A Little Self Doubt

I remember as a kid trying to build up the courage to ask a particular girl on a date. It took some time, and when I finally did gather the courage to ask, the nerves were a mess – the dry mouth, the queasy stomach, the heat. The lead up sucked, but the end result was quite pleasant. It ended quite miserably, but did lend to some decent memories. Back in January, when I signed up for the VT100, the nerves were in much the same place. I was varnishing a floor with my alarm set and the sign-up page pulled up on the lap top – no way I’d miss out on registration. It was January so needless to say, the windows were closed; perhaps some of the dizzy, hot flash, giddiness, that I was feeling had more to do with the varnish than actually signing up, but I attribute them to VT.

I already had a training plan in place and knew pretty well how every week or so should look. There were a couple of races, some long runs, and a good handful of recovery days. June was supposed to be my big month. I was looking forward to hitting my first 300 mile month and my first 100 mile week along the way. Unfortunately, as life goes, a small handful of things have come up that are looking to make June just another sub-par month.
This past Tuesday I went out for a long run just over 17 miles – it shouldn’t really be a long run at this point, but it’s the most mileage I’ve done in sometime… It was an early morning run, and it started out quite slow, as normal, but the pace never really picked up. I trudged along, cursing the hills between me and my home. I’ve run these hills countless times before, but they seemed steeper and longer as I puffed up them slowing to something slightly more than a walk as I neared their crests.  It was miserable. These runs happen. We all have off days. Having never run 100 miles before, I assume that by the last 25 miles I will be feeling worse than I do on an ‘off’ day. And it is this that gives me pause. These hills causing such problems are the same hills I would be attempting to climb nearly 90 miles into the VT100 – if I could hardly get over them 15 miles into a run, how can I possibly get over them with 90 miles on the legs (that’s assuming I actually get there)?

The butterflies and excitement of anticipation that I had in January are still there. I’m still looking forward to seeing what I can muster – how far I can push myself, but a new element of fear has been introduced. I am not taking this distance casually; I know it deserves respect and a bit of caution, but the self doubt that was once non-existent has become a fixture when thinking about July 19th.  I know I’ll toe the line, but beyond that it’s something of a mystery. I haven no idea how far I can make it, how long I can hold out and keep moving forward. There will be an end, I just hope it’s a pleasant one.

Checking In With My CORE

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-Boo

So, a few weeks ago I got a pair of SKORA Core in the mail and was super excited. Running in the PHASE for a while, I was a little apprehensive to try a new shoe, after all, the PHASE worked, so why change it up? My feet are rather wide – and I think I like wider shoes anyway – so I’m always leery trying a new shoe, that said, the PHASE and the CORE are built on the same platform, and being made of leather the CORE is supposedly ends up being about a half size wider.

The mailman delivered them a day early which was a wonderful surprise – he neglected to come Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day so my cards were late, again. As I opened the box I was slapped with that wonderful leather smell of a high end boutique. That, too, was quite pleasant. I put them on and walked around the house as any runner with a new pair of shoes who can’t get a run in right away will do. They were comfy. Comfy and roomy.

Typically the first thing I do with a pair of shoes is to unlace the bottom one or two eyelets to let my forefoot expand, with the CORE, I didn’t need to. It held my foot nicely and there wasn’t a lot of tension in the forefoot area.

Not quite animal print, but still sexy.

Not quite animal print, but still sexy.

Usually, I also like to wear a shoe for 200 miles or so before I decided to make any decisions, and while I haven’t hit 200 just yet, I have worn them in the rain, on the track, trails, and asphalt, as well as raced in them, so I feel fairly confident I’ve put in enough diverse miles to make a judgement call.

One of the big things with this shoe is that it is made of leather, which means that it is more durable than the mesh upper of the PHASE, but it also means it retains water a bit better, which is not a good thing. Before I got any chance to run in a real rain storm, I took them across some fields just after it rained. There weren’t big puddles, but there was definitely a fair bit of residual water still in the grass. My feet did get wet, and the remained moist a bit longer than they would in the PHASE, but not nearly as long as I expected. It also didn’t seem to add as much weight as I expected. The leather did stay damp through the evening and into the morning while the PHASE would have dried, the moisture didn’t seem to wet the feet at all. Though, the first time, the dye ran and turned my toes a mottled blue color.

The next big thing was getting these guys out on the trail. I’m not a big trail guy – I prefer dirt roads – but I do venture into the woods occasionally. Being that these two shoes are built essentially on the same platform – there is a slightly stiffer piece of rubber under the metatarsals on the CORE – I wasn’t expecting much of a difference on the trails. And, as it would turn out, there wasn’t much of a difference. The leather of the CORE feels (and probably is) a bit more durable than the PHASE and feels a little more protective on the trails, but I assume this is just perceived.

To this point I had fallen in love with my CORE. They are an awesome everyday running shoe, and I’m even contemplating getting a pair for non-running (I never wear shoes…). Then came the real test – a race (or some speed work on the track). On the track they felt good, but maybe a little loose. I worked on tightening them down and it seemed to help some. I then wore them for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. Again, they felt awesome, but they felt a bit loose. It wasn’t an uncomfortable, unwearable loose, but for quicker events I think I like my shoes to fit a bit snugger – i.e. the PHASE.

Super comfort.

Super comfort.

At first, I thought the PHASE and the CORE wouldn’t have much difference. They’re built on the same platform. I was wrong, the leather upper of the CORE makes for a very comfy and somewhat roomy feel. The CORE also has a stiffer piece of rubber on the sole – I assume this adds some durability as well as protection. Some people mention that the ankle collar on the PHASE can be less than comfortable when new, this is not the case for the CORE. The CORE has a comfy piece of sheep skin around the heel that works well with socks, I can only imagine how comfy it feels sockless.

These shoes have quickly become a favorite for me, and I’m looking forward to getting more in the future. The only problem I’ve found is the tightening aspect. I think because they are made of leather, the last will stretch a little and in the beginning, the stretching is more, meaning you need to tighten the laces from time to time. I’m not sure I would wear them for races shorter than a marathon as the PHASE has those distances covered.

If you have further questions, or want to know more, connect with Skora on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or on their website. They have a plethora of running related information, and a crackpot customer service team that is beyond helpful.

More Reviews:
SKORA Fit
SKORA Phase

Covered Bridges Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. It’s a point to point race with a net elevation loss – which is something when you live some place that calls the rest of the world ‘Flatlanders.’ The first time I ran this I set a massive PR of near seven minutes. It was the first time I realized I could really run fast and in the front of some packs. The following year I bombed, hard; naturally this year I wanted to get back to where I was. The difference this year lied mostly in my training – I hadn’t. I’ve been trying to gear up for the VT100 in July and I

Trying to finish strong.

Trying to finish strong.

haven’t done any real workouts with a half marathon focus. Top that off with a cranky Achilles tendon, and I wasn’t really sure what  was in store for this past Sunday. In my mind, it could have gone either way.

Sunday morning came and my wife and kids piled in the car. I sucked down my cup of coffee and half a bowl of oatmeal in the car. The day before my AT had felt pretty good and I didn’t really notice it, Sunday morning was a different story. It didn’t hurt, but definitely let me know it was there, and was some how anticipating the abuse it would soon receive. My family dropped me off a the start and I wandered over to the check-in. I took my time putting my bib on, and lacing up my SKORA Core. I had 30 minutes before the start of the race, and wasn’t ready to start warming up yet. Eventually 8:00 rolled around and I headed out for my warm-up. Typically, I’m not a big stretcher, but lately I’ve really been working on my hips and calves as it seems to help the AT. I got back to the start line feeling okay, and two minutes later, we were off.

I didn’t really have much strategy for this. Part of me wanted to go out just under 6:00 and warm-up from there, but the other part wanted to stick with the front pack and hang on. Last year the leaders went out around 5:50, but it was much hotter. As it turned out, I sat at the back of the front and ended up going through the first mile in a 5:38 – a little too fast. The front pack consisted of maybe seven runners, a couple I knew were capable of holding that pace. Over the second and third mile a couple guys dropped back and the pace slowed down as we rolled through mile 3 just over 17 minutes. After mile 3, the spectators start to fade, and the race starts to string out. By mile 4 there were 5 of us still running. We came to the 6 mile mark right around 34 minutes and it was hear that the leaders left us. I think they picked it up a bit, and my pace flagged a bit. I kept trucking but my pace dropped a couple of seconds, and by mile 7 I was slowed to a 6:15 (I’m fairly certain mile 6 is short, and 7 is long).

With the two guys in front long gone, 3-5 slugged through the 8 mile mark. Seeing how slow it was, I picked up the pace – probably a bit too much – and dropped another 5:43 with another runner. And then the pace started to yo-yo and the other guy I was with left me behind. I’m not sure if it’s a mental thing at this point in the race, or a true physical inability, but when things get spread out, and I don’t really have anyone in site, I start to slow, then speed up when I realize I’m slowing, then slow down again and the back and forth continues until the end.

Good enough for 3rd.

Good enough for 3rd.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a nasty side stitch whenever I drink Gatorade mid-run. I’ve since turned to HoneyMaxx which causes no problems, I can’t really bring a hydration system with me on a half marathon. Anyway, I’ve learned to just rinse the mouth out with the Gatorade and dump some water on my head. Unfortunately, at mile 10, a bit of Gatorade snuck down the pipe and by mile 11 I was picking up some nasty stitches. It wasn’t enough to totally stop me, but it definitely slowed the pace a bit. I went through mile 10 in 57:30 and finished in a 1:16:26 – it took me near 19 minutes to run the last 5k. I’m not blaming the last 5k on the stitch, but it certainly didn’t help.

I’ve been training in my Core, and this was my first race in them. So far, they’ve been a delight in training. Nice and roomy, exceedingly comfortable. They proved to be just as delightful to race in as well. Though I think I might have to stick with the Phase (what I wore for my 50 miler) for shorter races as they’re just a bit snugger and I appreciate that in a racing flat.

All in all, I’d say things were a success. While I was 5 seconds off my PR, I still managed to pick up 3rd. My wife and I had made a decision that I wouldn’t have to shave my moustache if I won. It was farcical and I was planning on shaving, but my wife has decided to give in on the grounds that I was the first VT’er. She said I can keep it through the VT100 if I can pull out a ‘W’, ha!