Skechers Go Run Ultra Initial Review

Just took a pair of the Skechers GRU on a quick 1 mile treadmill test. I’ll do more over the weekend, but here’s my initial reaction:

Fluffy

But good fluffy. I felt they were extremely soft and think they will be interesting to take out on a groomed trail (tomorrow) and more of a technical trail (Sunday). The insert (some call it a sock liner) was something I took out after the first 1/2 mile, and it made a big difference. The claim is that the drop is 8mm with the insert and 4 without. I’m used to running in zero drop, so 8mm felt like I was in high heels. 4 mm was still noticeable, but bearable for the entire 1/2 mile I ran in them.

IMG_3271Looking at it compared to my other regulars (Luna Mono and Altra Olympus):

  1. The tread is the most aggressive, which I like, especially after slipping around in the mud in my Mono’s last weekend.
  2. It’s narrower than the other two, though and hopefully on my longer run on Sunday I’ll find out if this is going to be a problem. Taking the insert out also opened up the toe box, so it may not be an issue.
  3. It has a drop (it’s been so long since I’ve run with one, I’ll be interested to see how my legs react)
  4. The weight is dead in between the two.  My Mono’s weigh 5 oz, the Skechers weigh 9.1 (as I’ll run in them) and the Olympus checks in at 13.5 oz.
  5. It feels, as noted before, “fluffy”. We’ll see if that’s a good or bad thing on the rocks.

Technical Comparisons:

GRU- 4 mm drop, 23/27 mm stack height (fore/heel), 9.1oz

Altra Olympus- 0 mm drop, 32 mm stack height, 13.5oz

Luna Mono- 0 mm drop, 11 mm stack height, 5.0 oz

Medium Distance Update:

So, took them out this morning on a combination of groomed trail and asphalt path in Forest Park, then just for fun, took them up and down Art Hill a few times

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Overall, they performed well.  Fairly light, strong grip going up the hill and although I knew I was running on rocks on the trail, I didn’t feel every one.  Often runners talk about having “ground feel” when running, especially when rating minimalist shoes.  I’ve found that while I occasionally do like to feel the ground, I prefer “ground awareness”, especially on long distance runs.  “Ground Feel” tends to translate into “Sore Feet” for me, and I prefer to minimize pain (enough of it occurs in other areas- falling, cramping, etc.) if I can.  The testing will continue tomorrow as I take them out onto some “real trails” on the Lewis and Clark Trail with some good climbs, creek crossings, some mud (it’s been raining a bit) and a bit more distance.

To be continued…

After 13.5 in mixed terrain (mud, a little bit of technical/rock, a few hills, but mostly single track) I have one word:

Brilliant

The shoes performed really well, carving through the rocks (aware without beware), confidently climbing in mud with nary a slip!

Fellow SLUG Mark on the rocks

Fellow SLUG Mark on the rocks

The shoes lost a bit of their shine in the mud, but the deep lugs and generous spacing between them meant the mud only stayed on the tops of the shoesIMG_3301

Not the bottom!IMG_3302

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, 13.5 isn’t a marathon or an ultra, so it still remains to be seen if they cause other long distance/time problems, but I didn’t feel or see any hotspots, and without the sock liner (as I mentioned above) there was plenty of room for my feet.  My foot did move a bit in them on the downhill, but that’s probably because I prefer to lace them looser.  I may not do an ultra in them until December, but until then, if you’re looking for a light, roomy, grippy trail shoe, this just might be it!

The Idiot

The Monkey vs The Mountain vs The Mafate

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A (somewhat serious) review of three shoes I wear/have worn: The Luna Mono, The Altra Olympus and the Hoka Mafate 2

So, I used to run in the Hoka Mafate’s, I’ve been running in the Luna Mono’s for about 6 months and just got my pair of Altra Olympus’ and I thought to myself: Has anyone reviewed/compared the 3?  A quick search showed a scattering of reviews, but none that compared all three, so I decided to take on the task for others, like me, that are looking for guidance in a sea of choices.  Arguably, all three are different in their own way, but there are a lot of similarities that make the comparisons less than ridiculous.

My conclusion is at the end of this brief review, so if you’re the impatient type, you can scroll down. ☺

First: The look

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The first thing you’ll notice when wearing any of these three shoes is that other people will tend to stare.  Both the Hokas and the Altras put you on a platform a few inches above the normal running rabble and the sheer volume of the shoes causes looks.  The Luna’s, while garnering a slightly different response, still score high on the gaping stare spectrum, especially when worn when it’s cold outside.

Next: The feel

For me, this is one of the key differentiators and the reason why I’d choose one over the others.  The Hokas have great cushioning, but my foot sits deep in the shoe.  The result is a rubbing on the side of my ankle that caused me to cut a notch out of the shoe (noticeable in the picture above).  Also, for me the shoes are a bit too narrow and for longer distances, as my foot swells, it rubs.  This is the hurdle, for me, where these shoes fall.  Raw skin and blisters should not be a part of any activity you love to do.  I will speak of them no more

The Lunas have their own special rubbing points, but I’ve found if I wear toe socks for really long runs, I have no issues at all.  The contact of the strap between the toes can be alleviated either that way or with a lubricant like Body Glide (NFI) and the buckle on the top of the foot can be dealt with the same way.  The heel strap rubbing is eliminated (in my opinion) with the addition of a tech strap, or additional straps as shown in the picture.  Once that is sorted, they are a lot of fun to run in.  Sockful or sockless, running on the road or on trail is comfortable and oddly freeing.  No worries about running through water or mud, it all just runs through.  I do get the occasional rock, but no more than wearing shoes without gaiters, and it is considerably easier to get rid of them than completely untying the shoes. Also, after a couple of runs, they mold to the shape of your foot, which makes them feel great.

The Altras, in my opinion, fixed a lot of issues I had with the Hokas.  Just as padded (in my opinion) on the bottom, MUCH wider toebox (although I haven’t run an ultra in them yet, so no idea on rubbing) and the collar around the ankle is a lot lower, so there shouldn’t be any rubbing there.  The few runs I’ve taken them on have been a lot of fun and the zen-like tread pattern works well on loose dirt/gravel.

Next: Form

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I run using the Chi method, hitting on the balls/mid foot unless my form gets sloppy.  Both the Lunas and the Altras can accommodate this style as they are zero drop (no difference between the heel height and the toe height).  As you can see from the pictures above, there is a slight difference in the amount of cushioning between the two :) , and that leads me to:

Finally: The conclusion

To recap, I wanted to love the Hokas, but they weren’t made for my spread out, swelling feet.  If you remember, I ran Death Valley in a pair of Hokas, but switched out between them and a different model of Altras.  I ended up having to cut relief holes in the Hokas to avoid re-aggravating the blisters.

The new Altra Olympus appears, at first run, to be all that was missing in the Hokas, I like the cushioning, the depth and the width.  I have two races coming up in the next few months and will run at least one of them in the Altras.  For me, if it’s too cold, or the course is ridiculously technical or long, I think they’ll be my go-to shoe.  I like minimalist, but I’m not a masochist.

The Lunas, however, are my go-to for everything else.  I love the idea of strengthening my foot muscles and running more naturally and I love how the sandals pretty quickly molded to my feet.  I have over 200 miles on my current pair, and they’re still going strong.

Basically, I run because I enjoy it.  I’m usually nowhere near a podium or a course record and I like to be able to walk and talk after a race, not collapse in a quivering heap.  I will pick one of these shoes over the other based on the type of experience I want to have (with the exception of the Hokas, did I mention that?).  If I want to bound around like a deer (or a monkey), I’ll take the Lunas, If I want to plow through a mountain, I’ll reach for Olympus.  I may have found the perfect pairs of shoes for me, at opposite ends of the spectrum, but covering it all.  I’m running in the swamps in Florida next week at the DWD Green Swamp 50k, so I’ll probably be monkey-ing around down there!

I have no financial interest in anything I mentioned here, but I do have friends that work for/sell both the Lunas and the Altras.  If that, in your mind, constitutes a conflict of interest, I’m really sorry I wasted your time.  My recommendation would be to go out and see what works for you. ;)

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1 Inspired Idiot

28 Miles on a Safety Pin

IMG_2402 Author’s Note: This report is late due to the ongoing dialog with major motion picture companies on the eventual film rights to this story.  As those negotiations seem to have broken down on a number of fronts, I’ve felt it important to release the story and worry about whether or not Matthew McConaughey could or couldn’t actually run this far for another day.

Running in sandals gives you a feeling unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  No material to rub your toes raw, the wind freely blows through the hairs on your toes and with the one’s I was wearing (Luna Mono’s- I have no financial interest in mentioning them, but I do know someone that works there and I did spend the better part of the Fuego y Agua getting to know and like him.  He did also teach me how to add another strap to make them conform to my feet, so that may bias my thoughts towards these sandals versus others.  Void where prohibited, etc.) there was enough padding to keep me going through the 31 paved miles of paths of Nashville and set a PR of 5:23.  But that’s only part of it.IMG_2406

The real story is of a guy named Jason from Nashville, who ran the full 50 mile version of this race in his Luna’s as his first attempt at 50 miles in only his second ultra. Not only that, his ingenious use of a safety pin from his race bib kept him from dropping out of the race 22 miles in.  Jason started, like the majority of the other 184 runners, at 7:00 am on a bright, but slightly chilly, November the 5th.  I briefly saw him at the start, noticing that he, like I, was clad in Luna’s.  IMG_2410A few early stops to take some pictures and adjust my straps (still trying to figure out the “best” fit) put me behind him, but as I ran and chatted with different people (like just about every ultra I’ve been in, the runners all have great stories and challenges and it helps the miles fly by), I started to catch up.  I saw him again as we neared the end of the first 16 mile loop (the hilly one).

IMG_2412We were flying by my standards (sub 10 minute miles) and once I found out he was running the 50 mile, it was his first, and he was way ahead of his goal pace, we agreed to stay together,  making sure we stayed quick without blowing up.  He had an earlier, thinner version of the sandals on that he had been running in for almost a year, and we swapped stories and advice (both experienced and read) as the miles rolled past.  We ran past the finish line to start the second loop and into the more isolated section of the course.  Staying mostly on the paved path, we soon veered off into a grassy section at mile 18 and dodged roots and logs for about 2 ½ miles. Pace had slowed at this point to just over 10 minutes, but we both still felt good.  We caught a few people, and then came back out onto the pavement.  I can’t remember if it was a speed bump or just a foot drag, but at about mile 22, the front of Jason’s sandal caught and he pulled the toe strap right out of the bottom of the sandal.

Over the next few minutes we tried everything- tying a knot in the strap (not enough leather), running with the strap as it was (no dice), running ½ and ½ (one foot barefoot, again a non-starter).  Jason finally got the strap to go through the hole in the bottom and sit there, but we knew it wasn’t a long term fix.  Luckily, the next aid station was only about a mile away, so we slowly shuffled there, trying to think of a fix.  Of course, if I had all my survival implements from the previous race with me, we could have come up with a complicated solution that would have involved me cutting off a toe, but unfortunately, I didn’t bring them.  As we came into the aid station, we started to think about alternatives, and the idea of using one of the safety pins on Jason’s bib surfaced.  IMG_2417IMG_2419IMG_2423After only a few more minutes, we had the solution and motored out of the aid station!

My turn around point was only another half mile up the road, but after testing it, Jason declared himself ready to go and kept on.  Meanwhile, I turned around, and continued my race for the last 6 or so miles with the usual paranoia that sets in late in the race while running alone.  Is that someone catching me? What was that noise? I only went how far since the last time I looked at my watch?? Where is the bridge?  My GPS must be messed up, I know it’s not this far!  Luckily, although I saw a group, and they did nearly catch me, I was able to gut it out and finish 4th in my age group and 12th overall.  The real question was, what happened to Jason?

I got a text from him later that day that he finished in 12:43 after bonking around mile 35, he rallied and clicked his way to the finish line.  There are a lot of inspiring stories in the ultra world on overcoming adversity.  The distance and the time combine to throw a lot of reasons to quit at you.  A first attempt at 50 miles is daunting. Having your shoe fall apart would seem to most to be reason to quit.  Having a safety pin as the only thing holding it together for 8+ hours had to be a constant mind game and I draw inspiration from Jason’s perseverance.  My hat is off to him- look for the film in the 2015 summer releases!IMG_2425

Louisville Lovin the Hills- 1st Ultra of the Year

The sea was angry that day my friend…Of course, I was in the foothills of Louisville, Kentucky, so not really relevant…

I had made the trek down from St. Louis the day before, the entire family coming to support me (or more accurately, visit the water park adjacent to our hotel).  I was now standing near the start line, a sunny 28 degree day, waiting for the “go” signal.  I was a bit nervous because I had changed my training to see if it made a difference and I was about to find out if I’d made a terrible mistake.  In my short ultra career, it had been drilled into me that miles was the training answer.  Not one to love doing the same thing over and over, I decided to switch things up in December.  I reduced my mileage (10-15 miles would be my longest single training run for a 50k), include a “speed” day and a “hills” day, and do leg strength training.  The net result was fewer hours training, more time with my family, and hopefully at least as good a result in my races.

Which brought me to Louisville and the Louisville Lovin the Hills 50k.  Originally, I had signed up for the race as a “training” run for my 50 miler in March, but it was becoming apparent that this one might be more difficult, even though it was 19 miles shorter! (Why do I underestimate these things?) The elevation profile on the site said there was 5200 feet of gain during the run, putting it on par with my Dogwood Canyon 50k I had run in October.  That one, if you remember, took me almost 9 hours, so I was in for some fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe run started a little after 8, and I had 3 layers on top and only my shorts and compression socks below. (Note I have no financial interest (NFI) in any product I talk about on this entry) On my feet were a pair of VivoBarefoot Neo Trail shoes that I had put a sum total of 7 miles on, and an UltrAspire Kinetic hydration vest that had zero miles on it.  I had Clip2 in my bottles, experimenting with them as well.  Nobody said I was smart.  My goal was to hydrate/fuel every hour with a bottle of the Clip2 (24 ounces ~ 150 calories), supplement with food at the aid stations, and use S-Caps when needed.

The first section was flat to downhill, and after about 2.5 miles we hit our first serious hill.  Everyone (there were 15 mile racers on the same course) bottled up a bit there as it went to single track and we trudged up the hill.  It wasn’t the 15° incline of Dogwood, but it wasn’t easy.  Here I learned the valuable lesson that, like Derek Zoolander who couldn’t turn left, I couldn’t go right and reach one of the bottles on the vest.  Super.  Luckily, during the run a few of my compatriots felt sorry for me and either helped me get it out or get it back in after they saw me writhing around like I was trying to swat a bee off my back. (note- must work on right shoulder flexibility)  So, back in the race, I hit the first aid station at mile 5.7 in 1:10 and was feeling pretty good.  Grabbed a banana and motored out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next section was the very definition of single track.  Barely more than a foot wide, we negotiated the sides of hills that luckily weren’t greasy with mud.  My pace was still pretty good, but because of the difficulty in reaching my bottles, I had fallen off the pace in staying hydrated.  I justified it by convincing myself I wasn’t thirsty, but in hindsight probably should have had a bit more to drink.

At this point (mile 10, 2 hours into the run) my feet (that I had mostly taped) were feeling pretty good with the exception of my second toe on my left foot (that I hadn’t taped).  It was sitting next to one that I had, and decided that rubbing was a good idea. A bit of pain that would be my constant companion for the rest of the day.  My drop bag (with new socks, a stick roller to get the lactic acid out of my calves and thighs, and some ibuprofen) was at a place called Scott’s Gap.  I didn’t know how far it was, and when I asked at mile 15, was told “I think it’s at mile 22″. While this was technically correct, it was at the beginning and end of the loop known as Scott’s Gap.  Luckily, mile 19 was the beginning and mile 22(ish) was the end.  I needed the stick roller both times I hit that aid station.  To explain, I had used the 5200 feet estimate from the website as a proxy on how many more hills I had to go.  By mile 19, I was very near that number and feeling it.  I was told Scott’s Gap was a “killer”, but my watch wouldn’t lie, right?

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Scott’s Gap took me an hour to navigate and it was only a little more than 3 miles. (the first 1/2 mile was a 10° incline and then it got fun) It nearly killed me with what felt like a lot of elevation gain and a lot of straight up and down trails.  Luckily, two things helped me.  The first was the realization that after Scott’s Gap, I only had 9 or so miles to go (less than double digits!) and the second was a fellow runner who I had seen off and on during the race. I caught up with him after leaving the Scott’s Gap aid station for the second time. We ran together, talked, pushed each other and made it through the final 9.  He was running his first 50k and he was a 3:30 marathoner. I wouldn’t have finished as quickly (a relative term) without him.  I was slower on the ups and he was a bit slower going downhill, but we ham and egged it to the finish.  (there was a bit of nice scenery on the way)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both my quads cramped about 150 yards from the finish, so my assessment is that I left most of it out on the course.  I finished in 7:57, nearly an hour quicker than Dogwood, and if Garmin is to be believed, Louisville had about 1000 more feet of climbing.  Regardless, a good run. Here’s the link if you really want to experience the entire experience!

Louisville Lovin the Hills by 8728753 at Garmin Connect – Details.

The volunteers were great, the runners were kind and the chili and vegan options at the end (as well as the massage therapist) were well worth it!

I’m convinced the training change was effective (although I was sore for longer after) and I’ll take the lessons learned (taping, fueling, hydration, training) and incorporate them into the next month before the 50 miler.  As mentioned on my tweet, I have a new challenge to help the kids at SouthSide Early Childhood Center, and I’ll have something out on that next week!

Gear Review: North Face Torpedo Jacket

So, my first review of a great jacket.  Sorry for the time between posts.  More inspirational stories, an update on the success of my diet, my training regime for my next races, and my next run for SouthSide (which will really be a year long challenge, but more on that later!)

Here are my impressions of the North Face Torpedo Jacket:

 

Wind Resistance   A
Comfort   A
Convenience   A+
Style   A
Front View

Front View

All runs were in sub-25 degree temperatures (I know that’s nothing for you up north, but them’s the cards I was dealt) with one of the days being pretty windy (various weather websites had the “how it feels” temp down to 15), and one of the nights being a half marathon called the Shivering Icy Trail Run (I may post a race report once my fingers finally thaw).  Because I don’t mind running in extremes as long as I can create a comfortable environment bubble around me, I used it as a shell over two thermal layers.  Sans the shell, the wind would cut through these layers like a scythe, as was evident by my having to cut my planned 20 mile run short because the gloves I was wearing were not up to the task.I’ve test-driven the North Face Torpedo jacket on more than a few cold days here in St. Louis, and I’ve got to say, I’m impressed.  I started looking for a good light, yet wind and water resistant jacket when my bulkier jacket became too cumbersome and my lighter jacket that I use for running in the Spring and Fall was not up to the task of cutting the winter wind.

Wind Resistance- A

While not completely blocking said wind, the jacket performed very well.  On longer runs, I employ a run/walk pattern and during the walking bits is when I need heat retention.  The jacket took more than a few gusts full on and I only felt the slightest discomfort on either my core or my arms (hands, as mentioned before, were another story).

Comfort- A

SONY DSCEven though I don’t swing my arms like Phoebe when I run, I don’t like to feel restricted.  The jacket was true to size and even with two thermal layers underneath, I felt like I could move very well.  Because it’s light, I wasn’t weighed down (although if you do ever feel weighed down by a running jacket, you probably should consider adding some upper body conditioning exercises to your training routine) and the collar was felt-padded (not sure of the technical term), so even fully zipped, I didn’t experience any chafing.  There’s no cord to draw the bottom tight, which I find nice, but not necessary as long as I tuck my other layers into my bottoms.

Convenience- A+

The jacket has two front zip pockets that I used for both keys and my iPod.  I like the fact that North Face connected the interior liner of the pockets so it could be used as additional.  My favorite, though, is the dual back pocket.  SONY DSCFirst, an accessible pocket that could be used for a water bottle or food, and a zippered pocket to hold the keys you don’t want to put in the front pocket.  Counting the interior pockets, that’s six total!  It doesn’t have a dedicated music player pocket, but I’ve always found the holes to push through your earphones fiddly (another technical term), so I don’t consider that a negative.

Style- A

Good reflective strips, choice of colors, and I just look good running in it! SONY DSC

So, a great jacket that I will be using for a while.  Questions initially about water resistance, were laid to rest during the Shivering half marathon.  It was cold, then rainy, then sleety, then ridiculously cold over the course of a few hours and the jacket kept me dry (can’t say as much for my gloves or shoes, but my torso was fine!)

Finally, quick poll- since I’m a bit of a gear geek, I’m happy to review more products I use, but if it’s a waste of your time, let me know. I’ll go with the majority.

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