Monday, August 26, 2013

Trail Review: Falls Lake Trail Section 7

Falls Lake Trail: Section 7

Six Forks Rd. to Hwy 98

Trail Location: Falls Lake State Recreation Area | Wake Forest, NC

Trail Distance:
4.6 miles (out & back)

Trail Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate

Awesome interactive map >>
See the Falls Lake Recreation Area map page >>


My first venture to Section 7 of the Falls Lake Mountains to Sea Trail was on an especially hot and sticky summer afternoon. The air hung heavily and wet from the trees while insects whined loudly from their shaded daytime hangouts.

But, I was determined to make liberal use of my lunch break that day. And, noting that the drive to Section 7 wasn't much further than the drive to sections five or six, I opted for a run on the trail I'd not yet visited.

At just over four-and-a-half miles (out and back), this trail would keep me occupied for a reasonable amount of time. But, of course, the exceptional weather conditions slowed my run even more than usual. And, then, there was the fact that I got a little lost.

But, in spite of the day's atmospheric unpleasantness, the trail proved interesting and awesome the whole time. And, so, okay, I know I previously named Section 6 of the Falls Lake Trail as one of my favorites. But, now, Section 7 is definitely one of my favorites! No, really, it's such a charmingly diverse and somewhat remote piece of the Falls Lake landscape. I love it!

Accessing the Trail

Technically, for distance purists, the start of section 7 is at the end of section 6, which you can see in the picture at the end of my Section 6 trail review. But, if you're following along from where I'm starting this little overview, you're probably going to just park at the the north end of the bridge.

The trail head is not as lavishly marked as the two entry points to the prior section. As you see in the photo, there is just a small sign and another alluding to the boat ramp access. You might pass this as you speed along Six Forks Rd. But, there's an easy turnaround point just a few meters north. So, don't curse yourself if you miss it.

Roadside parking is spacious here. But, if you prefer to be somewhat less conspicuous when you exit your vehicle, you can continue up Six Forks Rd. to the boat ramp parking lot. It might be open all the time. But, I'm not positive.


Enter this easy portion of the trail and prepare yourself for the beauty of Falls Lake. Inhale the aroma of trampled pine needles. Observe the chiaroscuro on the path before you as sunlight combats the shade.

And, of course, there are those phantom spider webs, most of which remain invisible until you stumble directly through them. If it's been a quiet day on the trail, you may as well just go ahead and get used to the spider webs. They're everywhere unless you're following someone else. The webs won't kill you, though. And, the spiders don't get big until late summer.

Also, this year, there are plenty of ticks. And, sometimes the horse flies are extremely obnoxious. But, yay, trail running!

Now, notice that there's a fairly conspicuous opening just beyond the trees. This is the parking lot for the boat ramp access. Run directly across it. You'll see where the trail continues as you get closer to the other side.

Section 7 descends into loveliness with a handful of make-shift bridges and slightly slippery steps. Smatterings of new-growth pines escort you from the shade of the larger trees into giant utility easement number one.

Falls Lake Trail Section 7

This easement boasts a jeep trail that leads down to the lake. So, you'll want to look ahead to the narrow trail that you're following — unless, of course, you want to take that jeep trail to the lake just to see what you see. Proceed cautiously through the high weeds in this sunny space, because they create perfect hiding places for snakes. And, I do not recommend surprising a hiding snake.

Out of the grass and into the woods again for some gently rolling single-track. The terrain consists of a relatively even distribution of technical surface and hard-packed trail. If you are used to running on trails in this area, you'll not find many surprises here.

The hills are small and occur more frequently as you progress, with one descent leading you directly into this rather cumbersome bridge. Hold your arms at shoulder level to avoid splinters.

A quaint creek crossing will give you the opportunity to soak your feet if you feel especially toasty. Otherwise, you can easily bound across and continue following the white trail blazes. Check for frogs or crayfish if you have the time.

You will find yourself blasting down a proper hill and rounding a bend in the trail to traverse a uniquely flat, clean portion of the path. A creek, perhaps dry, will be on your right. And, the landscape will appear quite different, as if you'd just entered an entirely new forest.

Focus on the trail, though! Watch for that trail marker with the white blaze that you see pictured here. Do not follow the trail on its left. Turn right and cross the creek at this trail marker. Right!

I was surprised by how easily I missed this turn and ended up wandering around for at least ten minutes while I tried to find the trail again. If you follow the trail to the left of the trail marker, you end up taking a spur that leads to one of the neighborhoods bordering Falls Lake. Not where you want to be unless you need first aid, I guess.

Anyway, you've turned right to cross the creek and happily continue your run through more easy single track with some splendid views of the lake.

Another utility easement puts you into sunlight and weedy space (eyes on the ground, runner!). Depending on the time of day, this is an opportune spot to spy a deer or two.

You'll notice a split in the trail at the top of a hill marked by a large, splintered tree stump. Veer to the left away from the lake to continue following the trail. The alternate path leads you directly to the water's edge, which is not a bad spot to chill for a moment if you have the time.

As you proceed down another marvelous hill, you'll run high above a watery inlet with the sounds of things plopping into the water below you. If you're lucky, you may see a Great Blue Heron wading stealthily in the still water.

The best utility easement of your journey opens in front of you now. And, the trail winds up a small hill before taking you down a steep descent. Look ahead toward the bottom of the hill and make a sharp right to follow the switchback over a small bridge and onward to the other side of that inlet.

This is approximately when you'll realize that the numerous, seemingly simple hills you've covered thus far will probably prove very challenging on the way back.

Keep moving forward. Watch out for hazardous trees, though.

The trail eventually takes you to a path that looks like an abandoned, overgrown greenway. Turn right as you step onto the pavement and enjoy the flatness of this reminder that civilization is not far.

The white trail blaze is low and to the left as you approach the dead end to this paved trail interlude. Turn left onto the single track and brush past the weeds that grab at your shins.

And, continue...

Run leisurely over the roots and rocks that punctuate the rolling terrain. Listen as the speeding car noises mix with the bird calls. You'll find this enormous tree standing tall beside the trail. And, it's just beyond this point that you'll descend to Highway 98.

Turn around and enjoy the run back. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, proceed cautiously across the highway and continue running on Section 8. (Turn right when you cross the highway to find the Section 8 trail head)


  • You can access the south end of Section 7 from Six Forks Rd. or the north end on Hwy. 98. See this map for visual details.
  • The trail measures 2.3 miles (one way) if you start at the Section 6 trail head on the south side of the Six Forks Rd. bridge and end at Hwy. 98. If you start at the north side of the bridge where parking for Section 7 access is easiest, the trail measure more like 1.8 miles one way.
  • Remember to turn right when you see that white trail marker beside the creek.
  • Be mindful of the fauna, especially snakes crossing the path as you run through the treeless utility easements.
  • The paved bit of path is very short. It will only seem longish because you're constantly checking the left side for the directional blaze.
  • Running Section 6 and 7 together would make for a very nice 10- or 11-mile trail run

More trail reviews, ramblings, and photos >>

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Muddy Running Shoes: Trying Something on Tumblr

Does anyone else have the urge to get a new pair of running shoes dirty as soon as possible?

Surely I'm not the only runner who finds that a well-used pair of running shoes makes them somehow more significant, on a personal level. There's just something satisfying about looking down at my shoes after a tough trail run to see the dirt and mud that's accumulated.

I could wax poetic about the subject for quite a while (and thoroughly embarrass myself in the process). But, the point of this post is to introduce and invite you to my Tumblr experiment:

That's right, it's another bloggy thing! What do you think? I'll probably change the header image no less than seven times over the course of the next few weeks. But, basically, it's a Tumblr blog tribute to muddy running shoes.

Because, why not?

Muddy Running Shoes is a way for me to use my Tumblr account, which I've had for longer than I can remember, and finally figure out what it's all about, Tumblr.

One of the neat things about Tumblr is that other people can submit their own photos or videos to a person's blog. It's sort of like a community, I guess. I still have to approve any content that you submit, but the concept is simple enough.

And, assuming that some of you have an inkling of a penchant for bragging Instagram-style about your muddy running exploits, I hope you'll feel like sharing a photo or two. I've drawn an arrow on the screen image above to indicate where you need to click in order to access the submit form.

[Those of you who are well versed in the ways of Tumblr are probably laughing your asses off at me right now. But, I can accept that]

So, the plan is this:

  • Visit Muddy Running Shoes and see pictures of what your fellow AfnR readers are wearing on the trails.
  • Submit your own pictures when you feel so inclined.
  • Do all the other positive Tumblr things that you know, the things I have yet to learn.

I think that's it!

Yeah, sure, the site might be boring for a while, because it'll just be me posting pictures of my shoes. But, some of you will post, won't you? Come on! Creating a Tumblr account is fast and easy. And, you don't even have to use your real name.

Oh, let me stress that this is not a contest or competition. This is just another way for running shoe geeks, like me, to waste more time on the Internet.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments below. Or, hey, you can ask me on the Tumblr thingy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Inov-8 Trailroc 150 Review: It's Complicated

Inov8 Trailroc 150

I've rewritten the beginning sentences of this Trailroc 150 review thirteen times, struggling to make it past this paragraph. The accompanying shoe photos have been stranded in the draft status of this post for at least two months. And, no matter how often I wear the shoes, I wrestle with my imagination just to create an appropriate introduction to what I want to write for you.

Perhaps that is because deciding what I should write about the Trailroc 150 is a struggle in itself.

Inov8 Trailroc 150

I am conflicted, folks!

See, I've been looking forward to this shoe ever since I saw it in the SS13 Inov-8 catalog last year. I'd just received my fantastic Trailroc 235s and realized they were not the ultra-minimal trail runners that I'd hoped they'd be. But, I read about the forthcoming Trailroc 150, with it's lack of a midsole and "authentic barefoot feel." And, I saw that photo of the 150 in the catalog. And, I was just, like, "Oooooh!"

So, I really could not wait for these shoes to be released! I imagined them to be like my Bare-Grip 200s but with smaller, more everyday-appropriate lugs on the outsole. Combining that with the Trailroc's wider toe box seemed to satisfy the final bullet point on my imagined criteria for an ideal, minimally constructed trail shoe.

But, if the designers who created the Trailroc 150 were genies, they'd be the sadistic types who take your wish for world peace and turn it into something mean, like making everyone unable to talk, or something. With this first iteration of the Trailroc 150, they've demonstrated a Greek-god-like knack for granting you the things you want by taking away the important things that you took for granted.

My feet are sad when I run in these shoes.

But, hold on!

There are people who have typed with clear sincerity — on the Internet, no less — that the Trailroc 150 is a lovable shoe. Yes, they said that they love it. These runners appear to be totally, and unabashedly enamored with it! So, before I express my disappointment in detail, let's look past my jilted shoe preferences and point out the awesomeness that may be perceived in this shoe.

Potentially Awesome Features:

You cannot deny that the Trailroc 150 looks good. My dad has complimented the shoes—twice! I mean, come on, even if you're afraid of colors like this, you know, deep down, that it looks good. It's not a timid colorway, for sure. We are not timid runners.

But, um, right, looks aren't important, are they? [rolls eyes]

So, how about that "authentic barefoot feel"? There's no cushy midsole at all. Therefore, the only elements protecting you from the authentic sharp things on the authentic trail are the 8mm (lugs included) Tri-C™ outsole and a 3mm insole (should you choose to wear it).

So, Inov-8 made a shoe that gets your feet incredibly close to the ground while providing exceptional grip and protection on loose or hard-packed trails.

For a barefoot-inspired shoe wearer, those specifications are very appealing, especially when combined with a zero differential between the toe and the heel. If you're reading about this shoe, you probably know that already.

Other appealing qualities of the Trailroc 150 that do not necessitate unique paragraphs:

  • At 5.3 ounces (150 grams) in a US size 9, the shoe is extremely lightweight. Lots of runners like lightweight shoes. I like lightweight shoes.
  • It's properly flexible! (See also the Bare-X 180, Vapor Glove, Skora Phase)
  • Durable upper material: It's some form of ripstop fabric! And, it's new to Inov-8. (And, I've got more to say about it below)
  • That black, inner lining is incredibly smooth and nice against one's bare feet. Sockless runners will appreciate this portion of the 150's interior.

Okay, that's not a bad recipe for awesomeness, right? We've got a good looking shoe with an appealing, barefoot-sensitive sole. It's lightweight, grippy, totally flexible, and protective to some degree. So, what's not to love?


I just do not feel comfortable running in these shoes! The ripstop fabric and fit make the Trailroc 150 almost stifling. And, every time I take the 150s off, I swear I can see my feet relax and breath a sigh of relief.

From what I've observed, this sense of foot suffocation stems from my personal preference for breathable, open mesh fabric. Or, to put it another way, the 150's ripstop fabric doesn't allow air to flow very well.

On the plus side, the ripstop upper is pretty good about keeping small amounts of water out. If you step full-on into a stream, sure, you're gonna get soaked. But, if water doesn't cover the entire shoe and you don't linger in the wet stuff, you'll stay more dry than you would in meshy shoes.

But, 90% of the time, I'm not stepping in water. So, the Trailroc 150's water resistance does not help me.

And, remember that comfy inner lining I mentioned above? Well, apparently there wasn't enough to cover the entire inside of the shoe. So, if you choose to wear the Trailroc 150 without socks, I hope you enjoy the sensation of 200 gauge sandpaper scraping the tops of your toes. 'Cause, that's what ripstop fabric feels like on sweaty, running feet. Wear socks.

The ripstop fabric continues to ruin the shoe for me by facilitating some sort of popping sound when running. It's similar to the noise a tennis ball makes when struck by a racket, a hollow, rubbery sound: Fwop! Imagine that with almost every step you take: Fwop, fwop, fwop fwop fwopfwopfwopfwop... Ugh!

When I first noticed this noise, which was pretty much after I took my first step with the 150s on my feet, I assumed it would go away after loosening up the fabric a bit. But, no, not really. Even after 25 miles of trail running, the fwopping sound was still apparent (and that's not counting the mileage accrued from just wearing the shoes casually).

I've attempted to determine the precise cause(s) of this noise. And, I've found that a concentrated forefoot landing with a gentle lift (not push) helps to abate the fwop. So, the sound actually comes from the toe box snapping back into place after the movement of my forefoot to toes bends the toe box horizontally. It's sort of an echo that is accentuated by a combination of the shoe's rather rigid upper material and less-than-perfect running form.

Perhaps the noise is there to help with better running form. Hey, I'm not ashamed to admit that my form could use some improvement!

Inov8 Trailroc 150 inside Trailroc 235
The Trailroc 235 and Trailroc 150 compared for width. Note the difference in forefoot width denoted by space on the outside lugs.

Another fn' contributor to my discomfort in these shoes is the narrower rendition of Inov-8's otherwise spectacular "Natural Fit" last. I've lauded this shoe shape in previous reviews for it's generous toe box.

But, for some reason, those rogue designers in charge of the 150's construction decided that the shoe needed to be narrower than all the other shoes in the Trailroc range! Look at that! ===>

Proportionally speaking, the toe box of the 150 is generous in comparison to the dimensions of the rest of the shoe. It's not pointy like the toe box of the Precision Fit shoes. But, the girth of the shoe is just a smidgen smaller in comparison to the Trailroc 235 or 245.

It's as if the person who configured the machine that cuts the mold for the shoe last set it up to mimic that of the other Trailroc lasts. But, then, perhaps by accident, the configuration was accidentally modified to make everything a couple of millimeters smaller. (Could have happened that way)

And, you know what? If the upper was made of stretchy mesh instead of ripstop nylon, this slightly narrower last would not be a problem at all for me.

But, since the ripstop fabric tends to hold a tighter form — even after numerous miles of breaking in — my feet are restricted to the original confines of the last. This is unfortunate and uncomfortable.

I pulled out the 3mm sock liners, which afforded some more room in the 150s for my feet. And, that helps quite a bit with the space-comfort ratio. But, with such an unforgiving fabric comprising the upper, my smallest toes are unable to splay as they would if the usual Inov-8 mesh were there.

Inov8 Trailroc 150 inside Trailroc 235
The Trailroc 235 could eat most of the 150 if necessary.

Despite the conspicuously snugger fit, I would still prefer to wear the Trailroc 150 in the same size as my Trailroc 235s, or any other Inov-8 shoe with a "Natural Fit" last. Choosing a half size larger than my size 11.5 235s just to compensate for the 150's relatively diminished width would result in a shoe that's too long for safe trail running.

But, hey, that's just how the 150s fit on my feet.

Not Upset, Just Disappointed

Regardless of its disappointments, I still really like the Trailroc 150, but not for running. I wear it casually quite often, especially for hiking or playing soccer with the kids. But, as for running, I'm going to stick with my Bare-Grip 200s for breathable, flexible, grippy, midsole-free trail running footwear.

However, I will be one of the first in line to try out an updated version of this shoe! It has a lot of good things in its composition. And, I think that the features I dislike could be easily changed, namely the upper material.

If you've read this entire review and still feel compelled to try out the Trailroc 150, I'd highly recommend visiting my affiliate friends at, because they have a fantastic return policy.

Thanks for reading!
Product provided by Inov-8.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dog Days of Summer 5K | 2013 Race Report: Beat by the Barefoot Guy

dog days of summer 5kBeing that the last race I reportedly ran was in November of 2012, many of you might have been wondering whether I even cared about running anymore.

Well, you can quell those suspicions right now, because I ran a race on August 3! It was the inaugural Dog Days of Summer 5k in downtown Raleigh. And, of course I enjoyed it! It had been nine months since my last race!

An especially appealing aspect of the Dog Days of Summer 5K was that the proceeds went to two local animal rescue facilities: Safe Harbor Farm and Second Chance Adoption. Even better, the race registration count reached some sort of threshold that inspired the race director to donate a full $1,000 extra to the rescue groups! Yay animals!

The barefoot guy to whom I alluded in the title of this post was none other than Anthony, famed blogger at I fully expected to run behind him, anyway. And, I would have been disappointed if he hadn't run the race sans shoes!

(I'm telling you this so that barefoot runners do not take offense at my seemingly snarky title. I'm just commenting on the fairly popular misconception that barefoot runners can't run fast)

I essentially decided to participate in this race on a whim, feeling a little desperate for some sort fitness test, I guess. So, I showed up early enough to register and collect the usual race shirt and bag of brochures. I jogged a stiff 1.5 miles around downtown Raleigh before returning to see Anthony and Shannon heading toward the registrations table! What luck, seeing them! Always nice!

So, I stretched while Shannon and Anthony jogged a portion of the course to warm up. And, the three of us congregated around the registration area in anticipation of the 7:30 start.

As we started running, Anthony appeared to run slower than me, muttering some excuse about having too much to drink the night before. (I didn't believe this for a second) So, I followed Shannon through the first half of the race.

The course is not especially scenic. It begins at Moore Square and leads runners down Blount Street to MLK Blvd, where they turn left onto Fayetteville St. (I'd never been down this part of Fayetteville St. before. And, it looked like there was an entry to the greenway there. I'll have to investigate that further)

It's an out-and-back course with the majority of downhill terrain in the first half of the race. So, of course, I started too quickly and faded shortly after the turnaround.

After the turnaround, the barefoot ninja crept up and passed me. Apparently, the toxins that "slowed him down" at the start had been sweated out of his system now. I hoped I would catch him, especially when he had the nerve to stop to pick up a rock! But, nope. I'd paced myself unevenly and felt too exhausted in the last mile to really catch anyone.

I finished in 20:55, which is not at all a PR. I'd say the course could be fast if I were properly trained. But really, since I'd been a tad slack these past couple of months—and, since it is August in North Carolina—I'm happy enough with that time.

There are photos from the Dog Days 5K here and here. I considered posting a couple of them in this report. But, I didn't want to risk being fined for copyright violations, or something.

Run Raleigh Races put together this well-organized race. And, I'd definitely consider one of their other races next time I'm in the mood for something on pavement. Thanks to all the volunteers who were available to make this one possible!

And, as always...

Thanks for reading!


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