Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gear Review: Gore Windstopper Jacket

I'm not going to lie--I've been forced inside on the treadmill this winter with a little more regularity than I'd like.  Part of that is a new work schedule; after eight years of working the night shift, I've gone back to a mix of days and nights.  On days when I'm working at 7 or even 9 am, it's a lot easier to throw on a pair of shorts and stagger upstairs to the treadmill for an early morning run than it is to face layering up for an hour in single-digit temps.  And I don't want to complain, but it's been damn cold here!  I'm no big fan of the treadmill, but they call it the path of least resistance for a reason, no?

I have a new piece of gear this winter, though, that's been getting me out the door more consistently on those near-zero days: my GORE Essential Windstopper soft shell jacket.  GORE is known mostly for their cycling apparel, and I'm sure you could run in their bike stuff, or bike in their run stuff, or whatever.  This one is from their running collection, but it doesn't matter.  It's a soft shell jacket, which means it's nice and stretchy and flexible, without the limitation of range of motion you often find with windproof outer layers.  It is very lightweight.  It is, as the name implies, windproof, and though it makes no claims to be waterproof or even water-repellent, I've found it to be surprisingly moisture-resistent while running in a variety of conditions.  I did have a recent 15-miler with my friend Ian during a fairly steady downpour that overwhelmed it a bit, but I'll take it.

The greatest property of the jacket is its surprising warmth for its weight.  It is a very thin, very light shell, but due in part to its wind-blocking capability, it is incredibly warm.  How warm?  When I started today's run at 11 am, my phone told me it was 9 degrees.  I wore the jacket over a long sleeve and a short sleeve tech shirt and had to ditch the long sleeve halfway.  Put it this way.  On a day when my face looks like this:

I can wear the jacket

with a short sleeve t-shirt AND NOTHING ELSE.

The last thing I'll say about it is, it's damn sharp-looking.  I'm not sponsored by GORE (though I certainly wouldn't mind!); I bought this jacket with my own money.  You should too.

I'm in the process of putting together my 2014 race schedule.  I've got a pretty good sense of what I'd like to run, but I'm already wait listed at one of my target races, and a couple of the others haven't opened yet, so I'll wait a bit until I post a full 2014 schedule on the site.  My first race, though, will be the Mount Mitchell Challenge in Black Mountain, NC on February 22.  Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the eastern US, and the Challenge is a 40-miler to the top of the mountain and back.  It's a great race that I ran for the first time in 2011, when I had a really good day,  and I'm hoping to have another good one in four weeks.  Plus the race is just outside Asheville, aka Beer City USA, so, you know.  I used to work Coach Roy Benson's running camps in Asheville when I was a collegian, and it remains one of my favorite mountain cities.  Actually, when I was a high school camper there, in 1991, my counselor was a local triathlon hotshot named Jay Curwen...who is now the race director for Mount Mitchell.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

(A Very Short) (Sort-of) Race Report: Viking Run

Happy New Year to all!

It's been a bit of a lull on the blogging front.  Holidays etc.  Since my DNF at Tussey  my only race has been the Rockland Alumni Race, which is a 5K XC race that I've run every year I've been eligible, since 1993.  I write about that elsewhere, though, so just follow that the link to discover the greatest running event in the history of the world.  No need to overlap here, though, so it's mostly just been training, work, and family time.

The Viking Run is a very low-key 10K in Rosendale, NY, only about 10 miles from my house, held annually the weekend between Christmas and New Years.  Just $5 to enter, no frills, no numbers, no t-shirt, just a nice homemade post-race spread and a lot of hills.  It's an out-and-back over the hill that basically comprises the northernmost edge of the Gunks, making for approximately 1000' of climbing over 10K. It's a real kick in the ass.  It's a nice off-season race to stay sharp and get in a bit of hard work.

Viking Run start
photo: Martin Weiner

This year's race was held in a steady rain.  As usual a couple of high schoolers took off at the start and the rest of us old farts never saw them again.  I settled into the chase group with my good friends Mike and Alex and one of our new training partners, Mark Eisenhandler.  I tried to keep a nice steady rhythm going but found it tough to settle into a comfortable level of effort.  My legs felt heavy and I lacked any real pep, and I just resigned myself to gutting out a tough one.

Digging it out, with Alex right behind.
photo: Martin Weiner

At halfway I was in third place, with just a five-second lead over Mike and one other chaser.  Mike is a beast of a downhill runner so I knew I'd have to push the final uphill to build up as much of a cushion as I could for the last two miles.  Still it was almost impossible to find my comfort zone.  When I'm climbing well it feels almost effortless, but this was a slog the entire way.  I was able to stretch it out a little bit, though, to maybe 45 seconds at the summit.  It's no fun running two miles downhill when you know your training partner is running you down with every step, but fortunately Mike ran out of room and I held him off for third by about 15 seconds.  My time was nearly 50 seconds slower than the last time I ran Viking, in 2010, but I'll chalk up the difference to the weather and my ridiculous headgear hopefully more than any deficiencies in my fitness level.

What a stupid hat.
photo: Martin Weiner

I'll post some more about my plans for 2014 in the coming days, so stay tuned, I guess.

So long, 2013.
Photo: Martin Weiner