Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gear matters

5.1 miles at Eisenhower Park

Today's run (Eisenhower Park): 5.1 miles @ 9:23 per mile

I've said it before but I'll say it again: gear matters. I'm beginning to understand that a person's running pace is related to both their physical abilities as well as the unique conditions and variables that make up a run. Hills and heat can slow down a runner while the right weather can make a run feel effortless. A shirt that fails to wick moisture can contribute to overheating and ill fitting socks or uncomfortable running shorts can distract from a runner's focus. Every variable can yield a positive or negative influence on performance. What is a quick drying shirt worth to you on a hot, humid day? I'd say plenty. What about running shoes?

If you asked me a month ago what I averaged for pace I would have said that I run between 9:05-9:25 per mile. In a race I'd usually beat the low end of that by 20-30 seconds. Again, it's the conditions that make the difference with all those other runners helping to sweep you along. Recently I've been alternating between my mainstay Brooks Adrenalin GTS 10's and two pairs of lightweight Saucony running shoes. When I run in the Brooks I'm a solid low-9:00 miler. If I'd needed heavy motion control shoes I might be working hard to regularly break 10 minute miles. When I run in the Saucony Kinvaras I often attain paces below 9:00 per mile. If I'd always run in the Kinvaras I'd have considered myself a sub-9 minute mile runner all along.

The Saucony Grid Tangent 4's provide an even greater boost. I regularly run 8:40 minute miles with the Tangents which I consider to be a decent 5K race pace. I haven't yet raced in these shoes but I'm hoping the combination of speed boost from the shoes plus a faster pace through competition will help me beat my racing PR of 8:19 per mile. My next race is an 8K that pushed my limits last year so it will be interesting to see how the variables work on that day.

This morning I returned to Eisenhower Park to run the paths, some of which I'd traveled on a Red Cross walkathon with my family earlier in the month. I locked onto a course defined by arrows painted on the ground and followed that all around until I found myself back near where I'd started. I took a more free range route from there, circumnavigating the big pond where people sail three foot remote controlled sailboats and then passed through the Veteran's Memorial gardens. At that point I began to hear the sound of a marching band blasting out patriotic music as was fitting on this Memorial Day weekend. I finished after completing five miles and while my speed wasn't impressive it was definitely a good workout. So perhaps I may have covered more distance at a faster speed were I wearing my Sauconys. Gear definitely matters but between the GTS 10's and the Tangent 4's, it's all good.

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