by John Schrup
Now that I’m a well-seasoned traveler, having been in the last month to exotic destinations like The Republic of Boulder and Pine Mountain, Georgia, I’m pretty sure I’m an expert when it comes to hotels and how to stay in them. I’ll give you two examples: In Boulder we were put up in the St. Julien, which is so fancy that I should have known that no matter where I stayed next, it would be pretty much a hostel, except with complimentary shampoos.
Well, I was kinda wrong. At this very moment—riiiiiiiiiiight now!—I’m on a chartered bus back to the airport in Atlanta, just having left the Mizuno Dendoshi, which is a fancy Japanese word for Here, Drink This. Mizuno was very generous and put us up at the Lodge and Spa and Resort and Gathering Place at Callaway Gardens. It’s a really spacious place dropped smack dab in the middle of the lushest, greenest, most fertile, most Deliverance place I’ve ever been. Of course, being a resort, there are lake-y things and places where guys in expandapants play golf, but our only access to them was visual as we ran by. So the place was really swanky. But here I’m gonna go all asshole on you and sound like an ungrateful sumbitch, but this place was….well…how should I put this, um, diplomatically? There is room for improvement in a couple of areas. I’m going to tell you about them now.
One, I cannot overstate the importance of coffee in the hotel room. It is more important than the, I don’t know, lighting. Almost every hotel I’ve ever been in has one of those two stroke(1) coffee makers with either the little coffee pods or the coffee pouches (those things that look like those Copenhagen tobacco pouches that you tried once back in middle school, but made the unfortunate mistake of thinking it was supposed to be chewed and swallowed, and the gastrointestinal reaction was such that the next door neighbor heard the retching sounds, thought there was a murder in progress and called the cops). You know what I’m talking about. Those pouches.
Anyway, this place had the pouches. I’m sorry. The pouch. The room had one pouch. The whole purpose of the first cup of coffee is to make sure that you’re alert for the second cup of coffee. I mean, really. One pouch. And the coffee itself, well, it tasted like it had been filtered through underwear. It was not good.
Two, in most nicer hotels (and by nicer I mean places where you don’t have to put the sheets on the bed yourself) there can be found coffee dispensers throughout the hallways, meeting rooms, etc, etc. It’ll have the attendant stirrers, sweeteners, creamy things, paper cups. Essentially, if you find yourself in need of coffee, it is available. It is available even if you don’t need it, which I don’t think could ever happen, ever, really, but you never know. But here, at this place in Georgia, apparently they’ve gone all Bloomberg on the coffee. You have to go to the restaurant to get coffee. Or to the front desk for more pouches, where they look at you like you just asked if they have any of the classy animal porn. I don’t know anything about that. I mean, we’re trying to have a conference here people! Shit man. Coffee! So, my two gripes are basically because I didn’t have access to, you know, Deus ex caffeina. In all fairness, the hotel did provide us Dendoshiers with coffee dispensers for the meetings, but that left whole periods of minutes when we weren’t in meetings where caffeine access was unavailable.
But, Dendoshi. The conference. The seminar. The storytelling. That’s what Dendoshi means in Japanese, storytelling. We were there for Mizuno to tell us the Mizuno story. The timing was good, for us anyway, since we were beginning to really wonder WTF was up with Mizuno, a perennial favorite among the core runner, as they had slipped in the ratings, so much so at Rogue as to barely register on the radar. The Rider gets some play, but after the shitfest that was the Rider 14, people aren’t coming back to them as we might have wanted. The Musha are legit, but underappreciated at best. (I loooooooooved the Revolver(2), the predecessor to the Musha.) We like the Precision somewhat, but it is essentially a lighter Rider, and so it is otherwise kind of a yawner. The nice things about the Precision and Rider are that you know what you’re gonna get (except for last year when Mizuno shit the bed with the Rider 14), and Mizuno is arguably the most consistent brand on the wall.
Dendoshi is Mizuno’s effort to make us feel more a part of the Mizuno family, to include us in the conversation so we can in turn include the customer on the same conversation. Admittedly, Mizuno got behind the curve, and was late to the game in introducing the lighter, lower, more flexible and, aw hell, more minimal shoes that we are all now familiar with. Yeah, they had the Musha, which I think works really well in that category, and the Universe, which is so good in that respect that the Romanov cult digs it, but they are marketed as racers, and Mizuno wants to keep it that way.
(The new Ekiden, straight from the Japanese market, will intro in the US early 2013, and while basically a heavier—by 1 oz—Universe, it should also fit well in the The Shit category. And my feeling is that Mizuno would do well to bring the Kudos to the US. The Kudos is a racer, designed for the more efficient mid-foot runner and for Yukiko Akaba, an elite Japanese marathoner, and would bring new levels of badassery to Mizuno Running USA. If these were in the U.S., I would bring them breakfast tacos and quad Americanos and then quietly back away so as not to disturb them(3).
We were told about or shown three (ok, four) new products that are due to arrive in the next year. The EVO duo are an offering in the zero drop offset category. Why are there two of them? I don’t ****ing know. You only need one zero drop. But you can see the progressive design features that Mizuno is shooting for, and the less minimal of the two—I can’t get the names right because they aren’t particularly memorable names, or maybe that’s just some neurons misfiring, I don’t know—is the one you’ll want because it is more protective and won’t be such a stretch for you to wear and run it. The colors are awesome. Very Mizuno. Which means bright color combinations that you wouldn’t expect, except from maybe artists who do lots of drugs. Anyway, the EVO. So that will be cool.
Then we saw the Wave Sayonara. The name is almost too cute by half, but it has its lineage in the Wave Goodbye, a lightweight trainer/racer from about a dozen years ago. The Sayonara will be lightweight trainer (roughly 8 oz for the men’s size 9) and continue with Mizuno’s affinity for quirky design and coloring. The drawings we saw showed us shoes that don’t look very Mizuno at all. So they got that going for them, which is nice. Hode up!, you say. So there will be the Rider, the Precision, the Sayonara, the Ronin? That’s a lot of neutral, bro. Yes it is. Which is why Mizuno is ditching the Precision. I know. Seriously. Just as the Precision achieves some real street cred, it gets yanked. I know. Me too. But apparently the Precision has been on life support for some time now, and the plug was actually pulled right before the current one blew up, and by then it was too late. The Sayonara was already in line and they were all, oopsie. But I like that it will be considerably lighter, and (surprise! surprise!) has complete ground contact kinda like the Musha, because all those midfoot support trusses or whatever are completely unnecessary. And when I say completely, I mean they are stupid. So unless Mizuno just derps it, the Sayonara will get you much, much action.
You all know of our love for the New Balance flats these days right? The 1400 makes you giddy, in the 1600 you begin to make questionable decisions, and the 5000—the lightest flat available—promotes full frontal nudity in public. Well, Mizuno wouldn’t have any of it, so they had to tweak the Universe a bit so they could reclaim the mantle with the lightest flat out there. It will weigh a reported 2.9 oz. You will get pregnant just putting in on your feet. I know. The look of it was the result a deep dependence on hallucinogens or something; you will either like it and want to buy a pair, or you will become sterile instantly, purely out of revulsion. So they’ve got the lightest flat on the wall. Cool? I don’t know. I think I’d rather see an effort made to improve one of the core runner’s shoes, than to put more energy into making a shoe less purchase-able.
So there you go. Three (or four, depending on your counting skills) new shoes from Mizuno. Each of these has been at least a couple years in the making. We know this because Mizuno went to great lengths to explain to us their process in taking a shoe to market. They call it magokoro, which is a Japanese word that describes the honor one has for the trust of others—the customer. This is what takes so long to deliver the right product. It has to be just so. It must be just enough, and no more. I kinda like that. No, I really like that. From concept to the shoe wall, they are very, very deliberate in each step and this is why they are so slow to react to the market turns and trends. Their belief is that they won’t compromise quality in design or in craftsmanship for producing the highest quality product that work best for the customer.
That is really impressive and should be applauded I think, but I also sense a bit of over-thought and some forest for the trees stuff going on here. I mean, the best shoe of the last 5 years—our beloved Launch, RIP—had no technology in it. Zee Row. Want to talk about ride? That shoe had ride. Brilliant. One of things that bounces around Mizuno HQ is the phrase, Show Me the Science. I like that too. But I think that if in pursuit of getting the numbers just so, juuuust right, you miss out on some really wonderful design opportunities and are putting more weight in that than in the actual run.
The time at Mizuno was well worth it. I love storytelling and Mizuno really opened up some good conversation with some really exciting and intriguing stories. Almost everyone I talked to who is with Mizuno was more than willing to talk about almost anything related to shoes and to Mizuno. I like that. I love that. I hope that we can continue that conversation, that story.
1Stop it! Naughty.
2Good album, too.
3No idea where that came from. None.