Teton Sports: Mountain Adventurers Team

If you haven’t heard of Teton Sports it’s time you repent and change your ways. The Utah based outdoor outfitter carries awesome packs, tents, cots, sleeping bags and more all at incredible prices. However, Teton Sports is more than just a company with great products, they are a company that believes in the outdoors and helping others experience the outdoors as well.

I had the opportunity of working with Teton Sports during my Climb for Change: Two Peaks, Two Days, Two Beards campaign and know first hand the good they do. So it is with a bunch of awesome excitement I am stoked to announce that I am part of the Teton Sports “Mountain Adventurers.”

Teton Sports Mountain Adventurers

Teton Sports launched their ambassador program last week and if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook you’re likely already aware that I am part of the group. However, you may not know that Teton Sports’ ambassadors (Mountain Adventurers) are more than spokespeople and good sayers about Teton Sports. Sure, we all love Teton Sports, but the Mountain Adventurers team is much deeper than that.

Teton Sports has a goal to help excite our society, especially our youth, to get outdoors, to experience life outside of the television or couch, to see the exquisite beauty of this world first hand. That’s where the Mountain Adventurers come in. You see, Teton Sports has done more than create an ambassadorship program, they have created a team of individuals to help them excite and promote the outdoors and I am humbled and excited to be a part of the group.

Teton Sports Mountain Adventurers
My daughter, Paityn, loving the outdoors

I have an incredible love of the outdoors, chances are you already knew that, and being a part of a group of like mined individuals who believe in the value of sharing that love is so exciting for me. I recently wrote an article entitled “Climbing Everest: Why We Know Nothing About It” where I discussed our societal focus on comfort and ease. We live in a time where we expect instant gratification at the click of a mouse. Doing difficult things seems outdated and unpopular by some standards. Spending time enjoying the peace and serenity of the outdoors can seem boring and difficult to some. Those are reasons why I am so excited and supportive of Teton Sports’ push to engage our youth to promote outdoor excitement. Those are reasons why I am so excited to be part of the Mountain Adventures. Those are reasons why I am so excited to share my love of the outdoors and hopefully have a positive impact.

Climbing Everest: Why We Know Nothing About It

Climbing Everest is no easy undertaking yet the idea of standing atop the tallest mountain in the world is tossed around with such a carefree attitude it seems to be comparative in difficulty to standing in line at Starbucks (I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve seen the lines!). Now I know that those of you who experience the outdoors everyday and especially climbers know that indeed, climbing Everest isn’t a picnic in the park. You will also likely know that there are other more technically difficult and advanced mountains to climb than Everest, so what am I really trying to say? Well when it comes right down to it climbing Everest, or any large or difficult mountain for that matter, requires a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work. My thoughts on climbing Everest and our ignorance to the matter is not aimed so much at the actual climbing of the mountain, but rather the disconnect society, in general, has with accomplishing difficult tasks.

climbing everest

Life is Easy

Think about it. Most of us live just minutes from the nearest grocery store. The only work required to harvest our food is, for many of us, sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week. We have microwaves which can cook our T.V. dinners in seconds. We have cars that zip us around from point A to points B, C, D and right down to Z without having to do so much as press the gas or break and steer with our favorite music occupying our every thought. If it’s hot we crank on the A/C, if it’s cold we hit a button on the same wall mounted unit and on kicks the heat.

For all of our advances what do we have to show? Well, a lot of extra time really. We don’t need to work sun-up to sun-down to feed our families. After our daily shift we are left with plenty of time to fill, and how do we fill it? We watch movies, we watch television, we eat (likely more than we should),  we basically seek to be entertained; that’s how we spend our time.

We are a culture that generally lives vicarious lives. We work all day so we can sit and relax while we watch actors act-out things we would likely love to do, but don’t because it’s easier to eat a Whopper and live life through the television screen. In short life is easy and we have embraced it.

climbing everest

Learning From Hard Things

I’m not complaining about technological advances that make life easier. Heck, I love a spending an evening eating some air-popped popcorn and watching a movie with Kyra. The real issue is that the society we have created is aimed solely at making life easier, at taking away any effort to do anything. The more buttons we have to replace actual physical labor or movement the better and that’s why we know nothing about climbing Everest.

Climbing Everest takes dedication, it takes hard work, it takes facing fears and putting them all aside. Climbing Everest isn’t easy, but watching others climb Everest is. Do you see the issue at hand? We as a society have become so complacent we have forgotten that it was hard work and lots of failure that created the society in which we now live so comfortably.

Learning and growth are uncomfortable by their very definition. Remember as a child and your legs ached for no apparent reason. You probably told your parents about the pain and what did they say? You’ve got some “growing pains.” To grow and to learn and to develop takes being placed outside of out comfort zone. It takes us pushing to find our limits, then pushing even further.

Finding Our Limits

I work with youth in my job. I see a reoccurring them in many of their lives. They have no idea what their limits are and they really don’t care to find out. They may have no problem finding out what their parent’s limits are, or their school’s limits, or even societies limits, but as far as their own limits not a chance.

Developing a desire to push ourselves to the edge in anything is difficult, there’s no doubt, but that is what makes it so worth it. When was the last time you really pushed yourself? I mean really went out there and left every ounce of your effort on the trail or the mountain or your job for that matter?

climbing everest

For me the more I try and find my limits the harder and more elusive they become. That may sound odd to some. However, the harder I push myself the more I am able to endure, the more I am able to do and the harder it is to reach my limits because they keep getting farther and farther away. Maybe someday my limits will include climbing Everest, maybe someday my limits will push past climbing Everest. However, the important truth is that the more we seek to find out limits the more we will find ourselves able to accomplish in life.

So how about it? Let’s all try a little harder. Let’s all be a little better. Let’s all work to push past our limits, to overlook comfort and ease and start by climbing Everest, whatever our “Everest” may be.

Busy Week Check In

I have been off track this week with posts and overall focus on my blog for a few reasons. So let’s take a minute to chat, you and I, about life. I’ve been struggling with rehabbing some Achilles tendinitis, over the phone job interviews and have some rad news about becoming a sponsored runner and joining a team called the Mountain Adventurers (the last couple I’ll get to in a subsequent post).

Injury Rehab

This week started with still being able to run due to my nagging Achilles Tendonitis (going on 2 weeks almost). Yeah, that’s a relatively short time, but it’s driving me crazy, especially considering I’ve got a 50k coming up in just over a month. Seriously people send positive healing vibes my way, I’d really appreciate it! If you want to check out the story behind my wrecked Achilles check out my recent post, “The Latest in My History of Bad Decisions.” So I’m currently doing everything I can to rehab myself; ice, massage therapy, heel-drops, you name it. Other than that I’m not happy about missing a day hiking trip at Point Reyes tomorrow with Paulina Dao from littlegrunts.com, Russ Beebe from winehiker.com, and Christian Arballo from ArballoImages. So I’m sad I’ll miss hanging with a a rad crew tomorrow, but I’m really trying to heal up as I’m feeling a little pressure to be healthy and do well in my upcoming 50k as I recently became a sponsored runner. I’ll share more about that soon in a different post!

landon faulkner mount olympus summit

Job Interviews

Besides the injury I have a busy job with job interviews, which is a good things to say the least. A few months ago I talked about my frustrations and stresses regarding job hunting in a post entitled “Finding a Career in the Outdoor Industry.” However, nothing positive has happened yet in the search. Just because writing helps me sort my feelings and frustrations I’ll share a bit of background. I had an opportunity to interview over the phone for three positions this week, all of which I was excited about.

The first interview came as a cold call in the evening after the work day. I was taken back, but had applied the day previous so felt confident in being able to remember the job description and went ahead with talking to the interviewer. Although the job would be a dream job, and one I am qualified for the interview seemed to go a bit awkward at best. Some people are difficult to read over the phone and for me the interviewer was just such the type. I felt tongue tied and difficult to get me thoughts and points across. I’m generally very confident in interviews and felt confident about my potential with this job, but man did I feel like I blew that interview. So even though I haven’t heard back my mind is telling me to scratch that one.

The second interview would have actually been via Skype, but it didn’t turn out on my account. I had applied to a position and had been talking with the HR manager for a couple of weeks without anything really happening other than she said the position I had applied for had actually been filled before I submitted my application. However, she said she was impressed my experience and resume and listed a couple of jobs I may want to check out that were open. I love the company and was equally stoked both positions she listed (both very similar jobs) and I let her know I would be interested in interviewing. Then she shared the salary which is a bit less than what I currently make (for reference it’s hard to make less than me as a college grad), and we would be living in an area where the cost of living is at least 50-75% higher. So I politely declined having that interview. Scratch job no. 2.

On to the third interview this morning. This was for a job I knew I was under qualified for, but had applied nonetheless after seeing the listing pop up a number of times. I was stoked to have scored a phone interview given my obvious lack of years of experience, but it only took about 3 minutes for the interviewer to decide that my lack of experience was a bit too much in this case. I figured that would be the case even though I had studied and prepared like crazy for the interview. The interviewer was super nice and helpful and I identified strongly with him as our backgrounds in education and early experience are somewhat similar. He was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk with me and provide some tips and insights, yet at the end of the day it was another “scratch that” interview.

Kyra Faulkner
Kyra Passing on Positive Vibes

Requesting “Positive Vibes”

All considered it’s been a good week. I’m working on healing physically and having landed some phone interviews has felt great. At any rate I would be stoked to you to send some positive vibes my way. I’ve been job hunting for quite some time now with limited success so any good vibes or connections y’all might have for me would be much appreciated. What am I looking for? Marketing Coordinator type positions within the outdoor industry.

Best part of the week though, it’s Friday! So get out there and #makeadventure!

Backcountry Food: My Lazy Diet on the Trail

That’s right, it’s time to talk a bit about nearly every bodies favorite topic: food, and more specifically, backcountry food. As an active participant of Sierra Trading Post‘s #TrailTime Twitter chat the topic of food comes up nearly every week regardless of the actual discussion topic. So, this week Sierra Trading Post will be leading the #TrailTime chat with a focus on everyone’s favorite topic and as a lead in a number of bloggers (including me) are talking about our favorite foods, tips, recipes and everything in between. Check out the rest of the blogging crew right here and make sure you tune in for the #TrailTime chat on Thursday at 3pm PST.

Now, on to the topic at hand; backcountry food. In truth I love cooking. However, my least favorite part of cooking comes after the cooking is over. I hate doing dishes. My dislike for washing dishes has no doubt lead me to be the laziest backcountry food prep guy around. So when I was asked to participate in the Sierra Trading Post blog link up about food I wasn’t entirely sure what to write. So after some thought I decided to just jump in and embrace my laziness with how a lazy backcountry food guy gets by. As a disclaimer of sorts I urge you not to eat  like I do, life on the trail can taste so much better.

Landon Faulkner backcountry food
Lunch Break on a snowless portion of road due to the Sulphar Works geothermal pool in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

A Lazy Man’s Backcountry Food: Dehydrated Meals

My diet generally changes rather significantly on the trail out of my own laziness and that’s honestly what it comes down to.  I have eaten more freeze dried meals than I could ever hope to count. Not that they’re awesome, but because after backpacking from sun-up to sun-down the last thing I want to do is cook and clean dishes. Boiling some water waiting while the dehydrated food “hydrates” is generally pretty easy. So that’s what I generally do. I scarf down a bag of vegan friendly thai food, call it a night and pass out until morning. I only eat the dehydrated meals for dinners and live off of a snack style diet the rest of the time.

Snacking for Success

When I’m not boiling water for freeze dried meals my backcountry food consists mostly of snack food. This portion of my trail diet is made up of mostly Clif Bars, dried fruit, nuts and some candy of some sort. My snacking is pretty basic and pretty simple. In some regards my snacking trail diet is pretty close to my normal diet. I generally eat a lot of fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and legumes. So the switch up here isn’t quite as drastic as my freeze dried backcounty food TV style dinners. I end up going by the rule of, “if it will still taste good on the trail or at altitude, pack it.”

landon faulkner backcountry food
Cooking at 10,400 ft.
landon faulkner backcountry food
Summit Snack

Changing my Ways

I have been trying to improve my back county food repertoire while still maintaining my laziness and I have made some progress, so before you write me off as the worst backcountry food preparer let me share one of my favorite, and very easy, backpacking meals.

Sweet Delicious Couscous

Yeah, that’s totally the name I have given my conscious backcountry food recipe. However, this recipe is basically just that, a sweet delicious couscous meal.

Cook Time | About 10 Minutes
Serves | 1-2 (generally just me though)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup couscous
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 Tbls brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Place all of your ingredients in a quart size freezer lock bag before you hit the trail. When you’re ready for this meal just bust out the back and boil 1 1/4 cups of water. Then just dump the water into your freezer lock bag and zip it shut letting the couscous cook for about 7 minutes. After that you’re good to go with a super easy and delicious sweet couscous meal.

back county food landon faulkner
Clif Bar Goodies

Life on the Trail: Backcountry Food

Everyone does things a little bit different. I think the goal of enjoying your backcountry food is finding what works best for you. I’m not sure I’m completely there yet given my general lean towards freeze dried meals, but I’ve been experimenting with things for awhile now and slowly making the switch into creating my own delicious meals. So when it comes right down to it, my best advice is start with whatever is easiest for you and learn as you go. The important part is getting outdoors and not starving and if that means freeze dried for awhile (or for a few years in my case) then so be it. I think the more time you spend outdoors the better and the more time you spend outdoors the more likely you are to find something that works best for you.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, don’t forget to check out all of the other awesome posts that are full of tons of information and knowledge on Sierra Trading Post’s Social Hub. Then be sure to tune in to the Twitter #TrailTime chat on Thursday at 3pm PST. I’ll see you there!

Outdoor Research Shorts: The Turbine

Personally I generally don’t think of Outdoor Research as running short creators and makers. In fact Outdoor Research shorts were totally off my radar before I received the Turbine Shorts as part of the #ORInsightLab. I suppose I’ve always thought of Outdoor Research as making some of the best jackets and pants out there and totally glossed over the Outdoor Research running shorts department. So once I pulled the Turbine shorts out of the box they arrived in at my doorstep I was pretty stoked to give them a try.

To start let’s talk briefly about these Outdoor Research shorts’ construction. The Turbine shorts are made for the heat with UPF 50+ fabric that is highly breathable, stretchy and wicking. The Turbine’s have a 7 inch inseam and feature a spandex style liner and elastic waistband. There is a single zippered rear pocket and reflective trim and logo for visibility on the road. Overall, these are some seriously rad shorts.

landon faulkner outdoor research shorts
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

My Experience

So there’s the quick down-low on the Turbine, some pretty rad Outdoor Research shorts. The real question though is how did they work for me? Well, first off I’m not quite as into the barely their running shorts as Tony Krupicka, but I generally prefer a running short with a pretty minimal inseam. Running in shorts with a 7 inch inseam took a little getting used to and in truth my largest complaint with these Outdoor Research shorts were their length and weight. I generally train in a very lightweight and short running short, so the longer and heavier Turbine shorts were a bit of a switch that took some getting used to. Granted, you may not be into the 3″ to 4″ inseam shorts like me anyways, and in that case my only complaint would be negated by your preference of a longer short than I generally wear. If however you rock it old school like me in the short shorts Outdoor Research does make an almost identical pair to the Turbine except they have a 5″ inseam, those are called the Scorcher Shorts.

I had my reservations about the liner at first. I generally prefer a brief style liner and these Outdoor Research shorts feature a boxer brief spandex liner. Generally I have disliked boxer brief spandex liners or compression shorts because I feel like I am constantly adjusting and trying to get a comfortable fit. However, with the Turbine shorts I had a completely different experience. I put the shorts on and as soon as I started running my skepticism vanished. My first run in these Outdoor Research shorts had me totally forgetting my history with constant adjustment and readjustment when wearing, what I thought, were similar styled liners. Outdoor Research definitely nailed it with their liner in the Turbine Shorts, they fit great and feel great, and in truth, I was totally blown away by their comfort.

I took these Outdoor Research shorts out on some long and sweaty runs in the triple digit heat of the Northern California foothills as part of their testing. What I found is that although they feel a bit heavier than other shorts I wear the Turbine shorts wick and dry in a flash. I love the stretch of the shorts as well that help provide a great fit the whole run. The stretch fit feel of the Turbine shorts is extremely comfortable and stays feeling great mile after mile on the trail.

Bottom Line

Overall the Outdoor Research Turbine shorts are pretty dang awesome. The liner is extremely comfortable and the stretch and feel of the shorts is great. I love how easily they wick moisture and how quickly they dry. Even if you’re a short shorts type of guy like me I still recommend these Outdoor Research shorts. Sure, the 7″ inseam was a bit long for my liking, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Turbine Shorts, and don’t forget to check out the Scorcher Shorts with their 5″ inseam. I definitely recommend treating yourself to a pair of either shorts, heck maybe try both. The Turbine retails for $59 while the Scorcher retails for $49 and they are definitely both ready for speed on a hot day in the mountains.

landon faulkner outdoor research shorts
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

The Latest in My History of Bad Decisions

I quite possibly have the most rich history of bad decision making when it comes to pushing my body. I am all too often pushing myself when my body is telling me to stop which has resulted in some injuries in my life all because a bad decision here and there. Here are a few brief examples:

My first year of high school football I jammed my wrist quite painfully. It got a little black and blue and swollen so I did what any normal person would do. I kept playing and just taped it up, for the rest of the season and through basketball season. Bad decision because I learned, almost a year later, that the pain I had experienced ever since that initial injury was really a broken Scaphoid bone and would require surgery and a bone graph. Yeah, bad decision to put off having that one checked out.

Landon Faulkner bad decision

My senior year of football my right hip started getting sore. Unwilling to yield because of some minor and routine aches and pains I kept playing. It was near the end of the season and I didn’t want to miss out on our last couple of games. Well, by half time of the last game I could barely muster a hobbled walk and sat the rest of the game. X-Ray’s later revealed I had stress fractured my femur. I missed almost all of soccer season. If I had addressed the issue properly when I originally realized the issue was more serious than aches and pains I would likely not have been sidelined for most of the soccer season; another bad decision.

Then there is of course the more recent bout I had with ITBS which started during my Climb for Change. Carrying 50+ pound packs over snow with snowshoes in steep and difficult terrain was a bit much for my left knee. I could feel it getting very sore, but couldn’t stop. The result? About 4 months of almost no running and at home therapy before being able to train again. I had to finish what I started, but once again made a bad decision of doing too much too soon.

I have a history of treating every event as the most important event of my life and even when my body is telling me to stop I press on. Granted I have learned the difference between the crying my body makes due to fatigue versus the real pain of when I should stop because of potential injury, but I seem to not care either way. I just keep on going, like nothing is wrong until it’s all wrong and even though I’ve “learned” this lesson more than once I still seem to always make the bad decision.

landon faulkner bad decision

That leads me to last night’s run. I went out to run a quick few miles. I figured I would do a fast 10k for speed. I have been trying to incorporate more speed and tempo runs into my workouts and I wanted to push myself and feel “fast.” That’s all fine and dandy, except I had noticed some very slight Achilles heal pain during my last couple of runs, but brushed it aside. The first four miles I was clocking just over 7 minute miles and was saving some juice to speed up the last 2 miles (I’m no speed demon to begin with). Well about that same time my right Achilles and heel started getting pretty stiff and painful. I stopped for a second, then continued onward – BAD DECISION! I wanted to make good time and I’d be damned if a little pain was going to stop me.

Well, short story shorter, today I am taking ibuprofen, icing my heel/achilles and hobbling about with an extremely stiff and sore Achilles heel. So once again I am learning the lesson of actually listening to my body when it legitimately means it and not making the bad decision. Looks like I will be doing some biking and swimming for a week or so before I get back to some easy slow runs.

The real take home lesson I am beginning to learn is that I am too prideful and competitive even when nobody is watching or even cares. I am so obsessed with pushing myself I refuse to listen to my own body and while that can be a very good thing it can also be a very bad thing. Finding the balance between listening to my body and stopping when I should stop has cost me some painful lessons. Let’s hope this one is able to heal quickly!

UltrAspire Surge Review

The UltrAspire Surge hydration pack is a perfect setup for those long training runs with just enough space to pack some food and gels for the day without getting too big and bulky. I received the pack from UltrAspire to test and review and over the last couple of months have done just that. I have taken the UltrAspire Surge pack with me on short tempo runs, medium runs, and long runs, from road to trail and back again, just to get a good feel and idea of how the UltrAspire Surge pack wears, fits and performs. What I’ve found is that the UltrAspire Surge pack is ridiculously awesome, straight up. Why do I really like the UltrAspire Surge pack so much and what makes it great? Let’s start with the specs, shall we?

 

ultraspire surge pack landon faulkner
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

Basic Info

  • The UltrAspire Surge retails for $120, about standard price for similar packs.
  • Comes in UltraRed or Pitch Black (color shown in my photos is not longer sold through the UltrAspire website).
  • Tested in the Sacramento Central Valley and foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California.
  • Tested during a particularly hot and dry summer.

 

ultrapsire surge pack review landon faulkner
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

Specs

I’m not going to cover every detail of the pack, rather I’ll mention those that I found most helpful and which contributed the most to the use and comfort of the pack. For a full list of specifications and details check out the UltrAspire Surge pack on the UltrAspire website by clicking here.

  • 2L bladder and 15.2 ounce pack weight (dry)
  • Dual side compression and chest compression adjustments for a perfect fit
  • Very secure speed hook system
  • Magnon Electrolyte PocketTM which uses a magnetic closure to hold electrolyte and salt tablets and keep them dry
  • Mesh front pocket for small hydration bottle
  • Zippered front pocket for gels
  • Upper back pocket for phone, keys, ID, etc.

To give you a quick visual run through of the pack here is a video look at the UltrAspire Surge pack.

 

My Thoughts

Now that you have some basic understanding of the pack construction and specifications, lets talk about the performance and fit on an actual runner (me) on actual trails. I love that the vest fits high and stays in place. The side compression straps are awesome for getting the perfect fit for any size and the sternum straps are easy to tighten as the bladder is slowly emptied or the trail gets hairy and you need a tighter, more secure fit. I generally start with the front sternum straps somewhat loose but continually tighten them throughout my run as I drink and the UltrAspire Surge stays in place perfectly.

 

ultraspire pack review landon faulkner
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

The 2L bladder is perfect for those long runs, or as I found out, even those shorter runs in high heat. Getting the bladder into the pack took a little figuring out. It took me a couple of times of trying to put the bladder into the pack after filling it with water before I realized the trick. There is an elastic strap inside the pack that holds the bladder in place. Once I got smart enough to realize this, getting the bladder in became pretty quick and easy, not to mention the elastic really helps keep the UltrAspire Surge bladder in place while running.

All of the pockets on the pack are perfectly set up for everything you need on those long runs and races. The front left pocket has a zippered which is a perfect place for gels, and it will hold quite a few. The exterior of this pocket also has a small stretchy pocket for any small items. The front right mesh pocket fits a small bottle which is great for an electrolyte mix. There is also the waterproof magnetic closure pocket mentioned previously that is made to hold electrolyte and salt tablets.

 

ultraspire pack review landon faulkner
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

The pockets on the back of the pack are pretty awesome as well. The upper zippered pocket is where I generally store my phone, keys, ID/Credit Card and some Body Glide. This pocket buckles down into a mesh drop pocket at the base of the pack as well. This larger mesh pocket is where I generally store my jacket with easy and quick access.

Bottom Line

Overall its difficult to find anything bad to say about the UltrAsprie Surge pack. As I mentioned previously I tested the pack on short and hot tempo runs, medium runs and long runs on the road and the trail. It stays in place perfectly, which is one of the most important things for me. I haven’t had any issues keeping the pack in place more technical runs or fast tempo runs. The 2L bladder size is the perfect size, not too much and not too little and allows me to pack enough for my long runs without having to drink from every little stream like Tony Krupicka; I’m always a bit worried about bacteria and contaminated water, Tony, however, is not.

Another one of my favorite aspects of the UltrAprie Surge pack is the compression strap system. Both sides tighten or loosen to fit almost any body size as well as adjust to fit the pack on the center of your back as well as align the front pockets just where you want them for comfort.

 

ultrapsire pack review landon faulkner
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

The only issue I had with the UltrAspire pack is running shirtless. I forgot my running shirt on a drive out the a trail one morning and rather than wear the cotton t-shirt I drove to the trail in I opted to go shirtless. After 8 miles my nipples had had just about enough of the constant rubbing from the pack. So, I don’t recommend shirtless running with this pack, or really any pack for that matter, it’s generally not a great combination. I’m just glad I hadn’t planned a longer run that day, my poor nipples would have been quite torn up.

Running Logs: Week of June 30

My running logs for this week include another building week. Next week I plan to back off a few miles then alternate larger and smaller mileage weeks as I continue to build. I have officially registered for my first ultramartahon, a 50k in San Francisco area, the Tamalpa Headlands 50k on August 23. I’m pretty amped about this race and it will be a difficult one for sure with a total elevation change of approximately 7,300 feet.

So, needless to say it has become important that I am able to incorporate some more elevation gain in my running logs this week and the few weeks to come until the race. So here’s how my running logs look for this Fourth of July week.

landon faulkner running logs

Running Logs:

6 miles (8:55 Splits with stroller) + 2.3 miles (12:37 splits with Kyra and stroller)
8 miles (8:33 splits with stroller) + 2 miles (11:23 splits with Kyra and stroller)
4 miles (7:26 splits)
15 miles (8:20 splits)
11 miles (9:02 splits)
4.5 miles (7:05 splits)

Total Miles: 52.8 miles

As always, feel free to run with me via Strava.

#makeadventure Missouri

The origins of the name “Missouri” can be traced back to the Sioux tribes who once inhabited the areas along the lower stretches of the Missouri River.  When translated, it means, “place of the big canoes.” The etymological conclusion is simple enough to reach: Missouri is home to the confluence of the two largest rivers on the North American continent, and it required significantly large canoes to navigate those waters back in the day.

missouri 50 states in 50 weeks

One of the two most prominent expeditions in American history originated in Missouri, and I’m not talking about the moon landing. The one I’m referring to is the Corps of Discovery, which departed the St. Louis area in 1804 under the orders of president Thomas Jefferson to find a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean. It took Lewis and Clark two years to return from the Oregon coast; something we can accomplish today in a few hours.

Both word origin and an expeditionary history lend credence to the adventurous spirit of present-day Missourians. There is no shortage of outdoor activities available here, and it’s probably one of the most recreationally-dense states in the nation.

Floating

missour #makeadventureSince the time the Sioux gave the state its name, birchbark canoes have ceded ground to kayaks, rafts, and inner tubes on Missouri waterways. There are thousands of miles of floatable rivers and creeks in the state. Most of these waterways rise in the Ozark Plateau, and have carved immense bluffs through the limestone and granite hillsides. The water is crystal clear, and you’re pre-approved to take a dip in one of the numerous swimming holes you’ll find. Taking a relaxing canoe float-trip is almost a rite of passage for Show-Me state youngsters.

Missouri is home to the Eleven Point River, one of the “original eight” National Wild and Scenic Rivers as declared by Congress in 1968. In addition, the Current and Jack’s Fork Rivers combine to make up the Ozark National Scenic Riverway, which was authorized in 1964 and was America’s first national park established solely to protect a river system.

If running whitewater is your bailiwick, you’ll find opportunities to do so here. When the rivers run high, class IV-V rapids can easily be found in the streams that come down from the St. Francois mountains. These mountains are 1.45 billion years old – three times as old as the Appalachians – and at one time were one of the few landmasses visible above the primordial sea. The St. Francis River is a favorite and is the annual site of the Missouri Whitewater Championships. Taum Sauk Creek, when navigable, is home to class V rapids and drops 500 feet in the first mile (pretty steep by midwestern standards). You can even catch turbulence on a channel of the Missouri River close to St. Louis where the water rushes over a submerged concrete slab. Named the “Centaur Chute,” these rapids attracts kayakers eager to give the big river a try – watch out for the 50-foot tree trunks floating by.

Speaking of the Mighty Mo, feel free to enter the MR340, a kayaking endurance race covering the entire length of the river from Kansas City to St. Louis. Competitors are given 88 hours to complete the 340-mile paddle, all while battling river barges, and avoiding dikes and bridge pilings. It’s not your daddy’s float trip.

Climbing

missouri #makeadventure

Missouri isn’t known as a hotspot for rock climbing, but if you look for pitches you can certainly find them. The southern half of the state is home to a number of climbable river bluffs and outcrops. On occasion, the limestone will protrude through the forest floor and offer spontaneous climbing opportunities. Many routes grade out at 5.5 or higher. And if bouldering is your thing, get yourself down to Elephant Rocks State Park. As the name suggests, the park contains granite monoliths the size of elephants just waiting to be climbed. A few are classified as high as V6.

Hiking and Camping

missouri #makeadventure

In 2013, Missouri was named “Best Trails State” by non-profit organization American Trails. The award is given to a state who has significantly improved their trail system, and Missouri has done just that. Mostly unthought of by hikers, Missouri has some great trails. Not all are suitable for backpacking, but day hikers can rejoice, for they have infinite options. Among the trails, the longest and best maintained is the Ozark Trail. The OT begins a hour south of St. Louis and winds its way 350 miles to finish very close to the Arkansas state line. Maintained by a non-profit, the OT is well-marked and travels through the state’s best scenery. Numerous spurs can give hikers challenges, like summiting Taum Sauk mountain or a ford of the unpredictable Black River.

missouri #makeadventure

The Mark Twain National Forest protects 1.5 million acres of Missouri. The MTNF is home to numerous campgrounds and hiking opportunities. If visiting, check out the trail systems in the state’s seven wilderness areas for a scenic one- or two-night backpack. In addition, the 83 Missouri State Parks protect an additional 200,000 acres and offer nearly 4,000 campsites and 900 miles of trail. This would include the Katy Trail; the nation’s longest developed rails-to-trails project. The Katy runs 225 miles along the Missouri River from the St. Louis area to Clinton. Dispersed camping is not allowed along the trail, so it’s best suited to biking and day hikes. You can backcountry camp just about anywhere else though, as long as it’s not private property.

Boating

In addition to miles of navigable rivers, Missouri is home to numerous recreational lakes. The most popular of these is the Lake of the Ozarks. To give you an idea of how big this lake is, it has a longer shoreline than the state of California has oceanfront. It sits behind a large hydroelectric dam on the Osage River. Once considered a tourist trap, the lake area is now popular year-round, but the population probably doubles or triples in the summer with city visitors. If revelry is your thing, you’ll want to visit the Lake of the Ozarks’ infamous “Party Cove,” which the New York Times described as, “the oldest established permanent floating bacchanal in the country.”  Nothing beats tying 3,000 boats together and getting your party on. And yes, the author has participated a time or two. For something more G-rated, try the equally mammoth Table Rock Lake near Branson.

missouri #makeadventure
There are a few things you’ll want to take into account if you are planning to visit. The first is the weather. It can get pretty cold in the winter, and is usually hot and humid in the summer. The heat index can easily top 105 degrees in July and August. In addition, the summer is tick season in the woods, so take precautions before walking through the forests. On the other hand, I’ve never found mosquitos here to be overwhelming. Second, prepare to see critters. Missouri has diverse wildlife, and you might see anything from scorpions and copperhead snakes to black bears, elk, and wild horses. Be sure to diligently prepare before beginning your Missouri adventure. And finally, have fun and enjoy the state. You’ll find the people who live here to be some of the friendliest and most adventurous anywhere.

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Review

Landon Faulkner
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

 

The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak is a mean, lean running machine aimed to get you on the trail for some freaky fast trail runs. Lightweight and highly breathable the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s feel like a second skin on the trail, but also offer the protection of a patented puncture resistant ultra-thin sole. I received a pair of the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s to test and review and was quite frankly blown away by Vivobarefoot’s newest addition to their trail running line. I got my first look at the Vivobaregoot Trail Freak’s at the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show and was impressed with their bright and comfy appearance, so naturally I was excited to get these shoes on my feet and on and the trail for some real testing, but before we get into all my thoughts, impressions and commentary about my experience with the shoes let’s talk briefly about the specs.

The Specs

The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak shoes initially looked like an updated and more hip version of the Breatho Trails I tested earlier this year (review here), but on closer inspection that is not really the case. The overall feel of the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak is much different than the Breatho Trail, and I must say I like it.

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

The Upper

The Trail Freak uses a lightweight duo 3M mesh and laminated upper that is breathable yet keeps your foot secure and in place; It really feels like a comfy cozy sock. The upper also incorporates a Dri-lex lining with Lycra collar which keeps your feet dry, a very important feature in keeping your feet healthy on those really long runs. The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak quick and easy closure lacing system is another great feature that sets it a part from the Breatho Trail, who’s laces seemed endlessly too long.

The Sole

The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak has some serious sole. You can expect a zero-drop platform with the Trail Freak as with all Vivobarefoot shoes that also uses a removable 3mm insole. The roomy toe box gives you plenty of room for your feet to expand over the roughest of trails and the grip will keep you going regardless of the conditions. The outsole of the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s mean serious business with 4.5mm lugs that perform just as aggressively as they appear without sacrificing the overall barefoot feel  Vivobarefoot prides itself on.

vivobarefoot trail freak
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

My Experience

If you can think back to your childhood, way back to when you were just learning to walk, your parents may have put you in those socks that had a bunch of little grippy things on the bottom to keep you from slipping. Do you remember those socks? Well that’s exactly what it felt like the first time I tried on the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak shoes. I love the second skin feel of the shoes that seem to hug my feet without feeling too tight or uncomfortable. The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s were a whole different story on the trail, and boy was their story a good one. For me I don’t want to worry about my feet on a long trail run. I don’t want to think about my shoes or about getting blisters or black toenails especially as I am currently preparing for my first ultra marathons.

With the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s I have been comfortable with running and not concerned with anything else. I am able to focus on my training, my pace and the trail in front of me without having to worry about me shoes or my feet. Peace of mind on my long runs over rocky and rugged trails makes a huge difference in being able to get those long runs in. The Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s feel fast and comfortable on my short tempo runs as well as my long back-to-back weekend runs.

Vivobarefoot trail freak
Photo Credit | Andrew Faulkner

Bottom Line

It’s been extremely hard to find anything I don’t like about the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak shoes and I suppose my job as an honest reviewer is not to search for things I do or don’t like, but simply share my experience. Subsequent to that belief I really don’t feel there is anything about the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak that I would change or that I find myself wishing they had. For me the feel and fit of the upper is incredible and the sole provides excellent control and performance on even the gnarliest. My bottom line with the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s is that these shoes were made for the perfect barefoot experience on the roughest trails out there.

Pick up a pair of the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak’s for $110 right here.

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