This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.
At some point brand loyalty is always tested.
Now I am very happy with how my running has gone since I moved back to running in Pearl Izumi running shoes last October. No real injuries to speak of, just a lot of consistent running. My work schedule has interfered with my running more than any running shoe related maladies.
Also, I love being a part of the Pearl Izumi Run Champions 2016 Team and the people I have met on online as a result of being a member.
Things are going so well, they are almost boring.
I am not used to it...where is the chaos of what running shoe to buy, whining about how it didn't work, my feet hurt, the wife giving me "the look" when a shoe box shaped package arrives unannounced or that little email arrives from the bank alerting her that I have warmed up my credit card again.
So it must be time to spice things up again.
However, as great as I am running, I have noticed a pattern over the last month or so, especially at the races I have done or attempted fast/hard speed workouts. I start out really great and by the time I get to 2.0 miles, my legs are feeling really heavy, even if the rest of me feels pretty good and that I have to work really hard to keep up a higher cadence.
Now this could just be a sign of me getting older and yes, I gotta admit it might just be a part of the answer, but then again...
It doesn't feel that way to me, that would be more from the breathing end and I still have plenty of wind (when the allergies are not kicking arse).
Which brings me back to the shoes
Yeah, with me it is always about the running shoes (whether it is true or not).
Train heavier and race lighter is the way I was taught back in the dark ages and I still tend to think this is pretty good advice.
- So my training rotation is pretty good: M3 Road v2, H3 Road v1, N1 Road v2, N1 Tri v2, N1 Trail v1
- My racing/speed work rotation: N1 Road v2, N1 Tri v2
I am happy with the training rotation, but when you are using the same shoes for racing, is it what I am really looking for?
The difference is
The other day, I dusted off my old Asics Hyperspeed 6's and did an easy run in them. Yes, there was a distinct difference between a what I consider a lightweight training shoe (N1's) and a racing flat.
I want to run fast in them, versus I can run fast in them.
That statement might be a subtle difference for many runners, but it is a major difference for me and even if it is only in my head, it is still how I feel. Which affects my running faster.
However, here were reasons that I retired the Hyperspeeds last fall and I figured out the reasons pretty quickly during that run the other day. Unfortunately, they are not the answer that I am looking for in a racing flat and have become a flashy pair of shoes to wear to work.
I want a pair of racing shoes that I can do track workouts, race the mile, 5K to 10K in and not have them get in the way when I race or feel too beat-up after the race is over. I do not consider 7 oz or above to be racing flats, so nothing in my current rotation is really what I am looking for.
Staying with Pearl Izumi
So I looked really closely at the PI N0 Racing flat - you know that I love Pearl Izumi stuff, but when I read the reviews and looked at the stats, they didn't seem to fit where I am now. I know that stats don't always indicate how a shoe will run, but I have found that I run better and more comfortably in shoes that have certain minimums, than I do in those that do not.
Unfortunately, the N0 was a bit too minimal for what I am looking for.
A couple of mm's doesn't really matter, but 6mm of difference does make a racing flat feel different on the road, where I would be using it most of the time. Plus I do like the sole to be a little more multi-purpose, in case I get the notion to use them during a race over at Quarry Road.
What am I looking for
Which meant that I went into research mode on racing flats...there are a lot of racing flats out there to chose from, but most were a little minimal or too damned expensive for what they are - specialty running shoes that get limited use.
I found what appears to check off all the boxes for what I am looking for in a racing flat:
wider toe box
over 20mm in the heel
The shoes I am getting might not be the perfect running flats and may not work for me at all, but they do seem to be the kind of racing flat that I am looking for. I won't know until I actually get to try them on and run in them.
It does mean that I will not be running exclusively in Pearl Izumi running shoes - if the other racing flats fit correctly.
Which causes me a bit of angst, because I love Pearl Izumi's stuff, plus I made a commitment to be a member of their run Champions Team and abide by the conditions of selection. At the same time, I didn't agree to exclusivity when it comes to my running gear.
So how do I reconcile between the two?
Which means that I will continue to train primarily (because it is working great) in my PI's, run my "B" races in my N1 Roads and continue to run most of my trail races in my N1 Trails under the Pearl Izumi banner.
However, for my "A" races and the harder speed work sessions that I have planned, I will be wearing my Central Maine Striders jersey and a different brand's racing flats.
The reality is that
I have never been totally loyal to a particular brand and have always gone with shoes that I "thought" would work for me. However, I have been more loyal to Pearl Izumi than I have any other brand in recent memory and they have performed well for me over the past 6 months or so.
The idea that their racing flats were a little too minimal for me and N1's are actually light-weight trainers and were not what I would be looking or using bothered my conscience quite a bit. Especially, since there is no guarantee that changing to a racing flat is going to improve my times in the 5K appreciably.
However, at the same time, I want to maximize my chances of running faster in the 5K, which running in true racing flats might do. Plus, secretly I want to badly finish ahead of Gus at least once this year, that I am willing to experiment a little and see if wearing racing flats give me that little extra edge to achieve that goal.
That competitive side of me is winning out over the loyalty side in this case. :-)
We are all experiments of one and sometimes the experiments work, until reality smacks us up beside the head and what we try doesn't work.
I think my plan on how to go forward as a PI Champion still meets all my obligations to Pearl Izumi and still allows me to experiment with a different brand of racing flats that I have bought.
Yeah, that brand loyalty thing, still not doing as well with it.
Although I still do love my Pearl Izumi's and plan to do most of my running in their shoes, it just won't be all of it.