Focusing on the Details

Joe Maloy Uncategorized

Part 1: Testing at Eastern Michigan University

This past November, Coach Paulo Sousa and I made a decision to work with renowned running specialist Dr. Stephen McGregor. I was not running fast enough to be competitive on the international level, so we decided to collaborate with the Eastern Michigan University guru.

His philosophy towards running improvements can be summed up in this quote from a 2012 interview: “Running faster is a good way to run faster.”

I committed to make several trips to EMU for testing, and Drs. McGregor and Sousa committed to evaluating the data and forming an action plan. Normally I hate doctors–but these guys aren’t so bad. In fact, I enjoy working with them both.

This is how the sensors show up on the computer!

I visited the lab in November for baseline testing, then returned this past month for my first set of follow-up tests.

Part 2 : A Visit to Zingerman’s Deli

When I arrived in Detroit, I made small-talk with a University of Michigan grad-student while waiting around the luggage carousel. The grad student may or may not have been an attractive young woman. (Author’s note: When reading, it is good practice to imagine the events as accurately as possible.) She recommended I check out a place called “Zingerman’s Deli” in Ann Arbor.

Since it was a short drive from my work at Eastern Michigan University, I went to Zingermann’s after my first day of testing. I had been in the lab running for nearly 3 hours, and I deserved a delicious sandwich. I think it’s important to enjoy one’s hard work whenever possible.

My friend from the airport cautioned the sandwiches were “huuuuuge” and I should just get the regular size, so I ordered a large with a brownie for dessert.

Now, I’m no Guy Fieri. I’m not going to tell you how the flavors interacted or how the ambience set some kind of “deli mood.”

I do know a thing or two about gaining a competitive advantage. Zingerman’s has built a stellar reputation from using quality ingredients from start to finish. They focus on the details. The staff was friendly–even by those high midwestern standards–and offered samples and advice on nearly every product. While each individual aspect of my visit was unspectacular, the all-around commitment to excellence made for both a spectacular sandwich and experience.

Part 3: Why the heck did I tell those 2 stories?

Zingerman’s commitment to excellence has made the Ann Arbor institution a model for other delis around the country. Its success is a reminder that a commitment to doing many little things right can end with big results.

In a strange way, the deli’s model for excellence is the same one I’m applying towards my career as a professional triathlete. I focused on the details of my running technique with hopes to improve my times. I went to EMU to visit with Dr. McGregor because Coach Paulo Sousa and I decided he was the best. Day in and day out, I thought (and continue to think) about the details that will make me faster. Just as Zingermann’s goes to great lengths to gather the best possible ingredients for their sandwiches, I take that same approach to assembling my team.

Below is a chart representing the amount of oxygen I need to run at different speeds. The blue line indicates my baseline levels which were measured in November, 2012. The green line shows my results from the May, 2013 tests. The data shows I’ve become 8-9% more efficient while running at current race pace.

Many thanks to Paulo, to Dr. McGregor and his staff, and to the high performance department at USA Triathlon for making these trips possible. Now it’s back to work–I still want to go faster!