Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Minimus - the verdict

So I had the minimus for about two weeks before I attempted to run a 100 km race with every type of terrain you could ask for, from tarmac to gnarly mountain trails and stoney forestry roads. I broke the shoes in during my taper and put about 100 kms on them over two weeks. The longest run I did in the Minimus before the race was 30 kms on dusty angled single track trails. The shoe felt great and made you want to run lightly, improving the overall fluid motion of running. The night before the race it rained heavily ensuring that there would be enough slippery slopes to give the Minimus a good test. Race day started with a forestry road ascent that turned into single track then descended on single track to a tarmac section of about 8kms, then climbed to a forestry road. This was the first 20 kms or so and the shoe felt great, especially on the tarmac. The next section was a technical single trail ascent. The lightweight minimus made the ascent effortless with enough grip on the descent to make the slippery trail no problem. Next was a real technical runners dream, 20 kms of root infested ups and downs, rocky, slippery drops and switchbacks. This gave the minimus a real good sole test. I have been running in Inov 8 X-Talons for over a year so am no stranger to harsh underfoot conditions. My feet loved the contact that the Minimus allowed on this type of trail. Like a light footed ballerina I danced my way over and in between the roots. I played it safe on wet rocky drops as I did feel the shoe give once or twice. Alas all good things come to an end and here is where the shoe, for me, fell down. The minimus had performed well over soft trail, even gnarly roots and large stones, for 55kms but the next 15 kms involved long sections of stoney forestry road. I found myself looking for grassy patches or where the pine needles covered the track to run on and at one point yelped in pain as a real sharp stone poked into the soul of my foot. At the 70 km aid station I was told that the next 30 kms would be much of the same so I changed shoes. So for soft, grassy and even tarmac tracks the minimus is fine and would probably be ok over stoney ground for short periods when the footfalls are fresh and light, and are able to counter the harshess of sharp stones. They performed well over technical trail and their lightness was a great asset to fast uphill ascent. The day after the race I had no injuries or discomfort that I would normally have if I had used shoes with much thicker soles but my midfoot sole area was sore after thousands of strikes in this area. A great training shoe and brilliant sole toughener, I foresee an entry level shoe for minimal running but no 100km all terrain racer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Tarawera 100km Ultra

Done and done. 12:32. I pretty much stuck to my plan of taking it easy for the first 60kms with some walking at the start. My choice of using the minimus running shoes was a good one, but my tiredness in the last 40 kms didn't allow me to be as light footed as the shoe require, especially over the hard packed gravel roads in the last 40kms. This caused me to have to change to the shoes provided by Smiths, which were total road shoes with no milage on them. Hence the blister (first one ever) and imminent loss of a toenail. I drank plenty of fluid and replace along the course but got mixed up with my gels and missed 3 or 4 out (doh!). My pacers Mark and Rohan were great with Mark becoming more of a life support machine in the last 30kms. It was all I could do to run a few kms then walk then run etc... My quads are not to bad but ankles are swollen and there are general aches and pains but I'm otherewise pretty good. Although I did not have the envisaged energy to race the last 10kms I am still very pleased at my stamina in my first attempt at a 100km run. I have learned a lot and plan to return to Tarawera next year and attempt a sub 12 hour time. Longer training and more time in my minimalist shoes will hopefully help me achieve this.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Ok so NB provided me with a pair of the new NB/Vibram 'less is more' trail shoes -Minimus. These guys are as light as a feather. There is no separate insole and I suppose should be used without socks to get that 'Barefoot' connection. On first fitting (my size 9.5) they felt a bit tight. I am used to this having quite wide feet and shoes usually give a little as they are broken in. Apart from the 'new shoe' tightness they felt good. I started using minimalistic shoes (Inov-8 x-Talons) last year and weaned myself onto them slowly, having run in cushioned shoes all the time I have been running. The Minimus comes with a caution tag that lets runners know that this shoe should be introduced to your running routine gradually as it will put strain on the foot, calf and Achilles tendon; sound advice for those who have predominantly used cushioned shoes. I took these shoes for a 5k trail run so I'm only reporting on the initial feel. I got no pains or aches and in fact the shoe felt as though it were healing the damage of a 21k road run I'd done recently. The grip was good on angled dusty trail and the sole thin enough to get a good feel of the running surface. Being a relatively new runner (3years) I didn't have a lifetime of bad habits to break in order to run with minimalistic shoes and have read a lot about barefoots v's cushioned running lately. This shoe has been designed to give a natural (neutral) running experience from its upward toe curve to the low drop from heel to toe (4mm) and it certainly delivers this. I felt very lightfooted and the running motion felt quiet and effortless, the shoe reinforcing the pratice of fluid running. I'll be using these shoes to taper for, and run, the Tarawera Ultramarathon after which I'll be able to give a fuller account of their performance. But my first impressions are that New Balance and Vibram have come up with a winning formula.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Taper time

Ok so been out for some long runs over the last 2 months. Built up to 6 hours of mountain running, constant ascent and descent. Even spent 2hrs running road, never again if I can help it. After using minimal running shoes for over a year don't think I can run in anything else now. Cushioned, supported and raised heel shoes cause me pain and feel uncomfortable and heavy. Tarawera 100k is 3 weeks away so it's time to taper. New Balance are supplying me with their new Minimus trail shoe, a shoe developed with Vibram addressing the need to get back to near as barefoot running.