Monday, June 18, 2012

Listen up! Far End Gear - OneGood Earphone Review

I seldom have used ear buds when running, especially since I've started trail running much more. Generally, I don't need the distraction, and I like to be able to hear my surroundings for safety reasons.

However, I recently had the opportunity to try out the OneGood earphone from Far End Gear.  What is great about the XDU single earphone, is that it combines stereo sound into one ear bud, leaving your other ear available to hear surrounding sounds etc.

Here are some of the specs/details from the Far End Gear site on the noise-isolating earbud:

  • *Now Gold-Plated* Stereo 3.5mm right angle plug (same as 1/8-inch size plug)
  • Includes 3 sizes of rubber ear tips, to find your best fit
  • Compatible with Apple iPods, Apple iPhone, Sony MP3 Players, Laptops and Desktop Computers, as well as Sansa, Creative, Etek, Ativa, RCA and other low-cost MP3 players
  • Works with any device that accepts a stereo or mono 1/8-inch (1/8") or 3.5mm plug
  • Weighs in at 0.3 ounces (8 grams)
  • Stereo plug's circuitry mixes both stereo channels (left and right) together into one earphone
  • 42 inch long cord

I also tried out the BuDLoks, which are motion-resistant eartips that fit over most earbuds. The idea is to provide a stable, soft-silicone holder for your earbuds to help secure them better when active. 

Initially, I tried the earbud by itself, and it actually fit quite comfortably.  There are three sizes of ear tips, so they should fit most people well.  I liked the noise isolating sound in one ear, and the quality was decent.  I did try out the BuDLokS also, and they too fit very comfortably, however the trade-off was losing some of the noise isolation and sound quality.  Since the standard earbud stayed put while running, I've been using that primarily. 

As I noted the sound quality was pretty good for music, however I really liked them for listening to podcasts etc.  I wore the earbud on my first 2.5 hour trail run, and listened to the Trail Runner Nation podcasts... that worked out really well.  I learned a lot, and was still able to be aware of my surroundings (bears, mountain lions etc.. ;-)  ).

While the OneGood Earphone is not going to compete with higher-end dual earbud systems as far as sound quality for music goes, for purposes of running or anything active, they provide an ideal way to listen to music or podcasts safely on the road or trail. 

At $19.95, they are a terrific value, and Far End Gear also offers a variety of other models, including ones with mics to use with your iPhone etc. If you love to run with your music or podcasts, Far End Gear offers the best way to do it safely. 

Happy Trails!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Race Report

Courtesy Pikes Peak Sports and Anya Inman

So, yesterday was my first race longer than a 10K.  I don't think I could have picked a more beautiful place to run!  The Garden of the Gods 10 Mile is a race that runs through and around the Garden of the Gods, a beautiful park at the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.  If you'd asked me a year ago if I might run 10 miles, I would have laughed. At that time I was trying to get one lap around the track without stopping to catch my breath.  Leading up to this race I had not run more than 7 or 8 miles, and most of those on the trail, so last Monday I did run 10.5 at Waldo Canyon just to assure myself I could do it.  On that run, I did bruise my left foot a little, so spent the week fretting over how much it would bother me yesterday.

Getting ready to go

The race started at 7am in Manitou Springs, and the turnout was around 1600 runners.  Some were running a 5K that was being introduced this year, but most were there for the 10 mile.  As you may know, I am a slower back of the pack runner, and my goal for this race was 2 hours.  Second goal was to beat the 2.5 hour cutoff before the park was reopened to traffic!   Temp at the start was 57 degrees, and it even felt a little cool... I was glad, because I know this one would be tough with the hills, and even tougher if it was too hot. 

Courtesy Pikes Peak Sports and Anya Inman 

As a minimalist blogger/runner, you know I was debating what shoe to wear. I ended up opting for the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove.  I was thinking of the Road Glove, but because of the bruise on my foot, I opted for the Trail Glove and the slightly better protection from the rock plate.  Overall my foot felt great. The pic above was around mile 4 I think...  a long grinder of a hill, and into a strong wind also. It was pretty windy in the park that day.

Courtesy Pikes Peak Sports and Anya Inman

So, I did see quite a few VFF's out there, and a few NB and Merrell minimalist shoes... and at least one guy going barefoot.  Would love to be able to work up to that some day.. he looked like he was loving his run.

Here are some of the pics I took while on the run... I apologize for the quality, but I took these with my iPod touch while running (I was focused on making my goal!).

First good climb towards Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

yay.. a downhill!

Didn't realize the moon was there until I looked at this later

Another nice downhill

Courtesy Pikes Peak Sports and Anya Inman

The wind and hills were tougher on the front 5 miles, and I managed the first half in 59 min or so, and the last 5 mi in 56 min and change.  So I did 1:56 overall, and was happy to have made my goal.  And best of all, I finished knowing that I could go another 5K and call it a 1/2 marathon.  I'm signed up for the Georgetown-Idaho Springs 1/2 in August, so feeling pretty good about that one.  I just want to work on a better pace to finish that one in 2:15 if possible.  If you have any tips on getting faster, let me know! I am pretty sure for me its a matter of stride length.. I think I'm too paranoid about over striding, so am probably going too short. 

I also spent a lot of time on this run focused on this white line.  It reminded me of a great blog that I follow called Running on the White Line.  This focus came in handy on the hills as I imagined it as a magnetized strip drawing me up the hills, or a metal rail to ride on the downhills.  I know.. kind of goofy, but hey, I'll try any mental tricks if it gets me to the finish!

Courtesy Pikes Peak Sports and Anya Inman

This cracked me up and made me smile.  Each of the aid stations were staffed by local high school cross country running teams... they were all in costumes and did a terrific job of cheering runners on and keeping them hydrated. 

Photo courtesy of Out There Colorado

Although in the pic above this one (last 1/2 mile), I look like I'm going to die... I did finish it, and it felt really great.  Even got my first medal! (didn't realize they handed those out).   Anyway, I would highly recommend this race..  challenging yes, but the course was so beautiful and the event well run... looking forward to next year!

Happy trails (and sometimes road)! 


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Keeping an open mind.. GoLite Dart Lite Review

I'll readily admit that after discovering barefoot/minimalist running late last summer, that I can sometimes become too focused on what the "right" kind of shoe is appropriate for running. However, I am not a hard core bare footing purist, nor a total shoe snob (I hope!). I really am more focused on how to run naturally, with minimal impact and injury, and the best styles and gear to do that.

I do my best to keep an "open mind" when it comes to running style and gear, only because I learn something new every week, and my thought process is "if it works for you, then go for it!" etc.  Personally, I've run barefoot, and with very minimalist huaraches (Invisible Shoes, Bedrock Sandals), and minimalist shoes including Merrell, Vibram, kigo, and VivoBarefoot.  Most of these shoes share common traits of having a zero drop, minimal soles, light weight, and flexibility.

That being said, I've branched out recently, testing out the Dart Lite trail running shoe from GoLite.  When I first reached out to GoLite, I wanted to see what they had to offer in a minimalist trail running shoe. GoLite made it very clear that the Dart Lite is not a "bare foot minimalist" running shoe by any means, but that they do believe in the natural running style, and have modeled this shoe to support that.

GoLite developed their "Bare tech" technology to support a natural running form, but with the protection of a traditional trail running shoe. The Dart Lite is a 0mm drop shoe, but with more substantial stack height of around 24mm total, as compared to a thinner minimalist running shoe. As noted by GoLite ,"Our Zero Impact shoe is based on our belief that footwear should complement the design of the human body and that feet work best when they stay flat. We also know that feet need protection from rocks and roots on the trail. The zero drop last promotes a natural stride, with a soft midsole, offering full protection from the terrain."

In addition to the zero drop, the Dart Lite also features GoLite's "Precise-Fit" system. As you can see above, the insole comes with different sizers to accommodate narrow, medium, and wide feet.  Initially I started with the medium set, but ended up fitting the shoe with the narrow set up.. but I'll get into that later when discussing my running experience. 

Now, for a more traditional trail shoe, the Dart Lite is actually more flexible than I expected, especially considering the thickness of the sole. Also, this was right after I got the shoe, and it has actually softened up a bit more since I've put some miles on them.  You won't be rolling this up into your pocket, but it certainly isn't locking up your foot in a cast either. 

The soles on these shoes are pretty cool actually...  I liked the grippy tread pattern, and there is a certain softness to the sole that can come in handy on the trail. GoLite calls this outsole a "Sticky Gecko", with over 300 hair-like lugs to provide that sticky type of grip, and 2 different densities of EVA.  Granted, if you are a true minimalist runner, you may not like the extra cushion, but again, that is a personal preference.   The sole uses GoLite's SATG technology, or Soft Against The Ground. The stiffer more firm part of the sole is below your foot, while the portion closest to the ground is softer and absorbing, the goal being a shoe that better absorbs trail impacts. 

As for other specs... the average weight of these shoes is around 11.4 oz, with a breathable mesh and synthetic upper. The lacing system is fairly standard, and the laces hold well and allow for decent adjustment. 

Ok, finally... how do they perform?   Since I have been running in minimalist shoes for some time, I was curious what it would feel like to move back to a more traditional shoe.  I know I can't stand to even wear my old ASIC's with the super thick heel and motion-control. The Dart Lites were a pleasant surprise, primarily because of their zero drop construction.  I felt comfortable and stable in them.  Granted, the thicker stack height limited the proprioception considerably, but I expected that.  

My first run out in them was 4 miles, mostly on the roads.  I like to run the first time in new shoes on the road, and shorter distances just to get a feel.  Overall they felt great, however I did develop a hot spot on one arch, that turned into a small blister by the end of the run.  This concerned me when I felt it, and I think part of it had to do with striking harder.  Even though I maintained a mid-foot strike, I think I was hitting harder, primarily because the softer cushion allowed me to.  Also, I think I was sliding around a bit in them.  I did wear Injinji Outdoor Series lightweight socks. 

The next several runs I did were trail runs that were 6-7 miles.  Before these though, I did a few adjustments.  To counter for the potential sliding, I moved to the "narrow" fit insole configuration, and went to a normal weight Injinji.  This had me fitting snugger in the shoe, for less movement.  Next, while running, I had to consciously focus on a lighter foot strike... ignoring the urge to pound harder.  So, after that first run, no more hot spots or blisters!  As I noted above, the thicker cushioned sole doesn't allow for much ground feel, however the zero drop design and relative flexibility in the shoe certainly separates it from a traditional running or trail shoe (aka foot coffins).  The SATG tech in the Dart Lite certainly made rougher sections like the trail above smooth and comfortable, yet I still felt enough stability to not feel like I was going to falter from not feeling the ground.  Granted I did take a spill on this run, but it was more from not paying attention, than it was the shoe. I did strike a root pretty hard, and the toe/upper on the shoe did a good job of protecting from any foot damage.  The traction was decent on these.. more so with the soft grip on hard rock surfaces and I had no issues on loose gravel etc.  However I am not sure of how they will perform in mud or snow, as I can't seem to find either at the moment, but, as with other reviews, I will look to circle back with an update in a future post on the long-term performance. Also,  I did notice the weight of the shoe, as it is certainly heavier than my minimalist trail running shoes.  However, I chalked it up to getting a better workout! But seriously, there is a trade off for better cushioning/protection and weight.  

Above is another shot from one of the trail runs in the Dart Lite.  I do love trail running! 

Ok... here is my summary/recap of the Dart Lite from GoLite Footwear: 


  • Zero drop
  • Comfortable (Once you dial in your fit and sock combo)
  • Customizable (using the Precise Fit system)
  • Good trail protection (cushioned sole using the SATG technology). 
  • A bit heavy for me
  • Lack of good proprioception (ground feel)
  • Tread may not be aggressive enough for some conditions (TBD)
  • Not a good choice if you are looking for a true minimalist shoe

Although for me personally, these are not the ideal trail running shoe, I did discover that I really like them as a walking/hiking shoe. I love the combination of a zero drop shoe, but with extra cushion and comfort. As a hiker/walker, I think these would allow for a lot of mileage with not a lot of foot abuse.  That being said, these could also be a great fit for someone in a traditional stiff, steep drop trail shoe that is looking to shift to a more natural running style.  My opinion is that going barefoot first is the ideal transition, but I know that it really is a matter of personal choice.  If you are in a traditional shoe, and want to go zero drop, but not full minimalist, the Dart Lite may be a good choice for you. 

On an exciting note, I've learned that GoLite is going to introduce a new trail shoe in August.. one that is designed to be more flexible, and with more ground feel. I think it is great that they are moving more towards a minimalist style shoe.  I certainly feel they have the potential to design such a shoe, since the quality of construction in this shoe is very high.  The Dart Lite retails for $115 on the GoLite site, but I think if you shop around you can find them in the $90 range, putting them in decent price range for quality trail running shoes. 

Again, if there is anything I missed mentioning, or if you have questions/feedback.. let me know!

Happy Trails!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Kickball! Or... let's not grow up.... and beer!

Photo credit

Just had to share this story as it got me thinking more..  

Yesterday I was up on our roof, clearing off some pine needles and cleaning out the gutters.  We live adjacent to the football and baseball fields at the middle school.  I could hear some guys yelling and cheering from up there, so assumed they were playing softball on the field.  However, there was this distinct thumping/pinging sound that was oddly familiar...  I moved a bit to see through the trees..  that awesome sound was that of a guy kicking a classic red cherry ball...   they were playing kickball!

I thought... wow... kickball..  I remember how much fun that was as a kid to play..   you didn't need any equipment... just something to turn into bases, and a good bouncy cherry ball.  Listening to them hooting and hollering made me smile.  It's that whole "never grow up" mentality.  I think we all need to recapture and keep that joy of childhood play in everything we do.  I know that for running, that is a big part for me.  I keep running primarily because of how fun it can be... just for the sheer freedom of being able to do so.  I mentioned this a little in my post about kids running here, and I really do believe we could all gain by keeping that playfulness near the top of our priority list.

Now, don't get me wrong. Pushing the childhood joys of just having fun doesn't mean dropping all responsibility.  I didn't jump down off the roof and fun over to join the game (although the thought crossed my mind), since I had things I knew needed to be done that day.  BUT.. that being said, I made a mental note that I need to look at incorporating something like that kickball game into life.  So, a word of warning to my monthly poker buddies...  we may need to put together a kickball game soon... just for the sheer fun of it.

Now.. speaking of FUN... I am catching up on all the great podcasts on Trail Runner Nation (They are awesome), and this particular podcast had a discussion about the Beer Mile.  I guess it's kind of an unofficial race event, but are pretty popular.  I mean, beer and running.. who wouldn't like that?   The deal is you run a 1/4 mile, you drink a beer (while stopped), run another 1/4 mile, another beer etc...   for a total of 1 mile and 4 beers.  I guess the trick is to not only run fast, but drink fast too!  Whoever came up with this one... pure genius!   I'm going to have to see if there are any around.. or set up my own! 

Speaking of Trail Runner Nation...   I'm loving the podcasts and it's a great site.  If you love trail running, I'd check it out and sign up (easy to do, and you can sign up using your Facebook too).  So.. check it out at  and check out the podcasts!

Ok... that's my ramblings for today...   stay tuned for more gear reviews soon, and hopefully some giveaways..    in the interim, nervously awaiting my first 10 mile race on Sunday... 

Happy trails!