Monday, January 17, 2011

Greedy little me...

How do you prepare for what you cannot see fully?

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

All I can see of my 2011 race season are the first few steps, but every step I take reveals more of that staircase so I'll keep on in faith that my God has something grand for me at the top. As the mileage continues to creep up I am reminded of His faithfulness in healing, but I would be remiss not to admit that it has come with it's own set of challenges.

I am greedy. Greedy for miles. Greedy for speed.

There was a time this fall when I would have been happy just to be able to run 6-7 miles again without aggravating the tendinitis & spending the following week in steady pain until it calmed down again. As I approached mile 15 of the 18 mile run I completed this weekend I found myself getting frustrated with the amount fatigue I felt & how slow I was.

I didn't get enough sleep. The sun wasn't even fully risen when I started. Not only was I tired, I was met with a -20F windchill the entire time & the layers of tights + jackets gets heavy. 2 to 3 inches of snow blanketed my footing & that became increasingly difficult to push thru when my feet didn't want to lift very far off the ground. I am still running thru tendinitis and this prevents me from zoning out during the difficult parts of a long run. I have to think about every single step so my form doesn't get sloppy & I end up hurting myself.

Given all of those things OF COURSE I'm going to be tired & consequently, slow. But the Greed still tried to sink my spirit. I refuse to resign myself to that.

With better focus, this is how it really looks. "It was hard to get up, but I got to wake up with the sunrise over my first few miles. The soft morning light made the snow sparkle, it was beautiful. The air was cold but I was perfectly geared & hardly felt it. 2 to 3 inches of snow cushioned my footsteps which is so helpful as I adjust to these long minimalist runs. My tendons are tired, but they do not hurt & this is the highest mileage week I've had in SEVEN months! "

Sometimes the line between a blessing & a curse is merely the glasses thru which you choose to view it.

Because of the tendinitis it may be harder, I may experience more fatigue, I may be slower, but I choose to be thankful. Every mile is a gift & I show my thankfulness by savoring every step up that staircase. God is Good! :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

70mi Later | Soft Star RunAmoc

As of last night it's been 70 miles since I first "laced up" the RunAmocs & thought it was about time I post a few of my thoughts or observations of them now that I have more grounds to so.

First of all I was expecting the transition from Vibram Five Fingers to these to take some time, but it took surprisingly little. I started with 3 miles at a time & was quickly able to progress up to 16. A few minor annoyances in the transition were:
  • How noisy my footfall was! It's far more noticeable when your feet are slapping the ground in them which honestly is a good thing so that you know to correct your form to land more gently.
  • Finding the right amount of tension for the laces. The forefoot of the shoe "seals" to the heel via an elastic and shoe lace system that cups your ankle. I have tendinitis around my achilles & inside of the heel so I was worried this area would be aggravated by that, it wasn't once I found the proper tightness which for me happens to be different for each foot.
  • They don't hug my feet. I've got wide feet so I'm used to structured running shoes hugging my feet & all of my minimalist running up until these has been in the Bikilas which fit literally like a glove. This made the RunAmoc feel like a weird leather bag around my foot. Given that they are basically a running moccasin that's how it's going to feel, but it was hard to get used to at first.
Blistering was an issue in the beginning. What I found is that since the sole-style is so much different than that of the VFFs or a structured running shoe that my toes wanted to try to grip the ground for traction instead of using my whole foot. I thought that Injinji socks would give me the free toes feeling I had enjoyed in the VFFs while still being protected from the elements in the RunAmocs, but they actually accentuated the problem. Switching to Teko or Smartwool socks has helped, the soles have broken in & my toes have learned not to dig for traction.

Is traction an issue? It's winter so I don't have a well rounded opinion here yet as I'm limited to running only on various forms of snow. That said it's not any better or worse in the RunAmocs than other shoes I've tried. Because it is a minimalist shoe you will feel the ground more (ie; feel when it's getting slick earlier) & from there can adjust your pace/gait accordingly.

My primary reasons for purchasing the Soft Star RunAmocs was to keep my feet dryer and warmer. They have done a beautiful job of that. I've run in slush & thru thick drifts of snow and been pleased with their performance in both. However, when running through deep snow there were periods when a fair amount of snow did enter the shoe(s). If it's cold enough the snow will heat up from your foot temp and then freeze solid again around your toes IF you leave the snow inside the shoe. If it's warm enough out this just means warm soggy feet. Either way not ideal, but these shoes are so incredibly easy to pop off & on again that there is no reason not to take a quick stop to empty the snow out. That said, in 70miles in air temps of 30F to -8F my feet have never been cold in them yet.

Now for how they are holding up in the North Country. They were doing admirably until this past Friday when I ran in a blizzard. Roads were horrendous & unplowed with styrofoam textured Volkswagon sized drifts strewn across them. I was force to take a short cut thru a park that had ice glazed snow drifts, they looked friendly like the drifts on the road, but they were not. A few yards in it got difficult. I would take a few steps then abruptly break thru the ice-shelf and down 6" into the fluffy snow below it.

As you can see the jagged ice crystals around the opening where my foot broke thru the ice over & over again really roughed up the toes of the RunAmocs.

The soles show very little wear which was my biggest concern when buying these. The heels show some wear, could be from the ice, but I'm guessing most of it is from the leather slouching a bit and scuffing the ground when I run. All in all, none of these areas of wear have diminished
the shoes performance & at this point I have no doubts that I'll be able to get a lot more miles in them.