Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Outdoor Retailer Winter 14: Hoka One One- No Longer Oversize means Overweight- New Huaka, Clifton, Mafate Speed

One of my very first stops at OR was at Hoka One One. I have followed Hoka since 2010 and tried multiple models along their journey swimming against the now receding"minimalist" tide.  With rising popularity and  funding and energy from new owner Deckers they do not disappoint with their fall 2014 offerings.

I focus here on 3 new models (Mafate Speed, Clifton, and Huaka), with the 11.8oz Conquest just now releasing with notes on other stalwarts such as the Stinson, Rapa Nui, and Bondi all receiving or having just received updates.

Mafate Speed
This is a brand new 12.8oz.version of the original Hoka, the Mafate.  The Mafate 3 (14.7oz) stays in the line. With a supportive Speed Frame upper and a durable RMAT (blue) outsole midsole with harder rubber patches over Hoka's CMEVA under foot this is the trail beast in the line.
Hoka One One Mafate Speed

Hoka One One Mafate Speed.
Update: Road Runner Sports reports the Mafate Speed will be available around July 1st, 2014 and can be pre-ordered now.

Update 7/14:  I have been running in the Huaka, over 100 miles of road and trail. Fantastic versatile, flexible, and light Hoka that is still... a Hoka with great and now responsive cushioning.
Review here.

A 2mm drop 8.9 oz racer/trainer  with the entire midsole made of the new RMAT material. A bit heavier than the Clifton which comes in at 7.9 oz so I am guessing the RMAT is a bit denser and heavier but more responsive. Likely takes away a bit of the mushy feeling at speed in Hokas.  Some patches of harder rubber. Technically a road shoe but with more than adequate lugs for most trails.  Sage Canaday a recent convert to Hokas, and one of the top ultra runners at less than 100 mile distances, just ran a 2:22 road marathon in Huakas to finish 2nd at the difficult Carlsbad Marathon. I believe a world record for Hoka shod marathoning.  While the drop is lower than I like,  I can't wait to try Huakas potentially retrofitting them replacing the flat insole with an insole with a bit more heel lift.

Hoka One One Huaka Outsole
 Note the deep carve outs in the outsole to reduce weight and increase flexibility.

Update: Boulder Running Company and Road Runner Sports (pre-order now) are showing the Huaka will be available very early July 2014

The Clifton will be "value" priced by Hoka standards at $130. Entire midsole is made of CMEVA. Remarkably light at 7.9 oz. 4mm heel toe drop.  This is the shoe I am most interested in as a long haul road runner and marathon shoe. The other "lightweight" Hokas the Bondi 3 and Rapa Nui 2 come in at 10.8 oz and they are fine shoes indeed.
Hoka One One Clifton

Hoka One One Clifton Outsole.
Update: Boulder Running Company and Road Runner Sports report Hoka One One Clifton will be available around July 1st, 2014.

My understanding is that the Mafate Speed, Huaka, and Clifton will launch for Fall 2014 so July.

Across the line common themes emerge:

  • RMAT a new midsole/outsole compound which has a bit of rubber in the mix for " increased rebound, better durability, and exceptional outsole grip." Full RMAT in the Huaka racer, partial RMAT outsole/midsole in the Mafate Speed and Conquest, rest of the midsole on these Hokas have Hoka's special EVA under the foot.  All other models including the new Clifton have different densities of Hoka's special EVA with Clifton having something really special in that department to achieve such a low weight
  • 3 kinds of meta-rocker or rocker profile. I finally understand this Hoka signature feature: 
    • early stage with the rocker "behind the met heads for a smoother ride and faster transition to the forefoot ( Mafate Speed, Conquest, Bondi 3, Huaka, Clifton, 
    • late stage with rocker in front of the met heads. "Designed to create a more stable base for forefoot support. More the Hoka "stability" shoe. ( Stinson Lite road and ATR trail, 
    • balanced stage meta rocker ( Mafate 3, Rapa Nui, Kailua) 
  • Speed Frame-a new kind of upper construction..
    • Speed Frame on newest models Stinsons, Huaka, Clifton,Conquest and Mafate Speed with more no seam thin overlays. I believe this upper is contributing to weight drops.
  • Lighter weight Hokas. Over sized geometry no longer means overweight. Due to the combination of new midsole and upper materials, Hokas are lighter across the board with the highlights the new EVA based Clifton at a remarkable 7.9 oz and the RMAT based Huaka 8.9 oz. Note also the big weight drops from Mafate 3 at 14.7 oz to  Mafate Speed 12.0z and Stinson Lite now 11 oz. 
  • Heel to toe drops remain in a very "natural" 4-5 mm with the Huaka coming in at 2 mm, so a very low drop entry.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Best of 2013: Trail and Road Running

Revelation of the Year: a variety in surfaces,  shoe heel toe drops, cushion and midsole geometries is what probably keeps our legs happiest, healthiest and fastest. Not really a revelation but many runners have in recent years been stuck on fads (minimal), orthodoxy(support stability), or the same shoe as always.

"Shoe" of the Year: not a shoe, but a midsole material, adidas Boost. 
Breaking away from the traditional EVA midsole, adidas emerged with a TPU material with great energy response, longevity, and less sensitivity to temperatures (hardening and softening). I ran most of my road miles in the adidas Energy as well as two marathons (review here) . Later in the year the adios Boost came out and it proved a fantastic speed racer/trainer (review here) with great road feel and snappy response without harshness.  While not a low drop shoe, at 10mm,  the adios was one of Pete Larson over at Runblogger favorites for 2013 coming in at #2. More Boost to come with the Glide Boost now on sale. (Energy and Glide Boost comparison here)

Brand of the Year: (tie) Hoka One One and Skechers. 
2013 was the year the super cushion of Hoka proved that not every run or runner is the same and that a super cushioned shoe for long miles or injuries is a great idea. I ran all my trail miles and many road miles in the Rapa Nui, a bit less Hoka and a fabulous all around hybrid (review here).

Out of nowhere, or even worse than nowhere, Skechers has emerged as a trail and road run brand with light, beautifully designed shoes, at a value price.  The results of listening closely to every day runners and iterating rapidly shows. Their GoRun Ultra is a versatile very light and well cushioned shoe equally at home at the road or the trail. The GoRun Ride 3 is a light, decently cushioned trainer in the mold of the Kinvara from Saucony but with a more stable forefoot and wide yet supportive upper (reviews here).

Hydration Gear of the Year: Ultraspire UltraViz Spry Vest. Honorable mention: Salomon Softflasks.
Couldn't make up my mind here on a specific item as each has a focused utility so going with UltraSpire as a line. The Spry UltraViz is a high visibility vest with enough room for a 1.1 liter bladder or small bottles, up front a phone, and some gels (review here). Can't be to visible these days on the roads so I have it on for just about every run. The Alpha is similar with more capacity. To come in 2014 the Titan 2.0 a pack with room to spare, deep bottle pockets for those Salomon 500ml softflasks I like so much and absolutely no bounce.

Jacket of the Year: Hands down, the NorthFace Better than Naked.
Very light, very breathable .An ideal, easy to stow running jacket for all but downpours (review here).

Short of the Year: Patagonia Strider Pro
With a 5" inseam and most importantly 2 hip stretch and one rear zip pocket these were my go to shorts all year. Well designed all around with no bounce or sag when pockets are loaded. In 2014 the Strider Pro gets even better with 5 pockets.

Sock of the Year: Ashmei trail socks.
I got three pairs of Ashmei  trail socks this spring and they are the only socks I have worn since then, running and otherwise. None the worse for wear Merino and Carbon blend. Comfortable in all conditions. All of Ashmei run apparel is of outstanding quality and functionality if a bit pricey. Well worth it.

Run Tech of the Year: Magellan Echo Watch combined with iSmoothRun app for iOS.
Finally a way to harness the processing power of the iPhone and apps without fumbling with the phone or worrying about battery life and synching of the watch to computer.  The internet of things is here. The Echo Watch receives the data from the app and also serves as a controller for start, pause, music, laps, etc... The iSmoothrun app provides a wealth of options for training and synchs the data on multiple screens flawlessly to the watch. The app is being continuously improved. (review here)

Accessory of the Year: Orange Mud Transition Wrap
Super practical combination quick change wrap and car seat cover. No more sweaty car seats (review here).

I welcome your personal Best Lists and Comments here!

Friday, January 03, 2014

adidas Glide Boost Compared to adidas Energy Boost

adidas continues to roll out its non-EVA Boost material to more shoes.  Boost seems to combine cushion with just the right firmness and energy return response. For me the Boost material was the innovation of the year in running, even if the initial Energy shoe had an upper many didn't like and was a bit stiff and overly directed.  The Energy was my goto road shoe all year including problem free, blister free Boston and St George Marathons (review here).
adidas energy boost.

Then came the incredible Adios Boost racer.
adidas adios boost

I reviewed them last year and finally got them on an indoor track for a 2 x 5K tempo last night. Even an old slow poke like me can run fast and feel great in what I told my friends at the track are the "world's fastest shoes",worn by multiple major marathon winners this year. Smiles ear to ear for me and a bit of envy from the friends in their Mizuno and Pegasus... slower boats. Pete Larson over at Runblogger called them his #2 shoe of the year, despite the greater than usual for him 10mm heel to toe drop.

Next up and just out the Supernova Glide Boost.

Supernova Glide Boost Source:
Supernova Glide Boost Source:

I tried a pair on at a local running store side by side with the Energy and noticed immediate differences
  • wider toe box with a soft mesh and welded overlays instead of the stretch tech fit fabric that bothered some.
  • the rest of the upper seems at bit old tech with stitching and heavy looking overlays. 
  • less "spring" and stiffness to the forefoot flex than Energy, a good thing for a trainer.  A smoother, more continuous flex due to removal of front plastic Torsion strips and use of EVA near the toe. Under the instep the Torsion plastic seems to be more substantial for a bit more stability.
  • a wider more continuous coverage of Continental rubber outsole especially in the forefoot. My sense is a bit less forefoot Boost midsole thickness when compared to the Energy for a firm yet cushioned  ride upfront, sitting between the Energy and Adios. Not quite as rigidly directed as the Energy, a good thing in my view. 
  • a bit of an EVA bumper, the white above the blue in the picture for a I think a bit more seating of the foot, but also some additional weight.
  • an obvious issue and sad is that  the overall weight is higher than the Boost at 10.3 oz vs 9.3 oz Men's size 9. Quite frankly  a shoe like this should weigh less than 10 oz.  The weight is likely due the heavy mid foot overlays, the bumper, and the additional rubber outsole material.
  • Price for Glide Boost $130 vs. Energy Boost $150
I hope to run some serious long miles in a pair of the Glide soon. Thinking they might be an ideal Boston shoe. That is is if adidas doesn't come out with a Boost version of their Boston shoe soon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Skechers GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra

GoRun Ultra

GoRun Ride 3
Through a referral from Pete Larson at RunBlogger I was recently introduced to Skechers. They sent me the  GoRun Ultra, a cushioned trail runner also suitable for roads and GoRun Ride 3, a light weight trainer. Disclosure: The Ultras and GoRun Ride 3 were provided to me free of charge for the purpose of the review.

OK, you might snicker a bit Skechers, right. Well hang on a moment. As a bit of a run shoe snob, I have been watching with growing interest what they have been up to. Skechers over the last few years has built a Performance Division and a line of trail and road shoes the right way:
  • They have a free reign to innovate from the parent company
  • Top notch designs that make no outlandish claims and use innovative light materials
  • Signed America's top current marathoner the venerable Meb Keflezghi(4th at the last Olympic Marathon in his Skechers)... after Nike let the "old guy" go.
  • Provide value with reasonably priced top level shoes. The 2 models reviewed retail for $80.
  • A commitment to be nimble, to rapidly respond to the consumer ( check out their response to questions online), and to iterate shoes rapidly through feedback from on the run testing with a variety of runners, a crowd sourcing of design improvements  As a shoe geek I know this is true from the many comments on line from non star runners who have been involved in this process. In fact, they are also going to let me join the new product testing fun and my initial feedback has been responded to by their VP Technical Development. 
  • A goal to "make the most enjoyable shoes possible", above all else.
The Results/The Shoes
After all that what really counts is where the rubber or foam hits the road. As part of this review I was able to interview the Skechers VP Performance Division Technical Development to get insights into the design philosophy and the how's and why's of what I felt while running in GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra.

GoRun Ride 3
The Ride 3 is a  8.4 oz M9, 6.5 oz W7 road trainer with a 4mm heel toe drop w/o sock liner and 8mm with sock liner inserted. Midsole stack height without insole is 13mm forefoot, 19mm mid foot, 17 mm heel. Retail $80.
GoRun Ride 3
GoRun Ultra
The Ultra is a M9  9.1 oz, W7 7.1 oz, 4 mm drop  trail and road trainer with a 4mm heel toe drop w/o sock liner or 8mm with sock liner inserted. Midsole stack height without insole is 23mm forefoot, 30 mm mid foot, 27 mm heel. Retail $80.
GoRun Ultra
Common Shared Themes & Differences 

Upper and Fit:
While the materials vary a bit, both shoes have a very comfortable easy to lace hold on the mid foot area. I usually fuss a lot getting the right lacing pressure but with both shoes the upper wraps smoothly from toe to lace tie. I think this is part due to the use of a non stretch nylon on the sides of the upper up to the lace eyelets on either side, sidewalls if you will, that maintain the foot on the midsole and direct the stride in the direction of travel. Both shoes have a very soft stretchy mesh on top of the toes forward of the last laces, far to soft for an entire forefoot but just right to allow the foot to splay in the wide toe box and due to the sidewalls of non stretch material without the sloppiness of the hold of the foot to midsole I find in shoes such as Kinvara.

The Ultra has a conventional heel counter to provide more stability on off counter trails. The Ride 3 has no heel counter at all just a bit of a rise of the midsole to wrap the heel. I was concerned about this but don't miss the heel counter at all. Additionally, the tongue is part of the upper on the Ultra, similar in construction to the adidas energy boost. This helps the whole upper to come together over the foot, keeps the tongue from sliding to the lateral side and help prevents dirt and debris from sneaking in.

Interestingly in this day and age of welded, taped upper construction the uppers on both are stitched with substantial overlays that seemingly do not create a weight penalty or a fit problem. It's all a very careful balance of design, materials, and construction that comes together "seamlessly" in my view.
Both fit me true to my size 8.5, maybe a bit big especially on the Ultra.

Midsole and Outsole: 
Essentially the midsole is the outsole on both shoes.
GoRun Ride 3 Outsole
The Ride 3 has some small circular rubber outsole wear patches, the Ultra none.
GoRun Ultra Outsole

Skechers believes that large harder rubber outsoles patches or lugs can interfere with the stride's natural state and can cause pressure points as would have the inclusion of a rock plate on the Ultra. Instead both shoes have round pods with Ultra also  having triangular lugs around the outside perimeter. I have found the ride incredibly smooth and quiet in both shoes. I never felt I was landing on a particular pod even on the deep pods and lugs of the Ultra.

The geometry of both is what Skechers calls convex leading to a mild rocker. This means that while the heel/toe drop without the insole is 4mm the midsole is actually 2-3mm higher under the midfoot at what Skechers calls the M-Strike. This similar to what Pearl Izumi does with their E:Motion line but in the case of Skechers they do not rely on a gap under the toe area to create the rocker effect or have a steep slope up of the forefoot as Hoka does. Think of this rocker as at the top of the midsole level and not at the outsole level, a key difference from the other two "rockers". The higher mid foot is not noticeable standing.

Both shoes are finished with insole fabric under where one typically finds an insole/sockliner. They are also supplied with a conventional molded sock liner. . I have not tried to run barefoot in either shoe. This means the runner can chose to go without the insole for a 4 mm drop shoe or use the insole to add a net of 4mm of drop or a total of 8mm heel to toe and a bit more cushioning and stability. The sock liner is 3mm thick at the toe and 7mm thick at the heel. A nice touch to provide such drop flexibility. All my runs have been with the sock liner in as I prefer a 6-8 mm drop shoe

GoRun Ultra Midsole
I was concerned that New England rocky,  rooty trails might be painful in the Ultra given the lack of either a rock plate or an outer sole per say but this has not been the case. The advantage of this design along with deep lugs and grooves in the Ultra midsole is that the front of the shoe is flexible and agile while also being more than adequately cushioned and stable for all but the most technical trails. It turns out the gray midsole material the Resagrip is quite dense, maybe close to the density of  Pearl Izumi's overly firm (in my view)  midsole, but in the Ultra the firm midsole/outsole close to the ground is overlaid with a softer midsole material, the black material in the picture,. This material also serves as a bumper to hold the foot onto the footbed on twisty surfaces, a bit of a less extreme version of Hoka's "bucket seat". I think the bumper could be a touch more accentuated or the upper wrap a bit more under the forefoot for a bit more forefoot hold on very technical trails.

The Ultra had great grip on snow, leaves, and rock. And then miracle of miracles, on the road it is as smooth and "lug and slap free" as any road shoe with a very cushioned yet not mushy ride.

I am a bit concerned by long term wear of the soft outsole in road usage, one lug at the heel is wearing fast. Skechers suggests that the natural pattern of my stride asks for this pod to wear faster until I achieve a balance. I have seen accelerated wear in other shoes in particular places on the outsole then far less after a certain mileage. Like any design choice, the decision to not have hard rubber wear areas is a fine balance of feel, weight, and longevity. For now I am going with it.

The Ride has a single density midsole, in my view close in firmness to that of the Kinvara but softer than E:Motions but with a far more stable landing and takeoff due to the combination of supportive upper,wide stance, and rounded tightly spaced pods instead of sharp angled soft lugs. The circular pods are not noticeable when running. I have taken runs as long as 12 miles in the Ride with no unusual leg pains and certainly no blisters.

Time to Run and Conclusions

To date I have 35 152 miles of trail and road in the Ultra and 20 miles of road in the Ride 3. I have a hard time selecting which to run roads in: the smooth cushioned yet flexible Ultra or the faster sure footed Ride. It has been very cold here in NH , 15 F and below but I have been pleased that the midsoles do not seem to get as hard as most in these temperatures.

One thing is for sure the trail Ultra with its great cushioning, light weight, and flexibility. It runs as well as any road trainer or even light weight trainer. Very, very versatile addition to my rotation and one that has quickly replaced the adidas energy boost and Hoka Rapa Nui as my long run shoe on any surface. My only concern is outsole durability but keep in mind the price is also right for the Ultra, $80. Given that the Ultra is only 0.6 oz heavier than the Ride, and well under 10oz, such a combination of cushion and light weight is very appealing for not only trail Ultras but as a marathon shoe for a hilly course. Clearly a worthy competitor to Hoka in the very cushioned category, without the "clown shoe" look. The Ultra is also competition to the slightly heavier but far stiffer adidas energy boost that has been my favorite road shoe this year due to the boost material.

The Ride 3 is a solid lighter weight trainer with a great smooth feel. Its strong points are more than adequate cushioning,light weight, and great value. I will certainly be considering it for my Boston this spring as well as for races 10K and up.

All in all I am very impressed with Skechers Performance Division shoes and can't wait for more innovation and tuning of the products as time goes on.

Another review of the Ultra by Nate Sanel over on Runblogger. Has more photographs than mine and is well done and complete.

You can support my blog by purchasing the Skechers reviewed at the links below.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground SG - Castleberg Outdoors Review

Castleberg Outdoors in the UK has just posted a video review of S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground. I first saw and posted about  this deeply lugged version of the Sense at this past summer's Outdoor Retailer. Looks like a great choice for snow and mud running.

Castleberg is saying they will have limited stock in January. I have ordered from Castleberg in the past and it has been a smooth and fairly reasonably priced way to buy product not yet available in the US. Not sure yet if US retailers will have January stock but suspect some may.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Canadian Running Magazine: Great Sneak Peak of 2014 Running Shoes from The Running Event

Through a tip from Patrick over on the Running Geeks Facebook group I see Canadian Running has a great preview, with pictures, of 2014 run shoes.

Source: Canadian Running Magazine

The trend seems to be towards more cushion a la Hoka with Brooks Pure Flow, Pearl Izumi N2 Trail, and NF Hybrid Trail Road all appearing to show more stack height.

Adidas is moving all its running shoes to Boost material. I have reviewed the original Energy Boost here and Adios Boost here and they are fabulous shoes in large part due to their innovative midsoles. The Boston and Glide Boosts look particularly good with the Glide Boost appearing to dispense with the EVA/Boost sandwich of the first version just now coming on sale.

Skechers, an up and coming performance brand, is showing a road trail hybrid version of their Ultra. I am running in the trail Ultra and finding it a strong performer on the road, as is. Review soon.

New Balance is showing a trail version of its Fresh Foam for this summer. I got a sneak peak this summer of the road version here that looked particularly neat which should be out this spring.

Altra is showing a very stripped down racing flat and a super cushioned zero drop shoe.

No pictures of upcoming Hokas. but over on another Running Geeks post I saw 2 new models the Clifton and Huaki for later in 2014, both under 10 oz size 9 US, a first for Hoka. They appear to be using the sole geometry of the soon to launch Conquest, preview here.

You can see the gallery over at Canadian Running here

Monday, December 02, 2013

Winter Gift Guide for Runners

OrangeMud Transition and Seat Wrap
Every runner can use one of these handy quick change and car seat cover OrangeMud Transition Wraps. Super soft terry towel material.  I love mine, review here. MSRP $39.95. While you are at Orange Mud check out there HydraQuiver no bounce bottle pack reviewed here.

OrangeMud Transition Wrap

Helly Hansen Warm
I received a free sample Helly Hansen Warm top at Outdoor Retailer last year and it was my go to run and ski top in the heart of last winter.
Helly Hansen Warm Odin Top
Helly Hansen has created a 2 layer fabric of hollow fabric Lifa polypropylene on the inside and merino wool on the outside with no sense that there are actually two layers. The inner layer keeps you dry and the outer wool layer keeps you warm and evaporates the moisture.  Even on relatively warm days it stayed comforatable The poly pro, unlike the Lifa of old is very stink proof. Available in many styles for men and women. Fits snug. MSRP $100.

Wool Cap
When it is not to cold for a full hat but cool enough to want to keep the head warm there is nothing like a wool cycling cap. I have the Ibex Muni Reflective Cap, $45. Made of a thin felted wool, including the brim, it provides good wind protection and wicks very well. The brim also shields a bit from winter sun. Style is a bit less run and a bit more urban cool.
Ibex Muni Reflective Cap

WildThings Custom Made to Order Jackets
Create a truly unique gift. I just posted about these custom made to order jackets for men and women at very reasonable prices. Pick fabric, colors (for shell, zippers, liner, cuffs, pockets) , add features such as hood or pocket, personalize all for $229 for the Insulight model.  Order by Dec.6 and receive in 14 days. Made in the USA.

WildThings Made to Order Jackets

UltrAspire Spry Vest
Give a gift of safety with the UltraViz Spry Race Vest, review here. High visibility and just enough carrying capacity for everyday longer runs. MSRP $55.
UltraSpire Ultra Viz Spry

Ashmei Socks and Merino Sweatshirt Full Zip Hoody

Finally some "luxe" run items where incredible quality, unique modern design, and innovative materials all come together. Ashmei is a UK company producing run clothing and accessories from "bespoke" materials, mostly merino and merino carbon blend fabrics unique and thus, bespoke or custom to Ashmei in Brit speak.

I got a 3 pack (approx. $54)  of the Trail Run socks at a review discount earlier this year. They also have a road run lighter weight models as well as short versions of both.
Ashmei Trail Socks
I have run in the socks as well as worn them literally every day use since then. They are wearing better and feel better than any sock I have ever had and have had no blisters or damp feet  and this in varied conditions from heat to cold. The Carbon fibers help move moisture better than any other element.

I also have their Merino Sweatshirt.
Ashmei Merino Sweatshirt
This $163 approx. full zip hooded sweatshirt has proved incredible versatile in varying conditions. A bit heavier than a tech shirt with a bit of stretch, smooth on the outside and a with a bit of texture to the inside,  it features a great hood, both thumb holes and a built in mitts, a hip pocket that holds a iPhone 5 with rear cord port, cord holder by the neck, small ipod or gel pocket in the rear and gripper silicone tape along the hem. Modern styling and available in men's and women's versions.
Ashmei ships to the US.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wild Things Custom, Reasonably Priced Mountain Jackets-Order by Dec 6, Receive your own design 14 days later. Made in the USA

This is one of the coolest ideas I have seen in a while, custom reasonably priced mountaineering jackets from your mouse to your door in 14 days.

Wild Things was started in the early '80's in the Conway NH area by alpinists looking for gear to tackle "The World's Worst Weather." Simple, well made and burly I remember Wild Things as the no frills, no surf vibe New England country cousin of Patagonia.  In recent years,  with a move to Rhode Island, Wild Things, has been a premier supplier of custom mountain and cold weather gear to the military. All Made in USA.

I received an email yesterday promoting their Insulight custom jackets for $229, 2 other styles also available. Order by December 6 and receive your made to order jacket by Christmas
WildThings Custom Styles

The incredible thing about the Insulight is that you get to pick from

  • 3 fabrics, 
  • 5 or more kinds and weights of PrimaLoft insulation, 
  • multiple colors for the jacket, cuffs, side panels, liner, zippers, and optional chest pocket; 
  • with our without hood and personalized with your name. 
  • all for $229!
An incredible example of how US industry can compete on flexibility and speed.

Here is snapshot of what I was cooking up. Have fun making your own! Suggest if it is a gift you collaborate with the giftee!
WildThings- Building my Own

Friday, November 29, 2013

Exhaustive List of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Running Deals from Runblogger and a Time Out to live by, Worn Wear

My friend Pete Larson over at Runblogger has compiled an exhaustive list of running oriented deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday here. Shopping via Pete's site helps support his incredible work to help us understand the science behind running.

Also please support my good friends Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks by shopping through their definitive source for ultrarunning at

You can support my blog by shopping via the links at the right.

While this is a season for "deals" please consider only buying what you and yours really need. The tried, true, and well built are still good for many years. As a gear nut this is sometimes tough to live by.  I have a circa 1985 Patagonia running jacket, still going strong and useful.  At the link a wonderful video from Patagonia:  Worn Wear: A Film about the Stories we Wear. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why I Run. A Few Words

I recently posted a link to the wonderful Salomon video featuring Bernd Heinrich: Why We Run

Why I Run

With Nature
Fresh Air
To Compete
Daily Anchor
...To Rest

Why Do You Run? 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Review Magellan Echo Watch and iSmoothrun: Connecting SmartPhone Run Apps to your Wrist

I have been much intrigued by the Magellan Echo run watch (MSRP $149, $199 with HR strap) since it was announced at Outdoor Retailer. The last year I have been running with Strava on my iPhone as I love how it aggregates all my runs, elevations, segment performances, and friends activities. I only pay attention to stats after the run as I stash the phone and the audio cues can sometimes be hard to hear. When racing I use my Nike+GPS in parallel to keep closer track of pacing and time. Duplication.

Essentially the Echo watch acts as a display and controller for popular fitness apps including my social favorite Strava, as well as RunKeeper, Wahoo Fitness and my new favorite iSmoothrun ($4.99 Apple App store). The Echo transmits data and controls from your phone to your wrist.

I tested all 4 and they work fine with varying degrees of flexibility as to what can be displayed on the watch from a single static screen of distance, time, and average pace currently for Strava to literally dozens of options for iRunsmooth including cadence (from accelerometer) that can be configured to appear on multiple screens.All the apps supported also include basic phone music controls accessible from watch buttons.

Magellan very cleverly leverages the GPS on the phone, its processing power and internal and external low power sensors (accelerometers, HR, foot pod, etc...), as well as low energy Bluetooth LE Smart communications  built into increasing powerful phones that fitness apps take advantage of. In the future I believe, as we all are so reliant on our phones, that these "dumber" smart watches that act as displays and controllers will become far more prevalent than standalone,  complex and expensive GPS watches.

The more minimal approach of what the watch is asked to do reduces the battery requirements of the watch. The Echo is rated to last 6-12 months on a single standard watch battery. Update: I have used the Echo 6 days a week with all runs in cold weather since early November. March 1st the battery died. I estimate I got about 140 hours of live run time life or 4 months out of the Echo battery which I feel is excellent due to the low temperatures it was subjected to on every run. It also reduces the weight and complexity of the watch. No charging! Synching of data is via the phone as the watch essentially records nothing beyond what is is supposed to display.

Communications of data from your fitness app to the watch face is via Bluetooth.  Command of the app is via buttons on the watch:  Start/Pause, instant audio interval (from phone) for iRunSmooth multiple data elements configurable from the app,  a backlight, and basic music controls. Screens are scrolled by tapping the watch face, a bit fussy but functional.
Start up and synch is very reliable and fast. No looking for satellites as the phone already knows where they are. All the watch and apps are doing is opening a communications channel to each other.

Open the app. Put your phone away. Press the top left button on the watch to connect to the phone. Press the bottom right button of the watch to start and pause the workout. Tap the watch face firmly to scroll between data screens. When the workout is complete press the bottom right pause button. When you can take the phone out and end the workout. No fumbling to get at your phone to stop, pause or do intervals.

The only thing I would like to see on the watch that is not included for now is vibration alert capabilities ( although Echo does beep when it synchs to iSmoothRun so some audio alert capability is available)  and standard alarm watch buzzing. At this point only iPhones from the 4S on are supported by the Echo watch or any app above due to their consistent use of the Bluetooth Smart LE required to communicate with the watch.  Androids are hit or miss at this point as not many support Bluetooth Smart LE yet.

Instead of a full review here of the Echo I refer you to DC Rainmaker's excellent and exhaustive review of the Echo and the supported fitness apps.
Also see Pete Larson's excellent review at I introduced Pete to the Magellan iSmoothRun combination last year.

I was planning on only reviewing the watch but when I stumbled upon iSmoothRun (iOS only at this time) and given the magic is really in combining the phone app and the watch here is a further introduction to iSmoothRun with a focus on its strong interval capabilities.

It works seamlessly with the Echo watch. It is the most full featured run app I have used with outstanding flexibility as to what you can display on the watch and app and logging of data. Everything from temperature, wind chill, stride length, cadence, splits, HR, and on and on.

You can easily set up 5 custom screens on the watch via the app with any of the many data elements captured by the app displayed.

Pete Larson of video tapes my run gait in super slo mo and invites you to be the analyst

I am a video star (dubious on the star part). Pete Larson editor of the very popular, and a renowned gait analysis scientist,  invited me over to his place in Concord NH  for a video gait analysis. Pete has left academia and among other things is doing gait analysis at Performance Health Spine and Sports Therapy. He has posted the videos of my running form, if you can call it that, in super slo mo... on his site, and invites analysis of my gait.... He gave me his analysis (secret for the moment)  and now is inviting that "You be the Gait Analyst." I do want to,  and think I can, run faster if I work on some things.

Here it the link to his post, complete with multiple videos of my running form. I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Salomon Video: "Why We Run". And Why I Run.

Wonderful Salomon video featuring the wisdom and emotion of Bernd Heinrich, a retired UVM comparative physiology professor and holder of numerous US ultra running records. Shot in remote Maine, where he lives, with film of Bernd's past races as well as incredible running and Maine scenery he captures and describes the essence of Why We Run.

"Running is about extreme movement. Running is about movement. Movement is life."
"How much little things matter. And how far they take you. The essential thing is to run, period. For a long time, consistently.  And then everything takes care of itself."

"We're basically all runners"

Monday, November 04, 2013

NYTimes Well Blog: What is your Fitness Age? A Simple Calculator

Now here is some fun. The NY Times Well blog recently wrote how  researchers in Norway after extensive testing came up with a simple on line calculator  to estimate your VO2 max and "fitness age."

"The researchers evaluated almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, using mobile labs. They took about a dozen measurements, including height, body mass index, resting heart rate, HDL and total cholesterol levels. Each person also filled out a lengthy lifestyle questionnaire. Finally, each volunteer ran to the point of exhaustion on a treadmill to pinpoint his or her peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age."

The simple questions they came up with, and my answers:
Gender: M
Resting heart rate: 51
Age: 56
Intensity, length and frequency of exercise: hard, more than 30 minutes, exercise almost every day
Waist line: 85cm
Results : VO2Max 55, Fitness Age: 25

The calculator is here.

What's your fitness age? 
Do you think this approach is valid? 
Share here if you wish and also include a recent marathon or half marathon time.

Review: Orange Mud No Bounce HydraQuiver Single Bottle Run Pack.

We all struggle with the best way to carry an adequate amount of water and supplies (gels, phone, light jacket) for those 1 to 3 hour runs. Some such as yours truly, prefer not to carry bottles in hand, are bothered by tight belts and bouncing bottles, hate to fiddle and twist while grabbing bottles on the run while others find that race vests chafe or are uncomfortable.

The Orange Mud HydraQuiver is an ideal solution to all these issues.  Instead of carrying water on the waist or wrapping around the front with pockets on the chest as some vests do, the HydraQuiver puts its included 24 oz water bottle high in the middle of your shoulder blades. No bounce.  Very easy to grab  to grab the bottle and then replace into a nice stiff holster.
Orange Mud: Hydra Quiver

Orange Mud: Hydra Quiver

The HydraQuiver is more than a bottle carrier, it's also a great little run pack. Read on for the details.