Friday, June 24, 2016

Shoe Review: Kinvara 7s (spoiler: thumbs up!)

So, yeah. I've been loving my cheap-ass Brooks Launch 2s &, like the original Launch before them, they've served me well as a great marathon/long run shoe. Here's hoping version 3 will be just as good.

I was pretty excited about how great the Launch 2s were working out since my beloved Kinvara 5s had long since sold out, and, update on the Kinvara 6, they pretty much suck. I don't know what it is about the upper but the more I ran in them, the more they started to feel like a vice grip on my foot in the vertical direction. I finally got to the point that I couldn't even tolerate the one pair I had for an easy 3-4 miles & relegated them to gym shoes. I took them to Ireland for walking around in, but even that was a mistake.

This made me a little iffy on trying a pair of the 7s. For the last couple of years, when Saucony has done a new Kinvara release, I've done a X-vs.-X+1 head-to-head comparison post using a brand-new pair of each (K3 vs. K4, K4 vs. K5, K5 vs. K6), but there was no way I was buying another pair of 6s just for that. In fact, the only reason I own a pair of 7s at all is because I picked up a barely-used return at Sports Basement for like $25.

So, post-Ireland I decided to give the Kinvara 7s a shot & see if there was any hope for them as functional running shoes, and the answer is an emphatic YES.

Now, I'm not doing a head-to-head comparison with the K6 here because the K6 is so completely awful that there's just no point. (However, Running Warehouse has, if you're curious about their thoughts.) But since the K7 is the current iteration you can actually buy and it's not completely awful, here's just a quick run-down of what I like about it:

Sizing & Comfort

Other than a few aesthetic adjustments to the upper, the 7s look more or less like every other pair of Kinvaras I've ever owned.

Full disclosure: In the past I've worn a size 7.5 in Saucony shoes (vs. 8 in most other brands), but lately I've been desirous of more and more room in the toe box.

(I mostly blame this on walking around in Hoka Cliftons when my PF was at its worst; they may be the weirdest, sloppiest, most useless running shoes I've ever tried, but they are UNBEATABLY comfortable for just tooling around with a messed-up foot, partly because of the cavernous toe box, which I will admit to kind of falling in love with.)

The discounted pair from Sports Basement was a size 8 and that was comfortable, so I bought them (which I mention so that it's clear that when I'm comparing the K7 to previous iterations, it's not really apples to apples).

That said, as soon as I slipped my feet into them, I got an undeniable "Ahhhhh...." sensation. I've mentioned before that part of the reason I like Kinvaras is because the last they use seems to fit the shape of my foot really well, and that is definitely still true.

But in addition to that, they were just comfortable--cushioned but not squishy, no hard or rough edges rubbing against my foot anywhere, and plenty of room not only in the toe box but in the mid-foot as well. I A/B'd them with a few other pairs of (size 7.5) Kinvaras I have, and it's unmistakeable--these are the most comfortable pair of Kinvaras I've ever owned.

The K5s are a close second; who knows, maybe the difference is all in that extra half size.

I'd been wearing a pair of K3s around this morning, which felt more or less fine until I slipped on one of the 7s, and holy crap, the 3 suddenly felt intolerably tight and pinchy! How did I used to run in these???

You can see just by looking that there's a noticeable difference in the width of the K7 & K6:

K7 on the left, K6 on the right.

K6 on the top, K7 on the bottom

K6 on the left, K7 on the right

Flexibility & Support

No real difference here that I could detect. I A/B'd them on some short runs with a recent pair of K5's and it all feels more or less the same, but with a little extra toe room.


My first pair of Kinvaras were version 3, so I can't speak to what the first two versions felt like, but I have read that some folks who have been wearing this shoe since it first arrived on the scene in 2010 felt like none of the versions since the first two have been as responsive as the K1 and K2, and that maybe the K7 recaptures some of that original feel. From Running Warehouse:

    "Since the fit did not change much [I beg to differ but that's neither here nor there], the improvement of the Kinvara 7 takes place underfoot. Gone is the PowerGrid heel inset, which has been replaced by Everun. However, I think this change is only a small part of why the Kinvara 7 feels better. More so, I attribute the change to the midsole sculpting along the lateral side of the shoe. The sculpting allows for more compression and a smoother feeling of deceleration of impact forces. Also, the outsole IBR lugs have a different orientation and are wider for better shock dispersion. The result is a more comfortable ride. A ride that moves in the direction of the original Kinvara and its first successor."

Again, pretty similar to the K5s in terms of how they feel on the road--a nice balance of flexibility & support, enough cushion to stay comfortable for multiple hours of slogging but firm enough for decent ground feel, and a little extra room for the toes. Definitely my new favorite for long runs in terms of comfort & plain old getting the job done.

That said, I think I'll probably stick to these for long, easy runs. Yes, they're super roomy and comfortable, but on the track or in a short, fast race I'm not sure they'd be quite responsive enough for my liking. In those cases I actually like a snugger fit like in the Kinvara 3 or 4 (which doesn't bother me for short periods of time).

Bottom Line

Man, I am loving these shoes. After version 6 I'll admit that I had begun to lose faith, but version 7 has restored it. They're still full price right now but the second this shoe starts to show signs of disappearing, you can bet I'll be stocking up just in case the next version sucks.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Plantar Fasciitis & Brooks Launch 2

For the past few months I've been dealing with some incredibly tiresome plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I don't really know if running caused it or not, but funnily enough, running actually isn't painful 99% percent of the time. In fact, it actually seems to help--my best days seem to be the ones after a long run, and after Eugene I felt almost normal for several days.

Literally any excuse to post this picture. #eugene

Even walking isn't that bad if I've been up and around for a while and all the muscles & things have gotten nice & warmed up. Walking after I've been off my feet for a while, though? Sucks.

Worst of all for a while there was waking up in the morning. Not even kidding, there were plenty of days when I felt like a pair of crutches at my bedside would not have gone amiss. (Thankfully, it always got significantly better after five or ten minutes of walking around.)

Any time you've got a persistent injury everyone's advice seems to be to stop running for a while & let it heal, but during the ~3ish weeks around the time we were in Ireland I didn't run at all, and guess what? It got worse, not better.

Needless to say, all this had me scouring the internet for tips & tricks (like you do when you can't get an appointment with your foot doctor inside of a month). The good news is, people know a LOT about PF & there is a lot of helpful information out there. I can't remember now all the articles & posts I read, but this one by Kelly O'Mara stands out because a) it was aimed at runners and b) it was written by a runner who I know for a fact is both realistic but also extremely legit. (A lot of what's out there is aimed at older or sedentary/inactive people, which for the most part is different advice than maybe what you need if you're a young-ish, very active person.) I also found this one by John Davis helpful.

Long story short, here are the things that I feel like have (arguably) helped improve my symptoms over the last month or two:

  • Wearing flats as much as possible
  • Stretching my calf/Achilles several times a day
  • This stretch several times a day (from the Davis article)
  • Taping my foot for runs over about 6 miles.
  • Wearing a blue SuperFeet orthotic in my left shoe, along with strategically placed metatarsel pads
  • This technique from PT Kelly Starrett
  • Sleeping in a night splint (which has pretty much eliminated altogether the first-thing-in-the-morning need for crutches)
  • Switching temporarily from my 4mm drop Kinvaras to a 10mm shoe

(In case it isn't obvious, almost all of this has to do with fixing calf muscle tightness, which is apparently one of the biggest causes of PF.)

I read the bit about how switching to a higher drop shoe had helped some people when I was at maybe the worst of my symptoms just a few weeks before Eugene. I love me some Kinvaras (except for the 6, which was awful) but at that point I was willing to try just about anything. Thankfully, I am also a big fan of the Brooks Launch when it comes to longer distances, which happens to have a 10mm drop, so I decided to try switching back to that for a while & see if it made a difference.

I have a couple of pairs of the original Launch kicking around in the closet which I would have happily worn, but around this same time a friend of mine was raving about the Launch 2 which I didn't even know existed. Apparently that version was on its way out, which meant they were being hugely discounted everywhere, so I figured what the heck & managed to find a pair in my size for like $40.

The Launch (versions 1 & 2) is a bit stiffer than any Kinvara I've worn, but they're nice & roomy as traditional running shoes go with a bit less cushioning than most (= better ground feel).

And? It worked!

Launch 2s in the wild.

Generally I try to rotate my shoes both for the good of my feet as well as to prolong the life of the shoes, but I got the Brooks 2s in early April & ran in them for basically every run between then and Eugene (including the race). Between that and everything else on that list above, my symptoms gradually got better in the weeks leading up to the race, and I was able to run it completely pain-free (and was even pain-free for several days following the race!). So I'll definitely be holding on to those babies.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sojourn on the Emerald Isle...

Don't worry, this isn't going to be an eight-part modern epic on My Summer Vacation. I just wanted to say HEY! and I AM BACK! and HERE IS A TINY FRACTION OF THE COOL STUFF I SAW AND DID IN IRELAND!

The backstory is that Don and I have actually been attempting to plan an Ireland trip since 2010. But it didn't work out, and instead we ended up in Alaska.

Why yes, I did climb a glacier up to the highest ice field in the world!

We tried again in 2013 and wound up in Hawaii.

Making undeniable progress on the 50 States bingo card,
but still longing for the other side of the Atlantic.

In 2014, we found ourselves in Italy:

Technically, getting closer.

Don't get me wrong, this was all AMAZING, but for all that we'd declared we were not not not leaving the country and/or taking any big trips this year due to the ongoing saga of our house renovations, it was a little hard to say no when Don's parents mentioned the "Gourmet Ireland" trip they were going on with two professional Irishmen and there were only a few spots left and were sure we didn't want to tag along.

Since our renovations show no sign of actually beginning soon (le sigh) AND we wouldn't have to be in charge of anything except showing up, we finally said "What the heck" & sent the Irishmen a check.

We have never done a group tour before and only did this one because a) it was a tiny group (less than 15 people) and b) Don's parents, who are not package tour people either, had done a "Gourmet Spain" tour with said professional Irishmen & utterly raved about them.

I'm happy to report that we had an absolute blast. Yes, it was a very specific type of trip with a very specific focus, so there are definitely plenty of things in Ireland that we didn't see or do, but we also got access to people and places and experiences we never would have on our own.

So here you go -- "Gourmet Ireland" in one roll (24 shots).

70° and sunny in Dublin!

Pints at the Gravity Bar, Dublin

The Long Room, Trinity College Library, Dublin

Dublin Castle Gardens

Dinner at The Pig's Ear, Dublin

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Christchurch, Dublin

On the way to lunch in County Clare

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Kilbeggan Distillery, County Westmeath

Whiskey tasting with Ireland's top whiskey expert (A LADY!) in County Kerry

Midleton Distillery, County Cork

Midleton Distillery, County Cork

Ballymaloe House, County Cork

Ballymaloe Cookery School (where we cooked our own dinner!)

Dinner at Ballymaloe (we cooked it!!)

Dessert at Ballymaloe Cookery School (Raspberry fool made by yours truly!)

Cheese Tasting at Cashel Blue, County Tipperary

The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Belfast River Walk

Belfast River Walk

Belfast Cookery School (where we cooked lunch!)

Teeling Distillery, Dublin

Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin

{We now return to our regularly scheduled program.}

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Let's Try This Again: Danville 10K Race Report

(Not long after leaving the country on June 1, I saw that a few folks mentioned in the comments that the pictures for this post weren't showing up. Alas, being computer-less, there wasn't much I could do about it. But behold, I have returned victorious from the Emerald Isle, and I think I've figured out what the issue was & how to fix it. Please let me know if not.)

(Also, apparently, I misspelled Cathryn's name through the ENTIRE POST. D: I suck. But that's fixed now too. Please enjoy.)

A few months back, Cathryn sent a bunch of us an email about the Danville 10K/Half where she was planning to go after a 10K PR. I knew I'd only be about 4 weeks post marathon at that point, but I love running with these ladies & it was only $35 through 3/1, so I decided what the heck & signed up. (And then....promptly forgot about it until post-Eugene.)

I felt like trying to actually race a 10K less than 4 weeks after a marathon was probably epically stupid and not likely to end well, but I was signed up & still wanted to run & see my friends. Since Cathryn was trying to PR I offered to pace her (read: inflict my debut pacing attempt on her), and she agreed.

A few days before the race she sent me a plan about exactly what she wanted to do--basically I would wear her watch & try to run somewhere in the 8:02-8:09 range, with kind of an "A" goal of sub-50 & a "B" goal of a PR (sub-50:38). We knew it would probably be a hot day but were both excited to see what we could make happen.

The drive was significantly shorter than I'd thought it would be (I guess there's no traffic at 6:30am on a Saturday....) so I arrived around 6:50 for the 8:10 start. This meant I had my pick of parking spots, got my bib in seconds, & was in & out of the bathrooms (the LDS Church where the race is staged graciously opened their doors for runners) before they had a chance to be fouled by everyone else.

Not too much later I ran into Cathryn's husband & son, then Cathryn, & then Jen & her sister-un-law, almost all at once. We chatted & pinned on bibs, & then some of us headed for the bathrooms while others amused ourselves by sitting on our asses & watching the group warm-up. (Yes....we're those people. But to be fair this was still 30-40 minutes before the race so hell yes, I'm sitting on my ass.)

At 7:45 Jen & I jogged about 5 minutes down the course & back (wanting to be back before the half marathon went off at 8:00), & then I did some strides & stuff on my own before meeting up with Cat again at the start. She gave me her watch, & we said goodbye to IronHubs & TriDude & worked our way towards what seemed like the appropriate spot at the start line.

I wore both Cat's watch (set to distance, pace, & time) & mine (set to distance remaining, estimated finish time, & average pace), & between the two of them just tried in that first mile to settle us into a comfortable 8:00-8:10 pace. While I'm terrible at racing even 10K splits myself (I tend to negative split WAY beyond what is appropriate), I know it's the most efficient way to run any given time, so my plan was to keep us right in the range of Cat's goal range, start to finish. (I also always count on my watch recording the course slightly long due to bad tangents & plain old GPS error, so I thought that if we could stay right around ~8:04-8:05ish, that would put us within striking distance of a sub-50 if we got to mile 5ish & she was feeling amazing, but even if not she'd still have a solid shot at a PR.)

Just a couple miles in, I was definitely feeling the heat & was very grateful that most of the course was shaded. I hit 'lap' on both our watches when we passed the mile 1 marker, which I think may have been a bit short because our watches only read about .96 miles & the split was 7:45-7:50. The error seemed to work itself out over the next mile, though, when our watches beeped right at the mile 2 marker & clocked ~8:11 for the split.

We saw Cathryn's husband & son at the turnaround, which was a nice boost. At this point she said she was feeling really good, which was awesome! I found out later that we hit the 5K in like 24 minutes (ie, at ~48:00 pace), but when I remembered that it was a slight downhill out & slight uphill back, I didn't feel too bad about that.

Courtesy of Cathryn's instagram ;)

5K down & feelin' good!

Also at this point they yelled to us that we were 3rd & 4th women. I hadn't anticipated that we'd be that close to the front and immediately my brain went "OH HELL YES I AM GETTING THIS GIRL ON THE PODIUM."

Of course mile 4 is where the bear climbs on your back in a 10K (or at least it usually is for me), not to mention that it was now so, so hot. I was asking Cathryn occasionally how she felt & it was towards the end of mile 4 I think that she mentioned it was starting to feel like work. She started to slip back a little in mile 5 but I tried to keep my pace under 8:09 so that she'd still have a clear idea of what we needed to do for her PR.

As I mentioned this was the first time I've officially paced someone, & a lesson I learned for next time is that you should talk ahead of time about what the plan is if the runner starts to struggle with the goal pace. Does the pacer stick to the pace anyway so that the runner knows what they'd ideally be running, or dial it back a bit so that they're not abandoning the runner? Since we hadn't talked about it I think I ended up kind of splitting the difference--I tried to stay under 8:10 so that if Cat did stick with me she could still meet her goal, but didn't want to get beyond cheerleading distance.

Glancing at our watches in mile 6, I knew we weren't quite going to get in under 50 minutes but if she really gunned it she could still PR and I shouted something to her of that effect. (She'd told me from the beginning that I shouldn't be afraid to channel my inner drill sergeant!) I tried to cheerlead her all the way across the line and I was thrilled to see that although we didn't break 50:00, her watch still read 50:14 (a 0:23 PR I think?) when we crossed the line & I hit stop.

Unfortunately, I got so caught up in cheerleading & desperately hoping Cat would get her PR that I'd completely forgotten that we were in 3rd & 4th & about my plan to get her on the podium. We crossed the finish basically at the same time--even had the same official time!-- but for whatever reason apparently I was counted as the 3rd woman & Cat was 4th.

As soon as I realized what happened I was sick about it. The way I see it, I wasn't racing, just helping a friend try to meet her goals. I know this probably sounds a bit poor-me-my-diamond-shoes-pinch but it felt completely wrong to me that Cat had raced her guts out & I got a trophy.

Ill-gotten loot. :-/
Seriously. Sick about it the whole way home.

She was a little bummed that the race distance read 6.15 instead of exactly 6.2 and that our official time was was 50:21, which I can understand. My take is that ~0.05 is well within GPS error for a 10K so I have no problem calling it that distance-wise. (I feel like my bar for calling a non-certified 10K course "short" is maybe ~6.1-ish.)

Time-wise, it turned out that the chips only registered finish time, not start time, so everything was a gun time. We were pretty close to the front but not right on the line, so it probably took us a few seconds to cross the start. (Also, looking at our finish pictures which have the race gun time up, it looks to me like we crossed the line at more like 50:19 than 5:21.)

Which is all to say, if it were me, I'd call the time 50:14 & the distance 10K, no question. (Obviously certified, fully chip timed races are awesome, but you can't always find one where you want & when you want, & as long a course is not obviously woefully short, I have no problem going by my watch as long as I know I started and stopped it at the right time.)

Then again, as I mentioned to Cathryn, maybe those little niggles are just motivation to go out & find another nice flat 10K on a cooler day. By sheer luck, I have never had to run a 10K in warmer than maybe 55°F, and I have to say WOW what a difference 20° makes! Having run a 24 second PR on a hot day, my personal opinion is that if it had been say in the 50's, she would have easily gotten her sub-50 and I'm super excited to see what she does at her next 10K. :)

Layla, Cat, Danielle, Jen (who also PR'd!!), & me. #bloggers

Victory French Toast!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Danville, CA

Date: Late May (May 28, 2016 this year)

Price: Pretty reasonable if you get in early. From the website:

I remember the days when you could run a quality 10K for $20 but sadly the times they are a-changing so these days I consider it a deal if I can run a good one for under $40. (Also, this one is a charity for the Semper Fi Foundation so really, it's completely fine.)

Deadlines/sellout factor: This is a small local race so there was still race day registration.

Field Size: Finishers:

  • Half Marathon - 186 finishers
  • 10K - 111 finishers

The Course:

Both races started behind the LDS Church in Danville and within a quarter mile or so entered the Iron Horse trail & were out-and-backs. This meant both races were fully paved & almost flat with very few turns. There are a few road crossings, but traffic was being managed by volunteers so there was no worry of having to stop for cars. (THANK U VOLUNTEERS U DA BEST!!!)

Half Marathon:


The portion we ran on was smooth, plenty wide enough for the number of runners, and mostly shaded (for which we were grateful). Water & gatorade were provided about every 2 miles.


The race was staged behind the LDS Church in Danville, which has convenient access to the Iron Horse trail. It seemed like there was plenty of parking in their lot (I arrived pretty early & parked in like the 3rd closest spot), & they had graciously opened their bathrooms for runners' use. (PRO TIP! If there's a line at the front bathroom, go around behind the basketball course to find the SUPER SECRET EXTRA bathrooms. I would like to say this was savvy on my part but honestly I just got lost & those were actually the first ones I found.)

Race day bib/shirt pickup was super easy. Like I said I arrived early & the table was obvious, so I literally walked right up & had my bib in seconds.


Nice medal & logo cotton T, plus mini trophies for top 3 men & women in each race. (I have a giant giveaway bag of race shirts in my basement as it is so I skipped this one.)


Also, plenty of post-race snacks & beverages.

If you decide to run:

Just know that it will probably be warm. Everything else about this race was fantastic & it was super well organized, but it's Danville at the end of May so even at 8am you're almost guaranteed 70+ temps.

Overall Assessment:

This was a lovely local race at a reasonable price and really the only thing to even kinda-sorta complain about was the weather, which we knew going in. If you magically happened to get a cool day, this could be a PR course. (Or, you can just be a hot weather #beast like Cat. ;) )