Three-Part Series: Part I, Brooks Launch Series Shoe

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If you didn’t already know, when it comes to running shoes, my trusted brand is Brooks. Welcome to Part I of my Three-Part Series where I break down my top three Brooks running shoes. In this series, we’re going to get down and dirty putting my three favorites through their paces. I’ll tell you what I like, and I’ll tell you if there is room for improvement. Before we go crazy, let’s start with a few basics. If you are new to running, this first section is for you. If you’d consider yourself a regular runner, skip to the next section.

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Trail Running the Conestoga

As the Frozen Snot lingers in the distance, my good friend and I headed out for some much needed training with an 8-mile point-to-point trail run. Our initial plan was to hit up a familiar trail, but decided to work on better elevation challenges with a more difficult trail (as suggested by his wife and fellow runner). We dropped off my friend’s brown truck at the finish and made the drive to the start.

Difficult is a bit of an understatement. The fact that we couldn’t find the trail start should have been a sign of things to come. After driving around for a bit and doubling back a time or two, we located the trail head.

The weather was cold with rain in the forecast. At 40°F I decided to wear shorts, along with a tech shirt and light running jacket. The plan was to cover 8-miles of fairly difficult terrain with lots and lots of hills. I decided to tote my Ultimate Direction running vest, with a hydration pack full of Tailwind nutrition.

Since the weather was cold, gloves were a must. However I must say, in the end it didn’t matter, it was cold, it was wet, we finished soaked to the bone and freezing. But, I digress.

Mile 1 was quick and easy, and it was swiftly followed by 2 miles of the complete opposite; slowly climbing and punishing terrain. The climbing must have jostled my hydration pack, because (I don’t know how) the top came loose and I ended up dumping half its contents all down my back. Sweet sweet Tailwind Nutrition, just wasted. I cried. I cried inside. It was painful and bitterly cold.

I nursed what little Tailwind I had for the remainder of the run. Thankfully, I had a Honey Stinger gel in my front vest pocket, which came in clutch later on.

The creek crossings in the beginning felt refreshing and were a welcome treat. Given the weather was a steady light rain, everything was wet and slippery so I felt very much in-tune to what and how I was navigating the trails. By mile 4, I was relishing in the fact that we were half-way done and felt strong.

At some point I remember mile 5 having a decent downhill cruise, which was somewhat pleasant. Pleasant as you can be while watching your footing and avoiding slipping on leaf covered dangers.

At mile 6, we stopped for a quick break. We were soaked to the bone, creek crossings were less enjoyable and I mentioned 2 miles was all I had left in me. Everything was wet, and my phone managed to call home 15 times within 15 minutes. My wife left me a lovely voicemail. We were having fun.

Mile 8 came and went and we realized we were no where close to our finish as the brown truck was no where to be seen. We called and got some much needed guidance on how to get back to the truck, a “short” trip down a lone service road was all we needed. I got to thinking we weren’t too far off, but as we rounded corner after corner, the brown truck was no where in sight. Either we were wrong, or just not listening, but that darn truck wasn’t even close. The truck was another 2 miles from where we were.

Miles 9 and 10 were brutal and angry miles. I don’t remember much, the sight of the brown truck was an instant relief. I never thought I’d be see happy to see that truck in all my life, but there it was just beckoning us with its dry interior.

All-in-all, it was 10 miles of perfect training. The weather was garbage, the terrain was tough and technical, but in the end we made it and learned a little bit more along the way.

Race Recap: iCare 5k

Every year a nearby food bank hosts a 5k almost in our backyard. Blessings of Hope has a huge yard sale, auction, food vendors, activities for kids, and of course a 5k race in beautiful Lancaster County. The company is predominantly Mennonite so it attracts the local Amish and Mennonite community at large. Turn out is always HUGE.

This year the 5k drew a much larger crowd as well. The course was the same as the previous year, a nice easy run on the back roads of Amish Country. There is a slight incline, at the very start, but for the most part it’s nothing too crazy and very runner friendly.

At the very beginning I noticed a lot of kids hanging around the starting line- in fact there were a lot of kids and I thought how fun it will be to blow past them at the half way mark. The announcer’s voice boomed over the handheld speaker as she yelled “GO!” and we were off. Truth be told: those Amish kids took off and I didn’t see a single one after that. Even though my first mile was complete in 7 minutes, and my second mile at 7:20, those kids were fast and long gone.

The course was beautiful as always, and the atmosphere and iCare event was a lovely experience. Even though I hit a few PRs, fastest mile (7:11), fastest 2 miles (14:31), I still finished 25th overall. I placed 3rd in my age group and received a fidget spinner medal- all-in-all, it was pretty fun.

Last year I ran a lot slower, with an average of 9:00 min/miles and placed 2nd in my age group. So this year I’d say the amount of competitors was a lot higher and the skill levels were just as high to match. This is a fast course and we saw some really fast times! Looking forward to next year!