I know almost nothing about shoes, and my shoe closet is a mess of outdated styles, attempts at being fashionable, and a handful of tried-and-trues. In the fall I grab my boots; in the summer my flip-flops. I have a pair of nude go-to heels, green Nikes from J.Crew that have nothing to do with running, leopard print loafers that were a stylish find from an aunt who knows more than I do about taste…and a bunch of work shoes, old prom shoes, and a hodgepodge besides. Whatever gene it is that gives some girls (and guys) shoe-sense, well, I totally missed that one. I just cannot get fired up about shoe shopping, and, as much as I obsess about details when it comes to certain tasks like writing, lesson planning, cooking, solving math problems, and observing nature, I am sure I have ruined many an outfit by inappropriate accessorizing because my mind has such a difficult time going there.

That’s why I am often barefoot, or close to it. Even at age 34.

But then two years ago I became a runner. Even then, I resisted my dad’s encouragement to get fitted properly for a shoe. It sounded so above me, frankly. The first purchase of running shoes I ever bought consisted of this method: dash into the sporting goods store, engineer the conversation with the salesman to be as brief as possible, try on two pair of shoes, pay, and hightail it outta there.

Then one day many months later when I was feeling fancy free and less careful and more devil-may-care, I agreed to go to the Running Center and have my gait analyzed and try on shoes properly. All the difference…

Fast forward two years to the present, and I am now an eager shoe shopper…but only for running shoes. I am burbling with excitement every 600 miles, though I am diligent about wearing my shoes out. A toe beginning to peek through and worn soles, on top of recommended mileage are usually enough to get me past the “I know it’s time, but I can’t spend that much on myself” feeling. As a runner, it is my one piece of gear that has to be changed. I can feel them go flat. I also take into consideration having enough lead-time to break in new shoes before a race.

I bought my grey, pink, and purple Asics on February 13th. I remember feeling unattached to them at first, and also apprehensive as I thought about how much I would have to test myself in those shoes and would I evolve the way I hoped over the next months? They were a blank canvas on which I would write my next chapters of forging myself. I felt the nerves of someone who wants desperately to prove herself to herself. I remember missing my previous blue and orange Asics like a security blanket. We can’t cling, however, and expect to get anywhere, can we?

600+ miles of training later, hours greeting the morning and expending myself on the track, I retire these grey-purple-pink shoes. We went miles, you and I. We achieved milestones, you and I. You were there as I tested myself. You were there in the dawn. You supported me through good runs and bad, you felt both beads of sweat and tears of joy, and you traveled more than any other pair of shoes. You represent a season in my life, forever. Who I was when I first put you on has evolved into the person who took the last run with you this morning.

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I raced six races in these shoes:

* Hot Chocolate 15K in San Diego, CA (1st place woman in division; 5th place woman out of 2575 overall in gender; personal PR)

* Carlsbad 5000 in Carlsbad, CA (18th out of 266 in division; 35th out of 755 overall in gender; top 250 finisher medal, 5K PR)

* Run Through the Vineyard 10K in Temecula, CA (1st place woman overall)

* Strawberry Festival 10K in Vista, CA (1st place division; 3rd place woman overall; PR at the time)

* Billy Mills 10K in Sacramento, CA (1st place division)

* Butte to Butte in Eugene, OR (3rd place division, current PR)

 

These shoes and I have some good memories and personal achievements together! They also ran Stanford with me, trained all over Oregon, ran with my daughter, and unofficially walked Crater Lake, the redwoods, and Point Reyes  (which they were not supposed to do, and I had brought other walking shoes but got a little negligent there).

And last night, in one big grand hurrah (although I did a short run in them this morning before my swim), they were with me for my best interval set ever of 8X440s at the track, a true breakthrough set. Using VDOT O2 tables, Bill can see that I have increased my oxygen-carrying capacity by 5% since March, which is huge and which predicts jumps in my PRs at all distances. (We’ll see if that pans out, but so far I have done exactly what the tables have predicted I could do throughout the year). I think swimming for miles is helping with this. I swim three days a week, two of those sessions being after runs. My run this morning was a recovery run from last night’s work, just a bit of humdrum fanfare for these shoes. Last night, however, they went out in a blaze, as if to say, “We are leaving you with the joyful promise of what you might be able to accomplish in your new shoes. Do not be afraid—embrace this next phase!” Very different from how I felt in February…

For the first time, also, my coach/husband advised that I purchase not only training shoes, but also a pair of racing flats. This surprised me, but I take it as a favorable statement of where he believes I am in my training at this point. For training I stuck with my usual Asics. I’ve not been injured in the Asics (except for a fall that was my fault). My racing flats are New Balance. For the first time, I will bond with two pair of shoes at once. I will train occasionally with the racing flats but will mostly save them for races. The blues and greens of the new shoes suit me, not that I choose based on aesthetics…but I lucked out this time! (I am not much of a grey-pink-purple girl, but did not have another Asics choice at the time).

The retirement of running shoes always brings emotion, but this time I am more excited than I am melancholy. These shoes will race Disneyland in a few weeks and also the Long Beach Half, where I will try to improve my time from last year on the course that began my racing career.

I may know next to nothing about accessorizing with shoes, but I do know how to run in these!

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