Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Product Reviews

END Stumptown 10 oz shoes- I got these shoes a month ago and came close to wearing them in my 34 mile race a few days later. I put them in the car along with my Brooks Cascadias & made the last minute decision to go with the Brooks mainly because I just hadn't put enough miles in the ENDs yet. ...but I like them a lot.

END stands for Environmentally Neutral Designs & they're based out of Portland. Their shoes are made with some recycled materials with an effort to minimize waste.

I've tried lightweight trail shoes like the Inov-8 310s and the New Balance 790s and they didn't cut it for me. I wear the 790s on occasion for speedwork, and both of these shoes are popular, but just didn't work for me. The Stumptowns were different though and they're actually lighter than the Inov-8 310s (278g vs. 310g).

I have weird feet. say the least. Wide forefoot. Narrow heel. The Stumptown is made with a stretchy material that accomodates my weird feet. I'll go ahead & tell you though- there is no heel cup. Nothing. You can squish the uppers flat. It's strange & I'd read about it before ordering them, but I still wasn't prepared for it. When I got them I thought there was no way this was going to work out for me. Out of the box, I took them for a 90 minute run and have put in a few 60-90 minute runs with them. Felt great. You don't get the stability you would with a beefier shoe, but if you're buying the Stumptown 10 oz., you're not looking for the Montrail Hardrock or the like. I like the freedom of this shoe as you glide across rocks & roots. I felt quite a bit faster and more nimble. I am neither.

I was all ready to wear them at last weekend's 50K, but last week, I got caught in an incredible downpour while wearing the Stumptowns. The trail turned into a river instantaneously. As I went down hills, the insoles slid down into the toes. I had to take the shoes off & fix them each time. They did that 3 times before I removed the insoles for the remainder of the run. With the river crossings at the race, I didn't wear the Stumptowns, so I still haven't tried them out on a very long run. I would imagine they would be fine for me at 50K, but beyond that might be a stretch. Other folks will be perfectly fine going longer in them, I'm sure.

Another upside of this shoe is the retail price is a very reasonable $75 and I got it for $59. The Stumptown also come in 12 oz & 8.5 oz versions, as well as road varieties. I'd highly recommend checking out shoes from this new, forward-thinking company.

Roctane gel- After hearing great things about this gel made by GU, I resisted buying it because it's more expensive than other gels. Apparently, it used to be a homemade mixture elite athletes passed around in ziploc bags before it was introduced commercially in the past year. GU sent me some samples & I'd have to say even to a cheapskate like myself, it's worth the higher pricetag.

I mentioned trying Roctane in my post about Rocky Raccoon. I really think it helped me significantly in that race and I've used it with good results since then. There is a moderate amount of caffeine (35mg) in each packet, but I think the big difference is the amino acid blend. I feel like it helps me maintain focus in a long race or workout. It only comes in two flavors (blueberry pomegranate & orange vanilla). The flavor isn't the best- a little medicine-y, but it's not bad. Certainly not hard to get down or anything. While there are better tasting gels out there, I honestly think Roctane works better than any of the others. Try it out. I used to think all the gels were about the same.

GU Chomps- Just tried these for the first time this week. They just came out this spring. Clif Bloks are sort of the standard of the new chews and I really like them. Less messy than gels and easier to handle. If I didn't have a ton of gel laying around, I'd probably just eat chews on the run, but I mix it up. I like Bloks, Sharkies, Stinger Chews... Chomps come in 4 flavors (fewer than Bloks), 2 with caffeine. They all have an amino acid blend not found in Bloks or the others. Also have 100% RDA of Vitamin C & E. The Bloks are a little wet/slimy... that sounds worse than it is. Sharkies are a little more firm and harder to chew. Chomps are a little more in between. Taste is comparable across the board. I don't have a huge preference, but the Chomps might by my favorites. Interesting flavors like Cranberry Apple & Blueberry Pomegranate.


Jason said...

I am gonna order some of the Roctane and see if it helps clear some of the fog in my head as well. I am having a tough time concentrating after 22 miles. I like the caffeinated gels, but have yet to try the Roctane products. From what little I have read the amino acid is supposed to help keep your head clear. We will see. Thanks for the tip either way.

Coach Spencer said...

I might add that I did NOT use the Roctane this past weekend when I was at my foggiest. I DID use it at Buncombe 34 Miler in the late stages of the race, when I felt very strong & focused. I don't normally believe in miracle products, but this one seems to do a lot more for me than regular gels.

Josh said...

Hi. I have been reading your blog for a few months now. The high school runners you coach are lucky to have someone as knowledgeable as you. My coach was horrible.

I just graduated from high school and I ran cross and track. I wasn't great. 18's for 5K. I am looking for a new challenge and I would like to run an ultra. A 50K at first and then see where it takes me. Do you think I could run it in 8 minute miles if I put in the distance training?

What I really wanted to ask had to do with this post. What should I be trying to eat when racing or training? I have never eaten anything and only just drank water sometimes. But I never went over 6 miles with my team. I ran a 16 mile training run last summer on my own. I almost died. But anyway if you could give me some clue about how much to eat and what goes down best. Do you need protein or what? From reading your blog and some otheres it doesn't look like you can just run a 50K with just water.

Thank you so much for putting this information out there and helping peopl who are just getting started in this kind of running. Peace.

Coach Spencer said...

Josh, good questions. I'm glad you're getting something out of the blog. From the low number of comments I get, I feel like no one reads it, but I meet people at races all the time who say, "Oh, I've seen your blog! Good luck with _____." It's also good to hear you're thinking about joining the ultra ranks.

I wrote a month or so ago, I don't think ultrarunners are "better" than those who run 5Ks, 10K, marathons, etc. It's just different. My honest advice might be to try to get faster at shorter distances while you're young & move up gradually. But if you're dead set on doing an ultra, I wouldn't stand in your way! I could see how coming off of 4 years of high school racing you'd want to chill out a little bit with some long miles.

As for the food & drink- Most people keep caloric intake to about 200-300 calories/hour. In an ultra, I usually don't eat anything for the first 90 minutes & then stay on the low end of that 200-300 calories/hour. Lately I have a lot of fat stored up to burn. :( You want a mixture of carbs (complex mainly), protein & fat for ultrarunning, but your body prefers carbs as a primary fuel. Gels, chews (like Clif Bloks or Gu Chomps) & drinks are your best bet for easy digestion. In the heat, you'll have to drink a lot, but avoid the urge to drink too much. I've done that with awful results. 24-28 ounces/hour in the heat is optimal for most people. Electrolytes are critical too. Look for that in drinks or supplements (S-Caps or SaltSticks offer the most punch.).

I wouldn't enter a 50K without really doing my training. I'm sure you can google 50K training plans out there, but I just do what feels right these days. I've learned from my mistakes. For my first 50K, I'd want to know I had run at least 8-10 training runs at 20+ miles. Others might suggest fewer, but for me it's a big confidence booster knowing the training's in the bag.

Can you run a 50K in 8:00/mile pace if you can run a 18 something 5K? I don't know. In a way, it's like asking what a :55 400 runner could run a 5K in. Not really, but both are a big bump up. I ran with a 15 year old for a few miles in my last 50K. He took off & I knew I'd pass him because he didn't have the experience of ultrarunning under his belt. I knew he'd get to mile 22 or so and be crawling in a ditch. It didn't happen. He beat me by 30 minutes! My guess is that 8:00 pace would be tough for you even in a flat, non-technical 50K. If it's a true trail race, forget it. I'd say 10-12:00 pace is good for a rolling rooty, rocky 50K. You might be looking at 8:30-9:00 pace for a flat road 50K, but it all depends on the training.

Email me if you have other questions: I coach high school track & XC. I'm not an ultra coach. I'm still trying to figure things out myself, so take this advice with a grain of salt.

Great to hear from you!!