Yes, I’m really about to have another birthday. (Hey, it beats the only alternative, right?) The big day is October 9th, same as John Lennon, but of course I’m going to celebrate all month–pumpkin spice all the things! Trick or Treat! The beginning of soup season! In many non-California parts of the country this is also the beginning of race season. (California doesn’t really have a race season, and I’m pretty sure I could run at least one race every weekend without driving more than two miles from my house.) Naturally, I think you should celebrate my incarnation “with” me by running a race.
If you actually want to run in the same physical location with me, come out to City to the Sea in San Luis Obispo, where I will be running the half marathon as a BibRave Pro! This will be my first time running the race, and my first time to visit San Luis Obispo as well. The race features a mostly downhill point-to-point course, and I understand there may be breakfast tacos at the finish line. Check out all the perks and details on the race homepage. If you’re feeling less adventurous–maybe you’re celebrating my birthday on Saturday night?–there is also a 5k option. You can still use citytotheseabibrave to save $10 on your registration, but hurry because the race is this weekend! This is the link to online registration.
Naturally as soon as I committed to run City to the Sea, Represent Running set the East Bay 510k for the same day. This really bummed me out because this is my first year as part of the Represent Running team, and I wanted to run all of the races in person, though there is a virtual option so I can still earn the mega-bling. (Of course there is mega-bling!) It’s not to late for you to sign up, however, and if you use code REPRESENT2016ER you can save a few bucks for a post-race celebratory beverage. This year there are pre-race packet pickup events in San Francisco and in the East Bay. Head over to the registration site or to the race website for more details. While you’re there, think about how much you want that trifecta medal and register for next year’s San Jose 408k. See you at the Mariachi Mile!
If trails are more your jam, I highly recommend checking out the Honey Badger at China Camp State Park in San Rafael. (In fact if I had not already committed to City to the Sea, I’d be out on the trails with cowbells cheering you on and pointing you in the right direction.) You can choose a half marathon, 10k, or 5k trail party. Keep your eyes peeled for the hidden woodallions along the trail because if you find one you could score a sweet prize! (Past loot has included trail shoes, cases of beverages, headgear, and running supplies.) If you’re one of the first ten people to enter code BAIN, you also score $10 off your registration. All the details are over here.
Finally, however you choose to celebrate, keep an eye on the blog (or follow me on twitter) because giveaway-a-palooza continues all month. I’m a little behind on my ambitious goal to get 31 prizes up for the 31 days of October–right now you can enter to win The Long Run and Trailhead–but they are all coming. Future prizes include more books, race swag, charitable and sweet-smelling soaps, and goodies from IDEA World BlogFest and Natural Products ExpoWest.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary OrangeMud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1 to review because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at BibRave.com! It’s a great way to choose between conflicting races, to help runners find the best races, and the help race directors improve each year. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!–and I don’t accept unlabeled advertorials.)
Sunday I ran the Brazen Racing Almost New Year’s Eve run at Lake Chabot park. It’s a cool way to end the year because it was my second time running my first trail race, and the first half of the “marathon.” Friday I started 2016 by running the same course in reverse! Well, “running” might be a bit of an exaggeration, given the elevations there wasn’t much running on my part. Brazen Racing organizes 20+ races each year, all in parks, and largely trail runs. (The course at Lake Chabot includes some paved sidewalks into and out of the picnic area that serves as the start and finish line.)
One feature of some of the Brazen half marathons is the “hiker start.” This option allows slower runners and hikers to start an hour early, which is particularly nice when you might need more than four hours to conquer the hills. The downside is that when you take an early start, there is always the possibility that the aid stations won’t be ready for you yet. (This wasn’t a problem at the Brazen races, by the way.) Trail races also present limited options for aid station placement, and they are not always evenly spaced like they would be on a road race. What’s a runner to do?
Enter Orange Mud. The HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1 was my best friend during both of the Brazen Races. I carried hydration, snacks, tissues, my phone, gloves, lip balm, and a Buff (when I wasn’t wearing it) and still had plenty of pocket space leftover. By the way, since I’m not great with the photos (and the one below is borrowed), I recommend checking out Brad’s pics at Trail Running Faith and Jenny’s at Runny Legs and Burnt Toast.
One reason this type of pack appeals to me is that you can use multiple water bottles. Ever left one in your car for a few weeks by accident? Then carefully washed the sipping valve? Yuck. Bladder-style hydration packs just freak me out, because I’d never feel comfortable that they were clean and always be either obsessing or sipping on soap.y water. Yuck.
It’s hard to evaluate running gear online–though Orange Mud has multiple videos on the website to help you see how the gear looks and fits on an actual human–and if you just see the HydraQuiver itself, you might be a little hesitant about the fit. Don’t be. The vest has a strap you can adjust on each side; in addition to the buckle, there is also a separate slider to hold the end of the strap (so that it doesn’t hang down or flap around after you adjust it). The strap’s location (plus that slider) keep the strap close to your body, and away from your arms–no chafing here! (Full disclosure, Heather over at Marathon Mom did experience chafing, though she noted she has this difficulty with lots of things.)
The front of the pack is also adjustable–though OrangeMud recommends using this for “micro adjustments” only, as the side straps are the main fit–with the strap landing high on the sternum. The placement is perfect for me, and doesn’t cause any chest discomfort or sports bra interference.
The back of the pack is a bottle holster and two smaller pockets. (I slipped a tube of Nuun into one of them.) The bottle holster is adjustable, so you can take a bigger bottle or a smaller one. (The pack comes with a 25 ounce BPA-free bottle.) All you have to do is adjust the strap that goes across the bottom (it is velcro).
Initially I wondered if it would be awkward to reach behind my head for hydration, since I’d never done it before. In a word: NOPE. It felt very natural, and even when using a smaller bottle I didn’t need to fumble to slide it into the pocket. It was an easy grab to get it out and stuff to get it back in. I’m not making this up, Angie over at Angie Runs found it really smooth too.
On a side note, the ONLY problem I experienced with this pack was with bottles. When I used the bottle pictured above, I didn’t dry the threaded edges well enough before I filled it, and so it leaked out the sides of the lid as I was running. This was clearly user error, and might actually be a fun feature in super hot weather (self-cooling), ha ha!
The front of the pack has four pockets. The shoulder pockets are open on the bottom and close with a velcro strap. (It would be awkward to have a pocket where the opening was at the top of your shoulder.) I used one pocket to hold a pack of tissues. These pockets are also suitable for self-contained items like hats, gloves, Buffs, bandannas. I could also see using them to hold packaged snacks, like Honey Stinger chews. If you have a smaller phone, or need to take your wallet with you, those pockets are perfect. They were a little small for my iPhone 6.
The two lower pockets open at the top and have elastic to keep things from flying out while you run. The right-sided pocket also has an additional drawstring-type device to further constrict the top. These pockets are easy to access while you’re running (no need to mess with velcro). During my runs I used them for a pack of partially eaten Honey Stinger chews, a container of Energy Bits, an itty-bitty lip balm, the Buff I kept taking off and putting on to adjust as I ran in and out of shaded areas, Dixie cups from the aid stations (on a trail run you can’t throw anything on the ground, and Jelly Belly beans are easier to carry in a Dixie cup than in your hands). See Jess Run took hers out on a 50k, and liked having her hands free for the aid stations!
It was rather cold for both runs, so I wasn’t particularly worried about overheating, though my experience with this pack indicates that wouldn’t be an issue. The main pieces next to the body are meshy-fabric-covered material with big ventilation holes. Even as I was sweating during my runs, the sweat was wicking away from my body. I never felt hot or particularly wet underneath the vest.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the Orange Mud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1. The construction is durable and comfortable, and the pockets made this more than a hydration carrier. While I initially pegged this as a trail running product, after using it for these races I can see it as a pretty great tool for any medium to long training runs, trail or road.
Still on the fence? Would saving 15% on ANY OrangeMud order persuade you? Use code BIBRAVE to score your own discount. OrangeMud also makes hand-helds, if that’s your jam. Be sure to join us on twitter for #bibchat sponsored by OrangeMud on Tuesday, January 5th at 6 p.m. Pacific.
How do you carry your hydration on long runs? What about other stuff?
If you run and have internet access, you’ve probably heard of The Oatmeal and the book, “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” (If you haven’t, hie thee to the website and go read it already!) After the book was released last year Mr. Inman (that’s The Oatmeal, and the author of The Oatmeal) announced a trail race in Washington state. The 2,000 available slots sold out so quickly he added a second day. While there was also a virtual option for the inaugural Beat The Blerch, there is nothing like being there–virtual racing is not virtual reality.
For 2015, Beat the Blerch became a series: two days in Carnation, WA plus a race in Sacramento and another one somewhere in New Jersey. While Sacramento is closer to me in terms of travel, it happened to conflict with another event I’d already registered for, so it was off to Carnation for me! My friend Jennifer asked if I’d like to share costs on a hotel and car, and just go for one night. It might seem goofy to fly up on one day and fly back the next, but I’ve done so much travel for running and work this year that I am starting to cherish the nights I get to sleep in my own bed.
It’s just a quick hop from Oakland to Seattle (I #LUV Southwest Airlines!) and we packed in carry-ons only, so we were quickly at our destination. Jennifer introduced me to the game Ingress (another post for another day) as we grabbed a quick meal and then headed off to bed.
One of the things I love about run travel is hanging out with other runners. When sharing space to prep for a race, I often find I learn sweet new running tips, and this race was no different. Race day morning we laid out our stuff, grabbed some items from the hotel’s breakfast buffet, and headed over to Carnation. We we’re sure about parking and logistics, so we arrived super early. Like I think we were the fifth car parked in our lot. It was a quick maybe five minute walk over to the packet pickup area, where we got bibs, shirts, and other Blerch-based swag in our runner packets (packaged in a Zappos bag with an adorable Blerch right on the front).
Naturally we also had to check out the Blerchandise. In addition to water bottles, coffee mugs, Oatmeal graphic novels, stickers, shirts, and socks, runners could also get copies of the newly released Exploding Kittens card game. I already had mine–and the NSFW edition–since I participated in the KickStarter. These were the last of the KickStarter edition decks, so any runners who missed out had one last chance…
After dropping our stuff in the car and putting on the bibs, it was time to loll around in the Zappos lounge. I was glad we were early enough to enjoy the pre-race festivities! In addition to the soda and junk food buffet, there were warm grilled cheese sandwiches and a DIY marshmallow treat station. After indulging we lounged on some giant airbed sofas with furry cushions while watching junk TV. I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried about eating half a grilled cheese right before the race. (To save you the suspense: I’m now wondering whether I can hire a grilled cheese truck to follow me to races.)
Actually I had no desire to eat most of the things inside the Zappos lounge. The lounge staff encouraged us all to languish on the fuzzy sofas and watch just a few more episodes of Real Housewives. (“You don’t really want to RUN, do you? It’s so cozy and relaxing here!”)
Over in the Zappos tent, I also learned something new: “buffet pants” (and bought a pair, of course). Buffet pants are for post-race loungewear….or lazing around the house, or perhaps on the way to a basketball game. (I’ve actually never worn mine outside the house…)
Prior to the race I indulged in not just the grilled cheese, but also a donut, and a marshmallow covered in chocolate sauce, and a few other carbolicious snacky items. I decided not to eat the packaged candy, passed on the chips, and left all of the soda in the cooler. Past races have taught me that carbonated beverages before a race–no matter how tasty and appealing they may be–BAD IDEA. (Save the champagne for after the race. Or practice belching. ’nuff said.) Seriously though, the grilled cheese was a great idea. The truck just kept bringing them out, and I’d watch to see if there was a plain cheese (some had bacon in them, of course). I was trying to figure out how I could make my own grilled cheese on race day mornings, but frankly I hate mornings and usually barely get up in time to press play on the coffee pot. So until I manage to find a grilled cheese truck to follow me around, this is likely my last race with tasty gooey cheesy goodness for breakfast.
As promised, the aid stations featured cake. Nuun was a great stand-in for the magical purple fizzy beverage. (Seriously, just go read “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” You might just want to buy the book, too–then you can bring it to the 2016 Beat The Blerch race to have it signed.) There were also multiple photo opps with Blerches, Sasquatch, and sofas. Shenanigans ensued. Some actual running happened as well, but I was busy taking pictures and enjoying myself, definitely not gunning for a PR or an age group award. For the most part, people seemed to be having a good time. The only drawback is that when you put cake in a Dixie cup, it sticks to the sides, and you have to either pull apart the cup or use a finger (questionable when running) to pry it out. The forks were at the finish line.
I posted a few pictures online for my friends, and the ones who are not runners were notably confused. (“I’m not judging,” wrote one, “and I’m willing to be educated, but…why does that giant marshmallow have nipples?”)
The trail run was pretty cool. It’s an area I’ve never run, so all new to me. There was plenty of shade, and the terrain wasn’t particularly crazy or steep. I’ve never fueled with cake, and expect most of the other runners hadn’t either. The hardest part is that the icing sticks to the inside of the dixie cups, so you have to either tear the cup open or use a clean finger to swipe the cake out. Much to my delight, I did not see piles of churdle on the trail, which means people were not over-caking themselves. (This was, by some reports, a problem last year.)
At one point I high-fived The Oatmeal himself. Naturally I had no idea who he was at the time. (“Um, why is that dude running in an inflatable green suit?) Oops. Fortunately he didn’t seem to remember when I had him sign my book after the race, or if he did he didn’t hold it against me. Probably the former, since there was a giant line of people who wanted him to sign things.
The start and finish area did have a few of the normal race booths, including Clif Bars, Naked juices, etc. (but that’s not really why any of us went to Beat the Blerch). Just in case some real runners showed up an expected to see race-related types of things.
Moment of transparency, I can’t seem to get these freaking photos to behave themselves. Argh. If you happen to be reading this and are a WordPress ninja, please let me know! I need some help wrangling photos and layout, and I suspect that is going to require me to change the template (which I don’t have the mad skillz to do personally).
We did stick around to take some photos with the absurdly large Nutella buckets. One nice perk of this race: free photo downloads. (You can also buy copies for a pretty reasonable price.)
Then it was off to Starbucks for some real coffee. I don’t know about you, but hotel breakfast buffet “coffee” doesn’t really do it for me. While waiting for the taste lattes to appear, we ducked into the restroom for a hobo bath. I am ever so thankful to Shower Pill for making this much easier–and I am sure those who shared the flight home with me were also thankful! (Shower Pill is like a baby wipe, only made for adults and intended to tide you over until you can take a real shower. The wipes are stronger than baby wipes, maybe the thickness of a washcloth, and one wipe is enough to do an entire adult body.) I’m a packing ninja, so it was a quick Shower Pill, face wash and rinse, quick pat down with a towel (you don’t need one with the Shower Pill, but I’d used regular face cleaner to do my face/neck), lotion, deodorant, and fresh clothes all around.
Did you run in one of the Beat The Blerch races this year? I’d love to hear what the California and New Jersey events were like!
Disclosure: I am a BibRave Pro and receiveda free entry to the Foothill 5k Challenge in exchange for helping to promote and review the race. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro HERE and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
That’s the single word that sums up the entire Foothill 5k Challenge this year. Before I became a BibRave Pro, I’d never heard of this race and I’d never heard of Back on My Feet, the charity beneficiary. The fact that there is an elevation gain of over 1000′–and what goes up must come down, so that gain isn’t evenly spread out–might have scared me off. If you’re contemplating this race, don’t make the same mistake!
The website says, “participants are welcome to run or hike” and they mean it. There is plenty of time for everyone to finish. Also, it might interest you to know that the first person to cross the finish line was a 15-year-old who did the whole thing in just over 20 minutes, but the second person to cross the finish line–just about a minute later–is 59! You definitely want to be there in 2016.
Just over 300 people finished this low-key event in Glendale. Now that I’ve done it, I’m surprised there weren’t twice as many people there. Since I don’t live nearby and was occupied with a conference in Los Angeles on Saturday, I didn’t attend the Saturday packet pickup hosted by Run With Us (one of the race sponsors). Early Sunday morning I packed up my stuff, donned a running kit, and headed over to the Glendale sports complex. Timing being everything, my tiny blue rental brought me to the parking lot just in time to take the last space in the lot (everyone behind me was sent back to overflow parking). I popped out, doused my very-pale-self with sunscreen, and headed in.
Registration and packet pickup at the event took place on one of the baseball fields. There were maybe ten people in line ahead of me when I arrived, and the volunteers doled out shirts and bibs with speed and cheer.
They had even connected the safety pins in groups of four (to pin the four corners of your bib). While there wasn’t an official, organized bag check, I had plenty of time to walk my shirt and bag back to my car before the race started. Some other runners handed theirs to family or friends. It was a pretty small field, and I think a few people might have stashed their bags under the Bimbo or YogaWorks tables near the start/finish line.
Near the registration tents, race sponsor Mizuno had a table showing off their newest kicks. I visited my new friends, the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5, since I was wearing my trail shoes. Mizuno had a deconstructed shoe with the layers separated so you can see and better understand the engineering of the soles. (I love that kind of stuff.) They also had wristbands with “Every Mile Changes You” and I added one to the morning’s arm party.
The sun wasn’t quite out yet, but it was easy to tell it was going to be a humid day. Due to the nature of the course there were no aid stations–there’s literally no place to put them–though the apex backed into a road where volunteers had bottled water. The announcer directed runners to the water and Gatorade table near the finish and encouraged everyone to hydrate. Most of the runners that didn’t have hydration belts or packs grabbed a bottle of water to take out on the course.
Before the race, a large number of runners gathered on the baseball diamond. They put their arms around each other and I got a solidarity vibe from the crowd. While I was not close enough to overhear all of the discussion that took place, I did hear someone announce that one specific runner couldn’t be there and ask those running to remember him on their run. My impression that this is a standard Back on My Feet running group ritual was confirmed later as I walked over to the starting line and heard a recent arrival ask his friend, “oh rats, did I miss the circle?”
In addition to thanking the sponsors, and thanking the runners for coming, the announcer took a few minutes to remind everyone of the purpose of Back on My Feet. (If you’re not familiar with Back on My Feet, take a look at the greater Los Angeles area website. Similar to Girls on the Go, Just Run, and Running For A Better Oakland, Back on My Feet uses running as a medium to teach and cultivate goal-setting, commitment, and other life skills leading to self-reliance and independence.)
As the announcer explained, “the purpose of Back on My Feet isn’t to turn homeless people into runners, but to use running to help those who find themselves homeless learn to see themselves as hard-working, self-reliant individuals.” When I look at all the positive things running has brought to my life, and to the lives of my friends, it makes perfect sense to me. Looking around the group of runners, you couldn’t tell which runners were formerly homeless, currently homeless, or never homeless. There were many people in shirts with the Back on My Feet logo, including the shirts from last year’s events; there were also groups of people in matching team shirts too.
The starting line had one long corral; runners were asked to self-seed based on their expected speed. As more people hopped into the corral, I continued to move back. Minutes before the start, race director Lesley Brillhart took over the microphone to make a few safety announcements: watch for single track areas, pass on the left and announce yourself first, take the switchbacks carefully, alert course monitors to any injuries, and during the two-way traffic sections keep to your left. (Yes, left. It sounded off to me when I heard it, but once I was up on the hills and understood the course better, it made perfect sense.)
The race team set the runners off in three large groups, separating each by about two minutes. Once I got up onto the dirt, I was very glad they had done this, as most of the trail was fairly narrow. Even before I hit the dirt, I saw the faster runners like little white dots streaming across the browns and greens of the San Gabriel Hills.
Runners first circled around the sports fields and then took a hard right to start climbing. Despite the scary-sounding 1000′ elevation gain, the majority of the climb was a gentle up, with an occasional downhill. It would have been pretty easy to stay 100% focused on the trails, but it was just wide enough to comfortably walk while enjoying the scenery. I stopped to take many pictures on the way up. Race volunteers served as course monitors along the route (and as your traversed the course you realized each of them had to hike up to their designated spot).
Near the end of the climbing section there was one bigger, steeper hill; at that point you’d gotten out of bed and schlepped all the way up, so no matter how steep it seemed you just kinda had to keep going.
As I was making my way up I caught glimpses of the start/finish line, which seemed impossibly far away. On the trail I saw men and women of all ages and sizes, running, walking, and hiking. The views from the top were beautiful.
On the way down I paused to read the plaque about the history of Glendale (it’s not like I was going to hike back up to read it after the race). Just because YES, I AM that kind of nerd.
Finishers were welcomed back, and the hydration station was just past the finish line. YogaWorks led a post-race stretch session, and Bimbo bakeries handed out bagels (enough that many of us took home a whole package).
Then the winners were announced in a low-key awards ceremony.
I headed back to my car to finish chugging down another bottle of water and grab a wipe for my face. While I had set my phone to get me directions to the after party, it basically wasn’t necessary–pretty much every car from the event was in one big caravan to the Golden Road Brewing Company.
As a race sponsor, Golden Road offered $1 off each of their beers. In addition, 15% of all sales went to Back on My Feet. True confession: I don’t like beer. (No, it’s not “you haven’t tried the RIGHT beer,” because I dislike hops.) Fortunately they had a guest cider on tap, which I enjoyed with a breakfast burrito from the brunch menu.
With excellent food and drink, attentive service, and a brunch filled with runners, you can’t lose! The raffle drawings were held outside, though the tickets had a name and phone number on them in case you missed it. Since I was already pretty well sunned, I chose to sit inside.
Don’t fear the elevation.
If you ran this year, what did you think? (Have you left a review on BibRave.com?) If you’re interested in running this race next year, keep an eye on the Foothill 5k Challenge website.
So 2013 was my year of crazy running: between January 20, 2013 and January 19, 2013 I ran 31 half marathons. The magic number 31 landed me on Earth in the Half Fanatics club. Along the way, I learned A LOT about running. During 2013, Skechers generously offered to let Women’s Health Action Heroes choose a pair of shoes from their new Go collection of performance shoes. If you read any running magazines or health magazines (and you must, because you landed here, right?) you’ve probably seen the ads for the Skechers Performance line of running shoes, endorsed by none other than Meb Keflezighi. When I first saw these ads, I associated Skechers with skateboarders and those rocker-bottomed “toning” shoes, and was a bit dubious that they could turn out running shoes worth my time. (Running shoe design is more complicated than you might expect, and I’ve spent a lot of time poking at them and reading about them and trying them out to learn how they are put together and why.) Yes, just a year of running “for real” turned me into a bit of a shoe snob!
I was taught that accepting a gift honors the giver, so I set aside my preconceived notions about the Skechers brand and wear-test some shoes. At that time I was pretty much married to my running shoes, so I chose the Skechers Go Bionic, which are trail running shoes. Marathon Matt, the coach of my running group, had recently started Sasquatch Racing trail races, and Brazen produces at least two dozen trail races per year, so I thought the Skechers Go Bionic would be a great incentive to get me out and running on trails. I selected the Skechers Go Bionic in pink or purple (we even got to choose the color, isn’t that sweet?) and asked for a size 10.5 since that is what I wear in every other running shoe on the planet (despite the fact that I wear a 10 in regular shoes). Since most of why I love racing has to do with being outside, I couldn’t wait for them to arrive!
Not long after, a huge box from Skechers arrived. I immediately ripped it open and was puzzled to find two pairs of shoes inside (one pink, one purple) in sizes 9.5 and 10. The bottom fell out of my tummy for a moment, because I sincerely feared these adorable shoes wouldn’t fit my amazon feet. Surprise! Not only did the 10 fit fine, I could wear the 9.5 too! Since any runner who has ever run a distance race should tell you to NEVER race in a pair of new shoes, I wore them to work (hooray for a casual-dress policy!), varying the socks I wore with each. The 9.5 were best with Wright’s Double Layer socks (my one true love), while the 10s were best with slightly thicker socks or Injinji socks (the kind with individual toes).
Somehow I just didn’t make any trail runs. The one day I thought I’d go on my own, without a race, I ended up stuck in my office. Excuses, time passed, until I had to find a mere three races to finish my 31 half marathons in 365 days. There are not a lot of half marathons happening in the limited window of time I had available (basically Christmas to New Year) and the nearest options were all trail runs. Without thinking about it too much, I signed up for the Brazen New Year’s Eve (actually held on Saturday, not New Year’s Eve itself) and Brazen New Year’s Day—run both, and you get a cool extra medal linking the two races together. Troy’s Trail Run through Almaden-Quicksilver regional park (a former Mercury mine and surrounding environs) was the last race I needed to make 31. I figured it would be just like a road race, only with gravel and dirt.
Trail running, as it turns out, is NOT for wimps.
For the New Year’s Eve race, I decided to try the royal purple 9.5s with my Wrights. They got a little bit of an extra workout as I was literally picking up my bib when the gun went off. Oops. The Skechers Go Bionic had a nice ride for the entire run, which included several sections on blacktop, some on a pretty rough/raw trail with tree roots and rocks and all, and a few areas of well-packed trails (the kind you could easily push a stroller over). The best part of the shoes is that despite how amazingly sturdy the soles are—my hiking shoes have similar lugs–they weigh practically nothing. The design cleverly avoids two of my pet peeves with running shoes. First, the tongue is connected to the shoe so it can’t waggle from side to side while I’m running. Second, the top most portion of the tongue is pretty thin, so it does not bunch up and annoy me. As an added bonus, the laces are a bit wider at the second grommets than they are at the first or third, preventing me from over-tightening the laces and cutting off the circulation in my toes (which is, sadly, something I often do). The only problem I had was running downhill. Up was fine (let’s be honest, there was not much running involved on the uphill!), but on the downhill my toes smashed into the end of the shoe. Lesson: the 9.5s fit well, can be worn casually and feel great, and are awesome on all parts of the trails EXCEPT downhill. I decided to wear the hot pink 10s for New Year’s Day (and also to start in the hikers division—an hour early—because while I’m never first, I’m usually not quite so close to the end of the pack).
New Year’s Day I chose pink Injinjis to coordinate with the hot pink Skechers Go Bionic. (Note to self: buy black socks. Trail running is messy.) The course was the same loop at Lake Chabot, only in the opposite direction; this actually made the race MUCH faster for me (40 minutes!) but put the 10s over the same terrain as the 9.5s. About half way through the run, another runner complimented my shoes and mentioned she was looking for new ones. When I told her they were Skechers, she was surprised—she had skaters and rocker shoes in mind too—and we had a lengthy conversation about what makes good running shoes. (In the end, I think she ran off to buy a pair. Or maybe she’s just a faster runner than I am.) Unlike the 9.5s, the 10s were perfect for me on the downhill. When the hills are steep, there is pretty much no way to keep your feet from sliding a tiny bit in your shoes. Unlike the 9.5s, where my toes bumped the end, in the 10s my toes had plenty of room to slide forward without hitting the end of the shoe.
Overall, I’m tickled pink (and purple, for the 9.5s) that I had the opportunity to try Skechers Go Bionic, and plan to wear them for my next trail races in 2014. They are lightweight, well designed, rugged, comfortable, and cute (in the colors, at least). Despite the minimal non-running break-in period, I did not have any blisters or hot spots from the Skechers. The shoes got dusty and muddy, but nothing stuck to the soles and they clean off very easily. Bottom line: if you are looking for trail shoes, do not overlook the Skechers Go Bionic.