Friday, June 26, 2009

End of an Era

It's a big week in history. The death of Farrah Fawcett marks the end of the 1970s. The death of Michael Jackson marks the end of the 1980s. And today, I single-handedly put to death the 1990s. I bought a new brand of running shoes for the first time since Bill Clinton was "that new guy."

My first pair of Asics 2000-series shoes were the 2010's. I have followed with a new pair pretty much every 500 miles (for me, a little less than once a year, on average). I have loved them all, except for the 2030 model, which they radically redesigned, and which led to a severe case of plantar fasciitis. But Asics went back to the 2020 last with the 2040s, and they have made only minor changes ever since. I think I've worn every incarnation except the 2050. I somehow came in mid-season and wore the 2040 twice. Today I went in to replace my 2130s.

Let me digress and tell you about my running shoe store, The Extra Mile. It's a tiny hole in the wall in downtown Charleston, owned by two local runners, Mike and Patt Loggins. I've bought pretty much all my Asics there. My team has given me a gift certificate to the same store at the end of every season. When I walk in, it's like being Norm in the old series, Cheers. The owners call me by name, and know my brand and my size. They ask about my team and my running. I respond by asking about their triathalons. They give me a 10% discount for being such a loyal customer (and for sending hundreds of high school athletes their way over the past 15 years). I pay with my gift certificate, and usually also pick up a pair of running socks (I also only buy the exact same socks every time). It's like kabuki theater. No surprises, just how I like it.

Well, today I was flirting with the idea of doing something different. As a runner, I've had more comebacks than Madonna. About 8 weeks ago I got off my butt and got serious about my running again, and things are just starting to round into shape. My first day back it was a struggle to run 3 miles in 25 minutes. Now I'm to the point where a steady 40-minute run is a "recovery" day. This week I even did a set of half-mile repeats up a steep bridge, getting faster every rep (if it were not for a great training partner, I would have bonked on the last one). I'm determined that THIS comeback will last longer and be more consistent than some of the others, so I thought I might make a shoe change to commemorate the new, "masters level" (age 40+) Larry. But I got to the store and Mike and Patt were not there. They had some stranger running the place. No, "Hi, Coach." No, "How's your team?" No, "Same old Asics nine-and-a-halfs?" Just a blank stare and "May I help you?" Well, I chickened out.

So the new guy (who it turns out is a pretty new local coach) vanishes into the back and returns to report that they don't have my size in stock. So I'm stuck. After trying on a few different brands, I settled on the New Balance 769s. Like it or not, this conservative is getting change! Tomorrow, I'll wear them for a regular Saturday bridge run (no repeats this time, just steady over and back). The old 2130s will take their place in the rotation of grass-cutting and weed-eating shoes. (And when we work together in the yard, my oldest son will be wearing the retired 2120s, and his little brother the 2110s.)

Now don't get excited--this is not the start of a trend. I'm keeping the same haircut and the same barber. I'm still refusing to listen to any music written in the past 20 years unless it's by somebody I know. I'm not watching TV, seeing any movies nominated for Oscars, or otherwise embracing entropy. And I'm not trading in the minivan for a sports car... yet. I was blessed enough to get my trophy wife on the first try. So I suppose this is my midlife crisis. I'll report later if the shoes make any difference on the run.

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