More Bullshit

by Austin Bussing

I’m sitting on the end of a massage table, legs dangling over the edge, head down, intentionally slumped in horrible posture. I dorsiflex my foot and ankle on one leg, trying to bring my toes close to my shin. From here, I kick my leg up, straightening it out and locking my knee. This extension causes a tightness and slight pain in my hamstring, and then the discomfort is immediately dispelled as I lift my head and look straight ahead. I repeat this strange series of movements 20 times before switching to the other leg. “Kicking your head off” is the tongue-in-cheek name for this exercise in the physical therapy community. Other aliases include “nerve glides” and “nerve flossing.” Truth be told, I rarely floss my teeth (although I consistently feel the need to lie to my dentist about this), and here I am, “flossing” my nerves in both hamstrings through this bizarre and tedious routine- twice a day, every day.

This exercise is followed by a number of others, each as mind-numbingly monotonous as the last. These tasks all demand intense focus and attention, as they are designed to isolate and activate typically dormant or under-utilized muscles, thereby slowly correcting detrimental muscle imbalances. My particular imbalance is between my glutes and hamstrings- basically, my butt doesn’t do nearly the amount of work it should while I’m running, and my poor hamstrings are left to pick up the slack. Over the course of tens of thousands of miles, this imbalance can (and certainly has) put quite a beating on my hamstrings – especially when I try to run fast. Since running fast is pretty essential to what I’m trying to do with my life (read: run fast), it’s pertinent that I get this little problem under control.

In addition to observing these strange rituals daily, I can be found doing a number of other small tasks throughout each week, including repeatedly rolling my legs on a foam cylinder, running 150 meter sprints on the Austin High Track, and balancing, one-legged, on a poorly inflated rubber oval while throwing a small medicine ball back and forth to a teammate. In isolation, each of these activities seems not only slightly absurd, but also pretty far removed from my ultimate goal – to run a fast 3000-meter steeplechase. However, considered holistically, these individual tasks are part of a larger process, through which my goals become achievable. Compared to the time I spend actually racing the steeplechase, or doing steeplechase-specific workouts, I spend an astronomical amount of time on these (seemingly) tangentially related tasks. It’s not that glamorous, and it’s certainly not that “cool.”

What does it look like to be a good runner? Does it look like a Gatorade commercial, complete with inspiring music and shots of ripped, good-looking athletes doing a series of explosive and impressive exercises, and then just standing there sweating colorful sweat and looking determined? Well, that’s some of it. But a lot of it is sitting on massage tables, performing weird movement patterns to activate neglected muscle groups, and doing all of the other “little things” that are so very necessary to achieve consistent success at a high level.

An episode of the highly acclaimed HBO series, The Wire, recently drove this point home for me. For those unfamiliar with the show, it provides a nuanced and gritty look into crime in a city that is now sadly back in America’s media spotlight: Baltimore, Maryland. The beauty of the show is its multifaceted approach, and its exploration of the theme of moral ambiguity in contemporary politics, law enforcement, and organized crime. I could talk about it forever. But I won’t do that, because even bringing up The Wire in a running blog is inherently tangential, and I’m really in no position to start stacking tangents here. Bear with me though – I do believe there is a point to be made, and a connection to be drawn.

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In this specific episode of The Wire, a special unit of the Baltimore Police Department has finally succeeded in tapping the phones of members of the Barksdale Crew – a group of drug dealers with a number of suspected murders on their hands. This episode comes about halfway through the first season, and the prior episodes devote a substantial portion of time chronicling the administrative, legal, and bureaucratic hurdles the police unit has had to clear before using the wiretap. The frustration of the detectives is made inescapably palpable to the viewer, as it seems that time and time again the “bad guys” are able to “get away with it” all because the police have failed to meet some tiny procedural requirement (quotes are used in reference to the aforementioned moral ambiguity at play in the show).

In the scene that really hit home for me, Lester Freamon (the show’s archetypal wise old detective) is explaining to some of the members of his unit that they are only allowed to listen to wiretapped conversations when they have received visual confirmation that a real suspect is using the phone. What this means in practice is that a team of cops must be in a position to actually see a specific member of the Barksdale Crew on the phone, and report back in real time to another team of cops back at the office who have access to the wiretap. Big surprise, right? More procedural hurdles to clear. Or, as one of the younger detectives in the room puts it, “More bullshit.”

Freamon takes a bit of umbrage to this comment, whirling around in his chair to face the young detective (Herc) before exclaiming, “Detective, this right here, this is the job! Now, when you came downtown to CID (Criminal Investigation Department) what kind of work were you expecting?”

Now, sometimes in running, we’re all guilty of thinking like Herc. I know I have been. When we came to Austin to run for Rogue Athletic Club, what kind of work were we expecting? Surely we were expecting to crush PRs set in college, we were expecting to make World teams, we were expecting to win- and win big. We were expecting the glory.

However, in our best moments, we’re able to step back and think like Freamon. We’re able to realize that there’s no glory – there never has been and there never will be – without a bunch of “bullshit.” There will be Saturday nights when you don’t race as well as you had hoped, but you’d better believe you’re getting up early Sunday morning for a long run, followed by at least 20 reps of some weird “clam” exercise where you lie on your side and try to lift one of your legs up and hold it at a 45 degree angle for 10 seconds at a time – only using your glutes – because that right there, that is the job. It’s not always pretty – in fact it rarely is – but in those rare moments when it is pretty, damn is it beautiful.


10690182_10101168397204455_2128072217741974298_nAustin Bussing is a member of Rogue’s Olympic-development, professional running team, Rogue Athletic Club. Founded in 2009, Rogue AC’s mission is to further the sport of running in the U.S. Austin spent time as Jay Hawk before making the wise decision to finish his collegiate career at the University of Texas (Love you Buss ;)  He specializes in the steeplechase and recently ran a personal best in the 1500m race.

Shoe Review: Kinvara 6

The Shoe that Started the Low-Drop Revolution gets a Sexy Update. 

By Chris MacLeod

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Sleeker, lighter, prettier – the Kinvara 6 is a solid update to a go-to, lightweight shoe.

We’re going to go ahead and guess that 90% of you have already heard something about the Saucony Kinvara. After all, version 1 came out back in 2010, not long after the release of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (the book that more or less lit the fuse on the minimalist running dynamite).

Now it’s 2015, and the whole barefoot craze has pretty much come and gone. But a few things remain: Wider toe-boxes that actually allow us to use our whole foot to balance and push off. Shoes in a variety of heel-to-toe “drops”. And,of course, the Kinvara.

Now on version 6, the original “not quite minimal” minimal shoe is still going strong. Kinvara 6 retains that über-light weight and 4mm drop of the original, along with that trademark Saucony “rigid but not too rigid” midsole. (More on which to come.)

Since the last Kinvara update (v4 to v5) was a pretty massive one, Saucony decided to take things a bit easier with the 6. According to the company, all changes were limited to the upper. Most notably, they fixed that bagginess we all loved to hate in the 5! To do so, Saucony moved the FLEXFILM overlays so they actually track the shape of a human foot and enhanced the PRO-LOCK lacing system so you can pretty much cut off your circulation if you want to. Industry jargon and proprietary mumbo-jumbo aside, the shoe has a better fit and you can lace it tighter, if you wanna. The results is a better feeling, “disappear from the foot” feel.

Side-note: Saucony sure loves TO USE ALL CAPS. We suppose they can’t help YELLING ABOUT HOW AWESOME their shoes are!

So what about that midsole? Well, here’s the funny thing – Saucony straight up says they didn’t change anything from the 5’s POWERGRID-enhanced design. It’s untouched.

One problem: Every Rogue staffer who’s tried it on swears it feels softer underfoot. Like totally way better step-in feel than the Kinvara 5. So, either Saucony did overhaul the whole shoe and for some reason doesn’t want to tell us, or we Rogues are all suffering a collective delusion.

We’ll let you ponder which is more likely…

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Side-by-side Kinvara 5 (left) and 6 (right). A definite improvement in fit and feel!

Either way, the Kinvara 6 is solid! Saucony kept it light (.2 oz lighter, actually!), retained the added durability from the 5, and essentially cemented the shoe’s place as the low-drop shoe for distance runners.

Our only gripe – Like the 5 before it, Kinvara 6 fits small! Expect to go up at least a half size from your usual running shoe fit.

Summary: If you’re a Kinvara fan, you’re sure to be pleased with this update! If you’re not already a Kinvara fan, or are living in fear of “minimalism”, we promise, the Kinvara is one of the least-intimidating ways to dip your toes in the world of low-drop shoes!

Weight: 7.7oz (M) / 6.5oz (W)
Drop: 4mm
Price: $100


582061_10100718274654857_1607430571_nChris MacLeod is a retail manager at Rogue Running Cedar Park, a [running and book] nerd and is inexplicably always cold despite hailing from Chicago. She has a love affair with the Windy-City Marathon and stokes that affair training with The Morning Show. You can find her and her expert opinions on shoes, gu’s and all things retail in the shop or at her blog, runningfiesta.com.

Reflections on Marathon High 2015: Learning from the Students

Jeff Knight was instrumental in starting Marathon High in 2012. He now runs Rogue Running Training.

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Part of me will always feel like Marathon High is still a baby of mine in some way. Thus, nothing makes me prouder than seeing the program grow and mature year over year. Its clear that in a short, 3-year period that Marathon High has gone from a “fake it till you make it” side project to a legitimate, high-impact non-profit. Its arguably the best after-school program in central Texas. No where else do you see students willingly taking on an absolutely scary task. As an adult, running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is a ridiculous task but to a young person, its near impossible.

Or so I think…

So year after year when I see these young people complete the Austin Marathon or Half, my whole perspective shifts. So while the program sets out to teach students that they can do anything if they work towards that goal, to me, its the students that do the teaching. MH is the best reminder that humans can do absolutely incredible things and that nothing can stand in their way.

I had one of those “Man, these kids are amazing” moments after the post-program party. I was out for my run on Saturday morning, a few miles from Rogue, when I saw a few kids wearing race shirts out in front of a bike shop on SoCo. I get a little closer and realize is some MH students. Not only had they gone for a 6+ mile run one week after the marathon, these kids had biked to Rogue and were now biking back home! Ha! Most of us haven’t even thought about exercise 7 days after a race; much less a bike ride, run and a bike ride. Whew!

Reflections on Marathon High 2015: A Privilege to Watch Goals Being Accomplished

Reposted from marathonhigh.org

A PRIVILEGE TO WATCH GOALS BEING ACCOMPLISHED

Lenora Goessling is Marathon High’s Program Director.

Lenora cheering on Marathon High students at the 2015 Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.

Lenora cheering on Marathon High students at the 2015 Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.

My life is driven by goals. My husband and I sit down at the end of December for a formal goal setting session for the new year. These goals get printed and hung in our bedroom, our kitchen and other places around our home. I’ve had marathon time goals, qualifying goals, Ironman Triathlon goals, academic goals, professional goals, financial goals, fun goals. I have dozens of handwritten plans to accomplish these goals and formal trackers to track my progress towards these goals.

You can guess how excited I was in July 2012 when I was hired by Marathon High to write the curriculum and had the freedom to write lessons that aligned to our pillars. Day 1 Lesson 1 became Setting Goals: The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon Finish Line. An obsession of personal goals has turned into a privilege of watching youth around me set and accomplish their own goals.

My story of Marathon is told through the participation and accomplishments of our coaches, parents, donors, staff members and most importantly students. I find it a privilege to witness youth in our town set such ambitious goals of 13.1 or 26.2 miles and then watch them for six months tackle the obstacles that are thrown their way and do everything they can to accomplish those finish line goals.

A few of my favorites from this season:

– Eric Garcia at Travis HS set a goal last year to break 4 hours in the marathon. He missed it by 12 minutes. Those 12 minutes fueled his actions for this year as he set a goal to break that 4 hour barrier. I watched him and his coaches, Mary and Austin, discuss ambitious but achievable pace work during our long runs. I saw him give it his all during mile repeats at weekday practices. I saw him connect with 3:25 pacers for Decker and Rogue 30k to be able to “feel how fast I need to go”. Then I saw what six months of dedicated training towards a goal did for him when he crossed the finish line of the Austin Marathon 30 minutes faster than last year.

– Zane Trevino at Ann Richards would not talk to me last year after the marathon and told me she couldn’t handle my enthusiasm because she was in so much pain. It was obvious she didn’t want a repeat of that as she trained all summer and came back this year to beat her PR by 80 minutes! Again, she wasn’t all to entirely impressed with my enthusiasm and said simply, “well this year I didn’t walk”. It’s this simplicity in her acknowledgement of what it would take to achieve her goals is why I love my job.

– Alex at Eastside ran with us last year and completed the half marathon after deciding he wasn’t ready for the full marathon. He came back determined this year to be a marathon finisher and his actions at every practice and long run reflected that goal. He crossed the finish line of the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon as a marathon finisher this year.

– Gabriela at East Austin College Prep had tears of joy as she crossed the finish line of the marathon saying, “I can’t believe I have this beautiful opportunity to be a part of this”. Her view of being able to complete 26.2 miles as an opportunity inspires my own work and running. What a refreshing outlook on being a runner.

– Carol was an 8th grader at Dobie middle school last year and finished the half marathon. As a 9th grader this year she had the opportunity to attempt the full marathon. Even though she wasn’t a student at one of our current high schools, Carol met with me at the beginning of the year asking if she could still run with us because she wanted to become a marathon finisher. Her dedication to this goal while training by herself reflected in her joyful tears and smile as she accepted her marathon finisher medal.

– The accountability that was built between our Dobie Middle School students rivaled that of some of the adults I train with. On their Facebook page, they cheered each other on, reminded each other to train during off days, motivated friends to come to practices and shared their mantras. During practices no one ran alone. During timed miles, the students that finished faster continued to run to finish with their slower teammates. One of our pillars is to develop strong community members. Our students at Dobie exemplified this.

– I attended a practice at Reagan High School late fall during a timed mile. It was pouring down rain and one of the first really cold days of the season. Yet every student was at practice and every student improved their timed mile. This dedication of reaching their goals and overcoming obstacles inspires my work.

– There is nothing better than being able to witness the Marathon High coaches dedicate themselves to the goals of their students. From rides to and from practices and races, running additional miles to be able to keep their students company, writing individualized race plans, having goal conversations, working with groups of 100+ students, our coaches are the reason 99% of our students that started the marathon finished the marathon.

The picture above, as our friend Josh Baker at AzulOx Photography says, “about sums it up”. It is a privilege to work for an organization where I get to set up the opportunities for students to set goals and achieve them. It is a privilege to stand on the sideline and watch them tackle these goals with smiles like the one above. It is a privilege to know that Rogue Running runners and the Austin Community believes in us.

Onward to 2015-2016, we’ll see you at the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon finish line!

Do I really need a long run shoe?

IMG_6469by Chris MacLeod

One of the great things about working in a running store is that every day, you get to meet brand new runners. They’re excited, a little nervous, and veritable sponges for information.

If a new runner has made it to Rogue, they’ve probably done enough research to know the importance of getting fit for a good pair of shoes. But in that research, they might have found some conflicting information. Do they just need one pair of shoes? Do they need two pairs of the same shoe to rotate every day? Do they need two different shoes to “challenge” their feet? Do they need an insert because the liner of a running shoe is “useless”?

Okay, obviously the answer to that last one is “no”, but we HAVE had people come in who were told just that. Yikes!

So, in case you’ve ever wondered, here’s how we, the Rogue retail staff, typically answer these questions.

Do I Just Need One Pair of Shoes?

If you’re a true beginner, the answer to this is categorically yes. Sure, we could make more money selling you two pairs, but we wouldn’t feel super great about it. For the non-competitive runner going out for a few runs per week, one pair of well-fitting shoes is plenty. We typically encourage you to go for a pair that you could comfortably run 13 miles in, because it’s not uncommon to go from Couch to 5K to Half Marathon, and we want to make sure your first attempt at serious distance is as pleasant as possible.

Should I Rotate My Shoes Every Day?

Meh, jury’s out on this one. Sure, alternating 2 pairs of the same shoe will undoubtedly make both pairs last longer, but the difference in wear is small enough that you’re basically just extending the time between trips to the running store. Besides, if you’re going to get two shoes…

Should I Get Two Different Shoes to “Challenge” My Feet?

No, although it’s true that different shoes will cause your body to work in slightly different ways.

But really, you should get two different shoes because different shoes have different purposes. Travis, our Cedar Park retail manager, has no fewer than 4 different shoes he’s using regularly. Your long run shoe will likely be the “most” shoe you run in, because most runners are willing to lug around a couple extra ounces if they can stay nice and comfy over 18 miles.

Your everyday trainer might be a little lighter than your long run shoe, or it might be the same shoe. This is the shoe you’re doing your mid-week easy stuff in. Maybe some quality workouts. It’s flexible.

Your racer is just that – a racer. Typically, you’re going as light and responsive as you can for the distance you’re covering. As a general rule, the shorter your race, the lighter a shoe you can get away with. Have you ever seen a sprinter’s spike? Comfy? No. Light and fast? Heck yeah!

In short – YES, you absolutely need a long run shoe. Got that nailed down? Come on in, and let’s talk speed!


582061_10100718274654857_1607430571_nChris MacLeod is a retail manager at Rogue Running Cedar Park, a [running and book] nerd and is inexplicably always cold despite hailing from Chicago. She has a love affair with the Windy-City Marathon and stokes that affair training with The Morning Show. You can find her and her expert opinions on shoes, gu’s and all things retail in the shop or at her blog, runningfiesta.com.

 

A PARENT’S REFLECTION ON MARATHON HIGH 2015

Reposted from marathonhigh.org

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Michelle with her two sons at the finish of the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon in February 2015.

Michelle Vega is a parent from our KIPP Academy of Arts and Letters program. 

Our son has autism and several medical issues. He struggled to find an activity that he enjoyed and was successful with for years. His biggest challenge was needing surgery on both legs within the year if his health didn’t improve.  When marathon high came to KIPP we encouraged him to just try for one year to see what happens.  The first month was the most challenging but the coaches helped encourage him to keep going. Our son ended up loving Marathon High and gained a love of running. The greatest blessing of all was to recently find out that he no longer needs surgery! His will to keep running has made a big difference in his medical condition. The support of Marathon High coaches during practices and races was awesome and helped tremendously.  He is so very proud to say he has ran a full half marathon.

“The greatest blessing of all was to recently find out that he no longer needs surgery!”

As a family we have all grown closer, become healthier, and are happy to have a new family activity to do together.  We will continue to support Marathon High for years to come because of all the positive opportunities they have not only brought our son, family, but all the students. Marathon High made it possible for our son to run in races, receive race shirts, and even gave him running shoes, which we wouldn’t have been able to do. Our family is forever grateful for Marathon High and we can’t wait to participate as a family next year.

We wish the program was year round but we will continue to keep up running during the “off season”

Forever changed,

The Vega Family

Shoe Review: New Balance Zante and New Balance Boracay (aka 980v2)

New Balance + Names…Wha???

By Chris MacLeod

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The Fresh Foam Zante draped gracefully atop the Boracay (aka 980v2). Sexy pair, if I say so myself.

Call it Christmas in April, because this week we received not one but TWO brand new shoes from New Balance. And these guys are sweet.

The Fresh Foam Zante

Let’s all take a moment to review that name. That’s right – it’s a NAME. Yes, NB is still numbering all their shoes (this one is officially the 1980), but finally, FINALLY, you don’t have to try to remember whether you were in the 870, the 880, the 2001, the 42, etc.

And that’s not even the most exciting thing about it! Some Rogue staffers got a preview of this shoe last fall, and it’s the first one that EVERYONE – from Travis to Sarah to Carolyn to James, loved. LOVED. We lobbied hard to bring this one in…until we realized that we were all lobbying for the same thing!

New Balance advertises this guy as a “supportive sock” that both “look[s] fast and feel[s] fast”. We’d say that’s spot on! The midsole uses the same Fresh Foam compound introduced in the 980, and the soft yet responsive material really shines in a shoe designed for speed.

Wearers of the 1400 will find the Zante a touch more cushioned, but it retains all the pop that has made that shoe a speedwork staple. Thanks to the more built-up outsole, Zante also has a more noticeable arch support than any previous New Balance racer.

And what about that “supportive sock” comment? The upper is a super soft, slightly stretchy material that really does feel almost slipper-like on your foot. We don’t necessarily recommend running sockless, but you could. The toe box is also blessedly wide, making this a shoe that can fit a wider variety of foot shapes than some of its competitors.

Weight: 7.5oz
Drop: 6mm
Price: $100


The Fresh Foam Boracay (980v2)

Okay, maybe slightly less exciting than a brand new shoe, but the Boracay (version 2 of the original “Fresh Foam”, the 980), is still a sleek update that improves on an already good thing.

Fear not, Boracay retains 980’s best features: soft-firm responsiveness, a relatively stiff/rigid feel for good energy return, and the combination of durability and low drop that makes it one of the few low-drop shoes we can truly call a long-distance runner. For the new version, NB addressed a couple complaints about the original – v2 is a touch wider and the upper just slightly thinner and more breathable.

In short, lovers of the 980v1 should be able to update without issue, so come on in and try the new Boracay today!

Weight: 9.5oz
Drop: 4mm
Price: $120


582061_10100718274654857_1607430571_nChris MacLeod is a retail manager at Rogue Running Cedar Park, a [running and book] nerd and is inexplicably always cold despite hailing from Chicago. She has a love affair with the Windy-City Marathon and stokes that affair training with The Morning Show. You can find her and her expert opinions on shoes, gu’s and all things retail in the shop or at her blog, runningfiesta.com.