The Outside Blog

Gear : Running

Mo Farah's Favorite Shoe

Who doesn't love Mo Farah? The current Olympic and world champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 ran a 2:08:21 in the 2014 London Marathon, coined the Mobot, and—thanks to his huge smile and wide eyes—inspired one of the most hilarious running tumblrs ever.

And now you can run in his shoes. 

Well, kind of. This weekend, Nike released the Air Zoom Pegasus 31, designed specifically with Farah's input. "They listen to [elite runners] and work with you," Farah told reporters at a Nike Zoom media event. "I pretty much wear a neutral shoe, and the Pegasus gives me what I need."

So what exactly does a world champion require? Keeping in mind that Farah is about five-foot five and 125 pounds, not a lot (although he does wear orthotics). He can get away with much less stability and cushion than many runners.* 

Which is why the Pegasus works well for Farah. The 31st iteration of the responsive, lightweight shoe is designed to be a neutral runner's go-to trainer for high-mileage running.

Mo Farah leads a warm up on Hayward Field.

"The Pegasus...just keeps getting better," Farah says. The improved upper is simple: snug mesh with subtle supportive layers that are built in (instead of stitched on) to reduce weight. The toe box can accommodate wide feet, or just cinch the laces for a more secure fit across narrow feet. 

Where this shoe gets just the slightest bit complicated is the sole: Basically, a pocket of pressurized tensile fibers (Nike's "Zoom Air" unit) in the heel collapses when you land; as you toe off, the fibers snap back and push your foot off the ground. The result is super responsive cushioning, which is particularly awesome if you're a heel striker.

"I loved that snappiness," Farah says, "combined with the soft cushioning and protection that I need for my 100-plus miles a week." 

Runners also feel that fast snap off the ground thanks to a 10-millimeter drop sole (lower than previous models) that incorporates a slight curve under the toes to propel through foot strike and toe off. A crash rail down lateral side further aids energy transfer through the toe. 

So what's not to love about this shoe? If you're a forefoot striker, don't even bother. The Peg doesn't do a whole lot to protect the ball of your foot. Same goes for overpronators. No major arch support here. And if you're looking for a shoe for both roads and trails, keep on looking. The mesh upper is basically a sieve for dust and dirt. A five-mile run on Pre's Trail was enough to make fresh-out-of-the-box shoes and socks absolutely filthy—even on a sunny and dry Eugene day.

But, if you're a neutral runner, possibly with a bit of a heel strike, this is your shoe. Even if you're not doing 100 miles a week.

Pegasus 31

Outsole of the Pegasus 31.

* If you're a fore-foot striker, try the Nike Air Zoom Elite tempo trainer, which has the air bag in the toe. Overpronators might try the Air Zoom Structure, which incorporates a medial post in addition to Zoom Air in the forefoot and more stability in the heel. Those seeking an even lighter shoe than the Pegasus might like the very minimal Air Zoom Streak racing flat, which is built on a midsole platform with Zoom Air in the heel. (Nike says the Streak has won more marathons than any other she in Nike history.) 

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Why We Love the Runbell

Forget fitness trackers and smartphone mounts. The Runbell is currently the greatest fitness accessory on Kickstarter. Modeled after the classic brass bike bell, this mini finger dinger “solves the vexing problem of running in crowded areas where runners and pedestrians share the same path.”

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist!” Au contraire, Shark Tank-educated investor, the problem most certainly does exist. Particularly in Tokyo, the birthplace of this invention, where courtesy is a cultural expectation and there are a lot of people on the sidewalk. In fact, the city of more than 13 million is home to the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection.

Tokyo is a polite place where people always stand to the left on escalators so others may walk on the right, and hollering “On your left!” or “Coming through” at strangers on the sidewalk is simply considered gauche.

“Absolutely rude! Would never do that. Runners always try to be ultra careful, slowing right down,” says famous Tokyo GPS runner Joseph Tame. If blocked by lollygaggers, proper etiquette dictates one must wait for a gap or find a way around. Runbell allows runners to scatter human roadblocks, with grace.

The United States could only hope to have such a dilemma of decorum. In our decidedly less courteous country—the land of non-budging escalator rogues and runners proud to announce their approach—the bell still solves the problem of removing pesky pedestrians from one’s intended path. And the added benefits are well worth the $25 Kickstarter price tag:

 

  1. The unmistakable brass ding will make pedestrians think a tiny, crazed cyclist is overtaking them. Not only will walkers move over, they’ll leap out of the way. Even better: their expressions of astonishment and/or confusion when no bike passes by will be worthy of a new internet video genre.
  2. Vocal communication while pounding out an interval is out of the question. If you can say, “Pardon me,” you’re not running hard enough. Use the bell.
  3. In the event that your Runbell causes sidewalk rage, it doubles as brass knuckles.

 

Fully adjustable, Runbell also fits over gloves for winter jaunts. As of this writing, it had $10,776 pledged toward its $20,000 goal, with 12 days to go in its campaign.

If you’ve considered investing in fitness technology, now’s the time to fork it over. Because nothing moves slowpokes and dawdlers out of the way like the charming sound of a tiny bike bell. And because wearing Runbell, with its “Runbell Tokyo” stamp, will connect runners in sound and spirit with their respectful brethren across the Pacific.  

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How to Prepare for a High-Altitude Race

We know the feeling (Outside's headquarters are at 7,000 feet). Doing any sort of activity at high elevation, even just a simple walk, leaves you feeling like all your past months of training didn’t even happen—and that you’ve been smoking a pack a day instead.

So what are you supposed to do if you live at sea level and want to travel for a race that is at altitude? Surprisingly, you don’t have to feel like you’re dying the whole time—if you flow the rules of high-altitude racing.

Your Body on Altitude

No matter how good of shape you are in, it doesn’t matter when you head up to the mountains, at least for the first few days while you are acclimating. That’s because your body is experiencing hypoxia, where your blood carries a lower level of oxygen than normal. The wheezing and shortness of breath you experience is your body trying to compensate for these lower oxygen levels.

“Your heart rate goes up to try to get more oxygen into your lungs—it is trying to increase the  pumping of your heart to deliver and transport more oxygen to your tissues,” says Robert S. Mazzeo with the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado. Altitude also causes hormonal changes to occur—like the pumping of adrenaline to help with oxygen transportation and delivery. This all happens when anyone is exposed high altitude, but if your body doesn’t acclimate well, you can get acute mountain sickness, which unfortunately feels a lot like a bad race anyway—headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Arrive Early and Lower Your Intensity

So how do you complete a high-altitude race when you train at sea level? Since we don’t recommend blood doping, and a hyperbaric chamber will set you back a few thousand dollars, aim to get to the race location a week in advance and stay active—which accelerates the acclimation process. Don’t, however, workout at your full intensity and volume. Instead, reduce your intensity by 10 percent and volume by 10 to 20 percent, over your taper, too, says Lance C. Dalleck, an assistant professor of Exercise and Sport Science at Western State Colorado University and researcher for the High Altitude Performance Lab. Take the first day or two off, and if you aren’t experiencing symptoms of acute mountain sickness, start training, but slightly less.

But be sure to prepare mentally, as your race pace will be slower and dehydration sets in quicker. Rather than trying to maintain your typical pace, consciously slow yourself down to avoid blowing up.

Timing Is Key

If you can’t arrive a week in advance and get your body acclimated, schedule your arrival time as close as possible to race day, says Dalleck. Avoid racing between 24 to 72 hours at altitude and instead head up the night or morning before. “That is when you are suffering the most and are most prone to mountain sickness, when you are really starting to acclimate,” Dalleck says of the one-to-three day period. “Before 24 hours, you haven’t really started acclimating... If you race right away, you will beat all of that happening. Your performance on day one at altitude will be better than on day two, three, or four.”

You can also try to get to a somewhat higher altitude at home, if possible, since preexposure to altitude can start that acclimatization. Aim to spend four or more hours at 5,000 plus feet a few times in the month leading up to the race.

If you still end up feeling like crap the whole race, don’t sweat it. It’s not you—it’s genetics. “We see a lot of variability in athletes at altitude,” says Dalleck. “Some individuals don’t seem to be as impacted by the altitude.  Others at sea level might be world class athletes and at altitude, they are just anybody else.”

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4 Summer Sports Festivals for Families

School's out and the kids are on the loose. Want to give them the gift of an epic outdoor summer? You'll need equal parts strategy and synchronicity, and a major dose four key ingredients: outdoor camps, sports festivals, family adventures, and free time.

We bring you four of the best adventure festivals of 2014 to see you through to the start of school. Most offer free clinics and focus on healthy fun outside over hard-core competition, but there's something for every kid in the list below. The days are long but the season is fleeting. Have a blast.

GoPro Games

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Vail, Colorado; June 5-8

The original showdown of summer adventure sports, the annual GoPro Games will wear you out with a frenetic schedule of races and comps for professional and amateur athletes, adults, kids, and even the family dog. Watching elites dominate the day in the Slackline World Cup, slopestyle biking, and steepcreeking is always major motivation to crush it in your own event, be it the youth bouldering contest, the Kids' Dash obstacle course (200 yards for four- to six-year olds, and one mile for ages seven and older), or the Rocky Dog Trail Run—a 5K course for pooches and their humans. Apres-racing, check out the Outdoor Reels Film series, free outdoor concerts and yoga classes, and an open-to-all photo competition. 

Adventure Sports Week

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Tahoe City, California; June 20-29

Need a reason to head to the Sierras during the summer solstice? How about ten days of trail running, SUPing, mountain biking, disc golf, off-road triathlons, kayaking, free skills clinics, adventure movies, and live music on the beach. Two words: Pace yourself. For adults, there's a 7.9-mile trail run to Squaw along the Truckee River, a half-marathon and 50K ultra, paddleboard racing on Lake Tahoe, and a four- and eight-hour mountain bike races. Kids face off in the mini Big Blue Waterman Challenge, a true Tahoe-style triathlon, with swimming, running, and SUPing. Xterra comes to town, too, with an off-road triathlon, sprint, and duathlon; all three have youth categories for kids 17 and younger. When it's time to unwind, don't miss the full moon and sunset family kayaking tours. 

Keen Vail Kids Adventure Games

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Vail, Colorado; August 6-10

Some festivals have events for the kids. This one is an event for the kids. A breeding ground for the next generation of multisport athletes, the fifth-annual race pits teams of two—ages six to 14—against each other while navigating mountain biking, hiking, zip lining, and climbing challenges. Kid-pleasers such as a slip-n-slide, Tarzan swing, and river tubing keep the contest fun, and parents are welcome to tag along on the course (without helicoptering too much, or offering assistance). Competitors are divided by age into beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories, and can fine-tune their mad skills at the pre-race mountain biking, climbing, and teamwork clinics. A Strider bike course and family mud run let younger siblings and parents in on the action. 

Big Pig Bike Fest

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Burns Lake, British Columbia; August 15-17

Whistler might have the epic ten-day Crankworx Freeride Festival (for junior riders, the Kidworx pump track, trail riding, and jumping comps go off on August 16), but the lesser-known Big Pig is the sleeper of the BC bike festival scene. Burns Lake, an outpost of 2,500 people in the remote northern interior, might not be on your radar—yet—but as Canada's first IMBA Ride Center (awarded to only the most stellar mountain-biking destinations), it should be. The fat-tire celebration launches on Friday with mini downhill, cross-country, and skills events for youth riders ages five to 12 (nab first place and you'll pocket $20!). And while adults will go big in the four-cross race and jump jam at the bike park—designed by the same folks who created Whistler's—and the 70K Dante Race on the ripping Charlotte's Web singletrack, what really sets Big Pig apart is the Wilbur Wheelay, a three-hour, enduro-style cross-country family relay that wraps the weekend of riding.

One last note: Many major obstacle racing, trail running, and off-road triathlon series offer free kids' programs on race day. Check out Merrell's Down and Dirty Obstacle Race, Spartan Race, and Xterra for upcoming events around the country.

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