Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Running Favorites and Year in Review: Shoes, Gear, Runs, and Races

I had a wonderful year on the roads and trails. Thankfully, injury free, I ran a few miles under 2000 total for the year with: 2 marathons, a 20 mile race 25K road race, 25K trail race, 6 half marathons, and a fast 10K. I was pleased that after some "slowdown" the last 5 years, that my racing pace got back on track with all my halves under 1:40 except one on a hilly dirt course, with my 10K under 7 min/mile pace, a pace this old guy (57)  never thought he'd see again.

My 2 marathons were "challenging", with significant slowdowns after 20 miles. I have to incorporate more longer runs and more work on hip strength and flexibilty. Mt Desert Island Marathon was particularly special as my daughter completed her first marathon in just over 4 hours, negative splitting a very hilly and beautiful course. I am very proud of her.

Hannah finishes strong in her first marathon
Of course there were many shoes and much gear tested and used along the way. In addition to the laureates below, I wear tested and provided input on many fine future shoes for Skechers. They will undoubtedly be shoes of the year in 2015.

To provide some perspective to this list I took a look at my Strava mileage for the shoes I ran in during 2014. If you reach for them more frequently they work for you. While some miles on these were in 2013, here are my 4 top mileage shoes
  1. adidas Energy Boost (2 pairs) : 365 miles
  2. adidas Adios Boost (2 pairs):    345 miles
  3. Hoka One One Huaka          :    205 miles
  4. Hoka One One Clifton         :    125 miles
So here goes, and these are my preferences. We all run differently and have different needs.

Innovation, Apparel and Gear of the Year
Salomon S-LAB Sense
I  could have easily given adidas Boost the win for the 2nd year in a row as it is truly a fantastic innovation but thought I would go a bit further afield into design as applied to technology.

Triple win here for Salomon's S-Lab, a skunk works you can buy pricey stuff from.  While their shoes haven't done much for me to date, they hit it out of the park with Kilian Jornet inspired S-Lab apparel and gear.  There is more to Kilian than a big motor who conquers mountains and races all over the globe with stunning ease. This guy also fine tunes his gear in the S-Lab!

S-LAB Sense while not a shoe, or a specific material, is a philosophy of minimalism and functionality applied and executed brilliantly.   Salomon's design and use of fabrics for jackets, shorts and race vests is outstanding. They call the result SensiFit.  Durable, highly functional, super breathable, and incredibly minimal designs which also never forget than on the road and on the trail we often carry "stuff",  and that carrying it shouldn't get in the way of running comfortably and fast. incredible attention to detail and outstanding craftsmanship in every item.

The items that really were exceptional for me in the Sense line:

  • the S-Lab Sense Shorts (review) with their super comfortable, minimal construction combined with 4 no bounce pockets.
  • S-Lab Sense Set vest (review) with a snug clothing like fit and plenty(6) of stretch pocket carrying capacity plus 32 oz of water in easy to sip on the go SoftFlasks. 
  • Also the recent and hard to find S-Lab Motion Fit Nordic jacket with incredible breathability in the back and windproof comfort up front, and of course multiple pockets. 

S-Lab Sense Set
S-Lab Sense Short
S-Lab Motion Fit Jacket

Honorable mention: adidas Climachill (review). By combining the principles of conduction via aluminum dots on the shoulders and a titanium infused fabric, and evaporation via fabric knitted from flat fibers to increase evaporation rates, I truly felt Climachill shirts kept me cooler this summer. A  runner who is sensitive to heat and sweats a lot, I never felt overheated wearing Climachill and was often actually comfortable, especially in dry heat while wearing Climachill.

Road Trainer of the Year
adidas Energy Boost: simply outstanding for their long wearing materials and smooth Boosted running.

Honorable Mentions:
Hoka Huaka: really a super cushioned and low drop (3mm)  road/trail hybrid this firmer Hoka with oh so smooth ride and responsive RMAT midsole was my do anything shoe.  While I had considerable miles in the Clifton as well I found them overly soft in the heel. (comparison review of Huaka and Clifton)

Saucony ISOFit Triumph: the innovative ISOFit upper conforms to the foot magnificently . The firm outsole over cushion makes the Triumph an intriguing blend of snappy firm and decently cushioned (review here)

Road Racer Light Trainer of the Year

 adidas Adios Boost

I ran almost all races in the adios Boost (review here), except my marathons which were in Energy Boost . Snappy, supportive, and very well cushioned this shoe is always a pleasure to run fast in. Did it have something to do with me turning back the clock on my race paces?  I think so. I even ran a wet trail race in the Adios and came out smiling.

Max Cushion Shoe of the Year
The maxi cushion category was all the rage in 2014. Day to day I backed off from super cushioned but still used them for recovery runs.

Tie: Altra Paradigm and  Hoka Clifton

The Paradigm is a supremely refined shoe. The foot shaped toe box and smooth combination of midsoles made this the Lexus of my 2014 running shoes.  I just wish it had some drop built in. Zero Drop just doesn't agree with me as the miles go by (review here).
The Clifton while "popular" was harder for me to run slow. The soft heel and its bevel were a bit unstable for me but as speed picked up I enjoyed the soft ride and response.

Update of the Year
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

I am calling the Zante, an update, even though it is a brand new shoe because it is the first road shoe in the Fresh Foam line that evolves from the original 980 which  was quite harsh and stiff, really not much fun. The Zante has been a fast smooth tempo shoe. (review here). Far less harsh, firm and stiff than the Fresh Foam 980  due to an effective updated hexagon geometry to distribute forces as well as a different outsole configuration, to reduce stiffness and better cushion. The snug fitting upper is just right for a fast tempo/race shoe, comfortable yet supportive and superbly crafted

Honorable mention: Pearl Izumi N2 Road v2. Much like the Fresh Foam the N2 in its first version was stiff and firm. Version 2 solves these issues mainly via a subtly segmented outsole. Still a firmer shoe than I like day in day out but vastly improved.  The smoothness of transition from heel to toe is second to none in the N2 due to its dynamic offset, moving the takeoff point further back than customary.  Make it a bit softer and it would for sure be in the running for shoe of year. The already outstanding totally seamless upper, one of the most comfortable if not the most comfortable of any shoe I ran in this year,  is slightly wider in the forefoot and slightly longer.

Trail Shoe of the Year
Hoka One One Challenger ATR

A late December entry to these sweepstakes the Challenger ATR provides great grip, stability, and Hoka cushion at an almost impossible to imagine 8.6 oz. In limited release now,  it will be on many 2015 lists so why not give it early kudos, (review here)
Honorable Mention: Hoka Huaka and New Balance Fresh Foam Trail

The Huaka took me on smoother Utah trails with aplomb and no compromises. The Fresh Foam Trail  (review here) was my heavier duty terrain trail shoe and one that also was just fine on the road as well

Road Trail Hybrid of the Year
Hoka One One Huaka
This do anything shoe took me from smoother trails to roads at any speed, with equal aplomb at a very light weight. The firmer RMAT midsole provided stability and good response on all surfaces. The upper could use some work but the positives of the ride outweighed the negatives.

Honorable Mention: Skechers GoRun Ultra

This very flexible softy at a value price was a great road recovery shoe and smooth trail cruiser (review here). As a wear tester for Skechers I know newer versions will improve on a great concept in 2015.

Technology of the Year
What would crazies like me do without Strava. Wait ...just a few years ago it did not even exist and we still ran. Yet, Strava is a most useful tool. I pay close attention to a reasonable weekly mileage goal, the mileage on all my shoes, my splits compared to how I actually felt, discovery of neat routes and new friends. At the link a neat compilation of my year in running my 2014 Strava Story.

Shoe of the Year
adidas adizero Adios Boost
No contest!  Not only the shoe worn by winners and record holders at most major marathons in 2014, but a shoe the average person can enjoy, run fast in, and come out with legs that aren't battered. Snappy toe spring combined with a well cushioned yet stable heel and a great supportive upper with plenty of forefoot room.  This is the one shoe that makes me smile every time I pick up the pace.

2nd Place: Hoka One One Huaka. A most versatile, no compromises road or trail shoe.
3d Place: While many great shoes, no obvious 3d place.

Runs of the Year
The Mount Desert Island Marathon was incredibly scenic and also the toughest marathon course I have ever run. The scenery, organization, and support was amazing. Mt Desert's awards as most scenic and runner up for best overall marathon are well earned.  I actually remember almost every sight along the way, rare for me. Extra special run as it was also my daughter's first marathon.

Late in December I ran 25K with a friend on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. An amazing wild and desolate place with grand vistas of the lake and mountains and very smooth, see forever ahead trails.

Race of the Year
Lone Gull 10K (MA): A New England Grand Prix race this spectacular ocean side race featured great age group competition on a windy, cold day. I ran just under 7 minute miles for the first time in a 5 miler or 10K in about 5 years.

Here's to 2015!  Many more miles, friendships, races, shoes and gear, and of course great places to explore on the run.

Thanks for reading my blog.
What were your favorites of 2014?
Please Comment.

Review: 2015 Salomon S-Lab Sense Set Run Vest. Supremely Functional Minimalism

Saved maybe the best of 2014 for last. The Salomon Sense Set  and Sense Ultra run vests are now in wider release for 2015. The Salomon Sense vests are form fitting water and gear carry vests that really are more clothing than pack.  The Sense Set and Ultra Sense with its added drop in rear mesh pocket at the hip and kangaroo mesh pocket between the shoulder blades immediately caught my eye at Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 as one of the key innovations on display (preview here)

Supremely functional Sense Set carries 2 x 500ml of water in supplied soft flasks and has 6 other stretch pockets that adapt to loads. The Sense Ultra adds a drop in rear mesh pocket at the hip for a jacket or a couple more soft flasks   as well as a kangaroo mesh pocket between the shoulder blades. You can carry as little or as much as you wish with zero bounce and an adjustable snug stretch fit.  For the first time I have finallyfound a carrying solution that I truly forget I have on.  I have now run about 25 miles with the Sense Set on trails.

The picture below illustrates a "heavy" but by no means full load:

  • 2 full 500ml (16 oz) flasks (flasks are supplied with vest)
  • an iPhone 6 securely placed in one front drop in pocket, nordic gloves in the other
  • a rescue blanket and blocks and gels in one zip pocket, a North Face Better than Naked jacket in the other zip pocket
  • rescue whistle (supplied and attached to vest) 
  • small drop in shoulder pocket for trash, zip pocket for key.

Salomon S-LAB Sense Set

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review Hoka One One Challenger ATR: What a Union! Super Light Meets Burly.

Not one to rest on its laurels after the launch of the Clifton a super light road runner with plenty of Hoka maxi cushion and the Huaka a versatile road trail hybrid (compared here) , Hoka launches the Challenger ATR a burly lugged 8.6 oz, 24mm forefoot/ 29 mm heel, $130 trail shoe. I now have over 150 miles of dirt, snow, and road on mine.  They were a personal purchase at retail. Challenger was my  " 2014 Trail Shoe of the Year".
Hoka One One Challenger ATR

Because of the similar midsole appearance, some including me, called this a Clifton for the trail yet this is no softy, the ride is firmer and stiffer than Clifton and even Huaka, particularly in the heel, yet by no means harsh or jarring, so still a Hoka.  A truly outstanding protective and versatile trail shoe at an incredibly light weight.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Round Valley, Park City UT Trail Running Magic

Wendy, Larry and I had a fabulous 10 mile run in the now extended Round Valley open space. Larry took us on a side trail to an old quarry with hanging truck and with an incredible vista of the Synderville Basin, the Canyons, and the Wasatch Range.

The Park City area has 400 miles of immaculate trails all suitable for running. Running paradise with even over 40 miles of trails groomed for running and nordic skiing in winter as well as 2 indoor tracks.  Mo Farah, Shalane Flanagan, and Galen Rupp train here regularly. Info and trail maps here

View from Round Valley across Synderville Basin towards Canyons Ski Resort and Wasatch Range

Monday, December 01, 2014

Review: Saucony Triumph ISO-Firm Under Cushion. Outstanding Any Foot Upper

The Saucony ISOFIT Series Triumph is a 10 oz M, 8.7 oz W very well cushioned yet quite firm at road contact trainer.  Fit me true to size.  Saucony lists the stack height as 29 mm heel/ 21 mm forefoot so this is at the edge of what one might call a maximalist shoe as generally I like to say anything over 22mm of forefoot stack height is maximalist so shoes such as Hokas and Altra Paradigm. 

My first runs in the Triumph have been outstanding. "Whoa" as Saucony marketing claims!  Quite a contrast to the "softer" shoes such as Hoka Clifton and Altra Paradigm I have been running in lately. It has a very firm podded and segmented outsole  yet with plenty of cushioning, decent flex and no harsh stiff feeling. Not a seamlessly smooth feeling as say Pearl Izumi but a kind of purposeful forward motion,  with  a sense of getting off the heel fast towards a somewhat less firm yet cushioned toe off. ISOFIT Triumph
Saucony IOSFIT Triumph

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Castle NH Run in Pictures: History and Water

Some days on the run when the weather is crisp and clear and the legs sore you just want to sight see. So I did that on the New Castle "loop" Usually you can loop this run, about 6.8 miles but as a bridge is being rebuilt I did an out and back with variations.  
South End of Portsmouth

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review:Pearl Izumi EM Road N2 v2: Effective Update, Softer, Roomier Toe Box, Even Smoother

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N2 version 2 is a $120 9.6 oz (M9) trainer. Running Warehouse says they have a  27mm/16mm toe stack. There is more to the absolute stack heights given Pearl Izumi's Dynamic Offset which I will try to explain below. The N2 Road is one of the smoothest transitioning shoes I have run in this year. 
Pearl Izumi EM Road N2

The version 2  Road N2  solves the key deficiency for me of the original Road N2, an overly firm, even harsh ride.  This is still a firmer riding shoe, firmer than Hokas, Boost, or Altra, more akin to New Balance Fresh Foam for example.  Strangely, the original  lighter Trail N1 was smoother and less firm and harsh on the road. My N1 Trail review here.

The potential why's and how Pearl Izumi solved these issues is, as they say, the devil in the details, and the art and science of putting together different firmnesses of materials and geometries. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Patagonia Nano-Air Jackets Review: Versatile, Super Light, Breathable. Great Fall, Winter Run Option

I tend to run very warm. So when I heard about the new Patagonia Nano Air Insulated jackets I figured they would be a great option for those super cold days, nordic skiing, hiking, and after runs. I should have been listening more carefully as it is rare that Patagonia touts a single product as strongly as they have the new Nano-Air jackets for men and women. And Patagonia makes outstanding run clothing including the cleverly pocketed Strider Pro Shorts I reviewed here. Outside Magazine liked it too, giving it a 2015 Gear of the Year Award.  I bought the jacket version,  $249. A  hoodie $299 is also available. Men's and Women's models are available in multiple colors. Men's Nano-Air Jacket.

Patagonia describes Nano Air as follows:
"An insulation breakthrough: the new Nano-Air™ Jacket featuring FullRange™ Insulation is warm, stretchy and so breathable, you can wear it for the entirety of any highly aerobic start-stop mission in the mountains."

The Road Test

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Initial Review: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante- 2nd Generation Fresh Foam. Smooth did just get Fast.

The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante is a 7.5 oz 6mm drop racer trainer just released in limited quantities ahead of a certain "big" running event in NYC this weekend. It represents the first shoe of the 2nd generation of New Balance's Fresh Foam concept. It will go into wider release in March 2015 along with a new version of the Fresh Foam 980 now called the Fresh Foam Boracay (Feb.2015). See my preview from this summer's Outdoor Retailer here.
Fresh Foam Zante

I reviewed the previous generation trainer the Fresh Foam 980 here as well as the Fresh Foam Trail here. The Trail was a home run for me, the 980 overly stiff and firm for my taste. The Trail did a better job of leveraging the geometry of the concave ( for cushion) and convex (for firmness and support)  hexagons which are along the midsole to soften and smooth the ride on roads yet provide excellent stability and performance on most trails. The Trail was outstanding on all surfaces.. This computer generated patterning of materials based on stride forces and their effect on the shoe's mid and outsole is the key innovation of the Fresh Foam line. At OR I discussed the shortcomings and strengths of the then current models and saw where they were heading with Fresh Foam Zante and Boracay. I was optimistic.

Well, I am happy to report that New Balance really listened and learned from reaction to the first generation of Fresh Foam.   The Fresh Foam Zante is a fabulous shoe.  I am calling it a light trainer racer in the same category as the Adios Boost I like so much due to its Boost material rebound and snappy toe spring or  the Saucony Kinvara which weighs about the same and which for me is too soft and unstable in the forefoot.  More than decently cushioned especially in the forefoot, only 7.5 oz, and very smooth running due to its simple construction, hexagon patterning and continuous outsole the Fresh Foam Zante is one heck of a fine shoe. It is equally comfortable at speed or slow, an unusual combination as often fast responsive shoes are not particularly suited to slower running, for example the Saucony Zealot I recently reviewed here

So while the Zante and Fresh Foam 980 are  different shoes they are of the same basic design concept:  hexagons to tune the cushioning, a single density midsole, and a continuous outsole. Why could the Fresh Foam Zante a far lighter shoe at  7.5 oz feel so much better,to me : less harsh, stiff and firm, and far more responsive and smoother than the Fresh Foam 980?

Midsole Outsole: The Fresh Foam concept in practice
  • The Fresh Foam midsole material is softer or in tech speak has a softer durometer at about 40 vs. around 45 for the Fresh Foam 980 by my not totally accurate but still relatively accurate gauge. The 980 was about the firmest midsole I have measured with the exception of the way to firm Pearl Izumi E:M N2 Road version 1, Version 2 a very different story, review here. The concave hexagons which tune the cushioning on the lateral side are larger towards the heel and longer and flatter towards the forefoot. The 980 had convex firming hexagons towards the toe which I think made the shoe overly firm and stiff.
    Fresh Foam Zante- All Hexagons on the Lateral side are Convex for cushion and better flexibility
      Fresh Foam 980- Forefoot Convex hexagons added firmness and stiffness to forefoot.
    The forefoot hexagons, now on both lateral and medial sides seem to help provide the nice snappy flex and toe spring. Far more flexible and snappy than the 980, understanding the 980 had a higher forefoot stack as well as firmer outsole material upfront.  The heel through mid foot medial side retains convex hexagons to provide a touch of pronation support and guide the foot to toe off. 
  • The outsole material, unlike the 980, is made up of 2 densities of rubber. A firm decoupled heel piece, with the rest of the outsole a considerably softer rubber  not far in firmness from the midsole firmness by my measurements.  The outsole hexagons in the forefoot are elongated compared to the 980 much as they are on the 980 Trail  The majority of the Zante outsole is considerably softer than the outsole of the 980 Road.  In all likelihood the overly firm feel of the 980 came from this very firm outsole covering so much of the shoe combined with a firm midsole.  The Fresh Foam Zante's close matching of the midsole and outsole firmness contributes to the smoothness of the ride from heel forward. The heel crash pad is firm, almost too firm for me. I wish the very slight heel bevel was increased with more of an angle as on the Adios Boost.  I think that would really make the shoe even smoother from heel to toe but this a minor complaint.
So, the net results of these midsole and outsole improvements is a far smoother ride from heel to toe and a more flexible shoe than the Fresh Foam 980.

Fit and Upper
The Zante is a half size small for me and fortunately I ordered half size up. Zante is built according to New Balance on a 'different last than the 1400.  The shoe is built on the new VL-6 performance running last and has a wider forefoot for proper toe splay." They are somewhat pointy and occasionally I could feel my toes touching either the front where the top bumper is fairly thick and substantial or the top of the shoe. Not an issue for me but this shoe may not work for those with wide high volume feet.
Fresh Foam Zante-Toebox

The upper is beautifully made up of 2 grades of mesh: finer up front and slightly more robust over the mid foot saddle. There are no seams in front of the last lace hole The overlays in the toe area remind me of the pattern on the Energy Boost, strips over the top and sides of toes without a connection down to the midsole where the shoes flex. As the shoe flexes, the overlays don't impede or bunch. Some recent testing I have been doing tells me the flexibility of the upper material plays a role in how the shoe flexes or how it is perceived to flex when running.

Ride and Recommendations
While some shoes require many runs to "figure out",  the $115,  7.5 oz 6mm drop, Fresh Foam Zante spoke clearly and almost immediately. This is a very refined, smooth riding fast shoe with some toe spring and a small hint of structure and stability much as the Adios Boost has. The New Balance marketing for this shoe is "Smooth Just Got Fast." and I agree.
Size up half a size.
The drop at 6mm is a very reasonable compromise between very low drop shoes where I struggle when tired and back on my heels late in a race, and conventional 10mm plus drop models.
The tuned hexagons, when combined with the relatively simple (one midsole material and 2 densities of out sole rubber) do not introduce, let's just say any "artificial ingredients" such as plastic plates, multiple densities of midsole foam, variations in the outsole pattern or stiff to flex overlays in the toe area into my feel for the ride.
While not heavily cushioned, it certainly is cushioned enough to be a daily trainer for lighter, faster runners.  This said a Hoka Clifton at about the same weight it is not in terms of max cushioning. For many this will be a great all race distances and tempo shoe. Unlike many speed oriented shoes it runs very nicely slow as well as fast.

Highly Recommended!

See Pete Larson's fine review of the Fresh Foam Zante at Runblogger here

( The Fresh Foam Zante was a personal purchase at retail)

Fresh Foam Zante are available from Running Warehouse: men's here, women's here. Your purchases support my blog. 

Deals for New Balance 1980 v1 Fresh Foam Zante

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review: Saucony Zealot-Firm where the rubber hits the road, Soft where the upper meets the foot.

The Saucony Zealot is a 8.3 oz lightweight trainer with a stack height of 21mm in the forefoot and 25mm in the heel. The forefoot stack height puts it in the more cushioned,  not quite maximal category. It features Saucony's innovative ISOFIT upper, a sock, bootie like soft mid foot upper material with the foot supported by foam bands tied into the laces and at the midsole, but with the bootie only partially attached to the sides of the upper.
Saucony Zealot

The "numbers" of stack height don't tell the whole tale of the Zealot. One would think with a 21/25mm stack height and relatively soft blue midsole as measured by my durometer (a device to measure foam firmness) that the Zealot would be a softish shoe, a bit firmer than Kinvara, Hoka Clifton or adidas Energy Boost. It is definitely something different. The  heel  is quite firm despite the cushioning as the outer rubber orange pods are very thick and firm, among if not, the firmest and thickest outsole material I have measured to date. The forefoot has slightly softer outsole lime green rubber but it too is quite firm, thick and covers much of the surface in pods.  Outsoles can definitely change the ride. Needless to say all this hard rubber will give tremendous wear and I have almost no wear visible on the heel pods after 35 miles in the areas I usually wear extremely rapidly in other shoes. The deep forefoot grooves make the Zealot plenty flexible.
Saucony Zealot-Outsole

The ISOFIT upper, also featured on the new Triumph and Hurricane and previewed at OR here is by and large fantastic. The innovation came from Saucony's track spikes. The mid foot upper (yellow) from first to last lace is made of a very stretchy super soft mesh, truly sock like. The upper meets the tongue at the edges of the laces tied together into an excellent, thin, soft tongue. No tongue slippage is possible. The foot is held securely by 4 foam bands tied to the laces with only the first lace band and top half of the last band near the toe attached to the upper towards the top of the foot.

Saucony ISOFIT upper-Zealot
This means there is complete freedom for the foot to bend and expand during the gait yet with adequate support. The toe box is made of a less stretchy and a more dense thinner mesh but still very soft. The toe box is essentially unstructured with the overlays  also very flexible. The foot has full room to splay. I notice a bit of slipping forward towards the front of the shoe so potentially a bit more structure to the toe box might be called for.  I have a narrower foot but believe overall the Zealot and ISOFIT will fit many different foot shapes well.
Saucony ISOFIT upper-Zealot

Saucony Zealot
Now the hard part...

Ride and Recommendations
If you like a very firm yet still well cushioned heel the Zealot is for you. At slower speeds and heel striking, a lot of my day to day running,  the Zealot is not much fun or very comfortable and smooth for me. The ISOFIT Triumph would be more my style for a trainer. 
As speed increases Zealot shines. This is a shoe that calls for an efficient quick stride with focus on rapidly getting to toe off leveraging the SRC (Super Rebound Compound) Impact Zone of the midsole through the mid foot. Efficient, fast, sub 8:30/min mile training pace and mid foot runners will like this shoe as a everyday light trainer and marathon shoe.  So for me not a day in day out slower pace trainer but a tempo or 10K race shoe. Unlike for example, the adios  Boost, Energy Boost, the firm new Pearl Izumi N2 Road V2 or the Hoka Huaka this shoe is not particularly "forgiving" and will remind you to move along! I expect long term outsole wear to be outstanding. The ISOFIT upper is a comfort and fitting innovation. 

Available February 2015. $130 MSRP.

I passed the Zealots on to fellow run blogger Harold Shaw of Maine. I knew he liked firmer shoes and thought the ISO Fit upper and particularly the toe box would work for his bunions. They did! His kind of shoe. His fine review here

Derek Oxley over at Run4Lfye reviewed the Zealot here. He thought they had"... a light feeling and is the quintessential oxymoron with a unique combination of cushioned firmness.  I enjoyed the flexible feeling in the forefoot." He preferred the fit of the ISO upper on the Triumph.
The Zealot was provided to me at no charge for review purposes. The opinions herein are entirely my own.

Purchase your Zealot ISO at the links below. 
They are available from Running Warehouse: Men's hereWomen's here

Running Warehouse has great customer service policies:
  • Free 2 Day Shipping and Return Shipping
  • 90 Days No Sweat Returns
  • $9.95 Overnight Shipping 1-4 lbs
All your purchases at Running Warehouse via these links support my blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mount Desert Island Marathon Report- Incredible Scenery, Brutal Hills, and another Marathoner in the Family!

What a place MDI- Mount Desert Island, Maine and what a Marathon along the rocky coast. Spectacular experience!
Bar Harbor-Maine where Lobstah is King

Seal Harbor Mile 8 or so

Somes Sound Mile 15 or so

A special race as my daughter Hannah completed her first in 4:02, running  perfectly even splits despite the far harder second half. I am in trouble. She will soon catch me. Very proud of her!
Hannah finishes smiling

My Race
I had a super solid 20, or so then single slo slo speed last 5, no bonk just no hip drive. Strong tailwind in first 3 miles may had me going out a bit fast but it was...effortless at that point.
3:50 8th in AG losing a couple places, at least, in the last 3. Given my disastrous 2014 Boston and the toughness of this course relatively pleased although my recent 1:36 half and 43:18 10K would indicate a faster time even here. .I have to cross train and do runs over 15- don't, didn't. 
Did beat a relay team from the famous Maine Warden Service of North Woods Law fame though. 

The LOBSTAH Claw Medal- MDI Marathon. 

The Course
What incredible beauty and an an intimate and intense experience at this race:  the landscape, the ocean, the incredible stone walls and shingled "cottages", the wonderful quirky spectators, and 700 friendly competitors. I actually chatted with 2 guys for 10 or so miles. 
Rated "Most Scenic" and runner up for "Best Overall" by readers of Runner's World this is an event to experience and not worry about PR's for most.Make MDI a vacation and run. Highly Recommended! 
This is a brutal course with pretty much non stop hills. 
MDI Marathon Course Profile- Strong Tailwind miles 1-3 had me out...a bit too fast.

The MDI Marathon Gear:
  • Shoe: old reliable adidas Energy Boost 1 with 300 miles on them review here chosen due to 1500 feet of net climbing and all the descents. Perfect balance of cushion and response. 
  • Salomon Sense shorts (review here) to easily carry and with no bounce- 5 gels, pack of blocks, salt tabs and iPhone,  The world's most expensive shorts are worth it!
  • Patagonia Merino Silkweight shirt just right never chilled or too hot as it was 50 and windy, 
  • CEP sleeves and Ashmei socks (review here). No blisters, no cramps, no issues. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From the NY Times: Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?

Not for me boutique, fitness, torture regimes such as CrossFit conducted in strip mall parking lots and windowless rooms as described in this NY Times Magazine article 
"It makes sense that for those segments of humanity who aren’t fighting for survival every day of their lives, the new definition of fulfillment is feeling as if you’re about to die. Maybe that’s the point. If we aren’t lugging five gallons of water back from a well 10 miles away or slamming a hammer into a mountainside, something feels as if it’s missing. Who wants to sit alone at a desk all day, then work out alone on a machine? Why can’t we suffer and sweat together, as a group, in a way that feels meaningful? Why can’t someone yell at us while we do it? For the privileged, maybe the most grueling path seems the most likely to lead to divinity. When I run on Sunday mornings, I pass seven packed, bustling fitness boutiques, and five nearly empty churches."
I'll stick to my 40 miles per week of running some road racing and a few marathons a year. Extreme enough for me and I get out in nature and fresh air.  
Many unfortunately live in places generally inhospitable to outdoor exercise with busy boring roads, in the city, in a foul climate or feel a need to be pushed by paid instructors and others in the class to get "it" done. Note winter weather is not foul, just tough and yes I occasionally duck into Planet Fitness for the dreadmill when the snow is deep and the roads a mess.  
While far "better" than this indoor regimented stuff, ultra-running races are also extreme in the sense that they too fulfil the same kind of need to suffer mightily together. Thinking of ultra runners often running together for many miles,the pacers, aid stations, etc...Mere marathons are tough but ultras can be brutal in their prolonged extreme suffering. When I was younger I often did ultra length runs in the mountains alone and occasionally with friends, rarely with any support, so I know what they feel like.
This weekend daughter Hannah and I am running Mount Desert Island Marathon, a spectacularly scenic and hilly marathon. Extremely beautiful and tough course. Extreme enough for me. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Altra Running Paradigm-Max Cushion, Supremely Refined

Running shoe design continues to evolve and Altra Running pioneers in minimal cushion, FootShapeTM toe boxes and  "Zero DropTM" shoes (no height difference heel to toe) is evolving too. With the Paradigm Altra maintains its heritage of incredibly comfortable toe boxes and zero drop and now applies it to a maximally cushioned, super light shoe. Hoka One One now has real competition in the space they invented.
Altra founder Golden Harper gave me a full update on the line and was kind enough to send me a pair of the Paradigms to try. My preview of the Spring 2015 Altras here. Paradigm not expected to change.

The Paradigm has 34mm of stack height front and back according to Altra and 25mm according to Running Warehouse. Will inquire as to measurements difference. Most conventional "well cushioned" shoes have 20mm or less in forefoot and 24-28mm in the heel.  The advertised weight is 9.1 oz in a men's size 9. My 8.5 Paradigms (review sample provided at no charge, opinions herein entirely my own) weighed 9.5 oz on my digital scale. I will not quibble over the difference as there can be manufacturing differences. From Altra: "As for the weight discrepancy, manufacturing tolerance is usually about an ounce in either direction.  Our weights are based off of weighing production shoes when they show up in a size 9. " These weights are incredibly light for such a supremely cushioned shoe. They fit me true to size.
Altra Running Paradigm

Comparison to Hoka One One 
I have run in a multitude of the earlier Hokas such as the Mafate, Bondi, and Stinson all with similar stack heights. I loved the ride but found them slow and soft given my no knee lift, heel striking stride. The challenge is to provide either enough forefoot flexibility for all that foam and/or create a rocker effect. Newer Hokas such as the Huaka and Clifton reviewed here have reduced their maximal forefoot  height somewhat and are now fantastically flexible fast and light, about the same weight as the Paradigm and even lighter for the Clifton. However, Hoka uppers are often not quite there in terms of fit and comfort for me. Don't get me wrong I will still reach for my Huakas when I want to go fast with super cushion, but for supreme comfort Paradigms will have a place in my rotation.

Altra hits it out of the park with the Paradigm creating a super cushioned,  supremely comfortable long run shoe.

  • The FootShape toe box allows my foot to splay spread out fully, yet I do not feel it is too wide as the midfoot upper hold is just snug enough with the lacing also effective. The overall upper is supremely comfortable, among the best or in fact the best for a long run trainer I have ever put on.  
    Altra Running Paradigm- FootShape

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Initial Review: adidas Terrex Boost- Trail Monster- But Can It Dance?

I spotted the adidas Terrex Boost at Outdoor Retailer as as Boost fan knew I had to learn more and try them.  The adidas Terrex Boost is in the Spring 2015 (release date) a 11.5 oz 325 gram 6mm drop mountain/trail running shoe. Women's weighs 9.9 oz 280 grams. Retail $160.  (Updated: confirmed production weight is 11.5 oz,)

I titled this review Trail Monster as on first sight this is one beefy shoe. Huge lugs,
adidas Terrex Boost
a substantial upper with overlays along the rand and toe, a shoe clearly design for rough trails, rocks, mud. The question in my mind was what would Boost, the TPU based high rebound midsole that I like so much in the adios boost racer on both roads and yes trails (review here), add to a dedicated trail shoe? I say adios Boost as close as I can tell the white Boost layer in the Terrex looks identical to the adios, at least in the forefoot and appears to sit on top of EVA that wraps up the sides. The orange Terrex and Boost logoed areas seen around the heel are a TPU based film (same material but thicker than the seamless overlays now seen so frequently on run shoes) support element. It wraps all the way around the heel. The orange TPU is not hard plastic but have some give when pressed and when running, clever.
adidas Terrex Boost

The speed laces are not my favorite way to keep a shoe snug and just right but clearly adidas has done some homework on these. Lots of friction when tightening, good. We'll see as cord wears if the friction stays. To lock, no goofy additional sliding piece as on for example the Hokas. A small black center button that as one holds the cincher is depressed. Takes considerable appropriate pressure to make it work. Cord is snug and slip free through the cincher, at least so far on new shoes.
adidas Terrex Boost
The lace tucks into a loop near the toes, no lace garage and a bit worried they might catch on branches or rocks if not wrapped around the lace loops.

The fit is roomy enough for my narrow foot with a substantial enough upper to prevent rolling of the fore and midfoot. It is quite narrow in the forefoot, especially in the area of the last quick lace loop and overlays. Strangely there is no heel counter, just soft leather like material with the heel sitting about half an inch down into the orange TPU collar. Didn't miss the heel counter except a bit on steep uphills when balancing on rocks. The TPU rear and outsole were plenty stable on downhills without the heel counter. The upper does not appear to be "water proof" or "weather resistant", and that's the way I like my uppers even in winter with the laminated rand (just above midsole) overlays protecting from shallow puddles.  With the exception of the 3 stripe midfoot bands and the overlays all the way around the outside where midsole meets upper  there are no seams or overlays whatsoever over the top of the foot all the way to the front. A very sock like fit using a rugged not overly heavy mesh, a good approach that felt great on the foot if a bit narrow upfront.

How do they run?
Apart from being heavier than I would liked my 7 mile run on a combination of rough, rocky rooty trails and smoother single track was confident, often an issue for this timid older runner on rough terrain. Yes, they ran a lot like the adios boost especially upfront, with a snappy toe spring just like the adios. They were very stable on the rough terrain, smooth and quick on the smoother gravel. Never noticed the lugs. I ran a small amount of pavement and while somewhat slappy noisy the Boost layer seemed to absorb the usual awkward presence of big lugs when running roads in such shoes. Will have to try more road miles to really confirm.

What will they be good for?
I plan to make these my winter foul weather snow running shoe. Boost has the characteristic of being less susceptible to changes in the cushioning in heat and cold so on a cold snowy day on the road the ride should be great.
Apart from winter these should make great mud running shoes and appear to be designed to be a competitor to the Salomon SpeedCross and FellRaiser among others. And I imagine they are also sensational on wet rock given the Continental rubber outsole and the big lugs. While not an ultra runner I imagine we'll see these on the feet of many Ultra folks come next year. For me they will be an everyday trail shoe, ready for just about anything along the way.
Those with wide feet or bunion problems may find the toe box too tight given the overlays.

Despite appearances Terrex Boost certainly can Dance!

See also my more recent post on 3 summer 2015 adidas Boost trail shoes:
Adizero XT Boost here
adidas Response Trail Boost here
Adistar Raven Boost  here.

See what's coming from adidas and others for trail and road in 2016 at our January 2016 Outdoor Retailer previews article here

Terrex Boost Available Now from at the links below. Your purchases support RoadTrailRun.

adidas Adizero XT Boost
adidas Response Trail Boost

adidas Adistar Raven Boost

Comparison Review: Hoka One One Clifton and Huaka

Hoka One One recently launched two fabulously light, super cushioned shoes: The Huaka and Clifton.  Having now run in both and reviewed the Huaka earlier here, where I called it the first "fast" Hoka,  I can say now having run in both,  that these close "cousins" are quite different in feel and even purpose.  Hoka's marketing theme is "Crazy Fast. Crazy Light. Crazy Does." and for sure marketing spin meets reality with these shoes, although I will quibble that the Huaka is for me a faster shoe than the Clifton. 

By the numbers
Huaka (9.3 oz/264g M9 , 2mm drop, 27mm heel/ 25mm forefoot, $150)
Clifton (7.7 oz/217g M9, 5mm, 29mm heel,/24mm forefoot, $130)
Both fit me true to my size 8.5 with the Huaka initially feeling a touch too roomy until I removed the speed laces.

The Huaka is a no compromises road and trail hybrid with an energetic and dynamic midsole (RMAT) with great rebound, decent support and traction for all but the roughest or muddiest trails.