Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why I run: Expectation

Sunday, March 3, 2013 - I ran my first 20 miler.  Mark it down...

I didn't know what to expect, but I was expecting that endorphin rush, cloud nine sort of experience that keeps a guy heading back outside in the cold of late winter in NW Ohio.

Here are a few things I did know.  First, I knew that it would be very mentally challenging to do the bulk of this run by myself on a point to point run on the single-lane country roads that weave through frozen corn fields.  One's mind does cover a lot of ground in 3 hours' time.  I was fortunate enough to connect with a fellow runner with about 4.5 miles left who gave me the mental boost and pace pick-me-up that pushed out a nice time 3 full minutes under my time goal for the run.

Second, I knew I had nothing to worry about gear/nutrition wise.  I sported a pair of Saucony Virratas (reviewed here), a Camelbak Delaney belt (didn't wear the bottles on the back of the belt), and my CEP calf sleeves.  My trust Garmin 110 would keep me on task too.  I had about 6oz of homemade Gatorade, a gel, and a recovery drink to drink while waiting to be picked up by the rest of my family.

Third, I knew that the last hunk of the run would be the most challenging, and I also knew that those would be the miles that my body would be forced to accept.  My body responded well, it did what I asked it to, and that was great.

That endorphin rush?  Nope - never came.  I guess the good thing is that I know what my body will feel like post-marathon.  It will hurt :)

I hurt in spots I have never felt post-run soreness before.  My shoulders hurt, my triceps hurt and my deltoids were on fire too - it was nuts.  I have to say that it was due in large part to the fact that the last handful of miles were all arms and legs.  I got cold - chilled to the bone - once I stopped.

I did learn something though.

I learned I could do it, and I learned what it would take to meet my goals.  Frankly, I was hoping that the lesson would be more fun.

It wasn't...

Truth is that the lessons that teach us the most, generally aren't the most fun.

Gear Review: Saucony Virrata

Saucony is at it again.

They're making shoes that I love.

I currently have about 300+ miles logged in my Newton Distance, and I remember having this thought when I bought them - "I'll never find a shoe that I love this much ever again."

That is until a pair of Saucony Virrata's came to visit.  It all started so innocently too.  I put the Virratas on to get a first impression of the overall feel of the shoe - not bad, not bad at all.  My initial impression was that even though they were Saucony's latest addition to their natural line-up, were a 0mm offset, and had their upgraded Pro-Grid midsole (all of their cutting edge accouterments, really) is that the Virrata actually feels like a shoe.  It certainly doesn't feel like it had that much going on.

Score one for the Virrata.  My Newtons (reviewed here) or Skechers GoRun 2 (reviewed here) are really fantastic while running, but have some challenges when walking around.  The running shoe life cycle in my house goes like this - major miles, minor miles, walking/being on feet for a long time, casual, yard work.  So, a shoe that feels like an actual shoe is a big deal for me.

And now, after 50+ miles in, the Virrata nearly tops my 'best shoe ever' list.  Here's why:

The shoe just feels simple.  The upper is super breathable and really hugs my foot nicely.  I have long and narrow feet, so any of the issues with toebox crowding that I've read about really haven't been an issue for me.  I also noticed that after my first 5-10 miles, the upper relaxed to accommodate what my foot wanted to do naturally.  The lacing hugged my feet well, and the fit around my ankle was exactly what I like, and while I would not categorize the fit at the ankle to be constrictive, it's locked in pretty well, and the shoe becomes an extension of the body pretty easily at any speed.

The 0mm offset of the shoe is really complimented by the 18mm stack height in both the front and rear of the shoe.  The Pro-Grid material found in the midsole of the shoe combined with the intelligent stack height of the shoe create a ride that is comfortable, supportive, and (for me) gives the perfect amount of protection and ground feel.  If you take a look at the picture above, you'll see an area of black outsole rubber on the heel and a bit on the toe (colored red).  If there is one drawback to the shoe, it's the lack of outsole rubber in the potentially higher-wear areas of the shoe.  The Pro-Grid midsole material (above shown in green) makes up about 90% of the outsole of the shoe, and after 50 miles in my Virratas, there is a good amount of noticeable wear.

There are some pretty deep grooves present on the bottom of the shoe.  After Friday's run of about 13 miles, I spent the first few minutes at home picking small stone out of them.  Last Sunday's 20 miler - same thing.  I found the rocks, picked them out.  There are some advantages to the deep grooves as well.  This increases the amount of flexibility in the shoe, and there is a distinct feeling of the foot really grabbing the ground you're running on.

While my Newtons are threatening to give me a big eye roll, in my opinion, this shoe is the most capable shoe that I've ever run in.  It has proven to be both responsive and comfortable at any speed.  I've run sub 7" miles in them and I've run easy (9"/mile) in them - in both instances, bliss.  That being said, I view this shoe a little more like a nice bottle of wine or a nice single malt.  As much as I love these shoes, and I do love them, I'm having a hard time seeing them as an everyday shoe at the 40-50 miles per week that I'm currently running.  This is, again, due in large part to the head-scratchingly small amount of outsole rubber in high strike areas of the bottom of the shoe.

I find myself wanting to run endless miles in this shoe, but I also find myself wanting to savor it and save it for the marathon lurking just 6 weeks away.  There is little doubt in my mind that if I made the Virrata into my daily trainer, I'd be looking for a new pair in another three weeks or so.  At this point it's worth mentioning that Saucony has done something pretty smart here - while it is their newest shoe, the price point is a modest-for-a-new-shoe $90.

Finally, the Virrata just looks cool.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I like my shoes to not only feel awesome, I want them to look awesome.  They feel great, look fast, and feel fast.

Bottom line - I love this shoe so much that I want it to be my everyday trainer, but I don't see them holding up to the miles that I have already seen me be able to get out of other shoes in the stable.  However, the Virrata has more than earned its spot in my rotation.

**special thanks to Pete Larson. at for providing these shoes - they were provided free of charge as media samples directly from the manufacturer

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why I Run: There's Always a Lesson

I fit the bill of the average blogger.

I get inspired, I collect some thoughts, and I write them down.  I know that very few people have the opportunity to earn a living doing what they are truly passionate about, and I also know that when people have the chance to do what they are passionate about, those passion areas of life can help to inform and give a wider context to circumstances.

This is the place I found myself today during my morning run.  I have a group of friends of different skill levels  and speeds that I take the opportunity to run with as often as I can.  Generally, the meeting spot is about 2.5 miles from my house, so I leave my house early enough to meet up with the gang, get the group run in, and head the 2-2.5 miles home.  All things being equal, my training pace is faster than we usually run while together but there are too many opportunities to experience life and conversation on the 5ish miles in between my runs too and from to stop running with these folks.

Like other bloggers I am also gainfully employed elsewhere.  While I dream dreams of running, writing, writing music, and making red wine for my vocation, I still sit in my home office staffing/recruiting and fitting runs and writing around my job.

Some days I feel great - some weeks I feel great about my quality of work.  Some days I don't feel so great, and some weeks I don't feel great about my quality of work.

I'm currently coming off of a dud.

My amazing wife can always tell when I'm in need of quick check in.  She sent me a quick email today, and it just simply said, "How are you doing today?  I can tell you're a little bummed with your recent performance at work..."  I told her that things were getting better, but I need to do a better job of dusting myself off.  Then I thought about this morning's run - an 8 miler that had a little bit of everything in it.

  • Mile 1 - 7:45" my favorite, my 'Garmin' mile, and it's always slower than I feel like I'm running.
  • Mile 2 - 7:10" - had to bust  out another quick mile out to meet the group on time
  • Miles 3-6 - 8:46", 8:58", 9:05", 8:38" - slower than normal, but nice for a run with friends :)
  • Mile 7 - 7:46" - picked it back up to get home
  • Mile 8 - 7:38" - cruised into the driveway.
  • Overall pace - 8:11/mile
In my email response I said, "It's a lot like this morning's run.  I saw glimpses of my best and my not-so-good, but if I take the time to look at things overall, across the span of time, my "goods" have outweighed my "not-so-goods"...

...and there are always more miles to run...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Out of the Box: Saucony Kinvara TR

New to the stable is the Saucony Kinvara TR.  So far, this relative to the much beloved Saucony Kinvara has the same shape and the same 4mm offset of the road Kinvara, but based on my visual inspection and wear around the house (hey, what can I say?  I need to get new gear on my feet ASAP) that's pretty much where the similarities end.

The TR is almost like the quasi-granola cousin from Boulder that the rest of the Saucony family sees once a year...but I digress...

The TR's upper is made of Saucony's Flexfilm which hugs the foot nicely, and fits the bill of my biggest criteria - that being that the shoe feels like an extension of the body rather than something you wear.  My foot shape (long and narrow) also allows me to get away with the narrower toebox, but it's worth mentioning also that I had to size up to a 10.5 from my normal Saucony 10 (Mirage and Virrata most notably) for the most comfortable fit.

The outsole of the shoe features a moderately aggressive lug pattern, and the under-foot outsole rubber feels very grippy to the touch.  The front 2/3 of the shoe also showcases a carbon fiber foot plate (present in the green colored triangles in the photo below) that is visible and exposed when looking at the sole of the TR.

The one thing, in my opinion, worth mentioning above all else lies in the ankle collar of the shoe.  Present are two memory foam pods that hug the Achilles area of the foot.  Frankly, they look kind of like areas you could squeeze like the pronounced orange basketball on the tongue of a pair of circa 1992 Reebok Pumps, and then cover your eyes Dee Brown style and jump across ravines.

Okay, so, not quite -

However, it is the first pair of shoes I've owned with foam pods in the ankle collar of a shoe, and with snow and ice on the way later in the week, I may have the chance to get them out for a few miles.  I don't suspect they'll ever be worn for runs longer than 20 or 25K on a trail - which is precisely why I went with them over the Brooks PureGrit 2 or the Cascadia.  I do have a running buddy from So Cal that is also a big fan of the Saucony Peregrine, but he uses them for distances of 50K or more.  I don't see that kind of distance in my immediate future.

With snow on the way, I do see getting out in the Kinvara TR's and looking forward reviewing them right here.


Final Word: Skechers GoRun 2

I have now run 50 miles at different speeds, and I'm ready to give my 'final' verdict regarding the Skechers GoRun 2.  (If you missed my initial reaction regarding the GoRun 2, visit it here.) In a few words, I found them to be a pleasant surprise, very fast, and very responsive.  The final piece of the puzzle was a nice, long run to really get a feel for the ride.

After a handful of easy miles this past Friday, I went out for a worthy test on Saturday.  I had a 19 miler slated for my marathon training regiment and, given how they performed on the Wednesday previous, I decided to take them out.  My training buddy, Brian, declared the choice to be 'brassy', but I was feeling confident.  I picked up Brian about 5.5 miles in to the run leaving a solid 13.5 miles to finish up.

My goal wasn't speed for this run.  I wanted to fully experience the ride, and have a negative split for the run.  Missions accomplished. (Thoughts on the ride are below - 2:30" negative split from the first 9.5 miles to the 2nd.)  The first hunk of the run aligned exactly with my previous experience - a quick, somewhat liberating ride that I felt in control of the entire time.  I waited and waited for the front half of my foot (especially the ball) to get that worn, tired feeling, and it never did.

Right about mile 8, I started to notice a strange ache in the top of my foot.  At the time we were maintaining an 8:30 pace, and I had to run down my mental checklist:  Form? Check.  Crown of the road?  Not an issue.  I did notice that my right foot, as I experienced on an earlier run, was running out of the shoe.  We kept going and took a quick, proactive gel shot at mile 10; I noticed that the ache was growing from dull to a bit more sharp.  I could have kept going, but, to me, it made more sense to take 30 seconds and check the lacing to be safe.

Good thing too, because it was evident that I was running out of the left shoe as well, and while the tongue in the GoRun 2 is primarily sewn in, there is a small flap of the tongue that had folded under on the outside of my foot.  A quick fix and a re-tying job and we were off again.  While I wasn't 100% comfortable, we kept on going.  I started to hypothesize that since I've found these shoes to be tough to walk in because of the mid-foot bulge, perhaps I would find a bit more comfort if I picked up the pace.  So, we quickened from 8:30 to 8:10 (by the last 3 miles, we were at sub 8's).

By the time we were done, there was no discernible discomfort that I could categorize as anything more than what you could expect by doing a 20 miler.  We arrived at our destination (I had planted my car the night before), loaded up, and headed back to town.

Final thoughts:
  • The GoRun 2 is a great shoe for going fast.  Not really a mileage base or recovery shoe for me.  For me to get the most out of the shoe, I've got to be at about a 7:55 pace or I risk a foot strike that doesn't really jive with the shoe.
  • In my opinion, there are a couple of flaws with the upper of the shoe.  First, the collar around the ankle is pretty low in comparison to the other shoes in my stable, and it doesn't really grab the foot as much as other shoes such as the Newton Distance and Saucony Mirage.  I think it contributed to my 'running out of the shoe'  That issue could be handled by lacing the shoe differently, but, I wasn't able to figure it out after 4 runs in the shoe at different distances/speeds/paces.
  • At 50 miles, there was no visible wear to the sole of the shoe.  Seems to me that the out sole durability is capable.  Admittedly, I expected the high-density pods (the orange dots in the picture below) to be pretty resilient, and the others to be less so, but everything looked great.  All of the pods allow the out sole of the shoe to remain flexible and responsive for the instances that you need it to be. See the pod arrangement below:

  • Maybe the biggest surprise to me was how comfortable the entire bottom of my foot was after nearly 20 miles.  No soreness after the run to report.  I can't say the same thing after running half-marathon distance or further in my Newtons.  The balls of my feet felt tired and a little beat up after a longer Newton run.  Skechers get high marks from me for overall comfort even if the ride was a little inconsistent at times.
Overall, I could probably run my upcoming marathon in these taking into account all of the data I've gathered  over my first 50 miles in them.  They are a remarkably quick and responsive shoe that I would think for most runners would be a nice choice for quicker runs of 10 miles or less.  Intermediate or advanced runners that have a firm grasp of their form and efficiency could reasonably expect to do well in this shoe for runs of 10+ miles - perhaps even a longer distance racing shoe.  The GoRun 2 offers a reasonable amount of protection, and, at the same time, really is a fun shoe in which to log miles.

**This pair of Skechers GoRun 2's were provided by Pete Larson from as a media sample direct from the manufacturer.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rapid React: Skechers GoRun2

Yesterday, I had my first opportunity to go for a spin in the recently released Skechers GORun 2.  While it will be be another week or so before I get 50 miles or so in them, I thought I'd share my initial thoughts.  It was a great day to give them a proper tussle as I was in line for a 2-a-day speedwork/threshold day, so I'll talk about the two runs separately.  But first - the shoes:

My practice generally is to put new shoes on, dink with the lacing, and wear them around the house for a little bit to bond with the shoe. One thing was noticeable right away - the midfoot bulge.  Admittedly, this was the exact thing that turned me off from the Go Run 2's older sibling, but I had read & seen enough to know that most have agreed that the bulge is not awesome for walking, but is decent, if not nice, for running. I reserved my judgement, and boy I'm glad I did.  If I hadn't, I would've missed out on one of the most fun days of running I've had in a while. (special thanks to Pete L. at for providing these shoes - they were provided free of charge as media samples directly from the manufacturer)

As a regular Newton wearer, I know that shoes built for running don't always cut it for other uses.  I also am aware that some shoes are designed for a particular kind of footstrike, and the Go Run 2, in my opinion, would fall into that category.  So, admittedly, me being picky about the midfoot bulge is a little hypocritical - I'll own that.  Here are the parameters of my AM workout:

1 mile at 7" 6 X 2" intervals with 2" of rest between.  Intervals were at 9 mph and rest was at 7.5 mph.  Finished with 1 mile at 7:15" with some light jogging to cool down.  5.7 total miles in.

Almost immediately I noticed that the heel cup and collar around the ankle was lower than I was used to (more on that it a bit), so it felt almost like a racing flat.  As reported, the midfoot bulge was completely a non-issue almost immediately, and I felt fast.  This particular workout is a 'go-to' speed workout for me, so I've done it in my Saucony Mirages, Newton Distance, and now the Go Run 2, and if I had to describe the things felt, I would say it was one of the most liberating runs I've had in a while.  With Newton's lugs, you  have to constantly be aware of your form and footstrike.  Believe me, there are times that connecting with your body during a run is essential, but it was nice to have the technology of a shoe not feel so 'bossy'.  The Go Run 2 felt light, super responsive, and having long and narrow feet, the upper had plenty of room up front for my feet to do what ever they wanted to.

PM Workout: 7.3 mile steady state/threshold run done at a 7:50/mile pace.

If liberation was the theme in the morning, the citizens in the Go Run 2 were lining up behind John Hancock to sign the Declaration of Independence at night.  It was cold out with a steady 15 WNW headwind, but all I could think about is how much fun the run was.  My dailymile reflection used the term 'buttery' to refer to the performance of the shoe.  Again, everything just felt fast.  The shoe grabbed the road nicely and for as messy as the Newtons can be on corners, the Go Run 2 was the opposite.  I made sure to try to accelerate at every opportunity - paying special attention to spots where I would've slowed in the Newtons, and the Go Run 2 didn't disappoint.

Under foot, the Go Run 2 offered a nice mix of protection and cushion, but at all times I felt that I was in control of the run.  I did start to develop a hot spot on the outside of my left big toe, but that was due to a seam in my sock, and not from the toebox crowding my foot.  Remember that lower profile ankle collar I spoke of?  Here's where it was an issue.  At about mile 4, I actually felt like I was starting to run out of the shoe.  If I had one criticism about the fit of the shoe, it would be a better, more sock-like fit around the ankle.  I wouldn't have wanted to lace them any tighter.

When I pulled into the driveway after my 13th mile of the day, I felt satisfied.  The only other discomfort that I felt was due to me and not the shoes.  My AM speedwork was on an indoor track (20 laps = 1 mile) and the sharp turning at a 7" pace really took its toll.  I'll take a couple days off before the weekend -  I'm planning a 19 miler on Saturday and a 6-8 mile recovery on Sunday.

Overall, so far so good.  Not a bossy shoe, but I'll have to do a much longer run to really be able to sign off for sure.  However, this is an unexpectedly capable shoe and at the Skechers price point of $80, it would be hard to not mix this shoe into the rotation.  At a 4mm offset, plenty of ground feel with just enough protection, I have definitely fallen in 'like' with this shoe.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Are you an athlete?

Out on the roads running an hour or two (or three) at a time, leaves one with a lot of time to think.  A few days ago, I posted about me losing the calorie battle.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's darn near impossible to think of oneself as an athlete.  Most of us are subject to a mindset where we are all held captive by the idea that there is someone out there that is better than you.  For instance, I am not an athlete, but ___________________ is -

In our fitness lives, it's clear that most people think in terms of fitness and weight loss versus "I am an athlete."  This is a thought process I've been toying with and finally put words to following a long run with Brian last Saturday. I truly feel that if you're training for something to the extent that you're regularly measuring your performance (either by distance, time, or both) then your mindset needs to change.  It needs to change from "I'd like to drop a few lbs." to "I am an athlete, and I need to fuel like one".

It's been my experience that if you train hard for an event, but think like you want to be fit and lose a few lbs, that sooner or later your body just can't keep up any more because you won't be giving it what it needs.  Does this mean you just eat whatever you want?   Umm, no...I wish that were the case (believe me!).  It does mean that increasing your caloric intake with the right kind of foods will inevitably keep you fresher longer on runs (or during activity), and will help prevent injury.  Remember - the body gets what it wants :)

I can't count the number of people that have said to me, "Boy, I need to start running."  Maybe they do, maybe they don't - my advice will always be to find what it is that allows one to maintain a sustainable regiment of health.  It may be running, it may be cycling, or swimming, or rollerblading, or Cross-fit...whatever... The bottom line remains that if you take up something that is sustainable to you, whatever that is, you have a better chance of understanding the link between body and mind, and you can begin to see a change.  A change from the inside out - and yes, you may drop a few lbs on the scale, but -

It's only a number - 

And there are numbers that matter much more than what the scale says.

Do yourself a favor - take the time to understand your goals.  Maybe even set some if you never have before , and crystalize in your mind what outcome you're hoping for and treat yourself accordingly.  Maybe you do want to lose 10 lbs or maintain a certain degree of fitness - that's cool, treat your body that way.  Maybe it's that first 5K,or half-marathon, or full marathon, awesome - treat your body that way.

And, finally - watch out!  You may be an athlete and not even know it -