If you read my previous blog post, you know I had some mental issues going on with trying to hit my mileage goals. I ditched the record keeping and, voila, I started having fun running. What's more, I was actually motivated to start really training again and even started going to the gym on a more regular basis. All this was going well for two or three weeks, until I ran a very technical trail covered with several inches of snow. I hit the side of a snow-camouflaged rock and did some impressive acrobatics to stay upright. Everything was fine until I got home and took a nap. When I tried to get up, I couldn't. Those acrobatics twisted my back out of place and I was pinching a nerve. It took over three weeks, after some deep-tissue massage by Tony and some manipulation by the chiropractor, until I was finally pain-free.
But that was a month of no running. I was angry at first because one, I was in pain and that just made me grumpy, and two, because things had just started going well running-wise and I was back to square one. It turned out that that time off was a good thing, though. I explored non-technical forest roads that wouldn't aggravate my back and found some new places to run. Once I started back running, I eased into it, walking when I felt like it, limiting how long I ran and taking days off. As a result, I feel much better than I have in awhile.
A Shoe Review (kind of)
First of all, a disclaimer. I have been sponsored by Brooks for nine years and am not at all impartial. However, I don't think I have ever written a shoe review and it is not something Brooks expects me to do. Secondly, I wear road shoes on technical trail. So I am reviewing a road shoe as a trail shoe.
There was a lot of anticipation leading up to the release of the Brooks Transcend as it would be the cushiest shoe in their lineup. I pre-ordered mine, hoping to find a solution to joints that ached on downhills and on really long runs. When they finally came, I admired the bright pink color and then sent them back because they apparently run large. My second pair came and again I admired the bright pink color, but couldn't wear them for another month because of my injury.
When I finally got to run in them, I hated them. They didn't fit like any other Brooks shoe. They were a little wider, especially in the heel box and didn't have that glove-like feel that all of my other Brooks shoes did. But I wore them any way. I spent a lot of time adjusting the laces to try to get them to fit like my other shoes did. Finally, I just accepted the fact that they would fit differently.
I started using them on my easy forest road runs. I worked up to two hours in them. Then I took them on trails, through creeks and mud, over rocks and roots. I built up to a 20 mile somewhat technical run in them. And I liked them. Actually my body liked them. A lot. They are not super-cushy like Hokas, but I do feel a noticeable difference in them. I run over gravel and I can feel that there is gravel under me, but I do not really feel the hardness or sharpeness of the gravel. Unlike stiff trail shoes, they allow me to still feel the trail while protecting my feet. I run downhill and although I am not floating on a fluffy cloud, my joints feel a lot better. When I get to the car after a long run, I do not have the usual urge to quickly take my shoes off. They grip just fine on wet rocks and in the mud. They do not have an aggressive sole and I was worried I would be slipping around, but I didn't. They passed the "kick a rock hard with your toes" test, twice. (Not a planned test, either time.) They don't have any sort of toe protector, but in comparison to the Ravennas, Glycerins and Ghosts (my usual running shoes), it didn't hurt quite as bad. They drained just fine after running through creeks. And the fluorescent pink color got a lot of compliments from color-starved Appalachian Trail through-hikers. No blisters, no hotspots despite the difference in the fit.
So the downside. They are heavier than what I usually wear (10.1 ounces) but not by much. They are expensive, but if they last as long or longer than other shoes, happy joints will be worth it. And then there is super-technical trail. The last long run I did in them was on a 20 mile run that was very rocky: lots of big rocks on the trail and a long section of essentially running upstream through a rocky creek bed. The last seven miles were pretty painful. I think that the "guide rails" in the shoes that are intended to keep your feet doing what they are supposed to be doing (on the road) worked against all that twisting and turning my feet were doing on those rocks. Plus, I couldn't get one shoe laced right and it hurt my foot. That day I was very glad to get them off my feet.
However, all the other experiences I had with the Transcends were positive and they will be my go-to shoe on everything non-technical. In fact, I wore my Ghosts for a long run the weekend after that technical run and really missed the Transcends. I could tell a big difference by the time I got back to the car.
A Spartan Race Giveaway
I did, however, have a lot of fun with Tony training Alan for his 24 hour race last year on a very cold day that ended with a bit of snow. We went out into the woods and tortured Alan by making him do situps in the frigid creek, retrieve rocks from the bottom of deep pools, do burpees and pushups in the mud, climb vertical slopes, throw logs, climb trees and up bridges, all with a heavy pack on. I did kind of feel an urge to do that sort of free-style obstacle but got over it as his wet-suit started icing over. This is my favorite picture from that day. It kind of sums it up.
Anyway, for those of you who would like to try one of these races (no creek training required), the Reebok Spartan Race folks have kindly donated a race-entry as a giveaway AND a link to a 15% discount on a race. It looks like there is supposed to be a Spartan Super this year in Asheville, so I might even be interested in doing that since it's in the backyard. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me why you want to run a Spartan Race in five words or less. The first email with a cool response wins.