Running Shoe Review: Brooks Adrenaline ’21

When I first began running a few years age, I instantly fell in love with Hoka OneOne shoes. Hoka and I were a match made in heaven and it was love at first sight. I was heavier than most runners, pushing the scales at nearly 300 lbs at the time, and Hokas featured a thick, padded cushioning sole. It didn’t take long for my “shoe guy” to hook me up with some Hokas in an attempt to lesson the beating my knees and joints were taking. I loved them so much I named my German Shepherd Hoka. I still love them … but, alas, it was time for a change.

I was introduced to my new shoes when I had a gait analysis at my favorite running store. The salesmen recommended them because my analysis indicated I had an over pronation that “came and went”. The salesmen indicated that the Brooks Adrenaline had unique guide rails that would offer just the right amount of stability to help correct my over pronation. I was a little skeptical as the Brooks offered a greater slope than I was used to with my Hokas, but out of desperation, I bought them anyway.

Enter Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21.

Having lost a significant amount of weight since I took up running, my body composition has changed somewhat. I weigh under 200 lbs for the first time in 26 years or so and have more lean body mass. My running has changed as well. I’m only “pretty” slow as opposed to “really” slow. A twelve minute mile is cooking for me; and all that slow running is tough on the body. Recently, even with my beloved Hoka’s, I’ve developed a bit of an IT band issue. Searing pain that begins in my hip and radiates down to my knee on long runs. The pain normally doesn’t hit me until I’m ten miles or so into a long run, but when it hits, it hits hard. The pain is bad enough to degrade my already clumsy running gait and will hurt for a little while after the run is over. With a goal of working my way up to a 50k distance, this painful issue on long runs has become quite an obstacle.

I’ve got about 30 miles in the Brooks Adrenaline shoes so far and wanted to offer my initial thoughts. These shoes are great! While I would like to say they instantly cured my IT band issues, that isn’t the case. However, I have really enjoyed running in the Adrenalines so far. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes offer a good mix of stability and feel. While my feet are supported and stable, I can still feel the terrain underfoot. This combination of stability and feel gives me a certain level of confidence when running. In my short time in the Brooks, I’ve tried them on the road and on the trail, and enjoyed each experience. These shoes are responsive and stable, which is an experience I didn’t get with my Hokas. Because of that responsiveness, I’m actually able to feel what my foot and toes are doing as I roll through my gait – and I think this may be key in making the necessary adjustments to correct my over pronation.

These shoes are excellent … just don’t expect me to change the name of my dog.

Mini Book Review of “The Ultramarathon Guide: A Simple Approach to Running Your First Ultramarathon” by Michael D’Aulerio

I grabbed this book off of Amazon because I am a runner with budding aspirations to complete an ultramarathon. This book by Michael D’Aulerio is a great primer for such events. It is separated into chapters with each containing practical and useful information. D’Aulerio offers tips on topics such as what to bring to an ultra, how to stay motivated, and how to fuel and hydrate. It is a helpful read that I can see referring to from time to time as I continue to grow as a runner. I highly recommend it for any novice runner who is contemplating an ultra.

Mini Book Review of “Running to Leadville” by Brian Burk.

This book is very similar to author Brian Burk’s other book ‘Unfinished’. Like its counterpart, there are many grammatical errors. So much so that I felt I should lead with that in this review as it could deter some people. I will say this, however, it is a good book. Burk’s very strong at describing the ultra runs that are featured in his stories. In this case, that’s the Leadville 100. If you are even mildly interested in long distance trail runs, you’ll enjoy this book. Like ‘Unfinished’, there is a huge plot development, however, it occurs earlier in the story and doesn’t come off as an interruption to the plot. If you are choosing between the two titles, pick this one.

Mini Book Review of “Unfinished: Finding Yourself Among a Lifetime of Miles and the JFK 50-Ultra-Marathon” by Brian Burk

Full disclosure; I didn’t know what I was getting when I downloaded this book for my Kindle. I thought I was getting the author’s account of his own adventure running an ultramarathon and, as someone who has the goal of running a 50k this year, that was of interest. However, what I got was a fictionalized account of a young Olympic hopeful marathon runner and his girlfriend in a small, sleepy little West Virginia town. I suspect the characters and locations, including the running shoe store the protagonist works in, are all drawn from the author’s own experiences. Certainly, there were enough details of the JFK 50 that I expect Brian Burn has run it himself. Those details lended a bit of realism to the characters and the events described throughout the book. I found it readable and engaging. Now for my quibbles … and there are a couple. First, I downloaded this through my Kindle Unlimited and, like many of the books available on the platform, I am assuming this one is self-published. I have nothing against self-published works at all … I like good books regardless of how they are published, however, this one needed some more proof-reading. There were some mistakes in syntax and grammar. Normally, such mistakes are forgivable if the book is written well, however, in this case the mistakes interrupted the flow of the story enough to be a distraction.

As for the story itself, I liked it. Without spoiling anything, I will say there is a huge plot development about two thirds of the way through that happens rather abruptly and changes the whole story. I wasn’t for it. In fact, I almost quit reading. Instead, I sat the book aside for a couple of days and then soldiered through. Other readers may deal better with it than I did.

If you are a fan of ultra running and enjoy fiction tales, my guess is you would like this book. I will certainly be on the lookout for other novels written by Brian Burk, but I think he is capable of much better than this. I give it a solid 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Mini Book Review of “Reborn on the Run” by Catra Corbett

Reborn on the Run by Catra Corbett

This book depicts the incredible journey of a meth addict turned ultra runner. The feats that author Catra Corbett accomplishes on the trail, are incredible. Reading her story helped encourage me that I can recover from my days as a Type 2 diabetic. In comparison, my mountains aren’t nearly as big as hers. Unfortunately, there are enough typos and errors in this book that it detracted, at least for me, from the amazing story. I’m glad I read it, however, and I am now a fan of Cards Corbett.

Mini Book Review of ‘Down Size: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success’ by Ted Spiker

I really enjoy Ted Spiker’s writing style and have gained a great deal from his articles and blog posts over the years. I purchased this book by and large because of his name recognition and, while I don’t regret it, I wasn’t exactly blown away either. Spiker is a famous big guy runner who has been open and honest with his battles regarding his weight over the years. That same honesty is present in this book which is greatly appreciated. He speaks as one who “gets it” and is far more relatable to me than most running authors. He has seemingly put the hardest of his struggles behind him and this book is about getting over that hump. Spiker shares his tips that, by and large, speak to the mental side of weight loss and fitness. He avoids the nuts and bolts that some authors might dive into by not not sharing the specifics of his diet or fitness routine. It made for an enjoyable read, I’m just not sure how much of it I would actually apply to my own struggles … or even how much of it I will remember six months from now.

It Feels Like Something is Broken Inside of Me

Saturday I participated in what, is for me, the hardest run on my schedule. For the second year in a row I signed up for and ran the Indian Run at the Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It is beautiful, well-organized run through one of the most beautiful parts of Ohio. But it is tough. When I ran it last year it was, at the time, my longest run ever. It included many sections of climbs that I was not prepared for and it was all I could do to finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line in 2018, I knew I wanted to come back and do the run again. My long-term goal is to someday do an ultramarathon, but this 20k run through Hocking Hills beat me and I immediately knew I wanted revenge.

That revenge was supposed to happen last Saturday. With another year of training and some modest weight loss, I was convinced I would do better than last year. In some ways, I suppose I did. I beat last year’s time by 18 minutes and physically, I think I feel better and am recovering faster than last year. However, once again, this run beat me.

My problems began at mile 4 with a steep climb up Steel Hill Road. I had strategically planned to walk the hill and did so, however, about half way up the climb I began suffering from painful calf cramps. These cramps plagued me throughout the finish and hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt while running. Every step was a struggle. These cramps put doubt in my mind that I would be able to finish and caused me to walk much more of the course than I intended. I only finished because turning around at that point would have been a more difficult run; plus, my cellphone was out of service which prevented me from calling my wife to come get me. So I trudged forward.

The problems got worse at mile 9. For the second year in a row, in that exact spot, I experienced what I can only describe as an asthma-like attack. Wheezing, a failure to catch my breath, and elevated heart rate accompanied a feeling as if I were about to pass out. It was a sensation I hoped I wouldn’t experience again after last year. It was sensation that put me in survival mode. I was no longer concerned about time, or crushing the run, I just wanted to survive it.

In doing so, it felt like something broke inside of me. I vowed in that moment that I would never sign up for the Indian Run again. It’s just too tough. The 20k distance had beat me down again and any hopes of ever completing the 40k or 60k distance were dashed. In fact, in that moment of suffering, I began to question why I run in the first place. I thought I had made some gains, I thought I had improved, but here I was suffering in the same ways for the second year in a row. It called into question all the work and training I have done over the last year. It made me feel like giving up.

I told my wife afterwards that I was never signing up for the Indian Run again. I could hear the shock in her voice when she responded by telling me she had no doubt I would be back. But beyond that particular run, if I’m being honest, I’ve entertained the notion of just quitting all together. I’ve thought about giving up. I’m not a natural runner, I’m built more like an offensive lineman than an ultramarathon runner, I’m slow …. and here’s the deal, I I always will be.

I don’t mean for this post to be a downer, but for the first time since I began running and losing weight, I am questioning if its all worth it. I’ve run a couple of times since then and I’m starting to recover physically, however, I feel like I’m a long way from recovering mentally. I feel like something is broken inside of me.

I’ve never experience this type of pessimism and dread following a run and I’m not sure how to recover from it. I don’t know if it is normal to feel this way after such a hard effort, but I know I don’t like. Running normally gives me pleasure and peace. That is not where I’m at right now … and I miss it terribly.It

Things I Would Endorse if People Cared That I Endorsed Things: AfterShokz Bone Conduction Headphones

aftershokzI must preface this review with a short story. I was running on a nearby rail trail the other day and almost got hit by a tractor. True story! One of the things I like about this particular path is the lack of motorized traffic. The most dangerous vehicle I normally encounter is a random bicycle. Because it is a safe path, I tend to turn on my tunes or a podcast and zone out while I run. Such was the case when the tractor almost took me out! I was running along in my own little world when this fella on a large tractor  passed me out of the blue. Maybe he yelled on your left, but I didn’t hear him because of my music, and I certainly didn’t see him until he practically plowed my over. I nearly jumped out of my skin and I instantly reached my maximum heart rate.

I came home right after that run and ordered a pair of AfterShokz Bone Conduction headphones. I have no idea how these things work, however the premise behind them is that they rest just in front of your ears and somehow transmit sound via vibrations into your bones. This leaves your ears open allowing you to simultaneously hear the noise that’s around you. Although skeptical, these headphones have intrigued me for quite awhile. I love the theory behind them. Having played drums all my life, I suffer from a nasty case of tinnitus. I have constant ringing in my ears that is made worse when listening to music through headphones, so I’ve always wondered if these bone conducting headphones would be a better alternative for me. My skepticism and general cheapness always kept me taking the plunge, however, the tractor incident pushed me over the edge.

I opted for the mid-priced wireless titanium headphones which were $79.95 on Amazon. There was another model that came in over a hundred dollars, but like I said, I’m cheap. Here’s my experience with them so far. Both Good and Bad:

The Good

Fit: These things wrap around the back of your head and feel like they should fall off, but they don’t. I have a pretty big sized noggin and they stay on me pretty well. They might come off if you take a nasty fall, but I think most headphones would do the same thing.

Function: I was surprised to learn they actually work as advertised. The sound is pretty decent. I can easily hear both music and podcasts while hearing the surrounding noise as well. When running on the treadmill, I was able to easily have a conversation with my wife without turning off my music. They probably aren’t quite as loud as some traditional headphones, but they are more than loud enough. Any sacrifice in sound quality is certainly surpassed by hearing oncoming tractors as they approach!

Connection: These particular headphones are wireless and connect to my phone via bluetooth. They connected easily and seem to have a strong signal. I can walk around the house with my phone in another room and not lose connection.

No Rubber Ear Buds: I think this is my favorite. You know those little rubber ear bud, stopper looking things on your headphones? I’m constantly losing them somehow. That’s not a problem with these. There’s nothing on them that can fall off and get lost.

Tinnitus: So far, these haven’t aggravated my tinnitus at all. That may not be the case for you, but I certainly think they are better for my hearing.

The Bad

They Tickle: There is a weird tickle from the vibrations where these headphones contact your head just in front of the ears. It’s really kind of weird and is going to take some getting used to. The more I wear them, the more I seem to be getting used to it, but for some people, it may be a turn off.

The Buttons: The button locations are not very intuitive. I imagine I’ll get used to them, but for now I’m having a hard time finding the volume up and down buttons while these are on my head.

As you can see, the good certainly outweighs the bad. I have yet to test out the battery life on a really long run, but if they come in close to they advertised 6 hour battery life, they’ll be golden! I really love these headphones and am glad I bought them. My only regret may be not buying the more expensive model … if they’re even better than the ones I bought, I’m sure they’re great!

If you’re on the fence about these, I would highly recommend you pick them up. I’ve gone through several pairs of headphones over the years and have used many different makes and models – the Aftershokz have quickly become my favorite.

Disclaimor: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I actually use and like these headphones. 

There Are No Shortcuts

This morning during prayer I was lamenting to God about the man I am as opposed to the man I want to be. I confessed to Him that I’m not the man spiritually that I aspire to. Paul wrote to Titus (Titus 2:2) that older men should be “temperate” and “self-controlled”  and I was convicted because I’m not quite there yet, even though I should be. So I was confessing this to God and asking for His guidance.

I’m not one to often say God spoke to me, but in my moment of prayer this morning, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and clearly articulated, “There are no shortcuts.”

There are no shortcuts. 

Results

Too often, we complain about a lack of results when we’re not willing to do the work required to get those results. That’s true spiritually and physically. I’ve stood on the scale and shook my fist because I didn’t lose what I wanted to lose even when I knew in my heart of hearts I didn’t put in the required work.

I have lofty goals, both spiritually and physically. I want to be the guy Paul is writing about in Titus 2:2, “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” I have also set a goal to run a 50k at 50 years old (I just turned 49). Both goals are going to take work … and there are no shortcuts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). No spiritual goal is going to be achieved apart from Him. To become a Titus 2 man, I need to continue in my study of His Word and continue seeking His will for my life. The same is true of running a 50k. During a recent 8 mile trail run, I struggled mightily. In fact, I struggled more than I expected. It showed me how much further I need to go before I can run a 50k … and the clock is ticking. It’s going to take work.

There are no shortcuts.

I’ll either put in the work to achieve my goals, or I won’t. But it occurs to me as I write this, that nothing worth achieving is easy. I expect my goals to take work. God has told me so, Not because He wants me to struggle, but rather because there are rewards that can be found in the midst of the work.

Every run, every study, and every workout is a lesson. There are no shortcuts.