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Barefoot Fun at ZombieRunner

October 20th, 2011

Last week, we had a special barefoot event with Ashish Mukharji, author of Run Barefoot, Run Healthy . What was the first thing he asked people to do? Take off their shoes, of course. To the question why go barefoot, Ashish says you should really ask yourself why wear shoes? True, sometimes you need a little protection for your feet. But most people are tougher than they think they are. Here’s another point: which is worse, a little stubbed toe, or a knee injury that won’t heal for 6 months?

The audience asked lots of questions – the curiosity for how barefooting could reduce or even eliminate running injuries is huge. My favorite question was what does your mother think of your barefeet in her house? Ashish replied that he keeps socks by the door to put *on* when he goes in. He takes them off to go out. Backwards? Maybe, maybe not. Then there’s a question of what about glass and garbage on the road, won’t you hurt your feet? Ashish has very practical advice for this. Don’t run on that stuff. When you start out, find areas that you know are smooth and clean, and practice there first. You can advance to more challenging surfaces when you feel like it. Here’s another point we liked: only barefoot is barefoot. There is a big difference between running in barefoot style/minimalist shoes vs. running with truly bare feet. The sensory feedback means you will react differently from when you have some foot covering. Your skin helps you detect trouble.

We’ve had several guest speakers on the topic now, and the basics are always the same, just expressed differently. And the nicest part is that the bottom line is always the same: don’t overthink it – just relax and enjoy :-)

Hoka One One!

September 2nd, 2011

Here’s a quick one – my notes on sizing for today. We have sold a lot of Hoka One One shoes, and the sizing experience is often different for different people. So, it’s tough to say consistently “size up!” or “size down!” However, I did a comparison of the three current styles, since we have them all in my regular size at the moment. Normally a women’s size 9.5 in running shoes, here’s how they compared:

Bondi – 9.5 fit great, good amount of toe room and snug around the midfoot.

Mafate – 9.5 was too big, longer than the Bondi and wide around the midfoot.

Stinson – 9.5 was too big, also longer than the Bondi, but fit more snug around the midfoot. The softer tongue in this shoe is really comfortable. The 9 fit me more like the Bondi 9.5.

Keep in mind a few other things about Hoka shoes. The men’s and women’s versions are built on the same lasts. This means the width is the same. The women’s-specific shoes are just different colors. The conversion from men’s to women’s is 1 size apart (a women’s 9.5 is a men’s 8.5). For my personal fitting, I have a low-volume foot with low arches. My foot isn’t narrow, but it doesn’t fill up a shoe very much. So, someone with high arches or a high volume foot will have a different experience of sizing. They may size up in the Bondi, for example, to get a better fit in the width.

So, for me, the Bondi was true to size, the Mafate and Stinson were a half size large. As for running in these shoes, I’ve tested the Mafate, and all I can say is, it’s magic on the downhills. Pure magic.

You can see Hoka One One shoes here.

Gillian

The Running Dress

August 25th, 2011

24660 515 I’ve tried a bunch of running skirts. I like them – not just for running – they’re also just easy to wear in the summer because they’re comfortable like running shorts but more modest looking. With all the different styles, there are only a few that I really like for running. Some have shorties under that ride up or contribute to chafing. Somewhere along the way someone figured that if we want to run in skirts, we might like dresses too. Well, that’s a whole other set of challenges. Getting the fit right is tough enough when it’s just the bottom, but top and bottom in one piece? Some of these running dresses even try to do the built in bra. Now you’re dealing with another set of factors. I knew that style wasn’t going to work for me, but I did find a cool looking dress that I thought would motivate me for a run. It’s the Patagonia Draft Dress. The tank in the same style has been really popular in our store. This dress doesn’t have a built-in bra, so you just wear whatever you like underneath.

So my test outfit the other morning was the dress, CW-X Xtra Support Bra, Drymax lite mesh no show tab socks, and Saucony Hurricanes. Oh yes, and here’s another thing. Running skirts have built in shorts or panties, so really they are skorts (I think most people have decided that’s a dumb name and stick with skirt). But, dresses have nothing underneath. So, I also tried out Patagonia Hipster underwear. I must say I was comfortable. The big plus with a dress: nothing tight at the waist. The fit of the dress is pretty nice, not clingy, but not baggy either. The length works great. Too long and you’re running in mom’s dress-up clothing, too short and, well, it’s just too short. I was a bit self-conscious, thinking, “Wow, I’m running in a dress.” I wanted to see if there were any reactions. Is this a weird thing to run in? But morning people are busy going about their morning stuff. So, overall, I liked it a lot and would definitely run in it again. Maybe my only complaint is that there’s only one tiny pocket – big enough maybe for a gel, but not big enough for my iPod. Otherwise, it’s light and fancy-free!

Gillian

Nathan Intensity – Trail and Road Tested

May 24th, 2011

I’ve been a 2-bottle waist pack wearer for years, but our Nathan Intensity Vest has been so popular for so long, I finally got a hold of one to give it a try. The Intensity is the women-specific version of the #020 pack, also a best-seller. The fit is different from the men’s pack, so that you can get a snug fit at the sides of the pack without the shoulders bunching up on you. The bladder in this pack was updated early this season from a screw-top to a slider top (great improvement in quality), so no time like the present.

My first test was on the road. I wanted to run for 2-3 hours and not worry about hitting water fountains. The Intesity’s capacity is 2 liters or roughly 70 ounces. My two bottles would have given me a total of 44 ounces. I didn’t need a whole lot of other stuff with me. The vest has two pockets in the front. The zipper pocket was good for a few gels, the pocket with the bungee cord was good for my iPod. And that was about it. The fit on the pack is super adjustable. The criss-cross side straps are really stable. The front strap adjusts in length and slides up and down, so it can cross your front exactly where you want it to. When I first set off I had that strap too tight across my chest and realized I couldn’t breathe. I found I could loosen that one up a lot and still have a completely no bounce pack!

It’s true that you can hear water slosh while you run (iPod helps with this problem). It kind of sounded more like someone was following me, which just made me run faster, so I thought that was a good thing. The mesh in the front and throughout the back seemed to breathe well. I didn’t get too sweaty or have a claustrophobic feeling. I liked having nothing extra on my waist. The other advantage was that I didn’t have to worry about my shorts getting stuck up under my pack.

For the trail run, the Intensity was just as good. When I set off I thought I might have trouble sucking down water on some tough uphills, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. The bite valve has a good flow and is easy to clip back into the front strap while on the move. Another advantage: I didn’t have to keep reaching behind me for a bottle (which can be awkward sometimes).

So now, any time I’m going out for 2 hours or longer, I pick up the Intensity pack. It’s easy to fill, quick to adjust and I’m always comfortable in it. I’m not sure if it’s what I would use for races, but I have a while to figure that out!

Here’s our Nathan Intensity product page.

Gillian

Shoe News – New Balance

February 18th, 2011

We just got a few new models from New Balance! I can’t help but be excited when we get shoe deliveries, no matter what kind of shoes they are. In fact, I get excited about all our deliveries – it’s like Christmas every day. Anyway, here’s the scoop on the New Balance stuff. Oh, and before anyone else gets too excited, the release date for the Minimus is March 1. So we still have to wait a bit for that one.

MR1080/WR1080

Nicely cushioned shoe. Update to the best-selling 1064. This model has more structure than a standard, cushioned neutral shoe. The heel has a firm cup, and the cushioning under the metatarsals behind the big toe is noticeable, which would provide some help to a runner who over-pronates at toe off. Some people will appreciate the bunion window and also the padded tongue.

MR759TR/WR759TR

The trail version of the regular 759, which is a neutral running shoe. Change the tread, add some waterproofing to the upper and voila! Flexible, cushioned trail running! I like the toe box on this shoe because it allows the toes to spread out, which makes people look more stable when I watch them run or walk. This shoe has a lower profile than other neutral shoes, in particular the 1080 above. The trail colors are earthy tones, so this also makes a good choice as a winter walking shoe.

MT915/WT915

The most inovative trail shoe so far this year. Stable and low profile, nice forefoot flex. Great protection is combined with a soft upper and super flexibility. There are no stitched overlays on the upper, which means added comfort. You could get away with sizing down in this shoe, since the fit for the toebox is so soft.

MT814/WT814

This is your basic trail shoe but with some nice styling. The tread is agressive, but it’s also the type of shoe you’d see people wear to the gym, just so that they don’t have to wear white shoes. It’s sturdy and supportive, certainly enough shoe for most of the trails around us here in the Bay Area.

MR860/WR860

Called the “go-to stability shoe” Update to the 760. This is your midweight stability shoe, with a cushioned heel and lower profile forefoot. The fit works for a lot of different feet (for people who need a stability shoe), and the ankle collar fit is super comfy.

MR905/WR905

We have a color update on this model, but this shoe is worth mentioning here in our new batch. It’s a lightweight stability racing shoe. This provides a firm, supportive heel with a super light, airy forefoot. Quite a combination! This makes for a great marathon racing shoe.

And another thing…

Notice the new numbering scheme? New Balance has started to standardize their numbering so that the digits and the place they’re in actually mean something. The transitional period may be confusing, but when it’s all worked out it should be a lot easier to figure out what shoe you need.

first digit – level of technology/features

second digit – type of performance (neutral, stability, etc)

third digit – category (0 for running shoes)

So the 1080 is 10 for great tecnology and features, 8 for neutral, and 0 for running. The 860 is 8 for good features, 6 for stability and 0 for running. 905 is from the old number scheme, but when it’s converted it will be 1190 – 11 for great technology, 9 for speed, and 0 for running. More to come soon. Stay tuned for the Minimus!

Gillian

ZombieRunner Bay Trail Run

December 21st, 2010

Those runners might have felt like they were actually running *in* the Bay with the kind of weather we had Sunday morning. It was impressive that almost 300 people showed up for the combined distances of 5 miles, 1/2 marathon and marathon. This was a run put on by Coastal Trail Runs with ZombieRunner as the title sponsor! Don and I went to the start of the race an hour early so that we could help where needed (hand out shirts), say hi to the runners, and see the start of the races. It was raining, and runners looked a little soggy, but mostly smiling. I couldn’t help but notice everyone’s shoes – I saw a lot of Brooks, some New Balance 101s, FiveFinger Bikilas and Terra Plana Evos.

On Saturday, the day before the race, we had the packet pickup in our store! This was a first for ZombieRunner, and we enjoyed meeting so many of the runners. Some of them had never seen our store, so we were glad they came. Runners received a ZombieRunner hat (new design), goodies, and their race t-shirt from Coastal Trail Runs. They also got a 10% discount for shopping in the store. Zombie Dawson said it was one of the coolest days in the store ever, because everyone was so nice!

So, a big thanks to Coastal Trail Runs, and for sure ZombieRunner will sponsor more races and be the host for the pre-race activities. Congratulations to all the runners for braving the elements and enjoying some trails that Don and I started running on over 10 years ago.

Gillian

No Fear or Loathing, but Plenty of Running

November 9th, 2010

“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda …. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ….”

–Hunter S. Thompson

There were 18 of them. Smiling bravely and donning layers of rain gear and hydration packs. The poor fools. Wait til they see those goddam bats… or something like that. The weather wasn’t the best but the day turned out to be a great run (so they said) for all who turned up to experience our version of San Francisco. And all the volunteers who agreed to be there smiled the whole time too.

The run mostly follows the 49 Mile Scenic drive through San Francisco, taking a few detours to consolidate the distance down to 50K. The start and finish is at Twin Peaks, where, weather permitting, you get an awesome view of the City.

Due to nasty conditions, all runners were convinced to run the 50K course, rather than the 50 mile. It’s a little known fact that only the 50 mile course actually passes by an innocuous looking residence, formerly of the race namesake – 318 Parnassus Ave. From lonelyplanet.com:

How this building survived Hunter S Thompson’s tenancy here in the mid-’60s is anyone’s guess. On the otherwise unremarkable bay-windowed facade, you might notice the odd bullet hole – mementos of parties that invariably degenerated into Hell’s Angels orgies and shoot-outs. Gonzo journalism was born when the inimitable Thompson narrowly survived to tell the tale in his book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, and state his motto: ‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’

The finishers arrived in small groups at the top of Twin Peaks. By the time the last ones came in the weather broke and a rainbow appeared across the City view. All finishers (and volunteers!) received the much coveted Fear & Loathing t-shirt, carrying on a tradition that was started 26 years ago.

Thanks to everyone for coming out!

Gillian

For Women Only

July 22nd, 2010

magda

Yesterday we had our first Women’s Night in the store, with our super guest Magda Lewy-Boulet. She is so cool! Attendees got to run with Magda (if they wanted) and then hang out while Magda shared her running experiences. We also talked about women-specific products – some that are really great, like the Nathan pack that Magda actually helped design, and other products that just change the size and color to make it “suitable” for a woman. Of course, great products don’t have to be women specific. Most of the time, sports nutrition is sports nutrition, and if you want fewer calories, you just use less of it. Magda also likes GU products (she worked there for several years), in particular the GU Electrolyte drink and GU Recovery drink (Strawberry Watermelon – mmm). The GU formula has the carbs and electrolytes you need, and nothing that you don’t need. No artificial colors or flavors.

Everybody got goodie bags and we raffled off some fun prizes. It was great to have everyone talk about running and things related to running too, like diet and rest and recovery. It seems like more women are getting into running than ever before. Take a look around you next time you’re out running or biking – I noticed way more women than men out for their Sunday afternoon jog. Some were in pairs, some alone, but they were getting out there, and that’s really cool.

Suggestions for more women’s nights? Let me know!

Gillian

G vs. the Black Mountain

June 13th, 2010

So, after a rest day and some more training, my test run last week, from the bottom of Rhus Ridge to the top of Black Mountain improved to 1:14. I knocked 5 minutes off my time! I think doing weights helps, and here’s the thing. It’s not so much that a fit runner doing weights would see so much benefit, but someone going from not quite so fit to fit again, there’s where the benefit is. Another challenge when you get back into training after little to no training is the potential for injury. Don and I were both struggling with various trouble spots, so the gym work to balance out the muscle strength was a big help to work through it.

This week, we ran the Black Mountain trial (trail trial) again, and I got it down to 1:12. I felt like throwing up at the top, but recovered quickly to run fast all the way down. So now that we’re feeling good, the only things to worry about are heat training and organizing gear, crew, pacer and all that. And Sunny the cat-sitter. Heat training can mostly be taken care of by sauna time. It’s quite effective to get in the sauna, add extra clothes (non-breathable waterproof jackets are a plus), drink water and electrolytes and take it from there. Heat adaptation can take place in as little as two weeks–conveniently about the same time as a good taper.

Here’s another thing I’ve been trying to sort out. What shoes to wear? My favorites right now are the Sportiva Crosslite and the New Balance WT840. But, the Crosslite is so firm, it’s hard to iimagine it going the distance and the 840 is kind of shapeless like a sausage, it’s hard to imagine my feet loving it for that long. I think if I have two pairs of each I can switch off as needed. For sure I know I will be in the Crosslite for the first 30 miles. They will be great in the snow (as tested on the training run), and give me the confidence boost that I need for that part of the course. From there I’m not so sure.

Another shoe note, for Badwater I’m really unsure. I have always run in Asics shoes on the roads, but their latest versions of my favorite models don’t work as well for my feet. I need some more road time to figure this stuff out. Oh yeah, and I also need another crew member… Who’s up for a super hot vacation in Death Valley in July?

Gillian

Running in the Sun on the Western States Trail

June 1st, 2010

We actually closed the ZombieRunner store on Saturday and took off to Auburn for two days of running. The training weekend on the Western States 100 trails has always been fun for us, but for the first time in a lot of years, we could run two days of it. The first day goes from as close to Robinson Flat (mile 30 in the race) as the buses can get, down to Foresthill (mile 62). There is often snow in the first section. This year, there was a bunch of snow. And we know for sure we’re going through miles of snow in the race, only 4 weeks from now. So, my goal was to be comfortable with it. If you’re timid about snow, you’ll go sooo slowly, and the trouble with the Western States race is that almost all the aid stations have cutoffs. You can’t afford to go slow! So I charged through some sections, just to practice feeling tough.

The weather was nice – still wore a long sleeved top, but I was comfortable. They don’t have as many aid station stops for the training runs as they do for the race, but the stops are most excellent! PB&J sandwiches, PayDay bars, watermelon, potatoes, potato chips, goldfish, Oreo cookies (yay), coke, V-8 juice, just to name a few things. Gets you thinking about what you’ll be eating during the race. Also, of course, the people are so great. My first ultra was back in 1999, so over all this time Don and I have gotten to know a lot of people. And everyone is so happy and friendly. How can you not be, when you’re out in such beautiful country? The uphills were fine, the downhills were even better, and the finish was very cool. The Monsters of Massage were there and do a great job, painful, but great. The elbow in the butt seems to be the best treatment for runners. I feel like it cured all my pains.

The second day’s run was from Foresthill down to the Rucky Chucky river crossing, with a 3 mile climb to get up from the river. Race director Greg Soderlund told everyone to “take the time to dip your feet in the river” so that’s what we did. A good runner follows directions well. The day got hot, and I experienced my first dehydration of the season. That felt a little bad, but replenishing with cold, cold GU Brew and water and Coke felt so good. And then, after that climb to the finish, we got hot dogs! And Sprite too, while sitting in the sun.

I felt good after the back-to-back runs (still feel good) and was a little sad we were leaving that day instead of staying for the third run, but it all worked out well. Monday was Zombie catch-up day, preparing for a nice busy Tuesday. And then on to more training!

Gillian