Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Annual "Stuff I Like" List!

Yes indeedy, once again it's time to recap the Year in Gear.  Here's the stuff I used this year and feel confident recommending to everyone...and no, none of these companies are paying me to plug them...I just like their stuff!

After wearing mostly Brooks the past couple years, I ran a bunch of miles in some other brands this past year as well. With the world's supply of clearance Brooks Glycerin 6s in my size pretty much tapped out, I needed to move on from my 2008 shoe crush and find a new love. For my first new shoe date, I wore a pair of Vasque Aether Tech SSs during the Bull Run Run 50. They're not bad for 50 milers like this one on moderate trails, but I wouldn't recommend them for a 100 miler or anything with super gnarly terrain (The uppers tear easily and the boa lacing system pops itself out every now and again on rough stuff)....but for a 50-mile or less speedy trail race, they're actually quite an enjoyable (and light!) shoe to run in.

Later in the year I hopped back on the Saucony bandwagon after a few years away and ran 200+ trail miles in the original Xodus (newer version linked here) before the heel cup failed on me and ripped up my foot during The Ring. I liked this shoe a lot, and I assume my heel-cup issue was a freak thing. I'll probably pick up another pair for my 2010 trail races. Needing a new trail shoe with my Xoduses (Xodi?) out of commission, I picked up a cheap pair of the Saucony Grid Excursion 4s for $53 the week before my Horse-Shoe Trail adventure and they worked out pretty well. I know I complained about their friction heat on the roads, but I should probably realize they only started to bother me on the roads after 110 miles of running in that adventure. For anyone looking to run 100 or less on a course that demands a hybrid shoe, this is actually a great affordable option.

Finally, I'm happy to report I logged all of my road miles in the second half of the year (including my 139+ miles at the NorthCoast24) in the discontinued Saucony ProGrid Ride 1. I have a couple pairs left that I'll rack up a few hundred more miles on this winter before I need to find a replacement as my go-to road shoe. The ProGrid Ride 2 version is out now, and I figure by the time February rolls around and I run out of my stock of 1s, the 2s will be on clearance to make way for the 3rd generation. Not bad timing!

As always, no matter the shoe I'm running in, I always get them online at Holabird Sports. No, they don't pay me or give me any discounts (beyond what they offer everyone on their website), but shipping is always free over $65 (and I usually buy 2 or 3 pairs at a time, so that's not a problem), and they even offer discounts on brand-new shoes too. I highly recommend.

Drymax, that's all you need to know. I've been wearing them for about 18 months now and haven't had a single blister. I pretty much stick to the Maximum Protection versions (with the hot weather versions being great in the summer), and to give you an idea of how well they're made, it took about 1,500 miles per pair before they started to show any wear (and it was on the back of the ankle and not the bottoms!). Simply put, these socks kick ass and are made by Kick Ass people. I couldn't possibly recommend them more. *Disclaimer: They do give me free socks, but I would still pay for them if I had to.

Hydration Pack:
Here's the deal. Nathan's HPL20 pack itself fits great and pretty much has all the pockets and features you need to run a 100+ miles happy. The problem is, their hydration bladder is a total piece of crap. Mine started leaking within the first couple weeks of using it. When I checked for similar issues from others online, I found dozens of other who were dealt the same crappy hand by Nathan's shoddy work. To make things worse, they never bothered to respond to my requests for a replacement bladder online or by phone. Boo to you, Nathan. You're totally off my Christmas list.

I ended up replacing the defective bladder with a great 70oz Camelbak that fits and works great. I highly recommend all Camelbak bladders for their sturdiness and technological advancements (internal support structure, much more flexible hose, etc).

I tried out a lot of new stuff this year, and wouldn't you know I ended up right back where I started. This isn't a bad thing since I always run great on S-Caps and Hammer Gel and Perpetuem, but all sorts of fancy new products continually trick me into thinking there's something even better for me out there. You know what I realize after trying all of these "magic bullets" over the past couple years? What makes me a better runner is working harder (and smarter) in training, and running my races with a smart pacing plan. There are no short-cuts in ultra running. My S-Cap and Hammer combo plan keeps my stomach happy, so I'll stick with that in the future and trust in hard work to make me better.

Other Gear:
You know what else kicks ass? The Black Diamond Icon headlamp, Oxysox Compression socks for lower legs (cut off the feet and put your Drymax there!), BodyGlide, Ultragen and Endurox for recovery, Proline Sports Nutrition for great deals on supplements (look for promo code discounts), the Gregory Miwok pack for self-supported mountain trips!, POM juice (drink it straight up if you're tough, or check out their site for great recipies!), these Sennheiser headphones (awesome for running!), this awesome winter hat from Under Armour, CW-X Tights (love the 3/4s for cold days/night runs), and Dirty Girl gaiters!

I'm always looking for new stuff, so let me know if there's any gear you swear by too!


Jamie Donaldson said...

This is like Oprah's Favorite Things list! Are you going to gibve it away too like her? HA!

Dan Rose said...

"..and YOU get some Hammer Gel!!...and YOU get some Bodyglide!!...and YOU get some Drymax!!"

Not quite the same impact as giving everyone a car like Oprah, but in my defense, she only ran, like, one marathon...so she's got more time to do the little things in life like make a billion dollars.

TrailClown said...

Sweet list. I agree, Drymax, Hammer and SCaps are the "can't do without" items. They never fail. Period. By the way, do you know if/when Drymax is coming out with a compression sock version? I think you mentioned earlier this year on your blog that it was in development. Is 2010 the year for it to arrive?

Dan Rose said...

Hey TrailClown,

Drymax is working on what they call a "containment" sock which will be a stand-alone product to cover the shin (which is great since it allows you to wear it with whatever type of sock the elements call for on any day). They've been testing out their prototypes in the past few months and I'm guessing they'll have something available for sale in 2010. I'm eagerly awaiting the final product as much as anyone!

Chris Roman said...

Alright Oprah few questions.

Which current Brooks shoe due you rec'd, I am down to my last pair of the old Jurek ST3's and need a replacement (bought quite a stash for $42 a pop before they left the building). Have you ever tried the NB100 trail (need a replacement for the defunct 840 I loved, 1 pair left in a box).

Which current Camelback pack or alternative would you rec'd, I need a new one and don't want a crappy bladder.

Drymax - well as you say there is NO subsitute, nothing else goes on these feet.

LOVE Sennheiser MX-85. Talk about a secure and comfortable earbud.

Your fuel rec's have helped me tremendously, especially at Keys100last May when it was too hot to eat!!!

Thanx, C

Dan Rose said...

Chris -

Shoot, you've been running in ST3s?! Talk about light and minimal support...my legs would be splintered into 100 stress fractures if I trained in them full time. You must be 1/2 cyborg or something! I can't recommend anything as light as the ST3s since I generally run in shoes with, you know, actual cushioning...but I have run a few miles in the new Brooks Launch (light, for me anyway, at 9+ oz) and can recommend them 100%.

I can also NOT recommend the Ghost (though I ran in the original version and the 2nd gen is out now - could be better). I found the front of that shoe to be crazy kinds of narrow...which took me by surprise since I've never had that problem before in any shoe. After hacking it apart like a Disciple of Krupicka, I was able to get my foot in there and put 400 miles on them or so...but I wasn't impressed with them at all on runs beyond 10 miles. Definitely a shoe for shorter faster runs...which isn't for me since I'm not sure I know how to run fast anymore!

As for the NB100s, while they're not necessarily "100 mile shoes" for me, they are super light and I do recommend them for up to 50 milers on the trails. Not sure of the official specs, but they must be somewhere between 7-8oz, which is crazy light for a trail shoe. That said, they still have good grip (better than the old 840s) on the outsoles and more rock protection than you'd expect. The uppers are basically tissue paper, so do expect much support there. Tie them snug, stick to the less rugged trails, and you'll have a perfect shoe. I like them a lot on rail-trail surface where I can pick up the pace a bit.

As for the Camelbaks, the Octane XC is great for 70oz of H2O and cool storage zips around the waist. Also check out the Ultimate Direction Wasp pack...slightly less H2O capacity, but great storage options and insulated hose too (keeps your first couple gulps from being nasty hot in the summer months). I recommend hitting an REI or EMS and trying them both on to see which you like best. Both are pretty sweet, but one may fit your needs better.