In Search of the Perfect Running Shoe

Earlier this year Adidas discontinued their Response Trail running shoes. I wish they would have given some kind of advance notice because I would have bought 10 pairs and stored them in my closet. I’ve been running in them for 11 years. (Marathon Girl, looking over my shoulder as I type this, reports she’s been wearing them since 1996.)

It was Marathon Girl that introduced me to the shoes when we were first dating. I resisted trying them until I bought a pair of Nikes that sucked. We went to the store and found a pair of Response Trail shoes. It was love at first wear.

I have flat feet. Very flat feet. Wherever I go I wear customized orthotics in my shoes or else my feet turn inward and hurt like hell. It’s nearly impossible to find a shoe that had the perfect blend of cushioning and support. The Adidas Response Trail shoes were perfect. I could go on long runs and my feet would feel fine. The shoes would last forever too. I could get tons of mileage out of them before they needed to be replaced.

Then, when I went to buy a pair in March, I couldn’t find them anywhere.

Since then I’ve been trying to find a pair that has the same mix of cushioning and support. I haven’t been able to find anything that works. At least not yet.

All the ones I’ve tried so far leave my feet feeling like I’ve run barefoot on cement. It’s made it hard to go running every morning. I’ve done it but it’s not the same.

Tonight, while looking for another alternative, I noticed that Adidas brought out another response shoe—the Running Response ReRun. It’s not a trail runner but a lot of the people who have bought them are former Response Trail runners. Reviews are mixed. Those who wore the old Response Trail either love them or hate them.

Hopefully, when the shoes arrive later this week, I find myself in the former category.

My feet need a break and now that the weather is warm, I want to enjoy long Saturday runs with Marathon Girl as much as I possibly can.

Why I Run

Lately I've been going on some 12-mile, Saturday morning runs with Marathon Girl (who is trying to get back into shape after kiddo number six). The first question most people ask when they hear about these long, Saturday morning runs is what race I’m training for. I always smile when that question gets asked because I’m not training for anything. I’m not a big fan of races whether it’s a 5k or a marathon. I run simply because I love running.

Every runner has their own reasons for strapping on the shoes and hitting the road. Some train for races and look to improve their time while others do it to lose weight or numerous other reasons. But for me running is like writing—it’s something that’s in my blood. I have to do every day or I go crazy. If I don’t get at least 30 minutes of running and at least an hour of writing in every day (preferably first thing in the morning) my day just doesn’t feel complete, I don’t have as much energy as usual, and I can’t think as clearly. And if I can squeeze 90 minutes of uninterrupted, kid-free running time with Marathon Girl, that’s even better.

So if you see me pounding the pavement early in the morning, just note that I’m doing it because I love the fresh air and the way each step makes me feel. It’s my sanity check in an increasingly crazy world. It’s a way to bond and grow closer to Marathon Girl. It one of the few things I truly love to do.

Running: 12 Years and Counting

This month marks 12(!) years since I got my fat butt off the couch and started running in an attempt to lose weight. When I started running in the evenings all those years ago I never thought I’d stick with it after I shed the weight. But here I am, some 4,380 days latter still running 5-6 times a week. And there are no plans to stop any time soon.

The one thing I have noticed in the last year is how many of my friends, family, co-workers, and former mission companions, and old college friends have started running on a regular basis and kept at it. It’s kind of fun to log into Facebook and see so many people log their running times and share photos from the races the 5ks or marathons they’ve run. Some have taken up running to lose weight while others as a way to deal with a divorce or health issues. But whatever the reason, it’s nice to see how happy and healthy running has made so many people I know.

In the meantime, I’ve still got to figure out a way to catch up with Marathon Girl . . . :-)

Family Runs III

One of the benefits of having a baby in the summer is that you can take her outside. In our house this means the baby gets to come with us on family runs. On Saturday we introduced that baby to her first family run. The baby slept the entire way and her four-year-old sister didn’t poke her or otherwise try to disturb her during the four mile trek so Marathon Girl and I considered the run an overwhelming success. So successful, in fact, we’re taking the whole crew on another long run Monday morning. It’s fun to watch the way our family runs have morphed over the years. Instead of pushing everyone in running strollers, our two oldest boys are now on bikes and big enough and strong enough that they can easily outpace mom and dad and will now wait for us at corners or stop signs for us to catch up with them. In a few years they’ll be old enough to stay at home by themselves instead of having to come with mom and dad. We try to make the runs as fun as possible for them now in hopes they’ll want to keep riding their bikes with us (or, perhaps, run with us) when that time comes.

Though I hope the kids don’t grow up too fast, I personally can’t wait for the four year old to get off her training wheels next summer so she can ride alongside the boys. Two weeks ago I pushed her and the two year old in the double-wide running stroller. The two kids and the stroller weight approximately 100 lbs and after 45 minutes of pushing them I was seriously beat. Having the stroller get to heavy has always been a sign that it’s time to kick the kid out of the stroller and make them bike it. Our oldest daughter’s days in the stroller are seriously numbered.

And for those who are wondering why Marathon Girl is running only a month after giving birth, I don’t know how to explain it but that woman’s body just heals remarkably fast. (For the record, I've been telling her to wait and take it easy.) She’s not up to her prime speed yet but Saturday she was running faster than me and a lot of the other runners—and she was pushing the two year old in our single wide. Can’t wait to see her run some more marathons next year.

A Cross Country Run

Most readers of this blog know I love running. I’ve been doing it consistently for 11 years and it’s such a big part of my life that I go crazy if I go more than a day without putting in least doing a couple of miles. Despite my love of running, the one thing I don’t do very often is enter 5k or 10k races (or races of any distance for that matter). I’m just not that into getting up and driving across the valley just to do something I can do by opening my door and going outside. I know a lot of runners, including Marathon Girl, enjoy the challenge of racing others and seeing if they can make a personal best.

Me? I’m not that driven. I’d rather hit the Start button on my watch and start running then hit stop when I’m done a three, five, or 10 miles later. I have personal best times I try to beat but if I beat them, great. If not, no big deal.

So yesterday I did something unusual: I ran in a local 3.2 mile (don’t know why it wasn’t and even 5k) race that was sponsored in part by my employer. When I arrived I surprised to learn that it was a cross-country race. This means instead of running on sidewalk or the road, you’re running around on grass—in this case running approximately three one-mile loops around the perimeter of a local park.

Running on grass isn’t like running on cement or asphalt. It’s like running on sand. There’s no bounce after each step and you usually end up running slower than normal. It also works the muscles in your legs a lot more. The course also included two hills. Again, not too big deal. Because I live practically next to a mountain, running hills during part of my run is something I do just about every day. In the end the grass and hills didn’t affect me too much. I finished in 24:12 (7:34 pace) – much faster than I anticipated under the circumstances and was very happy with my performance.

The only downside was that the cross country run made my body feel old. By the afternoon my feet and back were aching. Today my entire body felts stiff—something it rarely does even on days that I push myself. I know those kinds of aches and pains simply come with getting older. Still, I was hoping to put those off for at least another decade. J

So tomorrow I’ll go back to my old running ways: running outside on my familiar routes. Maybe my boys will ride with me. Maybe I’ll run alone. Either way, it’s going to be fun.

Running: 11 Years and Counting

This morning I celebrated 11 years of running by going on a four mile run. My two oldest boys tagged along on their bikes—very happy to be outside so early. We had a great run and afterwards sat on the porch for a few minutes drinking ice cold Gatorade before we had to inside get ready for the day. As we sat on the porch I thought about how much I enjoy having my boys come with me on these runs. When I first started running, it was something I enjoyed doing by myself. Granted, I didn’t have any kids then but I relished the solitude. The exercise helped me clear my mind and focus on different things.  Then Marathon Girl came along and everything changed. Running with her was a great bonding experience for the two of us. She kept pushing me to run faster and keep up with her. I loved the challenge she provided but most of all I just liked being with her and sharing some time with her doing something she loves.

It’s kind of the same experience with my boys. There’s some father-son bonding that goes on during these runs. When they’re not racing far ahead of me and tell me to catch up (they get that from their mother) and I enjoy talking to them or just listen to them chatter on about whatever’s on their mind as we navigate the running paths in our neighborhood. It seems like I learn more about them during these morning runs then just about any other time. I enjoy this time so much that on the mornings I end up running alone, I find myself wishing they were riding along with me.

There’s a part of me that’s amazed that, after 11 years, my body is still able to run mile after mile every morning. I keep thinking that one day it’s going to say enough and force me to swim or bike instead. But I’m happy my body is still holding up because I can still do the occasional run Marathon Girl—even if it means taking all the kids with us. And I’m glad my boys like coming with me. I hope they know how much I enjoy having them with me.

I hope it’s something they want to do so long as my body can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Poem: Storm Running

(Inspired by a recent run in a thunderstorm) Storm Running

It’s pouring rain I need to run Thunder roars This will be fun!

I tie my shoes Throw open the door The wind blows hard I want more!

After a mile I’m soaking wet Lightening flashes But hasn’t hit me yet!

Halfway through It starts to hail I pick up the pace I will not fail!

The storm grows worse The sky’s pitch black Bring it on I won’t turn back!

I pump my fist I finish the run The storm has lost And I have won!

Storm running is fun I’ll never quit Unless by lightening I get hit!

Running: 10 Years and Counting

Running Ten years ago this month I made a decision that changed my life: I laced up a pair of old sneakers and went running.

It was the latest in a series of attempt to lose weight. After working as a cubicle jockey and enjoying a constant stream of free sodas and snacks from my employer, I was on the verge of being obese. I hated the way I looked and physically felt. I knew I needed to change my lifestyle or I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life.

At the time I never thought that running would be something I be doing one or even 10 years in the future. I just thought a little exercise would help me shed some weight and, once gone, I’d change my eating habits to keep the pounds from returning. But as I kept at it I discovered that running was something I really enjoyed. More than just exercise, I liked feeling the sun on my face and feeling the road under my feet. I enjoyed running farther, running faster. Every day was a challenge to see if I could improve and do a little bit better.

And yes, the weight came off. Six months later I was 50 pounds lighter. Looking back, however, it wasn’t’ just lacing up the shoes that day that made the difference. It was getting up every morning after that, no matter the weather or how I felt, and tying to run a little farther, a little faster. It was making that decision the second and third mornings and every morning since that helped me not only lose the weight but rebuild my life, fall in love with Marathon Girl, and bond with my kids.

So here’s to a decade of running—something that changed my life in ways I never even imagined when I first put on those worn out sneakers. And here’s to running every day for the rest of my life.

Family Runs II

Family Runs

Now that the weather’s finally warmed up, Marathon Girl and I have taking the kids on weekly family runs again. In the back of my mind I worry that the kids will tire of them but every week they still enjoy hopping on their bikes or climbing in the stroller for a three or four mile run with Mom and Dad. The oldest two enjoy them so much that they’ve now ride alongside me during my morning—so long as they’re awake and ready to go when I’m heading out the door.

Most mornings, just as I’m finishing my weight routine I hear them running down the stairs to see if I’ve left without them. When they see that I’m home, they let out excited cries of joy, put on their shoes, and head out to the garage to get their bikes.

It’s been a nice having the two boys on their bikes with me as I run. Having them with me helps me focus my thoughts on the family instead of work or other stress inducing subjects. It's been fun to watch their endurance increase with each passing day. A four mile bike rid is no longer a problem for them.

We don’t talk much during our runs but from the big smiles on their faces as we count off the miles, I can tell they’re having a good time riding their bikes in the cool morning air with dad.

I hope they can tell Dad enjoys them too.

Marathon Girl is Marathon Girl Again

Marathon Girl

Congratulations to Marathon Girl who completed her fastest marathon time in five years, finishing in a Boston Marathon qualifying time of approximately 3:28.13. I say approximately because that’s what her stopwatch read said when she crossed the finish line. Her official race time, however, isn’t posted on the official race result site for some reason.

We’re contacting them to see what happened. Hopefully we can figure out why her race time wasn’t posted along with everyone else. Marathon Girl wants to run Boston and even though she could run another marathon and quality without too much difficulty, she does want her race time to count in case she’s unable to run another marathon before Boston.

That aside, it was great to cheer Marathon Girl on as she crossed the finish line and to see the smile on her face after she realized how fast she was running again. She trained hard for this marathon and it was nice to see all of her hard work pay off.

Update: The went through the data and found Marathon Girl’s time. It’s officially 3:28:49.2 or about 7:58 per mile! Updated results here.

Heart-shaped Bush

Heart-shaped bush

Near the end of my daily run is a heart-shaped bush.

It wasn’t always heart shaped. A few weeks ago a landscaping crew came around to trim the bushes in the public areas of town and left a heart-shaped bush behind.

I’m impressed with whoever did it. It’s not everyone who can take a step back from the daily grind and do something out of the ordinary—something that has a positive effect on complete strangers.

But someone did.

And because of someone’s vision I smile every time I see that bush and tip my hat to the person who, instead of seeing a bush, saw a heart.

Family Workouts

Family Treadmill Runs

When it comes to my kids’ bad behavior, I often see them mimicking my own shortcomings. I grimace every time my 4-year-old son get frustrated when something doesn’t go as planned because it’s something he learned from watching Dad. It’s a reminder to me that I need to do better (I’m trying!) and how much my actions (instead of my words) influence them.

Thankfully the kids learn from my (and Marathon Girl’s) good behavior too. One thing they’re really into is exercising. For them exercising usually involves running around outside with their friends. But with the cold spring, playing outside hasn’t happened as often as they like. So on days when it’s too cold to play outside, they run on the treadmill—just like Mom and Dad.

They know how to turn it on, select a speed, and run. I get a kick out of watching them run at full speed for a minute or two, slow down to walking speed until they catch their breath, and then start running again. And while one runs, the other kids explore my weights, pick up the lightest dumbbells, and start mimicking curls or strength training exercises they’ve seen me do.

When they started running this winter, I thought it was because the treadmill was new and that they’d tire of it after a week or two. But they’re still at it, almost every day, enjoying running on the treadmill. Today my oldest used it while I worked my triceps and chest. It made my workout extra fun to work out with him. It was a nice bonding experience.

I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did. I’d love to keep working out with him and all of my children now and as they get older.

I look forward to the day that they can run faster or bench press more than their old man.

Running in the Rain

Running in the Rain

Years ago, during the dark period of my life, daily, morning runs were the only thing that kept me from falling into the abyss. Those early morning runs were a necessary not only to get me out of bed but give me the push I needed to make it through another day alone.

One January morning as I was getting dressed, I could feel the wind shake the house and listened as bits of snow and ice were thrown against the window. I knew it was going to be well below zero. I paused and thought about getting back under the covers for another hour or taking a hot shower. But inside I knew I had to run—even if only a couple miles—because I knew that staying home and doing nothing would be worse in the long run.

So I put on extra layers and headed out into the cold. Thirty minutes later I finished a four mile run. Even though I was chilled to the bone, I felt like I had just climbed Mt. Everest. There was something about enduring the elements that made feel like I could take on whatever life was going to throw at me.

Ever since then I’ve enjoyed running when the weather is less than perfect.

Especially the rain.

There’s something invigorating about having big drops of water splashing in my face and soaking my clothes. I love splashing through puddles as I run and feeling my hair stick to my face.

Part the reason is because rain in Utah is a rare treat. When it does rain, it comes in 10 minute or 15 minutes bursts before the sun returns. Seldom have I been able to do an entire run in a good rain.

So as soon as I saw the ran coming down last week, I quickly got into my running clothes and headed out the door, hoping that it would last for a mile or two.

By the end of the first mile there were still gray clouds everywhere and it showed no signs of letting up.

By the end of the second mile I was soaked and loving my run, happy that it was raining harder than it was when I started.

By the end of the third mile I looked to the west and could see the end of the storm.

So I picked up the pace, determined to finish the run before the rain stopped and the sun came out. Seconds after finishing the fourth and final mile the rain stopped and the sun came out.

Breathless I pumped my fists in the air, grateful that I been able to enjoy 30 minutes of running in the rain and had another a chance to remind myself that whatever challenges I’m going through, I will overcome them.

Family Runs

It’s no secret that Marathon Girl and I love running together. Some of our first and best dates were waking up at 5:00 a.m. and enjoy long runs together. Even after six years of marriage, we like the bonding experience that comes from spending 30-60 minutes running side by side. As our family’s grown, however, running as a couple has been more and more difficult. After the birth of our first child, we bought a running stroller and were still able to run together several times a week. But after second and third child arrived—and we bought a double-wide running stroller to compliment our single one—running together become something we’d do every week or 10 days together.

Then number four came in January and having the chance to run together came to a screeching halt. There were too many kids and not enough running stroller seats to make running as a family feasible.

It was hard not having time running together. It was time that Marathon Girl and I needed—even if it was only once a week.

Then two months ago our oldest learned to ride his bike without training wheels. While we were watching him zip up and down the sidewalk the idea came to Marathon Girl that maybe he could keep up with us as we ran. So the next day she took him on a test run/ride with found out that not only could he bike our four mile course without any difficulty, but he could ride faster than she could run.

So we started we started weekly family runs. We put the younger three in the running strollers and the oldest on his bike. It’s worked out so well that it’s something our three oldest kids really look forward to. (Number four is too young to express an opinion. He usually falls asleep a few minutes into it. I guess that means he likes it.) I get home from work and all three kids run into the garage and excitedly tell me that we’re all going for a family run then climb in the running strollers or get on their bike in anticipation.

I’m glad the kids like it and hope it’s something we can continue for years to come. It’s turned into nice family time and give Marathon Girl and me a chance to reconnect in a way that brought us together in the first place.

Adjusting to XXL Sized Shirts

Years ago I received a letter from a friend who mentioned how expensive it was to gain or lose weight because you had to by so many new clothes. At the time I didn’t give much thought. I was 20 or and still had the same tall, lean frame I had since eighth grade. I had worn the same size jeans and shirts for at least five years. I thought my friend should get off his fat butt so he wouldn’t have to buy new clothes. Time passed. I graduated from college and realized my metabolism wasn’t what it used to be. Eighteen months after graduating, I had gained 40 pounds. During that time, I bought a lot of new clothes.

After realizing I looked like a big, white marshmallow, I decided I didn’t want to be fat. I started running. Within six months I had dropped 50 pounds simply by changing my diet and running 4 miles every morning. After my weight leveled out, I ended up buying a lot of new clothes.

Last October I was surprised to learn that my long sleeve work shirts no longer fit. My weightlifting routine had increased my chest, shoulders, and arms enough that larger and longer shirts were required. I ended up buying a lot of new shirts.

Last week I made the same discovery about my short sleeve shirts. Yes, the same shirts that fit great last fall are too tight around the arms and chest now. This took me by surprise since my weight has held steady for the last 6 months. (It must be all the swimming.)

That mean it was time to buy more new shirts. And what a shock it was to find out that the only shirts that look good on me are sized XXL.

I haven’t had to wear XXL shirts since my fat days. Ever since I’ve started exercising, Large or XL sized shirts have always fit great. I didn’t want to buy the XXL shirts even thought they fit because I associate them with being fat. Even with Marathon Girl cooing about how nice the shirts looked on me it was a big mental step to actually buy them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I did. It’s nice to wear shirts that actually fit. And having to buy new clothes because of expanding muscles instead of an expanding waistline is a good problem to have. It just mentally disconcerting to think I need XXL shirts.

And, no my clothing ordeal isn’t done. My two suits along with all my dress shirts don’t fit all that well too. Since the weather’s warmed, I don’t have to worry about fixing those problems for another 4 months or so.

Maybe by then I’ll be able to fit into them. :-)

Gym Wuss No More

jogging in the snow

There's one downside about working out at the gym: I've become a wuss about running in the cold.

It wasn't always this way.

A couple years ago it didn't matter if the temperature outside was twenty below zero. I'd just put on an extra sweatshirt and head outside at 5:00 a.m. and run, run, run.

Then to accommodate a new work schedule and other demands on my time, I started working out at the gym during lunch. It was convenient, but because I was running indoors, I lost the ability to shrug off cold temperatures.

Until this weekend.

Since I had about 10 days off, I needed to run. Sure, I can miss a day here or there and not have it be a big deal. But I can't miss 10 days in a row.

I'd go crazy.

While the gym is conveniently located close to my place of employment, its many locations are NOT convenient from my home. So driving to the closest gym every day wasn't an option.

And by my second day off, I was pacing the living room, looking out at the snow, trying to find the courage to go running.

Then Marathon Girl walked by.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I need to go running," I said.

"Well, why don't you go?"

"It's cold outside."

Marathon Girl gave me one of those "This is the ‘man' I've married?" looks. That look alone should have been enough to get me out the door. But sometimes, when I really don't want to do something, I dig in my heels and become really stubborn.

I dug in my heels.

"It's below freezing outside," I said.

Marathon Girl just stared at me.

"It's way below freezing," I said.

Marathon Girl just stared at me.

"I could die from exposure and then you'd be a widow with three point five kids to raise."

Marathon Girl just stares at me.

I finally get the message. She's been walking everyday in the cold, hoping to get this baby out of her with no luck. Why am I being such a wuss?

So I tucked my tail between my legs and went running.

I came back 40 minutes later, sweating and feeling great.

"You survived," Marathon Girl said.

I smiled. "Not only did I survive, but it was great to breathe in the cold, winter air."

Marathon Girl just smiled and returned to her book.

I'm a gym wuss no more.

When Less is More at the Gym

Treamills with Televisions

My gym’s going upscale.

In a bad way.

They’ve spent the last few days adding flat screen TV monitors to the treadmills. By the end of the Thanksgiving holiday they’ve promised us that these sets will be functional and we’ll be able to stare blankly at whatever channel we want (Really? Any channel? I see a lawsuit coming.) from a screen 12 inches from our faces instead of staring blankly at the ones on the wall.

Here’s the problem: When I worked on the other side of town, the gym on that side of town did exactly the same thing.

I hated it.

Since running on a treadmill is infinitely more boring then running outside, I can see the need for a distraction. When Marathon Girl was forced to use the treadmill in our basement, you can bet she has a move playing to distract her. When I run at the gym, I usually find a treadmill near to the TV with ESPN so I can glance at the football highlights (or whatever they’re showing) while I run.

But I don’t plug in the earphones to listen to the sound because I’m usually 1) thinking about what I need to write that night in my book 2) silently mocking the people on the treadmill who are trying to talk on their cell phone and “run” or 3) checking out how fast other people nearby are running and, if they’re running faster, seeing if I can keep up with their pace for five minutes. All of these are in infinitely more interesting than staring at a TV screen.

Now instead of having a TV monitor that I can glance at occasionally, I’m going to have a screen right in front of my face.

It wouldn’t be too bad if I could move the monitor and push it out of my way, far from my line of sight, so I could glance at it occasionally like I do now. Instead they’re attached to some kind of titanium bracket which I doubt even the Incredible Hulk could bend.

Then to rub salt on the wound there’s no way to turn the TV sets off.

So you have to stare at something, even if you’d rather stare at nothing.

At the very least, it would have been nice if they left a handful of treadmills without the TVs for the few souls like myself who would rather do something than watch television. But no, they converted every damn one of them.

The elliptical machines are next.

It makes me glad I cut the number of runs I do each week at the gym from five to three and replaced the two runs with two 30-minute swims. As far as I know, they haven’t found a way to put TV screens in the pool.