Tag Archives: trail running

PUMA FAAS 500v2 Trail Shoe review

#ForeverFaster

Caution Endurance Event in Progress

Caution Endurance Event in Progress

PUMA have come along way since the days of the NightFox and the TrailFox trail shoes, so far in fact that it is almost hard to believe that those shoes and the shoe we are reviewing today come from the same stable. Not to say that the previous models were bad. Rather it is a testament to how technology and science behind manufacturing, state of the art, performance gear has advanced. As trail running popularity is growing in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun) all the major shoe manufacturer’s are keeping their fans happy with gear purpose built for smashing through the toughest of terrains. Some go a more balanced route like the PUMA FAAS 300v2 Trail Shoe which we reviewed a few months back and some go all out manic!

We are happy to report that PUMA have not neglected the most hardcore of the trail running community. Those that shun the idea of having to put time on the road, those of us who are offended by single shot skinny latte’s. Those of us who would rather have a double shot full cream cortado put some extra hairs on our chest. You get balanced and then you get crazy, and that is how we would describe the Faas 500v2 TR… certifiably nuts!! I mean just look at them…

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Now before we get ahead of ourselves we are not saying that PUMA have nailed it and can now sit back, rest on their laurels while the other brands try to catch up. No, not at at all. They have come a long way since the TrailFox released in 2006 but they still have a ways to go, but more on that later. Lets dig into the specs and see what makes this shoe tick before we make any suggestions on improvements.

OutSole:

Right off the bat you can see these shoes mean business. Just look at that grip. If we had to liken these shoes to an animal it would hands down be a Velociraptor. If the unfortunate humans who became dinosaur food in Jurassic Park were wearing these shoes while running through the jungles we think they might have had a bit more screen time. With the claw like talons protruding from the bottom of the outsole there is plenty of grip, and confidence to go with it. We were almost too nervous to run easy in these shoes for fear of them slapping us and telling us to get a move on! As we see in pretty much every PUMA running shoe the Faas 500v2 TR features the brilliant ‘EverGrip’ technology which according to PUMA is ‘Abrasion-resistant’. If by ‘Abrasion-resistant’ they mean that the shoe doesn’t wear very fast then yes, I would say it is very ‘Abrasion-Resistant.’ I was happy to see that the lugs on the outsole did not crack or break off after some pretty long (7 hours plus on one instance at UTCT) and technical runs. Value for money will always be a major factor when purchasing a new pair of shoes and for us these shoes score brilliantly in durability. Think DuraCell Bunny. Multi-Direction lugs give you plenty grip on the up hills, through the technical singletrack and also provide some breaking force on the down hills.

Claw-like outsole.

Claw-like outsole.

MidSole:

The Faas 500v2 TR has a slightly more plush ride than the Fass 300v2 TR we mentioned earlier. With a stack height of 22mm at the forefoot and 26mm at the heel and a 4mm footbed there is plenty of cushioning without completely taking away any feedback you might want to get from the trail. A 4mm heel-to-toe drop encourages a midfoot strike which we like a lot. Even though you get some extra cushioning you won’t sacrifice on the weight. The shoes still weight in around the 340g mark. As the name suggests the Faas 500v2 TR features PUMA’s lightweight and versatile Faas foam midsole. The midsole is built to provide a more gradual transition from heel to midfoot by slowing down the rate of pronation. This is done by some ‘release grooves’ in the midsole. These grooves give a little more flex to the midsole by dispersing the force generated from running evenly throughout the midsole. While we found this worked fantastically well on hard pack or more ‘flatter’ surfaces unfortunately it did add a bit of instability on the super technical terrain. We found there was a little too much lateral movement at times causing the ankle to roll slightly to the outside of the shoe. Nothing major, but just enough to be aware of it. In terms of cushioning the midsole felt exactly like a Faas midsole, consistent in that it was comfy and smooth as the Faas foam is.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Upper:

This is where version 2 has received the most upgrades from the first version of the Faas 500 TR. The Upper has been upgraded with PUMA’s WeaveMesh technology. This provides the midfoot with a lot more support and really does make the shoe feel snug and fit well. One thing we notice with more ‘cushioned, higher mileage’ shoes is that they can feel cumbersome and a bit sluggish but the Faas 500v2 TR does very well to still give you a spring in your step. The WeaveMesh plays a big part in this. The Gaiter-compatibility and the Gusseted tongue will keep debris and unwanted irritations like little stones etc. out of the shoe, a welcome advantage when running for hours on end. PUMA were one of the first major brands to feature Ortholite’s EcoOrthoLite technology in their shoes. The technology has proved to be very popular and the Faas 500v2 TR features a sockliner made of that same technology. The benefits of this include advanced breathability, moisture control, and anti-microbial properties. All of these aid in preventing chaffing. Another great advantage for those long runs.

We also found that the heel cup and tongue of the shoe came up nice and high on the ankle which provide great support on the technical stuff. Even though the release grooves in the midsole let the shoe down a bit the added support on the ankle more than made up for it. Having said that if you prefer more movement around the ankle this shoe might not work for you.

The Upper as a whole looks incredibly solid. We have yet to see any tears or breakages in the mesh after a good few long runs in some dense terrain.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

What would we improve?

So earlier I said that PUMA have come a long way since the TrailFox but that we still feel they have a little way to go before they have an industry changer on their hands (in the trail shoe department). As great as this shoe is we still believe there is something missing. You see I unfortunately blame Puma for this. I blame them because of a little shoe called the PUMA IGNITE. The IGNITE midsole has ruined the Faas midsole (and almost any other midsole for that matter) for me, the one piece IGNITE foam is so insanely comfortable and responsive the Faas foam feels like a stack of A4 pieces of paper stuck on top of each other with Pritt glue. Don’t get me wrong, the Faas midsole is comfortable! It has worked for PUMA for years! I have an 8 hour trail run in the blistering rain at the 2015 Ultra Trail Cape Town with no blisters or sore feet to prove it. The Faas midsole is fantastic, but stacked against the IGNITE midsole it doesn’t even come close.

We hope a day will come when PUMA start bringing out trail shoes with the IGNITE midsole as a feature, for us that would be a game changer! On that day Trail Runners perception of PUMA as a trail running shoe will literally change forever. Unfortunately that probably won’t be a reality for a good year or two, maybe even 3. So we will just have to be happy with the Faas foam for now, till our dreams of an IGNITE Trail are realised.

Grip for days.

Grip for days.

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Exercise Intensity – How Hard Should I Go?

I often get questioned (and sometimes challenged) by athletes about exercise intensity. Competitive athletes generally feel they should always “go hard” as this will make them faster. So that begs the question, “how hard is hard enough” and “when am I going too hard”?

I am afraid there is no simple answer to these questions. The reason for this is that it depends on where you are in your training cycle and, you guessed it, what your goal is and your current fitness level and physiology! So to understand how hard you should go (your exercise intensity) in any training session you need to understand:

  • Your overall goal
  • Your current fitness level
  • You physiology
  • Where you are in your training cycle (Base 1, Base2, Speed)?
  • What is the specific session / workout goal?

A word on your physiology. Do not compare your heart rate figures with other athletes. Having a low resting heart rate is some indication of fitness but does not mean you will perform better in races. The numbers in terms of max HR (MHR) or anaerobic threshold (AT) etc that we use are tools to help you train at the correct intensity. They are not bragging rights in your training group!

If you are training in a group exercise intensity can be a two edged sword. On the one hand group training is a fantastic tool to ensure that you push and reach the workout intensity that is required. On the other hand it often leads to an athletes competitive instinct taking over and cause them to push too hard. An example of this would be where the required workout is a “long slow distance” endurance workout. Often these are performed in a group because the boredom that can sometimes set in with hours of running alone, which can also be a little overwhelming. As the workout progresses the group often start picking up pace until some of the slower members are actually not training at the correct intensity any more! This should be avoided as it prevents the athlete from achieving the correct load for the workout, as well as benefiting from the adaptation that would have followed.

So, how does one prevent this from happening?

How hard is too hard?

How hard is too hard?

Measure Exercise Intensity

Most important is to have a measure of exercise intensity. This measure can either be objective or subjective.

The objective measure is using a heart rate monitor. Once you have calculated your “zones” you can use your heart rate monitor (HRM) to ensure that you stay within the upper and lower limits of the zone required. This is a very good way to ensure that workouts are performed at the correct exercise intensity but it does sometimes take the “fun” out of training.

A subjective measure is using a method known as rate of perceived exertion (RPE). This method relies on how you “feel” to determine how hard you are going. It requires you to rate your exertion on a scale of easy to very, very hard. I have found this is a very difficult measure for most people other than seasoned athletes. Once you have trained with a heart rate monitor for some time and you know what different zones feel like you can use RPE effectively when you do not feel like using your HRM, but not before.

Know Your Zones

There are a lot of resource available on heart rate zone training. Go and do a search online and you will find a lot of information, some good and some not so good. Here is some high level information but I encourage you to do some more research.

Start by knowing what your zones are. Your zones will be a percentage of either your maximum heart rate (MHR), your VO2 Max or your anaerobic threshold. Don’t get too bogged down by the different methods to determine your zones. Look at the following and select a method.

Max Heart Rate (MHR)

As the name suggests, this method uses the number of beats per minute that your heart would beat during an all out effort as your upper limit. There is a simple (but quite inaccurate method to determine your max, MHR = 220 – your age. I say inaccurate because it assumes a very general fitness level and physiology. A better method is to test it. It is however quite hard to get yourself to 100% HR. If you are just starting HR training and need some kind of guidance the simple MHR calculation method could be good enough, but I do suggest that that you do some testing to determine a more accurate method as soon as possible.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT)

This is in my opinion a better method to use. AT is the HR that you will be able to maintain during racing and it is highly trainable (more so than max HR). If you periodically test your AT and train at a percentage of AT I think you will get the most out of your training. The method to determine your AT using a field test is also fairly simple and all you will need is a HR monitor that has a stopwatch. Do a 15-20 min warmup at a very easy pace. Then do a 30 min time trial at the fastest pace that you can maintain for the entire duration. Rather start a bit slower and go faster than to go very fast and then be forced to slow down toward the end. Use the average HR for the last 20 min of the time trial as your AT. A more complicated method to determine your AT (but that has been disputed of late) is the Canconi method.

VO2 Max

This is an indication of your aerobic capacity and measures the volume of oxygen your body can absorb. The higher the VO2 the more oxygen you can absorb and send to your working muscles and the better your capacity to perform in endurance sport. It is however mostly determined by genetics and is not very trainable (it is to some extent possible to improve when just starting out training, but not really for trained athletes). Testing also requires a laboratory and in my opinion is a bit too complex to work with for the average athlete.

Calculate Your Zones

Once you have determined the upper limit of your training using one of the methods above, you can work out your zones. You do this by using the percentage (mentioned below) of your upper limit (determined above). So for instance if I choose to use MHR simple method to determine my upper limit and I am 30 years old, I would use 220-30 = 190 as my max HR and then use the percentages below to define the zone as a percentage of 190.

  1. Zone 1 – Very low intensity (active recovery). Usually <60% of your max HR / <70% of your AT / very, very light to very light on the RPE scale.
  2. Zone 2 – Aerobic conditioning. Usually between 60%-75% of your max HR / 70%-90% of your AT / fairly light to somewhat hard on the RPE scale.
  3. Zone 3 – Anaerobic threshold conditioning (including Tempo training). Usually between 75% – 90% of your max HR / 90%-100% of your AT / hard to very hard on the RPE scale.
  4. Zone 4 – Pure power and speed work. Usually at 90%+ of max HR / 101%+ of AT / Very, very hard on the RPE scale.

So How Hard is Hard Enough?

As I mentioned earlier your plan would largely dictate when you use which zones (exercise intensities). You would for instance use mostly Zone 2, with some Zone 3 in Base1 training. You need to therefore make sure that you have a plan to know when to use which zones. The question about what is the correct exercise intensity is determined by:

  1. Your goal and where you are in your training cycle – Your plan is based on your goal and will determine which zone you should train in. Where you are in the training cycle on your plan will more specifically determine the Zone you are training in.
  2. Your fitness level and physiology – If you do some field testing to determine your MHR or AT you will be working at a percentage of the intensity that was determined by your current fitness level and your physiology.

It is worth spending the time to determine your zones. You will make sure that you reach the intended outcome every time you go and train. You will also make sure you don’t overdo things and get injured or sick because you just went too hard, too soon.

The key is consistency!

The key is consistency!

Originally posted at SUPRACETRAINING.COM

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Puma FAAS 300 v2 TR Review

Let me ask you a question? Why is it that you think we as runners read these types of reviews? Is it for insight, or is it maybe that we don’t always trust the marketing “schpeals” that come with the shoe? It could even just be for pure entertainment, for example I thoroughly enjoy watching the Ginger Runner reviews for a good laugh. Mostly though I think it is because we would like to know how the product handles in the real world on real trails etc. It’s easy to read a bunch of complicated high tech and fancy sounding words but until you actually run in the shoe, one has no idea how it is going to play out in the real world.

It is because of this fact that I believe Trail and Mountain Running as a sport is really starting to hit a sweet spot at the moment. 5 years ago we were very limited in terms of shoe options, as well as kit and accessories options. As the sport has grown and as more and more events are filling up the calendar companies are really putting their R&D budgets to work to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. (Sometimes they go a little too far ahead like these particular what-ya-ma-call-its??? but hey let’s not blame them for wanting to push the envelope). This also means that existing models are being revamped often, as technology improves and companies receive constructive feedback from their pro athletes and customers. What this means for us as trail runners is that we are no longer scraping the bottom of the barrel to find good quality products to feed our hunger for the dirt. Companies like Puma that were solely a lifestyle, road, track and field brand have started developing competitive ‘trail-specific’ shoes that are really going to shake a few tree’s once word gets out how good they actually are.

Which brings me back to this review, the cool cats at Puma South Africa very generously sent me a pair of the FAAS 300 v2 TR in the recently launched ‘NightCat Camo’ edition and straight out the box these shoes were made to impress. (For our review on the ladies FAAS 300 TR version 1 click here.) Looks wise they are stunning, as you can see from the images they really are a very photogenic shoe with the “360 degrees of camo-inspired reflectivity which makes you visible in the dark” (hence the name ‘NightCat’). Let’s face it, running is way better when your kit looks cool whether it’s in the day time or at night :)

2015-03-07 09.00.01-1The outsole features a high abrasion resistant rubber in high wear areas which gives the outsole added durability, all that means is that they have put a material that lasts longer on the parts of the shoe that usually wears down the fastest. Trail shoes take a pounding on sharp rocks, loose gravel, and running through mud so added durability is always a plus in my book. This is also one of the key features that makes this shoe a great trail to tar shoe, not all of us live in the Alps or at the Western States trail head so some tar running is usually needed to get to the trail. These shoes are great for that, one of my favourite features of this shoe is that they are just as comfortable on the road as they are on the trail.

The multi-directional lugs, which are found in most trail shoes worth looking at, provide that added stability and grip on the steeper descents. We trail runners appreciate that extra stability when things get a little hairy. I will be honest, when I saw the outsole I thought to myself that Puma might have made a decent road shoe with some off road capabilities. Thankfully looks can be deceiving and I was sheepishly surprised after taking the shoe onto the trail and finding out that the grip was magic. The shoe holds it’s own out on the trail and they did not shy away from the technical rocky sections. The rock grip of the shoe is decent, I experienced very little slippage jumping between the larger rocks. It usually takes me a few runs before I can ‘trust’ the capabilities of a shoe to really open up the taps. After only a few km’s into the first run I felt like I had been running in the shoe for months which is one of the best things Puma has going for this shoe. Have you ever met someone for the first time and after a coffee and a good chat you feel like you have been friends for years, that’s what it was like for me and the FAAS 300 v2 TR.

The outsole can't wait to get a grip!

The midsole, as with all the other FAAS models, Puma has gone with their FAAS Foam which is a lightweight one-piece blend of foam and rubber and it really is light and it really is comfortable, oh and it really is fast! This shoe is light, in fact they are just over 230g for a pair of size 8’s which by our standards is very pleasantly light. Again the comfort of the midsole and the lighter weight make it a great tar to trail shoe. Not everyone has the finances to buy a pair of shoes for every kind of terrain so if you are looking for a shoe that isn’t a “jack of all trade’s and master of none” but actually performs when you need it to this is definitely one of the best shoes out there. The FAAS Foam takes the impact of the tar as well as protecting the foot from sharp rocks on the trail. There is no rock plate but I found that it really isn’t necessary as the midsole provides adequate protection, this also keeps the shoe very flexible and allows for a fast roll off on the toe, as you can see from the image below.

The flexibility of the shoe is great!

The Upper of the shoe has been designed really well, it features minimal ‘no-sew’ overlays which provide great support to the foot. On the trail the more support you get the better. The ‘no-sew’ overlays also mean less abrasion on the foot inside the shoe, this helps to prevent blisters very well. The shoe breathes and displaces water incredibly well, having water sloshing around in the shoe after running through a river or a stream is not fun at all, thanks to what Puma calls it’s “Air Mesh Upper” water is able to escape fairly quickly and your foot can breathe better on those hot summer days. One of the fun features that I have begun to appreciate is a small ‘pocket’ at the top of the tongue that you can fold the laces into, I hate having laces flapping around while I run so this was a great feature, plus it keeps the shoe looking super fast and sleek which my OCD enjoys thoroughly.

The only issue I have with the shoe is the narrow toe box, although in the shoe’s defense I do have freakishly wide feet so for a normal size foot they would more than likely be fine but I personally did find the toe box quite narrow. As you can see from the image below it could actually be the sole itself which is a bit too narrow for my feet (see how my foot stretches out over the sole in the load phase). Next time I will go for 1 size up (like I had to do with the New Balance Fresh Foam) and see if that makes a difference. If you, like me, have a more wider foot try fitting a half size or full size bigger than you would normally go for.

Notice how my foot stretches over the sole in the load phase.

I do believe Puma has made a massive effort to improve a number of key areas of the shoe, some areas I would have liked to see an improvement were left out (specifically wider toe box) but the version 2.0 is monumentally better than the version 1.0 – in fact it is probably the best improvement I have ever experienced between different models of a shoe on all the brands of shoes I have run in. The key is that they made lots of small adjustments that most people might miss and say ah it looks just like version 1. Trust me, it is not! Those little adjustments and improvements add up to one great shoe. When those pesky software updates come out for my iPhone I don’t always install them, some of them are lame and change my phone so much I don’t even recognise it. This, though, is definitely one of those “software updates” you want to do. #ForeverFaster

lightweight flexibility turning into speed :)

 

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Race Review: The Bat Run

Trail Runners are already some of the more looney, wacky and crazy bunch of people out there, swopping the tar for the extremely satisfying challenge of the trail is something every runner should do at least once in their life! As if trail running wasn’t challenging enough the batty mates at.. well M.A.T.E.S (Mountain and Trail Enthusiasts) cooked up an event that took an already challenging route to a whole new level.

What is the route you ask? Well starting at Kloof Nek runners would run along Tafelberg Road to the base of Devils Peak, summit Devils Peak then return to Tafelberg Road, run along to the base of Platteklip Gorge, up Platteklip to the top of Table Mountain, then if that wasn’t enough along the top to Maclears Beacon (the highest point on Table Mountain) before heading back the same way to Tafelberg to the original starting position to only have to cross Kloof Nek and summit Lions Head before returning to the start which would then be the finish line of an epic 26km event with 2100m elevation. Right now you might be asking, so what? That sounds like a decent mountain run with some decent climbing, what’s the catch? Well I am glad you asked because unlike other events that start in the morning this event starts at night.. Yep you read right, runners start at 7pm with some finishing well after midnight. Hence it’s name, The Bat Run.

A not so clear picture of the thick mist

This year I found myself at the start line in what is best described as the most intense gale force wind I have ever stood up in let alone run in. As I am only in week 6 of a 6 month base training schedule using the MAF principles I was not looking to race, just get the time on the legs. The wind was traveling at a consistent speed of around 50km/h with gusts hitting close to 70km/h as it plummeted down the cliff face onto the saddle of Devils Peak. This was going to make it tough to keep the HR low. Add to that low lying clouds with thick mist and sharp stinging rain that seemed to pierce through any amount of layers you were wearing. Now I am not ashamed to admit that I am addicted to Adventure, I don’t like the mundane, it is not in my nature.. I need new horizons, new trails, crazy adventures that I know there is a very good chance I might not get out of this alive. When I hit the start line I knew full well that this would be one of those adventures.

After a race briefing we were let loose like a pack of hungry wolves searching for a meal, our prey? The 3 peaks looming above us spitting in all their fury and fierceness, almost to say, “Oh, you want to conquer us? Well we will see about that… mwhahaha (insert sinister laugh)”. We didn’t back down. The sun had only just gone down so we enjoyed about 30mins of twilight before the headlamps came on, by this time I was well into my first ascent of Peak 1 (DP). As I crested the saddle and made my last dig at the summit the wind hit me with such sheer force I was literally blown off my feet, if not for a branch sticking out of a bush I would surely have been blown into a situation I didn’t want to be in. I have honestly never been lifted clear off my feet by a gust of wind before so this was quite an experience. 80kg’s of body and running kit flung around like a rag doll. At the summit (Check Point 1) I learned I was way back in the field, 75th out of 125 starters as it turns out. I wasn’t worried, legs were feeling good and I didn’t chase down the people racing past me up the climb, I knew what was still to come. The decent was gnarley and fast, a little too fast, when I got back to Tafelberg road I regretted letting the brakes off a little too much so early on in the run. I was reminded of this up the Platteklip climb where some of the people I blazed past on the decent caught up to me, thankfully the bulk of Platteklip was sheltered from the wind, I was able to regroup and get my mind focused for what was to come.

2015-02-28 19.45.45-1

The top of Table Mountain was a full on blizzard, wind chill factor was below zero with pelting rain and the before mentioned wind (although thankfully it seemed to not be as severe as on the DP saddle). Trouble was the visibility was literally reduced to max 2m because of the thick mist which took my headlamp and turned the cloud I was running though into a sheet of bright white noise, I might as well have been running with a bed sheet around my face. The path to Maclears is tough to find (let alone follow) on a clear day because essentially it isn’t a path.. you are basically running over rocks that look identical with yellow foot prints painted every 3 or 4 meters showing you where to go, add the mist and the darkness and you feel like you are running on the moon. Thankfully the run to Maclears went well and I managed to stay on path. The trouble started after I turned at Maclears and after about 10m I had lost the path, quickly becoming disorientated I head right instead of left before coming up close and personal with a sheer cliff face. Thankfully some runners who were heading to Maclears were vaguely visible and after some scrambling I was able to get back on the path. I had a massive sense of relief because getting lost or taking a fall up there in that weather would have made it incredibly difficult for search parties to find me. I don’t remember ever being so happy to see the top of the platteklip climb before and I started to make my way down the mountain, it was slow going, because of the rain the rocks were incredibly wet and slippery. Sure footing was scarce but thankfully after a few tumbles I made it down to Tafelberg road.

The contrast in weather was phenomenal, 30mins before I had been freezing in a full on blizzard but now back on Tafelberg as I made my way to Kloof Nek it felt like I was running in the middle of a hot summers day. Before long every top layer I had on was in the pack to prevent further dehydration (I thought it a good idea to tackle DP and Table Mountain with 500ml’s of water which had run out on top of Table Mountain), thankfully I could refill water and get some food at the aid station on Kloof Nek before tackling Lions Head. Lions Head was great, by now the wind was completely gone so I could really enjoy the climb and take in the sights of the city below. I let my competitiveness get the better of me on Lions Head and made a little push at the end to reel in one or two places, probably not the smartest move but fun nonetheless. My shoe of choice this time out was the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail (which I reviewed here). Hands down one of my favourite shoes at the moment, sadly it was their last run as I have clocked some serious mileage in them the last few months before the upper separated from the sole. Taking into account the terrain I run on they held up really nicely in terms of durability. I will however wait for the 2nd version to come out which has an updated and stronger cross-stitched upper, shoes aren’t cheap so the longer they can last the better.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail shoes

All in all it was a stunning event! Will I do it again next year? I sure will, although I will admit at one section on Platteklip while being smacked by the wind and rain I almost turned back, thinking my life is not worth trying to finish this thing but the Adventure was worth it and getting to that finish line was an amazing experience. Running at night on trails I know like the back of my hand added a whole new world to what I thought was a normal route I have run hundreds of times. Oh and I manged to finish 22nd while keeping my Heart Rate in my aerobic zone which was great sign that the MAF principles are working for me (more on that in a blog to follow), I am looking forward to when I can really get stuck in again and race my heart out.

Thank you Mike and all the amazing people from M.A.T.E.S, the volounteers, the sweepers, the Check Point controls on top of each peak (especially DP and Maclears who were freezing their ear lobes off for us), and to Tim for organising some rad cooler bags for us :)

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Trail Safety and Compulsory Equipment

Trail Safety is an often neglected aspect of trail running.

Be safe out there!

Be safe out there!

If you have been trail running for at least a year or so you would have come across a race that has quite a long and to the novice, highly complicated, list of compulsory equipment that you will need in order to run the event you are entering. These lists can be frustrating and seem so trivial but in fact they are there for your safety and to ensure you enjoy yourself while completing the route as safely as possible.

The earliest memory I have of the kit that I was carrying helping to save my life was when I was about 13 years old in my first year of High School in the Natal Midlands. One weekend a few of us with a teacher decided to the tackle the Two Passes and Cleft Peak Escarpment Hike in the Central Drakensberg. Since we were in a boarding school in the Drakensberg we had plenty experience in the mountains as we would often complete 1 or 2 day hikes over the weekend. This time we chose to get up to the escarpment via Mlambonja Pass, traverse along the escarpment and descend via Mikes Pass. The plan was to camp on the escarpment and complete the hike in a more relaxed time of 5 days instead of the usual 3. Being winter we knew were in for a cold time and there was a strong possibility of some snow falling up on the escarpment. We made sure we had adequate warm clothing as well space blankets and a few other items we thought might come in handy. We started off excited and ready to tackle the 5 days out in some of the most beautiful mountains in South Africa. We made camp at the end of day 1 at the base of the pass and settled in for the night.

The next morning we awoke feeling super excited to get to the top of the escarpment and enjoy the views. As we began to make our way up the pass we were greeted with some light rain, as we got higher the rain turned to snow which began to fall, light at first but by the time we were 3/4 of the way up the snow was bucketing down so thick and so fast I could barely see 3m in front of me. The ‘light snow on the escarpment’ had turned into a full blown snow storm that was now reaching all the way down the pass. We quickly realised that pitching tents on the escarpment was now a bad idea, we were in a race for time to find some safe shelter. Freezing we made our way for the Twin Caves, not really knowing if we were even on the right trail because at this stage the path was completely covered with snow. Thankfully we eventually found shelter in the cave, after working our way through the snow, sopping wet we set up camp inside a small cave and tried to ride out the storm.The snow fell for 5 straight days and continued to fall on the 6th day, albeit a little lighter. The hike was only supposed to be 5 days so we were out of food and had no choice but to hike out. Descending back down the pass was probably the most surreal experience of my life, the little stream that ran alongside the path was no where to be seen. Everything was completely covered in snow. Using poles to test for level ground we made our way down the pass in hip high snow.

We made it back safe and if it wasn’t for my space blanket, my thermal base layer, thermal beanie and waterproof hooded jacket hypothermia would have come very quickly. In fact one of my friends unfortunately developed hypothermia before we made it to the cave but thankfully we were able to warm him up. Just how you do that is another story.. if you don’t feel like being mostly naked in a sleeping bag with a friend till your body recovers take this list seriously. Most trail races aren’t 5 day hikes but when you are on the mountain, even the smallest, the weather can turn so suddenly and so fast you will be caught in a serious situation before you can even say, “But the sun was just shining!!”

It has been recorded that since 1920 there has been more deaths on Table Mountain (a seemingly easy climb of only 1080m asl in the city of Cape Town, South Africa) than there has been on Mount Everest. 219 recorded deaths on Everest and 225 for Table Mountain. There could be many different contributing factors but for me it boils down preparation. The average person attempting an Everest summit is far more prepared than the average person attempting a Table Mountain summit. These compulsory lists ensure that you are prepared, even if the weather forecast is for “light snow on the escarpment.”

The weather at the summit, will very often be very different than the weather at the base.

The weather at the summit, will very often be very different than the weather at the base.

Below is the list that WildRunner has listed as the compulsory equipment for the Marloth Mountain Challenge, lets unpack it a bit (my comments in red) and see what each item is there for:

Compulsory Equipment List

  1. Trail running shoes. (Pretty self-explanatory, I have tried running trail with road shoes and I was subsequently awarded the ‘Sailing-Sarah’ award with my local club for my spectacular falls, trail shoes have grip for a reason.)
  2. Backpack or suitable mountain running equipment carrier. (Unless you like carrying your stuff in a shopping bag, this one is pretty self-explanatory as well :) See our review of the CamelBak Circuit Hydration Pack here: CamelBak Circuit Hydration Pack review)
  3. Waterproof jacket with a hood (NO wind proof shells, no apple jackets, no ponchos – MUST carry a label that reads “waterproof“). (This is where it gets serious, water resistant is not going to keep you dry. Being wet with a wind chill factor of below zero, which is easily achievable even on Lions Head, and a pumping NE with heavy rain slapping you in the face things can get very hairy, very quickly. Being dry can save your life. Someone once said there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.)
  4. Ultralight windbreaker – wind shell, apple jacket or similar. (These aren’t as warm as your waterproof jacket enabling you to stay pretty comfortable and not overheat while running in a chilly wind or even a light mist / drizzle.)
  5. Micro fleece (thin fleece) or equivalent (NOT a long sleeve running top). (Micro Fleece is one of my most favourite fabrics, it is a great base layer as it helps insulate and regulate your body temperature, allowing your skin to breathe and wicking sweat off the skin.)
  6. Buff AND beanie. (Some people think these are the same thing but they are not, a beanie will keep your head warm while the BUFF will keep your neck and face warm, in really cold weather I find it easier to breathe warmer air if I cover my mouth and nose with the BUFF. Very cold air going into your chest is also not good for infections. I find the Seal Skinz waterproof beanie’s are amazingly warm and keep your head dry. Your feet, hands and head are the most important parts on your body to keep dry and warm.)
  7. Emergency/space blanket (preferably a heavy duty emergency blanket or bag). (Space blankets are an incredible invention, they basically turn you into a human oven when you wrap yourself up. The reflective material sends your body heat back to your body instead of letting it escape. In an emergency situation this piece of kit will save your life, or someone else’s.)
  8. Whistle. (This is not so you can referee a social soccer match up in the mountains, it is to call for help, especially if you are out of sight because of a fall or the weather has turned bad. A person can only shout so loud for so long, the sound from the whistle will carry much further than your voice.)
  9. Cell phone, charged and with the numbers of the organisers on it. (If you find yourself in an emergency situation with cell reception, your chance of getting out after calling in for help are much higher.)
  10. Basic food, enough for anything from 3-7 hours in the mountains. (If you are stuck and waiting for assistance which could take a few hours, your planned nutrition for a 3 hour run will now not last you a 7 hour wait. This is not to make your pack heavier, again it is for emergency situations for either yourself or a fellow runner.)
  11. 1 litre of water (there’s lots of water on the course but you must carry a minimum of 1 litre from the start of the event). (If you get stranded and you aren’t close to a river or CP having at least 1 litre with you will enable you to hold out for help much longer than if you don’t have any. If you find yourself stranded without water on a hot day seek shelter if possible.)
  12. Basic first aid kit.
    This can include the following: pain killers and anti-inflammatory tablets, stretch bandage, rigid strapping, safety pins x 2, super glue, tampon x2, cable ties x2, rehydrate sachet x1, “Grabber” hand warmers x2, and any personal medication. (Having these items with you are paramount, I try carry these even on basic training runs. you might carry them 99 times and never take them out but that 1 time you need it, they could save a life. If you are wondering what on earth the super glue is for it is an amazing tool to close wounds that need stitches, enabling you to not bleed out as you make your way to a CP)
  13. Either a dry bag to keep all of your dry stuff dry OR packaged individually in zip-lock bags. (Most of this stuff will be pretty useless if it’s wet, keep it dry.)
Visibility can change very quickly as well.

Visibility can change very quickly as well.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED IN BAD WEATHER

  1. 4x Grabber hand warmers. (I love these things, they are basically a mobile heater for your hands.. as soon as they are removed from the packaging they heat up. Warm hands will enable you to continue working with your hands, like strapping an injury, making a plinth, building a temporary shelter etc.)
  2. Polypropylene long sleeve running top – will still insulate when wet. (Layers equal insulation, having the correct layers at the correct position can mean staying warm while still staying light. Polypropylene is not like cotton or polyester, if it get’s wet it will still keep you warm if it’s layered with a mid and outer shell.)
  3. Polyproylene running gloves – keeps your hands warm enabling you to close/open zips … to get food or warm/dry clothes out. (Same as above.)
  4. Mohair socks – keep your feet warmer in wet shoes. (These wick moisture off the skin and breathe like a dream while still keeping you warm.. a wonder material!!)
  5. Cold weather running tights. (I usually don’t worry about these, even in severe cold weather but each person has their own preference, weigh up the terrain and what the weather usually does and plan accordingly.)

Other kit I would recommend

  1. Seal Skinz Waterproof socks.. dry feet for the win
  2. A head lamp in case you get stranded into the night
  3. A pocket Knife with a basic survival kit for the really gnarley routes
  4. A beard.. naturally :) Beard’s are scientifically proven to keep your face warm.. (ok maybe not scientifically proven but it is pretty obvious.)

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So there you have it, a breakdown of a compulsory equipment list, the vary between races some being super strict and some less strict. It all depends on the terrain, altitude, time of year etc. As I mentioned earlier there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.

It could save your life.

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Fat as fuel

Guest post by Charles Klinger

Vespa will assist your body to use fat as fuel

Vespa Power CV-25

Fat as fuel: a review of VESPA CV-25

Fat: Most athletes, through coaching and self-study/research, have been traditionally hardwired to believe that this is primarily causal to substandard performance, excess weight, and general lack of health. As health science continually emerges and evolves, though, this vilification of fat has become suspect. In fact, some self-proclaimed heretics, like Peter Defty of VESPA and Prof Tim Noakes, claim that fat (rather than carbohydrate) is, in fact, the principle source for fueling in endurance and ultra-endurance sports. So how can we make the most of fat as fuel?

Enter VESPA, stage right. VESPA is based on the idea that humans, like many other species, store an almost infinite amount of energy as fat whereas they can only store about 90 minutes of energy from carbohydrate (glucose stored in muscles and liver). VESPA serves as a catalyst to the metabolic pathway which converts our fat stores to useable energy (a process known as ketosis and beta-oxidation). If you think of your body as a car engine, carbohydrate is gasoline – fast burning fuel for immediate results and instantaneous power. On the other side of the energy spectrum, fat burning would be likened to diesel fuel – slower to initiate speed and power, but long burning and heavy hitting in the long run. VESPA serves as a bridge between these two fuel types in an effort to maximize the power-efficiency-longevity ratio that your muscles are capable of – making a sort of gas/diesel hybrid.

The catalyst (what kicks our bodies into fat-burning mode) of the VESPA product is the extract of the Asian Mandarin Wasp (Vespa mandarina). Essentially, this wasp flies upwards of 100km in a day on nothing more than fat stores from its thorax in order to feed its offspring. The larva of the wasp lives in symbiosis with its parent, providing the adult wasp with a peptide which allows for the breakdown of the fat for fuel. VESPA harvests this same peptide from the larvae, and under the pretense that individual cells are similar inter-species, allows human cells to function in the same fashion.

In conjunction with the use of VESPA, Peter Defty devised OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism), a comprehensive program which predisposes your body to burn fat as a standard fuel. This allows for the most benefit from supplementing with VESPA in both training and competition. In essence, the nutrition strategy calls for limitation of carbohydrates, especially “white” carbs (potatoes, bread, etc.) and an influx of “good fats” (avocados, nuts, and natural fats including saturated fats, etc.) to be allowed. Note that this does not entirely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, and instead advocates the “strategic” use of carbs – basically before and during competitions.

Review:

I’ve been using VESPA for nearly a full year now (I sat down for the first time with Peter Defty in February of 2014), and as a prelude to the nitty-gritty of the review, I’d like to make note of the fact that I do no longer consciously strive to maintain an OFM diet. I found that simply by limiting my carbohydrate intake, my protein-fat-carb ratio self-adjusted to be moderate, high, and low respectively. I would say, though, that if you’re intending to experiment with the product and eventually include it in your dietary regimen, you should begin with a strict low carb, high fat type diet – sort of a modified paleo style nutrition plan – until you become better “fat-adapted” (to be able to use fat as a primary fuel source).

**CV-25 is intended for athletes of over 160 pounds. VESPA Junior has a lower content of Wasp extract and may be better suited to athletes under 160 pounds. Also available is a VESPA Ultra-concentrate, which is only recommended for athletes who have used VESPA CV-25 or Junior in the past.**

Packaging

The CV-25 (as well as the Junior) is contained in a simple, aluminum/plastic style pouch, with a small bit-tip twist off cap. The package is reminiscent of a baby-food pouch, and fits well in the pocket of a race vest, but doesn’t do so well in a pair of shorts. For racing, I’d only recommend having a pouch in a drop bag or at a crew stop. If you absolutely need to carry a VESPA package with you, I’d opt for the smaller Ultra-concentrate which is packaged in a small, rip top package similar to a fast food condiment packet.

Taste/Texture

In my opinion, taste is, by far, the biggest downfall of the product. While not altogether unsavory, the taste of the CV-25 mixture is only slightly reminiscent of honey and is, in fact, relatively bitter making it slightly less than enjoyable on first sip. I find that I have to consume VESPA in one gulp and promptly drink a mouthful or two of water/sports drink to wash away the taste. It is far better cold than room temperature or warm, and I try to refrigerate the package before consuming if at all possible (obviously race logistics might make this difficult to impossible).

On the other hand, texture is not nearly an issue. The compound is a fluid – watery, and easily palatable even mid run.

Benefits/Positive Results –

Most notably, of all the results, is my decreased need for mid-run calorie intake. This makes a world of difference, not only in the overall amount of storage necessary for my runs, but also in the gastronomical side effects of consuming sticky-sweet gels. I find that during a training run, I can easily manage a steady pace on even the most diverse of terrain with not much more than 100 calories per hour and some sodium. During races, I tend to increase my intake to about 200-300 calories per hour (some of which is from “real food”) and salt.

Because of this limited intake and requirement, I almost never carry a race vest for races of 50 miles or less – carrying nothing more than a handheld water bottle, a gel or two, maybe an EPIC Bar, and whatever’s on my back. This allows me to move all the more easily and remain nimble & unhindered over technical descents and upright and unimpeded on uphill climbs.

Additionally, because I only have water and a gel or two bouncing around, I no longer experience bloating or upset stomach mid-run. This really hasn’t been a huge issue for me in the past, but it has come up a few times; when it did it was entirely debilitating and I know that it’s a common discomfort for endurance and ultra-endurance athletes.

Furthermore, I’ve noticed a slight increase in my propensity for recovery, most notably in the level of muscular soreness I feel post-run. This is most likely due to the fact that my body is not producing nearly as much lactic acid as it would be if it were fueling entirely on carbohydrate stores.

There are other purported benefits, like increased mental clarity and alertness, of which I have not noticed a tangible difference. Ultimately, I still feel like I’ve run 30 miles when I’m done running 30 miles, like I’ve run 50 miles when I’ve covered 50 miles.

Drawbacks/Negative Results –

I’ve already mentioned my distaste for the flavor, but there are a few other setbacks I’ve made note of over the past year:

First, if you haven’t cut your carb intake, you may experience an upset stomach. For example, last spring I had just encountered Skratch Labs Hydration Mix and Portables. Most of the Portables recipes are in rice cake form, and because I was experimenting with recipes, I had been eating a LOT of rice in the week or two prior to my long run. I won’t go into the gruesome details, but ultimately I stopped several times on the way home from the trailhead.

Second, the packaging, like I explained earlier, can really only be held in the pocket of a race vest. Functionally, for me, that doesn’t work so well. I’ve resorted, then, to only have VESPA packets available at Drop Bag or Crew Accessible points.

Third, and probably the most important, is that hydration plays a HUGE part in the entirety of fat burning, and therefore in the use of VESPA. Essentially, from my limited understanding of the process, ketosis requires an abundance of electrolytes (primarily in the form of sodium chloride, salt). Without active supplementation, this takes sodium and other salts away from the muscles (which use electron shedding/collection from sodium and potassium to contract and expand muscle cells/bundles) bones, and liver. This also affects your ability to thermo-regulate via sweat. The first few times I used VESPA, I was not a master at hydration, and as such, suffered irreparably from dehydration and cramps. At about the 30 mile mark of the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, for example, I began to experience what can only be described as a series of muscle cramps which felt as if someone were playing my muscle strands like a rhythm guitar. By the end of the race, because I had failed to properly hydrate, my calf muscles twitched involuntarily and eventually seized up; it felt like a grapefruit or softball had taken their place. So long as you heed the warning on VESPA’s website, though, you can pretty easily avoid this kind of discomfort.

Conclusion –

Accepting that VESPA’s product, like any other product will have negatives and drawbacks, and based on my personal experience, I’ve concluded that VESPA is a product of note to say the least. On the whole, I feel that the benefits (and subsequent consequences of those benefits) of VESPA far outweigh the drawbacks – so much so that I use, and will continue to use into the foreseeable future to harvest fat as fuel, VESPA’s product for long runs and on race day (I limit my use to only these two parameters in an effort to continue to expand my fat and carb burning efficiency, and most of my training runs do not exceed two hours).

If you have any questions regarding my experience with, my review on, or VESPA itself, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you with an answer as soon as possible. Otherwise, for more information or to order your box of VESPA, please visit www.vespapower.com or email info@vespapower.com.

 

Cheers, and Happy Trails,
Charles

 Product Details:

From the VESPA website: “Shake and consume one pouch of VESPA CV-25 or VESPA JR 45 minutes prior to athletic activity. You can consume VESPA with water or your favorite electrolyte drink. For endurance events and training lasting longer than 2 hours consume VESPA every 2-3 hours”.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.**

Ingredients:

  • FilteredWater

  • Honey

  • Royal Jelly (240mg)

  • Citric acid

  • Bee propolis (120mg)

  • Wasp extract (100mg)

  • Ascorbic acid

Product: VESPA CV-25

Type: Supplement

Serving Size: 1 Packet (80ml)

Calories: 18

Calories from Fat: 0

Carbohydrate: 5g

 

 

 

 

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The Fresh Prince of Boston – New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

Striking shoe – New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

If you were a teenager in the 90’s you will at some point have had your favourite TV show set on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. A quirky comedy about a typical mischievous and rough around the edges teenager who get’s thrust into the high life when he moves in with his wealthy Aunt and Uncle who live in Bel Air. Just why it was such a big hit I believe is that in some ways we can all relate to Will Smith’s character. Even if we weren’t a teenager at the time it is highly likely that we secretly dreamt to be a youth again. You have to admit it, being a teenager is pretty exciting, fun and carefree. As a teenager you have very little responsibilities, you think you know everything, and life is a beach. It is fun not being grown up, to have an excuse for your wild behaviour. I mean when did we as adults become so serious about everything? Maybe it’s the bills to pay at the end of the month, or the car or house we want to buy so we work extra hard to get it. I don’t know about you but I constantly need to remind myself to slow down once in a while and actually have some fun, to not take life so seriously..

Enter The Fresh Prince of Boston. The quirky, mischievous and a little rough around the edges teenager of the running world. The Fresh Prince of Boston, also known as the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe (this particular review is about the trail version hence the name of the site). When New Balance first brought out the Fresh Foams they had an air of mischief to them, in many ways they were nothing like New Balance had ever brought out before. Moving from it’s Rev-lite and minimus mid and outer soles New Balance was taking a gamble, in a sense rewriting it’s legacy in an over saturated industry. A bold move that is not unlike a teenager who is not afraid to challenge the status quo, not afraid to try something fresh, throw off the mundane and have some fun. I mean just look at the colour options you get with the shoe, if that doesn’t scream a wild carefree teenager like spirit then I don’t know what will.

Don’t get me wrong, just because I am comparing this shoe to a wild and fresh teenager doesn’t mean the shoe shouldn’t be taken seriously! In fact this shoe, while being wild and fresh, is very serious about it’s business and it’s business is performance.

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Review

Bearded Brother taking the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe for a test drive.

Lets look at some of the specs:

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Upper:

I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see that New Balance went with a singular stitch mesh design for the Fresh Foam Trail 980 Upper. It does breathe nicely which is great but it also hamper’s it’s strength and durability on the trail, I am happy to report though that the v2’s will come out with a cross stitched dual density mesh which will make it much stronger on the trail. Along with the padded heel bridge and the ‘Gusseted” tongue which very effectively keeps debris out of the shoe the Fresh Foam Trail’s hug your foot very nicely. Out on the trail I experienced very little niggles to my feet inside the shoe, the fact that the overlays are not sewed makes a massive difference and enables the shoe to comfortably be worn without socks.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Midsole:

As mentioned before New Balance has gone with a foam design on the midsole, this according to New Balance allows you to “Experience the science of soft — off road. With the same impossibly plush and natural underfoot feel as the road version, the Fresh Foam 980 Trail delivers a smooth yet stable ride.” The smooth yet stable ride comes from a ground clearance of 29.3mm at the heel and 22.7mm at the forefoot. This equates to an approximate 4mm heel to toe drop which for me is my most favourite feature of the shoe. New Balance have kept their philosophy from their more natural running inspired minimus shoes and kept the drop as minimal as possible while still offering a smooth and comfortable ride for the longer runs.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Outersole:

Any trail shoe worth it’s salt will always be graded according to grip and ride-ability. The fact that the Fresh Foam 980 Trails has a full ground contact out sole with multi-directional lugs which ensure fresh grip on even the most mischievous uphill and downhill tracks is a massive plus for this shoe. A “fast finish” angle to the outsole gives the shoe a great ‘roll-on’ effect as you run along the trail which I enjoyed quite a lot.

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

Good looking shoe – New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Performance:

So how does it perform? It’s one thing to list a bunch of fresh sounding specs but out in the real world, on the trail, does it all come together like an inside out California roll or is it a fresh flop? First let me give you some context to my running, I am and always will be a ‘running with the fairies’ minimalist runner. For me less is always more when it comes to a running shoe so it is safe to say I was little skeptical of running in a ‘maximal’ shoe again. I was not disappointed. In fact I literally had to hide the Fresh Foams away after two weeks so I could go out in my minimus shoes again. Out on the trail they are incredibly comfortable, and at 8.9oz (230g) they are mischievously light! They handled the rocky, technical sections of the mountain really well and I felt very confident in their grip. They were, simply, a breathe of fresh air! The ride was soft yet surprisingly responsive and on the steep descents they were care free and agile. On hard pack and tar they were fantastic. The one thing to consider though is they do ride about a half size too small so if you are looking at them then try a size up as the toe box is a bit narrow.

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

Bearded Brother review – New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe in Action

I do still find my minimus shoes faster at higher speeds through the really technical stuff but for holding a consistent pace over the long haul the Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe is about as comfortable and responsive as you can ask for.

So I guess the question you need to ask yourself is how seriously are you taking yourself? Do you need a bit more fun in your life, a bit more foot loose and fancy free vibes? If so then you need to meet The Fresh Prince of Boston, the quirky mischievous and a little rough around the edges teenager of the running world.

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

Bearded Brother putting the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe through its paces.

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PUMA Faas 300 Women’s Trail Shoe Review

 

PUMA Faas 300

The ladies will like this!

If I think of female super hero’s Cat Woman usually comes to mind, for me she has always been one of the best and most fiercest of all the female super hero’s. Being one of DC Comic’s master’s of villainy she would always prove to be a fierce rival and a force to be reckoned with. Her Cat-like agility and stealthy thievery enables her to thwart even the strongest and toughest of opponents. If Cat Woman had a hobby, it would be trail running, and she would be pretty darn amazing at it with her fierce agility and power.

Now unfortunately for the ladies out there, you can’t all be Cat Woman but fear not because the team at PUMA have given you the next best thing, the PUMA Faas 300 Trail Shoe. Designed specifically for ladies who crave those cat like reflexes and agility that Cat Woman seems to enjoy so much!

Sole of the PUMA Faas 300

Right out of the box it is clear that this shoe means business. The sole of the PUMA Faas 300 is littered with claw like lugs just waiting to tear at the dirt and rocks as you whisk along the single track, just like Cat Woman would leap and skip between buildings with her loot on a moonless night in Gotham. Running on wet, muddy or loose gravel will give you great confidence in the grip of the shoe, our tester even said, “They are super grippy, I could even probably walk up an acute angled wall if all the odds were in my favour.” Once you hit the hard pack don’t think yourself crazy to stop and check if the lugs (read claws) have retracted into the sole as the spacing between the lugs (read claws) and the comfort of the Faas Foam gives you a wonderfully smooth and flat ride on the harder stuff.

Staying with the sole lets look at the midsole, PUMA have used their Faas Foam throughout the midsole which gives the shoe a great ride and is very comfortable (according to our lady tester, Lona Trew-Browne). They say a cat always lands on her feet and with this mid and outer sole any lady is going to be happy to land on her feet on a rugged and technical trail. One of my favourite aspects of the PUMA Faas 300 is how PUMA have managed to give the shoe a decent and comfortable amount of cushioning while still keeping it light, agile and in a ‘minimal-shoe’ bracket. The one thing that it is missing though(which has been added to the V2 model) is a rock-plate which along with the Faas Foam keeps the shoe nicely flexible but does slightly lack in the under-foot protection department.

Heel to toe drop on the PUMA Faas 300 will bring you out at 8.0mm with Heel Height of 26.4mm and a Forefoot Height of 18.4mm. These measurements with the pliability of the Faas Foam gives you a very lightweight shoe weighing in at fierce 8oz. (or 225g).

The PUMA Faas 300 Upper

The Upper has not let down in the comfort and agility department either with a padded tongue as well as a cushioned heel bridge. PUMA have gone with an upper that is reinforced with their Translucent Webcage Technology and has a dual density mesh throughout which is very effective in keeping dust and dirt out of the shoe.

The Look

One benefit of buying shoes that are made by one of the largest Lifestyle and Sport Shoe manufacturer’s in the world is you are sure to get some great colour options. This particular pair came in a flaming purple which will definitely turn a few heads, yet it is dark enough to hide the dirt a bit longer than a lighter colour.

So there you have it ladies, there can be only one Cat Woman but thanks to the team at PUMA everyone can run like her.

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#BestGiftEver: Fuel to Conquer South Africa’s 100km Ultra Trail

By: Christine Dailey
Posted at ow.ly/FDj82 on December 9, 2014

Rae Trew-Browne, a 29-year old South African native, was a fierce competitor on his high school cross country team growing up. After falling out of the running routine during post-graduate life, a friend asked Browne to compete in a sprint triathlon with him a few years ago. He struggled and was unable to finish the race. Now Browne is competing in 50km trail races in his hometown of South Africa and gearing up for his first 100km next year. “If I had finished that first triathlon I had attempted, I don’t think I would’ve been so motivated to start running again,” says Rae. “Because the race beat me I was so determined to come back and conquer it.”

Originally from Johanessburg, Browne moved to Cape Town three years ago and started trail running on their famous stunning mountain terrain. The high peaks and spectacular views gave him the running bug. Now he runs 12km both to and from work almost every day, does five-hour mountain runs/hikes on the weekends and has competed in numerous mountain races. “I experienced some painful setbacks in my personal life and being able to push myself, only to discover you can always go further was a great accomplishment,” says Rae. “Conquering physical mountains gave me the confidence to conquer the emotional mountains I was also facing at the time.”

#BestGiftEver: South Africa Trail Runner Conquers Ultra Races

As we approach 2015, Browne is gearing up for a 60km race on the Swellendam Hiking Trail – one of South Africa’s most sought-after trails, where he’ll aim to qualify for a 100km ultra trail race in Cape Town. “Competitors only have 15 hours to complete the 100km, so it will be a decent challenge,” says Rae. “Finishing in the cut-off would be a dream come true!”

#BestGiftEver: South Africa Trail Runner Conquers Ultra Races

We want to help Rae cross the finish line so we sent him a care package with some specific brand new running shoes and apparel including the Minimus Zero Trail, the Fresh Foam Trail and the glow in the dark Minimus 10v2 (Rae snapped these shots of him in action with his gifts right after they arrived). “Being able to compete in the mountains is an amazing gift,” says Rae. “Running can be tough at times but to be able to race in an ultra would be a huge gift for me.”

We can’t wait to see what mountains Rae conquers in 2015! At the very least, we hope the new gear inspires him in his endeavors and is the best gift ever this holiday season.

#BestGiftEver: South African Trail Runner Conquers Ultra Races

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Ode to Adventure

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“Written by Rae but originally posted as a guest post on US based site: http://landonfaulkner.com/ode-to-adventure/ a site well worth a visit if you have a passion for adventure”

Devote (verb ) – give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause.

Have you ever stopped and looked at the word, ‘devote’? It is not a word used very often yet every single one of us, in some way, is devoted to something or someone. I think the reason why the word is not used in most people’s vocabularies these days is because society in general is hell bent on convenience and comfort. There is no devotion in convenience. Devotion speaks of commitment, perseverance, an ability to remain patient and consistent through difficult circumstances or situations while pressing on to achieve a goal or purpose.

When my Grandfather was my age he would go down to his local food market which was run by a close knit family that knew each of their loyal customers by name, they knew what they liked and how they liked it. They were devoted to providing their customers with consistent personal assistance. Nowadays I go down to my local supermarket, no one knows my name, no one takes an interest in what I might be needing, everything is processed and vacuum packed for ‘convenience’. The only focus is ‘dollars and cents’. The only commitment, the profit margin. The only devotion, making something as cheap as possible to sell it as high as possible.

So what does all this have to do with adventure, or running or actually anything outdoor related? Well you see as everything around us has become convenient the concept of an ‘adventure’ as been so diluted that nowadays a trip to a different hair stylist is considered an adventure. Where are the Sir Edmund Hillary’s, the Ernest Shackleton’s, or the Ranulph Fiennes’s of today? Some people would argue that great feats of the past have been conquered, and there is nothing left to explore. We can see it all on our TV’s so why should we venture out. In one day we can see the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the peaks of Everest and the depths of Great Barrier Reef, all from the comfort of ones own living room.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

No wonder devotion has been replaced by convenience. In the days of Sir Edmund Hillary anything short of a radical devotion to ones goals would mean, to them, a life of mediocrity and never having the chance of experiencing something great. Convenience didn’t cause Ranulph Fieness to become the first man to cross Antarctica on foot. Nor did it cause Reinhold Messner to become the first man to summit Mount Everest without the help of oxygen tanks. Convenience would have kept them at home, comfortably next to their fire place, warm and nestled up while they watched others achieve their life’s ambitions. It was nothing short of a radical devotion that enabled them to achieve the impossible. While everyone said it could not be done, they devoted themselves to finding ways to get it done. They were committed almost to the point of what some would classify as insanity, they persevered through failure and overcame great trials when everyone else gave up.

One of my favourite accounts of die hard devotion is one I heard of Scott Jurek at the Badwater Ultra Marathon, as far as I remember he collapsed on his face around half way totally dehydrated and spent. The distance between him and the leaders growing further and further apart. Instead of abandoning like most people would he got up, collected himself, started running again and went on to win the race when everyone said he wouldn’t be able compete against the roadies conditioned for that amount of pounding on the tar. That for me is a classic example of devotion. It would have been convenient for him to allow his support crew to carry him to the support vehicle and transport him back to the finish, it would have been convenient for him to skip a training session because it was raining or because he wasn’t feeling up to it but I guarantee you he had a goal to win and he was devoted, come hell or high water he was devoted to achieve it. Someone once said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” I disagree, I prefer to say, “Suffering is inevitable, the key is to suffer well.” Devotion will see you persevere through suffering, it’s not to say that you won’t suffer if you are devoted but it will keep you consistent, it will keep you committed. Convenience will give you the easy way out.

Lassen Peak Caifirornia

What if the Sir Edmund Hillary’s of today are the ones who courageously throw off the comforts of today’s convenience and devote themselves to making adventure. True adventure, not the ‘bolt on’ kind like those who kit their trucks out with the best expedition gear known to man yet their tyres never leave Hollywood Boulevard and their reserve tanks never see a drop of fuel. Their eyes never see the real thing, only a replica. Their faces never get covered with dirt from a place most people will never know existed. What if we devoted ourselves to the kind of adventure that gets your palms sweaty and raises your heart rate by just thinking about it. The kind of adventure that no matter what life throws your way, like Vincent Van Gogh you can press on and say, “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

If by our lack of devotion we teach the next generation that convenience is better than devotion, that comfort is better than commitment. I am afraid the wide eyed hunger for adventure, the zealous passion for what’s beyond the horizon, the depth of the wandering spirit of the human race will quickly become as deep as the bottom of a wet grande half-caf skinny cappuccino to go.

Let us throw off convenience. Let us #MakeAdventure

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