The AltraPedestrian Project, Installment zero1
Long ago in my backpacking career I came to the realization that big, heavy boots which incapacitate your feet are unnatural, uncomfortable, and unhealthy. I began wearing minimalist trail running shoes (Inov-8 Roclites) to backpack in long before I began running ultra distances. It was simply logical to me that at most a shoe should be a tool for your foot to use, not a device to alter or inhibit the natural foot and lower leg functions of flexing, splaying, gripping, and (dare I say it?) pronating.
But I like shoes and am very interested in them as an ancient human technology. Ötzi, the 5300 year old paleolithic man discovered frozen on a glacier in the Alps in 1991, wore rudimentary (i.e. minimalist) shoes. And the modern equivalents are fascinating, if cumbersome. I often walk around the start of races scoping out people's shoes, occasionally meeting a look that seems to say, "My eyes are up here."
Last year, preparing for the Pigtails Challenge 200 Mile Endurance Run (see my Race Report Here and Nutrition & Fueling Report Here) I knew that I needed a shoe with some midsole. Again, a tool for my feet to use. When retrieving a piping hot casserole from the oven one uses an oven mitt; there's no possibility of going 'minimal', one needs a tool to do something with one's hand that would otherwise cause harm or damage.
I began the race with only 18 training miles on my new Altra Lone Peaks, and finished with no blisters and no hotspots, and that was just the beginning. I went on to wear the same pair of Altras for the Echo Valley 50 Miler, 3 days of a four day recon run of the Wonderland (68 miles), the White River 50 Miler, the Angel's Staircase 60k, the Cascade Crest 100 miler, the Double Wonderland (186 miles), the Baker Lake 50k, the Deception Pass 50k, and the 2013 Fort Ebbey Kettles Trail Marathon, as well as a running of the Looit Trail around the base of Mt St Helens and all of my training mileage.
I lost track of the cumulative mileage on that pair of shoes at 1600 miles, and that is a conservative accounting. Altra Zero Drop Footwear has blessed me with an Ambadassadorship for 2013 and sent me a brand new pair of Lone Peaks. So in a spirit of research and exploration I am going to publish a precise running total each month on this blog of the miles run in my new pair of Altra Lone Peaks, as well as photos showing wear and tear. Hence the title, The AltraPedestrian Project.
Witness, in these two photos, the passing of the baton, the changing of the guard, the handing on of the mantle. My new pair of Lone Peaks is all shiny and clean and new on the top, with my preferred alternate lacing pattern already in place. They have 10 miles on them as of this photo, and I am just heading off to the Badger Mountain Challenge to put the first 100 on them.
By comparison, my original pair of Lone Peaks, at bottom in both photos, looks broken in and worn out, but nowhere near as destroyed as one would expect with nearly 2000 miles on them. I made no repairs on them and in the photos at top you can see a few holes in the upper and the metatarsal flex point. It will be fun (and hopefully both challenging and exhausting) to watch the miles add up over this season and document the life of the new pair.
I mean, realistically, what's more fun for an ultra runner than beating up a pair of shoes?