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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Merrell does it again, and again, and...

I wish I were in Jason Robillard's position -- getting to see first hand, touch and pick up, maybe even test, the new offerings of coming shoes before they hit the market. He spilled the beans on Merrell's 2012 line-up in his post for today. And I've got to say... It looks beyond promising. And there hasn't been a hint of the coming line on Merrell's website.

Was Merrell listening when I wrote
my piece on what I'd like to see changed in the Trail Glove? It would seem so, not so much that they've changed the Trail Glove, but they've introduced new models for next year that have addressed every issue I have with these great shoes.

First up is the Road Glove, which looks to have done away with the massive undercut at the 5th metatarsal, and filled in the area under the lateral arch. Goodness.

Next is the Edge Glove, which shares the above features with the Road Glove, but is a casual-oriented shoe (and would become my every-day shoe if it is available in black).

And the Rapid Glove looks like Merrell's answer to the Vibram Five Fingers, just without the individual toe pockets. Made as a water-sports shoe, this may become a favorite among those running in wet climates (uh... Seattle?).

Good news indeed.

Shoe lust all over again.

Jason... I'm jealous.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A step or two back to move forward

I've had my smart phone for a couple weeks now, and I've been having a lot of fun with some of the free games. One of the more simple, but addicting ones is Mr. Weiner, a game where you move different shaped objects around (latte cups, milk cartons, hamburgers, and corn on the cob) out of the way so that Mr Weiner (a hot dog) can move off the board. One of the things I've found is that most often, when Mr. Weiner isn't at the left-most column (he exits to the right), usually you have to get him there before he can move right.

He has to move backwards first in order to move forward.

I made a comment
a few weeks ago, when I first got back to running after the calf strain, that I was going to ditch the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon because I didn't want to push myself too hard and re-injure myself. Well, one week ago tomorrow, I did JUST what I said I wouldn't do -- I went out to test myself over 7 miles, and paid for it. My calf didn't give me the stabbing pains as it does on initial injury, it just got progressively tighter and more painful, and no amount of stretching or massage would get it to relax.

And in the aquathon on Wednesday, I had a minor tweak, and was able to keep my form together enough to finish the 5K, but my calf locked up after the run, and it wasn't until well into Thursday that I could even walk somewhat normally.

So I'm having to take a step or two back with the running, time off (though I'm still biking and swimming), to let it heal. Maybe I'll do the aquathon in two weeks as my first run. And that may be the only running I do for a while. Because I do want to move forward. I haven't given up on the idea of the half marathon, I've just realized it isn't going to happen this year.

Likewise, in a more global sense, there's a need to take a step or two backwards in order to move forward.

Jason Robillard, in his
post from today, talked of keeping the message of natural, bareform running as simple as possible. Taking a step back from advanced ideas. And I dare say that the "analysis paralysis" that seems to be taking the expert field by storm, fueling the arguments for and against, are heading down a bad pathway. Footstrike, impact force transients, feel vs float... I just know that I'm more comfortable running as I do. And I am getting more and more amused all the time as the shoes I prefer to run in seem to resemble, more and more, those that were available when I first started running distances, back in the late 70's. I took my old Nikes to the belt sander today in a second stage of modification, making them more... simple.

One step forward and two steps back?

More like two steps back in order to enable a thousand forward.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

First-time events

Last night was the Seward Park Aquathon, a 1/4 mile swim, 5K run event (basically a sprint tri without the bike). First time I've done one of these, and as much as I like biking, I think I could really grow to like an event like this.

The event itself went well, though the lead-in was a bit stress inducing -- I didn't get to the race site with my gear until 15 minutes before the start time. I made it to the line with a couple minutes to spare.

The swim was great, thought the course may have been a little long. Regardless, as we all do the same distance, whatever it is, it really doesn't matter. Measuring a swim course has GOT to be difficult. GPS will only get you so close.

The run... Well, I knew I was going to have to balance speed with my calf blowing up on me, so I kept the stride rate very high and tried to keep the calves ultra relaxed, with no push-off. Just before the one mile marker, I felt a little stab in my calf (JUST as I was passing a guy), and had to stop to stretch it, and tried to massage it a little. I passed that mile marker in 7:20... From that point on, I just kept concentrating on relaxation and high cadence.

Finished what the course said was 5K in 22:23, for an average of 7:13 per mile... Wow. Unexpected. And good enough for 1st in my age group.

After the race my calf just locked up.

So I'm thinking I'm just going to put running on the shelf for a couple weeks (yeah, the next Aquathon is in 2 weeks...) and see how it feels.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I think I'm cursed, or something...

Maybe I should stop signing up for races... Though it's only two data points, I'm noting a disturbing trend in my legs related to signing up for events -- I tend to get hurt the day after I sign up.

Okay, really with this go-round, I'm not totally sure what's going on. I mean, I know it's the soleus muscle, the same one I strained a few weeks ago... And I know I probably shouldn't have done over 7 miles on it yesterday morning... I managed to get through that by going really slow and altering my gait to try to keep from stretching it. It's more than just "sore" from workouts. That kind of pain goes away with a warm-up.

I stopped to stretch and massage it, and it just kept getting tighter and more painful.

And during the Warrior Dash, it felt fine. But I was also running very slowly, and walking a lot (much of it wasn't "runable").

So that whole "run every day" thing I was thinking of... Well, I made it a week.

My wife told me that the RD for the aquathon series may be canceling the first event. That could be a good thing for me. It's in two days. I might be able to do it anyway, if I can get the muscle relaxed and stretched out (and run with that altered gait). We'll see.

And Eric seems to have the same kind of thing happening. He was supposed to do an Oly tri on Saturday. On Thursday, he twisted his ankle on a run, and a doc visit said he'd torn some ligaments and chipped a bone. He says he's going to have to be "down for the count for a couple weeks".

Friday, July 15, 2011

Swimming and running...

Just yesterday, I signed up for a series of Aquathon races. There are a few reasons that's kinda funny.

First, just a couple years ago I was in an "I can't run" situation, battling a long recovery from foot surgery, and a subsequent issue with my ankles -- every time I went more than a couple hundred yards I'd get stabbing pains in my ankles that would last for days afterwards. I was volunteering at some of the BuDu Racing events, and had brought up having Aquabike divisions. They entertained the idea, but I kind of passed it off, thinking I'd be about the only one in that division.

Second, I haven't really done ANY swim training. At least not in a long while. In fact, the last real swim training I did was last summer in August, leading up to a 5K open water swim, then spotty training after that to get me through the Bonney Lake Olympic tri on Labor Day weekend. Since then... I've been swimming twice. Okay, three times if you include the play-swimming we did in the salt water pool a few weeks ago. Fortunately, the real swims I've done were both open water, in the wetsuit, and went very well. I know I'll make the distance in spite of not training for it.

Lastly (and though this isn't really a reason that signing up for these races is funny, it's just kind of funny in itself) is that they have a blank on the registration form for an estimated completion time for the course. Okay, that makes a LITTLE sense, as the races start at 7:30 in the evening (Wednesdays), and they tell people right up front that they need to be able to finish by 8:30. There's a swim cut-off time as well (25 minutes for a quarter-mile swim). I put in a time that I figured I could do even if the wheels fell off entirely. I put in 35 minutes. I figured a 25 minute 5K is doable after even an 8 minute 400m swim, with 2 minutes for transition. Most likely solid mid-pack. But it'll be fun.

So with those 4 races, it made sense to buy the annual USAT membership.

Maybe I'll have to do one tri this year just to make it more worthwhile...

And I wanted to give a quick shout-out to Eric, who's doing the Chelan Oly tomorrow. Good luck! And I hope your foot is doing better.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Laughter and overthinking

Hear that sound? That's me laughing at myself.

So just two days ago I posted about the Warrior Dash, and contemplating the shoes I'd wear for the event...

I had asked my wife what shoes she was planning on wearing. "I thought I'd wear the ones in the garage."

Oh... yeah... OLD shoes. Ones for which she truly doesn't care what happens.

So that sent my thoughts in a whole different direction: how about looking at my OLD shoes that I wouldn't care about? I've got a couple pair of those still. And I remembered seeing something about having shoe donation barrels there... Why not just donate the shoes after the race?

I'd been seriously overthinking it. And I really have to laugh at myself.

That pretty well sealed it. I think I can tolerate the course in those old shoes.

Monday, July 11, 2011


The run today was one of incongruities.

I wrote earlier that I'm exhausted from the weekend -- two races timed/volunteered, both some distance away. Lots of time on my feet, and toting equipment around. Bad sleep, from having AC units kicking on next to an unfamiliar bed, to just plain short nights.

My original plan was to run 6 miles at lunchtime, but not press the pace. I figured that my legs were somewhat rested from no running all weekend, and keeping the pace reasonable would be prudent given how tired I felt.

So I started off easy into the partly cloudy and 65 degree mid-day. I really didn't feel like I had any snap, but my form felt pretty good. I just cruised along, and re-evaluated at just over 3 miles whether I'd continue. I pushed on, wanting the 6.

I could feel it warming up, knew I was pretty dehydrated (the race mornings don't lend themselves well to keeping up on water intake), and just eased up at about 5 miles. Having to concentrate on keeping the calves relaxed, I backed off even more. I just didn't feel strong, but my form was still holding well.

On the last hill, at 40 minutes, I mentally gave in and stopped to walk a bit. I turned around, making sure I didn't walk any distance forward on my course. Got back to the same point, restarted the watch, and pushed the rest of the way in... stopping the watch at 48:01. For 6.02 miles. Just under 8m/m pace.

So now I know why I wasn't feeling strong -- my pace was "high" for the distance, and I didn't feel like I was pushing the pace at all, but I really was.

Incongruity. When the run is "fast", even when it doesn't feel like it.

The coming weekend, and streaking.

After a weekend of race work, which saw ferry rides, long-ish drives, early mornings, and even a movie with my daughter (in which I miraculously stayed awake), I found Monday morning staring me in the face. Time to go back to work. I feel like I've been on a full weekend binge, exhausted, and I didn't even run. Wow...

Coming up this next weekend? Only one event, one I get to run in instead of run. And it starts at a civilized hour!

On Saturday: Warrior Dash, North Bend, WA, noon wave. From what I've read, it's more mud bath, with brief forays out of the mud to crawl over some man-made barricades, followed by a party. Not so much a race. Which is just fine with me. But which footwear to use? Hmm...

I'm a little torn on this...

One: The Merrell Trail Gloves, because they'll fit best, are least likely to be sucked off my feet in the mud (though from what I've seen, it'd been pretty soupy and not the shoe-sucking variety). They'll stay light, and should drain easily.

Two: The Saucony Kinvaras, because they're old and at the end of their useful life. Meaning I won't have much heartache if they get completely ruined on the run.

Both of these shoes will let the muddy water in pretty easily, though.

I'll make the final decision later this week.

On top of that, I think I'm going to start a "run every day" program, beginning with 30 days. A "streaking" phase, for lack of a better term (you all probably thought I was talking about something else). All it entails is running some every day. Making a streak of consistent running days. As little as one mile qualifies, and I may be doing some of that in the later evening hours. My calves are behaving, and I'm thinking I'm near 100%, or at least very close to where they were before the strain. With two 6-milers last week, I think I'm ready to start stepping up the distance again.

The jump in frequency leads to an increase in mileage and trains recovery.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Now we're strong AND smart...

I remember an old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where there was this race of... whatever they were, and they would scavenge things needed to keep their ship in repair... "We collect things. Things that make us go."

Well, they stole some weapons... "Now we're strong."

Then they kidnapped Giordi LaForge... "Now we're strong AND smart."

So... My wife wanted an iPhone 4 for her birthday. She's with Verizon, and has been for some time. I've been with Nextel, then Sprint, for some time as well. But we figured out that we could get smartphones with data plans for the same total that we're paying together now. Both our plans were coming up for renewal this month.

Verizon kind of forced our hand a little early by announcing they were doing away with their unlimited data plans as of... yesterday. We (okay, SHE) hurriedly made all the needed calls, got my company discount applied, and ordered the phones (I got the Droid Global 2). They should arrive today.

I know I want to use the phone for navigation (I'm HORRIBLE with directions), and would like to use it for route tracking when running and riding. I can't use WiFi at work. All this added up to needing the unlimited data.

But I have no idea what I'd want to use for tracking and such. Which apps?

So... Calling on the users of such devices, what say you for the usage of these devices for running and riding, and the apps you use for tracking? Drop me a comment.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Triathletes and old people

On a ride with my friend Eric yesterday (while he put the screws to me -- my biking endurance not what it should be), he mentioned how he had gone to the YMCA to swim that morning, and how the pool was almost empty, except for the old people.

So this was the morning of July 4th, the previous evening having sounded like I was in a war zone for all the booms and screams of fireworks well into the night. WELL into the night. Much like the community party that we'd witnessed on Saturday in Sunland Estates, people were beyond willing to celebrate all weekend. Meaning the roads were pretty empty (in fact they were very empty well into the evening). Hard to get up early on the-morning-after-the-night-before.

So who gets up early? Yup... Triathletes and old people. People for whom it's more difficult to change the sleep schedule, or maybe just unwilling. Priorities and all that. Those who want to get the training in before family time, and those who were raised on Ben Franklin's "early to bed and early to rise" mantra.

And the parking lots at work this morning were pretty empty as well. Fireworks and celebrations taking precedence over saving the vacation time. The haze of smoke still hung in the air as I motored my way into work, like a bluish fog. I could smell the remnants of gunpowder...

The day is going to be warm. My mind is on my run coming up in about an hour. The haze still hangs. It should be fun. Me and the old people...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Baffled, chapter 2

Yesterday, my wife and I timed a 5K in Sunland Estates, a little community on the way to the Amphitheater in George, WA. We were very impressed.

This was also a first-time event, put together by John and Sandy Case, that threaded its way through the little community, right along the Columbia River. Sunland is tucked away out of sight of ANY major thoroughfare. In fact, if you weren't consciously headed there, you'd probably think you were about to drop off a cliff into the river. I rather imagine it was founded by some one who saw a little flat spot along the riverbank from their boat and thought, "This would be a great place to build a house! But how the heck would you get there?"

Here's what impressed us the most -- John had 200 race numbers, and we were arriving the night before the race with some extras "just in case". Well, it's a good thing we did, because by the time the evening was over, he was at 210 regitrants. That evening saw the entire town in celebration mode, with much drinking, live bands in the park (which entertained the entire community), and people out all night.

On race morning, we set up the race site at the park (there is only one), battled the wind that kicked up about a half-hour before race time, and when it was all said and done, there were 192 official finishers.

One Hundren Ninety Two. In a tiny communit. After an all-night party. A first-time race. With a normal entry fee. And no support from the community council.

I refer you back to my earlier
Baffled post, where the Army Strong 5K managed to draw 54 runners and walkers from what I believe is the second-largest city in Washington. For a FREE event.

I blows my mind.

John and Sandy put on a first-class event, with finishers medals, trophies, T-shirts, and a great spread post-race.

I just want to know how he got the entire town to show up for the race.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let's declare some independence.

What do we depend on?

There are some basics. Gravity to keep us from flying off this spinning ball, of course. An oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. Food and water...

But what other things are we dependent upon for our daily existence, maybe things we don't even think about? Cars or motorcycles or bikes to get us to the places we need to go. Incomes from our employment or businesses.

How about the things we depend on for our runs, rides, swims? Shoes (for some of us), clothing, a venue for such activity, a bike.

When the colonies declared their independence from an oppressive English government, they were casting off things which held them back from living their lives as they saw fit. Things which were dictating their existence in a way that made life untenable.

So what is the "oppressive government" that is getting in the way of living your athletic life as you see fit?

What are some of the things you could declare independence from that would take your training where you want it to go?

Drop a comment and let me know.