Friday, February 28, 2014

Race Review: ITryathlon (Spring Edition)

The first triathlon of my 2014 season kicked off with the ITryathlon Sprint in Laguna Nigel, Ca.

This is another really good race put on by the good folks over at Renegade Racing and is a perfect race to get back in the swing of things for the upcoming season.

The race consists of a 5k run, 10 mile bike, and 175 yard swim - in that order.  Reverse triathlons with short swims tend to favor me (since I'm a fairly fast runner and a poor swimmer) - so I was excited for a good result going into this race.


The race started at 7:00 am - which wouldn't be a problem but a portion of the freeway was closed for construction (we should have checked).  What this ultimately meant was that we arrived to the race with approximately 5 minutes to get our stuff checked in and get over to the run start.

Not fun.

This presented a slew of problems for me (race-wise).  First, when you start at the back of a run like the one that started this triathlon - you are literally starting behind the 8-ball.  There's no way to push your way to the front (unless you just want to be a total ahole about things, which I'm not) and you're guaranteed to lose time on your 5k right off the bat because you are starting so far back (weaving between people, having to slow down due to the masses of slower runners, etc).  Second, just the general stress from rushing just to get to the start line is bound to affect your performance.

All of that said, there's no one to blame but myself for being late.  I will say that the people at Renegade did an outstanding job at having everything set up perfectly for a quick packet pick-up process (say that ten times fast).  We were in an out of there in no time.  The volunteers at the packet pick-up booth were great!


I started the run at the very back of the group at the start line.  The race had around 400 to 450 people from my guess (which included people only doing the 5k), and the 5k start "bottlenecked" into an area that fit about 15 people wide shoulder to shoulder.  If you weren't near the front of the pack - it dramatically reduced your time.

I'm normally an 17:45ish 5k guy for my races and I ended up with 19:19.  In large part, in my mind, to dodging people.

Again, whose fault is this?  100% mine.  That said, I was still rather pleased with my run.  It was my first race with my Skora Phases and I'm really impressed with how fast of a race shoe these are.

The run course itself is wonderful.  It goes through a very nice and scenic route through Crown Valley Community Park - which is a great park in Laguna Niguel, Ca.

At the start of the race you can see how crowded it was.

I found myself running far to either side, weaving in and out of people trying to get open on the run.

Things opened up a bit once I got in front of the main pack.  You can see how nice the run course was in this photo.
I began passing people pretty quickly once I got going.


Coming in from the run - the transition area was really nice.  I was able to get unracked and out pretty quickly.  Somehow, one of my shoes had been knocked off my bike, so that was a bit of an issue (which slowed me down) but wasn't too bad.

The bike was a two loop 10 mile (total) course.  Very fast with a couple of small hills and some turns which required a bit of attention, but nothing too nasty.

On a couple of the turns, you would have to hop out of the aero position.

Coming right off the bike, I began passing most everyone who got into T1 ahead of me.  I wasn't biking overly hard but I only got passed by one person (and that was someone who I previously passed on the first lap).  All in all, a decent bike.

The bike course itself was done beautifully.  It was wide open with plenty of room when things got crowded.  This was the perfect way to do a looped course.

The bike leg was, however, not without its faults.  There was a slew of volunteers (people in yellow shirts) who were standing in front of the signs on the "bike in" and a bunch of people standing in the road where the turn was supposed to happen to head to transition.  From what I understand (with talking to people after the race), there were other volunteers constantly moving them out of the way - but when I came through (along with 3 other people) - they were there which caused us to overshoot the "bike in".  We were not the only ones, as there are a handful of people (further back on the results list) that also do not have bike splits - which indicates this was an ongoing problem during the race.  I don't think this "killed" my time by any means - but it definitely caused me to lose a minute or two.  Again, my fault for not just stopping and moving my way in (or running over helpless volunteers) - but it is what it is.

Lots of room to pass people on the bike course - which made the ride pleasurable.


The run up to the swim was pretty lengthy - which is actually quite funny when you rack your bike and head up there.  You run up and around the pool area, and then through the pool entrance all the way to the far end of the pool where the swim begins.  Lots of people were complaining about this - but I thought it was kind of different and cool.  It was a neat thing for the course and probably the only way it could really be done in terms of location - so it was a plus in my eyes.

Once you got to the edge of the pool, you jumped in and would swim one length on the 25 yard pool, go under the lane ropes (with no kicking off the wall) and then swim back and so on and so forth until you arrived at the end of the last lane and hopped out through the finish line.

As I came to the pool, I saw seven people in the water and hopped in.

GERONIMO!  Yes...I'm plugging my nose.  Yes, I'm lame.  
I actually had a pretty damn good swim for me all things considered.  My stroke felt good, I was gliding pretty well, and going faster than I thought I would (I'm normally around ~2:00/100 as a swimmer).  Finish time was 3:41 for 175 yards - which isn't too shabby for me considering there was a brief pause every 25 yards for me to get under the lane ropes and start swimming again.

The finish line was rather uneventful (it was in a pretty compact area).  You hopped out of the pool and then across the finish line, received your medal, and then were directed to a "refreshment tent" down by the transition area.

All in all - it was a very fun race that I enjoyed quite a bit.  There were a couple of snags - but nothing major and nothing that hampered the fun.  I DO question the results a bit, as I had people finish ahead of me who I passed on the run and the math just doesn't make sense when I do their times in comparison to mine.  That said, it's not a huge deal.  I finished 4th in my age group - which is a decent result for me (I'll take it considering two people in my age group were in the overall winners).

My wife also did the triathlon, as did two of my brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law.  It was a fun event for all of us and we all had a good time.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking to do a beginner friendly triathlon.

My wife and I post race.

Me and the steed.  :)

Next up on my race list is a 10k stroller race at The Coaster Run at Knott's Berry Farm.  That's this Sunday and should be a fun one.  After that, I'll be doing a 5k at the Leprechaun Leap race in Tustin - which should be a good "top end" run speed test for me leading up to the Leadman Tri Marquee in April.

I'll be volunteering at the ITryathlon in August - which is a women and youth only event.  My wife might be doing that one, and there's an outside chance that my son will even be doing a kid's run depending on how well he's walking/running by then.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Shoe Review: Skora Fit

I received these shoes ahead of their release date due to being a part of the Skora Ambassador program.

I first heard of the shoe last year and details were sketchy at best.  There was this beautiful shot of a demo model at a running shoe expo, however:

Skora Fit

Loving the "burnt orange" color scheme - this shot had me salivating and wanting more info.

Fast forward to this past week or so where I finally have gotten my hands on a pair and I can make my review super short, super quick by saying this:

"The Skora Fit is a game changer on the minimalist shoe market.  It's far and away the best minimalistic shoe I've worn for daily training and consistent racing."

That's the super short version.  The short version is that I like the shoe a lot and it's going to be the main thing that's on my feet day to day in training and in races.  I've put almost 80 miles total on them now, and feel I have a pretty good grasp at what this shoe is all about.  In short, it's durable, feels great, light weight, responsive, and looks pretty damn good too.  To top this off, it's slated to sell for under $100 (although I don't have any details on the final MSRP) - so pretty cheap for what you get as well.

Now, on to the more detailed review:

The side view of these shoes is really slick.

Shoes from the top.

The first thing you notice about the shoes is the upper.  It has a metallic material that I don't know the exact name of - but it's super flexy and reflective.  When you feel the shoe in your hands, you can feel how flexible it is - but it isn't flexible in a way that you question the durability of the shoe.
Besides - it looks super cool.

The upper is completely unique, and really looks cool.

Putting them on - you can immediately tell where the name of the shoe came from.  The Fit does just that.  It fits.  The asymmetrical lacing system really hugs your foot, and the padding in the heel tightens just perfectly once you tie the laces down.  This padding is soft - and eliminates the risk of "rubbing" which caused sores and blisters on the Phase (which was my only complaint about that shoe).
The lacing system on this shoe is really spot on.

The cushy material on the interior of the heel provides a comfortable fit.

On the Phase - the hard material on the rear of the shoe would cause blisters and sores on my heels where it went from hard material to softer material.
The Fit also has a wide toebox (pretty standard with Skora shoes), which allows to plenty of toe splay when running.  This gives the shoe a "roomy" feel but does not compromise the secure fit of the shoe.  It really if a perfect combination.

One of the first things I noticed about the shoe when taking it for a run was that the cushioning on the shoe is a bit more substantial than some of the previous Skoras I've worn.  This is a good thing.  It's still minimalistic for sure - no one is going to mistake this shoe with your Hokas or standard running shoe - but it has enough cushion that you can put some serious training miles in them and not have to worry about any injury or foot issues that some people experience when running in really low cushion shoes.  

Exterior of the shoe to get an idea of the cushioning
For people who prefer a much lower profile, you can always remove the sole on the inside and run without that.  Unlike a lot of shoes, when you do this - there is still a "built-in sole", not a barebones hard shoe.  This allows for a comfortable ride and a lower profile, lower cushion feel - if that's what you're after.

The shoe beneath the sole.  Still comfortable and able to be worn without socks.

The feel of these shoes is top notch - there's simply no other way to put it.  I was able to slide them on and immediately take them out for my scheduled 14 mile run with no issues at all.  The shoe is incredibly responsive and has a great toe-off (as do most Skora shoes).  It's lightweight and fast, but at the same time gives you the feeling that it's not going to fall apart on you with abuse.
Which is absolutely true, after putting 6 days of hard running on these shoes (~80 miles or so), they look nearly new with 0 wear on the tread of the shoe.

Outside of a few scuffs - the shoe is practically brand new.

I could see these shoes lasting a very, very long time and I'm stoked to have them.  I'll be wearing these in most of my races - adding an elastic lacing system to them for triathlon use.  This is a fast shoe that can be worn in just about any distance - up and beyond marathon.

They're due to release sometime in late February.  I'll update this blog with more details when the time comes.

In the meantime, you can see that my son approves of them:

kid can't even walk yet and he's taking my shoes already.

Check them out at Skora Running and on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.