Archives

All posts for the month February, 2012

I had a work function in Las Vegas last week. Now – I have  a serious dislike for places like Vegas but I figure a positive mental attitude is an essential feature of an ultra-runner. To test this resolve, I planned on getting some serious dirt trail training in. It’s been months since I’ve run on anything but snow so I packed some warm weather clothes, summer shoes and a headlamp.

I arrived late Sunday afternoon and I headed out to the closest spot I could find with trails and hills – Red Rock Canyon. I arrived about an hour before dark, ran the Calico Tanks, up on top of Turtlehead Peak and on my way around the mountain on the  White Rock Trail it got full dark. So I headlamped it around the backside and followed the lights of the city across the open desert, sans trail, for a couple hours.

Intrigued by this spot, I was back in Red Rock Canyon at 3 am on Monday. Since the park was closed, I parked on the highway and I headed up the east side of the Red Rocks. I followed a wash into a canyon and followed it like I was caving. It is spectacular to run these canyons with just a headlamp switching up between boulder jumping, running on sand or on solid smooth rock. I went up and up until I reckoned I was on the east side of Turtlehead Peak. It started to get light just as I hit the summit. This was followed up by some very fast downhilling on the main trail and back out to the highway. I made it to the conference by 8 am.

I pretty much repeated this procedure the rest of the week except to take a different route each time. Why not? It was close and I hadn’t run much of the same trail twice. Most mornings, I think folks were perplexed to see someone heading back down the trails at sunrise in the opposite direction they were going.

On Saturday, I got to run in the full light again. A nice wide loop around the whole place. I had run six days in Red Rock, barely on any of the same trail twice but I was running out of room.

For something different on Sunday I made the trip out to the Valley of Fire. I was a little dismayed at the short lengths of trails listed on the map and in the interpretive center. To compensate, I parked and just headed due south across the desert. I followed the shaped terrain , following the winding washes towards the mountains. After about an hour, I set my sights on a big set of red rocks. As I was heading up to them, I spooked about 30 Bighorn Sheep. I got to the rocks and did a semi-rock climb up between them in large, smooth crack. Once on top, I cut back to the highway by way of a steep ridge.

I crossed the highway and I headed directly up into the gnarly ground. The top is totally non-trail but the traction is amazing. It’s either huge stable boulders or solid sandstone bedrock so one can run up and down anything. I played and played following mazes of ridges, getting cutoff a large drops then back down and back up to try and find another way. About an hour or so later, I made my way back into a canyon and came out into a large, wide sandy wash and then back to the car. What a different and diverse running experiment. I’d love to play on that kind of terrain regularly.

Here’s a couple of videos of what Valley of Fire is like. There taken from my iphone so pardon the rough footage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3XecKLwfc4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHh5Hm-QM14

And 30 hours later, back on snow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgO0kgRwN_k

So I was booting it through a meadow in the mountains the other night just before dark. About 400 yards away, I spotted a pack of wolves howling in the  trees. I managed to get the iphone video going. Although I didn’t get any shots of the wolves, I did get some audio of them howling. If you listen to the video with sound on loud you’ll hear it. I tried getting closer to get a video shot but they scattered pretty quickly as I think they heard me when I cut off into the deeper snow.

http://youtu.be/aP4kyR_hINwThe Howling

This year, I had plans to keep as many miles on the trail as possible through the winter. The last couple of cold, snowy winters have forced me to the road for more runs than I would have liked. As part of the plan, the search was on for some adequate winter trail footwear. The criteria:

  • Solid ice traction
  •  Luggy enough to handle groomed or packed trail.
  • An all temperature shoe. Able to handle the cold but shed the moisture when near or above melting without filling to the brim with water.
  • Reliable and durable.
  • Well fitting for multi-hour trips.
  • Something that would keep the snow out of the top as much as possible

I did exclude the ability to into  running  style snowshoes as I figured the combo of screws, lugs and snowshoe were too much to ask. After much searching, I settle on three candidates worth  field trials.

1. Salomon SpeedCross 3 spiked up with La Sportiva Hobnails

2. Salomon SpikeCross 3 with integrated screws

3. La Sportiva Crossover spike up with La Sportiva Hobnails

It’s mid February and I have about 500 kilometers on each setup. Running this winter has turned out great. With each of the shoes I have run a variety of packed trail, unpacked trail, groomed trail,  single track snowshoe packed trail, ice and snow on the street.

Which is the best?  Well, I’ll review each shoe and you can decide. Shoe’s fit differently for everyone. As a point of comparison, I generally fit well in for width in the toebox in something like a Montrail Mountain Masochist or a Brooks Cascadia 5/6.

1. Salomon SpeedCross 3 with La Sportiva Hobnails

Why the Hobnails? Well – the SpikeCross 3 and SpeedCross 3 are identical shoes except that the SpikeCross has an integrated screw. I preferred custom spiking the SpeedCross for a couple of reasons. First, La Sportiva Hobnails are removable so I could turn the shoes back into an all season unit. Second, the La Sportiva Hobnails are a better spike. They are adjustable for depth and they provide more traction.  To spike, I followed the exact same pattern as the SpikeCross. Lastly, I can buy the Hobnails for less money than the difference in price between the SpikeCross and Speedcross and I end up with spikes I can put in any shoe.

Pro’s– A nice warm shoe. Reliable and long wearing. The 10 mm heel drop is nice for winter running on ice. Ice is hard and I find I like the extra cushioning. The spike layout  is great and the lugs are absolutely spectacular. The advanced lacing system is nice for cold weather – no fumbling tying laces. The traction of this shoe is pretty much unparalleled.

The Con’s – Narrow. I up sized almost two sizes to get something that wouldn’t rub the smaller toes. This resulted in a bit bulkier shoe. I did like the shoe’s traction capabilities so much that I still wore them when a smaller toenail or two came off on longer runs. It’s also got a  a heel that is a bit blockier than I prefer.   This is great in snow but it throws your foot around a bit on ice.

Overall – An excellent winter shoe. Definitely the go to unit in 2011/12. I would avoid this shoe in longer races but wear it anytime under 30-40 km.

2. Salomon SpikeCross 3

Really the same as the SpeedCross but with Hobnails.

3. La Sportiva Crossovers

 

First off, I will mention that I am a La Sportiva fan. The Fireblades are a staple summer shoe. The La Sportiva Crossovers are essentially the La Sportiva Crosslites with a short integrated gaiter.

The Pros:

The integrated gaiter is ideal for winter conditions and although I haven’t tried them in the sunmer, I’d guess they would be great at keeping mud and dust out also .  The lugs and layout are ideal for packed snow and they are very easy to spike with Hobnails. I was sold on the Crossovers in the first couple runs. I really like the width and feel of the toebox. I’d suspect these will be very long wearing.

The Con’s

It pains me to say it as I absolutely love  the Crossovers and I really got into them except for a major showstopper that did not show up until I had about 75 km’s on them. Like most shoes, the flexpoint in the toe of the shoe started in the regular spot near where the toes naturally flex. However, it quickly changed by moving forward on the rubber guarding on top of the toes.  It  inverts the rubber at a point  and flexes down right into my toes below. It’s very strange and it only happens on one shoe but it is a nail loser. And quickly.

Overall 

Without this strange flex thing in the one shoe, the Crossovers would be my all time favorite winter shoe. I tried like hell to fix them by breaking in the proper flexpoint using a variety of techniques – flexing them during the evening in the right spot over and over and taping them bent in the right spot. I do not know if I just have a bad pair or what but they are unusable.