Blistering Height

I won’t be running this week, I think. Shame, as I’d hoped to start building up from my recent 10K practice run towards the Bristol Half Marathon, which is rushing towards me very quickly.

On the plus side, the reason is because I walked up Snowdon for the first time. My friend Chris loves the hills, so for his stag do there was lots of walking, wild camping, and all sorts of outdoor stuff. Because I’m a not-as-fit city boy, I only nipped along for one of the hills, and even then I got the train down from the top. However, Snowdon is the highest peak in England and Wales, second only to Ben Nevis in the UK, so I don’t feel too ashamed of copping out only once I’d walked from the bottom to the top. 1049 metres total climb, according to RunKeeper. I don’t normally do my kilometres upwards

One of the reasons I didn’t join the rest of the gang for the downhill trot was blisters. A post-mortem on my walking shoes shows that I should probably have replaced them six months ago; the insoles were worn through to the underlying rubber in the instep, which is where my blisters appeared. Ah well. Live and learn. Or limp and learn, perhaps.

So, I’ve had some very enjoyable exercise, but now I’m going to have to stick some blister plasters on (these Compeed things are bloody brilliant, by the way) and not do too much walking or running for a few days. Hopefully things will clear up soon…

Obligatory New Shoe Post

A couple of posts back I was surprised to find my running shoes were more than a year old. Last week, I hit up Moti on Whiteladies Road to upgrade my Mizuno Wave Inspire 8s to a Wave Inspire 9.

I also bought some new Mizuno running shoes. At City Sports in Cambridge I tried on all kinds of models, but ended up buying the same Mizunos I’ve been practicing in. They’re light, and the cushioning of the sole is a little hard. As always, they take a while to get used to. I like the fact that this brand of shoes doesn’t have any extra bells and whistles. This is just my personal preference, nothing more. Each person has his own likes. Once when I had a chance to talk with a sales rep from Mizuno, he admitted, “Our shoes are kind of plain and don’t stand out. We stand by our quality, but they aren’t that attractive.”

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami

I’d have agreed with that assessment up until I bought my new Wave Inspire 9s. They look like this:

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…which, frankly, stands out. But it was the only colour that Moti had in my size (I could have got the far more reserved white-and-red in a 9½, apparently) so I went for them anyway.

I did 5K down the towpath with them yesterday — having learned my lesson the hard way by hobbling back through Leigh Woods with a blister that time I got new shoes and went for a long run, first time out. So far, though, these shoes are pretty good, garishness notwithstanding, and certainly don’t seem likely to provoke any blisters.

It was quite a revelation to put the new shoes on in the shop and remember what new running shoes are like. They felt light, and cushioned, and I could feel the support — I have a tendency to overpronate, so I need a bit of stability from my shoe. The old shoes were so worn that all of that had disappeared, but shoes die so gradually that I’d not really noticed. The new shoes definitely add a bit of cheery “bounce” to yesterday’s run.

So, I think I’m going to put a reminder in my calendar for six months’ time to buy new shoes. It’s not like running, as a hobby, is exactly pricey. Even buying two pairs of shoes a year works out at less that £15/month, which is pretty good for a hobby (I don’t buy much extra gear; it’s probably £20/month in total tops, including clothing and water bottles and race entry fees.)

Oh — and if you’re into reading as well as running, Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a good read. Recommended.

Review Run: Adidas Kanadia 4 Trail Shoes

Last Saturday, I thought about jogging, looked out of the window, and saw it was raining. Then I went out anyway, because it was a good chance to test out my new Adidas trail shoes.

New Adidas shoes? Didn’t you just buy a pair of Mizunos, Matt? Yup. But Sports Direct’s media agency (hi, Lucie!) had seen that I was looking for new shoes, and offered to send me a free pair, in exchange for a (free-from-editorial-influence, honest) review.

Heading to Sports Direct’s running shoes section, my first reaction was choice paralysis. Four hundred plus pairs of men’s running shoes. And, sadly, no indication of which ones might suit people with flat, wide feet and a tendency to over-pronate.

So, there’s my first observation — don’t buy shoes from the web unless you’ve already been to a good running shoe shop in person and found out what you actually need. And bought at least your first pair of shoes from them; fair’s fair. Take it from someone who’s suffered from plantar fasciitis, you want to make sure you’re wearing the right shoes.

I decided on trail shoes because they’d just get occasional use, and I’ve heard there’s less need for motion control when you run on uneven ground. Plus it gave me the chance to try something quite different from my normal shoes.

Overcoming my paralysis, I opted for the Adidas Kanadia 4. Aggressively styled in red, black and orange, the bobbles of their “TRAXION” soles make it very apparent that the Kanadias are designed a muddy hill rather than a smooth pavement. Definitely more showy than I’d normally go for, but quite fun to look at, I thought, as I took them out of the box.

Trying them on, I was disconcerted by how small the Kanadias felt on my feet. My everyday shoes are an 8, so I’d have thought a 9 would’ve been big enough, length-wise, at least. These felt borderline, especially on the right foot.

Looking around the web, I see warnings from a shoe shop, and several of the reviews on the Adidas site and on that these shoes seem undersized. Adidas, that’s really not very clever, especially when so many people are shopping on the web.

Still, I couldn’t tell for sure if they were actually too small, or just feeling a bit constrictive compared to my Mizunos, so I figured I’d take them out for a test run. I had nothing to lose, after all.

The Kanadias were interesting during my urban warm-up (the grass and mud only starts about a half-mile from my house on my normal routes.) They were skittish on my stone front steps, but calmed down out on pavement and tarmac. You could definitely tell those bobbles were there on the soles. It was reminiscent of being on mountain bike tyres on a normal road. Comfortable and safe, and fine to run in, but obviously not moving on the surface they were designed for.

They cheered up once I hit the south side of the Avon and got off the tarmac. I took a few shortcuts across wet, muddy grass to try them out, and felt very sure-footed. The Kanadias held my feet well, with very little movement around the ankle.

Then onto the next test — the towpath puddles. After a decent amount of rain, the towpath ends up with plenty of pretty much unavoidable puddles, standing water from side to side across the path, several strides long.

There are a couple of approaches to designing running shoes for water incursion. One approach is to try to waterproof the shoes, and maybe add some stylish running gaiters. I’ve heard that it’s hard to make this approach effective and non-overheating, no matter how “breathable” your waterproof membrane.

The other approach is, literally, to suck it up. Accept that fact that you’re going to get water in your shoes, and deal with it, by using materials that wick it away as best they can, and don’t start rubbing badly when they get wet. This is the approach the Kanadias take, and it seems to work pretty well, as I found out after about the fifth large towpath puddle.

Yes, my feet got cold and wet when I splashed through a puddle, but they warmed up pretty quickly again afterwards (helped by my X‑Socks, too, I’m sure.) After their soaking, the shoes still felt pretty comfortable, and there wasn’t a big increase in weight.

Out of the gravelly towpath and into the mud of Leigh Woods, and the Kanadias really came into their own. Up steep hills, through slippery grass, plodding through mud and on gravel paths, I stayed secure. On my last Leigh Woods run, I’d noted my Mizunos sliding around at the boggy start of one of the paths; in the same spot the Kanadias gripped well and I felt much more stable. The shoes also kept their bounce, despite being pretty soggy, and there was no sensation of any rubbing that might have led to a blister.

Finally I broke out of the woods and back onto tarmac for the cool-down jog to Clifton Village, back to the slightly “mountain bike tyre” feeling, but perfectly reasonable to run in. The only place I had problems again was on the wet paving stones of the hill back down to Hotwells. There the Kanadias felt slippy and slidey again; not deadly, but enough to make me want to take extra care.

On the downhill stretch, I also felt my toes pushing up against the front of the shoe, reminding me that the Adidas sizing was a bit screwy. Presumably I’d be better off in a size 10. But that would be the first size 10 shoe I’d ever owned, so I’d conclude that Adidas definitely have got their size wrong on the Kanadias.

Which is a shame. Because — even though the “mud-release surface” of the “TRAXION” soles really did work, leaving the underneath of the Kanadias surprisingly clean by the time I got home — you really can’t return a pair of trail shoes after you’ve given them a proper test. Because they look like this.

Overall, I like the Kanadias. They look good, they’re very grippy on the trail, they cope well with being waterlogged, and the mud-release soles do just what they say. I’ll definitely be trying them out some more, especially when I’m heading fairly directly for mud, grass and gravel.

But if you want to give them a try, I’d recommend starting in a pair one size bigger than you’d expect.

Thanks, Sports Direct, for giving me a chance to try them out!

Full disclosure: I reviewed the Kanadia 4’s after being given a choice of any sub-£50 running shoe from Sports Direct, for free. No conditions were attached apart from a link to their running shoes section appearing in my review, which seemed fair enough.

New Shoe Happiness

New Mizuno Wave Inspire 8

It has been pretty nippy in Bristol recently, though we escaped the blanket of snow that covered the majority of the country last week. It’s 2C outside right now, in the middle of the day, and I was told that there’s more cold weather on the way.

I took advantage of a slight gap in the weather on Sunday to wander out for a quick jog in my new shoes.

I didn’t go very far — after all, the last time I went running in a new model of Mizuno Wave Inspires, they gave me a blister, and I ended up limping home from Leigh Woods. So, learning from my mistake, I did a 5K that didn’t take me too far from home.

As it turned out, the Mizuno Wave Inspire 8s feel far nicer than the 7s did, and I agree with the nice man in Moti that they seem to be a return to the Wave Inspire’s previous good form. So, hopefully that’ll add some extra encouragement to get out and run, even if it is a bit nippy…

Resolution Run 4: Time for Some New Shoes

My admiring hordes (hello, Margaret!) have been wondering whether I made it out for my fourth “resolution” run of January, and the answer is a resounding “yes”.

I didn’t enjoy the first kilometre of Friday’s run, despite it being a nice day. I hadn’t slept that well, and I wasn’t really in the mood for running. Nevertheless, I plugged away down the towpath, turned into Leigh Woods at the far end, climbed the steep hill without too much ado, albeit very slowly, and kept going until I was nearly back at the Suspension Bridge.

I stopped at 7km, making it my longest run of the year so far. Doesn’t seem bad for a day where I wasn’t really feeling it.

It’s been raining a bit recently, which tends to flood sections of the towpath. When I got back home, my shoes looked like this:

Towpath Mud

…and that made me consider buying a new pair. 

Sadly, these Mizuno Wave Inspire 7s have been, well, a bit rubbish. I had trouble buying a pair at all, then I had to send the first pair back because they gave me a blister, and I’ve never felt that great in the replacements. Which was a shame, after the Wave Inspire 5s and 6s were so good for me.

Then I did a bit of searching on the internet, and found that pretty much everyone who bought the Wave Inspire 7s seems to have disliked them, or at least those who’ve blogged and commented about the things. So it wasn’t just me.

The good news is that everyone who then took a punt on the new Wave Inspire 8s seems to think they’re a return to the good form of the earlier Wave Inspires. So, I will probably take my chances with Mizuno once again, though my faith is a bit shaken.

Hopefully a pair of new shoes will put a bit of bounce back in my step, even if it’s only psychologically-speaking…

Anyway. Enough rambling for now. I should be running later on this week, so I’ll see you then!


Bluebells in Leigh Woods

I’ll start off with a nice happy picture, just to show that some of today’s run was quite pleasant. These are a few of the millions of bluebells currently carpeting Leigh Woods, which makes the woods even nicer than usual for jogging.

And it was also a nice sunny day, as you can probably tell. But those are about the only good things. And now I’m grumpy.

I started off running feeling okay-ish. It’d been a while, because of my recent bout of flu, but I mostly seem to be over that; even the residual cough is far less enthusiastic now. But I wasn’t feeling 100%.

I wasn’t helped by RunKeeper (or, perhaps more charitably to RunKeeper, maybe the GPS on my iPhone) having one of its occasional “funny five minutes”. I realised something was going a bit odd when I got the “you’ve run four kilometres” voice prompt really very soon after the 3km voice prompt. Then, thirty seconds or so later, RunKeeper told me I’d got to 5km, and that I was averaging 4 minutes per kilometre. That’s about 15kph, or, to put it another way, significantly faster than I’ve ever run.

So, my RunKeeper log of today’s run is pretty screwed.

Worse was to come. At somewhere around the real 5km mark, I realised my shiny new Mizuno Wave Inspire 7s were giving me a blister. One bit of the right shoe, in the instep, seemed to be rubbing a bit.

I carried on for another half a kilometre or so, then had to start walking. No sense in making things worse, I figured.

So, basically I gave up and limped back across the bridge to Clifton Village, and now I’ve got to see if I can send these shoes back. Annoyingly, this is the first pair of running shoes I bought from the internet, rather than in lovely local shop Moti. D’oh.

So, that’s my joy of running today. Better get out there again soon, and probably in my old, reliable — if slightly worn down — shoes. I don’t want to have running associated too much in my mind with pain and grumpiness. Bah.

A New Path to Ashton Court

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Tonight’s run was a very interrupted, stop-start affair. But for good reason.

Tomorrow sees the start of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, held at the Ashton Court Estate, not a million miles from my usual towpath route. Not only that, but today someone mentioned the new Festival Way cycle route, the first phase of which recently opened, and links my bit of town with Ashton Court. All the details, and a sped-up video of someone riding the route — a really good way of showing how to get places, especially as the signs are a bit rubbish at the moment — are here on Better By Bike.

So, I checked it out. It does make Ashton Court seem even closer to me than the previous pedestrian route I’d used, over a footbridge by the allotments and down a tiny footpath. And avoids both stairs and stinging nettles, definite minuses of that way of getting there.

On the other hand, it’s very clearly a route that wouldn’t really exist purely for the pleasure of an amble, having a relatively claustrophobic and industrial feel, much of both sides being sealed off by fencing of the cheap-and-fierce variety, including sections with that nasty rotating blade stuff. Still, makes for an interesting silhouette.

Once that bit’s over, you emerge slightly surprised at a nice-looking cricket pitch, two sides of which you walk around before the cycle path finally ends. It spits you out directly opposite the Kennel Lodge Road entrance to Ashton Court, on the blind bend on Clanage Road. Nasty.

Still, I took my earbuds out, took my life in my hands, and jogged successfully across the danger zone. After that it was, really, a walk in the park, jogging up the hill to the mansion house and then trotting around the fairground attractions, many still being bolted together and stocked with stuffed animals. Really must get up there with a proper camera on the same day next year — the preparations make for good photography.

Anyway. So, turning around at the top of the balloon arena, and punctuating my running with stopping to look at stuff, and the odd bit of iPhone photography, I slowly made my way back home. I think I probably did technically jog 5K, but not all at once… Still, it was a good way of scoping out this new route, which should open up Ashton Court for me for some longer runs, which should be a pleasant alternative to the Downs.

I’m taking Friday off work to go hang out at the Balloon Fiesta some. I may even head up for one of the 6am launches — they’re really magical times, when not so many people are about and the balloons sometimes lift off the field at about the same time as the morning mist. If I do, I’ll probably throw some photos on Flickr, and pop a link in here, running-related or not 🙂

Sore Feet

My feet seem to be a bit achey after running recently. It suddenly occurred to me that, even though it only seems like a few weeks ago that I bought a new pair of shoes, it might actually have been rather longer.

And that’s where a blog comes in handy. I first bought proper running shoes on 29 August last year. They seemed to do me okay until I started getting an achey hip and some other aches and pains in February this year. So, that’d be about five months.

It took me a while to figure out it was the shoes that were the problem, so I didn’t buy a new pair of Mizunos until the beginning of March. Which would have been, erm, about five months ago.

So, I’m thinking that maybe these are early warning signs that I’ve nearly worn out another pair of shoes. Especially as I’ve probably run more in the last five months than I did in the five months before, because I wasn’t doing that much long-distance stuff back then.

Hmm. Five months doesn’t seem long for a pair of shoes to last, but I’ve heard people say they replace their running shoes every six months. And I am heavier than your average runner. It may be time to treat myself again…

The Eighties Are Coming to Get Me

IMG_0687 2.JPGI think the new shoes have done the trick. Something has, anyway, as tonight’s run was lots better than my last 5K effort down the Portway.

My hip feels fine, and I didn’t feel totally knackered from the get-go like I did last time, either. Which is all good. Even better, there were actually some traces of daylight left when I set out. It can only be a few weeks until I can get off the A4 and back onto the towpath on the other side of the river, away from the traffic and all the noise and fumes that go with it.

Tonight I used a playlist generated by Tangerine. I like Tangerine- and iTunes Genius-generated lists because they uncover things I never knew were in my music library.

This evening was no exception. There were some old favourites in there — although I really should put Madness’s Driving in My Car on the “not really for jogging” blacklist — but I had no idea that I even owned Madonna’s Love Profusion, Soft Cell’s Le Grand Guignol, or Placebo’s cover of Daddy Cool.

Back to recognisable stuff, my run finished off with a nice back-to-back blast from the 1980s, with the Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin and One More Chance. I love It’s a Sin, but I was probably in my teens the last time I heard One More Chance… Ah, nostalgia.

Anyway. Probably won’t run on Friday, so I guess Saturday will be my next jog; then I might try to get out on Monday and Thursday next week to get back to my more normal three-times-a-week routine. Especially if it’s nice and light!

The Joy of Shoes

IMG_0666.jpgSo, picked up my new shoes on Friday — Mizuno Wave Inspire 6es — and walked lots in them yesterday to make sure they felt all right, and that nothing was rubbing.

And they were fine, so today I went out into the gorgeous Spring sunshine and did a simple 5‑and-a-bit‑K, just around half the Downs, cutting along Ladies Mile instead of doing my normal longer loop. I didn’t want to go too far, first time out in new shoes.

The new shoes definitely feel different — but they feel different like my old shoes did the first time I put them on, six months ago. I can feel them pushing my feet out a little bit, compensating for my tendency to over-pronate by pushing me a little more onto the outside of my foot.

So, hopefully what’s happened is what I suspected, that over the last six months my running shoes have gradually lost their magic as they’ve had seventeen stone pounded into them with every step, fifteen kilometers a week, and that’s what’s caused me to start aching a bit more recently. I’ll start to see if I’m right this week, if my mid-week run doesn’t make my hip ache so much. Hopefully it’ll feel easier than last week’s effort, too…