Sunday, November 29, 2015

Altra, you're fired

I fired the Altra Superior 2.0 as my trail shoe last week. 

And until they get their problems with the upper's durability fixed, I'm not going back. 

This was my second pair of Superior 2.0's. The first pair failed two weeks before Superior 100 at my 30K birthday run. Both shoes were torn on the inside and outside next to the balls of my feet. The fabric when shredded looked like a flimsy woven tarp with its crinkled threads. No biggy, I thought. Those shoes ended with just under 220 miles on them. They'd had a good go, but the outsole was still in wonderful condition. But for the tears, they had lots of good life still in them. 

I was frustrated and wanted to look elsewhere, but the proximity to Superior 100 and minimal miles between that Saturday and the race in 13 days meant I couldn't adequately ensure that a never-before-raced-in shoe would cut it. Cardinal Rule #1: nothing new on race day. And so I dutifully got a second pair, this time a half-size smaller (to my usual 8.5) with the thought it would minimize side-to-side movement in the toe box and eliminate one potential for lateral stress on the fabric. 

The shoes performed admirably at Superior 100 - no (new) blackened toenails and the soles looked great considering how rugged that course is and how much I walked. But there was a similar hole on the inside of my left shoe, just behind the ball - right in the same spot. It looked like there is stiff backing to the upper just behind where the hold was, like the stiffness is contributing to the tearing of the softer, more pliable fabric that comprises that portion of the toebox. 

I wore pair number two one more time, at the Afton Fat-Ass race last week, and only because we were instructed to wear clothing that could sacrificed to the deer-trail god of the single track. I did as instructed, and made the hole bigger. The shoes were retired with 143 miles on them, ~103 of which was Superior 100 and eight were from the Afton FatAss.

I'm not the first person who has complained about durability that I'm aware of; those that I run with have anecdotes, either of themselves or personally, from these issues. The durability is a major issue, as a failure in-race could mean a DNF for lack of footwear. Runners have been forced to drop because of a shoe failure, and I don't want it to happen to me. 

I'm not broken up about this right now either. The Superior 2.0 had some other non-major issues, mostly related to fit, and so I'm OK looking for something better. The padding around the heel and ankle was the biggest issue, as it was cushy and made it difficult, if not impossible, to really get a good lock on the heel. Ginger Runner had a great review of the shoe, and I agree with his praise and criticisms. Hopefully these issues get fixed if and when they issue version 3.0. 

It's also the off season, and so I'll have plenty of time to test another trail shoe or three in time for the 2016 season. I also usually do plenty of running in dedicated trail shoes in the winter because of the snow conditions here in MN. The City may plow the paved public trail behind my house, but it doesn't - and can't - get everything. 

What will I look for in a new pair of trail kicks? Lots of the same stuff that I did when I first went searching after New Balance discontinued the 1010's.

What that is, I'm not sure right now. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A cross country race?

I ran the Rocky's Run 6K today. It's on the women's course for the Roy Griak Invitational at the U of M's Les Bolstad golf course. The race is fundraiser for the family of Rochelle "Rocky" Racette, who died in 1981 in a car accident. She was damn fast, for lack of a better description. Proceeds from the race fund a scholarship in Rocky's name. Her sisters were on hand today and dolled out baked goods to finishers. 

I ran it on the open invite from John Storkamp. I've never raced the course myself, as I was an alternate (our number eight guy, usually, for a seven-man team) if my memory serve me right one of the years my high school CC team ran there. 

I was an odd trail runner among much thinner, visually sinewy specimens of the human form. As Storkamp, BJ Knight, Steve Quick and myself joked while we were on the light, the four of us had some huge trail runner calves. Everyone else was tall, lanky, and waif-like. I felt grossly out of place. 

I thought on a really good day I could put down a 24:00, which is essentially a 20-minute 5K just extended out another kilometer. That mean going out in a 4:00 first kilometer and about a 6:26 mile, which is what I thought I was capable of knowing that I have had a sub-6:40 tempo/threshold pace from earlier in the 2014-15 running season. That said, I had no predilections about running well. This was a run-like-you-stole-something, an effort that was long enough to require endurance but fast enough that it's going to hurt to push hard. I also thought I could keep the last member of the U's women's team in sight. Sure thing, boss. 

I was tight and sore from this week's all-to-jittery runs, but loosened up plenty in the low 50's weather with 15 mph winds after I put down a solid 4K on the course at an easy jog.

I went out in a 3:57 first kilometer, and felt pretty proud of myself for letting the huge pack go. This was going to hurt, but I didn't want to implode.

But I knew it was going to get harder, and that 240-second per kilometer pace wasn't going to hold. The first mile was 6:35, 2K in 8:20, 3K in 12:45, two miles in just 13:55 ish (meaning I ran a 7:20 second mile?). Things got better consistent after than, and I ran mile three in 7:19 for a 21:12 or so.

It was in this last 1,200 meters that I felt like I had plenty of gas in the tank, and that I could have run another kilometer or three at that pace, but couldn't go much/any faster. As I described it earlier on Twitter, I felt like I was a two-cylinder car that had a 25 gallon gas tank that got 45 mpg at the Indy 500. Low top speed, but the ability to hold that speed for a hell of a long time. I guess I need to do some 1,000 meter repeats (again) in training this year. 

I came in at a 27:06, approximately, about 20 seconds behind the last member of the U's women's team. All in all, it was a damn good day. 

2016 race plans are up in the air. Like many, my schedule will firm up on Dec. 7 when Western States holds its lottery. I put in for the race this year, my first ever entry, and so my one ticket and pitiful chances is only there to help me in years to come. Also on the radar: Zumbro Midnight 50; spring Superior 50K; Bighorn 100 (need a hard rock qualifier); and Superior 100; etc.