Monday, December 12, 2011

Hoka One One Bondo B review

The Bondi B is the road shoe made by Hoka One One.  Although these are some wild looking shoes they are quite mild compared to other models and color options.  This is a far cry from the minimalist shoes I had been wearing most of 2011. Out of the box these shoes look huge but are actually VERY light. 

Here is Hoka's Story:

Hoka One One is the brainchild of two gravity sports enthusiasts Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud. Both men have been adventuring for as long as they can remember, and their trail running experiences have taken them across the globe.
Both Jean-Luc and Nicolas are committed to the values of freedom and enjoyment and feel that this is integral to the running experience whether running on the trail or in the city. With this in mind they started to look at the variables that affected the performance of different types of runners.
They quickly came to an important conclusion; fatigue, impact and muscle strain were challenges that runners of all stripes had to deal with every day. So Jean-Luc and Nicolas came up with a brilliant idea, why not design a shoe that would help to alleviate these problems - so that freedom and enjoyment could be guaranteed every time you go running!
From that idea Hoka One One was born. The word Hoka is derived from the ancient Maori language and roughly translates to "now it is time to fly". That's just how it feels to run in a pair of Hoka One One shoes; with each and every step your foot takes flight.
Today runner's from around the world are learning about the benefits of Hoka One One, they have been used by marathon winners. 50 mile, 100 mile and even 2000+ mile ultra-runners as well as runner's just like you or I who want to enjoy running, perform at their peak and feel that important sense of freedom whilst maintaining top physical performance and protecting against shocks, jolts and injuries.
So put your best foot forward, it's time to fly!

So when these shoes first hit the ultra running scene I was very skeptical and even found them humorous.  Months pass and I see more and more reputable and far more experienced distance runners swearing by these shoes.  I'm speaking of average joe's like myself not the sponsored runners with a vested interest.  I mean why would an average ultra runner by a shoe that retails for a whopping $169.00 and run ultra distances in these shoes if they were not very satisfied. 

I stayed away for a while hoping it was just a fad but my future race plans made the Hoka's worth a closer look.  I'm training for my first 100K, the Fuego y Agua, in Nicaragua.  I am needing to increase my weekly mileage quite a bit and I'm prone to injury when doing so.  I'm not comfortable running roads and I hit the trails 90% of the time.  I hoped to try the Bondi B's to increase my road miles. 

I purchased the shoes online as there are no retailers within a few hours drive of my home.  At this price I was quite nervous about the fit.  I wear a 10 in basically everything I slip my feet into.  The Bondi B's are sized strangely and I was advised to go a half size up to a 10.5.  I did just that and the fit has been perfect so far.

I know enough already... how did they perform?

Day One: 
I hit the treadmill for two miles to ensure fit and comfort before heading outside.  I followed this up with a bit over 4 miles on the road with a good bit of ascent and descent.  Initial opinion out of the box was they have zero flexibility.  Once on the foot the flexibility seemed a non factor.  First mile outside seemed overly cushy and strange and almost felt like I was cheating.  The feet seem confused by all the cushioning.  I bombed down a paved hill with no shock to the normal areas.  This was a definite plus.  I did experience an unexplained tingling in my feet almost like a going to sleep feel but this went away on future runs.  6.2 miles total on this first day.

Day Two:
First trail run was taken on my favorite trails at South Mountains.  I found they soaked up gravel and smaller sharp rocks like they did not exist.  I was careful on the roots as I was leery of turning an ankle.  I found a little difficulty in climbing steep mountain trails with these shoes.  Keep in mind this is the road version and traction is not designed for this use.  They just don't climb like my Montrail Mountain Masochist that usually run in.  I was heading down the most technical and steep trail in my area and found these shoes are horrible on trails covered in leaves.  That is leaves on steep descents.  Feet slipped out from under me and I came crashing down the hill.  Finished with 6.32 miles with just under 2000' of vertical gain.

Day Three:
My first true road test.  Remember I hate running the roads.  I heading into town at night and ran 10.55 miles at an 8:34 pace.  I never really pushed it to hard but this was very nice pace for me.  I ran the entire way with pure enjoyment and no discomfort.  I never cursed the roads like I always do but instead just wanted to keep running all night. 

Day Four:
I hit the mountains again for more trail testing.  Just over 10 miles and 2300' of gain.  Hoka's did very well but I took the leaf covered downhills a bit more cautiously.  Most of the run I was experiencing a great deal of tightness in my lower back and found myself with bad form and hunched over most of the run.  At the time I no idea what this was and thought maybe I was just fatigued and my form was causing my back to go tight.

I wake up the next day and my back is totally screwed up!  I keep telling myself it can't be the Hoka's.  I've had lower back injuries in the past and felt confident this was not a reaction to the shoes.  My best guess is the day I slipped on the leaves I strained my back on the fall.  I was forced to take a week off from running as the pain was that bad. 

I'm back to running a week later in the Hoka's although still with some back pain.  I can't remember the last time I fell on the trail and then the first trail test in the Hoka's I fall and get injured. 

The lessons learned here for me are that the shoes have limitations on the trail and technical terrain.  I will stick with the Montrails for now for much of my trail running.  As far as the road, fire road, and treadmill running I absolutely love the Hoka's up to this point. 

A few more things about the shoes design before I close. 

Not a big fan of the laces as I find them to burly and stiff and hard to get a tight knot. 

The colors and overall appearance of these shoes still have a long way to go. 

For a road shoe they perform very well on trail other than traction issues described above.

The price point is tough to swallow but others state they last many more miles than the average shoe.  The verdict is still out on this one. 

I end a run with legs feeling fresh and no foot pain.  I wake the next day feeling ready to run. 

The folks over at Hoka are definitely onto something here and I'm looking forward to what is up next for this company.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Drymax socks review

A very long overdue review of my now go to sock for trail running.  I guess I started using Drymax socks about a year ago.  At that time I was still very new to running and was running in the Injinji toe socks.  I was offered some free socks to try out from my friends over at .  I was very comfortable running in the Injinji socks but I'm always ready to try different gear. 

I've now been wearing the Lite Trail for hot weather use and the thicker Trail Running version for the cooler season. 

The Lite Trail has seen extensive use by me and has lasted a long time with no wear holes but after a year they are starting to thin out in the heel and need replacing. 

The thicker Trail Running version are 1/4 crew high.  They always seem like to much sock when I put them on but they are very warm and comfy and have never given me any problems.  While I have not put has many miles into these they are certainly durable.  They look brand new after a years use! 

I'm not one to have a lot of blister problems but with these socks I've not had a single blister.  I've run about five ultra marathons in Drymax to date and will continue to use them with my upcoming races. 

I've yet to try the Maximum Protection model and I'm eager to see if they live up to the price tag.  I still have several pairs of Injinji socks around but they seem so flimsy they see little use these days.  If I'm not running in Drymax it is because I have not got around to doing the laundry and had to resort to whatever else I had clean.

Stand out points for me are:

I've been blister free
Socks have great durability and longevity
Designed specifically for trail running
Manufactured about 30 minutes from my home.

I highly recommend these socks for trail running and ultra running. 

Check out for Drymax socks and other cool products. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Duncan Ridge Trail 50K

Race director Robert Lewellen described this course as possibly the toughest 50K in the southeast.  This was enough to get my attention.  I guess I will never learn!

I came into this race pretty comfortable with my training.  I knew this would be a tough day with tons of climbing so I placed no time goals or pressure on myself.   My gear choices for this race would prove to be both good and bad by the end of the day.  I wanted to experiment with the use of trekking poles and thought this course would be perfect testing grounds.  With my hands tied up with the poles I needed to utilize my Nathan hydration pack for fueling.  My ultra running experience while using a hydration pack to date as been horrific... why did I expect today to be any different?

I loaded the pack down with two liters of Gatorade and a handful of Gu's and Scaps, etc.  Arriving at the starting line I knew I was carrying more weight than I should with a 4 mile climb in the first seven miles of the race.

The race started on time and me and my buddy, Tim Worden, cruised out of Vogel State Park trying to stay in front of the majority of runners.  The race would turn to single track after the first quarter mile and we did not want to get log jammed in.  Tim and I knew we would have our own demons to deal with all day and both understood we would run our own race.  I never anticipated we would split from each other so early but I guess I pushed forward early on due to adrenaline.

The thing with a single track course is that you can easily get sucked into running a faster pace than expected.  With runners on your heels you keep on plugging away.  I passed quite a few runners early on as the downhill sections were very easy for me and I just let it flow.  Aid station #1 was around mile 3.5 and AS#2 was about 8 miles in just after the major climb.  With cool temps and 2 liters of Gatorade in the pack I cruised through both aid stations without slowing down.  This was part of my plan however the other part of the plan was to be drinking some of that 2 liters rather than just hump it over these mountains all day.  This error would catch up to me on the back half of the race.

I had no idea how many runners were out in front of me since so many made the turn for shorter 30K race. I wondered how Tim was doing with this being his first ultra.  A tough choice for a first ultra but with the trails we train on I was confident in him.  The climbing was tough for sure but I felt my training had me well prepared for that.  The most challenging part of the course for me proved to be the leaves and how difficult it made the descents.  Aid station #3 came and I stopped to refill my pack and grab some grub they had on the table.  I'm not sure how much fluid I drank up to this point but I was getting way behind on intake and not even aware of it.  I hate using a pack for this very reason because I never drink enough.  I'm usually to conservative fearing I will run out and never really knowing how much is still in the pack's bladder.

The turn around point was only 2.5 miles from this aid station but it proved to be the longest 2.5 I can remember.  My spirits were still very high though as I had yet to run into the race leader heading back and new I must be doing pretty well as far as positioning goes.  As the leader comes into sight I start counting each runner that I cross paths with till I get to the turn around point.  I figured at the half way point I was running somewhere around 15th-20th position out of about 70 starters.  It felt cool to be running this well but my body was starting to declare that it could not keep up with my enthusiasm.  Oh yeah why should it when I failed once again to properly fuel it during a race!

I started to get those ever so familiar muscle twinges that come with dehydration and muscle fatigue.  I mistakenly considered this was the toll the climbing was taking on me rather than a hydration issue.  I stopped for a pee break around mile 20 and was surprised to see my urine was dark orange to light brown.  From here on my race went all to hell!  I started getting passed quite often as my running became very uncomfortable for me.  The discomfort I was feeling was in the bladder and in my junk!  I did not panic but I was very concerned.  For the last 12 miles of the race I had a constant feeling like I had to urinate but I could not even make a drop.  I starting trying to up my hydration but it seemed the damage on this day was already done.  I just wanted to get this race over with and drink a beer!

I spent the last several miles just really mad at myself for all that had gone wrong with what should have been one of my best race performances.  I got "chicked" in the last 1/2 mile to add to my frustrations.  I shuffled along into the park and crossed the finish line with the satisfaction of finishing the toughest 50K in the area but still completely frustrated with the way it all worked out.  I crossed the line in 33rd place with a time of 8:37:52.  With about 70 starters only 54 finished before the cut-off.  The winning time was 6:10 which is slow by 50K winning standards which only proves just how challenging this course really was.  My Garmin showed just over 10,000' of elevation gain spread over 31.86 miles.  A good day or a bad day I still walked away with the opinion that this was the toughest 50K in the southeast!

I changed out of my cold and soaking wet clothes into something warm.  I grabbed a few micro-brews from the cooler to have ready for Tim as he crossed the line to celebrate his first ultra.  I was of course also hydrating heavily with the proper fluids to try bring me back to normal.  The four hour ride home for Tim and I was a tough one after a long day in the mountains.

I highly recommend this race for those sadistic folks like myself that search out those extra challenging races.  You will not be disappointed by how well this race is put together.  I can't end without stating how awesome all the volunteers were.  I left the race forgetting that this was it's it first year... it was run that well!

As soon as Tim and I got in the truck we both said this was a one and done race.  In true ultra spirit I decided about two days later I must return in 2012 and correct where I went wrong and tear this trail up!

Note to self... don't procrastinate on writing these reports!  There was so much more detail to be shared about this race but I'm ready to move on to the next adventure.

Gear note:
The trekking poles used were Leki Micro Sticks.  I plan to put together a review of these in the coming weeks.

Tim Worden's podcast about the race
Race Results
My Garmin Data