Sunday, August 17, 2014

Inov-8 312 GTX Review

Inov-8 312 GTX Review

I found these shoes, along with other Inov-8 models on clearance at a "dog show" company. Apparently, trail runners are not the only ones that love the grippy-ness of Inov-8 shoes. The 312 gtxs will be my 3rd pair of Inov-8s, the others being the X-Talon 190 and Trailroc 245. I love my other Inov-8s so why not give the 312s a try (especially when on clearance).

The 312 gtx is much bulkier than the more minimalist Talons and Trailrocs. Yet they are still lightweight and comfortable, in spite of the 9mm heel to toe drop (I would prefer 3 mm). I have a wide, hobbit shaped foot and the shoes were able to fit me well enough. I would also prefer a bit more width in the toes, but I was able to adjust the lacing so it works.  The sole has a very pronounced lug grip much like the X-Talons and the material is Gore-Tex, excellent for keeping water out, but also keeping water in. The 312s have more toe protection too for those times you smack a rock with the front of the shoe, something the Trailroc and Talons lack. 

My vision for these shoes were for those colder winter snow shoe and trail runs that would grip into the snow and keep my feet warmer and drier. In the past I have used the Talons but would have inserted a bag in them to keep my feet drier in the snow.  Also, since they do provide more protection and Gore-Tex, I could see using them as a ultra lightweight shoe for hiking and backpacking trips. 

I was able to test them out recently on a Northern Presidential Traverse. We covered 15 miles with 7500 feet elevation gain.  The terrain is covered with sharp, unstable rocks. My friend  seemed doubtful that these 'sneakers' would provide enough protection on the trail. 

Mt Madison in the clouds wearing the 312 GTX
Rocky Terrain of the Presedentials

After 15 miles, the bottom of my feet felt 'ok'. I definitely hit a few rocks that sent some nerves up my foot, but generally not too bad and no worse than anything else I have used outside of a heavy duty hiking boot. I feel like the lugs in the shoe provided a protection barrier between the rocks and my foot. I also did hit my toe on a few rocks, and the toe protection on the shoe was excellent. The Gore-Tex worked exactly as it was suppose to, my feet were dry but not sweaty. I did not get water 'in' the shoes so I cant testify how well they drain. 
I did though feel that the shoes felt wobbly at times. This could be a combination of the lugs and the narrower sole. (apparently, the 312s's sole is not as wide as others). It could have been because i was getting tired, but I was feeling less confident in my foot placement down the Lions Head trail 13 miles in.  With that said, we ended up running the last 2.5 downhill miles and the 312 gtx felt awesome.

Overall, the 312s worked out great and I am excited to use them again on the trail and especially on the snow. If you want a lightweight trail runner that provides fair protection, these may be a great choice. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014 Seven Sisters Trail Race

 2014 Seven Sisters Trail Race

Its fun for some

The seven sisters is a challenging out and back trail race along the M&M trail on the Holyoke range. The trail is really never flat and you can forget about maintaining any consistent pace. The terrain goes from very rocky to smooth single track, steep climbs to blazing descents. There is scrambling, rock hoping, hiking because your heart rate is maxed out, and anxious self talk as you negotiate footing. This race brings  together adrenaline and endorphin's and is not a race for everyone. One fellow racer hates this race...too technical, mentally exhausting, and the flow too erratic. I LOVED this race. Mentally engaging, constant speed changes, using all limbs, and being in nature. 

With that said, my only complaint of the race is how they set the start. With 400+ people the organizers decided break up the start in 4 heats, each with about 100 runners. Runners submitted their times during registration which then placed them in their respective heats. At the time I registered, 2 weeks prior, the first 3 heats were sold out. For me, starting in heat 4 meant I had to pass 350 racers to get to where i would expect to finish. Though I found all runners extremely kind and courteous as i ran around and by them, I think it would be better for all runners if the organizers where able to sort times and at race day place runners in appropriate heats. I may be totally ignorant of how much work that would involve, but it seems like the database should be able to sort times very quickly, then assign numbers.

Overall,if you like the mental challenge of trail race, try this one out! If you want to be competitive, sign up early!! 
Photo Credit: Ben Kimball

Mark and I pre-race

27th place out of 433 racers     
Time:  2:29:19

Link to my running stats.