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.