Monday, June 30, 2014

SRM WEEK 7: In Which A Long Run Does Not Suck. Also Memes.

For whatever reason, my 13 mile long run on Sunday felt like kinda no big whoop, which is remarkable because usually for me getting ready for a long run is epic melodrama that progresses more or less along the following trajectory:

  • Denial. "Long run? What long run? LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!1!"
  • Anger. "Stupid MARATHON TRAINING with its stupid LONG RUNS & stupid GELS and SUNSCREEN and BODY GLIDE and goddammit whose goddam effing stupid-ass idea was this whole thing anyway."
  • Bargaining. "Maybe it'll seem less awful if I wait another hour. Maybe I'll prefer the long run to stabbing myself in the face if I have a little cheese first. Maybe if I wear new shoes it will distract me from wanting to hurl at the very idea of running for 2+ hours."
  • Depression. *Weeps quietly while putting on running clothes, gathering gels, & applying sunscreen.*
  • Acceptance. "Let's just effing get this shite OVER WITH already."

Every damn Sunday.

This is one of the many reasons why I doubt I will ever really be a marathon junkie. My interest in ever running for more than two hours straight is pretty darn low.

But no; on Sunday I just got dressed, watched some World Cup while I slathered myself in sunscreen & body glide & figured out where on my person to stash my gels, cued up some RadioLab on the ol' headphones, & headed out. Honestly it never really felt very hard (okay, maybe the last .75 miles or so) & the whole thing was over before I knew it. Keeping good form all the way to the end felt easier than usual, and nothing hurt (except for a twinge in the arch of my right foot towards the end, which is new). So....progress?

Nike Dri-Fit Racer tank & Brooks running cap.
Since there is the potential for the latter part of Santa Rosa to be sunny and warm-ish, I've been reading up on strategies for running a hot marathon (something I clearly did not do before M2BM last summer & was definitely regretting by mile 20). No, it's not like it'll be 90° & 90% humidity or anything, but since most people's performance in long endurance events tends to go downhill pretty rapidly once temps get above 60°, especially in full sun, it seems kind of dumb not to do everything I can to keep as cool as possible. (Within reason, obviously; I will not, for example, be purchasing a $200 cooling vest to wear until the last possible moment before the start.)

I took advantage of the 80° midday temps on Sunday to try out a tip from the insanely speedy Camille Heron & did my run in a super-thin, light, white singlet & white cap. Originally I'd been thinking I'd just run Santa Rosa in as little clothing as possible (ie a light-colored sports bra & thin shorts) in order to stay cool, but having tried a few different combinations at different distances, Camille has actually had the best results at the marathon distance in a singlet. She's found that the singlet keeps her cooler because it retains the sweat, as compared to just letting most of it evaporate (which is what happens if you're shirtless/sports bra only).

I tried to stay in direct sun as much as possible in order to see how it worked for me, and though the run obviously felt a little harder than usual because of the heat (particularly going uphill), I actually felt pretty comfortable the whole time. There was a light breeze, which compounded the cooling effect of the sweaty singlet and felt GREAT in the sun.

I took one gel before the run & five more during, about one every 20 minutes of running (so every ~25 minutes of real time accounting for traffic lights & water stops), which works out to about 40g of CHO per hour. My stomach seemed just fine with that, so next week I'll try taking them even closer together. If I can tolerate ~60g per hour by Santa Rosa, I'll be happy; I'll just have to work out where on my person I'm going to stash that many gels...

* * * WEEK 7 * * *
(8 to go)

I will not insult you by quoting that Bon Jovi song. (I'm sure you know the one I mean.)

Grand Total: 40 miles

    * 2.4 speed
    * 3.1 race/tempo
    * 13 long
    * 21.5 easy


    * 1.5 hours strength/stretch/roll
    * 22 miles bike

The nice thing about this past week was that my easy runs have finally topped out. The long runs will obviously continue getting longer & the track & tempo/threshold runs occasionally get up to 10-11 miles, but the easy maintenance runs pretty much hit eight miles & stay there.

Monday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

Tuesday: 6 speed (2 wu, 6x400m @ ~6:30 w/ 1:30 jog recoveries, 1.6 cd)

    Once again, any hypothetical Tuesday a.m. biking I might have done was thwarted by morning work stuff. BUT, I did get in a *lovely* track workout with Kimra, so in the end this day can only go in the win column.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 5 easy / p.m. SEE NEIL GAIMAN AT THE WARFIELD

    So back in January or something, Neil Gaiman (one of our favorite authors) announced a show in San Francisco where he'd read his newest short story "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" accompanied by the Australian string quartet Fourplay & with artwork projected on a screen. I remember emailing Don & being like, "WE SHOULD TOTALLY GO TO THIS!!!" I think he emailed back something amused & non-committal, & then I forgot about this entire conversation for six months. The show came up again maybe a week ago & I was like, "Ah, we should have gotten tickets to that. I totally forgot. I'm sure they sold out months ago." Don just looked at me like I was crazy & was like, "We have tickets." "OMG are you serious?!?!" "Um, yes. I got them the day you emailed me." Well okay then.

    I was over the moon excited about this. In practice, it meant that I only had about 1.5 hours between getting home from work & when I needed to meet Don downtown, which, with stop lights & showering & public transit, meant I only had time for 5 miles & not the prescribed 8. Not that it much mattered; those 5 miles kicked the shit out of me & there is absolutely no way in hell I could have gotten to 8 anyway, hungry cannibals nonwithstanding.

Thursday: a.m. massage / p.m. 8 easy

    My massage therapist says that my really tight spots (mostly right calf, hip, & adductor) are starting to loosen up more quickly than they did at first, which is promising. I am still supposed to do as much rolling as I can at home, the idea being that the really intense work he does will make my rolling at home easier & more effective.

    I ran my 8 easy miles that evening but OMG they were so. Freaking. Hard. I'm sure it's just the cumulative fatigue setting in, but after a couple of miles I just couldn't get my hamstrings & glutes to fire properly, & as a result I am sure I ended up overusing other muscles in ways I should not be doing. I've had sore shins on & off for the last few weeks, but it kind of freaked me out that Thursday evening there was one small spot on my right shin that was particularly painful, and whereas the pain usually goes away maybe a half hour or so after I finish running, this lingered well into the evening. I iced it all night, which helped some, but there is definitely part of me that felt like I was getting a yellow flag that an extra rest day was in order.


    I did not do strength work Friday morning. Instead, I got an extra hour of sleep. I know that I don't sleep enough in general & that sleep quantity & quality affects healing, so this seemed like a smart trade off. The painful part on my shin actually felt fine on Friday, but I was freaked out enough by it that I decided to ride the spin bike that afternoon instead of risking irritating it with a run.

    On the subject of biking--When you're doing the same thing every day (running) and don't really have much day-to-day sense of progress being made, it's easy to get kind of blase about the idea that anything is really changing in your body. Blah blah x miles in x * 8.3 minutes blah blah tired blah blah x miles in x * 8.3 minutes blah blah hard etc. etc.

    Consider this, though: From January to March, I improved from riding like 14 miles in an hour at level 9-11ish (whatever that means) to riding about 17 miles an hour at the same level with the same level of effort/exertion. On Friday, I rode 22 miles in an hour at level 12-13ish and seriously felt like maybe I should have been working harder.

    The hell you say.

Saturday 8 tempo-ish (3.65 warm-up, 3.14 "race," 1.21 cool down)

    On Saturday I wanted to run SF Pride Run 5K, not really as a RACE-race, but more for fun & a few tempo miles. I showed up early enough to run an easy, protracted warm-up, then ran the 5K (not all-out but still probably a little harder than I'd planned), then did enough of a cool down to get me to 8 miles for the day. Although I rolled my ankle on the wet pavement warming up, my legs gradually loosened up & by the time the race started actually felt pretty good. Even better, the super painful spot on my right shin that was bothering me so much on Thursday seemed to have completely disappeared.

    Yay for running into old friends!

    I don't know if it's just mental or what, but this was absolutely the easiest 8 miles I've run so far this training cycle and I felt great afterward & not *at all* like I'd just run 8 miles with 3 of them fairly hard. Maybe I should do little local races for my tempo runs more often. :)

Sunday: 13 long

There are 55 miles on my schedule next week, but since I've only just made it to 40, I'll be perfectly happy if I end up in the mid 40's.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

HALLELUJAH A Decent Track Workout + Impending Races.

On Tuesday I met Kimra at Kezar Track for an evening speed workout. Given last week's suck-tastic track session and how concerningly sore & exhausted my Sunday 11 miler left me (particularly in the hips/hip flexors), I'd been stressing about this workout for days. What if it sucked? What if the stress fracture place hurt? What if I couldn't hold the pace? What if those ass-hats started stretching in lane 4 again???

All this was compounded by the fact that the Garmin 310XT I got (for 40%!) last fall suffered a crack in the housing this last weekend that made it so that the strap wouldn't stay attached to the watch part, which meant that I had to go exchange it at REI. And this is why you buy your GPS watch at REI, btw; if anything happens to it within a year--seriously, ANYTHING--you get a free replacement. Unless they don't carry that item anymore, in which case you get the amount you paid for the item as a credit towards a similar item.

Since they don't carry the 310XT anymore, I ended up paying the $87 difference for a Forerunner 220 because it was the closest thing they had (that wasn't $450), and as of Tuesday track time, I had yet to figure out exactly how to use it.

Garmin Forerunner 220

Except for the fact that it's not a multi-sport, the 220 is supposed to be pretty comparable to the 305 & 310? I guess? I'll give it points for being thinner & lighter, but I do not like the display or the way navigating through the different options & settings works. I've only had it for two days, though, so it may just be that the 305/310 interface is burned into my brain at this point & it's just going to take some time to get used to something else.

Like last week my Achilles/lower calves were a bit tight & I did stop a couple of times during my warm-up to stretch & shake them out, but everything else felt great. Kimra & I briefly kvetched to one another about the evils of sports bras & heart rate monitors & then took off on our intervals. (I'd insert a picture here but we were kinda busy, y'know, marathon training or whatever.)

My plan called for six 400m repeats at 6:40 pace (so ~1:40 each) with 90 seconds jog recovery. I couldn't remember for sure off the top of my head but 6:40 sounded slower than I usually do these, but honestly I'd already resolved to run them by effort, so I wasn't too concerned about the numbers.

Curse you, repeat #5! I was *this* close to perfect negative splits!!

All six intervals definitely required not-insignificant effort, but counting to 90 in my head between each one (apparently faster and faster) was plenty of time to recover in between, and I finished the set feeling like I could have easily run more if I'd had to. So yeah; GIANT win in terms of track workouts that feel the way they're supposed to, without making you feel like you want to die.

I did look back in my RunningAhead log to see how fast I've run this workout in the past, but it turns out that the last time was Nov. 12, 2013, otherwise known as the Day that Will Live in Infamy, ie the day that after repeat #4 of 6 I discovered my duffel bag had been stolen. So I only got to four 400m's that day, but I was apparently doing them in the 6:00-6:10 pace range & I don't recall them being that hard. Then again I wasn't running all that much at that point, so the difference between then & now is probably partly attributable to fitness but also partly attributable to working much harder now than I was then.

(Oh, and the group with zero track etiquette only expanded their circle to lane three today, so I was able to avoid getting almost-kicked by people swinging their legs around in the middle of the track. Small victories.)


I am registered as a sub-seed in the San Francisco Marathon 2nd Half on July 27, for the second time in as many years. Unfortunately last year I couldn't run it since I was busy regrowing a muscle & learning to walk up stairs, so I am super pumped to finally do it this year. I was registered for it way before Santa Rosa, so it made me happy to learn that a solid four weeks lies between the two races.

Being sub-seeded kinda-sorta makes me feel like I should actually RACE-race, but since a) I haven't been training for a half and b) I care a lot more about Santa Rosa, I'll most likely end up running it in the just-fast-enough-to-have-fun range rather than balls-to-the-wall-effing-kill-it range. I'm supposed to do a 16 miler that day, so depending on logistics I'll either do a 1.5 mile warm up & a 1.5 mile cool down, or jog an easy 3 miles to the start & BART home from the finish.

Also, this week is Pride Week in San Francisco, & I've run the SF FrontRunners Pride Run 5K or 10K every year since I've lived in SF except for last year (see above-mentioned regrowing of muscle/regaining of basic motor skills), so I would really like to run it this Saturday as well. I need to run 7-8 miles that day, so I think if I ran it I'd end up doing an easy run on Friday instead of a tempo/threshold, then running a 4-4.5 mile warm-up before the race & then running the 5K at just-fast-enough-to-have-fun pace.

And....I got another pair of shoes. (I KNOW SHUT UP.) They came on the recommendation of a couple of different friends, cost me $40 on giant super clearance, and they are black. (I have never owned a pair of black running shoes before & it feels very strange.) I've only run in them twice, but so far they feel pretty good, so things are off to a promising start.

Monday, June 23, 2014

SRM WEEK 6: 39 & Holding

My plan called for 45-ish miles this week, but after tough runs on both Tuesday and Wednesday and waking up with sore, tender shins that continued to give me grief (in the form of sharp, stabbing pains) for the rest of the day, taking a rest day on Thursday & giving my legs some extra time to heal seemed like a better plan than trying to slog through seven easy miles & potentially re-aggravate something. I think I actually could have biked this day instead & been fine, but biking requires planning ahead & bringing biking clothes to work, which I had not done. So yeah; last Thursday was the first day since we've been back from Italy that I haven't sweated for athletic reasons. I think this is okay.

So, instead of 45-46ish, I ended up with 39 & change, which is basically the same as last week, and that's fine. After my tough Friday tempo run, I was mentally preparing myself to take Saturday off as well if my legs felt as bad as they did on Thursday, because if it came down to it I'd rather skip an easy 7 on Saturday & be able to do my long run Sunday than vice versa. But everything felt fine on both days, so in the end I did them both.

I now present you with Notes from my Long Run.

  • Sunday morning I carb-loaded like a pro.

    (Probably not like an actual pro. I seem to recall reading something about Ryan hall eating plain oatmeal with splenda before a long run which kind of made me want to cry & then go throw up.)

  • Because Santa Rosa is likely to be in the 50's at the start & 70's by the finish, I've been trying to ease myself into some heat acclimation training, starting by wearing a long sleeve shirt & shorts when I would normally wear a tank & shorts. What I failed to realize was that on Sunday afternoon an arctic vortex had apparently descended upon Golden Gate Park.

    Now you might think that wearing a long sleeve shirt instead of a tank was a great stroke of luck under the circumstances. Nope; wrong. All it meant was that there was more ice-cold sweat-soaked fabric in contact with my skin for the last 9 miles of my 11 mile run than there would have been otherwise. I am not kidding that it was like 45F with ~15mph winds. (Except down by the beach, where it was probably like 20-25mph winds.)

    "Let's run to the beach!" they said. "It'll be fun!" they said.

    (You'll have to use your imagination to see the sand blowing around everywhere.)

    My teeth were pretty much chattering the entire way. I don't really understand how it's possible to be shivering & sweating like a pig at the same time, but I do know that once your clothes are soaked it is OVER.

  • 90 minutes seemed like a long enough run to reasonably start practicing fueling, so I had an Accel Gel before I started, another 30 minutes later, then a third 30 minutes after that, which was all fine. (Not surprising since that's basically what I've done in the past.) Accel Gels have 20g of CHO each, so two per hour is ~40g per hour. 30g / hour is the smallest dose of CHO that's been shown to make any difference in performance, & above that, being able to consume more generally predicts better performance. So, my plan is to gradually take gels closer and closer together during my long runs & see how close to 60g / hour I can get without my stomach revolting.

    I use Accel Gels because they have protein, which, for reasons I think exercise scientists are still trying to fully understand, seems to work better than pure CHO in races over ~20ish miles.

  • My shins & calves never hurt while I'm running; only at every other possible time. I get deep aches in the stress fracture spot all the time when I'm just walking around, sitting, lying down, etc., but the bone is not tender at all (ie, I can roll a lacrosse ball right on that spot just fine) and running doesn't bother it, so I guess for now I'm not going to worry about it too much. (?)

* * * WEEK 6 * * *
(9 to go)

Grand Total: 39.25 miles

    * 3.75 tempo
    * 3.5 speed
    * 11 long
    * 21 easy


    * 2.25 hours strength/stretch/roll

Monday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

Tuesday: 7 speed (2 wu, 1600m @ 10K pace / 1:30 jog, 2x800m @ 5K pace / 2:00 jog, 1600m @ 10K pace, 1.5 cd)

    Ugh. Just, ugh.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 7 easy / p.m. karate

    How much of the suck? ALL OF THE SUCK! But, hey, it's Wednesday, & apparently that's just what Wednesday does in terms of running.

Thursday: 7 easy Rest.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 7.25 tempo (2 wu, 30 @ marathon pace, 1.5 cd)

Saturday 7 easy

    I squeezed this one in between lunch & last-minute movie plans with a friend. It only takes me about an hour to run 7 miles, but thanks mostly to traffic lights in our neighborhood, door-to-door, a 7 miler usually takes me more like an hour twenty-ish. Our movie was at 6:40; I finished my sandwich at 4:30, left the house at 4:50, & promised to be back by 6:00 & figured I'd just get done whatever I could in that amount of time. Thanks to a bit of jay walking here & there I made it home by 6:00 having run 6.8 miles, but there was no way I was getting that close to 7 & quitting, so it ended up being more like 6:02.

    Don: "Wow, you're back right on time!"

    Me: "This is not my first rodeo."

    Mainly I was just relieved to get one run under my belt this week that did not outright suck.

Sunday: 11 long

I'm still slated for ~49-ish miles next week, but given how hard this past week was, I'm not feeling super great about a ~25% increase, so it is not at all unlikely that something will get cut or shortened somewhere. We'll see!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pardon me while I get my shit together.

This is pretty much how it's been this week.
Do you ever have one of those days where you realize you're kind of hypnotically watching the entirety of your psychological & emotional faculties careen towards a seemingly inevitable & spectacular train wreck, half-heartedly thinking, "Well, gee. That's too bad." And then something in your brain suddenly snaps out of it, & you're like, "Ooooookay. Back the crazy train up for just a sec." That's pretty much how my Friday run went down.

Tuesday's track workout was sketchy & unsettling. Wednesday's easy seven miles sucked royal ass, as all Wednesday runs seem set on doing. By the end of the run my glutes & hamstrings were barely firing, my shins felt tender & painful all evening, & I was absolutely dead on my feet.

I opted to get some extra sleep Thursday morning instead of biking (let's be real; I can't even remember the last time I biked) in hopes that my legs would heal up, but all day at work I could feel sharp little stabbing pains in my shins, especially the right one, and a dull ache in the area in my left calf where I had the stress fracture. Plus I still felt exhausted. By the time I was on my way home, I was thinking very seriously that this might be a good day to skip my run. It's one thing to run through it when you feel worn out, but my legs seemed to be frantically waving big, giant yellow flags at me, and there is no seven mile run on earth that's worth a serious injury (unless you're being chased by hungry cannibals or something).

And Friday morning my legs felt GREAT. No pain!! No soreness!! All the strength work!! No problem!! Friday's marathon pace run was sooo happening. I spent my drive home congratulating myself on my very smart, very rational decision making the day before and feeling smug about the blog post I would write where I would be all like, "Yes, it was hard to take a day off, but Friday's ***epically amazingly fantastic*** MP run just goes to show that listening to my body was the smart choice." Just kidding, I would never blog about "listening to my body" non-ironically. 2011 called & it wants its running blog humble-brag cliché back.

But no. Friday evening I was back to stopping every three blocks or so during my two-mile warm-up to stretch/shake out my insanely tight & painful Achilles/lower calves. It was so painful at times that I was tearing up & seriously considering taking another day off. I did not see how I was going to get through 30 minutes of marathon pace running like that, but sometimes when I run a little faster it goes away, so I figured I'd give it at least a few minutes of trying to run in the low eight's & see how I felt.

Thankfully, speeding up did seem to take care of the pain in my Achilles. But trying to get up to speed was so, so hard. Most of the time recently even my easy pace has usually been under 8:20, but now I found myself working really hard & still seeing 8:30-8:40 on my watch. Heading into the Panhandle I tried to pick it up and did finally manage to start seeing the numbers I wanted, but the amount of effort required was decidedly NOT what I wanted to be doing in a marathon. And, my shin bones were hurting again.

I never stop between traffic lights in the Panhandle, but this time I couldn't help it. That was the low point, the point where I just felt panicked and confused and like a massive Steamroller of Ruination was rolling right over my confidence and world view and sense of how reality functions and smooshing them into a pathetic, twitching smear of self-pity and desperation. My soul may have ugly cried a bit.

And then--I don't know how or why--something clicked.

Wait a second. Bring the pity train back to the station. Let's think about this rationally for a minute.

I'm running uphill. Into a 20 mph headwind. On tired legs. Going > 00:10/mile faster that I really need to.

^ That.

After that I was a lot less hysterical. I slowed myself down & just tried to get to the top of the hill with marathon effort level & stopped worrying about the pace. Once I was over the hill, I did my best to stick to that: Is this how hard you want to be working in Santa Rosa at mile 10? Mile 20? Mile 24? No? Slow down, then.

Naturally things were MUCH much easier when I turned around & headed back towards home, going downhill with the (kind of ridiculous) wind at my back. (Seriously, at one point I thought I actually felt the wind lift me off the ground a little mid-stride.) My shins still hurt occasionally, but as long as I paid careful attention to how my feet landed, it was manageable. (Still, I did ice the heck out of them when I got home, and they remain a touch unhappy.)

Le splits:

Mile 1 was the uphill-headwind mile, so that was DEFINITELY too fast. Mile 2 didn't need to be that fast, but it was about half downhill-headwind, half uphill-tailwind, so not too egregious. Mile 3 & the last .75 were both downhill with tailwind and felt really easy, so those are probably fine. (I do find it kind of weird that my heart rate was so low on that first super tough mile, and that it was highest on the mile that felt the easiest. My target range for MP runs is ~170-190ish, though, so it's kind of nice to be under that & running a little faster than my rough "goal" pace.)

Speaking of goals, I know I need to manage my expectations about this race. It won't be a massive PR. This will be a short training cycle coming off a bad injury & lots of time off, and though the start is at 6:00 am, it's still Santa Rosa in August so the temps probably won't be ideal. If I can average an 8:10 pace & just BQ, I'll be happy. If I can eek out a little more, say 8:07, & actually have a chance of getting in to Boston, I'll be thrilled. Those paces already feel pretty easy (y'know, when I'm not running uphill & into the wind), so job #1 right now is just increasing my endurance without ending up hurt. I don't need to run every single workout to manage that. I mean, don't get me wrong; I'd like to run them all. But I'd more like to spend August 23-24 in Santa Rosa & not in a PT session/doctor's office.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Who Moved My Cheese

First off, if you somehow missed The Oatmeal's latest genius because you live under a rock or something, you're welcome.

Genius, I tell you.

Secondly -- hoo boy, did the speed work spank me on Tuesday.

Generally, track workouts have always been my favorite of the week. Yes, sometimes it takes a little more functional brain power to gather everything up & drive to the track vs just putting on running clothes & heading out the door, but for the most part I find speed work more interesting and more rewarding than just putting in easy miles.

Tuesday was different, though. I won't say I was dreading my track workout all day Tuesday, but, unusually for me, I was most certainly looking forward to it being over. Partly I think it was because of the distance; my last track workout had 1.5 miles worth of intervals while this one had 3.5. Plus most of my runs lately feel significantly harder than I'm used to. Also I pretty much constantly worry about my calves. (It was during a track workout in December when the stress fracture in my left leg went from "Well this is pretty uncomfortable" to "HOLY JEEBUS someone get me some crutches.")

Usually my favorite place...

My assignment was a 2 mile warm up, one mile in 7:10 / 1:30 jog, two 800m's in 3:26 / 2:00 jog, another mile in 7:10, & a 1.5 mile cool down. As with my previous two speed sessions, I had to break the warm-up into half-mile chunks because long run + karate + 48 hours of no running apparently causes my Achilles/lower calf area to tighten up like shrink wrap. A couple minutes of aggressive stretching & shaking them out seems to do the trick, but as a result my warm-up ends up taking nearly twice as long, which is annoying.

It was a less-than-promising start in other ways as well. It was hot & I was sweating & chafing everywhere like a mofo (even in my nose), and on top of this some running group was doing their circle-of-bffs-and-stretching thing on the track while there were about a billion people running on it (ok like 30).

Seriously. They were taking up four lanes. And they always do this. I nearly got kicked twice by the same dude getting his dynamic stretch on in the middle of lane four. Some shrieking & wild slapping may have occurred. In my defense that is what you get if you stand in the middle of the a track & nearly kick people who are trying to run. There are like infinity other places in that stadium where people can stretch; there's just no excuse for doing it on the track while other people are trying to use it.

Things did not get better once I started running. Since I've been running pretty much all my runs at faster paces than my schedule says completely comfortably, I figured I should probably bump these up a little too. In the past I've interpreted the paces on this workout as 10K pace & 5K pace respectively, so I figured I'd just go by feel & shoot for those levels of effort & try not to kill myself.

And it hurt. God it hurt. Which was weird, because the part of my brain that stores these things in muscle memory was going, "Yep, this is totally how that pace should feel" while the conscious part was going "Really? But it feels sooooo slooooowww" and the emotional part was throwing a little tantrum & going "It huuuuuuuurts, is it oooooover yet??" For a while I wasn't even going to look at my watch during the intervals so that afterward I would have an unbiased idea of what pace those levels of effort correlated with. At least that was the idea; eventually I couldn't resist looking and to my dismay my pace was all over the place. During the first mile alone I think I saw every possible number between 6:20 & 7:20 at one point or another.

I had a hard time jogging the recovery intervals too (though it ended up not mattering because I had to stop in between anyway to stretch out my stupid Achilles & remind myself that no, I wasn't getting a stress fracture again) which made me wonder if I was running the intervals too fast. By the last 1600m I felt like my right glute/hamstring wasn't firing quite right, and I could tell my muscles were getting tired because it was getting harder and harder to stay out of my calves. My rule of thumb is to always finish my last interval feeling as if I could run just one more with no problem, and that was definitely not the case after that last mile. It was all I could do to brow beat myself into doing the cool down (again, stopping for a stretch break every half mile).

If I'd been running these intervals in a vacuum, I'd say those paces were maybe fine, but it was hot, and there was a crazy headwind down the backstretch so realistically they were probably a bit too fast. I mean they didn't kill me, but still. By the time this workout was over I was BEAT.

One of the perks of recording all my track splits is the ability to go back in time & compare what I can do now to what I was doing at a certain point in the past when I have an idea what my fitness was like. It turns out the last time I ran this workout was March 5, 2013, about halfway through my training cycle for Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. At that point I was in pretty good but not amazing shape, & whipped out the following:

I was hoping I'd written something useful about this workout in that week's training journal to put it in context ("Woo, super easy!" "Ugh shoot me.") but apparently all I did was lambast myself for not writing the workout down & gypping myself on a minute of recovery time. Which probably means it was more or less fine & not awful.

Since these numbers aren't drastically lower & it was probably not 75° that day, I'm probably not *that* far off of my fitness at that point. But I am clearly waaaaaay out of practice at running the right paces with some amount of consistency. Though, this being my 3rd track workout of the cycle, I can forgive myself for that.

Still, I'm used to leaving the track feeling relaxed and satisfied and confident, not dragging myself to the car feeling physically like ass and also generally confused and insecure about what just happened (oh and also kind of still wanting to strangle people with no track manners). It's a good thing I have good friends who had a cold glass of white wine waiting for me when I finally got to dinner.

Monday, June 16, 2014

SRM WEEK 5: Double Digits + Hangin' In The Pain Cave

Firstly, I hope everyone had a lovely Father's Day, whether or not you are actually a father. :)

Ca. 1985. We were mad stylin' in those days, me & Dad.

On Sunday I was supposed to run for 80-90 minutes or 9-10 miles. Early in the week I started out completely dreading it, then got kind of almost excited about it mid-week, & then as of Saturday was back to absolutely dreading it again. I did a tempo run on Friday & have a sneaking suspicion I ran it too hard, because on Saturday I was not even remotely in the same *neighborhood* as feeling the easy six miles I needed to do. About halfway through I think some of my muscles actually stopped working all that well and I started thinking that maybe that day should have been my first unplanned rest day. Oops; too late now.

Saturday we had dinner with some friends, which was a good time. Actually maybe kind of TOO good considering how I felt when I woke up Sunday morning.

At least I slept a lot.

On top of that, my legs hurt. Nothing serious; just that deep, all-over, low-grade ache you get from being on your feet for a long time. When I started this training cycle, though, I made a deal with myself that I would NOT sacrifice my functioning bones and muscles on the Alter of the Training Plan, that the second I had more than mild pain or was too tired to run well & with good form, I would take some extra rest days or cut back on the mileage a bit. And let me tell you, when I first got up, I'd pretty much accepted that today was the day I'd have to start putting that into practice.

I ate breakfast around twelve thirty, then ran some errands, then spend the afternoon trying to get some wicked heartburn to go away so I could try to get some running in. I sort of figured I'd give it a shot, see how my legs felt, & if it just got too awful to deal with I could always cut it short.

I was exactly this excited.

As suck-tastic as Saturday's run had been, though, this one started out feeling weirdly not-horrible. I tried to keep it super slow and easy, completely ignoring my pace, making sure I was never breathing very hard but still maintaining good form. Maybe it's because I'd built it up so much in my mind, but one by one the miles just seemed to roll by. I'd kind of decided that as long as I was feeling good, I'd quit at ninety minutes or ten miles, whichever came first. At about forty-three minutes in, I hit five miles & turned around.

I'm not saying this run was easy; just that it was maybe not the fifth-circle-of-hell level of torture that I'd assumed it would be. Actually I think I felt the best on this run between miles 6 & 9. (Once I got to 9.5, though, I definitely hit some kind of wall & was legitimately worried about my ability to make it five more blocks.)

So, my streak of zero unplanned rest days remains intact for another week. I'm trying not to get too attached to it, though, because this has been a pretty darn steep build up for me, and I really do feel like sooner or later that day is coming.

* * * WEEK 5 * * *
(10 to go)

It seems kind of ridiculous to me that I'm already a third of the way through this training cycle. (Then again, it's only a little over 20% mileage-wise.) In terms of weekly mileage, I only got up to 38 miles for I think one week when I was "training" training for the Berkeley Half last fall, so this week's 39 is officially the highest weekly mileage I've run in over a year. HUZZAH!

Grand Total: 39 miles

    * 3 threshold
    * 10 long
    * 26 easy


    * 1.5 hours strength/stretch/roll

Monday: a.m. strength work

    No karate because I had to get on a plan for SoCal.

Tuesday: a.m. 6 speed 5 "easy"

    Because I was working 7:30-5:00 on Tuesday in a not-very-running-friendly part of SoCal & then spending the evening on a plane back to SF, my only option for getting any running done on Tuesday was to get up at 5 a.m. & run on the (rather rickety-looking) hotel treadmill. Naturally this sucked quite enough as it was, but to make it EVEN BETTER I ended up working until 11 p.m. with my team, barely slept, & neglected to make any sort of plan for putting food in my body pre-run.

    I loathe doing speed work on treadmills, but sometimes it's doable if the intervals are longer, slower ones. As luck would have it, though, Tuesday's workout called for 12 x 200m at 6:00 pace w/ 200m recoveries, which I really did not think would work at all, but I'd figured I'd at least give it a try before giving up altogether.

    Hah. Well. I dragged myself through the warm-up at 9:00+ pace (never a good sign), then with great trepidation cranked the ol' girl up to 10mph. The first interval only took me about 45 seconds but during that time I felt absolutely certain that sad little bucket of bolts was going to fly apart at any moment. Plus it took so long to toggle between interval pace & recovery pace that the whole enterprise became patently ridiculous pretty quickly.

    Eh. Whether from lack of sleep or low blood sugar or not getting my usually two full days of recovery post-long run, I felt pretty terrible anyway & ultimately just resigned myself to knocking out an easy mile, grabbing a cup of water, knocking out another mile, grabbing a cup of water, etc. I wanted to do six so that I'd at least get the day's mileage in but ran out of time before I had to go get cleaned up, so five rather dubious & sketchy miles it was.

    Still, something!!! Not nothing!!!

Wednesday: afternoon 6 easy / p.m. karate

    Still a bit sleep deprived, so I skipped a.m. strength training in favor of extra sleep. Also, Wednesday runs continue to live up to their reputation of sucking massive, galactic proportions of ass. GOD was this miserable.

Thursday: a.m. massage / p.m. 6 easy

    Seriously? I love this massage therapist. He pulls no punches. My right calf has been bothering me more than anything else, so he spent probably half an hour working on just that while I laid on my stomach and chewed on my fingers and pulled all manner of what I am sure would have been hilarious and horrifying faces had anyone been able to see them. Quote of the day: "It is just an absolute mess back here."

    Yeah, no; epic fail on that count.

    I'd been thinking about maybe going to the track Thursday afternoon & trying to make up the failed speed workout from Tuesday, but after the massage my calves were utterly tenderized, and he warned me about not trying to do too much on them that day. So I skipped the track & just did my usual easy Thursday run. It started out completely awful, but was okay after a couple of miles, & by the end actually felt pretty great.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 6 threshold(1.75 wu, 2 @ 7:25-ish, 1 @ 7:04, 1.25 cd)

    In my plan this threshold workout was written as 1.75 wu, 2 @ 8:15, 1 @ 7:30, 1.25 cd. I think my 1.75 warm-up averaged in the 8:11 range, though, so I was obviously not about to do two threshold miles at 8:15. Instead I decided that 8:15 was probably intended to mean "not easy but still pretty comfortable" and 7:30 "comfortably hard but not for very long" & just did them by feel/heart rate. I still feel like I probably ran them slightly harder than was intended. What I really need to do is check in with Coach Tom about the accuracy of my paces right now & maybe see if I can get him to translate them into effort level/heart rate to be sure I'm doing these harder runs the way I should be.

Saturday 6 easy

    One word: SLOG. I mostly blame Friday's probably-botched tempo run.

Sunday: 10 long

In theory, I'm supposed to run 45 miles this week, mostly seven milers plus another 10 mile long run. So we'll see what happens.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Getting Fitter. I think. Maybe?

As with most sports, it's possible with distance running to utterly drown yourself in data and statistics. Miles per week! Average pace! Easy pace! Tempo pace! Race pace! Pairs of shoes! Average heart rate! Max heart rate! Average miles per day! LT threshold! VO2 max! Some people, obviously, couldn't care less. Some are only interested in a particular few variables. (I totally get that.) Then there are people like me, complete math/science geeks who adore numbers and data. If it can be spreadsheet-ed, I will spreadsheet it. When I got my first Garmin I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

Some of that data, it turns out, is actually useful for improving my running. I keep track of my miles and paces and shoe usage, and I even believe in the value of heart rate monitors, to a certain extent. But let's be real; most of it's just there to entertain me, the way baseball stats amuse particularly devoted fans.

When it comes down to it, this marathon cycle is about one thing and one thing only: being able to run 8:00-8:10 miles, consistently, when my body is exhausted. Realistically, that's the only data I need.

Now that I am running six days a week (DID I MENTION I AM RUNNING SIX DAYS A WEEK NOW? BECAUSE I TOTALLY AM), nearly all of them are hard. I don't mean they are all equally hard; there are really hard days and not quite as hard days. But let me be clear; there are no easy days.

For that reason, I've been trying to do my level best to make sure the "easy" days are as easy as they can possibly be. In addition to reviving the heart rate monitor to keep me honest, I've also taken to running with my Garmin set to show only time of day and distance. When I can't see my pace whenever I want, I usually think about it less, which leaves more brain space to focus on keeping my effort level nice and light.

The first time I trained for a long-distance race with a Garmin, I was so obsessed with my pace on workouts. I knew the pace I wanted to run & was pretty sure I could run on race day, and I fretted to no end on days when a full minute per mile slower than that felt like a slog. (Enter: The bad habit of running easy days too hard, just to reassure myself that I could.)

Later, when I was older and wiser and had more races and training cycles under my belt, I would understand this phenomenon completely: The point of workouts is to stress your body with cumulative fatigue, and the point of a taper is to rinse that fatigue away, leaving you with the fresh, springy legs and fitness that is its residue. If you're running your race pace during easy workouts, something is wrong; either you're wearing yourself out on training runs, or not racing as hard as you're capable of.

But now, especially running six days a week (DID I MENTION I AM RUNNING SIX DAYS A WEEK?), I'm over that. On "easy" days, I can't even think about pace; all I can think about is getting the miles in with as little exertion as possible.

The mid-week runs, especially, are just a slog. I work hard on maintaining good form, but that is the only thing I work hard at. In general those runs feel glacial, like I am plodding along, breathing deeply and slowly, barely conscious, every muscle in my body involved with running feeling worn out and blah and ugh because cumulative fatigue and blah blah blah...

Only here's the strange part. Lately, on those plodding, glacial, mid-week slogs, when I would swear I must be running 9:15's or thereabouts (no pace on the watch, remember), from mile 2 or 3 on, the splits will pop up and say things like 8:15. 8:08. 8:02. 7:56.

Friends. Those are the numbers I want to see during the marathon. Not ones I feel like I should be seeing on an "easy" run (at least not very often), and DEFINITELY not ones that match the way I feel while I'm doing it.

I've tried to be very honest with myself about whether I'm really taking these runs easy or maybe subconsciously doing that thing I used to do back in the day, just to prove to myself I COULD run that pace easily. This is part of why I went back to the heart rate monitor. Honestly, though, I am usually so worn out and exhausted going into these runs that doing them at anything but an easy, plodding, glacial effort is extremely unappealing.

So....Maybe I really am getting fitter? According to my training plan, I'm supposed to do my easy runs at an 8:45 pace, but that's based on the 5K I ran in April when I was running maybe 10 miles a week & hadn't raced in months. I suppose it's not ridiculous to think that they might be outdated after nearly five weeks of higher, more consistent mileage (AFTER ALL I AM RUNNING SIX DAYS A WEEK NOW, DID YOU KNOW??). I don't have 26 miles' worth of endurance yet, but if the goal is to run at 8:00-8:10 pace even when my body feels utterly exhausted, well, it appears as if I am not making too bad a start.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SRM WEEK 4: Dusting Off My Heart Rate Monitor

A few years back I was really into heart rate training. I wore my monitor for every run and race, recorded the data meticulously, and built statistical models to explore how different variables affected my performance. (I am a mathematician and a social scientist, so really, this is pretty normal behavior for me.)

There are a lot of benefits to training with a heart rate monitor. First, ask any professional running coach about the biggest training mistakes recreational runners make, & they will inevitably list somewhere in the top five running "easy" runs too fast / hard. I know I've certainly been guilty of this (though at least I'm aware of it & have definitely gotten better about it). If you know your max heart rate & run with a monitor, it's pretty hard to get away with "But this TOTALLY feels like the pace I should be running!!!" when there is hard evidence to the contrary staring you in the face. They're particularly excellent for keeping tempo / threshold runs at the right effort level regardless of terrain or weather, and it's also cool to watch your average pace improve as your average heart rate gradually drops over weeks or months of training.

But, after a while, I got lazy about it & went to wearing it only for speed & tempo workouts, then only for races, & eventually just abandoned it altogether. I wanted to go back to using it last year to make sure I wasn't running my easy runs too hard as I recovered from my hip injury, but shockingly, the three-year-old battery was dead, & I never got around to replacing it. Which actually worked out for the best, since just a few weeks ago I learned from Page that heart rate monitors generally only last for 2-3 years anyway & after that don't really provide reliable data. So, I took her advice & picked up the Garmin premium heart rate monitor (soft strap) for ~$45 on amazon.

AND, it only took me a week and a half to open the box and figure out how to activate it & pair it up with my Garmin! :D

On Saturday I went for my first run with a HR monitor in three years. Because it's been so long, I wasn't aiming for particular numbers so much as just to see what my heart rate was doing and compare it to what it was doing on average the last time I was using it regularly. It was encouraging to see that for runs of the same distance (5 miles), my heart rate was lower and my pace faster, even though most of the runs for which I have records were in the 45°-50°F range & Saturday in the city was closer to 70°. (Temperature tends to have a dramatic effect on heart rate since your body has to do additional work to keep itself cool.)

If I was being super-rigorous about things, I would probably need to go get my max heart rate tested again. The highest number I have ever personally seen on the monitor was 223 (mid-2011, toward the end of speed work on a hot day) & when I had it tested in a lab in early 2012, we got it up to 211. (It's harder to get up to true all-out effort on a treadmill than, say, running on a track, but it's close enough for science.) That wasn't TOO too long ago, so I feel like somewhere in that range is probably a reasonable number to go by.

(Maybe this is a good time to bust some myths about max heart rate. It is not 220 minus your age or any other formula you read on the internet or on some poster at the gym. Anyone who tells you it is should not be telling anyone anything about their cardiovascular system. Also those little charts that tell you which zone is your "weight loss zone" / "endurance building zone" / etc. are total bullshit. If you want to know your max heart rate, get it tested in a lab or do some speed work with a monitor for a while.)

With that in mind, here's what I'll be aiming for, courtesy of Papa Daniels (who I trust in all things running-related):

  • For easy runs, 65-80% MHR, or ~140-172 bpm (I averaged 160 on Saturday & 164 on Sunday, so HELL YEAH!)
  • For marathon pace runs, 80-90% MHR, or ~172-193 bpm
  • For tempo runs, ~90% MHR, or ~193-194 bpm
  • For speed work, 98-100% MHR, or ~210-215ish

* * * WEEK 4 * * *
(11 to go)

Up until Friday, I was sure that the story of week 4 was going to be the story of cumulative fatigue that may or may not end up causing me to skip training days. This has happened to me before in training cycles; more than once I've had around a month of strong, solid, gung-ho training, and then suddenly it would all start catching up to me. My legs would start feeling heavy & leaden on every run, and even after rest days I would start thinking that maybe another one was not the worst idea ever. (And don't get me wrong, sometimes unplanned rest days are *exactly* the way to go.)

But just as in week 3, things started looking up with the weekend. Not because the runs were easy; they were still tough and I absolutely had to work and dig deep to get them done, which called to mind one of my favorite marathon training quotes from Kevin Hanson (of the Brooks-Hanson Hanson Brothers):

    "Everyone wanted a regimen that would leave their legs feeling fresh. They wanted to know, 'How can I get that spring in my legs?' That was the wrong question. The question should be: 'How can I train my body so that when the fatigue hits me, I'm still able to respond?'"

And that's exactly what I got towards the end of the week. Not painful, not utterly soul-sucking, not stopping-to-catch-my-breath-every-half-mile exhaustion; just general fatigue, tough but doable, & just challenging enough to finish and go, "Not bad; still glad it's done." It's given me confidence this week to get some runs under my belt that have forced me to practice powering through and maintaining good form and good turnover even when my body felt tired & like it would really rather just lie on the pavement with a beer than run even one more block, plzthnx.

Grand Total: 31 miles

    * 1.5 speed
    * 2 threshold
    * 7.5 long
    * 20 easy


    * 2.25 hours strength/stretch/roll

Monday: afternoon strength work / p.m. karate

    I had to drive 40 miles to get to the South Bay butt-early in the morning, which means I had to do my strength work in the afternoon. Guess when I am the least motivated to do strength work? :P

Tuesday: speed work (1.5 warm up, 2 x 1200m @ 5K pace, 1.5 cool down = 4.5 miles total).

Wednesday: a.m. strength / afternoon 5 easy / p.m. karate

    I woke up feeling super tight & kind of fragile all over, & also just generally crappy from not sleeping well, so Wednesday morning definitely involved more rolling & stretching & less actual strength work than usual (but still not an insignificant amount).

    With this whole six-day deal I've been working under the assumption that Wednesday runs are just generally going to suck, coming as they do on the heels of speed work. Thus far this assumption seems to be a valid one. I was deeply unexcited about this run & the only way I got through it was by running one-mile laps in my neighborhood & making occasional water stops by the house. I felt slow & sluggish & was quite happy just to get this one in the books.

Thursday: 4 easy

    I desperately needed some extra sleep Thursday morning, so I skipped the bike & hoped that would make my run a bit easier than the previous two. No such luck; like Wednesday, this one pretty much sucked from the very beginning. My legs felt exhausted & I was seeing numbers on the watch that I haven't seen since my very first runs back after my hip injury. At least after the first 3 or so miles I did feel ever so *slightly* less like ass. So it only, like, 80% sucked.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. tempo (1.5 wu, 2 @ LT pace, 1.5 cd = 5 miles total)

    Thankfully, Friday (once again) brought my streak of sucky runs to an end. Yes, my legs felt heavy starting out, and I was a bit discouraged because of the massive headwind I found myself running into in Golden Gate Park. I loosened up a little but still wasn't feeling confident that I'd be able to ratchet down to (not to mention maintain) a 7:25 pace. And then suddenly it was just happening, with less effort than I expected. I ran the first mile in 7:24, which was fine but realistically probably just a bit fast considering the crazy headwind. I was sure I was seeing things, though, when the second mile clicked off in 7:11. Yes, I had a tailwind going that direction, but it was also net uphill, including two not-insignificant climbs. The good news: I'm fitter now than I thought, apparently. The bad news: still out of practice re: pacing. This is why we have tempo runs!! :D

Saturday 5 easy

    The afore-mentioned first HRM run since 2011.

Sunday: 7.5 long

    Usually I don't start labeling runs as "long" until they're at least in the double digits, but RunningAhead has had all my Sunday runs pre-designated as long (since they are in fact longer than the rest) & though I've just been switching the category back to "easy" up to now, I forgot to do it Sunday when I recorded this run, & once it was done it seemed kind of silly and pointless to go back and change it.

    In less awesome news, I pulled my shoes off post-run & was greeted with this lovely scene:

    Which wouldn't be so ironic & annoying except that a) I just randomly mentioned the last time this happened in my recent Kinvara 5 post, and b) I had just clipped my toenails Sunday morning specifically to prevent this kind of thing.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Shoe Review: Kinvara 4 vs. Kinvara 5

For several months now, I've been trying out new shoes, & in spite of several promising candidates, I have yet to find something (that is actually for sale) that ticks all the magical little ticky boxes in my head. I was hoping the PureDrift would be a good option, and there are indeed many things I love about it, but I just think that right now I need a bit more cushioning that it offers to run comfortably on concrete.

Every time I try a new shoe & it doesn't work out, I go back to my trusty Kinvaras, and though they are far from perfect, I can't deny that running in them gives me a feeling like coming home. Sure, it would be nice if it had just a LITTLE less cushion and the toe box were just a BIT wider (something I found myself acutely aware of after a few runs in the Altras & 'Drifts), but in general, I find that when I run in the Kinvaras, whether for three miles or twenty, I don't think about the shoes. They're comfortable, fit my foot really well (except for the toe box thing), and let me keep up good form without too much work, and that's not doing too badly as finding a solid running shoe goes.

So, as terrified as I am of suffering another major injury, it seems like marathon training (particularly when the base is not good) is a great time to stick with what works, even if it's not perfect. Obviously I haven't been going through tons and tons of shoes lately, but I recently I finally got down to two pairs of Kinvaras, one that's getting on in miles & will need to be retired soon, and one with ~150 miles on them, so it seemed like not the worst idea ever to have another couple of fresh pairs on hand.

But what, ho! No sooner had the thought of purchasing more Kinvaras crossed my mind that I received an email from my local running store that the Kinvara 5 had recently been released. Seriously??? I feel like the 4's have barely hit puberty and now they're being closed out at rock-bottom prices to make way for The New Hotness. Kinvara fans, should you stock up on the old model, or embrace the new one and get it over with for another year?

This seemed like a GRAND setup for revisiting last year's Kinvara 3 vs. Kinvara 4 head-to-head challenge. You're welcome.

Here we have two brand-spanking-new pairs of Kinvaras, version 4 on the top and version 5 on the bottom, size 7.5B:


As you can see, many aspects of the shoe's construction have remained the same, as they did from the K3 to the K4.

In theory, the stack height & heel drop (22mm heel/18mm forefoot) are the same. (To me, the K4 feels juuuust a touch lower to the ground, the same way it did compared with the K3, but I don't have calipers so I can only go by the specs Saucony provides.)

Although the bottom of the sole is slightly different (see below), by & large the outer sole is built the same way & with the same shape. Both are built on a semi-curved, strobel last (perfect for the neutral supinator, AHEM) and feature a high-abrasion EVA midsole with a pretty traditional thickness, decoupled & beveled (forward-angled) heels, a Memory Foam heel pod (I still don't know what this is) & a material called PowerGrid in the heels.

Kinvara 4 on the left; Kinvara 5 on the right.

There are definitely a few differences as well:

1) As mentioned above, the K5 has additional carbon rubber (which they call XT-900) on the middle outer edge (blue) as well as very slightly more in the toe area:

Kinvara 4

Kinvara 5

2) The tongue and heel collar area have been radically changed. Instead of the FlexFilm™ used on the K3 & K4, the K5 uses a much thicker, plusher material called HydraMAX™.

At first, this change felt a little weird. Because the HydraMAX is so plush, my heels sometimes feel like they don't really settle securely into the heel counter at first. A few minutes into a run, though, I get used to it and it doesn't bother me.

3) Most of the upper is made of a "new, more flexible and durable lightweight mesh material" that feels stiffer/sturdier than the K4. (I have read in a few reviews of the K4 that some folks did not like its upper material & had issues with it cracking and tearing over time. I never had this problem with my K4's & liked it just fine.)

4) Pro-Lock lacing feature. Two small pieces of material with lace holes that are actually connected to the sole itself, not the upper, the idea being that using these holes will cause the shoe to hug your foot more securely.

I agreed with RunBlogger about this feature--if you lace up pretty tightly, you can feel this doing something, but it causes the upper to winkle in weird ways, and honestly, if I tried to run with my shoes laced that tightly, I'd lose circulation.

The specs state that the Kinvara 5 should weigh in at exactly the same as the Kinvara 4, and this is indeed what I found:

BUT. It is worth pointing out that the pair of K4's I used for last summer's K3/K4 comparison--same size & everything--weighed in at 6.4 oz, and a year & many miles later, they still do. (At this point I got worried about the consistency of the scale, but after weighing all the shoes several more times on different surfaces, the numbers never changed. So I don't really know what to tell you about that.) Both pairs of K3's I've weighed (also 7.5B) both consistently also weighed 6.6.

Kinvara 4 on the left; Kinvara 3 on the right.


As far as sizing, the K5's seem right in line with the 3's & 4's. I've always worn a 7.5B comfortably, and that size in the 5 feels exactly the same length-wise.

Width-wise....Well, here's where things get a little weird.

Back when I got my first pair of Kinvara 4's & wear tested them against the 3's, I kind of felt like they were just a *touch* wider in the toe box. Not dramatically, but just enough to slightly prefer the 4's. When I read reviews of the 4, though, just about everyone mentioned that the fit seemed a bit snug, particularly in the toe box, and for some people the difference was noticeable enough that it was a deal breaker for them. This was incredibly puzzling for me, because my experience was almost the complete opposite.

I haven't really thought about it much since then until I put one of these new pair of K4's on one foot and one of the K5's on the other. The difference was undeniable, though; the K4 felt narrow, particularly in the toe box, and the K5 felt a little wider.

So obviously, out of curiosity, I had to go back to that pair of K4's I compared the K3's to last summer.

Old Kinvara 4 from last summer on the right foot (your left);
brand-new Kinvara 4 on the left foot (your right).

Old Kinvara 4 on the right foot (your left); Kinvara 5 on the left foot (your right).

Again, the difference was unmistakeable. The old K4 is noticeably more spacious than the new one, particularly in the toe box, and feels about the same as the K5.

And it's clearly not just in my head:

I really don't know what to tell you about this. I might be tempted to say that a couple hundred miles of wear over the course of a year has "punched out" the older K4 a bit, except that I had the same impression of it when I first put it on last summer. If K4s have been feeling a bit snug for you, though, it's probably worth trying on a K5 at the same time, because you might find there's a little more room.


With the exception of the width issues described above, the two shoes felt exactly the same on my feet when I first put them on--same level of stiffness, cushion, stability, etc. I first took them out with one on each foot, and with the exception of the width in the toe box, it was difficult to discern any real difference. I thought the K5 might feel different because it just sort of looks like more shoe, but it weighs the same & feels the same, so maybe that's just in my head.

I've since run several times in the K4's, the K5's, and in one of each, and my initial observation holds: it is very, very hard to pinpoint a real difference besides the width. With one on each foot, I was aware for the first few minutes of how the heel collars feel different--the plush HydraMax of the K5 vs the lean, light FlexFilm of the K4--but it didn't take long for even that to fade into the background.

In terms of the stuff that I think of as the "ride" of a shoe--flexibility, cushioning, ground feel--they feel basically the same. The 5's apparently have a material in the midsole called Powerfoam "to create a cushioned and responsive ride," but if it makes a difference, I was unable to detect it.


So there you go. I wish I could remark on the durability of the two shoes, but since I am a) not running that many miles yet and b) rotate my shoes a lot, it'll probably take a while to get to that point. All I can really say on that point is that I have worn Kinvara 3's into 500+ territory without any trouble. At that point there is definitely a difference in the cushioning that you can detect if you put an old shoe on one foot and a new one on the other, so I generally stop wearing them for long runs after about 300 or so. But 4-6 easy miles around the neighborhood? I can wear a hole in the outsole before they start feeling uncomfortable. And mud stained, blood stained, & faded though they may be, even the uppers are still in perfect working order. So we'll see how far I can take the 4's & 5's.

I hope that helps!