Friday, December 21, 2012

New Balance MT110 Boot Winter Shoe Review

About a year ago, when reading Anton Krupicka's blog I noticed he was wearing some funky blue shoes.  Thinking that they were the next version of the MT110 I zoomed into the picture and noticed that it appeared to just be a booty of some sort.  We now know that it was both. It was a MT110 with a built in booty for winter conditions.  New Balance recently introduced that shoe, the 110 Boot, also known as the MT110WR. 

Same tread as MT110
Recently New Balance was kind enough to send me a pair to test and write about.  (Disclosure:  These shoes were a media sample provided free of charge).  Since todays weather was so incredibly miserable I figured it would be the perfect time to give them a proper test.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A real "Pain in the Ass"

End result of No Shave November

Long time readers of my blog will recall that I used to write about other subjects than just shoes.  While I love sharing my passion for shoes I have missed sharing more personal stories.  Other than my shoe reviews, my highest viewed stories have been about health and diet.  In the last view months I have been through a couple of medical scares that I have wanted to write about, but thought the subject matter might be to personal.  After much thought and discussion with Amy I have decided to write about it.  After all, it was just Mens Health November month and my story relates.  This topic is not easy for a lot of people to talk about, but embarrassment is no reason to neglect your health.

NOT what pee is supposed to look like..
On Sept. 29th, in the middle of a beautiful sunny trail run and only 5 miles in, I stopped to pee.  Even thought I had new sunglasses on, my pee looked strangely dark.  I lifted my glasses and saw that it wasn't dark, it was bright red.  Like watered down cranberry juice.  I was totally confused.  I am pretty aware of what the different colors of urine indicate, especially in terms of dehydration.  Thats just the type of stuff you know when you are an ultrarunner.  It is an excellent visual guide of your level of hydration and possible issues with your kidneys.  I also know several different reasons that you might have blood in your urine.  But having so much blood after only running a short distance scared me.  I slowed my pace down and took the quickest route home.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Top 5 Trail Running Shoes of 2012

As the year draws to a close and the promise of new and improved trail shoes hangs in the air, I decided that it would be appropriate to make a list of my top 5 Trail Running shoes of the year.  This year the traffic on my blog has increased drastically, and my most read posts are related to shoe reviews.  As a result of that, I have had an increase in manufactures sending me shoes to test and review and/or evaluate.

I only have one absolute rule for what goes on my feet.  The difference between the heel and forefoot cannot exceed 5mm.  My sweet spot for a long distance running shoe is a lightweight upper combined with enough cushioning to run for hours upon hours at a time.  I have sorted my list based on the number of miles I have put on that model this year.  As of this writing I have run 3048 miles.  Over 1500 of those miles were run in these 5 shoes.  With that, I give you my top 5, in descending order. 

Salomon S-Lab Sense

#5 Salomon S-Lab Sense. (56.2 miles)
Pros - Light weight, snug fit, great rock protection, bad ass looking
Cons - Traction could be better, $200 MSRP, reported short life

I love the way these shoes feel.  I have run few miles in them because I'm trying to "save" them for just the right race and training situations.  You can read my review of them here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Merrell Bare Access Shoe Review

Merrell Bare Access
I'm lucky to be friends with Pete Larson from Runblogger.  We both share an almost unhealthy obsession with running shoes.  But we both come at it from different points of view.  He is very analytical.  I'm more emotional.  He can tell somebody all about the technical reasons a shoe works a certain way.  I can't.  I can just say how it feels on the run.  Regardless of how we go about it, we both just can't resist a new shoe and both of us have a huge closet of shoes to show for it.  I have purposely never sat down and figured out how much money I've spent on shoes.  I don't want to.  I'm afraid.

Pete from

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ghost Train Rail Trail 100 pre-race thoughts

I really should be writing a review of the new Merrell Bare Access shoes.  Merrell sent them to me two weeks ago and I've worn them almost exclusively as my every day shoe.  They are an awesome shoe and I have a lot to say about them.  Even so, I just can't concentrate.

All I can think about is whats going to happen in 2 days.  This weekend I'll be taking on what might be my biggest challenge, as far as Ultra-running goes.  At 9am Saturday morning I'll toe the line at the Ghost Train Rail Trail Ultramarathon.  The race is run on a 7.5 mile stretch of trail starting in Milford NH.  The idea is to do "out and backs" of 15 miles.  Anybody doing an "Ultra" distance of 30 miles or more starts Saturday.  On Sunday there is a 15 mile race, while the remaining Ultra folks are still on course.  The longest official Ultra distance is 100 miles, but the RD has decided that after that, if anybody is dumb enough, bonus miles can be run.

I'm dumb enough.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Running High Mileage with Plantar Fasciitis

It makes me so sad.  When I first started running I jumped up in the mileage pretty quickly.  What resulted, other than stronger legs, was a case of Plantar Fasciitis.  I struggled with it for months before going to a foot doctor.  He diagnosed me with PF and sent me to Granite State Physical Therapy.  This is when I met Brian Verville, the owner, for the first time.

Over the course of several weeks (maybe 6?) Brian got me back up and running using the techniques that I will describe in this post.  During this same time I also realized that my shoe choice might be another factor and began experimenting with more minimal, less cushioned and more flexible shoes.

The net result is that it went away.  I wasn't sure how much was due to the PT and how much the shoe change, but all that mattered was that it was gone.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This is only a test.

It seems like my blog has turned into a shoe review website lately.  The truth is, there are a lot more shoes that I still need to write reviews on.  I just haven’t been able to find the time, or get back into the habit, of writing more.  

This summer I have not raced much.  I have set a 5k PR twice (17:49 and 17:40, had a decent 50 miler (Pineland Farms in 7:51) and twice I have DNF’d.  Once at the Traprock 50k (while in 4th place) and then at the Vermont 100 at mile 71.  Although I have not been training as hard as the past few years, both DNF’s could have been avoided.  The major problem is my head.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Skechers Go Bionic Giveaway!

In March of this year I posted a review of the new Skechers GoBionics.  To read that review, go here.

Since writing this review I have been asked by a lot of people when they are going to be available.  I am happy to announce that they are finally hitting the market.  These shoes are one of my all time favorites, not only for running, but for everyday use as well.  I have a ton of shoes to chose from, but day after day I almost always chose these to wear.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Merrell Mix Master II Review and Giveaway!

I remember looking at my toes and thinking that I looked stupid.  This was years ago. I had just started exploring the world of minimal running shoes and had bought a pair of Vibram five fingers.  I loved how they felt, but didn't want to wear them anywhere because they were dumb looking.  When Merrell introduced the Trail Glove I was psyched!  Now I could have a barefoot type shoe and not look like a tool.  But what really blew me away about that shoe was the fit.  I had never experienced a shoe that so matched my foot.  It felt like somebody simply put a Vibram sole on my foot.  I ran many miles in those shoes and still have them to this day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Balance MT1010 Minimus Amp review

Bryon Powell is such a tease.  He runs and is always getting the scoop on new shoes.  When he posted pictures of the upcoming New Balance Minimus MT1010 Amp's I shot off an email to my contact at NB asking about them.  What I was told was it was built on the Minimus last with the same weight and fit as the MT110's, but with an extra layer of cushioning.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hoka Stinson Evo review - Fighting PF

Stinson Evo's
Years ago, not long after I started running,  I developed Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot.  After months and months of PT, ice, deep tissue massage, etc it went away.  Having PF and then later Anterior Tibial Tendonitis was the catalyst for my search for better shoes and more knowledge on how running form can cause/prevent injuries. I changed my stride, started wearing less supportive shoes, increased my foot/ankle strength and the injuries went away.  Just like you read about in all the hippy crunchy minimalistic blogs!!

So imagine my surprise when it recently reared its ugly head again, this time in my left foot.  This can't happen to me, I thought.  I run in minimal shoes!  I lost weight! I became Vegan!  I grew my hair out.  I eat goddamn chia seeds!! In spite of all this, it has become worse and worse.   (Maybe I shouldn't have cut my hair..).

The one thing that has kept me running has been the use of my Hoka One One Stinson Evo shoes.  I have a serious love/hate relationship with Hokas.  I have tried every model they have, some with more success than others, but have never really drank the cool aid.  I have so wanted to believe in the idea that a shoe will let me run hundreds of miles without any discomfort, but the reality has been very different.

 A little personal Hoka usage history, before I get to the Evo's.  My first pair was a pair of the Mafate's.  Absolutely the worst upper I have ever used.  Blistered within 3 miles of first run.  I tried for about 100 miles to like them, but eventually I cut off the uppers and grafted the soles onto a pair of Altra Instincts which I wore for the first 47 miles of the VT 100 that year. Next I tried the Bondi B's.  Much better upper and the sole is softer.  I really like these shoes and use them mostly for shorter, less technical runs.  They are much more flexible than the Mafate's. On the negative side, the sole has a road based pattern and the upper is hot (doesn't breath well).  I would never wear these for a 100 mile race because when they are wet they weigh a million pounds and take forever to dry out.

Altra Instincts with Hoka Mafate soles.
As much as I want to wear these shoes for long runs, there is a pattern that happens to me every time I try.  It goes like this.  First 5 miles, I am loving it.  Every step feels like I'm running on a cloud.  I start thinking about running 100's of miles of roads because my feet feel so good.  After 10 miles I still am happy, but notice that my feet are wet and my hamstrings are starting to feel overly fatigued.  After 20 miles my feet are still wet, my hamstrings and glutes (especially my periformous) are starting to scream at me and I am way over fatigued.  Now the soles of my feet are starting to ache, like somebody has been squeezing and releasing them hard every 3 seconds.  By 30 miles I swear I'm never going to wear them again and I'm an idiot for thinking that a shoe could fix all my running problems.

Even after all of that history, I just couldn't help myself from buying a pair of the Evo's.   I was lured into it by the off road tread pattern and the much improved upper.   On my first run I couldn't believe how much firmer they feel vs. the other Hokas.  Like all Hokas, the toe/heel drop is only a 4mm difference so running with a mid foot strike feels very natural.  What is completely gone is any ground feel.  As you can imagine, running with a huge slab of foam under your feet eliminates any propriacipitation. The firm feel seemed to eliminate the fatigued feeling I get in my feet from the softer Bondi's. The big suprise for me was how comfy the upper is.  Even though the toe box is a bit narrower than the Bondi B, it has more room above your toes and my feet don't feel trapped.  I would still like to see a wider toe-box, but I have been able to live with this one.

After doing several shorter (10-15) mile runs I decided to give them a test.  After running 10 miles in the morning I worked all day, came home and ate supper, had a few drinks, played cards with Amy, and then went out into the night and ran 30 miles of pavement.  Besides a very minor pinky toe blister, they were awesome. For the last two weeks I have only done one run in any other shoes (got a pair of the Salomon S-Lab Senses - HAD to try them for a 20 mile run).  I wore them this last weekend for a 7 hour 26 mile mountain/trail run with no problems.  I have even hiked in them and found them to be a great hiking shoe.

Wearing the Evo's on "The Chin" at Mt. Mansfield VT
Some days my foot hurts so much I can hardly walk, but every time I slip on these shoes I am able to do my training runs.  I much prefer the feel of a super flexy, almost not there shoe, but these shoes are letting me get in my 80-100 mile weeks before VT100. I'm not sure that I would even be able to run with out them.  Thats good enough for me!

In summary, here is my Pro/Con list for them:

- Heavy.  Sure, they are not nearly as heavy as they look, but I'm used to wearing 6-8 oz shoes.  These are more like 10.  Not that big of a deal.
- Warm.  It would be great if Hoka would come out with an upper that was more in line with other trailshoes.  That being said, these are by far the best of all the Hokas.
- Tall.  Be careful while getting used to Hokas.  They are tall and when you do roll an ankle you have further to go.
- Drainage. They just don't drain well enough.  They are WAY better than the other Hokas though.
- Ugly - Honestly, these things are fugly.  It's hard not to think people will point at you and laugh at your clown shoes.
- Expensive.  $170 for a pair of shoes is a LOT of money.

- Comfy. Running on pavement feels like running on trails. It really does feel like your running on a cloud. Rocks and roots disappear.  You can bomb over anything in your way.  It's liberating!
- Fun. It's hard not to smile when you run in these things.  It sort of feels like cheating.
- Quick Recovery.  You just don't feel as beat up the next day when you run in Hokas.
- PF BEGONE!! .  These shoes are keeping me running through my injury.  At this point that is good enough for me.  I have read a lot of reviews from people saying that these shoes saved their running when injured.
- 4mm Heel/Midfoot differential.  Even without having any ground feel, you still run with a minimal forefoot/midfoot stride.  If you want to heel strike in them you can because of all the cushioning, but if you are a midfoot striker you can still keep the heel off the ground.
- Traction - The best traction of any of the Hoka models.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Eating Vegan - Part II - a days worth of food

When my wife Amy read my post last week on eating Vegan she looked at me and asked me why I didn't write the entire story.  Sometimes when I write it flows so quickly that I miss a lot of details.  Amy's family has a very long history of heart disease.  Even though she exercises and eats very well, she is always trying to do what ever she can to ensure that her heart stays healthy.  We talk a lot about genetics vs. environmental causes on our health.

Recently she went to her Doctor to have a full blood-work done.  She wanted to know if her diet and exercise program were keeping her healthy.  She was happy to see that her overall Cholesterol was at 160, but shocked when her Dr. wanted to put her on a low dose of Lipitor because her LDL was 80. Her Dr. wanted to see it at 70 or below. Amy flat out refused to accept the prescription.  From what we have researched, taking Lipitor as a preventive measure shows no effectiveness and can actually cause a ton of physical problems.  I am not going to go into a long post about our medical system, but I can say that it is a shame that we only look at medicine as a way to cover up the underlying reasons for health issues.  Its way easier to take a pill than to discover the cause and modify our habits.

After watching "Forks over Knives" and reading a lot about how animal proteins affect our bodies, Amy decided to eliminate almost all of it (she still eats a little fish and can't live without some milk in her coffee) for a 8 week period and then have her blood work done again to see the results.  She is going back next week, and can't wait to see if it helped.

During this period I decided to do a detox and go back on the no sugar, wheat, etc..Ultrametabolism diet.  Since it eliminates all dairy and many animal products I joined her doing the Vegan thing.  As I posted last week the results for me were very surprising.  At this point, I have no plans to stop eating Vegan.

After last weeks post, many asked what I actually DO eat.  One day last week I took a picture of everything I ate all day.  Below is everything I ate from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed.  If anybody reading is a nutritionist and has an opinion I'd love to hear it.

When I woke up I was hungry, so I grabbed a few almonds before taking the dogs out.

Breakfast - Brown rice, salsa and 1/2 an avocado.  Also had a cup of green tea.
Mid morning snack - Corn thins with Almond butter.
Two almond covered date rolls for snack, as I was going to have a late lunch.

More snacks, corn thins with chipotle hummus

Late lunch - Big salad with pickled hot peppers and garlic.

Snack - Peanut butter Larabar.  3 ingredients: Dates, Peanuts and salt.

Afternoon snack - corn thins and red lentil chipotle hummus.

Some sunflower seeds before dinner.

Red wine with dinner.

Dinner - Brown rice tortilla with spicy homade beans (black, aduki, seasonings), avocado, salsa

More Almonds before bed.
Next mornings Breakfast - Tofu with salsa, avocado and toasted brown rice tortilla.

This is just one days worth of food, but pretty representative of how I eat now.  Of course there are a lot more things that we eat like lots of fruit, veggies, quinoa, etc.  It takes a lot of time to eat like this as almost nothing comes out of a box.  But, it is so worth it. 

And now, just for fun...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Becoming Vegan - 30 days of pure Methane.

Readers of my blog might remember a post I made in September of 2011.  I wrote about discovering Dr. Mark Hyman's book, "Ultrametabolism" and how I went from 170 pounds to 146 pounds in 6 weeks.  I raced the Leadville Trail 100 2 months after reading the book and finished in 37th place out of 600.  Here is a link to that post.

For those of you that don't want to re-read all that, here is the diet in a nutshell.  Eliminate all sugar (except fruit), caffeine, gluten, alcohol, dairy and meat (besides lean chicken, turkey and lamb).  You do this for the first 30 days then gradually add back in grains (whole, not refined), alcohol (sparingly) and dairy.  This allows you to find out which foods are causing inflammation in your body and what you have intolerance to.  You can have dark chocolate, but reducing sugars is something that you strive to do forever.

After my race season I relaxed quite a bit on the diet, but did make some changes in how I eat overall.  Over the holidays I let things slide and don't worry so much about my weight.  This year I slowly watched the definition in my body go away and my weight slowly crept back up.  I never let it get above 160, but it hovered between 153-158 pretty consistently.

After my DNF in last months Traprock 50K I decided that if I wanted to produce good results this year I needed to get serious about my diet again.  Since the Ultrametabolism diet worked before I assumed it would again.  I decided that I would add one more twist as well.  Rather than just eliminating dairy, I would also eliminate all animal protein.  Yes, I went Vegan.  Actually it would be more accurate to say I went Sugarfree, Glutenfree Vegan.

This last Monday marked 30 days that I have eaten a 99.9% plant based diet.  The only exception I have made is that I have continued to occasionally eat Sushi.  I have nothing against eating meat.  I have no problem killing animals and eating them, as long as it is not wasteful.  I made the decision to eat this way purely to see how it would effect my running and racing.  I have several friends that are Ultra runners that are Vegan and they swear that it has a positive role in their success.

So after 30 days I am writing about this because I am blown away.  I have never had something make such in impact on my running.  The one major thing that I can't get over is my recovery.  I'm just not sore the next day after a long run.  The most common comment when you talk about eating a plant based diet is that you can't get enough protein, especially if you are an endurance athlete.  I am not finding that to be the case.

In the last 3 weeks I ran every day (almost 250 miles) with zero soreness and very little fatigue.  I have gone from 153 to 145 pounds and I'm eating like a horse.  I'm getting very lean, even though my diet consists of a LOT of fat (avacado's, nuts, olive oil, etc).  This Thursday I entered a local 5k.  I have done zero speedwork this year, but I managed to place 12th out of 6000 runners and walkers.  I set a new PR by over 30 seconds (17:49) and took 3rd in the 40-49 age group.  This came as a total surprise.  I have no other explanation to turn to except my diet.

The hardest part of this diet was giving up sugar.  It took a few weeks before the cravings went away. Sure, I would still love to have a bowl of ice-cream, but I'm not jonesing for it like I would have before.  Not eating meat has been easy.  Not eating cheese has been a little harder.  Not eating eggs was really tough.  I love eggs!

I have actually been taking a lot of flack for eating this way.  I have been told to eat a cheeseburger or turn in my man card.  People seem to think that I am attacking the way they eat by talking about how I am eating.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I'm hoping that my regular readers who have been interested in my running might use this as a little food for thought.  The most common question I get asked about this diet is why?  "You run so much and are so fit, you could eat anything you want and you will burn it off".  I don't believe that.

I'm not doing this to reduce calories or lose weight, although when I started I wanted to get down to race weight (150 or so).  I stopped eating sugar because I have seen enough evidence to believe that it plays a major role in heart disease and cancer.  Yes, I really believe that.  If you are not laughing your ass off right now, thinking I'm nuts, then check out this link.  The video is a presentation by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.  You might have seen him on 60 Minutes covering the same topic.  Watch the entire 1 1/2 hour if you really want to see the scientific reason that sugar is poison.

I also am curious about the connection to cancer and animal protein.  Again, if you are interested, watch the movie Forks over Knives.  Based on a study done in the 1960's called "The China Study" there is very strong evidence that the government really botched up it's recommendations to the American public about the amount and type of protein that we need to survive.  In fact, the evidence shows a link between cancers and animal protein.

I am simply exploring the connection between what we put in our mouths and how our bodies react.  What I thought was going to be a 30 day detox/experiment has turned into a real surprise.  I didn't expect to actually feel this different.  I didn't expect my running to be so positively affected.  But I am excited about continuing down this path.  I would also love to hear from any of you that have had similar results, whether it is from becoming a Vegan or any other change you made to your diet.

But I would really love to hear from some other Vegans about the farting.  Holy hell this diet gives you a lot of gas.....

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Salomon S-Lab Sense Review

Yesterday the "Salomon Trail Tour" pulled into the Concord NH EMS for a demo day.  They are traveling across the US letting people try their trail shoes.  When my friend Joe, who works at EMS, told me they were coming I asked if he could let me know if they had the new S-LAB Sense.  While I was on the way into work he called and said yes!!  I immediately made a detour and stopped to check them out.

Brand new, never worn Salomon S-Lab Sense

I met David, Kristina and Josh and talked shoes for a bit.  They pulled out a brand new pair for me to try on.  I was surprised at how hard they were to put on.  But once I loosened up the speed laces a bunch they pulled on like a tight slipper.  Initial thoughts were that the shoe was very narrow in the forefoot, but it was comfy at the same time.  A quick jaunt around the parking lot revealed that the EVA foam sole had a really nice cushy feel to it, yet it ran like a minimal shoe with lots of flexibility. 

I won't go into the history of this shoe.  I'm assuming if you've read this far you already know about how it was the shoe that Kilian Jornet designed with Salomon after his first attempt at the Western States 100.  It is the shoe that he wore for his win of the same race last year.  It is a 4mm drop shoe with a very unique seamless interior that should be great for runners who don't wear socks (but will be fine for those who do).

My purpose of trying them on was to see what size I would wear if I get a pair.  I normally wear a size 11 but the size 10.5 was even a little on the long side.  I tried a size 10 and decided that my toes were to close to the front.  If you do buy a pair I suggest going down at least a 1/2 size from your usual.  One other thing,  it carries a ridiculous price tag of $200.  Yes, $200.  I spend a lot of money on shoes, but even I am having a hard time with that price.  On top of all that, Salomon claims that this is a race shoe with a very short life, due to the exposed EVA foam sole. 

The guys from Salomon asked me where a good place to do a trail run was, and I offered to meet them after work and take them out to the Quarries.  With one condition...they had to let me wear the shoes!  They said of course I could, as that was the purpose of the demo anyways.  So after work I took them all up for an hour tour of my local hotspot. 

Good traction and carbon fiber rock plate

The quarries has a lot of rocks (duh..) with everything from little pebbles to big jagged "baby head" rocks.  I was surprised to find out how well the carbon fiber rock plate worked.  The shoes have more protection than my usual New Balance MT110's and more cushioning as well.  I think it would make an excellent 100 mile shoe.  Even though it was my second run of the day, my legs felt fresh and my feet were comfy.  The tread pattern provided adequate traction, but I did find that on very steep climbs that were covered in leaves they were a little lacking.  Other than that, the rubber felt sticky on wet rocks and didn't slip any more than what you would expect in mud.  No rocks got trapped in the channels under the mid-foot.

Bottoms, after an hour of all types of terrain.

Uppers, after the run
I only had a chance to wear them for an hour, but I really liked them.  My one concern is how narrow they are.  I'm used to roomy minimal type shoes that are more shaped like a foot.  So the snugness in the mid-foot felt strange.  I had plenty of room for my toes and it didn't bother me at all during the run.  Today while wearing my MT110's for 22 miles I thought a lot about these shoes.  I might just have to bite the bullet....

Thank you so much to the gang at Salomon for letting me get a brand new pair of $200 shoes wet and dirty! 

Josh, Kristine, David and me

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Traprock 50k Race Report

Sunday marked the kickoff of my racing season with the Traprock 50k in Bloomfield CT.  I was really excited to test my early season lungs and legs.  I ran this race last year and finished 9th place.  Last year the steep, rocky terrain handed me my ass as I had been running mostly flat snowmobile trails.  This year I have been training very differently.  Rather than putting in a ton of miles I have been working on running hills every day.  This started in January and I have felt myself getting stronger and stronger.  I also haven't felt as worn out because I haven't been running as many runs over 20 miles. I knew that I was strong, but I wasn't sure if I had affected my endurance by cutting back on my long runs.  I got my answer on race day. 

I got to the Penwood State Park at 7:30 just in time to pick up my packet.  The day still had a chill in the air, but the forecast called for warm weather in the afternoon.  I was wearing arm sleeves but decided to take them off at the last minute, which was a good call. 

I had decided to use Vitargo as my fuel and had prepared three 28oz bottles for the day.  The course is a 10.5 or 11 mile loop, depending on whom you ask, and I was able to leave a little cooler with my bottles and supplies at the turn around.  This is a great setup if you don't have a crew.  I discovered Vitargo on Dave Mackeys blog and had experimented with it on several long runs.  It is a super long chain carbohydrate that allows you to ingest way more calories per hour than normal without any gastric distress.  I had prepared the Vitargo in a super concentrated manner, sort of a cross between a drink and a gel.  Each bottle had almost 900 calories and I planned on drinking one per loop, or every 1 1/2 to 1/3/4 hour.

After a long race meeting and a neat tribute to the recently deceased Micah True on cello, we were off. 

Ben (no shirt), Ryan (black shirt) Jack (red shirt) and me (blue shirt) Photo Scott Livingston
When the "Go" command was given I found myself in the lead pack with Ben Nephew, Ryan Welts, and Jack Pilla.  The race starts with a short (couple hundred feet) of road and then veers left and strait up a rooty rocky hill.  I felt very strong and had decided that rather than hang back like I usually do I was going to go for it today.  

The first hill immediately after the start.  I'm chasing Ryan.  Photo Scott Livingston
Ben was quickly gone but I found that Ryan, Jack and I were running the same pace.  I actually jumped to the lead of our group for a while and waited for the other guys to blow by me, but it didn't happen until I decided to pull back a bit and let my heart slow.  Ryan jumped in front of me and I stayed with him for a couple miles.  When we got to the "Stairway to Heaven" section, a very steep rocky section, I was right behind him.  I grabbed his ass as we started going up the stairs as a joke.  He turned around and said, "Hey man, go right ahead if you want to get in front".  He didn't seem happy with my kidding around.  I told him that I didn't plan on blowing myself up and he was going plenty fast enough.

Stairway to Heaven
The truth was, I was already headed down the road of blowing myself up.

Ryan began to gradually pull away, but not by much.  Jack decided that he wanted to catch up with Ryan and passed me.  I kept both of them in site on the paved road section and could see Jack pull away.  As I ran down the hill at the end of the first loop I was able to see that I was only minutes behind them.  I quickly swapped bottles, took off my shirt and headed back up the hill.  My first loop time was 1:23:14, way faster than my 1:30 goal.   Another runner had caught up to me right near the end of the first loop and I pulled away from him on the hills.  At the turn around I could see that he was less than a minute behind.  I needed to keep hammering!

As I took my first swig of the Vitargo in the new bottle I realized that there were some hard chunks in it, sort of like little pieces of plastic.  When you mix this stuff really concentrated it can start to harden.  Usually it doesn't happen for 24 hours but perhaps the heat affected it.  I spit out the mouthful and tried again until I could actually get some that I could drink.  Drink is a relative term as the stuff had become very thick.  It was like having a bottle full of gel.  At this time I also realized that I had been out for 2 hours and hadn't peed.  I didn't even have the urge.  That's not a good sign, but my energy was still very good so I didn't even think that I might be getting dehydrated.   I didn't do myself any favors when I went to take a swig and the top of my bottle broke off.  Now I had to try to keep the sticky gel from getting all over me.

I ran the second loop mostly alone with nobody catching me and nobody in sight.  At the lollipop loop I saw how far ahead Jack and Ryan were, and they were just a few minutes up on me.  The guy in fifth had dropped behind me a bunch so I didn't feel that much pressure.  I just kept on running and my energy felt good.  During this loop I tripped and fell 4 times!   One of the times was right in front of a bunch of people at an aid station.  I had planned on drinking some water but was so pissed that I just got right up and kept running. I spilled a bunch of my drink too.  I finally peed a bit on this loop but still didn't have much urge.  At the time I thought it was a bonus because stopping to pee costs time.  I should have realized that I was becoming dehydrated.

As I came down the hill for the finish of the second loop (1:31:27 for this loop) I saw that Ryan was still at the turn around.  I had caught him!  He looked like he was starting to get tired and I got energized to catch him.  I grabbed my third bottle and took two extra salt tabs as I was starting to cramp a bit.  I quickly took off up the hill in hot pursuit.  Ben and Jack were long gone, but perhaps I could get third today!  As soon as I headed up the hill I knew I was in trouble.  It was getting pretty hot out and I had no energy.  I had to walk what I had run the last two loops and it was like somebody had just turned off a switch on my body.  I started cramping and felt dizzy and terrible.  I walked for a bit and just couldn't bear the thought of waiting for everybody to catch me.

I had come today to push hard, not to just finish.  My mindset wasn't prepared to just survive.  As I walked trying to get the cramps to subside I decided to drop.  I knew that I would hate myself for it later, but for now it seemed like the right choice.  I came to RACE dammit.  I walked for a couple of miles seeing if my legs would come back, but they didn't.  I laid down on a table for a bit and felt the sun on my body.  Even though I had quit, it felt good knowing that I went for it today.  I turned around and did my walk of shame back.  I was surprised to see how long it took the people behind me to catch up, our group of four was pretty far in front of the rest of the runners.

After the race, Ryan, Me, Jack and Ben compare how much salt we have crusted on our bodies.
So now I know.  I need to get back to incorporating more long runs into my training.  Or I need to decide if I really want to race at the front.  I also realize that mixing the Vitargo so thickly prevented me from getting enough fluid.  Once you dehydrate your body it is very hard to come back.  So ultimately I learned something.  Hopefully I can take that knowledge to a better result at my next race.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Skechers Go Bionic Review

On September 18th my buddy Peter Larson posted a review of the Skechers Go Run on his blog,  At the time I was preparing to run 108 miles of pavement across NH and was keeping my eyes out for a minimal type shoe that offered enough cushion and protection for all that pavement.  His review of the Go Run really caught my interest.  After several emails back and forth he put me in touch with the team at Skechers.

After giving them feedback on the first pair of Go Run shoes (loved the feel of the upper, loved the flexibility of the shoe, felt that the "bump" under the arch was a little weird when walking, but awesome when running, etc.) they sent me another pair with the changes I suggested.  How cool!!  Then another pair, and another, etc.  What started out as simple feedback has now blossomed into me being a wear tester for Skechers.  (Disclaimer:  all of the shoes I have received from Skechers have been at no charge in exchange for my feedback).

Before I get into the actual review of the Go Bionic it must be said that I am incredibly impressed with the team at Skechers.  They are one of the biggest producers of shoes and they have dedicated an incredible amount of resources to building real running shoes.  The complete lack of arrogance and genuine interest in my feedback has been incredible.  I have made suggestions for shoes and had a custom pair show up in two weeks.  The quality of their prototypes is so high that the first time they sent me a custom shoe I called them and said they must have made a mistake, I thought it was a production shoe. 

Go Bionic!
The shoe that I have been wearing the most is the Go Bionic.  Peter and I have been working collaboratively with them on this shoe.  Pete likes to run sockless and does shorter faster runs than me.  I always wear socks and generally run longer distances. Therefore our feedback comes from different perspectives and covers a wide type of runners needs.

Let me say one thing.  Although I like minimal shoes, I don't consider myself a "Barefoot" runner.  The only requirement that I have for running shoes is that there has to be a 4mm or less heel/midfoot drop.  I love how minimal shoes feel.  I love how they sort of disappear on my feet.  I love how they are not hot and breath well.  But I do not love how much the bottom of my feet hurt when I try to run long distances in them.  I like having some cushioning, or" bounce", when I land on pavement.

For me the perfect shoe would simply be rubber that would extend out of the bottom of my foot.  It would allow my feet to move and feel exactly as they do when I'm barefoot, but it would give me enough cushioning and protection to allow me to run all day (and night).  

Most minimal shoes cater to the barefoot crowd.  And most barefooters like to feel the ground.  Some of them write on their blogs how shoes with a tiny bit of hard rubber have no "ground feel" and aren't minimal enough.  Well, not this guy.  I have been trying to find a minimal shoe that would let me run for hours without making it feel like somebody beat the bottoms of my feet with a ball-peen hammer.  I have finally found that shoe.  And it is the Go Bionic.

6.4 Oz with sockliner, 6.0 without (size 10 mens)

The Go Bionic is a zero drop lightweight shoe.  Unlike most zero drop minimal shoes, the sole is made with a lateral midsole thickness of 11.5mm and has substantial cushioning.  For me, the Resalyte material has a perfect amount of ground feel with enough "squish" or "bounce".


 The horizontal and vertical slits in the soles allows the shoe to move with your feet in all directions.  A size 10 mens shoe weighs only 6.4 oz on my digital scale and exactly 6 oz without the removable sockliner.

Nice flat removable sockliner
Originally the shoe was designed without a sockliner and was meant to be able to wear sockless.  The first pair I received had no sockliner.  There was a noticeable feel to the blocks of rubber directly under my feet that was a bit strange when standing, but was undetectable when running.  Peter and I both suggested that they design the shoe with a very minimal removable sockliner.  It turned a really good shoe into a great shoe for me.

Without the sockliner
 Another thing that I love about this shoe is that there is zero arch support.  Zero.  I really don't understand why shoe companies design "minimal" shoes and then ruin them with arch support.  I want my minimal shoes to feel like my feet.  Not like traditional shoes that don't allow my arch to flex and stretch.  Skechers got this right.
Wide Toe Box

Breathability is excellent and the upper has a wide toe box that allows your toes to splay freely.  Running roads in this shoe feels like running barefoot on the grass.  That's the best way I can describe the ride.  Two weeks ago I decided to meet the family for breakfast...31 miles away.  I wasn't sure how my feet would feel after running that many miles in a zero drop shoe, but I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived later after 4 1/2 hours of roads.

The slits in the sole do open the question about how waterproof they are.  Skechers has given the shoes a 3M Scotchguard Protective coating.  Not only does this improve water resistance at the bottom of the shoe, but it keeps the uppers looking better longer.  I have tested a pair of Go Runs with this coating by taking them off road through mud, sand, water, and general muck and was amazed at how everything just kind of slid off the shoes.  They tell me that it is very heavy duty and should last the life of the shoes.  The shoe also has a primer and cement layer between the midsole slits and the upper to increase protection.  I have not tested the shoes in the rain, but I have run in them when there was heavy snowmelt on the roads and did not have any water come through the bottom of the shoes.

Flexible in every direction.
Besides being a great road shoe, this shoe is a fantastic every day shoe for the person who doesn't want to have an elevated heel.  I love how minimal shoes feel for casual use, but I don't walk midfoot first.  Frankly I've never been able to figure out how to do it without looking like I am very "light in the loafers", so to speak.   Therefore, whenever I do wear a zero drop shoe for work,  my feet end up hurting by the end of the day.  With the Go Bionics extra cushioning I find that I have the best of both worlds.  Zero drop, zero pain.

Ok, so I'm gushing.  I love these shoes.  I have waited two years for somebody to come out with a shoe like this.  If you want a pair you will have to wait just a little bit longer.  The release date is scheduled for July of this year with an estimated MSRP of under $90.

If you want a more technical review of the shoe, check out Petes's post at