Thursday, 10 April 2014

An update on the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG's

Just before I disappear into the Scottish Highlands in a couple of days to walk the West Highland Way long distance footpath, I thought it was a good opportunity to give you all an update on how I have been getting on with the newly released Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG's; the soft ground version of the new Sense 3 Ultra's. 

The Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG's are a very comfortable and grippy trail shoe
Now I will be honest! In true unpredictable English weather fashion, the sea-proportion of rain we had experienced over the last few months that left half the country wading to work suddenly stopped. Since then, I have only experienced a few odd days when the heavens opened enough to soften up the local trails enough to truly test the capabilities of the Sense 3 Ultra SG's! But, in true CavemanClarke dedication, I have put on, run in and scrutinised every detail of the Sense 3 SG's as best as the weather has allowed, and here is what I have found so far.....

Comfort:
This is what really impresses me most about the Sense 3 Ultra SG's. These are by far the most comfortable pair of Salomon shoes I have ever tried to date. This is largely due to 5 main factors. 

1) The shape; the width of the forefoot is far wider than previous models I have tried. When put sole to sole with my Fellcross 2's (both the same size) the Sense 3 SG's overlap the edge of the Fellcross by quite a few millimetres, leaving much more room for the forefoot and toes to naturally spread. This is a very welcome experience for someone like me, who not only has a wide foot, but prefers a natural feel over a traditionally narrow race last.

2) The weight is very minimal leaving your legs and feet feeling fast and light.

3) The low differential of 4mm and minimal cushioning brings the foot closer to the ground and increases proprioception whilst encouraging a natural running gait.

4) The EndoFit sock-liner wraps the foot comfortably and securely and works well in conjunction with the SensiFit lacing system, to leave you feeling like the shoe is simply a gripping and protective extension of your own foot.

5) The upper materials allow a well ventilated environment for the foot to breath and remain at a comfortable temperature. Yes this does allow easy entry for water, but I have always preferred a shoe that allows air-flow and easy drainage of any water that enters the shoe due to water crossings and deep puddles.

Grip:

I would happily say that these grip as well as the Fellcross 2's, even though they feel different. The Fellcross grip tends to 'bite' into the terrain in quite an aggressive fashion, leaving quite a messy 'churned' footprint, whereas the Sense 3 SG's leave you feeling sure-footed without the need to shred everything in your path. The lugs are larger but fewer on the Sense 3 SG's and I think they give a better ride over a wider range of terrain such as harder packed trails as well as wet, muddy trails.

Muddy, wet conditions are no problem for the new Sense 3 Ultra SG's by Salomon
Much more testing and trialling is needed before concluding that these are my favourite pair of Salomon's so far, but it is starting to look that way! But first, I need some more rain and miles to see how these shoes hold up over time in terms of durability and versatility. 

One thing I can say with confidence; if you want a grippy trail shoe for training and racing in wet, soft and muddy conditions, but you also require a natural last and comfortable roomy forefoot rather than the usual narrow race last and feel, then this is certainly an excellent choice for you!

Any comments or questions, feel free to post below
Happy running
CavemanClarke

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG - First Impressions

The long-awaited release of the latest evolution in Salomons Sense range has arrived, and boy has it made an impression! I have managed to get my feet into a pair of the new Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG; the soft ground specific model in the third generation of the already successful Sense range of S-Lab racing products.



Delivered and out of the box, a few photo's for review purposes before the mud spoils the pretty colours and it was straight out for a 10k to see just how good the Sense 3 Ultra SG's really are...



Comfort and Fit:
It was immediately evident that these are a very comfortable pair of trail shoes. In the past, Salomon shoes have been associated with a narrow last and fit, leaving people with wider feet struggling to be comfortable on longer runs. This doesn't seem to be the case with the Sense 3 Ultra SG. Couple the shape and last with the EndoFit sock-like liner and SensiFit system held in place with the quick lacing system and these are certainly the most comfortable pair of Salomons I have tried to date. Straight out of the box and out for a 10k and there was no blisters to worry about and not even a hint of a hot-spot anywhere. Also, my toes were left plentiful room to spread inside the toe box, resulting in a very comfy ride. Perfect.



Grip:
The grip looks similar to the Speedcross, as if the Chevron Contagrip M&S lugs have been added to the previous Sense Ultra sole unit. Add to this the super lightweight upper and low-slung 4mm drop (13mm heel and 9mm forefoot) and this is a serious weapon for running in wet, muddy and snow conditions. I certainly encountered some very wet and muddy trail conditions on my first run in the Sense 3 Ultra SG's and the shoes handled it perfectly. I would liken the grip and performance in wet and soft ground conditions to that of the Fellcross 2 (http://caveman-clarke.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/salomon-s-lab-fellcross-2-review.html), but with a more comfortable fit, last and upper.


As with all trail shoes with a more extreme grip and lug pattern, the ride is somewhat compromised on very hard and flat surfaces such as very hard-packed trail and road, but then that is not what this shoe is for. We all encounter some road or paved sections between trails so it is worth mentioning, and the shoe will happily handle the odd bit of hard terrain, but I would try and stick to wetter and softer ground if you can. If you wanted a similar shoe for drier and hotter conditions then Salomon have answered this with the release of the new Sense 3 Ultra; pretty much the same shoe but with a less aggressive tread pattern and different colour-way (red and white).

Quality:
Time will tell on the durability of these stunning trail shoes, but judging on the reviews of the predecessors in the Sense range and other Salomon shoes I have reviewed in the past, I am not expecting any sudden disasters as these shoes appear a top-quality product.


So far so.....well, great! I am really looking forward to putting these soft ground trail weapons through their paces over the next few weeks. If the current trend of the Sense series is continued in the Sense 3 Ultra SG's, then I have very high hopes for these shoes. Until then, happy running everyone!


CavemanClarke

Monday, 10 March 2014

Garmin Forerunner 110 Review

A user friendly review of the Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS Watch

There comes a time for every keen runner when spending ridiculous amounts of time attempting to remember and plot your every twist and turn into MapMyRun, or similar online run tracking sites, just doesn't cut the mustard any longer. You just want a simple and reasonably priced GPS device that does the work for you, helping you keep track of your training routes, speed and distances covered. After 1000's of 'clocked and recorded' kilometers with my first GPS running watch, I thought it was time to let you know what my thoughts are on the Garmin Forerunner 110......


Features:
- Time, date and alarm
- Backlight for use in the dark
- GPS tracking of your running routes
- Records your speed/pace, distance and time running
- Lap splits and auto lap 
- History of your runs viewed on the watch screen
- User profile: enter your measurements, age etc to estimate calories used on each run
- Heart rate monitor compatible 
- Rechargeable battery gives around 8 hours GPS usage or 1-2 weeks normal watch features
- Battery charge indicator
- Connects to Garmin Connect via charger cable to upload run information for more in-depth analysis on a PC
- Water resistant

Size and comfort:
The Forerunner 110 is perfectly sized for use as both a GPS running partner and as an everyday watch, much unlike previous units that required incorporating bicep curls into your fitness regime to enable the user to be able to lift their arm when wearing it, or left your wrist and arm looking like a 5-year old wearing their Dad's watch. The only time you may struggle is fitting it under a tight shirt or coat cuff. I find the 110 a very comfortable watch to wear all day long, and therefore is certainly no inconvenience on a run.


Using the Forerunner 110 as a watch:
I am only going to briefly touch on this, as I imagine the majority of people viewing this review are far more interested in the GPS functions of the Garmin Forerunner series, but it is worth taking a brief moment to consider that an expensive purchase for your running can be further justified by doubling as an everyday watch. The watch will last approximately 1-2 weeks on a full charge of its rechargeable battery if you don't use the GPS. Leaving the watch untouched gives around 2 weeks, but as soon as you begin to use the backlight or use any of the functions it brings it down to around a week. Quite handy is the addition of the alarm, helping you get up for an early morning run or to remind you of something important during the day!


Using the Forerunner 110 as a GPS:
If you want to do a little 'pre-setup' you can set the watch to either record in miles or kilometers, input your sex, age, weight, height and activity level to give you an estimated calorie usage per run, and even ask the watch to let you know every time you reach a predetermined distance (auto-lap feature) which most users set to every mile/kilometer. Also, you can choose between seeing your speed (kph or mph) or pace (time to run 1km/mile).

Upon pressing the page/menu button the unit begins to search for satellites. This can take anywhere from a few seconds if you are using the watch in the same general area as on your previous run, up to a few minutes if you have travelled somewhere new. I found that the further I travelled from my usual place of running, the longer it took for the watch to find satellites.


Once the watch has found satellites, you are ready to begin your run with the simple press of the start/stop button. Then you just let the unit do its thing, it really is as simple as that.


If at any time you want to pause your run to tie your laces, take in a view or stop and have a chat to someone, simply press the start/stop once to pause and again when you resume running. When you finish your run, press the start/stop and then hold the lap/reset to end and save the run. This then stores the run in the history of the watch ready to view simple stats on-screen or download to Garmin Connect on your PC for more in-depth analysis. On screen stats include the date and time of the run, distance and average pace/speed, time running and an estimate of calories burnt based on your user profile information.


Charging and data uploading:
Connecting the charger cable is not the simplest of things I have ever come across, but you get the hang of it eventually. A four pin connector grips onto the watch and connects with four small metal plates on the back of the watch. The watch can then be plugged into a PC via USB or a wall socket with the supplied plug adaptation.



Garmin Connect (http://connect.garmin.com/en-US/) is very simple to use and is often updated to improve its user-ability. From here you can get as obsessive as you like with analysing your run data. I like to keep things quite simple and keep check on my longest runs, average speeds and total distances covered each week and month. Also very handy is the quick-view personal bests and longest run features. But if you are one to scrutinise every single step, twist and turn, elevation and splits then Garmin Connect will not disappoint.   

Things I have really liked about the Garmin Forerunner 110:
- It is a neat, tidy, light and comfortable unit that can be used as an everyday watch as well as a GPS
- It is very simple to use as a GPS watch, including viewing the data on the screen
- Enables you to keep track of your current run by providing all relevant data needed on the screen
- Records all of the information you need to keep a basic check of your training
- Data is easy to download and view via Garmin Connect

Things I would like to see improved:
- A longer GPS battery life would be a fantastic improvement; 8 hours is not enough for ultras and not enough to last the average person for a weeks use without charging
- Improved waterproofing; the unit often 'fogs up' when sweating in hot weather and it is not advised to use the watch if swimming. It would be much better if the waterproofing was improved and you could just wear it whatever you are doing, such as swimming on holiday or after a hot run
- Improved internal workings; see next two points below 
- On the odd occasion the unit has lost satellite reception and failed to record my runs accurately, completely defeating the point of having a GPS watch, and these have even been on my usual runs where reception is excellent
- I have had to have the whole unit replaced once as the unit completely stopped working, wouldn't connect to satellites or even stay switched on. I was told by the shop (and confirmed with further research online) that they have seen a few Forerunners returned with these problems. On the plus side of things, the unit was replaced without any issues and I was very happy with Garmin customer service
- Improved satellite reception; it can take far too long to find satellites, and if the weather is cold no one wants to stand around for a few minutes waiting for their watch to receive reception

Conclusion:
Overall, for a GPS watch that can be picked up for just over £100 in most places, I have been very pleased with my Forerunner 110. It has been comfortable to wear, simple to operate and enabled me to view and record all the relevant data I need whilst on the run, as well as once I am back at home reviewing my training. There are a few issues that need rectifying concerning the sometimes-slow satellite reception, possible intermittent reliability of the watches software on some units and not quite up-to-date waterproofing, but if you are after a basic GPS watch to keep track whilst on your everyday training runs and to record all the basic relevant data, the Garmin Forerunner could be the watch for you!

Happy Running
CavemanClarke

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Run Coaching Cambridge, UK

CavemanClarke run coaching, Cambridge

Learn to run correctly with CavemanClarke via Trinity Fitness Run Coaching, Cambridge

Up to 85% of people who regularly run get injured every year, often due to incorrect running form and technique. In most sports, people receive coaching, and running should be no different


Run Coaching Cambridge:
Trinity Fitness' School of Running (run by CavemanClarke) is the best place to receive top quality run coaching in the Cambridgeshire area. Having had years of experience and a serious passion for running, if improving your technique and form is your goal then this is the service for you.  

Correct running technique is a skill that you have to learn over time through a mixture of guidance and practise. You cannot expect to just lace up your shoes, head out the door and run perfectly. Most runners you see on the street or on the trails are not running with correct or efficient running form. This then leads to greater risk of injury and therefore loss of fitness and running ability. Training with Trinity Fitness will help you to develop a natural and efficient running style to minimise injury risk and maximise running ability. Get the technique right and then think about putting in the miles.

Trinity Fitness offers individual and group run coaching sessions to analyse, demonstrate and correct your running form to help you become a more efficient, strong and confident runner whilst reducing your risk of injury. Through correction of your running technique Trinity Fitness can help you learn to love your runs, whether short, fast sprints or long distance marathons and ultra’s. Sessions can also include learning correct natural running through the use of barefoot and minimalist running techniques. 

Barefoot Running Cambridge:
The rise in popularity of barefoot running and minimalist, or bareform running (running in minimalist shoes) has sparked a huge debate and revolution in the running world. I believe that a more natural running technique, adopted by barefoot and bareform runners, will benefit all of us in becoming a more efficient and stronger runner. 

Minimalist shoes that let your feet work naturally are very popular now. I have been running barefoot and in very minimal shoes such as Vibram FiveFingers for over 4 years, and now teach runners from all sorts of backgrounds and abilities to swap to a more natural way of running.

Book a session:
If you would like to learn more and try it for yourself, I offer run coaching, including bareform and barefoot running sessions for beginners through to advanced runners. But you don’t have to completely take your shoes off…..


If running is feeling difficult, tiring and leaves you with niggles and injuries, now is the time to book a natural running session with Trinity Fitness to teach and help you to become an effortless, fluid and stronger runner for all your training and racing requirements.

Contact me at: www.trinityfitness.org.uk/run-coaching/


Happy Running everyone
CavemanClarke


Thursday, 30 January 2014

Trail Running Hydration Pack Review: what is the best way to carry water and gear?


Getting out the door and on the trail is a fantastic way to escape and be free in a busy and hectic world which never ceases to make constant demands on us all. The trail brings a peaceful solitude or a place to catch up with friends. It helps to get us away from the stress and worries and just 'be' in the moment. 

So it doesn't come as much of a surprise when our runs get longer in time and further in distance, hoping to make that free space in your day just that little bit longer. But with the increases in distance and time out on the trail comes extra demands on the body. Initially it may be just the need to start carrying water to remain hydrated on hotter days, or snacks to keep you fuelled as the miles increase. Eventually you will need a way to transport additional equipment such as clothing or maps to get you safely to our destination. So what, exactly, is the best way to carry all this gear we suddenly find ourselves investing in? 

In this review I will take you through all the main ways of staying self-sufficient, hydrated and safe on the trail while making you aware of the pro's and con's of each method, to help you choose the method best suited to your demands. For each style of hydration system I have picked an example product which I feel to be one of the best contenders in its category. So, lets get started.....

Method 1: hand-held water bottles
Hand-held water bottles is the most basic and commonly seen method of carrying a small amount of water on a run, either to remain hydrated on shorter runs in hot weather, or to slightly extend the time and distance a person can run for. Some bottles allow you to stash a key or an energy gel in the bottles casing, but apart from that, all they really do is allow a form of hydration to be at hand throughout your [relatively short] run.

When you would use this method:
- running in hot weather
- slightly extending the time and distance you can be out running and remain hydrated
- races without aid stations or where you want your water with you


Limitations:
- only a small amount of water can be carried; approx. 500ml per hand maximum
- can be uncomfortable or irritating for some people having to carry it in your hands
- no other equipment or food can be carried using this method
- sloshing water in a hard bottle is very annoying while running

Featured product: Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab Set

I have used the Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab gloves for short and hot summer runs through to a 27 mile ultramarathon. They perform really well and are a fantastic innovation within trail running apparel and equipment. The main selling points of these hydration gloves for me was the simplicity of the design and ease of usage, the lightweight design and the ability to carry water without the usual slosh-slosh-slosh aggravation with every step you take that you normally get with the use of conventional sports bottles.
For more info and a full review see: http://caveman-clarke.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/salomon-sense-hydro-s-lab-set-review.html

Method 2: waist mounted hydration belts
This is the next stage up, if you like, from hand-held bottles, and not only allows you to carry the water hands-free, but also enables you to carry slightly more water with ease. I find that a full 500ml bottle is too much to carry in the hands, especially if you have one in each hand - not good! Typically, a waist belt takes one or two 500ml bottles depending on the brand and model. Larger waist hydration systems also have a small pocket section for carrying additional items that you might find yourself wanting or needing, such as some basic equipment and snacks to keep you safe and fuelled for longer runs.

When you would use this method:
- if you cannot get on with hand-held bottles
- when you need more water than can be carried by hand
- when you also need some small snacks to keep you fuelled
- when you need basic equipment with you (phone, keys, windproof, map, hat, GPS)
- hotter weather; back mounted packs can make you sweat more

Limitations:
- limited space; there are other methods that can carry more water
- small pocket size; there are other methods that can carry a lot more equipment
- can be uncomfortable; some people just don't like the feel of waist belts
- can bounce whilst running; becomes irritating
- water sloshes about in hard bottles

Featured product: Osprey Talon 4
This very innovative and well constructed, tough hydration waist belt allows the runner to carry up to 1 litre of water in two 500ml bottles, positioned at an angle for ease of access whilst running and firmly held in place with elasticated cords. It also features a back pocket for gear you may need during or after your run and two hip pockets for further storage of gels, phone or energy bars. It fits well in the lower part of your back and is reasonably comfortable to use.

Method 3: back-mounted hydration systems
These offer the runner hands-free hydration whilst on the trail. By putting the water in a bladder and situating it on your back, with a tube and mouthpiece coming over your shoulder and transporting the water from the bladder and into your mouth, it enables you to carry far more water than hand-held and bottle options. Usually ranging from 1 litre - 3 litre bladder options, back-mounted systems come in a very minimal rucksack construction with better options having a hip belt and chest strap. They also usually contain a very small storage pocket for essentials such as a map, keys and phone and often have webbing or elasticated cord on the back for stashing a wind or waterproof jacket.

When you would use this method:
- longer runs where plenty of water is needed to remain hydrated
- long runs where you may need some snacks and very basic equipment
- for people who do not like hand-held or waist mounted hydration methods

Limitations:
- very limited space for equipment, clothing and food
- makes your back very sweaty, especially in hotter weather
- bladder can burst if old or on impact if you fall, leaving you with no water
- a lot of systems still 'bounce' around a little whilst running
- bladders can be hard to clean and pipes can get mould in them

Featured product: Osprey Viper 4
Featuring a rucksack construction with hip belt and chest strap, the Viper 4 has a small pocket for storing essentials, front elasticated strap pockets for gels, energy or cereal bars, and elasticated cording for additional carrying of wind and waterproofs. If you require basic hydration and fuelling on longer runs, this is an excellent choice.

Method 4: running backpacks
Running backpacks allow the runner to enter a whole new world of trail running, where carrying a variety of equipment and clothing, as well as sufficient water and food is essential to the needs and requirements of the runner. This is paramount for runs where you will need to be totally self-sufficient, for example on long distance training runs as well as to carry the mandatory kit list often dictated by organisers of trail marathons and ultramarathons. Backpacks usually have a space and attachments for a bladder as well as bottle pockets for situations where bottles are needed as well as or instead of a bladder. A quality running backpack will have a large storage section, waist belt, chest strap and options to adjust the angle and weight distribution of the pack similar as can be found on larger hiking rucksacks. It should be light, comfortable to wear for long periods of time and have a decent ventilation system to prevent your back getting too hot or wet.

When you would use this method:
- very long training runs where water, clothing and equipment is essential for safety
- races that require you to carry a mandatory kit list
- when you are running alone in isolated places and need safety equipment
- multi-day events and runs where overnight equipment is needed
- long runs where changes in weather are likely, requiring extra clothing

Limitations:
- can be quite cumbersome, especially if not well designed
- getting a sweaty back is imminent
- you can still get a little 'bounce' occurring when running
- not as comfortable or innovative as race packs

Featured product: Salomon Agile 12
With a 12 litre storage capacity and coming fully equipped with a 1.5 litre bladder, the Salomon Agile 12 is a great example of a well designed running backpack. As well as the main storage section, other useful features include the hip belt, chest strap and angle adjusters on the top of the shoulders to minimise movement of the pack whilst running and adjust the weight distribution. More finite details such as hip storage pouches, hiking pole holders and stretch panels to stuff clothing such as a waterproof or bottle in all improve the design and help make it more user-friendly.

Method 5: race packs and vests
Although far more expensive than a running backpack, if money is not an issue and you don't mind spending a little more of your hard-earned cash, race packs are by far the lightest, most comfortable, innovative and convenient way to carry all your gear and stay hydrated whilst on the trail. Being shaped more like a vest or a waistcoat, and with the lack of a waist belt, they have an all-in-one feel to them and are therefore far more form-fitting than a running backpack. This minimises movement between the body and the pack and evenly distributes the load to a more comfortable position. Fluid is usually carried on the front of the pack in bottles for ease of access, as well as having the added option of a bladder should you want or need it. A good race pack will be comprised of a high stretch fabric, allowing the pack to expand the more that is added to it and always ensuring the contents do not bounce around or move. Access to essentials such as snacks, head torch, map and hat or gloves is usually possible whilst on the run via well positioned pockets and compartments along the front and sides, and most packs are hiking pole compatible. 

When you would use this method:
- as a more comfortable, user-friendly and lightweight alternative to a backpack
- very long training runs where water, clothing and equipment is essential for safety
- races that require you to carry a mandatory kit list
- when you are running alone in isolated places and need safety equipment
- long runs where changes in weather are likely, requiring extra clothing

Limitations:
- not as much room as larger backpacks for overnight uses needing more gear
- your back can get sweaty in hotter weather, although not as much as a backpack
- the price is usually a lot more than a backpack

Featured product: Salomon Adv Skin S-Lab Hydro 12 Set
This is by far the most comfortable, lightweight and user friendly product I have ever used to carry my water and essentials on a long run. The SensiFit and MotionFit systems ensure it is extremely form-fitting, balanced and very versatile for a whole host of uses from racing to long distance training runs. The two 500ml soft flasks that come as standard are situated on the front of the pack and shrink as you drink, therefore eliminating the sloshing effect that hard bottles create. It also contains a safety blanket, thermal protective bladder case and a whistle (the bladder has to be purchased separately). The main compartment is easiest to access with the pack off, but the stretch panels and side compartments, as well as the front pockets and bottles are all accessible whilst running. Excellent innovation and a quality product all round.

Conclusion:
There isn't a 'one method fits all' approach to staying hydrated and carrying all your essential kit and clothing. Depending on the demands that your run will place on you, and even your own individual requirements and ability, the method you choose will come down to personal preference. It could even be that you need a variety of methods available at your disposal to suit a wide range of running circumstances, terrains and distances. 

Always go for a comfortable and lightweight product that is user-friendly. An uncomfortable and awkward method of transporting all you need will end up getting left in the wardrobe and you will only end up repurchasing a better, more expensive product at a later date, leaving you further out of pocket. Get the best option that you can afford and you will enjoy its innovation for miles and miles to come.

Happy running everyone,
CavemanClarke

There are a whole host of excellent products available on the market today that have not been mentioned in this review, but the products featured have all been tried and tested by myself over the last few months and therefore I can recommend them with confidence. 

Trail Running magazine special offer!

Hi everyone. Hope the running in 2014 is going to plan. Just a really quick post to let you know that this month, Trail Running magazine have a brilliant offer on for anyone wishing to subscribe. Thought some of you may be interested.....

Subscribe to Trail Running magazine now and get a Silva Jogger torch worth £25! 



Sunday, 19 January 2014

Coming soon on CavemanClarke.....hydration packs and shoe durability!

The year ahead is already looking exciting for CavemanClarke, reviewing trail running shoes and apparel. Coming soon over the next few weeks I have reviews of:

SALOMON ADV SKIN S-LAB HYDRO 12 SET


SALOMON AGILE 12


OSPREY VIPER 4



OSPREY TALON 4


Also, after many months of running in the various trail shoes that I have had the pleasure to review, I will be bringing you up to date on the long-term million dollar question when dealing with trail shoes...how will they last and is the durability up to scratch?

Catch you all soon
CavemanClarke