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

All aboard the Strava Train!

Runners are a special breed of people. You’ve all seen the article, “Are runners smarter?” We like to think we are! Especially when it comes to recording our training. When you’re a runner can’t help but gaze over your logged miles, time spent running, pace etc without feeling like a micromanaging pack rat. I promise you it’s fun being anal about the running digits. It’s the best way to monitor your progress and keep tabs on every run. How you ask? Stravastrava

One of my coworkers recommended using Strava – and I’ll admit, I’m never going back to just any mediocre mile logging website.  Let me explain. Strava is a playground for runners when they’re not running. You can upload your runs via a gps watch or even your smartphone. It works similar to facebook where you can follow your friends and see their workouts first hand. You see EVERYTHING! haha their pace, route, heartbeat (if they have the strap).

You may say, awww this is like every other website out there. BUT NO! One word. Segments. Segments are point A to point B stretches. They can be a single road, a steep 15% climb, descents, winding roads.

Capture

This is a segment I claimed while I was visiting friends in Wilmore, KY (aka old stomping grounds).  You can see it’s an easy descending hill, so it wasn’t a challenge to grab. Here’s the leaderboard:Capture2

 

Since Strava was originally a cycling site, you can tell the running hasn’t taken off by storm. The leader boards are pretty weak in comparison to the cycling. By the way, see the guy in second? After I robbed him of his record, he tired to beat mine a couple days later. Aaaand you can see the evidence – no dice for him. Better luck next time.

Are you excited yet…blood boiling? Segments are bridging the gap between reality and good ol’ virtual competition. We’re living in a great time people. This site is an excellent motivator to get you on the road and having some friendly push and shove with your chaps.

The site also uses a club function. I’m currently on the Acidotic Racing leader board where your weekly numbers are stacked up against all your teammates. There have been many times where I’ll do double day workouts to put my face on the podium, even if it is only third place. It’s fun to be noticed for your hard work.

So this service is free. There is a premium membership for 6 dollars a month. There are couple of features that make it worth it. My favorite being the heatmaps. Strava will create a map and color coat it based on where you travel most.

heatmap

Here’s my running playground at school. The red lines are the most traveled roads and trails while the darker and lighter blue lines are taken less. You can see the campus and roads surrounding are super concentrated while the outskirts are more blue. It’s a really innovative feature.

Premium members also have access to useful training videos that explain how to do hill repeats, progression runs, and much more. Another way they’ve measured your workout efforts is through the Suffer Score. This scores the amount of effort you’ve put into a session based of off your heart rate frequencies and personal bests.

I highly recommend you leave your current mundane log and move to Strava. It’s a highway to relieve your hunger pangs for running, cycling, and swimming data. You’ll thank me later!

Check out this cool 2014 summary video:

http://2014story.strava.com/video/4267598

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:

http://www.strava.com/activities/206113914/embed/c31b96ad38c9be5cd0d3badee0bf2bbd48c1a1ae

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!

Spinning wheels

Hey people, another friendly update coming your way. I’ve done a handful in the past three months, so much to tell! The biggest change has been the addition of cycling into my training. Yes, you’re looking at the proud owner of a new trek domane 2.0. I’ve logged almost 700 miles in less than two months. Can you tell I love it yet? trek-domane-20-triple-2014-road-bike I call him…Andy. Inside joke!

Cycling has become another outlet for me to unleash my demons and bring me back to earth. And the awesome part is I’ve met some great people just riding in groups. At Goodales in Nashua they have groups riding out on a regular basis, so there’s no drought of social gatherings. Learning the ins and outs of group riding has been a blast too. Get this. When you’re riding in a peloton (french word for platoon) everyone carries the same load of work. You ride in a line similar to a congo line or Indian sprints. Each rider takes his turn cutting through the wind at the front while the riders behind sit back and draft with little effort. It’s a fun and interesting system. I now understand why cycling tours are formulaic and strategic. There’s plenty to uncover and learn. So on with the not-so-good news. I’m a crash/injury prone newbie and here’s your evidence:EXP0000 Left collarbone is broken…you should see the other guy

What?! Again? Another injury? I have good excuses. My friend Jack and I were descending a 10% grade traveling about 40mph, when we banked a right turn and an extraordinary gust of wind knocked me from the center of the road to the shoulder in a  matter of seconds. It was one of the moments of shear surprise with absolutely no control. Once my wheels touched gravel – I knew my fate was sealed. The big OH nooo! Sure enough, I blinked and I was laying on the ground. I stumbled to my feet and saw the blood on my leg already reaching my cleats. Frankly, I was relieved it was only scrapes until I began a damage control search and my shoulder felt…out of place.

Long story short, Jack and I rode to the middle of town to the cycling shop to center my front wheel. The owner commented on my shoulder saying he’s seen a lot of broken collarbones and popped shoulders, and that I definitely have one of those. At that moment in time, hearing that something was potentially broken made me groan in disappointment. In the prime of my training?! No way man!

Currently, I’m off the bike for 6 weeks, which is saddening. The good news is running will be happening in less than 3 weeks. Whatever lessens the chance of me getting hurt again I suppose.

I’ve got lots more in store running wise. On June 8th I’ll be racing at Mount Ascutney in Windsor, VT and on the 12th I’ll be doing the Hollis Fast 5k. More to come!

Free

Are you free?…what is free?

Free (n,adj): not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.

Yes, there’s this type of free. It’s a healthy kind of free when you’re not attached to someone’s will 100% of the time. We all have free will. We’re given the options to live however we wish and to bear the consequences of our actions. Free will is probably the greatest and worst gifts in life. Let me explain. On one hand you’re given the chance to do whatever you dream and there’s no boundaries to how wild your dreams can be too. The world is your painting before you waiting to take on all shades of color. Now the downside…isn’t too much of a downside because you can try to cheat the system. Being realistic! You may not become president one day, however you can make waves of inspiration in other forms – perhaps not the form you expected.

Free (v): release from captivity, confinement, or slavery.

I think both definitions of free are important. But aren’t verbs more fun? Of course.

Now if you’ve ever worked a retail job – you know of how 99.9% the shifts pan out. Often times it’s a wrestling match with your inner self to force yourself out the door and to the punch in clock. It takes lots of mind trickery to convince yourself it’s worth it and that it matters in the end. Hey it pays the bills, doesn’t it? Lots of days I come home feeling brain fried, but not from “working” – from the mental strain of being present. How do you escape those tireless negative thoughts? I run. It’s so simple to the point where just the idea of it boils my blood like a chicken noodle.

To escape the complexities and demands of the world is something we must all put time aside to do. It creates breathing room between what you love and what is necessary. That buffer is SO healthy. It allows you can keep your sanity in check when you think you’re losing all your marbles. Running to me is a relationship with mind, body, and soul. It sounds ridiculously cornish but bear with me. You must balance the three equally. Don’t pay into treating your body like king because your mind will take a toll and you honestly might be running for the wrong reasons. Running to keep physically fit, yes that’s fine. Running for fun and the love of movement, that’s my line of thinking. When you lose sight of the reasons you set out to do something you love –  it becomes a chore. It’s a sad happening. It makes me unhappy just thinking about it. There have been times when I get out the door and the entire run from start to finish is a unfortunate grind. Thankfully there are little things called rest days to revamp your attitude and body.

Inspiration from Anna Frost:

A little update here. After my CT scan, the doctor’s first found my ankles to be asymmetrical. I thought my Aryan heritage meant I was scot free from imperfections?! Actually, it was a doctor’s miscalculation because there was more radiation circulating in my left leg. After all this I saw another podiatrist yet again. In true 30 second commercial fashion, he said I have plantar fasciitis. THAT’S IT?! GOOD OL’ PF! Man, had someone only told me earlier there would be no reason to dance through the medical field’s flaming hoops. I’ve been doing more stretches, foot massages, icing than normal to nurse this poor puppy back to full strength. For those who don’t know what plantar fasciitis is – it’s a tearing ligament that runs from your heel to the ball of the foot. I have tearing in the heel area.

The good news is it’s getting better. Funny story I want to share. The other night I was icing normally with a cold pack underneath my heel. I got wrapped up in whatever I was watching on my computer, and got some freeze burn from prolonged icing. Bad I know, but it’s a distracting pain from the real problem. Sham wow!

In running news, yesterday I ran on the gym’s dreadmill and got such a high…higher than a kite! It face lifted my mood more than spinning on the stationary bike ever could.

More to come peeps. I’m not prepped enough to run the Boston’s Prep race on sunday, but there’s no stopping a train.

Kinvara 5 Preview

Better late than never running folks. I’d like to show you a shoe worth drooling over. If you haven’t heard of the Saucony Kinvara – well, you’ve been living under a rock because it’s one of the best shoes out there. Just look, please.

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Wa la the Kinvara 5. Just to give you an enlightened run down. The Kinvara is apart of Saucony’s natural motion series, which is their attempt at minimalist running shoes. What I love about all of the natural shoes is that, they’re minimal, aka 4mm heel to toe offset and under. However, there’s absolutely no sacrifice to cushion. I would classify it as a reduced shoe. Also, when you wear any Kinvara, there’s an immediate desire to go fast. The build of the shoe definitely propels you forward and makes you feel good doing it. The golden rule is, so long as the ride is flat – I’d say it fits the minimalist bill.

Upgrades:

1. The main complaint peeps had with previous iterations is durability because the flex film upper tears easily. Part of the blame should be on the runners who jam their wide foot into a medium width shoe. Come on, they come in wides too you know. The seamless welded upper is still kickin, but there’s more meat too it this time around. Hopefully this lessens the chance of ripage.

2. Progrid to Powergrid. The best cushioning system that Saucony offers period. Which is interesting because the Kinvara is looking more and more like a lighter version of the Cortana with the upgrade in cushioning.

3. I wouldn’t call this an upgrade, but it’s still impressive. The men’s shoe still maintains a weight of 7.7 oz, even with the meatier upper and higher quality midsole foam. How in the world?!

There she is. If any of you have an interest in running in a reduced 4mm heel drop running shoe – here’s your reason to get one. The Kinvara 5 is releasing May 1st this year.