Gear Review: Merrell Agility Peak Flex

My favourite shoe from Merrell so far has been the All Out Peak. This shoe was made primarily for the USA market, and difficult to find in Canada where I live. I picked up a pair last year ago on a visit to the USA and promptly threw them into circulation on my training and racing schedule. While it isn’t an obstacle racing shoe specifically, I took them through hell and back and they are still going strong.

The follow up to that shoe is the Agility Peak Flex from Merrell. It really isn’t a revision of the All Out Peak at all. Instead it’s a complete replacement for the all out peak. This is the new top of the line trail runner model.

Looking at the Agility Peak Flex, you may find yourself intrigued by the appearance of the shoe more than anything at first. It looks almost organic – the anthropoid midsole design references some of the natural structures of the foot, as does the outsole itself, which is ridged and divided to mimic the natural flex points and musculature between tarsals and metatarsals. It’s a distinctive and seemingly intuitive look. The shoe comes in a range of attractive colours, and I’m a sucker for the Merrell red. I personally love the design.

Ride

When in use, it’s a shoe of two very distinct halves.

Flexibility and Agility are things that are both referenced in the name and design of the shoe, however in reality I found the shoe to be fairly stiff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I found the All Out Peak to be similar in stiffness through the forefoot and I loved that shoe to death.

The Agility Peak is not a brick – but there seems to be more flexibility in the forefoot along the length of the shoe rather than across it, and less flexibility than you might be expecting overall given the name. It’s a fairly firm ride on the toe off. This means that they climb well, delivering good energy return, and the forefoot also comes to life on faster, more technical downhill sections.

The firmly cushioned heel stack provides good control and shock absorption. It’s a 6mm drop shoe, with a smaller stack height than Salomon Speedcross 4 (11mm), but just slightly more than Saucony Perigrine 7 (4mm). It’s not the height that feels so different though. It’s the firmness of the cushioning that makes this such a different ride. Less height, but denser foam.

Grip is excellent, with a tonne of bone shaped skeletonish lugs across the forefoot. It leaves cool looking footprints! The compound is Merrells M+ select rubber, which seems to deliver the promised traction on lots of different surfaces, but it is wearing just a little quicker than the seemingly invincible Vibram Megagrip compound seen in other Merrell trail shoes. The tightly spaced, shallow 5mm lugs would better suit this shoe to drier runs, but they do shed mud well when required due to the flexible nature of the front end.

There’s a lot of complex things happening here, and it takes some time to get used to, but I see what Merrell have tried to do. I found myself trusting it more and more and using these features on my long training runs. It’s a fusion of a few rationales. The Agility Peak Flex seems to offers a rewarding blend of adequate heel cushioning and responsive, flexible forefoot control, with the stiffness contributing to good energy return for longer slower trail runs, and a protective rock plate that does the job well. These things can take you to the top of a mountain and back without a problem.

The upper mesh is breathable and comfortable, with a rubber bumper covering some of the more vulnerable flex points on the upper. There is quite a lot of TPU shielding around the arch and outside of the foot as you would expect from a trail shoe made for the mountains. This adds weight, but is very protective. Throw in a rubber toe cap and the shoe weighs in at 11oz per shoe, so it’s not super light.

Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing system: provides a good fit. The lacing system works nicely and the flat laces pull through strings that are attached to the tongue and the upper.  Ingress of debris is pretty minimal, and I haven’t had problems with them coming undone mid run, or undoing them when muddy or wet. The Hyperlock™ molded TPU heel counter seems to be more open than that found on the All Out Peak – which is supposed to improve ankle mobility during sharp turns. I did initially have some issues with the heel slipping upwards out of the shoe, but engaging the extra ankle lock eyelets fixed the problem.

Drainage is excellent on the shoe, should you get them wet. I wore them through a Spartan Race in Montana which was extremely wet and muddy. They held up incredibly well through that course, which basically had everything from wet singletrack, muddy pits, rocky climbs and steep descents. Full immersion to drained out occurs within 200m or so. There’s a lot of mesh that lets water out, without needing any specific drainage holes.

I did initially have some issues with some of the outsole pushing through into the shoe and digging into the arch area of my foot just behind the ball of my foot, however this issue seems to be mostly unique to myself, as many people I have spoken to have not had this issue. For me, the issue gradually went away as I broke them in. Now that I’ve put over 50 miles on this shoe I can confirm that they seem to run true to size and I have no blisters or hotspots on longer runs with them.

Conclusion

Great for trail running in the mountains, cross training outdoors or trail running in loose dusty or dry conditions. They grip well in the wet and drain well. They offer a stable, but firm ride – which may be too stiff for some, but provide good energy return for me. They are a little heavier than some other options out there, but these offer a superior balance of cushioning and control over a range of conditions.

OCRGUYCHALLENGE 5.8 #ocragility

Ocrguychallenge 5.8 is simple. #ocragility

Do 6 lateral jump burpees for time.
Daily male and female records will be posted all week. Attempt as many times as you want to join in. Women and men compete on an even field. 

You must jump over an object at least 12 inches tall and your burpees must land at least 3 feet apart.

Mark some lines on the ground.

Chest must hit the floor on every burpee.

You have to bring the body to the floor 6 times. 


Trim your video to the exact moment your feet leave the ground to the moment you stand back up on your last burpee. 

The winner will receive a free race entry and parking pass to the Calgary for the Spartan race Super on August 13th 2017. The ticket is good for the elite heat.
The ticket will go to the fastest entry that can definitely make it to the race.

You have until next Sunday.

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CHALLENGE 5.2

Tab Grady, owner and operator of City Fit Shop in Edmonton submitted this little beauty for challenge 5.2 after a conversation at the finish line of the Spartan Beast in Montana two weeks ago.  This challenge is going to run for two weeks and participants have to do it twice – attempting to beat the first attempt on the second run.

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We joked for a while about which hashtag to use on this challenge.  #stairwaytoDOMS #deathbystairs etc. Just find some stairs. Make sure we can see the posts dammit or you won’t get included and it’ll be…. it’ll be as if you never put in the work.

Being sick (a cold) and injured (hurt my back) this week has been really frustrating. I haven’t been able to do week 1! Tab went ahead and produced a superb video for Facebook, demonstrating how to do 5.2. It’s pretty funny, but apparently not as funny as my face when I’m suffering through Lindsay’s challenge.

 

OCRGUYCHALLENGE 1.5 The Dead Hang Challenge

THIS week the #ocrguychallenge is a total grip strength and burpee avoidance strategy!
Here’s the protocol:
1. Dead hang for 60 seconds from a bar.
2. If you reach grip failure and drop from the bar, you have to do the same number of burpees as seconds you have left on the clock for that 60 second round. Keep an eye on the timer.
3. Two failures in a row means it’s time to quit for the day.
4. Rest for 2 minutes between hangs.
5. The goal is to reach 5 rounds or more without failing and having to do any burpees.
6. You can add more rounds if you need, until you reach failure two rounds in a row.
7. We’re doing this every day for 1 week and posting about it with the tags @spartanup_ #Spartanupchallenge so I can see your posts.

You guys are incredible. Let’s beat the rig this year!

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This will hurt… But we’re all in this together.

SPARTAN UP CHALLENGE 4

THE DREADMILL WORKOUT

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Welcome to treadmill hell….

Print this sucker out and get ready to push some buttons. You’ll need an incline treadmill with 15% incline, 750mls of water, the safety line connected to your body, and an unbreakable attitude. Read through the article and get the flow of it before you start.

  • 0-2:00 – Jog at 5 mph
  • 2:10-10:00 – Alternate running each .2 mile interval at 7 mph and 10 mph. 
  • 10:10-12:00 – Lower speed to 3.5 mph, perform walking lunges, alternating legs.
  • 12:10-13:00 – Run at 11.5 mph
  • 13:10-15:00 – Lower speed to 5 mph
  • 15:10-23:00 – Alternate running each .2 mile interval at 7 mph and 10 mph.
  • 23:10-25:00 – Lower speed to 5 mph, perform side shuffles BE CAREFUL AND TRANSITION SLOWLY (think defensive stance in basketball)
  • 25:10-27:00 – Turn around and shuffle, leading with the opposite foot. BE CAREFUL AND TRANSITION SLOWLY
  • 27:10-30:00 – Alternate running each .1 mile interval at 7 mph and 10 mph. 

30:00-40:00 – PLYO TIME!  Hop off the treadmill and get ready to burn it out with some explosive jumping movements.  I want you to perform the following circuit for 5 minutes total:

10 squat jumps/8 Russian lunges/rest 30 seconds.

For the next 5 minutes you’ll be doing this circuit:

10 twist jumps/8  mule kicks/rest 30 seconds

Get back on the treadmill.

  • 40:10-42:00 – Set speed to 5 mph, perform side shuffles
  • 42:10-44:00 – Turn around and shuffle, leading with the opposite foot.
  • 44:10-50:00 – Lower speed to 3.5 mph run/jog backwards
  • 50:10-60:00 – Increase incline to 15%, run/jog at 4mph

Warning: This is an unsupervised workout that I have taken from this website

By using this workout you agree to the terms and conditions on this page

SPARTAN SPRINT TRAINING LOG 2014

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Months of hard training and preparation have now passed, and in two days I will be taking part in another Spartan Sprint. It feels like a long time since last year’s race, but it’s been a great year for training and experience. I trained for the Mud and Sweat Race, using P90X, Insanity, outdoor trail running etc. That went really well, and I finished the race in first place for my heat. Following that, I did a few more weeks of P90X2 combined with trail running – for 5 days a week.

In June, Derek (my brother-in-law) and I began training together fully for the first time. Derek initially started by doing insanity, and running consistently outdoors over the winter months, before moving to weight training, bodyweight training, and outdoor running over the spring and summer. For the past few weeks we have been training together on a hybridized program consisting of free-weights, weighted endurance training and running. I’m writing it all down because it seems like it worked. It actually got us both more ripped than either of us have ever been. I lost a few pounds, and Derek has gained muscle strength and endurance.

Running Workouts

Trail of Tears – Trail run
We have run a course called, ‘The Trail of Tears’ 3 times together. The trail starts outside my office at lunchtimes, running through downtown Lethbridge to 5th Avenue and Galt Museum. The trail turns steeply into the valley between two coulees. When the trail reaches the halfway point down the valley, we turn sharply to climb off-trail over the top of the butte to our right. This is a ‘scramble’ or crawling climb, requiring both hands and feet to maintain traction on the loose soil, avoiding the cacti that grow on the south facing slopes. Once we are at the top, we descend the northern slope of the butte and cross 3rd avenue to climb the stairs that take the trail to the top of the next coulees. We follow the switchbacks down to a small wooden bridge, and go straight up the next slope, crossing the switchbacks entirely. The trail then forks into a route that leads under the pillars of the high level bridge, and down some wooden stairs before joining a trail that gradually slopes to the river bottom.

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Once at the river bottom, we head south towards the steel staircase that connects the river bottom at Indian Battle Park to the top of the coulee – only that isn’t the top of the coulee; the stair climb actually covers less than 2/3 of the elevation gain.

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Two more wooden staircases lay ahead. It sucks. Once we have tackled that, the savagely undulating coulee-top trail of red gravel (this is the hardest part of the whole thing after that triple staircase) eventually connects us with 1st avenue. Back on the asphalt, the ground finally levels out for us to pick up a more even pace back to the office, crossing Galt Gardens to get back to 3rd Avenue. We stop at the street crossings to wait, but do push-ups until the lights turn in our favor.

The final 100m is an all-out sprint.
Distance is 6.4km
Elevation gain/loss is 112M – done roughly 3 times
Calorie Burn: 600+
Time is usually 36:00 or so at sub race pace.

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West Side Hill AKA the ‘Whoop Up-Upchuck’ 10K
This one is simple. We run from our office down 12th Avenue to 6th Avenue.
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Then we run down Whoop-Up Drive, across the footbridge, and then we turn right into Bull Trail Park, and take the steepest hill trail, on the second coulee to the right of the road. This takes us up onto the west side plateau, and along a trail that runs the edge of the top of each coulee.
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It then connects us with whoop-up drive west, which is a straightforward descent to the river, over the bridge and back up the long gradual slope to 6th Avenue, to 12th Street and back to my office.
Distance is 9.4 km
Elevation Gain/Loss is 189m
747 Calories clocked
This one destroyed our will to live, and made me quite unsteady for the rest of the day.
Dehydration on the day was massive – Runtastic estimates 1.2 litres in perspiration loss.

Sugarbowl Shuffle – Hill intervals with burpees
The ‘Sugar-Bowl’ is actually called ‘Ravine Park’ and sits on the South side of Lethbridge, just next to Scenic Drive. Once you cross the subway under Scenic drive, the path leads down to a set of stairs, which rise up onto the top of the coulee.
We ran up the stairs – which takes about one minute, stopped for about 5 seconds and then did 10 burpee push-ups at the top of the hill. We ran back down, and jumped some of the smaller sets of stairs to make it interesting.

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We repeated this 8 times – and walked back to the truck on very unsteady legs.

Indian Battle Park Championships
One training session involved climbing the stairs at Indian Battle Park with 50lbs of weight. We did this four times. Then we did 100m racing sprints four times, walking back to the finish line each time. Finally, we used the climbing wall for about 15 minutes to build upper body strength, and climbing coordination. Legs were completely trashed.

The Mad Dog Run
Derek did the dog run basically every day.

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I did it with him once, and it was pretty intense. It’s basically a 2 km circuit which forms a dog walking path, with a brutal hill climb in the middle – spanning an elevation of about 100m – typical of the coulee trails. He would do this for 2-3 circuits before heading home, but he did manage 4 circuits one day, which is just mental. 3 circuits of the dog run is approximately 6km or so with the jog home added. The intensity of the Dog Run is off the charts. Derek often felt that the trail of tears was harder, but two circuits of the dog run had me calling time on the one occasion I did it.

Weight Training

Video workouts
We did a few sessions of working out indoors at my office basement with free weights using video workouts.
Insanity Upper Body Weight Training</strong>
Fitness Blender’s ‘1000 Calorie workout’,
Both of these are on YouTube. These two workouts combined cardiovascular intervals with heavy weight supersets for the upper body. They were both super difficult.

P90X2 Shoulders and Arms was used, which ended up getting a little bit ridiculous (e.g. final sets turned into 20 reps at 25lbs) and followed by X2 Ab Ripper.

Self guided workouts

I also devised a number of indoor and outdoor cross training sessions for us:

Negatives and Deceleration

This self devised routine was performed with minimal rest for two rounds, maintaining a high level of intensity and speed on the cardiovascular moves, with an emphasis on prolonged (5 seconds per extension) eccentric movements, or deliberate deceleration and control following a fast movement. Rest was taken for 2 minutes between each of the two rounds.

One arm negative push ups x 10 per side
Negative preacher curls x 10 per arm
Jump off truck to squat and jump x20
Med Ball throw to each other sit ups. X 20
Vertical wall push ups X 10
Chin up – Slow on extension x 10
Negative single leg squats (L) – Heavy weight x 10
Wide grip overhand Pull ups x 10
Negative Single leg squats (R) – Heavy weight x 10
Negative close grip overhand pull ups x 10
Calf Raise L X 15
Deadlift Grip Pull Ups X 10
Calf Raise R x 15

Cluster Training
This consisted of 3 sets of each movement. Each set contained 5 mini-sets of 4 reps each; with 10 seconds of rest between each mini-set of 4 reps. By doing this, we effectively doubled the number of reps for each cluster exercise at the normal 10 rep max weight for the move. This was only performed on two of the moves.

Cluster Chest Press on Stability Ball (3 cluster sets at 40lb dumbbells)
Cluster Pull Ups (3 Cluster sets)
High Pull (3 Sets at 25lbs – I injured my back on this one!)
Split Squats (3 sets at 25lbs)
Stability Ball Sit ups (3 sets)
Bicep Curls (3 sets of 10 at 35lbs)

Plyometric Upper Body

The goal was to increase speed and explosive power in the upper body. This was completed for two or three circuits with minimal rest.

Ballistic Chest Press
Ballistic shoulder Press
Clapping Push Ups
Med Ball Throw up
Med Ball Throw Down
Med Ball Shot Putt
Push-Up to Burpee to Pull Up
Medicine Ball Passing Sit Up
Olympic Snatch
Dumbbell/Kettlebell Swings

The Straight Shot

For this upper body and cardio workout, I ran directly to the Indian Battle Park workout station as fast as I could. This took about 15 minutes. Then I did Max Reps of:

Standard width Push-ups
Wide Grip Pull Ups
Millitary Push Ups
Chin Ups
Wide Push Ups
Close grip Pull Ups
Decline Push Ups
Deadlift Pull Ups
Diamond Push Ups
Wide Grip Pull Ups
Side arm balance push ups
Core Crunch Pull ups
Chaturanga dive push ups
L-Sit Pull up

Then I had to run back to work.

The Super Superset, AKA The Beautiful Death
This was the hardest workout we did with weights. Or at least it felt like it on the day. It was performed at the Fort Whoop-Up outdoor workout station.

Superset 1 – Repeat X 3 without rest
10 Wide grip overhand pull ups
10 full triceps dips without leg assistance on a dip station
Run 200m to hill – sprint up the hill and back down – on round 3 carry a 35lb dumbbell to the hill and back.

Superset 2– Repeat X 3 without rest
10 dumbbell Shoulder Press
20 alternating Bent over Row
25m Fast Spiderman Crawls (keep low and elbows come to knees)

Super set 3 – Repeat x 3 without rest
Med Ball shot putt Throws
Hanging leg extensions
20 Burpees with or without push-ups.

COOL DOWN: Climbing wall traverse for 10-15 minutes.

On the Thursday before the race I did X2 Yoga from P90X2. Yoga is a painful reminder of how much flexibility I lack. So that is it. The most detailed explanation of what it take to train for the weeks leading up to a Spartan Sprint. I wouldn’t recommend this training schedule to anyone for any reason. It’s savage, relentless, and painful. Find your own way to train. Get enough rest. Hopefully come saturday, this will all pay off. Wish me luck.