Running Update – Loud Shoes Edition

First run in Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

New Gear:

About 15 years ago, a friend turned me onto Mizuno running shoes. They are light, relatively inexpensive, and had the support that I needed for my gait an pronation. They are great shoes. I generally love me some Japanese design. Function-wise, Mizuno was no exception. They have been my faithful go-to running shoe ever since then. For some reason, however, they just keep making them uglier and uglier. From a visual design perspective, the only distinction between my most recent pair of Mizunos and a pair of granny-style mall walkers is the fact that the colorway is not white on white. I know that running is not a fashion show, but I’m running the NY Marathon in a few weeks and I want to wear some good looking kicks for the race. I’m not exactly a young buck anymore, But hey man, I’m certainly not a senior citizen yet either. Until then I’m not trying to give off any grandpa vibes with my footwear. After imagining the horror of opening up the NY Times on Nov. 8th and seeing a photo of myself running down 5th Avenue sporting old-guy kicks, I went on a quest for a non-geriatric looking pair of running shoes to race in.

I had heard good things about the brand ON. I think that they are a pretty good looking shoe and decided to try a pair. They had a nice fit for my foot and seemed okay for running…. except for the fact that the sole design is super prone to rock collecting. Given that I have been running on trails or gravel roads 3-4 times per week, they just weren’t practical. When I wore the ONs, I was forced to stop every half mile or so to remove (some quite sizable) stones lodged in the out sole. They are probably fine for city running, but I’m not going to gamble on wearing them for a marathon without having worn them on at least a few long training runs.

Prevailing public opinion (especially of non-runners) seems to be that Nike is the obvious choice in running shoes. I have had a love/hate relationship with Nike runners since my first pair of Air Pegasus that I wore in high school track. There has always been something not quite right about the way they work on my feet. The past couple of years I have picked up a few pairs of Vapormax, but mostly just for looks. I have never actually run in them. They are not comfortable at all on my feet, even just walking around the city. Summer 2020 I picked up a pair of deeply discounted Nike trail runners that I actually think are great. So when I saw the new Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, I thought I would give them a shot. The visual design is about as non-octogenarian as it gets. In fact, when I first took them out of the box, I was worried that they might be a little much. After my first run in them, I was hooked. They are insanely comfortable and light. I only wore them for three shortish runs before breaking them out on last week’s 20-miler. Didn’t even get a blister. They are honestly the most comfortable shoe that I have ever worn and they seem to give me a literal bounce in my step. All of that said, there are definitely some drawbacks. First: they are insanely expensive as far as running shoes go (roughly double the price of the Mizunos I was using). Another downside is that they appear to be wearing out much faster than the average running shoe. The front section of the out sole is super soft, almost tacky to the touch. This is awesome for gripping the road, but I’m already seeing significant wear after putting only 50ish miles on them. Based on these facts, I’m not sure that I will be able to justify these as a daily runner. I may have to reserve them for training/racing, only. For now, I will enjoy these kicks to the maximum (as well the fresh still-in-the-box pair that I will race in next month), even if it means my theoretical photo in the Times ends up looking like that middle aged guy who is desperately clinging to youth by wearing loud sneakers! 😉

October 2021 Playlist

Switching it up a bit this month. It is marathon season again. This is an especially big deal for all of the runners who had qualified and trained for a race last year, only to have it delayed and/or cancelled. I have a sister running Boston this year, and I will be running NY with my other sister and her husband. Being neck deep in training has caused me to spend a lot of my playlist making energy on running mixes. Instead of the usual variety of Jake.News playlist, I’m sharing a running playlist this month. Good luck to everyone racing this autumn!

 

Unit Garage Panniers

One of my main takeaways from this little jaunt that I did over the summer, was that I needed to figure out a real luggage solution for my bike if I was going to be taking anymore multi-day trips. I had been passively scanning the Revzilla spam emails, and paying a little closer attention to the other bikes I saw with good looking boxes or bags affixed to them. But I didn’t see anything that really stood out to me. A few weeks ago one of my friends from Union Garage randomly sent me a message about the new stuff they had received from the Italian outfit Unit Garage. So many garages!! At any rate, I knew right away that I had found the gear I was looking for. Can’t beat that Italian design!

Initially I ordered only the side boxes, hoping that I could retain the existing rear rack. Soon after I began installation, I realized that the existing rear rack would not be compatible with the pannier racks, and ended up ordering the top case as well. The Union Garage guys were very cool about making sure that I had matching lock cores for the whole set, so that I wasn’t carrying around extra keys (or worse, forgetting to carry them).

Installing the racks to the frame was a piece of cake. Getting the OEM under-tail unit to play nice with them is a different story. Ultimately I had to reposition the indicators a few inches to the rear (the pannier kit included parts for this), and shortened the stocks down to about an inch in length. I also had to take a sawzall to the stock tail light bracket and plate holder. I ended up going with an after market plate holder, but was able to use the original OEM tail light after trimming a few inches of plastic from the original housing.

I am very happy with the way they came out. The boxes are super nice with neoprene liners and leather top straps. Now I just need to plan another road trip!! Here are a few additional photos–

Canoeing on the Battenkill

We recently spent a weekend in Vermont with some work friends. Sunday ended up being rainy on-and-off. We caught a break in the rain and did some canoeing on the Battenkill river near Manchester. B and I had an awesome time, so did Lola. It started pouring rain right as we approached the exit point. Here are some snaps I took before the deluge.

NE Moto Trek Recap

Somewhere in Southwestern Mass or Northern CT.

In early July, I was fortunate enough to cut loose from the desk for several days and explore some of the back roads of New England. Thanks to Backcountry Discovery Routes, several of such roads had already been mapped out for me. I was able to attend an event at Union Garage (at some pre-pandemic date) where the BDR guys basically unveiled the North East route. After watching the promotional film at the event, I was super stoked about trying it out someday. As it turns out, the route runs right through my neighborhood in the Catskills, and I now have a bike that goes off road. My plan was to ride sections 2, 3 and 4 as far as the top of Mt. Washington (then turn around and come back) in the space of 4 days. Long story short, I learned early on in my trip that it was unwise (borderline idiotic) to attempt some of the tougher parts of this route alone with no cell service. I made it as far as Chester VT, when the forecast turned to rain for the foreseeable future. As a result, I opted to turn around and spend a full day riding back to the Catskills instead of spending multiple more miserable days riding in the rain. As it was, I saw some very beautiful country. I had some very anxiety inducing moments in the deep back country, but ultimately made it out the other side. The ride back was insanely wet and dreary, but better one day than multiple. Here are some photos from the excursion. Most of them were unfortunately cell phone shots (taken in portrait orientation). But here they are anyway-

Somewhere Between Fleischmanns and West Kill NY

The photo above is the first section of really gnarly terrain that I encountered. This was on the downhill side, which I found much more difficult than the uphill. It was so rough that it shook my water bottle loose from its moorings. It is a lot of work wrestling a 600 LB bike through this stuff, especially when wearing full gear in 80+ degree (and humidity) weather. I had a moment when I stopped to take this photo where I wondered to myself exactly what I had gotten into.

A few Miles South of Copake Lake, NY

Western Mass (I think)

Canaan, CT

North Adams, MA

York Lake, MA.

The section above was another one where I almost got stuck/dropped the bike a few times. It had rained all night, and there was very slippery mud in the rutted out trail. You can see from the haze in the air how humid it was that morning.

Left: North Adams, MA. Right: Somewhere south of the Berkshires.

Left: Southern VT. Right: North Adams, MA

The Signs Don’t Lie in Farm Country

Beartown Mountain, MA

South Lee, MA

Grafton, VT

Left: Chester, VT. Right: Catskills, NY

Overall, it was an awesome experience. I highly recommend it, if you are into dual sport riding. Hoping to give it another shot next summer when I have (a) a proper luggage solution and, (b) some company.