Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hi-Tec Nazka 5.0 "Out of the box"

This week I've been sent a pair of Hi-Tec's Nazka 5.0 trainers so it's that time again!

Southend's finest sports shoe manufacturer has been producing decent footwear for years and now they've turned their attention to minimal running footwear.

Out of the Box!

 I'd first been introduced to Hi-Tec as they're main supplier of trainer to the British Army. For years Silver Shadows have been the recruits best friend and to be honest they weren't actually that bad but like everything, things change and now people are spoilt for choice.

I'd first heard that Hi-Tec had produced a minimal shoe when I'd a budget trail shoe "shoot out" article in Trail Running mag this month. I was lucky to have sampled several offerings from the local manufacturer in the past and my everyday shoe of choice is currently a pair of Magnum V-Lite Intrepid HPI in Multicam.

There had been limited feedback on these new shoes so far as they are quite new but Trail Running mag basically stated that they were probably not suitable for anything other than the easiest of off-road terrain, well I was going to find out the truth today the hard way (literally possibly).

Well first impressions? I opened the box and.... err to be honest, I wasn't struck done by their awesomeness. They actually looked like a brown pair of Silver Shadows! BUT looks can be deceiving.

The design is what I'd call traditional paired with a Vibram sole in a style that I'd actually never seen previously. They aren't exactly what I'd call aggressive and I was starting to think what I'd heard might be correct and maybe they should have been a little more daring?

A great little village

Anyway as they say "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" so it was time to try them Out of the Box! I decided as part of my taper for the South Downs Way 50 miler to run a 7 mile trail race in the lovely Essex village Felstead. For those not in the know, trail races are off-road races following written directions describing the route to be taken.

It's always a guess on what the course will be like and what type of footwear to use but this time of year you can guarantee road shoes wouldn't make it. I got to the start only to hear the organiser describe the route as reasonably muddy. I was starting to think that I should have brought another pair of shoes as a back up but hey ho!

Pulling on the shoes for the first time and I have to admit they were feeling good. The toe box didn't look too wide but even with my wide hobbit-like feet they were ok. They come with what they described as an "Ortholite footbed" which looked like a standard insole to me but what do I know? and they felt comfortable enough.

I checked in with the race organiser and soon I'd got my instructions and I was off. In the first few metres I'd already covered wet grass and mud on a school playing field and a number of gravel tracks but so far so good. The next few miles I was now out of the village and crossing various ploughed fields, some areas were exposed to the elements over and as a results were frozen overnight but then next you'd be wading through ankle deep sections.

Generally the shoes held up well and even in technical muddy areas where you were moving fast and jumping all over the place finding the best route, the Nazka's held up well. Did I "loose it"? Well yes but not that bad only slipping a couple of times in sections that were extreme and anything other than spikes would probably be just as bad.

The end product

I got to the finish and as you can see from the pictures, the footwear had a pretty serious test. I'd earlier taken these out of the box for the first time and I didn't even have anything that even resembled a hot spot from the run and I actually wanted to carry on.

U got sole! - Good enough but could be a little better?

I like these a lot as I feel they offer people an easier route into minminal running with minimal transition pain and I certainly had no issue with forefoot stiking in them. the 5mm heel to toe drop is nothing in reality and as I said in the video I shot, I actually like the cusioning as it gives hard working feet a little rest when required.

So do I like them? Actually yes! Not sure I'll wear them all the time as I feel the sole could be a little more aggressive but I could see me wearing them as an everyday shoe busting them out in anger as required. I would like to see a more hardcore barefoot / minimal offering though.

Monday, 25 March 2013

The day after tomorrow

After the relative "success" of the Orion 15 Saturday, focus now switched to the next day and the Sevenoaks Circular, run by the Kent branch of the Long Distance Walkers Association this was a challenge event which meant runners could also enter.

There were 3 routes today to chose from 15,20 and 30 miles. I'd obviously entered the 30! I was starting to regret this choice but knew I had to do it as I needed the time on my feet as training. By some form of miracle it looked like the snow had stopped over night meaning the drive to Kent wasn't going to be too hard.

I left the house just after 6am and in about an hour I was pulling up in the car park. I love these events as I was greeted by smiling faces and a mug of tea! (You don't get service like this at road races.) Soon the club was filling up as I sorted my kit. I was wearing a base layer with a thermal top and didn't know if I should go straight for waterproofs and if to wear trail shoes or full on fell shoes? Fell shoes once again and a windproof.

It was then I noticed a couple of familiar faces enter. I'd not heard of anyone else I knew entering but due to the poor weather two of my running club colleagues were in attendance. John Williams, a seriously experienced fell runner of class and Janet Hill, a legend in my opinion in off-road long distance ultra running. They joined me at the table and confirmed they switched plans last minute due to the weather. (John was running Wrekin Fell race and Janet a 55 mile ultra in the Yorkshire Dales!)

Soon we were at the start line stood in front of some iron gates that looked like they protected a stately home, then we were off. As soon as we started I could already feel the pain from yesterday's run. I had a plan today to take it easy but also didn't want to take too long. We were soon negotiating large slopes and extreme mud (ring any bells?) and I knew at this point I'd be in for the long haul and it was going to be a long day.

There didn't seem many people running the 30 miler and already the small field had spread. John was already nowhere to be seen and I was trying hard to stay with Janet as long as I could. With field after field of ankle deep mud or snow, the going was slow and I was taken completely by surprised by how big the hills were here. I'd trained in the North Downs area just once before but don't remember anything like this, anyone that says the south is flat is mad.

Eventually I get to the first checkpoint which was only a couple of people in a car park. I got my card stamped and set off just in front of Janet. Due to the location of Sevenoaks the route seemed to cross a number of large "motorways" at various points and we're soon crossing yet another main road only to end up..... you guessed it! in yet another muddy field.

The other main factor that I haven't mentioned yet was the fact that it was a narration event. This means you follow a set of descriptive instructions that literally tell you which way to turn. This is something I've done loads of times in trail races before but this does slow you down as you need to keep track of where you are on the instructions and one missed turn can result in a 30 mile run turning into a 35 mile run.

So far the instructions were decent but as we entered a small village I could see a group of runners questioning the route. I stopped briefly to confirm where I thought I was and then carried on. This group were runners who had passed me in the first few miles and I have to admit it felt slightly morale boosting overtaking them (you need to use anything to mentally help you.)

I was now running in a small group of me, Janet and a girl that as it happened knew an old friend of mine (small world hey!), suddenly from behind up pops John! When did we overtake him I thought? He confirmed that he'd not been careful (his words) in one section and had ran some extra miles in error (as I said, easily done).

Finally we got to the second checkpoint. This time it was typical LDWA fare a large village hall with loads of food and drink. I took off my pack and relaxed for a while with a mug of tea (note, you have to bring your own mug, LDWA rules). Before I'd finished my tea John and Janet had already gone! I knew I shouldn't stay too long and quickly downed the drink and grabbed as much food as I could hold and started walking down the road.

We were now at mile 12 and I was feeling ok. What I did remind myself was that we were not even halfway yet though. More fields, mud, snow and hills followed and I'd managed to catch Janet and a few others up as we wove through the occasional forest and sprinted on downhill sections but as soon as I'd catch them up they'd drop a gear and motor off (these were experienced guys).

I managed to get to the next checkpoint at around the 20 miles mark with the group in sight and again consumed a couple of sausage rolls but didn't hang around too long this time. I followed the group including Janet into a large wood with what seemed like a thousand small paths within it. Soon I noticed where I'd been pushing to keep with the group that I'd lost my place in the instructions! Stuck in a huge forest with no idea where I was heading could spell disaster. As I've said it's easily done and normally you can eventually find a reference point on the ground and continue from there but I had little chance in this place.

I'd done a lot of these type of events before so decided to take a leap of faith and push hard to keep the group in front within sight and just hope they knew where they were going (not ideal). I knew Janet had done this run before and even though the route does change I guessed that the same hall checkpoint "might" have been used before and as a result the route could be similar? This may sound like like a risk but it was a calculated risk and sometimes you need to think fast. Due to the ground I'd often loose sight of the group though so I'd have to then push even harder just to catch a glimpse.
Soon I got to a section though where I could once again match the instructions to the ground and I started to relax. Not for too long though as soon I was falling back from the others and at the base of what looked like the only mountain in Kent. I could see the others in front getting to the top but they were just dots in the distance now!

I noticed that I could barely walk up the hill and I was starting to sway. I was barely 24 miles into the run and already my body was starting to hit the wall. I'd eaten previously but obviously not enough, I'd also been trying to ration my energy gels a little and this had resulted in the state I was in. I was in a bit of a mess halfway up when I was passed by a runner that I'd motored past earlier. I gave myself a mental kick up the ass and told myself to "man up". I composed myself and started to eat as much food as I was carrying and within a few minutes I was feeling slightly better. I started climbing faster and soon I'd reached the next checkpoint.

The group in front must have been feeling it too as some of them were still there but Janet had long gone. I know it sounds strange but I was impressed I'd stayed with her for so long. I don't know Janet that well just what I've been told but she has an awesome resume of runs behind her and has completed several 100 mile plus races. This was probably a stroll for her and I got the idea that she could probably run this pace forever!

By now the calories had kicked in for me and I thought I would need to re-think fuelling on the SDW and take some more real food and start eating a lot earlier. I got the same advice from U.S. ultra runner Catra Corbett when we had swapped emails and really she was dead right! The kit mods that I'd had done including the front pouch worked well but to be honest the pouch was still a little small as I'd like to carry more food to hand and I'd also like somewhere to store gloves or hat when not being used and removing the pack is a last resort.

At the last checkpoint I knew I was only a few miles from the finish but from the instructions linked to my Garmin (the Suunto Ambit was in for repair) I guessed that the course was going to be long. I pushed as much as I could and even caught a pair of runners up that were well ahead earlier. I passed them but they too started to push and with a mile to go they passed me again. We were now on the same route we took going out and then were running through the town to the finish.

Laces frozen solid!

7 hours 20 minutes later and I'm done. I'd learnt a few lessons along the way and I couldn't help but think I needed to be a bit smarter for SDW. Yes the hills are more "rolling" there than mountainous and it's mostly paths and not fields but fuelling again will be key.

Sitting in the club house I couldn't even get my shoes off as the laces had frozen solid and a helper kindly had to pour hot water over them to thaw them out! I managed to negotiate the stairs to be greeted by John and Janet eating their post race meal. It had been hard for me but as the others had shown me, this was just the beginning!

Many thanks to Brian the main organiser and all the helpers!

Friday, 22 March 2013

The last big one!

It's Friday night and tomorrow will be the start of the last long "runs" in preparation for the South Downs Way 50 miler in April.

The forecast currently is light to heavy snow depending on what website you look at but to be honest the only thing I'm worried about is getting to the start line.
Unlike road races like this weekends Brentwood Half Marathon, the two races I have scheduled are true off-road classics and will take place no matter how poor the conditions are, in fact poorer the better (in their opinion). The Orion 15 on Saturday was described to me as the nearest thing to a fell race in the our local area based in the not so flat Epping Forest and this will be followed on Sunday by the Sevenoaks Circular LDWA event which is a 30 miler in North Kent taking in some of the "slopes" of the North Downs etc. This back-to-back plan may sound harsh but it's supposed to replicate the effects of long distance ultras where you need to be able to operate when the body is already fatigued.

Since running the Reading Half Marathon last weekend I've only been running a couple of times. One short run with Annie our Labradoodle and yesterday at the running club where it was efforts. I don't usually do this type of training and I know I should do them more often but mental note to everyone out there.... Efforts and Flip Flops don't mix!

I've just finished packing for both events and I'll be taking no chances with the weather and its warm kit all the way! Tomorrow is more about speed where Sunday is all about being out in the wet, wind and snow for the whole day.

Footwear choices are for Orion will be Walsh PB ultra's as I'll be looking for max grip on the slopes and mud in Epping and for the ultra on Sunday depending on the amount of snow currently looks like New Balance MT110's.

Apart from keeping warm the next essential choice is fuelling. This isn't so important during tomorrow's run and I'll be just using gels but the most important factor is recovery so I'll be downing loads of the Yazoo chocolate milkshake (currently half price at Tesco!) post-race.

Fuelling on Sunday is more important with gels and Nuun hydration tabs but I've also packed some normal food including some mini pepperami and cereal bars which should be enough as the checkpoints on LWDA (Long Distance Walking Association) are legendary for their supplies.

Well I'll be off now and will add to this thread post-Orion tomorrow. Fingers crossed.


Saturday 7am and the snow has arrived as promised. As I said I'm pretty sure Orion will be on but I'm a little worried about getting there.

The Road to Orion

Well I decided that the Orion Running Club's promise that this race ALWAYS takes place was worth making the effort to get there and and set off to Epping Forest. The snow was coming down pretty hard by now and the M25 was entertaining. Eventually I got to the place defined by the start nav as my destination.
I grabbed my bag and made my way to up the road in what can only be described as arctic conditions. I followed a couple of people that looked like they were heading the same place as me and we found the venue.

Orion's club building was small but had decent facilities and I was soon changed and ready for the start. I ran into a few other runners from my club and they told me some horror stories from previous years, the main one was how last year it was 21 degrees and too hot, well today I didn't think heat stroke was going to be an issue as it was sub-zero and snow on the ground, Global Warming anyone?

I said that I was going to be taking it easy as this was only meant to be a training run for me but I was then reminded that there was cut-off between the 8 and 9 mile point. With tough conditions under foot and the well known terrain of Epping, this was going to be no "walk in the park".

As soon as we started I knew I was going to find it tough. The 300 places on offer for the race weren't full as many people decided to stay at home and within 100m I was thinking maybe they chose wisely. Although flat, the start was a mixture of thick deep mud and water. This combined with the fact that every puddle was actually a potential flooded ditch made things entertaining.

Back to the subject of the dreaded cut-off. I needed to average sub 10 min miles and normally this isn't an issue but these conditions were going to be a test as I didn't want to over do it as I needed to save something for the race tomorrow but didn't really want to take the "walk of shame" to an early shower (well maybe I did?)

The first few miles were difficult as the ground continued to slow me down and at times you couldn't physically go any faster if you wanted to as there was generally one "racing line" and you had to follow the person in front. 

Eventually the course entered the hills of the forest and the highest point of Epping overlooking London and the pace slowed. I pushed as hard as I could but had to walk the short steep hills and I was starting to get concerned, this was one hard race. I approached the 8 miles point and passed a drinks station, I was inside the allotted time and one of the other runners confirmed that was the cut-off point.

I'd made it and backed off the pace so I could save something for tomorrow. At the top of the next hill I asked the marshal to confirm that the cut-off had passed... "no not yet" was their response! Crap! I looked at the watch and I was 9:59 minute miling now and I risked being pulled out of the race. I was now at the 10 mile point and it was then that I realised I'd been had. The point I'd passed earlier was correct but the marshals were trying to get people to keep pushing, oh well.
Finally I was within a mile of the finish. I pushed a little harder now as I knew I was close to home and had lot's still left in the tank and finished in 2 hrs 27 by far the hardest 15 mile race I'd run.

I have to admit Orion did a great job hosting the event and we all event got a glass of bubbly as we finished.... very nice :)

Well lets we how tomorrow goes?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Race Reading

It’s race day and time for the Reading Half marathon.

This was special for me as it wasn’t a race I’d normally run and I was actually only taking part as the event was hosted by sports manufacturer Mizuno and I was given some of their recent minimalist footwear to test.

If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that Mizuno have recently launched a new range of minimal road shoes and part of their marketing campaign was to follow a number of internet bloggers and see how they got on with the new products.

The culmination of this campaign was the blogging team getting together at Reading where I got the chance to put faces to the names. My training partner Andy Hind and myself made our way to Reading’s Premiership Football ground where Mizuno had arranged a VIP area where we were greeted with by lots of friendly faces and a rather nice goodie bag (totally unexpected especially BEFORE the race). This made a nice change to turning up in the middle of a muddy field five minutes before the start.

Our changing facilities!

 This VIP area was in the heart of the stadium and was what looked like normally the directors or player’s lounge. I was in total shock at the level of “plushness” as I pulled on my Evo Cursoris shoes whilst sitting on carpet which was better quality than my house! In fact the only damp point to the day so far was the weather! 30 minutes to the start and the light drizzle had transformed into torrential rain.

As I said, I was joined by my informal training “partner” Andy H who had been kindly given a place by the race organisers. We were both ready and as we stood with the rest of the Bloggers and I wondered how many different standards and disciplines of runners were represented here? (eventually one of the team would finish only a few minutes behind the winner!)

Andy with the lovely Fiona in the centre

I was looking forward to running somewhere different, meeting new people and especially looking forward to trying these Evo’s in their first race (following the 20 miler “out of the box” in the Evo Levitas). I know this is starting to sound like an advert for Mizuno but actually I don’t mind promoting a company that has shown an interest in the “real” running community” so props go out the them as it’s all too well knowing top runner Scott Jurek loves brand X but the majority of runners aren’t to their levels and he probably won’t go into details on how a shoe performs when worn with different socks or even give you tips on the best place to get them cheap….

Anyway, back to the rain. It was tipping it down and we started to notice that people were donning bin bags in preparation of the start (note to self, buy bin bags). Well after asking if anyone had spare bags we copied the crowd and blagged some XXXL t-shirts that we could lose later. Andy decided to ask the lovely Mizuno ladies one last time if they had any bin bags as they would be slightly more waterproof. They said sadly they didn’t and for some reason everyone was asking for them? Andy had turned around to leave when the girl called him back….. “I do have a box of these large waterproofed Mizuno branded ponchos, are they any use?” RESULT!

As we stood on the start line we decided that the extreme rain combined with the newly acquired deluxe wet weather gear meant that we should run with the poncho’s worn. This wouldn’t be as bad as it sounded as it was hammering down. As we got under way everyone had lost their bins bags and there was Andy and me still wearing ours like a couple of extras from Harry Potter!

The Cursoris were holding up well and they seemed to work with the thin compression socks I was using (£3.99 from Lidl, not bad considering you can pay £20 plus). I’d been really careful previously to keep them dry as they were so breathable I thought they’d fill up like a couple of sponges but as the rain hammered causing me to sometimes run sections of the course under water, the feet got wet but they also drained quickly and within a few minutes the lightweight material had “wicked” itself dry again and the feet were warm, most impressed!

Andy was feeling strong so he started to pull away from me at this point. I’d ran 10 miles the day before and my legs were feeling heavy so I decided I’d take it steady and run the same pace for the whole race which was currently around 8:20/min miles. This was already a lot faster than we’d planned but we felt ok so went with it. The course was 100% road based and wove in and out of Reading town centre and despite the weather it was really well supported by spectators cheering on the 18 thousand runners. This was a huge race and the only similar race I’d ever seen was London marathon.

Eventually Andy was gone but by mile 4 the rain had eased off and the sun even made an appearance. I was starting to cook under the poncho so decided it was time to take it and the huge t-shirt I was still wearing on top of the other two layers off. The t-shirt was donated to someone in the crowd but the poncho was too good to bin so I tied that around my waist. At this point I actually bumped into Andy again as he got held up in some traffic and he’d already removed his poncho! So I told him whatever happened I’d won the “poncho man test”.

I was impressed by the facilities on the course as every other mile we were presented with endless amounts of water (in squidgy “plastic bag” containers which I’d never seen before but worked well) and lucuzade sport. I’d also like to personally thank all the bands and groups which played music live supporting the runners even though they must have been soaked! Supporting runners is something that I feel is under estimated by many and really helps me especially if I’m feeling low in a race. As I’ve said previously, this year I’m trying to make an effort to support events when I’m not running and this forces me take time off to rest but also gives something back to the sport.

By now Andy had once again shot off into the distance, it was now mile seven and the heavens opened once more, this time even harder! I decided now that I’d try and push as I didn’t want to drown and after a couple of miles I actually thought I might have seen Andy again way off in the crowd.

Kit wise everything was fine, the Evo’s were still slipper-like and even the slick wet tarmac wasn’t causing them any problems so I had nothing else to focus on apart from running. I felt alright and so kept pushing, by mile eleven I was now sure I could see Andy and as the rain came down even harder all I could think of was running faster so I could to get the race over with and mentally all I was looking for was the stadium so I knew the finish would be close.

Finally I could see Reading’s ground but there was still a mile to go on the GPS and we turned sharp right away from the finish along the road we started on. I knew this detour couldn’t be for long though as we now had less than one mile to run and I also realised that the race route looped back on itself on the other side of the road so I might be “running into” Andy any minute. Well as we approached the turnaround point I saw him close for the first time in ages and now only about 100 meters away. I was by now feeling quite strong as I’d held back earlier and I pushed to the point where I was just behind him.

If you’ve read my last race report, you’ll know I’d done a similar thing (honestly not on purpose) and I felt for Andy as he’d worked hard all race and I was about to pop up and say hi at the finish. Metres to go I decided to make my move and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and I can’t write what he actual said but it wasn’t “well done Ian it’s so nice to see you after all this time” but its safe to say he was a little surprised. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t racing each other and we never have done previously but I did get the feeling he thought he’d managed to “lose me.” We ran together into the stadium and finished in 1 hour 49:48 which considering we were taking it easy wasn’t too shabby and was actually quicker than my last half marathon.

Andy was still swearing at me as we collected our medals and as the majority of the finishers donned their foil blankets we returned to our plush VIP suite. After writing this report, I felt as if there wasn’t much written about the Evo’s etc. and felt a little guilty, well what can I say though they were pretty much perfect. I had absolutely no issues with them and I could have run in them all day and been happy.

Wearing our "capes" with pride!

Actually when I was speaking to one of the Mizuno reps at the finish I told them the above and said that my only gripe was that they were road shoes and I’d wish they’d produce an off-road version as this would suit me more. I only use road races for training and I think with a different sole unit they could have a shoe that would rival Merrell and New Balance, well you never know ;) Watch out other manufacturers if they do as Mizuno produce quality running equipment and as they gain feedback from real runners anything they offer I’m sure be worth a look!

I’d like to thank Fiona Bugler for coordinating the whole Evo project, cheers to all the other bloggers but special thanks to Victoria and Rob at Mizuno.

Monday, 4 March 2013

"Out of the Box" Mizuno Evo Veritas @ Essex 20

"Out of the Box" Mizuno Evo Veritas @ Essex 20

Last time out I’d just tested the “sister shoe” of the Veritas, the Evo Cursoris. This was to be my biggest Out of the Box test so far as I set about trying Mizuno’s Minimal Road Racer at the Essex 20 Road Race.

Evo Levatis on left with Evo Cursoris on right

I’d never run this race before so had no reference to compare it to, I don’t know why but I had visions of a fast small town road course as it was on the outskirts of Colchester in north Essex. What I discovered was a picturesque 3 lap country lane road race that had at least 3 reasonable hills and even a short 500m trail section to keep me happy.

I drove to the race with my good friend Mr Andy Hind who is an established club marathon runner and we got there with plenty of time to spare. We prepared our kit and we compared our choices as even though it was chilly now, it looked like it could warm up later, decisions, decisions!

Mr Andy Hind - Any ideas what phone network he's on :)

I then got to the point with about 15 minutes to start time where I pulled the shoe box out of the boot and removed the Veritas’s (is Veritas plural already?) I’d obviously looked over the shoes before today so knew what to expect, ultra lightweight flat road racers. As I set about cutting the tags off them and removing the tissue paper from inside the shoes Andy couldn’t help but comment on how mad I was whilst laughing and from the look of the fellow runner in the car next to us, he also agreed.

Cutting the tags on the Veratis
First impressions? They were obviously more stripped down than the Evo Cursoris. The felt comfortable and the toe box section was snug due to the light mesh design but overall they felt slightly less “slipper like”. I chose the wear a pair of thin compression socks and I felt that I might get some form of rubbing due to the lack of extra padding and I nearly decided to change the socks and put on some slightly thicker examples but stuck with the original choice in the end.

As I stood at the start it was great to see so many familiar faces from my club, it was also a surprise as many of them commented on the shoes and asked if they were really “box fresh”? (nice to see people actually do read this stuff) In fact me and Andy were so engrossed in conversation that we’d not even noticed the race had started, so we thought we’d better set off!

So what about the race? As I said, it was a 20 mile 3 lap race and was far from flat, within 5 minutes we were running up a hill where if this was an ultra I’d be walking up. The good news was that the shoes felt fine and I was soon forefoot striking with no issues.

I’d agreed to run with Andy for at least the first two laps at his pace then I said I would probably slow as this was a training run for me and I was worried about my existing knee issue especially as my physio said on Friday that I shouldn’t run (thanks for the advice Liam but remember I break and you fix it mate). We were running together quite comfortably and our 9 minute mile pace was easy to maintain but it was after the first lap were I told Andy we were running too fast. The 9 minute mile pace was now 8:45 and below and even though this doesn’t seem that much difference, my long distance pace alarm in my head was sounding. We slowed a little when we were well into the second lap and it was here that I told Andy I’d be backing off on the last lap to let him go.

So far the Veritas were behaving. As I said I was finding it easy to run forefoot strike probably assisted by the lightweight design and the only issue I did encounter was on the off-road section of the course. It wasn’t lack of grip that caused a problem though even when I pushed downhill on wet muddy terrain but there was an amount of debris on the track and a small piece had set up home in the heel of my shoe. Didn’t really want to stop so I tried to flick it out with the other shoe as I ran (don’t try this at home kids). I thought this had done the trick but after a while I did noticed the familiar burning sensation. One thing I was happy with though as stated was the grip in the off-road section from the Veritas. The Cursoris performed well on loose wet gravel in the week previously and these were the same. Even though racing flats are not a new concept, these combine a clever technical tread design on the forefoot of the sole with a plain heel, best of both worlds in my opinion!

Sole pattern on the Evo's show the decent forefoot grip
We both got to the last lap and this is where I said goodbye to my running partner. In my mind I’d done well to get to this point in one piece and the knee was still a concern. I eased back the pace and saw my colleague disappear but after a couple of miles I actually still felt ok and no knee issue so I decided to push the pace again. Soon Andy was in sight and I was gaining on him, I have to admit I was feeling good physically but a little guilty as I passed him (sorry mate) and for a while we ran together but soon I realised I could kick on and decided to go all out in the last couple of miles. I pushed as hard as I could for the last mile and don’t think I could have gone any faster and I was more than relieved to cross the finish line.

I have to admit I enjoyed the run especially as I’d had so much pain and frustration pre-event. It was especially good to run most of the race with a good friend as I usually prefer running alone in races but this was a pleasant change and I was glad to see Andy finish shortly after me. We’d both finished well within the times we wanted so both of us were more satisfied.

I take my hats off the organisers especially Gary Chandler and it was also fantastic to see many club members who were not running cheering everyone and it was much appreciated. I recommend this race as not only is it a good test in a lovely setting but also very spectator friendly due to multi-lap format.

Post race and the Evos did well

And for the shoes in summary? More than impressed. You could argue that running shoes today don’t need breaking in but I don’t think you’ll find any marathon runners slipping on new shoes for a race (I didn’t even re-lace them). If you’re an experienced minimal shoe runner that runs road races then the Mizuno Evo Veritas are perfect for you. If like me you’re an experienced off-road minimal runner who likes to use road races for training then these are up to the job but I preferred the extra comfort of the Cursoris if I’m honest.

It is really close though. I think the Veritas for race and Cursoris for training works well. I’m not a road runner but even I can tell these are a quality product for the minimal runner.

And finally. Post race foot inspection revealed that the sore heel was due to a small piece of tree in my right shoe but I actually didn’t even have any form of blister anywhere!

Next race in the Evo’s will be the Mizuno Reading Half Marathon 17th March 2013, the hardest part will be which ones to wear?