Monday, November 26, 2007

Cheer this!

The Chickabiddy Cheers with the best of them.

My parents hold season tickets to see the Lady Lobos. And they invite us often. I must say that I am not much of a basketball fan. I don't dislike the game, I just don't get much out watching it. But Kaisa-Tinuviel loves it. She loves the crowd. And noise. And the spirit. Yes, the spirit.

She's not as much enraptured with the game itself, but by the cheering. And the cheerleaders. She thinks cheerleaders are the best.

This past week, after much begging - albeit polite (most of the time) begging - we got her a cheerleading outfit, complete with "Future UMN Cheerleader" emblazoned on the front. She wore it to the game right after Thanksgiving.

I don't know who was more excited and thrilled, Kaisa-Tinuviel or the Cheer Squad. All the girls were so very nice to us. They invited us down on the court so we could get pictures. And they let the Chickabiddy cheer.

I really have no idea if my daughter will become a cheerleader. But I know what it is to have a dream about wanting to be something and be excited about it. I love seeing the joy and excitement in my daughter's eyes. She really is my favorite cheerleader and I owe her nothing less.

Thanks UNM Cheer Squad. You've made a little girl very happy. And you've made her parents pretty happy, too!
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Woof Toof Noof Roof

It's cold and I want to climb. I really miss the warm days. And the climbing.

Being up on a climb (like Woof Toof Noof Roof (5.10d)) is what I need right now. But it is cloudy and 45 degrees. And that makes me sad.

I am a person who tends to take for granted the things that I love (sorry Eppu! sorry Pikku Boo!). I'm not certain why I do it. But it makes me grumbly when they are no longer around.

So on this cold, cloudy, depressing WORK-day, I realise how much I enjoy climbing outside. And I make this promise: I will stop taking things for granted - at least as much for granted. I will enjoy what I have. I will hold each moment of joy alive as it happens. A tall order, I know. But I think I can pull it off.

Spring, where are you? There're rocks that need climbing!
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Thursday, October 18, 2007


I've been an isi (daddy) for three years now. I don't consider myself particularly good at it, but I do get better as time inexorably marches on. I figure by the time my daughter is old enough to have children of her own, I might be able to give her a pointer or two.

Despite my self-perceived shortcomings as a dad, I am very comfortable and happy in the role. Even the maddening moments of my daughter's childhood are precious to me and I walk around in a constant daze thinking that I was chosen - by fate or God or circumstance - to have this little being in my life.

She's a much better person than I am, perhaps because her existence has not yet included the ugliness that this world can produce. And she is smarter than I could ever hope to be. I tell her, as most all fathers must, that she can be or do anything she wants. And I truly believe that. I see in her the unspoiled potential that is what makes being human such a wonderful thing. I hope that I am around to see, experience and thrill in her successes.

Three years. I swear it cannot have been that long. Yet she's becoming a big girl so fast. Most of the time too fast for me.

Here's to you, little girl, woman-to-be, daughter and miracle. Three years. Three small steps. I'll hold your hand for as long as you want.
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"A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be."
--Douglas Pagels

Friendship is one of the central human experiences. It is a distinctively personal relationship grounded in a concern of each party for the welfare of the other. Its importance lies in the fact that the concern we have for our friends has a place within a broader set of concerns; it is both selfless and selfish.

I don't have a huge set of friends - I am rather careful with my affections - but I am lucky enough to have some very special people as friends. They embolden, encourage and help shape who I am as a person.

For some reason today I am especially thankful for my friends. I am acutely aware of what they bring to my life, the value and richness that would be absent without them.

So thank you, dear friends, both near and far. I am lucky - no, blessed! to have you in my life. I hope that I never take you for granted, for I know only a little of your worth and would be poorer without you.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shoe Envy

"Jealousy is an awkward homage which inferiority renders to merit."
--Mme. de Puixieux

This past weekend I took my lovely family to the State Fair. After all the livestock had been examined, the horses admired, the displays of agriculture, paintings, sculpture and horticulture had been reviewed, the tasty snacks consumed and the variously entertaining shows taken in, we found ourselves, as we invariably do, in the Exhibit Complex. This is just a garage sale for everything and sundry. Booths struggle against one another and vendors vie for your attention. And you can find anything: ladders, cookware, ring cleaning miracles, hair bands that make you an expert stylist, imported clothes from all over the globe, bling, even more bling, a smattering of religious and political factions expounding upon what is right and just and moral, and shoes.

Oh, I knew what z-coils were. I have seen them before. But never had I seen them displayed with such garish intensity. And never before in such variety.

It was frightening.

It is true that I find them frightening because I do not understand them. Or rather, I do not understand why a human being would choose to put springs on his or her feet. I'm more of a minimalist. Myself, I like things simple. Like my Five Fingers.

And I happened to be wearing my beloved Five Fingers that day as we walked through the wonders of the Exhibit Complex. And passed the z-coil booth. There was a ripple through the denizens of the booth. And whispers were passed around. It was shoe envy.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


"Flesh goes on pleasuring us, and humiliating us, right to the end."--Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Self-image is how you see yourself in relation to others. This is usually how you see yourself physically. It affects the way you interact with others, your confidence and your social habits.

Self-image is a complicated thing; it is shaped by unique thoughts, beliefs and experiences of each individual. And it is always biased.

When I look at this photo of myself, I see something different from anybody else looking at it. I see scars, which most people wouldn't notice at all, but that to me decry in a loud and uncomfortable voice of misjudgements and mistakes. I see freckles, which I never notice I have since I rarely look at my back. And I see age, which always makes me uncomfortable.

At the same time, I see written all the times I have lifted my daughter up in my arms, all the rocks I've climbed, all the push-ups I have done, and every time I have held close those I love. I marvel at my own body. I marvel at the engineering that went into it. I marvel at the miracle that makes it work.

I have a pretty good self-image. I actually like myself and how I look most of the time. And that's a good thing.
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Finland, Finland, Finland

Finland, Finland, Finland
The country where I want to be
Pony trekking or camping
Or just watching TV
Finland, Finland, Finland
It's the country for me

We're back from Finland. It was a wonderful - and relaxing - vacation. I needed the time away from work and the regular stride of life.

I really adore Finland. Each time I go back to visit family I am struck with the same sense of magic as I was when I first went to there when I was 19.I first notice the beautiful people. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is that Scandinavian-blonde, dreamy-blue-eyed look that I find so irresistible - my wife being the epitome of this. It gives my first few days when arriving in Finland an unreal, almost Hollywood-esque feel. There are just too many attractive people around for it to be real.

The fantasy-feel continues with the colour green. There’s just so much of it in Finland. Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands; 187,888 lakes (larger than 500 m²) and 179,584 islands. The landscape is covered mostly (seventy-five percent of land area) by forests and fens. And it rains a lot. All this translates into lots of green growing things. And it is simply beautiful.

My initial experience stepping into a Finnish coniferous taiga forest was like stepping into a child’s story book. For a boy from New Mexico, it was surreal and miraculous and I half-expected elves and fairies to appear in the thick foliage. I still have that same sensation each time I walk through the forest.

I think the people are wonderful; I guess that comes as no surprise as I have a Finnish wife. And although the inherent shyness of Finns can still be maddening to me at times, they are munificent and affable once you get to know them.

Although I am happy to be back in New Mexico once again, back into the normal routine of life, I miss Finland – as I always do.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back together

The two and a half weeks felt like much longer, but I'm finally reunited with my wonderful family. I joined them a week ago in Finland and I cannot describe the thrill running through me when I stepped through the exit doors at the Helsinki airport and saw them waiting for me. When the Chickabiddy came running at me full speed screaming "ISI! ISI!" at the top of her little lungs it was one of the best moments of my life.

"Happy" falls short as a description. "Elated" seems a little flat.

I'm most content in the role of husband and father. It is as simple - or as complicated - as that.

Right now my girls are sleeping soundly in the bedroom while I post this. It's early here, around 7:20 AM. I have been meaning to blog about the past week, but each time I sit down to write I find I don't know what to say. I am still overwhelmed just to be with them again.

The novelty of blue cheese pizza and rivers of martinis quickly faded, as I knew they would. This separation was imposed because of necessity, but I didn't like it one bit. And I'll do what I can do see that we have to be apart as little as possible from now on.

So let's just leave it at my joy of being able to hug my wife and daughter again. I know I'm blessed to have them in my life.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The year of...steel?

We've been married 11 years.

I know, I know. How the heck did I get so lucky? I have no idea. But believe me, I know that I lucked out on this one.

Eleven years of marriage. And the theme for year 11? Steel. Huh. With ten you get diamonds. Twelve is silk and linen. Thirteen textiles and lace. Fourteen gold and ivory. Fifteen crystal. So what's up with steel for 11?

Steel is an alloy consisting mostly of iron, with a carbon content between 0.02% and 1.7 or 2.04% by weight (C:1000–10,8.67Fe), depending on grade.

Wow! That's um...boring.

But steel is strong. (Like I believe our marriage is strong.) And really, steel is very pretty. Sure, maybe it is pretty because it looks like silver, but pretty still. Strong and pretty. That's not bad. When you look into it, steel does have spiritual significance. In Sikhism, the kara (one of the articles of faith) is made of steel to signify equality and strength. You can't ask for much more than that in a marriage.

If you combine steel with that ubiquitous symbol of marriage, the ring, what do you get? The circle is the symbol that best represents connectedness, since all regular polygons are embraced by it. It is without beginning or end and therefor it represents infinity. In numerous cultures it represents fidelity, eternal love and commitment.

OK, this steel thing is not looking so bad. A steel ring would represent an eternal bond through the infinitude of the circle and the unbreakable strength of steel. Nifty.

My wife likes jewelry. Perhaps she needs another ring. A steel one.

Happy anniversary, baby! I love you!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My indulgence...

...while Eveliina and the Chickabiddy are away in Europe.

"One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough."
-- James Thurber

Last night - in celebration or mourning of my current status as bachelor - I treated myself to Stilton, bre and a wonderfully decadent pomegranate and blueberry martini.

Yes, I know one is supposed to partake of Stilton with port...but I really am not overly fond of port. And I am fond of martinis.

The pomegranate and blueberry martini was not actually planned. Neither was the Stilton. Let me back up a bit. The day before I was at our favorite local market buying the essentials of bachelorhood - things one does not typically keep in the house as a father and a husband to an avowed hater of "skeezy cheeses" - namely alcohol for martinis and a nice blue veined cheese. Earlier I had explored our often neglected stock of compotational essentials. A nearly full bottle of Vermouth sat next to a lonely, empty spot. No vodka. No gin. I'm no martini purist. Far from it. And although I look upon a Cosmopolitan with some disdain, a flavored martini is a treat. So I was getting vodka. And Danish Blue.

That evening I made the most unsatisfying apple martini I have ever had. It was almost depressingly bad. So I turned to the Danish Blue for consolation. It had gone bad.

There are those in this world - my lovely and refined wife among them - that will profess that cheeses like Danish Blue are already bad. That is simply not true. That's like comparing wine and vinegar. I won't spend time defending my tastes except to quote Harvey Day, "People who know nothing about cheeses reel away from Camembert, Roquefort, and Stilton because the plebeian proboscis is not equipped to differentiate between the sordid and the sublime".

I returned to the store the following day, bad cheese in hand. I returned it with the intention of just getting more Danish Blue. But how could I trust that each and everyone one of those packets was not contaminated like the first? I got the Stilton instead. And then I got the pomegranate and blueberry juice. All very unplanned. Kismet? Perhaps.

I am happy it worked out that way. I highly recommend a pomegranate and blueberry martini. It is fruity, strong and somewhat tart.

1 1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. pomegranate juice
1/2 oz. blueberry juice

Shake it with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with blueberries.

And have it with some Stilton on light rye. It's decadent and yummy.

I'll admit to having had somewhere between "all right" and "not enough".

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Single again...

This morning I put my wife and daughter on a plane bound for Chicago, and ultimately Helsinki. For the next two and half weeks I will be a bachelor.

I imagine that the first few days could be fun. I can eat whatever I want. I can fall asleep on the couch and sleep there all night. I can make our dogs talk to each other in little annoying, goofy voices and have pretend philosophical debates - Topsi is a staunch Catholic Apologist and Dinky follows more of a Reformed Calvinist theology. (Oh, wait, I do that even when my wife and daughter are at home.) I can stay up late and watch "Night of the Lepus" or "Vampires in Havana" while drinking apple martinis or Disaronno. I can listen to two-and-a-half-year-old-inappropriate 80's punk as loud as I care to - which really is not as loud as when I used to listen to it in the 80's. I can drink milk right out of the jug - which I swear is purely hypothetical; despite my status as a die-hard galactophage, I would never do something as desperate and, well, gross as that. No, really. I wouldn't!

But I know that mostly I'm going to miss them terribly. I'll miss the familiar presence of my wife when I shift in my sleep. I'll miss going into my daughter's room at night when I just can't sleep to listen to her breathe and feel God's presence. I'll miss bumping into my wife as we try to get ready in the morning and find that there really is not enough room for two adults in our bathroom. I'll miss their laughter. Their hugs. Their smiles.

I already miss those things.

It's hardly a fair trade for being able to drink martinis and watch bad movies. Two and half weeks. That's 17 days...420 hours...25,200 minutes...1,512,000 seconds.

I hope they are safe. I hope they are happy. And I hope they know how much I truly, deeply, madly love them.

See you guys in Helsinki in two and half weeks!
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Monday, June 11, 2007

Surprise! The eyes have it!

No more glasses. No more contact lenses.

After mulling this over for quite a few years, my wife and I decided to finally get Lasik surgery done. And I am so happy we did.

After more than 24 years of wearing contacts and glasses, it is so strange (in a wonderful way) to see so well - both Evelina and I ended up with 20/15 vision. I keep reaching to take off my glasses at night when I go to bed and wake up in the morning thinking "Oh no! I left my contacts in last night."

On the day of surgery, after some additional tests to make certain we were still good candidates and that I still had enough money to cover the equivalent of our mortgage payment several times over, they gave me a little blue pill. Xanax. Xanax is a benzodiazepine, like Valium and Librium and a host of other "minor tranquilizers". Which is interesting, I suppose. But I digress.

Being unfamiliar with Xanax or any of its cousins, I inquired of the friendly staff attending my wife and me what I could expect from this little blue pill. "You'll feel like you've had a couple of cocktails before dinner," came the reply. Good enough. It's not like I really need to be any more gregarious and extroverted than I already am - my wife will agree - but if increasing the frequency of my witticisms would make the surgery go better, so be it.

After taking the little blue pill we were arranged in huge leather seats to await the procedure. Seated comfortably, I awaited the coming of the "couple of cocktails" euphoria I had been promised. After 20 minutes I began to be suspicious that whomever was tending this particular anteprandial bar was watering down the drinks because nada, nothing, no alchoholesque glow.

As I contemplated this, we were moved into another room, the pre-op room. "Who goes first?" asked the attendant. My wife indicated that I should go first by pointing at me and sticking out her tongue. "I just need to mark your corneas," said the attendant. That sounded...ominous for some reason. But I seated myself in front of the chin-and-forehead rest apparatus that is so ubiquitous in eye-care facilities. "Open your eye wide," she said when I was properly placed. And then she came at me with a green Sharpie.

I'd like to think there are special, disposable, 100%-sterile medical instruments made with exacting standards that are used for things like "marking your corneas". But this thing looked like a green Sharpie. Much like the green Sharpie that sits next to my keyboard at work, in fact. I've never been comfortable with things close to my eyes, but it really did surprise me that a green Sharpie coming at my eye would rank in the top ten of uncomfortable moments in my 36 years.

Fortunately, my eyes were numbed and so had no feeling, however I had a pretty easy time imagining what that green Sharpie must feel like pressed against my eyeball. She made two marks on my right eye and asked me to sit back. "You did great," she said. Nice to know.

"I was more than a little anxious," I told her. "In fact, it was all I could do to keep myself from screaming and jumping backwards."

She frowned. "Maybe we should give you another Xanax." My wife quickly raised her hand and nodded, indicating her desire for another round.

If a single Xanax does nothing to me, I can attest that two Xanax do exactly twice that. But I sat through the marking of my left eye and the remarking of my right eye - how lucky! - with as much stoic calm as I could muster. I was led away into the surgery room, my wife looking very much like she had hit pay-dirt at that bar that failed to deliver for me.

The actual surgery was fast; perhaps seven minutes. And although I never did get my "couple of cocktails", I made it through without any trouble. The laser making the adjustments was actually very pretty. And it didn't hurt. A tad uncomfortable, but no real pain.

So now I see very well, with no glasses and no contacts. My eyes feel so much better, healthier. They certainly "breath" better. I'm happy we got it done. As I told my wife, she and I can now see with crystal clarity all the things we can no longer afford.
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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Proud to be a Daddy

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. "
--Elizabeth Stone

My daughter will be three years old in just four and half months! Time has flown by at such a rapid rate. I swear it was just last week that I drove my wife to the hospital (she was a study in calm; I a study in panic). My joys in life have expanded because of my daughter: the sound of her laughter; the way she runs with wild abandon; the way she has of hugging me with her whole being; her words of care and love. (I told her last night: I love you, princess. She responded: I love you too, princess. I suspect my wife was behind this exchange and had been coaching her for weeks to accomplish this...) Everything my daughter does fills me with a thrill and more than not a laugh or two or three.

Each day I celebrate the role I play in my daughter's life as her Isi (father). And each day I have a new and unique perspective on what it means to be a dad. Who and what I am as a father is directly related to the who and what of my daughter. That is no easy task. She is a dynamic, expanding being. As she changes and grows, so must my response to her. It has to. I find I must be nimble to accomplish this. She amazes me with her intelligence and cleverness. It challenges me and I love that.

As you may have guessed, I really like this Isi-thing. I'm not the best at it - not by a long shot and not even in my wildest dreams - but I do try. When I make her laugh, stave her tears or make her feel loved and welcome in this world, I do feel like a good father.

Ok, so I'm scared a lot of the time and I get frustrated as well. But my greatest pleasures come from the moments I share with my family, my wife and daughter. They inspire me. Make me feel alive and whole. Being a father gives me a perspective on living that was missing for most of my life.
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Friday, May 25, 2007

Delight for Only Her

This year I will start my 12th year as a married man. Yep, in June my beautiful wife and I will have been married 11 years. Amazing!

Thank you, my darling, for putting up with me (I know it is often not very easy).

Thank you for being the best wife a man could ask for.

Thank you for being the most awe-inspiring mother to our daughter I can imagine.

Thank you for being who you are, each day.

I wrote this poem for my wife years and years ago, before she was my wife, actually. I figured it was time to take it out, dust it off and show it the light of day once again.

Delight For Only You

Morning throws her golden light toward my lover's eyes;
Twin spheres of beauty who are upon the gentle sky.
And I beheld her beauty, for ecstasy and delight,
And with fanciful calm, peaceful, safe and arrogant,
Fill'd the heart of the obliging smile that she gave to me;
And so I received this fantasy, built from pleasures,
Cast in kindness; feather'd with hope, ever patient.

There with Lust, she danced in light and airy rain;
A fete for my abandon'd heart:
Her voice whose honeyed passion can reclaim
A spirit chain'd with links of pain.
Her eyes, alone in solitude,
Her lips a red that caught the sun, and morning's mist;
Upon her body lay the dew;
There dance, wreath'd in morning's gem,
The weeping of the rising sun,
With words of love calmed my frighten'd soul;
I saw the softest blue heav'n could intend.
In whispers from her flawless lips,
The wonder of a zephyr's laugh;
A wondrous wind that seeps this heart
And leads me down this fated path.

We live with this obsession:
Love us free from waiting death!
Around her perfect eyes, her soul's flawless image,
Like stars within the blackest night,
Living orbs of a lover's delight'd kiss.

To love her seraph's soul - so was I made,
In the breath of her dreams, and pass'd the ghastly moon;
A second self, chaste upon the midnight shade;
Fill'd with teardrops ne'er seen.

In you wonder and magic and calm in corporeal form;
The quiet mystery within the blackest storm.
With azure love that bursts upon my scarlet heart,
My lover's smile is true. Now my love before my eyes appear'd:
Bright, affectionate, just: an angel she seem'd;
Wherein my heart was laid her soul:
My soul did repose upon a silver cloud.

Beneath the whispering winds,
Like trees rock'd by spring's gentle breath;
My heart shall beat measure to her laughter, and delight;
And with its ethereal magic shall masque the shadow of yonder pain,
As midnight cries in the light of the moon.

The moon you now rule, and caress the absent stars,
The power of its eyes dim the halls of heav'n no longer.
Strok'd by the hands of this enamour'd kiss, a love divine;
Build a fair castle, paved with emeralds,
And the roof a frozen forest's call.

Your voice, whose laughter fill the hush'd wind
With everlasting joy,
Kiss'd the clouds, and gave the night its life;
The gentle moon, its yellow brilliance
Pierce the depths of my vanity's deep sorrow,
Whose violence made griefs that need your love.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hobbit Ninja Feet

Vibram Fivefinger Sprints: a new, er, old way to run.

I ordered some Vibram Fivefinger Sprint shoes. Yes, they look a little odd. But we were born barefoot, right? And I have always wanted to be a Hobbit ninja!

The Sprints are basically just a sheath for your feet, including individual toe slots. This allows your toes to spread out, which works to stretches and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving balance, agility, range of motion and speed. According to Vibram, "Strengthening these muscles not only leads to better performance, it can reduce injury and help develop healthier feet."

Originally developed as water/sailing footwear, they have been embraced by the barefoot running community. There is good evidence that the bare foot is still the ideal structure to walk, run, and live on.

That's the hype, anyway. And in reality?

They have no padding to speak of, just a "skin" of Vibram razor-siped soles (Vibram makes 32 million soles annually for more than 1,000 footwear brands including The North Face, Scarpa, Merrell, Timberland, Chaco, Lowa, Asolo, Rockport, Columbia Sportswear, Hi-Tec, Giorgio Armani, Prada Sports, Dolce & Gabbana and Hugo Boss, etc) held on to your feet with a stretch polymide fabric upper. Weighing in at just 5.6 oz each, it really does feel like you have bare feet.

The moment I got them out of the box I put them on. After the initial fumbling with getting big-toe into big-toe-slot and so forth, they were incredibly comfortable! Walking around the office felt strange at first, but I soon forgot I had them on.

They do take some getting used to. I rode my bike about 2.5 miles to try them out for comfort. It was a little odd, riding a bike wearing the Sprints, yet somehow familiar. Then it hit me: it felt like when I was a kid and used to ride my bike in bare feet! What fun! I certainly would not want to wear them on a 50 mile ride, but for my around-town-commuting they were a pleasure.

That same evening I went running in them - just about a quarter of a mile both on and off the paved trail around our subdivision. (Vibram wisely advises people not to hit the trails for a 5K the second you get them strapped to your feet; it takes some time for your feet to adapt to using the "new muscles", and running in them drastically changes the way you hold your body when running.) During the off-pavement run, I could feel the ground - I could even feel the texture of the sand. But nothing hurt. Not even the little rocks and such that I unavoidably stepped on. The Vibram sole does a remarkable job of protecting the feet while still allowing for increased sensitivity.

They do change the way you run. When you run in them your heel basically never touches the ground in any meaningful way; you land on your forefoot, flatten slightly, then launch again off your forefoot, which is a more natural way to run than landing on your heels. At first it felt a little awkward, but then it felt very natural and I got into a rhythm.

I plan on putting the Sprints through test next month when I wear them in a 5K. We'll see how well the hype matches the reality.
So far, I am pretty darn impressed.
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