Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

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#39 – Come Full Circle

14 November 2007

Andrew Skurka hiking during April in the southwest

For the past seven months Andrew Skurka has been hiking in circles, or rather, in one big circle. Andrew recently completed his 6,875-mile trek of the Great Western Loop! Back in April Andrew was the subject of my 9th article as he embarked on his trip. I was amazed then and I’m amazed now just thinking about how much has gone on in my life since then – seven months is a long time – during which time Andrew was simply hiking.

Of course, there’s not much simple about it. He planned his trip with such meticulousness that it borders on obsessive, such as using a spreadsheet to plan the components of his meals to ensure he’s getting his optimal carb/fat/protein ratio. He’s a stickler for packing lightly and goes so far as to cut the handle off his plastic spoon to save weight. He coordinated with his parents to have them ship re-supply packages to post offices along his route. If you’re going to spend two-thirds of a year hiking in the wilderness, it pays to be diligent in your planning.

Andrew Skurka‘s pack laid out before the trip

For me, the most impressive thing about Andrew is that he’s made a career out of this; basically he’s a professional hiker! It’s proof that if you throw yourself 100% into what you love, you can make a living at it. Congratulations Andrew!

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#14 – Try New Running Socks

16 May 2007

Four months ago I wrote the “Ultimate Running Sock Review” on my personal blog, hoping to share some of the knowledge I had acquired from running in 10 models of running socks (no, not all at once!) Every time I saw a new sock in a running store I wondered if it would be more comfortable than the last. Yeah, sometimes I have trouble making up my mind!
Two days after writing that review I received a curious email, stating: “I’d love to get you some of Bridgedale’s newest socks to try! Interested?” Heck yeah! The mysterious messenger turned out to be a representative of Bridgedale – one of the brands of socks I reviewed – who had stumbled across my blog thanks to Google Alerts. (This rep also promotes nuun, an electrolyte product popular among adventure racers. Someday I hope to try some and maybe I’ll review them, too!) I replied with my shoe size and soon I received a package in the mail… three pairs of new socks!

What you see are the X-Hale Trailhead (bottom pair) and the X-Hale Multisport (upper two pairs). The X-Hale series are made from a mix of merino wool, nylon, polypropylene and lycra. My first impression when putting them on was that they feel just like brand new Smartwool socks – amazingly soft!

The Trailhead is a heavy sock with the orange parts being thickly padded. They are marketed as their “fastest and lightest hiking sock” so they aren’t truly a running sock, but they do fine in that role. The Trailhead is rather warm and I wouldn’t recommend it for above-freezing temperatures, but my feet really appreciated its warmth when I went for a run in subzero temps this winter.

Bridgedale pitches the Multisport as “ideal for speed hiking, cycling, running & cross training” and they really should add “adventure racing” to that list. While much more breathable than the Trailhead, the Multisport is still a very warm sock and probably not suited to summer running in Michigan. I did wear a pair on today’s 5-mile run and my feet felt fine – it was 50 degrees outside. This sock does have some padding but much less than the Trailhead and has a lightweight feel on my feet.

Both types of Bridgedale’s socks are great in wet conditions, even when my feet were completely soaked from running through deep streams on the trails. They don’t seem to be the best at evaporating sweat off my feet, but they did evaporate quickly enough to remain lightweight soon after giving them a good soaking. Not all socks can do this; in fact, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS Ped – one of my favorite socks from my first review – I subsequently discovered became quite soggy in a heavy downpour. This, despite the Brooks sock being very good at wicking away sweat in hot weather.

One downside of both Bridgedale socks was that they exquisite softness I felt when I first put them on wore off rather quickly – the interior became a bit coarser after just a couple weeks. I’ve had the same problem with all of my Smartwool socks… except for my most recent pair, the red and black Smartwool Running Light Mini-Crew. I’d assumed in my last review that they would also roughen up, but they’ve actually held their softness very well and still feel great. Apparently Smartwool improved their construction? Along with losing some softness, the Bridgedales have a lot of long, loose-end threads on the inside of the sock which frequently caught my toenails when putting them on. They are the only runnings socks I have with this problem.

On the bright side, a big plus of the Trailhead and Multisport socks is that they have a high ankle cuff. Typical running socks are low cut, which is fine when I’m running on paved roads. Off road on the trails, low-cut socks can sometimes allow trail debris (little pebbles, sticks, etc.) to get inside the sock because the low cut doesn’t snug to my ankle very tightly. The Bridgedale socks with their high cuff never let anything get into the sock; as a result of this and their ability to handle a good soaking and the Multisports are one of my favorite trail running socks unless it’s hot outside. For similar reasons I believe they would make a great adventure racing sock, too.

Overall my current favorite running sock is the Smartwool Running Light Mini-Crew – it’s very breathable and keeps my feet cool even in warm weather, the inside is super soft, and they also insulate well in cold weather. I’ve worn these socks in temps ranging from 20 to 80 degrees F and my feet didn’t complain. They also dry out quickly when soaked. An excellent all-around running sock and it’s the sock I’ve used for all of my races this year.

In my last review I had a letter-grade summary of my socks; below is the revised rankings with the new Bridgedale socks plus a photo of the original 10 models that I reviewed:

1. Smartwool Running Light Mini-Crew: A+
2. Defeet Aireator: A
3. Brooks Adrenaline GTS Ped: A-
4. Smartwool Adrenaline Light Mini-Crew: B+
5. Bridgedale X-Hale Multisport: B+
6. Bridgedale Active: B
7. Unknown Basic Liner: B
8. Smartwool Running Light Micro: B-
9. Bridgedale X-Hale Trailhead: B-
10. Injinji Tetratsok Mini: C-
11. Smartwool Hiking Medium Mini-Crew: D+
12. Wright Double Layer Coolmesh: D

In summary, Bridgedale’s X-Hale Trailhead and Multisport socks are good but not great running socks. They could use some improvement in fabric quality and breathability in order to attract pure runners, but to be fair, Bridgedale is known for their hiking socks, not running socks. The Trailhead truly is an excellent hiker (I’ve done some hikes with it, too) and as I said, the lighter-weight Multisport would make a nice sock for adventure racers. They compare quite well with the Smartwool Adrenaline, which is also touted as a multi-sport and adventure racing sock. If you want to run in deep snow and/or cold air you will really like the Bridgedale socks, which are warmer than their Smartwool counterparts.

Last, but not least… A big thanks to the Bridgedale representative who found my first review and was kind enough to provide three pairs of new socks at no cost or obligation!

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#9 – Explore the Entire Country

18 April 2007

Last Sunday I explored the local countryside in a 16 mile run. Meanwhile someone else is exploring the entire western half of the country in a 6,875 mile hike!

Andrew Skurka is a hiker who advocates packing lightly and moving quickly, usually covering around a marathon’s distance per day. He’s a former high school runner who fell in love with hiking during college, and now appears to have made hiking his full-time job. Pretty impressive.

Andrew’s Great Western Loop hike began on April 9th, and just two days ago his mom posted his first update from the trail. Amazingly he’s hiked even further before – his “Sea to Sea” trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific covered 7,778 miles in 11 months! Summaries, stats, photos and even gear lists from all of his hikes can be found on his website – he seems to be quite an obsessive planner and organizer, which is good for the rest of us to get an idea of how one would prepare for such an undertaking.

One good way to prepare is to run, which Andrew does often as part of his training. Since resuming running four years ago (after five years of minimal activity), I’ve noticed a huge benefit when hiking or even just walking around the office. I encourage you to notice these small but significant changes that running can add to your life because after all, it’s not only about the running.

Have fun, Andrew!