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


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