Sunday, January 26, 2014

Running Stores of the World: Schuhhaus Lang

This is the first in a long series that I will write of my favorite running stores of the world. There has been lots of talk and there will always be talk on the web and in Podcasts about running shoes. It seems that if you have a voice and an audience you can call yourself an authority.. Those of us in the business of making and selling running shoes know that the real authorities are those who have spent their lifetime servicing runners, the running retailers.

In this series I'm going to take you to my favorite running stores all over the world. Some of them do millions of dollars a year, and some of them don't. What all of them do is put the runner first and they will do what it takes to make running a better experience.

I first met Dieter Lang of Schuhhaus Lang at a dealer camp we held at the adidas World Headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. It was actually one of the most memorable meetings in my long running shoe career. In the meeting I witnessed a retailer Mr. Lang, passionately express his dissatisfaction with the technical aspects of our shoes. The meeting took place in German which when spoken with passion has a way of sounding quite "harsh". My second meeting with Mr. Lang was this past November when I presented the entire Zoot footwear direction to he and a group of other retailers in Germany. I was sweating bullets during that encounter and rightfully so. It's the first time I saw a truly critical approach to our footwear. He used a level on his I phone, the edge of the table and the top of the table. All checking for balance in each and every model. I was pleased to see him nod approval as I presented each and every shoe. That doesn't mean he liked every model just that each one passed his balance test. That set this stage for my third visit with Mr. Lang  in his store.

His store lived up to everything I envisioned. I knew he was critical and a perfectionist and I wanted to see how that translated to his retail. This is what I saw. If I understood the German correctly this store was first started by his grandfather which means the store is older than most running shoe companies.

The store is on the corner in a small village in Germany. He says he draws runners from Frankfurt and Stuttgart both of which are an hour away. 
Inside he had on display roughly 30 models of running shoes and another 30 models of functional shoes for the German Market. Where we Americans wear athletic shoes on a daily basis the Germans wear sturdy functional shoes built to last in all weather conditions. His # 1 brand on the functional side was Think. I have a pair of Think Shoes and I have to admit they are the best shoes I've ever bought. The running shoes were no surprise, A good combination of Brooks, Asics, Saucony, New Balance and adidas. Not much Nike and no Mizuno. I should point out no Newton, No Hoka and No Zoot either. The real work like many running stores takes place in the lab and this is where Dieter and his staff shine. 

The Treadmill you see in the picture has 4 cameras on it. This way they can see the action of the runner in multiple views. You can also see the posture wall (blue wall). Here they look for postural balance issues a runner might have. All of this information goes into a computer for analysis. Their system has over 16,000 runners on it. One word about that to all the so called experts in running shoes. 16,000 samples wins out in expertise. 

From the computer and the videos they work out which of the 30 or so shoes will work best for the runner. For every runner on the system I saw at least two shoes meaning they believe as I believe that there isn't a single best shoe for any runner. But the shoes are really just the start of the expertise. What really makes them great is the added service they provide. Running is a very personal experience. What's best for one runner is not always best for another. Once a runner has an experience with the shoe they have chosen they come back to the store for more analysis. Here Dieter and the group work to fine tune the running experience. This may be added support through a custom insole, or it may and often becomes manipulating the midsole of the running shoe to make it perfect. 

Raw materials fill half of the cobble shop. 

Grinders are used to shape the shoes 
 An example of what I'm talking about was the Asics DS Trainer above. The women this shoe was being finished for is a 2:40 marathoner. The overall fit of the DS Trainer is perfect for her but the ride is not. She over-pronates or crashes in much later in her gait. The blue EVA you see is much firmer than the EVA in the shoe. This will hold the ball of her foot up keeping her foot centered on the shoe. She is a heel striker and the sharp edge of the heel doesn't work great for her. So the store is beveling the heel which is why you see the orange Gel exposed. Once they have the shape they want they will reapply the outersole. An added benefit is they can customize each shoe which is great because almost everyone has some difference between left and right.
If you buy your shoe at the store the added cost of customization is 30 euros. It's 70 euros if you didn't buy your shoes there.
It was great to spend time with Dieter in his store. While we were there they received a new shipment of shoes. We pulled one of the shoes out of the box and measured it for balance, it was not good manufacturing. Way out of balance. Probably not the way Dieter saw it in sample and it disappointed him that it came in the way it did. On the other side he showed me what he thought was the best running shoe in the last 3 years. I'll have a pair of them by the end of this week.

I have no idea the volume this store does. I do know the influence it has in the area and in the shoes you buy every day. 16,000 samples of hard data is one of the best sets of data in the running industry. More than any book written and way more than any Podcaster talking.  You simply have to respect and appreciate when Dieter talks about a shoe.

It's a good life....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Long Flight Protocol Results

In my last post How to Fly and Live to Tell about it, I described a new protocol I was going to try on a long haul flight. I have the results of the first test. My results say you should try this the next time you fly.

On Sunday I woke up early, ran the Carlsbad 1/2 Marathon and then headed to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt. I highly suggest you don't attempt this. The running puts you in an inflamed damaged state and unless you are ultra diligent about hydration and recovery the flight could do more damage. I consumed about 50 ozs of water along with a good solid food intake and my recovery drink before the flight. At the airport I had more water and 800 milligrams of Co Q10. I used Premier Resaerch Labs. During the flight I drank roughly 30 oz of water and had 200 mg every 2 hours outside of the time I was fast asleep. Monday when we landed we got moving straight away. We landed at 11:00 am and had a meeting at 5:00pm. My body felt rested and most important there was no swelling in my feet or legs. I was able to get up the next morning and run for 60 minutes no problem.

After two nights in Germany it was back to the airport for another flight across the water back to the USA. I followed the same protocol with 32 oz of water prior to boarding and 800 mg of CoQ10 and then 200 mg every two ours. I drank 32-48 oz of water as well. The only issue with drinking this much water on the plane is that I had to get up to use the bathroom 5 times on the flight. Yes that seems like quite a bit but the flight was 9 hours so not too bad.

I had a long layover including a 2 hour delay in Chicago so I decided to continue with the 200mg every 2 hours until I finally landed in Salt Lake City for stop #2 of my trip. After a good nights sleep and an easy morning, I got outside and had a great run in the SLC sun. Again, no swelling of the feet or feeling of thick blood trying to pump through.

Some other thoughts.

  1.  I used upgrades on all the flights so I flew business class. I believe the flat seats help to keep the blood from pooling in my feet. If you can't do that than it's more important that you get up an move around often. I will have to do that test at some point. 
  2. I had a glass of wine on each of the long haul flights but kept it to one glass. I am constantly amazed at the amount of drinking that goes on during flights. For instance on the way back from Germany the guy next to me drank 6 - 8 cans of beer in a 9 hour flight. I am sure he did not go for a run the next day. 
  3. I did eat the first meal on each of the long haul flights. Staying away from bread/gluten or over eating. They serve Ice Cream Sundaes in business class and I declined. I always skip the meal just prior to landing. I have enough snacks with me and I surely don't trust food that's been prepared the previous day and then zapped in a micro wave. 
Again this was the first test. It's the best I've ever felt coming off long haul flights so I'm convinced it's good protocol. If I do it again with poor results I'll comment on that too. Neither flight offered Wi Fi so I chose not to test the grounding of my bare foot to the seat stay in front of me. I'm sure there will be plenty of chance to do this in the near future. 

It's a good life...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How to Fly and Live to Tell About it

"Shift work and jet lag are short cuts to an early grave...literally!" - Chris Maund

This was the last sentence of the first paragraph Chris wrote in a lengthy email about my hyper active Thyroid. Chris is a great friend and he has no filter. It's why I love him. It made me stop and think for sure. He then went on and said Go to Herbs and More tell them that you travel all the time across multiple time zones and tell them you are an athlete. I did and walked out of the store with a host of new herbal supplements. One to calm my nerves, One adaptive herb and two different Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. That was 12 days ago and so far so good.

I wasn't 100% satisfied with my direction for the actual travel part of the trips and I have this trip looming where I fly to Germany on Sunday the 19th, back to Salt Lake City on the 22nd and home on the 23rd. I searched the internet for tips of the trade for those who fly often. Nothing that I don't do already stood out. I already drink 32 oz's of water before I board and at least that much on the flight. I already limit my food intake on the plane. But I still come off feeling like crap. 

Then On Monday I listened the The Bullet Proof Executive podcast with Dr. Jack Kruse and the pieces started to fall into place or at least a test for me on this next flight. The breakdown of the discussion was this, flying is hard on you, flying over multiple time zones on long haul flights is really hard, and the new allowance of wi fi on all flights turns the plane into a microwave.  That was enough for me, I listened intently on what to do. Below is my protocol for the two long flights. 

  1. 32 oz of water before boarding
  2. 800 mg of CoQ10 before boarding
  3. 200 mg of CoQ10 every 2 hours for the duration of the flight
  4. At least 32 ounces water on the flight
  5. Find the metal Legs of your seat or the seat in front and put your bare foot on it to ground yourself. 
I first ran into CoQ10 as an athlete in 1988. We were doing heavy training and trying to recover enough to work at night when the first Race Caps got to us. We started using them and they were magic. Our recovery improved dramatically. Since then I've used Race Caps for my stints in heavy Ironman training but not recently. Recently I stuck to basic nutrition. Then Dr. Kuse said something that really hit me. Taking a long flight is like doing a race. It ravages your body, The major thing the CoQ10 will do is prevent Blood Clots. It all made sense. I've thought often that I feel worse after a long flight than I do after a race and Dr. Kruse confirmed it. 

The grounding. Think about this. You have to know that a Wi fi signal is harmful. Now think about 250-300 cell phones or computers running wi fi inside a metal box. That just can't be healthy. According the Kruse grounding your body to the plane is the best way to limit the damage by the Wi Fi. 

I'll report on this in the coming week or so as I hit this major trip. 

It's a good life..... 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Sunday Run

I was watching ESPN and saw a compelling story on NaVorro Bowman and his biological Father whom he never met. The concept of making peace with your father was a huge part of the story and the discussion after the story. I got that chance with my Dad and I'm glad I did. Maybe I'll share that story.

Because of my upbringing in a fatherless home I committed to not be that Dad with our son. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. Not because I want to flee but because it's the longest term commitment (other than marriage which is equally hard) I've made. More than staying with it though I want to stay relevant in his life for as long as possible. Today was one of those moments that I will hold close for years.

I wanted to run knowing the flu had wrecked my energy. Marco needed to run because his coach told him to and he missed the run with the boys yesterday. So we committed to run together. We've had good runs together and we've had down right miserable runs together. My energy level was leaving me a bit nervous and then I made the decision to run the trails rather than his preferred route down the coast. We took off easy and got into a nice pace. We passed countless runners coming the opposite direction who I knew which eased the "tension". We talked the entire way. We talked about the movie The Lone Survivor, we talked about running, we talked about girls. We did not talk about the things that stress us, school, homework, house work and respecting your mother.

The run went by fast. On the way back he moved to the front and upped the pace. The conversation was labored but continued. The pace felt free. He dropped me on the hills and I ground out the gap on the flats. We were simply floating on the trail together. It was beautiful to run behind him and try to follow his flow. He makes running look so easy.

We finished and had steam rolling off our skin. We both had a smile on our face.

It's a good life....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 is Behind

A slightly late review of 2013 and outlook for 2014.

The short story in my life

We are failing in the USA. The market is over run with shoes and with good shoe companies. Be poor design and development or poor marketing/sales, we have to admit that we all failed. As the one guy in charge of shoes it's my fault. On the positive side we are growing outside the US and doing it consistently. It's a big reason why I travel on long haul flights regularly. The best part is the outlook. We have a new shoe out in 6 months that I am most proud of in my running shoe career. It's a special shoe and I can't wait for everyone to have a chance to run in it.

Because I let the failures of the US business overwhelm me and because I traveled 130,000 miles in the air and 75 nights or so in hotels I did not give Mary and Marco what they deserve. They deserve me 100% engaged when I am with them. I did not do that very well and go that I am deeply sorry. They will be with me long after running shoes.  I am thrilled that Mary traveled to Russia and Marco ran so fast but I know I can do better with both of them. Finding out my Brother Bob has ALS was not easy but spending more time with him then in years past has been priceless. The jokes my Mom told while we ( Mary, Marco and I) were driving were great to hear. Even with Alziemer' s she can be funny and have a good time. I loved those moments.

I simply suck here. Sorry to all my friends. I will get better. I think rude is the best I thing I can say to describe myself.

I raced every month but only a couple were great. No matter, I had a great time doing it and plan to do it again this year. My best was the Encinitas Triathlon even with the gnarly swim. My worst by far was Ironman Lake Tahoe but hey, I finished. The best part of 2013 was taking on my long term health. The Blood test was expensive, then follow up work a great deal of work and expensive but the results are already showing. I will spend some time filling you in here.

I decided late in 2013 that I needed to take control of my life. The first part of the year I am working on my Leadership skills. Leadership is something I love and something I feel I need in the rest of my life. You will see more on this subject and more than that I hope you feel it.

Welcome ton2014, let's make it special.

It's a good life....