Monday, September 24, 2018

Crunch Time - Last Week Before My Half-Marathon

  In less than a week, I will be running in my first half-marathon in over two years.  I’ve always been comfortable running 5k distances and most of the time can relax while running 10 kilometers, but any distance over 10 miles involves some thinking and preparation, no matter the activity.

  I still remember the time that I went off on temporary duty (TDY) for five weeks while my Soldiers prepared for a 12 mile ruck march.  For those who don’t know, a ruck march is a “favored” military activity in which you walk quickly with some weight in your backpack.  My male Soldiers had at least 25 pounds in their rucksack while my female Soldiers carried at least 20 pounds.  Since their training and the execution date for their ruck march would occur while I was gone, I didn’t train at all, and instead focused on my running.  However, the last week of my TDY, I got word that their scheduled ruck march was delayed a week and not many of the unit’s leadership would be able to be out there to do it with them; this event was at the company level, and I was in charge of a platoon at the time.  I didn’t have to participate, but I passed word to my squad leaders and platoon sergeant that I might do it with them.  Now, for over about two years, I had special ruck; I took a rucksack frame and mounted a radio boombox on it with several bungee cords and little the necessary weights to make the 25 pound minimum (I know some units say that the ruck should weigh at least 35 pounds, but when you’re at post that likes to ride around in vehicles, I don’t think “they” cared THAT much to keep up with the lighter units).  Rucking involves a different pair of footgear and for me, which includes a different stride and gait.  And I had not prepared at all to do a ruck march, much less a 12 mile one.

  After I got home from TDY, I prepped my ruck by replacing the batteries and checking the cords to make sure the boombox wouldn’t rattle if I go fast.  The next day was the ruck march and I met up with my platoon to do it with them.  There were several mid-level NCOs (non-commissioned officers: staff sergeants and regular ole sergeants) from the other platoons out there in addition to my NCOs and me.  In fact, I was the only officer to be out there with the company for some reason.   We start our march, and I start up my boombox.  I had a playlist already built for an occasion like this, so we marched off to Army band music, because I wanted it to sound serious in the company and battalion area, but once we hit the last road, the music changed to songs associated with Hollywood war movies. 

  At the two mile mark, one of the NCOs from another platoon quit.  That really chapped my hide because I didn’t get to prepare for five-six weeks and here’s this one guy who was supposed to be setting an example and he just ups and quits.  Went back to the company.  His feet weren’t even hurting.  That made me even more determined to finish this with my platoon.  So we continued on the ruck march, probably to Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” 

  I finished that ruck march tired and a little sore, but amazingly with no blisters and just the slightest heat spots on my feet.

  This Saturday is the True to the Brew half-marathon at Croft State Park.  I have trained some, but nowhere near to the extent that I wish I had.  I have my equipment for this race, to include new trail running shoes and for the first time ever, I will be wearing a running vest.  I need one to carry a battery charger since I will be recording the race with my GoPro and the Karma Grip (for stable footage to keep people from getting motion sickness).  I’ve tested my electronics.  I’ve worn my new trail shoes for almost a month to make sure I’m familiar with how they feel.  I’ve adjusted my running vest to (hopefully) make sure it doesn’t jingle around while I’m running.  Let’s hope that this preparation, to include getting in several six mile (ten kilometer) runs in and an eight mile run will help prepare me than that time I rucked without six weeks of practice.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

When Weather Destroys Your Running Schedule - Hurricane Florence Cancels Three Races in One Week

  This week, besides my half-marathon training, I had three races that I would participate in: The 9/11 Run for Our Troops 5k, the South Carolina Tunnel to Towers 5k, and the Splash and Dash Adventure Race.  But, apparently Mother Nature had other plans.  However, Hurricane Florence will make its initial impact on the Carolina coast late Friday. 

  I started to wonder how training would go on Friday when the internet, social media in particular, became abuzz with word that Hurricane Florence was coming this way.   Monday was the start of things getting serious though, when I got two emails from the CWC Jaycees.  The first email from the Cayce West Columbia Junior Chamber said that they would monitor the news and that the South Carolina governor, Henry McMaster, had issued a mandatory coastal evacuation order for 11 September, the day of the 9/11 Run for Our Troops 5k.  The CWC Jaycees sent out their second email just a few hours later stating that the race event was postponed and they would send word on the future date for the race.  The next day, I got an email from the Run For Our Troops stating that the race was rescheduled from September 11th to November 11th, Veteran’s Day.

   With the Tuesday race postponed until later, the next word I got concerned the Splash and Dash Adventure Race.  I was looking forward to this one because it was not a typical type of race that I do.  I usually run in 5k to 15k races, or participate in the occasional duathlon (run-bike-run).  The Splash and Dash Adventure Race had us set up as a team of two, run two miles together, bike four miles together (on separate bicycles if you are asking), and kayak one mile.  The Splash and Dash organizers were the first ones to initially send an email out regarding the weather and warning people that they would be watching the weather.  So, a little before noon on 11 September, they sent an email out stating that the Splash and Dash race was cancelled.  Based off of the weather models that I’ve seen online, the Saturday race would be in consistent rain throughout the entire race, and considering there is a kayaking portion on the river, it’s good that this one is cancelled.  The Splash and Dash probably would have used the least amount of resources from the county and city in terms of police and paramedics, but it’s still a good call.

  The final race event to send out information on their event was the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5k in South Carolina.  I got the email on Wednesday, 12 September, at 2:30 PM and my wife send me social media posts stating that the race originally scheduled for 14 September was cancelled and that while no refunds would be issued, we could still get our shirts on 21 September and there would be a limited amount of time for free registration for those who signed up for this year’s race.  That limited time would be announced later in 2019. 

   This week was building up to be a pretty busy time for me with three races and the need for a long endurance run, but with Hurricane Florence barreling down from the Atlantic, plans can be wiped out in a short amount of time.  I was really looking forward to participating in two races I haven’t done before and running amongst the crowd with the Tunnel to Towers race, a race I truly love being in while supporting a great cause.

See the links below for the races and more information regarding the events:

The 9/11 Run for Our Troops 5k

The South Carolina Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5k

The Splash and Dash Adventure Race

Friday, September 7, 2018

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo V3 Running Shoes Testing

The Shoe Vault
  I had a chance to try out the New Balance Free Foam Vongo V3 running shoes while attending the weekly Fleet Feet running event.  Normally on Tuesdays, Fleet Feet hosts a “Pack the Park” event in one of the local parks.  On this particular Pack the Park, a New Balance representative would be there along with several different types of New Balance shoes for us to try on during our run, however, the park was closed and we tested out the shoes on a pre-determined route by Fleet Feet. 

  The New Balance representative had four different models of shoes for us to choice from: the 860, 880, the 1080, and the Vongo Fresh Foam.  While I am usually an On Cloud person when it comes to running shoes, I have been wearing On’s Cloudflyer for the past several months because of the stability it offers. 
The Shoes To Try

  While perusing the various shoes on the rack under the New Balance tent, I asked the New Balance rep what the various numbers meant.  She quickly replied that I was looking at the shoe sizes marked on the bottom of the shoes.  I chuckled and said that I knew about the shoe sizes but didn’t comprehend the model numbers. That’s when she explained what 860 (support and stability), 880 (neutral support), and 1080 (neutral) were.  Talking about my current running shoes, the Cloudflyer, she suggested I go with either the 860 or the Vongo.

  After selecting the Fresh Foam Vongo V3 because they offered a more tradition form of support for stability running, I walked around to get a feel for the shoes.  They were kind of dusty on the outside, but I attributed that to me wearing a size 10, which is a fairly common shoe size.  Walking around the outside of Fleet Feet on the asphalt felt okay.  It was nice walking without adjusting my stance like I do for the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 with their Zero Drop foot feature.  I wandered around in the Vongos and tried to put them to the test with walking: I moved while widening my stride, I would pivot in them and listen for any squeaking or other weird noises. 

 Other people were still checking out I continued walking and then started stretching my legs and rotating my ankles since I ran in the Labor Day 5 Miler the previous day and my ankle was hurting at two different times during that event.  When the last person picked out a pair of shoe for the demo run, we unofficially officially began our warm-up exercises.  I kept toiling with ways to make the Vongo V3 flex and move about, and yet they still felt fine before the run. 

Stretching Out
  We went for our three mile run, though others who were faster opted for the four mile try-out on their New Balance shoes.  Everything felt okay and normal with the Vongo V3 at first.  I start behind most of the other runners and slowly work my way past each person, similar to what I do during a race.  I had no intention of passing anyone, but the cushioning felt pretty good and the shoes were comfortable. 

However, near the one mile mark of the run, both of my heels started to hurt each time I hit the asphalt.  That pain endured for almost a quarter of a mile.  It was a rather annoying pain that I couldn’t stop thinking about, but wasn’t enough to prevent me from continuing running.  The cushioning wasn’t helping and it almost felt like the support was not there anymore. When I hit the halfway point and turnaround, I let one of the Fleet Feet people know that my feet were hurting but I would finish the run. 

  It took about another five minutes before the pain in my heels went away during the run.  I have no idea what happened, and I couldn’t tell if the pain was residual from the race the previous day or if it was from the Vongo V3 themselves. The treads on the soles looked fairly new, but the dust atop the shoes told a slightly different story.  The pain subsided to almost nothingness by the time I finished the run, but I couldn’t help but think about what caused it. 

  I will say that while the Vongo V3 felt good before the run and okay after the run, if I hadn’t ran in the On Cloudace two weeks prior, I wouldn’t have a good gauge to on when it came to testing shoes.  With the Cloudace, I can easily compare them to my Cloudflyer and feel the difference.  Both models of On shoes offer cushioning, but the Cloudace was so comfortable, provided a lot of support, and didn’t have issues.  As for the Vongo running shoes, the other direct comparison I can do is with my New Balance Vazee shoes which I don’t usually wear for races, though I did wear them for a 6.5 trail race and a couple of 5k and a 10k run in the past. The Vongo feels better than the Vazee, seems to provide more support, but the traction on both felt about the same. 

  Proper footgear is essential when running and I was very fortunate throughout my Army career that, to my knowledge, I didn’t have any foot issues.  I know too many people who got out of the service and either had difficulty running afterwards or couldn’t run at all.  If you get a chance, test shoes before you buy, and definitely if you are given an opportunity to do a demo run with a shoe company, go for it.