Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Altra Torin 2.0: A Shoe Review

Displaying IMG_6602.JPGAbout two months ago I received a reviewer’s copy of The Altra Torin 2.0 and have been messing around in them ever since. First off, this is a big shoe, this is not to say that the shoe is large in size, but that it is thick, with a 27mm stack height. The height in and of itself is of no consequence to me, but since I typically run in a fairly minimal shoe, the Torin shocked me with the sheer volume of padding. I am taller in this shoe, and while an inch is menial, it is enough for people to notice and comment on them. Also, seeing that Hoka tends to have a cornerstone on the maximal shoe market, I have been asked numerous times if I liked my Hoka’s only to have to explain that they were indeed Altra branded shoes. A couple people looked at Altra's extra wide toe box and spotted the brand, but there was some brand confusion here.

That said, this is my second foray into Altra and their shoes. I’ve previously worn the Altra One, a shoe I had a mixed relationship with, especially on the construction side. This time around, Altra is more true to size—the 11.5 I ordered fit as it should and I didn’t have to swap for a 12. Further, while the One was a racing flat, the Torin is more of a highly cushioned road shoe that seems very well put together. The tongue makes sense, the shoe seems durable, and able to take a pounding, all positives.
Displaying IMG_6603.JPGThe Torin has a high level of padding, the padding filling up the tremendous stack height of 27mm, and it feels like I am putting on a pillow. This feature took some getting used to, but felt great on recovery days. Yet the shoe remains zero drop, meaning you can run flat without an elevated heel, and thus while you don’t feel the road, your feet hang out in a wide toe box (no friction blisters here) and have a neutral, natural ride. Even with the thickness, the shoe remains flexible, and it moves with the foot surprisingly well. They lace quickly, can slip on and off, and unlike some brands, they do no rely on the heel collar for foot adhesion, thus freeing up my Achilles tendon from screaming at me in pain.

Displaying IMG_6600.JPGI do have mixed feelings on the padding. There is the age old debate of less versus more, am I landing softer or harder with more padding, and the science falls on both sides of said debate. Either way, the Torin doesn’t bother me while running, and feels comfortable overall, especially on recovery efforts. As an advocate of rotating shoes (I have four active, different pairs going right now), this shoe tends to be the model I slip on for the last 15-20 minutes of a recovery effort. Something to take the edge of the pounding off, something to put some good zero drop work on my calf muscles, and something to help me with my stride in a neutral setting. They handle grass and gravel well, the rocks are little bother, but I am hesitant to take them on the trail, especially a root laden path where one wants to feel the ground in order to remain safe.

Finally, they feel great for walking, and once I enter a more active phase of training I plan to update this section for speed work impressions.

David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim: A Book Review

David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim stands as another strong effort by the essayist. It rings of everything typically of Sedaris-humor: awkwardness, an honest examination of both reality and society, and of course and increasingly metatextual awareness generated by the fact that the author’s family is now well aware that they are fodder for his writing. Of course, even their fears have become material and their requests to be off the record put on open display.

While the text is not innovative, and in my opinion as interesting as some of his other works, Sedaris has a way of turning the mundane into something interesting. How else could one enjoy hearing about running an apartment complex or the strange events of a biker wedding? Yet Sedaris makes menial landscaping and domicile upkeep sound fun while transforming his brother into a redneck alien that struggles to comprehend fatherhood. As always she strikes a balance, lingering in the general humanity of us all, finding our shared experiences. Everyone struggles with the kids, gets together with friends from high school or college in order to awkwardly reminisce, and deals with family oddities. It is here that Sedaris captures us, it is here that his constant reader returns.

For the newbies, give the text a shot, chuckle a bit, and expand your scope on the world while remembering that the human experience is just that, an experience.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stephen King's Duma Key: A Book Review

Stephen King’s Duma Key is a slow burn. One of the many bargain books I grabbed for when I need a relaxed read, this text took a slightly different angle than I expected. With King, you typically get a white knuckle page turner, or a psychological epic looking to mystify even if it doesn’t horrify. Going in blind, I had hopes of the former, but found the latter. Duma Key comes as a text that chronicles the recovery of Edgar Freemantle who lost his arm and part of his sanity in a freak construction site accident. Edgar becomes possessed with the supernatural, a force that he cannot control, and a force that ultimately attempts to consume him.

Written just a few years after King himself was almost killed while walking in Maine, the text echoes with King’s own battle to return to normalcy post-accident. In the case of Freemantle, Edgar leaves the frozen north and heads south, taking up residence in a mysterious pink house on Duma Key, just outside of Tampa on the Florida Gulf Coast. Here, Edgar slowly walks out his hip, here he begins to hear the shells talk, here he rediscovers a propensity for art that becomes a fascination with art and an innate talent that leads to a gallery show. Yet, as always happens with King, the art is supernatural, ghosts are afoot, and the key slowly reveals a haunted past, a strange enemy, and the far reaching fingers of said supernatural foe. If you have read King, all the familiar elements are here—not that this is a problem per se, just do not expect something new and revolutionary.

All of these facts are interesting, even compelling in the long run, but to get there you have to put in the work. While I have resolve, many will resist sitting through this text, giving up while the scene is still being set, while the aura of the key is just a picture in a real estate pamphlet. The opening pages, after a brief lesson on learning how to draw, burn about as slow as King has ever moved in my experience, but there is a payoff in the end, a thrill ride, some guess work, and a clandestine battle of good versus evil, for isn’t that reality, life in general?

If you like King, you may see a Dark Tower reference of two, but then again his entire opus seems to tie back to the epic. Yet, the Perse, the force behind it all is a unique character, and even uniquely captivating. As you read, just be careful of what you draw.

Favorite Lines:

  • “I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can’t remember”
  • “Her gift was hungry. The best gifts—and the worst—always are.”
  • “Pictures are magic, as you know.”
  • “Stay hungry. It worked for Michelangelo, it worked for Picasso…There is nothing as human as hunger. There’s no creation without talent, I give you that, but talent is cheap. Talent goes begging. Hunger is the piston of art.”