Layering for the outdoors

Gone are the days when we can simply wake up, roll out of bed, gulp down a fresh green juice, toss on yesterdays shorts while refilling packs with water and snacks before taking advantage of 16+ hours of daylight.

Now it seems like we have to decide between boots, shoes, shorts, pants, convertible pants, leggings, base layers, longsleeve or short sleeve, puffy jacket or fleece jacket, rain or wind jacket, beanie or simply just a trusty ball cap?

Seems like enough layering options these days to require a fist full of Ativan!

Where to begin, how can the adventurist possibly decide which is best, or what will keep them safe? Is there any magic combination that will ensure a safe trip into nature and back? Not really, but we can certainly aspire for darn close! So how can we make some sense of a 10,000 sq ft box store full of gear?

Be prepared for the worse, but hope for the best!

First, since this fits into each and every category as a “no, please don’t”.. cotton. Cotton soaks up moisture and takes too long to dry, some exceptions exist on a hot summer day, but I am stubborn in my ways: cotton has no place in a hikers backpack unless it is after the hiking and climbing is done for the day, perhaps for lounging around camp.

Layering for Summer

What should you look for when purchasing clothes for fair weather hiking? Lighter colors, breathable fabrics, if it was not apparent in the last paragraph.. cotton is not a great option for hiking in, so it is best to choose synthetics or light wool layers during the warmer months.

*Short sleeve vs long sleeve shirts – synthetic materials are the way to go these days, prices have come way down in synthetic materials since the 1980s, so we might as well put them to use! A snugger fit will help transfer sweat and moisture away from the body faster, while a looser fitting shirt will act like a wind tunnel and funnel wind right up and over the hikers back or chest.. while this may be refreshing after a good climb, sitting on a bare summit trying to enjoy a sandwich could have you reaching for additional layers sooner! Also, a longsleeve shirt gives a person the option of rolling the sleeves up or down as needed – and at least having the option of sleeves allows you to block UV rays from the sun.

My vote: a light longsleeve shirt with a zip or button up neck, collar to help cover the neck as needed, sleeves that can be rolled down to block the suns rays or rolled/pushed up to help vent sweat during an ascent.

*Shorts vs pants – shorts are lighter (typically) and breezier, letting that mountain air flow wherever you need it most! Pants help with UV protection from the sun, any extraneous sticks or pricker bushes a hiker may encounter while bushwhacking, but possibly most important pants offer protection from ticks and other biting insects found along the trails.

My vote: while I often hike in running shorts, if I know the trail is wide and I’ll be moving quickly, however.. my longstanding preference is for zip-off, or ‘convertible’ pants that offer the option of legs that zip off, switching into shorts on the fly, and most of the pant legs that zip off can even fit over boots without removing them!

A side note that can and should be applied to any garment while choosing clothing for layering is the color; keep in mind that lighter colors will help reflect sun rays, helping to keep the wearer cooler longer, but also lighter colors help deter ticks – while darker layers will soak up the sun rays, keeping the hiker warmer, darker layers have also been found to attract ticks!

*Buff – at least one of these stretchy fabric tubes can be found in my running pack, super versatile, these can be worn as a hat to absorb sweat and block the sun, around the neck for much of the same or even on the wrist like a fancy tennis player to wipe sweat before it gets into the eyes!

*Sunglasses – offering year round protection, and not just for sunny days – sunglasses offer eye protection from pointy sticks while bushwhacking and comfort while traversing snow or bright colored rock, I always have a pair of sunglasses on my face or in my pack – just in case!

*Hat – brimmed hats offer not only additional UV protection from sun rays, but can help block some glare.

*Boots vs trail runners – boots offer additional ankle support, especially beneficial while backpacking or carrying multi-day heavy loads into the mountains, typically boots are more water-resistant than simple trail runners while running shoes offer more flexibility in the foot, better range of motion, occasionally better grip on slab rock also! Some consideration will have to go into what the trail conditions may look like, how wet, eroded, grade/steepness all should be factored in when determining footwear in the hills.

*Gaiters – in some form or another, these are year-round for me. Whether they are ‘expedition’ style gaiters, more insulated and fitted for winter travel, or simple fabric ‘dirty-girl’ gaiters, some shoe companies like Altra are making gaiters specifically designed to fit their trail runners. Gaiters are just an additional form of protection, blocking sand, pebbles, twigs, pine needles, anything you don’t want falling into your shoe and inevitably under your foot while hiking!

My vote: gaiters year-round, heavier insulated gaiters are great for winter travel, keeping snow our of your boots while keeping warmth against your calves – but unfortunately a lot of the taller, knee-height gaiters are not terribly breathable and can trap a lot of sweat against the lower legs, quick fix? Unzip or loosen them for a minute when a snack break is taken, let your legs breathe too!

Layering for Spring or Autumn

The same applies as far as synthetic layers and zip-off pant options, but now begins the magic of layering –

+ Base Layer (wicks moisture away from the body)

+ Mid-weight Layer (traps warm pockets air next to the body)

+ Outer shell (repels wind/precipitation)

Often a debatable rule, but one that I have found to work well – I have found it is best to start hiking in a layer that will have you cool, but not chilled, definitely not actually shivering – knowing that the body will warm up gradually over the first 10-15 minutes, or during the initial 1-2 miles. If you are still cold after a mile, put light gloves or a hat on, still cold after that? Put an extra layer (shirt/fleece) on.

Like the saying goes: if your toes are cold, put on a hat.

*Long sleeve – wool is classically known for its ‘anti-stink’ properties, great for distance hikers! One longstanding downside to wool however, is its itchiness – but this has been somewhat remedied by treatments during production, but can also be achieved by washing wool gently with a bit of vinegar (google it.. to find how much vinegar to put in your laundry!), synthetic long sleeve shirts can become smelly faster – I find it easiest to just wash any of my tech layers by hand with gentle soap (Dr Bronner’s works wonders..for everything!), whatever you do – fabric softener cannot be used on synthetic layers, the chemicals will strip your clothing of all moisture-wicking properties!

My vote: a brightly colored (think..hunting season), collared long sleeve that has the option of rolling or pushing the sleeves up to block sun rays, fitting just snug enough to not waft air up my chest and become drafty, but not tight enough to be constricting or overly noticeable to the hiker!

*Mid-weight/fleece – some can be found with a laminated outer layer, or DWR (durable water repellent) coating from the factory, but I have been relying on a fleece shell for years! Why fleece? I grew up hearing my parents say “your fleece is made from recycled Coca Cola bottles!”, which I thought to be fascinating.. many fleece jackets are manufactured from recycled materials, which I love to support! Fleece jackets are moderately breathable, allowing sweat to vent out but adversely letting that pesky wind tear through right down to your base layer. Another downside to fleece is that it does not pack away as easily as other options, remaining a bulky layer from start to finish.

*Mid-weight/”Puffy”/insulated jacket – first off, I love these jackets.. but not so much for during the hike. So far in my short history of owning a down/synthetic insulated jacket I have grown to prefer them before or after climbing or hiking, but not during. Why? Many reasons.. they are not as durable as other options (like fleece), one snag on a branch and there goes all your filling! Insulated jackets are not all created the same, here again, there are also synthetic and ‘naturally occurring’ fills (goose, duck, or other waterfowl). Both variations take quite some time to dry once wet or sweat-through, but synthetic fills are raved for retaining their loft when wet. However, over the longhaul – synthetic insulation looses its ability to re-fluff after being wet, while natural down can go through a wet-dry cycle many more times, lasting much longer than synthetic in the long haul!

*Mid-weight/”Puffy”/insulated vest – same as above concerning the fill, fabric and durability, but some prefer the puffy vest to keep warm air against the core while allowing free-range of motion for the arms. Once again though, I would save an insulated vest for a snack break while on trail or for back at camp, but not while actually hiking or climbing due to its ability to simply soak up sweat easily.

*Mid-weight options: hood vs no hood – natural instinct tells me it would be better to have a hood and not need it, best to have it right there if it is needed, but what if your outer shell has a hood – would that become too cumbersome and restricting to have two hoods? Will the hood fit over a hat, beanie, or helmet for climbing? Will a second hood run the chance of getting in the way, or blocking your view when you need to see your rope while belaying? All of these questions must be asked when purchasing layers.

Layering for Winter/colder temps

Now that we have the basics of layering down, what can be done to help protect our base and mid-layers? Another layer or two, of course!

*Outer shell/wind jacket – often can be packed up to the size of an apple when not needed, but can be tossed over a long sleeve or fleece layer in seconds to add a layer of light water-resistance. The wind jacket will keep your hard earned heat trapped and close to the body, for a short period a simple wind jacket will help light rain or snow bead up and fall away – while it doesn’t take long for these layers to become saturated, they typically do dry rather quickly.

*Outer shell/rain jacket – typically just a bit heavier than a simple wind jacket, these shells are usually treated with DWR from the factory or contain a GoreTex layer (as durability and water-resistance increases, often so does price!). While these layers work great to keep rain and snow on the outside of your layers, they often times work just as well at retaining heat and moisture inside of the jacket – but now-a-days better jackets can be found with arm pit zippers and vents of all sorts to help breathability.

My vote: base layer + fleece + thin (easily packable) GoreTex (seam sealed) jacket. Highly versatile and can be combined with a plethora of other layering options, a good rain jacket can often times double as a wind shell. The only drawback to a treated rain jacket that I have found is the maintenance (hardly troublesome as far as gear goes..), a treated layer must be kept clean, free from oils (sun tan lotion, grease, etc), dust and dirt, scratches and tears as small particles easily enter the pores of the jacket that are designed to allow the hikers sweat to escape while being too small for fallen water droplets to penetrate. A bit of gentle soap and cool water can help keep your rain jacket working like new – and for DWR treated layers, another coating can be store bought and applied at home, or sometimes a quick trip to the dryer, tumbled on low heat can help revive the DWR treatment!

*Outer shell/winter jacket/parka – basically a one-use type of layer, these are not stowable, winter coats do not collapse and fit easily into a pack, they often times are heavy and do not breathe, and what’s more.. parkas are typically expensive. So when should they be used? In extreme conditions, cold and wind – or when the hiker is just not moving much, such as belaying or in between strenuous activity, they are also great for lounging around camp.

Of course, by now combinations of these layers can be found – companies trying to come out with the next best idea, zippers in new locations, features that guarantee you’ll stay cooler and dryer longer. Endless amounts of money can be spent on layers and a hiker these days will probably not feel as if they have “everything for every situation”, the key is being able to use what you have and adjust layers for varying weather conditions; build up a small arsenal of quality clothing that can be utilized.

The key to layering is just knowing that heavier is not always better, knowing that a hiker will have to add or remove layers throughout the day or week-long backpacking trip.

As one famous adventurer stated: “You sweat, you die.

Basically what they meant was.. once you get soaked with sweat and you are forced to stop mid-hike without dry clothes to change into on a windy or chilly day, you will become hypothermic extremely quickly.

Pack smart, think ahead, hope for the best but plan for the worst conditions, and always dress in layers!

 

Happy climbing!

– Erik

 



A fantastic company who has been helping modern climbers, hikers, boaters, skiers, get their layering down correctly since 1938, REI has a great selection, frequent sales and discounts, and a membership program that offers real cash back rewards on all your outdoor purchases!

Simply click any of the REI links and images around here and REI will kick us some loose change, it costs you nothing other than one click on the link so they know who sent you!

Cheers and happy trails!

 

Beebe Farm 12hr

Mixed Emotions.

In two words, that is precisely how I would have to describe the Beebe Farm 12hr running-fest that took place yesterday. The actual main event of the weekend was a grueling 48 hours of running, walking, crawling.. whatever mode of travel the runner chose to pass the time and pack on as many miles as one could in the allotted time. Nor’East Trail Runs hosted this gem of a race back in Dorset, VT (we were just there for the Lost Cat 50k and Dorset Hollow road race..found here!) and featured a 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, 48 hour, marathon and 50K distances, a little something something for everybody, I suppose!

If I remember back correctly, the decision to run this event came while I was still riding the ‘runners high’ of the aforementioned events last month in Vermont.. thinking to myself that it would be a splendid idea to ‘try anything once’.

Lists were made well in advance to try to avoid forgetting any necessary clothing or piece of food that might be my savior on race day – and I have to say, I think I did quite well looking back! I had my grapes all washed and ready to go when I wanted something juicy at mile 11, Ciara’s gracious mother brought clementines which I scarfed down somewhere around mile 20, then came my trusty dates when my calves needed some nutritional loving around mile 36, but what really hit the spot was the rye bread dipped into pickle juice once I hit the 40 mile mark!

Nor’East Trail Runs of course had anything and everything to offer up, keeping the weekend runners bellies satisfied and fueled for the long miles ahead; pancakes and eggs were on the stove when I arrived early Saturday morning, shortly after they got the grills all smoky and filled the surrounding air with the tantalizing scents of burgers and hot dogs. The best part? They offered everything for the dietary restricted also, featuring gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options!

Unfortunately (or fortunutely for me!), I just did not feel like tackling the grease-fest.. so I opted for a glass (yes, you read that correctly.. a glass) of real, local maple syrup followed up several hours later with apple cider..and several glasses of the refreshing nectar!

The one thing I truly wish that I had brought.. which honestly were just forgotten were headphones! Twelve hours on the circle gravel track is really quite a mind game. While there were plenty of amazing and kind folks (some I recognized from previous events!) to pass the time in conversation with.. I think a podcast would have been a great addition to break up the hours, or even to be able to listen to any of the 400,000 musicians that scrolled into my head as the day cranked by!

So what did I do about this? I turned the music up real loud on my drive from New York to Vermont.. trying to get my fill of decent tunes before being trapped inside my head with my wacky thoughts for the on coming twelve hours.

Nine AM

I arrived early enough to check in with the team and pick up my new Beebe Farm fleece jacket and super cute coffee mug with matching spoon, but had I given myself an extra half hour, I think I would have actually remembered to put the ankle bracelet timer on my leg prior to heading over to the runner briefing at 8:50! A quick trot back to my car a quarter mile away and my problem was solved.. but certainly helped add to the rushed chaoic sensation of the morning.

Watches set to record and all of us were off, some quicker than others of course. I tried to stay reserved to start, hovering somewhere around a ten-minute mile pace, which afforded me the breath to chat it up with a mother next to me – she was running with her autistic son, they were here to run his first full marathon – and let me tell you.. the two of them absolutely crushed it! He was in the zone just trotting along when she would remind him to eat, drink and use the potty – really quite a remarkable sight to see!

Lots of “nice work!“, “lookin good!” and “you’re crushing it!“-‘s were exchanged and before I knew it the sun had rose to full force, I had thrown down my first eleven miles – each one of those miles had me eyeballing the 1 gallon jug of local maple syrup on the aid station table. I suppose one would assume this real maple syrup would be for the pancakes? I finally got up some courage, slowing to a walk near the table.. “hey.. could I have a shot of maple syrup?”, I asked Adam (from the awesome Race Director team of Adam and Eliza).

“We don’t have any shot glasses.. yet.” he replied.

I conjured up my inner Ciara as I replied, “My mouth is the perfect shot glass!!

Turns out they just happened to have a red solo cup filled about half-way with the sweet, sticky nectar. “Here you go.. *hands me the red solo cup as I peer into it*, WAIT! Erik that’s not a challenge, man!“, Adam went to the other table to grab a spare biodegradable cup to split the 10oz of syrup. So I poured, drank about 4oz of pure heaven.. then refilled, and downed another 4oz.. and before I knew it the contents of the original red solo cup were coasting south, straight into my belly. Such bliss, washing it all down with a quick blast, 8oz of some of the best race coffee I had ever had and I was on my way, super satisfied with my decision!

The miles clicked by (literally clicking as I ran across the timing mats) and I grew curious (and hungry!) about when Ciara’s mother was planning on dropping by – I figured I would have one of my tomato and vegenaise on rye bread sandwiches since I would be happily slowing my pace to spend time with her.

Not only did she bring my pickles (I left some food in her fridge as I spent the night at her cabin to make the morning commute shorter) but the cooler she brought could barely zip! Packed with oranges, apples, carrots, ginger ale, a full block of tempeh – it felt like I could have survived the week out there on the track with all the treats she brought!

I thought I was spacing the food and drink out far enough while trying to avoid ornery leg muscles seizing up or becoming dehydrated in the afternoon sun, which I did.. I felt great but there was a point that my stomach said “no more” and detested all solid food.

Next up at the aid station, I pulled in again once I saw the jug of apple cider come out – I wanted it cold and fresh!

“Mind if I have a glass or two?” I asked the youngsters who were now our hosts of all things delicious.

“Go ahead, we have another jug in the back.. and if we go though that.. well there is an orchard right over those mountains!

This young fella had the right attitude toward this fresh apple cider!

Ciara’s mother, Tuesday had been gone for several hours and I was limited to a run-walk technique. I’d like to say it was a methodical and thoughtful technique, but I was now fighting off the occasional acute stab that would oscillate from side to side if I tried to pick up my pace.. so I was basically limited to a 16-minute power walk around the track.

Just then a fellow runner came trotting up and slowed to my shuffling pace and asked how I was doing, this would be the most interesting man I would meet all day.

Regretfully, I never did get his name, I simply remember him as #48.. I’m sure I will learn his name once the results are posted and give him a big thank you for all of his help during the day!

You’re in FOURTH PLACE!” he disclosed and continued on for the next couple of minutes giving me backstories on the other racers who made up the lead pack; everything from the ‘guy in the blue shirt up there’ who is more of a bicyclist and has a torn tendon in his leg, turns out our friend in the blue shirt had gone out too fast and despite being 5-6 laps ahead had faded fast and was talking about throwing in the towel at 50 miles. I was at 36 and upon doing some quick ‘ultra-math’, I knew I should be passing 50 miles if I kept up this mediocre pace!

If that doesn’t put a little pep in your step, I don’t know what will!” Yelled number 48 as he hastened his shuffle and took off. Throughout the remainder of the event, we talked a lot as he would pass by: he used to be extremely overweight as a child and his father put him on the track team, he had not stopped running since – and man, he sure enough looked like a lean running machine!

Up to that point I was completely unaware that the current stats were being displayed, I honestly assumed I was hovering somewhere around 14th place, and that would have been fine with me – I was watching the miles fly by 38, 39, then FOURTY MILES! Up until September 28th I had never pushed past 33.25 miles, this was all new and exciting territory for me – but to do it and be in fourth place? Un-freaking-real!

Mile 45

I had one thing on my mind: Dates. I knew dates had always treated me and my finicky belly very well at any other event, or when running in the mountains – reliable and predictable energy that takes care of any leg calf fatigue.. such an amazing burst of ‘everything is okay‘ energy!

I’m sure curious minds were fixed on me as I ran-walked another lap, this time with my arms held high; the sun had fallen behind the surrounding mountains and a slight breeze had coasted in. There were threats of storms, but we saw nothing more than a few flashes of lightening off in the distance.

Arms in the air, breathing slow and thoughtfully: slow inhale held for several seconds and then releasing through my nose, I was able to shut my eyes and live in the moment – almost in a meditative trance-like state. It was truly blissful. I actually felt okay in those minutes.

Being able to relay all of the many emotions that welled up from 11 miles all the way to 53 miles to Ciara back at home was unlike anything I had in the past, my own secret weapon of encouragement at my fingertips!

She kicked my ass into gear when my ass needed kicking, and I cannot thank her enough for that!

The sun was gone and finally at mile 46, I did not want the company of anyone around me.. I was hurting all over and I just wanted to collapse into my mind, experiencing all I could.

Friends tried to talk, so I forced conversation about mountains and what life was like while not on this doggone circle. I just wanted my peace and quiet – that is.. until I saw a familiar face: Tuesday was back for more fun – and this time donned her Altra running shoes!

Big hugs were exchanged and we were off down the track! Pretty sure by this time I had slipped into such a tired state that I rambled and went on down the rabbit hole of not making sense, but I didn’t care, I wanted to share the chaos that now traversed my scattered brain.

Since number 48 had told me about the scoreboard, I made it a habit to veer over and scope it out – thinking that perhaps I would slip up into third place and not realize it, but I was also able to monitor their calculated mileage and my lap count.

Mile 47.6

So close, and with an hour and fifteen minutes to go, I was still in fourth place. Our friend in the blue shirt was pulling off more and more frequently, but he was still out here – and he was running! Tuesday offered to jog a bit, I politely declined – being completely satisfied with my 16-minute per mile shuffle and potential fourth place finish!

We talked and talked, as much as I wanted to just tuck away into my pain cave and just auto-pilot the last hour away, I felt extremely lucky that she wanted to come back at such a late hour of the night to help.. even if I did stumble sideways into her a few times!

By now, I began to feel a certain taste of pain in my quadriceps that was henceforth unknown to me.

Just. Keep. Moving.

One more beep from the timing mat as yet again I veered over the left to check the stats: 49.68 with time to spare.. I would surpass my fifty miles for sure! In fact, two more laps brought us to 52.29 miles with 10 minutes 28 seconds left to hammer out as much steam as possible!

Just then I heard my name, it was the timing guy running after me with a little red flag. We were instructed to jab that sucker into the ground on the right side of the track when the clock hit 9pm. The end was in sight and it tasted so sweet.

All those miles that I had endured, the sun burnt legs, the chaffing, the shuffling feet, the pickles and rye bread eaten; it was all for this moment.

9pm. Game over.

We made our way (a little stiff-legged on my part) back to the aid station and starting line for the finishers’ medal where I was greeted by Eliza, “here’s this.. and.. you got Third Place.. right?”

Whaaaaat?! I never saw my place bump from fourth to third – that literally happened as we began our final lap in the last 10 minutes (I didn’t see it happen). Holy heck, all I could do was keep quiet.. I truly believed she erred, but without questioning her, I took my 3rd Place piece of slate award.. still, slightly in shock, I suppose!

It wasn’t until later that night, going through the photographs that I found that I did take third place after all!

What a magical tormential experience.

I write this now, merely 12 hours after completing my first 12 hour, 53 mile travel by foot with restless, tired, beaten up legs.

Mixed emotions.

Those words running through my head so early on in my day and continuing to swim violently upstream, trying to stay afloat in my mind. I love the crew, Adam and Eliza are absolutely incredible Race Directors, and rad folks for sure! They just seem to get better and better at what they do, becoming more organized with each event! The weather was just lovely out at the horse farm, I got to experience a side of myself that I rarely find at the mountains, pushing gravely deep past the point where I just want to curl up in the grass and whisk away.

Despite reaching 2,733 feet of vertical gain over the day: I miss my mountains. I miss time spent on the trails with Ciara and our doggies. Twelve hours after running 53 miles, I can safely admit: I want to finish hiking the 48 high peaks of New Hampshire with Ciara, I want to thru-hike more, I want to sink my trekking poles into the glacial slopes of Mount Hood, I want to travel to new places and see new things in our bus – knowing me though.. I’d give it another 48 hours and I’ll want to do this crazy adventure all over again!

I cannot thank Ciara and her awesome mama, Tuesday enough for helping me kick butt (or.. get my butt kicked!) and helping me get my mind through the grueling, tough times! Of course to all the friends I got to see again and new friendships made through running silly distances! Many thanks to everyone at Nor’East Trail Runs for giving us all a stellar venue to destroy our bodies and truly see what we mortals are made of!

It really was an incredible day!

Thanks for following along – got a question about running plant-based? Let me know.. shoot a note!

Have an awesome day – time for me to refill my coffee and limber up a bit!

Cheers!

– Erik


Overall stats for Beebe Farm 12hr

Recorded with COROS Pace

  • 53 miles
  • 12 hours
  • 2,733′ elevation gain
  • 0 bathroom breaks
  • 1/2lb green grapes
  • 4 clementines
  • 1/3lb dates
  • 10oz maple syrup
  • 8oz coffee
  • 2 pickles
  • 1 slice rye bread
  • 6 cups apple cider
  • many ounces of water

 

The Joys of Volunteerism.

In the midst of ten thousand missed messages, phone calls, and random alerts chiming out of my phones speaker box, one headline stayed prominent in my mind all day: “Looking for Trail Running Expert!” The note came from a co-worker who had Wrong wayme in mind and assumed that I could be ‘their expert’, I couldn’t help but laugh a little!

I would definitely not classify myself as an expert in anything to do with running, but I sure do love to let loose out on the trails! The race director was on the prowl for a volunteer to help mark their track through the New Hampshire forest.

Sure, it sounded like a sweet gig.. but I had never volunteered for anything in the running community, despite how much fun I had heard it really could be!

Tossing around the idea in my mind to pay-it-forward to all of the volunteers who had helped any of my past running events go as smoothly as they could, I decided to just shoot the Race Director an email to let her know that I would be the ‘expert’ that they longed for.

To my surprise after I hit the send button for my probably-too-lengthy email describing my elevated level of stoke for the STOAKED Trail Race, I almost immediately received a note back thanking me and breaking the news that someone (probably more qualified!) had already volunteered and filled the position!

I wrote off the whole event, content that I could remain in the cocoon of safety that I had woven for myself over the years.. because, after all.. if I don’t step out of my comfort-zone, then no one will see me fail.

Runners of STOAKED

Several days passed until my email box dinged back to life – it was the UVTA Race Director again.. on the prowl yet again!

After a multi-day game of tag over numerous emails I was thrilled to write on my calendar: “Saturday August 3rd: STOAKED Trail Run, 8am. Be there.

Having ran the Stoaked trail race in Hanover, NH back in 2018 during the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series, I was truly excited.. yet still nervous to say that I would be helping out – giving back to a community of runners who had helped whip my butt into some-sort of shape one year prior.

My official title as a volunteer: Course Sweeper

Being a creature of habit who likes to be in control of his environment, I had plenty of time in the preceding weeks to ponder the multitude of questions: Why did I volunteer? Why should anyone volunteer? What will I get out of this? ..and possibly the most important and frequently reoccurring question: What if I suck at everything I do and everyone sees me?

All I could do now is just show up.

That Saturday morning was like any other: wake up, coffee, check the weather, stretch and pile gear into the Subaru. I decided to remain calm during this entire ordeal by convincing myself that, if I arrived to utter chaos that would tail-spin me into a slew of panic, then I would simply hop back in the Subaru and drive away. I knew that I had that option, sure it may On the quest for arrowshave made any situation more awkward, but that was my end-game escape plan!

The parking lot was a happening place as I dodged stretchers, sprinters, joggers to nab a parking spot. Quickly noticing how much I had actually missed the running environment and all of the excited bustlement that comes along with it, I found our Race Director who quickly broke down my task for the morning and handed me a big yellow “Volunteer” pin and my radio, should I find runners incapacitated.

Helping injured runners? That was beyond my scope of proficiencies – but ‘what could go wrong, it’s only a 10k!’, I gently reassured myself.

I would be taking to the trails 5 minutes after the start of the event, following the last few runners and removing the orange arrows and stapled signage from the trees.

I had a button, a radio and a purpose; time to run!

Immediately, I remembered the layout of the course: a turn here, up that hill, turn and scoot down over there.. and now jam over that-a-way.

Being instructed that I only needed to remove the signage on the sections of single-track trail where the ATVs could not access, I made quick work of the first mile and a half of this lush green pathway.

Then I saw my first friend just up ahead, ironically enough she wore a bright red shirt with huge white letters that filled the entire backside of her shirt – the letters plainly read “BEEF”.
Single track dreams

Here I came from behind.. the dreaded Course Sweeper wearing my bright white “Vegan Power 50K” t-shirt.. the combination of shirt themes brought a wave of chuckles over me, I was having an absolute blast as the Stoaked Trail Race Course Sweeper!

As to not startle the heck out of the woman in the Beef shirt, I politely and softly said “Good morning! Doing great up there!”, she remarked by noticing how fast I looked and that I should just pass her. I reassured her that was not my plan, today I was not a racer, today.. I was a fun-haver!

She was gone once we did finally hit the single-track section and it would be many miles of arrow-removal before I would see her again!

So why did I volunteer? Easy enough to say that I was tossed into the whole ordeal as instantaneously as the original email hit my inbox. In my heart, I had always wanted to give back – I always thought, somehow owning the title of “volunteer” would make me a better person. And did it? Yes, I like to think so!

It made me incredibly grateful to see the running and racing world from the inside, not trying to beat some other dudes time, or my own PR time, but just out there because friends counted on me. I was there to do a job, and that job (finally) was not just simply handing over $40 to throw on shoes and run to there and back.

It felt amazing to be out there, on the course as I was clearly in ‘last place’, picking my orange cardboard with black arrows off the trees, to stop, breathe in deeply, look around and just pause.

That’s what I could do, just pause and think about anything and everything all at once: the friendly faces at all of the aid stations I had thanked in the past; the times I had watched the sun make its way into the sky as my feet beat down rhythmically, leaving my mark on the soft blackened soil; all of the doggy-slobber that had lathered my beard from the post-race puppy kisses during the days running mountains with Ciara, Boone and Crockett.

I was in a good space as I gathered up my arrows.

Running these familiar trails became an unforgettable experience as the thought of several hundred sweaty runners plowing through, dipping and dodging the chilly streams, mud and trees on their quest for their best trail run yet!

I never caught up to another runner until I had radioed in to let my team know that all of my signs had been picked up and dropped off with the last aid station attendant. Then I heard the words crackle through the radio waves: “Thanks Erik so much, well that is it.. you are good to just RUN IT IN!!!

My hands were completely free now as I blew by the reservoir and over the ATV paths, destroying the one beast-of-a-hill that I recalled had annihilated me one year ago as I threw down footsteps in this dirt – this time the tables were turned, I was rested. I destroyed that climb and made it beg out for mercy.. okay maybe that is taking it a bit too far, but dang did I have such a blast!

Waving to the cars on Route 10, I meandered my way now out in the sun, tracing the outline of a mowed teardrop in the alfalfa field before returning to the tree cover.

With my head held high and feeling like a rockstar – I kicked harder, breathed slower and waved to the campers who were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.

Making my way through the campground, I could hear the mega-phone echoing out the automated voice reading off the winners and raffle prize winners.

“Last hill, get it!” I thought, now seeing the same red shirt with huge white letters, “BEEF” was still in front of me.

Cheers rang out for my friend just ahead of me as I now crossed my imaginary finish line to the sound of “..and now everyone put your hands together for this years COURSE SWEEPER… ERIK!!!!

I received lots of congrats and hand claps during my first full marathon back in 2018, but that was nothing compared to the deafening hoots and hollers that I received today.. and for what? Removing staples from trees? Maybe.. but perhaps also for finally doing something selfless, for putting other folks ahead of myself, my own aspirations and wills.

Today I helped other friends aspire to kick some booty and take that step – one step closer to reaching their goals!

I am thrilled to say that my story is not dissimilar to so many other folks out there: earlier this year Ciara volunteered at several events which I assumed would simply be a terribly mundane and boring experience for her – she brought her camera and photographed runners coming into her aid station! I heard for several days after the events that she had a great, memorable time helping runners with water bottles or PB & J sammiches (even the time I ran into her station and simply tossed my soft flasks right at her and continued running the 1 mile out-and-back.. upon realizing what I had done and how much of a jerk I must have seemed to be – I was all apologies when I returned to Ciara and her positive-vibed aid station! We both laughed it off when we got home!).

Should you volunteer? Do you want to get a different experience from the same old running event? Do you want to meet other like-minded (sometimes overly energetic, smelly and sweaty) runners? Do you like free stuff? Do you want to develop new skills? Do you want to be productive? Are you injured to the point that you cannot run?

Well.. I really hope that you are not injured to the point that you cannot run!! But YES! Everyone should volunteer from time to time! I did not think it would amount anything to ..write a blog post about.. but it was such a memorable experience!

It is deeply gratifying to be thanked and applauded for doing something that seemed so.. simple!

There is no doubt in my mind that I will be volunteering again – hopefully next time Ciara and I can both be at the same aid station making days brighter for fellow friends who shelled out hard-earned cash to punish and push the limits of their bodies!

Don’t know where to start?

These days there are so many small 5K’s and local shin-digs that it really shouldn’t be difficult to find an event that fits your schedule and what you want to do with your time, or perhaps what you want to get out of your volunteering experience – or if all else fails, hit up Google or ultrasignup.com, check the bulletin boards at your local Co-op, ask around – chances have it that someone you see every day knows of an event looking for your help!

I hope this helped make the decision easier for you – to go volunteer and give back a few hours of your day.. it will be worth it and pay you back ten fold!

Have an awesome day out there – go out and enjoy nature – enjoy giving back!

Thanks for following along this wild journey!

Much love!

Erik


 

What makes the Altra Superior 4.0’s so… superior?

Having been running at a leisurely pace for a little over the past decade, I always saw sneakers as a kind of tool – not dissimilar to the shorts or shirt that I would pick to wear; long-sleeves for a chilly day, shorts for the summer heat. Originally, I picked out my running footwear exactly how most other runners out there choose theirs: part Cool-factor combined with part Comfort-factor.

I had always been led to believe more cushion was the way to go to protect frail joints against harsh heel strikes, leaving the flat soled trainers for the real hardcore track runners. Early on, I cycled through my fair share of brands and styles before settling on the notion that Salomon trail runners were just “for me”, perfect in every way. In fact, they did treat my feet wonderfully! Propelling me through my first races – everything from 5K’s to 50K’s, with hundreds of miles of trail running and mountain scaling dispersed throughout these years.

I wanted to do a kind gesture which included jumping on the purchase of Altra sneakers for Ciara that she had sitting in my REI shopping cart for so long. I knew this brand from all of the crazy endurance and ultra-runners that I followed on social media; it seemed the further folks ran – the more of them I saw committing to this new-to-me Altra brand.

By now, if you’d heard the name tossed around, you are probably familiar with their wider toe boxes and the ‘zero-drop’ mentality – this means the heel and toe hit at the same height from the ground, for a more ‘natural’ approach to running.

I liked the idea of strengthening the legs, ankles, and toes by use of a tool: the sneaker, not trying to mask discomfort and to focus leg compensation to other muscles – in my mind at least, it always seemed like doing anything unnaturally is just asking for trouble, pain, and more damage down the road!

Finally after several months of Ciara using her Altra’s to run trails and commute to and from work, I finally had the opportunity to try on my first pair after running an event together in Burlington, VT – we made the stop into Skirack (they are seriously super friendly and have a ginormous selection – check ’em out next time you’re in town!).

First off – the staff actually offered to measure my feet.. what? I thought this was a lost art! No shoe connoisseur had measured my foot since I was a wee-tiny kid buying my yellow Converse high-tops! As it would turn out, I had been wearing size 11 daily for the preceding 8 years or so.. when they actually measured my foot at a size 9.5 – I was shocked.

I loved them! I seriously enjoyed them very much, but I didn’t feel like I was at the running store to actually buy shoes.

I didn’t need shoes – I had my Salomons that proved to be still quite comfortable during the Leprechaun 10K earlier that morning!

I took my Altra’s to the SkiRacks treadmill and.. man, they still felt good! 

Just to talk myself out of an unnecessary sneaker purchase that I would later regret – I tried on a $180 pair of Salomons, knowing I would undoubtedly fall in love with something high end and forget my new zero-drop loves.

Well that didn’t happen. I was unimpressed – to say the least!

The Altra’s felt thin enough to sense whatever surface irregularities were underfoot, but cushy and grippy enough to be comfortable and protective for the long haul. There was a certain rocking under the ball of my feet, somewhat similar to being propelled forward.. but it felt almost like using different areas of my feet, muscles that had never been tapped into before – in a good way!

I left that day with my first pair of Altra Superior 4.0’s under my arm.

In short, I never once regretted my decision to buy those shoes!

End of story. 

Alright, the review is over – time to throw on the Altra’s and go for a run, right?

Not quite yet mister! …I’m sure I have left you with so many unanswered questions. What about transition time from Salomon to Altra? Comfort and durability over the course of a 154 mile (abuse-fest!) thru hike? Grip and the sense of security on wet vs dry surfaces? Cost worthiness? Changes from prior generations of the Superior?

Let’s tackle that last one first since I know the answer to that quite honestly: I don’t really know! I have had zero experience with the Superior 3.5 (or older) version. Why? Because I never had a need to! I love the 4.0s – they are what I know, they are what my feet and legs currently enjoy! Sure I have read and watched reviews of prior models, and I have heard so many make claims that this model has updated fabric, softer this and that, but as of 397 miles (as of writing this 6/2019) I have only found zero reasons that make me want to go pick up and try out a pair of 3.5s, despite them being often times incredibly on sale.. just about everywhere!

Next please… how about the ‘transition time’ from my Salomon Speedcross 4’s (which were also the wide-model, chosen simply because I knew feet swell after some time being stuffed into the shoe and now, I would never return to a ‘regular’ narrow sneaker) to the Altra zero-drop line up? I hear people recommending tapering, slowly transitioning to a zero-drop shoe. I honestly think: Yes, most people should consider trying any Altra on a shorter run first or even start with a walk, or even wear them to work to get the feel for how you walk and feel so refreshed in them, because you probably will feel it in your shins, feet, ankles – most people I know with Altras have to some degree! But that doesn’t last long – just listen to your body and don’t over do it, play it safe!

I intended to taper slowly into higher mileage.. that is, until the day came when that simply did not happen.

Two days into owning my Superiors, I went for a light run on asphalt which promptly spat me onto rustic dirt roads – 5 miles turned to 10, 10 to 15 and before I knew it – I had put down an 18 miler that morning and felt fantastic! My feet felt super light and it’s misleading to say that I grew to know every pebble and crack in the road, but in a sense, I did! I felt like I knew where my feet were landing, what they were landing on and how to best propel myself off of every surface! – This was a good observation!

At the time of writing this review I have logged just under 400 miles on my first pair of Altra Superior 4.0s – and what could that possibly mean? YES! They are so comfortable I picked up a second pair to wear around work for a few weeks until those too are transitioned to my next pair of mud puppies!

As so far with my first pair of 4.0s though – they have seen just about everything I can think a shoe would experience in its’ lifetime!

I wear them to work, which consists of a 1 1/4 mile walk in each morning, and a 1 1/4 mile light jog back to my car each day. I used and abused them on the Run-a-muck 50K race which took place on both asphalt and the hilly dirt roads of Vermont. They were the only footwear that I took on the 154-mile Northville-Placid Trail located in the Adirondack mountains of New York – where they experienced everything from snow, rivers, knee-deep mud, leaves, roots, bare rocks, more asphalt and gravel!

Most recently (like.. two days ago!) I took my Altra Superior 4.0s on the ~15 mile Chocorua Mountain Race put on by RockHopperRaces. Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, they saw more mud, four knee-deep streams, countless roots, slick bare rock, billowing mounds of leaves. I can now say that, with nearly 400 miles of love and abuse on these Altra’s, they actually slowed me down tremendously on this run. They slipped on the up-hill and running down-hill any of the leaf-covered or wet slab rock sections was downright brutal!

But, in their defence, I should have known better.. I should have invested in those Lone Peaks that I had my eye on! But overall, they are still crazy comfortable! Nothing hurt from running in them, they are still super soft and cozy on my toes and ankles despite needing to tie them slightly tighter than when I first got them – but they still feel super precise on each toe-off.

Overall, I still feel secure in these shoes despite the grip faultering a bit. They may soon become resigned to simply dirt road sneakers moving forward, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I love them any less!

As for the wear and tear? The fabric on the upper does feel thin, like.. it scares me how thin it felt! But after the daily abuse of catching toes on roots and rocks – we cannot believe how well our Superiors have held up during the Northville-Placid Trail!

During our thru hike in the Adirondack mountains, I wore them during one of our waist-deep river crossings, the algae-covered boulders on the bottom reminded me of buttered up bowling balls… absolutely terrifying! The grip held up (despite being scared out of my mind that I would dunk all of my backpacking and camping gear on the first day at mile 9), we made it through that raging river, my Altra’s dried out super quickly in the abundant sunshine, and also for the record: with snow, mud and icy water daily – I never ended up with any blisters!

So.. are the Altra Superior 4.0s truly worth the $110 price tag? Heck yeah, I sure think so! I mean.. if you can wait until REI.com has another one of their 30% off sales and catch them that way – well that is just ducky! Unfortunately, I bought my second pair two days before they went on sale, but anyway found out my size was not offered once the sale hit.. so no real loss to my wallet!

I would definitely recommend trying them on just to get the most satisfaction out of them – I can assure you, there would be a much different review of these shoes had I simply opted for a size 11 as I self-prescribed myself prior the years.

Once again, I am thrilled that my awesome friends have shown me the trail to the Altra spectrum – and I cannot wait to eventually try on other varieties in their line of zero-drop foot attire! Superior 4.0s are here to stay in my mountain trail running arsenal and I’m amped to someday (soon.. I hope!) lace up a pair of their Lone Peaks – and rest assured I will share my epic adventures with you!

Do you rock a pair of Altras? Let me know what you think of them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out some race reviews and accounts of crushing adventures in my Altra’s!

 

You can also check out Part 1: the first fantastic 100 miles on the Northville-Placid Trail right here!

Have an epic day and go crush some veggies & vert! 🙂

 

-Erik

 


Salomon Speedcross4

Only a handful of years ago, back when I knew next to nothing about shoes and what all the fancy new terminology indicated, I assumed the prescribed ‘500 miles’ was the ultimate cut-off point. I assumed once this magic number of miles were reached, threads would begin to hang loose by design, toes would have been long jammed through the toe box, the soles wore down so far that my own fleshy heel would see daylight. I quickly found out this was very much not the case with my Salomon Speedcross 4’s, that they were built for abuse, if given the chance – they would survive hundreds of miles with not a fret for what the trail ahead was constructed of – all they wanted was the loving caress of your foot inside of its plushy fabric.

When I bought my first real trail running shoes I knew literally nothing regarding what I should be looking for other than these puppies looked like grippy monster truck tires for my feet, by definition they looked sweet. I went shoe shopping with my lovely girlfriend Ciara who was getting reimbursed for ‘work shoes’ – we picked our pairs: one for me, two for her. Not knowing in the store what each other had decided on, we got home to unbox and share our little shopping sprees with each other; we each picked up a pair of Salomon X-Mission3’s, but she had another pair, one of the most rad color combinations I had seen in footwear to date, sea foam green Speedcross 4’s.

My X-Mission3’s worked great for the next several months both on road and light trail, with an average run distance of 5-10 miles. I watched Ciara run completely ecstatically in her new Speedcross4’s, so when I was given the gift of the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series for my birthday – I knew I would need to upgrade, I wanted to experience the sure-footed joy of trail running that I saw coursing through her veins. The day came when I found myself at our local Eastern Mountain Sports, who carried a surprisingly impressive selection of Salomon running gear. I knew exactly what I was there for so in my typical shopping fashion, I simply stared at the shoes for what seemed like all afternoon.. trying to decide: “wide toe box, normal toe box”? After running thousands of scenarios through my head and being asked by just about every associate in the store if I needed help, I decided that I may down the line prefer something on the wider side, giving me the option to ramp up my sock thickness for all the 100 milers that I had been day dreaming about, or whatever the case may be.

About the shoes? Yeah, they were friggin’ sweet.

Of course, I was super reluctant to wear them, wanting them somehow to last forever, remain clean forever.. well, that didn’t last long! My first race found me shin deep in thick, black, stinky mud.. only to bake in the sun, then dunked into a river (while on my feet of course), needless to say, they were broken in quite quickly!

Now, about 12 months of use later (as I write this) and with a total mileage teetering into the 800 range, what I have dubbed my 2018 Speedcross shoes still see the packed dirt roads and pavement regularly, now limited to shorter 5-20 mile distances these days (as of writing this, my longest run in the Speedcross4’s was 33.5 miles, and loved every mile of it!). Naturally, with some hefty lugs found on the underside of these beasts, I initially tried to keep the shoes off-road and glued to trail. This worked for a month or two during the running series and the special evening sessions with Ciara and the doggos. I began to become lax on the care side of the equation when I took my Speedcross4’s up Mount Mansfield over the summer (2018), and for those who have never been on these trails – they are beautiful dirt and grass, completely lush trails with moss on either side of the single track down at 1,800 feet but once you start reaching for 3,000 then 4,000 and finally peaking out at 4,400 feet above sea level, you find yourself running on jagged granite, bare rock, and a few wood planks along the Long Trail portion – it can be rough going in a few spots, but incredible.

The shoes held up fantastic while climbing their first real mountain. I retained all of my toe nails on the descent, the grip was outstanding even with loose sand and gravel, I even found water crossings to be totally comfortable. The model that I was rocking clearly was not fitted with Gore Tex (it would be some time before I understood the idea of Gore Tex shoes, laughing all the while thinking..won’t the water and ice just go down my ankle?), but I could sense that it sacrificed all it could in order to defer water from reaching my toes.

Regarding grip – this was the first pair of shoes where I felt like I could really ‘sense’ objects around the toe area, it was as if I could feel details like an individual gain of sand with the tip of my toes, yet they were completely rigid and structurally stable enough that this stretch over an object never resonated into my joints, I always found my bones to be in a comfortable position. Stubbing my toe of course happened in the White Mountains over microwave sized rocks and hefty roots sticking up, but with the thick lugs wrapping their way up and almost over the toes, I was never agitated or worried about my toe nails!

My Speedcross4’s have been on excursions into the 4000 footers of Vermont, New York, Maine and all around the White Mountains of New Hampshire – even excelling in the Presidential Range as I ran Mount Washington. Anyone who has even seen pictures of that terrain knows that the boulder field ascending from Boott Spurr and Tuckerman Revine is all jagged, sharp – as I like to call “snap-your-ankle” types of rocks, well I am happy to report – I found out just why the pro’s prefer these shoes in the French Alps, they are absolutely rock stars on bare granite, even mossy rock they do much better than some alternatives that I have taken to the trails! I always feel completely safe with the deep, grippy lug pattern on all surfaces!

But are they light? That is all the rage these days.. right? Yes and no, how’s that for an answer? For the grip and protection and comfort especially, I don’t think the Speedcross 4’s are necessarily heavy or bulky at all.. (“yes.. do go on..” the reader thinks.. ) but I have had some trail running shoes by other manufacturers that are about half the weight – I am also inclined to remark – these lighter alternatives also feel like they offer half of the support and grip as the Salomon’s as well, but that’s just what I’ve noticed. I mean, it’s clearly not like putting on the Speedcross is like wearing bricks or anything – the experts will call these 11oz, I will call them “just right”, light enough that your legs easily get used to the extra 11oz, sturdy enough that I don’t feel like I will flex fracture my foot over a boulder, and I try to kindly think of the alternative – I won’t be found anytime soon bare footing my way through the Presi Range!

And quite possibly the best part of this whole set up? My hats are all off to their lacing system, easily my favorite feature of these shoes (okay..maybe that is taking it a bit far, but seriously awesome!) It is a synch sort of system, no tying required! Just get your tongue all in place, slide the plastic do-dad thinger fandangler on the QuickLace system down the stand of lace, which instantly locks into place and tuck the whole set up seamlessly into the hidden compartment on the tongue. The tension quickly evens out, I have never had a ‘hot spot’ or unevenness, over-tight in the toe area with too loose anywhere else? Nope, it just works wonderfully in my experience! Nor have I been on the trail (or anywhere at all for that matter) and had the QuickLace system loosen up unexpectedly – I seriously wish that all footwear came with this excellent little feature. Such a small detail can seem to make all the chaotic puzzle pieces of life fall that much easier into place!

One detail that I absolutely have to point out to anyone who owns these shoes already and says “oh heck yeah, the same thing happens to me!”, or just awareness for any potential buyers out there: the tongue does not stay straight over the foot. Now, I am not the type to contact Salomon and voice my complaints or this and that, I love love love these Speedcross4’s! So I have dealt with it (for the record, Ciara has stated that she has never had this issue with the womens model), I have fixed my issue and now it is nothing to me, the problem does not cross my mind anymore! What am I talking about? Every other pair of Salomon’s that I have owned – running, hiking or whatever it may be, has come with a stretchy elastic mesh fabric attached to the tongue to ensure it doesn’t slide all around mid-run. Why don’t these? Forgotten or intentionally disregarded? Either way this is the one and only detail of the shoe that makes me cringe, I could go on and on about how my ankle was rubbed raw by the lace system at mile 15 of a long run. What did I do? I fixed it (when I got home). No longer an issue. I grabbed a needle and some thread and attached that sucker right to the medial side of the upper, BAM – problem solved.

So how much abuse have these trail runners sustained? Dozens of mountain runs, a series of snowshoe (yes, I have strapped my Dion racing snowshoes to the Speedcross on more than one occasion!) running events, both my first real 26.2 marathon (Mount Desert Island Marathon in Acadia National Park), and my first 50K (Nor’Witch 50K with Nor’East Trail Runs), now they see mostly dry packed dirt and pavement. With well over 800 miles these shoes have been through it all and still beg for more action, aside from the lugs (which, honestly are worn dang near flat at this point) they show minimal signs of wear and tear – in fact, nothing is torn on them, the fabric all holding up impressively well.

So, what is in store for the Speedcross4’s for 2019? I’ve had a second pair (currently holding clean at ~40 miles, 31 of which was put on during the Merck Forest Snowshoe 50K) which I am waiting to break out once the soil is visible on the trails once again. Salomon has produced a variation of the Speedcross that I picked up on a whim many months ago while it was on a 1/2 off sale – the SpeedSpike. These are basically ramped up, more solidly constructed Speedcross with steel spikes (..think cleats..) sticking out of the lugs. I have grown to love them over this past winter, they have been on my feet on flowing sheets of ice, winter storms which have produced feet of snow (..add gaiters for maximum comfort!!), most recently they joined me on a 12+ mile packed snow trail run through the White Mountains here in New Hampshire, gaining roughly 6200 feet of elevation gain, they remained comfortable – but for the record: they tolerate wet conditions very comfortably, they are in no way a water-proof GoreTex material!

What’s this..? Plot Twist?!

Now, I feel I must add before I end this, the little jaunt to Burlington, VT that Ciara and I took not long ago, we went for a race and to explore some shops in our down time. Long story short – we all came home with bright red boxes with bright white text Speedspikes in the whitesslung down the side, these boxes all contained Altra running shoes! Not her first pair, and she has loved what she has run in thus far, but these Superior 4.0’s are my very first pair of Altra’s ever. First impression? Love Them.

I was told that Altra’s take some time to get used to, a sort of ‘break in’ period, if you will. I loved mine so much that the day after I began wearing them I threw down a very comfortable 21 miles. Absolutely love these shoes so far…

Looks as if my commitment to the Speedcross family is not as cut and dry as I had once imagined years ago when I walked out of that store in sandals, holding my first pair of Speedcross 4’s.

I’ll do a more in depth review of the Altra’s. It is only fitting that I put them through the Runamuck 50K (31+ miles of packed dirt and a brief taste of blacktop – more than likely snow – this is the Northeast after all!) this weekend, and then let you know how they fair up to everything else I know about shoeology!

Altra Superior 4.0

As always, thanks for reading and following along with me!

Got a shoe that compares that I need to know about? Let me know in the comments below!

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Have an awesome time out on the trails, roads, snow covered roads, whatever you do – make it awesome!!

– Erik

 


Coros Pace: The Ultimate Altitude Mapping GPS Watch

There was a time when the only electronic gadget that I ran with was my Sony Discman it had the best anti-skip technology of the day; Twenty seconds was the grace period where it could be shifted, turned, shaken – otherwise it was an all-out battle (and good shoulder workout) to absorb any shocks. I was a silly sight I’m sure, but it worked.

That’s basically how my life of adventure revolved around new technology: if I had something that worked – good enough, let it ride. I was late to the game getting my first smart phone, years after all of my friends had switched – and of course this came with listening to them rave about their excellent decisions every moment of the day to upgrade their technological devices.

Smartphones brought apps, and new apps brought maps. Map apps meant that I could track how far I ran, how much elevation I climbed – it was always a fun game to push further and higher!

For years, I was content having 4 apps to cover what I needed for the outdoors:

a running app, a hiking app, a map based app (fantastic as long as it had a WiFi connection), another app for an on the go compass (until I bought a real compass!). I tracked my journey summiting the 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, as well as everywhere we ran and hiked on the West Coast – always feeling limited to how much service and battery life my phone had – I made it work.

I never saw myself becoming interested in wearing a watch to track my outdoor activities, but I started seeing just how powerful the Garmin’s and Suunto’s were. I spent some time researching what was out on the market in my downtime at work, generally thinking “Yeah not anytime soon, how can anyone put $600 on their wrist – plus look at the dang thing.. it’s so bulky!!”

I secretly admired the look of a big, chunky pastel colored band on a wrist of someone up in the mountains.

I continued comparing the options and decided that IF I ever did go for one it must have a barometric altimeter – much more accurate than a phone app ever could be (unless it was built in, which was not the case with my IPhone 5c).

I found a watch that retailed for about $650 and thought “if I am going to get one, it is going to be top in its class and not become outdated in the next 365 days”. It had everything I wanted in a watch, and then some.. as in a lot of extra features that made me wonder “is this why it is so expensive?”, many of the watches that came with an altimeter also included too many “bonuses” (like the ability to download or stream music from my wrist – not a requirement in my mind!).

Then during the cloud of time surrounding the Javelina Jundred, a 100-mile ultra marathon which takes place annually in the Fountain Hills of Arizona – I heard about a trio of running brothers who had made the switch from a big name watch company to one that I had never heard of before; who was this COROS? – I was interested! They raved that they were able to track the entire desert-based course on one battery charge and then had power left for several more days. The detail that really made my eyes wide was that it came with a barometric altimeter!!

The watch was from an up and coming, growing company who also specialized in “smart” bike helmets. So, they took a stab at the watch market and so far were accomplishing great things! I read very satisfied reviews – raving about the updates that COROS had made earlier in 2018. By this time it was nearly the end of 2018, so my hopes were high that the updates and bugs had all been resolved.

COROS was offering a trial of their Pace watch with a deposit up front of the entire cost of the watch, which was a moderate $300 (considerably low when I compared its’ features with other brands!). I took a day at work to think it over, went home and jumped on the opportunity, knowing it was only a trial (a $300 trial, I reminded myself!).

I went ahead with ordering the trial knowing that unless something went very wrong or it was just plain trash, that I was probably going to keep it!

Several days passed and I kept checking the mail, tracking my package. When it finally did arrive (maybe 3 days – not bad at all), I leisurely opened the package knowing that it was late in the night and I didn’t have time to charge and set it all up. Here is where I was wrong – it shipped with enough of a charge to fire up and cruise through the brief set up. I had to select which wrist it was on, age, weight, download the COROS app, and within only a few minutes it was calibrating for elevation and compass direction and reading my heart rate (ooh how I’ve missed technology!!).

Set up wasn’t as immediate as I had hoped (chock it up to ‘user error’.. I was still learning!) to connect to my Strava account, I had to search the “how-to” research online and I finally found the answer right on their web page FAQ. Once connected however, the COROS Pace and Strava are inseparable – as long as a WiFi signal is available the upload to your Strava account is near instantaneous (and in the case of no cell service, I found out that going into the COROS app and pulling down to refresh will sync your tracks right into Strava).

There are minimal button clicks (which I think is awesome!!)

to start a new track, with the options of running, indoor running, biking, indoor biking, pool swimming, open water swimming and triathlon-modes. I bought my Pace watch for running and hiking outdoors, and so for this review I can only say that I have used the ‘Run’ mode.

At the beginning of a new track, the watch alerts the user when it links up to both a satellite service and senses a heart rate. There are many customize-able options here in the screens prior to starting your workout; they are all greatly helpful, but I will not be going into detail – other than the option of which of 3 GPS satellite services you would like to use; At the time of writing this, I can only say that I have utilized the stock GPS setting and have had no issues with it – no need to use the higher-tech options but I plan to experiment!

My Pace has followed me with great detail through some of the deepest forests of New Hampshire, where there is no cell phone service for miles.

Back-tracking a bit to before a work out: discovered after several tracks and feeling that I was missing some information during a track, I found that the four stock screens that I can cycle through with either button located on the right (basically like Up/Down arrow buttons), all of which are customize-able – and I could make additional screens, which I did with battery life remaining, total ascent/descent, current time, etc – a very awesome feature indeed!

One feature, which is very important to me, and that I had no idea did not come standard these days (on some of the pricier options out there) is water-proofness of a watch. This is one of the most important must-have’s for a watch (I was stunned to hear that a certain Garmin that I know out there recommends NOT getting wet!) and again COROS came through – as this is a ‘triathlon watch’, it should be resistant – but with a rating of up to 50 meters, this watch gladly enjoys some shower time to get clean after it sits against my sweaty skin for 16 hours running and hiking in the mountains!

The first real ‘abusive’ test that I put my COROS Pace through was at the end of a chilly and snowy November last year,

I was destined for the high peaks – nearly 5000 feet above sea level in the White Mountains of NH. It was a chilly 10 degree morning that I chose to begin, dressed warm in layers, breaking trail for 23.5 miles in the back country with 5118′ of elevation gain and summiting 5 peaks over 4000′ that day. Despite the cold air, high winds and being stuck against my sweaty body, and tracking for a constant 10 hours and 33 minutes – the battery that I assumed would be on its last legs (the reason I brought my USB charger along for the car ride!), had only dropped to 63% – WHAT!! could absolutely not believe my eyes when I saw that.

This test came under 1 week from the time I placed my “trial” order – the very next day I emailed COROS and told them to please keep my money, and that I was not going to be sending my watch back. I loved this new addition to my outdoors-ing!

The app does things that I would expect from a fitness tracking app: allows customization of your watch interface via the COROS app, view your recent workouts (in great detail, if I may say so!), view your day in real time with Active Energy, Exercise Time, Steps, Heart Rate over time, even the latest addition – sleep – which I have found to be remarkably spot-on since it has been tracking me! There are also newer additions for the hardcore athlete that I have payed some attention to such as Resting Heart Rate, VO2 Max, Threshold Pace, Lactate Threshold, Stamina Level – while obviously not a make-or-break feature for someone such as myself – I think it is truly fascinating to now be able to see how I progress from day to day, or month to month!

Moving onto the features of this watch that stood out: the reason I was hooked!

The COROS Pace allows the user (you or I) the option to calibrate the Elevation and Compass direction by either GPS (must do this outside), or manually if you know that you are beginning at a certain elevation. But even without doing this – the Pace is extremely accurate – yesterday when I stood atop Mount Lafayette in the Franconia Mountains, the previous Geological Survey marked the summit at 5240′; when I checked my Pace’s screen, it read 5246′.

After an ascent of 3,816′, running around the summit boulders, and coming from a barometric altimeter – I found this to be absolutely mind-blowingly accurate!

Even charging the battery on this little gem of a watch is quick, the funky connection from watch to USB gets me back to a full charge in about 30 minutes, in two months of having my COROS Pace, even despite all of the running, hiking and event tracking that I have done – my Pace has never dropped below 50%, and I only charge it when I find it convenient (such as sitting at my lap top typing this blog post!)

Being that this is basically an intro into why I decided to put a COROS Pace watch on my wrist, I’ll add an updated post as needed (a few months or so!) as my COROS Pace continues to grow on me and I learn more of the incredible capabilities that it has!

I am looking forward to using my watch on more of my up-coming 50K ultra marathons and of course – in the White Mountains for the ~32mi Pemi Loop coming up soon!!

Naturally, new tricks and certain functions of tools on the Pace are being discovered, constantly customizing, making the ultimate GPS/altitude tracking device – and most importantly, make it feel like my watch!!

While the Pace is epic right out of the box, COROS puts a fresh, new watch interface on your wrist with each of their updates (every few months), I have found nothing but improvements thus far from my techy friends at COROS!

Please feel free to comment below and ask me anything about my watch if I didn’t answer your questions!

Shoot me a message either on here, email or DM on Instagram for 10% off if you are interested, let’s chat!!

Don’t forget to sign up with your email on the menu to the right –> for my hiking/running/plant-based nutrition updates!!

Have an awesome day – and of course – Happy Trails out there!

 

– Erik

 


Favorite Gear of the Day!

 

 

5, 10,13.1, 26.2, 50, 100.. what even are all these Km’s and Mi’s?!

With dozens of local events held each and every day of the year, how the heck does a person who enjoys running even choose what to do when they don’t know what they are cut out to do? Run. Hike. Walk. stretching at the 2018 MDI marathon

Step one is just deciding that you want to move your body.

There is never a need to rush running head over heels (I know you want to get cruising through those soft, lush winding trails though!!) – or whatever the famous saying is, into running or a new strenuous exercise. Always start slow, get the blood flowing, get the muscles loosened up and whatever you decide to do, relax your arms, legs, joints and try to move as fluidly as you can, and always be working on being fluid with movements, becoming forever more efficient step by step.

I enjoy putting my paws on new places, but I really prefer to have a set loop or circuit in the woods that I can just traverse and not have to over think – throw on the shoes, the shorts and just run some familiar terrain. All while listening to your body, your lungs, and your footfall. While some folk’s will swear that they cannot run without blaring music (me being one of them – to get pumped up or to trance out and push through the end of a long run), it can be extremely beneficial to be able to hear your feet landing or hear the rise and fall of your chest while trying to utilize your diaphragm to take in slow, deep breaths. Just doing these “maintenance runs” regularly will give you a clear idea of how (or if) you are stepping up your endurance, letting you focus on the little tweaks of a pinch in the side of your knee, or if you land too heavy on your big toe. A lot of thought can take place in an hour of running (it can be therapeutic to drift away into far off wonderlands!), but also a great place to analyze and listen your body!

It can be thrilling to use techy devices such as a watch or even just the analog clock back in your car at the trail head to keep track of how long you hit the path each session (I have a Coros triathlon watch which I hit record and then forget it is on my wrist until I finish my work out!). This is a great way to track your progression day to day, or session to session, and an extremely great motivator when you see the seconds or even minutes drop off! (Hooray progress!!) But when I set my watch, like I said, I prefer to not look at it while I am in motion. I’ll tuck it under my jacket sleeve in cooler weather or make it a point to look Trail running in the morning lightahead at the trail, not at the seconds ticking by! This way I am reminded to listen to my body, my breathing, my muscles whether they may be tight if I just began running, or trying to notice the progression of the fibers becoming loose, ready perhaps to push a bit harder up hills or even down when my knees are feeling up to it – my foot landing can vary on the day, on the surface I am running on, or even the weather I’m exercising in. Sometimes feeling harder or softer, despite trying to stay light and fluid on my toes – I just seem to notice the calamity of bones landing more some days than other despite all of my attempts to be “light like a feather”.

“But I don’t even do these things,                                   how do I pick the ‘RIGHT’ one?”

Getting back to the original topic of that ominous question I would think anyone who has taken part in an organized event has asked at least subconsciously. There really is not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ event (I prefer to use the term ‘event’ because there is no rule that what you do has to be a race, plenty of folk’s do organized events for charity or just for the camaraderie experience!) for you particularly. And that is more or less what it comes down to – is racing against other competitors your calling? Even during these races it can be possible to just race against yourself and see what you are capable of! An organized ‘race’ is a fantastic place because 99% of the time there is so much support from other runners of all ages and capabilities, it’s typically about pushing yourself, meeting people and just being a nice, decent human being! 🙂

I always felt a certain selfishness about running in a certain way; it feels so good when it goes well, even euphoric perhaps on some days! But at the same time I knew that I preferred to be alone while running and did not like tripping over other people with dogs or just feeling pressured, I enjoyed the freedom of ‘my pace’ on ‘my run’ in ‘my forest’. Then there was that text message that came through, making my pocket buzz with so many questions “Can I even do this? What if I cramp up and die on the side of the trail? What if I need to poop in the bushes one mile into the race? What if my shoes hurt my feet? What if people call me out for running funny? Will I even finish this thing in the allotted time?” All of the questions flowed into my brain, a bit overwhelming of course, the most interesting part though was that none of these predicaments ever dawned on me during my day to day runs, I never felt pressure and anxiety like this over something that had always been a form of decompressing and forgetting about daily nonsense.

The message read: “I signed us all up for our first 5K!!”

I didn’t know whether I wanted to respond with “That’s awesome!” or “Oh no… what did you do now?” Turns out all of the worrying was for nothing, race day came and went and none of the other runners mocked me or pointed fingers at my slow pace. I had survived my first organized race event and even had a heck of a lot of fun while doing it! In fact, we all had so much fun getting together and watching each other come in to the finish and take our sweaty-faced post-race selfie photos, and then Our 1st 5K event together!we made it kind of like a ritual sort of thing of going to get some super good local plant based food near to wherever we had raced. 2017 brought us a handful of 5Ks which were all fun, but toward the end of “running season”, we discussed and signed up for an event along the shore of Lake Champlain, which was organized by Racevermont.com and listed as their Season Finale, and other folk’s listed as one of the most scenic courses on the east coast. Heck yeah I wanted scenic, heck yeah I wanted to be sore the following day, heck yeah I wanted to do something that I had not yet done – I guess just to say I was once able to run 13.1 miles, if I were suddenly stricken with the inability to run.

I trained, made my own plan of how I thought I could best prep my muscles and stamina for just getting through all thirteen point one miles: I ran, pushed to 10 miles. Once that wasn’t too bad, I pushed to 12 miles and thought “I can do thirteen, I’ll try it next week!”. I did the 13.1 and on my first attempt thought “I just hit the wall at 12.5 miles, how can I do 13.1?” so I did 13-14 miles at least once a week probably 4 or 5 more times before race day and took the two or so days prior to race day light. (turns out that I did NOT at that time know what The Wall really was, I only craved my lip balm and then I somehow felt refreshed and the final mile or so was no issue..strange, I know, but that’s how it went!) The actual race went fantastic, I thought I had started (“gone out”) too fast – but I just concentrated on my breathing and making every step meaningful, and of course enjoying those views of the Adirondacks from across the Lake. I even had Ciara (she ran the 5K) there to grab some photos of me and finish the final stretch of road with me – I somehow realized that day that I was hooked; I loved to run, I loved to push myself!

For the next 8 months we really had nothing on the radar. We had recently moved to New Hampshire, both working at jobs that we really did not mind, we hiked almost every weekend and worked on our new toy: our school bus turned Tiny Home! When I first started my job, it is safe to say I had some down time. Down time to read blogs and of course – check race schedules. I was gifted the New Hampshire Trail Race Series which consisted of 5-12K trail runs just about every other weekend, I saw a lot of the same folk’s event to event. This also gave me a great opportunity to learn of new trails and nature preserves for Ciara and I to take the boys to burn off some puppy energy!

“I’m definitely not getting any younger”

This was my mantra as I perused the list almost daily at that point looking for what I thought would be “The Perfect Race”, I wanted my opportunity to run a full marathon. Something that I NEVER thought I would do, I thought of it back in my troubled twenties as a mileage territory that my body was just not cut out for. Three miles? Check. Seven miles? Check. Thirteen point one miles? Again, check! But that random number (26.2 – a nod to Greek History) that I could never remember until I saw the white oval stickers on every Toyota Prius ever driven. I wanted to check that off my life-long “want to do, but probably don’t really have the balls to try List”. I found a course up in Maine in Acadia National Park. Ciara and I stayed for the weekend in October 2017 and fell in love with the whole Bar Harbor area, so we went back in 2018 with her mother, hiked and camped, having an incredible time making vegan finger food in the back of the SUV as the sun set behind Cadillac Mountain. I had been eyeing this event, had my finger on the sign up button for nearly two weeks but just did not have it in me to jump on it, until the day I finally realized that if I did not hit “Take My Money”, I would live with the regret of not knowing what would have Lining up for the 2018 Mount Desert Island marathonhappened, not knowing if I was capable of running 26.2 miles. I hit the button, they took my money, and I had to break the news of what I had signed up for to Ciara.

In a fit of selfishness I had signed myself up for the Mount Desert Island Full Marathon

Which took place just a few weeks after we were due to return from our vacation get away to the very same island. Follow along for a journey through my eyes as I tackled my hardest and longest run up to that point! Was I mentally prepared? I sure thought I had read enough and ran through the day mile by mile until I could see the finish line! Was I physically prepared? I was scared shitless! While everyone told me to hit the mileage at least once to get a feel for it, I had not gone over 16 miles and was barely pushing 20 mile weeks!! Spoiler alert – I ran my first marathon, loved the pain I experienced (the oh-so-good kind!) and felt content that I had decided 4 months prior to sign up for a 50K just two weeks after the Mount Desert Island full marathon. I loved the punishment and escaping into a world where nothing mattered but just running. One foot in front of the other. I loved what I was doing because I was doing what I loved.

Together after our raceI am beyond excited, and feeling a bit lucky to have the opportunity to run next to Ciara while we bust out the Runamuck 50K in April (I have decided I want to start together and finish together, this is OUR run – not MY run this time, and this makes me super stoked to share!!), while there is a chance there may be cold and snowy conditions, as long as we get the hydration, nutrition and clothing layering right, I know we can do it.. and I am here to make sure we have a whole lotta fun out on the trails together!! We have a mountain run through the White Mountains planned that (luckily) falls in my birthday in June, and her incredible plant-powered mama (Tuesday) just gave us The Vegan Power 50K as a 3 person relay (Ciara, Tuesday and myself!) as a Christmas gift, which happens to fall on Ciara’s birthday this year – so needless to say we are both super psyched for what the future holds for us! Be sure to follow along, and see where the next adventure will take us!!

Much love and happy trails!!

Erik

Who is this bearded guy and why am I reading this??

This journey into transformation begins in the wee morning hours on a chilly, windy, rainy April morning in the year 2006. I woke up in my typical post-over-indulgent sleepy haze, looked out the window to see what I assumed was a happy couple husting and bustling; hurrying their groceries from trunk to doorstep and back again, all while trying to avoid each acidic drop of New York rain only to return to the trunk to reward themselves by slamming back a frothy bottle waiting for them fresh from their morning of shopping.

“This is life, I guess.” I thought to myself, “this is what it must be like for people who adult every day”, one mouthful of frosty reward after another, congratulating ourselves for thinking we made good decisions or accomplished the impossible earlier in the day. “This is just not right”, I kept thinking over and over, knowing this happiness was completely fake, manufactured by psychopharmaceuticals being washed down with an endless supply of adult beverages.

I was not happy, I was only getting by, one day by one day at a time.

I walked with no light into the living room and something told me to look into the closet that held the objects that I wanted to forget about. What I found this time when I looked down was a pair of my fathers old Nike running shoes – these things must have been as old as I was at the time, otherwise he had secretly been logging 40+ mile weeks without me recognizing it (he wasn’t, he stopped running about 10 years prior). I bent over to toss the shoe laces into the grimy sneakers (a pet peeve that still plagues me to this day!), looked them over in my hand, they appeared to be about my size.. heck yeah, they actually fit! I looked at my feet in these so-called “running shoes”, looked outside at the drizzle pouring off the patio roof, glanced back at my feet – actually glanced at my toe, which I could see through the weathered toe box mesh. Grabbed up my keys without giving myself the option to muster up an excuse and shut the door behind me. Step one to my first run ever was now complete.

I knew of the vast trail system that spider-webbed along the shoreline of the Mohawk River and interlinking 12+ trailhead lots across the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve. I knew dozens of these miles from my solo walks along the Erie Canal Towpath, such a lovely area that I had photographed though all seasons; birds of all colors, turtles getting it on (yep, this actually happened right off the trail!), deer grabbing some morning treats off the low laying branches, soccer ball sized puff ball mushrooms, ships passing downstream in the lock systems, I got to see it all on my first “run” in nature, I covered 3.1 miles that morning. And it felt ama-zing! Incredible to feel the pain in my chest from heaving lungs trying to suck the moist air in, burning legs that were used to a much slower pace of hiking, my toes were sloshing in the muddy, drippy sneakers, the cold of rain drops falling off every branch and aiming themselves directly into my eyes. The best part of this whole run though, I felt alive for the first time that I could remember.

I didn’t have a watch at this time, in fact, I had no gear. My father donated several scraps of clothing that he could find from his youth, he refused to part with his busted up Nike sneakers, but I still used them for the following year on the trails, rolling up and over the paved hills in the back country of Clifton Park. The shirt I used was cotton, and fortunately I did not experience this term “chafing” for quite some time – until I broke though my limit of seven miles, which held me prisoner for the next several years, I thought “Seven is enough, I’m not a real runner so I don’t need to push it, my knees can’t take more than that anyhow, what’s the point – I get out and move, that’s enough for me..” I think the best part of these early years laying down miles were quite possibly the shorts that my father donated to my cause – they must have had a 2inch inseam, and for those not in the know about inseams, the fabric ended before my legs began.. and I loved them, I had quads at the time, and I loved to show them off in the sunlight, I showed them off in the snow as if that could be my form of a middle finger up in the air at society’s expectations!

Nor'wich 50K ultramarathonFor years, I kept up this habitual running after college classes, before work began in the morning, any time that I could find I would lace up those Nike sneakers that probably should have been retired 400 miles earlier. That didn’t stop me from my old ways of over-indulging constantly, my reward was a shower beer because.. I wasn’t actually drinking, I was rewarding myself. I wasn’t actually drinking, I was doing research because I loved the science of brewing my own beer. I wasn’t actually drinking, I just enjoyed trying new styles and experiencing new things.

Fast forward 4 or 5 years to after the time I took a two-year hiatus from running. I drank more because I was bummed out that I didn’t run in this new city that I had moved to, I drank even more because I was okay with a few bottles as I put in “work”, creating artwork, selling artwork and photos.

Then I woke up again, had another one of those “ah-ha moments”. My fathers old Nike sneakers were long gone since I had moved, and I had even wore through several other pairs, but I had stock piled Asics because gifting me one new pair of running shoes every year for Christmas was my father’s way of hoping that I would get back into running, and I did, awfully slow at first. We had trails, I had to drive a bit, but we had trails! There was not much I loved more than cruising through the nature preserves, living my old, good life once again. The sun encouraged me to get back out, the crunching leaves, the gnarly old twisted roots formed obstacles that always kept my ankles in check and strong while I was not even aware of it. I still loved running in the rain, why? Because I didn’t know anyone else who did, I loved the rain, the peacefulness, jumping in puddles was always fun once my Asics had soaked up all the rain they could.

Then, once again, I moved away from my safe place – the trails that I had grown to love. But it wasn’t all bad, in fact, quite the opposite! I had begun hiking again in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State with my father (who still insisted on Mount Haystackdonating old gear, no short shorts this time though!) and his long time gym-rat buddy Wendy. After completing her first 4000 footer climb, she decided over a greasy lunch at The Noonmark Diner that she was officially hooked, “how hard can it be?? I want to do ALL 46!!” she would exclaim. I got dragged into it, and I loved every bit of it. I still had my own issues to deal with off the trails, but for those hours out of cell service, I knew what it was to feel “free”, I was also hooked! Then after about a year and a half and what seems like every weekend, we found ourselves with teary eyes on the summit of Mount Haystack, 4961 feet above sea level at 12:05pm on June 4th, 2016 – we had done it, all 46 high peaks of New York State. While it was bittersweet, we continued hiking; short hikes, hikes with friends, hikes to old fire towers, even waterfalls made their way into our destinations.

Someone had invited us three on a hike for something, to a mountain I had hitherto yet heard about. All day everyone had fun and laughed, all I wanted was to be alone, not sure why at this time, but that is the feeling I took away from that day. I reunited with a brother of one of my best childhood friends and took photos with two goofy looking dogs with their mother Mount Halewho had the most bad-ass frosty dreadlocks, while I had my share of a frosty beard. Turns out this lovely lady, her two pups and I would continue to grow our friendship together, even travel via her Honda CR-V and my 3 person tent for nearly 4 months going cross-country. It was around Tennessee when we awoke to no nearby mountains, but dang did we have trails! Right out of our tent site we had soft packed single track trails, we decided to run (I somehow had the intuition to bring a pair of Asics running shoes, thank goodness!). We took off down the trails and I thought “aww crap, she doesn’t even need to warm up.. shit balls she is fast!!” I tried to keep up, luckily one of the doggo’s had to lighten his load (literally, on the side of the trail) so I had my chance to catch up. For the whole trip, we hiked, we ran, we explored everything, every day. And then we rehydrated with watermelon, which was cheaper than I had EVER found in my life – $2 at some southern Walmart shops for a massive 30 pounder! She had been vegan for years, then raw on and off.. and me? I had been cutting down on meat for years but never made the switch fully from chicken and turkey until that May when we departed down the road together, I was not convinced completely that an “athletic” body could thrive without meat protein (my father being a body builder heavily influenced my beliefs!), boy was I WRONG!!! We returned from our cross-country excursion and decided that if we don’t move to the forests of Washington state, we will have a go at New Hampshire for some time and see what happens!

A year or so later as I write this, good things have happened! We still run, hike and kiss our doggies. We weighed the idea of a tiny home (the thought of shelling out rent money to a stranger is nauseating!!) and made the purchase of a big 2005 flat nose school bus which we are currently turning into our home on wheels to afford us the option to travel with the seasons and be able to work for ourselves and just do what we love to do! Ciara and I both ran our first 5K together (with her mother who is also plant-based and possibly the most positive person that I have ever met), we ran some half-marathons, and in my boredom at work decided.. “26.2 miles, I remember seeing those stickers on cars.. dunno if I can do it, but sure as hell I am going to try!!” Then in October 2018 I ran my first full marathon and it kicked my bum, but I had the best crew (Ciara and her mama with Boone and Crockett) pacing along on the roadway offering refreshments (more on my during-race-hydration in another post soon, stay tuned!) and then two weeks later turned around and locally ran my first (and longest distance up to that point) 50K ultra-marathon, which my GPS actually tracked at 33.5 miles. I felt better during the 50K than in the 26.2 mile marathon, hydration and nutrition were both more on point the second time.

We bought a bus!!This year we have many, many exciting adventures lined up – from a Vegan Ultra 50K relay together, a 15ish mile mountain run, a handful of various events together. For me, it’s so nice to collect my thoughts while alone out on the trails, but nothing beats the smile and laughter of someone you love together in the mountains. Stick with me as I share what has, and has not worked for me in running and mountaineering and of course – how to take care of yourself while kicking butt while fueling yourself on all the Veggies, catching all the best Vistas, and tacking some mean Vert to be the best you that you never knew.

Cheers and happy trails!!

Erik