New England Weather, Snow Plows, and 130 Laps

A month or so ago, I was alerted to a marathon happening in Hartford, CT. I’d only run two marathons before, and since this was an indoor marathon, it seemed like a good chance to go for a long run and give the Achilles a nice little test run. Sure I could go for a long run and see what happens, but it just made more sense to do it when the furthest I would ever stop from the start would be a tenth of a mile.

All the stuff.

All the stuff.

Gearing up I didn’t really have a plan. I had an idea, but no real plan. My hope was to go out, run some seven minute miles and see how things felt. If nothing else I could slow down, but ideally I wouldn’t go faster than that. But of course, as things go, this would certainly not be the case.

As race day approached, the forecast started warning of a snow storm for the Hartford area Friday night into Saturday. As Saturday progressed, the snow was supposed to worsen. It sounded like getting to the race would be easy enough, but coming home might be a struggle. I checked the weather the night before and figured two-and-a-half hours for a normal two hour ride would be fine. It was all down at least two-lane interstate and I wasn’t supposed to hit snow until at least halfway there.

The 'clean' roads of Massachusetts.

The ‘clean’ roads of Massachusetts.

About a half hour into the ride, the snow flakes started falling. Not heavy, but they were coming. As I got closer to half-way, the snow really started coming down. Speed slowed from 80 to 40. At points I couldn’t see the lanes – 6:30/7:00 on a Saturday morning, no plows in sight. At a couple of points I almost turned around, but convinced myself that I had already paid my money and things couldn’t get that much worse. I was sort of right.

Vermont does something funny with their roads. I’m not sure what it is, a lack of salt, sand, no plowing, something; for as soon as I hit the Massachusetts border, the roads cleared up. What was once unidentifiable as a road quickly became a skim coat of slush on top of pavement and we started driving a little faster. We were still going slow, but I still had almost two hours until race start. I was a little behind schedule, but would be okay.

I’m not sure where I was when it happened, I recall seeing a sign for Hartford, CT 44 miles, but don’t’ know if I was infront or behind. Slowly traffic in front of me started building and we started slowing down quickly. It reminded me of rush hour traffic getting off of NYC. As we got to a long downhill, I could see the hold up, three plows across two lanes of traffic driving 20 MPH. There was no way around them and it looked like they were making the roads worse. As I rode behind the snow plows it started to dawn on me that I would not make the race on time. I convinced myself it was okay. It was just laps.

Lap Number...

Lap Number…

Finally the plows pulled off at an exit and I was on my way to Connecticut. Not having clocked mileage I had no idea how far it was to Hartford. I knew the exit, but no mileage. And of course, the kind folks in the Connecticut DOT don’t feel it’s necessary to put up those signs, so once again, I was driving blind with a timer running out and no sense of how far I had left to go. Finally about five minutes before race start, I pulled off the exit. The arena, which I assumed would be well marked with road signs, was not. As I looked skyward to the top of the buildings, I saw a big ‘xl’ on the side of one, surely that was the xl Center. Wrong. But they did give me directions to the right xl Center.

At 9:15 I showed up, grabbed my bib, got changed and hit the track. The adrenalin from rushing around and being late had managed to push all sense out of my head. My 7:00/mile race plan vanished. There were people everywhere on the track and I just went. I clicked off the first couple of laps in 1:20 (it was 5 laps to a mile) and knew I was too fast. I tried to slow down and I managed to for a few laps here and there, but it was a constant battle. I had found a rhythm and with people all around and a DJ who thought he was hosting a roller skating dance party in 1994, it was all but impossible to break out.

When I run, I talk to myself. Sometimes I whistle or sing. It’s all out loud. Usually outdoors, this doesn’t matter, I’m relatively alone and no one can hear me. Inside is a different situation and I got more than a few looks as I tried to talk myself into slowing down, mostly by cussing myself out and using a litany of derogatory terms.

I rolled through the first half in a 1:27ish and knew I was going to be hurting by the end. I could keep the pace for a while longer, but I wasn’t sure how much longer. By mile 17 I had stopped carrying my Orange Mud Handheld for a couple laps at a time and carried it consistently. By mile 20 I was shot. My quads were beat and I knew I was done. I stopped at the water station a couple of times and chatted to the girl while she filled my handheld. All sense of urgency was gone and I was hitting 8:00 miles.

It was the first time I used Gatorade during a race. Usually I’m just a rinse and spit kind of guy, but as it was indoors, there was no spitting. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind it, and while I didn’t feel any difference in energy, it did taste good.

SKORA Form, Orange Mud duffel and Handheld. First time my name is on a bib!

SKORA Form, Orange Mud duffel and Handheld. First time my name is on a bib!

I ended up finishing third in an official time of 3:19:52 but if I had showed up on time, or if the clock started when I started it was a 3:06:28. Given that I’ve been running 30mpw since July, I’m pleased. I will add that the DOMS are killing me. I recovered faster after the Joe English 6hr than I did this marathon.

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FORM Review

IMG_8400Some time ago – back in October – I got a pair of SKORA Form. Yes, October was a long time ago; it was over three months ago. So why has it taken this long to write up a review? Partly sheer laziness, and part of it was me trying to put some miles on these guys. Ideally, I like to get atleast 200 miles on a shoe before I make any ground shattering pronouncements, and with my buggered up achilles and off-season, I didn’t get 200 on these guys until mid-December. (I know it’s mid-January, but shh…).

Anyway, if you’ve followed along on this blog, or read my SKORA reviews (PHASE, CORE, FIT), you know that each shoe appears to outdo the last. Well, the FORM has without a doubt, outdone them all. I kid you not, this is the best shoe I have ever worn; running or other.

There’s so much good about these shoes, I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start from the top. Like the CORE, the FORM are made from Pittards Goat Leather. I’m not sure if the FORM undergo different treatment than the CORE, but the uppers seem a little different; slightly more supple while being a little bit thicker. There is also a patch of Pittars sheepskin in the heel of the shoe to keep your foot from sliding around on some silky smooth goat leather.

Like all SKORA to date, there is essentially no tongue, but instead a sort of wrap

Velcro

Velcro

that goes underneath the asymmetrical lacing system. The lack of a standard tongue and the asymmetrical lacing eliminates hot spots. There are no pressure points when you tie these shoes on meaning if you want, you can go barefoot with next to no ‘break-in’ period. SKORA has also included a velcro strap across the back of the heel that allows you to tighten the shoe down from the back. To be honest, I’ve never really tried to play around with this much. I tightened it a couple of times and really didn’t like it. I much prefer the heel to have some movement.

They also have a reflective stripe down the center of the faux-tongue and the heel. The reflection only occurs when light hits the stripe, so while these shoes are typically all black, there is a built in saftey feature for night runners.

The FORM, like all SKORA models is a zero-drop shoe, but has a stack height of 13mm. (2 more than the PHASE and CORE, but 3 less than the FIT.) I removed my insole for a stack height of 10mm. The heel is rounded to provide a more anatomically correct fit and the sole is made from two different materials. There is the black, molded EVA, and then the blue high abrasion rubber. The high abrasion rubber allows you to run on some pretty gnarly surfaces and still put many miles on these shoes.

The ground feel on these is quite nice, but not quite as good as the CORE or the PHASE with the insoles removed. This is due in part to the extra 2mm of stack on the FORM and also the high abrasion rubber. Despite this though, the FORM provides a great ride in ultimate comfort.

woodsI can’t say that I’ve beat on these shoes to the max, but I have given them a pretty good run through. They’ve been on trails, roads, tracks, snow, ice, water, pretty much everything. With their low profile, they also double up as everday shoes when the weather is too crummy for flip flops (which it is quite frequently this time of year…).

Another huge plus that I love about the leather FORM, is the ability to retain heat, but breath. Typically with synthetic shoes, I would have to double up on socks when temps dip to single digits and below (Farenheit), but with the FORM, a cheap pair of cotton socks is all I need.

One of the big drawbacks to the FORM is it’s price, but this can be looked at a couple of ways. They cost $180. That’s a lot of money. At the same time, these shoes will not break down. You won’t poke holes in them with your toes, or trip over a stick and rip them down the middle. And you’re going to have to work quite hard to wear the sole down. That said, these shoes can easily go twice the distance a mid-range running shoe will normally get you, and when (if) the sole wears down, you can still use them as casual shoes without any problems.

form and cordAnother trick is to pay attention for sales and discount codes. Right now SKORA is running a massive 30% off sale, and if you use the code ‘warmup10’ at checkout, they’ll give you an additional $10. That’s a pair of FORM for $115. Seriously, one of the best bargains out there. And while you check out the sale, make sure to sign up for the newsletter, that’s how ou find out about these sales, and you get entered into a raffle for a free pair of FIT. It’s almsot like stealing…

Other SKORA Reviews
PHASE
CORE
FIT

Running Perspective

Perspective is one of those things that changes. From individual to individual, from subject to subject; our past experiences shift how we view the same things, and running is no different.

One thing people say when they learn I ran 100 miles is: “that’s a long way.” In truth, I suppose it is, but coming into it, I didn’t look at it as a long way, but just another event.

When I first started running, there was no real fixed distance we would strive to attain during practices. Rather we’d head out with our coach and he’d tell us when we were done – usually somewhere in the 50-60 minute range. Race day would come and we’d run our 5k, and then be back to random non-distance measured runs. I knew what a mile was, but I guess I never really grasped the distance of it. It’s just a distance, not long, not short; point ‘a’ to point ‘b’; four times around a track.

As I got older, I entered longer races: a 10k road race, a 15k road race. I did well enough that I convinced myself I enjoyed the ‘longer’ distances. The thing was, now that I had done a couple of these longer races, a 5k seemed like a short little jaunt. It was still demanding, but it seemed shorter.

They say when you’re training for a specific race, you should make at least one of your long runs longer than the actual race. For half marathons and below, this is an easy enough feat, but when you start getting up to marathons and 50ks, it becomes a little trickier – though still doable. One of the things going long does is to warp your perspective. If you’ve run 20 miles before, 13.1 is a heck of a lot less.

I was nervous going into my first 100. I’d run 50 miles before, once, and it was okay, but 100 miles seemed like a big undertaking, albeit, not as big as some of the races I’d read about. I’m not sure if I have some simpleton nature that stops me from being able to comprehend how long an hour is or how far a mile is or if it was hearing about guys running 400+ miles in one outing at a 6-day event, but the enormity of 100 miles is lost on me.

In October I ran a 6 hour timed race. Six hours might seem like a long time – it is a quarter of a day – but in July I had run (read: moved forward) for 19:36, six hours is less than a third of that time. It would be a cakewalk I told myself. In the end, it was rather enjoyable. Coming up in a couple of weeks I have an indoor marathon. My training has been sub par for sure, maxing out at 30 miles per week with no real speed work to speak of. I have no hope of a ‘good’ time, but I’m not scared of the distance. Compared to some of the recent distances I’ve done, a marathon is nothing.

If you want to run long, run longer. Forget what you know about far and short. Ignore what an hour is or isn’t. Go run and run and run some more. Change your perspective. Stretch it out. Let what you once deemed long become average.

Moving Forward

It’s been a little while since my last post, and not for any real lack of things to say. I hosted a little Fat Ass and got some much-needed help from VT Trail Girl in some abominable weather conditions. I got a chance to see 100:Head/Heart/Feet. I consciously neglected registering for one of my favorite half-marathons. And as the end of December came, I realized my mileage had seriously fallen off and I would be eking through the year on heavy miles put in early in the year.

Last year, when the New Year rolled around, I made a list of goals. As I look back, I achieved a good number of those goals, and while I should be happy, I’m not. I missed the most crucial goal: stay injury free. Last February I buggered up my Achilles and continued to run through it. It didn’t hurt to run, but over time, the stiffness as I got out of bed started to last longer into the morning. I knew what I was doing, but could only focus on running my first 50 and going on to complete the VT100. While I managed to do both of those things, my performance at VT was sub par for what I had hoped, but I still got it done. Part of the sub par performance was due to the Achilles finally catching up and hampering my training: lower miles, little to no speed work, and a bit of mental angst.

Since VT I’ve been hitting 20-30 miles per week with the exception of a 6hr race in October. The reduced mileage and slower pace has certainly helped. My Achilles, while it is still swollen, is not nearly the size it was back in July. Most all stiffness is gone in the morning, though my miles are still low. If I hit more than 7 or 8 miles, it’s sore the next day. There’s still some awkward pinching, and I know the end is not near. Consequently, my plans for 2015 have taken a huge change.

I mentioned that I neglected to sign up for one of my favorite half marathons and while cost is certainly a factor, there is also the knowledge that I would be heavily under-prepared and if I want to go for a 13 mile run, I can do so on my own. I was also planning on running the Lake Waramaug 50m or 100k this April, but that too has been sidelined for next year. And while I could probably putter my way through, it wouldn’t be wise, or fun. The next event quickly approaching is registration for the VT100. I’m not entirely sure yet if I want to run the 100m or the 100k, I can figure it out as the day approaches. However, with the Achilles, I’m not even sure I want to sign up. $250 is a lot of money to waste, and I’m kind of afraid that with a race picked out that far into the future, I might try to push before things are ready to be pushed. Do I register and cut my financial loss if I’m just not ready? It’s 6+ months into the future, I should be good to go, but can’t be sure of it.

Perhaps I’m being over-cautious after giving my self some serious issues, or maybe I’m just trying to protect my ego. Hopefully by September/October I’ll be trained and ready to hit some fall ultras, but we’ll see. Just lots of rehabbing in the mean time.

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