A Fine Line

Let’s face it who wouldn’t want to be Killian Jornet?  He’s cool, fast and he gets to live his life in the mountains.  He’s a humble guy, respectful and he’ll even sign his autograph in the middle of a race!  Killian is a proper dude, and chicks love that.

I’m very envious.  I’d love to be able to run the Pyrènees in nine days, or win every ultra race that I enter.  I’d love to spend all winter on a pair ski’s going up and down mountains.

But unfortunately I do not have his talent, nor the freedom of being a young man anymore.  So if you can’t do a Killian I guess the next best thing is to watch the Killian.

SAMSUNGSo it’s not surprising that when I heard that Killian’s new DVD, “A Fine Line” was being released I ordered it at once.

And what a great film.

It’s the first part of Killian’s “Summits of my Life” series.  During which we will see our hero tackle some of the worlds most important mountains in his light and fast style, He plans to finish off on Everest in a few years time.

What’s it like then?

Well, the DVD comes in a very lightweight cardboard package which is beautifully photographed.  Every last gram had been shaved off to save weight.  If you want to go extremely ultra lightweight then you do have the option of downloading the film.  Of course the download doesn’t come with the nice packaging – which is lovely so it’s another one of those comfort versus weight trade off’s.

But what’s the film like?

Oh it’s good.  We get to follow Killian as he trains and completes two traverses of Mont Blanc (east to west and then north to south).  The filming by Seb Montaz is amazing mixing some stunning helicopter shots with handheld cams.  Fair play to Seb who must be a fit bloke to be able to keep up with “the K-dog.”    The film doesn’t really have a narrative as such and this may put people off, it does feel a bit jumbled up. I was expecting something documentary like but it ends up more like a video album. If you’ve watched any of the Killian’s Quest episodes on Youtube you’ll have a good idea of what I mean, it’s like watching all of those episodes in one film.   I think they were trying to capture the essence of the project which is not about breaking records, but simply about being in the mountains and promoting the lifestyle. Ultimately I found that the film was tinged with sadness as Stéphane Brosse lost his life on the mountain during the creation of this film.

You can order or download a copy here

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Mountain Runners or Road Runners – Who’s The Coolest?

If I was to say that I have never ran on a road I would be a liar, but I’ve always looked at roads as a means to an end, a way to get to somewhere worth running or sometimes the default option for a run with a club.  So, yes I have run on some roads and I have owned a couple of pairs of “road shoes.”

However, I’ve never ever entered a road race.  The very thought of it sends shivers down my spine. You see the worst thing about a road race is actually having to run.  Can you imagine the never changing surface, the endless pounding? Ooh not good.

Roadies doing their thang.

And of course during a road race there is nowhere to hide, you actually have to run all the time.  For us who prefer the trail and mountain, racing is a breeze, for one thing if it’s a steep course you can actually walk, and then once you get to the top gravity will assist you on the way back down.  Simples.

I guess I run trails, because I’m not really a runner, maybe I’m a fast hiker, or something, it’s all a bit blurry,  what’s clear to me though is that the biggest difference between “roadies” and “trailies” is not athletic prowess but the fact that “trailies” are much more cooler than “roadies”

Now I’m not saying we’re cooler because we run “extreme mountain terrain dude.”  No – we’re cooler because we look cooler.

Here’s the “evidence” in support of my hypothesis

Take an average road race,  The main bulk of the pack will be made up of runners of all shapes and sizes and they will all have the same distinct “runners world” look to them, long T-shirt + pair of shorts..   At the front end we’ll see the “pro” look of the split shorts and vest combo. Some of the girls will wear this too although they may go for the crop top and swimming pants thing. These guys are the fast ones, some may even be proper good.   Bigger events, especially charity races, will have the fancy dress brigade  though the weight of their costumes usually see’s this lot at the back.

So in summary:

  • They wear pretty much the same thing
  • White shoes and white socks (there’s no mud on those roads)
  • Nearly all of them have neat hair
  • Fancy dress, whilst being fun in a self deprecating way is by no means cool
  • Running on roads is boring.

At a mountain race, you will see a lot of different gear, and quite a mix of exciting styles and fashion combos.  There might be some guys in the splits and vests but you could almost guarantee that those guys also do the “odd bit of road.”  Otherwise these will be the   ones actually trying to win the race.  A large part of the pack can be seen decked out from head to foot in compression gear (cool, if you like the kind of future runner look).  There will certainly be a plethora of coloured t-shirts and slightly longer shorts. Some mountain runners even wear normal “cotton” t-shirts in a kind of “bringing back the past” retro look.  If it’s hot enough some may even choose to “accidently forget” their t-shirt, some may run with just sleeves (timeless).   Trailies will have much cooler shoes on, with grips.  Most, if not all will have a buff, if not on the head it’ll be wrapped around an arm or maybe forgotten in the car.  There will be different hair lengths and styles and some will have beards.  Trail runners need a lot of gear and have cool bags to put this gear in, they need a lot of water so they have cool drinking things too, some of them have like these tubes that come out of the bag! The coolest of all the trailies even use sticks!  Sticks!  Can you imagine your road runner running with sticks?

So in summary:

  • Beards
  • Different colour t-shirts and longer shorts
  • Dark socks and shoes with grips.
  • Buffs
  • Chests
  • Sticks
  • Running on trails is easy and fun (you can walk if you get tired, nobody cares)

Mountain runners have beards

So in my mind it’s strikingly clear,  Mountain and trail runners are simply the coolest and the best.

New Balance MT110 a review after 353 miles…

Here’s a picture of them fresh out of the box with zero miles.

DSCF3737

Note how I’m effortlessly “rocking” the dual brand combo of inov 8 socks and NB shoes. How very cool, how very “bad-ass”

Firstly I really like this shoe, but I’m not sure if it’s partly because of the marketing, the fact that it is really cheap or if it is really a good shoe…

As you will probably know this shoe is the one that Anton Krupicka wears and is marketed thus.  It has a cool picture of the Flatirons stamped inside the heel end of the shoe.  The Flatirons, (which until recently I used to always read with my selective dyslexia as the Flat-i-trons) is where the aforementioned god of ultra mountains does a lot of his training.

Grrr, proper mountains, grrr.

Another cool marketing thing is the secret message stamped on the sole of the shoe, which reads “keep up”  The idea is that as you lay down your tracks in the mud or the snow that this message is emblazoned upon the trail. That way all of those that follow your “bad ass” well be undermined and have their spirit crushed by your cock sure shoes and your rock-steady coolness and originality.

So the first thing that disappointed me was that I couldn’t get this message to stamp no matter what.  Damn.  The second big disappointment was that after their inaugural outing the cool picture of the Flatirons inside the shoe had rubbed off.

That, fortunately was where my disappointment ended (well for about 250 miles anyway).  The shoes performed very well, both in training and racing.  2012 was all about building up my miles and my aerobic base, and I spent a long time going up and coming back down a lot of mountains.  I worked out after a while that a bit more under foot protection is what I was lacking on the very difficult high mountain trails, and the MT110’s, with a 4mm drop are less like “barefoot” shoes and more like a really lightweight racing shoe.  There’s enough protection without sacrificing feedback from the trail.  The shoes fit like a glove, but of course they are more sock like than glove like (gloves are for hands – please note Merrell – socks are for feet).  Like a lot of minimal shoes the MT110’s are snug around the foot, But with plenty of room to move – in other words, you can feel the upper material on your foot but it stretches and moves with you foot.  I like this, I think.  I did feel that my little toes were rubbing a bit, but not enough, as it turns out, to cause blisters.  Perhaps another half size up would have suited, this leads me nicely to the next bit.

Sizing, and what are they smoking down at the New Balance factory?

So yes sizing, as with a lot of New Balance shoes the lasts were made by someone who prefers their shoes a half size too small.  Let’s be blunt – this last maker has no idea of what a correct shoe size is and to be honest if he worked for me (I’m a joiner) he wouldn’t last the week (pun intended).  So here’s a radical idea – why not just make them the right size.  I had to go up a half size without a doubt, I almost went up a full size and to be honest if I was going to buy these again I think I would go up the full size.  Like that I’d get a bit of extra space for those littlest piggies.

On the run. On the trail

Great all round performer, grip is okay and responsiveness is fine.  Enough ground feel and at the same time a good amount of protection when you want to bomb down rough bits.  I felt very secure in these shoes, like I could tackle anything really, like  maybe I could even fly if I tried hard enough.  I ran in these during the summer and autumn and they worked well.  I really liked this shoe…

Longevity 

This is the problem, have a look at the next photo…

DSCF3939

The uppers ripped on both shoes in roughly the same place.  My repair with dental floss did the trick though and they did not split again. (You could colour the dental floss with a permanent marker pen if you wanted, I like the DIY look).  The uppers are all plastic, which is a bit weird and modern but I think in general the shoe looks cool.  Shame it ain’t that strong.

Now this would be a major beef if the shoe was expensive, but as it is dirt cheap I let it go (I got mine for about £42 including delivery to France).

I have one more gripe

And this is to do with the weird thing that New Balance have tried with the lateral (outside) edge of the sole.  Obviously the guy that makes the lasts is a social kind of chap and doesn’t want to be indulging in what he’s smoking on his lonesome.  No it’s quite clear that he’s been sharing his wares with the sole design team.  (You’ll remember that these are the same guys that thought of putting the “Keep Up” stamp on the sole).  Now they must be on some good shit, because for the life of me I can’t see why they suddenly came up with the idea to raise the lateral edge of the shoe…

Yes you heard right, the “little toe side” of the shoe is higher than the “Big toe side” of the shoe.

The excuse is that they designed the shoe in concurrence with Anton Krupicka’s wear pattern. Phaw phaw phaw.  Please.   Come on, we know better don’t we, leave the design guys alone with the last guys for too long and freaky things start happening, you can imagine them in the “coffee” room at break time…

Last guy:  “I’ve got a freakin’ excellent idea dude…”

Design guy:  “What’s that man?”

Last guy:  “I’m gonna completely fuck with their minds, dude, I’m gonna make all the shoes  frickin’ half a size too small” (laughter)

Design guy: “Wow man, that’s like totally monumental, you know what we should do too…?”

Last guy: “Nah man, tell me”

Design guy: “We should, like, make the shoe rock from side to side, dude…” (wide eyed bewilderment and smirking).

Last guy: “Yeah”

Design guy: “Listen, I’ve got it, we’ll make the one side of the shoe, bigger than the other side of the shoe – now that will really fuck their heads” (passes joint to Last guy)

Last guy: “Wow”

Design guy: “And you know what else?”

Last guy: “Nah man tell me”

Design guy: “We’ll like, make a secret stamp message, cut into the very fabric of the sole man. And no one person on the planet will ever be able to make it print (roaring with laughter).  And I gotta ‘nuther one..  also whilst we’re at it we’ll have, like, a nice picture of mountains inside the shoe that disappears the first time you wear them…” (Laughs to convulsion, falls off chair).

Tshh, those cheeky Last guys.

In conclusion

Great shoe, with overwhelming positive attributes, but the uppers are weak and these things are touted as “mountain” trail shoes.  Functional grip, good fit but weird lateral drop. I did start to have a few heel/ankle issues after wearing these puppies all summer so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lateral build up somehow pushes my feet through the pronation stage too quickly.  Other folk on running blogs have posted similar stuff.

Anyway, reportedly the update version has since removed this problem, by reducing the lateral edge by 1 mm.  As I have yet to try this update I cannot report as to weather the stamp is improved or if they’ve finally managed to build a shoe true to size.

The review in 5 words…

Good shoe, and it’s cheap.