Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 Aspen Backcountry Marathon/Half Marathon Race Report

by Jeff Valliere

Aspen Backcountry Marathon/Half Marathon
August 12th, 2017

Once again I was fortunate enough to race the Aspen Backcountry Marathon/Half Marathon sponsored by adidas Outdoor.  I participated in the half marathon last year, which was one of the best race experiences that I have had, not only because of the amazing course, excellent race organization and the fact that it is held in Aspen, but I was able to bring the family along.  I could potentially do that for any event, but in Aspen, there are so many nearby activities and attractions to keep them occupied while I race, I do not feel guilty about being away running for several hours, as they are likely having a better time than I am (I am having fun, but in a painful sort of way).

Photo credit: Trey Kinkead
When invited back for 2017, I jumped at the chance.  My wife, daughters and I were very excited to return to Aspen and relive the good times from last year.  Additionally, this was the last weekend of summer vacation and there was no better way to top off a great summer of outdoor adventures.

The Aspen Backcountry Marathon continues to steadily improve each year and I noticed a marked improvement over 2016.  The courses for both the marathon and the half marathon have continued to be tweaked and improved over the years and this year was no exception.  Both races (the half and the full) now feature even more singletrack than before, greatly reducing the already minimal stretch of paved bike path required getting to/from the main trails.  The direction of the course also alternates each year, so it was great going in the opposite direction, as it seemed like a different race.

Another improvement is that the prize purse has been increased, paying generous cash prizes for the top marathon finishers and adidas Outdoor has also generously increased the amount of gift cards they give out for the top race finishers, King of the Mountain winners and all the way down through age groups.

There was also more great gear given out this year included in the entry fee.  At packet pickup, each racer was given a very nice adidas Ultimate Tee, then a choice of adidas running hat or visor, as well as an adidas gear bag/backpack.  Packet pickup was also very easy, quick and efficient.  Course maps were provided and the then the race meeting was informative with a description of the course, race rules, leave no trace ethics (cupless course) and everything else that needed to be covered about the race and the course.

Race tee, pack (they were out of blue/gray by the time I arrived), hat, cup and great handmade trophies.

Post race, each racer is given a nice stainless steel drinking cup with vouchers for food and drinks afterward, that can be cashed in at one of several vendors who have set up shop in Rio Grande Park in conjunction with the annual ducky derby.  I was also given a wet/iced towel (a small, but welcome comfort) after the race for cleaning off, received a complimentary massage from Aspen School of Massage Therapy, gorged on watermelon and a variety of other fruit and snacks (before cashing in my lunch coupons).

I somehow managed to pull off a second consecutive win here, accompanied on the podium by Women's Half Marathon champ, Penelope Freedman who was 3rd overall.

Race entry fees are also quite reasonable, a steal actually when you compare to other races around Colorado and the Mountain West.  Then factor in the great schwag, prizes, chip timing, great organization/support, amazing course and setting, this race is really tough to beat.

2017 Pricing:

Full Marathon

  • Dec 1 – Jan 31: $70
  • Feb 1 – Apr 30: $80
  • May 1 – Jul 31: $90
  • Aug 1 – 7: $100

1/2 Marathon (21K)

  • Dec 1 – Jan 31: $70
  • Feb 1 – Apr 30: $75
  • May 1 – Jul 31: $85
  • Aug 1 – 7: $90
As great as all of that sounds, what I really appreciated most as a father of 6 year old twins, was how much there was to do in and around Aspen as a family.  We enjoyed fine dining, went on hikes, rode the gondola, went to the farmers market, perused gem and fossil shops, rock climbed, swam, attended a jazz concert at the top of Aspen Mountain and enjoyed the Duck Derby Festival, complete with bouncy houses and kids activities that share Rio Grande Park with the race.

Easy above treeline hiking on Independence Pass

 Views from the Aspen gondola, from here you can see much of the course

Wildflowers galore at the top of Aspen Mountain

We happened upon a jazz concert while hiking above the Aspen gondola

But, Aspen is expensive you say?  Yes, of course Aspen is pricey, but there are alternatives for the budget conscious.  There are less expensive rooms if you plan ahead.  We stayed at the St. Moritz Lodge just a few blocks from town, where they have some pretty reasonably priced bunk rooms (as well as standard rooms and rooms with a kitchenette), a nice shared kitchen, continental breakfast, happy hour wine and a heated 92 degree pool (where my kids spent a total of 10 hours over the 3 days we were there).  There is also plenty of camping in the area, Difficult Campground, Weller Campground, Silver Queen, Maroon Creek, Castle Creek and Pine Creek to name a few.  Another great option is Snowmass Village, where rooms are more reasonable and a free shuttle provides access to Aspen (don't miss the Snomastodon museum).

The St. Moritz Lodge, great pool and accommodations

One other observation we made was how nice and accomodating we found everyone to be, from the friends we made associated with the race, to people we met around town (locals and visitors).  It was quite refreshing to be around so many positive and friendly people.

Everyone I talked to after the race had nothing but great things to say about the course, the town, the organization, the prizes, food, support and freebies.  Many people that I spoke with are well into making this race into an annual tradition.

Since racing in Aspen in 2016, I have been promoting the Aspen Backcountry Marathon/Half to friends, strangers and far and wide on the internet.  After 2017, I am even more impressed and will increasingly heap praise and recommend this to anyone I know who likes to run and is looking for a well run, affordable race in a beautiful setting with lots of great perks.

A huge thanks to adidas Outdoor, Pete Shuster, Loren Gwartney Morshead, Melissa Wisenbaker, Maureen Poschman, Toni Case and the Aspen Chamber of Commerce, City of Aspen and Parks and Rec..

See you there in 2018!
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Visit our Index Page here for over 60 of in depth 2017 shoe and gear reviews
Visit our 2018 Previews Page here for 2018 run shoe, apparel, and gear previews 

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Spring 2018 adidas Outdoor Previews: Performance with a Greener Focus- Parley for the Oceans and No-Dye

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor 

Road Trail Run awarded adidas Terrex/ adidas Outdoor an award at Outdoor Retailer for Innovative Designs with a Focus on Reducing Environmental Impact
Women's Voyager Parley Hoodie ($69)
adidas Terrex is focusing its Spring 2018 on not only product, but a lighter foot print on the Earth.
Last Outdoor Retailer we heard about the adidas partnership with Parley's for the Oceans an organization which recovers ocean plastic pollution. This OR,adidas showed an extensive line of Parley's products: boat and causal shoes with uppers made of recovered plastic as well as soft and beautiful apparel. 
The Terrex CC Voyager Parley ($120) is a combination water and travel all conditions shoe. It has an upper knit in with Parley's recovered plastic pollution. It is knit into its shape with no waste. Speaking to its water side, it is quick drying with a drainage system 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Altra Running Timp Review: Mountain Flippers!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor

Altra Running Timp ($130) is a new near maximal cushioned trail runner sitting between the Altra Lone Peak (25mm stack) and Olympus (36mm stack). 
According to Running Warehouse it weighs a hefty 11.4 oz. M9, 9.4 oz./266g W9. My US 8.5 weighs 11.2 oz.
Timp has Ultra's signature Zero Drop platform with with a 29mm heel, 29mm forefoot stack. Of course the toe area is Foot Shaped and is broader and higher volume than its Lone Peak cousin. 
As with all Altra trail shoes it is named after a Utah peak. 
In this case the iconic Timpanogos a magnificent summit with wildflower meadows below its very long cliff band. Aptly named, the Timp is the perfect shoe for the 12 or so mile round trip of mostly smoother single track followed by a steep scramble to the summit. 

First Impressions and Fit
I titled this review "Mountain Flippers". The Timp has a very wide toe box and platform on the trail.  The fit is true to size but narrow feet may swim. The flipper part is more than just a comment on its looks. There is a distinct sensation while climbing in these surprisingly flexible shoes with a wide platform that they act much like swim flippers in water as there is tons of ground contact area to push off with fully deployed toes!

Merrell Agility Peak Flex Review: Serious Mountain Runner with Great Mid Foot to Heel Hold and Stability

Article by Sam Winebaum 

The Merrell Agility Peak Flex ($130) is an all terrain highly supportive trail runner. Coming in according to Running Warehouse at a fairly hefty 11 ox./ 312 g M9, 9.6 oz./272 g W8 it has a 27mm heel, 21mm forefoot stack, 6mm drop. We were surprised and pleased with its fantastic mid foot and heel hold, probably the best of 2017, decent front of the shoe flexibility, and despite the weight decent if a bit ponderous agility. This is a shoe that will get you through hard tough miles of varied terrain in security and comfort.

First Impressions
We were quite frankly skeptical when first offered to test the Agility Peak Flex. Merrell is of course known for hiking boots and for their minimal Trail and Road Glove shoes. We know Joe Gray many time US Mountain Champion and 2016 World Mountain Champion is a Merrell athlete so that was enough for us to give them a try.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Brooks Running Spring 2018 Previews: Transcend 5, Adrenaline GTS 18, Launch 5, Ravenna 9, Caldera 2, Mazama 2

Brooks emphasized extensive deconstruction of 2018 shoe uppers, fewer sewn overlays and more use of 3D Fit Print overlays. Generally underfoot platforms are staying the same and weights dropping slightly. 

The light stability Transcend 5 ($160) features a new engineered mesh upper and an updated Guide Rail support system which is somewhat taller than the Transcend 4. The Transcend 5 will come in at 10.8 oz/306 g (M9), 9.1 oz./258 g (W8.5) so no change in weight or price. Available January 2018.

Brooks Running Transcend 5
The outsole is divided into what Brooks calls IDEAL pressure zones to disperse shock, minimize joint stress, and improve how the foot works during the gait cycle.
Brooks Running Transcend 5
The Adrenaline GTS is Brooks' top selling shoe and is a posted stability shoe. Adrenaline GTS 18 keeps the same last and underfoot feel but completely revamps the upper, completely doing away with conventional overlays by using an engineered heathered mesh and 3D Fit Print resulting in not only a new stylish, modern look but a 1 oz. weight drop. The 12mm drop shoe will come in at a light, for a support shoe, 10 oz./283 g (M9), 8.6 oz./244 g (W8.5).  It will be available November 2017, $120.
Brooks Running Adrenaline GTS 18

Sunday, August 06, 2017

adidas Aero Bounce Review: Bar Bouncers?

9.3 oz./264 g (M9)
28/18mm. 10mm drop
$100. Available now.
The adidas Aero Bounce is a light trainer which departs from adidas recent use of Boost TPU midsoles in its performance running shoes by using a new EVA midsole material called Bounce. 
Bounce is described by adidas as  "soft at step and gives a bouncy elastic experience when running." The Bounce midsole is paired to a single density soft blown rubber outsole and not the customary firmer Continental rubber or thinner Stretch Web.  Also departing from recent higher priced trends this modern, light shoe is priced at a reasonable $100 setting it up to compete with shoes such as the ASICS Roadhawk FF, Hoka Hupana, and Skechers GOrun Ride 6. 
It is clear from my runs in this shoe that adidas wanted to produce a similar experience to their premium Ultra Boost at a lower weight,  far lower price point and with modern style. The spare black, white and gray is very classy looking with its fades at mid foot. While the heel is decently responsive and with some pop the forefoot is soft, flexible and only slightly more agile and responsive than the Ultra Boost, a shoe whose forefoot I found to be overly soft.  The Bounce foam is outstanding with great cushion and that bouncy and especially a sense of that "elastic" experience adidas calls out. 

But... from a performance running shoe standpoint the soft blown rubber outsole tends to sap the energy out of the shoe, particularly up front.

adidas PureBoost DPR Review...These Boost are made for Walking...

Article by Peter Stuart 
adidas PureBoost DPR
The Adidas PureBoost DPR (Deconstructed Pure Racer) is a lighter, leaner (by 1.2 oz)  alternative to the UltraBoost for those seeking an all Boost midsole, thus the Pure in the name. DPR is available now, $150. It weighs in at 9.2 oz./261 g (M9) with  a heel stack height of 25mm with the forefoot at 17mm for an 8mm drop. They're in the 'responsive performance trainer' category. So, how do they do? Well...

Friday, August 04, 2017

Salomon S/Lab Sense 6 and Sense 6 SG Review: True Mountain Racers!

Editor's Note: We are thrilled to bring you this review of S/Lab Sense 6 and Sense 6 SG by RoadTrailRun contributor and rising ultra and mountain talent Patrick Caron. He was invited to , and attended Salomon's, 2017 Young Gun Running Academy in Austria for promising mountain/trail runners 20 years old and under, the only North American selected. In addition to many ultra victories in New England including a sub 15 hour 100 mile race and two 50 mile victories at the Pineland Farms Maine Trail Challenge, Patrick ran 2:40:45 at the 2017 Boston Marathon, and was 16th and 17th overall, first 20 year old and under ,at the 2017 Mount Washington Road Race and USTAF Mountain Running Championships respectively. Patrick works at Marathon Sports in the Boston area so he is a run shoe expert!
Article by Patrick Caron
Salomon has been a dominant force in the trail running industry for quite some time. Next time you’re at a trail or mountain race, look down - it’s highly likely that you will see the majority of top runners wearing Salomons as their shoe of choice. Within the brand’s vast lineup of shoes exists the Salomon S-Lab Series, which is designed with performance and speed in mind, utilizing the knowledge and input of Salomon’s top engineers, athletes, and designers. Generally speaking, the technology Salomon develops for the S-Lab Series trickles down to other mid-tier shoes within their lines. Two of the highly popular shoes within the Salomon S-Lab Series are the Sense 6 and the Sense 6 SG. Read on for more on both of these models!
Top: S/Lab Sense 6 Bottom: S/Lab Sense 6 SG

Thursday, August 03, 2017

New Balance FuelCore Sonic Review: Boa, was it you I was looking for?

Article by Peter Stuart
The New Balance FuelCore Sonic is an uptempo daily trainer/racer with the soul of the original Vazee Pace and a new twist (pun intended, sadly) on closure systems. It weighs in at about 8.4 ounces/238 grams for a Men's 9, 7.2 oz./204 for a Women's 8 and the stack heights are 24mm in the heel and 18 in the forefoot, 6mm drop.  There are definitely similarities to the Vazee Pace, but some notable differences too. 
$110. Available now.