Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's the New Shoe Review, Comin' at You

It's the New Shoe Review...comin' at you.
It's the New Shoe Reee-view, comin' right at you.
If you remember the New Zoo Review, a children's tv show from the seventies, you'll get the reference. If not, so sorry, but the theme song is in my head and will not leave.

About three weeks ago, I promised I would provide a review of the Nike LunaRacer. At that time, I had only worn them a few times, and I wasn't even sure if I would wear them in Chicago. Well, as I mentioned last week, I did wear them and the results were...well..the results were pretty freckin' good.
These are by far the lightest racing shoes I have ever worn. When I take them off, I tie the laces to my wrist and they float in the air like helium balloons. Ummm...OK, they really don't float in the air, but Nike's press release says they weight only 5.5ounces. I verified the weight on a recently calibrated and certified component scale at work, and it came out to exactly 5.5 ounces.
You might think that to get that light weight, you pay a heavy price in terms of lost support. You might want to stop thinking that now. The innovative construction of these shoes, particularly the uppers, and the remarkable properties of the Lunarlite foam, provide more than adequate support. After 26.2 miles on the concrete streets of Chicago, I felt no pain or discomfort in my feet, nor in my ankles or knees for that matter. Now, I should add that I do most of my training miles in Nike Free 5.0 and 3.0, which are very neutral, minimalist shoes, so my feet have been strengthened and prepared for these light-weight, low-heeled, very flexible racers. Further, I have worked on my stide to become a mid-foot striker, with a sufficient knee bend to allow me to let the natural mechanics of my ankles and knees to absorb the impact. (If you want to know more about this, just leave a comment and I'll happily blather on for hours until you are very sorry indeed that you ever asked about this topic.)
I have a moderate arch, neither low nor high. Much of the LunaRacers arch support is provided by the Flywire which are tiny filaments embedded in the mesh of the upper, and attached at the laces. See the image below. They are super-light and strong, providing support for your arch in a way similar to the cables of a suspension bridge.
In summary, they are incredibly light (you have to hold them in your hand to appreciate how light 5.5 ounces feels). They provide excellent support. There construction quality is good, with no irritating seams or abrasion point to irritate your feet. They are highly flexible, and give you a Nike Free-like feel. They may not be a good choice for runners who prefer traditional, highly constructed road running shoes. If you are among them, but are still intrigued by the LunaRacers, I'd recommend first doing some training in a flatter, less rigid shoe to see how your feet react. Or you might want to try the Lunar Trainer, although I have not tried this (yet) so I cannot recommend it.


What a nice running week I've had! I'm feeling good, no injuries to deal with, so I'm enjoying the runs, watching the leaves fall. And since I have no races planned until Boston in April, I am not putting in big miles. Here are the training totals.

Total Miles for the week 58.7

On Saturday, I got to Lock 29 about a half-hour early, intending to do a couple of early miles before the group arrived. Another one of the regulars, Tom, was there, and he asked if I want to do our early miles together. Well, one thing led to another, we lost track of the time, and did five miles. When we got back to Lock 29, the group had left. It all worked out anyway, because as Tom and I were returning, we spotted E-speed approaching. She turned and ran back with us. When we found that the group had left, E-speed asked if we would run on the roads with her, as she needed to do some road work to perp for the Richmond Marathon. Tom declined, but I said 'Sure', and we took off. We ran south on Riverview, then cut across on Bolanz to Akron-Peninsula Road for a six mile out and back. Added to my five early miles, that gave me 11 for the day. E-speed kept going as she was doing her long run on Saturday so she could work an aid station at the Running With Scissors ultra on Sunday.

The Sunday long run was remarkable good. I did an early mile or so before the group started, then ran a very good pace for a long, training run, especially when I'm not actually training for anything right now. I averaged 7:40 pace, and that was only because I really backed off (to about an 8:40 pace) for the last mile and a half.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Five Minute Blog

The clock is started. Its 8:38PM and I will finish this by 8:43 PM. The World Series is on, game 1 from Tampa Bay, and I want to see a little of it before I fall asleep. GO Phillies!

Since Chicago, I've felt very aches or pains at all, which is remarkable considering how bad I felt after Cleveland and Boston earlier this year. I basically got right back into my normal training routine, with the exception of skipping the mile intervals at the track last Tuesday, just 2 days after the race. I thought it wouldn't be wise to do speed work without a little recovery time. Well, this week, I went to the track on Tuesday with the intention of doing my usual 3 x 1 mile intervals, but I screwed up. It was a very cold evening, and very windy, and even though I ran two warm-up miles and did some 100 yard stride-outs, I still didn't feel loose. So, what do you do when you're not feeling loose, on a cold and windy night? You go out and run the first mile at 5:40. You do that if you're stupid. I am stupid. So when the time came to do my second mile, I managed one and a half laps before my right hamstring told me it would be better to just slow down. I pulled off into the infield and did as I was told. I ran another two slow miles than left.

So...if you know me reasonably well, you might guess that I was bothered by not putting in my full speed work. The next night, I got home at 6:00 PM, ran upstairs (hi Sue), changed and went out to make up for the lost speed work. My hamstring turned out to be just a little twinge, it felt fine all next day, so I knew I could try again. This time, instead of mile intervals, I did a 7.1 mile tempo run. Here is how the pace for the 7 full miles broke down. This was a hilly course with miles 1 and 2 being downhill, and 3 through 5.5 being uphill.


More later. I know Graham, I promised to talk about those fantastic, magical Nike LunaRacer too. I will, but I am at five minutes right now

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicago Race Report

We left Cleveland on Friday morning, before dawn. After a bit less than 6 hours, we arrived at McCormick Place for the pre-race expo. I picked-up my packet, and started wondering the floor. I love the expos, and Chicago's was huge...lots of vendors giving away samples of various runner-specific types of foods and drinks, lots of running gear companies pushing the latest tech clothes and shoes, lots of representatives of other marathons trying to entice you to come to San Antonio, or Rome, or Dublin, or Memphis, flashing their shiny finishers medals in front of you like giant fishing lures. Really, the only disappointing thing about the expo was the Nike official Chicago Marathon gear. The graphics were retro 70's looking, just not very interesting stuff, so I didn't buy anything. We hung out with Wayne and Kam who arrived a few hours after us. We had some food and saw some of the elite athletes. When there was nothing left to see, we left and drove to the home of Sue's sister Sandy and her husband Jeff. We stayed at their place for the weekend, which was great. (Thanks Sandy and Jeff!), and Sue's sisters Lisa and Sharon also drove up from Cleveland to watch the race.

On Saturday morning, we met-up with my friends
Sarah and Riel, who came in form England to run the marathon. We went to Ginger's Ale House to watch the England v. Kazakhstan match, a World Cup qualifier. We had a great time (England 4 - 1 Kazakhstan). Despite all the great beer on tap at Ginger's, I was a very good boy and had only a half glass of Boddington. After the match, we went back to Sandy and Jeff's and relaxed for the rest of the day. I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible.

I was up before five on Sunday morning, had a light breakfast and a little coffee. I put on my navy-blue SERC singlet and shorts, and my Nike Lunaracers. I pinned a couple of Powerbar Gel packs to the waist of my shorts. In my pocket, I had two Vivarin (to be taken at 16 and 21 miles). I also had a small plastic bag with 8 Endurolyte capsules. These are essential for preventing cramping when running in warm weather, or at least that's what I thought. More on this later.)

At this point I should say that the weather forecast for Sunday in Chicago had been getting hotter all week. On Monday, they predicted low seventies, with cloud cover. Unseasonably warm, but not too bad. By Wednesday, they were saying mid to upper seventies, and maybe not so cloudy. On Friday, this had changed to a high in the low eighties, and sunny. It was starting to look like a potential repeat of last year's disaster.

Sue and Sandy dropped me off at Grant Park. I wondered around for a while, taking in the excitement of the morning. It was still dark, but the city was lit-up and the park was full of runners and volunteers. Eventually, I found a comfortable spot and sat for a while, just to get off my feet. At about 7:30, I made my way to Gate A. I found the 3:10 pacer and talked to him for a few minutes. I told him I would try to stay with him for a long as I could, but I was thinking, "Who am I kidding? I've never run faster than 3:15." I was surrounded by exceptionally good runners, and I was doubting that I belonged there.

I thought through my plan one more time. Water at every other aid station, skipping the first two and starting after mile five, Endurolyte capsule every half-hour, Vivarin and gel pack at mile 15 and mile 21. It was already getting warm, so I knew I would need to stay on schedule with the Endurolytes to prevent leg cramps late in the race.

When the horn went off, we started shuffling slowly, en masse, toward the starting line. By the time I crossed the line and started my Garmin, 5 minutes and 21 seconds had passed. At that point, we were actually running, but it was very crowded. Within only a minute, were were in a tunnel that seemed to go on for a half mile. We were heading north, then looped back and headed south, then turned again and headed north, serpentine through the heart of the city. The streets were lined with loud, enthusiastic supporters. I checked my pace after three miles, 7 minutes 32 seconds. Not too bad considering the conditions and the crowd of runners I was weaving through, but not nearly good enough for a 3 hour 10 minute marathon. I picked up the pace from that point, and as it turned out, those would be the slowest three miles of my day.

At around five miles, we reached the south entrance of Lincoln Park. An aid station was just ahead, so I reached into my pocket for my bag of Endurolytes. The plan was to take one here, with a water, then one every half hour thereafter. And I think it would have been a good plan, if the bag didn't have a tear in the side, dropping the capsules all over the street. I managed to grab one before it fell. After a few seconds of total frustration, I refocused and developed an alternate plan. I put the lone Endurolyte back in my pocket, saving it for mile 20. I decided I would switch from water to Gatorade. I remembered that they were using the Endurance formula, which provides more salts and electrolytes. Since it also provided more calories than water (obviously), I also decided to cut back to one gel pack.

I put the whole stupid incident behind me after that. At about the 7 mile mark, I checked my Garmin and my average pace to that point was 7:10. That was the pace I needed to finish to get my 3:10, but seven miles is not 26 miles. At 7.5 miles, we turned south and headed back into town. The neighborhoods were beautiful, especially Old Towne, and we could see the Sears Tower looming on the horizon. We crossed the river at about mile 12, and shortly after than, we turned west on Adams Street. By now the temperature was getting near 80 degrees, and I noticed some runners backing off, walking, even stopping. I cannot explain why, but I was still feeling good. At the half way point, 13.1 miles, my time was 1 hour 33 minutes 57 seconds, which is exactly 7 minute 10 second pace. I felt good, not great, but good.

I knew Sue and everyone would be waiting for me somewhere on this westward stretch, but I didn't know where exactly. I ran the 2.5 miles west on Adams, and never saw them. I turned south on Damen, and then I saw them, shouting and cheering on the west side of the street. I ran over to them, gave Sue a hug and kiss, did the big Ohio State "O - H' and Lisa replied with a big 'I - O'. Here's a brief video which Sandy shot. Note the lovely neon green Nike Lunaracers as I run off.

The next five miles were not as scenic as the area north of the city, but running through Pilsen was a blast. The crowds were huge and noisy. They were shouting, singing, playing drums, and generally having a good time. And since the streets were narrow, the effect was like your were running through a party. There was an aid station just before mile 21, and it was there that I took my lone Endurolyte. I knew with the rising temperatures, cramps were a serious risk. We zigzagged through Pilsen, and then went south on Wentworth, right through Chinatown. Again, great crowd support, including dancing dragons and the smell of great food.

Just past mile 23, we turned and started north, back toward the city. I had been warned that this would be the worst part of the race, and it was. The area is not scenic, unless you are a student of aging urban industrial zones. It was hot, there was no shade, and we were running on broad, flat concrete that reflected the heat. There were lots of runners not doing well, many falling into the 'marathon shuffle', just managing to keep their legs moving. I checked my pace, and I knew I was just three miles away from not only a 3:10, but possibly 3:09 or even 3:08, if I could just settle in, and keep the cramps away. I kept focused on my stride and pace, and ignored the surroundings. I chewed up the last three miles. Then two funny things happened, almost simultaneously.

I felt the first twinge of a cramp in my left calf at around 25.5 miles. I ran through it. Then I noticed a guy running a couple hundred yards ahead of me. From the back, from that distance, I doubted that it was him, but he sure did look like Mike Boyer, a renowned veteran Cleveland runner who has won more races than I have run. Odds were it was not him, but...what if it was? Just the thought that I might be within striking distance of him at the end of the marathon was all I needed. I fought through several more cramp onsets, and passed him with a few hundred yards of the finish line. I never looked back to see if it was Mike, I just kept my focus on the finish.

I finished with a time of 3 hours 7 minutes and 58 seconds, 9 minutes faster than Boston. I grabbed a water, a banana, an apple, and oh yeah, my medal, and walked north toward the park for the after-party. I talked with a few of the other runners who I had seen on the course, and we agreed that we felt bad for the rest of the runners who were still out there were , some of them had two or three more hours to go. I got my free beer, and it went down very quickly. I got a second, and after drinking half, I decided that I should eat something before I had any more beer.

Sue, Sandy, Jeff, Lisa, and Sharon all met me at the park. They were more excited than I was. We walked around for a little while, got some food. I got a call from Jeff U., a running buddy from Cleveland, congratulating me on my new marathon PR (personal record). He had been tracking the Cleveland area runners on line. He asked me if I knew I had passed Mike Boyer at the end of the race. Ha! I knew that was Mike! A little icing on the cake.

Later on Sunday, I checked the website. According to the official results, there were 45,000 registered runners, but only 33, 033 started the race. I think the heat scared quite a few off. 1,679 dropped over the course of the race, so there were 31, 404 finishers. I finished 667th. In my age group, there were 2100 finishers, and I was #20. I guess the top 15 isn't too bad. ;-) Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Sun Times, Monday October 13th.

The heat was on Sunday, but that didn't stop thousands of long-distance runners from crossing the finish line at the 31st Chicago Marathon. With temperatures in the mid-80s, organizers elevated a race-day alert system to "Red/High," meaning potentially dangerous conditions, three hours into the race. Despite the heat, Carey Pinkowski, executive race director, said it was "an extremely good day" and that the 20 aid stations along the course kept up with the demand for fluids. Still, there were 110 calls for medical transport, and 61 runners were taken to area hospitals, said Dr. George Chiampas, marathon medical director. Sunday's heat combined with memories from last year may have kept some runners from the starting line. Of the 45,000 registered, 33,033 started the race. And 31,401 runners crossed the finish line.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chicago Marathon Race Report

My race report is still in process, but I posted a nice photo and my split times as a teaser.

Mile Pace Time
1 0:07:16 0:07:16
2 0:07:43 0:14:59
3 0:07:54 0:22:53
4 0:06:58 0:29:51
5 0:06:56 0:36:47
6 0:07:01 0:43:48
7 0:07:00 0:50:48
8 0:07:04 0:57:52
9 0:07:09 1:05:01
10 0:07:07 1:12:08
11 0:07:09 1:19:17
12 0:07:06 1:26:23
13 0:07:03 1:33:26
14 0:07:22 1:40:48
15 0:06:51 1:47:39
16 0:07:00 1:54:39
17 0:07:09 2:01:48
18 0:07:00 2:08:48
19 0:06:51 2:15:39
20 0:07:02 2:22:41
21 0:07:07 2:29:48
22 0:06:53 2:36:41
23 0:07:13 2:43:54
24 0:07:07 2:51:01
25 0:07:05 2:58:06
26 0:07:06 3:05:12
26.2 0:07:06 3:07:58

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chicago on the Horizion

I guess you could say I feel good going into Chicago. The litany of injuries I suffered through at Boston and Cleveland are gone. I got all of my training mile in with nothing more than minor dings and aches. The taper is going well. I ran 12 miles of trails with the Lock 29 group on Saturday, and 12 miles on the road on Sunday with the SERC group. The next six days will be very low mileage, with a bit of light speed work.

I'll write more about the race weekend schedule later this week, but I do want to give you the runner tracking link now. Just follow the instructions, and you'll be sent e-mails or text messages as I pass each of four points on the course.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention some very cool news. I know I said I would was going to run Chicago in my Nike Free's, but that plan might be changing. For a few months, I have been looking at the new Nike Lunaracer, and on Thursday I made the purchase. They are super light-weight, (5.5 ounces per shoe) and the construction is unique. They use thin filaments (flywire) which provide super-light support and allow Nike to remove most of the weight from the upper. Also, they use a new foam cushion which they call Lunarfoam, which is lighter yet provides better protection. After much research and consideration, I purchased a pair of Lunaracers.

Here is a brief review from Hyperbeast:
Nike's insatiable appetite for making things faster and lighter has seen them push the performance envelope time and time again. New for this year was the creation of Lunarfoam, a space age material which offers uncompromising weight and responsiveness relative to Nike's previous most lightweight material, Phylon. Coupled with the weight reducing Flywire material, the Lunaracer has the makings of an incredibly featherweight but highly supportive piece of footwear engineering.

Needless to say, I would like to run Chicago in these. I am concerned that new shoes typically gnaw at different abrasion points on your feet, and need to be broken in over a few weeks before you can trust them in a marathon. I have run twice in the Lunaracers, an 8 mile tempo run and 12 miles on Sunday. Although I have not had any problems so far, that is hardly conclusive. Still, with only a week left, and a low-mileage taper week at that, it will not be possible to do this by the book. I'll bring my back-up shoes and make a decision later...probably on race morning.