Friday, January 11, 2013

My Review of VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Pure - Men's - Shoes - White

Originally submitted at OnlineShoes.com

Pare down your minimalist style even further with the VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Pure water sneaker. This zero-pitch men's minimalist shoe offers the same lightweight, breathable, single-unit cage design as the popular VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra but eliminates the removable sock for a greater sense of freedom;...


My second pair.

By James the Triathlete from Grand Rapids, Mi on 1/11/2013

 

5out of 5

Sizing: Feels half size too small

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Breathable, Comfortable, Stylish

Cons: Poor Cushioning, Poor Arch Support, Poor Stability

Best Uses: Running, Casual Wear

Describe Yourself: Stylish, Athletic

For a shoe that is barely there, this is the one for me.
P.S. Smartwool socks are a necessity with these in the cold Michigan weather.

(legalese)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Week in Running 12-10 Edition

I can't get rid of it. Running has truly taken hold of me. This week I finished out with a total of 40.5 miles. I had the pleasure of running in the snow for the first time. I even had my eyelashes freeze together for the first time ever. To top it off I set a new distance PR at 9 miles. Notably I may not have followed my diet as well as I possibly could but I am blaming that on the holidays and the abundance of temptation. My weight really didn't move anywhere but I am accepting of that when I am making strides in other categories.
The week started of great deciding to up my daily mileage to 6 miles. I ran a nice quick 1 hour flat for my first attempt. Tuesday was a bit slower, nothing special to report there. Wednesday I dropped 30 seconds per mile to finish the 6 miles in 57 minutes flat. Felt great about that. I am starting to hope/think that my race pace might be something like 9 minute miles. I will have to work up to that for the longer distances. Thursday I ran an uneventful 6 miles, slowly, at about 10:30 miles.
Friday the snow started! I was stoked. I went out Thursday morning excited to run with a fresh half inch or so of powder. It was amazing. The snow felt like soft pad under my feet and I didn't feel like I was getting half the impact I had gotten when running on the sidewalks normally. It also lit up the streets. I run early, 5:30 am or so each morning. Normally it is dark and it feels like you are running from streetlight to streetlight. With a fresh layer of snow covering the ground it was a whole new world. The moon wasn't out but I could still see clearly. The visibility coupled with the falling snow gave me the best view I have ever had running.
Saturday was a different day with the snow half melted and refrozen and a new low temperature of 12 degrees F. The snow was crunchy underfoot and there was ice everywhere. During the first couple of miles I was concerned it might not be safe conditions but as I moved along my confidence went up and up. Notably this run while being my longest yet also happened to have to most hills of any run I have done yet also. The hills did add a bit of stress to it but somehow I persevered and with a great time fore me also. I finished just over nine miles in 1:33. I don't think I could ask for much more, however I did get a little bonus. I got to watch it go from being pitch black outside with a clear night sky and a near full moon, to watching the sun rise on my home stretch. The sunrise on a cold clear morning like this was while you are out reaching new heights is an amazing feeling. I did find out that my lower eyelashes can freeze to the upper ones and that is something you have to wipe away. I also found some accumulated ice on myself when I came in the house finally. I never thought that ice would be able to form on me while I was running, however I assure you it can.
I also did just a little cross-training this week with a recumbent stationary bike on Friday night. I mostly did this so that while I was watching a couple of shows on Hulu.com so that I wouldn't feel to guilty and to test it out as a possible viable option for workout replacement on the coldest of mornings. As far as I can tell, it just won't cut it for me. Remember you can always see my workouts on mapmyrun.com by friending me, plato30, or get updates by following me on twitter @jmhalstead, or on Facebook, James Halstead in Wyoming, MI. Until next time happy running!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Week in Running


Let me start by saying, it was another successful week.  No matter the distance or the speed I run, it is a success if I complete it without an injury or illness. I was shooting for a total of 33 miles on the week. I ended with just a bit more, 34.28 miles. I don’t know that I have mentioned this yet anywhere in my blog, however I was 293 lbs just a short while ago. In late June of this year I started a diet with my wife We started the Atkins diet. We followed it to the letter to begin with. I got down to about 250 lbs doing just that. As of today I am sitting at 224. This new weight is something I haven’t seen since a couple of months after graduating boot camp, 12 years ago. I digress, the reason I started running was to keep losing weight, now I run just to run, but I am continuing to try and lose weight.
Running this week didn’t necessarily go as planned. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday all went off in a rather boring fashion, no surprises. Thursday I decided to find a more scenic route, that more scenic route lead to adding a touch of distance at almost five and half miles. Then on Friday I was in a hurry and decided to do a there and back type of route instead of my usual loops. Well I made this decision after I left the house, not the best plan ever. I got back to where I started and realized my distance was a full mile off. Luckily I was able to improvise and I ended up with five and half miles again.
Saturday, my normal long run day, I was considering doing a special event for the upcoming May Riverbank run. The event had a one mile option or a four mile. It was a kickoff event for Riverbank training. Now based on my current schedule I was supposed to be doing eight miles. Even though the run was shorter than my plan, I still wanted to be involved. I wanted to try mid run, refreshments and a running with a group of people at different paces. However, fate decided otherwise and we made plans with my wife’s family. Now they live about 40 minutes away and we were spending the night so the kids could play together among other activities. So, I had to find a route to run up near their house, out in the country a bit, in an area I do not know well. As expected, the route did not match up with the map. One of the roads that was supposed to go through as a matter of fact I saw the street sign for the road, only it went the other direction. I did find out latter that it wasn’t just me running in the dark missing it, it just didn’t go through. So I had to improvise a bit. This put me onto a much busier road, with no sidewalks. One large truck even decided to swerve off the road, onto the shoulder a few feet right as it went by me. That was frightening, but I had luckily already moved well of the shoulder for my safety. My new route, I was sure wouldn’t make it the distance I was going for, so I started adding a few small side streets into the run. In the end I finished 8.18 miles in 1:26. I could not have been happier with the distance, the pace, or how I felt at the end. I am excited about my future in running.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Review


This past weekend I had the pleasure of testing out the latest MMO coming to market, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Luckily a couple of my MMORPG playing friends also got into this beta test. It was mostly set up as a stress test to several of their systems and servers. They did several tests throughout the weekend restarting the servers, with ticketing, and the knowledge base. I appreciated that they tested these systems out in a structured way. More importantly, on to the good stuff, what was the game like?
First and foremost I will tell you that I enjoyed this game. While MMOs are often similar in many ways this game had several unique features that put it ahead of others I have played. I will say that most importantly to me, combat was FUN! This was especially true in parties. We took on tons of enemies and the action hardly ever stopped. When it did stop it was because we were trying to push into content we had no business being involved with. Also, the game has no auto attack feature even for melee characters, so if you aren’t engaged with combat your character isn’t doing anything at all. I felt like this improved playing a melee class, it felt more engaged.
I started out as a Jedi Knight. I played this all the way through the first zone and continued on to the first instance, which I tanked. FYI, the Jedi Knight has no real threat generation abilities up until it hits 14 so tanking the first instance as a JK is not necessarily recommended without some friends along with you to coordinate and cover for you. As you level you find many more actual tank abilities and your survivability increases greatly. From what I understand JK is still one of the least effective tanking classes in the game. Notably I really did enjoy playing it though, even a bit in pvp.
Next I played a Jedi Councilor. The unfortunate part about this is that the Knight and Councilor both have the same starting zone. In the games current form I could not find a way to skip dialogue for classes I had previously completed on my other character and this made the leveling experience drag a bit more. Now there is still a separate class story for the two classes which made a good part of the questing different still. Jedi Councilor was not as fun as far as the first ten levels went. Once I hit 10 and specialized into what is effectively the “caster” role, Sage, and it became a boat load of fun. Again, for the first instance you are limited in the tools at your disposal. You have one healing ability, but that gets better quickly. I did level this character to 15 and attempted the second instance again with this one. However due to some party limitations we were not able to down the first boss, mostly we were using a pet as our fourth and needed more damage.  Now unlike some games my healer class still had a significant amount of damaging ability and did not feel weak in the slightest for soloing. If I do play this game I imagine this will be the class I play.
As I mentioned above we used a pet as the fourth in our team. Every character gets a companion pet in the first few levels following the story. As far as I understand you can even get several of these companions as the game progresses. These companions are effective party members that can do decent damage or tank for you. As I understand it there are also companions that can heal, I did not run into any of those type. Your companion also plays a very important role in your crafting.
To craft you send your companion away, he, she, or it(robots) then goes out and makes, something or gathers something on your behalf. Crafting items seems to be a consistent 1 minute per item and the missions for gathering have at this point(up to 100 crafting) been between 3 minutes and 10 minutes. To add a bit of intrigue, when gathering, you are charged credits to send your pet out. This is a new system to me but it seems an effective way to control the economy. Of course in a beta test economy is unrealistic to release so I don’t have much to say on that function. I did try out one other piece of the game though.
PVP with the Jedi Knight was a bit disappointing. I did not find that I could do the necessary damage to take people out nor control people enough to slow them down. Alternatively, on the Jedi Councilor I had a great time. I was able to be number one on the healing chart in every match I played as well as putting out some significant damage to help out my team. I also had a decent arsenal of 
stun, slow, and knockback effects to keep enemies off of myself.
Overall the game felt polished and ready for release. Some of the dialogue, especially the ability to skip dialogue in flashpoints(instances) needs to be added into the game. I for one would recommend this game if you just love Star Wars or if you are an MMO fanatic. I cannot speak for end game at this point but I will say that based on what I have seen, I have high hopes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Week in Running



The last week has been the hardest I have had so far in my short running career. I decided two weeks ago to take out my mid-week rest day, that didn’t seem so bad. The issue came in when I decided to play full court basketball for 2 hours on Tuesday night without removing a run.  I have to say I felt great out there on the court. While I still can’t shoot worth a darn, I could definitely run. I was at the lead of the pack most of the night even with a couple of younger and smaller guys playing. I worked and I worked. When it was all done, I was in pain… I ended up with three blisters on my feet. Apparently my basketball shoes either don’t fit properly or aren’t broke in enough yet. I digress, this post was supposed be all about running and all I have talked about so far is basketball.
Like I said even though I played ball on Tuesday I still decided to run all 6 days. I started Monday and Tuesday with 4.5 mile runs, these both went smoothly. Wednesday after the fateful night of basketball and several layers of Biofreeze I got up feeling good and went on out. After a wrong turn trying something different this run went just a touch longer than planned at 4.7 miles. Thursday being Thanksgiving day, I was with family and invited my parents to ride their bikes with me, as well as my wife, who is almost always with me. They came along and I took a little run in the country by their home. Since it was Thanksgiving and I knew I would be eating a bit differently than normally I went for the extra half a mile. 5 miles and afterwards my feet started to hurt but I felt I had to add a little something for the holiday.
I’m not quite sure why, when my feet still hurt I decided to still go for the 4.5 on Friday but I ran through. This was my slowest run by a decent shot, running 11 minute miles. That brings us to Saturday. Due to some plans we made my wife could not join me on my long run(it’s never the same without her next to me on her bike). I went for 7 miles. This was a new distance for me. I got out and started going and my phone started telling me my speeds at 5 minute intervals. I couldn’t believe it, muscle sore and in a little bit of pain I was running faster than usual. I was running 9 min to 9:30 miles for the first 3 miles and I barely fell off even a little. My slowest was 10:28, that is pretty good for me. I finished 7.13 miles in 1:12:02. This brought my weekly total to 30.32 miles. A long hot bath after my long run always makes me feel great and that new distance and speed made it even better. Overall a very successful week but I am worried that I am on the verge of overtraining with my new found zeal for running.
If you would like to follow my training feel free to friend me on mapmyrun.com or follow my blog.

A Feast for Crows (Book four of A Song of Ice and Fire)


A Feast for Crows (Book four of A Song of Ice and Fire)
By George R.R. Martin
I finally finished this book over the weekend. It certainly took me long enough to get to. It seemed other books just kept coming up. I have so far, been impressed by Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. This book hooked and held me just like the others but in the end left me feeling disappointed. In an attempt to not give anything away, it just plain left me hanging.  I was looking for more of a climax to finish the 4th book of this series.
This particular book did spend time with one of my favorites, Samwell Tarley. I have always seen his inner strength and rooted for him throughout the series. In this book he stepped up again to do what was needed and seems to have found himself in a precarious position to finish the book. Also, in a bit of intrigue, he comes dramatically close to running into another of my favorites, without quite running into her, Arya Stark.
Arya has moved into a dark world of death and dying, in the House of Black and White. Sadly I didn’t feel her story moved forward much but she did provide us a nice little surprise.
Cersei felt like she ruled this book, just like the kingdoms and well, I just love to hate her.  Maybe my despise is why it felt like she was lingering on the page.  Her plotting and scheming is putting her into a tighter and tighter position. It seems Martin is content to let her fate be decided at a later time, die Cersei, you are evil.
Jamie is off to war and continues to prove to be a better man than he was with two hands. He tries to serve his king and to still keep his oath to the deceased Catelyn Stark.  He proves to be a skilled commander and a decisive leader while taking Riverrun. Jamie is a character I find myself liking more and more as the series progresses.
The stories of both Brienne and Sansa seemed to lack luster in this book.  Overall not much worth mentioning, they did however have several chapters. The only notable points seem to be that Sansa has grown up quite a bit since leaving King’s Landing and Brienne seems to continue to be who we have thought she was throughout.
In general this book while engaging and entertaining right until the end, left me disappointed. It didn’t feel like a complete book and while it was already quite long, I would have gladly read another 500 pages to come to a conclusion. If this book was the first book of the series you picked up I would imagine it to be a huge letdown. All that said, I am too engaged in the characters to leave the series and I will be continuing with book 5, A Dance with dragons.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Runner's High

The famous runner's high. I thought I would take a moment to discuss this topic. I am not sure that I fully understand this myth. I do however know that when I pass the half way point of my runs they seem much easier for me. This morning for example, when I hit the 2.5 mile mark, of 4.5, I felt like the run was all downhill from there, despite several hills and miles to go. Is this the runner's high? I can tell you it seems to work this way for me on all my runs. When I know I have passed the mid point, my mind starts telling me how I won't have any trouble finishing.
Now to let you know, I just looked at my mile splits and while I felt the last 2 miles were easier they also were slower than my first 2. What does this all mean? Am I just not getting to the runner's high? Will I see it later? Does it matter at all as long as I enjoy running? Let me know what you think and if you can describe the runner's high you feel to me.
~James