Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why We Run: Or, Why I Fail at Photo Contests

I have a tendency to over-analyze things. Questions that require any degree of introspection whatsoever will often leave me speechless for eons. And, my eventual quasi-answer will either be evasive or so overly laden with tangents that the person who posed the question won't care enough to carry on a conversation with me anymore.

I've lost you already, haven't I?

Anyway, there's this photo contest that inspired me to question my motivations for running. And, being that the photo contest provided monthly opportunities to submit one photo response over the course of the year, I felt certain that I'd be able to illustrate my personal reasons for running at least a few times. I love photographing stuff, after all. And, I love running. How could I not participate?

I presume that my reasons for running are fairly standard and comparable to the usual reasons others might have:

  • physical health
  • weight management
  • mental health and stress relief
  • enjoying nature
  • time alone
  • time with other runners
  • counteract negative consequences of eating cookies, gigantic burritos, etc.
  • sweat out toxins from previous night's wine drinking
  • set an example for the kids
  • live long enough to see the kids grow up
  • live longer with adoring wife
  • look better naked for adoring wife
  • sense of accomplishment
  • ego
  • time to think
  • clarity
  • levity

The contest ends December 31. And, I've yet to submit a single photograph.

The more I thought about why I run, the more I found it hard to translate my reasons to colored pixels. It's such a personal activity, running. So, I wanted to really say something with my photos. But, photography is more doing than saying. And, if it's what I do that defines who I am, then photographing my reasons for running made saying something more personal than my sense of Internet anonymity would allow. So, this contradiction in standards pretty much negated any productive effort I might have put into this activity.

(Once upon a time, I wanted to be an artist)

It is especially frustrating seeing the submissions gallery and thinking, "Yes, that's perfect! Why didn't I think of that? Genius!" I do not envy the judges of this contest. There are so many fantastic contenders.

So, it's not likely that I'll come up with a brilliant photo submission before Saturday's 9 am deadline. But, I'm looking forward to seeing which deserving photo wins the contest. I'd name my favorite here. But, my ego won't let me subject myself to being wrong at this time.

How about if I distract you for a moment with this relevant video...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Inov-8 Trailroc 235, 245, and 255 Preview

A new range of trail running shoes from Inov-8 will tempt you in the Fall of 2012: The Trailroc™, a shoe boasting Inov-8's anatomic last, three Shoc-Zone™ options, and a uniquely designed outsole.

Inov-8 Trailroc 245

Trailroc Outsole

Like any good trail shoe, the outsole is the star feature here. And, the three cleat and rubber types comprising the Trailroc's outsole make for an interesting composition.

Inov-8 Trailroc Outsole

Larger cleats made up of endurance rubber are placed in the high-wear areas, like under the ball of the foot. A hard, sticky rubber and more large cleats are positioned on the outer sections where grip and stability come into play most often. And, the toe and inner arch are comprised of a softer sticky rubber with smaller lugs.

Design Stuff

A couple of new design elements, changes to Inov-8's usual shoe upper construction and appearance, on the Trailroc caught my eye. And, even though you probably don't care about these minor design changes, I'll mention them. If I don't write about frivolous shoe minutiae, who will? Someone cares, right?

So, for instance, the Shoc-Zone number now appears prominently on the lateral side at the base of the heel. This will undoubtedly help make the Inov-8 cushioning level system seem less enigmatic to new wearers of the brand. Fine.

Also, from a lateral perspective, we see a few more wavy lines between the outsole and the upper. This differs from the rather simplistic, relatively lineless motif of previous Inov-8 shoes. In fact, the numerous lines in the midsole almost make me wonder how much cushion actually exists in their ZERO differential 235 member of the Trailroc range. See what I mean in the photo below from Natural Running Store.

Inov-8 Trailroc 235

A more subtle display of the Inov-8 logo adds a new dimension to this range of shoes. I've always marveled at the rather conspicuous presentation of the logo on previous models, like the f-lite 230. Does a smaller logo indicate more brand confidence? I dunno. And, I'm sure none of you really care.

Also noteworthy, I think, is the pull loop on the heel cup area. I mean, it's relatively large for an Inov-8 heel-pull-loop thingie. Will we complain about its aesthetic appeal when we look at the Trailroc in photos? Maybe. Will we notice it after putting on our Trailrocs? No. Again, this is a design feature that I'm only mentioning because I notice stuff that most people don't even think about.

Three Variations on Minimal

Inov-8 Trailroc 235, 245, and 255

Since the Trailroc Shoc-Zone variations are being announced at one time I believe that these three shoes will be made available all at one time, too, next year. That's only logical, right? This is good. Having three options from which to choose all at once is better than buying one option before learning about a forthcoming more/less minimal option that you would have preferred in the first place. So, the Trailroc range of options are:

  • the 255 with a Shoc-Zone 2 (6mm differential)
  • the 245 with Shoc-Zone 1 (3mm differential)
  • the 235 with Shoc-Zone ZERO - 0mm differential)

I'm most intrigued by the 235, because, despite my penchant for my f-lite 230s, I've developed an affinity for shoes with a zero differential. But, the 235 is heavier than my other "minimal" trail shoes. Why? According to Inov-8, their ZERO Shoc-Zone shoes have no midsole. So, perhaps the outsole compounds are just that much heavier. I guess I'll just have to find out when I find out.


I'm excited about these shoes.

Apparently less luggy than the Bare-Grip 200 or X-Talon 190, but more grippy than the f-lites, the Trailroc looks as though it will be a great all-around trail shoe for my East-Coast terrain, much like the Roclites.

It's significant that the Trailroc will feature the fantastic anatomic last, something I've been enjoying immensely while wearing the Bare-X Lite 150 on road runs. And my toes are more likely to prefer the anatomic last to the Roclite's performance last on longer runs.

So, the comfy anatomic last, coupled with the fact that the Trailroc is available in the ZERO Shoc-Zone™, makes me wonder if Inov-8 has created the ideal go-to trail shoe for me. I suppose I'll find out next year. Oh, the waiting...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Umstead Trails vs. Mountains to Sea Falls Lake Trails

This is not going to be a very scientific comparison of the single-track trails at Umstead State Park and the Mountains to Sea Trail at Falls Lake. At the time of this post, I have yet to run all 37.5-miles of the Falls Lake Trail.

Plus, I'm writing this post without doing much planning, because I am essentially inspired by a question Diana posed in a comment on another post. And, as I responded to that comment, I realized I could really just make a blog post out of my answer, since I'm so wordy and all.

So, here's my totally subjective, off-the-cuff, trail runner's perspective on experiencing the Umstead trails and the MST at Falls Lake.

Most runners would probably say that the two trail systems are pretty similar. And, most runners would be right. I mean, we're not living in the mountains here. And, Falls Lake is roughly a speedy 15-minute drive from Umstead. So, aside from that lake; the terrain, flora, and fauna are largely the same.

Umstead State Park Company Mill Trail
Umstead Trails Have Rocks

But, if you really wanted to be particular about differences, some people would say that the hills at Umstead are a little more severe than the ones at Falls Lake. By "severe" I mean that I'm more aware of a significant hill climb when I'm running Company Mill or Sycamore than I am of the hill climbs at Falls Lake. And, by "aware" I mean that the hills seem more challenging at Umstead.

Falls Lake MST Trail
Falls Lake Mountains to Sea Trail
(not as rocky)

However, I should quickly add that there seem to be more hills at Falls Lake. But, the Falls Lake MST hills feel more like they're helping me roll along the trail, up and down—like floating on a small boat over slightly rough water. But, take out the floating feeling, because you're actually running. And, running is not like floating (Except in those still photos that some race photographers manage to capture. And, even then, running only looks like floating. I mean, you know perfectly well that running is not what you do to feel floaty) Anyway, the frequent hills at Falls Lake are fun!

Moreover, if you are the type to count rocks, I'd bet that you'd find more rocks at Umstead than you would at Falls Lake. There are some rather large rocks at Falls Lake, though, especially along Section 2. So, don't leave your trail shoes and strong ankles at home. I'm just saying that there are most likely a larger collection of rocks along the Umstead trails.

Roots are equally challenging to traverse and see on both trails.

If you like stopping to admire scenic vistas or forest animals, then the Falls Lake MST would offer the best opportunities for those trail running extras. Umstead is pretty much in the middle of Raleigh and right next to the airport. So, animals that have managed to adapt to the bustling human activity surrounding the acres comprising Umstead are most likely not interested in letting you look at them for very long. Although, the deer seem to like looking at people there.

On the other hand, Falls Lake is on a gigantic lake, which pretty much guarantees at least a few scenic vistas. And, the animals at Falls Lake, in spite of the fact that they're allowed to be hunted, show up more often in varied forms. (Once, I almost collided with a deer on the path at Falls Lake)

Similarly, I encounter more people walking their awesome dogs at Falls Lake, while I usually have to run around larger groups of people at Umstead. This discrepancy is probably due to the times of day and days of the week that I choose to run the trails.

Some runners might like to know that running between the various sections of the Falls Lake MST usually requires traveling along the wide shoulders of various roads for a few meters. This isn't a big deal. But, if you prefer to go to a trail so that you can feel secluded from cars until you decide to leave the trail, then Umstead will be a better choice.

Okay, I've covered a few major points that come to mind in this Umstead vs. Falls Lake MST analysis. Let's sum up:

Falls Lake MST has...

  • More frequent but (mostly) smaller hills
  • Forest animals and scenic vistas you'll remember after the run
  • Necessary encounters with roads (oh, and backyards of private residences)
  • A lake
  • More frequent, friendly encounters with people and awesome dogs
  • Awesome trails

Umstead has...

  • Fewer but bigger hills to consider
  • More rocks over a wider area
  • Less wildness and lake scenery (but the creeks are great)
  • But, strangely, more of a sense of seclusion from cars and stuff
  • Larger groups of people on certain days
  • Awesome trails

So, that's me being nitpicky about the differences between Umstead and Falls Lake trails. But, really, I love both of these places! Seriously! My only preference for one over the other on a given day is governed by my geographic proximity (Umstead is closer to work. Falls Lake is closer to home)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 Review: First-Run Impressions

The Bare-X Lite 150 is...

When I first ran in the Bare-X Lite 150...


Oh, let's just get it out of the way: These are bright white shoes!

Take a good look at them. Make your judgmental remarks. Get the disdain and contempt for white athletic footwear out of your system now. If you don't, your receptivity to what I'm about to impart in this review will be clouded by negativity.

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 view 1
Yes, these shoes are even whiter in real life than they appear in these photos, which dilute the whiteness due to their sensitivity to the color temperature of the sun.

Are we ready to be grown ups now? Good.

chasing pavements

I've been eager to try one of Inov-8's road shoes since they started marketing the line earlier this year. Sure, I am happy to run in the f-lite 230 on pavement for miles. But, I've been really curious to see what my favorite trail shoe company (yes, there is a degree of bias in this review) could do with a road shoe.

Inov-8 released the Bare-X Lite 150 in September, shortly after making the Bare-X 200 available to the running public. Touted as a "radical zero diff racer", the Bare-X Lite 150 weighs just 6.1 oz (US men's size 9) and boasts that all-important zero differential between the 7mm-high heel and 7mm-high forefoot. Thus, the 150 is certainly a minimalist shoe to consider.

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 view 3


Synthetic Mesh, TPU Lacing Support, 3mm [removable] Footbed, Anatomic Last*

Look closely at the upper in the photo and see that the lacing system is relatively unique. Well, not the lacing, rather the manner in which the laces are tied. That's right, you don't have to tie them at all!

What do you call that thing, though? A cincher, maybe? Whatever it is, it's pretty efficient once you figure out how it works. (Push the little pushy thing forward to move the laces through the cincher)

Granted, I might be concerned about the durability of this laces-cinching contraption. But, we'll just have to see about that. For now, I like it. Just slip on the shoes, tighten, and secure the loose laces under the front-most lace to avoid looking stupid. (I suppose a picture of them on my feet might have been helpful)

The absence of a true tongue is another special quality of the 150. I'm often annoyed by shoe tongues because of the way they slip to the side or insist on creasing unnecessarily between your foot and the rest of the shoe. Fortunately, that problem doesn't exist when the tongue is part of the upper like this. I imagine you'd like this feature if you were averse to seams in a shoe, someone who doesn't wear socks perhaps.

The upper mesh material is comfy and stretchy like the other Inov-8 shoes I've reviewed. I'd say, though, that's it's not quite as open as the mesh upper of my Bare Grips or f-lites. But, it's still very breathable, no worries about suffocating your foot, or anything.

sizing and the anatomic last

The Anatomic Last, a feature I was especially anxious to experience, is a real winner here. It's a comfortably wide last without making the shoe feel floppy and sloppy on my feet. This lack of floppiness is crucial to feeling fast, I've decided.

Moreover, the contours of the Anatomic Last are nicely suited to my foot shape. I've worn other shoes with wide toe boxes that have a peculiar slope to the front of the shoe, a curve that seems to exclude the existence of my littlest toes. The Bare-X Lite's toe curve is not so discriminating against my little toes.

I am wearing a US men's size 11.5 Bare-X Lite 150, because that's the size I like my f-lite 230s to be. And, if I'd call the f-lites snug in this size, then the equivalent size 150 is downright roomy. I wouldn't order a size smaller, though, because that would defeat the purpose of a wider shoe last. So, if you're wondering which size Bare-X Lite 150 to order, go with the size you like for your f-lites or half a size smaller than the NB MT10.

Of course, I'm just describing the fit of this new Anatomic Last on my feet. Your feet may fit into the shoes very differently.

Essentially, the Anatomic Last is wider than the performance last of some other Inov-8 shoes. So, if you've griped about narrowness before, you may not be inclined to complain this time.

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 view 2


Fusion Sole™ technology combines Lite Rubber™ and EVA foam to make up a light, minimal midsole "for resilient cushioning with maximum memory retention."

Bare-X 200 is more barefoot than the Bare-X Lite 150
Be advised: The Bare-X 200 brings you millimeters closer to barefoot than the Bare-X Lite 150.

Apparently, this is not the most barefoot-like shoe in the Inov-8 road lineup. I thought it would be the most minimal due to the fact that it's their lightest shoe. But, in fact, the Bare-X Lite 150 has a smidgen more cushioning than the Bare-X 200, which has no midsole whatsoever and puts you 6mm above the ground instead of 7mm. Not only that, but the Bare-X 200 is billed as being more flexible. Go figure.

Despite the "extra" cushioning, the Bare-X Lite 150 scores highly in the proprioception department, allowing you to feel the firmness of the road (or whatever surface you happen to be traversing) and adjust your landing force as necessary. You'll definitely want to maintain good form in these shoes.

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 view 4


Bare-X Lite outsole, an innovative, 3mm rubber layer designed to withstand the impact of training plus Injection molded Fusion Sole™; which is a synthetic rubber and EVA foam composite to create an ultra lightweight compound. "Its average lifespan is 300 miles."

The Bare-X Lite's outsole has more surface area than any running shoe in my current rotation. This makes sense to me, since this is a shoe designed for flat surfaces. The clever bone design is pretty neat, too.

The 150 is pretty much perfect for pavement, concrete, asphalt, and rubber. It is not something you want to wear in a XC race, though. I slipped easily when I crossed over some frosty grass this morning. I won't even pretend to consider its merit for trail running.

It's worth noting that online retailers do not list Sticky (S™) Rubber among the features of the Bare-X Lite 150 outsole. This is a helpful addition to many of Inov-8's other performance shoes, which aids in maintaining good traction on wet surfaces. It's a pity that the sticky rubber is absent here.

But, in spite of that omission, the shoe has excellent grip on wet pavement. So, don't let a non-sticky outsole deter you from trying the 150.

get it?

After a week of running, I definitely like the Bare-X Lite 150. It's an ideal shoe for an efficient runner with a concern for minimalist/natural/barefoot/innate (or whatever the term of the day happens to be) running. It also happens to be a great racing flat. I'll wear it in my next road race and let you know how it goes.

You can be sure that I'll post an update on how the shoe holds up after 100 miles or so. I may even want to compare this to one or two other road flats.

Unlike certain other shoes you may have read about this week, shoes you probably have zero chance of obtaining this month, the Bare-X Lite 150 is available to you now. Find it at numerous fine running shoe retailers. Although, If you haven't heard already, this marvelous shoe will appear in other colors this Spring, March-ish, I think. I'm just sayin'.

If you have any questions, feel free to post 'em in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

Specifications and features obtained courtesy of RunningWarehouse and Zappos

*RunningWarehouse currently indicates that the last is the "Performance Last". But, I'm pretty sure that everything else I've read stated that the Bare-X Lite is built on the new "Anatomic Last". Besides, it's definitely wider than the performance last on which my other Inov-8 shoes are constructed.

Product provided by Inov-8.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Neuse River Greenway Update: A Trail Runner's Guilty Pleasure

I was dismayed, no, extremely perturbed to find that the rustic segment of the Neuse River Trail I'd been frequenting for convenient off-road runs was closed for construction a couple of weeks ago. There are signs at each access point that read, "No Trespassing[.] Trail closed for construction[.]" I mean, how am I supposed to get past that kind of barrier?

We knew this was coming. I told you about the plans for the grand Neuse River Trail Greenway several months ago. And, it's finally hit my portion of the river.

Neuse River Greenway Sign
See more photos of the new Upper Neuse Greenway in Get Going NC's Flickr photo set.

So, I've had to seek other conveniently located natural areas in which to run. And, wouldn't you know it, the Upper Neuse Trail Greenway opened to the public in September!

This isn't an off-road trail, mind you. So, I was hesitant to try it out. But, hey, this is pretty much my nearest space for running that's not in the neighborhood. So, I figured it'd be worth a go. Besides, if I'm ever feeling really adventurous, I could run this portion of the Greenway right over to the single-track trails at Falls Lake.

In spite of my obvious penchant for unpaved running surfaces, I have to say that my first two runs on the Upper Neuse Greenway were downright enjoyable. The path is paved with that dark, soft asphalt, the kind that doesn't smack your feet quite as hard as concrete sidewalks do. And, the course winds through some beautiful flatland along the river with lots of vines and foresty stuff.

You'll also notice that there's no shortage of space on this new greenway. It's rather luxurious, really. Whole bunches of bikes will ride by without forcing you off the path into the grass. Even the bridges are wide enough to dispel any sense of claustrophobia on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Upper Neuse Greenway Luxuriously Wide
The Upper Neuse River Greenway at Mile Six

There are quite a few convenient access points along this portion of the greenway if you happen to live in close proximity to said access points. Otherwise, your best bets for getting to the Upper Neuse Greenway via automobile are from the parking areas at the north and south ends.

Upper Neuse Greenway at Capital Blvd.
Upper Neuse River Greenway at Capital Blvd.

Find the northern parking area off of Falls of the Neuse Rd. across the street from the Falls Lake Fishing Area and dam. You'll make a quick right turn and drive a short distance to the parking lot, which seems to be open all the time. (Don't quote me on that)

The southern trail head may be found at the back of the WRAL Soccer Center off Perry Creek Rd. Drive toward the far side of the complex and park in any of the gravel lots that are open. Then, get out of your car and head as far away from Perry Creek Rd. as you can until you find the trail head. Be sure to get back to your car before 5 PM, because the Soccer Center closes its gates at that time, at least in the off season.

View Upper Neuse River Greenway (Phase I) in a larger map
Ignore the comments about unpaved areas.
Thanks to Joe Miller for creating this map.

So, despite my frustration with the temporary closure of the Neuse River Trail segment nearest to my home, I'm really excited to have this newly constructed segment available. Sure, I have to drive further. Sure, it's paved. But, still, a really long greenway is a welcome addition to this area's expanding network of running/riding space. Check it out if you haven't already!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Late-Day Notice of Cyber Monday Shoe Deals

Or, I Can't Afford New Shoes. But, Maybe You Can.

Your inboxes are undoubtedly loaded with Cyber Monday deals on electronics, stuff, electronics, and more stuff. But, did you get any Cyber Monday emails from RunningWarehouse? Did Shoe Mart send out a FaceBook notification about their Cyber Monday sales? Did you know that Zappos just placed several awesome shoes on sale?

Maybe you did. But, I didn't receive notice of such savings. So, I've scoured the web to relay the sites where you can find sales on some of the marvelous shoes previously featured on this blog.

I'm doing this because I care, friends...

  • Zappos Sale Shoes of Interest: Inov-8 f-lite 230s and 195s at 20% off retail. This is the retailer with the widest selection of f-lite colorways. So, BOOM!
  • ShoeMart Celebrates Cyber Monday: Find a couple of other unique Inov-8 f-lite colorways marked down by 20% here.
  • Mountains Plus Outdoor Gear: Get free socks in addition to saving 25% on select Inov-8 shoes!
  • ZombieRunner Offers 20% Off Everything: That's right, use coupon code CYBERMONDAY during online checkout and save on all the shoes, bottles and packs, clothing, and socks in your cart!
  • RevelSports' Some Sort of Sale: I can't tell if this is just for Cyber Monday or just because. Either way, at the time that I'm typing this sentence, you can click through to find several Inov-8 shoes on sale. (To be honest, though, the deals here are pretty much commensurate with deals already found on other sites listed above)
  • The Natural Running Store Purports to Dominate Cyber Monday with savings of 15% - 40% on some of their inventory (Inov-8, Altra, Newtons, and Vivobarefoot).
  • The New Balance Online Store challenges you to save a super 15% on your entire order.
  • RunningWarehouse Cyber Monday sale: Pretty much just apparel advertised in relation to Cyber Monday here. Meh. This might be the only time of year when you can buy certain Inov-8 styles for less at another site.

Whew! All that pretend shopping has me pretend exhausted! I don't know how I managed to get any actual work done today.

So, if you're thinking of needing new shoes, today might be the day to buy 'em. Otherwise, you won't really need them anymore later in the week when these sales are over. And, you'll wish you'd needed them just a little more right now.

You can quote that, if you like.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NB Minimus Zero Trail and Road: Shoes for the Outspoken Minimal Runner

The latest New Balance Minimus Zero Trail and Road shoes news comes to us from an article on the NB website. (Thanks to Donald of Running and Rambling for bringing this one to our attention) Senior Designers Drew Nyssen and Chris Wawrousek describe the inspiration and motivation for the design of these forthcoming NB Minimus Zero offerings.

"These are shoes designed for the most vocal, outspoken group of minimal runners," Chris says, "They’re not afraid to let people notice their shoes."

New Balance Minimus ZeroIt's redundant for me to continue repeating here what you could easily read via the links in the first paragraph. But, I'll mention a couple of points. What's the Internet without a little redundancy, anyway?

The uppers of these new versions of the Minimus appear to be much more flexible and less confining than the 2011 renditions.This is good, because you might have read here that my primary complaint about the toe box on the NB MT10 is that; although wide and spacious, the curvature of the toe area is somewhat rigid. And, since it doesn't exactly fit the shape of my foot, my little toe still feels squished. Thus, I prefer the enormously flexible upper of a somewhat less spacious Inov-8 f-lite 230 over the MT10.

Also, these NB Minimus Zeros seem more race-appropriate, at least to me. They definitely have a sleeker appearance in comparison to the MT10 or MT20. And, I like that the designers sought to enhance the slipper-like fit while looking to traditional racing flat architecture for a lightweight shoe. I've mentioned before that I don't feel as fast in my MT10s as I do in other shoes. So, I've never felt compelled to race in the Minimus Trails.

But, perhaps those drawbacks of the 2011 Minimus will change with the February/March 2012 release of the NB Minimus Zero Trail and Road line. I'll be anxious to find out for myself.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Inov-8 f-lite 195 New Color Craziness and CrossFit

If you've considered Inov-8's f-lite, Road-X, or Bare-X series running shoes for any reason over the past few months, you've undoubtedly seen the term CrossFit associated with them. In most cases, they're described as ideal CrossFit shoes, or something like that. This is because the CrossFit philosophy(?) emphasizes efficiency in a rigorous workout. And, low-profile shoes, like the three Inov-8 product lines mentioned already, facilitate this efficient motion.

Inov-8 f-lite 195 in Gray, Gray, and Red

When I bought my first pair of Inov-8 f-lite 230s over a year ago, they were not synonymous with CrossFit footwear. They were running shoes, trail running shoes to be precise. But, their versatility on a variety of surfaces generated appeal outside the trail running community. And, people with a penchant for trendy exercise programs naturally gravitated toward a fashionable, minimally-styled shoe.

For those who don't know, CrossFit refers to a sort of gym-dependent exercise program. However, practitioners may do it outside of a gym, too. It's a modern program. You can tell because of the capital "F" in the middle of a word that has no business being compounded. And, rather than state a bunch of (probably) incorrect assumptions about the program, I'll just let you form your own notion of CrossFit based on this video:

Needless to say, I do not CrossFit. Wait, I mean I am not a CrossFitter. Or, I don't do CrossFit?

Anyway, I've loathed the gym for as long as I can remember. Weights annoy me. People grunting and sweating profusely on the same bench I'm about to use make me wish I was doing something else. The monotony sucks. The lighting sucks. The music sucks. And, the smell sucks. So, I run—outside.

So, why am I writing about CrossFit?

Well, you know how sometimes you find something that you like a whole lot? Let's say, for instance, you've discovered a band called Pold Clay. You hear one of their songs from their first album, which is only a month old. And, the song is awesome. It's fresh. It's meaningful. It's everything you need a song to be for you at this moment. So, you buy Pold Clay's debut album and listen to it nonstop for weeks in your car, while you're cooking dinner, while you're eating dinner, etc. You learn all the songs by heart and never seem to grow tired of hearing this band's music.

Then, one day, you're at some large retail establishment with a subscription-service radio station playing current hits over the store speaker system. And, you hear your song, the song Pold Clay used to speak directly to you! Then you hear it again while you're having coffee at Starbucks! Then you hear it at the gym! (And, you don't even go to the gym!)

Suddenly, Pold Clay's music is everywhere, and everyone likes to talk about how cool the songs are. Other people are all, "Ooh, have you heard 'Burgundy' by Pold Clay? It's awesome! I just love the singer!" These people don't get Pold Clay like you do; they don't appreciate the nuances that make Pold Clay's music special.

But, these people are cooler and more popular than you, maybe even better looking. So, their "appreciation" of Pold Clay's music garners more attention for the band, which is somewhat bittersweet for you. After all, you like Pold Clay. You want the band to succeed. That's the point of producing something for public consumption, right? But, now, when you listen to Pold Clay's music, you know that people around you assume you're just jumping on the Pold Clay bandwagon. They don't know your history with Pold Clay, that you were a fan from the beginning.

Eventually, Pold Clay releases another album, and it's nowhere near as good (for you) as their first album was. It's lame and overproduced. And, the lead singer doesn't seem capable of the range he had in his earlier songs. Sure, the second album debuts in the top 10 on various best-seller charts. There are at least two well-written, catchy songs that are worthy of being played over and over again in large retail establishments. But, the charm is gone. This album is designed to appeal to a larger audience. And, you are not part of that audience.

Or, maybe you are.

...Sorry. What were we talking about?

Oh, right, Inov-8 and CrossFit: No doubt, the popularity of the f-lite series among the CrossFit community was a major inspiration for the the plethora of colorways for the 230 released back in June. And, now, the 195 is available in several new colors, too!

I like color. I appreciate the emotive quality of certain colors. And, wearing color on running shoes, where emotive statements have been limited to subtle whispers in off-white and gray for so many years, is a major advancement in running shoe design. So, I'm happy that CrossFit has done so much to promote the awesomeness of Inov-8's minimal shoe offerings.

When Inov-8 reps announce new colorways for these f-lite 195s on their Facebook page, the first thing people ask is, "Where do we get the such-and-such colorway?" This is a valid question, because the distribution of the various new color varieties is somewhat mysterious—certain colors seem to be reserved for certain retailers.

Zappos has most of of them. Shoe Mart has a couple of them. A CrossFit gear store apparently has exclusive rights to an all black version. And, as of right now, RunningWarehouse has none of the new colors. (I am confident that they'll have some of them in the near future, though. Zappos seems to get the new stuff first, for some reason.)

Regardless of where you can buy specific colors of f-lites, the more important point is that you can buy f-lites in many more places than you could last year. This is good. This is progress. The f-lites are not overproduced or lame at this point. They're still part of a niche brand that happens to cater to both runners and CrossFitters, or RunnerCrossFitters (for those who lack commitment).

We'll want to worry, though, if we start seeing cheaper versions of our favorite Inov-8s in the big box sporting goods stores. Then, it might be time to find a new band.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Medoc 10-Mile Trail Race :: 2011 Race Report


After six weeks of lamenting my lackluster training and 20-ish-mile weeks, I ran the best race I've ever run this past Saturday. Go figure.

The Medoc Trail Races took place on October 15, which turned out to be a beautiful day for a trail race. The only way the weather could have been better was if it were pouring rain, thereby making the trails a sloppy mess; forcing us to run an entirely different sort of trail race. But, I was more than happy with the idyllic Fall temps this time.

Medoc has a special place in my heart, because I ran my first marathon there last year. I also have an affinity for 10-mile trail races. So, I jumped at the opportunity to register for this one in June before it sold out.

Why not run the marathon again? I just didn't have the time to train the way I wanted to this year. We'll analyze that some other time.

So, here I am at Medoc State Park. In spite of having been here once before, I got lost during the drive anyway. (But, not too lost) Everything is covered with sparkly dew as the sun makes its final ascent above the trees. And, this makes for a nice scene as I pick up my race packet and wander around the starting area while the marathoners prepare for their takeoff.

Medoc morning
A perfect morning for trail racing

Now, the trouble with dew is that it's wet. I wouldn't mind the wetness so much if I'd had the foresight to wear something other than my very non-water-resistant running shoes while walking across the dewy grass. By the time I returned to my car, my socks were already soaked, which inspired visions of blisters. I didn't want to get a blister during a ten-mile race. Sure, it wouldn't really affect my race. But, I'd be whining about it for a week afterward. I might even subject you all to a post about running-related blister prevention and treatment, because I couldn't stop thinking about the blister. It'd be a big one.

Fortunately, I had an extra pair of socks in my car. So, I put them on just before the start time. Whew! That was a close call.

Inov-8 f-lite 230
Weapon of Choice: My trusty, old Inov-8 f-lite 230s

So, feet dry. Damp, but not soaked, Inov-8 f-lite 230s back on. Jeans off. Shorts on. Favorite MST 12-Miler race shirt on with racing bib attached as level as possible. (Am I the only one who has trouble putting the bib on straight?) And, I'm headin' over to the starting line with four minutes to spare.

Should I stop for a pee break before the start? Those port-a-potties right beside the line were awfully tempting. But, others had the same idea. So, I just decided I'd hold it.

I glanced toward the front of the line and noticed Dave Roche in his standard racing attire. I almost wanted to start placing bets on who would win.

Roughly 190 runners loosened up and chatted before Herr Director signaled for us to run. We had a bit over a mile of out-and-back pavement to cover before hitting the trails. This kind of space gave us a nice survey of our fellow 10-mile runners and helped me figure out how my legs felt. I kept pace with an incredibly courteous masters runner for this road portion. I say that he was courteous, because he told me to take the single-track section ahead of him. That kind of management just wins all sorts of respect from this novice runner, that and his nickname: Nose Hair.

Medoc Trail Race: Starting on Pavement
The Courteous Masters Runner and Me on the Road
photo courtesy of Ron Flemming

Once on the single track, my legs felt more at home and fully warmed up. So, I decided to pass a few folks. Eventually, I settled in behind a pair of running buddies who had a good pace going. And, I owe them a ton of thanks, because they really helped pull me in after we passed mile six. The gap between us grew. And, I didn't see them after mile 8 because of the relatively plentiful switchbacks. But, knowing that they were up there pushed me to try and catch them.

Entering Medoc Single-Track Trails
Entering the Single-Track Trail

That's key, I think, for outdoing yourself in a race: Trying to catch someone faster than you later in the race. I've never really thought about that before, not much. But, I'm going to try it again; see how it goes.

While trying to catch that elusive pair of runners, I had the marvelous opportunity to meet Scott, who turned out to be even more awesome in four seconds of real life than you could have imagined by reading his blog. I have tremendous respect for Scott and all of the other marathoners I encountered that day, considering their three loops to my one. Each of you deserves a profound round of virtual applause. And, I hope the good-jobs and looking-goods that I seemed to be dispensing reflexively as I passed were not too annoyingly cliche.

Back to the race.

There are less than two miles remaining. I pitter-patter down a steep set of stairs without incident and plod along, feeling a smidgen of pain in my right hip flexor. I find myself wishing for a downhill portion, because that's when I feel fastest, which, in turn, gives me a bit of confidence. Ah, there's one.

Entering Medoc Single-Track Trails
Heading toward the Finish
photo courtesy of Ron Flemming

I climb onto the road beside the park restrooms. And, I know I'm close now. I think I can even hear some cheering on the other side of those trees.

Out of the trees and onto the grass, which is still blanketed with dew; I follow the flags to the finish. I don't have the power for a sprint. This is fine, though, because I see the clock. Could it be wrong? I'd been hoping to at least get in under 1:30:xx. But, I somehow managed to pull off 1:14:03, which was good enough for 9th place overall and a 2nd place age group award.

While I waited for the award announcements, I partook of the plentiful food and beverages brought to us by the good folks of the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau. (There were rice and beans people. Rice and effin' beans—meatful and meatless versions!)

Then, Dave Roche himself walked over to me! As I tried to quell my urge to ask for his autograph and quiz him about his training habits, we talked about how cool the race was, or something. I dunno. It was just awesome to meet Dave.

Medoc Trail Race pint glass
That's right. It's another pint glass award.

This year's swag consisted of a splendid cotton long-sleeve shirt, a Headsweats race hat, Icebreaker socks, and a finisher's medal! The post-race food counts as swag, too, as far as I'm concerned.

So, running more than 15 minutes faster than what I'd hoped to achieve at the finish line qualifies the Medoc Trail 10 Miler as my best race to date! And, once again, Medoc is at the top of my list for next year. The trails there are not the most technical. But, they're varied and fun to run. The race directors are fantastic, thanks to their incredible communication with registrants prior to the race and their overall ability to produce a great event. Plus, those directors manage to find some of the best volunteers in the entire state. (Thanks so much to all of you!) And, thanks to the band that entertained us while we cheered on the marathoners.

Now, I've gotta figure how to train, or not train, for whatever's next. What's next?

Thanks to the folks who tirelessly took photos at Medoc on Saturday and posted them online! Readers, you can see the official 2011 Medoc Trail Race photo link list here.

Some random, blurry photos of my own:

Medoc Trail Race
Medoc Marathoners Prepare to Start
Medoc Trail Race
Medoc Marathoners About to Enter the Trail (Too Fast for My Phone's Camera)
Medoc Trail Race
Post-Race Congregating

Monday, September 26, 2011

Inov-8 Bare-X 200 Now Available

Yeah, that's right, Inov-8's highly aniticipated zero-drop road shoe is finally available for the rest of us. The Bare-X 200 showed up at last week. And, better yet, it's in stock at for an even more enticing price.

Here are a few points of interest about this latest Inov-8 offering:

  • The Bare-X 200 is a minimum feature, minimum neutral shoe designed for road racing. It is built with a semi-curved shape.
  • For a barefoot experience, this shoe contains no additional cushioning technologies.
  • Anatomic Last follows the natural shape of the human foot for a close and comfortable fit.
  • Sticky Rubber for optimal performance and maximized grip in wet conditions.

As excited as I am about these shoes, I'm going to have to abstain from purchasing them for now. This is mostly due to the fact that they're almost completely white. That's a downer. I don't like white shoes. In fact, I don't think I've ever met another runner who likes white shoes. So, why the clever Inov-8 designers felt compelled to release these in white is beyond me.

Also, I just can't afford them right now, not with the impending release of the Bare-X 150, NB MT00, and the Merrell Road Glove; all of which will be available in colorways ranging from not white to definitely not white (I swear I've seen the 150 in green, orange, and blue).

So, unless the good people at Inov-8 feel magnanimous enough to send a free pair of these shoes to me, I won't be able to review the Bare-X 200 for you fine people. I'd really like to. But, you know how it is.

But, hey, if any of you are feeling adventurous and unopposed to white shoes, grab a pair of these from and let me know how you like 'em! I'm especially curious to know how the sizing of the anatomical last fits relative to the performance last of the f-lite 230, etc.

The Inov-8 Bare-X 200: Might be difficult to see against the white background of this web page Inov-8 Bare-X 200 profile
Inov-8 Bare-X 200 top
Inov-8 Bare-X 200 outsole

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If You Don't Feel Like Running

If you don't feel like running today, that's okay.

Every runner needs an unscheduled break now and then, something to put a kink in your otherwise predictable routine. You'll avoid burnout and return to your schedule after a day or (dare I say it) two feeling revived and invigorated.

However, if you don't feel like running for several consecutive days, then chances are there's something wrong with you.

Chances are you already know that.

By "wrong with you" I'm not saying that you're physically injured, which would technically mean that you simply can't run. Not running due to injury is certainly different from not running due to not feeling like running. If you can't run, you probably feel like running—would actually love to run; but physical restrictions prevent the fulfillment of this desire.

Figure against a silver building on a sunny dayRather, if you do not feel like running, the inspiration to get off your ass and participate in something you've enjoyed doing on a regular basis is just gone, absent.

Someone mentions running, and you almost cringe in shame, knowing you've neglected your training schedule for so many days. You look at your shoes in the closet and glance away quickly to avoid thinking about the last time you laced them onto your feet.

You could run if you wanted to. But, you don't, you don't want to.

Being somewhat obsessive about running, as most runners are, you will experience a great deal of inner turmoil and emotional confusion when faced with the realization that you don't feel like running. I mean, how you could you just not want to run all of a sudden?

Clearly, something apart from running is preventing you from going through the motions of the run, clearly. And, it would not be wholly inaccurate to identify that something as heavy shit of a psychological or emotional nature.

The schematics of this emotionally charged psycho shit are not all that clear to you, though. And, that's understandable. Otherwise, the shit would be neither heavy nor all that psychologically complex. Otherwise, we wouldn't be trying to figure out why you don't feel like running.

So, primarily, you're having to struggle with this abstract shit, this heavy, phsycho-emotional-shit thing that's getting in the way of your urge to run. This takes a lot of energy, facing such complex psychological shit. You might even lose weight.

And, successfully navigating through such enormous loads of psycho-shit on top of trying to understand why you don't feel like running can be very overwhelming indeed, emotionally and physically speaking.

The irony is that running would actually be helpful in counteracting the effects of the emotionally draining thing, because of the endorphins, see. Chances are you're aware of this fact. But, the heaviness of the psycho-emo-shit thing is just too much to handle directly for a few days. And, there's just no getting past that, the heaviness.

So, take a breath and accept that life has suddenly turned all serious on you. And, by "accept", I mean deal with it. Do it quickly, because you've probably figured out that anything preventing you from wanting to run for several days is very serious.Yes, very serious indeed. Get help if the nature of the psycho-shit thing demands such measures. Talk to anyone who will listen.

I'll type it again for emphasis (since I've used up my share of italics in this post already): Get help!

As for your running: Make yourself get out there, even if it's just a short run. A week may have gone by already. But, you can still run. You need to exercise through this shit. Otherwise, it's just that much easier for the complexity of the psychologically troublesome thing to wear you down and get the better of you.

Psycho-emo shit can get even more shitty before you realize it.

You'll pull through this, endure the shit. If it isn't your middle name, "endurance" is at least one of your nicknames. And, this psycho-emotional-shit thing won't keep you down, not with your ability to endure. Running is a passion. And a passion like running trumps that shit. Every time. Eventually. Somehow.

Not quite the same shit. But, nevertheless, relevant here, I think.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 :: 30-Miles-from-New Review

Those of us who are less than perfect will occasionally spend our hard-earned money on things we don't necessarily need, superfluous items that do not fill huge, gaping voids in our material lives. These are things we want, things that look really cool, things that require great effort to justify purchasing.

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 lateral right view
The Bare-Grip 200:
with Zero Arrow Shoc-Zone™!
For me, the Bare-Grip 200 from our friends at Inov-8 is one of those things. I already have a marvelous collection of trail shoes, which more than sufficiently accommodate my runs on the various trails around the Triangle: There's the Roclite 285, the Minimus Trail, the f-lite 230... So, I certainly don't need another trail shoe.

But, look at it. That is an awesome shoe! (Okay, maybe it's not as awesome if you don't like green) And, it was on sale for 25% off!


Given it's pronounced lugs, the Bare-Grip 200 is more of a specialized trail shoe than anything else I've worn. It's designed for very wet, sloppy, and/or loose terrain with lots of inclines to climb and descend, fell running, really. And, the last time I used the word "fell" in a sentence about running, it wasn't a noun.

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 lateral right view
The Bare-Grip 200 is all kinds of awesome!

So, we don't have fells here in central North Carolina. But, it rains. Our trails get muddy. And, those leaves, they can be pretty slick in the Fall and Winter, wouldn't you say? Plus, the snow and ice certainly warrants a shoe with significant traction. So, yeah, I'll be able to use the Bare-Grip 200 pretty regularly! This might even have been a wise purchase, safetywise. (Did I mention that it was on sale?)


Notable features of the Bare-Grip 200:

  • Grippy lugs (duh) — These actually serve as a bit of protective cushioning while running over rocks. So, the Bare-Grip simulates barefoot running without subjecting your feet to the perils that VFFs might.
  • Zero differential between the heel and the toe — Inov-8 markets this feature as a ZERO Arrow Shoc-Zone™. (I imagine that the capital letters are for emphasis)
  • No midsole at all — This makes the shoe incredibly flexible and fun to wear. Inov-8 explains that the lack of a midsole "allows all the natural power and speed of the foot [to be] transferred directly through the shoe." The video I've embedded below explains the appeal of forgoing a midsole quite nicely.
  • Better protected toe box — Well, this is subjective, I suppose. To me, that's a rather sturdy bit of rubber, or whatever, buffering the toe box from the outside world. I've found it to be quite useful already. The toe guard is more significant on the Bare-Grip 200 than the one on the Roclite 285. And, I appreciate that.
  • Read more about features in this Bare-Grip 200 review. I lack the attention span to really delve into specifications, etc.
Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 lateral right view

Sizing and Feel

I tried the Bare-Grip 200 on in two different sizes, just because. These are built on the Inov-8 performance last, which coincides with the last of the f-lite 230 and Roclite 285. But, my US Men's size 11.5 Roclite 285 is a bit roomier in the front than my 11.5 f-lite 230. So, just because those shoes are built on the same last doesn't mean they fit the same way. But, I digress.

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 profile view
The Bare-Grip 200 is a long shoe

The size 12 Bare-Grip felt better on my feet than the 11.5. I liked the added width in the toe box the larger size afforded my little toe while the 11.5 squeezed just a bit. Although, in retrospect, the shoe's upper may have stretched enough after a few runs to warrant keeping the smaller size. I make note of this because I've been second-guessing my decision to keep the 12 now that it feels a bit more loose on my foot. And, if I could have kept the 11.5, I would have preferred it, because I feel a little self conscious about the length of my feet.


The shoe feels fantastic on my feet, light and incredibly flexible. I wouldn't say it fits any more snugly than the f-lite 230. The upper is just as breathable as I'd expect by looking at the photos, which is to say that it's very breathable indeed.

As usual, this Inov-8 shoe includes an insole, 3 mm. I leave it in there. You can remove it if you like. I suspect that those of you who do not wear socks will prefer to leave the insole in place, because the foot bed is a tad rough. But, what do I know about not wearing socks? (Nothing, because I wear them)

Running in the Bare-Grip 200

Since the Bare-Grip 200 marked my foray into zero-droppedness, I was a little nervous about running for too long on the first try. But, my other shoes with their relatively low heel-to-toe differentials probably prepared my calf muscles well for the Bare-Grip. So, a little under 10 miles for the initial run went well. (If you're trying the Bare-Grip while running regularly in a more cushioned shoe, you should use caution and work into this one gradually. Everyone says so.)

Here's a great video overview of the Bare-Grip featuring a runner with a cool accent. This video proved very persuasive to me when the shoe was on sale. Just sayin'.

I took these on the trail for the first time after a day of rain so as to test out the Bare-Grip's traction over soft, wet surfaces. It didn't disappoint. The grip is especially superb over muddy inclines. I found myself running directly through the squishiest parts of the trail just to test the shoe's hold on the surface.

The Bare-Grip's über-flexible outsole is definitely my favorite attribute of the shoe. It conforms to various shapes on the ground in a way that really heightens your sense of the terrain without impaling your feet on pointy rocks hiding under loose debris. I mean, sure, you'll still feel the rocks. You might even wince a few times as you step on a sharp one at an unfortunate angle. But, the balance between proprioception and protection inherent to the Bare-Grip 200 is good.

I'll mention, perhaps superfluously, that the Bare-Grip is not something you want to wear for any length of time on pavement or hard-packed trails. Not, only will you feel the pressure of the individual lugs on the outsole pressing into your foot, but you'll also feel like an idiot. I mean, why would you wear something like this on a flat surface? Granted, you won't be rendered immobile if you're wearing these at the start of a trail race that begins on pavement. You just don't want to have to run more than a couple of miles on the road with the Bare-Grip on your feet.

Worth the Splurge?

In a word: Yes! Clearly, I like the Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200. After a little more than 30 miles of running in them, I've not been disappointed at all. If I had to change anything about these shoes, I'd make the toe area slightly less pointy or make the US Men's size 11.5 slightly wider in the toe box. It wouldn't have to be NB-Minimus-Trail wide, just a little wider than it is now.

This is definitely a specialized type of shoe. If you're looking for your first trail shoe, or an all-around type of trail shoe, try something else. Then, get the Bare-Grip 200 as your secondary, super-fancy trail shoe for special trails, like the convertible sports car that you take out on weekends when the weather is nice (antiquated analogy?). You deserve it.

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 with a dirty outsole
Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 with a dirty outsole

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Balance MT10 and MT20 :: A Subjectively Superficial Comparison

New Balance surprised many wearers of the original Minimus Trail in late May or early June when a few photos of the MT20 appeared on ShoeMart's website. Without much of an explanation to accompany this alternative to the MT10, speculations and theories about the Minimus Trail 20 went wild:
  • Was it a replacement for the MT10 in response to perceived complaints about the original model?
  • Was it an update in the product line for the sake of an update? If so, why so soon?
  • Was it the promised zero-drop version that so many of us had been wanting in the initial Minimus?
DISCLAIMER: This post is silly. I have no excuse for spending so much time comparing the aesthetics of two perfectly good shoes. If you are not interested in nerdy shoe stuff, you'll probably want to read someone else's blog before this post takes up anymore of your time.
Answers to these questions have not been readily apparent. But, RunningPundit's stellar investigative skills produced an insightful timeline of inquiry that probed the rationale behind NB's release of the MT20. So, go there to read what one or more NB reps have said about the differences between the MT10 and the MT20.

Stay here to compare the MT10 and MT20 from an artsy-fartsy perspective. As an aesthetically inclined fellow, I appreciate things that look nice, products that exhibit good design. And, I'm more than happy to subject two seemingly similar products to my unfounded opinions. So, let's begin:

MT10 vs. MT20: Profile

New Balance MT10 and MT20 profiles compared

From the first time I saw photos of the MT10 last Fall, I was enamored with it's unique design and ambitiously minimal construction (for a mainstream shoe company). Once released to the general public this past March, the MT10 met my expectations in spades. It looked great right out of the box. And, one of it's most conspicuous physical attributes is the toe spring.

That toe spring really adds some charm and down-to-earth ruggedness to the MT10. You can imagine your feet nimbly traversing rocks and roots on the trail when you look at that toe spring.

The MT20, on the other hand, seems to exhibit a much more minimal (pardon the pun) toe spring. In fact, from the profile, the MT20 resembles a sleek sports car or shark with the way the shoe's nose seems to form a blunt point.

Sports cars are cool. And, I like sharks even more. But, as far as trail running goes, I prefer the rugged, more loosely fashioned toe box profile of the MT10. I mean, yeah, of course, a shoe as light as the MT10 or MT20 should evoke a sense of speed. But, there's just something about the MT10's profile that makes me want to run on the trails more than the MT20's does.

Moreover, comparing the profiles of these companion shoes, I prefer the linear balance (omg another pun!) imposed by the strong lines on the side of the MT10. There's that black line extending from the midsole at the front of the heel up through the back of the "N" to the laces. This line is not present on the MT20, which really emphasizes that curved band running from the back, top of the heel to the midsole at the forefoot. With that black line missing as a counterbalance on the profile of the MT20, there's an impression of front-facing heaviness while the lighter orange color seems to beg for something to weigh it down, something like your heel.

So, if you look at the black lines on the MT10, you see that they appear to emphasize a foot strike towards the midfoot. And, the upward momentum of the toe spring gives a sense of active flow to the design.

But, the MT20's black lines put a lot of emphasis closer to the base of the forefoot, leaving the heel area open and a little incomplete. Plus, the flatter toe box seems to put a stop to the forward momentum that those black lines imply.

MT10 vs. MT20: From the Top

New Balance MT10 and MT20 profiles compared

Once again, the MT10 and MT20 direct our attention to their toe boxes. Each shoe clearly has a wide toe box with ample room for most runners' wiggly piggies (especially true since the Minimus is available in widths). And, while these two photos were obviously taken from entirely different perspectives, it's safe to assume that the lasts of these shoes are the same, thereby promising the toe box widths to be equally spacious.

But, look how the MT20 has that piece of black overlay where the MT10 does not. It covers an otherwise well-ventilated area with some sort of snake-skin-like material. Why would New Balance want to do that? I mean, sure, there are some grey dots on the black toe cover to add some sort of design interest. But, toes need to breathe!

Perhaps this extra bit of covering makes the MT20 look more like a traditional shoe, which would assure New Balance a more promising market share. Maybe not.

Clearly, I prefer the more breathable toe area of the MT10.

I'll also add that the wider black band punctuated by white stitching on the MT10 looks nicer than what we have on the MT20. It just does. I suspect that NB diminished the presence of this band across the top of the metatarsal area on the MT20 due to some complaints by the public about the MT10. There was some pinching, see, pinching that never bothered me.

If I were to complain of pinching, I'd attribute it to the little Vibram wave thingies on the medial and lateral sides of the midsole. These are the elements that exert pressure on my feet. But, it's not a bad pressure. I don't feel pinched. It may be that I bought the correct size for my feet.

MT10 vs. MT20: The Heel

New Balance MT10 and MT20 profiles compared

Ah, now, here we see a design altercation that can truly be labeled as a correction. The tab at the top of the heel seam on the MT10 appears to be sewn over on the MT20, rendering it nonexistent. (Do we really need pull tabs on our shoes? I never use them)

The tab itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But, the inner seam of the MT10's heel cup is problematic, at least for me and a few other runners. It irritates bare heels to the point of blistering. And, this is not a good feature on a shoe that's designed to be worn without socks. So, the MT20 clearly has a bit of seam padding sewn onto it. And, I'd be curious to know if that solves the irritation issue.

This view of the heels also gives us a close look at the MT20's black overlay material. It looks cheaper than the MT10's black overlays. Yet, these shoes are priced the same. So, surely it's not cheaper.

MT10 vs. MT20: Which to Buy?

If I hadn't already purchased two pairs of the MT10, I'd still choose the 10 over the 20 simply because the former looks better. One is clearly the less attractive sibling. Sure, they're both good looking, especially compared to some of their friends. But, the first is better than the second. That's just my opinion. But, I defy you to disagree!

Oh, and I'll leave you with this amusing, if not laughable (in the at-them ["them" being the perpetrators of this ad] rather than with-them sense of the word), new addition to the "Like Barefoot, Only Better" campaign:

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Raleigh 8000 :: 2011 Race Report

Raleigh 8000 Pint Glass
The Raleigh 8000 Pint Glass Award: 3rd Place AG
(photo courtesy of The Raleigh 8000 Facebook Page)
The inaugural running of The Raleigh 8000 took place in spite of hurricane Irene this past Saturday, August 27. Naturally, messages from the conscientious race director expressed intense concern for the safety of the runners and volunteers involved in the race. Consistent weather updates on the race's Facebook page conveyed a very slight possibility that the race would be canceled. But, luckily, Irene didn't pose as a big of a threat to Raleigh as it did to other portions of the state. So, The Raleigh 8000 started on schedule!

Along with the fact that the Raleigh 8000 was my shortest race distance, this race served as a first for me in a few ways:
  • first fully paved course
  • first 8K
  • first race in the rain

I registered for this race a couple of months ago, because I'd been wanting to try out a shorter race. I like the Tar River Running Company's well-organized productions. And, the fact that the course traveled primarily along the Capital Area Greenway in the vicinity of Shelley Lake made this particular race more appealing than the usual road race. Also, the host sponsor, Raleigh Running Outfitters, is my favorite local running store!

Raleigh 8000 Course Photo over the bridge
(photo courtesy of
Plus, I hadn't participated in a race since the end of May. So, I registered for this one knowing that I'd be jonesing for a race before September.

In keeping with my standard arrival time, just shy of an hour early, I pulled into the parking lot at 6:34 AM. It was still rather dark outside due to the cloud cover. A batch of heavy rain had moved away from the area about an hour earlier. And, only a slight sprinkling punctuated by strong wind gusts accosted the runners picking up their race packets.

The rainfall increased steadily then suddenly as I waited in my car. But, at a half hour before starting time, I needed to warm up and use the portaloo. Figuring that'd I'd be getting wet anyway, I decided there wasn't much point to waiting out the rain. So, I ran around the shopping center to the "facilities" and ran back with a couple of strides thrown in while under cover of the storefront awning. The rain and the running felt great at this point.

Surprisingly, the heavy rain actually stopped when we gathered on Six Forks Rd. to start. We had to confine ourselves to one lane as we crossed the mat at 7:30. But, after that point, we had two lanes of Six Forks Rd. all to ourselves for a few meters. There's something liberating about running down the middle of a road like Six Forks, having it closed off to traffic just so you can run. (Thanks to the Raleigh PD for taking care of that for us!)

I'd started close to the middle-front of the pack. But, I quickly moved to the side so that I could position myself closer to the front. I had it in my head that the point of a shorter race is to make yourself as uncomfortable as you can reasonably stand as soon as possible. So, that's what I did. I'd be curious to know how quickly I ran that first mile. But, I left my watch at home. So, oh well.

Raleigh 8000 Course Photo beside Shelley Lake
(photo courtesy of
I'll be the first to admit that I started out too fast. By mile two, I could feel my pace slipping. A shirtless dude who'd been running behind me for a little while finally passed me. Then, another dude passed as we ran up to the straight portion of path on the south side of Shelley Lake.

There were no trees blocking the wind at this point on the course. Irene's breath stormed across the water and right over the elevated greenway. And, I really felt like I was running against a wall here. I held my bib against my shirt, because the wind almost seemed to tear it away from the safety pins. Thankfully, this section was brief.

Raleigh 8000 Course Photo the tunnel
(photo courtesy of
Then I ran down an incline and into more tree cover as I fought to maintain some semblance of speed. Another dude passed me, this one wearing yellow. I missed seeing the 3-mile marker at some point. Perhaps it was the aid station.

The tunnel you see in that photo is smaller than you think. It was dark and not at all conducive to running. And, for some reason, it was less pleasant to run through on the way back than it was at the beginning. I guess I have a thing about small, dark spaces.

Anyway, through the tunnel, through some puddles, over some bridges (careful on that slick wood), and I'm finally on Long Street, which is an uphill climb for about a mile to the finish. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, because Facebook posts from the race director made it seem like climbing an actual hill. Really, this was more of a long incline.

Of course, the last mile could have been all flat for me and it wouldn't have mattered. I was tired. Rather, my legs were tired. I searched for extra speed and strength everywhere in my appendages. But, I couldn't find any. I just couldn't muster up that speed that I usually manage to find during the final meters of a race. I was frustrated.

And, what happens when you're frustrated towards the end of a race? Another dude passes you as he speeds toward the finish line. And, you tell yourself, "Okay, there's still time to catch that dude. I can catch him, find some strength for a sprint, pass him before the finish." But, no, you don't pass him. You're tired.

Raleigh 8000 awards time
The race director distributes awards before the rain gets heavy again
Anyway, I ran under the finish arch as the clock struck 35:24 (chip time was 35:13). I like that time. It's a nice time. I'm not going to complain about it. But, well, nevermind...

As we waited in light rain for the awards to begin, I really developed a profound appreciation for the race director and volunteers. I mean, sure, running in the rain is fun while you're running. But, standing in it to wave people along the course or hand out water probably sucks.

And, the race director, having to deal with all the concerns about the weather just before the race begins, scrounging for volunteers at the last minute, wondering if anyone will show up: he
My Trusty Inov-8 f-lite 230
Inov-8 f-lite 230: My Weapons of Choice for the Raleigh 8000
and his team really earned my respect for all of that. There were a lot of logistics that went into this race well before race day. And, if Irene had forced a cancellation, I can only imagine how disappointing that would have been for all of the organizers. So, thanks to all of you organizers and volunteers for everything you did.

I wore my trusty Inov-8 f-lite 230s for this race. They did not disappoint. The wet pavement really put their sticky rubber outsole to the test. And, their ability to flush water out quickly made racing through puddles fun and efficient with no squishy feeling afterwards. I love these shoes.

So, my first 8K is over. I spent more time eating and waiting for the award ceremony than running. It's an odd thing, really. I want to be fast and speedy. But, I also want races to last longer than 40 minutes. I should sign up for a 5K soon, though. I've been intimidated by that distance for so long. But, it's something that should be done.

Thanks for reading! I highly recommend the Raleigh 8000 to anyone looking for an 8K in Raleigh next year. The course is a good one, and the team putting it together is fantastic.

Raleigh 8000 runners waiting for the award ceremony
Runners waiting for the awards distribution.

Raleigh 8000 runners watching award ceremony
Runners gather to watch the awards distribution.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 :: Fifty-Mile Update Review

As promised in my first-impressions review of the Mizuno Universe 4, I'm posting this update for those who want to know how the Universe 4 handled its first few runs. More specifically, I'll address my initial concerns about the shoe's durability.
Mizuno Wave Universe 4 front and back
It's worth noting that a Mizuno representative indicated that the shoe is good for 150 to 1,200 miles. (That's not a typo. I asked) The rep knows an accomplished marathon runner who regularly wears the Universe for more than 700 miles. So, clearly, the Universe 4 will take you as far as you're comfortable wearing it.

As we observed previously, the Universe 4's outsole displayed some conspicuous wear and tear in the forefoot area after one 13-mile run. Sure, I expected some trade off in durability for lightness. But, I was surprised to see that much scuffing on the surface so soon. It's a good thing I didn't want to return them to the store.

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 outsole wear after 45 miles
Mizuno Wave Universe 4 wear and tear on the outsole after 45-ish miles of running on pavement.

Well, fifty miles later, the outsole wear is similar to what we saw in my first-impression review. I suppose the softness of the lightweight foam gives way to friction very quickly at first. But, it doesn't deteriorate at a constant rate. There's just that initial wearing down.

So, my concerns about durability are not as pressing now. The upper is still in fantastic condition. And, the small, black "lugs" populating the forefoot are quite durable, barely showing any sign of wear.

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 top and insole view
Mizuno Wave Universe 4 top and insole view
There are a couple of other experiences with the Mizuno Universe 4 worth mentioning at this point:
  • I experienced a hot spot in the left foot under my pinky toe after an hour of running. This occurred for the first three runs with two different kinds of socks. But, I haven't felt the blistering affect recently. So, whatever was causing the hot spot for me is probably corrected by way of a breaking-in period, or something. Besides, hot spots are probably more of a subjective thing and not necessarily due to a manufacturing defect.
  • The plastic piping (?) on the heel cup that follows the shoe laces through the midfoot is an interesting choice. I thought it'd be bothersome, because it's not a soft material like the fabric seams of most other heel cups. But, this element of the shoe hasn't bothered me thus far. It appears to hold the shoe in place around my ankles better.
    Of course, I wear socks that form a barrier between my bare ankles and the plastic material. So, someone who prefers not to wear socks might have a different experience with this black piping.

So, that's my update for you. Everything I observed about the Universe 4 during my initial run remains true after fifty miles. It's a comfortable shoe, something that's ideal for my longer runs on pavement. (I've only gone up to 13 miles at one time so far. But, I could see myself wearing this for up to three hours on asphalt without wishing for more cushioning.) The toe box has more room than any other shoe in my arsenal. And, that 3mm heel-to-toe differential really allows for some great running form.

If my observations of the Mizuno Universe 4 have helped you decide that it's the right shoe for you, then you might like to know that the good people at have lowered their price from the initially outrageous MSRP. I tell you this reluctantly, since I paid full price for my pair just so I could review the shoe for you, dear readers. But, I pay because I care. You're welcome.
Mizuno Wave Universe 4 upper view


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