INOV-8 UNVEIL WORLD’S FIRST-EVER GRAPHENE FASTPACKING/ HIKING BOOTS – ROCLITE 345 GTX

Rare that I post a press release from any brand but I actually received these boots a week ago from inov-8 so that I could use them on my Nepal trek – info HERE

I was told, ‘You are going to be the first person to use them, so, please keep it quiet until we do an official release in 2019’

Well, inov-8 have moved things forward and today have released the shoe! So this post is just a heads-up on the new ROCLITE 345 GTX with Graphene.

I will be able to provide a full and in-depth review when I return from Nepal in January.

Press Release:

The world’s first-ever hiking boots to utilise graphene – the strongest material on the planet – have been unveiled by British brand inov-8.

Building on the international success of their pioneering use of graphene in trail running and fitness shoes last summer, the brand is now bringing the revolutionary technology to a market recently starved of innovation.

Just one atom thick and 200 times stronger than steel, wonder-material graphene has been infused into the rubber of inov-8’s new ROCLITE hiking boots, with the outsoles scientifically proven to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

Collaborating with graphene experts at The University of Manchester, inov-8 is the first brand in the world to use the Nobel Prize winning material in sports shoes and now hiking footwear.

Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director, said: “Working with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester, we’ve been able to develop rubber outsoles that deliver the world’s toughest grip.

“The hiking and outdoor footwear market has been stagnant for many years and crying out for innovation. We’ve brought a fresh approach and new ideas, launching lightweight, fast-feel products with graphene that will allow hikers, fast-packers and outdoor adventurers to get more miles out of their boots and grip to all terrains, no matter how gnarly.”

There are two ROCLITE boots with graphene-enhanced rubber grip (G-GRIP) – the ROCLITE 335 and the ROCLITE 345 GTX. The former offers increased warmth on cold days with PrimaLoft insulation in the upper of the shoe, while the latter has waterproof GORE-TEX protection for hiking adventures in wet conditions. The ROCLITE 335 weighs just 335g and the ROCLITE 345 GTX weighs just 345g. Both are available to buy now.

Commenting on the continued collaboration with The University of Manchester, inov-8 CEO Ian Bailey said: “Last summer saw a powerhouse forged in Northern England take the world of sports footwear by storm. That same powerhouse is now going to do likewise in the hiking and outdoors industry.

“We won numerous awards across the world for our revolutionary use of graphene in trail running and fitness shoes, and I’m 100% confident we can do the same in hiking and outdoors.

“Mark my words, graphene is the future, and we’re not stopping at just rubber outsoles. This is a four-year innovation project which will see us incorporate graphene into 50% of our range and give us the potential to halve the weight of shoes without compromising on performance or durability.”

Graphene is produced from graphite, which was first mined in the Lake District fells of Northern England more than 450 years ago. inov-8 too was forged in the same fells, albeit much more recently in 2003. The brand now trades in 68 countries worldwide.

The scientists who first isolated graphene from graphite were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Building on their revolutionary work, a team of over 300 staff at The University of Manchester has pioneered projects into graphene-enhanced prototypes, from sports cars and medical devices to aeroplanes and of course now sports and hiking footwear.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, Reader in Nanomaterials at The University of Manchester, said: “Using graphene we have developed outsole rubbers that are scientifically tested to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

“But this is just the start. Graphene is a such a versatile material and its potential really is limitless.”

The new ROCLITE boots with G-GRIP are available to buy from www.inov-8.com/g-grip and will soon be in-store via the brand’s retail partners worldwide.

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inov-8 ROCLITE 305 Review

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One month ago, the new ROCLITE arrived at my home, not just one pair but 3 pairs – the 290, 305 and 325. I wrote a first impressions article HERE and it would make sense to have a read of that before reading on.

In summary, the 290 is 4mm drop, the 305 8mm drop and the 325 is 8mm drop but a running boot. The running boot is for a specific audience I believe and although it’s a product I love using, I am going to save any talk on the 325 for my review that will come out in the New Year. Having said that, much of what I write in this review of the 305 directly transfers to the 325 – they are to all intents and purposes the same!

I run in shoes of varying drop all the time, however, lower drop shoes like the 290 (4mm) are usually reserved for shorter runs be they fast or slow. Once I run beyond an hour, an 8mm drop shoe works perfectly for me and without doubt it is my ‘drop’ of choice.

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Therefore, when the ROCLITE’s arrived late November and I had a trip planned to La Palma (the home of Transvulcania) it was an easy decision to pick up the 305 with the intention of well and truly giving them a battering on this tough, challenging, rocky and gnarly terrain.

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The ROCLITE range of shoes, for me, are designed for mountain running in wet or dry conditions when the trail can be very varied or unpredictable. Although the shoe can handle a little mud, it’s not a shoe for those conditions and without doubt, if you plan to run on grass, mud, fell or similar, I think inov-8 make far better shoes for that, try the X-Talon for example.

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I have used many, many shoes and I have tried and tested countless inov-8 shoes and despite the ROCLITE being around for appx 10-years, it’s not a shoe that I have used a great deal. So, I hold my hands up, this review is based on ‘this’ shoe and I can offer no comparisons to previous incarnations.

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As with many inov-8 shoes, the looks and colours are very pleasing. You can’t go wrong with red and black and out of the box they were saying to me, ‘wear me!’

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Looking over the shoe, a couple of things stood out. The tongue is part of the upper and not a tongue sewn into the upper. Anyone who reads my shoe reviews knows that I LOVE gusseted tongues so I was eager to slide these shoes on. I was not disappointed. I would go as far to say that the 305 is THE most snug and comfortable shoe I have worn – that is saying something! They are the most slipper like run shoes I have worn, so much so, that I could imagine removing the laces and walking around the house in them. Adding to the package is a completely seamless inner, even the ‘insole’ is part of the shoe (you can’t remove it) making it snug, snug, snug!

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Going for a run in them instantly felt comfortable. I mentioned in my ‘first impressions’ that I thought the shoes in the ROCLITE range sized a 1/2 size too small. Now I am not sure? Sorry for being indecisive but I have run in them for 1-month and I have been very happy, I must stress though that I used a thinner sock than normal. What is noticeable, say over the TRAIL TALON (here) and X-CLAW (here) is that the ROCLITE is narrower in the toe box. I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘precision’ fit shoe but it is certainly less spacious than the Talon or Claw.

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The other notable point is that the front of the shoe (toe box) is just material with no additional overlays or support other than a reinforced bumper to protect toes against unwanted collisions. This had pros and cons. The pros were simple – a comfortable shoe that allowed my foot to flex, bend and adapt to the terrain. The cons were on technical descents, I found that at times I wanted just a little ‘more’ to hold my foot. It was a minor point and caused me no problems. What I did do to compensate was make sure I had the laces adjusted and tightened correctly.

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The trails in La Palma are harsh, really harsh. It’s jagged, volcanic, gravel, sand and abrasive rock that is irregular and punishing. It ruins shoes. In recent years, I have been out here and I have had shoes last for just the holiday. I must stress that this is not a criticism of the shoes but an indication of how harsh the terrain is.

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One’s foot is moved constantly to the left, right and it is twisted back and forth, noticeably the huge red ‘X’ on the rear of the ROCLITE offered some great stability and I didn’t roll my ankle once – unusual for me.

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The out-sole did work well on all the dry terrain, be that gravel, soft black lava sand, jagged irregular rocks or solidified volcanic lava. A run through a river bed that offered all manner of possibilities to slip and fall through a technical boulder session were brushed at one side with ease with the ROCLITE. Once you have confidence in a shoe, you can push harder and faster and the 305’s gave me that.

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Importantly though, on this terrain, protection is as important as grip and the META-SHANK and rock-plate combined with additional cushioning gave me a really solid and comfortable day out. The longest outing here has been 8-hours and my feet felt great. Rocks and rough terrain didn’t penetrate through the sole leaving me and my feet feeling jaded. Powerflow in the heel provided some real comfort and reassurance, particularly when walking… it’s tough out in La Palma and walking is a big part of any outing. Daily I always did anything from 400 to 2000+m of climbing and the META-FLEX at the front of the shoe allowed my foot to bend without hindrance.

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The lacing is unique as you pull in on web loops. It really does work! It works so well that you can pull the laces too tight. I struggled with the lacing at first, at times I tied the laces too right and other times I tied them too loosely. I eventually found a balance after 3-4 runs and once I got it dialed in, I found I had no need to adjust or adapt my laces once running. I am pleased to say that extra eyelets are provided at the top of the shoe should you need to ‘lock-lace’ or similar. The heel box was plush and caused no issues.

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In Conclusion

inov-8 have thrown a curve ball in at the end of 2016 and may well have provided me with one of my favourite shoes of the year. Yes, the ROCLITE 305 is that good. I have battered them on the trails out here with approximately 50-hours of running and they are showing signs of wear but they have survived really well and are good for many more hours. I can’t say the ROCLITE is my all out favourite shoe as it has a specific use. By contrast, to explain what I mean, the inov-8 X-CLAW for example can handle grass, mud and sloppy stuff and it would still be able to perform on rocky and mountainous trails like here in La Palma. Is the X-CLAW a better shoe? No! However, it may very well be a better all-rounder? If you are running on trail, be that a canal tow path or a rocky mountain trail in the Alps, the ROCLITE will take some beating and without doubt it’s going to be a shoe of choice for me in 2017. The fit, the snug upper, the seamless build and the gusseted tongue just make the 305 one of the best shoes I have run in. Add to that package 8mm drop, cushioning, a great outsole and other key inov-8 features such as the ‘X’ Lock, Adapterweb, Meta-Flex and Meta-Shank and this shoe is one to consider.

There are some downsides. The upper may lack some support in the toe area when running on technical terrain allowing the foot to move a little too much. The toe bumper is adequate and does offer protection but maybe it could be a little beefier? It’s a minor niggle. Finally, although the ROCLITE 305 is not a precision fit shoe, it is narrower than the Trail Talon or the X-Claw and therefore it may not work for some people? However, I would counter that by saying that on mountain and technical trails, too much movement in the toe box leads to insecurity and a lack of precision and confidence.

Ultimately, the ROCLITE 305 is a winner.

inov-8 website and shoe details and prices HERE

inov-8 – The New #ROCLITE Trail Shoes 290, 305 and 325 First Impressions

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I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about the ROCLITE by inov-8. Every time I do a shoe review, I always get at least one email from someone asking, ‘Any news on Roclite’s from inov-8?’

Well for all those that have asked, you are now blessed with three new ROCLITE models:

The 290 with 4mm drop

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The 305 with 8mm drop

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The 325 with 8mm drop.

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It’s a ROCLITE party!

The ROCLITE has been around for 10-years and was, is a firm favourite for the hardcore inov-8 fans, so, the inclusion of three new models for 2017 is certainly going to make many people happy. The ROCLITE was first launched in 2006 and has had many variations and adaptations over the years.

In recent years, inov-8 have certainly started to look at their shoes in a different way and I can certainly see RACE ULTRA, TRAIL TALON and X-CLAW influences coming into the new line-up of ROCLITE.

For most people reading a review like this, they will be drawn to the 290 or 305 as they are conventional run shoes. The 325 is a boot and therefore will appeal to a very different client, or should I say, a very different use.

The 290 is 4mm drop and the 305 8mm drop. I had expected to be able to say that the characteristics of both shoes are the same, the only difference coming in drop/ cushioning. However, that is not the case!

The ROCLITE 305 and 325 initial review

Lets start with the 305 8mm drop shoe first as this for me is a great all around shoe and will appeal to many users. The characteristics of the 305 actually transfer directly to the 325 boot and the comments below are relevant for both.

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The 305 is a slightly heavier shoe with a little more cushioning than the 290 (if you didn’t know, the number in inov-8 shoe names refers to weight in like-for-like sizes, usually a UK8.5). It has an integrated gusseted tongue that is actually sewn into the shoe and therefore almost makes the shoe feel slipper like. The same applies for the 325 boot. This is a real winner in terms of holding the foot secure, firm and importantly it’s going to keep debris out!

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On the rear of the shoe on the outside is a huge ‘X’ in plastic that is sewn onto the upper – this adds support and theory will provide a more secure foot placement and reduce the ability to roll an ankle.

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The lacing is firm and secure and pulls in on web loops called ADAPTERWEB. In conjunction with the sewn in tongue if really does provide a secure and firm fit and hold of the foot.

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The words ‘POWERFLOW’ on the rear refer to the cushioning and shock absorption.

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The ROCLITE has a META-SHANK and rock plate which is a great addition for keeping the rugged, sharp and gnarly stuff from penetrating through the sole and providing discomfort or bruising while running.

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The front of the shoe has a toe cap that has been rubberised that will protect with any collisions of debris on the trail.

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The outsole is made from three different sticky rubber densities and has a 6mm lug that is designed to excel on trail that is rocky and technical in either the wet or dry. The outsole will handle some mud but other inov-8 shoes would do a better job of handling the wet, sloppy and slippery stuff. However, as is often the case these days, we are looking for a one stop shop when it comes to a running shoe and the ROCLITE may well set in the place nicely?

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In the first 1/3 of the outsole is META-FLEX – this allows the shoe to bend in just the right place allowing for an excellent propulsive phase when running. Sounds like jargon but it does work!

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Slipping the shoe on feels really smooth and although this is not a seamless upper, it feels like it. It’s one of the most comfy shoes I have used in a long time. However, the shoe does maybe feel a little small? I use UK9.5 in all my shoes, without exception and I always use UK9.5 in inov-8. All three of the ROCLITES (less so with the 290) but certainly the 305 and 325 make ne think I may require a 1/2 size larger. This may well be from the sewn in tongue and plush fit? I need to head out on the trails a little more to provide a definitive answer on this. Please remember this is a first impression article.

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The toe box has room but certainly feels more of a ‘precision’ fit than say the TRAIL TALON or X-CLAW. Again, as mentioned above I may need a 1/2 size larger and that would certainly impact on how the toe box feels. However, the ROCLITE range certainly feels as though hey re designed to provide a detailed, responsive and controlled ride on the trail with a mire secure and precious hold so that fast moving on more technical trail has precision.

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The heel box is plush, secure and holds the foot firm. In the 325 boot I have noticed a little additional pressure/ tension on my right achilles with the way the back of the boot drops down and is cut away. I will feed back on this more with additional testing. Again, I also refer back to the point that the 305 and 325 may well be a 1/2 size too small and this would impact greatly on this fell/ comfort.

Initial Summary

I think the 305 is going to please so many runners who have been looking for a shoe that can handle a multitude of terrain in a plush, secure and comfortable shoe. This shoe is slipper like! Initial thoughts is that the ROCLITE is sizing a 1/2 size too small, so, if purchasing online keep this in mind. The toe box is not as wide as the Trail Talon or X-Claw so if you need or prefer a shoe that allows the toes to splay, you may want to try the ROCLITE on to see if they will work for you. The 325 boot is certainly a great addition for me and will suit those people who want to spend big days on the trail say fast packing or hiking but don’t want the weight or lack of feel from a heavy walking boot. The 325 feels just like the 305 shoe and even has an 8mm drop, the only difference comes with support around the ankle. I will feedback on this article after full testing for the 305 and 325.

The ROCLITE 290 initial review

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The 290 has 4mm drop and less cushioning than the 305 and therefore will suit a more efficient runner who runs with a mid to forefoot strike. It would also work hand-in-hand with the 305 as a shoe for faster or shorter session. I for example will quite happily run in the 290 for up to 90-minutes and if I know I will run longer I will use the 305. This is all down to personal taste and how much or how little you want to feel the ground.

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I had expected the 290 to have all the same characteristics as the 305 but no, it has a conventional tongue – why? I don’t get this… I am completely biased with gusseted and sewn in tongues as it just makes sense. I have tested countless shoes and one thing is guaranteed, a gusseted tongue offers better feel, more comfort, a secure hold of the foot and in addition debris is kept out. So why would inov-8 add such a great feature to the 305 and the 325 boot and not to the 290? Having said all this, the 290 is comfortable and the padded tongue causes no issues but they are not as plush as the 305!

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The upper, the lacing and the toe box carries over all the characteristics from the 8mm drop 305 and 325. The only difference coming with the ‘X-LOCK’ support at the rear of the shoe. In the 305 and 325 it’s a definite ‘X’ for the 290 it’s erm… well, it’s erm… a line! Apparently it’s ‘Y-LOCK. Because the 290 is 4mm drop and with less cushioning, the runner who uses this shoe will be more efficient and therefore the need for the ‘X’ is not required but the ‘Y’ still adds some support.

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The outsole is the same as the 305 and 325 just different colours and is made of three different compounds all with a 6mm lug and yes the META-FLEX is present to allow an excellent propulsive phase and a META-SHANK rock plate is present.

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In Summary

The 290 has many of the characteristics of the 305 and 325 and quite simply is a shoe that is lighter, more flexible and less cushioned for faster/ shorter runs for an efficient runner. The outsole is the same, the upper is almost the same but incorporates the ‘Y’ Lock instead of the ‘X’ lock and all these elements make sense to me. If you look at the inov-8 shoe range, these characteristics are reflected across the board. However, I am at a loss as to why the 290 does not have the gusseted tongue sewn in? Don’t get me wrong, the 290 is still comfortable but give me the 305 any day… I am a little biased too as 8mm drop will always be my ‘go-to!’

FINAL CONCLUSION

The three ROCLITES are going to appeal to many, many people as a great all round shoe for trail running and I can see many owners having two pairs. For the runners it may well be a pair of 290’s for fast training and short racing and the 305 for long days out either racing or training. By contrast (I fit into this scenario) the 305 and 325 make a great double. The 305 for long runs or races and the 325 for days out walking, hiking and/ or fast-packing. All the shoes are neutral and be careful on sizing, you may well need a 1/2 size larger?

A full in-depth review will follow after each shoe has been tested for over at least 100-miles.

Florian Reichert: From earth to sky – the interview

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Florian Reichert is a fast roadrunner! With a track and field background and a specialty at middle distance, his first marathon was an impressive sub 2:30. However, he has only run one road marathon and that was just last year. In 2013 with sponsorship from Arc’teryx and inov-8, Florian has progressed to trail and mountain running. Always seeking a new challenge, he didn’t start the easy way and ease himself in, no; anything but… he threw himself in at the deep end with possibly one of the most iconic and competitive mountain marathons on the calendar, the ISF Skyrunning Zegama-Aizkorri. I catch up with Florian in a wonderful chalet in the shadow of Mont Blanc. We are on an inov-8 athlete retreat and just a couple of days previous; Florian placed top 10 in his second Skyrunning event, the Mont Blanc Marathon

IC: Welcome Florian it’s great to find some quiet time and have this chat.

FR: Thanks Ian, it’s great to be here and having this opportunity to talk. 

IC: Florian you come from a very quack road running background. You started in 1996/97. You have some very impressive and fast times. What is it that got you into running?

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FR: I have always enjoyed pushing myself to the limit. I used to play soccer as many Germans boys do, but I was looking for a sport that would allow me some independence. I wanted the success to come from myself and it was natural that I found running. From early on I enjoyed being alone and running long distances. It was actually my Physical Education teacher that spotted my potential and I was introduced to track and field.

IC: You specialized in middle distance running?

FR: Yes I was a middle distance guy running the 800m and 1500m. I barely broke the 4min barrier but I noticed that I didn’t have the ability to go faster, so I transitioned to 5k and then 10k. My PR is 14:50 for 5k and 30:50 for 10k. Gradually the distances I ran became longer, it seemed to suit my abilities better. I eventually ended up running my first marathon in 2012.

IC: You have made the transition from middle distances to half and marathon distance but as you say, you actually only ran your first marathon last year and you went sub 2:30. Impressive by any standards what was your actual time?

FR: I ran 2:26 and placed 8th at the German championships. It was lots of work, three to four months of solid preparation. I enjoyed training for the marathon but I felt at the end I was getting very stressed and almost bored. I was fed up of checking time, kilometers, laps etc. I was obsessed by time. This year I wanted a different challenge. I needed some freedom.

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IC: You mentioned that you were getting bored and that stress was building. Irrespective of the distance you race, if you are competitive that stress level can come with any distance. If you looked at your marathon, a 2:26 debut is impressive but did you think to yourself even if I train even harder my potential maybe 2:20, maybe a 2:15 and therefore, no disrespect, but in marathon terms that is quite pedestrian. We have seen with Sage Canaday and Max King, both who run around 2:15 that they have made the choice to move from marathon to trail and ultra. Therefore, did you think; I will move to a smaller pond and become a faster person?

 

FR: Yes, partly correct.  With a great deal of effort I may have run a 2:20 marathon but realistically it may have been a 2:22, so, even as you say, if I had run a 2:15 that would still get me nowhere. Particularly with the quality of African runners in marathon fields. I have always loved being in the mountains and nature so the bigger aspect of my transition is that I wanted to get away from the track, the road, the clock and hit the trails and mountains.

IC: So this year you have moved to trails and to mountain running. You have been fortunate to get sponsorship with Arc’teryx and inov-8. You have clothing and shoes covered. Of course both are involved in Skyrunning. However you are racing at all Skyrunning events for Arc’teryx. You have been thrown in at the deep end particularly with Zegama-Aizkorri. It’s all very well being quick but that doesn’t mean a good performance in a Skyrunning race. So many different aspects are required, yes you will need strong legs, yes you will need big lungs… but Skyrunning is about technique, skills, descending and ability to adapt to terrain. Zegama was a great outing for you. You had a great performance. You were at the front on the climbs early on but the big thing for you was the descents and the technical attributes that are needed to descend. What was it like?

FR: Zegama was such a special experience for me. I was very nervous before the race because I had no idea what was coming up. I knew that the distance was a marathon but the time would be long. As I said, I ran my first marathon last year in just under 2:30; this race took Kilian nearly four hours in 2012. I had never run for that long before, not even in training. I was anxious of what would lie ahead. In the end I was 33rd but in the early stages and particularly the halfway point I was in the top ten. I felt really good but the descending was my nemesis. You are right; I had a big learning curve when going downhill. I really need to work on that. Technical sections in races will require big improvements and commitment from myself. I have a long way to go. For example, the Mont Blanc Marathon was less technical and therefore I had a far more comfortable race. It suited my abilities better, but hey, Zegama was a great start.

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IC: Coming from a middle distance road background what was your training like pre Zegama and from what you learnt at Zegama, what changes have you made between races?

FR: I come from a region in Germany that is flat. I have some mountains close by but it only has a peak of 1000m, so, my longest ascent maybe is 600-700m, no more. That makes it difficult to train for Skyrunning. But one of my favorite all time workouts are repetitions like hills, intervals and fartlek. I have beautiful woods all around me where I live. It’s great for speed work. I do repetitions of 1k with ascents of 250-300m and if I do that five or six times then it works well. I can get a 1000m of ascent. I have definitely changed my regime. I don’t go on the track much anymore, maybe once a week. Prior to 2013 I would have been on the track three or four times a week. I run long, I run up to thirty six to thirty eight kilometers now but before it was low twenties. So, yes, I have made some big changes.

IC: In terms of the terrain that you now train on, are you doing fewer roads?

FR: For sure, for the road marathon I always trained on the road. Now I hardly go on the road. I only go on trail. I go on forest paths, fire trail but I try to do single track whenever possible.

IC: Many will read this who are coming from a road background or maybe they are trail runners who have no experience of Skyrunning. They may think, I would really like to try a Skyrunning race but think it is beyond them. What advice would you give to make the transition?

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FR: Most importantly they need to find a rhythm. You must find it in training but you must also find it in racing. When preparing for a Skyrunning race of course you need to run hills, you need to work on technique, if possible you need to be in the mountains. Get as much vertical as possible but also work on descents. It is important not to be stressed. Don’t worry about time. It means nothing in these tough and technical races. Rhythm is so important, keep to a pace that you can maintain.

 

IC: Yes, you mentioned that your home has no mountains. We are currently in Chamonix surrounded by trails and wonderful peaks everywhere, however, for most of us; mountains like this are just possible in training. If your home does not have these options, as you say, it is important to be creative. You mentioned a climb and doing repeats. It is such an important element, you can go up for a few hundred meters ascent, come down and repeat.

 

FR: Yes, it is all about working with what you have. Be creative as possible. Running offers so many possibilities. We mentioned fartlek; it is a great training method. You don’t need to be high if you have a hilly or undulating course that you can do repeats on. Of course you have to take into account speed, I need to train at a higher speed at home than say here in Chamonix. This morning I climbed six or 700 meters but I was going pretty slowly because of the gradient. At home I can go so much quicker. It has worked out okay for me.

 

IC: Distance means nothing in the mountains, you can be on a trail for two hours but you may only cover five or six miles. The transition you have made post Zegama has been impressive. Admittedly I think the Mont Blanc course suited you much more than Zegama. However, it still had some serious climbs and descents and in the latter half it just went up, up and up with a summit finish. Mont Blanc Marathon was a proper Skyrunning race, you placed in the top ten and that is significant. Not only do you have ability but also you have learnt so much in a short space of time. What goes through your mind when you stand on a start line with Kilian Jornet, Marco De Gasperi and Luis Alberto Hernando? 

FR: Actually I was in the second row just behind Kilian and Marco on the start line. I admire these guys so much, fantastic runners but more importantly fantastic people. Friendly, generous and a pleasure to know, the opportunity I have been given is incredible, I must thank Arc’teryx. Without them I would not be racing. They took a risk, they had a fast roadrunner that had some reasonable times and they accepted my proposal to race on the Skyrunning calendar. Although I suffered in both races, I don’t think I have ever been so exhausted before but I enjoyed every step.

IC: You also had two teammates in the top ten at Mont Blanc, Nicola Golinelli who placed fourth and Didier Zago who placed sixth. You placed ninth which is an excellent result for Arc’teryx… three men in the top ten!

FR: Yes, correct. I only met Nicola and Didier here in Chamonix for the first time. They are great guys; they have already passed on so much knowledge to me. It was Nicola that instilled the ‘rhythm’ thought process in me. He told me not to be stressed and to run my own race. We have a great team and it’s great to be part of it. Of course I must mention inov-8 too as they provide my shoes. The inov-8 team had great results also at Mont Blanc Marathon.

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IC: The Mont Blanc weekend has been incredible; so many races too choose from. An 80km and a 10km but importantly you ran the VK (Vertical Kilometer). The VK is such an incredible event, 1000m vertical gain in 3.8km. VK’s are simple; you go up as quickly as you can. According to Skyrunning rules the gradient will always be around 30-35%. VK’s are a great way to start in mountain running. Anyone in theory can take part providing you show some basic experience. VK’s are about walking and running. It requires a technique, I am sure if I did a VK everyday I would get fit very quickly. You did your first VK here in Chamonix, once again thrown in at the deep end, what was it like?

FR: First of all the VK is a great addition to the Skyrunning format. I ran about 38 minutes, if I compare that to my 10k PR which is 30:50 then I ran 8min longer for less than half the distance… so you can appreciate the severity. However, if you look at that objectively, many people can run a 10k so I think a VK is a great starting point if you want to make the transition from road to mountain. I was actually surprised after the VK that I didn’t feel as tired or as battered as if I had run a road10k. Going up creates less impact, it’s tough on the lungs and heart but the muscles don’t get too beaten up. That would not happen if I had run road race.

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IC: Yes, great point. Relatively no impact in a VK, you start at the bottom and go up. Even when running you are going slow, it’s controlled, the moment you get that control wrong you blow up and you are forced to walk. If you are not adapted though it does work the achilles, hamstrings and lower back so that can cause some knock on effects. Funny you equated it to a 10k, to put it in perspective it took you 8 mins longer to run 6k less than your 10k PB. Doesn’t take much working out does it, tough race! What is next for you, I know you are concentrating on the ‘Sky’ distance, which is usually around a marathon; do you have any plans to move to the ultra distance?

FR: Yes, ultra distance will tempt me; Transvulcania seriously tempts me, I love the look of that race and the incredible field that it attracts. It seems like such an incredible race, I have to say that for at least the next twelve months I am going to stick with the Sky distance, it works to my abilities and it will suit my speed. But a natural progression will take place, I am sure ultra will make its way on my calendar.

IC: It has been great to catch up with you Florian. I am looking forward to following your progress over the rest of 2013, I wish you the very best of luck.

FR: Many thanks Ian and many thanks to the sponsors and Skyrunning.

Links:

Florian on Facebook – HERE

Skyrunning – HERE

Arc’teryx – HERE

inov-8 – HERE