Saturday, May 28, 2011

RJ Review: The New La Sportiva Electron. A Wave of Change.

For now, let's forget its technical specs and wonky features and strange wavy-sole, and cut to the chase:  the new La Sportiva Electron makes a bold dash for the trail shoe sweet spot - the nexus of comfort, nimbleness, and durability.  

So many trails shoes these days shine in just one, or maybe even two, of these areas but fall short in the grand triumverate.  And it's something we all put up with, choosing shoes that fit our one or two chosen propensities but leave us quietly yearning to have at least one shoe in our quiver that feels like it does it all, and well. 

The Electron - two years in the making, according to La Sportiva - does a good job filling this tough role, unifying a number of key trail shoe qualities.  

It's not a minimalist shoe, to be sure, but it's got a modest heel-toe drop (11mm) and sits fairly low to the ground. And even though the heel is built up larger than in most low-profile shoes, it has a diagonal cutout at the rear, which helps promote a nice mid-foot strike.

It's not a beefed-up cushy road-type trail shoe, either, but its one piece, slip lasted upper is sock-like and extremely comfortable and form fitting. And its ride is very soft but also very nimble - this due largely to a decently low center of gravity and its new wavy, "MorphoDynamic" sole, which is the fixture of this new line of shoes, which also includes the Quantum.

The "MorphoDynamic" sole is made of the same FiXion AT rubber of the Wildcat sole - mid-stickiness in the La Sportiva running shoe range -  and, in theory, its shape and suppleness help the tread conform to a trail's features, softening the ride and improving grip.  In practice, the sole did have a perceptibly different feel than other shoes in my closet, though it was one of degrees rather than a true sea-change.   On standard, flat trail and climbs, the differences were pretty nominal, but the wavy sole came to life on quick, serpentine, and buffed out descents, where it made the shoe feel fast, supple, and solid.  On craggy, loose, and super technical trail - the bread and butter of La Sportiva trail shoes - it felt much like other Sportiva models, which is to say solid and confidence-building with a good deal of protection.

One key frailty of the new sole that came up in testing was its performance on snow.  On an inch of fresh spring snow, the shoes slipped fairly often on some pretty standard singletrack ascending and, especially, descending, something that rarely happens with my other good trail shoes.  Given the smooth, wavy profile of the sole, this wasn't too surprising but is something worth noting if your spring and fall are marked by a good amount of snow, as they are here at the Run Junkie's Northern Rockies proving ground.

As for fit, the shoe is very comfortable with a good-sized toe box that fit this runner's wide forefoot, but the make-up of the upper should allow the shoe to conform to most foot shapes.  Compared to last season's lines, the modest arch support of the Electron is placed slightly more toward the rear, and the shoe fits a half-size (Euro) larger than the Wildcat.

Its weight, at 337 grams, puts it a bit lighter than the Wildcat and a bit heavier than the new Crosslite 2.0, and more than a 100 grams beefier than the stripped-down New Balance MT101 (221 grams).

The Bottom Line
Minimalists will discount the Electron, and I guess they should; there are a number of other choices to better fulfill fantasies of running barefoot with locks a-flowin'.  But for others looking for some great minimalist qualities wrapped in a shoe that would also be a pleasure to lace up and take out for 30, 50, or 100 hard, technical miles, the Electron is one to try - once the snow clears.

More Run Junkie shoe reviews.

(Test shoes supplied by La Sportiva.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

60 Minutes of Heaven and Hell: 2011 Titus Van Rijn (TVR) One Hour Distance Classic (Sun Valley Edition)

The numbers were whittled down a bit from last year's record-breaking turnout - as smarter souls found themselves "unexpectedly" tied down with other obligations - but the 2011 running of the Titus Van Rijn (TVR) One Hour Distance Classic - Sun Valley Edition was as grand an affair as always.  Eleven toed the line on what turned out to be a rare beautiful spring day.

The TVR is a festival of running that takes place across the country between May 1 and June 14.  All that's required is a standard length track, stopwatch, and the will to run for 60 minutes while keeping track of your laps.  Results are then sent in to national TVR headquarters, where they're compiled and posted, along with entertaining race reports from sea to shining sea. The official TVR site has more details, great history, and past results (TVR site).

Taking top honors at the Sun Vally running of the TVR was, yet again, Brad Mitchell, covering close to 10 miles (15,875 meters).  Tied for second were Alex Gonzales and Hank Dart, with 13,680 meters (8.5 miles).  Top woman was Julie Cord (12,260 meters; 7.6 miles), with EJ Harpham close on her heels (12,030 meters; 7.5 miles).

AJW and his fish shorts and Liv Jensen, regulars at past runnings, missed the May 19 event, but are likely to schedule a re-run later this month.  Look out for a supplemental report should they open the event up to the press.

Full Sun Valley TVR results from 2011 and 2010.

First minute.  First bend.
Rock n Roll
Brad making it look easy
Still smiling at 30 minutes
Line up on the finishing stretch
Down the back stretch in the 40th minute

In control and happy in the closing minutes
Cool down

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Running Through the "City of Rocks"

Idaho gets a bad rap, even if, admittedly, some of it is deserved: From the militias that muster in the northern pan handle to the "wide stance" of conservative GOP senator Larry Craig.  Yet, I'm a real booster for the state, especially when it comes to the grandeur of its wildlands, something I try to chronicle with a running bend on the pages here in Run Junkie.

This weekend, I was able to do a bit of running in another great pocket of the state - the rock climbing Mecca, City of Rocks National Reserve, which sits in southern Idaho right at the border with Utah.  It's an astounding valley filled with jutting granite formations, and some very nice singletrack from which you can see the sights.  It may not be the place for a run of epic length and vert but there's plenty to keep you occupied for a sub-epic outing.  And the climber-viewing is always entertaining.

A few photos:

Breadloaves and snow.
Nematode Rock.
Elephant Rock.
Right on to Private Idaho.
The "Inner City.
Climbing in the "Inner City."
The birds.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Looking for Some Mid-Week Inspiration? Check Out Bernard Lagat's 600m Repeats (Video)

Continuing the video trend, I felt a need to post this Wednesday Workout from Flotrack, featuring two-time World Champion Bernard Lagat banging out 600m repeats on some soft golf course grass.  Good reminder that you don't really need a 400m oval if you feel a need for speed.

I lost count, but they covered something like 10 x 600m at 1:40 (which he hopes to drop down to 1:30 by July).  It's hard not to be inspired by the effortless strides, but it's also great to note the largely measured pace, when you know he could go faster, and the pleading of his coach to not add one extra at the end, something I've finally come to learn is one of the main jobs of a coach.  Enjoy.

Watch more video of Flotrack's Workout Wednesday, Season 5 on

Monday, May 2, 2011

Geoff Roes Interview on Presidio Sports Following SBER 100 Win (Video)

Geoff Roes handily won the Santa Barbara Endurance Race 100 miler over the weekend, in a swift time of 16:32 (race site).  Because of the wet spring, the Forest Service pulled permits for the race in the weeks leading up to the start, causing race directors to reroute the original course, which was to have 36,000 feet of climbing, largely over singletrack.  The revised course took place largely on dirt roads and Jeep trail but still had hefty amounts of climbing and whipping winds.

Video of Roes interviewed by Presidio Sports, where he talks about the SBER course, UTMB, and the draw of ultramarathoning: