As a first timer to the 70.3 triathlon distance (half Ironman distance / middle distance) I wanted to find an event within a reasonable distance from home that was nice and flat (no point in adding any extra challenges into the mix) and with a swim in calm water as most of my open water swimming is in the sea, so a nice fresh water reservoir would be a welcome bonus. This left me with the Grafman Middle Distance triathlon in Grafham, Cambridgeshire. Although it is nowhere near Cambridge, it is a lovely little village.
With a few sprint triathlons under the belt, the middle distance really is a new discipline to train for. My first ever half marathon was just 2 weeks before the event and went without too many problems but swimming this distance and staying calm is definitely a challenge.
The registration process the day before the event was very simple and quick; the entire process only took around 4 minutes. It was nice to be able to walk into the transition area, find my number for the next day, and have a look at the swim start and course.
The swim is a mass swim entry, which means running in and plunging into the water and racing off in a pack. I decided to hang out on the left of the pack and take a wide lap to avoid being pushed and shoved too much. The swim also includes an "Australian Exit" which means after one lap you leave the water, run past the crowds of people and the waiting photographers, only to jump back in and swim another lap.
Leaving the water there is lots of support and people to help you out if needed.There are marshals pointing to the transition area and plenty of support in the bike area. It was a really nice atmosphere; very friendly and with a good buzz about it all.
The cycle section is on roads open to traffic; despite the traffic being very light, the few motorists who attempt to drive the same way as the cyclists it causes a bit of bunching. Being a non-drafting ride it is pretty hard when you can not overtake and there are several people in front. There wasn’t too much of the course like this and after 30k the riders seemed to space out.
The drink/gel stations were pretty efficient; you do not need to stop to be passed water or energy gels. Towards the end of the ride, I was worried I had made a wrong turn because I couldn't see any cyclists, but the marshalls are fantastic and I was directed the correct way and eventually saw a few cyclists in the distance.
Finally, the run. The toughest part of the run for me was the last 5 or 6km when you pass the finish line and run away from the sounds of the tannoy and music. It had been a tough race so far, but I was nearly there. Like the ride, the run is a few laps back and forth with water and gel stations at either end.
The Adidas Originals Tubular Shadow shoes are Adidas' latest addition to their ever-growing fashion trainer collection. The design of these shoes is a fusion of their famed tubular '93 runners and an updated, fresh style. These trainers take a classic and revamp them for modern tastes to compete with their contemporaries. The two-tone knit upper and contemporary wrap-around style is very popular at the moment making them one of the most popular trainers on the market right now.
The thick, rubber sole means that these trainers stay comfortable even when you're on your feet all day. The enclosed 'booty' style that is found on most trainers these days prevents rubbing and chafing and the specialised sock lining stops blisters from forming.
The knit-style upper is flexible and comfortable and makes these shoes feel like you've barely got anything on your feet at all. While not necessarily suitable for long-distance running, these trainers will certainly be your best friend for a tough gym session or more functional workout.
Adidas has clearly tried to specifically bring their classic 1993 runners into the 21st century. They've stayed true to Adidas style as these are fairly similar to the Boost trainers that proved to be very popular after the release of Kanye's Yeezy trainers. The knitted upper follows in the footsteps of something Nike has been doing for a long time in their fly-knit collection and is possibly a fashion that will fall out of favour in a few years. That said, they're a very chic, subtle pair of trainers with not too much going on and definitely very minimalistic branding. This means they'll go with most outfits and will add a stylish twist to any workout. The trainers are available in a range of monochrome colours like black, white, and grey, but the two-tone design means they're eye-catching and stand out from other standard monochrome shoes.
The price of £79.95 is actually very fair, considering a lot of trainers these days can set you back well over £100. These are fashion trainers after all as opposed to functional technical trainers, but it's still a very reasonable cost for such stylish, modern shoes. This price is direct from Adidas, and you'll find them even cheaper from other distributors.
The Adidas Originals Tubular Shadow shoes are a modern twist on a classic and stay true to the Adidas brand. They stay on trend perfectly and would not look out of place in any scenario. The comfort of the trainers is exceptional, even if you have particularly wide feet. They may not be the most technical trainers, but they do the job and look great while they do it.
These fresh, stylish trainers are available at £79.95 on the Adidas website
Who Are Topo?
Topo is an athletics brand that was founded in 2013 by Tony Post (hence Topo). Tony competed in cross country running at university in Oklahoma and spent many years developing and making shoes for a brand in the US. After years of trialling and testing shoes, he decided to start his own athletics brand, and thus Topo Athletics was born.
Design and Comfort
Aesthetically, these look very similar to my Vivo Barefoot trainers and they are equally lightweight, but there is a substantial difference in support. Although the Topo's padding is minimal, it felt far more cushioned than my other barefoot shoes. Topo’s designer Tony Post helped launch the Vibram Fivefinger Shoes, so it’s no surprise that elements of the five-fingered shoe are reflected in these trainers.
The original design of these trainers actually separated the larger toe to encourage the wearer to make more agile use of all of their foot. However, after runners tested the style, they decided they preferred a more familiar closed front.
The First Run
The lack of heel-to-toe drop is designed to encourage a better running posture and it did feel like I was running with better technique while wearing the Topo Speed Trainers. My first impression of these trainers was good, although they don’t call them 'Speed Trainers' for nothing; sprinting is definitely going to be where these trainers earn their stripes.
The Sprint Test
The Topo Women's Speed Trainers are so lightweight you feel like you're not wearing any trainers at all, apart from the cushioning. The foam padding around the ball of the foot and wide toe box is perfect for driving off as fast as possible and left me supported and yet totally in control of every stride. This made sprinting very fun and easy!
I was really impressed with these trainers; you can tell that they are designed with purpose and they perform with ease. The style is well suited for both indoor and outdoor activity and encourage a barefoot running style which can be beneficial for some runners.
Garmin's new Forerunner 935 is a top-of-the-line triathlon watch designed for serious athletes and people who deeply care about using training statistics to improve their racing performance when it counts.
The Forerunner 935 is designed for elite athletes who are at the top of their game, and this is reflected in the calibre of technology that this watch boasts. It features a built-in barometer and altimeter to provide elevation changes and monitors your performance so that you are alerted if you are undertraining or overdoing it. Very technical features such as ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio, and even more truly set this watch apart from its competitors and show how it would make the perfect companion to a dedicated athlete.
This watch, like other watches in the Forerunner series, features wrist-based heart rate monitoring and all-day activity tracking such as step count so that you can track your progress all day and even all night. It's waterproof so that you can wear it swimming, and offers both indoor and outdoor options for all three disciplines- swimming, cycling, and running. The multisport features mean you can switch sports at the touch of a button and use it for brick workouts as well as triathlon races.
The battery life on other Garmin watches such as the Forerunner 735XT is a little questionable as it doesn't seem to last as long as you'd expect from a triathlon watch, however on the 935 that definitely isn't an issue. The Forerunner 935 boasts a 2-week battery life when used just as a watch, and up to 24 hours in GPS mode meaning you could complete a full ironman or ultra marathon while tracking and not have to worry about losing your progress.
Weighing in at 49g, this watch is a little heavier than some of its siblings like the 735XT, and the watch face is much larger meaning it is not quite as suitable as an everyday activity tracker or even just as a watch. It has an extra button too which means it's a little more complicated to use, however this just reflects the fact that this watch is not designed for your everyday gym goer and is meant to be used thoroughly and to its full potential by a competitive athlete or coach.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is an exquisite piece of technology and features advanced training information which is sure to boost the performance of its wearer if used correctly. Its attractive design means it can be worn all day, and the built-in heart rate monitor and step tracker means it even covers the all-day activity tracker market that is so popular at the moment. It's definitely not for the faint hearted and is better suited for serious athletes and prolific competitors in the sport of running, cycling, and triathlon. It loses a few marks from me as it's a little too big to be comfortable all day, and the rubber strap meant I got a sweat rash from continuing to wear it for long periods of time after training. However, the technical information remains unbeatable and very impressive.
Battery Life: 9
Technical Information: 10
Value for money: 10
Overall Score: 46/50
The Hoka Gaviota Women's Running Shoes are a stability trainer from our favourite long distance running trainer specialists. But are they right for you?
Upon first wearing the trainers, they feel very snug and comfortable. Hoka One One is a brand renowned for its springy, cloud-like trainers which are specifically designed for long distance running such as marathons and ultra marathons. The materials used are super soft and the trainer's upper is fairly flexible. The thick sole is very solid and gives good support.
I bought my pair a half size up from my regular shoe size, which is what I often do for running trainers due to the inevitable swelling expected during a run. However, these trainers are very tight and my forefoot was so squashed that the entire front half of my foot went numb. Having scoured through other reviews of these trainers, it appears I am not alone in this and it is a common problem for wearers of this particular shoe. I tried the usual trick of re-lacing the trainers to allow more room for my toes but unfortunately this didn't help. During my second run, after only 2 miles, my entire foot was so numb and in agony I had to physically remove the trainers and walk home barefoot feeling rather sorry for myself. I'm not sure if sizing up again would help in this instance as I'd worry it'd just give more room in the heel and not fix the problem of the tight toe box.
Stability trainers are notorious for not looking great. It always seems that the rule of 'style over substance' is hammered in when trying to buy trainers and you have to choose one or the other. Hoka One One trainers are quite outlandish and quirky at the best of times, which is why I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the women's Gaviota trainers. There are two colourways available: Dresden blue/Gold fusion or Paradise pink/neon coral. I bought the Paradise pink/neon coral pair and I actually really like their appearance. They are not too fluorescent and don't stand out too much, and instead have a subtle and pretty appearance.
These trainers are beautifully light, weighing in at 245g. Compare this to the weight of the stability trainers offered by Nike - Nike Zoom 317g and that of Adidas- Vengeful shoes 292g. Hoka is a brand famous and well-loved for the performance of its long distance running trainers, and these are no different. For the couple of miles that I could manage before my feet went numb, I felt like I was treading on air and my stride definitely felt light and springy.
When it comes to stability trainers, you need a pair you can trust not to cause injuries or accentuate your poor posture. Stability trainers are designed for people who over-pronate; that is they suffer from fallen arches and/or flat feet and their feet fall inwards. Stability trainers like the Hoka Gaviota women's running trainers are designed to prevent the feet from rolling inwards and to stabilise your ride, reducing the risk of injury and allowing for a pain-free run.
Sadly for me, I was not able to properly test these trainers on a long run because they sent my feet to sleep and crippled my toes!
I bought my pair of Hoka Gaviota trainers from a local retailer for £114.99. They are currently available direct from the Hoka website for 120 Euros (on sale from 150 Euros) which works out at around £106. In theory, I definitely think this pair of trainers would be worth this price for their unparalleled support and comfort during very long runs. However sadly for me, due to not being able to return them, they will continue to gather dust on my shoe rack and burn a large hole in my wallet.
I really wanted to like these trainers, and I can see a huge amount of potential in them if they fit you properly. I don't have wide feet at all, in fact I'd describe my feet as quite narrow, but I do have fairly long toes. The shoes are very comfortable for a few minutes, but sadly sent my feet to sleep and have caused what I'm hoping is not prolonged damage to my toes. Having read a lot of reviews by others, I can see this is not an isolated incident. Therefore, if you think these trainers are for you, definitely size up by perhaps two sizes. They are an attractive pair of carefully crafted technical trainers, I just wish I could wear them!
These trainers are for you if:
- You regularly run long distances
- You are a marathon or ultra marathon runner
- You over-pronate due to fallen arches and/or flat feet
These trainers are not for you if:
- You are a sprinter or short distance runner
- You have wide feet and/or long toes
- You do not have a big budget