Ready to be One with the Fitbit

“Be healthier & get more fit.”

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

I was excited to see that my Fitbit One came in the mail today. It’s a great device, but the packaging copy writers should work on their grammar. My wife has been using hers for almost a year and she finds it an invaluable tool for documenting her activity. It’s also a great motivator to reach her daily goal of 12,000+ steps. I love measuring my performance and I’m looking forward to analyzing the data. The software offers lots of features and even a smartphone app. I’ll report on my experience soon.

Now that I’m no longer commuting into the office every day, my morning routine has changed. I’m usually up at 5:30 AM instead of 3:30, and the pressure to complete my run on a tight schedule is gone. I now enjoy my morning coffee at my leisure and I spend a little time with the kids before they leave for school. I haven’t wanted to run while the middle school and high school buses are on their routes, so I’ve been waiting until 8:00 or 8:30 to get outside.

Today’s run was my first workout since Saturday’s race and, despite yesterday’s rest day, my legs still felt heavy. I moved along comfortably, maintaining my equilibrium pace. My distance target was three miles and I followed a different route for a change of scenery. I hoped that my race-day speed would carry over to today, but that wasn’t the case. In terms of performance, it wasn’t all that bad, just not especially fast.

I wore my Kinvaras this morning and tried to compare them to the Spiras that I wore in the race on Saturday. I chose the Spiras because I thought they’d provide more response on toe-off than the softer Kinvaras. I didn’t find that racing in the Spiras (for the first time, BTW) provided that much advantage. I probably need to start thinking about replacing the Kinvaras that have 455 miles on them. I’m wondering if I should start looking at performance trainers.

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.

Change of pace on an Xmas morning run

Shoe of the day

Today’s run (street): 4.7 miles

Today is Christmas day and the neighborhood was quiet in the morning. We had sleet and snow overnight and the streets were shiny from the rain. I’d originally planned to go to Stillwell Woods but I didn’t feel like dealing with wet rocks and muddy trails. I figured that most people would be hanging out at home and I’d have the streets mostly to myself.

It had been a couple of days since I last ran and I hoped that the break would be energizing. Just to mix it up, I selected my Spira Stinger XLT’s that I’ve neglected for months. I dressed for the 37° weather, stepped outside and observed that the clouds had given way to sun. While my Garmin searched for a signal, I saw a familiar runner passing on the street to my left. I wanted to follow him, but the GPS was being a little too poky. A minute later I was ready to go.

The Spiras were a nice change from the Kinvaras. I love the fit and comfort of the Sauconys, but the Spiras, almost as comfortable, return a little more energy. The one criticism I have of the Stingers is that the “Wavesprings” are noticeable underfoot. I recall feeling them during the half marathon training runs that I was doing earlier in the year. These shoes are great for shorter runs, but I wouldn’t want to cover more than ten miles in them.

Like last Saturday, I was able to sustain a good level of energy throughout today’s run. I only intended to run 4 miles but I got caught up in the experience and extended my route. I don’t know how much credit I should give to the Spiras, but I covered my distance a minute faster than I thought I would. As much as I downplay performance, it’s always fun to beat expectations.

I hope to get to Stillwell or another park at some point this week. Today the streets of my neighborhood were just what I needed to get back to into my running routine. Happy holidays to all.

Back to the Spiras, for now

Good buzz for the Stinger

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Another rainy morning has put me (once again) on the treadmill. I was fine with that. In fact I almost prefer the treadmill when I have limited time and want to have an easy workout. Running slowly outdoors means that I need to take more time to complete the loop back to my house. That results in less recovery and transition time before I start my workday. Advantage treadmill.

I’m due to post my reviews of the new Saucony Kinvara 3 and the Spira Stinger XLT running shoes on Runner’s Tech Review shortly. I’d spent a few weeks running primarily in the Spiras while I waited for the Kinvaras to arrive, and then switched to running mostly in the Saucony’s over the past few weeks. In between, I ran in the Saucony Hattori’s for a 5K and for some treadmill workouts. This morning I went back to the Spiras so they’d be fresh on my mind when I start my writeup this weekend.

Although I do focus on running shows more than the average mid-pack runner, I no longer think that a shoe will make a measurable difference in my performance. More specifically, I don’t think two shoes within the same genre (race, trail, etc.) will provide significant differences. It comes down to whether a shoe feels right, moves well and enables my best performance. The Spiras continue to impress and it’s interesting to see how they’ll compare to a Tier 1 player like the Kinvara 3.

Kinvara 3, Spira Stinger faceoff

Kinvara 3’s – a worthy successor to the original
Spira Stinger XLT’s – light, fast and comfortable

With less than six days until the LI Half Marathon, I’m still undecided about which shoes to use for the race. Six months ago I wouldn’t have hesitated to go with my Hattori’s, but I haven’t run with them much over the last two months. I’m not sure how those flat, non-cushioned shoes would feel after 13.1 hard miles, especially with my recent issues with mid-foot pain.

It has really come down to two shoes to wear – the Saucony Kinvara 3 and the Spira Stinger XLT. The Kinvara 3 is a minimal running shoe that I’d anticipated for a year, only to be initially disappointed when I finally ran in them. My issues, it turned out, were not with the shoes, but with the foot inside. An acute pain along my left mid-foot was actually a slight injury that has since healed.

The other candidate shoe, from Spira, has been a delightful surprise. I agreed to evaluate this model on Runner’s Tech Review, thinking they were the type of gimmicky running shoes I often lampoon. It turns out that the Spiras are one of the most comfortable and runnable lightweight shoes I’ve ever encountered. As far as their promise of slicing 15 seconds per mile off my pace, I’m not so sure I’m seeing that benefit. But the Stingers have carried me well over many 8+ mile runs.

I wore both pairs on my runs this past weekend and I’m definitely leaning toward the Kinvaras. While the Spiras have their energetic “Waveform” technology, the Kinvara 3’s feel like my original Kinvaras, the highest compliment I can give to a running shoe. Saturday’s 12 miler was grueling, but my feet felt great. The light weight and low platform of the Kinvara 3’s have almost convinced me to go that way. Almost.

Stingers, Kinvaras or Hattori’s? A hard choice to make

Hard to argue with success

I’m less than two weeks away from running my fourth consecutive Marcie Mazzola race.  The first time I ran it was in 2009 when the distance was 4 miles. The course was shortened the next year to 5K to increase the number of participants. What didn’t change was the big hill on Woodhull Road that makes up a good part of the first mile. After three races along that course, I’m actually looking forward to the hill challenge this year.

Once runners get past the big hill, the course reverts to a net negative elevation, providing some great opportunities to let loose on the downhills. I’m on the fence about which running shoes I’ll use for this race, but I’m thinking it may be between my latest two pairs: the Spira Stinger XLT’s and the Saucony Kinvara 3’s.

I’ve done my last two long runs in the Spiras and they have performed exceedingly well. I was prepared to dismiss them as a gimmick when offered the opportunity to test them on Runner’s Tech Review and I’m glad I stayed open minded. Make no mistake about this shoe – it’s lightweight, comfortable, supportive and responsive.

The Kinvara 3’s are also very nice. I loved my original Kinvaras but found the Kinvara 2’s less appealing each time I tried them on. To be fair, I never ran in them, so I don’t really know how they’d have performed. I do know that the Kinvara 3’s feel more like the original and, with their 4mm ramp angle, suit my preference for a lower platform. I have had noticeable irritation in one foot when running in these shoes, but I suspect it’s as much a foot issue as it is a shoe problem.

It’s hard to determine which of these shoes would serve me better for a fast 5K. Perhaps I’ll simply opt for door #3 and run with the venerable Hattori’s. These shoes, despite over 300 miles on their thin soles, still deliver one of the best running experiences I’ve ever encountered.