Friday, 31 October 2014

Product Test: New Balance M1260v3

Brand New
Product: NB M1260v3 (2013)
Size: 9.5 (UK)
Width: 2E
Price: £125
Replaced: NB M860v2
Available for Women: Yes

Having reviewed a number of recently purchased running products and in turn received some positive feedback, I've now decided to review my first bit of clothing - this time my trusty running shoes!

It's difficult to say something new about trainers which hasn't already been covered by countless other reviews on the web. However I'm so pleased with my NB M1260v3 that I need to sing their phrases somewhere.

There are two main reasons why I'm writing this review:
  • My current pair have thus far clocked up a staggering 1,000 miles since I bought them at the end of January and yet they are still going strong (just)
  • Although they are the 2013 version and have since been superseded by 2014's v4, they are still available to buy from numerous places at a heavily reduced price
That makes them a serious contender for anyone wishing to purchase a long-distance stability shoe that has plenty of cushioning and protection for those delicate feet and knees.

Type of Runner
To put the review into context I first need to briefly mention my running style; the surface I run on; and more importantly the kind of mileage I run.

I am flat footed which means my arches have collapsed. This is not something that just happened - I was either born with it or it happened sometime over the past 40 years (yes I really am that old!). I only noticed I was flat footed when I started to take up running seriously a couple of years' ago. I therefore need a shoe that can provide me with the support I need. Likewise I mildly over-pronate (as do most flat footed people). I also have wide feet at the front, so prefer a running shoe with a wide toe-box (and more especially when running long distance due to the natural swelling). Finally I tore the cartilage in my right knee a couple of years' ago, and although I' not suffering any after-effects, I do prefer to have a shoe that is cushioned.

I primarily run on tarmac roads or compacted stone if going lightly off-road. I'm also a long distance runner, so look for shoes that will last for all those lonesome miles.

So with that in mind, let's get onto the boring technical stuff....

Boring Technical Stuff
The NB 1260 v3 features an ACTEVA Lite midsole which is approximately 24% lighter than standard foam, and a T-Beam TPU shank for optimal torsional stability and arch support. What this basically means is that as your foot wants to collapse to the inside (pronating), it neutralises the foot. 

The low-to-ground N2 technology offers a responsive, durable, sustainable cushioning to every landing, and thus protects my knees from the hard tarmac roads. This is due to the N2 being a new high-end cushioning system, which is a nitrogen injected foam. They also added an Abzorb crash pad to the forefoot, which gives extra durability and longevity.

It has a skeletally engineered FantomFit synthetic, TPU and air-mesh upper which offers no-sew welded seaming for friction-free (and blister-free) comfort.  It is finished with a blown rubber outsole for lighter weight and great traction. It has a 8mm heel-to-toe drop (which I find just right) and weighs just 10.8 oz.

To conclude this techie bit - this is an elite category of stability shoe that offers plenty of protection against the constant pounding of a hard surface. So with all the ingredients in place, let's see how I got on....

Road Test (Literally!)
After 1,000 miles
This have been my go-to shoe now for almost a year and I've never had an issue with them. I've ran on the road, off road, on ice and in the wet and they've provided me with the support and cushioning I require. 

After 1,000 miles
Where I've find them particularly good is on long distance runs, whether that be back-to-back 30km runs (over a mixture of road, compact stone and canal towpaths) or on even longer 50km runs. The space in the toe-box (as a result of going up half a size and purchasing the 2E fit) was just perfect. Your feet swell when you run long distance, so having the additional space ensures there was no rubbing and hence no blisters. Only once did I ever get a blister - but once out of 1,000 miles is not bad at all!

The cushioning, even after 1,000 miles, is still there - just! It's the start of November now and I don't expect to be still wearing them come January. My test of whether I need a new pair of trainers (with the obvious exception of the tred and body of the training wearing out) is when my knees / legs start to hurt. That's usually a sign I need to invest in a new pair. I'm not feeling that just yet, but I suspect I'm not that far off.

After 1,000 miles
After 1,000 miles
Even after 1,000 miles the actual construction of the trainer still remains in a good state. As you can see from the pictures, there are no issues with the upper body, and the sole although showing some wear is still going strong and still providing me with enough grip on slippy terrain. To be honest I've never washed them - about the most I do to them is spray them with a foot odor after I've ran in them.

When I originally purchased these they cost of £125, which I thought was expensive for a pair of trainers. However I think they've been worth every penny given how far I've ran in them.

There are so many factors that go into determining the life of a running show - the surface, your size and weight, weather conditions, cadence and running style, running speed and even quality of the running shoe (to list a few). Trying to come up with a definitive figure is impossible and at best conjecture.  The more common thought is between 300 - 500 miles for an average runner; however I've known friends who have destroyed their trainers within 300 miles and other who've exceeded well over 1,000 miles.

My previous shoes have lasted between 500 - 600 miles, and so to now find a pair that will go beyond 1,000 miles has been a blessing. Let's not forget that running shoes are the most expensive running items you'll purchase. At first glance that may not be the case when compared to your running watch; but given how many pairs of trainers you'll go through vs. the number of running watches you will purchase, then the cost soon stacks up. Therefore to pay a little extra and get double the life means a good return on investment in my books.

This is a great running shoe that is comfortable, light-weight and provides all the support and cushioning you'll require over long distance, on differing terrains and in mixed weather conditions. They're not cheap by any means - however due to v4 now being available there some bargains to be had. Amazon are selling them for a very reasonable £69.00. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Back Running!!!

I am one stubborn so-and-so!!!!

I've gone against my original plan to take a good 3 weeks off from running to allow the hamstring to heel, and decided to start running (all be it gently).

I know I should rest but I'm starting to put weight on and become unfit, so for the past couple of weeks I've been running regularly.

The real sign of how unfit I'd become was last Saturday when I attended Parkrun for the first time since April 2014. On that occasion I managed a new 5km PB of 23:20; I went out last Saturday and came in over a minute later and almost had a cardiac arrest! I can't believe 2 months ago I was running back-to-back 30km training runs; running marathon distance runs before 9am on a Sunday; and even doing a 50km training run before 10am on a Sunday! Now look at me - totally out of shape and mainly due to injury and then drinking a little too much.

Saturday was therefore a wake up call to do something about it before it gets worse. Don't get me wrong, I'm not fat and nor have I really put on that much weight; but my cardio is a lot worse. I've therefore decided to get back out and get my base fitness back!

I've run everyday this week and tried to keep to a sub-160 bpm target (incidentally I'm a high-beater). This is 10 bpm higher than I'd like, but at least it's a start. I've mixed my runs from short 5km lunch runs to hilly 17km runs. The idea is not to inject pace at this stage but to spend a couple of weeks pumping in slow and steady miles and get that heart rate more stable. I'll then start on speed work and progression runs. I'm hoping it won't take too long to get the fitness back - afterall, it's not like I'm starting from scratch.

As for the hamstring - well yes I can still feel it, but I think I can manage it. By not running fast; having a low cadence rate; and avoiding speedy up hill runs, I am able to manage the hamstring. Yes it sometimes feels like someone has punched me in the back of the leg, but at least it's not getting worse. In fact over the past week or some it seems to be getting a little better.

Yes I am stubborn...but what's new!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Stort30 - Withdrawal and halt to running (for a while)

A very quick post just to let everyone know that I am pulling out of the Stort30 run at the end of the month (October). 

There are two reasons for this:

  • I've had enough of being in pain after running off road for significant periods of time
  • My left hamstring still hurts after the interval training

I'm not just pulling out of this event but I'm also taking an initial 3 weeks off from running to allow the hamstring time to heal. This will take me to the end of October. If it heals then I'll look to enter a couple of 10k races during the course of November / early December.

After training hard since November 2013 my body has finally given way and I need time to rest.

Feeling Like A Failed Runner

I'm quite sure how to start this blog. I've tried several times and failed. Tried several times to think of a positive, and on each occasion failed. My failure to complete this blog entry earlier is almost (but not quite) as bad as the feeling of failure I have at the moment. A huge disappointment...

It all started to go down hill the week before the run when I twinged my left hamstring. I just knew that would be a limiting factor, but not as much as the tendons in my right foot. They have a nasty habit of flaring up when running off road for significant periods of time. These two concerns filled me with dread even before I started.

Caroline Smallman agreed to run with me to Pewsey (38km mark) where upon she would leave the canal and catch the high-speed train back to Newbury whilst I continued towards Devizes (57km mark). That was the plan anyway....

We met at the Monument in Wash Common at 5:30am on the Saturday and set off towards the canal in the dark. I'd strapped my hamstring up and it felt okay to start with, although I did mention to Caroline whilst running towards the canal that it was unlikely I'd make the whole run. We chatted away and before long we hit the very dark and very silent canal. 

Pewsey Route
We gently ran towards the first checkpoint (not really a check point, but in my head I'd marked specific locations as places to reach) of Kintbury (10km mark). I was looking to keep the pace slow for two reasons: 1) I figured I had quite a bit of running to do that day and didn't want to blow up; 2) Caroline was training for her first marathon in 3 weeks, so I didn't want her to run off too quick. It needed to be a nice gentle "chat pace". That is precisely what we stuck to although I noticed my heart rate was particularly high (averaging between 160-175 bpm). That was crazy and I couldn't bring it down. Not sure if the HR monitor was playing up, but it didn't change for the duration of the run (much to my frustration!).

We ran past Kintbury and the morning light started to appear. I knew it would rain at some point; it was just a matter of when. So there we were, running along the towpath chatting away whilst music flew out of Caroline's rear via her iPhone. Said hello to a few people along the canal and then we hit Hungerford (15km mark). After briefly stopping to chat to a guy and his kids who'd dropped their Royal Mail parcel reminder in the canal we then continued on. It was on this next stretch that I could start to feel the top of my left thigh hurt a little. I'd strapped the leg up to deal with the hamstring and to be honest the whole upper leg was starting to feel like someone had punch me. Not a sharp pain; just a continued dull ache. Each time we reached a slight slope (i.e., going up the side of a lock) I'd walk as oppose to running up the incline with a dodgy hamstring. This seemed to help the hamstring. My HR was still high and I'd given up all hope of bringing it down. I did a 30 mile run last month and averaged 148 bpm; I'm now running along the same route at a slightly slower pace and my HR is sky high. As a I say, not sure if it's the HR monitor or not.

Caroline was flying.... she looked really comfortable with the run and it was really nice to chat to someone whilst running a long distance. We reached Great Bedwyn whereupon Caroline topped up her water. The next stop was Crofton Pumping Station (26km mark). I topped up my water and electrolyte and eat a rather disgusting High5 bar. Took one bite and binned it. At this stage our pace was quite slow and that was my fault and I was deliberately trying to slow us down. 

We set off again and then the rain started to come. As we plodded on my left leg was still aching but it was my right foot that was starting to bug me. Even with the tendons inflamed I can still run; the real pain usually comes after the run when I can't walk for a number of days. I could feel the tendons start to become irritated and I just knew I was going to be in pain for a few days. I can run 70-80 miles in a single week without any issues; but as soon as I go off road for a significant period of time the problems start to arise. 

We continued along the canal until we reached Pewsey (38km mark). The towpath was starting to become muddy in sections and in my head I figured there was no way I was running back from Devizes with such a dodgy right foot. When we reached Pewsey I needed to make a decision to either continue to Devizes or head home with Caroline. In my head I was sure there was a train station in Devizes but couldn't remember, and my phone signal was so bad that I couldn't check. I all I know was that Devizes was pretty much an additional half marathon distance away. Having stopped for a  little while to check the phone, I could feel my right foot even more. I discussed it with Caroline and decided that this was only a training run and so decided to stop and get the train back. We ran to the train station and I was somewhat gutted and disappointed in myself. I really wanted to run further; I'd trained for it. Yet another failed run.....

When we got to the train station we saw that the next train wasn't for 3 hours! We were wet and cold by this point so tried to find a bus or taxi to take us back to Bedwyn so we could get a local train home. No such luck. We were in a Dead Zone! Having got a coffee in a local Spar, Caroline called her partner (Lee) who very kindly came to pick us up.

On the way back in the car, whilst chatting to her son, I was also going through the run in my head. I was so pissed off with myself. Why I attempt these kind of runs I don't know. I set myself targets and fail in achieving them. I hated myself and more especially my right foot!!! If I'd been running along a road I would have gotten much further. I really did feel like a failed runner.

We got back to Newbury and I left Caroline and her family and headed home; totally dejected! The next day, as night follows day, I couldn't walk! Tendons in my right foot were inflamed and I couldn't put any weight on it. It was like that for at least 2 days, and it really hurt.

In hindsight I'm glad I stopped when I did for a number of reasons: I would have felt shit if I'd continued running then found out later than Caroline had been stranded on her own; a day later I found out there is no train station in Devizes!

This latter point I've been thinking about much. With no train station in Devizes I would have had to have made one of two choices: call my wife to pick me up (not a good idea!); run back. I suspect knowing my stubbornness I would have run back through the pain. And this is the point - and more so with ultra running. I only seem to push myself when I have no choice but to do so. I would have run back and hit my target, despite the pain.

So maybe when I say there was a number of reasons why I'm glad I stopped in hindsight....maybe there was only one. It just happens that leaving Caroline stranded was never an option. I would always stop running so in that sense I'm glad I stopped when I did.

So there we have it: another long run attempted and another failed run achieved, and all because of injuries. I've learnt my lesson though. I have the Stort30 lined up at the end of the month, but I've decided to pull out of that. I'm not prepared to run along another canal again until my right foot is fully healed.

That means my long-distance running is now over...and over for quite a while. My wife is giving birth to our second in December, so for the bulk of 2015 I'll be busy with that. I'll try and get some runs in to keep fit, but it's unlikely I'll be doing any long-distance running. Hopefully this will allow my right foot to fully heel. 

That also means the end is near for this blog page, since I mainly use it to track my training and events. 

I hope Caroline nails that marathon - I'm quite sure she will....

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

To run or not to run....a 70 miler with a dodgy hamstring!

Excuse my language, but I am getting pretty wanked off with getting injured! FACT!

I have a 70 mile run lined up on Saturday 4 October, and my training has been going quite well. However last Saturday I did some 500m intervals and twinged (strained) my left hamstring! It's not painful, but I can definitely feel it.

Unfortunately I don't have time to recover and then run it. My long distance running is scheduled to stop at the end of October due to the arrival of Nicholls Jnr. No.2. I have the Stort30 (30 mile race) lined up in the final week of October and I'm busy the weekend of 11-12 Oct. Leaving the run until the 18-19 Oct is a little too close to Stort30, so realistically I only have the 4 Oct to make this 70 mile unsupported run.

Decisions, decisions....