Product Review: Cotopaxi Teca-Technical Windbreaker

Cory Soulliard is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. You can usually find him volunteering or running at almost all of our Runners Edge events! We asked him to review a jacket from a cool company, Cotopaxi, and his thoughts are below… You can follow his adventures with his pup on intagram @corysoulliard.

Fall is here. The mountains are dusted in snow, the mornings are frosty, and the views are amazing. It’s that great time of year when I want to be out on the trails as much as possible before they are covered in snow. A well timed run means I can still enjoy shorts and a t-shirt but heading back one of the the canyons in the bitterroot means I should not go without an extra layer. Do I take a layer for warmth? To stop the wind? To shelter me from the surprise
rain or snow? How about one that will take on all of those roles?

Quick notes:
Pros                                    Cons                                              Notes
– Light (4.6oz)                   – Pockets do not zipper                  – Bright, bold colors
– Packable                          – Elastic waist does not                  – Half-zip available
– Hood                                   cinch
– Collar protects neck
when zipped
– Vented back
– DWR finish
– Quiet

The Cotopaxi Teca jacket will only take up a little more space than a tennis ball and weighs a scant 4.6 oz so there are few reasons to bring it with you. I was able to shed the wind at the top of Trapper Peak and fend off a light rain around Lake Como while just wearing a light t-shirt underneath. Trapper was a classic fall trip that starts warm from the car but without some protection at the top there would be no way I could hang out and enjoy the view. My Teca jacket was basically nonexistent on the hike up but ready when I needed it at 10,157ft. The run around Lake Como started cool and damp so the jacket was in for a more thorough test.

The first thing I was noticing about the jacket was the noise. Many light jackets are more disruptive but I quickly realized that it was just the hood that I was hearing. The hood was not needed on this run so I tucked it in the collar and ran in almost silence. After a couple miles in 38 degree weather I started to heat up. There is an inch wide strip that runs the width of the back to ventilate while on the go and when I started overheating I just lowered the zipper a few inches to let some extra air in and ran on in comfort. Although the rain was minimal the DWR finish did keep me dry despite the efforts of all of the low hanging branches that were saving up their water for my passing. My legs and my socks did not remain so dry.

At 5’10” and roughly 140 lbs I decided on the men’s medium and I would say the fit is about right. The body is large enough I will be able to add a warm layer and wear this jacket through the winter but not so large that I feel like I am wearing a parachute. The sleeves are plenty long
so the elastic cuffs can actually meet my gloves. If needed the collar covers your neck when zipped up and the hood will wrap around your head to keep the heat in. My wife may have stolen the jacket for an early morning run and she approved of it. Although a size down would have been better fitting I get the impression that I might notice it missing again in the future.

Now I must be honest, I dress for function, not fashion. I would expect this Teca jacket to be worn by a stylish runner slipping through the crowds of NYC or on the cover of some running magazine instead of on minimally maintained trails. I don’t think I would have purchased the jacket because the 1990 style, bright, block coloring might be too bold for me. After wearing it a couple times I don’t feel as self-conscious as I expected. In fact on the dull grey days I think I like the addition of color to my world. As with all ultralight jackets I hope it can withstand the abuse on the trail. A recent run up Bear Creek Canyon did push the limits of the DWR as I was continually slapped with branches full of the previous night’s wet snow. Although I am not sure I stayed dry, I would say I was able to stay comfortable for the 2 hour adventure.

Anyone growing up in the late 80s-early 90s may feel right at home with the styling. Many companies tried their hand including The North Face seen here. If you miss the kangaroo pouch pocket be sure to check out the half-zip Teca. You will have plenty of room to bring along your sandwich, walkman, and a few slap bracelets for your friends.

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Winter Off Season Training: Gaining Fitness, Strength, and Durability

As snow begins to accumulate in the mountains surrounding Missoula, many runners long for the warm and sunny days we have become accustomed to over the past several months. Winter, however, provides a crucial opportunity to improve your overall health as a distance runner. Repeating the cycle of training-racing-recovering over several months takes a toll on the body. Consider complimenting your winter running with one of the many winter sports available to Montanans. Not only is winter cross training therapeutic, but it is fun as well. Introducing new movement patterns and loads will allow your bones, muscles and connective tissue to rebuild, providing long-term durability for the 2019 running season. Fitness is comprised of strength, mobility, aerobic conditioning, and power. While running is required to gain running fitness, it is important to gain strength, mobility, aerobic conditioning, and power to maximize running fitness. Winter is the time to train your weaknesses, not your strengths.

 

Strength training should be part of every off season plan for runners. A 2010 research article in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy showed a correlation between impaired muscular control of the hip, pelvis, and trunk and increased knee pain in runners (Powers C. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2010;40(2):42-51. doi:10.2519/jospt.2010.3337). A strength training program aimed at providing functional stabilization of the hip and pelvis in multiple planes is, therefore, a vital part of any off season strengthening program. As we grow older, muscle strength becomes more important as we lose approximately 1% of our muscle mass every year. More importantly, the decline in muscle strength declines at a rate 3-times greater (Goodpaster, B.H., et al., The loss of skeletal muscle strength, mass, and quality in older adults: the health, aging and body composition study. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2006. 61(10): p. 1059-1064. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17077199). Body weight strengthening is important if you are new to weight training or have a history of joint issues. To build muscle strength and durability, however, resistance training (bands, free weights, kettle bells) is necessary. Care should be taken to seek advice of a physical therapist or a personal trainer to assess your strength training technique. One muscle group many runners overlook are the calves (gastroc-soleus muscles). Between the ages of 20 and 60, runners typically experience a 31% reduction in ankle power, total power (ground reaction force to lift you off the ground and in a forward direction), along with a 13% decrease in stride length and running speed (DeVita P, Fellin RE, Seay JF. The relationship between age and running biomechanics. Med & Sci Sports & Exerc. 2016; 48 (1): 98-196.). Performing calf raises-drops and single leg hops will target the calves. Remember to slow down during weight training repetitions to maximize strengthening benefits. Two to three strength training sessions per week will compliment your winter outdoor activities.

 

Mobility becomes more elusive as we age. Runners are particularly vulnerable to stiffness in the knee, hip, and ankle joints as we move in only one plane. Addressing mobility restrictions with the help of a physical therapist will decrease your osteoarthritis risk and improve your running efficiency. Winter is the time to attend a yoga class, seek stretching advice, and have your running stride analyzed to decrease joint loading to promote joint health.

 

Aerobic conditioning requires consistent work. Experience has taught me that maintaining a base level of cardiovascular fitness in the offseason reduces the need to play “fitness catch-up” in preparation for spring running and racing. Building your aerobic engine to carry you up climbs both short and long requires specified training. High intensity intervals are never fun, but mixing it up the means by which you subject yourself to intervals reduces burn-out. Nordic skiing intervals, skinning (backcountry or ski mountaineering set-up) intervals, power hiking intervals, and cyclocross racing are great ways to disguise intervals in a fun and novel activity. One to two longer running or snow hiking workouts in your aerobic threshold range will build or maintain your aerobic fitness.

 

Photo courtesy of stretchcoach.com

Power is achieved through explosive movements such as plyometric exercises and through interval training. Short intervals included in a workout 1-2 times per week will provide the acceleration a summer of long miles has taken away. Utilize a watch timer and heart rate monitor to gauge effort. Plyometric exercises include a loading phase followed by a propulsive unloading phase. Plyometric exercises should not be done when sore or injured, and an adequate level of strength is necessary to perform correctly. Again, seek advice from a physical therapist or personal trainer prior to adding power training to your off season program.

 

Motivation becomes challenging as the daylight hours shrink and the temperatures drop. To avoid runner’s burnout, reduce your winter mileage and intensity and shift your focus on the exercise suggestions outlined above. Embrace the season and find an outside activity or sport which is intriguing. I discovered backcountry skiing and randonee or ski mountaineering two years ago. A January-March Thursday night race series (Rando Radness) at Montana Snowbowl which is organized by Mike Foote attracts skiers of all ages and abilities in a fun, social atmosphere. The winter days of riding my bike on a trainer indoors are long gone.

 

Durability will reduce injury risk by preparing your body for the demands of the running season. Overall fitness (strength, mobility, aerobic conditioning, power) combined with reasonable training volume increases and adequate recovery determine one’s long-term running durability. The off season is the time to build running durability as distance running and racing have a catabolic (breaks down tissue) effect on body tissues. Make the coming winter a season full of adventure, recovery, rebuilding, and fun.
John Fiore, PT

Runner of the Month: November 2018

Katy White moved to Missoula a few years ago and has quickly established herself as a fixture in the Missoula running community. She can be seen running anything from the Missoula Marathon, to the Rut, to the upcoming Turkey Day 8k. Recently she lead the Missoula women to a big win at Montana Cup in Great Falls.


How long have you been running? 

I’ve pretty much been running my whole life. Even as a little kid I would go with my neighbors to their middle school cross country meets and run all over the course even though I was in no way involved with the team. I started running competitively about ten years ago in high school when I sadly/luckily was the only person not to make the volleyball team and was forced to find a new fall sport. So I did cross country and track for the remainder of high school and continued on in college by being an active member of my schools club team. After graduating undergrad, the first thing I did each time I moved to a new place was to get plugged into the running scene as quickly as possible.


We’ve seen you run fast on roads, trails, and now cross country, what’s your preference?

I think I’m happiest with a little mix of everything. I love road running because you can go quicker and it’s fun to get the legs moving and into a rhythm. However, given where we live, I would be seriously missing out if I only stuck to the roads. I still haven’t quite mastered long climbs or steep, technical descents, but I love the variety and beauty that trails bring into my running. I also think mixing up the terrain is great for staying healthy and ensuring that all sorts of muscles are getting used regularly.


Now that you’ve found your stride in Missoula, what’s your favorite part of the running community?

I am really in love with the support and enthusiasm the entire community has for active, healthy lifestyles. Where I’m from in Indiana, my runs are done on busy streets with no sidewalks and to the soundtrack of drivers honking and yelling at me- not the most encouraging environment for fitness. In Missoula, regardless of the time of year or time of day, it is nearly guaranteed that I will cross paths with a handful of others out there and they are likely doing something even more extreme than I am. I think this breeds an incredibly motivating and encouraging environment regardless of your goals or physical endeavors.


You lead Missoula at Montana Cup. How did that race play out for you? Were you happy with it? 

I was thrilled with the outcome! I had heard that Missoula has a pretty dominant Montana Cup history, but the last two years that I have done the race we left empty handed on the men’s and women’s side. My only goal going into it was to do my best to help the women’s team come out with a win. During the race I was able to look back and could see that we were packed up really well in the front, which gave me a lot of confidence and encouraged me to push the last couple of K’s. I have been doing a lot of running in the South Hills, which I think was good training because I was able to get in a lot of hills that are still very runnable, just like the race course!


What do you have in mind for 2019? 

I just got confirmation that I got into the Chicago Marathon next fall, so I’m going to put a lot of effort getting ready for that and will hopefully come out with a big marathon PR! Throughout the next year I will be working on building up my mileage and incorporating a lot more speed and strength work into my running to help get ready for a solid Chicago buildup. I’m also definitely going to do a handful of other road and trail races like Snow Joke and the Bitterroot Runoff, maybe even one of the Rut races, because they are way too fun to miss out on!
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Product Review: Smartwool Merino 150 Mammoth T-shirt

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the Smartwool Mammoth T-shirt and talk about the benefits of wearing wool. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

First Impression
At first glance the Smartwool Mobile Mammoth t-shirt appears to be just a shirt with a clever graphic. This of course appealed to my inner child, having dug countless holes in various backyards and parks hoping to unearth a wooly mammoth or dinosaur skeleton. Furthermore, what kid, or adult for that matter, would not be ecstatic about the idea of having their very own Mammoth that doubled as an enviro-friendly, Paleo-RV? Once on, the shirt easily ranked as one of the most comfortable t-shirts I own, if not the most. Any prejudice one has toward wool being itchy and skratchy is quickly dispelled by this garment. The shirt fabric is light and extremely soft to the touch. I slipped this on after a chilly fall run and was instantly comforted by the warm and bulk-less shirt.

Properties of wool
The use of wool in clothing fabric dates back as far as 10,000 B.C. Wool used to be the industry standard when it came to anything outdoors. The earliest explorers donned wool garments as they pioneered through the uncharted wildernesses of our world. From Shackelton in his heavy wool gabardine icebound in Antarctica, to Hillary on the summit of Everest, wool was the explorer´s choice. Of course, the traditional wool garments were heavy and bulky. The advent of modern synthetics in the 20th century removed wool from center stage providing the consumer with a bevy of choices. However, the wool products of today are neither bulky, nor heavy as refinements in textile production and technology have helped to produce some remarkable products.

Unlike other non-synthetic fibers used in clothing, wool harbors some unique properties. These set wool apart from cotton and other natural fiber.

➢ Wool is extremely good at wicking moisture. The unique physical structure of the fabric
allows it to hold warmth even when it is wet. The coil-like structure does not matt down
like cotton.
➢ Wool fabric is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial (due to the lanolin found in it).
Therefore, it does not require the harsh chemical treatments that some modern fabrics
use.
➢ Wool is a renewable resource. In this age of petroleum based hi-tech fabrics, it's nice to
know that wool is sustainable and easy on the environment.
➢ Wool fabrics stand the test of time. While a wool garment might initially be a bit more
expensive, it´s durability and longevity pay off in the long run. Wool´s longevity far
outlasts that of cotton, silk and rayon.
➢ As an added bonus wool is naturally UV resistant and somewhat fire resistant.

(photo credit: Mia Kiffe)

Merino Wool
Smartwool uses Merino wool which is obtained from a specific breed of sheep. The Merino sheep were originally found in Spain but are now bred all over the world. Merino wool has a finer, softer feel to it, and it has been prized for its superior texture since the 1700´s. The tight crimp of Merino wool is what makes it so fine and supple. In the world of wool, the finer the crimp the pricier the wool, such as Cashmere. The fine nature of Merino does make it less durable than other wool types, but it makes up for that in comfort. Some companies are using

Merino/synthetic hybrid fabrics to increase the durability of their products. While it is possible that early Bronze age inhabitants might have used mammoth wool for warmth, I think it reasonable to assume that Merino wool is much more comfortable.

Overall
Smartwool has been around for 20+ years, most notably for their socks. From hiking, to skiing to running to everyday wear the Smartwool name has become synonymous with quality. Their shirts and other garments are no exception to this. The Mobile Mammoth T-shirt is light and refined. The soft weave of the Merino wool make it a comfortable choice for running, backpacking, kicking back at home, or getting a burger with friends after a day of adventure. Make no mistake, this is not your great grandpa´s WWII era, inch thick heavy wool garment. As a casual t-shirt this product rises above others. I look forward to exploring more of Smartwool´s range of products in the future. There definitely more to this company that just socks.

 

Product Review: Light Spur

Amelia is one of our RE ambassadors for 2018/19. She is very active in the community and is one of the makers of the maps we all know and love, Cairn Cartography! As the days get shorter and a lot of us are running in the dark, we asked Amelia to review the Light Spur from Nathan. Her thoughts are below. You can also follow her adventures on instagram @cairncarto, as well as on facebook.

This month I reviewed the Nathan Light spur, which is a small, horseshoe-shaped light that fits onto the heel of a running shoe (or casual shoe) to provide visibility when running or biking at night. Mine has a red light that can cycle through several different settings to be either solid or blinky. Contrary to the irate customer who left a one-star review on Nathan’s website, you do not have to undo the eight tiny screws in the case to replace the battery, you just plug it in to a USB port using the cable that comes with it! I’ve only had to charge it once in the last month of use and according to the packaging the battery lasts for 12 hours on a full charge.

I went to college in Maine, which is one of those places so far east in its time zone that it should be in the next one, but no one wants a time difference running through New England, so people just deal. But it means in the fall and winter it gets dark ridiculously early, like sunset at 3:30pm early. It also snows a lot, and the town I lived in took the opposite approach that Missoula takes and did a great job plowing the streets, but almost nothing to keep sidewalks or bike paths clear.

All that is to say I spent a lot of time running on the slush-filled shoulder of dark streets hoping the cars speeding by saw me, but always half-ready to dive into the snowbank if they got too close. The track team gave us dorky reflective vests, but none of us used them, so most days my only reflectivity was the little bits sewn into random zippers and logos on my clothes, and a velcro strap made of that yellow reflective material that I would put around my ankle.

I wish I had the Nathan Light Spur back then! I try to avoid running in the dark as much as possible now, but this time of year, as days get noticeably shorter every week, spending some time making my way through dark streets is inevitable. I’ve used the light spur on early morning and evening runs and I’ve also been throwing it on whenever I find myself biking in the dark.

I was worried the light spur would pinch my heel weird, or that it wouldn’t stay on, but I’ve had no issues with it on any of my running shoes or on casual shoes. The little teeth that hold it in place do scratch up leather shoes a tiny bit, but not running shoes. I was also afraid I might kick the spur off, since I sometimes kick myself in the ankle while running, but I didn’t, and really I didn’t notice the spur at all while I was running.The other thing I didn’t notice- the light itself! I was afraid the red light moving in an out of my peripheral vision would drive me crazy, but the light stays behind me, visible to cars and other people but totally out of my circe of vision.

If you are one of those runners whose headlamps I see making their way through town during pre-dawn hours, I applaud you, and I highly recommend the Nathan Light Spur to increase visibility during dark runs!

Fitness and Aging: Filtering Through Facts and Misinformation

True: Aging impacts my health and fitness. False: Maintaining fitness is not possible since I am over 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 years old. A September 2018 article in Readers Digest listed 13 exercises one should avoid if he or she is 50 years old. Yes, this caught my attention as I endorse every one of the 13 exercises if done correctly. While I do not consider Readers Digest as a credible source for exercise and fitness news, I will list the 13 exercises, all of which have benefits if done correctly:
1.Running Stairs
2.Spin Classes
3.High Intensity Interval Training
4.Hot Yoga
5.Push-ups
6.Squats with Weight
7.Bench Press
8.Burpees
9.Pull-ups
10.Crunches
11.Dead Lifts
12.Jumping Lunges
13.Sprints
The degree to which fitness is impacted by aging is based on physiology, genetics, medical history, exercise choices, and lifestyle choices. The largest factor influencing fitness as one ages (insert your definition of what “aging” represents), however, is lifestyle choices.Physiological changes associated with aging include a change in cardiac function (i.e. Max heart rate, cardiac output), a decrease in lean muscle mass, a decrease in strength, a
decrease in flexibility, a decrease in connective tissue elasticity, and a decrease in bone density. Genetics also plays a large role in the physiological cards we are dealt at an early age. Joint stiffness in the spine may be virtually absent to some, while others may develop a more limiting genetic form of spinal degeneration such as ankylosing spondylitis (HLA-B27). 1 Prior medical history and orthopedic injuries (joint and ligament injuries, fracture history, overuse injury history, bone density baseline) should guide the degree of impact your body will tolerate during exercise. But what about the factors each and every one of us can influence regardless of our genetics? How is one to sort through the conflicting information available on the subject of fitness and aging? Understanding your present fitness, fitness goals, and recognizing your past and present medical issues will guide lifestyle fitness choices to allow you to maintain fitness for years to come.
As a physical therapist and an endurance athlete, I view proper exercise as the most effective way to positively influence fitness with age. I quantify this statement with the words proper exercise because many factors determine how well your body will respond to certain exercises. Running is a relatively high impact form of exercise. If done correctly (efficiently and following a consistent, gradual training program), however, running may be tolerated well into one’s 60s and 70s. Exercise consistency is crucial for life-long fitness. Regular exercise (3 days per week minimum with 5 days per week preferred) must address the areas of fitness most impacted by age. Strength training must be included as physiology has shown a decrease in lean muscle mass and strength naturally occurring with age. Speed must be included as our fast twitch (speed) muscle fibers are replaced by slow twitch (endurance)muscle fibers with age. Flexibility training must be included to promote joint health and reduce osteoarthritis, and cardiovascular exercise must be included for circulatory health and to maintain a healthy body weight. To reduce joint-related pain, minimize impact loading and vary your workout routine accordingly.
So what is the magic exercise? What is the key to fitness with age? Where do I buy the DVD or infomercial product to give me life-long fitness? No single exercise exists which combines all of these necessary components into one activity. Training, therefore, begins with finding an exercise form you enjoy (i.e. running, cycling, swimming, skiing). The next step is to develop a functional strength training program (with the help of a qualified physical therapist or trainer) aimed at improving your power and efficiency. Add to your
strengthening program a dynamic stretching program to insure healthy joint motion and mobility. Mix up your workouts to decrease the adaptation effect created in the body when you run the same 4-mile loop every day. Finally, have an annual physical to make sure your heart is healthy, your blood levels are within normal limits, and your cholesterol and blood pressure are normal.
Fitness beyond the 20s and 30s has many faces. From the person who has just been told by their physician to lose weight and reduce their blood pressure to the 60-year old athlete who defies both years and gravity, fitness in the second half of life does not have to be elusive. Life
experiences, life choices, environmental factors, genetics, and dedication to health and fitness all impact our fitness later in life. Call Sapphire PT to find out more about how you can realistically attain your fitness goals at any age.
1 Brown MA et al. Clin Exp Rheumatology; 2002. 20: S43-S49.