Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Firm" Believer

Pearl Izumi Syncroseek II

Pearl Izumi Syncroseek II after Hard Rock

Hard Rock has come and gone with much success. Success from finishing in my goal time. Success for having a supportive crew and family. Success from the race committee for putting on a spectacular race. And, of course, success from my sponsors for providing the best products.

There are many things that can go wrong in Hard Rock (and any race for that matter). This was my 3rd running of Hard Rock and the two previous times I have had trouble with my feet. The first time I wore the Montrail Hard Rock shoe which provided tremendous protection but didn't breath and was maybe a little too stiff. The second time I wore the La Sportiva Fireblade which had a stiff bottom but really didn't provide any protection whatsoever. Both times my feet caused me to slow either from having to empty my shoes of rocks or stopping to pop blisters. Having said that, these are both great shoe companies but they just didn't work out for me.

La Sportiva Fireblas

Feet after Hard Rock last year

I couldn't endure the thrashing of my feet again so I took faith in my sponsors shoes - the Pearl Izumi Syncroseek 2. I had trained in these shoes the month leading up to Hard Rock to make sure I wasn't gonna have any blister issues - check. I also made sure there was enough protection underneath from the rocks - check. And last, I made sure that there was enough ventilation and protection on the uppers - check. The only thing I couldn't account for was the feet being wet for 30 hours - what was the drainage gonna be like?

I have a fat-flat foot that is especially fat in the fore foot area. Growing up I always had to get triple E shoes to fit my Flintstone feet. Shoes can stretch but only stretch so far. Once they stretch to capacity of it's structure it's either gonna rip or resist. When the shoe resists and pushes back I form nasty blisters (as anyone would) on the pressure points. I particularly get blisters under my big toe nails from shoes that have a low profile in the toe box and minimal toe protection.

Going back a few years (2000) to when PI launched their shoe line. I was running road marathons at the time, wearing PI singlets and shorts. I always wanted to look good so getting the shoes to complete the kit was natural. Let me just say the shoes for the first two or three years were tanks! I was turned off and with so many shoes on the market, probably wouldn't return. Enter Bob Africa. Bob and I met at Red Hot 50K in Moab earlier this year and I noticed he was wearing the new Peak XC that I'd seen in magazines. He had told me of the transformation PI shoes had made over the last several years and to give 'em a go again... he sent me a pair and to my surprise they were light, flexible, and had a nice roll to them. The rest is history.

Back to Hard Rock and the PI Syncroseek 2. The Syncroseek 2 delivered and here's why: 1. underneath protection (not too much) 2. flexible 3. nice curve on the sole for a smooth transition 4. upper protection in the toe box 5. upper protection were it meets the sole, and 5. ventilation. Hard Rock offered all the same obstacles: rocks, rocks, rocks, wet feet for 30 hours, fast down hills, and snow as in previous years. But I'm happy to report that the PI Syncroseek 2 did the job that no other shoe could for me. I had minor blisters and wet feet in the end but the shoe provided just the right amount of protection underneath, the right amount protection in the toe box, allowed my feet to breath, and not too bulky. After the race when I started to take my shoes off, my crew gathered round because they remember how bad my feet were last year. This year they were sorely disappointed and didn't even warrant a picture.

Whatever your reason for NOT wearing PI shoes for all your running events, take my story into consideration and give PI shoes a try (again). Pearl Izumi got it right! I know you won't be disappointed.... RUN LIKE AN ANIMAL!

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