Thursday, October 14, 2021

QS21: Race and Gear Reports- Sally 5th in her AG at Boston. Mike 3d in trail marathon in VJ Spark. Run Safety: Brooks Run Visible, New Balance Shutter Speed. Tracksmith. STR/K MVMNT

Article by Sally Reiley, Mike Postaski, and Sam Winebaum

QS21: Race and Gear Reports- Sally 5th in her AG at Boston. Mike 3d trail marathon in VJ Spark. Run Safety: Brooks Run Visible, New Balance Shutter Speed. Tracksmith. STR/K MVMNT with Carbitex AFX

Sally (Marblehead, MA)

Boston Marathon 2021 Race Report

Wow, what can I say? 910 days after the last in-person run from Hopkinton, MA to Boylston Street on April 15, 2019, the Boston Marathon returned with gusto this past Monday! And what a day it was… it was a beautiful sunny day of renewed hope and joyful celebration, a glimmer of positive optimism after this long Covid hibernation. Runners and spectators were all in high spirits, myself included. Boston is iconic, the granddaddy of all marathons. And the 125th running of the Boston Marathon did not disappoint!

Yes, there were changes: the field size was reduced to 20,000 runners to allow for more manageable social distancing, and the start was switched to a rolling start (no more Athletes Village). proof of Covid vaccination, or a negative Covid test that weekend, was required, and masks were required at all times except while on the course. Just the fact that the race was held in October rather than the traditional 3rd week in April date made for differences: the start (rolling, not waves and corrals) was moved earlier for everyone so that the slower runners would finish before dusk (there are two and one half hours less of daylight in October), there were leaves on the trees that could provide shade (trees have not leafed yet in April). 

This was my 8th straight Boston Marathon run. A lifelong runner for pleasure and sanity, I always said that running a marathon was NOT on my bucket list, I wanted to stay healthy and be able to run “when I got old.” 

But the marathon bombing in Boston in 2013 changed all that; I decided then that I would run in 2014 and be a part of the running community that would take a stand against evil and terrorists in defense of our beloved (my adopted) city of Boston. I ran wearing a charity bib from Team Eye and Ear, raising money for the work being done at Mass Eye and Ear to develop life-changing cures and treatments for blindness and deafness. My goal in 2014 was simply to finish the 26.2 miles and enjoy the experience. I finished in 3:34, had a blast, loved giving back to the hospital this way, and have been doing it every year since.

This was actually my first in-person race of any size since pre-pandemic. I had big goals after turning 60 in September 2019 of racing in a new F60+ Age Group, and started off with a bang that fall.  I ran the NYC  Marathon in November 2019 in a PR of 3:28, good enough for 2nd place in AG, and had designs on the Abbott WWM Wanda Age Group World Championships… then Covid hit.

I really had no expectations going into this 2021 Boston, having struggled with a high hamstring injury most of the summer, a change of lifestyle brought on by full-time remote work (and too much sitting at the desk), and admittedly a bored fatigue of running and training solo. I ramped things up in August and September, hoping to make a go of the race, but not sure of anything. 

The morning of Monday, October 11, I was dropped off at the Boston Common and took my place on one of many school busses shuttling runners out to the start in Hopkinton. You were assigned a time to load your bus based on your bib number (and your number was based on your qualifying time; the theory was that the faster runners would start first). I expected that they would hold the higher numbers back until their turn, but it was basically a free for all loading procedure. Unfortunately, the bus I was on literally got lost; the driver took a wrong exit, eventually pulled over, and asked if any runner had google maps on their phone. Ugh. Once the bus driver was instructed where to turn around and where to head, he then went the wrong direction on I-95. Double ugh. We were about 20 minutes late, but we got there eventually. 

You disembarked off your bus and proceeded directly to the start area, only to stop at a huge bank of porta potties and to strip off any extra clothing that would be donated. Here again, I expected the officials to allow only certain numbers to proceed, but everyone went whenever. I found I was passing runners with very high bib numbers throughout the race, and very much so the first 5-10 miles.

Boston starts with five downhill miles, so it is very tempting to go out fast and “put it in the bank.” I felt surprisingly good, but realized I totally had to run by feel and run my own pace because the other runners around me were not necessarily going to be at that same pace. 

The temperatures and the sun were unseasonably warm for mid-October, but I was relatively comfortable. 

I wore an unbranded Team Eye and Ear singlet that did not fit well; my favorite Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts,  CEP calf compression sleeves, Balega ultralight socks, and new Nike Vaporfly Next% 2. I also had a Lululemon Fast’n’Free Run Belt to carry my Maurten gels (I carried 4, but the BAA was handing out Maurten at three locations on the course this year).

I felt fairly comfortable and relaxed for most of the race, and loved seeing friends along the course. And OF COURSE I stopped and gave them a hug! 

The scream tunnel of Wellesley College women can be heard from a mile away, and they were particularly loud this year. We runners had literally been instructed “not to kiss any strangers” for Covid safety; sorry girls. Boston College students were also a highlight. 

I was particularly excited to see Coach John Furey of Furey 26.2 at mile 19, and the Heartbreakers at Mile 20. Those Newton hills were tough - Heartbreak is really a series of hills, and they come in miles 17-21, just when the fatigue is really settling in. Once you crest that final hill at Mile 21 (fondly referred to as the halfway point of the race!), it is mostly downhill into Boston. 

 When you see your kids as you turn onto Hereford St….

I got all the feels as I turned right onto Hereford (Mount Hereford, because any hill at this point feels like a mountain!) and saw some of my kids cheering for me, and then left onto Boylston… that LONG long straight stretch down to the finish line. 

The crowds were amazing - you can’t help but be energized by them. And then that moment comes when you cross that iconic Finish Line! 

I was pleased to finish in 3:32:22, and felt great afterwards. I learned that I was 5th in the fairly stacked Female 60+ age group. 

They immediately handed me a water bottle and a mask to put on, then you keep walking down Boylston St., receiving your medal and then a bag of snacks and drinks. I met my family farther on at the Team Eye and Ear meetup (where I had a shower!). 

My husband and four of my five kids were there to watch and to celebrate, so we proceeded to some bars in the South End for beers. What a day!

As for the fundraising for Mass Eye and Ear, I started very late, sending my first emails to friends only 4 weeks ago. In the past 7 years, I mailed out personalized letters in hand addressed envelopes, but not this year. I kept it simple, but I still had a great excel spreadsheet of past donors and a strong network to draw from. I have been totally amazed at the generosity of so many friends during this weird and challenging pandemic year: in just four short weeks, I have raised over $25,000 for Mass Eye and Ear, helping to improve the lives of those with vision loss and deafness. It is heartwarming to feel as if we are making a difference! If anyone wants to donate:

Mike P (idaho)

Race Report: Heavens Gate Marathon (Riggins, ID)

[Six-pack from McCall Brewing and some coffee for 3rd place]

What a difference a week makes - 7 days after running and winning the Bogus 50M (Race Report in Quick Strides here) , we took a quick trip up to Riggins, ID for the inaugural  It is a race that has been planned over 10 years by RD Jeremy Humphrey, also RD of the very challenging IMTUF 100. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to you, he was in the news last year - searching for and finding a missing hiker lost in the Idaho wilderness - Runner’s World article

The Heavens Gate course was very different from the Bogus course  - in a word .. STEEP.  

Here are some stats to give you an idea-

8,379 ft. gain/loss over 26.6M - which includes 6.0M on Heavens Gate Road at a very moderate 6.5%/-6.5% grade, meaning the other parts were extremely steep.

Cannonball Mountain Climb: 2.25M @ 23%, of which: 1M @ 35% and 1/4M @ 51%

Final Descent: Dropping 4,824 ft in 5.5M (-16%) including one section of 2.0M @ -21% and another separate section of 1.3M @ -22%

[Going down the backside of Cannonball Mountain - towards Heavens Gate]

[On the way back from Heavens Gate Lookout (8,429 ft) - Seven Devils in the background]

I wore the VJ Spark (RTR Review) for the entire race. 

I felt it was an overall good choice, and the best choice out of the race shoes currently in my quiver.  The first 7 miles of the race was a gradual uphill along a creek path, which was a bit rocky and wet.  It had rained the entire night before so the overgrowth was soaked and the path was wet, but not muddy. I felt the Sparks were most at home in this section of the course as I was able to take the twists and turns at ease, feeling very secure, no ankle rolls at all, and also I can’t remember slipping one time. Protection was ok, I did dance around a bit to avoid rock hits, which was not an issue due to the agility of the shoe. But it was definitely noticeable that it’s not a shoe to just plow through rocky terrain indiscriminately. 

[Beautiful views on the way back]

After turning off the creek section we followed a quite steep trail up to Cannonball Mountain, and then just following flags literally stuck into the side of the mountain.  Very steep and slow climbing, I used my BD collapsible poles this time.  It was a very long climb ranging between 30 - 50% grade. I had been running in a group of 3 from the start, but at this point the other 2 runners got away from me. I knew this would probably happen as my straight-up climbing still needs work, and I knew I would be feeling some heaviness from last week’s race. After passing Cannonball Mountain, there was a 6 mile out-and-back up to the ice-crusted Heavens Gate lookout, then the very steep descent back to the finish. Normally I would try to push a bit more knowing I’m better at descending.  I did pick it up a bit on the moderate descent part, but then towards the final 6M of very steep descent - I ran more cautiously. Knowing there were two runners ahead and not just one - I knew they would be motivated to race each other, so it would likely be impossible to make up any time. Since there was an out-and-back at the top, I knew there was a big gap to 4th, so I cruised to the finish. I also didn’t want to do too much muscle damage as I’m planning to run the Boise Marathon in two weeks.

[Outsole durability - great so far]

The Sparks were also very good on the steeper ascents and descents - similar to the creek section, security was great and traction was also great. The deeper lugs worked great and I had no slips climbing the steep grades. Also, going down the steep descents as well as sidehilling at times, I never lost traction.  I did feel at times they weren’t best suited for the climbing in terms of forward propulsion - they are a bit flexible and I feel like my foot did have to work quite a bit in the climbing sections. I think some combination of higher drop, stiffness, and better toe-off rocker would have been more efficient. Then again there would have been tradeoffs in other parts of the course, so just something to consider. The weight of the shoes (while still very light), was noticeable compared to running in Pulsars the previous week.  Also the rocker of the Pulsar makes them feel even more feathery (albeit on more runnable terrain). I thought about whether the Pulsars would have worked on this course, but I’m not quite sure. On the Pro-Pulsar side, the weight would definitely be an advantage - especially on the 6M moderate dirt section, and the traction would be enough for the climbing. But on the “con” side, I think the instability of the Pulsar may be too treacherous for such a steep descent.  

[Post-race: some stream crossings, insoles definitely held some water]

Back to the VJ Spark - one negative I have to note is that I felt the insoles did hold quite a bit of water.  I was basically soaked from the waist down for the first hour of the race with the wet overgrowth, and a few stream crossings. The insoles are make of an Ortholite-ish material, but it seems a bit more rubbery than Ortholite.  It’s an open cell so the water goes in, but to me it seems like it does not easily squish out.  I was feeling squishiness in my shoes through the entire race, even without getting my feet wet over the final 18ish miles. Obviously this would have been another advantage to the Pulsars as they have no insole at all!  Durability-wise, the outsole looks fine, no signs of detachment or anything like that.  I will post durability updates as I get more miles in them as well as if anything changes. 

Sam (New Hampshire)

STK/MVMNT Vimana Carbon Runner with Carbitex AFX plate.

I have now tested 3 shoes with Carbitex plates. Carbitex carbon composite plates are made up of 3 layers (composite, compression layer, composite) with the flex tunable in different ways. 

The DFX or dynamically flexible plate in the Speedland SL:PDX (RTR Review) and Scott Speed Carbon RC  (RTR Review) stiffens as more force is applied so as to accommodate both faster and slower paces and in our testing has proven to do exactly that.

The AFX or asymmetrically flexing plate in the Vimana I am testing flexes as you toe forward and is completely rigid in the other direction (down) unlike the DFX which flexes stiffly up and more softly down. 

The Vimana Carbon Runner is from STK/MVMNT a Canadian company which  “designs all products on the foundation of Intelligent Minimalism™: Versatility for broad-spectrum performance that meets both the technical and casual expectations of a new generation of movers and athletes.”

The Vimana is a “hybrid” running shoe. It is designed for a wide range of activities from trail running, to hiking, to gym/crossfit, to on your feet all day travel and work/lifestyle. A tall list to live up to! We will be testing all the potential for the upcoming review. 

I wore them 4 days straight including a rocky hike up Mt Cardigan in NH, a trail run, and 2 days on my feet all day at the Boston Marathon reporting. Jeff Valliere will run them on technical Boulder trails and Beto will be taking them to the gym and crossfit as well as road and trail running for our full review.

So far the Vimana has performed magnificently. 

On the hike the plate flexed forward for climbing while it remained stiff and highly stable and protective on both uphills and downhills. 

On the trail run there was noted forward momentum/spring from the ¾ length plate flex’s otal stable rock protection,, plenty of dense and forgiving low stack low drop 4mm cushion from the EVA/EPE blend midsole and very decent agility for a 10.7 oz shoe .  

On my feet all day at Boston they passed the Sam sore feet standing test. The wide anatomical toe box is secure and very comfortable if not super super broad. I often get sore feet standing around and had none of that from 2 long days as well as all the rest hike and run. The upper fit is anatomical, comfortable, and secure. Grip and trail feel was excellent from the platform and unusual outsole on all but wet smooth surfaces (trail granite, wet brick, and pavers) where the lack of lug contact surface area and non tacky rubber made things quite shaky. 

So far I am feeling the Vimana is delivering extremely well on its promise of being a do it all hybrid (although leaning more towards the other activities due to weight and low stack)  while the Carbitex plate is a clear positive add for its propulsion, protection, and stability. 


On the sidelines at Boston I had a chance to see and even jog a bit in 2 VCarbon “foamless” racers. VCarbon is not currently making full shoes and likely won’t and are seeking to interest brands in their unique technology. Their approach is a carbon composite midsole chassis with below the center of the foot (below a sockliner) a Kevlar fabric surface suspended from and above the composite chassis. 

VCarbon says it can eliminate all foam and foam energy loss through its patent pending design.  Read more about them in my first look article here

Brooks Run Visible Collection

The RTR team is now testing Brooks Run Visible. They all have:

  • 3M Carbon Black retro reflectivity in areas of motion that help identify you as a human and not a random sign. The reflective elements can be seen when lit by cars at up to 600 feet 

  • High contrast colors and patterns for daytime (and night time)  visibility and to alert that you are a runner in motion.

I am testing the Carbonite Long Sleeve ($100) and Carbonite 5” 2-1 Short ($75). I have several runs in each and they are just as comfortable day..or night as any run apparel I have tested recently.

I am surprised how breathable and low moisture absorbing the top is despite its grid like appearance with very thin mesh between raised profiles. It has lots of 3D surfaces for evaporation.

The shorts are all about very soft and comfortable with the liner non compression and include  a secure no bounce thigh phone pocket. The waistband is also soft and broad with quite baggy drop in pockets on the outside including one with a key loop. Of course they are very visible day or night with Carbon Black reflective strips at the lower hems front and back with the inner short providing a high visibility optic yellow contrast with legs in motion.

New Balance TCS New York Marathon Shutter Speed Jacket

The Shutter Speed is all  over reflective, visible, and wild looking day or night when light hits it. Otherwise it stays basic black but never for long.. 


* WIND DEFY heat-conserving, wind-resistant technology 

* Highly reflective woven iridescent fabric for added visibility

* Lucent Touch fabric in front chest pocket lets you control your phone without removing it

* Removable hood, zip front pockets, vented lower back cape, drop tail, roomy  long roomy fit for layers. 

It is heavy duty protection for foul weather, poor visibility, and cold. It is not a mere windbreaker or light shell and I expect it will be warm with breathability to be tested. Now bring on the weather to test.  Still summer warm here..

$235 Available now from New Balance here.


Tracksmith's inches from the Boston course Track House, store, and HQ was mobbed before the race. Their distinctive, sharp BOS singlets were on hundreds of runners.

I met co-founder Matt Taylor out front all decked out in the Tracksmith Transit Pants and Cross Country Popover I am “testing”. Not exactly run apparel in styling or purpose, both are made of super comfortable high performance fabrics.  I sure hope Boston runners picked some up for their long treks home.  I wore mine to pre marathon stuff and to a party with classmates after a hike last Friday.  Many of them asked me where I got them, and what they were.

The details:

Cross County Pop Over ($188): A two way stretch flannel (tech fabric not cotton) with discrete mesh panels and a small back hip zip pocket

Travel Pants ($168): slim “tailored” fit, water repellant warp knit with beautiful hardware, 2 front pockets and a smallish rear zip pocket. Reflective trim on one cuff when it is rolled up.

Photo Credits: Marathon Foto and Authors.

 Some tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes others were personal purchases. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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