This past weekend’s Kansas City Marathon was my first race in the Skora Phase. I didn’t have the Phase in time for Heart of America in September, or I would have worn it then. It’s lighter, and I prefer the laces.
This was my sixth marathon. I’ve run all of them in minimal shoes. This is the first shoe I have run in that did not produce any blisters whatsoever over the marathon distance. I rarely have blistering problems during training runs, but it was not unusual to have a blister or two at this distance and pace. But no blisters is way better. I had worn the Phase on a 16 mile long run, and couldn’t wait to put them on for the marathon.
The Phase is so light I’d say it’s nearly in the realm of a racing flat. 7.2 oz. to be exact. It’s similar to the Core, but with a synthetic mesh upper. The sole is injection blown rubber. Zero drop. Also, mine have an awesome color scheme – red, black, yellow, white. My son Cole calls them my “Chiefs” shoes. I might have worn them to a game.
A snug heel, asymmetric lacing, and an ample toe box combine for a fit that allows your foot to be itself. You never feel like you are moving around in the shoe in a way you don’t want to. The Phase disappears – my definition of the ideal shoe.
Here’s a shot of the Phase (with me in them) on the course:
I have to admit I wasn’t peaking for this race. Some diet experimentation in August and September, coupled with a week of gluttony at Disney World the week before race week didn’t make for ideal preparation. I did not have a hard time goal for this race because of these factors. In my experience, going into a race without a specific goal you are striving to achieve is a recipe for mediocrity. I always perform better when I am reaching.
My plan was to go out with Nelson and try to encourage him to a BQ. We started with the 3:15 pace group, but he took off and ran his own race from about mile 2 on. I had him in sight for a while, but then settled into the 3:15 pace group. Pace groups can be a double-edged sword. At times, it’s great to tuck in and just follow the herd without having to think too much. However, there are lots of factors that might draw you off from the group. For me, there always seems to be some point where the pacer is pushing too hard to make up a particular time goal on a stretch. That might be just my imagination though!
I stuck with the 3:15 pace group through the halfway point and most of the way down Ward Parkway. They picked up a second pacer, and the first one dropped back to try to bring me up with the group. Very cool. I could feel that it just wasn’t my day though, and I cut him loose. After a mile or two, I noticed I had my friend John in sight. It took me a while to catch him – since I didn’t want him to feel like he had to drop back to me I didn’t call out. His family was waiting for him just before the turn onto 75th street. I caught him just as he stopped with them, then he caught back up to me. We ran together for several miles, then he made a “pit stop.” I was amazed that he caught back up to me and then told me he was going to try to go out and catch up to the 3:15 group. Not only did he do that, he passed them, caught and encouraged Nelson, and beat both of us to the finish! Way to go John!
I ran a good portion of the race by myself. However, when I got to the top of the hill at the Armour/Paseo turn, I felt a surge of energy. I had slowed in the past few miles, but I didn’t feel like I had hit “the wall” as I have in some past marathons. From mile 23 on, I really picked up the pace. There was a guy that I had been passing back and forth with the whole race, and he was flagging. I tried to pay it forward and encourage him to come with him. We ran together for about two miles, until the final mile. Then I dropped him with a kick since I was feeling so good. The kick made me think I had left some minutes on the table.
There were some changes to the course this year, and my favorite was a straightening out of the last 1/3 – 1/2 mile of the race on Grand. It used to make a couple of turns from 18th to the finish. Now it blazes on over to Grand, and you can see your target off in the distance as you head down a nice downhill stretch before the final “bump” (overpass) leading into the flat finish. The new course really helped me crank it up a notch in the last mile. I even passed a couple of runners on my way to a respectable but not great time – pretty far off my PR but not my slowest effort either.
Nelson held on to his lead on the pace group for a time of 3:14:21. A BQ! Way to go!
The Phase will be my go-to racing shoe from now on. It checks all the boxes – great fit, light, zero drop, enough cushioning to cut down on the road noise but not so much to drown it out, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks cool. Never underestimate that psychological boost!
By the numbers:
5th in M40-44
overall pace 7:34
Here’s a few more pictures: