I am a moderate to severe overpronator so when looking for a trail shoe I had it in mind to look for a shoe that offered support. It isn’t that common to find a trail shoe with support as most people will tell you because trails are so uneven and the foot is always moving about there isn’t much point in having the support. I would rather have the support and run blister and injury free. My UK men’s size 9 weighed in at 380 grams which is quite heavy for a shoe but it is worth it for the protection they offer and is hardly noticeable running on trails. If I was running on roads for any distance greater than about 3 miles then I am sure they would slow you down and become uncomfortable. I have quite a wide foot and buy an E width when buying road shoes. These weren’t tight or uncomfortable so i would say they are either a D or possibly an E width although this wasn’t stated when purchased. Salomon describe the elements that make the Crossmax as follows: Stretch Air Mesh Lace Pocket Protective Toe Cap SensiFit QuickLace Friction Free Lace Eyelet SensiFlex Textile Non Marking Contagrip OS Tendon Contagrip HA Contagrip LT Molded EVA Dual Density EVA Light Weight Muscle Compressed EVA Transition Link Carriage Construction EVA Shaped Footbed Ortholite Out of the box the shoe was a good red and black design. To the feel it was very solid a really stiff when trying to flex. My initial worry from this was they were going to be real bricks on the feet and take some getting used to. Trying them on they were amazingly comfortable with the Ortholite providing a snug and comfy fit. Walking around in them they did feel a little stiff with the main amount of flex being in the toe box area. They certainly held the foot very firm and gave the feeling of protectiveness and support that is required from a trail shoe. Taking them out onto my local trails they were great to run in and the stiffness wasn’t even noticed. The Contagrip outsole was superb in the mud and prevented the slipping that road shoes usually had. The lugs are a combination of rubbers to suit differing surfaces so they handle every thing from tarmac to gravel and sloppy mud. Having run on the road in them i wouldn’t want to do very much at a time as the minimal sole cushioning means you really feel the foot strikes. My road sections when on a trail haven’t been more than 3 miles at a time and that is about as much as I would want to do as could see lower leg or shin trouble coming on doing long distances on the road. The quick lace system is good but I found I was over tightening them to start with and had to find a balance between tight enough to stop any heel slip but not too tight to cause discomfort. It may be my foot shape but the top eyelet on the inside was rubbing my foot and making it sore. This may toughen up in time and is something I will keep an eye on or I will have to resort to plasters in that area when I run. When my feet got wet the Crossmax drained really quickly, was comfortable to continue running in and seemed to dry a little from the heat off my feet. The toe cap was also great offering protection from scuffing tree roots and clipping the odd stone. I used the Crossmax to run my first ultra the Stort 30 organised by http://www.challenge-running.co.uk/stort30/. They were fantastic through the entire 30 miles, I had no blisters at the end and only a couple of hot spots. Although I had wet feet they drained really quickly which helped reduce the likelihood of blisters. I will being using these shoes all through the winter on trails and hope to run more ultras in them in the future. Apart from the issue with the eyelet, which may only be personal to me,I had no problem with them at all and would recommend these shoes to anyone.Salomon do these shoes in a standard non guidance form so you do need to check when shopping that it is or isn’t the guidance version.
My training had gone well for the Stort 30 ultra. 2 weeks previous to the race i had taken myself to Bishops Stortford and run 20 miles along the river route. I started at Bishops Stortford station, ran out to Roydon marina and back to Sawbridgeworth in a time of 3 hours 22 minutes. This was slower than my road time but being off road that is to be expected, so based on that time I estimated a realistic time of 5 hours for doing the 30 mile ultra.
On the day i had to cycle 2 miles to a local station, Audley End to be able to get to the start on time. On arriving at the registration point it was pretty packed out, walked through and got my number, then went and got changed. When i came out i found a couple of my fellow Saffron Strider members, Nick and Rebecca White (who would go on to be the 1st female to finish). After a bit of chat i took myself outside of a bit of a warm up and checked my gear. Before leaving home I had made sure to have a good breakfast of porridge, banana, honey, large glass of water and a coffee. I was carrying 2 litres of SIS electrolyte drink in my camelbak, I also had maltodextrin tablets and some Powerbar gels that had added sodium and caffeine.
At 9am we were gathered and soon on the way. The weather was great, fairly clear, no rain and reasonably warm. As usual I was mindful that I was running my own race and to keep tabs on my pace. Down the main road, over the railway bridge and we were onto the tow path. Having run this already I knew what was in store. The first 7 miles were really muddy, very wet and well rutted. What I couldn’t account for was having 100 people ahead of me churning up the ground. Initially I was comfortable and holding around the 9 minute mile mark which is what I had planned.
Once down to Harlow mill area the tow path improves to a gravel surface and made the going easier. At the first checkpoint I managed to say a quick hello to race director Lindley while grabbing a drink and soon headed onwards. Around the Roydon area I started to feel my legs getting tighter which was a worry so early on, at mile 13 or so I had some twinging in the muscles and arriving at the 15 mile checkpoint I had cramp set in. This was a real blow having managed 20 miles 2 weeks earlier without any problems. I took on some more drink along with some salted peanuts and sausage rolls in a bid to get more salt in to my system along with another of my gels. I walked out of the checkpoint in a bid to give my legs a chance to recoup. After setting out again every half mile or so I would feel cramp coming on so I slowed to a walk to help stave it off and give my legs a rest. This really wasn’t how I had planned on things going! All I could do was run as sensibly as possible and give my legs every chance of making it to the end. Somewhere around mile 20 Keith Godden, director of the http://www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com/ asked how I was after seeing me struggling with cramp and was good enough to give me some electrolyte tablets. After carrying on I think I next spoke with Steve Harvey who told me about the ultras he had entered which helped distract me from the immense discomfort I was now feeling. After heading onwards I met Sue Albiston who I found out was Lindleys partner. We were both having a pretty hard time so for about the last 7 miles we encouraged each other on having short walking breaks followed by a couple of hundred yards of running. The last section toward the finish is up hill and this really finished my legs off. I was hoping to run the entire last lap of the field but my legs cramped badly and I had to walk to let it ease off, looking over my shoulder I saw Gin Craig close behind. Not wanting to be overtaken right at the end I managed to break into a jog for the last 200 yards crossing the line in 6 hours and 5 seconds.
It was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be doing more ultras in the future. With some analysis and hindsight I found out that a high intake of caffeine with sugar stops electrolytes being up taken by the muscles. In all I had about 400mg of caffeine, 4 gels, 1 pack of maltodextrin tablets and some food at the checkpoints. On the previous 20 mile run I had only plain gels without caffeine so this may be in part why cramp set on so early. Also I was running in fairly new shoes, the Salomon Crossmax are a great shoe but I had them only 3 weeks before the race. I now have a winter training plan and am looking for my next race…