Monday, December 9, 2013

You sure are fast! - Yeah it's because I'm four

I went to surprise my nephew and mom 2 years ago for their birthdays (they share the same birthday) and while visiting with Braden we were walking to our rental house and he was doing these little sprint bursts down the road. I told him "wow Brado, you're really fast" and his response "Yeah, that's because I'm four". So in the spirit of speed I'm deterring from my recent philosophic ramblings and I'm going to talk about my new fast trail shoes I just got.

I don't know if my new shoes are really the "speed demon makers" that I think they are, but if you consider them under the realm of my total "quiver" of trail shoes they make me feel fast.

My first pair of trail shoes were Mizunos. I just did a quick check and I couldn't find the exact shoe anymore, but my guess is they are similar to the Wave Ascend 8. My road shoes are the Mizuno Wave Alchemy and I've had good luck with them on pavement. They've been good at alleviating knee pain on longer runs and hold up pretty well. I apparently turn my knees in so these shoes correct it. It made sense that I would then get a similar pair of shoes for my first pair of trail shoes. I really liked them, they are sturdy and strong and I felt good running in them. However, as I progressed in my running I found them to feel clunky and slightly unstable running downhill. The instability is probably from the more structured base of the shoe. I felt pretty separated from the trail and not in a good way in a "I'm not sure what's under me" way. However, I am very pleased with this shoe as my initial trail shoe and it's proven to be a great hiking shoe in its second life.

PROS: good intro to trail shoe, sturdy
CONS: heavy, felt less connection to unstable terrain

My second pair of trail shoes are (because they are still pretty new) the La Sportiva Helios. I initially wanted a shoe that was a little less focused on over correcting my weird running style and also lighter than my current shoes. I tired on a pair of Altras, but they did not have the correct size for my freakishly small feet. They did have the correct size in the Helios and I immediately fell in love with how light they felt. I've been running on them for about a year and am overall pleased with their lightness underfoot and the closer I feel to the trail and the ground. Unfortunately...they started to wear immediately. There is a piece that comes over the toe and after one day on the trail it was already peeling off of one of my shoes. Now  I know that trail running is going to result in stuff getting dirty and ruined. But I was disappointed that it happened so quickly. It was like buying a new car and then someone door dinging it the first day you park it at the grocery store. I am pleased with the weight and the swiftness I felt running, but not pleased with the overall construction of the shoe.

PROS: light weight, responsive to the trail
CONS: started falling apart after the first run. <---I will note that it hasn't fallen apart any more so I guess it is good construction after it sort of fails...

My current and newest pair of shoes are the Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1. This is probably a way premature post on this shoe because I've only run on them twice (and one time was on the road), but I really really liked the shoe right off the bat. It is light weight but still has a sturdy sole. It responds really well to whatever your foot lands on. And it is freaking FAST down hill. I'm serious! I didn't believe the guy at the running store (Denver Run House on Tennyson shop local!!!) that I would notice a difference but I did. I flew downhill in these shoes to the point that I felt like the shoe was just running downhill and I was along for the ride. Beyond that I also felt really strong on the uphill. It's true that I'm better at running uphill, but I do believe the way the shoe is constructed it allowed me to strike the ground at mid foot which allowed me to use my butt and quads more on the uphill and rely less on my calves. I'm really excited to to see how they handle for the long haul and will get my chance in March at the Salida Marathon!

PROS: light weight, responsive to the trail, good foot striking
CONS: I didn't get them for free :(

Monday, December 2, 2013

Desert Runners - Why we Run

I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the movie Desert Runners at the Denver Starz Film Festival a few weeks ago and wanted to take a moment to encourage anyone I can bug to see it when it comes out on digital media in December. If you want to check out the website and trailer here you go: Desert Runners. Don't accidentally try and download Dessert Runners, which would be an awesome movie too. If it doesn't exist yet I am willing to help make this happen because running and desserts go hand in hand in mouth.

The movie follows 4 runners as they attempt to complete the Grand Slam, running all four desert races in a single year. This was the first time I had ever heard of any of these races let alone that there was an added challenge to doing all four in a single year. Each race is 250K (155miles) and goes across the Atacama Desert in Chili, The Gobi Desert in China, The Sahara Desert in Egypt and a specialized loop course in Antarctica.

I'd rather have you watch the movie to see how it all plays out, but something that really stuck out for me was the one woman they followed throughout the movie. Samantha from Australia is a badass. Plain and simple. She was the most exciting person for me to watch throughout the movie and had to overcome some huge hurdles that touched the core of what it means to be a runner. There was an incident on the race course in the Sahara that changed the tenure of the rest of the challenge and no one would have questioned her dropping out. The story is best left to actually watching the movie so please do if you are able.

After the movie, the director did a short Q & A for people in the audience. One question really stuck out for me, someone asked her if she's signed up for a race yet herself. She acknowledged the feeling you get with runners at races, being part of a family, and that she got about 60% there to signing up for a race but hadn't. Her main reason; she said she lacked the "why". Following the runners that she did during this movie, she said each had a very compelling "why" that came out during the most difficult parts of races and that why helped them keep going or make the tough decision to stop. She said without that why she didn't think she could muster up the toughness needed to finish a race.

It got me thinking about why we run and why I run. I know I've touched on it some, probably in every post. But her answer made me think about what my "why" was.

Running isn't something I did when I was in high school or college. Running was a secondary thing I did to further some other athletic goal; tennis, softball, ultimate, etc. I ran my first race in 2002. I was living in Washington DC at the time and my roommate invited me home for Thanksgiving in Connecticut. We ran a 5 mile turkey trot, further than I had ever run in my life. I cannot remember my time, but I remember feeling like that was the hardest thing I had ever done. Flash forward to 2006, I was living in Breckenridge and started participating in the Nike Summit Trail Running Series. I wouldn't say I enjoyed the running, but I did enjoy the happy hour deals on snacks, the drink tickets, and the raffle. In 2007, as I was finishing up my internship and trying to plan my next steps I decided that I was going to run Grandma's Marathon. This was a race that I grew up with so it seemed like a fun adventure, besides it was in my hometown and I was going to be home anyways.

Choosing to run a marathon because you're going to be in an area anyways seems sort of silly. Marathons takes months of training and do a number on your body. Plus I had never done a race longer than 5 miles so I tacked on some additional shorter races to do to see how it felt. Side note I still cannot run through water stations to drink, I have to stop walk and gulp. But I ran that marathon and have been racing/running consistently ever since.

There are a lot of people in the racing community who run because they lost someone to a specific disease, or they are battling internal demons, or they wanted to get in shape and running transformed their lives and their health. A lot of people run to give back, to raise money for a charity, or to prove to themselves that they can do it. I cannot pinpoint a special moment or inspiration that made me start running. Beyond the convenience of a race being in my home town and having several months of unemployment to occupy my time.

But why do I keep running?

This question is harder for me to answer because there is not one thing that keeps me running. There are many things and most are tied to a specific race or goal which is constantly changing. That being said, I was able to come up with a sort of list on why I run.

1. Tradition

I run Grandma's Marathon because it was my first exposure to a race. I remember cheering for runners as they passed. My favorite memory is leaving an all night frisbee tournament to go down to the corner of 21st and London Road with my friend Matt to pass our friend James some Jolly Ranchers as he ran by. The crowd at this race is one of the best crowds ever and I keep coming back because being there feels like tradition. I give a nod to Lombard street as I run by in memory of my grandma and boompa, and I am still chasing the illusive sub 4 hour marathon on the way to Duluth from Two Harbors.

2. Fitness

I've always been athletic. I started playing sports so early I don't really have a memory of not being on some sort of organized team/league. Therefore I never took up running to get in shape or lose weight. However...I've never felt in better shape for life then after I started running. The year I started training for my first marathon I noticed a considerable improvement in my ultimate game, especially with defense. Running has helped me stay in shape in the off season and has kept me focused on being active year round.

3. Identity

Running has become part of who I am. It's more than just putting on shoes and putting one foot in front of the other. I've encouraged friends and family to start running. I volunteer at races or help crew/pace. A lot like ultimate, running has become a community that I am thankful to be a part of. I keep running not because I'm afraid of what would happen if I stopped, I keep running because it's just part of me now. If I wasn't able to run, I'd still be a part of running in some capacity. Much like an artist will always be an artist, once a runner always a runner.

To conclude, the director of Desert Runners is right that having a "why" to get you through the tough part of races is important. But lots of us runners make that why up on the spot in the race. Whether it's something deep like doing it for a lost friend or something superficial like "I don't want that person wearing the barefoot running shoes to beat me". Heck, sometimes you keep going because it's shorter to just finish than it would be to drop out. And sometimes, you don't keep going. You drop out (DNF) and no matter what your inspiration is that got you out there, sometimes you don't finish. But that doesn't mean you hang up the shoes for life.

In conclusion; the why isn't what helps you finish a race, the why is what keeps you going out for runs whether you're wearing a bib or just out in your neighborhood for a short jog.