February 20, 2013

50 Years. And Into the Unknown

As I ponder the thought of "getting old" on my 50th birthday, my mind flashes back in time. To a moment in my early 20s, at an office birthday party for me. I was turning 23...and I was horrified. I remember thinking I was only two years away from 25...which is half way to 50! Boy did I feel old that day.   

I'm pretty sure that was the moment I lost my fear of growing older. It must have been a cathartic event, turning 23. For some reason, I have no idea why, growing older no longer was a step closer to the grave, but rather step closer to something I had yet to accomplish. Maybe that year was my coming of age. After all, it was the year I got my first office job, my first case of the hemorrhoids from sitting at a desk all day, my first apartment, and my first live-in girlfriend. It was also my first year to experience running. I hadn't run a marathon yet, but I do remember thinking how difficult it would be. The thought lingered, and eventually it turned into inspiration.  

Some call it dreaming. For me it is more about visualizing. Dreams happen in my sleep. Visualizing occurs when I'm sitting at a conference and I realize I haven't heard a word the speaker has said. I try to listen, but I can't focus. I look at my watch. I look around the room. I start to feel like a caged animal.      

The next thing I know I'm training for a marathon, running through the streets at night. From somewhere, maybe above the misty street lights overhead, comes this strange feeling in the back of my neck. It's vaguely familiar, like a tingle of warmth from a smoldering fire. Slowly, it moves down my back, into my hips, then down to my legs. This tingle is now a surge of energy, and it washes the fatigue flowing through my veins right out of my body. Now I'm moving effortlessly over the cold, black asphalt. But the source of this energy isn't from the misty lights above. It's locked up somewhere inside of me. Then it occurs to me that, when running, I'm holding the keys.

I keep running. Through the pain which I determine is just a facade to be crushed under the weight of my ambition. I push into new realms, an exploration of self, a discovery of the undiscovered.  With marathon's behind me, I move up to fifty, then one hundred mile races. My hobby turns into a passion, then boarders on obsession. When months turn into years, an unwelcome truth slowly emerges from the ashes of reality. My body sends messages, but my mind isn't listening. 

When I was younger, my body was always ready and waiting. Poised and strong, ready for every command. Knowing this, my mind knew few boundaries, for its partner was always there, pushing the limits. My ego took center stage. But nothing lasts forever, even the sun and the moon. It wasn't long before my ego started to take my body for granted.                        

Subtle at first, the messages kept coming. Of course these were just part of being a runner, I thought. Injury, fatigue, general malaise, all classic signs of pushing too hard. Then, finally, I started to listen to the messages. My body was teaching me a lot, helping me understand its limits, so I could work with it, not against it. Consistency before duration, duration before intensity. Run within myself. Build the base. Now my body takes center stage. With a new found respect, my body talks and my mind listens, without prejudice. And my ego? It's a mere bystander. 

The same thought that lingered when I was 23 still lingers today. Difficulty remains my calling card. But now that I'm listening, my body has taught me that I have experience and knowledge on my side. These are my successes and failures, my strengths and weaknesses.  These are the keys that I now hold, and they accompany me on every mile, on every trail, and, now that I'm 50, into the unknown. 

February 11, 2013

Asics GT 1000 - A Review

The Taco Test
It has been written that finding the perfect running shoe is a lot like finding a perfect partner. It can take years, even a lifetime. Some would say the perfect “one” doesn’t exist. Others say you have to go through a lot of them to get to the right one.

Onlineshoes.com recently contacted me to do a review of a particular running shoe. I was reluctant, at first, since I haven’t “strayed” from my Hoka One One’s in a while. Mainly I just don’t do a lot of reviews when asked by product sponsors or distributors. I’ve always felt there is a bit of a conflict of interest when a company gives away its product in exchange for a review.

But I decided to do this one anyway. Why? First, I’ve used onlineshoes.com in the past and found their service to be very good. Second, they asked me to review a pair of Asics GT 1000s. Cool, I thought. I’ve run more miles in Asics than any other shoe made. 10ks, half marathons, marathons, 50 mile and 100 mile races. I’ve run them all in Asics. But I haven’t run in Asics for a couple years, so I thought it would be interesting to see how they compare to my latest quiver of shoes. 

My first test was to weigh the shoes. I’m a little anal about shoe weight and I’m always interested to see the variance in the advertised weight of a shoe compared to what my shoe actually weighs. Manufactures use smaller shoe sizes (lighter) for advertising the weight of a shoe. Consequently, I’ve always found my shoes to be a little heavier than what is advertised. Sure enough my 10.5 size GT 1000s weighed in at a 11.6 oz, or 1.2 oz more than the 10.4 oz advertised on onlineshoes.com. 

My second test was to bend the GT 1000 from heel to toe. Whenever I walk into a running store and look at a shoe the first thing I do is fold the shoe like a taco. The purpose is to see where the shoe bends. If it bends near the ball of the foot, like the GT 1000 does, it passes my test. If it bends in the middle of the shoe, at mid foot, it fails my test

The reason? If a shoe bends near the ball of the foot then it will bend naturally through the running gait from foot strike through toe-off. If the shoe bends in the middle it will put much more stress on the planter fascia, the last thing a runner wants. I have run in shoes that bend at the midfoot and the result is searing pain in my planter fascia within a few miles. I've returned dozens of shoes over the years for this reason. Once I started doing this taco test I stopped returning so many shoes.

While running in the GT 1000 I discovered the shoes are a relatively stable, firm ride on the road. Not too much cushion, but with gel in the heel and forefoot, enough to give you the protection you need. I like what Asics calls their Trusstic System which is a plastic midfoot unit built into the shoe to increase torsional rigidity. It is this system that prevents the bend in the midfoot.

I have pretty high arch and over the years I have found Asics tend to fit my foot well. The GT 1000 in no exception. The overall fit of the shoe is snug, particularly in the heel and midsole. The forefoot is also snug, but I would prefer a bit more room in this section of the shoe.

Since I started running in Asics some 25 years ago the company has used a DuoMax Support System which is a dual-density material in the midsole that is designed to reduce over pronation. I don’t pronate but I have found this system to enhance shoe durability. DuoMax is basically a harder material that is used on inner half the midsole.

ASICS stands for “Anima Sana in Corpore Sano,” Latin for a sound mind in a sound body. Whether you are a serious runner gunning for a local, state or national title, or a novice simply seeking to get in shape, ASICS has the goods for you. The GT 1000 is a solid road trainer for those of you with the commitment and resolve to meet your running goals.

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