Latest Running Shoe, Gear, and Apparel

By clicking on the "Latest Running Shoe, Gear, and Apparel..." here you can see a list of my recent reviews and articles organized by category.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Annual "Active Spectating" at the SpeedGoat 50K at Snowbird UT with Photo Album

I was lucky enough to be recruited by Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks of iRunFar to help with coverage of the SpeedGoat 50K at Snowbird. I was joined by Park City running friends Jason and Stuart. We left the base and fast hiked over Hidden Peak at dawn.
Gad Valley at dawn
Our post was at the bottom of Mineral Basin, the Larry's Hole aid station. The runners came through Larry's twice at about 10 and 20 miles.
Jason and Stuart Ready to Report for

And the real Larry was there running a first rate aid station with anything a runner could want on a day that turned hot for the slower runners.

Larry and his crew took care of everyone!
Sage Canaday (Hoka) reaching for his bottle to refill at this cup free race.

Sage Canaday took the $1000 prime for first over the top of Hidden Peak at about 8 miles and led the rest of the way in a commanding performance. He was wearing the Hoka Huaka I like so much and reviewed here. He was hard to catch on film or on foot. So fast!

Kasie Enman (Salomon) 
Kasie Enman, a world mountain champ from Vermont, in her first Ultra, came through Larry's in the lead at 10 and 20 but in the end the incomparable Anna Frost from New Zealand took the win.

Anna Frost (Salomon)

Working her way through the field, ultra road specialist Ellie Greenwood moved up to take 3d place.

Kasie Enman (Montrail)

Many runners had a neat temp course elevation tattoo 

Back at the top of Hidden Peak we found this wild Red Bull truck. Red Bull is a sponsor of the race. We got some... 
Ultra legend and Race Director Karl Meltzer and Sage Canaday at the finish
Many more pictures at this iCloud Album. (125 pictures)
iRunFar's results coverage here

My 2013 SpeedGoat 50K post here
My 2012 SpeedGoat 50K post here 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Summer Run "Cooling" Tech: Adidas Climachill is Truly Effective

I tend to sweat a lot and have often struggled in the heat. Over the years I have tried several technologies that claim to "cool". Here adidas Climachill is in my view a true innovation, maybe on par with the Boost run shoe midsoles I like so much. The way I understand it there are two ways to cool or provide a sense of cooling: accelerating evaporation from the body and fabric or conducting heat away from the body.
adidas Climachill Men's Tee
First a bit of science on how it may be possible to cool or provide a sensation of cooling
There are 3 ways to accelerate evaporation:

  • the structure of the fabric fibers and  then the make-up of the garment with the trick to have as much surface area as possible in contact with the body to evaporate moisture.
  • use of printed polymers that absorb and dissipate moisture, Columbia Freeze Zero and related Mountain Hardwear Way to Cool use this approach. I find they tend to work better in dry climates tending to get overwhelmed in very humid conditions.
  • use of carbon in the fibers as carbon absorbs the least moisture of any element, Cocona such as found in the Salomon Sense Tank and Sense Shorts (review here). Ashmei  with a blend of carbon and merino which I have found incredibly effective in socks and not so much in clothing in warmer temperatures.
To conduct heat away from the body "metal" with a high thermal conductivity blended into the fiber or as overlays make the most sense but not so much to turn one into a baked potato.

I recently purchased an adidas Climachill Tee Shirt. The results in hot humid NH weather have been by far the best of anything I have tried including the Way to Cool, Salomon with Cocona, and Ashmei Carbon tank.  A distinctly cooler feeling especially with any kind of breeze.

adidas Climachill is made up of 3 cooling components both conductive and evaporative.

  • The cooling spheres are printed on the inside of the garment and provide a pleasant but small cooling sensation. Do they conduct a significant amount of heat away? Not sure.
  • The SubZero fabric yarn fibers are claimed to be flat thus increasing contact with the skin and surface. The shirt is a very fine mesh. I feel a distinct cooling coverage, even at the end of a long run in the full sun. I truly believe this mesh is pulling away moisture and providing evaporative cooling far more effectively than anything else I have tried.
  • Further "titanium" is somehow blended with the fabric to conduct away heat.  Hard to judge this one but on my latest run in 80 F heat and 70% humidity I felt far cooler than with any other alternative. 
Here is how the adidas Climachill press release describes the last 2 points:

Using evaporation and conduction methods together for the first time, the ground-breaking SubZero flat yarn contains titanium and is woven throughout the inside of each article of clothing. Flat yarn has more surface area than traditional yarns, which enables it to transfer heat away from your body.
Lighter colors are less heat absorbent. I got white. 
Update: I ran a half in UT in sunny but not overly hot weather this morning wearing the Climachill. Superb comfort and noticeable cooling effect with out the wet shirt feeling overly soggy and heavy, especially near the end when temps rose. 
I also purchased a size medium and it too is long. I think the length is intentional as it provides more evaporative area and tends to keep shorts a bit dryer. The upper fit on the medium is quite slim but not too tight. 

Highly Recommended!

Climachill is available in men's a women's styles for running, golf, and tennis. The Climachill Tee I bought on sale at Holabird Sports retails for $45. The complete collection from adidas is here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Initial Review: Hoka One One Huaka- It's Here... a Fast, Flexible, Light, Responsive Hoka

The Hoka One One Huaka is an 8.9 oz (252 grams) men's US 9, 7.5 oz (213 grams) women US 8 hybrid road and trail racer trainer. Huaka breaks the convention that Hoka cushion means a super cushy, even mushy shoe that is hard to run fast. The Huaka has a 2mm heel to toe drop with a height of 25mm in the forefoot and 27mm at the heel. Retail $150. (Disclosure: I purchased these shoes at retail.)

Hoka went hard and alone against the "minimal" run shoe grain with oversized super cushy midsoles. As the dust settled on the barefoot, near barefoot craze Hoka had created a growing market for super cushioned shoes and now lighter and a bit less "maximal" shoes. I previewed the Summer 2014 Hokas here and while the 7.9 oz Clifton road shoe also launching now looked tempting I really wanted to try the new and supposedly more responsive RMAT midsole material of the Huaka.
Hoka One One Huaka-Men
Hoka One One Huaka-Women's

RMAT Midsole
The Huaka is light, flexible, and with the new RMAT midsole responsive and fast. Since the very first Hokas I have been waiting for this shoe having tried pretty much every model. The Rapa Nui reviewed here got close but at speed didn't quite have the pop due to their softness to make me want to race in them on the road and felt somewhat unstable in the forefoot on downhill trails. Hoka is also launching the Clifton a somewhat lighter shoe for roads with a more traditional CMEVA midsole. I wanted to try the RMAT as I heard it was firmer and more responsive.

Lightly lugged but with wide ground contact, Huaka can find a home on both the roads and most trails. The harder rubber wear patches are in my view perfectly placed with the outsole appearing to have 3 different densities of rubber with the gray the densest. The cutouts lighten the shoe and improve flexibility.

What is not lost is the characteristic superb  Hoka cushioning now expressed in the somewhat firmer and bouncier new RMAT foam.

A more "natural" running shoe, in that it has a 2mm heel to toe drop vs. more conventional 10mm plus it did not, as pretty much any shoe of less than 4mm drop does for me, have that the "heel" was missing  feeling when I got tired.

I ran Mt Washington Road Race, all uphill Saturday, receiving the Huaka while at the race and ran the BAA 10K in the Huaka the next day in Boston, right out of the box. They were superb. No PR on tired legs but felt smooth striding from heel to toe and responsive at speed. The smoothness was somewhat similar to the Pearl Izumi N1 Trail, but with far more cushion in the forefoot in particular. Probably not my first choice for a 5K or 10K, where I often go for the adidas adios boost with its soft heel and firm forefoot but certainly a great option for a half or full marathon, particularly if the course is hilly. I like a firm stable forefoot and while the Huaka has 25mm of foam in the forefoot, far more than my adios boost with their 13mm, I did not find them either unstable or slow responding. Today I took them out for a recovery run, no soreness from the prior day's race even though I was 15 so seconds slower than my usual pace. I ended up faster than the usual post race plod. Quite remarkable.

How would I characterize the cushion? Somewhere between the bouncy energetic adidas boost material and the firm yet a bit harsh New Balance Fresh Foam. This tells me, and top trail runners such as Sage Canaday, 3d at Mount Washington in his Huaka Saturday as well as many trail podiums prove, that they will also be a fantastic platform on the trails for the agile.
The rocker when combined with the flexibility, and they feel to me  a bit more flexible than the Rapa Nui, makes this a shoe that will climb the steeps better than the conventional Hokas such as Mafate and Stinson. These last two put a premium of driving up, lifting with the knee when slope exceeds the stiff sole's rocker. While I have not yet been on the trails I suspect the firmer RMAT will make them more stable than the Rapa Nui, which are somewhat mushy unstable in the forefoot on downhills.

The upper is a very fine mesh with multiple thin welded on overlays. No seams except at the front of the laces.  The fine mesh will keep out dust for sure. The overlays are very thin and I have some concern about their durability on rough trails, not as much for the roads but time will tell. This is after all a racing Hoka. I noted that even though I dried them overnight after the 10K race, where I did dump some water on my head, they were still damp the next morning.  I would not call the outside mesh particularly pliable or soft and it is a bit "baggy" in the front midfoot when standing, not noticeable on the run and I think just a function that the upper is somewhat plastic-y stiff in texture.
This said the upper wraps the foot just fine if a bit loosely in the heel area even with the speed laces which I do not particularly care for. I often find myself fiddling with them to get the right tightness. The shoe is also supplied with standard laces which I think I will install I have now installed, better wrap as a result. The upper is supportive but is more minimal in its support overlays than many trail shoes have. While I have not been on trails yet I would call it an upper for smoother trails or agile runners on rougher trails.

The midsole has holes as does the sockliner. I do not see "drains" to the outside.  

Sockliners can affect fit and I found the Huaka's fit me true to size, maybe a quarter to half size big with a small amount of heel slippage only when walking, may be due to the sockliner or potentially the heel collar being a bit wide and the tongue being un padded at the top. Hoka has told me that other retail pairs will come with a slightly thicker sockliner, the included one being among the thinnest I have ever seen. I think this will make the fit perfect for me. I have tried a thicker insole from another shoe which does improve fit.

Characteristic Hoka One One cushion and geometry in a go fast, low drop (2mm), low weight (8.9oz) trainer racer for roads and trails.  Great for long road training miles, longer races, smoother trails, and for agile runners on rougher trails.  MSRP $150, quite steep.

Generally available in the US around July 1st  Limited sizes may still be available now from The Balanced Athlete where I got my pair. Update: now seeing more like July 15-August 1st for wider release. Maybe due to substituting the thicker sock liner at the last minute?  Official Hoka One One site Huaka page, showing July 9th, 2014 availability, pre order now.

This review will be updated as I run more miles in Huaka.
A fine review of the Huaka over on Running the Cascades

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beet Root Juice and Concentrate for Endurance Performance: I think it really works

I have been taking a beet root juice supplement "shot" from before races since last fall.  Some very credible science quoted in a recent Competitor article  and earlier in an article by Amby Burfoot over at Runner's World is showing that beet root juice concentrate can improve performance by up to 15%.
The Competitor article states:
"The researchers found that consuming regular beetroot juice increased blood nitrate levels and reduced resting blood pressure. More importantly, it reduced oxygen consumption during moderate- and high-intensity running and increased time to exhaustion at high intensity by 15 percent."

My experience:

  • Definitely feel the lower blood pressure. Far fewer pre race jitters. Calm.
  • Loose and ready to run at the start. Seem to have an ability to better maintain pace and react to slowing. At least for up to 20 mile distance races.
  • The Beet-it concentrate is pretty rich and nasty tasting. I take my shot 3-4 hours before a race.
Anyone else tried beet-root juice?

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Review: Salomon S-Lab Sense Shorts: Are the World's Most Expensive Running Shorts Worth It?

Runners often spend a lot on their shoes, many shoes are well over $100 retail but $150 running shorts? And super minimal non compression ones at that. Well, Salomon has hit that barrier with their S-Lab Sense Shorts, $150 MSRP. I got mine on sale for less...but still over $100. Developed in collaboration with Salomon's elite mountain runners including Kilian Jornet for their particular needs, S-Lab apparel and shoes are often somewhat out there,  experiments- made in small batches. Sometimes a useful hit for the rest of us, sometimes Formula 1 car racing material.  The S-Lab shorts are a very useful hit, price aside...
Salomon S-Lab Sense Shorts

I look for 2 things in running shorts:

  • Capacity to carry stuff: pockets for iPhone( run app and camera), some gel capacity
  • Comfort, as I tend to sweat a lot.
The Salomon S-Lab Sense Short is my new favorite run short. Earlier this year I gave the Patagonia Strider Pro 5" a glowing review for its subtle 5 pocket huge carrying capacity and comfort. While giving up a bit in carrying capacity the Sense Short is far more comfortable and lighter. Often I am able to explain how and why a run shoe works.  With these shorts I am unable to explain how this ultra minimal construction pulls it off but will try.

  • the short material is a super light and airy Actilite Bi-Stretch Nylon, super comfortable no sense, pun intended, you are even wearing a short.
  • the brief has Cocona fabric derived from coconut husks for odor and moisture control. Zero clammy feel from brief or short even when soaked with sweat, a first.
  • the waist and rear back have very light horizontal mesh panels front and back with a stretchy fabric behind the mesh. This combination forms incredible pockets. I put my iPhone in a baggie in the space between the front and rear fabric, pull the mesh over the top of the phone and it is securely held with no bounce. Phone in the rear pocket is a bit bouncier. The rear mesh pocket, a place for a very light jacket or more nutrition, maybe a 250ml flask.
  • the hips have short sections of what would consider a normal waist band with elastic.
  • behind these hip sections are gel mesh pockets, 2 gels per pocket fit fine, same construction as the front and rear pockets.
  • laser cut ventilation holes on hips and at rear. 
  • inseam is 4" so a bit shorter than the Strider Pro at 5". I like the shorter length but this is not a short short.
  • they dry incredibly quickly. 
Update: I have now done multiple runs and races in the Sense Shorts including in hot, humid conditions. They are supremely comfortable and easy and quick to rinse, dry, and wear again.

Despite the price I highly recommend the S-Lab Sense Shorts. currently has them on sale. Purchase through the link below and you support my blog. Thanks!