Monday, December 24, 2012

RJ Review: GoLite Kenai Pertex 2.5-Layer Hardshell Jacket

Great at low speed.  So so at high speed

The last time I reviewed a running jacket was way back in 2008, when I both lauded the Patagonia Houdini and also lamented that there seems to be no such thing as a perfect running jacket - one that's at once lightweight, waterproof, and breathable.  Today, in time to be of no help for holiday shopping, is a follow-up review of sorts, this time of GoLite's Kenai Pertex 2.5-Layer Hardshell jacket (MSRP $200, but can be found for less).

Though the Patagonia Houdini remains my go-to jacket - from summer afternoon mountain thunderstorms to pre-dawn zero degree road runs - it falls down on one major area: water repellency.  In a deluge, it can quickly soak through, soaking your clothes underneath.  Most times this isn't a huge issue since the Houdini is so light that after the rain stops, it and the clothes underneath air dry fairly quickly.

Yet, in a sustained downpour its lack of true waterproofness can become an issue - something I was spurred to think about while crewing at the 2011 Coyote Two Moon 100, where epic and sustained spring rains and snow cancelled the event.

Over a year later, I've finally been able to put a fully waterproof jacket - the GoLite Kenai - through the paces in a wide range of conditions.

Out of the box
The Kenai is a beautiful, well constructed relatively light jacket with an adjustable hood and long pit zips with two-way zippers.  All seams are taped, and it has three good-sized waterproof pockets. The sleeves have top-side extended gauntlets and velcro wrist adjusts.

On the trail
The Kenai was put through the paces in some classic mountain venues, including the scramble to the top of Leatherman Peak (elev 12,228 ft; second tallest in Idaho), the trip around the Northern Loop in Rainier NP; and general Sun Valley trail running.

At 10 ounces, the Kenai is pretty standard in its class.  It's not a flyweight but feels nimble, and the extra weight can provide some extra warmth on chilly opening miles.

In rain or snow, the Kenai shines best.  It provides full protection against the elements, no matter how long you're out on the trail.  The long gauntlets keep hands and gloves a bit drier than they normally would be otherwise.  The hood stays well in place with some adjustments.

Where the Kenai falls short is ventilation.  The large pit zips do a good job venting heat and perspiration at low intensity, say a long hike or slow chilly ultra.  But turn up the speed and intensity, and your clothes under the shell will soon be nearly as wet as they would be without the shell - and without any chance of drying out as long as you keep the shell on.  On one cold and snowy run, the Kenai shed water and snow like a newly waxed car; on the inside, though, my clothes were soaked with sweat and the inside layer of the jacket was coated with ice.  As I turned it inside out in the car after my run, flakes of ice spread like snow.

This, of course, is an issue with most (all?) waterproof running jackets.  The energy expended during running just overwhelms the venting ability at any pace over a slow jog, even in cold weather.  At slow speed, though, they provide adequate venting, great protection, and good warmth.

Exactly where the Kenai might fit in a runner's clothing repertoire will be a matter of personal choice and event choice.

The bottom line:  The GoLite Kenai Pertex 2.5-Layer Hardshell is a great jacket, with some issues.  It is well built and comfortable with solid barrier protection but poor ventilation at higher intensity.

More RJ Reviews

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It Happened in Sun Valley: 2012 Autumn Running in Pictures

Yes.  The summer high season is the touchstone of trail running.  All daylight and warmth and bare trail and tan skin.  Really, it's a lot like attending a great music festival.  Killer act after killer act crammed into a finite amount of time.  In the moment, there's no other place you'd want to be, but when it's all over and you've finally washed your clothes, gotten some sleep, and taken a shower, you realize it's also pretty nice to put on some comfortable clothes and listen to a little Chopin.   That's what Autumn running is to me.  After the marrow-sucking frenzy of summer, the mellow savoring of Autumn.

And the Autumn running this year in Sun Valley was unparalleled.  Enough snow to feel the change.  Enough sun to stay warm.  And a fantastic group of friends to enjoy it with.

Adams Gulch Big Loop

Greenhorn Gulch

Fox Creek

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waypoint to the Devils Bedstead: Lake 9860

My wife and I made an assault on Devils Bedstead this past weekend.  It's an Eastern Pioneers class 3 (very long class 3) scramble to just under 12,000 feet.  Given the tough conditions up and down, I didn't get any photos of the climb proper, but the lake at elevation 9860 was a perfect waypoint on the way up and back.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Going (1K) Vertical: 2012 Baldy Hill Climb Photos

For a variety of reasons, I chose not to do the Baldy Hill Climb this year.  The annual sufferfest in Sun Valley that involves climbing 3300 feet over 1.9 miles went on without me, though, and I grabbed my camera and took some photos to chronicle the affair.  The top of the podium played out as it often does, with a past, present, or future Olympian (in any range of disciplines) barely beating out other past, present, or future Olympians -- leaving the mortals gasping for breath and wondering "why?."  

It is, nevertheless, a grand, all-comers affair and a great, if painful, community event.  Here are a handful of pics.  For the full set, visit the galleries:  Run Event;  Hike Event.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Run Junkie in October Issue of "Trail Runner"

The October issue of "Trail Runner" magazine proved a rare triple play for Run Junkie.  I got a chance to review (and get quoted on) Scott's Ice Runner shoe; I was lucky enough to answer some interview questions about Sun Valley from Meghan Hicks for her piece on the "8 Best Trail Towns;" and they ran two of my photos of two of my favorite local-area runs: one of Pioneer Cabin ("The higher you get, the higher you get"); the other of the Adams Gulch/Lake Creek area.

The one big question from the issue: why was I the only shoe reviewer with an age tagged to his name?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tempus Fugit: Of running, mountain biking, and photography

Yep.  Another strange summer coming to an end.  I was hit by two not-so-serious but extended injuries early in the season, the second one coming a couple weeks after the Sun Valley Half Marathon in June.  Given my previous truncated seasons and that I really felt I was gaining some good fitness for a great summer made the second injury that much harder to take and sent me into the arms of mountain biking and photography.  I couldn't let another season slip by and, frankly, I'd grown weary of the day to day running aches and pains and worries about what they mean.  It was draining both mentally and physically.

So reluctantly, I threw myself into mountain biking, which in itself showed my level of frustration with running given how technically incompetent  I am on the bike.  I did my first race, then another three days later (a Nationals qualifier), then Nationals (in Sun Valley) four days after that.  Middling performances all (despite what it may read like), but it was great to get a number and race hard - and even more, it was great to be able to go full throttle and long without any of the pains that so regularly plagued me from running the past three years.  It was a piquant revelation: realizing just how abrasive the sport I love has been to me.

As the summer went on, I gained some bike fitness and a modicum of skill and came to actually enjoy riding (when I wasn't throwing myself into sharp rocks).  This last weekend, I finished the season riding Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals in Bend, OR (54 miles, 6,000ft vert).  Another middling performance, but I finished strong and in one piece and for the first time in a year felt that endurance buzz I love.

With that race behind me, I'm dipping my toes back into running, after getting out only once a week for most of the summer - just enough to stave off soreness but not to do anything else, really.  It's been a great homecoming.  Running is what I'm truly passionate about, and what I'm best at, and I'm curious to see where it'll settle in my athletic life.  I assume I'll probably need to split running and mountain biking - a compromise to be sure but if it allows running long and running wild to remain in my life, it's one I'm more than happy to make, and one I realize I'm lucky to have the option to make.

Beyond the trail, much of the unused energy from my little running/no-ultras season fed my photography.  Run Junkie has always featured photos, but after taking a workshop this past January and February, photography grabbed my attention in a way it never had before.  Really, it changed how I view art and life.  All this is to say, the hours I wasn't able to spend running on the trail have been more than transferred to thinking about photography and taking photos.  I'm still developing, of course, but as with mountain biking, I'm taking the immersive approach, hoping some basic skills can come around sooner rather than later.

With Run Junkie on a de facto (if unstated) hiatus over the summer, I thought I'd post some photos that show just what I've been doing these past months.

I'm happy to be back on the blog.  Happy to be back running.  Cheers.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Readymade for the Trail

It's no secret that Carbonate Mountain plays a huge role in early spring training for Sun Valley-area trail runners.  In case there were any question of its storied place in our hearts and running schedules, I wrote a paean to it a couple years back on these very (digital) pages (link).

A better kept secret is my love for the old, and now empty, water reservoir that rests just above the Carbonate trailhead.  Though I've yet to verify its full history, it's believed the reservoir held the town's water supply during its boomtown mining days.  These days, it's the receptacle for semi-sanctioned street art, and I love how its broad reach of colors punctuates the sage covered hills stitched with dusty trail.

It made a brief appearance in a photo on Run Junkie about a year ago, and Stacy of the Wilderness Running Company, commented that it reminded him of Wallace Stevens' poem: "Anecdote of the Jar."  A couple lines:
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
It's certainly an apt and sage allusion, but Stevens' vision seems a bit too fatalistic to relate fully to the old reservoir, at least how I experience it. For me, the structure brings more to mind Duchamp's "readymades" - the urinal turned upside down and labeled "fountain;" the bicycle fork and wheel attached to the top of a stool; an every day item found, tweaked through purpose into something else, and in that transformation, art and commentary.

The graffitied reservoir does much this same thing, maybe without the grand vision of Duchamp but surely with similar result.  So stark is its contrast with its surroundings, both immediate and valley-wide, that one is forced to question what it is one is seeing, and in that, develop a narrative for the past, present, and future. That is certainly one definition of art.

And however artlessly I'm running the Carbonate trail - no matter how tired, how cold, or how wet - I always take a solid glance at the reservoir as the switchback grazes its western edge.  Both of us out of place but both transformed by that very place we are.

2012 Titus van Rijn 1-Hour Distance Classic - Sun Valley

There are but a few key spring waypoints on the route to the trail racing high season, and one of them for Sun Valley-area runners is the 60 minute time test on the track that is the Titus van Rijn 1-Hour Distance Classic.  With no where to hide from wind, clock, or peers, it provides an unvarnished picture of just where one's mental and physical fitness lies ahead of summer's plans.

So, under unstable skies, eleven brave runners toed the line, with events playing out pretty much true to form of previous years.  Despite taking the group around the first lap at 4:30 pace, Brad Mitchell - on a stripped down three run per week training schedule - settled in and took the overall with an impressive 15,700 meters (9.76 miles).  Liv Jensen - new to the 40 and over age group - took the women's overall title with 12,580 meters (7.82 miles).  Full results and photos below.

Good will and black cherry soda were, as always, abundant at the after party.   The only thing missing - prodigal son AJW and his split side fish shorts.

Except for post-run images, all photos by Anne J.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Back on Track

I haven't written much on Run Junkie lately.  My running life during late winter and early spring - and the various observations it spawns - have seemed best suited for my twitter feed (@run_junkie), as may this post. But, with the cresting of April, came the beginning of the new track season for many of us runners in the Wood River Valley.  Every Thursday we meet spring to mid fall and endure a special kind of convivial torture designed by stalwart, and very fast, coach Brad Mitchell. Thursday's inaugural session of 2012 gave us a chance to shake out the cob webs and see just how much work we have to do ahead of those early summer races.

Sitting around stretching in the sun afterward, it was hard not to be excited for the coming season - no matter how many 1200s with 60 seconds rest we have coming down the pike.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Science Wire: New Data on the Benefits of Ice Baths

The well-regarded and prolific Chochrane Library has just published a scientific review on the potential benefits and risks of post-run ice baths (paper).  Collecting data from 17 small studies, the authors concluded that ice baths can help alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness compared to just resting.  This is no surprise to those many runners who routinely put themselves through the - shall we say, invigorating? - process.

Typical of Chochrane their report if full of caveats.  The studies were small and of low quality and could did not provide enough data to compare ice-baths' benefits to those of other post-run "treatments," say light jogging.  Concerns about the risks from ice-baths, largely due to their shocking nature, were also discussed, but little or no data were gathered about these risks, so no conclusions could be drawn.

So, it seems, if you're an ice bather, you have some new data that may help you stay in there just a little bit longer.


Paper: Cold-water immersion for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise

MPD: Related podcast

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mountain Life: Crampons and Valentine's

You know you live in a mountain town when you buy your wife a pair of Kahtoola KTS crampons for Valentine's Day and they are instantly proclaimed on Facebook (in all apparent honesty) to be:  "my new favorite thing!"That they're anodized cherry red couldn't have hurt.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Poetry from Motion

I'm not sure why, but I've been thinking a lot about this article I wrote a couple years ago for ultraRUNNING on the connection between poetry and ultra.  It being the winter slow season, I thought I'd dust it off and reprint it here.   

It'd finally taken complete hold of me, and I had to surrender. My slow-man shuffle pattered on a few more strides, fell to an amble, then reluctantly to a complete stop. The new quiet - no more wind, no more tchonk tchonk of shoes upon gravel - brought into deep relief just how hard I'd been breathing to hold a snail's pace.  I stood there looking over the rolling hills and jagged peaks, feeling the still, warm air envelope my skin, and knowing all too well the time had come.  Running on fumes for miles, my stomach had finally had it.  I looked up and down the path to see if anyone was coming, bent over and with hands on knees, and threw up a few times; then, like legions of ultrarunners before me, sipped a little water, smiled at the scene, and started the halting shuffle to the next aid station.  My final thought:  I need to write a poem about this.  

I've yet to write that poem, but it's certainly not because it's an unworthy image.  While bonked and barfing isn't a state most folks would call poetic, in many ways it's the poetic moment:  being stripped to the core, resisting what it is we need most (calories and fluids) and with miles to go before we rest.  It's the human condition laid bare.

And this is one of the things I love most about the long life in the backcountry. It is rich with such moments:  some are beautiful, some are ugly, some are just plain base.  But what unifies them all for me is their offering the opportunity to better see the universe and our place in it if we just take the time to reflect a bit.  If poetry is experience distilled to a point of transcendence, then ultrarunning is surely poetry personified. 

I've written countless poems on my long backcountry runs - first lines anyway - most of which, without pen or paper or digital recorder, are siphoned from my mind and lost back to the ethers, ready to be captured and formed by the runners that come after me.

Still, I've managed to secure a few moments in words - the melancholy I feel running by abandoned mining sites; being surrounded by yellow butterflies as I traverse a ridge; crossing the stark shadow line as the trail snakes up a steep valley in the early morning.

It's always hard to do justice to the experience on the trail -- to perfectly convey that feeling, that thought, that vision you had barreling down that 3,000 foot descent at mile 83.  It never really comes out exactly how you'd hoped.  But perfection really isn't the goal.  It's understanding.  The same reason we all run ultras:  To connect to ourselves to nature and to others; to have transcendent experiences.  Poetry captures that and can actually do it one better, by sharing it with the world.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

RJ Review: One Good Earbud

Like a lot runners who sometimes take iPods out on their long runs, I like to keep one of my ears bud-free so I can keep some semblance of alertness to my surroundings.  The problem with this is that some music - and even podcasts - are recorded in stereo, some heavily so.

This led to one of the more vivid memories I have of the 2009 Big Horn 100.  Coming out of the Footbridge aid station just before dawn, I began the steep and sloppy grunt up to Bear Camp - around mile 68.  And what made it so memorable wasn't the shoe-sucking mud, the hands-on-knees steepness, or the breaking dawn of my first 100 - it was the stereo-recorded Beatles' Back in the USSR playing irritatingly without any vocals in the one ear bud I had in my left ear.

Since then, I've kept an eye out for a way to shunt two stereo channels into one bud. Surprisingly, there's no "mono" setting on iPod audio output (at least not on my old school Nano), but I came across a more mechanical fix when I read an article on One Good Earbud.

One Good Earbud is a single, one-ear bud that mixes the stereo output into one channel.  They cost about $20, and the sound quality is as good as any other at that price point.  Like a lot of ear buds these days, they suffer from a bit of cord noise when it rubs or knocks against things, but it's no worse than any others.  The real bonus - apart from the stereo-to-mono conversion - is the simplicity of the single cord. No more trying to find a secure, un-irritating place for that unused ear bud.

No.  One Good Earbud won't likely be an indispensable part of your ultra gear, but in my book they're a nice addition, and the next time I find myself with waning energy in the last third of a 100 miler, I'll have to focus on an irritant other than than poorly mixed music.