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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

That's TIGHT!

A brief conversation at work this week opened up an idea that I've discovered on my own, and just didn't really think much about it being something in which other people could be interested.

The conversation was with Eric and Josh, and we were talking about shoes, in particular the New Balance Minimus Trail. Josh had found a deal on Botach for the MT10 at $50, but he had never tried minimalistic shoes before. He wanted something thinner for trail running. Eric, after already putting some miles on his Minimus Trails (he said he did a 12 miler in them, mostly on the road, just a couple weeks ago), was speaking with the voice of experience on this particular model. I've got a few miles on my Minimus Roads, and a lot more in general in minimal shoes.

Anyway, Eric mentioned something about lacing up his shoes tight enough, and it made me think of something. I've noticed how, with toe splay being more of an issue for me, I've preferred to leave the lower one or two eyelets loose, tying a knot in the laces to that they only tighten in the upper few eyelets. I did this with my Saucony Kinvaras, my Altra Instincts, my Minimus Roads, and also one of the developemtnal shoes from Skechers. Also, I've noticed that with the more minimal shoes, the more flexible they are, the looser I can tie them without rubbing issues.

Stiff soles make shoes want to stay in the state in which they were manufactured -- flat. And that flatness wants to react with the ground one way -- staying flat.

Heel strikers have great issue here, when the shoe wants to flatten onto the ground immediately on contact, and you want it to stay conformed to your foot. This is why shoe manufacturers put in that extra set of eyelts at the top, so you can cinch the rear part of the shoe and make it stay placed on your foot.

At the other end, toe-off makes your foot want to bend at the ball, but the shoes don't want to bend. In order to keep the midfoot of the shoe from pulling away from your foot, you have to tie the laces tight.

But I've noticed that the more flexible the shoe is, the less tight I need to tie the laces while still retaining that secure feeling. My Merrell Trail Gloves, in fact, I can walk around in with them untied completely and they don't move on my feet at all. I've never tried running in them that way, and I have no plans to do so, but I suggested to Eric that he try tying his shoes just a little bit looser.

Tight can be a good thing.

But not necessarily for shoe laces.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What ever happened to TPing a house or something like that?

This is a bit of a rant, so if you're not in the mood, hit the "Back" button and go on with your day.
I just spent the last three hours cleaning vome viruses off my computer. And really, even at this point I'm just ASSUMING it's cleaned, since the laptop is spinning away smoothly in non-safe mode. Seems to me that safe mode would be the default... But I digress.

I read up on the particular virus I had, and it seems that it comes in pieces from various sources, and when it finally is all there, it pretty much locks things down. Up pops a display for Security 2012, it starts a scan, telling you that you have all manner of viruses on your computer, and says you need to start the clean-up process.

And what is that process? Why, buying their security software, of course, to the tune of $60 for the lite version (1 year). Well, guess what? That IS the virus. And it's just trying to dupe you into clicking the "buy me" button which starts the process of identity theft and credit card fraud.

Okay, I get it. There are some talented programmers out there with too much time on their hands, too much caffeine, and apparently no scruples. One could assume that this starts in the teen years.

What ever happened to TPing some one's house, or for the real miscreants, a flaming bag of dog poop on the doorstep?

But at least it's Friday, I don't have to go to my day job early in the morning, and it's done and cleaned (knocking on wood as I type).

I may be getting to the point in life where "get off my lawn" is my catch-phrase, but seriously, can't you braniacs put your talents to better use?

And I'd like to thank the folks at
MalwareBytes for the free scanning software and the very clear instructions for cleaning up the mess.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another great review of the Skechers GORun

Bourbon Feet posted a great review of the Skechers GORun today, and he's also giving away a couple pairs of the shoes to some lucky folks.

Check out Bourbon Feet's review here.

I found that his findings mirrored my own very closely.

It's well worth a read.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Once A Runner...

I just finished reading a great book today: Once a Runner, by John L. Parker, Jr.

Written in 1978, this book is by far the best, most accurate glimpse into the psyche of the runner who strives for the pinnacle of the sport, not to go long, but to go as fast as humanly possible. The protagonist, Quenton Cassidy, is a miler for the ficticious Southeastern University in Florida on a quest to break the 4 minute mile.

One chapter in particular struck me. Cassidy is reflecting on the questions that are invariably asked by the ignorant masses at large (and I don't mean ignorant to be derrogatory -- it is meant only to mean some one who doesn't know).

Chapter 17 excerpt:

Quenton Cassidy's method of dealing with fundamental doubts was simple: he didn't think about them at all. These questions had been considered a long time ago, decisions made, answers recorded, and the book closed. If it had to be reopened every time the going got rough, he would spend more time rationalizing than training; his log would start to disclose embarassing information, perhaps blank squares. Even a self-made obsessive-compulsive could not tolerate that. He was uninterested in the perspective of the fringe runners, the philosopher runners, the training rats; those who sat around reading abstruse and meaningless articles in Runner's World, coining yet more phrases to describe the indescribable, waxing mystical over the various states of euphoria that the anointed were allegedly privy to.

On the track, the Cassidys of the world eat such specimens alive.

Cassidy sought no euphoric interludes. They came, when they did, quite naturally and he was content to enjoy them privately. He ran not for crypto-religious reasons, but to win races, to cover ground fast. Not only to be better than his fellows, but better than himself. To be faster by a tenth of a second, by an inch, by two feet or two yards, than he had been the week or year before. He sought to conquer the physical limitations placed upon him by a three-dimensional world (and if Time is the fourth dimension, that too was his province). If he could conquer the weakness, the cowardice in himself, he would not worry about the rest; it would come. Training was a rite of purification; from it came speed, strength. Racing was a rite of death; from it came knowledge. Such rites demand, if they are to be meaningful at all, a certain amount of time spent precisely on the Red Line, where you can lean over the manicured putting green at the edge of the precipice and see exactly nothing.

Anything else that comes out of that process was by-product. Certain compliments and observations made him uneasy; he explained that he was just a runner; an athlete, really, with an absurdly difficult task. He was not a health nut, was not out to mold himself a stylishly slim body. He did not live on nuts and berries; if the furnace was hot enough, anything would burn, even Big Macs. He listened carefully to his body and heeded strange requests. Like a pregnant woman, he sometimes sought artichoke hearts, pickled beets, smokled oysters. His daily toil was arduous; satsifying on the whole, but not the bounding, joyous nature romp described in the magazines. Other runners, real runners, understood it quite well.

I've noted a distinct characteristic of competitive athletes at the pointy end of their chosen endeavors -- a willingness to unquestioningly do what needs to be done. There isn't any consideration given to bargaining with the price of a task, it is merely something that must be endured, another stepping stone across a raging river. To do the task is to make another bit of progress toward a goal of excellence; to do otherwise is to be swept away in a torrent of mediocrity. There is no second guessing, no long contemplations of ways to make the task easier, to find a short cut. And this willingness tends to spill over to other areas of life as well.

If you haven't read this book, I urge you to do so. If you're a competitive runner or triathlete, I doubly urge you to do so. And maybe leave it lying around for your loved ones to read. Maybe the book will help you to explain to them the whys of what we do. Let them glimpse into our inner workings.

Apparently this book has also been made into a movie. I'll reserve judgement on that when I see it, but I have a hard time believing it will give anywhere near the insight into the inner workings of the competitive runner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just two short weeks away - Altra Samson!

This morning I had an email from Altra Zero Dop, stating that the Samson/Delilah is available NOW for pre-order for March 1st delivery.

Wow! That's the second model that Altra has introduced this year (the Provision/Provisioness being the other). The Samson is in essence a lace-up, slightly beefed up version of the Adam. Using the same sole as the Adam/Eve, and adding a mesh upper, laces, and 3.5mm of A-Bound midsole. The insole is optional, and measures in at 3mm thickness, for a total stack-up of 10mm, same as the Merrell Trail Glove.

I tried on the Adam some time back, and while it was comfortable, the forward strap seemed to potentially be in slightly the wrong place. Changing to laces, and adding only a slight amount of midsole could make these about as perfect of a minimalist shoe for me as they come. The last shape of the Altras fits me better than the Merrells, and with the 10mm total stack-up, and the flat sole (possibly much like the Road Glove), on-the-road comfort should be maximised.

Altra has been coming on strong in the year they've been on the market, and they've still got a few more things coming in the future. I wish the boys from Utah the greatest of success. By all indications, they've got as great things headed their way as they've been giving us runners.

(NOTE: Image copied from the Altra Zero Drop site.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

But can he run?

The triathlon world has been tossing the question around since Lance Armstrong's FIRST retirement from professional cycling of whether he's had his eyes on the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

Funny thing -- Lance was a triathlete before he was a bike racer. And he was pretty damn good, too. As a brash seventeen year old, he was mixing it up with the top pros of the day: Mark Allen, Mike Pigg, Jeff Devlin. I remember reading about he and Chuch Vuylupek (Chuckie V, known for fast riding on a Softride, and a spiked mohawk, won the only half-Ironman race I ever did) when they went to the training camp for the national cycling team... They'd get in trouble for sneaking out of the camp for a swim or run after the team training, when they were supposed to be resting.

Anyway, the speculation kept on, in spite of several comments from Lance himself to the contrary, that he was going to do Kona, that his sights were on the Big Daddy of triathlon.

When he did the New York Marathon in 2006 at three hours, the triathlon world again sat up and took notice. But his three hour time... They thought he'd lost his running legs during his pro cycling career. When he came back the next year and took over 13 minutes off his New York time, it became a different question: Can he do that off the bike?

I mean, we KNOW he can ride.

He entered a couple off-road triathlons.

And then word leaked out that he was doing Ironman Panama 70.3... I'll spare my rant about the whole numbering system used on the WTC races (a subject for another post entirely). The buzz again was that he had his sights on Hawaii.

Well, yesterday he served notice: Game on, he's on his way.

Sure, Ironman Panama 70.3 is at an odd time of year, and the pro field wasn't all that deep. Most of the pros are looking toward the summer season in the northern hemisphere. Lance's swim kept him near the front, and he rode smart, leaving him the strength to run at his best. Only Chris Lieto (one of the fastest bikers in the sport) bested his ride time, and that only put him five seconds ahead going into the second transition. His 1:17 half marathon was very solid, and speaks well for the smart effort. The only person who could run Lance down was Bevan Docherty, arguably one of the fastest runners in triathlon.

Not a bad debut. Or re-debut, more appropriately.

So the question has been answered. Yep, that old guy really CAN run.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This week is one of patience. After almost a week out of the boot, and doing some decent walking, I'm itching to get running again. The leg is behaving nicely, so far, with the only tweaks being when I threw a ball for the dogs at the dog park yesterday afternoon. I guess the twisting motion didn't do me any favors.

But I'm being good, being conservative, and waiting. And waiting...

My last PT session is tomorrow.

My first run is scheduled for Monday.

And I've got a new pair of shoes waiting for me...

I've already got almost a full year of run progression mapped out, and I've played with numbers for over a week... Paying attention to the percent increase from one week to the next, making sure that the long runs aren't too great a percentage of the full-week mileage total, making sure there's a rest week every month... And tracking the total for the year.

I know I was oh-so-close to 1000 miles for 2011. I'm not going to obsess over it this year, but I'm also going to surpass that in 2012 well before I got so close in 2011.

I've been walking over at least most of the routes I plan to start running on next week. One-point-five miles, four times in the week, for a total of six miles... To say I'm looking forward to it would be a vast understatement. It's been seven weeks since I last ran. Just a few more days...

The hard part will be making sure my enthusiasm doesn't overcome my conservative plan.

I must be the only person in the world with that problem. ;^)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Is the shoe marketing process broken?

Jason Robillard posted today about why there aren't so many casual/business casual minimalist shoes on the market. In that post, he talks about the process a shoe goes through from design to store shelf.

And in that process, I saw a short-coming: creation of demand is too late in the process for the good designs to survive. Meaning, by the time wear testers and bloggers are released from their fetters, the stores have already ordered their stock for the year.

Here's the process as outlined by Jason:

1) Shoes are designed by design teams.
2) Shoes are wear tested by select people.
3) Changes are made based on wear testing.
4) Samples are made and distributed to sales representatives that take orders from shoe buyers at retail stores.
5) Shoes are distributed to bloggers, magazines, etc. for reviews.
6) Shoes are manufactured, distributed, and sold to the public.

Jason points out that step 4 is the critical step, as this is what determines what we have access to in the stores.

And this is where I see the problem! Not that step 4 isn't critical -- it most definitely is. But it shouldn't be 4. If people were coming into the stores and ASKING about the shoes before that step, they'd already know there was a demand for a particular model.

I'm a blogger (duh!), but I'm also a wear tester (as are several other bloggers, notably Pete Larson at
Runblogger). I'm constrained by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which prevent me, under threat of legal action, from talking about the products that are under design and testing until I'm instructed by the company that I'm allowed to do so (but I will say this -- they ARE cool!). And where do we usually hear about these shoe models first? Yup, blogs, magazines, etc...

What if there were modifications to those NDAs that allowed us to talk about the shoes BEFORE step 4? What if we were allowed to break the news to the public and create the demand, and move the potential customers into the stores to ask THEM to stock the models? Wouldn't the stores be more likely to stock the models that they knew ALREADY HAVE the demand?

So, shoe companies, are you listening? We LOVE these shoes, we LOVE to write about these shoes, and we HAVE an audience! Let us do the marketing for you!!! Let us create the demand before the stores place their orders.

So here's a question: If you heard about a shoe that you'd like to buy (or at the very least try on), with the knowledge that you could influence the stores to stock those models, would you go in and ask them about them? Post a comment and let me know.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another N=1 experiment on minimalist shoes

As I was doing my lunchtime walk yesterday, Eric passed me while he was doing his normal lunchtime run (and yes, he was doing his best to rub it in). We talked briefly, and then I sent him on his way so he didn't get too cold (temps around 44 degrees).

The trails and service roads around the property have been devastated by the recent snow and ice storms (the snapping trees and branches sounded like the 4th of July), which effectively leveled a good portion of the alder and cottonwood trees, and the subsequent partial clean-up by front loaders that have reduced what's left to a sloppy, muddy mess. Most of the off-road options are gone for the time being. Not so much an issue for me, as I'm not running yet. But for Eric, it's quarantined him to the roads around the plant.

I noticed that he was wearing his New Balance Minimus Trails, and remarked that he was wearing them on the road. He said that he definitely notices the lack of cushioning versus his other shoes (Pearl Izumi Synchro Fuel and Iso Transition), and finds himself running on the grass more often (something that he didn't do with his Pearls).

But as he was running away from me, I noticed something -- his foot strike was very flat, almost to a midfoot strike.

He's been working on his running form for a while now, upping his cadence and bringing his footstrike under his center of gravity, but even in doing so, he's maintained a heelstrike. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying a heelstrike is bad, given that the other already-mentioned aspects are in line. But Eric has stayed with higher-drop shoes, the Pearls being in the 10mm or more neighborhood. And the wear pattern on his shoe tells the story: the outer back edge of the heel was taking the brunt of the landing.

And here he was, with nice smooth midfoot landing, just cruising along... He wasn't even aware of it. I pointed it out to him later, and he was quite surprised. Does that make this a blind experiment?

Maybe it really IS the shoes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Booting the boot

Today is a day of freedom. Freedom of movement. Freedom from the confines of the most rigid, most un-stylish, and most non-minimal shoe I've ever worn. And I've worn it all too often in my life. I think this makes five times...

Today, I gave the boot to the boot.

Yup, I'm back on my feet, though not quite running yet. I'm going to give myself another week to get the left leg back up to snuff before I start running on it.

Tuesday's physical therapy session went very well, and my PT found something interesting -- he said that what I was feeling during certain movements (mostly on a sideways push-off, like cutting right off of my left foot) was much like the lingering effects of a high ankle sprain. He put a single wrap of tape around my leg, about one inch above the malleoli (the protruding ankle bones), and the "pain" went away. I put pain in quotes because I can't really classify it as pain, but it was sensations that I felt were headed in that direction, in the same location as I had felt it before.

And the tape... About 1.5" wide black Physio-Tape. I'm considering adding a little box to the outside and telling people it's a prison tracking device.

Okay, maybe that isn't such a great idea.

So anyway, I rode my motorcycle in to work this morning. Just above freezing, but that's not so abnormal, as I ride in any weather not raining or icy. Though fog can be an issue.

But I'm FREE!

And looking forward to taking a walk at lunchtime.