Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gravel Grinding the NH Northern Rail Trail

Goofing around on the Cannondale Slate 105.  Awesome Gravel Grinder.
So it's been almost a year since my last post!  I've thought many times about putting things up, but I've really been preoccupied with being in the woods.  I'm not "training" anymore.  I've decided that I don't need that kind of pressure in my life and it takes away from my enjoyment of being outside.  My new goal is to get outside every day for at least a few hours.  It's keeping me in shape my mind calm.

Yesterday, in preparation for a three day bikepacking trip, I decided to ride my first century (100 miles).   I picked the Northern Rail Trail to ride, as I wanted to be as far away from cars as possible.  I also had never seen the trail and was curious.  I loaded up my Cannondale Slate 105 and ended up starting later than I wanted, at 10:15.  I didn't care though.  I had zero time restrictions and enough gear to bivy overnight if I had too.   My goal was to ride 100 miles, for the first time.  I was determined to go slow, see the sights, and stop whenever I felt like it.  Here is my day in pictures.

Official Start time, 10:15

Coopers Cycle Supply in Franklin.  When I started NPD I bought a bunch of stuff here.  Love this place.
Pully Cart left from Railroad Days.
One of the many small bridges.
And one of the larger ones.

New England Covered Bridge.
Some tracks are still there.

Made me think of my brother Barry, who is a huge train fan.

There was zero pavement. 

Lunch at the Danbury Country Store.  Whoopee Pie and a Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar drink.

It's a very peaceful trail.

After a torrential downpour the trail was waterlogged for about an hour. 

There is almost zero elevation on this trail.  It feels flat as a pancake.

Artsy shot.

The tunnels were a bit hard to see in, but were fun.

I swear you can't make this stuff up.  I'll just leave that there.

Parking for lunch.  This is the "Old Tray Factory" from the 1700's.

I had no idea it was going to be this scenic.

Feels like being in the Whites.

Tunnel shot.

The Slate was built for this type of road.

Just more pretty scenery.

Stopped back at the store on the way back.  I had to eat a LOT to keep my energy up.  More than running.  The rear rack is from Portland Design Works.  Check it out.

Early train turntable.  Could only be used by very small trains.

The back of the train station you can see in Franklin.

A long day complete.  The longest I have ever ridden on a bicycle.  




Monday, September 21, 2015

Being Happy, the World Within


I've been thinking a lot lately.  About Hippy type things, like Peace and Happiness.  It seems that the more I study what it might mean to be alive, specifically how we perceive "reality" and where Consciousness stems from, I have realized that I know next to nothing.

And it has opened me up to the idea that maybe, just maybe, each and every one of us actually does have the power to make a difference in this world.

There is no world without, without the world within.  What you see in the world around you is really a reflection/projection of your reaction to what is happening around you.  And that you are in control of.  Most of us just don't know it or really believe it.  We live in a time where we have been brought up to think of ourselves as alone.  In our heads.  Separate. To find blame others or find fault for anything in our lives that is less than perfect.  That money brings happiness, so that is the only thing worth pursuing.

Because all we really want is to be happy.

Each and every one of us is connected.  Literally connected.  I don't mean by Facebook.  I'm not going to get into all the reasons why.  Read about Quantum Physics.  Read about Quantum Entanglement.  Read about the Holographic Universe Theory.  And, perhaps, listen to your heart.  At some level, most of us can feel it.  It's that thing that makes you feel good when you connect with a stranger.  Or makes you tear up when you watch a story about somebody in a tough situation and the community comes to their aid.  It is when we are at our best.

Here is a thought.  What would your day be like if everybody around you treated you like a well loved family member?  What if you knew that every person you encountered today would be pleasant and respectful towards you?   What if you were shopping for a car, and didn't have to worry about anybody taking advantage of your lack of knowledge?  What if people made decisions based on doing the right thing for others instead of monetary ones?

How much less stress would your life have?

"It's never going to happen" is most peoples first reaction.  "People are assholes"  I hear on a daily basis.  And I'm occasionally guilty of it as well.  But in studying a lot of metaphysical and religious topics, some of the same lessons repeat themselves over and over.  I'd like to focus on just one for this post.  Do unto others as you would have done to you.

The reason why the world is full of assholes is because everybody is waiting for the other guy to make the first move. 

Somebody has to start.  I have been working on doing this for the past few weeks.  And for whatever reasons I can't understand, it works!  I take it one person at a time, and try to practice as much as I can every day.  It is amazing what happens when you realize that you have the power to make the people around you happier.  And there are a million different ways to do it.  Don't wait for them to make you happy, you go first.  With no expectations of anything in return.  It feels awesome.  It feels like the way we are supposed to behave towards each other.

Does anybody else want to try this with me?   Do you have the courage to be nice to everybody around you?  If not nice, how about respectful?  How about the next time you want to yell at the waitress because your food isn't right, think about the fact that she could be your daughter.  Or sister.  Or mother.  Can you take the split second to put yourself in their shoes and try to be more understanding?  If nothing else, you will lower your daily stress and blood pressure when you realize that you don't have to be so upset all the time.


For real change you have to pay very close attention to how you actually feel about that person.  Being kind to somebody without actually caring isn't as powerful.  The change really comes when we can look at each other, every single one, and be open, loving and understanding to what we each are going through.  Because whether you know it or not, their struggles are yours.  And since that is the case, you have the power to make it better for everybody.  But it is a choice that has to start with you.  We are all connected.  

Please share your thoughts.

Nate

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dear Running,

Dear Running,

I don't know how to say this gently, but I think I need a break.  It's not working for me anymore, and it is getting more apparent every day that you are trying to hurt me. 

Shhh..don't say anything yet.  Please, let me finish first.

The last 9 years have been wonderful.  You found me just when I really needed you.  My old love, Mountain Biking, and I had just broken up from a wounded knee.  I really wasn't ready to give her up, and now I think I need to go back. 

Even though you never said anything, I know you could feel that something was wrong after we finished the Vermont 100.  I've been fighting these feelings since then, and I just can't do it anymore.  I need to come clean.

I love Mountain Biking.  I'm sorry, but I don't think that I ever stopped loving it.  It's in my blood, and I have to go with my gut. 

I really hope that you and I can still be friends.  There would be nothing I would like more than to go out with you for a few hours and explore some new trails.  I hope you will still allow that once in a while.  The time we had together was special.  I'll always cherish it.  I will always love you.

Nate

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No more shoe reviews.


I really enjoy writing my blog.  You wouldn't know that by my recent lack of activity.  But I've been thinking about it a lot lately.  I originally started this so that I could practice writing in preparation of writing a book.  If you have been here since the beginning you remember that I used to write more often, and mostly about personal issues.  Topics like my love of running and my obsession with finding out what type of diet and exercise will turn back the hands of time and keep me feeling young and strong.

One of the coolest bi-products of writing about running is that shoe companies have asked me to try their shoes and review them.  That development was really initiated by my friend Pete who writes www.runblogger.com.  He has made the introduction to almost every company that has provided materials for review.  And I love it.  Or at least I did....

I approach most things in life like you would expect from a neurotic person with a Jewish upbringing  (think Woody Allen) and for the last 6 months or so I have felt a TON of pressure to get these reviews done in a timely fashion.  But I have failed on many levels.  I still have 5 or 6 shoes that I never reviewed, and I received them months ago.  Every time I see them I feel guilty.  Sure, I could half-ass a bunch and whip them out really quick, but that's not my style.  So it takes me a lot of time to write them up.  Like 3 or 4 hours to do it right.  And I just haven't been able to find the time.  The thought of those manufactures thinking that I took advantage of their generosity really bothers me.  But the pressure of always feeling like I HAVE to get this review done is killing my love for writing.

I have decided to no longer do shoe reviews here.  I will continue to write the Dirty Runner column for Pete (which I have not done in a long time either...) whenever he needs or wants me to.  And I'm really grateful for that opportunity.  Thanks Pete.

While running is still a huge part of my life, I have been focusing on my business more. This needs to be my first priority.  We are kicking so much ass and its exciting.  I'm at the shop more because I'm enjoying it a lot.  We are even in the process of opening our first branch location.  I'll write more about that as developments happen.

Even more than the business, I have been thinking about...well, thinking.  Trying to tackle some of the bigger issues.  Reading more books about the Law of Attraction, Alternative Thinking, Quantum Physics, etc.  It seems as the more I learn, the more I realize that I don't know anything.  And even what I do know is probably skewed, based only on my personal experiences.   Our brain only keeps information about what it recognizes and can fit into it's idea of what is important.  For that, it looks at what it knows from past experiences.  Anything it can't neatly fit into some category gets filtered out.  I want to know what I'm missing!  Just because we can't recognize something with our 5 senses doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  I love this concept.  It opens so many possibilities.

I have had an idea in the back of my mind for a long time.  For some reason, the timing finally seemed right to take some action.  I have started an on-line study group for people that are interested in learning more about alternative spiritual thinking.  Its like a book club, but with a specific type of book and discussions that take place on-line (although there is an actual once a month meeting for those who can attend).  We will study one chapter per week and then share our thoughts.

I started studying these alternative ways of thinking 15 years ago.  And I have applied them to create the incredibly abundant life that I enjoy today.  I see the potential in every person I encounter to do the same.  But a lot of people don't know where to start or how to take it to the next level.  I'm hoping that this project will be of value to them.  Judging from the amount of initial interest, I think it will.  Our first meeting was this past Monday, and we picked "The Master Key System" by Charles Hannel as our first book to study.  If you curious or want to join up, click on the pic below.  This is not a business venture and it doesn't cost anything.

http://forum2.npdbikes.com/index.php
The Discussion Board  Please join us!

So for those of you that only come here for shoe reviews, I want to say "Thank You" for reading and being so supportive.  But if that's the only reason you came here, you might want to take me off your blog feed.  For everybody else, I hope to write a bit more about topics that have a little more substance than just my love for an item that you wear on your feet. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Shoe Review - Hoka Huaka


Hoka always has funny names for their shoe models.  This new one is no exception.  It is not pronounced "Who-A-Ka", but rather "Waaka".  So lets just get this out of the way right now:

Photo Credit - Muppet.Wikia.com
Waaka Waaka Waaka!!!  There.  You were all thinking it, now I've just said it.  So now, can we get onto the shoe review?

At the risk of repeating myself from previous posts, there is a certain type of shoe that I gravitate towards.  A flexible, light weight, low drop and well cushioned shoe is what I love to run in.  The Hoka Huaka fits that bill to a T. (Note: these shoes were provided as a media sample to me at no charge by Hoka One One).

Two or three years ago, this was exactly what I was looking for but nobody had put the two types (minimal and well cushioned) together.  For this review, lets just start at the front of the shoe and go backwards from there.

The green toe cap reduces volume a bit, but not in a bad way.  Feels performance oriented.

The toe box is wider than most Hokas, certainly wider than the Rapa Nui or the Stinson, but not quite as roomy as the Bondi.  One thing worth noting is that the height of the toebox is more performance oriented and is fairly snug in that regard.  The shape feels more rounded than the other Hokas as well.  The shoe fits true to size. I have never had any pinky toe irritation like I have experienced with some other more severely tapered Hoka models.

Speed laces which I proceeded to remove shortly after getting them.

The shoe comes with Hoka's speed laces as well as a pair of traditional laces.  I have found in the past that I can't get as good of a fit with the speed laces so I cut them out after I took these pictures and replaced them.  I can get a fairly snug fit but I would consider the upper to have a medium amount of room.  The construction is very simple, with an airy mesh that has glued on welded overlays for support. 



The nice thing about the upper is that it is pretty flexible (really flexible for a Hoka). 

Heel cup inside...

and outside.

The heel cup doesn't have a stiff counter and flexes nicely with your foot.  The inside of the heel cup is well padded and very comfortable.  I think that the fit is very similar to the Pearl Izumi EM N1, but a tad bit looser overall.

Very thin tongue.

The tongue is a very thin piece of  Leather and mesh that is what I would call "semi-lasted".  It is attached at the front of the shoe to the first three lace holes.  It has never has moved on me or let in a disproportionate amount of dirt and grit.




The all new RMAT sole is a thing of beauty.  Rather than the traditional squish of the Hokas built with EVA, the RMAT has a nice impact deadening feel with a great bounce.  This provides the best of both worlds.  It is much more performance oriented but it doesn't beat the hell out of your feet.  And it's lighter too!  Thats a win, win, and win. 

Hoka has this shoe listed on their website under both Trail and Road shoes.  I feel that is accurate as it is a true hybrid.  The traction is not stellar off road, but works fine for most circumstances.    There are three small areas that have little chevrons for grip, but they really don't do much in poor traction situations.  Running on the roads finds them to be smooth and grippy.   I have 62 miles on them at the time of this review and here is a picture of the wear so far.

Wear after 62 miles.

As you can see, the heel and toe chevrons are showing wear already, but nothing that I consider to be disappointing.  I expect a shoe like this to wear quickly if I run on the roads with them.  I would say that about 40% of my runs have been on trails, the rest on roads.  Much to my surprise, the three holes in the sole have never trapped any rocks.

To sum it up, my size 10.5 Huaka's are 9.7oz light...


Flexible...

Try THIS with any other Hoka.

Cushioned...


and extremely comfortable.  Although I have a ton of shoe reviews to do, I'm having a hard time not putting them on my feet before every run.  I have been waiting for this shoe for a long time.  Well done Hoka.

Here are the specs as listed on Hokas website.

Catagory: Neutral light cushion
Geometry: 2mm Heel offset - (Heel 27mm, Forefoot 25mm)
Weight: 8.9 oz (actual for my 10.5 was 9.7oz)
Construction: Ultra lightweight no sew speedframe with racelaces, full length RMAT midsole, early stage meta rocker geometry with 2mm offset and stregic hi abrasion rubber zones.
Price: $150

Friday, July 4, 2014

New Balance MT110v2 shoe review


Regular readers of this blog will know that I have had a love affair with the original NB MT110.  It was one of the most anticipated trail shoe and in most ways it didn't dissapoint.  It was an industry leader for a lightweight trail shoe and it is common knowledge that Anton Krupica called it the best trail shoe he had ever used.  Of course, no one shoe is perfect.  The biggest complaint about it was its durability.  The perforated plastic-like material was prone to tearing open if it came in contact with a sharp rock or stick.  How long they lasted really depended on what type of terrain they were used on.

But despite its faults, it had one very magical aspect for me.  The fit.  It was simply perfect for my foot.  Built on the NB minimus last (NL-1) it was as if the designers snuck into my room, cast my foot, and then built a shoe just for me.  And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

I have probably gone through 6 or 7 pairs since they first came out.  I love it for runs under 20 miles in the woods, even though I once used them for 70 miles of the Leadville 100.  If I was asked to design version 2, I would try to address a few things.  I would add some better traction.  I would change the outer material for more durability.  And I would add a bit more cushioning for longer runs.  From what I have read by many, my list of desired changes is a pretty common one.


When New Balance first announced and showed this new version a lot of people were surprised.  It looks nothing like the original.  With the different materials, much deeper lugs and a bit more cushioning, it looks like a perfect match for what I was hoping for.  The one thing that nobody understood was the change of last.  The V2 is no longer built on the minimus last.  I questioned that immediately, way before I ever held one in my hand.  I mean, the minimus design is what drew so many of us to that shoe (and the others built on the NL-1).   And it no longer looks foot shaped, it looks like a 1930's dress shoe with a super pointy toe box.


Hmmm....seperated at birth?

But sometimes looks are deceiving.  Unfortunately for me, this time they are not.  When I first put them on my feet, I could feel the tighter toebox immediately.  But as I've learned many times, the first impression standing in my living room doesn't nessisarily translate to how a shoe feels on the run.  So I headed out to the trails and put 15 miles on them.  My notes say: "First run in MT110v2.  Nice shoe, but the toe-box is too narrow." 


There are two areas that bothered my feet on this run.  You can see in the picture above how my foot fits on the footbed of the V2, next to the original version.  The addition of a footbed is another change on this shoe as the original didn't have a separate one.  The skin on the outside of my big toe, where my toenail starts, got "lifted" or sort of "torn" and my pinky toe, which is pretty small and short, again on the outside edge.  You can also clearly see the extra area in front of my foot which creates a dead feeling area at the front of the shoe.  Three days later I took them to Pats Peak to test their traction and see if I had better luck with the fit.  After only 7 miles I ran into the same problems.

Steep climb up the ski mountain.  Incredible traction!
Close up view

Being a bit bummed out, I decided to reach out to Brendan Murray, who I believe was the lead person at NB for the development of this shoe.  I explained that I was happy to see the shortcomings of the original addressed, but could not understand the decision to move to the PL-4 last.  He wrote me a very thorough explanation and then followed up with a phone call to help me explain better. I'm not going to post the entire email/conversation, but here is a small piece:

"Since we already had a 4 mm off-set trail model in our iconic minimus trail 10, we felt that continuing to make the 110v2 in the same fit and nearly the same stack heights would have been redundancy from our stand point and really limit the trail community with choices.  Futhermore talking with our ambassadors such as Tony, and their needs, they were asking for a slightly straighter lasted model in the forefoot - as ones foot needs adjust and change over time.  The idea of using the PL-4 last allowed for the trail runner who was seeking a lightweight trail model which provided slightly more girth in the midfoot and depth in the toe box, that the 10 didn’t, a new option.  The new 110v2 will also provide slightly more cushioning under foot (the trail 10 has a midsole specific stack height of 8/12 while the new T110v2 has a 10/14)."

He also gave me a perspective that I would have never considered.  He stated that although the original was extremely popular with the trail running community, they actually were not reaching the full sales potential based on their market research.  NB actually had a sizable amount of complaints regarding the NL-1 last for this shoe.  There is a visual look of a "hook" shape because of the way the shoe curves on the lateral side that actually prevented a lot of people from purchasing the shoe.  All of these factors led to the decision to change the last. 

Close up of lacing system, which does a good job at keeping the non-lasted tongue in place.

On the few runs that I took, my only problem was the toebox.  I want to like this shoe so badly.  The traction is awesome.  It seems to drain well.  It still retains that excellent balance of ground feel and protection.  They feel fast!  The materials seem like they will be far more durable than the originals.  If this shoe fit the way the original did I would probably have 500 miles on these things by now.

More cushioning than the originals

Here is what I suggest.  Forget these are the next MT110.  Consider them to be a new mountain/fells running shoe.  Try them on.  If they fit your foot shape and you liked the "running feel" of the originals, then you are psyched.  There are a lot of positive features of this shoe.  I just wish they fit me better.

9.8 Oz for size 11 (they fit a bit small, just like the originals.  Try the same size as what you wear in those (1/2 size up)

As a side note I also need to add that I don't like writing negative reviews.  I think that every shoe reviewer/blogger feels a sense of appreciation to any manufacture that has been kind enough to provide free shoes for review (which these were for me).  But I read too many reviews that are flowery bullshit because of that very fact.  I truly believe that the good manufactures listen and with enough feedback, make positive changes for the next version.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.  Either way, I don't write these reviews for them.  I write them for you.  I will never stop writing honest reviews, with both the positive and the negative.  Obviously it is only from my perception.  Everybody's feet shape and needs for a shoe are different.  But my goal with reviews is to give exactly that, my opinion.

Call for comments:
Have you tried them?  What's your opinion?