Please enable JavaScript to view the discussion by Sidelines. discussion by

Friday, October 16, 2015

August 2015 (Q3) Virginia Consumer Sentiment and Price Expectations Summary Report

To better promote our work at the Roanoke College Institute for Policy and Opinion Research, we are generating summary reports of some of our polls. I just put together one for the August Consumer Sentiment and Price Expectations survey conducted for the third quarter of 2015.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 2015 Consumer Sentiment Report

Sentiment remains at record levels (since the index began in November 2011) in the third quarter of 2015, but still below the preliminary national number (see figure below, blue=US, orange=VA). Of those who report their household finances are better now than a year ago, 77% cite rising income.

You can read my full report for the Roanoke College IPOR here.

U.S. data downloaded from FRED 8/23/2015; blue line is U.S.Consumer Sentiment; black line is
a two year moving average; orange bars are VA Consumer Sentiment

Keep your sentiments up!

Friday, July 31, 2015

What is so special about 180 steps per minute?

For the past few weeks two of my runs during the week have one goal: 180 steps per minute. I set my Garmin to display the cadence screen and focus on nothing else. Why the 180 spm?

Jack Daniels studied  Olympic athletes during the 1984 games and found that regardless of distance (800 meters and up) runners took at least 180 steps per minute. Stride frequency is one piece of the speed equation (along with stride length), so increasing stride frequency, ceteris paribus, leads to faster running times.

Before Coach Tom Clifford asked me to focus on 180 spm a few weeks ago, I was taking 170-175 steps per minute (at least since I started keeping track of such things six weeks ago). 5-10 steps per minute does not sound like a lot, but consider this:

The average stride length for female marathoners in the 1984 Olympic Games was 58 inches. If a similar woman takes 170 steps per minute, her speed is 58 inches/step * 170 steps/minute = 9860 inches/minute, which converts to a 6:25 mile pace. If another woman, with the same stride length, takes 180 steps per minute her pace is 6:04 per mile...eleven seconds per mile faster!

Speed can also increase with greater stride length. There is a trade off: the longer the stride, the longer it takes to turn your legs over. Daniels believes that shorter steps are preferred to longer ones because the feet stay underneath the runner, reducing the risk of injury and encourages landing on the balls of the feet rather than the heels. When you hit the pavement with heels first, you are likely putting on the breaks with every stride and just making things harder on yourself (less efficient). Check out the wear pattern on your trainers or take a form check when passing a window on your next run to see where you land.

I plan to keep focusing on my stride frequency as I prepare for the fall racing season. As a "baseline", below are some paces from three speed and tempo sessions from the past month. I will check in again in a later post when I have more data points.

Get those legs spinning,

Friday, July 3, 2015

Adding speed early in the training cycle

After a 4-week hiccup from patella tendinitis, my training is back on track and progressing nicely. The past few weeks typically include a threshold workout, a speed session, strength work, and a long run. Basic stuff...except the speed is really speed. Coach Tom Clifford is working on my running economy (RE) as we look to a fall road racing season.

According to an article published in Sports Medicine (Saunders, Pyne, Telford, & Hawley 2004) "runners with good RE use less energy and therefore less oxygen than runners with poor RE at the same velocity." In other words, improved RE makes running faster feel easier, ceteris paribus. Coach Clifford says that "having good running economy sets you up for good form and your body to become more economical when running". In the past two weeks, the speed sessions included:

3 x 200 with 1:00 rest (41, 38, 37)
2 x 400 with 2:00 rest (75, 76)
1 x 600 with 3:00 rest (1:59)
3 x 200 with 1:00 rest (77, 78)
2 x 400 with 2:00 rest (37, 36, 36)


2 sets of 5 x 300 with 100 meter walk, separate sets with a full recovery
Set 1: 60.1, 59.0, 58.4, 58.0, 58.6
Set 2: 59.6, 58.1, 57.1, 58.3, 57.5

Eye in the sky over the PHHS oval office
I enjoy gutting it out for short periods, so these workouts are in my wheelhouse. I do many of these at PHHS in Roanoke so that I can hop on the trails afterwards for the cool down. Progress in RE is seen in my threshold and long runs. On the long runs, I record the distance over a set time period (currently an hour and a half) so that we can note progress (taking into account heat, humidity...HR monitor is a useful tool.) Additionally, in this heat/humidity effort, rather than pace, on a long run should be the focus. My threshold pace is falling as I add time in those sessions and the long runs are getting easier.

I will talk more about the threshold paces in a later post. These workouts stress me out to no end, but I do not race well until I consistently nail them. Many pieces to the puzzle.

Head down to your local track for some RE improvement,

Saunders, P., Pyne, D., Telford, R., & Hawley, J. 2004.  Factors affecting running economy in trained distance runners. Sports Medicine 34(7), 465-85.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Second week of workouts and a swim meet

Training continues to move along in the right direction. This past week included a down week for both running and swimming mileage/yardage-wise given the VA Commonwealth Games LCM meet June 20th.

The soupy weather persists, but I suppose it is great preparation for running in Wilmington, NC next week. On tuesday RVE teammates Sarah and Patrick joined me bright and early on the PHHS track. Sarah and I did 8 x 400 with 3:00 rest holding the best average we could, while Patrick floated with us for 400 and roared past doing 800s on our 3:00 rest interval. He is tapering for his 50K this week.

The 400s terrified me given I have not done speed in 6 weeks. Originally Coach Tom said to go 78-80, but I said no way. Given the weather he changed it to holding my best effort for sprint repeats. We started very controlled (88) and then steadily knocked them down: 88, 85, 86, 83, 79, 78, 78, 77 for an 81-82 average. I am pleased with the workout! We are going to repeat it in about a month, but shortening the rest to 2:00. The goal is to hold the same average with less rest.

I swam in my first LCM swim meet on Saturday in Christiansburg VA (Christiansburg Aquatic Center). The facility is nice and is home to the Virginia Tech Hokies' Swim and Dive Teams. Five of us from the Gator Masters Team swam and it was great fun to be at a meet with buddies. It removed the stress of competing completely. The meet was very small and not much time between events. My order of events: 50, 200, 400, 100 meters.

Christiansburg Aquatic Center
I swam the 50 well (36.45 which converts to a 32.1 50 yard time (and is my fastest "old lady" time). Next, Marcia, Carolyn, and I were side-by-side-by-side in lanes for the 200. I went out way too fast (1:27 first 100) and died for a 3:06.17. YUCK. The 400 followed soon thereafter and I experienced my first race goggle issue. After the first turn they rolled down my face. I ripped them off and swam the second 50 with them in my hand (DRAG). Once I got to the wall I tossed them up, obviously forgoing my flip turn and then finished the remaining 300 the best I could. I felt decent for the rest of the race which is nice since I am terrified of the "longer" distances. My time was terrible (6:52.45) but I am proud that I didn't panic and stuck it out. 10-15 minutes later came the 100 which was not fast (1:24.61), but a great workout on the heels of the 200 and 400. I then counted laps for Carolyn and Kate as they crushed the 1500. They (and Marcia) looked so smooth as they knocked out the 30 lengths. I hope to be able to swim that far in a race one day!

Sunday morning brought a combined tempo run and long run. Sarah and I met at PHHS and ran around 5 miles at 7:45 pace for a warmup then used the track for 4 x 5:00 at tempo pace (~6:30) with 1:00 recoveries. Given I raced the day before I felt tired. I made it through the first 5:00 albeit off pace (a very slow first 200). The next two I only did 800 meters (3:17, 3:14). The last repeat I held on to Sarah (who was gliding through the workout despite running 20 miles the day before!) for a 6:20 paced effort. We finished with 26:00 of trail running. I will take it!

Afterwards I swam 1,000 meters at the BAC before a deep tissue massage to get the junk out of my arms and legs. The pool felt so refreshing after slinging sweat with Sarah all over the track earlier that morning.

Given the swim meet, I tapered a bit in both running and swimming.

Weekly total:
Swimming - ~15,000 yards including a meet (on 6 days)
Running - 34.5 miles including two workouts (on 6 days)

Goals for next week:
Swimming - 18,000 yards including an open water swim (Wilmington)
Running - 50 miles

Happy trails,

Monday, June 15, 2015

Getting back into it and Scott-freaking-Jurek

After a great long run with my buddy Sarah the first Sunday in May I suddenly started having pain in my left patella tendon (other leg from the surgery last summer). It was odd. It did not hurt on run, but right after saying goodbye to Sarah and heading into the coffee shop it hurt noticeably. Scared and frustrated I took several days off from running and waited until I got to Alaska to attempt a run (who can pass up a run in Ketchikan!?!) For weeks it was off and on as were my emotions.

I finally started doing some eccentric strengthening work and wearing a patellar knee strap (they come in PINK) in addition to icing the area three to four times a day. MAGIC! A month later I was back to a regular running schedule and after an additional two weeks I did my first speed session. Given Virginia will be a soupy mess until October, the plan is to build up my endurance and strength and hit some fall races. Hope springs eternal!

Partially to keep me motivated through the tough summer and partially to keep me realistic (its ok to run 9:00 pace on an recovery run when you climb 400 feet...right?)  I started using Strava and added its widget to this blog. You can follow my SLOW progress back to fitness. I am trying to be patient and have fun which is difficult after a year of setbacks.

The week of June 1-7, my first consistent week running-wise, I ran 37 miles and swam 18,150 yards including one long course practice. This past week (June 8-14) included one tempo run and 17,000 yards in the pool. I was anxious about the tempo run. Happy that I could start speed but nervous to see what pace I could handle. Coach Clifford gave me a 20:00 tempo which I did on the track. Because of my anxiety I ran it is as more of a progressive tempo, starting conservatively and finishing strong. My mile spits were 6:48 (3:29, 3:19), 6:32 (3:17, 3:15), 6:23 (3:13, 3:10). I only had a touch more to go to get to 20:00; I was a just short of 5K for the 20:00 effort. I am very happy with this start. I believe it suggests my tempo pace is around 6:30-6:35. The weather was pleasant, so on a soupy day the pace will slower for the same effort. Hopefully that pace will get under 6:20 by September. When my tempo pace is sub-6:20 my race times really begin to POP.

After my tempo run I raced home to change and hit the Appalachian Trail for a Scott Jurek sighting. He is currently trying to set the Appalachian Trail Speed Record. I live near the 220 crossing, so I waited about 800 meters in towards the Tinker Cliffs hoping to catch him on his last push before 220. The "Jurker" made his appearance a little after 1:00 PM, cruising by at a nice pace with about 5 guests in tow. I applauded his efforts and took a few pictures as he flew by. I then headed out to get lunch and saw him taking a break/getting in some fuel at the Valley Cleaners (parking lot used by AT day hikers). I ran up and asked if I could get a picture with him and he graciously agreed. He appears to be as kind and gracious as all reports suggest.

Scenes from the AT on "Jurek Day"

Here an article by the Roanoke Times on Jurek with some sweet pics from McAfee's Knob (where he started his run the day I saw him). If you didn't know how beautiful Southweat VA is, take a look!

Enjoy the soupy running and be happy that you can RUN!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

May 2015 Real Estate Index

My report on the real estate market in the Commonwealth came out this week. Several questions concerning the real estate market are included in the survey used to gather data for the consumer sentiment report. We (the amazing people in the Roanoke College PR department) try to spread the releases out by about a week.

Virginians are generally optimistic about the current and future real estate markets. An interesting find is that buyers in Southwest VA are quite positive, likely due to a belief of housing surpluses from departing Norfolk Southern employees.

Black line indicates "robust" market

You can read the report here. The Roanoke Times wrote an article about the report (found here) and I interviewed with WVTF.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Consumer sentiment remains strong in Virginia

My latest consumer sentiment and inflation expectations report came out two days ago. You can find the report here. Things are particularly strong in Southwest Virginia and the Tidewater. Southwest VA has apparently absorbed the departure announcements from Norfolk Southern and USPS, while the Tidewater is looking beyond the effects of sequestration.

Consumer sentiment values (y-axis) by region; current value=orange dash,
 regional average=blue dot, standard deviation=black line.

I am thankful for the interviews by WVTF, WFIR, and the Roanoke Times on the current release. You can listen to the WFIR interview here.

Feeling optimistic,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The ugly, the bad, and the good

Its been two months since my return to marathoning from meniscectomy. The number of days between the race and this race report and the number of minutes I took to cover 26.2 miles are positively related: both high. Sigh. I toed the line at the 2015 Quintiles Marathon at Wrightsville Beach fit to run between 3:05 and 3:10. Not near my PR, but solid.

I ran 3:16.09, the second slowest marathon of my life. It sounds silly, but I still get teary thinking about the race. I have never been hurt like I was before surgery and thus never experienced a return to running after a prolonged setback. (I was out of running completely for three months.) Many more workouts went well than not heading into the race. I maintained 55-65 miles (on 5 days) and 15-20K of swimming (on 5 days) per week the months leading up to the race. Conservative, but I did not want to rush anything.

Mile 22 (Photo: Kimberly Bowler)
I planned to run 7:00-7:10 pace for the first half of the race and 6:50-7:00 pace the second half. Perfect conditions greeted racers, but my body was not able to do what I hoped. I believe that I went through 13.1 around 7:15 pace and finished the race in a 7:30 pace. I was the 8th woman and 2nd master (top master was over 6:00 in front of me).

Getting my growler for 2nd master (Photo: Kimberly Bowler)
 I have unresolved questions:

Did I set the bar too high?
Given I cannot run high mileage anymore, will I ever sniff 3:00 again (I am 40 years old)?
Should I do another marathon?

After the race I was terribly upset. To non-runners this sounds foolish, self-centered, and like a "first world problem." They are right, but I can't help it. At least I am honest.

In 2011 and 2012 I ran 2:59 and 3:00, respectively, at this event. It stings...big time. I wish that I could say "I've got the eye of the tiger" and that I am hungry to redeem myself next year. I don't. Will I? Who knows.

A month later I headed to Williamsburg, home of my alma mater, and ran a 5K. I knew that I would not be sharp given the short turn around from the marathon, but I hoped to compete and be tough. I did and I was. I ran 19:15 with even mile splits throughout. Not fast, but I felt strong and I battled. That was thrilling. I hung on to a high schooler like nobody's business until 1200 to go when her speed bested mine. She finished 10 seconds in front of me. We encouraged each other along the way and she was sweet and gracious after the race, both wonderful qualities to see in a young athlete.

Close to mile 2
Even college coach grabbed me up when I crossed the finish line. Seeing him brought tears to my eyes as it was a reminder of the amazing experience I had running for the College of William and Mary many years ago. One of William and Mary Track and Cross Country's alumni and supporters, Randy Hawthorne, also ran the race and joined the impromptu reunion afterwards. Coach PVR even wore one of the t-shirts that I designed for our team. He is the best!

Randy, me, Coach PVR
I am trying to move forward and am following an unstructured training plan that includes plenty of swimming. I have patellar tendinitis in my left leg, so I am babying it. I do not have any race plans other than a few swim meets and open water events this summer.

Trying to get positive,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Economic Rockstar Interview

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to do a podcast with Frank Conway of Economic Rockstar. We chatted for well over an hour about economic pedagogy, research interests, and running.

The interview was released recently and you can listen to it here.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Management Institute 2015

For the past five years I have given a session on health care and the workplace from an economic perspective for The Management Institute at Roanoke College.

Tonight I taught the class of 2015. These sessions largely focus on the ACA and how it will impact employers.

I often learn more from the students than they learn from me. I get to hear first-hand accounts of how the legislation is impacting their place of work. Some of them are owners or managers and they share the harsh realities that they deal with on a daily basis.

Below is my PowerPoint from the session tonight. I wish that I could include a video of the great insights these folks had, but alas, you will have to make due with good ol', dismal economics.

See you at the banquet TMI Class of 2015,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The economics of the employer mandate

Last fall I was invited to write an essay for a publication. My contribution was to comment on some aspect of the ACA. I decided to focus on the employer mandate and potential effects on the US labor market.

Writing/presenting about the law is always a challenge as it 1) seems to constantly change and 2) there is very little data available since many aspects of the law are just beginning. I gave it a fair shot relying on economic theory and what little we do know as of now.

You can read the draft of my essay below.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Virginia Real Estate Index Report is here

This week the Roanoke College Institute for Policy and Opinion Research released my Real Estate Index Report for the first quarter of 2015.

Overall the market is looking strong, with sellers more optimistic about the future. The table below shows the February 2015 index values for Virginia. An index value greater than zero means that more people are optimistic than pessimistic.

Virginia Real Estate Indexes 

You can read the report here and/or watch an interview I did for WDBJ7 below.

Consumers optimistic about 2015 real estate market

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Race Reports: MB Half Marathon and Sunbelt Meet

It has been a challenge over the last few weeks to fit training and racing into a hectic work schedule, but I made it work without having to sacrifice any major workout session. I competed twice since my last post, once on dry land and once in the pool.

This past weekend I competed in my first road race since turning 40 and the first half marathon since my meniscectomy. The Myrtle Beach Half Marathon falls nicely on the calendar to serve as a fitness indicator race before the Quintiles Marathon (although starting next year it will be two weeks later, and much too close to Quintiles).

Race number
Given I have only hit 60+ miles per week twice, I was not sure how my body would respond, especially after mile 8. The race plan was to start at marathon pace and pick it up after mile 6 or 7. My running buddy Erin was also doing the race, following the same plan. We hooked on to the leading woman in the marathon and her friend around mile 2 and cruised along between 6:40 and 6:45 pace through mile 7. This was a touch faster than we had planned, but it seemed better to run with people, even if it meant pushing it a bit.

I was happy staying with our pack, but Erin made a move at mile 7 (like we were supposed to), so I had to go. We quickly dropped the pace by 10-15 seconds (how Erin was able to do this after being sick all week, I will never know!) We chased teammate Kyle for a few miles and then hung on. At mile 9 I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew as my quads began to scream, but I was able to maintain close to 6:30/mile pace for the remainder of the race.

Driving home to the finish

The finish shoot is sooooo long
I finished the race as the 7th woman and 1st master in 1:26:41 (6:37/mile). My splits were as follows:


Without Limits team members @MB
I am thrilled with my performance. I felt strong and was able to negative split the race. Swimming is certainly helping build my strength and endurance without running high mileage. My knee felt great both during and after the race. Coach Tom scheduled a 20 mile long run the day after the race, which also went well despite the ridiculous wind/cold. All good signs for the marathon. I think a sub-3:05 would be a great performance based upon this half marathon. Not bad for being out of running for three months!

Sweet track I spent 4 of my Sunday 20 mile run
A few weeks ago I swam in my biggest swim meet this year. It was the 41st Annual Sunbelt Swim Meet in Charlotte, NC. Coach Brett has been cutting my yardage back due to work travel and the increase in the running miles as I near the full marathon. My hope was to not slow down in the 50/100/200 yard events and to try out the 500 yard.

The meet went well as I swam personal bests in all four events (the 500 was slow, but it was my first PR!)

After the marathon is over, I plan to put more focus on the swim and shorter running events through the summer. Perhaps an aquathon or two this summer! I hope to be ready to go after a marathon PR in the fall.

Enjoy the snow,

Monday, February 16, 2015

February Consumer Sentiment in Virginia Hits Record Levels

My quarterly Consumer Sentiment and Inflation Expectations report for the Roanoke College IPOR came out last week. Our index reached the highest level since we started producing the index in November 2011. The Virginia index values compared to the national values for the last two years are shown below:

Surprisingly, gas prices do not seem to play a large role in household finances and thus perceptions of the economy. Less than 28% of Virginians report gas prices influence their household finances a great deal.

You can read the complete report here.

Additionally, you can watch an ABC 13 story concerning the report below. - ABC13

Monday, January 12, 2015

Training update: On the road to fitness

I am in my 5th month of a training cycle that is very new to me. My partial meniscectomy was in early August and I was allowed to start running mid-September. Given meniscus tears are common among runners, I thought I would update you on how my training post-procedure is going. If you are recovering from a similar procedure, feel free to contact me for more details.

As previous posts have noted, I have gradually increased my running mileage over the past few months. I still hope to be ready to run the Quintiles Marathon March 22 and my workouts are cautiously geared towards that goal. My highest mileage week thus far has been 54 miles; I have had four weeks over 40 miles. For those of you that know my past training, this is about half of where I would be at this point in marathon training. I have "replaced" that running with swimming and have been consistently swimming 20,000-24,000 yards per week since early September. Since I have been competing in a few meets, the swimming has been interval training, with repeats ranging from 25 to 1,000 yards. Just like running, there is a purpose for each session.

So how is this working out? Very well so far. While I am not setting any personal records yet, below are two recent running workouts that made me very happy:

December 30th (Wilmington, NC):
6 x mile with 1:30 rest @ 7:00 (odd on track, even on concrete loop), the first mile broken into 4x400 at pace
I did this workout with the Without Limits group in Wilmington and we were told that we could open it up a bit the last two, but to be mindful of form. We went  1:39-:43 on the first 400s, then 6:48, 6:42, 7:00 (Tom ordered a 7:00), 6:38, 6:10. I felt strong, powerful, and in control of this workout. It is a feeling that I have missed the last few years.

January 4 (Boston, MA):
My second long-run/workout combo of the training cycle. I was in Boston for the ASSA/AEA Annual Meetings and ran on the path following the Charles. A 30:00 warm-up was to be followed by 2 x 10:00 @ 7:00 (4:00 recovery), 2 x 7:00 @ 6:40 (3:00 recovery, 3 x 4:00 fast (2:00 recovery). I ran 6:53-6:56 pace for the 10:00, 6:35 pace for the 7:00 and 6:17-6:24 pace for the fasts. Again, not record breaking, but a breakthrough for me. The run totaled 15 miles.

Thus far, swimming is successfully replacing running in building my strength and endurance. As my mileage and intensity increase in running I need to be mindful of training "smart". While it is exciting to immediately follow a 3,500 yard sprint pool session with a 13 mile run, I cannot do this frequently without over training. I do not know how Ironman athletes do what they do. I have had several poor swim sessions since my mileage has gone over 50 miles, and I believe it is due to poorly timed swim/run sessions. I need to carefully plan each session and eat accordingly.

In sum, I am enjoying this training experiment of one and am getting good results. I will keep you updated as we move towards the marathon. Hopefully I will be ready to toe the line. If not, that is OK too. The most important thing is to be fit, have fun, and do everything that I can to ensure that I can do this for a long time.

See you on the road to fitness,

Saturday, January 3, 2015

ASSA/AEA Presentation (Boston) - Health, crime, and violence in Papua New Guinea

I am presenting some selected results from my project with Yana van der Meulen Rodgers (Rutgers University) tomorrow at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meeting in Boston.

We have used the 2009-2010 HIES to examine gender differentials across a variety of dimensions in Papua New Guinea. Based on these results we made policy recommendations to reduce these differences and promote economic growth in the developing country.

My presentation tomorrow will focus on some results concerning health, crime, and violence.

You can view the presentation below.

Yana and I plan to develop several papers using more robust methods of analysis.

Do you have any suggestions for us?

From a city currently overly saturated with economists,

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I am a running master

According to the USATF, for road running, one becomes a master runner at the age of of December 24th, I have joined the crowd!

Coach Tom Clifford helped me celebrate the event by doing 40 x 200 meters @ :45 with 100 meters rest on Christmas Eve. It was a warm/humid and rainy morning, but we clicked through them talking about my life events at certain ages/laps. For example, I mentioned starting on the 16th interval that I became a handful at 16 and moved to Virginia at age/interval 29.

The first 10 or so were 45-46 seconds and then we gradually moved down to 44-45; the last 9 were :43 or faster and hitting 40 with a :41. Given that we have not worked on speed and have focused on strength (hills) and endurance, I was very excited about this workout.

40 @ 40 on the UNCW Track
Training has continued to progress since my surgery in August.While in Wilmington for the holiday I also had two solid long runs, getting up to 1:50, and another strong interval workout. Fingers crossed that this progress continues and I can toe the line at the 2015 Quintiles Marathon.

Swimming has certainly contributed to my improved endurance. I am on my 4th set of workouts from Coach Brett. One of my favorites this go 'round is 4800 yards including 3 x 800 on 15:00, 1 x 600 all out, 20 x 25 kicks on :40. My total yardage per week is still 21,000-24,000 on six days. I'm slowly getting better in the pool, but I find myself getting frustrated looking at my race times compared to others in my age group. I need to swallow my ego and enjoy the small improvements. Plus, remember that it is supposed to be FUN!