Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Kicks

Since the Montara Mountain Trail Marathon, recovery has been a lot easier.  It may have been due to better stretching afterward, or running a little easier (I was 10 minutes slower), or maybe I’m just getting used to long distance.  I took Monday off, ran a slightly shorter-than-normal flat run on Tuesday, and was back in business Wednesday with a good speed workout, then a solid day of hills on Thursday.  Took Friday and Saturday off in Disneyland.  Sometimes I’m still dumbfounded at how lucky I am to have the life I do.

After having the same racing flats for almost five years, which were always a half-size too small, I’ve finally replaced them.  It was a little hard to let go since I always ran so damn fast in them, even though they frequently gave me black toenails and made me all but lose a couple.  I knew their replacement would have to be something that ran just as light and fast, or I’d be disappointed.

So after a little research, I went into a running store with a particular shoe in mind.  According to the guys there, I was asking for a shoe that was way too minimal for a marathon, and the “racing flats” I’d been using could be better described as a transitional shoe, something between a light trainer and a racing flat.  With that in mind, they brought out a few shoes for me to try on, and I fell in love with a pair of Saucony Kinvaras.  They’re advertised as a light trainer, which means they should give more cushion and support than my old “racing flats”.  But astonishingly enough, they weigh less, which should make them faster.  And they have a lower heel-toe drop, only 4 mm compared to 8 mm, which puts them in a more level, race-aggressive position.  A little less comfortable for some, but more natural for runners with good form, and generally faster too.  So they’re supposed to be better for long runs, feel more natural, and yet they’re also faster?  Sounds like the best of both worlds.

So this Sunday, I took ‘em out on their maiden voyage.  Intending on training in similar conditions to the LA Marathon, I waited till late morning so it was a little warmer out and ran a mostly-flat route that was almost entirely paved.  The funny thing about the shoes is that they didn’t feel fast.  My old racing flats, and my new trail racing shoes feel fast.  When you lace ‘em up, you immediately think “I wanna be running right now, and I wanna run fast.”  Not so much in these.  Until I was four miles into my run and looked at my watch.  I was holding a 6:15 pace without even trying.  Holy crap!  So they run fast, but the feel they give I’d describe as effortless.  Which may be even better, at least for long distance.

After about an hour into the run, I was slowing down.  I didn’t feel like I was, but my time reflected that in a big way.  My theory is that since most of my training runs are about an hour, my body has gotten too used to working for that long, then quitting.  I should really shake up my distances a little more.

Late in the run, about 14 or 15 miles in, I got a second wind of sorts and started moving faster again.  That seemed to disappear by mile 17, and the last two miles were a little tough, but not devastating, and my pace only sagged to something just shy of normal.  Wound up finishing a 19-mile run at a 6:42 pace.  Not as good as my long-term goal of holding a 6:30 pace for all runs under 20 miles, but still pretty good, and a lot better than most long training runs lately.

The verdict on the shoes is positive for now.  Again, they don’t feel fast, but it’s hard to argue with results, and they do feel effortless.  The 4 mm heel-toe drop, smaller than anything I’ve run in before, is a noticeable difference.  It feels like I’m using my lower legs a lot more, but that’s probably a good thing.  Nothing at all felt uncomfortable, nor did it ever feel like I was fighting the shoe.  Thumbs up all the way around.  It’s possibly the best trainer I’ve ever run in, and probably the best road racer too, both in the same shoe.  Of course, that’s with a very small sample size thus far.  We’ll know much more later.  But I feel great about running the LA Marathon in these two weeks from now.