Saturday, October 13, 2012

UltrAspire Spry and Surge Pack Review

I have now had several trail runs with both UltrAspire packs to be able to give a complete run down with pros/cons of each pack.
* Per label:
Weight 171g/ 6.03 oz

My take on the Spry: stupid simple...just as I like my packs. It is fast, ultra light weight, and no extra doo-dads to fuss with. All my necessities are front and ready for quick access. I don't need to mess with taking pack on and off for stuff in the rear. It is so light it feels like it's part of my shirt. Here's the low down:

Except for the Surge having a second sternal strap, the two packs are identical from the front. There are a total of five pockets:
#1 right drawcord pocket
#2 right magnetic waterproof pouch
#3 left elastic mesh upper mini pocket
#4 left very spacious zipper (appears waterproof also) pocket
#5 exterior mesh elastic pocket.

I store my kleenex/wipes in #1 and also use it as my quick stash pocket for gloves or armwarmers. This is a super convenient change from my old pack where I had to remove my pack every time I took off/put on gloves or arm warmers (or asked a fellow runner to do it for me mid-stride). I like this pocket and it cinches tight with a decent amount of cord to grab onto with gloves. I haven't had any objects fall out of this pocket (unlike my trial with one other Nathans pack where I lost my map). UltrAspire advertises this pocket can also be used to hold a bottle which I haven't tried. For me I think that might be a bit bulky and bang up my poor Ta-Ta. I'll have to give it a try just for future reference.

#2 is cool but teeny tiny. It is meant for salt pills or such but I haven't really had any use for salt tabs in quit awhile. Right now I store my car key and a tampon (sorry guys for TMI) there. I could see this pocket size might be an issue for guys with larger fingers.

#3 I tried putting my iPod Nano here but found it difficult to use the dial control on it. When I put it in the same location on my Surge, the bladder mouthpiece and clip interferes with the access. I now put a gel or gum in it. I would also consider putting my kleenex/wipes here to free up #1 for other things.

#4 I was surprised at how large this seemingly small compartment was. It fit a handful of gels in it with still room to breathe. This will be extremely convenient for ultra runs. With my other pack I had to stash three or four in my breast pocket and the rest on my back. Halfway through a run I would have to stop, take off my pack, and swap out wrappers for new gels. I now keep a little doggy bag in with the gels so I can just toss my wrappers in the baggy for a no-mess Leave No Trace cleanup post race.This pocket also feels as if it might be somewhat water proof or at least water resistant. The pull tabs on the zipper are long enough for a good gloved grasp but not long enough to slap around while running.

One thing I did note while doing a very short 3 miler around our local park, I only had one or two gels in this pocket and nothing in the other. The pocket, being secured slightly high on the actual pocket by the sternum strap, tended to bounce and slap me a little in the ribs. It wasn't painful just ever so slightly annoying. Once I added a little more weight to the pocket the bouncing became less noticeable. Not exactly a complaint by any means just know it can bounce if not weighed down some.

#5 I keep my camera here or my iPod when not carrying my camera.

The neck straps are wide. So wide I was a bit uncomfortable with my first run. I was used to my Nathan's pack which snugged my shoulders and neck more. After my first few runs I realized exactly how comfortable the wider shoulder straps were and noticed I wasn't having the mild neck muscle fatigue I sometimes get with really long runs. The fabric is really thin and breathable without compromising it's durability. 

The hole in the back is a bit odd looking but I guess it works. Cuts down on fabric, i.e. weight, and allows my back to breathe. I'm okay with it.

The back of the Spry is simple. I like simple. The pocket closes with a sturdy magnetic snap. I have fit my .38 in here with an ultra-light Gortex jacket without any issues. The butt of the gun doesn't stick up or print too bad as long as I use my pancake Kydex holster my husband made for me. This pocket also fits a minimalist bladder for longer runs with two elastic bands up front for securing your mouthpiece. I will be using this pack a lot on my local 10ish mile trail runs where all I need is a handheld and maybe a light jacket or headlamp. With greater distances, the only time I would chose this pack over the Surge is in the dead heat of summer where I don't need a jacket and can toss extra water back there or purification tabs. 

The Spry sits high between the shoulder blades, front sternum and single side straps are very easily adjusted.

*Per Label:
Weight: 304g/ 10.72 oz
2L Hydration compartment 

As you can see, same front except this now has a double sternum strap. I was initially concerned about the hook clasp attachment points (my Nathans had a quick release buckle which was indeed quick). After a few times using the clasp, however, I have come to the conclusion that it is very secure and super easy to work, even with numb fingers.

Nice slim profile, nothing bulky poking out or abnormally distributing weight. I could lay (or fall) on my back and not be discomforted while wearing this pack. Notice the front falls slightly lower down on my chest than the Spry. The Surge also has double straps on either side for a perfect custom fit. The extra slack on the straps dangle, which are easily fixed by rolling, tucking, or cutting. I, however, like the extra ribbon lengths and find it easy to grab hold of and adjust mid-stride as needed. I might trim them just a little.

With my last trail run of 25 miles, I carried a full bladder and extra gear to prepare for cold temps at the top of the pass. I had jacket, gloves, hat, Quikclot, silver emergency blanket, HotHands, water purifying tabs, mini foot care kit, extra food, as well as my normal Spry running contents. What would have normally put significant weight on my shoulders and neck with my previous pack, evenly distributed the contents to the point I felt very little weight with the Surge. I was extremely comfortable the entire 25 miles and only had to remove my pack once for rear access.

The rear of the pack has three "pockets":
#1 top accessory zipped pocket. I put my water tabs and foot care kit here with a few extra things of food.
#2 exterior mesh compartment (for jacket etc.)
#3 large main compartment for bladder

Now the Cons:
A) I am undecided about the included bladder. I have always preferred my 1L Camelbak bladder with it's easy big bite valve mouthpiece. This bladder is unique in that to fill it, you slide a plastic bar off the very top then fold up the top of the bag (similar to the closure of a colostomy bag...for those medical people, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about). That part is cool once you get the hang of it but the mouthpiece is "different". To lock or unlock the mouthpiece, you rotate it. You bite down on it to get a slug of water (so far so good, it flowed extremely well) but when I locked it and clipped it to my chest it leaked. Not a lot but a few drops here and there was annoying. I also wonder how durable the hard plastic slide would be long term. The bladder is advertised as a 2L bladder but I couldn't fit more than 1.5L in it. I will take it for a few more runs before I ask UltrAspire if I have a leaky lemon, or just swap it for my previous loved Camelbak.

B) My biggest caveat: there is no separate compartment, even just an ultralight easy access sleeve, for the bladder. I loved how my Nathan's pack had an external zip compartment for the bladder. On races it was so easy to just slide the bladder out, pop off the attachment point (where the tubing meets the bladder), and refill the bladder in seconds. I also didn't have to worry about any objects getting too close to the bladder and puncturing it.

With the Surge, there is only one large compartment that fits the bladder (a small half-zip entry) and an elastic band that crosses horizontally midway down the compartment. I am not sure what purpose this band serves since the compartment isn't very big and therefore holds the bladder snugly without it. If you carry a full bladder there is very little room to put anything else in there and you have to be mindful not to put anything sharp next to the bladder. I stuck my ziplock bag of blanket, HotHands, and QuikClot there.
When I went to refill the bladder, I had to take out my ziplock (I wouldn't want to put anything small in this compartment that might get flung out unnoticed), refill bladder, than awkwardly restuff bladder then my ziplock back in. Not very speedy. I see the benefits of having a single compartment (mainly cut down on weight) but I do wish it had it's own divider or area for quicker, easier access.

C) Lastly, the exterior mesh pocket is not sewn all the way on the bottom for obvious reasons: there is a girdle-type band that stretches across the bottom and allows the lower part of the pack to fit tight and snug to your body. I like this feature but might find a way to stagger-sew some or all of this opening shut in a way not to hinder the function but so I don't lose any objects through this hole. As of now, I haven't had any reason to put anything small in this part of the pack. I save this for my jacket, gloves, hat, etc. Also, I had a little bit of an issue with the top pocket (#1) flopping while I ran. I secured the buckle down as much as I could but it still flopped. Minor annoyance. I might need to recheck to see if I really have it secured as tight as it goes....

Overall opinions: Absolutely love these packs and can't wait to get more runs in with them. I would highly recommend them to other runners/hikers over the Nathan's brand.

***4/4/13: I'm updating this blog since I just found out a friend of mine ordered a brand new Nathan's pack and I got to check it out in person (although haven't run with it). It is designed almost exactly like the Ultraspire Spry pack. I highly approve of Nathan's design here and would definitely recommend them! I think the pack ran about $45-ish***

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass

 Loved this run.... (pic from MtnRunner)

Hooked up with my good friend, Karl, who I met in TransRockies 2009 as well as MtnRunner (check out his post on the run here) for a 25 mile trail run from Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass. Neither of us had done this run before so we were psyched to tear it up. Cowboy hiked with the pup while we ran.

 Karl said, "Pose!" as he took this pic. This was all I could come up with... I'm such a girl.

 Filtering some ice cold water. Upon research of this trail I couldn't find any good info on water sources but saw lots of biker bloggers complaining they ran out of water. I have no idea how this happened as creek crossings were in abundance! I had carried one bottle plus a full 1.5L bladder and my purifying tablets. I did not need that much water on my back.

 Mount Guyot (Mtnrunner in top right corner)

It was cold at Georgia Pass so we headed back right away and followed Jackson Creek Trail (beautiful trail!). Here we stopped for "lunch". I swooned over my summer sausage and Gouda cheese.

We passed a certifiable cowboy and his wife riding horses on the way back to Kenosha. He had the kind but stern face, handlebar stash, big hat, chaps, and kick ass boots. He tipped his hat at me and said, "Ma'am" as he passed. I would have instantly tossed my panties at him had I been wearing some. Karl educated me in the importance of always carrying a back up pair just in case for such reasons as this. Thanks Karl for the lesson...notes were taken. 

The day was perfect, even with a little snow sprinkling at the top of the pass. My first trail run with the UltrAspire Surge pack: gear write up soon but bottom line, I absolutely love this pack.

We stopped at some local BBQ joint on the way home and scarfed down some delicious ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TransRockies Take Two!

It's been a bit over a week since I got back from running the six day staged trail race across a beautiful mountainous section of Colorado. My partner and I placed sixth in our division and we're pretty darn happy about that. We ranked 9th last time we ran this in 2009, so sixth is a good place to be not to mention neither of us were even slightly injured or beat down. Steph had some serious altitude adjusting issues the first and somewhat into the second stages but seemed to dig deep and burn through it. Overall we had so much fun, to be honest, probably the most fun in all the races we have done together. We had communicated and discussed our goals and expectations multiple times throughout the months leading up to the race that when the race day came we were laid back and chillaxin about the entire thing.

I couldn't tell her enough how extremely happy I was to have her as my sidekick through these races. She is, by far, the most positive and outgoing person I know and love to be around. We nicknamed her "The Voice" this time around due to her constant attraction to chatting with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I'm a bit more anti-social on the trails as I enjoy becoming lost in my own thoughts, music, or the soothing environment (nature) around me. I will chat with others on occasion, mostly when the incline has slowed me to a hike, but I am pretty selective with who I chat up. We teased the hell out of her the entire week but frankly, we meant it all in the kindest way. We (myself and the other pair of runner-friends we headed to the race with) love her to pieces, even with all the chatting. She is truly the best running partner ever.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mt Bierstadt Run

 The start...slightly chilly 0730 (was shooting for 0600 but when you have a lovable husband snoozing with his bear-arms curdled around you, it sure is hard to crawl out of bed away from that warmth). Cowboy hiked while I ran.

Goal: Mt. Bierstadt (top right) 14,065' 
 Argos and I- time: 1:43 up

 Summit Cheese! I shared half with the pup.

 Argos' favorite part of the run

Chillin' in the back hatch of the 4Runner with Argos, waiting for Cowboy to return while watching the clouds, feeding some little birds Triscuit crumbs, and thinking about how wonderful life is.

Total 7.75 Miles in 2hrs 53min (not including some slight stopping moments to let hikers and their dogs by etc). Overall I'm happy with my time. It's the tail end of the day and I'm not sore which tells me I'm doing well with my fitness for my upcoming race. I felt I could have pushed myself just a tad more but it was the first time I'd run Bierstadt so wasn't sure how tired I would get and therefore kept some in the tank. 

Cowboy had a great hike and came in all smiles, chatting it up with some other hikers. Unfortunately he did not summit due to storm clouds rapidly approaching but he came pretty darn close. Close enough he started to get summit fever and replied to me as I paused for a smooch on my way down, "We'll have to visit this mountain again this year so I can get to the top!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bagged Two Peaks in One Day

My future home.

MtnRunner and I headed out early morning to run Grays and Torreys Peaks (both Fourteeners) this weekend. I hadn't ever been to either peak so I was more than excited to challenge myself with this and equally excited to have company doing so.

We started out on the 4x4 dirt road leading to the trailhead as the road was pretty pitted with near sink hole size divots.  Once we reached the trailhead both of us were ready to be threading ourselves through the mountains. My breath nearly left me as I looked on across the bridge and took in the gorgeous scenery of the grand state I live in.

A few miles of softly rolling trail lead us to an abrupt climb skyward. It was pretty impossible running so we flowed into a brisk strong hike with short little stops to catch our breath and allow our calves a chance to relax. There were a lot of hikers on the trail (we zoomed past every single one of them) and I was surprised at the amount of small dogs. There were terriers, cattle dogs, and even a white scotty dog. Wow. I was on the fence bringing Argos but decided against it since I wasn't familiar with the trail and terrain. Looking back, I'm still not so sure I would bring him as there were tons of rocky patches. I felt bad for some of those little guys!

 You can barely see the trail where we came from: at the base off to right of that mountain

Cool cloud

Still smiling, especially after sighting several mountain goats.

 Summit of Grays Peak, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

 Summit Cheese!

Heading off to bag Torreys

 MtnRunner throwing on his wings and cruising down to the saddle (Torreys is in the distance top right)

 Destination Torreys Peak

 Wow. Just Wow.

 Looking back at Grays Peak

Torreys Peak bagged

 Noon-time storm clouds rollin' in. Still freakin' gorgeous even in their menacing form.

 Wicked cool battered mountain home. 

Grays Peak- 14,270' (Colorado's 9th highest ranked peak)
Torreys Peak- 14,267' (Colorado's 11 highest ranked peak)

Both are the only Colorado Fourteeners on the Continental Divide.

Two fourteeners checked off the list and I was a happy girl. Legs were tired but still felt pretty strong- success! On our way home we drove past a handful of baby bighorn sheep, holy crap they were adorable. Got home in time to head out with Cowboy to teach a CCW class (I kinda fell asleep in my chair for a power cat nap while he lectured. Ooops! Thankfully Cowboy jokingly said to the class, "Hey she ran two fourteeners this morning, what were you doing today?!")

Getting excited about TRR right around the corner. I'm feeling strong and relatively prepared (as prepared as you really can be for something like this). Heading to the gym now for upper body strengthening as I let my quads rest a bit. They are still burning a little due to a five mile jog/hike with some friends last night. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Post Race Report: Golden Gate Dirty Thirty

Two Saturdays ago I completed a race that was a pretty big deal for me.

I came, I ran, and I conquered the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty.

I attempted to race this 50K 2 years ago just prior to my big adventure in Germany, the Gore-Tex Trans-Alpine Trail Race, and passed a milestone: my very first DNF. I bowed out around mile 18 with aching knees, both hips clicking painfully, and a racing heartbeat. At the time it was the best decision for me so that I didn't injure myself for Europe, though it still didn't ease the intense humiliation and awesome feeling of complete self-let down.

I actually dreaded this race up until the night before. I knew it was going to be a hell of a race: extremely tough, lots of grueling climbs, and heat. I also did not feel very prepared with my training. I started to work on my mental situation the night before and succeeded in pumping myself up, telling myself that my goal was to simply finish the B****.  I prepped my iPod for some serious running, got all my gear ready to go, and headed for bed early.

I ate a great breakfast and headed out the door. My goal time for finishing the race was 8hrs. I would be happy with anything remotely around that time. For the first time, I also left my camera at home. I wanted to be focused and not waste any extra energy or time.

Quick summary of the race:

1. It sucked through and through but I actually, sort-of, enjoyed it if not simply for the fact that I ran 31 miles and didn't die (nor did I need a wheelchair at the end). I cussed a whole lot, mostly in my head, and wanted to quit with only 2 miles left to the finish line but I dug deep and carried my body to the end. I refused to allow this trail to beat me twice.

Reasons why it sucked:

I actually paid to suffer and loathe this much.

I hate climbing serious ups only to be rewarded with gradual soft rolling downs: give me a screaming downhill dammit I worked hard for it!!!

It started out cold.

It started to thunder, then lightening touched down right as I was climbing up to the highest point of the race.

Then it began to drop sleet (freezing rain). I had no jacket because I dropped off a lot of my stuff at the aid station several miles back when it was sunny and I had to re-apply sunscreen. I should have known better...crazy Colorado mountain weather.

It ended cold and raining.

Their after-race feast involved two dishes of very spicy foods. My gut was giving me the straight-arm as soon as I even remotely hinted of stepping towards the food tent. I ended up eating a small salad and some tofu (which was actually extremely good).

Reasons why it didn't suck:

I finished.

Oh, and I realized that I'm slowly starting to be able to run long distances without a pack (weather permitting). I could have gotten away with just a handheld, which I carried, and my nutrition stuffed in that. I only needed to stop at 2 of the aid stations to refill.

2. At one point some guy was strong-hiking next to me up a steep section and he wanted to chat. Chatting was the very last thing I really wanted to be doing at this point and his chipper-ness had me grinding my teeth in attempt to be friendly. He had to inform me that this was his third time at the GGDT and then asked if I was going to do it again. All friendliness left my body and I growled at him, "hell no." I was here for one reason and one reason only. I had a bone to pick and I wasn't going home until that finish line was behind me.

3. I ran almost the entire race with absolutely no music. I finally plugged in around mile 24ish in an attempt to enjoy the rolling sections. It felt good and kept the cussing at bay.

4. Saucony trail shoes turned out to have absolutely no flaws. No blisters to report, no black toenails, no sore feet from pounding/rocks. This is one happy girl.

5. I crossed that finish line at 7hrs 42 minutes. Halle-fucking-lujah! I was really hoping something closer to 6 but as determined earlier, I was overjoyed with less than 8hrs especially given the weather factors and my sub-par training.

So, it's done. Finito! Onward to training for Trans-Rockies....

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Evening at White Ranch

After getting a little chickie love  (yep we have chickens!) Argos and I went out for a good evening run at White Ranch. Right as we headed out the gate, we came across all those horses roaming free.

This one wouldn't move out of the way, so I obliged, curtsied, and went around the big guy saying, "Excuse me Sir" as he continued to munch grass without even looking up. Technically it's his land so I really didn't mind at all.

The weather was perfect if not a touch warmish as we headed up a new direction. This time we took Belcher Hill Trail to Mustang Ranch. I love love love Mustang Ranch trail! It was lush, damp, and green! This is my favorite trail so far in this open space park. Unfortunately while still on Belcher Hill Trail I came across this critter.

Mr. Rattler

ICK! I hate snakes (to be fair only the poisonous ones I loathe). I really dislike their slithery selves and the scary damage they could do to my fuzzy-butted four-legged buddy.

It always gives me a major running buzz kill for the next mile or so. I start stepping very slowly and delicately as my eyes scan ahead hitting on sticks, roots, and rocks while my brain is screaming "Identify!! Identify!!" I feel like Robocop scanning good guy, bad guy as each object rapidly becomes framed in a lighted up red box then turns green as I tell myself, "ok that's a stick, that's a root, that's a rock..." It's a nuisance and gets me all jacked up on wasted adrenaline.

Last week I ran right near a huge flaming orange-red, black, and white banded snake at the end of Mt. Galbraith. I didn't know what kind it was but it kicked my heart up a few beats. The wise internet led me to believe it was just a "milk snake" and non-poisonous. I scared him as much as he scared me however this Mr. Rattler holds his ground and gets himself all pissed in a wild noisy tizzy. I hate rattlesnakes.

We continued on but I sure wasn't going to return back down that trail. I continued on Mustang then crossed over the two parking lots at the top then came down Longhorn Trail to Whippletree Trail and back onto the beginning segment of Belcher Hill. All in all great trail run that ended right at a cooling dusk.

Wildlife seen: 3 young deer, one rattlesnake, one fluffy bunny, one hawk, one woodpecker-nuthatch birdie thingie, several cyclist (domesticated), and a couple bugs (swallowed).

Now belly is full of homemade Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers and enjoying a little bit of liquid heaven in the form of Stash Tea's Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea (with a golden dollop of my dad's North Carolina honey) while I wait for Cowboy to come home and curl up with me. is absolutely wonderful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Newbie Question Answered: What Running Shoe Should I Buy?

A friend of mine has just started her journey into running and has been asking me some great questions on gear. Her most recent question was on the selection of running shoes. Boy this is a hard one since everyone's foot is unique and what feels good to one person might jack someone else up.

I am definitely no expert on this but I do have a few years under my belt of serious running, so here's my advice. Feel free to chime in with suggestions or corrections as you see fit.

There's two big forms of belief out there: minimalist and the basic social or traditionalist runner.

First off, you have to understand the term heel-toe drop. The average Joe-Schmoe running shoe normally has a 12-13mm heel-toe drop. The minimalist shoe is 4-6mm all the way down to a zero heel-toe drop. What this means is the amount of rise or cushion in the heel of the shoe. A 12mm drop is quite elevated where as the zero drop means a completely flat sole (barefoot). The way I like to think about this whole thing and how it pertains to your muscles and gait is to reference it to snowshoes. Have you ever snowshoed with a pair of shoes that have an ascent bar?

What that is is a little metal bar that you can flip up as you climb hills to help reduce calf fatigue. It gives your muscles a break from the strenuous climbing so you don't feel that calf burn. Our sneakers have that ascent bar essentially built in by adding all that rise to our heels (significantly less elevated than the ascent bar but you get the idea). Does it feel good? Sure does, however it's not doing our body any justice and it's disengaging important muscles. This rise also pushes our foot to a more heel-strike gait instead of a more natural fore-foot strike. The ascent bar is awesome on snowshoes but to walk around/run in shoes that elevate your foot like that is no bueno.

There's also the question of "do I need a shoe for pronation, neutral, supination, stabilizing, etc?" In my opinion, unless you have some seriously funky defect I don't think you need to concentrate on finding a specific gait altering shoe. You've got to run in what feels comfortable to you.

Here is an awesome article by RunBlogger describing the emphasis towards a more minimalistic running shoe. His research is all that and a bag of chips.

I used to run in basic road running type shoes. First Asics, then I got turned on to some Brooks Adrenaline. When I ventured onto trails I realized I needed a shoe to handle the terrain better as I felt my foot slopping around in my shoe as it tried to cling to rocks, slide around in dirt, get saturated in rivers, and get beat up by the trail. **I also used to get a lot of knee pain running on roads. After conditioning my body to trails, I almost never ever get knee pain unless you count day six of an eight day trail race averaging 30 miles each day. In that case, every damn thing hurts. I have found trails improve your body in so many ways and completely busts the myth that running is damaging...but that's a whole other topic I could write a novel on.

Here's a great article on trail shoes entitled "Do I really Need a Trail Shoe?"

When I started out on trail I ran in Salomons. I love these shoes but they are super expensive since a lot of the pros wear them and advertise for them. I have since started looking at the more minimalist type of trail shoes as I think that there's some great arguments for reducing all the fluff and cushion in shoes. I am intrigued by barefoot running, however, I think there's something to the fact of having a good amount of protection for our feet. The barefoot advocates stress "in the old days...blah blah blah and the ancient tribe of whatever go barefoot!" but in my opinion, unlike the old days we now have to worry about stepping on crap like nails, glass, and stuff careless people throw on the side of the road and trail. Plus, a good cactus needle, acorn, or rock puncture to the foot is going to put you down for quite awhile...feet don't heal quickly and that shit hurts!!! Not to mention the great potential of breaking or jamming a toe...ick.

WARNING: Seriously disgusting pictures

Yeah, No Thanks... I'll keep my shoes.

So back to minimalist running. I have started wearing Saucony Peregrine shoes and absolutely love them. These shoes have a 4mm hee-toel drop which has made a noticeable difference in my running gait. I didn't consider myself much of a heel-striker before but now I definitely feel a difference with being more on my fore-foot and having a faster turn over rate (faster cadence) when running. They make me feel light and springy in my step! With minimalist shoes you have to take it very slowly though. Your calves, hamstrings, butt, and achilles will be forced to do work they aren't used to doing and you don't want to cause injury. Just as RunBlogger states: I can't stress this part enough. GO SLOW.
As with most minimalist trail shoes the Peregrines have a rock plate in the sole to help prevent the bruising and battering the trail will do to your feet. I can't even begin to imagine running barefoot on some of the trails I play on.

My suggestion is: Go to a reputable running store if you have them in your area. Talk to staff that are actual runners (most are) and get their opinion. Don't just listen to one but talk to a few, surf the internet, and get into a store to slip your feet in several. Actually run around the store or outside sidewalk in the shoes to get a feel of them. Be conscious of any spots that rub or feel out of sorts. These spots will be intensified a few miles in. If you're doing trails with hills/mountains leave a little extra room in the toes because that descent is going to make you want to curl your toes back into your heels if they are too small and banging into the toe box. It will reduce you to a crawl, believe me, and you'll lose toenails.

As for Gore-tex (GTX), I tend to stay away from them unless you live in a really rainy state or run a lot in the snow. They are great for keeping wet out if it's a drizzle and you have gators on, but if that wet (river, heavy rain, deep snow) seeps over the tops and into your shoe you're screwed. GTX will hold that water in your shoe like a well sealed boat and you'll be left feeling like you have 5lb weights attached to each leg. Plus, if you're a heavy sweater like me the sweat from your feet will be miserable as you soak through your socks and start causing friction blisters. I have friends who buy GTX running shoes for the winter and love them (they are great insulators for the winters) but, for me, I just wear regular trail shoes, gators, and good wool socks such as Smartwool. It's worked for me for 10-15 mile runs in the snow and ice. Anything more in miles than that and I would consider purchasing a pair of GTX for the winter.

Check out I Run Far for a ton of excellent information as well as gear/shoe reviews.

I'll leave you with these handful of brands that I've heard great things about and have running friends who wear them (RunBlogger lists a handful but most of them I've never heard of and can't say I would recommend):
Saucony (such as Kinvara & Peregrines)
Salomon (XA Pros &XT Wings)- I still love these shoes and feel they are great for long distance foot protection
Brooks (such as Cascadia & Adrenaline)- I still use my Adrenalines for the treadmill but looking into replacing them with some Saucony Kinvaras.
New Balance
Hoka One
Asics- road shoe

Cheers and Happy Running!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Saucony Love

I have worn my Saucony Peregrines now for several trail runs to the point I feel confident enough to give a honest opinion:

I'm digging these shoes.

I ended up buying a new pair of Saucony Peregrines in half a size larger than I normally wear. The pink size 8s were great for shorter distances but anything after 10 to 15 miles plus I could feel my toes getting a little banged up by the front of the toe box. The blue 8.5s are perfect and were on super sale! I like the pink color scheme better than the blue but I'm not being too picky. For the price, my trap is staying shut on the dizzying color pattern.
The good:
-lightweight 8.2 oz
-The tread is aggressive enough to perform great on the trail without being too knobby. 
-The rock plate in the sole is awesome. I have ran on real technical rocky trails and had no issues with cramping, bruising, or uncomfortableness.
-The sole allows you to "feel" the trail completely but without causing discomfort. Rocks feel like lumps, sticks feel like bumps, but nothing actually digs sharp up into your foot. I like this feeling
-The minimalist 4mm heel drop is amazing and has greatly improved my turnover rate in my stride. I never was much of a heel striker but now I notice I am even more on my forefoot than I was before. This also affects my hill climbs and the strength of my calves/hamstrings. 
-The fabric on the upper is very breathable and I find my feet don't sweat as much in them. *I haven't run in any inclement weather so can't remark on this factor. 
-The toe box is sturdy enough, I haven't slammed my toes on any rocks (rare for me) but so far they seem well protected. Some of the other minimalist shoes have had severe issues with toe protection. 
-The back cups the heel perfectly without any extra movement or rubbing. No sloshing around in this shoe.
-I like that although they are following the trendy fashion of bright colors, they have kept with some normal colors for those that don't wish to be "cool". I can't stand many of the flashy neon colors a lot of the shoe companies have adopted. I'm all for a little bling but looking like a toddler armed with a highlighter attacked my feet is out of bounds.

The bad:
- The laces are already starting to fray and I really wish they would switch to a quick lace system like Salomon. *sigh* oh well. I am going to try those after market quick laces that I used for my tri-shoes. 
-The tongue bunches up a tiny tiny bit. Just enough for me to notice but it hasn't yet caused any issues.  
- I can see, at least with this version, how the fabric may not last through too much abuse. However, with the drastically reduced price, replacing them won't send me into episodes of financial chest pain.

The ugly:
Not a thing to be found. 

I can't wait to try out the Peregrine 2 version in which they altered the upper fabric. I'd be interested in how they performed and breathed. The Hoogster mentioned I might be interested in the Kinvaras and see they are coming out with a Kinvara 3 version. I might have to pick up a pair to wear on the treadmill and rare bike trail/road run. As for the Peregrines, I think these might be featured in my TransRockies race if I can put enough miles in them from now til August to develop my muscles enough to prevent injury!

Really Salomon, it's me not you. Wait, no it's definitely you. Okay I'll compromise to say it's a little bit of both of us. So long sweet Salomon and your overpriced fancy pants shoes with additionally overpriced inserts! You have served me well in many amazing races but it's time to try new things. I now have a new love named Saucony which are much much lower maintenance (no inserts!) and feel oh so perfect on my tootsies. 

Sauconys give me happy feet!