Cascadia 8’s take on Stillwell Woods

A happy sight

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 4.1 miles 

Although I bought my Brooks Cascadia 8‘s with the intention of using them as casual shoes, I couldn’t resist taking them to Stillwell this morning. I have a perfectly nice pair of Helly Hansen Trail Lizards that have been my primary trail shoe over the past few years. Even so, I was curious to see how the Cascadias performed on Stillwell’s tough trails.

The Cascadia 8

It’s been over a month since I’ve done any type of trail running, so I was excited to hit the trail head leading into Stillwell Woods. The Cascadia’s fit is generous for my shoe size, and I was concerned that it might create some lateral instability. Within a minute of my start, I could tell that would not be an issue.

The first thing I noticed about the shoes was the rock plate that provided less flexibility than the lighter weight Trail Lizards. On the positive side, I was able to plant my foot anywhere on the trail without concern for the jarring impact of roots and rocks. I normally need to step gingerly along certain areas at Stillwell, but the Cascadias absorbed everything in their path.

I didn’t get adventurous enough to test vertical ascents out of the Viper Pit today, but I had no problems with the steep, scree covered sections that I encounter along my usual loop. Once I became confident that the Cascadias could handle any terrain, I shifted focus from watching the trail to enjoying the sights. That nearly cost me a face plant when my toe caught a high root and I almost went down. I was glad to have quickly restored my balance and suddenly grateful for the substantial toe guard.

The temperature was a few degrees higher than yesterday, but the tree cover kept me cool throughout the run. The Stillwell caretakers had recently trimmed the high grass adjacent to the single track that runs around the open field. That was great. When that grass gets high, it presents a real tick concern.

Overall, I ran easy and kept my heart rate between 81-84% of max. It was nice to be back in the woods and I appreciated the way the Cascadias performed. I’m thinking about adding more trail runs to my schedule while the weather remains cool. It’s been a long time since I ran the Dirty Sock course in Babylon, so that might be a nice change of venue for my next outing.

I got my signed release form in the mail from my doctor yesterday and I’m now able to use my company’s fitness center. Not that I love treadmills, but they have very nice equipment. Best of all, they have showers, so no more post-workout towel downs with Wet Ones, like I used to have to do at my old office.

SA Elite bargains: Cascadia, coat and curry

Trifecta

My new schedule doesn’t provide much flexibility for running during the week, so I considered using my Monday rest day for my first workout of the week. I’ll admit that I’ve taken it easy since the half marathon, running only three times last week for a total of 12 miles. That was due primarily to a lack of time in my work schedule, plus a couple of days that I’d planned for recovery.

The weather this morning was sunny and cool and I felt like getting outside. Despite having limited running time, I decided to walk around the neighborhood. It’s a different experience walking roads that I usually run, and a little strange to be “the walker” when the occasional runner passes by. But when you walk, you notice details you never see on a run. You can also appreciate the smell of the spring air a lot more when you aren’t focusing on using oxygen for fuel. I ended up covering about three miles. Very pleasant.

We didn’t have a very Memorial Day themed holiday today, although we almost got caught in the middle of the Westbury parade. Our destination was The Gallery at Westbury Plaza on Old Country Road. This shopping center had four places of interest: SA Elite (for me), The Paper Source (for Mrs. ER and the kids), Trader Joe’s and Noodles & Company.

I’ve been wanting to return to SA Elite, a Sports Authority specialty store that only carries adult running clothes, shoes and gear. My Brooks GTS-10’s, that had a 600 mile career as my primary running shoe and perhaps another 800 miles as my weekend casual shoes, were due for replacement. I went looking for a shoe bargain, like the one I got on my Saucony Virratas last year.

As soon I walked in, I spotted a very nice Brooks running raincoat, but it was priced at $85. A lightweight coat like this is my white whale, and I’ve been looking a long time for a replacement for my ASICS rain jacket that has a broken zipper. Whenever I look at these jackets, they always seem to be too expensive, in weird remainder-type colors or either size small or XXL. I soon found an ASICS packable jacket priced at $40 but discounted to $29.95. This jacket had a hood (bonus), was available in my size, and looked good. Sold!

Next, I headed to the shoe section, first to the clearance section where I found a pair of Brooks Cascadia 7’s priced at $39.99. They were a half size too large, but that would have been okay for wearing as a casual shoe. Unfortunately the Cascadia 7’s were the color of vivid green camouflage and Mrs. ER rejected them for anything but running. After trying on a pair of well-priced ASICS Nimbus-14’s that didn’t fit as well as I’d hoped, I spotted a pair of Cascadia 8’s in conservative blue and grey. $47.97 and my size. Ring ’em up!

After that, we headed next to Noodles & Company, where we could all have the genre of food we wanted as long as it was noodles. Or soup. Or salad. I had the Bangkok curry noodles. Fantastic. This is my new favorite place.

This was a great long weekend, with perfect weather. I’m not a fan of shopping, but today was really great. Now that I have the Cascadias, I’m definitely thinking trails next weekend.

Retroactive run

Old faithful – Brooks Adrenalin 10’s

Today’s run (street): 4.5 miles

This morning I was looking at the the spring shoe guide in the March issue of Runners World. I’ve always liked running shoes because they are technically designed and they look cool. Most runners view a new pair of trainers as a reason to get excited about a run, which is why so many new pairs are sold every year.

As I looked at the 2014 models, two trends occurred to me. One was that most manufacturers have moved away from minimal models but are still maintaining the concept of “low drop.” This means that the height difference between the heel and forefoot is typically less than 10.” The other trend is toward super-cushioned running shoes. Models like the Hoka One One have huge out-soles that resemble the old running shoes from the ’80’s and ’90’s.

 

I was an early adopter of minimal running shoes, beginning with the first Kinvaras, followed by the Grid Tangents, Hattoris,  and the Brooks Pure Drifts. Before that, I used to run in conventional shoes, my favorite being the Brooks Adrenalins. The Adrenalins are built to last. I got over 700 running miles out of my GTS-9’s before I switched them to being weekend casual shoes. I had a similar experience with the 10’s. In fact I still wear those every weekend.

After looking at the shoe guide, I wondered what it would be like to take the 10’s out for a run after treating them as sneakers for the last three years. I love my Saucony Virratas, but I felt like a change today and figured the nicely cushioned Brooks would provide a good break. I laced up the 10’s and they felt as good as ever. From the first steps off the driveway, I knew that they’d be fine, despite having over 1,000 miles on them.

I haven’t run outdoors too often this year, so I’m re-acclimating to pavement. The purpose of today’s run was to nudge my comfort beyond the 3 mile base that I’d defaulted to over the past two months. The shoes felt fine, but there is a difference between the 11.1 ounce Adrenalins and the 6.5 ounce Virratas. I don’t know if that extra weight slowed me down compared to yesterday, but something did.

Forgetting that for the moment, I did appreciate the well cushioned feel of the classic Adrenalins. I wondered if there is a happy medium between the two types of shoes. Apparently some of the 2014 models are leaning in that direction. New materials that perform better than EVA are being used, resulting in softer cushioning and lighter weight.

I’m not sure if I’ll include the Adrenalins in my primary shoe rotation, although I see no harm in using them for long easy runs. I’m remembering the foot issues I had when training for the half marathon in 2012, when I’d do 9-12 mile runs on the Bethpage bike trail every weekend. That might be a good way to build up my long base without going through that painful stage again. I also wonder if training in those heavy shoes would give me a performance boost when I return to the lighter Virratas.

How many miles will you get from your running shoes?

Kinvara 3’s: 1000 Km and still looking good

Today’s run (treadmill): 4.1 miles

Besides race entry fees, shoes are usually a runner’s biggest expense. If you look on the web, you’ll find different recommendations for when to replace a pair. Running shoe companies like Brooks recommend replacement between 400 and 500 miles and even less for minimal models. However, a study conducted by a German University biomechanics lab concluded that “the lifetime for a high quality running shoe is expected to be much higher than 1000 km” (621 miles).

In an interesting coincidence, I saw on my Daily Mile gear tracker that my Saucony Kinvara 3’s have just hit 621 miles. I had covered 470 miles running on roads and put on the last 151 running on the treadmill. Now that I’ve reached this point, I wonder how many more miles these shoes might have before they need to be replaced. Does “much higher than 1000 km” mean 200? 500? Even more? The shoes don’t feel any different than they did when I got them, and I don’t experience any knee pain after I use them.

The venerable GTS-10’s

I retired my Brooks GTS 9’s at 711 miles but stopped running in the 10’s before I hit 400. That was because I moved to more minimal shoes (the original Kinvara and Hattori). Although the GTS 10’s were retired for running, they have been my daily casual shoes for over three years. Further, they still feel good enough to return to my running shoe rotation.  

I’ve put more than 200 miles on my main road shoes (Saucony Virratas) and I’m expecting to get at least 500 more before I’m done with them. Since I rotate in my Brooks Puredrifts, Spira XLT’s and Helly Hansen Trail Lizards, I probably won’t be buying new shoes in 2014. But if one of these running shoe companies wants to send some new shoes to test on Running Gear Adviser, I would certainly give them a try.

A typical run, except for the walrus

Today’s run (street): 4.75 miles

After yesterday’s social run that was high on fun but low on performance, I felt I needed to go out faster today. My Saucony Virratas were still damp from Saturday morning’s rain, so I opted for my Brooks Pure Drifts that have sat dormant over the past couple of months. I’m trying to decide what shoes to wear for next Sunday’s race: the Virratas, the Brooks or my Spiras that I wore the last time I raced in Long Beach.

Once I had the rest of my gear selected, I was off. The temperature was 58° but it felt colder than that when I got outside. I started off running about a minute a mile faster than yesterday and I maintained that pace for the next 30 minutes. I stepped it up further for the remainder of my run, the last mile being predominantly uphill. Well, if not uphill, then at least “upslope.”

I did today’s run in my neighborhood and it was business as usual until I suddenly came across what looked like a large naked walrus standing on the sidewalk in front of a house. On second look it wasn’t really a walrus, but an overweight shirtless man with a long walrus mustache. I didn’t understand why he was standing there or (un)dressed that way in 58° weather, but I didn’t bother to stick around and find out.

With my next race happening next Sunday, I need to figure out my workouts from now until the weekend. I’m thinking that a speed session and perhaps another 6 mile run, followed by two days rest, is a good taper plan. I’ll also try to pick a route that’s free of walruses, human or otherwise.

Adidas and Reebok jump the shark

I find the look of this shoe disturbing

Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles

Earlier this week, I was walking up 7th Avenue when I noticed a guy wearing a strange looking pair of Reeboks. They looked like a chromosome-damaged version of Nike’s Shox, a shoe I’d disparaged in what has become my all-time most popular post. Amazingly, these shoes looked even weirder than the Nikes. It turns out the guy was wearing Reebok ATV19’s, ATV standing (I guess) for “All Terrain Vehicle.

It’s no secret that I despise Reebok’s line of running shoes because they significantly miss the mark in terms of both quality and style. I’m sure there are plenty of middle school-aged boys who would disagree with me on this. That’s my point. I’ve wondered how a respected company like Adidas, that makes some very good running shoes, would also have a brand (Reebok) that produces such gimmicky footwear. And then I got a PR mailing from Adidas that’s helping me understand that better.

A picture’s worth a thousand words

When I first saw the press release for the Adidas Springblade, I thought it was a parody. While the Springblade isn’t the first running shoe to use cantilevers to promote energy return, the design they came up with looks completely ridiculous. Or, in the words of those middle schoolers: Awesome! I’m curious to see if anyone ever shows up for a race wearing these monstrosities. The only thing worse would be if the wearer won the race.

The will is there, but the spirit needs some help

Getting out of the ordinary

Today’s run (street): 3.3 miles

I have definitely reached a point where my running routine has become just that — routine. I was hoping that last Sunday’s race would reset my focus, but I seem to be caught up in a cycle of three to four mile neighborhood runs done with mediocre pacing. I could blame the hot, sticky weather and my seemingly endless bout of coughing and chest congestion to explain my current state of stagnation. I think I need some sort of change to reignite my running excitement.

This morning’s effort was done more of habit than to help reach a specific training goal. While running for the sake of running doesn’t generate a lot of progress, it does have its benefits. Having the will to run, even in the absence of adventure, novelty, stimulation or objective, reinforces overall commitment.   Like so many other runners, I’ve reached the point where lacing up my shoes and going outside is no longer a choice, but a necessity.

So what’s the thing that projects my running beyond the routine? Is it a return to Central Park, a destination race or a new trail location? I don’t know if any one thing will get me there. It could come down to something as simple as a new pair of running shoes. Yesterday I noticed that the combined mileage of my Kinvara 3’s and Pure Drifts (my two main trainers) now totals over a thousand. I’ll admit that my level of excitement was raised when I looked into pricing deals on a new pair of Virratas.

Searching for NAVSTAR and my next running shoes

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

Wait time: 8 minutes

We had a late night last night and I didn’t get up until 6:15 AM. That threw me off this morning’s very tight schedule. By the time I went outside, my window for running was only 40 minutes. It was sunny and bright and I was glad to see that the roads were clear and runnable. This was somewhat surprising, since the temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark.

When I started the Garmin it looked like it would acquire a signal right away. Despite the clear skies, it took almost eight minutes before it finally locked in all the NAVSTAR satellites. This narrowed my running window down to 32 minutes. I’d watched the progress bar go almost to full, only to pull back to the middle. I had considered heading back inside to run on the treadmill, but I ended up waiting it out.

I set off on a rapid pace to help ensure that I’d make my minimum distance of three miles. A slight wind made the first half mile a little chilly, but it disappeared at the first turn. I felt fairly strong and figured I could maintain a low 9:00 pace without much trouble. I chose a set of roads that I expected would get me around the neighborhood and back in three miles and I ended up covering 3.14. It was an invigorating run and I made it back home a with a few minutes to spare.

While we were out this afternoon, I had the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about two pairs of running shoes that I’ve wanted to try. I put on a pair of Brooks Pure Drifts that were one-half size up from the ones I’d tested for Brooks. My biggest criticism of the pre-production Drifts was the tightness on my toes on the lateral side. The toe box on the production shoes felt roomier, but I felt some ridging from the mid-sole on that side.

The other pair I tried was the new Saucony Virrata, a zero drop trainer with a surprising amount of cushioning. The shoe reminded me of the original Kinvara, but with even better response on toe-off. The shoes fit perfectly and I wanted to them on the spot. I decided to wait it out a little longer as my Kinvaras still have some life left in them.

Brooks Pure Drift production model
Saucony Virrata with zero drop mid-sole

My verdict on the two was that I’d run in the new Pure Drifts if I had them, but I would still want to compare them further with the NB Minimus, the newest Hattori and, just for fun, the INOV-8 Road X-Treme. The Virrata is another story. It’s not a question of if I’d buy them, only when I’ll do it. I’m hoping that the Kinvaras will last me another 100-150 miles. But if the stability of those shoes changes sooner, I’ll be going Virrata shopping that day.

Running shoes retire too

End of the line

Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles

In today’s NY Times Well section, there is an article entitled, “When to Retire a Running Shoe.” It’s a subject of great debate, because the answer can be different with every runner. The article doesn’t provide an actual answer, but it does support my view that a shoe’s cushioning level makes little difference in terms of protection. Golden Harper, the man who created Altra running shoes, suggested that a runner knows when it’s time to replace, “You get a sense for it,” he said. “Nothing hurts, but it is going to soon.”

I think about that as I consider which shoes to wear during my upcoming race. My Kinvara 3’s are nearing 500 miles. Though they have held up exceptionally well, I know that this was when my original Kinvaras came to their useful end. The other concern I have about the Kinvaras is that, despite their light weight, they’re a little soft as a racer. I’m trying to decide whether to run in the Spira XLT’s that are a little more responsive (but have their quirks), or the Brooks Pure Drift prototypes that I use primarily on the treadmill.

Today I ran in the Kinvaras around the neighborhood and I felt like I was running close to top form. The numbers didn’t back that up, but I still did better than average. It may have been the stiff winds coming from the west that slowed me down, or the fact that I left a little in reserve through most of the run. I plan a more aggressive approach on Saturday. I’ll run tomorrow then rest. I hope this rain moves out by morning so I can finish my taper with a street run.

Icy roads lead to double fun

So many running shoes, few compelling choices

Today’s workout: treadmill (30 minutes), elliptical (20 minutes) 

My plans of participating in a GLIRC group run this morning were dashed when I woke to see more than an inch of snow on the ground. Normally I would have put on trail shoes and dealt with it, but the wind-chill temperature was 17 degrees and the road surfaces were icy. I didn’t want to run on unfamiliar roads under those conditions, so I chose to stay inside for my run.

The elliptical provides another good option for indoor workouts. The AC adapter arrived yesterday so my wife used the elliptical this morning while I ran on the treadmill. We both went for about 30 minutes and when she finished, I hopped on the elliptical. I’d pushed hard from the start on the treadmill and increased my speed to the point where I was running at race pace by the end.

As soon as I finished, I quickly switched to the elliptical to keep my heart rate from dropping too low. I put the resistance at 40% and tried to get into a fluid rhythm. The built-in fan did a surprisingly good job of cooling my face and the elliptical, while bare bones in terms of features, provided a very good challenge. My wife said the same about her session.

Ravenous Lite

Later in the day we ran some errands, including a stop at one of the large discount shoe places in the area. My wife needed to exchange some winter boots, so while she and my daughter took care of that, my son and I looked at running shoes. There wasn’t much that interested me, but I did try on a pair of Columbia Ravenous Lite trail shoes that were priced at $60. They were really nice. Very minimal for trail runners. But I couldn’t justify buying them, with plenty of miles left on my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards.

After my last couple of runs, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction in terms of performance. That’s good because I need to get ready to race. I saw on the GLIRC events list that Long Beach is planning to do the Snowflake 4 mile run on February 23rd. After the devastating damage from Sandy that wiped out the boardwalk, I expected this event to be canceled. I’ll be there to run one of my favorite races and support the people who organize this event.