Saturday, November 30, 2013

Norvan Falls, Mountain Highway - North Vancouver

Bbbrrrrr...I actually turned around early today.

Had a great outing from Lynn Canyon up to Norvan Falls and back and then headed up the Baden Powell to Mountain Highway. About a mile up it really started to pour (it had been drizzling all morning, but this was heavy rain) and the wind picked up, making it quite cold. I made it a couple more miles but my hands were so cold I couldn't make a fist or open a gel. Time to get the winter gloves out!

And I swear there is a GPS black hole in North Van on Saturday is always cutting out. Lost signal from the bottom of BP at Lynn Headwaters and couldn't pick it back up on my return to Lynn Canyon. Probably about 20 miles with a little more vert.

Last weekend the boys were asking what North Shore trails are like, so I took a few quick pictures today. Just a little taste:

A good last seven days (Sunday-Saturday) for me: 58 miles, 10,100' gain

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Deception Pass course preview

Went out with a big crew today to check out the Deception Pass course....and it has some really beautiful sections.

Crossing the bridge with whirlpools below. 
Quite a few ocean-side sections.
Looking out toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Deception Island from Sharpe Cove.
Checking out a seal swimming through a kelp forest.
Besides the seal, we also saw beavers, deer, kingfisher and a rooster (!?). It was completely white, had lost a ton of feathers in some sort of scuffle, and was dominating the trail. I think we all agreed it was the damnedest thing we saw all day. 

The course trails are a mix of smooth dirt, some moderately technical sections, a lot of dead leaves and mud and a few miles of pavement. There are a couple blowdowns, with the only really bad one being where the trail pops out at the junction of Highway 20 and Rosario Rd. 

The Hoypus point loop (which the 50k does twice) has all the mud sections and I bet will be a big mess if it gets more rain in the coming weeks.

Thanks Dave, for organizing, and Greg, Matthew, Shane and Scott for coming along as well. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N2, Trail M2, Road N2, Road M3 - exposé

Yeah....I have a problem....

Since Chuckanut in March I've only been wearing Pearl Izumi E:Motion shoes. It started with the Road M3 and after running in them for a week in Moab I came back to the Pacific Northwest and immediately tried out the Trail N2 at a local shop. Done. Perfect for me. Purchased. 

More than eight months later and I've come up with quite a little collection of them.

LEFT, from top: Trail N2 (brand new), M2 (60mi), N2 (350mi), N2 (375mi).
RIGHT, from top: Road M3 (300mi), Road N2 (200mi) 
All the technical details can be found on the PI website or an online retailer like Running Warehouse. And if you're reading this you probably already know about their "dynamic offset" and all the other doodad advertisements they talk about. Just for a refresh, the "N" models are neutral, while the "M" models provide some midfoot support for mild pronation. 

Here I'll talk about some of the more practical things that someone wearing them is likely to notice, or not notice, and my opinion on the various models. 

Since all the E:Motion shoes have a "seamless" upper, I'll start there 

No, they are not seamless. They are seam-taped (same like a gore-tex rain jacket). You do not feel the seam that runs vertically between the midsole and the top of the shoe, about halfway down the foot, so this is just me being picky about language. It really makes no difference if it is seam-taped or truly seamless, you don't notice it. 

However, one thing you may notice is that the interior of some models does have some structural material built in. This is found in the Trail M2 and Road N2, and not present in the Trail N2 and Road M3.  

Clockwise from top-left: Trail N2, Road N2, Road M3, Trail M2. Note structural material in Road N2 and Trail M2; only mesh in Trail N2 and Road M3. All shoes have the one seam sufficiently taped. 
Does that structural material make a difference? Only a little, in my opinion. It may help retain the shape of the shoe a little, but I don't really notice it keeping my foot more secure. 

Some of the shoes have different mesh uppers too. The Trail M2 and Road M3 have the same material, which feels a little more plasticky. The Road N2 mesh feels the same, but is a little different pattern. The Trail N2, though, has a completely different mesh that feels more like a cloth material (it sort of piles if you wear it through devil's club, which I don't suggest doing). 

However, I think they all work equally well. I haven't worn a hole in any of the uppers and they all breath and drain water well. Yes, they do let trail dust in, but I think that comes hand in hand with draining well.

The Trail versions also have a wider forefoot with a more bulbous shape. The Road models are more torpedo-like, having nearly the same width from the midfoot through the forefoot. I have regular-width feet, so I haven't had any issues, but I've heard people with wide feet commenting that they fit narrow. 

I do not get blisters in these shoes, but I also use good socks (Drymax or Smartwool) and almost always use Bodyglide for long runs.  

Support (M) vs Neutral (N) and cushioning

I'm a mild heel striker (more on roads than on trails) and very mild pronator. So far, however, the Trail N2 works much better for me than the M2. Why? The M2, while offering support, is much firmer than the N2. The support really is a chunk of much denser, harder foam that makes up the midsole from just in front of the heel up to the forefoot. The heel and toes of the M2 is made up of a softer material. The Trail N2, though, is made up entirely of the softer material for the entire length of the shoe.

For me, it just makes it that much smoother to have the same, constant material for the length of the shoe. I like the M2, and have only put 60mi on it, so maybe it'll feel better after wearing it more. I do like the firmer feel in soft conditions (mud and snow) and the softer, N2, on harder surfaces. 

What about the road versions? Similar, I think, but both road models are firmer than the Trail N2. The Road M3 does have a similarly-firm material through the midfoot, where the Road N2 is one material throughout. The M3 does have more foam, and thus a little more cushioning, but I think it's slightly firmer than most shoes that fall into the well-cushioned category. The Road N2 is semi-firm, and feels good when I mix it up running on pavement, dirt/gravel city trails and a rubber track. However, running solely on concrete in them would be a bit tough for me as I like softer surfaces. 

The Trail N2 midsole is my favorite, hands down. I think it's weakness is snow as it's soft and harder to kick steps in, but everywhere else it's great. The other midsoles are good too, but the feel of wearing the Trail N2 feels different (better) than all the other models. 

And in terms of support, the Trail N2, M2 and Road M3 all are good. The Road N2 works well too, even with my very mild pronation, and I don't find myself wishing it had more support. It does feel like the one with the least support, though, for obvious reasons.  


The Road versions are similar enough. The picture below shows slight differences, but they aren't noticeable. I think they work fine on pavement, groomed city trails and a track. In the rain, on a steep, mossy street, though, I'd pay more attention.

The outsole rubber holds up pretty well on the road versions as there still is a ton left after 300 miles on the M3. The only noticeable wear is in the heel-strike area.  

Road N2 (left) and Road M3 (right). I usually strike just outside of center, and slightly on the heel, as you can tell from the wear in that area.
The Trail versions have nice outsoles: I don't find things stuck in the bottom and they grip really well in everything but hard snow/ice. My one issue is that where I strike they wear down very quickly if you have to cover a mile or two of pavement. If you're truly out in the mountains they are fantastic, but if they need to be used door-to-trail, and you heel strike, even a little, you'll notice that area wear down quickly. Nowhere else on the outsole will wear down, just your favorite heel striking spot. 

Left to right: N2 (new), M2 (60mi), N2 (350mi), N2 (375mi, first pair)
Seriously, the outsoles show almost no wear except the spot where I strike, and that's only if you run on pavement (even just a couple hundred meters will start wearing them down). I sort of wish a harder compound would be used in the heel, but the grip on the rest of the shoe probably can be attributed to the soft rubber used, so maybe it's just a compromise if you heel strike and sometimes have a couple miles of pavement to move over. I guess the other thing is, I don't slip in them either, even with the heel getting more worn down than other areas, so maybe it's just a little pet peeve for me. 

I get about 350 miles out of them

Once I start to get in that range the midsoles (more prominently on the Trail N2) starts to feel a bit dead. I haven't gotten there yet in the road models, though, and I could see them lasting a little longer as they already are more firm than the Trail N2 and I might not notice them firming up.

The rest of the shoes, however, are still in good condition. No material, seem or sewing failures. The toe protector on one pair of Trail N2 is starting to delaminate, but it's only for a 1cm section and it never was an issue for me.   

Other cool things 
  • Lace tunnels on the tongue of the Trail versions keeps the tongue in place and not shifting around.
  • Sausage-link laces (also trail version only) keeps them tied tight and not coming undone. 
There probably are some small tweaks that can be made, but overall I think they are very good, simple shoes. I wish the road versions were able to feel as good as the trail models, but for some reason their comfort level is a little behind the trail shoes. If I wanted to go through shoes really fast, I'd wear the Trail N2 on pavement as well as I think it's by far the most comfortable, regardless of the surface. 

Did I forget anything....?

  • I haven't tried the Trail N1, Road N1 or Road H3. 
  • I use "biosoft" insoles from Super Jock 'N Jill in Seattle in all of my running shoes. 
  • I average 40-60 miles per week (15-20 on road/city trails and 20-40 on real trails).

Friday, November 22, 2013

W. Richmond loop

A fun loop I can squeeze in the afternoon during the week. Perfect for doing some non-track tempo/progression running.

Deception Pass course preview this weekend with Dave!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Back to the North Shore

I spent most of the summer off in the Canadian and WA Cascades, so it was fun to get back to the winter trail running grounds this morning. Darren joined for the first 6mi (heal up!) and I pushed myself on the climb up Skyline+the cut and the descent down Mountain Highway. Hamstrings still were a little tight from the fast road run last weekend, but otherwise I felt pretty good. It was partly sunny and there were great views from the top of Grouse. First drops of rain fell as I was changing at the car. Couldn't have timed it better.

Not a chance

Scratch tickets have way better odds.

Now off to the trails!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Boundary Bay half marathon - 2013

One year ago I ran my first half marathon at Boundary Bay. It also was my longest run ever at that time. It's interesting to look back, just 12 months ago, when I swore I would never run anything longer than 13.1 miles...

Even though I had only run eight "speed" workouts in the last five months, I still thought it would be fun to see how I'd do at another half. My two previous times, both from November 2012, were 1:38:46 (Boundary Bay) and 1:33:51 (Seattle Half).
My brother Greg (r) and I showing a little ton of white leg at the Seattle Half finish line; Nov 2012.
I had no goal today but to pace myself well and try to get a good speed workout in. Besides screwing up by starting and immediately stopping my watch as I crossed the starting line (then restarting about three quarters of a mile in), it was a good race.

  • I ran the first half in about 46 minutes (7ish/mile pace) and the second half in 44 (6:40ish/mile). A decent negative split. 
  • Fastest lastest: although my GPS miles were off from my starting-line watch mishap, I did the last 1.4 miles in 8:58 (6:24 pace).
  • Official chip time of 1:29:59.6; ha! Sub 90 minutes was sort of an intriguing idea, but nothing I was really pushing for. To be under by less than half a second is fine by me. 
  • 4th overall and 3rd male. 
The first printout of results for the half.
Beautiful weather to boot!
...and don't diss the PI spandex...