Seven things I’ve learnt training for Karkloof100

Ultra running is no joke, but it’s the training that really shows you what you are made of. When I set myself the goal of running 100 miles (160km) I knew it was going to be tough as nails, I thought yeah I will learn so much running it (and I am sure I still will when we toe the line in September at the legendary Karkloof100) but it is the training that has been something of a revelation for me.

Don’t let the vert hurt

Depending on the type of terrain your goal race is you will naturally train accordingly. If your race is over smooth jeep track and clean forest trails spending hours in the rocky technical mountains every single run won’t necessarily benefit you as much as flat dirt road running will. I’ve had to force myself to walk the hills, and hey it’s OK! No one is going to be laughing at your Strava laps because you walked the hills. Saving energy on the ups means you run the flat and downhills when others are forced to walk later in the race.

Don’t waste tired legs

For years I have tried my best to make sure I am as rested as possible before the weekend long run, but a few weeks back when I was slogging through a 4 hour run feeling like death warmed up all I wanted to do was stop. Then it suddenly hit me, I worked hard to get this tired and I am not injured, so just keep running. Running your long run on tired legs is a great way to simulate a possible race day environment when you start to feel tired towards the end of the race. This can be applied to any run distance training. It not only teaches you to run on tired legs but builds some serious mental fortitude because we are never as tired as our brain tries to tell us we are. You can always go more!

Train at goal race pace

This has been by far the toughest part of my training. Not counting the very little speed work I do, most of my runs have tried to be at goal race pace for the karkloof100, which happens to be almost 3 minutes per km slower than the average I am most comfortable at. Training slow takes proper discipline, having people pass you while you are walking is not good for the ego but training at 4min/km will have zero benefit when you are running for 24 hours plus at 7mins/km. Training the slow twitch muscle fibres and building endurance is a patience game. One that you will reap serious benefits from if you can get right.

The hunger is real

It’s true what they say, training for an ultra puts a fire in your belly. The proverbial fire of passion and zeal to go further than ever before, but more importantly a literal fire that burns up anything you eat in 30 seconds flat. The fight for clocking as many miles as you can without getting injured before race day is only surpassed by the fight to consume as many calories as humanly possible, and hope it’s enough.

Make sure you like being with yourself

For the most part running is a selfish sport, especially ultra running. You will be spending hours out there, mostly by yourself. If you don’t like your own company you will have to quickly learn to like yourself. Ultra running for me is about self-discovery (among other things), if you feel like you don’t know yourself very well just enter an ultra. You will get acquainted very quickly. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable and still being patient with yourself when things don’t go according to plan is a skill that is learnt and one that can benefit in all spheres of life.

Spotify will change your life

If you still don’t like yourself after training for an ultra just register on Spotify. Podcasts and playlists for days that will keep you entertained. I try not run with music mostly but there are some days when you are just so flat and can’t bring yourself to have to process any thoughts while running. It’s days like these when a Spotify “Lazy Weekend” playlist serenading you through your long run makes you feel like you are running on cotton wool.

Find an understanding spouse

I should have lead with this because it is probably the most important part of training for an ultra, especially if you would still like to be married when you cross the finish line. Don’t forget to put that quality time into your spouse / partner / significant other on top of all the hours you are hogging to clock the miles. Making them feel special and that they are still the most important goal of your life goes a long way to helping them support you in your goal to reach that finish line. You might be so focused on the sacrifices you as the runner make in your pursuit of your goal, that you haven’t seen the sacrifices the love of your life is making.

P.S. Loni if I hadn’t said it enough thank you for letting me train for this. Thank you for having yummy suppers ready when I get home late in the week from long runs. Thank you for understanding and support me in this. I couldn’t have / can’t do it without you

Kelly Wolf to Race at 2018 Karkloof100

KwaZulu-Natal’s premier hundred mile footrace, Karkloof 100, taking place for the second time in September this year, is excited to welcome international elite ultra-trail runner, Kelly Wolf, to it’s field. The event will also be hosting a 50-miler which starts from the turn around point of the 100-miler route.

At just 23 years old, Wolf has taken the ultra-running world by storm since turning professional in 2017. In just over a year, Wolf has dominated in her field, with podium finishes in major trail running events around the world. This year alone, Wolf was the first female home at the Tarawera ultra-marathon, a 102km race based in Rotorua, New Zealand. And more recently, won the Lavarado 120km ultra-trail marathon in Italy over the weekend. Both races are part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a collection of the most established and difficult trail races across the globe – something the Karkloof100 aspires to become part of.

Based in Telluride, Colorado in the USA, a town which lies at 8750ft in the San Juan Mountains, with a population of just 2300, Wolf’s backyard is literally her training ground. By day, she is a gymnastics coach but spends every spare minute exploring the mountains that she calls home.

As excitement for the Karkloof100, which is now just three months away, builds, co-race directors, Andrew Booth of KZN Trail Running and Jack Davis of the Trail Lab, are thrilled to have Wolf on the line-up for the 50-mile event.

The Westfalia Farm on the karkloof100 route

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to show Kelly not just the international standard of our event but also the beauty of our province and the hospitality of our country,” said Booth, adding that bringing Wolf to South Africa to take part in the race would not have been possible without international hydration pack brand Ultimate Direction – a joint sponsor of both Wolf and the Karkloof100 event.

“Although the race is still in its infancy, it has already drawn an incredibly talented field of local athletes. And now will welcome its first international runners, and first elite female runner. This is a great sign, a proud moment, and testament to the fact that South Africa is becoming a serious destination for ultra-marathon trail runners to visit and compete,” he added.

“We hope our future Karkloof100 events will entice more international runners to make this South Africa’s ultimate 100-mile trail event. Watch this space!” said Davis.

Wolf will be running alongside a mixed bag of national elite athletes as well as novices taking on the run of their life.

Greyt Run 2018

South Africa has some legendary places in terms of trail running with endless views and miles and miles of prestine trails. If there was ever a place that could be considered a top example of this, the small town of Greyton would be it. There simply is just too much to explore in 1 day of running so imagine our excitement when we heard of a 2 day stage race taking place over the weekend of 18/18 March 2018. The GreytRun promises to be a weekend of mountain stoke and family fun.

Runners crossing one of the many rivers in the area.

The run used to form part of the weekend festivities at the Greyt Escape Mountain Bike Race but now, for the first time, it will be it’s own stand alone race. Runners can expect to be blown away by not only the running as the hospitality of the communities in the surrounding Genadendal area are nothing short of legendary.

The two day event covers roughly 58km with a total elevation gain of around 1500m over the two stages. According to race director, Michael Viljoen, Saturday’s Stage 1 covering 30km “will take the runners in an easterly direction along the mountain range, traversing through fynbos, trails over farms, hidden valleys and secret kloofs, with stunning mountain proximity and great views over the valley. The second half will see the runners going back to Greyton via a more flat course along the valley floor and the banks of the river, towards the finish in town through bush trails that stir the senses and spur them on to be their best, before a well-deserved rest and recovery for Day 2.”

Day 1 Route and Profile

“Stage 2”, says Michael, “is 32 km with 717 metres of climbing. Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Try to conserve your energy as you stroll over rolling hills in the first half, before tackling two big climbs as well as the GC. The route features jeep track as well as single track, as it makes its way around the historic town of Genadendal.”

As with most Stage Races there are a number of accommodation and entry packages so check out which one suits you best here. You simply cannot beat the vibe in race village between the stages so if you can try stay over at the race venue.

For those looking for something a little less serious there will be a 21k, 10k and 5k taking place on the Sunday which will appeal to runners of all levels, so it really is a fantastic family weekend out.

Use the discount code “bbtr10” for a discount on your entry.

Registration will be at the Old Potter’s Inn in Main Road, Greyton.

Times: Friday- 17:00-19:00

Saturday- 06:30-07:30

Sunday- 06:00-08:15

PUMA IGNITE Speed 300 Review

We are back! The Bearded Brothers have been working long and hard testing some great gear and even greater shoes whilst we were away. We have even expanded and are super excited to have taken on a new, fairly hairless brother, Rory Scheffer.

Rory is an up and coming trail nutter that is mad about the mountains. You may have seen some of his previous posts on our blog. He will now be a more frequent writer and you can expect to see more reviews from him, so keep an eye out for some exciting posts!

He also placed 4th at this year’s legendary Otter trail run…. Machine!!

Last year Puma introduced the IGNITE foam to the world, the cushioning and propulsion of the IGNITE left us in a state of awe and left everyone else eating our dust. If you take a look at last years post on one the first ever Puma IGNITE shoe it is clear to see why the shoe has become so incredibly popular across the market. Since the release of the version 1 IGNITE the technology has slowly filtered down into the many other models.

The PUMA Speed 300 in it’s original colour way

Which bring us to the PUMA IGNITE Speed 300.

Outsole

The Outsole is made of EverTrack+ injection-blown rubber in the high wear areas for more durability and grip, resulting in a longer lifespan which gives you more mileage if using the shoe as an everyday trainer. PUMA have also included an engineered propulsion zone in the toe box for increased speed on the toe off.

This is basically a raised area that sits about 1mm off the rest of the sole at the centre of the forefoot, acting as a springboard to give you a little more energy return.

Interval training in the PUMA IGNITE Speed 300 is a dream as the added grip and propulsion zone give you a nice kick through the running gait.

Midsole

The midsole is made up of a dual layer foam infused with PUMA’s signature Ignite foam, which is great for energy return and is super responsive. The heel to toe drop is 8mm, not quite a racing flat, but the IGNITE foam in the heel portion of the shoe more than makes up for the fairly high drop.

The shoe, weighing in at 233g, gives any racing flat a good run for their money, pun intended. Unlike the pure IGNITE version 1, the IGNITE foam doesn’t run through the entire midsole. Instead, the IGNITE foam sits where it is needed most, in the heel.

Upper

The upper of the IGNITE Speed 300 is seamless yet very breathable, allowing your feet to stay cool during your run. With its snug fit, it hugs your foot comfortably without letting your foot slide around inside the shoe, especially when you need to change direction.

Its striking design is also a noteworthy feature and the white and red colour scheme will surely turn heads as you fly past.

😉

The Speed 300 is also the basis for PUMA’s Limited Edition IYC colour way which is not available for sale. To get a pair you need to know a guy who knows a guy

Limited Editon IGNITE Your City Speed 300 colour way

Conclusion

If it’s speed you’re after, you won’t be disappointed with these shoes. The Puma IGNITE Speed 300 are a great all-round shoe for both racing and long mileage training.

Coming in at around R1700 makes it an affordable shoe that will have you bolting around like the fastest man on earth, another pun intended. Our overall impression of the shoe is great and you definitely get your monies worth.

Available at Total Sports and Puma concept stores.

Adidas Response Trail Boost

“Nothing is impossible” – Muhammad Ali

It is this mindset that separates the hall of famers to everyone else. When Adolf “Adi” Dassler cooked up the idea of the brand with the three stripes, he literally cooked up the idea in his mother’s kitchen. He definitely had the idea to achieve greatness, and as a result Adidas was born and is now one of the leading brands in sports, making waves in the trail scene with the Response Trail Boost trail running shoe.

It is evident in the Response Trail Boost that Adidas have a unique way of thinking when it comes to creating shoes and one can clearly see that the “nothing is impossible” mindset has been applied in the creation of this shoe. At first glance we thought the shoe to be quite chunky looking and would probably be found in the ring up against other “Heavy-Weight” fighters. Don’t be fooled by this new kid on the block though, they may look a little heavy and awkward but we were pleasantly surprised once we put them to the test.

At any trail race, look around and you will see that not too many feet are inside a pair of Adidas trail shoes. We feel this won’t be the case for long as it is evident that Adidas are coming in hot with a a great range of trail shoes that will rival the greats of the trail running scene. The Adidas Response Trail Boost being one of them! Weighing in at around 326 grams, maybe these shoes will be classified in the heavy weight division. However with the unique and responsive Boost technology from Adidas, the energy return on the Response Boost Trail more than makes up for the extra bit of weight. At no point did we ever have the impression that we were running in a heavy shoe, as the boost foam technology makes these shoes feel super light.

Adidas Response Trail Boost Review

Outsole

With it’s mountain bike tyre like grip, the outsole of the Response Trail Boost is a rugged looking, rock gripping machine. Adidas have identified that multidirectional lugs are the way forward in terms of grip. Yes, the outsole looks gnarly, with the big lugs on the single compound rubber. The soft compound means the grip on the Response Boost Trail is sensational. The soft compound gives the runner a great ground feel and allows you to traverse over rocks like the mountain goat most trail runner’s aspire to be. At first we thought that the larger lugs would mean the shoe would only be suited to loose, rocky terrain, but not only do the Response Trail Boost transition from rocky terrain to smooth dry terrain effortlessly, the grip also gives you the confidence to bomb hills like its child’s play. The secret behind this success, from what we can gather, is that the lugs on the perimeter of the shoe are rotated sideways to give the shoe better traction on all surfaces.

The rubber on the outsole is made by Continental, which is no wonder why the grip is so durable. There is a reason continental are one of the leading tyre manufactures, GRIP! So it was clear why adidas joined forces with Continental to create the rubber for their soles, purely to provide the best grip as possible, a successful relationship in our eyes. With the company spending millions on R&D to help some of the fastest cars on the planet perform at their best  you can be sure some of that technology will filter down to the outsoles they manufacture for adidas.

Midsole

Unlike most road models by Adidas the Boost Foam technology doesn’t run across the whole length of the shoe, it is only added to the heel portion and a small section of the forefoot on the Response Trail Boost. This is done to provide stability over rocky, loose terrain while still providing the shoe with sufficient responsiveness. The Response Trail Boost has a broad toe-box and allows your toes to splay, giving you added stability. The Boost technology is a technology unique to Adidas and is a cushioning that is designed not to lose any of it’s density over time. It is a technology that has a higher energy return than any other type of EVA cushioning, according to Adidas.

We definitely found that the Boost technology was noticeably soft and allowed the sole to mould around rocks, in combination with the Continental outsole, this gave the shoe plenty of traction. The stack height of the Response Trail Boost is at 31.6mm at the heel and has a 10mm heel to toe drop. The shoe provides great cushioning for longer training and racing mileage.

Upper

This is where the shoe gets interesting, with its ‘bootie’ like exterior and high tongue, the Response Trail Boost will definitely be a conversation starter. To secure the shoe to your foot, Adidas have added a seatbelt-like webbing to the shoe, yet another unique characteristic. An issue we found with this unique upper is the overlapping panels on the inside of the shoe, while really comfortable, if dirt gets in there while you’re running in sandy or muddy conditions it can become a nuisance. The laces on the upper are textured to prevent them from coming undone easily, a great feature. The top part of the upper is made of neoprene, which is really comfortable and means one can run barefoot in them without the risk of blisters, if you’re into running without socks, that is. The mesh on the toe-box is very breathable and keeps your feet cool, both in looks and temperature. The design of the Upper does really well to give you a snug complete fit around the foot. There is very little slippage inside the shoe as the heel cup and front section work very well together.

Overall, the Response Boost Trail are great shoes for big mileage and gnarly conditions. This is just the beginning of what Adidas has to offer and we foresee some great things from them. Coming in at around R1600 you get way more than you pay for with these shoes. If you’re looking for a stable shoe that looks great, performs well and will be a huge talking point at any run with friends, then this is the shoe for you. Your wallet will thank you too. It’s safe to say that Adidas are going to be huge contenders in the trail scene internationally in the near future, it is evident that Adidas live by what they say,

“Nothing is impossible.”

ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5

A review of the ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5 Trail Shoe

The People’s Champ. A title many strive for but few ever receive. The People’s Champ is someone who always remembers their roots, they always remember those who helped them get to the pinnacle of their sport. The People’s Champ gives back to their people. Whether it is family, friends or a complete stranger the People’s Champ remembers their humble beginnings and helps out wherever they can. Take for example Manny Pacquiao, he came from the slums of the Philippines to the pinnacle of professional boxing. Instead of hiding behind his mansions and fancy cars he remembers where he comes from, he proved this when he built over 1000 homes for poor Phillipinos in his home town. That is a true People’s Champion.

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The more we are running in the latest edition of the ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack the more we are realising that this shoe is The People’s Champion, of the running shoe industry. A shoe that has come from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of its sport. All throughout its ascent up the popularity polls it has remembered its fans, improved what needed to be improved but essentially staying consistent. Consistently brilliant. The ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5 is The People’s Champ. There is no doubt about it. Go to any trail event and at least half of the shoes you see will be ASICS. Why is this? Why is one brand so popular? We believe it is because the brand, ASICS, is not afraid to keep giving back to its fans. If you compare how much the average pair of ASICS retails for compared to its competitors you will see what we mean. The Gel-Fuji Attack 5 is available for R1599 at RUN Specialist Store, that is atleast R400 – R600 cheaper than the competitors we would stack this shoe up against. We haven’t called this shoe ‘The People’s Champion’ on price and popularity alone, and we don’t believe it is only popular amongst consumers because of its price. To be the Champ you have to be able to go toe-to-toe with the best. Let’s see how The People’s Champ stacks up against the rest.

ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5

Outsole

ASICS seem to be one of the only brands who have figured out that multi-directional lugs on the forefoot (and not only on the heel) is a massive advantage on the descents. Not every runner brakes with their heel on a steep descent. Having some lugs facing the other way on the descent gives the shoe a lot more stability than we initially thought it would. Especially landing on rocky surfaces while running downhill, the added grip did wonders for our confidence. The outsole is built for speed, there is no doubt about it. The lugs are built for ‘full ground contact’ meaning the whole outsole is designed so that you have the maximum amount of outsole in contact with as much ground as possible in every stride. This makes the shoe stable on loose rocky terrain, muddy terrain, hard pack and even tar. Granted the lugs aren’t aggressive enough to be an out and out mud slinging machine but it will still keep you upright in the wet stuff. The shoe handled incredibly well for us across various terrain. One of the BBTR testers used the shoe at a recent 3 Day Stage Race, the Cell C AfricanX. There was rain on Day 1, intense heat on Day 2 and more rain on Day 3. On each stage the shoe performed excellently.

Day 2 was a rocky and technical 34km route with around 1100m elevation. The added Rock Protection Plate gave enough protection from sharper rocks popping through the midsole. ASICS have gone with their High Abrasion Rubber in the outsole which we have found to be very durable. Doing a fair bit of running on tar and hard cement sections on the trails has not excessively worn down the shoes. Although these high abrasion materials in the industry are good for durability we sometimes find this negatively affects the grip of the shoe. Thankfully this has not been the case in the Gel-Fuji Attack 5. The rubber compound is hard but still has decent grip. It won’t grip like a Speedcross or something with a softer compound so if total grip is what you are looking for, you might look for something softer. If durability with enough grip to feel confident on the technical stuff is what you are after this shoe is right up there with the best.

Midsole

The midsole is built around a neutral platform and is split up into two sections, in the forefoot is a molded and contoured compound which does well to keep the shoe stable. It does this by preventing excessive ‘side-ways’ flexing of the shoe which keeps the ankle and the foot straight. This added stability is great on technical terrain but if you prefer a flexible and loose midsole you might find the shoe a little stiff. It is always a fine line between flexibility and stability on the trail but seeing that many first-time trail runners will head out in the Attack models they have done well to ensure the shoe remains stable. As mentioned earlier our tester used the Attack 5 at the Cell C AfricanX 3 Day Stage Race which covers 94km of trail running over 3 days. Before the event he had only run 10km in the shoe so going into the event we were all very interested to see how the shoe treated him after so short a run-in. The amount of cushioning was perfect for the high mileage covered over the 3 days. After covering 36km on Day 1, going into a 34km on Day 2 the shoe remained comfortable and didn’t give any blisters. That in itself is a win! The 10mm heel-to-toe drop is a little high for us but it didn’t pose any problems throughout the event.

The second part of the midsole is a Gel Pod in the heel which is one of the reason the shoe is so comfortable, the Gel Pod did wonders in absorbing some of the impact over the 3 days. This is another feature that makes this shoe so good across varying terrain as it is comfortable not only on the trail but also on tar and harder running surfaces. The midsole is also made up of what ASICS calls its SOLYTE material which is lighter than their standard EVA and SpEVA + materials. The shoe isn’t incredibly light so the lighter midsole material does well to keep the weight down. At 294g (Mens UK9) it isn’t the lightest shoe available so it does fall in the ‘All Round Racer’ category for us. A perfect high mileage trainer for logging those high miles leading up to an event.

Upper

We sometimes find a stable midsole is often accompanied by a loose fitting Upper which for us defeats the point of trying to build a stable shoe. This is not the case with the Attack 5. In fact the Upper might be a little too built up as it is not the most breathable shoe we have come across. On Day 2 in some serious heat a more breathable Upper would have been a welcome relief. Having said that the thick Upper does have it’s advantages, most noticeably the shoe stays dry inside. Running through puddles and wet grass socks stay dry which for us is fantastic, especially if you prefer running with dry feet. We thought blisters could be an issue because the thick upper would trap moisture in the shoe but the ‘ComforDRY Sockliner’ works incredibly well to wick sweat off the foot, keeping friction to a minimum. Admittedly it isn’t a shoe we would run through a desert with but training in winter is going to be a whole lot more pleasant with a shoe like this. One of our favourite features of the Upper is the pocket on the tongue that holds the laces securely inside. The possibility of branches pulling your laces loose while running along the trail is no longer a problem as they are tucked away securely.

At almost R600 cheaper than its competitors the Attack 5 is in a league of its own. A R1600 shoe that performs like a R2200 shoe is one of the reasons we have dubbed this shoe, The People’s Champion. The People’s Champion just keeps giving back to its fans. Not only in affordability but also in performance. We have a feeling this shoe will be around for a very, very long time and it most certainly can hold its own against its more expensive competitors. If you are a road runner looking at getting into trail running or even a seasoned trail runner looking for a stable, nuetral high mileage training shoe then the ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5 is for you.

Salomon S-Lab Sonic Review

What comes to mind when you think of Salomon? Is it the enormous mountains that tower over you as you traverse along the winding trails that take you to the summit, where only the brave dare to wander? Is it the numerous records broken by one Kilian Jornet as he summits yet another mountain, in speeds that leave you to believe that anything is possible? Whatever it may be, there is a reason as to why they are seen as the most iconic mountain running brand in the world. When we heard that Salomon, a brand that has dedicated itself to being the best in the business when it comes to mountain wear, was developing a road shoe we couldn’t wait to get our feet into them. Many were asking could the shoe perform well enough against Salomon’s seasoned competitors?

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Those questions the industry was asking were answered when Max King easily qualified for the US Olympic Trials in the shoe. Last year we saw the creation of the S-Lab X series which revolutionised the running game for die hard Salomon fans. The X series however was a hybrid shoe that was designed to handle road and light trails as Salomon launched their City Trail series of products. This year, a new racing stallion was born, the S-Lab sonic. Weighing in at 220grams, the Sonic are a bit heavier than most flat racers from other brands, but don’t be fooled, the comfort and glide of this shoe pack a punch that will leave your opponents in the dust.

This pure road racer is designed for speed. With technology taken from the soles of the X-series and a few improvements in the upper mean that this shoe is a strong contender on the battle field. They even have the laces to prove it. On any other Salomon shoe you will find the signature Quicklace system that a lot of us have grown accustomed to, however, these bad boys are sporting retro, traditional laces for those hardcore road racers. Salomon went with laces on these shoes to give runners more options when it comes to the fit and performance of the shoe.

Aesthetically the S-Lab sonic is definitely a head turner, to say the least. With it’s striking red all round, you won’t be missed as you fly past like “RoadRunner” being chased by the ever hungry coyote. With its 24mm stack height and 8mm heel to toe drop its far from minimalistic but ever closer to animalistic in terms of pure speed!

Salomon S-Lab Sonic

Outsole

The outsole on the Sonic Features Salomon’s highly robust CONTAGRIP rubber and their 3D Profeel Film. A technology that provides solid traction on any surface, wet or dry, while maintaining proper support leaving you with the energy needed to finish strong and fast. The 3D Profile Film is an X-shaped layer in the shoe that gives the shoe its smooth ride. Salomon don’t give much detail on the technology behind the 3D Film, but it is apparent that it is there to provide extra protection to the foot without compromising ground feel and flexibility.

The CONTAGRIP sole is made up of a dual density compound rubber to give you grip throughout the whole sole, wet or dry, smooth or rough. Trust me, you’ll feel like you could walk up the side of a building with the grip on these racing machines. In terms of durability, the grip is phenomenal, without compromising weight or flexibility.

Midsole

I have no doubt that the S-Lab Sonic is made for speed. The midsole is made up of Salomon’s unique EnergyCell+ foam with a layer of a denser EVA foam. A technology that gives the shoe superior absorption on impact without making it feel like you’re running on a goose down pillow. As we mentioned earlier, the stack height of the heel is at 24mm and 16mm at the forefoot (8mm drop), it does make one wonder if it really is a true racer. When one thinks of a traditional flat racer, one thinks of a flat minimal drop shoe. However, don’t be fooled by the 8mm offset, the midsole is designed in such a way that it makes the foot roll forward, giving you the propulsion of an F-16 fighter jet that would rival any other “traditional” flat racer. So hold on tight, and enjoy the ride!

Upper

It is evident in the S-Lab sonic that it is full of technology unique to Salomon. In the upper this is again the case. Inside the upper you will find the ENDOFIT technology. ENDOFIT is a neoprene layer inside the shoe to give your foot a snug feeling, as the shoe fits firmly around your foot. The upper of the S-Lab sonic has been completely upgraded since the birth of the X-series, as Salomon have introduced a single layer mesh to create the shoe. This saves precious weight and makes the shoe incredibly breathable, keeping moisture inside the shoe to an absolute minimum. All this, together with the seamless stitching in the Upper creates a super light-weight racing stallion of a shoe. If you have quite a wide forefoot, the fit may be a bit tight as the toe box and slim design of the shoe is geared more towards a slimmer foot. If you plan on purchasing online we would recommend fitting the shoe in a store first, just to be sure.

It is fair to say that this shoe will be rattling some cages in the road running industry. Not only is it a great racing shoe but with its great durability you can do some pretty heavy mileage in them. Cost wise, they are pricey (Approximately R2699) compared to other shoes in this range. Although you do get your money’s worth if you are looking for one of the best shoes in the business! If it’s colour you’re looking for, Salomon also have a variety of colours to choose from in the Sonic Pro, the ‘road trainer’ version of the Salomon S-lab Sonic. The Sonic Pro have a few differences in their make up, other than colour and are slightly heavier, but stay tuned for a review on them in the near future. For now the S-lab Sonic are only available in Salomon’s iconic racing red and are a unisex shoe. All in all, the Salomon S-Lab Sonic is a sensational shoe, with its fast and comfortable ride. It is clear as day that the once solely Mountain focused brand is making some serious waves in the road running department.

Saucony Kinvara 7 Review

Shortly after May 5, 2009 the whole running industry went completely berzerk! All of a sudden cushioned shoes with a large heel-to-toe offset were blamed for millions of runners injuries. The ‘normal’ running shoe was completely shunned and minimalist shoes were set up as the saviours of the sport of running. Minimalist and Barefoot shoes inspired a more natural form of running which many claimed would end all running injuries forever. Barefoot shoes hit the scene in a big way as runners scrambled to run like the Tarahumara Indians, who ran for days on nothing but tyre treads wrapped around their feet and a mix of Pinole and Chia in a brown bag. Why did the industry go completely berzerk you ask? All because of a book called “Born to Run“.*

Fast forward 4 years and suddenly barefoot shoes were the enemy and ‘maximal’ shoes were now being hailed as the answer. Shoes with insane amounts of cushioning hit the market as the pendulum swung through the masses of injured runners to the other end of the spectrum. The very shoes that were supposed to fix all running injuries were now causing new ones. In defense of the minimalist shoe it was mostly down to runners not transitioning correctly. Running 100km weeks in cushioned shoes does not mean you can go straight into 100km weeks in minimalist shoes. Nevertheless this outbreak of injuries was the catalyst for the ‘maximal’ movement and once again the industry went through a complete revamp.

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Before the industry was swinging from one extreme to the other, in late 2009 Saucony released a shoe that would effectively influence their entire future production catalogue and eventually the whole running shoe industry. The designers at Saucony had the foresight to find the middle ground before anyone else did. A product that could sustain runners over high mileage training weeks yet still encourage a more natural form of running. The legendary Saucony Kinvara.

The name of the shoe was inspired by Boston’s rich Irish heritage. Kinvara is a little town in the Irish country side surrounded by giant castles, steep cliffs and lush green fields. Saucony liked the town so much they even gave the mayor of Kinvara a replica of the shoe which was made of bronze.

Now in its 7th version the Saucony Kinvara has to have one the biggest cult followings of any shoe we know. We know of people who have at least 4 of the 7 versions, some even all 7. This intrigued us greatly – why were a whole bunch of people so besotted over a single shoe? No one knew just how popular the shoe would become when they launched it, even after it won numerous industry awards like the Runner’s World Best Debut award in 2010. Needless to say we were tremendously excited to see what all the fuss was about when we got a pair of the new Kinvara 7.

Saucony Kinvara 7 Review

Outsole

The Saucony Kinvara 7 features Saucony’s TRIFLEX outsole technology. Paired with the new EVERUN technology in specific parts of the midsole, the shoe is incredibly stable for a lightweight neutral trainer. With the lateral flex grooves along the base of the shoe the outsole design disperses pressure well throughout the whole shoe. Every runner who is training for a marathon has experienced that ‘hot foot’ feeling under their forefoot during long training runs. The TRIFLEX design does it’s best to disperse that friction throughout the midsole preventing that ‘hot’ feeling over certain parts of the foot. As far as we can tell in training, Saucony have nailed it. The base of the shoe is also incredibly wide as the midsole and outsole flair out from the upper to give maximum ground contact. Admittedly this has been quite distracting for us. The Kinvara 7 does lack that sleek racing shoe feel but then again this shoe is meant for logging high mileage in training and not necessarily for out and out racing.

That’s what the Saucony TYPE A6 is for.

The Kinvara is no slouch though, weighing in at 218g it will rival most racing flats in the weight department. The one advantage of the wide toe box is it allows your toes to open up inside the shoe, another great hand-off from the minimalist movement.

TRIFLEX outsole of the Ladies and Men’s Kinvara 7

Midsole

Probably the most exciting upgrade of the Saucony Kinvara 7 from the other derivatives is the use of Saucony’s new Midsole Technology, EVERUN. The previous models featured Saucony’s legendary POWERGRID which was excellent at dispersing the force generated while running throughout the whole midsole. This lessened the impact on the body greatly. So how is EVERUN different?

Saucony EVERUN

EVERUN is basically “continuous cushioning”, never failing, and always returning to its original shape. 83% Energy return. 3 x more durable than standard EVA. Bold claims but they seem to have the science to back it up (See video below for more info). We have only had the shoe for a couple of weeks so we can’t comment on the ‘never failing’ part but we can definitely comment positively on the comfort, energy return and response of the cushioning. We are noticing a significant difference between the feedback of POWERGRID based models compared to the EVERUN in the Kinvara 7. EVERUN, for us, feels to be by far the more comfortable material. Plush but not spongey. Just enough ‘bounce’ in your step to feed energy back into your stride. Rigid enough so it doesn’t give the feeling that you are running on marshmallows. We won’t be surprised to see EVERUN starting to feature in plenty more of Saucony’s models as it filters through the ranges. The new Peregrine 6 trail shoe has EVERUN in the heel which is probably the best news we have heard all year. We found the Saucony Peregrine 5 to have a distance limit of about 30km’s. With EVERUN the Peregrine 6 will comfortably get up to Ultra Trail distances like 100km and 100 miler events.

One of the reasons the Kinvara models have been so popular in the ‘natural’ running community is Saucony’s commitment to keeping the shoe at a 4mm heel-to-toe offset. The Kinvara was one of the very first ‘natural’ running shoes ever made and it remains at the pinnacle of the category. The best thing the minimalist movement did to the running shoe industry was to bring down those monster heel-to-toe offsets. Gone are the days of 17 and 14mm offsets with most brands settling on around 8-10mm. It is the offset and not the amount of cushioning that inspire a more natural form. The Heel Stack Height sits at 22mm and the Toe Stack Height 18mm giving an offset of 4mm, as we mentioned earlier. This keeps the minimalist feeling by ensuring the bodies centre of gravity remains closer to the ground, while providing enough comfort to sustain high mileage in training.

Upper

Saucony have a very exciting Racing department which focuses on producing shoes that perform in the most competitive of situations. Thankfully for us ‘slower’ runners some of the technology filters down through the rest of the ranges. One of those is Saucony’s FlexFilm Upper. Most running shoes have to have support built into the inside of the shoe to increase durability, this can be a problem as the seams where each layer is joined together can cause friction and friction causes blisters. Saucony developed the FlexFilm as an external exoskeletal support allowing for less support needed inside the shoe. FlexFilm is hot melded to the shoe instead of being stitched giving the runner a nearly seamless interior. Think of the suit that Human Torch wears in the Fantastic Four. Made to withstand his “Flame On” fun while protecting and supporting him from the elements. FlexFilm does exactly that, plenty support and less friction. Plus it is oh so pretty to look at.

Another great feature of the Kinvara 7 Upper is a support band that is built into the lace system. It is basically a panel that is stitched into the base of the midsole, is attached to the tongue of the shoe and the laces are fed through the top. We found this made the shoe incredibly stable and the support it gives over the arch of the foot is fantastic.

Support to the max!

In 2010 the original Kinvara effectively revolutionised the running shoe industry. After testing the new Kinvara 7 we are very confident that the Kinvara 7 is poised to do the same in 2016. With the new EVERUN technology the Kinvara 7 is set to take Energy Return and Durability to a whole new level. Watch out world, this shoe is coming out of the gates like a Bare Knuckle Boxing Champion with all of the luck of the Irish.

Something things are best enjoyed when shared #BeASeeker

*slight disclaimer: We are not for or against any specific type of running or running shoe, in fact Born to Run is one of our favourite books. We are more fans of moderation and what works for each individual runner, than the extremes. Minimalist running might work for Runner A but not necessarily Runner B. Find what works for you. As Kinetic Revolution says, “Form before Footwear.”

Puma FAAS 300 v2 TR Review

Let me ask you a question? Why is it that you think we as runners read these types of reviews? Is it for insight, or is maybe that we don’t always trust the marketing “schpeals” that come with the shoe? It could even just be for pure entertainment, for example I thoroughly enjoy watching the Ginger Runner reviews for a good laugh. Mostly though I think it is because we would like to know how the product handles in the real world on real trails etc. It’s easy to read a bunch of complicated high tech and fancy sounding words but until you actually run in the shoe one has no idea how it is going to play out.

It is because of this fact that I believe Trail and Mountain Running as a sport is really starting to hit a sweet spot at the moment. 5 years ago we were very limited in terms of shoe options, as well as kit and accessories options but as the sport has grown and as more and more events are filling up the calender companies are really putting their R&D budgets to work to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. (Sometimes they go a little too far ahead like these particular what-ya-ma-call-its??? but hey let’s not blame them for wanting to push the envelope). This also means that existing models are being revamped often, as technology improves and companies receive constructive feedback from their pro athletes and customers. What this means for us as trail runners is that we are no longer scraping the bottom of the barrel to find good quality products to feed our hunger for the dirt. Companies like Puma that were solely a lifestyle, road, track and field brand have started developing competitive ‘trail-specific’ shoes that are really going to shake a few tree’s once word gets out how good they actually are.

:)

Which brings me back to this review, the cool cats at Puma South Africa very generously sent me a pair of the FAAS 300 v2 TR in the recently launched ‘NightCat Camo’ edition and straight out the box these shoes were made to impress. (For our review on the ladies FAAS 300 TR version 1 click here.) Looks wise they are stunning, as you can see from the images they really are a very photogenic shoe with the “360 degrees of camo-inspired reflectivity which makes you visible in the dark” (hence the name ‘NightCat’). Let’s face it, running is way better when your kit looks cool whether it’s in the day time or at night

The outsole features a high abrasion resistant rubber in high wear areas which gives the outsole added durability, all that means is that they have put a material that lasts longer on the parts of the shoe that usually wears down first. Trail shoes take a pounding on sharp rocks, loose gravel, running through mud so added durability is always a plus in my book. This is also one of the key features that makes this shoe a great trail to tar shoe, not all of us live in the Alps or at the Western States trail head so some tar running is usually needed to get to the trail. These shoes are great for that, one of my favourite features of this shoe is that they are just as comfortable on the road as they are on the trail.

The multi-directional lugs, which are found in most trail shoes worth looking at, provide that added stability and grip on the steeper descents that we trail runners appreciate when things get a little hairy. I will be honest, when I saw the outsole I thought to myself that Puma might have made a decent road shoe with some off road capabilities but looks can be deceiving and I was sheepishly surprised after taking the shoe onto the trail and finding out that the grip was magic. The shoe holds it’s own out on trail and they did not shy away from the technical rocky sections. The rock grip of the shoe is decent, I experienced very little slippage jumping between the larger rocks. It usually takes me a few runs before I can ‘trust’ the capabilities of a shoe to really open up the taps but after only a few km’s into the first run I felt like I had been running in the shoe for months. For me that is one of the best thing’s Puma has going for this shoe. Have you ever met someone for the first time and after a coffee and a good chat you feel like you have been friends for years, that’s what it was like for me and the FAAS 300 v2 TR.

The midsole, as with all the other FAAS models, Puma has gone with their FAAS Foam which is a lightweight one-piece blend of foam and rubber and it really is light and it really is comfortable, oh and it really is fast! This shoe is light, in fact they are just over 230g for a pair of size 8’s which by our standards is very pleasantly light. Again the comfort of the midsole and the lighter weight make it a great tar to trail shoe. Not everyone has the finances to buy a pair of shoes for every kind of terrain so if you are looking for a shoe that isn’t a “jack of all trade’s and master of non” but actually performs when you need it to this is definitely one of the best shoes out there. The FAAS Foam takes the impact of the tar as well as protecting the foot from sharp rocks on the trail. There is no rock plate but I found that it really isn’t necessary as the midsole provides adequate protection, this also keeps the shoe very flexible and allows for a fast roll off on the toe, as you can see from the image below.

The Upper of the shoe has been designed really well, it features minimal ‘no-sew’ overlays which provide great support to the foot. On the trail the more support you get the better. The ‘no-sew’ overlays also mean less abrasion on the foot inside the shoe, this helps to prevent blisters very well. The shoe breathes and displaces water incredibly well, having water sloshing around in the shoe after running through a river or a stream is not fun at all, thanks to what Puma calls it’s “Air Mesh Upper” water is able to escape fairly quickly and your foot can breathe better on those hot summer days. One of the fun features that I have begun to appreciate is a small ‘pocket’ at the top of the tongue that you can fold the laces into, I hate having laces flapping around while I run so this was a great feature, plus it keeps the shoe looking super fast and sleek which my OCD enjoys thoroughly.

The only issue I have with the shoe is the narrow toe box, although in the shoe’s defense I do have freakishly wide feet so for a normal size foot they would more than likely be fine but I personally did find the toe box quite narrow. As you can see from the image below it could actually be the sole itself which is a bit too narrow for my feet (see how my foot stretches out over the sole in the load phase). Next time I will go for 1 size up (like I had to do with the New Balance Fresh Foam) and see if that makes a difference. If you, like me, have a more wider foot try fitting a half size or full size bigger than you would normally go for.

I do believe Puma has made a massive effort to improve a number of key areas of the shoe, some areas I would have liked to see an improvement were left out (specifically wider toe box) but the version 2.0 is monumentally better than the version 1.0 – in fact it is probably the best improvement I have ever experienced between different models of a shoe on all the brands of shoes I have run in. The key is that they made lots of small adjustments that most people might miss and say ah it looks just like version 1. Trust me, it is not! Those little adjustments and improvements add up to one great shoe. When those pesky software updates come out for my iPhone I don’t always install them, some of them are lame and change my phone so much I don’t even recognise it. This, though, is definitely one of those “software updates” you want to do. #ForeverFaster

Irony: Your Training May Not Be Helping You Reach Your Goals – Try Polarised Training

What is the purpose of training?

Is it for fun?  Is it to test yourself? Is it to cause adaptations that make you better?  Something else altogether?

I think all of these things are potentially valid, but in my opinion what training actually involves is a person attempting to cause an adaptation (or set of adaptations) to occur in order to become better able to achieve specific goals.  A focus on fun and tests doesn’t necessarily achieve this, and as as tempting as they may be I don’t think this is what training is for. But, ultimately, it does depend on what your goals are; and please note that I didn’t say to completely exclude these.

So what if your goal is to become a better runner?

If you want to win races, and to get fast over certain distances, always training for fun or treating every training session as a test is quite simply a mistake; this would be a case where you either need to change your training or re-evaluate your goals.

If the above-mentioned “get faster over certain distances” is your goal, then specific adaptations that allow the human body to do this are what we want to result from our training.

I think one of the most important adaptations to seek as an endurance athlete that would aid this goal would be mitochondrial biogenesis, which can be mediated by a protein called PGC-1α  – a key regulator of energy metabolism.  Our mitochondria are the part of our cells that generate most of the energy, so it should make sense that we want lots of mitochondria that function well in order to be a good endurance athlete. Increasing PGC-1α, then, would be a goal that one should probably have as an endurance athlete, and so training in a way that best does this might be a good idea!

One of the things that I’ve recently learned exhibits control over PGC-1α in skeletal muscle, is testosterone.

In this study, wherein some rats were fed exogenous testosterone, there were significant increases in their skeletal muscle PGC-1α.  The level of increase here would likely only be seen if one were supplementing with exogenous testosterone, since the rats doing so had ~12-fold increase in serum testosterone vs. the control; but this at least demonstrates a potential link between testosterone levels and PGC-1α (and so mitochondrial biogenesis) in skeletal muscle.

PGC-1α itself also increases angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) and fat oxidation — so it does more than simply increase mitochondria.  Both of these factors would also be helpful for improving performance.

The fact that PGC-1α is affected by testosterone should make us think twice about whether we want to engage in training that has a robust and prolonged stress response involved with it, which may negatively impact testosterone.  This goes back to my original point of matching our training up with our goals.

So perhaps simply running as much as possible as fast as possible for as long as possible might not be the best way to train.  We can negatively affect our testosterone production by waking up early to run (ie sleeping less), running too much or, more simply put, experiencing chronic stress.  In doing these things we are potentially stopping one of the adaptations we want to be happening in the first place as a result of our training.

So if we want to actually benefit from our training and propel ourselves toward our goals, how should we go about doing so?

I believe the method that makes the most sense is to reduce or remove the junk middle-ground training and train either at a high- or low-intensity.

High volume training, at a low intensity which can be sustained for long periods of time has lots of benefits, one of which is increasing mitochondrial biogenesis.

High intensity training induces metabolic stress, and also increases mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK which is an enzyme that becomes more active when there is low energy levels within the cell, and subsequently activates PGC-1α. This happens especially so when in a glycogen-depleted state.  This especially makes sense when we think of metabolic stress as a state wherein we don’t have enough energy as we need for whatever we are doing, and high intensity exercise is the “whatever we are doing” and the lack of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is the “don’t have enough energy.”

Middle ground training is not as intense as high-intensity training (because high-intensity is done at a level beyond which is sustainable for time), and not as long-duration as low intensity high volume training, so although it will still obviously have some of the effects mentioned above, it is not going to give you the biggest return on investment.  As fun as a tempo run may be, it should have a specific place in training in relation to your goals (race) and should probably not make up a large part of training.

Polarised Training

This is a training model that I have mentioned before referred to as polarised training, which was looked at in this paper where they tested a group of well-trained athletes who were randomised into groups of either high intensity interval training (HIIT), high-volume low-intensity training (HVT), lactate threshold (THR) or polarised (POL).  Here is a description of the intervention:

The HVT included three blocks each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high-volume training followed by 1 week of recovery. The two high volume weeks each included six training sessions with three 90 min LOW sessions, two 150–240 min LOW sessions (according to the training mode: running, cycling, or roller skiing) and one 60 min LT session using different types of interval training (e.g., 5 × 7 min with 2 min recovery, 3 × 15 min with 3 min recovery). The recovery week included three training sessions with two 90 min LOW sessions and one 150–180 min LOW session.

The THR included three blocks, each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high volume and intensity training followed by 1 week of recovery. The two high volume and intensity weeks each included six training sessions with two 60 min interval sessions at the LT (5 × 6 min and 2 min recovery in the first block, 6 × 7 min in the second block and 6 × 8 min in the last block), one 90 min LT session with longer intervals (3 × 15 min with 3 min active recovery in the first block and 3 × 20 min for the remaining two blocks), one 75 min session with varying changes in intensity (“fartlek”) (intensities resulting in a blood lactate of 1.5–5 mmol·L−1) and two 90 min LOW sessions. The recovery week included one 60 min LOW session and two 60 min LT interval sessions (5 × 6 min with 2 min of active recovery).

The HIIT included two interval blocks of 16 days with one adaptation week prior to and one recovery week after each block. The adaptation week included two 60 min HIIT sessions, three 90 min LOW sessions, one 120 min LOW session and 1 day of recovery. The condensed 16 day interval block included 12 HIIT sessions within 15 days, integrating four blocks of three HIIT sessions for three consecutive days followed by 1 day of recovery. The recovery week contained four LOW sessions of 90 min and 3 days without any training. All of the HIIT sessions included a 20 min warm-up at 75% of HRpeak, 4 × 4 min at 90–95% of HRpeak with 3 min active recovery and a 15 min cool-down at 75% HRpeak based on the protocol proposed earlier. The LOW sessions lasted 90–150 min depending on the training mode (running vs. cycling) at an intensity resulting blood lactate of <2 mmol·L−1.

The POL included three blocks, each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high volume and intensity training followed by 1 week of recovery. The high volume and intensity week included six sessions with two 60 min HIIT sessions, two 150–240 min long duration LOW sessions (duration according to training mode: cycling, running or roller skiing), which included six to eight maximal sprints of 5 s separated by at least 20 min, and two 90 min LOW sessions. The recovery week included one 60 min HIIT session, one 120–180 min LOW session and one 90 min LOW session.

The study was meant to assess specific “key endurance parameters” over 9 weeks.  These parameters included submaximal and peak VO2 (VO2submax and VO2peak) and HR (HRsubmax and HRpeak), as well as time to exhaustion (TTE) and velocity/power.  At the end of the 9 week period, it seemed that polarised training demonstrated “the greatest increase in VO2peak , time to exhaustion (during a specific protocol) and peak velocity/power.”

It would seem that a training model that includes the best of both worlds (and eliminates what interferes) makes sense both intuitively and in light of evidence.  Polarised training  allows one to use both high intensity training and high volume training (mentioned above to both induce mitochondrial biogenesis through different mechanisms) separately and effectively without running the risk of overtraining.  I would, however, plan my own training quite a bit differently than was done in the above paper, which will likely be discussed in the future.

Train smart.

About the Author:

James is an amateur-adventurer and a curious thinker that spends much of his time outdoors playing amongst and exploring nature.

According to James he is a “pretty average person” (note however that he doesn’t claim to be normal!).  He feels there’s nothing special that he possess that allows him to enjoy any of the things he does, or to live the way that he decide to.  That mean’s that pretty much anybody is capable of doing whatever he does here, or at least has the capacity to develop an ability to do such things.

James is attempting to explore the full capacity of being a human — to enjoy life to the fullest extent that he know’s how.

Becoming a better human is something he deems to be important, and thankfully for us he will share anything he can come up with that may help!