Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trail Gear Testing – Zion Style

This past weekend I traveled to Zion National Park for some warmer weather AND some trail gear testing. You see, I’ve got a couple of big runs coming up including a 4X Grand Canyon crossing, the Millwood 100 and the 200 mile Tor des Geants – so I was feeling a compulsion to test some new gear.

On day one I ran from Lee Pass to Wildcat Canyon. Things to test on this run… First, with the sun shining and the temperatures in the low 70’s – could my paisley winter skin handle three hours of sun?? I’m most pleased to report that the mild sunburn feels GREAT! A passing grade on that test. Second, I’ve had trouble finding a good set of headphones. I’ve tried almost every kind of ear bud with no success. They seem to always be falling out; whether from pounding descents, the cords getting snagged by vegetation, or they simply seem to slide out of my ears when I’m sweating heavily. Last week I purchased a pair similar to what I’ve seen Jared Campbell and Karl Meltzer use – a behind the head pair of “neck phones.” If figured if they work for these guys, then they should work for me. I’m pleased to report that they performed smashingly! They stayed in place. They were comfortable. And, I didn’t have to mess with them while I was running to keep them in place. Thanks guys!

And lastly, I recently purchased a new iPod Nano 6th generation thinking the small size would be perfect for running. To say using it was frustrating would be kind. I do not find the controls intuitive. Without glasses I can’t see the icons. And, the battery life is less than my old iPod Nano 5th generation. I’ll give it another try or two before crying “uncle” and going back to the 5th generation.

Day two brought out the Hokas and the Black Diamond Ultra Distance poles. Because of all the snow in Salt Lake, I’ve mostly been running low and haven’t had much vertical. I was excited to run up to Observation Point, a 2100’ climb in less than 4 miles and test the poles on the ascent, and see if the Hokas were as great as people have been saying for the descent.

Poles have been strongly recommended for the Tor des Geants with its more than 76,000 vertical. I purchased a pair several months ago on the advice of Jared Campbell and have used them on several runs with flailing results. I’ve had a hard time getting into a rhythm with them. I find they caught in vegetation. And, I have a hard time daydreaming when I need to think about what to do with my arms. Ughh!! But on this climb I got into the groove and the poles felt a part of me. I felt I had a bit more power. I found the poles were rhythmic and helped with my turnover and pace. And most important, I reached Observation Point from the trailhead in less than 45 minutes. Probably the fastest I have ever reached the top. There may be something to these poles!! At just 4.5oz each, these super light collapsible poles are pretty cool. They can easily be extended or collapsed on the go (extending them is almost more fun than I should be allowed to have) and they are surprisingly rigid. Only problem, I don’t know what to do with them when I am not using them. It looks like I will need to purchase a hydration pack with tie-downs for poles.

As for the Hokas… I have to admit that I have disparaged them on multiple occasions. They look stupid! The hype is annoying! And it is JUST WRONG to pay $160 for a pair of shoes. For this test, Peter had loaned me his pair saying, “you just need to try them.” And frankly, I was curious as to what they are like. Well, they were pretty amazing on the downhill. I was able to open it up full throttle and not feel like I was beating the sh*t out of my feet. Now I’m conflicted. I won’t pay that much for shoes. I refuse to look like a clown. But, I can see a role for these shoes in the quiver.

For day three, no testing was allowed. Just my favorite La Sportiva Crosslites, a hand held water bottle, a soft cotton Armani shirt and me on a 14 mile run. No distractions. No hindrances. No thinking. Just good times trail running in Zion…


Mike said...

What type of headphones did you buy? I have about a dozen pair and none of them work well.

Jay said...

They are just a cheap pair of Sony headphones ($14 - I think). They say MDR-G45 on them. They're the right price point for sitting on them, leaving them somewhere, or grossing them out with sweat...