An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Friday, December 30, 2011


In a brilliant post by Harry (HHH) on the Minimalist Runner forum titled "Spirit and Soul vs Conventional Wisdom", he wrote (in part):

The next day I had a sore right hip and I've never had a sore hip (not to
mention I could feel the weight difference of the Evo vs. Nike's), so I
switched back to the Nike XC's and the hip pain immediately disappeared so
conventional wisdom would say keep running in your Nike's. Well, I woke up
the next morning and my soul demanded again to be closer to the earth with
a better feeling of the ground, even with all the snow and ice outside, so
I went back to the Evo's and had a very enjoyable run and my hip pain was
all but gone.

So, obviously, I was intrigued by the source of my hip pain and I had a
friend count my stride rate while barefoot vs. Luna's and Evo's vs. Nike
XC's and as expected there was what I consider a material deviation in my
stride rate when comparing the Nike's vs. Luna's and Evo's. In the Luna's
and Evo's my stride rate (per minute at a 8:30 pace) was 184 while it was
176 in Nike's. Then my friend said I ran taller (straight) while in
Luna's/Evo's vs. Nike's where I had more of a forward lean. Lastly, we
measured my stride and it was longer in the Nike's. So much of this is as
expected but it does cause one to ponder.

First, it further validates the impact of different footwear and each
deviation from barefoot has consequences. Now, for me the consequences
don't translate to injury but nevertheless there's differences. Second, I
started to think about potential longer term impacts. If I engage my hips
when I'm closer to a barefoot state then I'm not engaging them as much in
traditional racing shoes like the Nike XC's and that requires a deeper
evaluation than just the injury issue (as people get older you often hear
about hip problems and as such, am I weakening my hips by not engaging them
enough thus leading to possible future problems . . . in other words,
perhaps the focus should be on keeping the body as engaged as possible as
we get older which may result in a stronger overall body . . . this is
about health not racing). Third, and I personally believe this has
something to do with the Blackfoot Indian blood running through my veins as
the feeling was spiritual and powerful, why did my body demand to be closer
to barefoot when I was already running fast and injury free in the Nike's?
It was a powerful desire by my body and such that I couldn't ignore it
which drove me back to the Evo's and Luna's.

I find myself in a very interesting situation. I run without issue in my
Nike's (and it's fun running) but obviously something powerful is missing
if at this point in my running life my body yearns to be closer to the
ground (this has happened before and each time the feeling comes back more
powerful, then goes away, but eventually comes back even more powerful than

The thread devolved into a discussion of adapting to running barefoot in snow (brr...), which I think moved away from a very important point (which I tried to make in the thread, but the discussion was already digressing).

Have you ever craved some food, but had no idea why? Usually it's because there's something your body needs. Ice cream and cheese? Your body likely wants calcium. A thick steak? Maybe protein.

The thing is, our bodies are smarter, on an intuitive level, than our brains. Conventional wisdom says don't change what's working. But if we get our brains, our conventional wisdom, out of the way, what do our bodies say we need? For Harry, it was a more natural state. Closer to the ground.

And maybe this goes back towards what I wrote a
little while back about listening to that primal voice deep inside us.

Maybe that voice knows a lot more about us than we 'know" about ourselves. Like what we really need.

I know I've felt this tug myself. Moving toward more offroad running. A more natural state.

Even my bicycling has been mainly offroad, though it's more a matter of convenience than design. And even though I'm adding some gearing to my previously single-speed mountain bike (old parts cobbled together plus an OLD tech shifter).

So there's maybe something deeper that drives all of this. What got us to running in the first place? What has guided you on the journey to where you are now?

Harry's response to my point about cravings was this:

Very good point. As I think about this, perhaps one is not ready for
a certain journey until they are physically and mentally ready for
it. It may be that it took me all these years to figure out how to
run injury free and shoes played a key role in achieving that goal but
now it's moved into the spiritual world.

What does your spirit crave?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Injured... again, and at another great time.

I've had a week off from running. Actually, a week off from any workouts at all. This wasn't planned. In fact, I had planned on sprinting past the 1000 mile mark and putting in some nice trail runs this week. I have a shore-leave pass from work for the week, and don't have to return until Tuesday. Instead, I'm doing not much, it hurts to walk, especially down stairs, and I'm 2.5 miles short of 1000...

Here's what happened: I was stupid.

Okay, that's the Cliff Notes of the Reader's Digest version. What really happened is that I tried to deal with an issue by hoping it held out long enough that I could give it some down-time after hitting a goal. I've had a little niggling shin pain. By giving it just enough down time, and chopping my stride a bit, I was able to keep going for a couple weeks. But then I did something stupid, like trying to go too many days in a row, and still upping mileage. Last Wednesday I did a six-miler with Eric, and we both came away from that one hobbling (him with a calf issue, me with the shin).

Thursday, it hurt to walk. Now a week later, it hasn't improved one bit. I've been limping along for six days.

I went to a doctor this morning. That was an exercise in frustration. Ever had a doctor listen to half of what you say and then assume the rest? I don't know how many times I had to hold my tongue and THEN explain the rest of what I was trying to say. And I think she still got it wrong. But I got x-rays done (which was kind of my goal in the first place), which will either confirm or eliminate a stress fracture. I'm not going back to that doctor (who I'll refrain from naming, but my wife agrees with me). Ever. Unless I'm cut and bleeding and just need stitches. In other words, it'll have to be something obvious that doesn't need any explanation. Anyway... In 48 hours the x-ray results should be in.

And why the heck does THAT take so long? I've been to offices where they have the x-rays on a computer screen within five minutes and they're doing the diagnosis in the same visit. If only those offices weren't 45 minutes away. And if I'd known the fiasco I was going to have to go through this morning, I'd have bit the bullet and made the drive.

The location of the pain is on the front of the tibia and along the inside surface, below the attachments of the shin muscles. It's "fine" (just a dull ache) when I'm sitting or lying down, but walking, as soon as I get my knee forward of a neutral position, the pain is sharp. But I can dorsiflex my foot without weight on it just fine -- no increase in pain. Also, if I rotate my weight on my foot it gives sharp pain. Palpation gives a very localized (about two fingers width) area of pain only along the inside surface of the tibia.

The brilliant doagnosis? Shin splints. Which basicallly means shin pain (the literature she sent home with me said exactly this).

Um... isn't that what I said when I walked in? I'm glad insurance is picking up the tab for that bit of educated regurgitation. Next!

Anyway, I'm down for the week (the good doctor said 4 weeks). If it does turn out to be a stress fracture, it'll be more like six weeks. Which will knock out the first event I'd planned at the end of March -- the
Dash Point Trail Half Marathon. Oh well... There are more races. Farther in the future.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

A whole new level of shoe geek

Yesterday, I questioned my shoe geekism.

In fact, I don't even think "shoe geek" applies in this case. Something way beyond that was at work here. I'm somewhat in awe...

And a little concerned.

So here's how it happened...

I took an extra day of vacation so that I could spend the day with my wife and daughter, and we went into downtown Seattle to check out the gingerbread houses at the Sheraton, and to have lunch and play a while at
Gameworks. Driving from Puyallup to Seattle, we missed the driveway to the parking garage and had to go around a couple blocks (darn one-way streets). We finally parked in the garage on the same block as Gameworks at about 12:15, and as we exited the garage I saw all these people on the sidewalk in lawn chairs, wrapped with blankets and coats.

At first I thought it was some Occupy movement.

But as I got to the corner, I realized they were all in line to get into
Niketown. But the store was already open.

Seriously? I turned around and looked back, and the line stretched as far down the block as I could see. Everyone seemed to be smiling. Or else their faces were just frozen in a grimace. Did I mention it was cold? Well, most midwesterners wouldn't think that the 37 or so at the time was "cold". I had to turn back and take a couple pictures.

As I stood there with my phone poised to take the picture, I heard a van door open next to me. "Pretty crazy, huh? The line goes way down around the corner."

I turned around and there were four guys in the van. They were taking a shift in the van to warm up a bit. I asked what was up.

Huge grins: "
Jordans. The Retro 11."

"You mean you're in line to buy shoes?"

At this point I knew I among a different league altogether.

I had to catch up to my wife and daughter, who had gone on ahead to Gameworks to get out of the cold. We had lunch, played a while (my daughter really liked the motorcycle racing game), then went across the street to the Sheraton and went through a relatively fast-moving line to view the gingerbread displays. This year's theme must have been railroads. I liked the Island of Misfit Toys themed display, while my daughter and wife preferred the Harry Potter one.

Then it was time to head home, about 3:30.

They were still there. I stopped to talk to them a bit more. I met Justin, who was standing up at the time, but I recognized him as one of the gentlemen in the van earlier. He was in about 5th in line, very near the front.

"We've been here since about nine," he said.


"Yeah, the key is the heaters. You just can't sleep when you're all cold and shivering." I looked down and saw two large
propane heaters set up about a foot from where they were sitting.

Wait... SLEEP!?!?! "You mean you've been here since 9 yesterday?"

"Yesterday morning. Yeah."

I was dumbfounded. And after all that, they still had another eight hours plus before the store would re-open just for this introduction.

I looked over at their van, still parked in the same place.

"So that's your van there? Do you have to move it every once in a while?"

"Naw, the police kind of look the other way."

One of the other gentlemen whom I also recognized from the van earlier was there as well. "Yeah, they posted all these rules this time. Last time it was a huge mess, and they handed out numbered wrist bands and sent people away to come back later. This is much better."

I shook their hands and wished them well, and we went on our way to check out the
Clam Lights at Coulon Park in Renton.

So at midnight last night, they'd finally get their chance to buy up to two pair of Jordan Retro 11 basketball shoes.

At $200 each.

I'm not worthy!!!

Think we'll see lines at REI when the new Merrell Barefoot Road Glove arrives? Or maybe at the Born to Run store when the New Balance Zero line comes out? Midnight openings?


Hey Justin, I hope they had your size.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A call to sensibility

Some recent posts on other blogs has me a little concerned at the direction that some of the "more minimal" shoe genre products and advocates are taking.

Yesterday's post by Jason Robillard on the Barefoot Running University site was an absolutist stab at running form, telling runners to "stay off your damn heels". That's one loaded headline, and I think undermines his intent. In his post, he fails to make the distinction between overstriding and heel striking, something that has been discussed in depth and often on BeginnerTriathlete. Jason later admits in a follow-up comment that (1) it isn't heel striking by itself that causes injury, and (2) the whole point of the headline and post was to be "impactful", regardless of factual evidence and, I feel, BAD advice.

Jay Dichary has shown in studies that a heel strike in an otherwise non-overstriding running stride yields an impact profile similar to that of a forefoot or midfoot strike. In other words, the detrimental characteristic is where the foot contacts the ground relative to the body, NOT what part of the foot first makes contact with the ground. In Jason's effort to be "impactful", he gave bad advice by telling one to STAY off the heels. Recipe for calf and achilles injuries, that is.

The other issue I saw was Byron Powell's review of the Salomon S-Lab Sense (a misnomer if I've ever seen one) trail shoe. He describes the shoe made for Kilian Jornet by Salomon... 4mm drop, light weight, rock protection, sockless-running build... It all sounds great. In fact, it sounds a lot like many other shoes already on the market. Then the kicker -- $200 projected retail price.

What? $200?!?!? What makes this shoe TWICE as good as anything already on the market? I'm already having a hard time swallowing $100 for shoes that actually are... less. I don't buy the whole "research" costs. I believe that the shoe costs as much as they do simply because people are willing to pay that much. I think Skechers did a very smart thing by slotting their GoRun model at $80, the bottom of the minimalist shoe market range.

So I see these as troubling directions. Giving bad advice in the name of making an impact... sure, that's going to make an impact. One that will be detrimental to the movement. And pricing the footwear in the financial stratosphere isn't going to do anything to lure runners into giving more minimal shoes a try.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hot, sweaty, and estrogen-challenged -- Hot Yoga

I'll start by saying that I've done yoga before. Quite a bit, actually. But... I've never done a class. Yup, self-taught, from books and videos. Most of my yoga has been done in silence and with no witnesses. And it's been a while since I did it with any regularity.

My wife found a coupon for "30 days for $10" at Hot Yoga at The Edge near South Hill Mall in Puyallup, WA. This facility used to be a Bally Total Fitness before it went under (and I used to have a membership there so I could use the pool). Now it's a training center with a room for hot yoga.

We were going to go on Wednesday, but a hob-nobbing opportunity for Lucky Cause Sports came up, which netted us a free dinner, so we rescheduled.

I looked at their website, and was a little perplexed. They offered two types of sessions -- 90 minute hatha, and 60 minute "fusion". I thought "hatha" was the basic form of yoga from which all the others spring, and hot yoga is Bikram.However, this is not the case . "Fusion" is a more vigorous, more strenuous workout, but shorter.

We went for the 4:30 hour-long session of fusion yoga, arriving about 45 minutes before the class so we could sign our lives away and agree to not blame them if we keeled over. We were told we could go in the room and get set up first, which we did.

Now "hot" really is HOT. The room temperature is kept in a range of 98-105 degrees, and then they add steam. We were in the room for a while before class started, and I was just laying there, "letting the warmth soak into my muscles." Yeah, right. I was trying not to break into a sweat before we started.

The instructor came in and said, "All right you guys... Well, guys and ladies." It was then that I realized I was the only "guys" in the room. Guys, listen up: that may sound like a "target rich environment", but please, this is NOT the place. Really. Trust me on this. You'll thank me later.

We started with some basic mountain pose, then swiftly moved on to sun salutations (a little different than I learned, but they do vary). My wife, who had never done any yoga before, was a little lost. There was no real "instruction" in this class, you were just expected to watch and try.

Very quickly I was sweating. Most people who read my blatherings are runners of some sort, I would guess, and we know we're conditioned to sweat. It just happens as a byproduct of exercise, right? Well, I think I was the only one in the room with a constant "drip, drip" going on. Punctuated with occasional streams. Downward-facing dog was transitioning into full-extension push-ups as my hands and feet slowly slid on my sweat-slicked mat. I had to stop fairly often to try to dry them off. Note to self -- bring a bigger towel next time.

Check that. Bring two.

I did most of the routine, and what I found was that I was having to increase the rate of my breathing to keep up with the pace of the movements. For those who don't know, the breathing and the movements go together -- inhale when the movement opens the chest and abdomen, exhale when they're contracting. I think I would have liked a slower pace better.

At the end of the hour, we quietly shuffled out of the room. I lugged my now-five-pound towel... When we went outside, what had been "brrrr..." when we got there became "this feels nice" on the way out.

We went home and had dinner. And by 7:30 we were both ready to knock off for the night.

This morning... Yeah, I'm sore. I expected that. And dehydrated. I expected that too. Leaning over to grab the dogs' bowls this morning was an exercise in pain management. And I want a tall cold drink. And another.

Will I go again? Sure, I've got another 29 days paid already...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I couldn't sleep tonight, so I decided to get up and do... something. Beats laying in bed staring at a dark ceiling.

This is a "rest" week for me. If you look at the bar graph to the left, you'll see a three week build-up of training volume. And my left shin is starting to feel the miles. I haven't had shin splints since high school. In the late 70's. It's not bad, not stopping me from running, and I know I'll hit that 1000 mile mark well before the end of the year (I think I only have 35 miles to go). But it's time to see, and act upon, the trend and give my body some time to adapt to the stresses I've placed on it. And I've been waking up before my alarm.

We don't get stronger while we run. We get stronger when we don't run BECAUSE we ran. The adaptations require rest to occur.

So while I could go out and click off 6-7 mile days and my system could probably handle it, I've decided that this week will be recovery. Slower, shorter, more riding and less running. And it's been cold -- 20 degrees this morning when I left for work. Today's ride was "mighty chilly", which prescribed 4 layers up top, three on bottom, and two pair of gloves. Should have worn a hat under the helmet.

This also coincides with some extra effort on the race promotion front -- getting into the early stages of another event. This one will be a poker run, with four checkpoints at approximately equal distance from the start/finish. You run to all of the checkpoints and pick up a playing card, then go back to the start/finish to get your fifth card. Best hand wins. No set course -- you take what you think the best route is (without blazing new trails or running through some one's soccer or baseball game).

Fun stuff.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What do you hear when you run?

Running is one of those things where all your senses are involved. Sight (watch where you're going!), feel (feeling the ground, feeling pain), taste (one of my favorite responses to "how fast do I run a 5K?" is "you know when you're going fast enough, you can taste it"), smell (that amonia smell? that's muscle breakdown). But hearing... Hearing is the one that I think is almost as involved as sight.

I hear the taps of my feet as they make contact with the ground (something I constantly work on lessening), the crunch of gravel underfoot. My breathing. I hear cars approaching from behind. I hear wind in the trees, the snap of a stick. Some of these sounds change with the seasons. Damp dirt in the fall and spring makes almost no sound (unless it's the splash of puddles). Hard-baked dirt in the summer makes more noise as I land. Snow depends on the temperature -- if it's cold enough, it squeaks.

When I take my dogs with me on a run, I hear the padding of their feet, the soft clicks of their claws on pavement, the jangle of their tags. I hear Duke's breathing long before I hear Jake's.

Yes, there are all kinds of external noises happening all the time when running. One of the reasons I like running off-road more and more is the nature of the sounds. As in, "nature" rather than man-made.

But what about the things you hear on the inside? What do you hear when you unplug the iPod, tune out the cars and wind, and listen to what's happening inside you?

Quiet the self-talk. Quiet the worries about work, money, children.

In yoga, there's the practice of acknowledging those thoughts that come into your head, then letting them go. Do that. And listen.

Do you hear it? It's something that both accompanies and dictates the rhythm of your running. Not your cadence, not that magical but arbitrary "180" that so many people are striving to achieve.

It's something like a song, but not a song. It's something like a story, but not a story.

Something primal.

Being 3/4 Norwegian, I hear it as something like the war songs of the Vikings. Both a driving force for entering battle, and a telling of a life story. It reaches down inside and pulls up something that maybe you never knew was there. And each day, each run takes something from it, and adds something to it.

You'll probably know when you find it by the chills and the calm. It both excites and assuages. It makes you hungry and sates a hunger at the same time.

I'm about to head out for a run. I'm taking a letter that was delivered to our house by mistake, and putting it in the right mail bow (a few streets away), then heading... not sure where yet. But I'll be listening to that inner thing.

What do you hear when you run?

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's official -- Lucky Cause Sports!

I've alluded to some coming changes in recent posts, and the time has come to reveal what's going on.

You may have noticed on the Favorite Places list at the bottom of this page a new link to Lucky Cause Sports (also on Facebook!). Well...

It's official. Lucky Cause Sports is on its way to being a non-profit race promotion company. Last night was the first meeting of the board, with the ratifying of the needed documentation and election of officers. The next steps are to file the Articles of Incorporation with the state, and then file with the IRS for 501(C)(3) status for tax exemption.

Why? We wanted to use sports, especially running and triathlon, to mutually benefit the athletes and some great causes.

We have the experience of hundreds of races as participants, as well as having done the timing and race-day logistics for over 30 events in the last year, and also promoting/executing an event from conception to final accounting.

We've already got two races scheduled, with registration open. We're planning on having six to seven events for 2012, and even more for 2013. We're in the process of securing sponsorship both for individual races and the entire season, our first being Nathan Sports.

Our first event is on February 11th, a two-person relay where the runners start out at the same time, but in opposite directions on the course. When they meet, they do the exchange, then turn around and re-trace their steps back to the start/finish.

The second is a 4K/7K on April 7th (4/7... get it?) to benefit Corner of Love, a charity that gives aid to San Ramon, Nicaragua.

I know there's a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I think we have the experience and drive to make it happen.

You'll see more entries on this blog updating under a new subject "RD Life", on events and such, as well as some lessons learned along the way -- things that may help you appreciate what goes into making those events happen a little more. And who knows, maybe you'll want to put on one of your own some time.

If you're in the Seattle/Tacoma area, come check out the races.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chasing a number.

I'm coming up on 1000 miles running for the year. Five million two hundred eighty thousand yards. Fifteen million eight hundred forty thousand feet. Running. Does that sound impressive? I hope not.

For many, that's probably only three months' worth, or maybe even less. It's not that I think that this mileage number is so huge -- it's not. In fact, I remember even in high school being in the "700 mile club", where we logged 700 miles in the time between the end of cross country season and the beginning of track season.

No, I don't think that 1000 miles in a year is such a huge accomplishment.

But it IS a nice round number, and since I'm so close, it's become a little bit of an obsession. Yeah, another obsession. I need one of those like I need (another) hole in the head.

It's been a real joy getting to this point, though. From just two years ago thinking I wouldn't be able to run at all, to now going out for a weekend 10 (or almost 10) mile run. I'm enjoying the running more than I ever have.

With only 74 miles to go as of today, which averages out to 2.84 miles a day through the end of the year, it's pretty well in the bag, assuming I don't get injured. And that's a good thing -- I'm not going to be driving myself to do something I'm not ready for in the pursuit of some relatively meaningless number.

But how many times have I done just the opposite -- pushing myself to accomplish some some accumulation of miles, or some particular number of intervals, or some particular pace, to my own detriment? More than I care to count, that's for sure.

Sometimes it ended before I made it to the mental finish line tape, hobbling off with my head bowed, kicking myself for displaying the absolute hubris of thinking I could accomplish such a Herculean task before I was remotely ready. Sometimes I just ran out of sand in the hourglass, the day of whatever deadline passing me by, as it always will, whether I'm prepared or not.

This time, though, it crept up on me. I didn't even really notice how close I was getting until a couple weeks ago. I hadn't even looked at the yearly total. When I saw it, I thought that it was doable. I gave it a week, watching that daily-required-average slowly decrease without really having to increase my weekly mileage much at all. It still fit in with my slow increase gearing towards the half marathons next year.

I figure I'll pass that 1000 mile mark some time around Christmas. Yeah, Merry Christmas to me -- I made 1K miles in 2011. Being the only runner in the extended family, I'm sure no one will ask, and I'm not going to go around bragging about it. Unless my wife forces me to. Even then I'll just sheepishly admit that, yeah, I ran that far, and no, I'm not really crazy. At least not in the clinical sense.

And I'm sure I'll pass that mark well before this date next year.

May all your mileposts pass as easily.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Yes, you're in the right place...

I'm playing around with the look of my blog a bit -- different backgrounds, colors, layouts... But I'm keeping all the content the same.

There are lots of other changes in the works as well, which I'll reveal in the coming weeks as they develop.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A conversation with Altra

Just about an hour ago, I finished up a conversation with Brian Beckstead from Altra Footwear. Why would I be talking directly with a shoe company like Altra?

A little over a week ago, right after I had stopped by the Born to Run store and tried on the Altra Lone Peak, I sent Altra an email regarding
my impressions. They were very interested in talking to me directly, mostly wanting to ferret out whether the issues were of design, or maybe a manufacturing error.

Brian was in Boston, promoting the Altra line, and took time out of his schedule to call me.

So imagine a shoe company that wants to talk to you directly about the issues you have with a particular shoe model. Nike has never called me about any of their shoes. Nor Brooks, New Balance, or even Merrell (though I've had public conversations with Emily Snayd on the
Minimalist Runner forum). But Altra is that different, apparently, enough so that they wanted to really make sure they understood my issues.

We talked about the exact pressure point I was feeling in the shoe, theorized on why it was present, and in the end both determined that there really was no issue with the shoe itself so much as it just didn't work with my particular physical make-up, specifically the shape and prominance of my 5th metatarsal. Not a big deal -- not every shoe fits every one, and the Instinct works just fine for me. I had mentioned a comment made by another shopper in the store who said that the forefoot of the Lone Peak seemed very stiff. Brian said that the rock plate and midsole do seem stiff at first, but loosen up within about 25 miles, and the shoe flexes much like the Instinct after that point.

The conversation lasted maybe twenty minutes, and we talked about the shoe design, some of the changes coming up in that shoe (in particular the construction of the insole), and some coming models.

He said I'd be really excited about the shoe coming out next May. I asked, "You mean the Samson?"

He answered, "No, that's coming out in February. The one coming out in May, which is as-yet unnamed, will be essentially a pared down version of the Lone Peak." Hmm... A "more minimal" Lone Peak? Yes, I'm definitely interested.

If you haven't seen the literature that's stuffed in the boxes of Altra shoes, then you may not know that Altra is still planning on coming out with several more models. The Samson is much like the Adam, but with laces. They also have a "more minimal" version of the Instinct in the works.

So while the Lone Peak didn't work for me, as it seems I need a more pliant upper material along the outer edge, the company has one model, the Instinct, that works for me like it was custom made. And they have some exciting things in store.

Well, not IN the stores. Yet.

Stay tuned.

Who do I think I am?

A thread posted by Harry (HHH) on the Minimalist Runner forum yesterday gave me pause... The thread title was The Ultimate in Running by Feel, and in the original post, Harry said:

I also need to work on ensuring an easy run is easy. For me, when I'm at a 8:30 pace, for example, it's so easy to push to a 7:00-7:30 pace but I need to learn that's not the point. Yesterday, I listened to an interview of Brent Vaughn (former top runner at Univ. of Colorado and current elite runner) and he said on easy days he runs between 7:30 - 8:30 pace and this is from a guy that ran 13:18 5k back in college and debut a 1:02 half marathon. This reminded me that I have no business running 7:00 - 7:30 on easy days. I need to get back to that 8:30 - 9:30 easy running to save myself for the hard days. Brent went on to say, if you run faster than you should, then it's not an easy day and you pay later on.

And in a later reply, he said:

I did pause to hear Brent Vaughn say he ran 7:30 - 8:30 on easy days which made me laugh and ask myself, "who the heck do I think I am?" :). He went on to say that you may think a certain pace is easy and you are recovering when in fact you are not recovering b/c you are running too fast. Can you imagine a runner as talented as Brent running a 8:00 mile :) . . . so on our easy day, we could pass Brent on his easy day :) . . . now that's something to laugh about . . .

My training runs seem to hover around 8:00/mile pace, day in and day out, regardless of distance. And even when I push things up a bit, I'll drop way down to... 7:30. Yeah, that's called a rut. Sure, I race faster, and that's what race day is all about. But who the heck do I think I am running 8's on my easy day?

So today I ran easy. I held back. I worked my form. I backed off even more on the downhills. The result? 8:22 pace for 4.6 miles. Wow. SOOOoooo much slower (that's sarcasm there).

But along with that, I'll be doing a few harder runs that really ARE harder. Something that makes the 7:00 pace feel easier (and probably makes that 9:00 pace that much more difficult to hit).

So, yeah... With true elites going 8's on their easy days, who do I think I am to be running that on MY easy days?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When the student is ready...

It's been interesting these last couple moths... I have two co-workers that have caught the marathon bug. It all started when my lead engineer's kids ran the Chicago Marathon on October 8th. He flew back to Chicago to watch and cheer them on. I saw some of the video he shot of them coming by at about the 20 mile mark, all the pictures he took... Proud papa he was (and is).

But he also has said that he wants to do that run next year.

The other guy is a diabetic, though not overweight at all, Vietnamese import who loves to glom onto ideas. Enthusiasm is his driver. He said this morning that he thought of that marathon during every step of his three miles (on a treadmill) last night.

The "interesting" part is listening to them compare their training. It usually starts with one asking the other if they ran last night or this morning. Then I cringe as I hear about the aches and pains, the training philosophy (seems to be equal parts "no pain no gain" and "just run farther than yesterday"), and the self-doubt (on one's part) and Pollyanna-esque "no problem" (on the other's part).

It makes me wonder about just how much (or how little) thought went into the planning for this undertaking. Sure, there was loads of inspiration, and that's awesome. But what about some research into just HOW to make it happen, in a sensible way? I do what I can to inject some sense into their training and progression, adding checkpoints along the path to a marathon that's more than 10 months away, but the next day I hear the same things, and it's apparent that it just isn't getting absorbed.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

I think I'm coming to understand that axiom more and more. Because I see it in action beside me on a daily basis -- the teacher was always there, but until the student is ready to hear it, the teaching is just so much background noise.

It's very apparent that these two aren't ready. Hopefully it doesn't take an injury derailing their training at some crucial point (like too close to the event to recover) before their ears open up.

So I keep shaking my head in bewilderment, and offer what I can.

Who knows, they may just be able to muscle their way through it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post-race gluttony

This morning my wife, daughter and I volunteered at the Seattle Marathon and Half-Marathon, in the athlete recovery area. We were posted at the table with Gatorade and pretzels, and kept them stocked as the runners came in out of the wind and rain (though this year not so cold). Four and a half hours of filling dixie cups with salty crunchy goodness and stacking bottles...

I was the guy with his eyes averted toward the floor.

Not for any sense of shyness. I was looking at peoples' shoes. I saw a lot more in the way of minimal-"ist" shoes than in past years, and a very few minimal shoes. No bare feet though (but there was one guy I did have to ask, as he was barefoot in the recovery area). I think I saw 5 pairs of Vibram FiveFingers, a few dozen of the Brooks Pure line, countless Saucony Kinvara's, two of the New Balance Minimus Trail and one of the Road, two Merell Trail Gloves, and two Vivobarefoot Neo's.

And while it was interesting looking at all the shoes, what really struck me was the gluttony.

I've always been impressed with the running and triathlon community at large, in just how... conscientious... every one is. I've done hundreds of events as a participant, and dozens on the other side of the start (and finish) line, and in the vast majority, people take some free fuel to start re-filling the tank, and go about their business -- they don't pick the carcass clean like a vulture. Sure, there always seems to be that One Guy (and yes, men, it always is a guy), the one who loads up on all the free food, enough to feed a small family, and carries it proudly, like a trophy buck, homeward.

What I saw today, though, just seemed to erode my faith in my fellow runners. People asking for bags, boxes, anything with which they could increase their haul of plundered booty. And it wasn't just the participants, but spouses, kids, grandmothers... All holding bagels, Gatorade, Refuel (by Darigold - yum), bananas, oranges, fruit cups, cookies... It was pervasive. The percentages were FAR higher than anything I've ever seen before. It was like half the crowd turned into that One Guy.

I can understand that maybe the run could deplete some one to the point of feeling a need to horde up some grub so that they didn't faint on the drive home (as if there weren't a dozen Safeways or Fred Meyer's along the route). But what is the excuse for the non-participants? Do they not get that the entry fee of the people that actually RAN is what paid for all that food?

And an interesting note: Those that ran the half-marathon (and those that accompanied them) were FAR worse than those that ran the full marathon. We had to hold back a significant amount of food and drink for the later finishers, and were reduced to telling some people (who had already been by a couple times) that we were out so that we'd have something to put out later.

Maybe it was just that this race takes place three days after Thanksgiving, the traditional holiday of gastrointestinal excess. Maybe it's that the race was in a major city. I don't know. And I don't get it.

Something to think about at our next post-race refueling station. Maybe be an example. A good example.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving thanks.

A number of years ago, I was living on my own. My daughter was with me part-time, but not on this particular Thanksgiving day. I'd gone out for a run in Weyerhauuser, a wooded area close to the apartment I lived in, and was about 2 miles into a 5 mile run when I was just struck by something.

The morning was rainy, but not so bad as to be miserable. Light misting rain, a typical northwest happening this time of year. People in the midwest look at rainfall numbers and think it can't rain that much in the northwest -- total rainfall isn't that different. Well, it just doesn't fall as hard most of the time, just a constant drizzle. People around here really DO know the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny.

Anyway, I was trotting along a path that paralleled I-5, with a very large field separating the highway from the trail I was on. I looked over at the highway, people headed out for family gatherings, and just had this epiphany moment, thinking of how much we take for granted in this country, the birthplace of Thanksgiving.

The U. S. of A. has become so car-centric that it's oftentimes considered risking one's life to run or ride a bike on the roads. People in cars tend to have the highest degree of self-importance, insulated in their boxes from personal contact. "We" are trespassing on "their" roads.

Instead of being thankful for the privilege and responsibility of owning and operating an automobile on roads paid for by EVERYbody, they feel entitled to their share, and damned-be any one who slows down their forward progress.

And as I saw the throngs of people zipping by at the speed limit plus 5 (or 10, or...), I wondered... How many people are stressed about getting a dinner ready for SO MANY PEOPLE? How many are hoping that their crazy aunt doesn't start talking about that time when they...? How many people were telling their kids "we'll get there when we get there" with ever-rising blood pressure, dreading rest of the over-the-river-and-through-the-woods to grandmother's house? How many people are actually setting aside the day to actually DO what the holiday was made for? Giving of thanks.

It was Abraham Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, saying that we, as a nation, need to set aside a day to give thanks for the country we live in, the freedoms we enjoy, the resources we have at our disposal.

Enjoy the feasts of the day. Enjoy gathering of family and friends. Enjoy a run or ride, if you have time and opportunity. But also take a little time to give some thanks for being able to do these things.

I give thanks in this medium that I have the ability and resources to publish my thoughts, my health, at least enough that I can do the things I do, and that you all have given some time to indulge me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Altra Lone Peak -- not exactly what I was expecting.

I've got a bit of a soft spot for Altra, a new company on the running shoe scene with a lot of good ideas. The Altra Instinct is the first running shoe I've worn with PLENTY of toe room. In fact, they were comfy enough that I took them out for 10 miles the first time I wore them, without so much as a hot spot.

So when Altra had announced that the Lone Peak (see picture at right, from the Altra site) was finally hitting store shelves, I was on a mission to find them. I contacted Altra directly to see who in my area would have them in that first week. Turns out that shipping to this area was spotty, and when I called the particular stores, they didn't have them and didn't know when they'd arrive (one store thought that they wouldn't have them for quite some time).

So this past Saturday, when my wife and I stopped at the
Born to Run store, my main objective was to try on the Lone Peak, Altra's zero-drop (as all Altra shoes are) trail shoe. It differs from the Instinct in the toe cap, lateral material, and sole. The toe cap is larger and more substantial to protect from toe-stubs on rocks and roots. The sole has a much more aggressive tread, better in sloppy conditions, and includes a "trail rudder" (okay, I really don't see the use for this, but at least it doesn't appear that it would cause issues). And the lateral material is there for protection against sticks and rocks.

The rearfoot area of the Lone Peak differs from the Instinct in that it doesn't have the rounded edge. With a forefoot or midfoot landing, this is really a non-issue, though.

Altra uses the same last for both shoes, so one would expect that they would fit the same. And while they do have equal toe room, the small differences in the uppers make all the difference in the fit.

When I first slipped on the Lone Peak, same size as the Instincts I've put over 350 miles on, I immediately felt like my foot was hanging over the lateral edge. I took it off and looked inside. I noticed that the insole looked almost exactly like the "support" insole that came with the Instinct (and which I replaced with the "strengthen" insole immediately), and that it said "offroad footbed" (or something to that effect). And there were no other insoles in the box. So the Lone Peak only comes with the contoured insole?

I put the shoe back on, and just tried to "feel". Yes, the toes had plenty of room, just as with the Instincts, but I just couldn't get over that feeling along the outer edge of my foot. I felt along the outside with my fingers to pinpoint where it was coming from, and found it right where the middle yellow strap crosses under the grey reinforcing material. I tried it again with no insole, and it felt the same -- a pressure point right at the aft head of the 5th metatarsal. I think the layering of the material in this area needs some re-thinking, both in location and firmness. That reinforcing material is quite stiff, and will tend to force anything underneath to be pressed into the foot.

I looked at the upper, and it did seem like it was leaning out over the edge of the midsole slightly. I don't know if this is a quality control issue, or something to do with the stiff reinforcing material that is used for protection.

So, I put them back in the box, a bit disappointed. Sure, I'll get another pair of Instincts when the ones I have are near the end of their life. But the Lone Peak won't be a part of my shoe rotation, at least in its current incarnation.

I would urge you, though, to try them on for yourself. Your feet are not my feet, and these shoes may fit you just fine.

Altra is a company I hope survives and thrives in the running shoe market. They've got a lot of good things going for them, and I like their philosophy. They've committed to zero-drop, natural running, and I think as one of the front-runners in the market niche, they've got a lot of good things going by not running head-long down the path of pure minimalism.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Balance Minimus Road... WIDE!

As I stated in my last post, my wife and I stopped by the Born to Run store in Bellevue, WA, last Saturday. I tried on several pairs of shoes.

A little about the Born to Run store: This store is a minimalist runners go-to place for low- to no-drop, lightweight, and sometimes a little goofy shoes. Merrel Barefoots, Vivobarefoot, and Vibram FiveFingers are prevalent. They also have several other lines including offerings from New Balance, Inov-8, and Altra.

Today I want to specifically talk about the New Balance Minimus Road, particularly the 2E wide version. [Note: The picture below was taken off the Born to Run site, and is of the standard width Road Minimus.]

I had tried on the Minimus Trail and Minimus Road when they first came out. As is the case with many shoes, I really like several of the things going on with it: low 4mm heel drop, light weight. I already had Merrell Trail Gloves, so the Minimus Trail wasn't really on my radar screen for purchase. The Minimus Road, though, offered some cushioning in the way of a firm EVA midsole, and the under-cut heel, much better for road running (for me). Holding the shoe in my hand, I really wanted this shoe to work for me.

And then I slipped it on my foot. The rearfoot felt much like the most comfortable of racing flats I'd ever had, flexible where is should be, not harsh at the collar, lacing up snugly without having to cramp up the arch. The forefoot, though, is where things fell apart. Similar to the issues I have with the Kinvara, the shape of the toe box just wasn't working for me. I know they say the toe box on the Minimus is wider than normal, and that may be true, but the TAPER of the toe box is what killed it -- the inward taper at the little toes came too early, and combined with taper at the bog toe, it just pressed my toes together. I NEED TOE SPLAY SPACE! These may work for Tony Krupika (who was instrumental in the design of the shoe), but apparently he has a foot shape different from mine.

I heard that New Balance was coming out with a wide (2E) version of the Minimus Road, and looked forward to being able to try them on. I've had decent luck with "formal" shoes, going wide, as long as the heel isn't significantly wider than the standard D width. I hoped that the Minimus wides wouldn't have a wide heel as well. The day I'd stopped at Road Runner Sports and tried on the Brooks PureProject line, I'd asked if they had the wide model. Nope.

BUT...! When I asked at the Born to Run store, they said that the only New Balance Minimus shoes they have are the wides. Um... really? Let me at 'em!

So I slipped on the Minimus Road 2E width, and I have to say that it eliminated EVERY complaint I had with the D width model. My toes had plenty of room to splay, and I didn't have to cinch up the laces any more than the standard to get the rearfoot to fit correctly. It seems that the width was added in all the right places -- along the lateral edge of the toe box. I trotted around the store a few times with them on, and they felt unobtrusive, light, and firm underfoot.

While we were there, my wife picked up a Silver Strider magazine (I'm not quite old enough to be their target audience, but she takes every opportunity to rib me about it), and in it was a coupon for 10% off in the store or online. I thought I'd take a look around the 'net to see where the best deals were...

Well, it turns out that, aside from the New Balance site, the Born to Run store is the only place where the 2E width is available. But... you can't get them online through them, only in the store. [sigh]

So a shoe that I had written off some time ago is back on my "to do" list. It'll wait a little while before I add them to my shoe rotation, as my "shoe and race" account needs to build up a bit after adding the Skechers GoRun so recently.

If any one out there has written off the New Balance Minimus Road due to the forefoot, I'd suggest taking a look at the wide model. It may well remedy what was ailing about the standard width model.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A race, swimming, motorcycles, and shoes -- does it get any better than this?

So on our way home today, I was joking with my wife, saying this was about as perfect as a day gets.

It started with timing a race of a different kind -- a predictor race. Predict your time, run the course without watch, phone, music, or anything that would help you pace yourself, and the person that finishes closest to that prediction wins. The awesome part of this is that it isn't necessarily the fastest person that wins. ANYone can win. And in fact, it was an 11-year-old that won this morning, in her first-ever race. She was only 9 seconds off her predicted time. Amazing. And second place was only 9.4 seconds off.

With an 8:00 start time, it was clear and cold, and never thawed out until well after we left. We'd spent the night in a hotel nearby, and didn't have to check out until after the race, so we took some time to take advantage of the pool and hot tub to warm up and get a little exercise.

Next stop was at
Bellevue Kawasaki. I'm not a real motorcycle nut, at least not to the point of what I am with bicycles, but I do like them, like riding, and think often of my "next" motorcycle. Well, this shop is the only one in the state that carried MV Agusta. And let me tell you, those are some SWEET bikes. If only just the insurance wouldn't bankrupt me... I threw a leg over several bikes, MV's, Ducati's, and the more common Suzuki's and Kawasaki's. Sure, there were several that were drool-worthy, but none were bikes that I'd actually want in my garage. Ah me...

Lastly, we took a trip to the
Born to Run store in Bellevue. I'll write more about this, as there were several revalations that came out of trying on the various models, eliminating one that I thought would be a great shoe, and putting one back on the list that I thought I'd turned away permanently. We stuck around for quite a while, and I got into several discussions with the people working there and some of the customers about the shoes in the store, and also discussing the Skechers GoRuns. Yup, my wife gave me free reign to get my shoe geek on.

Yeah, today was a good day full of some of the best things in life...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ahh... massage.

Today, on my way home from work, I stopped by Northwest Advanced Medical Massage. My wife had gotten a massage there a month or so ago, and had pre-paid a visit for me. She'd been reminding me (several times) that I needed to go in for my massage before it expired... Today was the day.

I scheduled my appointment online, and two hours later I was walking in the door. The building is a recently converted health club. Their facility is spacious, nicely laid out, quiet.

Samantha was my massage therapist, who ushered me into the room and asked for specifics on areas that I thought needed work. We talked by a bit, then she left me to get ready -- undress as much as I was comfortable with, and get onto the heated table and under a nice warm blanket. I could feel the relaxation happening already. In a few minutes she returned to start working out the kinks.

She worked on my neck and upper chest first, then lower legs, then moved up to my back. LOTS of "speed bumps" there, though happily they were symmetrical (an important thing to an engineer). She finished up with some hot rocks that felt WONDERFUL. The time went by quickly, and before I knew it, it was 5:00 (I had arrived at 3:30).

Getting up from the table, I felt like "a cooked noodle". A little disoriented and limp. Ultra-relaxed. Which is good.

Their prices are reasonable as massage goes, they're friendly, and it's a convenient location.

I can see myself going back. And I'd recommend them to any one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meb's shoes...

Much was made of the fact that Meb Keflezighi was wearing Skechers GoRun shoes in the New York Marathon just a week ago, where he placed 6th in a personal best time.

Then in the next breath, the nay-sayers would opine freely that these were custom Skechers, not the shoes that you and I can (and in my case, did) buy in the stores.

Hey, the guy is one of... two? sponsored pro runners, and likely their paid guinea pig for every prototype. Of course he's wearing custom shoes!

But what is different about Meb's shoe from what we have access to on the street?

Well, I watched a post-race interview that was posted on RunBlogger, and in it he flashes the shoes he wore in the race past the camera a few times, as well as talks about them a little bit.

First, he SAYS that reason the shoes he wears are custom is because he has narrow feet. I'll be the first to admit that the Skechers GoRun is a kind of wide shoe. And that's a good thing. I like a wide forefoot and toe box. But if some one's foot were narrow? That could be a lot of slop for 26.2 miles at a 5:00 per mile clip (or faster).

Next, there's some obvious differences in the sole pattern. More "wear plugs" along the outer edge of the forefoot, and a large pod under the metatarsal heads rather than the small posts.

It's difficult to tell from the video, but it appears that there isn't as much build-up under the midfoot as the the GoRuns on the market. The heel looks to be undercut just as much, so it may just be an illusion from the perspective.

Lastly, it looks from this third video shot that Meb's shoes have a heel counter. My GoRuns have none, much like the Nike Free line. I like this feature, but I can't say that it's more comfortable than other shoes I've had with a heel counter. Maybe this is in answer to pressure from Nike, and maybe Meb just likes to have heel counters in his shoes.

Pundits will say that it's interesting how he took OFF his GoRuns right after the race, and isn't wearing them during the interview. Well, I gotta say I side with Meb on this one -- the GoRuns are great for running, but they're hideous for walking. Every heel strike in a walking gait feels like it's bottoming out. I take mine off as soon as I'm done running as well. And no, those aren't wheels on the bottom of his shoe...
The fact that Meb has some custom GoRuns on, and did as well as he did, speaks volumes to me about both him and the Skechers company. They're serious about the line, and plan to make some modifications for future models. And they're going to the right people for advice.

Note: Photos of stock Skechers GoRuns were taken from a Competitor Magazine article.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's been YEARS.

This past weekend, my wife, daughter, and I took a trip to Chicago to visit with family. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. There's never enough time on these trips to meet up with every one. But we also got to do a few fun things.

I ran Friday morning, 6.5 miles in freezing wind. I was under-dressed for what I'd normally wear. Weather forecasts... Never accurate enough. Anyway, it went well, but later in the day I noticed my left knee having some sensation, like clicking and popping, and it was starting to swell up a bit.

Runner's knee! Otherwise known as chondromalacia patella, or more recently known as patello-femoral syndrome.

Overnight, it got better, the swelling was down and the clicking wasn't there. I went out and ran again, shorter this time (not as much time available on Saturday morning), and it felt fine, but again, later in the day I could feel it. No swelling this time, but that same clicking feeling getting out of the car.

I haven't had this particular issue in some 27 years, ever since I went into triathlon training. Muscle imbalances in my quads were the culprit, with the vastus medialis (that tear-drop-shaped muscle that hangs just over and to the inside of the kneecap) being relatively weaker than the other three muscles and allowing the kneecap to track outward. Bicycling does wonders for keeping that vastus medialis strong, as long as you've got that bike fit right.

I haven't been riding as much as I used to, and coupling that with all the time sitting in the airport (we volunteered to get bumped 8 hours, which netted us $300 each in travel vouchers -- hello next vacation!), on the airplane, and in cars, and it was a minor perfect storm of circumstances.

Now, after a night at home and getting back into normal routines again, it feels okay. I'll run on it today and see how it goes.

I don't see this getting out of hand or knocking me out of training, but it's something I'll have to address and monitor. I'm doing my straight leg raises at my desk (no one can see me doing it), and dosing myself up on ibuprofen.

On another note, I'm closing in on 1000 miles running for the year. Considering that just two years ago I wasn't sure I'd be able to run again, I'm very happy with that. All I have to do is average 3.5 miles a day and I'll get there.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Altra Instinct, 350 miles later

I've had the Altra Instincts since early April, and they've become my go-to shoe for distance.

I've got 350 miles on them now (okay, 343 miles, but that's close enough), and it's been long enough that they've shown their long legs. I've rotated them with the Saucony Kinvara (now retired), the Merrell Trail Glove, and very recently the Skechers GoRun.

I surprised myself, as well as breaking every common-sense running rule, by taking them out on a 10-miler on my first wearing. My longest run in several years. Yes, they felt that good. And still today, they're the shoes that have the most toe room of any I own (including the TG).

Toe room has become THE yardstick by which I measure running shoes. Even shoes advertised as having a wider, roomier toe box have fallen far short of the better shape needed for real toe splay. The ball of the foot (where they seem to want to measure foot width via the Brannick device) is only one measure. And most shoes start tapering inward as soon as they pass the ball, squeezing the toes together. When I look at my weighted bare foot, my big toe goes out in a straight line from heel to ball to toe. It would seem that all these companies think the world suffers from bunions!

In any case, the Altra Instincts are, so far, the only running shoe I've tried on that truly solves that issue. My toes have full freedom in them.

[ NOTE: The only clean-up I did on these shoes was to scrape the dirt off the soles, as I'm getting ready to take them on a trip to Chicago.]

These shoes have worn very well. As you can see from this first photo, the uppers are showing little, if any, signs of wear. I've re-tied my shoes, tying a knot to isolate the lower eyelets (where I keep very little tension) from the upper eyelets (which keep the shoe on my foot just fine). I have always worn socks in these shoes. One time I wore socks that were short, sush that the top fell into the collar -- by the time the run was finished, I had a bloody spot on the back of my heel. The collar material is not so barefoot-friendly. However, it is robust.

I was initially concerned with the logevity of the sole. I've had issues with non-carbon-black soles wearing out quickly. I'm glad to say that is not the case with the Instincts. This photo of the bottom shows very little wear, and even that is only on, what is for me, the initial contact point of the shoe to the ground. In fairness, much of my running is offroad. My long runs are about 3/4 pavement (concrete and asphalt), so it's not like I've been doing all those miles on soft dirt and grass.

The insoles give a good idea of the amount of compression-set in the midsole. This is usually one of the weak points of any running shoe, where the balance is made between cushioning, weight, and endurance. Less give usually means longer life. I don't know what Altra uses for their midsoles, but it's holding up very well. I don't think I've had any other running shoe of this weight last as well. And many that were heavier in their midsole haven't lasted this long at all.

How long will they last? I have no idea, but they're not going to give up any time soon. Altra is an upstart company with a sound philosophy that has a hit on their hands, and I'd love to see them get a good foothold (haha) in the market.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Skechers GoRun, maiden voyage

Just got back from my first run in these shoes. It was a 5.3 mile route that I take routinely, which has a mix of just about everything -- pavement, gravel, rocky hard-pack, grass, dirt, hills...

The shoes felt great. My pace was consistent with my effort for the loop, and right in my normal range.

One of the biggest issues I've had with most shoes is the width of the toe box. As in the TOES, not the ball of my foot. These shoes have enough room, and the upper material is flexible enough that it doesn't inhibit toe movement. They also have a very light feel, both in the hand and on the feet.

I did notice on steeper downhills that when I shifted my foot strike to the heels, they felt like they were bottoming out. Heel strikers beware.

The only other issue was that the sole picked up a couple little rocks, and when I got onto (wet) pavement, my left shoe sounded like a frog croaking with each footfall, until I popped the rock out of there.

In the longer term I'll be able to evaluate how the shoes wear, and also will give them a go sockless. They're seamless inside, but with the temps at 40 degrees with some rain, I didn't feel like going there yet.

These shoes will definitely have a place in my rotation, along with the Altra Instinct and Merrell Trail Glove.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sold on Skechers, thanks to my wife

You know it's love when your spouse helps out with your obsessions...

Last night, we went out for dinner and drinks at Duke’s Chowder House. It was a benefit night for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is supported by BuDu Racing. A fun time, good food (lobster chowder,mahi mahi tacos), and 3 rounds of trivia (we got 2nd in the first round, then basically sucked from that point on).

After dinner, we looked at jewelry, then decided to make our way back to the car inside the mall (it had started raining -- a lot -- while we were in the restaurant). And what would be right there at the intersection of the walkways? A Skechers store. I'd used the store locator on the Skechers site (which needs a LOT of help), and Googled store locations, and got two Kohl's stores and one JC Penney, which I figured wouldn't have the GoRun model. And I got some info from some one on the "inside" that the model wasn't available until the 6th... Yeah, only 4 days away.

Here's the thing -- I'd never thought of Skechers as a serious athletic shoe company. Come on, Shape-Ups? But then a couple months ago they announced that Meb Keflezighi was their new shill for this GoRun model. Then I heard Deana Kastor was getting pulled in. I heard that they'd lured in some designers from Nike. Wow...

Anyway, my wife encouraged me to go in and look. I didn't mention to her that I wanted to check them out, she just knew... Okay, she reads my blog. She must really love me.

So we walk in, and there are multiple color variations of the GoRun model sitting on the display. I'm amazed. I pick one up... and it's LIGHT. Racing flat light. I ask to try some on.

Now the toe box on these shoes has a bit of the shape of the New Balance Minimus, where the big toe sweeps inward past the ball of the foot. I was a bit worried. I slipped on a size 10.5, and it felt good. The upper is very flexible, so it doesn't push on my toes. Plenty of room at the little toes, and just enough at the big toe with the material flexing. As I'd read in other reviews, standing in them felt strange -- they're built with a rocker midsole, so there was the feeling of falling back on my heels. This strangeness went away immediately when I started running in place in the shoes, and felt completely natural once I got moving, even at a slow pace and the limited distance I could put on them in the store.

Just to be sure, I tried on an 11, thinking that it would just give me more forefoot room. What I found was that it didn't feel more roomy in the toes, but felt kind of sloppy in other areas. I went back to the 10.5, and it still felt great.

The sole looks much like a combination of a next-generation Nike Free coupled with the New Balance Minimus Trail. Any judgements on longevity will have to wait until I've got some miles on them.

The tongue is sewn up both sides, so that's one less entry point for dirt/debris when running off road. And there's no heel counter at all, which is good.

I was sold. At $80 before tax, they slip in nicely at the bottom of the price range for the "more minimal" running shoes. My wife's first choice of color was out in my size, so I went with the charcoal grey with orange midsole color combination. There was also cobalt/white, red/white, black/white, blue/black (my wife's first choice), and light grey/white. The only color combination I didn't see was the yellow/black that I posted earlier.

Oh, and each pair comes with two sets of laces so you can match either color on the shoe.

I mentioned to the salesperson that I really wasn't expecting them to have the shoes because of the availability date I'd been given. He was surprised, and said they'd had them for some three weeks already. Apparently they're part of a select few store in the nation that are in the test market.

My maiden voyage in them will likely be tomorrow, as today is slated for a bike ride.

As we made our way to the car, I remarked at how my wife understood my running shoe obsession. Her reply? "It's not so much that I understand it, just that I accept and encourage it."

Yup, that's love.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dawn of the Dead Dash

What's with kids these days?

I'll get back to that later.

First, my wife and I decided to spend our Halloween a little differently this year. Instead of staying home and handing out candy (or going out with my daughter while she collected variations of the SAME candy from the neighborhood), we went into Tacoma dressed as zombies to do the Dawn of the Dead Dash.

It sounded like a lot of fun -- run a 5K at night through an urban area, with a loosely defined "course", checking in at a few must-stop check points to get a card punched, all while avoiding getting tagged by a various and growing "zombie horde" along the way. Almost like an adult version of tag, except that when you tagged some one and they became "it", you were still "it".

Seems simple enough. The zombies weren't to be released until 10 minutes after the start, we weren't required to follow the most direct course (it's an urban scramble, after all)...

It tuned into the biggest disappointment of the year for us.
Basically, if you read the website, just turn everything on it upside down and you'd have what the event actually was.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. We got our zombie get-ups done, and left the house before even the first kid came to the door begging for "trick or treat" (smell my feet). We left a large bowl of candy outside the door, and the front lights on. Getting to the race site at about 6:20, we waited in the car 'til 6:30 for the 7:00 start.

We got checked in, got our punch cards (complete with our thumb print -- I joked that it was so they could identify the body, should some whacko decide we were REAL zombies and shoot us in the head), got course maps, programmed in the checkpoints into our cell phones, and waited. And waited. Then we went outside and waited. And waited some more.

Start line instructions... Once you were tagged, you surrendered your glow stick necklace to the one who tagged you, and then your "only" job was to tag as many people as you could and collect their glow stick necklaces. Oh, but you still had to hit all the checkpoints. Are we seeing a problem yet? Oh, and we had to obey all traffic laws.

The actual start was around 7:35, which in itself wasn't SO bad, as they had over 100 people register at the event. Didn't help that they didn't even open up registration until 6:40. Anyway, the first checkpoint was only .2 miles into the course. Since the zombies weren't going to be released for another 10 minutes, we could get there and punched and be on our way safely.

And this is where things started to really fall apart. Just past half-way to the first checkpoint, I saw people sprinting into the street, crossing the road in front of cars. Yup, the first zombie had appeared at the only point of the course where you had nowhere to go (except the road). We managed to get by this first
one, and dodge another just into the checkpoint, which was a major bottle neck (as I knew it would be). As we left this checkpoint, my wife was tagged immediately. She told me to go on ahead.

I had one guy whip me with his glow stick and declare me tagged. I just kept running. A couple blocks later, two guys split and covered the entire way. I tried to rush them, but still got tagged. Oh well. I handed over my necklace and looked around. Not many people around me, and they'd all been tagged already. So I knew my "job" was pointless, and just ran anyway. At least I could get a nice fast run in tonight.

Most of the people then had no idea where they were going. One guy saw my phone and decided to follow me. Unfortunately (for him) it didn't last long as I left him behind.

Checkpoint two, and I had to tell two other people I'd already been tagged.

Checkpoint three was an out-and-back that would have made ambush all but a certainty.

Checkpoint four was along a waterfront trail, again ambush would have been easy, had there been any one else nearby.

The fifth and final checkpoint was on a hill. A steep hill. A reduce-your-pace-to-almost-walking hill. And it was surrounded by about 8 zombies. One of whom tagged me in the stomach with a big bloody handprint. I almost turned around and gave her a good "tag" myself, as it was clear that the event was meant to insure no one made it through the course "alive".

The last half-mile continued up the same (eternal) hill, then turned a corner and finished where we started.

In the "first after-race party" we were treated to a beer (which I gave to my wife -- I hate beer), and the RD was there at the tap. We discussed some of the issues we had with the event, and I'm not so sure any of it soaked in. He had a "well, we had to..." for everything. Partially, I don't think he had a clue. But the highlight of the evening was seeing Jesus (Nathan) drinking a beer. Apparently he's done several events dressed this way, including Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. He had to be fast to keep warm last night.

All the way home, we were discussing the event. I think almost the entire race budget was spent on the website, which is actually quite well done.

This event could have been a lot of fun. If any one there is listening, try this: Actually use the rules that you publish. And maybe only have your "staff" zombies out on the course, and not make it into an ever-increasing horde. Make it at least possible that one could make it to the finish line "alive".

Oh, and that bowl of candy that we put out before we left? My wife and I made a bet about it on the way home. I figured that it wouldn't even be there. She said it would, and would still have candy in it (I figured the candy wouldn't last 5 minutes). So the break-point was whether the bowl was there, even if it was empty. And the loser makes dinner tonight.

I'm making dinner tonight. What's with kids these days?