It’s gotta be the shoes

Is it the shoes?

Another race another day running up and down hills. In western New York hills are rare, and races with lots of hills were even rarer. But out here flat races are hard to find, especially flat races longer than 5k. Fresh off the Ed Erichson 10 Miler where I was battling for the win, I headed down to Upton, MA for the Frank Nealon 15K where I was back to mostly battling the clock. Like the Ed Erichson this race had about 500 feet of climb, but unlike the Ed Erichson this race was loaded with really fast runners.

Elevation Profile. Lots of up and down
Frank Nealon elevation profile.

When I ran this race last year I was just coming off a back injury that prevented me from pushing the downhills, this year I was determined to take full advantage of any part of the race that wasn’t up. The result was a masters 15K PR of 53:50, a 2 minute improvement over last year, and a 6 second per mile improvement over my Ed Erichson 10 mile time (5:52 down to 5:46). This was a USATF New England Grand Prix race again this year, which means I wasn’t going to get my first win of the year. Last year I finished 81st overall and 9th in my age-group (40-49). I made good improvement in both those categories this year, finishing in 56th overall and 7th in my age-group (40-49). Results here.

400 meters to go with a fast closing pack on my heels.

A coworker asked me what was better, having lots of people around to race with or, being out front alone trying to win a race. For me, being out in front (either overall or in my age-group) generally brings out the best times. I run well when I’m scared and determined not to give up what I’ve held for so long. It keeps me pushing hard in an effort to put the race away. When running with lots of other runners mid pack it is easy to get complacent. If the pack your with slows down, you often don’t even notice. You assume you are running well because you are staying with the group. I usually try to look ahead to a new pack and try to move up, rather than run at the front of my current pack.

Last 300 meters
200 meters to go. I pulled away from the man in white, but was nearly caught from behind by the man in yellow. Photo by Ted Tyler from

It has been a better than expect start of the racing season for me. I was pleasantly surprised by my 10 miler, and didn’t think I would improve so much in just a few weeks. But now is when I have to tell you my dark secret. I ran the Frank Nealon 15K in a pair of Nike Vaporfly 4%. If you aren’t familiar with the Vaporfly 4%, they were designed as part of Nike’s Breaking 2 project, and a decent amount of research does suggest they are capable of producing about a 4% improvement in running economy. You can see some of the research here:

That alleged 4% improvement does come at a price, they are about $100 more than I would normally spend on a pair of Adidas Adios racing shoes. But I found a good deal on a pair, and plan to only race in them, not do workouts in them so I’m hoping they last for a year of racing. It is also cheaper than buying beet juice shots to drink for a few days before every race, and cheaper than a oxygen regulating bed tent. So financial justifications aside, there are just the ethical questions of running in a shoe that improves your performance by 4%.

First time racing in Nikes since high school.

Several years ago I started doing all my training and racing in Adidas shoes with boost. Here is the teaser ad they ran for the material.

Bouncy fast

I was sold on the boost right away, I never saw a performance improvement wearing it like I had hoped for, but they did feel very comfortable, and I especially like the Boston series for training in. At the time most people were doubtful that they would be any faster than any other racing shoe, I don’t recall hearing anyone clamoring for them to be banned. But things have been different with the Vaporfly 4%. There was an immediate and now persistent argument against them being legal, but besides some odd nitpicks about how many spikes a shoe can have, the USATF doesn’t have much to say about shoes. The 2019 competition rules state

A competitor may compete in bare feet or with footwear on one or both feet. The purpose of shoes for competition is to give protection and stability to the feet and a firm grip of the ground. Such shoes, however, must not be constructed so as to give the competitor any unfair assistance or advantage.

Rule 143 3. a.

A few years ago (before Nike gave USATF $500 million dollars) the same rule read…

A competitor may compete in bare feet or with footwear on one or both feet. The purpose of shoes for competition is to give protection and stability to the feet and a firm grip of the ground. Such shoes, however, must not be constructed so as to give the competitor any unfair additional assistance, including the incorporation of any technology which will give the wearer any unfair advantage, such as a spring or similar device. A shoe strap over the instep is permissible.

Rule 143 3. a.

So what does it mean for a shoe to give an unfair assistance or advantage? Clearly the rule is about the unfair part, not the assistance or advantage part. A lighter shoe is going to give an advantage over a heavy shoe. Any changes in mid-sole materials is done to give assistance and advantage whether is boost, fresh foam, or zoomx. Are changes to shoe technology only an issue if the positive result is too large? If so what is the allowable limit of improvement? These are questions that the USATF has not bothered to answer, except through their silence. Other sports such as, golf, swimming, and baseball are much clearer about what constitutes illegal equipment.

I don’t know if these shoes are really making me run like I’m 40 again, or if my improving race times are the result of finally doing long runs again. Maybe spending 2 hours a day less in the car is paying off, or it might be sleeping more than 7 hours a night. Whatever the reason, I’m going to keep wearing my cheating shoes until someone tells me I’m not allowed to. Or until Adidas makes something better.

10 Years of Waddling

It started 10 years ago with a question.  How can we bring families together to enjoy the outdoors while raising money for camp? The answer, the WA WA Wally Waddle. This Mother’s Day tradition will once again take place at the Vassar Farms Ecological Preserve in Poughkeepsie, NY and features 3 races.

Wally starting the kids race

100 yard dash with Wally for kids 6 and younger.

 1 mile race for kids 13 and younger.

Running the 5k

5k for anyone who can run/walk/hop 3.1 miles. The Wally Waddle comes alive with the help of WA WA Segowea alumni and current staff members, members of the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club, and community business sponsors. The Waddle features not only 3 races, but also face painting, balloon animals, and arts & craft projects led by Camp Segowea staff.

Child with balloon animals

As we enter our 10th year we have raised over $30,000 to help send children to Camp Segowea. Registrations for the events, day-of raffles, and donations collected around this healthy, community event go towards sending children to Camp WA WA for two-week sessions. Your participation at the Waddle is not only important for the fun of having more friends to join us, but also to help us send more kids to Camp each summer.10th Annual WA WA Wally Waddle 5k and Kids Runs.

  • Vassar Farms corner of Raymond and Hooker Ave.  Map
  • Sunday May 12th, 2019 (Mother’s Day)
  • Race Day registration 7:30-9:00 am
  • Kids 1 mile 9:00 am (free if you preregister $5 on race day)
  • Kids Rugby Field Rush 100 yards 9:15 am (free)
  • 5K Run/Walk 9:30 am ($20 preregistration $25 race day)
  • Awarding of the Pies around 10:30 am
  • T-shirts to the 1st 150 Registered 5k runners
  • Free games, face painting and balloon animals for the kids

Register online here

Visit to learn more.

Do the work

Yearly Running Mileage Graph

It is no secret that I’ve been unhappy with my race times since leaving Rochester. I’ve had a few theories/excuses, but looking at the graph above it should be no surprise that I ran all my best times between 2011 and 2015. Even if I never run a PR again, I can still put in the time and miles. Now that I’ve settled into a job close to home, and the kids are more independent it is time to do the work.

Setting the Clock Back.

Sometimes a race catches me by surprise. The Ed Erichson was straight up shocking. I’ve had a lot of success racing the E.E. 5 miler, winning it twice and finishing second twice, but I hadn’t run the 10 mile until last Sunday. I was expecting a tough course with the two 200′ hills you can see in the image below, but I was not expecting tough competition. Occasionally some young burners show up for the 5 mile, and the two times I finished second I got smoked by over a minute, the 10 mile however, tends to be less competitive and I thought I would be in for an hour long grind against the clock.

Elevation Chart for the Ed Erichson. 2 Big Hills

Scott Downing (23-year-old former NJCAA 1500M National Champion) was expecting the same thing. It wasn’t until we were a few miles into the race running shoulder to shoulder that either of us realized we were in for a serious battle. After the race Scott confessed he was looking to run 6:10-6:20 pace as a training run and grab an easy win. Once the race started he assumed I was just going out too fast and would drop off the pace after a mile or two. By mile 3 he was trying to figure out if he would be able to out kick me if he could stick with me until the end. It turns out we were thinking basically the same things both before and during the race.

I spent the whole race trying to break away from Scott. I figured his youth would give him an advantage if it came to a sprint, but my “experience”, would give me an advantage in a long grind. Each lap I managed to pull away by 8-10 seconds, and each time we hit Croft Hill he closed the gap. You might think living in New Hampshire would give me an advantage when it came to hills, but it takes more than proximity to hills to get good at running them. I’m going to have to stop avoiding them on my training runs.

Scott came up on my shoulder as we flew down the Bushwick hill and I couldn’t shake him over the last mile. We made the turn onto Stringham with me on the inside stride for stride. We stayed stride for stride for about 3 strides and then he was gone. In the final 500 meters Scott put 6 seconds on me to win in 58:34. Despite being beat after leading nearly the entire race, I am very happy with my race. Without someone pushing me, I doubt I could have broken 60 minutes. He helped me run my fastest 10 mile race since I split 58:09 at the Flower City Half Marathon way back in 2011.

So thank you Scott. I hope you are still out there racing in 21 years, when some young punk crushes your dreams of glory with 1 minute to go in a race!

10 Miler Results