Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Road testing a new hydration system from Salomon

Hi there!  Sean again.  In this post, I want to talk about a product from the store I had the opportunity to test.  When I run, I hate having things with me.  Whether it’s backpacks, belts, you name it:  I usually find it too uncomfortable to run with.  This doesn’t exactly work in my favor, however, when I’m on a long run in hot weather and need to stay hydrated.  Not only does lugging around a Poland Spring or Nalgene bottle look weird, feeling the water sloshing around totally throws me off.
            Therefore, you can imagine I was a little skeptical when I was given Sense Hydro Set by Salomon.  Undaunted, I set out on a 6-mile run on a day that reached into the upper 80s.  It was just what I needed.  The “hydration system” is basically a glove with no fingers and with a strap that a shapeless, airtight water bottle fits.  When full, it holds 250 mL (about 8 and a half fluid ounces for those readers south of the Canadian border…) of water or whatever else you like to hydrate with on a run.  The soft flask is only as big as however much you decide to fill it, and fits the form of your hand, whichever way you naturally position it while you run.  While some of you may be thinking, “Oh great, I get to wear gloves when it’s 90 degrees outside,” it’s important to note that the palm of the glove is made of a very thin non-chafing mesh, and the back of the glove is a soft and breathable cloth fabric.  I pretty much forgot I was wearing it until mile 4 when I realized I was going to need some water to get me through the end of the run.  The cap responds only to pressure, so no worries about unscrewing anything or pulling anything up.  250 mL is also an ideal amount of water for the average runner, because I know if I had had a giant water bottle with me, no matter the amount of self-control I think I have, I would be downing the whole thing to the point of discomfort once I got thirsty.  Since the set comes with two gloves, 150 mL bottles and additional 250 mL bottles are available in stores as well, if you want to double up.
            No product is perfect:  this one currently only comes in one color scheme, and the white back of the glove is not conducive to those who get a little muckier when they run, though it is machine washable.  Aside from this though, Salomon’s Sense Hydro Set is a slam dunk.  It’s the perfect hydration solution for any runner looking for a way to stay at their best.  Follow the link below to watch the system in action.  No, despite what you’re thinking, that is not your faithful blogger in the video (I don’t think I’ve ever driven on my own as far as he races), but it’s a great illustration of just how important it is to remain hydrated at all levels of competition and recreation.  That’s it for now, just run with it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Take it to the trails

This month's Competitor Magazine has a fantastic piece on trail running.  In their article, "Hit the Trails"  the authors provide training tips, gear reviews and even list some trail races.  There's no need to reinvent the "trail running wheel" in this blog post, but what I can provide to you is a handy list of local trails that you may not know about.  I don't know about you, but I head for the trails for tranquility, to give my legs and feet a break from the roads, and to let myself slow down and be mindful of each step I take.  I find myself listening to birds, cursing less (no cars blowing through stop signs as I try to cross the street), and I get to meet lots of friendly dogs out for walks with their owners.  For me, trail running isn't about speed, it's about quality time with my surroundings.  Even in our congested living space of metro Boston, you can easily get to a quiet trail head in no time.  These are spots that make my top 5 list:

1.  Hale Reservation.  This park located at 80 Carby St, in  Westwood, MA  and offers 1,130 acres of woodlands, including four ponds and over twenty miles of trails in Westwood and Dover.  You can run to your hearts content on these miles of technical and scenic trails.  Hale is open to and free to the public.  Their summer hours are 7:30 am to dusk every day.  Interested in racing off road?  Hale hosts their own summer event series.  Note:  trails are mostly single track (trail-speak meaning that the trail isn't wide enough to run side by side with another person or pet) and pretty technical.

2.  Walpole Town Forest.  Located off Washington and South streets, comprising approximately 365 acres, the Walpole Town Forest is a great trail to get you introduced to off road running.  The 2 mile loop is wide, smooth and well maintained--this is the perfect trail for one loop or two.

3.  Lowell Woods.  Here's a little gem of a trail (3 miles) that is literally right in my back yard.  I leave from my house, run a mile to the Lowell Woods trail head located at the back on Hanlon Elementary School in Westwood, run my 3 miles on the trails and head back home. I'm able to log 5.5 miles with three of them on trails and I never have to get in my car!  This mostly single track lollipop loop is fairly technical and offers some short, steep climbs.

4.  Adams Farm.  I happen to love all 365 acres of Adams Farm.  If you have lots of time or just a little, this is the place for you.  Short well maintained trails are waiting at the parking area.  As you get in to the property there are many opportunities to break off from the main trail on to interesting and well marked single track.  This facility is free and open to the public all year round.  The nicest feature:  you can link up to the power line and run miles and miles in either direction.  Cross over the power line and and you get to explore the other side of Adams Farm.  Hungry after your adventure?  Stop in to Bubbling Brook for a cone, just a 1/4 mile away!

Noanet Woodlands.  This park has 17 miles of smooth trails and can be accessed at Caryl Park in Dover.  If you make it all the way to Noanet Peak, you will be treated to a lovely view of the Boston skyline.  If you are a beginning trail runner, this is another good choice, as the trails are smooth as well marked.

In closing, let's remember these safety tips when trail running:  1.  Before you head out, be sure tell someone where you are going and when you plan on coming back.  2.  Slow down and pick up your feet on the trails until your body gets used to the uneven terrain.  3.  Make sure to do a thorough tick check once you get home and out of your running clothes.  4.  Unless you know the area extremely well, it's best to stay on the marked trails.

Have fun, break up your "road only" routine, and get out there!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The inside scoop from a running shoe tester

John Sullivan racing in the 2012 Norwood  Firecracker 5K
Hi there!  My name’s Sean, I’m a local runner from West Roxbury home from college, and I’ll be blogging for Charles River Running this summer!  I’m really excited to bring you different product reviews, local runs, and a smorgasbord of other subjects relevant to the running community.  In the spirit of “go with what you know” this first post is a look at the process of choosing the right shoe, brought to you by lifelong runner, avid shoe tester, and my dad, John Sullivan.  John started running over 40 years ago and in that time has competed in collegiate cross country and track and field, raced in everything from local 5ks to marathons (17 of them), and even coached his son’s 4th-grade basketball team to a winning season.  He agreed to share some of decision-making he puts into his running shoe purchases.  Read on for some of his insights:

What’s it like to be a shoe tester/reviewer?

Being a shoe reviewer is a bit of an affirmation that you’re a committed runner, but one who can also communicate impressions of the experience to other runners.

What do you look for in a shoe? 

I look for a good fit, especially in the forefoot.  I have a wide foot, and I need to make sure my shoes fit properly in all areas.  I also look for a very solid heel.  I squeeze the sides of the heel with my hand (someone taught me that when I first started running 40 years ago, and I’ve done it ever since) to make sure it has the appropriate amount of support.  I don’t make my decision based on the aesthetics of the shoe; that’s not what’s important to a runner.  It has always been impressed upon me that even though running requires very little equipment, you want to make sure you have a fundamentally sound pair of shoes.

What is the difference between any old shoe and a great shoe?

When you put on a pair of shoes and start jogging in them, most shoes tend to have around the same performance.  If 3 miles into the run, you completely forget about “breaking in” a new shoe and are able to just get lost in your run, that’s a great shoe.  A great shoe is a responsive shoe from the first step right to the end of a long run. Invariably, the best shoe is the one that you choose to take you through your longest and most difficult runs.

What advice do you have for a person shopping for their new shoes?

Go to Charles River Running! [Laughs] In all seriousness, getting a good fit is critical, and you can guarantee this by being properly fitted by someone knowledgeable and appropriately trained.  You’re going to be spending a lot of time in those shoes, and so fit is more important than shopping for price or appearance.  Like a car, talk to anyone who has owned a pair and see what their experience was.  Runners are only too happy to talk about their experiences with other runners.  Sometimes it’s even a good way to ease the nerves before a big race or meet.

Well, there you have it folks.  I know from my experience I can agree with Dad-I mean,  sometimes the best shoe you’re looking for isn’t the best looking shoe.  And it really is important to have someone help you choose your shoe if you’re unsure how to make your choice.  With so many vastly different types of shoes (and some footwear that probably can’t even be classified as “shoes”) on the market, it’s immeasurably helpful to have someone take a look at how you run and match you with the shoe that will help you run and feel your best. 

That’s it for now, just run with it!