Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nike+Sports Watch GPS: No Longer Synching & I am not alone

At some point a few days after I installed Mac OS X Mountain Lion and the new Nike Connect software my Nike+Sports Watch GPS no longer wants to synch my runs. Watch works and charges fine.

This Facebook page tells me many others are having the same issue. I am hearing early models such as mine may be more susceptible to this issue.

I called Nike and after verifying there were no cracks around the USB connector and that trying to synch via another computer also didn't work they are sending me a new one.

Note that if you are on Mac OS X Mountain Lion and try to install the Nike Connect software you will need to go into your Security and Privacy Settings and chose General then unlock and chose "Anywhere" at Applications Download From as it seems Nike is not an "identified developer" according to Apple security.

The watch has been fantastic with software and features much improved from an initial very shaky start back in 2011 but it seems Nike didn't do their homework in upgrading Connect and making sure it worked with latest versions of Mac OS X.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Outdoor Retailer Summer 12: Altra Superior Zero Drop Trail Runner

Altra Running a Utah running company exclusively sells zero drop (heel to toe differential) running shoes. Their success has in my view been due to developing zero drop shoes

  • that are not all "minimal" or near barefoot, many models are decently cushioned. 
  • Altra shoes have a "foot shaped" design. The picture below tells that story better than words.

Altra Superior Trail Runner
I usually run in 4-10mm road and trail runners. I tested and reviewed the earliest zero drop shoe the GoLite Flash Lite trail shoe back in 2010.  As a "shuffler" I found the ride quite firm and slappy due to overly firm midsole foam and low stack height. Since then  I have steered clear of zero drop shoes.

The Altra Superior caught my eye at Outdoor Retailer.
Altra Superior: the light gray rock plate fits under the insole and is removable

Altra Superior: CheckerTrail Outsole & Foot Shaped Design

The Altra Superior has a removable rock plate which sits under the insole. I have never seen this approach in a trail shoe. Most "rock plates" are not really hard plates but a dense foam similar to latex which prevents rocks from pushing through to the foot.

Weight is outstanding for such a substantial shoe: 8.9 oz with the rock plate in, 7.9 oz with rock plate removed.

The black cords help synch the mid foot to the laces.  I might worry a bit about durability of  the cords on the trail. The outsole looks well designed and durable.

Stack height is 19mm at forefoot and heel, not minimal. My Montrail Bajada's are 18mm in the forefoot and 28mm in the heel. The question will be, as with all low and zero drop shoes, what happens when non natural forefoot runners such as myself get tired and tend to get back on the heels..

If you are new to zero or low drop shoes start slowly with low mileage as there is a period of adapting to the lower drops. I have found lower drop shoes (4-10mm) have completely resolved my chronic hamstring and tight calf problems, with no stretching in the mix. What would zero do? Not sure but I would like to add a shoe such as the Superior to my mix for at first occasional runs.

Retail Price: $95
Availability:  October 2012

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Outdoor Retailer Summer 12: Running Hydration, Nutrition, and Packs

Salomon Soft Flask and Glove
Another very clever Salomon creation in collaboration with Killian Jornet, the great Spanish mountain runner. Killian suffered mightily in the heat at the 2010 Western States 100. He doesn't like to carry a pack or bottles and says he isn't a great hot weather runner. The answer, prototyped at the Western States in 2011, which he won, a soft flask glove combination. The glove flask combination feels fantastic. The flask is made of a soft hydration bladder material from Hydrapak. Bite on the valve and water flows.

The 5oz soft flasks can be purchased at Running Warenhouse now. I was told the glove flask combination will be on sale at REI in September for $45. Right and left gloves and one 8 oz flask. The 500 ml (17oz) flask shown here will be available about the same time. Use one 5 oz flask for water diluted gel ( the valve is liquid specific but a wider gel nozzle is planned). Use the 10 oz for liquids.

Sip N'Go Foldable Water Bottle
Nothing fancy but an effective way to tote 500ml 17 oz of water on the run or on the go. The Sip N'Go collapses, snapping into a compact package. We tested on a couple of runs since OR and it does the job. Price: $7.99.

Ultimate Direction Signature Series Running Vests
At every Outdoor Retailer there are products, in smaller booths, amid all the clutter and marketing of the big guys, that stop me in my tracks. The Ultimate Direction Signature Series AK Race Vest and SJ Ultra Vest were such products.
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest

Ultimate Direction AJ Ultra Vest

Ultimate Direction has been around a long time, one of the original hydration carry companies. Slimmed down and newly refocused with trail running legend Buzz Burrell as Brand Director they launched some fantastic trail running vests at OR.

Until I opened the marketing materials away from the show I did not realize the AK was designed by Anton Krupicka and the AJ by Scott Jurek. So, Killian Jornet is not the only top ultra and trail runner with a lab cooking up personalized innovations we can all also use and enjoy.

Both vests are incredibly light, 9.5 oz for the AK and 11.0 oz for the AJ, including two 20 oz bottles!  My Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin vest weighs 22 oz including the 1.5 liter/53 oz bladder.
Unlike the padded mesh of my $180  and very functional Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin running vest,  the Signature Series have a tightly woven single layer of very light mesh. This mesh provides some structure to the otherwise whisper light vests.

Plenty of pockets in all the right places. The AK has a very stretchy open back compartment, the AJ a zipper compartment. I might chose the AJ with 9.2 liters of volume vs. the 4.5 liters of the AK for the extra carrying capacity with no additional weight to speak of.

The vests are supplied with two of the great 20 oz Ultimate Direction bottles with Kicker Valve, a soft nipple you pull up with your teeth to open and push sideways with your mouth or hand to close. No real need to close on the run as the valve is self sealing unless squeezed. Both can also accomodate a hydration bladder.

$90 for the AK, available January 2013
$125 for the AJ, available November 2013

Nathan Sports New Bottle Design
Not sure of the name and price of this Spring 13 Nathan  Sports 20 and 10 oz hand carry bottles. The narrow neck and gray trigger grip made these very easy and comfortable to grip.
Nathan Sports 2013 trigger grip water bottle

Nathan Sports 2013 trigger grip water bottle
Nunn Hydration Tablets
Nunn was the first company to introduce a Alka Seltzer size tablet which when dropped into 16oz of water creates an electrolyte drink. Tasted a sample of the tea flavor. Not sugary, subtle easy to swallow flavor. Will be in my bottles and packs in the future. 

Power Bar Energy Gel
Used samples of Power Bar Energy gel  from the show for my Jupiter Peak Steeplechase race this past Saturday. 

Warm day with many getting cramps on the 3000 foot downhill run after the climb to Jupiter Peak. Not me and plenty of energy to the finish. Much more viscous than other gels  "PowerBar Energy Gel is the first gel to provide the carbs and electrolytes of a high end sports drink, and contains 4 times the sodium of leading competitors."  Power Bar Energy has 200 mg of sodium and 20 mg of potassium. Priced at about $1.35-$1.50 at retail. The only gel with similar sodium is Gu's Roctane with 135 mg of sodium and 35 mg of Potassium but priced at about $2.50 per gel.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Outdoor Retailer Summer 12: Salomon Sense Family grows for Spring 13

No shoe has had as much recent buzz as the Salomon S-Lab Sense. Designed in collaboration with Killian Jornet,  the Spanish mountain running phenomenon and specifically for his needs, this 6.5 oz wonderfully fitting trail racer that can potentially be run sock less. This racing machine's mid and out sole are not engineered for durability and long life.  While incredibly well cushioned for such a light shoe all the goodness doesn't last long, nature of the beast.  Might get a few hundred miles out of them before they are shot. If you are tempted Bryon Powell's store at irunfar has them as does Running Warehouse.

Salomon Sense http://www.irunfar.com/store/salomon-s-lab-sense
For Spring 2013 Salomon is extending the Sense line to 3 models: the S-Lab Sense ($200), the S-Lab Sense Ultra ($180), and the Sense Mantra ($120) . I tried both new models the Ultra and Mantra.

The Mantra is an  8.4 oz, 6mm heel to toe drop , introductory model to Sense minimalism. Where this model falls down for me is the upper, at least on first trying it on. Like the Salomon Crossmax it is narrow under the instep, a European cut which creates pressure on my foot down where the midsole meets the upper.  No other shoe brand does this to me in that area. The upper is not nearly the stretchy yet supportive "2nd Skin Seamless Construction" of both of the other Senses.  The ride will be firm. Of course it is also $60-$80 cheaper than those racing machines.

The 7.4 oz, 4mm heel to toe drop  S-Lab Sense Ultra is the one for me. I might even see it as a great road racer.
Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra

The midsole is a more durable foam than the Sense: namely, firmer and thus designed to last longer than the few hundred miles of the Sense. The outsole has slightly deeper lugs and more of them than on the Sense.  The carbon fiber based fabric rock protection in the  mid foot of the Sense is substituted for a  membrane embedded in the ProFeel midsole, the gray seen through the outer sole above  which I was told is akin  to a dense latex paint designed to prevent rock and other obstacle punch through. The Sense Ultra felt great on.

Outdoor Retailer 12: Skechers GOrun ride test drive

Skechers Gorun ride

Skechers is not exactly a "traditional' athletic shoe company but they have made a serious, well funded, no holds or innovation bared splash with their initial shoes. Meb Keflezighi at age 36 has not only set PR's but was the winner of the Olympic Marathon Trials in Skechers GO Runs again with a PR. So what is different about the Skechers?

skechers GORun ride
I was able to run a few hundred yards in the Skechers GORun ride. Incredibly flexible, except at the landing pods. Very light at 7.8 oz.  4mm heel toe drop The smoothest, most seam free upper I have ever tried. No heel counter. Priced right at $80 but have some concerns how long a pair will last as all the white foam  on the outsole is soft midsole material, the blue circles being harder carbon rubber.

The key feature for me is are the GoImpulse pillars, the blue harder rubber pads on the outsole.  Even though I only ran a few hundred yards I was able to adjust my stride ever so slightly to hit the large rear mid foot bridged pillars for a mid foot stride. Back on the heels you felt it right away, cushioned but not where you wanted to be. Ecco has a similar approach with their Biom line but there is not as much sensory feedback to the feet, not as much difference between the strike point and the heel.

How would I use them? Probably not as an every day trainer but as a mid foot strike tuner.

Outdoor Retailer 12 Running Shoes: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road, Trail, and Tri

Pearl Izumi
PI introduced a brand new line of Road, Trail, and Tri shoes they are calling Project E:Motion with the tag line: Inspired by Efficiency, Designed for Motion (EM).  They will be available Spring 2013.
The midsole design claims to make the heel toe offset dynamic Depending on models: 1-4 mm at heel landing, 4-7.5 mm at transition to toe off, and 1-4 mm depending on model at toe off (translate this last to somewhat of a rocker sole ).  The line includes multiple models for each running discipline generally based on a lighter racing oriented neutral N1 model, a training N2 model, and a motion control model for each category.

I tried on N1 and N2 models for both road and trail at the booth. Pearl Izumi pioneered seamless uppers several years ago and the upper fit of these new shoes is fantastic. I recently borrowed a pair of Peak II trail racers for a trail 10K and found them to be comfortable and supportive.

After trying on the various models I selected the  EM N1 trail and EM N2 road, as at least on my foot, they were the the best fitting uppers.

EM N1 Trail is a 9.6 oz neutral trail runner, race oriented. The heel toe drop offset is 1mm at initial contact, 4.5 mm at mid stance  Includes a forefoot rock plate. Similar weight and design to Montrail Bajada and Brooks Pure Grit. The N2 is 9.9 oz with 4.5mm heel toe offset at initial contact and 7.5 mm at mid stance. There is a 10 oz M2 Trail motion control model with the same offset as the N2 Trail and a slightly different midsole and upper reinforcements.
Pearl Izumi EM N1 Trail Runner

Pearl Izumi EM N1 Trail Runner
EM N2 Road
The EM N2 Road has a fantastically roomy and seam free toe box. Strangely the N1 racer had more overlays than the N2 which is designated as a trainer.  I might compare EM N2 as low drop light and cushioned trainers  to  the Brooks PureFlow  and to the more minimal Kinvara 3. The N2 is 9.3 oz with 4.0mm heel toe offset at initial contact and 7.5 mm at mid stance.  There are 1:1 foam crash pads embedded in the midsole at the heel and forefoot.. The outsole while appearing to be all of the same material is a combination of harder carbon rubber sections and softer EVA.  The lighter N1 is 8.2 oz with 1 mm initial contact offset and 4.5 mm at mid stance.

There is also an M3 model with similar offsets to the N2 but with a wider mid foot for pronation control and a H3 with again a slightly different midsole width and geometry for rear foot pronation control. Both weighing in the 9.7 to 9.9 oz range, low weight for motion control.

The Tri EM shoes have N1 and N2 models very similar to the Road. They have the same offsets as the Roads, are slightly lighter, and feature quick pull cord laces and tongue and heel pull loops.

Pearl Izumi EM N2 Road

Pearl Izumi EM N2 Road
I look forward to road and trail testing the E:Motion line soon.

Update: Stack Heights of the Pearl Izumi E:Motion line. My understanding is that the dynamic offset is the heel toe drop when the forefoot is under load during a stride.

S13 Midsole Measures (mm): (Includes midsole and outsole)

 Ball of  Foot
Dynamic Offset

effective drop [3.5mm off ground]

effective drop [3.5mm off ground]

effective drop [3.5mm off ground]

effective drop [3.5mm off ground]

effective drop [3.5mm off ground]

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

First Review: Hoka One One Stinson Evo TARMAC

I have long been intrigued by Hoka One One's contrarian response to the "minimal" running shoe trend. While all Hokas have a low 4-6" drop and are relatively low weight at 10-11 oz, they all feature massive fairly stiff midsoles relying on a rocker geometry to propel the stride. They have been called clown shoes. Some may laugh but the smooth shock and rock pain free trail and road feel of Hokas is something else. Their motto "Time to Fly" is not an exaggeration.

I have purchased and run in the Hoka Mafates, Bondi B, and Stinson B and all have one thing in common- downhill obstacles are run over without really realizing they are there and there is much less leg soreness after any run than with any other shoe I have ever used. Anecdotes on the web tell of many former runners with chronic pain being able to resume running in Hokas.

The question for me has been can you fly...fast and does that softness and rocker geometry cause problems when tired and off your mid foot . My experience at the 2011 Boston Marathon with the Hoka Bondi B road shoe taught me a lesson: when you get back on your heels when tired the softness is a problem as the foam can compress 20mm sending you back on your heels never to return if the legs can't lift anymore!   I was told  later that year by Hoka that the geometry of the rocker sole favored a consistent mid foot strike and that the geometry would be changed.

Enter the Hoka One One Evo Tarmac.

Hoka lent me a pair of this new shoe last weekend at the SpeedGoat 50K. I have run three times in them: twice on the road and once on relatively smooth single track.

How is the Tarmac different from the other road model in the line the Bondi B or the Stinson EVO the hybrid road trail sibling to the Tarmac?

  • While the upper is exactly the same as the Stinson EVO the outer sole of stiffer harder rubber covers almost the entire outsole, all the blue areas and all the larger white areas except  the triangle under medial side (bottom of sole above on the railing). There are no lugs as on the Stinson EVO and far less softer exposed midsole acting as outer sole than on the Bondi. The result a far snappier ride, a firm foot lay down without shock and then a smooth push off. 
  • Road runs in the Tamrac feel like running on grass.  Quite natural and pleasant, unusually comfortable and shock free. I usually run roads in somewhat minimal shoes such as Kinvara 3, Brooks PureFlow and Connect, and Asics HyperSpeed. As with other Hokas I have run in, their use as a recovery and big miles shoe is certainly to be considered as there is very little leg soreness after any run in Hokas 
  • The EVO Tamrac has more forefoot flex than other Hokas I have tried, flexing just behind the blue colored outsole above. I think the flex is assisted by a slightly thinner foam stack overall.  The heel toe drop is slightly increased to 5.5 mm, a good thing given the foam softness and thickness in the heel, my Bondi issue at Boston. The Hoka rep said a heel lift can be used to increase the ramp angle.
  • The upper is outstanding, especially in the forefoot. Previous Hoka designs seemed to struggle with vertical overlays in the forefoot given the stiffness of the midsole causing hot spots for me. The Tarmac has only horizontal overlays and the forefoot area is soft mesh.
  • This is a road specific shoe but... I found it outstanding in my single trail run on smooth single track. Given the massive surface touching the ground, up to 80% more than most shoes, and the fact the foot is seated down into the midsole foam using a patented bucket seat I see no surface expect snow,  slick mud or small gravel where the Tarmac wouldn't perform well. 
  • The lacing system is a quick pull Kevlar cord very similar to the Tecnica Inferno X Lite recently reviewed, effective and simple. 
  • The Tamrac is supplied with 2 insoles of different thicknesses. They can be stacked for small volume feet or used individually to customize the volume. Drill guide holes on the midsole at the forefoot and heel can be punched through to give more flex.
  • True to size unlike my previous Hokas which were at least a size off. My usual 8.5 was a 9 or even 9.5 in previous generation Hoka models.
  • Weight 10.4 oz. Outstanding for so much shoe.
  • Price $170
Time and miles will tell if Hoka has solved the code, balanced their trademark smooth ride with snappier less "risky" road performance.  Not easy to go a different way and blaze a new trail against the minimal tide.  I wish them luck and tip my hat to Hoka  for being different and maybe more effective for many workouts and terrains  than the usual or trendy. I will update this review as I run more miles in the Tamrac.