Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Best Shoe for...

Which shoe is best for sub-alpine climbs in late spring, when there’s still some ice and snow, as well as some mud? Or for toe protection as well as traction across acres of slickrock? And what about a shoe that will easily go from sometimes-dtechnical singletrack, to asphalt and finally to doubletrack fire trail?

Sure, these are important questions, and there are lots of trail runners, running blogs and independent running store employees who will attempt to answer them for you. So I won’t, at least not now.

Instead, let’s try this one: “Which trail shoe is best for sprinting through the San Francisco airport at 6:15am, when you’ve missed a connection the night before; have pretended to sleep on the airport floor for a couple of hours (while simultaneously entertaining and feeding your three children, including a seven year old who is determined to pull her first all nighter); and have suddenly realized, after the plane has finished boarding, that you’ve left an essential item somewhere between the nursery area in the departure hall (good place to sleep, if you can find it and get in) and Gate 61?”

Hands down, it’s the La Sportiva Bushido.

Sure, it looks like it’s a relatively lightweight trail shoe with a 6mm drop, which has the stability to handle some rocks, roots and mud on single track, while also having enough cushion for the occasional swathe of pavement. And like it’s a shoe whose bright colors will attract complements and who’s snug midfoot fit and roomier toe box has a nice feel.

But it’s even better when one needs to move quickly over super slick airport floors, all the while dodging bleary-eyed Saturday morning travelers, flight crews and airport employees (hint: “On your left” is not terribly effective among an airport crowd).

I know this because, a few days ago, I found myself having one of those “Oh, no, did I forget that???” moments. They usually end in relief (“no, of course I didn’t; it’s right there. Stop obsessing.”). But it had been a long trip already, with one car booster seat left somewhere between airport security in North Carolina and the airplane door in California. As it dawned on me that I was without the ever-important (for the mother of a five month old, and someone who was headed to an out-of-the-range-of-big-box-retail destination) breast pump, I began to panic.

The flight attendant let me leave the plane to check the gate area. I made it back outside, but realized that it wasn’t there, and that it must be at the security checkpoint. We had sailed through the check, but then had to wait a while for our running stroller (damn running!) to clear security, and I had been thinking more about coffee than about gathering all of our belongings.

I asked the gate agent whether I could retrieve it quickly. He looked at me skeptically. “I’ll be quick,” I offered. And then, “I’m a runner,” to back it up. “You have five minutes,” he agreed. Of course, we had used the shorter, elite status TSA line, which was furthest away. I ran all out, making pretty good time – for a middle aged woman who avoids the track like the plague.

The TSA agent confirmed that, yes, they had my lost item; they wondered why it had taken me an hour and fifteen minutes to return for it. And they needed to fill out and print a form before I could have it. And they needed to scold me for having left the plane without my boarding pass. I attempted to explain that time was of the essence – that my two minutes out left me only three minutes to get back. After what seemed like an eternity, I made the return portion of my sprint. Even though I was pulled off balance by the extra five pounds over my left shoulder, and even as I was nearly blocked by a gaggle of oblivious teenagers, the Bushidos performed exceptionally well.

I don’t think I made it back under the five minute cutoff, but the course official – no, wait, the gate agent – was kind enough to re-open the plane door for me. I think he sensed that I needed to be on my flight, lest the screaming baby in 7D drive the rest of the plane mad for the next two hours. Or perhaps he just liked my shoes.

They may not be a fashion statement off of the trails, but wearing them to fly leaves more room in the suitcase. And you never know when you will need to do some airport speedwork. 

I love to run. I love the physical challenges which running presents, the mental health benefits it offers, and the camaraderie with my running friends. I love running familiar routes near home and, even more, I love running in new and beautiful places.

That said, there’s something fun about those times when one’s running fitness is helpful in a direct way. It doesn’t happen often, but when I have to run from the ferry dock to the Ocracoke Coffee Company and back (2005…couldn’t give up our car’s place in line to go back for misplaced wallet), or through Dulles airport to make a connection to fly to Italy (2011…guess airports are a common place for this), it’s an extra running-related reward. It’s even better, of course, if one is wearing the right shoes. (And, for what it’s worth, the Bushido also has been great on single track trails in Washington state…).

Next time: best running nutrition products for hungry, cranky preschoolers. 

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