You Might be an Ultrarunner if…

Most of us have heard the Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine, “You might be a redneck if…”.  I decided that our community needed a version of our own.  I would love to hear any more that you might have in the comments!

You might be an ultrarunner if…

  1. You have ever run out of Gerber baby food and given your infant a Clif food pouch instead.
  2. You have ever followed someone out of the bathroom after they didn’t wash their hands and immediately lined up behind them at the buffet without even questioning it.
  3. You have ever purchased your race kit from TJ MAXX.
  4. You have ever washed down a pancake and syrup burrito with a swig of pickle juice.
  5. You use more diaper rash ointment than a newborn baby.
  6. You have ever gone for a short training run only to end up in the next county.
  7. You have ever told your family to expect you at the finish line in 8 hours and it actually takes you 14.
  8. You get a bulk pallet discount on your gels.
  9. You refer to those gels as “nutrition.”
  10. You have ever debated whether or not a puddle of water is “drinkable.”
  11. You have ever asked people on Facebook to diagnose your ailments.
  12. You have had someone tell you that they “don’t even drive that far.”
  13. You have more wildlife friends than human ones.
  14. You have ever wondered to yourself if having Hobbit feet would make you a better runner.
  15. You have a tendency to take a nap or go to the bathroom without any concern for your current location or surroundings.
  16. Your have become hyper vigilant to random sounds around you.
  17. You have ever left your house wearing two socks and returned with only one.
  18. You have ever screamed in agony during what would otherwise be a relaxing shower.

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!

Arc’teryx Soleus Running Shorts (2016 Version)

If you recall, I did a review of the Arc’teryx Atom SL Jacket last December; a product that I was pretty impressed with.  Based on this experience, I decided to reach out to Arc’teryx to see if they had anything they wanted a review on ahead of the upcoming running season.  They sent me over their newest Soleus shorts, which they updated for for 2016.

DISCLAIMER: Arc’teryx provided me with the product for the purposes of this review.  As always, I do my best to maintain a non biased review for the benefit of my readers and the company itself.

Product Overview

I would describe the Soleus as a minimalist, light weight race short.  Everything about these shorts screams long and fast.  They have a couple of pretty slick features, outlined here and described in more detail further in the review.

  • Lightweight materials, (weighing in at 4.9 oz for the Medium)
  • Short length, with side splits for unobstructed movement
  • Built-in liner for a secure fit
  • 5-pockets for maximum storage to keep your hands free
  • SPF 50 for sun protection

     

Price: $89 here on Amazon

In Action

To start, here is a picture of me with the shorts on to give you a feel for the overall length.

I ran in these a few times, with the primary test being a 16 mile trail run.  I really loved these shorts, and will call out a few areas.

Liner

I don’t run in shorts with liners all that often; I generally opt for compression shorts beneath a regular pair of fitness shorts.  One of the first things I noticed about the liner is that it provided more than enough support while being WAY more breathable.  This kept sweat to a minimum, which I am sure contributed to the overall comfort and lack of chafing.  The liner didn’t have any rough seam spots either, so no weird rubbing was present during the run.

Pockets

The Soleus has three pockets on the back.  The left hip is a zipper pocket; the middle pocket is the widest one with a smaller entrance to keep things from falling out; the right hip pocket is smaller, ideal for gels.  I was worried about how these would feel (i.e., bounce) while running, which ended up being unwarranted for the most part.  I ran with my keys in the zipper pocket, a Clif food pouch in the middle, and a couple of gels in the right.  The bounce was there, but minimal to the point of being mostly unnoticeable.  I wouldn’t recommend carrying much more than that, but what I did pack into the pockets was more than enough storage to get me through my long run and from aid station to aid station on race day.  It was definitely nice having my hands free and being able to use a minimal hydration pack.  I didn’t really use the two front pockets.  They are pretty shallow and I kept stressing about things falling out.

Length

While not the shortest I have seen, I usually run in shorts that are a bit longer than these.  It took a little getting used to for me, but the length was a major factor in the breathability, non-chafing, and freedom of movement.  Each leg has  about a two-inch side split that makes movement more free flowing.  I almost felt like I wasn’t wearing any shorts (although thankfully for those around me I was).  So aside from getting used to a shorter short, I enjoyed the fit and found that it contributed to the overall performance.

Conclusion

Arc’teryx makes some of the the highest quality products in the space.  They use top materials and the finest construction.  Of course, you have to be willing to pay for a product of this quality.  While I believe the cost versus longevity more than justifies the $89 price tag of these shorts, I can also understand why it might be a large pill to swallow when it comes to buying a pair of shorts to do your 6ish mile training runs in.  For me, this is the perfect short for both long runs and on race day.  In fact, I am buying a second pair to make sure that I always have a pair available.  To summarize, here is a list of pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s

  • The liner provided enough support that it basically eliminated the need to wear a pair of compression shorts.  As it was more breathable too, it actually worked out better for me.
  • The back pockets were super handy.  While I was worried about bounce while running, I was able to put my keys in the zip pocket and my nutrition in the other two with no discomfort or fear of losing things.
  • No chafing.  With other shorts, I normally have problems with materials rubbing against my thighs and causing chafing after longer distances.  I feel like the combination of the liner, length, and split legs eliminated this problem for me.

Con’s

  • The two front pockets are shallow.  I was worried about putting anything in them for fear of stuff falling out.  As such, I found them to be pointless.  In the future, I would rather see them either make these pockets a little deeper or get rid of them all together.
  • They rode up a little.  I am not used to wearing shorter length shorts, so this may be normal.  It didn’t cause any problems, but will take some getting used to.

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!

 

Gear Review: Topo Athletic HydroVenture

Ah, Spring…the time of the year when the snow starts to melt and rain begins to fall from the sky.  No matter where you are at (with some exceptions — I am looking at you Arizona!), Spring typically means copious amounts of mud and rain on the trails.  Despite this annual occurrence, it has always surprised me that there isn’t a wider selection of waterproof trail running shoes on the market.  Sure, there are a few, but a majority of waterproof gear comes in the form of a hiking boot and other clunky footwear.  Well, that is no longer the case.  Just in time for the wet weather of 2016, Topo Athletic released their waterproof shoe, the HydroVenture.  As a member of the Topo team, naturally I was going to try it out…so I did and now I want to share my thoughts.

DISCLAIMER: I am a member of the 2016 Topo athlete team and this pair of HydroVentures was provided to me for free.  However, my goal with every product review is to provide an unbiased review so that you can make informed decisions and I can help the company improve on their product.

Overview

M_HydroVenture-Brick_Brown-hero-944x720

The HydroVenture follows the same design principles as all of the other shoes in the Topo product line:

  • A wide toe box allowing for freedom of movement and natural splay of the toes.
  • A narrower mid foot and heel that provides a more snug fit throughout in order to provide a secure feeling without slippage.
  • A low heel drop to promote natural foot motion.

In addition, the HydroVenture incorporates some additional features to round out the shoe and make it the lightest waterproof trail shoe on the market.

  • A partnership with eVent incorporates a waterproof membrane that keeps water out without sacrificing breathability.
  • A rockplate to promote underfoot protection in the front of the foot.

Specs

Release Date: March, 2016
Price: $130
Weight: 9.7 oz (M9)
Stack Height: 23mm/20mm (2mm Heel to Toe Drop)
Fit: True to Size to 1/2 Size Small

Design/Fit

The HydroVenture uses the same outsole lug pattern as the MT-2 and the RunVenture.  After using both of these shoes extensively over the past year, I say if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it.  The outsole has proven to be an extremely durable, multi-purpose choice for all types of terrain.  The stack height, ride, and responsiveness are all very similar to the MT-2.  In other words, it is a mid-cushion shoe that provides ample protection underfoot without sacrificing too much responsiveness.  The upper is similar in appearance to other Topo trail shoes, but adds the eVent waterproof membrane.  The special thing about this membrane is it gives you true waterproofing without a significant addition to the weight or without sacrificing breathability.  In fact, the HydroVenture weighs only about a half ounce more than the MT-2.

As far as fit, I did notice a slight difference here.  Whereas the upper on the MT-2 seems to have a little bit of stretch, the HydroVenture, likely because of the waterproofing, didn’t have as much give.  As a result, the shoe felt just a slight bit tighter in the upper mid foot.  I accommodated this by loosening the laces a little bit, which seemed to do the trick.  Another option for some may be to go up a half size.

Performance

Light

The shoe comes in at 9.7 oz for a Men’s 9, which is middle of the pack for a mid-cushion trail shoe.  I personally did not see this as an issue as the shoe still felt pretty light and responsive.  Also, considering the trade-offs, dry feet are more important on some runs than a little bit of (barely noticeable) added weight.

Waterproof

Prior to trying on the shoes, I made a video illustrating the waterproof capabilities.  I put a paper towel in the shoe and poured water over it.  The end result, a dry paper towel.  You can find the video here:

Now that is all fine and dandy, but how about real world application.  I purposely delayed my review of the shoe until I could put it through the ultimate test; the Gorge Waterfalls 100K in Cascade Locks, Oregon.  During the race, we crossed more than a dozen waterfalls and just as many stream crossings.  While the race didn’t go as planned performance wise, my feet did not get damp in the least.  Furthermore, the shoe provided great traction over the wet, mossy, rocky surfaces.  Lastly, the shoe didn’t seem to sacrifice breathability.  Most hiking shoes that I have that are waterproof trap in the heat…not these.  My feet stayed cool the whole time.  Honestly, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the performance of the shoe on the course.  Here are some pictures and a link to the run on Strava:

Gorge Waterfalls 100K on Strava

Comfortable

My longest run in the HydroVenture was the 50 race miles on wet, rocky terrain through the Columbia River Gorge.  During this run, I felt the shoe had more than enough cushion.  Even on the pavement sections, they provided a smooth, comfortable ride.  As is typical with Topo, my toes had plenty of room to move freely.  What is even more important is that I experienced no blisters or hotspots thanks to the secure fit.

Conclusion

I am a big fan of Topo no doubt, but putting that aside, these are a game changer in my opinion.  I clearly favor the the Topo design methodology, but beyond that, to release such an effective waterproof trail shoe in such a lightweight package is truly an accomplishment.  If you haven’t found a reason to try out Topo yet, this should be it.  As I said, most of us are in grave need for a waterproof trail runner that feels great and works without feeling like we are running in cement shoes.  This is that shoe.  I see these playing a key role in my shoe rotation anytime I am running in wet conditions.  As far as pro’s and con’s:

Pro’s

  • Definitely the waterproofing…it works!
  • Lightest waterproof trail shoe on the market!
  • Topo design more closely aligns with my foot shape and the natural mechanics of humans.

Con’s

  • The upper is a bit more restrictive than their other shoes.  You will want to loosen the laces or size up a half size.
  • Speaking of the laces, they were a bit short.  Double-knotting them was a bit iffy in a standard lacing configuration.

If this review wasn’t incentive enough to try the HydroVentures, how about a 10% off code at TopoAthletic.com.  Just use TOPODEANJ10.

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!