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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gaining Traction: A Yaktrax Review and GIVEAWAY!

The trail is a treacherous mix of snow and ice several days old and trampled into a slick, rutted, ankle-busting mess.  But you, "have miles to go before you sleep..."  You've got to make it up this mountain.  It takes everything you have just to remain upright, and as the trail suddenly pitches steeply upward, you really wish you had a pair of spikes right about now.  Heart racing, sweat springing to your every pore as you negotiate the footing ahead.  Steep drop-off to your left, narrow trail, icey, and downright terrifying to the pagophobic...

But, alas, you remembered to pack your trusty Yaktrax XTR Xtreme Outdoor Traction spikes!  SWEET!  Fear no more, fear no more.  Ice, kiss it!  You've got a summit to bag!

So basically I have this intense fear of ice, and slippage on said ice, as a result of many a run along the Chicago Lakefront in winter...breeding grounds for some of the worst ice I have ever experienced.  Ever.  Gives me chills just thinking about it.  And, since we now live in a place that can be a bit of an ice fest half the year (up in the mountains), I decided to look into taking control of my fear and getting some traction so that I wouldn't have to miss out on precious mountain time during the winter.  On a whim, I checked out Yaktrax's website to see if they had anything new, and lo and behold: the Yaktrax Run and Yaktrax XTRs appeared before my eyes.  They've been busy making cool stuff!  I've owned the Yaktrax Pros for awhile now, and my brother even sent me a new pair for Christmas this year, so I'm well versed on the Pros.

I'm a big fan of the brand, and I'm a big fan of staying upright and being able to run no matter the weather.  I was crazy-stoked to try out the Runs and the XTRs (hehe, the "runs" :)).  I think everyone knows about the Yaktrax Pros, they are the original Yaktrax, with a velcro strap that goes over the top of your foot for added hold on the shoe.  They are what I picture when I think of traction.  And, they are perfect for hiking in a little bit of snow, not totally solid ice, and for general use (e.g. walking the dog, shoveling, walking to the bus, etc.).  They are the perfect daily use traction device, and sure beat turning all your shoes into screw shoes (which are fun to have, but not ideal).  I have run in my Yaktrax Pros on occasion and they do a fine job in a pinch, they just feel a bit bulky underfoot if there's not enough snow (your foot doesn't go flush with the ground, so it feels a bit...pillowy), and snow gets stuck in the tread and coils.  There's a happy medium in there somewhere, but likely not for the avid runner.

Here's a snazzy shot of the Yaktrax Pros from Yaktrax.com:

Now, the Yaktrax Run.  This was something new to me.  I was curious about how they would stand up to the snow, and I admit, I didn't have very high expectations for them.  I was really psyched about the XTRs, but wanted to give these a fair shake, too.  

They turned out to be pretty...okay!  They would be perfect back in the midwest, where there is not a whole lot of snow these days, but a lot of crummy icey/snowy/slushy stuff that freezes overnight and makes morning runs a little scary at times.  The carbide steel spikes on the Runs are fairly shallow and worked fantastically on the thin snice (snow-ice) I ran in along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail here in SLC.  The conditions were great for these, but their use remains optimal in low snow or thin ice, and much more reliable than the Pros for sure.  I felt like I had really good traction on the slippery stuff along the trail and I felt confident with each step.  The Yaktrax Runs are the best replacement for screw shoes, and you can put them on any pair of running shoes without putting holes in your soles.  

I just busted a rhyme without even 'try'n.

Okay, so, downsides?  Probably user error, but the front lip kept slipping off and sliding underfoot.  I had to readjust this a few times.  And they were fairly tough to get on my shoes initially.  Also of note, snow got stuck in the heel treads of my shoes and the rear coils of the Runs.  The forefoot remained snow-free, but not the rear of the device.  I kept having to knock the snow off my shoes to get better traction.  I think the snow was wetter than usual (it was beginning to melt) so perhaps that added to how much it was packing beneath my feet.  Nevertheless, I made it through fully upright and happy!

Fancy photo of the Yaktrax Runs from Yaktrax.com

Hard to tell in this photo, but the front lip of the Yaktrax Runs kept slipping off my shoe.

Another SLC winter wonderland kind of day :)

This post feels a bit like the tale of the three bears...

And I'm saving the best for last.  I can't help it; I'm completely partial, and for good reason!  The Yaktrax XTRs are a godsend for mountain trail runners.  Nothing short of that.

I LOVE MY YAKTRAX XTRs!  They are a steal of a deal at $50 at REI and they come with a handy storage bag that doesn't rip.  The other big brand of spikes sells theirs for $10 more than the XTRs and the bag is sold separately, for another $10.  That's a lot of dough.  Anywho, 'nuff of that.  Let's get to the goods!  

I stowed my XTRs, in the storage bag, in the back pocket of my Nathan vest on a recent summit of Mt. Wire here in SLC.  Geof and I weren't sure what the conditions would be like, but I had a feeling (and hope!) ice would be involved.  And I was right.  Geof slipped and slid all over the trail, giving me a heart attack on several occasions, not to mention scaring the bejeezus out of himself a few times as well.  The footing was terrible, and it got worse the steeper the trail got.  After a few near misses, I stopped, pulled out my XTRs, slid them on (so easy, so quick!!) and continued onward.  Geof was a little jealous.  I was a kid in a candy store!  Smiling, laughing; I couldn't believe how much better the running was with spikes!  I couldn't believe what a difference they made.  I had high hopes, and they were exceeded.  I haven't felt that sure of foot in...ever.  So, yea, the XTRs worked out pretty well for me.  

Once we began to descend, and the sun had had a chance to melt some of the snow and ice down lower, we were traipsing through a muddy, slushy mess, but I kept the spikes on just to see how they'd hold up and they did awesome!  It was a little like nails on a chalkboard when I'd step on rocks with the spikes on, but they held firm and sturdy.  Also of note, while the weight was apparent, that was the only thing giving away their presence on my feet.  Since the spikes dig into the terrain, there's no weird wobbly feeling (like in the Pros).  Your foot goes flush with the terrain with each step, just as it would in your shoes alone.  Awesome.  The toe and heel plates prevent snow from packing/sticking underfoot, and they actually work.  When I was done, I slipped them off, stuffed them back in their sack and stowed them back in my pack.  Easy peasy!  

I couldn't wait to use them again.  Dare I say I look forward to icey runs on the trails now?  I carried them in my jacket pocket this past weekend on a long run that included an ascent of Mt. Wire again; though I didn't need them I felt good knowing I had them just in case.

In fact, Geof was so impressed with my experience with the XTRs that he decided to pick up a pair for himself as well.  This is huge!  He was skeptical at first, as he usually is with my running knick-knacks, but the XTRs proved themselves more than worthy.  And now we match :)
Photo courtesy of Yaktrax.com.  They really need to put a running shoe in these and get rid of the boots...

 Yaktrax XTR field test #1...climbing up Mt. Wire

Yaktrax XTRs atop Mt. Wire after a gnarly, icey early-season climb

 Look, no snow stuck on the forefoot or heel!

In closing, yes, I have a serious crush on my XTR spikes.  They are a perfect fit for me and for the running I do, and for where I live.  But, the Yaktrax Pros and Yaktrax Runs also have their place in my running/hiking repertoire.  They will all get plenty of use in the miles to come.

Soooooo, now that you've made it through this long-winded post, I have a treat for you!  

I'm giving away three pairs of Yaktrax!  All you need to do is be a follower of my blog (it's easy, follow via Google Friend Connect in the right side-bar, or sign up to receive posts via e-mail, also in the right side-bar), then leave a comment below stating your name, how you would use a pair of Yaktrax, and which pair you think would suit you best (Pros, Runs, or XTRs).  I'll give it a week or so, then select three random winners.  Also, be sure to like Yaktrax on Facebook, and follow via Twitter (@yaktrax)!

Man, I'm so excited to get this posted; it's been a long time coming!

Let the fun begin!

Paige, out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Welcome to My Life, Take A Seat, Get Comfy

I've spent the last couple of months resisting, pushing mightily against a fierce and worthy opponent; it is an opponent that, ultimately, would always win.  But I had to try, because that is what I do...I try.  I guess that's a good quality; being willing to risk it, to fall on my face, just to see what I could do.  I do not like to recoil in the face of adversity, though it does cross my mind (c'mon, I'm human).  Instead, I like to try my hand at it

It's trivial really, this opponent.  Truly.  You'll laugh when you see it.


Yep, see.  I told you so.  I have never, never, NEVER EVER been mathematically inclined.  It's always been a sort of achilles heel.  I have one of those weird photographic memories where I can file away an image or concept for short term use.  And, often, it sticks around long term; but not in the case of mathematics.  I memorized my way through every math course I've ever had.  I learned every acronym, short-cut, and catchy rhyme imaginable to make it through some gnarly math scenarios.  And it worked.

Now, you see, there's this class I have to take as a prerequisite for my program, but you can try to test out of it.  Booya.  Of course I was going to try to test out of a semester of anguish, frustration, short tempers, and, not to mention, the enormous financial cost of a 4-credit hour course.  Blech.  So I self-studied my brains out.  I tried...three times.  I briefly prevailed on the first try, only to find out the requirements had just recently changed, but were never published anywhere for me to see.  Talk about deflated ego.  Crushed in fact.  So I tried again, no dice.  A third time, still no freakin' dice.  I'm pretty sure the proctor could have caught and bottled the disappointment that oozed from me on that third try.  If she would have asked a question, or otherwise elicited any kind of response from me, I probably would have cried.  But instead she just looked at me blankly as she handed me my printed results and I turned and walked dejectedly towards the campus bookstore.

And that's the end of the rope for me.  As the saying goes, "when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on."  So, I bought my insanely overpriced books for the class, tied a knot, and am now holding on for dear life.

I guess it's meant to be.  I'm supposed to take this extremely expensive (read: out-of-state tuition) math class.  Fine.  You win, grand plan, you win!  It's embarrassing; intermediate algebra, bringing me to my knees.  I laughed at myself on the way home after my third failed attempt.  Why do I resist it so?  Why has it always been such a battle?

So where am I going with this seemingly unrelated drivel about resisting?  That, while I do not yet know the outcome of the coming semester, I do know that I have full control over my thoughts and fears.  And so, seeing as one of my new years 'resolutions' this year is to get over irrational fears, I say 'when in Rome.'  I can handle this.  I'll do what it takes to emerge victorious.  I will be the algebra queen!

Speaking of resolutions, I guess I usually like to write about what I've resolved to do at the start of each new year.  I kind of like the tradition here on Serious Case of the Runs :)

In addition to getting over irrational fears, I've decided to say yes more and welcome more into my life. In fact, just yesterday I said yes to something I thought would never enter even an extreme outer orbit of my life.  Endurance cycling.  Yes, you read that right.  Geof asked if I would like to join his company's team for the MS150 ride in June.


*more crickets*

I had three reactions to this:  first, it was, "HA!  No F@*#ing way!  I'm not a cyclist, I'm a runner!"; next was, "I'd truly rather run 150 miles...can I do that instead?"; and, finally, "ah crap, yes...YES, I'll do it.  Why not?!"  This all ran through my head in the matter of probably 30 seconds, as I responded to his text as soon as I hit the next red light on the drive home.  Then reality began to sink in.  How on earth am I supposed to train for a 150 mile bike ride?  Oh, that's right, by riding.  Crap, crap, CRAP!  My butt is going to hurt so much!  But as I began to really think about it, we live in one of the most amazing places for endurance cycling.  The smooth and winding long canyon roads are a cyclist's mecca.  I guess it won't be too bad, and it'll sure be one hell of a cross-training effort for our trail running season.  Boom.  Silver lining = found.  Plus, this means I'll now have to get real clips and cycling kicks for Stiletto :)

So what else have I resolved to do this year?

No more hitting the 'snooze' button.  No excuses.  Our 4 a.m. wake-ups start to wear on me over the course of a week, and I've been known to hit the snooze button...a lot.  Like, really a lot.  And that really gets in the way of running.  So, snooze no more!  That means getting to bed a touch earlier than the average 82-year old, but whatevs.  It means more precious miles await us in the morning.  So far, so good.

My last 'resolution' is to run sub-24 at Wasatch (if I get in) or the Bear.  I can do it, especially considering what my training was like leading up to the 2012 Bear 100.  Now that we live in the lap of trail running heaven, a really great training season shouldn't be a problem :)

Ooooo!  I got a new pair of trail shoes!  The Brooks Pure Grit 2.  Mmmmm, yummy new shoe smell.  They are pretty...heinously ugly (I hope they come up with better colors, lol!), but I took them for a spin this morning and really, really enjoyed them.  It feels like there is a rock plate of sorts in them, which completely rocks (heh), and the tread/grip is incredible.  I mean, seriously incredible.  Who knows, perhaps I'll put these in the line-up for the Red Hot 55k next month in Moab.  I should take them for a spin on the southern Utah red rocks before I make that commitment, though ;)

So, the moral of this long, not-much-of-an-obvious-point post?  Live and let live.  Stop resisting that which you do not fully understand or appreciate.  Open those arms of yours and welcome a little bit of discomfort, a little daring, a little change, a little "why not!".  Sometimes that which we push hardest against turns out to be the best thing that's ever happened to us.  I have no illusions about algebra or cycling becoming the twinkle in my eye, but I do think that there is a place for these things in my life, and I'm now willing to allow them in.  I'm throwing up my white flag on these, and a host of other things I've resisted for a long time.  It is freeing, emancipating in a way.  It's incredibly tiring to push so hard against certain things, especially when it's for no apparent reason.  This is true in all aspects of life, training, racing, love.  Stop hating, resisting, and discounting the things that you've never even given a chance.  You never know, you may find the 'love' of your life, whatever that may be.

I now welcome you (i.e. that which I have resisted) to my life, take a seat, get comfortable.  I'm so very glad to have you, finally :)

Paige, out.

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