Topo Runventure 3 Review

Believe it or not I never ran until college. When I did start running for real the only shoes I liked were true minimalist shoes – as in so minimalist you could role up TWO pairs and put them in a Nalgene. My mom called them rubber socks). Prior to that you’d only catch me barefoot or in riding boots (and then military boots). I couldn’t run a mile to save my life when I first started, but that’s exactly why I started running – to save my life from an abusive relationship.

Remember these?! Yea I loved them! I could get 1000+ miles per pair. I wish they would make them again.

Anyways, up until a couple years ago all I wore were New Balance Minimalist shoes…..until they quit making them.

Since than finding shoes has been a pain. Eventually I settled on Salomon S/Labs. These are no longer meeting my needs, getting narrower and a wee bit odder every year (this year they added new ‘socks’ to them). My feet were torn apart from them being too narrow on my last run in them. However I really didn’t want to lose the ability to stick to wet slick rock that these shoes provided. So here began my next round of hunting for new trail shoes….again.

I already gave my brief review of the Topo MT-3 (here). I still love the overall fit of Topo so next up came the new Topo Runventure 3.

Specs

Best For: Trail Running

Stack Height: 20mm (0 drop)

Heel to Toe Drop: 0MM

Weight: 7.6 oz (W7) (215 grams – only 10 more than the new S/Lab Sense Pro SG)

I really like these. One thing though is I wear a full size smaller in these compared to my other Topo’s. However – this means that they fit more true to size in comparison to other brands. So Now I wear a W9 in New Balance, Newtons, Altra, Salomon S/Lab, and the Topo Runventure 3.

I had tried Altras early on in my hunt for new trail shoes while trying to stay minimalist. I really don’t like a heel to tow drop greater than 4mm and definitely prefer 0mm. But for me the Altras were too roomy. They weren’t secure in the heel or mid-foot. I also found Altras to be too much cushion and not enough support.

The Runventure’s are a 0mm drop! Woo Hoo! They are a bit more cushion than I’m used to but they have a nice responsive rockplate in the forefoot and are a fairly firm stiff shoe that really gives that support I’m looking for on trails. They fit much narrower in the heel and mid-foot while still allowing plenty of toe space. Running downhill in these was fantastic. I had room to splay my toes but at the same time I had ZERO issues with my foot sliding forward or hitting my toes on the edges of the shoe. There’s ample toe protection too.

The Runventure also boasts an awesome sticky Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole. While it will be a bit before I can really test these in some mountain terrain (thanks COVID), Vibram has a reputation for having amazing sticky outsoles. And fresh out of the box they were sticking to my floor, so I have no doubt they will be fine. The outsole also has a fairly aggressive tread, but not so aggressive that it’s uncomfortable to be on pavement for sort bouts. These will fair well in wet muddy terrain and soft sandy trails and anything in between.

My biggest complaint about the MT-3 was the lack of breathability. These are much more breathable than the MT-3 with a durable coated mesh and drainage ports. They still aren’t as breathable as I’d like but this I will sacrifice for the rest of the shoe.

The laces are standard laces but they aren’t as slick and slippery as the ones on the MT-3 so they stayed laced with no problem. You’ll notice my funky lacing pattern – most shoes (not just Topo’s) that use standard laces put a pressure spot on the top of my instep. By simply changing the lacing pattern and pairing with a heel lock lace, I can alleviate this issue – Yay no numb toes (took me years to figure out this was why).

My funky lacing to relieve pressure on my instep.

Also happy to announce the women’s shoe is not pink or purple. It comes in Black/Grey or Green/Grey (men’s come in Black/Blue and Grey/Red).

These are definitely comfortable too. Fresh out of the box I happily got a solid 11+ miles with no issues. My friend got a solid 10 miles fresh out of the box with his as well.

My friend John’s new pair after their first 10 miles fresh out of the box.

If you’d like to try them for yourself go here. Bonus my friend John is an ambassador and often has options for discounts. Just reach out to him here or here.

Stay tuned – up next will be one of my new packs from UltrAspire (either the Basham or the Astral 3.0)!

Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 4L Review

So the thing that started this spurt of mini review was that my former favorite running pack – the Nathan VaporMag – ripped at a seam substantially enough that I lost my favorite pair of cold weather arm warmer (which I sadly can’t replace).

Busted seam in my Nathan VaporMag

Nathan has awesome customer service and promptly replaced my ripped pack with a new a one. Unfortunately the VaporMag has been discontinued, so they sent me the closest thing – the VaporHowe 2.0 4L.

I’m going to upfront about my overall opinion – I hate it. It will be going to my good friend who loves the VaporHowe line. That being said there were some good things about it too.

Really the only thing I didn’t like about the VaporMag was the lack of a place to store my poles. The VaporHowe has two times the capacity and still NO PLACE FOR POLES. Also, with the added capacity you’d hope at least one back pocket would be reachable while wearing. Instead they are all deep pockets that just layer outward on each other, with the outer most pocket being a vertical zip. To get anything out the whole pack must come off.

The VaporMag upper back pocket is just open (and no nothing ever fell out). The VaporHowe uses velcro closures. The closures are nice but velcro and long hair don’t mix. My hair was constantly catching on the velcro and geting pulled out.

The VaporMag is a super breathable mesh. The VaporHowe is the compressive stretchy material. This material is super soft, but also super hot and not breathable at all.

The fit isn’t great either. While the size was correct and the pack sat appropriately on my body, the straps made it too tight. Full I couldn’t even buckle the bottom strap without inhibiting my breathing and one strap equaled lots of bounce. The new straps aren’t stretchy (in theory the fabric of the whole pack is supposed to stretch with your body’s movements).

Ok so what did I like?

The one thing I really liked about the pack was the big pocket for a phone up front. It is underneath one of the water bottles and more than fit my iPhone X in it’s case. This pocket is rater resistance line ONLY on the water bottle side, not the side against the body, so sweat is still a big issue here.

The bottles are 20 oz (600 mL) each which is double that of the VaporMag. They also have a spine to help them not collapse (all of Nathan’s soft bottles do!). These bottles also have the straight straw. The straight straw is much easier to clean than the angles one. However, with how the pack sits I kept getting hit in the face by them. The water bottle on the side without the phone pocket bounced a lot once it wasn’t completely full, something with the difference in structure failed to fully support the water bottle. These bottles actually fit my VaporMag and really old Solomon Adv Skin 12 Set better than they fit in the VaporHowe, so they will still get used. (Hopefully they work with my new packs I’m testing as well – stay tuned.)

Above Left to Right VaporHowe Bottles and VaporMag Bottles. Note the round bottomed VaporMag bottles actually can stand up full on their own which is pretty awesome. The VaporHowe bottles cannot.

It has a nice little pill pocket with an emergency whistle – unfortunately I lost everything I put in the pocket as is has no closure.

The pack is compatible with a 1.5L hydration bladder and comes with a magnet clip.

The pack comes in colors other than pink. In fact they sent me a blue one. And it has reflective materials/printing on front and back.

If you’d like to try it for yourself you can get it here (or probably your local running store).

Stay tuned for more reviews as I find my new running favorites. Next up the Topo Runventure 3 shoes.

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I am going to talk a LOT about different runners- especially one man very dear to my heart- but I promise you that this involves women (freaking scary amazing ones I might add) too!

Just WOW. This was epic to be a part of. The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (aka – WSER) is an epic ultra distance trail run from Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA that was started officially as a running race in 1977 following the horse race of the Trevis Cup Ride that began in 1955 – 100 Miles in 1 Day. The first woman, Pat Smythe ran in 1978 and finished in 29:34!! (more on history can be found at https://www.wser.org/how-it-all-began/)

This trail race is mostly single track with 18,000 feet of vertical gain and 23,000 feet of vertical decent. The weather varies year to year but often includes lows in the 30 (F) and highs in the 100 (F) with the lovely California humidity to add. Not to mention the forests are home to lovely plants like poison oak, muddy cold creeks, and often large patches of snow (this year included so much snow there were slight reroutes around it!). Oh and poles are NOT ALLOWED and the cut off for finishing is 30 hours!

To truly run 100 Miles in 1 day means in under 24 hours. And “No Sleep ‘till Auburn” applies to not only racers, but also to volunteers, family, crew, pacers (second half of race, racers may have 1 person at a time run with them and trade off at different aid stations) – and my wee man tried to apply this rule to himself too….

Needless to say it’s a long epic day for tons of people. Top runners in the WORLD toe the start line with everyone else. This year the Women’s Elite lineup was bigger than the men, including ladies like Clare Gallagher, Courtney Dauwalter, Camille Harron, Francesca Canepa, Kim Magnus, Camelia Mayfield, and many more. The race had 24% female starters making it the largest female ratio to date! (They have a goal of 50/50 ratio). So YAY ladies for getting out there.

369 racers are allowed to start. 319 finished in the 30 hour cutoff this year.

The man’s silver buckle for finishing in under 24 hours.

I got to be a part of this! It was amazing. If you’re a road runner think Boston Marathon but on trails and multiplied by 4. Everyone is out there! This year my man ran. I got to be a part of what we call crew or the people who meet the racers at different aid stations to help refill water, change so many and shoes, get food, give pep talks, deal with blisters and puke, etc. I also got to pace my man to the finish! This was amazing.


He left it all out there on the trails, finding many breaking points towards the end. He was in epic amazingly high spirits while the sun was up, even being a goof running like an airplane trying to cheer up our wee man at one aid station. Goal: just to finish. Estimated reality time: 27ish hours. Actual finish time: 23:24:09!!!!!!! He finished in 102nd place for 100.2 miles, earning some epic bling of a silver (yes real silver) handcrafted belt buckle and I got the privilege of taking him to the finish line!!

In the process I also got the opportunity to watch the winner run through (Jim Walmsley finishing in 14:08:29 breaking his OWN course record by over 21 min!), I also saw Camille (pulled out just after the halfway point due to injuries acting up), Clare (1st female – will share more), Courtney (was epic to watch her run and was in first until something happened with her hip and had to pull out), and (for my CO folks) Dave Makey!

Dave has been an ultra runner for years. A few years back he was in an incident on the trails that left him trapped under a boulder for several hours, eventually leading to the amputation of 1 leg. While he didn’t make it to the finish line this year, he continues to be an inspiration to keep preserving for many of us out their on the trails.

Now let’s talk about Clare Gallagher AND Heather McGrath; the first and last female finishers.

Clare is another CO gal. She caught the ultra running world by surprise a few years back winning the Leadville 100 Mile Race Across the Sky (with frosting in hand lol). This year she finished WSER in 17:23:25 as 1st female and 17th overall. She used her winning speech as a time to bring awareness to many things including climate changes and how it affects both the local area, our trails across the country, and places she recently endeavored like the Arctic. I’m still waiting to see the full interview from her win and I haven’t heard back yet if she brought any frosting.

Heather McGrath – a name I’d never heard before. The last official female finisher with a time of 29:59:01. While I don’t know much about her I do know this: she is a badass. She finished WSER! 100 miles on foot. She advocates for our land and trails.

If you’ve ever considered ultra racing or even trail running, I promise you ladies will find an amazing tribe of strong encouraging women who will never cease to amaze you. It also opens up many opportunities to raise awareness for causes and run land you’d otherwise be prohibited from crossing. And only in ultra and trail racing do you get to participate with the best in the world!!

PS: More on WSER can be found on my IG and Facebook as well as WSER.org

Carbon Valley Half Marathon- The After

Words. Sometimes there are none; sometimes there’s too many

I just ran the Carbon Valley Half Marathon for Autism while pushing my wee man. I carried with me names of others with autism for each mile. And your damn right I finished.

Honestly I can’t believe I didn’t cry when I crossed that finish line – probably because I was so pissed to be finishing with 2 flat tires (aka unable to sprint to finish). This race meant SO much to me!!

It was my:

-First official half Marathon

-First stroller race

-First race since son was born

-First race since Leadville DNF (2016)

-Longest run since son born

-Longest stroller run

That’s a lot! A lot to be grateful for. 13.1 miles 2 hours 20 minutes and 13 seconds of grateful. The course is relatively flat: 11 miles of steady climbing and 2 miles to finish. The course is over 50% “smooth” dirt and some pavement.

I went in with a ‘goal’ of averaging about a 10 min mile

Miles run for:

.1 Kyle (my Son’s Father and my Boyfriend)

13 Myself

12 Edan

11 Hunter

10 Annabeth

9 Tedy

8 Silas

7 Atlas

6 Avi

5 Bayla

4 Jack

3 Tyler Jr

2 Jasper

1 Edan (to help me start and finish!)

I am so grateful to have been able to participate in this event. It was so special to me and to share with friends whose hearts it is also very close too. For some awesome shorts of the race and I go check out their YouTube from after the races. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1kI-gU30PgU&feature=youtu.be

SCORE! Budget Saving Deals (Originally Posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

Disclaimer: No affiliation with any links provided in the post. No commission being earned.

Backpacking, hiking, running … supposed to be the ‘cheaper’ sports. Just lace up and go. But anyone who’s done even the slightest bit of research knows that it still ain’t cheap.

So with a major trip coming up that requires a major purchase (a pack in my case) how do you save money?

First off, not everything needs to be new. Check out Craigslist and the Facebook marketplace for local used stuff. I recommend staying away from used shoes unless they are a pair someone tried once and just didn’t work for them. If you are an REI member they have Gear Swaps once a year and often have killer deals in their garage sales (now available online too YAY). In CO I also recommend checking out local small gear shops. We have tons scattered around the state. And a newer up and coming bigger store is Feral Mountain Co. (https://feralmountainco.com/)

For new stuff: The biggest money saving thing is to remember that 90% of the time last year’s model is just as good (sometimes better) than this year’s new model. Closeouts can pretty much always be found 25-50% off their original retail price. For example, I’m getting last year’s model of the Deva 80 pack by Gregory. This year’s model retails at $349.99. I’m getting last year’s model for $179.99!! That’s $170 saved just for getting last year’s model.

Previous models are regularly found on discount sites. They often carry clothes and footwear seriously discounted as well. All have reasonable return policies too for when it doesn’t work out. These are my favorite to check out and all run their own sales and coupons too. (No affiliation with any, just sharing)

Sierra.com

Backcountry.com

TheClymb.com

MooseJaw.com

For the newest and latest REI often has great sales, especially around Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Plus their members discount days, 1 year return policy for members, and the opportunity to earn dividends (aka money back), makes them a great choice. Also, most major gear companies run their own spectacular sales. If you can wait for major sale weekends I suggest you do and shop around.

If you’re a blogger with major audience or a professional in the outdoor/fitness industry in some capacity, chances are you probably qualify for some pro discounts too.

Going the distance…with an infant?! (Originally posted on AllWomenAllTrails.com)

I often get double checked on my distance when sharing my adventures with my son.

With my upcoming backpacking trip people keep asking how far I think we’ll go each day. And then their jaw drops to the floor when I answer 12-15 miles.

Most people don’t realize my background. I’m an ultra distance trail runner. That means I run further than 26.2 miles at a time on mountain trails. I’ve been doing this for years.

Me running in the Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile run

My last multi day trip was 155 miles in 3 days. The longest day was 55 miles. That’s all carrying about 30lbs dry weight (not counting water weight). So when you compare that to miles carrying weight and sometimes a kid that’s not too bad.

We’ve also been hiking together since he was a few months old; working on building my strength carrying him and his tolerance to altitude. So far our longest single day hike (leaving after breakfast and being home before dinner) was 12.34 miles and gaining about 2300 feet in elevation.

First overnight with the wee man. This pack doesn’t fit right and made for some rough times.

So when I say for a multi day trip I think we can do 12-15 miles each day, I’m not joking. If you break it down. 12 miles per day at 2 miles per hour (30 min mile) is only 6 hours of hiking. That means more than enough time for lunch and breaks and naps and never rushing out of camp in the morning. We’ll be going in July when sunrise is before 6 am and sunset isn’t until well after 8 pm. This leaves more than enough time to have daylight for all activities without setting up or taking down camp in the dark.

Another consideration is that my last multi day trip was in the same area. We’ve also done lots of day hikes in the area. I’ve hiked every single mile of trail in the wilderness area we are going. So while I don’t have our exact route planned yet, I know the area very well.

I know many people think I’m crazy and that’s ok! It’s crazy fun and I love it.

Memories from my last multi day trip in the area we’re going. This was about 5 pm after a day of torrential rains.

First overnight with wee man. So peaceful once I got him down to sleep. We share a double sleeping bag.

Pre-Planning and the Darn Budgeting (Originally posted on allwomenalltrails.com)

REI…

Anyone with even the slightest sense of adventure could easily spend thousands of dollars here. Plus they work as a Co-Op and advocate and work towards saving our precious environment. What’s not to like?!

Our family probably only visits two other stores more frequently- the grocery store and local running store (Runner’s Roost Lakewood).

They have just about everything adventures require.

The iconic flagship REI in Denver, CO

So to the point. Why was I looking at summer adventure gear when we were expecting a good 9-12” of snow the next day?

Simple- I have a super epic trip planned with my wee man! This summer is crazy, with ultra distance trail races, remodeling the kitchen, family time, and birthdays. But the big trip is just going to be me and my mini me (and probably the dog).

Kitchen remodels aren’t exactly a safe environment for a 23 month old who gets into everything. And construction and toddler sleep schedules don’t mesh. So I figured it would be better to go backpacking!!

We hiked all summer last year. This year he’s walking and running! It will be so much fun. But also requires quite some planning.

It’s not like a 23 month old can carry his own stuff….so I will carry it ALL…plus him a good majority of the time.

I’ll also need extra gear I wouldn’t typically carry by myself (I’m a minimalist when it comes to gear). So to REI we went to start figuring out what I need that I don’t have and planning a budget (eek money).

On our way up to Shelf Lake. Little man’s highest elevation hike so far at just over 12,000ft

Things I need:

A new pack. Mine isn’t big enough to carry everything and my larger one doesn’t fit right anyways. What am I thinking: Gregory Deva 80L (which is actually 76L)

A ‘kitchen sink’ aka a collapsible wash bucket. Why?! Diapers!! I decided it would be much simpler to use cloth instead of trying to pack ALL the disposables a trip would require. No one wants to pack those out anyways. With cloth we wash and sun dry (July = nice and toasty) and use again. This means less space taken up by diapers and no carrying a ton of dirty ones.

Pack towel!! There’s a ton of water where we’re going. I assume there will be water splashing times that leaves me a soaked child.

Left: Break time! Right: No one wants to carry dirty diapers. 

Maybe need:

Charging system for phone. Normally I don’t carry my phone but multi-day trip with the wee man means bring it just in case. Plus -WATERPROOF CAMERA!! (There is actually cell service on and off through the area we’re going)

Gear straps. Might need to strap things on to outside of pack. Definitely want some sort of ‘clothesline’ for diaper drying on the go.

Soft bottles. My dogs chewed up my favorite ones. I prefer these as the weigh almost nothing and can be stuffed anywhere in the pack.

A little pack for the little man. This will be decided last minute depending on how much he’s hiking on his own during day trips. This will be a 100% just for fun item because kids always love to do it themselves.

When you take into consideration the upcoming member sales and Memorial Day sales you can estimate this to cost around $300-$500. This doesn’t include any food costs.

So pre-planning is done!! Next up – logistics of the where.

This is why we pre-plan and plan. Sometimes it just sucks and you need to be ready.

The Bell and Bowl: Tips from a physical therapist

I want to take some time to talk about posture, specifically in regards to the pelvis and ribs.

I also want to note how scary it is to share pictures of myself. So yes these are me. No they aren’t photoshopped. No I don’t have a perfect flat stomach. Yes I have scars. But it’s real…and also shows how much posture can change how you look.

While this posture is crucial for running and I’ll mostly be talking about it in regards to that, it’s also important to everyday life.

The way my physical therapist put it is:

Think of the pelvis as a bowl and the rib cage as a bell. When properly aligned the bell and the bowl line up smoothly. When misaligned, more often than not the bell sticks forward and up from the bowl.

Ok great so how do I fix it?

Think about first lining up the bowl. Don’t let your hips tip forward. Use your gluten (your butt) to pull hips back and slightly down.

Then the bell. Draw your belly button back towards your spine and let the bottom of your ribs come down with it.

When running, don’t over puff out your chest. Your back should remain relatively straight. The forward lean of your upper body should be the same angle of lean as your lower legs.

For me I find when I get ready to pick up pace I tend to lift up with my chest. What I’m working on doing instead is to imagine lifting forward while maintaining the bell and the bowl alignment.

Having the image of the bowl and the bell is the best visual cue for this posture I’ve ever had.

Image courtesy mcmillanrunning.com Thanks for the best visual while moving

To work on it becoming my regular posture I start every core exercise I do by making sure I’m lined up. Then when I’m doing my exercises they are being done in the right posture; therefore strengthening the correct way.

It takes practice. Tons of it. And when you’re tired you’ll revert to bad posture. The more you work on it the more it becomes your natural posture. So keep working on it.

Slow Down

It’s ok to slow down.

It’s ok to slow down, especially when you’re feeling off. Hormone shifts can do that. So can lack of sleep. Or maybe you just didn’t eat enough.

You don’t necessarily feel bad- just not great.

It’s ok to slow down. We’re runners and that tends to be hard. But it’s ok to slow down.

So today I made peace with the treadmill. I want to start logging more miles but I’m still feeling off. So slow and easy – very easy.

Slowing it down can be helpful. It helps you make sure you’re breathing. Gives you time to feel every inch of your body. Check in with yourself about how it’s really feeling. Allows you to focus on form. All of these things lead to being a stronger less injury prone runner.

So again I repeat : it’s ok to slow down

Don’t compare your slow. My slow may be different than your slow. That’s ok. Focus on your own slow. Also know that today’s slow may be different than tomorrow’s. Again that’s ok.

Want some ‘sciency’ reasons to run slow. Check out The Happy Runner by David and Megan Roche.

Geese Icing

Recently in Colorado it’s been on a pattern of snow 1x/week the be in the 40-50s. It’s gorgeous.

It also makes for some funny running stories

It was 2 days after a good heavy wet snow. About 45 out when I went to start a run. The thought was that the track was probably melted after a day and half in the sun so it would be fine to go run with the stroller and dogs.

Well I was wrong. It was almost completely covered still. At first it didn’t seem too bad. Stroller rolls quite smoothly through snow. But there’s a flock of geese that have been hanging out and their footprints cover about half the track. Each one being a spot that’s melted and refrozen. So a whole bunch of geese foot sized ice pits. Pushing a stroller through this is not only extremely difficult (as is pushing 1/3 of my body weight wasn’t enough) but feels like rolling over a washboard. Needless to say little man wasn’t happy and it wasn’t exactly runnable.

So pause and try again. Half the track is smooth snow without footprints. “I’ll just run U’s,” was my thought. Ok great the first few times but now the stroller tracks are turning into ice grooves. Once again little man not happy.

I decided to head home. Leave the dogs there, pee, grab a drink and try again on the paved trail. Honestly this wasn’t much better. Some areas were dry but about half was ice and slush pits.

Let’s just say it ended up being a painful it at all fun run. And bonus the little man o lay slept for a short bit and was awake before we were home, so no real nap.

Have a funny winter running story?? Share below!!