Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hey Knuckleheads, get some Knucklelights

It's 7:21 pm right now as I look out my office window in DC. I see folks running up and down Connecticut Avenue, none of them wearing any lighting of any sort. I think there's some delusional idea many of us running in the city have that since the city is so well lit, we can be seen. Unfortunately, the people behind the wheel don't always see it that way.

60 pedestrians died last year in the DC region alone. I'd hazard to say a number of them were walkers or runners out in low visibility times.

I found a great product that is pretty easy to use - and not as dorky as running with a Petzl through the city or suburban streets in the dark hours of fall and winter. The Knucklelight is a rechargeable pair of handheld torches that are comfortable to use, hold a long-lasting charge, and make you very visible to cars, even when you only use one. I have also used them on trails at night, and find it more comfortable then head torches. You can also more easily point them away from oncoming runners or walkers, and also point them at particular hazards instead of having to look down to direct the beam.

I bought mine on Amazon for $59 - a bargain compared to the cost of being hit by a car.

All the specs are available here:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

170 Mile revisit of the Clifton 3 - not as good

I think I might have spoken too soon at my 100 mile review about the Clifton 3s. At that point, I was seeing some premature heel wear. Over the next 70 or so miles (granted, this took place during scorching, drippingly humid Washington DC August running), the shoes visibly deteriorated.

First, the foam on the outsole started to degrade a bit in the places where there is no rubber. It's not a wholesale failing of the material, but it definitely is starting to show its age earlier than I'd expect. 

Second, the uppers really stretched out on me. I thought this was happening, and put in an order for a new pair since I thought I was getting to the useful end of the shoes. You can see in these photos how stretched out the 170 mile grey pair is compared to the new blue pair. The toe box looks more cylindrical than oval in the new unused pair - hope its visible in this pics.

Running in the new pair feels like a completely different shoe than in the 170 mile pair - the old ones are now sloppy and loose, and are getting moved to elliptical duty.  We will see how the second pair does in the cooler weather as we get closer to September and some relief from the excess moisture from my feet and from the air. But the first round experience with the Clifton 3s shows that Hoka hits a home run on fit and ride but grounds into a double play on wear issues.

Update at 200 miles:

After washing and air drying the grey/green shoes, they did firm up a bit and become less sloppy. However, the midsole at this point has really lost its pop and is quite dead, ready for retirement/slash/gym use only.

But its clear with the summer sweat and heat, the new blue/yellow pair is following the same course - starting to loosen up and develop a sloppy feel. Hopefully the Clifton 4s will make an adjustment to the mesh to perhaps be a tighter upper fit that lasts through the wear cycle, and a midsole that holds up past the 200 mile point.

Monday, August 8, 2016

100+ mile revisit - review of Hoka OneOne Clifton 3

I fall out of love with shoes as easy as I can fall in love with them. After 100 miles, the basic limitations or defects of a shoe make themselves clear in a way you don't see after 2 or 3 runs in them.

I just hit 135 on the Strava odometer for my Clifton 3s. This includes average runs of about 5 miles, long runs 10-12, and weekly mileage of about 35. And happily, nothing much has changed from the point I first reviewed them here.

The fit has continued to be excellent. I did have a bout of black and blistered middle toes on both feet (I'll spare the pics because feet should be heard and not seen on the Internet), but that happened during a very sweaty half marathon where the rubbing was due to the sloshing in the shoe. I can't blame the mesh - the sweat was oozing out - it just was one of those 70+ dew point race days.

The upper is not wearing out at all.

And as you can probably see, the midsole seems to be holding up well also. It does feel like a little bit of the cushioning is shot, but in line with what I would expect 135 miles in - almost at the halfway point for these kind of cushioned shoes for me.

The only spot where there are some wear issues are on the rubber part of the outsole on the outer heel of my left shoe (the bottom right of the next photo), a spot where I do get some excessive wear normally. While the Clifton 3 has some rubber on that spot, it's clearly not enough to handle my heel strike on that spot. This became noticeable at least 40 miles ago; I would expect that the heel will hold up until 300+ miles at this rate.

You can see how the rubber held up on the right shoe:

Finally, one important post publish add: I have noticed that the foot pain (dull ache in the midfoot/ball of foot area xray negative) that has plagued me for the past two years - despite rest (or lack of it) - has finally disappeared while running with these shoes over the last month or so. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hoka One One Clifton 3 review highlights

I've had a mixed experience with the Clifton line from Hoka One One. The first edition was exciting and promising - I loved the super light cushioned feel of the shoe apart from the flimsy tongue which made it hard for me to get a proper locked down upper.  

The second edition was better on the tongue - they padded it properly - but the combination of the shoddy build quality (the overlays started peeling away within weeks) and the slightly cramped toebox compared to the similar but more comfy Challenger ATR 2s made it a no go for me.

The Clifton 3 just hit the streets, and the third time is the proverbial charm here.  The biggest change is the substitution of the upper material - it went from a tighter nylon weave to a stretchy mesh. Look here - how when I flex my toe you can actually see it through the mesh.

This material is very similar to what Skechers used for their excellent GOrun Ride 3 shoe - which was quite comfortable but a little too loose for faster running. The Clifton 3 does a better job of holding your foot in place but still allowing enough give in the upper to prevent rubbing/hotspots. Much more give than the upper material on the Challenger ATR 2, a good thing for non-trail running imo.

The lacing system is Goldilocks perfect for me. Easy to get a good fit without having to over- or under-cinch.

The toebox is great - even more roomy and comfortable than the Challenger ATR 2s that I love.

The midsole is a little more squishy and has more rebound at the same time than the 2.  The 2 felt more like an inert foam - the three combines a bit of a rubber ball feel with some sponginess.  I'd still give it a 7.5 (with 10 being the softest).

The outer seems unchanged to me - it remains great. A big footprint, nice traction, rubber reinforcement on the right spots.

I'll report back if anything changes, but this is a super update. I've done two runs on them with no issues. Hopefully the overlays will stay in place and I won't experience the iffy quality I've seen in past Hokas.  As of now: If you are a fan, go for it.

100+ mile update

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pearl Izumi N2 v3 Road review

I have had an off and on again relationship with Pearl Izumi shoes. I ran in the N1 v1 road for a while and loved them, but it coincided with ongoing foot pain so I ditched them. Turns out that the foot pain continued for a year afterwards, so I'd be that they were not related. 

I also ran in the N1 v2 trail shoes for a while, but found the toebox a little too narrow for trail running, and like with other PI models, the tongue tended to slip down to the side during running. 

But with both shoes, I really enjoyed the fit of Pearl Izumi for my foot. The upper is generally very breathable and has some give to it - no hot spots. The E: Motion rocker has worked well - I have found it very well thought through, and helps rather than hurts my running motion from heel/midfoot impact to toe off.

I decided to try the N2 V2 for a couple of reasons.
- Positive reviews on the webs, including from The Ginger Runner.
- Loving my Saucony Breakthru 2s, but looking for a little more structured shoe for longer runs.
- I like the 4-8 mm heel to toe drop of this shoe.
- I think I do better with firmer shoes, especially during races, particularly with a fairly rigid heel cup which this shoe has.
- I like having a couple of models that work at any given time. Since I plan on doing more road running, I needed something else in addition to the Breakthru 2. I checked out the Kinvara 7, and it was too soft for me to race with. And the Ride 9 was too narrow.

Of course, the best time to try out a new shoe is on race day! JK. But I did.

I wore the shoe on a half marathon course today for the second time. Yesterday I did a brief 5K run, and it felt great, so I decided to risk it. Since I wasn't doing a "race" - I just wanted to have a good time and not hurt myself because I haven't been doing a lot of longer running over the past month, and I have two more in the next three week.

The shoe came through big time. Even though it was pretty sweaty for me, I didn't have any hotspots or discomfort. The firm heel held my foot down nicely through the impact to toe off. And the firm midsole (about as firm as I could possibly tolerate - maybe a 3.5 on a softness scale of 10 being softest) worked well for me, keeping my legs feeling good the whole race and allowing me to pick up the pace at the end pretty easily.

Some key takeaways about the model:

- The 3D printed upper is about as good as I've tried in any shoe. It has plenty of room for my toes and forefoot, yet my foot doesn't move much. That's exactly the kind of fit I love.
- The upper is very breathable.
- The tongue stays in place, and laces stayed tied for 13.1. It's a little thing but drives me nuts when they don't.
- The outsole is quiet yet provides decent traction. I didn't feel any slipping on some wet pavement at race-like pace (for me).
- I like the reflective fabric on the tongue and on the shoe's upper.
- It just looks good.

This post would suck without photos. Note: the color washed out a bit in the sun for the second and third photo - the red turned a bit orange - so one and four are more true.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Elevate HR monitoring on Forerunner 235 (2.6 sensor hub firmware)

I have had good results with the current 2.6 sensor hub update of the 235.  A few thoughts on my experience:

- There is not a lot of monitoring going on overnight. It takes a reading every couple of hours at most. But these readings seem pretty steady although not the lowest resting heart rate in a 24 hour period. 

- My low resting heart rate takes place in the first hour or two after I wake. In previous versions, it took place an hour before waking until waking. (You can see the stretch to the left of the little alarm clock - my reading around 54 throughout sleep through waking. The resting heart rate low of 42 took place around 10 am.)

- Resting heart rate averages are amazingly steady from week to week.

- The HR reading jumps to 90-100 when I start walking, even if when I take a manual HR read my pulse is still in the 60-70 range. I assume this is a false reading based on my walking cadence which is around 100. (The peaks below are during a half hour treadmill walk at a low speed; you can see it drop down immediately to a low resting rate once the walking stops.)

- The HR readings during exercise are extremely accurate. I'm not seeing a lot of false reading or dropouts like I saw in the previous firmware.

I have had the same problem on occasion that some other users have had - no HR reading at the start of an activity. I do check to see if the HR reading has started before the activity is begun - if not, I exit out to the main screen and restart the process. I haven't had this issue of late - but according to the forum that Garmin maintains, it is a known issue and they are working on it.

Also: I am having some unusually low resting readings - 39 is common, when a manual read is more like 46. I think Garmin has tweaked the algorithm productively, but still needs to do a little more with resting heart rates, particularly after exercise. 

Additional postscript 5/8:
The update has killed vo2max readings on Garmin Connect. This is a known issue on the Garmin 235 forum.

Saucony Ride 9 thoughts

I ordered a pair of the newest version of the Rides - the 9 - and returned the same day. Some quick thoughts:

- Definitely narrower in the toebox than I remember the Ride 7 being
- Footbed/arch has a feel similar to the Breakthru 2s, but a little more lift on the outer heel.
- The upper was a tighter material than I remember the Ride 7 being, and definitely stiffer than the Breakthru 2.
- I was surprised to find the midsole relatively firm, not super cushioned. If I give the Breakthru 2 a 4 of 10 - 10 being most cush, I'd give the ride a 5-5.5 of 10. Nowhere near the Triumph in terms of cushioning.
- The tread on the left shoe wasn't glued properly, so the rubber outer piece was coming off the shoe (out of the box). I don't know if this is an outlier or if there are more general quality issues on the first run of this shoe.