Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"American Strong": The odds were long, long for Meb-Fellow Americans led by Ryan Hall became a team mid race to help him win

The very geeky Letsrun.com has a fascinating article with links to the long, long pre race statistical odds of Meb or Ryan Hall winning, somewhere between 0.05% and 3.7% with 14 runners, including Ryan Hall with personal bests better than Meb's. Yet Meb has proven over and over, despite his "age" that he is willy focused racer on the big day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

adidas Adizero Boston Boost: First Runs Comparison to Adios Boost, Photos

My wife and I were lucky enough to catch two of the only 150 pairs in existence of the new adidas adizero Boston Boost at the Boston Marathon Expo. Full launch expected for September.
adidas Adizero Boston Boost

Do not have full details but the Boston Boost was $120, has about a 10mm drop and should weigh a bit less than the current adizero Boston's 9.1 oz, sitting in the Boost line up between the adios Boost and the Energy Boost as a lightweight trainer marathon shoe, a shoe well suited to... Boston's hilly course.
I ran 2 miles this morning in the Boston Boost and it is very smooth, well cushioned, bouncy, light and responsive. One might think it would run very similar to the current Adios Boost but in many subtle ways it is quite different and runs different too. Seems smoother, a bit more plush, more minimal all around in terms of upper and outsole construction and also a little less fast race snappy and directed. Also feels bouncier than the Energy Boost. Overall maybe a bit too bouncy soft in the heel for my taste.

adios Boost (left) Boston Boost (right)

  • considerably more minimal less structured ( fewer overlays) upper than the current adios with lighter mesh and with a somewhat longer heel cup. I say current adios as the adios boost is getting an upper similar to the non boost adios
  • wider stretchier toe box and overall fit
  • a softer and less structured top of heel counter.  Prefer the adios heel counter.
  • a longer and slightly deeper black EVA layer under the foot and out to the toe, a softer ride and more flexible up front than adios. More comfortable and cushioned up front.
  • slightly more stack height for Boost than adios but I think less than the Energy Boost. A different heel to midfoot midsole geometry. Note the beveled heel and gap under midfoot on the adios(left) below.

adios Boost (left) Boston Boost (right)

      adios Boost (left) Boston Boost (right)
    • Less beefy Torsion plates between the midsole and outsole, no medial Torsion structure near the heel in the Boston or the firm EVA center heel (gray oval above) of the adios but a wider heel landing on the Boston. The heel landings of the adios and for that matter the Energy Boost feel a bit more stable, less bouncy soft than the Boston's.
    • more Continental rubber on the outsole.

    Update 4/22/14: I did run the Boston Marathon in Adizero Boston Boost and while I had a very rough disappointing race with an epic fade after the half it was a beautiful event and day. Overwhelming support on the course, emotion, and friendship. The volunteers were amazing, the crowds intensely supportive, and fellow competitors determined.
    Back to the Boston Boost, the shoe I wore at the Marathon, with all of 2 miles on them. They were great. For the first time in a marathon no blisters along the outside of my big toes. No blisters anywhere else either. I dumped lots of water over my head and they drained very well. The open mesh will make these a great hot weather and rainy day shoe.  No foot or calf cramps despite forgetting my calf sleeves although my quads were what gave out. Cushion was just fine. Not the snappy response of the adios boost though for sure.

    For another early review of the Boston Boost see Bill Blunderbuss fine initial thoughts here.
    Derek Oxley review of the Boston Boost, here
    Video introduction by adidas at Competitor.com from the Boston Marathon Expo:  Boston Boost, Adios Boost( new upper), and Sequence Boost.

    95,000 Marathon color Daffodils grace Downtown Boston and the course

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    1964 Boston Marathon Movie Surfaces 50 Years Later: Nothing has Changed

    Runner's World as part of its 2014 Boston Marathon coverage has found this incredible 1964 documentary(below). Erich Segal later author of Love Story and then a Harvard Prof, a 19 year old Harvard student, a former pro boxer, and many legends of the sport including the Johnny Kelleys the Younger and Older (who finishes well under 2:55 at age 56) are featured.

    Some things never change:
    • The weather, 39 and snow/rain. The 19 year old says "perfect temperature" and finishes 19th.
    • Buses to the start, on the drive out Segal and the student have a hard time finding the Athlete's Village a k a the High School. The famous Jock Semple, BAA coach and the guy who tried to pull Katherine Switzer off the Boston course a few years later arguing with another race official at the buses. I remember him yelling and screaming as Race Director at Mt Washington in the 70's. Passion and...legendary temper
    • The nerves and anticipation on the bus and at the start. A helicopter can be heard overhead. A mob of press and spectators.
    • The "huge" field...400 from all over the world. 
    • Excellence: The winning time is 2:19, a runner from Belgium with a Finn and Canadian next. Segal in his 5th Boston is 63d in 2:56. The 19 year old Harvard student runs a record marathon for his age.
    • Running form looks pretty darn good at the front of the pack. The mid and rear packs could have been from a race today.
    • The Lennox Hotel at the finish with doormen helping the runners walk it off after the finish, clearly something that still happens at Boston
    • A clear front runner for the win and 2nd and 3d fighting it out to the line.
    • The stragglers including the boxer run by newsboys selling special editions featuring the race winners
    • The crowds huge on a terrible weather day. 

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Rally-NH Seacoast Strong in Support of the Boston Marathon: Stories from 2013 and a very Special Guest

    Boston Runners and Volunteers rally at the North Hampton NH Home Depot joined by Dave McGillvery Marathon Race Director (dark blue 2014 Marathon jacket.
    I saw in our local paper that a rally to support the Boston Marathon had been organized by 2 long time race volunteers Pat Cote and Matt Carpenter at the local Home Depot. Pat is a 19 year volunteer and Matt is a 29! year volunteer and is in charge of the 120 volunteers manning the elite waterstops. MC for the event Andy Schalet who announces literally hundreds of road races a year in New England and is the calm, informative decisive last voice most of hear every year as we round the corner into the Boston start corrals.  These folks are among the many who make Boston so special.

    Well, there was one more special guest....Dave McGillvray, the long time Race Director who  came up in the middle of obviously one of the busiest weeks any human could have to speak and answer questions.

    After Dave 2 runners told their stories from the 2013 race. Incredibly moving was Vicki Miller's story. She is the president of one of the largest New England running clubs and a many time Boston runner. It turns out the first bomb went off in front of her and the second behind her on the finishing stretch. She recounted in great detail and with great emotion what she felt and thought. Should she finish, should she go to the side of the course, the run through debris and body parts, the confusion after the finish, deciding if she should hide under a truck as rumors talked of more bombs or shooters. Incredibly, I was no more than 300 yards further away from the finish line  when the bombs went off and while it was a confused and tense scene it was not the horrifying terror of being so close.

    Seacoast Online published an article on the rally with emphasis on Vicki and Dave McGillvray's comments. From the article:

    "I saw evil that day," Miller said.

    "This year it's going to be love, compassion," Miller said. "This is going to be the (race) of the century."

    " McGillivray said he and other race officials have focused on being strong leaders in the months since the bombings, although he said he thinks his ability to distance himself from having an "emotional" reaction to the attack "will all come crashing down on April 15" and during the series of remembrances that lead up to this year's marathon on April 21.

    "My own son sat in the bleachers across the street (from the first bomb)," said McGillivray, explaining his decision to run to raise money for the Richard family, as it will be the first time he's run the marathon for anything other than himself. "It could've been the other way around. How can your heart not cry out? That's why I wanted to help out."

    Dave gave us some very interesting insights into the past year and the lead up to this year's race. Amazing leadership, focus, and grasp of myriad details. He has run the race 41 times ( I believe not far from the record)  and is known for running the course after the race finishes. He was on course when the bombs went off. An "immortal" with over a 100 marathons, a transcontinental run, a run from Maine to Florida, and many Ironman Tri he underwent a serious heart health scare this year and immediately changed what he could: his diet. He has lost 28 pounds and says he is feeling great but the stress.. probably not a good thing.

    Some race tips and stats from Dave:

    • 10,000 volunteers, 5,000 others seeking to help were turned away.
    • 95,000 daffodils were planted and should be blooming on the course, finally in 60's today! 
    • 588 buses will be used to shuttle 36,000 runners to the start in a coordinated fashion to synch with 5 wave starts so that no more than 18,000 are in the Athlete's Village at a time.
    • There is less room in Hopkinton than a hundred years ago when a few dozen ran or even at the record 100th but they will make it work as they always do. 
    • The start road is 39' feet wide, as always. NY has 17 lanes!
    • No backpacks, as we know, but he said if you need 3 small fanny packs including  one around your head feel free in response to a question from a runner about how to bring pre race gear.
    • Security will be strong. Unlike a single venue with concentric rings of security, the security at the Marathon will be "in it" not around it.
    • Finally, a wonderful quote from Dave" "Scar tissue is stronger than original skin."
    I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to take the start of this wonderful and special event this year.

    Much as the rally also gave all of us who were at the Marathon last year an opportunity to speak, please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and recollections here.
    We are all Boston Strong.  

    Wednesday, April 09, 2014

    First Run Review: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail-Versatile Trail Runner, Neither Cush nor Mush nor Brick

    I just received a review pair of the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail, the 2nd shoe featuring New Balance's Fresh Foam technologies of computer designed midsole and outsole geometries. This 10.25 oz men's 9, 8.1 oz women's 8, 4mm drop "trail" shoe retails for $109.95 and will be available by July 2014. 
    I say "trail" as I am finding the Fresh Foam Trail is also a fine road shoe. 
    New Balance  Fresh Foam 980 Trail

    I have run a few miles on road and trail in the 980 Trail so far and am concluding they are a big improvement over the initial 980 Road I reviewed here(Note 4/10/14: New Balance just sent me another pair of Roads as early pairs such as the one I received may have firmer midsoles than spec. I ran 5 miles in this new Road 980 and the cushioning was very similar to the Trail)  Smooth running even on the road with a foot lay down feel somewhat like Pearl Izumi's E:Motion line, they part ways with the PI shoes and the original 980 Road in that they are well cushioned and not somewhat harsh and overly firm as both the PI and 980 Road felt to me, nor rigid and a bit constricting in the forefoot as the pair of 980 Roads were for me at my true to size 8.5, the Trails here being 9's. The Trails are also not mushy or pillowy as the older model Hoka One One's are. 
    Fresh Foam is the marketing slogan and with this shoe it starts to ring true, although I would not characterize the ride as "super soft and bouncy" as New Balance does. More a tuning of cushion and support to provide a smooth, well cushioned, stable and comfortable ride on trail and road. 

    After 2 runs they are already more flexible than my still somewhat stiff 980 Road that have 30 plus miles on them. My first trail run in them was on muddy, steep, rooty NH trails and they were equally adept on the trail as on the road, I guess no surprise for this trail shoe!  Good grip, good stability on moderately uneven steep terrain with smooth striding on the flats.

    Outsole: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail

    First, what is special about the midsole outsole design?
    The New Balance 980 Fresh Foam is not made up of innovative materials (a la adidas Boost) or for that matter has a radical design ( a la Hoka).  The 980 is innovative as for the first time New Balance is leveraging parametric modeling software often used by architects to micro design and shape the data characteristics of loading and biomechanics into what is essentially a very simple single material EVA midsole and single material rubber outsole. The outer sidewalls have hexagonal "relief" based on the data modeling, which depending on location, either provide additional support via convex bulging shapes or deform, absorb shock and cushion through concave shapes.

    So what did New Balance do to make this such a fine shoe, and an improvement in my view over the initial 980 Road? Well they tuned the midsole and outsole using their software, common sense, and I am sure some feedback from runners.

    The view below is of the lateral (outside) of the forefoot with Trail top and Road bottom.
    Forefoot Lateral Side: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail top, 980 Road bottom
    New Balance swapped convex hexagons for concave ones upfront. Result for me a somewhat softer forefoot than the Road as concave shapes deflect a bit more than concave ones. Finger push test shows as much. I believe the midsole material is, or should be, despite my early experience with the Road of the same firmness in both shoes and the differences in feel are due to tuning of the hexagons and outsole.

    Heel Lateral Side: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail top, 980 Road bottom
    In the heel area on the lateral side(outside) they made the hexagons on the Trail (top) larger and deeper which softens the heel landing without in any way making the shoe mushy.

    Heel Medial Side: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail top, 980 Road bottom
    On the medial (inside) the Trail keeps convex hexagons from mid foot to heel and they are larger than on the Road. And this is my only quibble to date with the Trail and Road. I think these "support" geometries are intended to slow pronation as they firm that area, and while some may need a bit of help here, I usually run in a neutral shoe. The latest from the American College of Sports Medicine here recommends neutral non support shoes for the vast majority of runners. This said, especially for long trail runs and as the shoe gets some miles, the foot and eventually shoe tend to collapse inward in lighter shoes. I might have kept the smaller convex shaping of the road here as I feel a bit too much inside support in the Trail.

    There is no rock plate I can see and don't believe it is needed, plenty of rock push through protection.

    Outsoles: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail left, 980 Road right
    Here clearly there are differences as the red sole on the Road is clearly for road use and green Trail for trail use. I found that the long deep lugs of the Trail provided superb grip on the steeps, a bit of icy snow, and the mud that I encountered. No mud accumulated but truth be said New England mud is not usually the sticky glop found out West. The lugs reverse towards the heel, sharp face foward, to provide braking. The long lugs also seem to contribute to a smooth ride on road, if a bit noisy. But there is more... The sheet, if you will, that holds the decently spaced lugs is thinner than the more continuous outsole with no flex grooves  of the Road. I believe this contributes to not only better road feel but more flex in the forefoot of the Trail . 
    All overlays except around the lacing and for some strapping at the heel are seamfree. The upper is a very densely woven mesh, not exactly as light as many sub 10 oz trail runners who have but appears durable. I felt very well supported on some relatively rough trails without a need to overly cinch down the laces. It drains well, I did run through ankle deep water on my last run. It should not let dust in but may clog a bit with mud due to the very fine mesh.
    The Trail upper is built on the same last (foot shape, volume,etc..) as the Road. The toe box while not as roomy as say the Skechers Ultra  is roomy enough with no sloppy play upfront, always an issue on trails for me. They are far more comfortable up front than my first pair of Road by sizing up half a size. With mid weight trail sock they should work for all my trail runs. If I ran long ultras and had wide feet, and I don't, I might potentially size up another half a size. The tongue is soft, padded and relatively thin when compared to the somewhat overly puffy tongue of the Road. The tongue is held in place by 2 webbing loops. The heel counter padding is a little thinner than the very puffy Road's. 

    Update 7/13/14: I finally got to run some Utah single track in Park City. And for my first run out here, 11.5 miles and 2200 vertical feet the day after a half marathon, I picked the 980 Trail. Superb in all respects. Climb well with plenty of grip. Very stable on downhills from heel to toe.  As I expected the "firmness" of Fresh Foam shines on trails. Upper is supportive without being overly restrictive or too loose. A bit pointy in the toe but not a big issue for me. Lack of a rock plate not noticeable at all.

    Overall Impressions
    The 980 Fresh Foam Trail is a low drop (4mm), very solid,  supportive mid weight trainer runner suitable for both smooth and rough trails as well as roads. It is on the heavier side (10.25 oz)  of modern trail runners which often come in under 10 oz but given the cushion, deep and effective lugs, and rugged upper I think worth the weight for old legs, longer runs and tougher terrain. The tuning of the hexagon geometries and outsole has also made this a fine smooth running road shoe with few if any of the drawbacks associated with trail shoes on the road: harsh firm ride, overly slappy due to the outsole, or weight. I plan to make this one of my goto shoes for Summer 2014.

    Competitor.com agrees with my review "...the Fresh Foam Trail—a modified replica of the award-winning Fresh Foam 980 road shoe—is a dynamic and versatile shoe that excels on many different types of terrain." See their review here.

    Disclosure: The 980 Trail was provided to me free of charge by New Balance. The opinions herein are entirely my own. 

    Friday, April 04, 2014

    American College of Sports Medicine Running Shoe Selection Recommendations: Neutral, Low Drop, Light Weight

    The American College of Sports Medicine has published a brochure on Running Shoe Selection.  http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/running-shoes.pdf. A lot of good recommendations which will shake up long held conventional wisdom and a few that may be a bit too opinionated/ rigid in my view.

    According to ACSM the characteristics of a "good, safe running shoe" are:

    • Minimal heel to toe drop, 6mm or less whereas most traditional shoes have had 10+ mm. I agree that lower drop is good and most of my shoes are 4-10mm  but when tired in a race I prefer 10mm or so. They do recommend a gradual transition to lower drops.
    • Neutral. This is the big one and I totally agree. Stability and motion control shoes to control pronation, the drop of the foot inward  have been a long time staple for many runners. "Pronation should occur and is a natural shock absorber...Stopping pronation with materials (stiffer foam, plastic pieces) may actually cause foot and knee problems...Excessive pronation can in most cases be corrected by therapy and exercises for the foot, leg, and hip rather than by the shoe".
    • Light in weight: 10 oz or less for men's size 9, 8 oz or less for women's 8. Totally agree with this for road shoes. Trail shoes may weigh a bit more.
    They warn to avoid high thick cushioning. I don't totally agree with this especially if the runner is doing many miles >30-40 per week and can afford more than one shoe. The "super cushioned" Hokas, Skechers Ultra, and the newer Altra shoes can provide great recovery benefit in my view and they can be a godsend for those with bad joints. A mix of shoe types, drops and terrains is best.

    Orthotics or extra arch supports bought in stores should be considered temporary "until foot strength is increased."

    Wide toe box to allow the foot to splay and toes to wiggle. 

    Avoid buying shoes based on foot shape, arch, or what the store folks observe when you walk.

    Buy running shoes at the end of the day when your foot is most swollen.

    Thanks to Camille Herron who is attempting to run a sub 2:50 marathon in all 50 states for  recently posting the link to this brochure the Running Shoe Geeks group on Facebook