Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 53 - Randi Griffin - FIND YOUR OWN WAY - Part 2 of 3


So, does that make you more applied focused, or do you want to be more academic? I would say this is making me want to go into industry for sure. I’ve enjoyed teaching and doing research is awesome.


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JESSE: So, does that make you more applied focused, or do you want to be more academic?

MELISSA: I would say this is making me want to go into industry for sure. I’ve enjoyed teaching and doing research is awesome. But if I can take those skills and apply it to a company that’s really goal-driven and moves forward pretty quickly, that’d be pretty sweet.

JESSE: Yeah. It’s like just on a basic level, and then I think you get this feeling or give this feeling across, it’s just like, I always find it like just this nerdy level of really cool [??? 00:36] We won’t do it the whole time because it’ll get really boring for everybody else.

But I’m just like I love talking about like, hey, let’s talk about like, what you worked on your Ph.D. and how you’re applying it to all these products and like improving consumer… Because I run a couple companies, don’t make very complicated products in comparison to Boa at all. But it’s just like being able to take some kind of expertise and apply it and help people. That’s my jam. I love doing that.

So, when I get to hear about people like you who are taking something at a much higher level and doing the same thing, I’m just like, that’s so awesome. I just get excited about it. So, are you planning on staying there long term, I would assume?

DAN: Yeah, definitely. I mean, like I said, it’s honestly, in this field of what I like, kind of studied and everything, I’d say it’s kind of a dream job. There are things that allow me to continue exploring and sort of pushing the knowledge boundaries that I have. A lot of times we do some really small sample size testing, for example. So, one of my other passions is statistics.

And we have to use some pretty complex stats to do something, communicate to people in a really simple way though, which I think is really beautiful, right?

Like, we might actually, under the hood be doing something that’s pretty complicated, sort of the same type of algorithms that are used in self-driving cars or what have you. But we’re just trying to say, hey, with this level of confidence, we want to know we actually can affect your performance.

So, yeah, I think it’s really cool. I think if you look at Boa as a brand, in some of the spaces like [??? 02:10] sports and trail running, I think you’re going to see it growing in the next couple years, which is a fun part to be a part of.

JESSE: And I’m backing up just slightly, but I mean, that’s a sense of, I’ll say, mastery, but just like, that’s when you know somebody actually knows what they’re talking about. So, they can take a very complicated subject and diluted down to like the most simple, very understandable thing.

I don’t know, you guys have, since you have finished your Ph.D. and working on your Ph.D., you’ve probably come across professors that at some point or another, are very, very confusing because they’re so deep into their field they can’t understand what it’s like anymore to not know anything about that?


DAN: Right.

JESSE: And you’re like, I can’t follow you. It’s like if they could get just to that next level and see back to the beginning that you know, Things would become much much easier for everybody involved.

MELISSA: Totally.

DAN: Right. I think [??? 03:04] things about…you sort of have to see the forest and the trees to keep track of everything and be able to understand how you’re going to explain this to somebody, like you said, I worked in a running store too. So, how is the kid that’s working in a running store going to explain this to the runner that’s coming in? How are you gonna explain it at a biomechanics conference? And all that’s really exciting.

JESSE: Yeah. And communicating that is tough, because it’s like again, just from that running standpoint, it’s like, the kid or me in this point that starting out, it’s just like, yeah, it’s just like, it’s got these cool Boa dials on it. And the guy’s like, why is that? Why do I care? I don’t like dials. I just want laces because nobody likes change.

So, they have to be like, “No, actually, if you use these, I could do such and such.” And yeah, communicate that so it’s… Shoes have so many different kinds of tech in them now, it’s like, why do I care if it’s got this or that. Melissa, I’m gonna come back to you here in a second but I want to finish on kind of this thought. So, obviously a lot of people are talking about Nike’s Next % and that whole series. Have you guys worked on any of those shoes?

DAN: Yeah, I can’t say exactly which ones we haven’t, have worked on, haven’t worked on just because of [??? 04:25] and stuff like that. We definitely have worked on with some different brands, some different shoes that have those attributes we were talking about. Different types of foam that give more energy return. I was also one of the subjects in that first Nike study.

So, [??? 04:42] was done at CU. I was one of the subjects. Roger [??? 04:45] lab did it, one of my really good friends was or both of our friends, investigators in it. I like to joke that I was maybe one of the slowest runners because it was during my triathlon days and you had to have run I think under 31 minutes for a 10K in the last year.

So, I think I just… But I mean, it’s a really fascinating area. I think running performance is really easy to quantify, for linear running, right? Like, if you can make it easier, then awesome. I think what’s really exciting is when you take that into the trial space or you take in other spaces, how do you quantify performance? Because now it’s a little bit multifactorial.

So, that’s where I get really passionate. I think the super shoes [??? 05:26] are really cool, but I can’t wait to see how this translates and trickles down into other sports and other shoes. Like what’s the next super trail shoe look like?

JESSE: Right, right. So, here’s what I struggle with, and I’ve been meaning to make a video on this, in my opinion, for a long time. I don’t even know if I have an opinion. So, I’ve talked about this with my friend Todd, actually one of Barb’s athletes. He’s been on the podcast a couple times; Episode Three and 29 for anybody who wants to go and check out Todd.

But he wears, I can’t remember which of that series of shoes and he likes set his 5K, 10K and half marathon PRs all on the same day by running a half marathon. He was like, that shouldn’t happen. But he was just like as long as they’re still allowed, I’m gonna wear them. Like it would be a disadvantage not to wear them. So, I’m just wondering if you have, either of you, have an opinion on is there a line, where’s the line in terms of technology versus all the human spirit or the human body itself in terms of improving performance?

DAN: Yeah, I think it’s super interesting and I’d like to hear Melissa’s perspective as well. One way that I think of it is like if you boil it down to energy return, no material because the thermodynamics is going to give you 100% energy return. So, if you think maybe our maximal ability is 100% we don’t have any foams that can do that. These are just getting us closer to that.

But [??? 07:00] human running. Now that being said, there are a bunch of other attributes and patents and things like that may cause competitors to be at a disadvantage. I think putting all that aside, I love innovation in sport. And I think the weird thing is the line is blurry. Now, if somebody had springs in their shoes, I think we can all agree that that’s maybe not the same sport.

So, acknowledging the line is blurry, but I think the reductionist argument of oh, it’s improving times, that’s bad. So, then I think we all have to get back to running barefoot or we all run in the same exact shoe, but even then, humans experience different improvements based on a given shoe and that’s been shown forever. So, for me, I think one of the cool things I heard in an interview where somebody is saying, “Hey, it’s making running fun for me.” And I think if you take that regard, I’m all for it.

JESSE: That’s fair. Melissa, do you have any thoughts?

MELISSA: are pretty similar, but I just keep coming back to the point that Really, if we start drawing a hard line somewhere, then if we look back in time, where have we crossed another imaginary line that we drew at some point? And like you said if it’s making people faster, but it’s not a completely inhuman amount of time to get faster by then, is it just like any other training modality that we learn to use? What if we never had certain aspects of how people change their diet to improve performance?

What if we didn’t have caffeine, which is another kind of blurry line, right? So, I think it’s a really tough debate to get into, especially if you have people taking different sides. I’m kind of interested to see how it moves forward, talking to science people about it. I’m not sure how much I like talking to hardheaded [??? 08:56]. Where we apply it to sport is what’s tricky because we don’t want to create unfair competitions but…

JESSE: Right. I’ll be partisan here and say, I am pro no caffeine. I actually think caffeine is cheating. But that’s just because it goes back to a point Dan, you mentioned about shoes and energy return like we can’t get 100% energy returned. And you mentioned springs being, that would be cheating. I wanted to make some kind of joke about the Nike sharks, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it in there. But that’s because if we had springs, you could theoretically get more return than you really should, right?

So, it’s like, that’s the hard line that we’re after, though in a perfect physical situation, you get 100% of the energy back out that you put in; no more, no less. So, I think that maybe the easiest way to define what the hard-line is, is if you’re able to somehow, in the case of people that are cheating, we see this that they put motors in their bikes.

MELISSA: Oh, yeah.

JESSE: You know, you’re going more than 100% capacity. Clearly, that’s wrong. So, I think that’s a fair line to draw. And that’s, I think, a good summation of why I’m not a fan of caffeine because caffeine helps you do things that your body wouldn’t necessarily do on its own. That’s another one that’s hard-line to draw worse, [??? 10:34] caffeine and supplements and you know what exactly is and isn’t okay.

That’s where the US [??? 10:41] comes in. It’s just always interesting to see different people’s perspectives. Dan, I’m glad you shared that because I’ve struggled with Next % and that kind of thing because we’ve seen such a dramatic improvement with that technology being introduced that it’s almost, my gut reaction is well that’s fair. But that’s not necessarily logical either.

DAN: Yeah, I wrestled with that. I think when the Alphaflys came out from trials, my first thought was, that’s too weird. But then I had to really think, grapple with myself and say, well, why? I like what you said, where you draw a line on caffeine. I think if you can come up with a line and have a reason for it across all of these dimensions of performance, then that’s perfect. And then we can debate whether those lines are arbitrary, or if they’re in the right place or not, but at least grounding rules. And so I think it’s a really fun and interesting debate.

MELISSA: Yeah. The other major problem is that we just can’t test all these different shoes before they go through the whole creative process, the prototyping, the actual producing them. You know, we can get shoes out pretty quickly compared to how long it takes to do a really well-designed research study with enough participants.

DAN: Yeah, there’s a really interesting article [??? 12:03] that was kind of tongue and cheek about the Vaporfly I think and it was like, “Hey we’re going to come up with this revolutionary shoe that sort of combines maximalism with a carbon plate with something else. And it’s like well, all those have been done uniquely and individually before. It’s just combining them.

And so I think that isn’t limited to just the Nike shoes. I think of some of the other footwear brands and what they’ll be coming out with in the next few months, they’re going to be similar. And they hopefully, in some cases, they’re going to push the line in a different way.

Hoka released a shoe recently, it’s a downhill only shoe. That’s really interesting. I mean, they’re just trying to push the barrier somewhere. We actually at Boa, we are working on publishing a study where we actually saw an improvement in lateral performance, basically changing direction quickly with a certain configuration.

And so, for me to say any of these other technological advances are bad because they improve performance would be kind of hypocritical since I’m working on that too. But yeah, the regulation at some point, we just have to come at and agree on where that line is, and what are the reasonings behind that line.

JESSE: Yeah. Well, that’s just in general, when you argue with somebody, I find, sometimes you have to take a step back and decide, are you even coming from the same ontological perspective? Is the basis of your opinions, and what reality is or your facts and what reality is, are you arguing from the same place?

DAN: For sure.

JESSE: It’s like if you’re not arguing from the same place, then there’s no point in arguing because you’re probably not going to come to a mutual agreement at any point in time.

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