Monday, 28 October 2019

Freet Connect 2

My post reviewing the Vivobarefoot Primus SGs some years ago attracted a lot of hits and seems to have been widely read. I still love these shoes, I'm about to buy another pair. There's nothing like them for grip on mud & technical ground if you want barefoot shoes.

My favourite running shoes though, are Freet Connect 2. I've done several ultras in these, and they are unbelievably comfortable. Admittedly they were a bad choice for the steep wet grass of the Brecon 50, but for the Bullock Smithy, Round Rotherham and several others they were fantastic.

They have better grip than you might expect looking at the soles. Certainly infinitely better than Merrell Trail Gloves. I think because the soles are much more flexible the soles conform more closely to the terrain. The RRR was fairly muddy, and I didn't slip so much as once.

The sizing is maybe a tiny bit on the small side - a 48 is comfortable on me, and I normally take a 47.

How hard wearing are they? Don't know yet, I've only done a few hundred miles in them. But after a few hundred miles there's visible wear under the ball of the foot but the rest of the sole and the uppers are undamaged. My previous connects (the old version) are about ready for the bin, almost, and I've had those at least 2 years (and run in them exclusively easter to october). I'd guess they've done well over a thousand miles. They're pretty knackered.

It's getting to the muddy, slippery time of year when they have to go on the shelf except for parkrun/flat speed training, and the Vivos are my primaries. If I didn't always run on such technical ground I'd use the Connect 2s over the winter as well. If you run trail rather than fell, and want barefoot shoes that will give adequate grip and maximum comfort I'd absolutely go for these.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Round Rotherham 50 - fast, flat and field-y

The Round Rotherham Run is not at all what I'm used to. Although there's ascent, there isn't a lot. There's no actual bog, just some slightly muddy fields. You're never more than a couple of hundred metres from a village or at least some houses.
Nice camping spot

I turned up at Manvers Boat Club on Friday night about 9.30 and the organisers were in place to welcome early arrivals. The facility to sleep inside the centre exists, but for those of us with vans the gravel beach of Manvers Lake makes a very pleasant camping spot. I've paid good money for worse pitches.

Registration not starting until 6, I had a very comfy nights sleep, getting up at 5:45 only half an hour earlier than I normally get up for work. I debated a bit about clothes and went for the 3/4 leggings. As it turned out I could have got away with shorts and been a bit cooler, but with more scratches and nettle stings.

By the time I'd had some breakfast and tea, registration was well under way. I picked up my SI chip and number, T shirt and badge and spent the remaining time chatting with a few of the Runfurther regulars I'd met before. During the Bullock Smithy someone had commented that ultra runners are all really nice people, and I have to agree. Everyone I've met since taking up the longer distances has been great company, and during the course of a difficult year the events I've entered have been the highlights.

Meadowhall and the Tinsley viaduct somewhere below
Coming up to 7 we all congregated outside for a very quick briefing, and we were off. I'd intended to set off slowly, but got drawn along with the pack and had to consciously slow off. I bumped into someone I'd had an enjoyable run with before during the Spire race, and we settled into a fairly brisk pace for the first 20 miles.

We passed the time chatting as we passed through Thorpe Hesley and past Kepple's Column, then down into Tinsley with Meadowhall appearing off to our right.

CP 1
In spite of my family being from Rotherham, and having spent a lot of time around Rotherham and particularly Kimberworth as a child, I don't know the area that well, so once we passed Thorpe Hesley it was mostly new.

At some point early on I realised that the bumbag strap pressing on my abdomen was having an effect I should have expected (I generally use a rucksack for ultras). On a race with fewer facilities I'd have just tried to ignore it. A little before CP2 I fell back a little, and at CP2 I (ahem) decided a short stop would leave me a lot more comfortable for the rest of the day.

Just after CP2 was the marathon distance, and I realised that if I hadn't stopped at CP2 I'd have set a new marathon PB. That says more about the kind of marathons I usually run than about my pace.

As usual somewhere around 20-25 miles I struggled a bit. Walk a bit, run a bit, wonder if I really can do another 25 miles. But the halfway point is always a motivator. I quietly sang the chorus of 'Living on a prayer' halfway across a field (not easy) and got on with ticking off the miles.
Fields. Then more fields.

Fields are a big feature of the RRR. Long, straight paths across fields, which cross hedges and lanes then become more long, straight paths. Very long, very straight. It was like driving in the fens.

I have no idea what this is about
Not a lot stands out in my memory for a while after that. It's always the way on ultras, for me at least. Long periods of not much going on, where I think about nothing much in a relaxing kind of way. At some point someone told us that Eliud Kipchoge had done the sub 2, I passed through various checkpoints, I chatted briefly with people as I passed them or they passed me. I remember being tired and wanting it to be over around 40 miles, which passed after a mile or two.

Roche Abbey

The next thing that really stands out is Roche Abbey. Another landmark from my childhood, I'd broken my wrist there in about 1978 on a family outing, by jumping on a green branch in the path and being catapulted into the air. I must go back and visit the ruins properly.

The last few miles of the RRR are a bit grim to be honest. There's a stretch of towpath at Mexborough (canal running is not my favourite) then lots of areas of housing, then finally a couple of miles along the side of new roads with lots of roundabouts, trading estates etc. I'd joined up with a group of local runners near the end, and when one of them called the last mile I decided to use up what I'd got left.

I did the last km in 5:39 to be welcomed at the finish by the most amazing amount of applause - the RRR has to be the most well supported race I've done. Having set out with a target of sub 12 hours, I sneaked in under 10 with 9:52. While it's definitely not my kind of race I enjoyed quite a bit of it, and was delighted to do 50 miles in sub 10 hours.

After the finish I pottered around, had a cup of tea in the van, got changed, chatted a bit then headed home to feed my cat.

Post run feet

I realised last week that I was doing the RRR the week of my Dad's 84th birthday. Dad, a native of Rotherham, is in a nursing home with vascular dementia. When I saw him last week he was unusually lucid. I took a list of the main places on the route and he registered a few of them and mentioned playing gigs in pubs in the 1950s. Dad is a lifelong exercise dodger, running is a big part of my world but doesn't really register with him, but just for a few minutes the RRR triggered a few memories. I'd have run it anyway, but it became a way to mark Dad's birthday.

If you'd like to donate something to the Alzheimer's Society please click here