Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Running like a child - My boys first 'fun' run

Thoughts I'll never know
As he stares down the race corridor, what is he thinking? Is it a long way? Will I run fast? Will other kids be faster? Why am I still waiting here? Can I go for a ride on Thomas? 

On Sunday my little fella participated in his first 'run' run. It was the 3 year old race at the "Run with Thomas" day in Gembrook, Victoria. 

"Thomas" is an old steam train on narrow gauge track, with a Thomas the Tank Engine face mounted on the front. My little guy was going to run against with Thomas the Tank Engine. 

The little fella loves to run along the trail behind our house as we walk as a family. He will run up and down the street to the neighbours down the road, and as all kids do, round and round the house when we are trying to get organised. 

So there we were on Sunday morning, staring down the 150m corridor that was to be his first fun run. As a running dad I was offering all sorts of advice - just have fun, run as fast as you can, don't stop - keep going. Then the parents had to step back and let all of the kids move to the front. It was a strange feeling moving away and letting go of all control. I was nervous for him, excited for him and very proud as well. 

He was all smiles - posing for pictures for the photographers, laughing at the clowns doing warm ups - trying to do the warm ups and looking at Thomas who was puffing away about 20m to our left. 

The Fat Controller (oops, Sir Top and Tails now) rang the bell and the kids were off! Well, most of them were. My little guy just stood where he was, seemed to take it all in and then decided to run after the field. I couldn't have been prouder, watching those little legs go and the arms kind of half hanging by his side, half pumping away as he took off. Watching little kids run is rather amusing. They all ran in a similar way. When does that moment happen when just running becomes running?

I was incredibly proud to watch him run the whole way, to where mum, his sister, the grandparents and a few of the great-grandparents were waiting for him at the finish. 

As I jogged up to the finish his face was beaming. He was barely out of breath and was telling anyone within earshot about his running. He was telling them how he beat Thomas, and can we go for a ride on him, and I'm hungry - what's to eat! 

I gave him a high five and scored an enormous cuddle. 

Can we go on Thomas dad? I'm hungry - what's to eat? 

Maybe that's what he was thinking as we waited at the start about 10 minutes ago. I'll never know.

Earlier I mentioned my wondering about when kids 'run' as we adults would. His sister was in the 5 year older run and she was determined to win. Her age was against her as she had just turned 5 in August. The ages were determined by on the day age so some of the girls were almost 10 months older than her - a big difference in a child's growth and development. 

Mum took her down to the start and I was on catching duty at the end. As we all waited for them to round the corner the nerves were high. Suddenly all heads turned as the kids came into view. There were lots of smiles and a few determined faces. With a keen dad eye I managed to spot her out, near the front of the field. She was running well and was clearly second of all the girls. The little lady who won the race had made that transition from a child running to a little athlete with great form. She will be a very strong runner.

My little girl ultimately came second, about 10m behind the winner and about 10m again from the next lot of girls. She now has that natural lean and quick leg turn over, but there is still that natural flaying or not flaying of the arms and her growing legs have a bit of a gangly stride. But you know what? She loves running and that’s something that can’t really be taught. One day it will all come together and then I think dad will have to look out, or at least have a very competitive training partner in about 10 years!

On the treasure hunt!
Again the pride displayed on her face was priceless. She was puffing and panting but very pleased with herself. Of course she wanted to win and we thought there may have been tears when she was second, but to her credit she took it very well. It’s amazing what the lure of a Thomas show bag and a picnic in the park can do…. Me, I was as proud as punch for both of them.

To the organisers of the Run with Thomas day in Gembrook, a big big thank you! Our children had an absolute blast.

To them the run was epic, the show bags priceless and searching for Thomas and his friends in the ‘Treasure hunt’ made for a wonderful day. 

So, the next time you grab the watch/gps, music player, pack full of gels, ask yourself do you really need them? 

Try just going for a run. Run quickly, go far to slow, go and find out what's around the next corner. Be like your kids or nieces and nephews or the little tackers down the street that just seem to run everywhere. 

Cheers for now, Lachie

Friday, 15 November 2013

2XU Compression Performance Sock - Trail review and testing

When 2XU asked me to road test their new 2XU Compression Performance Socks (A link to the full website specs) I was super stoked. Of course road testing was going to be changed to 'trail' testing! Why the trail? I am in a 'loving the single track' phase where the trails are tight and twisty and the undergrowth is often tearing at your heels and calves. Any muscular support and protection from the scrub gives you that little extra confidence in your run and ultimately that competitive edge. Do I want to be my performance to be 2Xs as good? You betcha! So, when a package arrived two days later I couldn't wait to get into it and get those socks on.

The socks are packed in a cracking little box which looks impressive.
My 2XU Performance Compression Socks arrived!
With an Aussie retail of $50 it does feel like a premium product - that's a lot of money for a pair of socks. Opening the box I was blown away by the Vibrant Blue Canary Yellow combination. How on Earth am I going to make this work with the trade mark red race top and lime inov-8 wragg?

Luckily I also enjoy running in my blue Nike Pro Compression top, phew! The first challenge is getting these Compression Performance Socks on. I have two other pairs of compression socks which I'll mention later, so I was prepared for the compression sock dance that is required to get them on, a little like the compression tight jiggle. 

As this is a trail test, I have to have a starting point for comparison. How else can we tell if they any good? I have an older pair of the 2XU Elite Race Socks which I love - the only problem is they are white. Great for running out on the road and slipping on under the jeans for recovery but I haven't been brave enough to wear them on the trails. I've also got some Sugoi R & R compression socks which are a very cool black - good for the trails but I’ve ended up using them under the suit for post run recovery during the week.

2XU had obtained my shoe size and sent my socks out in the small. As I lie right on the size border I may have elected to get my traditional x- small. As you will see, I am glad they sent me the small. 1st thing, these are seriously compressive. If you going to wear these socks, allow a good few minutes to get them on. After gathering them up I tried pulling them on - bam they are tight. In fact, they are almost frustratingly tight. It took a lot of convincing of my feet to get them on, and I don’t have particular wide feet. Once they were on they felt amazing. The PWX fabric is quite thick, but also thin at the same time. I think they will breathe well.

As luck or bad luck would have it, I landed funnily on my ankle while playing around with the kids and had a little residual ankle pain, along with a little calf tightness. This road test was going to start right now with the 'recovery' phase. The website touts ‘Graduated fit to promote circulation for muscle performance and faster recovery’ and ‘Heightened proprioception – awareness of limb placement for agility’.  As soon as I started to walk around I could feel little twitches in my calf muscles, both along the main muscle at the back and my anterior muscles where I have been a little tight. I think this was the heightened proprioception as I certainly knew where any tightness or niggles were. Within minutes I had forgotten the socks were on, which is a big tick for something that was initially so tight. To achieve the performance multiplication that these socks provide, they have been engineered to meet the standards of medical compression. They are a step up from the older Elite Race Socks. 
I like this part of the test!
Love the blue and yellow...

As the wife was out for the evening it was time to put the feet up and ‘Rest, Ice (not this time), Compression (oooh yeah) and Elevation.’ By the end of the evening my legs felt quite relaxed. Getting the socks off was just as challenging and fun. If there is an easy method, I’ve got to work it out! The next morning my ankle felt really good and I was able to do some light barefoot running with the kids as they played out the front.

On Sunday morning I had planned a trail run with the ThisFishCanRun Facebook group and the Dandenong Trail Runners. With my gear ready I spent another couple of minutes getting the Compression Performance socks on and hit the trails. Interestingly once again I could feel my calves twitching in the car on the way. On the morning I was the only one in Compression socks, but I think that will change next time. The initial real world response to the colours was mixed. A few of the crew thought they were a little out there, while others thought I’d matched up my top and socks really well. Me, I felt confident and loved them.

Plenty to catch you out here...
The trails we tackled were mainly undulating single track which was starting to get a little overgrown, with a couple of 10-17% climbs on quite slippery, muddy trails to keep us honest.  Through the single track (narrow paths really only suitable for single file) the course had many twists and turns, ups and downs and a few leaps over logs for good measure. To move at pace required quick and nimble steps and sure footing, just the thing I was hoping the Compression Performance socks would provide. To be honest, I felt really good. I’ve always loved the grip of my Trailrocs and the added support and structure of the compression socks gave me that little bit of an edge, knowing that I could plant my feet, and that my ankles and calves were well supported and would respond just how I wanted them to. As the day before had been quite wet our shoes soon wet through and I could feel the socks start to get that wet sock feeling. I did feel a little concerned that my feet would slide a little but after a few minutes that feeling lessoned as the socks/shoes drained. Perhaps some additional grip points might help if these were to be a true trail sock as you natural encounter a lot more twists and sudden movements that you don’t encounter on a wet road.

As we raced through the scrub and undergrowth I could feel ferns, blade grasses and sticks catching on my shoes and the socks. At one stopping point a couple of the other runners pointed out some new scrapes and scratches. Me, the 2XU socks provided great protection and nothing came close to leaving a mark. In fact when I got home I noticed quite a few grazes and pulls, almost to the point of tears in my Skins A400 compression shorts. 
The PWX material did not
catch or tear like this.
Although my thighs had been protected from the bush, these shorts had not held up as well as the thicker PWX weave in the 2XU Performance Compression Socks. This is another big plus for trail runners.

In all we covered 17km or just over 10 miles. In the past I’ve had a little tightness in my calves nearing the end of the hills that we ran, this time my calves still felt strong. My hammies were however a little sore.

So I took them out and got them dirty. I hope 2XU was expecting that. How well did they wash up? After a spin in the machine they came out as good as new. The following day I was able to put them under the jeans for a little added recovery. Again I got that heightened sense of muscle proprioception but by the days end and after a little stretching I had my full range of movement back. Earlier I mentioned my older 2XU Elite Race Socks. I’ve had these for a couple of years now. Although they’ve greyed a little, they are still hold their shape just as well as when they were new.
If the new Compression Performance Socks are constructed to the same level then they will be with my for years The Sugoi socks never felt as though they had the same level of compression and are now starting to tear apart at the ankles after just 9 months. This lack of compression for me, lead them to fall slightly when I was running which is why I wore them as a recovery aid.
So, are the new 2XU Performance Compression socks worth the premium price tag? As an avid trail runner, yes.

The PWX material is extremely compressive and does give a heightened sense of muscle awareness. If you have the older Elite Race socks these are certainly worth the investment as an upgrade. 
I found that they provided exceptional protection from the undergrowth and scrub on the trails. While some of the others runners ended up nursing cuts and scrapes, I was as good as gold.

Performance wise I had complete confidence in my feet, ankles and calves as I knew exactly how they were feeling. I do question possible slippage in the shoe when they are wet. If I get a really wet run in these socks I'll post an update.

I found them to be extremely comfortable as a recovery sock, although I don’t think I could get away with the blue under my suit pants.

In summary I really enjoyed running in the 2XU Compression Performance socks. The socks can be picked up at any good sports store or online. My Aussie and Kiwi readers can hit up 2XU Australia, or TCL Sports or 2XU UK you’re reading from a European location.

As always, enjoy your running,

Cheers, Lachie 

*These socks were provided by 2XU to be road tested by ThisFishCanRun. I hope that I've been able to give an honest insight as to how I got along with the 2XU Performance Compression Socks.