs by myself, and I'm pretty much sold on the benefits of this approach. Here's why.
Now, I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't run (or train) with other people. Over 90% of my training is done with my core group of athletes and I swear by that strategy. I attribute almost all of my success to them. There are a huge number of benefits to running with a group. However, running by yourself has its place too...don't discount it.
If you watched the Christmas Special for the BBC program Doctor Who (which is easily the best show on TV, by the way), then you know how the Winter Solstice, and Christmas to an extent, are halfway through the winter times when the long, dark, cold, days start getting shorter. People from many traditions and cultures come together to celebrate this, Half Way Out of the Dark, time.
Cin and I, being warm weather people, try to get out of our dark, cold, climate whenever we can. Two years ago, we flew down to the Florida Keys, visiting Key Largo and Key West, and decided to do that again to welcome in 2011. As we were eating a lot of very less-than-healthy food and have a full set of early season races coming up, we also ran a bunch while down there. Lots of people had the same idea and we saw a range, from folks walking a mile with weights in their hands, to folks in full-on tri gear putting in some intense sets, both running and on really high-end tri bikes...this is a very friendly training town! Running in low-70s weather, with just a bit of humidity, along the beach, is a very welcome break from the winter of home. Also worthy of note is that Key West, while known as a party town, has excellent watersport and other activities...I got a really good set of SCUBA dives in on this trip (the best SCUBA is up north in Key Largo, but Key West is pretty sweet too!).
Here's a shot from our morning run route.
It occurred to us that running around Key West was a decent task that many people would want to do. Yet, searching for a planned route, I was unable to find a good one. So, I made one and wanted to share. I tried to stay as far on the outside of the island as possible and also tried to select roads that allowed the best view of the water. The route ends up being just over 11 miles and stays on the main roads.
Here is the route I was able to put together: http://www.mapmyrun.com/route/us/fl/key%20west/906129398065594885
If you're down in Key West and want to run, give it a try and let me know what you think of this one.
I should also point out that Key West has a very popular half marathon, there is the annual Swim Around Key West (12 miles!), the 7 Mile Bridge Run (which is a run over the famous 7 Mile Bridge in the more-northern sections of the Keys), and Key West also hosted its first triathlon event this year, at both the sprint and Olympic distance.
Great trip with great running and other events. Running in freezing temps and frigid winds is common this time of year and this trip let us take a break and enjoy some perfect conditions. It was both physically and mentally rejuvenating. If you're looking for a break from the cold, consider (running in) Key West. I, for one, am very glad to be Halfway Out of the Dark.
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