Saturday, February 17, 2018

Salomon Speedcross Vario 2 GTX

So I came across a sale on this new shoe (well year old shoe?) called the Salomon Speedcross Vario 2 GTX, and it seemed like a shoe I needed to buy and try.

To start, the GTX in the name is Gortex, so it is a Winter/wet weather style shoe. You can certainly feel this when trying it on, as it is more plush than my other Salomon shoes.

The laces are regular old school, tie these yourself type laces as opposed to Salomon's quick lace system. At first I was a little sad, but then, it was really easy to tie them, as all my other shoes have laces. The placing of the laces allows for a good snug fit, essential on a trail shoe.

The lugs are big, and I was afraid it would be a shoe more suited to soft ground. Ultimately this turned out to be false, and they were equally at home on the soft stuff as on the hard rock. 

The fit? Standard Salomon fit, though with the caveat that they are plush (as I mentioned) so may feel a little more snug. Salomon tends to fit tight in the arch, and offer a little more room for toes up front. These shoes are no different. One thing I did notice is that the insole makes for a lot of this tightness in the arch area, and when removed, they open up quite a bit. Finding a thin more neutral insole would certainly make this shoe better suited to bigger, wider feet.

Now it is certainly bright. I happen to love it. If you like dark, bland shoes, then sorry.
I started my trial run with a good bowl of oatmeal, as this was going to be a longer run.

Then off to the woods. The temperature was a balmy -6C, but the woods offered good shelter from the wind. The sun was shining as well, so I wore a thinner top, but still put some good thin wool socks on.

The trail I chose had good climbing, lots of sharp turns, roots, rocks, ice, puddles, soft ground and hard granite expanses, basically all the good things to test a shoe.

It was my long run day and I know that in an easy 5km run, most shoes feel good to me. So I opted to push over the hour mark. 

The Vario 2 GTX offered great grip, continued to feel nice for the whole run and even felt good when I could open up my stride on the rails to trails section at the end, pushing a low 4min/km pace.  

At the 9km mark I stepped in a puddle that went over the ankle of the shoe, which meant water got in. Up to that point my feet were perfectly warm (not too hot) and dry. Now wet I wondered if I would have to call things a day. But ultimately I kept running til my total got to 15.5km and at the end, my foot was fairly dry and happy. That Gortex is wonderful stuff. 

I guess by this point you can tell that I like this shoe. Not as racy feeling as my Salomon S/Lab SGs, not as plush as my Sense pro Max, but for this time of year, an awesome shoe that was far more responsive and peppy than I was going to give it credit for. When i first put them on I thought, hmm, kind of heavy, but any doubt of their effectiveness went away before the first kilometer was over.

If this shoe fits and you want a winter option, then it is certainly a great value. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Race 2 Already? Tri-The-Oval 6 Winter Triathlon 2018

February in Halifax means one thing, Tri-the-Oval. And this was year six. More on that later.

Traditionally this also means that horrific weather is on the way, and some brave souls hit the Halifax Commons to prove they are tough and crazy. But what's that? This year the weather was going to be good?

Race morning and we hit a lull between crazy super col the day before and a snow/rain combo to come later that evening. Instead of braving the elements, we showed up to a nice -2C, low wind and dry sidewalks. While there was a hope for a snow shoe this year instead of a run, we weren't tht lcky, and the Commons was a little bare.

So this race is a 5km Skate, 6km Mountain Bike Ride, 4.5km run done in the middle of Halifax. And it is quaintly referred to as the best race that everyone forgets to enter.

We showed up and MC was back (after a year off with good reason) to lead our intrepid group.

 The race briefing was important as the course evolves every year based on conditions. This year the skate was the same (of course), the bike was a combo of paved paths (with some icy bits) and a trek over some bumpy frozen ground (including a hill), and the run was on the sidewalks around the exterior. This was probably the fastest course we have had yet.

  The athletes began to gather at the start line for the skate. James gave us the briefing and soon we were on our way. The ice was perfect. Smooth, low wind, just great. I quickly moved into second to hang with Adam, last year's winner. He is a pretty fast skater and biker, so I knew I had to hang as close as possible to be able to get within striking distance for the run. I stuck with him, but by lap 7 or so I had drifted back a bit.

Ron zoomed through at this point, using his cross country ski powers to show us a thing or two. Eventually I heard my name called for final lap and was relieved. Adam and Ron were mere seconds ahead of me, and I joined them in Transition 1.

A quick switch to  my sneakers (I chose my Salomon trail shoes with low lugs for this day) and I went for my bike. We had to run the bike down a little ramp before the mount line. I had to keep pushing the pace even here though to keep the gap to Adam as small as possible. 

Alas, as I started the ride, Adam pulled out. His hip let him down and that really sucks. I really wanted to crush his dreams on the run and I think my bike was going to be enough to keep up.

As it was, I still had to catch Ron. Within the end of the first lap I managed to sneak by him and pushed the pace. The bike was fun, zooming around the Commons, avoiding ice, tight corners, the "hill". My little Norco loaner that Sportwheels prepped for me was great. Nimble and fast. This course was all about bursts of speed and handling. 

Soon my name was called again, and my 6 laps were done. I zoomed toward Transition 2. 

A quick dismount, bike rack, helmet removal and I was off, though I just about missed the entrance to the run. 

I had a decent lead by this time, and I know that I was probably the fastest runner there, so I could have done a reasonable effort, but this was a race, and darn I wanted to win it with best effort.

Lap 1 of 3 was done at a 3:44 pace, and I felt good. This was probably the best I have felt running off the bike in a long time, and I hope that translates to good things come this summer. 

In the end I managed a 3:51min/km pace for the course. I certainly slowed on that last lap, but this would have translated to a low 19 min 5K time off the bike, and that was nice to see.

At the finish line I was greeted with Java Blend Coffee and great cookies made by Scott, the man that came from behind to claim second with a great run of his own. This as my first win in 6 years of trying, and while the field was small, I was really happy to have accomplished this. Size of field does not diminish effort.

Part of me dreads this race coming up in the middle of winter, but then I remember that this keeps winter interesting and that every single year,  I have a blast (and cookies). So bring it.

Oh and thanks Ron, for keeping up with me for 6 years as the only other fool to head out and hit the ice (well one year it was an ice water mix). This year we won beer! And thanks organizers for keeping this going.