Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Marathon Shoe?

GoRun Ultra
I have the Clinton Lake ultra (30 mile trail run) on March 28. That race doesn't bring me any anxiety. I started the darn race and directed it for several years. Nothing new about that course.  I know what shoes to wear, clothes to bring, and food/gels to pack. I'll run it, do fine, and be happy drinking beers at the finish line. It'll be a fine day of running and socializing.

About 4 weeks later, on April 25, I'll be running the Illinois Marathon. That race is getting me a bit nervous.  It's my BQ attempt. I ran it last year as a supported long run and things went well. It was warm, but I chatted with other runners and enjoyed the day. At the finish, I told myself this could be a solid BQ event. So, I signed up early and started planning on that BQ time (3:30 needed, 3:25 wanted). The weather will determine clothing choices, but I'm still kind of wondering about shoe selection.  Last year I ran in the Skechers GoRun Ride 3. It went fine. This year I've narrowed it down to three shoes, all Skechers performance models: GoRun 4 (7.1 oz) , GoRun Ride 4 (7.8 oz), GoRun Ultra (9.2 oz).
GoRun Ride 4

I'm thinking the GoRun 4 might be a better race shoe. Slightly lighter than the Ride 4, but still enough cushioning to tackle 26.2 miles. Good for a faster time? But if I'm running harder, maybe I need more protection. In that case, the GoRun Ride 4 would be a better choice. It's my go-to daily training shoe. Heck, maybe I need even more cushioning and protection from the road pounding I'll endure during the marathon--could the GoRun Ultra be an even better idea? All Skechers shoes are flexible and lightweight. Plus, they have a wide forefoot. I suppose the only real difference is how much I want to prioritize speed and weight, versus cushioning. As an avid trail runner, the roads do scare me.

Any suggestions?  Do you go with lighter shoes for your fast marathons?  Do you worry about the transition from trail training to road racing?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Barkley, Here I Come!

"Barkley."  It's a word that strikes a fear in many ultrarunners. The Barkley Marathons (100+ mile trail ultra) is the toughest race in the world. Some of the best athletes in the world come to Tennessee every April and almost all of them fail to even finish the race. I've been entranced by this race since I learned about it over 15 years ago. I even dreamed of running, or more appropriately, participating in the race. I never had delusions of finishing the event, or even completing the 60 mile "fun run" (3 loops). I figured I might, if in the best shape of my life, just barely stick with a veteran and drag my ass to a 20-mile (one loop) finish. Hey, I can dream.

While I dreamed of challenging the famed Barkley course, I knew it would never happen. You need to apply (secretly) to even enter the race. Then you need to be picked. Then train like crazy. And remain injury free. My path to the starting line had too many obstacles. It wasn't going to happen. I was still infatuated, but I had no real chance to participate.

Then, in 2014, came the Barkley Fall Classic 50K. It's a shorter, and slightly taimed down, version of the beast. It shares much of the regular Barkley course, but it actually has some course markings and aid stations. Still plenty of hills and briars. It's actually doable. A finish is possible. A slow finish, but still a finish. That 2014 race filled up in about 48 hours. I missed my chance.

Enter 2015. The Barkley Fall Classic registration opened up on February 26. I entered on February 26. I'm in. This is real. I'll chronicle my training as I get ready for the September 19 race date. Here's a look at what I'm getting myself into. The first is a short 2-minute trailer for a fantastic documentary about Barkley 100. The second is a 22-minute video from Vimeo. Both are pretty interesting and insightful. I should probably start training. Now.

Barkley 100 from Zefyr on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Poor Man's Hoka = Skechers Ultra

Hokas are the latest craze in running--especially for ultrarunners. Every ultra I run seems to have about 50% Hoka users. I've worn the Hoka Stinson Evos and they helped me finish the Umstead 100 miler, but I still found them big and clunky--plus they have a narrow toebox. The Hoka line has expanded to include many more options, including the lightweight Hoka Clifton. I tried the Cliftons, but had to return them due to a narrow toebox. Once Hoka develops a shoe with a more natural and wide forefoot, I may give them another try.  Reduced prices would help too. Hokas are expensive ($130-$170.)

So, what's a runner to do if you want the extra cushioning, but not the high price? Go with the "poor man's Hoka"--the Skechers GoRun Ultra. They are the premier cushioned shoe in the Skechers Performance running line. I regularly find them for about $55-$60 on sale (regular retail price is $80 for v1 and $90 for the new v2). The Skechers Ultra have tons of soft cushioning, are lightweight, and remain flexible. Plus, my toes have room in the forefoot. Traction is good, but they are not the best for "real" trails. The higher heel-to-toe drop (8mm) makes them feel a bit unstable on technical terrain (if you remove the insole, they become 4mm drop shoes). They are awesome on groomed trails and streets. Probably my favorite shoe for 50-100 mile ultras. Fine for 50Ks too. For shorter races, I typically use either the Skechers GoRun or GoRun Ride.

If you are intrigued by the "maximalist" cushioning trend in shoes, but don't want to commit to an expensive Hoka, try the Skechers GoRun Ultra. Skechers really are producing high quality running shoes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Running: Good Time vs Fast Time

I think there are a few potential posts here on this topic. Good vs Fast vs Fun. We all have many reasons to run: enjoyment, fun, socializing, health, time goals, personal records, trophies, prize money.  Some of these goals go together well, others not-so-much.

Fast times are often, but not always, our goals as runners. We want to run well, fast, and set personal records.  If not a PR, maybe an age group award. That's fine.  I fall into this camp fairly often. Why race if not to test yourself? But the pressure of performing can reduce the fun. It can turn a good time into a bad time. I might run fast, set a PR, but get injured. That's not fun or good. Or I might avoid interacting with other runners (socializing is fun, right?) in my sole pursuit of a PR. Or, heaven forbid, I try for a PR and miss it. Sad...and not fun. Of course, running fast has its own rewards and can certainly be fun. Even aiming high and falling short can be gratifying. I'm not telling anyone to avoid setting goals or trying to run fast. Just don't let it overshadow the real reason we run--to have a good time and enjoy the experience. We get to define what "good" is for ourselves. Don't be pressured by others to define "good" in very simple terms like "fast" or "first." We cannot all finish in first place, but we can all have a good time.

Don't over-indulge in seeking only fast times. We need to remember that "good times" can be fast, but they can also be slow. Good running times are often the best when they are care-free and unaccompanied by goals. Don't miss out on having fun (a "good time") just because you want a fast finish time. Fast and fun are not the same. Neither are fast and good. The two goals are not mutually exclusive, but they do tend to interfere with each other. Find the right time and place for each. Happy running!  I wish you many good runs.