Friday, March 22, 2013

What's up BIG BOY...

The week after our Delirium Ultra this year, I got a call from my good friend Alfred from On On Tri saying that he was considering bringing in a new line of shoes and wanted to know if I had ever run in “Hoka’s”. My response was no as I typically train and race in very minimal shoes including the Brooks Pure Project line and Green Silence (whenever I can score a pair through since they decided to get rid of this amazing shoe… but that’s another conversation!)

Alfred responded that I NEEDED to try these things out so I opted for a pair of  Trail Mafate 2. For those of you not familiar with the Hoka One One brand, think “Butt firming shoe” meets your grandmothers “walking” shoes. At least this was my first response…visually.
The Mafate 2 sole features a 39mm heel height and a 35mm toe height at a super light 11.46 oz. The upper of the shoe fit my crazy foot to a “T” with a slightly larger toe box and I found myself stepping up a half size over my typical Brooks. The first time I stepped up onto the shoe I was impressed. I anticipated feeling clumsy or awkward because of the additional thickness of the sole but I did not. The first thing I noticed on my 100+ mile in 24 hour tired feet, was how comfortable they were… not the bulk.
My first run in my new Mafate 2 was almost perfect. I really found the shoes to be very stable and extremely comfortable. The Mafate 2 is designated as a “trail” shoe but with 5mm lugs, I was able to transition from the trail to the road very easily and could transition without feeling like I was running on spikes.
The second time I laced up my shoes and headed out the door I didn’t miss a beat and was completely in LOVE. I could see the benefit of additional cushion, while still keeping my foot in a forward position which was allowed by the minimal 4mm degree drop (yes, the same as the Kinvara). Adding in some quick turnover was not an issue either nor did I feel like the extra “bulk” was holding me back at all. Our friends at Hoka explain it best:
In 2010, Hoka one one, introduced the idea of oversized running footwear out of the founder's desire to have running shoes that would allowthem to fly down the hill. Their quest in simple terms, was no different than previous other sport equipment makers like Prince tennis rackets or Taylor Made Golf, who introduced oversized equipment to perform better in their respective sports. What was discovered in those similar introductions, as well as Hoka one one, was the benefits of their idea were far broader than could be imagined. What has been discovered by thousands of Hoka one one committed ultra-distance athletes, is that the amplified midsole geometry technology of Hoka one one allows them to go further with less effort, run more relaxed, and finish less fatigued.
Being the original oversize athletic footwear company allowed Hoka one one to engineer a patented midsole that features more volume of softer density and higher rebounding midsole foam, allowing for optimum cushioning, and an energizing, stable ride. Hoka one one understood from the beginning that natural foot motion was extremely important for uniformity of stride and incorporated minimum drop geometry along with a rolling rocker design to promote consistent rhythm in the runner’s foot strike.
As word of mouth spread through thousands of testimonials, it inspired countless runners who had been faced with the idea of not being able to run due to injuries or legs that simply couldn’t take the pounding anymore to now have hope.Hoka one one allows for active recovery with its oversized, increased forgiveness. The faithful swear they have been saved. now hundreds of Specialty Running accounts across the globe prescribe to all runners Hoka one one running footwear for those planned long-low intensity runs that are part of a successful training program. Hoka one one is a shoe for all seasons and disciplines.
Several friends in the Ultra Running community have been running in Hoka’s for a very long time so I decided to reach out to them and get their input too.
Beth McCurdy:
How long have you been running in Hokas?  A little over a year.
Which model are you currently wearing?  Bondi B
What is the biggest benefit you’ve found from wearing Hoka’s during Ultras?  My feet don’t hurt nearly as much at mile 75+
 Joe Fejes:
How long have you been running in Hokas? I have been running in my Hokas since I ran the Chattanooga Stage Race in June 2011.
Which model are you currently wearing?  I have always worn the Bondi's for both road and trail. I haven't tried any of the other models yet.
What is the biggest benefit you’ve found from wearing Hoka’s during Ultras? The Hokas have revolutionized ultra running with their super cushioned sole. I ran 329 miles at Across the Years on 1 pair with no real issues. I wear my Lynco 405 metarsal pad insoles with my Hokas to help alleviate my metatarsalgia and I’ve cutout the toe box to help avoid blistering issues and I find it to be much more comfortable. I would probably still do it even if Hoka widened the toe box. I also poke a hole in the sides of the shoes to help alleviate my sesamoiditis that results from my sesamoids rubbing against the side. Love my Hokas though.
Karl Meltzer:
How long have you been running in Hokas? I have been running in Hokas before they hit the market in 2009. I tried them on, ran around the block, almost instantly dropped my previous sponsorship and have been in them since, and have been watching them evolve.
Which model are you currently wearing? I wear the Bondi Speed. but have been running in protos for about 6 months now, the Bondis fit my foot well. The EVO, although it has better traction for trail, don't work for my feet that well.
What is the biggest benefit you’ve found from wearing Hoka’s during Ultras? Best benefit is just the ultimate cushioning, it really helps the body go longer. They aren't heavy, actually quite light, and a shoe fitting so much like a glove, being soft, there is no comparison to the comfort they give.
Like I said, don’t just take my word on it! These folks have been wearing, racing and winning in Hoka One One for a very long time and to me, that speaks louder than words! All in all I give my new Mafate 2’s two thumbs up and if you can get past the visual aspect of the sole you’ll be glad you did as your mileage continues to increase!
Be sure to check out On On Tri’s webpage for ordering information for a pair of the most comfortable running shoe you will ever put on!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How I didn't get into the Barkley Marathon, and what I learned.

Following the Rules:
Just to get your name considered for the Barkley Marathon you need to know the secret hand shake, bat signal and location of the safety deposit box to submit your 4-page race application along with your blood and hair sample. Once you have that part down, it’s up to pure luck. When a race only allows 35 runners, your chances of getting in are slim to none. Each year “Lazarus Lake” reviews the hoards of entries (on a secret night) and places 35 runners on to the List. The next 35 get added to the “weight list”. This year, my first year entering, I made it on to the weight list. Only one “virgin” is allowed into the top 35 slots and this year my cards just were not stacked properly.
Over the course of the last two months however, I moved up 21 slots on the weight list… YIKES! So, following the rules, playing the “man’s” game and doing what you’re told, can in fact get you ahead every once in a while. A lot of people have asked me how did I get my name so far up on the list?

Answer: I listened
I didn’t get my name on the “weight list” by my self and that IS THE TRUTH. A lot of people helped me but at the same time a lot of people lied to me (a LOT of people). With a race size of 35, most people do not want you to know how to get in because you could in fact be taking their spot. So, before you ask anyone to help you “get in the Barkley” ask yourself one simple question… do you trust this person?!?!
The help I did get was VITAL to my “almost success” at getting into Barkley this year and without it I would not as miserable as I am today as I watch more and more names fall off the “weight list”. I’m not going to name the folks that were key to getting me this far this year, but you ALL know who you are and your help means more than you could ever imagine!

One day (after I run the race) I’ll help someone else get to this point, but until I see my name in the top 35… consider EVERYTHING I tell you about the Barkley one big lie!


Being signed up for an Ultra that you know you are running AND you know the distance you are training for AND you when you know the course, that’s easy. On the other hand, being on a “weight list” and not knowing if you might be running in a few weeks is nerve-racking.
With an Ultra looming out there that you may or may not run, it kind of keeps you on your toes and forces you to training like you’ve never trained before. I was injured for almost all of last year and was unable to training for most of the summer. This year, I rebounded quickly after my last 100+ mile 24 Hour event and kept that base rolling through today.
Living in the Lowcountry of South Carolina does not leave a lot of options for elevation training outside of a day spent running back and forth over a bridge, so I will typically push miles and mix in a lot of speed and core work. Over the course of the next year (as I work towards the 2014 Barkley since my hopes of a 2013 race continue to look bleak) I will plan my race schedule accordingly to ensure the time I spend on my legs are filled with enough elevation to get me up and down those East Tennessee mountains.
So, I was not one of only 35 people to get into a single event the FIRST year that I tried to get in. But I did find myself on front end of a very long “weight list” which has made me more determined to be race ready for when the time comes. The words or Eminem, yes the rapper, come to mind:
“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment. Would you capture it or just let it Slip? Yo”.
Those words have been muttered by higher intellectuals throughout the years, but you can’t argue that the back-beat that comes with his message doesn’t drive the point home! In running as in life, if we are willing to work hard enough to get there, why would we not be willing to be ready to take the bull by the horns. Not getting into the Barkley has energize my training and brought me out of a huge injury-driven-slump with new found energy and determination. When my opportunity comes around and I see that cigarette light, I’ll be ready and you can count on that!

(Seeing your name on the Barkley Marathon "weight list" brings all kinds of emotions)

Anyone interested in not getting on the list for next year, please email me directly and I will be sure to tell you exactly how not to get on it, or maybe I'll tell you exactly how too. Guess it'll just depend on how much I like you and how much you think you can trust me. Either way good luck!