• Odyssey Adventure Racing's Wild, Wonderful 24-hour AR

  • 2012 Checkpoint Tracker Nationals in Oak Hill, WV

  • Earning #3 in the nation plaques at USARA Nationals

  • Check out our latest clinic on Stan's No Tubes!

  • Two co-ed squads tackle the 24-hr Cradle of Liberty

by T.J. Hoff

Brooks Cascadia's Don't Fail Me Now

As new Adventure Racers enter the scene a common question we always hear is, “What shoes are best for Adventure Racing?” This is probably the most difficult question to answer because everybody is so anatomically different that it truly has to be an individual decision.  What we can do, is provide information based on our own personal experiences in Adventure Racing to give the individual a starting point to help guide them in the right direction.

Adventure Racing is a little more ‘extreme’ than your normal trail run and racers need to understand the importance to taking care of his/her feet. Foot care is directly proportionate to the difficulty and length of a race. The longer the race, the more attention a racer MUST give to taking care of their feet. One can never be too prepared and should always have a foot care kit at each race.

When picking any type of running shoes, one should really try to understand what type of runner they are. Do they heel-strike, are they a mid-foot runner or are they on their toes all the time and a forefoot runner? They also should determine their pronation, do they over-pronate, under-pronate (supinate), or are they a neutral runner. This can all be figured out at a good running store where they have fitting specialist who will either use lasers, or videotape the individual on a treadmill.

Another factor to be considered when choosing shoes is the heel-to-toe drop. This is the difference in millimeters from how high the heel is off the ground compared to the toes or forefoot. Most common shoes range around the 12mm mark, but in the last few years ‘minimalist’ shoes have exploded in popularity which range from a 4mm to 0mm drop. Altras which is becoming a popular company in the ultra running arena touts their Zero Droptm technology and have a wide array of shoe types from casual to stability. One Adventure Racer has been quoted saying his Altras shoes are “Stupid comfortable”.

Also when selecting and trying shoes, a racer should consider some of the following:

  • Weight – Studies have been done to show the impact of shoe weight over distance when running. That said one should realize that when a manufacture reduces the weight of a shoe, it is normally at the expense of some other feature. It may be the cushion of the sole, the integrity of the upper weave, or the comfort
  • Water Resistance/Wicking/Breathability– With Adventure Racing anyone can bet that their feet are going to get wet at least once during a race. Knowing that, a racer should look at how a shoe resists water and compare that with how a shoe wicks away water as well as the breathability of the shoe. These are all lumped together because they are all somewhat related. Some trail shoes use Gore-Tex® which is generally heavier and though Gore-Tex® is breathable a person’s feet will still sweat in hot conditions and will probably not dry out as fast as a good breathable wicking shoe and sock combination.
  • Tread/Lug Pattern – Another feature people should pay attention to when buying trail shoes is the Tread/Lug Pattern of the shoe. Adventure Racing has every type of terrain from desert sand to jungle mud. When trying out trail shoes a racer should test the tread pattern of a shoe and see how it works for them. Some shoes have a more aggressive tread pattern which could sacrifice comfort and others have a smooth tread pattern reducing traction and grip.
  • Laces – One shoe feature that Adventure Racers commonly don’t think about is the laces of a shoe. Laces play an important role in regards to efficiency during  Adventure Races. Multiple times throughout a race, racers will have to change between their trail shoes to their biking shoes which can really be a time suck in transitions. If the conditions are really muddy or frozen, it can be difficult for a racer to tie or untie their shoes when swapping them out. Solomon and Hoka have a quick-lace system which allows the racer to pull tightly on the lace and a clasp to stop the shoe from loosening. Some racers replace the traditional laces with Lock Laces.  However, quick lace systems have their ups and downs. Some don’t tighten the shoe enough and some over-tighten the shoe and it’s hard for a racer to find the right comfort level with using them. If a racer does find them comfortable, they will increase their efficiency in a transition by a lot.

"Stupid Comfortable"

Some other shoes commonly seen in Adventure Racing are the Brooks Cascadia, which is probably the most popular trail shoe on the market, Salomon’s Mantra, XA, XT and Speedcross, and Hoka Mafate, Kailua (womens), or Stinson. Occasionally, you will see some Scott, and Netwons as well as many others.

Hokas seem to be popular with ultra runners and one teammate credits them to being “…injury-free since my miserable Summer of The Boot”. She goes on to say “One of the best things about using them is that they force a mid-foot strike, rather than my normal heel strike”. When describing the cushioning of a Hoka she says “I compare it to the first couple of runs on brand new running shoes, how they feel all bouncy and fresh. The Hokas feel like that all the time”.

Other racers have described the Brooks Cascadia as the “Best trail shoe on the market”. The Cascadia is Brook’s flagship trail shoe that has maintained its popularity with trail runners throughout its nine generations. They seem to really attract Adventure Racers so much that one racer has recently been quoted as saying “I have a pair of Cascadias that I want to love…but the drop seems too much for me”.

Ultimately, it really does depend on the individual and what works for them. The best advice that anyone can give a person asking about what shoes to wear for Adventure Racing should be, “Go out and try different shoes and see what works best”. Shoes are not cheap, so one may want to consider going to an online outlet store to buy a previous generation shoe at a discounted price, or even go into a local running store to see if they have a reduced rack. After trying a few pairs, one may find that they like a certain pair of trail shoes for dry conditions and another for wet or muddy conditions. It’s a trial and error effort that will determine what works best.

by Paul Ruchlin

In this winter of our discontent… or at least frustration with the seemingly never ending cycle of snow and soggy trails, Spring shone through for one spectacular day on March 22 for the EX2 Adventures 6-Hour Cranky Monkey at Rosaryville.  11 miles of sometimes hilly, sometimes twisty, a bit of technical and often fast and flowy single track in southeastern, MD, Rosaryville is a mountain biker’s delight and a great race venue.  And EX2 are champs at putting on great races.

As we did last year, superstar THWT racer Michelle Faucher and I teamed up for the 2-Person Coed division.  Neither of us having been as faithful to Winter conditioning (See the first sentence of this report for our lame excuses) as we would have liked, our expectations on entering were somewhat on the low side.  Just days before the race, it’s running was in serious doubt.  But, having shed the 7.5 inches of snow from the Monday prior and somehow nearly all of the moisture as well, the trails ended up in fantastic condition.  A few damp spots and tiny mud puddles, but overall, really good conditions.  Race start at 10:00 am saw mostly cloudy skies and temps in the high 40’s.  Not bad for racing, but a little chilly for sitting and waiting for your teammate to complete her lap.

As the pack came by from the start for lap #1, Michelle was nicely positioned in the middle and I settled in for the hour+ wait for her to complete her round.  It ended up being close to 1:20, but much of that was due to the ever present trail crowding at the start of such races.  And so off I went on my first lap.  One reason I like going second is that it really helps my tendency to start out way too fast.  I don’t have that contagious urge to sprint it out for the first several miles and burn myself out.  So I was able to set myself up at a comfortable pace that I could maintain.  And I clearly needed warming up because for the first 2-3 miles my legs felt like blocks of concrete.  I told you I wasn’t in great shape, and I have a metric boat-load of excuses as to why my legs are tight and lazy, yada, yada, yada….

Finally, the quads stopped resisting and I got more comfortable, especially in the climbs.  Now I could begin to be concerned about my bike problem.  These days I’m sporting a new Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon Hardtail.  THANK YOU SPOKES, ETC. for the awesome new ride.

One Smooth Operator

Over the past week I’d been attempting to switch out to ride tubeless, but had some issues and was still tubular on my rear wheel.  It was a total surprise when race morning I loaded my bike on my car, to find the rear tire flat.  Uh oh.  I had no time to switch anything out and knowing it had held air for nearly a week, without my riding it, I figured I could fill it and make it through my laps for the day.  But, as a precaution, I also loaded up my Stumpjumper FSR as a back-up. Just as my legs loosened up, I glanced down at my rear wheel to see it was significantly lower than when I’d started.  At this rate, I’d be flat by mile 4 or 5.  I did have cartridges with me, but no spare tube.  DUH!!!!  That was pretty stupid.  I hoped, if it continued to leak that I’d be able to fill it with a cartridge to get me back to the T/A and either fix it or switch bikes for lap #2.  A couple of more miles, glancing at it every few hundred meters (How European of me.  I think we should switch to metric, though that will totally F— my golf game), I realized, it was low, but had not gotten any lower.  Well that was interesting.  At this point I started thinking I might stop just prior to where the course enters the inner and much more technical portion of the course, with several log obstacles.  The tire seemed to be holding up on the outer trail, but I was concerned the jarring over logs and things might be the proverbial “camel.”  I finally decided, not wanting to stop and lose time or the position I’d made, having passed several riders, including at least one in our division, that I’d see how it goes and only stop to fill the tire if I had to.

My decision paid off as I completed my lap without having to stop, in 1:10:53.  Lucky?  Or steely-nerved strategery?  Hmmmmm………

Somewhere along the way here I’d contemplated a whole plan for correcting my dilemma.  I’m not sure how I was able to do that whilst racing, bumping, jarring, and pedaling, but by the time I got to passing off our timing chip to Michelle for her second lap I had it all worked out.

Instead of trying to change tires, I would simply swap my back wheel with the back wheel off my other bike.  Easy!  Oh wait, I then remembered that earlier in the week I’d tried putting that wheel on this bike and for whatever reason, despite both having 160 mm rotors, the Avid brake disc wouldn’t fit right in my Magura caliper.  Ah, but changing the brake rotors isn’t hard at all and I’d have an hour to do that.  So after wolfing down a half a peanut butter sandwich and some Skratch hydration I got in to pit crew mode.

It took me all of 15 minutes to swap out the rotor and the wheel from my spare bike slipped easily in to place.  Well, that was even more painless than I’d expected.  Proud of myself as I’m not a particularly “technical” guy, I sat down to relax, ate and drank some more, waiting for Michelle.  After a few minutes it finally occurred to me, not being a “technical” guy, that perhaps I should maybe test this new combination out………..just to be sure.  I hopped on the bike to give her a go and………….

Oooooooooooh, that does NOT sound good.  Horrible, ugly grinding in my gears.  And shifting gears was a different ugliness altogether.  So now someone can educate me on cassette and derailleur differences, because I had no idea.  Sometimes it would shift, sometimes it wouldn’t.  If it did shift it then tried to shift back without my using the shifter.  And the grinding……….the horrible, terrible grinding (tear running down my cheek).  Well THAT’S not going to work.

Me Love Log

Ok, plan 2B.  I swapped the rotors back, put my original wheel back on the bike and since I made it through the first lap I figured I could make it through the second lap.  I pumped up my tire to about 40 lbs, much higher than I’d normally ride with the damp trails, and had about another 10 minutes to relax before Michelle came in to transition.  Lap #2 went pretty much the same.  The tire deflated to a point (I discovered later about 18 lbs) and then stabilized once again.  I rode another good lap, only about a minute slower and it went without incident.

Well, except for that part where I almost killed the photographer.  Negotiating the largest log obstacle on the course I managed to endo, coming down pretty much right on top of Bruce, from Swim Bike Run Photography.  Sorry Bruce.  Luckily he managed to guide me aside from crushing him as I descended. He asked if I was ok, I asked, more importantly, if his camera was ok (I’m pretty sure it cost more than my bike).  No carnage to be found I was up and off again, this time to finish without incident.  No really.

I made it in under the cutoff time and wished Michelle well on what would be our final lap.  Michelle came back in and completed our race.  We were both pleasantly surprised with our 4th place finish, adding another EX2 pint glass to our collections.  In all another great day, which had managed to skyrocket to the high 60’s, of biking, and adventures with friends and teammates.

Red atop the podium

By Megan Mitchell

The morning started off early as Barry and I met up in Falls Church and sped off in the dark, hoping to meet up with Dave and Jared right at 7, so that we could “podium map allocation.” Yah, think about that one…

As we drove along happily chatting, Barry was making up time and we happened to pass a cop on 270, going slightly above the speed limit. Johnny Law shared a little visit with us and then we were on our way again to Black Hills.

We arrived a little behind schedule, checked in, got maps and strategized our race! We had plenty of time to gather and stage gear and prep. The day was warming nicely, into a perfect race day in the high 60s.

The race was a pretty even split between bike and foot portions, approximately 13 miles each. The paddle section was cancelled earlier in the week thanks to our long winter and remnants of ice on the lake.

The race began without a sprint prologue, which made me very happy, but it really made no difference, as we sprinted off the start line to the first two CPs, and then onto the bikes.

Dave Wall and I enjoyed our Specialized Rime shoes during the race. Spokes, Etc. did a quick turn around on Dave’s Rimes the week before the race so he could ride strong and win!! Dave pointed out that “they proved especially useful for the first section of the race where we had to hop on and off our bikes to chase down some CPs.”

After we perfectly attacked the 12 CPs and cleared the first bike portion, we returned to the TA and received the foot-O maps.

Jared was on point as navigator the entire race, with only one minor error, quickly fixed. Barry had his mule-whip out the minute we set out for CP1. He continuously reminded us to keep up the pace and never stop moving, and I tried to keep us motivated by running from Barry’s yelling. It turned out to be a very effective way to keep us moving even during our most tired moments.

Jared pointed out during the race that “if Barry were Santa Clause, he could definitely deliver all the toys to the children in one night!”
During one of those tired moments, Barry was helping a teammate, but things went awry when “some fat-ass broke his tow line”… As he put it.

Nothing but smiles at the end

As we transitioned off the foot-O onto the last bike CPs, we believed there was a good chance we could take top podium so we continued full speed and finished the race in 4:34, 7th overall, and 1st place for 3/4 person coed!

Brake The Habit was a great race, and overall success for Team Halfway There, with Jeremy winning solo male, and TD, Lizzy and Kevin winning second right next to us!

Thanks to Adventure Addicts Racing for another great day in the woods!