Monday, June 29, 2015

Saucony Nomad TR - return to sender

Oh well.  It doesn't hurt in trying, especially when there's a liberal return policy involved.

There were a lot more cons here than pros:

- unbreathable - almost a plasticy upper - ugh
- too stiff - like a board
- pretty snug for the size - definitely not a lot of room for foot expansion
- tread - seemed a little pointless with little ability to grip
- style - fugly
- felt heavy and clunky

- 4mm drop
- Not a bad shape for my foot.  Maybe if it ran a half size larger...
- Padded tongue - I do like 'em.

So back into the box they go.  I couldn't imagine wearing these much more than I can imagine my old Xodus - just too stiff and heavy (not nearly as bad).  Spoiled by the relative lightness and comfort of the Hoka One One Challenger ATRs as a trail shoe, and the Zealot for road/fire/gravel road/dry trails.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saucony Zealot mini review (updated at 300 miles)

I ricochet between shoes and brands more than a superball bouncing down the street.  One day, I'm in love, the next, we've broken up or at least I've started cheating on what was previously the best pair of footpods I claimed I ever slipped into.

The Zealots (designed to replace the Cortana in the Saucony lineup) are like a flame that you keep coming back to. Except it's better than real life -- when I rebound, they end up exceeding expectations. 

Let's do a simple pro and con first...

- crazy light
- "moccasin" or slipper feel
- ample forefoot room
- no midfoot constriction
- breathable 
- drain well
- dry quickly
- durable (160 miles and no sign of wear)
- 4mm low heel to toe drop
- versatile - roads, gravel, dirt trails all good
- ISOFIT upper/sockliner is comfortable and holds foot down nicely - no blistering or black toes
- laces stay tied - good grippy material
- made for sockless wearing

- not the most attractive shoes
- laceing is off - not comfy pulling much lace tight, so there's not much lace for tying shoes
- could be a tad softer
- with ISOFIT, I need to wear thin Drymax socks or else its not comfortable
- grip has been a little iffy on slick damp pavement (but good on wet)

Other thoughts:

- a little more structured and wider than the Kinvara
- lighter and less built up than the Triumph ISOFIT

They seem like they fall between those more popular models in terms of acclaim/popularity. But then I always need to stake out a fringe position.

I just put in an order for a 2nd pair as the new color lines will be out at the end of July, according to Running Warehouse's Saucony page. I sure hope they don't mess with these too much in the next version. 

Photos at 210+ miles.  Look pretty good still, eh?

Edit (7/20/15): They still looked swell at 300 miles, but it seemed the cushioning was pretty shot by then.  They probably had another 100+ miles of treadmill walking/elliptical usage in addition to the 300 miles of running, so seems to me I got my money's worth.  

Replaced with a new pair that seems a little roomier, with longer laces.  I don't know if some of that's because the old ones shrunk down after repeated sun drying after running or because of alterations in the later production runs.  

They also seem a little cushier than the first pair was when I first got them.  I wouldn't describe them as firm -- more like about a 7 in the softness scale (10 most - think Skechers Gorun Rides, 0 least - think a pair of Five Fingers) whereas the first pair was closer to a 5.5.

Either way, I like the new ones quite a bit.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I got one of these bad boys -- a "tubular waist pack for essentials".  I don't have much to add upon unboxing than was covered by Eric Schranz's review at @ , other than I'm somewhere in the 33'' waist land and I think that the Large size is about right (he's a 32 and liked the medium). Me, I don't like tight stuff around the body.

If anything changes, I'll update, but it seems like a great product for any run, exactly as reviewed and claimed on Amazon.

Saucony Nomad TR

Since I'm back madly in love with my Zealot's, I'm pretty high  on Saucony.  I decided to try out the Nomad TRs to see what I think.  From the Gear Institute reviews, they sound promising - a trail version of the Kinvaras with more room to swell.  Unfortunately, they are almost unrecognized by review sites on the Internet for some reason... if a shoe falls on the trail, will anyone hear it?

I'll report back.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bakeoff: Hoka Clifton 2, Challenger ATR, Saucony Zealot.

I've run in these three shoes over the last three days, and think I have a stronger view about each shoes' role in my arsenal.

Hoka Challenger ATR: Sits somewhere between the pure ground feel of the Zealot and the marshmallowy feel of the Clifton 2.  It's going to be my go-to for any running in non-pavement areas - it worked really well on slick mud and the gravel of the C&O.  Plus, it has enough but not too much cushion.  Its a little loose fitting and requires some re-tying laces after several miles, and the factory inserts can bunch up in a really sweaty run when it gets squishy underfoot.   But it is the best feeling shoe for me on the long stuff off the tarmac.

Saucony Zealot:  It sat on the mat by the door for a few weeks after I got the CATR, but got reinserted into my rotation when I wanted to slip in an extra 5K at work on the paved Beach Dr. trail.  It really is the best road shoe I've used in recent memory. The only knocks on it: a snug size 13, but I think that's because of the inner "sock" liner more than lack of room at the toes.  And it has a little Mirage-like firmness, could be a little more (a tad bit more) cushiony in the outer, a tad more grippy on the tread (not the greatest on slick pavement). But: love.  Holding up nicely at the 100 mile mark - you wouldn't know by the looks.

Hoka Clifton 2: Definitely an improvement over the Clifton 1.  But it is a little too cushioned for the road, and a little too cushioned and not grippy enough for wet non-road surfaces. Not sure how its going to be used -- probably most likely as a change of pace once in a while. But it isn't going to be one of the main go-tos for the time being.

So there you go.  Between the CATR and Zealot, I should give the UPS folks and Running Warehouse's fulfillment peeps a rest for a few (hundred miles/weeks).

Also: See review of Challenger ATR 2.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fartlek Round, Ken Michal version

With all respect and apologies to Eric Schranz's UltraRunnerPodcast , I love the Fartlek Round at the end of his show.  Although I'm fairly certain I will not be doing a 100 miler, and I'm not "screaming fast", I love listening to people talking about doing things I'll never be doing myself.  Dark is for sleeping, not running, unless its +/- 2 hours of sunrise/sunset. Sort of like my not drinking before 5 pm local time rule -- we need some rules to survive.

I wanted this blog to be about gear. There are a lot of people who add more on a host of other running-related issues and do it better than I ever could.  I wanted a blog that could cover some space but with something unique to offer -- I figure that given my OCD-like approach to gear, I have covered more ground in this area than the average person.  

Despite that overriding goal, and my desire to spare you what goes on inside my head... every time I listen to URP's Fartlek Round, I think about how I'd answer the question.

So...  now that I have a blog, who's going to stop me?

9 Questions from the excellent Ken Michal interview (Jan 12 2015)

What's my favorite tropical drink?  Planter's punch.
When was the last time I roller skated? 6th grade, much to my youngest daughter's regret.
Post race treat: Pepperoni Pizza (Pete's if possible)
Do I cross-train? Yes, mostly ellipticals as a second workout or on running rest days.  I also walk a lot on the treadmill at sub 3 mph pace to increase time on my feet and get cheap steps in.  I think that counts as xt.
My running hero? Arthur Newton, despite the fact he was totally crackers.
My favorite meal?  Probably fried clams from Dairy Joy.
My favorite place to run? Doesn't matter much, but the C&O canal in my "backyard".
How many orphan socks do I have in my drawer: it always seems to rotate around a half dozen.  They turn up eventually.
My favorite beer?  IPAs.  Right now, DC Brau The Corruption.  But I do also like "lawnmowing" beers -- lighter lagers, Kolsch's, when it's hot.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Quick mini review: Hoka Challenger ATR vs Clifton 2

The Challenger ATR was the first trail shoe that felt close enough to a road shoe that it didn't cramp my style. 

It is widely reviewed and recognized as a Clifton with a nubby tread slapped on the bottom. CATR works well for me on trail where it helps to have a little extra grip. Slippery mud, wet wood/bridges, light gravel all seem to challenge me (get it) less with the CATR. I used them on a rocky trail this past week, and they had enough midsole so the sharp rocks couldn't touch me. 

I didn't love the Clifton. I felt it was a little too flimsy in the upper, I didn't like the lightweight tongue. Didn't hold my foot well - it was very sloppy. Some of the things that annoyed me in the road Clifton worked in the trail CATR - the thin tongue, though a challenge to lacing, keeps a lot of detritus out of your shoe. And the extra room is less of a problem when your feet swell up a bit from the heat and pounding. The roominess in the CATR was also minimized by me by using both inserts -- putting the Ortholite insert under the standard one). 

So, I was all excited about the Clifton 2. It promised a thicker tongue, a more substantial upper, with little added weight. According to the website

For 2015, the award-winning Clifton receives an updated upper with a focus on lightweight comfort in the CLIFTON 2. A softer, lightly padded tongue provides increased protection across the foot, and structural overlays improve midfoot support. The industry-leading ride remains unchanged, and the road-focused outsole includes strategically placed rubber pods to improve durability. When all is said and done, one of our favorite shoes just got better.

Tongue - check. My kind of tongue - not crazy thick like a New Balance, not crazy thin like the Clifton. Works like a charm - meaning you don't have to lace to cut your blood supply off your feet, or lace so loose that there's barely any lace left. 

Overlays - check. It seems at first wear they might have gone too far in the structured direction, but after 10 miles, it softened up nicely. The added support is welcome - didn't find my foot all over the place - whether on road, dirt, mud, roots, etc. Doesn't have a ton of room so it might be better at the beginning instead of the end of the race... 

Rubber pods - we will see. Placed sensibly but who knows how it will hold up until the miles go down... 

I'd have to say the 2 is better than the 1s. Much better. 

I'm not sure I will ditch the CATRs for more challenging trails, but for running the flat/dirt/gravel of the C&O for at least half of my miles, the Clifton 2s have more than enough grip. It feels a little higher riding - a little less ground feel - compared to the CATRs. But I think they are good enough for most/all non-technical trails I run. 

The only bad thing I can say is that the forefoot could have been a teensy bigger. But I had no problems with hotspots, etc., and it feels like it is stretching out with progressively more miles.

Happy trails.

Also see RoadTrailRun review

Update 6/18:  32 miles into them, and I'm not as hot on them as I was.  I feel the rocker a lot more on the Clifton 2s... I don't feel them on the CATRs.  I assume this is because of the generally less cush nature of the CATRs.

Also: feeling it in my left shin from the rocker.  Hopefully this is just the adjustment to the rocker and not the beginning of a return of shin splints.

Finally: one strip of overlay on the left inside shoe is separating from the mesh.  Not that happy with that happening at all... these kind of things seem to happen on the first production runs with a lot of shoes.

Anyway, its not the promised land.  Still a solid shoe, and an improvement on the 1.