Monday, June 20, 2016

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon: First Impressions

After a couple of runs over the weekend in my Merrell Bare Access's with no negative side effects, I though I would break out a pair of my Vibram FiveFingers to see how they feel.  Of the four pairs I own, I very scientifically selected the only pair that didn't still have the tags attached and ended up with the Spyridons (the version released in June, 2012).  This would be my first run in VFF's that was longer than 200m or so.  This would also be the first run that I have ever done (to the best of my recollection) with no socks.

I will start with the shoes, which were terrific.  I am guessing that my slow transition to 0mm permitted me to change my running style so incrementally that they didn't feel very different.  The shoes are light and I can feel the ground, but the Spyridons have this great waffle-style tread on the outsole that protected me from anything pointy on the trail.  I even ran over a few rocks deliberately.  I felt the them as I ran over them, but it wasn't like they were jabbing into my foot.  This inspired a lot of confidence in the shoe. 

Second, I was expecting them to be really warm on my feet, and I was blissfully wrong.   While the Spyridons don't look like they are as breathable as other models, they performed very well in the heat, which was really intense (next paragraph).  They mostly black with green trim, and use this shiny fabric that looks plastic-y over a stretchy Lycra-like material.   The only negative I took away from the run shoe-wise was that I developed a small, yet painful blister on the inside of my left foot where the loop for the strap is sewn to the shoe.  For my next run in them, I will put a Band Aid on the spot or try a pair of Injini socks.

As for the run, the weather was stinkin' hot again (north of 30C), intense sun and a strong wind blowing from the southwest just ahead of a severe thunderstorm that was forecasted for the evening.  The plan was to go for 30 minutes out-and-back on a nearby recreational path and I decided to knock off another Zombies, Run! mission on my phone to help pass the time.  The wind didn't affect me at all - it was actually rather nice - but the heat did.  The path has very little shade.  I just kept it steady and enjoyed my playlist and the mission.  I ended up finishing the 'back' within a few seconds of the 'out', which actually felt pretty good.  I will definitely be back in the VFF's again soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Inaugural Barefoot Shoe Run

I wanted to get a run in over the weekend to break out of the running funk I have been in and managed to do it.  Victory!  I also wanted to see if I could manage a run in barefoot shoes.  (Oxymoron?)  I picked my never-been-worn Merrell Bare Access's (0mm drop) and took them for their maiden voyage.  They were a treat to wear.  I have an upcoming blog post where I describe my minimalist plans.

All of the conventional wisdom I have read suggests that I shouldn't run very far when transitioning to 0mm drop shoes (like starting at a few hundred metres) and that I should gradually increase the distance/duration, but I didn't heed that wisdom.  I have been moving to progressively flatter shoes for the past couple of years and decided to take the final 4mm plunge. (Note: My last few pairs of shoes were 4mm.)  To be honest, they felt great during the run and even 9 hours later as I write this, I feel no lasting effects. 

The run itself felt great.  My goal duration for the run was 30 minutes and because of the heat I planned in keeping the peace slow.  It was definitely slow and hot, but I managed.  I did an out and back on Hilldale Road and I dawned on me how it got its name.  The road was up or down the whole way: hill, dale, hill, dale, hill, dale.  I wore my TomTom Runner, but didn't wear the HRM.  Even without it, I knew that my HR was up there, partly because of the heat and the hills, but mostly due to lost fitness. It took a while for it to come down afterward, but otherwise I recovered rather quickly.  

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Next Experiment: Aiming for 0 (mm, that is)

Since a picture says a thousand words, this will give you an idea of my next running project:

A Bit of Backstory
I wore orthotics for years.  I have been transitioning to less and less shoe.  Despite having perfectly flat feet and pronating significantly, I never, ever felt goon in motion control shoes.  I normally opted for neutral cushioned shoes and blew them to pieces after about 500-600km.  (The outside edge of my outsoles would wear through and I would occasionally blow through the side of the upper.)  As a result, I became a clearance rack/bin shopper because I needed 2-4 pairs of shoes per year at the mileage I was doing. 

I then read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  The whole less shoe, cheap shoe approach that is described in the book made a pile of sense to me.  Through experimentation I had already stumbled into it myself, but I never had any particular scientific reasoning behind what I was doing.  I was just listening to my body and finding a way to buy 2-4 pairs of shoes per year without blowing a bunch of money.  I wondered if I would ever get to the "shod barefoot" stage.  To me, it didn't really matter if I did.  (Given the surfaces where I run and the fact that Canadian Winters are really cold, "bare barefoot" isn't a viable option.)    Less and less shoe was working fine for me.

My transition has been slower than others.  The reason is more financial than physiological.  I could have transitioned to 0mm drop shoes over a few months, but to ease my conscience, I felt that that I needed to use up the stockpile of shoes that had been accumulating.  I arranged my pile in order by heel drop and used up the highest ones first.  I always rotate among 2-3 pairs at a given time so I just inserted a lower shoe into the rotation when a pair I was using wore out.  A couple of years ago I switched to training in lower racing flats and started buying 0mm heel drop shoes (see photo above).  I have a post in the oven that describes how I came to own such a collection, and not break the bank.

Where I am right now, shoe-wise
I just retired my Adidas AdiZero Mana's, which I was using for my streak and a couple of spring races, and I am currently running in a pair of Newton Distances that someone gifted me.  He tried them a few times and decided that they weren't for him.  I gladly accepted them and found that they are pushing my Achilles tendons and calves in exactly the same way that other shoes did whenever I dropped in heel height, i.e. from 12mm to 8-9mm and then from 8-9mm to 4mm.  In my estimation, the Newtons will help me close the gap.  I will keep these around, as well as a pair of K-Swiss Blade-LightRun's, for days when my feet need a break and I need to work some different muscles.  I also have two pairs of New Balance shoes from the Minimus line that I will use for trail running.  I completed a few runs in the Merrell Bare Access's and haven't felt any of the effects that people report when they have transitioned to quickly, which I take a sign that I'm ready for 0mm.

What is going to happen over the next few months...
My plan for the next month or so is to rotate among the Newtons, the Merrell's and an old pair of Loco Banditos (I bet you've never heard of them), and perhaps a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, probably the Spyridons.  Keeping the Merrell's for the Winter may be a good idea because I will need socks for insulation against frozen toes.  There are two trail races in the Summer (early-July and mid-August) and a road 15km (mid-July) that I am targeting.  I will use the Banditos for the 15km and one of the New Balances on the rails.  The plan is to be in a barefoot shoe pretty much full time by Autumn.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Mystery Jacket

Last Summer I was at Value Village and found a black Lululemon running jacket in excellent condition in the men's section.  There were no tags anywhere inside the jacket, but it was on a hanger that said small.  Only at my fittest could I ever even imagine wearing anything on top that comes in a small.  Undaunted, I decided to try it on.  Being moderately overweight at the time and not exercising at all, I managed to get it over my shoulders, but doing it up was a challenge.  It fit more like a sausage casing than a jacket.  It was $30, so I bought it with the idea that I would use fitting into it as my goal for regaining my running form.  The good news is that I was able to wear it comfortably just after Christmas.  Here are some photos...

Photo of jacket front
Photo of jacket back

The big challenge was that I have no idea what model this is.  I am hoping it is a men's jacket, but it very well could be a women's.  It could be a running jacket, but it has a pocket in the back, and inner mesh liner and vents like cycling wear.  The cuffs fold over into little mitt-like things and there are no thumb holes.  It is definitely windproof and probably waterproof.  It holds the heat in nicely.  I have worn in a few times when the wind chill was well below -20C and it had no trouble keeping my torso warm. 

I sent the photos above and a few others to a couple of Lululemon bloggers.  As an aside, I had no idea that there is a substantial Web community that has been built up around Lululemon clothing. LululemonExpert stepped up and put a ton of time into researching different lines of clothing - well more than anyone would reasonably expect.  She was very thorough, and yet she could turn nothing up.  I also engaged Lululemon Product Support through a live chat and managed to draw someone who has been with the company for a while, and she couldn't turn anything up either.

Is there anyone out there who knows anything about this jacket?  I'm going to keep running in it.  I would just like to know what I have got here.  If you want more photos, just say the word in the comments below.

UPDATE: In case you want to take up the challenge, here are some more photos.

Close up of the logo on the back of the collar

Apparently, according to Lulumen, this must be newer than 2013 because logo is not octagonal.  This guy really knows his stuff.

Back pocket

Cuff with mitt-like thing folded out

Lining behind the right front pocket (ear bud grommet even has a Lululemon logo)

Lining around left arm hole.  Notice the remnants of a tag on the collar.