Brooks PureConnect 2 Review Update

I’ve now been running in the PureConnect 2s for a while – about five months – so I thought it was time to update my initial review (which you can find here).  I’d suggest at least skimming though that review first, because this really will just be an update on that.  If you remember I trialed a black pair, and I later bought the blue pair.  Now, in most shoes a colour change wouldn’t be a big deal – after all, it’s the same shoe, just a different colour.

2013-05-27 20.09.14Colourways

Not what I found with the PureConnect 2.  The two different colourways are actually made of different material.  You can see that in these pictures:

2013-07-30 10.03.55 2013-07-30 10.03.34

The black shoe has a material that is much more finely woven that the blue.  The blue shoe is also made from a material that is sort of double layered – there is the large weave material over a small weave.  What this means is that the two different colourways wear in differently, and stretch slightly differently, and because of that they have very slightly different fits.  I found that the blue shoe was just a little bit tighter than the black shoe, and I actually took out the innersole for a while, while the shoe stretched out a bit.  It actually took a bit longer to feel at home in the blue shoes than the black.  If you remember, I felt that I was able to really quickly find my stride in the black shoes right from the start.  It took a few runs to get really comfortable in the blue shoes.

Specifically – the blue shoes don’t have as much immediate stretch across the widest part of the forefoot.  After a few runs they are fine.  I actually ended up getting two pairs of these – one black and one blue – and I run in both regularly.  I still find – five months on – that the black colourway is a bit less snug than the blue.

Toe seperation

Originally I said I was a bit disappointed at the flexibility in the forefoot.  To be clear (as I was in the original review) there is a great amount of forefoot flexibility in these shoes.  What I was disappointed with was my own expectation of what the toe-separator would do (you can see the mark where this in in the photo of the blue shoe above, but much better photos and explanation in the original review).  I would like to firmly retract that statement.  I think the toe separator is crazytown amazing.  I think what is so wonderful about it is that it gives you a lot of self-directed grip.  I expected more flexibility but what you actually get is more like the ability to react to the ground.  It’s not a flex, but the ability to feel the ground, and – I hope this make sense – to wrap around the ground with your foot.

General Thoughts

I just want to say I absolutely love the PureConnect 2.  Having said that, I can really see why people wouldn’t really warm to it.  I think it’s a shoe that’s marketed a bit as an ‘in between’ full-cushion and full-minimal shoe, but I really think that if you’re thinking of moving from a full-cushion shoe to this it will be a struggle.  I had been running with Nike Frees before moving to the PureConnect and I found it a slightly difficult step down.  Specifically, I didn’t have enough foot strength, even coming from the Nike Frees, to really get the most out of these shoes.  As my foot, and ankle, strength has increased I’m finding it not only easier but more enjoyable to run in the PureConnect 2s.  I did find it really easy to get into stride in the PureConnect 2s almost immediately, but the more I ran – and the more long runs I did – in these shoes the more apparent it became that the flexibility and ground-feel of these shoes was a bit above where my foot strength was.  And, I’d like to say, I go barefoot in normal life wherever possible, I don’t just wear nice squishy cushioned shoes.

That is not to say that it’s not doable, but just be wary that to get the most out of these shoes foot strength is key.  And, that, I think, is why I didn’t really get the toe-separation until I’d been running in the shoes for a while.

Anyway – in sum, I really love these shoes.  They were great right away, but have been getting better and better and the strength in my feet increases.

Running, A Love Letter: TR24 Race Report #allin24

TR24 really kind of started at around 5:30am on Friday morning, when I got up to the squeaking Neon Toddler, deciding to give Mr. Neon the opportunity to have something of a pre-work sleep in as he would have to deal with all-toddler-all-the-time during the weekend.  So, as I hadn’t packed yet for TR24 and she was in a super energetic mood, I decided she could help me pack before I took her off to nursery for the day.  She was super excited about it.  I don’t think she realised that she wasn’t coming along with whatever we we packing for.

BQFLsHoCAAA6BsC

So, toddler to nursery, and packing done, I headed into London to change over some sports bras that I’d bought at Runner’s Need Holborn the day before, but had bought the wrong size in a silly brain-mix up.  That done, I headed to Senate House to run though some quick work with a friend and then to St. Pancras International to meet up with one of my TR24 team-mates, Kate.  We headed to the train and finally settled into our motel before ducking out for some dinner (carbs with a side of carbs, please!) and then trying to get a good night sleep.  This turned out to be a much better idea than camping on the Friday night.

So, early Saturday morning, our final team member, Ben, came by the motel to pick us up and head to the Catton Park.  I was feeling pretty good at this stage, and just eager to get the race started!

1073875_10151619131762655_1830986502_o

So, we had a loose plan to get in and registered and then set up the campsite, but as it happened we just hung around the race village until the briefing, followed by the start.  Over breakfast the three of us had made a bit of a loose plan which saw me taking on the first lap.

943675_10151802849184532_644692311_n

You can (just) see me in the back here, just off the start/finish straight:

1016803_10201543355447712_803415834_n

But, by the time we hit the first section of proper trail, the track narrowed from a super-wide path to single-lane steep uphill track, and there was bottleneck galore the whole way up the climb (fine by me, we had 23 hours and 50-something minutes of this craziness to go at this stage!).  The course was the hardest, craziest and funnest 10km loop I have ever run (can you tell I train in the concrete-wasteland of London?).  Over the weekend it produced some of my slowest ever 10km times (and by a long, long way too!).

Lap one was fairly uneventful, just getting bearings on the course, chatting to other runners, feeling the running love, and getting acquainted with the heat.  It was hot.  I’m Australian and I thought running through that was hot.  By the time I hit the (only) water station, just after 5km, I was ready for a hose down!  Somehow I got it in my head during this lap that the first 5km were tough – they were, but that’s neither hear nor there – and the second 5km were easier.  The second half was faster than the first on every lap I ran, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it being ‘easier.’  The last two kilometers, aside from the little but sharp and nastily placed hill just before the finish, were beautiful open grassland, flat or downhill, with some running though the campsite, so that was certainly easier than some of the other parts, but the most technical part of the trail – which we affectionately dubbed ‘the maze’ – also fell in the second 5km.  Who knows, but I wish I had shaken this idea before I set out on my second lap.

My second lap was meant to be three laps together.  I didn’t make it.  I was having a glorious run until just after the 7km mark, when I came out of ‘the maze’ and was stopped dead by a pain that ripped across my chest.  At first it was okay – very painful but only for a flash – and I picked up to run again.  A few steps later I realised it was not okay, and what had started as a pain really had become an awful tightening around my chest.  I ran, walked and hobbled the last three kilometers back to the start finish line, and was pulled by a marshal at the water station there who asked if I was okay and promptly made me sit down and got a medic.  I was mostly worried about handing our team baton over, and finding either Kate or Ben, but that’s neither here nor there at this stage.  I spent a while in the medical tent, and asked the question that I’m sure all runners ask: can I run again?  Of course the paramedic said no.  I wandered back towards camp to try and find Kate and Ben.  They were obviously concerned, and Kate took the baton and started her two laps.  Ben and I headed up and I got something to eat and just rested a bit.  By the time Kate came in, two laps later, and Ben went out for three laps, I was feeling much better but just exhausted – still very tight across the chest, but the pain had dimmed to just an ache.  I decided to try and get some sleep, which didn’t happen but at least I got some rest laying in the tent.

And, really, that’s when the rain started.  And, it rained.

By the time I took over from Ben, at around 1am-ish, it was coming less heavily but it was… wet.  I met another runner walking towards the start-line and hand-over area from camp and we trundled along together looking dejected and worn out.  And we hadn’t started running yet!  When Ben arrived, he looked shattered and I wasn’t really too excited about the lap.  A lot of runners had come in saying it was terrible out there, but I chose to keep remembering the one woman who’d run up to her team mate, handed the baton over and yelled – arms raised in the air – ‘THAT WAS AWESOME!!!’

And, I will tell you – that woman was right.

That lap – in the rain, with terrible visibility, my head-torch bumping around, discovering puddles within other puddles (who knew that was possible!) was the single most fun I have ever had running in my entire life.  That lap is what is mean to be a runner.  That lap was a love letter to running.

It wasn’t fast.  It wasn’t beautiful.  It wasn’t graceful.  It was just dirty, amazing, fun.  And, I almost lost my shoe in a slurp of mud.  We really reached the point where there was no point trying to dodge the puddles and mud-slides anymore – you just went with them!

But, if that was the best, my final lap was the worst.  After I came in, Ben and I decided that what we needed was to sleep and the course was getting too churned up and, as all three of us have bigger things going on in the near future, we didn’t want to cause any injury.  So we went to bed to re-convene at 5am.

After a bit of very-broken sleep, and the most glorious baked potato with beans I have ever had in my life, Kate set out for another lap and I went off to get changed (yes, if you were there, I was the person having breakfast dressed in their sleeping bag) and do a bit of cheering before I headed out again.  Kate had twinged her leg a bit, and so was only going to walk the lap giving me around 2 hours to get organised.  Ben found me standing on a corner of the course yelling encouragement to some very muddy looking runners shuffling past towards the end, so we went back to camp to get ready for our remaining laps.

Kate came in and I went out, hoping to not take any longer than the hour and a half night lap I’d done.  Since the rain had stopped the course had gotten worse.  It was just one massive churned up bog of a thing.  This is one of the better sections:

945954_371247466336458_321054066_n

I fell.  And fell again.  And I fell into a nettle bush.  But, then I fell into a waist deep puddle.  Also, it had gotten hot again.  I’m not sure how I managed to get around this lap, but I did – and only about 15-20 minutes faster than I had hoped.  This was my finish, so I did a bit of a victory arm-pump though the finish banner, and then a heel-click before handing the baton over.  Ben set out for his final lap and Kate and I got some lunch and sat down by the finish to cheer.  Time was ticking away and as the clock moved from 23:59:59 to 0:00:00 there was a big cheer.  We had done it!  24 hours of running down!  A few minutes later, Ben came though the finish and we got to celebrate together!

We were wet and muddy, but happy.  I didn’t reach my goal of 5-7 laps.  In fact, in the end, I was never going to reach it – between the time I spent in the medical tent and the conditions, I’m not sure I could have pushed out any more.  So, I ended up with 4 laps and we had a team total of 130kms!  So yeah, I’m pretty proud of what everyone did, and I’m proud of what I did.  Bring on next year!

1077044_10151619145802655_64206490_o

#allin24: Getting ready for Thunder Run 24.

This weekend is Thunder Run 24 and I am writing a kitlist, after having several dreams in which I forgot several important pieces of kit.  So far I have:

SHOES

  • 2 x Brooks PureConnect2
  • 1 x Nike Structure 15s
  • 1 x flip flops

CLOTHING and RUNNING KIT

  • 1 x comfortable, black dress (for wearing up to and down from the course)
  • 2 x running skirts
  • 1 x short tights
  • 1 x long tights (although: my own long tights will be too hot, even if it’s very cold, because it’s not winter and my long tights are made for snow.  I suspect I will instead take my capri-length track bottoms, or Mr. Neon’s long summer-weight tights.  I haven’t quite decided on this yet.)
  • headlamp plus spare batteries
  • Garmin 310XT, charged
  • 4-5 pairs socks (i.e. as many pairs as I can find and wash)
  • 1 x lightweight hoody, for resting and keeping warm overnight
  • 1 x big hoody, for resting and keeping warm overnight
  • Waterbottle and belt
  • 1 x bed pants or light tracksuit pants, for resting and sleeping
  • Sports bra.  x 2, if possible
  • 3-4 dri-fit singlets or t-shirts
  • Buff and visor/cap

CAMPING

  • tent
  • rubber mallet
  • tent lamp
  • sleeping bag
  • squish down pillow

FOOD

  • gels a-plenty.  Just in case.
  • Clif Shot Blocks.  Just because.
  • 3 x Clif Builder protein bars
  • 3 x Clif bar
  • food?  Perhaps some cold roast potatoes.

OTHER STUFF

  • Walkman
  • Phone, and charger
  • Magazines
  • Thesis reading (I know, boring right?!?)
  • 1 x big towel
  • 1 x foam roller
  • 1 x first aid kit
  • 1 x strapping tape, in case my ankle decides it hates life
  • 1 x toiletries stuff, including soap etc.
  • Medication
  • Bodyglide
  • Alarm Clock

What have I forgotten?  What is total over kill?  What food should I be packing?

I used to want to run, and other running related thoughts.

run-yourself-ugly

I used to want to run.  That sounds funny saying now that I do run.  Now that I am a runner.  When I was a teenager I wanted to run but I didn’t know how, and that’s something I suspect a lot of wanna-be runners face.  It seems simple: if you want to run, then you just go and run.  I tried, and failed.  And tried, and failed.  And eventually I gave up.

I even married a runner, who suggested I try the C25K program, and I tried that too.  But, I didn’t want to go out on my own, and the program was too simple for him, and took too much time away from his marathon training and so I gave up.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t want to finish, but I wasn’t motivated enough to be a runner.  In fact, it wasn’t until after I had my child, when I was deep into body-loathing and had a strong need for time on my own that I decided to try again.  And it was wonderful, and liberating, and I wasn’t embarrassed like I’d been the first time.  In part that was because I’d just had a baby and I had a bit of a ‘fuck you if you judge me for run-walking’ attitude.  I have never, ever done anything better for myself than that C25K program.  It is the single best choice I have ever made in my life.

For a while, I did feel self-concious running.  I didn’t feel great about the way that I looked, and I jiggled a bit too much.  But, my desire to run (or, in those days, to walk and run) was more powerful than that feeling.

Tonight, about halfway though my 11km run, I realised that now I feel the best about myself when I’m running.  I probably look terrible.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I do.  I think I’m the kind of runner that instantly looks like they’ve run 15km – dishevelled, sweaty, hair everywhere.  But, damn I feel sexy.  It’s weird.  I feel strong.  I feel a wonderful sense of amazement at this wonderful, liberating, freeing thing that my body can do.  I feel as though I can achieve anything.

And that feeling continues.  I think back over some of the runs I’ve done: long runs, PBs, really hard runs that I struggled though, landmark runs.  And, I feel awed by the power that my body has.

I used to want to run.  Now, I am a runner.

Days like these

I’d love to say that days like these are getting further and further apart, but they aren’t.  They’re getting closer and closer together.  They are becoming more and more frequent.

I find parenting challenging.  I found parenting a baby very boring, and I find parenting a toddler very frustrating.  But, that’s not the problem: all parents have days that are a challenge.

Being a (part-time) stay-at-home mum is making me a shitty mum and a shitty person.  When I spend my days thinking about all the things I’d rather be doing than hanging out with my kid, that makes me a shitty mum.  I want to enjoy my time with my kid, because my kid is awesome.  My kid is amazing and wonderful and clever and beautiful.  I don’t neglect my kid.  But, there are heaps more things I could do.  I could be working.

Yep.  I would rather be working than parenting.

I think a lot of this is coming up as my stress levels rise, and as I am working though myself post-mini-breakdown.

I don’t wish I didn’t have Neon Toddler.  I just wish that I could afford to have her in full time care so I could work, on my thesis and job applications and postdoc proposal and all the other things I’d like to do.

I’m a shitty, shitty person.

Six for Six, Buster.

I am, along with my wonderful TR24 teammates, starting to get in full get-ready-to-race-for-24-hours mode.  I’m making lists in my head.  I had a dream that I forgot both my head lamp and my Garmin.  I have spent considerably too much time thinking about whether to pack five or six pairs of socks – just in case some freak sock accident occurs.  Besides the obviously-important sock conundrum I’m having, we – the team – have been (briefly) talking about why we’re actually going out there, and I think this quote is pretty well reflective of our motivation:

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

We’re going out there to have fun and to see what we can achieve, together and as individuals.  We have a pretty modest target of 4 x 10km laps each, which I’m sure will shift and change over the course of the 24 hour time period.

But we’re not trying to win.  I’m personally trying to win against our own innate sense of laziness – I really believe that we – humans, that is – are all innately lazy.  Of course we are.  It’s much easier for someone else to do something while we sit on the couch and do nothing.  All this was put brilliantly by Matthew at The Oatmeal.  If you haven’t read it (and particularly if you’re a runner who has not yet read it!) the full 6-part saga is here.  There is seriously no point being a running blogger now, because everything that there is to say about running and why we run has now been said.

In this amazing saga, Matthew talks about The Blerch, which was something I absolutely identify with (I’m sure all runners do, to some degree…):

CaptureI’m not only a super-lazy person, but I also know that I have the ability to eat a HUGE amount of food in one sitting when I’m not paying attention (read back though some of the more recent previous posts for some more clues about this…)  As Matthew says – you can’t run away from the wall, but you can run away from The Blerch.  The Blerch is the voice inside George Sheehan’s head that tells him to quit.  It’s the voice that tells me that my legs are like so tired not 2km into a 20km run.

And, that’s what we’re going out to beat.  Not anyone else.  Not records.  The Blerch.  That’s what each race is about beating.  That’s what each training session is about overcoming.

The world of running has changed, thanks to Matthew – because he’s given that thing a name, and (as we learned from Harry Potter) giving a thing a name makes it a little easier to beat.

 

 

(Tiny) Leaps and Bounds

Something amazing happened to me today, that will not seem amazing to anyone else.

I didn’t buy something.  I put something back on the shelf instead of on my credit card and in a bag.  I convinced myself that I didn’t need to shop.

For many people oniomania (that is, compulsive shopping) is a symptom of a manic episode and I certainly fit into that category.  As I work though this possible bi-polar diagnosis, episodes in my life and behaviors in my past and present are starting to make a lot of sense and the compulsive shopping is one of them.

I am not a compulsive buyer, but a compulsive spender.  A compulsive buyer gets a thrill from the transaction, whereas during the actual transaction I only feel distant from the act.  It’s a kind of distance that I suppose I also felt during (what I now recognise as) manic episodes.

So, I don’t feel worse.  I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel worse.  In fact, I did get a tiny thrill (a very tiny one!) in putting the thing back on the shelf.  It was a moment of pride in myself.

And then it faded and I went back to normal.  An even kind of normal.