Friday, July 27, 2012

Asics Gel DS Racer 9 Review

Every so often, the stars align and you slide on a shoe that feels like a glove straight out of the box, and you know that it's a model you'll add to your arsenal for the foreseeable future. This was the case yesterday when a pair of new Asics Gel DS Racer 9's arrived on the doorstep. As far as road shoes go, for the last year I've been running primarily in the New Balance minimus line, and the Pearl Izumi Streaks. I have a penchant for minimal footwear, and at the 7.7 ounce Asics Gel DS Racer fit the bill at least as far as weight goes, if not in its medial posting and heel:toe drop however.

After a heavy race season this past spring, I developed a case of Plantar Fasciitis. The footwear I had been running in provided no arch support, and so I was looking for a light shoe which offered a higher arch and some medial posting in a light package. That being said, PF is not typically a footwear problem, but moreso related to imbalance in strength, ie, poor hip strength on the affected side, imbalanced stride lengths, previous knee injury, etc. The purpose of this write up is however a shoe review, and NOT an open forum on PF, so I digress- back the Gel DS Racer.

As a finely tailored suit is custom cut to each dimesion of the body, a shoe should fit every curve of the foot. Shoes are all built on different lasts; some with wide heels, midfoots and forefoots, some with narrow heels, midfoots and forefoots, some with narrow heels and wide forefoots, etcetera. The list could go on for quite some time. For good running form and injury prevention, we should run in shoes made for our specific foot. I know for me, that means running in shoes with a narrow heel and a medium forefoot. The Asics Gel DS Racer 9 has just that, a narrow heel and a medium midfoot and medium to wide forefoot. (The NB Minimus line is the same in fit characteristics.) In the NB minimus line however, I wear a 9.5 and in the Asics Gel DS and Pearl Izumi Streak II, I wear a 10. If you typically fall between 2 sizes, order the larger of the 2. My size 10 Asics fit perfectly.

The upper of the Gel DS is flawless, very light, yet still hugs the foot. The material is about as light as can be expected in a racer, and provides great ventilation. In the same vein regarding ventilation, the sole of the shoe has holes to drain water, which comes in handy during summer races where water may splash down the legs and enter the shoes. It now has an exit point in the drainage holes.

The midsole is cushioned well with stack height of 24 in the heel and 13 at the forefoot, providing a near standard 11mm heel to toe drop. For those into more minimal footwear, I can say I've been running in mostly 4mm and 0 mm drops lately, and converting back in this shoe was a non-issue and the shoes feel great and don't hinder proper form. In my case, my form has actually improved greatly and I plan on racing in this shoe and doing the majority of my road speedwork in this model. Back to the midsole, I would say the actually cushioning is medium, not totally spongy like the Kinvara and some Brooks, and not uber firm like some Mizuno's and the NB Minimus. On the inside of the midsole, (medial side), Asics has placed a firmer midsole durometer, their "Duomax" posting, which provides support for pronation. There is great coverage on the sole for higher mileage and you get near total coverage of adequate rubber, not just in high wear areas.

I'm pretty excited to have found this shoe, and although it's a "racer", it definitely provides enough support for my frame to be a daily trainer. I plan on using it primarily in training, and in racing as well, with about 3 other road models from various brands to use for more specific workouts.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tour De Virginia June 30-July 14 560 Miles On The Appalachian Trail

On June 30, 2012 the Tour De Virginia Prologue stage began.

Rebekah Trittipoe, Rob French, Eric Grossman, Anne Riddle Lundblad and Myself embarked on a 560 mile stage race on the Appalachian Trail across the state of Virginia. The TDV consists of 14 stages and a prologue, each stage averaging 40 miles. We had to carry our own gear, food, and means of treating water for each stage. We camped at nights at trailheads, or stayed in hostels or houses. We had a chef, James Grossman and a crewman Adam Bolt.

Prior to the TDV, I had my first bout of Plantar Fasciitis which hampered my training substantially after a successful spring ultra season. I'd now say that after completing one of the hardest foot races ever conceived by man, PF is not a death sentence.

Now, one week after completion of the Tour De Virginia, I still find myself dreaming of the TDV every night while I sleep and missing the routine of waking to the smells, sounds and sights of the Blue Ridge Appalachian Mountains, and running all day only to stop before dinner and crashing for night.

At the end of the brutal stages running through 100+ degree temps and climbing and descending incessantly, we would often wonder how in the world we could wake up and do it again, yet we always did. and found strength and solice in knowing the bodies incredible ability to recover in only 12 hours from the previous stage.

A central theme in my run was as always, run your own race and run with patience until the last third of the race.

I'm still piecing my thoughts together and hope to complete a more thorough write up of this incredible adventure in the near future.