Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 29 - Todd Buckingham - UPGRADE YOUR PERFORMANCE - Part 3 of 3

Okay. I mean, that makes sense intuitively if you're covering more ground per step, then you should be going faster like that-- It all kind of makes sense. I would just like to see if somehow you could get those guys in the lab and like see on video what are their mechanics?
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 29 - Todd Buckingham - UPGRADE YOUR PERFORMANCE - Part 3 of 3

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JESSE: Okay. I mean, that makes sense intuitively if you're covering more ground per step, then you should be going faster like that-- It all kind of makes sense. I would just like to see if somehow you could get those guys in the lab and like see on video what are their mechanics? When does the foot actually leave the ground? Because I've spoken to several different people and I had a coach actually write a few kind of almost article type paper things on, I don’t know, what was it, called a ground contact time, and how reduced ground contact time has a correlation with faster speeds. So, that's why I'm kind of thinking about that distance is covered, but is it float time compared to time touching the ground and then you have this very long push off? That’s-- I don't know if you can get that data from the just to watch alone. TODD: Yeah, and with ground contact time, yep, a lower ground contact time is going to lead to faster running. Because when you hit the ground, you're hitting the ground with more force, which is causing you to spring off the ground more quickly than if you’re just kind of plodding through. So, yep, lower ground contact time is going to lead to greater force which is going to lead to greater stride length, which is going to lead to faster running. One thing I want to mention about the stride length is I'm sure people are thinking, well, I'm at a disadvantage. I'm 5”6, so my stride length is going to be way shorter than somebody who's six feet tall. Well, that's not actually true. So, I had, I think, over 200 participants in the study, we recorded their height, we recorded their stride length, and there was no correlation between height and stride length. For me, I'm 5”6, and I had one of the longest stride lengths of anybody, any one of the participants. My stride length was close to 1.7 meters which would be how far like five and a half plus six feet maybe. So, I'm 5”6 and my stride length is that long but-- JESSE: I mean having watched you I know your running economy is very, very good. Your vertical oscillation is almost non-- It's only as much as necessary to get you off the ground. If you watch your head your run economy, you're so smooth compared to when you watch all the other runners come through - these competitions we’re at. So, I mean I can believe that because you have those mechanics in place. It’s just one of those things where it's like we can go deep down the rabbit hole then try to come back out and make this like intuitive leap about okay, we just need to tweak this one thing personal be a more biomechanically advantaged runner or whatever. TODD: Yeah, and there are two main ways that you can improve your running economy. One is to run more, go figure. And that's why the professional runners do 100 mile weeks, right? It's not for the improved, like cardiovascular benefits, it's to help improve their economy. The second way you improve your economy is through strength training. And the way that it does this is the strength training improves those neural pathways, that neural muscular firing patterns so that your muscles are firing only the muscle fibers that need to be fired, and the ones that are going to help you produce that forward movement so that you're not recruiting any extra fibers that's going to require more calories or more oxygen. So, that strength training will help so yeah, strength training and running more are going to be the two ways that you can really improve your economy. And so I grew up as a baseball player and so I spent a lot of time in the weight room and so I think that was part of the reason that like you said, I am a little bit more efficient than others. And it's not like-- I don't run more than most. I think the most mileage I've ever done in a week is maybe 55, maybe. But along with that strength training background that I have, I think they both kind of work in unison. JESSE: I don't want to run out of time we're both, we're in the evening here. I don’t want to run out of time, I do want to get to because we have kind of unfinished business from last time when you wrote a well passionate viewed paper for USA Triathlon, trying to prove your point of, I think equalizing start times and making the race more fair for the national championship. So, I want to give you a chance to kind of make your case. I guess take us back, what happened, this was kind of in 2017-- TODD: 18. Yep. JESSE: 18. So, what happened at the race that made you decide I'm going to write a research paper essentially, and submitted to the US’s governing body of triathlon? TODD: Oh, okay, man, you're taking me back here. I thought I was done with that. And I like just block that from my mind and-- JESSE: Bringing the stress back. TODD: long. So, what happened was, the race was in Cleveland, it was in Lake Erie. And this is the first time that it, at least since I've been racing for the last five years that it's been in kind of an open body of water. It's been in Lake Michigan before but that was in the cove where it was ?? 5:55> where it was in Omaha in Carr Lake where it's a small lake, it's not really exposed to the elements. So, Lake Erie, it's really subject to a lot of environmental changes. And so when it gets windy or the waves really pick up. And so my wave, the 22 to 25 waves started at nine o'clock. We were one of the last waves to go. The 20 to 24 waves started at eight o'clock, so an hour before me, and the 30 to 34 wave started at 7am, so they had the first wave. I ended up finishing, like seventh overall, which was my worst finish since I started doing the national championship in Milwaukee in 2015, where I think I finished eighth overall. And there was-- one of the guys who was in the 30 to 34 age group, he beat me by 30 seconds or so. And the year before when we were in the same age group, I beat him by about four minutes. And so what happened in those two hours, so he started at seven, I started at nine, in those two hours, the water went from being perfectly calm to waves cresting two feet above the athletes heads and just much different swim conditions. And so I go from beating this guy by four minutes to losing to him by 30 seconds. And I'm just like, how are you going to do overall awards if the athletes are separated by so much time, and because not only do the environmental conditions change, like the water conditions change, but it also gets a lot hotter. So, I'm out there until 11am where he’s done by 9am. It gets hotter, it gets windier, the crowd becomes-- not the crowd, the course becomes more crowded. And so I wrote a letter to USA Triathlon. I looked at the last 10 years of data from finishers in the top 10, 25 and 50, and looked at what age groups represented most of those finishers. And so in 2018, there was actually like a 250% increase in the number of finishers in the top 10, 25 and 50 from the 30 to 34 age group for the men. And that was because they got that first wave and the conditions got so much worse throughout the day. And so I think I was the, either they're only one or 25 to 29 athletes who even finished in the top 10 last year. And in years previous, it's usually like four or five. And so obviously, something happened. And I looked at the women's data too. And so typically, the women are a little more spread out where for the men, it's typically between 20 and 34 that are the top finishers. The top three have only come from those three age groups in the last 10 years. For the women, it's a little more spread out, it's anywhere from 20 to 40 or 44. But the same kind of trend held for the women. The women who started earlier, they saw about a 200% increase in the number of finishers from the top 10, 25 and 50 compared to previous years. And so I took all this data to USA Triathlon and said like if you're going to do overall awards, here are my suggestions either have an elite wave where the top athletes from each age group could all go against each other, and compete that way, which I think would be really cool because then you could actually race an overall-- JESSE: Right, racing together instead of time trial. TODD: Right. So, I said either have an elite wave, have the top athletes start within half an hour of each other, at least back to back, so that there's not a two hour time gap, or don't give out overall awards because it's not fair. And to their credit this year, they actually employed that. So, at least for the Olympic distance, the 25 to 29, 20 to 24, and 30 to 34, all for men all started within half an hour of each other. So, that was actually really cool for me because even though it didn't help me last year, this year, they actually implemented that change and made it more fair for all the athletes competing. And so you know, I am really proud of that because it's not something that I did during the race, but it's objective data that I collected and show them and showed that this is the best way to do it if we're going to do overall awards. JESSE: It’s always nice to actually see that go to work and I kind of want to give you a hard time and just say what goes through your head and says there must be something that's legitimately wrong versus I just had a bad day. Cauz you went through a lot of work, it's not just a matter of like, you know thinking intuitively like, you know, it was rougher waters and just you know chalking it up to that's just how it goes. It’s literally like let's pour over the data from the last decade and figure out like, am I out of my mind or is there's like statistical significance in this year's changes. And so I guess I'm giving you props and especially-- Did you get a response from them or was it just a matter of they did that and you assumed that you had some kind of effect on that? TODD: No, I got a response from them. So, to their credit, Rocky Harris the CEO, Tim Yount, I don't know Tim's exact title, but you know, the top level guys. I mean, because that's who I emailed and they very responsive said like this is really good. Like, we'll take it to our team and we'll look into it and they kept me updated throughout the entire process. And so it's really great because these guys are like he's the CEO of USA Triathlon, Rocky is and yet, he takes the time to email me regarding an athlete just complaining because he didn't finish as high as he thought he was going to, right? JESSE: But you had numbers, it wasn't just hey I don’t like you. It was, hey, I don't like you and here's why and the numbers to show it. TODD: Exactly, exactly. And so actually, I wrote another letter this year because, again, my race didn't go as planned. And so I'm like, oh, here I go complaining again. But I got a drafting penalty during the sprint distance race. I had originally won the race, and the drafting penalty took me third. And something needs to change with the way they give out penalties for USA Triathlon because I had no idea I got a penalty until after the race. And they have somebody riding on the back of a motorbike on a scratch note pad of paper like this, and it's just like they wrote down highway and my bib number. Well, the whole race was on the highway, I was in the lead for the entire first half of the bike. I didn't get past until mile 10 and only a couple of guys passed me and they blew right by me and I wasn't right behind them. So, I’m like-- JESSE: You shouldn't even be in the situation to have a drafting penalty be possible. TODD: Right. Well, and so I question it and I asked them I was like, well, where exactly did it happen? Like what Mile Marker because then maybe that'll jog my memory and I'll be like, okay, yeah, maybe it did happen, but-- JESSE: Like somebody passed and you didn't pack off fast enough or what-- TODD: Yeah, exactly. To my recollection, and not to toot my own horn, but like I remember every detail of the race because I do this for all my workouts, all of my races, I go back and I write notes. Because I want to know how I felt during this workout and what happened during the workout, and I do the same thing for races. And so I pay particular attention to what happens and when it happens, because they couldn't give me any of that information. They couldn't tell me when it happened, or what athlete I was writing behind or anything like that, like it's my word against the officials. And in my opinion, I didn't do anything wrong. And I know every athlete says that when they get a drafting penalty, right. But honestly, there was at no point when it would have happened, or when they said it happened. And so I'm like it was on the highway, but it wasn't on the overpass because they didn't give out penalties on the overpass. And so that cuts out like a quarter of the race. And so I'm just like where exactly did it happen? And so I recommended putting GoPro on the motorbike so that you can see or have the official wear a GoPro or-- JESSE: Body cam or something. TODD: Yeah. Or instead of a little scratch notepad of paper, get an iPad and you can easily enter the athletes number, you can enter the color of their kit or bike, you can put a mile marker, a GPS tag, something and it will just lead to more clarification as to where the athlete got the penalty. And in USA Triathlon, athletes are not told when they get a drafting penalty or any penalty for that matter. The official just rides by, writes numbers down and then you're notified at the award ceremony like hours later. So, here I am thinking-- JESSE: You're supposed to be able to petition, but that's not the time to petition. TODD: Exactly, and so let the athlete know, let me know that I’m drafting. I'll pull over to the side for my two minutes, and then continue as opposed to letting me finish thinking I want a national championship. And then afterwards saying, oh, sorry, you didn't. So, hopefully, like last year, they implemented that change in the wave start times hopefully, something will come of it where they can make some changes to the way penalties are assessed. JESSE: Right. And I know I've gotten in my head I've gotten them mixed up what the drafting distances is. Because I was doing 70.3 mostly there for the last few years, and I back back down. And then this last year, which is a series of chaos, I text you before the national championship. I had a cold that week and had to skip it. But it's like, I know for Ironman now it's like six bike lengths is considered drafting. And then you have, is it 25 seconds or 15 seconds to pass, do you recall? TODD: I'm not sure what it is in Ironman, but I know-- JESSE: I mean for USA T. TODD: For USA triathlon, I believe it's either three bike lengths or-- JESSE: I feel like they lengthened it though. And maybe it's just the Ironman, but I know Ironman in successive years, it was like three bike lengths. And then the next year it was five bike lengths and then the following year, it was six bike lengths with like the similar time frame where it says, you have 25 seconds to pass. Well, not that I'm gonna pass you but say we're both out there, I'm trying to pass you. You're going 25 miles an hour. I'm going 25.1 I'm not going to pass you in that timeframe unless I hammer up to like 26. It doesn't even make sense to try to pass six bike lengths. They've done it to me in an effort to make it easier to say yes, sir you did or no you didn't draft. But it's made it more difficult to discern that rather than less difficult because it's so much easier to be within that infraction. TODD: Exactly. Yeah. It is frustrating. JESSE: Right. Yeah. Yeah, hopefully, they do something, something better. Yeah, a picture a video something where it's like, okay, we have evidence, here it is and then you can contest it or not contest it at that point. So, we're going to wrap up here. You're gonna have to go to bed, I've got to eat dinner. I asked you about the recovery food last time, I won't ask you again, even though we're still in season one. So, I'll ask you a little bit more cheesy question. Since you're making all these changes to the sport, do you feel like in 10 years this will be enough to get you in the Hall of Fame with Barb? TODD: Oh my gosh, no. Oh man, I think I need to win probably about 50 more national championships to get in the Hall of Fame with Barb. No, but it's awesome. I love being coached by her and she's got such a great pedigree and she's just a great person. But no, I'm not going to be in the Hall of Fame. Come on, man. Get outta here. JESSE: Just keep-- Hey, ?? 19:30> just slowly start implementing all these measures and just improving the sport and if you get the CEO on a quick dial or you've got him in your phone book, then just give him a nudge down the line. Like, look how far we've come in the last decade, huh? Yeah. TODD: It was all because of me, only me. JESSE: Singular mind, got to put it to use somehow. TODD: That's right. JESSE: All right, Todd. Well, thanks for coming on. I will let you go. And of course, I have to go too. So, I'm sure we'll see you again as you collect more data at the lab, and you have more to report on. So, thanks again for coming on. TODD: Thanks, Jesse. Appreciate it. 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