Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Looking Forward




I spent 2014 on the sidelines and it was pretty…  boring.  I get excited by “running.”  Not just the physical aspect of it, but by the whole scene.  As is pretty typical when you’re recovering from an injury that prevents you from running, I found myself jealous having to scroll down my Facebook feed and see my friends posting pictures of their races and/or training.  But I also missed the GEAR!  I like reading about new shoes, new apparel and new gadgets.  It was tough to get excited over anything that was coming out because I had a long term injury and my attitude was basically, “whatever, can’t use it anyways.  Rather just pout.”  Now that I have one race under my belt and am back to a couple months of training, I’m looking forward to my 2015 season and the chance to get back to the races and see my friends.  I’m also excited for NEW GEAR!  Here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2015:
  
SHOES:

Pearl Izumi N3
 Pearl Izumi N3:  I already use the N0 for 10k and less or any mountain climb that’s on auto road (Mt Washington for example), the N1 and my up-tempo trainer and I used to use the N2 exclusively as my daily trainer.  I’m really interested to see how the new “more cushioned” N3 is. 
Pearl Izumi N1
Pearl Izumi N1:  PI went ahead and updated the upper, and I think, just left the rest alone.  The N1 is a really good shoe, responsive yet cushioned and with an improved upper I don’t see it being beat out on my feet this year.
APPAREL:  

Hybrid 
Salomon S-Lab Hybrid Jacket:  It’s out already, yes.  But I’ve never bought a single piece of Salomon gear when it comes out.  Salomon is on par with cell phone companies:  High price to start, half a year goes by and they’ve come out with something new and improved and everything in the past gets a huge clearance until it’s gone.  I think this is the coolest idea in the last few years, it’s so freaking smart.  But I’m not paying $275 for it.  I’m really looking forward to buying this when the price comes down to about half off.  Check it out here

Pearl Izumi Singlet:  I've got this bad boy on the way for being a member of the PI Champions Team.  My only criticism of Pearl Izumi is sometimes they lack a..  style.  Their gear is top of the line, but sometimes the colors and patterns are just a year or two too late.  This is fashionable and modern.  Spot on PI.  



HYDRATION: 
Simple Hydration Bottle:  No need for an update.  I’ve tried Salomon packs, squishy bottles, handhelds, etc.  I just keep coming back to the Simple bottle.  There’s not a better bottle on the market and the company is incredibly generous and caring for the customers.  Maybe down the line I’d like to see a new cap to the bottle with a twist cap or bite spout. Check it out here:  Simple

Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you flipping Coast-ist!?

Are you flipping coastist?!?! 
Damn yo, there’s some real strong coast-ism happening in the MUT world currently and I’m feeling it personally.  Check this: 

Montrail Cup Schedule:
Date
Race
Location
01-10-15
Bandera, TX
02-07-15
Malibu, CA
02-14-15
New River, AZ
03-28-15
Cascade Locks, OR
04-11-15
Lake Sonoma, CA
06-27-15
Auburn, CA

Ain’t no love for the East Coast.  Trail Runner Magazine released their newest issue the other day complete with a “Trail Race Calendar”…  ain’t no races east of Colorado.  That’s coast-ism. 
I'm a New Englander so for now I'm fighting for New England, no offense to the Johnny Rebs, I still have your back.  There's some killer races here on the East Coast including hands down the best Mountain Running Series in the entire country.  We've also got some of the best mountain runners, namely Eric Blake and Kasie Enman.
Blake:  Multiple winner of Mount Washington Road Race, won Pikes Peak Ascent versus all the cool hip Colorado runners, and multiple time member of the USATF Mountain Running Team.  Plus, we live in the same town.
Enman:  Salomon runner who won the Rut 50k this year and won the WORLD Mountain Running Championships in 2011.  

 
Here’s a list of some of the races that the rest of the country needs to come and check out:

BEST MUT RACES IN NEW ENGLAND:
Mountain Races:
Me at Mt Washington Road Race


(from RW) 7.6-mile hillclimb from the base of Mount Washington in New Hampshire to nearly the summit. The race features more than 4,500’ feet of climbing as it follows the Mt. Washington Auto Road, America’s “oldest manmade tourist attraction, ” which has an average grade of 12%. The race started in 1936 and has been held annually in June since 1966. Non-elite runners must enter a lottery to be one of the approximately 1100 participants. The standing course record (56:41) was set by Jonathan Wyatt in 2004.
Upper Walking Boss (photo by RunwithKen)



Loon Mountain Race
Lincoln, New Hampshire
(from Runner's World) This race up Loon Mountain is an annual benchmark on one of the country's most competitive trail running circuits. Among the most dastardly hill climb races in the country, the course of this five-miler has an average grade of 10 percent—but in some places it ascends at an unthinkable 40 percent—as it meanders upward on a combination of dirt trails, gravel service roads, and grassy ski slopes. 
Ultra:

Trail:
Me at Sleepy, photo by Scott Mason, dopest photographer in New England)



Remember Kasie Enman?  Seriously?  From like 2 paragraphs ago!  She's the RD and the course takes place on her property.  3 mud filled loops containing a climb and a descent spread over about 10k.  


It’s not the longest or the shortest, not the fastest (and probably not even the slowest), not the remotest, though certainly it isn’t urban, but the 7 Sisters Trail Race on the outskirts of Amherst, Massachusetts, might just be the most technical trail run in New England. And for anybody who isn’t aware, trail running in the Appalachian mountains can give any reportedly rocky and rooty trail out West a run for it’s money.

ULTRA:


95% Singletrack (and that's East Coast singletrack, not the bullcrap groomed trails like out west), 20,000+ feet of elevation, one loop, and 100 flipping miles.  Incredibly technical, difficult, and suck an egg "Western States."  

The VT 100 Endurance Race is one of the original 100 mile runs in the US and a part of the Grand Slam Series of UltraRunning.  Each year, 300 runners attempt to finish this hilly race over beautiful Vermont back roads and trails.  



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.