Didn’t I say I don’t like cross country?

Yesterday was the USATF Cross Country 8k Championship race at Natirar Park. This wasn’t on my race calendar earlier in the year (because it’s a cross country race), but now that I am the RVRR 40s Men team captain I felt some obligation to be there.

It was a beautiful morning, and a scenic location, so of course I didn’t take any photos. Maybe next time I’ll get my act together on that front, but thanks to the magic of the internet, here’s a picture taken by Marvin:

natirar8k

A friend recently posted a review of some Inov-8 shoes he had worn for a cross country event (I’ve got find that post and link it here…). I knew I didn’t have the right shoes for a cross country race and perhaps that’s been part of my problem in the past, so I bought a pair of the Inov-8 Bare Grip 200s.

The shoes are tight compared to my other zero drop shoes, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about them, but they really did look like they would offer the promised grip on the grass and elsewhere. My first mistake of the day was not wearing the right socks. When I changed into these shoes at the park the socks I was wearing made them feel too tight. I made the choice to wear them without socks. As the race wore on I could feel the blisters forming, but it never got to breaking point so that was lucky. If you’re looking for a zero drop cross country shoe, this is definitely the one to choose.

Despite my prior feelings towards cross country, I enjoyed this race. This was even more surprising given the nasty hills (that you had to do twice) and the nasty winds. I found myself in a small group mostly running together with small gaps opening and closing again on the hills (for me in particular, I would make up time up the hills and lose some down). I also had the goal of trying to catch a friend who had opened up a lead on me early on and seemed to be increasing that lead for the first half of the race, only for me to start closing the gap slowly in the second half.

In the end I didn’t quite have enough left to close the gap completely and finished a few seconds back.

Surprisingly, my time was my fastest 8k race. The only other 8k I have raced was the Ashenfelter Classic, which is on the road. My Garmin only recorded 4.8 miles on this course, which may be because it’s been acting strangely lately, but it’s not usually that far wrong. Perhaps that’s why it was faster?

natirar

410 miles on the Merrell Trail Glove 2

I decided it was time to get a new pair of the Merrell Trail Glove 2. Partly due to the 20% off at REI last week, but partly because I have quite a few miles on the ones I’ve had since May (over 410 miles – love the fact that with Strava you can keep track of which shoes you wore on each run otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue), and I thought it would be a good idea to have a backup pair for the marathon (only just over 4 weeks to go).

It wasn’t until I looked at the new ones side by side with the old that I realized how much wear there was (the color is mainly from my last long run along the canal towpath).

20131017_203107 20131017_203050

I’m still going to use the old ones as I don’t think I’ll abandon them until they get much worse, but as of right now I’m not sure which ones to use in Philadelphia. I think if I do my final long run on the new ones that will help decide.

This weekend I will try them also at the Runner’s World Festival where I will (hopefully) be running the hat trick (5k and 10k on Saturday, and half on Sunday). I say hopefully because the problems that surfaced with my knee on Sunday (in different shoes I might add) came back when I ran on Tuesday night and I’ve not been running since to give it a chance to get better. I’m also going to get a massage soon as I suspect it may actually be caused by a particularly tight muscle right below the knee. I’m not planning to race any of the distances hard – it will be more of a fast training run, so time isn’t a goal. In fact I’ve decided to increase my workout by cycling the 5 miles to the start from the hotel (and 5 miles back again) each day. I can’t wait.

This is the link to my original review: http://www.blog.runnj.org/2013/04/25/merrell-trail-glove-2-review-and-the-rutgers-unite-half-marathon/


Skora running shoe review (Base and Form)

Technically speaking this is only really a review of the Skora Running Base shoe – I do own the Form, and love that shoe, but I only wore them for one run before I decided that as my Vivobarefoot Evo II shoes I had been wearing as a casual shoe now had a hole in them, these would be my new casual shoe.

The Skora Form is fairly narrow when compared to other minimalist/barefoot style shoes so I think I have made the best use of them. They are also expensive but seem like they could last a while (I found a pair on a deal site – not sure I could bring myself to spend the full asking price on them). These are extremely comfortable shoes (I wear them without socks), probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. I’ve had them since March so if they look a little worn that’s because I wear them all the time.

Skora Form

Skora Form

Skora Form

Skora Form

On to the Skora Base. I had no intention of buying these but I had read a review that indicated these had a wider toe box and were better for running than the Form. These come up on a deal site too, and because of my shoe shopping problem, I bought them.

Skora Base

Skora Base

Skora Base

Skora Base

Initially I went out on a couple of runs with the insoles still in place which puts you 13mm from the ground, and the shoes were noticeably heavier than my other shoes (I guess almost an ounce difference in weight can be noticeable when you’re down as low as these shoes go). Something just wasn’t right, mainly on my left foot. Someone actually commented that they look like they are quite narrow and maybe that was it. I don’t know why my left foot was particularly affected, but it really felt like my little toe was being pushed against the side of the shoe. The day after my second run – I ran about 7 miles that day – I noticed a small blister between my toes on my right foot (on my little toe). I didn’t notice any issues on that foot while running, and I can’t say for sure that’s what caused it, but it seems too much of a coincidence to ignore.

After that experience I took out the insole to give them another try (I really wanted to like them). This drops them down to 9mm which makes them more in line with the Merrell Trail Glove 2. Removing the insole certainly made them feel more comfortable to me and I didn’t seem to notice the push of my little toe against the side anywhere near as much (but more of this to follow, because although it didn’t seem as much, it still seems to be an issue). I decided to keep the first run in them short in case problems arose so at about 3 miles I took them off and ran the rest of the way home barefoot.

At this point I was quite excited – the comfort and feel over that distance was similar to the Trail Glove 2. The next day I wore them a bit longer – covering 5 miles in total including hill repeats. Still good.

I wanted to see how well they would do on a long run, so the next day I put them on with a plan to cover around 10 miles. Things went well and I was fairly happy with them – I did notice a very slight push of my little toe on my left foot against the side but it didn’t seem to be causing any problems at all and I ended up running just over 11 miles at about 8:15/mile pace. At this point I was starting to think this was great – I’d found another shoe I liked as much as the Trail Glove and it could end up being the shoe I use for the Philadelphia Marathon. I feel like there is a bit more protection on the bottom of these shoes than on the Trail Glove so thought it actually may be the better option for longer distances (although not necessarily a better option for that barefoot feel – despite the manufacturer’s specifications indicating they have very similar stack heights the Merrell’s certainly feel more like a barefoot shoe somehow).

After the 11 miles on Wednesday I took a day off and got up early to go for a 6 mile run. However, something didn’t feel right at all. A mile into the run I stopped to see if the shoe just needed adjusting – something was making my left foot really hurt. I decided to turn around but at that time bumped into a friend and decided to try to run a little more while chatting. It didn’t work, the pain was getting worse and I had to head home. Out of desperation I decided to take off the shoes and run home barefoot. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I was having problems in the shoes so thought it was worth a try. Within a short while the pain was gone and I easily ran the remaining 1.5 miles home completely barefoot with no issues at all.

Now I’m not sure what to do – I really wanted to like these shoes, but I can’t help but think they were causing damage to my feet. Perhaps there’s something unique about my running form that just doesn’t fit with this design. Maybe after the Philadelphia Marathon I can try them again. Right now I can’t take the chance of injuring myself.

Skora Running do now make two other shoes for men – the Phase and the Core but based on my experience with the Base I can’t really justify trying them.


Niagara Falls run (and Merrell Trail Glove 2 review update)

Vacation is over – 15 days of travel, 2238 miles covered in the car, and a total of about 38 miles run over those days in 5 runs. Now to start thinking about marathon training for Philadelphia.

Before I get on to talking about the Merrell Trail Glove 2 (as per the title of this post), here’s a quick rundown of my Niagara Falls run.

The last run of my vacation was on Wednesday morning in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. I had to run here mainly to be able to say I had run in Canada (in my 3 years of running I have only run in the US, England and now Canada).

My phone battery was so low I didn’t take it with me, but I wish I had – firstly the sky was impressive, and secondly, it was early enough that there was hardly anyone around (one other runner and a couple of people working to clean the sidewalks). So, if you’re there, it’s worth getting out early (I was out at about 6:20am) to get the falls to yourself.

I ran from the hotel, and towards the Rainbow Bridge (my intention was mainly to run the other way, but decided to head up that way first) and then looped around to run towards the horseshoe falls. The falls mist was spraying very strongly over the path which was pleasant because it was a very humid morning and then I continued on along the path by the river. I hadn’t looked at a map so I wasn’t sure what I would see or where it would lead, but really it didn’t seem to be heading anywhere after about a mile. I only planned on about 4 miles total anyway so when I came across a set of steps up the hill I figured it would probably take me to the higher road that would lead me back to the hotel.

Ultimately it did but I was a bit worried at first – despite the height of the hotels, I couldn’t see them at all, but I pushed on. There was really nothing to see for much of this so it was a bit dull, and eventually I got back to the hotel after 4.7 miles. At least I got another run in and the first part was very scenic.

niagara

In my recent runs, when wearing the Merrell Trail Glove 2 (original post is here, I have been thinking more about them. I have been wearing them with very thin socks generally and on longer runs I have found that the bottom of my feet have felt like, if I go much further, I could end up with blisters, or at least sore feet.

For the run at Niagara Falls I couldn’t find my socks (they were probably in one of the suitcases I left in the car) so I had to run without socks. At first I was concerned because when I put them on I could feel a seam that I was convinced was going to cause me a problem. I thought I might have to cut the run short. However, when I started running I couldn’t really feel it and there were no adverse effects and no apparent rubbing, so it seems like it would be fine (I think if I’d run long I would have had the same issues as with the thin socks of course).

This morning I ran with thicker socks and didn’t seem to have the same issues, so it seems that the correct socks are important for me with these shoes.

The Merrell Trail Glove 2 is still, by far, my favorite shoe for longer distances, so it will definitely be my marathon training shoe and ultimately (unless something drastic happens) the shoe I will run in for the Philadelphia Marathon.

Merrell Trail Glove 2 Review (and the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon)

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while, but I’m quite glad it has because I’m able to say a bit more since running in these shoes in the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon.

The original Merrell Trail Glove was my very first pair of minimalist running shoes after I had used the Vibram Fivefinger Bikilas for over a year. At the time running shoe companies seemed to be starting on the path to offering this type of shoe, but Merrell seemed to be ahead of the competition (with the possible exception of Vivobarefoot whose casual shoes I had been wearing for over a year also, but I hadn’t found their shoes easy to run in initially, and never tried running in them again).

I loved my Trail Gloves – these shoes quickly became my shoe of choice (and became my shoes to be used for longer runs after I bought a pair of New Balance Minimus Road Zero – which became my favorite shoe for shorter runs – up to about 5 miles or so).

When my original pair of Trail Gloves began to wear out, I started to try to use the New Balance Minimus for longer runs, but they just weren’t as comfortable as the Trail Gloves over about 8 miles. This lead me to try some of the alternatives that are now available (mainly buying what was on sale, but that also seemed to get good reviews) – I’ve written about some of these over the last few months.

A few weeks ago it suddenly dawned on me that I’d pretty much abandoned the Trail Glove and I wasn’t entirely sure why. In seeing that there was a new model (the Trail Glove 2), and seeing my reasonable REI dividend and a 20% off coupon, I decided to buy them.

photo

The day they arrived I got home from work planning on running, so I took them out of the box and tried them on. The first thing I noticed was how tight they felt across the widest part of my foot and also that they seemed marginally longer then the old Trail Glove, but not long enough to warrant trying the size down.

Slightly different sizing

Slightly different sizing

I wondered if the tightness was something that I would get used to so I started out with a short run. After a while I decided I needed to mess around with loosening the laces and I was able to loosen them up enough to feel more comfortable.

After running more they still weren’t feeling right – more adjustments were needed, and actually it seemed that every time I ran in them for the first few runs I needed to make adjustments.

Despite this minor issue, these shoes still felt great – giving just the right amount of feedback from the road they feel easy to run in, and when my feet strike the ground it just feels right (more so, I think, than any other shoe I own).

So, on to the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon…

I got these shoes in early April, and it’s been a difficult few weeks in terms of getting out for a long run because of various things at home, so the half marathon was my longest run to date in these shoes (and, I just realized, my longest run since March 25th).

For some reason I convinced myself that maybe I could run this race as fast as I did last year (despite the fact I know I have been slower lately) and that’s how I started. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have the issues I had at the Miles for Music 20k so I had some Shot Bloks in my pocket and made sure I had some water on the course (I still haven’t worked out how to drink out of those cups while running – any tips?).

I’m not sure if it was the water, or just because I think I messed up my pre-race nutrition again (another thing I still haven’t quite worked out), but I felt like I was developing a stitch after about 4 miles. It didn’t bother me too much until around 10 miles when I really had to stop for a short while to try to get it to go away. I had to try again a few steps later, but after that it didn’t seem as bad, but I never really regained my momentum. Up until then I was more or less exactly on a 7 minute mile pace, but couldn’t keep it going (I already knew I wouldn’t be able to, as there’s quite a bit of uphill in the last couple of miles of this race), and I finished in 1:33:18 which is almost exactly half way between the times of my two other half marathons.

2.2 miles to go (thanks David Schatz for the photo)

2.2 miles to go (thanks David Schatz for the photo)

Anyway, back to the shoes… At the end of the race the only issue I had with my feet was that the top of my right foot was tender and hurting where the shoes touched them. I have no idea whether that’s because I need to make another adjustment to the laces, but I suspect so. The top of my foot was tender for the next day or so. I suspect maybe the shoe was rubbing during the run, or perhaps they were just too tight.

They are definitely still the most comfortable shoes I have for long runs and hopefully I will get them adjusted correctly to not cause me any issues – this is the first time I have ever had to mess around so much with a pair of shoes though so who knows.

At the finish

At the finish

UPDATE – MAY 20th 2013: I finally decided that perhaps I should be trying the size smaller in the Trail Glove 2. I went along to the REI store near work (REI Soho) and tried on the next size down. They seem like a better fit, and with the REI 100% satisfaction guarantee I was able to do a straight exchange which is fantastic as I have had the shoes for 2 months and must have put a fair few miles on them. When I’ve run in them a few times I will write a new review but here’s hoping they will be perfect, although they are still tighter across the foot than the original ones were so we’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE – JUNE 28th 2013: As this seems to be getting a reasonable number of search hits I thought it worthwhile giving an update again. The Merrell Trail Glove 2 have become my go-to long distance shoe. They are equally as comfortable as the original Trail Glove (now that I have the smaller size) and maybe even slightly more comfortable overall. I have had no issues over long distance (20 miles or more), and there are no signs of wear other than the expected wear of the number of miles run in them.

UPDATE: JULY 20th 2013: More thoughts here.

UPDATE: OCT 18th 2013: After over 410 miles it might be time for a new pair (but they’re not dead yet) – see them here.

UPDATE: NOV 22nd 2013: I completed the Philadelphia Marathon in my older pair of Merrell Trail Glove 2s (rather than my new pair) and they worked very well for me even with 480 miles on them now. Read about it here.

UPDATE: APR 9th, 2014: These shoes are now kept in England for when I visit (which has been a lot lately) and now they have over 600 miles on them. There are some very smooth patches on the bottom in the biggest wear points from how I run which is obviously to be expected, but I successfully used them in a cross country 10k this past weekend with no problems.