Shoe Tester Extraordinaire

So I ran into a journalist, Berne, this weekend at the VT Mountain Bike Festival who writes for Backcountry mag.  She does all the gear reviews and offered to hook me up with a few pairs of shoes to test for her.  SWEET!  So I’m running in two pairs of prototypes at the moment, a pair of New Balance ultralight trail shoes and Keene’s go at a “barefoot shoe”.

Both bring a much needed shoe to the market: super lightweight trail shoe.  All these trail shoes seem to be getting over-beefed these days, so it was a pleasant surprise to find shoes that weren’t so bulky.

The NB’s are super light, well constructed, drain and breathe easily, and have a superb rock guard in the forefoot to give just enough protection from unwanted visitors from colliding with my sole.  I’ve done everything from quick 7 milers on the trail to 800m track repeats to 12 mile hill workouts on the trail so far.  The shoes have held up extremely well, providing just enough between my soles and the ground to let me motor along easily on the trail.  With so much debris and rock in these New England woods, a bit of protection is always nice.  And the laces!  Oh my, scalloped laces, my dream.  Because of the form of the laces, they don’t come undone once laced, even when sopping wet.  I’m hooked, even though I’m in the metallic purple women’s model!

The Keene’s were the shoe I’d been dreaming about.  Light, flashy, fast, and with a lacing design that looks incredible, I wanted these shoes to work so badly-but more on why they didn’t later.  They’re uber-minimalist, shunning any form of rock guard, and only have a thin wedge of foam between your foot and the ground.  They’re the closest to barefoot that I’ve seen in a shoe, and one needs to be careful with foot strikes just as if barefooting.  I really need to get my hands on a pair of Vibram Five Fingers though, as I still haven’t tried what seems to be the ultimate minimalist solution.  The lacing design on the Keene’s is wicked, weaving down in a wave from the top of the tongue to the toe box.  Incredible.  I’ve never found a shoe that I could simply pull the laces from the top and have the entire shoe tighten evenly.  One tup from the ends of the laces, and pressure evenly distributed along the entire tongue.  How is that even possible?  I’ve always had to micro-adjust my laces, dialing in each section to provide more or less pressure.  Not with these.  But therein lies where I found their failure.  I simply couldn’t get the shoes tight enough.  The first time I ran in them, my soles were left as raw as if I had been barefooting!  How!?!  The next attempt a week later proved the same; I tightened the laces until both sides of the lacing eyelets touched, cinched completely closed.  Still, it wasn’t tight enough, and my foot had a tendency to rub around in the shoe.  In fact, they rubbed so badly, that 2 miles from the end of my run, I stripped off the shoes and opted to barefoot it home instead.  That’s not good.  The shoe fits almost perfect lengthwise (perhaps a bit more space in the toe box, but still reasonable).  So either there’s too much room or in the toe box, or something else is rubbing me the wrong way.  And just to clarify, my foot isn’t the narrowest out there.  I can fit into almost any shoe and run pretty comfortably.

So I’ve had to sideline the Keene’s, much to my dismay.  The Keene’s are the shoes I’ve been dreaming about, wanting to plop into my lap for sometime.  Bummer, hope Keene fixes that toe box up, I’d love the shoe if they fit properly.  The NB’s are my go to at the moment.

Summer Update

Well, I’ve been sporadic with my running to say the least.  Lots more biking.  Guess I still haven’t fully recovered mentally from my mystery sickness that whooped me for so long this spring.  The legs feel solid though, and the 1-2 barefoot runs I can get in a week are feeling better each time.  The soles of my feet just can’t keep up with my legs though;  long before I’m tired, my soles are raw from the trails and pavement.  6 miles seems to be my max right now.

Barefoot Run #2

So it took a bit longer than expected, but I got out for another barefoot run the other day.  This time I decided I really wanted to give it a solid go and see how I felt.  I trotted out from Weybridge, feeling almost naked without shoes.  Bliss.  Up through town, along Main St., I headed towards the Chipman Hill entrance on High street.  By the time I reached the bottom of the old ski hill road, my legs felt good and my feet content.  That changed a bit as I moved up the old road, small pebbles and rocks digging into my soles.  Ouch!  Rehab, the trail running alongside the old Chipman road, begged me to hop on…or maybe it was my feet.  The trail proved a much more comfortable climb and I continued to feel stronger by the minute.

Peaking up top, I moved down the old dirt road skirting the summit of Chipman and made the decision to run down Sidewinder, the back trail that is part of the TAM system.  It proved rather comfortable and I made it down the backside of the mountain with only a few painful moments.  Those darned pebbles.  Once in the field on the backside of the hill, I opened up my stride and felt…natural, finally after all of these weeks!  Back on the sidewalk, I headed back to Weybridge not wanting to push myself too much harder as my left knee felt a tad out of whack, likely due to the fact that I haven’t ran consistently in months.  As I pulled into Weybridge, I took stock of my condition and was surprised to think that I had run over 4 miles barefoot.  Truly amazing, I’m hooked.  Barefoot running mixed in with shoe’d training and I’ll be set for the fall season.  And a day after my longest barefoot run my feet feel wonderful!  Naked and free, it’s the way to go.

2010 Race Schedule

Well I guess I should have posted this already, but since so much has changed anyway, there’s not much of a rush.  So here it goes.

March 27, 2010
Fells Trail Ultra, 40 miles — 7:08:00; 2nd place (tied with Joe Carrara)
Joe, Mike, and myself headed down to the Boston suburbs for an epic trail race on some nasty terrain.  8 mile loops, let you decide if you wanted to do 4 laps (for the 50k/32 mile race) or 5 laps for a 40 miler.  Joe and I were pretty set on doing 40 miles as this was more of a training run for us.  The first place finisher was out to blaze away, and ran a crazy pace on such rough terrain.  Joe and I would have been hard pressed to even think about keeping up with this guy if we had been in shape to race at that pace.  Phew!  Mike ended up doing the 4 lap/50k/32 mile race and won it!  Joe and I ran together for all but the first lap which Mike and I did together, and finished shoulder-to-shoulder.  We had a great time, were blown away that such a technically demanding trail could be located in the suburbs, and vowed to return to the well run, challenging event next year (or perhaps sooner as they offer other races as well).

May 8, 2010
Wapack Trail Ultra, 50 miles — Unable to race due to sickness
So I got pretty sick 4 weeks before the Wapack, and the sickness stuck around.  I was forced to drop out and couldn’t race the epic trail.  Bummer.  Joe and Mike did though, but only ended up running 42 miles.  Conditions were atrocious and the terrain pretty rugged.  Joe’s knee just couldn’t take it…neither could Mike’s for that matter.  Next year.

July 17-18, 2010
Vermont 100 Ultra, 100 miles — Unable to race due to sickness
So I was pretty sick, remember?  Well I was forced to drop out of the Vermont 100 as well because I deemed my unknown sickness that lasted 7 weeks or so to be too much of a potential hazard.  This was my centerpiece race for the 2010 season so I’m pretty distraught that I was forced to drop out and have been in a bit of rut since first contracting my unknown illness.  The VT 100 would have been my first 100 as well, so in the end, pulling out of the race was for the best as my training all but stopped and I’ve barely run since getting sick.  Next year.  I plan on taking on the race next summer in full force, hopefully making a strong showing.  Watch out Jack Pilla, I’m coming for ya!

September 26, 2010
Vermont 50 Ultra, 50 miles or 50 kilometers
The VT 50 was my first ultra last year, and I did surprisingly well in the 50k race finishing 4th overall and 1st in my age category.  The conditions were atrocious last year with loads of rain, wind, and mud.  It was an epic race, and I had a total blast.  I’ll definitely be back this year, hopefully sans shoes.  That’s right, since having to drop out of Wapack and the VT 100, I’ve made up my mind that I want to race the VT 50 barefoot (or possibly with Vibram FiveFingers).  That will require some significant training and I haven’t decided on the 50k or 50 miler yet.  I’m hoping my feet will be in good enough shape to do the 50 miler, but time will tell.

November __, 2010
Stone Cat Ale 50 and Marathon Trail Race, 50 miles (and 26.2 miles)
I ran the Stone Cat Ale 50 last year as well as my first 50 mile race and it proved a fantastic race.  A nice fairly level course without much climbing proved a super fast race.  4 12.5 mile loops make for a very manageable race.  I’d like to go back this year in top condition and gun for a fast time.  It would be great to run a sub 7:30 50 miler, but I’d be happy just to race period.  The G.A.C. puts on a great event and can’t wait to get back down to MA for it.  This one I’ll probably be doing in shoes.

The rest of my schedule is to be determined.  I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in the Marin Headlands (San Francisco) last December and was blown away by the race and its spectacular views.  I’d love to go back in better shape with more hill training and see if I can crush.  The best racers in the country (and world too) come out for it so there’s quite a bit of talent there.  My experience last year was so incredible though (thanks to Jake, Harriet, and Michael Moritz) that I may not want to jinx anything and skip it this year.  I’ve been considering doing a marathon in the late fall/early winter since I’ve never actually raced one.  Seems to be perfect timing…at the end of my ultra season and all, and I might just be in killer shape to knock out a solid time.  The Las Vegas Marathon is December 7 and looks to be a total blast — head out to Vegas, run a super fast marathon on a super flat course in ideal conditions, and then do Vegas for the weekend.  Sounds pretty fun.  Or perhaps another marathon somewhere else.  I’ve got to keep my eyes peeled for races.  I’d love to do a 100 miler before 2011, but we’ll see (or a 24 hour race for that matter).  But for now, I need to let my legs rest, heal, and then start my barefoot training full time.  Mix that with lots of biking and a bit of strength training, and I should be able to race both XC bike and ultras quite well this year.

Of course in the end, all I really want to do is have fun.  And I can’t think of a better way to have fun than run all day and all night.  I just want to run, run some more, not stop running, and then run a bit more.  Yum!

Barefoot Running: Day 1

Jake Moritz and I went for a barefoot run yesterday.  Well, what had the makings to be a barefoot run, but instead turned out to be 3/5’s barefoot walk and 2/5’s barefoot run.  Which worked out to be fine since Jake doesn’t exactly run anyway, and is just getting started with the whole jogging thing.  It was a success, we came back feeling sprightly and injury free!  Chock up 2 miles for the day.

Wednesday’s Goal: Run the whole 2 miles this time instead of walking half of it.

Still not running…

Well I’m still not running.  Bummer.  I’m really contemplating a barefoot run today.  Maybe I’ll finally work up the courage to start again, and this time without shoes.  Stay tuned for updates on whether or not I attain the mental strength to attempt such a feat!  Tralalala!

Addicted, but not to blogging…

I’m obviously a rather poor blogger.  You can tell by my lack of posts.  Blogs are boring without regular updating, so let’s give this another go.  Hopefully I can get a hang of it this summer.

Training was going fantastic, and my addiction to running became rather apparent as I couldn’t even find the time to post about it.  First race of the season, the Fells Trail Ultra went superb and I knocked out the 40 miler in a solid 7:02 tying for second with Joe Carrara.  Our first place finished was a regular monster on the Fells loop, and had the ridiculously techy terrain mastered.  Not too mention he was quite a speed demon as well.

A few weeks after the Fells race, I came down with a sickness that lasted for 4 weeks, with lingering side effects that last for at least another 3…

Week 1: unable to get out of bed; I border on state of total zombieness.

Week 2: barely able to walk, extreme fatigue, unable to think clearly, speak clearly, read clearly, or write clearly; very entertaining to others, very discouraging to me.

Week 3: able to move a bit more, still have trouble thinking; unable to run Wapack Trail 50 miler; begin mild state of depression.

Week 4: begin riding bike again, very slow and hard; continue to improve neurologically and physically; continue mild state of depression.

Week 5: able to bike fairly regularly; neurological effects are moving out; forced remove my name from the VT 100 entrants list; continue mild state of depression.

Week 6: biking consistently; still haven’t started running yet, resting my legs extensively since sickness has ruined my 2010 racing season; continue mild state of depression.

Week 7: biking; ran twice in the past 7 weeks; determined to barefoot train and potentially run VT 50 barefoot; state of depression/funk finally wears off and I return to a happier place.  Well, sort of…

Of course other things happened during these past 7 weeks, but I’ll follow up with some more blog posts for those.  Right now, just getting this going again.  I obviously can’t blog to save my life, but we’ll see if this time around things change (this must be the 3rd or 4th attempt).

The First Days of the New Season

Well after spending the first week of the spring semester sick, I’m finally back to a full fledged training schedule.  The anticipation has been almost unbearable, and so is the cold!  I love running in the cold, I really do, but sometimes it’s just impossible to get out that door.  Friday was my first true day back and I pulled off back-to-back runs, a 6 miler and a 9 miler.  Then a 10 miler yesterday.  All three runs were on the TAM, and the trails are surprisingly in pretty decent shape.  Took a nice whipping turn too fast over in Wright Park on some seriously slippery ice and slid out pretty hard, but I was able to pull off a slick landing and bounce right out of my fall.  My legs are begging to burn through the twisties, but my lungs don’t want to suck air that hard in the cold.  And of course the ice cover wouldn’t let me do that anyway.  Who wants to do the whole TAM next weekend?

Run #1: 6-7 miles trail, mellow pace, sunny, no wind
Run #2: 9-10 miles trail, mellow pace, sunny, no wind

Run: 9-10 miles trail, mellow pace, partly sunny, slightly windy

The Beginning…

So the first post is lame.  I’m sick and laying low.  Nothing too bad, no swine or anything, but this lingering cold just won’t leave.  Hopefully tomorrow I can head out on my first run since last Sunday!  I need to get out, the work of this semester is already piling on and the first week isn’t even over yet.  Yikes!  Last run felt pretty good though.  That’s promising with my squeaky knee.  Boooo tendinitis!  Wanna run?