Feather-weight comfort

I like Adidas – I like the brand, I like the German-ness of the company. I like their focus on performance above all else. And I really like the products, especially the adiZero range. One of my favourite bits of kit – and I have quite a bit of kit! – is a second hand adiZero longsleeve t-shirt that my coach, Nick Anderson, gave me.

Above all I really like the Adidas shoes that I have tried out… which is actually exactly one pair – the adiZero Adios 2s, with super-special Continental rubber in the soles. They are really good shoes (especially after the toe-box was widened a smidgen which means they now accommodate my big fat feet!) and I ran my marathon PB of 2:38:30 in London this year in my second pair of Adios.

But unlike Nike, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Saucony and others, Adidas have never wanted anything to do with me and my little blog. Until recently, that is.

A few months ago I was contacted by an agency on behalf of Adidas asking me to give them some details about myself and tell them about the blog. Which I did. And for a while nothing happened and I didn’t worry about that. I don’t chase brands – if they want to reach all the lovely people who come and read this nonsense… erm, I mean blog, then they can chase me.

Then suddenly two weeks ago, I received a very large package with an address label prominently displaying the Adidas logo. Inside was a magnificent metal and perspex box, containing a pair of the new adiZero Feather 2s. I was immediately taken aback by the amazing packaging and presentation of the shoes. You can see for yourself:

 

Now THAT is a shoe box!

But packaging is all well and good, but it doesn’t tell you how the shoes perform on the feet. So after wearing them in the office and at home for a few days to get used to them, I went out for a few easy 45 minute runs in the bright blue Feather 2s.

Now I know this is not the worlds most insightful review, but

They are great!

OK, more detail. They are a touch on the narrow side, but that has always been my experience of Adidas shoes and they are not as narrow as the first version of the adiZero Adios that I wanted to wear but couldn’t because they were too tight around my toes. The Feathers are stiff and the cushioning in the forefoot and heel is firm, but that only serves to make the shoes feel really fast. If you are an efficient runner, used to racing flats or minimalist shoes, then you’ll feel right at home in the Feather 2s. The upper is super-lightweight, but without feeling flimsy and a side effect of that, which I like is the great breathability of the shoes. I even like the short and thin laces that stay tied perfectly.

The main thing that catches the eye about the Feather 2 however is the SPRINTFRAME construction which runs the full length of the show above the Adiprene cushioning material. It looks like a sort of plastic spring and seems to me to be a bit like the Wave insert that Mizuno use in the construction of their shoes, although in the adiZero Feathers the spring is under the mid-foot, not in the heel like the Mizunos. This seems to give the shoe a real springiness that means there is no sensation of losing momentum through the cushioning compressing, which I have experienced before. I am sure that it is this plastic plate which gives the Feather 2 such a pleasingly fast and responsive feel.

So, conclusion: the Adidas adiZero Feather 2 feels like a serious racer/trainer to me. This is a properly light shoe (just under 190g according the kitchen scales), low to the ground and with a firm feel that makes the shoe very responsive. This is a shoe for tempo runs, fast sessions, 10ks… that sort of thing. Light, biomechanically efficient runners will love this shoe as will anyone else who is looking for something quick and eye-catching. They’ll make you feel and look like an Olympian!

The Runners At The Sharp-end (or the RATS!)

Like any athlete at the absolute pinnacle of their sport, elite marathon runners are amazing. As a massive fan of athletics and in particular running and especially marathon running, I love reading about the greatest runners in the world – past and present – or seeing and listening to interviews with them. But I almost always feel very slightly unsatisfied with what I learn. Being utterly narcissistic about it, I’m left feeling that there is little that I can learn from men who are running 2:04 or 2:03 for a marathon – their approach to training and life and nutrition and rest is so utterly alien to me, that there is very little, if anything, that I can adapt to use for my own success. So I decided that I would use this blog as an opportunity to do something about it.

The running community

I sometimes view the running community as a huge pyramid. There are very large numbers of slower runners who treat running as a hobby and as something that is far from central to their life. They form the base of the pyramid. As you get further up the pyramid the runners get faster, more dedicated to their running and less numerous. Until you reach the very top and there are the elite few. The pyramid is not static – runners move up and down the pyramid as their times improve or they slow down. And the analogy is not perfect because I realise that there will naturally be a bulge in the middle rather then a tapering from bottom to top (so maybe a better visual would be two pyramids base-to-base…) but I hope you get the image I am trying to create.

Runners At The Sharp End

My idea then is to interview people near the top of the pyramid, but not those at the very top. I am calling these individuals Runners At The Sharp-end (or R.A.T.S). Necessarily this is going to require some subjective judgement on my part, so please bear with me, but I think what I am proposing is that I try to interview people who have full time jobs, who started their marathon career with a modest debut (sorry Scott Overall, you’re out!), who know what it is like to not ‘be a runner’, but who have progressed to a point where they win smaller races or place in the top 50 or top 100 of big city marathons. They qualify for the roomy start-pens that you see at the front of some race fields. The idea I have is that these types of runners are more accessible than the elite men and women, they are normal (well, normal’ish) people and their training, whilst almost certainly further and faster than most, is something that we can aspire to moving our training towards.

I really hope that through a series of interviews with the R.A.T.S I will be able to gain an insight into what it takes to become a really good, in fact some might say great, runner and extract some tips from them that we can all use in our training to help us be the best runners we can be.

Fuel for thought

Ed: Dionne has written a piece about dehydration that spells out the dangers and importance of preparation. If you have any comments please leave them for us and if you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

The ballot for the London marathon 2012 has been drawn and autumn marathon season is well and truly underway with less than a week till marathoners take a bite of the Big Apple across the other side of the pond…. forget Christmas, marathon fever is upon us!!

This casts my mind back to this year’s London marathon; there I was at the mile 25 mark watching zombie like figures stagger along the Mall. It was obvious to me that many of the runners had ‘hit the wall’ putting every last ounce of blood, sweat and tears to reach the finish line after 26.2 miles of the famous roads of London town and battling through the pain pushing themselves to exhaustion!

Hitting the wall

This got me thinking; what causes this phase of hitting the wall and how can athletes steer passed it so they have a much smoother and enjoyable ride to the finish line?

It was when doing my dissertation whilst studying sports management at the University of Birmingham that I got some ‘fuel for thought’ about one of the detrimental causes which could have such a negative effect on performance.

Research into dehydration

According to research, one of the common causes of hitting the wall is dehydration. When an athlete becomes dehydrated fluid is lost from the blood making it thicker and harder for the heart to pump an adequate supply of blood with each heart beat. This places the body under huge stress as the heart works to supply an efficient amount of oxygenated blood to the working muscles. Just a 2% reduction in body fluid can have a negative consequence for performance whilst dehydration can lead to a 6% reduction in performance and often will have a detrimental effect on the health of the runner, leading to symptoms such as intense thirst, impaired judgement, fatigue, anxiety, headache and in more severe cases, where adequate fluid had not been replaced, it has been known for runners to suffer from strokes or in extreme cases can lead to death.

Many of us are guilty of waiting for the thirst mechanism to tell us when we need to drink, however there is reason to suggest that this thirst mechanism is ineffective, because by the time it kicks in you are already likely to be mildly dehydrated by around 2% body weight. This is the 2% body weight that can lead to a 6% reduction in performance, meaning those that are not keeping hydrated could lose out on reaching their target time no matter how well their training leading up to the marathon has gone. It has therefore been noted that the athlete must be well educated in the advantages and importance of being properly hydrated in order to avoid severe dehydration and the consequential conspicuous impairment on overall performance, specifically when competing in endurance events like the marathon.

Effects of dehydration

As a result of the notable effects of dehydration on performance, specific hydration guidelines have been recommended by the American College of Sport Medicine. They suggest that an athlete needs to consume between 150ml and 200ml every 15-20 minutes of exercise equivalent. This is up to 600-1200ml per hour. However it is important to note that you don’t over hydrate as this could also cause adverse effects on performance, not least the dreaded ‘stitch’. Fuel for thought indeed!

This brings me to my final thought and the famous quote ‘poor planning leads to poor performance’ as it is clearly evident that without having the efficient amount of fluid in place performance is likely to be reduced and those goals you have worked so hard to achieve will be further out of reach, so grab those water bottles, find the drink that suits you and stand on that start line feeling fully prepared, confident and ready to fly. Good Luck!