technology.

We are not machines but we are enabled to become better humans through invention that quantifies our movement.

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Tools, gadgets, software and soles, the innovation that enables the faster, safer, and bolder movement.

e-feets.

6 months ago

Having run for well over a decade in the ever changing seasons of the Canadian prairies I have fought many battles with the hardened warrior otherwise known as winter trail conditions.

Ankle-deep fresh snow. Ice-slickened asphalt. Road slop like oatmeal or worse, dirty slush.

It is only November yet already the paths have become an assortment of challenging terrain …

… except that back in the late summer I bought a pair of trail shoes.

They haven’t been a perfect winter shoe, but they have made tackling the traction obstacles a formidable challenge rather than an impassible barrier. Unlike my summer sneakers or even previous winter runners I’ve owned, there is a remarkable surefooted stability to be found even in deep snow and icy patches on the sidewalks that I’ve struggled to find elsewhere. I’m sold, and even pullover spikes or other traction offerings that I’ve used over the years don’t seem to fall into a comparable classification as having tested my trail shoes through the abrupt arrival of winter weather this past week.

So I ordered a second pair yesterday.

Kinda. Sorta. Almost.

The summer version, which I own, is a light and responsive shoe meant for muddy paths and navigating narrow gravel trails.

The winter version, that second-ish pair now en route to my house, is a waterproof, insulated version of the same shoe but with grippier soles designed to take on those cold and epic winter conditions and a warmer approach to footwear.

Ice and snow will become far less of an excuse this winter.

I mean, I say that now… ask me again when it’s dark, icy, and minus forty degrees outside this January.

8 months 1 week ago

Sunday Runday and with less than two weeks until my first in-person race in over a year and a half I found myself facing a morning run dilemma.

New shoes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about new shoes.

Quite the opposite.

While on vacation in the mountains a few weeks ago I finally found a pair of trail shoes in my size and splurged. The next morning I broke them in with an (a previously blogged about) eight kilometer trail run up some steep incline and early morning terrain in the wilderness beauty of our National Park system, and then …

… well … that dilemma I mentioned a couple paragraphs back compounded itself: I haven’t run any trail since, and the shoes had been sitting by my front door looking more forlorn than the dog when she needs her morning walk, and that other thing I mentioned in my opening sentence about an upcoming trail race kept nagging in the back of my mind.

In two weeks I’m headed back out to the trails we visited last month for our little adventure with the wasps. Apparently the wasp situation has cooled alongside the weather, but neither of those things cooling off negates the fact that I’m signed up to run a roller-coaster single track trail half marathon quasi-ultra later this month.

And as of this morning I’d run a mere eight kilometers in that brand new pair and brand new style (to me) of shoes.

I tossed them into my backseat this morning on my way to meet my running crew and humbly suggested that we maybe, possibly, if anyone was interested run some trails as our Sunday route.

There were some hefty dark clouds lurking to the west and the forecast (though cloudy and dry as we left) was for some light drizzle after a good soaking overnight.

We decended into the river valley and into the rain-soaked single track weaving through the forests. The leaves are starting to yellow as the days shorten and fall creeps ever closer.

By the time we exited that first stretch, my new shoes were clumped with mud and each weighed about a kilogram heavier than when I had entered.

I was also dragging a small branch clinging to my heel, and I pulled off to the side of the path to clear the worst of it into the wet grass.

A bit further down along we turned upwards towards a short ascent and into a utility corridor between the highway and the neighbourhood where the ankle-deep grass was still sopping with last night’s rain.

Onward looped us into more single track and by the time we found our exit back into the asphalt of the nearby suburban streets not only were all our feet soaking wet and muddy, but the rains had truly arrived and would not let up again until we were well done the other half of our morning run.

Soaked. Dirty. Tired. Epic.

All for a pair of trail shoes…

…and, oh, of course, the mental confidence that goes along with logging another medium-length trial run using those shoes, breaking them in, trialing them out, and generally assuring myself of their fit and function leading into that upcoming race.

10 months 3 weeks ago

As the summer runs get longer (and hotter) I’ve picked up a new bit of gear to assist with the ever-present runner’s dilemma: hydration.

I don’t think I need to write too many words on the subject of why water is important to … um … being alive, but certainly the effort of carrying enough fresh water (or other fluids that both fuel and hydrate) on a long distance run is a complex challenge for anyone who is out there on the trails.

Water, of course, is heavy and clumsy.

A bottle in the hand is something that needs to be carried, balanced, and on the trails two free hands are more useful than one might realize. On a short run taking a small bottle along is just fine, but an hour into a longer run the last thing I want to be carrying is a half-full plastic bottle that’s sloshing around in my hand.

I’ve used water belts in the past, but sloshing along with a couple plastic containers on your hip is a moderate inconvenience. And I have yet to do a race a not see multiple dropped belt-bottles littering the course, usually in the first five hundred meters of the race when someone’s carefully planned hydration plan is now just garbage and an obstacle for the next hundreds of people who run by.

I’ve tried a couple hydration packs in the past, the key differences from a hydration vest being the kinds of shoulder straps and the location of pouches. A pack is basically a light backpack with a water pouch. And my biggest problem with my previous pack solution was that usually within ten kilometers into a run I was running with my thumbs hitched up under the thin straps to limit the whole apparatus from that chafe-inducing jostling that was already well underway.

Last week I pried open my wallet and ordered myself what is probably the sports-car-equivalent of hydration solutions: a Salomon Skin 4 Hydration Vest, a snug fitting, light-weight, multi-pocket four-liter backpack-slash-vest designed to hold water bottles, a water bladder, gel packs, cell phones, car keys, and whatever else a distance runner might need quick access to while on the trails.

The new pack arrived yesterday and I wore it for our regular Wednesday evening adventure run.

The advantage of this pack, or so the logic of the purchase goes, is that it is snug. I have no honest comparison, but I assume it’s a little like wearing a sports bra overtop of a running shirt. This tight fit is both deliberate and a feature. It keeps the whole system from moving, shaking, jostling, and rubbing, and is meant to wear comfortably and securely for hours of running while keeping the hands free for trail navigation.

Our adventure run took us deep into some rolling river valley trails, the kind of terrain where your legs are slapped by branches as bumble through the trails and as you scramble up over steep dirt paths, grabbing onto tree stumps and protruding roots. I only carried a bit of water, as it was a short sub-ten kilometer run, but a set of car keys, my wallet and an iPhone tucked neatly into the pack and

… well … success!

I barely noticed the pack after the first few minutes.

A better test will come this weekend, as temperatures creep into the mid-30s Celsius and our distances move into the longer-than-a-half-marathon slogs through that same heat. I can’t say I’m not nervous about both the heat and the mileage, but at least now I’m pretty certain I won’t die of thirst.

1 year 11 months ago

I started to notice the change in tone a few weeks ago.

I've been using Strava as my go-to run tracking platform for about 5 years, and in that time I've done so almost exclusively as a mooch. There was a short stretch when I paid for a minor upgrade, but I cancelled out of that shortly after. But clearly, for most of the time I've been using it I've been doing so for free.

Which is great and all, but the world has changed: pandemic economic realities, a shift in the notion of what it means to provide a service for free, and the shift to ad-supported everything. In amongst all that, Strava seemed to have a tonal shift towards that of almost-everything-is-free to the-stuff-that-costs-us-most-is-now-premium-content.

These are the warning shots of a company running out of cash.

Uploading a few megabytes of GPS run data each month is cheap for them.

Processing billions of GPS data point to provide route analysis, segment comparison, and activity breakdowns is computationally expensive -- and cloud providers like AWS and Google are starting to crank up the costs of these services.

So the tone shift is one of trying to keep as much free as possible (which seems to linger in the domain of storage and social services) and get some people to pitch in for the computer power. The too long didn't read version of this is that I like Strava and if a few bucks a month keeps it going for a while longer... then I wanted to subscribe and pitch in. That, and my running world has almost completely collapsed in the last six months, I'm not sure I can deal with another big change anytime soon.