Sunday, January 5, 2014

@Marathoner Gear Review: ASICS Storm Shelter Jacket


That is stitched into the neck flap of the ASICS Storm Shelter Jacket, and today I saw that as I zipped up my incredible new piece of running gear and set out for a 15-mile ASICS LA Marathon training run at frozen Central Park. Those words spoke to me and put me in the perfect frame of mind for my subsequent 3:20 run on icy pavement.

This was one of the most challenging days I have had in terms of gear selection since I started marathon running in 2007. We were just coming out of Winter Storm Hercules' wrath, with record cold temps and huge snowpiles. On this day, freezing rain was added to the equation. So I had to deal with brutal cold, icy surface, and now intermittent rain just to make it more tricky. My old jacket wasn't going to cut it.

I drove straight to Paragon Sports at Union Square and bought the plaid ASICS Storm Shelter for $130. (Women's version here.) I had regretted not buying one at the New York City Marathon Expo in November. I am lucky that ASICS now sponsors me and ships me training gear, but this was me doing what I have done for the last 7+ years -- buying ASICS stuff, because they make the best running gear, simply put.

I parked at 93rd and Madison amid piles of snow and entered Central Park at Runner's Gate, running counter-clockwise.

As I ran, it occurred to me that this is a remarkably well-named piece of apparel. It truly felt like a storm shelter. It felt not like a garment, or an object, but like a place, a safe haven, total insular protection. It felt like I was going inside while running outside. In fact, I can safely say that out of the 100+ runners I encountered on the 2+ full 6-mile loops of Central Park, I won the Best Dressed Award. If I was on an Oscars red carpet, I was the woman in Vera Wang who everyone talked about. It was that good.

Let's start with my video product review, just to cover some of the features.

The first three miles, the freezing drizzle was coming down. The running path was a slippery mess, and it had that crackled glazed look that you see on 24-hour-old Krispy Kreme donuts. You tried to run on any available black pavement. We could span out onto the whole road, because this day was off-limits to bikes. That made it feel like a privilege to run there, actually. I saw three guys on bikes later in the day and one of them wiped out, because they were idiots. It was for #beastmode runners only.

Here's what the surface looked like:

Here's what it looked like running up the vaunted and icicle-bound North Woods Hill, which I ran up twice:

Here's a panorama shot of the icicle-covered walls along the North Woods Hill ascent:

Then the precip stopped, and I was starting to heat up so I pulled off the hood that had been my fortress. I had my iPhone safely tucked inside the zipper in the left breast, with a hole for my earbud wire. I listened to Pandora the whole day. I had two Chocolate Outrage GUs in each jacket pocket, and I unzipped the long vent flaps on each side of the jacket to release my body heat. Under it I wore a base layer and a long sleeve NYRR shirt, and I could have done without the second shirt. The Storm Shelter is lined, so that serves as your second shirt, basically. It has a great sleeve liner also, and the Lycra wrist gaiters have a gap for each thumb so it can double as lightweight gloves. The hood is removable, when the weather clears. They thought of everything, and it has a fabulous reflection pattern so you are covered running in the dark.

This was the finish of Week 3 in my 12-Week Training Program administered by Coach Andrew Kastor, who is guiding about a dozen of us who were invited by ASICS to be in the ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge. I had a tough time in Week 2 with a lengthy cough and sinus issue, but I think I'm back on track. This 15-miler brought my weekly mileage to 30. I am doing the Beginner/Intermediate program rather than Advanced, because I want to go back to the basics in chasing my goal of a 5:12 PR.

In fact, you can see "5:12" on the mirror of my bathroom. Coach Kastor said in a CNN article that runners should post a piece of paper on their mirror with a number that they will stare at every day, so that they can make right choices to achieve that. So mine is 5:12, which would beat my PR of 5:13 set at the 2008 New York City Marathon. I have dropped 20 to 30 minutes from that over recent marathons and want to get faster. Next to my number is "1,000,000" for King Bingley (aka Chub), representing 1 million treats. We thought he would want to go after that mostly.

In the last five miles of my 15-miler, it began to drizzle again. I put the hood back on, and used the convenient adjusters to snuggle up. It was fascinating. It was like I was a world away from bad weather. I ran past runners wearing the standard knit cap and jacket look, and they looked so exposed. I didn't want my knit cap to be soaked with frozen rain. That's bad stuff. I am so armed for future #beastmode weather. I cannot recommend the ASICS Storm Shelter enough.

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