New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay Review

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In search of new shoes, I checked my options by first looking at brands I hadn’t tried yet. But that idea that quickly over turned when I laid eyes on New Balance’s update to the 980 Fresh Foam. I remember trying last year’s model at work (for those who don’t know, I work at Fleet Feet) and was extremely impressed because it didn’t feel like a New Balance shoe. I said to myself, “Self, my feet are actually comfortable in a New Balance shoe.” Then the heavens opened up and I knelt one knee to say “I do”. But really, the catch of the Fresh Foam are its differences to its New Balance relatives. No weirdly shaped upper contour, no arch support placed far back on the heel, no cushioning feeling rock solid. It’s a new breed of New Balance that should be continued for the sake of runners!

After remembering my good experience jogging around the store with the original Fresh Foam – I decided to give the update an honest attempt.

Cushioning

The Fresh Foam Boracay is named after a beach in the Philippines, a beautiful beach too. Assuming the name, New Balance must have intended this shoe to feel like walking on a soft sandy beach, however they’ve missed the mark. After putting fifty miles into the shoe, it’s more firm and responsive than soft and squishy. Even out of the box, you’ll notice the springy give from the midsole. It’s not a bad feeling! In fact, I prefer my shoes to give me more control during my toe offs and less feeling like you have to fight your feet sinking. As a side note, New Balance should advertise their shoe differently if they’re going to compare it to running on a beach. A trampoline maybe?

After doing a fifteen mile long run last week, the shoe performed great until ten miles in. The problem was at that point my legs were tired and needed more give from pounding the road. So be weary that ten miles plus, you may start to wish you had a softer shoe.

On downhills, it’s no Hoka by any stretch, but it provides a decent amount of protection. I’ve let my legs fly on a 13% grade road downhill and my feet are still attached, so I call it safe if you enjoy tearing down slopes.

Upper

No sew upper construction is a God send. Its slipper feel is another differing factor that makes it such a great shoe. Above the toes are plastic overlays that help the upper retain its shape. It reminds me of the wave design on the Kinvara 3, subtle and aesthetically pleasing. There is reflective shiny plastic that wraps around the front and heel for night time visibility. Bottom of the tongue is elastic and allows you to pull it over your foot without bunching – something I enjoy doing every time I lace up. The tongue is soft and sits evenly on your foot without any problems. I would describe it as meaty, but I welcome that with arms wide because it’s comfortable. The upper is my favorite part of this shoe. I have a medium width foot and enjoy the overall wrap. If your feet are wide, the shoe does come in other widths, thanks NB!

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Performance

In my shoe lineup at the moment, I’ve been using the Boracay for medium/long runs. Not the best I’ve experienced for the job just recently coming off the Nimbus 16, but significantly lighter. The shoe weights in at 9.0oz, which is appreciated for those longer distances. I wouldn’t recommend this shoe for long distance marathon training, it’s simply not soft enough to provide protection. It’s stack height 22mm (Heel) and 18mm (Forefoot). A 4mm drop in this package is impressive. Lately I’ve been trying to keep my drops 6mm and under for natural running’s sake. Another note, the outsole is extremely grippy. On the roads, you can take turns on a dime. I tried them on the trails yesterday and they performed like any road shoe would, typical mud sliding in the wet parts.

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Update Changes

The biggest update to the 980v2 is the upper, which I believe to be slightly wider in the toe box. The midsole’s convex and concave polygons have been enlarged and more consistently placed. Interestingly, when New Balance was first designing this shoe, they constructed the prototype with a 3D printer. By analyzing where people strike the majority of the time while running determined the placement of the polygonal shapes on the midsole. The addition of that elastic tongue base is a nice feature that makes slipping the tongue over your foot more enjoyable. Weight wise, the shoe is identical to its predecessor.

Overall

I would recommend this shoe for anyone looking for a daily trainer who is planning on running a half marathon or anything less. It’s a great shoe and I hope New Balance continues the Fresh Foam line because it’s the best shoe they’ve produced.

8/10

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First Marathon! Bowling Green, KY Marathon 2014

It was done. Milestone completed.

November 2nd I ran the Bowling Green, KY Marathon and pushed my body and mind to limits I never knew existed.

The race started 7am central time. The weather was a raw twenty five degrees, but the sun made it bearable to pre race warm up. After equipping my bib to my Salomon tee, I did some strides in front of ballpark to get the legs up to speed. The race directors were nice enough to include pace marker signs at the start line, so I moseyed over to the 7 minute pace group where I found a couple of strong looking marathon runners to team up with. At the one mile mark an older gent started conversation and asked what my goal times were, so I told him around 3 hours to qualify for Boston. He advised that I should slow it down a bit because he’s experienced plenty of marathon bonkings in his day. So I did just that – sort of. I stopped to fix my compression socks that were falling down my calves, yes, I stopped with no shame. Two marathon runners came up behind me that were talking up a storm so I hung with them for many miles. One of them was a Bowling Green native who was pretty talkative. He was kind enough to give me some terrain pointers, telling me what hills to be weary of. Again, more good advice duly noted!

Imagine the campus of Eastern Kentucky University perched up on a steep hill, now understand that the course ran over the campus a handful of times like a speed bump with attitude. I kid you not, the total elevation gain was about 1,000 feet. Which isn’t unheard of, but tough enough to make you grimace for your first ever 26.2.

So I kept on my two marathon buddy’s heels for the first half. One of guys decided to surge ahead and leave us, so I made a small push at the half to have bragging rights that I was in 2nd at one point. That reality dissipated shortly after we crossed the first half when my buddy left me to pursue first place. Ever watch those Sesame Street bits where they continually say, “Alone. Alone. ALOOONE.” while the words pop up in tandem? My feelings exactly.

Things were great. I was cruising at a safe 6:40 pace all the way up to mile twenty. Weirdly my legs started getting weaker, lessen with each stride length. I knew the wall was coming, and I was bracing for hellish torture was ahead. My honey stingers were losing their sting by my third gel, and I was feeling like I ate the Seinfeld black and white cookie. No, I didn’t barf, but a little was reaching my mouth. Luckily, the last six miles were flat neighborhood so it was a bearable challenge. By the time turned into the first neighborhood, I absolutely had to stop. My legs and mind were playing games with me. I wasn’t ashamed for walking. Although, the hardest part admitting to was that I wasn’t going to qualify. As I transitioned from walk to run I saw my pace on my watch gradually slipping into the seven minute range. I eventually accepted the facts and decided to finish – that was my goal!

race pace

Grueling through the last six miles push me to a dark place in my mind. A battle of bad thoughts danced in my mind trying to discourage my persistent efforts, while I thought positive believing that just finishing will be good for me. Lessons were learned. The three runners that passed me frustrated me because I knew I was a better athlete than they were, however the results said otherwise.

In hindsight, perhaps I went out too fast. I’m glad I did though because that instilled lessons in my running work ethic that I’ll take to my next marathon and the ones after that. There things I want to do differently next time. I want to experiment with new nutrition to ensure my late race is strong and not a slogfest. I also want to figure out another hydration solution. My Salomon hydration pack is useful, but I’d rather not have it on me. Maybe just rely on the aid stations? So many options to play with for next race – I’m getting giddy boi’s and gurls.

Here’s my stats:

Half way – 1:27:33

Finish time – 3:16:30

6th out of 187

Bourbon Chase Aftermath…Marathon Around the Corner

Hey Folks, sorry for the leave of absence for so long. Lots has happened since I last posted. I’m now back in school at little hometown Wilmore, Kentucky where I’m studying Sports Management at Asbury University. It’s wonderful being back at my old stomping grounds where I have friends new and old.

I spent the first month riding, then I suddenly had an urge to challenge myself so I signed up for a marathon. This summer I haven’t touched running, but I’m back at the grindstone getting in 50 miles every week. I picked the Bowling Green Marathon because it’s relatively flat (about 1,000 ft of gain) and it’s a Boston qualifier. So when 2016 rolls around I hope my times are still good to get me signed up. Yesterday I ran my last long run and now it’s time to restrain myself into a taper. Oh boi, it’s difficult saying no to more running because I’m just now rekindling my love for it.

In between my training adventures, my friend Brian came up to me with an offer of running a 200 mile relay race from Clermont to Lexington, KY visiting all the local distilleries along the way. I said HECK YES! You might be thinking, “Oh bourbon chase? Drinking + Running?” The runners actually don’t participate with drinking games while racing – I can’t say I’d want to either haha. We had two vans with six team mates to a van. I sat in with a great group of folks in van one who were privilege to run with.

I had three legs (3.9m, 4.2m, 5.6m). It was the shortest collection of legs compared to everyone else, but the hills made me work for my pace. My plan going in was to run my legs fast, which considering I hadn’t done any speed work in forever – I was satisfied. My favorite leg was at 1:30a in the morning. Here it is:

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I started in the center of Stanford and cruised past three creepy cemeteries. Within my first mile, I spotted a yappy dog chasing down two runners ahead of me. He returned to his post after they were out of reach and then proceeded to hound me down. Before he could eat an ankle, I yelled him down which was a silly scene to witness. What’s with dogs in Kentucky? I’m not carrying the bacon you know. This leg was probably my favorite because visually you have a congo line of bouncing headlamps in rainy darkness. It really captured my mind in the moment. The last half mile I was bombing down a hill as fast as I could throw my legs. Beside me were the team vans lined up along the side of the road. As I ran by, I heard my driver yell, “We’ll pick you up at the handoff Alec!” So I handed off the bracelet to Jim, jumped in the van and we took off. No better way to end a leg. It was a blast! I ended up passing twenty runners which was a morale boost for me and my team.

Race day is November 2nd in Bowling Green at 7am. I’m looking forward to hitting my milestone finally. I’m aiming to finish around the 3 hour mark – that’s my goal!