Monday, August 23, 2010

Magic Shoes

Jack had his magic beans.  Tomorrow, I shall have my magic shoes.

In my OCD world, there's always room for more superstitions.  Although "superstitions" can be such an ugly word.  I prefer the term "routine."  Yesterday, I watched a quick video on the pre-race track workout that Galen Rupp does before his next 5,000m race.  I made a couple quick mental notes about his dynamic warmup routine, incorporated them into my own this afternoon, and lo and behold, I believed I was more limber than ever before.  I cranked out my 5x1,000m workout with, I wouldn't say ease, but with a renewed freshness.

When relaying this to my wife, she asked, "Do you think it's real or just a psychological thing?"

"It worked, so I don't care what it was."

When approaching speed workouts, I have what I like to call my "fast clothes."  It's usually a newer singlet or pair of shorts that have earned their way up the ranks by either successful workouts or breakout PRs in races.  It's a mindset (or illness, what can I say).  And this goes right down to the shoes I lace up.  For speed workouts, for races, there is always a varsity pair, and God I hate giving them up when they've worn their course.

Reading Kenny Moore's book, "Bowerman and The Men of Oregon," there's a chapter that discusses Bowerman's magic shoes.  He used to build custom racers specific to each of his athletes, but he'd only let them out of the box on race days.  For the runners, the shoes took on a mythical status.  As if each time the box opened and they slid their feet into the magic shoes, the race was on.

I've certainly had my share of "starter" shoes, the ones that came out on race day, tapped the night before by slipping the timing chip through the laces.  You know, give them time to mentally prepare for the task at end the next morning. 

When I went to Boston, I wore the shoes I had qualified in on the plane and around town, and let them pass on their good karma to the shoes I'd be racing in (holders of 5K and half marathon PRs).  

And, it is with great anticipation that I wait for the UPS man to come tomorrow to bring me my next pair.  But these are special.  For months, my dad and I have been talking about the benefits of racing in flats or trainers.  In fact, the speed development podcasts I worked from this summer began with the elites and their coaches talking about doing these workouts in "racing flats."  I didn't have those.  For me, my old Asics would have to do.

Then last month, my wife and I found ourselves in a Pacers, perusing for new gear, when I decided it was time to find out what was so great about these shoes.  The saleswoman was amazing.  She sat with me, explained why I should be racing and doing my speed workouts in them, and what shoe I should be wearing.  I listened.  I took it in.  It all made sense.  But I wasn't converted...until I slipped on a pair.  It was like an extension of my foot.  I took 'em for a quick loop around the block, already taxed from a 12 miler that morning, but felt  a light bounce in my legs.  Quelle difference!

And so, on a particularly stressful day at work last week, I pulled the trigger on the shoes.  I am now a proud owner of the Asics DS Trainer 15 (the white/black/lime coloring), and I'm in love.

I have a tempo run scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and can't wait to take 'em out for a spin to see what these magic shoes are all about.

Do you have a magic pair of shoes?  Or any other must-have piece of gear that puts in you the fast lane?

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