Thursday, January 06, 2022

Mike Postaski's 2021 in Review: 6 Trail, Ultra, and Marathon Podiums-6 Different Shoes Raced!

 Article by Mike Postaski 

It’s been a pretty busy holiday season for me, so I’ve been a bit delayed in getting out new posts and reviews. I saw Jeff Valliere’’s RTR year in review article and thought it was just awesome how he catalogued his thoughts on the many shoes that he reviewed in 2021.  I am like trying something along the same lines here.  Even though I didn’t join the RoadTrailRun team until the middle of the year , I did run quite a few races throughout the year in shoes that were heavily reviewed and discussed on the site.  

So my year in review will be a summary of the races I ran, and the shoes that I wore for each event. I’ll include some event and terrain details which informed my choices, as well as post-race analysis regarding the pick.  I’ll also mention any other gear picks that I thought were useful. Here goes - 

Antelope Island Buffalo Run - 50M (March - Antelope Island, Utah)

Asics Trabuco Max (RTR Review)

Early season ultras are always a bit tricky, but this one was non-technical so it seemed like a good one to kick the season off.  Some moderate elevation gain in the first 18 miles, with the final 32+ miles rolling/flat.  I liked the rocker and especially the protection of the Trabuco Max early in the season.  I had a few long races at the end of 2020 which trashed my feet, so I was all about protection at this point.  

The Trabuco Max was fine, but after the race I thought they were a bit too much for that terrain.  I definitely could have gone with something lighter but my mindset was all about protection at that point.  I ended up 4th overall, which I was very happy with.  I wasn’t a fan of the course.  The final 32 miles were only slight rollers and though scenic, also pretty boring. There was also a 100M event, and I was very happy not to have to run 2 loops on that course.  

Side note - the 50M was won by Adrian Macdonald, who later went on to win Leadville - wearing Saucony Endorphin Speeds - this blew my mind and led me to re-think my race shoe choices.

Pulse Endurance Runs - 24 Hours (May - Eagle Island State Park, Idaho)

Hoka EVO Speedgoat (RTR Review), Speedgoat 4 (RTR Review)

You would think if I found the rollers of the last race boring.. a flat, dirt 2.8M looped event would not be my next choice.  But there’s something about timed races that I like - I did a few timed trail races back in New Jersey, as well as a Backyard Ultra, and I like how you really have to focus and dial everything in. It’s such a mental challenge, different from regular races. I started this race in EVO SGs - I have come to not like those after racing quite a bit in them in 2020.  I find the upper is just too insecure for me, and ends up causing all kinds of problems with my feet and lower legs.  

The EVO SGs were not too much of an issue this race - the fatal error I made was not preparing enough rain gear.  It started to really pour about 12 hours in (around 6 AM after a long night), and I got pinned down trying to warm up in the main aid station.  I had left all my gear at a separate table which was a bit of distance away.  I got extremely cold, ended up retreating to the RV, deciding to drop out.  Fast forward 4.5 hours later, after breakfast as well as watching Disnet’s Moana with my daughter, the sun came out a bit, and I ended up going back out for another 34+ miles - this time in SG 4’s, for a bit more stability.  On top of 66+ miles before my little break, I ended up with 100.92 official miles.

River of No Return - 108K (June - Challis, Idaho)

VJ Ultra (RTR Review), Hoka Challenger ATR 6 (RTR Review)

Another new race for me this year - I was trying to get to know some of the “local” Idaho race courses.  This one had some pretty big elevation gain - 15k feet over the 108k, with the final 13M+ being downhill.  I was excited to take the VJ Ultras out for this race - the shoe which was my first official RoadTrailRun review. I had some great long runs in them and there was no doubt they would be my pick.  I also left a pair of Hoka Challenger ATR  6’s in a drop bag for the final long descen  in case I felt like switching. 

Unfortunately, what works for 3-4 hours does not necessarily work for 7-8 hours, and beyond  (my time for this race was 13:38). I started to get some very uncomfortable pressure on my pinky toes as the race wore on, as well as some pain around the front of my ankles from the ankle collar. I had no hint of these issues over my longer test runs.  Just goes to show that sometimes there’s only one way to find out about these things. Overall, I don’t think the shoes hindered me too much aside from being quite uncomfortable. I did switch to the Challengers and was able to run down a few people over the final descent. I was 8th overall, and super happy with my race. I felt strong through the end, probably the best I’ve felt at the end of a “super-long” ultra.

This race was also my first race with the Gorewear Ultimate 2-in-1 shorts (RTR Review) - they are now my favorite ultra race shorts.  I wore them in every race for the rest of the year.

Dirty Dog Marathon (July - Boise, Idaho)

VJ Ultra (RTR Review)

A very fun local race here in Boise - basically starting at the edge of town, running up one of the steeper foothills trails (Hard Guy) to the ridge, then back down.  Solid climbing, with a bit of a  rocky descent. Despite the issues in the last race, I decided to stick with the VJ Ultras since the race would be much shorter.  They didn’t cause me any issues this time, although I did feel they weren’t as responsive on the climb, which was non-technical.

I took 1st overall, but was 2nd on the climb up to the ridge, which featured a $100 cash bonus.  My climbing still needs work - something to continue to work on in 2022.  In hindsight, the Salomon S/LAB Pulsar (RTR Review) would have been a better pick for this race.  They would have been super light for the ascent, and enough to manage the 13 mile-ish descent. 

This was the first race I used the UltrAspire Basham vest.  It was extremely hot around this time so I wanted something very light, but still needed to carry enough fluids for the heat.  The vest was perfect, great at not holding moisture and the low back water pocket was perfectly secure for running fast. 

Standhope - 60K (July - Ketchum, Idaho)

VJ Ultra (RTR Review)

I had no idea what to expect going into this race.  I knew it was a big mountain race, but similar to River of No Return, I mainly wanted to gain course experience for running it in future years.  It turned out to be my favorite race so far since we moved out west.  Lots of technical trail running, with big, high mountain passes.  The huge, rocky climb up and over Standhope pass was something I hadn’t experienced in a race before.

The VJ Ultras were a good pick for this race - perhaps the most suitable terrain for them out of the 3 races I wore them.  Traction was a big asset, and protection was just enough to make it through the very mountainous 60K.  Any more and I would have wanted something firmer and/or more protective underfoot.  One issue that did come up was that my shoes filled up with sand and small pebbles on the backside of Standhope Pass.  I had to actually sit down and empty them out.  After this race I started wearing gaiters for the rest of my races.  

After some jockeying back and forth for the lead, I finished 2nd overall in 7:43.  I actually got passed into 3rd place near the end, but sprinted over the last mile or so to get back into 2nd. 

IMTUF 100M - DNS (September - McCall, Idaho)

Asics Gel Trabuco 9  

A big bummer, I came down with a stomach flu the week of the race and had to pull out. I had been building up to this one through the summer so it was disappointing not to get to run. I finished last year, and now knowing the course, I was eager to have a better run this year.

I planned to start the race in Trabuco 9’s, with Speedgoat 4’s in a reserve drop bag. Over the course of the year I kind of transitioned to a bit firmer, more cushioned shoes, and I loved the ASICS Trabuco 9  (RTR Review) since they had that cushion, as well as being protective, while still keeping decent flexibility.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I will ever get to race in these, as there seems to be some pretty good looking ultra-distance shoes coming out in 2022. 

Bogus 50M (October - Boise, Idaho)

Salomon S/LAB Pulsar (RTR Review)

Full recap in Quick Strides 20.  This race was a game changer for me, as I realized that I could take a shoe like the S/Lab Pulsar to the full 50M distance.  Looking back (and if I would have been more acclimated to running in less-cushioned shoes), the Pulsars would have been my pick for both the Antelope Island 50M and the Dirty Dog Marathon. I came away with 1st place.  I would be hesitant to use them for something as long as River of No Return 108K, or something as rocky and technical as Standhope 60K.  But it looks like Salomon has some new additions to the Pulsar lineup coming in 2022 - I’m very much looking forward to testing and racing in those. 

Heavens Gate Marathon (October - Riggins, Idaho)

VJ Spark (RTR Review)

Full Recap in Quick Strides 21.  I was torn between the Pulsars and the new VJ Spark for this race.  In the end, I think the VJs were the right choice as those were some of the steepest climbs I’ve ever encountered, and the descent was also extremely steep.  The security and perfect fit of the VJ Spark helped immensely.  Just a week after winning the Bogus 50M, I took 3rd overall.  This was an amazingly scenic, true mountain race.  I can’t wait to run it again.  

Boise Marathon (October - Boise, Idaho)

Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2

Full Recap in Quick Strides 23.  A pretty rough race for me, difficult weather, and shoddy race organization.  I placed 3rd overall in 2:46:59 - roughly 4 minutes off of my PR.  The NEXT% 2’s did their job, but I’ll likely explore other options for future marathons.  Many colleagues here at RoadTrailRun love the Asics Metaspeed Sky, and based on their reviews it seems like those would be a good fit for me.

I may possibly try to train for a road marathon next year, but we’ll see how it goes.  I say that every year, but then I end up stacking my calendar with all kinds of trail races.

Dead Horse Ultra - 30K (November - Moab, Utah)

Asics Fuji Lite 2 (RTR Review)

An unplanned addition to my race calendar.  We were in the middle of a 10 day RV trip through Arizona and Utah, and switched up our itinerary a bit to stop in Moab on the way back.  Obviously the first thing I did was check Ultrasignup, and discovered this race. So obviously I signed up at the last minute.  I at least had the common sense to sign up for the shorter 30K distance instead of the 50K or 50M.  

I didn’t bring any “race” shoes on the trip, so my pick from what I had was the Asics Fuji Lite 2.  The race started out with a big climb up from the main road, then a bit of sandy forest road, followed by the main loop over slickrock.  It was my first time racing on slickrock, and wow - it was difficult.  So hard to keep your rhythm with the constant steps up and down, unevenness, and erosion potholes.  The Fuji Lite’s were ok - cushion-wise they were good, but did not have the upper security I would want for that type of shifty terrain.  I finished the race with big blisters under one of my big toes - a spot where I never had any issue before.  My foot was moving around a bit too much inside the shoe.  I could see them as a good race pick for more moderate, level terrain, but slickrock at fast paces - no.

I finished 3rd overall, which I was very happy with. It was the biggest trail race event I’ve run in some time, probably ever - 432 finishers in the 30K alone.  It was also great to run a “shorter” distance, and just go all out without worrying about everything else that goes along with longer races.

Side note- shortly after the race, I picked up a pair of Adidas Terrex Speed Ultras (RTR Review).  They feel so fast, the fit is super secure, and they have great traction.  I would wear those if I were to run this race again.  In fact, I just signed up for the Behind the Rocks 50M in March in the Moab area, and as of now, those are my pick for that race.

Going Forward in 2022

Training - A big focus this year for me will be strength training.  It’s become evident that I’ve been tending to break down at the end of long ultras.  More than fitness, muscle damage has been a limiting factor for me at a lot of races, including upper body soreness.  If I want to really do my best at long races in the mountains, I’ll need to put the strength work in.

I also want to step up a bit in volume.  I’ve been around the same level for the past 2-3 years as I’ve been progressing into more challenging events, as well as adapting to more mountain running since moving out west.  My aerobic base feels solid, I just need to ramp it up a little and build in some more speedwork as well.  In combination with the strength work, I’m hoping for a breakthrough year in 2022. 

Racing - Right now I have a few main races on the calendar - Behind the Rocks Ultra - 50M (March), Canyons 100K (April), Scout Mountain Ultra Trail - 50M (June), Stanhope 100M (June), IMTUF 100M (September).  I’ll probably also do a bunch of smaller races here in Boise, or anywhere else we end up travelling to.  The Standhope 100M will be my ‘A’ race for the year - it will be the first time they put on a 100M distance, a huge single-loop course with 28,000 feet of gain.  I absolutely loved the 60K this year, and I know this race will likely be my biggest challenge yet. 

Run Coaching - I’ll be starting run coaching this year with a club called BoiseBits.  It’s an empowerment program designed to motivate kids ages 2 - 8 through running.  I’ll be leading a class of 15 or so kids once a week.  This is something totally new for me which I’m really looking forward to.  I’m hoping my love for running will motivate and inspire!  

I wish good luck to everyone with your 2022 running plans and goals - hope to see you out there in the mountains !

Some mentioned products were samples 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 in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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JASON said...

80-100KM It is the shoes that make you feel safest and comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Great recap! Did you consider any road shoes for shorter, less technical races? If so, which ones were on your list? Thanks

Mike P said...

JASON - agreed, pure feel and comfort plays a much greater role with greater distance. That's one of the reason's I liked the Trabuco 9's so much. They didn't have the "hype" of other shoes, but they just felt so good on my foot.

Anon - Good question, I thought about that a lot when I read that about Adrian at Leadville. I even picked up a pair of Endo Speed 1's on discount. I like them a lot of my speed work on roads, but for me the upper just feels too loose for anything outside of running in a straight line. I don't know how he did it. Superhumanly strong ankles?

For me also, I haven't been doing much road running so I don't really have anything to choose from. But really the Pulsar at 6.5 oz is lighter than most road shoes anyway, so it makes that a moot point. The outsole is not too much different from a road shoe either. It's the RTR trail shoe of the year for a reason. For anything short and non technical - that would be my only pick, and I have no reservations about that.

I'm very interested to try the upcoming Pulsar SG - with more trail-type lugs, seems like it would push into the range of more technical terrain/races.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your feedback. Good luck in 2022!