Vibram Five Finger Spyridon's. They stand out like dogs balls.

  • Thursday, August 30, 2012
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It's life Jim, but not as we know it

I'm head over heels. Not literally. As in love. These are my Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon's. Sharper than a Samurai sword. Cooler than Woodstock. Wackier than Monty Python. And they stand out like dogs balls.
These are the Five Fingers designed and built for off road running with a tread Evel Knievel would have drooled over (There's my vintage right there) They still maintain a minimal sole thickness of 3.5mm, so there's still plenty of ground feel. There are a few other departures, a tongue, a stiffer heel cup, a lacing system and thicker uppers in places for protection on the trail (rocks, branches, stampeding cows)
I've loved my Five Finger Bikila's, they've done well, and I may squeeze a few more road miles out of them yet, but they have become harder and harder to patch up.
I'm still to take the Spyridon's for a long, hard, muddy trail but I'm already besotted by them, I can't wait to truly cut up rough with them. 

Edit and update 03/09/12:

Just so that I don't come across as a total sycophant I want to make two points. The first being the cost of Vibrams now. I love these shoes and I'm commited to buying the genuine article as opposed to the cheap knock offs flooding ebay but they are getting too pricey. The Spyridon's cost me £134.00, thats a lot of dosh even though I expect a 1000 miles plus from them.
Secondly, I've had some fairly radical blisters from these, on my instep, just above the arch. I'm going to have to run in socks which I haven't done for years!


Adidas Adizero Feather 2

Mmm, the Adidas Adizero Feather 2. My second pair of test shoes following the Inov-8 Road X 233 I was given to run in recently.
The Adizero's are described as a minimalist shoe and I was initially a bit sceptical, wondering if people are confusing lightweight (190g) with minimal. The first mile I ran in these confirmed my thinking. There is no denying the lightness - but they felt spongy and I could feel that I was heel striking which was an unpleasant throwback to my running a few years ago.
However, the longer my run went on the better they began to feel. Without being conscious of it my foot strike shifted to a mid foot strike and the shoe became a lot more fun. As is my wont I took them off road and they seemed quite nimble on the rooty, hard packed trail. They are not meant for off road use and that was evident when I had to pause once or twice to prise rocks out of the cut away sections of the sole!
My feeling when I got home after 9 miles was that I'd had fun and I'd enjoyed running in the shoes. They were certainly responsive possibly due to the plastic Sprintframe that runs throughout the sole. The positive feel engendered confidence.
These shoes are of good quality and probably nicely durable and they look classy too.
I've put all the manufacturers technical details below as a footnote. I would classify the Adizero's as a road racing, track or possibly a good beginners shoe.
As far as a minimalist shoe goes they still have too much heel for me to classify them as truly minimalist.

Official product blurb
These incredibly lightweight running shoes have a breathable air mesh upper with SPRINTFRAME for stability and ADIPRENE in the forefoot for a little launch in your step. Weight: 190 g (UK size 8.5) Air mesh upper for maximum ventilation ADIPRENE+ in the forefoot maintains propulsion and efficiency SPRINTWEB welded frame provides lightweight support and breathability The SPRINTFRAME construction uses geometrical research to offer the perfect balance between light weight and stability ADIWEAR outsole offers the ultimate in high-wear durability

Not a run. Not yet anyway

Not a run. Not yet anyway but an exhilarating walk in the lashing rain. We walked down past these cottages at Seaford Head overlooking the Seven Sisters to the Cuckmere Estuary. Then along the beach before the tide came in to Hope gap and back up the fields. The rain was too persistent and my hands too cold for photography so this is one of the rare occasions this blog doesn't feature my own photo.
I have vowed to return and run around this area. Superb cross country potential!

Keep the black dog in it's kennel.

  • Thursday, August 23, 2012
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I'm sitting in my garden in the cool of the evening. The sun has gone down leaving the sky grey and smudged. My thoughts are unstructured and swirling - and I'm pleased to discover, relaxed.
There  was a time five or six years ago when I would sit out here and brood. "Who the hell am I, and how do I chart a course out of the void?" would be the endless angry question as I grappled with classic mid life drift. I wrestled demons out here, the deepest depression and the dislocation of rootlessness. I cut myself with razorblades to feel better.
I don't think I've answered the identity question fully but I no longer worry about it. I have by running and osmosis reached a place of peace.
Running and rehabilitation came at the same time for me. I had started to run/ walk/ run around the time my wife picked me up from my place of work, broken and unable to function and drove me straight to the doctor. I haven't needed the doctor or medication for some years now but I have run a lot of miles!
And I've always felt that running and being fit help keep the black dog in it's kennel.
All this leads to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal  
This study by the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry posits that exercise does not make any tangible difference when it comes to beating the blue funk.
Over a twelve month period two groups of patients aged between 18-69 were assessed. One group had physical intervention or exercise, the other did not.
The conclusion, in the words of the BMJ - " The addition of a facilitated physical activity intervention to usual care did not improve depression outcome or reduce use of antidepressants compared with usual care alone.
Far be it for me, a layman, to question such a scientific study, and yet...I am better for my running. Much better. I don't think it's all in the mind either. Running gives me purpose and a positivity, I feel better about myself because I'm fit. My self image is much stronger. I get a lot of self identity from being a runner. There is focus, structure and discipline. I am mentally much stronger too. It all helps.
I no longer run simply to keep depression at bay. I've come to love the sheer freedom and exuberance it brings. It is joie de vivre, the joy of living. Of life.

Is he one of the horseman of the apocalypse?

  • Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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 To spare the angels, Lot offers the mob
his virgin daughters and in the rubble
they wine him then explode Lot’s seed into life
Driving the copies on the wide road
face down in
(Denise Newman)
 Mob match (We are black, we are white, we are f*cking dynamite)

 This was the black and white team versus the virulent yellow team, a stream of living colour, a centipede of legs and elbows charging up the hill before being swallowed whole by the maw of the woods. There we are greeted by a huge black horse, the rider impassive and drooping a cigarette from his mouth. Is he one of the horseman of the apocalypse? Clint Eastwood? Lost? We will never know, we avoid his flat eyes and run past uncaring and disinterested. Up and up the rocky trail we go before veering sharply left along the fence line, left again then right and down past the hidden pond. We cross the clanging bridge over the brook and the trees regurgitate us. We are strung out now and panting in the humidity and heat, it's a switchback climb on tarmac before entering jubilee park to be harangued by Jerry in his union Jack shorts. Menace. On we run, back onto the suburban streets and downhill all the way to the finish. When we get there it seems to be raining mosquitoes, several runners are savagely bitten. I escape and run home through the woods with Rob.

the complacency of indolence and half throttle commitment

I have a bad night, my dreams as fragmented and flickering as an electric storm. It comes as a relief when dawn breaks and I can rise to collect Jerry for a Downland run. We decide to join the weekly HEROS run. Jerry talks too much and this coupled with my questionable navigation skills means that we take the long way round. Arriving just in time we meet Peter, the only other runner and we set off. It's hot and humid and the trails are iron hard. The sky looks like bruised pewter, trapping the heat between it and the earth. I've also made the schoolboy error of leaving my water bottle on the dining room table at home. Idiot.  Fortunately I have an empty in the car and am able to fill it up after a mile at a rural church and I become increasingly grateful as the run progresses. This quickly becomes something other than the usual enjoyable trail run. My perspiration is oily and unhealthy, the legacy of too much chocolate and beer over the holiday. I toil in the sun and I even fall on an innocuous and bland little path, my water bottle bouncing off the rocks ahead of me with a clatter. Peter is relentless, never breaking pace or stride no matter what the gradient. I need this run, it destroys the complacency of indolence and half throttle commitment that I've allowed to creep in to my running. The bible speaks of iron sharpening iron and that is the net result of thirteen miles on the hills in the sun, when we get back to the car I feel tired but also sharper.

Inov-8 Road X 233

  • Wednesday, August 08, 2012
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Just about 36 hours ago my doorbell rang. On the doorstep I found Jerry Smallwood from the IOC London 2012 anti doping team. Resplendent in his official purple and beige, with epaulets he quickly reassured me that I was not required to hand over my urine but rather he had a free pair of Inov-8 Road X 233 shoes for me to test and review. These are part of Inov-8's minimalist stable.
I love my Inov-8 shoes, I've run in Mudroc's for years so I happily accepted and took the box off him.
Opening it up I was immediately struck by the beautiful styling and construction, Inov-8 make quality footwear and it is apparent. You want to put them on and take them for a run. Or just put them on and show off. You might even want to wear them to bed.
I wore them out to last nights club run. First off, they are a narrow fit across the laces, fine for me with my narrow feet but possibly a bit tight for someone with broader feet. I like my shoes snug. I think there is more room in the forefoot than Inov-8 traditionally provide which is a good thing. Otherwise they were immediately comfortable and had a light responsive feel, weighing around 255g. Last night we ran seven miles on a mixture of hard packed trails and tarmac and the Road X 233's felt stable and responsive on these surfaces. They are essentially a racing flat so I'm not sure how much I will run in these as I run predominantly off road but they will find a happy home with me non the less.
Thanks J.

Rooibos, the tea of champions.

  • Wednesday, August 01, 2012
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Following last nights club run I was so full of good vibes that I could not sleep. I eventually gave up trying at 3:30 am and went downstairs for a mug of Rooibos tea. 
I guess like many regular runners I have experimented with various sports drinks and beverages over the years before settling on what I feel works for me.
Rooibos has become one of my staples and I've even carried it on long, cold night runs.
Rooibos (redbush) is a herbal tea which is grown in the Cape heartland of South Africa and was used first by the Khoisan bushmen as an herbal remedy for a range of ailments.
It was "discovered"  in 1772 by botanist Carl Humberg who first used it as a beverage and was marketed as "mountain" tea by a Russian, Benjamin Ginsberg in 1904.
Amongst the many benefits of Rooibos it has been proven to contain many flavinoids, free-radical fighting antioxidants. Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine free and has also been shown to soothe the body's reaction to rashes - perfect when you've been running through stinging nettles and brambles out on the trails.

Rooibos contains the following:

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

It has become one of my favourite brews both as a re hydrating drink after a run and as a relaxing beverage.