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