Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zoom! Pearl Izumi N1 Trail, and Flash Shorts Review

Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1

Hey all!  Hope you are having a great week!

Ok, this week, I'm returning with a review of some great gear from Pearl Izumi.  In the past I've reviewed their "Fly" running hat, as well as their Elite Thermal compression pants, and Select soft shell running gloves.  

I've found that products from Pearl Izumi have always been high quality, and high performing.  So, when I found out they had branched out with some near zero drop trail shoes, you know I had to check them out!

Pearl Izumi Men's "Flash" Shorts

And in addition to checking out the N1 Trail, I also logged a lot of miles in the Pearl Izumi "Flash" shorts as well.

So, stick around, and read my full review on both the N1 Trail shoes, as well as the Flash shorts.  And, thanks to the awesome folks at Pearl Izumi (and Outside PR), I'll be giving away a pair of each to one of you!

Ok... so first up are the Project E:Motion N1 Trail shoes.  As you know by now, I only run in minimalist footwear, and using my personal definition of minimalist shoes, I look for these features (in order of priority):

1. 0mm or near 0mm drop
2. a wide/comfortable toe box that allows my toes to be able to wriggle and spread
3. a low and flexible stack height to allow a natural foot strike, and proprioception or ground feel.

That being said, the Pearl Izumi N1's have a 1mm drop, and a decent toe box that is comfortable.  However, it is here that I will note that these are the thickest shoes I have run in since reviewing the Go-Lite Dart Lite trail shoe over two years ago.  With the in-sole included, the N1's sport a stack height of 23mm.  Ok, so while they aren't Hoka's, they are a bit more of a shoe than I am used to.

As for the construction of the shoe, I really like the seamless upper that keeps things nice and comfy inside, especially in the toe box area.  The toe box isn't super wide, but for my "average" feet, it was decent, but even roomier if you remove the insole.  The tread pattern is great for providing good traction, but without grabbing and holding onto lots of mud etc.   The N1's come in around 9.6 oz, which is fairly light considering how much shoe there is.  They feel very light and nimble on the feet.

As I noted above, the shoe has a really comfortable upper and tongue, and they lace up firmly.  In my first few runs in them, I felt like I could use a little more room for my toes, so I removed the insert (which comprises 3-4mm of the stack height), and this also provided a bit more ground feel and less cushion.

As of today I have logged just over 100 miles on the N1's.  I eventually put the insoles back in, as the upper loosened up a little bit, and I started wearing thinner socks as the weather got warmer.  Also, I have to note that the N1's were my "backup" shoe for both 50K's this summer, as well as my 50 miler.  I wanted a more cushioned shoe as backup, in case my feet really started to complain...  however, I ended up not needing them, but was glad to have them with me just in case. 

I like running in these, however there is a definite trade-off with the additional cushion in the stack height and composition of the shoe.  While the feel is cushy, and the shoes can absorb a lot of nasty sharp rocks and missteps on the trail, the feedback from the ground is obviously muted.  However, I didn't have any issues with tripping, or turning an ankle or anything like that.  The base while running is very stable.  Another draw back is that you can get lazy, and just plow over nasty terrain, that would normally require extra mindfulness in a more minimal shoe.  It is for that reason that I have these shoes as a back up for ultras, because at some point, that may be just what I need when my mind is gone!  

Anyway, the bottom line is, these are terrific trail shoes if you are ok with a taller stack height, or just need extra protection in lieu of proprioception.  

Men's Flash Short

Ok.. now on to the Flash shorts!  Now, before I get into a review of these shorts, I need to let you know that I do have a "favorite" pair of shorts, like I am sure most of you do.  What's funny is that the shorts I love (From FILA) are actually tennis shorts I think.  They have huge pockets and are kind of long, and they don't have a liner..   anyway, I of course need to have more than one pair of shorts so I don't have to schedule my runs around laundry, so here you go!

Women's Flash Short

In a nutshell, the Flash shorts from Pearl Izumi are built really well, and are really comfortable. What I like best about these shorts is the super comfy soft waistband, much like the waistband on a comfortable pair of underwear.  It's soft, doesn't pinch, and performs well.  As far as the highlights/specs on the shorts, here is the info from the website:


Transfer Dry fabric provides optimal moisture transfer and stretch with superior hand feel
• Plush elastic waistband sits flat on your waist for maximum comfort
• Zippered back pocket 
• Transfer Dry built in liner
• 5” inseam (size medium)

Main Body: 84% polyester 16% elatane
Liner: 88% polyester 12% elastane


The Women’s Flash Short has 4-way stretch, Transfer Dry technology, and a wide waistband
• Transfer Dry fabric provides optimal moisture transfer and stretch
• Extra wide gathered waistband
• Zippered back pocket
• Transfer Dry built in liner
• 4” Inseam (size medium)

Color in video may not be available

Main Body: 84% polyester 16% elastance, UPF 50
Liner: 88% polyester 12% elastane
Splice: 96% polyester 4% elastane

So why aren't these now my favorite shorts? Primarily because of the lack of pockets... I've grown accustomed to trail running with pockets for storage, which I love, and the Flash shorts only have a zippered pouch on the back (which works great).  Also, I could use just a little bit more length, but again that's just me..   those things aside, these are terrific shorts, built to last a lot of miles, and super comfortable... definitely worth a look when you are ready to retire your current shorts!

Ok!  As always, please let me know if I've missed anything, or if you have any questions.  Leave me a comment below, or on the BI Facebook page.

Now, if you like what you've read, and you want to win a pair of the N1's and Flash shorts, enter below!  I'll run this contest until 10PM MST, Monday November 3rd, 2014.  Contest open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy trails!!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hands Free Hydration Part 2: Orange Mud Hydraquiver Double Barrel & VP2 Review!

Hey!  Now that I've finished my first 50 miler, and haven't set a new goal or race to train for, it's time to get caught up on some reviews!!  I've been fortunate enough to have been trying out all kinds of new gear and minimalist footwear, but it's time to share what I've learned with you all!

What's up for today? A two for one review!  If you've been following along, you know that I ran my first 50K in May using the Hydraquiver Single Barrel from Orange Mud.  I loved it, and it pretty much replaced my hand held for shorter runs.   Well, since then I ran another 50K with the Hydraquiver Double Barrel, and shortly after that, a 50 Miler using the new VP2.  I love the Orange Mud products so much, that I asked to become an Ambassador!

And I'm stoked to say I get to be an ambassador for yet another terrific company full of great people, and amazing gear! So, it's probably obvious that this will be a good review of these two products, but I also wanted to give kind of a compare/contrast review of the Double Barrel and the VP2 since they both carry two bottles, but offer some unique differences as well.   So, check out the review, and stay tuned at the end also as I get to give away a Double Barrel Hydraquiver to one of you!

Ok.. first up, the Double Barrel.  Basically, if you like or have tried the Single Barrel, the Double is just twice as good!  Well, obviously twice the hydration.  The Double is built very much like the Single Barrel, but instead of a zippered storage access on the side, the Double has a larger zippered access across the top.

Inside the zippered part is a smaller storage bag that hangs inside the area behind the bottles.  It's a great place to store smaller items, additional gels etc, and keeps them from falling down into the larger area and making it hard to find them.

In addition to the hanging pouch, the zippered top allows access to pretty much the entire back of the pack.  Pretty decent storage, but keep in mind it may change the fit and feel of the pack of course.

Otherwise, the only other difference between the Single is the addition of these added wrap-around covers for the shoulder straps.  These are a nice feature if the plain straps cause you any issues, but I've not had any issues with the Single in this respect.  When I run with the Double, these pads are generally more in my armpit, than up higher and that seems to work well.  The Double has the same super handy expandable shoulder pockets for phones, gels, keys etc, and it has very much the same fit as the Single (better snugged up and riding higher the better).  There is of course a slightly different feel due to the extra weight of another full bottle, but I didn't notice it riding much differently.  I do try to alternate drinks out of the bottles to keep the weight balanced.

So how did it perform?  Amazingly well.... I ran just over 9 hours with it during the Tommyknocker Ultra 50K (34 M), and just about forgot I had it on..   plenty of hydration for the longer aid station stretches and room for extra fuel in the back portion.  Here I'm taking a shot of  moonshine whiskey at the last aid station (versus filling one bottle up!)

AND now.. the VP2!   This is a terrific pack, and I took a chance on running with this one on my 50 miler, after only taking two short runs with it.  I knew the Double would be fine for the long haul, but decided to give this version of the two bottle carrier a go.

So, what are the similarities to the Double Barrel?  Both packs have the velcro close, expandable shoulder pouches, ride comfortably  with very little bounce,carry two bottles,have a tie down on the back, and both share the super high-quality construction that Orange Mud is known for.

After those items, things are a bit different.  The VP2 has a wider panel that comes up and over the shoulder, replacing the simple straps of the Double and Single. This allows the addition of some spacious and expandable pouches on the chest to carry a lot more goodies! The tops cinch down nicely if you don't want stuff popping out as well.  The trade off is that there is no big storage pouch on the back, as you find on the Double, but I like that you can access everything you are carrying without having to take the pack off. Also, the bottles on the VP2 sit a little straighter and wider, versus the kind of V shape of the Double. Both are easy to grab the bottles with, but I liked the feel of this set up better.

Also, there is one additional adjustment to make. Instead of one pull on the strap to adjust tension, the VP2 has adjustments on the side, as well as a chest buckle that can be adjusted as well.  This system works great, however it will just take you more time to find the right balance between the tension on the sides, and across the front to keep the pack snug, comfortable, and to stop any bouncing.  This took me the two short runs before my 50 miler to figure out, and I made a few slight adjustments on the 50 miler, but once I got it dialed in, it was super comfortable!

Finally, the VP2 has a much less padded back, compared to the Double/Single.  This made for a little less cushiness on the back side, but it also makes this feel a little cooler than the Double.  And, this may be TMI, but I sweated a ton in this pack during the 50 miler, and haven't washed it yet..  a little crusty, but still smells new!  Some pretty good anti-microbial treatment...    and yes, I will rinse it out :-)

How did it perform?  Flawlessly...     the Bear Chase 50 Miler took me just over 14 hours, and it was brutally hot..  I was so glad to have two bottles between aid stations!  But the pack rode really comfortably, and I had room to carry extra fuel that I liked (that the aid stations didn't have), as well as a USB charger and cord for my Garmin so I could get beyond the 8 hour battery life!  But after 14 sweaty hours, I had no chafing issues, and loved being able to easily reach back and snag a bottle when I needed it.  Also, one guy that passed me said that he thought I had a jet pack on when he was approaching me! I really wish I had!

So there you go... if I missed something, or you have a question, feel free to leave a comment below, email me, or hit me up on Facebook.  Also, you can check out the Orange Mud website by clicking HERE.. and dont' forget, use "BAREFOOTINCLINED" for 10% off!

If you've read this far.. congrats!  Or even if you cheated and just scrolled down here.. it's cool ;-)

I'm giving away one Orange Mud Hydraquiver Double Barrel, and you can get entries by using the Rafflecopter thingamjig down below!  I'll run this contest until 10PM MST, Wednesday, October 15th, 2014.  Open to the residents of the U.S. and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That's it!  Thanks again as always for tuning in...

Happy trails!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

50 before 50: The Bear Chase Trail Race 50 Mile Race Report

Well... the smile says it all..   I made it!!   On Saturday September 27th, 2014, I completed my goal of running a 50K (2 actually), and a 50 Miler before I turn 50 in two months!   That gives me 50 more years now for a goal of a 100K and 100 Miler! :-)

So, if you want all the gory details, stay tuned for a full race report below and a lot of pics from the day.  If you just want to cut to the chase, 1. I finished! 2. I finished before the cutoff! 3. I didn't hurt myself, and 4. I'd do it again and am already looking for a new distance goal.  :-)

 And before I forget, this was a really really well run race, and the volunteers were amazing! I would highly recommend this one for sure.

Boom, now you can get back to what you were doing, or just scan the pics and skip the blah blah blah...    BUT.. if you love race report blah blahs as much as I do...   here you go :-)

Pre-Race dinner...  yum!
So... the race was up in Lakewood, CO... about a 2 hour drive from here, so we headed up the afternoon before and stopped for some pre-race fuel at Tokyo Joe's...   good stuff!

Fellow INKnBURN Ambassador Rebecca Walker

Ali Smith, Tonia Smith, me, Christoph Sholtes, and Dan Smith. 

After a so-so night's sleep (I always struggle the night before), my wife delivered me to the parking/shuttle area around 530AM and I headed over to the Start/Finish area.  Here I had the pleasure of meeting a number of folks from the different Facebook running groups I am part of and it was so great to meet them all in person (not all in the pic above).  It's one of the few times I've been at the start of a race and known so many people...  that was pretty cool.  What was not cool was that I didn't put enough time in my morning for coffee!!  Ah well, I corrected the problem with some caffeinated gels at the first aid station!

Mile 3 or so?
So, with the sun still not up yet, the 50M and 100K'ers all took off at 630 AM for the first loop of our adventure (50M was 4 laps, 100K 5 laps).  The trail started of meandering alongside a creek for a mile or so, and then looped back on the other side of the creek working its way back. At this time it was pleasantly cool, and the single track was smooth and easy to run.  I was running a little faster than I told myself I should, but it felt so nice out and I knew that once the sun came out it was going to heat up fast.  The trail stayed in the trees mostly until the first aid station (3.2 mi).  There I grabbed up some gels, topped up my bottles and tried to get a little food in.

Mt Carbon

Eventually the trail exited the wooded areas and we ran along the lake/reservoir.  Here is where I started to feel that sun...  gently warming at first, but I knew it was going to get hot in a hurry.  Mt Carbon was the first significant climb with one switchback and a long traverse up the side that you can see in the pic above.

Upon reaching the summit, you could see Denver off in the distance (hard to see in this pic).  From this point on was a nice downhill run into the golf course area of the trail.

After winding behind homes and around the golf course a bit, the section with the water crossings came up. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but came to welcome this section later.  In the course of 1/2 a mile or so, there are 3 water crossings like this one.. the deepest being about mid calf on me.  Refreshing for sure, but I wasn't sure how my feet would holdup getting wet 12 times throughout the day.

After the third crossing, the trail exited out onto a wide sidewalk path that ran between the golf course and some amazingly huge and beautiful homes, on up to the 2nd aid station at mile 7.8.  I refueled with some food from the station (PBJ, Chips, Coke... ugh.. I know I know..) Also, I was carrying with me Mama Chia pouches (which really work well for me), Fuel 100 Electro-bites (which I alternated with gels from the aid station), and S Caps.  I stuck to a schedule of taking in one of those items every 3 miles at least, and when it got hot, one S Cap every 30 minutes.

From the 7.8 mile aid station to the one at 10.1 Miles (Just before where this pic was taken) is what I came to call later the "hell" zone...   Just over two miles, but it felt like 10! Primarily because that section is totally exposed to the sun, and has some very long stretches where you can see the trail way way off in the distance so it felt like I was not even moving.  I did ok the first time through here, but I dreaded it on the next 3 laps..    Eventually after leaving the aid station at 10.1, there was one more climb to negotiate... not that it was super steep or long, but when you have been cooked by the sun and your legs are complaining, it is difficult to fight your way up the grade.

Finally the course brings you back to the start/finish and the main aid station.   I finished the first 12.5 mile lap in 2:49 or so... the only time I would be under 3 hours for the day!

Getting advice from the boys for lap 2

What was really awesome was having my wife and boys cheering me on each lap.  And, since the laps were so long, they had time to go to Chatfield and the corn maze, a movie, and dinner!  I got to do what I love, and they had a great day as well!

So, off I went again for lap 2.  By this time it was getting warm.. actually felt really hot to me but I knew it was just going to get hotter! Heat was the one thing I couldn't really train for... up where I live it seldom gets out of the 70's, and today it was supposed to be pushing 90..

Coming into the 2nd aid station, lap 2...  needing a double refill!

I ended up completing lap 2 in 3:17.  Slower than the first lap, and by the time I finished it, I was really feeling the heat.  I tried to eat more at the aid station, but was starting to experience mild waves of nausea that made it difficult.  Nothing sounded good, which was a bummer because the stations had some great stuff!

Cue Lap 3, or what I fondly call "The beat down"...   I knew that this would be a really tough lap, but it was compounded by the fact that the heat of the day and the sun were peaking..  and my stomach felt like crap.  I literally spent most of this lap just trying not to puke, and trying to continue moving forward.  I didn't want to eat or drink anything, but continued to force myself to stay on schedule, otherwise I knew I would be doomed.. at some point I wouldn't be able to keep going.  At the first aid station in lap 3, I was happy to meet another Facebook friend Heidi, who was working that station. She was a lifesaver as she grabbed my sweaty hat off my head and proceeded to load it with ice.  With it perched back on my head, and the ice almost giving me a Slurpee headache, I slammed down some chips, ginger ale, and Fig Newtons (Yum!) and headed off to meet Mt Carbon and the "hell zone" yet again.  During this time (at least I think it was around this time) I also met Sheila (in the pic above) and we got to run together for a bit and to chat some as well.  That was a nice distraction as we both had an opportunity to go off about how hot it was!  

Basically I survived this lap.. that is about all I can say about it... finishing in an agonizing 3:52.  BUT...  I did survive it... I went through probably the lowest points of the whole race, and probably the lowest lows I've experienced in an Ultra and I got through...  Those of you that have experienced this know what I'm talking about...  I went through several periods of asking myself "why are you even out here... why are you even doing this? You don't belong out here..."..    ugh.. 

So, being in that state, I was so happy to see my friend Mark Lofquist (Paleo Runners)  coming up the trail about 1/2 mile away from the loop finish.  Despite recovering from an injury, Mark came out to pace me on the last lap of the day, and I couldn't have been happier.  We had a few chuckles, I got some of my whining out, and we headed in to the main aid station to gear up for the last go around. 

The boys met us and ran with us across the start/finish which was awesome...   I was still moving, but wow, talk about some aches and pains at this point.  Mark appears to be signaling to the bar tender for a round of beers! 

So I managed to reload some fuel, some salted water melon, and tried to get my head on straight for this final go around... at this point I had run 37.5 miles... 3.5 further than I ever had before, and that felt good. 

Off we went, with the boys leading us out for the first 1/4 mile or so...   At this point I was having a hard time keeping my legs moving!  But, as we entered the shady tree-lined section along the creek, the air began to cool down finally as the sun was getting lower...  we started this lap just before 5pm, and I was happy to be ahead of the 6pm cutoff to start the last lap.   Also, it was going to be dark before I finished this lap, so it's a good thing I brought a headlamp.... which of course I forgot in my drop bag!

So, for the next several hours Mark and I ran on.. or at least I tried to run on. He shared some of his paleo pancakes and strawberries with me, which were amazing.  We managed to hit the water crossings before it got too dark, so it wasn't super creepy!  My feet started to hurt, and I could sense some blistering coming on, and my right foot was really stinging leading up to the water crossings.  After we got out of the next aid station and headed to the "hell zone", I was glad that it wasn't nearly as hellish since it was cooler, and it was getting pretty dark so you couldn't see how long a straight stretch it was.

It was here that my legs really started to tire, but Mark kept encouraging me on.  At one point, I took a page out of Jason Robillard's ultra running primer "Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel", and instead of slowing down, I tried running as fast as I could for as long as I could. Which, in retrospect, may not have been the wisest thing to do considering I couldn't see the trail any more, but it gave my legs a wake up call.  From that point forward I think I was running more than walking... and I could hear Mark behind me say..."hey.. that mile was 1 minute faster than the last.."  and then " oh hey.. that one was 2 minutes faster than the one we just did"..   And the gap to the finish finally began to close.

As we neared the end, I could see fireworks off on the horizon.. not sure what was going on, but it was cool.  Of course, Mark took the opportunity to start messing with me by saying "what fireworks?" implying that my mind was shot...   which after the heat of the day, it really could have been.  But then he proceeded to ramble on about Dean Karnazes and gold panning, and who knows what else... or maybe I imagined that...

So, the last and final lap was covered in 3:41 (11 minutes faster than the beat down lap), and Mark and I finished by the lights of our cell phones...     What a tremendous rush to finally hit that final step and to see my wife and boys at the end.  I was also happy to see Ali and Dan Smith from CO Ultrarunners cheering me on at the end..

Woo hoo!  I made it! I got my 50's before 50!  What an amazing feeling to finish, and to try and comprehend the distance I had covered.  I still find it hard to believe...   I told myself after finishing this one I would enjoy a break and not think about what was next...     but of course, less than a week after this milestone I'm mentally looking forward to a 100K attempt in 2015... and who knows... a 100 miler may be in that future too?   But not to jump ahead.. one step at a time as they say... I'm just going to relish this one for a bit :-)

If you were wondering about gear etc, I ended up running the whole race in the B2R Trail Performance shoes, INKnBURN,  the Orange Mud VP2 Vest (review coming up next!), Switch Sunglasses of course, and a generous helping of Rocktape for my ankle/achilles, and small patches on the balls of my feet in my normal hot spots.  I ended up with very small sub surface blisters on each foot which faded away in two days, after a few days of rest, I felt great... and today I went for a 5 mile trail run which really felt good...  so a much quicker and better recovery than I expected!

So.. there you go.  If you stuck around this long.. thanks! Also, I want to give thanks to my family and friends.. I appreciate all the support you have given me... it means a lot and pushes me onward!

 If you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave them below thanks!

Happy Trails!


Oh! one more thing... I can't forget my friend Rob Sanchez, who I saw on the trail several times (once handing out SunRype bars!).  He took a pic of me as I climbed Mt Carbon, and when I saw it, it looked familiar.. then I realized why :-)