Friday, March 25, 2011

Merrell Trail Gloves vs Vibram KSO's

So I went ahead and spent the $ and bought a pair of Merrell's new Barefoot shoes...the Trail Glove.  After wearing my trusty Vibram KSO's on runs both long and short, trails and roads, a few races, plenty of physical therapy sessions and out and about, I decided a "shoe" would be a nice tool to have.  I subscribe to Jason Robilard's theory that shoes are tools to be used when needed.  I read many a review on several minimalist shoes including the New Balance Minimus Trail , Terra Plana's Vivio Barefoot II, other Vibram models (treks and trek sports) and all sorts of make it yourself huaraches and the "buy them from me start ups" as well (I have made my own recycled running/trekking sandals and they are quite a great piece of equipment).  I was sold after reading Jason's review, you can read it here too... was convinced.

I brought my wife to the mall and told her a few things looked great on her and spent a nice sum of money on her wardrobe and as we left the store slipped in the comment that went something like this, "now that you spent all this money on your clothes, I can buy those new shoes I wanted right?"  Amy replies, "if you really need another pair of shoes, go ahead".  So as soon as we got home, I was on the Merrell page and ordered up my sweet black and yellow (smoke/adventure yellow) Trail Gloves and waited impatiently for the UPS man to arrive.  He did several days later and off to the trails I went.  Okay, so I didn't run off to the trails just yet. I was nursing a pretty severe overuse injury on my Achilles and IT tightness, so I wore the to the gym to cross train and to the store and everywhere else I could.  They felt great and the fit was phenomenal...all I had done was walk around at this point remember.

I decided to test them out on my next race, without doing any runs in them first.  I had been walking around in them alot, so I wasn't totally unprepared and on race morning I did a few strides and a quick mile along the levee to get warmed up.  I already wrote about the Red River Run 10K in a previous post, so feel free to go back and read that as a first look type of review.  This is going to be more focused on the comparisons between my tried  and true KSO's and these new kids on the block.  So here it goes, we will do a few vs. comparisons of the features.

FIT:  My Vibrams fit great, they are a bit loose on my foot and I like that, it allows for some extra adjustments when they get wet and I can throw on a pair of wool injinji's if it is too cold out.  The Trail Gloves have a similar fit to them as far as size goes...I was put off by the tight mid-foot design at first, but am beginning to accept it as a great feature.  The Merrell's do turn in on my big toe, causing a bit of a hot spot on longer runs (6 or more miles) and the toe box could be a bit wider for me.  This would probably cure the hot-spot issue as well.

SOLE:  The Vibram KSO has the solid, almost smooth razor siped sole that leaves a bit to be desired for traction on the trails.  This being said they are about as close to a barefoot feel (traction wise) as I think you could get.  The KSO sole is super flexible, thin and provides awesome ground feel (in my opinion) and I am not sure this can be improved on.  I am making a new ultra-minimalist huarache out of some 2mm rubber that may be better for ground feel...but I digress.  The Trail Glove's sole is just amazing...traction, yes... flexibility, yes...ground feel, yes, but not as good as the KSO.  The overall feel of the shoe on rough terrain makes me long for gravel roads and root and rock covered trails.

UPPER:  This is a toss up.  The Vibram upper is super thin, stretchy and breathable.  The Merrel's upper is also thin and breathable but not stretchy.  the lack of stretch is compensated by the laces and traditional "shoe" design.  I enjoy the lace up design and really think that getting them on is much easier than my Vibrams.  The closer systems on both shoes are great, I am interested in a "LS" model of KSO's much like the new lace up Bikilas.

STYLE:  I am really not as interested in this as many people I have read online are.  When I bought my Vibram's, I looked for the most neutral color I could find and chose the grey ones with the green highlights.  I thought black would be too hot and the other colors were just too loud for me.  The Merrell shoes are a nice mild black, grey and yellow combo that is both pleasing to look at and hide dirt well (much like the grey Vibrams).  The toe pockets of my KSO's attract alot

OVERALL:  I think that both of these offer alot for me.  I love my KSO's for trail running and road running and will continue to put miles on them until they breakdown and I need a new pair.  I will probably buy a pair of Trek Sports at that time.  My wife has a pair of them and she loves them.  I also think that they are probably a bit closer to the Merrell shoes as far as the soles are concerned.  The Trail Gloves are my new favorite shoe.  I probably will not wear them on any long road runs and will stick to my KSO's for that, but I will be doing plenty of hiking, off road running and heavy duty trails in them.  In fact I am not sure if a better heavy duty trail shoe is available...if you are a shoe company insider and would like me to test your trail shoes out I will certainly give it a shot, however, you have a tough row to hoe.

I have run about 200 miles in my KSO's and about 50 in my Merrell's so far.  I am sure after a bit more "breaking in" the Merrell's will grow on me even more than they have already.  I only wish that I had a pair of Merrel's with a thin sole like my KSO's and that I had a pair of Vibrams with a thick sole like the Trail Gloves...looks like another trip to the store with Amy in the future to validate my next purchase of shoes.  Or maybe by the time I actually get around to buying them I can just ask Vibram to send me a pair to review...we'll see.  Stay tuned for more and remember to "like", "follow" and most importantly...share with your friends please.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Training plan

So I previously talked about my new theory regarding my training plan.  I said I would only run as far and as fast I felt like and I would keep the long Saturday/weekend runs and still do 1 "workout" run in the week, probably rotating between track sessions, hill repeats and a tempo run...occasionally doing all of them together for a superheros style workout...we'll see if I ever have the motivation to finish one of those.

I was out for my long run with Erin this morning (Pete was a no show), and we were discussing my past injuries (Erin is a former coach and x-country runner and has finished several marathons).  We agreed that my past injuries (see the past few posts) were probably a combination of things, the most prevalent being just overuse complications and not enough cross training and strength training.  We further discussed my mild form of self diagnosed OCD and that in order to stick to a training plan (or lack of one) I would need to map it out, so that's what this is...

I am required by the Army to workout in some way shape or form 5 days a week.  They pay me to do this and give me at least 1 hour a day to go to the gym.  It is actually a pretty sweet deal.  I would probably shell out the $ for either a gym membership or invest in home gym benches and weights otherwise, so I really am saving money right now with the free, forced, mandatory physical training.  I am in charge of my unit's special population physical training program (injured and on profile. restricting them from normal unit PT) and as such, can and have, designed a workout program for these Soldiers, of which I am one.

This program consists of Monday, Wednesday and Fridays doing some sort of cardiovascular workout.  This is anything from 3 mile walks in groups of 2-3 people, up to elliptical and treadmill runs as individuals.  With the varied injuries that people have sustained in the Army, you can't have a set running program that is for everyone. On Tuesday and Thursday, we all go to the gym and workout with free weights, nautilus machines etc.  I only have one set of rules here and it is to do 2 exercises, with 3 sets each, for your upper body, core and lower body.  This is the minimum and fortunately everyone has enough maturity and motivation to meet these parameters.  I think that this setup gives everyone enough wiggle room to design a plan to meet and maintain personal and professional fitness goals.  It works for me and my leadership likes the plan as well.

I like to switch it up every few weeks, alternating between traditional bench press, curls, squats sit-ups and the treadmill (for cardio days) etc. and using medicine balls, kettle-bells, plyometrics and stationary bike etc.  I have recently decided that instead of just doing whatever I feel like doing I am going to spell out a 6 week training plan and then gauge my fitness using a 10K as the benchmark.  My goal is to improve my time in the 10K by running less and focusing on strength and mobility exercises.  There is an obstacle course about 2 miles from my house in the woods, so that will be incorporated as one of my runs each week.  I will run out to the course, complete the whole thing and run home, using my total time as my gauge for that, trying to beat my time each week.  I am getting ahead of myself.

My goal is to get into great shape and I think a varied strenuous workout plan over the next 6 weeks will accomplish this.  On April 30th I will run a 10K in and around my town, in order to judge how I feel about it. I think that this plan should see me get  into the best shape I have been in for a few years.  I also hope that with this program I will lose about 10 lbs and see significant changes in my body fat and visual body composition.  If there is a change then I will post photos...if there isn't then I wont'...I will just forget that I wrote this and move on with my fairly ordinary existence...

Stay safe and have a great day...remember to follow, like and share with your friends...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A new approach to for me at least...

I recently ran in my first ever 10K, the Red River Run in Alexandria, LA.  It was a great race and tons of fun before and after the race.  I met some great new people and put faces with names of people I had spoken and/or emailed with before.  The thing that made this race so significantly different from my past races was the amount and type of training I put in as race day approached.

Lets discuss.

I typically run about 30 miles a week.  10 in shoes, 10 in my KSO's and 10 barefoot.  These are working, fluid numbers and have begun steering away from my Nike's and Asics and into my Vibrams and barefeet more often.  I try to mix it up with trails, road and treadmills all throughout the week and never really skip any aspect of my 4 a day training schedule, unless I am adding a day or mileage or whatever.  I have been nursing a few minor injuries the last few weeks and decided that my doctors were probably right and I should take some time off (even with a race coming up).  I stopped running for 12 days, turned up the cross training on the stationary bike, alot of kettle-bell and medicine ball workouts and 3-5 short barefoot walks with my wife and dog each week.  I normally skip the walks and go for my run or I run and just meet them on their walk and we finish the last mile together.  It is a nice way to finish the day before a shower, dinner and time spent on the couch.

So the 2 weeks I took off before the race kind of worried me, like only someone with a mild case of OCD about their training regiment can worry.  I figured I would keep the pace slow, maybe around a 9-9:30 and just have fun...right?  I looked down at my Garmin about 1/2 a mile into the race and realized I was going entirely too fast...about a 6:45 pace. I backed it off to what seemed like a comfortably hard pace and decided I would hold it until I got winded or my legs started to act up again.  2 miles later I looked at the watch again...7:24...average...I still felt great and decided that there was something wrong with my watch and I should, just for safety, back it off again.  I finished in 47:11.60, right at a 7:37 overall pace (the 10K ended up being like 6.25 or 6.35, I forget now).

So I started to think about what I did differently for this race.  The biggest thing was the lack of running and the increase of x-training and gym time with compound exercises.  I have decided that I will continue to run 3-5 times a week, just kind of throwing my old regiment out the window in favor of the new "idea" as far as feels comfortable 2 days a week.  Run a long social run on the weekend (or a local 5K or whatever). Run 1 quality speed/hill/interval/tempo run a week...and make it really count...and start throwing in stationary bike 3 mornings a week and some type of high intensity training (cross-fit/kettle-bells etc) 4 times per week...hopefully Tuesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons.

So if you were able to struggle through my disjointed, sketchy writing and pulled the important pieces out of it, then great, it all sounds good inside my head when I think it, although I have been told it is hard to understand when I speak or write it down.

Don't forget to subscribe/follow/like if you enjoy reading this and as always share to as many as you can, eventually I may write something others will enjoy...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Merrell Trail Glove Review at the 13th annual Red River Run (RRR)

So Saturday was my first 10K and the first time I wore my Merrell's running.  If you have been reading this, then you know that I have been having some injury issues.  I decided to us e the RRR as my recovery race and also to test out the new kicks.  I must first say that the RRR was great!  Kegs and pasta salad at the end, mmmm.

On to the shoes.  I have been wearing the Trail Gloves around for a couple of weeks, to the gym, the store etc.  I have only been walking and standing in them to give them a chance to break in a bit.  I read other reviews about them, one guy said injinji's were a nice addition the first time out, another said no socks...I went with the injinji's as I had not run a lick in 12 days.  The feel of the shoes are great.  They are nothing like my KSO's, and nothing like my old Asics or Nike Free's, they are a new and very original feel.

I did a few repeat sprints on the levee before the race and was amazed at how the shoes just let you run in the best form you have mastered.  Some footwear takes away from your form, these just allow you to run.  That being said, they are still shoes...I ran for a few minutes to warm up then headed to the start line.

I started out at a 7:30 pace and decided, after a 1/2 mile, to see if I could hold it.  Around mile 5 I decided I couldn't hold the pace any longer and had to slow down to about a 7:45 to finish in 47:12.60, not a bad time overall and a really good time considering my runs are all at 9ish and I had not run at all in 12 days.  I came in 38th overall and 6th in my age group.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) my age group in Alexandria, LA is extremely competitive.

The only issue I had with these shoes was a small hotspot on the front/side of my big toe.  I am sure this will go away as soon as I run in them more and my feet get used to them.  That being said, I think of that issue as a major downfall, I shouldn't have to "get used to" my "barefoot" shoes, should I?  Overall they are a great shoe and I think that I sold a pair to a new friend at the race.  He is doing ultras and needs a shoe for them...I recommend Merrell Trail Gloves, KSO's or reverse order probably, as my top 3 choices for long distance minimalist running options.

Thanks for reading and remember to "like", "share" and "follow" my page for updates...thanks! and wish me luck!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Partial Recovery...

So I got home from work today and Amy was gone with Reagan.  I quickly deduced this when her car was in the driveway and her Vibrams were fellow that I am, I figured she was walking the dog.  I quickly changed my uniform for a pair of shorts and a top, tossed my boots in the corner and took off in the opposite direction of where I hoped she had gone.

I was right, about a mile into the run, I found the two of them walking up the hill towards the house.  I stopped and walked the rest of the way with them, remarking how good my Achilles and legs in general, were feeling.  So tomorrow is the 13th annual Red River Run in Alexandria, LA.  I had planned on running it barefoot and still may.  However, I am thinking it will be a great time to test out my Merrell Trail Gloves after wearing them in the gym for 2 weeks.

So the shoe review and a race update will be in store for the 2 or 3 people that actually read this.  Go ahead and click "Like" on Facebook and follow if you are interested in updates.  I am going to reward the people that start following me early, before I become famous.  So if you are interested in getting all sorts of cool stuff in the future, including but not limited to stuff, then go ahead and get in now...

wish me luck, i'm going to need it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recovery Race?

So I have been down without running...I have a serious hip/knee/leg issue on the right side and I have the Achilles thing on the left.  I went to the doctor and they told me no more running, they sound like a broken record.  I have not run for over 7 days at this point and plan on staying off of my feet until Thursday at least.  The biggest question right now is...can I use my upcoming race on Saturday as a "recovery race"?  I am running the Red River run in Alexandria, am thinking that a nice easy 6 miles would be okay...slow without shoes and try to just take it easy and have fun...we'll see what happens on Thursday when I go for a quick 2 mile run...stay tuned...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sidelined By Injury!

So it has been almost 2 weeks since I ran the Austin 1/2 Marathon in my Vibrams and I am having a bit of an issue with my left Achilles tendon and my right knee and IT band.  It started the week after the race with a sore ache in the right leg from the hip down to the ankle all along the IT.  I nursed it a little bit with warm baths and Tiger Balm thinking I could "run it off".  I did about 7 miles in the woods behind our house, alone, nice and slow on the trails, also thinking this would allow me to have a good time, no one to push me etc... I came home from that run with a serious ache in the right leg and a new pain the the left Achilles.

I ran that Saturday, then again on Monday.  I did 6 1/2 miles after work trying to concentrate on my form and allowing my ankles to pronate fully and really trying to lift my feet.  Around mile 4 I felt a tightness in the Achilles and some serious pain in the left knee.

My choices were:
A.  Continue to run to my Jeep about 2 miles away.
B.  Turn around and go the 4-5 miles home on foot... or
C.  Walk the remaining 2-3 miles and be walking in the dark with no phone, wallet or dinner in the next hour.

I chose A. and though I would just slow it down and still be able to walk it off later on.  Man was i wrong!  My pace went from low 8's to high-mid 9's and I thought my legs were going to fall off at times.  I obviously made it to the Jeep and eventually home to a bath, dinner and lots of ointment.

I have not ran more that 10 feet (jogged to the mailbox) since Monday.  The 10-20 feet to the mailbox were not pleasant, hence why it was only 10-20 feet instead of the 200 to the mail...I have 3 races this month, 2 already paid for that I am running and people expecting me to volunteer at the other.  My friend, who is a PT, gave me some advice, which I am following...NO RUNNING!!! ice and heat and ice and heat and stretch and ice and heat and stretch...I think I am supposed to use a foam roller at specific times as well...I do all of these things and the Achilles pain has subsided (except for the ill advised jog to the mail) and the knee only hurts when I am awake...

I promised not to run at least until Wednesday...I may just wait until the race on Saturday...we'll see.  Either way both the 5K on Saturday the 12th and the 10K on the 26th  will both be ran barefoot.  I was going to writ e review of my new Merrell Trail Gloves this Sunday, however, with no running in my near future, it will wait until the end of the month...thanks for reading.  Click the "like" button, share with your friends and follow me for new updates as they happen...