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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.

Runner of the Month: October 2018

Ashley Cossairt spends her time in the basement at Runner’s Edge orchestrating many of the Run Wild Missoula events and social activities we love. But when she isn’t working to improve running in Missoula, she’s getting out and running for herself. This year she has dropped incredible amounts of time in all distances and has transformed as a runner. That hard work has paid off and she was recently named the Run Wild Missoula Runner of the Year.
Name: Ashley Cossairt
How many years have you been running?
Growing up, running was the furthest thing from what I wanted to be doing. Running sprints at softball practice was unbearable, but part of the torture required to be a good athlete… I started running in the spring of 2015 as a way to get back in shape and survive grad school. I wanted to find somewhere else to focus some of my mental energy when I needed a break from reading and writing papers about Criminological Theory.
What’s been your favorite running memory so far?
I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington D.C. this past spring. That was quite an experience! I never imagined I would participate in a race with 16,000 other people. Everything about that day was great – the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom, the weather was cool but sunny (my favorite conditions), and I was able to run with a really good friend and teammate.
Something clicked this year for you and you’ve been making drastic improvements. What happened?
So many small things. I could write a few thousand words about how the last 12 months have fallen into place. I was starting to feel like I should be running more, because my job is centered around running and walking (not a job requirement). With a lot encouragement, I signed up for one of Courtney’s treadmill classes to get through the winter, and that sparked something. I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon last December, somewhat on a whim. Being a novice runner with zero experience on how to properly train for a marathon, I knew I needed direction. I reached out to Trisha Drobeck for coaching recommendations, and determined she was precisely what I was looking for. I quickly learned that having a plan of exactly what I was supposed to run each day was easy for me to follow. Accountability has also been a huge factor throughout this process. I amextremely fortunate to have some very motivating and dependable friends, and an incredibly supportive husband.
You just had another massive PR at the Bozeman 1/2. What was that race like? 
If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 I would be able to take 30 minutes off my half marathon time from 2017, I would have fallen over with laugher and disbelief. The race was tough, but absolutely worth the temporary pain and discomfort. I had a few goals going into the race that would either build my confidence for my upcoming marathon, or completely crush me. I try not to put too much emphasis on time, because it’s just one piece of your overall performance – albeit a big piece on race day. I learned a lot during the Bozeman Half that I will bring with me to Minnesotanext weekend, and to future races.  (At the last aid station, securely grab the water cup from the volunteer. When they won’t let go, do not assume the next volunteer also has water…)
You’ve been gearing up for Twin Cities Marathon (on October 7th) for the last year. How are you feeling a week out? 
Honestly, I am SO excited. Going into this wild ride of marathon training, I kept telling myself I just needed to trust my coach and trust the training. I never once questioned why I was doing something. I may not have enjoyed some of the workouts and wondered about the purpose of others, but there isn’t a single thing I would change about this training cycle. I am confident my performance on race day will show just how hard I have been working for the last 10 months.
Good luck at Twin Cities Ashley!

Product Review: ON Cloud X

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 ON Cloud X, and you can find his thoughts below. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

The ON brand of shoes was one that I looked at hard this past winter and seriously considered buying. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I found out that I was going to get to review a pair.

Weight: 8oz
Drop: 6mm
Stack Height: 6mm

Once on my feet the ON Cloud X felt super light. The bulkless, minimal construction of the upper shoe hugs your foot like a glove. The super thin tongue conforms willingly to the shape of your foot. This shoe feels airy and fast from the second you put it on. Weighing in at 8 ounces the shoe is one of the lighter shoes on the market. Categorized by ON as a ¨running remixed¨shoe the Cloud X is intended for runners who have a diversity of training activities in their week. My first run out of the box was a 12 mile run around Missoula and included asphalt, light trail, paved pedestrian paths and gravel. From my front door the Cloud X felt nimble and responsive. The shoe runs like a racing flat but with just enough cushion to be forgiving. The shoe felt great on the short climbs, with no evidence of heel-slip. The ON website boasts that the heelbox is a bombproof fit and my experience was nothing short of that. I’ve now put a little over 70 miles on these shoes and the entire construction is holding together extremely well.

One of the ingenious features of this shoe that really caught my eye was the way it minimized weight and bulk with a couple unique features. First, the shoe uses injection molded padding at key spots at the ankle collar instead of the stuffed traditional style padding common in most other shoes. This makes for a lean fit with padding in just the right spots. It really helps to avoid the bulk that can act like a sponge in wet conditions. The second feature is a hard plastic footplate that runs throughout the shoe. While most shoes achieve the rigid footplate by laminating thin layers of foam and plastic together, ON uses a single lightweight high density plastic piece which eliminates the extra weight of the glue and multiple laminated layers in a traditional shoe. The entire upper is made of what ON calls ¨new-generation materials,¨ and these are truly very thin and lightweight. The mesh of the toe box is well constructed and ventilates nicely.

One downside of the Pod system used by ON is that rocks get stuck in the tread pretty easily. While I did not notice the feel of the rocks in my shoe, I could hear them once I got back on the pavement. To be fair though, ON is very clear about the fact that this is not a dedicated trail shoe. So with that in mind this might not be a problem when on packed gravel pedestrian trails. Other reviewers commented on the fact they experienced low traction on wet running surfaces. This was not my experience on the runs that I did on wet roads. The ON Cloud X felt just fine to me on the wet Missoula streets.

The cushioning of the Cloud X is just right. For a shoe that has a minimalist feel it is cushioned enough so when you hit that unfortunate rock, pothole or when your form falls apart for a few seconds (or miles) you are afforded some cushion to ease the blow. Make no mistake, these are not ¨plush¨ pillow-like shoes such as many Hoka One One models but the Pod technology does offer a decent amount of cushion.

As a general shoe that might be used in a gym setting, a spin class, zumba, crossfit or some other indoor aerobic pursuit the ON Cloud X gets high praise from this reviewer. I gave it a shot at the gym that I usually am absent from all summer and fall and really liked the feel that they had. The On Cloud X will be my gym shoe choice for the coming winter.

Overall this shoe is a great addition to my gear closet. The ON Cloud X is very light, responsive and cushioned just enough. The colors are simple and attractive and the design is appealing to the eye as well. I look forward to putting more miles on these shoes around Missoula, racing some fall 5Kś in them and using them at the gym when the unfortunate winter treadmill sessions are called for. I´d recommend these shoes to anyone who is looking for a super light, versatile all-around training shoe. At an MSRP of $140.00 they are a bit spendy, but in my opinion they are well worth it.

Product Review: New Balance Summit Q.O.M.

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 a frequent runner of the trails, we asked Amelia to review the new Summit Q.O.M from New Balance. Her thoughts are below. You can also follow her adventures on instagram @cairncarto, as well as on facebook.

Specs: 8mm drop, 28/20mm stack, 9.2 OZ, vibram mega-grip outsole

I received a pair of New Balance Summit QOM shoes to test. My favorite trail shoe of all time was probably the original New Balance Leadville, and I’ve run in several other New Balance shoes over the last few years so I was excited to try this new model. The Summit QOM replaced the 910 model and is designed to be an everyday do-it-all shoe for all types of runners.

I should start by saying that I’m super fussy about shoes. My feet are really wide, my arches are high, and I like the midfoot and heel of my running shoes to feel secure. I like a decent amount of cushioning but not too much, I want protection from rocks but I want to feel the trail underneath me, zero drop doesn’t work for me but I do like lower-drop shoes. I am always, always on the hunt for a shoe that fits my goldilocks standards. Shoes I’ve liked recently are the now-discontinued Pearl Izumi N2s, the original Brooks Calderas (but they fell apart too fast and this year’s version was too narrow), and the current Salomon Sense Ride, which I love, but I wish had a little more substance underfoot for long days.

So, with that qualifier (I’m picky!) here’s what I thought of the QOMs: Initially I wasn’t crazy about the understated grey color scheme but it’s grown on me, especially with the pop of yellow from the sole. The trail shoe market has gone a little crazy with super dark or really flashy designs lately, so these stand out for how understated they are.

How do they feel? These feel firm and burly! For the QOM New Balance took the same midsole as the 910, added a vibram mega-grip outsole and beefed up the toe bumper, and these babies feel ready for anything. I’ve worn them on a variety of  Missoula trails and they feel grippy and secure going up and down on the steeps, even with late summer loose gravelly trails. The underfoot protection is so good I find myself looking around at the view more instead of carefully watching my feet because they eat up sharp rocks underfoot. On flatter smoother trails that extra protection does feel a little bit overkill and these are not my first choice for road-to-trail or mellower runs, but they do turn over surprisingly well for how stiff they feel. A few weeks ago I took these on a trip to the Tetons and they were great for scrambling and boulder hopping in big alpine terrain.

Some fit specifics: Like a lot of New Balance shoes, the toe box in these feels roomy and I didn’t even have to order a wide width (but I appreciate that they come in wide, other shoe companies take note, feet come in different widths!). They did take a while to break in, but once they formed to my feet and the thick padding on the tongue and collar packed down a tiny bit they felt super comfortable and secure. They feel like a higher drop shoe, so I was surprised to see them listed as only 8mm, and the higher stack height combined with the firm sole made me feel a little further from the ground than I prefer, but some days that kind of protection is good.

These would be great shoes for races like the Rut or Bridger Ridge Run, or for training in the kind of rugged terrain featured in those races. I think they will also be great for shoulder season runs in mud and snow when a stiffer shoe and a burly sole can really save the day. I also really appreciate how durable these feel, I’m hard on shoes and it’s not unusual for me to wear holes in the upper in less than 200 miles. These seem built to last, about 100 miles in the uppers look great and the soles barely show any wear. I would recommend these as a daily trainer for people who like a firm, protective shoe, or for people looking for a good option for snowy/muddy/rocky trails.