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.


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