Thames Path 100. Two Weeks To Go

Two weeks on Saturday, at 10am I start my fourth 100 mile race, the Thames Path 100, with a view to getting my third finish at the distance.

This follows the Thames, as the name suggests, as it meanders between Richmond in South-West London to Oxford.

For months I was not excited about this race. I entered simply to ensure I keep my Western States lottery momentum going and simply need to finish under the cut-off of 28 hours to achieve that. However, as the race has got closer and I study the map I am now firmly excited. The route is hugely historic, starting in our capital and finishing in one of our most beautiful cities. The route passes some major landmarks and the early indications are the fine weather we are experiencing right now might just hang around for a while, meaning less mud or diversions that have dogged this race in the past.

Finishing a 100 miler is never a given by any means and the drop out rate in this race is staggeringly high, considering its low elevation profile, but after a great run at Brazos Bend in December on a similar profile course I feel I should at the very least finish.

Brazos was hot and humid, but to counter that I had no mandatory kit so a similar time would be respectable. That said, I have never felt fitter than I do right now so as my splits show below, I am aiming for a finish of 20 hours as my A plan.

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The B plan is sub 24 and the C plan is simply finish and get 4 Western States lottery tickets for December. Finishing will also allow me to re-enter the UTMB lottery in December, where I will have double the chance of this year (as you can see, lotteries haven’t gone my way so far in running…or life, come to that. Still working).

I have also changed my training style quite a bit since Christmas. Namely, I have completely ditched technology and gone back to running for the fun of it, not that I used technology much before to be honest. My philosophy, and whilst I want to improve- don’t get me wrong, is that this is my hobby, so why make it feel like work. I love running and I loathe technology, so I have gone back to basics.

Most people these days follow some kind of plan or have a coach, from the elites through to the mid-pack. They use Strava to compete in training or just map their workouts and use GPS watches. The only thing I occasionally use is a heart rate monitor, but even that is less frequently than before as I know my body better now.

And that is precisely it, whilst I may not be “training” in a conventional way, through getting back to basics I have got to know my body. I know when to push and when to back off as I feel a niggle or my breathing is too hard. I don’t like to let technology dictate the speed I should be running.

Yes, this might mean I am losing time compared with my friends. I ran with Chris Mills recently and he left me for dust with his coaches training plan and Suunto Ambit, which was great to see, so what works for one person may not work for another.

But the thing I have found the most these last few months is I simply love running again and I look forward to every run. I still have days where I lose my passion, but overall I have never found this more enjoyable and so whether I finish in 19:30 or 27:59 in just over two weeks, my one aim is to enjoy a 100 miler.

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Compound Interest and New Distances- Keeping Goals Positive & Realistic

In January 2012 I signed up for my first ultramarathon- the North Downs Way 50 miler which was scheduled to be held in August. I had already run two marathons and I had my third coming up in April where I wanted to run under 4 hours for the first time.

I remember in my registration pack I received a sticker of the digital finishing clock, where you could pull tabs off to show the time you wanted. It then stuck to your fridge for you to look at each day. I pulled the tabs on mine to not show my London goal, but my North Downs goal. I looked at 09:30 every day for 8 months in the build up to that race.

But why did I have 9 hours and 30 minutes in my head? Well, my previous best London Marathon was 4:30 in 2011. So I thought, well if I can run a marathon in 4:30 then add half an hour for the second 25 miles to another 4:30 (to factor in slowing down) and I will finish in 9:30. Simple.

What I hadn’t considered was the principal of compound interest. Only not in a good way, like with your pension.

The deadly compound interest.

The deadly compound interest.

To define compound interest I have pulled the below from Wikipedia:

Compound interest is interest added to the principal of a deposit or loan so that the added interest also earns interest from then on. This addition of interest to the principal is called compounding. A bank account, for example, may have its interest compounded every year: in this case, an account with £1000 initial principal and 20% interest per year would have a balance of £1200 at the end of the first year, £1440 at the end of the second year, £1728 at the end of the third year, and so on.

In a similar vein if you were playing 18 holes of golf and someone gave you £1 on the first hole and doubled the amount on every hole so it was £2 on hole 2, £4 on hole 3, £8 on hole 4 and so on, how much do you think you would have by hole 18? £200? £400? The answer is a staggering £131,072.

Now, from my limited experience running ultramarathons, each time I build up to a new distance is like compound interest, but not in a good way. Each and every mile after my previous longest distance felt like I was compounding the miles I had already run.

Back in August 2012, because I had no idea what I was in for- every mile over mile 26 was new to me, I ended up coming away from that run disappointed as I finished over two hours off my time goal but also missed the sub 11 hour qualification zone to go into the Western States lottery.

Instead of coming away elated that I had just done something epic- and running 50 miles across hills for the first time is epic- I came away deflated.

OK, this isn't me, but you don't want to finish your first race feeling like her. Photo: technicallyrunning.com

OK, this isn’t me, but you don’t want to finish your first race feeling like her. Photo: technicallyrunning.com

The same thing happened when I built up to my first 100 mile race. Again this was at the North Downs, but is still the only race I have ever dropped from of any distance. I had set myself a goal of sub 24 hours and when this was slipping away, my mind did as well. And you can’t run 100 miles if the mind isn’t with the legs on the journey.

But- once I knew these distances, I knew the pain and I bettered them. I returned to the North Downs 50 and took an hour and a half off my time. I then ran a personal best a year later at the South Downs 50 taking another hour and a half off my time. All because I knew what to expect. I knew the pain, I knew the food, I knew the strategy and I knew what the compound interest would do to me. It became familiar. The same applied to my two 100 mile races so far. My last 100 mile race in December was six hours faster than the first. Yes, the course was easier- but mainly I just knew what to expect from my body and the pain.

I wanted to write this post for a number of reasons. I know a lot of people are using the South Downs Way 50 on Saturday 4th April to run 50 miles for the first time and I want those people to feel elated when they finish, not disappointed like I did. Don’t set a time goal for a new distance, just finish it- it will be a PB anyway. And once you’ve run that distance and know what to expect, better that time at another race or return a year later.

And if you must set a goal, double your marathon time and then add a third as the bare minimum. i.e. if your P.B. to date is 4 hours at a road marathon, double this to 8. Multiply by 0.33 and add this 2.64 to the 8. 10:30 would then be the very best to shoot for, but even then this is a lofty goal. Just finish.

Only the very elite build up to a new distance with a competitive goal. One example is Stephanie Howe at Western States last year who not only won the race, but it was her first 100 miler. I have mid-pack stamped all over my forehead and that sort of thing doesn’t happen to people like me. Obviously I don’t mean the win, I mean setting a time goal for a new distance and achieving it. The real goal for most of us with a new distance should simply be getting it done.

And the compounding gets worse the longer the distance. If you want examples of this, read race reports such as Sam Robson’s from the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race last year or Victor Ballesteros from the Tahoe 200 mile race. Every time the distance steps up, the compounding does too, so go easy on yourself and flip the pressure to positive as opposed to inevitably missing out on your time goals.

As Ultrasportslive.Tv use as their motto, “Every Finish Is Amazing”. Most people will never run an ultra and you may well forget your time in the future from your first race. But you’ll never forget crossing the finish line at a new distance.

Harvey Lewis Finishes Badwater. Now, that's a finish. Photo: chicabands.com

Harvey Lewis Finishes Badwater. Now, that’s a finish. Photo: chicabands.com

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The Green Man Ultra 2015- Race Report

Entering CP2. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

Entering CP2. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

I made the fatal mistake of saying to the guy next to me, around halfway through the Green Man Ultra on Saturday, that “this is probably the easiest ultra I have done so far…”. Never a sensible thing to say on a course you don’t know, that you have to navigate yourself and you are 20 odd miles from the finish.

By the end of the race, I regretted that statement.

In terms of terrain, yes, it was the easiest ultra I have done to date, but with a finish time two minutes shy of 10 hours for a 44 mile course, it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to work out I averaged 4.4 miles per hour, or just under 15 minute miles. That is not quick, even by ultra standards.

To put it in context, I ran nine and a half hours at the 47 mile Brecon Beacons ultra, which is far tougher in terms of terrain or just 12 minutes slower at the North Downs Way 50 mile race when I was much less fit than I am now. Quite simply, this race threw me because it wasn’t marked and I didn’t have a GPS. Using the maps, navigation wasn’t a huge issue but it took a lot of time stopping, checking and making sure I was going the right way- even when I teamed up with Christian Maleedy for the last 20 odd miles.

One of the things that was toughest was even when having determined a route, I didn’t run with full confidence and therefore full speed, as I was second guessing myself a lot. The whole race I felt like I was holding back and never really running with a rhythm. I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

That said, I entered this race to get out of comfort zone. It is a classic British race now and one I have wanted to do for a couple of years, but hadn’t managed to squeeze in. I understand where we started from and finished this year, in Long Ashton, is new as a headquarters but you wouldn’t have known it. This is the first race I have done with Ultrarunning Ltd and I have to say they were fantastic. Certainly more low key than Centurion, but equally passionate and with great volunteers and aid stations that had everything I needed. Whilst the medal is already in the garage, it is one of the most impressive ones I have ever seen and was a big motivator when I was having low spots. I wanted that medal.

Once registered, I had the usual slightly nervous/apprehensive chats. I met Dawn Riden for the first time face to face as well as Roz Glover who I had seen the weekend before at the CW50K. Stu Wilkie was also there, last years winner, as well as Dennis Cartwright who I haven’t seen since the North Downs 100. But mainly I was chatting to Ian Walker.

Now, Ian has annoyed me here. Because he has ruined one of my excuses for a poor time at this race. I would have said that running a 50K the weekend before this race wasn’t sensible, but then Ian goes and comes 16th in 8:07 and Bryan Robb runs in 4th in 7:20. Both ran last weekends 50K with me. Inconsiderate bastards.

For the first 10 miles of the race, we headed South and then West around Bristol towards Keynsham and then headed North. The first 10 miles were by far the hilliest ones but even then, nothing like the Cotswold Way or the North Downs. Everything was very runnable, but very muddy. Navigation wasn’t an issue as we were still a big pack by then and it was also very rural, so there was only one or two paths we could follow. It was the urban sections that threw me where there were multiple route choices, but more of that later.

I got into a good rhythm here and was running well within myself and pacing fine. It was turning into a stunner of a day and I am probably one of very few people who can say they got sunburnt on March 7th in England. That is quite a skill, even for a ginger.

Somewhere in the early miles. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

Somewhere in the early miles. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

As always, I had a few chats but preferred to run alone and just enjoy some me time. I find running these races is one of the few times I am truly alone and whilst I like company, its nice just to be by myself sometimes. As I have learnt through some work psychological profiling recently, whilst I have a people oriented role in work, I am a natural introvert and I like solitude when the time is right.

Check Point 1 came and went in just over an hour, seven miles in, and I had a quick chat with Darryl Carter who was volunteering (and held the course record until later that day), before filling my bottles and getting back out. CP2 came an hour and a half later and I was well on for a circa 8:30 finishing time, which was way up on what I was expecting.

Between CP2 and CP3 is a bit of a blur but this was a much longer section with around 12 miles to cover. I only filled two bottles so had just over a litre of water for this, but had underestimated the time it would take so the last three miles I was dry. When I finally reached this checkpoint, I needed a few minutes to re-hydrate and get some calories in.

The one thing I am most pleased with during this race was how well I ate and digested. I absolutely stuffed myself at each aid station with typically having a few cups of coke, three cheese rolls, some cake, a 9 bar and taking a couple of gels with me. I didn’t once feel sick and ate between checkpoints with snickers that I was carrying. Energy wise, I felt great the whole day. One of the race sponsors was Red Bull and these were available at each aid station, but I wasn’t even tempted. I don’t even like caffeinated gels and the only caffeine I have at races is Coke, but I would prefer sprite if it were available. My heart rate gets high enough without caffeine and I don’t like mixing it with exercise. This is just a personal thing, but I did see others guzzling the cans and clearly it works well for some.

I arrived at CP3 with Christian Maleedy and we spent probably six miles before this together and then the rest of the race. Our pace fell in step and whilst I am not usually that talkative, we spoke a lot and it just helped the miles click by. I felt we got to know each other quite well during the race and from polite chat at first, that migrated to full on swearing and piss taking by the end. So much so that when I fell over a couple of miles from the line and with us chasing down a time still starting with a 9, he was laughing at me as I swore and laughed myself. We just had a laugh and neither of us took it too seriously.

One thing we did talk about a lot was that if someone handed us a headtorch and a refill of the bottles at the finish and said do it again (which still would have been 16 miles shy of a 100 mile race) there is absolutely no way in hell we could have. It is amazing that you really can run the distance you tell yourself you will in your head, but not a step further. That is why the piece of string run is such a fascinating concept. 44 miles was our limit that day and we were chasing down the daylight to get in by 6pm.

Between CP3 and CP4 was where things started to go array. We found ourselves lost a couple of times and backtracking or second guessing where we were. By now the field was spread out, but without a GPS between us Christian was looking at the written directions and I was following the map, trying to agree the route. The map provided was not hugely detailed so it was easy to miscalculate a turn. We ended up taking about 45 minutes longer than we expected because of these issues here and whilst we were both physically fine after 30+ miles, we were frustrated at times when lost but shrugged it off.

Neither of us are hugely competitive, but nevertheless we both wanted to get finished in the best time we could. Eventually we hit CP4 which was in a park with some beautiful features, especially by the gates as you entered by the manor house. There weren’t many things of beauty on this run, but this was absolutely one of them as the sun lit up the features here.

We refilled, had some soup and realised we had two hours and ten minutes to get to the finish, approximately 8 miles away. Sounds very easy, but we knew this was a very urban section coming up and would involve lots of concentration as we headed into Clifton and into Long Ashton to close the loop.

We took a while getting out of the park as, again, we were second guessing our instructions with where some other runners were going but stuck to our gut instincts. We mostly ran alone but followed a few others where we could until pace dictated we were either dropped or we moved ahead. Eventually, we found and crossed the Clifton Suspension Bridge commenting that whilst we were a little sore and jaded, we weren’t yet ready to call the Samaritans hotline plastered all over the bridge. Maybe on a second loop…

Here we entered a huge park and it was just two miles to the finish, maybe three. We met a guy here going the complete other direction to us and whilst we found this odd, we stuck to the map and then got a little lost. We should have followed him, but it just didn’t feel right and our gut had got us through most of the day. We came out of the park and realised we were too far south so had to follow the main road back up to where we should have crossed. By now we had just 25 minutes to get in under 10 hours and I was very focussed on getting in by that time. For some reason, a 9 was acceptable and a 10 was absolutely not. We both agreed on this.

This is where I tripped and cut my leg, we then decided the road was a little dicey in the dusk so crossed the road prematurely and climbed a steep hill. We then had to vault a wall and finally found ourselves on the wrong side of the right golf course. We crossed it and eventually joined the correct route with arrows spray painted for the last half a mile guiding us in.

As we found this path I remember shouting to Christian that we had 7 minutes to get in under 10 hours. He then did his best Kilian impression and bounded down the hill like a gazelle with me limping along in his slipstream. Finally we came out of the woods as I shouted “4 minutes” and we entered the finish turn as I shouted “2 minutes!”.

Scraping home under 10 hours. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

Scraping home under 10 hours. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

9 hours 58 minutes and 30 odd seconds. We had done it. 106th and 107th place respectively.

We both agreed we will return next year now we know the route and both with GPS watches. I firmly believe we could take an hour and a half off our time, but that said the weather was amazing considering it is only just Spring and on a wet and windy day, our times would have been pretty decent. In fact, prior to this year we would have been in the top 100 fastest times ever “hall of fame” on this course. It just shows how much slower this course is in bad weather.

Certificate and that fantastic medal.

Certificate and that fantastic medal.

All in all, a cracking race and I can’t recommend it enough. Now, just six weeks until the Thames Path 100 on May 2nd.

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Cotswold Way 50k: Mark 2: 2015

The Start: Several runners joined later on, getting attendance over 40 for the day.

The Start: Several runners joined later on, getting attendance over 40 for the day.

It started last year with 19 runners. This year we got up to 40. Within a few years I will be charging you bastards and able to put my feet up, counting the cash as you run over the hills.

Or not. Social Ultra is just that. A group of runners, used to training alone and coming together for a group run in a non-competitive environment. Last year I ran a lot with Emily Canvin, this year it was Mark Fox. Two runners who’s backs I usually see for about the first 0.3 of a mile during a race, but during a social I get to chat to them.

Heading up the first hill.

Heading up the first hill. Photo: Brian Connelly

Dave Urwin and I came up with the idea for this run in late 2013 and it started the Social Ultra scene in the UK, at least in an organised sense. Rich Cranswick and Chris Mills then took it to the next level with the Social Ultra website and Facebook page and now there are group runs every few weekends.

If you have a favourite training route and want to share it with others, get on the page and post it. We all enjoy building up to our races, but training alone on the long runs can be a slog. Sometimes it is welcome solitude, but Social Ultras bridge that gap between competitive running and training.

Photo: Dylan Gould

Photo: Dylan Gould

This year the run was supported by Helen Crossland, Rachael Gould and her daughter Chloe along with Nikki Mills. They set up some roving aid stations that would put Endurancelife to shame and did it all for free. In return, we asked runners to make a donation to BRAKE, the road safety charity after the recent accident close to the start of our run that claimed 4 lives, including that of 4 year old Mitzi Steady. A quick tot up on the JustGiving page shows over £100 from our runners, with other cash donations due to be added soon.

Rachel & Chloe politely letting Chris know that there are others behind him...

Rachel & Chloe politely letting Chris know that there are others behind him… Photo: Dylan Gould

It was pretty much the muddiest I have ever seen the Cotswold Way and made a route that people underestimate anyway, even tougher. Because it wasn’t a race I don’t know how many people finished, but I know a few decided to skip the finish in the dark due to the terrain and I can understand that. Even knowing the route like the back of my hand, as the weather came in during dusk I was ready to get finished.

Nikki & Rachael at the half way point.

Nikki & Rachael at the half way point. Photo: Brian Connelly

I used this as a last long run before the Green Man Ultra this coming weekend. It was great to catch up with some friends and also meet some new runners, some of who were using this as their first run post marathon distance which was great to see.

This is what it is all about. Smiles and miles. And abuse.

This is what it is all about. Smiles and miles. And abuse. Photo: Vicki Luck

All in all, a fantastic day on the hills and let’s hope we double attendance again next year.

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Training in Les Contamines

Panoramic View from Le Truc

Panoramic View from Le Truc

This weekend I managed to get out for a flying visit to the Alps. I went with two friends, one a skier, one a snowboarder and me, a runner.

The summit at Le Truc

The summit at Le Truc

We flew out very early on Thursday morning and returned on Sunday night. In that short period I managed to spend four, five hour days on the mountain and got some significant vertical on the legs in preparation for the 2015 ultra season. I also ate a record 22 snickers in that time.

Halfway up from Les Contamines with Saint Gervais in the valley below.

Halfway up from Les Contamines with Saint Gervais in the valley below.

The last time I trained in Les Contamines was March 2013 when the snow was a lot less than this time around and it gave me a good set of confidence for that season. I returned from that trip and took an hour and a half off my 50 mile PB two months later. With the Green Man Ultra just 3 weeks away now, I wanted to get some good hard sessions in ready to do my very best on this difficult course and set myself up nicely for my A race this year, the Thames Path 100 in early May.

View from Le Truc

View from Le Truc

I was the only runner on the mountain, but met a lot of snow-shoers and cross-country skiers. In my garbled French I had some great chats and all of them asked me if I was training for UTMB. I said I was, but always have been. Whilst I didn’t get a place this year, I will hopefully next year and besides I will always be training for UTMB and Western States, my two dream races.

Panoramic of Dome de Miage.

Panoramic of Dome de Miage.

UTMB travels through Les Contamines so everyone in the small mountain town knows the race. Whenever I passed through the town in my running gear, people cheered me on as it is still almost too early to see runners training there.

The S-LAB Sense 3's were perfect in the snow

The S-LAB Sense 3’s were perfect in the snow

There is just something so beautiful about being up high in the Alps. I would go for hours and not see another soul and just take in the stunning scenery all around me.

Map of the trails I managed to get on

Map of the trails I managed to get on

It feels like it was a dream now, but not in my legs. They worked hard as I slipped and went up to my thighs at time in the snow, but it was a magical weekend and I cannot wait to get the season started shortly.

A little colder and windier on the Sunday.

A little colder and windier on the Sunday.

But first up, the Cotswold Way 50K on 28th February. Come and join us- its completely free.

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Odlo Primaloft Loftone Jacket- Review.

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That title’s a bit of a mouthful. So is Odd Roar Lofterød; the name of a Norwegian sports enthusiast who started Odlo in 1946 and where the name stems from.

A Norwegian company that has now gone international, Odlo was created originally to develop high qualify winter gear for the speed skating market. It has subsequently developed into producing extremely high quality and functional gear for the running and skiing markets in addition.

Much like Salomon, the brand originated for winter athletes and whilst Salomon now encompass summer mountain running as a core part of the brand, Odlo retains its routes as a winter brand.

I was kindly sent this jacket to review over winter and I am pictured below wearing it the morning after I finished the Brazos Bend 100 with Victor Ballesteros.

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I didn’t wear the jacket during the race as it was very humid in Houston in December, but wore it before and after the race as my body temperature struggled to control itself. However, it has been with me on most of my long runs this winter and especially on the very cold days and evenings.

Usually I try and run in the bare minimum and I have an ability to retain heat quite well. This poses a problem in the summer, but in the winter I am usually comfortable in just shorts and t-shirts on most runs. I very rarely wear tights unless it is significantly cold. Before I used the Odlo jacket, on cold days I would wear the below base layer over a t-shirt and this was taken at the Brecon Beacons ultra in late 2013.

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I bought this for around nine euros in the alps a few years back and it is the best base layer I have ever used. That said, it warms up very quickly so at both the Brecon Beacons and South Downs Way 50 last spring, I was constantly taking it off, cooling down, putting it back on and so on. Quite frustrating whilst wearing a race vest.

The Odlo jacket hits that perfect balance when it is too cold for just a waterproof jacket and yet the body temperature may fluctuate dependent on effort.

What is key here is how distinctly this has been designed for running. The material is incredibly flexible and adapts to the bodies movement. The fabric is Primaloft which offers excellent wind-proofing, although isn’t waterproof throughout. It is highly breathable with the front and sleeves being shower proof, but the back and underams being a mesh fabric to allow breathability and for airflow to allow sweat to absorb and run off.

There is only one pocket, by the right hand and this features a small hole for headphones to run from a device in the pocket and up through the jacket. In addition, the sleeves pull down over the hands so you can wear without gloves on a cold day and these have thumb hooks to stop the sleeves flapping. They are also elasticated so can be rolled up too, when you warm up.

Finally, there is even a gap on the sleeves where you can position this over your watch so you can see detail without having to adjust the sleeves. It is just all very well though through.

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At £150 RRP it is not the cheapest jacket on the market, but offers so much that it can be used in a variety of conditions. It will be my go to jacket for training runs in the cold when heavy rain isn’t forecast, for when I head to the alps to train in a couple of weeks and also for the night leg of summer UK ultras when I know I will be slowing down and need something more flexible than a base layer and warmer than a waterproof.

It also goes without saying that with a full length zip at the front, it is very easy to regulate the temperature and being as lightweight as it is, when I have warmed up and had it completely open, it doesn’t drag when fully opened.

You can find out more and buy the jacket here

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The Hoka One One- Huaka- Review

HOKA ONE ONE - Huaka - Men's

If you don’t like Hoka’s, you won’t like this review. I am a huge fan of the Hoka brand having become a convert in late 2014.

I ran the Brazos Bend 100 in December in a pair of Rapa Nui’s for the first 75 miles and then swapped out to the even more cushioned Stinson Evo’s for the last 25. During that race, in heat and humidity, I developed just one blister and had no foot pain at all the day after the race. Even flying back long haul to the UK 36 hours after finishing the race I had no leg pain even, everything just felt tired but not beaten up.

Sadly, only the Stinson’s flew back with me and the Rapa’s were gifted to the Houston dump. There was nothing wrong with them physically, but the stench. That stench couldn’t come home with me, even wrapped in sixteen carrier bags. Sadly I had to say my farewells to the best pair of shoes I have ever owned.

I will be orderding a new pair soon from The Ultramarathon Running Store as I build up to races in the Spring, but for now I wanted to stick with Hoka but try something a little different.

As I recovered from Brazos and as the evenings are still dark very early on, I am less out on the hills and footpaths, but more using the canal and road to get my miles in. I have never found a pair of road shoes that I love, so thought maybe some of the Hoka road designs might work. The model I opted for were the Huaka.

Now, if you are going to get ‘clown shoes’ you might as well get the clown colours- and these don’t let you down. Let’s face it, you’re not going to pull these off with a pair of jeans in Wetherspoons. On the flip side; what a shoe.

Since chucking the Rapa’s and until these arrived, I was back in my beaten up pair of Pearl Izumi Trail N1’s, which I still love. But I was really missing the support and cushioning I had grown accustomed to in the Rapa’s. To the extent that I felt I was potentially developing some mild Plantar Fasciitis. However, as soon as I converted back to the Huaka’s recently, that pain has gone away. Immediately.

It is not as if I am compensating for the cushioning with an aggressive heel strike either. The Huakas, much like the N1’s, offer a rolling motion, which they brand ‘rockering’. The cushioning is thinner than some lines of Hoka’s but I find the level to be just right and combined with their lightness (just 239g), you do feel you can run to your potential on the road.

In addition, the outsole is much more heavily lugged than many road shoes and would work equally well on trail. I got a bit excited when they first arrived and took them for 18 miles of bog running on the saturated Cotswold Way- not a good idea, but they will be a great dry trail shoe in summer. The level of grip means they do not slip on wet tarmac and as I write this, I ran to work this morning on an icy canal path and they held up well on this (as much as any shoe can).

As with other Hoka’s, they come with a quicklace system but also standard laces in the box. I don’t like the quicklaces so cut these out and put the standard ones in.

If, like me, you are resigned to slightly more dull, road running and canal running for the next couple of months before spring arrives and you want to try a Hoka, I can’t recommend these enough. You can also get them in some adults colours too.

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