Monday, May 22, 2017

Hoka One One Clayton 2 review

Last you may have heard, I was in love with my Altra Instinct 4.0s. Unfortunately, I developed some heel pain, symptomatic of insertional achilles tendonitis, self-diagnosed with my degree in Internet medicine. I decided to experiment with non-zero drop shoes to see if there was any improvement in the pain I felt, mostly in the am and at night (not while running).

I decided to try the new Hoka One One Clayton 2s. I have tried on the original Claytons and didn't love the feel in the store. But the reviews of the update have been largely positive - an improved upper as well as a fix for a blistering problem many folks had with the original made it seem like an appealing choice.




I have joked it would be great if Hokas and Altras had a baby - meaning, a shoe with a comfortable (wide) toebox and the cushioning and drop of the Hoka. Cliftons have been almost great, but not wide enough. Challengers more so. And the lack of any heel to to drop was irritating my heel.

The Clayton 2 is very much in this vein. A super roomy toebox and comfortable upper, Altra style. And a 4 mm drop. Plus, a lot of Hoka style foam and cushion. They definitely did the trick for my heel - I experienced almost immediate relief and the pain completely went away in a week of running in the slight drop shoes.

These shoes were super comfy and light -- only 7.2 oz in a men's 9. I ran several races - including a 15 mi trail race through roots, water and mud, a 5K XC type race, and a fairly hilly half marathon without race-specific training with good results. The laces are rubberized and gave a really nice tie - cinching down the upper and preventing foot sliding. A super good fit. Except... a blister did develop on the inside of the ball of my right foot from the edge of the insole where the arch meets the upper material.




I thought it might have been a fluke - got my feet wet on the half marathon and thought that could have caused an unusual blister (I had already run 35 miles with no problems before it sprung up). But unfortunately, it happened again a few days later in the same spot on a 6 mile run.

I think the problem is with the insole - it should not have a rough ridge where it meets the upper material - it should be tapered and maybe even glued in place to avoid this irritating rough spot. I don't like cutting things up, but that might be my next step (or find a pair of replacement insoles).

Also, I experienced some pretty aggressive wear on the outside heel of my left foot - not completely surprising since its all RMAT foam and no rubber on the outsole (keeping the shoe so light), but its still not a good sign since it is almost all worn down in one spot after only 100 miles in. Another 50-75 miles and I'd be wearing into the white foam at this rate.




Hoka is so close with this shoe to something great for a light trainer/racer. But my experience through 100 miles is that they haven't solved the blister problem that has plagued this model. And Hoka still is not a long lasting workhorse for such an premium priced shoe - I had early breakdown with the Clifton 3s midsole material last summer.

I'm going in another direction - that combines the bigger toebox of the Altra and has some cushioning and a bit of heel/toe drop a la Hoka -- but that is pretty durable (some rubber on the heel) and better fitting: the Topo Ultrafly. I'll do a review on them once I hit 100 miles for a better idea of how they perform in the medium-term. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

10,000 miles of run tracking (thank you, Nike)

I have been obsessively tracking my miles run since July of 2009. I had just hit 45, and was unhappy that all my resolutions for my 40s had gone down the toilet.

Healthy lifestyle could never quite take hold. And unhealthy habits were hard to break. As a technophile early adopter, I was super excited and hopeful that Nike's then revolutionary + SportBand would help me do what I had failed to consistently do for my entire adult life.

With a janky little accelerometer in your Nike shoe, the wristband tracked your mileage and speed. It was the first taste of running tech crack that got me going on the road of a long run of purchases in the Garmin family, from the Forerunner 310 to the 935, and tracking and analysis from Nikerunning.com to Garmin Connect to Strava.

Yes, I quickly went overboard, running from 0 to nearly 100 miles (and back down to 10) in the first few months I started running.


But at least I was able to track it and work to correct the errors of my ways. I discovered consistency through data feedback. Yes, many people have done it for decades with running logs (always too much work for me, including driving around trying to measure running paths in my car), but the new running tech enabled measuring and tracking easily at the press of a button. And here we are eight years later, and the odometer on my tracked miles run is about to roll over from 9999 to 10,000 on Saturday.

 

A lot of naysayers don't like the concept of trackers and GPS watches for various reasons. But for me, it gave me the ability to hold myself accountable and keep my running going over the long haul. It's not something I think I've ever said, but thank you, Nike, for getting me off my ass on a regular basis and helping transform my physical and mental state for the better through running.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Garmin Forerunner 935 quick hits mini review

As always, if you want a real review, read DC Rainmaker's review. This is a quick wrapup of my general impressions of the device and whether its worth the upgrade for the average runner from my last watch, the Forerunner 235.

My view is that if you have a lot of Garmin love - you are the kind of person who doesn't run without it, wears it when not running for things like step counting and 24/hr heart monitoring, the answer is a yes.  I'll run through the biggest pluses:

1) Improved battery life over the Forerunner 235. I have had it set to GPS and Glonass, Bluetooth and 24 hour hr on, alerts for calls and calendars on. I have run 6.5 hours over the last four days. And the battery is at 57%.  I'd estimate 10% drawdown is for the background functions, 47% for running, which means about 5% per hour for running. Garmin says 24 hours on GPS - that may be right if Bluetooth and HR is off. For the full kahuna of settings, I'd feel comfortable that it would have plenty of juice left after a 50 miler or a 12 hour run. And going away for a week of travel no longer means stressing out about whether I pack the cable - it should be good for an hour of running a day for seven days plus background draw and still have 50% left.

2) Better display. I find it to have improved contrast and outdoors readability in bright sunlight.

3) More accurate Elevate wrist HR measurement. This is completely subjective, but I see less unexpected spikes or cadence lock where the module gets stuck measuring your footfall cadence instead of your heart rate. It also seems to be giving more accurate readings when I do things like get up from my desk and run up the stairs - getting to the peak and returning to rest faster than the 235. 

4) A more comfortable strap. I don't have to tighten and loosen it depending before and after each run. It measures HR well with a more lax tension; I think it is a little more rubberized and grips to your wrist better.

5) Barometer. I always felt like I was getting ripped off from the estimated elevation gains on Garmin and Strava. Hopefully this is more accurate.

6) Better looking. Small changes include the metal buttons and the improved case and bezel. It just looks more quality than the 235.

7) Additional running metrics, including readings on aerobic and anaerobic training effect. I find it helpful to see these post run. I'm looking forward to getting training status reads after I've been using it for a month as well.

8) Ability to set alarms using Garmin Connect mobile rather than only on the watch. I often realize after turning off the lights that I haven't set my watch alarm for an early race wake-up. It's nice to set it on the phone - a lot easier than fumbling through several layers of menus on the watch to do so.

9) A nice solid feel on the wrist. The weight is heavier than the 235, but not that noticeable. It is a lot lighter than the Fenix line which just was too uncomfortable for me. Given that it has the most desirable of the Fenix 5/5S functions, the size and weight is a real plus here.

10) Improved activity move bar response. Again, a subjective take, but it seems like the move bar is more consistently cleared with exercise. Sometimes the 235 would take forever to do so.

There you have it. Sorry to push you over the edge if you were wobbling, but I don't think if you are reading this you'll end up regretting it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Altra Instinct 4.0 review

I still love my Torin 2.5s, but my Torins don't love me back as much. At least the heel doesn't.

As you can see, the rubber outsole on the heel smears off like cream cheese on a bagel after about 100 miles. The top photo is after 108 miles, the bottom photo is a previous pair after 158 miles. Clearly I scuff a little on the outside of the heel, but this never has ripped off a rubberized area like this.



Altras didn't have a terrific reputation for build quality - I read a lot of complaints out there about wearing through uppers, especially on trail shoes. Personally, I haven't had that issue on my Lone Peak 2.5s or 3.0s, and I didn't have wear issues on my Instinct 3.0s.

So, given that I want a little extra heel protection beyond what the Torin 2.5s provide, and I don't want to give up the Altra Foot Shape toebox, I tried the Instinct 4.0s (for men; for women, it's the Intuition 4.0) out once again. I had already bought and returned a pair of this latest model; the right shoe didn't feel the same as the left shoe (I notice the first run of shoes when they are first released, no matter who the manufacturer is, often have minor defects like this. I've had issues like this with Hoka when I get them right off the bat; I assume it takes a couple of manufacturing runs to hammer out the problems.) But given that I loved the 3.0s so much (see my review of the Instinct 3.0 here... The 3.5s left a lot to be desired, so I moved on), I decided to give them another chance given the great reviews they've been getting, and the fact I loved their grandfather the 3.0s.


I went for the grey/yellow pair after striking out with the black ones. I think I got a winning pair.

First of all, the Instincts have a lot more rubber on the bottom. There's a yellow layer - and a graphite layer of rubber around/underneath that in spots. Then there's the grey foam.


Here's a closer look:


And again with more of a side view:



It looks like its going to take a lot of scuffing to go through the yellow and graphite layers of rubber. And even if I do, the light grey foam underneath seems firmer and more durable than the light foam on the Torin.  It costs an ounce or so in weight, but given that the Torins aren't exactly racing flats at 9.1 ounces, an extra .9 ounces is not really noticeable.

The Instinct 4.0s are 3mm lower than the Torin 2.5s, which I prefer - it gives you a better ground feel.

A couple of noticeable differences...

The upper: The Instinct 4.0 is a little less form fitting than the Torin 2.5, yet, I'd say it is a tighter lacing grip. Sounds contradictory, but the Torin holds by being more molded to the foot while the Instinct relies more on the lacing.

I'd also say the Instinct 4.0 upper will be more comfy on hotter days with a more breathable mesh. But the Torin 2.5 upper didn't bother me on warmer spring days, and I have hot feet.

The midsole: The Instinct 4.0 is a firmer shoe with better road feel. The Torin 2.5 is more cushiony and pillowy. 

The outsole: The Instinct 4.0 looks to be a lot more durable. It definitely has a better grip given the additional rubber making contact with the ground. The Torin 2.5 relied on foam in a few spots which really has little gripping power. I ran a fairly tame trail 50K in the Instinct 3.0 and I see no reason why I couldn't do the same with these. Same goes for road marathons - I did with the Instinct 3.0 and these should be similar. Not sure they'd be great for faster stuff like a 5K where I found the Torin 2.5 to be pretty competent if not ultra speedy.

Looks: Altra continues to improve in the design department.  See the improvement from the Instinct 3.5 to the Instinct 4.0 -- looking more presentable in public, the little kids don't point at your feet and yell "freak".


Retail: $110. Hopefully I can get a full 250+ miles out of these. I'll be back and let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Altra Torin 2.5 review

I've procrastinated writing a review of one of the most comfortable pair of trainers I've ever owned, and the best pair of Altra's I have run in: the Torin 2.5. It's good I'm getting around to writing this review now, since the 3.0 is expected to be released in the next couple of months - long enough to get a lifecycle out of a pair purchased today.

The Torin 2.5 is a good daily trainer kind of shoe. It's relatively light and relatively cushioned - for my taste, just about right. I would be happy to wear them for a trail ultra if grip wasn't too big an issue, and would definitely wear them for a marathon or half. I have worn them for shorter distances - 10Ks and 5Ks -- but they have drawbacks at those races. The foam is not very springy - it's relatively dead - so you really don't get the kind of energy return bounce you are looking for in those quicker races. The ultimate upgrade for the Torin would be to use the EGO foam in the new Escalantes - it would allow this shoe to excel at the quicker stufff.

The shoe is pretty ugly looking. Altra is doing better in making the foot shaped shoe look less like a clown shoe and more like a regular running shoe. They've done a great job with their latest versions of shoes like the Instinct, Lone Peak and Escalante on the design front. Hopefully the Torin 3.0 looks a little more socially acceptable! (The black/red version is the better looking colorway, better than the blue/yellow, below)



Now, picking it apart in detail...

The upper: I love the construction on this shoe. Most of it is some sort of nylon material with varying degrees over plastic overlays. Some think it is too tight and not breathable enough, but it is great for me. I get enough support that my feet aren't sliding around, but I don't find it overly hot (and I do get pretty warm in the feet during my runs). There's a little bit of mesh on the upper that perhaps provides some ventilation. Maybe I'll be singing a different tune during the summer, but I haven't had a problem. More support than the Instinct 4.0 here, which feels too loose to me. The shoe laces up very well - not hot spots or puckering like I saw on the Instincts current and past.

The midsole: Absolute comfort. I don't find it too mushy or too hard - it is just right. My foot, which on the right has suffered from vague and annoying pain due to either too much or too little cush over the last couple of years - is happy and pain free. My feet don't feel "tired" at all - they've nailed it here. For comparison, it is significantly firmer the Escalante, slightly firmer than the Lone Peak 3.0, softer than the Instinct. 

The outsole: The weakest part of the shoe. I suffered excessive wear on the outside heels of both shoes. Yes, I tend to do my share of heel striking but land midfoot most of the time. I had to retire my shoes at around 150 miles because the black rubber was totally gone. Hopefully this was unusual wear, based on running on some rougher surface. But still, it doesn't look like this is a shoe that will have much life after 200 miles. Altra has consistently had quality issues like this, but is making progress. Hopefully the Torin 3.0 addresses this problem


Monday, March 6, 2017

Running after laparoscopic abdominal surgery

I like posting on the blog to help out someone now or in the future who might have the need for some past experience I've had, if not my wisdom.

The following is a journal of my return to activity from walking to running following my laproscopic right hemicolectomy.

I hope this post is of interest/use to someone coming back from similar surgery. Please check with your doctor about these things and remember the internet can't be sued for malpractice. And don't do anything if you feel any pain or discomfort - err on the side of caution. And this is no worse than listening to letsrun.com message boards.


I had surgery on Thursday February 2nd. You can see that day was the last time I cleared 1000 steps in a day for the next four days.



My surgeon gave me permission to start walking immediately, with no restrictions on the amount except for the amount of fatigue I felt. He asked I refrain from using aerobic equipment at the gym for two weeks post-surgery, and running for six weeks post surgery. Weightlifting is also not recommended. The worry is that excess straining from too much abdominal impact could create post-surgical hernias at the wound sites.

Honestly, not running for an extended period was the least of my worries when I went in for surgery. I was lucky to have an uncomplicated surgery and no need for post-surgical treatment, so after surgery, I did start counting the days till I could return to exercise activities. 

After four days of near total rest, I started to move around the house (and take walks outside. On day 5 - Tuesday February 7 - I hit 1342 steps. By day 9 - Saturday February 11th - I passed 5000 steps in a day.



By day 14, I was getting eager to do more and more. At day 16 after surgery - I felt strong enough to hit 10000+ steps -- my pre-surgery normal step goal.



The following week, on day 21 after my surgery and after my 3 week post-op visit, I returned to the gym. I started on the treadmill at a moderate pace (3.5 mph) and a 10% incline to get my HR up to aerobic training levels. I felt a little soreness during one session on day 22, slowed it down, but felt fine the next day (day 23). That day, I did a fast walk with a couple of little light jogs over 1.5 miles on day 24 and felt fine the following morning, returning to the gym for the following six days.  


I made it over a month without running! On March 4th, the 30th day, I returned to light outdoor running at a pace of around 10 min/mi, with no discomfort. I returned to running about 12 days sooner than recommended, but the amount of force I exerted on my abdominal muscles using the elliptical machine felt greater than the impact from gentle running. Perhaps not smart, certainly extremely impatient, but judging from this other post which says jogging is generally ok after four weeks, another says two to three weeks of no activity that causes straining, pulling, pushing or jumping after laproscopic abdominal surgery, so not completely out of line.

I plan on keeping my effort light through week six just to make sure, but am confident that my insides are holding up fine.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Starting 2017 with a 10 week break; a half-assed running plan if I've ever seen one

After a nice slow December post-NCR Marathon, I began the new year with a full slate planned. It included: the Mid-MD 50K this weekend, the DC Rock n' Roll Half and the B&A Half in March. Unfortunately, my colon didn't cooperate with my feet.

Starting on New Year's Day, post-parkrun, pizza and beer with friends, I started having pretty severe gut pain. It came and went - I'd be doubled over with pain one moment, thinking about running the next. It was an 8 on the pain scale at its worst, and came with other symptoms that landed me in the ER on the 12th with a diagnosis of post-viral irritable blech.

But: it continued. On and on, through a gastro appointment that confirmed the ER diagnosis. Another week of suck. And I hadn't run since January 8, adding to the mental train wreck.

Luck would have it, the symptoms expanded (I will spare the detail here, but if you want gory details leave a comment), and I got back in for a visit on the 27th where the doctor booked a colonoscopy on the 31st. 

I certainly wasn't thinking much of it - went into it fairly blase but thinking they'd send me on my way with a prescription of something or other. It was a real shock to wake up and get the news from the gastro that they found an ugly golf ball size thing causing my right colon to telescope inside itself, explaining the pain and the other symptoms. It was just too big and complicated to get out without surgery - which I underwent two days later and which was a complete success. I turned out just to be a giant benign tumor that sprung up fast (within the 10 year window of my first colonoscopy) and made trouble quickly. It, and a foot of neighboring colon, got the bums rush, stat.  Six days later, I'm back to walking around the block and returning to normal.

What lessons did I learn? The best laid running plans and life plans for that matter are always best to be taken with a grain of salt. In the past, stuff has gotten derailed by other obligations, and it happens. But it never got derailed because I just couldn't. A good and humbling reminder that sometimes you just can't and don't sweat it. And sometimes you dodge a bullet, sometimes you don't, but the world spins anyhow.

So where do I go from here? Basically nothing more than getting rested and ready, slowly but surely. Two weeks out of work, then another couple of weeks taking it easy. A lot of walking and then getting back to the running thing again in mid March. Hope to see everyone outside real soon where I'll be more than happy to be out midpacking and even better once again.