Monday, 23 January 2012

Onwards and upwards (figuratively and literally)

Last year was my first "ultramarathon season", although realistically what that means is that I ran a few ultras in the latter half of the year, along with a bunch of shorter races as well. This year, I have decided to concentrate on longer ultras, and have signed up to some real corkers! I'm really excited to get the ball rolling again in a couple of weeks, and see how my first real season progresses!

So here are the main races that I will be focusing on this year:

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Tick tick tick...

I recently wrote a blog post looking at a recently published paper looking at the effects of endurance sports on cardiac function. Or, more specifically, I was looking at the reporting (and unsurprising overhyping) of this story by the media. What struck me while looking through the comments section of the Daily Mail's take on the story was how many people believe in the idea that we are all allocated a certain number of heartbeats in our lives, and so we shouldn't waste them doing stupid things like running marathons. As in example, this is a quote from Bobby from Inverness:

"You are allocated only so many heartbeats for a lifetime - don't waste them up in silly fruitless 'exercise' - live longer, have a nap"

I suspect that this quote was actually written in jest, but it seems that a lot of people think like this and use it as another excuse not to exercise. The theory is that, since when we exercise our heart beats faster, every hour of exercise is using up 2 or 3 hours of your life that you could be sitting on the sofa doing nothing. Now don't get me wrong - I like to lounge on the sofa as much as the next person. In fact, my second biggest hobby is playing on the XBox; an interesting juxtaposition to my favourite hobby of running. But could I really be reducing my lifespan with all of this running?

First of all, let's look at this theory. It's actually quite an interesting premise, and the evidence for it seems to come from the idea that animals with shorter lifespans have quicker heart rates than those with longer lifespans. So if you take the average lifespan of a species (in minutes) and multiply it by the average heartrate (in beats per minute), you get an estimate for the average number of beats of the heart in a lifetime. And this value seems to be similar amongst different species. I was pretty skeptical, so decided to have a look at a few examples for myself:

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hoka One One Review

I recently got a test pair of Hoka One Ones from the kind folk at Castleberg Outdoors, so was interested to see if they could help with my running at all. I'm generally of the opinion that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and currently I am very happy with my combination of Mizuno Wave Inspire road shoes, and Salomon Speedcross trail shoes. However, I had heard such great things about the Hokas (a Mouri word meaning "time to fly") that I decided to give them a go, and have been testing them out over the past 5 weeks.

For anybody that has not yet heard of these shoes, they are somewhat of a hybrid between minimalist shoe design tenets (e.g. a low 4mm heel drop to encourage good running form), combined with a frankly ludicrously thick sole (roughly 2.5 times the size of a normal shoe midsole) to reduce impact stress on the joints for ultra endurance running. Famous runners currently using (and loving) these shoes include Mimi Anderson, Karl Meltzer, and Dave Mackey. They come in three flavours; the Bondi Bs (for road), the Mafates (for trail) and the Combo XTs (for both). I was expecting a pair of the Combo XTs, but due to a mixup in the pre-Christmas rush I ended up being sent a pair of Bondi Bs. However, I figured they should give me a good sense of how the technology works for me.

My first impressions were that they looked a little like a pair of MBTs (Masai Barefoot Technology), which are designed to be unstable and require activation of your core muscles to stay upright. I was also a little worried that they were going to feel like running in platform shoes. However, straight out of the box they felt absolutely fine, with no feeling of imbalance. I was recommended to go up a size from my usual trail shoes, but even these felt a little tight around the midfoot and the toe box. It is possible that I could have gone up another half size, but they were not uncomfortable. They are also surprisingly light given their appearance, and give an odd springy sensation when you walk in them (although I didn't notice this when running).