Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Street running at Metrogaine Jo'burg

I get such a kick out of organising the Metrogaine Jo'burg events because there are so many great aspects to it.

Looking for interesting control sites can be a challenge in some neighbourhoods. Luckily the Parktown / Rosebank area and surrounds have houses with interesting gates, walls and sidewalk gardens.

I also enjoy turning these features into clues with funny (ha ha) answers (or funny clues with funny answers). I probably start with about 80-90 control locations and then I cull them as I see the checkpoint distribution taking shape and where I want to guide (or lure!) the runners to. I only have space on the clue sheet for 55 clues and I'm limited in points allocation - only 10 controls per points allocations (20s, 30s etc). I think this was one of my better points distributions. While planning I saved my working file to show you the points distributions with colour.

And then there's the map-drawing part. It really is good (time-consuming) fun to create maps. I think that this was my finest map, with its doodle illustration - thanks to a great suggestion from Robyn to include a doodle.

A new addition to Metrogaine are crowns for the winners of the 90-minute and 60-minute courses. It looks like these are going to be much-coveted items. I'm not big on prize givings so the crowns also serve to differentiate the course winners from the rest of the participants.

Lucky Miya and Michael Crone (90-min winners) and Sarah Pope (60-min winner; Sarah’s teammate Magi Lingnau had already left when this photo was taken!). Metrogaine, where a bit of silliness is very welcome. *grin*
The weather was a bit wonky in the late afternoon with an odd drizzle. Thank goodness it cleared up beautifully but still some pairs didn't show. Nonetheless 76 very enthusiastic and eager pairs did participate. They looked fabulously bright in their colourful clothing, reflective bibs and headlamps.

I had help from a wonderful bunch of friends - they really made the evening smooth and efficient. And they're great company too.

There's a write-up with links to results on the AR Club website about the event.

Next one looks to be 18 June - on my birthday. Will confirm details as soon as I know.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hi-Tec Shade, road shoe (review)

I've been running the Hi-Tec Shade road shoe for about a month now and I've put 150 kilometres on to them - a good distance to have developed a good feel for them and an opinion.

The Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity was the first Hi-Tec trail shoe that I wore. Light as a feather, it took a while to grow on me, which it did. I've been wearing the Hi-Tec Shadow trail shoe for a few months and while it is comfortable and has been good on all kinds of terrain, I prefer the Infinity for its snug fit and tactile sole.

On road I ran regular cushioned shoes for decades and for the past 18-months or so I've been in the Inov-8 Road-X 255 (men's). Its a broad shoe with a 4mm lift (the heel sits 4mm higher than the forefoot). I've been happy in it across distances from a quick 5km to 30km road races. I sometimes run my well-worn Asics Gel Fuji Racers (trail, men's) on road too - these are the shoes that saw me cross over from cushioned to minimalist.

This shoe model is the Hi-Tec Shade. It's a road shoe. I'm running the men's model in a very lovely blue and silver colourway.

Women often think that they can't / shouldn't wear men's shoes and I don't think that men even contemplate wearing women's models. For the most part, colours are different and the lasts are shaped differently. Women's shoes tend to be more narrow in the mid-foot and they often have a more narrow heel cup. I've very rarely had a women's shoe model in trail or road. I try them all and go for the one that fits best, and it is often the men's one.

Fit is far more important than the label on the box.

Apparently this shoe takes its heritage / inspiration from the Hi-Tec Silver Shadow, but as I don't know this shoe at all it means little to me.

If you wore the Infinity happily, you'll feel totally at home in the Shade. The two are definitely closely related.

When I opened up the box to pull out the shoe it was almost like what happens when you lift an empty milk carton that you expect to be almost full. Whoops!

My shoe is a size UK 8 (US 9) and it weighs... 185g per shoe.

Compare to the following (per shoe weights):
Asics Gel Fuji Racer - 269g (US 9.5)
Inov-8 Road-X 255 - 267g (UK 8)
Flip flops (Gisele Bundchen) - 174g

Feet are generally more narrow in the middle with a wider spread at the forefoot and across the toes. Both the Hi-Tec Infinity (trail) and this Hi-Tec Shade have a weird shape. They're very uniform - like a dugout canoe. Instinct says that this just isn't right but reality and experience have shown that it isn't an issue (for me) - neither on trail nor road.

Putting your foot into the shoe it feels like you're pulling on a slipper. The upper is smooth and uniform. There's no stitching other than around the lace 'cage' to secure the loops that the laces are threaded through. You can very comfortably wear these shoes without socks. The silver-coloured, heat-welded strips maintain the shape, form and support of the upper.

I think it is because the upper is soft and conforming that it doesn't matter much that the upper looks so uniform in shape - the upper allows your foot to spread. The last (what your foot sits on with the sole beneath it) has more shape. You can't judge this book by its cover.

How much lift?
This shoe has a 10mm lift - the height differential between the forefoot and heel is 10mm. Can't say that I've particularly felt anything different in my running to my Inov-8s with their 4mm lift. But I'm a forefoot striker anyway.

The longest distance that I've run in these in one chunk is 25km. I'd definitely wear them for longer distances too.

The slipper-like upper moves with your foot and the toe area bends with your toes (it doesn't bunch, which is what happens when the volume above the toes is too high). This shoe is streamlined with no excess nonsense.

The sole is light and thin-ish, yet it still cushions. This isn't a racing flat. I like this sole because it is thin enough that I can feel what is under my foot and my foot can spread and bend and move unrestricted. The shoe protects my foot from the tar and stones but it doesn't try to limit movement.

My feet are generally always blister-free, especially on road, so I can't comment much here. The smooth inner means that you're incredibly unlikely (impossible even!) to get hot spots caused by the shoe. If you do, look at your socks and any trail debris that has been kicked up into the shoe. They will be the culprits for sure.

I looked up the price online. Get this... R499! Considering the price of running shoes these days, I didn't expect less than R1000. How cool. Get two pairs.

Here's the thing... If I'd pulled these shoes on in the shop I don't know if I would have been convinced to buy them.

Sure, there are no lumps and bumps and the foot-in feel is good. It's that canoe shape that just doesn't seem right and my first concern would be that the forefoot is too narrow and that my toes won't have enough space to spread. But, in practice it has no effect (on me) and within minutes of heading out I don't even notice it. The challenge is that when you're spending money on shoes, you'll rule out shoes for reasons like this - I would.

The lightness, which is the shoe's most significant feature, is quite alarming. We (me) tend to distrust something that doesn't feel solid because we think it will fall apart. I've put 150km on the shoes and, aside from being a bit dirty, they look like the day I took them out of the box.

I have only worn these shoes for the past month or so. They've superseded my Inov-8s (road).

They're my full-time, first-choice shoe to wear at the moment. I'm doing a 30-odd kilometre run in them later this month and I'll certainly put a good couple of hundred kilometres into them over the next couple of months.

As I always say with shoes, you can't just go on what people say or what the shoe looks like. You do have to go to the stores (many of them), put on many shoes (remember to take your socks with you) and walk around in them (run on the in-store treadmill if they have one). And if the shoe fits your foot, buy it.

These shoes were kindly sent to me by Hi-Tec to try out. I'm not paid by them and I have the freedom to say what I want to.

Trails in Motion Film Festival (Night 2)

Tonight I was back at The Bioscope for the second night of the Trails in Motion Film Festival. I'm so glad that I decided to do both nights because I'd have had FOMO either way. Where night one had three shorts and a main feature, tonight we had eight shorts to medium-length films (four films at 3 to 8 minutes and four at >25 mins).

The movies on both nights have had the most lovely profiles on runners - within the story of the film. The films show where these people live, where they run and train regularly, preparing for events, races... By the end you feel like you've made a friend; that you've had the opportunity to get to know them. You're cheering for them through rough, rough patches in races and you get choked up when they cross the finish line - or withdraw.

The scenery of places and races has been just fabulous and the videography in many of the films is spectacular. 

What the runners featured have in common is dedication, commitment, endurance, good planning, a lot of thought and consideration and just a deep passion for running - their way. 

TIMFF, like Banff - and FEAT - is a celebration of the body. Of its ability to tolerate heat, cold and mega distances. Of its ability to get up near-vertical ascents, to descend like a dassie and to move jauntily over mountains, through valleys and across plateaus. For hours. And hours. And hours.

Watching movies like these is inspiring. Whether you have any interest in running 100 miles or not, watching other people doing so puts a spring in your step.

Again the films triggered memories - of running the TransRockies Run staged race in Colorado with another journo, also named Lisa (Go Team Lisa!). The film about the run in Sabah, Borneo reminded me of the week and a bit I spent there for the Mildseven Outdoor Quest back in 2004. I got to summit Mt Kinabalu! There's another event in Sabah, other than the one in the film, where runners ascend and descend Mt Kinabalu in one shot. Lung busting! And this event got me thinking too of the dear friends I made there. And from here my mind goes to other races and places and special people.

The only bad thing about these wonderful events and places that I've had the fortune of visiting is that I've met really wonderful people who live in other countries (the 'bad' aspect being that they live in other countries and not down the road from me). And of the many wonderful people there are the very special few who become fast friends from the moment we set eyes on each other. I've seen some at other events or when I've been travelling and, if possible, I try to pass through their cities en route to visit. Seeing each other can be many years apart but when we see each other it's like we were swinging in our jungle hammocks next to each other only two days ago and not 10 years ago. 

First prize would be having them here to shoot the breeze and to play on weekends. Thank goodness for second prize, regular 'contact' through Facebook! Friends, you're so in my thoughts and heart tonight. I do miss you. 

The TIMFF screenings in Jo'burg tomorrow and Friday nights are fully booked. And that's it for South Africa this year.

If you're reading this from elsewhere, TIMFF may be coming to you. There are screenings in the US (San Fran and New York), Canada (Squamish), Finland (Helsinki) and Spain (Barcelona). You can read more here - trailsinmotion.wordpress.com.

James, thank you for presenting TIMFF. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for 2015!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Blood donation #36

Donors can donate blood every 52 days and following my donation a few days before xmas, I was due in mid-Feb. I tend not to donate within a few weeks of big races and with the Pelinduna 70km on the cards for early March, I decided to wait. The race was cancelled and I've just been a slacker.

This morning my donor buddy, Darrell, Whatsapp'd a photo of his visit to his local SANBS donor clinic in PE. We're on the same 'schedule' - he has also been a slacker.

His pic was perfect motivation for me to go along this afternoon to my clinic. 

It is always a pleasure to visit. The staff are friendly, our new fancy coffee machine thing makes delicious hot chocolate and the cookies are a winner (cinnamon are my favourite). It's a quick process too. A few mins to do the forms (yes, my blood is safe to donate), check BP and iron. Took seven mins to fill a pint. Then another few mins to chat to the sisters and the girl next to me, finish my juice and cookies. Ba-ba-ba-boom.

I'll only make it to #40 next year... but at least by then end of this year I'll be able to equal and then exceed my age - a pint for each year.

One of the sisters said that the National blood stocks are 0.9 days... they like to have a five-day supply on hand. This is b.a.d! On the positive, I saw two other donors there. I don't always see other people.

As I've said before, don't go to donate unless you intend to become a regular donor - at least three times a year. Once-off donations are a waste of resources, blood and good intentions. You can check the SANBS website for clinics (fixed and mobile).