Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goodbye Tek

Jason Varitek announced his retirement the other day. Sadly, his glory days were long gone, a good chunk of his goodwill burned up by his inability to throw out runners and his inability, despite the captain's C on his chest, to stop last year's dysfunctional collapse. But let's not dwell on the negatives. Let's remember Tek in the mid 2000s, a stellar catcher who could hit for power from both sides of the plate. A silent leader who speaks volumes when needed, as when he punched ARod in 2004. The guy behind the plate for four no-hitters. One of the guys who hit a home run in four consecutive at bats. Mr. stoic thunder thighs who made my wife swoon with his icy stare and monstrous legs.

I'll leave it for someone with a better command of baseball history to speak to his place in the game, although uses the numbers to paint him a slightly above average catcher who had a few excellent years. Regardless, I'll always remember him as one of the players who turned me into a baseball fan, and who took me on an incredible journey that culminated in that World Series win on my birthday back in 2004.

Smooth sailing Tek.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: Injinji Toesocks

From the time I started running, I have had problems with blisters.  Blisters on the bottom of my feet, blisters on my toes, If you describe them, I've probably had them.

In search of a solution, I tried a number of different synthetic fiber socks.  Some I liked better than others, but the sock I ultimately settled on was a pair of lightweight Merino wool blend socks from Patagonia.  (The exact model has been discontinued, but I believe that these are the replacement.)  They fit great, kept my feet drier than any synthetic fiber, and eliminated all of my blister problems but one.

The remaining problem was with my middle toe on my left foot.  During my long runs, it invariably develops a huge, blood filled blister at the front of the toe.  I have no clue why - the toe is normal sized, doesn't curl in any direction, and generally appears normal.  While the blister hurts, it doesn't impede my running, so I've pretty much learned to accept it.

OK, enough about my toe problems.  Lets talk about this weekend's run.  Last time I ran, I discovered that my wool socks had worn through, which happens pretty quickly with wool socks.  Time passed, and I failed to get down to Patagonia to replace them.  So, Friday night I ducked into a running store near my work - and found myself staring at a bunch of brands of socks I'd never tried before.

I ended up picking up the Injinji Performance Series Original socks, because I was intrigued by the five-toe design.  Note that Injinji doesn't market the five-toe design as a solution to blisters.  Rather, it claims that the reason for the design is that, by allowing the toes to spread out, it "allows proper alignment for stability, gripping and balance."

I don't know if I achieved any better stability or balance, but I can attest to the fact that my toes were able to to spread out inside my shoes much more than they were used to.  In fact, I could feel my big toe touching the side of the toe box, which never happens with regular socks!

Some people claim that these feel a bit strange at first, but for me they felt perfectly natural (perhaps because I am used to walking around the house in bare feet.)  The only fit issue was that the there is too much space for my little toe.  But even though there was some loose sock at the end of the toe, it didn't cause any problems.  Also the "Mini Crew" version comes up higher on my ankle than I expected - but its a perfect length for keep debris from getting into the socks, so I actually really like it.

But the big question is, how were they for running?  Well, they felt great the whole time.  (I got the "original" level of cushioning; they also come in lightweight and midweight.)  Just as importantly, after 18 miles, I came back without a single blister - not even one on my middle toe.    Wherever it was rubbing the problem, the problem is solved.

For now, I am loving these socks.  The only caveat is that today was a cool day - so, we'll see how well they do keeping my feet dry (and thus, the bottoms of my feet blister-free) when it gets hot.  The Performance Series of socks is made with 70% CoolMax fiber, which has been pretty good to me in other products, but not perfect.  I suspect, in any case, I'll want some of the "lightweight" ones once it warms up.

It turns out, though, that there may be an even better sock for me:  Injinji also makes an "Outdoor Series" of socks, that are made with 70% NuWool (which in turn is a combination of Merino wool and other fibers).  I hope I'll get a chance to try them out and report back on them...

Red Sox to ban drinking in the clubhouse

Bobby Valentine has laid down the law.  There will be no alcohol in the clubhouse this season.

Way to go, Valentine!  This is the right move.

I can't say whether the beer drinking was responsible for last season's collapse or not.    Beckett says it wasn't.  And as long as the pitchers were putting in their preparation during the day, there is no reason why a beer on a night they weren't pitching should cause pitching problems.

But, preparation issues aside, players should be expected to show that, even if they aren't participating, they are taking the game that is going on seriously.  Perhaps if they watch the game closely, they might even learn a few new things about the opposing batters.

Kudos to David Ortiz for getting behind this rule change:
“We’re not here to drink. We’re here to play baseball,” the slugger said. “This ain’t no bar. If you want to drink, drink at home.”
It would be nice to hear Beckett and Lester say they are in back-to-back with Big Papi on this one, though I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

As a postscript, there's another related rule change as well: no drinking onboard the last plane of road trips, either.  Was this a problem that we didn't know about?  In any case, it will be interesting to see if players start taking the earlier flights.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Well, When You Put It That Way...

Insights on Red Sox pitching from Ruben Lipszyc, the author of Red Sox Nation - Alberta:
The top 3 pitchers in the rotation are back, and Buchholz didn't pitch after the middle of June, so the top of the rotation can potentially improve. There's been a lot of talk about not addressing the #4 and 5 slots. Despite many rumours, Boston did not sign Oswalt, Kuroda or Edwin Jackson or make a bid on Yu Darvish, or trade for John Danks. But last year Lackey pitched all season with an ERA well above 6. DiceK while healthy contributed an ERA over 5. Wakefield had the 4th most starts on the team, and his ERA was North of 5 as well. Andrew Miller started 12 games and had an even higher ERA. And please don't get me started on Kyle Weiland who would have made any of the above look like Cy Young in comparison. That's a total of 75 games started by pitchers with a combined ERA of approximately 5.80. I believe that Bard, Aceves and any others that need to fill in due to the inevitable injuries such as Cook, Padilla, Duckworth, Silva, Ohlendorf etc, can'd do any worse. I really see the starting rotation as being a large improvement over last year. Replacing Papelbon with Bailey and Melancon was a very smart move. On the field it may be a slight downgrade, but it never makes sense to overpay for relievers - particularly closers.
I like the optimism! Getting excited for the season to start...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The New Yorker Fiction Podcasts

On a whim, I started downloading the free New Yorker Fiction Podcasts available from the iTunes store. I was skeptical at first because my impressions of New Yorker fiction have always been somewhat negative; my impression was that they were always too impressed with themselves or too urban (read: about NYC) to consistently appeal to someone living outside of the big apple. And there are certainly some stories like this here: James McCourt’s depiction of a cinematic femme fatale in “Avenged” was to my eye overwritten and boring. But I have to eat some crow here: I was completely mistaken. Most of the stories are not only really entertaining, but cover a wide range of fiction: you can hear stories from such notables as Jamaica Kincaid, Denis Johnson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Monroe, James Salter, Roberto Bolaño, and Donald Bartheleme. I’ve also been introduced to some writers that I had never heard of before: two of Stephanie Vaughn’s excellent tales about a military family stationed in Fort Niagara and - my favorite one so far - Stewart Dybek's hypnotic Russian-doll of a story called "Paper Lantern."

The podcasts are hosted by the fiction editor of the New Yorker, Deborah Treisman, who sets the scene by introducing and interviewing  the narrator for a few minutes before (s)he reads any story of their choosing from The New Yorker archives. After the presentation then the two of them discuss and analyze the story. For non-professional narrators, the stories are almost always engaging, and their insights into the stories both thoughtful and enlightening. My favorite reader so far is either Salman Rushdie’s pitch-perfect take on Donald Barthelme’s “Consider the Bodyguard,” a difficult tale composed entirely of questions, or Orhan Pamuk’s rich Slavic baritone narration of Vladimir Nabokov’s “My Russian Education.” Some of the parings don't seem to match at first, like Allegra Goodman's bubbly voice reading the very-male narration of John Updike's "A&P" or Anne Enright's thick Irish brogue presenting  John Cheever's very American "The Swimmer," but in both cases the narrator won me over in the end. I'm not sure why this is - it might be that since the narrators are all authors themselves, their love of the words carries over into the recording. All I know is that I've been really enjoying them and plan on checking out the entire series. Next up: David Means reading Raymond Carver's "Chef's House."

Related Posts:
Running with Podcasts
Cross Posted on Thought Ambience

Chris Carpenter to the Red Sox

No, not that Chris Carpenter.

This Chris Carpenter.

In exchange for nabbing Theo Epstein, the Cubs are sending over a26-year-old righthanded relief pitcher.  Last year was his first year in the majors; he appeared in 10 games and did 9-2/3 innings of work.  During those innings, he struck out 8 batters, walked 7 batters, and gave up 3 earned runs.  

I'm glad to see us get another young arm in the pen, even if those walks are a little worrisome. 

The deal also calls for the Cubs to give Boston a player to be named later, and for Boston to give the Cubs a player to be named later.

Related posts:
Et Tu, Theo?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Retiring as a Red Sox

Following up on Joel's post, I wanted to note how classy Tim Wakefield's retirement speech was, and that he really did mean what he said. Afterwards, Alex Speier of WEEI reported that:
According to Barry Mesiter, the agent for Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer turned down four contract offers for this coming season -- including one guaranteed major league offer -- in order to either return for or retire as a Red Sox.
I just hope that Tex's retirement goes down like this. It's always hard to see your team's great players go to other teams in the twilight of their career. I myself am still scarred by the sight of Thurman Thomas playing one last sad season in Miami - Miami! - before calling it quits.

Related Posts: Tim Wakefield to Announce He Is Retiring

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Shoes

In the mail today: a new pair of the Brooks Launch.   These will be replacing the blue and silver ones that I have been wearing for all of my long runs since the 50k.

I love how smooth and comfortable these feel straight out of the box.  When a shoe is right, its right.

For comparison's sake, I put one of my old ones on one foot, and a new one on the other.  It was striking how worn down the old pair felt, especially as I have only put 300 miles on them.  That's not a lot of miles for a pair of shoes.  But given that I paid only $63 for my new pair (thanks, Running Warehouse!), I can't complain.

I do prefer the blue and silver color scheme, but these black ones were $20 cheaper.  The different colors do share a lot of the same components, such as the silver overlays and the neon green rubber in the soles.  I'm thinking of switching the green laces from my old pair over to the new ones, to pep them up a bit.


UPDATE (2/18): I took the shoes out for their first run today, a 10-miler.  I promptly beat my previous record by a full three minutes, or in other words, by a pace of 18 seconds per mile.  Could it have been due to all the training I've done during the winter?  Or perhaps the beautiful 50 degree weather, or that I was returning the C&O canal towpath, which was just slightly damp today and perfectly packed?  Nah.  It must have been the shoes.

Related posts:
Review: Brooks Launch

Tim Wakefield to Announce he is Retiring

This from today's Boston Globe:
Tim Wakefield will announce his retirement at 5 p.m. today at JetBlue Park.  Wakefield, 45, was 200-180 with a 4.41 ERA in 627 appearances in his 19-year career. The Florida native spent the final 17 seasons with the Red Sox, going 186-168 with a 4.43 ERA over 590 games. He is third in team history for victories, trailing only Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who each had 192.
He wasn't that fun to watch, but he was a huge contributor to the Red Sox over the years.  While he struggled quite a bit over the past two years, he always wanted to play and he always wanted to win.  Thanks, Wake, for all you've done for the Sox!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shoe Review: Saucony Mirage

unlike a lot of people who found their way into a pair of Saucony Mirage, i was not led down their path from prior experience with the Saucony Kinvara.  I was looking for a shoe to compliment my go-to running shoe, the Brooks PureCadence.  I tend to buy into the theory that you should vary your footwear from time to time to work even a slightly different area of muscles in your legs.  still, with hopes of finding a shoe that kept within the same basic guidelines of the PureCadence, i soon realized my options were quite limited.  those guidelines where:

  • 4-5mm drop
  • some stability control
  • less than 10oz
the Saucony Mirage are one of the few shoes that fit the bill in a new trend of "moderate minimalism".  to be clear, and this should not be understated, the Mirage are *NOT* minimalist shoes.  here are the specs:

  • 26mm heel, 21mm forefoot (5mm drop)
  • 9.4 oz (weight is for size 9, reviewed shoe is size 11.5)
  • Saucony's "Supportive Arc" stability control built into the midsole
when i first put these shoes on they felt very, very strange.  it felt as though there was extra material under the front part of the heel and the forefoot.  the toebox also felt very tight.  the shoe didn't feel all that comfortable and very far from natural or form-fitting to my foot.

still, being the shoe geek that i am i was excited to try them out, and, with todd coming over for our typical thursday night 10-miler, i would try them straight away.  looking back, i probably would have been better suited breaking them in a bit before setting out on a 10 mile run with them, but, hey, i'm well beyond that at this point!  by the end of that first run, my feet were killing me.  the cushioning and midsole felt very stiff and un-responsive, the heel cup didn't quite keep my heel in place and the narrow toe box felt constricting.  needless to say, i wasn't pleased with the shoes after my first run.

still, at todd's urging that i needed to break them in, i gave them a few more runs.  i have nearly 60 miles in them and while i'm not going to tell you these are in the same class as the Brooks PureCadence, i am happy to have them in my rotation, especially at the $59 purchase price (i believe they are even cheaper now on  

my thoughts after having broken them in a bit more:
  • the shoes feel very light on your feet.  they give you ample cushioning and ample support without feeling like you're wearing bricks.  this is a big plus and the best reason for owning them.  the strangeness i felt on first putting the shoes on (cushioning under heel and forefoot) has lessened (it's still there, but the midsole has compacted, broken in and is much more comfortable now).
  • the narrow toe box is what it is.  i tend to like more room for my toes which enhances my foots ability to do what it does best.  that coupled with the stiff midsole, which does provide good enough cushioning, but also forces you to be more aware of your running form aren't going to enhance your propriocpetion while running.
  • if you have issues with the heel cup like i do, you can play around with the lacing to get a better fit which almost resolves that issue.
  • the shoes are very breathable.  this is readily apparent on a cold, windy run and will be nice to have come warmer weather.
  • the tongue has a tendency to shift down and to the side over the course of the run, causing a bit of discomfort in the top of the foot, under the laces.

i won't use these shoes for runs longer than 10 miles, nor will they ever be my go-to shoe.  but for the price, you really can't go wrong if you're just looking to add a short-mileage shoe to your rotation.

Related Posts:
Kinvara 2 Review
Shoe Review: Brooks PureCadence

Monday, February 13, 2012

Papi is coming back!

i don't think many of us doubted that we'd see David Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform this year, but the question of just how much the two sides would have to go through to get there was certainly at the foreground of this situation.  no one wanted to see Papi and the Red Sox go to arbitration.

i'm happy to see that both sides appear to have reached a deal for the upcoming season.  $14.575 million was right in the middle between the two sides and it would appear that everyone is happy.  according to Papi's agent, Fernando Cuza:
both sides are very happy with the deal and we'll leave it at that. This is a process and once we got together and talked it out it made sense to get a deal done and move on.
the pieces are falling into place, and, while i don't think anyone knows what the big picture is going to look like, i for one am starting to accept it for what it is and get jazzed for the season.

Thoughts from a 12.4 Miler

Random pondering from a 12.4 mile run yesterday:

  • The temperature was in the mid-20s with a biting Canadian wind chill in the single-digits to low teens. To combat this, I wore three wicking shirts and a shell. It ended up being a touch too warm in the sun – surprisingly strong for February! – but was just enough when in the shade.
  • My mid-run energy snack was a Gu packet, stored in my handheld. Difficult to eat half-frozen! Eric and Joel recommend the Honey Stinger energy chews - i'll have to check them out.
  • After an initial bad impression, I've been enjoying my Saucony Guide 4s on mid-range runs (6-8 miles). I tried them on this longer run today and was disappointed. When my form breaks down at the end of a long run, like it did for my final two miles today: that's when I truly appreciate the rugged Brooks Adrenaline.
  • At 9.5 miles, I turn west-bound onto Pleasant Street in Ashland. The road concentrated the cold air blowing eastward, and it felt like running repeatedly into a brick wall. A frozen one. My legs were not the same after that.
    It's been a good winter for running with the lack of snow, but the wind yesterday was killer. 
  • Neil Young's Ragged Glory is an awesome running album. And its crown jewel is "F*!#in' up"
  • I had originally planned out a 14 miler, and felt some shame for cutting it short, but today my body is thanking me. It also meant I had something left in the tank to play with my kids afterwards.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: To Siberia, by Per Petterson

I am a big fan of Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, and I wanted to like To Siberia just as much.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

To Siberia was Per Petterson's second novel, written in 1996.  It was translated into English and published in the U.K. in 1998; however, it only made its way to the United States in 2008, following the success of Out Stealing Horses, the author's fifth novel.

Like Out Stealing Horses, To Siberia is a novel of memories -- in this case, the memories of an unnamed woman in her twilight years, remembering her childhood in Denmark and her subsequent young adulthood.  The first half of the book is riveting, particularly in its descriptions of her relationship with her older brother.  He is a daredevil and a budding political activist; she looks up to his every move.  Both wish to escape the suffocating life of the small port town where they live and their domineering, devoutly religious mother.  He hopes to find his way to Morocco; she dreams of going to Siberia.

Then comes World War II and the German occupation.  Her brother defies the Nazis one time too many and is forced to escape from the country.  She stays behind, finding work first as a phone operator and later at a variety of humdrum jobs in various northern European countries.  It is in the second half where the book seriously loses steam.  She wanders around Northern Europe aimlessly, limited by her meagre funds.  She passively lets men (and one woman) use her for sex, from which she derives no apparent enjoyment.  I have no doubt that there are people whose lives are as empty as hers.  But Per Petterson offered me no reason to be interested in this life.  Did she finally make it to Siberia?  By the end, I didn't care.  

Nevertheless, the time spent reading To Siberia was not entirely wasted.  The writing is beautiful, even if it is frequently unflinching and bleak.  As such, I still look forward to reading It's Fine By Me, the author's first novel.  But while those who consider themselves fans of Petterson's other novels may want to give To Siberia a try, others should probably pass.

Related Posts:
Per Petterson: It's Fine By Me

Taking Amazon out of Cyberspace

Amazon's going to open retail stores:
"They intend on going with the small boutique route with the main emphasis on books from their growing line of Amazon Exclusives and selling their e-readers and tablets." 
I find this intriguing. Is there really a demand for a physical location to check out kindles and the exclusive books? All I've been hearing about the last few years is how amazon is forcing bookstores out of business. It seems to me like they've got the perfect situation online, so why would they start opening physical stores? I assume they're hoping that it'll turn into a trend-setting high-tech destination like apple's stores, but apple has panache and mystique that amazon lacks. Am I  missing something ?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Who Changed My eBook?

I’m finding it hard to get too worked up about Jonathan Franzen’s comments about eBooks being a threat to our society. I’m not sure that anyone really took them too seriously. (As Eric mentioned, the best reaction to this is from the comments of that article: "While I actually agree with him, not through any coherently constructed argument but on simple instinct and principle, he is such an insufferable bore that I am inclined to go out and purchase a Kindle out of sheer spite." Note that IMO his New Yorker fiction podcast solidified my opinion of him as just that.)

However, I believe he did make some good points around the archival of digital versions of content that got lost in the shuffle. Luckily, Alyssa Rosenberg writing in Think Progress takes up some of the arguments here, and while she makes some good points, I’d like to rebut with a few of my own:
  • She mentions some of the more egregious content changes in recent memory (Han shot first: still infuriating) but the flip side of this argument is that sometimes content changes are made for the better. To choose a few examples just off the top of my head – can anyone honestly argue that the Director’s Cut of Bladerunner is honestly better than the commercial version with that godawful voice over? Or that one version of the numerous versions of Walt Whitman’s Blades of Grass is better than another? (And don’t tell me that you’re read and compared the different versions because you’d be a liar.) Content change is neither implicitly good nor bad.
  • I think she’s being naive when she twrites that “people’s vigilance will keep content providers honest.” She writes this when the technology is new and people are fascinated with it. When the technology gets old and commonplace and people take advantage of it – as they invariably will – this vigilance will either end or be the province of a small group of people who can’t possibly keep track of everything.
What do you think?

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience.

Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say

This one literally made me laugh out loud.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners

Of late, I feel like I've been sharing a lot of posts from the The New York Times's Well blog.   If so, its because they do a damn good job of staying on top of the latest scientific studies about running.

The latest study comes to us from Harvard University, where researchers reviewed four years' worth of data recorded by the long distance runners of Harvard's cross country and track teams.  The Times cites the study as finding that:
"About two-thirds of the group wound up hurt seriously enough each year to miss two or more training days. But the heel strikers were much more prone to injury, with a twofold greater risk than the forefoot strikers."
An abstract of the study is here.  It notes that heel strikers were more likely to incur repetitive stress injuries; there was no significant difference with regard to traumatic injuries.  Other factors contributed to repetitive stress injuries as well, including sex, race distance, and average miles per week.

I'd like to try to read the whole thing.  People are already citing it for all sorts of things, such as the proposition that barefoot running is best -- which is kind of funny since no barefoot runners were involved in the study.

The Benefits of Post-Run Massage

We all know that massage feels good after a run, whether it is self-massage, the use of a foam roller, or massage from a professional.  But does it actually speed recovery? 

One recent scientific study suggests the answer is yes.  Somehow, the scientists managed to convince a group of young men to engage in vigorous exercise for an hour, have one leg massaged but not the other, and then to have both legs biopsied at various intervals, so that the scientists could determine how massage affected the tissues.  The scientists found that the massage reduced the production of certain chemicals that cause soreness, while also stimulating the production of mitochondria.

On the other hand, it is worth pointing out that previous studies have shown that -- contrary to popular belief -- massage impedes blood flow, and impairs the removal of lactic issue from muscle tissue.  (But then again, lactic acid may be a fuel, not a caustic waste product.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville, is a smart, fast-paced, crime thriller.  If you are a fan of the genre, I highly recommend it.

The story is set in post-conflict Northern Ireland.  The main character -- I hesitate to say "hero" -- is Gerry, Fegan, a former killer for the IRA.  Since the ceasefire, he has drowned himself in alcohol, fighting off the memories of those who he killed.  Finally, he determines that the only way to exorcise his demons is to take vengeance on behalf of his victims, hunting down and killing those who ordered their deaths.  His wave of killings, which includes high-profile targets, threatens to derail the entire peace process.  As a result, just about everyone wants him dead.

James Ellroy called The Ghosts of Belfast "The best first novel I've read in years ... It's a flat out terror trip."  While Neville's writing is much more straightforward than Ellroy, the two have a lot in common.  Much like Ellroy, Neville plunges straight into the action.  If you're not familiar with the politics and the peace process in Northern Ireland, you may find yourself at times working to keep up.  And in the end, nobody comes out looking good.

The Ghosts of Belfast was published in the United States in 2010 by SoHo Press, one of my favorite small publishers.  It was previously published in the U.K. in 2009, with the title The Twelve

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shoe Review: Asics Sky Speed

More than any other running shoe company, Asics likes tinkering with its lines.  New models will arrive one year, only to be completely discontinued the next.  Such was the case with the Gel-Bandito, which I loved.  And such is the case with the DS Sky Speed.

The Sky Speed was originally released in November 2010.  A slightly updated Sky Speed 2 followed in June 2011.  Then, in December 2011, the Sky Speed line was discontinued entirely.  It's now possible to pick up both the original Sky Speed and the Sky Speed 2 at clearance prices from online retailers.  I picked up a pair for $42.

So what is the Sky Speed?  It was designed to be a high-end, lightweight, neutral shoe.  If you think that sounds something like the Asics Speedstar, you are right.  But where the Speedstar was known to have a narrow fit, the Sky Speed was built on the same, wider platform as the very popular DS Trainer shoe, but without the DS Trainer's stability features. 

 I found the Sky Speed, like most Asics shoes, to have very firm cushioning.  In addition, the cushioning feelsto be more built up in certain areas, including under the joint of my big toe, and along the inside of the heel.  This felt awkward when I first stepped into them, but the sensation quickly disappeared while running.

One of the best things about this shoe is how well it holds my foot in place.  When running up and down steep hills, my foot did not slip inside the shoe at all.  For me, this shoe will make for happier, healthier feet when doing hillwork.

Some runners have complained about the asymmetrical lacing, which runs diagonally across the top of the foot.  For me, the lacing felt perfectly comfortable.   

While I have nothing against the bright orange color, the shoes do look a little plastic-y.  The overlays on the side and the toebox seem excessive.  (Some of the overlays are even designed to look like mesh; the silver "mesh" in the above picture is not mesh at all.)  Given this I worry a little about whether this shoe will feel hot in the summer.

In case you are looking at both the Sky Speed and the Sky Speed 2: not much has changed between the two versions, although Asics did modify the lacing system a little bit, and reduced the overlays.  I think the blue color of the Sky Speed 2 also looks better (although, to me, not worth paying more for.)

I'll report back on the Sky Speed once I've put down some more miles.  Drop us a comment if you have any questions.

Related posts:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus

I picked up Erin Morgenstern's debut novel on the strength of a mesmerizing excerpt  that started out: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” Dramatic, is it not? The first part of the book continues in this vein, telling the story of how the le Cirque des Rêves comes to be and detailing how it’s connected to a contest between a pair of mysterious star-crossed magicians. It’s easily the most entertaining part of the novel.

But like a dull superhero with a fascinating origin story, the novel rapidly loses steam after the circus opens. A love story emerges, but despite Morgenstern's best efforts, it lacks passion. You read many, many descriptions of the Night Circus' fantastical attractions, including an ice castle, an elaborate labyrinth, a room filled with scents that transport you to different places in time, impossibly intricate clocks, and so on. Taken in isolation, some of them do indeed transport you into another place; taken together, they all meld together so that no one scene really distinguishes itself. The result is a perfect circus, effortlessly pulled together, with no failures or picture of the sweat and blood that must have occurred behind the scenes. The circus is like a diamond without flaws, and you walk around it, vaguely stunned by its shiny perfection, but kind of bored because of the lack of drama in it all. It's capped off by a rather predictable ending.

This came off more negatively than I meant, but all in all, while The Night Circus was a diverting read, it never lived up to the promise of the beginning. Here's hoping Morgenstern can keep her momentum next time!

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience.

Running: A Tale of Two Januarys

what a difference a year makes!!

having just wrapped up what is surely the best month of running in my recent running years, i've taken a bit of time to reflect on the past year.  it's no mystery that we run for the love of running here at rrrs, that we get much more out of it than splits, PRs and other simple numbers.  that said, i do take pleasure in improvement, even if only because it allows me to do more of something i love with less negative effect.

so how did the numbers shake out?

January Miles Run
- in 2011: 45.35
- in 2012: 151.64

January Time Running
- in 2011: 7hr:50m:27s
- in 2012: 22hr:11m:11s

what is most important to me is that, contrary to past months where i've tried to push myself and ended up limping or unable to run at all, i've done it right leading into this month.  i've cranked it up gradually, remained healthy and happy, and when i wasn't feeling right, i simply dialed back.  i'm feeling as good as i can remember feeling, both on the run and otherwise, and i'm enjoying the runs more and more.

please forgive this moment of self-indulgence, but i am quite happy with myself!