Monday, June 18, 2018

2018 Arc’teryx Review

If you are like me, you may not have heard of Arc’teryx before.  They are an outdoor clothing company based out of North Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.  Their name and logo refers to the Archaeopteryx Lithographica, which is the first reptile to develop the feather for flight (something to bring up at your next trivia night).  Their parent corporation is Amer Sports, which includes Salomon, which has built up quite the following in the outdoor sports world.  I have been working with the Arc’teryx store at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto (660 Stanford Shopping Center Suite 1030, Palo Alto, CA 94304).  If you head in, be sure to say hi to Dan Kirk.

The company was founded in 1989 by local climbers whose goals were to create equipment that enables a person to be immersed in the moment no matter what the conditions are.  Arc’teryx also believes highly in environmental stewardship, responsible manufacturing, and community engagement.  I recently tested five products including the Adan Short, Accelero Comp Zip Neck SS Shirt, Incendo Hat, Norvan LD Shoe, and Norvan 7 Hydration Vest.


Adan Short

Shorts are something that are vital for me.  I have dealt with chaffing issues in the past, mainly because I carry a little more junk in the trunk thanks to bad genetics and a diet that could be approved upon.  The Soleus Shorts were the first shorts I tested from Arc’teryx and I was excited since they are a higher end brand, which is evident in their prices as well. 

The Adan Short is a super lightweight short that stretches with you whether you are running the flat roads near your house or climbing up a gnarly hill in the mountains.  It’s made with a quick drying material and has a small side split on the side.  The back of the shorts features a smaller stash pocket with a zipper. 


The inside of the shorts features a draw string to tighten the shorts and an inner brief.  My only issue is that in the medium shorts, the brief was a little small on me and caused chaffing issues.  I contacted Arc’teryx and quickly received a size large as an exchange, which alleviated any issues with fit or chaffing. 

I really like the Adan Short.  It moves really well with my body no matter what I throw its way.  The shorts retail for $79.00 on the Arc’teryx website.

Accelero Comp Zip Neck Short Sleeve Shirt

The Accelero shirt is a performance shirt that uses two different fabrics for those hot days on the trail.  The Helius™ material on the front of the shirt wicks moisture away and protects your skin from the sun with a UPF 50+ rating.  It is extremely smooth on your skin and prevents chaffing on those hot, sweaty runs.  The back and sholders of the shirt utilize a Viente™ mesh that is used to increased airflow and provides a cooling effect.  The combination of the two materials provides a very comfortable shirt that easily moves with you and keeps you cool. 


Another feature of the Accelero shirt is the zip neck.  I haven’t run with a shirt like this before and actually like the zip neck because I can unzip the shirt if I need a little extra ventilation.  At only 4.8 ounces, it is really light weight and almost feels like it is a part of you.  The Accelero shirt fits true to size and retails for $75.00 on the Arc’teryx website.

Incendo Hat

Sometimes a hat is just a hat, but there are other hats that provide more ventilation, are super lightweight, and just feel great.  The Incendo Hat would be the second type of hat.   Incendo Hat is a lightweight, ventilated hat that not only protects you from the sun and wind, but does an awesome job at wicking moisture away and is even moisture resistant for those rainy days. 


The material is really light and fits great using a cord in the back of the hat to tighten for an optimized fit.  I have been grabbing this hat more than any other hat in my closet because it simply is a top-notch choice.  I used the Incendo Hat at the American River 50 Mile and it performed flawlessly for over 12 hours.  The Incendo Hat retails for $45.00 on the Arc’teryx website.

Norvan LD Shoe

I have been interested in testing a shoe from Arc’teryx ever since I tested some of their gear last year.  I know that they really put a lot of thought and technology into their gear and knew that the shoes would be great.  The LD in Norvan LD stands for “Long Distance” meaning that this shoe was designed to provide comfort mile after mile. 


The Norvan LD starts at the bottom with a Vibram® Megagrip outsole for a nice grip on technical trails.  The cushion of the midsole is nice and springy, but provides a great deal of responsiveness so you can be quick and nimble on the trail. 


The upper material helps to regulate temperature by allowing moisture to escape the shoe with ease.  This makes for an airy shoe that will keep your feet from overheating.  It also lets water drain fairly easily after creek crossings.  I also like that it doesn’t allow dirt and debris to come in through the mesh, which can be an issue with some trail shoes.


The laces are thin and flat, which makes it easy to get a secure fit.  There is a lace storage system in the tongue, which keeps those laces from getting snagged on a branch (not that it‘s ever happened to me).

The Norvan LD comes in at 10.9 ounces, which is a little heavier than some trail shoes, but it doesn’t feel that heavy.  The place where this shoe really excels is the construction.  I haven’t seen a shoe that is built like this.  It is one solid shoe, from the stitching, to the welds.  The durability is something that I don’t worry about at all.  The Norvan LD comes in four colors and retails for $160 on the Arc’teryx website. 

Norvan 7 Hydration Vest

I also got to test out the Norvan 7 Hydration Vest.  Talk about a solid, high performance vest that you can take anywhere.  I have tested numerous vests over the years, but was extremely impressed with the features and build quality of this vest from Arc’teryx.


The Norvan 7 was built to provide functionality as well as be extremely comfortable, which I have to say that it hit both of those marks.  It is light weight at 9 ounces and holds a 2-liter bladder from Source (which is a great company).  The bladder has a quick connect hose and comes out the side of the pack at the bottom, which I found better than the packs where the hose comes over your shoulder.   



This pack has more pockets that you can imagine.  Besides the hydration bladder, you have two larger chest pockets, which can accommodate flexible bottles (not included).  There are two lower pockets at the bottom front of each side.  There is a large pocket where you can store stuff in the back as well as a smaller mesh pocket and a zipper pocket in the rain cover.  There are also pockets on the side toward the back which double for pole pockets.


The pole pockets are reinforced to put the sharp edge of your trekking poles.  First you put the poles in the pockets and then use the bungee cables to secure the poles.  It is easy to do with the pack on and securely holds the poles in place.  This is a great feature for longer runs or at times when you want to poles for climbing, but want to put them away for downhills. 


Arc’teryx  thought of almost everything for this pack.  While the material is a little stiffer than my Salomon packs, I like the fit and feel of the Norvan 7.  After over a dozen test runs, I can say that this is a solid pack that most people will really enjoy (because no pack will work for all people).  The price is slightly higher than some packs out there, but for the build quality and features, the price is great.  You can get the Norvan 7 at the Arc’teryx  website for $179.00. 

The Arc’teryx Social Media Links:

Arc’teryx makes some amazing products.  While some of their products have a higher price tag, I think they are worth the extra money.  I am a strong believer that paying a few extra dollars on a product that will make your hours of running more enjoyable is more than worth it, especially if the gear lasts for quite a while.  I challenge you to find products with a better build quality.  I love my Arc’teryx gear and highly recommend it.  If you have tried any of their gear out, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Squirrel’s Nut Butter Review

It doesn’t matter if you are an elite runner or a weekend warrior, if you have ever had chaffing issues, you never want to let it happen again.  There are a bunch of different products out there and I have tried most of them.  I was given a sample of Squirrel’s Nut Butter at the Salmon Falls 50k last year and decided to give it a try after hearing great things about it. 


Squirrel’s Nut Butter makes an anti-chafe and restorative skin salve.  Chris and Stacy Thornley founded the company out of their own necessity.  Their daughter battled severely dry skin and Stacy, who is a Registered Nurse specializing in allergies, decided to start exploring solutions.  None of the skin health products she had found could properly help with her daughters eczema and other conditions.  She put her knowledge to work and started trying to create a salve.  It took a ton of trial and error, but finally an effective product was created. 


Chris and Stacy started offering the product to friends and family around Flagstaff, where they live.  Everybody loved it!  Eventually the new product made its way to a guy whose nickname is Squirrel (who works for Chris’ tree cutting company).  He tried the product instead of his normal anti-chafe product and raved about how well it worked.  Chris came up with the name and started marketing the product to endurance athletes.  Once he knew he would be able to sell the product, it was time for a name.  Because the original blend was made with almond oil, he knew the name had to be Squirrel’s Nut Butter.

Squirrel’s Nut Butter is now made with four simple ingredients; coconut oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, and vitamin E oil.  They have been selling their product since 2015 and it has really taken off.  It is now utilized in several sports including running, cycling, triathlon, hiking, and any other sport where chaffing may be an issue. 

They now have a spicy salve for pre and post workouts called Born to Rub.  Happie Toes is a foot-specific salve blended with peppermint and tea tree oils.  They even have a vegan version of the original Squirrel’s Nut Butter.  In addition to being an anti-chafe product, it prevents blisters on your feet and can heal and restore your dry, irritated skin (including eczema).


I have been using Squirrel’s Nut Butter for months now and have to say that I like it way better than the other products out there.  There are several reasons why.  The first reason is that it isn’t clumpy like Bodyglide.  It isn’t greasy and won’t stain your clothes like other products either.  It isn’t made with a ton of chemicals that I can’t pronounce.  It simply is easy to put on and works forever.  I ran my recent 50 miler and didn’t have a single chaffing issue after 13.5 hours of really wet and hot running.  I couldn’t have thrown more at Squirrel’s Nut Butter and it protected me like my own personal secret service. 

They recommend that if you are looking to use it in colder temperatures, that the stick works best, which is my favorite option.  They also have a double-walled tub that works great in heat up to 120 degrees.  In cold weather the SNB can get rather hard.  I just rubbed it between my hands for a few seconds to have it melt.  Then I applied it where needed.


I really liked the Happie Toes as well.  My feet really get thrashed, especially when I am doing a lot of runs in the rain and mud.  My feet get dry and sometimes even start to crack.  Other brand’s products are okay, but I really liked the effectiveness and feeling of the Happie Toes. 

Price List:
2.7 ounce sticks SNB $16.95
2.0 ounce double wall plastic jar SNB $13.95
2.0 ounce tub of Vegan SNB $13.95
4.0 ounce tub of Happie Toes $19.95
0.5 ounce double wall plastic SNB $4.95
0.75 ounce stick of SNB $8.95
1.7 ounce stick of Born to Rub $19.95
* all products can be purchased at the Squirrel's Nut Butter website

Pros:
Great anti-chafe product lasts forever
Non-clumpy
All natural
Washes off easily and won’t stain clothes
Great prices

Squirrel’s Nut Butter’s Social Media Links

I can’t say enough good things about Squirrel’s Nut Butter.  It really is an amazing product and would definitely recommend it over other products.  The only downside is that because it is made with cocoa butter, it does have a chocolaty smell (more like cocoa), which makes me want candy.  Hopefully it doesn’t make a bear think I am a huge candy bar. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Race Report – American River 50 Mile 2018


* I'm a little late on completing my race report, but here it is.

Pre-Race Report

I finished the California International Marathon in the beginning of December and decided that I was not going to run a road race in 2018.  My love for trails and running ultras has taken over and I started to work on my race plan for 2018.  I took on the Way Too Cool 50k in the beginning of March and was ready to take on my first official 50-mile run.  

Ever since last year (2017) when I did a 12-hour race, I knew that I would try for a 100-mile race.  The Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run is not too far from me so I knew that would be the race.  I just had to figure out what other races I would do in preparation for RDL100.  I tried to get into the Miwok 100k, but did not get picked through the lottery.  

I then signed up for the lottery for the Way Too Cool 50k, which is one of my bucket-list races.  I actually got in.  I decided that I was going to do the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run as well since the Way Too Cool and American River 50 courses combine to make the Rio Del Lago course.  I saw it as doing recon for the big race.  My goal wasn’t to kill myself on these first two races, but enjoy them and really study the course while I was out there.  

I was building off my marathon and 50k training.   Almost all my runs were at 65-70% of my max heart rate.  Basically I was building my aerobic endurance.  Everything was going really well.  I was doing back-to-back weekend runs and following Hal Koerner’s plan from his book “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning.”  It is a great book and I strongly recommend it.

The month before Way Too Cool 50k, I hurt my ankle.  I tried to train smarter since that injury.  In weeks leading up to WTC50k, I had had some very good, pain free runs.  I had a few runs where my ankle hurt as well (even stopping a run 1.5 miles in and walking back to the start).  Honestly, I was worried about it with the race quickly approaching.  I decided to take the 3 days before the race off to let it recover a little more.  I completed the WTC50k in a decent time considering my ankle injury and ongoing Plantar Fasciitis pain. 

After the race, I spent a week of cycling and swimming to give my feet a chance to recover.  I quickly got back into my training since I only had about 3 weeks until the American River 50 Miler.  I decided that I needed to get in one more long trail run, so I got up at the butt-crack of dawn (actually way before dawn) and headed up to Auburn.  I was doing the second half of the WTC course, starting about 90-mintues before sunrise.  It was cold, foggy, and wet out.  I have never had anxiety before when it comes to running, but that morning was different.  It was completely dark with no moon.  I parked my car and was heading out for my first solo night-ish run.  I finally set out on my way, knowing that my Garmin’s navigation would help me stay on track.   

I had my high-powered headlamp on and was only able to see about 25 feet in front of me.  There were creek crossings (one of which was really sketchy), but I was ready to get wet and muddy.  I was a little worried about mountain lions and bears since they are known to be in this area.  There was a ledge about 10-15 feet above me which would be a perfect place for a mountain lion to stalk me.  By the time the sun came up, I felt more at ease, as I stumble upon a fresh bear cub print.  Fortunately, I made it back safe and sound and my final long run was complete.  It was taper time.    


Race Morning/Pre Race

I woke up at about 2:30 and got dressed.  I grabbed a Pro-Bar Meal Replacement Bar and headed out to the car.  I had to be at the finish line at 4:00 to pick up the bus to the race start.  I met up with my friend Abdulah who I also ran part of Wat Too Cool with.  We were going to run together for as long as he was willing to stick with me, since he is a faster runner.  Also, I knew that I was going to run my own race and not try to stick with Abdulah if it was going to be too fast.  It was going to be a long day and I knew I needed to save something for the second half of the race. 

It was pouring out with some 15+ mph winds.  We got on the bus and made our way down to the start.  They said that we would be able to stay on the bus until the start, but ended up kicking us out 45 minutes early.  I grabbed my huge duffle bag with my drop bags for 25 miles and 41 miles and headed out into the storm.  I picked up my bib the day before, so I threw my bags into the back of a pick-up, hoping that they stayed dry until I reached them.  Then I hit the line for the port-o-potties.   

The worst thing was that people were hiding out in there just to stay dry, so the line took forever.   
Once I got out I met up with Abdulah who had to pick up his bib.  We couldn’t find any room under the eazy-ups that that had, so we just stood there in the rain.  Let’s just say that there wasn’t a dry piece of fabric on either of us by the time the race started.  


The temperature was in the 50’s so I went with shorts and a short sleeve shirt, both from Patagonia.  I was wearing my Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket and Drymax socks along with my Hoka Speedgoat 2’s.  For my pack, I had the Salomon Ultra 8-set, which is amazing.  

The first few miles were a little slow since the trail was soggy and narrow.  We eventually made it to the levee where it widened out and we were able to pick up the pace.  We were on pavement for the next 23 miles or so.  

The rain let up after about an hour, so my jacket came off.  Abdulah wanted to pick up the pace just after that so we wished each other luck and he headed on his way.  Abdulah went on to have an awesome race.


After a few miles, I ran across a few runners that I recognized from the 12-hour race I did (Michael and Yoly).  We talked a little during that race and ended up running for about 30 minutes together at AR50.  It is funny how you run into people you that you have met before, then you end up talking for a while like you have been friends for years.  I love the ultra-community and how we can relate to each other.  We all strive to push ourselves and it is why trail running has taken over such a huge spot in my heart.


Fast forward for a little, we follow the American River Bike Trail for a while until we cross a bridge at Nimbus Dam and head up the bluffs.  I ended up seeing a Bald Eagle Nesting Area and sure enough, it was just perched in the tree.  I felt like it was a sign that good things were going to happen that day.


A few miles later I ran into a few friends who were cheering and volunteering.  


I was approaching Beal’s Point in a few miles and I started to develop some pain in my outer metatarsal from my shoes compressing my left foot too much.  It slowed me down quite a bit and eventually I had to walk for a few minutes at a time until the pain lessened.  I also was getting a blister on my right small toe from debris and moisture.  I was really concerned that I was going to not make cutoffs because I was slowing down so much.  I just plugged along though, knowing that my dad and step-mom were at the mile 25 aid station with my drop bag (Beal’s Point).  

I decided to chug an Ensure, drink some Coke and eat a little.  I also swapped out my shoes and socks.  I stuck with Drymax Socks, but switched to my Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s.  I hit the real bathrooms in the park and headed on my way.  I am so grateful for my parents heading out to cheer me on.  They told my wife that I looked pretty beat up (which I didn’t find out about until I got home that night).  Even though I knew I would be chasing cutoffs if things didn’t change, I wanted my damn jacket and was going to give it my all. 

I headed out and instantly I noticed that the compression issues were gone and that pain went away.  About a mile later, I could feel the blister again.  I had about 4.5 miles until the next aid station, which is where I was picking up my pacer, Tim.  I sent him a test and asked him to find some moleskin if he could.

I got to the Granite Bay Aid Station, where Tim was waiting.  He wasn’t able to find moleskin, but we did get some medical tape and wrapped my toe.  Then we went on our way.  It was great to just have someone to talk to and push me when I wanted to slow down.  Tim is great because he pushes me, but in a kind way, “Hey buddy, we need to pick it up a little.”


The miles started flying by.  We made it to the Rattlesnake Bar Aid Station at mile 41.  Where I refueled and headed out.  I was keeping with my plan of getting in and out of aid stations quickly (less than 2 minutes).  

The next ten miles or so started to get interesting.  We had been in wet conditions all day, but the single track narrowed and were filled with water.  We were basically running up a creek, and yes, without a paddle.  


I kept doing math in my head to make sure I was going to make my cutoffs.  I don’t know why, but doing pace calculations tends to keep my mind busy.  It is similar to repeating mantras. We plugged on and finally made it on to the Last Gasp Aid Station.


We started plugging up the last 3-mile road (yes, paved).  I was so ready to just finish that I would run as much as possible, and by run, I mean very slowly jog.  I knew it wasn’t efficient and power walking would have been better, but I just wanted to finish and knew I could push a little.  

We made it to the finish line at 13:28:15. The cutoff was 14 hours so we did have a little time to spare.  While I knew I could have run a lot faster, the injuries were significant and I was thrilled with my finish.  I was handed my medallion and jacket.  We picked up my drop bags, but I forgot my headlamp.  At least someone is getting to enjoy it now (so sad).


Gear

Electrolyte/Fuel: Glukos Gummies and Tailwind Nutrition
Other Items in my pack: Ginger Runner BUFF, Baby Wipes, Extra GoPro Battery, Ensure
 

Lessons Learned

I try to take a few things from every race or long run that I do.  I had another great race of making sure my nutrition and fuel were on point.  I found out that Redbull was great for a pick-me-up, one is my limit.  Coke as usual kept me happy and tasted so good (which I usually don’t like).

Running in the mud is really fun if you have some good shoes and socks.  My Drymax socks kept my feet feeling good in past races and training runs because they pull the water away from your feet so quickly.  With the blister issues, I will be switching to Injinji socks for my future long-distance training and RDL100.  I think it will really help prevent blisters since there is no skin-on-skin contact.  I also had a huger blister under my big toe-nail, but luckily I won’t lose the nail.


While the Hoka Speedgoat 2 has tons of cushion, is responsive, and have great traction.  I will need to do my future trail runs in shoes with a wider toe box to prevent compression of my feet.  I will be going back to Altra shoes, which I spend a great deal of time running in already.  I can’t wait for the new Lone Peaks to come out and hopefully a new Olympus.

I am a mid-packer, plain and simple.  I have no issues with this at all.  I am not super-fast (I know that fast is all relative) but my training has helped me gain the ability to just grind away, one foot in front of the other, for hour after hour.  I know where I should be in a race and have no problem when people pass me.  I check my ego at the door and run my race.  That is a huge change from road running, at least for me.  Even after 13.5 hours of running/hiking, I still had more left in the tank.  I can’t wait to get healthy and take on my next challenge.  

What’s Next

The reality is that I had been running for the past year with Plantar Fasciitis.  I never gave it a break because I was doing one training block or race after the next.  At AR50, from mile 10 to the finish, it felt like I was running on bruised feet.  While I could run up hill, running on flats and downhill was extremely painful.  I knew that I would take the next two months off running to let it heal.  I was going to get cortisone shots and try Shockwave Therapy, which my doctor was suggesting.  Time to finally let my feet get better so I could have a legitimate shot at completing the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run in November.  

Update: It has been 1.5 months since the race and I have not run more than ½ mile, which is how far the gym is away from my work.  There is still some pain, but I am working on getting better and can’t wait to start training again.  I have been cycling, swimming, and hitting the gym.  I am getting stronger in preparation for the hardest training of my life.  I have done Active Release Technique and had my cortisone shots.   I have my Shockwave Therapy in a few weeks.  Bring on Rio Del Lago 100 and let’s see what happens.  Even if I get timed out because of my Plantar Fasciitis, I will give it everything I have.  That is what being an ultra-runner is to me.