The Absurdity of Ultra Trailrunning, or not?

Some ‘kitchen table’ philosophical thoughts I had during the 85km and 2900m+ trailrun as part of the Innsbruck Alpine Trail Festival (IATF18).

Reading the book ‘The age of absurdity – Why modern Life makes it Hard to be Happy’ by Michael Foley (2010) I couldn’t stop wondering why I was actually running 85 kilometres around Innsbruck including 2900 metres of climbing and descents during the Innsbruck Alpine Trail Festival (IATF18)?

P.S.1. I got the great tip about BBC Radio 4 ‘The Digital Human’ which discusses the difference between a life with friction and a friction less life. It talks about the same feeling I describe in this blog. Maybe nice to listen to as a podcast during your trailrun.
P.S.2. Why are we doing this? That is the question I want to answer in this article. And I am definitley not the only one. A inspirational movie is ‘THE WHY, Running 100 miles‘.
P.S.3. The GUARDIAN published an interesting article about ‘What running does to your brain?‘. So now it is official: scientific proof that it is absurd but also good 🙂

 

Nobody forced me up those Alpine mountains and said, ”Only come back when you are finished. And by the way, an overnight stay is not included, the idea is to do it all in approximately 12 hours’’.

So, whilst the ‘normal people’ slowly woke up I ran on Saturday morning 28th April with a head torch through Innsbruck, climbed the hills and zigzagged into the forest. The air was still fresh and crispy but it would not take that long to warm up. It would become another sunny and warm day, up to 25 degrees without any clouds. The sunrise was beautiful, at first a red blossom, but quickly with full force enlightening the blossoms in the trees, making the grass in the alpine meadows even more green and the still sleepy and very tidy Austrian villages even more part of a scene out of the romantic Sissi movie.

 

 

That is when my brain wandered off to the question of the absurdity of this all. Or is it absurd? Michael Foley writes about the ‘present age of entitlement’ where people only think and act as if they only have rights and no duties, entitled to a continuous stream of the pleasures of life … and if something is not correct than it is somebody’s or society’s fault and surely not you own or just ‘bad luck’. The call upon entitlement however does not provide a deeper sense of satisfaction and ability to cope with life’s setbacks. For this you need to put in effort and detachment. Effort, setbacks and the like precedes satisfaction, happiness. Detachment provides the ability to observe and think about what is actually going on around you in the world, creating paradoxically more intense engagement …

‘The fool doth think he is wise but the wise man knows himself to be a fool’

(Shakespeare ‘As You like It, Act 5, Scene I – I have not seen this play but the quote posits very eloquently the humbleness in which we can, or maybe should look at life).

The meaning of life is in my opinion most famously stated as to ‘always look on the bright side’. However we are not ‘just’ entitled to be always at this ‘bright side’, we need to find it. To find this ‘bright side’ we need detachment. Micheal Foley writes that …

‘… Real detachment requires ‘Solitude, Stillness and Silence’ instead of the present ‘Commotionism’ (constant company, movement and noise) …’.

 

 

Whilst enjoying the sun, the extremely well stocked refreshment posts, the beautiful scenery, and the many friendly spoken Austrian ‘servus’ I realised that this absurd undertaking of me running 85km in half a day brings for me the pursued solitude, silence and stillness that Michael Foley writes about. An ultra trailrun (i.e. at least a few hours running) by definition goes at a slow pace. The mediating rhythm of running and the physical pains which slowly materialise bring me in a ‘sort of nice flow’. Together with the consciousness that it is my own personal responsibility to start in this event is enough for me to allow my mind the time to detach and wander off.

The K85 followed similar paths as most trailruns I have run both organised and just self-made: as much as possible away from the busy world, through wood, across fields and along river beds. Solitude is not difficult to find in these circumstances, most trailrunners experience their run rather solitary, although there are always those who have the ability to talk for hours. No worries, just drop back a few 100 metres and your are on your own together with the pleasant Silence of nature (although the birds and cow bells are not creating a complete silence, there is a pleasant form of ‘calm’). Stillness may be a strange connection to trailrunning, but not for me. I find stillness in the moments when passing for example a ‘kissing gate’ on the right of way paths in the UK, or during the K85 when passing a corner in the forest and suddenly have a breathtaking view on the snow capped mountains … than I just stop.

received_1939705929375997So what does all these ‘kitchen table’ philosophical thoughts bring me? The realisation that I am very lucky to run in the sun, a little holiday, whilst it is cold and wet at home. That the rest of the family allows me to this instead of coming directly back home after my work abroad was done. Intense enjoyment of the day. A spontaneous pose besides two traditionally dressed Austrian ladies whom picture was just taken that moment. The transition from being in the ‘running flow’ to a feeling of great satisfaction during the last few kilometres ending in euphoria after the finish. Than Solitude, Silence and Stillness are exchanged for sharing stories, memories and ‘thoughts during the trail’ with the other runners. Made even more enjoyable with a few pints of cold alcohol free Erdinger Beer and savoury snacks.

 

 

Ultra trailrunning is absurd! I fully agree but it helps me to make sense of and see the ‘bright side of life’ … and that is all I need.   

Some statistics:

  • In total 150 men and 19 women finished the K85.
  • The men 1 to 150 finished between an very fast 08.07 and more than twice this time of 17.34.
  • The women 1 to 19 finished in the bracket of 08.59 – 17.34 (the last man and woman clearly decided to finish together).
  • I finished as man 54 in 11.14.
  • I was the first Dutchmen of in total three Dutch runners and 19th Men 40 – 50.
  • But to be fair the only Belgian participant and also INOV-8 Benelux ambassador Aaike De Wever (read his experiences) passed the line in a great time of 08.57.

Some trailrun ‘stuff’:

  • I ran on the INOV-8 Roclite 315. These shoes worked well on the dry mixed ground of the not very technical trail consisting mostly softer forest trails, hard packed wide trails and some wonderful small rocky paths along the rivers floating into the River Inn.
  • I wore a 5 litres Race Ultra trailpack from INOV-8 which allowed me to easily take all the required ‘stuff’ with me. The alternative I had brought with me, the Compressport ULTRUN 140 was just a little too small for easy and quick access. It would be great if Compressport would develop a larger trailpack, see also my review: The Trailrunners Belt / Vest / Backpack choice.
  • The Compressport clothes however felt really good in the warm weather and the new R2 OXYGEN tubes did not feel warm at all. Specially made for maximum breathability they did what was stated on the package!
  • In my ‘last week short preparation runs’ in sunny Naples, Italy I noticed again that Compressport produces clothing for the ‘warmer’ Alpine climate with a lot of mesh (beside the compressing fabrics they are known for) and INOV-8 more for the wet and colder UK temperatures, see also my review: Compressport Trailrun clothing.
  • And finally, but surely important, I enjoyed the sun protected by pair of Julbo sunglasses. There any many sport sunglasses on the market. I got in contact with Julbo a few years ago when I won a pair during a trailrun. So the choice was ‘made for me by lady Luck’, but as the stoic would say ‘take advantage of this fortunate happening’.

Roclite 315, a worthy family member?

The INOV-8 Roclite 315 is new in the Roclite family, how does it compare to my beloved 305’s?

At the beginning of December I was lucky enough to receive a test pair of the INOV-8 Roclite 315. I directly wondered if this new version could be any better than the Roclite 305 which I really like as multi-terrain trail shoe and which was one of my favourite trail shoes this year (together with the Trailroc 285) – see my earlier reviews on the Trailrun goodies review page.

I tested the Roclite 315 these last six weeks, accumulating in total 360 kilometres in very diverse circumstances including snow / sleet and rain, thick / thin / sticky and deep mud, forest / grass / road / gravel and stony paths, short / long and multi-day trails.

With these experiences I feel comfortable to write down my thoughts of the Roclite 315.

Family feeling

In the ever increasing INOV-8 Roclite family you will also find, besides the 305 and new 315:

I have no experience yet with these other versions.

INOV-8 writes that the ‘new’ of the Roclite 315 is in the ‘upper part’ of the shoes. The mid- and out-sole are unchanged compared to the Roclite 305. On close inspection of the shoes I could indeed not observe any differences other than the ‘upper’. For this I will focus my review mainly on the ‘upper’ but first …

First the numbers and data – from the brochure.

  • The Upper, with the ‘new’ in green:
    • X-PROTEC upper for ‘ultimate’ protection and durability.
    • A reinforced hybrid tongue stops all debris from entering the shoe.
  • Just like the 305:
    • On-the-shoe gaiter hooks offer a more secure attachment system that allows you to attach the ALL TERRAIN GAITER to the shoe (it works!).
    • ADAPTERWEB lacing system adapts to the movement and swelling of the foot in motion.
    • X-LOCK system supports and holds the heel in place.
  • Midsole:
    • PowerFlow cushioned mid-sole together with a molded, 6mm footbed creates light underfoot comfort.
  • Outsole:
    • Tri-C rubber compound and multi-directional claw-shaped cleats, each with a wide contact area, providing a good grip over unpredictable terrain and the quick release of debris.
    • Stone protection utilising the Second-generation META-SHANK.
  • Numbers:
    • Fit: 3, which for INOV-8 means: the ‘middle’.DSC_0004.jpg
    • Weight: 315gm. I measured 362gm for UK size 9. So maybe a better name would be the Roclite 360 :).
    • Midsole Stack: Heel 16mm / Forefoot 8mm.
    • Drop: 8mm (INOV-8 two Arrow indication).
    • Lug depth: 6mm (how deep are the ‘rubber points’ of the outsole).
    • Footbed: 6mm

My experiences

I will divide my experiences in positive or negative and make where applicable a comparison with other shoes. Obviously, this is all very much runner dependent. I will describe why I think a feature is + or –  but in the end, as always …

‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’ –

Choose your own treat after running on these shoes yourself!

(Maybe Ice-cream or a warm chocolate)!

Positive features

The Roclite 315 keeps the same positive features as a wrote in my review of the Roclite 305, mainly:

You basically ‘stand like a rock’ and feel supported from all sides.

This is a truly multi-terrain shoe.

However, during this wet December month I also experienced that for truly muddy, or snow covered trails the Roclite 315 misses the lug depth and aggressive outsole design of for example INOV-8 X-Claw 275. The multi-terrain feature results in a well thought of compromise which you notice when looking for the limits.

The integrated tongues gave me the comfortable feeling that the shoe is ‘wrapped’ around my feet, leaving no room to glide or cause friction.

The lacing system may not be designed for this purpose but the ADAPTER Web gave me the option to tie the laces quite tight around my feet.

Protection. I noticed that the Roclite 315 ‘new upper’ provides more protection against getting wet feet when running through the early morning wet grass, or muddy trails. This is probably due to the change in the upper of the shoe, the so-called X-PROTECT layering. The protective layering extends a little bit longer towards the mid part of the shoe and both the top part and integrated tongue are made of a more durable and by the look of it more water-resistant mess (see picture below).

Negative features

Wear and tear. After 360 kilometres the shoes are still in good condition with less wear of the upper front mesh as I experienced with the Roclite 305 (see right picture below). However, the right shoe showed breaks on both sides in the protective layer, just at the point where the shoes bends the most when running (see two left pictures below). Maybe it has to do with my running style that only the right shoe shows this wear. I am not sure, but it was not something I expected more over not when the Roclite 315 is promoted as having a more ‘increased durability’.

After contacting INOV-8 UK they were more than happy to change the shoes for a brand new pair, an nice example of the generous after sale support you expect from a premiere brand like INOV-8. They also asked me to post the shoes to them to investigate the problem further with a first reaction being ‘unlucky to get a Monday morning shoe’. I will update this post when I have more information.

Beside what I mentioned above I do not have any other real negative issues with these shoes. The ‘new upper’ seems to protect my feet better against wet grass and mud. They perform well in multi-terrain but have obviously their limits when going into more extreme environments with a lot of mud or snow.

Only other thing, I would suggest to change the name into Roclite 360, this comes closer to the real weight and sounds even more ‘cool’ :).

Summary

I think the INOV-8 Roclite 315 is worthy new member of the Roclite family, keeping up the high standards of this sturdy designed, multi-terrain trailrunning shoe with a very comfortable ‘wrap around your foot’ feeling.

Would I change them now this instance for my favourite Roclite 305’s, not really. But I would buy them as replacement when my 305’s are worn out for the additional protection.

What are your experiences? I would appreciate if you would like to share them.

Cheers!