This past weekend (June 17, 2017) I ran Manitou’s Revenge for the 4th time. Manitou’s is a 54 mile point to point mountain race in the Catskill Mountains of NY State. It involves around 15,000 ft. of climbing on some of the most technical trails anywhere. The course record is 10:50 (12min/mile pace) just to put the relative difficulty into some context. The trail and atmospheric conditions this year were challenging to say the least, with hot, humid air, and slick rocks giving us runners an even greater challenge than usual. Instead of a writing a race report this time, I decided to try a gear report. I figure if those conditions were not tough enough to test some gear, I don’t know what would be.
I wore my MPF/RNR team kit which consisted of Patagonia 5” Strider Pro Shorts and a Patagonia Windchaser Sleeveless Shirt. I have been running in Strider shorts for the past 3 years and I have found nothing better. They are light, comfortable and have 4 easy to access pockets on your hips that can stretch to fit a ton of gels, gloves, arm sleeves, and whatever else you want to stuff into them. As a runner that sweats heavily, I am very concerned with chafing, especially on humid days. I applied minimal lube one time pre-race and had NO chafing whatsoever. These shorts ROCK!
I opted to wear the Windchaser shirt over my usual Nine Trails singlet this time across the course. I just picked up this shirt a couple of weeks ago and chose it because it has more coverage around my neck and shoulders while wearing a race vest. I was concerned that due to the exceptionally high humidity and therefore high seat amounts that the vest might chafe where it hit my skin. The Windchaser was very comfy, breathed well and never felt hot. It protected my shoulders and neck from any chafing with no lubricant. My one complaint was that due to the arm hole being a little tighter than a singlet, I did get some minimal chafing where the bottom of the arm hole hit the inside of my arm. I applied some lube at the Platte Clove aid station at mile 30 and no addition chafing occurred. I believe that was totally caused by the fact that I was soaked with sweat for almost 14 hours and this was right below my armpit. I will make sure to pre-lube next time.
On my head I wore a Patagonia Duckbill Cap. I love this hat, it is light and airy and absorbed sweat quite well. The only thing that might have worked better is a beach towel wrapped around my head!
The materials used in the hat, shorts, and shirt wick sweat rapidly and dry quickly, key for a hot June day in the Catskills. They are well designed, sized appropriately, and super comfortable with no misplaced seams that lead to irritation. Patagonia always makes their products from environmentally conscious fabrics and are a very progressive company that I love to support. If you don’t know their story, look into it.
I almost exclusively wear Drymax thin run 1/4 crew socks. Thin, light, no slipping, no blisters. End of story.
I have been a fan of Hoka One One’s for a few years now ever since surgeries removed cartilage from both of my knees. The extra padding really helps especially on the downhills. While I initially used Stinson’s, I have run in the Speedgoats since they were released 2 years ago. I’ve gone through about 8 pairs (including warranty returns) and while they worked well, I have had some issues with them. However, for me the pros outweighed the cons so I stuck with them. Since first seeing previews of the Speedgoat 2 last fall I have eagerly awaited their release, as they were said to address some of those issues.
I picked up a pair of the “SG2” from Rock and Snow (Manitou’s sponsor) in New Paltz 10 days before the race and got about 35 miles on them by race day. My initial impressions were all positive. A wider forefoot reduces the pinky blister issues of the first edition and just makes the shoe more comfortable. A slightly wider footprint also makes them a little more stable and prevents the outwards ankle rolling caused by the SG1’s having pronation control (inadvertently?) built into the foam under the arch. The color schemes are also less vibrant and goofy than the last few pairs I’ve owned.
The race started with 3 miles of pavement/gravel road and the SG2 rolled along much more smoothly than the SG1 due to a few more lugs with more surface area. As I entered the woods, the 4mm lugged Vibram Mega Grip sole, did a good job sticking to the wet rocks and roots. Good, not great. One of my favorite features of the original Speedgoat was the ridiculously sticky rubber. They felt like a padded rock climbing shoe. The SG2 is NOT as sticky, I don’t know why, it’s just not. I slipped in a number of locations that I did not expect to slip in with Speedgoats. Full disclosure, we were running in probably the slickest possible conditions this side of water ice.
The midsole foam, while advertised to be stiffer than the original, actually seems softer to me. While running downhill, I did have the sensation of “bottoming out” the foam under my heel. There is plenty of cushion there, and it’s not an issue running on dirt and mud, but on rocks and gravel I definitely felt the hard ground come through a bit. Around the toe where the midsole is exposed it got a little chewed up during the race, but I expect that happened to most shoes out there.
Another positive change is the upper. My feet were pretty wet all day but the shoes drained and breathed well. No trench foot! While the SG! Drained well also, I had problems with getting holes in the upper after a few weeks but it seems like this new design will hold up strong for hundreds of miles. The upper also includes a newly padded tongue and semi-elastic laces which just make it that much more comfy.
While I’m a little bummed about some loss of grip, if it means a better fitting, longer lasting shoe I’ll learn to deal with it. Overall, I’m happy with the update and improvements.
For the past 3 years I have run with a Garmin Fenix 2. It did everything I wanted it to do but the battery life started to wane a bit so earlier this spring I picked up a new Fenix 5 from RunOn Hudson Valley in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. It’s a little smaller, lighter, and thinner than the 2, with a more vibrant colorful display, quick release bands, and plenty more features that I’m not using yet (like phone notifications and music controls). I really like the built in heart rate monitor since I never want to use the chest strap. It even works through arm sleeves! Garmin advertises 24 hours of battery life for this watch. When I finished, in 13:45, it still had 42% battery left. Extrapolating that out lets me predict I would’ve gotten 23.7 hours. Pretty good!
UD Race Vest
The Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Ultra Vest 2.0 This vest has supported me through a bunch of ultras in the past 2 years that I've owned it. I choose it for Manitou's again due to it's ability to carry 2.5 liters of water plus food comfortably, its non-absorbent materials. and the lack of bounce when I run. I prefer this older version of the vest to the newer 3.0 series because it is a shorter vest that rides higher on my back. The newer vest is something like 5 inches longer and reaches down to my waist. I prefer to have extra ventilation on my back especially in summer. I will continue to run from 10 to 100 milers in this vest for the foreseeable future. I also ran with two UD body bottles in the front pockets that I have adapted with pieces of tubing on the valve to make drinking easier. Since I made this alteration UD has come out with a similar product.
I really enjoyed running Manitou’s Revenge again even though the humidity and mud started getting old. I’m very pleased with the gear I chose to run with and feel like while your gear might not exactly guarantee your success, choosing the wrong gear can definitely lead to unnecessary struggles and a potential dnf.