2015 Ultra and Trail Running Predictions

Here’s a list of my 2015 Trail and Ultra Running predictions, what’s going to be hot and what’s not!

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Deciding the right length of short…

For us fellas looking good in running gear can sometimes be a struggle, one false step and we could descend in to a tenebrous chasm of geekyness.

For the girls it’s pretty simple, you look hot in every form of running attire.   But for the unfairer sex it’s really not that easy.

Girls look much better than guys in running gear

In the first part of what may become a series on fashion no-no’s (or perhaps to be more positive I’ll concentrate on the fashion yes-yes’s) I propose to you the subject of short length.

The vogue at the moment is for slightly longer shorts, that cover the thigh, some of these longer “trail” shorts even combine a inner Lycra support short.  In a moment I’ll address the necessity of inner Lycra, and Lycra in general but first off length.

How long should your shorts be?

Too long and they’re “pirate trousers” that’s an instant no-no, the only time you see pirates running is at the back of a big marathon in the fancy dress section of the race, usually this  coincides with the release of one of those Caribbean films.  In the mean time pirates are only cool if you are a 4 year old boy.  Fortunately for us fashionista’s the running garment manufacturers have already got the idea that pirates are not the in thing and quite frankly lead to impracticalities with the running gait.  Today we can find shorts in four approximate lengths.

Long shorts. (usually around 9 – 7 inches) – not too dissimilar to what soccer players wear, usually they will cover the whole of the top of the leg down to the knee

ron hill shorts

Trail shorts.  The slightly shorter version of the above, sometimes touted as “cargo shorts” but mostly referred to as trail shorts – probably the in thing for most off road orientated folks.  Here’s a picture of me wearing my favourite pair of Ron Hills…

TDC race photo2My legs happen to be very long so they do appear shorter on me than on others.  As I’m not a big soccer fan I prefer this look – revealing a little leg, but leaving something to the imagination.

Square cut shorts.  A bit more late 70’s – early 80’s. Revealing thighs. Here’s another pic of yours truly, sporting my “racing” shorts, these again made by Ron Hill.

Dalou 1 I prefer this type of short when running in the hot weather and it does leave a little less to the imagination.  I like to wear a short like this when running shirtless –  it make’s me feel less clothed (and kind of sexy).  When it’s hot I think this is a good thing. I’m all about maxing the vitamin D absorption at the moment…

Splits.  Shorts for the professional runner, allowing more movement but the trade off is a greater risk of displaying the clutter.  There are only a few that can pull this look off and still be cool.  You need an all over tan for this to work and to be called Anton Krupicka.

Tony Krupicka is the coolest runner on earth

So now we know what’s available, how do you work out what suits our individual leg length?

I’m of the opinion that if you’ve got it you should flaunt it.  Personally I have nice long legs with a reasonably defined muscle, and they usually see the sun in the summer.   I’m going to want to show these pins off!  So I usually opt for a shorter short.  I do like the practicality of the slightly longer length mind you,  for one thing it allows a bit more fabric to pin a race number, and usually this type of short comes with more pockets, good for carrying the odd gel.

So my rule of thumb is if you are long legged like me, perhaps a shorter short is not a bad idea, but for aesthetics I personally draw the line at splits.

But, my legs are a bit shorter, what should I wear?

Shorter guys seem to pull off the longer short thing better… I think it follows that the longer your short the more taller you look.

Bagginess.

Baggy is cool right?  Nope, totally not cool – 100 % geek-a-mondo.   For one thing its not functional on the trail, You can get caught by brambles or something equally nasty like a running pole.   Another thing it makes your shorts look like a skirt…  Here’s a picture of me and my best mate Steve from last summer when they came to visit – Look at my baggy shorts…  A definite fashion faux-pas if there was ever one.

steve and nick

Please don’t make that mistake.  Stay away from the baggy.

So you might be thinking that you need tight shorts?  Oh no no no!    Tight shorts are verging on the Lycra look, they’ll also restrict movement – you need to find the middle ground.

But what about Lycra?

Okay, they’re cyclists, but you get the idea.

Isnt support supposed to be good?

Firstly you can get all the support you need from your underwear so there’s no need to buy a twin short – that’s just ridiculous.  We have to ask ourselves is there actually a need for support in the first place?  After 2 million years of evolution its clear this might not be the case – obviously we are designed for naked running.  In reality the short should be just enough to cover up our modesty and let the air circulate.  Lycra may look okay on girls, but in reality its going to increase the chances of a nasty sweaty crotch and consequently yeast infections.  And don’t even get me started on compression shorts, If there ever was a marketing ploy aimed squarely at yuppie runners it’s compression shorts.  Don’t go there, instead let training take care of all your compression needs!

For a while girls have had the option of the skort, which I think is a totally wicked idea – I’d wear one of these if I could get away with it…  As an antidote for the above picture of the cyclists (sorry) here’s Emelie Forsberg rocking a slightly modified version of the Salomon skort. (It looks like she’s taken out the inside compression short – good for her).

Great stuff.  Incidentally Emelie is my favourite girl mountain runner (after my actual girlfriend of course, but you get what I mean)  checkout her blog here, she’s ace.   For the guys like me who habour “Skort envy” don’t despair, I guess we can all release our inner Scotsman and wear the kilt, plenty of people do that without any claim to Scottish lineage, and in fact there is such a thing as an English kilt so fairs fair.

Hoff magic.

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.