Thursday, September 26, 2013

Marathon Majors

On October 3rd, 2005 I ran my first marathon; it was an utter and epic failure. On that sunny day in Milwaukee, I ran the first 16 miles in two hours. It took me two hours and 55 minutes to walk the next 10 miles. My debut marathon was a 4:55 and I was in tears.  Any thoughts of running a Boston Qualifying 3:10 were so far from reality that I wondered if I would ever run another marathon.

I did.

In the spring of 2006 I trained smarter, not harder, and ran the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.  On a perfect weather day, I was able to run 3:18 and officially had caught that marathon bug.  Despite the throbbing pain in my legs, I started to wonder if I'd ever been good enough to run at Boston.  Dreaming even bigger, I knew that somewhere along the way I would like to run all three of the U.S. marathon majors; Chicago, Boston and New York.

So I wrote it down on my bucket list.

While I thought that since I was so close to qualifying for Boston that it would be easy, I failed on my next attempt.  In doing so, I managed to complete step one of my goal and finish the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in 3:16 in October of 2006.

Then on my second attempt to qualify for Boston in South Carolina at the Myrtle Beach Marathon I failed again.  This time I was a kick away from making the mark, as I finished in 3:11:12 and missed the mark by 13 seconds.  I was more heart broken in coming so close than I was in my near five hour finish in Milwaukee. The dejected look on my face tells the story of how I was feeling.

Despite the continued failures, I tried again in May of 2007 at Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.  This proved to be my day and with my parents sitting in Lambeau field at mile 25 to cheer me on, I was able to run 3:07 and finally qualify for the Boston Marathon.  The second leg of my marathon majors dream was not set into motion.

I would go on to run Boston in April of 2008, finishing just under the time I needed to requalify for the following year, notching a 3:09.  Chicago.  Check.  Boston.  Check.  Now was it possible to break 3 hours in the marathon?

In December 2008 I laid it all out on the line and after logging numerous hundred mile weeks and training to the breaking point, I raced Rocket City Marathon to a 2:54.  I felt like I had finally arrived as a marathoner and wanted to take my game back to Boston for another shot.

Boston 2009 went much better as I was able to stick with Dink Taylor for the first 16 miles before the Newton Hills and after struggling through to Boston College, was able to hold on to run 2:56.  Two marathons in a row under three hours.

While getting into Chicago was a matter of registering early enough to run amongst 40,000 other people, it took qualifying to run on Patriot's Day in Massachusetts in 2008 and 2009.  To get into New York, I would either have to be lucky and gain entry through the lottery, or I would have to bypass the lottery with a fast marathon time.  That would mean running under 2:55 again and after struggling to a 2:58 at Rocket City in late 2009, I wondered if I could do it again.

So in June of 2010 I started training to run my fastest marathon ever.  I put together a brutal training plan and booked a flight to Sacramento, where I would test my skills at the ultra fast California International Marathon.  After hitting some very fast times in training, including a 1:15:32 half marathon, I felt like I was ready.  Then on race day in early December, everything came together and I was fortunate enough to run a 2:43:40 which would ensure my entry into New York.  The final step of my marathon dream was not one step closer to reality.

In February, I ran a miserable 2:48 at Mercedes Marathon which was part of left over fitness from Sacramento as I had not done any training since December as I was suffering from burn out.  Despite the 1:20 / 1:28 splits, it still was my second fastest marathon ever and 5th marathon in a row under three hours.

With my 2:43 and 2:48, I was able to bypass the lottery and was accepted to New York and ten months later I would be in the Big Apple.  My short distance fitness was tremendous, having run 1:16 on a hilly half marathon in Winchester, TN but I had only run over 20 miles once in training.  So I was in great half marathon shape, but combined with an ailing right knee, shooting pains in my left inner calf and a possible torn rotator cuff, I was worried how the race might go. During the race, I held onto 6:10 pace for the first 10 miles, but was struggling on the rolling hills of Brooklyn.  I split the first half in 1:22 but by the base of the Queensboro Bridge, I was starting to drop off quickly.  I held onto 7 minute pace in the final 10 miles to reach my B goal and run 2:54:44.  That made six marathons in a row under 3 hours.

It has been nearly two years since my last marathon finish, having lost the later half of 2012 to injury.  Other than some minor fatigue from training, I am healthy and ready to finish a dream that started seven years ago. I have trained wisely, focusing on long quality training runs with plenty of miles at marathon pace.

I have been fortunate enough to run all three marathon majors; but now I want to run them all in under 3 hours.  Given my 2:56 at Boston, my 2:54 at New York, all that remains is a return trip to Chicago on October 13th and running the marathon one more time.  Then the Major dream will be complete.

I feel tremendously blessed to have been given the gift to run, the motivation to train hard and the determination to keep trying after failure. These medals have been a dream of mine for a long time, but the glory of finally earning them all goes to God.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TevaSphere Trail eVent Shoe Review

Part 2: Running in the TevaSphere Trail eVent


In order to properly test the TevaSphere Trail eVent, I wanted to make sure that I ran different distances, on different terrain, in different weather conditions.  Since posting my initial thoughts on this intriguing shoe back in late July,  I put it through the ringer, running on soft sand, technical rocky descents, muddy single track, hard packed trail to gravel roads.  I felt like I wouldn't be able to truly understand the the shoe and the benefit of the unique design unless I tested it in all conditions.


As I previously noted, for trail running, I prefer a shoe that is:
  • Low to the ground for stability
  • Aggressive lugs for traction
  • Sticky rubber outsoles to grip in wet conditions
  • Flexible (no rockplate in the forefoot)
  • Minimal front toe bumper
  • Light weight
  • Mesh upper for fast drying
  • Minimal heel to toe drop (prefer 6mm and less)
  • Minimal to moderate cushion
It was unfortunate that while testing the TevaSphere Trail eVent, I realized that I probably was not the target market for this shoe.  Sometimes that happens when the wear tester and the shoe are just not a good match.

My initial impression taking the shoe out of the box was that it was stiff.  I thought that the design would change my mind but running in them actually confirmed my thoughts.  Regardless of the conditions, but especially on technical surfaces, I found the stiffness to be a detriment of the shoe.  While some people might be looking for a stiff shoe, but I prefer for my foot to roll over the rocks and roots and feel the terrain underfoot.  The shoe does flex well from the toe box forward, but side to side there is little twist flexibility and the plastic rock plate in the forefoot takes the "feel" of the trail away, but for some people that is what they are looking for in a trail shoe.

On several occasions I ran in the shoes at the end of a longer road or trail run to see how the weight of the shoe would feel on tired legs.  At 12.1 ounces, they are nearly a third heavier than the shoes that I would normally wear and I have to say that I did feel the extra weight.  They really are not that heavy of a trail shoe compared to similar models in their category so this really is not a positive or a negative.  I believe that the target customer for this shoe is not necessarily running ultra-distances with supremely tired legs, so for an average trail runner the weight would not pose a problem.

The spherical heel did seem to help some of the heel to toe transition by allowing the foot to roll through the stride well.  This is a crazy looking design, but for a heel striker, it would really help propel the runner forward.  This didn't seem to matter much on wet muddy trails, but on the harder packed surfaces it proved to function very well.

The support pod served the purpose of promoting stability on technical terrain.  I actually practiced stepping on rocks and roots on a way that I would not normally, just so I could see how they would help with the side to side stability.  Landing unevenly which can at times create an awkward foot motion seemed to be totally corrected with the support pod.  I think that for the new trail runner, or an experienced trail runner who might not have the best form would benefit most from the rigid footbridge as it can almost correct a bad foot fall.

The grip of the tread was not overly tacky to the touch and proved as such when landing on wet, mossy rocks.  There was some slippage on these types of surfaces, which most runners tend to avoid anyway.  I was a little disappointed on a few technical climbs that the shoe would slip with small, loose rocks.  This did not create much confidence when I turned around and ran down the same trail.

I did also test the shoes after heavy rain storms on a few trails that can be ankle deep with water and covered in thick mud in other places.  The mesh upper on the top and sides seemed to allow water to seep in, but also allowed it to wick away pretty quickly.  They did feel just a tad heavier when caked with mud, but this was too be expected.

Overall, I think that this shoe might be a good match for a heel striker who tends to run mostly on gravel roads or hard packed surfaces.  

I do have to say that I really like the approach that Teva has taken with the development of this shoe.  It might not have worked out for me, but the amount of scientific research and the number of prototypes they went through before delivering this model was tremendous.  I think that with some positive user feedback, the next models will be that much better.  

I was very happy to be asked to test out this shoe and I encourage you to live off the beaten path and "unfollow" with Teva shoes.