An Average Runner’s Guide to What You Need To Start Cycling

For those who have been following me on Instagram for awhile, you will know that I started cycling due to my lingering torn meniscus injury – cycling doesn’t create as much impact on the knees as running does, so I’m able to do it as regularly as I used to run. However, as I’d previous dedicated myself to running, I had almost no idea on what I needed to start cycling – sure, I knew I needed a bike, but as it turns out there’s a lot more required to start cycling than what’s needed to start running.

So to that end, I thought I’d put together a quick guide for all those runners out there who are interested in starting cycling. And just a disclaimer: I’ll be biasing this guide towards road cycling as this is the path I went down, but I’ll do my best to include considerations for other bike types.

You’ll need a bike

Ok, I covered the most obvious point first.

First, you need to know what type of bike you want – do you want to cycle on the roads (road bike), off-road (mountain bike), or do you want the best of both worlds (gravel bike)? This is just the ones I can be bothered to mention – if there’s a particular way you want to ride, chances are there’s a type of bike for you, so you should do a bit of research to figure out which is the one that matches your idea of cycling.

Once you’ve worked that out, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a friend who has a bike of the type you’re interested in, is willing to lend it to you, and who’s of a similar height to you so you can try it out and make sure cycling is for you. This is especially true if you’re intending to ride on the road as you’ll need to be comfortable with this concept.

The last point worth mentioning here is: know what your budget is. If you’re buying a bike, you’ll quickly realize that you can either go budget or spend your life savings on a bike – spend within your means is my best advice, but also don’t skimp too much if you’re going to commit to cycling long-term; a bike is definitely an investment and you generally get what you pay for.

A helmet

Again, a pretty obvious one, but one that’s not necessarily mandatory depending on where you are. However, helmets are proven to save your head and your life in a crash and it’s best to not find out what the alternative is.

You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on your helmet – as long as it meets either your local or some safety standard, you’ll be sitting pretty.

Learn your local road rules, for bikes AND cars

This is a point for those intending on road cycling – learn your local road rules!

If you’re already familiar with driving in the area you’ll be riding, you’ll have an advantage, but it will behoove you to learn any specific rules for cyclists, and also cycling etiquette so that you conduct yourself in a proper manner on the road. Most places won’t have an exhaustive list of rules – these will usually just be a few things to remember while you’re on the road so you don’t get into any strife.

Lights for your bike

If you’re cycling for the first time, you may want to ride early or late at night to avoid peak hour traffic, which is actually what I did. What this means, though, is that you need to be obvious to morning and nighttime drivers. Reflective clothing and the like are great, but most countries will require that you have a light at least on the back of your bike, if not also the front.

This may end up saving your life if visibility gets more in fog or sudden rain and it becomes hard to see what’s ahead of you (or for drivers near your). Most lights these days will be rechargeable, so just make sure to have your lights recharged before you go out on your rides.

Some basic tools

If you intend on cycling long term, you’ll definitely need tools to repair and service your bike, but even if you’re just dipping your toes in to see whether or not you like it, you’ll still need a few tools to get you by.

A multitool will be as useful as it sounds for minor tweaks here and there and if you’re intending to try riding for long distances (or really any distance), then it’s advised that you take along a spare inner tube, some tyre levers, and a hand pump to fix any flat tyres, should they happen. If all of the above sounds pretty foreign, don’t despair! There are plenty of resources online that will help you understand what’s needed and how to do it.

The alternative is getting stuck at the side of the road while out on a ride, or not being able to adjust your bike so it’s a bit more comfortable for you.

Don’t go too hard to start with

My last point is particularly for those runners who are more fit – you may think having good aerobic endurance will transfer immediately to cycling, but that’s not 100% true. While you are likely starting from a better place than a complete beginner, the muscles and muscle efficiency involved are slightly different, so pushing yourself too hard too quickly can make you very fatigued – I know, because this happened to me.

Similar to when you started running, start out with some short rides, then gradually increase the distance and length of time for your rides as weeks go by. That way, your body is adapting to your new chosen activity and you get to ride more often.

That’s a wrap

Well that’s all I’ve got for this post – by my reckoning this is the bare minimum list of things you’ll need to get started. There are always other things you can get once you have established an affinity for cycling, but I’ll save that for another post.

For now, get out there and get cycling!

I hope you all enjoyed this guide as much as I enjoyed writing it – if you want to see more of this, or have some suggestions on what to add, I’d love to hear from you down in the comments. Or hit me up on Instagram!

Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6 Shoe Review

As a runner who apparently should be running in stability shoes, I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for stability offerings from all corners of the running shoe market.

Surprisingly, the biggest name in the running shoe game, Nike, doesn’t have a huge number of stability shoes, so when I came across the Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6, I had to give it a try.

Likes

  • Cushioned ride
  • Plush fitting around ankle
  • Grippy outsole

Dislikes

  • Front Air Zoom unit feels a bit flat
  • Fat laces
  • Not the best looking shoe

General Info

Many of you will have heard of the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus line of shoes which is a neutral shoe hugely popular with runners – the Winflo 6 is essentially the low-cost, stability version of the Pegasus (if you’re looking for the equivalent stability shoe to the Pegasus, you’ll be looking for the Structure, but that hasn’t been updated recently). And I say low-cost not because it’s cheaply made, just that it’s cheaper than the Pegasus.

Like all Air Zoom shoes, the Winflo 6 features two Air Zoom units in the midsole, and also features an engineered mesh upper, partial bootie, and a heel design that allows for more space around your Achilles tendon.

In a standard mens size US 9, the Winflo 6 weights in at 270g and features a heel-to-toe offset of 10.5mm (forefoot 14.5mm, heel 25mm).

Size & fit

Since I have a wider foot, I find many Nike shoes to be narrow, and I found the Winflo 6 to be narrow in the toebox also. The engineered mesh doesn’t have that much give, so I had to size up from my usual US 10.5 to a US 11 to get a more comfortable fit.

The step in.

Once I got the right size, though, the fit of the shoe was great – the Winflo 6 has great step-in comfort thanks to a plush upper around the ankle. The main stability features available in the Winflo 6 is a raised medial arch, which feels quite aggressive at first, but eventually becomes a feeling a needed to feel when my arch started to feel tired.

The Winflo 6 is definitely on the heavier side, which surprises me given there’s really not all that much there, but I also never noticed the weight when I was training in them.

Upper

The upper comprises of an engineered mesh over the front of the shoe, and a synthetic material over the middle and rear sections of the upper.

The engineering mesh at the front of the shoe almost seems too thick to provide enough ventilation, but on running in it, it’s one of the best ventilated shoes I’ve run in – must be something to do with the vent pattern.

Moving up to the laces, you get a standard eyelet hole configuration (though no extra holes at the top) and fat laces. For me, I don’t love these laces – they look cool, especially since you don’t see them on many shoes, but that’s probably for a reason. To this day, the Winflo 6 is the only shoe where the laces have untied themselves even while using a double knot.

Towards the back of the shoe, the synthetic upper is part of the reason why I like the feel of the Winflo 6 so much – it’s plush and just hugs your foot while it’s inside; the tongue is similarly padded and helps with the snug feeling. Like many shoes on the market these days, the section around the heel flares away from your heel to minimize chafing, though I’ve never had this issue on any shoe to date, and definitely not the Winflo 6.

Midsole

The Winflo 6 is my first experience with the Air Zoom line of shoes, and to be honest, my experience is mixed. Of the two Air Zoom units in the midsole (one in the front, one in the rear), the rear Air Zoom unit is sublime, giving my a great, bouncy feeling that makes it joy to run in.

Conversely, the front Air Zoom unit is so underwhelming (or poorly placed) that it almost offsets the good the rear unit had done. I’m not sure what’s happening, but I kind of feel like the front Air Zoom unit is actually behind the ball of your foot, but you can’t feel that part of your foot, especially in a shoe with medial arch support.

If that Air Zoom unit was just slightly more forward, under the ball of your foot, I think the Winflo 6 could be an even better shoe, but at its price point, that probably wasn’t the intention.

Outsole

The outsole of the Winflo 6 looks like all the other shoes that have been derived from the Pegasus, and to be honest, it it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s ample rubber on the bottom of the shoe to both maintain a good grip on the ground you’re running on, as well as last as long as possible.

In fact, out of all the shoes that I’ve run over 150km in, the outsole of the Winflo 6 looks the best, by far. Normally I get a lot of wear where the outside of my heel hits the ground, and while there is still some wear, it’s no where as bad as some of my other shoes which have already started on wearing the foam by then.

Ride

With a heel-to-toe offset of 10.5mm, the Winflo 6 is on the higher end of offsets, however I didn’t have any issues getting used to running in them (though this can be quite a personal experience). As I mentioned earlier, the medial arch support is probably the only thing that takes getting used to, but that subsides relatively quickly and became very appreciated just as quickly.

As I mention in the midsole section, I really didn’t expect my first experience of an Air Zoom shoe to be so mixed. Overall, I really enjoy the ride of the Winflo 6, but the fact that the front Air Zoom unit seems so absent makes me use this more as a daily trainer than a long run shoe so that absence doesn’t seem so obvious.

Verdict

Overall, I really like the Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6 – I like that it’s a little cheaper than the Pegasus, and I like that I can get a stability Nike shoe so I can experience Air Zoom. The ride is good and it provides adequate stability for me.

It’s not a perfect shoe, by any means, which is probably by design given how Nike manages its tiers of shoes – if Nike ever updated the Structure line with the Structure 23, which I assume is a more premium stability shoe, I would definitely be on board to try them.

I’d definitely recommend the Winflo 6 as more of a daily trainer – there’s no reason you can’t use them for something else, but to me, the combination of features make me lean towards daily usage.

So there you have it – my review of the Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6. If you’re liking these reviews (or not), I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Till next time!

Race Nutrition: what you should be fuelling with before, during, and after your race

Race nutrition can be a nerve-wracking topic for many a runner – myself included. You’ve done all the training in the weeks leading up to your race, but you’re double-guessing yourself on everything in the days leading up to it, especially your race nutrition.

Hopefully what follows will be a guide you can use to put your mind more at ease, or if you’re still training and coming up on a race, you can use this guide to prepare. Please note that I’ll be writing this from the perspective of preparing for a marathon, but the principles still hold for shorter races – just scaled back a little.

As always, a disclaimer: I’m not a professional, just a regular guy doing research and trying things out for myself. Take what you agree with, but also make sure to find out what works for you.

Before the race

I’ll get my most important piece of advice out first – nothing new on race day! This can extend to the few days before your race as well, especially if your stomach is particularly finicky.

In the days before your race, the things you want to be looking out for are your hydration and your carb intake – in particular for the last three days or so, you might consider doing something know as “carb-loading”. There are several definitions of carb-loading, but the one that I use is the one that says you should roughly maintain the same number of calories you normally take in, but change your ratios slightly to have more carbs in your diet.

For those of you who aren’t calorie counting, what this means is you can just have that serving of rice, pasta, or bread that you’ve probably been turning down while training. The theory here is that the glycogen stores (which is your fuel!) in your muscles accumulate over time, so although you’re liking tapering at this point and therefore reducing your training, you’re still going to need to increase your carb intake a little, particularly for those longer races like half and full marathons.

Maintaining your hydration is also particularly important – this will also be most beneficial if you’re doing this the few days before your race. Sipping water or electrolyte drink regularly will do the trick – there is plenty of fancy stuff out there that will allegedly help, but keeping it simple never fails, I say.

On the day of your race, not trying anything new is especially important – normally have oats for your breakfast before a run? That’s what you should be eating on race day. If that means you need to wake up a little earlier to make sure your stomach settles before your race, then do that, but your glycogen stores in your muscles will need that last minute top-up to make sure you’ve got the fuel in you to smash your Personal Best.

During the race

If it wasn’t obvious from the previous section, my main advice will still be the same – nothing new on race day, and definitely not during the race!

First and foremost, hydration is the most important aspect of race nutrition – dehydration will be the surest way of ruining your endeavour for a good race. During your training, no doubt you’ll be having hydration with you for longer runs – as your race gets closer, you may want to switch over to the electrolyte drink that is sponsoring the race as this is what they will be providing at the drink stops. If you’re sticking with choosing water for most of the run, you’ll want to make sure you have some other way of ensuring you get enough salts back into your body so you don’t cramp. I’ve heard using salt tabs can help here, but this will depend on how much salt you’re actually sweating out – you may be able to determine this by trial and error, or you can seek professional analysis to help you work this out scientifically.

There is also the option to bring your own hydration with you if that is what is most comfortable with – just be sure to have trained with the full weight of your hydration during a race-length (or as close as possible) training run as you are likely to be quite tired at the end of your run which will make every extra but of weight seem like much more.

During your training, particularly for those longer runs for those half and full marathon runners out there, you’ll likely have been using some kind of gel or other energy food during your runs to make sure you don’t “bonk” or “hit the wall”. For those who don’t know these terms, what they refer to is when your glycogen (which, if you recall, is the fuel for your muscles) has depleted – many runners describe the feeling as “hitting the wall” because the sensation is not dissimilar to it’s namesake; your muscles will feel heavy and you will feel like you can’t keep moving forward.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5xTtNRHTz3/?igshid=1k5wq8lxqr6uy

To avoid this, you can use energy gels or food to keep your glycogen topped up during your run – here, the aim is to find something that you can ingest and your stomach can slowly absorb as you run; this is important because most of your blood in your body will be diverted to your muscles during the race and hence your digestion will slow. My advice here is if you still have the luxury to experiment, try as many products as possible to find out which one your body doesn’t mind. Remember that you should be using whatever you’ve chosen in race-length simulations as your body will generally react differently as it gets more tired.

As for how many gels or product you need to take during the race, this will depend on the kind of athlete you are – using marathons as an example, if you’re gunning for a sub 3 marathon you’re going to want to be quite particular about your nutrition needs and you may need a particular amount of energy every 45 mins, whereas for the average marathon runner, you’re likely to need a less aggressive nutrition plan. Taking a gel every hour to hour and a half will likely be enough for most runners.

After the race

You’ve done everything right before the race, and you’ve smashed your Personal Best during the race, now you still have one thing to get right – your nutrition after the race.

Hydration will be your first port of call as no matter how on top of your hydration you were during the race, you’re almost definitely going to be at a deficit due to sweat – electrolytes will probably be most effective here to replace salts and nutrients that you’re muscles and body have been burning through, but good ol’ plain water is a great idea too.

Seriously, you will sweat so much.

If you’ve just beaten your best ever time at the distance, it’s likely you were pushing as hard as you could towards the end of the race – in these situations, you might not feel very hungry, or you may even feel like food is what you want to be furthest from once you’ve crossed the line. However, the best thing you can do for your body is to try and consume something loaded with carbohydrates, such as bananas or energy bars, which will help to start replenishing your glycogen stores as well as starting the process of repairing your muscles and body. If the timing of your race allows, as soon as you feel like you’re able to fit in a full meal, you should do so to further fuel your recovery.

So that’s all I’ve got in terms of tips – if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them down in the comments.

Under Armour UA Liquify First Impressions

Have you ever had a pair of shoes that you love but ends up wearing out far too quickly? Well, Under Armour thinks they’ve got a shoe for you that you’ll love and will last longer in their all-new UA Liquify running shoes.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Under Armour on this as they gave me these pair of shoes in exchange for my honest opinion – so without further ado, I wanted to share my first impressions of the UA Liquify.

General Info

The UA Liquify is the first Under Armour shoe with this particular midsole – fans of the brand will be more familiar with their usual running shoe lines, HOVR and Charged. What the Liquify line aims to do differently is provide a more durable option for runners via “fluid design”.

Basic stats include a 8mm heel-to-toe drop – fairly standard among running shoes – and weighing in at 285 grams for a men’s US 9.

Size & Fit

I’m normally a men’s US 10.5 and the UA Liquify fit me true-to-size which I was very impressed by given my wider foot – the mesh upper around the toe box stretches to accommodate and I found this a welcome surprise.

Step-in comfort is very nice in the Liquify thanks to a deluxe foam, dual layer sock liner which seems to just hug your foot once it’s inside.

Outsole

Given the mission statement of the UA Liquify to provide resilience and durability, the outsole seems up to the task, featuring lots of thick, tough-looking rubber all the way around the bottom of the shoe. Rather than be recessed in the midsole, the outsole rubber almost seems to stick out from the bottom of the shoe, presumably to give it the best opportunity to wear out before reaching the midsole. If durability is what you’re looking for, the Liquify seems to fit the bill.

What all the rubber means, however, is that the Liquify is on the heavier side. In my size, the Liquify’s come in at over 320 grams which makes it one of the heavier shoes in my quiver that isn’t a stability shoe. In my opinion, this makes the Liquify more of a daily trainer – so it’s convenient that the shoe is meant to be more durable.

Midsole

While the outsole is the UA Liquify’s main attraction on paper, the midsole is undoubtedly the most eye-catching part of the ensemble when it’s in front of you. Under Armour calls it a “liquid foam” midsole, which is then wrapped in TPU to give it it’s unique “liquid” look – it’s definitely a distinctive look, particularly given how many other brands like to have their midsole foam bared for the world to see. Apart from the unique look, though, I do wonder how much weight was added by adding this cosmetic layer to the shoe.

I’m terms of how it feels on foot, the Liquify provides a very interesting feel – in particular, I’m quite liking how the forefoot feels during toe off as I felt a very distinct bounce sensation. However, I didn’t quite get the same sensation from my heel in the back of the shoe. This makes me wonder whether this just needs a bit more break in given how much more foam there is there, so I’ll be keen to monitor how it feels over time.

Upper

For me, the upper of the UA Liquify is actually my favourite part of the shoe for the time being. Part of it is the fully knit upper which makes for the comfortable and stretchy forefoot fit that I mentioned before – the other part is the plush foam all around the mouth of the shoe which just send to hug your foot.

Of note, the Liquify doesn’t come up as high on my ankle as some shoes do so I was initially worried whether I’d be able to get enough lockdown and feel secure in the shoe, but this didn’t seem to be an issue for me – it helps that there’s so much foam on the inside of the shoe as this helps you lace up a bit tighter to get a good fit without strangling your foot.

First Impressions

Overall, my first impressions of the UA Liquify are positive. While it is heavy, the trade off for increased durability may be worth it. The midsole has me interested in trying it on more different types of runs and seeing how they hold up, though the very comfortable upper will probably keep me happy for most runs.

Stay tuned for my full review coming soon.

Hoka One One Clifton 6 Shoe Review

By my second run in these shoes, I already knew that these were my favourites among my frankly ridiculously large shoe collection – the shoes in question are the Hoka One One Clifton 6, and this is my shoe review after running over 300km in them.

Likes/dislikes

  • Likes
    • Super plush with cushion
    • Smooth ride
    • Wide toebox
    • Versatile
  • Dislikes
    • Not the most responsive shoe
    • Durability is on the lower side

General Info

The Hoka One One Clifton 6 is the sixth iteration in the Clifton family and has lots to live up to, particular with the much loved Clifton 1 seeing a re-release recently because it was so loved.

The Clifton 6 continues to carry the maximalist cushioning flag, with a EVA foam midsole standing 29mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot, leaving an overall 5mm heel-to-toe drop.

Size & fit

One of the reasons why I’m a Hoka believer now is because they have a wide version of most of their shoes – being one of wide feet, I love this.

I wore the Clifton 6 in US size 10.5 in the 2E width which fit me perfectly – I normally wear 10.5 but have to go up a size sometimes to get that width in the toe box, but the Clifton 6 fit really nicely true to size.

Upper

The upper of the Clifton 6 is relatively simple and unassuming with not much fanfare compared to some of the Clifton’s of old with fluoro colourways. There’s some nice stitching on the side walls, presumably to give the shoe a bit more stability. The simplicity extends to the front of the shoe where there aren’t many overlays covering what is a simple (but decently thick) engineered mesh over your foot. The lacing system is great and provides great lockdown on the forefoot.

Towards the back of the shoe, there’s a relatively rigid foot cup which keeps the shoe locked onto your heel, and a giant pull tab, which seems to be on all of Hoka’s shoes this year. To be honest, I don’t really use pull tabs, but if you like them, you’ll probably like how large and functional this one is. The heel cup is nice and plush too, providing a nice snug fit for your ankle when your foot is in the shoe. Unfortunately, this also means it’s a bit of a sponge with sweat over time, but it’s not a huge issue for me since sweat is just a normal part of running and it doesn’t seem to retain too much.

Midsole

The midsole of the Clifton 6 is the most heavenly of EVA foam formulations that, for me, is the real highlight of the entire shoe. Every Clifton since the first has had to live in the shadow of the original, never quite living up to that beloved shoe for one reason or another. However, the Clifton 6 is supposedly (this is my first Clifton) the closest to that original shoe in terms of overall plushness, but with the added benefits of all the improvements that Hoka has come up with in recent years.

What makes this midsole so good is how well it takes impact. You feel it as soon as you put on the shoes – at first, it feels like your feet are sinking into a sponge with every step. But finish a long run and you soon realise that these shoes do a fantastic job of absorbing the pounding from your run (or at least that’s what it feels like).

(Disclaimer: I know there are studies out there that say maximalist shoes actually increase the forces on your legs, but I’m just sharing my thoughts and experiences rather than a scientific take)

To be honest, it’s not clear how long the shoe will be able to take this kind of pounding – there are certain shoes that will last you years if you treat them right, but I don’t feel the Clifton 6 is going to be one of them. They are just too soft (I say it like it’s a bad thing…) which means to me that the foam will start to feel tired quicker than a more hard-wearing foam. After 300km, at least, I’m glad to report that I’m not at that point yet.

Outsole

To make the Clifton 6 lighter and more versatile, Hoka went with an efficient rubber pattern on the outsole to protect the most likely sources of wear. This is mostly concentrated the front of the shoe and the corners at the back of the shoe.

These pads aren’t big or particularly thick, however, and after 300km you can really see how quickly you start to eat into the foam itself. Having said that, I think I might still be able to get 500-600km out of the outsole, even if it will look very ragged by then.

Ride

The Clifton 6 features an early stage Meta-Rocker which is also featured on many other Hoka One One shoes. If you’ve never seen or heard of this before, basically it’s the shape of the shoe which curve upwards and essentially tries to rock you forward with every step. In my honest opinion, the Rocker sensation of the Clifton 6 isn’t as significant as that which I’ve experienced on something like the Carbon X, but it’s definitely still there.

Combining the Meta-Rocker and the midsole makes for a super smooth ride – this shoe took me to my longest distances and it was rarely my feet that were the most tired part of my lower body. I daresay it made long runs enjoyable as I didn’t have to worry about other things besides my hamstrings fatiguing the latter stages of runs.

Verdict

While I really enjoyed the Clifton 6, I completely understand that maximalist cushioning isn’t for everyone, particularly the sensation of sinking into the shoe rather than feeling the ground pushing you back.

If you’re looking for something that has a lot of cushion, a smooth ride, that can go long distances, you definitely want to give the Clifton 6 a try – I can’t recommend it enough if this is the kind of shoe you’re looking for.

That’s enough from me – have you tried the Hoka One One Clifton 6 and what are your thoughts? If you have, feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below!

Training for a long distance race

I was reading a paper today from 2018 about a study called “ProjectRun21” which focused on what factors contributed to people getting injured after running a half marathon, based on their training regime. This particular study attributed it to lack of weekly training mileage (<15km/week) and/or lack of speed (<6min/km).

I definitely agree with the lack of mileage as a reason for getting injured, but at risk of pretending to know something better than scientists, I don’t necessarily agree with lack of speed leading to getting injured. For me, if you’re training for a long distance race, these are the main things you need to consider with regards to preparing your body:

  1. Time on feet – for me, this is perhaps the most important aspect to training for a long distance race. With maybe only the marathon as the exception, if you’re intending to run a long distance race, you should have run for at least the amount of time you’re expecting to take to complete the race. Intending to take 2 hours to complete a half marathon? You should have done a long run that has lasted 2 hours. It doesn’t even need to be the right distance – your body just needs to know how it feels to be on your feet that long.
  2. Sufficient weekly mileage – you don’t necessarily need to have completed a run of the distance you’re aiming for, but the accumulated distance you run every week should at least be in the ballpark – running a half marathon? You should be running round about 21km, preferably more every week. This is very similar to point #1 in that you’re training your body to know what running a lot feels like, and running more every week will allow you to eventually run for that longer distance in one sitting (or running!)
  3. Don’t worry about your speed – it bugs me that a finding from the mentioned study found that speed was a contributing factor to injuries. Not because I think they’re wrong (although I want to say they are) – but more because I’ve been running slower than 6min/km for over a year now and I haven’t had any major injuries brought on by races. Very related to points #1 and #2, my thoughts on speed are that you should be running as slow as you need to in order to hit your distance or time target, not at all worrying about speed. If you want to get faster, there are plenty of ways to do that, but even if you just run “slow” for weeks on end, your body will get used to this pace and you’ll end up getting faster eventually anyway (and in my opinion stronger too).
  4. Leave yourself enough time to train – this should probably be point #1 as this is the first thing you should be considering, but we’re here now. All too often, I hear that people are about to start their training for a long distance race, but only have a few months, even weeks, to train for it. If you’re an experienced runner, this might not matter as much, but if you are less experienced, you shouldn’t be putting yourself in this situation in the first place. A training block will usually include time to increase your aerobic capacity, allow for sufficient time to adjust for increasing mileage, and also give you time to recover between all your training sessions. All of this requires time, and if you compress this into only a few weeks, you may be more likely to pick up an injury during your peak effort at your long distance race.
  5. Bonus: cross training – I’m personally only discovering the benefits of cross training myself after one year of running, so I don’t feel 100% qualified to recommend this, but based on popular advice and my limited experience, cross training (which is loosely any exercise activity that isn’t running) can help strengthen your body so you can make those longer distances a little easier.

So those are my thoughts on training for a long distance race and how not to get injured.

If you agree or disagree with any of the above, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Running Average: Mizuno Wave Inspire 14 Review

I’ve always known about Mizuno as a sports shoe brand but I’ve never owned a pair of their shoes until I started running. The one thing I can say now is that I wish I’d tried their shoes earlier.

So without further ado, here is my Mizuno Wave Inspire 14 Review

Likes/dislikes

Likes

  • Superior build quality
  • Good stability

Dislikes

  • Not the greatest looking shoe
  • Heavy

General Info

The Mizuno Wave Inspire 14 is the 14th iteration of the Wave Inspire lineup, which is Mizuno’s stability, road running shoes. Mizuno has since released the Wave Inspire 15, but being the budget sensitive person I am, this allowed me to get the Wave Inspire 14 cheaper – I did try on the Wave Inspire 15, but for all intents and purposes, they seemed to be pretty identical except that the 15 looked a bit sleeker.

The Wave Inspire 14 has a heel-to-toe drop of 12mm, and weighs 305 grams in a men’s US size 9.

Size & fit

In terms of size, I found that the Wave Inspire 14 was true to size – what’s nifty is that it comes in 2E width for wider feet (which I do have) and this means a little extra room in the toebox.

In terms of on the foot feel, I have to say that the Wave Inspire 14 has one of the most comfortable toeboxes of all the shoe I own. The insole seems to caress and mold to your foot, making for an extremely comfortable fit. Similarly, the heel fit is great thanks to loads of cushioning.

Upper

The Wave Inspire 14 features something Mizuno calls “jacquard mesh” which I understand (from Google) is pretty much just a fancy way of saying it’s a type of mesh. It features many perforations all over the upper which makes for great ventilation despite it being quite thick.

The laces are super thick, which is great because I found myself pulling on them really hard quite a lot – because the upper has so many layers, when you tighten the shoe, there’s quite a lot of compression that happens. It can be kind of tricky to find what’s tight enough when first using the shoe, but eventually you find your sweet spot.

The upper also features a whole lot of plastic overlays which both add stability as well as just generally adding weight given they don’t seem to serve any particular purpose, but overall gives the shoe it’s textbook “Mizuno” look. Despite all this, the upper feels really well put together and will probably survive some serious pounding.

Similar to the Brooks PureCadence 7, the heel collar features really thick, plush cushioning which helps make for a very comfortable fit around the ankle, and helps to lock in your ankle too. Because it’s thick around here, it also tends to absorb quite a lot of sweat.

Midsole

The midsole features Mizuno’s cloudwave technology which is designed to provide an equal parts stable and cushioned ride, which for the most part, I can confirm. I’ve spent most of my early running career in stability shoes, and this midsole, which doesn’t appear to have any obvious stability features, provides a good level of support on short and medium runs.

On long runs up to about a half marathon, I think the Wave Inspire 14 is still good, but for me, on longer runs than that, the forefoot cushioning might not be sufficient enough, though that’s my opinion with my current foot strength.

Outsole

I mention in the dislikes that the Wave Inspire 14 is quite heavy and a big reason for this is the outsole. While some more recent shoes have tried to find innovative ways of reducing the amount of heavy rubber on the bottom of the shoe without compromising durability, the Wave Inspire 14 goes in the other direction, providing probably more rubber than you could ever get through.

The outsole features ample SmoothRide rubber on all parts of the bottom of the shoe – except for a cutout in the heel – meaning no matter your kind of footstrike, you’ll more than likely have a shoe that’s going to survive you a long time.

After running in these shoes for over 200km, the rubber has started wearing on the outer edges, especially on the back corner, where I normally get lots of wear. To be honest, I thought there might have been more wear given the 12mm heel-to-toe drop lending itself to more heel striking, but this doesn’t seem to be obvious from the wear pattern.

Ride

I have to admit that there’s really nothing special about the ride of the Wave Inspire 14. It’s comfortable and plush, but it doesn’t feel like a particularly fast shoe nor does it really give you a racing feel.

What it does give me is a general sense of stability and security, which really doesn’t get mentioned in many shoe reviews, and depending on what you want from your running shoes, this might be a really valuable thing to have. For me, there are days where I just want to run and I don’t want to worry about rolling an ankle or want to give my calves a break – that’s when my Wave Inspire 14’s come out to play.

Verdict

I like the Wave Inspire 14 – it’s not the flashiest shoe (some might say it’s the complete opposite) and it’s heavy and encumbered with loads of overlays and rubber. But it’s a shoe that can fill a specific purpose in your training lineup when you need some certainty on your run. It will get you from A to B, and from B to A again, and it will do it comfortably.

Running Average: Mandiri Bintan Marathon – Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend, my wife and I traveled to the popular holiday destination, Bintan, Indonesia, for the 2019 Mandiri Bintan Marathon. We ran in the half marathon category, and I just wanted to share my thoughts on the event and whether we’ll be marking this one on our calendars for next year.

Travel to Bintan

We took the ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore, which was generally smooth. It was one of the earlier ferries in the morning so there were quite a lot of people, but lines went pretty quick. Unfortunately my wife spent most of the ferry ride itself sea sick, but otherwise the trip was uneventful.

Hotel

We stayed at Angsana Bintan, which was probably nicer than we needed it to be, but we weren’t complaining. Overall staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and were very courteous and proactive our whole stay.

I could get used to this…

In amongst everything that happened on this trip (more on that later), the service provided by the staff at Angsana and the connected Banyan Tree resorts was amazing – if there was a reason to come back again, experiencing this level of service would be a top reason.

Getting Around Bintan

Considering Bintan Resorts was one of the primary sponsors of the marathon, I expected a bit more synergy between the hotels and the race organizers. There weren’t any additional shuttle buses to Plaza Lagoi from the hotel, which we needed to do in order to pick up our race packs, and a lot of the staff had no idea the event had scheduled shuttle buses separately to get us to the race start.

We ended up having to schedule our own bus (at not inconsiderable cost) to get into town which I feel could have been easily addressed given this is apparently one of the biggest sporting events here in Bintan (along with Ironman Bintan, which happened a few weeks back).

As mentioned above, the service of the hotel staff is what shone through. Although they were ill-prepared, once they knew we were participating in the marathon, they started making what arrangements they could on their end to ensure we were ready for the race.

Race Pack Collection (Saturday)

After the kerfuffle with transportation, we made it to Plaza Lagoi in order to pick up our race pack. Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better here.

We got to the race pack collection at about 11 not long after collection started, but there was already a small line forming and by the time we were leaving, the line was getting a bit too long (and disgruntled). This was because the line was moving like a snail, mainly due to two reasons:

Despite living in Singapore, I do not enjoy queues. Especially this one…
  1. People were picking up race packs for large groups e.g. 10+ and clogging up pickup stations.
  2. Compounding the above was the fact that the racing bib organisation was abysmal. Somehow, along the way, all the numbers had been mixed up and weren’t ordered by number – the poor staff were either not trained or so stressed out by the whole ordeal that they simply scrounged through all the bibs one by one to find the right one.

What this meant is that it took at least 4-5 mins per person in order to find each bib, and ultimately what that meant is we spent almost an hour waiting in line for our race pack. This really needs to be improved for next year’s event.

Not a bad spread

The Race (Sunday)

Our day started at just before 4am as our scheduled shuttle left our hotel at 4:30am. This went off mostly without a hitch though the chartered car driver didn’t seem clear on who he should be expecting in his car.

By the time 5:30am rolled by, we were doing the obligatory group warm up at the start line, after which the elite marathon, marathon and half marathon groups were flagged off separately – they shortened the time between each of the flag off times as they were running about 10 mins late, but all groups were running by 6am, as scheduled.

Obligatory start line selfie

The route that they had planned out for us took us on roughly two big loops around the Lagoi Bay area and was very scenic and enjoyable all round – for the first half. Chatting with other runners after the race, there were plenty of comments (all negative, as far as I was aware) about the winding walking track that made up the last 5-6km being unenjoyable. Unsure if this section will be part of next year’s run, but if it could be removed the latter parts of the race will be better.

Thankfully, the way the marathon and half marathon routes were planned allowed us to see the elite marathoners zoom by at various points which was a treat for all of us while we struggled along the designated route.

The views were pretty great in some parts

By the time we finished, the post-race area was buzzing with activity and we collected our finisher entitlements – as one last unplanned inconvenience, they had run out of small size finisher t-shirts meaning my wife had to take a extra small, but lucky that it seemed to fit. Plenty of post-race hydration was available – a bottle of water, Pocari Sweat, and free coconut water meant that rehydrating was pretty much sorted.

(not that I wasn’t to point out another oversight, but the Mandiri Bintan Marathon was on the same day as the Maybank Bali Marathon, meaning they shared the same acronym, MBM. Unfortunately what that means is that most social media posts from the Bintan event were lost amongst posts from the many more participants from the Bali Marathon)

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I feel I had an average experience at this year’s Bintan Marathon – given this isn’t their first run at this, I expected much more synergy between the event and the Bintan Resorts which were sponsoring the event e.g. transportation. The race pack collection was really terrible, so this really needs to be improved if more international competitors are to be expected next year.

The race itself was pretty well organized and race schedule itself went off without a hitch. A highlight was the race pack itself and the race rewards which were plentiful and the items seemed to be of high quality.

Us and our medals

As for whether we would come again next year? While we did ultimately enjoy ourselves, there’s no one thing we experienced during the race that’s definitely making me commit to next year’s race. If I did return, it would be to enjoy the hotels and their hospitality, rather than being here purely for this race.

Anyhow, that’s just my thoughts – if you were at the race too, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Running Average: Thoughts on “Born to Run”, by Chris McDougall

I recently purchased (and finished) Born to Run, a book which has been described as one of the most influential running books out there.

Having finished it, I have to say that it was well worth the read – if nothing else, the style is extremely engaging and entertaining, and the book makes a strong statement about humans and how we are, well, born to run (I don’t think that’s a spoiler…). I can definitely see why this book has become to popular, not only within the running community, but in the mainstream market as well.

To that end, I did want to jot down a few of the points from the book that stood out to me, so if you’re yet to read this book, get a copy and read it as it’s a good read, but unfortunately what follows contains SPOILERS – you’ve been warned!

So, onto the thoughts.

For me, there are a few major ideas that the book wants us to remember when it comes to running:

  • Love of running
  • Running shoes cause injuries
  • Nike’s role in creating the running shoe market
  • Importance of cross training
  • Homosapiens out-surviving Neanderthals because of running ability
  • Humans being able to run into old age

And just a disclaimer before we get into it: what follows are just my thoughts – I’m naturally a bit of a sceptic, but where I can, I’ve read more into the subject matter to get an idea of where the truth seems to lie. No issues

Love of running

That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to live running – Chris McDougall

Born to Run spends most of the book glorifying and, perhaps rightly so, immortalizing the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico as the greatest ultramarathon runners of all time.

In particular, the book points out that one of the Tarahumara’s primary strengths is that because they associate running with community and freedom, they love to run, and therefore continue to do it day on and day out without giving it a second thought. Similar to how kids seem to possess unbridled joy.

I think there’s definitely something in that argument, particularly when it comes to our lives that we know now – when we move from childhood to adulthood, we study, we learn discipline, we learn about life, and we learn to play is secondary to working hard. So why would we enjoy exercise, let alone running, if we’re taught our whole lives that we should be working hard, not running hard?

Definitely something I’ll be taking forward – hopefully to rekindle in myself too.

Running shoes cause injuries

A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems” – Dr. Daniel Lieberman

This is probably the most controversial and divisive point made in Born to Run. It’s the point that has made dedicated runners switch to minimal, or even barefoot, running, and continue to espouse it’s benefits to whoever will listen.

My two cents on this whole topic is that as with all things in life, it’s about balance. I don’t think that running shoes inherently cause injuries, because I don’t think it would be as simple as that. While I think it’s important to acknowledge the evolutionary aspects to how our legs came to be, I think it’s also important to recognize how far we as a species have evolved as well.

As homosapiens, we are taller than we have ever been, and we are constantly bee being told by the media that we are heavier than we have ever been. A switch to barefoot or minimal running for some people who are extremely tall or overweight may not necessarily be the best course of action to address symptoms of sore knees and ankles, and presumably applies to the extreme and everything in-between.

I guess I’m not going to pretend that I’ve done a huge amount of research on this, but the human condition has moved passed our cave dwelling days, and for those who want to rekindle that and reap certain benefits, then by all means – but shoes seem to be relevant for those of us who aren’t on the cutting edge of performance running, which is most of the human population; Chris McDougall himself included. So don’t ditch your shoes just yet, in my opinion.

Before I move on, I think there’s definitely something to be said for walking around barefoot to strengthen your feet in general, however running barefoot is a completely different ballgame.

Nike’s role in creating the running shoe market

“It’s the new Nike Free, a swooshed slipper even thinner than the old Cortez.”

And it’s slogan?

“Run Barefoot”

– Chris McDougall

Another controversial point made in Born to Run, but hasn’t seemed to get as much publicity as some of the other points in this book, is the suggestion that Nike continued pushing and expanding its shoe operations despite being aware that barefoot running is the best way to run.

For me, these chapters are written a bit too antagonistically – there’s probably no doubt in many people’s minds that Nike has really capitalized on the sports shoe market in our lifetimes, to the point where it’s almost synonymous with the concept of sports wear in general. However, the idea that well-respected scientists and entrepreneurs went out of their way to make a buck by ignoring what their customers actually needed, seems a bit farfetched, if somewhat unfair.

As touched on above, the barefoot movement has its place in promoting the strengthening of feet, however our needs as humans have changed – we invented stuff called “asphalt” and “bitumen” which most of us need to run and walk on everyday, so it would be ignorant to say that running shoes don’t at least play a part in protecting our feet.

Once again, I won’t pretend that I’ve done a lot of research into what shoes are the best (e.g. zero drop, minimalist, high drop, maximalist), however the one idea that I like to reinforce is that you should run the way you want to and pick shoes (or no shoes if that’s really who you are) that you are most comfortable in. Nobody’s saying you won’t get injured – but if you do, I feel Nike may not necessarily have anything to do with it.

Importance of cross training

Before the Tarahumara run long, they get strong. And if I wanted to stay healthy, Eric warned me, I’d better do likewise – Chris McDougall

For me, and maybe because this is where I’m at in my running journey, this is the most important point in the whole book – that cross training is crucial to success as a long distance runner.

I myself have reached a point where my body is going as far as it can without breaking down, and I can see that the only way to get further is to build strength in some of the muscles I’m actively using, as well as some of those that I’m not.

This chapter floats the idea that the Tarahumara are not only runners, who are a one trick pony, but great athletes who are well-rounded in many sporting aspects which complement their ability to run for hours and hours. And that certainly rings true for me – if you do one particular activity for so long, neglecting everything else, you open yourself up to possibilities of injury when that something else happens.

This is why moving forward, I’ll be doing all I can to incorporate more cross training into my schedule.

Homosapiens out-surviving Neanderthals because of running ability

Smothered in muscle, the Neanderthals followed the mastodons into the dying forest, and oblivion. The new world was made for runners, and running just wasn’t their thing. – Chris McDougall

To reinforce the notion that humans, or more specifically homosapiens, are in fact born to run, McDougall takes us on a evolutionary journey down memory lane. More specifically, why we as homosapiens survived and Neanderthals did not.

While this is definitely a compelling argument which is supported by some interesting evolutionary traits that homosapiens possess (coincidences, you might say), my opinion, as always, is that the real answer may be more of a balance.

Again, I’m no expert in evolutionary history, but the latest research suggests that Neanderthals coexisted with homosapiens for at least 2000 years, which suggests there was plenty of opportunity for crossbreeding – in fact, it’s suggested that 1-2% of our current bloodlines are Neanderthal in origin.

No doubt we will continue to learn in this area as we progress as a civilisation, but the suggestion is that Neanderthals did have something to contribute to the homosapien gene pool, otherwise their lineage may have disappeared completely.

And it may not have been one particular way that Neanderthals diminished to simply one part of the homosapien gene pool. There may have been other ways the Neanderthals were inferior to homosapiens – at the very least, we know that homosapiens we smarter than Neanderthals, so that in itself is a compelling reason (reason enough that we sit at the top of the food chain now).

However, the idea suggested in the book that a tribe that hunts in the exact way the scientist were looking for smacks of confirmation bias, or at the very most makes it a compelling theory, rather than scientific fact.

Humans being able to run into old age

There’s something really weird about us humans; we’re not only really good at endurance running, we’re really good at it for a remarkably long time.” – Dr. Dennis Bramble

A tantalising suggestion right on the heels of the evolutionary history discussion is the idea that we humans are capable of running well into what we consider to be old age. This notion is apparently based on statistics from marathon finishers, where a 64 year old has the potential to stick with a 19 year old because we’re able to retain our endurance and speed much better than anything else.

It’s certainly an appetising theory, and we’ve all heard the saying “you don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.” As always, my 2 cents on this is that there’s likely a balance somewhere in the details.

Marathon runners, particularly those who are older, are generally considered to be outliers, not because they can run, but more because they haven’t incurred any of the ailments that we associate with old age. It would be wonderful if we could confirm that the average person could do a reasonable amount of running and be healthy into old age, but I don’t think that’s information that we have now (and it’s not something the book spends more than half a chapter on)

The Summary

To round off all of the above discussion, I’ll say again that I found Born to Run extremely thrilling to read and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who runs, or is on the fence about starting their running journey – if nothing else, this book’s draw is it’s compelling narrative of how humans should be running, and if it gets people running, which I think it definitely has, then perhaps it’s all worth it.

All I wanted to do with the above is really put my thoughts down onto paper (or whitescreen) as I felt that although the book was very compelling, it was very one sided – perhaps necessarily, but that shouldn’t get in the way of further discussion and future research, and certainly not any misguided decisions to dive into barefoot running, for example.

As always with running, I think the most important thing to remember is to run within yourself – you know yourself better than anyone, and whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran, you know what your body needs and what your limits are. So as long as you can get out the door and start running, you’re always winning, in my books, whether we were born to run or not.

So I’ve talked way too much already – what are your thoughts on the book? Any points from Born to Run that you want to point out that I missed? Would love to hear from you in the comments or on Instagram!

Running Average: Sunday Shades – good shades for running don’t have to break the bank

If you follow me on Instagram, you will no doubt have seen me sporting some snazzy looking shades in various colours while running around Singapore. These shades are from Sunday Shades, a company started to provide a cheaper option for those people looking for shades that can be used for treks and running, but don’t cost an arm and a leg.

As a disclaimer, I purchased my first pair of Sunday Shades with my own money, and I have to say they have been worth every cent – though more on that later. As you know, I buy a fair amount of running gear so that I can review them for you, so that’s what I intend to do here – so without further ado, let’s get to the review!

Technical Specifications

Let’s get the nitty gritty details out of the way before we get stuck into my opinions.

Each pair of Sunday Shades measures 14cm across the front, 14cm along the sides of your head, and sits 5cm tall. The design is intended to be unisex, so really you’re just choosing your favourite colour, of which there are currently 18 different choices of coloured lens and frame combinations.

The frame is made from high quality polycarbonate, and all lenses include anti-scratch technology (triacetate), polarization, and meet the UV 400 Category 3 level of UV protection, which if you don’t know, makes these shades good for outdoor trekking among open mountain ranges, let alone running.

Along with your pair of shades, you will also get a Sunday Shades-branded case and microfiber cleaning cloth, as well as some stickers, in case you want to make your newfound love for Sunday Shades known.

Design

All Sunday Shades make use of the iconic Wayfarer-style which features a thicker rim, which is punctuated by your reflective lenses of choice. I’ve found that some of the colours are more reflective than others in the sun (and when taking selfies), so if you’re the kind of person who wants to hide what they’re looking at, do take that into account.

Overall, the design is simple and sleek, with a subtle “Sunday” branding on each arm. It’s tried and true design, and these Sunday Shades executes it well to help you look cool whether you’re actually trying to look cool, or you’re dying at the end of your long run.

Fit

As a person of Asian background, I’ve always needed to be cautious of sunglasses as not all provide enough stability when sitting on your face (thankfully I have quite a big head, so this mitigates it mostly, but I know many of my friends and family have an even more legitimate concern than I).

These concerns were immediately allayed as soon as I put on my pair of Sunday Shades as I notice that much of the staying power and stability is provided not by how it sits on your nose, but rather the fit of the arms around my head.

This is also how Sunday Shades manage to stay on your face all-day-long no matter the activity you’re engaging in – I’ve had them on walking, wading around a swimming pool, and spent many, many hours running in them and I’ve not experienced a moment when I felt like they were going to fall off my face. The fit is snug, though not too tight for me, which is exactly the assurance you want when you’re running out into the sun.

Robustness

Another general concern I have with glasses in general is how robust they are – as a native glasses-wearer, I have a bad tendency of tearing glasses off my face in every which way, which has generally exposed any weaknesses in the construction of said glasses. After almost two months of wear, my Sunday Shades aren’t showing the slightest bit of wear in the hinges or the finishing.

With that in mind, it’s a good time to mention that these shades are pretty damn good at resisting sweat. Ever since moving to Singapore, I sweat like I’m competing with Niagara Falls for most impressive waterfall and it gets everywhere, but a simple wipe down of the outside of the shades after each run gets the sweat right off, ready for your next adventure.

Price

Here’s where this review gets really interesting – on their “About” page, the founders of Sunday Shades say they started this company to give runners and adventure buffs a choice when it came to functional sunglasses, instead of having to fork out $200. Worse still, if you happen to lose those shades, you’re forking out the same amount again to replace your original pair.

Enter Sunday Shades – they currently cost $49 SGD here in Singapore, which is darn cheap compared to your Oakleys and other high performance brands. Of course, design and preference come into the picture at some point, but if you’re not opposed to the classic Wayfarer design, you’d be hard pressed to find shades suitable for running on basically every level AND at that price point.

Overall

Before Sunday Shades came into my life, I found it extremely difficult to find a decently priced pair of sunglasses that could both protect my eyes and withstand the rigours of my running – blood, sweat and tears, and all. Thankfully I decided to try them out because they have since become an essential part of my running quiver – and they look stylish to boot!

Thanks for reading this far into my review, and since you have, I figure you deserve a reward – the folks over at Sunday Shades have given me a unique code – AVERAGERUNNING15 – and if I’ve convinced you to get a pair (or two) for yourself, you can use that code to get 15% off. Hope on over to www.sundayshades.co to check out their range for yourself!

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