REVIEWS: Books and Shoes!

One of the great features of Fargo is its shopping possibilities, no least in the area of progressive running shoes. Not only can you find a good selection of PUMA and UnderArmour shoes (brands sadly lacking on the Irish market bar a few notable exceptions) but also Nike's latest series of groundbreaking shoes that look set to take them well ahead of their competitors in the years to come.

Weightless shoes with "moon"-technology
The Lunar series has been redesigned to feature the following three

  • LunarGlide: A "traditional" training shoe with plenty of protection and support but incorporating the lunar technologies for a much lighter and more comfortable fit than competing shoes such as the Nimbus
  • LunarSwift+: The new version of the LunarTrainer, basically a light trainer or a slightly more protected racing shoe weighing in at only 290g
  • LunarElite+: Essentially a marathon racing shoe built on the Lunar technology. Weights 270g
  • LunarRacer 2: An upgrade of last year's popular racer which weighed in at only 120g! Slightly less protection and comfort than the LunarElite+ so many would only be able to wear it in races up to 10k or half-marathon distance
I already own the LunarRacer 1 and couldn't find the LunarRacer 2 in Fargo much as I would have loved a new version. I tried on both the LunarGlide and the LunarElite+. The LunarGlide is the most comfortable and lightest standard running shoe I have ever worn and it looks fantastic (so does the whole range btw).

However, I still felt it was a bit too clunky for me, basically it gave me the same type of feeling I know get when I wear other standard runners such as the ASICS Nimbus and the ASICS-Kinsei. This seems to be a long-term side-effect of my dabbling with minimalistic footwear, my lower leg seems to resist the correction inbuilt in more supportive runners. If you want a standard runner that is lighter and more snug than your average shoe, though, give the LunarGlide a try.

The LunarElite+ on the other hand was love at first sight: You are drawn in by the super-slick design (it looks like a runner from a future generation) but the looks are only complimentary to a very stable ride, the comfort of a pair of slippers, and a weightless feel around your feet. Having not tested it yet, its early to judge, but by initial feel this could be the most comfortable performance shoe for long-distance racing and training runs on the roads. Add to these benefits that there is a good amount of grip built into the front (as well as greater amount of forefoot flexibility as in the Nike Free) and the shoe has a much sturdier built than the LunarRacer, this is a real competitor to popular shoes such as the DS Racer.

Nike Free 5.0
Speaking of Nike Free: This range of shoes proved surprisingly popular and thus have been hard to track down. In December they were out of stock but lo and behold this time around they were on the shelves here in Fargo!

Built as a foot-strengthening tool, the Nike Free 5.0 is now generally acknowledged as a very decent racing shoe. Only slightly heavier than the LunarElite but with the hyperflexibility sole that simulates barefoot running. The upper mesh comes in very fashionable grey or black shades (the women's is pink) and the shoe employs the new comfortable fabric from the Lunar series.

One big difference should be noted though: Whereas some support is built into the Lunar shoes from the FlyWire technology, the Nike Free 5.0 offers no support and has a slightly higher heel which may make it a less versatile racer as well as unsuitable for long distance races for people who have not yet adapted to barefoot running styles.

Personally, I will utilise the shoe for foot-strengthening first and wear it mainly walking and then for some shorter runs while relying on my other light-weight running shoes for most training (the DS Trainer, my LunarRacer, the new LunarElite and my light-weight trail shoes).

The Joy of Books
This article won't be all about shoes though: Fargo holds a huge Barnes and Nobles were you can literally immerse yourself in wonderful books (I was lost in the fantasy, history and sports sections for ages. Running and knowledge should not be separated).

Apart from purchasing some running magazines I got away with two new books: Matt Fitzgerald, author of Brain Training, has churned out another very useful book called "Racing Weight - How to get Lean for Peak Performance" and lucky me it was already in stock on this side of the Atlantic. My weight is something I struggle with a bit and its no coincidence that my best performances coincided with a period of weighing in at only 65kg (10.2 stone) and a body-fat percentage of 8% whereas I struggled after coming back from injury weighing 70-72kilos most of the 2009 season and having accummulated too much useless upper body muscle through a misguided strength training regime.

Matt's book does what many books have failed to do and actually provides easily applicable guidelines for how to change your diet and your training to find and reach your "optimal performance weight and composition". The book excels particularly at calling out the differences between the major endurance athletes: cyclists/mountain-bikers, runners, swimmers, triathletes, rowers, and cross-country skiers (as Matt hints at in the title of one of the first chapters: "Its about having the right body for the job").

Incidentally, according to the tables in the book I'm in the 95% percentile in relation to my weight and body-fat percentage (meaning only 5% of the male population are leaner). There can be no resting on the laurels, however, elite male runners have an average body-fat percentage of 3.3% according to "Racing Weight", making my 9% grotesquely obese. To get into the 99th percentile with the elites, I would need to reduce my body-fat to approx 5.2%. Matt's book, however, gives great advice on how and when to eat and what to do in order not to lose this weight the wrong way.

For runners one simple piece of advice that we'll all welcome holds true: "For runners, high mileage is a better way to get rid of weight than calorie restriction." A very interesting anecdote from the book reveals how runners, due to the wear and tear of our trainng, tend to rarely train more than 10 hours per week whereas most other endurance athletes in the elite echelons would often put in more than 25 hours, so to keep lean adding extra hours in the form of cross-training can be a great way of boosting your leanness.

Why bother you may ask? To steal some insight from the beginning of Matt's book: If you weight 10 pounds more than the runner beside you, you have to muster 6.5% more energy on average to move forward at the same pace (before considering other factors such as fitness level, running economy, etc.). To put this into perspective at the Dublin Half-Marathon I was about 8.8 pounds above my last known "ideal weight". 8.8 divided by 10 is 0.88 and 0.88 x 6.5% totals 5.72%.

This means I should have expected a performance improvement of 5.72% if I had been at my optimal weight and instead of finishing in 1:24:40 I should have expected a time of 1:19:49 or almost 5 minutes! Chew on this for a while, then decide whether its acceptable for you to continue performing above your optimal weight and not fulfilling your potential because of it.

I've made up my mind and some serious plans will be laid once I am comfortable with the content of Matt's book to bring me down to around 65 kilos and 5.2% body-fat (for a start, if I can stay healthy at a lower rate then even better).

Book 2: Advanced Marathoning
The 2nd edition of this refreshing book was published last year and stores the marathon experience of former Olympic marathoner Pete Pfitzinger. This book is a joy to read for the serious-minded athlete. No time is wasted talking about the basics of running and the focus here is on performance, performance, and more performance.

Here's finally a book that gives you advice on how to execute "doubles" (training more than once a day), how to race effectively in multiple marathons within a short period of time, how long and fast should your "long runs" really be? and how to plan high-mileage training.

Chapters 8-11 provide detailed training advice and plans for marathoners in different mileage ranges starting low at 55 miles (88k) and finishing with 85 miles (137km) or more per week. Finally a helpful overview on how exactly the professional volumes are structured and managed instead of having to deduce this from the low-end programmes found in most running books.

I can't wait to get into the nitty gritty bits of the book and hopefully learn from the many world-class marathoners whose training have contributed to the book. Just to share on example of how detailed and useful the advice is, on doubles (multiple sessions per day):

Marathoners have a tendency to start running twice a day before their weekly mileage warrants it. Doing doubles sounds like serious training, so runners often assume it must be better marathon preparation. The reality is quite different as you increase your training mileage ... you should resist the urge to switch from single runs to doubles....You'll provide a greater stimulus for these adaptations through a single 12-mile (19km) run than by doing a 7-miler (11km) and a 5-miler (8km) at the same pace.

So two new great shoes and two new great books, if you liked what you heard I can only recommend you go purchase all.


Dave Trendler said…
Thanks for your review of Racing Weight! The book is selling extremely well in the U.S., but I was surprised to see a less enthusiastic response to the press release from the endurance sports media in the U.K. I hope others found the book useful, too.

Dave Trendler
Renny said…
Hi Dave,

You are very welcome. I've followed Matt's writing for some time and own most of his books, so I am definitely a fan of his writing.

Matt's books tend to take the reader to the frontlines of current research and his topics are never conservative (Brain Training for Runners will hopefully take its place as a classic work some day).

I'll have to read the UK reviews to understand why the book was not received so enthusiastically. I hope users will give it the benefit of the doubt and best of luck on the sales in Europe.