Monday, September 30, 2013

Sports Teach What School Does Not

As some of you may remember, I used to run a blog. It went by various names, and was more of a lifestyle blog than TriLovelad, which is dedicated mostly to the endurance sports world. Nonetheless, I'd like to revisit a topic I covered under L-Town, my former blog. There was a great Youtube video called "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" that went viral around a year and a half ago, to the tune of 25 million views to date. I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about the spin off, another "Spoken Word" video by Suli Breaks called "Why I Hate School But Love Education." In it, Breaks argues that while education presents some merit, it is not the facts you memorize, the problems you solve, or the exams you pass that make you an educated man. There are some things that aren't learned in a classroom. Towards the end, he recalls a moment in which he watch David Beckham take a free kick, watched the ball "change its mind" and fall into the net. Watched as the goal keeper tried to decipher the ball's trajectory, and reacted just a millisecond too late.

There are some things that we can't, that won't ever learn in a class. There are somethings that a teacher can't teach. Sure, gym class can teach you how to throw a football, spike a volleyball, hit a baseball. But what it won't teach you, what very few classes will ever teach you, is to dream. To put your mind to something, and go for it. The farthest down that road we ever got in school was a pre-school teacher telling a class of four-year-olds, "You can be whatever you want to be." But as we got older, that mantra went away and now we're told, "You're on track to be a ______." What happened there?

There are other things sports have taught me. That you don't need the latest, greatest technology for entertainment. When was the last time the design of the football changed? How about the Frisbee? It's taught me to respect even the slightest, smallest guy on the team because often, that's the guy that's kicking your ass when you least expect it. Sports have made me a team player, and a leader. Taught me that the best suffering is the kind endured in the company of others, because like the saying goes, misery loves company. But most importantly, it's made me tenacious. That's not something you learn in the classroom. How to take physical pain or mental suffering, or even monotony and JUST DEAL WITH IT. To put my mind to something I want, and go out and get it. Can all these things be taught in school? Yes. But learning it, and actually going out and doing it are two very different things. It's like driving a stick shift. I know the fundamentals of driving a stick shift, on paper, but the first time I actually tried, I killed it pretty fast. It's the same as learning how to set goals versus actually going out and putting in the work and doing it.

Sports have taught me many things, and few of them ever came up in the classroom. Think about that, intellectuals...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Building a Base...With a Base

I was recently forced, through injury and inconvenience, to take some time off of running. I literally started to go crazy...
"But when I say that you'll miss one little interval workout...well then everyone just loses their minds!"
So, after a few weeks of not running, I'm back to running pretty regularly. However, my level of fitness is not what it once was. Where I used to be able to run 5:20 pace for the better part of most of my interval workouts, now I struggle with 5:40. Where I was running 50 miles a week, I'm doing something like 30 now. So I need to build a foundation again before I can even hope to get back to speed work. Remember the parable of the houses presented in the Bible? One man builds his house on the sand, one builds it on the rock. I'm in the sand right now, and I don't want to be swept away by the flood of spring races come next year. So I'm trying to put in my base miles now, before the snow falls and I'm stuck on a treadmill.

Enter Skora. I won't bore you with the background on the company, you can read it in my review of the Form and the Phase. Minimal brand, pretty awesome. The Base is the younger brother of the Form, which I reviewed all the way back in May. Same R01 platform, which is made up of rubber and EVA foam. The ride is slightly more cushioned than the Phase and its brother, the Core, because they both are built on the R02 platform, which is all injected blown rubber.

Like all Skora shoes, the Base is designed to be worn with or without socks, something I especially enjoy as a lazy college student who has much better things to do than laundry, like procrastinate by writing this review in lieu of an actual dissertation on Darwin and Paley. Skora recommends going down a half size from what would be your size in any other Skora shoe, and though it confounds me as to why fit is not ubiquitous along the entire range of their shoes, I would definitely recommend going down a half size because the fit is very roomy.

The Base is a lot like the Form in its ride characteristics, but it looks nothing like it. The Form looked pretty radical to me when I first got the shoes, what with the asymmetric lacing, goat leather upper and what not.
Pretty radically different, right?
Wrong.
The Base looks like a water shoe or something you see Grandma going to exercise class in, albeit in a brighter, more ostentatious fashion. The velcro has become a major point of contention for me, because it's about 2 inches long and an inch wide, which doesn't leave much room for adjustment. However, it's well worth that one sticking point, because to me, running in it is almost exactly like running in the Form, but it runs $85 less. It is now the shoe I reach for most often, what with my Forms gone.

The TriLoveland verdict: When the fit is dialed, the Base rivals the Form, which is my all time favorite shoe. The $99 isn't the cheapest option out there, but I would also be hard pressed to find a huge difference in ride between the Base and the $185 Form.

The Base retails for $99.99 and can be purchased at www.skorarunning.com

Disclaimer: I'm now a Skora Ambassador. As such, I carry the responsibility of expanding the brand. Rest assured, I will continue to give my honest opinion of all products I test, but I feel it is only right to let you, the reader, be informed of such circumstances.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Announcement and an Even Quicker Review

My friends, lend me your ears, for I have something of a disclaimer that now takes effect. It hasn't affected my product reviews up to this point, and it will not in the future, but in the spirit of complete transparency, I feel it is only right to tell all of my readers that I recently became a Skora Brand Ambassador. What does that mean? It means that, amongst other things, I now share a responsibility to grow the brand. Will this affect my reviews? Absolutely not. I will continue to review without bias, however, I felt it was only fair to let all of you know. Take it as you will. It's no coincidence that I'm also going to use this announcement to springboard into my review of the Skora Phase. So without further ado, here it is:

For those that don't know, let me give a quick recap: Back in late April, I was about to ditch the minimalist movement and go back and try to find a decent cushioned shoe. After burning out on the New Balance Minimus line, as well as various other shoes that I never ended up buying, I was going to give Nike Pegasus another go. I discovered Skora, a premium minimalist brand in Portland, Oregon, that has a slogan that resounded: Run Real. Since then, it's become my mantra. I've digressed. Long story short, I bought a pair of their Forms, a premium minimal shoe with a premium price, $180. However, the price was well worth it. Not only are the shoes close to perfect, they also lasted me over 1,000 miles. Seeing how the Brooks PureFlow 2 lasted 350 and cost ninety dollars, you can do the math and figure out that these shoes are pretty well worth the cost.

Fast forward to August. I discovered that the sole was separating from the upper, unfortunate, but hardly unexpected after 1,075 miles. I needed shoes and I needed them fast. I went back to looking through Skora's lineup. Additionally, I inquired about become a brand ambassador for them. Skora came through in a big way and sent me two pairs of shoes and a sweet gig as an ambassador. The first shoe I'm reviewing is the Phase. Why the Phase? My thinking is simple: Skora's shoe comparison chart lists their Base model, the other pair that was sent to me, as very similar in ride characteristics to the Form. Having run in that pair for quite a while, I figure it would be nice to switch it up and try something different.

The Phase is like the Form's younger, and better looking cousin, at least in my opinion. It's a slimmed down version, weighing in at 7.2 ounces vs 8.2 for the Form. It also is slightly more flexible, according to the comparison chart and has better breathability, thanks to the mesh upper. It's also the younger brother to the Core, which is the same shoe with a leather upper, and retails for $150.
The Phase. Picture courtesy of OptimalRun.com
Now to my impressions. The first thing I noticed upon putting them on and heading out the door for an easy shake-out run was that it felt a heck of a lot like the New Balance Minimus MV10v2 that I have previously reviewed. If you recall it, I wasn't exactly a fan. The idea was solid, but the fit was lacking. The ride feels a lot like the Minimus, but the upper is far less constricting of my wide feet. Additionally, the asymmetric lacing is nearly identical to the Form, and continues to offer hot spot free running, truly a blessing on long run Sundays. The shoe is designed with a no-sew upper, so it can be worn barefoot, but I've found that the inside heel like to rub, so I wear socks with them. In the future, I'd like to see the heel of the shoe lowered a bit so it's not so high up my ankle and have a polyester backing, which has slightly stretchy properties, but good durability. Just a thought, thought it may not be practical to execute. While the mesh may not end up being as durable as the goat leather upper of the Form, I can still bet the house that there will still be tread on the sole of the shoe come (at a minimum) 600 miles, just like the Form, since they share the design.
The Skora Phase is available at www.skorarunning.com and retails for $110, which puts it within the competitive price range for most decent running shoes on the market. My verdict: Minimal bliss with less impact on the wallet than the $180 Form. Run on, Run Real!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Going Back to High-Drop

When my Skora Forms died on me (see my review here) in the last part of August, I was a little perturbed. I hadn't ordered new shoes, partially because the wear seemed insignificant (despite them having nearly 1,100 miles on them) and I thought the might last another couple months. Not the case, and due to my extremely poor planning and the fact that I had to leave the state of Colorado for college in Iowa on the 31st of August, I'm currently stuck with a pair of Nike LunarFly 3s that I bought a year or so ago just to bum around in.
Compare this (good)....
...to this (ugh, bad, blah, gross)  

The high heel-toe drop has made me extremely conscious of how I'm use to running, that is: on my forefoot with proper form. All my joints are rather tender now because the high drop and extreme cushioning is messing with my form. Even though I've run in a moderate drop before, it's pretty strange to heel-strike. In fact, I've been going barefoot as often as possible when I'm running on a track and sucking it up when I hit an errant rock or two.

Remember: Without your form, there is no base for efficient, pain-free running. Run real, my friends. Run real.