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Fat Dog 120 Mile 2014.

“Don’t reserve your joy for the perfect outcome. Be grateful for the journey and appreciate the scenery.”

If I could distill my Fat Dog 120 experience down to a single word, it would be laughter. I went in to Fat Dog physically prepared thanks to my coaches and mentally ready to tackle the demons these distances unearth thanks to some creative steps ensuring the ability to  maintain positivity. I am not sure I can accurately portray how amazing a time I had during this race in this blog post, but suffice it to say that this was the most fun I have ever had running. Ever.

There were of course multiple doubts before Fat Dog. Was I really prepared for conquering my longest distance yet? Was I mentally ready to truly hold on loosely to my goals and allow them to shift as the day developed? I definitely was not prepared to laugh as much as I did. Upon registering for Fat Dog back in January, my immediate thoughts for the next few weeks were “what have I gotten myself into?” “how do I even train for something as daunting as 120 miles when I don’t even feel confident in my ability to train to a 100 miler?” Thus began my long search for a coach. I knew I needed someone to not only help me develop a good training regime, but also keep me from overtraining out of fear of the distance.

I approached race day feeling confident in my training and experimentation and with not many expectations. As I previously posted, I got to have the time of my life exploring the Fat Dog course a couple weeks prior. On race day, I get to share it with the amazing ultrarunning community. The energy was different this year. I was surrounded by friends with whom I have shared many miles and stories; life. I had my family literally behind me. The specialness of having my parents and dear family friend Rosanne helping me with my biggest challenge yet was indescribable.

“Perseverance is not a long race it is many short races one after another.”

start

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

As soon as the gun (read as bear banger) went off, I found myself with my best friends Matt and Dave of Project Talaria. We quickly realized how amazing it was that we were finally running the same race together and not sitting at a computer constantly hitting refresh throughout the night. There were a lot of jokes made in those first few moments, and that set the tone for the rest of my race.

I expected to be running a major chunk of this race alone and in less than an hour I was by myself. The first climb of the race is unending, pacing through scenes from an enchanted forest working towards a dramatic summit.

Cathedral First climb summit

The descent finally started and it was a bit more technical than I had anticipated so I just tried not to slip and fall on the wet ground and cambered trail. I rolled in to the Ashnola aid station slightly ahead of schedule and was greeted by my best friends from North Van volunteering and taking photos. I knew the aid stations would be stocked with food, but I was not anticipating avocado!

zCNH2

Coming in to Ashnola AS

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

I have been training on a high fat diet for a while and avocados are one of my favorite sources of fuel but are not that great to leave in drop bags. I made my way out to my family to get my pack restocked and began the climb to Calcite. This section was stunning! The forest was burnt out so all the trees were charred black which made the lush greens and vibrant purple flowers visually overwhelm me with beauty. I knew at the end of this second mountain, a river crossing awaited and then I could see my family and Ms. Rosanne again. Crossing the river was every bit as refreshing as I dreamt it to be. It was thigh-deep in places but as soon as I made it to the other end of the rope I sat down for a while and let the cool water energize me. Then it was just a quick couple miles on the highway to get to Bonnivier, my crew, and fresh clothes and shoes. As soon as I popped out on the road, AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” came on and I began to hammer which felt great after the seemingly endless descent to get there.

photo 1

If there was a low point for me during this race, it was here. I took my time at the aid station changing clothes, refueling, and preparing for a long night alone until I got to Cascade (mile 78) where my best bud Peter would be jump in to start pacing me. I had grabbed a grilled cheese to go from the aid station but I just did not want to eat. After an hour of carrying it, I made myself sit down on a log, drink a lot of water and eat. Almost immediately I felt better, knowing I’d made the right decision to take time to get more calories in. The ascent up to Heather is full on. I got back in my groove, jamming to music and just ticked away until I could hear a dog barking in the distance. I knew I was close to the aid station and then the lights began to come in to view from the thick fog. I was munching on the amazing quesadilla and drinking some Guinness, joking with the volunteers when suddenly I hear a voice on my shoulder asking me if I wanted a pacer. It was Nicola and I gladly accepted!! I had paced Nicola on this exact section last year. We immediately got to chatting and she entertained me with numerous stories from her and her boyfriends time on the PCT this summer. The trail was muddier than I anticipated and my shoes, while great for running support and dry non-technical, the brand of my shoes became my new cuss word every time I would slide. “PEARL!!!!!”

What seemed like a short time had passed and we were at Nicomen Lake aid station which was led by one of my best friends Matt. I ate some fresh cooked bacon, refilled my pack, got a big hug and started the long descent to Cayuse. My quad was really starting to become a legitimate issue. A few years ago I injured my left ankle pretty badly and upon returning to running starting favoring my right leg on descents subconsciously to protect my left ankle. That means that after 60+ plus of my right leg taking the brute force of the downhills was taking a toll. I became fixated on “the road” which would signify about 4km until the Cayuse Flats aid station. Thankfully Nicola did not get TOO annoyed at my incessant questioning about where the dang road was. The mood was kept light with singing songs and laughing.

I managed to hold it together to get in to Cascade but was really starting to wonder if I would have to walk the rest of the entire course given the progression (or digression) of my quad. I was only a little more than 1.5 hours off my fast goal time at this point. At Cascade, Nicola graciously worked on a blister and taping my feet up. Peter had the biggest smile. I’d never seen anyone so excited and that energy was definitely making stoked. We started with jokes and laughter within steps of leaving the aid station. It was only a couple miles until the next aid station and it was all on the highway. I told Peter my concerns about my quad as we got into Sumallo Grove he got to work on loosening it up which helped for a while but along the way my quad pain came back stronger than before. This section of the course was a surprise beauty. All I had heard about it was “mosquitoes.” The trail was the softest of the day, hugging a meandering blue-green river topped with early morning fog and surrounded by towering trees. Peter, who was running his furthest distance ever and first time ever pacing, did a phenomenal job. He would get me running when I just wanted to walk and kept me smiling and laughing with story after story.

The downhills were brutalizing me. I would hobble down then start to run the flats and the uphills. Rolling in to Shawatum (mile 90) aid station was a relief. Another pacer change and ‘only’ 30 more miles to go. Just before the turnoff for the aid station, I thought we surely had missed it and I got Peter to run back to make sure we had not missed a turn somewhere. Tara was waiting for me at Shawatum, all smiles and ready to see the stellar views of the Skyline ridge. The next 9 miles were a jungle adventure — swarms of mosquitoes and lots of prickly overbrush. Tara was incredible at motivating me to get to the next aid station. Once there she quickly got me a beer and bacon. I took some pain meds for my quad and off we went. I normally never take anything during a run but my quad hurt so badly.

I was now entering into the unknown with regards to distance. I had that feeling Samwise does in Lord of the Rings “If I take one more step, it will be the furthest I’ve ever gone.” The climb to Sklyine ridge is a beast. I began laughing at just how ridiculous it was but I knew what was coming so I just put my hands on my quads and powered up. Eventually, we reached familiar territory and my quad pain was gone. GONE! I turned back to Tara, smiled, and said “let’s run.” I guess from the miles and hours I’d spent having to walk my energy levels just increased because I felt unstoppable. Tara kept commenting on how good my gate looked and how fast we were motoring. These last 20 miles of the course are the hardest (and not just because it starts at mile 100), but also have rewarding views.

I got to the Skyline Junction aid station and was informed that I was in 10th place. I had not entered Fat Dog with any placement in mind but I decided right then that I would try to see if I could catch 9th and most definitely not get passed again. I could not believe how good I felt on the ‘pumps.’ These climbs are ridiculous and you can see then next one from the one you’re on. I could see people on the next summit and worked hard to pass them before they had descended. Sadly no one I passed was in the 120 mile version of Fat Dog. I knew what to expect and chugged along until we reached the burnt out forest which is the moment you know it’s 5.5 miles of nothing but downhill to the finish. I do not know what pace I was running towards the finish, all I know is Tara kept throwing down the compliments and telling me I was running a 50km race pace, not a 120 mile.

As you reach Lightning Lake you can see the finish line across the lake, and those at the finish line can see you. I could hear the cheering and dug deeper. My dad told me they had been informed from Skyline (99 mile) aid station to expect me to come in hobbling but he recognized Tara’s cape and it was sticking straight out behind her. I was in disbelief that I felt this good, was running this fast, and that my Fat Dog 120 experience was almost over. I did not want it to end. I came around the end of the lake and saw someone had made a wrong turn so I sprinted to pass them (another 30 mile runner). I had such a blast on the course that it only seemed fitting to come rolling across the finish line doing the Gangnam style dance. I wanted everyone to be laughing as much as I had. I ended up crossing in 32:03:09 which was good enough for 10th overall.

Crossing the finish

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

I am beyond grateful to have my parents supporting me all along the way. They had a great time, fell in love with the ultrarunning community, and kept me focused. I could not have done this without them. I have some amazing friends who will come out to the middle of nowhere and run in the mountains just to keep me moving and laughing. Nicola, Peter, and Tara, I am so happy to have y’all alongside and will cherish the memories and stories for years to come. Heather Macdonald, Peter Watson, and the multitude of volunteers put on a world class event; congrats and thank you. Thanks to Distance Runwear for all the support and Nuun for keeping me hydrated.

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

Photo credit: Mayo Jordanov

After receiving my colorful belt buckle and eating some food we made our way to a hotel where I passed out and woke up in the middle of the night not too dissimilar from this:

pig

Watch the full video of this gif here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zbsUtQL4nY This pig is my post-100 (or 120) mile spirit animal.

Congrats to all my amazing friends and everyone else who took on and did great in one of the 9 toughest ultras in the world.

Take-aways:

  • Have a nutrition plan and stick to it, I finally never bottomed out
  • Laugh well and often
  • I love my family and glad they got to see me doing what I love
  • I have amazing friends and hope to one day give back to them the way they did for me
  • The ultrarunning community is by far the best ever

Keep laughing.

Josh.

photo

Resurfacing. Alive. Dancing.

“All the faces and lives now lost to time but remaining as a reminder, not just that we may one day die, but that we may live now, live fully, and love freely.”

I realize it has been quite some time since I have updated on here. I was laser-focused on my goal race for the year, which just took place this past weekend and will now try to catch up on the events that led into Fat Dog.

Trailstoke 60k

 This was my first Sky Running event and I must say, I quite enjoyed it. Maybe it was finally being surrounded by clouds and rain. Or the Wasatch-esque climbs and descents. Or that I had next to no goals for the day outside of really taking my time and last nutrition experiments before Fat Dog.

Even though I was not particularly satisfied with having to slow down every time I felt like letting loose, finishing with very little fatigue in my legs and energy to spare was worth it all. It was a great weekend with friends old and new, in an area completely new to me. I’m glad my 2014 plan to explore more of the area where I live is panning out nicely.

The race itself was quite well organized being in its first year. After a few items get ironed out, Trailstoke will be a new classic.

 Wild but not Free

“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves.”

I finally got to live my dream. I set up my mini-SUV as an ultrarunning mobile home and made my way off to the mountains. Back in January when I registered for the Fat Dog 120 mile race, I knew that anything could happen on race day but these moments, these days of living wildly would mean more to me than race day itself. As much as I have come to love my community in Vancouver, my heart dances when thoughts of spending time alone running in the mountains for days on end begin to play.

Passion. It is a song heard by few and different for every person. But when you hear this song, you have no choice but to move and be moved. I am blessed and cursed to hear this piece constantly.

I set out, plans in place of which parts of the Fat Dog course held highest preview priority. Equipped with all my gear and the dearest of friends planning on joining me for a couple days, I was excited beyond what I dreamt this moment to be.

Each day held that joy and anticipation you felt as a kid finally released from school or chores and told to go play outside. The deep simplicity was fully satisfying to my soul. The adventure stoked the fire to explore more of the natural beauty in this world. Even getting tracked by a cougar could not dampen my spirits, although exhilarating and scary as hell.

So how does one return to the so-called normal life after finally dancing to the song that has been playing for years? I cannot be the only one left trapped by a desire for wildness. Thoreau has a famous quote “all good things are wild and free.” I do not see how ‘wild and free’ can coexist. To be wild leaves me with no freedom in my ‘other’ life. The mountains are always trying to acquire my attention, gnawing at my thoughts, making the ‘career’ seem as small as a darting sparrow through the trees of the forrest.

I will continue to hold these moments close to my heart in hopes to spread the joy and happiness it gave me to those around me. Or as Howard Thurman put it:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Keep dancing to your song.

Josh.

Sun Mountain 50m 2014.

“If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research.” — Albert Einstein

 Even though I really wanted some solid redemption (which was ultimately achieved) from last year’s battle, this year I was there to conduct a little research, collect some data, and figure out what modifications I need to make as I progress my training for Fat Dog 120. Even my taper was experimental. Sure, I had some lofty goals that I figured I could hit if I had a great day but this day my major focus was the journey not the destination. I knew it was going to be a hot day and I came prepared with all the tricks I had picked up from Western States last year.

runninguptomi25

Photo credit: Jay Klassen

The race started and the plan was to lay low for the first hour or so then start slowly kicking in to gear. On top of trying to save my legs for later I was also trying to take in more calories than I ever have before during a race (or a training run for that matter). I had my doubts about how I would be able to stomach them (hah!) when the heat turned on. I was relaxed and slowly ramping up my efforts when I began the long gravel road climb to the halfway aid station. This is where the cool light breeze that was helping me all morning disappeared and was replaced with the morning sigh of Satan. Whisps of heat would surround me for moments then I would run through the quick respite of a shadow from a tree. I love those trees. I have pinpointed this moment as to what caused me problems later on. Because I was focusing on keeping a solid pace in the ever increasing heat, my calorie intake began to dwindle. When I begin to heat up, I find it really difficult to eat or drink. I thought I was getting really close to the aid station so I decided to hold off on taking a gel at the risk of having it come immediately back up. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much further I had to go and every time I told myself it was time to eat, I brushed it aside that I was so close to getting water thrown on me to cool down and then I would eat.

eat all the gels

Photo credit: Jay Klassen

I made it to the AS and the volunteer dumped the entire jug of water on me as I began to down gels and shots of cola. I knew the next section was going to be hotter but also had some fun downhills. At this point a lot of the 50km runners were starting to show up. I got lost in the fun of descending and realized I was passing a lot of people; that is, until the trail turned and went up another steep hot climb. I went back to my chug-a-long pace and was greeted with many compliments on my downhill speed and fluidity from some 50km racers charging up the hill.

I kept a steady pace and made my way up the hot climb to the Sun Mountain Lodge. Again, the heat pressed down on me and taking in calories was tough. At the top I saw Julie, who had taken me out on my very first trail run back in 2009 with our mutual friend, Ruari. After a quick catch-up and a hug I was off in search of the water station. It was just a drinking fountain beside a tennis court, BUT it had a spout off the side for filling dog bowls, attaching a hose, etc. I sat underneath it and turned the handle. The cold water immediately started working its magic on me.

sunmtn4

Photo credit: Jay Klassen

Heading down to the last AS, the heat overtook the chill from the water at the tennis courts and brought me to a halt. I did not want to be walking any of this but I had zero energy left. The caloric deficit was finally sinking in and I knew what I had to do. I immediately ate a couple gels and some nut butter and continued walking a little bit more to wash it all down and make sure it stayed put. Once I finally made it to the AS I had to sit in the shade, pour more water over me and devour some watermelon.

sunmtn5

Photo credit: Jay Klassen

The final climb was not that bad, but my full stomach in the heat was not a fun combination to try to push uphill. Once on the ridge, clouds came. Sweet, fluffy, glorious clouds. And wind. The chill in the air wrapped itself around me like a hug from an old friend. I was back. Revitalized. Jonathan and Darnelle were at the turnaround, gave me some gummies and told me that the total run time was 7:45. Knowing I had missed my lofty goal of 7:30, I decided I would try my hardest to finish in under 8:30.

I took off, aided by my iPod (on random) playing the best possible songs to hammer out a finish.

Outkast – “Rosa Parks”

Woodkid – “Run Boy Run”

Muse – “Supremacy”

The Human Abstract – “Faust”

 

Crossing the finish line, I gave RD James Varner a hug and was greeted by many familiar faces; my trail running family.

I was able to finish in 8:14:36, a PR for a 50 miler and a PB on the Sun Mountain course. The experiments went well. I did not trash my legs. I did not have to suffer or knock on the door of the dark place.

It was not a perfect race. I made mistakes, but that’s what I went there to do.

Awesome jobs and wise decisions were made by all my friends.

 

Keep moving.

Josh.

The Light That Hides In The Darkness.

If you have ever run an ultra, especially those of us who have journeyed into the 100 mile distance,  you probably know where this is going. Everyone always talks about having to go to ‘that dark place’ sometimes in a race but few divulge much more. One of my favorite bands, Anberlin, has an album titled “Dark is the way, Light is a place.” It accurately describes the process we go through when we have to pretty much dissociate to make it past a difficult time. We mentally prepare for it by coming up with mantras, relying on specific memories, or having a friend along to pull us back out and keep us moving forward and stay grounded. It has been my experience that the deeper I have had to sink into the darkness to push through, the brighter a light is found. I think most of us have stories and images conjure up that would probably have not crossed out minds otherwise.

My parents recently made the decision to come up from Louisiana to support me at Fat Dog 120 miler this August. I am so excited to be able to share this aspect of my life with them. They were the ones that instilled in me a sense of adventure and appreciation for being rooted in nature. Louisiana is a wild place. Your personal space is constantly invaded by nature be it Spanish moss tickling your face, bugs and snakes seeking solace from the suffocating heat, close encounters with a variety of curious beasts, or the unbridled power of a storm. You learn quickly that scary or uncomfortable situations can be thrown at you in a moments notice leaving you with two choices: fear or acceptance.

Louisiana

Throughout most of my longer races, my mind has utilized many different memories to keep my body going. I will share two of them.

I like all ultras, but I feel that the 100 mile distance is the true ultra. It is an unfathomable distance to run for most everyone not in our community and generally requires running through the night. The cumulative factors of not being able to stop moving coupled with the sometimes disorientation that comes along with the night portion give these events a mysterious and attractive persona. One of my favorite times during a 100-miler is seeing the first rays of sunshine after running through the night, quickly followed by getting to remove my headlamp. Those last few hours of having to continue through the dark always make me think of my dad. He loves to go fishing. Many a weekend morning we would wake up before the sun had risen to be putting the boat in the water as the sun was rising. There was a calmness. The smell of my dad’s coffee. The cool, crisp air at the first light of morning. The gentle stirring of all the bayou creatures waking. Admittedly I did not always want to go or to be there, especially on the hot days. However, I always hold fond memories.

If you have never been to the deep south in the summer, you do not understand the term “oppressive heat.”  The availability to escape into air-conditioned areas for exercise is fairly low, forcing people to do walks around the mall. Not a fan of the crowds, my mom would always go walking at the local university’s coliseum. It was not massive so longer walks would go by in a dizzying fashion. As a kid though, those were times to chat and hold my mom’s hand as we walked around and around and around. Many-a-time in my 100’s, something has forced me to a walking pace. The circumstances making me walk can be anything from dehydration, hot hot heat, or hitting a caloric low. Whatever the reason, my mind always jets back to Louisiana, holding my mom’s hand as we circle the air-conditioned hallway of that coliseum.

Now that training and crew plans are solidifying for Fat Dog, I cannot express how much it will mean to have my parents with me. Fat Dog will undoubtedly push me beyond my limits. I am already dreaming of watching that sunrise with my dad at an aid station, drinking some coffee and breathing in the early morning mountain air. And of holding my mom’s hand as she walks me out of an aid station to the next section of the race.

Keep moving.

Josh.

Diez Vista 50k 2014.

Alternate titles:

(1) How to succeed in suffering and solitude.

(2) What not to do in shorter races.

(3) Carry inspiration with you.

(4) Let it be. Blame it on the boogie.

 

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Churchill.

 

To say I was disappointed with a seemingly good result at this year’s Diez Vista is valid. I was not able to capitalize on what I know my current level of fitness is capable of doing. Now that I have had some time to step back and begin to learn lessons from the deep dark pits I visited, I am no longer upset that one of my two “A” races for the year was a bit of a wash. I went in with a very specific time goal and no idea/care where that time would put me placing-wise given the incredible field this year.

I was chomping at the bits to get going on race day. I adore early season Pacific Northwest races. You are almost guaranteed rain and for certain overcast — my favorite weather conditions for both running and life — which allows an opportunity for those of us prone to wear a lot of black and not melt (ahem, 2013 Western States and your insane heat). I came in to Diez fully rested and with a solid race plan. Little did I know that the elusive perfect race we all seek would not be found. I did know going in that I was there to push myself harder and further than I had in a race before. Coming off of almost 6 months of varying degrees of injuries (receiving treatments for nagging issues as late as mid-Feb), I was unsure if my body could even handle what I wanted to do to it. When I know I’ll be heading for a good day of pain, I like to keep perspective. I think it’s important for me to remember that I choose this sport; I have the good fortune of getting that choice. One piece (and the only non-black item on me for the day) was a blue piece of tape around my thumb. I wanted to remember my sister’s newly acquired nephews. These twin boys are the some of the most inspiring kids/people you will meet. Luke and Ben. Ben was born with cerebral paulsy and loves to run. In fact, he won his age group in a race last year (he’s 5 by the way)! He’s recently had surgery and is able to walk up a storm now.

Photo credit: Jay Klassen

Photo credit: Jay Klassen

I was off and running comfortably for first chunk of the course. I ran with Chris (who ended up placing second) for the descent off the ridge then tucked back in to my steady pace for the west side of Buntzen lake, letting him and Jason (3rd place) go ahead. I rolled in to the halfway point aid station feeling incredible. My watch died a few days before the race so I was running blind on time points and heart rate. I also barely ran with anyone for almost the entirety of the race so I know my pace was all over the place (wow there’s a lot of rhyming going on there). I felt like I had not really started working yet. The volunteers at the aid station told me I was less than 2 minutes behind Chris and Jason. This fit perfectly in my plan to blast the east portion of the lake trail. It was hunting time and this dog caught a scent. I made it quite a ways before I could barely hear the next round of cheers from the previous aid station. I knew I had a good lead on whoever was behind me and with the speed I was throwing down, I was positive I would put even more of a gap.

And then, it hit.

My core cramped up. At first I could not take a deep breath. This was not a side pain or my stomach failing me. This was my abs deciding they did not want to play anymore. Immediately my 100-mile mind went to “oh cramps? I need to eat.” So I threw back a couple gels and most of a packet of chews, not remembering that (a) all of my long run training to this point was done with almost only water and (b) I was NOT in a 100-miler where the body has enough blood/time to properly digest. My quick-fix plus an inability to give up on the hunt gave me some pretty incredible nausea that never went away the rest of the race. I was gutted. I knew at that point I would not be able to achieve my time goal and had to make the unfortunate mental switch from “yay party on the trails” to “ok how quickly can I get this done so I can sit or vomit or both.”

Here are the big take-aways:

  • I finished. 5:04 for 8th overall and 3rd male 30-39. That is 5 minutes faster than last year. So given the day I had, I am pleased to have improved, even though I do not feel I had the opportunity to push my current level of fitness.
  • Not a single injury I have dealt with resurfaced. That alone is better than hitting any time goal.
  • I made some rad new friends and am excited to hit the trails with them soon, sans cramping.
  • I somehow convinced a co-worker to sign up for Diez as his first ever ultra. He not only demolished it but is ready to do more!
  • I apparently am horrendous at faking that I am not in the pain cave. I am so grateful to all the other runners and volunteers who were cheerful and smiled when I could not. Sorry for just grunting. But hey, at least I didn’t throw up on you.
  • I got a super sweet 2014 DV50 beer stein that was taken out to my local watering hole that night. We also received electric orange arm warmers which are totally rad.
Wow Ed!

Wow Ed!

dv50 stein

Keep moving.

Josh.

Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest.

Josh Inov-8 vest

In my dealings with anything Inov-8, it is generally a love-at-first-sight scenario and the Race Ultra vest was no different. In this vest they have created what I believe to be the best race vest. I would have said best minimal race vest, but in a race your vest should be minimal. Race directors and volunteers spend hours planning and standing around in sometimes inclement weather just so you don’t have to lug around the kitchen sink, which I hear might fit in the new Salomon vests,  which are great…if you are doing a self-supported 100 miler. (I realize most of those are designed to meet specs of races like UTMB. The Inov-8 Race Ultra vest will meet those as well.)

Overall this vest is about accessibility and customizability. One of the most amazing features (or non-feature) are the zippers. There are no zippers. This not only makes the pack sleek, it gives it an incredible amount of ease in accessing the pockets. And speaking of pockets there are three different sizes per side. There is also a large mesh pocket on the back for extra clothing, etc. Since there are no zippers it is open and super quick and easy to access. I am not at a particularly high volume of training right now however I can already see how I would be able to way more than I would ever need for any race from a 50k to a 100 (or 120) miler. Just don’t do what I did and put a phone in the bottle pockets. You will be hoping for a nice stranger on the trail to pick it up and a lollipop route for the day.

Vest front

Vest back

The options for hydration are outstanding. Placed further down and more on the side, the bottles are form fitting and do not bounce around. I was a huge fan of the UD vests that allowed front access bottles, however, I kept having the cinches break on me mid-race leaving bottles to bounce around and go rogue at will. There is also a bladder with an insulated sleeve for those incredibly long sections in a race or long training run. This brings me to a minor negative about this vest. The bottles are quite essential for the overall effect. I cannot imagine I will be using a traditional bottle with it anytime soon.

Bottles

Bladder and pouch

Bladder hose and pouch secure

The mesh material is light and helps with the vest conforming to your body. In my run commutes to work, sans bladder and bottles, I barely notice that I am even wearing the vest. It is simply the best fitting vest I have tried and does not bounce around.

The chest strap fasteners on the front are not initially intuitive, at least not to me. After realizing the method, I feel it is the most innovative (hah!) in vests – easy in any weather condition, with or without gloves. The chest straps have 3 locations for placement to give you the perfect fit.

Strap fastener

Hopefully you will find the Inov-8 Race Ultra vest as phenomenal as I have. It will for sure be used for all my races this year.

Now to wait for the UltraRoc’s to find their way onto my feet…

Keep moving.

Josh.

2014. Here we go.

I am extremely excited about my 2014 race calendar. I spent a long time mulling over possibilities, timings, and overall fun impact. I have also decided to stay local this year. There are so many places I have yet to run because of a hefty race/travel schedule and I am excited that I get to discover more of where I am fortunate enough to live and train.

There is one focus this year — Fat Dog. It has been a while since I have been nervous about a race. I will have the opportunity to push myself past the 100 mile mark and experience incredibly scenic views along the way. Most of the people I am fortunate enough to call both friends and training partners are also running it, or part of it. Fat Dog has the biggest fun impact in my racing yet.

Cap Crusher 13km – March 23, 2014 (link)

Diez Vista 50km – April 5, 2014 (link)

Sun Mountain 50m – May 18, 2014 (link)

Survival of the Fittest 18km – May 31, 2014 (link)

Trailstoke 60km – July 19, 2014 (link)

Fat Dog 120m — August 15-17, 2014 (link)

Never stop.

Josh.

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