Orange Mud Single Vest Pack Review

Running the Cruel Jewel

Ok, I wrote a bit about the Orange Mud vest pack a few weeks ago when it first arrived.  I wanted to get initial impressions down so I could compare them to thoughts after a longer time period of wear.  Since then I figured out how to get it to fit better. The VP1

HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1

Vest Pack from the Side

Last weekend I ran The Cruel Jewel 5(8) mile race in Chattahoochee Mountains.  It took me 13 and 1/2 hours in the middle of a hot and humid day.  The day got up above 85 degrees, and the climbed that were sometimes as steep as 20% grade shot my body temperature and heart rate up quite high, so I needed water.  I had seen a dozen or so 100 milers drop the day before due to heat and dehydration so I made hydration a priority.  In order to stay cool I dumped water on my head and shirt all day at each aid station and made sure to drink an entire bottle of water between all aid stations.

My shirt and hair were soaking wet for most of the day, which you would assume would lead to chafing, it did not.  The pack synched down tight enough to keep from moving, the only chafing I experienced was from my sports bra, which always chafes me in the same place every race.

The usual bottle that the Vest Pack comes with wasn’t big enough, but the VP1 carried my larger bottle with no problem. (Orange mud does make a 26oz bottle but I didn’t have time to order it.)  They have their Purist line of water bottles that don’t taste like plastic.  The front two pockets are made of the same wonderfully stretchy fabric that the shoulder pockets are made of.  Most of the aid stations were 4-5 miles apart, which ranged between an hour to 1.5 hours depending on how much elevation was in between each aid station.  With broth in the flasks in the front pockets, and my water bottle I never ran out of liquids.  Even on the one 2+ hour section where there was no aid station for close to 9 miles.  Even with the small flasks in the front pockets I still had room to stash some salt caps and dates below them.  I put bars and gels into the shoulder pockets and then nut butters in the pockets that flank the bottle in back.  I thought it would be a pain to reach up and over my head to grab the nut butters, but the VP1 sits high enough that I could reach with out a problem.

A final and important note;  My VP1 stunk so badly after wearing it for a few weeks and then wearing it all day for The Cruel Jewel, thankfully it washed up nicely in the gentle cycle of my washing machine.  I made sure to snap the front clasps first, but it smells lovely now!  I should mention don’t use fabric softener on any sort of these running packs, the soap will build up and break down the special fabrics.  I used dye free detergent and a little bit of vinegar in the pre wash cycle.

Orange Mud is always trying to better their products and is coming out with a female specific line of hydration packs in the next year or so.  For now this was good for me, though I look forward to their female specific pack!

You can see my larger white bottle in the VP1 for the long hot and humid day.

Part One of The Cruel Jewel Experience; the start of the 100

Vogel State Park

I have to break this up into a few posts. The weekend was just too epic and long for one post. So if you would like to read about the 50 mile race skip to the next post, I’m focusing more on the start of the 100 mile in this post.

The Chattahoochee Mountains

The Cruel Jewel 100/50 mile race is held at Vogel state park in Georgia.  It has 33k/17k of climbing, and is a Hardrock qualifier, as well as UTMB qualifier.  Hopefully you have been following along on my #crueljewelexperience and know about my training leading up.  If not, long story short.  Last year I was offered a spot but  it scared me and I felt underprepared so I kept it in the back of my mind, and this year several of my friends and I signed up.  There are NO mountains with in 2+ hour drive of where I live so it was also sort of a training experiment.  Could I train for a mountainous race with what I have to train on?  rolling single track trails, a treadmill, stadium, and lots of core work.  The short answer is, yes I can!

Anyway onto the report. My husband and myself caravanned with two other cars down to Blairsville GA.  The ride is about 5.5 hours, so we stopped in Asheville for some really good tacos at the White Duck Taco shop..mm.  We arrived at our cabin and were joined by several other friends over the next few hours.   We chatted, stretched, rolled out our tight muscles from the long ride and got to bed at 11pm.

The next morning everyone slept in (except maybe me, I was up at 5 eager to watch the sunrise over the mountains from the back deck.  To my disappointment it was a foggy and humid morning, but yoga in the misty air was quite nice instead.

We all had breakfast, the 100 milers packed up their things and we headed out to the start.  Luckily we had a house very close to the start so 15 minutes later we arrived at Vogel State Park.

Runners and crew before we set off to Vogel State Park

The 100 milers were excited and nervous all at the same time, and paced, jumped, and stretched as the RD spoke about the course.  At noon they took off 1/4 of a mile down the road to the single track and up Coosa Bald.

The rest of us went back to the house, ate and got ready to crew.

Mile 20 was the first place we could see the 100-milers.  The first runner, Karl Meltzer, came through at exactly 4 hours, a few minutes later the front pack of runners came in, Avery Collins, Jared Scott, and Jordan was part of this pack of 6 front runners.  They all looked a bit wore for wear, but only stopped a moment before heading back into the single track.

Drew, myself, and Nate decided to drive onto the next aid station, mile 25 to see how they did in the next section… before we had to had off to bed.

The drive to the next aid station was really easy, and only took a handful of minutes.

Wilscot aid station, mile 25 for the 100. Jordan changing socks and fixing his shoes. (Also, I can’t help it, sometimes I’m a goof)

We arrived before any of the runners.  Karl was first to come in at 4 hurts and 58 minutes, then Jared Scott at 5:08, then the rest of the front pack.  The steepness of the descents had taken a toll already on all their feet.  each runner changed socks, added glide or taped their feet from the friction.  Jordan did also.  Changed socks, added Vaseline, and then took off… forgetting poles and headlamp!  We  chased him down, and he was off.

Ben on his second day with ultimate crew chief ET!

By then it was after 5 and we needed to get back for dinner and pack our drop bags.

I took advantage of the hottub at the house and watched the sunset, trying to wind down before bed.

I fell asleep instantly but woke up at 2:30. Wide awake!  I was too excited to run, and wanted to know how my friends were faring out on the course.  There were still 4 off the 5 100 milers still out on the course.  I got a text reading that Meltzer had hit the turn at 9:30 pm, and Jordan at 11:30, Ben at 2:30 and crash and burn at 5 am(and were taking a nap)

This is where I am going to stop.  Next post is the 50 mile race report!

Physical Shortcomings, Don’t take no for an Answer

I was born with a foot and leg turned around backwards.  I was in a baby cast and had baby PT before I was old enough to feed myself.

My body reminds me of this every few years.

Currently it is reminding me of my physical short comings.

I always knew I had been born like that, but never really thought about it, even when I was plagued with tendonitis in my hips at age 12-15.  I just never let it stop me, it was always something I could get past. I thought, its just growing pains, I’ll find a way to get over it!  Strengthen, stretch, realign, and then I could get back on the soccer field.  There was no way I was going to let my body tell me what I could and could not do.

When I was 25, a few months shy of my wedding my body got angry and did something it had never done before…it rendered me unable to walk upright.  I was out for a nice run before work.  It was sunny spring day and I was enjoying the warm air and flowers when suddenly I felt something let go in my lower back and hips, and front of my pelvis…and I was left to crawl the last mile or so home.  I couldn’t stand in the shower, I couldn’t go to work that week. I finally made an appointment with a back specialist for xrays and an MRI.

The first words out of the specialists mouth were, “how do you feel about swimming?”  He told me I wouldn’t run again, shouldn’t run again, and that what I couldn’t see inside was that my pelvis had formed in a twisted shape and it pulled one leg up into my hip socket and the pounding was tearing the front of my pelvis apart and he thought if I continued I would crack my own pelvis.  He also mentioned I should really think about bearing children because there was no room in my pelvis for a child…perhaps a C section, but never a normal delivery.

Talk about a deep depression.  I let myself cry for the rest of the day.  The next morning I awoke and decided to find a physical therapist that specialized in the female anatomy, running, and pre and post-natal hip and pelvis realignment. I would run again!  I mean I can’t be the only person out there that has these problems, right?  The closest specialists I found were an hour away, but these women were positive, reassuring, and dismissive of the specialists diagnosis.

I saw them for a year, twice a week at first and less after the first 6 months.  I felt a bit like a guinea pig, they released tendons, realigned ligaments, and even coaxed bones into different places.  They began with my feet, moving the small bones around, then ankles and knees, and worked up my quads and ITB to finally my hip and lower back.  They showed me how to pop my pelvis back into place when it pinched, and different stretches.

I was able to paint again, and run again, I also decided I needed to run a marathon..my only marathon…I ran the 2006 Philly marathon in 3:00; 7 months after I first threw out my back.   I now run 100 mile races…I wonder what that specialist would say if I ever were to go back and tell him he was incorrect.

I think I got a little cocky this past year…thinking I am in control of my body and don’t need a little help readjusting it from time to time.  I have been training too much, and not taking care of myself enough.  It can get frustrating at times, needing to constantly get readjusted, always maintain a strengthening routine, and really think about how I am running…but there are so many people with much greater obstacles in life.

These last few weeks have been a good reminder that I am not invincible, but I am able to overcome my physical limitations with a little perseverance, stubbornness, determination, and some good PT friends!

I don’t write this because I feel bad for myself, it is what it is and everyone has some limitations in their lives.  I write this because I think that hope, and a little bit of stubbornness will get you anywhere you want to go in life, and right now I want to get to the finish line of Cruel Jewel on Saturday!

Don’t take no for an answer!

Orange Mud Vest Pack, Single Bottle; First Thoughts

Last summer I was lucky to borrow the double barrel vest pack and try it out on a night run.  Though I have many friends who love it, it just wasn’t for me.  I didn’t need to carry that much water for races, and at 5’3″ and 100ish lbs It was wider than my back was.  (I made a comment about the vp2 at the bottom of this review last summer.)

HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1

View of the back, those vertical pockets hold gels and bars nicely and I was able to grab them while running.

I waited and waited and waited, all the while knowing that the single bottle vest pack was coming out, someday!

Luckily I will be running The Cruel Jewel in GA in a week and that will be plenty of time for me to give it a full test drive.

So far is has the same great things I love about the regular Orange Mud hydraquiver.  It feels comfortable, the bottle stays put, it has the usual expandable shoulder pockets, but with so much more!

The Single Bottle Pack now has two more pockets on either side of the bottle, they hold several bars each and the opening is at the top so I can reach back and grab a bar out rather than take it off and have to unzip the pocket like in the single bottle Hydra Quiver.

The great thing about this pack is the extra front pockets that are made of the same stretchy material as the shoulder pockets.  So far I have managed to shove an ipod and a shirt into the front pocket.

I have worn it with a shirt, with out a shirt, up stadium steps, down stadium steps and in the woods and usually in the middle of the hottest part of the day.  I have had no chafing thus far, its quite comfortable.  It took me a little bit to play with the straps.  First I tried to adjust the straps in the front and then the side, but it made the pack sit a bit awkwardly.  Once I tightened down the side straps first, then tightened the front strap, it fit better.   Although it does fit, I am just on the edge of it fitting.  I have broad shoulder for someone my size, and a larger than usual chest cavity   If a woman my size with smaller shoulders were to try this on it would probably bounce and slide around.  So I would like to see maybe a more gender specific VP1 made.

Adding onto thoughts on a smaller size of vest pack or female specific pack, the straps on the sides (that go under my arms) are long for larger people,  so I am left with straps that dangle almost to my hips.  I haven’t quite figured out where to put the tail end of these straps; should I cut them off, should I roll them up and stitch them to the pack?  These are things I will have to figure out BEFORE my race!

Come back in a week for a more in depth review if you are curious, and please post any questions you’d like answered!

Cruel Jewel Tapering, April 23-May 4

Feet in the grass, and these cloud shorts make me happy!

Well that’s not your typical week cycle, I know, but its sort of how this week went.  I felt a tweak in my calf last Wednesday, tried to roll it and stretch it and work it out…I thought I had, but 7 miles into my usual 20 mile workout I had to quit with pain in my calf that traveled down to my Achillies tendon. Very SAD face :(

I have had Achillies Tendonosis before (that’s what its called once your tendonitis has been ignored for so long that the tendon is no longer getting blood flow and is sort of rotting apart..) EW, I know.  I should know better; well I do know better, now.  So I stopped right away on Thursday, ran some very slow. short, easy miles on Friday, hiked on the treadmill on Saturday, followed by some balancing and leg strengthening exercises, and then was talked into warm-not-quite-hot yoga with my sister for 2 hours.

Enjoying a morning walk with Mr. Emmitt

The yoga actually helped immensely, I just get so bound up sometimes.  The heat and the humidity, and the last 40 minutes were longer held stretches.  It seemed to help me a bit.

Trying out my new Vest Pack from Orange Mud with my best bud.

However, it wasn’t enough, I could still feel the tendons in my lower leg snapping against each other when I went up and down stairs.  So I did what every injured runner on their third day of injury (during what is supposed to be their peak week of training);  I threw myself a huge pity party.  I slept in so late that my husband; the connoisseur of weekend sleeping in,  insisted that I was in bed too long. I listened to 4 podcasts, cleaned the house, and then got back into bed and binged on netflix while Emmitt the dog happily joined me for a pity party snuggle.

I know, right, totally self indulgent there.  I think I just needed one of those days to just lay around.  No major house projects, no going out, no plans, just quiet.

Monday I felt much better and got in to see my massage therapist, who really I only get to see in desperate times, and this was one of those times!  He started working on my left calf, gentle at first…and then I could tell he was getting frustrated.  There weren’t “knots,” each muscle and tendon in my lower leg; calf, ankle, shin, foot were pulled tight, like..I believe he said a guitar string and he was having a hard time loosening anything up.  He spent more than 1.5 hours just from my knees down.  I am very grateful for his strong hands and determination, I left feeling so much better.  I was able to run easy on Monday afternoon, and then nice and speedy on Tuesday.

Since I missed out on TWOT last weekend, hence the pity party, I decided I was just going to try to run Umstead as fast as I could repeating ever hill at least twice around and aim for 20 miles in 2:40 or less.  I was so close, 2:41…but my hips were finally open and my ankle could move again! YAY!

Of course everything tightened back up again later in the week, not as badly as before, but still the nagging calf tightening, which has traveled to my ankles, pulling something out of line so my ankle is locking from time to time.

Very easy day at the stadium, focusing on form and soft landing.

The rest of my training isn’t much to mention.  I had a few good runs, and a few runs I had to cut short because the stabbing calf pain came back.  I am really starting to worry that this won’t be resolved in time….but still trying to stay positive!

I don’t want to complain or dwell on it though.  The weather has been beautiful, I have less than two weeks of tapering. I got to garden, do packet pickup for the race we TrailHeads put on in May; Philosopher’s Way Trail Race.  That was fun, despite the single track trails being closed due to wet weather.  (it was kind of a shock, they had never closed the trails due to rain before, and we didn’t have much actually.)   It was fun to run the double track though and cheer on runners.

Goofing off with friend, Katie at Philosopher’s Way Trail Run after packet pickup duties were done. (Mr Emmitt looks confused)

Other than that there’s not much to tell.  Just taper, roll, rest, eat, repeat.

Sorry for the lack luster post.

Hope you all are having a happy spring full of sunny training!

Training Week of 4/11-4/17 and the Cruel (Jewel) Slap in the Face Realization.

Goofing off with Jordan

As I reflected on the last week to my coach/training partner, Jordan I had the “Cruel Slap in the Face Realization!”  I have stated I am not a mountain runner, and that finding elevation here is tough.  Over the course of a 111 mile week, I ran 15,395 feet of elevation…in one WEEK!  I realize in less than a month I have to run that and more in 56 miles..in one DAY!  Cue the moment of panic!

The previous 5 days I took quite easy, running many of Jordan’s taper runs with him, or joining on some group runs I haven’t joined while training lately.

What follows 5 days of easy slow/recovery miles?  My final two big weeks before taper, of course!

The week began with a Sunday run.   I have several friends who are running Boston tomorrow (GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL!) So I started with them in the morning running about 9 miles on fire roads, their taper run ended, and I hopped onto single track and decided to aim for 20 miles in 3 hours.  I dropped Emmitt off before I hit the single track, and set off to try to not repeat any trails I had previously run.  This is a little game I play with myself to keep me from getting too bored during long runs.   There are really only 20ish miles of single track in the forest, however, there are some trails that you can hit if you cut through short neighborhoods.  So I did that.  I ended up 3:02 for my 20 miles, and in the middle of the high school XC course, which gave me an idea; eccentric stadium squat jumps.  Their stadium isn’t very big, so I did 3 sets of 15 of these.  Then I decided it was too nice and sunny to quit there, why not run 25 miles.  So I did, by the time I neared my house I was so close to the marathon distance, so I figured..why the heck not?  Marathon Sunday= 26.2 miles of trail

Emmitt the ultra dog cools off after a hot afternoon run.

Monday I joined Jordan for another taper run.  We ran easy and all on fire roads.  Monday= 14 miles

Tuesday I was off to Occoneechee for hill repeats.  Occoneechee is the highest point with in a 20 minute driving distance, and has a nice 1/2 mile gravel road up one side, and a steep, technical single track decent on the back side, with a 2.7 mile loop that circles around the base. I have not done this workout in several months so I was quite happy that it took 3:29, not the 4 hours I thought it would! Occoneechee repeats= 20 miles

Wednesday was an easy day finally.  My dad had been up in Boston the last two weeks and was home, so I called him up and we went out for a nice easy 6 mile shake out run in the rain.  Wednesday=7

Thursday it was off to the treadmill..sigh.  Its always mentally hard for me to get out to the gym for this workout, though it really is a good workout and once I get started since its a repeat workout it goes by quickly.  I hiked 3.5 miles at 15% then ran 1/4 mile repeats at 10% followed by 1/4 mile rest at 3% (all at the same pace) Finally I ended with 2  1/2 mile repeats with a 1/4 mile rest, for a total of 11 miles.  After that I realized the dog needed to go out so I ran him another 7 miles when I got home.  Thursday=18 miles.

Dewy morning run after the thunder storms that rolled through.

Friday I woke to super tight calf muscles from being on a treadmill at an incline for 3 hours, so I opted to stretch and roll. The tightness reminded me of when I had achillies tendonosis, so I decided to play it smart and not run. Friday=off day.

Nate finishing up his 30 mile training run at Occoneechee.

Saturday was the Tarheel 10 mile race.  DK was signed up to run, its one of the few races he runs every year.   As usual I helped out with one of the pacing groups.  I paced the 8:30 group this year, it was my 3rd year pacing.  I ran it 4 years ago in 69 minutes, but I am not a road runner so I have happily paced for my friends at Proaxis ever since.  After the 10 miler I drove back out to Occoneechee and joined Nate and Ben for some loops and hill repeats.  I finished out the week with another marathon there.  Sunday= 26.2

So back to the panic, can you tell I crammed a bit from my week above?  I was a bit like that in school too, let hope that like college, I also do my best work when I cram my training? )  I am not quite sure what I have gotten myself into.  My only solace is that I won’t be out there alone, I will have my other Cruel Jewel buddies suffering along with me. (And I also don’t feel nearly as bad as I thought I would after this week.)

  • Sunday; 26.2 miles in the CNF with eccentric squat jumps and core work after
  • Monday; 14 easy miles with Jordan
  • Tuesday; 20 miles of hill repeats at Occoneechee
  • Wednesday; 7 easy miles with dad and Emmitt on the roads
  • Thursday; 18 miles.  3.5 @ 15%, 5.5 of 1/4 mile repeats at 10%/3% 2 miles of 1/2 mile repeats %10% 7 road miles with Emmitt
  • Friday; off, yoga
  • Saturday; 10 miles of pacing the 8:30 group at the Tarheel 10 mile race. 16.2 miles of Occoneechee repeats and loops with Ben and Nate
  • Total climbed; 15,369
  • Total miles; 111.4

Run on friends!!

Chiken Soup for the Ultra Runners Soul: Umstead 100 Crewing

So I find myself writing most often about gear reviews, taper plans, race reports, and training, and have left out a really important part of the ultra experience; the giving back…the crewing!

Think about how many people it takes to organize and hold an ultra?  The coordination, the volunteers, the aid station workers, and the crew.  Even if you run your races crewless there are people who give up a day or two days, or more to host wonderful events for us to take part in.  There is cooking, and marking, and permitting that has to happen behind the scenes.

This year I am volunteering or pacing at as many events as I am running, maybe even more as a thanks to so many people that donate their time to events that am lucky to run.

This year of giving back started with packet pickup for Little River Trail Race, a local event our running group hosts yearly.  More recently this, this weekend, I switched gears and crewed for Jen Edwards at the Umstead 100 where she took first overall for women!  It was so exciting!  I crewed for her last year as well, so this year it was great to see her back for revenge on the course and with her eyes focused so intently on first place.

Umstead is a looped course, so the runners run past you every 12 miles, rather than you driving to them to crew, which makes it a really great ultra to spectate.  There was quite the back and forth with the men’s race, as well as the women’s for 2nd 3rd and 4th.  Hal Koerner was there for a second year in a row, dropping at mile 50 again.  I was kinda hoping for a CR or something exciting when I saw his name on the entrant list.  Either way it was fun cheering for him, and he was a gracious ambassador of the sport, smiling and thanking people as he ran by.

The main aspect of my crewing was to keep an eye out for Jen and letting her know where all the other runner’s are; ahead or behind her, how they look, how long they stay in the aid stations, and their general demeanor.  I often enjoy this for a few reasons.  The first is because I do actually like watching ultra’s and seeing how people perform as the day wears on, and how they react to the fatigue and pressure. The second is because I am competitive by nature so it excites that part of my personality when the race is on!

Not only is it fun to watch the runners, its also great to meet all of the people at these events.  Everyone from spouses, kids, coaches, and other runner’s helping friends accomplish their goals.  I got to chat with several VHTR runners, and even met Ray K and picked his brain for an hour or two…what a fantastic, exuberant, smart and inspiring guy!!

The day was chilly, with a breeze, so I never really warmed up.  Jordan (Lynx) kept her on pace, so like clockwork she come by us every 2:05 hours.  As the day wore on you could see the the pain creep in, but she kept her focus, and we kept her hydrated, fueled, and appropriately dressed for the temperature drop.

By sunset several runners had finished their 50 mile race, so only the 100 milers were left on the course, Jen being one of them of course.  This always makes crewing easier, and is also a boost to the runner when several people ahead drop out!

By 11pm  I had on every layer I brought, and was standing under the red Christmas lights awaiting Jen’s finish.  It was her boyfriend’s first time at any ultra event and before he paced her last lap his nervousness was palatable.  He spoke of not knowing what pace, if he could keep up, or thought perhaps somehow he would screw it up.  I knew he would be just fine, so with some words of encouragement he set off for her final lap.  Just at 11:30 he was back by my side again…”how did you..” I didn’t have time to finish my thought.  I turned my head just in time to see her come across the finish line, grinning ear to ear!  First place, what a great way to finish off a long day!  Even though she did all the work, somehow I still felt like I shared in her pride.

I know people run ultra’s with out crew all the time, but for me, part of the experience is to be crewed and share that joy…as well as sharing in the triumph on the other side of the event.  It just makes my soul happy.  Its the spring and races are popping up every weekend, be a part of the great ultra experience and get out there and crew or volunteer when you can!

As for my training, earlier in the week I got in a lot of my workouts that I felt were necessary so I could focus on Umstead, knowing I wouldn’t be running all weekend.

This is what my training week for 3/23-3/29 looked like;

  • Monday; 2 mile warm up to gym. 51 min climb @15% 1 hour of cross training after. 5 miles running time 1:15 xtrain 1 hour
  • Tuesday; Stadium workout.  First time around running each step, second time around running every other step, followed by plyo’s up and down the steps, run there and back.  11 miles or 2 hours.
  • Wednesday; Recovery on trails 7.2 miles.  1:11 running time
  • Thursday; Trail miles with Nate and Jordan, 23  x-train in the afternoon :45
  • Friday; Stadium workout again, plus more plyo’s at the end 12 miles.
  • Saturday; Umstead Crewing, 0 miles
  • Sunday; slept in till 9am after being awake for 26 hours straight, ran easy 5 miles in the woods with friends and dogs!

I hope I have inspired some of you to get out and help at a race you are not participating in!

Happy running!