Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Balance 980 Fresh Foam Trail Review

Some time ago, I was given a pair of New Balance 980 Fresh Foam trail shoe to try. When I first got it, my first impression was "Wow" its beautiful and then immediately after that, oh my goodness, how am I going to wear that!

Design: You see, the NB 980 is what the market calls a Maximal shoe as opposed to "minimal. And I have been wearing minimal shoes for the past few years that I wasn't sure whether I can still run in such thick shoe. 

But surprisingly despite the thick sole, it is still just a 4mm heel to toe drop. Basically what NB has done is to put in a thick layer of what it calls Fresh Foam, which is still EVA but redesigned to allow for better movement and cushioning.


The 989 has a rather high heel counter and because I wear mainly ankle socks, I can feel a hot spot developing on my left heel after a while. But I suppose this can be easily resolve by an application of blister shield or higher cut socks. The high heel counter provides a snug fit and provides better support and protection something that is essential for the twists and turns on the trails.

Weight: despite the thickness of the sole, it is still rather light at about 300 gm which is great when you need all the weight advantage as the legs grow heavier and heavier over long distance.

Cushioning: There is more than adequate sufficient cushioning even without any rock plate in the sole. In fact, I personally feels that there is too much cushioning and on the trails, I can hardly feel the ground. On the plus side, there is simply no need for rock plate because the cushioning is so good that it takes all the rocks and roots in its stride. There is also no toe plate which may be a bit of an issue over more technical terrains.

Traction:  To ensure that I do an objective review, I worn the shoe on 3 different occasions covering a total of 38 km over trails and roads. First time was a short 8 km easy run at MacRitchie covering the northern route and second time, a longer 15 km run, also at MacRitchie and covering the additional trail to Rifle Range road and the Rifle Range Link where the trails are more technical. The last run was a 15 km road run between the Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce Road. In all cases, the shoes gripped well even during the 2nd run when the  ground was wet and slippery from the rain the day before. This is possibly due to design of the multi directional lugs on the sole.

Flexibility: Unfortunately as expected due to the thickness of the sole, it wasn't as flexible as I could like it to be.

Water Proofing: The upper is made up of a breathable mesh and it will appears that water can get in easily. However, on my runs despite the rain the previous day, there wasn't sufficient ponding for me to splash through so at this point I am unable to conclude how effective the water proofing if any will be.

Overall, I like the shoe for its cushioning and snug fit. But it is a it too much cushioning and reduces the ground feel something that I am not comfortable with. I think this shoe is most suitable for those starting out on trail running and looking for a lightweight, comfortable and good cushioning shoe to transit from traditional trail shoes to minimalist shoes. Also because of the ample cushioning, it will be good for longer trail runs when it can delay the on set of sole pain from the protruding rocks.

This shoe review is made possible courtesy of New Balance Singapore and Trail Running Singapore

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Glen Nevis - Steall Fall, Scotland

Continued from Glen Nevis - Lower Falls,

In the end we decided to continue on. Why? Because we could see other people driving in so we figured since there are people still going in, it should be fine. And so we walked on the road. We managed to overtake the other couple who was resting by the road side. Thank goodness we are fit as a fiddle:)

The sidekick walking up the single track road.

And finally we came to this sign!

Yes we finally found it. After trekking for almost the whole day, we reached the trail head to the Steall waterfall. It was now almost 5 pm. How far to the fall and how much time do we have? And more ominously, there was this sign at the start of the trail head. 

How difficult was the hike? I didn't seem to recall any bad write up about the journey there though and since we had went through so much to reach here, I wasn't going to be deter by 1 small puny little sign. So off we went.

The initial part was fairly easy and a no brainer. Narrow but flat trail notwithstanding that we were walking next to a gorge the like of which we city folks have never seen before.


Talking about the gorge. We have never seen a real life gorge before except in the movies and this was like something from the movie. Can't really tell from the following 3 photos but this was as close as I dare to get to take the shots without fear of dropping in. It look deep and rocky with water rushing through it. A fall would likely be death - either from hitting the rocks or being swept away into the depth of the gorge.



And if that was not bad enough, we were literally walking right next to it on a small rocky ridge.




But truth be told, it wasn't that bad and quite easily negotiated. And after some walking we finally came out to the open!

And after turning the corner, there it was! The Steall waterfall right at the back of the photo

 A closer look at the Steall fall. Not as spectacular as expected. Supposed can go nearer but to reach it, we have to cross the river. We didn't want to get our feet wet so we were contended to admire it from afar. But there is another way to reach it without getting the feet wet.

And that is by using this rather aptly name Steall bridge. Only problem with this bridge is, there is only 3 wire ropes on it. 2 on top for the hand to hold and 1 below to walk on!

Like what this lady is doing. And we, we chickened out!

But finally after almost 8 hours, we seen the Steall Waterfall and concluded our trip to the Highlands on a high.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Glen Nevis, Lower Falls, Scotland

Continue from Glen Nevis - Cow Hill Summit

After lunch at a lovely place, we finally we found our way to a waterfall but before passing through a beautiful scape of farmland and the base of the highest peak in the United Kingdom, the Ben Nevis.

Lunch in this cosy little place


 The Ben Nevis is somewhere to the right of this mountain range and this path will lead right to it. Too bad we were not prepared for climbing otherwise would love to scale this peak which at 1344 metres is the highest mountain in UK and which can apparently be done with in half a day!


Back to the waterfall. We came to this waterfall. There were a few cars parked there so we thought this is it.


But unfortunately after walking for almost 1 hour, we did not see the Steall fall, the one that we had came all the way for. We did see some waterfall further away but they didn't look like anything in the photos we seen.


We were in the wrong place again! Despite the nice scenery along the way, I was kinda getting depressed and real disappointed.
 


Was this going to be a fruitless trip? We met another couple and they too were looking for the Steall fall. They figured we were in the right direction but at the lower reach and had some more distance to cover. It seems we had stopped at the wrong waterfall and there was another 3 miles to go to reach the Steall fall. It was getting late and I wasn't enthusiastic about reaching it on time before darkness set in.

Finally we came to a bridge with water cascading down from the river. This has to be the fed from the Steall fall! But how were we to get there. 




After crossing the bridge, we were out of the trail and back on the road. The couple decided to walk up the road. We toyed with whether to turn back via the road and drive up or follow them. It was now around 4.45 and we had wasted 1 hour. We had absolutely no idea how far away it was. Were we too late to make it to the Steall fall? Would it be dark by the time we get there?

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Glen Nevis, Cow Hill Summit, Scotland

Our next stop in the Highlands of Scotland was supposed to be the famous Loch Ness but after being advised by many locals that it was more hype than worth anything and on the advice of the owners at Campus House where we were staying in up in the Highlands, we went to Glen Nevis to look for the beautiful Steall waterfall that has been featured prominently in many travel web sites. 


Of course, we being the perpetual blur king, we ended up erm "slightly" way off from where we had intended to go. This was the start of the Glen Nevis range but not our intended target. In fact we were way off. Of course we didn't realise that initially but after trekking the whole morning and not finding any waterfall, we finally admitted that we were in the right place but wrong location. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time trekking up one of the minor hills of Glen Nevis.

We started following this river, thinking that this will eventually leads to the fall. But after some walking and coming to a dead end and ending back on the main road, we asked for directions and were told that the waterfall was about 7 miles at the end of the road. So we decided to back track and drive in instead.

2 miles later, we came to a car park and since there were many cars there and a large sign, we decided we were there and off we went.

 And of course, we were still way off. But still, we had a ball trekking to the highest summit there, the Cow Hill Summit.

It was up up up all the way. But every turn of the hilly route gave a spectacular view of the towns and valley below or the hills above.








And that's the Sidekick getting ready to do a "jump" at the peak of Cow Hill Summit!

It seems the Scots government is preparing to reintegrate cattles into these hills. There is this huge ass sign -

We didn't come across any Scottish cows or the Scottish yaks as they are commonly called but we did see some mountain sheep though

We descended but not wanting to cover the same route, we took a side path only to realise that it was leading back up to the summit and so after 1 mile, we turned back again. But we did have another nice view of the valley below.

We walked through this timber forest

And came out to the open with another peak in front of us instead

And we had this glorious view of the valley below which clearly showed that we were going away from it instead of towards it.

So after a whole morning of trekking we were still nowhere in sight of the Steall fall.


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