Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Virginian 6.6K Weekend

Last Saturday I took on a new distance as I ran in the Virginian 6.6K, a race put on by my friend Jen. The race was held in Bristol, Virginia and was set on the picturesque, rolling (and I MEAN rolling) hills of the Virginian Golf Club. I would be making a weekend trip of it all, starting out with a stop in Asheville, NC on Friday night to catch one of my favorite bluegrass bands, Town Mountain. If you like bluegrass, definitely check them out. The put on a great show!

We stayed over in Asheville Friday night, and headed out for Virginia Saturday morning. The race had a very friendly start time of 11am, so that gave us plenty of time to make the hour and forty five minute drive to Bristol.

We arrived in Bristol around 10am and made our way to the race site after a stop at the local Starbucks. I picked up my packet, got my bib on and decided it would be a good idea after looking at part of the course to do a proper warm up before the race! I am glad I did since the race started with a hill climb right off the bat.
  I made a decision NOT to wear my Garmin during the race. I did not want to worry about my time, I just wanted to run hard and have some fun. The horn sounded and up the hill we charged. I crested the hill, breathing hard already, a mere 2 minutes into the race. I had the run hard part down already, wasn't sure about the fun thing though.
 The hills kept coming throughout the entire race. Not being familiar with the course, I held back a little, not knowing if the next hill was going to be bigger than the last. The course had mile markers, which helped. I was feeling good after passing the 3 mile mark. I knew there was one last big hill right before the finish, having drove that part of the course on our way in. I hit the climb, came around the bend and saw the finish chute. I ran hard the rest of the way for a time of 35:33 for a little over 4.1 miles, good enough for 3rd place in Men's Masters and 17th place overall. (Gotta love small races!)

  I was happy with my time, and even happier that I ran hard up each and every hill along the course.With all the ultra running I do, I get paranoid that I can no longer run with any speed, so every now and then it is good to run short and fast! Thanks to Jen, I got my speed and hill work done in one shot!
  Post race I received a cool pint glass for my 3rd place, and also won a really nice wind jacket as a door prize!

 We hung out in Bristol and stopped in to my favorite stores, Mountain Sports Ltd. Always fun to shop there! We grabbed some lunch after that at 620 State in downtown. We then headed back to the hotel at Glade Spring to get some rest.

   We were up early Sunday morning  to meet some friends in Damascus to go out on a trail run along the Appalachian Trail. We got shuttled up to the trail head at Elk Garden, where we started in rain and fog.

Some of the group were going 24 miles all the way back into Damascus. Thankfully someone was also leaving their car at Bear Tree Gap, so there was the option of only running 12 miles. I knew I would be taking that option, since my quads were a little tired from the day before.
   After a mile or so the rain let up, and we settled into a nice run.  This is a really pretty section of the AT, and it was a blast to run! I felt good up to about mile 8, then I ground out the last 4 miles, walking the hills and running (okay, shuffling) the rest.

I was happy when we reached the car. I said goodbye to the folks who were continuing on down the trail, and we made our way back to Damascus to pick up my car. The most challenging part of the weekend was driving the 3 + hours back home after all this! It was well worth it though. A great weekend!
Happy trails! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Product Review: The Salomon Sense Mantra Trail Shoe

  Nothing like a good trial by fire to test the character of a shoe. Such was the case when my pair of Salomon Sense Mantra arrived at my door the day before the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Race. Out of the box and into the car they went, along with the mountain of other gear I usually over pack to take to any Ultra event.

  The Sense Mantra is a lightweight, low drop training shoe that is built for high mileage. It is made for midfoot and forefoot strikers and has neutral cushioning and promotes natural motion. Weighing in at 8.5 ounces, it is light yet durable.

 I started the 24 hour race in a different pair of shoes, but around 10 miles into the run I switched to the Sense Mantra. The course was a one and a half mile loop around a lake, so I could easily stop at the end of the loop and change gear and shoes if necessary. The good news is once I was in the Sense Mantra, I did not want to switch shoes! They felt very comfortable. The course was not very technical, but the surface was sandy and the Mantra provided more than enough grip along the trail. The tread on the Mantra is not as Knobby as it's cousin, the SpeedCross 3, but I have been on several single track runs with the Mantra and have had no issues with traction.
 I wound up running around 40 miles around the lake in the Mantra, and had absolutely no foot issues. No blisters or hot spots, no foot pain. I only wish my stomach felt as good as my feet. I stopped around 54 miles, 13 or so hours into the run with some GI issues.

  I really love the "QuickLace" system and the "Lace Pocket" at the top of the tongue, which allows you to tuck the excess lacing in a small pocket so it does not flop around and catch things along the trail. Another thing I was impressed with was the Seamless fit of the shoe. It really cradles the foot nicely and the tongue is anchored to the shoe as part of the "EndoFit" construction and does not move around during the run. It also helps to keep dirt and grit out of the shoe.

I have been using the Mantra for my daily trail run around another lake, the 5 mile Peninsula trail at Harris Lake near my house. This course has some nice rooty, technical sections, undulating terrain and lots of twists and turns.The Mantra does really well here also! Nice and stable, with good balance as well.
There is really nothing I don't like about the shoe, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a durable everyday trail shoe. It is also a good choice for those interested in going towards a lower drop and low cut profile shoe.

Learn more about the Sense Mantra here:

A happy boy and his Mantra at the lake after a run.  


I am not compensated for my opinions and the product was provided on a trial basis only.