Sunday, June 28, 2009

You say obsessed, I say brand loyal

You have 3 guesses as to what my favorite brand of running shoes are, and the first 2 don't count. Yes, that's correct, I love my Sauconys.

I actually picked up my first pair, the Cohesion NX on the left, as just a general pair of walking around shoes. When I started running last September, I had some vague idea that Saucony was a running shoe company so they were the most logical choice to lace up for that life-changing first run. They felt good and seemed to cushion my feet well, so I kept running in them.

I burned totally through the outsole on the Cohesions in just a couple of months so I went to All Things Running to pick up my first pair of "real" running shoes. By this point, I knew I needed neutral shoes and since Saucony had served me well, I wanted to stick with them. The salesman there set me up with the Progrid Rides (2nd from left) and I loved every one of the 300+ miles I put on them.

The pair in the middle are my "racing" shoes. Saucony Grid Tangent 3s. Absolutely awesome. They feel like they barely weigh anything and the tiny amount of stability they have built in doesn't seem to affect me at all. Still not used to being able to see my socks through the top of them, of course :)

The last two pairs on the right are new acquisitions. When my first pair of Rides went dead, I headed over to ATR again to check out the Ride 2s. I didn't even get a chance b/c when I walked in carrying my Rides, the salesgirl checked out the wear pattern, said it was "near perfect" and asked if I liked that exact model. Turns out they were clearing out their Rides to make way for the Ride 2s and were selling them for $50 a pair! Since I had already expected to spend around $100, I went ahead and picked up two pairs and now have 600+ miles of Saucony goodness ready to go!

You say obsessed, I say brand loyal. Saucony was with me at the beginning of my new life as a runner and I hope to be in them until it ends!

Run Long, Run Free

Grass Roots XC Series 6K Race Report

Yesterday morning, I ran the 3rd race in a XC series that local university's XC team is putting on. The first 2 races were a 3K and a 5K, this one was a 6K, and the remaining two are an 8K on 7/11 and a 10K on 8/1. Yesterday's race went pretty well, much better than last week's disaster of a 5K. I didn't really have a time goal in mind since this was my first time doing the distance and Blanchard Woods is a pretty gnarly XC course (although I've been told by some that it's nothing compared to running on singletrack). I always have a good time out there, though. I won't break the race up into the miles, b/c I don't really pay attention to the mile markers at BW, too busy enjoying the scenery.

I feel like I did everything right this race. I started off about 30 seconds per mile slow because there's a hill at about the 1.25 mile mark that feels like it's never going to end. I knew that some of the folks who started out too fast would have to walk it and I could pass them there and leave them behind on the long downhill section that followed. Thanks to Chris Russell's excellent guidelines on running hills and the hilliness of my neighborhood, I've gotten quite good at going up and down hills. Some of the downhills at BW are so steep you've just gotta lean forward, relax, and let gravity take you down. After the downhill section, there's a couple more steep uphills, but they're short and my quads are huge (not from training, just from being fat for so long, haha), so I was able to power up, even making a pass on one of them.

I ended up coming in at 45:06, which is pretty consistent with the 36:46 5K time I put in there. I'm happy with that, and it gives me a number to shoot for in next year's race. No racing for me next week, but I've got the 8K at BW in 2 weeks, so I'll put in a nice long run at the canal this Saturday.

Run Long, Run Free

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bare Bones Free 5K Race Report

Yeah, I'm pretty much the world's worst running blogger. Nothing since January, yikes! Hopefully I can break that habit starting today as I have a slew of races lined up over the summer and into the fall. Today I ran in a free 5K put on by my running club, the Augusta Striders Running Club. The course was on a section of the North Augusta Greeneway, a paved trail system created as part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy project. Since the Greeneway runs along the site of an old railway, it's a fairly flat course and I was thinking this was a good race to improve my PR. Read on to see if I accomplished the goal.

The race start was at 7:30, trying to beat the heat (of course, if you've ever been in Augusta in pretty much June-September, you know it's pretty much impossible to avoid it). I woke up at 6:15 and started a cup of espresso-roast coffee brewing while I started munching on a Powerbar, got dressed, and laced up my Saucony Grid Tangent 3s. I drove to the race site and parked about a quarter-mile away and jogged to the registration table to get warmed up. After registering, I did another quarter-mile warmup jog and did some dynamic stretches before heading back to the starting line and finding my spot near the back of the pack. A quick summary of the course by one of the race directors and we were off!

Mile 1 - I felt great for pretty much all of mile 1. It started out taking us along a sidewalk that runs along side one of the main bridges into downtown North Augusta from downtown Augusta before taking us under the bridge and along a gravel path past some old brick ponds that have been turned into a park. From there, the route met up with the actual Greeneway trail, a path that I've become very familiar with on my lunchtime runs since I work in downtown Augusta. This particular section of the Greeneway is very well shaded so the temperature was not much of an issue and I felt like I was just loping along, but when my Garmin beeped to indicate 1 mile, my split revealed that I had just run a 10:12 first mile. My pacing strategy for this race was to run 10:30 for both the first and second miles, then pick it up in the third, so a 10:12 wasn't horribly far off.

Mile 2 - Shortly after the 1 mile mark, the route turned left and took us along a relatively new section of the Greeneway that runs along the riverfront and back to the 13th Street bridge. About halfway into the second mile, there's an old flatbed railroad car that's been converted into a bridge over a creek. It was just after this bridge that my thoughts of a PR came to an end. My intestines began to cramp horribly and painfully. If I slowed to around a 12 minute pace, the cramping settled down a little bit and was manageable, but if I went any faster, it got worse. Mile 2 ended up being a disappointing 11:39.

Mile 3 - Needless to say, mile 3 was absolutely miserable. The route was pleasant enough, taking us down the other side of the 13th Street bridge and through another section of the brick pond park before meeting back up with the main Greeneway and doubling back to the start. The miserable part was knowing that my legs had a PR in them (they weren't even burning at this point), but my stomach was rebelling against it. I ran pretty much all of mile 3 at a pace slower than even my warmup jogs and ended up running a horrible 12:47 split.

The final 0.1 - Once I passed the 3 mile marker, I decided to go ahead and finish strong. If whatever was causing my stomach to cramp decided to manifest itself in the worst way possible, I would at least be at the finish line where there were porta-potties. So, I kicked it. I didn't go for a full-on sprint as I typically would, but more of a good 3rd-mile effort. My average pace over the last tenth was a 9:37, which frustrated me even more because I know I could have sustained that for mile 3 if my stomach had allowed.

Anyway, it turns out the stomach problems weren't related to the running at all. I apparently have a stomach bug that I most likely caught from my next-door neighbor because I've been having the same sorts of problems all day long, basically every time I eat anything.

I ended up finishing with a disappointing 35:21. Yes, it's still faster than my first 5K, when I was close to 50 pounds heavier, and faster than last weeks Grass Roots 5K, which was on the absolutely brutal XC course at Blanchard Woods. But to know that I could have had a time in the low 31s and missed it due to something completely out of my control is incredibly frustrating.

Next week I've got a 6K, the next race in the Grass Roots XC Series at Blanchard Woods. The 3K and 5K there were a lot of fun and quite challenging so I'm looking forward to the 6K, then the 8K and 10K races out there later this summer. Hopefully by next Saturday I'll have kicked this stomach bug and will have a much better race report to write. Until then,

Run Long, Run Free