Gear matters

5.1 miles at Eisenhower Park

Today’s run (Eisenhower Park): 5.1 miles @ 9:23 per mile

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: gear matters. I’m beginning to understand that a person’s running pace is related to both their physical abilities as well as the unique conditions and variables that make up a run. Hills and heat can slow down a runner while the right weather can make a run feel effortless. A shirt that fails to wick moisture can contribute to overheating and ill fitting socks or uncomfortable running shorts can distract from a runner’s focus. Every variable can yield a positive or negative influence on performance. What is a quick drying shirt worth to you on a hot, humid day? I’d say plenty. What about running shoes?

If you asked me a month ago what I averaged for pace I would have said that I run between 9:05-9:25 per mile. In a race I’d usually beat the low end of that by 20-30 seconds. Again, it’s the conditions that make the difference with all those other runners helping to sweep you along. Recently I’ve been alternating between my mainstay Brooks Adrenalin GTS 10’s and two pairs of lightweight Saucony running shoes. When I run in the Brooks I’m a solid low-9:00 miler. If I’d needed heavy motion control shoes I might be working hard to regularly break 10 minute miles. When I run in the Saucony Kinvaras I often attain paces below 9:00 per mile. If I’d always run in the Kinvaras I’d have considered myself a sub-9 minute mile runner all along.

The Saucony Grid Tangent 4’s provide an even greater boost. I regularly run 8:40 minute miles with the Tangents which I consider to be a decent 5K race pace. I haven’t yet raced in these shoes but I’m hoping the combination of speed boost from the shoes plus a faster pace through competition will help me beat my racing PR of 8:19 per mile. My next race is an 8K that pushed my limits last year so it will be interesting to see how the variables work on that day.

This morning I returned to Eisenhower Park to run the paths, some of which I’d traveled on a Red Cross walkathon with my family earlier in the month. I locked onto a course defined by arrows painted on the ground and followed that all around until I found myself back near where I’d started. I took a more free range route from there, circumnavigating the big pond where people sail three foot remote controlled sailboats and then passed through the Veteran’s Memorial gardens. At that point I began to hear the sound of a marching band blasting out patriotic music as was fitting on this Memorial Day weekend. I finished after completing five miles and while my speed wasn’t impressive it was definitely a good workout. So perhaps I may have covered more distance at a faster speed were I wearing my Sauconys. Gear definitely matters but between the GTS 10’s and the Tangent 4’s, it’s all good.

Soreness and slowess but a good run nonetheless

It’s been a while since I’ve woken up with sore muscles but today I really felt it in my lower legs. I first thought this was related to all the shoveling I’d done between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. That didn’t make much sense to me since most of that effort involved pushing snow with low resistance and occasionally lifting it up a few feet. Most of that required muscles above the waist. I now believe the soreness came from my running in the snow with the traction devices that slipped around laterally and required constant corrections to my stride. I imagine that a serious attempt to transition from heel striking to mid-foot running would probably generate similar aches at first and barefoot running would be even worse.

Despite the soreness in my legs I did my run on the treadmill this morning. There are days when running your race pace feels effortless and there are days when running a more moderate pace feels like a challenge. That was my experience today. My warm-up pace felt far faster than normal and I had to check my Garmin to verify my moderately slow speed. After a few minutes I increased my speed and, if not for the contrary evidence, I would have assumed I was moving at a record pace. I did eventually increase my speed enough to give me a mid-9:00 overall pace but it wasn’t an easy run. In the end I was more than satisfied by this morning’s workout and I’m hoping for decent weather this weekend so I can get some longer miles in.

My plan for today is to go to Jackrabbit and look for a new pair to replace my Brooks GTS 9’s that have 500+ miles on the odometer. Despite claims that GTS 9’s were a misfire compared with the 8’s I have to say they have been problem free for me. It makes me wonder if my best bet is to move to the new, highly rated, 10’s or try out the less plush but more energetic Ravennas. I’ll try some other brands too just for comparison. You never know, I could find myself choosing something completely different. I’ll know soon enough.