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Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Trail Shoe Dilemmas. A sort of shoe review.

I've not been able to find a decent pair of trail shoes that I get on with for the wettest and muddiest conditions. Being a size 12 and wide fitting 80kg runner who is about 50-70% on trail, I need something robust and hardwearing, aggressive lugs, neutral and well cushioned.

Having opted for the Inov8 ultra 290s, these are still in the shoe rack. They are great for short very muddy runs but are not comfortable on the longer runs, especially when the trails are harder or there are extended road sections. I use these in the extreme wet weather but not all of the time.

Then I went for the Hoka ATR Challenger 4. Hmmm. Very very comfortable. The wide fit was wide enough.......

They ripped after 200 miles. After a replacement was sent out, the ATR 5 (bottom left) managed 250 miles and split at the ball of the foot on both sides, on both shoes. They had been gently cleaned of the mud and dried sensibly, not too hot. shows them after 2 races.

Then it was the turn of Altra Olympus 3.0 . These were certainly comfortable and very wide, although the toe went after about 350 miles and the vibram lugged soles were almost none existent after 400 miles. I've still got these and occasionally go out in the dry trail as they are so comfy.

Back to Hoka and with my wife in America, i asked her to pick up a pair of Speedgoat 3s. I thought this was the ONE! Fresh out of the box, they were comfortable, grippy and responsive, whilst not picking up the claggy mud for 5kg shoes in the valleys.

Alas......250 miles later and they were totally trashed. Splitting as all Hokas do, at the ball of the foot. I still run in these, when it is wet roads and light trail. But they are trashed.

My twitter account shows the extent

Now, I'm in La Sportiva. They fit fine and are very protective but just don't feel right after 10-15 miles. I'm going to try them out for the Lenham Cross trail marathon this weekend so we shall see.

I'd like a hybrid shoe with the longevity of an Inov8, along with the luggy grip, but with the cushioning and responsiveness of the Speedgoat 3 and the toebox of the Altra. Help me please!!!

Gatliff Marathon

Marathon #104 was a long time coming. August to November was a bit of non-starter for the longer races. It had been so wet....and as I write rather belatedly, it continues to rain. It has been as wet as I can remember. The water table is so high that every time it rains heavily, it floods.

I had been winter training with Andy from the Running Club and also dad of one of Audrey's good friends in year 1 at school. He is younger, faster, lighter and fitter than me....which provides me with a challenge to keep up. Nevertheless, I seemed to have coerced him into running a self-nav trail ultra. What an inaugural ultra...the one and only Gatliff.

After a good start it was mud central. Passchendale or The Somme were regularly mentioned. It was only dry underfoot on the well-drained trails of the Ashdown. 33.9 miles of wet and muddy trail were pounded, slid and slopped through.

We motored through the course, only being overtaken by a couple of runners and coming through just inside the top ten, well 10th actually. It's hard to work out where you are in the field with a staggered start. I'd done most of the nav until Andy cracked on in the last 7/8 miles. I then slipped and fell flat on my face in the mud with a mile to go! The joys and the perils of Gatliff. Directions were as ever, awful, navigation was OK but he made it through his first ultra and then a few pints in the Red Lion in front of the fire in the village near home. I think that is my 6th Gatliff.

Peak Skyline 2019

After hugely enjoying last year, I was back for more of the same this year. Last year had been super hot. This year it was unseasonably warm for Northern climes but it had also rained significantly. So much so, that approaching Buxton, I found a lot of roads closed as the Toddbrook Reservoir, between Buxton and Whalley Bridge had begun to collapse as seen in the article below.

Last year I had a particular nightmare with the AirBnB and gaining entry. This year I went super low budget......the only problem was with the traffic being so bad, getting to Buxton at 9pm on a Friday night and nothing was was either packets of sandwiches from a Sainsburys local or the dodgiest kebab shop in the North West. Not even dirty Dominos would deliver! I opted for the latter......probably not wise but I wanted hot food, washed down by a small can of IPA. A relatively early night and then round the corner to the start. It seemed more low key than last year. It felt like fewer at the start, but apparently still a sell out.

Straight up from the startline, I took a more tentative start than last time around. I felt in less good shape but still really up for it. The sun was shining but the ground was saturated, so I knew the parcours was going to be a tough day out, and there was 7000ft and an 8 hour time limit.

After a fairly lung bursting 400ft climb up to Solomon's Temple, the bagpiper at the top welcoming all to the race with the symbolic tunes was a muddy descent back into town. Laboured, I took it easy but found my race legs on the mighty ascent up Burbage Edge, Axe Edge Moor and the 3 shires head. Overtaking a chunk of the field here to find my race place I felt good. Making a similar minor error after 3 Shires to last year, I followed a group to CP1 and then across what was a nice dry field last year. This time round, a female runner first in our group of 5 went waist deep into a bog. We tentatively made our way from tussock to tussock, knee deep in anaerobic peaty mud. CP2 to CP3 was hard. The sodden ground made hard going. I felt slower than last year, especially up and over the iconic Ramshaw Rocks, where I saw my first casualty of the race, a runner who had fallen off the rocks. After checking he was OK, I carried on. Again I struggled up Hen Cloud and over the Roaches. I felt similar to last time round, heavy legs and no energy. At Roach End to Lud's Church I felt better last year.....this time I still had the funk. It was only into Gradbach Woods that I found something. Down to the CP I drank and drank, such was my dehydration. Again I had little in the legs and the rocky ascent to Burntcliff Top was a walk, not a run.

Running alone I had to battle some demons. Coming up to Shuttlingsloe I just put one foot in front of another and ground out the climb. A quick check of the watch and I thought I might be slower than the year before. I felt like something was left in the tank so I put as much effort as I could on the ascent to Cat and Fiddle and then up to Shining Tor. The back end of the race felt like I had something in the tank, but was I going to be faster than the last time around? Coming down Stakeside was a thigh-busting and boulderous descent. I was concerned about going apex-over-triangle and knocking out my teeth. Through the Goyt Valley now and in the distance I heard the deep rumble of the Chinnook Helicopter, repairing the Toddbrook Reservoir. I paused to take a photo. Then off I went. The rain and sun had led to really lush growth with face high bracken and impossible-to-see paths. I put faith in the fact that the rocky path below was in line with the faint path through the bracken. I dodged right to follow the path and then for a split second, put my foot on nothing. I span round in the air and landed flat on my back, looking up a the blue sky. I looked again and I had fallen down a landslide where the recent storm waters had washed away the gulley. I had fallen about 20 feet. Feeling the ooze of the last gel in my pocket was a blessing and a curse. I was sugar low, but at least it was a gel and not blood.

I'm not sure what happened next, its a bit of a haze. I scrambled up the bank and then back up to the path. I hooned it up to Burbage Edge and then smashed it all the way back into town. Somehow I had run quicker by a couple of  minutes than the previous year! My back was super sore though. After a shower and a drive back to RTW, I spent 3 days in bed with the worst backache and sickness. 3 things learned......don't eat takeaway the night before a race; watch where your footing goes but mainly don't drive up North on a Friday night. Its never a relaxing drive.