Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Boston Marathon: Race and Gear Report

A pretty cold, wet day on the run from Hopkinton to Boston. The rain held off until about 30 minutes into my Wave 3 start.  The wind,while forecast to be about 25-30 mph, was not particularly noticeable as it was mostly a cross wind.
As always Boston was an incredible experience. The intensity of the crowds, the organization, the committed volunteers, the history, the memory of 2013 when I saw the bombs go off down Bolyston, and the dreams and efforts of all the runners all come together and were powerful every inch of the 26 miles, as well as for days before and after the actual racing.
At the Half

Then, the finish, the cold, the slow endless shuffle of wrapped runners towards family, friends, and  some warmth from borrowed coats, sweaters and fleece.  I was fortunate and so psyched to have my wife and daughter cheering me on, and I spotted them  at exactly the half at Wellesley and at Kenmore Square with a mile to go. My daughter pushed me all the way to the parking garage as I was pretty locked up.

My race was OK with a 3:56 with a slowdown the last 5, as usual. Really have to cross train as my hip flexors just don't do much driving forward after 18 miles. Most unusually, my GPS app and watch did not start. Maybe because I synched them to far in advance? I didn't want to pull my phone out and re sycnh on the run so decided to run without my "timing" but on feel. I went out slower than last year but a bit faster than planned but felt super enjoying the sights the whole way,  occasionally and increasingly unsuccessfully trying to do mile split math based on the digital clocks which started with the elites. Great to run without the watch but not sure I will repeat that or maybe I will.

So now some gear and pictures.
Below Cathy, a friend from Park City running her first Boston and I are ready to board the buses to the start. Cathy ran an incredible 3: 31 Boston debut.  I highly recommend a Home Depot Tyvak type painting suit for throwaway warmth. Goofy for sure, but highly effective. My Home Depot only had XL as one can see...

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The security was intense but never in our way. Snipers on the high school roof and bomb sniffing "runner therapy" dogs throughout the Athletes Village.  The dogs were not only working hard but provided  lots of love and stress relief to any runners who came to pet them. Neat.
Photo Credit: Cathy Sonnenberg
There were of course lots of fancy signs and digital screens in the Athletes Village but I like Hopkinton's own sign best. This very small town opens arms to ten of thousands, to the world, for one morning each year, willingly and enthusiastically. 

Deciding what to wear was a challenge given the weather.
Not the shoes, as I for once was completely convinced that the Nike Lunar Tempo was the shoe of the day weeks ago. All of my other marathons in the last 2 or so years have been in the adidas Energy Boost but after 50 or so miles there was no question I would run in the Lunar Tempo. My review of the Nike Lunar Tempo here
Nike Lunar Tempo

But... I did get a true to size pair the Friday of the race as the half size up was just too big in the upper and I fiddled endlessly to try to get the right sock combination to fill just right but not too much in the tricky low toe. With my true to size Tempos and trusty Ashmei Carbon Merino trail weight socks I was perfectly shod. Never noticed the shoes, no foot cramps, no strain to toe off when tired. No blisters, plenty of cushion and super light at under 7 oz.  My recovery has been very fast, far faster than for any previous marathon in the last few years. Maybe the cushion plus increased flexibility upfront didn't hammer my quads as much as the Energy Boost? 
By the Sam Ratio (add forefoot and heel stack and divide by weight) the Lunar Tempo has the 2nd best cushion to weight ratio of any shoe I have tried, second only to for me the overly soft in the heel Hoka One One Clifton. 
Here a list of of the Sam Ratio of millimeters of stack per oz. of shoe for some popular current shoes I have run in, higher is better if cushion for weight is what you are looking for and it something I certainly consider: 
  • Hoka Clifton 6.67mm per oz, 
  • Nike Lunar Tempo 6.47 
  • Saucony Zealot 5.78 
  • GoRun Ride 4 5.38
  • Hoka Huaka 5.22 
  • New Balance Zante 4.94
  • adidas Adios Boost 1 4.44
  • adidas Energy Boost 4.10
With the shoes settled for once early I could obsess on what to wear on such a rainy, cold, windy day. Low and behold at the Expo I stumbled upon Compressport, a Swiss company well known in Tri circles and European ultra running for their compression sleeves, shorts, and now shirts.  I was looking for a form fitting top which was warm enough and non absorbent enough that I could take the jacket off if need be and stay warm and that I could layer under my very light North Face Better Than Naked Jacket, a jacket I have had for a few years which is somehow super breathable yet wind resistant and doesn't feel like one is wearing a plastic bag.  

The Compressport On Off Multi Sport Short Sleeve is what I found and bought. I got white as the gray was a bit much visually...but one can see the variable knitting for differing compression and ventilation here. Much softer and stretchier than the Salomon S-Lab EXO compression. On Off was outstanding for the conditions when combined with the North Face Better Than Naked.  I was never overheated or chilled as many others were. An occasional partial unzip of the jacket was all I had to do depending on wind and climbing.  I plan to review the Compressport top and calf sleeves more fully when I can run them in hot conditions where the top is also claimed to shine. 
Compressport On Off Short Sleeve

I debated wearing normal running shorts but ended up deciding for a bit more warmth so I wore the adidas Supernova Short tights. My version from last year has 2 stretch hip pockets which easily fit my 5 gels. Again, just right for the conditions. I used CEP Compression Sleeves, a bit tight and thick compared to the Compressport I want to try next. I topped it all off with a very light Swix Nordic race hat and a visor. The hat stayed on the whole race and I never overheated.

Did this all make me run faster? No, but I was comfortable and decently warm the whole way from Hopkinton to Boston.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: La Sportiva Mutant: Very Supportive Upper, Great Cushion, Deep Lugs, and an Agile Forefoot. All for Less than 11 oz.

The La Sportiva Mutant is a highly supportive, deeply lugged trail shoe for rough mountain terrain: loose rock, snow, mud, etc.. Yet it is also perfectly fine on smoother terrain and has been more than decent for shorter road stretches due to its soft yet stabilized cushioning. It manages to pack a ski boot bootie type mid foot wrap tongue, debris proof sturdy upper, deep 6mm lugs, and road comfortable and not overly firm cushioning into a package weighing less than 11oz -10.9 oz 309 grams size Men's 9 EU 42, Women's 9.6 oz. To accomplish all of this must not have been easy! The shoe is aptly named as it really is a "mutant" combining features of ski boots and lightweight running shoe design in neat new ways.

La Sportiva Mutant

The Upper is the Star
The upper is one the most evolved and carefully considered for purpose, rough terrain, I have seen in a trail runner or for that matter any running shoe. The Mutant features two innovative upper technologies which to date work as intended.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Guest Review: LaSportiva Helios SR- A Strikingly Light, All Terrain Capable, Very Refined Trail Runner with One Flaw.

Editor’s Note: I am tickled to offer this review of the Helios SR authored by Dominick Layfield. Dominick is one of the speediest trail and ultra distance runners in Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. Often on the podium, and with many long trail races under his belt, he prefers agile light trail runners such as Nike Terra Kiger and Montrail Rogue Fly.
Dominick won the 2015 New Year's Day 5 Hour Run at the Utah Olympic Oval, running 39 miles!

Reviewer Bio
Dominick Layfield lives in Park City, UT, and is an avid trail runner who likes to race.  He runs 10-15 races each year, mostly in the 50-100 km range.  He holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT, and has worked as a researcher in orthopedic biomechanics. So he knows the difference between a ligament and tendon :-).

La Sportiva Helios SR Review by Dominick Layfield
La Sportiva Helios SR
La Sportiva Helios SR

First Impressions:
Putting the shoes on indoors, my first impression was how elasticated and snug the shoe feels.  Due to the sock-like fully-gusseted shoe liner/tongue construction, the laces felt almost superfluous. I could run in the shoe with the laces untied.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Review Nike LunarTempo: Fabulous Racer Trainer with Very High Cushion to Weight Ratio and Comfortable Any Speed Ride

Nike Lunar Tempo

The Nike LunarTempo is versatile trainer and long race shoe which provides a tremendous amount of decently stable cushioning and upper at an impossibly light weight:  6.8 oz 192 grams Men 9, 5.9 oz Women 8. Retail Price $110.  It has a 8mm drop with a 26mm heel, 18mm forefoot stack. These are similar overall stacks to the Brooks Ghost and Launch, Mizuno Wave Rider, adidas Energy Boost but... at a weight 2-3.5 oz lighter!  Of course cushion to weight  ratio is not the only factor to consider yet Nike has carefully crafted a lightweight blend that hits many checkmarks for me:

  • Very high cushion to weight ratio but also not mushy cushioning, particularly in the heel. It is the best such ratio (add heel and forefoot stack and divide by weight) of any shoe in my collection except the Hoka Clifton (review) whose heel I found too soft and angled. Lunar Tempo has enough cushion, as I generally like at least 18mm in the forefoot and 26mm in the heel in a training shoe or for marathon racing.
  • Very firm, responsive but not overly extensive outsole rubber over the soft cushion. I know outsole is there but can't "feel" a hardish landing I do in, for example, the Saucony ISO Zealot (review), ISO Triumph(review) and  New Balance Fresh Foam Zante (review) heel's or the somewhat stiff toe spring push off of these shoes and the Adios Boost (review).
  • A minimal and light upper yet one adequately supportive with Flywire cable support around light mesh "fabric". Part of the price to pay for such a light overall shoe. I'm OK with this tradeoff
  • Smooth running, not too stiff. I like toe spring for shorter races but find shoes such as the Adios Boost and Zante tire and sometimes cramp my forefoot after longer miles. No such issues during my 20 mile run in the Lunar Tempo.
I have run 40 miles to date in the LunarTempo. These runs included a 20 mile run with middle 9 miles at marathon pace (8:30/mile) on a flat route. I did not experience my usual hip weakness and lack of drive and the run left me with no soreness anywhere, unusual and this after several weeks of back and hip issues
Update: Lunar Tempo was my Boston Marathon shoe this year replacing my trusty 10oz Energy Boost. I went with the true to size optic yellow pair below.  Absolutely perfect on a wet rainy day. No blisters. Plenty of cushion. Flexible upfront. Super light weight. 2 days after the Marathon I am having the quickest recovery from a marathon in many years. I did not run as fast as I planned but still put in a long hard cold effort.
Nike Lunar Tempo
Read on for details...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Run Tech News: Strava has a New and Far Better Add Pictures to Runs or Cycle Approach. Apple Watch to Learn Speed and Stride?

Just saw the latest Strava update allows you to upload pictures from your phone camera after the run or cycle instead of relying on the clunky Instagram interface used before. Tried it today and it works great, even locates the photos on the route map!

Strava Add Photos
Photos are located on the map based on comparing photo time stamps to Strava time stamps

Apple Watch

Many runners have said that they would not consider the Apple Watch because it did not have GPS on board, as it relied on the iPhone for GPS. I usually run with my phone... for pictures but for sure in races, indoors, or treadmills and many days would like to leave it behind. I also figured that Apple would have a trick up its sleeve in tuning the iPone built in pedometer function based on accelerometers to actual stride and speed, automatically, by combing GPS run data with pedometer data.  iSmoothRun my current favorite run app makes use of the iPhone pedometer but does not appear to have an auto tuning function. It is not bad but not as accurate as GPS in my experience.

Well it appears Apple has a way to auto tune the Apple Watch learning runners' stride and speed and lessening its dependence on the iPhone for accurate run data, according to this MacRumors article  thus "becoming more independent from the the iPhone.  Can't wait to test and see. I am also guessing Apple Watch apps such as Strava and iSmoothrun will be able to also use this approach.