Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review of Called Again by Jennifer Pharr-Davis

I'll start with this: JPD is one of my heroes. I managed to get her phone number through the friend of a friend connection prior to attempting my PCT FKT in 2012. I remember being sweaty palmed and nervous to talk to her on the phone.

By the time we hung up I felt like just maybe I could manage to pull and FKT hike together.

Jennifer is strong, compassionate, and encouraging. Her words on the phone before the PCT helped me plan better. Her words in Called Again, the story of her own FKT on the Appalachian Trail, helped me stay strong and focused in the dark, hopeless moments of my Appalachian Trail FKT last year.

So, now the book.

Called Again is Jennifer's account of her overall supported Fastest Known Time hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2011 (subsequently broken by Scott Jurek in 2015). She was supported by her husband Brew. She covered the entire 2,181 miles in 46 days.

What I loved about this book was the detail of the story behind the miles. The love of hiking. The strength of her marriage through hardship and sacrifice. The beautiful generosity that pervades the long distance hiking and running communities.

Jennifer is an above average writer, something that I find hard to come by amongst athletes that write their stories. She is gifted not only physically, but artistically. If you've struggled with the writings of other modern athletes you won't have that problem with Called Again.

If you're curious about the mental ups and downs of pushing yourself to the very limit for prolonged periods of time this is an incredibly honest look. Jennifer doesn't hold back from admitting the times she was less than kind and generous to her support crew. This makes for an authentic read rather than euphoric fluff. It's real, gritty, honest, and complete. I loved every word.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sealskinz Waterproof Socks Review

I am an ambassador for Sealskinz USA and as such receive my socks at no cost. I choose to write reviews on my blog for those who are interested. I am under no obligation from the company to do so, and the opinions expressed here are just that: my honest opinions based on my personal experience with the products reviewed.

I stumbled onto Sealskinz USA at the winter Outdoor Retailer show two years ago. I was immediately impressed with their waterproof technology and ordered a pair of socks for my second run at the Barkley Marathons. From there I have developed a working relationship with this great UK based company and have been privileged to try a wide variety of their gear in all types of conditions all over the world. The gear I have used has performed admirably from the summit of Rainier to the jungle of New Zealand. They've also been great supporters of my role as public speaker and frequently provide sample products to giveaway to the audience. Thank you, Terri and the Sealskinz USA co!

Since it all started with socks, I'll review several styles here today. For what it's worth, Sealskinz offers a huge variety in their socks and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a style that wouldn't work for you. Overall I have been extremely satisfied with the waterproofness and durability with only a couple of caveats and cautions.

  • Never, ever put them through the dryer! Alas, my first pair got fried when my boyfriend inadvertently put them in the dryer. They were never the same.
  • Make sure you're wearing the right temperature rating. I've had issues with super sweaty feet that ended up cold and wet because the socks I was wearing were too warm for conditions.
  • Consider a liner. Along those same lines I've layered my Sealskinz socks with Drymax liner socks for long days. This helps keep the feet from getting soggy from sweat.
  • Don't wade unless you've got hydrostop! I've made the mistake of fording rivers that were too deep for my sock height and ended up with a sock full of water for the rest of the day. Make sure you get one of their hydrostop models if you think there's a chance you'll be going over sock deep.
  • Keep the pebbles out! (and other debris) I wasn't conscientious about this on a mixed river/bushwhack/scree hike and noticed that small holes rendered the socks leaky. Pair them with good gaiters if you'll be taking them through rough terrain.

Here are the styles I've worn for various occaisions:
Barkley Marathons: Mid Length Mid Weight Sock
Mt. Rainier: Thick Mid Length Sock
Glacier Travel: Thick Mid Length Sock
Snowshoeing: Trekking Sock
River Fords: Women's Thin Mid Length Sock

Climbing Mt. Rainier with Sealskinz USA

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Altra Running Intuition Everyday Review

I am an Altra Running Athlete and as such receive my shoes at no cost. I choose to write reviews on my blog for those who are interested. I am under no obligation from the company to do so, and the opinions expressed here are just that: my honest opinions based on my personal experience with the products reviewed.

I have never had good luck with women's dress shoes. Maybe it's because I wear a women's size 12 or maybe it's because most women's footwear is designed for looks only. Probably some of both. Either way, I am usually the one showing up to weddings in flip flops or wearing a pair of trail runners. 

Therefore I was intrigued to see that Altra was making an "Everyday" shoe. So, I ordered a pair.

The Intuition Everyday isn't a real "dress up" shoe, but it's a perfect middle of the road between casual and office. I wear them to all my public speaking engagements (use the contact me form for more information) as well as to interviews, etc.

  • The comfort of Altra's foot-shaped toe box
  • Not having to sacrifice the zero-drop platform when you're not out running
  • Neutral colors go well with many different clothes

  • A little clunky looking
  • Not well suited to wearing with a dress or skirt

If you are looking for a comfortable shoe in neutral tones to wear with slacks then this is it. 

If you're wanting something a bit more feminine...then let's just keep our fingers crossed that Altra get's to that sometime soon!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review of Fast, Light and Free by Matt Kirk

I was honored that Matt sent me a copy of his book to read last fall after I returned from my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Not only did it give me insight into the man whose record I had chased for nearly two months, but it also was a way to compare and contrast my own experiences with someone who had done something so similar to me.

I've read Jennifer Pharr-Davis' book Called Again, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it (review to come!) there remained a disconnect due to the different approaches (supported/self-supported). Fast, Light and Free was the first account I've read of someone doing an FKT on a long trail in the same manner as me and I could identify so completely with it.

Matt's writing speaks not just to the logistics and mileage of his journey, but also the emotional and spiritual levels of it. I found myself resonating often with his observations. I also found myself completely in awe of his minimal gear set up and minuscule pack! I felt a bit like a sherpa looking at my photos alongside his.

One other interesting parallel is that he set the (now previous) self-supported FKT on the Appalachian Trail the same day I set the self-supported FKT on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013. I couldn't help but think of where I was in my own journey that year as I read his daily account as well as compare it to my own hike of the AT last summer. I felt this incredible intermingling of journey throughout the story.

While others won't be able to experience that level of connection while reading it is still very enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who wants a peek into the world of self-supported FKT's. My only caveat is that his many flashbacks can get confusing sometimes so I sometimes found myself looking back to see when and where he was referencing. Overall this is minor and doesn't really detract from the quality of the read.

You can buy your copy on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Point 6 Socks Review

I am an ambassador for Point 6 and as such receive my socks for free. However, this review was not requested by the company and is my own opinion of the product.

I have been a huge fan of wool clothing, socks, and gloves for many years now. I was pretty excited to be chosen as an ambassador for Point6 Merino this year.

Among the major benefits of wool are that it's warm when wet, relatively less stinky and comfortable against the skin. As you can imagine all of these factors are extra important when it comes to your feet!

I've used a wide variety of wool socks over the years. I've had a wide range of experiences with them and I've been very pleased with the way Point6 products stand out.

Quality: Not only are the Point6 Merino socks well made, but they offer a lifetime guarantee.
Durability: I've had wool socks start wearing out after a dozen uses. So far the Point6 socks still look new.
Comfort: They are not constrictive or too thick or too thin. The sizing is true and no irritating seams.
Attractiveness: Most wool socks have been pretty boring. Not Point6! I've got a ton of fun wool running socks, cute compression socks, and even the monochrome trekking socks I wear mountaineering have a nice style.
Variety: Weather you run, hike, climb, ski or just want casual socks Point6 has you covered.

I also love the ethos of the company. See a list of the non-profits they support. 
"We understand that Point6 has the power to create big and positive changes in our world.  We partner with numerous non-profit organizations that can get socks to people in need.  We also support organizations who help maintain, preserve, and educate about all of the outdoor places we all enjoy. "

If you're looking for a great wool sock then I definitely recommend Point6!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Addaday Pro Massage Roller Review

I received a sample of the Addaday Pro Massage Roller at the winter Outdoor Retailer show in January. I've been using a variety of foam rollers and self-massage tools for many years now and when I saw the Addaday products I was immediately intrigued.

There were several things I noticed immediately about the Addaday rollers that made them stand out.
  • Individual textured rollers
  • Differing size rollers
  • Varying levels of hardness in one roller

Addaday Pro Massage Roller

Lately I've become much more interested in fascia health and not just trying to "loosen stiff muscles."
I've been using the Addaday since January and have been pleased with the results. The textured surface of the rollers tacks skin and helps get the layers of skin, fascia, and muscle tissue gliding past one another again.

The thing I most like about the Addaday rollers is that they are truly an all in one tool. Prior to getting this I used a therapy ball, foam roller, and The Stick. The varying size and hardness of the rollers on the Addaday allow me to work every area from my neck to my toes with just one tool. It's also relatively easy to travel with.

If you're looking for ways to utilize the Addaday the company also has a nice series of instructional videos with Timothy Olsen on it's website.

Overall, I highly recommend the Addaday Pro if you are looking for a self massage roller, especially if you are looking to buy just one tool.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review of Backpacking Buddies by Arlette "Apple Pie" Laan

Before I left for the Appalachian Trail in 2015 my dear friend Apple Pie gave me something to keep me company...

It's that little pink fluffy dolly hanging on my backpack.

Yes, yes, I carried something non-essential on my AT FKT.

Because I wanted to have a little smiling pink sweetie to keep me company.

Arlette makes a whole army of little sock dollies to suit your every whim. You can see what she has in stock here. Some, like the one I carried, are made from baby socks and are keychain size. 

Courtesy ArletteLaan.com

The little guy that I carried weighed probably an ounce? Miniscule for the amount of cheer it brought me when I was tired and dirty and hungry. Not only because of it's cute little face, but because a fellow long distance hiker and friend made it for me.

She also makes a selection of backpacking dollies that are a little bigger, but still plush. They also make great hiking companions.

Courtesy ArletteLaan.com
Courtesy ArletteLaan.com

Whether you are looking for a little happy camper to join you or want a gift for a friend check out Arlette's selection!

Pinky and I at the ATC