Well, those shoes have become my “shoes for running hills” (not something I do often actually, so I’ve only worn them twice more since my last post). There are a couple of reasons for this:
- The extra cushioning makes going downhill much easier – on steeper hills, in more minimal shoes, you have to be more careful about the heel being forced to come down first, so these shoes give more protection in the hill, allowing you to just go with it.
- On the flat I felt they forced me more into a midfoot strike rather than my usual forefoot, but for running uphill you’re forced more to the forefoot anyway.
So, what was the perfect race for these shoes (for me at least)?
Indian Trails. Despite the name this is a 15k road race, but a hilly one. There are also several stretches of gravel road on the race (which is another reason these shoes worked out well for me – I didn’t have to worry about the larger stones striking against the bottom of my foot).
Last week I looked back at my performance last year on this race, and somehow I managed to do that race at an incredibly fast pace for me even wearing, if I recall correctly, my Vibram Fivefingers (it was either that or the Merrell Trail Gloves, but I’m not sure) – it seems that I must have forgotten my watch that day so I have no record of the splits, but I do recall going out way too fast and fading to the point where I was really struggling at the end. I also had the problem afterwards that the bottom of my foot, in particular my heel, was hurting at the end even though I thought I was avoiding landing on my heel while coming down the steeper hills.
I was not expecting to be as fast this year, and my goal was not speed – my goal was to enjoy it (and to make sure I actually took in the fantastic Manhattan skyline view from the last hill which I somehow could not recall from last year – probably through exhaustion).
So, what actually happened in the race. Well, pretty much what I hoped with the added bonus of being faster than I thought I would be – only 37 seconds slower than last year. I’m pretty sure that this was achieved only through being able to go faster on the downhill sections because of my shoe choice. The last downhill was very steep, and I let myself go dramatically, recording a pace of 5:11 at one point. You can pretty much see that reflected in my mile splits as mile 9 was at a 6:16 pace. It’s also pretty easy to see here where the hills were (I hadn’t reset my watch so the first 2 splits recorded were from a short warm up): http://connect.garmin.com/activity/294850083 – average pace this year 7:01/mile compared to last year 6:57/mile, but I felt great at the end this year so I consider this a success.
I’m looking forward to seeing the official photos from this race, as I’m pretty sure they were taking pictures on that last downhill and I was almost laughing as I started to come down – will be disappointed if they didn’t catch that on film.