Very important disclaimer

Please be advised that the contents of this blog are opinions only (my opinion, the opinions of my family and the opinions of anyone else directly or indirectly involed in this blog). This is not an accredited training blog, nor is it an accredited anything blog. If you (and you) do anything that this blog says, or don't do anything that this site says not to do, and you get injured, sick or killed, you cannot blame me or my family or blame anyone else directly or indirectly involved in this blog. By reading anything on this blog (including this message) you are saying that you are a person who makes thier own choices in life and does not hold the writer of this blog, the writers family or any one else that may be directly or indirectly involved in the production or writing of this blog, responsible for your stupid and irresponsible behaviors, injuries, sicknesses or deaths. With that said, please enjoy my fun blog.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Another 24k in the books in my Merrell ‘Barefoot Shoes’ (Oxymoron)

I know they are shoes, and I know they are called barefoot. They are also called Trail Gloves, but we all know they aren’t gloves, right?

Anyway. Whatever they are called, I like them. They(shoes) are a necessary evil up here in Canuckleland for a barefoot runner in the winter, so I have tried to seek out the very best option. Tell you the truth, I am a fan of the technology and R&D efforts of a company like Merrell, who seem to have my feets best interest at heart. Some complain about minimal shoes being so expensive, while I agree with the sentiment, I could have gone through a whole PILE of experiments, testing, including the inevitable  failed testing of cheap shoes, water walkers, sandals etc etc, and never found the right solution. I may have even risked injury in the attempt.

For those who think minimal shoes are too much money: have you seen what women pay for very tiny little dress shoes and such? I am not getting into an argument here, because I don’t feel like it, but the minimal shoe makers are still in business to make money. They are going to price their shoes to whatever the market will bear. We (barefooters) are an INCREDIBLY small segment of their market. Maybe we should have some kind of test that proves we are a real barefoot runner, then we get 50% off the price. There is a HUGE segment of the market that are going to buy these because they look fantastic and feel quite good to wear. I think a hike in these would lend to less potential injury issues then a run in them if you have never worn minimal shoes, so for the hikers, this is a really cool option, regardless of price. There are quite fashionable too. I would bet there are thousands upon thousands of people that buy these as comfy loafers for errand wear around the city! Good on ya Merrell, I think the exposure for you by targeting us (barefooters) is very smart as it (barefooting) is very trendy right now (although it is a bit 2010 already) and you will get a ton of sales to the regular runner/ non runner/loafer/ fashionista/ barista,  just by partnering with me (the trendy one).

Anyroad… I am REALLY happy with these Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves. In the last 7 days I ran a 25k race in really deplorable conditions, an incredibly tough 8k trail run and yesterday I did a 24k training run on paved paths, packed snow and city sidewalks. Yesterdays terrain had a little of everything with steep downs, rolling flats and tough ups. All systems are a go in regards to my feet. No issues what so ever. Even the little blister I got in the first 25k run is gone and my feet are in pretty pristine shape again.

Here are the deets from yesterdays run. There were a few really difficult snowy sections where my pace suffered. Oh by the way, I started using SportTracks software for data analysis from my Garmin FR305. And .62 of a mile is 1k, just so you know why the splits are like that.



Feb 27 long run

It was tough, but rewarding. Ok, I am off plowing tonight, so that buggers everything up in my life again, but it pays well. so whatevs…

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weaselhead XC, Calgary Roadrunners, RR.

The race in my mind always is a negative one until the 1/2 point before I actually think I can finish it. If I make that far, the rest is downhill (in my head). When the volunteer said “4k that way, 8k this way” I almost went ‘that way’. I got about 5 strides past, then decided it would look wussy if I turned around now. I am super happy I carried on. The rest of the race turned out pretty spectacular and once Stella I got her my groove, I was fine and happy. I even did a fun heel kick jump for the camera! I am afraid to see it.

I decided to go to this race kind of last minute, so not much prep. I arrived about 20 minutes early, ran over paid my $10 and chatted up some folks. I saw Ron there again as well as Todd, who is the crazy bugger who wears shorts to these events no matter what the weather. Dawn is there as always, and actually had her granddaughter there running with her. Very cool. I got introduced to a number of people, but I a dummy and don’t remember anyone’s names so please speak up and identify yourselves if you see yourself in any of these photos.


The Calgary Roadrunners folks are just great. I always feel welcomed and I am going to try and support more of their races. Thank you to the organizing team for this race, it was great fun! Did I ever tell you I love racing?

There is a kids race first and there were 2 entries. The little girl won her AG and the little boy won his AG. Congrats to everyone.

So, just so you guys and gals out there know how unreal fortunate we are in Calgary (even though is SOO cold sometimes) I have included the following graphic depicting where the race is located in relation to the city. I include this just because my race photos kind of defy the proximity to our city of over a Million people.
City map

Thanks Dawn for this picture that shows how close we really are to mid-town!
City from Dawn

So today was not that cold, only about –4c/26f but the wind was biting. I came prepared for a cold run. Here is my best ninja impersonation. Happy Josh? Thanks again Dawn for this shot!
Ninja Neil
I love me a good Bondiband hat!

Ok, On to the Race. We got started a few minutes behind due to the kids race. Once we got going, I wasn’t sure what I had gotten involved in. The snow was crusty, but not crusty to hold us, but there were parts that stay stable so it was tough running. When you did crash through it was shin deep.

This was a cool shot, I thought. Look at the flying snow!

Oh yeah, remember how bundled up and cold everyone looks? nuff Said. Btw, That’s Todd on the right. Every race, shorts.

So, we got off the prairie flats we dropped off the edge of the world and into the forest. This is trail running at it’s best I am sure. I can’t describe it well enough so I will let the pictures speak for themself.


I really like this one… just looks like energy doesn’t it?

I got passed by a few people in the first half as I knew the course was going to be tough and I didn’t want to overdo it and then I kinda got left alone to enjoy the trail by myself for a while. I just marvelled at the scenery and how nice the day was. Once we got down in the trees it was really quite warm out and I ended up taking off my facewarmer and gloves. As I was running along I kept seeing a runner up in the distance and they weren’t pulling away anymore. This lady had passed me earlier but she didn’t seem to be getting away from me. I just plugged along and as we ran through the weaselhead flats from the 3k to 5k mark I crept ever so closer. I made a plan to catch up and then pace with her, and just see what happens. about the 5k mark I was on her heels after I absolutely FLEW down the steepest, longest slope on the course (complete with a huge *WoOtwOoT* at the bottom).

This was the top of the hill, it was about 100’ elevation, straight down to the bottom in shin deep snow! Awesome! DSCF3200

I stayed behind her for about a click as she would pull away a bit on the uphills and I would catch up on the downhills, but there was a point at about 6k that I had a chance to go by, so I did! She stayed with me for a bit, but I used a bit of gameplay in my head and told myself to pull away from her at all costs. I did get away from her a bit but I slowed down to take some video and all of a sudden there was a group of people behind me. Shit… Ok, time to giter-done. I think there were about 4 people in the group and all I heard were footsteps bearing down on me and I just kept pushing and pushing to keep them at bay. When I finally popped up out the valley I had a lead on them but didn’t let up at all. I push hard right through the finish and had a about 30 seconds on them! My mark from earlier was about a minute behind.

Hey, whatever motivates you right? I pretty much took  a knee at the finish as I was spent. I was queasy, coughing (still have  cold) and really tired. It was perfect. I left it all out there, managed my race, kicked for a couple clicks at the end and ended up really proud of myself.

Yeah! I just saw the photos from the race photog! I’m the album cover! click the image to go the entire gallery.

Shortly after my *WoOtwOoT* I spotted the race photog! Here is the most awesome result! I freaking love this! This is my new mission statement for running! Great shot Ms. Photographer! Heel Click baby wooo!! Look at that air time! This is 3/4 of the way through this tough race too!
heel click

Maybe my favorite running shot, next to the one above, this was just after my perfect landing… I was laughing!
Neil running

It was as fun as this elevation profile and course looks!
elevation profile

race route close up

I ran in the Merrells and they performed incredibly. Lots of grip, comfortable, really good ground feel. they took on a bit of snow in the deep stuff, but it wasn’t an issue at all. There was no slipping on the fast downs and had all the grip I needed on the ups. I wore a thin sock in them today and it was better than the injinjis as they didn’t hold any excess moisture this time.

Went inside the clubhouse afterwards, enjoyed a bowl of chili and some great conversation with some great people then headed home!

24k Sunday morning!

PS. Here is this weeks ass shot. Equal opportunity right?

Friday, February 25, 2011

So, I need some suggestions…

… on what I should do with these. They are the Pearl Izumi Iso Transition, described as a lightweight no frills racing flat specifically built for triathletes.


Here is how they are described.

Ultra Minimal: Your lightest, most flexible choice for advanced foot strengthening, speed workouts, and racing. Cutting-edge training tool for Stability, Performance Stability, Neutral or Performance Neutral runners.

  • Seamless Bonded Upper: Creates an incredibly comfortable sock-like fit for all day barefoot comfort
  • 360 Lacing: Anatomically conforms to the foot for a tailored fit regardless of foot shape
  • Quick Lacing System: Easy entry for fast transition times
  • Energy Foam: Cushions the forefoot upon impact and returns energy back to the runner
  • Midsole Drainage Holes: Allows water and sweat to escape easily
  • Hybrid Outsole: Blown rubber & outsole-grade EVA combine for great cushioning and weight savings
  • Low-Profile midsole: Minimalist approach promotes efficient midfoot running style

My Take?… Um… well, here we go.

I took the insole out and found they were a better fit for me, but there is a tough structural mesh on the bottom that would probably be abrasive so I would need to get a really thin insole to cover the tough mesh. (or wear a really thin sock, as these are designed to be ran in sockless)


I did a few strides in them and found with a degree of concentration it was quite possible to utilize a forefoot landing without a bulky heel getting in the way. When I took them out of the box I was surprised to see how flexible they actually are they can be rolled right up to the front part of the heel. The fit is very snug as compared to my true minimal shoes, and VERY snug as compared to my old EEE wide NB 1063’s. The Heel to toe drop is quite a bit less than regular trainers (hence the ‘racing flat’ designation)

Right from the start tho, they seem too snug for my wide feet, I would probably up the size of another pair to a 13 (gawd) from the 12.5 they sent me. Speaking of 12.5, these shoes are SPECTACULARILY light, weighing in at 9oz where the Merrell are only 1 oz lighter at 8oz.


For comparisons sake, the Vibram KSO’s are 7oz and the Walmart Aqua’s are 10oz, but the Auqas hold onto a lot of water, so they get significantly heavier (to the tune of 13oz. I just tested them, and that was mildly wrung out) in wet cool weather (where I would utilize them)


As I said earlier, they are quite flexible too. Not as flexible as the Merrells, but that’s to be expected.


I’ll will give them a fair test drive, as seen (felt) from the eyes (feet) of a barefooter. I think, on first blush, that they would be a good option for someone looking for less shoe , without going all in minimal or full bare. I’ll show them around and get others takes on them, and maybe I’ll find another 12.5 (shod) runner to give them a test run for some different feedback. Anyone nearby interested in a test run Runner’s World style?

Stay tuned!

I am going to try and sneak out to the Calgary Roadrunners XC event tomorrow at noon to try and force myself back into a training routine again. ARgh life… Still a little sick, and still a lit stressed over current events in life. We are closer than ever to listing our house, which is the big ticket to a simpler happier life.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove impressions, and how I feel…

So I received my pair of Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove minimal shoes on Thursday and ran 25km in them on Sunday.


Is that smart?

I dunno. But with my trust in my running style (light, easy, smooth, quick) I felt like I could give them a go. I did wear them pretty much exclusively from the moment I got them right up to the race, but I did pack my Vibrams in my North Face hydration pack  just in case I hated the Merrells. I did a lot of range of motion tests, just to see if there was going to be any pinch points or potential hotspots, but I didn’t note any issues that might come up.

I really debated what socks to wear in the Merrells, and ultimately chose the Injinji toe socks. I forget what style they are exactly, but they seemed to hold a bit too  much moisture and I did end up getting a small blister on the inside of my right foot, but it was where I had gotten a blister from a 19k treadmill run in my Vibrams a couple weeks ago, so the spot was ripe for a re-do. The blister was not painful at all, and I actually didn’t notice it until I got home and was doing a bit of a foot health check. The next run outside, I’ll try a thinner pair of tech socks and see what that feels like. I think I probably chose the Injinji’s  because it made a possible switch to the 5’s easier if needed.

So, I can’t give a real review yet, based on one 25k run, but I can give you my first impressions and general thoughts.

Disclaimer: I am a barefoot runner, I use shoes like I use clothes; As necessary.

That said, winter in Calgary is pretty brutal and barefooting is almost impossible (Almost, right Paul?). I am not that devout as a barefooter to try and do something stupid and run in snow or weather below freezing. I’m just a realist, and I love running too much to jeopardize myself with a potential but avoidable injury.

THAT said, I looked at the overall minimalist shoe offerings with great interest.

Merrell was at the top of my interest pile from the moment I figured out that Barefoot Angie Bee was in Grand Rapids to be interviewed as a barefoot ambassador and that Merrell is located in Grand Rapids. I put 2 and 2 together, did a quick Google Search and found a corporate note that mentioned a minimal trail shoe being developed by Merrell. I've been intrigued with their product, and their commitment to proper barefootery, what with the website, the use of prominent barefooters as technique experts and the apparent quality of the product.

Well, when they got here, Traci was smitten with them, so they passed the style test right away. (She takes a size 7 in the Ladies Pace Glove if anyone wanted to send the chicks version, btw, just sayin’)

Ok, so from an overall comfort level for the days prior to the race I give them a 2 thumbs up! They are quite smooth inside with no noticeable rubs where the different material areas join up, and the sole is quite form fitting, and maybe gives the impression of a bit of support (not noticeable when running) in the arch area, which would probably help the confidence of shod runners as they transition or train minimally. Without socks I found the interior quite velvety almost.

They do have some relatively aggressive lugs as they are made for the trail, but walking around on pavement and in stores they weren’t noticeable. One thing tho (picky), the vibram sole is quite squeaky when a bit wet on tile floors in stores. I had to adjust my gait to avoid a pretty annoying screek with every step (will the education ever stop?)


I actually don’t have too much to say about them during the race, and that says a LOT! I only thought about them when I thought about them. I mean, they didn’t give me any reason to worry or think or curse at them. they just did their job of minimally protecting my feet for the duration of the run. Even when I was done and standing around chatting and waiting for my buds, did I ever have the urge to take them off due to discomfort or anything. I will say that the Trail Pedigree that Merrell is known for was probably a big asset for the uneven, frozen and difficult terrain on Monday. I could still feel the nuances of the terrain under foot (read: Skidoo tracks), and that is always a good thing for a barefooter.

What I can say about them in the short time that I’ve had them is, They are really comfy. The heel pocket is a snug and as perfect as I have experienced in any shoe, the mid foot fit is snug and confidence inspiring without any undo gimmicks, the omni-fit lacing actually matches the shape of my foot and the toe area is roomy and allows for full toe splay (including room for my Morton's toe)

I now wear this shoe everywhere, as it fits the bill of a traditional looking shoe (I am a attention seeker, bit I actually hate the attention in walmart in my 5’s, some days I just want to pick up the laundry soap without having a big deal made over the monkey shoes in the checkout line), and the fact that I was wearing my NB 1063’s for errand wear, seemed to be actually hurting my feet, because since I got my Merrells and have been wearing them exclusively, some of my chronic heel pain has gone away again! Yay!

Amazing to think these shoes are the same size!!


It’s a good start with my Merrells! Gord’s Running Store in Calgary has stock if anyone is interested in trying them on. Tell him I sent you!

Ok, How do I feel and why should you care? I feel great and you shouldn’t care. This is about me, right? Well, to be clear, I am talking about how I specifically feel since the race on Monday. Really REALLY good! My body took the distance and managed it during, and has recovered remarkably well! I am so pleased. I can remember how disabled I would be after anything over 10k when I was getting started in running, but now I can go out and rock a 25k race (longest ever) in some really questionable conditions, without any side effects. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few minor tight spots, but NOTHing in the big picture. I didn’t even take a post race advil this time.