Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nike Terra Kiger Shoe Review


Like many runners I walk the fence on the whole "minimalist" debate that has been brewing over the last few years. While this debate has revolutionizing the shoe industry I believe it has also lead many runners to make foolish shoe choices, leading to injury. After much deliberation my official stance is this:

Runners should wear as little shoe as their biomechanics will allow for the distance and type of terrain they are running. 

What does that mean? Basically this; when you are out on a run you should be relatively unaware of your shoes because you have found the right balance of weight, support and cushioning. Too little shoe may not offer enough support, cushioning or protection while too much shoe could feel heavy, clunky or unstable.

That being said, my review is written through the filter of that perspective. I see no need to give the specs for the shoe as you can easily find everything you need to know at Nike's Website. Instead, I will focus on my initial impressions of fit, comfort and ride on various terrains. I hope you find my perspective helpful.


Initial Impressions

I've never been a Nike guy. I've always found their shoes to be too narrow for my foot but I've got to be honest; When I first tried on this shoe I thought, "This is exactly what I had hoped the KinvaraTR would be." This shoe sports a 4mil offset, wide toe box, soft upper, and a cushy, flexible midsole. The sock-liner, which is designed to allow the runner to wear the Kiger without socks, is luxurious and the burrito tongue helps the shoe to lock your foot into place without squeezing it. I was quite pleased with the way the shoe felt underfoot but I was a little concerned with how the shoe would perform with such a mild looking lug design and no rock plate.

On The Run

I could think of no better way to really test this shoe than to take it out for 8 miles on the gnarliest trails around after about 24 hours of nearly continuous rain. On this run I traversed steep ascents and descents, mud, wet sand, a stream crossing, large rocks and slippery, wet, wooden bridges. I felt that this run would offer a good all around experience with a solid understanding of how these shoes will perform under just about any condition the average trail runner might face.

My run started in a soggy wet field. The shoe performed fabulously which should be no surprise considering that Nike boasts about its lug design being derived from a XC shoe but what did surprise me was how at home this shoe felt on the trails. Being someone who has generally been drawn to a trail shoe that looks like it has a mud tire glued to the bottom of it, I was somewhat amazed at the Kiger's offroad performance. The shallower lugs helped prevent the shoe from collecting mud, increasing traction and preventing me from feeling bogged down by the extra weight of mud caked shoes. The absence of a rock plate makes the Terra Kiger feel nimble on even the most technical of terranes and the Zoom technology in the midsole provide more than adequate protection against roots and sharp rocks looking to pierce the bottom of your foot.

The sticky rubber outsole provided excellent grip on both the large rocks and the wet wooden bridges I traversed. I  often found myself running abnormally fast for this route, blissfully unconcerned with the varying surfaces beneath me and while I haven't yet tested this shoe on pavement, the mild lug design and the soft underfoot feel lead me to believe that this will be an excellent Door-to-Trail shoe.

The upper is a little more substantial than what I am used to and at first I was concerned that this shoe may feel too warm and not breath enough but those concerns quickly vanished as I actually began running. The shoe breaths quit well and boasts excellent drainage as well. While my feet did get rather wet on my run today, the Kigers never felt as if there was standing water in them. What came in seemed to exit the shoe just as quickly.

Overall Opinion

I am very pleased with these shoes. It is my intent to use them on my next 50k in just over two weeks. I expect this shoe will provide me with more than enough support, cushion and traction to traverse the course without any foot issues. I would recommend that anyone who has struggled to find a trail shoe they like and instead chosen to stick with a road shoe, check out the Terra Kigers! They offer that soft, flexible, light, road shoe feel without sacrificing performance on the trail. Ultimately, I find this to be an excellent, all around trail shoe and expect that this will be a staple for me from here on out.

So, until next time; train hard, eat right and live life to the fullest!  

The top half of one of the climbs

After running a 50K on some of the most brutal trails I have ever experienced I can say with confidence that I still love these shoes. They offered plenty of support and protection for the rugged terrain. The traction they provided appeared to be as good or better then the traction provided by the shoes that the other racers were wearing. And we're talking about some steep, long climbs and descents! Even without a rock plate, roots and rocks were not a problem and my feet felt adequately protected for all 32 miles. These are definitely going to be my go to trail shoe for every distance.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Facing Reality

Is it possible to change my registration from 100K to 50K? If so, I'd like to do that...

I read that last line of my email over and over. Maybe I can still do this. Maybe I should just hold out and try to get back on track. The race was still over a month out. maybe I can still do this... 

No, getting back on track was not an option. Since pinching a nerve in my back and missing 6 weeks of training, my longest run had only been 16 miles. 16 slow, miserable, painful miles. Getting back on track meant a 30 miler that Saturday. Cognitively, I knew it was impossible. And even if it were possible, covering that sort of distance in my unrehabilitated state would likely cause greater injury forcing me to drop out of the race altogether.

Yes, this was the right choice. But still I was struggling to hit the send button. Every time I read that line, I felt like it translated to, "I'm a big loser who can't finish what I started." I hit send and took a deep breath. I felt like I was letting myself, my family and everyone else who has supported me this past year, down. I felt like a failure and even said aloud to myself, "It's official. Now I'm just running a 50k."

It was more than a week after hitting send that it hit me. Just a 50k? JUST??? You're going to attempt running more than 31 miles on the toughest race course in Ohio less than 2 months after you couldn't walk 31 feet without needing to rest. Who do you think you are?!?! The very fact that you are running competently again is a miracle! Let alone the fact that you are running any sort of distance! You have forgotten who gave you this gift! It's time to face reality! If you finish that 50k it will be nothing short of an act of God! 

It was true. I had lost sight of why I run. I had taken for granted the fact that running is a gift. That not everyone is blessed with the ability to relentlessly move forward, swiftly, over rough terrain for distances in excess of 20 and 30 miles. I had become arrogant and maybe this injury was God's way of saying, "Son, you need to reevaluate." 

I've always said that every runner runs for their own reason and their goals should reflect the reason that they run. There is no point in comparing yourself to other runners since no two people run for the exact same reason. But in a way, I had begun comparing myself to myself. I had to beat my old distance, I had to do something far more epic than what I had done before. Running because I love the woods, the quiet, the beauty of it all wasn't enough anymore. It had somehow been overshadowed by this arbitrary measurement of distance. And letting myself be depressed because I was "only" going to run 50k was complete foolishness!

God willing, on September 28th I will spend most of the day in a national park, traversing 31+ miles of beautiful and brutal trails. It will be painful, and awful, and perfect. And I will finish this race with a smile because I have remembered the real reason I run. And I will honor the gift giver with every step. This race, quite possibly will be my most epic one yet!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Race Report - Medina Half Marathon

I am in the orange shirt and my dad is in the
green shirt. We are gaining on the guy in red.
On Saturday, I had the honor of participating in the inaugural running of the Medina Half Marathon. I've got to be honest, going into this running season, I had no intentions of running a spring half, especially not a road half but when I found out that my running club was putting this race on and offering free entry to get the word out about it I figured I might as well. After all, it was on my long run day. I might as well take advantage of a free supported run. I had no expectations. No time goals.

A few days prior to the race I cranked out an 8:20 mile, mid run and pretty much thought I was going to die. "Well," I thought, "I guess a PR is out of the question." I chuckled to myself and finished out my run. This last year has been dedicated to distance trail running. I have spent a lot of time out on trails. I've put in a lot of slow, hilly, difficult miles. I ran a 50k last fall and my goal is to complete the Not Yo Momma's 100k this September. Needless to say, speed work has not been a priority. But no big deal. My dad was running it too and I figured we'd just go and have a good time.

The morning of the race, my dad picked me up at 6:15 and we headed to packet pickup. The race starts and ends at the Historic Medina Square. It's a quaint little downtown area, with old timey storefronts everywhere. It was 35 degrees and sunny. The temperature was rising steadily but it promised to be a fairly cool day. Both my dad and I were wearing warmup pants and jackets over our shorts and long sleeve tech shirts. We pinned our bibs to our shirts and headed out for a 1 mile warmup. After our warmup we headed back to the car to drop off our jackets and pants, then headed to the start line.

Considering that this was just a training run I decided not to use any GPS. My dad was wearing a watch with a stopwatch function and had decided to track our time on that. Since he had just PR'd at the Flying Pig Marathon a few weeks prior, he had no time goals either and so we decided to stick together, go out at a comfortably hard pace, and just see what happened.  

The Race
This is a PR course if I have ever seen one. The first four and a half miles or so are primarily downhill. Just after mile 3 you run through a park, utilizing a dirt road and a section well kept grass path. Prior to entering the park we had maintained an 8:30 pace (Not surprising considering it was mostly downhill) but lost several minutes waiting in line to use a port-o-potty. As we entered the park we calculated that our average had fallen to about a 9:15 pace. We were both perfectly content with that and continued to run at the same effort level.

At around the four and a half mile mark you exit the park and take on the "one big hill" we had been warned about at packet pickup. Honestly, I was a little surprised by the hill. I mean, it's a long climb, maybe three quarters of a mile but I'm guessing you only climb seventy five or a hundred feet over that entire distance. We maintained the same effort and barely slowed our pace.

For miles six through ten, I can think of no better way to describe the course than simply that they were pleasant. We weaved through neighborhoods filled with modest yet beautiful homes, well manicured lawns and peppered with families standing at the ends of their driveways cheering for the runners as they passed. There were no real hills to speak of and with each passing mile our average pace fell closer and closer to the 8:30 pace we had started with.

As we approached the 10 mile mark, my dad asked me how I was feeling. "Good" I replied. "I think we should try to Pedro it. (Make the last 5K the fastest 5K of the race). My dad agreed and so we began to steadily increase our pace, each mile faster than the one before it. When we hit mile twelve, my dad took the lead. I estimate we were running somewhere close to a seven minute pace.

At less than a half mile from the finish line I was going to be sick.

"I'm gonna puke." I said to my dad.

"Hold it." He replied without looking back. "I can see the finish line. You can do this!"

He broke into a full on sprint. I swallowed hard and tried to follow. With about 100 feet to the finish line my cardio had reached it's limit. I was forced to ease up a little and coast through the finish line fifteen or twenty seconds behind my dad. We crossed the finish line in 1:48, a PR for both of us. I was honestly shocked at how good our time was. Through the whole race was continually anticipating the bottom to drop out and to have to slow down but it never happened.

My Assessment of the Race:
I definitely recommend this race and will most likely sign up for it again next year. There aren't all the bells and whistles of a big city race but, honestly, I didn't miss that. This is a pleasant, flat, loop course with fantastic community support! Early registration has already begun and right now the cost is only $30. If you are thinking about a spring half, you should definitely consider the Medina Half Marathon!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hard Work Matters

If you and I are facebook friends, you might have seen this status this morning:

So today I interrupt the cleaning and beast mode workouts to bring you this quick post.

It's been... oh, I don't know... 5 kids ago since we last saw live music. So when the opportunity arose to skip folding laundry and go out with my husband and brother-in-law to check out a show where some friends of ours were playing, I gladly accepted.

Two guys we know play in a band called Unseen Masterpiece, they opened the show last night.  They are absolutely phenomenal.  You should all stop what you are doing right now and go to their website HERE and listen to some of their music.  They are that good.  And like their facebook page.  {And no, they didn't pay me off to write that. They have absolutely so no idea that I am mentioning them in this post. They most likely don't even know that this blog exists.}

Anyway, after the show I told one of the guys how good I thought they did.  I was really and truly impressed.  His response is something that I've been thinking about all day.  He said and I quote:

 "Thank you.  We work very hard at it."

I have no doubt that they did, that they do, work very hard at what they do.  It shows.  I am terrible at accepting compliments.  I never know what to say.  I get awkward and uncomfortable and usually blurt out something weird like "Happy Birthday!"  

There was something so powerful to me about that simple statement, "thank you, we work very hard at it."  It was honest and simple.  

Too often we don't want to acknowledge out loud that we've worked hard at something.  In our inability to take a compliment, we lead people to believe that we just have a knack or a "gift" for whatever it is.  For the sake of humility, we imply that we didn't bust our rear ends to get where we are {wherever that is}.  

Hard work matters.  Let's celebrate it, not hide it.  

Did you get a promotion?  Run a PR?  Lose a bunch of weight?  Face a fear?  Quit a bad habit? 

Don't be afraid to say, 

"Thank you.  I work very hard at it."   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Running Free

I’m in kind of a weird place in my training right now. I’ve signed up for my first 100K. I’m excited. I’m committed. And I have a 24 week training plan already plugged into my calendar...that doesn’t start for two more weeks.

So what’s a runner to do in this kind of interim period? I decided that I needed to spend the weeks between committing to the race and the official start to training making sure that I have a good base. I figure, a base of 30 to 40 miles per week, each week, until my training plan starts is a good goal to have. And I’ve decided no to structure it. How I get their isn’t really all that important as long as I end my week with the appropriate number of miles. 

Of course this “run free” type of approach only goes so far because I don’t trust myself to remember how may miles I have logged. So I started logging runs on my phone again. Here’s what the first two weeks have looked like:

As you can see, consistency without a training plan is not a strong suit of mine. But I’ve had a blast! Over the last two weeks, I’ve felt only a little bit of self-inflicted pressure to get in a run if I didn’t feel like it but it was rarely enough to get me out the door or on the treadmill and if I started with the intent or running X-miles and decided to quite at mile-Y, I felt no guilt. It’s really been a great way to jump back into training. I’ve chosen to go run slow, muddy, impossible trails where I spent more time just trying to stay on my feet than actually running, had to cut it short because it was taking too long and still walked away loving this sport more than I did the day before.
After falling on a recent run!

Here’s what I’m getting at; Loving what you do is more important than consistently training hard. Sometimes what you need isn’t to work harder. Sometimes what you need isn’t to eliminate distractions so you can focus more on perfecting your craft. Sometimes what you really need is a break from the monotony of your normal routine. If you find yourself having a hard time getting out the door or dreading your next workout, it might be time to mix things up a bit. Take a day or two off. Change up the days you workout. Get someone new to your sport to join you for a light workout. Or meet up a veteran for a new challenge. Whatever it takes to restore the passion, do that and results will follow.

So, until next time, train hard, eat well and live life to the fullest!

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Who I Am

When I saw that pop up on my screen I felt a lot of things, but mostly, I felt a little sick to my stomach. 

Initially, after my inadvertent dive into ultra-running last November (Click Here for that story), I thought that maybe I would cut back the distance and try running a fast half marathon. But after a several month break from any semblance of serious training I began to reconsider. I mean, maybe I made that decision too soon after running my first ultra. Then I heard about Not Yo Momma's 100.  It is  held the ideal time of year for an ultramarathon in Ohio and only a few hours from home. A 100 mile and 100K race. It sounded like just the right amount of stupid! I was in!

So, I got online and filled out the registration form, all full of excitement, all the way until I hit the Submit Payment button and I read the words, "Congratulations you have successfully registered!" I gotta be honest, when I saw that pop up on my screen I felt a lot of things, but mostly, I felt a little sick to my stomach. 

So why do I do this? I mean, why run? Why an ultra? I ran across a quote the other day by another ultrarunner who was asking herself the same question and the answer she came up with really sums up everything I feel about running. She said, "Somewhere deep in my DNA, it’s etched in there that I AM A RUNNER. And I simply cannot deny that." 

That's it! When God created me he etched it into who I am. It's an intrinsic part of my personality. I am not a fighter, I am not generally a combative person. As a matter of fact, when conflict arrises, my first instinct is to RUN away. But on the flip side, I am an adventurer at heart. I like freedom. I love spontaneity. I love the thrill of moving forward with no more than a general game plan, of not knowing what lies just around the bend. And I am just as likely to RUN headlong after a dream as to run away from a conflict.

And so begins a new adventure. For the next 6 months or so I will run down this dream, never entirely sure what obstacle or surprise might lie ahead. There will be pain and joy. Sometimes I will fail but more often (hopefully) I will overcome. And most certainly, I will learn a thing or two about running, life, God, myself and the world around me, along the way. I hope to come away from this better than when I started. And I hope that what I learn inspires you, the reader, to run down an adventure of your own, whatever that may look like.

So, until next time, train hard, eat well and live life to the fullest!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Let's Be Honest :)

It probably comes as no surprise to you that I often pray for my children. Of course I pray for their safety, their future, that they would live lives full of meaning & purpose... Yada yada.

The athlete in me prays for my little ball players, ballerinas, martial artists, and runners. That they would be full of team spirit & someday hoist a container of Gatorade over the head of a coach. That they would know start line jitters & finish line exhaustion. You know... the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and all that jazz.

But sometimes I just look at the little faces of my 4 daughters & 3 sons... I look out at the world they have to grow up in and I pray gut-level honest prayers like this:

Dear Lord,
Please let my boys keep their pants pulled up.

Please let the "duck face" be a thing of the past by the time my girls have their own phones. I ask you to prohibit my children from taking obscene numbers of pictures in any room that also contains a toilet, for that is just tacky Lord, as you know.

Speaking of photos, please give me the right words to say that instill a deep sense of fear in the fact that the Internet is forever and that anything they post or text could haunt them for the rest of their lives... which may not seem like a long time to you Lord, but it feels like an eternity to a teenager.

God, please let my boys play just enough video games to be able to relate to other boys their age but not so much that they they are living in my basement at 25, living on hot pockets and "dating" a girl in "Canada".

Please Lord, protect them from ever waking up in a dorm room full of strangers & half empty red Solo cups. In fact, if you could keep them from anything that involves red Solo cups I would really appreciate it.

Please let these boys keep their pants pulled up. Keep your hand over their mouth Lord if they ever are tempted to do anything that starts with either of the phrases "Hey y'all, watch this!" or "Dude, hold my beer."

God, let my young men never honk or whistle at a girl walking down the street. For this is just plain creeper-ish and you never would have done such a thing, would you?

Please Lord, let these girls of mine spend their high school and college years searching for their bridesmaids not their husbands... and you know, studying.

Please give me the strength to say to these girls, "You are absolutely not going out looking like that, now march your butt back upstairs and do not come back down until you are wearing something that covers it!" for I would not feel like a good mother if I didn't say something along those lines at least once.

Also Jesus, I ask you to put an end to the media glamorization of teenage pregnancy that is currently going on. And of course, I say that with all due respect to your mother Lord.

And the little things God, please remind me to teach them the little things... How to look someone in the eye & shake their hand properly, how to buy the right sized bra, how to drive in the snow, how to put on makeup without looking like a prostitute, that a camisole is an undergarment, not a shirt.

When I think about my kids' adolescence and young adult years, these are the prayers that I pray. But right now they are all under the age of 8, and so tonight my prayers are:

Dear Lord, let these kids please just eat their vegetables and go the heck to sleep.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Breathe Run Fight Repeat

It was over a year ago that we faced the custody battle for our 4th child. Three full days of testimony. Overwhelming emotions on both sides. I remember going to yoga every day that week, finding comfort in the simplicity of postures and breath. Letting the stress and sadness slip away in the repetition of sun salutations.

Mountain pose... forward fold... halfway lift...

It was a spring day, I walked out of the doctor's office with medical news that rendered me powerless against my own body. And so I ran.

Running shoes pounding into the earth... Music cranked up in my earbuds... Crisp air searing my lungs.

As if eagle pose or triangle had any effect on the custody of my son. As if the mile markers passing by could change what the doctor had said.

Tonight I'll go to my martial arts class with the same spirit.

I tell those stories because I'm not completely sure how to begin.... I'm better at writing make-ya-laugh, make-ya-smile, make-ya-sigh kind of posts. And today my heart is heavy, heavy with tragedy that isn't even my own. Today I am contemplating how we process grief, loss, powerlessness.

Of course, we all cope differently. Some cry, vent, pray, shop, deny, drink, hide, eat, sleep.... and so on. But what's on my mind specifically is how the physical activities we love help us deal with life events that are beyond our control.

On Tuesday my cousin & his wife unexpectedly lost their weeks-old baby.

I have no words.

Nothing I can say is adequate.

This child shares the same name as my youngest son, a son brought into this world with extensively severe medical issues. I will confess to you that there have been moments in the last 48 hours in which all I could think was this could have been my baby. This could have been me. So selfish, I know.

And there is nothing I can do. Of course i will do the usual things, I will send condolences, I will pray, I will hug my own babies just a little bit tighter.

But tonight I will also go to the gym and I will train just a little bit harder. I will focus just a little bit more. I will plead with my instructor to let us run, let us fight, to turn the music on, turn it up. I will try to be just a little bit stronger. As if somehow that strength could go out from me and fill up the night. As if by feeling powerful myself, I could combat the powerlessness of tragedy, of loss, of things beyond human control.

Do you do this? Runners, do you run through the woods or down the street, as if the time that heals could be more quickly elapsed if you could just run further, run faster? What about those of you who do different sports? Do you find solace, strength, sanctuary, on a golf course, in a weight room, on a basketball court?

Whatever you do, what is amazing about these simple physical acts of moving, training, trying... what is simultaneously sad and beautiful, devastating and glorious, is that they change nothing, but they change you.