Ask me anything

It’s that time again! Your opportunity to ask me anything you would like. As I’ve mentioned before, this is always one of my favorite things to do.

Almost nothing is off limits. Feel free to ask me about training, racing, my thoughts on the news in and around the sport, what’s going on at HillRunner.com. This is my invitation to you to ask whatever you would like.

As usual, you can reach out to me however you feel most comfortable. If you want to ask something publicly, you can do so in the comments, on Facebook, you can tweet at HillRunner.com or my personal account. If you want to ask in a more private setting, you can use the contact form or, if you are friends with me on Facebook or know my email, you can reach me through those methods.

As I’ve done in the past, I’d like to ask you something in return. I hope to get some feedback on this as I always want to build the HillRunner.com that you want. This is one of my chances to get the feedback on what I should be working on based on what you would like to see.

What I would like to see is more activity on the forums. A long time ago, this was a great place for the community to gather and there were some great conversations there. I know the internet landscape has changed with blog comments, social media, and so much more for communities to participate in.

However, it seems like the HillRunner.com community has to some extent gone silent. What would it take for me to get you to open up? What can I do to get that community going again? Honestly, I look to the forums but I’d be open to it happening on the Facebook page or anywhere else. I just miss the friendly community feel we had at the forums and want to do all I can to encourage that to rebuild itself.

4 Replies to “Ask me anything”

    1. Good question Cesar. My feelings are very conflicted. To be honest, I was thinking of writing a blog post on it. Then I thought about writing a forum post to see what others thought. In the end, my feelings are so conflicted I did neither.

      Here’s what I understand the situation to be. The 4% claim is 4% of energy return (or energy efficiency gain for the runner). I know nobody who I would consider an authority who thinks that means a 4% (roughly 5 minutes for an elite man) performance improvement. Eliud Kipchoge is really a mid-2:06 guy who simply ran mid-2:01 because of the shoe? No.

      I have seen some statements (and heard on Ross Tucker’s Science of Sport podcast) that the 4% energy return equates to about a 1% performance improvement. More for some, less or potentially none for others. Is Eliud Kipchoge really a high 2:02/low 2:03 guy who ran mid-2:01 because of the shoes? That’s believable, though obviously impossible to prove.

      Do the shoes make a runner faster? It seems indisputable now. How much? It depends on the runner but 1% seems like a reasonable estimate of an average improvement.

      As for the talk of whether the shoes should be banned, that’s a tough discussion. When you watch a race, do you want it to be a competition between athletes or a competition between shoe companies and their technologies? Personally, I want it to be between athletes.

      Yes, shoes are always improving and what everyone wears now is faster than what everyone wore 40 years ago. However, that’s a generational improvement and the non-Vaporfly shoes are all similar enough that any difference between pairs of shoes is probably less than 10 seconds. That said, maybe this is a one time reset of what’s possible that is worth working our way through as long as the technology is available to everyone (keep reading).

      Yes, the shoes are technically available to everyone. However, two things to consider on this part. First, the Nike athletes for the past 4 years have consistently been wearing prototypes not yet made available to the public. Second, let’s be honest about the realities of the sport of distance running. An Adidas sponsored runner can’t really wear Vaporflys without making a farce of the situation (as an Adidas runner did in Dubai this year, wearing the Vaporfly but removing the Nike logo and drawing in an Adidas logo) or risking his or her sponsorship, which is the athlete’s primary source of income.

      In a recent podcast episode, Ross Tucker asked a simple question I’ll try to paraphrase here: If a Vaporfly wearing athlete beats a non-Vaporfly wearing athlete by 45 seconds, did we just witness a superior athlete beat an inferior athlete or did we just witness a superior shoe win the race for a potentially inferior athlete? Right now, it’s hard to say what we just witnessed in that hypothetical situation. Is this how we want the sport to be? Do we want it to become Formula One, where the best tech wins the race?

      In the episode where Tucker asked that question, he also brought up a proposal that at the time was new to me but originally introduced by someone else. The IAAF (or now “World Athletics”) should set a maximum stack height (outsole plus midsole height) for shoes. They could use the original Vaporfly stack height, which I believe was 31 millimeters. Then, within that stack height, let the shoe companies do whatever they want. The original Vaporfly is still legal but the shoe Kipchoge wore when he broke 2 and that we saw a few other times in fall marathons is not. Adidas, Brooks, Saucony and others can come up with their own competitors to the Vaporfly within the same limits. But we would have a limit to how far things can be taken. I kind of like this idea. A simple, easy to understand rule. Develop and innovate to your heart’s content within that rule but don’t exceed it. It’s probably not ideal but it seems like a good compromise, considering this seems to have progressed to the point where it would be hard to go back to where things were in 2015 (and I’m not sure we should).

    1. Cesar, I totally get what you’re saying. My initial gut reaction is the same. However, if you think about it, technology is always moving the sport forward. Lighter materials for track spikes and road flats. Tracks themselves have come a long way since the days of cinder tracks.

      To me, it’s more about making sure some competitors don’t have a technological advantage over others. When I see a race, I want to know that the best athlete, not the athlete with the best technology, won the race. Right now, it appears there is a technological advantage. That seems unfair to any athlete who isn’t fortunate enough to get a Nike sponsorship.

      I’m sure there’s an extent after which it would seem the technology has gone too far. Maybe that’s the shoes we began seeing this fall. I’m not sure. To me, though, the first step is a level playing field and it appears we don’t have that right now but maybe the others will catch up soon and we will have a level playing field again. Will that be enough? I’m on the fence.

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