Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Montrail Bajada Trail Runner

The Montrail Bajada ($110)  is a 10.2 oz, 10 mm heel/toe drop neutral trail runner. I have about 150 miles of UT trails on my pair.

The strengths of this shoe are in the outsole and midsole construction. The minor weaknesses in the upper.

Outsole and Midsole
The hard carbon rubber Gryptonitetm outsole not only grips extremely well on hard or loose terrain but the close spacing of the lugs gives a very smooth ride on pavement. I have not run any mud to see if it would accumulate. The shoe is very flexible. The  Trail Shieldtm  rock protection in the forefoot when combined with the midsole is effective in protecting from smaller rocks.
Bajada feels protective, nimble and quick on even rocky trails. I might not want to go a marathon trail distance in them but up to 18 or so miles a perfect balance of weight, agility, and protection.
Bajada is also a very capable performer on the road. Quite frankly hard to tell this is a trail shoe on the road I think due to the small lugged continuous outsole. Wear has been great. As illustrated above almost no wear is visible after 150 miles. There is always a trade off when including a durable full length carbon rubber outsole, a bit of additional weight.


While the upper itself is plenty supportive the overlays are a bit stiff making cinching down around the mid foot difficult without over tightening. The provided laces were not only to short but "slippery" and  tend to stretch during runs requiring fairly frequent re tightening. I replaced them with laces from an old pair of shoes and vastly improved the situation. The thick tongue has a tendency to rotate sideways. Not really a problem but an annoyance. It seems shorter than it should be and might benefit from being either a bit wider or be attached further down towards to the toe. Finally, the upper while breathable lets quite a bit of trail dust in, particularly around the tongue and toes. Kind of puzzling that such a good design would have these relatively simple to see and correct defects.

Pros: Light weight, nimble. Great outsole. Hybrid: also fantastic on the road.
Cons: Laces to short and also ineffective. Tongue rotates. 

Summer Run Apparel Roundup: Patagonia, Rab, Dynafit, North Face

My mileage is up, the UT trails have been calling, and the heat is on. I tend to run hot so I am constantly looking for cool and comfortable. Sadly for my wallet the stuff keeps on getting better and better.


Patagonia Gamut Tee ($49) 
Patagonia Gamut Tee

I have long been a fan of Patagonia Silkweight tees and long sleeves. Super comfortable, UV protection, and quick drying. Last year they were one of my favorites.  This year Patagonia has launched a more run specific tee and sleeveless line called Gamut.  What's the difference? While the Silkweight is densely woven, the Gamut is variably knit and almost completely seamless. While the Silkweight is smooth to the touch the Gamut has a slight vertical texture which likely helps with moisture transfer.
Pros: Outstandingly comfortable in the heat.
Cons: the Gamut is not exactly as fashionable as Silkweight off the trail. it really looks like an old school undershirt in the off white I got. With a size medium  the sleeves are to tight to roll up into a sleeveless when it is really hot.

Rab Aeon Tee ($30)

Rab is a British mountaineering company which keeps their products simple, reasonably priced, streamlined and highly functional.  Their motto is " For the most extreme conditions in the world." They use outstanding technical fabrics.
Rab Aeon Tee

The Aeon Tee is made of fabric very similar to the Patagonia Silkweight but appears even lighter and with a tiny bit more texture for moisture transfer. I find it even more comfortable than the Patagonia Silkweight. Unlike the Gamut, the Rab's short sleeves fit loose and can be rolled up when the heat is on. You can wear it anywhere anytime on the trail or around town.

Pros: Smooth. Fashionable. Outstanding in the heat.  Roll up the sleeves. Priced right at $30.
Cons: None

Salomon EXO S-Lab Tank ($79.95)
EXO S-Lab Tank

Ok the Salomon EXO S-Lab Tank , also available in a tee, is far out there in design look but it sure does work. Unlike the Rab and Gamut this tank is designed to fit tight. Unlike most form fitting tri style tanks the EXO S-Lab has minimal stretch.
There are 3 weights of mesh. The mesh is 3D creates a tremendous amount of surface area for moisture evaporation:  

  • red mesh on shoulders is densest, has the least stretch, and protects from sun and pack straps, 
  • white mesh in mid body has a tiny bit more stretch but fits snug. 
  • gray laminated overlays in the mid body front and back do not stretch and are EXO Sensifit technology claimed to "help postural support chest and upper body muscles, improving oxygen intake while running." I find a bit of a boost to my slumping overall posture but not sure on the claim on oxygen intake yet
  • gray mesh on the sides is the lightest and stretchiest.
The tight fit and mesh combine to create a really comfortable micro climate over a wide range of temperatures. I have run in the heat and then hit a windy cool ridge and neither felt overheated or chilled. 

Pros: Suitable for a wide range of temperatures even during a single run. Some postural help
Cons: Cost and some may find design a bit much. 


I have run in two new shorts this summer the North Face's Better than Naked 5' and a fantastic new short  the Varial Loose from Dynafit a company well known for its ski mountaineering and ski running gear now entering the running market. Both shorts are made of a similar very light soft material. Both are extremely comfortable in the heat. I like to have pockets in my shorts and these 2  have differing but useful approaches to carrying a phone, gels, small water bottle.

Northface Better than Naked 5" Short
Northface Better than Naked Short ($55)

A bit longer than I prefer at 5" inseam the Better than Naked Short has a long side split making them in no way restrictive. The fabric is cool in heat. I particularly like the two side mesh pockets. They are not baggy but easily stretch to hold a smartphone, multiple gels, or a small water bottle (empty). There is also a small zippered pocket in back for a car key.  Can't exactly load up all the pockets and not expect the shorts to start to sag but all and all a great pocket set up.

Pros: Comfortable very light fabric. Pockets
Cons: Split is not for everyone

Dynafit Varial Loose Short ($59)
Dynafit Varial Loose Short

This is by far the most comfortable running short I have ever worn. Haven't tried Dynafit's other running clothes but this an outstanding first product.  Estimate the inseam at 3-4". A similar even lighter softer fabric than the Better than Naked short. A very slight split and wide leg openings, I guess the "loose" part of the name. One small zippered pocket good for a key and a gel. Anti odor treated.  

The key cool feature of this short which I had not seen before is the use of a shock cord, similar to what one might see on a parka for the waist band tighten. Unlike the usual flat fabric the shock cord will not stretch or loosen on the run.  I have run with a smartphone and gels tucked into the waist band and they will not move much at all. An empty or half full small water bottle could also be tucked in. I got mine at Black Diamond's retail store  in Salt Lake. Appears to be pretty much sold out everywhere else.

Pros: Super comfortable fit. Great waistband tighten system. Anti odor.  Style if you like a bit of a Euro look.
Cons: Price. Availability

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tecnica Diablo Max and Inferno X-Lite Trail Runner Reviews

The folks at Tecnica were kind enough to send me a pair of their Diablo Max ($130)  "multi-function" oversized trail runners earlier this year. Tecnica and Hoka One One, the other prominently oversized running shoe have shared technology resources in the past. Both companies use a wide stable platform on the ground, 30mm or more of cushioning and a stiff midsole engineered to create a rolling effect. Tecnica calls this Tecnica Rolling System (TRS) and it does definitely do what it claims to: you roll forward through your stride particularly on the flats.  The rolling effect seems to be created by sandwiching a slightly firmer white foam layer between softer foam above and below. See pictures of both the Diablo Max and X-Lite Inferno below.

I was very impressed with the Diablo Max:  Superb burly protection on the trail, of course bomb proof, feel no pain cruising over rocks down hill running, and due to the oversize midsole never any next day leg soreness.  A big surprise, they were great on the road. I ran up to 12 miles smoothly "rolling" along, no speedster paces due to the weight but also completely fresh legs the next day.
The issue, weight. At 12.3 oz the Diablo is 2 oz heavier than my heaviest trail runner or road runner.  Even the oversized Hoka cousins weigh less. 

Further the lack of flex can be an impediment on very steep slopes when the angle of the rolling effect  is exceeded forcing a more vertical stride and body carriage. The Diablo Max has a 12 mm heel to toe drop, more than I run in these days. I find a 4-5mm drop for road shoes and 5-10mm for trail shoes just right for me. 
All of this said the Diablo is a great shoe if your travels and activities-backpacking, trail running, and yes even road running call for just one pair.

Enter the Tecnica Inferno X-Lite ($110)
I bought a pair of Inferno X-Lite recently. 
  • the weight is brought down to 10.4 oz, comparable to my Montrail Badaja's at 10.2 oz.  
  • the forefoot is far more flexible than the Diablo and when some flexibility is combined with a somewhat less pronounced Tecnica Rolling System even very steep slopes are easily tackled. 
  • the heel toe drop is brought down to 10mm, just about ideal in my view for a trail runner
Yesterday I ran and power hiked extremely steep jeep roads and trails at Snowbird while spectating and shooting some pictures of the SpeedGoat 50K  and X-Lite felt great both ascending and descending. The midsole is lower than the Diablo's for a somewhat firmer trail feel yet  the shoe is still semi oversized for great trail stability and protection. Instead of laces the shoe has an effective Kevlar single pull system similar to Salomon's. The upper is breathable yet keeps out the fine UT trail dust effectively. The outer sole has adequate but not overly pronounced lugs. As a result the X Lite also has a relatively smooth feel on the road.   Not as dense as a full carbon rubber outsole I worry a bit about the outsole's long term durability but so far no signs of wear with 50 miles on them. 

While the Diablo is a "hiker" you can easily run in,  the X-Lite is a light and superbly protective trail and road runner you can hike with. They fit true to size.

Update 11/14/12
The X-Lite was my favorite trail runner this past summer. Sure footed, nimble and comfortable it took me through the Jupiter Peak Steeple Chase's 16 miles of steep uphill and screaming downhills, the Mid Mountain Trail Marathon, and the Hidden Peak Challenge's unrelenting climb to the top of Snowbird as well as countless training runs.

2012 SpeedGoat 50K Mountain Race Photos and Videos

This past Saturday Snowbird UT saw ultra legend Karl Meltzer's SpeedGoat 50K. Part of the  SkyRunning World Series this 12,000 vertical foot pain fest attracted top international mountain running stars such as Killian Jornet of Spain and Anna Frost of New Zealand to the Wasatch. Never much one for spectating I decided that I would climb up onto the course to catch the action. I got quite a workout in climbing the 3200 vertical feet to Hidden Peak and back down. The racers, well, they did far more vertical on a beautiful, warm day. Complete race coverage at irunfar.com.

Rickey Gates tops Hidden Peak in 1st place at mile 8 or so and wins $1000 prime for the climb

Killian Jornet tops out Hidden Peak not far behind Rickey Gates 

Jason Louttit comes over Hidden Peak in 3d. He would finish 9th.

Max King, World Mountain Running champ, Olympic track and marathon Trials qualifier  comes over Hidden Peak in 4th. He would finish 3d.

Anton Krupicka power walks over Hidden Peak about 5th. He would come in 4th. Of the top finishers he was the only one to power walk this section.
Anna Frost NZ (Salomon) comes over Hidden Peak 1st Woman. She combined power walking and running on this steep stretch to the peak.
 Video Anna Frost tops Hidden Peak
Waiting near the Tunnel aid station mile 23.
After Hidden Peak runners descended into Mineral Basin and towards American Fork Canyon, way way down  and then back up.

Always nattily attired and totally wired (multiple iPhones, tripod, race radios)   Bryon Powell (right)  of iRun Far was all over the mountain reporting. Here he is coming down to the tunnel aid station at Mile 23.
Killain Jornet approaches the Tunnel aid station at mile 23. I think he is reaching for a Salomon SoftFlask water bottle to refill. Photographer sprinted down with him from the Baldy saddle taking pictures all the way. 
Killian enters the ski tunnel at about mile 24. After the tunnel a 1200 foot drop, then a 1600 foot climb back up to Hidden Peak. Then 3200 feet of downhill to the finish.  All of this after many miles in Mineral Basin.

Max King in 3d climbing back to Hidden Peak

Anton Krupicka in the meadows before the turn around back to Hidden Peak about  mile  25
Killian Jornet (Spain) wins the Speedgoat. Stops before the finish to hi five some future runners.

Killian Jornet 1st and Rick Gates 2nd at the finish. Both Salomon runners.

Anna Frost New Zealand, 1st Woman. Her time was 17th overall and this running with some serious lower leg injuries.

Anna Frost and race organizer Karl Meltzer discuss the watch. Karl probably ran twice as far as the racers. He enlisted me at one point to help remark the course.