Monday, January 21, 2013

Training Update, Mtn Mist, and Shoes

I haven't raced since JFK in November, so I haven't had much to blog about aside from my 2012 year in review post. Now I'm heading into a "soft" start to a new racing season and thought I would share a quick update on how things have been lately. I call it a soft start because I'll be training through most everything I race for the next couple months and tapering to achieve maximum performance isn't real high on my list of priorities in the short term. Let's talk about my last few weeks of training first.

Following JFK, I began running relatively low mileage, and gradually started working up the volume and intensity. By late December, I was back up to 100 mile weeks and I have been able to keep my miles above the century mark since then. As of today, I've logged 532 miles in the last 5 weeks in one run per day. But I've also been doing some high intensity workouts as well. I wasn't quite sure after my 2012 season what direction I would head in 2013. I have just let my training take me where ever it may. For some reason, road marathon pace seems to be where I've gravitated to. I've been running a lot on the roads, and pretty much everything has been below 7 min pace. I've also progressed to where I was able to run a solo 12 miler at 5:31 pace. I think I'm in the best road marathon shape that I've been in since I won Rocket City in 2009 (2:26:23 PR). I'm not really training for anything in particular right now, that's just where the running that I've been enjoying lately has taken me. I'll have to firm up some racing goals here pretty soon though.

But this coming weekend is Mtn Mist 50k Trail Run and I still expect to run hard and fast there. I just won't have completely fresh legs. Mtn Mist is a special race because its in Huntsville, AL where I grew up and so many of my friends will be there. Total elevation change isn't all that impressive to the mountain goats, but it's still quite a challenging race due to the technical nature of the trail. The mud looks to be a huge factor again this year. I hear it's been really wet in Alabama this winter, so the course will probably be very sloppy. When I set the course record there 2 years ago, the trail condition was unusually good because the ground was frozen. I haven't yet decided how I'm going to attack the race this year.  It will probably be a race-time decision after checking out the trail conditions. It doesn't appear that the competition will be very stiff this year. Although entered, the quick Johnny Clemons from Chattanooga won't be able to make it to the start line. I imagine Rod Bien and Scott Breeden will keep me glancing over my shoulder plenty, and a mistake on my part could open up the race.

Looking ahead to February, I'll be doing more vacationing than racing. An unusual hole in my wife's work schedule next week is allowing us to sneak out to Colorado for a few days to go play in the snow. Then in late February, we have a big warm-weather vacation planned for St Johns USVI. There is actually a race involved with this trip, but this one is much more about the vacationing than about the running. I'll be doing 8 Tuff with a big group of roadies from Cincinnati. It's an 8 mile road race to the highest point on the island, then straight back down to sea level. Should be fun, but I'm trying not to take it too seriously.

So I've been threatening to review some products for a while, but just haven't found the motivation to put anything together. Now I have a few pairs of new Salomon shoes that you may not have had a chance to try, so I thought I would share some of my impressions.

First, let me start by say that the S-LAB XT 5 is my current go-to Salomon shoe.  I ran Western States, UROC, and JFK in that shoe and have loved it since I first slipped it on. I recently ran a 14 mile road run in them because I'm that comfortable in them. Now, if you're looking for minimal, it's not your shoe, but if you want a great all-around trail shoe you can be comfortable in for an entire ultra...then you might want to try it. It's supportive, yet very cushioned, the fit of the upper is great. The traction is adequate for your average trail, but it runs smooth enough that I'm not afraid to take them to the roads when needed.  If more traction is what you need, then check out the...

XT 5 Softground

XT 5 Softground
As far as I can tell, this shoe has the exact same upper and midsole as the standard XT 5, but the outsole has a more aggressive lug pattern. I really like the familiar fit, but the traction is much improved. The rubber is sticky, grips rocks very well, and sticks to all but the muddiest trails. The compromise is that it feels a little less stable because of the additional lug height.

If you need even more traction, the Speedcross is your solution. This shoe is soft and flexible with a very aggressive tread. It isn't as supportive as the XT 5, the upper fits more narrow, and you wouldn't want to do many road miles in this shoe, but it's served me well in a couple trail 50 milers. If you still don't have enough traction then check out the Spikecross.


The Spikecross is practically the same shoe as the Speedcross, but with metal spikes built into the outsole. The grip of this shoe is hands down the best I've ever experienced. The spikes dig into the dirt and mud like nothing I've ever worn. And slippery wooden bridges are no longer a problem. I haven't had a chance to take them on any icy runs yet, but my guess is they would be perfectly suited for grabbing frozen ground. The spikes make the shoe a little more squirrelly underfoot, and they don't stick to dry rock quite as well as pure rubber, but if you're gonna be in a slop fest, look no further. You wouldn't want to run on the pavement in them very long, however, the spikes do seem to be quite durable.

Sense Mantra

Sense Mantra
All of the shoes I've discussed so far are fairly substantial, but Salomon jumped into the minimalist shoe party last year with the Sense. The low durability, minimal protection, and high price made it hard for me to recommend the original Sense to all but the most efficient and serious trail racers. Salomon has responded to those issues though with the Sense Ultra and Sense Mantra. I haven't gotten my hands on the Sense Ultra yet, but I have two pairs of the Sense Mantra. The Mantra is a little more shoe, more durable, more protective, has more grip, 6mm drop, but it also comes with a lower MSRP and still weighs in at less than 10oz. It's billed as the Sense for the average trail runner, but I think it might just be a better fit for myself as well. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to get it out of the trails just yet but I've been breaking in a pair around the house and so far, so good. If you're looking to make the plunge, I'd lean down a half size because it seems like they run a little large. Hopefully I can update my review before too long on this shoe.

That's all for now. Until next time, go run.


  1. Great Read David.
    I wish the S-LAB XT 5 came in larger sizes. Largest they run are 12's. I'm a 13. I'd already have a pair if so. Only Salomon shoes run larger, so it's weird the 5's don't. I do love my Speedcross 3's!

    Keep up the great work.

  2. Sorry to hear that Russ. I had no clue they capped at size 12. Bummer, it's a really fantastic shoe.

  3. David,

    Thanks for the update and reviews!

    I ran 16 miles in the Sense Mantras this past weekend and was impressed; light weight, good protection, good grip and excellent fit. I was a bit worried about the lower drop going from the S-LAB XT 4 to the Mantra, but no problems.

    I may give them a try at Sylamore next month and see how they do with creek crossings ;)

    Be well and have a great year.

    Tim Harrington

  4. Tim, did you find they run large as well? I'm a US12 in the Speedcross 3 but a US11.5 in the Mantra.