Tag Archives: Hoka One One

Cold Logic: No Frills All Thrills Race Recap


(Warning: it’s based on the fact that I ran outdoors all winter, so I’m guessing that many of you will not be nodding your head in agreement.)

Oh, we're all ears, I'm sure.

Oh, we’re all ears. Enlighten us.

Okay, here goes.




(Remember, I warned you.)




Last Saturday, I ran the No Frills All Thrills 8K trail race at Huron Meadows Metropark in Brighton. I run it every year, and it lives up to its billing. No shirts, no photographer, and it’s timed by the gun – no chips on the bibs. But it supports a good cause (Girls on the Run), and whoever baked the post-race chocolate chip and red velvet cookies gets my vote for sainthood.

The metropark trails are challenging in the best of conditions, with some steep climbs and descents built into the course. This year was not the best of conditions. The snow may be gone from the roads, but the trails were still covered in several inches of the stuff, and while some of it had been tamped down, for most of the course we just had to slog through it.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all winter – slogging through the snow. And I was wearing the Hokas, which while not exactly letting me glide along, gave me good traction and kept my feet dry. I liked my chances.

The few...the proud...the nut cases...

The few…the proud…the nut cases…

I got off to a decent start at the back of the leading pack. The trail was mainly ice for the first quarter mile, which meant stepping carefully and trying not to trip over other runners. But when we entered the woods I settled in, and began to pass people one by one as they struggled in the snow. It was hard going, like one of those bad dreams where you’re running really hard and going nowhere. But no one passed me – no one – while I continued to improve my position.

No gold shoes for age group awards this year, but  check out the mug with integrated spoon.

No gold shoes for age group awards this year, but check out the mug with integrated spoon.

I crossed the finish line pretty sure I’d done well. And the initial posted results had me in 12th place overall, out of about 120 total. Quite satisfactory, although I had to settle for second in my age group.

But the story wasn’t over. That night, I logged in to look at the final results – and I’d moved up to 9th place overall. A top 10 finish! Woohoo!

But wait, there’s more…

Tonight I went back to look up my finish time so I could update my race results widget, and saw this!

NFAT 2014 - my race result

According to the race organizer, some of the 8K runners decided to take the detour and just do the 4K – and didn’t tell anyone at the finish line. They think they have everything correct now. Too bad – they way things were going, I’d have won the race by next week!

So there you have it. I rocked out a cold, snowy race for a 6th place overall finish – my best ever – and I owe it all to this winter.

For my next trick, I will explain how the 2012 Dexter tornado led to my current PR in the 5K. Or maybe not. One twisted logic story is enough for now.

Whatever Happened to Minimalist Running?

Then... (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re a runner, you’ve heard of minimalist running. Ditch the heavily padded running shoes and slip on the Vibrams. Born to Run, baby! Like the South Beach Diet, everyone was doing it, whether or not they knew it was doing them any good. But it seemed to be about to transform running by reducing injuries and making running more enjoyable.



Yet the fad seems to have faded. The newest craze in trail running is just the opposite – thickly padded shoes like the Hoka One Ones (which, as I’ve written about, are terrific for running in snow.) And the shoe companies have cut back sharply on their minimalist offerings for 2014.

So what happened?

I’m not sure there’s a clear answer, but it was the subject of a great discussion and Q&A recently at the Northville Running Fit. Among the panel invited to share the experiences and answer questions were physical therapists, the business manager at Running Fit, and some local avid runners, including one who is better known for something else.

Who is this mystery panelist who graciously posed with me? Answer at the end of this post.

Who is this mystery panelist who graciously posed with me? Answer at the end of this post.

Much of the conversation was about shoes. Did thinly padded, lightweight shoes actually help any of the panelists? Here’s what they had to say on their experiences with running footwear.

What’s wrong with the “traditional” running shoe?

Standard running shoes of the last two decades generally have a padded heel and a higher heel than toe (referred to as a “heel to toe drop”). Such shoes can include arch support and features to “stabilize” a poor foot strike. It’s all intended to protect against injury. But does it?

Panelist Jef M. was originally told he needed stability shoes with motion control, due to his flat feet. “Still, I got hurt a lot,” he said. Then he was given an opportunity to participate in a shoe-testing program – and made a discovery. “The more expensive the shoe,” he reported, “the more I got hurt.” After switching to minimalist shoes, “I’ve been injury-free ever since.”

No one on the panel or in the audience spoke up in defense of traditional shoes, not even the Running Fit employees, though no one disputed that some people need corrective shoes for certain physical conditions.

As a side note, Chris McDougall, the author of Born to Run, also had frequent problems when running in standard shoes, and his injuries vanished when he began running in minimal shoes.

So we should start wearing “minimalist” shoes?

Like “traditional” shoes, the definition of “minimalist” is not fixed. Some shoe companies refer to minimal padding, some to a low heel-to-toe drop, and others to lighter weight. And there’s a lot of variety and combinations of those characteristics. But it usually means a less complicated shoe, with little or no artificial support built in.

So is it true that “less is more” with running shoes? Farra, another panelist, ran many ultramarathons, including a 100-miler, in minimal shoes without serious injury. (Although her self-admitted “too frequent” ultras led to other problems. More on that next post.) And I run quite a lot in them, including marathons, without any trouble.

But panelist Jeff Kong of Tri-Covery Massage & Fitness was less sold on them. “The Five Fingers brought in a lot of business,” he said. Among the issues he sees are calves getting tight and painful. And there was agreement to start slowly if you weren’t used to them. “Running 12 miles my first time in those shoes was a bad idea,” someone admitted.

Barefoot RunnerOne of the audience members then spoke up. “Even fit people can get hurt by going too far too soon in minimalist shoes,” he said. Turns out he is a member of the Barefoot Runners Society, and he only runs barefooted.

Okay, then let’s all run barefoot.

This approach has its supporters. One advantage is that it quickly punishes bad form. As the BRS member pointed out, “You can’t heel strike running barefoot.” (But I wish I’d thought to ask him what he does in the snow.) And the barefoot runner I saw at a Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon didn’t seem bothered at all running barefoot on hot pavement. But like with any major change to form, you need to start slowly to allow the body to adapt.

Panelist Kristen from Michigan Rehabilitation Services says she puts runners on the treadmill barefoot, “to see what kind of strikers they are.” She says that runners can be trained to stop heel striking even in motion control shoes.

So what kind of shoes should I wear, then?

Here there was agreement; as we’re all different, there is no single style of running shoe that works for everyone. The best approach is to get a pair of shoes that fit well and are comfortable. Minimalist shoes, and even barefoot running, can work if your form is good and your feet and ankles are strong enough. The good news is that form and strength can be improved with practice and exercise.

I have a beef about shoe companies that I put to the panel. “Every time I find a shoe I really like, the next year’s version of that model is different. Why can’t they leave well enough alone?”

“Fashion,” said Trevor, Running Fit’s business manager. “Every designer wants to make his mark. Every year they want to use the latest technology.”

“Embrace the diversity,” Jef M. said. “You may find something new that works for you.”

So I guess it’s something I’ll just have to live with – or buy 100 pairs of my next favorite.


Next up: if you’re hurt, should you blame the shoes? The same panel also addressed the question of what causes injuries and how they can be prevented.

Yep - Jef Mallett, creator of the comic strip Frazz.  Indirectly, he helped my daughter get a job...but that's another story.

Yep – Jef Mallett, creator of the comic strip Frazz. Indirectly, one of his strips helped my daughter get a job…but that’s another story.

A New Year: Training and Traditions

FitnessFridayLinkup buttonFirst run of 2014: Late afternoon, 15 degrees, snowing, and four inches already on the ground. But my training goes year-round, and running on New Year’s Day is one of my personal traditions, so I layered up, strapped on my new headlamp, and went out for 4 miles and change.

Most non-runners I know are pretty amazed that I run in these conditions. But it can be very pleasant. After the first mile or so, I usually feel really energized. Two layers plus a jacket kept my core warm, and my new Hoka One Ones got me through the drifts and kept me from slipping. I’m really liking these shoes. Cold fingers, and snowflakes blowing into my eyes, were only minor annoyances.

Running in gently falling snow also gives me a sense of peace and serenity which allows my mind to unwind and defocus a bit. I can detach my thoughts from everyday stuff and just be in the moment, aware and grateful that I am healthy and fit enough to be out there.

PR Fitness - we're not just serene, we get down!

PR Fitness – we’re not just serene, we get down!

It’s good for mental discipline, too. My Aikido instructors teach that the brain gives up before the body gives out (generally just before they announce some killer breakfall sets) and as I’ve written before, running long or hard (or both) involves getting the brain out of the way. I had a splendid example of both success and failure at this just a couple of weeks ago at the Saturday morning PR Fitness run.

"Personal challenge" - it's a guy thing.

“Personal challenge” – it’s a guy thing.

I’d planned on running my assigned 13 miles at a slow, steady pace, but I started out with the faster group and decided as a personal challenge to keep up with them. It wasn’t easy but I got into the flow, and my mind was occupied with staying upright on slippery roads rather than how hard my body was working. And then, 9 miles in, I suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten any breakfast.

I’ve run up to 12 miles without eating before, but not at this pace. Conventional wisdom says I should have been fatigued and hungry, while I’d been cruising right along, feeling fine. But once I began thinking that I should be tired and hungry, I became so, and my last four miles were a struggle. I just couldn’t silence the mental reminders. So I’ve got more work to do there.

Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for reading!

On the road to recovery.

On the road to recovery.

Fun in the Snow, and Respecting One’s Elders

Southeastern Michigan got royally dumped on last weekend, which actually led to more outdoor exercise for me, in the form of shoveling our long driveway. Three times. It’s good upper body work. If this keeps up, I’ll look like Charles Atlas in the spring. (When he was alive, I mean, not right now.)

The PR Fitness Saturday morning run went ahead as scheduled, although with snow falling and a wind chill near zero, the group was a bit smaller than usual. But I plowed along for 12 miles, fortified by hot Gatorade at the water stops. (Have I mentioned that coaches Rob and Marie are wonderful people?)

The Saturday morning group gets it done! Coach Rob is nearest to the camera.

The Saturday morning group gets it done! Coach Rob is nearest to the camera.

Then came my assignment for Monday. “Snow running is resistance training is disguise,” Marie wrote in my Training Peaks calendar. “So run with a high effort. Have fun in the snow.”

JJ was here.

JJ was here.

Oh, joy. I like resistance training about as much as I like cold showers, but I was dumb enough to say I wanted to get stronger. So off into the snow it was. And I knew just the place – a two-mile stretch of sidewalk along a business route. Some of the sidewalk had been shoveled, other parts less so, and some not at all, providing at least four inches of fresh powder to run through. Perfect interval training. And the snowplows had helpfully piled on even more on the bridge across I-94, so even with an evening temperature in the teens, I got warm very quickly.

To my surprise, the run went really well. My new Hoka One Ones provided great traction and the supersized cushioning kept their tops above the snow, so my feet stayed dry. Don’t tell my coach, but I actually did have fun. And it’s good training for next month, when I run my first-ever snowshoe race, the Bigfoot 5K in Traverse City. (More on next year’s running goals and events to come. Hint: it’s ambitious.)

Aaron birthday cakeLast weekend also marked the 60th birthday of Aaron, one of our regulars and a strong marathoner. He wasn’t too thrilled about joining his new age group, because the 60-64 year-old runners around here are at least as tough as those ten years younger (hmm…wonder whom that might include), not to mention Doug Kurtis, who at age 61 just completed his 200th marathon of 3 hours or less.

On Saturday’s run at least three of the front runners in our group were age 60 or above, Aaron among them. My 12 miles in the snow wiped me out – I mean, I was gassed – but I was pleased with my effort and that I’d stuck it out. So as I was preparing to leave, brushing the snow off my car, here comes Aaron cruising up the sidewalk. He’d done 14 miles.

On Sunday I went to a surprise birthday party his wife had organized. “I’d make some crack about you being an inspiration to me,” I told him, “but it’s actually true.”

A talented artist in our group did this drawing of Aaron. Really captures his spirit!

A talented artist in our group did this drawing of Aaron. Really captures his spirit!