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!

PUMA Faas 300 Women’s Trail Shoe Review

If I think of female super hero’s Cat Woman usually comes to mind, for me she has always been one of the best and most fiercest of all the female super hero’s. Being one of DC Comic’s master’s of villainy she would always prove to be a fierce rival and a force to be reckoned with. Her Cat-like agility and stealthy thievery enables her to thwart even the strongest and toughest of opponents. If Cat Woman had a hobby, it would be trail running, and she would be pretty darn amazing at it with her fierce agility and power.

Now unfortunately for the ladies out there, you can’t all be Cat Woman but fear not because the team at PUMA have given you the next best thing, the PUMA Faas 300 Trail Shoe. Designed specifically for ladies who crave those cat like reflexes and agility that Cat Woman seems to enjoy so much!

Sole of the PUMA Faas 300

Right out of the box it is clear that this shoe means business. The sole of the PUMA Faas 300 is littered with claw like lugs just waiting to tear at the dirt and rocks as you whisk along the single track, just like Cat Woman would leap and skip between buildings with her loot on a moonless night in Gotham. Running on wet, muddy or loose gravel will give you great confidence in the grip of the shoe, our tester even said, “They are super grippy, I could even probably walk up an acute angled wall if all the odds were in my favour.” Once you hit the hard pack don’t think yourself crazy to stop and check if the lugs (read claws) have retracted into the sole as the spacing between the lugs (read claws) and the comfort of the Faas Foam gives you a wonderfully smooth and flat ride on the harder stuff.

Staying with the sole lets look at the midsole, PUMA have used their Faas Foam throughout the midsole which gives the shoe a great ride and is very comfortable (according to our lady tester, Lona Trew-Browne). They say a cat always lands on her feet and with this mid and outer sole any lady is going to be happy to land on her feet on a rugged and technical trail. One of my favourite aspects of the PUMA Faas 300 is how PUMA have managed to give the shoe a decent and comfortable amount of cushioning while still keeping it light, agile and in a ‘minimal-shoe’ bracket. The one thing that it is missing though(which has been added to the V2 model) is a rock-plate which along with the Faas Foam keeps the shoe nicely flexible but does slightly lack in the under-foot protection department.

Heel to toe drop on the PUMA Faas 300 will bring you out at 8.0mm with Heel Height of 26.4mm and a Forefoot Height of 18.4mm. These measurements with the pliability of the Faas Foam gives you a very lightweight shoe weighing in at fierce 8oz. (or 225g).

The PUMA Faas 300 Upper

The Upper has not let down in the comfort and agility department either with a padded tongue as well as a cushioned heel bridge. PUMA have gone with an upper that is reinforced with their Translucent Webcage Technology and has a dual density mesh throughout which is very effective in keeping dust and dirt out of the shoe.

The Look

One benefit of buying shoes that are made by one of the largest Lifestyle and Sport Shoe manufacturer’s in the world is you are sure to get some great colour options. This particular pair came in a flaming purple which will definitely turn a few heads, yet it is dark enough to hide the dirt a bit longer than a lighter colour.

So there you have it ladies, there can be only one Cat Woman but thanks to the team at PUMA everyone can run like her.

Altra Running ONE 2.5 Road Shoe

There is a lot one can do with 12 hours. You could perform a living donor liver transplant surgery, slow cook a Pork Belly stew to mouth watering perfection, or even fly from Cape Town to Paris to watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic score a wonder goal in the Champions League. All amazing things but up until a few weeks ago very few people thought you could run over 100 miles in that same time. Yet that is exactly what Zach Bitter did at the Desert Solstice 24 Hour race in the US on 19 December, setting a new world record for 12 hours with a distance of 101.66 miles. Simply Sensational. That’s averaging a mile every 7 minutes and the shoes he did it in? You guessed it… the Altra Running ONE 2.5 road shoe.

Altra Running is making some serious waves in the running industry with their lightweight, no frills, no fuss running shoes. Simple yet wildly brilliant. Not only are Altra’s trail and road shoes setting records and winning awards all over the world but the company as a whole is making massive leaps in the running industry. As of 2016 Altra Running will be the exclusive foot-wear sponsor of the infamous Western States Endurance Run. This is a remarkable achievement, especially for such a young company that has only been manufacturing shoes for a few years now. Their shoes are good, really good and the running community is starting to recognise that fact.

Flying High with #ZeroLimits

A few months back we reviewed the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoe and found it to be a game changer, lacking a few good qualities but as a whole… A solid game changer. In this review we will be looking to see if the ONE 2.5 will have the same effect on the road running shoe industry.

Outsole


In terms of what you can see, the outsole is pretty simple. Just your standard rubber outsole to give you the grip you need. In terms of what you can’t see, i.e. the technology behind the outsole there is plenty going on. Instead of just giving you a piece of rubber to grip the surface as you run Altra have developed what they call their ‘Foot Pod Technology” which works incredibly well with the midsole and the runners foot to give the shoe flexion exactly where your foot needs it. This is the first shoe we have come across where the outsole has been developed so closely with the midsole in mind that it is almost impossible to separate the two. The patterns in both fit together very well to map the bones and tendons of the runners foot, this gives the sensation that you aren’t even running in shoes at all.

A shoe designed with the runners foot in mind

Midsole

There is no doubt about it, this shoe is built for speed! A lot of speed and according to Altra, “without sacrificing the comfort needed to maintain that speed through the finish line”. A 23mm stack height ensures there is optimum comfort, giving you enough cushioning to hit distances like Zach Bitter did in his 12hour record. The midsole features Altra Runnings signature Zero Drop foot-bed meaning the heel and toe’s are flat on the foot bed, this encourages are more natural forefoot running form. This does make it a shoe for a specific type of runner so if you haven’t run in a Zero Drop shoe before and are looking to make the switch it is a process that should be taken carefully to avoid injury.

Altra will be the official shoe sponsor at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run

Running in Zero Drop shoes has many benefits. One of the disadvantages we have found in the past is that a zero drop shoe can feel a bit “sluggish” because you don’t have the elevated heel-to-toe drop. Shoes with a 4mm or 8mm drop give you some momentum through the transition phase as your foot strikes the ground, zero drop shoes encourage a forefoot strike which can make them feel sluggish at first. We found the ONE 2.5 transitioned brilliantly into the next phase after the foot hit the tar, this is because of Altra’s A-Bound Technology which according to Altra “reduces ground impact and adds a spring to each step.” We found this to be true and worked incredibly well with the InnerFlex grooves built into the midsole, completely removing that sluggish feeling out of the foot transition phase.

Zero Drop. Zero Limits.

Upper

After running quite extensively in the ONE 2.5 we are pretty convinced that the ONE 2.5 is Altra’s most comfortable shoe they have produced to date. The no stitch overlays and quick dry Air-Mesh make for a very comfortable, sock-like feel inside the shoe. Very rarely are light weight racing shoes this comfortable, because of this fact it is a great shoe across all distances from 10km to 100miles. The ONE 2.5 features Altra’s signature Foot-Shape Toe Box which if used with a sock like Injinji gives you a massive amount of room inside the shoe for your little piggies to play all the way to the market. Your toes can naturally spread out and relax more instead of being cramped and unable to move inside the shoe. This coupled with an effective forefoot strike will increase your stability as you run.

Breaking Limits. Setting Records.

The Upper has been completely redesigned from the previous version and it is very noticeable. The Upper dries faster and wicks sweat more effectively keeping friction in the shoe to a minimum. We find this is a major factor in the shoes comfort. The Upper also fits better over the arch and top of the foot. The wider toe box gives your forefoot lots of room while the rest of the upper keeps your foot from moving too much in the shoe.


All in all we found the Altra ONE 2.5 to be absolutely fantastic! Lightweight, comfortable, and very fast. The ONE 2.5 is a solid option if you have been running in Zero Drop shoes on the trail. If it is good for Zach Bitter we are pretty sure it is good for us!

The Altra ONE 2.5 is available from the RUN Specialist Store in Cape Town. 7 – 11 Bree Street. The shoe retails for around R1599.00

Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 Review

“A lone peak of high point is a natural focal point in the landscape, something by which both travelers and local orient themselves. In the continuum of landscape, mountains are discontinuity — culminating in high points, natural barriers, unearthly earth.”

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

Scan the horizon, any horizon, and the silhouettes of distant peaks against the backdrop of a clear blue sky will almost always churn up feelings of curiosity, adventure and freedom. Well, that is at least the case with us. A lone peak stands out above an otherwise monotonous horizon. It is separated from the rest of the earth, “unearthly earth” as Rebecca Solnit put it. It demands respect. It demands to be feared. It challenges the most hardened of adventurers to come conquer it. Characteristics we have found the new Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 to embody in every way over the last 2 months of rigorous testing.

Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5

We reviewed the previous version Altra Running Superior 2 a while back and found the shoe to be fantastic, there were some issues though that we had with the shoe and we are happy to say that Altra Running have addressed these issues very well. The shoe feels a lot more solid and stable under foot. It is no wonder the Lone Peak 2.5 is the choice of leading Ultra Marathon Runners, some of those runners include Ian Sharman (Leadville 100, 2015 winner), Josh Arthur (US SkyRunning series, 2015 winner) and Jeff Browning (Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji, 2015 third place).

Before we get into the review let’s look at what is new compared to the Lone Peak 2.0

  • Redesigned Upper
  • Improved Lacing System
  • Improved Upper Durability
  • Slightly Firmer Midsole

Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5

Outsole

This shoe really stands out from others in the design of the outsole. The centre lugs are in the shape of a foot and look more like Bear Claws to us than feet. This makes the shoe feel incredibly stable as the points of the outsole that make contact with the trail underneath your feet are digging into the dirt like claws. The multi-directional lugs ensure you have grip whatever the gradient, whether you are going up or down the Outsole gives you a lot of confidence.  The Outsole is made up of what Altra call their “Sticky-Rubber TrailClaw”, aptly named as the shoe sticks in dry or wet conditions. One of the issues we found with the Superior 2 was that the grip in wet rocky conditions was almost non-existent. Altra has definitely sorted that out in the Lone Peak 2.5. The other aspect of the lugs that we enjoyed is that they aren’t too deep, so running on hard pack gives you a smooth feedback. Some trail shoes with very deep lugs can get uncomfortable on the hard stuff as you feel the individual lugs under your feet as you run.

In terms of durability we found the Outsole rubber to hold out well on jagged rocky terrain, we didn’t experience any of the lugs being cut off by sharper rocks. All in all we could not fault the Outsole, a seamless design makes it so much a part of the midsole that it is difficult to separate the two while running.

Midsole

The Midsole of the Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 is where things get exciting for us. A 25mm stack height with Altra’s signature Zero Drop (0mm) heel-to-toe offset is low enough to provide feedback on the technical terrain, yet plush enough to offer some added comfort on the longer runs. One characteristic that puts people off zero drop shoes is the transition from heel to toe while running can feel ‘sluggish’. As your stride adapts to landing on the forefoot your legs work more to continue the momentum through each stride. Picture cutting a pizza with a round pizza cutter and a knife, the knife takes more effort to lift and cut down while the pizza cutter rolls through with ease. Having a larger offset works like the round pizza cutter. A smoother transition from heel to toe. The guys at Altra know this and very cleverly developed what they call ‘A-Bound Technology’ which is built into the top layer of the Midsole. It is merely a built up piece placed under the foot to stimulate that transition while still giving you a zero drop shoe. If you take the insole out and wear the shoe without socks you can clearly feel it under the middle of your foot. The Lone Peak performs and feels like a standard running shoe with an offset but still gives you all the benefits of a shoe that encourages a more natural stride.

One of the great advantages of a more minimal zero drop shoe is that you feel the trail beneath you, it is also one of the big disadvantages as a sharp rock in the arch of your foot is not fun. The Lone Peak 2.5 are somewhere in the middle for us, enough protection through the Rock Gaurd protection plate and the dual layer EVA but still responsive enough to give you feedback as you skip along the trail. Altra Running have stiffened up the midsole of the Lone Peak 2.5 slightly which many runners were requesting, we thought the previous version was perfect in terms of flexibility. We found it now to be a little too stiff but that comes down to personal preference, South Africa trails are far more technical than ones in the States. Having a more flexible sole on the technical terrain can increase stability.

A-Bound Technology built into the Midsole

Upper

The body of the Upper is made up of Altra’s Quick-Dry Trail Mesh. A fantastically breathable material that allows water to easily drain out of the shoe when running on a very wet route, one thing we found though is beach running can result in some sand finding its way through the mesh into the shoe. To be fair it was very minimal, it is a fine line to have an Upper that breathes well and still keeps out the debris that the trail throws at the shoe. Durability on the Upper has been drastically improved which was a welcome improvement. The material feels far more robust than that of the Superior 2 Upper.

As with all Altra running shoes the Lone Peak 2.5 has ample room for your toes to open up inside the shoe. Used in conjunction with Injinji Performace Toe Socks  you will struggle to find a more stable set up for the trail. The seams inside the shoe have been covered which significantly decreases the amount of friction in the shoe. One really nifty feature of the shoe is the Gaiter Trap that comes standard on the shoe, it is a piece of velcro at the back of the shoe which secures your gaiter perfectly. Visually the Lone Peak 2.5 has also been improved in our books, the contrast of the grey and blue in the pair we tested is striking.

The Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 stands out in every way possible for us. Calling your shoe the ‘Lone Peak’ is risky as it can have two meanings. On the one hand it could mean separated, lonely, cast out but it could also mean set apart, unique or great. On the horizon of trail running shoes it really is a lone peak clearly visible from the rest. It clearly is unique, set apart and dare we say even great. They are “unearthly earth”, a discontinuity in the continuum of long distance trail running shoes. They demand respect. They demand to be feared and they challenge the most hardened of adventurers to come conquer with them.

AfricanX Suggested Kit List

2016 Cell C African X presented by ASICS

The 2016 Cell C AfricanX Trail Run presented by ASICS is less than 3 weeks away so we thought we would put together a ‘Suggested Kit List’ together for the event in conjunction with RUN Specialist Store on Bree Street, Cape Town. The race is run over 3 days with competitors running a total distance of around 90km’s over the 3 days. Although the routes are very runnable the cumulative effect of the distances run each day make this a very daunting event. Stillwater Sports puts on an incredibly well-organised event so thankfully there is little you have to worry about with plenty support and well-stocked refreshment stations along the route. Having the right kind of kit can make a massive difference on how much fun you will have on the day. After spending months in training, preparing for the event, the last thing you want is to come up short because of a kit issue.

We are very excited to be bringing you a fun competition with our suggested kit list. The guys at RUN Specialist Store have agreed to offer a 10% discount on the items on this list. Give them a call on (021) 4181051 to find out pricing etc. Not only are they offering a discount on the goods but we will be having a lucky draw prize on Monday 14 March. Everyone who purchases kit from our list at RUN Specialist Store will go into the draw to win 2 Gold Package Entries to the Cape Town 12 ONE RUN on 15th May 2016. Arguably one of Cape Town’s biggest road running events, the route is a flat and very entertaining 12k from Woodbridge Island to Bree Street. More info on the competition and the details of the prize can be found at the end of this post.

BBTR Suggested Kit List for Cell C African X

All of the Gear!

ASICS Mens fuzeX Heather Tee

Clothing is critical on a 3 day stage race, you want light and comfortable clothing that won’t chafe and hold moisture. It is sure to be very warm over the 3 days so a light breathable material that wicks sweat and keeps you dry will be best. ASICS fuzeX Tee is made of a soft lightweight yarn which is incredibly soft to the touch and comfortable, even while wearing a hydration pack. The top is seamless and features ASICS MOTIONDRY technology for superior moisture management. Keeping you dry and keeping friction to a minimum. Paired together with the ASICS 5inch Performance Black Running Shorts and you’ll be looking more superfly than Marty McFLy in the year 2030.

ASICS Fujitrail Ladies Graphic Tee

The Fujitrail Graphic Tee is dedicated to the trail. ASICS designed the top around the contours of the female figure so it fits like a glove, giving you confidence to attack the trail and not worry about your gear. The top also features ASICS MOTIONDRY technology keeping you dry and preventing chafing. Paired with the ladies fuseX Knee Tight and all you will need to worry about over 3 days is conserving your energy to get you to the finish line. An elastic waistband coupled with the same MOTIONDRY technology gives maximum comfort and active moisture-wicking capabilities without affecting range of motion.

ASICS Gel FujiAttack 5 Mens and Ladies

Mens ASCIS Gel FujiAttack 5

The FujiAttack is most people go to shoe when it comes to Neutral ASICS Trail Running shoes. They are lightweight and very comfortable. Durability is fantastic as the outsole is made of a slightly harder compound rubber than some competitors versions. This doesn’t sacrifice grip though as the aggressive lugs offer plenty of grip when the going gets rough. A 10mm heel-to-toe offset also make it a great shoe for longer runs. A built in Rock Plate offers extra protection on sharper rocky terrain. The midsole material is lighter than ASICS standard EVA and SpEVA + resulting in improved comfort and durability. Two things you need plenty of in a trail shoe.

Injinji Performance Toe Socks

These socks have been an industry revolution! You don’t need to be running in Vibram 5 Fingers to be able to wear these socks. We have been running in very little else over the last 2 years as these socks are incredibly comfortable and completely eradicate excessive blister-causing friction in the shoe.  The socks have a built-in arch support to keep the foot stable on the ever-changing terrain of the trail. A protective cushion and double cuff ensure maximum comfort and moisture management. These are an absolute must for for us when it comes to Multi-Day Stage Races.

Injinji Toe Socks

Compressport R2 Calf Sleeves

Compression gear has to be the most debated topic in Trail Running at the moment, one thing is for sure they do help. Whether it is placebo or actual performance benefits the fact is wearing compression gear, especially on longer efforts, aids in recovery. By supporting the muscle they help cause less fine microfibre tears in the muscles from the jolting and impact while running. According to Compressport the R2 Calf Sleeves “accelerate venous return preventing blood from stagnating in calves, ischia and quadriceps therefore making your legs feel ultra light.” We have found the best results in sleeping in compression gear but on a 3-day stage race, out on the trail any advantage is a welcome advantage. The R2 Calf Sleeves are very light-weight and feature Moisture Management technology.

Llama Bar 

Although the route has fantastic support with refreshment stations stocked to the nines with some amazing nutrition and hydration, having some backup in your pack in case the wheels fall off is never a bad idea.

Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest

We reviewed the Camelbak Circuit Hydration Vest a few months back and since then have not been able to run with anything else. It is an incredibly comfortable lightweight vest. The Marathoner is the bigger cousin with a 2lt Reservoir Capacity and 2 Bottle Pouches up front for additional hydration. With multiple compartments to store gear and nutrition for longer runs the Marathoner is a very versatile hydration vest. Xavier Thévenard recently won the 2015 UTMB while wearing one of these vests. For more info click on the Heading.

For what to put inside the vest we love NUUN sugar free Energy tabs. Each tab contains plant based caffeine (green tea extract), Vitamin B, electrolytes and is gluten-free, dairy + soy free. This is by far one of our favourite ways to hydrate.

#nuunlove

So that wraps up our Suggested Kit List. If you are training for AfricanX we hope your training is going well and we will see you out there come 11 March.

Terms and Conditions of Competition and Prize Details:

  • Only stock on the suggested kit list is eligible for an entry.
  • For every different item purchased the customer will receive one entry i.e. purchasing a Llama Bar, Injinji toe socks and Camelbak Marathoner will result in 3 entries. Purchasing 3 Llama Bar’s will result in 1 entry.
  • All items must be bought at RUN Specialist Store. 7 – 11  Bree Street, Cape Town. Discount is available on items not already marked down or on special. Customer will be required to leave their name and contact details on the back of their till slip at the store.
  • Competition runs from 23 February 2016 – 11 March 2016.
  • The prize includes 2 x Gold Package Entries to the Cape Town 12 ONERUN taking place in Cape Town on 15 May 2016. Prize winner will need to ensure their own transport to the event.
  • Extra Social Media love and promotion of the competition will result in bonus entries added to your name.

The prize includes, for two people:

  • FNB Cape Town 12 Buff
  • Timing chip
  • Finisher medal
  • Route entertainment
  • Shuttle service to the start of the race
  • PUMA® Performance Tee
  • Exclusive access to the Gold entrants’ area pre-race (refreshments and tog bag drop included)
  • Exclusive access to the Gold entrants’ area post-race (massages, refreshments, ablution facilities and tog bag collection included)

Saucony Peregrine 5 Review

Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running shoe

Normally I like to start these reviews with a nice little build up, a story of sorts to whet the appetite for what’s to come. Today though I am going to hit out of the gates with some good old fashioned honesty. It might come as a surprise but before receiving these particular Peregrine 5’s I had never run in a pair of Saucony’s. Not in the last 5 years I have been trail running, or the 7 years of triathlon and road running before that, or even all the years of running cross country in school and for the life of me after testing these shoe’s the past month, I cannot figure out why. The main reason I guess has always been that I couldn’t quite get past the fact that a pair of shoe’s can sell for the same amount of money as the shoe’s that the greatest trail, ultra and sky runner that ever lived in the history of anything and everything running uses. A shoe that is arguably the most tested and developed shoe in the history of shoe manufacturing.

The Salomon Sense Ultra 5.

Having your shoes retail at the same price as what many consider to be the best trail running shoe in the world (simply because the best trail runner in the world, Kilian Jornet, runs in them) is like training in the same gym as Manny Pacquiao and occasionally slapping him when he isn’t looking. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be able to back it up if he wants to go toe-to-toe with you! I am not sure whether or not Saucony meant to slap the “big boys” on purpose but let’s see how the Peregrine 5 would stack up in a Title fight.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

The thing that separates boxers like Pacquiao from the rest can be attributed to a number of things but for me it is, without a doubt, attention to detail. Some people call it Marginal Gains. Sky Pro Cycling have proven how successful it can be to focus on improving just 1% over a number of areas instead of trying to get 20% improvements over a few areas, especially with Chris Froome’s absolutely dominating performances. From the moment that I took the Peregrine 5 out the box that is what struck me most, attention to detail. Not just in the functional aspects of the shoe but also in the aesthetic aspects, Saucony have realised that even placebos are marginal gains if they have the desired effect of improving performance.

Pacquiao has spent hours in the gym and in the ring perfecting his boxing skills and fitness, this is Saucony’s Fifth version of the Peregrine. Have they perfected their skills enough to challenge for the title or do they still need more bag work? Let’s see what’s cooking…

Outsole

Grip much?

A trail running shoes grip could be linked to a boxer’s power. Without power you aren’t going to do much damage to your opponent. It is the same in running, without grip in your shoes you aren’t going to do much damage, to the competition or the Strava segments you’re chasing. When it comes to grip the Peregrine 5 are punching way above their weight. For such a light-weight shoe the amount of grip you will have at your disposal is phenomenal, regardless of the terrain. Rocky outcrops, technical single tracks and dusty roads will not be an issue for this shoe. We found the Peregrine 5 to be an out and out racer, if you are looking to log 1000km’s in training for a goal race don’t be surprised if the shoes don’t make it to the start line.

These are built fast and light, perfect for Sky Running. The lugs are flexible, so flexible we thought they would be torn off in the first run. I was happy to finish my first run in the shoes, the Matroosberg Sky Marathon Challenge, on some insanely rugged and technical terrain with all the lugs intact. The multi-directional 5mm deep lugs make for very good grip. Saucony went with their XT-900 rubber for the OutSole in the Peregrine 5 which makes for a very durable and flexible lower layer of the shoe. Having logged around 200km’s in just under 3 weeks across varied terrain I have been very satisfied with how the shoe is lasting. At the current rate of wear we estimate this particular shoe should be good for 650-700km’s which if compared to other shoes we have tested is a lot for a lightweight racing trail shoe.

#FindYourStrong

Midsole

The Midsole is made up completely of Saucony’s PowerGrid foam, I could go into the science of the PowerGrid technology but I am just going to mention my experience of it as I feel it will explain it better. There is only one other shoe that I have experienced the midsole distributing pressure throughout the whole sole so well that you can literally feel it as you run, and it was a road shoe. This is the first trail shoe I have come across where you can literally feel the midsole distributing the force coming from the ground as you run. The Grid technology really does absorb the impact and evenly distributes it throughout the midsole. This also means there is very little ‘foot slippage’ inside the shoe as your feet are centered well by the foam and upper.

The stack height is spot on for a lightweight racer. A height of 21.5mm at the heel and 17.5mm at the forefoot. Giving you a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. Although the shoe might not feel like it rolls out of transition as nicely as a 8mm drop would, it does encourage fore-foot running which will keep you well balanced, especially on the technical stuff.

A Nylon Mesh rockplate has replaced the more rigid hard plates from previous Peregrines, this has been a brilliant improvement to Peregrine 5 for us. The midsole is still incredibly flexible even with the plate, yet it still offers the under-foot protection that most runners don’t want to go without.

All in all we found the midsole to be very responsive, as firm as you would like without sacrificing the much-needed flexibility.

PowerGrid MidSole at it’s best!

Upper

I have a problem, you see I have very flat and wide feet. So finding shoes that fit and give me enough space in the toe box is always a struggle. Thankfully that has not been my struggle with the Peregrine 5. The seamless FlexFilm Upper really fits like a glove, without cramping up my toes. The Tongue is attached to the sides of the Upper which effectively keeps trail debris out of the shoe and the shoe is fully compatible with Trail Gaiters if you really need to keep stuff out. The design and colour schemes of the Upper has also been a great aspect of the shoe for me. I read online that a few people had issues with the heel counter causing blisters but I didn’t experience that. My very first run in the shoe was a 3hour plus Sky Run with no blisters and I haven’t had one yet. Although having said that, this could be because I only run in Injinji

Run Anywhere!

Earlier on I spoke about attention to detail and the Upper is where we see the most attention to detail, even if it is just aesthetic. The top of the tongue features a rad Mountain graphic with the words “Run Anywhere” and the Heel Counter features a reflective Falcon graphic that is lit up at night by car lights etc. Saucony have realised runners enjoy the little things, even if it just looks cool and doesn’t necessarily make you run faster.

Flying High

The Upper breathes incredibly well, almost too well actually. If you plan on running in winter in this shoe you might need some warm socks. This also means though that the shoe drains very quickly if you need to run through water, and helps keep you cool on the hot days.  A solidly rubberised toe cap effectively protects all the little piggy’s as they enjoy the trails and not the market.

Conclusion:

For us Saucony have a legitimate title fight on their hands. If the Peregrine 5 was a young gun picking a fight with Pacquiao, Pac Man would seriously need to pull up his socks and get to work. The Peregrine 5 means business on every single front, there is no messing around with this shoe. I fear this review could come across too “glowing” but it is not our ethos to say lots of nice things about shoes to keep the brands happy so they can send us more stuff to review. If there is something wrong with the shoe we will say it, but honestly we have struggled to find anything wrong with this shoe. They are the real deal, across any terrain. The Peregrine 5 is like a punch-drunk pugilist who eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes to break records and crush the opposition. I might not have convinced you but they sure have convinced me, these shoes are worth every cent and the big boys better pull up their socks if they want to keep their Titles. There is a new challenger for the “Best Trail Shoe in the World” title.

Punchdrunk kid!

PUMA FAAS 500v2 Trail Shoe review

PUMA have come along way since the days of the NightFox and the TrailFox trail shoes, so far in fact that it is almost hard to believe that those shoes and the shoe we are reviewing today come from the same stable. Not to say that the previous models were bad. Rather it is a testament to how technology and science behind manufacturing, state of the art, performance gear has advanced. As trail running popularity is growing in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun) all the major shoe manufacturer’s are keeping their fans happy with gear purpose built for smashing through the toughest of terrains. Some go a more balanced route like the PUMA FAAS 300v2 Trail Shoe which we reviewed a few months back and some go all out manic!

We are happy to report that PUMA have not neglected the most hardcore of the trail running community. Those that shun the idea of having to put time on the road, those of us who are offended by single shot skinny latte’s. Those of us who would rather have a double shot full cream cortado put some extra hairs on our chest. You get balanced and then you get crazy, and that is how we would describe the Faas 500v2 TR… certifiably nuts!! I mean just look at them…

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Now before we get ahead of ourselves we are not saying that PUMA have nailed it and can now sit back, rest on their laurels while the other brands try to catch up. No, not at at all. They have come a long way since the TrailFox released in 2006 but they still have a ways to go, but more on that later. Lets dig into the specs and see what makes this shoe tick before we make any suggestions on improvements.

OutSole:

Right off the bat you can see these shoes mean business. Just look at that grip. If we had to liken these shoes to an animal it would hands down be a Velociraptor. If the unfortunate humans who became dinosaur food in Jurassic Park were wearing these shoes while running through the jungles we think they might have had a bit more screen time. With the claw like talons protruding from the bottom of the outsole there is plenty of grip, and confidence to go with it. We were almost too nervous to run easy in these shoes for fear of them slapping us and telling us to get a move on! As we see in pretty much every PUMA running shoe the Faas 500v2 TR features the brilliant ‘EverGrip’ technology which according to PUMA is ‘Abrasion-resistant’. If by ‘Abrasion-resistant’ they mean that the shoe doesn’t wear very fast then yes, I would say it is very ‘Abrasion-Resistant.’ I was happy to see that the lugs on the outsole did not crack or break off after some pretty long (7 hours plus on one instance at UTCT) and technical runs. Value for money will always be a major factor when purchasing a new pair of shoes and for us these shoes score brilliantly in durability. Think DuraCell Bunny. Multi-Direction lugs give you plenty grip on the up hills, through the technical singletrack and also provide some breaking force on the down hills.

Claw-like outsole.

MidSole:

The Faas 500v2 TR has a slightly more plush ride than the Fass 300v2 TR we mentioned earlier. With a stack height of 22mm at the forefoot and 26mm at the heel and a 4mm footbed there is plenty of cushioning without completely taking away any feedback you might want to get from the trail. A 4mm heel-to-toe drop encourages a midfoot strike which we like a lot. Even though you get some extra cushioning you won’t sacrifice on the weight. The shoes still weight in around the 340g mark. As the name suggests the Faas 500v2 TR features PUMA’s lightweight and versatile Faas foam midsole. The midsole is built to provide a more gradual transition from heel to midfoot by slowing down the rate of pronation. This is done by some ‘release grooves’ in the midsole. These grooves give a little more flex to the midsole by dispersing the force generated from running evenly throughout the midsole. While we found this worked fantastically well on hard pack or more ‘flatter’ surfaces unfortunately it did add a bit of instability on the super technical terrain. We found there was a little too much lateral movement at times causing the ankle to roll slightly to the outside of the shoe. Nothing major, but just enough to be aware of it. In terms of cushioning the midsole felt exactly like a Faas midsole, consistent in that it was comfy and smooth as the Faas foam is.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Upper:

This is where version 2 has received the most upgrades from the first version of the Faas 500 TR. The Upper has been upgraded with PUMA’s WeaveMesh technology. This provides the midfoot with a lot more support and really does make the shoe feel snug and fit well. One thing we notice with more ‘cushioned, higher mileage’ shoes is that they can feel cumbersome and a bit sluggish but the Faas 500v2 TR does very well to still give you a spring in your step. The WeaveMesh plays a big part in this. The Gaiter-compatibility and the Gusseted tongue will keep debris and unwanted irritations like little stones etc. out of the shoe, a welcome advantage when running for hours on end. PUMA were one of the first major brands to feature Ortholite’s EcoOrthoLite technology in their shoes. The technology has proved to be very popular and the Faas 500v2 TR features a sockliner made of that same technology. The benefits of this include advanced breathability, moisture control, and anti-microbial properties. All of these aid in preventing chaffing. Another great advantage for those long runs.

We also found that the heel cup and tongue of the shoe came up nice and high on the ankle which provide great support on the technical stuff. Even though the release grooves in the midsole let the shoe down a bit the added support on the ankle more than made up for it. Having said that if you prefer more movement around the ankle this shoe might not work for you.

The Upper as a whole looks incredibly solid. We have yet to see any tears or breakages in the mesh after a good few long runs in some dense terrain.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

What would we improve?

So earlier I said that PUMA have come a long way since the TrailFox but that we still feel they have a little way to go before they have an industry changer on their hands (in the trail shoe department). As great as this shoe is we still believe there is something missing. You see I unfortunately blame Puma for this. I blame them because of a little shoe called the PUMA IGNITE. The IGNITE midsole has ruined the Faas midsole (and almost any other midsole for that matter) for me, the one piece IGNITE foam is so insanely comfortable and responsive the Faas foam feels like a stack of A4 pieces of paper stuck on top of each other with Pritt glue. Don’t get me wrong, the Faas midsole is comfortable! It has worked for PUMA for years! I have an 8 hour trail run in the blistering rain at the 2015 Ultra Trail Cape Town with no blisters or sore feet to prove it. The Faas midsole is fantastic, but stacked against the IGNITE midsole it doesn’t even come close.

We hope a day will come when PUMA start bringing out trail shoes with the IGNITE midsole as a feature, for us that would be a game changer! On that day Trail Runners perception of PUMA as a trail running shoe will literally change forever. Unfortunately that probably won’t be a reality for a good year or two, maybe even 3. So we will just have to be happy with the Faas foam for now, till our dreams of an IGNITE Trail are realised.

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe review

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

Have you ever heard the expression don’t bring a knife to a gun fight? Well that pretty much sums up my early years as a kid. I had a pretty rough time in Primary School. It was a decent private school with all the luxuries that came with it but when it came to the playground it didn’t matter what car your daddy drove. It was survival of the fittest, the strongest and the meanest. Since my genes decided to bloom later on in life I somehow always managed to be separated from the herd. An easy prey for the stalking wolves of the concrete playground.

Now why am I telling you this? It sure isn’t so that you feel sorry for me. I don’t regret those early days, they toughened me up, taught me a lot about preparation and survival. I learnt early on that to win a fight you needed to be, either, A: Stronger and Faster or B: Have a bigger stick. Take world wars for example, the country with the biggest weapons and baddest armies usually come out tops. Add Nuclear Warfare to the equation and you have a slam dunk. In World War 2 Japan was giving America and the allies all kinds of hell on various fronts. Refusing to give up they fought with honour and ferocity.

That is until. Hiroshima.

After the US dropped the atom bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima Japanese authourites must have realised they were fighting a losing battle, America had a bigger gun.

Fighting smart with what you have might help you win the battle, but having a bigger stick can win you the war. When it comes to a maximal cushioned trail shoe purpose built for Ultra’s that is what New Balance have in the new MT910v2 trail shoe. A bigger stick. This shoe has been phenomenal for me. I have run in many New Balance shoes over the years. With the MT910v2 it is so blatantly obvious why their RevLite technology has put New Balance on the map and won many battles for them in the past. So lets get down to what makes this shoe tick.

Out Sole:

The New Balance MT910v2 features a HHR rubber outsole with aggressively shaped lugs throughout the base of the shoe. As I said earlier I have run in many a pair of New Balance and these are without a doubt the best outsole New Balance has ever produced. The grip is insane, granted you don’t get much feedback as the shoe is highly cushioned but it is a grip you can trust. The rubber is sticky in the wet and smooth in the dry. Since the shoe is made for Ultra’s and for varying terrain the shoe performs best in slightly wet to dry hard pack conditions. It isn’t an out and out mud shoe with deep lugs but it will offer stability and a sense of confidence on a wide variety of terrains. Even on the tar and hard pack it performs brilliantly.

HHR rubber outsole

MidSole:

I mentioned the Revlite tecnology earlier which in this shoe, is simply outstanding. It has the perfect amount of stiffness for stability yet at the same time offers a very comfortable ride for those insanely long runs. Revlite offers a 30% reduction in weight compared to other New Balance foams without sacrificing on comfortability and stability. One great feature of the midsole is the addition of an full EVA “strobel board”. A strobel board is a sheet of EVA that is glued to the midsole and then the Upper is stiched to the material. It does make the midsole less flexible but adds a massive amount of stability to the shoe. The MT910v2 has a relatively low heel-to-toe drop of 8mm which will put less strain on the calf muscles over the long haul, although to be honest I would have preferred a 4mm drop it will appeal to a wider market of runners. Add a Rock Stop® to all this and you have one of the best Ultra running midsoles on the market.

Upper:

Sublime design

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this shoe is oh so nice to look at! It is simply stunning. The nuclear orange contrast with the black midsole is enough to frighten even the hardest of enemies. The full synthetic mesh upper is breathable and tough. I was glad to find it standing up against possible scuffs and scratches from branches or rocks on the trail. The Toe Protect feature in the front of the shoe is a welcome addition as well, adding to the confidence needed to go in guns blazing when you need to. The shoe has also been designed to keep stuff out, the tongue is secured to the edges of the upper ensuring small stones etc don’t get into the shoe and a thick gusseted heel arch also keeps dirt out at the back. New Balance really have gone to town to ensure that this shoe will be the least of your concerns in an Ultra distance race.

Full Synthetic Mesh Upper

Conclusion:

As Ultra running is becoming more and more popular we are seeing battles raging for the top spot. Runners are looking for well constructed and practical products that can get them through the distance. No Ultra runner is looking to bring a knife to a gun fight. Preparation and a big stick will ensure victory. With the MT910v2 New Balance haven’t just won the battle, they might have just won the war.

#Alwaysinbeta

Basic Principles of Endurance Training

Most people think that speed wins races in running, but I am not so sure this true. For me it is Endurance that wins races, or gets you to the finish line. Without a solid base of Endurance that is built up over hours and hours of training a runner would not be able to realise their full potential and speed. Even 100m sprinters have need of endurance.

So what are some of the basic principles of endurance training that one would need to build their training program on? In this article we will look at some of the basic principles of Endurance and why they are important. You will only get so good by going out and smashing a hard run, if you implement some of the principles you will discover hidden potential in you running that you never knew existed.

Before training our Endurance levels we need to understand the different energy systems that enable us to use that hard earned Endurance. Each energy system is different and directly effects a runner’s endurance. If Endurance is the engine, the energy systems are the fuel that run the engine. Utilising each energy system effectively will mean the runner is able to draw the most out of their endurance training that they possibly can. Even the best Endurance Training programs will mean little return without even a basic understanding of what energy is required at what level and how to train those energy systems in conjunction with the endurance training.

So what are our bodies Energy Systems?

Energy Systems

The energy systems, as the name implies is all about the production of energy in your working muscles. As your muscles fire at various points through training and racing energy is required to sustain them. This could be in a 10second sprint or a 24hour endurance run. For the body generate the energy you require there needs to be a combination of fuel, a spark and oxygen (the same as a combustion engine). Each energy system is evaluated according to their fuel and oxygen requirements. A fast effort will require a higher level of fuel in a shorter time period. The bodies ability to generate the fuel supply to satisfy the energy requirements in this system is different to that of a slower but longer effort, where the fuel is needed over a long period of time at a consistent supply to fuel the effort.

These are the two major energy systems that have to be addressed during your training. They are your aerobic and your anaerobic energy systems. The goal event and desired result in that event will determine what percentage of your program will be devoted to which. Aerobic energy systems will give you the fuel for the long haul and your anaerobic energy system gives you the gas for the shorter, faster efforts. Regardless of the runners goal event they will require training in both these systems to fully realise their endurance and speed potential.

Aerobic Energy System

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fst.

This is the foundation of any effort over 30 seconds and refers to your bodies ability to absorb and use oxygen to produce energy. The key to this energy system is Oxygen. The better your body is at absorbing and using oxygen, the higher the intensity will be which you can use while remaining in the aerobic energy system. A measure of aerobic fitness is your VO2 Max which refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilise during exercise. Although VO2 Max is generally a product of your genetics and cannot really be trained a great deal (so the ability to absorb oxygen is pretty fixed), the ability to use that oxygen is highly trainable.

When you develop your aerobic system you can get more oxygenated blood to your working muscles. You also develop the ability for your body to use that oxygen that has been transported to your working muscles to generate energy. The more oxygen you get to your muscles the more your muscles are able to fire for longer at a consistent strength and pace.

Typically the way you develop your aerobic capacity is by fairly low intensity training. This is different for everyone and you need to determine where the crossover point is between your aerobic and anaerobic systems. This crossover point, or anaerobic threshold (AT) is important to know for two reason. Firstly because your aerobic training needs to be at an intensity lower than this point to get the desired training effect and secondly because this is the intensity that you should aim for as your race pace during competition. Any event over a few hours is best raced at the pace of where you remain at your aerobic threshold, going into anaerobic for too long will eventually cause you to ‘hit the wall’. As we will see a little further on the anaerobic system isn’t as sustainable as your aerobic system. AT is highly trainable and needs to be evaluated at least once a month during the training year as it changes as you build your aerobic capacity.

The power behind the aerobic system is the fact that your body can use stored fat as fuel. This enables the body to run for hours as our fat stores are massively greater than our carbohydrate stores. Training and racing at an aerobic level means there is enough oxygen available to burn fat as fuel, saving the much need carbohydrates for the faster, more anaerobic efforts during a race or training session. It therefore also holds true that as you increase your aerobic capacity you should also be able to use fat as fuel at higher intensities. This is wonderful news for the endurance athlete because as mentioned earlier our fat stores far outweigh our carbohydrate stores (which generally only last around 90mins before needing to be replenished), effectively burning fat as fuel means the duration of the effort is increased greatly.

Anaerobic Energy System

A hard anaerobic effort is always fun 🙂

This is the all out sprint effort energy system. It does not require oxygen to generate energy, but lasts for a very short period of time. Typically it only lasts for all out efforts of 30 seconds or less. It requires a fuel that is very easy to burn and therefore primarily uses carbohydrates (Glycogen) stored in muscles and your liver as fuel. As mentioned earlier it only has a limited supply so if an endurance athlete goes out too hard early on and depletes their carb stores they will have to replenish on the go with gels and energy bars. This is very ineffective because at this point while replenishing energy levels on the go it is very difficult to keep your energy levels at a stable level. You will dip low and then rocket high as the simple sugars are converted to energy, only to be dropped down again as your body uses up the fuel. This from a mental perspective can be very damaging and make an already tough event even tougher. At this level of effort your body isn’t able to convert energy fast enough to maintain the pace of the effort which only contributes to up-and-down energy loss mentioned earlier. Training your anaerobic energy system helps you get comfortable at this level of effort. It will be almost impossible to race an endurance event at this level for the entire time. There will be times on the route where you will go anaerobic to get up a sharp but short climb for example but ultimately you want to remain within your aerobic threshold for as much of the event as possible.

What this means then is in order to get faster over the long haul a runner needs to increase the intensity he / she is able to maintain at an aerobic level. This is the key to running well and running fast, speed work can only make you fast for so long. Having an aerobic base that can power a jet engine is the secret to running fast. So now that we understand a little more about the energy systems how would one look at structuring their program to train these systems and increase their endurance capacity?

Below we look at a broad outline on how a program could be structured, we don’t go into much depth on individual sessions this is purely how to structure it for the long term.

Periodisation

The first and most basic principle is that of periodisation, or splitting your training before an event up into parts or periods. You do this to allow your body time to adapt to the training load in preparation for an event. Periodisation allows for a gradual increase in the load in order to prevent injuries and build an endurance foundation. Once this has been done you can look to add intensity to your training regime. High intensity training too early on or ‘too much mileage too soon’ will ruin the consistency of your training through injury and over-training. Periodising your program helps you see which ‘blocks’ you are in and keeps you focused on the specific goals for each block.

Seasons

The first part of Periodisation is dividing your year into periods or phases lasting anything from 4-8 weeks. Each of these seasons / phases have a specific purpose. In coaching we typically like to break the training year up into:

  1. Adaptation Phase (also known as Pre-Season) – This phase is very much focused on technique and getting your body used to training after an off season layoff. Training is not only sports specific and could include quite general training such as Cycling, Boxing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding or Crossfit.
  2. Base Phase (or Pre-Competitative Season) – This phase is sometimes broken into a Base 1 and Base 2 but in essence it is the phase to build aerobic capacity, to build the capillary system and mitochondria in muscles and start working on strength (not speed). A note on strength, this is to strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments for increases in distance and intensity.
  3. Speed Phase (or Competitive Season) – In the speed phase the intensity of the workouts increase to the your anticipated (or goal) race pace or greater. As with most things in life when you take on the one side you have to give on another. So when you increase intensity you have to decrease duration / distance. Sessions will be mostly interval based and you can anticipate this being a taxing phase.
  4. Recovery Phase (or Off-season) – Once you have completed your competition season it is always a good idea to take some time off. During this time you can still remain active but give your body and mind a break from a structured training routine. Do activities that are not related to those which you have spent a whole season training for. You will start the next season mentally refreshed and physically revived.

The actual duration of each phase and the specific workouts during each phase will be determined by the actual goal that you have. You would need to evaluate the requirements of the goal to determine what you need to do to reach it. If your race is 1 hour long your base phase is going to look very different (and will be much shorter) than it would if your race was a 7 hour race.

The start of the training year (Adaptation phase) will be determined by the date of the event that you are wanting to peak for. Start with the date (or dates) and work phases back from there.

Micro-cycles (also known as Mesocycles)

Once you have planned the big blocks, you need to split these further into smaller parts, known as micro-cycles. These cycles are also aimed at allowing your body adaptation time. You will typically work in 3 or 4 week cycles. Which works best for you should be evaluated based on your current fitness levels and the event that you are training for. A 3 week cycle generally works best when you require more recovery, such as when you are in the Speed Phase or if you are just starting training from a long layoff. Or even in the Adaptation Phase. A 4 week cycle works best when you require a cumulative training effect such as when you are in Base Phase and training for a long distance event where intensity isn’t very high.

A 3 week cycle would look something like this:

  1. Maintenance Week – Maintain load (intensity or distance) at a manageable level.
  2. Overload Week – Increase load (intensity or distance) to stress your body and cause adaptation.
  3. Recovery Week – Decrease load (intensity or distance) to below manageable level to allow your body to complete the adaptation that was triggered by the overload week.

A 4 week cycle would just include a second Maintenance Week before the Overload Week with a slight increase in load (intensity or distance) but still at a manageable level.

In conclusion, Periodisation is a structured breakdown of your training year into seasons where specific goals can be set and managed. The seasons are then broken down further into micro-cycles. This allows for a controlled increase in load which improves the chances of a consistent and sustainable training load. It also ensures that all the required energy systems are effectively trained enabling you to maximise. Keeping an indepth log of all your training is a great way of staying motivated as well as seeing where you are at with regards to your goals.

Camelbak Circuit Hydration Pack Review

Introduction

They say that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles power was in their shells, they were the original heros of the half-shell. Fearless. Agile. Able to overcome any obstacle and defeat any foe. I remember, as a young boy, pretending I was Leonardo with swords drawn running around the garden fighting off Shredder and his evil villains. Granted it was all in my imagination but I fully believed it was real, even if my ‘swords’ were just sticks and my ‘mask’ an old cut up blue shirt. I felt free, invincible, courageous, able to tackle any adventure. Never did I expect to feel like that way again, that was at least until I put on the Camelbak Circuit Hydration pack. All of a sudden those images and memories from my childhood came rushing back in like a flood and it suddenly hit me, I finally had my ‘half-shell’. Instead of running around the garden defeating Shredder and his posse I was now running over mountains defeating rock monsters and roaring winds, imagination still alive and kicking

Perfect positioning for a lightweight pack

As Trail Runners we are often frowned upon by our cousins of the tar with our back packs bulging with food and water bottles, trucker caps, buffs pulled over our faces, waterproof jackets and bearded faces. This reminds me of one particular morning in early winter a few years back where a few of us set out from Fish Hoek beach to run the Old Fishermans Trail to Hout Bay. It was a chilly morning and the weather on top of the mountain was looking wet and windy. While running the tar section to the trail head we passed some road runners out on their morning jog, them in their flimsy vests and 2 inch Split Polly Shorts, and us? We were kitted out head to toe for the usual gnarley winter mountain weather. I remember them chuckling to themselves as they passed us but what our cousins of the tar failed to realise is that support is a critical part of being a successful trail runner. Unfortunately most people starting out in Trail Running also take this for granted and a scary experience while venturing out unprepared can ruin the beauty and purity of running in the mountains. (If you missed it we discussed why the mountain is so unforgiving here and why it will chew you up six ways to Sunday if you are not prepared.)

One of the key ways of being prepared is ensuring you have adequate kit, water and fueling with you to safely complete whatever route you are attempting to do, this is where hydration packs come in. They make it massively convenient for you to carry your water, energy food, cell phone, extra kit or anything else you might want to take with you. Unfortunately they can be also quite cumbersome and uncomfortable at times, which really ruins the fun factor. It is horribly frustrating  being smacked from behind by your Llama Bars while trying to run and your phone is jabbing you in the ribs, yes Llama Bars give a could kick but they shouldn’t have to literally kick you. This has taught me that you can also be over-prepared (although this is a whole let better than being under-prepared). It is this reason why I am so thoroughly enjoying my new half-shell, the Camelbak Circuit. It has just enough space to ensure you are safe in most situations yet at the same time you are limited in packing space to ensure you remain light weight and agile. There is no doubt about it, this pack is a lightweight, race your face off, hydration and fuel when you need it kind of pack. It does not mess around. It is so comfortable and snug fitting at times you will forgot you are even wearing a pack, don’t get me wrong I have a few niggles but we will get to those a little later.

Camelbak Circuit Review

The pack sits perfectly between the shoulder blades, high up on the back and completely out of the way of your elbows as you run. This for me is one of the reasons why the pack is so comfortable. You will struggle to have it weigh in over 2.5kg fully loaded and I found that having it sit so high up put a lot less pressure on my lower back than other packs I use that sit lower down on the back. What this does for stability and confidence on the trail is massive, not once did I feel the pack throw me off balance as I shifted sharply on the trail. Where I went, the pack went. The Hydration Pack is so snug it literally feels as a part of you as your shoes do (provided they fit properly).

Many packs have a ‘ventilation’ pad at the point where the pack makes contact with your back, often you don’t really feel the difference but with the Circuit it is very obvious early on that you have a lot more breathing room than normal. I always find it so ironic when the pack that is meant to keep you hydrated causes you to sweat more because it doesn’t breathe well enough which causes overheating and dehydration. This is not the case with the Circuit. As you can see from the image below, the vents are large and numerous which aids in keeping you cool. Especially if you have ice in the pack, it really helps to keep you cool through the vents on really hot days.

Effective Breathability

So what about packing space and access to it all out on the trail? Call me crazy but the one thing that makes me feel like an Ultra Runner is having bottles on the front of my pack, I don’t know why but I feel badass when I run on the trail with bottles nestled nicely on my chest, there when I need them, looking cool when I don’t. The Camelbak Circuit has space for not one, but two bottles in the front of the pack, that is if the 1.5L reservoir is not enough for you. This enables you to comfortably carry 2.5 liters out on the trail (I found 500ml bottles fitted best, 750ml felt a bit top heavy for me). If you only need one extra bottle you have an extra pocket to store a buff, energy bars, gels or even a rain jacket.

The reservoir has a wide opening for easy cleaning and also features hanging clips which speed up drying after use, there is nothing worse than your reservoir going gunky cause it stays wet in your cupboard, thankfully the developers at Camelbak thought of this.

Depending on the distance and duration you are heading out for you will need to be creative in how you pack your kit to maximise it’s effectiveness. For example, this last Saturday I was out running with the pack for about 7 hours on Table Mountain. Water is scarce up there at the moment but I opted to leave the bottles at home so I could carry my TNF Verto Storm jacket in one of the mesh pockets and enough food to last 7 hours in the other. I only needed to refill the bladder once and found it really easy to do with the reservoir still in the pack. The opening is very large and the pack clips nicely behind the opening making it quick and easy to refill.

If you need to carry less food, there is a smaller envelope type pocket which fits about 2 or 3 bars and a gel giving you the space in front for the extra bottle. Each person is different and their nutrition requirements out running are different so you will need to find what works for you.

Ample space for extra bottle

There is also a great, sweat proof, pocket with a zip on the front of the pack which is perfect for your keys, card, phone or anything else you don’t want to lose out on the trail. It is small though, an iPhone 5s fits perfectly in there but if you have a larger phone you are going to struggle to get it in there. If you are fortunate to have a waterproof storm jacket that folds up into it’s pocket the mesh pockets on the pack are perfectly sized for holding your extra layer should the weather make a turn for the worse.

TNF Verto Storm jacket sitting ‘purty’ 🙂

This is Camelbak’s lightest pack available, a mere 270g (pack only) yet what surprised me the most about it is that it is not only for a short run. This pack can go the distance, a massive distance, if you are clever with how you pack and have a good refueling strategy. So if you are needing a lightweight pack that will enable you to stay nimble and agile but has the features to cover proper distances then I would suggest looking at getting this pack. I am interested to see how far one can go with this pack, I intend to test that out at the 80km Puffer in August.

Right so as I mentioned earlier I have one or two niggle with this pack, nothing major but issues that for me would make a great pack even better if adjusted. First one is very small but the dual sternum straps which are very comfy an keep the pack fitting snug have no clips or loops for the slack that is left in the strap after pulling it tight. This means that they ‘flap’ around a lot as you run. This probably won’t bother most people but it bothers me, it’s not that fun being tapped on your chest by a lose strap for hours on end. That being said it is an easy fix, I just used some elastic hair bands to secure them down.

The other issue, and it could be because the pack is still relatively new, but it is a little too difficult for my taste to get the PureFlow tube out of the clips when you need a drink. Like I said it could be because it is new and hopefully the clips will loosen over time but running along technical rocky sections tugging at the pipe with both hands while watching where you are going can be risky. As a temporary fix I just looped the pipe through the chest straps which works really well.

BBTR4

All in all I really do rate this as one of the better packs I have run in, light, fast, comfortable, and great looking. Camelbak have been making packs ever since I can remember. My first memory of them is as a boy, my dad had an early generation Camelbak Classic that we used on our missions together in the mountains, must have been about 15 years ago. It was a great pack then and I am happy to see that they are still one of the worlds best masters of hydration.

If the Turtles’ power was in their shells, then a runners power and strength is directly effected by their Support / Hydration pack. It is well said that Ultra running is basically an eating and drinking contest with some exercise thrown in the mix. That being said any decent trail run is essentially an eating and drinking contest. The technical terrain and radical elevations that you are covering is so taxing on the body you burn through calories faster than Michelangelo burns through 6 large Pepperoni Pizza’s. If you don’t hydrate, you die. Thankfully the Camelbak Hydration Pack, has your back!

Key Features:

  • External fill
  • Sweat-proof phone pocket
  • Stretch overflow storage
  • Reflectivity
  • Fits 30″-46″ chest.

Designed to Carry:

  • Water bottle
  • Extra layer
  • Nutrition
  • Phone
  • Keys

 Specifications:

  • Hydration Capacity: 50 oz / 1.5L
  • Total Capacity: 1.5L Reservoir
  • Total Weight: 9.5 oz / 270g (pack only)
  • Dimensions: 17 x 13.5 x 2 in
  • Torso Length: 30 cm
  • Back Panel: Air mesh
  • Harness: Fixed harness with cargo pockets and dual slider™ sternum strap. Fits 30″—46″ chest.
  • Fabric: 70D reverse chain nylon.

Check out this video to see the pack in action: VIDEO

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