Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Parkour looks fun or "My next midlife crisis?"

Despite what my lifestyle and blog might suggest, I HATE exercising.  I don't do exercising for exercise sake.  I only run because I find it fun.  I messed around with at-home crossfit workouts a few time but I never got comfortable enough with it to find it fun.

Parkour looks like FUN!  Jumping over stuff, climbing like a monkey.... WOW.

Parkour (French pronunciation: ​[paʁˈkuʁ]) (abbreviated PK), also called as the "art of displacement",[1]is a training discipline that developed out of military obstacle course training.[2][3][4]
Practitioners aim to move from one place to another, negotiating the obstacles in between. The discipline uses no equipment and is non-competitive. A male practitioner is generally called a "traceur", a female a "traceuse".

Check this guy out...

Now, I have no illusions that I can do that crap.  That is batshit crazy.

This next video, however, really looks achievable and fun.

Enter this blog post to further a new percolating obsession... breaks it down into an easy to digest almost doable package that really intrigues me to the point where I was practicing rolls on my living room floor.  OUCH.

I don't want to do anything insane here.  I just want to run up a wall like I'm the lovechild of spiderman and Jackie Chan.

How about you?  Do you parkour?  Are you starting a midlife crisis too?


Monday, February 25, 2013

Marathon Training and Speedbumps

I'm about 6 weeks out from the Boston Marathon (my first road marathon) and training has been going OK.  I'm not following any set plan since plans completely stress me out when it comes to running.  I'm in this running thing for the experience and I do it because it's fun.  Since I have a good base of fitness already, I have a half assed plan that is designed to remind my legs how to run long and not get me injured prior to race day.

Here's a rough outline of my training plan:

  • Run 4-5 miles at fastish (8-8:30 min/mi) pace approx 4-5 times per week.
  • Run a longer distance on the weekend at least once.
The 4-5 mile runs are easy as I can run at lunch every day for the most part.  8-8:30 pace is conversational for me on the flat roads around work so I can have a good chat with my friend and running buddy, Scott.

The long runs have been going OK too.  Just roll out of bed early and "git r done" during the suck months of winter in New England.  

My first "official" long run was about a month ago. 12 miles at 8:15 pace.  It was cold and snowy that day but the relative ease of that run planted the possibility of a 4hr marathon firmly in my head.  Until then I was thinking 4:15-4:30 and enjoy the scenery.

Last weekend, I astonished myself with 15 miles at sub 8:30 pace on once again snowy roads.  Again the carrot of 4 hour Boston was dangling out there.  I was pretty wrecked afterwards but I assumed I needed to eat and drink more so I put that into the plan for this past Saturday's run.

This past weekend's run started before sunrise but the weather was the warmest and driest of any of my long runs to date (25 deg).  With my food and hydration plan in hand, I headed out to do the same 15 miles.  I was hoping for a similar pace performance.  I would add another 2 miles to the end if I had the time.

The best laid plans......

Starting out, the legs didn't feel as fresh as usual.  I chalked it up to sleep since my kids were stuffy all week.  Solid sleep for dad was not really an option.  To start, 9min/mi was doable but it required concentration not to slow down to a more comfy pace.  I stuck with the eating and drink and generally enjoyed myself until about mile 8 when the wheels started to come off.  My hamstring started to tighten up and screwed up my gait so that my calf tightened up.  

Grinding it out sometime during mile 10 which is a solid stead and steep 1 mile long hill, I started think:  "What the hell would I do if this happened at mile 10 on April 15th?"  All of this plus the day's schedule led me to bail out at 11.75 miles. I still managed a respectable pace of 9:15 but it was a full min/mi slower than my last 12 mi run.

I'm really trying to roll with this minor setback and chalking it up to good days/bad days but I can't help but obsess about that thought during mile 10.  Do I have the heart to put one foot in front of the other in that state?  I know race day will be different but I just really hope I will not have to death march for several of those miles.

Oh well, the marathon train rolls along.  How's your training coming along?


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mix Master Move: The shoe-iest shoe in the minimal Merrell M-Connect line

The Merrell Mix Master Move rests at the top of the spectrum in terms of minimalism for the 2013 Merrell M-Connect shoe line. It is the most traditional of all the running shoes in the line. Unless you are a total shoe geek such as myself, you would mistake it for a normal people's running shoe.

For those who crave the ground feel, but like the idea of a little extra cushioning for longer miles or easing the transition to barefoot, here’s your minimalist running shoe. Built for the road with reflectivity and a lightweight breathable mesh upper, our Mix Master Move features a low profile 4mm heel to toe drop, getting you closer to the ground to experience the benefits of a barefoot stride. Mix Move sticky rubber sole grips hard surfaces.
• Strobel construction
• Textile and Synthetic leather upper
• Low cut upper
• Molded eyelets for secure lacing
• Protective toe cap
• Reflective details for increased visibility in low light
• Breathable mesh lining treated with Aegis®
• EVA removable footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution

• 4mm Drop / 9mm Cush / 19mm Stack Height
• Merrell Float midsole is 10% thinner and 25% lighter to provide more feel and ground control
• Merrell Air Cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
• Molded nylon arch shank
• EVA removable footbed
• Vegan Friendly Footwear
• Merrell Mix Move Sole / Sticky Rubber

Men’s Weight: 8oz (1/2 pair)

Mix Master Move makes a pretty darn good trail shoe for just about anything I can throw at them around here. Rail trail and single track are no problem for this shoe. If I'm spending my days on mud or sharp rocks, I'd opt for my Mix Master 2s (Review here) with the more aggressive tread and rock plate. Otherwise, I'll shave a little weight and grab the Moves or my Trail Glove 2.0 (stay tuned for this review!)

Mix Master Moves are a bit too much for me on the road. I appreciate the extra cushion on the long miles but there is something that feels off when I start to get deep into the miles. Almost all of my road miles in the last year have been on either the Road Glove (Review here) or the Road Glove 2.0 (Review here) so I'm used to a shoe that "disappears." My biased barefoot shoe blog reading mind wants to point to the 4mm heel but I can't be sure that this is the issue for me. I have hundreds of trail miles on my Mix Master 2 trail shoes (Review here) and they work great for me on trails. The weight, while light compared to a standard trainer, is also a bit more than I'm accustomed to on roads. I think all of these things are adding up for me and pushing me back to the Road Glove or the Vapor Glove (review coming soon!).
Much of the Merrell M-Connect Line:  (L-R) Vapor Glove, Road Glove 2, Bare Access 2 (not pictured), and Mix Master Move. 

Fashion wise, I love my Crimson colored pair. They really stand out and say look at me. If you know me, you know I'm an attention whore so my love of this colorway should be no surprise. For this reason, I'll probably wear these as much for casual bumming around as I will for trail or road use.

Bottom Line: If you are looking at transitioning from a traditional 12mm heel training towards a lower heel, the Mix Master Move is a good place to start your journey. If you are looking to add a different heel height to your shoe stable to mix up your gait during training, check these out.

Note: These shoes were provided by the manufacturer. Thank you, Merrell!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pre-blizzard Hijinks

I'm sitting here nice and warm in my house waiting for the power to go out. There are approximately 14 inches of snow on the ground already and the weather peeps are predicting another million inches before the storm blows out tomorrow afternoon. Because of all the hype, everyone either "worked from home" or got out early.
Since we'll have a gazzillion feet of snow on the trails tomorrow and they will not be runnable, I needed to get out this afternoon before the 2-3 in/hr snow started. What I really needed was a special kind of crazy friend to come out and play. Turns out, I have at least 4 other crazy friends who were more than excited to get out there and make some snotsickles. Throw in a GoPro Camera and a flask of some amber liquid and you have a great way to spend the afternoon.

Brilliant! Be safe everybody. Don't hurt your back shoveling.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Road Glove 2.0: A worthy successor to a great minimal shoe

I have been accused of being a Merrell homer by some of my running friends. It is absolutely true. I like to stick with what works for me and Merrell Barefoot shoes have worked for me since Jan 2011.  I love the fact that I can go from Merrell's Trail Glove to a Road Glove 1.0 to a Road Glove 2.0 and not even notice a difference in fit.

I have about 800 miles total on the original Road Glove so it seemed like a safe bet to give the Road Glove 2.0 a try as a shoe for my first Boston Marathon (and first road marathon, for that matter.)

First off, let's get the technical stuff out of the way (Direct from the Merrell website):

This is “where the rubber meets the road”. Our Road Glove’s simplicity frees your sole with its barefoot, road-specific design, connecting your feet with the pavement. Its back to basics with this runner: a 0mm drop midsole enhanced with a protective toe cap, midsole cushion and reflective, washable mesh upper. Durable Vibram® Road Glove sole.
• Barefoot construction
• Mesh and synthetic leather upper
• Low cut upper
• Protective toe cap
• Reflective details for increased visibility in low light
• Mesh lining treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution
• Wash as needed in cold water, gentle cycle and air dry

• 0mm Drop / 4mm Cush / 9.5mm Stack Height
• Vibram® Road Glove 2 Sole / TC1 Rubber

Men’s Weight: 7oz (1/2 pair)
Jasper is modeling the MixMaster Move (left) and the Road Glove 2.0 (right)
Don't mind the laundry.

The Road Glove 2.0 comes with some really cool improvements over the 1.0.
Road Glove 2.0 with new upper, overlays, and looped eyelets.
Original Road Glove showing the punched eyelets and older overlay
  1. Super light weight and breathable upper material with laminated overlays. The net effect of this for me is that I can get this shoe to snug down better and hold my heel back without feeling overly tight. I received these shoes in mid January just prior to a seriously cold snap in New England and I can tell you that the upper breathes really well and is NOT adequate for winter running when sockless or thin socked. I had no issues once I broke out the smartwools though.
  2. Looped eyelets as opposed to punched. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this change as I had really found the groove in terms of lacing up my old Road Gloves. After a few lacing attempts, I got the new Road Glove 2.0 tight enough to hold my heel back and fit "like a glove" as it were. I'm never looking back. This new lacing style is a great improvement over the old one. It's not the Omni-fit system I love from the Trail Glove but when combined with the overlays mentioned above I can functionally achieve a similar fit that is tight where I want it without crushing my foot in other areas.
  3. Full Vibram outsole built on the awesome Merrell Barefoot last. Because this is the same last as the other Merrell Barefoot shoes, those who are annoyed by the "arch bump" will feel it. It has been my experience that this feeling goes away shortly after starting the run and this shoe was no different. After 30 miles on this shoe, it is no longer apparent. Out of the box, they were far stiffer than my old 600 mile Road Gloves. It felt like I was running on paddles. Duh. It's a new shoe. After about a mile, I almost forgot I was wearing new shoes. The outsole is completely different from the Road Glove 1.0. The Vibram outsole now fully covers the bottom of the shoe which I'm guessing will really add to shoe life. I've done a number of runs now in fresh snow, frozen slush, and generally crappy New England winter conditions and the traction from this sole is nothing short of ASTONISHING. The only time I slipped was on actual ice during a downhill. These crappy conditions also bring me to my one minor gripe with this outsole. It holds road sand like it is going out of style. You can't tell while running ( and this might actually be part of the super traction) but the first time you come into the kitchen, you will know. No amount of wiping your feet will dislodge the sand. I am now required to take these off outside and bang the soles out.
Original Road Glove sole (left) after 600 miles compared to the new shoe.  Yes, these are the same size 12 shoe.
Trapped road sand in the treads.  Traction aid?  Maybe.  Pain in the butt after you track it into the house?  Yup.
To summarize all that above stuff, you are looking at a thin, flexible, zero-drop shoe with a very light and breathable upper. It is made on the same barefoot last (footbed shape) as the Road Glove 1.0 (review here), Trail Glove (review here), and Bare Access 2 so if you those fit you, you should be able to easily jump into these. If you are looking for a minimal road shoe, stop and have a look at these. You won't be disappointed.

See you at the finish line in Boston!


(These shoes were provided by Merrell.)