Performance Review: Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

Performance Review: Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

It’s hard for most runners to find shoes that maintain traction in the snow and ice. Personally, I dread running in the winter; watching the ground ahead of me for icy spots and dodging around patches of snow is always such a chore, which is why I was excited to try out the Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip. Icebugs are the brainchild of Peter Öberg and Erik Öhlund, who wanted to create a shoe that would provide traction in ice and snow without sacrificing the performance of a top-notch running shoe. Peter and Erik worked to create the best shoes for orienteering, which is a form of running that focuses on finding the quickest way between two points. With the new Icebug line, runners no longer need to be afraid of blazing trails through the ice and snow.

Icebug Pyth02 BugripNeedless to say, I was a bit skeptical of all these shoes claim to offer. Like most wintertime runners, I am used to navigating icy trails and hopping between clear bits of pavement. That’s just the way it is. End of story. However, I was curious to see if the Icebugs could really improve my winter running experience, especially with their BUGrip technology – dynamic spikes in the sole that claim to provide both traction on slippery surfaces and retract on clear pavement.

My first reaction upon taking the shoes out of the box was, “Wow, these shoes look really cool.” I was expecting a very industrial-looking shoe, based on all the technology the Icebugs have to offer – however, the design and the colors make the shoe look really flashy. Don’t get me wrong, these shoes are heavier than your average running shoe and thicker to accommodate for cold temperatures, but they are far from bulky. When I first tried on the shoes, I could feel that they were a bit heavier and stiffer than typical running shoes. At 10.2 oz for women and 12.4 oz for men, the shoes do add some extra weight, but they need to be sturdy for running through ice and snow, so the weight is necessary. In fact, I ran the Chicago Marathon in October 2010 in Mizuno Wave Creation 11s, which weigh in at 10.4 oz, so I don’t mind the weight of the Icebugs at all. I can see where someone who is used to running in light shoes might have to adjust to the weight, but I think an extra few ounces in worth the freedom to run through the elements.

Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

Icebug Pyth02 BugripIt was only after trying out the Icebugs at home on some snow and ice-covered roads in northern Wisconsin that I fully believed in their technology. I put these shoes to the test – I sprinted down an icy hill and stopped on an incline, I ran through patches of snow, I even went running out on an ice-covered lake –  and through it all, I didn’t slip once. The best part was that I didn’t have to shorten my steps and sacrifice my stride at all to run over slippery surfaces; I could run as easily as if I were on a clear road. Interestingly, the shoes performed well even when the road was clear. I was afraid that I might have to purposely run on snow and ice with these shoes so as not to damage the BUGrip spikes. However, the technology does exactly what it claims. When my foot applies pressure over a surface with greater resistance, such as hard pavement, the spikes retract back into the sole. After running in the shoes for about a month over ice, snow, and pavement, the spikes look the same as they did when I first took the Icebugs out of the box, so the BUGrip technology seems to be a success. The shoes also kept my feet warm and dry – the BIGdri technology absorbs moisture from the foot, and the thick outsole keeps my feet comfortably warm. After some runs, I would look down to find that the top of my shoes were wet from sweat, but my feet were completely dry. These shoes definitely seem to live up to their promises, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my regular shoes for winter running. I’m sold on the Icebugs.

Icebug Pyth02 BugripI only have a few minor complaints about the Icebugs. For one, the stability of the shoe compromises flexibility. Although I felt comfortable running in these shoes over all types of surfaces, my feet didn’t feel as cushioned or free as they do in my regular running shoes. When I run, I like to feel that my shoes are part of my foot and can move with me throughout my stride, but the Icebugs tend to feel a bit stiff. The shoes are not uncomfortable by any means, but I can definitely tell that these sturdy shoes are made for tough running conditions, not everyday running. Another minor issue I have with these shoes is that in snow over an inch deep, they don’t perform much better than regular running shoes. In deeper snow, the small spikes didn’t do much to increase traction, and my feet still slipped a bit in that footing. Still, I was amazed with the Icebugs’ performance on slippery surfaces, especially ice – they really do make winter running much more manageable and enjoyable.

Overall, I would have to rate the Icebugs as an A-. These shoes are incredible over ice and light snow, and they keep my feet warm and dry. However, the heavier weight, the slight stiffness of the shoe, and the way the shoes handle deep snow are all minimal issues. Still, I highly recommend this shoe to any running orienteers out there who want to take control of and enhance their winter running experience.

Available now: Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

Icebug Pyth02 Bugrip

*Performance Review shoes provided by Eastbay*

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid Kinvara

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid Kinvara

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid Kinvara

I have always heard good things about Saucony – in fact, one of my good friends who runs cross-country in college told me that her coach only recommends Saucony and ASICS running shoes. Therefore, I was excited to try out Sauconys for my next pair of running shoes. I ran the Chicago Marathon in October of 2010 in Mizuno Wave Creation 11’s, and they were absolutely the best shoes for the job. Throughout my training and the 26.2 miles of the race, I never had foot or knee problems. I never had any toe bruising, and none of my toenails fell off, which is a common problem for marathoners. After my excellent pair of Mizunos, I was skeptical that any shoes could live up to their high standard.

The Saucony Progrid Kinvara delivered.

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid Kinvara

When I first picked up the Kinvara, I could immediately feel the lightness of the shoe. The Kinvara only weighs 6.7 oz., as opposed to my Mizuno’s 10.4 oz. At first, I thought I would be sacrificing the cushioning of the Mizuno for a lightweight shoe. However, I was proven wrong. When I put on the Kinvara, I could barely tell where my foot ended and the shoe began. As soon as I started moving, I could feel that not only did this light shoe allow my foot to move naturally, but it also provided cushioning throughout my stride. The flatter midsole of the shoe allows for this dual cushioning and natural mid-to-forefoot strike. The shoe was also very flexible. I had never tried minimalist running shoes, so I was interested to see how my feet would handle this new type of running feel.

As an added bonus, I was blown away by the color of this shoe. I chose the Kinvara in bright orange, and the shoe I pulled out of the box was a flashy, almost neon orange. This bright color was exactly what I was hoping for, since bold-colored running shoes are so popular right now. The Kinvara supplied a combination of performance and color that I was eager to test.

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid KinvaraOn my first run in the Kinvaras, I noticed a lot of people staring at my shoes as I ran by. One guy I ran past even said, “Nice shoes!” Of course, the first mile and a half of my run was down a busy sidewalk in Chicago, so there were plenty of opportunities for people to see me out running. As soon as I got on the Lake Shore path though, I was all business. I really wanted to see how these shoes would measure up to my heavier marathon shoes. The first thing I noticed was how easy running seemed with the Kinvaras on my feet – I was excited to discover that my feet felt at home in these minimalist shoes. Still, I could tell that the shoes were providing cushioning, though not as much as the shoes I wore for the marathon; the added weight on those shoes comes from the extra cushioning. As my run continued, I knew that I was really going to like these shoes. The outside of the shoe is very breathable, which kept my feet cool throughout the run. I finished up my five mile run that day feeling great; sprinting at the end of my run felt easier than ever in these lighter shoes.

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid KinvaraOver the next few weeks, I varied my running distance in the Kinvaras. The shoes, and my feet, seemed to hold out, even after eight-  and nine-mile runs back-to-back. However, I did notice that my knees were taking more impact than with my marathon shoes. I don’t know if this is because my knees have lost some strength since the marathon, but I could definitely feel the difference. However, it never got to the point where my knees hurt, and I love still love running in the Kinvara’s. I’m not sure how well the shoes would work for full marathon training, which requires long, difficult runs, but I would definitely use the shoes for everyday running, 5K races, 10K races, or even a half marathon. I want to run another full marathon next summer, so I might try a pair of Kinvaras for training to see how my body handles the shoes. I would love to be able to use them for training, since they are so light and make running so easy.

Overall, I would have to give the Saucony Progrid Kinvara a straight A. I would recommend them for the average runner who runs three to six miles per day. I would also definitely recommend them for 5K, 10K, or even half marathon races, since they are cushioned enough to handle the distance, yet light enough to add speed and keep your feet feeling fresh throughout the run.

Available now: Saucony Progrid Kinvara

Performance Review: Saucony Progrid Kinvara

*Performance Review shoes provided by Eastbay*

Maree’s 26.2 Journey: Farewell Post

Maree’s 26.2 Journey: Farewell Post

Last weekend I ran all 26.2 miles of the Chicago Marathon. Look back on my training for my first marathon on Maree’s 26.2 Journey Blog.

I’m still having a hard time comprehending that I ran the Chicago Marathon less than a week ago. I can’t believe that after all my hard work and training I was finally able to accomplish my goal. It’s such an incredible feeling!

Even though I can’t wrap my head around the idea that I ran a marathon, my body is certainly not done reminding me what I put it through last Sunday. Today is the first day that I’m not distractingly sore, and I hope to try to go for an easy run later. On Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday I was so sore that I could barely move. It was so bad that I couldn’t even sit down without holding onto something – I felt like my grandma! Another interesting thing about running soreness is that it becomes difficult to walk down stairs after a strenuous running workout, whereas walking up stairs is far easier. It took me a long time to walk down the stairs in my apartment for those first few days after the race.

Another post-marathon symptom I experienced was extreme fatigue. I took naps on both Monday and Tuesday along with getting over eight hours of sleep per night, and I was still tired. Thursday was the first day that I was able to stay awake all day without feeling exhausted, which was a good thing because I had two exams in school that day! Of course, I was also extremely hungry in the days after the marathon. On Sunday after the race I ate two bananas, two bowls of pasta and lasagna and bread. My body definitely needed to refuel after running 26.2 miles.

In order to recover faster, I consulted Hal Higdon’s tips on “Zero Week”, or recovery in the first week after the marathon. He suggests a program that is essentially a reverse of Taper Week, which involves carb loading for the few days after the marathon, as well as fueling up on bananas and yogurt which are easily absorbed into the body. He also suggests no running until at least Thursday after the race. I had no problem with waiting to start running again; my muscles were so sore that it was hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone go for a run.

Now that my body and mind are feeling better, I am ready to get back out there and start running again. As I mentioned in my last post, I think I am going to get hooked on running marathons after this amazing experience. Training is great mental and physical exercise, and the feeling of making it through the race and crossing the finish line is truly like no other.

Since this is my last post, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have followed my training from the beginning – your support really helped me stay motivated throughout the last few months and inspired me to finish the race. I also wanted to thank Eastbay for donating products to me – the miCoach in particular helped me stay on track with training, and the GU was vital during long runs and for the marathon itself. And, of course, I never could have finished the race without my faithful Mizuno Wave Creation 11 shoes.

I want to encourage all of you who are considering running a marathon to check out some training programs and give the idea some serious thought. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon doubting that I would ever be able to run 26.2 miles, but through sticking to my training program I was able to accomplish my goal. Running a marathon was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life – I highly recommend it. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, running a marathon changed my perspective on life.

This quote sums up my marathon experience as a whole:

I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible. – John Hanc

Maree’s 26.2 Journey: Farewell Post

Maree’s 26.2 Journey: I DID IT!

After months of training, I finally finished the Chicago Marathon. Read my Maree’s 26.2 Journey Blog to find out how I prepared for my first marathon.

On Sunday, I ran all 26.2 miles of the Chicago Marathon in under five hours.

There are no words to define how happy and relieved I am that all of my hard work and training has finally paid off, but I’ll do my best to describe race day.

After relaxing, mentally preparing, and loading up on carbs on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday morning at 4:30 AM full of nerves. I was excited, but also feeling frantic about the race. However, after getting to Grant Park and meeting up with Ashley, Chris and Megan, my nerves turned into adrenaline and excitement. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the starting corral it was already packed, and we got stuck back by the 5:30 pace group. This, combined with the heat, contributed to my time being slower than I wanted because I spent pretty much the whole race dodging around people. It took 28 minutes to pass the starting line because there were so many runners, but that just made the excitement build even more.

I started out the race with Megan, who has had issues training because of her hip problems. We maintained roughly the same pace, so we decided to be running buddies. I saw my family at around mile 3, which gave me another big burst of adrenaline, and Megan and I were maintaining a 10:15 minute mile for the first 7 miles. Unfortunately, that’s when the temperature started to rise.

When the race began, the alert level was green, which meant good conditions for the race. However, soon the temperatures began to climb, and the alert level changed to yellow, and finally to red. I have to say that miles 14-16 were the most difficult I have ever run in my life. I was feeling fatigued, and the heat was really getting to me. By the time Megan and I got to mile 20, we had slowed down to roughly 11 or 12 minute miles, and the temperature had reached 88 degrees over the pavement. It was hot, we were tired, and we could barely keep running, but we willed ourselves to keep moving. By this point, many of the runners around us were walking or being guided to the medical tent. If not for the aid stations at almost every mile where volunteers handed out Gatorade and water, I probably would have needed medical attention too. Miles 20-24 were excruciating. I kept looking for the mile markers and thinking, “this can’t be right, we have to be at the next mile by now.” Finally, Megan dropped back at around mile 24, but I was determined to keep running, even when nearly everyone around me was walking. When I reached mile 25, I found my last reserve of energy and began picking up the pace for the finish. At the final hill at mile 26, I pushed myself as hard as I could to keep running.

When I reached the top of the hill and saw the finish line, I was ecstatic. I felt a huge burst of energy and sprinted the final .2 miles to the finish, passing people left and right on my way down. My friend who was watching said I looked like I was running as fast as the elite runner and Chicago Marathon winner Sammy Wanjiru, although I know that is a bit of an exaggeration, to say the least. Crossing the finish line was one of the best moments of my life, and in that moment I knew that I would run another marathon. There is truly nothing like it.

Of course, after the race I was completely exhausted, and I can barely walk today. After the race on Sunday I saw some people running near my apartment, and I literally felt sick watching them. I think I’m going to need a good solid week off of running, but I think I deserve it.

Below are pictures of me and my friends after the race. I ended up finishing in 4:56, which is slower than I wanted, but it was still under five hours, and almost all of the runners were off their pace due to the heat. Megan finished in about five hours, Chris ran the race in 4:35, and Ashley ran it in 4:25. She’s an amazing runner. Next time I’ll be faster. And yes, there will be a next time.

Me, Megan, Ashley and Chris after the race.

I love my medal!

My number.

Maree’s 26.2 Journey: Farewell Post

Maree’s 26.2 Journey: Marathon Weekend is here!

I am running my first marathon this Sunday at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon! Take a look back at my training on my Maree’s 26.2 Journey Blog.

On Thursday I went to Niketown, Nike’s huge store on Michigan Avenue, to scope out Nike’s 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon official merchandise that will be at the Health and Fitness Expo today. I know that it will be crowded at the expo with all of the participants there to get their race numbers and information, so I wanted to have some idea of Nike’s merchandise before attending the expo. When I got to Niketown, I realized that the two huge store windows were decorated with all 45,000 of the marathon participant’s names. Pedestrians were stopping to check out the huge list of names, and I joined a few fellow marathon runners in an attempt to find my own name on the windows. Luckily my name was at eye level, and I was able to find it fairly quickly. In a strange twist of fate, the man who was next to me searching for his name happened to find his name right next to mine!

One of the windows full of names. Yes, those are people's names on the window.

I was so excited to see my name on a list with top runners like Sammy Wanjiru and Irina Mikitenko. Obviously I am not as talented of a runner as these elite athletes, but I am very proud of myself for coming this far in my training. I never would have believed that I could run a marathon. When I tell people that I’m running the Chicago Marathon, so many say, “I could never do that.” The truth is that if you really set your mind to accomplishing this goal and your body is healthy, running a marathon is not only possible, but empowering. I know that I am going to experience the best feeling in the world when I cross the finish line on Sunday, and if all goes well I hope to continue running marathons in the future.

My friends and family have been sending good luck cards all week, and along with the positive messages I’m getting from my Blog followers, I know I have enough motivation to finish the race – so thanks for your support!

I’ll see you at the finish line…