Thursday, December 29, 2011

Question-and-Answer: Rev3 Coaching

Exciting news round the CTB offices these days, as Revolution3 is launching training programs, from Olympic distance to full (read: iron-distance) triathlons!

As usual with these types of announcements, we'll be going with the question-and-answer approach. Time to put on the reporter hat...

What is Rev3 Coaching?
This will be a group coaching approach, featuring a month-to-month training program, access to private member forums, webinars, on-course training days, advanced course and race information before the general public, equipment tips, and much more!

Group coaching? So, if I'm not local, I can't train with them, right?
Wrong! This is a satellite approach. There will be local group events where there are Rev3 events, but this is also meant for the athlete who is going to a destination event and can't make it to a group meet-up. This is also why there's the private member forum, so you'll be able to ask questions of your fellow athletes, as well as members and staff of Team Rev3/Rev3Tri.

How does this compare with my local training group (e.g., the Maine Training Academy)?
They're similar, but definitely different, and will have different appeals to different people.

The Rev3 Group Coaching approach would be more for the athlete who, say, can't attend weekly events, but still want to be part of a group and have the knowledge that others are trying the same thing that they are.

The Maine Running Academy, meanwhile, has a decidedly local flair to it: swims on Mondays, bikes on Wednesday, running on Thursday, all out of the Portland Maine Running Company location. It's also a smaller community.

Either program will help get you to the finish line, and has the benefit of having other people there to support you. I guess the best way to look at it would be: can you make it to weekly training nights, or do you need a more flexible schedule? The answer to this question will probably dictate where you need to go.

Also know that the Rev3 Coaching service is a shorter block of training: 16 weeks for the Olympic training plan, 20 weeks for a half-Rev (70.3) program, and 24 weeks to go 140.6. The Maine Running Academy has started now, and will run all the way until the end of September. So if you need more base work with a group, it'd be wise to get into the MRA. Yesterday. But if you have an established base, and you answered "flexible" above or you don't live anywhere near Portland, ME: the Rev3 route is looking pretty smart.

How does this compare with what Doug, Denise, and Mike do with The Sustainable Athlete?
Well, it doesn't.

The Rev3 Coaching and Maine Running Academy are group coaching approaches. Although Carole (the professional athlete behind the Rev3 Coaching service) and The Sustainable Athlete crew can do some modification of a large group program for you, they are at their heart group coaching.

If you require more personalized coaching to work with, then I'd highly recommend The Sustainable Athlete folks. They're good people. And really, really good coaches.

Do you need to be racing a Rev3 race to use the coaching service?
No! Not at all! Although the coaching fees do include a discount for a Rev3 race (more on that in a minute), if your race schedule has a specific distance event close nearby, you can use this as a rough sketch for training for that event.

So, how much is it?
That depends on the length of the program/race. There is a flat $200 initiation fee per program, and then it is $50 a month for the remaining program.

Olympic program: $200 + 4 x $50 (4 months) = $400
HalfRev program: $200 + 5 x $50 (5 months) = $450
FullRev program: $200 + 6 x $50 (6 months) = $500

Note that there is a discount if you pay in full up front of 10% off, making the programs $360, $405, and $450, respectively.

Also note that you can pay your initiation fee, and then pay month-to-month when the program actually begins. As an example, the halfRev race in Old Orchard Beach is in August. The training program for that race begins on April 9th. So you could pay $450 now, up front, or pay $200 now, and then start $50/month in April.

So, what do I get for my money?
Well, you get all of the coaching and group support, plus a Rev3Tri training kit, $25 your entry to a Rev3 race of your choice, and sponsor goodies!

When do these programs start?
Depends on the race!

Knoxville, TN: January 16th for both HalfRev and Olympic (16 weeks)
Quassy, CT: January 16th for HalfRev, February 13 for Olympic
Portland, OR: February 20 for HalfRev, March 19 for Olympic
Wisconsin Dells: March 26 for HalfRev, April 23 for Olympic
Old Orchard Beach, ME: April 9 for HalfRev, May 7 for Olympic
Cedar Point, OH: March 26 for FullRev, April 23 for HalfRev
Anderson, SC: May 28 for HalfRev, June 25 for Olympic
Sarasota, FL: June 11 for HalfRev, July 9 for Olympic

So, what if I want to sign-up?
Shoot an e-mail to or They'll get you a registration form, waiver, etc. to get all set-up. There will be a "how you heard about the program" bit...either throw down my name, or this blog address, if that's how you heard about the program.

Based on your own experience, what would you do?
That depends on where you live, and how much coaching you feel like you need.

If you live in the Portland, ME area, and the Maine Training Academy schedule works for you, then this is a phenomenal group to join. (I mean, I work here. Come on!) But in all honesty, it's a fantastic group of people to train with.

If you don't live in the Portland, ME area, but you want group coaching, then Rev3 Coaching is the way to go. Honestly, coming from a "put together my own schedule and see what happens" approach from my first season...wish I had done something like this instead. Being stubborn is not necessarily a virtue in this endeavor.

If you live anywhere, but feel like you need a personalized schedule, or need some modification of a group schedule, then hire The Sustainable Athlete folks.

If I have questions, what should I do?
Leave a comment here, or shoot me an e-mail at (my name, all put together, one word, no spaces, not my middle name, so just the first and last together, at g mail dot com). I have to do it that way so I don't get spammed up the wazoo...

So get after it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Training: When is Less More?

The answer, of course, lies within the individual.

Much is written about the training schedules of multisport athletes, with sheer volume of numbers resulting in hours and hours of training. Then you hear of coaches, or programs, promising something along the following:

"Train less! Get faster!"
"Spend just X hours a week training with our program, and you'll be fitter than you've ever been!"

Now, of course, comes the rub: some of us will get faster with less training volume. But there's a key component missing in those descriptors above, that is lost when people talking about training less and getting faster:

You need to have done the work first in order for this to work.

Let's use the example of going to lift weights at the gym. You go and bench press a certain amount of weight. You don't increase it, you just crank out your sets. You go home, recover, and the following week do the same set. After three or four weeks of lifting, you suddenly get the ability to press more. Where did that come from?

Essentially, our body wants to overcompensate. It wants not to have the ability to repeat that same exercise, but instead lift something heavier than that. It is much the same with swimming, cycling, and running: your body wants to overcompensate for the stress load that you put on it so that it can get that activity over.

The thing is, in order to build in less work (or a recovery week, for that matter) you must first have done the work to actually recover from. Otherwise, you're falling out of shape.

This, however, does not apply for injury situations, which are an entirely different element. At that point, less is in fact more. But for the most part, you need to get out there, do the work, and then recover well.

Brief Training Update:

Well, my own "recovery" hasn't been nearly recovery-oriented enough. Been stressed, exhausted, working my tail off. Been training roughly 5 hours a week, which is a decent base to work off of at this point. Pointing towards January, when the 20 week to Quassy countdown begins.

I needed the mental and physical time away from having a race on the calendar; now, it's getting to that, "Shit, race coming" point whereby the work becomes more important, the recovery required, and focus really sharpens.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mind Eraser, No Chaser (aka: New Race Schedule)

Blasting out to some Living Colour, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, and Pearl Jam this morning...

Bit of an editorial piece around the Crashing the Boards offices here this morning. No product reviews on the horizon, a couple of training pieces that are upcoming in the bin. However, before I get into training philosophies and whatnot, I wanted to follow-up on the race schedule that I had posted a few weeks back, in the announcement thread of my making Team Rev3 Triathlon.

If you've been reading here for a fair bit, you'll know that this past year was my first year in triathlon. Not, "oh, I'd competed in one or two, and this was my first full season." No, this was: I competed in my first two triathlons, period. As in, my first triathlon was the half-rev at Rev3 Quassy.

Nobody has ever accused me of being the sharpest knife in the block.

Now, we all know how Rev3 Quassy ended: me in the med tent, hanging out for a few hours with the wonderful crew there, then spending the night in a Days Inn just outside of Hartford because I couldn't handle the car ride back to Maine.

Fast-forward to the start of this month, as I'm reflecting on the past year's worth of training, trials, races, and overall insanity.

It'd be absolutely, positively bat-shit insane of me to try and race a FullRev at this point. Note that I italicized the word "race" here. It's an important distinction.

I am, at heart, an incredibly competitive person. It's extremely difficult for me, say, when in the pool, to not try and race the person a couple of lanes over if I notice that they are of equal or slightly faster pace than I, even if I'm in the middle of what is supposed to be a drill set. Out on the roads? There's no way I'm letting the guy in front of me make it to the next stoplight or tree before I do. I just want to keep pushing, and going.

My body is not in the place to make a sustainable push forward to a full distance race at this point. This isn't a bad thing; it's just that if I have the expectation of being competitive in my age-group when I decide to go and race a full, I need to take the time here and now to earn that speed, to earn that base, and mentally grow as an athlete.

It is the mental strength to know when to push, when to back off, when to hit every single workout, when to take a day or two off, when "more is more" and when "less is more." (Note: less is more is only more when you've first done the more is more; recovery is only recovery if you've done the work...) It is those areas that, moreso than physically, I need to grow before I can attempt to go race for 140.6 miles.

With that in mind, here's what next race season is shaping up as:
Polar Bear Tri or Du in May
Rev3 Quassy 70.3--June
Rev3 Old Orchard Beach 70.3--August
Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3--September

Mind you, the schedule is written in pencil, but this is what we're working towards. I firmly believe that by working this schedule, I'd be able to race a full well in the next year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shoe Review: Aetrex RX Runner

There are some shoes that take you by surprise; those shoes that you wanted to hate but wound up loving. There are some shoes that are consistently great. And then there are some shoes that you always know will fit one way, and it isn't quite for you, but you understand why it works.

This is none of these.

In fact, I've never been quite so stumped by a product before. Everything that I had thought these would be, was incorrect, but at the same time, it was 100% accurate.

And it is with that, we enter the Aetrex RX Runner.

The Backstory
Aetrex is a company that formerly did nothing but custom orthotics, available via a podiatrist. However, they noticed that they were receiving the same four orders for support levels nearly 98% of the time: neutral, neutral with a metatarsal lift, posted, and posted with a metatarsal lift. In time, Aetrex realized that they could instead offer these orthotics at the retail level.

Respectively, this has become the Lynco L400 series orthotics. Going through the above descriptor, that has morphed into the L400, L405, L420, and L425, respectively. This is the similar backstory to Superfeet, and so it is no surprise that these two orthotic makers vie for the top positioning in our store for their orthotics.

However, unlike Superfeet (with the exception of Superfeet flip-flops), Aetrex also desired to enter the footwear market; after all, wouldn't an orthotic maker do a good job of knowing what the foot needs for support during walking and running? And so come along the RX Runners.

The Technobabble
The Aetrex RX Runner is a neutral running shoe, making it best for neutral pronators or supinators.

The main call out on the RX Runner is the "Fat Pad" system. This is their proprietary secondary cushioning system, much akin to New Balance's Abzorb system, or Asics Gel. It is a fully encapsulated, low durometer foam. This means that it is quite soft. There then is their blend of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), which is the primary cushioning system.

The RX Runner them has a relatively stiff midfoot shank, which is mirroring the shape of the plantar fascia: thick in the heel, and then spreads out toward the metatarsals.

The outsole is segmented in a few strange ways. The medial side features more segmentation than the lateral side in the heel. This is interesting, as people tend to land towards the outside of the heel during their gait cycle. The midfoot features two prongs, then three directly under the ball of the foot. This gives the shoe a truly neutral flair through the forefoot. There are only two flex grooves through the forefoot, giving it a relatively stiff positioning.

The insole to the Aetrex runner features a gel-esque substance in the insole. (Asics only holds copyright to the use of Gel as a cushioning material in the midsole of shoes, not for insoles). It does not feature an Aetrex Lynco orthotic, which I personally found surprising. (I would've thought it'd have been a perfect device to couple the two together.)

The shoe weighs in at 16 ounces in my size 13. Considering what I've been wearing around the CtB offices as of's a bit heavy. (No published weight exists for these, so I had to go off my own size here.)

The Run
These, are, well...

OK, there's no sugarcoating this.

These are the worst running shoes I have ever put on my feet.

What makes them terrible? Let me count the ways.

First and foremost, they made my toes fall asleep within about 30 seconds of putting them on. I tried re-lacing them. I tried not tying them. I tried everything. Nope, toes still asleep. Not a good start.

You slip the shoe on (and, if you don't experience the same numbness in your forefoot, well, more power to you), and you start to wonder: am I about to be taken in the back of a black Cadillac and deposited in the East River? That 16 ounces feels more like 61. It is probably due to that very thick "Fat Pad", coupled with the midfoot shank being so far away from the foot. The pendulum effect makes these much heavier than they sound.

OK, so they're heavy. Whatever. No matter. That should mean they have a boatload of cushioning, right?

Within four strides, you're left wondering: did I put cinder blocks on my feet? They're heavy. They're not well cushioned. They're much firmer than the amount of material would have you believe. By comparison, the featherweight K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Light is much softer, and much more supple.

These are stiff. As in, my poor 158 pound (hey, it's the off-season. 153 is the racing weight) self could not get them to flex forward, no matter the strike. I tried heel-striking. I tried forefoot striking. I tried midfoot striking. It all sucked something spectacularly.

In sum, these are terrible. And what makes it worse? It's the gall of $129.95 being charged for these. Seriously? You mean, for the price of, say, a Saucony Triumph, you want people to wear these? These don't even compare against the Saucony Jazz. From the 1980s.

In my reviews, I try to give you imagery. I don't like trying to tell you HOW it is, so much give you the feeling of having put the shoe on yourself. Well, this is one experience that I almost say, every runner should HAVE to experience. You need to put these on. It changes your perspective on your shoes.

It makes you very, very grateful for the other shoes that you own.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shoe Review: Vibram Five Fingers Bikila

For those of you that have read CtB for a year now (wow, it's been that long? Seriously?), you probably have caught onto the indisputable fact that I'm a pretty opinionated guy. I hold a lot of things near and dear to my heart, and I won't let go of them, and I let them bleed through into my writing style.

However, my objectivity as a footwear fitter is another matter entirely; everybody has different running mechanics, different cushioning preferences, and different physiological factors that will only permit them to run in X way with Y shoe. (See, e.g., my What is Natural Running? post.)

Some would argue that, based on that positing and talking about how injuries have increased since the wave of natural running has started, that I'm ferociously against barefoot running.


Let me be clear, here: every runner should incorporate some type of barefoot work into their running repertoire. It's invaluable as a technique training tool, and to help build the mind-body connection that helps to reduce injuries later down the road; being able to recognize the difference between "sore" and "hurt" and "injured" is the only way you continue running for years upon years without interruption.

It is a matter of how much, and on what surfaces, you will be able to do barefoot work. I, for example, can do one short, slow run per week in my Five Fingers lasting no more than 40 minutes. I also then use them during the course of my strength training, and also wear them casually. How did I learn my limit? Via a stress fracture in my right foot when I tried to go for a second run a week in them.

But every body is different. Hell, Abebe Bikila won the Olympics barefoot. And it is for him that Vibram named their road running line after.

The Backstory

Vibram is not a footwear company by trade. Well, they are a footwear company in that they have made soles for shoes since 1934. But the FiveFingers line-up was their first foray into the actual full-scale production of a shoe from the ground up.

FiveFingers were originally introduced in 2005, following a six-year development process. (Remember last week's posting on the Wave Rider 15, and the bit on lead time? Well, just goes to show how long it takes to get something right...) The original line-up of the Classic, Sprint, KSO, and Flow were all developed for the outdoor world: rubber outsoles similar to boat shoes, no cushioning, machine washable, extremely flexible. They were perfect for camping, hiking, fjording the river on the Oregon Trail (watch out for the dysentery), and in casual environments.

Then two events took place that took the running world by storm.

First, Ted MacDonald (aka Barefoot Ted) began advocating for the use of FiveFingers as running shoes. Ted has made a wonderful career out of coaching barefoot technique, and smartly saw the potential for FiveFingers to grow.

The second, of course, is Born to Run. Forget about whether you think Chris McDougall is a certified nutjob, patron saint, or anything in between. It is undeniable that his book took off, and FiveFingers were along for the ride.

Although sales had exploded, Vibram also understood that there was going to be a need for a little bit more shoe for under people's feet on the road. After all, asphalt isn't exactly the surface that the human body is designed for. And with that, along came the Bikila.

The TechnoBabble

The Bikila features 3 millimeters of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) throughout the course of the midsole. EVA is the same material that almost every running shoe manufacturer utilizes today (with the grand exception of Ecco). To put the amount of cushioning in perspective, the Saucony Kinvara (a shoe that attempts to put you into a similar body positioning as being barefoot) features 19 millimeters of EVA. So we're talking over 6 times less cushioning, which, of course, is the point.

The outsole on the FiveFingers is a mixture of carbon and blown rubber. Carbon rubber is the more durable of the two materials, whereas blown rubber is carbon rubber with more air in the mixture. This helps give the shoe durability, while also making sure that it remains light. The outsole pattern looks a lot like the pattern from the old Brooks Ghost outsole, which is a good thing: it lasted, and that's what we're looking for in a shoe that doesn't really ever lose it's cushioning value.

Much like all FiveFingers, the Bikila's are machine washable. Air dry them, unless you care to ruin your dryer. The upper on these is synthetic, but does not feature a mesh like the KSO's. This proves pivotal a bit later on.

According to the scale, a size 42 (a rough translation for a size 9 foot, which is what most published men's shoe weights are) will tip the scales at 6 ounces.

The Run
First off: these are firm. Duh.

That being said, having run in both the KSO and the Bikila, I can tell you that the cushioning makes a huge difference on firmer surfaces. Concrete still sucks something terrible, but asphalt is tamed to a fair degree. You definitely want to be light on your foot, and paying attention to what your body is telling you.

One of the bigger changes overall here is the flexibility in the outsole. Because it has all of these different pieces connected to a midsole, rather than the midsole and outsole being one and the same, you do lose some of the flexibility from the original models. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Think of why we build houses on concrete foundations: because they are firm. It helps give the foot a stable basis to stand on top of. In that spectrum, then, the Bikila is a slightly more stable platform compared to its' fellow FiveFingers.

The choice in upper material is equally compelling and infuriating. The compelling aspect of it is that it is slicker, and results in an interior that does not blister at the same rate as KSO's. It is infuriating because it is not elastic, and it is hot as hell. The lack of elasticity, coupled with a low strap, means that anybody with a higher in-step will not be able to wear this model. Instead, you'll be hunting out the Bikila LS, with the separate tongue and draw-style enclosure.

Overall, be careful with those first few strides. Don't be overzealous. Listen to your body. It will tell you what you're doing wrong. It'll also tell you if you're being too ambitious. It will give you the tools to know whether the amount of cushioning here is something that you prefer, or the body positioning is best for you. From there, perhaps you'll be a VFF wearer for all of your runs. Or perhaps not. And either is fine.

At the end of the day, the Bikila is a solid barefooting option that allows a foot that fits into it to run more surfaces in a barefoot-esque shoe. Whether that means it is a supplemental training tool, or your everyday runner, is up to you to find out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Into the Wild...

Yes, an Eddie Vedder solo effort kick at the CtB offices.

Well, if you've been here before, you probably notice the new digs around the blog. New colors, new layout (more space for my relentless blathering), and perhaps a photo to the right of this posting.

Much like many announcement sessions here on CtB, I'll be hosting a question-and-answer session that will hopefully take care of the many things that are probably on your mind.

So, uh, what the hell happened?
This did:
Oh, cool! Errrrr...what does that do for you?
I am officially a member of Team Rev3. The more that I had put thought into the previous season, the more I realized how much Rev3 cared for their athletes and families. Each and every person was treated extremely well. Overall, it was such a rewarding experience. It was everything that I could have hoped for as an athlete. As such, I wanted to be able to share those experiences with my fellow athletes.

So, Rev3 had an open application process for the team. I applied, and for reasons that I can't even begin to explain, I got picked. It's still very surreal to me...and I don't think it'll fade. It's humbling.

So, what does that do for your coaching? You announced previously you'd hired a coach.
That all remains the same. Doug is my coach, and will be. Nothing changes there.

Does this change your racing schedule for 2012?
Yep, sure does! I'll be appearing at Rev3 races across the eastern U.S. My tentative schedule, pending approval from Team Rev3, and the Director of Social Engagements at Crashing the Boards (known as my lovely wife):

May 6: Knoxville, TN: Olympic distance
June 3: Middlebury, CT: HalfRev
August 26: Old Orchard Beach, ME: Olympic
September 9: Sandusky, Ohio: FullRev

Whoa Whoa Whoa!!! I thought you weren't racing a full before going faster at the half?
True. That's what Quassy is for. Also, if I feel like things just aren't coming together, I may wind up doing the half at OOB, and then simply going for team building out to Ohio. I want to be there to support my fellow team members, not just race. It's important to me to be the support system for other athletes, and not merely be the only one looking for support when I'm racing.

So, now that you have this, does this change what you do here at Crashing the Boards?
Negative. I will be continuing to put out my thoughts on training, racing, products, mechanics, and all around ramblings here for you to see.

So, what's next for you?
Well, time to pick up a ski pass, get out on the hill, and continue training my ass off. I have some serious work to do here.

What about the blog?
You'll be seeing a couple of fresh posts this week: a review of my new cycling shoes, a review of the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila, and a recap of some of the feedback that I received after the "What is Natural Running?" post that I had posted a few weeks back.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shoe Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 15

Fellow runners, how many times has this scene played out for you:

You have worn a shoe consistently for years, always buying the updated model as it comes around. The brand knows that they have a successful formula on their hands, and so the new models come and go without you really ever noticing any changes with the shoe. The only thing you ever seem to notice is that the price every couple of years inches further and further upward, but you gladly pay for it. Hey, if it ain't broke?

Then it happens.

You stroll into your local specialty running store (*cough* like this one *cough*). You bring in your well-loved shoe. You come to find out that your shoe has been updated, but no worries. Then you step into it.

It's all wrong.

The fit isn't the same; the platform is different; the cushioning doesn't feel right. It finally happened: they messed it up, and now you must go to another brand. You feel violated; for years in your running group you've been known as "X brand" guy/gal, and now you've been forced to switch your allegiance, all the while wondering if your brand will get back on the wagon someday.


Stories, such as the one above, lead many to wonder: why on Earth do shoe companies change things? And why so often?

In general, shoe styles are updated approximately every 12 to 18 months. Case in point, for example, is the Brooks Adrenaline, which is updated every January 1st. (Specialty running stores, like the one linked to above, typically get to see it 60 days before anybody else.) This is when the new style will come out, any new technology that has been developed, and if there will be a price increase.

Now, there are two different types of shoe updates: evolutionary versus revolutionary updates. Again, I'll use Brooks as an example here. Let's take the recent development of the Brooks Adrenaline from the 11th model to the 12th, versus another shoe in the line-up, the Glycerin.

Brooks Adrenaline 11
Brooks Adrenaline 12
Looking at the two shoes, you see that the medial post is almost identical. The midfoot is wrapped in much the same fashion. The forefoot capture window is very similar. Overall, this would be an evolutionary update: some very minor tinkering, but very little change between the two shoes.

Now, as for the Glycerin:

Brooks Glycerin 7
Brooks Glycerin 8
Whoa! These are completely different, eh? The midsole has been changed to feature separate segments. The upper is nowhere near as tall. The wrap on the foot is different. This is what we'd call a revolutionary update; the manufacturer drew a whole new shoe from the ground up. The only thing remaining the same is the name.

As to the question: why change? A lot of this is due to feedback from runners, to try and continually improve the shoe. A lot of it is also to ensure that the shoes in your hands aren't stale. Remember: shoes have a shelf life of approximately one year. Whether you used them or not, they start to lose their cushioning in the box, losing elasticity and the ability to compress properly. By updating every year, you make sure that there is proper rotation of stock. It's also to help protect retailers; if the shoe was the same for 3-4 years, would you continue to pay full price at your local running store, or would you turn to save some cash by purchasing online? As much as we'd all like to say, "Buy local," when it comes to putting our dollars where our mouths are...I think we're all guilty of trying to stretch a buck every once in a while.


What does any of this have to do with the Mizuno Wave Rider 15? A whole heck of a lot.

For starters, the Wave Rider has had a fiercely loyal following for years. I would argue that it, along with the Adidas Supernova Cushion and the Asics GT-2000 series have the most number of repeat customers, year after year after year. They are established shoes, that rarely if ever get modified beyond recognition. Mizuno has a hallmark feel, due to the wave plate in the shoe (more on that in a minute). People just eat these things up.

And then the Wave Rider 14 came out.

To defend Mizuno for a minute, I can understand why the shoe got updated the way that it did. Mizuno had two shoes that, for all intents and purposes, were doing much the same thing. The Precision and the Rider were supposed to be in separate categories: one in the performance trainer silo, and the other in the responsive neutral category. But the Precision was a little more shoe than some others, whereas the Rider was a little less shoe than others in its silo. In other words, they were sitting directly on top of one another, competing for the same share of customers.

So Mizuno did what any logical business would do: it tried to separate the Rider and the Precision product lines. They did this by taking the Precision back down a half-step on the cushioning and weight front, and built the Rider up a little bit more than it's previous version. The brand also tried to get away a little bit from the traditional Mizuno fit by opening up the forefoot a bit more, and putting a higher collar on the shoe.

I'm not afraid to say it: this was disastrous. Mizuno lost a lot of business with this generation Wave Rider, particularly with men. This isn't surprising, given the trend of men towards the minimalism category. The Wave Rider had consistently provided a firmer shoe than its' competitors, and it gave that up. Meanwhile, Brooks took the Ghost series, and placed it right next door with a relatively close fit to how the Wave Rider had traditionally sat. For those looking in the responsive neutral category, there was no question: the Ghost was the class leader.

Mizuno had a tall order on its hands: how do you get those customers back? To radically change the Wave Rider again would be to admit failure, something that is very rare in the footwear industry. Yet they did.

The Techno-Babble

The Wave Rider is, again, what we'd call a responsive neutral shoe. This category will feature no medial posting, making it ideal for neutral pronators or supinators. Overpronators would instead be served by the Rider's brother, the Inspire (which also gets updated at the same time.) Responsive neutral shoes are different from more structured options by featuring a slightly firmer feel underfoot; a bit more flexibility; and a lower to the ground platform (typically, 2-3 mm less shoe underfoot than the structured neutral category options.)

This is a big category, particularly on the women's side: women generally are going to benefit from a shoe with a little more flexibility through the forefoot, as the load forces generated will be smaller due to body weight and frame. Competitors include the aforementioned Brooks Ghost, the Saucony Ride, the Adidas Supernova Glide (formerly the Cushion), the Asics Cumulus, the Nike Air Pegasus, the New Balance 880...and this doesn't include the performance neutral trainer options that crossover into the category.

Mizuno differentiates itself based on the Wave plate in their shoes. The Wave plate is a hytrel (read: plastic) piece that extends from the heel to at least the midfoot in all of their shoes. On their upper-level options, such as the structured neutral Wave Enigma, it extends all the way to the forefoot. The Wave plate helps transfer impact energy, and move it into kinetic motion. The idea is that the less time that the foot is in contact with the ground, the less impact energy that will travel up into the body. This seems to follow the same logic used to conclude the Harvard and Hasegawa study's on running form.

With the Rider 15, Mizuno lowered the collar on the shoe, to not impinge on the ankle joint in the same way that the 14 did. They also changed the seaming on the shoe, to provide a closer-to-the-foot feel overall throughout the shoe. In other words, it was going back to the Rider formula.

Enough Babble. How's it feel?
The best thing that I can say about the new Wave Rider is that it feels like a Wave Rider.

Let me explain: I've worn the Wave Rider before, since the Rider 10. I know how this shoe has felt underfoot, and it reminds me of the Rider 10, 11, 12, and 13. This is a good thing.

There's an awful lot to like here: when initially slipping your foot into the shoe, you immediately notice that the shoe fits onto your foot like an old, familiar friend. There's no point of the shoe digging into your foot. As you start to lace it down, you get a slightly racier feel over the previous model. It's slender, but not snug. It's comfortable, but not boxy. The heel collar is comfortable. There's little arch to speak of underfoot from the insole, but that's OK.

However, I personally don't enjoy the feel of it out on the run. The Wave Rider, for me, has always suffered from in-between-itis: it feels a bit too firm for the amount of shoe underfoot, and it's a bit too heavy and soft to really race in. I find that the Rider works best at either a recovery run pace, or full anaerobic threshold workouts, but that it clomps on the ground when you're trying to run, say, aerobic pace workouts.

Let me be clear, here, though: this shoe may not be for me. But I think that it's going to be a great update for Mizuno.

Why? There's a lot of people who want a firmer shoe, but still want a relatively "traditional" heel-toe offset. They want something to take them in-between say, a Saucony Triumph and going to the New Balance Minimus Road. This is a great way to get there. It's got a great deal of flexibility through the toe-off, making it a good racing shoe for some larger framed athletes, and a wonderful trainer for lighter weight runners.

The Wave Rider, thankfully, is back where it belongs. Mizuno fans, rejoice.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apparel Test: New Balance NBx Windblocker Half-Zip, Brooks Nightlife II Jacket, and Saucony Epic Run Vest

Fellow athletes: how many of you have had this scenario play out:

You wake up early, and begin the day by throwing your coffee together. After it's poured, you get your breakfast going. You sit down, ready to enjoy your healthy creation, and turn on the TV to the local news. You conveniently have turned it on in time for the weather. You stare, horrified, discovering a weather map featuring 3 to 5 inches of snow in the forecast, just in time for your long run. You glance at your watch, rubbing your eyes again to focus as to be sure that yes, in fact, you do see the date correctly.

October 28th.

This may, or may not, accurately describe my morning. But I'm prepared for winter running and cycling, through the use of many products. Now, before we delve into specific products, we need to first review the basics: how to properly layer for winter running.

The TriLayer System

Generally speaking, in the winter you'll want to wear three layers on your top: a base layer, an insulating layer, and a shelter layer.

A base layer is what you'll initially put on as you're getting dressed. Typically, this layer will not be very heavy at all; we are not looking for this garment to provide much warmth. Instead, we want the base layer to be your thermal regulator. This layer is going to fit tightly against the skin, to help move moisture from your skin into the next layer of your system. It will also help make sure that whatever cold wind got through your first two layers does not come in contact with your skin. An example of this would be the Craft ZeroExtreme top reviewed here last winter.

The next layer up is where the warmth will come from. Your insulating piece will be the weighty garment. It won't be nearly as heavy as wearing, say, a cotton sweatshirt. This also tends to be where you'll be spending the most money. Different weights in these garments will give you the most versatility. Also, some of these layers themselves will feature some type of wind and weather protection, allowing you to mix and match more pieces depending upon the conditions outside. Just to give an idea, I only have two baselayers from Craft, but six different insulating pieces. We'll be reviewing one of these insulating pieces in a bit.

The final layer is your shelter layer. This is where your wind and water resistance will come from. Note that I said water resistance and not water proof. Waterproof does not allow for breathability unless you are talking GORE-TEX. And well, most people aren't willing to pay the price for GORE-TEX (on average, talk an extra $40-$50 per jacket at retail price). With that in mind, these jackets will keep water off you for about an hour. Beyond that, and the coat will become saturated. You won't get soaked; instead, you'll be slightly damp. And if you were running or riding correctly, you would have been damp anyways. You are looking for this to also be relatively thin, allowing you greater versatility throughout the fall, winter, and spring. Unless, of course, you freeze to death, at which point there are some heavier winter running jackets from SportHill and New Balance available.

So with this all in mind, there are two shelter layers to review, and one insulating layer.

New Balance NBx Windblocker Half-Zip
Layer: Insulating (2nd)
Retail: $89.99
To quote my New Balance sales rep, Colin, "this is 6th Circle of Hell warm."

The first thing to notice when picking this piece up is to feel how thin it is. Immediately, you'll be thinking, "there's no way this is as warm as this guy is saying it is." And you'd be very, very wrong.

Going back to my Reach the Beach experience, this is the top that I opted for my 3:30 AM, 9 mile slog. It was a balmy 33 degrees that night, with some of the valleys dipping into the 20s. I had put on a very light base-layer, and had paired it with the CW-X Stabilyx tights from last winter.

I was melting in this thing by the time I got to the van stop around mile 6. Absolutely bathed in sweat. It is warm as all get out. The windblock front and microfleece rear panel is extremely effective at keeping the cold out. This isn't to say that it traps heat, though; the top does offer good ventilation. The length of the zipper allows the top to really open up and expose your chest, to help get fresh air to you when needed. The pockets open up and are ventilated as well. The problem, though, is that the pocket is a kangaroo-style, rather than two individual pockets. If there are zippers, I want individual pockets; if there are no zippers, I go kangaroo.

New Balance also included some other thoughtful touches. There are thumbholes that are in a fluorescent yellow (and they actually fit men's thumbs. Thank God. Too many times, people cut this WAY too small.) The In Case of Emergency tag on the inside is a great gesture, so if you don't own a Road ID, you can have quick contacts and medical allergies listed right on the inside. And there are plenty of reflective call outs on the front, sleeves, and back to make sure you don't have to experience the pleasure of being hit by a car.

The fit of this is also within range of the "new" New Balance that we had talked previously about in the 1190 review. This means it is athletically shaped: long torso, relatively narrow. This also makes this a great option for winter cycling: tight fit, long in the back, super warm, cuts out on the wind.

Buy If: You train outdoors for running and cycling throughout the winter; you run relatively cold; you ski; or you need something that can double as your mild winter jacket.

Skip If: You run relatively warm to begin with; you have a more stocky body type; you have too many insulating layers already.

Brooks Nightlife II Jacket
Layer: Shelter (3rd)
Retail: $99.99
The Nightlife Jacket II is an update from the Essential Run Jacket available from last year. Brooks made a couple of updates to try and improve the fit of the piece.

Brooks apparel, in general, has typically been cut in a more "American" style, meaning that the torso typically is a little shorter, and the jacket cut wider to accommodate more body styles and layering. This year's is cut slightly more athletic. It is still wider than the Windblocker top, but not as large as a gap as compared to last year. This is an improvement for me, but may not appeal to everybody.

There is now a zipper-garage at the top, to make sure you don't have the zipper rubbing you raw in the face when you have the jacket fully zipped. The material of the jacket, although still water resistant and wind proof, now has a different texture, that allows for a quieter run. No more swoosh-swooshing your way around.

This is one of the lighter-weight jackets on the market, and so it does give you a lot of versatility, ranging from mid-September all the way through April. (And even May, if you have a spring like last year here in Maine.) The only drawback that I foresee here is the relative dramatic increase in price: last year's Essential Run Jacket went for $70. There's a lot of competition here, including the Saucony Epic Run Jacket in Vizipro, that is $10 less. But that does have a different fit (even more narrow), so for the majority of folks out there, this is the go-to.

Buy If: You want to not just be reflective, but light up like a Christmas tree at night; you crave versatility out of your shelter layer; you are shorter and stouter than a beanpole.

Skip If: You're built like a rail; you run extremely cold; you have the desire to experience being hit by a vehicle.

Saucony Epic Run Vest
Layer: Shelter (3rd)
Retail: $79.99

And now for the other company that wants to make sure that you look like a construction worker on your run. Now, don't get me wrong: this is a good thing. It's just funny to be driving at night and see all of the Vizipro Orange and Nightlife Yellow scattered about.

The Saucony Vizipro line is cut a fair bit more athletic as compared to the Brooks line. This means that if you are tall, or lean, or both, this is the product line for you. The weight of the vest is very similar to the weight of the Brooks jacket as well.

So, why a vest? There are some days where it is a little warmer, but the wind is still cold, and you simply need to protect your core rather than your arms. If you keep your core warm, the rest of you will stay warm. This is where you'd turn.

Once cool option that Saucony includes in their Vizipro line is a small LED light. It charges on the USB drive of the computer. 20 minutes worth of charge will give you an hour of light; a longer charge will give you a much longer light experience.

Buy It: You run relatively warm throughout the winter and have the New Balance top reviewed above; you need a 2nd shelter layer because you crave versatility.

Skip It: You run cold in the winter; you fit better in the Brooks line; you are looking to have one shelter layer to get you through the cold months.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What is "Natural Running?"

CTB Editor's Note: This post is an update, and revision, of the Natural Running post from December, 2010.

This is the magic question. And the problem with magic questions, of course, is that there is no magic answer.

For those with some type of logic function in the brain, this is a big issue. After all, shouldn't it be reasonable that, if we were all to take our shoes off and run, that our form would be relatively the same? But how is that even reasonable? What about those of us with functional or true leg length discrepancies? What about those of us who have shorter Achilles' tendons? What about those of us with chronically tight calves, putting us susceptible to plantar fascii injury?

But, barefoot advocates say, what of the Harvard study that says running barefoot reduces impact force? Running in shoes, the theory goes, allows us to put more impact on the foot than it is designed to withstand, leading to specific injury.

Well, that's not what the study says. From the page linked above, a graph showing the impact when landing with a heel strike in a running shoe:
Figure 1b

Now, for the same study's graph showing impacts when running barefoot with a forefoot strike:
Figure 1c

Notice that the spike goes to the same high point? Running barefoot does NOT reduce actual force.

What the key here, though, is that there is a reduction in the impact transient force. Explained simply, the transient force is that "braking" force that occurs when you excessively heel strike; the foot is absorbing impact while the leg is trying to still come forward (because the foot is extended out in front of you.)

This makes sense: when you run with a forefoot strike, you can't have a heel-toe transition. Of course it will reduce transient force! This isn't telling us anything that, well, anybody should be able to figure out.

To review, what we have talked about so far:
  • Running with a forefoot strike does not reduce actual impact force absorbed, merely the transient force.
  • Running with a heel strike does create a transient force that must be absorbed by the leg.
Now, what of the Hasegawa study?

This 2007 study looked at the footstrike pattern of the elite runners from a half-marathon. The scientists photographed 283 runners at the 15 kilometer mark. The theory posited was that, as most elite athletes were from countries where running barefoot when younger was necessary, that most of the elites would showcase a midfoot or forefoot strike.

The results, meanwhile, were startling: 74.9% of runners photographed exhibited a rear foot strike. Midfoot strike positioning was shown by 23.7%. Forefoot strikes only accounted for 1.4%.

So what makes an elite runner elite? It's not the where that's important; it's how much time the foot spent in contact with the ground. The longer the foot spent in contact with the ground, the slower the runner was. The first 50 runners spent less time on the ground versus the next 50, and that second 50 spent less contact time than the next 50, and so on.

Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude, as the study did, that running economy and efficiency comes from the foot spending less time in contact with the ground, rather than specifically how the foot contacts the ground.


By this point, I'm sure you're now wondering: where are we going with this? We still haven't figured out what natural running is!

Here's the rub: there is no universal answer. We need to separate the core principles of good running form, from the hyperspecifics of a unique foot strike. We must account for the differences in physiology that make humans so different from one another.

Therefore, I would posit that the following elements are key to natural running:
  • The Hasegawa study shows us that running economy is more related to contact time in the ground. Therefore, it would stand to posit that we want to have a faster foot turnover rate.
  • Because of the faster cadence, this will require a shorter stride; it is nearly impossible to overstride if you are trying to keep your footstrikes per minute near the 180 mark.
  • The key of footstrike is to keep it as close under your center of gravity as possible. Whether it lands forefoot or rearfoot or midfoot is, in my opinion, not as important. But landing underneath the knee, keeping the kinetic chain in line from the core downward, is important.
  • We DO want the whole foot to try and contact the ground at as similar a point in time as possible. Our feet are like tripods; we have wide metatarsals and a narrow heel. A tripod is most stable when it is fully in contact with the ground. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that this is how the foot should engage and absorb impact.
  • Therefore, the core of good, natural running form would include a higher cadence for running economy; a stride that engages the ground under the center of gravity, and attempting to engage the whole foot with the ground at as similar time as possible.


So how on Earth does this all relate to the footwear buzzwords of minimalism and natural running?

Well, let's lead with what might be groundbreaking news: we are not meant for pavement or concrete. The human foot was designed to run on grass or sand, not on the roads. We have built a completely unnatural environment to attempt to perform a natural activity on. That being said, there will be some of us who can run all of our miles in Vibram Five Fingers. However, it is likely that this would be the exception, rather than the rule, considering that running injuries have actually increased as people have tried to run in barefoot-esque shoes.

What to do? I think Jordan Rapp, in this month's LAVA Magazine, states it best:
What I think this reflects is a conscious decision on the part of shoe designers to separate biomechanics...from overall feel, which is influenced by a shoe's cushioning.
Previously, I had discussed the differences between so-called "natural" running shoes from minimal and barefoot styles. Considering that we have talked a fair bit about how there is no truly singular "natural" style, I think using the term "natural running shoe" is misleading. One can run with good form in any type of running shoe, whether it features a large heel-toe offset, or is near flat.

Therefore, when looking at running shoes, it is imperative to first discuss running form. Your running mechanics will dictate the offset that will be best for your running shoes, whether it is the "traditional" 12 millimeter difference between the heel and the toe, or the class of effective zero shoes (6 mm or less), or in between. (As a note, both Saucony and New Balance will be introducing shoes with an 8 millimeter offset in their regular running line, to try and promote a more balanced footstrike. Remember, though, that your feet are dumb: you must tell them where to land.)

After determining the offset appropriate, we may then talk about pronation control and cushioning. As a single example, I run in shoes with a low offset (less than 6 mm), but still feature a midfoot pronation control device. Why? Because even with good running form, my feet still overpronate. And I need a good amount of cushioning, because if I run with a more minimal shoe, I develop a stress fracture in my right foot. This is why I've run in the Saucony Mirage, for example.

Therefore, when shopping, these are the things a retailer needs to know in order to ensure a good fit:
  • Injury history
  • Running goals (training, mileage, speed, etc.)
  • Running history (current mileage, races upcoming, etc.)
  • Running stride or form (if known)
  • Cushioning preferences
So what is natural running? Whatever is natural for you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Best Bad Idea Ever: Reach the Beach Relay Race Report

Alternative Title: Embrace the Suck

Let's get the obvious out of the way: the idea of running from Cannon Mountain down to Hampton Beach is absolute idiocy.

Now, let's break this down further: over 400 teams. Minimum of 4 runners. Maximum of 12. Hundreds of people, all racing like hell over the hills of New Hampshire. Run through the night. Have a dancing toilet start you off from Attitash. Get through the whole night, and have to slog the final half mile on the beach.

This. Is. Awesome.

I mean, there's no getting around it: you will hurt. A lot. But I've never had more fun during an event than this. At some point during a race, the thought usually crosses through your head:

"Wait. I'm doing this for fun? This SUCKS. I am an idiot! I paid how much to do this? AND I THINK THIS IS FUN? Somebody needs to shoot me."

This does not happen during Reach the Beach. With all of this out of the way, let's hit the running diary of this insanity.

Thursday: Travel Day
Tara, Adam, and I headed down to meet our New Balance sales rep Colin at his place in Hampton Beach. This is where we would dump off Tara's car, for an easy exit from Hampton Beach on Saturday morning. After a quick change into some Team New Balance: Maxing Out Our Minimus gear (including the 1190 reviewed previously here), we headed down to Boston to pick up other members of our team.

After touring about the New Balance Boston campus for a bit, we loaded up the first of our two vans (the remainder of the team would meet us the following day) and headed north. We made a pit-stop at the Hannaford in Concord, NH for groceries. After all, we'd be running all through the night! So what, you may wonder, makes it into the shopping cart for an RTB Relay team?
  • Loaves of bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Nutella
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Gatorade
  • Water
  • Beef jerky
  • Pretzels
  • Fig Newtons
  • More beef jerky
  • Red Bull
  • Swedish Fish
  • Sugar Babies
  • Three more pounds of beef jerky get the idea.

After this stop, we headed up to our hotel for the night, relaxed, and then got ready for the run ahead.

Friday: Let the Running...or Waiting Begin
We woke up, had breakfast, packed up, and headed on over to Cannon Mountain, and started to piece together how the race would wind up working.

This year's version of Reach the Beach was really more like two races combined together. Due to Hurricane Irene, part of the run course was washed away, and so we would unable to run the typical route for the course. The race directors came up with a cool plan: the first six runners would run a looped, six-leg course, that was timed. They then estimated how long that would take, based on your seeding time, and factored in the expected 2 hour drive to get around to Attitash (where the 7th leg started). This was your start time at Attitash.

Well, this worked out extremely well if you were an ultra team (6 or fewer runners): you got a little break from your first legs and the rest of the work involved. For those of us with larger teams, though, it meant a lot of waiting. Our first team started at 12:10 from Cannon; we didn't head out until 6:10 from Attitash.

So we meandered, wandered, and waited. After a delicious "last meal" at Moat Mountain in North Conway, it was time to get ready to roll. I was runner 8 on our team, which meant that I was the 2nd person out of the van each time our van was "on duty" to run. Van 1 would run legs 1-6, Van 2 7-12, Van 1 13-18, Van 2 19-24, etc. So I was running legs 8, 20, and 32.

Now, as I had previously mentioned here on the blog, I had NO IDEA what legs these were; I just knew the total mileage was 22.53 miles. Little did I know what was in store in the middle of the night.

But first, it was time to step out and run.

Friday, 7:10 PM--Leg 8/1st Run
6.60 miles, 49:48 time, 7:33/mi pace
Kills: 1

Preston, our first runner (or Man 7) headed in from his leg. Transition here was at Echo Lake State Park in North Conway. I took off like a shot, heading out at a blistering 5:26/mile pace. Whoops.

This leg was relatively quick and flat along West Side Road (the main local road that avoids the strip of North Conway). I found my rhythm relatively quickly, and just tried to settle in. Nerves were up there, as evidenced by my heart rate (average 174 the whole way!). The legs felt good. I made it through 5K in 22:10.

Then I came to a realization: have more than 19 miles left in this thing. Don't try to put everything you have in now. You'll be DEAD otherwise. So I backed off a little, just trying to be as smooth as possible. It felt great overall. I made the turn onto Rte 16, and then crossed over to hand off to Adam.

Side note: The "Kill" number is a term related to the number of teams you pass during your leg. So I only made one pass on this leg, which makes sense: we were racing numerous teams at this point that were at our expected pace; the race had yet to accordion. (Slow teams start first, fast teams towards the end. We were in the last 50-60 teams starting from Attitash, to give you an idea.)

10:30 PM--Off Duty
Our last runner made his hand off around 10:30 that night, and we were then off. We made the decision to drive down to the Transition for Leg 19 start, so we could catch some sleep.

15 passenger vans are large, but not quite large enough for 6 people to sleep. It's perfect for 5. I drew the short straw, and did not really sleep.

2:15 AM Saturday--The Phone Call
"We'll be there in 20 minutes."

Oh SH!T!!

Poor Preston had to really scramble to put himself together, as he had the distinct displeasure of immediately throwing on the shoes and getting ready to run. I at least had the 20 minute wait, plus Preston's 4 mile leg, to prep myself. I built myself a snack of Nutella, Fig Newtons, and Red Bull (hey, I needed some caffeine) to provide a little bit of fuel.

3:15 AM--Leg 20/Run Leg #2, aka The Run From Hell
9.13 miles, 1:16:59 time, 8:27/mile pace; 868 feet elevation gain; 757 feet elevation loss
Kills: 7

This is where I thought, "Colin, I could kill you. But this is AWESOME." (He was the one who arranged the legs for this thing.)

Leg 20 was the leg that, when people found out that I was person 8 on a 12 person team, told me, "That is going to suck." And no lie, the running was tough. But there's something cool about stepping out at 3 in the morning, and looking up and seeing nothing but the stars and the reflecting red lights of fellow runners, further above you on the course.

I took our reflective band from Preston and just tried to bank some time. I wanted to keep my effort even throughout the course. I didn't care about pace at the time. I figured that I'd run somewhere between 74 and 80 minutes for this leg, and I could not care how I got there.

I tore out of transition, and started with a half-mile downhill. Well, OK, I guess this is my "warm-up" before the hill. And then it begins: a wall uphill to head across Rte 106, and then continuing on forward through Belmont and Gilmanton.

It is 6 miles of relentless climbing, gaining all of that nearly 900 feet of elevation. It typically was: run uphill for a mile, get a quarter mile of false flat or mild downhill, and head straight back up again. I just focused myself on turning those feet over, and noticing that a lot of those lights were coming back to me. Awesome! Let's keep pushing!

One of the coolest parts of RTB is that your team pulls off the side of the road to cheer you on as you go further in the event. So I had our team stop at the mile 3 and 6 mark, just to help break it up. I took a walk at mile 6 to put some water in the system. It was only 33 degrees, but I was working and sweating hard.

Then the Earth falls away from you. The next two miles lose almost all of that elevation gain. Holy crap! Time to fly on down hill. It was crazy; your perspective got so skewed from going that hard downhill that false flats, or certain grades downhill, looked like you were going back UP. Weird.

My watch was set with alarms every ten minutes. I heard the watch beep for the 7th time (marking the 70 minute mark) and just decided to push as hard as I could to the finish. I saw the transition zone, and just broke into a dead sprint. "Adam! Adam! Adam!" Time to hand off the band.

This is where I started to feel some of the running in my legs. I was a little tight, but overall still felt pretty fresh. I wanted to get 8 kills, but couldn't reel in one last one. Time to climb back in the van. This is where you REALLY get tight. Thankfully, we brought some stretching tools to help out.

7:20 AM--Off Duty
Again, we decided to head on down to our final vehicle transition zone, located at Sanford High School. I'll never forget pulling in here, and seeing that the back half of the parking lot was just covered with people, passed out on the asphalt. No blankets. No pillows. Just exhausted, laying on the warm asphalt. I nearly joined them, but knew if I did that there would be no return.

We headed down to a greasy spoon to load up on some breakfast before the final slog. We chatted for a bit with some of the other teams that were there, and just got ready to run again.

I couldn't get my hips to unlock. I was extremely tight. I just kept trying to warm up, but couldn't get anything going. Uh oh. Looks like we're banking time on this leg, till I run head first into the wall.

11:34 AM: Van On-Duty
Preston merely had 2.2 miles to run. Great. Where's the Red Bull?

11:52 AM: Leg 32, Run #3
6.71 miles, 56:17, 8:23/mile pace
Kills: 4

Again, I rocketed out of transition. It was the only thing that felt good. This was the rule of this run: if it feels good, push hard; when it feels like garbage, well, embrace the suck.

I went through two miles in 14:30. Colin, from the other van, pulled around, and told me later: "I knew you were in trouble. Things did not look good." I knew there was a hill coming up, and I knew it would hurt like hell. I just wanted to keep the effort as even as I could.

At this point, I remembered a rule from racing tris: productive walking. I was walking up some of the hills faster than I was running them, and then could really push the downhills to make up some of the lost time. Well, time to employ the strategy, because you are just getting demolished right now.

I finally found my rhythm again around mile 4, when the road went from either "straight up, straight down, or straight flat" to rolling. This allowed my stride to open and close at a more natural rate for me (mechanics are different based on the road terrain), and hence my pace and effort levels were more consistent.

I finally got to mile 6, and had somebody both come back to me from ahead, and then come from behind. There was no way in hell I was getting passed at this point. The guy from behind had made the mistake of settling in at my pace. I could tell he was hurting, so we chatted for a second. We decided that, well, how many times have you had to suffer for less than a mile? Let's GO.

I hammered that last bit, saw the transition zone, and have never run that hard in my life. Well, outside of the Beach to Beacon sprint. "Adam! Where you at bud?" Time to hand off.

Here's the thing about running that many miles in 24 don't stop well. I had to keep running. For a little while. I could not stop. I ran an extra half mile, just to slow down and finish.

3:01 PM: Food tent demolished
3:02 PM: Headed back to Colin's house
(Note, these times may be exaggerated here.)

Made it back to Portland around 5:30. The most telling thing, for me, was when Hannah called me at 6 leaving work, and I was so dog-tired I reached up from the floor and put the phone on speakerphone to talk to her. I was laying on the hardwood, just done for. Time for pizza (the classic post-race food in this house.)

Overall, I highly recommend racing this once. We're already putting together an Ultra Team for next year. Team names to be determined, but it will indeed be a crazy time. Thanks to all those who made it possible: race directors, New Balance, Hannaford foods, and every fellow idiot who was out there.