Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Making the leap..... it's Ultra time!

I can't believe it's that time already...   At this time on Saturday, I'm really hoping I can say I'm an ultra runner...   I think I'm ready....    I've trained for 16 weeks for this run, I hope it was the right training and it was enough...  

In my head I keep going from being confident and excited, to panicking and worrying that it's going to fall apart some how.   But on my short run yesterday I realized that it is exactly that....  in my head.  And that is where the outcome on Saturday will be determined.  I know my body can do this..  I just have to keep my mind as positive as well.

In addition to getting good advice from friends etc, I took advantage of the down time this week (and a little bit of the taper crazies) to also put up a post in the Trail and Ultra Running group on Facebook.  I am so glad I found this group...  tons of great advice and info, but more importantly, a really supportive and genuinely great group of people!  I got so much great advice for this race that it really gave me a boost this week, and I know I'll be thinking a lot about the great comments and support during my run..

Ok.. that's it, I just wanted to put a quick post up here to share what's going on in my head this week. For those of you racing as well soon, good luck on your adventures!!

Next post here will be from a new ultra runner!  :-)

Happy trails!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things that make you go aaaahhhhhh..: ensō Roller, Zim's, and Ambi Review and Giveaway!

Aaaaaahhhh....  yes..  if only to be lounging on a beach right now!   But, Springtime in Colorado means alternating days of sunny/warm, and crazy Spring snow showers..   Summer is coming soon!

In the interim, I've been training the last 14 weeks for my first 50K, which is less than two weeks away!  And during this training, I've been on the look out for anything/everything to help me relax, and to deal with the aches and niggles that come along with a heavy training schedule.

So this post is dedicated to several new products that have really helped me cope, and to keep things moving forward.  Included in this review are the ensō Roller (from EVOFIT), Zim's Max Freeze and Heel & Foot cream, and the Ambi (a portable electric ice cube!).   So... if you are looking for things to make you go "aaahhhh..."  not "AAAHHH!!" then stay tuned, and be sure to enter to win some great stuff as well :-) 

First up is the ensō Roller from EVOFIT.  What is an ensō?  It's THIS

The ensō roller is an amazingly flexible/adjustable roller that you can used for all your aching muscles/tendons.  For those of you that run a lot, you understand the value of a good roller, and the "hurt so good" relief you can get from one.  I've been using a standard foam roller and sometimes an old fashioned rolling pin to really work over my calves and ITB.  The ensō takes it up another notch!

What is cool about this roller is the ability to customize the level of surface you roll on, and to use it in different configurations depending on the muscle type or your personal preference.  Included with the roller is a guide to a variety of configurations you can set, based on what you are rolling.  Below is a quick video showing how adjustments can be made:

The ensō roller has been an invaluable tool during my 50K training, and I look forward to continuing to use it, especially right after!  If you are looking for a better way to roll versus a standard foam roller, this may be a great option.  The ensō retails for $89.99 and there is also a smaller travel version for $69.99. You can find them on their website by clicking HERE.   Granted, this is a bit more pricey than a standard foam roller, but the construction and components are of high quality, and I would expect this roller to last for a very long time. 

In addition to rolling out muscles, I've been trying to take better care of my feet.  Obviously, they should have a lot of focus since I need them to run!  But often I don't take care of them as I should.  In Colorado, we have next to no humidity, so in the winter it's easy to develop cracks in my heels etc.  I had an opportunity to try out a few products from Zim's these last several months, and I've been pleasantly surprised.  

I haven't had the cracking problem this year as much as I've had in prior years, but I did use the cream on my feet.  What I like most about these products are the natural ingredients used.  The cream is really soothing, smells great, and very moisturizing.   What I did discover however, was that applying it to my feet, and liberally between my toes, made my feet feel really great on my longer runs.  Slipping my Injinji toe socks on is really easy, and my feet are just... I don't know... happy!  I noticed less tenderness after my long runs as well. 

I also used the Max-Freeze spray, which is a topical pain relief spray.  I've never had much luck with topical pain relievers, so I wasn't expecting a lot.  What I liked about the Max-Freeze (besides the natural ingredients), was how the quick chilling sensation really took some of the sting out of my chronic achilles pain after a run.  It could be that it was as much as a distraction as a pain reliever, but it really is refreshing to give my ankles/feet a shot of the spray while recovering after a long run.   Anyway, I like the products... to find out if they work for you, be sure to enter to win a bottle of each below! 

Speaking of chilling things down, my final "sigh of relief" product review is for the ambi cooling device.  Now, I love gadgets, so I was more than happy to give this one a try. 

So what is it? I like to think of it as an electronic ice pack.  The ambi uses the Peltier effect of thermoelectric cooling...   and no, I didn't know what that meant either, but you can click on it to learn more! 

What it means is that the ambi will crank down to 50F in 30 seconds without the mess or inconvenience of an ice pack.  Now, initially I kind of thought that 50F just didn't seem that cold...  but in reality when you make an ice pack, you generally have to wrap it or pad it to lessen the intensity.  Applying the ambi directly to your skin chills things down in a hurry! 

The ambi is relatively small and light weight.  It can be operated on 4 "AA" batteries, or by plugging it in.  I found that it is not really efficient to use it with batteries, as they will drain relatively quickly.  Although the ambi still chilled down, I noticed that after a few shorter uses, the blue indicator (showing it is chilled all the way) wouldn't come on.  I would run this with the included cord to be most effective. 

What's interesting is that the ambi seems to be marketed more towards addressing migraines and "hot flash" issues with menopausal women. The ambi can be placed at the base of the neck to provide an overall cooling effect.  I primarily used the ambi as a source for quick relief for my Achilles pain that I experience at different levels.  Much like the Max-Freeze spray, a quick application of the ambi cooling technology brings some immediate relief.   Also, I found it to be effective when our boys get a nosebleed. I will often apply a cold compress to the back of their neck to help slow and control a good nosebleed.  The ambi worked well for the last one we dealt with. 

Besides the battery life, the only minor issue with the ambi (as compared to an ice pack) is the inability to apply the cooling effect in some areas.  The metal plate is rigid of course, and is most effective for flatter areas that aren't too large. You just can't get the same effect as if you wrapped an ice pack around your ankle for example.  But, that issue aside, the ambi is a quick and convenient way to get some quick relief from minor pains, as well as any other issue that could be benefited by a cooling therapy.  The ambi retails for $49.99 and you can find them on their website HERE.   Or... you can enter below to win one of course :-)

Ok.. I think that about wraps it up.  For those of you training hard for upcoming races, don't forget to rest, relax and take care of yourself!  Yes, I'm trying to listen to myself as well...   tapering now and hoping things hold together for the big race on 5/3. 

As always, if you have questions/comments, leave them below, email me, or leave a comment on the Facebook page!

Now to the giveaways! I have a set of the Zim's Foot Creme and Max-Freeze Spray to give away (US Residents only), and one ambi cooling device (open to US and Canada).  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again for tuning in... and happy trails!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Maximum performance from the Minimus: New Balance MT1010V2 and MT10V2 Review and Giveaway!

MT1010V2 and MT10V2

After a long period of training since last fall, I am happy to finally provide a full review/recap of two trail running shoes from the New Balance Minimus line!

I was excited to finally get to try out a few choices from the New Balance Minimus collection, as I felt I had tried out many other "big brand" minimalist offerings.  I received both the latest MT1010V2 and MT10V2 trail shoes last fall and since then have logged more than 300 miles between the two models. By far, the most mileage I've logged in shoes before doing a review.

So, if you've ever wondered about either or both of these as a minimalist trail shoe, continue on for a full review of each! And, as a reward for slogging through my shoe nerd blah blah blah... I'm giving away a pair of MT10V2 Trails thanks to the cool folks at New Balance... so read on!


First up is the MT1010V2.  These are my first foray into New Balance shoes, so I don't have any kind of perspective on a comparison against the original version of the shoe.

First off, just a few of the specs.  The 1010V2 is a 4mm drop shoe, with a stack height of roughly 15mm at the heel, down to 11mm at the toe.  The overall height is slightly more as there is a 1-2mm non-removable insole as well.  Now before I get into more details you might be thinking.. "4mm drop? That's not 0mm drop!"   Yes, that is true, and I did have some slight concerns as all my other shoes/sandals are a 0mm drop. However, I learned that (at least for me), I didn't notice anything significant with the slight drop, and have had no issues running in them.  However, I 'm not willing to crank it up any more than that!

The 1010V2 weighs in at 8.5 ounces, and carries a pretty aggressive tread.  Also, there is a rock plate built into the forefoot area.  As far as minimalist shoes go, these would be considered much less minimal, and probably approaching a more traditional trail shoe build.  However, they fee light for the construction, and my toes were very happy with the toe box roominess and overall comfort. The stack height precludes any really good proprioception, but I still felt the response on the trail was decent.  The interior of the shoe is well constructed, and pretty comfortable with or without socks.

What I really loved best about the 1010V2 was the tremendous traction from the aggressive tread pattern.  These became my shoe of choice for all of the snow/cold weather running I did over the winter.  I logged close to 250 miles, and almost all of them on snow/ice etc.

The tread pattern on the 1010V2 was amazing for traction, and most especially on downhills.  In other shoes I've ended up putting on YakTrax for slippery conditions, but shy of pure ice, the 1010V2 provided excellent traction this winter.  Also, they were surprisingly warm and relatively hydrophobic.  Part of that warmth (as compared to very minimal shoes) is attributed to the stack height insulating my foot from the frozen ground, but I'll take it! Especially in single digit temps :-)

So... the overall verdict?  Frankly, I love these shoes, especially when I'm more concerned about traction, warmth, and a little more protection.  They proved out to be an excellent winter shoe for me. Very comfortable, with plenty of room for my feet/toes (I have the standard width).  If you are transitioning to minimalist shoes, and are taking the path of easing down (versus jumping straight to barefoot and moving up), then these could be a great choice.  The trade off from other minimalist options are lesser flexibility, a slight drop,  and less ground feel.  Again, as I've said before, it becomes a matter of finding that sweet spot for yourself and your running style and trail conditions etc.


And now, for something completely different....  the New Balance MT10V2 trail shoe.  Yes, I know... it's only different by two digits from the 1010, but these shoes are worlds apart!  The 10V2 is much more of what I would call a minimalist shoe, both in construction and in feel.  Granted, these also have a 4mm versus 0mm drop, but I've discovered I am ok with that...  perhaps some of you can really notice a 4mm difference, but fortunately I don't seem to.  That being said, I don't know why they didn't just make both shoes 0 drops...  unless they are catering to those who are a bit scared to make the leap?  Anyway... sorry... digressing.

Ok... a few specs on the 10V2.   These weight in at 6.2 oz, so very light for a trail shoe, and pretty flexible, even with a stack height of 12.5 down to 8.5mm at the toe.  Compared to the 1010V2, these shoe really have the barefoot/minimalist feel when you put them on.  The ground feel on the trail is really good, and perhaps too good at times as the lack of a rock plate will keep you mindful of the trail conditions.

The tread pattern, while much less aggressive than the 1010V2, provides some fairly decent traction in most standard trail conditions.  Part of this comes from the extra flexibility, allowing your foot (and the sole) to wrap a little bit better around contours on the trail.  Also, very little of the trail gets stuck or hangs around very long on this tread.

The plus side to this relatively flat tread, is that these perform well when running on the road as well.  I didn't like road running in the 1010V2 as the rugged tread didn't make for a smooth ride, but I had no issues with these on the smooth asphalt.  For some reason, these became my shoe of choice for hill repeat days on pavement.  Part of it was how light they felt, and also they were very comfortable going downhill.

Now, this brings me to the only real issue I had with these shoes, if you could call it an issue.  As you can see, the design of the upper includes a band that cuts across the top of the forefoot.  I initially got a pair in my size, and in the standard "D" width, but wow, I could really feel that band cutting across my foot and constricting it.  It was not comfortable at all, so I returned them and swapped out for the wider ("E") width, and was much much happier.  I needed that additional width to take that weird tightness away.  Now, I believe my foot is fairly average as far as width goes, so if you have wide feet, these may not be the best choice. Highly recommend trying them on in person first.   So, with the wider version, the band was less of an issue, although I could still feel it, it didn't bother me.  I can see the idea behind it, as it helped stabilize my foot better on downhills, so I had less cramming of my toes etc.

Aside from having to sort out that issue, the 10V2's have also been a great shoe.  I have about 60 miles on them, with about 40 on the trail.  If you are looking for a good minimalist trail shoe with a minimal drop, and one that could get you by on the road as well, these may be a good choice.  As I noted, these are certainly more in line with a true "minimalist" feeling and performing shoe.

Well, there you have it.  If you stuck around this long, you are as much a minimalist shoe nerd as I am!!  As always, if I've missed anything, or you have any questions at all about my review experience, let me know! Email me, or leave a comment here or on Facebook.

Ok... want to win a pair of the MT10V2 Trails?  Enter below in the Rafflecopter dowidgie thing..   Contest open to residents of the US only and will run until 10PM MST, Sunday April 20th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, bear with me as I shift into taper mode for my upcoming 50K...  yep, as you can see on the ticker, less than 3 weeks to go!  I'm not panicking... not yet at least :-)

Have a great week, and happy trails!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

50K Training update... and other cool stuff :-)

Happy April Fool's Day!   Ah... fun day.  A day when the amount of stuff that you can't believe on the internet grows by about .05%  :-)

Just a quick update as to how the 50K training is going...   as you can tell by the countdown ticker over there on the right.. just about 1 month to go!  Gasp.....   seems like a good time to freak out, but nope.. not yet.

I think I'm more freaked out about my last long training run this Saturday.  What's on tap?  A 26 miler....   and yes, I am going to add .2 on to the end of that run to make it an official unsupported marathon!  I must be nuts...  

Someone posted this on Facebook today and I had to steal it!   I'm already thinking of downing a pizza like this one after finishing this first 50K... gluten be damned!

Anyway, this weekend I got a big boost to my confidence as I went out on Saturday and ran the actual Greenland Trail, which is where the 50K will be held.  I ran 2 laps totaling 16 miles at a 12:39 pace...   really happy with that, as my goal to come in under the 8 hour cutoff is just over a 15:00 pace.  I got a little help on the second lap running with fellow runner/blogger Jill from "Run with Jill" .   It was great to meet her, and a few friends that she was training/coaching for the 50K as well.  Anyway, they helped to push me along to a negative split on that last lap.

The best thing was just getting familiar with the course (each lap is mostly up the first half, and then down the second half), and I know exactly what to expect now... can't wait!

And in other news, I've just been selected as an Ambassador for Electro-Bites!!    I am really excited to be associated with them.  A great company and a terrific product!  I've been fueling with them for training, and will be using them during the 50K (offset with the Hammer gels provided at the race).  You can check out my review of these from January by clicking HERE.    And, even better, you can use the code "JEFFTOLDME" at check out and get 20% off your order :-)

Ok... that's the update for now...    Also, I am working on a bunch of reviews, so if you are interested in the New Balance MT10V2 or MT1010V2, the Pearl Izumi N2 Trail, or a bunch of other cool stuff.. stay tuned!!

Happy trails!