From Distance to Distance

To me, and many other trail and mountain runners, the Salming Distance D1 with a bit more robust and rugged sole would be a dream!

A great shoe just got better! Or actually, I use and love them both. The Salming Distance D1 and it’s younger cousin Salming Distance A2, which I have had the opportunity to try out during the autumn. The new version should not be seen as a replacement as far as I see it, I use them both for different purposes. Please also keep in mind that these thoughts are my own and what works for me might not work for you. Also, my use of these running shoes is probably different from the typical road runner.

Official site: www.salmingrunning.com

Salming Distance D1 and Distance A2
Salming Distance D1 to the left and Distance A2 to the right.
General

The fit is quite narrow, something I really appreciate, and it’s very comfortable. The main difference between the two models is that the Distance D1 is a three layer construction whereas the Distance A2 is a two layer construction. Apart from that, they are pretty much the same. However, that has some impact on the feel and characteristics of the shoes. The Distance D1 obviously has more fabric which means it feels more padded, and even if I haven’t tried the shoe for really long distances (i.e. ultras covering many hours of running), I would imagine that this model would stay comfortable for an extended period of time.

The Distance A2 on the other hand is a lighter shoe which would be beneficial for road racing up to, say, marathon distances. It also feels “faster” than the Distance D1. The soles are pretty much the same though, so ground contact feels similar.

Size

The Distance A2 feels bigger overall, possibly due to less fabric being used, so I would suggest to get a half-size smaller shoe compared to Distance D1. The toe box is also slightly wider in Distance A2, something to be aware about since some runners prefer a more narrow fit for the toes.

Speaking of size, there is one thing that bothers me regardless of shoe manufacturer. Knowing that the US/UK/EUR size comparison is far from consistent between manufacturers, I was hoping for the cm-measure to be more exact. In the best of worlds, a shoe marked 27.0 cm would fit a foot that is 27.0 cm long regardless of who made the shoe. This, as it turns out, is rarely the case, resulting in the cm-measure being no more precise than any other measure.

Something for shoe makers to think about. Imagine knowing that your foot is exactly 27.2 cm long, and that you want around 1 cm of space between toe and shoe. The shoe marked 28.0 cm or 28.5 cm would be your size to choose. Easy. Yes, you would still have to actually try the shoe on, but it would at least simplify buying new shoes from a known maker. Like buying Salming Distance A2 when you already have the Distance D1. Just sayin’.

Usage

So both models are great, and I use the Distance D1 for dirt roads and lighter trail, and the Distance A2 for road racing. I would feel confident to use the Distance D1 for ultra distances any day, and will do so when I decide to do an ultra which is free from rocks, climbing and dense forest. Which haven’t happened yet. That brings me to the last point, the outer sole. For my kind of running, like in the mountains, I would appreciate a bit more traction. To me, and many other trail and mountain runners, the Salming Distance D1 with a bit more robust and rugged sole would be a dream!

Lacing up

Last but not least a small idea about lacing your shoes that you could try. Lacing your shoes this way supposedly keep your foot more firmly against the back of the shoe reducing heel slippage. During an ultra you might run downhill for several thousands of meters, and this technique might help keeping your toes away from the front of the shoe. However, if you do like the ultra fashion statement that comes with black toe nails, this is not for you.

Davos, the day before tomorrow

Swiss Irontrail – T81

By this time tomorrow we will be on our way on the 88 km long course with over 5000 m in total ascent. Hopefully everything will still go as planned by then, and we are still running happily with the cows in the alps close to Davos. We, as in me and my friend Snorre, got here two days ago and have been preparing for the challenge as much as we can. After flying from Oslo to Zürich and taking three different trains, we got to Davos Platz last tuesday afternoon. A quick change of clothes and we went for our first encounter with the alps. We took a lift which was more like a vertical train up to Schatzalp at 1861 m. Just to get the feeling and not to get too tired we took a one hour run and got 400 meters in total ascent. Back on the ground, which is still some 1500 meters above sea level, I actually started to feel the difference in air pressure due to the height as I felt a bit dizzy for a few hours during the evening. Good thing we are here a couple of days before the race I think to myself.

A beautiful view of the alps.
A beautiful view of the alps.

Next day, we want to try to get some more altitude and decide to go for a short hike. Another lift which is even steeper (almost like a roller coaster but only going upwards) takes us up to 2219 meters. We actually wanted to take another lift up to Weissfluhjoch but it’s down for maintenance. One of the repair men hammer quite hard on the cable while the others hold and twist it. It looks like it’s a quite manual way of fixing the cable, but I’m sure they know what they are doing. Absolutely sure. Maybe we should just walk instead, it’s not that far is it?

It’s raining quite heavily and the wind is cold, but we get about one hour of walking. After that we have lunch at a restaurant up in the mountains. Just being in the heights is enough training this close to the race we figure. The weather worries me a bit, rain and cold at over 2000 m above sea level could really be quite tough. The weather forecast changes every hour though, so we just hope for better weather during the race.

It’s the day before the race and the runners doing 202 km is about to start. These people have done a few races before it seems, they all look like they know what this is all about. A few of them stand out, but mostly it’s compression shorts, compression socks, backpack and poles. They are all calm and relaxed. A few smiles, pictures are taken, a quick equipment check. A small change is announced, apparently a part of the course is damaged due to rain. The music is on, everyone is cheering and off they go! A strange feeling since we know that we will for sure see some of them more than 24 hours later on the course when we are out there as well. A few of them will probably even run past us.

And off they go on their 202 km long journey.
And off they go on their 202 km long journey.

The rest of the day will be spent in the hotell room, relaxing and eating. Time to pack the bag, and prepare the clothes. The race is very well organized with a lot of aid stations so I don’t plan to bring that much food. Good thing, since the weather can change rapidly and I need to pack a lot of clothes. I will bring enough gels, and then a few bars just in case.

Part of the gear I will use.
Part of the gear I will use.

Speaking of relaxing. There seems to be a music thing going on in Davos right now as well and I’m lucky enough to have one of the violin players in the room next to me. She’s quite good but I’m starting to know the piece she’s been working on by heart now. Not a bad piece, but it’s probably better with all parts of the orchestra and not just only one violin. Trying to stay positive.

It’s getting closer to start and I can feel it. All kinds of thoughts are running through my mind but I’m absolutely sure it will be amazing. Extremely tough, but amazing. Will I for the first time break the magical 50 mile/80 km limit? In a short while we will know…

Full Moon Race 2014 – My first DNF

Sweden – Skåneleden trail during the night along the shore from Haväng to Ystad…

Ok, so DNF means Did Not Finish. There, I’ve said it. As you might understand it didn’t work out the way I wanted to. I had imagined crossing the finishing line after 80 km with a big smile on my face, early morning sunshine gently touching my skin. Instead, there was rain. All night long. The race starts at 9:00 pm and runs through the night taking advantage of the supposedly bright full moon. This year, a so called supermoon. But there was no moon. At least I didn’t see it since it was thoroughly hidden by the thick clouds. It rained during the day, it rained at the information meeting before the start of the race, and it rained even more when we started to run. The rain as such didn’t bother me very much though, but my clothes and shoes were soaked immediately making the running more demanding.

Before the race, and before the heavy rain.
Before the race, and before the heavy rain.

After a group photo by the shore, the race starts. The race will follow Skåneleden, which is a marked trail consisting of several parts covering large areas of southern Sweden. A quick hug to my parents and my loved one, who actually supports these kinds of things, and off we go. I have teamed up with Lotta whom I met during my first visit to Transylvania a few months ago. A good thing, it turned out, since running this race alone would be unnecessary tough. The first hour feels great, my family stops at a few places along the course cheering us as we run by. After a while the track enters the woods and it gets a lot darker. Our headlamps give us enough light for navigation, and it’s a very special feeling running up the narrow trail paths that take us to the highest peak of the race, Stenshuvud south of Kivik. It consists of several peaks actually and not being able to read the signs properly we take a detour up the north peak which is not part of the race. That peak presented us with the most beautiful view of them all though and we only lost a few minutes so we were happy anyway. Headlamps work perfectly as camera lighting and after a short photoshoot we get back on track again.

A beautiful view from Stenshuvud, soaked but still happy!
A beautiful view from Stenshuvud, soaked but still happy!

Shortly after Stenshuvud Lotta’s headlamp runs out of battery. She has an extra lamp but it’s in the dropbag at Sandhammaren lighthouse still 30 km away. I also have a spare lamp, but I left it at home thinking I would not need it. Oh well, I guess it gets more challenging this way. Running with only one lamp works out ok though, and Lotta manages to see where I put my feet and use that as a guidance. After running along the shore for a while, we meet some of the race officials that show us the way back up on the road again. It turns out that this part of Skåneleden had to be moved from the shore since the waterlevel is too high. The signs are all updated it seems, but the map isn’t. We pass through apple farms – unfortunately it’s too early for apples though – and a golf course before reaching the small villages Vik and Baskemölla. This part has more asphalt than anticipated which causes a slight demotivation in the team.

We reach Simrishamn, a slightly larger village, and we have now been running for 3 hours, and covered around 28 km. For the first time I feel that I might not be able to finish this. My legs hurt a bit and everything is wet and dark. I realize that it will not stop raining. We slow down, walk a bit, and we have something to eat. Lotta tries to cheer me up and convince me that we will make it. After a few more kilometers we are back on the shore. We must have been running slower now since we are caught up by some of our friends that had been behind us. I’m starting to get issues with my right leg, and especially the knee starts to hurt. We continue but soon enough the pain gets worse and we have to alternate between running and walking. I encourage Lotta to go ahead and run without me since we are going very slow now, but she refuses to do so. I have to do something about my knee and when we reach Skillinge after about 40 km of total running Lotta helps me to wrap a tight bandage around my knee to decrease the stress.

For a while it feels better and we cover a few more kilometers. But the relief turns out to be short-lived and the pain soon comes back. We have about 8 km to go to the mid-race checkpoint and we see Sandhammaren lighthouse in the far horizon. This part of the race is mentally tough since you see the lighthouse from very far distance and it seems you never get any closer. You just run and run along the shore and everything looks the same. My bad knee is slowing us down even more now since we have to walk more and run less. I tell Lotta that it’s very likely I will drop out at Sandhammaren and that she should move on without me. Two other runners just past us and she could just run with them instead. We make a deal that she will follow me to the checkpoint and if there are other runners still there she will join them. Otherwise she will just drop out there as well and call it a night.

The mobile phone coverage is not the best but as we approach Sandhammaren I manage to call my loved one and my dad. They get in the car immediately and drive all the way from Malmö to pick me up. I couldn’t ask for more. The decision to drop out is a very tough one, and a lot of thoughts are running through my mind as we finally reach Sandhammaren after 52 km and just below 7 hours of running. I get my dropbag and eat the sandwiches I had prepared. I have a few cups of coffee and a Coke. Fortunately, the other runners have not yet left the aidstation and Lotta continues with them. I’m happy that she could finish the race and I’m very grateful for the help and support from her along the way!

The rain was expected.
The rain was expected.

Afterthoughts

I could probably have done a lot of things differently, but here are a few things that I think affected the race:

  • The weather could definitely have been better. Even though I didn’t really mind running in the rain, it would have made it a lot easier if there was light from the moon, and if the clothes and shoes were not heavy from the rain.
  • Since the race was done during the night I should have rested more during the day. My dad ran the SM 10K in Malmö that day and I wanted to see the race. Even though I felt tired during the day I didn’t sleep but spent the day downtown. In the car going to the race I actually fell asleep for a while, which indicates that I wasn’t as well rested as I should have been.
  • Checking the log from my GPS watch afterwards, I realize that we started off at around 5 min/km pace for the first 10-15 km. That was way too fast, and probably caused more fatigue than necessary. Speed kills!
  • My shoes were still quite new, and when they got wet they were heavy and stiff and caused pain on the top of my foot. I also got a bit more pain in my shin muscle (m tibialis anterior) than I usually do.

Gear

A few words about the gear I was using for this race:

  • Backpack – Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0. A great backpack with just enough space. Comfortable to wear, and since this race required you to bring a lot of water, I used both front flasks and an additional 2.0 l water reservoir which worked out great.
  • Jacket – A lightweight Salomon wind jacket. Not actually a rain jacket, but provided enough protection from both rain and wind.
  • Shorts – Salomon S-LAB Exo Short Tight. I can’t say I feel any difference using compression clothes or not, but they were very comfortable to wear even through this race with the rain. I also wore blue Mammut MTR 141 Shorts Long because they are really comfortable. And because they look great.
  • Socks – ZENSAH Tech+ Compression Socks. Comfortable even for long runs, a very good sock.
  • Shoes – Mammut MTR 141. A good shoe overall with a good grip. A bit heavy though especially when wet.

Kullamannen ULTRA 2014

Sweden – Along the shore from Ängelholm to Kullaberg, a peninsula with dramatic nature giving a tough second part of the race…

I had really been waiting for this. Actually ever since last year, when I was planning to do the Kullamannen ULTRA for the first time. Back then, the race was 48 km, but it didn’t happen because of a ridiculous fall and a hurting knee. I didn’t want to take any risks so I changed course to the “Svarta Banan” (Black Course) of 12.8 km. A good choice after all, it turned out, since I was very satisfied with my finishing time. But now it would happen, I would finally give a try on the ultra course. The sports drink was prepared, my backpack was full of flapjacks, and I was wearing my compression socks. I wear the socks mostly for the looks by the way, not because they have that much compression effect. This year, the course was a bit longer I was informed, giving 54 km from Ängelholm through Arild and finally a few rounds up at Kullaberg. In the end, however, it turned out to be even longer than that.

It’s 6:00 am, and I wake up to the well known sound of my alarm. I have time for a quick breakfast, then we should get going. Speaking of breakfast, what should I eat? I hadn’t even thought about that. Two slices of bread with cheese and ham, and a few cups of coffee. That will do. In the car on our way to the race I tried two carbo loaders from Enervit I hadn’t tried before. A bit risky to try new energy sources on race day, but luckily my stomach didn’t object to this new acquaintance. We park our car, and go out in the fresh morning air. Perfect weather for running, a bit cloudy and nice comfortable temperature. I start off my warm-up, a few laps around the parking, but stop after a  short while. I try to convince myself that since I’m about to run almost 60 km, I’ll get warm soon enough. I spot the long distance running celebrity Rune Larsson and get a bit starstruck, watch him for a while but do not dare to say Hello.

This time, my plan was to have a bit more control over my energy intake during the race, and I aim for around 250 kcal per hour which is a recommendation I have read in several places. I alternate between sports drinks, gels and bars. I don’t do it much more scientific than that.  I prepare my number tag and my backpack, roll up my fancy compression socks, and enter the starting area.

The race is about to start.
Nice and easy now, no stress…

Bang! The starting signal echoes through the woods! Actually no, it doesn’t. It’s more like a happy “Wohoo!”, but anyway off we go. Very soon the path gets really narrow and I end up somewhere in the middle of the crowd. We are running slowly. Very. Slowly. I find myself getting a bit annoyed by the fact that I can’t run the pace I want to, but soon I conclude that it’s a long way to go, and that the pace probably doesn’t matter at this moment. The first few kilometers literally fly away, and I’m already at the first water station. I grab a cup of water and Per, one of the race officials, makes a joke (I think) and asks if I shouldn’t drop out. I politely refuse the offer of a free ride to the finishing area, and get back on the course.

13 km. Time flies. This part of the course is so beautiful along the shore from Ängelholm. My legs feel fresh and my mind is sharp and alert. I have a few bites of tasty flapjacks, take a few sips of sports drink, and feel that life in general is indeed great.

19 km. What’s this?! What happened to my fresh legs? Why on earth am I doing this? Shouldn’t I be finished by now? Doesn’t it start to hurt a bit? Don’t they do any other flavors of gel? Does it have to be this much sand?! Get out of my way stupid seabird!! My thoughts are all over the place. I have another flapjack. Chocolate flavor, my favorite. My mood is getting better, and I cover a few more kilometers. I meet a nice Norwegian guy and we run together for a while. He tells me that this is his first trail run and that he normally runs flat marathon races. He and three of his friends happened to see the race on the internet and decided to join not really knowing what it was. The three other guys are further ahead, I’m told.

29 km. Arild! I’m at the biggest aid station and a large buffet with all kinds of delicious stuff is waiting for me! Unfortunately you can’t really eat that much during the race, but I manage to get a few handfuls of potato chips, some fruit and a few pickled cucumbers. The salty cucumbers are the best I’ve ever had. Ever. It really feels that way after a couple of hours eating only sugar. Delicious! I bring along a few more as I get back on the course and head for Kullaberg.

In the finishing area for the first time.
Still fresh and alert, heading out for the second part of the course out of three.

I run through the finishing area for the first time. Everything feels great, legs are happy and I head out for the second part of the course. Now it gets much more hilly, but that’s actually a very appreciated change right now. I’m having fun and after a short while I’m back in the finishing area again, heading out for the last loop. I’m still feeling quite good and I get a lot of energy from cheering friends and family. I have now been running for more than four hours and covered 43 km. It’s still 13 km to go. After a short while on the last loop, my legs get really tired and my body feels heavy. I’m starting to feel pain in my right knee and every time there is a steep downhill the pain gets worse. It’s supposed to be 7 km to the lighthouse, which is the turning point of the loop, and I still don’t see the lighthouse. This year, the course around the lighthouse was slightly changed, and now includes a really steep climb taking you up to the lighthouse from the seaside. This doesn’t scare me at all however, I look forward to do some climbing for a change. Eventually I get to the lighthouse and manage the climb being cheered on by spectators having a picnic. Now it’s only 6 km to go, let’s do this!

My knee gets worse and soon the pain is almost unbearable. The pace is really really slow now. Two kilometers to go, and suddenly I spot the Norwegian guy again who I thought had finished a long time ago. He is running with one of his friends. I decide to stop listening to my knee for a while and increase my speed to get closer. I manage to cry out a “Come on Oslo!” and run past them. They do not follow. It seems they are too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I run the last 100 meters even faster and after a bit more than six hours of running I manage to get past the finishing line. I finally get my belt buckle, and I’m incredibly happy with my effort.

Approaching the finishing line!
Managed to do a small – very small – increase of pace in the end.

I’m hungry but I can’t manage to eat more than half a cinnamon bun. My thirst is easier to satisfy and I fill up with sports drink, water and coffee. I’m tired and my body is sore as I get back in the car, but I have a big smile on my face. Despite the pain and total fatigue I can’t wait until next year…