Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Boost Experiment: Informal Review of Energy Boost 2 and Boston Boost 5

I absolutely love shoes. Any kind, really, but running shoes are a constant favorite. Why wouldn't they be?!

I have a fairly large collection hanging on a rack affixed to a coat closet. In truth, that closet merely houses an iron, a vacuum, and some random junk- but its main purpose is holding the shoe rack. This rack contains a number of brands, which is likely a reaction to my shoe sponsor program getting cut last year. Needless to say I enjoyed the freedom of snatching up and running in whatever fit my mood.

But here's the thing....after running in a number of different models-some working better than others, I learned a thing or two from my orthopedist and some pretty knowledgeable individuals at my local running shop. First thing, and this is obvious to having legs that don't react well to pounding: cushion, reliable and durable cushion. Duly noted, Dr. Johnson!

The next thing in selecting a proper shoe for me was seemingly obvious but had to be pointed out. While shopping at my LRS a couple months ago, I was looking for something light but resistant to breaking down during long runs. I am a big fan of lightweight shoes-being a former soccer player, a tight fit and like they are part of my foot is what I'm looking for. I had my eye on the New Balance Fresh Foam 980. I liked the idea of the thick sole and the outsole looked durable. The problem was, upon putting them on my feet, they not only looked awkward, they felt that way too. I had to fight the laces to make them work. But they're neutral? Aren't they all the same? No, not at all! At least in this case, but I digress.

I was then directed to the Adidas section, which to be honest, I've always been a fan, but the recent line I found borderline out of my price range. Actually, years ago, before shoe sponsorship I remember thinking how much I would miss my original Boston's. I was happy to see that Adidas had used the new Boost foam, which is a polyurethane manufactured in Europe and is used in BMW dashboards, if what I have read and heard is accurate. Hey-if it can withstand a car crash, it can sustain a foot strike, right?! So I slipped the pair on, which retailed for $120, which nowadays is reasonable for a neutral trainer. The difference was immediate upon trying them on and running a couple strides. I had found something that worked and I have been doing my faster runs in them ever since.

So why did the Boston fit so well? A couple observations: first, I have a narrow, almost pointy foot with stupid-high arches. It just so happens that this manufacturer tends to run narrow and most models come to a slight angle in the toe box. Much like my odd feet. A secure fit is a must, and the simple mesh upper contained the three stripes down the mid foot, which are a plastic material and works like a ribcage on the mid foot. Perfection. In short, these shoes feel secure and just stable enough. Another thing that was absent is the odd puckering at the base of the laces which happens with other models, because of the need for less width.

Although the Boston is more a performance trainer vs. a flat, I will likely use them for some races this season for the extra impact protection while I continue to plug in  the strength gaps.

Now for the cool stuff for shoe geeks: Of course it has the Energy Boost midsole, which looks a lot like Styrofoam, but seems to do exactly what it is advertised to do: return energy to the runner and absorb shock. As far as ride is concerned on the Boston's, there is less give than the Energy Boost 2, but for faster running that seems to work for me. I find the ride semi-stiff with just enough flexibility. The best part is the nice little 'pop' I get off the ground, making running with a higher turnover smoother and easier, especially making pace changes. There's no "sinking" into the shoe feeling, which I like.

Underneath is a fair amount of rubber, but it's not your garden variety, either. Basically, this shoe has tires on it. Continental, the tire company, is the manufacturer of the outsole . I have put at least 100 miles on the Boston's, and the only sign of wear is the dust that has collected on the upper. The mid and outsole look much the same. As long as the material on top holds up, these will be in the rotation a long time! Did I mention they're kind of fun to run in?!
My "performance tires" :) Notice the trail dust

Now for the Energy Boost. While I was not ready to pay the $160 sticker price, I found a pair on for half that and snatched them up. I expected them to feel a lot like the Boston's, but that was not the case at all-and that is okay. They are noticeably more built-up than the Boston's which look much like a racing flat with their simple design. The upper is a stretchy material that feels like a sock, except seems to hold the foot in place just enough-it is very different for those who are used to a "lot" of shoe for their daily driver  (such as overlay-heave Asics models, etc.). Again, the fit works for me, narrow and pointy. I ran 7 miles in them the day I got them with no issues.

One quirky feature that may turn some off (but I find ideal for me) is the plastic "saddle" in the mid foot. There is no give upon lacing up, and if you go too tight, you know it. One day I got a little carried away and had to stop and adjust. Some people complain of irritation, but I guess it depends on the individual. I love that there is "no play" in the mid foot and I feel locked down mile after mile.
The mid foot "cage" on the Energy Boost 2

Another difference between the Boston and Energy 2 is the amount of Boost foam in the midsole. There is noticeable more in the Energy Boost, which does feel really bouncy when you first set you-almost catching you off guard. Slower paced running feels squishier, but running moderate is a great experience where those with good biomechanics feel like they're practically floating. There is not much ground feel, but the protection makes me not think twice about running in them. Consistent shock absorption and a snug feel equal peace of mind for Adrienne. Some of my runs have felt like borderline cheating, but whatever!

This model does not have the continental outsole, but a plastic plate is inserted to provide some stability. While I continue to strengthen my feet, the Torsion plate underfoot seems to do the job for me. The 'tires' on the Boston seem to provide a little more traction, but I have had no problem taking the Boost on some light trails.

There is not much listed weight difference between the two, with the Boston at 7.7, and the Boost at 8.5 (on average, some sites list it differently) . The Boost 2 feels weight appropriate, but the Boston to me feels lighter than advertised, likely because of how responsive it is.

Both models, even though well north of $100, may last considerably longer than similar models. So have I found a forever shoe? Maybe, maybe not. But these two have gotten the job done flawlessly as I build up and get faster. I would not recommend these to everybody, but those narrow-footed, fairly efficient runners who want something that can take a beating, this may be for you.

The biggest take-home message of this post is to find as personalized a fit as possible when it comes to a running shoe. Trends are great, shoes are great-looking nowadays, but for the best performance and safety in the long run, find that shoe that matches the runner. You'll be glad you did.

Thank you for reading my long-winded take on two new models by Adidas. I was late to the party of this new tech, but glad I came!

Have you found "the shoe" that fully meets what you need?

Stay the course.

Friday, November 7, 2014

In Appreciation of Kara Goucher

Most mornings I sit at my iPad drinking coffee and eating breakfast before my workout browsing the latest on my five websites I frequent. I confess one of them is While LetsRun is great for providing news and updates on major professional and college races, its message boards are, well, judgmental and harsh most of the time. I can't help but laugh at the assertions and arguments of people who probably have times that pale in comparison to the elites and teams they're bashing or gossiping about. Sigh. Anyhow, Kara Goucher, an elite and fellow Oiselle runner I have followed and respected for many years now got ripped hard for her performance at the New York Marathon and her subsequent emotional reaction.

Last Sunday I turned on ESPN 2 for their coverage of the event, just like any proper running nerd, and watched Kipsang sprint to the finish, Mary Keitany throw down a well-run race and American women unfortunately struggle (a total relative term for those non-elites) on the windy, hilly course. One thing that I find interesting watching the 26.2 unfold is each athlete's style and reaction to the challenges that are inherent to the distance. The marathon is hard. Very hard. While Keitany was the proverbial 'windshield' in this year's event, Kara and the amazing Deena Kastor were relative 'bugs'.

Deena, while seemingly disappointed but in a subtle fashion, blew kisses to the crowd and steadily approached the finish line, not meeting her goal time that day. Minutes later, Kara looked visibly emotionally and physically spent as she made her way to end what was an obviously painful and disappointing experience. For the record, I would kill to run Kara's time on her worst day, however, race times are relative to your ability and level as a runner.

Monday morning I saw exactly what I expected on the forums as I perused the digital train wreck that is so hard to ignore! "Kara Goucher is done" was one of the nicest things said on a thread about the NYCM. These individuals went on to say she's all about drama and money and her display of emotion was all to get publicity. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn't. We will never know, but does it even matter? No. What I saw was an imperfect athlete (as we all are) not being afraid to show where she was at that moment. I don't know about the reader, but I would be pretty ashamed and embarrassed crying on national TV. The fact that Kara even did an interview and showed a brave face in intense disappointment I found impressive. Sometimes we aren't successful. But that is how running, and life goes. We are biased and fickle when it comes to society's definition of a 'winner', and seem to have lost sight of just appreciate the battle within that happens every time we toe the line. Could she have kept her cool a little more? Maybe, but at the end of the day, I am sure she learned a great deal and was herself. I appreciate the elite runner who is not afraid to show that they are human.

Regardless of her intentions, Kara was first to admit that her race plan did not work out, she really didn't offer any excuses and was coming off a stress fracture. As a runner myself, a fairly passionate and competitive one, I know how it feels to bomb a big race- and yes, it adds extra sting when you make your goals public and put yourself out there. And stress fractures are no joke, having suffered five of them myself. Biased as it is, I admire runners having the guts to get back out on the streets after cracking a bone and going through the lengthy process to get back to fitness levels that are competitive. Comebacks are scary and they take time-for professionals the pressure to race for sponsors and paychecks makes the process sometimes dicey and on race day, we're left with what we currently have in the tank.

Not only are you physically fatigued and beat up after a long distance race, your emotions also tend to run wild because of the mental fatigue of focusing on your race plan and batting away the demons of doubt and remaining positive and on task. Sometimes we excel at this, sometimes we don't, and it sometimes is very apparent that we have not met our goals. I myself have cried many times because of this. Maybe I am attention seeking too? So what if I am. I recall from my bigger race failures that I was just too tired and vulnerable to properly regulate my emotions and needed time to process and decompress.

Also, I believe there is nothing wrong with reacting to a race performance if done in a sincere and classy way. Many of us put a great deal of emotional and physical energy into our preparations, and we almost have to grieve a small loss when it does not work out. The good thing is, however, that each race is different should we view it that way. All the work we put in, even if the result is sub-par for our ability is not lost. You simply recover, accept what happened, pick yourself back up and keep on fighting.

So thank you, Kara, for your transparency and guts to just meet the race and spectators where you were THAT DAY. To use street slang, haters gonna hate, and running is so much more than just race times. May the judgmental ones take note. I am not my PR's or race times, I am a runner. Sometimes I perform brilliantly, sometimes I get hurt, sometimes I exceed even my own expectations.
Still getting it done on 11/2.

This is life. This is running. It is not for the faint of heart, but that's what makes it great.

Stay the course.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Adventures in Run Training: Late October Ed.

I took the free Soy Skinny Caramel Macchiato at Starbuck's this afternoon as a sign that it's time to do some writing. When opportunity strikes, I gotta take it:) Ok that has nothing to do with really anything, but I digress. Since I have basically taken the afternoon off, I thought it would be a good opportunity to put up a little training update. 

Things have been going pretty well over the past few weeks; so well that I got the green light to sport the Oiselle kit for the first time in a Thanksgiving race here in The Woodlands. Although it is still a month away, it's nice to have a bright spot to have a race to treat as a "scrimmage", so to speak. Besides, the decorations at that time of year in suburbia are outstanding to run through! Perhaps it's just experience, but my goal for this event is to just work on pacing. If I have the chance to crack the top 5 or so, I'll do it, but it's really all about enjoying the morning in and getting a solid run in with minimal frills or fuss. The mindset I am maintaining is one of staying in the present and focusing on maximizing what's right in front of me. 

On the training end of things, the miles are slowly increasing on land, intensity remains the same on the Alter-G and in the pool, and the training I do at Athletic Republic is already starting to be noticeable in terms of my overall strength and stability. Here's a snapshot of where the NB 890s and Adidas Boston Boost have taken me lately: 

Base Mileage: Maybe 24ish is done on the granite, grass, and astroturf. My easy runs are done mostly at the local park and soccer fields where HS cross-country meets are held. Oddly enough, I am not getting bored with it. I still look forward to just going and running a short 4-miler solo in the mornings. It's a good time to think, or not to think-whatever mood I am in that day. These set the tone for the rest of the day. Like I always like to say when people ask me how I can run so early in the morning: "Either I run the day or the day runs me". Boom. 

While my newly-strengthened body feels ready for more miles, I agree with Coach Doug's plan of "increasing each week by 10% until I say 'calf rope'!" (That's not a Texas saying at all!) 

Alter-G/Pace Work: The past two Tuesdays have brought a fair challenge : 8 x 2 min at 6:00/1:00 recovery + 4 min at 6:15 pace before cooling down. Both these workout take just shy of an hour to complete and are 8 miles in length. My first foray with the crazy turnover on the machine at 85% was pretty challenging; so much I had an effort headache that afternoon and almost liked it! My second go-around I brought extra fluids with me and finished it with relative ease, all things considered. I even took the body weight all the way up to 90% for part of the intervals. 

Pool Running: I am doing pool runs less frequently, but they still are of importance. After my Monday runs I have been getting in the water to supplement for the shorter land miles. Each time I'm in there it has a certain purpose and is focused on form and quality. And it's great for shaking the legs out. 

Strength Training: Besides my twice-weekly sessions in the gym, the training I have been doing at Athletic Rep. have already been paying dividends. While I was at my grandparent's ranch in the Texas Hill Country (aka Heaven on Earth) I had an awesome hilly run that caught me by surprise-the extensive hip and dynamic core exercises made uphill running feel much more efficient and controlled. In fact, I was having so much fun I spent all my daily allowance for running time and then some out there! 

As you can see, my overall assessment of the past couple weeks is largely positive. While I am still getting sore after certain workouts, it's a productive feeling and not a scary thing. I am just hoping to have some fun and run fast in the upcoming months. Emphasis on having fun-then the times will take care of themselves. 

Speaking of fun, below are a couple pics I've snapped from my running venues. The first one is the start of the trail at the ranch I ran at last weekend, and the second is from a comical moment after a recovery run at Bear Branch Park. If you look closely, you will see a herd of deer trying to graze the astroturf. Only in The Woodlands! 

Absolutely beautiful day in Medina, TX for a trail run!

Finding humor in your everyday run. Something's wrong with this picture! LOL

Stay the course, even if the surface is not natural!