A few weeks ago I saw David Sedaris read at the Vogue Theatre here in Vancouver and after he read for a bit he took questions from the audience and someone asked him to recommend something that he’d read recently and he recommended two books, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I haven’t gotten around to Eileen yet but I finally got around to Less and it was fine like 3.75/5 fine but I was probably expecting more from a Sedaris recommendation and Pulitzer winner. Less tells the story of Arthur Less, a writer who has a bit of a life-crisis as he turns 50 and takes on a trip around the world. Less is a likeable character. Well, pitiable. But for all his assumed misfortune I couldn’t help but think that he’s having a pretty good run of things. I kept expecting something spectacularly terrible to happen to him. The book is good but it’s just not really great.
I couple weeks ago I got to test the new On Running Cloudace for its launch and longest day, around-the-world relay run. The gimmick was the shoes would launch with a run at locations around the world on June 21, the longest day of the year. Each leg of the relay started at the same time in its own timezone, hence the relay across timezones. I’m explaining it poorly. Regardless, the second last timezone was Vancouver, and Forerunners on West 4th hosted the launch with a 5 KM loop. The Cloudace are their new long distance runners. They look very nice, but when I put them on it felt like I was lacing bricks to my feet. At 335 grams they are so much heavier than I’m used to. They have nice cushion and support, but I couldn’t get past the weight. I’m pretty staunchly on team Adidas since my first pair of Bostons. At 244 grams they’ve been my go to shoe. I currently have three pairs on the go. My option two are the Adios, which I train in sometimes and race in always. They’re just 226 grams. I want to like On shoes. I have a pair of On Cloud for walking around Scandinavia and the Baltics this spring, and I really like them. They’re just 230 grams, slip on like a sock, and have great bounce. I’ve run in them a couple times, but I wouldn’t for farther than 10 KM. I want a Cloud that can take me 42 KM. They do not exist, yet, so I’ll stick with my Adios.
And then this past week I got to take for a test run currently the lightest shoes in existence, the Reebok FloatRide Run Fast Pro at their Western Canada launch hosted by Vancouver Running Co. (the exclusive dealer). As you may have noticed weight is something that I seem to care about. These racing flats come in at just 99 grams. Which begs the question, perhaps, when does weight stop mattering? The answer, for me at least, is somewhere around 230 grams. I ran down to VRC for the test run in a pair of my Adidas Adios to try to really feel the difference. The Run Fast Pro didn’t feel especially lighter, nor did the Adios feel especially heavier when it came time to run back home. But the upper was a huge difference. I like Adidas (and many don’t) because they are a narrow, tight fit. The Run Fast Pro’s upper is narrow and tight but is ridiculously thin and has a bit more give than Adidas. It feels amazing. I was really impressed with these shoes. But they’re not going to take me 42 KM. Sure, Nicole DiMercurio placed 6th in Boston this year wearing these, but I’m not running a 2:45 marathon anytime soon/ever. The Reebok rep on hand suggested 5 to 10 KM races for these. I’m curious how they’d do chasing a sub 90 Half. But at $300 I do not expect to find out. What I am the most curious to see is how Adidas responds. If they bother to. I hope they do.
Last week I blathered on about some running book that I didn’t think was very good and then I noticed that there was another book that I think is pretty great and for some reason I haven’t written here about it yet, so time to solve that mishap. Hutchinson is an athlete and journalist and has a PhD in physics and is a regular contributor to Outside, and has written for Runner’s World, The New Yorker, the Globe and Mail, and elsewhere. Malcolm Gladwell thinks “This book is AMAZING!” which is nice, I guess, if you like Gladwell. The first thing I read about Gladwell and running, he made some asinine statement that running with music is “soft.” I don’t run with music, but that doesn’t make me “hard.” Also given that women are twice as likely to run with headphones* as men, Gladwell’s statement comes off a tad misogynistic. Anyway, enough about Gladwell, because while I do not agree on headphones (and some other stuff) we at least agree on Hutchinson’s book. There is a ton of information in this book and I’ve started trying a few in training and races, with good results. I’ve revisited bits of this book numerous times. I believe it’s a must-have in any athletics books library.
Today was the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. I’ve run it twice before and both were disappointments. Last year I was coming off my first full marathon, healthy and in excellent condition and wanted to break 1:40. It was a sweltering day and I finished 1:40:26. My first crack at the Scotiabank course was 2016. I had just run my first ever half marathon — the BMO Vancouver — and finished 1:46 flat. I was sure I could break 1:45 but was disappointed with a 1:46:31 result. Not only was I drinking way to much then, I was also smoking semi-casually (or -regularly, depending on your point of view…). A cigarette or two on race day served dual purpose, calming pre-race nerves, and, well, nicotine is well known for its laxative qualities. First Scotia Half would also be my last tar-loading. Smoke free and sober, I really wanted to beat myself.
But going into this morning I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I’m coming off a very near 1:40 in Helsinki a few weeks ago; I cut down a bit to try to heal up a blackened big toe and nagging shin splint, and to top it off I picked a fight with a stomach bug on Friday. Plus this course kicked my ass twice already. So I decided it would be a training run. I’d go out and run 4:37/KMs and nail a very respectable 1:37:24 and be happy with that. I had zero intention of chasing the PR I set at the BMO Half at the beginning of May. I went out with cumulative split times for 5, 10 and 15 KM and just ran. At 5 KM I was a bit quicker than planned, and I felt great. I missed the 10 KM split but my per-KMs were coming really fast and still felt great. When I hit 15 KM I checked my watch and I really surprised to find I was a few seconds ahead of PR time. That’s when I decided to just go for it. As I came up Beach Avenue into Stanley Park I saw the finish and the clock and all that registered was 32 and I put my head down and sprinted for the line.I finished 1:32:37, shaving over two minutes off my personal best, and nearly eight minutes off my best on this course, and I could not be happier. I watched and cheered on the other finishers for a bit then walked home, full on running high. Along the way I passed someone lingering in front of their apartment. “Can you spare a cigarette?” they asked. I smiled and replied, “Nope.”
*Sure it’s not a scientifically rigorous poll, but neither is arbitrarily equating earbuds with escapism.