My speed is back, and just in time

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles

After weeks of focus on distance, I’ve turned my attention more towards speed. Yesterday’s weight exercises were a good first step that provided direct benefits this morning. I decided to run in my Hattori’s today. Between the colder weather and testing out new shoes, I haven’t been wearing the Hattori’s much and I’ve missed them. When I set out for today’s run, I once again appreciated their simplicity and fit

Sorry Meb, they’re nice, but not for me

We had stopped by Famous Footwear yesterday morning to get my son some new shoes and I took the opportunity to try on a pair of Skechers Go Run’s. I’ve been intrigued by these shoes since Meb Keflezighi committed to them and the good reviews from both Running Times and Runner’s World. I don’t really consider Skechers a serious brand for running shoes, but this model seemed different.

My impression of the Go Run’s was primarily positive except for a raised part of the mid-sole that helps facilitate a mid-foot strike. I appreciated the spirit but not the execution. For some who are looking to transition to a more minimal shoe, the Go Run may be a nice option.

The Hattori’s inspired me to move and I came through the first mile at around 8:50. I maintained that pace through the second mile and then shifted into race mode until the end. I finished the 5K+ run with an overall pace of 8:32. Throughout my run, I used rapid arm motion to regulate my leg turnover and that produced my fastest training run so far this year.

Today’s run reinforced my training plan and I feel good about my preparation going into Sunday’s race. A little more speed and some end-of-week rest should get me there.

Lunar recovery

Today’s run (street) 2.5 miles

Since I was up and outside early this morning I was hoping I’d get a glimpse of the lunar eclipse. This is the first time in 400 years that an eclipse of the moon occurs on the same day as the winter solstice. I went out at 4:00 AM to chilly winds and cold temperatures and scanned the skies as I ran. While the horizon was clear the moon seemed to be enveloped in clouds. There may have been an eclipse going on but it just looked like a partial moon to me. So much for celestial wonders.

I had a tough run on Sunday and I’m often wary of the run that follows a bad workout. I look at it like a barometer for my current state. Will my next run be better or worse? Am I stronger or weaker, faster or slower? I’ve had enough experience to know that a single run doesn’t mean much (unless it’s a race) but a week’s worth of running tells a story. I think this week’s story is that my flu shot managed to undercut my training over the weekend and I’m slowly building back my strength. My run this morning was fine, better than Sunday’s but definitely not a strong performance. I wore my Skecher’s SRR’s and still paced in the 9’s so I know the effort was there. I’m due to run 5 miles in the city tomorrow with a friend who wants to “run fast.” I’m not sure how ready I am to do that so he may have to compromise a little.

Over the river (East and Nissequogue) and through the neighborhood

Wednesday run (Brooklyn Bridge/lower Manhattan): 4.25 miles
Thursday’s run (Nissequogue River Turkey Trot): 3.1 miles
Today’s run (street): 4.5 miles

I took a holiday from blogging yesterday but I’ve had some interesting running experiences since my last post. Wednesday was a half day in the office and at noon AG and I headed downtown to City Hall Plaza and over to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge where we crossed over to Brooklyn and back. It’s always an interesting and slightly frustrating experience to run that route with so many people strolling along the side of the path reserved for two way pedestrian traffic. It can be tempting to cross the white line over to the bike path but that should be done with multiple checks to ensure no bikes are coming in either direction.

We stopped halfway across on our return to look at the views. Looking south we could see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge where the NYC marathon starts and then leads up the Brooklyn Bridge where we stood. On the other side we viewed the Manhattan skyline that I used to see from different angles; south when I lived on 31st street and later from 74st street with my wife, where we could see west to the Hudson. AG and I resumed our run after crossing back to Manhattan and we covered Chinatown and some of Little Italy until we came to our destination – 6th street – where we stopped into an Indian restaurant for lunch. It was a great kickoff to the Thanksgiving day break. Yesterday AG ran the Prospect Park 5 mile Turkey Trot with our friend FS and her husband. AG then went on to run the route two more times!

Yesterday morning was a big day for Team Emerging Runner. We headed to Nissequogue River State Park where we ran in the 5K Turkey Trot as a family. It was very chilly while we waited for the race to start but we’d dressed well. It was the first race for my wife and my son and the first non-cross country event for my daughter. Everyone was excited as we lined up with a field that was almost 800 people deep. When the horn sounded we trotted along with the pack for a quarter mile before things opened up enough to go a little faster. We all stayed together for the first kilometer and then my daughter and I edged ahead while my wife and son followed at their pace. Shortly before the 2 mile mark we came to a water station where we stopped to wait for the others and then resumed our run together.

My daughter and I were more in running mode than my wife and son so we put a little distance between them and had almost reached the finish line when we stopped to wait for our teammates. We had agreed that we’d all cross the finish line together and I was proud of my daughter who could have beaten 40 minutes but chose to wait for her mother and brother. Once they joined us we all came over the finish line together. My wife realized that her daily treadmill runs have prepared her well for outdoor running and now she knows she can cover that distance running on pavement. 3 miles was a new distance running record for my daughter and for my son who kept moving, both walking and running, until the end. Once we came home and showered we headed over to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a long but fun day.

This morning I decided to cover 4-5 miles at an easy pace, faster than yesterday but not as briskly as AG and I ran at times. It was raining slightly so I wore my ASICS lightweight rain jacket that was perfect for the conditions. The air was cold enough that I remained comfortable through the entire 4.5 miles. I followed a course that took me up and down lots of short roads and through one of my standard routes that I use on my 4;00 AM runs. I feel great and I’m hoping to get an 8 to 10 mile run in before the end of the long weekend. Yesterday I wore the Skecher Resistance Runners during the race and I remain positive about them as training shoe. I would never wear them if I was trying for speed. In fact the reason I wore them was to slow me down. I went back to the Kivaras today. Between the Skechers, my compression sleeves and the core exercises, my leg strength and flexibility has improved. That’s good, especially if I attempt a personal distance record this week.

An ambiguously positive run

Today’s run (street): 2.35 miles

I’m not sure if there’s a term for phrases like “not unpleasant” but there should be. I believe that many would call it negative reinforcement but I’d prefer to call it “positive ambiguity.” Actually, That was my thought as I ran through the neighborhood this morning under light rain and cool temperatures. I normally avoid running in the rain because, with glasses, it can be difficult to see. Adding to that is the 4:00 AM darkness. I gave no thought to the weather until I stepped outside and saw that the driveway was wet from a light rain. I wore the Skechers Resistance Runners (SRRs) again to maintain variability in my running conditions and I wasn’t about to head back upstairs to run with them on the treadmill. The rain was light and, with no breeze, my hat proved sufficient for keeping moisture off my face.

The SRRs are beefy and you notice them when you run. It reminds me of the articles I’ve read about soldiers who run marathons with a field pack and combat boots. The shoes are clunky and the stride is a little awkward, yet I found myself appreciating them for this purpose. I could feel the shifting pressure on my legs and calves and I noted that my right upper hamstring did not feel as sore as it has of late. That may not be related to the shoes but it’s clear that the SRRs do distribute force differently than a standard shoe. Between the rain and the heavy running shoes I might have expected to dislike this morning’s run. Instead, I found the cool temperatures and light rain refreshing, as well as the feeling that I was gaining some additional training benefits from the more challenging footwear. I guess “not unpleasant” is a pretty good way of putting it.

First impression: Skecher’s Resistance Runners

Today’s run (street): 3 miles at 9:30

I’m working from home today and I thought I’d take a few extra minutes for my morning run. It was dry and clear with no rain in sight so I took the opportunity to wear the Skecher’s Resistance Runners (SRRs) for the first time on a run. I walked around with them for about 30 minutes prior to heading out to make sure they felt sufficiently stable. The last thing I need is an injury caused by footwear.  I’ll do a full writeup of the shoes on Runner’s Tech Review but I’ll relate my first impressions below.

When running with shoes of this design it is important to set expectations. The things I’d expect from a conventional running shoe just don’t apply. It is as unfair to ask a dog to turn vegetarian as it would be to ask the SSRs to move with the foot like Brooks Adrenalins or Saucouny Kinvaras. The SRRs are designed to purposely introduce unstable movement into the running process. I understood that as I stood in the driveway and felt the gentle rock of the shoes that is caused by the asymmetrical mid-sole. The SRRs are not comfortable but they aren’t made to be. They also run a bit narrow and short for their size. It was an odd sensation when I took off on my run. I’m used to the Kinvara’s flat, minimal presence and the SSRs made me feel like I was running with half a tennis ball baked into the bottoms. The SSRs are far heavier than the Kinvaras, or any of my other running shoes for that matter. I kept telling myself “It’s okay, they’re a special training device, think of them that way.”

I can’t say I enjoyed the ride but I did feel like I was getting a workout. It may have been the design or merely the extra weight but I felt it in my legs. I couldn’t tell where my foot was landing but I tried to focus on the mid to front range. I did notice that when I allowed the shoe to heel strike the energy return was pretty good. Too bad I’m trying not to run that way. My pace began to suffer noticeably after the first mile and I’m sure it was due to the extra work the shoes required. I finished after three miles feeling like I’d given my legs a good workout but not feeling like I’d exerted myself too much overall. I can’t see ever switching to this shoe as a regular trainer but it may yet provide some training benefit. I’m going to put them in the rotation for a while to see how they feel after a few more workouts. In the meantime, I’m still questioning whether they fall into the category of training resource or gimmick.

Hard to resist trying the Resistance Runners

I don’t yet know about the shoes but the packaging was impressive
After regretting my run on Tuesday morning and realizing that I needed some rest, I decided to forgo my planned elliptical session today. I’m glad that I did because I’ve been dealing with slight pain stemming from either my upper hamstring or my glutes. I don’t think I’m hurting it when I exercise but it will heal better with an occasional break from those activities.
The only regret I have today is that I’m going to have to wait to test my newest running technology:  Skecher’s Resistance Runners. Despite my earlier post where I poked some fun at gimmicky running shoes including these, Skecher’s still offered to send me a pair to test. I’m used to companies that understand runners and running shoes but Skecher’s seems to still be on the learning curve. When they asked for my shoe size I told them 10.5, D width. I soon received a call saying that they don’t make them in a wide sizes so would I want to go up to an 11? I straightened her out on the fact that D is standard width but I wished I had chosen size 11’s after I tried them on last night.
The shoes arrived yesterday in a huge box that was quite impressive. Cool materials, fancy overlays and lots of marketing hype about the benefits of the shoes. I don’t know if this what you get if you purchase them retail or whether this is special packing for journalists who test their products. It was very different from the boxes you get from Brooks and Saucony that are made for easy recycling. The shoes aren’t as silly to look at as I thought they’d be. I can certainly wear them in daylight hours but I won’t be using them in a race. That is, unless they make me an 8 minute/mile runner. My initial impression was that they are snug for their size, especially at the toe box, and that the purposely unstable mid-sole is interesting. Interesting good or bad is yet to be determined. I’m traveling today through tomorrow so I won’t have the chance to run with these shoes until Friday. I’ll admit to being more curious about these shoes than I’d imagined I’d be.

Tubes, zig-zags, bounces, shocks and resistors

K-Swiss goes tubular

A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I were on the train heading back from the city when we stopped at a station. Directly outside our window was a billboard ad for the K-Swiss Tubes running shoe. Knowing nothing of this shoe, I judged it on design alone. Built within the outsole were a series of open “tubes” that run perpendicular to the length of the shoe. The tubes were clearly designed to disperse shock and (I’m guessing) return some energy from the impact. I just remember thinking that I would never wear that shoe in public.

Adidas Mega Bouncer
Nike’s Shox absorber
Reebok gets Ziggy
The Reebok ZigTech shoe provides a similar visual reaction. In the case of this shoe it’s a rippled outsole (e.g., “zig-zag”) that supposedly provides a flexible high energy experience. I’ve been amused by the marketing of the shoes and the fact that not one athlete who endorses them is known for their running. I don’t know if the technology works but they sure look funny.
One model of a weird shoe that I have tried is the Adidas Mega Bounce. I like Adidas as a brand so I put on a pair out of curiosity. I expected springiness but all I felt was awkwardness. So much for that. I’d put the Mega Bounce into the same category as the Nike Shox. This shoe is built with shock absorbers in the back that remind me of the air shocks I installed on my Mustang when I was in high school. This shoe seem to be popular and they are fairly pricey but I rarely see them on the feet of real runners.
Skechers resists running
This weekend I saw an ad for Skechers SRR (Skechers Resistance Runners) that looks like a cross between those ubiquitous “Shape Ups” and a running shoe. Their website claims that dramatic gains in postural, gluteus medius and calf muscle activation (???) will come with the use of these shoes. Okay, good to know. I realize that all of the serious running shoe companies have their own unique science. Brooks has DNA and BiOMoGo, ASICS has their GEL and Trussic technologies, Saucony has “Pro Grid” and Mizuno has the Wave. At least these features are integrated into the shoe in such a way that they look like serious footwear. I could say I’m not one to judge but clearly I am. The question is, if K-Swiss or Skecher were to send me a pair of their latest models, would I give them a fair shake on Runner’s Tech Review? The answer is yes. However, I guarantee most of my testing would be done in the early morning, in the dark, so I’d have the lowest chance of being seen with them in public.