Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Shoes: Inov-8 f-lite 230 in Black

No, the black version of Inov-8's f-lite 230 is not actually a new color. It's been around for as long as the blues ones have been available. It's just been a little harder to find.

But, with the release of three new colors for the f-lite 230 this past December, the black ones are suddenly more common. They don't last long in the online stores, though, with common sizes usually selling out within a couple of days.
Inov-8 f-lite 230 in pink Inov-8 f-lite 230 in aqua and black Inov-8 f-lite 230 in green

What's more is that, my favorite online running shoe retailer, didn't have any f-lite 230s in their inventory until a week and a half ago. It's funny that RW received a shipment of f-lites this month, because I actually asked the customer service rep whether they expected to have some in stock soon. And, the answer I received was "no". Perhaps this was a surprise shipment.
f-lite 230 in blue and black
f-lite 230 in blue and blackSo, long and boring story short, I'm excited to have a new pair of f-lite 230s in my rotation. I've been wanting them in black for a while. And, being that the f-lite 230 is fantastically comfortable and suitable for both trails and pavement, I'm definitely going to get some use out of this new pair.
f-lite 230 black outsole
f-lite 230 blue outsoleMy photos at right compare a blue 230, which has 200-plus miles on it, with a brand new black 230, which, obviously, has 0 miles under it's tread. The f-lite is pretty durable, don't you think?

Prior to ordering the black one, I was a little nervous that it might be a slightly different shoe due to the fact that it's usually listed as the Parkour (PK) version. I'm happy to report that there is no difference, apart from color, between the PK and regular f-lite 230. A men's US size 11.5 fits me just as well as it does in my blue f-lites. The outsole is the same, too. There's just the aesthetic difference in color with which to concern yourself.

When you put on a new pair of f-lites, you might be concerned, because they'll feel a little more snug than the ones you've been wearing already. Don't worry. Just remember that it took a little time for that first pair of f-lites to really fit the form of your foot so well. They're still flexible and comfy right out of the box.

So, that's all I wanted to say, really. It's exciting for some of us to get new shoes. And, I just thought I'd share the news. I mean, really, it's not about the shoes, is it?

Happy running everyone!

Thanks to,, and for making such great images of the f-lite 230 available for public consumption online.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trail Review: Loblolly Trail at William B. Umstead State Park

Loblolly Trail

Trail Location:Umstead Park Map
William B. Umstead State Park | Raleigh, NC

Trail Distance:
5.64 miles (out & back)

Trail Difficulty:

Elevation profile & map >>
See the Umstead park map >>

The Loblolly Trail at Umstead State Park is unique for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it extends into Schenck Memorial Forest, which is managed by NC State University and leads the runner over grassy trails to the RBC Center parking lot, if one were so inclined.

Another aspect of the Loblolly Trail differentiating it from the other Umstead trails is that it is an out-and-back course. As you may know, most of the other trails in Umstead follow a loop or lollipop-style path. So, running along Loblolly straight out and straight back is quite a different experience.

In fact, the out-and-back design of Loblolly is probably what's kept me from running it habitually for so long. Perhaps it's just me, but, the fluidity of a loop or lollipop course is more appealing than the concept of running the same path twice in a run.

Well, consider me a fool for letting that tiny difference keep me from taking on the Loblolly Trail before yesterday. portion of the Loblolly Trail at UmsteadI really enjoyed my run on Loblolly, because the trail is such fun. And, what's more, the fact that I got to run the fun parts twice from two different directions made the experience even better.

From the Reedy Creek parking lot, Loblolly starts out rather flat and progresses into a small, steady decline, making your running relatively effortless. There's some technicality to the terrain here, but nothing to worry about.

A rather sharp down-hill scramble brings you to one of the low, flat areas along the creek. And, you're still cruising along easily at this point. There's a bridge, followed by another, and finally a brief uphill climb. The trail evens out again with a couple more small hills thrown in.

But, around mile 1.4 you start to notice that the climb is significantly steeper. This is really fun, because you'll be running along the hill side for a while with switch backs and nice views of the creek below.
Loblolly Trail at Umstead
Eventually, around mile 2.1, you'll see a pond through the trees. And, that will be nice, because there's probably a heron standing by the water watching for fish. You'll keep going though, up hills, down a hill, up another hill, down a hill until you see a sign indicating that the state trail ends here.

Not really the end of Loblolly TrailBut, the trail keeps going. so, why would you want to stop? You'll cross into Schenck Forest and continue running. There are just a few hundred more meters to go until you reach the gate. This gate marks the turn around point for this review. But, you're welcome to cross over and follow the trail to the RBC Center. (It's my understanding that this portion of the trail is much less technical, though.)

the gateTurning around and following the same path back to your starting point, you get to experience all those fun downhills from the other direction. This made my first run on Loblolly surprisingly more challenging than I'd expected. And, that steady decline you flew over at the beginning of the run? It's an incline now, and you'll curse it until you reach the flatter ground.

The park map indicates that Loblolly measures 2.7 miles from the trail head to the park border, making the out-and back run on Loblolly alone a total of 5.4 miles. The Garmin data uploaded to and modified by me to follow the run I describe in this review shows that the trail measures 5.63 miles from the Reedy Creek entrance parking lot. So, the Loblolly trail run is a little shorter than Company Mill.
rocky descent on the Loblolly Trail

Getting There

Like your journey to the Company Mill Trail, you'll want to enter the park at the Reedy Creek entrance via Harrison Ave. and I-40. Head to the northeast corner of the parking lot to get to the Loblolly trail head. Blue squares nailed to trees lead you along.

Alternatively, you could park at the RBC Center and follow the trail through Schenck Forest into Umstead from the park border. I've not traveled this one. So, try searching elsewhere for info on this approach.

My Favorite Features of the Loblolly Trail:

  • At least 2 challenging hill climbs and descents
  • multiple switchbacks along hill sides
  • Contrast between flat, easy terrain and challenging, technical footing.
  • Convenient location relative to North West Raleigh and Cary

Features I Dislike:

  • two bridges with stairs


As is the case with most of the trails in Umstead, Loblolly is a winner in my book. The fun, easy elevation at the beginning serves as a nice warm up for the more strenuous workout in the middle. Those switchbacks along the hills are a ton of fun. And, the fact Loblolly is an out-and-back course doesn't detract from the enjoyment at all.

Actually, the Loblolly trail would make for a fantastic 10K race course if a few more tenths of a mile could be added from the Schenck forest end. The starting point should be from the trail head in Umstead, though, so that the easy, wide path at the beginning would help establish positioning for runners. And, then, that incline as they finish the race would be a fantastic challenge in the course. Just a thought.

The Loblolly Trail elevation profile.
Check out an interactive map, too >>

check out the Loblolly Trail elevation profile

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Little River 10-Mile Trail Run: 2011 Race Report

This was my first experience running the Little River Trail Run, now in its sixth year, which took place this past Saturday morning. Thanks to the volunteers, sponsors, and Trail Heads who organize this stellar event each year with quite an enthusiastic following. Naturally, I was not disappointed in the slightest!

The popularity of this race is not at all surprising, really. It takes place during a season when there's not much going on in the North Carolina trail racing world. So, a race like the Little River 10-mile and 7K Run is a welcome relief from weeks of base building and frigid tempo runs.

Thus, when the race reached capacity in early January, I was glad to have registered early. Officially, there were 300 participants in the 10-mile and 153 finishers in the 7K, a record turnout.


snowy trail head at Little River Trail RunThe conditions on race morning were a frosty 30 degrees with traces of ice and snow remaining after the week's previous ice storm. In fact, I was rather surprised by the amount of frozen stuff still on the trails. Fortunately, the lugs and sticky rubber on my Inov-8 Roclite 285s made the slick terrain more traversable. At a few points during the race I saw people wearing road shoes skiing down the slopes in front of me. (Of course, it's possible that this was their plan all along. I wasn't able to pass one or two of them.)

The Little River Trail Run organizers were fantastically conscious of the event's carbon footprintI arrived early so that I'd be able to find a parking space. As much as I would have liked to carpool with other runners for the sake of being green, my lack of social skills connections and geographical starting point made sharing a ride impossible.

So, with an hour to spare before starting time, I obtained my nifty race shirt and bib and watched other people warm up for a while. A trip to the porta-john was in order, too, of course.

The starting line was actually set back towards the park entrance on the paved road. So, I used the distance from the parking lot to the starting line for my warm-up jog, after which time I settled into the middle of the pack as we all lined up to wait for the signal.

My strategy for this race was to run faster than I thought I should. I've always erred on the side of caution when running a race, because I'd been warned so often about starting off too fast, burning out too soon, etc. So, this time, I wanted to really push myself.


definitely check out...

When the starting signal sounded, the 300 runners lurched forward in accompaniment to a synchronous beep from watches and Garmins being started. (I neglected to bring my watch) And, I wasn't shy about moving forward in the pack from the very beginning. Right away, I felt nervous about how fast I was running. But, I went with it for a while.

The Little River Trail was beautiful. Small, rolling hills were relatively numerous for a Piedmont area trail. The technicality of the terrain was moderate with plenty of single-track trails winding through the forest. The occasional mound for mountain bike jumps made for an excellent variation in the usual steady ascents. And, there were quite a few wide areas available to make passing easy.

I really enjoyed the lack of repetition in the well-marked course. Mile markers were sparse (I saw one at the beginning and one just a mile from the finish), which made the run all the more fun for those of us who enjoy not knowing how far we have to go until the finish. The trail meandered far out from the starting point and lead us back with a few intense switch backs thrown in to keep us alert.

I confess that I wasn't quite alert enough in the last two miles of the course: I'd just passed a group of three other runners and was leading them along when I suddenly realized that we weren't on a recognizable trail anymore. I stopped and looked around for signs of footprints or a yellow flag. But, it was as if the trail completely disappeared. Luckily, the girl behind me saw what must have been the trail off to the right. So, we all took off that way, me following humbly behind the other three now. A yellow flag hanging a few meters further along confirmed that we were on the right path. (Thanks to the girl in awesome socks who found the trail. Sorry about that!)

approaching the home stretch just before the clearingThe final mile or so had several turns but few inclines, which is nice when you're searching for as much residual energy as you can muster in order to finish strong. I followed the cheers out to the clearing and around the parking lot to the finish line. I caught a glimpse of the clock but forgot the numbers immediately while the friendly volunteer removed my bib's tag.


I felt worn out but fantastic. I knew I'd run better than I had in previous races, but wasn't sure how much better, statistically speaking. The results show that I was among the top 25% of finishers. And, being someone who usually finishes in the middle 25%, I am happy to be showing signs of improvement. It's nice to get faster. And, I know that there is a lot more to racing that I have left to learn.

Plenty of delicious coffee, bagels, and bananas were available after the race. I hung around watching the awards for a while, regaining a sense of humility after hearing the finish times of those both significantly younger and older than me.

Awards ceremonyIt was sunnier now but windier, too, making the standing around with still-sweaty clothes on that much more uncomfortable. So, I headed home after the majority of the awards were relayed (there were quite a few).

The Little River 10-miler was a wonderfully produced race. And, I'm definitely looking forward to next year. Thanks again to some of the most enthusiastic volunteers I've encountered. The whole event was fantastic!

The race shirt

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

53 Seconds on the Sycamore Trail

While running the Sycamore Trail at Umstead State Park this past weekend, I felt compelled to turn on my cell phone's video camera in order to see how a recording of the run would appear. No, I didn't run the whole way with the camera on—just a few seconds. The results are below.

As you can see, the results are not that great. But, still, I made the recording and loaded the video onto my computer. So, why not add a soundtrack and share it with you fine people? (Cheesy aspect of the soundtrack is intentional)

There is actually some significant sleet falling during the second half of the video. You can't really see it due to the poor resolution. But, it made for an interesting run. I'll be posting a trail review of Sycamore pretty soon. It's my favorite individual trail at Umstead.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mizuno Wave Ronin 2 Shoe Review

The Reviewer
Weight: 153 lbs | Height: 5’ 11"
Foot strike: Mid
Current Shoe Rotation:
Inov-8 f-lite 230, Inov-8 Roclite 285, Mizuno Wave Ronin 2

The Shoe

Now that Mizuno has officially discontinued the Wave Ronin 2 in order to make way for its successor, I suppose it's time for me to get around to writing a review of that yellow and blue racing flat. They're currently on sale at RunningWarehouse, after all. So, some of you may be interested in reading this personal impression of the Ronin 2 before acquiring a pair at such an outstanding price.

Mizuno Wave Ronin 2Saucony A4 profile for comparison of heel height The Ronin 2 is a good looking shoe. It's obnoxiously yellow with dark blue trim and glittery, flimsy laces. Categorized as a racing flat, the Ronin's lower-than-typical profile and relatively light weight makes it feel quite fast.

However, if you compare this to a true flat, like the Saucony A4 (at right with a 4mm heel differential) you'll note that the heel is, at 9mm higher than the forefoot (18mm to 9mm), particularly pronounced on the Ronin 2, making it more of a hybrid of a lightweight trainer and a racing flat.

Another unique aspect of the Ronin 2's construction is in the tread. The knobby portion of the forefoot outsole offers exceptional traction over varying terrain. This makes the Ronin a very versatile shoe for both on- and off-road running.

Mizuno Wave Ronin 2 bottom view

The Reason

Being that I do not live within walking distance to a trail, I must frequently make due with running on the road. I usually need more cushioning for road running. So, I looked to the racing flats for something low in profile, but not so low that I could just as well use my Inov-8 f-lite 230s. Yes, I needed something that would make a long run on the roads bearable.

I'd had significant experience with Mizunos in the past, with the heavily stabilized Nirvana serving as my primary trainer when I first started. I moved to the lighter-weight Elixir after that. And, with each Mizuno shoe, I became convinced that their shape fit my foot better than the other brands of road shoe. Of course, I tried on numerous brands. But, the winning distinction for the Mizunos is the slightly wider-than-average toe box, I think.

So, I gravitated to the Ronin when I was looking at a flat for longer road runs. Sure, I considered flatter flats. But, they were so much narrower in the forefoot than the Ronin. And, that design feature, the width, is what really sold me on this shoe.

Mizuno Wave Ronin 2

The Running

At the time of this post, I've put more than 140 miles on my Ronin 2s. And, I've determined that the Ronin 2 feels exceptionally smooth and responsive over pavement. It is a neutral shoe that simply lets you run, whatever that might mean. The heel cup holds your foot securely in place while your toes and forefoot feel free to splay out as needed.

After spending so much time running trails in the Roclite and f-lite (pavement for shorter runs), I definitely felt the heel of the Ronin when I first started running in it. But, I do not believe that this heel is especially detrimental to a midfoot strike. You get used to it, I'd say.

The Ronin 2 has ample cushioning for long runs on the road, in my opinion. I've used this shoe on pavement with just a couple of forays over gravel. My maximum distance on pavement thus far with the Ronin has been a little over 10 miles. And, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this for a marathon, assuming you feel strong enough to use it for that distance. If I were running a marathon on pavement next week, this is the shoe I'd use.


The Ronin 2 is a great shoe and an ideal lightweight trainer for long road runs. Its relatively wide forefoot and toe box, along with a flexible upper, make it fantastically comfortable. The outsole provides excellent traction on wet pavement or off-road terrains. And, it's lightweight construction allows for speed where you didn't think you'd have it.

My primary qualm with the shoe is that the heel-to-forefoot differential is higher than what I'd like. If Mizuno would shave off 3 or 4 mm, I'd feel much better about settling in with this shoe. But, that's not the case, it seems. Looking at the specs for the Ronin 3 on, we see that the differential is 9mm again.

Thus, I am refraining from stocking up on Ronins while they're on sale. The bevy of minimal shoes with a lower heel due out this Spring will most likely offer another option for my long road runs. (See Runblogger's interesting review of the Ronin in comparison with it flatter cousin, the Universe)

But, if the heel on the Ronin 2 isn't an issue for you, try it out before they're gone! It really is a great shoe!

Happy running!


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