Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hi, Beth

Love you, hon.

OK, for those of you who are really puzzled by that intro, it's because the latest title and first sentence from this blog are attached to my contact info in my wife's phone.  She doesn't know how it got there, but she was tired of looking at "yes, I'm a slacker" from my last post ... which was *months* ago.  Just having some fun. 

So yes, I'm still alive and I'm still patently awful at blogging on a consistent basis.  Guess you know where my priorities are.  Or at least you know that they aren't here.  :)

My ultra training is going quite well (I hope).  I feel great, anyway.  Long runs are north of 4 hours, and back-to-back days don't seem to be an issue.  I finish each run feeling like I kinda want to keep going and see what's out there.  That sensation should get squashed out of me pretty well by sometime on September 15th...

Off on a tangent.  Geoff Roes put up a really interesting post on about commonly used rhetoric that turns up in ultra running.  Thoughtful, and fun discussion.  But it made me think of something that really bugs me, rhetoric-wise.

I was reading through a shoe review (also on iRunFar ... great site) and came across this funny construct.  The author made the statement "shoe x is designed for natural running"  and then in the very next sentence began to list all the features of the shoe that are designed to change or control the way the foot moves:  arch support, medial posting, 10mm of heel lift, etc.  I realized when I read that, that the phrase "designed for natural running" didn't actually mean anything; it could be stretched enough to apply to anything you can run in.  Compared to my alpine ski boots, my tele boots are designed for natural running.

***disclaimer:  no I have not read "Born To Run" ... though you probably don't believe me on that point***

Now I don't pretend for a minute that the running community is going to suddenly come to a consensus on what terms like "natural" and "minimalist" and the like actually mean.  But as an engineer I hate sloppy language, so for the fun of it I'm going to float some definitions that actually mean something.  Definitions that are short, precise, repeatable, and slop-free.  Betcha nobody even notices!

Eric's definitions:
"Minimalist Shoe" - a shoe with no midsole.  Really, it's that simple!  If a shoe has a midsole, it is not minimalist.  We can dispense with the painful descriptions "more minimalist" and "less minimalist" in shoe reviews now!!  The shoe can have an upper and an outsole, otherwise it wouldn't be a shoe, right?  A Zero-drop, no-arch-support shoe with a midsole is not a minimalist shoe.  But, but, but... nope, this definition is best if it's clear, simple, and has no grey areas.

"Natural Running Shoe" - a shoe that does not modify the way the foot interacts with a flat surface under it.  Specifically:  no arch support, no posting, no heel lift.  Not 4 mm of heel lift.  Not 1 mm of heel lift ... if you go down that road you're voluntarily loading the definition with gray area.  Most minimalist shoes are also natural running shoes.  However, if you have a minimalist shoe that is narrow in the forefoot such that the mets and toes cannot spread they way they usually would under load, it is no longer a natural running shoe.  A shoe with a big fat midsole but no heel lift and all that other stuff is still a natural running shoe -- it's just a more padded one.  If you carpet a room with 1/2" of fluffy midsole material and run across it barefoot, your foot is moving naturally on that surface.  If you run on concrete in a shoe with a midsole of that same material, that does not lift your heel, "support" your arch, or constrict the spread of your toes, your foot is still moving naturally.  Midsole=OK, "feature"=not OK for the purposes of this definition.

Not like I just changed the world or anything, but that's what those words mean to me.  I like this better, because most places I see those words, they don't actually mean anything more than "I'm sorta somewhere on a continuum between less and more."  And I already knew that much.