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 -

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chalk it up... paying close attention to the body when it's talking to you.

Since last Saturday's 17 miler, was feeling some soreness in my left lower leg - between the calf and ankle.  I've had some recurring cramping from time to time in my soleus.  So, I tried to treat it as other cramping events - water and increased salt intake.  With no real change, the former me would've plowed through with my training/miles.

I took my own advice (for once!) and called my doctor.  I asked others that I respect, and I have to say that inside the running/active community, there is a great sense of care an 'ownership' in each other's well-being.  I had a great experience going to the running internet community (thanks Runblogger!) for advice.

I'm scheduled for a 19 miler on Saturday - jury's still out on whether or not I do it all or part of it, we'll play it by ear the rest of tonight and tomorrow.  Frankly, it could also be a gear issue as well.  The bottom line is that you have to listen to your body, because as I've stated before, if it needs you to stop, it will always get what it wants whether you like it or not.

Updates to follow, new trail shoes imminent - looking foward to a little throwdown with the Inov8 X Talon 212...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A lot can happen...

Nothing ever goes as smoothly as you want it to - in every piece of life.

My question: why do we expect it to?

If there's anything running has taught me is that there will always be some sort of adversity.  Every run, every race, every workout no matter how long or short there is always a moment where you choose to persevere.

I have never been on a run of any length where there wasn't some twang of the knee, twinge in my foot, stitch in my side that was unexpected.

What is worth sharing today, is that, just like in life, there's always more to discover.

Over on the left of the page is my dailymile counter, and it shows my distance covered and pace, and total time, and even a few thoughts on the run.  But so much more happens - there is so much more to that story.  Anyone you see or talk to, or text, or email or Facebook, or Tweet at is, at their very core, a collection of stories and experiences from their day or week or year or lifetime.

So, run the race of discovery.  Challenge yourself.  Push yourself harder.

After all, we enter the season of Lent tomorrow; run that race of discovery...challenge yourself...push yourself.

It won't be easy, and things likely won't go as expected -

Nothing of value ever is or ever does.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Executive Decision

No, this is not about the move where Steve Segal dies - although I do remember that being somewhat of a coup when it happened :)

The decision I'm talking about really goes back to a thought that I had a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about your body always winning out whether you want it to give out or not (read it here).  When I started training for the full marathon, I knew that above all I would have to listen to my body.  So, even though the training plan calls for cross-training, I just don't feel like I'm getting the desired benefit from it, and frankly, it cuts into my recovery time - which I feel is key.

I ran 48 miles last week - the mileage is only going to increase, and to me, recovery is as important as training.  What's the use of training hard and then not being able to compete at your highest level because you're on the shelf?

I've decided to put the marathon first in mind when it comes to training.  That means no more cross training until after the race.

Second, I'm losing the calorie battle.  I'm not fueling up enough - my BMR for activity (Basic Metabolic Rate) like this is about 2400 calories a day to fuel my body properly.  Friends, that 2400 calories is what I used during my long run this past Saturday.  I like the way my body is transforming, not gonna lie about that. But, it's all fun and games until you almost face plant in a spinning sanctuary during worship :)

My next executive decision is to make sure I'm nourishing mid-run and meal time adequately.

I know that several folks reading this are at different points in their fitness journey, so I leave with this little paraphrase of a Bible verse (it should be in a fitness Bible :) )

What good does it do a person to gain a beachbody, but lose their ability to function?

Keep your perspective, friends - keep working :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Favorites: Protection/Cushioning Systems

I have to admit - I'm a shoe nerd.  Well, actually a gear nerd -

I also want things to work the way they're supposed to.  Over the years, my tastes in shoes have changed about as much as my body has.  I've decided to take some time to outline (and rank) my favorite cushioning/support systems inside of running shoes.  Typically speaking, a manufacturer has their proprietary substance and while it can morph over time, it mostly stays the same.  (Disclaimer: just my feelings here - any shoe you try should support the foot from a mechanical amount of cushion will protect you from injury if the shoe isn't a mechanical match)

So, here's my top 5:

5. Asics GEL 

The GEL (here illustrated in the Asics Gel-Kayano 15) is the red substance most prominently displayed in the heel of the shoe.  Overall, my experience in Asics (Nimbus, 2140, Kayano) have been positive, but all of them started out with a firm feel.  The Kayano probably less so, but that's due more to the Gel and the memory foam around the collar of the shoe working together.  There's a part of me that always liked putting on the shoe, working the Gel into something a little softer and then bonding - almost like the relationship bakers have with bread.  I have several fellow runners that have had great luck with Asics - and they do make a great shoe.

4. Skechers Resalyte

Relatively new to the market, Skechers has made a reasonably big splash by putting their shoes on the feet of Meb Keflezighi, so my initial thought was - 'good enough for Meb, good enough for me'.  So I headed out to my local store to get a piece of the GoRun.  While I think there were (and still are) some design flaws in the shoe overall, the cushioning system is outstanding.  Skechers here gets high marks for two reasons: First, the Resalyte is very comfortable and very light, and that with a virtually seamless upper makes for the basis for a great shoe.  2. I've not seen a shoe company be so responsive to the customer base.  The pronounced bump in the midfoot of the GoRun has all but disappeared, giving the later forms in the GoRun family much more widespread appeal and usability.

3. Saucony Pro-Grid Lite 

My first foray into minimal footwear was in a Vibram KSO and while they were awesome (and a worthy conversation starter), 100 miles in, it didn't take long for me to love the ground feel and overall natural approach.  It also didn't take me long to realize that I really needed some protection from the ground.  At that time, I was about 15-20lbs heavier, and I needed the medial posting support, so I took a stab at the Saucony Mirage - basically a Kinvara with a medial stability posting, and I wasn't disappointed.  It was incredibly forgiving throughout the entire gait cycle from heel strike to toe-off.  What's amazing about the stuff, is as I made the transition to midfoot/forefoot strike, the support was just as nice.  Just like most permutations of Asics Gel, it started firmer and eased up. Buyer beware - any shoe built with this midsole will only give you 250-300 (well documented by Kinvara wearers alike) miles before noticable breakdown, which (in my opinion) is too a short a lifespan.

2. Newton Forefoot Actuator Lugs

The Newton forefoot actuator lugs may be the only one of a couple proprietary shoe technologies that actually deliver on it's promise of cushion and energy return.  Much of that does depend on running efficiency  however.  So, even though I love them (see my review of the Newton Distance here), they don't (and probably won't ever) have widespread appeal due in large part to the fact that there is not any kind of consensus on foot strike mechanics.  For that reason, they reside at number 2, however they are my shoe of choice, nearly all of my miles are on one model or another of them.  Amazing ride, great protection, and, frankly, really fun to run in.

1. Brooks DNA

The DNA found in most models of Brooks shoes over the past 18-24 months, only bumps Newton's lugs, because it accommodates every type of foot strike made my humans and frankly feels amazing.  The ride in any shoe from the Pure line-up (I personally like the Connect and Flow) all the way to stability trainers like the Glycerin provide maximum comfort.  The only drawback from where I sit really lies in the fact that there's no return of energy to the body.  DNA is basically a non-Newtonian fluid (think that episode of Mythbusters when Adam walked on water) - its firmness is directly related to amount of stress applied to it.  I basically want a mattress made out of the stuff, except I would sink into it, but, seriously - the stuff is awesome.

There you have it - I'm interested to hear any additions or experiences otherwise.

Happy Miles!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Milestone time!!

Just rolled 200 miles for the year - here are few reflections:

  • My family is amazing.  They put up with my gear nerd-dom and support me by allowing me to be gone for copious amounts of time.  Anything I achieve personally is attributed to them as much as me.
  • I have goals set for races in terms of time goals, but some are just to complete - that motivates me quite a bit because I am super competitive.  These miles, this time, aren't just for me, they're for someone else too, which has deepened my experience.  Its made it richer and increased my awareness of the needs of those around me, so in some way, these are the most life changing miles I've ever put on my shoes.
  • That's a lot of miles - and something shifted in my head.  I have to treat my body very differently - even more differently than if I was dieting or making a lifestyle change for weight loss.  I am an athlete, and more of you reading this blog are athletes too.
  • I'm still not halfway to my pre-race mileage estimate of 500 miles.  Seems much closer than I thought it might 6 weeks into 2013.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Out of the Box: Inov8 Talon 212

In Canton, OH there is a little burger stand where you can get burgers shaped like baseballs and a side of fried okra.  A friend of mine once asked Mr. G (the owner/chef of said stand) how much meat was in the burger.  His answer was "I don't really know for sure - I just cook it when the amount feels good in my hand."

So, its in that spirit I write an out of the box review of a friend's recent acquisition - the Inov8 Talon 212:

Full Disclosure:  I have not put any miles on these shoes, however, I have worn them, so all of my thoughts will be through that lens.

Right off the bat, the first thing noticeable is the weight of the shoe (or lack thereof) and the aggressive lugs on the outsole of the shoe.  There aren't a ton of the lugs versus something like the Brooks PureGrit 2, but they are serious.  The shoe weighs in at a nimble 7.5oz (or 212g - thus the name Talon 212) and on the foot feel great.  Given Inov8's approach to minimal shoe design, I expected a little more room in the toebox than one actually gets.  The fit was more like a track spike or a X-Country spike than minimal, splay-friendly shoe.

Clearly, Inov8 expects wearers to do some serious mudding in these babies.  The Talon looks like just that, claws you put on your feet.  If you look at the picture above, you'll see right above the midsole, a black wrap around moving into a lighter gray material.  These are two different types of material.  The black is a bit more hefty and protective and the gray a bit more breathable.  I would guess that this keeps the foot dry when trekking through shallow water, but also allows the foot to dry if it does get wet along the trail.

The yellow overlays really grab the foot nicely.  The single biggest thing in a shoe for me is it feeling like part of my foot and subsequently an extension of my leg.  This was absolutely the case here.  On the trail I suspect that it will be a very capable and nimble shoe.

Midsole-wise, there's a 4mm heel/toe differential bringing you pretty close to the ground.  And there is a midsole there offering some protection, but it is worth noting that there is no motion control to this shoe at all.  No medial post (no help in the arch of the foot), so this may not be the best choice for runners needing that kind of support.  I also didn't see anything that functions as a rock plate for tough terrain although I felt the shoe's outsole was a bit on the firm side.

I look forward to putting some miles on the Inov8 Talon 212, as I have a big trail race coming in May 2013 and could be persuaded to race in them - have thoughts?  Share them here:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gear Review: Newton Distance (2012)

Gear Review Time, gang -

In a future post, I'm going to unpack my relationship with shoe brands and their proprietary propulsive/absorption systems, but since I've taken the dive into the Newton brand for road running, it was probably time that we go over my impressions of my personal favorite and hoof of choice for the bulk of my road miles.

After a close inspection of the most of the Newton 2013 line-up, it seems that the differences from 2012-2013 are very minimal versus the changes in the lineup from 2011-2012.  I actually have 2 pairs of the Distance.  I have the 2012 model and the 2011:

If you do a quick scan of the shoes, you'll notice a very generous mesh upper.  Maximum breathe-ability and takes weight of the shoe down pretty low, making the shoe itself feel very quick and light under foot.  The 2012 model also decreases the heel-toe differential from 4mm to 2mm.  In all seriousness, it's really hard to feel that little of a difference, unless you possess some freakish 'princess and the pea' amount of sensitivity.

The next thing I noticed, having expected the look of the actuator lugs in the forefoot, is the complete absence of outsole rubber on the heel of shoe.  This is worth noting because this is not a typical 'out of the box' shoe.  There is an adjustment period (a well-documented one, in fact) - it's worth noting at this point that most people that report calf/achilles/heel issues have most likely done too many miles in the shoes too quickly.

The single most differentiating factor with the Newton, are the actuator lugs under the forefoot.  The design is simple and remarkably effective in returning the runner's energy back to the runner.  I've run 15+ miles at a time in these shoes a handful of times now, and they'll be the ones that will be on my hooves for a marathon in April.  Admittedly, if you're not running, they feel goofy - I wouldn't look at them as shoes that will graduate to street kicks upon retirement ;)

Under the umbrella of proper adjustment time to a natural running gait, these shoes are fast.  More correctly stated, in my opinion, they are fast in long, straight lines.  Now with 140 miles on each pair, the biggest complaint I have with the Newton Distance - in fact, all models I've put miles on (Distance, Sir Isaac, and Momentum) are really unstable on curves - sharp ones specifically.  I've noticed that quick sharp turns require much slowing than in other shoes I've worn or at the very least it's very hard to stay aligned and in proper body position - frankly, running is more fun when you're really cornering, like in a fast car...the Dodge Neon is very practical, but very few would say 'fun to drive.'

Having said that, this shoe does provide the most noticeable energy return of any shoe I've ever run in.  They literally feel like I was hoping the original Nike Air Max would've felt like when they horked "Revolution" by the Beatles.  In my experience that single positive outweighs virtually every negative of the shoe - of which there aren't many.  Overall, things I like:

  • Shoes are fast and light - 7.8oz
  • Noticeable energy return and protection to forefoot/midfoot strikers due to the forefoot actuator lugs.
  • The 2012 mesh upper is softer than 2011's and previous albeit a bit more aggressive in terms of size
  • You get noticed in a pair of Newtons - the look sweet, and the team out in Boulder, CO really seems to be able to enter the mind of the runner from a performance perspective; also from a look perspective.
Things I don't like:
  • The Distance is very sloppy at higher speeds when cornering (Feels like I'm describing a Dodge Neon when I say that) - again, this is a problem systemic to each shoe in the Newton lineup.
  • I've found that lacing the Newtons is challenging in terms of consistency.  I find that I lace either too tight or too loose more often in these shoes versus others I've run in.  
  • Be prepared to size up at least a 1/2 size for the actuator lugs to hit in the proper spot under foot.  This also effects the inconsistent lacing pressure.
Overall, a great shoe.  My favorite shoe and shoe that gets the bulk of my training miles.  Feel fast, look fast, run better.

Full disclosure:  I've owned Distance (2011 & 2012), Terra Momentus, and the Sir Issac.  I returned the Sir Issac after 40 miles or so, and the Momentus is meant for more rugged terrain.  The sloppiness is absolutely noticeable off road and on the trails, especially on more technically demanding runs.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resistance is Futile

If you've been active (running or otherwise) for any length of time, what I'm about to say is going to make sense.

Your body always wins and always gets what it wants.

Not (I repeat not) your brain.

Learning how to listen to your body over your brain takes time and commitment.  (Nerd Alert!) It's like a Jedi learning to quiet their mind to hear the voice of the Force speaking through them.

The whole thing is tricky because that blasted brain is so convincing sometimes.  You'll be in the middle of a run or workout and your brain will start to tell you that you've went hard enough or far enough or the effort has been good enough.  You'll hear your mind trying to convince the body that it's flat out crazy - maybe even bat s*** crazy, who knows?  The point I'm trying to make here is that if you're relying on your mind to be the judge and jury in the middle of activity, you may not always get the best advice.

Your body, on the other hand, is a collection of systems that can act as a check & balance against your mind only.  Sometimes your mind is right - there's no disputing that.  However, always remember you're nearly always able to do more than you think you are capable of. It's your body that will make your brain believe it.  For example:

Sore muscles after a series of hard workouts or getting going for the first time is like your body giving you the finger.  It's lodging its complaint against your decision making process.  A sharp, instant pain is like your body turning on the ambulance lights, asking you to pull off to the right and stop.  Your body nearly always knows what it needs, and it will tell you if you learn how to listen to it.  Or, said a different way, your body will always get what it wants.

Whether you want it to stop or not, it will.

This is a lesson I learned in January of 2012 after being sidelined for 3 weeks nursing a stress fracture.  I had been running in pain for the 6 weeks prior.  I chalked it up to new shoes and changing my gait.  My body was saying, too many miles too fast - chill out please.  I didn't listen.  So, my body gave out, my foot was broken, and I was forced to not do anything for weeks.  While I wasn't a fan of my body's solution to the problem, I did what I ultimately needed to do - critically look at my training, slow down, and rest.

Recovery and listening to your body is as important than the miles you log.

I have known so many runners that seemingly plateau in speed or keep dealing with the same injury (or worse) because they're unwilling to weave proper recovery into their routine.  What's tricky is that your brain can not only talk you out of working to your potential, it can also talk you into over-training, which is the quickest road to injury. (learn more here)

Resisting listening to the entirety of your body is completely useless.  Here are a couple of ideas to file away:

  • If you're just starting out, gear choices are key.  Find the right shoes, find whatever outdoor gear keeps you most comfortable, find routes that are familiar but introduce a little challenge to the body - your mind is a muscle that needs developed too, a little stress on the brain during a run never hurt anyone.
  • Pay attention to everything that happens pre, during and post run.  Time of day, how much did you eat, what did you eat, did you run on the street/sidewalk/trail/city/country/with people/by yourself - something as simple as the side of the road you run on can change your body's response to stress (most roads are crowned in the middle and the slope can change).
  • Recovery and how your body is responding to the stress is critical to getting your body to perform at its peak.  Celebrate the new milestones of time/pace/mileage when they come.  If you run with an mp3 player or iPod, go without every 3-4 runs with the specific intent of connecting with your body and how it's dealing with things.
Happy miles, friends - stay healthy and explore the connections you can develop between mind, body, and spirit.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Friends - its confession time.  I am competitive.  Super competitive. 

I am also, in many respects, lazy.  In my personal life, there are things I'll just flat out avoid if means I'm not inconvenienced. 

If you are competitive, I have a question:

Who are you trying to beat?

I remember in high school and college running competitively.  We always ran against the same schools or the same bunch of them.  After time, you knew who your competition was.  You knew the face of the person who you just wanted to beat.  You knew the folks, and frankly you knew the ones who were fun to beat.

I remember one guy for a neighboring high school I out-kicked one time.  He kicked too soon - I heard this primal roar approaching my shoulder - I kicked once he was even with me.  I beat him, and, long story short, he ended up diving for the line at the chute, hitting the ground, puking and rolling under a pickup truck parked near the chute.  Awesome.

While that was satisfying, the person I love to beat the most is me.  I love to the challenge of running farther or running faster than I have before.  Most runners would say that they love the run, they love to compete, but if there's anything that running teaches me - it's that I can be a better version of myself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's cold, and the treadmill isn't so bad -

Most runners I know would rather skip the treadmill and be outside.  I am also one of the 'most runners I know' - however, while 20 degrees and snow and ice aren't the worst things in the world, running in the bitterly cold temps pose much more risk to the body than taking chances on a fall on slippery terrain.  So, here are a few tidbits of information about treadmill running that may, in fact, improve your relationship with the dreaded machine.

  • First, pace running can help your body increase something called 'lactic acid threshold'.  Basically, your body stores excess energy as fat - common knowledge, I know.  However, that crampy, I feel like I'm going to puke, and 'running sucks' feeling is the point that your body is likely shifting the source of its fuel.  So, instead of burning fat for fuel, it starts to burn glucose - glucose is a fast source of energy and when it's being used, lactic acid is the byproduct (this is partially the reason one can run and run and run and never lose the fat off of their body - its because you're not burning it)  For those counting at home, lactic acid build-up equals cramps.  Treadmill?  Right - basically, if you know what speed/pace you start to get 'runner's suck' the treadmill can help to increase your body's threshold in tolerating lactic acid.  Find that pace, and run 5-15 seconds slower for 2/3's the distance of your longer runs.  Increase your mileage, the more steady state run mileage increases and the monotony of the treadmill's speed, can assist with that process greatly.  For those of you reading this that are training for longer race distances or increasing mileage, give it a try.
  • Second, treadmills force a runner to be creative.  Most runners, while often up for new route discovery, tend to run the same 3-5 routes all the time.  Treadmills can be awful for runs 25 minutes or longer.  But it is possible to do a nice speed workout on a treadmill.  Here's an easy one.  See if you can position yourself near a television.  Run for 5-7 minutes for a nice easy warm-up pace.  Once everything is nice and loose, increast your speed to roughly 80% of your max effort while the show is on.  Commercial time?  Slow the speed down to something about middle of the way between 80% of your max effort and your warm-up pace.  Show back on?  Ratchet it back up.  Do this for the duration of the show, and if it's a sitcom, you've ran at a very challenging pace for 23-25 minutes.  Not a bad way to trick your body into a little speedwork.
  • Lastly, many runners run with their iPod or other music device.  Music is awesome.  Some podcasts are equally awesome, and the treadmill is the best time (in my opinion) to use those devices.  If you can afford it, Nike+ makes some nice audio workouts that you can buy in the iTunes store.  I have two that I use.  One is a ramp-up mix about 42 minutes long that is all music by the Hives.  The other is Increase Your Speed. 
I am fully aware that some preparation and body awareness is implied in these kinds of approaches.  So here are few tips and sources of information. 

- On the average 7.5 mph on a treadmill will work out to an 8 min/mile pace.  8.0 mph is a 7:30 mile.  Most of you have an idea of your pace or PR and that can get you pointed in the right direction. 

- A GREAT resource is the McMillan Running Calculator.  This tool allows you to plug in some information and it will give you target paces for virtually every kind of run you may do - tempo, speed interval, steady state, long, recovery - you name it, its there. 

- Consider your goals for running.  Wellness?  Racing?  Distance? Stress Relief?  Whatever the case may be, learn about what your body is doing and how it works to reach your goals whether its losing inches from your waist, or beating that PR.  Dropping some cash on a device (or some devices) that can provide you with some analytics can really make a big difference.  I love my Garmin Forerunner 110.  My wife has a Mio heart rate monitor that she wears on her wrist.  There are a TON of calculators online to figure your target heart rate for fat burning or cardio (or where that metabolic shift from fat to glucose burning happens).  I am amazed at the number of runners head out with goals in mind, but no plan - it's kind of like taking your family on vacation, and just driving in the car.

Have fun, and keep warm!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Ryan's Running Like Crazy

It’s about time to introduce one of the bigger projects that I have undertaken more recently.  But first, some background –

Among the many blessings in my life, are family and friends.  And I think we all know how much support and love they offer.  There are also times when it becomes apparent when that support needs to be shared rather than received. 

So – “Ryan’s Running Like Crazy” is my attempt to show support for a dear friend.  The link to the Facebook event page is here.

I’m running a marathon – this one here – and during the training process, I’m raising financial support.  Pledges per mile and one time gifts – and several other supporting me while I’m supporting others – hopefully you’ll notice the link on the side of the page to learn more about the Stefanie Spielman Center for Breast Cancer Treatment and Research.  That’s where the dollars are going – in honor of my friend, Cathy.

Cathy is someone I’ve known for several years now, and I’ve always admired her fun-loving spirit.  That fun-loving spirit has remained undeterred since her cancer diagnosis just a few months ago.  She has been the beneficiary of world class care at the Spielman Center, and regularly reports about the environment there.  She finds it to be inspiring, uplifting, and truly a gift from God. 

It’s my pleasure to raise support for that Center and program and direct the proceeds in her honor.  I hope you’ll join with me.  If you do decide to pledge or give during this effort, please let me know, so that I’ll be able to track all of the support.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Race Schedule and Line-up

Another thing that will be in the scope of this blog will be racing schedules and actual reviews of the events.  I think a good way to start will be to outline what I know is on my 2013 calendar at this point:

Sam Costa Half Marathon - Carmel, IN 3/23
Carmel Marathon - Carmel, IN 4/20
Dances with Dirt 100K Relay - Gnaw Bone State Park, IN 5/11
Tough Mudder - Philadelphia, PA 6/1
Cleveland West Road Runners Fall Classic Half Marathon - Strongsville, OH 10/2013

That's what's up for now - I'm sure the list will grow from here :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gear List

While I have some ideas about what to put on this little blog, I at least wanted to give you an idea of what I'm using and having luck with in terms of gear.  Every runner is different - we all have different preferences, goals, foot types, temperature thresholds, injury history - you name it.  So, please understand this is not a list of what I think you SHOULD use, it's just what I use.

First - shoes:

After flirting with barefoot running about a year ago, it worked out that while barefoot isn't a good choice for me, that minimal differential shoes are a great choice.  While many offer a definition of 'minimal', I tend to lean toward shoes that have a 4mm offset or less (heel is 4mm higher than the forefoot).  For a frame of reference, most shoes reside at about a 12-14mm offset.  So, here's my choice:

Newton Distance:

Why are there two pictures here?  Well, I have both of these and rotate runs in them.  Why?  Because while I have found the Newton Distance to be the best shoe I've ever run in, they are freaking expensive and I want to maximize both pair.  I'm hoping for about 500 miles per shoe, and with 216 on one and roughly 50 on the other, there's plenty of life left in both sets of lugs.  I'm also fighting the temptation to out and out review both shoes - that will come later.

Tracking mechanism:

The Garmin Forerunner 110 is, for the money, the best 'watch' on the market.  Most running watches are loaded with features, and in most cases they are much more than 'watches'.  It is true that one can find a watch with more features, larger readout, etc, they can get pricey, and look a bit like a laptop on your wrist. I've found this little device to have enough functionality to be worth the $125 pricetag.


While I do have two Saucony 1/2 zip Sport-tops, I actually have 4 tops total in that style of different brands. I have found that for runs of any distance in temps between 20 and 40 degrees, I can be very comfortable with this as an outer layer and a compression base layer.  I prefer (in nearly every context) technical running gear to cotton or wool.  It's what I'm comfortable in and keeps me from going Andy Bernard.

I also do sport calf sleeves from time to time depending on the goal of the run and how much extra support my body is asking for.  I've had the best luck with CEP sleeves (a review of different brands is coming), and they are literally the only piece of gear that I thought were a gimmick, tried them out, and turns out they're not.  The science of shoes is well documented, and, frankly there's enough 'science' out there to make a case for literally every style of shoe.  I always thought that sleeve 'science' was sketchy, but the proof is in the pudding - or that is to say, how great my lower legs feel when I wear them versus not wearing them.  I have found that they are of the most benefit on runs of 10 miles or more, but I think anyone could benefit from them.

Finally, when I do listen to music on the road (which is about 30% of the time), I still stick with my trusty SanDisk Sansa mp3 player.  Why?  Because it runs on batteries.  Normal ones - and computer time is at a premium at my house and so are the charging areas.  So, for no other reason than that, I want to just put a regular AAA battery in my music player and go.

So, there's a list of the major pieces of gear that I use on a regular basis.  Believe me, I have more stuff :)  This is enough to get rolling.  

Have questions about your gear or anything worth sharing - please, comment away!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What does that even mean?

Got Some Legs, eh?  What does that even mean, and why use it for the title of a blog that involves such an odd spectrum of titles.  It's a double meaning - legs as in what many use for running, and the legs on a glass of wine:

See those drips, those are the legs of wine - anything with alcohol in it has them.  The more they stick around and the slower they run, the higher the alcohol content of the beverage.

I've had the experience to use many pieces of running gear, shared many experiences over both glasses of wine, pints of beer, and runs (both short and long).  You'll get a mix of things here.  Gear reviews, training updates, wines that are great, beers that are yummy, stuff we like (yes, there will be other contributors besides me) and other random things.

I'll be tracking my runs on the daily mile widget on the left side of the blog page.

Also the number of donuts I've earned ;)

Much more to come - should be fun :)