13 March 2018

Road review: Salming Speed 6

It's probably a bit premature, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on my first pair of Salming running shoes.

I may have only logged about 24 miles in them, but 13.1 of them were at the Chilly Half-Marathon ... so they're not just road-tested, they've already been race-tested.

As for the bottom line?

(Wait for it ...)

As a new Salming ambassador I must say that I was excited to get my hands (and feet) on a pair of the Speed 6.  By all accounts these shoes are a strong everyday trainer as well as potential longer distance (e.g. half/full marathon) race-day shoe.  At just around 7.4oz for a men's size 9 they clip the boundary of racing flat territory, while the 22mm-to-16mm stack height from heel to toe provides ample cushioning for hammering out the miles.

Aside from the overall lightness of the package some of the more notable features of this shoe include the aesthetics - the fluorescent yellow/black colourway wreaks of velocity, but add to that the crazy prismatic effect that comes to life when light strikes the darkened panels on the upper and, well, you've got this pre-dawn runner giggling like a 7-year old on Christmas morning.

Noticeable on the outsole of the Speed 6 is the 62/75° flex groove, situated at what's described as the "ballet line".  The shoe bends at this point (on the announced 75°angle) to help optimize the natural movement axes of the foot, with 62% of the shoe toward the rear of that line and designed with extra stability (more on that in a moment).  You can also see the word "Recoil" printed underneath the heel area and this is the moniker given to Salming's midsole material which is marketed as an extremely lightweight cushioning material that provides a 'high rebound' (or energy-return) effect.  A good deal of midsole is visible on the bottom of the shoe with really only six notable rubber-laden sections for added durability and traction, so the added weight is not significant or without merit.

The upper on the Speed 6 is a mesh with the chromatically-responsive overlays affixed to provide a bit of a structured feel - it was snug without being restrictive, and I find that my medium-wide foot didn't experience any rubbing or cramping issues at all (a vital part of shoe functionality for me).  I swapped out a different pair of laces (because my shoes didn't come with any extra anythings out of the box) partly because I prefer flat laces (to the supplied round laces) and partly because I wanted to colour-match the orangey-pink lettering already printed on the shoe.

So how'd these shoes work out?

Honestly, there's part of me that feels like my review is a carbon-copy of another review that I'd read online (which I now can no longer locate!) that made some observations about the feel of the shoe.  My initial impressions were that the shoe felt rigid and resulted in a 'slapping' effect against the ground with each step - perhaps this is because of the 62% of 'stabilized' shoe and the only real flex points coming ahead of that 'ballet line'.  The sensation made me think that I was thudding my way all around town, but when I got home after my first workout in them it turned out that my splits were faster than I'd surmised ... so feel aside the Speed 6 actually delivered.  And during the half-marathon my friend Steve (who paced me for the final kilometre and to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude!) asked me how the shoes were feeling and my unfiltered response was "well, I haven't noticed them and that's a good thing".  This was true - the shoes pretty much disappeared on my feet and at no point did I process the 'pavement-slapping' feeling.

All in all I think that these shoes will do admirably well for marathon training and some uptempo workouts, although my preference will be to slide into a pair of the Race 6 shoes for my sub-3 attempt in May.  But for sheer funkiness and and performance results I gotta give these shoes a solid four footprints out of five.

Who knows ... now that I've #runSwedish, I may never go back! :)  Give it a try yourself at https://www.salming.com/ca/running/ and use the promo code "VOO20" for a 20% discount!

#nononsense #SalmingRunning

*** DisclosureI am affiliated with Salming Running Ambassadors (North America) but was not obligated to provide a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

05 March 2018

Race report - 2018 Chilly Half Marathon

My momma taught me "if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all".

Well, I'll say a few things anyway ...

I've had two really positive experiences at the Chilly Half-Marathon, both in 2016 and 2017.  Maybe it's because they were freebies to me, maybe it's because I managed to clock PB times at both races.  But those outings were certainly enough to entice me to go for it a third time around, and this time to actually foot the bill myself.

Alas, perhaps I was getting a bit greedy.

Having signed up a little less than a year ago (to nab the super-earlybird rate) I wanted to once again approach this race as a bit of a barometer as to my fitness level going into the spring racing season.  In consultation with my coach it was clear that this was not a target race and that the training plan would have been structured differently had this been something that was intended to be a goal-oriented event - all the same I knew that in my previous two attempts here I had not peaked for this race either, and held some faint hopes in the back of my head that I might once again pleasantly surprise myself.

The real story of this year's Chilly Half was about my friends - from Gillian (who picked up my race kit for me and saved me an extra trip to Burlington), to Stan (somehow I keep running into this guy despite the masses of people - some 3600 strong - who show up on race morning), to lining up with Jack (a fellow Trinity College alum with whom I'd had the pleasure of reconnecting at the 2016 EndurRUN) and Jeremy (my bud from Barrie who seems to PB in just about every race he enters), to finally Steve (a star Black Lungs athlete who hopped off of the sidewalk to pace me for the final kilometre of the race).  These people are the ones who really made an otherwise difficult race memorable, and who helped temper my disappointment with the result.

All in all it was a tough day - with some gusty winds, although the sun was out, the roads were clear and the temperatures manageable (at about -3°C).  The race again featured a couple of Olympians (Reid Coolsaet and Krista DuChene) and all sorts of performance-level club runners (including my friends Josh Bolton, Rob Brouillette and Tanis Bolton), so the field was fast.  It was my impression that a fast field encourages/drafts all participants to run that little bit faster, but maybe that's more in my imagination that in reality.

The short version is that my legs just didn't have any pop on this particular day, and that every time I thought that I was injecting a bit of pace it was effectively no change at all.  The strongest part of my race came as Steve Elliott jumped in to help me over the final km and I was able to pass a few of the runners ahead of me to gut it out for a 1:29:51 finish.  Thank goodness for small mercies, as if I'd clocked 1:30 or more I would definitely have walked away with my head hung low given where I thought that I was in terms of my speed, conditioning and strength.

It was still a good day out there for Jeremy (who came across in 1:24:14) and my friends Peter (who managed a PB in 1:26:46) and Gillian (a PB as well!), so I'm happy to celebrate their great achievements!  For my part I'll put my focus back onto executing my coach's training plan for my sub-3 marathon attempt in Mississauga.  And we'll see what happens when I step up to the start line again in the Hamilton region for the 2018 edition of the Around The Bay 30k in three weeks' time ...

Key race gear used:
#nononsense #runSwedish #fuelsimply #TeamTap #werunthistown #RunNinjas


28 February 2018

If I can make it there. I'll make it anywhere ... ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯

Well, it looks like I'll be Big Apple-bound this fall ...

During the week leading up to the 2018 Chilly Half-Marathon I found out that my finishing time at the same race last year has qualified me for a guaranteed entry into the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon.

I'm amped to be able to not only visit NYC for the first time ever, but to also check off another one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors.  Time to hit up some family and friends for help to make this trip happen!

31 January 2018

"S" Marks The Spot - Again!

Timing is such a funny thing.

At the end of last year I made the difficult but satisfying decision to not renew my contract as an athlete ambassador for Skechers Performance Canada.  It was my hope that in doing so that would provide an opportunity for someone else to take my spot on the squad and experience the joy and amazing support that comes with being sponsored by (in my humble opinion) one of the very best running brands on the planet.

It also left me to be a 'free agent' of sorts for the first time in over four years.

I'll be honest and say that there was a part of me that was eager and excited to try out different brands of running shoes again ... for instance, I'd heard that Hoka One One was starting to build their shoes on a wider last (the narrow fit had been a deal-breaker for every pair of Hokas I'd ever tried on), and that Swiss manufacturer ON puts out a pretty sweet product.  I was also eager to perhaps try out a running shoe designed and assembled in the land of the Kalenjin, Kenya's own Enda Iten.

And then there was the fateful evening where my wife and I were Christmas shopping at our local Winners store.

We were trying to finish up getting gifts for our kids when I received a message from my friend and fellow running enthusiast Stefan Albinsson.  Stefan and I had first gotten to know each other as Skechers Performance ambassadors, but I also tracked with Stefan as he is an outstanding athlete and shoe/gear reviewer.  A little over three years ago Stefan became affiliated with the Swedish athletic brand Salming (best known for their floorball, handball and squash products) as they were branching out into the running industry and exploring the North American market.  He's since become one of the preeminent voices on social media elevating the visibility of the Salming brand, and his text to me was an exploratory message to find out whether or not I might be interested in joining their small but mighty troupe of ambassadors.

While I hadn't really had any intentions of signing on with another sponsor, Salming had definitely caught my attention over the past couple of years - between some very positive reviews of their running shoes, Stefan's high praise of the company (but hey, they're Swedish and he's Swedish) and my own intrigue at the organization bearing the name of one of my childhood hockey heroes (Toronto Maple Leafs hall-of-famer Borje Salming), this was a tantalizing opportunity.  We exchanged several notes back and forth, clarifying expectations involved with an amabassador position (as Stefan is the lead ambassador for Salming's US team), and eventually I submitted an application as part of their 2018 ambassador search.

Well lo and behold ...

So here I am again familiarizing myself with a whole new set of hashtags, a brand new tribe of amazing athletes and fascinating human beings, as well as a new array of shoes and technical running gear.  It's like being a kid in the candy store again.

I look forward to hopefully being able to enhance the visibility and reputation of this European brand here on Canadian tundra/soil.  I also hope that a pair of Salming Speed 6 will propel me over the Mississauga Marathon finish line in under three hours!

#nononsense #SalmingRunning #runswedish

29 January 2018

My Breaking3 Project

Could 2018 be the year?

When I first started running I connected with a number of faster athletes here in the Barrie area through our local Running Room, and one of the first guys that I got to know was an ultrarunner named Keith.  It was awesome to pick his brain and learn from his accumulated wisdom and knowledge, but one of the things that stuck with me even then was how he noted that it wasn't until he was 47 years old that he finally managed to break 3 hours for the marathon distance.

Hey ... I'm 47!

And so here I am, after a few years and several (failed) attempts at completing 42.195km in less than 180 minutes, hoping to finally crack that barrier.

But you know what they say - if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.

Which this year led me to begin working with a coach again.

At the end of the 2017 running season I knew that I had to/wanted to shake things up for me and try to stimulate some different physiological development so I embarked on a bit of a research project to assess what would be my best option for a coaching relationship.  I explored a number of options, up to and including initial conversations with some of the best coaches that I could think of:
While I'm confident that any of the coaches/services that I'd contacted would have provided phenomenal guidance and accountability, in the end I decided that I would work with my friend and fellow Barrie RunNinja Mike MacInnes.  Mike has had experience as a strength trainer, is studying currently for accreditation as a marathon coach, and has proven his own mettle by bettering his marathon time from 3:11 to 2:45 in just a couple of years.  I liked the idea of being able to work with someone locally (that I could actually spend time running alongside) as well as hopefully providing some mutual benefit to him by being just his second or third coached athlete.

The experience so far has been good, and different - Coach Mike has me focusing much more on strength workouts (lower body, upper body and core) and less on mileage.  This is definitely a departure on my previous approaches to marathon prep, but as an aging athlete I know that muscle mass is easily lost and focusing on getting stronger will not only help my speed and endurance but also will go a long way in terms of injury prevention.  Besides that, Mike has indicated to me that when we hit my peak training week my mileage will probably be hitting somewhere in the 160km department, so that'll be more mileage than I've ever put in in one week's time.  Gotta trust the coach and the system.

For now I'm getting just a couple week's worth of workouts at a time, and providing a weekly log back to my coach so that he knows what workouts I'm getting in, if I'm feeling good/bad/otherwise during them, and what else might be playing into the big picture life-wise.

I've got a few 'test indicators' coming up in the next couple of months (including a third trip to the Chilly Half-Marathon as well as another go at the Around The Bay 30k) which will serve as tune-ups in advance of my planned Breaking3 attempt at the Mississauga Marathon.

This will be my last shot at going sub-3 while I'm still 47 years old.

Let's just see whether or not I can keep up with my pal Keith in this respect.