Since I’m running on rough ground all the time, pushing my road shoes beyond their designed remit on almost every outing and like to have several viable pairs on the go, I rarely buy running shoes a pair at a time. So, with the mileage steadily building towards June’s West Highland Way Race, my last two pairs of Asics GT-2130s becoming ever more bashed up and most of my existing off-road alternatives somewhat out of favour, I really needed to stock up, spent part of Monday evening trawling the net for good deals (aka sale prices) and now have five new pairs of shoes!
So what did I get, and why?
- Two pairs of Asics GT-2150s because (bar a single failed experiment with ill-fitting Saucony Hurricanes in 2006), Asics 2000 series have served so well as my ‘main’ shoes over the years that I’ll quite happily take a new pair of UK 11/Euro 46.5s out of the box and run 30 miles or more in them just like that. But these are my first black ones (chosen because the white ones might as well start black with the usage they get from me!).
- Two pairs of Asics Gel-Enduro 5s because I’ve kept looking for road-type shoes (which are generally kinder to my funny feet) with trail-type sole patterns, these were pretty cheap and (despite what I’d call a fairly ‘token’ trail sole compared to more specialist designs) had to be worth a gamble. Also in black, and maybe that little bit more ‘appropriate’ to some of my rougher local courses.
- A pair of Inov-8 Flyroc 310s because they were also on sale and, out of the many different Inov-8 hill and trail shoes I’ve owned, the similar (but slightly heavier) Terroc 330s have probably fitted said funny feet best. To which I might add that the Gel-Enduros seemed a bigger gamble because I was banking on the fit being similar to my previous Asics 2000 series, and thought I was on pretty safe ground with the Flyrocs because all those different Inov-8s I’ve owned (think that’s Mudrocs, Mudclaws, Roclites and two pairs of Terrocs) have been UK 11.5/Euro 46.5s. But the Flyrocs are maybe feeling just a little short at that (although maybe still OK with a bit of wear since they’re not looking any shorter than my existing Mudclaws and Roclites), whereas I took out a pair of the Gel-Enduros today, popped in my magic insoles (with the 7° sideways slope!), ran 17.2 miles on the West Highland Way and was well pleased with them.
Now that’s the shoes dealt with, what about the heart rate? Well, being absolutely convinced that 90% of the WHW field are setting off too fast and even pace (or perhaps more accurately even effort) will get you there quicker in the end, today’s run was an exercise in maintaining an even level of effort by monitoring my heart rate (IMHO so much better suited to this aim on anything other than flat courses than going by either minutes-per-mile pace or simply gut feeling). Which is basically what I did for the first 19 miles of the 2007 race (so who remembers that ‘four hours to Balmaha’ mantra?) before starting to let gut feeling interfere with the HRM’s infallible judgement. So today I was trying to keep the heart rate to something approaching (or just above) ultra-marathon rate, set a top alarm for 125 and lower alarm for 115 and happily achieved exactly what I wanted in covering the ground (from Blackrock Cottage to Inveroran and back) well quicker than I’ll need for the race while having to keep backing off to stay below my chosen upper limit. Which hopefully both makes this limit sustainable through some longer training runs and suggests that whatever sustainable limit I set myself for the big race should still produce the pace I need over the long run. And that would be the end of today’s story but for the late decision to make Inveroran rather than Victoria Bridge my turning point leading to a serendipitous meeting with WHW record holder Jez Bragg and friends there. So I stopped to chat for five minutes (about, amongst other things, his winter WHW run in December) before leaving to get running again when my heart rate had dropped to 75 and lips probably started to turn blue. And arriving home to open Jez’s blog account of that winter run and receive an email from Murdo McEwan (who was involved in it) about his published account of the very same. Now, how amazing is that?
To anyone interested in the heart rate trace below, I’d say ignore the opening spike and succeeding drop (causing false readings for longer than normal until I stopped to wet the HRM band), but note the evenness thereafter which brought me home on a predominantly uphill leg not much slower than I went out!