Monday, 22 December 2014

A year in review - 2014

    Well, another year has come and gone. Taking the time to reflect on 2014, I can look back on it with a sense of pride and achievement.
     My two big events for the year were the 28km Two Bays Run and the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon. Although both of these events took into a world of pain, both were moving highlights reels.
     Two Bays had the challenge of the Arthurs Seat climb and the sandy trail to finish while the Great Ocean Road turned on the perfect weather for running up and down the greatest driving road in the world while the coastline unfolded before your feet.
      My short course running also improved. I set out to hopefully improve on last years Salomon Trail Series top 7 finish, and it was an honour to compete in and finish a solid third overall for the Short Course series

This year we returned to the Marysville Running Festival to take on the new 10k course, which I thoroughly loved, the inclusion of more trail made it a tougher but truer course. To finish 5th ticked another box, 2012 wasn’t just a fluke!
     I also enjoyed racing the Yarra Ranges Athletics club 5k cross country race, as well as supporting Mrs Fish at the Lillydale Lake 10k, the Melbourne Marathon and the City 2 Sea. And man, Mrs Fish is really starting to run. This year she's gone from 5:15s to 4:50s over the half Marathon+ distances. 
     Finally, I also met Thien from www.stryda.com.au and Frank and Baden from www.icebandports.com.au, whom have some amazing running gear and have helped me on my running journey.
     What does next year hold? After my visit to the team at Freedom Sports Medicine I found a few chinks in my armour and I’ve been diligently working on ironing them out. It may seem like a small thing, but if I can refine my technique and strengthen my legs I might just be able to find a easy 5-10 seconds a km, and over the 5-10k events that’s 25 to 50 seconds. And when I look at my results that might just be enough to get a little bit closer to the pointy end of the field.
     
Well, after you’ve enjoyed the holiday season and started running and riding off the puds, enjoy your training and competing and stay happy.

Cheers, the Fish

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

2014 Marysville Running Festival

Two years ago I ran the 10k event at the Marysville Running Festival, and I loved the course. I was also pleasantly surprised at my 5th placing. It was a coming of age so to speak – the event where I realised I could run well and the dawning of my love of trail running. So, to say I was looking forward to this year’s race was a bit of an understatement. While there were 4 & 10k events, the half and full marathons and the 50k Ultra, it was the 10k that had my name on it. 

#Srydaforce #RoyalBay
The night before I completed the mandatory gear check – the DTR singlet, #StrydaForce Styrda compression shorts, #RoyalBay Extreme calf sleeves and the beloved #inov-8 f-lite 252s while Mrs Fish put together the picnic for our lunch.
As we woke on Sunday morning, the forecast drizzle was non existent and there was only a light breeze, perfect!

The trip to Marysville was a hoot – a reasonable blast along the infamous ‘Black Spur’ and beating the GPS arrival time surely a sign of things to come…
The bib and showbag pick up was a very smooth process, the predetermined times for each event kept it hassle free. The kids also loved the free Chupa Chups.

After one last look at the mountains and possible hill climbs, we took off right on 10. Not fully knowing what to expect of this redesigned course, other than that the first 6ks was generally going to be uphill, I settled into a comfortable pace, keeping the lead pack of 20 or so in my sights. It was hard not to get caught up in the moment, as younger runners streamed by and people powered up towards the hill. I was hoping that they had underestimated what was coming.

We were heading up there...
We did a half lap of the oval, then peeled of onto the track that took us the short distance towards the road to the falls. Last time I was here we went up that road, today we simply crossed it, followed Mt Kitchener Avenue straight up the hill (thanks Trails Plus) past the residential zone and hit the first trail. The trail itself was well marked – red arrows on the signs and white arrows sprayed on the ground kept us in the right direction. This first section of trail was great, a wider access track with a gradual climb which soon spread out the field. The top three or four runners were now in the zone (and gone with the wind!) while I kept track of the five or six who were now in front of me.

The trail took us through a series of sections – beautiful narrow single track through the bush, wider tree lined access tracks and it rose and fell in all the right places. The climbs were just long enough for me to peg back a place or two and the descents fast enough to be fun, but gradual enough to be fast! As we climbed up towards the road to the falls, I felt strong, and had confidence in what my HIIT training had given me over the last few months. Although I kept a fairly constant speed, I was able to put in surges just near the peaks of the climbs or on the flats and it was these moments where I was able to make the passing moves. It seems funny, but as I was smashing out the trails on the Southern Track, I was visualising my moments of recovery on the treadmill as I eased of the pace after each pass – this gave me the confidence that I could ease the pace for a brief moment, catch my breath and then make my next attack.

At about the 6k mark we hit the main road and started the 2k section that would take us to the falls. After enjoying the trails this was tough, but it was also a little bit of relief as the road was a constant climb. I managed to keep my pace at about 4:25s and reeled in another one or two runners. Just before the falls I saw my first leading runner starting the return to park. I counted two, and knew that there was possibly just one more in front of me, an amazing young fella in the famed Two Bays shirt, who had managed to keep just 100m or so in front of me for the race so far.

It was just after the turn around point at the falls that I caught him, and after briefly running side by side I hit the Tree Fern Gully track for the fast descent to the finish. Last time I took it easy down this section, this year there was a guy in green who was always just ahead of me, and he was getting away. I took it as quickly as I could, but I was starting to fatigue as the finish drew near. I was now catching some of the 21k runners, so I was able to leap frog from one person to the next. Even though I knew they were in a more gruelling event, chasing them down and moving to the next runner was the motivation I needed.

As we crossed Yellow Dog Road and onto the final section of the Tree Fern trail I was willing the end to be near. Last time I hit this last section I let my legs get away from me. Hell yeah it was fun, but this time the quads were a little sore and I just didn't have it in me. The trail twisted and turned, rose and fell and I found myself searching for the next corner and next runner, knowing that each one would bring me closer to the finish.  As I hit the last little rise in the track you could see through the bush and over the creek to the park, and you could hear the hum of the crowd – the end was literally now in sight. With a few more lefts and rights and a couple of little inclines, just for fun, I turned left over the bridge and into the finish area.

As I often do, I dug deep for that last little kick to the finish and finished strong, around the 47:30 mark. I had entered the race wanting a strong top 10 finish to reconcile with myself that my training had given me the grounding to run well and to prove that last time was no accident. After how my race had unfolded, I was also hoping to have come in 4th or 5th.

While we waited for the presentations, the family and I went and had a look around the town centre and we were amazed at how much the town has grown after the 2009 fires. We visited the lolly shop – yummo and the farmers market before returning back to the festival where we had our picnic to the tunes of the steel drum band and the kids were then entertained by the roving clown.
So, in summary, I had an absolute ball! I achieved my secret goal of another top 5 finish (bang on 5th), and I am proud of my 47:26 finishing time.
Next year, I might have to do the ten again and also have a crack at the 4k event with Mrs Fish…

Cheers once more,

Lachie

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Silvan Reservoir - A series on trail love

     Today I thought I might get back to my roots and write about where I love to run.
     Running out in the bush is what makes me tick. Yes, there are other things that I love and they keep me rolling along, but getting out there in the bush is my release and my time.
     I am fortunate to live close to Mt Dandenong and her many fire trails and walking tracks with their ups and downs and twists and turns and I love running there. But Silvan Reservoir is even closer. And I’m making the call, it’s even better. Where Mt Dandenong has it’s vertical challenges and wide sweeping tracks, Silvan is a criss-cross network of trails. Each of these trails is connected by the most amazing sections of single trail. Some are long forgotten and a few hundred meters of pain can bring no rewards, others you can burst through the trees and onto an epic tale of twists and turns.
     This is my first write up of my Silvan runs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
     When I arrive at Silvan I always park at the overflow car park, as the main gates are not often opened until later in the morning. I’d always started on the circuit track. This is an easy 3-4k loop, depending on which tracks you take. Recently I headed straight down the Silvan Road, for something different.
About 500m down the road it forks. My recent exploring had taken me to the right, down Olinda Creek road and off to a sweet little track on the right. 
I decided to continue left along Silvan Rd just for a touch and found a little trail to the right (the purple track). This just over grown track is a delightful single trail. It has just the slightest of rises and gently bends this way that that to keep it from being straight. It’s just wide enough for two, and has a number of thin trees that have fallen to add an obstacle or two. I guess it goes for 1500m or so before opening out on the road again where you simple turn around and come back. The return trip offers an excellent section for speed training.
I took the left road first, then came back to the right.
     Returning to the junction, take the gravel Olinda Creek road to the left and then there is a clearing, leading to a track to the right. Take this little gem (The orange section) keeping left, then head over the bridge over the creek.
Take the path to the left - go right to get to track 13
At the junction take the track that will via left for a more undulating track. Now that you’re warmed up, this access track, all grassed rises a little more and has a few natural obstacles. It’s only 400m long or so but it’s good fun.It looks like it may have continued around, following the road once upon a time, but now it is painfully overgrown.

When you hit the road turn right and come down the main road towards track 13, turning right at the gates. A few hundred metres in keep an eye out for the track off to the right. There’s a sign that says ‘no through road’. 
     This is another single trail, all grassed with a slightly worn trail where is has been used. This section offers some brilliant, slightly downhill trail work and would make for a very fast Strava section.
There are a few natural challenges: fallen trees (only small), overgrown bushes that close you in and wombat and wallaby reminders, but nothing too twisty rutted.
     At the end of it, you can turn right to follow the creek trail back towards the gravel road and the car park, or, turn left to come back towards track 13. This is a wider, access track for vehicles and again rises gently. There are also three massive trees that have fallen – hurdle them if you dare or simply go around the end where they have been cut. Turn right over the bridge and head up and up on track 13 (this is the main track). 
Track 18 to the right, Track 13 goes up...

For a short run, Track 18 to the right can be taken (The purple section)for a nice cruise by the creek as you head back towards the main car park. Turn right at the junction, you’ll see the gate, turn left on the road.
     If you continued all the way up 13 (Follow the yellow brick road) be prepared for a brutal climb. This track just seems to go up and up. To help keep you going, there are plenty of huge gums along the way, I used them as key markers on the way – just keep aiming to get to the next one! If you want to bail, or are short on time, take the blue track 24 for another exit point.
     Take the left onto Wallaby track and look for the single trail near the big trees on the right. It’s about 200m along the track and seems to be the peak of the climb you have just done. 

     This is single trail heaven! Is it named, no yet.  It’s a fast flowing, very technical 1.2km single track that starts you off gently, sweeping gently through the bush, asking you to leap over a few fallen trees before it steadily drops down into a series of sweeping bends, sharp switchbacks of nearly 180 degrees. The track is a dirt/clay trail and is well worn by bikes. You really have to be on your toes as there are ruts and gully’s, roots and rocks and the odd log. Just when you think its getting too steep or tight to be safe, it rises again and sweeps you up and around the corners more gently. You know you are near the end when you hit a little mountain bike jump (yes, it actually is!) and you have to then burst through some very closed off track that is covered over by native grass and shrubs before you finally hit another road.


     At this point you can turn left and run back to the main fire break/access road and take a right to head home. I prefer to turn left towards the road, then stumble on a sweet little track about 50 meters off to the right that is the best 12 minute loop I know.

     Why is it so good, well, you’ll have to read the next installment. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Royal Bay - Neon Knee high compression socks

Royal Bay + inov-8!
     As a runner, I’m always on the lookout for something fun to run in, and I’ll always jump at the chance to try out something new. When I saw the icebandsports.com.au display at the 2014 DeCastella Run, I had to mosy on over and have a sticky beak. What drew my attention was the wild, knee-high, potentially compression socks that they had on display. When I say wild, the colours were seriously bright, seriously out there. Instantly I loved the blue, and the yellow had kick. The purples looked awesome, the yellow a serious colour for the safety conscious and I could see some brave ladies in the pinks and oranges too. Me, I thought the blue would go well with the Dandenongs Runners singlet and the orange could fight with my inov-8 x-talons for wow factor.
     A little detective work discovered that they were the Royal Bay – Neon range. The Royal Bay brand (from Aries Vitality Textiles) was only launched two years ago. They proudly claim to be using the most advanced technology in their products, and after my experiences, I would say that they do. Ice Band Sports have only stocked them in Australia since November 2013.
     I had a chat with the guys from Ice Band Sports and they very generously supplied me with a pair of the Royal Bay Neon socks to trial and review. That’s where these orange bad boys come in. I also purchased a pair in the blue for Mrs Fish, as her marathon training has not been without the odd calve niggles.
Royal Bay - Neon Knee high compression socks
     The socks came in these neat little boxes, the colour clearly stickered on the front, and identifiable through a clear window on the back. To size up the socks you need to know your foot size, in European sizing and your calf diameter at its thickest point. My 6/12 – 7 UK is entry sizing for the 39-41 and my calf is a C2. The smallest 36-38 also goes smaller with a C1, the larger 42-44 and 44-47 allow for larger calves and size up to a C3. The C rating is the level of compression that is built into the sock, it also allows people with larger calves to wear them, something that 2XU fails to do. These socks are also extremely technical. The features list is almost as long as my foot! More on these features later. If you are borderline for sizing or want a dash more compression in your foot, I would almost recommend going for the smaller size.     
Reflectors very safe
     Opening the box you notice two things. Firstly, the socks are beautifully made. The material is a soft and luxurious feeling 64% microfire NYLON and 36% elastan LYCRA blend. It instantly wipes the floor with my 2XU Compression race sock. Secondly, the smell. Royal Bay have built in a deodoriser into the socks. It is "Saniti zed®, a Silver Anti -Microbial Finish of Silver ions on the surface of the fibres that remove a number of bacteria and fungi. In fact, it works as a deodorant and prevents unpleasant odours"(taken from the royalbay.eu website). Mrs Fish quite liked it, me, I could take it or leave it. I guess being a morning workout man, it will help keep the sports bag smelling fresh during the day, especially when we get into the summer months.
     Putting the new socks on was a doddle. Simply bunch/gather them up like any compression tight/football sock and pull them over your feet. From there gather nearer rest of the sock just above the ankle and pull them up to just below the knee or where comfortable. Again, sooooo much easier than putting on the 2XUs, where you need at least 5 minutes to get them over your foot, then up to the knee. Once they’re on they feel terrific. They are very lightweight and you soon forget they are even there. The instant they were on I felt my muscles tingling as the compression elements started their work. 
     The Royal Bay Neon socks are graduated for compression, with 100% compression levels at the ankle and gradually lessening to be 90% at the top of the socks. "Graduated compression with the greatest pressure applied at the ankles improves the return of blood to the heart and reduces swelling of the feet". I tested my pair out overnight as I went to bed with a slight niggle in my left calf. Upon waking both legs felt incredibly relaxed and loose. Maybe it was all in the mind, but my muscles were thanking me for the use of compression as a recovery aid. My first exercise use was a Tabata session on the treadmill – a high speed, high intensity session lasting for a total of 4 minutes. During the workout the Royal Bay Neon socks stayed in place, and provided good support for my Achilles and calves.
      Mrs Fishes first use of her pair was during a 28k run. She wore them under her regular running tights for additional support. When she got home she was raving about them. She couldn’t believe how comfortable they were as a sock in her shoes and how good her calves felt. Both of our experiences were due to the built in muscle support on the medial and lateral sides of your calves, another of the technical features of the socks. Royal Bay have also built in additional support for your Achilles through a raised pattern that protects and massages the Achilles. Under the foot they also have little ridges that provide a little extra massage when running (really? does this really work?) and improve the airflow around the sole and heel to help regulate heat. This I believe. I’ve also got a pair of the Compress Sport socks with the massaging dots, and I don’t quite get the massaging properties in them either. However, running in my Compress Sport socks does seem to keep my feet a little cooler on the hotter days. 
     My second run was an 8km trail race. Wearing the Blue Royal Bay Neon socks gave me oodles of confidence. Confidence to tackle the hills and confidence in my calves. Ever since I started trail running I’ve been a big believer in compression to help stabilise my muscles and minimise shock. Throughout the run the socks stayed put, and my calves had no little niggles or twitches during the climbs. And, they looked the goods!
     Post run I wore them for at least 3 hours (due to presentations and travel) and I swapped into the Orange pair the next day as well. By wearing them as a recovery sock my legs felt fresh and ready to go by the next morning – a great credit to the socks.
     An additional feature of the sock is the reflective dots built in, these will be great for low light running where any reflection you can gain is improving your safety.
     My third run in the Neons was in my favourite playground – the Dandenong ranges. On the wider trails and fire access tracks they were great. I felt confident with all the climbs and descents, as the built in muscle support minimised the impact of each stride. As a trail runner, it was when I went off the beaten trail that they really came into play. I took a ‘short cut’ through the bush. Although there was a faint track worn by the wallabies and the grass had been flattened by recent rains, I ended up having to pick and weave my own trail. This meant striding through knee high grass, avoiding and jumping fallen logs and crashing through bracken and dry twigs. The knee high height of the Royal Bays gave my legs full protection from all of the above elements. The few twigs that dared impede on my run were brushed aside by the tight knit weave of the microfiber and nylon. A couple of larger sticks put up a fight and tried to snag me, again the socks didn’t catch or snag and my legs were protected from potential cuts and scratches.

     I also found a few puddles of 3-4 meters in length and at least ankle deep. Well, as this was a bit of a trail test I did what was required. I blasted through them, fully submerging each foot at least half a dozen times. Yes, I got the initial shoe full of water but the inov-8 X-Talon 190s drain exceptionally well so it was up to the socks to keep the feet comfortable. Now I can also say that the Neon Compression socks also drain very well. Within a few hundred meters my feet were comfortable again without a squelch or squirch to be felt or heard. 
I hope Royal Bay Neon socks clean well!
     In summary, at this stage, I can’t recommend them highly enough. The Royal Bay Neon socks are a must have for any runner, either as a racing and training secret weapon or for recovery in the safety of your own home (for those who are afraid to admit they wear them) or under the work gear after a hard morning session. If after reading this, you like what you see, please get in touch with www.icebandsports.com.au and tell them the fish sent you. 

    As always, happy running and training!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

2014 Salomon Trail Series - My reflection

     Well, 4 months of training and dedication all came to an end today at the last of Salomon Trail Series races at Anglesea. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and to top it all off, I had the whole family there to support me, Bex and Steve who were also running albeit in the medium course.
     This blog could go on about the race and the atmosphere and finishing in an overall third in my age division, but I want to step back and reflect on my series. I want to reflect on my training and mind set, and if it paid off.
     Way back in May, when I entered the series, I made the decision to drop my long runs over the weekend and turn them into shorter runs and to push myself closer to my threshold. So, did it work?
Early in race 1
     Race 1 was the 5ks at Kew. Secretly I had set myself the ambition of finishing the series in the top 10. I entered the run with an open mind, placing no pressure on myself to perform, only to go out and push myself as hard as I could yet still being able to enjoy the run. My concern was who else was going to show up and how fast they would be. Enjoy the run I did. I was able to run the early stages of the race at a steady pace early and held my position to the end. To finish just outside the top 10 was a surprise, and to be 5th in my division a real buzz. I felt I had the early speed and enough to finish strong.

     Race 2 at Lower Plenty was my run. It was my favourite course from last year and the terrain that best suited my strengths. My mindset was in the right place. I still felt strong from my summer into autumn running and I was on a confidence high from race 1. I went out fast and with the leading pack and ran to my threshold. I was able to keep just behind the pace setters for the first couple of ks before they turned on the afterburners and did their thing. Throughout the run I felt strong, and ran to my strengths through the single trails and up the hills. When I was pipped at the post in the Suunto sprint I knew I had given it my all. I was absolutely stoked to finish 5th  over the line and 4th in the division. A top 10 series finish was looking quite likely.
     Between Lower Plenty and Olinda I found myself in the company of a lovely little cold. I felt a little flat and I think my training suffered. I had been able to keep to my shorter, harder weekend runs and enjoyed them, but found that I wanted to be hitting the hills with my mates from the DTR for those 20k plus weekend runs. But, I’d made my decision to alter my training and I was going to stick to it.
     Race 3 at Olinda was fun. I’d run some of the course in the previous weeks and I was looking forward to it. I still had a touch of the cold but my lungs were clearer than they’d be in the weeks since Lower Plenty and I had ambitions. Hey, the series could be run and won from these results. My race strategy was to go out hard and fast on that epic downhill start and see how well everyone else could run uphill. Well, I did just that. I went out fast, and it was thrilling. Smashing it out down those hills was so much fun, and for the next couple of ks through the moderate climb I was going ok. 
Just before the cartwheels...
About 4k in I was reeled in by the eventual winners and try as I might, I didn’t quite have the stamina to stick with them. As the course climbed up I reverted to a power walk up the hills, as in doing so I could keep the runners ahead of me just in sight. Why this strategy? In many of my training runs with the DTR group I’d often only just crept ahead by running the hills when those beside me got their power stride going. It did help me conserve some energy and I was able to run the last km home and finish well, but I was starting to feel the pinch of my illness and not getting in enough training ks in the build-up. I finished 8th over the line and 7th in my division and after the results were updated, I was 99% sure that I had secured third place for the series in my division. This was a result beyond my wildest ambitions.
     Between Olinda and Anglesea I did have the weekends spare to do a couple of 12-15k runs in the ‘nongs and although I wasn’t running them as strongly as I had previously I enjoyed running the extra distance again. It was nothing as fast as I was able to, but it felt good to know that I could still do it.
Chilled at the start
     That brings us to today. In perfect conditions I drew the line in the sand at Anglesea and made the decision to just run this one and enjoy it. So with that 99% certainty behind me I took off at a more moderate pace this time. I enjoyed the start, took in the single track up and beyond the football club, whereas last year I was pushing myself to try and secure a top 10 finish for the series. I was more concerned about catching the next runner or being overtaken to really enjoy it. Today I wasn’t going to let that get the better of me. With that mindset the first 4-5ks seemed to be over all too quickly, and as we ran up towards the scout camp I was able to reel in a few runners ahead of me and pick up a few placing’s. I felt strong and was prepared for the finish. As we navigated the stones and steps of doom on the trail along the cliffs and hit the boardwalks I was able to turn on the afterburners myself and run down those ahead and pick up a few more placing’s. Last year I wasn’t sure about this course, but with todays strategy I was able to take in the twists and turns of the bush, the views of the oceans and the atmosphere of the run.
      Hooting down the track to the beach and onto the sand I was greeted not only by my family, but my extended family as well, which was a great surprise.
Loving the almost 'Pose' form.
Hitting the Suunto Sprint for one last time I finished the series the way I started it in Kew, nailing my final sprint. Finishing only minutes behind me was Bex, winning the medium course and Steve wasn’t far behind her. Sharing this day was the icing on the cake. I was also more than happy to finish in 12th and round out my divisional placing in 6th. 
      What I also loved about the series this year was how the Dandenong Trail Runners group has grown from a few regular weekend hill warriors into a close knit family. It was great to have the support of those who’d finished the relays, 50k and 100k events yesterday. Being able to catch up with them and to cheer on home the medium and long course runners added to the thrill. Hearing so many of our names called out for race placing’s and series wins today topped it all off.
      Finally that 99% certainty I had of finishing the series in 3rd? After patiently waiting for our division to be presented and the nerves growing, my name was called and I finally got to stand on the podium as the 3rd place finisher in the Men’s 20-39 year old division.


     So where to next? Yes, I’ll be signing up again next year. I’ll continue to fine tune my training, although I think I underestimated the importance of the weekly long run and getting the right amount of ks under your belt. I also missed running with my mates in the hills.
     Till next time, enjoy your running where ever that may be and wherever it takes you.

     Lachie, AKA the ‘fishthatcanrun!’

Monday, 8 September 2014

Stryda - Performance review of the Elite Compressors

     We’ve been lucky here in Melbourne over the past couple of months. The weather has been completely topsy turvy, which has been perfect for performance testing the new STRYDA elite compressors.
     The huge variance in temperature, from 0 C mornings in fog, rain and sleet to 22 C afternoon runs in glorious sunshine has allowed me to wear the STRYDA elite compressors in a range on conditions. I believe that puts me in a position to do a fair and honest performance evaluation.
     So, how do they go? Again I’ like to mention that these Elite Compressor tights were provided to me by STYDRA, and I’ll tell it like it is. While these tights are truly excellent, for my build, there is some areas that are not quite forme.
     I’ll start by going back to the fit and feel, especially thefit component of my initial review. Out of the box they gave me good levels of compression through my quads and hammies, and they felt excellent around my calves. In the real world my scrawny legs may have let this product down. Literally.
    For me there’s nothing better than stepping out of the door into a crisp morning chill. I love it. So, the dense 260 denier thread in the Elite Compressors was instantly put to the test, and it was a big winner. In the cold, these tights really do give you that extra layer of protection from the elements. I’ve taken to rolling pre run to stimulate blood flow and increase muscle warmth so you can get straight into a run. Couple this with the STRYDA compression helping circulate flow right through your legs you step out the door ready to go.
     Early into my run my legs were warm and cosy, allowing me to push the pace. While I was stripping layers from the top, my legs remained a very steady temperature, even when the cold winds picked up and tore through my torso, my legs remain steady in the tights. On the cold morning runs, this was a consistent factor and you can head out in full confidence. At this point I will note that I did feel more of the cold just above my glutes and in the small of my back where my 2XU have a higher waist band. It wasn’t uncomfortable, just a little cooler when my shirt rode up.
     On their debut in the Dandenong’s, it was 3 C and foggy. Yes, we were all taking the mickey about being too cold and we should have stayed home, secretly we were loving the cold start. The course I ran was a downhill start followed by a gruelling climb back to the top. Again my legs were well covered, the STYDRA really do stimulate blood flow to regulate your temperature. On the downhills I did notice, as in some previous runs that they did slip down my thighs a little. The slipping also caused them to bunch behind my knees a little. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to stop and make adjustments to your clothing mid run. This is a problem I have with my Skins A400, which I do relate to my scrawny legs, not the product. Although to be true to my original review, the 2XU Elites don’t have this slip. Perhaps it’s the additional reinforcement they offer through the glutes and hammies. 
The Stryda Elite compressors offer great muscle support on ascents and descents
     On the uphills my calves started to get a little twitchy. I could feel the fibres working against me on the ascent. This is why I wear compression – to maximise blood flow and to provide additional support to the muscle to prevent cramps and injury. This feeling came and went for a while and eventually settled and disappeared. In my mind this was a small victory for the STYRDA Elite Compressors. When you have the confidence in your garments to push on it means big things.
      As I neared the final 2k of the run the rain arrived and I got wet. Perfect, the trail test can tick another box – water resistance. As I slugged it up the hill and the rain fell heavier I was getting wet. My feet were soaking through my socks and my jacket was called for. My legs, they were surprisingly dry. I could see the water hitting the Compressors and running off quite quickly. As I reached the golf course the rain turned to hail and sleet. As my core temp dropped my legs still remained warm and relatively dry. I guess standing around under the trees as I tried to work out the best contours of the 3rd hole doesn’t allow the water to run off as well. As soon I was up and running again the water began to repel again.
     Back in the car, towel on the seat and 30 minutes later my legs were still warm, and as I stripped off at home they were dry. So, when the weather is cold and wet, you can grab your Elite Compressors and hit the roads and trails with confidence, knowing you will stay warm and dry, as long as you keep moving! When you start to feel that little bit of fatigue, STRYDA have got the compression levels just right. Wearing STYRDA does increase circulatory flow and keeps your muscles oxygen rich so you can finish strong.
     Now, as we head into spring and summer here in Australia, how do they stack up in the heat? My last run was in 22 C heat, a heat wave after winter! With the sun shining I hit the hills on my favourite course. Donning my favourite Under Armour top and the Elite compressors I was soon sweating away. In the warmer weather the STRYDAs didn’t slip as much. Throughout the run my legs felt strong and not too hot. I felt as though they were allowed to sweat and the muscles self-regulate their temperature. For now, they’ll stay in the rotation for my weekend runs. I’ll keep an eye on this as the summer approaches and the temperature rises.

In conclusion:

     Price - I found that the STYRDA Elite Compressors stood up to and met expectations. For price, they beat the Skins A400 range and the 2XU Elite range hands down. They are a great buy.

     Fit and feel – In real world use they were exceptional in the cold weather and will be my go to for my relaxed morning runs. They keep you warm and dry and that can’t be beaten. For now I will keep them for the relaxed run, the slip that I get around my thighs was a little frustrating, but around my calves (a traditional problem area) they are spot on. I want to head into races with full confidence.

     One thing that I would like to add the level of development that STRYDA have put into their products. On the launch day I actually wanted to go ahead and order some of the ladies Compressors, as these fit me the best. In the weeks after the launch, and due to customer feedback on the day they revisited the design to give a higher waist and better fit for the female body shape.
STYRDA advised me of the changes and sent me a final consumer product. This review was based on the men’s range (as it should be!) and for me in the 3% of height and weight category of scrawny, the men’s range just lacked a little around the thighs. As they develop, I’m excited to see what happens with the design and composition of what we wear, not just a new colour for the new season.

     This is what excites me most about STRYDA, their desire to get the perfect product for their customer, and the way they take on board customer feedback and take things to the next level. This is going to give them the edge over the other known brands, and this is why I am proud to a STRYDA ambassador.

    For now, stay fit and enjoy your running!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

STRYDA - The compression revolution

     For runners, cyclists and all athletes, when you think about going harder for longer, with less pain on the other side you have to admit that you’ve considered compression. The use of compression garments to aid performance and recovery has grown immensely over the last few years, and two brands dominate the Australian, if not the global market. 2XU and Skins were born in Australia and have been picked up and loved by athletes across the nation and now, worldwide. They’re also loved by mums in school yards all over the place. Over the last 12 months I’ve run in the Skins A400 Full length tight, and more recently have leaned towards my 2XU Elite Compression Tights as my favoured pair. When it comes to the half tights, the Skins A400 have the edge and are my go to.

     Well, it’s time to shake up the market, and STRYDA compression might just be the brand to broaden our horizons. STRYDA are the new boys in town, and yes, they are another Australian designed and tested product. They are also my local supplier, based out of StepWell podiatry in Melbourne. They launched in July and I had the pleasure of attending their V.I.P launch event and was able to try on most of the range. My favourites were the STYRDA Elite Force compressors and working through the winter, the garment I am relying most heavily on.

STRYDA looks brilliant...
     For the last few weekends (and training days in between) I’ve had the privilege of being able to run in the STYDA Force Elite Compressors. So, how do they stack up against the big boys? This initial review product provided by STYRDA is in for a bit of a three way comparison, especially for my Aussie readers who have limited access to good quality products. Now that you’re with me, I'm aiming to fill in the details, so make sure you’ve got a drink at hand and time to take it all in.

     Let’s get to it. In the box, the STRYDA compression range looks brilliant. The box is 100% recyclable and the graphics and pictures make a huge statement. If they were off the self, I’d be drawn to them. Visually they have the first notch on their belt. When my box arrived in the mail, I was hard pressed to actually work out what garment was inside, as neither Mrs Fish or myself were able to find a product description or label on the box. As the range is still in development I’ll forgive them for this one, and they are also only available on line or at StepWell Podiatry in Rosanna, Melbourne. While I loved the look of the box, Mrs Fish is one for keeping her compression clothing away from any buckles, Velcro or corners so we often pop our gear back in the box for storage. *** Since writing this, STYRDA have updated the labelling on their boxes. I'll update with a new pic when I can. 

The other brands have more rounded packaging.
     Both the 2XU and Skins boxes are a softer paper based material that has a premium feel to them. This is where the plastic type materials and sharp corners of the box could be redesigned, as we were both cautious about it catching on other clothes on the shelf. For packaging, I like the Skins A400 boxes for ease of use and storage.
    Now the exciting part, what the STRYDA FORCE Elite compressors are like to wear. Visually, they look fantastic! I love the blue stitching on the side, the Giant S on the thigh and the STRYDA branding (Check out their great snaps on the official site). They look sharp and stylish, without being too out there and ‘look at me’.
Scuse the mirror, they look good!
Stryda Force Elite Compressors

     Stepping into the STRYDA FORCE is easy. Gather them up as for any tight and pull them on. STRYDA have gone with an 82% Nylon 18% Lycra mix for greater compression capability, giving them a lovely strong feel, yet still feeling soft to the touch. The mens range are low waisted, similar to the 2XU range, which I am still getting used to. The STRYDA instantly felt like they were giving good levels of compression to my chicken leg thighs and calves. They are designed to run long down your shins and calves to provide maximum venius return all the way down your leg and through the ankle. I do have short legs and they are a touch long for me. They are also a little more relaxed through the groin and glute areas than my other compression garments.

     When I took them for their first Dandenong Trail Runners run, I got nothing but positive feedback on the design. I love the two tone of the 2XU but the oversized X can be either love or hate. I like it, some don’t. If I had the choice I would go for the ‘Nero’ or black range. My Skins are the charcoal on black, and are essentially very black. The advantage of the 2XU concept stores is that trained staff can give you the right advice, and they will certainly let you know all about the enhanced visibility of their product in low light conditions. This is where the Skins fall behind. I believe The STRYDA Force logo and print are subtle enough to remain discreet but have enough reflection to also stand out on our early morning runs.For ThisFish, it's a second win for STYRDA.

Great in low light
 The Skins have a 74% to 26% mix and feel more like you could put your fingers through them or be susceptible to damage while putting them on or taking off. Of the three, they do feel the nicest in your hands. When I first got them I was excited, as the A400 half tights are the best fitting shorts I have. After a wear or two I found that the Skins just lack the compression needed to a) be compressive and b) actually keep them in place. I feel like I am forever wanting to hitch them up during a run or workout session.
     The 2XU Elites have been my favourites. The additional support provided through the panels in the glutes, hamstrings and calves give me the best compression. For my height, they are also the shortest length of the three. To pick up and hold they feel like a superior product to the Skins. They also have an 80 - 20 Nylon to Lycra mix, which could be what the STRYDA Force are aiming for. 

     At this stage I should mention price. The 2XU Elite tights are the most expensive, at $185 AUD, the Skins A400 tights are $160 and the STRYDA FORCE compressors are $119. For a product that undercuts its competitors by nearly 25% at the minimum, they offer an excellent feel and fit. For me this gives the edge to the STYRDA Elite Force Compressors over the Skins, and a very close second to the much more expensive 2XU Elite tights. Price wise they are offering exceptional value for money

     So, part one of this review is over. A brief summary?
Packaging – The STRYDA packaging looks amazing and is my pick of the 3, but it lacked a product description and the sharp edges have us on edge. The Skins box with its ‘drawer’ is a winner. I'll give them a point each. 

                                         STRYDA 1, Skins 1, 2XU zip.

Styling – Again STRYDA have the design edge. The colours work incredibly well together and catch the eye. They are also safe enough to catch and create reflections for low light conditions. They are my favourite of the three. 

STRYDA 2, Skins 1 2XU zip.

Fit and Feel – The STRYDA Elite Force Compressors feel terrific. They are soft on touch, yet feel strong and well-constructed. They give a nice tight feel through my calves and hamstrings although for my height they run a little long through the lower leg, even if they are designed for maximum coverage. However, the 2XU give that contact feel of a greater level of compression and offer a more precise fit. 

 STYRDA 2, Skins 1, 2XU 1.

Price – STYRDA are the clear winner, offering fabulous value for money at 25% less cost than the Skins and nearly 33% less cost than the 2XU Elite. 

STYRDA 3, Skins 1, 2XU 1.






Sunday, 20 July 2014

2014 Salomon Trail Series - Race 2 Lower Plenty - Ambitions

     This race write up is a little more personal, a reflection on what I’ve been able to achieve.
     If you’ve found me on twitter or Instagram (My links are at the end of this post) you’ll know that I went into this race with some ambitions. 
     After my strong placing at Race 1 at Studley Park, and having loved this course last year I readjusted my race goal to what I hoped and dreamed was something achievable. This picture might let you in on what I was set out to achieve at Race 2 of the Salomon Trail series:
     I had followed a similar training schedule to last month, tweaking it to spend more time in the Dandenong’s with my friends in the Dandenong Trail Runners. I also felt I had lost a little stamina by sacrificing my long runs for more intense sessions on the trails. By spending the last two Sundays in the hills I regained that belief that I could pull away on the hills and run strong from go to woah.
     So, how did it pan out for me?
Race 2 was a tough race. I knew the initial part of the run would be flat to slightly downhill before the little rise up into the open plain. I set out with the field leaders, running the first kilometre at a quick but maintainable pace. It was a little difficult to get my rhythm over the terrain but I felt comfortable with my breathing and place in the field, roughly 6th or 7th. As we hit the plain I was inspired by Adam, who joked that this time he wasn’t going to spend the race looking at my back. He pushed on ahead and I made the move to go with him. As we turned towards the bush track I was able to pick past him and another and was sitting in 6th.
     Although I really enjoyed running through the trees and scrub, I was at that point where my breathing was getting laboured and I could feel my quads feeling a little heavy. I was starting to have just a little bit of doubt creep in, and regret for hitting the treadmill so hard on Thursday.
     As we reached the end of this section and hit the rise before the descent down the grassy hill I was ready for that relief, and also rather happy that I’d chosen to wear my inov-8 X-Talons. The grip they gave me in the grass and muck was brilliant, as it was here that the first of the slips and slides started to occur.
     When we turned up the hill and into the next section of track I felt this was make or break time and began to push the pace from the comfortable to the unpleasant. My breathing was laboured and I had to drop to a 2-1 breathing pattern to keep on top of things.
We cleared this section and started our last downhill section into the small valley. Here I was able to find the balance between using gravity to help push the pace and ease my breathing and heart rate a little and managed to make a jump on the runner in front of me. I now had a feeling I was in 4th or 5th and I wasn’t going to give it up.
     Again as we entered a new section of single trail that ran alongside the hill, I was glad to have the additional grip of my Talons, as I could hear those behind me battling with the twists and turns. Me, I was able to bite into the ground and push off with confidence. The meandering trail again made a turn upwards and I was starting to feel the pinch. What kept me going was hearing and seeing the frustration or slight fear (sorry if you’re reading this – but it got me going!) of my fellow runner as we started to climb again.
     My return to the long hill runs in the Dandenongs had given me the confidence to know that even though I may have slowed fractionally, I was going to smash the last of these hills. It was the moment of self-belief that I needed and I know that I was able to put some distance between us.
     Just as the demons of doubt were starting to gnaw away again, we merged with the long course runners and I was able to shake them off and kick on.
     The last 2ks or so were tough. The course was undulating with rises and drops and twists and cutbacks that needed sure footing and confidence. I was really feeling it at this point; heavy legs and laboured breathing ad a little bit of hope were going to get me over the line. As we ran along the riverside I remembered that little rise from last year and I was ready for it, no turning left for this little fish. I scrabbled up the last of the trail, up and over the ridge and steadied myself for the final surge. This last few hundred meters seemed to go forever, and I was nearing my limit. In previous runs this is where I’ve been at my strongest. This time I was spent, having finally pushed myself into that next zone.
     I heard the kids on the cow bells and then I saw the Suunto mat and told myself that this was it. As I hit the mat, I was hit from behind (not literally thank goodness) as another short course runner came from nowhere. We hit the sprint and I told him and myself it wasn’t going to happen. Not this time.
     Well, it did. In the final sprint I was pipped at the post. Hundredths of a second split us. I was totalled, physically spent having finally pushed myself into that zone of self-belief, that zone where you dare to dream a little and hold nothing back.
My kids came running over and just about cleaned me up. I was breathing so hard you could have knocked me over with a feather, so two little kids were almost more than I could take.
So this race was about dreams, hopes and aspirations. After my hard work at Race 1 I finally had the confidence to really believe that I could hit my goals. I finally had that taste of success that is needed to push you out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. Yes, it hurts and pushes your limits but it’s an amazing feeling when you finally nail it.
     So what was my aim? Certainly top 10, and that podium is tantalisingly close. To finish 5th over the line and 4th in my division is what I dared to dream. To have 3rd snatched away in the last moments is devastating, but it won’t happen again.
     If your reading this and keen to see what the hills of Olinda have in store for you, please follow along on my Facebook feed. I’m hoping to hit up the hills of Mt Dandenong over the next few Sundays for some fun 10-15k runs.

Cheers again, This Fish

     
You can find me on Twitter and Instagram as ThisFishCanRun


Monday, 7 July 2014

The inov-8 X-Talon 190 - 2014 update

     The inov-8 X-Talon 190 is an award winning shoe, and this update has only improved it. There are plenty of reviews out there, so why keep reading?
My take is hopefully a more practical one, putting the shoe through its ‘paces’ in the real world.
     So, let’s get to it. The inov-8 X-Talon 190 is designed to be light and fast, and at less than 190g for my size 7 it achieves that brief. Please read what Mr inov-8 says about the technical side on his site if you need more familiarization with the shoe.
     Pulling it out of the box, I was blown away by the colour. It is not a shy shoe. The hi-vis orange is intense. Do I like it? Yes, Yes I do. In the wild, orange means danger, to any trail racing competitors this orange should spark a warning of what’s coming. 
The inov-8 X-Talon 190 - 2014 update

     Size wise, they only go down to a 7, so I had to take it. My 6.5 UK is just not available – my one whinge! I was aware that they are the narrow last, so I would have opted for that extra half size for my slightly wider feet. If you’ve been following my Facebook thread, you’ll see how I blew apart the inov-8 trailroc 235s. One of the updates on the X-Talon was an increase to the plastic protection along both sides of the shoe. It runs a lot longer than in the previous generation and I am confident that it will hold my feet and prevent premature tearing of the mesh.
     An old school sizing trick is to take out the inner bed of a shoe and measure up, so here’s how it compares to my inov-8 f-lite 252s. You can see how the green f-lites are significantly shorter by both size (6.5UK) and length (the natural last) compared to the grey X-Talon on the inov-8 performance last. It is a long and narrow shoe compared to my other inov-8s. The inov-8 mesh is very breathable and has a lot of give, so the X-Talon 190 hugs your foot like a second skin. 
The natural 252 last is wider


The X-Talon 190 last is long and narrow

     They don’t feel tight or restricting. The f-lites on inov-8s natural last are more relaxed and allow my feet to spread more easily.
2mm lugs on the f-lite 252s
     So, how do they perform? I could write about the incredible grip and traction that they give and how I can run like the wind with them on and it would be true. All that you have read stacks up. What I wanted to know was what the sole like was? How big would those cleats be? 
     Again my f-lite 252s are the yard stick. As you can see, the f-lite grip is 1-2mm deep. This gives you more than enough traction on most trails, except when you get to the wet clay/mud/slippery rock. When the going gets rough and muddy, I call for the updated X-Talon 190. The 10mm lugs provide enormous potential for traction. With good running form, they really do tear into the mud and allow you to go almost anywhere.
10mm (1cm) lugs on the X-Talon 190
     So what does anywhere mean? I have worn these at the clay based Silvan Reservoir (a short film clip of my running the trails) and on the many varied surfaces in the Dandenong Ranges, both less than 20 minutes from my doorstep. My last run was a 21km training run with the Dandenong Trail Runners and it’s from this run that my review was formed. The following pictures show the surfaces we covered and how I rate the updated X-Talon 190s effectiveness.

X-Talon 190 heaven - choose your own destiny
Tread with caution - you'll soon learn your
running form on firm ground - not a happy place for talons

Muddy Clay = Happy talons
& animal like traction on climbs

Loose rock + X-Talon 190 = superb grip
& confidence on descents
     At the end of the run my feet came up well. The talons drain very well so there was no wet and soggy feet to contend with. I’d managed to avoid the real rocky stuff and the bitumen as much as I could, so in terms of padding and protection I was still walking comfortably. This carried over to the next day.
     So, to conclude the inov-8 X-Talon 190 is an excellent shoe. With good running form the precision fit and light weight does let you fly through the trails like a bird of prey, hunting down slower competitors. On softer, wetter, muddy tails the big lugs have serious bite and let you climb anything that’s in your way. You can also storm down the other side, knowing that the Talons will grip and release the surface with every stride. As my peers have written, I must caution on choosing your trails wisely when running with the X-Talon 190. They are quite unforgiving on firm trails and roads. 
     With this in mind, enjoy your new x-talon 190s. Just don’t go catching any fish!

Cheers once more, Lachie