Strava Update

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In The Swing.

Beautiful Jersey In The Spring.. Bring It On!

It’s a great time of the winter when the six nations rugby has started, the nights start to get a little lighter and getting out to do those runs seems to get that little bit easier.. It’s been an epic winter weather wise, even here in sunny Jersey, with gale force winds, flooded streets, cold mornings and muddy trails. Of course the allure for me to trail running in the winter is precisely the muddy trails and cold mornings, the feeling of being out in all weathers running, welcoming the rising sun when most people are tucked up in their warm beds is a good one, and whilst January was certainly not a record mileage month there has been some nice runs.

I remember this time last year being so motivated as I had the Marathon des Sables on the horizon in April and so I was training hard and with a focus that I have struggled to find so far this year. I might even venture to say I “have lost my mojo…” somewhat!

But this isn’t another post about soul searching, navel gazing or self-pity. This is a post about hope, the arrival of a new time, the phoenix rising from the ashes!

I am glad to say that fitness and motivation are coming back in equal measures, I had a quiet January building mileage slowly and doing plenty of Kettle bell training to complement the running. After last year there were few red flags; Lower back pain, shoulders slumping forward in the latter part of races and also problems with my hip flexors as well as the long standing issue with my knee/VMO. So at the start this year I decided I wanted to do more to condition my body correctly so as to build a solid base to be able to handle the races and challenges I have ahead of me this year.

I have really grown to love Kettle bell training and now see it as an important corner stone of my training regime. I think the amount of different exercises that can be done with such a simple piece of equipment is amazing and the amount of technique it takes to master the exercises is a big draw, particularly the dynamic exercises. I particularly like the fact that in a 30 minute session I can cover 20 or so different exercise and work on strength, work every muscle in the body and also work on an aerobic level as well. So for me it really ticks the boxes and I am starting to see real gains in my running, particularly in running form, running up hills and general endurance. I am excited to see how much this can help me and will be reporting through the year on this.

I recently went to see a specialist about my dodgy knee as I had been carrying it for a few months and felt the off season a good time to try and address it. The specialist examined it and referred me for an MRI scan to see what was going on inside. Once done and the results were in I went back to see him and initially he gave me the sobering news that I would need to rest and do no impact related activity for the rest of 2014 due to bone bruising and some cartilage damage on the inside section of my knee. I was absolutely blindsided by this to be honest. We talked a little and I told him of my plans for 2014 and he decided to re-examine the knee. He said that the symptoms had receded since the last time he had seen me and that he would still recommend that I take 3 months instead of a year..

I had some serious thinking to do.. At the start of this year I had set myself definite goals; Transvulcania in May, South Downs Way 100 in June and then I was planning to do the grand challenge of 7 x Round the Rock in 7 Days – totalling 336 miles in a week running around the island of Jersey, as well as a few other things here and there. All of a sudden this was all in jeopardy and I had to really think about what was important. Could I take 3 months off and maintain fitness? Could I take 3 months off and be motivated enough to then return to running? (My biggest fear!) When could I take 3 months off?? So I met with Coach Bruno and we discussed the forthcoming year; luckily my knee isn’t dehabilitating and I really want to do transvulcania so I decided to pull out from the SDW100 and carry on with the other plans.

Once I had decided this the emphasis had to be on trying to protect the knee as much as possible to enable some kind of recovery whilst also training. A fine line to walk and initially in early Jan a difficult balance to get, it seemed as soon as it was confirmed that there was something wrong with the knee that it hurt more and I seemed to get all sorts of niggles alongside it. It seemed to get worse and I was pretty despondent about the year ahead but I think that now I have turned a corner, fitness is coming back, strength work is kicking in which should enhance my running form and take strain off my knee, and I am using orthotics to try and alter my gait slightly as I have a fallen arch on the injured side (a strong contender for why I have a dodgy knee I believe!)

So on to February and it is time to start the hard work for Transvulcania, I am sure most of you who read this are aware of this race and the amount of climbing involved so I won’t go into the detail, needless to say I will be doing a lot of hill training over the forthcoming months. It is nice to have that booked and ready to go and I am looking forward to being part of another iconic race. After the uncertainty, lack of motivation and direction in January it is great to be feeling that pull towards a race and a goal again – good for the mind and soul!

After Transvulcania, in August I will be doing 7 round the rocks in 7 days (RtRx7) around my home island of Jersey. The first day (2nd August) is the day of the 48 mile Round The Rock Ultra here and then when everyone else will be sat in the bar contemplating a job well done, I will be recovering and getting ready to go out the next day and run it the next day, and then the next etc etc in alternating directions around the island to keep it interesting. I am attempting to this challenge on behalf of Jersey Hospice Care and hope to raise some good money for an amazing local charity that has a profound reach within our community. I have plenty of fundraising events planned on the back of this also so should be a good money spinner all in all!

I will be posting more about RtRx7 as it draws closer.. I will be looking for people to accompany me on the route for parts of it or a full day, so if a holiday to Jersey is on the agenda, hit me up! I have already secured a key sponsor, Marks and Spencer here in Jersey who have always been so supportive with my charity events are helping me to publicise the event through the week I will be running. I will be running instore on a treadmill about 3 weeks before and I believe even some plucky members of staff from the store want to come and join me for parts of the route!

So after a slow January and a slightly quicker February I anticipate a focussed March, with lighter nights, more volume in training and more fitness reclaimed. Just over 2 months til Transvulcania and I am really looking forward to being part of the race and having got over the logistical nightmare of booking flights and accommodation I now look forward to lining up on the start line with some of the world’s best ultra-runners (Timothy Olson already confirmed to be racing!) and around 1,500 of us mere mortals who do it just for fun.

Feedback: How have you been keeping motivation up during this winter? Are you a winter or summer runner? What trail shoes have you been using to keep upright in the slippy conditions? Any other adverse weather tips you wish to share? Get involved!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

PB Human Gear Test Laboratory - Hoka One One Mafate

Hoka One One.

Now there's a controversial sentence in the world of running if ever I heard one. I like many first saw these and was not impressed. They look awful! But over time I have seen a few people sporting them at races and a friend of mine Leanne had bought a pair and reported that they were "extremely comfortable." This piqued my interest and so I started to read a few reviews here and there just to get the general feel for whether these are just a fad or whether there is something in the ultra cushioned, low heel drop, slightly wider than normal shoe approach.

After reading a few reviews and coming close a few times to pushing the button on a brand new Hoka purchase I finally got lucky on Ebay and managed to get a pair that had been worn only a couple of times in my size. I felt this much more sensible than blowing £120 on a pair, trying them once and then consigning them to my ever growing "Shoes I dont really like" collection. I managed to get this lovely pair for the princely sum of £48 and they came with velcro already sown on them should I decide I wish to use them for Marathon Des Sable 2015 - result!

So on to the review..

Heres a photo of the shoes, as you can see they are rather big! And also rather bright. I have a friend who I run with who is afraid of the colour yellow so I am looking forward to the next time we run together ;-)

The Hype -

As stated on The Endurance Store Website: "There are many shoes on the market designed to promote a 'natural/barefoot' running style, and often this goes hand in hand with a 'minimalist' construction, offering very little (if any) underfoot cushioning. Here is a shoe that promotes a natural running style that has been designed with a considerable amount of cushioning under the foot.This oversized approach ensures a natural stride whether on smooth road surfaces or the most uneven trails. The shoe is lightweight, with a good grip, and a wide platform designed for stability. The close lacing system further enhances stability and support and they offer outstanding impact absorption and a very comfortable underfoot feel. The sole features a rockering profile to provide a smooth, energy efficient stride, propelling you forward with each and every strike of the foot. In our view this is an extremely comfortable, lightweight shoe that in particular excels on the descents. The Mafate shoes would be ideally suited for almost any long distance event."

Initial Thoughts

My initial thoughts as stated are that whilst they look awful, I had read enough to want to give these a go. I put them on and they felt so cushioned as to be expected. I had a little run round the garden and even though they are tall compared to conventional trainers the extra width meant that they felt stable. One of the reasons I wanted to try these were due to a knee niggle that I have been carrying for the last few months; I figured that if the extra cushioning could protect me a little on longer runs this would be a great pay-off. I went out on a trail run to really put these through their paces, deciding to jump straight in and go for a 19 mile run on cliff paths, a few hills and technical sections.

In use

I’m a bit of a gear junkie (aren’t all us runners?) and once I buy something I am keen to use it straight away, hence why I jumped straight in at the deep end with quite a long run on new running shoes (potential schoolboy error??) . I was really pleased with how they felt though and having read previous reviews I definitely concurred with the overall feeling of how the cushioning really makes the ride on the trails very smooth. All of a sudden I was able to step straight on big rocks rather than run round them and not feel a thing compared to wearing a pair of Inov-8’s for example.

I definitely was really tuned in to how they felt and was enjoying the ride and the cushioned feeling. Another thing you will read in reviews is how the shoe, being wider is still stable despite the increased height. I found this to be true in most cases, however I did feel the potential to turn an ankle here and there, something which I tend not to experience in thinner soled shoes.
It was evident that the connection with the ground was lost a little but I guess this is the tradeoff with the comfort. Even though the shoe is a substantial size the shoe is so light which is quite deceptive.

After a while on the trail I noticed that my front left toe was rubbing against something in the toe box, like a seam of some description. I powered on and through the run the rubbing got quite bad. I just zipped up the man suit and got on with it but my poor toe took quite a battering!

I got to the end of the run and my legs definitely felt fresher than in some conventional trail shoes. I do generally over pronate and I felt that the Hokas didn’t really offer me much in the way of support and had maybe put some strain on aforementioned knee injury.


As previously disclose I didn’t like the look of these, but on a practical level after reading reviews I felt that they could be useful in some scenarios; particularly in training and longer races. I think the cushioned ride is awesome and I loved being able to stomp down a rocky path with no real thought to what was in my way. I did feel that there could be more support in the shoe, but I think that is down to my whack biomechanics and fallen arches so will be experimenting with an orthotic in the future to see whether this will help.

Although the day I went out wasn’t a particularly wet day I felt the grip was good with no real issues going up or down hill and I felt I could trust the soles.

I really feel that Hokas have a role to play in ones arsenal of trail shoes. For those that run ultras I think on a course where it is less technical these could really serve a purpose and help to preserve leg freshness for longer which is great news. I don’t see myself using these in the heart of winter on slippy slidy cliffpath routes, but envisage come Spring these will be getting a fair bit of use.