Thursday, March 29, 2012

Swiftwick Aspire Socks - "The Best Sock You'll Ever Wear, GUARANTEED"

Socks? Now you are righting about socks? I thought you were a barefoot runner!

I have been harassed by my girlfriend recently because I have been buying shoes and socks and such to run in. Regardless, I find the Swiftwick Aspires an excellent choice. The title of this post has their slogan. I can't help but agree!

Up until now the only socks I have ran in are my Injinji socks. While they work excellent with my Five Fingers, I have trouble with my feet swelling in them. My toes get tight and the pockets of my toes get uncomfortable. They also didn't seem to release moisture that well.

Moving on, with my recent Swiftwick testing I have had a ton of success! Here are some things I like about the socks.

I like how they drain and release moisture. They are made of Olefin. The package says, "As the only Nobel Prize winning fiber, olefin retains less than 0.1% of its weight in moisture. It also resists deterioration from detergents and perspiration. This produces a fast drying, lightweight sock with incredible breathability."

When I first pulled them out my girlfriend said that they looked like baby socks. This is because they compress. I am a big fan of compression and find that it speeds up recovery by about 50%. I know this will be the right sock for my 100k. Hopefully it will keep some of the swelling down.

I like the way they feel when wet. I used to avoid water like the plague when I ran. Now I run right through it. Since the feet are a major part of body temperature regulation it is super refreshing to run through a stream or even a puddle. The best part is that it stays with you for about half a mile and keeps you cool without blistering! 

All-in-all I am very excited and pleased about my recent Swiftwick Aspire purchase. Even though I don't have much experience with socks, I believe Swiftwick Aspire's are a great sock and I highly recommend them, even if I don't have much experience with socks. In fact, I can't think of a time I wouldn't recommend them!

Wanna try some of their stuff? Go here and ask for some free stuff.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

VivoBarefoot Breatho Trail Review - My Trail Running Glass Slipper

Take that title as a Cinderella reference, not a hazardous barefoot running warning!

VivoBarefoot Breatho Trail
On Saturday my parents and I took a trip to Natural Strides, a minimalist running store, in Marietta, GA. We went there in search of one thing: find Tyler some good shoes for the ultra.

Some history is involved before I start talking about these shoes. I purchased and returned a few pairs of minimalist shoes from other stores with limited minimalist selections. These shoes included the Merrell Trail Glove and New Balance Minimus(first generation). Both of these shoes were too skinny for my foot and gripped in places that caused bruising and rubbing.

After a long drive we finally arrived. I was blown away. The selection was huge. All the major minimalist shoes that I had read about were there!

Like a kid in a candy store I began trying on shoes. One thing lead to another and I stumbled on the VivoBarefoot Neo model. It was love at first step. They were so comfy.

Unfortunately, as life goes, they didn't have my size and the only size that was remotely close was a pink pair. No thanks!

The sales lady then suggested I try on the Breatho model. This zero-drop trail running minimalist shoe was an excellent second choice!

When asked what the difference was between the Neo and Breatho by the sales lady(she likes to get different opinions) I responded, "The Neo is like laying in a bed with a comforter on. It is soft, comfy, and encourages you to stay there all day. The Breatho on the other hand is like laying in bed with a sheet on. You can feel the air around you and you are more aware of what surrounds you." She liked my metaphor.

I figured the Breatho model was a better choice anyway since the Georgia Jewel will have river crossings.

Next was the sizing. I was somewhere between a men's 40 and 41. My toes barely touched the tip with the 40s, but the 41s felt a little looser. I called my ultra running buddy Willy "Natureboy" Ingram who told me to definitely go with the 41s if I plan on keeping my toenails. Sold!

I took the Breathos out for a run today and have a lot to say about them.

Fit & Comfort:
These are the second most comfortable minimalist shoes I have stepped foot in, the Neo being the first. I have a wider foot and don't like shoes that wrap my foot tight. I have tried the New Balance Minimus and Merrell Trail Glove. Both of these shoes don't give me enough room on the bottom of the shoe. Maybe it is a preference as I have been told the Trail Glove uses the inner part of the shoe as arch support. I think that is bogus. The inner part of these shoes is the way I envision the perfect shoe. It is big enough to let my foot do the work.

The toe box on these shoes is huge without looking silly. My toes can splay naturally and do what they are supposed to.

This ties into construction as well, but there are NO seams that I can feel while wearing these shoes. This is a lot to say from the guy who in elementary school refused to wear socks because he could feel the seam in them.(I have come a long way) :)

One downside to the added room is there is some movement of my foot when I am going down hills. I believe I have worked this out with a form change, but there seems to be no downsides to this movement anyway. My toenails are fine and I see no rub spots.

Another spot I had problems with my Vibram Five Fingers was the spot that grabs your Achilles. The Five Fingers would get tight and leave a bruise on my Achilles. Being more traditionally constructed, these don't grip your Achilles and leave room for movement. When fitting these my mom let me in a little hiker trick. She said to tap my foot so my toes were at the front of the shoe. She suggested the right shoe size leaves a finger's width between my Achilles and this spot. Perfect tip for a perfect fit!

This shoe is well built. As mentioned, the seams are phenomenal and not noticeable. The soles look like they are going to last a long time. I can see myself running in these shoes for at least 1000 miles.

Ground Feel:
This shoe feels like the Merrell Trail Glove or New Balance Minimus 2011 model when it comes to ground feel. They are a little thicker than the Vibram Five Finger KSO Trek. While running in them I had to remind myself to keep a fast cadence. For the most part this is the trade off when it comes to slightly thicker minimalist shoes. As Karl Meltzer wrote on Jason Robillards Facebook wall, "When it comes to ultras comfort is much more important than form." I disagree with this but agree with it the same time. While some may enjoy excessive ground feel during an ultra, I want to concentrate on finishing. For this I do not need a rock on mile 16 of 62 to ruin my day. I can remind myself to keep good form with less ground feel, but it is hard to forget the sharp pain from a rock I stepped on 20 minutes ago.

The shoe also has some great grip on the sole for trail running. I don't think this is really necessary. Typically when I run, wet or dry, my feet stay under me. I'm glad to have the extra assurance that after 50 miles I have less of a chance of busting my ass. This tread, while maybe not necessary, is not a disadvantage to the shoe.

I ran through a stream about 7 times today. Every time my shoe was drained within a tenth of a mile. This + Swiftwick socks are my new favorite combination. Five miles after running through my first stream I had no rubbing, no blisters, nothing. Freaking incredible. Swiftwick gets a review next!

I have never paid much attention to the weight of a shoe(unless it is ridiculously light or heavy). These weight 9.6 oz, which I find non-obtrusive to my running. That's about all I got to say about that.

As you may have guessed, these are my favorite minimalist trail running shoes. The non-restrictiveness and strong construction get my stamp of approval. I feel like I have finally found a shoe that fits my foot right. With my current set of tools I feel like I have everything I need to get across the finish line at the Georgia Jewel 100k. I just have to use myself correctly. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My First Marathon - 2012 Publix Atlanta Marathon Race Review

On Sunday I ran my first marathon. To some this is a major accomplishment. While I am very happy with being able to complete this race, I hope to achieve more than this in life. That means you ultras!

Runkeeper Link

Anyway, back to the marathon! The day before I cruised up to the expo with my friend Dave. We checked out all the stands. I bought "The Stick". He bought some compression socks and a pair of shoes.

 I found some running related products, like coffee and therapeutic devices. I may want to review them sometime.

You know how people talk about not being able to sleep the night before a marathon? I went to bed at 8 PM and didn't fall asleep until midnight.

3 AM my dad woke me up.  FFFFFFfUUUUUUuuuuuu. I drag ass out of bed and get ready. I put on my Vibrams.

Everyone meets up at 4:30 AM and we drive to Atlanta. I am wide awake and feeling great!

Standing around in Centennial Park we hit the bathrooms and make fun of a member of the group, Noah, for forgetting his bib. Priceless.

Eventually we start the race. We start in the back and cruise along with the pack. We are moving around 11 minute/mile. Around mile 4 I noticed a girl I called purple shorts(short purple poka-dotted shorts). Super cool! We passed her. Around mile 5 my dad had to pee really bad, so we waited the line for the porta-potty. Meanwhile we discussed how mean/crazy marathoners pass everyone in these lines with the other members of the line. While my dad was in the porta-potty purple shorts passed us.

We started running again and I mentioned purple-shorts. My dad had noticed her as well and we spend the remainder of the time trying to catch up with her(we figured she was running the 1/2, which means she turned off at 7 miles I think).

During this chase we passed a barefoot guy. We talked for a second. I assumed he was running the half and moved on.

A lot of the race was blur, but there were a few things that I do remember. These are probably not in order.

We ran through the girls college(Agnes Scott), which was full of super friendly and fun people. Emory University was memorable and full of smiling and spunky people.

Decatur was really memorable. The crowds cheered like no other and we hit some really cool(temperature) sections. I remember one specific spot that felt like a wind tunnel. It was perfect for the day.

Up until this part I had a smile on my face. Until...

Eventually we hit Druid Hills. Let me say, I had heard bad things about druid hills, so I was prepared mentally. We hit it and started asking around, "Where are we?" They said, "Druid Hills!" Instead of being afraid I let out a, "WAHOO!!!" and started running faster. During this time it got hotter. At one point I think it was 85 degrees F and humid. I had not trained in this condition, so it was super hard. The pollen count was also rediculous. I could see the pollen when I looked down the street. Stupid environment!

During Druid Hills we started talking to more volunteers. We found out that every volunteer we talked to took 5 seconds off of our minds. We told them that we really appreciated that they stayed out for the slow people.

Toward the end of Druid Hills there was an aid station with girls, water, and iced-towels. It was awesome!!! I basically poured water all over my face and cooled myself off. At this point I was overheated and this was very needed. I took this time to refill my Camelbak which was about 85 degrees F inside. There were also people passing out ice in cups in front of their houses. Totally awesome for them to stay outside for us, especially the slow ones(runners, not homeowners).

After a few miles from Druid Hills we started making our way back to the city. We passed by a house full of people drinking beer and grilling. They had a stack of red cups and a pitcher of beer on top of the table. Someone joked and said, "Can I have a beer hahaha!" I looked over and thought it was a great idea and said, "YEAH can I have one!" The guy was more than happy to pour me half a cup and send me on my way. Ahhhh just what I needed!

I started to mellow out and really enjoy the run. The super hills were gone and we just had to make it back. At this point we were pretty pooped and had gotten in the habit of walking, so we walked some more. We will do a run/walk the rest of the way.

Next we went though Piedmont Park, which was an out and back. At the end of the out we had to run across a chip register(I guess they don't trust us). The turn-around had cheer leaders. Unfortunately it did not have any water, which was a huge letdown since we were super hot.

During the back I passed by the barefoot guy again. Holy moly he was running the full! I cheered him on and got out of that hot park.

The rest of the race was a true blur, but I remember a few long hills. We felt it was best to walk up the hills. As we were walking I looked over and saw we were being passed by a 20-something-aged man who was doing his best to run up that hill. Even though he looked like an old man it was inspiring to see someone trying that hard.

During this time I realized that my Dad was not drinking much water(except for at aid stations). He refused to drink out of my Camelbak since it was hot water. I forced it down. He also mentioned that his feet hurt. He knew he was breaking his form and heel-striking. I believe this was causing his forefoot to slap down on the ground causing trauma.

25 miles came and we still didn't feel like running. We saw a sign that said 3/4 mile and kept walking. Eventually we hit 1/2 a mile and started running again. During this time we were looking over our shoulders for the cart that picks up the slackers. We were coming up on 6 hours. "Let's get under 6 hours!" my dad said. It was very doable, so we started running again. My dad mentioned that it didn't hurt too bad to run. My dad and I came in at 5:58:44 and 5:58:45 respectively. We came across the finish line at the same time though!

We just realized that this was because he started before me. Gotta remember every second counts!

After finishing we got our medals, watched some people pass out, and talked about the race.

 All-in-all I feel good(3 days later) about this marathon. We disliked the inconsistent distances between aid stations and we weren't fans of the not-so-cold water offered. It is frustrating when it is that hot, but we never took it out on the volunteers.

As far as I know, my body is doing good. I have a twinge in my knee, maybe some tendonitis. It goes away with stretching my quad. The night after the race I wore Zensah compression on my calves. This made my legs feel so much better the next day. I need to look into getting some compression for my thighs. The compression is too great!

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Oh, and here is the beautiful lady who birthed me. She ran the half and did great!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Preparing For My Marathon

Well, in 6 days I will be running my first marathon alongside my dad and buddy Mitch. I started looking at the course today(yeah a little late i know) and started getting excited. It looks reasonable until the 12 mile mark, a lot of downhill until 17 miles, and a steepish uphill to the finish. I like the uphill at the finish because it's like, "Well there's no point in stopping now!"

Some people tell me that they get nervous about the marathon. Honestly, I am pretty confident that I can finish it. I will just re-do everything that I have been doing and try my hardest.

I plan on carrying my own Camelbak. I will drink lime gatorade(3 parts gatorade, 1 part water) and eat Walmart brand Fig Newtons. I will drink whenever I feel like it and try to eat 2 Fig Newtons every 2 miles.

I will be rocking my Vibram Five Finger Trek Sports, since I don't think my bare feet can handle the 26.2 mile distance and I have trained mostly in these.

I have been "tapering" for the past 2 weeks. By tapering I mean being a lazy fool and not only running on the weekends(14 miles last weekend, 3 this weekend). I figure I better let my body recover since right after this marathon I have a 100k(yikes!).

I will probably get another run or two in over the next few days to remind myself that I am a runner.

So yup. There's all my training secrets for a marathon and 100K. I sure hope I don't regret it!