2014 DC North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler

Bit of a last minute decision to run this one! Western States 100 preparation has been going well, but in the back of my mind I couldn’t shake the thought that I needed one final, long training run. Of course, some actual trail experience with a modicum of incline/decline would sure to be beneficial too.

Aside from the typical Friday afternoon traffic, the drive to the DC area was fairly uneventful – there was even enough time to meet good friend Andy O’Brien at The North Face Tyson’s Corner store for packet pickup. One less thing to do on race morning if nothing else. Dinner was enjoyable at the local Sweetwater Tavern, and with all my gear laid out by 9pm, it was soon time to set the Saturday morning alarm and turn in for the night.

As expected, 3:30am came all too quickly. Breakfast was a couple of scoops of Sustained Energy – enough calories to eliminate that hungry feeling but without having to force down any solid foods. 20 minutes later, dressed and bags loaded, it was time to head to the race.

The start area was unlike most typical Ultra events – music blaring, DJ making announcements and many of the vendor tents bustling with excited runners. I just wandered around with Ally; chatting, sipping water and counting down the minutes to the off.

Staying cosy pre-race in the Injinji Hoodie

Staying cosy pre-race in the Injinji Hoodie

A few minutes before 5am, runners were ushered to the start line, and after a brief speech by The North Face athlete Dean Karnazes, we were off and running. Four young kids took off like it was a 10K but I settled into the pack and concentrated on taking things nice and easy.

The first few miles took place on a grassy field (perfect for getting the feet wet early in the race!), a golf cart path cutting through several fairways, before finally reaching the Potomac Heritage Trail. Pace was in the low to mid 8:00s and everything (as it should at this early stage) felt good. My plan for the day was to keep things under control and run a steady, even-paced race, without getting sucked in to the usual race day madness. I was also keen to test out a shoe/sock combination (Merrell Bare Access Trail/Injinji TRAIL 2.0) and practice consistent fueling with my planned Western States nutrition. As we continued along the winding single-track trail I forced myself to check my heart rate reading every once in a while to ensure the effort level stayed easy.

I was amazed how quickly the first 15 miles passed, and as I approached the Great Falls aid station where Ally was patiently waiting, realised I was almost one third done with the race already. I topped up with water, dumped in a serving of Tailwind and headed out on the first of three “Great Falls Loops” in 15th place.

Aid Station Mile 15.3

Aid Station Mile 15.3 [Photo Ally Speirs]

With 3 out-and-backs per 6.9 mile loop, it was an excellent chance to see how far ahead the other runners were. The 3 or 4 “fast kids” were nowhere to be seen, but I counted at least 10 other guys ahead of me – some looking good, some already struggling. I told myself to stick to the plan, maintain the steady pace and make the most of what ups and downs there were on the course. I made it back to the Great Falls aid station with Loop 1 completed right on 60 minutes. Ally was nowhere to be seen, but I figured she was probably out logging some miles of her own. After a quick Tailwind top-up and serving of Island Boost, I was off and running for Loop 2.

With some of the 50 Mile runners starting their first loop, the course was definitely more crowded now. I just kept the steady pace going; feeling strong on the ups and swift on the downs. I got back to Great Falls in 59 minutes, with Ally waiting at the drop bags to find out what I needed. I stuck to the Tailwind/Island Boost combo, but made a point of telling her that at the end of the next loop I’d be ditching the Ultimate Direction AK Vest and just carrying a handheld for the final 15 miles. The temperature was rising and I looked forward to getting some air around my upper body.

The final 6.9 mile loop passed quickly. Once again, I focused on consistent fueling and steady pacing, and managed to overtake a couple more runners on the return to the aid station. Ally was ready with my supplies and after ditching the AK Vest, I was soon on my way. I didn’t realise at the time, but Loop 3 took exactly an hour – giving me splits of 60, 59 and 60 minutes for the 3 loops. Happy with that!

Aid Station Mile 35.5

Aid Station Mile 35.5 [Photo Ally Speirs]

With just about 15 miles left to run, my main goal was to keep on top of hydration/nutrition and stay as strong as possible. I knew there were a few rollers on the way back and wondered how my legs would react to the ups and downs. Frustratingly, I managed to miss the left turn onto Bootlegger Trail and probably wasted at least 4 or 5 minutes backtracking to the short, steep incline. I’m always amazed how a momentary lapse in concentration (this time I was looking down at the rocky terrain to make sure I didn’t trip) can potentially cost you a lot of time and wasted energy. Thankfully, on this occasion, I quickly realized my mistake and was able to head back to make the correct turn.

Last time I ran this race I remember struggling somewhat with the heat and distance between aid stations. The final half marathon distance seemed to drag on forever, and the steep little inclines as the trail ventured away from the river really took their toll. This year I felt much stronger and in control. I power hiked the ups and was able to negotiate the downs much more fluently.

The trail was also quite busy with marathon runners heading out towards Great Falls for their race, and 50K runners heading back to finish off theirs. I guess saying “Good job!” at least 100 hundred times helps pass the time, and it was nice to receive several “Looking strong!” comments too.

Eventually I reached the Mile 47 Sugarland aid station where I heard someone shout “Look who it is!”. Turns out local guy Aric Martinez had showed up to watch the last few miles of the race and offer his support. It was cool to see Aric but I didn’t want to hang around, so after downing a few cups of Coca-Cola and a quick water bottle top-up, I set off on the 2.2 mile out-and-back which would bring us back to Sugarland.

Aid Station Mile 47

Aid Station Mile 47 [Photo Aric Martinez]

The out-and-back was a little muddy but not bad enough to slow me down, and aside from dodging a few flying marathon-relay runners, it was quite uneventful. To be honest, I just wanted to close out the race and get some proper food inside me. However, as I entered Sugarland for the final time with approximately 1.6 miles to go, Aric informed me that the 3rd place guy (really?) was just 90 seconds ahead. Apparently he was 4 minutes ahead when I started the out-and-back so I’d gained 2.5 minutes in just 2.2 miles without picking up the pace at all.

All through this race I was proud that I’d stuck to my plan and avoided getting sucked into race mode, but with a podium slot now within striking distance, a switch flipped, and I was off doing what I love to do – chase down the opposition. It took about 3/4 of a mile to reel him in, and from that point on there was no looking back. I crossed the line in 7:21:42 (about 15 minutes quicker than my 2011 race) and was confirmed as the 3rd place guy by the race announcer.

Post-race Happy Feet in the Merrell Bare Access Trail and Injinji TRAIL 2.0

Post-race Happy Feet in the Merrell Bare Access Trail and Injinji TRAIL 2.0 [Photo Ally Speirs]

Ally was there at the finish, and after enjoying the best post-race beer ever (a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA) and a quick bite to eat, it was time to change into dry clothes and head home.

Favorite stat of the race – in the first 48 miles I ran just two sub-8 minute miles, but with someone to chase and the race-mode switch flipped on, I closed out the last 1.5 miles at a crazy 6:40/mile pace. Nice to know there was something in reserve…


Merrell Bare Access Trail Shoe Review

Merrell Bare Access Trail

Merrell Bare Access Trail

It’s been a year or so since I retired my one-and-only pair of Merrell running shoes – the Barefoot Trail Glove. I loved the lightweight Trail Glove for both road and trail running and racked up almost 500 miles on them before deciding it was time to demote them to a grass-cutting shoe. I’ve been a bit out of the loop with Merrell’s latest offerings, so when a representative approached me about trying the new Bare Access Trail, I quickly jumped at the chance.

I’ve logged just over 55 miles in the soon-to-be-released Bare Access Trail, and so far I’m mightily impressed. There doesn’t appear to be much information online about the shoe, but I did find the following video posted by RunningShoes.com:

If you’d rather skip the video, highlights are as follows:

For me, the best thing about the Bare Access Trail is the roomy toe box and the way the shoe almost disappears on your feet. I’ve suffered pretty badly with blisters in several of my recent Ultra races (2 x 24-hour events and the Rocky Raccoon 100), with many of the issues stemming from jammed up toes in the toe box. Thanks to the Bare Access Trail and the recent addition of Injinji toe socks, my recent training runs have been far more comfortable in the toe department. Let’s hope the combination works when I tackle my next big event.

The shoes weigh in at just over 8oz and are super comfortable with their synthetic leather/air mesh upper and lycra lining. I’ve risked a few sockless runs with no issues, but for the most part stick with Injinji RUN 2.0 or TRAIL 2.0 socks. The Blue/Flame test shoe I have is a size 10 (1/2 size up from my regular 9.5), so the added bulk of a sock is quite necessary. I could probably get away with a 9.5, but to be honest I’m enjoying the extra room up front for my toes to splay and spread. Note: the footbed is non-removable.

The Vibram outsole is luggy, yet very flexible, and grips really well on a variety of off-road surfaces. I’ve also worn the shoe on some short road and road-to-trail runs with no issues. Actually, despite the lugs, the Bare Access Trail performs very well on the road. The 8mm MBound midsole adds a nice level of protection to the shoe without adding a huge amount of unnecessary bulk.

Merrell Bare Access Trail

Merrell Bare Access Trail

The lace system is simple, yet effective and best of all, the laces stay tied. The tongue is slightly padded and does not put pressure on the foot like other trail shoes sometimes do. The heel collar is also very comfortable and sits at just the right height.

Two other features worth noting – thanks to the air mesh upper, the shoe drains quickly and very efficiently, although I think the coolmax Injinji socks are a factor here too. Finally, the wraparound toe bumper is nice and flexible and does its job well.

I’ve really enjoyed my miles in the Bare Access Trail and am seriously considering them as my main shoe for The Western States 100. The flexible platform and low profile feel really natural, and it’s the shoe I’ve been reaching for first whenever I head to the trails for a run.

The Merrell Bare Access Trail has just been listed on the Merrell website, and is available for purchase in the Ice/Lime or Molten Lava colorways. Current retail price is a respectable $100.00.

The Bare Access Trail are also available at Road Runner Sports and Shoebuy.com. Current retail price is $99.95, although you can probably find a 15 or 20% off code to use at Shoebuy.

Disclaimer: The Bare Access Trail are a media sample provided free of charge by Merrell.

2014 Virginia 24 Hour Run Walk for Cancer

I walked away from the 2013 Virginia 24-Hour Run/Walk for Cancer with 112.5 miles and a 2nd place overall finish. At the time I was happy with the mileage (a PR distance) and comfortable with the decision to stop running with a couple of hours left on the clock. My body was cold and my mind had mentally checked out of the race. Enough was definitely enough. As the days/weeks/months ticked on, however, my decision to “quit” started to bug me, and I wasn’t happy that I’d left a couple of hours and potentially another 10 miles on the table. This year, I promised myself, would be different.

Fast forward 12 months, and it was time to line up and take the challenge again. Brian Burk headed up our Run4Life team which included wife, Ally, and daughter, Shannon, who were both taking part in their first 24-hour event. In 2013 we won the team award with 788.75 miles. It would be interesting to see how many miles we could rack up this year.

Team Run4Life

Kelley, Mike, Shannon, Ally, Me, Paul, Chris, Andrea, Kim, Brian, Cara

The race started a little late (7:15am), but everyone was in good spirits as Race Director George Nelson counted us down to set us on our way. The first several loops with Tad Meyer felt great – the pace was easy and the good conversation helped the miles tick by really quickly. As enjoyable as each 3.75 mile loop was, however, I *knew* I was running too fast for a 24 hour run, but didn’t do anything about it. I really need to practice better pacing if I’m going to maximize my potential at these Ultra events.

Early Miles

The Early Miles with Tad Meyer. Photo credit Frank Lilley.

Despite stopping after each loop to top up fluids (Tailwind Nutrition was the fuel of choice for the race), we ran the first 20 miles in around 2 hours 47 minutes – quicker than my opening 20 at Rocky Raccoon where I’d spent hardly any time at the aid stations. Basically, the pace, despite feeling very comfortable, was way too fast.

The weather was great but probably a little warm for an Ultra – I think it topped out at the low 80s in the early afternoon. Hydration was good, and my hourly Endurolyte Extreme capsule was taking care of my electrolyte levels. Around Mile 30 I started to develop a hot spot on my right foot, so decided to change out of my Pearl Izumi EM Road N1s (which actually gave me a bit of trouble on some of the slick parts of the course), and into the Trail N1s. The extra traction and sturdier outsole was a welcome relief, and the hot spot seemed to disappear. I also took the opportunity to slap on some MISSION Sunscreen and switch from a longsleeve to singlet.

Heat of the day

Heat of the day. Photo credit Mike Bailey.

Naturally, as the morning wore on, the pace slowed. I’d kind of expected this to happen after the early swift pace, but wasn’t prepared for how tough things would get. Amazingly, Tad experienced the same feelings as me, and we both struggled to maintain any kind of decent pace. Tad’s description of having “legs like stone” summed up the next 30 or 40 miles perfectly.

The second 20 mile block took around 3 hours 15 minutes, and at this point I think we were still the leading two runners. Not for much longer though. As our constant-running turned more and more into running abbreviated with longer and longer walk breaks, our average pace slowed and slowed. We were both despondent and neither of us seemed able to break the cycle – quite strange as typically we’re both such strong minded and determined runners.

In addition to the stone legs, my feet were also giving me a hard time. The hot spot came back, so I decided to change socks and shoes. And then a few loops later, I changed shoes again. I hoped the Hokas would be the miracle boost I was looking for and set off with a slightly renewed energy.

Despite the steadily slowing pace, Tad managed to set a 50 Mile PR, but by this time we were discussing when would be a good time to drop from the race. I’m not sure how or why I allowed myself to get into such a low mental state, and I almost convinced myself that dropping early would save my stone legs from further damage so that I could resume training that much earlier the following week.

To add to the misery, last year’s winner, Keith Straw, passed us at some point in the afternoon to move into the lead. Keith always runs a smartly paced race and just cruised by us as if we were standing still. I remember saying to Tad that the “old me” would have responded to being overtaken with at least a slight chase down of Keith, but in this instance I wasn’t really bothered and was quite content to let him go.

The third 20 mile block was the slowest of the day to date – 4 hour 07 minutes – but it was still 24 minutes faster than miles 60 to 80, where the average pace was 13:33 per mile. Tad and I were still together at this point, although I’d contemplated dropping at both the 100km AND 75 Mile mark. Somehow I stuck with it and battled on into the night.

Unfortunately, the Hokas weren’t the boost I was looking for, so yet again I decided on a sock/shoe change. I also took the opportunity to switch into compression shorts and a long sleeve for the night time miles, and told Tad it would probably take a while for me to change, so it would probably be best if headed out for the next loop on his own. The compression shorts felt great, but my feet were still not happy in the Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1s.

Strangely enough, running seemed less painful than walking with regards to my blistered feet, so for the next loop I ran pretty much the whole 3.75 miles. That hadn’t happened since way earlier in the day and actually provided a small boost of encouragement. At the end of the loop Tad was refuelling at our makeshift aid station near the start/finish area. I quickly topped up my handheld from the pre-mixed 5 gallon cooler of Tailwind and told Tad that I needed to keep moving – I’d finally found some sort of rhythm and didn’t want to lose it. I headed out for the next loop with a renewed energy, feeling much more like my old self.

From here on out my perspective changed. I started to go through the numbers in my head – how many miles I’d logged, how much time was left on the clock, how far ahead was Keith. I started to run for a mile, walk for a minute and the loops seemed to pass quicker and quicker. Two of Shannon’s friends (Drew Midland and Liam Arocho) helped out by keeping me company on several loops. The conversation was a nice distraction, but I found myself taking more walk breaks than I really needed and decided to go solo for the rest of the race.

My Garmin died just before reaching 100 miles, but the elapsed time was about 18 hours 40 minutes. The fifth 20 mile block had taken exactly 4 hours – faster than both of the last two 20 mile blocks! Night running must agree with me. I think I told Drew that I was confident of beating last year’s distance (112.5 miles) and with any luck I could get to 120 miles before the end of the 24 hours. He was mentally in a better state than me and confirmed that my calculations were correct. Heading into the race, I had a feeling the course record of 125 miles could be achievable, but after walking so many miles in the afternoon, I figured today wouldn’t be that day.

I remember closing in and passing Keith, but cannot for the life of me remember at what stage of the race this happened. I do know that from this point forward I was on a mission to stay ahead of him though. Each loop was a personal battle to keep running. I allowed myself some walk breaks, but tried to run as much as possible. Time spent at the start/finish area at the end of each loop was kept to a minimum too – after a quick handheld refill and a few swigs of coke, I was off and running with a “See you next time” to whoever was still hanging around.

At approximately 5:15am I wearily finished off another loop. As I filled up my handheld, the timing guy announced that another 2 loops and 2 x 1 mile out-and-backs would give me the course record. I appreciated the info but replied “There’s not enough time. I can’t do another 2 full loops.” As I headed out for what I thought would be my final full loop, it hit me – “Wait a minute, the race started late. I have until 7:15am!” For the last 5 or 6 hours all my calculations were based on a 7am finish. The extra 15 minutes breathed new life into me and I took off.

Sure enough, I was able to complete two more loops to put me at 123.75 miles, and had enough time left on the clock for at least an out-and-back run that would enable me to tie the course record. I chugged down some more coke and set off as fast as my legs would carry me. I made it back to the start/finish area where quite a large crowd had assembled – all cheering and clapping and generally urging me on. “One more mile, Steve” I said to myself and took off again.

Mile 125

Mile 125. Yeah, it hurts. Photo credit Dean Wewetzer.

The run out to the 0.5 mile marker was quite emotional. After such a rough day I was about to set a new course record and win the race. Keith was still out on his final full loop and although he had enough time left to run a 1.25 mile out-and-back, I figured it was impossible for him to run any more. My body was hurting and my feet were a mess, but nothing was going to stop me from running the final half mile back to the finish line.

The End

Mile 126. The End. Photo credit Ally Speirs.

Ally and Shannon were waiting at the finish line, along with the rest of the team and numerous other folk. Finally it was time to stop running and enjoy the moment!

Keith did indeed end up with 125 miles, earning a 2nd place finish and a coveted 125 mile plaque. I have to thank him for pushing me all the way and inspiring me to keep on running when the easy option would have been to stop. Also, I can’t end this race recap without thanking Tad Meyer who ended up with a new 100 Mile PR before calling it a night some time during the 19th hour. Despite the rough patches, it was a real pleasure to spend many hours and many miles on the trail with Tad – he’s an amazing athlete and a real nice guy.

Congrats also to Team Run4Life. We weren’t able to defend our title, but there were many fantastic performances and the team spirit was tremendous. Something tells me we’ll be back to have another go next year. Right, Brian? Last, but by no means least, the day was made extra special by having Ally and Shannon taking part. They each logged 52.5 miles yet still found time to support me in my crazy endeavour. Naturally, I’m very proud of them both!


Footnote: Many of the race details are already a bit fuzzy, so apologies in advance if I’ve misquoted or messed up any of the facts. Thanks also to everyone who came out to support at Sandy Bottom Nature Park – your assistance and generosity is greatly appreciated.

Other Online Race Recaps:

Brian Burk – Brian’s Running Adventures
Cara Hendrickson – What are you Running For?
Frank Lilley – Amazing
Megan Stegemiller – running off the beaten path

Physicool Cooling Bandage Review

Physicool Combination PackI’ve been following Physicool on Twitter for quite some now, so was thrilled when they offered to send me a sampling of their product to test and review.

Thankfully [touch wood], I’m running injury free at the moment, although my right shin/calf has been a little tender of late. What better time to test the physicool Cooling Bandage?

How it works:

The concept is a novel one – instead of pushing cold in (such as ice), physicool draws heat out for instant cooling. physicool is a unique cooling bandage infused with a coolant. The coolant draws heat away from the affected area by evaporation. As the deep tissues cool down, the compression effect of the bandage modifies the inflammatory response to soft tissue, helping healing and recovery. Each bandage cools for up to 2 hours and can be re-used by applying more coolant.

physicool explain the science of cooling by rapid evaporationon and cooling with open-cell technology on the How it Works section of their website and their excellent “How to Apply” video (below) is a useful resource too.

physicool currently sell 4 products:

  1. Size A Bandage ($14.95) – suitable for wrapping wrists and elbows.
  2. Size B Bandage ($19.95) – suitable for torso, thighs and shoulder areas.
  3. 16.9oz Coolant Spray ($26.95) – used to recharge either of the physicool bandages for many more uses.
  4. Combination Pack ($20.95) – a Size A bandage and 5oz bottle of coolant.
Combination Pack

Combination Pack

The product I received was the Combination Pack containing a Size A bandage and bottle of coolant – enough for a couple of recharges according to the bottle label.

I like the fact that no refrigeration is necessary and that the product can be used right out of the self-seal packet. User instructions are clear and concise, and printed on both the large outer Combination Pack and inner Size A bandage pack. Coolant recharge instructions are clearly visible on the coolant bottle label as would be expected.

Application on my lower leg was quick and easy.

Does it Work?

Cool Shin

Cool Shin

I have to say the physicool experience is far more comfortable and convenient than the traditional bag-of-ice-on-the-injury treatment that most athletes tend to favour.

Within seconds of wrapping the bandage on the affected area, the cooling sensation kicks in and you get to enjoy a nice tingly sensation. In the case of my sore shin, the relief was pretty much instant.

The first time using the product, I kept the bandage on for probably 90 minutes. The bandage stayed cool/cold the whole time and was not uncomfortable at all – in fact it was quite a soothing sensation. The only slight downside to the initial application was the smell of the coolant. No smell would be ideal, but it is what it is I guess. Results were similar to better than traditional ice treatment in that the shin responded to the treatment, but the whole experience is far more pleasant and sustainable than applying an ice pack to the affected area.

“Cool” things about the product are that you can apply coolant to the bandage in situ to recharge the cooling effect, the cooling technology works, it’s completely portable and is very easy to apply. physicool is definitely something I’ll be packing in my race gear bag and keeping close to hand for those little niggles that crop up from time to time.

physicool website
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physicool on Amazon.com

(Disclaimer: the product reviewed in this post is a media sample provided free of charge by physicool).

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 Shoe Review

On Sale at Sierra Trading Post!

As mentioned in my recent review of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0, I’ve been racking up some good mileage in the EM Road N1 too. With about 50 miles on my 2nd pair of N1s, I figured now was as good a time as any to share my thoughts.

To start with, here’s a short Pearl Izumi marketing pitch on the E:Motion Road N1:

If you’d rather skip the video, highlights are as follows:

For me, the best thing about this shoe is the fit and the level of comfort the stretchy, seamless upper provides. The soft mesh fabric hugs the foot perfectly and is smooth enough for sockless runs if you’re that way inclined. Initially, I was concerned that the shoe looked narrow in the forefoot, but thanks to the stretchy mesh, the toe box is deceptively roomy with just enough give in the upper to keep toes from feeling cramped.

The heel cup is padded, flexible and thankfully sits at just the right ankle height with no irritation whatsoever. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned an insole in a shoe review before, but this one cradles the foot nicely, and even after several hundred miles still has a bit of spring in it. Overall, I couldn’t really ask for a more comfortable shoe.

At 8.5oz, weight is pretty good for my size 9.5, although it is almost an ounce heavier than the Newton Distance III and a fraction heavier than another of my favorite shoes, the Saucony Kinvara. No big deal though – it doesn’t “feel” heavy when you’re running.

Similar to the EM Road N0, one thing I’m a little confused on is the heel-to-toe offset of the shoe. Pearl Izumi quote the N1 as having a 1mm offset, whereas RunningWarehouse.com states there is a 7mm difference in stack height between the heel (22mm) and forefoot (15mm). Honestly, neither of those figures seem accurate, but if I were to estimate the offset based on feel, I’d put it in the 3-4mm range. Probably not a big deal, but worth mentioning all the same.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Out of the box, the first 2 or 3 runs were slightly disappointing. Despite feeling super comfortable on the feet, for want of a better description, the shoes felt slappy – foot strikes felt weird and I struggled to get into a decent rhythm. Thankfully, on the 4th or 5th run, everything clicked, and now it feels like I’m in cruise mode when I wear the N1s. Interestingly, Pearl Izumi claim that their Dynamic Offset technology offers a “lively and smooth ride that eliminates forefoot slap”. Maybe it just takes a short break in period to get there?

With all its exposed midsole EVA, the sole visibly appears to wear quite quickly, but the four strategically placed carbon rubber pads (2 in the forefoot/2 in the heel), and the s-shaped rubber strip down the middle, work well to preserve the life of the sole. I logged just over 400 miles in my first pair of Road N1s and probably could have squeezed another 50-100 out of them if required. Not too shabby.

Pearl Izumi claim the shoe is ideal for any distance from a 5K to a marathon. Personally, I think they’re a bit bulky for a 5K or 10K, but I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them in a half or full marathon. Actually, I rate the shoe so highly I’m seriously considering the EM Road N1 as my starting shoe in the upcoming 24 Run/Walk for Cancer on April 26th/27th.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Worth a quick mention, I love the color options for the EM Road N1. The Electric Blue/Screaming Yellow (pictured above) is my favorite, but I also like the Black/Red and the Black/Screaming Yellow.

A couple of other quick comments.

  1. The laces are a bit thick and, in my experience, need a good double-knot to keep them securely tied.
  2. The rubber bumper at the front of the shoe works well – soft and flexible, yet protects the toes well from rocks and other objects you may kick.

To summarise, the EM Road N1 offers a very balanced ride in a super comfy package. Whether the Dynamic Offset technology is a bit gimmicky, I’m not sure, but Pearl Izumi seem to have nailed a great shoe in the Road N1. The N1s are very versatile and perform just as well on easy recovery days as they do during tempo efforts and long runs. For rubber-track work, you may need a slightly stiffer shoe though.

From the Pearl Izumi website:
Our lightest road style, the Project E:Motion Road N1 is designed for the runner seeking an ultra-smooth, light-as-a-feather, running experience. Perfect for race day, our E:Motion midsole promotes a smooth and quick running sensation giving you the liveliness you need for maximum speed.

Neutral Race
Sizes: 7–13 in half sizes, size 14
Weight–Size 9: 8.2 oz / 232g

Let me know if you have any questions about the Road N1, or feel free to leave a comment about any of the other shoes Pearl Izumi are selling right now.

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 are available for purchase at OnlineShoes.com, Amazon.com and are currently on sale for just $79.95 at Sierra Trading Post! [Price correct 4/17/14 and subject to change]

Road Runner Sports