On to part 3. In Part 1 and Part 2 I got as far as the end of day 1 at Gatorade HQ. At this point the first workday was over, we headed back to the hotel to drop off a few things and then piled on to the bus to get dinner and watch the White Soxs take on the Blue Jays at US Cellular Field. Since many of us flew in that morning it had been a long day so far and from the conversations I was overhearing we were all more interested in the food then the ball game. Once we arrived we headed into the stadium and then went up to the Gatorade corporate suite. If you’re going to attend a professional sporting event, this is the way to do it.
Words can’t do it justice so take a look at the pics. Widescreen TV, fridge, bar, and plenty of seating. We had Vienna beef hotdogs (which were probably the best hotdogs I ever tasted), steak sandwiches, and after that a dessert truck came by (bigger than a cart but smaller than an 18 wheeler) that had everything you could think of in mammoth sized portions. We all ate like we were running an ultra the next day.
You know what the really cool thing was, we were all making comments like “Ok, that’s about 5,000 calories for me”, or “Hey, let’s make that 5 mile run tomorrow a 12 miler” and we all just laughed about it. There wasn’t anyone making the “you could stand to gain a few pounds” type comments that we are all use to hearing at almost every family event we attend. We had all just met that morning but throughout the day you could tell there was an instant camaraderie, we were all wired in a similar way. Despite the different ages and backgrounds, we “got” each other. It was a good feeling.
As dinner/dessert was winding down I noticed Coach McMillan was sitting by himself watching the game as most of us were milling about the suite either getting seconds or participating in a group discussion. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I walked over and sat down, making sure to keep an empty seat between us (I didn’t want to crowd the guy). You know that feeling when you have so many questions you kind of freeze up and can’t figure out where to start? I had a terminal case of that. After a few minutes I was finally able to get a coherent thought and started talking.
What I was most curious about was what Greg’s thoughts were on form, foot strike and footwear. So I started by asking what his take was on heel vs. mid-foot/forefoot strike and his answer surprised me a bit. He said that where the foot contacts the ground is more important than which part strikes first. He explained that the heel can make contact first but the foot should land under the body, avoiding over-striding was important. He made a point of mentioning that there are healthy runners with bad technical form. “You look at them run and you wonder how they can train and not get hurt”. Some runners land heel first and some don’t, performance and staying healthy are more important than perfecting technical form. Coach McMillan explained that every runner has his/her own unique physiology and quirks so the ideal form for each runner varies. He mentioned that there were also great runners with great technical form but ironically some got injured often. It was clear that Greg felt very strongly that there was no ideal foot-strike, it’s very individualized.
Our discussion on foot strike lead to footwear choices, I told him about my situation and how much going zero drop/minimal has reduced my injury rate. He replied “that’s great, you found what works for you but that might not work for someone else”. We started to discuss injury rates and I mentioned that I had read that the injury rates in the 60′s and 70′s were lower when all runners wore flats. He replied “That’s not true, injury rates haven’t changed even going back that far, in fact the raised heel was originally added to running shoes because runners kept tearing up their achilles”. As we talked Greg kept sharing some great insights that challenged me and really made me think.
On a footwear note, Greg is working with Adidas which will be coming out in the fall with running shoes he helped design. The heel in that shoe line starts at 11mm and goes down to 3mm. A bunch of us were drooling over the pair he was wearing (the 3mm version) and a few of the more bolder members of our group were trying to figure out how to score a pair from him. Be on the look out for these this fall and when I get more specifics I’ll pass them on. Overall on the footwear topic, as with foot-strike, I could tell that Greg felt strongly that footwear choices were individual as well, there was no ideal shoe for everyone. Performance and running injury free were key.
During the time we were talking I caught myself saying (rather frequently) “I hadn’t thought of that”. There are those moments where you realize just how little you know about a topic. It’s a good feeling though because it presents an opportunity for learning and growth. I mentioned I was running the NYC marathon in the fall and we talked a bit about training. When we were discussing my training plans his first question was “Where do you live, are there hills near you?” That got my attention and unbeknownst to Greg I felt convicted because I know I was under-utilizing hills in my training. I plan on changing that very soon.
He put NYC in the category of challenging courses. I thought about the hill profile for NYC for a moment and asked him why he thought it was challenging because I really couldn’t see it, even having run NYC once before many years ago. He said “You have the bridges and then the you have the roads which are in horrible shape. It’s not like Chicago where you can zone out for 26 miles. You need to stay alert to avoid all the cracks, manholes and bad pavement.” My reply? “I hadn’t thought of that”. That’s why Greg is one of the top running coaches in the US, because he sees the details most of us miss. I hadn’t consider the mental challenge of the race from that perspective, but I’m considering it now.
Coach McMillan mentioned that he had just submitted a manuscript for a book to be published this fall. He explained that it goes over his approach to training and coaching in detail. Needless to say I’ll be picking this up as soon as it’s available. I’m not big on book reviews (only because I don’t think I’m good at them) but I may have to make an exception in this case.
As the game got into the 8th inning even the 20-somethings in the group were ready to head out and crash back at the hotel. We had a 5 mile group run scheduled for 6:30AM so there wasn’t any resistance in the group.
Team Gatorade takes Chicago
We all met the next morning in the hotel lobby, decked out in our matching G-Bolt black Nike t-shirts. With about eight or so in our group including Coach McMillan and Michellie Jones, we downed some G Series 01 Prime and got on the road. The hotel was maybe a mile or less from Lake Michigan so we weaved our way thorough morning rush hour traffic and were finally in the clear when we hit the lake. It was a great morning, a clear sky and not too warm. We clipped along at about a 7:45 pace which was fast enough to keep us from getting bored but slow enough to encourage conversation. I noticed some startled looks from the local runners who obviously weren’t used to seeing what appeared to be a Black Ops team breezing by them while three different conversations were going on simultaneously. The only thing identifying us was an understated G-Bolt on the front for our shirts and an orange #winfromwithin hashtag on the back.
Day 2 was filled with Retail Training Events, a deep dive on the EndurAlliance Program along with excellent presentations from Michellie and Greg. There was a lot to learn so I soaked up as much as I could and took plenty of notes. If you’re in the Philly area you can see me put all this great knowledge into action at the Gatorade booth during the Philly Insurance Triathlon expo on 6/22 and 6/23.
At the end of the day we grabbed dinner and eventually headed back to the hotel. On Saturday morning I grabbed my early flight out of O’Hare and shortly afterwards was back to reality in Philly. It’s hard to sum up what a great experience this was, there were far more learning opportunities than I could count and I’m sure there will be plenty of learning opportunities yet to come as I reach out to the endurance community and help educate them on fueling and nutrition. I’ll keep you all posted as usual, so as always, stay tuned!