Monday, March 12, 2012

The devil is in the details

I am usually a fairly detail-oriented person.  But there are several things in which I really cannot tell the difference or in which seemingly undetectable details end up having remarkably large impacts. 

Take wine, for example.  I know very little about wine.  Call me unsophisticated, but most wines taste pretty much the same to me.  However, small differences can apparently make an enormous difference in price and cache. 

SIDE NOTE: In a horrifying example of things that people cannot tell apart, I read about a study done to see if people could tell pate or Spam apart from dog food.  Volunteers were given five unlabeled samples of meat products, one of which was Newman's Own Dog food prepared to look like liver mousse.

The results indicated that most people couldn't tell the meat products apart from each other.  Yikes!  So much for discerning palates.
Dog food or pate? You be the judge.  Really.
Moving off the topic of mystery meats, I've experienced a lot of the same issues in running where the devil was in the details, too.  For example:

Running Shoes
My new Brooks Glycerin 8 shoes arrived this past weekend!  I had read about all the technology in the Glycerin shoes and had heard rave reviews about these shoes, so admittedly my expectations were high.  Not to mention that I think these shoes are gorgeous.
I took them for an 8-mile inaugural run on Sunday morning and they were very lightweight and comfortable.  However, to be honest, the Glycerins didn't feel very different from any of my existing pairs of running shoes, which have all been good.  My Mizuno Wave Rider 15 shoes are the only running shoes in which I've felt any real difference - I find they have a smoother toe-off than all my other shoes.  Other than that, all of my running shoes feel pretty much the same. 

I would never guess this was possible based on seeing some very detailed shoe critiques that make some of these shoes sound like night and day.  But the differences are really not that apparent to me.

I'm not sure if it's because I am not experienced enough to be able to distinguish the differences?  Optimistically, maybe I'm only picking appropriate shoes now after getting professionally fitted last fall for the first time?  Or maybe I'm just not very discerning?

Regardless of the reason, I realize that I may have just lost my women's shoe license.

When I'm on the treadmill (which is not very often, since I much prefer running outdoors), I will play with the programmed speed.  I find it surprising how nearly undetectable increases in pace can make such a difference in time per mile.  I guess over the course of an extended distance, it really adds up.  I never ran track or cross country when I was growing up, but I remember reading once that the difference between first place and, say, 20th place, could be all of two seconds!
Speaking of small differences in pace making a big difference, I picked up the pace just a bit on my Sunday morning run since I only did 8 miles.  I went about 30 seconds per mile faster than my normal long run pace.  Completely contrary to my experience with the treadmill, wow - did I ever feel the impact afterwards! 

I relegated myself to the couch all afternoon and even ended up nodding off for awhile (flashback to boring college lectures on topics like random matrix theory).  I felt much less tired after last week's 11-miler done at my normal pace than I did after the 8-miles run at a slightly faster pace. 

Who knew that such a small increase in pace could wipe you out so much? 

Physical Therapy
When I went through physical therapy last year, I was given a list of over 15 exercises that I am supposed to try to do every day, or as often as possible.  Unfortunately, the complete set of exercises takes me over an hour and 15 minutes.  I don't have that kind of time on a daily basis.  Therefore, I will usually only do about 10 of the PT exercises on any given day.  Recently I've been focusing only on the ones that directly alleviate my knee pain (like foam rolling my IT band), and I gloss over the others that seem to have only peripheral impact (like doing planks).

Over the past week or so, I've started experiencing some left hip pain, which I have had in the past on a small extent.  Some research on suggested remedies pointed to some of the exact PT exercises that I'd been skipping recently. 

Apparently there is much more of a method to the madness than I realized on my seemingly endless list of assigned exercises.  I guess there are no shortcuts in doing physical therapy.  Who knew?

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