Much better

Yeah, rock on, baby.

Thursday’s run was quick and pain free. Made me happy. I’m not waking up with painful arches, and I’m running New Haven in a week!

Rock on, folks.

Hey!

So I’m beginning to wonder if maybe it’s not the shoes.

My running has been somewhat sporadic lately. I think some of it is just monthly burnout, some of it is work-related stress, and some of it is, well something else I just can’t put my finger on.

I got in my scheduled six today. It should have been a run about which I’d gush – beautiful day; warm, with a cool breeze blowing off the bay. The classic experience of rounding the point behind the NAPS building as a pair of sailboats come about, spinnakers ballooning in front of them to parallel me on the leg down to the wooden bridge. But I ended up feeling just “eh”.

Now, my left foot is acting up again. Some of it, I think, is that I slacked over the weekend. But part of me is starting to think that maybe I actually damaged something with the New Balances. I’m going to gut it out through a long run on Saturday, but if it’s still hurting Sunday, I may have to break out the bike during the week for the forseeable future, saving my foot for long runs. Darn the bad luck.

On a happier note, my run last Thursday was quite possibly the finest run ever. I extended even further the “hilly” version of my route on Jamestown Island, and dialed up the podcast from Open Source on Numbers. The sun shone, the breeze blew, and the thoughts of Chris Lydon and (be still my heart!) Douglas Hofstadter beat down on my ears.

If you’re looking for a big, thick book to stick in your bookbag to drag around and gain all sorts of intellectual whuffie, Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach – Eternal Golden Braid takes the cake. For an even bigger kick, actually break open the beast and read it. I don’t claim to understand half of what was in it, but it’s breathtaking. The deeper the ideas got, the quicker I ran. Great topic (at least for me), great guests, and a discernible chemistry between all involved.

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

Vacation Monday was the last day. But I didn’t let it go to waste.

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I’d debated bringing my bike along, and ultimately decided not to. Mostly because I had the 15 miler planned on Saturday, and expected to be completely destroyed. However, despite hiking Sunday, etc, I was feeling pretty good Sunday afternoon, and had been watching other cyclists all weekend. Plus, the weekend was perfect, we’d driven the road up to the Notch and knew that it was a nice, smooth piece of pavement, and I was feeling frisky.
Continue reading Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

Yeah, Stowe!

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Completely and totally rocked. We were staying about 10 minutes walking from downtown (above). There’s a groovy paved trail that runs along the river that heads from the town up to the ski area that we walked/ran/rollerbladed. Good stuff. Lots of time in shoes. We were able to walk to most of the shops we wanted to see (4 bikes shops within about a mile’s radius!) and even walk to supper. Perfect weather – warm days, not so humid. Life was good.

Continue reading Yeah, Stowe!

best. shoes. ever?

Yep. Broke down and got new kicks. And, by god, it may have been the best decision I’ve made in a while.

The boy and I swung by the store this afternoon and picked up a new pair of shoes. We then proceeded to the beach, terrorized hermit crabs for a while, and headed home for hot dogs and a bath. After the kiddos were in bed, I strapped on the new shoes and headed out for a shakedown cruise. It was everything I could have dreamed it could be.

The weather still stunk – warm and humid. I’d say it was raining, but I’m not entirely convinced that the water falling from the sky was rain – I think it was probably just coming out of suspension as a 100% humid day cooled to a 100% humid night. Some 18th century Briton has a set of curves named after him that describe in detail how much water per unit volume air per air pressure per degree there can be until a saturated system is achieved – this was theory in practice, baby. I hadn’t worried any more about eating. And, I was just doing the recovery run programmed in – nothing special distance-wise.

But “it” was there – the stride felt good out of the gait (get it? It’s a pun!), breathing was happening – all of that. Even with a belly full of cucumber and hot dog. The most telling thing, IMO, was that I wasn’t having to concentrate to make my footfalls sound light – they just did.

So, 5 miles down, not quite at recovery pace. I’m happy. Think it’s the shoes, but we’ll revisit in a couple of months. I do know I was happy with my running up until I switched shoes from the last pair. The next two paragraphs are pretty much straight ahead consumerism – Runner’s World, if you want to use them, I’ll tell you where to send the check.

On the outside, the Gel Cumulus VII is a pretty serious overhaul from the Gel Cumulus VI. Most of the “flash” is gone, except for a toe and heel reinforcement that are a blue normally only found in science fiction movies. Cobalt, I think is the proper color. The asics crossroads are thinner, and seem to be kind of structural. My favorite part – they took the stretchy mesh that they used on the Gel Verdict series (now sadly discontinued) and made most of the upper from that. So when you lace them up, it’s kind of an even stretch. Verry, verrry nice…

On the soles, they left the cool see-through window into the gel at the heel, and added a window on the outside of the ball of the foot. They also did away with a bunch of the hard plastic on the bottom, which I think is going to make this a better trail shoe. At least in dry weather. The bottom of the soles looks a whole lot more durable – lots more carbon rubber, less just foam, and a whole lot less hard plastic.

So the functional part – the sole and cushioning – I think are unchanged. The upper, in my opinion (which on this page is king), is a vast improvement – better materials, less “bling”, more function. The contact surface with the road seems more durable – again, we’ll revisit in a while. And the most important part – the running – is still there.

worst. run. ever.

12 miles on Saturday completely blew.

1. Wet. Great gracious me, I thought I was back in Houston. Temps at the start of the run were probably mid 70’s at most, but it was darn near 100% humidity. I swear my shirt was soaked before I hit the top of the driveway. Couldn’t breathe, what being underwater and all.

2. Shoes. I don’t know that I can necessarily blame them – I did the 15 in my new-ish pair of New Balance 833’s last weekend and didn’t feel a thing but good. Today – my arches felt collapsed, my ankles felt twisty. Blech. I’ve been having foot pain off and on since swapping my Asics for these; think it’s time to go back to what works. Stupid $60 down the drain…

3. Nutrition. Left at 6 AM. Nothing to eat at the house. Usually, if I’m running in the AM, I’m doing it over near work on Jamestown or Newport, so I huff something (‘nana, blueberries, granola bar, coffee, coffee, coffee)) down before I eat. Although, again, I didn’t bother with that for the long run in Vermont. Saturday, I also took a PowerBar with me instead of relying on candy, etc. Ate the PowerBar at about mile 4, and didn’t feel quite right after it. Think it’s back to Swedish Fish for next week.

Regardless, the run stank. I probably walked 3 or 4 of the 12 or so miles. (Good! says Galloway – walk/run is a great way to prepare) If it weren’t for the great long run last weekend, over a bigger distance, and two decent runs last week, I’d be severely discouraged.

Instead, I’m psyched about new shoes and trying again this evening. Hope everyone else is avoiding the heat…

Y U been gone so long?

(Click here for soundtrack; courtesy of the Oxford American, which is recently relaunched with their annual Music Issue. Best $9.95 you will spend on tunes this year.)

15 miles last Saturday was cake. Doing it on the 5 mile long trail through Stowe was brilliant – beautiful weather, flat run, and I was able to go about 2 miles from the hotel, stash the camelback, run about 5 miles total to the end of the trail and back, pick up the camelback and suck down a healthy dose of water and Swedish Fish over the next 5 miles, ditch it and do the last 4 miles without the weight. Good times.

Canoeing Saturday Afternoon rocked – we used these guys – great equipment, pretty decent safety brief before, and a beautiful day on the river.

Sunday and Monday deserve detail and pictures – Sunday was hiking and swimming in a pond at the top of the Smuggler’s Notch ski area, and Monday was climbing the road between Stowe and Jeffersonville on a rented bike – so I’ll do them later.

Work has been busy. Boys are back, healthy and happy, from Texas. Wednesday was another great 7 miles on Jamestown – I figured out how to add a ton of hills and a mile to the run from the soccer field. Did it in just under an hour, which, while not flying is not bad.

Thursday was 6 at Bluff Point. THursday was hot and painful.

Tomorrow is 12 miles, early, to beat the heat. Then, I catch up on other blogs.

Couple of random runs and Vacation

Woo Hoo – Vacation.

I write this from the deck by the pool of the Golden Eagle Lodge in Stowe, VT, while my lovely wife is getting ready to head out to supper. The boys are safely at my folk’s house in San Antonio after an unexpected overnight in Elizabeth, New Jersey (heh – I feel kind of bad, but we tried to talk Ma and Pa out of the trip. The kids – no worries about either of them).

Wednesday – what a great run after work. It was hot, hazy and humid – even though it wasn’t foggy, it was tough to see Jamestown Island from Newport Island. I decided I’d time my run by iPod – do about 5 miles at a 9 minute pace. Good run despite it being near 90 and near 90% humidity (felt like I was running with Christian in Katy). Even better was coming home and putting it into the Gmaps Pedometer – 6.3 in about 50 minutes! Smokin!

Thursday was a tough day at work. Bunches of stuff came up, and I didn’t get to run. BUT, I did get out of the office by 4:30, and we were headed north by 6. Supper in Mass. Needed gas in White River Junction, so we figured we’d stay. Good choice. Good hotel, and a good run this morning – downhill to the Connecticut River (stealing Jeff’s “Epic” theme, I’d love to canoe or kayak from the headwaters down to the sound. Maybe when the boys are older…), then uphill back to the hotel. 4 miles, and man, are the hills killer.

Tomorrow is 15 miles. Stowe’s got a sweet 5 mile multi-use trail – figure I can do a lap and a half on that, right from the hotel. Beauty.

Off to find food…

25 things I love about the bike – #8

Seasons

I’d originally planned to do a bit on each of the four seasons – hey, four topics! – but there ended up being enough other stuff that I’m lumping them all here. So here goes: Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring.

Summer:
The bike is the king of summer. EVERYONE rides during the summer – kids on vacation, heading to the pool or each other’s houses, ma and pa playing hookey from work, bullets, ducks, and cruisers. The roads are fast – no more sand in the gutters, the days are long – ride before and after work, and the air is warm – pack the water bottle, and ice down the post ride beverages.

Summer is the Tour – sneaking peaks at the office to see who’s on the break in the morning, and a lunch hour filled with sprints, climbs, and jerseys. Summer is without excuses – the bike is back from winter tune-up, there’s no special clothing, and there’s no need to rush home before dark. Summer is never having to fix a flat alone – someone is bound to come along and offer aid. Summer is one more loop, one more climb, one more stop at the Circle K to refill, and one more 4AM to make the weekday morning ride. Summer is other riders – more bodies in the group, more flyers off the front before the town line, and always another rider up the hill to try and catch.

Summer is skinned knees, grassy hills, and wobbly kids without training wheels. Summer is ramps – dirt, wood and cinderblocks, or plywood on a lawn chair to launch into the lake. Wheelies and trackstands. Bike racks and patios. Waves and “Hey, Lance Armstrong!” from the passing car.

Summer is the bike.

Winter:
Winter is lonely. Rollers. DVDs. Maps. Basements. Fluorescent lights, degreaser, and skinned knuckles.

Winter is cold. Lights and half-charged batteries. Snot-cicles. Mufflers, tights, and burning cheeks. Sanded streets. Phone calls with fingers too numb to pry a tire off a rim.

ice.

Winter is planning. Training. Races. Gear. Sales. Stopping in the bike shop just to see someone else’s bike.

Fall:
Fall is the afterglow. Falling asleep in a lover’s arms, the days grow short, the sweaters come out, and the cyclists bask in the form from a hard fought summer. Long rides to fill out mileage goals. Rides cut short by long shadows and short days. Fall means rides stop at the coffee shop more often than not – warm java to take the edge off the chill. Saturday morning delayed an hour to wait out the frost. Singletrack is sweeter in the fall – poached in an orange vest with a card in the spokes to scare the heck out of hunters. Bookbags, bike racks, and crossing guards.

Fall is perfect in every way, right up until the roads get sanded.

Spring:
Spring is hope. Spring is excitement. Spring is embarrassment at a winter’s indulgence writ in bulging lycra for the world to see.

There’s the joyous ride after the first hard rain pushes most of the sand into the gutter. The ride, replete with snot rockets, tearing eyes, and numb fingers, racing ahead of the snow before the late season storm brings the sand back. First flowers. First ride watching another rider pass the other way after trading the “wave”.

Spring is penance and redemption all at once. Legs filling with lactate after a winter of ease. Lungs bursting with effort, and fighting off pollen. Begging the mechanic to finish the overhaul by Friday, and “Yes, I should have brought it in in January.” (Though, hopefully this is offset by “but I managed to sneak in 100 miles that month”). And the reward of longer days, lowering heart rates, shrinking waists, increasing speeds.

—–

Cheeze? Sure. If I had to pick a favorite time to ride, it’d be fall. Perfect weather, good form, and a sense of desperation as the air looms heavy with snow. But just knowing I rode in winter redeems any other faults the rides may have, spring is a no-brainer, and summer is paid back in full with sweat, tan lines, and trips to the beach.