Friday, December 19, 2014

Patagonia No Longer Making Trail Running Shoes



I've never even run in Patagonia shoes but based on reviews they were just beginning to really make some solid offerings:  The Tsali 3.0 and the EverLong were receiving not just positive reviews but also awards.  I just found out that Patagonia ended their relationship with Wolverine based on a "few different reasons".  Wolverine was their shoe manufacturer.  All their shoes have been pulled from their site and their entire inventory have been sent out to Zappos and Sierra Trading Post.  Discounts aren't bad at Sierra, but looks like Zappos hasn't been slashing the prices yet, but if it's a shoe that you're interested in keep your eyes out for dropping prices!
As I mentioned, I've never run in Patagonia shoes but I'm sure most trail runners/outdoorsmen own at least 1 garment from them.  They're an incredible company and I hope they continue to make their trail running line of clothing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tops of the Year

Here's my year in review aka Tops of the Year.  It's opinion, there's favoritism and I don't care.  

TRAIL SHOES:

1) Nike Zoom Wildhorse 2

The best trail shoe I ran in this year.  Perfect heel/toe drop, perfect weight, upper was by far the most comfortable of all the MANY shoes I ran in.  

2) Montrail Fluidflex II
A surprise for me.  I got this shoe for $63 when Montrail offered a sale.  $63 and it's on the board competing against shoes that cost twice as much.  Take away the price (even it's retail of $90) and it's still my number two.  It's a hybrid shoe but I trust it on all but the rockiest of trails.  Super comfortable ride.

3) Salomon Sense Ultra
I can't wear these for more than about 15 miles, but that's because I bought them a half size too small and didn't realize that until I couldn't return them anymore.  Salomon makes their S-Lab line to feel like an extension of your foot, with the upper wrapping around your body like a sock.  It's insanely good.  Again, this is opinion, so though this shoe may be the best feeling shoe for someone else, I prefer a little more "squish" in my cushioning.

ROAD SHOES:

1) adidas Supernova Glide 6 Boost
The most comfortable road upper I've ever run in.  I could run day after day in these and never complain.  I wanted to hate the Boost material because of the overwhelming marketing when it came out, but I'm a convert and a believer.  Praise the Boost.

2) Pearl Izumi N2
I ran 500 miles in a pair of these, bought a new pair, ran 450 miles in them, bought a new pair, and ran 400 miles in them.  They last, they've got a nice solid upper but the dynamic offset/slightly rockered sole is really impressive and makes for a great trainer.
3)  adidas Boston 5 w/ Boost
I almost gave this spot to the NB RC1600, my go to shoe for track workouts and the like.  But the Boston earned this spot, once again the Boost material is my favorite:  responsive and cushioned.  Marathon shoe for me, though as we all know anyone with an efficient gait would benefit from the adios Boost.  


BEST SHORT:

Pearl Izumi Ultra Short
Comfortable waistband, pulls tight enough to keep my Simple Hydration Bottle in the right spot, and the best way to hold gels/keys/anything on any short ever.  The hip holsters hold gels, a flip phone (I still have one for work!) and/or a Salomon soft flask tight and without bounce.  The rear pocket is large enough to fit a smartphone.  I can run with 4-6 gels total, a smartphone, and a Simple bottle (or a water filter straw) and my shorts don't sag or bounce.  They're a perfect length, though I do prefer to show off a little more leg and would welcome a 1" shorter inseam.  


BEST T-SHIRT:

I got one of these shirts for free from a local race and the material is pretty unique.  It feels like a mix between a tech shirt and a cotton shirt.  The comfort of cotton, the "tech" of a tech shirt.  It works and it's really comfortable.  

BEST SINGLET:

The North Face Better than Naked Singlet
Stylish, great color choices, and it fits just tight enough to show off the pecs without showing off the gut.  That's impressive.  

BEST JACKET:

The North Face Feather Lite Storm Blocker
My review here.  Best rain jacket I've ever owned for running or for freaking just life in general, man.

BEST ACCESSORY:

Simple Hydration Bottle
How cool of a freaking idea was this?  I still have no idea how it's not in every store on every shelf.  I typically pair it with a 20 oz handheld, giving me 33 oz of water.



Friday, December 12, 2014

The Euro Mullet is BACK

I raced against Max King in the 2013 United States Mountain Running Championships.  He showed up with this:

Not only did he go for the Euro Mullet, he accented the mullet portion!  This was incredible and unique hairstyle.  When I first saw him the day before the race, he only had the tail sticking out of his hat and the assumption was he simply dyed his hair...  cool, but not setting the fashion world ablaze.  Then he unleashed the best and if I remember correctly, when I laid eyes on it I triple taked, dropped to a knee and started crying tears of joy.
Here it is in action:



Then word got out that another great was also rocking the Eurolet.  Jason Schlarb.  Pictures started flowing in:  




Finally, while admitting on twitter that he too was going to join the ranks and inspired by Schlarb, we had the "Man of Style" himself adopt the Eurolet.  Rickey Gates:





The Eurolet is a risk but if you can pull it off as these three gentlemen have, you'll be making a bold statement in the realm of running style.  I'm not sure what that statement is, but kudos to you.  




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: The North Face Feather Lite Storm Blocker Jacket




If I wasn't married to the love of my life, this jacket would have that title.  ("Love of my life"...  not wife.)  I openly admit to twice purchasing a piece of gear without regards to price, based solely on a picture.  About a year ago Smartwool ran a backpage ad in Trail Runner Magazine that showed a pair of lime green PHD socks covered in mud.  Loved the shot, bought the socks that day.  The second was a picture of Rob Krar ripping through the rain and wind in a tight fitting rain jacket:  Turns out it was the North Face Feather Lite Storm Blocker Jacket.  I bought it that day.  Granted I did see the MSRP ($200) and search for the best deal I could find, but I did end up buying it that day. 


First, if you head to the product page for the jacket on the North Face's site (here), you'll see a link to "Find Your Size."  Enter in a few details and a size is recommended.  I'm on the cusp of small and medium, finding smalls too tights and mediums typically a little too large, but err on the side of medium.  North Face recommended a small.  Fits me PERFECTLY.  Use that link, and thank you to TNF for providing it.  Here's the write up from the site:


              "When you're running long distances, weather conditions may drastically change
by the time you hit the fifteen-mile marker. Wear this incredibly lightweight
 nylon ripstop jacket for windproof and waterproof coverage from the elements,
 or compress and carry it for emergency protection. The adjustable hood
can be stowed away when not in use."


We all know what happens when you run in a rain jacket.  The rain stays off, but you get soaked from the inside.  TNF solved the problem.  They used Hyvent material on the jacket and I've run up to 20 miles in the pouring rain, only to come out with a slightly damp back to my t-shirt.  It breathes and it breathes so much better than some of even my namebrand, top quality wind jackets when I wear those in just cool conditions.  (Salomon S-Lab Light Jacket, I'm talking to you) 

Here's the good:  There's elastic cuffs.  They work.  The jacket is the right length, covering a couple inches down your waistline.  The zipper is welded and waterproof.  It's incredibly light.  The hood is stowable via a loop with a button closure where the tag typically is.  There's a reflective logo and mine is bright green, it's great for visibility.  IT BREATHES.  When temperatures are above 50, I just wear a t-shirt or no shirt in the rain, so this is a jacket I've only been using when temps dip down below 50 and in a steady to pouring rain.  I wouldn't bother using it if it was just sprinkling or if it was 65 degrees.  I've used it on runs in 48 degrees with just a short sleeve underneath, down to a 15 miler in sleet and freezing rain in 31 degrees with a lightweight long sleeve shirt on.  Both times I barely had any moisture underneath the jacket. 

Here's the bad:  The hood sucks.  Salomon and others make hoods that are "fitted" and they wrap around the head and stay put.  This hood is large and falls off.  There's a pullstring to tighten it, but within 5 minutes it loosens and it's back to being blown off my head.  I've remedied this 3 ways:  I wear a headlamp over the hood, it stays put.  I wear a cap over the hood, it stays put.  And I've prevented the lines from retracting using one of those line retracting preventers you see on jackets.  (They're cyclinder shaped with a hole in the middle ()----o---() that you guide your pullcord through, then you press a button on top which compresses the spring allowing you to pull the string through, then you release button and the spring expands holding the string in place, you know the ones)  It stays put with that but I've had one fall off, fault of the spring not the jacket.  But TNF should've solved that one.  Second, the elastic cuffs could've had Velcro on the end, but that adds weight and a stiffness that I might be complaining about, so I'm not sure if that would have worked.  Finally, the price kind of sucks and is a struggle to come to terms with.  BUT, if you do pull the trigger, this jacket will last me years and has allowed me to run comfortably in conditions I never thought I'd run in without being freezing and covered in sweat or rain.  The investment was well worth it.

9/10  (point deducted for the hood)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trucker Hat? Oh Yea or Oh No?

Photo by Molly Nugent
They're everywhere.  Your tall stacked, mesh backed, snap locked trucker hats.  They're on hipsters, they're on runners, yet not on truckers.  Trucker hats have made their way into the ultra running scene rather rapidly, oozing in first as a "sweet find" that no one else had and now being produced by the likes of Ultimate Direction, Salomon, Nike, etc.  These major clothing companies are producing "unique" trucker hats that are everywhere and all the same.

Photo by Buzz
 When we first saw them, they were being sported mostly backwards and then BOOM, they were switched to the front.
Photo by Ron


My opinion on them.  If you got yourself one in earlier January of 2014, you're safe.  Nobody holds it against you and you were ahead of the curve.  Post spring of '14, sorry man, you're a little late to the party, now it looks like you're trying to catch a ride on the same bus as the cool kids but they've already been to school and are headed home.  Without the hats.  Ultra runners take a little while to embrace the fashion world, then they grab on and won't let go.  Trucker hats are going to be on the trails for a while, but you won't be scoring any fashion points.  

TNF50 Fashion Competition

Sage may have won the running portion of The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler, but the real winner of the day wasn't determined on the single track.  The real winner was also not determined on Saturday, and heck, not even determined in the state of California.  Its going to be determined on the world wide web, right now, by a guru.  You see, the real competition wasn't which runner was the fastest but rather which company had the best dressed athletes.  Fashion' my friends, rules all.  

Every picture unless stated otherwise is from a wonderful, generous photographer named Nate Dunn who took pictures at TNF50 on Saturday and posted a public album to his facebook page. Here's the album (click here) and a link on that page will get you to his hi-res images.


Pearl Izumi- Let me just get this out the way.  I love Pearl Izumi and my drawers are full of their clothing, but what the hell have they been making their ultra running team members wear?  This is not 2001 and this is not hip.  Sometimes simple is better. 
Joe Uhan

Remember when PI sent their team out in this????


Sometimes simple is better. Pearl Izumi has a great line, why not just pair their amazing Ultra Shorts with a simple singlet? Here's 2 examples just using clothes I had in a drawer.

Okay.  Pearl Izumi is in last place, here's the rest in no particular order, podium to follow:



Montrail and the amazing Dakota Jones.  Let's pretend he's not sporting Salomon shoes and a Salomon waistbelt and just focus on the team gear.  Its simple.  It's.. Fine.  Its dull.  But, it avoids being gaudy, too bright, too complicated.  And I know from looking at him once who he runs for.  (Again, pretending  not to see the Salomon gear)



Salomon and their strong love for compression tops. Salomon makes top, top gear, we all know this. They're one of the smartest companies also as they chose a color scheme years ago (Red and Black) and stuck with it in regards to their flagship shoes and elite athletes. When you see a super fast person dressed in red and black from 200 yards away, you know they're rocking Salomon. Shorts are a good length for trail running but from a fashion standpoint, those compression tops are not the bee's knees. 





Altra: Well played Altra. Drop a simple pair of black shorts and a solid color red singlet on your athlete and the man looks good. Your logo is prominent and I know who he's running for. Looks very professional, clean.




Hoka One One: Hoka obviously won the "running" portion of the race. So what? How'd they LOOK while winning? They look damn good. The singlet is fashionable and I appreciate the road running length split shorts. I like to see some legs. Colors are good and representative of the brand.



Brooks: Brooks? Brooks. It's their road racing singlet/tights brought onto the trail. It's fine, I'm not excited by it and I had to look pretty close to know he's a runner for Brooks.





Nike: The singlet doesn't look too different from the Brooks singlet, except for the vertical stripe that runs down the left side, through the logo. That simple line makes me like the singlet 3.14x more than the Brooks singlet. You start looking at the logo and follow the line both up and down. The color combo with the shorts is also a favorite of mine.





The North Face: Coming in hot!! Off the chains!! Etc. The blue/yellow color combo is awesome, the singlet and shirt have the logo displayed prominently and though each runner pictured is wearing a different combination of the lineup, each runner looks like they are part of the team.


The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler San Francisco Fashion Podium:

1: The North Face
2: Altra
3: Nike

Nike has a great color combination and they've got brand recognition, but being that this is a dedicated Nike Elite Trail Team, an obvious extension from the global Nike Running juggernaut, I would love to see a dedicated logo or branding specific to the trail team.

Altra takes second for this reason: They're the new kid on the block and they didn't try and go over the top and slam it down your throat with who they are. They could've gone ultra bright or super weird (cough cough PI cough) but they chose the colors of their logo, put their branding in the middle of the shirt, and said "go to work."

The North Face. The dudes look good. Colors are spot on, the branding is center and large, and I wasn't going to throw the looks of the gentlemen into the equation, but just look at Krar and Olson. They both have their own look that adds to the look of the gear. The North Face looks "cool," and though their top runner didn't finish until 5th place, the look of their athletes made me want to go out and buy their clothing.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

20k Trail Race (1st OA)

Trail2Trail Series 20k at Chatfield Hollow State Park

The guys at Trail2Trail put on some great races throughout CT, always picking great locations and offering a multitude of distances.  I wanted to get some sort of race on my legs before the end of the year and had been doing most of my training on the trails so I decided to give this one a go.  I signed up for the 5k option but as my training progressed I really started to toy with the idea of the 50k, but a bout of flare up in my IT band set my training back and I settled on the 20k.  The course was a 10k loop that featured some really incredible terrain, ranging from a short stint on a fire road to hand over hand scrambling.  The single track was brutal this time of year, with slippery rocks and roots covered by slippery wet leaves.  There were very few stretches where you could actually stretch the legs and get in a good length of running, it was exhausting looking down for 20k at each step. 


I went out with the main group and just tucked in behind the lead group for the first mile or so. I had run the loop a few weeks before and it’s so deceptive, it’s the most challenging 10k I’ve run on the trails.  Not the steepest climbs, not the craziest descents, as I said, it’s just every step has to be taken with care.  Eventually I found myself in no man’s land, I lost contact with the lead group but passed a few.  I didn’t know how many in front of me and I didn’t know if they were running the 10k, 20k or 50k. 


 I came through the first lap and was feeling fine, so decided to push a bit on the second lap, immediately picking off 2 runners in front of me who said they took a short cut on the first lap due to missing a turn.  Oh well, I just kept pushing and made it about a mile or so before the finish before my IT band started tightening up on me.  (My left knee still isn’t recovered fully from the surgery, so my right knee picks up the slack, fatigues sooner than normal, and stresses my IT band).  I gave it a quick stretch for 30 seconds then resumed.  Came across the finish and that was that, a nice little victory by 12 mins to start and end my season on.  I won’t be racing again this year, but that was just what I needed to get my heart pumping and just get out running in a race setting again. 
(all photos by Tim Holmstrom, who takes amazing pictures)


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