TODD: So, are you sure you want to cut this?
JESSE: I’m going to put that at the end now. I’m guessing good bloopers there. All right. Let’s see if I can get my wits about me and you do your little intro and we’ll keep going.
TODD: Oh, yeah. Nice. I gotta get Super Arrow like I’m ready, dude, I’m ready.
JESSE: Okay. Yeah, keep them on, keep them on so you can take them off at the start. Today on the show with me, I have my friend who was the USA Triathlon Amateur National Champion 2016. He’s also gone on to be this guy. He’s also gone on to be the Age Group World Champion in 2018. He has his Ph.D. in exercise science and as far as I’m aware, he is the foremost expert on Cinnamon Rolls. Welcome to the podcast today, Todd Buckingham.
TODD: Hey, thanks for having me, Jesse. I think that last one, that’s probably the most important, the Cinnamon Rolls.
JESSE: Yeah, I mean it was pretty accurate. So, how have you been? You told me you just were getting done with the [??? 1:20]?
TODD: Yeah, I went for a run. I had a bike and a little bit of core work earlier. But I wanted to get outside while I could because the next few days is supposed to be bitterly cold here in Michigan. So, I maybe stuck on the treadmill, unfortunately. So yeah, this– Today was actually like my first kind of hard bike workout that I’ve had on the year. I kind of took two weeks of leisure at the beginning of the year just to kind of reset and kind of not have really any structured training. And so today, I did like four by five minutes at lactate threshold, and I was dying. It was like 10 or 15 lats lower than like what I am normally at. And I was just like, this is brutal.
JESSE: [??? 2:14] in the grand scheme of things, 10 to 15 lats isn’t that much, you didn’t lose that much fitness, but it is a little like on the mental side a little disappointing. Yeah, I know about that. You know, for listeners that don’t know, I actually shattered my collarbone this last June racing. So, I didn’t get to race at [??? 2:35] in nationals this last year. And coming back from that. It’s like, take two, three months off. It’s nothing like just taking a couple of weeks off.
TODD: Yeah, I can imagine.
JESSE: You’re just sad and you’re like, what am I doing? So, I kind of wanted to get a little bit of history on you. Clearly, I’ve known you for a few years now through we’ll say, mutual friends. I kind of want to know a little bit about growing up. Like what kind of sports did you play? Did you play sports or were you just like bookish?
TODD: Yes, I played sports, but I was also bookish, I guess. Yeah. So, growing up, I played baseball, basketball and soccer in high school. I played baseball in college and I didn’t really get into running until after I graduated. I never really got the point of running just to run, you know, – chase a ball or something like that, sure. Like, I’ll go chase the ball day. But yeah, my dad’s a big runner. He’s run over 50 marathons in ultras, my mom halves. And you know, growing up, they always wanted my brother and I to run with them. And we were just like, no, that’s silly. Like, why would you just go run?
JESSE: Why would you just go run.
TODD: Yeah. And so when I finished playing baseball, I was like, man, I need something to do. And so my mom actually signed us up for the Warrior Dash. It’s like a, for people who don’t know, it’s a 5K kind of Mud Run obstacle course type thing. And I was like, well, I should probably be able to run a 5K alone before I tried to do it through the mud and obstacles. So, that’s really when I started running was for the Warrior Dash. And that was, gosh, what 2011, I think is when I graduated. Yeah, 2011. So, here we are.
JESSE: And this is right after college?
TODD: Yeah, yeah. And so now when, like when I want to go for a run, if I’m at my parents, and I’m like, “Hey, you know, does anybody want to go for a run with me?” It’s like, a way you know, like, dad can’t run with me, mom can’t run with me like I’m just too fast now. And so instead though, it’s really cool because they’ll, like mom will ride a roller blade next to me and my dad just bike. So, it’s really cool like that they still go out and do that with me. So, even though we can’t run together, we still run together.
JESSE: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if i met your mom but I know anytime I see your dad at races, you know, – always seems very supported. So that’s cool to hear that they go out, they still go out with you.
TODD: Yeah, it’s really amazing. They come to just about every race that I do. I was even able to drag them to Australia kicking and screaming, I might add. They did not enjoy that one bit. No. Yeah. My dad calls himself the bag, man. He’s my bag, man. He’s not a chauffeur though, he’s my bag man. So, yeah, he literally like, carries my bag everywhere around the airport, around, you know, the racecourse. And he’s out on the race — on the course giving me splits and things like that. It’s really cool that he does that still here and I’m, you know, going to be 30 in two days. And they’re still like, following me around like they did back when I played baseball, basketball and soccer in high school. And I mean, that’s one thing that they never did was like miss a game for my brother or I. I mean, we both played three sports in high school. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times that they actually missed an event of ours. It’s awesome to have that support. And honestly, like, you know, I probably wouldn’t still be doing sports, I guess triathlon if it weren’t for them.
JESSE: Right, right. I guess I’ll take a moment and say happy early birthday.
TODD: Thank you and you too.
JESSE: Yeah. It was a couple days ago. It seems like all of us, he’s another mutual friend of ours. For those listening to us or watching us, Kevin, his is like the ninth or whatever. So, it seems like all the triathlon guys are born in January.
TODD: Yeah, I hear that the best endurance athletes are born in January.
TODD: Actually, there was a study done that showed people who are born in January tend to have faster marathon times.
JESSE: Oh, yeah.
TODD: Because a lot of like, Kenyan and Ethiopian guys and girls have January birthdays. But that might be because they’re not quite sure when and so they just kind of make up a date.
JESSE: Oh okay, – the first one on the list.
TODD: Yeah, yeah. But I like to think that it’s just because we’re born in January, therefore, we are better endurance athletes. So, I’m going to stick with it.
JESSE: Just say it’s like a magical gift given to us.
TODD: Exactly. Yeah. [??? 7:38] tough being born in January in the cold winter months, and so–
JESSE: See, I always tried to embrace it and just say, I love the cold life.
TODD: Yeah, how’s that work for you? Let me know when it’s like, [??? 7:49].
JESSE: Yeah, I just bundle up. It’s fine. So, okay, so I didn’t know this is some kind of interesting, like, I didn’t know you didn’t start running till after college. You know, you always were you’re like Michigan State kid. Or at least when we first started racing together, I always see Michigan State kid. So, I thought you raced club in college. So, it makes me even more curious like 2011 to 2016, I mean, it’s not that long the time to go from just beginning to run to being amateur national champion. Like, how do you in your own mind, you know, what do you attribute that rise to? Is it just personal perseverance or like, you know, what kind of ingredients are there?
TODD: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And honestly, like 2011, 12, 13, I don’t think I raised my first club nationals. So, I did my undergrad at Saginaw Valley. I graduated 2011 but I went to Central for a couple years. I was on the triathlon team and that’s really when I first started when I was on the triathlon team, but I didn’t compete at all. And once I got to Michigan State in 2013, was the first time that I actually competed at Club Nationals and Collegiate Club Nationals. And yeah, I did that a couple years. And then, you know, I decided to do age group nationals. My first one was 2015. And that was in Milwaukee and I love that course. And it was a great, great place to have nationals. And I didn’t really have any expectations going in, it was my first Age Group Nationals. I had just started working with Barb, my coach. And it’d only been a few months that we were working together and I just ran like a marathon back in May. Because before I really, really got into triathlon like, I was a big marathon guy, like, running marathons was kind of my thing. Which is weird because, you know, I didn’t like running growing up right now. And I do my first marathon in 2013. And then that year 2015, I ran a 228 at Bayshore Marathon. And so it was really just kind of switching gears from marathon to triathlon. And so, yeah, you know, I just kind of know, had fun with it and ended up finishing eighth, in overall and fifth in my age group, which was, it was like, man, that 25-28 age group is really ultra competitive. And then yeah, the next year, I was like, well, I should probably try to do a little better. And – all right.
JESSE: So I would say so, top of the podium. For those interested. So Barb is Barb Lindquist. She’s a former US pro, first woman in US to be ranked number one in the world if I’m not mistaken. Barb, actually, Todd, I know that you know this, but Barb actually allows me to post some of her swim workouts on the Solpri website. So, anybody who actually wants to get their butt kicked, want a little sample that from Barb, you can go to the Solpri blog. I’ll have a link in the description on YouTube here later, you can pick that up. So, as you know, this is the Smart Athlete Podcast and part of the reason I want to have you on was to talk about something you were working on. I think it was 2017 Nationals in Omaha, correct?
JESSE: You were flagging everybody down that had a Garmin watch, a particular kind of Garmin watch. You’re looking at everybody and it seemed like you’re trying to make new friends with everybody or hustling. I’m not sure what you were selling, but can you tell me a little bit about what was going on there?
TODD: Yeah, so like you mentioned, I have my Ph.D. in exercise science. I just graduated from Michigan State back in August. And my dissertation actually was based on triathletes. It was like performance factors in triathletes. And so one of those factors was looking at the Garmin watch and seeing if there were any correlations between, you know, the variables that it measures in each of the three disciplines, and then seeing if those related to any faster performances in the swim, bike or run. And so we wanted to look at one variable in each of the three disciplines, and then see if that variable, whether it was like running cadence, or stride length, or vertical oscillation, whatever it was; what was the most important factor for having a faster finish time in the swim, bike and run? And so yeah, like you said, I was making a lot of friends, and handing out flyers and getting people to share their data with me. Which was really cool because I got 250-300 people who sent in their watch data and was able to look at that, and yeah, and I was able to finish my dissertation, which was awesome.
JESSE: Yeah, I mean, I always find like, anything good at race, even a super competitive race, like nationals, like everybody’s cheering us on, everyone’s happy, just to have everybody there like the atmosphere is always great. So, you know, I think, to me, it’s not necessarily surprising that everybody sent the data in to you, but it isn’t necessarily surprising that they had the right watch that you needed with the particular data. So, I don’t think I missed this, but I mean, did you find anything significant? Was there any statistically significant results that you came up with?
TODD: Yeah, there are a lot. So you know, things for the swim, having a lower SWOLF score. That’s that swimming, golf, it’s kind of a measure of efficiency Garmin says. It never really tested if like having a lower score actually lead to faster times. And we did find that it did. Cycling —
JESSE: Apologies just for a second. So, with the SWOLF score, do you know how that’s calculated? Is it like — Is it roughly based on like, arm cadence, or like distance per stroke or like, do you know how they calculate that?
TODD: Yep. So, it’s the time that it takes to swim 25 meters and open water plus the number of strokes that it takes. So, if it takes you 25 seconds, and you take 25 strokes, your SWOLF score would be 50.
TODD: So, having a lower score, and in there is that little caveat that yeah, obviously, a lower SWOLF score is going to be faster because a lot of small score means that you — [took less time] Yeah, so that is one of the limitations with that, and looking at that for correlation. But it did show that, you know, lower SWOLF scores typically lead to faster times.
JESSE: Do you know, if there’s a breakdown in that data, where you can see the difference between like cadence and you know, because they’re combining the two to make a score. Do they have the breakdown?
TODD: Not really. You could go and look at the number of strokes that it took them, and then the time that it took them, but it doesn’t — The SWOLF score itself doesn’t get broken down. You can’t really look at it like that. For the bike, cycling cadence, had just a moderate relationship. So, the higher your cadence, the faster your time. But that one was the weakest correlation that we found between the three; swim, bike run. And then the run, running stride length was actually the most important variable in determining running time. Not running cadence, which a lot of athletes are told, like focus on your cadence, like hit that one at steps per minute. But we found that the longer your stride length, the faster your time, more so than the faster your cadence, the faster your time. So, the correlation between running stride length and running time was like .9, above .9 and the running cadence was, I think, only above .7, between .7 and .8. So yeah, it was interesting to see because, you know, athletes are told focus on your cadence, focus on your cadence, but I would want to tell them, like focus on your stride length. And there is a caveat with that, too. Like you don’t want people over striding because that would lead to injury. But more so, running is more an extension out the back instead of – out front. And I think that for a lot people try to focus on increasing their stride length as they try to reach further out in front. But what they should be doing is pushing off [pushing harder] further in the back.
So yeah, the stride length that was really interesting. It wasn’t something that I expected. And it was really cool, because now we can tell people like, yeah, maybe that 180 steps per minute isn’t, you know, the best thing to do. And honestly, like, if you think about it, if you go out and you run at a nine-minute pace, which is pretty easy. And you try to run it 180 steps a minute, it’s going to be really hard, because you’re basically just going to be like bouncing up and down. So, I know, when I run, when I do my easy runs at like 7:30 or eight-minute pace, I’m taking maybe 160-165 steps a minute. And then you know, as the pace increases because you’re running velocity is a product of steps, and frequency and distance, right. So, your frequency increases, you’re going to go faster, your distance increases, you’re going to go faster. So, like during National, I’ll be close to 200 steps a minute but on my easy runs, it’s 160. So, I don’t think that people should really focus on that 180 steps a minute as much as has been dispensed and kind of like [??? 18:17] on.
JESSE: Right. I kind of see the, you say 180, I think I take it from Barb as 90 since you’re counting one leg. I kind of see it as like a training tool almost to try to prevent that overstriding because the faster you go, the harder it is to overstride. You have a greater tendency to have your foot land under you so your mechanics improve.
TODD: Yeah, you really want your foot to land under your center of gravity instead of out front. I don’t know if you can really land with it behind your center of gravity. That would be– you’d be like —
JESSE: I mean, that’s control and fall, you know. I think it’ll get out of control at some point in time.