Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2010 Favorite Running Shoes

My 2010 Favorites:

1) Hoka One One Mafate-totally different yet minimal in a way. Clown shoe high, almost 2" off the ground yet in my view oh so cushy and natural. Great on the trails and on the road a feeling like running barefoot on grass  For long, long hauls road or trails and recovery runs.  Effectively zero heel to toe drop??

2) Saucony Kinvara-solid minimalism, light and cushioned, Good for every distance ( I ran my marathon in these) and speed. 4 mm drop

3) adidas Adizero Rockets- very light, fast and responsive yet also cushioned, firmly. The shoe that runs fast!  6 mm drop. Narrow over the instep and at the toes and hard to put on. Not for wide feet.

Runner ups:

Golite Flash Lite- first zero drop "shoe". Solid smooth trail runner. Road runnable. Very comfortable walker.  If you can only take one shoe for multiple purposes this is it.

Ascis Hyperspeed- similar to Rockets but not quite as snappy on the go. 7 mm drop

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inov-8 New Road Running Shoes- Road X Series

Inov-8's trail running shoes have been in my trail running quiver since 2006. I particularly like them for trail and mountain racing due to their low to the ground light, nimble feel ( the original minimalist trail running shoes) and the wide range of models for different types of terrain and speeds.

I can't wait to try their new range of road shoes out this spring.  Much as with their trail shoes the road models focus on a progression in weight and function.  The 3 Road X models  bring runners closer to near zero drop/barefoot from model to model by using a  three step progression from 9mm, to 6mm to a 3mm heel to toe drop .  I think I will start with the 233 (233 grams) which comes in at 8.3 oz and has a 6mm heel toe drop, quite similar to my Saucony Kinvara. Running Warehouse's blog has a preview article and pictures here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St George Marathon (UT) 2010-Before the Start

Superb essay by my friend and Utah running buddy Fasteddie Knapp. We trekked to St George together for the race. Eddie completed his 14th St. George and 58th Marathon in fine form 4 months after a partial knee replacement. Smart, brave, a great coach and especially someone who runs for the joy of it and to bring others along.  Read the essay on his blog at RunSkiRide

Monday, December 27, 2010

miCoach Update-Issues with HRM signal on the Zone

An update to my initial review of the miCoach training systems. After replacing the batteries on the miCoach Zone HRM unit I am still unable to get the unit to synch with the watch. I saw a gradual increase in the synch time to see the first heart rate after each workout start then yesterday it never synched, I contacted miCoach support and got them on the first ring over in Europe somewhere. The instructions they sent to reset the unit did not seem to work on my first try. I have written them for further assistance.

The Mobile miCoach on my T-Mobile Blackberry continues to work like a charm monitoring and recording performance based on pace. Unfortunately it does not provide heart rate monitoring for indoor workouts or trails and hilly terrain where pace is less of an indicator of workout effort than heart rate.

Friday, December 24, 2010

110% Play Harder Compression Knee Braces, Calf Sleeves, Shorts-Ice it!

 110% Play Harder shorts, calf sleeves, and knee braces combine compression with pockets to insert included ice/heat packs. While I have not tried these, I think there is some merit for those with chronic problems or during heavy mileage periods. I see 110% Play Harder is available at Running Warehouse. Illustrated here are the knee brace and shorts :

I have used a number of different compression calf sleeves, shorts and socks in racing, training and recovery and have concluded that for me the recovery benefits outweigh any race performance benefits. I do get  a sense that my stride feels more aligned directly down the road or trail, less sloppyin later stages of a race or long run when using compression calf sleeves or socks . My favorite compression socks are the merino blend Swiftwick 12 which I  posted about earlier this year. They provide a "light" compression and are great for fall and winter running, nordic, telemark and alpine skiing.  I used them just about every day on our 100 plus mile trek around the Mont Blanc.

When its warmer out I often use Salomon EXO III Calf that I picked up from the iRunFar Store. Again light compression. The Salomons got me through the 13 miles of downhill in the St. George Marathon this year without the calf cramps I got in 2009.

I use compression shorts in training when my problem hamstring is acting up and they clearly let me run in less pain. Since I have gotten used to more minimal shoes in  the last 4 months the hamstring issues have gone away... I have tried my Zoot and adidas TechFit  compression shorts in racing and find them a bit too restrictive, especially later in races when my stride gets weaker and knee lift starts to escape me.

 I highly recommend compression shorts for telemark and alpine  skiing and find that they clearly keep my legs fresher day in, day out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Craft Zero Extreme Long Sleeve Concept Piece

Pricey but very light, warm and breathable base layer. I have been running with just the Craft Zero Extreme and a windbreaker down into the 20's this winter. Wicks very well to keep off the chill. The shoulder ventilation is functional. Not as warm when stopping and starting as wool. I have even worn it indoors at the gym and not felt over heated.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For those who Winter Train on the "Dreadmill" Treadmills

Handy conversion chart. Note that a 0% incline which many use is like running downhill. As dreadmills scare me, I usually set the incline to about 5% and take it from there.

Adidas miCoach

For the last month or so in preparation for the 2011 Boston Marathon I have been using adidas miCoach. training program. I am finding micoach to be a fantastically well designed and executed program, once understood-integrating smart phones, web, and optional gadgets. It is a bit complicated from a "marketing" and initial presentation and explanation standpoint. I hope this post helps explain the various elements.

The system can include:
  • a free GPS based pacing program miCoach Mobile for certain Blackberry smartphones and carriers as well as an iPhone app. (more on this later).
  • a free web site to upload the results of your workouts, see them on a map, tabulating elevation gained and even get a score vs. goal.
  • very well designed workouts and calendar schedule for different race distances, abilities, and also for sports other than running.
  • a line of associated gadgets for purchase including 
    • a heart rate monitor, the miCoach Zone ($69.99) , 
    • a stride counter, audible pace, stride, distance HR player with transmitter to PC the miCoach Pacer ($139.99) all associated in a package with the heart rate monitor for situations where GPS based training doesn't make work such as indoors or on trails where heart rate would be more useful than pace. MP3 players can be plugged in to provide music and coaching.
I currently use the free miCoach Mobile GPS app, miCoach web site and the Zone heart rate monitor.

Monday, December 06, 2010

How to Run 2000 Miles in 40 Days-the Secret Sauce Along with One Tough Runner

Karl Meltzer, a NH native and one of the truly amazing ultra endurance athletes out there recently ran the Pony Express Trail- 2000 plus miles in 40 days. His gear, food, and stats list is here . Over 143 cans of Red Bull consumed among other fascinating tidbits. He raves about the Hoka One One trail runners.

I think Hokas are fantastic too. The "Clown Shoe" look will get some stares and snickers but once one runs in these very light ( as light as a performance road shoe at 11 oz. size 9 ) marvels you will secretly be smiling. We hiked the 100 mile Tour du Mont Blanc this summer, on often rough trails, without a single blister or ever any sore legs while carrying a decent size 15 lb plus pack. I have run both roads and trails and found that this most unusual and almost counter intuitive high off the ground design, in a age of "minimalist and barefoot" shoes such as the Vibram Five Fingers, really works and can in fact be considered quite similar in its natural foot barefoot strike to the intent of minimalist shoes.

I have been also using them for my longer road runs and I agree that legs stay fresher. This is a mighty fine road shoe and in my recent St. George Marathon I saw several wearing them. I wish I had too with 13 miles and 2500 vertical feet of downhill. Most interestingly, despite the almost 2 inches of cushion and sole stiffness, the rocker design and low ramp angle appears to really encourage a mid foot strike and short efficient stride. Feels like running on grass... on the road....In strange way I consider this a minimalist shoe as the foot, as it strikes, settles into the foam midsole into a natural position.

On the trail the grip is excellent due to the wide sole, even on leaves, as I found out this week on very steep trails in Hanover NH. The low profile of the lugs prevents mud build up, always an issue with deeply lugged trail runners. They are stable on all terrain except steep side angles where the width of the sole prevents the foot from angling towards the slope. And, as other reviewers have said non technical downhills are a blast. You can run right on top and through smaller rocks and never even feel they were there, a big plus for this timid downhill runner. I was concerned that the stiff sole would impede climbing but this is not the case as the rocker sole allows a very adequate climbing stride particularly when the going gets steep and pace slows.

Rumor has it from Karl Meltzer that a lighter, lower model called the Bondi, more suitable for roads and trail racing, is coming. 

What got me to buy a pair initially? When I heard Karl Metzler was running in Mafates and loving them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

GoLite Flash Lite Review: Zero Drop Road to Trail Runner

The fine folks at GoLite Footwear were kind enough to send me a pair of the Flash Lites to try.
The Flash Lite is as far as I know the first "zero drop" trail and road runner on the market, others to follow. It allows a stride closer to the bare foot while offering the protection of a traditional running shoe. Golite calls this technology "GoLite BareTech".

Zero Drop:
Zero drop means that there is no drop between the heel and the forefoot of the shoe. Most traditional running shoes have a drop of 10 mm or more which translates into the heel landing first and as the theory goes more injuries and a less efficient stride. The goal is to land closer to the midfoot thus better absorb shock and allow the foot to cycle faster with each stride. The recent barefoot, minimal, natural running craze has led manufacturers to start to reduce the drop. My current favorite road shoe the Saucony Kinerva has a 4 mm drop. I have noticed that my chronic hamstring and calf tightness has declined since I started running in the Kinevras . I now have the Kinveras and racing flats such as the Adidas Rocket and Ascis Hyper Speed now in my daily quiver. I no longer run in conventional road "training" shoes.

Back to the Flash Lites. They are a solid, if a bit heavy, well supported trail runner that can also be used in moderation for road running to practice mid foot running. They are also the most comfortable every day walking around shoe I have ever worn. If I was embarking on a long trip with road and trail running, hiking, and travel and could only take one pair of shoes I would take the Flash Lites. I might wish for a bit less upper busy ness style wise though. And this brings me to the dilemma presented by the Flash Lites. They are good at all forms of mobility but not outstanding on any particular terrain except smooth horse trails. I guess it is impossible to find the perfect single shoe but I will keep trying!

On the Trail: I have run approximately 30 miles of trails. Half of my running was on rough,rooty and rocky single track and half on grass and dirt horse trails. The Flash Lites were outstanding on the smoother trails. On single track, while never unstable, when stepping on obstacles I felt a bit "high sided" balanced on the obstacle as opposed to running through it. Never at risk of twisting an ankle due to the zero drop but not as smooth as for example my thick Hoka One Ones or as agile as Inov-8's .

The Flash Lites use GoLite's Soft Against the Ground technology which puts stiffer foam closest to the foot and softer foam closer to the ground. For my taste, the softer part of the midsole could be softer and maybe a bit thicker to better contour to the ground and lessen the feeling of balancing over the obstacles. The original GoLites, which also were based on Soft Against the Ground principles, had shock absorption incorporated into the outer sole. The orginial GoLites, see my post here, incorporated very pronounced soft lugs. While quite goofy looking they worked very well to absorb and contour to the terrain and in a very similar fashion to my Hoka One Ones which feature a very thick soft midsole. While I have not been back to Utah since I received the Flash Lites, I suspect they will be a wonderful shoe on the smooth Park City trails. I also think they will be outstanding on snow and ice this winter.

On the Road: I have run approximately 20 road miles in the Flash Lites. There is no question that the zero drop encourages a mid foot strike. They feel great the first 2 or 3 miles of every run. As I am new mid foot running my form disintegrates as the miles go on and I revert to heel striking. They are quite firm on the road. I would not make them an every day trainer, yet. As with my comments on rough single track trails a somewhat softer and thicker Soft Against the Ground midsole or outer sole would really make them outstanding for road work.

Fit and Construction: A finely crafted shoe for sure. Doug Clark, CEO of GoLite Footwear, told me they are manufactured in a factory which also makes fine Italian boots and shoes. They will last many hundreds of tough trail miles. The asymmetrical lacing works very well and the foot is very well supported even with laces comfortably cinched. I often find that to get good support I have to over tighten other trail runners. Plenty of toe room for my narrow foot. GoLite includes 2 additional forefoot footbed adjusters so that different volume feet can be accommodated. They call this system Precise Fit and it really works. I do think that the shoe could be made lighter by reducing the amount of material in the upper. The toe box is very reinforced, never was a problem but adds weight. The many overlays are functional but I wonder if they could be applied over lighter materials. The tight mesh in the Saucony Kinveras with soft lining is very sturdy and comfortable and weighs very little. It looks like the new New Balance Minimus trail runners reviewed by the Run Blogger adopt a similar approach. As Doug explained to me the choice of materials is often related to the willingness and capability of the factories to work with them. So, the designer can't always get the combination of materials and construction they want if their factory is unfamiliar with it. Especially true for a start up like GoLite.

Conclusion: First to market with a zero drop running shoe. A very well built, firm, relatively light yet sturdy shoe which can serve as midfoot training tool for the road and is a very serviceable trail runner, particularly on smoother trails. My most comfortable shoe to wear around. Single shoe to take on a long trip where trail and road running, hiking, and walking are in the mix.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Icebreaker GT Distance Short-Perfect Wool

I am a big fan of wool in performance running wear and as an everyday wear base layer. While the heat of summer, above 80 F, is a bit much for wool and running, I wear wool from SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex just about every day. I can attest that the new super fine merino wool from these three companies is never scratchy even as a base layer.

I have been looking for a wool based running short for a while and have finally found one from Icebreaker. The GT Distance short, part of their GT Run line, is almost all wool with a bit of stretch. It is highly breathable, looks good, is moisture wicking, and best of all because it is wool-no stink! A drawback, only one small inside pocket. In my view deep, close able pockets are essential on any running short.

From what I understand the Distance Short will be out in the US this spring but it is now available in men's and women's models from Nature Shop of New Zealand. I got mine in 4 days, free shipping all the way from the Kiwis. Increasingly I am seeing free shipping to the US, even from overseas stores.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tour du Mont Blanc

Pictures from our Tour du Mont Blanc hike. Approximately 100 miles in 7 days. Wonderful weather, food, new trail friends, and scenery. Key trail gear:
the super cushy, super light Hoka Mafante trail runners.

And for the last 2 days a pair of Camp-USA Xenon Collapsible Trekking Poles. While not suitable for heavy backpacking these poles are ideal for running and fast packing. Feather light and fun

Sunday, April 04, 2010

"Granite State of Mind"- New Hampshire-Fantastic "Travelogue" done to J-Z

Where I'm from! Very well done J-Z parody. If you know NH you will want to watch several times to catch everything. For those bored with NH and the primaries not one mention of that but also no mention of Arrowsmith either. They absolutely got the rest. Welcome to our quirky people and a beautiful place. Here it is at You Tube.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Merino Compression Socks-Finding the Perfect Performance Blend

I am a big fan of merino wool socks and base layers. I pretty much am in wool year round except for the very hottest days, even as a base layer under street clothes. Comfortable in all temperatures and stink free for days... Merino wool socks are all I will wear for running, skiing, hiking, and work. I have tried compression socks such as the CEP 02 knee high socks and when I fly and after races the Zanesh Compression Sleeves. The principle behind compression is that it moves blood quicker back to the heart thus improving performance and speeding recovery. In my experience I do find that compression keeps legs fresher and also has the added benefit of keeping the lower leg better aligned and on track at speed.

There is a problem with these synthetic compression products. The socks are almost unbearably tight especially at rest. They are also hot at any temperature above 65 degrees or so. The first thing I want to do after exercise is pull them down. The Zanesh sleeves are more comfortable as they are somewhat looser and thus a good option for air travel and recovery but they do not cover the whole lower leg and thus I find less of an alignment benefit.

I recently found a perfect compromise in Swiftwick merino synthetic blend compression socks. I have been testing their 12 (12" high)- $22.95 and 4 (4 inch)- $16.95 models for about a month now. I have run indoors and out, nordic and alpine skied, done a snowshoe race, and used for everyday wear. While the 4's claim to provide compression to the foot area and are very comfortable socks and are the ones I will use to replace most of my existing collection of socks,the 12's provide compression up to just below the knee and thus are the product I was most interested in.

The compression effect of the 12 is not quite as pronounced as O2's but they are far more comfortable. My legs were fresher during and after all my workouts including interval speed work on an indoor track. These socks can be worn all day, every day unlike the typical compression sock. The temperature regulation when compared to the 02 and even the Zanesh sleeves is far better in my indoor running at about 65 degrees, and there is no stink. I plan on trying them at higher temperatures once the weather warms. Somewhat more cushy and softer than the typical Smartwool PhD running sock I was initially worried about wear but so far they are holding up very well.

Swiftwick also makes warmer weather Olefin based socks which I hope to try in the near future.