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.

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-Lobster 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 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

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.