Thursday, January 30, 2014

Topeka to Auburn: Did a Cow Just Fly By?

Almost a month in to 2014 and no race recap yet? Please forgive me for my failure to provide running ramblings. Let me fix that immediately. The first outing for this year was the Topeka to Auburn Half Marathon.  It’s a local race put on by the local running group, the Sunflower Striders. It’s got a lot of things going for it: over 30 years of races, great hills for the area, Kansas’ standard could be anything weather, and varied scenery. I thought , when I signed up, it would be a good test to get ready for my goal races this year. It was.

Let’s start off with me. I have been nursing a nagging knee nearly 9 (yeah, take that alliteration) weeks. I had basically decided I need to back down and really re-build things. Slow slow slow was the name of the game and it seemed to be working relatively well. I decided I needed to carry that into the race too. Which meant slow the eff down and don’t mind them people passing you. Oh and something about enjoying the scenery along the way yada yada yada.

Now, on to race day. This deserves it’s own paragraph. Kansas, we do love ourselves some weather.  One of literal draws to this race is that it is in late Jan and not even god knows what the weather will do.  Well, we knew a week out it was going to be windy. And it did not disappoint. Thankfully though, the temps were very un-seasonal. Upper 40’s to love 50’s is a rarity around here. That being said, it was still windy. Well, windy doesn’t describe if very well, gale force may be more apt. We had 30 mph sustained with 50+ mph gusts. If I had a sail, I could have taken off.

Thankfully the course was laid out so that for the most part, the first half of the course was either in areas where the wind wasn’t quite as strong, or was at our back. This was mostly residential areas, a couple hills, nothing too out of the ordinary. The second half, however was a different story. Starting at about the halfway point is Urish hill, which is the biggie. Now, I get it, you folks near mountains would think our little hill is a speed bump, but for us it is one of the best we have locally.  That being said, it wasn’t race shattering. Doing more trail running lately, I enjoyed this part. They set a camera guy at the top to capture people slogging up it, sort of a race tradition. All in good fun. This point on, the hills rolled and we moved on to gravel roads. Another thing that changed is we moved out of the residential and into more open farm land area. This meant far less wind blocks as well as a turn back into the wind. And man, it really punched you in the face going up hills into a 30-50 mph wind with the lovely around of cow being rammed into your nostrils. Just for fun, it also started sprinkling a bit, or light hail, I couldn’t quite tell as hard as it hit us. Again though, it was fun. It was different, I enjoyed it.

Finally coming around a corner and over a hill or two we could see the finish area. At Cowtown I talked about passing a little girl that passed me previously, here, in a Karmic kick in the butt a 12 year old-ish girl absolutely flew past me. I did nothing but laugh and wish her luck. She was earning it. For me, it was a slow sprint (I know that is an oxymoron but it really is what it was for me) to the finish. I gathered myself and felt great. I bounced around a little to see how the knee felt and it was good. I saw friends, talked to them a bit, and rode a wind gust back to my car feeling like I actually followed a plan for once. I really wanted to use this a training run and I think it went well. Skora Forms took care of my feet, Orange Mud Hydra Quiver Double Barrel on my back felt amazing for carrying water and other gear and goodies, the Island Boost “gel” was delicious and rocket fuel as usual. I think I am ready for Cross Timbers in TX on the 15th which means I am completely not ready or something incredibly odd will happen. But that is the fun right? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Orange Mud Hydraquiver Double Barrel Review

One of the drawbacks of being human (or sasquatch-ean?) is that water is necessary to sustain life. While this is probably good news for companies that sell water, for people on the move it also means the need to schlep water around. A water bottle on my desk at work or in the gym cup holder is relatively simple and probably not worth much fuss. Running around in the great outdoors on the other hand is a bit more problematic. Once upon a time one could probably have stopped and taking a refreshing pull from a crystal clear stream to quench the thirst. Now, if you do that, you will probably die within 10 yards from some horrific cornucopia of parasites.  This leaves us runners few options for carrying this necessary liquid. Bottle in hand, bottle stashed along your route, belt, or a hydration pack.

First and foremost I am not fond of carrying anything in hand while I run. I have an irrational (wait, I do it all the time, so totally rational) fear of falling. And I know if I fall with a bottle in my hand that my bottle, hand, arm, and/or pride are going to take a massive blow. I like to keep my hands clear to pretend at least like I could catch myself. Plus, you can’t fight off the inevitable werewolf attack with hands full of water. That’s important too. Stashing bottles is a flat out no, come on, that’s just asking for someone to tamper with, or drink it in a thirsty moment of panic.  Plus it ain’t easy making your way out into the middle of a trail just to set water down then back so you can start your run. Unless you have a Iron Man suit or something, which I do not. Speaking of super heroes, belts always made me feel like bat man. I should be flinging batarangs not sipping Gatorade from them. And again, should I (ha, should I, how about when I) trip, having a bottle precariously close to regions of my body that should NEVER be used to cushion a fall is a bit disconcerting. This brings us to packs. Most packs are big and bulky with bladders that are heavy and flop around. That works about as well as it sounds. This leads to a tough decision on what to suffer with. Well, queue up your best infomercial voice. That is no more. Let me introduce you to the Orange Mud HydraQuiver Double Barrel.

Unlike an infomercial, this is a bad ass product. First of all it comes in 2 flavors for runners: the single barrel and the double barrel. That is how many water bottles it holds. “But you hate bottles” you say to me. Well these are bottles you hold these are bottles that sit in holsters on your back. Not low slung like a bladder but high on your back between your shoulder blades. This is awesome as it means that the swaying and flopping is very minimal and is so much easier on the back for long distances. The lightness of the pack cannot be understated as it was one of the toughest things I dealt with for my long trail races. I assume it’s called a hydra quiver cause it really is like reaching in and plucking out an arrow from a quiver, which, when you get down to it is awesome. Furthermore, you don’t even have to use their bottles if you didn’t want to, although they do make for a perfect fit in the holster. It also has abundant cargo space for food stuffs or whatever on the shoulders, making for an easy reach. On the back is another compartment for phones, wallets, cards, cash, maps, and assorted other small things needing carried. There is even a draw cord between the barrels for cinching down a shirt or jacket or whatnot.

I really cannot understate how comfy and easy this thing is to use. No water tube to keep clean or have a plastic taste. The padding is soft and easy on the back where it rests. Really it is exactly what I had been searching for out of a pack. My only qualm was really just getting used to putting a bottle back into it’s holster behind my back. But once I got used to where it was, the mouth of the holster is wide to guide it back in and it became a smooth action. I had been concerned that the straps that go under the arms to secure it to the body would chafe but I really didn’t even know they were there. I saw pictures of others wearing them with no shirt so I think they are very well placed to minimalize that kind of thing. I highly recommend this for anyone who needs a means to carry water (be it the single bottle or double) or doesn’t like their current method for transporting it. You won’t be disappointed. For the record, I purchased mine online at www. so my opinion is my own and isn’t influenced other than my own squealing glee at having a pack I love instead of dread.