Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RJ Review: Patagonia Houdini Full Zip Jacket

We hate to say it, it still being mid-August and all, but there are signs of fall here in the mountains of Idaho we call home. A harsh reality, to be sure, even as we still swelter on our afternoon runs in the blazing sun. But, time will march on, the temperature will drop, and before we know it we'll all be reaching for those lightweight shells we mothballed in spring. So, as that image slowly sinks in, we offer our review of one of Patagonia's lightweight running jackets - the Houdini Full Zip (retail $125).

To be honest, we at Run Junkie have yet to come across a perfect running jacket. The quest to find a lightweight, breathable, water proof, comfortable, and yes, good looking, running shell seems a near impossibility. That said, the Houdini Full Zip is the best shell we've come across these many years. It's extremely lightweight yet buffs up well as an outer layer on -10 degree, snowy morning runs. Sweat condenses a bit inside on long runs but not so much to bring on a chill, and the full zipper can help release some of the moisture as time goes on and the temp rises.

One Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of the Houdini is its integrated hood. On the plus side, it's great to have the hoody option when the rain or snow hits unexpectedly. On the downside, the hood can't be removed, and, because it's so lightweight, the thing can be a spinnaker in a stiff wind - blowing by the side of your face with a big tailwind and dragging you backward in a hard headwind.

As for precip protection, the Houdini performs pretty well - good in snow and light rain, OK in a downpour. We'd be dishonest if we didn't say we'd hoped for a bit more when the rain was really coming down.

Everything taken together, though, we have to say we really like the Houdini Full Zip. It's not perfect, but it performs well enough to get you through some really tough conditions comfortably. Plus, it has those inimitable Patagonia good looks that will keep heads turning before, during, and after your runs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kinesio Tape: Scientifically Sound or Witch Doctor Worthy?

At Run Junkie we believe in sound science, so we've been very skeptical of the colored witch doctor tape many of the athletes in Beijing have been using on their injuries. That OCD prone injured athletes latch on to something at such a critical moment certainly doesn't mean it actually helps, even if it doesn't hurt. But in today's New York Times, Tara Parker Pope reviews some of the reasoning and evidence (however meager) backing the tape, called Kinesio (post). We'll withhold judgement for now - a rarity for us to be sure.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Marathoner Ryan Hall Featured in "The New Yorker"


The description of that sign outside of a market in Big Bear Lake, CA - home of US Olympic Marathoner, Ryan Hall - is just one of the great observations in a typically lengthy New Yorker feature this week on Hall (story). The piece, in the August 11 & 18 issue, chronicles in detail the life and running of Hall from his early years to the present day. Most interesting is the review of his high school and college years where he, Alan Webb, and Dathan Ritzenhein took on the lackadaisical US distance running scene like the three musketeers. Also discussed at length is the quizzical hold that the Frank Shorter era still has on current runners and race times. If you've got 30 minutes, it's worth the time.

Ironman Deboom Bows Out of 2008 Leadville 100 Following Injury

Following up on a previous post, it looks like Ironman World Champion, Tim Deboom, won't compete in the upcoming Leadville 100 ultra because of a toe injury sustained in a recent 5k (Triathlete Magazine story). Taking a year off from triathlon, Deboom was looking to expand his athletic horizons, something the Race Across the Sky would surely have done.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Results: Olsen, L'Hereux Win 2008 Where's Waldo 100k

Over a hundred runners took to the trails yesterday to contest the USATF 100k trail championships at the Where's Waldo ultra at the Willamette Ski Pass area near Eugene, Oregon (race site). Forty one year old Neil Olsen took the honors in the men's race in a very fast 10:06:54, while Prudence L'Hereux, 37, took the women's race in 10:51:30 (official results).

1. Neil Olsen 10:06:54
2. Nate McDowell 10:10:57
3. Joe Grant 10:11:22

1. Prudence L'Heureux 11:12:36
2. Krissy Moehl 11:24:50
3. Meghan Arbogast 12:03:45

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympics: Bolt Wins 100 in Record Time of 9.69

Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the 100 meter final at the Beijing Games in a blazing 9.69, with Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago snagging the silver and Dix of the USA nabbing the bronze. Yahoo story.

Olympics: Tyson Gay Out of 100 Finals

Although seemingly healthy following a hamstring strain sustained at the Olympic Trials, Tyson Gay failed to qualify for the finals of the 100 meters after finishing fifth in his semi race. The lost time spent nursing his injury kept him from his best it seems. The finals, though, should still be a good battle of the established Jamaicans and remaining two upstart Americans. Yahoo story.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Doping in Sport: Is it Time to Test the Tests?

Let's start by saying that we abhor doping in sport and that any athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs should be banned from competition for much longer than the standard two year suspension in place today. That said, we at Run Junkie have always wondered about the science behind, and validity of, doping control tests, which seem to be a combination of advanced technology and shoot-from-the-hip desperation to keep up with cheating athletes.

It's tragic to think that honest, clean, and hard-working athletes have their careers ruined by a false positive drug test, and there have been a number of well-reasoned scientific papers recently showing that this may be happening more often than most people understand (previous post). The latest and biggest bombshell to drop, however, was in a commentary by Dr. Michael Barry in the venerable journal Nature called, The Science of Doping. In the commentary, Barry calls into question the validity of the whole anti-doping system, which he argues is based on untested science and lacks necessary standards for the collection, storage, and security of blood and urine samples.

Barry has raised the ire of the World Anti-Doping Agency and other related agencies, but at a time when many sports are on the brink because of doping, it seems to make sense to try to get things right.

Listen to Barry talk about his paper on today's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

RJ Review: Asics Gel-Trail Sensor WR

Review of the new Gel-Trail Sensor 3

If you run big big miles on steep and technical backcountry trails, it'd be hard to go wrong with the Asics Gel-Trail Sensor WR (retail $109.99). Though it's a bit beefier than some might like, and it certainly won't win any fashion awards, you'll likely be singing its praises at hour three on your five hour run when the shoe's solid stance and mid foot rock protection keep you feeling nimble on even the craggiest of trails. One drawback of the Sensors, aside from the slight heft and homely look, is the water-resistant uppers (hence, the WR). As with most water-resistant trail shoes, the thing they seem to do most effectively is make your feet hot. Any repelling of water, and we've yet to actually experience any in any WR shoe, seems to be well outweighed by the sweat build-up inside the shoe. And forget full fledged immersions at stream or river crossings, where the WR fabric seems to slow up the drain and dry on the other side.

Overall, though, the Gel-Trail Sensor WR performs so well on hard trails at big miles we're willing to forgive its few peccadilloes - even if it means putting up with warm feet, a few extra grams, and sneers from the fashionistas.

More shoe reviews on Run Junkie (shoe reviews).

Summer Olympics: Radcliffe Set to Run Marathon

After endless hours of rehab and miles and miles of pool running, marathon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, is set to toe the line at the Olympic marathon ( story). Not many weeks ago the diagnosis of a painful and serious stress fracture in her femur put her trip to Beijing in serious doubt (previous post). But the British Olympic federation never lost faith in her, and she seems set to try to wipe away the disappointment of the Athens games with a standout marathon in Beijing. Whether she’s primed for such a performance after losing all that time on the road should be apparent fairly early in the hazy, hot, and humid conditions.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Steep "Incline" to Beijing

It's old school, and it hurts, leaving world-caliber athletes grovelling at its unrelenting grade. It's the short, steep climb near the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs called the Incline. Olympic athletes from skaters to wrestlers to triathletes tackle the one mile, 2,000 foot climb to test their fitness and mental mettle, with some coming away with failing grades.

Of those who excel on the steep pitch, triathlete Mark Fretta holds the unofficial record of 16:42. Many others fair less well, blowing up before the top and getting passed by those many decades their senior.