Wednesday, January 9, 2019

TOPO Ultraventure Review

Ok this wont be as detailed as other blogs or magazine reviews going crazy about mid-sole and rockplate and everything else, but more just average guy's thoughts on a trail shoe.

Topo Ultraventure
So just a little shoe history on my end.  Started trail running (for the most part exclusively) back in 2012.  Ran in Salomon and Hokas.  Which I actually used both 50/50 during my Stone Cat 50 miler. 

From there I was for the most part 100% Hoka, and in 2016 I did a little with the Nike Wildhorse.  I run New England trails which are pretty rocky so I prefer cushion and in lack of that, a rock plate (shit I think I mentioned I wasn't going there - oh well).  I had my ankle fused back in 1974, and although I have tried Altras a few times (thanks Kyle - my friendly Altra rep), my legs and mostly my shins, just can't deal with the zero drop. 

After coming back from a hamstring injury that tabled me the last half of 2018, I started looking at shoes again.  I have to say that the Salomon Sense Rides, are a really good shoe.  Love the cushioning, they are super light.  But the toe box is a little tight and I get blisters occasionally between the big and second toe, and although I alternate them in there I was looking for something else as my go to.

Which brings me to the Topo.  I had been looking through different websites and recent reviews and Topo - which I had never heard of before - kept popping up.  In fact one of the quotes was; if Hoka and Altra had a baby. 

They really are a nice blend of the two.  I find the toe box to be little smaller than the Altra Temps.  From a cushioning standpoint they are no way as plush as the old Hoka Clifton 2's, but as a heel striker, they definitely do the job.  The heel cup is a little wide, and although you can "ratchet" down the laces to secure it, that is probably the only real dislike that I have.   At $ 130 they kind of top out at my shoe budget, but they have been wearing well.  With the recent rain and puddles, which I most certainly do not shy away from running straight thru, I have round that they drain pretty well.

All and all, I wholeheartedly give this shoe a big thumbs up.   

Below please find both the manufacturers video and shoe specs. 

Ultraventure Specs from the Topo website
  • Best For:Trail Running
  • Stack Height:30mm (heel) // 25mm (forefoot)
  • Heel to Toe Drop:5MM
  • Weight:10.4 oz (M9)
  • Cushion:
  • Support:
  • Pliability:

Friday, October 19, 2018

How time flies OR where the F have I been ?

As I have been getting over, and stronger from the PT, a damn hamstring strain, I have been thinking more and more about my running and exactly what it means to me.   Both physically and mentally.

Physically - this is kind of a no brainer.  Since going to physical therapy with my Sunday winter Gilbert trail running friend Todd, who runs (Houghton PT), and all those damn glute exercises, I have to admit that I definitely feel stronger and steadier.  Especially on the uphills.  Still have a lot of work to do, but it's great to be able to get out there again.  Last weekend was able to not only knock out my first back to back without retweaking, but got in a back to back to back - with the last being a short 2.6 on the roads.  But hey I did it.  Progress is progress!

Mentally - insert your best Donald Trump impersonation here - "It's Huge". 
I don't do well when I am not running well or worse not running at all due to injury or sickness.  A while back I was out for a few months with pneumonia, and near the end, Laura stated "you really need to go for a run".  And I'm not really sure if I'm that much better when I am running like shit.  I don't need to set course records, but days of sluggish running doesn't cut it.  I start questioning why and blah blah blah. But the good thing is that going to the PT, since coming back about a month ago or so, that really hasn't been too much of a concern.

Anyway, I am hoping to get back to doing a weekly blog update.  Mostly for myself to rant, but in case anyone stumbles upon this, please feel free to comment.

So that's about it for now, but I did want to share a awesome moment when I caught up with my good friend and Western States Finisher, Kyle last night while we was back in town to pace at Ghost Train this weekend (which I was supposed to run, along with Hennepin but had to withdraw - fucking hamstring).  It was great to catch up with Kyle and to hear his WS adventure.  

And hold the buckle!!!!!!!!

Kyle killed this run !

Anyway, enough for now.  Best of luck to all my TARC friends running Ghost Train this weekend.  I'll be back next Friday. 

Be well and safe trails.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mt Hood 50k
Holy shit I can't believe it has been so long since I posted on this blog, but hey it is what it is.   So last year I really wanted to run this race but as usual for me, I waited to long and the waitlist was very long so I ended up running the inaugrial running of the Grand Circle Trailfest.  Which was absolutely amazing.   Funny how things like that work out.  If you ever get the chance to do that race, GO FOR IT.  3 days of running in Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  Word of advice:  Make sure you have plenty of memory for the photos, cause you'll be taking a ton. 

View from the plane ride from Boston
Laura and I a few days before in from of Mt St Helens
Ok back to Mt Hood, so registration opened, and I was on the computer the day it opened and I was in.  There was no way I was going to miss out this year.  Not sure what really peaked my interest in this race, but I was hooked from the first time I saw it.   I'm going to spare you the read on how cool Mt St Helens, Lange Winery, the town of McMinnville, Multnomah Falls, Timberline Lodge, Portland's Japanese Garden, Running in Forest Park, and the City of Portland is.  That said, seriously Portland you really need to address your homeless issue.

Ok the race - at the last minute one of my weekend trail partners, Jeff, cleared the waitlist and decided to come out and do it.  Laura and I had been out 5 days prior, so we met up with Jeff Friday at 10 Barrel Brewery for dinner, and made the plans to drive out to Government Camp/Mt Hood on Saturday.  We had rented a cabin on Airbnb for Saturday night.  The drive was super easy and quick and we got up in time to hit the Mt Hood Brewery for lunch, Timberline Lodge then back to the cabin to settle in.  One nice thing about going out west for races from Boston is that the time change works in your favor in regards to early wakeups.

Race day arrives, a quick ride up Rt 26 to road 42 and we are at the Clackamas Historic Ranger Station and ready to start.  The race is super organized and the race directors and staff are great.  The day before they had done the 50 miler so they seemed to have the "heavy lifting" already done.  We grabbed a cup of coffee and waited for the 8am start. 

Jeff and I waiting for the start
For some reason I was somewhat nervous about this race but as usual once the clock starts it doesn't take long for that to go away.  The course is beautiful.  You dont see Mt Hood for quite a while, but running in the trees is so cool.  These bad boys have got to be 100+ feet tall and 10-15 feet around.  Anyway, the gun goes off and really for as much single track as there was, the conga lines really worked into small groups of like paces really quickly.  Jeff had come up with a workable pace plan, which we actually seem to exceed to start.  Laura was going to go to the 2nd aid station (which you hit a second time after the turnaround).  We had conservatively planned on coming thru the 9.2 mile mark a little under 2 hours, but hit it at 1:38.  Which surprised us at between miles 6 and the aid station you go up and up and up.  Not crazy steep but unrelenting.  Quick bottle swap (Nuun), a handleful of snacks, and quick goodbye kiss and off we go to the turnaround (mile 13.4).  The trails then run along the PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) and our first good views of Mt Hood.  AMAZING!!!!

Mt Hood through the trees on the PCT 
Jeff was feeling really well and was pushing the pace pretty good.  At this point, I was a little behind him but caught him at the aid station and we pushed back towards Laura waiting for us at the aid station.  Jeff was continuing to run very well, so I dropped to a workable pace as although he had opened a bit of distance between the two of us, when I hit the aid station Laura said I was about a minute or so behind him.  Switched bottles again, soaked my head with a cold sponge (felt great as it was starting to warm up a bit now) and was off.   And that was kind of the beginning of what turned out to be a longer day than expected. 

I had been hoping to break 6 hours.  And was in pretty good shape coming out of that aid station, but about 3/4 of a mile out and starting the downhills, I started to get one of my migraine auras.  I tried massaging the back of my neck and shoulders to see if I could minimize it but wasn't long before I was only able to see a small tunnel vision.  This has happened before (most notably Pisgah last year - huge thanks to Eric Randall for guiding me through), so I kept my eyes down to avoid rocks and roots and kept going.  My pace was fairly decent and I knew if I could deal with the 20-30 minutes of aura, that I could run through the headache once that hit.   Which luckily I was able to do and hit the Little Crater Lake aid station for the second time and got ready to run the last ten miles in.   A quick check of my watch and calculated that I could still come in around 5:50 or so.  Giving me a little time to spare.  

A couple miles down the trail and my toe hits a root and when trying to catch myself, my right knee decides it wants to bend to the right.  Which if you haven't done to yourself before, #1 - it's a really really weird feeling and #2 - I dont recommend it.  Because then the wheels really came off.  The knee started hurting which changed my gait, and then the hamstrings and hip, etc.... weren't having any part of a lot of running regardless of pace.  Did the on and off until the Dam aid station and then pretty much walked in the last 4 miles.  Finishing in 6:09.  Disappointed - yeah a little, but happy with the majoirty of the run before I tweaked my knee.

View from Timothy Lake on the way back to the finish line
Would I recommend this race to anyone - absolutely!!!  Would I do it again - probably not as it really is more of a destination race and there are so many others I want to do.  But that is completely the only reason.  I love the northwest and that race is so well done.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stone Cat 50 Mile Race Report

I know for many Ultramarathoners that a 50 miler may seem the usual, but for a back of the packer that had really only started running on January 1st of this year, it seemed like a monumental if not overwhelming first year goal. I had researched earlier in the year what was an achievable 50 miler, and the only one that seemed to fit the bill, including being in New England, was Stone Cat. Registration day came and I arrived early to work to sit at my computer, credit card in hand and the open slots would fill in a little over an hour and fifteen minutes, and I was in. I probably put in a few less miles than I should have, and probably a LOT less miles than my co-runners getting ready for it, but the alarm went off at 3:11am Saturday November 3d and off I would go.

Paul and I at the start
I had made plans to ride up with Paul G, as I was unsure how I was going to feel afterwards and Laura was coming up later in the day to see me for a few laps and the end of my journey. Dropped my car off at the Charlie Horse Restaurant at 4:30 and an hour later, Paul and I were setting up our race stuff (ok honestly I was setting up my race stuff, Paul brought a bottle of Gatorade). Prior to race time, we would meet up with Dean, Mike, Eric and a few others I have been lucky enough to meet my inaugural year of trail running.

The race started about 15-20 minutes late, but the weather was great and no one seemed to really mind. But as we started a snake of headlamps would go out for the first of four 12 ½ mile loops. I would go for awhile with Paul, who is much faster, but once I hit the first aid station and realized how far ahead of my preplanned pace that I was, I let him go. I felt really good coming out of the second aid station and then the usual happened and happened quick. Before I knew it I was face down in a pile of leaves. Luckily I didn’t hit any rocks. Unluckily I tweaked my right groin, but not enough to slow me down YET, but it would hinder me the rest of the day. Regardless I came through the first lap 12 minutes ahead of my pace, but albeit sore, still felt really good.

Second lap was like the tail end of the first, feeling really good, but the groin not particularly happy with me. By this time, with the exception of the 4 or 5 runners that we kept passing each other back and forth, I was running alone. The weather was perfect for running and the course was well marked. Somewhere near the end of lap two, the ball of my left foot was starting to get really tender and I could feel every twig and rock. Having two miles to go, I kept my head down a little more than usual to watch my footing, and decided to change over from my Salomon’s to my Hoka’s at the turnaround for the third lap. I finished lap two 16 minutes ahead of pace, but would give back 11 minutes of that, with changing shoes and eating a little more at the aid station than planned.

Third lap was almost a carbon copy of the second lap, feeling good but not pushing overly hard. I know I was only half way thru and was just looking to get thru this lap until Hayley, my pacer, would help to drag me thru my last lap. I would end up giving back those 5 minutes (ahead of pace) that I had worked at, but the Hoka’s were doing their job, and I was pretty happy to be 37.5 miles in, and dead on my pace. I would hit the aid station and Laura was there to welcome me. I was getting cold so I decided to change my shirts. I text’d Hayley and out from the parking lot, she came running ready to get me thru.

Hayley has run a few Ultras, and is one of my Saturday running partners (along with Todd W), but with conflicting schedules, the three of us haven’t run much lately, so it was nice to catch up and lose a few miles in conversation. That is not to say that she was going to have any part of us taking a leisurely walk. She was the perfect pacer, pushing me when needed, encouraging me when it was obvious that I was hurting and getting me thru the aid stations as quick as possible.

I really can’t go any further without giving the aid station volunteers their due. They were absolutely the best! They were so accommodating and friendly, I can’t say enough good things about them. That being said, I regretfully did not catch his name, but at the first aid station on my last lap there was one individual in a clown costume that really made his mark. I was inhaling a grilled cheese and tomato soup when he came over and started talking and asking questions. Hayley mentioned that this was my first ultra. The genuine enthusiasm, pride and support that he showed to me, a perfect stranger, really got me excited to finish. I wish I knew who he was to truly thank him. Besides finishing, it was truly one of the great memories of the day. Well back to lap four….. we left the aid station and continued on. Now don’t get me wrong 50 miles is a long way, but I really hit me how long I was out there when the sun started setting. Thankfully I was somewhere around 48 miles down, so it wasn't too bad.

Hayley and I started down the final fire road heading towards the school. I thankfully had grabbed my headlamp for the finish. Just as we were taking the last left to go, we saw two glowing eyes looking back at us. A few steps later and this good size doe ran off into the woods. We turned the corner and started across the field. Hayley ran ahead and called out for Laura so she knew I was coming. That last 100 yards or so was almost surreal. It was like time slowed down as I passed the last family and friends waiting for my fellow back of the pack finishers, and heard Hayley and Laura cheering for me. I crossed the line in 11 hours and 46 minutes and 34 seconds, stopping a few feet afterwards to put my hands on my knees and to revel in this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I had finished my first 50, I had gotten my finishers jacket, I had done it!

I am so appreciative of all the people that put the race together. The course was perfect and the volunteers were awesome. I also want to thank Laura and the people I know and love for all their support and for dealing with moving around their schedules and lives so I could get my runs in.   I couldn't have done it without you, and I thought of each and every one of you at some point(s) during the day. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Well it's time..........

Well it's finally here.  I've been eyeballing Stone Cat since December of last year, when I figured I would attempt a 50 miler.  I've put in some decent mileage, although probably not as much as I should or could have, but there is nothing I can do about it now, so I look forward to Saturday. 

I ran the course a month ago or so, with a couple runners I had met at different races, or via Facebook or Dailymile.  It's a 12.5 mile loop that we will run 4 times.  It has a few uphill sections, but absolutely nothing like Bear Brook or Nipmuck.  And although the water crossing area was dry during my practice run, I guess we wont know until Saturday how Hurricane Sandy has left her mark on that part. 

Yesterday I sat down and came up with a pacing plan that I think will keep me on track to finish with plenty of time prior to the cutoff.  I just have to remember to start a little slower than I have been training lately (well actually a fair amount slower), to stop and drink at the aid stations, and finally to eat. 

I'm taking Friday (and Monday) off from work to sleep, relax and pack up my stuff to go.  I'm going to leave a bin at the turnaround with some extra clothes, GU's, My two bottles of premixed and flattened Coke and Mountain Dew, my Solomon's (or Hoka's depending on which I start with), S-Caps, and anything else that jumps out at me as I'm leaving.  I think I am going to go with my handheld water bottle, as there are 3 aid stations (approx 4 miles apart) for each lap. 

I am 99.9% confident that I can do the first 3 laps (37.5 miles) and I have my Saturday morning/Gilbert State Forest running partner. Hayley coming up to pace me the last lap (or perhaps 2 if she gets there in time).  Hayley assures me that come hell or high water (hopefully not to high) that she will get me across the line and to that Bad Ass Stone Cat 50 mile finishers jacket.

Well all, I will do as detailed as possible a race recap either Sunday or Monday.   Until then, Be Well and wish me luck