January 25, 2013

Montrail Fluid Flex Shoe Review

First I should start this post with the note that I am decidedly not a gear freak.  Second I should mention that, in all honesty, I'm not the most knowledgable on the specifics of this running shoe and that.  Please don't start throwing around words like 'drop', my eyes will glaze over instantaneously.  I don't read shoe reviews or eagerly await the release of new models.  Bad for a sponsored runner?  I don't know, I'm too busy out running and leave the discussions of the ins and outs of all things new in the shoe world to the product designers and gear junkies.  I just like a good pair of shoes; ones that get from A to B as fast and as comfortably as possible.  I'm also more inclined to wear a heavier shoe than many these days, oh and did I mention that I hate trying new shoes for fear that I might have a 'bad' run.  Yeah, I'm a little stuck in my ways.

So last week I got delivery of a pair of Montrail Fluid Flex's which Montrail were keen I try out.  They looked cool!  They looked slick!  But oh man, these are not like any other Montrails I've worn before.  Was trying them out going to 'ruin' one training run?  Hmm, I padded around in the house and to the store in them a bit, but was a little hesitant to actually go run in them.  After a few days I decided to take the plunge, after all - they are running shoes so best to try them for what they were designed for.  Otherwise they're a kind of expensive pair of slippers.

The Montrail Fluid Flex are a light shoe (in this more technical report by my Montrail team mate Max King, Max notes the womens 8 weighs in at 6.1oz).  They are NOT Montrail Masochists.  And for you real old school peeps - they are most 100% NOT Montrail Hardrocks.  The Fluid Flex are light but feel pretty squishy and spongy (yep, those are technical shoe-review terms!)  Certainly the upper wraps securely around your feet but I worried that the softness on the ball of the foot might not provide enough cushioning as I was used to.  So I started my run with 1.5kms of downhill - yeah, always good to try that fear of lack of cushioning on the ball of the foot with a downhill tarmac mile :)  

On my first outing I ran 10km in them and would have kept them on for more but I decided to ease into them gently rather than risk pounding my legs more that they were used to (Little Miss Cautious).  Last night I ran 11km in them to the start of my speed workout (which was to be 4 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile) with a spare pair of more trusted road shoes in my Mountain Hardwear Fluid 6 pack just in case.  I never took the Fluid Flex off my feet and and now sure I'll be wearing them for my first race of the year - a road half marathon in a few weeks time.

Where I'll not be wearing these shoes any time soon is on the technical root and rock strewn trails of Vancouver's North Shore.  If you are used to a lighter and more minimalist shoe I can see some might be happy to run technical trails in the Fluid Flex but for that I'll stick to my Montrail Bajada's.  The Fluid Flex's are a hybrid shoe and I certainly feel 100% stoked to run on tarmac with them, and would have no hesitation on running on non-technical trails and crushed gravel paths in them.  For right now, I'll also stick to about 30km or shorter runs in them, again - if you are used to a lighter shoe I am sure they would be suited to longer runs but I'm not used to light shoes, and as I've said before - I'm a little cautious :)

And for all you gear junkies who can't wait to get your hands on a pair of these, they should be on store shelves come February 1st.  I can highly recommend them.

Hope you all started your training year off well.  I always like to run 50km on Jan 1st and as the shower facilities were closed it seemed sensible to rinse off in the Pacific.

January 15, 2013

Getting High

I've always loved camping; you know that feeling when you unzip the tent, crawl in and nestle down for the night, often with images of the mountains outside.  Good thing that I like this feeling as I am now camping out in my bedroom every night in my shiny new Hypoxico altitude tent!

But wait I hear you say, what race are you doing at altitude?  I don't see Hardrock or Leadville or any Himalayan adventure on the 2013 schedule?  And no, I'm not racing at altitude but then neither is Shalane Flanagan or Ryan Hall or many other track & field athletes who likely either use an altitude tent or travel to train at altitude, and I'm pretty certain that the swimmers, boxers and host of other athletes who Hypoxico support aren't competing at altitude either.  In fact none of us question it when Paula Radcliffe packs her bags for a stint in Iten, Kenya, as the benefits of altitude training have been known for a long time even for athletes competing at close to sea level.  So that was my reasoning when I contacted Hypoxico; I don't need to be competing at altitude to see the benefits of using an altitude tent, and given I live at about 100m above sea level I'm certainly not naturally training or sleeping at altitude.  Of course I am still training at sea level (awesome run with crashing waves along the West Van seawall last night!) but the philosophy of 'sleep high, train low' has been discussed and the benefits documented.

Good night from 6000ft (easing my way up gradually)

I've always been a bit of a puritan when it comes to training - forget all the fancy gadgets and nutrition programs - just go run!  And I am never going to be a gear freak or the one reading all the latest things to do other than 'just run' to make yourself a better runner, but equally I do want to try be the absolute very best runner I can be and so feel that adding things, such as an altitude tent, are part of this to see just how good I can be.  Yes, I realise that not every study says altitude tents are 100% proven, but there appears to be enough evidence to support their use that I think it is worth a try.  So thanks for Hypoxico for your support with this!  Check out more about their products here.

I'll be sure to post more about my experiences of using an altitude tent in future, but in the meantime here's the basics from Wikipedia,  an article by Ian Torrence on iRunFar, and a neat video I found of a runner training for Leadville which shows how easy the tent is to put up.  And if after watching the video you wonder why 'just your average runner' is using a tent - do a little googling - a lot more people are using them that you might imagine.

And don't worry - I'm not getting lazy - I'll still be doing plenty of this...

Running Hard.