Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

2012 GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – Hitchhikers & Tow Ropes

Post by:  Jake
8/19/12

As the sixth and last stage of the GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run (TRR) came to a close today I thought about what I wanted to close my coverage with.  LOTS of cool topics came time mind such as what “camp life” is like for an event like this; or what is it that brings some competitors back year after year while others are content to run it once and move on to other challenges and other adventures.  There’s certainly dozens of inspirational personal stories I could tell, such as the couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary by running a 125 miles race together after the doctor said he would be lucky to walk again a few years ago after getting T-boned in his car.  But, as the race draws to a close I’d like to reflect on just three quick questions I’ve been asked recently, 1.)  What’s with all the stuffed animals on peoples packs?  Do they really need the extra weight?  2.)  A tow rope, really? Couldn’t you find a partner that was equal to your athleticism?  3.)  Why on earth would someone pay any amount of money to get their ass kicked for a week?

Hitchhikers. The toys, trinkets, note cards, stuffed animals and other useless junk carried by racers.  Useless, at least, in the mind of the observer.  These hitchhikers are actually a huge morale boost to the runners.  From a child’s favorite toy, to a team mascot, every hitchhiker has a story behind it.  One team carried stuffed gophers to represent their home of Saskatchewan.  One glance at the crazy animal on their teammates back brought a smile to each other’s faces and lightened an otherwise lousy mood.  Another team carried notecards laminated and dangling off the back of their backpack, each one with an inspiring quote or word of encouragement to keep going when they felt like quitting.  Whatever the story, these hitchhikers are easily considered worth their weight in gold!

Short Roping or Towing.  Seeing a couple running down a dusty trail tethered to each other by a short piece of surgical tubing is quite an odd sight until you figure out its purpose.  The first time I saw this I scratched my head thinking it was some sort of cruel joke or a bet gone bad.  “If my team beats your team today, you guys have to run the race tied to each other tomorrow!” The tether actually serves a brilliant purpose.  Relieving a small amount of effort from one team mate by utilizing some of the other teammate’s “extra” energy.   It helps balance a team’s energy reserves, an important factor when racing a multi-day stage race.  And instead of simply picking the strongest matched partner, it allows teammates to race together that are otherwise not equally balanced in terms of the energy equation.  For more really good info on towing, and when and how to incorporate it into your team races check out this blog from Salomon Running.

$$$ WHY $$$ As you know by now, the TRR is a 6-day trail running race.  It’s all inclusive: meals are provided, transportation can be arranged, tents are setup and tore down each night; really, all you need to do is show up and run.  The race is run exceptionally well, but it does command a fairly steep entry fee of around $1,000 per person for the entire event.  So why on earth would anyone pony up so much cash just to get their ass kicked on the trail day after day?  The answer is simple, no pain no gain, and this is a heck of a good time!  The comradery and sense of accomplishment achieved through this race is like none other.  By the end of the race, you’ll be feeling beat down and like a million bucks at the same time.  If $1,000 sounds steep, consider this:  How much does a 6-day vacation cost you anywhere else?  With food, lodging, transportation, entertainment, ect…?  Put your mind to doing it and that’s it.  Do it!  Make it happen.  While the experience I had this year was merely camp life, taking pictures, and posting updates, I have been extremely inspired by everyone.  Biking around the course, seeing everyone start off each morning and come across the finish line grinning from ear to ear; I’m absolutely considering paying the entry fee and joining the race next year with my wife.  This is coming from someone who’s only run about 3-miles on trail and is much more of a cyclist than a runner.  But if someone from sea level Florida who has only the hot Everglades to train in, I sure as heck can get my butt on the trail over the next 12-months and get in good enough shape.    Here’s some coverage from Stage-6 today.  Enjoy!

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Add a comment

2012 GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – It Takes a Village

Post by:  Jake
8/18/12

Stage 5, 23.6 miles, 4,200 feet of elevation gain, one of the most challenging stages of the 6-day Trans Rockies Run.  While a gunshot signals the start of another leg of the race for the runners, to many, that same gunshot signals the start of a turbo charged migration of gear, equipment, and personnel.  While the racers are out jumping over logs, crossing streams and charging up and down mountains; a small army of volunteers is rapidly breaking down camp, the starting/finishing gates, and shuttling everything to a new base camp.  It’s cliché to say this, but it’s true, the volunteers of the Trans Rockies run are the lifeblood of this race.  Without them, the event certainly wouldn’t be possible.

While it would seem challenging to get people to volunteer to tear down then re-setup 200+ tents, hand out water at check stations, and pick up trash accidentally dropped on the trail; it’s actually a tough gig to land if you’re thinking of stepping up as a volunteer.  While a small army is needed to keep the wheels of the race in motion, most of the volunteers commit to returning year after year after year.  While they often don’t get the opportunity to run even a mile of the race, they keep coming back because of the bonds they’ve built over the years with racers and with the other volunteers.  That’s just how the Trans Rockies run is.  The community of racers AND volunteers is so tight, the majority of the competitors AND volunteers that I’ve met are returning race veterans.  In fact, several have been doing this every year of the races 6-year history.  Here’s a quick video from Stage 5 action today, including several shots of the volunteers that keep this ship from sinking!  Thanks Team!!

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Add a comment

GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – Stage 4

Post by:  Jake
8/17/12

Nearly an hour before sunrise, my alarm went off and I crawled out of my sleeping bag to find myself completely immersed in the Trans Rockies Run (TRR).  Although the competitors range from full time sponsored athletes to weekend warrior trail runners, the TRR is a little Shangri La at the top of the Rockies.  It’s a little slice of heaven, a chunk of nirvana.   It’s what so many runners eagerly await all winter and train all summer for.  There I stood, still half asleep, in line for breakfast rubbing shoulders with a brotherhood of trail runners I was only beginning to understand.  Although I was joining the TRR close to half way through the six day event, every single racer I talked with cheerfully welcomed me into their clan.  It didn’t matter that I had never run a marathon, and hadn’t even run a mile of the TRR, the family of trail striders was quick to take me under their wing, answer my ignorant questions, and share their passion for running.

A gunshot signaled 8:00 a.m. and the start of Stage 4.  This stage consisted of 14.1 miles, and 2,900 vertical feet of elevation gain.  At the end waited the promise of margaritas and fish tacos at Mango’s in Red Cliff, Colorado.  Steep vertical rises, narrow single track, miles of loose cobble, and several river crossings comprised the day’s obstacles.  While covering the race, I got my feet wet, both metaphorically and physically.  My goal was to shadow the runners on my mountain bike.  I’d take “strategic” shortcuts to cut off the pack, snap some photos, and then hop back on my bike to leap frog ahead again.  Eight miles of my route would take me on an old abandoned rail line.  The track was beautiful, but hard to ride as it was full of loose scree and steep drop offs.  At one point a beaver dammed a nearby creek and I was forced to ride through in 2-foot water.  I had already forded a fairly large creek earlier in the day, so having wet feet wasn’t new.  Arriving at the finish line through the backdoor, I realized no racers had crossed yet, so I rode up to meet them.  Several miles later I came to Checkpoint 3, just in time to see team La Sportiva flying around the corner, not even blinking at the checkpoint.

Nearly an hour later the bulk of the pack came pouring out of the forest with wet feet.   From Checkpoint 3 a mere two mile dash downhill lay between them and the finish line at Mango’s in Red Cliff where fish tacos and a much needed cool dip in the creek awaited.  Check out the video I took of today’s race here:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Add a comment

GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run 2012

Post by:  Jake
8/16/12

120-miles of trail running over 6 days.  The GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run is a stage running race that starts in Buena Vista, Colorado and ends in Beaver Creek.  180 teams of two and 100 solo runners are currently taking on one of the most enjoyable, yet challenging trail running races in the nation.

For this year’s race, I’ve been invited to immerse myself in the Trans Rockies community of athletes and write about what I experience.  I’ll be joining the race at Stage 3 of 6, and will be living with the runners over the next 4 days.

Stage run races are similar to stage bike races such as the Tour de France.  Each day starts a new leg of the race.  Many of the teams-of-two compete for the fastest time, and high stakes prize money ($20,000 is up for grabs this year), while other teams simply compete for new personal bests and bragging rights that they completed one of the most grueling high altitude races in the world.

Throughout the 6-day race teams will gain nearly 25,000 feet of elevation while reaching altitudes of over 12,500 feet.  Stage 3 (where I will be joining the race) is a gorgeous 24.1 mile run from downtown Leadville to Camp Hale, summiting Tennessee Pass at an elevation of 10,918 feet.  Total elevation gain for the day will be 2,674feet.

My hope is that you’ll enjoy this race coverage, and will be inspired to push beyond your current comfort zones. Here’s a video clip of the start of Stage 3 this morning. And other of Stage 3 action.

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt  embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Add a comment

SnowSports Industry Association Trade Show (SIA Show 2012)

Post by:  Jake
2/4/12

Last weekend I attended the 2012 SIA show in Denver.  I’ve been to several “Outdoor Retailer” sporting goods trade shows, but this was my first SIA show.  About 1/5th the size of the OR show, the SIA show focused only on winter sporting goods; Snowboarding, Skiing, Backcountry gear, Nordic gear.  The trade show follows a similar format to the OR show, several days of trade show expo, followed by a couple days of “on the snow demo” at Winter Park resort.  About 900 brands were present at the show, displaying all their new gear for the 2012/2013 season, and while the sheer quantity of gear was overwhelming, when I broke the expo floor into market segments (snowboarding, skiing, backcountry, ect…) it was much more manageable to make my way around from booth to booth to learn about all the new gear that interested me most (mainly downhill and backcountry ski gear).  I did make it into several outerwear booths as well, including Adidas Outdoors, Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, and Mammut, just so I could check out their new Gore-Tex Active Shell pieces, some of which were available now, while some would be available next fall.  If you’re curious about Gore-Tex Active Shell, check out my earlier review on that here.  While the Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, and Mammut pieces were certainly cool, the more surprising, or enlightening? brand was Adidas Outdoor.  WAY different than what you may expect from the soccer and football company, Adidas Outdoor is an offshoot brand under the Adidas umbrella that launched their first pieces last fall.  Fresh on the market, you’ll only be able to find their gear at specialty outdoor retailers as opposed to the big box stores where your likely accustomed to finding Adidas gear.  I’m most excited about their Gore-Tex Active-Shell pieces, super high breathability, waterproof, guaranteed for life, and packed with features you won’t find in most Active-Shell pieces from other brands (like pockets!).

Another super innovative piece of gear I saw at the show came from Voile’.  You’re probably familiar with Voile’ as creators of some of the first split board backcountry snowboards, and shovels, avalanche probes, and other backcountry gear.  In fall of 2011, Voile’ debuted one of the most unique pairs of skis I’ve ever seen.  A high end downhill all mountain ski bread with a waxless nordic cross-country ski.  A full feature downhill ski combined with the fish-scale traction patch underfoot you’d see in a cross-country ski.  Ideal as a telemark ski for a ski-patroller or anyone else that wants the ability to go from downhill skiing to instantly climbing without the added step of putting skins on the skis.  Although you can’t climb as steep of slopes as you could with skins, the ability to rapidly transition to climbing is invaluable to some people.  You won’t be able to put your hands on a pair of these skis till next fall as this years lot is already sold out across the US, but when they do become available again, don’t expect them to stay on the shelves very long.

After the trade show, I attended one of the outdoor demo days at Winter Park Resort where I was able to try out several new pairs of skis that will be available next winter.  My favorites came from the company DPS.  Launched in 2005, DPS is one of the many modern boutique ski companies, but what makes them unique is their cutting edge carbon fiber based skis.  Super light underfoot, performance is uncompromised.  I skied a couple variants of the Whaler ski, both in a 99 and 105 underfoot, and while the 105 handled like your typical all mountain powder ski on soft snow, I was surprised how well it carved on the hardpack.  I can’t wait to give them another go someday; perhaps I’ve found my new backcountry ski!!!

 

Add a comment

Gore-Tex Active Shell

Post by:  Jake
8/9/11

Here’s the first of the video interviews from the Summer Outdoor Retailer show.  I apologize for the lousy audio.  I was filming with a GoPro, in tests the audio turned out fine, but there’s a bit more noise at the OR show.  I added some comments to help explain the key features Andre is talking about.  Basically, the new Gore-Tex Active Shell is SUPER light and SUPER breathable and is made for high energy single day pursuits.  Enjoy, and let me know if you’ve got any questions.

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

3 comments

Gore-Tex Demystified

Post by:  Jake
6/29/11

As some of you may be aware, I’ve been an active product tester for Gore-Tex for several years now.  I’ve had the opportunity to test out several Gore products including GORE-TEX  XCR, PACLITE, PERFORMANCE SHELL, PRO-SHELL, WINDSTOPPER, and OPTIFADE.  I’ve even had the opportunity to test out some Gore Bike Wear, and Gore Ride-On bike cables.

Although I had worked in retail gear shops for several years before becoming a product tester, I must admit I was a bit confused at what all the different Gore-Tex products were.  I simply attributed the different names to a clever marketing campaign.  How many different names can we come up with for the same product?  As I started digging deeper I quickly learned that each of these products is specifically engineered with a different end-user in mind.  We’ll get to the difference in a bit, but first let me start with the basics of “what is Gore-Tex”?

Just about everyone knows Gore-Tex as being a waterproof/breathable material with a “Guarantee to Keep you Dry Promise“.  But fewer people actually know what part of a garment is the Gore-Tex. Imagine a 3-layer Oreo cookie, in the most basic sense, the Gore-Tex material is the white layer in the middle.  Outerwear companies like Arc’Teryx and North Face will pick out the outer fabric (some type of synthetic material) and an inner liner (again, usually some kind of synthetic to wick moisture off your body).  They send these fabrics to the Gore-Tex factories where they are combined together with the Gore-Tex membrane.  The 3-layers are sent back to the garment company in huge rolls that are then cut up to be made into beautiful jackets and pants.  The process doesn’t end there.  The outer material isn’t waterproof, nor is the inner liner.  The only “waterproof” layer is the middle Gore-Tex layer that keeps water from passing in, but let’s sweaty air pass out.  In order to help keep some of the rain out, the outer layer is coated with a Durable Water Repellency layer (DWR).  This is just a coating that wears off with use.  You can revive this layer with aftermarket coatings like Revive X or Nikwax (make sure you get the right product for your layers, I like the spray on versions), or by simply washing and drying your garments.  Follow the tags on your gear, but don’t be afraid to wash your stuff.  Check out this link for the official Gore-Tex washing guide.

Now that we all understand that Gore-Tex isn’t just a coating on a garment, it’s an actual layer inside the garment (or shoes), I’ll try and do my best at explaining the differences between each of the different Gore-Tex materials.

Gore-Tex Paclite:  Paclite was made for light use.  It’s pretty durable, and extremely packable. It’s a 2.5 layer garment that was engineered to be worn directly against your body instead of requiring an additional inner liner fabric like all other versions of Gore-Tex.  I use these jackets for summer backpacking and day hiking where I’m concerned about weight and packability, but still want to carry a rain shell. Just stuff it up and throw it in the bottom of your pack.

Gore-Tex Performance Shell:  Performance shell is a bit more budget friendly then its big brother “Pro-Shell.” It’s waterproof and breathable, but because of the construction of the overall garment it’s a bit more affordable.  Generally performance shell is a 3-layer garment where the outer layer and the Gore-Tex layer are laminated together, but the inner liner is free-floating.  You’ll find Performance Shell in a lot of winter products as it can incorporate insulation into the garment.

Gore-Tex Pro-Shell:  Pro-Shell is the king of waterproof/breathable membranes.  It’s extremely durable, and is only put into the best of the best outerwear.  It’s a bit more expensive, but will outlast anything else on the market which in the end certainly makes it a better deal.  It’s always in 3-layer garments where all three layers are laminated into what essentially feels like one layer.  If you need something durable for heavy duty mountaineering, ice climbing, search and rescue, ect… this is your choice.

Gore-Tex Active Shell:  The soon-to-be-released Active Shell will be available in products this fall (2011).  I’m told the pore spaces are a bit bigger than those in the other materials, thus letting more hot/moist air out.  Consequently it’s not quite as waterproof (although it is still technically “waterproof”).  It’s made for super high energy single day pursuits like adventure racing, distance running, high energy cycling on a rainy day, or hard, long day hikes.

Windstopper:  Windstopper is slightly similar to Gore-Tex Active-Shell.  The Windstopper layer is a membrane similar to Gore-Tex, but with much bigger pore spaces.  It’s windproof, but not technically waterproof (although it is fairly water resistant, and garments are usually still coated with a DWR layer so they shed rain pretty well.)  Windstopper gear is generally my go-to for running and biking in cold breezy weather.

I hope that helps demystify Gore-Tex.  Any questions or comments?  I’d love to hear some feedback.

 

2 comments