28 February 2013

and i thought that runners just ran

just read this post and loved it - so i had to share it:  7 Superpowers That Every Runner Has

i'm also now on athlinks - you can find my race results there!

26 February 2013

road review - the merrell road glove

tonight i'm headed with a friend to a 'natural running clinic' at the local mountain equipment co-op, so i thought that i'd take a few moments to jot down my reflections on my favourite shoes currently in training/racing rotation:  the merrell road gloves.

these are sleek, light, fantastic shoes.  i purchased them late last summer in advance of the road2hope marathon, knowing that i wanted to fully transition into a zero-drop, minimalist shoe.  i also liked the fact that being produced by merrell, i wasn't simply buying into the 'standard' running footwear industry ... not that there's anything particularly wrong with that, but i do like to march to the beat of a different drum. 

here are my top observations about these shoes, having put on a good 350-400 km on them:
  1. light - as in 6.9 oz (men's size 9) light.  putting these on really feel like slippers to me, and getting out on the pavement it takes very little time to forget that they're on my feet (even over 42.195k) - except that they're nicely protecting the bottom of my feet.
  2. outsole - the vibram outsole is outstanding - grippy (even in snow/slush/ice conditions, i've discovered!) and durable without significantly deadening the feel of the surface beneath you.  this is a fabulous marriage of technology with technology.
  3. flexible - as a forefoot runner, these shoes have contoured just the way that i've needed them to, and now they have a pretty groovy curve up front:

  4. zero-drop - as mentioned already, this was a non-negotiable for me ... and these shoes definitely work well to promote a mid-foot/forefoot strike as the 11mm stack height will offer some pretty immediate feedback if you decide to drop that heel first.
  5. sizing - this is both an observation and a plus.  first, most of the messageboards that i'd read in advance of purchasing these shoes indicated that they ran a 1/2 size large, so i did try out both a 9.5 and 10 at the store before settling on the 9.5s.  the wonderful breadth across the forefoot meant that my foot would not be scrunched as the toes splayed out, so the smaller size worked perfectly for me.
  6. machine-washable - yep!  i just toss these babies into a mesh garment bag and run 'em through the regular cycle after putting them through their paces on brine-saturated roads.  air dry and they are ready to rock again.
  7. quality, quality, quality - merrell has a reputation (at least with me) of building hardcore equipment, and this has proven to extend to its road running shoes.  i bet that i could get another 400 km out of this pair - they are still in that great shape.
well, i've gushed enough.  i love these shoes, and they fit my foot really well - unlike the fit that my friend stan (9run.ca) experienced, as there were issues with the apparent arch support on the footbed, but it's not something that i've noticed in a negative way.   the one change that i did make was to swap out the original laces for flat laces - personal preference.

based on my experience, i highly recommend the road glove for anything from speedwork to the marathon distance training and racing ... and would not hesitate in the least to endorse pretty much anything from merrell.  happy running!

22 February 2013

in-store review - skechers gorun 2

last night i was chaperoning my daughter and her friend at the mall, so i decided to make a quick trip into our local sportchek to ogle their footwear wall.  to my surprise, in and amongst the nike, asics, under armour and k-swiss running shoes was the skechers gorun 2!

eager to fistbump my own gazelle one day, i asked the salesperson if i could try out a pair ... so here are my initial in-store impressions:

  1. light - that was to be expected.  they weigh in at 6.6 oz for men's size 9s.  built for speed yes indeedy!
  2. non-noticeable m-strike area - in the gorun (i tried those on about a month ago) that rockered middle area was definitely noticeable while walking, standing and during the in-store jog.  not so in the gorun 2 - i can see how these would still promote a mid-foot strike without providing discomforting feedback.
  3. 4mm drop - i like that.  it feels pretty flat, and the scooped heel helps too.
  4. width - not so bad.  i've read some concerns/complaints about the fact that these are a bit narrower than other models in the skechers performance line, but these seemed decent enough - but i did pull out the insoles and ran a circuit that way, and felt roomy enough for good toe splay in them.
  5. extra laces!
at $109 CDN i was tempted ... but refrained.  i've got some gobionics to tackle first (on order from amazon.com), and i think that from there i would really like to try the gorun speed when they become available.  but i did tell the salesperson that they were an excellent feeling shoe, and that he should definitely try a pair (having told me that he's a pronounced heel striker ... hopefully i managed to convert him from the dark side).


19 February 2013

road review - the nike flex 2012 run

i thought that i'd start my shoe reviews (hopefully the first of many) by looking at the nike flex 2012 run - for a couple of reasons.  first, it's the shoe that i just finished running in this morning, so the impressions are still fresh in my mind.  second, i used to work for nike canada (many moons ago) and so out of respect i'd like to put them at the head of the line.

as i'd noted in an earlier post, these shoes came to me courtesy of the local Goodwill thrift store - so they were not new, and not complimentary either.  i got them in order to have an extra pair of shoes in the rotation for winter running - plus they happened to be about my size (US10 - although Nike footwear has traditionally fit a half size small ... trust me, I know) and flexible enough for a forefoot runner like me.  they're reasonably light (at 8.4 oz. for a men's size 9 i believe) so that was a sell point as well.

let's start with what i like about these shoes:  they're well named.  as you can see by the outsole pattern they are designed to flex.  that permits the runner's foot to work the ground with a closer-to-natural footstrike motion rather than being worked over by the shoe's form iteself.  having become a convert to minimalist/barefoot-style running about 8 mos. ago, shoe flexibility is definitely something that i appreciate.

the weight factor is also a plus, as i like to try to maximize my stride turnover so wearing anchors on the ends of my legs is not appealing to me.  these shoes do feel light, and i've reserved them mostly for use on my speedwork and hill training runs.

and so far grip is good - i do live in the snow belt of south-central ontario, so winter running is not just about a few degrees below zero (celsius).  it's -20 something windchills and usually anywhere from 5-35 cm of snow on the ground.  i've no idea how much wear the shoes saw prior to arriving in my closet, except to say that the carbon rubber outsole pads still look in good shape.

on the less-than-desirable side is the cushy phylite/phylon mid and outsole material.  it gives me a kind of 'dead' feel when out on the pavement, and i feel just that bit detached from good feedback about my footstrike.  also, the delta or heel-to-toe drop is probably about 7mm (that's what the nike free measures out to i believe) which is definitely higher than i would like it.

the sizing has become a bit of an issue as well - although i can't complain too heartily since i bought them second hand, and knew full well what size the shoes were.  i've gone to removing the insole to create a bit of extra space in length ... but i should note that as far as width goes, these shoes feel quite nice.  lots of toe splay room.

finally, reflectivity?!?  mine are the same colourway as pictured above so there's a little contrast between the swoosh, outsole and the rest of the shoe - but for us pre-dawn runners that's just not enough.  i had to add some snazzy laces just to help make them a bit more noticeable in headlight beams.
that's a quick rundown on the flex 2012 run - overall i give them 3 out of 5 stars, and for the time being they'll stay in the stable, but i hope to displace them as soon as i can get my pair of skechers gobionics.

15 February 2013

shameless for shoes

i admit to having a bit of a shoe fetish.  at one time you could have confused me with imelda marcos, but i've managed to rein that in (a bit).  

having formerly worked several years with sports & fitness powerhouse Nike, i managed to accumulate all sorts of footwear over time ... all branded with the same swoosh, mind you, but tons all the same.

i've since tried very intentionally to become less of a consumer, and less of a materialist - purging a number of pairs of shoes (mostly donated to charities and shoe distribution programs) and not replacing them with others.  however, with my introduction to the world of competitive running and marathon training, i've found a way to reawaken my fascination with what goes on my feet.  the fact that rotating shoes during training is recommended doesn't help to quell the appetite.

so having spent time scouring the blogosphere and being helped incredibly by numerous experienced runners, physiologists, evolutionary biologists, and endurance coaches, i've discovered that various running shoe companies are willing to comp out pairs of footwear to individuals for testing and review purposes.

thus i throw my hat into the same ring.

i don't pretend to be superanalytical, or more than a burgeoning student of the running science, but i do know that i put plenty of road miles on my shoes and can give very specific feedback on the ones that i do run in.  being a convert to minimalism and the barefoot running style, i tend to pay a whole lot less attention to bling and a put a whole lot more focus on how well shoes serve their biomechanical purpose.

merrell, saucony, asics, skechers, mizuno, skora, nike ... are you listening? :)

so while it may not interest you a whole lot, i think that i will begin by reviewing the shoes that i do wear in rotation, even though they're older and likely not what you're wearing to run. but it'll be good practice for me - and who knows, it may be the beginning of a trend ...

11 February 2013

light feet and footlights

this past weekend was a hoot and a half - we opened our local production of Spamalot to an almost completely sold-out house (we were supposed to have opened on friday night, but thanks to snowmageddon we bumped that to saturday night) and danced, pranced and taunted our way through two hours of holy grail humour.  i don't think that i've ever been part of a more exhilarating or exhausting show ... the costume changes, make-up on/off/reapplied, and booting it all over creation just to make it the right appearances on the right parts of the stage.  whew - it's tiring to even try and describe it.

in and through all of the rehearsals and now the actual performances, i've been a good little boy and stuck to my marathon training schedule.  i have to admit that mondays for the last five weeks or so have been the most difficult runs for me as they're usually post 9-10 hours of theatre work - so at the very least i'm grateful that they're listed as 'recovery runs' for me.

anticipating an elevated level of fatigue, what i did try to experiment with this past weekend was to remove the insoles from my saucony kinvaras and nike flex 2012 runs.  two reasons for this:  (1) i felt like having to be on my feet so much i could use a little bit of extra splay room in my shoes (i would appreciate it later in the day on stage); and (2) the reduced slivers of an ounce that would result would be welcome over the 10 to 16 km.

as it turned out, it was a welcome change and i think that those insoles may not return.  both pairs of shoes felt good without them, since i like a flatter heel-to-toe drop and am a forefoot runner who enjoys ground feel.  i know that some of the shoes that i have been looking at trying out (brooks pure drift and skechers gobionic) have been intentionally designed with removable insoles - maybe this is a technological tactic that will work for me.


07 February 2013

the song remains the same

i've already begun to freshen up this blog - mostly for me than for anybody else.  i hope that some of the changes that i've initiated will motivate me to be more faithful to this storytelling process than i have been in the past.

so, in line with that i've decided to change the name of the blog from the voodoo lounge to the rendezvoo point.  if you happen to have bookmarked this site (although i'd have no idea why you might have!), please take note of the new URL:   http://rendezvoo.blogspot.ca/

in the immortal words of andy dufresne, "if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further".

04 February 2013

monkey see, monkey do - runners that i follow

there are all sorts of learning styles, and i find that when it comes to athletics i am very much a visual learner.  specifically i've taught myself tennis, volleyball and golf by watching the technique and form of particular competitors that i enjoy watching and who excel in their respective fields.

the situation is no different when it comes to running.  i've never had a coach (except for motivation) and did not start any kind of running until the spring of 2010 - nothing in high school, and only the occasional once around the track in university if i saw a pretty girl worth following for several hundred metres before i passed out.

here are just a few of the runners that i've paid close attention to, for various reasons:
  • haile gebrselassie - IMHO the greatest distance runner of all time.  a dimnuitive figure with gobs of talent and just as big of a heart.  depending on how old he might actually be, he may have set the world record time for a male marathoner when he was 40.
  • geoffrey mutai - the person with the fastest finish of any marathon ever and arguably the best living marathoner. makes every race look like a easy jog in the park.
  • ryan hall - one of the US' best distance runners, and outstanding man of faith.  gives back to people generously, and i have tried in the past to mimic his form.  his marathon training plan also helped me to achieve my current PB in the marathon (3:18:15).
  • meb keflezighi - currently the #1 marathoner for the US.  at 37 he's still kicking butt, having won the 2012 US Olympic Marathon trials and placing 4th at the London Olympic marathon.  another inspiring man of faith too.
  • desiree davila - i have a friend who trained with desiree as part of the hansons brooks distance project in michigan.  desiree is one tough competitor, and now in the top three female US marathoners.  i've adopted her arm carriage style in my own running.
  • mary keitany - the favourite in just about any race in which she's entered.  a powerhouse.
  • tsegaye kebede - this guy is about the height of my honda civic, but probably has the stride length of a cadillac.  unbelievable runner from ethiopia, having captured this year's chicago marathon in 2:04:38.  i've adopted his leg position and stride pattern in my own running style.
  • yuki kawauchi - my new favourite runner ... known as 'citizen runner' because he's the only person on this list who's not a full-time athlete (he holds down a day job just like me).  runs like a maniac - having put together back to back marathons last fall within two weeks of one another, forking out $6000 for a plane ticket to a race in egypt because he missed the plane that the organizers paid for, and five out of the first six marathons he ran he ended up in the medical tent after crossing the finish line.  he's told interviewers "Every time I run, it’s with the mindset that if I die at this race it’s OK." now that's a racer i can look up to. 
so who do you admire/follow in running?  i've only listed the high profile types, but maybe for you it's someone local, or in your family line.  feel free to share the names of those who inspire you as you run!


01 February 2013

what's the big deal about a BQ?

i confess that for me the superbowl of running is to qualify and be accepted for the boston marathon.  it's what propels me to sign up for races and train when everyone else is sleeping.

but is it such a big deal?  will i have a sense of "is that all there is?" once (and it is inevitable folks, mark my word!) i achieve it?

qualifying for the boston marathon has a mythical aura about it within north american running culture that i'm not sure can be explained.  for sure there's the impulse for me to strive to be among the 10% or so of all marathoners on the continent who are able to qualify for this race (especially significant when you consider that less than 1% of the population ever completes a marathon).  and then given that it's one of the world marathon majors - to be able to say that i competed in one of the world's elite athletic competitions, well that crosses one item off of my bucket list.

but accomplishing and following through on a BQ certainly finish the list of running goals for me.  at the very least, i have committed to a friend in south africa to complete the comrades marathon with him - the world's oldest and largest ultramarathon.  depending on who you reference, it's 87-90km of roadrunning between pietermaritzburg and durban.  just the opportunity to visit south africa is a dream in and of itself - but to run the comrades will probably be the motivation that i will need to get there.

what are your running goals (big or small)?  share them here - i'd love to know about them and cheer you on.