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INSTASSEL: 6:04 am Central European Summer Time

Tune of the day: Public Enemy feat DJ Premier – State Of The Union (STFU)

In the press: RUNNING 10/2020

For the german RUNNING Magazin i wrote a feature about the latest trip to Jämtland for the Fjällmaraton.

If you life in Germany, Austria or Switzerland go check it out.

Tune of the day: Richard Spaven – In Readiness

In pictures: Åre

Tune of the day: Lenny White – Big City X Knucks – Standout (feat. Loyle Carner & Venna)

shoeporn: Hoka One One – Torrent 2

Another update Hoka One One fans were highly anticipating. I might not run as many trails as i used to do, but i do cherish my Torrent model that i had on rotation. I was intrigued when the news broke out that an update is about to happen. If you want to ping point one of the central updates, it has to be the upper. Hoka came up with a completely new engineered mesh upper, that is made out of recycled polyester fiber, that fits was better than the initial one.
So what makes the Torrent so special in general? It is a pretty supportive, well-cushioned, and lightweight shoe made to run fast on unpaved footways. While the Hoka’s Speedgoat is probably the most known and liked trail shoe in the assortment, the Torrent is the slimmer and less bulky brother.
The weight difference between the first Torrent model and the 2nd version is not really there on paper. But what is really obvious is that the new version feels lighter. Several weeks of running in the shoe, i have no idea what it is. I weighted both models and they are nearly identical in weight with 268 grams in US 13.
If you ask me, there is no faster trail shoe in the Hoka One One assortment than the Torrent 2. I used it for several SwimRun sessions, off-road training sessions and a full trail marathon through a varied terrain in the north of Sweden. Im completely sold on the 2nd version of this shoe.
A low-profile cushion construction makes sure that the foot is close to the ground. A pretty essential feature for technical trails. Despite the proper cushion is the material firmer to provide a more efficient kick from the ground thanks to the Profile midsole.
The upper feels thick but comfortable and even though the material is a bit thicker, it is pretty breathable and created no issues for me. Plus it does not scratch off opens up during rougher runs. After a few weeks of rough use, the upper are still fine.
A close up of the new upper and the toe box that is slightly tighter then the previous model.
The new overlays wrap nicely across the forefoot and toe boxes for proper support and protection during challenging trail runs. They not only look good, they work amazingly fine.
Detail – The forefoot section of the Torrent 2.
To praise proper cushioning in a Hoka shoe is an understatement. The Torrent has plenty of cushioning in the midsole area and provides an amazing energy return. But it is by far the trail shoe with the least cushioning in the Hoka range. This makes it the absolute go-to trail racing shoe for me.
A core element in a trail shoe is the outsole. The lugs of the Torrent are not overly deep but well placed. Mud and deep trails are not a massive problem but wet stones are not the best friend of the Torrent. Overall i liked the comfort and the reliability that the sole provides.
An updated sole design make the Torrent 2 more comfortable than its predecessor. With a Lug depth of 4mm and a better placing of the lugs, Hoka did a great job. The marbled sticky rubber outsoles with its multidirectional lugs provide a grip that can face a lot of challenges.
Besides all the technical features, the Torrent is a pretty good looking shoe i must say.
The new Torrent in its natural habitat. Mud and dirt is what this shoe likes and where it feels home. A proper update the Torrent line that i cherished now during the last few weeks. A shoe that moves fast and gives a great feel for the trail combined with cushioning that saves the legs. A delicate combination on technical trails well executed.

Tune of the day: Logic – Soul Food II X Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

Neckarsteig FKT with Pierre-Emmanuel Alexandre

When German Triathlon legend Timo Bracht initiated to link some of the finest local trails, nobody could tell how fast this little project would catch the attention of hikers, bikers and runners alike. A 126 kilometer footpath with an elevation of 3.127 meters that follows the river Neckar through the southern foothills of the hilly Odenwald area, was what got plotted out and marked accordingly. Since then the Neckarsteig trail is known locally and nationwide. In 2018 the trail got promoted to “most beautiful hiking trail in Germany”.

This part of the Neckar gorge is frankly unique and the waterway curves nicely through this romantic part of the vale. Historic castles and timeworn villages plaster the way amongst pristine trails in the dense and lust woodland. A wide-ranging path where I personally spend a lot of hours running and biking.

The Neckarsteig trail is laid out to be nine stages long, constantly linking to local train stations to create user-friendliness. Until now, the track has seen some proper runs but just recently 27 years old Frenchman Pierre-Emmanuel Alexandre crushed the exiting FKT (Fastest Known Time) down to an unbelievable 12:05:51 Minutes when he undertook the trail from Bad Wimpfen back to the iconic Heidelberg Castle.

I catched up with Pierre-Emmanuel to find out more about himself and this effort.

Picture: Björn Alt

Q: Give us a little rundown on your sporting career and how you ended up running off-road?

Quite early on I started playing football with my brother. We played in our garden and with a small team in our village. I played football with this club until I was 15 years old. 

After that I discovered cross-country running as I watching my brother during some competitions. He inspired me, so I tested and I started to run alone at the start. At that point I joined an athletic club in Angers, in the west of France. I started with the traditional stuff that you do in an athletic club. That meant that I was racing 1500, 3000, Cross country etc. It happened that I won the French high school championships in the 3000 steeplechase.

With 20 I moved to Strasbourg to study chemistry at an engineering school and I think in 2015 I ran my first 9 km trail race in the Vosges mountains. Then I moved to Frankfurt and spend my time running in the Taunus region. Eventually I started to run longer. I made some private excursions as I wanted to discover new places as fast as possible.

My first noteworthy victory was at the Trail Marathon in Heidelberg in 2017. It was also my very first race over that distance. I had an amazing day and managed to beat the highly decorated runner Flo Neuschwander… Pouahh.

Then I ran more and more trail competitions and won some races around Heidelberg and in the French Vosges area (Trail du Haut-Koenigsburg, Joker trail, ZUT basetrail XL) and some more… This helped me to score a Salomon Germany sponsorship deal in 2020.

Q: When was the first time you heard about the Neckarsteig Trail?

I think in autumn 2017. Some months after I arrived in Heidelberg. But at that point I never had plans on running this trail. With my girlfriend I hiked the first part of the trail from Heidelberg to Ziegelhausen. At that time ultra-running was a complete new world to me. The longest I had ran was the Heidelberg trail marathon that same year.

Picture: Björn Alt

Q: You set an remarkable new FKT on the Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg direction. What was the reason to run this way and will you try to approach the FKT correspondingly in the other direction? In your opinion, what is the quicker route?

I wanted to finish in Heidelberg. This city means a lot to me. I spent the last 3,5 years in Heidelberg working on my PhD. I really fell in love with the city and the forest around the old town. Moreover I knew that I could get more support if I finished in Heidelberg because most of my friends live there and it was easier for them to join me on the route rather than travelling to Bad Wimpfen.

On the Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg direction you get most of the altitude meters at the end. I think there are 1000m+ during the last 20k. At first you would think that it is harder to run in this direction. Most of the hiking groups in fact start from Heidelberg. But I am happy with my choice. I don’t think I would have been much faster on the other way. Somehow I managed to save my energy on the first part of the track and kept something in the tank for the most beautiful part, from my point of view. Even if there are plenty of beautiful places on the first part, for example the Margarethenschlucht.

Q: In the preparation of the FKT attempt, how much time did you put into the logistical preparation and specific training on the course?

Quite a lot actually. I spend a lot of time organizing my food, checking where I can plan the water stations. I checked the track mostly on a GPS app because I didn’t have the time to run all the parts. I knew the last 20k but that was it. I didn’t train more than usually. I might have done some longer and slower runs but I still only ran 80k a weeks in average. 

Picture: Björn Alt

Q: Which part of the route is the toughest in your opinion?

The long loop between Neckargerach and Neunkirchen was quite unpleasant for me because this part is flat and kind of boring. Moreover I ran this part before my first big break (~10min). With 19k this was the longest part without an aid-station. When I approached this part the sun was quite strong and there was not much shadow where I could hide.

Q: Besides the obvious challenges (distances and climbing) what were the biggest difficulties for you along the way?

Definitely the heat. But this is always my problem. I have to drink a lot and get enough electrolytes to avoid cramps. 

Picture: Björn Alt

Q: What material did you use and why? How often did you change shoes?

As an Salomon athlete I only used their products and I love them. I wore a Slab T-shirt and shorts. The Sense Ride 3 was my shoe for the first 60k and the Slab Ultra 2 for the second part. I only changed my shoe once but I would do it more often if I run another Ultra. Furthermore I used the Leki Micro RCM poles.

Q: MC Solaar, Suprême NTM or IAM?

Haha actually I don’t listen to this kind of music. Paul K, Klingande or Petit Biscuit is more my style. I think I was also too young when they were popular. But if I had to choose I would say IAM –  Petit Frère 😉

STRAVA
Instagram
fastestknowntime.com
Neckarsteig.de

SHOEPORN: HOKA ONE ONE – CLIFTON EDGE

The newest update to Hoka One One’s prominent Clifton Line is undoubtedly one that will (again) raise some eyebrows. If you thought Hoka saves that enormous heal portion exclusive to its Trail running sector, think again. The Clifton Edge give the impression of a lesser street-brother of the attention seeking off-road downhill monster Ten Nine. 

With the Clifton Edge the company remains to push its pioneering boundaries. After the trails, Hoka now takes on the roads with its cutting-edge resole geometry. A development history the company is known for.
The core of a suitable running shoe is undoubtedly the sole. At least for me, and at least for Hoka as the originators of colossal foam usage. The engineers use a new style of more buoyant foam and shape it to a distinguishing outsole. A space-age but supportive base. 

Hoka One One pushes its lightweight road shoe unit even more with this trifling new adding that comes with more less the same heft as the preceding Clifton 6.
The Edge’s climax is the heel – no doubt about that. A few months back Hoka throw down the downhill trail shoe Ten Nine and triggered noise on message boards and social media. The massive heal is meant for a smoother downhill ride and, in the case of this specific shoe, to aid heal strikers on the road. 

As a non-heel striker, a circumstance that I cannot really access. However I used The Edge during some hill repeats and the big surprise to me was not the energetic uphill ride (which I’m describing later..) it was the super relaxed downhill jogging that pleased my beaten up limbs.
A solid base is everything. With its early-stage Meta-Rocker structure the shoe provides precisely for this. The sole building is wide and massive compared to other shoes. It feels steady, yet not boring and ungainly. The extensive base feels naturally reliable, hinders any side-to-side movement through the entire heel-to-toe transition. The snap and sense while toeing off generates a receptive ride that the Clifton series is known for. With the up-to-date adding to the Clifton family Hoka accomplished to apprise that feeling evidently.
A hi-tech designed heel neck stops the shoe from putting burden on the Achilles tendons. Notwithstanding the super easy access (“Hello Triathlon!”) it creates a very relaxed overall sensation in a region of the shoe that, in the past, caused me some difficulties. Until now, this creation works perfect for me and it also, theoretically, makes sense.
While talking about this shoe, a key feature that has to be stated is the tongue and the comfortable overall sense. A thin and casually padded tongue snugs around the foot courteously and glove-like. Two inner adaptable straps on the side hold the whole thing together and generate a very smooth feeling. On top of that Hoka engineers came up with a thin mesh upper that is super breathable and robust. It certainly is fun to wear this shoe.
A shape to stand out. Well, by any means really.
An appropriate quantity of the newest Hoka-patented foam is built underneath this shoe. It feels a bit firmer than older Clifton models but this could be the reason why this shoe feels a bit snappier than other Clifton models. 

The midsole is engraved into an early stage Meta-Rocker shape which helps the runner to move the individual foot strike further forward in the shoe.
The rubberized EVA outsole adds to the lightweight tactic of the Edge. While running on the road and light trails, the construction felt safe and reliable.
A front view in the direction of the padded neckline that is built for more relief at the ankle section. 

Like seen before with the latest Nike Vaporfly models, Hoka added a slight but really clever feature to this model. Some stability lining on the heel generates a super safe and relaxed feeling while snug around the heel bone. I had no issues with rubbing or heel slippage and generally enjoyed this feature as an add-on for more comfort.
With a weight of 260 grams in US13, the Edge did not cut much weight off his older brother, the Clifton 6. It is still a light shoe for the amount of cushioning it has to offer.

The heel to toe drop comes in with 5.00mm.
It did not take me much time to get hooked on terms Hokas latest style – the Clifton Edge. It adds on where the preceding models stopped. A elegant, safe and lively ride that is reinforced by proper cushion. An agile training shoe, a mileage beater and a shoe that enjoys to move fast up hills and on roads. Not much more to ask for a everyday training mate. 

As always there are numerous feelings about the design. As long as Hoka shoe exists, there will be. But one thing is for sure, Hoka drives modernization and is not afraid to push limitations. The Clifton Edge just shows precisely this and sums it up with three characteristics printed on the insole of the shoe: light, soft and smooth!

Tune of the day: Special Request – No Other way To Say It X Four Tet – New Energy

RACEREPORT-03 / Långholmen SwimRun

Distinct times are calling for diverse procedures. Even though Sweden wasn’t excessively restrictive concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, all mass gatherings have been shut down. Apparently this contains racing happenings. Stockholm’s classic and constantly innovative SwimRun around Långholmen was one of the first races in the calendar to start back up. 

The organization did a clever job that followed to all restrictions and shaped a special day with everybody respecting the new procedures. A withdrawal of the long course event meant that different starting waves were offered over the sprint distance.
Långholmen SwimRun organizers accomplished to produce a contactless event – Online race briefing, a course description via Vimeo, race bib self-pick-up and isolated start boxes. Super well prearranged and appreciated by all competitors.
I was privileged to race with my friends daughter and last year’s women champion Ebba Kindgren.
More of my Långholmen SwimRun race chatter can be found HERE and HERE
We gave it all from start to finish. So much fun to race alongside Ebba. I was more than impressed by her performance. She dug deep and we pushed all the way.
Grinding on some technical trail early on.
Leaving the last swim segment and on the way to a second place finish. Only giving space on the podium to ÖTILLÖ World Champ Annica Ericsson and her companion. “Next year we go for the win.” was Ebba’s final announcement after the competition – You bet!
Only one photograph from my second excursion of the day. With training companion and friend Johann and I raced the 2nd heat. So much fun to escort him throughout his first SwimRun. We went way faster than anticipated and he was entirely hooked when arriving at the finish line. “This was the toughest thing I ever did. So much fun…”
Undoubtedly Långholmen SwimRun does know how to run the show. Even thru pretty unusual times. For my part I wonder how they accomplish to organize these nice and sunshiny race days. Until next year!

All pictures courtesy by Henrik Kindgren for Långholmen SwimRun

Tune of the day: Lady Saw – Serious Allegations X Peshay 1996 Studio Set
Podcast of the day: Boris Stein meets Clemens Coenen (German Only)

Friendly Fire

All-out midweek racing with the gang. Threshold and fun at a peak level at the YO Super Sprint Triathlon.

Beautiful captured by Henrik Kindgren.

Tune of the day: Lady Saw 1990s Mix

shoeporn: Adidas SL 20

Adi Dassler hits the market with a brand new model – the SL 20. SL stands for “Super Light” and that is no lie. Straight from the get go this shoe supports a dynamic stride purely by its lightness. My US13 pair weights in with 235 grams.
I received this shoe a few weeks ago. A couple of minutes prior to a 10.000 meter test race on the track. The pure feel of the shoe was so convincing that i put my trusted adidas Adios aside and used the SL20 straight out of the box. I just dipped under 37 minutes with a nice threshold effort and the shoe certainly played its part. While being dynamic enough the sole might not be springy enough for harder track efforts and performs better on the roads.
Yes, im german. So it is kinda nice to see two big german players pairing up. In this case Continental, a German multinational automotive parts manufacturing company that is famed for its tires and other parts for the automotive and transportation industries. On the SL20 they provide a nice grip that almost can feel a bit sticky from the start. I really like the traction and the grip – Solid german engineering.
The Adidas Torsion System, in the case of the SL, the red plate in the middle of the sole, was released in 1991 and still remains one of the most iconic features that has been released by adidas. In the SL20 it provides structure and control to the shoe. There has obviously been some sort of development process and one can feel that, compared to other lightweight trainers, the SL20 feel very stable for a neutral running shoe.
It has been a while that the Herzogenaurach based brand came up with some sort of foam development. With the latest Lightstrike material, adidas released a lighter and more responsive foam. Im not sure how this material stands towards the well known Boost material when it comes to the springiness. What is pretty obvious is that adidas can now provide more cushion without scarfing on the weight of the shoe. The style of the SL20 sole provides great all-round cushioning but it does not transport that direct toe-off feeling that the boost material is known for.
The SL20 can be describes as a lightweight trainer for uptempo runs. The cushioning certainly benefits the muscular stress level. I took the shoe to several paces. East runs – no problem. Faster road workouts – i like it. Track – the sole would be too soft and not direct enough. Despite the soft sole, the shoe is easy to accelerate which makes the SL20 a real fun shoe.
The SL20 comes with a 10 mm Midsole drop (heel 24 mm / forefoot 14 mm). This caters for a lot of different strike styles. As a mid and forefoot runner i had enough cushion to feel comfortable.
A classic mesh upper can be found on the upper. The material is super comfortable but misses a bit of breathability to me. A nice surprise for was the nice and wide toe box. Pretty unusual for a shoe of that style. The laminated panels that can been seen in the picture above, provide quite a great support while running.
So where does this new Adi shoe stands? As a user of several adidas models i would put this one somewhere in the Boston lineup. It certainly has the same feel to it with the additional cushion but i think it is more comfortable in a nice way. After several runs the SL20 reminds me of a the recent Nike Pegasus Turbo, only a bit firmer and less bouncy. A great allrounder that provides a lot of fun in several tempo segments.

Tune of the day: Kemal & Rob Data ‎– The Encrypter

Ötillö Testimonial

I answered some questions for the recent Ötillö Testimonial series.

Check out the feature on their website.

Tune of the day: Chevron – Chippy Chips

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