Tuesday, March 27, 2007

10,000 miles in Brooks

This week, as I'm tapering before my first 100K on Saturday, I passed the 10,000-mile mark in Brooks shoes. Yes, shoes, I mean several pairs, not just one, I'm not Forrest Gump ...

I have had a few other brands (New Balance, Salomon, Nike, Montrail), which I still use depending on the terrain and conditions, but Brooks has really worked best for me. 15 pairs so far and counting.

A few of my Brooks: 5 pairs of Trance in the back, 3 Burn and the Racer T3 (flat) in the foreground

The Trance

It started in 1998 when I visited MetroSport of Cupertino, a great place to receive personalized and expert advice for such a critical piece in the runner's panoply. Not the cheapest model (and that didn't improve overtime), the Trance really provided the ultimate blend of cushinoning and stability. And, as I found out a few years later, an incredible resistance and longevity as well, so the extra bucks were well worth.

That said, I regret some modifications brought to the original Trance model. I still run from time to time in my first pairs of Trance and love their simpler platform and design despite the obvious and visible wearing. Why do shoe makers have to keep inventing, when it's not bringing improvement? Must be to keep marketers and designers busy... Or to satisfy other customers, it's hard to please everyone when it comes to comfort and design/look...

With regard to the Cascadia, it may be too soon for me to judge. I wore them on two 50K training runs early January and had to take a 3-week break to treat an inflammation on the top of my foot, which I even took for a 2nd metatarsal stress fracture at some point. I must admit the shape of the sole intrigued me when I first found out about the shoe (completely flat under sole). I hope it's not the cause of the misfit so far, they actually felt so great during these long runs. I'll give it another try after Western States. In the meantime, I'd love to find out more about why they work great for Scott Jurek.

As for the Burn, they are really perfect for me (light weight, neutral, and reasonably long stride for my size), so I use them as my flats for speedwork and road racing. I like the soft cushioning in particular, I need at least this one on marathons. And I can't believe I've run more than 1,000 miles in each of my first pairs of them, yet they feel so comfy.

The original Burns: some signs of wearing but still great after 1,300+ miles!

10,003 miles and counting

10,000 miles logged, just in my Brooks (out of 15,000 miles). A car service and oil change milestone! Here is how the miles spread over the 15 pairs, in the order I got them (2 of which I haven't wore yet):

  1. Trance (original): 715 miles
  2. Trance (original): 1,321 miles
  3. Trance (original): 775 miles
  4. Trance (original): 1,249 miles
  5. Trance NXG: 1,002 miles
  6. Burn: 1,314 miles
  7. Burn: 1,084 miles
  8. Trance NXS: 966 miles
  9. Racer T3: 116 miles
  10. Trance NXR: 864 miles
  11. Burn 2: 419 miles
  12. Cascadia Pivot: 0 mile
  13. Trance NXR: 0 mile
  14. Cascadia Pivot: 91 miles
  15. Racer ST2: 88 miles

The brand

As you know, I was quite new to running back in 1998, as well as just settled in the US. I knew about Nike and Adidas, never heard about Brooks. So that was not a trendy-motivated pick for me.

I later found out that Brooks was actually reborn in the 1990s. 80 years after its creation (1914), with ups and downs in the meantime. Famous shoes in the 70s when marathon crossed the chasm, almost disappeared then because of too much diversification in other fields and too stretched while competing with Nike in particular. Even Brooks' website is very discrete about all these years in their corporate history page. They definitely turned the page, maybe they will highlight again this legacy when celebrating their century in 2014! Hope so. Like in ultra, you learn from your mistakes and it's ok to talk about it.

In the meantime, you can read more about Brooks history thanks to FundingUniverse.

So, am I paid or sponsored to advertise this brand? Well, having picked Scott Jurek as their marketing "showcase" is setting the bar way too high for us, mortals, to join Team Brooks. No, I'm not sponsored, I buy my shoes or win them as race prizes (a special thanks to the Runners High for their generous support of local events in the Bay Area). I'm just an extremely satisfied customer, loyal to a series of shoes which have been good to me so far (few injuries).

Is there a Brooks for you?

Try their nice shoe advisor online. And more importantly, here are some tips:

  1. Try before you buy. Do not buy without trying a model in a specialized running shop, which let you practice/run, at least inside the store.
  2. Perfect fit. Do not pick a model if it doesn't fit right, it won't get any better over time (there was a time where shoes, in leather, were living and getting fit to your foot, but this time is over; if you feel anything wrong, you'll feel the same thing 500 miles down the road).
  3. No universal shoe. The model which fits best your best friend may not be good for you, you need to make your own mind and experiment.
  4. Rotate shoes. Pick at least 2 different models and use them for different workouts during the week (a corollary of this rule is that you have to vary your workouts during the week, e.g. alternate speedwork, easy run, tempo run, long run, hill work).
  5. Take a half or full size extra. The longer (distance) you plan on running, the more room you need to give to your toes. That's particularly important for the down hills (not to discount a tight lacing of the shoes).
  6. Don't be greedy. It's true that one of the great things about running is that it's a cheap sport. Yet, don't try to save on the shoes, that's the most important investment of a runner. Extra $10 or 20 are usually well worth, getting you a model which will protect your joints better, help prevent injuries and will last longer anyway. Especially if you are serious about training for races which will cost quite more than that.
  7. If you find a model which works great for you, buy a few extra pairs before they disappear. Running shoe companies cannot make a shoe which fits everyone and they need to modify design and look to keep up with competition. This may not work to your advantage in some cases, so better plan ahead. Besides, older models are usually nicely discounted, as long as your size is still available.
I found that Brooks really offer a broad, I should say an amazing, variety of shoes: Racer (ST and T) , Burn, Addition, Glycerin, Beast, Adrenaline, Axiom, Vapor, Radius, Dyad, Trance, Cascadia, just to name the running shoes, skipping the spikes, and the walking models--sorry I don't like walking... ;-). Worth giving it a look and try if you are in the shoe hunting.

Farther and faster, in the right shoes!

PS: make no mistake, if you are working in a semicon fab, I'm not advertising for Brooks software here, my company is actually competing with them with a much more innovative and performant product, ILOG Fab PowerOps!

Farther or further?

8 years and 15,000 miles are what it took me to decide to share on my passion for running and endurance.

Much earlier though, I had to come with my own definition of endurance, which I wanted crisp and concise: Further Faster.

Agn├Ęs even got me a RoadID engraved with this mantra.

But I always had an issue with the further: should it be farther instead? Miles after miles I kept the question for myself as I was not finding a satisfactory clarification in dictionaries.

However, in order to use such a definition in a blog URL, it had to be right. So I finally searched the web to kill my further/farther dilemma and here is the first post returned by Google, very relevant indeed: Is it Farther or Further?

A 9-grade lesson, you have to remain modest to keep improving your running...

I found the second Google entry not bad either, although the comments lead to a inconclusive situation (The difference between farther and further).

So, farther it is, since it is about (physical) distance running. Although much of the "way" in endurance appears to be in your mind, for which further quite still apply too, as in pushing resistance to a greater degree.

Thanks for the English lesson, Eileen and Bernie.

And you all, keep running farther. And faster!

Running: my genesis

As a first post, better start with the roots of my running experience.

August 1998: my family and I decided to take on the opportunity to move to California, initially for two years. We settled in Cupertino, CA in the Fall and that is when I realized I thought I was runner, but wasn't really one actually.

In middle school in France, I ran for two cross-country seasons when I was 11 and 12, the real muddy, short-distance and jammed/competitive races, and didn't really like it. As far as remember, I had hard time keeping up with my younger brother as we were competing in the same league. Fortunately, both of us then switched to soccer with much more success, and enjoyment.

My next serious running episode was in college where I focused on the 800-meter distance. I thought it was getting serious back then with 1 to 2 training sessions a week. Seeing how much work my sons put in cross country and track & field, I realize how my PR is so meaningless with such little training back then: 2'07". Anyway, I also came to realization that, being 5'5", I wasn't of the right format to compete on the track anyway.

From 1987, when I started with ILOG, to 1998, when I moved to California, my family and friends were considering me as a runner. One run a week, and a 8-miler was my very long run. I ran my first 10-miler in 1991, with sore muscles for the next 4 days. And first half-marathon in Paris in March 1998, 1:34:30 plus 4'30" to cross the start line, in the middle of a 20,000-runner pack!

So, when I claim I started running in the Fall of 1998, I mean running seriously. That is, 4 to 6 times a week and with a serious and clear goal in mind: running my first marathon by the end of my 2-year stay in the US. Definitely crossing the line between jogging and running.

Here we are, fast forwarding to 2007: I've now run 100 races, including 18 marathons and a handful of ultras. Placed in many of them, including top 10 Masters at Boston 2005, and top 3 Masters at the International 20K of Paris. I did get my lows and bad days as well, it's hard to be consistent when you are pushing the envelope.

So here is the brief genesis of my running history. More details to come in this new blog about these many miles in the back mirror already, and ahead, hopefully!

All set to push the envelope, both farther, and faster!