Monday, May 21, 2018

Race Review: Knock On Wood Running Festival

My goal for this race was 50k.
The overall plan, which I made public, was to start with 100 Milers at 8pm, knock out my 50k, take a nap, then pace some clients who were doing their 50k or 100m.

What I really wanted to do though, was my 50k then sit around drinking, eating and cheering on clients from the comfort of my camp chair.

Neither of those scenarios really panned out...

Not really as bad as it looks.

Heather and I have done this race twice before. It was our first 100k back in 2016, then our first 100m in 2017. 

Our first year was just the two of us, somehow in 2017 we dragged up 20 something people to camp and race with us. This year we dragged up maybe 15 but also had a handful of clients there!

The quick takeaway here is that this is not only a great race, but a great social event. I'll be elaborating on that more over then next three million words...or you could just cut out now knowing this race is great. Your choice.

We were introduced to Upstate Ultras at Paris Mountain back in 2015. We've always had a great time at Upstates events, living four to five hours away makes it hard to get to all the Upstate events, but it's always worth it.

Here's my race story/review...whatever you want to call it:

Our buddy Paul picked us up in his kick-ass van (it's really great to have an adventurous bud with a van) and we were on the road by 8am. I spent a good amount of time on the ride studying for my upcoming Pharm Tech exam. In fact, I should be studying right now, not dicking around writing a blog nobody reads.

It only took us 4hrs to get to Conestee Nature Park, the venue for this event. To our surprise there was already a good amount of people there setting up. There's a HUGE amount of space to set up your camp, but there was a particular spot we wanted. We would ultimately end up with three pop-up canopies, four or five tents and a couple of cars. 

After finally getting all our shit set up we walked over to Rego to shoot the breeze with the RD. Not only is Matthew fast as hell, he's friendly as f*ck too.  I hope I have a picture of the kickass new hat we got from him.

I do, it's at the bottom of the blog.

The weather had been iffy, that's a word, most of the morning. Around 2pm got beautiful out. Hot and sunny! People were trickling into the venue and our camp grew throughout the afternoon, our clients came in, some local friends arrived and we made new friends. 

I'm not sure how/why we attract so many new friends at these events, but I'm really glad we do. John, if you happen to read this, here's a huge thanks for helping out the way you did man!
I would guess at this point, maybe four o'clock, there's about a dozen of us kicking around drinking cognac (thanks Paul!) and shooting the breeze. Our race doesn't start until 8pm, so what the hell else are we going to do? I would have busted out the hacky sack, but there were now enough folks around to make that dangerous (to them, not me). The RD hangs out with us a good bit and our buddy Eric drifts in and out of camp.
I'm telling you, Ultra camping is where it's at.

There were only brief periods of rain.

Let's get to the race details.
This race draws a super diverse crowd. I can't get into too many details, mostly as I don't know them, but RWB and Enduring Warrior have some affinity with this race.
It's not uncommon to see an athlete running in a gas mask and there will always be at least one American Flag on course. This year you would see athletes running with a mannequin leg which had an official bib and timing chip on it.
You would see a blind athlete complete a hundred miles.
You would also see a man, truly given a second chance, finish his 50k.
I can't give those stories the justice they deserve. But I recommend looking into them.

7:40 or so the RD gets all the 100 milers together for the race briefing. You know the normal stuff? Well, this wasn't the normal stuff. I've never been brought to tears during a race brief before. There's some real heavy shit here, heavy, but also amazing.

For some reason at the eight o'clock start time, Heather and I found ourselves towards the front of the starting pack. Maybe I look like I know what I'm doing?
I don't. I'm still learning. Every race I learn.

Lemme hashtag this   #myboausa

We start on the sidewalk just in front of the pavilion. A few hundred yards up we dip into the woods. This section is a bit technical. There's roots, rocks and re-bar. You need to watch your step as the trail winds up, down and left to right.

Trail spits us onto some pavement, right at a pretty major trail crossing, where we bang a right over a bridge. It's a pretty bridge. Hope I can find a picture.

It's only a short run down the road before slipping back into some singletrack. Ya know, I've run section thirty odd times and still can't think of anything remarkable about this quick section.

Back on to some pavement, again just for a short while before singletrack takes you up what I called the Green Hill. This was a really pretty area to run in. The trail was that neat upstate red clay type of terrain cutting through a field. There's trees at the summit with picnic tables circling them. The kind of place you just want to sling a hammock and have a beer.

After descending Green Hill a right hand turn brings you onto pavement to Aid Station II. This was an unmanned station of H20, Tailwind and some Fuel 100 Electro-bites, or as another runner called them "Shitty Teddy Grahams" (I like 'em, just needed lots of water to go with them).

A sharp left brings us into a slightly swampy area. There's a wooden bridge or two, some frogs and some ducks. It's nice.

Back on to pavement, up a little hill then back into the woods. This section was a little more swampy than the slightly swampy area. There's a good size observation post and several benches to sit on.

Sometime around 11pm on Saturday Heather and I took a break up there.

It's all still foggy. My memory is foggy. I never noticed fog on course.

Some boardwalk, which although feels a bit slick, makes for some really great running. The rebound and energy return is great. This boardwalk run is brief before taking a left into a swampier area that was even more swampy than the slightly more swampy area. But this isn't Low Country Swamp, so it's pretty run-able.

Damn this was a pretty course.

Back to pavement and across the bridge to the dreaded Lollipop section.
We called it a lollipop because this section was an out and back with a loop at the end.
We call it dreaded because the top of the loop can be balls hot, there's a climb, and as it's and out and back, there's a lot of traffic. Oh, it's also a climb out of the lollipop back to the paved walking path which brings you past a bunch of tents and into the finishing/timing chute.

Damn, that's a lot to read. Try typing that with a cat half on your keyboard.

Just a bit before the climb to "Balls Hot Field"

Now that I've gotten the course description out of the way, here's some other points.
The timing guy was spot on and very attentive. Hell, we even saw him chase down an 8k guy that did 2 extra loops for fun.
The Aid Station at the line was great. If it wasn't the RD himself, there was another friendly volunteer or two there to help you with anything you might need off the huge food table.
There's some really damn fast kids in Greenville.
I also need to mention again that this race attracts more than just the normal Ultra community. When was the last time you saw a blind dude knock out a hundred mile trail run?

There's a free One Mile Kids Run, an 8k, a 50k, a 24hr Relay and the 100 Miler. So take your pick. Rego for 2019 opens May 23rd.
Look for the big orange tent, the hot chick with blonde braids and the ugly skinhead with tattoos and a limp, because you know we're going to be there.

The pink one's mine.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Race Review: Swamp Stomp 50k

Eagle Endurance runs a $30 per month deal. You pay 30 bucks a month and you can run any and all of their local races. You save serious bank while giving the RD a semi-solid budget so he can bring you better and better races. It's a win win really.
Here's a link to that Thirty Dollar Club. 
I should also mention that active Hart Strength and Endurance clients get discounts off individual races. Message me on that.
The wife is probably going to say the same thing in her review, we spent a large portion of our Fall and Winter running Eagle Endurance races. In fact, that whole Francis Marion\Swam Fox\Palmetto Trail area became a 3rd home for us, the 2nd home being The Hulk, of course.

But this was our first time running the Wambaw Swamp Stomp!

She might be a dork, but she still snagged 3rd in the 50m

The start of this race is at Witherbee Ranger Station in Cordesville (or Huger) SC, just outside Monks Corner and Charleston SC. It's about 1:45 drive from Myrtle Beach. Not an awful drive, but it was very nice to have Friday night camping offered. We camped right across the street from the trail head where I had gotten SAG'd when I DNFd the Swamp Fox Ultra back in November.
I actually feel kind of weird doing races that don't have camping involved.
We had our tent up, there was an RV parked nearby and the RDs were set up at the trail head. Very nice quite evening. Not like Ragnar camping at all.
We sat in our hammock and had pizza for dinner. Gross, frozen pizza.

I keep trying to go Vegan.

We've done enough Eagle Endurance races to know, or at least recognize, 75% of the participants that show up regularly. It's really quite cool, you make friends, talk about past events, goof on the RD, compare injuries and that kind of thing.
This race though, had lots of new faces, shit, I probably only recognized 5 or 6 people. Not only was it a new crowd, it was a pretty big crowd too.
Don't ask me how many. I was there to run, not count how many people were gonna beat me...

For this event there were a few options. 50k, 50m, 50k Relay. 50m Relay.
I'd signed up for the 50k months back, but the crazy ass wife was rego'd for the 50m.
Gun time was the same for all the races, 7:00 am. (I've only been to one Eagle Endurance race that didn't start on time. So if you do one of Chad's races, don't dick around. Be on time.)
After the normal porta-jon queue, of which there were two, plenty for this field, I met the wife at the starting line. 6:59:45. Cool fifteen seconds to spare.

It was a gorgeous morning to run. I think it was low 60s to start? Mostly sunny. So nice. In fact, it's been pretty damn nice around here for a few days. All this nice weather led to nice dry trails.

Double Track, nice dry double track.

The trail we're racing on, Heather tells me, is called the Swamp Fox Passage portion of the Palmetto Trail. It's a pretty damn beautiful trail.

No caption. It's just a sign.

You may have already figured this, but we are in the Carolina Low Country. There are no hills. It's flat. but man, it's pretty. Here's another picture for you.

Most of the bridges on trail were very sturdy.

I typically don't write about how my personal race goes. Who really cares if I PR'd or ran 7min miles? I try to write more about the event than my own shenanigans.
But I am going to write about my race a bit today. Because today was yet another Ultra Epiphany!

I can no longer race with my wife.
She's too fast!

We start our race at a 3/1. Three minute Run, with a One minute Walk. It's a norm for us. It gives you a chance to recover while still keeping your overall pace decent. (Experiment to see if it may work for you.) This kind of pacing will typically get me through.
Today though, I only made it to Mile 20 before hitting the shit-wall. There wasn't really any lead up to the Wall. We hit the Aid Station at the 20m mark, I felt good enough. Then one mile down the road the Wall fell on me.
I haven't had good Ultra in....well, maybe I never have?

So anyway, at mile 21 I gave the wife a kiss goodbye and watched her run off into the distance.
I hate it when she leaves, but I love watching her go.

From mile 21 to 31 I went through all the damn issues you get when doing this stupid shit. I got dizzy spells. My feet hurt. I was cramping. My kidneys hurt (?). I was hungry, grumpy and now, without my wife chatting away at me, kind of bored. And to top it off, it's now in the low 80s and I'm on a wide open fire road.

Google said this picture was free to use.

Play me a little violin. 

I took this time to analyze what the hell might be going on with me. And I of course realized a couple things. I eat like shit and I don't take the time to train properly. It seems wifey has the ability to go Couch to 50m, but this guy needs to train to do this stuff. Ultra's hurt.

Gorgeous morning. May in South Carolina is pretty great.

Enough about me. Let's talk about the race itself.
1) Trail was marked very well. There were white blazes on the trees and the intersections had orange tape and/or paint on the ground.
2) Trail was a mix of easy single track, technical single track, double track and some pavement.
3) Fully stocked and manned Aid Stations every five miles, with 2 porta-jons on course.
4) The claimed distances were accurate to within .10 miles! 
5) The RD always does a great job explaining the potential danger of wild hogs, snakes and such on trail. I didn't see any wildlife today, just some birds. I like birds.

Pine Straw covered single track. So nice.

Other than getting my ass handed to me, again, I had a really great time this race. I always do though, huh? 
I like camping, I like being outside, I like trail running and the community it supports. So ya, I do always have a good time at these races. 

I should probably have some kind of rating system for the races I do. Something like 4 out of 5 stars or some shit.

So let's go with Mini-donuts.
I give this race 10.5oz of Mini Donuts out of 10.5oz of Mini Donuts.
Because it's not about me, it's about the race. Which actually didn't have mini-donuts, but was still very well run and really damn fun.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Event Review: Tuckfest 2018

If you've read some of my other blogs, you've probably figured out I like to do shit. 
It's not necessarily because I get bored easy, it's because I like being outside when ever I can. 
Who doesn't?  Well, nobody I wanna know anyway...

So here's a review on an Outdoor Festival. And I'm calling it this not just because it's held outside, but also because so much of it is about Sports!
Not stupid "Ball" or "Team" sports, but outdoor sports like running, cycling, paddling, climbing, etc. 
And I guess there's some music thrown in here and there too. (There's actually a lot of live music, I'm just not a live music fan.)

Here is my review on Tuckfest!

And of course, what's a review without a little bit of history?
Last year three of us went up. My wife, my bud Daniel and myself. 
It's about a three or four drive from Myrtle to the Charlotte NC area where we had ourselves a campsite at McDowell Nature Preserve. Our camp was about a thirty minute drive to the venue. 
Tuckfest is held yearly at the U.S. National Whitewater Center (which I shall now call USNWC).

And this place will blow you away. Goddamn. I hope I can get some pictures...

After parking your car, I think it was a six dollar fee, you walk up a set of stairs past a couple of buildings and see this:


(Just go to the website

How to compare the sensation of looking over this...I've been to Heavenly, Stratton, Vail and Beaver Creek. I've seen what they do with their landscapes and pedestrian areas. It's amazing. But when you crest the stairs and below you can see the whitewater rafts and the playboats hauling down man-made Class 4s, when you can look up and see people zip-lining above you, when you can look out past the park and see the terrain of miles of trails...Long story short, USNWC is tucking amazing. Disney can kiss my ass, this is the Happiest Place on Earth.

Back to Tuckfest itself.
For 35 American you get yourself entry into ANY of the races you want. You want to run a Trail Half Marathon? Okay. You want to do a MTB Short Track too? Okay. You want to do a Sprint Adventure Race? How about a Kayak Race? Okay.
You get where I'm going. For $35 dollars you can do it all. 
Of course, you will need your own equipment for most of it. Duh. (Contact them in regard to rentals, I have no idea what, if any gear they may actually rent.)

Last year we got there on Friday night. I think it started Friday last year? This year it starts on Thursday. Regardless...the first event we did was the Twilight Adventure Race.
This wasn't your standard kind of AR, but we were still issued a map and told we had to find as many Checkpoints (CPs) as possible and be back by..whatever the hell time it was.
Our map took us on foot through many of the trails at the USNWC, gorgeous, hilly, un-carpeted singletrack. And all of our CPs were at different Obstacles stashed throughout the park. Hopefully I can get some pictures?
This race was really fun and different for the three of us. Our bud Daniel is lightning fast, but we still had to utilize the map to get from point to point. I'm still amazed they let me Navigate...

The next morning's' event was a Trail Half Marathon. I'm not going to get into too much detail except I heard they ran outta water (I had my own) and the race was 15 instead of 13. But who cares? The trails were awesome and I sure as shit wasn't going to win anyway.

After getting owned on the trails we spent the rest of the day drinking amazing beer and watching Daniel, who at the time was a pretty burly dude, try to hang with the skinny little guys at the bouldering area.

That's a pretty quick review of last years event. 2018 will be even better.  Unless noted, all pics are Lori's, mine or my wifes at Relentless Forward Commotion. I'm also feeling kind of Metal Head today, so expect sporadic links to tunes I like.

Hey whaddya know? Its still a three or four hour drive. Only this time its my wife, Daniel, Felicia, our buddy Lori coming all the way in from Boston and me making our way to McDowell, where I just barely secured us a campsite for this year. (Note: book sites early)

Tuckfest Day #1, Thursday.
The five of us had conversed over what exactly to do this first night. There was a Night Trail Race which was part of the Marathon Challenge, or there was the Twilight Obstacle Race. After a quick deliberation, we figured we can do a regular Trail Run any time and that Obstacle Race was really damn fun last year, so...Twilight Obstacle Race it was! 

We had a scheduled start time for 6:30 at the Ridge Pavillion. This is where most of our events would start and end. Hope I can find a picture...
We get to the race a little early, as you do, and were told that at 6:30 we could open our maps. MAPS!!! 
See, this isn't an OCR in the normal sense, this is half Adventure Race/half Obstacle Course Race. So you need to find your way to each Obstacle/Checkpoint and complete the obstacle before moving on to the next Checkpoint. And, there is no designated route. It's a Pick Your Own Adventure kind of thing. (As long as you were on foot, no bikes.) The winner of the race would be the team that collected the most CP's, thats Checkpoints, in the least amount of time.
As team captain, I really should have made my team call me "Cappy", I headed up to the start line to get my map and punch card, which is how race officials confirm you made it to the Checkpoints.

This post may be as long as my TransRockies Run review. Get a cup of coffee and settle in.

The 6:30 gun sounds and....we all gather around the map. Ya, you need to strategize how you're going to run your race. If you just randomly run from CP to CP, you end up with a bunch of wasted miles.

Where the hell is the wife? She must be over there.

As three of us had done the race before, we decided to go after some of the CPs we had missed the previous year.

All the Stars are CPs

Our first CP was at the Flat Water Dock. There was no obstacle here, just a quick punch, which Daniel took care of, then off to Jacobs Bridge.

I'm not the best Navigator and I need glasses to read. But the team decided I should be Nav and off we go running, water on our left side all the way to Jacobs Bridge. I wish I had a picture of that. Oh, I do. Thanks Heather.

Running more than one at a time made for a very bouncy time.

From there we wanted to hit the Obstacle Challenge. And your's truly found a great trail to bushwack right up to the CP, completely by accident.

This CP was really damn fun and quite challenging. It's technically a little kid Obstacle Course, but stuff designed for 4 foot kids weighing 80lbs is hard when your 190# Six Footer.
Here's a picture or two:

That's Felicia in the forefront, Lori to the right and me in the background.

Short Shorts often equal a rope burned crotch.

This could take all day. So let me just post a few more pictures of some the obstacles we did, and mention that I got us lost, then Heather got us lost and we probably added 2 extra miles to our legs. But who cares, we were having fun and we're training for a 50k, we need those miles. Here's those pics in no particular order:

Traverse Wall. We spent an hour in the dark last year trying to find this.

I call this the Ankle Smasher.

Night Time Obstacles are the bomb.

We had to be back to the Start/Finish by 9pm. We hit our last CP, a realllllyyyy sketchy Cargo Net at maybe 8:20  and decided we didn't have enough time for another CP. 
When we got back to the Start/Finish at 8:40we were pleasantly surprised to be told we were currently in Second Place! Hey!! Neat! We certainly didn't expect that. The hometeam guys have a huge advantage on this race!
We spent the next 20 minutes trying not to shiver too much, the temp really dipped when the sun went down, and trying not to get our hopes up.
But 9pm eventually came and hey! Here we are on the podium in a solid Second Place. 

We're on the left. The emcee said we smelled good. She lied.

We went back to camp shortly after getting our medals, it was pretty damn chilly at night. In fact, it hit a low of 39 that night.

Tuckfest Day #2, Friday.
I'm not going to remember everything. Tuckfest is awesome and there is soooo much going on. But I'll try to keep this in some semblance of order.

Four of us are doing the Half Marathon Trail Race. It doesn't start until noon so we spend the morning bumbling around the venue. Here's a picture of the Deep Water Solo Trials. I'm having hard time with words today, dehydrated probably. 

Always a crowd favorite. Bet that water was right cold at 10am.

Did I mention we had a 12 noon start? Kind of a weird time to start a race. We didn't wanna eat too much beforehand, but man, that's lunchtime.
Before the race actually started, La Sportiva put on a quick contest where the winners could get a new pair of shoes. This was a Last Man Standing kind of thing:

We didn't win.

This was a pretty cut and dry trail race. It was incredibly well marked as you'd expect a big operation to be. Although I did run with my Nathan VaporKrar there were two aid stations on trail with water and Powerade, no food.

This event was two loops of beautiful singletrack with great switchbacks, short climbs and plenty of roots.

You can't really see a lot of roots in this picture. Use your imagination though. They're there.

Long story short on this race: Like 95% of my races, I have a damn good time. I don't place, I'm not fast and I'm not competitive. And I don't care.
Here's another trail pic. Can you tell I really like these trails? They're not sandy and they're not carpeted. They're godamn awesome is what they are.


After finishing this event we had a pow-wow on what to do next. 
Well, we decided to have beer and lunch. And this my friends, this is where the USNWC gets their money from you.
They have a shit-ton of good beer, draft and cans, and you're looking at six to nine bucks for a beer. Then if you want a veggie burger, add on another niner, then tax that shit and now a lunch for two is costing you forty bucks. 
All the racing may only cost you 35 bones, but if you wanna eat there for 2 or 3 days, you'd better start saving now.

Wife and Beer.

At this point the weather is perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, high sixties, no wind. Thank you Tuckfest for bribing Mother Nature for this weekend.

What's next for today?  I ran a 5k with Lori! This was to be her first "Trail Race" not first Trail, or first Race mind you, but first Trail Race. I was stoked to run with her, and I could almost immediately tell she runs in New England not Myrtle Beach as she'd put distance on me climbing all the damn hills!!

Why do my feet hurt after all this. Big deal, I've got about 23miles for the weekend so far, but my arches....hope I'm not injured. Gotta Swamp Stomp soon.

I think we went back to camp after this? But on the way we got a killer Salad Bar (Salad Bah is the right way to say it) at the local Harris Teeter. And yes, Harris Teeter is a grocery store, not a Hi-Fi Audio store, that'd be Harris Tweeter.

Tuckfest Day #3, Saturday.
Guess what I did? I sat around and drank beer. I leaned against a rock for hours on end with Lori just drinking beer and watching stuff. 
But my other friends all did shit!
Heather and Fe ran a Quarter Marathon Trail Race, and Daniel went to Bouldering lessons.
After my overachieving wife and Fe were done, the four of us hung out to watch Daniel try some White Water Paddle Boarding. Kudos to him, it's a beautiful day out, but I certainly don't want to get soaked and freeze my balls off.

He said it was pretty hard but quite fun. I believed him! That shit looked hard.

I want him to fall because he's good at everything.

We also watched this madman do crazy trials stuff on his seatless bicycle.

Another big crowd attraction, very impressive stuff!!

Eventually we all settled in one place where a couple of the rivers converge. This was a great place to watch the Bakers Dozen Kayak Race (Paddle Boards too!)
I don't know the full set of rules behind this race, but I think kayakers had to do 13 loops around the center while dodging other kayakers, SUPpers, and the White Water Rafts who must have had very clear instructions to fuck with the racers whenever they had the opportunity. It was really, really, really damn funny to watch rafts purposely bump into kayaks ( Disclaimer: I don't really know for sure the the Rafts were told to do this, but they did!!)

Some really great formatting with those pictures huh?

Do I have a video too?  
 Some of these pics/vids are from Lori who was kind enough to share a file drive with Heather and me. My camera sucks so I need any help I can get.

We spend the rest of the day watching various White Water Races and some of the Short Track Mountain Bike Race. I also made sure to get thoroughly sunburned.

We left the venue earlier this day, maybe five or six o'clock to get back to camp. And I gotta tell ya, there were thousands of people trying to get in to the USNWC to see the bands playing that night! Traffic was backed up for miles. I have no idea who was playing. I've determined that I really don't care for Bluegrass or Folk music or anything like that, but it seems to go hand in foot with this kind of scene. Which is actually a drag as I think Faith No More would really appreciate some stage time.

We went to a different Harris Tweeter for Salad Bah! I should have Fod Blooged that salad.

Tuckfest Day #4, Sunday.
8:30 AM Trail 5k!
I didn't do it.
My feet are now taped, and still hurting. Hell, I'm even limping a wee bit, so no 5k for me, but all my friends did it!

PRing a Pr!

After the 5k, Heather and I demo'd some bikes. We demo'd some multi-thousand dollar carbon fiber full boing Specialized bikes in fact. For FREE! We originally were going to go hit some of the easy trails...but ended up on some of the gnarlier shit where Heather still rode over everything in her way.

I'll get her racing one day.

Daniel did a Bouldering Competition. No pics for you.

Lori did some White Water Rafting and some of the Zip Lines, which cost a little extra but I was told is worth it.

That's quality photo right there.

Soooooo close to flipping!

Fukkin long innit?

Heather and I also went to an Outdoor Survival 101 Class, which was pretty damn cool. Did you know chapstick is flammable? Now you do, and we owe that knowledge to Eric at USNWC. We hope to get back there and take a Two Day Wilderness Safety Course.

Ugh, my traps hurt from typing and I think I have a blister on my right butt cheek from sitting. I should probably wrap this up and actually get some paying work done.

But allow me to conclude thusly: Tuckfest is tucking awesome.
For 35 bones you can race Trail Running, MTB and Kayaking, as much as you want. You can demo some kickass gear, you can take educational classes, you can buy gear at the pretty impressive Vendor Ave, you can watch those nuts get worked in the White Water or do some Yoga.
If you wanted to drop a little extra you can White Water Raft, Zipline, Flatwater Kayak etc. (Contact USNWC for more in depth deets.)
Plan on sinking some scratch in food and beverage and it's $6 per car, per day. UNLESS YOU HAVE A SUBARU! Yep, Subarus are free to park for Tuckfest.

I'm writing this on Monday, the day after getting back from Tuckfest. I've already hassled USNWC to see when next years event is. Its the weekend of 4-22. 
Hope to see you there doing some kind of awesomeness.

Tired, smelly, sunburnt and happy.

Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Product Review: Nathan VaporKrar 12L Men's Race Vest

I've been running with this pack for almost a year now. I'm not sure why the hell it took me so long to review it, but at least I've gotten some pretty good mileage into it now.

The pack is named after one of Nathan's sponsored elites, Rob Krar. I don't know anything about him, except he must be fast and probably has a beard.
But I can tell you about my experiences with his pack. And while you read this, why not listen to some Ozric Tentacles?

Not an Elite, no beard either.

As of this writing (3/18/18) the VaporKrar actually comes 2 sizes. A 4L and my 12L.
I can't tell you much about the 4L other than it has less storage and doesn't come with any kind of bladder. This review is for the 12L only.

Prior to this I'd been running mostly with the Camelbak Marathoner.

And I was pretty happy with that pack. I beat the piss out of it doing OCR's, snowshoe races, etc. That was a solid,sturdy pack.

But with that durability comes a cost. The fabric on the Camelbak was rather rough. I run with no shirt on, and that fabric would tear me up something nasty.

So when the opportunity came to pro-deal the Vapor, I did. 

This thing retails for around $175. I'm going to tell you this up front, no running pack is worth that kind of money. Holy shit! THAT IS SO EXPENSIVE. If you're fortunate enough to have lots of money to throw around on gear, then maybe. But still!

The nitty-gritty now:

I have a size XL. I'm about 6ft and between 175/190lbs depending on what the hell I'm doing. Look at the video up there, that's what I looked like 5yrs ago. But the XL fits me pretty damn well. (Always try on a FULL hydration pack before purchasing.)

There are 4 points of adjustment, one at each hip, the sternum and belly. The sternum and belly pull in opposite directions to keep overall tension square.
These two adjustments are attached to the vest on these slidey rod things.

I had to sew mine in place with dental floss to prevent them from sliding up and down.

Which is great for setting up the positioning, but not so great because the damn clips kept sliding up and down on those rods. A little needle and dental floss later, I solved that problem. (Always remove the bladder before modifying any hydration pack.)

With all the adjustments set, this pack sits pretty nicely, especially if you're using the provided bladder. And that is rather important, a standard bladder will have a tendency to slosh a bit more, where as the supplied bladder is specifically built. 

See that Hour Glass Shape? That will prevent sloshing.

< Hour Glass Figure

  Hour Glass Shape>
And there are also little baffles in the bladder to help prevent slosh. This bladder also comes with a hose quick release, making it easier to funnel the tube through the pack. The hose attaches to the sternum strap with a magnet (see Sternum strap in pic above).
There's a nice easy open top to this bladder too, making it easy to clean and add ice.
This bladder holds just less than 2L.

The fabric throughout the pack is soft. Nice and soft. However, it doesn't feel overly durable. I would recommend NOT rolling in the mud with this pack. The fabric felt cooler in summer heat than my previous pack and running with no shirt only makes for a few select raw spots, easily prevented with some applied Body Glide.

It gets real hot, real muggy here in Myrtle.

SO MUCH STORAGE!  Nathan says you can carry 12 Liters worth of shit in this pack, I believe it.
There are 2 pockets rib level on each side of the vest. You might be able to jam a standard water bottle into them, but you'd be much better off using the trendy new soft water bottles (Hydrapack). However a standard size celly or any race nutrition will easily fit in these pockets.
Each shoulder also has a zippered pocket, one with a whistle/key loop and smaller change pocket. I found these pockets ideal for carrying GU or sport beans, anything solid in these pockets didn't feel comfortable for me.
The back of the pack has a huge pocket for stashing whatever the hell you feel the need to take with you. There is no zipper on this pocket, but it's a great place to stash stuff you may want a team mate to grab for you while on the go.

Another quality picture. At least you can't smell the damn thing.

Beside that main pocket is another pocket. This one vertically zippered. Open this pocket up and there is a huge amount of storage and even another secure pocket which would also easily fit a celly.
Behind and above these two large pockets is another pocket accessible from the top of the pack. This one isn't huge but does offer a place to keep thing separated. I stash my Emergency Butt Paper in this pocket.
And of course there is the main bladder pocket. The bladder will be held in place with a Velcro loop and as mentioned earlier, you can route the house through the pack. Also worth noting is the fabric difference here. Between your back and the bladder is some different, still soft, perforated material. This is great for Carolina heat. Fill that bladder up with ice, and it'll keep you cool for bit. This fabric is also on the inside of the shoulder straps.
There is one more pocket, at the hip adjustment straps. This is an open horizontal pocket. I haven't used it yet, but it would be a great place to stash an readily accessible  jacket or extra pair of pants. 
There may even be some pockets I haven't found yet...

There are Trekking Pole attachments on the back of the pack.
But of course, I have ghetto poles that don't fit. So no picture for you.

There is some pretty decent reflectivity throughout the pack, but always have illumination when running in the dark.

Long story short. There is a shit-ton of storage in this comfortable pack. Thus the $175 price tag. 

I have run a ton of races in this. Some of them fully laden with supplies, H2O and nutrition. The pack does sway a bit on me. It's not ridiculously distracting, but I'd be a liar if I said it never swayed or bounced. 
But think about it! If you have 3.5lbs of water and another pound of food/gear with you, all strapped to your back, it's gonna sway a bit.
If you have your adjustments set, are using the fancy supplied bladder and pack your gear can severely minimize any bouncing and bopping and shit.

Two things to note on this pack. The adjustment straps frayed a little. They seem to have stopped frayin, but this could be a huge issue. And they had that tendency to slip up and down on the adjustment bars. (See picture way up.)
The length of the tube from the bladder may confound some. I've known some people to cut the tube, I just re-routed mine through some sown in loops to prevent the tube from bouncing.

This is not an overall reflection on the pack or even really detrimental, but worth noting before purchase.

 And try as I might, I can't get the stink out of mine.

Here's a review on some similar shorts to what I'm wearing here.

Here then is my summary:
This is a great pack. It is awesome.
I still can't fathom the ticket price, but indeed there are a ton of features here.
If you need a pack to run far in, I'm talking 50k and better, because you need to carry food, water and gear, this might be a great option for you.
If you find you're mostly doing shorter or fully supported races, this might be more pack than you need.
I'll emphasize again to try this pack In Store. Bring your normal gear, fill the bladder up and try it IN STORE. Make sure you have the right size for you, and make sure this is the right pack for you.

Yep, there it is. A year later and there's my thoughts.
Thanks for reading.