Runs With Poles

I’ve never run with trekking poles, in fact, I don’t even usually hike with them. I have been in races where others are running with them and I often find myself dodging the flailing pointy sticks as they swing erratically behind the person carrying them. My upcoming 100k, however, is going to be run at an elevation that may have snow and will certainly have some slippery trails and steep climbs, and the race director highly recommended using them.

A few years ago I was hiking at Half Dome and I had left my hand carved walking stick at home so I picked up a telescoping trekking pole at the basecamp supply. The base camp store will have exactly what you need at a price you’d rather not pay, but you will because you can’t go anywhere else. Anyway, I used it on the trail that day and I learned a few things. I’ve also watched and talked to those who use them regularly and discovered what they are good for and what they are not good for.

A few years later I thought I might use them for my second attempt at Euchre Bar Massacre. I had seen Starchy Grant use them there and he never had any of the problems that seem so common with people using them on runs I had seen. I picked up the second pole and decided it should match what I had. I got the Pinnacle by Mountainsmith.They sell for just under $20 each on their website and a little less at Amazon with free shipping, if you have Prime. I ended up not running Euchre Bar that year (or the next), so the poles have been sitting in my garage.

When the Loco race director recommended using them I decided I should try them out a little more before then. I took them out on my last 50k race. The race consisted of 3 loops through the start/finish area, so I knew I could drop them off if they bothered me. I ended up running the entire course with them and figured out a few things that I thought I would pass along.

Find a pole that is light and strong and collapsable. There are two types. Foldable poles fit together like a tent pole and have a thin bungee cord running through them. I avoided these because I have seen the cord break and then the pole is useless. Telescoping poles extend and twist to lock. I have a tendency to over tighten these and I had to get used to the amount of tension needed to lock them in place without getting them stuck, making them difficult to collapse. Fortunately, I had worked that out on my Yosemite hike and can now quickly collapse or extend them as needed. These are light and can be attached to a hydration pack or carried at full length without any problem.

Get the pole the correct height for you and for the terrain. In general, the pole handle should be held with your elbows at 90 degrees on flat ground. You might like them a little shorter for steeper terrain. The Pinnacle has 3 sections. Extend the bottom to where it has the “stop” indicator and extend the middle section to the desired height. It has a measurement scale, so you can note your perfect height when you get it right and don’t have to test it every time.

If you’re going to be using them repeatedly throughout the run it is easier to learn to carry them extended than to collapse them and extend them repeatedly. Avoid holding the handles and having the tips stick out behind you and interfere with other runners. Find the balance point on the poles and hold them comfortably as you run. Gripping them tightly will lead to muscle fatigue in your hands and arms. They will rest easily in your hand. If I’m in a group, I reposition my hands slightly so the handles are slightly up and the points point down behind me. With a little practice, switching back and forth from the running to the trekking position became effortless. If you’re going to run for some distance without them it is worth collapsing and strapping to your pack.

I used to snow ski quite a bit and I learned that the poles are an extension of your arms, reaching out with the pole to form a slalom point and ski around it. Trekking is similar. The pole only goes slightly in front of you and plant firmly, but don’t dig in, and move smoothly from right to left in a natural walking rhythm. It’s probably best to not over think it and just let it happen. Your feet and hands (and poles) will sync up to your natural pattern. Try to stay upright. Shorten the poles a bit if the terrain is really steep and the poles force your arms to swing too high.

Besides the (seemingly not so) obvious problem of assaulting runners around you, there are also two other things to avoid. First, while a little pushing is fine, the poles will not hold up to using them “two-fisted” to propel you up a hill, and neither will your arms. I found myself slipping into this from time to time and had to think about it to avoid it. Poles provide balance and stability, they do not provide upward propulsion. Similarly, but different, poles are not designed to support your entire weight. These are rated for about 90 lbs. I saw a friend of mine using his coming down a hill and put his entire weight on it coming around a sharp turn in the trail. The pole snapped and he went face-first down the trail. It was not pretty and damaged his ego more than his face, but not by much.

Here’s a video put out by Mountainsmith that you might find helpful if you are a beginner or considering using poles.

Truth be told, I’m pretty new at this, but I feel pretty confident after running 50k with them. I will likely leave them (and drop them) at a drop bag location for the part of the race I will need them and be free to run the rest unincombered. If any of you experts out there want to add or correct anything, please feel free to comment. Preferably before June 3rd.

Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP2 – Product Review

Earlier this year I ordered an Orange Mud Hydraquiver VP2 through Amazon. It arrived in a couple of days, thanks to my Prime account and I eagerly threw it on and went for a run. Now that I have put several hundred miles on it and answered many questions from other runners about it, I thought I would finally put together a review with a few thoughts.

There are several options, but I Orange Mud HQ VP2selected the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 (VP2) which has a large pocket on each side in the front, a smaller pocket on each shoulder that closes with velcro, two 20oz bottles, and a bungee strap in between. MARP is $149.95. I also added the Modular Bag, which is held in place by a velcro strap and the bungee chord between the bottles ($22.95).

With numerous water carrying systems in and around my house, why buy another one?

I don’t like belts at all. They slide down and they bounce too much while I run. I have yet to find one that the bottles don’t fall out. I don’t mind a handheld (or two) for a short run, but I prefer to have my hands free. For longer runs, I had been using a 100oz bladder in a Camelback vest, or in a Mountain Hardwear Fluid 12, if I only fill the bladder part way. The problem with the bladder is that it’s difficult to clean thoroughly and not convenient to refill during a race without getting water all over everything else that might be in my pack. In other words, I just haven’t found the perfect system for me, yet.

Orange Mudd - 1The Orange Mud vest since high on the shoulders, making it move with me rather than bouncing independently.  When I first started using it, I could feel the bottles shifting up and down in the quivers and it made it seem like they might fall out, but they never have. The small pockets on the shoulders hold 2 gu packs each and are easily accessible while running. The larger pockets close with a bungee chord and a sliding lock to keep everything in place. These are large enough to hold a phone (even an iPhone 6 with a case), snacks, arm bands, etc. They could be used to hold additional 20oz water bottles if that is what you prefer. The addition of the Modular Bag gives me a clip for my key and enough room to hold a small amount of additional gear. The velcro strap holds the bag securely so the bungee chord can be used to hold a rain jacket. This was particularly handy when I got caught in a sudden downpour last winter. I could reach the jacket quickly and put it on without removing the vest or dropping anything in the mud.

There are adjusting straps in the front and in theOrange Mudd - 4 rear to customize the fit. By adjusting the rear straps first, and then tightening the front as needed, the vest can fit virtually anybody and feels light and comfortable.

People often ask me if I can easily access my bottles where they are. The designers obviously studied some ergonomics when they designed this. The reach to grab, or replace, the bottles is natural and easy.

Orange Mudd - 5

 

On race day 40 oz of water (or 20 water and 20 electrolytes) is enough to get me from aid station to aid station. You could carry two additional bottles for longer runs, if you don’t need to carry anything in the front pockets. The bottles are much easier to refill quickly and much easier to clean when I get home. With the Orange Mud, I get the best of bottles combined with the advantages of a pack.

Truth be told, I still use a handheld for short runs, I still use my hydration pack with the bladder for longer, unsupported runs, but for races or runs where 40 oz is enough, I love my Orange Mud.

Check out their line of products at orangemud.com.

Brooks Pure Grit 3 Review

In case you missed it, here is my review of the Brooks Pure Grit 3, as it appeared at Ultrarunnerpodcast.com

Summary: The Pure Grit 3, from Brooks, is a solid all around trail shoe with effective traction and protection. It is light enough to race in and durable enough for training.

Pros:

  • true sizing
  • light weight
  • solid construction
  • responsive
  • great traction

Cons:

  • ineffective sock liner
  • tongue slides to the side
  • not a true minimal shoe

First Impressions: I’ve been a fan of Brooks for several years and I have had good results running in both road and trail offerings. The Pure Grit 3 is light, but seems to be a solid trail shoe with fairly aggressive tread. Brooks effectively created an aggressive appearance with the Pure Grit 3. The red and blue with the bright yellow sole just looks fast, in the same way we bought shoes as kids because we were sure they would make us run faster or jump higher.

I use an alternative lacing to accommodate my high instep and I noticed the Pure Grit 3 has that built in with a wide stretchy band over the instep while the laces skip that part. I like the fact that they used flat laces; they seem to cut into my foot less.

Let’s give these a try.

Build: Lacing them up for the first time, they fit like a lighter version of the Cascadia. Certainly not a minimalist shoe, there seems to be more cushion that what I expected for the weight, but closer to minimal than the Cascadia by a significant margin. The shoe feels light, but solid. Brooks sock liners are never enough, so I put my SuperFeet inserts in there. The padding on the collar and tongue add to the comfort and the sole wrapping up on the toe and the reinforced heel protect the foot and preserve the durability of the shoe.

Ride: I was able to run the shoe on many different surfaces; hard dirt, rocky trail, DG bike trail, up and down hills, etc. I made a point to not avoid rocks and the rock plate offered adequate protection, although I was starting to feel it after 5 miles of purposely looking for rocks to step on (I wouldn’t recommend that), but you certainly don’t have to make any effort to avoid rocky terrain. On every surface the responsiveness of the shoe was impressive. They provide stability on uneven single track, as well as comfort and responsiveness on various other surfaces.

The Switchback Challenge is a highly technical 6.6 mile tail course (7.4 if you miss a turn) that truly put the Pure Grit, and me, through its paces. This seems to be the shoe’s element and they were nimble and comfortable through the turns and over the rocks.

Another big variation from the Cascadia is the 4mm drop (as opposed to 12mm). This significantly increases the responsiveness of the shoe to the trail, while maintaining a fair amount of cushion in the forefoot for comfort. The band over the inseam did exactly what I had hoped and held the shoe firmly in place, while saving me from any painful lace impressions on that area of my foot.

Stats:

  • $120
  • 4 mm drop (19mm stack at heel)
  • 10.1 oz (size 9) Brooks lists it at 9.9 oz

Final Impressions: Brooks markets their Pure series of shoes as minimalist, but compared to other minimal shoes available, I found these to barely fit in that designation. However, if you are wanting a durable trail shoe that is a little closer to minimal and a little closer to 0-drop, without being either one, this might be the shoe you are looking for. I enjoyed running the trails in the PureGrit 3. I could feel the trail without the discomfort I find in more minimal shoes. It is just plain fun to run in these. The light weight made me feel like I could move as one with the trail and I’m pretty sure they do make me faster. I plan on putting a lot more miles on these.

Find out more at http://www.brooksrunning.com/

If you’re thinking about purchasing these shoes, visit your local running store. If you’d rather purchase online, please consider using this link as it’ll drop a few nickels into the Ultra Runner Podcast bucket. Thanks.