Thursday, December 28, 2017

Product Review: Topo Terraventure

Runnin' runnin', I like runnin'.

 Especially in good shoes. And I got some good shoes right here. The Topo Terraventure.

I did get both sneakers to make a pair, but chose to only photograph one sneaker.

A quick backstory, I have great friends.
I've only recently heard of Topo. I'd bet many of you haven't yet? Lemme give you a small bit of history: 
The dude running this company worked for Rockport AND Vibram. This company is based out of Newton (outside Boston) MA.  

So there's a few positives for me before I even tried the shoe. (I love Vibrams and if you've ever heard me speak, you can tell I'm from the Boston area). 
Here's some Dropkick Murphys for ya.

One of the first things noticed is the Toe Box. We've all seen Altras and it's easy and understandable to make a quick comparison. It's not an unfair comparison! A good idea is a good idea.

Not quite as wide looking as my Lone Peak 3s but still a good comfy box. Everyone loves a comfy box.

The large toe box is designed to allow your toes to do what they would normally do while running barefoot, splay. The wide toe box also makes this a candidate shoe if one had bunions.

I've been running in Altras and Vibram 5s for years, but many people when first trying a shoe with a wide toe box feel a little sloppy in the shoe. This sensation, if the shoe is tightened around the foot correctly, will soon go away and you start to really appreciate the room.

Speaking of tightening the shoe, these fit nice and snug around my mid-foot without any pain or having to modify the lacing pattern. So straight out of the box they were ready to go.


Here's a piss-poor quality video, I took while running, of me running in them.

My stride looks like I have two left feet.

My entire foot feels secure in there. No heel slippage.

My terrain isn't very gnarly around here, but there is a rock plate underfoot to prevent foot abuse. You can see on the video the one very small rock garden I ran.  So I cannot give an honest opinion if the plate works or not.

What I can tell you though is that you don't notice it there. This shoe felt pretty springy and the toe off rolled nicely. It's not smooshy like a Hoka and doesn't feel a thing like a Lone Peak, but still has a great ride. 

Topo says this shoe's a bit on the stiff side. I'm a 6 footer weighing in at about 180#s, I didn't feel anything I'd call "stiff". It's not all loosey goosey sloppy feeling, but nothing that felt stiff.

Another quality photo by yours truly.

The traction is magnificent. Yes, magnificent. It's rugged enough for anything I want to run, but just gentle enough for those pavement sections at Knock on Wood. (Which is May18-20th 2018, by the way. Sign up here, we've got a big group and you can come hang with us. Tell Mat I sent ya.) I never slipped climbing or descending, my feet always felt secure to the ground.

Gah, you can't even tell how great that tread is. Go to their website.

I ran through some puddles while trying these. They are NOT advertised as water proof, which is good because they aren't. But I gotta tell ya, while puddle jumping they didn't let in a ton of water. When I took them off to dry at home, they were ready to go in two days.

They weigh in at just under 11oz for a Mens 9. That doesn't seem too bad for a trail shoe eh?

This is a Neutral shoe with 3mm drop and stack heights of 25 to 22mm. If you're predominantly a heel striker or you wicked over pronate, you probably should shy away from this shoe.
If you mid/forefoot strike with a natural gait, this is good option to have in your trail shoe collection. Which should be a minimum of 4 pairs.

My final thoughts on the Topo Terraventure:
It's not the baddest ass looking shoe is it?
But it runs great and is mellow enough looking that I shouldn't have any gangstahs trying to shoot me for my kicks.
It retails for 110 clams. Worth it, every penny.
Try them on, go to dealer. I had to size up by half. 

That was a pretty calm review huh? Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: In The First Circle, A. Solzhenitsyn

Contrary to what you may think, I love to read.

Way back in the day I read a ton of Scifi/Fantasy stuff. Then in my thirties, probably due to my second wife, I became very interested in foreign affairs and a Russo-phile. I put down the fiction books and concentrated on history, mostly military history, of course about the Eastern Fronts.

Since I currently have some spare time on my hands and I've read all my books a billion times, I went to my local library and picked up a book that almost bridged the kinds of books I 've been reading.

I'm in suspense for the suspense.

It's set in Russia, written by renowned Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitysn, and although classified as fiction, this book is obviously based on truths. It was about time I read something like this.

I made to page 206 before I had to put it down.

I think Potapov is now making top shelf vodka.

Most of the opening chapters are confusing dialog and introduction to the characters. I have a decent enough feel for Russian names, but trying to stay on top of this cast of characters was very challenging.

After leaving me scratching my dome, there are then several chapters of the author describing what might be going on in Stalin's head during this time frame. These chapters are incredibly well written and even if you're not a fan of Stalin, you can really get a good feel for him.

Complete and utter bastard.

But after these few chapters, we go right back to confusing dialog and character history that just, at least up to page 206, doesn't make any sense.

As this is an internationally recognized book, I can only assume somewhere down the line, probably page 208, the story and characters start coming into line. But good god man or "Bolzhamaya Muzhik" I tried and tried and couldn't get into it.

I'm gonna try a different Solzhenitsyn book and hope it makes more sense.

I would tell you what the book is about, but I never really figured it out. There's a blurb on the jacket, and I probably could have googled it a bit more, but I wanted to read and enjoy the book, not Clif Note the shit out of it.

On a fun side note, Solzhenitsyn lived in Cavendish VT for a number of years.

So there you go, the first Bigcatbox Book Review.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Product Review: Some sneakers I found at The Hulk.

I'm not a wealthy guy. I'm not a witty guy. I'm not even a charming guy.
I am however, a lucky guy. And last week I was lucky enough to find these!

I really need to shave my legs soon.

I spend a lot of my free time at our local trail system, known locally as the Hulk. 

There's a good amount of traffic coming in and out of the park. Especially on weekends, we'll get people from out of town come down and ride/run.
And last week somebody left a bunch of storage bins full of gear on the picnic tables.

Dunno who left all this.

I spent a few moments trying to figure out what all this was. After determining it had all been there overnight, I helped myself to a tube, a bottle cage and these here shoes.

Merrell Mens Moab FST Waterproof

There's a cardinal at my bird feeder. Birds make one happy.
And, as I'm typing this blog, a Merrell advert just came up in Heather's Instaface feed. The Internet is always watching.

This is a Hiking Shoe. I don't really hike. 
I have nothing against it, in fact I probably would hike if I had hiking trails nearby. 
If you wanna know about hiking, you want my buddy Seth @Chronictrips. That guy knows hiking.

So what I did to test this shoe instead was Ruck. "Rucking" is kind of a fancy term for hiking without really meaning to get to any particular destination. You put a bunch of weight in your pack, or "Ruck", and just hoof around with it. Maybe now and then you take it off and do some plyos or some shit.
Side note GORUCKS are incredible and highly recommended.

To fill up this blog a bit, here are some deets on this shoe, taken directly from Merrell's page:

• M Select™ DRY seals out water and lets moisture escape so you stay dry when you're on the move
• Leather/Mesh and TPU print upper
• Traditional lace closure
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out 
• Mesh lining
• Merrell M Select™ FIT.ECO blended EVA contoured footbed with organic odor control
• Molded nylon arch shank
• Merrell air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
• Vibram® MegaGrip outsole provides the best combination of stickiness and durability for sure traction on both wet and dry surfaces 
• 5 mm lug depth
• Weight: 1lb 12oz / 796g

You can see above that this shoe comes with a Merrell M Select Fit.Eco blah blah blah Foot Bed.
Well, it wasn't in there. Whoever left these had long since changed the insert out for a Sofsole. It's very squishy.
And it's weird they changed out the insert. The Shoe is in great shape, but the Sofsoles are pretty beat. I'm thinking perhaps they took the Sofsoles from an older shoe in an attempt to make the Merrell a bit more squishy. 

So squishy, like Jello under your feet.

This is sold as a waterproof shoe. Hey, I'll take it! I don't think I'd ever purchase a waterproof running sneaker, but maybe a waterproof Hiker makes sense, especially if it there's early morning dew or yesterday's rain on trail. 

God, the tread is brand new, I don't think the dude even walked around the house in these.

5mm deep Vibram tread. 

I had to take the Sofsoles out, they hurt my knees from being too damn mooshy. So instead I put in some Hoka inserts, they're just a standard issue insert from my Stinsons, nothing fancy. I also wore a standard athletic sock, nothing fancy.

What the hell is going on with the Text formatting on my blog today?  The tail in "y" and "g" keep getting nicked. Shit

So ya, took these for a quick 2.5 mile Ruck yesterday. 30# of bricks and a full 2L of H2O jammed into my Rucker. With multiple stops to pick up garbage and take photos, I avg'd 21min a mile on singletrack.

My friend Hannah gave me this cool Ruck. I'll review it when I actually use it for a GORUCK.

I rarely post data for my runs, but since I know nothing about hiking I thought some more data wouldn't hurt. I did want folks to know though, that this shoe can hike pretty quickly. I even did a short stint at double time in them, they're alright.

To tie a bunch of this together here...I found a hiking shoe, I don't hike, so I put on a backpack and walked around my local trail to test it.

And it seems like a great shoe. This is supposed to be a review about a shoe I found, but it's rather turning into a true shoe review. Whatever. I'm all over the place today anyway...

Allright, here's a video of me standing in water with these on. I'm not quite up to the ankle cuff, but definitely a couple of inches in.

My feet stayed dry and comfortable.

I figure if a shoe is reaaallllyyyy waterproof then it will also keep water in.

Long story short, I took the shoes to my sink and filled them up with water. They held water.
When I did dump the water out the inside fabric was wet. Probably should have expected that. 
So long story short-Waterproof shoes may be great keeping rain and shallow puddles out of your shoes. But when water does get in there, it's there until you remove your shoes. 

I didn't spend an hour just standing in a puddle, I took these for a walk. They felt pretty light on my feet. They also felt pretty stable on all my local terrain. 
We don't have any rock gardens or slick rocks for testing, but I do have some short steep grades and these never slipped on any gradient I found.
Add caption

I don't know the drop, stack height or any of that kinda running shoe shit on these. And I don't care. They didn't hurt my feet and they worked fine for me on trail.

I've owned a few different pairs of Merrells in my time. They all fit weird. A size 11 in one model will fit different than another size 11 in a different model, so go try them on instead of just Zappos-ing them. Or just find them trail side.

Thanks for reading my rambling reviews.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Product Review: Beat Up Old Slippers

Slippers. You should have some. Maybe even these ones.

Mr. Pineapple Head. I'm in talks with Playskool.

I don't remember how I came by them, or the exact date I got them, but I'm thinking my mom probably got these slippers for me for Xmas sometime back in Reno? Ma, can you confirm?

I aim to give you some information about what could be a life changing piece of footwear.

Beat Up Old Slippers!!

Let us not waste time with fancy technical manufacturer specs, here's what I say:

This is a Zero Drop piece of footwear. 

I can't tell what the overall stack height is, or was. Let's say 12mm, and I'm gonna call the cushion "Somnambulate Satisfaction"

That's 12mm of plush responsiveness right there.

There is no Post underfoot. Post is the fancy word used for the build under the arch in Stability shoes. If you over-pronate maybe stick a freakin' pair of Superfeet in 'em, I bet that'd be comfortable.

Unless you're running in snow over 6 inches deep, you won't need gaiters.

Although you can wear them on all terrains, the grip of these is less than ideal on technical trail. (See Pineapple picture above)

The lacing system is simple and easy to use.

The slipper is the one on the left, the one with no laces at all. Doesn't get any simpler.

They weigh in at 5 grams each. I know that because I guessed. 

Other than my Merrell Vapor Gloves, this has possibly been the best pair of footwear I've owned. 

Good footwear.

I obviously feel this is a very versatile piece, but maybe you're wondering what can you actually do with these styling kicks? 

Camping? Hell ya! These aren't galoshes, but they're pretty durable, and warm!

That's my angry face, because I'm cold.

Walking the dog? Dunno, I don't have a dog. 

Snowboarding? No. Hell no.

Cleaning the catbox? Sure why not.

That is a bigcatbox.


Messy Kitchen!


              Rolling Sushi? Yep.

Can you wear these Mountain Biking?
Only if they match your killer cycling kit.

Careful with the SPDs (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) not STDs which you should also be careful of.

I currently wear a size 11 to 11.5 in running shoes. When I got these years ago, I was a size ten. They fit as good now as they did then. I propose this slipper actually grows with the user. Must be Nano-technology in there.

I searched Amazon in an attempt to find a link to share. It saddens me that I can't find any official information on these. I really have no idea who made them, but since I've had them for nearly a decade, I really wanted to promote them. Bummer.

And kinda like a good wife, these slippers have seen me through thick and thin, better and worse, and all that kinda shit. 

And maybe everyone doesn't want a spouse, but I bet everyone wants a quality slipper.

If you have a favorite slipper, or just want to share stupid pics of you doing stuff wearing slippers, please post below.

Thanks for reading, 
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Race Review: One Epic Run 2017

I thought I'd left running in the snow behind. I thought I'd left running in sub-freezing temperatures behind. I thought I'd left all that Vermonty running nonsense behind...

There really is a certain beauty in snow.

Gahdamn, I've really become a pussy.

Also, I don't have a lot of pictures. Neither wifey or I have a quality picture taker yet.

Here's a little backstory on One Epic.

Heather and I ran this back in 2015. It was an excellent race then, and it was an excellent race this year too. Did I just Clif Note my race review?

We had signed up for the 2016 One Epic a long way back. But for some reason the Carolinas decided to catch on fire in the Fall on '16 and the race was cancelled. The air quality at the venue was bad enough that we could smell it four hours away in Myrtle Beach.

I heard some rumors the RD caught hell for cancelling the race. I say Kudos to the RD. I run in an attempt to avoid cancer. Running with shitty air quality not only lowers your performance, it's a god damn health hazard. Again, kudos.

So our rego was transferred to the 2017 Epic. Transferred with ZERO hassles I must add.

If you did bother to read my Epic '15 review, you may have put together that this race is at Croft State Park in Spartenburg, SC. Although absolutely worth it, it is a haul from Myrtle Beach. If you want any kind of climbing in your trail racing at all, you gotta drive to it. Or your buddy Paul with the kick ass mini-cargo van drives your broke ass to it.

Four of us made the drive up Friday morning, only to arrive in Spartenburg with it being around 34 degrees and snowing. Or was it raining? Or was it sleeting?
It was doing all the above. 
Persnicketying is the term my sister uses for this kind of weather. 
Persnickety: gross shit falling from the sky while it's cold and gloomy out. 

This was the ground Friday afternoon.

Since we got to the venue quite early, we went to get supplies. Supplies we don't normally need...Hand Warmer packets, rubber boots and a small space heater that would become our best friend this weekend.

I won't bore you with the detail of our tooling around town, it's irrelevant to this review anyway. 

Why are my hands sticky????

We set up camp in the Persnickity. I think I've a picture.

Not our particular site, but you get the idea.

Our particular site was Site#1, basically the first site when you pull into the campground. I was scheduled to share the site with my wife (duh), and six other people. It was a huge site, definitely big enough for 3-4 tents. And we were only a short walk to the Staging Area/Turn Around/Transition Area/Food Buffet/Porta-jons.
For ease of typing, we're gonna call this starting area the TA.

My buddy Paul really has the right idea with the mini-cargo. Damn was it cold. Four of us packed into the van to enjoy the space heater, watch Rocky Horror on the Ipad thingy and enjoy some quesadillas.

Yep, that's a propane tank and an open flame in the back of a mini.

Jesus, that doesn't pertain to the race at all. I'm sure you already figured out that we were cold.

One Epic starts at 9am. When it's that cold out, that 9am start is excellent. It gives you more time to stay in your nice warm sleeping bag with your nice warm wifey.

The race start area (remember "TA") has an Ez-up or two set up for the runners to stage their gear. So we bring our bins down and await the normal pre-race briefing etc. There's plenty of room for everyone's gear, but damn I shoulda brought down a folding chair.

The race briefing is pretty short and to the point. First a loop around the parking lot, then we've got a 3.1 mile lolly pop shaped course to run as many times as we can/want in 24hrs.  I think that's what the race brief was, I was distracted dealing with my stupid gear bin.

I stole this picture from the One Epic Run Ultrasignup page.

At 9am the horn goes off and a hundred thirty plus runners take off. (I later heard there were 50 something DNSs as the weather kept many people away. Some places nearby had 6 inches of snow on the ground.)

There had some kind of persnickety going on for a while and the trails reflected that. The initial descent from TA, even though covered in leaves, wasn't too bad.

Trail Head. The PG kind of Trail Head, you perv.

In fact for the first four or five laps the trails weren't too too bad.

I don't have picture of the bridge we crossed, but man, by the end of the day, the opposite side of the river crossing was a mess. Some kind soles later built a quick log crossing over the mud. Wait, I found a picture. I didn't take it, in fact I stole it from my friend Julie. Thanks Jules!!

The bridge itself was never too slippery.

The initial climb never got too bad either, even after 10hrs. But a couple of the descents got sh-sh-shitty. Slick as snot. 

Thank you Hannah! This is pretty great picture.

We had also heard that 30% of the trail was under water on Friday. Ugh. Fortunately that 30% went down to less than 5% on race day. There were very few standing puddles and the couple of water crossings were covered by bridges this year.

Thanks again Hannah!! Who dat in the far right?

Some of the above perhaps sounds pessimistic and criticizing?
Well it's not. This is what I signed up for. This is why I'm a Trail Runner. The trails are beautiful and challenging. The sloppy trails are just part of the experience. 

I've got some pretty sexy tights on.

And the mush obviously didn't impact all the folks that got the hundred...

Feels Vermonty!!

Alright I'm losing steam and I'm still rungry so let's wrap this up a bit.

This is a great race. 
The food at the TA is plenty and Ultra specific, they even go the extra mile with crockpots full of soup, etc.
The course is great. What seems easy at ten miles will probably kick you in the ass at mile twenty.
The environment is great. There's a large and friendly trail running community in the Upstate. (Heather and I are trying to weasel our way in.) 
The swag is great. You get a sticker and a quality cotton Hoody. (You'll probably end up wearing that at the event). 

Altra Torins are NOT included in the swag.

When you sign up for 2018 go prepared. Bring TONS of warm clothes, but you also should be prepared in case it is warm. If you're camping, make sure you have a quality tent or a mini-cargo van. Bring extra shoes or galoshes and a garbage bag to put them in after the run.

But mostly be prepared for great company and good times. Grab a plate of food then go kick it by the roaring bonfire and shoot the shit with some fellow trail runners.

Thanks for reading.

Bonus picture!! Hoody with a bunny!

I may have broken a toe.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bad Housekeeping: Butter Dish

As the Fod Bloogs have been a most surprising hit, I've decided to expand upon my domestic prowess and bring you a new blog series. I welcome you to:

 Bad Housekeeping.

Most dinner tables in this country keep a Butter Dish on the table. 

Thats a $15 Butter Dish.

I love butter. When I'm in a Vegan phase, I do vegan butter. It comes in it's own dish. See?

This is my butter of choice. Earth Balance. Re-usable container by the way.

But right now since I'm on food stamps, I eat as cheap as I can. And that means real dairy butter. And you gotta have something to put it in. Well, you should have something to put it in.

I did clean the counter before taking this picture.

If you leave butter in it's own wrapping paper and try to use it from there, you'll end up with some nasty butter. Cat hair, Bunny hair, Little kid germs, fleas, spiders, lint and toast crumbs are only the beginning of the shit you'll find stuck to your quarter pound of golden fatness.

To avoid this calamity, put your butter where your Tofu was.
That almost sounds like a curse... 

That's me editing my blog there.

This is pretty decent size container here. You could easily fit two sticks of butter in here. I only put in one stick at a time. But feel free to use your best buttery judgement on what works for your household. 

But where's the lid? There's no lid! The butter lies unprotected.

Our second piece to the butter dish is a simple napkin, pictured above in fact.

Butter is both a great condiment and ingredient. If you need to make cookies or flavor up your instant mash, you're going to need butter. 

I hope this little bit of advice is going to help you keep your butter better protected from shit. 

Actually this butter dish probably won't fit in the Butter Drawer in the fridge, and if you leave it out on the counter I'm sure flies will find their way in. So there's that...

As the winter approaches, or might even already be here...I recommend putting some butter into a Hot Buttered Rum. Save some for your mashed, but keep save a stick for that recipe below.

There's no booze in that recipe?!?!? Add your own Captains then.

 Enjoy your new butter dish.