Its amazing what a simple little run will do for one's spirits. I had probably my best run in about 6 weeks today on the Forest Park Trail here in Portland. It wasn't particularly fast or far but for the first time in what seems like forever, I was able to run without the dull ache or pain I've been dealing with. I'd almost forgotten that there is any other feeling.
Between the injury, food poisoning and Laird's passing (read the Anchorage Daily News link about Laird) I really needed a lift like today. My reason for being in Portland was to meet with Adidas and see a new trail shoe that is set to release in 2010. The shoe is a new design solution that has excellent promise for trail running with its Formotion heel unit that allows for adaptive response to the uneven ground.
I became involved with the shoe this past August when I met in Salt Lake City with a trio of Adidas employees who wanted my input on different aspects for the shoe. The basic approach of the shoe was generally in place so I don't want one to think I helped "design" the shoe. Rather, because of Skinny Raven's experience with so many trail shoes we see, even and the feedback we receive from all the trail shoes we sell, our input was helpful in what aspects were important and those that weren't. We spent nearly three hours in August talking about tread height and patterns, upper materials and mesh densities and even lacing systems.
I expected to see a early rough sample in November when I was in New York for the marathon, but sadly the person who brought it along with other models had his entire bag stolen in Ohio before coming to NYC. So the first visual I had was a rendering two months ago, but as it was a drawing it was difficult to completely grasp the shoe. So today I met up with Ben Evans, our store rep for Adidas, and his boss Scott Schilter who manages all the specialty reps for the US. Scott used to be our rep for Skinny Raven, but once he proved himself with our store Adidas realized his potential and promoted him. Scott is in the Skinny Raven rep Hall of Fame for his brave run with me on the Lost Lake trail and his overstated story about the bear we ran into that he tells everyone else in the US. Suffice to say, to my peers in other shops around the country the story comes off as I personally wrestled the bear into submission while Scott ran past.
Anyway Scott unveiled the first of three preproduction samples as we got ready to start the run. It was beautiful! I had certain expectations but it really looked cool for a first-round shoe. As preproduction samples come in size 9.0 for men I am able to run in many models, from all vendors, well before they are produced for the public. So it was great to be able to slip the shoe on and try it on a real trail as well.
It fit really well straight off, though the heel was a touch loose. Its expected that there may be subtle things that need to be addressed at each step of the design/testing process so its not a problem that one may notice something. In fact, it helps to have that feedback so changes can be made. In the new adi-zero XT that comes out this summer I tried two different versions that had changes I felt in the fit that others did too that were addressed in the final product. Designers value constructive feedback and make notes of every small detail and compare to other feedback. They're "only" shoes but there is a lot of work that goes into getting it right through the various stages. It's not as glamorous as one might think. I get to deal with more of the finished product, but a lot of the process must be pretty mind-numbing.
Running was flat out great! Light weight, smooth transitioning and just a very comfortable ride. A nice mix of soft dirt and a touch of mud just to challenge the traction. It really helped that my leg felt good and being on dirt and varied terrain only helped more. After almost no exercise this week I expected to feel sluggish and heavy, but rather I felt really good and the excitement of the new shoe only enhanced the experience.
Scott, Ben and I met up for a great post-run breakfast and we dissected the shoe a bit more with Scott taking notes to pass along to Dave Jewell, who works in Germany and is behind the project. All the vital "organs" are in place for the shoe so little things like eyelet placement, stitching to compliment color, or toe cap options are things we focused on.
There are a few details I'm not at liberty to publish right now like photos or the name of the shoe, but I can promised that it is going to be a wonderful shoe and will be a prominent shoe for Skinny Raven when it comes out in 2010. I get to keep this early sample, so if you want to know more come to Skinny Raven and I can show it and tell you some of the details.