"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Monday, April 29, 2013

Glad to be back at it

Coming back from injury has really revitalized my running.  I think in a way I desperately needed some time off.  But not I've had a super solid March and April of running and am feeling rejuvenated and have somehow increased my leg speed.

Just happy to run

Before hurting myself I would occasionally run 12-15 mile road runs that would just end up being between 7-7:15 pace.  Coming back now I've logged multiple runs of 18-23 miles where I have felt comfortable around 6:30-6:40.  I've even done some workouts with mile repeats at 5:35 pace, which, if you had told me I was capable of doing last year I would have laughed at you.

This increased road speed has certainly transferred to my trail running as well.  In the last month I have set new personal bests on my 10 mile trail loop near my home and on the Potowatomi, an old nemesis.  I must say there are few things more encouraging and energizing than seeing and feeling yourself improve.  There was a time this most recent winter where I knew I wasn't improving any longer, but continued to run, for numerous, illogical reasons.  But, then I was forced into hibernation by petallar tendon inflammation, and now I believe it was actually beneficial.

When I think about longevity and excellence in the ultrarunning scene, my mind immediately is drawn to the accomplishments of Scott Jurek.  He is arguably the most decorated and versatile ultrarunner of all time who has always stressed the importance of taking some down time every year to recharge the batteries.  I believe this allowed Scott to race a long and productive season at the utmost level for many years.  I hope I have the discipline to take a little downtime next year without being injured.  

So now I have to put together a racing season, I guess.  I'm so thrilled to be improving and running big fast miles that I don't particularly want to deal with the race/recover cycle.  I suspect this will change with the warmer weather moving in (speaking of warm, I'd really like another Kettle Moraine shirt...).  I also have a few personal projects that I am looking to accomplish.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts on the tradgedy in Boston

No doubt acts of terror have always had deep implications and stirred emotional responses from across the country.  I know I have shared in the common outrage that stems from such irrational crimes against innocent people.  To think that my friends' and their children (and babies) were targets of something evil causes my stomach to churn and adrenaline to flood my veins.  Now, I sit here in my running shorts, trying to focus my thoughts and emotions into words.  More than ever before, I feel someone has attacked me in a deeply personal way.  Maybe it's because I can so easily picture myself or friends on the finish line of a marathon, or standing around cheering in runners while enjoying the sunshine - more so than I could imagine myself in the WTC during 9/11 or in Oklahoma City during the OK City bombing.

My facebook and twitter feed is filled with runners expressing outrage and horror, to an overwhelming aspect - and I realized the running community is my extended family.  I had to turn off my social media for a little while yesterday, it was just too much.  To think that the same friends and their families that I have met through running were the targets of an evil act makes this feel so much more personal.  These are people and friends who have taken me into their homes, shared their beer, and even bummed me a gel or two. That's perhaps one of the most beautiful and simple and pure things about running.

All you have to do is run, and you're a member of this fraternity, seriously it's that simple.  Sure there are all sorts of weird groups and cliques of runners, but we all love each other despite our differences and abilities.  I'm going to incriminate myself here, but I can be a judgmental dick, however judging other runners?  I won't judge you as long as you're out there trying.

I'm going to smile at every runner and person I see today during my run.  We are so unbelievably lucky to live in a world were we have extra calories to burn, time to run, and generally safe streets to run on.  Sometimes I think I take this for granted.  Not today.  Today is a celebration of those things and of human locomotion.

Sometimes people are shy when running.  I used to be shy when I ran.  I'd try not to make eye contact with the fast looking guys and girls.  Sometimes people don't smile, especially when it hurts so bad your quads are locking up.  Today I'm going to smile at every single person I see while running, I hope some runners smile back.  If the non-runners driving around campus want to call me names, I'll smile at them too.  You see, there is something about running with a huge smile that people can't help but notice.  We all run for different reasons, but we can all enjoy it.  I'm going to take today to simply enjoy running for running's sake and I hope others will too.

My sincerest condolences to those affected by such an insane act of evil.  I know some peoples lives will never be the same and I hope that those of us who were unaffected can appreciate the amazing world we live in a little bit more this week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I am not a mountain runner

I am not a mountain runner.

But I'd like to try someday.

A breathtaking-paralyzing vista or two is worth the effort.

Time well spent on the Appalachian Trail.  I see why some people must make This Journey.

Back down into the valley.

This pile of rocks was once someone's home.  A tough someone.

Hello again, Goshen Prong.

Adrenaline is for real.

That much water would crush me in seconds.

Keep climbing.

Don't stare for too long...

I found the trail, I think.

One last view of the mountains before heading into the clouds.

I am not a mountain runner.  I'm just some guy from Michigan.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hoka Bondi B 2 Review

By Guest Reviewer Jason Robertson

Jason's review of the Hoka Stinson Evo Low was so popular that when he bought a pair of the new Bondi 2's I pestered him for a review until he finally agreed.  Enjoy!

My Recent History with the Hokas:
     Last June I picked up a pair of Hoka One One Stinson Evo B Lows.  In my review I raved about their downhill prowess, sticky rubber traction, and the polished fit and feel.  I also questioned the outsole longevity and how would running in such a pillowy-soft shoe effect the training adaptations typically received in lower, less cushioned, more flexible shoes.
     The summer is my high volume time of the year as I am not teaching.  So I ran.  Mixing the New Balance 110’s, Brooks Pure Grit, and the Hoka Stinson B’s; I averaged 85 miles per week.  The Hokas were my long run shoe of choice.  I continued this until the peak phase for the Hell 50k in September.  I ran the Woodstock 50K and two weeks later I raced and won the Hell 50k.  I did both races in the NB 110’s.  After Hell, my hip was incredibly sore and I took October off.  During this time the Hokas became suspect to the hip injury and I shelved them.
     During November and throughout the winter months I tried several new shoes and started to mix the Hokas back in.  My hip healed up after some much needed cross-training and yoga sessions.  Finally, in February, I was 18 miles into a road run wearing the Altra Instincts.  My left calf felt as if someone had snuck up and stabbed it with a knife.  I immediately called my wife and she graciously picked me up.  Throughout the next two months I tried every shoe, stretch, and rehab technique in my inventory and nothing seemed to help.  The calf would seem ok, then boom! Injury and back to square one.  I pulled out of the 100 miler I was signed up for, but I had this awesome trip planned to the Smokey Mountains.  I utilized Running Warehouse’s return policy, sending back the Altras (both the Instincts and Superiors) and had them send me a pair of the new Hoka Bondi B 2s.

Hoka Bondi B’s
     These shoes allowed me not only to enjoy the trip, but to run much more than initially expected.  I started very cautiously, hiking the ups and jogging on the downs (there’s not much in between).  Then, toward the end of our first outing I was able to run the downhill and feel zero pain in the calf.  The next day, I ran everything that my current state of fitness would allow and no pain.  I commented to Jon several times how good these shoes felt and how good my calf was doing.  Third day, besides crossing an icy river of death, all was well.  On the fourth, I switched to the Brooks Cascadia because of some preconceived notions of mud in the upper elevations needing increased traction.  My calf spoke to me all day.  I still have no idea why the calf is good in the Bondi B’s and nothing else, but I’ll take it.  Here’s my take on the shoe

The author horsing around in his Hoka Bondi B 2's

Fit and Feel:
     The Bondi’s have a great upper.  Very thin mesh on the outer, a hexagonal structured material and then a final mesh that sits against your sock that is very comfortable.  I had over seven hours and never felt a hot spot or uneasy rubbing.  The shoe runs true to size, if not a touch over-sized.  I wear 10’s in the NB 110’s and bought a size 10 Bondi.  I could probably go for a 9.5, but with long races and foot swelling, the 10’s will be just fine.  My first run in the Stinsons did develop some chaffing around my pinky toe area.  I had nothing with the Bondi.  From the first run until now, no blister or hot spots; these uppers are top-notch.  One of our shorter outings, a 3.5 hour, had a stream crossing right off the bat.  Feet were wet the entire time and no issues. They are not over-built, but do offer enough structure for technical trail use.
     As good as the uppers feel, there does seem to be a weak spot.  I now have well over 50 hours in the Bondi.  After yesterdays trail marathon the upper around the toe box was stressed to the point that some holes were forming in the first layer of mesh.  These had not formed until yesterday and the race took place on a mountain bike course with many tight, twisty switchbacks.  I wasn’t too surprised by this and it confirmed the major weakness of this shoe.
Slight wear on both sides of the toe box

Not a Shoe with the Quickness:
     This is the major drawback with the Bondi, in my opinion.  You just don’t get a high turn-over or quick turning manners from this shoe. Think slow(er) and methodical versus light and racey.
On the first major downhill, heading back to Laurel Falls the trail was strewn about with a lot of technical debris: rocks, roots, mud, tight-twisty turns, and off cambers; I thought I was flying.  Jon came up and let me know that our 9 minute per mile pace was ok, but went shooting by in his Senses (half the weight, half the mid-sole, much higher turn-over).  I just didn’t feel safe following.  I felt very protected and could’ve ran that pace over that terrain all day, but just didn’t feel like I could handle all the technicalities any faster.  Yesterday’s trail marathon was on much smoother terrain where I could really fly on the downs, but the tight-twisties forced me to slow slightly.  
     Safety on the down hills is also where this shoe seems to shine over the Stinson.  I never felt my ankle twist or have any major deflection on the loose rock as I did with the Stinson B’s.  This did give me more confidence going into loose rock piles and slick roots.  In my opinion, I think the Bondi does a better job of absorbing the side-load impacts than does the Stinson; most likely because of mid-sole design.
Outsole design:
     Super tacky! As good as the Stinson B’s outsole and the quality of the rubber for trail use is, the Bondi trumps it.  As mentioned before, I wore the Cascadias on our last outing because we thought it would be incredibly muddy with all the snow melt.  I didn’t notice much of a difference in traction levels and was left wanting the plushness and calf soothing feel of the Bondi. Anything but algae covered river rock is traction for the Bondi.  Back in Fort Wayne this week, we had a few days of sloppy, snotty mud and while there was some slippage, I was happy with the way that this road shoe handled the mud.  Hoka could make a very nice winter running trail shoe simply by adding lugs to the rubber portions of this shoe- good stuff.
Outsoles after about 50 hours

The Goods:
1. Great fit and feel, the upper and sizing are spot on. All day comfort, lace ‘em up and forget.
2. Protection and midsole shape.  Inspires confidence and great for injury prone runners and recovery days.
3. Awesome outsole, holds on to multiple surfaces even though it’s marketed as a road shoe.

The Bads:
1. While very comfortable the upper is weak in some spots
2. Not a fast turner or allows for high turn-over as other lighter shoes do (12oz on the food scale)

All in all, these are allowing me to run and get back to a normal training schedule.  If you’re in the Hoka market, I would definitely look at, and try on a pair of the new Bondi B’s.  They are very useful for trail applications, high mileage outings on road, trail, mountains, ect. If you’re racing 50 miles or more, these would be great in a drop bag- the longer the race/outing the better they feel.