Product Review: Topo Athletic COR

Any runner will tell you that in order to continue doing what we all love, it is important to take care of your body.  One way to do that is by cross-training to build strength and stay healthy.  That is one of the things that I love about Topo Athletic shoes; in addition to their running models, they also have a line dedicated to cross-training and gym work.  The COR is the latest model in the gym line and the shoe that I will review for you today.

DISCLAIMER: I bought these shoes at a discount as a member of the Topo Athlete team.

Product Description

The COR is marketed as a light, minimal shoe that can be worn in the gym or around town.  My review will focus on the gym aspects of the shoe.  It has a simplistic look, but don’t let that fool you, it is a high performance shoe.

Specs

The COR is built on the same platform as Topo’s minimalist road shoe, the ST-2.  This translates well into the gym for a number of reasons.  First, it is a zero-drop shoe with a low to the ground feel, providing you with a firm, stable base perfect for lifting weights or high-intensity cardio workouts.  Second, it has a light feel so that it doesn’t feel clunky or impede quick movements.

Weight: 6.8 oz (Size M9)
Heel Drop: 0mm
Stack Height: 16mm

Outside the Shoe

The upper is an elastic-fit mesh with a velcro strap.  The primary driver of the fit is the elastic upper where the strap allows you to fine tune how snug it feels.  The mesh is completely breathable and provides a comfortable fit.  The mesh is a bit thicker than I expected, but results in an overall softer feel without sacrificing much in terms of weight.  While I experienced no issues, the elastic fit might make the shoe difficult to get on if you have a large foot, but I have heard from others that the elastic loosens up a bit after a few wears.  The velcro strap across the top allows you to apply just the right amount of added pressure to keep the shoe snug in place without feeling too restrictive.

Inside the Shoe/Fit

The fit of this shoe is great.  It is light, airy, and comfortable.  The mesh material of the upper is soft enough that you don’t really feel like you are wearing anything.  The natural, low-to-the ground footbed and wide toe box also allow your foot to do what it is meant to do.

In Action

One of the concerns I had before trying the shoe in action was that the upper wouldn’t provide enough stability on quick side movements (as typically found in HIIT-type workouts) and that my foot would roll over the side of the shoe.  So far, this hasn’t been the case.  The upper is flexible, but the strap provides just enough stability to prevent this from happening without inhibiting freedom of movement.  Another thing that look out for in gym shoes is that sometimes, in workouts with explosive side-to-side movements, I have gotten foot cramps because the shoe fit is too tight and restrictive.  Throughout my use of the COR, I have yet to experience such cramping.  The shoe provides stability and confidence to do such workouts without worrying about traction injury.  Lastly, being a low-to-the-ground zero-drop shoe, it provided an excellent platform for strength workouts.  It helped with my form during squats while also providing safe footing while doing weight work.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

From the gym aspect, it’s a very solid shoe.  Whether you work out at home or the gym, it is a shoe that will get the job done for every workout.  If you are ok with the look, it would even be a comfortable everyday shoe.  And since it is built on the same platform as the ST-2, I would feel confident going for a run in these too.  It is a great multi-purpose shoe.

Pro’s

  • Platform is perfect for just about every type of workout.
  • Upper is definitely more breathable than I expected.  It feels great around the foot.
  • At only $90, this is the best price you will get for a high performance shoe that can be used in so many different ways.

Con’s

  • Stability strap is only mildly helpful in my opinion.  Could probably be improved to provide even more stability support.

If you decide to give them a try and can’t find them locally, you can order them (or any other Topo shoe) at topoathletic.com AND get 10% off with code TOPODEAN10.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Advertisements

Race Report: Kat’cina Mosa 100K (2017)

Man, it has been a a long time since I have made a blog post! Between the new job this year and various injuries, I have had little time or cause to write much of anything. In hopes of trying to get back into the swing of things, a race report is the perfect remedy.

Kat'cina Mosa 100K is a local Utah race for put on by John Bozung also the RD of the Squaw Peak 50 Mile in June) every year during the first week of August. It takes place in and around Provo Canyon, just East of Springville, Utah. John's races are known for being some of the hardest of their respective distances in the West, if not the entire U.S.

Kat'cina Mosa is used by many local ultra runners in Utah because it is the perfect long run leading up to the Wasatch 100. While it may not be the steepest in terms of overall elevation gain (~12K feet), its three major climbs offer a bit of everything. The first climb is steady, but never ending, the second climb is steep AF, and the third climb is a little bit of both. Combine that with a largely exposed course in the middle of Utah's hot summer and you have a recipe for a grueling suck fest that is the PERFECT setup for any mountain 100M.

As I am signed up for Wasatch 100 this year, I signed up for my first Kat'cina Mosa to make sure I got a nice long run in ahead of Wasatch. I planned on using the race for that purpose, so I wasn't really intent on racing it. Instead, I wanted to enjoy a nice day in the mountains and work on fine tuning my Wasatch strategy. As I mentioned, a new job and a slew of minor injuries early in the season has consumed a lot of my time. My training this year has been unorthodox, but with a series of really strong weeks for the four weeks leading up to the race, I was actually feeling quite good and a bit more like myself.

The race has a rather unorthodox 3am start (with an early 1am start option for those worried about the cutoffs). This is my one complaint with the race. 3am is difficult to plan for. As someone that struggles to get to sleep before nightfall, this didn't really set me up for starting the race in a well rested state. I decided that, to buy myself an extra hour, I would sleep in my truck at the Start/Finish area. Surprisingly, this worked out well and I woke up feeling much more rested than I expected. As 3am rolled around, I started with about 40 other runners.

The first climb starts out on a road out of the campground for about 2 miles before hitting dirt. The first climb gains about 3500 feet over 10 miles. A pretty runnable grade for the most part. I was able to run most of it, taking only a few walking breaks here and there to keep my heart rate in check. The morning was not all that cold, which felt good at the time, but meant we were in for it once the sun came up. Here is a picture of me that the RD took from his truck as he drove by on his way to the first aid station:

As a side note, this is the first time I wore one of those desert-style hats with the neck protector and I have to say, I liked it. It kept my neck protected the entire run. I probably have to say, the section from the Horse Mountain Aid Station to Rock Canyon may have been my favorite section of the course, not in terms of scenery, but in terms of course progress. I am not a strong technical single track downhill runner, but put me on a fire road and I can keep up with the best of them. I didn't open it up all of the way as to make sure I didn't kill myself early in the race, but I was able to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly. Probably a good approach because the next section was the steepest of the course, the climb up to Lightning Ridge Pass. This climb is about 2500 ft in 2.5-3 miles and can only be described as a grind. The key to this section was to maintain a strong and consistent speed hike. Climbing is my strength luckily, so I managed to pass a number of people on this section, including some of the 1am early start runners. I only stopped a few times to take some pictures, because, how could I not!?

The next downhill section off of Lightning Ridge Pass was slow. This is another deceptive part of this course. This section is technical and extremely overgrown, making running difficult. I took it cautious, worrying about rolled ankles on obstacles that I could not see through the overgrowth, and made it through with no issues.

The next section, starting at mile 24 with the last major climb on the course up to Windy Pass followed by a downhill to Little Valley at mile 39, is what makes or breaks most runners on this course. With only one aid station in a stretch that is 90% fully exposed, the heat can break you in this 15 miles, and break me it did. I was pretty good to go on much of the climb to mile 30, but started to feel a bit worn out from the heat at about a mile through the aid station. I made a point to eat, take in salt, and a lot of water throughout the morning in preparation for this time of the day, but it turns out it wasn't enough. Mile 32 – 39, despite being downhill, ended up being a death march for me. Despite my legs still feeling strong, I was getting dehydration cramps in my sides that hurt to run through. From mile 30-39, I drank 70 oz of water and electrolyte and it still wasn't enough. When I got to the Little Valley Aid Station, I decided to stop for a bit and get my hydration in check before moving on. I stayed in the aid station for nearly an hour digging out of a hole before moving on. As it so happens, it was a good thing I stayed because a runner came in that was having a really bad asthma attack. I happened to be the only one with an inhaler on me, so I am glad I was able to help. I heard he ended up going on and finishing the race (though not sure I would have done the same). Staying as long as I did ended up being the right move because I felt recharged and was able to run, including some of the small, final climb to the next aid station. This was where things turned to suck though…

The aid station at mile 46 is essentially at the top of the last climbing, with only a few hundred feet left in the last 15 miles. The remainder of the race is essentially downhill as Kat'cina Mosa's climbing is primarily front loaded. Upon leaving the aid station, I started running, head down, to the next aid station…head down being the key phrase. I continued down the fire road, unbeknownst that I missed the turn that was almost immediately out of the aid station. After seeing them later, I will say that the flags were set back a bit, but were visible for people that were looking up. I would have liked better signage here as the RD did say afterward that this is the section that most people take a wrong turn, but they were visible and I take responsibility for missing them. I should also note that fire roads are not marked frequently on the course as there really is only one way to go. Add to that the fact that they had issues with people stealing flags on the course and you have a recipe for disaster. I continued down the fire road all the way to where the aid station was supposed to be (6.7 miles) before I realized my mistake when I saw no one around. Unbelievable! I had to trek all the way back uphill to find where I missed a turn. This destroyed me mentally., essentially taking me 3 hours off course. Combined with my long break at the prior aid station and my overall conservative pace approach, I knew that I would not make the cut off at the last aid station (not to mention that I still hadn't figured out where my missed turn was. Luckily, some folks on an ORV came by because I was essentially lost and out of water. After 60 miles, I ended up hitching a ride back with them, calling an official end to my day.

This was the first time I have ever been lost on a course. I have taken wrong turns, but have always caught them fairly quickly. I did try to take a positive outlook though. I still got 60 miles in AND ended up with more elevation than the other racers due to having to backtrack uphill after my mistake. On top of that, heat was a problem, but my body, and my legs in particular, felt strong the entire race. So in terms of Wasatch prep, it lanned out. That being said, I hate not finishing…this may be one that I have to go back to again someday as I now have unfinished business.

In wraps, I always have to thank those that enable me to do this crazy stuff. My wife and kids provide unconditional support. They were at the finish line and were surprised at the manner in which I arrived this time. :-). Thanks to all of the aid station volunteers that help take care of us and keep us moving forward. Lastly, thanks to my wonderful sponsors. Topo Athletic, Injinji, Headsweats, and Orange Mud have been taking care of me for years. I have dialed in my kit to perfection thanks to them. And while they get me through the race, the folks at OOFOS and RAD Roller take care of me afterward, with the best recovery gear on the market. Thanks to all!

Product Review: DRINK maple

I don’t write many food and beverage reviews on my site, but if I run across something new or unique that might appeal to my audience, I don’t hesitate.  I recently got a case of maple water from the folks over at DRINK maple and thought I would give it a try and share my thoughts.  Maple water is not necessarily a new thing, but with the recent success of coconut water, the opportunity seems ripe for similar water alternatives.

I am primarily a water guy.  I will occasionally pick up a sports drink to mix it up, but water is my bread and butter (especially during and after physical activity).  While water serves the purpose for me on most days, sometimes I like to mix it up with something with a bit more flavor along with some added nutrients to aide the replenishment process.  I am not a huge fan of coconut water, mostly because of the taste, so I decided to take this opportunity to give maple water a try.  Let’s get into my thoughts!

Taste

I was most curious about this.  DRINK maple is very clear that their product is straight from the tree.  With that being said, I didn’t know if it would have an overly sappy taste or texture.  These were my preconceived notions, but honestly, having never tried maple water before I didn’t know what to expect.  All in all, I was pleasantly surprised.  What I liked most about it was that it had a very clean taste, similar to that of spring water.  In addition, it had a slight sugary taste with a hint of maple, but wasn’t overbearing at all.  It was just enough to provide me with the different taste that I was looking for without being over the top.

 

Pros

  • Organic and all natural.  This will resonate with a good number of people.  Many athletes are being extra sensitive these days about what we put into our bodies.  With trust and transparency also being an issue with many nutrition companies, people are looking toward more natural sources.  If you look at the side of the bottle, the DRINK maple product has one ingredient, Organic Maple Water…you can’t get more natural than that.
  • More than water.  Maple water is rich in many nutrients and electrolytes, primarily Potassium and Manganese.  We all know the benefits of potassium as an electrolyte to promote proper muscle performance (the reason so many of us eat bananas by the case).  Manganese is one that most people may not be as familiar with, but it contributes to healthy bone and connective tissue development.  It is hard to argue that both of these are super beneficial to runners and athletes.
  • DRINK maple as a company is in it more much more than money.  If you look at the side of their bottle, each bottle sold supplies 200 gallons of clean water to people in developing nations.  This is a product that you can make you feel good not just physically, but socially too.
  • Half the sugar of its main competing product, coconut water (more if you consider that many coconut water brands have started adding flavoring too), and tastes better too in my humble opinion.

Cons

  • It can be pricy at a cost of about $3 for a 12 oz. bottle, so that means this isn’t going to be for everyone.  With that being said, I think it all comes down to a matter of personal priorities.  The production process of extracting directly from a tree is both seasonal and costly, but if your priorities are to get your nutrients and hydration through natural sources and from a company that is socially responsible, then the cost is much more justifiable.
  • For those that are buying this as a way of being natural may be bothered that it comes in a plastic bottle (although recyclable).  Luckily, they have an 8 oz. size that comes in a paper carton, which is my preference.  Hopefully, they will package in a larger carton size in the future.

Who Should Try It?

Like I mentioned earlier, maple water may not be for everyone.  I would say that there are a number of people that may want to give it a try.  If you drink coconut water because you aren’t aware of alternatives, but can’t stand the taste, then you should try this.  If you are more like me and drink mostly water, but want an alternative option that is full of nutrients and electrolytes without added sugar and chemicals, you should also give it a try.  You also don’t have to drink it all day every day, so if you are a bit cash strapped, I think you can still gain benefits from having one or two a week.  In any case, I have become mildly addicted to it and think it is worth a try!

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!