Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shoe Photo:
NB Minimus Trail and the Inov-8 f-lite 230

I'm in the midst of composing a comparison between the NB Minimus Trail and my trusty Inov-8 f-lite 230. (Clearly, my shoe geekery is without limit)

But, who knows when I'll find time to finish that comparison post? So, here's a teaser image. Naturally, so as to keep the perceptual effects of color as neutral as possible, I think it's only fitting to compare the black versions of both shoes.

New Balance Minimus Trail in black and the Inov-8 f-lite 230 in black

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Balance MT10 Minimus Trail Shoe Review (With Bullet Points)

NB Minimus Trail in the box
What can I write about the New Balance Minimus Trail (MT10) that you haven't already read here, here, here, or here?

I mean, those are all very thorough, well-written reviews that feature many colorful photos. Surely you and the rest of the internet could do without my own rambling perspective on a shoe that's been hyped and reviewed since last Summer.

But, then, I've already started writing. So, I may as well impart something about the NB Minimus Trail that you may not have read yet. At the very least, I'll stray from my usual review format and just provide a bullet-point summary of the other reviews. Thus, you don't have to read so much elsewhere. (Less reading means more time for running, right?)
New Balance Minimus Trail - toe view

Points for Consideration from Other NB Minimus Trail Reviews

  • The NB Minimus Trail is pretty much awesome, especially the fit. If you like awesome shoes, then you can stop reading here. Just go to the nearest awesome shoe store and try on a pair so that you can make your final decision.
  • New Balance Minimus Trail - interiorMost reviewers like the way the MT10 fits and feels on their feet. Some reviewers had concerns about the band that stretches across the base of the forefoot. But, most, including this reviewer, found that the band across the forefoot became unnoticeable when running or after a short break-in period. One or two reviewers experienced defects in this banded area that caused some issues. But, overall, the slipper-like fit of the NB Minimus is regarded highly.
  • The toe box is wider than that of most shoes.
  • NB Minimus Trail - profileThe NB Minimus Trail is very flexible. You can fold it in half.
  • The heel and forefoot specs are reported at 15 mm and 11 mm respectively, creating a heel-to-toe differential of 4 mm. This may or may not qualify as minimal to you.
  • Vibram designed and/or produced the outsole, which features a web of circular lugs that grip various surfaces readily.
  • While the outsole and midsole are stellar in construction and design, the lack of a rock plate means you're still going to feel the effects of sharp, pointy things when you step on them. So, running carelessly over rocky terrain could become unpleasant.
  • Given the subtlety of the lugs and significant proprioceptive qualities in the midsole, the Minimus Trail allows for successful training on roads. I actually went into the shoe store to test out the Minimus Road shoe and came out with the Trail version instead.
  • The shoe features a comfy interior fabric so that it may be worn without socks. (I prefer socks anyway)
  • Prospective NB Minimus wearers should exercise caution if a transition to the lower heel is in order.
New Balance Minimus Trail - standing in them

Points I'll Add For Further Consideration

  • The laces seem to be extra long, which is annoying. I usually deal with this flaw by tucking the tied shoe laces under the lacing in the forefoot area.
  • Don't assume that the Minimus Road is just a slightly more cushioned version of the excellent Minimus Trail. It's not. They're totally different shoes.
    I wanted to like the Minimus Road when I tried it on in the store, because I "needed" a new shoe for road running, something with a lower heel. But, as soon as I put my feet in a pair of the Roads, I immediately felt a conspicuous bump under my arch. Other reviews indicate that this is probably meant to serve as some sort of supportive feature. Whatever it is, I hate it! That's why I ended up with the Minimus Trail. And, I'm glad I did.
  • New Balance Minimus Trail - on the dash
    If you're trying to decide whether you want the NB Minimus Trail or the Merrel Trail Glove, read this comparison. But, keep in mind that there are rumors of a zero-drop Minimus Trail slated for release in the near future.
New Balance Minimus Trail - standing in them


Okay, that was nowhere near as brief as I'd intended. Sorry about that.

Despite the gripe I have about the long laces, the Minimus Trail is definitely one of my favorite shoes. It is so comfortable and conducive to running that I wish I could wear a pair of 'em all day.

Sure, it's not an all-terrain trail shoe, not in my opinion. But, with the exception of rock-laden trails (the Roclite 285s are a better tool for that), you could run almost anywhere with this shoe.

As I write this post, I currently have approximately 50 miles on the pair of MT10s you see pictured. And, the majority of those miles were covered on pavement. (My maximum distance on pavement with them was around 7 miles, I think) So, the Minimus Trail really is worth consideration from anyone seeking a lightweight, minimalish training shoe.

Happy running!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FY(effin')I: Running and Rambling Blogger Posts Merrel Trail Glove Review and Giveaway

If you feel that there just isn't enough to read about the Merrel Barefoot Trail Glove on the internet, then you're bound to find some semblance of satisfaction in this review from the awesome Running and Rambling blog.

The added bonus of reading Donald's Trail Glove review is that he's also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win a pair. So, check it out. Leave a comment. Maybe you'll be the lucky winner.

(Obviously, I hope you are not the lucky winner. I would rather be the lucky winner. Good luck to you anyway, though)

Merrel Barefoot Trail Glove as squashed by the reviewer

Donald, author of the Running and Rambling blog, demonstrates the flexibility of the Merrel Barefoot Trail Glove.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge: 2011 Race Report

Falls Lake shoreline early in the morning
the trail head at Falls Lake where the MST 12-miler began
If you read my prologue to the MST 12-miler on Friday, you've probably been in suspense all weekend, waiting for to find out if I bonked in this race. Thanks for your concern.

I'm glad to report that I successfully ran the entire Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge this past Saturday without succumbing to fatigue or temperature discomfort. And, I cleverly avoided those pesky spider webs to the face by staying far away from the front of the pack. (Take that, overall winner!) Actually, it rained during the night prior to the race. So, I suppose that the spiderwebs had probably been washed away from the trail by the time all 203 of us started running.

Thanks to the evening's rain storms, the morning air was brisk and sobering as we stepped off the vans and waited at the starting line. The forest was thoroughly damp. And, the sky remained overcast throughout the race. It was pretty ideal weather for running, really.

I wandered and sat on the rocks for an hour while vans that shuttled us to the start unloaded runners by the dozen. Bull City Running flags marked the starting line, which faced the boat ramp leading into Falls Lake. Peppy music, ranging from Lady Gaga to Tom Petty, played from a stereo, adding a festive ambiance to the corral.

pre-race congregating
Runners congregate before the MST 12-miler begins (apologies for the blurry photo)
With ten minutes to go before the start time, I laced up my Roclite 285s and put the tattered jeans and Salomon jacket that had been keeping me warm into my drop bag. A quick warm up run to the boat ramp and back helped shake away the cold from my bare legs and arms. Then, we all gathered in a colorful mass at the starting line.

A few words from our excellent race director and the rattle of a cowbell sent us on our way. We proceeded first down the paved road and looped around a parking lot before heading onto the trail. I used this opportunity to find a suitable position among the other runners, somewhere in the vicinity of not too fast and not too slow.

The hills began their assault on us immediately. And, what the hills lacked in quality they made up in quantity. Surprisingly, though, these hills weren't as bad as I thought they'd be. In fact, their rolling, unyielding positioning along the course seemed to add a fun fluidity to the momentum of the race.

I joined a line of runners for the first couple of miles. When that line lurched ahead of another runner, I held back in order to remain conservative with my pace. I'd stay conservative through mile five, I think.

I look best when blurry
Me as photographed by Shannon around mile 8 or 9. I look better blurry.
After passing the six-mile aid station at 56:xx, I started to pick up speed. I felt pretty good in a burning-legs-and-lungs kinda way. And, I thought I'd surely be able to complete the next six miles in less than 56 minutes.

Soon I found myself running a marvelous pace behind a stealthy runner in black. She took a photo behind her back. And, I thought to myself, "Who do I know of with a talent like that, an ability to take photos while running a race?" ;-)

Eventually, the pair of us ran up to a somewhat steep drop off leading into a small creek. I over-stepped a suitable stepping stone and planted my right foot directly into the cold water. The most comfortable way to deal with a sloshing, wet shoe is to run faster. So, I did.

The conga lines of runners had dissipated now. The mile-nine aid station was far behind me. And, the only runner I saw ahead was a dude in a red shirt. I set my sights on him and ran harder in an attempt to catch up.

The trail was quiet without the footfalls and heavy breathing around me. I even found myself enjoying some of the scenery after summiting a particularly rocky hill. A wide expanse of Falls Lake, reflecting gray-green against the cloudy sky, sprawled beyond a sparse portion of forest. It was gorgeous. And, that's the point when I made a mental note to sign up for this race again next year.

Despite a sense that the finish line was near, it didn't seem to be as near as my legs wanted it to be. So, I was concerned that I'd depleted my all-out effort to finish strong. But, as we crossed the road and followed the flags, I found a bit more energy to finally finish just a couple of steps behind the red-shirted dude. He really helped to reel me in. And, I appreciate it.

race swag
An excellent Sport Science tech shirt and Darn Tough socks were the stars among the race swag.
Cookies rule!
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail was a gorgeous, challenging course; one that I'll look forward to running again next year. Everyone involved with the organization and execution of this race deserves tons of thanks for their efforts. Laying out a course along these sections of the trail at Falls Lake must have taken some serious coordination and planning.

Moreover, the food at the finish area was perfect. There was such a splendid array of cookies, coffee, bagels, bananas, etc. I had to stop myself from overeating.

I hung around shivering a bit so that I could clap for all the speedy people during the awards ceremony. The overall first-place runner finished in 1:15:54, about a half hour faster than me, which put me in the top 20% of finishers. I'm happy with that.

I'm even more happy to know that the trail head at the Falls Lake dam is only around 20 minutes from my house. I'll be running here more frequently in the future.

And now for some post-race scenery:Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge post race
Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge post race
Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge post race
Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge post race - The Falls Lake dam

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge : My Prologue

MtS Trail Challenge logoThe Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge is scheduled for tomorrow morning. And, as of right now, there are only 15 spots remaining according to the event web page.

Given its location and the relatively robust running community in the Raleigh area, I'm a bit surprised the race hasn't sold out already. But, then, the Raleigh Rocks Half Marathon is taking place tomorrow, too. I mean, how can you compete with that?

I'm writing a little prologue to this race, because the trail at Falls Lake has a special significance to me: It was somewhere on section eight of the trail where I experienced my first bonked run.

This discouraging experience took place one morning last July in the steaming heat of summer. I was planning to run an easy seven or eight miles from the section ten trail head at Hwy 50 to the end of section eight at Hwy 98 and back.

Unfortunately, the awesome Falls Lake trail map that I used for planning didn't account for my lazy math skills. So, when I hastily added the sum of sections ten, nine, and eight; I must have done it incorrectly. I actually covered 12.6 miles instead of eight-ish miles that day.

Couple that unplanned distance with the myriad stops to brush spider webs out of my face, swatting at deer flies, sprinting up one too many hills, and improperly hydrating; and you've pretty much got the perfect recipe for a bonk. It was a humiliating and miserable run.

That was my first and only experience on the Falls Lake Trail — so far.

So, tomorrow, April 9, 2011; I'll be running sections of the Falls Lake trail for a second time. To say that I'm apprehensive about how it will go would be an understatement. I fully expect the rolling terrain to kick my ass. And, I have no delusions about completing the course any faster than my half marathon time from the Roanoke Canal race last month.

Of course, I'm more excited than anxious about the prospect of running this race tomorrow. It's a trail race, after all. And, it's not like the trails at Falls Lake are drastically more challenging than those at Umstead (are they?).

As long as I manage to run the whole race to the best of my abilities, I'll feel that I've conquered that aversion to Falls Lake. Maybe then I won't drive the extra few minutes to Umstead every time I want to run on a trail.

Good luck to everyone else running this race tomorrow! Have fun!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Inov-8 F-lite 230 New Colors on the Way

Inov-8 posted an image that caught my eye on their facebook page today. It's a chart with potential new color schemes for future editions of the f-lite 230.

The facebook post asks which colors are favorites. I picked numbers 9, 13, and 1 as my top three in order of preference. What about you?

It's nice to see that Inov-8 is keeping the f-lite 230 in the brand's shoe line up. As much as I appreciate their innovative move toward lower heel-to-toe differentials, it's good to have a classic like the f-lite 230 around for others.

Or, maybe they're just keeping it around for people who think about shoes way too much.


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