Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Altra One 2 Review

Before talking about the Altra One 2, I want to let you know where I am coming from with this review.  I have run almost exclusively in Altra shoes for the past 3 years, and run mostly in trail races and a handful of ultramarathons.  Most of those were run in the original Altra Instinct.  As a Physical Therapist, I could tell you all of the reasons why I thought running in a zero drop shoe with a wide toe box is the way to go but a lot of it comes down to comfort for me.  They are just about the most comfortable feeling shoes I have ever worn.  And if you are going to have a shoe on your feet for 12 hours or more...they had better be comfortable. 

Altra is coming out with a lot of new shoes and updating their older models.  The One 2 is an update to the previous One but it’s really it a completely new shoe.  There is a lot to like about the new model.  The first thing I noticed about it is that the entire shoe is very flexible and lightweight.  It has that slipper-like feel when you put it on your foot.  Very comfortable. 

Altra One 2  
The upper is very pliable and soft as there are no rigid structures in the upper.  I want some snugness in a trail shoe.   For a road shoe though, I have recently learned to like a softer feel throughout the upper.  One complaint I do have is that the toe box height is very low.  I have tried a thinner sock and a thinner insole and that helped.  I did check after I had already starting wearing out the shoe and Altra does recommend sizing up.  If I could do it over again, I would go up at least a ½ size to help with both length and toe room.

Altra One 2 - Very unstructured upper
One big surprise I don’t remember having in a shoe before this one is the lacing system they have in the One 2.  The lacing system runs in a diagonal direction towards the lateral toes. 

Altra One 2 offset lacing
 The tongue is stitched on the medial side and free on the lateral side.  This seems to let the tongue just slide laterally as far as needed so that it doesn’t bunch up if you need to tie your shoes tighter.  The lacing system and the tongue really work well to secure your foot but without putting too much pressure on the top of your foot.

Altra One 2 with tongue stitched on one side only
The midsole is a soft, segmented, and very flexible.  I have heard other people compare it to the Saucony Kinvara or Viratta.  Of those, I have only run in the Kinvara and can see the comparison there.  I would say that the One 2 has less structure throughout.  If you like those shoes, but also like a wide toe box, this might be a good option for you.  Despite the light weight, there is still a lot of midsole under foot.  Enough that I could see running in this shoe in a road marathon. 

Altra One 2 midsole
Overall Impression...


     Light weight
     Comfortable, soft upper
     Lacing System
     Enough midsole for a daily trainer or race shoe up to marathon


     Low toe box height – highly recommend going up a ½ size.
     Prefer outsole to cover each segment to help w/ longevity of shoe

Bottom Line...

This shoe works for me.  It’s very comfortable for most of my daily road runs.  I could see this being a racing shoe for anything from a 5K to a road marathon.        

Update:  I finally got the correct size in this shoe (1/2 size up).  Since then, put many, many miles on this shoe, including the bulk of my training for my first 100 miler.  It's amazing to me how this shoe can be so light and still have so much cushioning.  It's the shoe I go to day after day.  I only find it lacking for the most rocky/technical trails.  Otherwise, you'll see me in this shoe for just about everything else.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Good Shepherd

This is the artwork that has been on the back of my the prayer book I use.  It is The Good Shepherd by the Mafa Christian communities (North Cameroon).  I've spent quite a bit of time looking at the back cover this month.  I'm not someone who is knowledgeable about artwork by any means but I really enjoy this depiction of the Good Shepherd.  I thought at first that I was fascinated by a non-caucasion image of Jesus but I don't think that's it.  I think I like it because it really looks pastoral.  This looks like someone who really is a shepherd out tending the flock.  

The story behind the image is that when a lamb would constantly stray from the flock, the shepherd would then carry it on his shoulders until the lamb learned to stay close to the shepherd and the safety of the flock.  This was done for the safety of the lamb, who might run off and get attacked by a dangerous predator.  It was also done for the safety of the flock, so that the rest of the sheep wouldn't follow the wayward lamb.  There is probably some story, some truth here but I really like the image. 

There are several questions I ask myself when thinking about the Good Shepherd.  How often have I been the lost sheep that strays from the flock?  How much do I stay with the flock and closely follow the shepherd?  When have I been carried by the shepherd?  Besides trying to figure out where I fit into all of this, the important thing is to realize the image of the relationship of the shepherd to the sheep.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...I know my own and they know me...I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself.    

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2014 Possum Kingdom Trail Run Report - 20K

This was my second time to run the Possum Kingdom Trail Run put on by Dave Hanenburg and the endurancebuzzadventures family.  It's a great race and a good excuse to get out of the city a little bit.  Last year, I was healthy and in decent shape, and was able to finish the 52 miler.  I even considered it more or less a training run for a 50 miler in the mountains a couple of months later.  That “training run” turned out to be a lot more challenging than I envisioned, but I was able to put my head down and finish the race. 

This year, I've battled a foot injury for a number of months and was glad just to be able to toe the line for this one, picking the 20K as the “easier” distance.  It was only easy in that the distance was one that I knew wouldn’t flare up my injury.  It turns out that running these shorter distances is pretty darn hard since everyone seems to think that we ought to run faster since we don’t have to go as far.    

In some sense, this kind of race was kind of good for me.  I let out a lot of the frustration of dealing with an injury.  Frustration at having to pass on a couple of races because I knew they would probably make the problem worse and frustration at not being able to run as much as I am used to…and so I went ahead and poured some of that into the run.  Before the race, I thought of how some psalms are full of praise and thanksgiving but some are also full of lamentation, even anger.  So I let some of that out during the run.  I think that’s normal as long as it’s momentary, not eating you inside, or affecting how you treat others.  In my case, I just channeled that energy in to the run. 

At the same time, there was great joy in finally going out to race again.  For one thing, it was great to see old friends and meet some new ones.  Also, I really enjoyed trying to run fast.  The course has an interesting mix of both surfaces and terrain and you have to choose when and where to push.  For me, this meant running hard up the hills and then letting gravity take over on the downhill.  One of the real moments of joy included really letting my feet fly running down hill to the point that I could hear and feel the breeze going by my ears.  Maybe you remember that sensation from your childhood when you ran as fast as you could everywhere you went.  That’s what it felt like.

One bonus to turning 40 this year…I won my age group!