12 Spring 2017 Trail-Running Shoes, Reviewed

A shoe can make or break the trail-running experience and, rightly so, we trail runners demand a lot out of our running shoes. We want protection, but also ground-feel; cushion, but also agility; support, but also flexibility; light weight, but also durable materials; mud-worthy tread, but also a smooth ride. Everyone has a different definition of the perfect trail shoe. But one thing is universal: our expectations are lofty … some might say unrealistic.

Yet, somehow, trail brands have managed to turn our complex demands into real, trail-ready shoes. From cushioned-yet-nimble maximalists to lightweight-but-protective mountain racers, here are 12 of the most exciting shoes on the market this spring.

 

Editors’ Choice
Scott Supertrac RC

Price: $150

Weight: 8.8 oz

Drop: 5 mm

The Supertrac RC is the lovechild of a racing flat and an aggressive mountain-running shoe. It is the lightest shoe we tested, but, compared to other shoes in the same weight range, the Supertrac offers a shocking level of protection and security over slippery, technical terrain.

Traction was the biggest selling point for our testers, who all remarked at the confidence they felt charging steep, muddy downhills and loose, rocky singletrack. The aggressive, chevron-shaped lugs are oriented in a unique circular pattern, which affords traction for sidehilling, banked turns and tight, winding singletrack.

True to its low profile and racing pedigree, the Supertrac is stiff—though, again, well-cushioned compared to other shoes in its weight class. Rocker in the forefoot provides a smooth ride, avoiding the “slappiness” typical of such a rigid shoe. The foot-hugging, tightly woven upper does require some wrangling to slip into—and may limit breathability and drainage—but, once laced, it provides a reassuringly secure fit. The tongue is un-gusseted, but the ribbed padding keeps laces in place.

Fit: Performance fit, with a narrow toe box.

Bottom Line:  Ideal for fast, technical mountain runs. The stiff midsole and minimal cushioning might be uncomfortable for longer distances.

 

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3

Price: $130

Weight: 9.5 oz

Drop: 5 mm

The Challenger ATR 3 is the same reliable all-arounder it’s always been—just faster, stiffer and more adept on technical terrain. The ATR 3 retains its most identifiable features, including modest (relatively speaking, to, say, the Mafate) stack height, a sparse lug pattern with exposed midsole foam and characteristic rocker that makes for a smooth ride on both trails and pavement.

But thanks to a stiffer midsole and an updated, narrower fit, it is more supportive and more agile than the ATR 2. This is especially noticeable when sidehilling. Despite hefty cushion, the ATR 3s do not compromise on ground feel, and grip admirably on rock, scree and hard-packed snow.

The upper mesh is more tightly woven than earlier iterations, reinforced with delicate, crisscrossed overlays that enhance durability and support without adding weight. The toe bumper has also been reinforced.

Fit: Narrower than previous iterations of the same shoe.

Bottom Line: This is a fast, stable and agile shoe good for long distances over technical terrain. Not ideal for mud.

 

Brooks Caldera

 

Price: $140

Weight: 9.9 oz

Drop: 4 mm

As one tester described, Brooks’ Caldera is the Subaru Outback of trail-running shoes: stable, protective and reliable in all conditions. The shoe is generously cushioned, with moderate forefoot flexibility and torsional stiffness, for a nimble, responsive and lightweight ride. Testers found themselves reaching for this shoe on a daily basis, for its supreme comfort, sticky outsole and ability to tackle technical terrain.

The textured lugs are more grippy than their low profile might suggest, particularly noticeable on rocks and in wet conditions (however, after 100 miles, testers were disappointed to find the lugs ripping off the outsole). With a relatively low heel-toe drop, the Calderas manage a decent amount of medial support via increased midsole density under the arch, which over-pronators will appreciate.

The upper is light, with durable toe and heel bumpers and prominent overlays across the midfoot. Some testers had trouble with the laces loosening.

Fit: True to size, with a roomy toe box.

Bottom line:  An ultra-distance mountain runner that’s so comfortable you’ll want to keep it on for post-run drinks.

 

Editors’ Choice
Salomon Sense Pro Max

 

Price: $150

Weight: 10.2 oz

Drop: 6 mm

Cushion-lovers rejoice: there is finally a Salomon Sense shoe for you! This new addition to the Sense line features a stiff, amply cushioned midsole, with a wider toe box than traditional Salomon models. With the added cushion comes some added weight, but don’t let the shoe’s beefed-up appearance fool you. The Sense Pro Max is surprisingly light, agile and responsive, toeing a healthy balance between protectiveness and “spring.” The mid-sized, diamond-shaped lugs are equally at home on technical mountain terrain, dirt and paved bike paths.

Testers unanimously remarked at how comfortable the shoe felt out of the box. The upper is airy, with a thin, gusseted tongue that wraps around the sides of the foot.

Fit: True to size, with a roomier toe box than a typical Salomon Sense shoe.

Bottom line:  Jack-of-all-trades, this shoe is ready for a long day in the mountains or a jaunt through the park.

 

Adidas Aggravic Speed

 

Price: $120

Weight: 9.2 oz

Drop: 8 mm

This barely there shoe features a thin, un-padded upper and minimally cushioned midsole, with low-profile lugs that transition well from pavement to trails. Adidas makes up for the small lugs with an uber-grippy Continental-rubber outsole that lends an unexpected degree of confidence on rock, wet slabs and other technical surfaces (though is not ideal in thick mud). The midsole is quite firm—some testers felt it was too firm—with adequate flexibility in the forefoot.

Testers’ favorite feature is the stretchy, neoprene-like inner-sock liner, which wraps snugly around the foot for a fast-feeling, performance fit. This inner liner is strategically perforated—even so, it is not as breathable as typical mesh.

Fit: Narrow, performance fit.

Bottom Line: This shoe is ideal for short and fast missions, for those who don’t like a lot of cushion.

 

Altra King MT

 

Price: $140

Weight: 10.2 oz

Drop: 0 mm

The Altra King MT is sleek and fast, but surprisingly aggressive. With a stack height of just 19mm, the low-profile King MTs don’t look like much … until you turn them over and look at the outsole, which is equipped with a tight pattern of six-millimeter lugs. The midsole is minimally cushioned, and reinforced with a midfoot rock plate. The combo of an aggressive sole and a rock plate doesn’t compromise flexibility or ground feel, though some testers said the King MT felt less cushioned than their other Altra shoes.

In place of supportive midfoot overlays, Altra has added a unique Velcro strap, and testers appreciated the added security it offered through the midfoot.

Fit: True to size, with a roomy toe box.

Bottom line: This shoe is good for technical, sub-ultra runs.

 

La Sportiva Akyra

 

Price: $140

Weight: 11.4 oz

Drop: 9 mm

The Akyra is a rugged mountain beast, ideal for technical mountain running where precision and grip are of the essence. But despite its bulky appearance, this shoe is surprisingly agile. The moderately stiff midsole and aggressively lugged, sticky outsole transition seamlessly from singletrack to a mid-run scramble session, lending confidence on smear-y slabs and small, technical features. These shoes are also exceptionally stable, with substantial medial and lateral posts.

Traction and run-hike-climb adaptability aside, testers were particularly enamored of the shoe’s secure fit, especially through the heel. The tongue is gusseted and comfortably padded, while the upper is breathable, with hefty protective overlays that lend a certain degree of protection against water. Said one tester, “I stood in a stream for a full minute before my socks felt wet.”

Fit: True to size, with a high, supportive ankle.

Bottom line: This is a rugged mountain shoe that runs well and lends confidence on technical, rocky terrain.

 

Scarpa Spin


Price: $130

Weight: 8.9 oz

Drop: 4 mm

Runners who want total ground feel will love the Scarpa Spin.
This shoe is on the minimal side, with a thin, flexible midsole and low cushion. The shoe does have a rock plate, though several testers remarked that they were able to feel the contours of everything on the trail, including pointy rocks. Ground-feel aside, this shoe performed well on technical terrain and was surprisingly stable for its minimal construction, though noticeably lacking in arch support.

In contrast to the minimal midsole, the outsole is on the burlier side, with lightly textured, medium-depth lugs. The upper is moderately padded, with a thin, gusseted tongue.

Fit: On the long and narrow side, with a wide heel counter.

Bottom Line: This is a capable mountain runner for those who prefer ground feel over protection, and a great dirt/grass/gravel runner for everyone else.

 

 

Under Armor Horizon KTV

Price: $130

Weight: 9.8 oz

Drop: 7 mm

The Horizon KTV is ready to take whatever the trail dishes out. A stiff, relatively dense midsole wards against roots and rocks, while mid-sized lugs grip loose surfaces. Despite its rigidity, the Horizon KTV is surprisingly lightweight. An aggressive heel counter and plush Achilles cushioning make for a dialed fit through the rear, with a snug sock-like liner in the forefoot.

The upper features broad TPU overlays, in particular over the toecap. This enhances the shoe’s durability, water resistance and ability to keep out debris—but might also limit breathability in warmer temps, or quick draining after stream crossings.

Fit: True to size, snug in the heel and forefoot, with an average-size toe box.

Bottom Line: This is a tough, protective, durable shoe that is surprisingly light for its size.

 

Topo  Terraventure

 

Price: $110

Weight: 10.4 oz

Drop: 3 mm

The Topo Terraventure is a minimalist shoe that all runners—even non-minimalists—can enjoy. With a max stack height of 25mm and a 3mm heel-toe differential, this shoe hits a sweet spot between ultra-distance cushion, zero-drop minimalism and barefoot-style ground feel. The midsole is plush, and the outsole is thoughtfully laid out, with aggressive, 6mm lugs concentrated in the forefoot and heel. Presumably in a weight-saving effort, Topo has left a section of raised, uncovered foam in the midfoot. The result is protective, cushy and grippy with the flexible feel of a barefoot running shoe.

Testers found this shoe to perform exceptionally on technical terrain, particularly on rocks and softer, loamy surfaces (though not so in sticky mud). The upper is thin and breathable, with cushioning in the heel and an extra-wide toe box. The well-fitted heel and midfoot TPU overlays offer support and keep the foot from sliding around.

Fit: True to size, with an extra-wide toe box. Secure through the heel and midfoot.

Bottom Line: This is a good all-around trail shoe for runners looking to transition toward minimalism, or minimalists looking for a bit more cushion and stability for the long haul.

 

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2

 

Price: $125

Weight: 10.6 oz

Drop: 4 mm

The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V2 is an ideal road-trail crossover for runners who like a lot of cushion. The shoe pairs a stiff, Vibram outsole with a thick, soft midsole made of New Balance’s proprietary Fresh Foam. Despite its heft, the Hierro runs surprisingly lightweight and bouncy, though ground feel is compromised. While it holds its own on technical terrain, testers found that the closely spaced, low-profile lugs struggled on slick surfaces and performed best on dry trail and road.  People who are accustomed to a high stack-height may be more comfortable taking this shoe on technical, rocky terrain.

The seamless upper is extremely comfortable, with a roomy—but not overly so—toe box and an elasticized tongue for a dialed fit.

Fit: Snug and secure, true to size.

Bottom Line: This is a good crossover road/trail shoe, for door-to-door missions on pavement and dry singletrack.

 

Inov-8 Roclite 305


Price: $130

Weight: 10.6 oz

Drop: 8 mm

The Roclite 305 is like an uber-grippy exoskeleton for your feet. The shoe is stiff, snug and prominently treaded, with a hardy midfoot rockplate and decent midsole cushion. The 6mm lugs perform admirably in even the slickest and stickiest mud, but thanks to their large surface area, they also track smoothly over harder surfaces.

Perhaps one of the shoe’s most unique features: the tongue is not gusseted, but sewn directly into the upper, so that there is no layer of overlapping fabric, which enhances the shoe’s form-fitting feel. The midfoot features a densely woven mesh reinforced with vertically oriented overlays, while the toe consists of a lighter, more flexible mesh.

Fit: Narrow to medium.

Bottom Line: This is a technical mountain-running shoe, good in sloppy conditions.

WATCH: Jamil Coury’s Hardrock Journey

The Hardrock 100 is famous for it’s brutal yet beautiful terrain, freak weather and crazy mishaps. This year was no exception, with a hail storm that left many runners shivering and covered in welts.

Jamil Coury, owner of Aravaipa Running, ran his way to an impressive ninth-place finish. On the way, he documented his run. The result is an honest look at the complete Hardrock experience.

“I get to see and experience so many amazing things [during these trail ultras] and its really fun to be able to share with people who may never run a race like the Hardrock,” says Coury. “I hope to inspire, entertain and move people to do positive things all while having fun along the way.”

Avoid Comparison to Get The Most Out of Your Training

No matter who you are and what you do, you can feel inadequate if you put your mind to it.

Teddy Roosevelt is often quoted as saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is appropriate, since he was also famous for being a trail runner back before trail running existed (he would often romp through what is now Rock Creek Park outside Washington, D.C.). What Teddy understood is that if you look hard enough, you can always find someone better than the current version of you, and get discouraged as a result.

Running falls victim to the comparison trap more than almost any other endeavor because of the cold, hard calculus of the watch. I coach middle-of-the-pack athletes who are in the 95th percentile for fitness among the general population, but feel inadequate because they aren’t at the front of the pack. Even some of the elite athletes I coach—athletes who are among the best in the world—lament that they aren’t the very best.

Unless you’re a self-obsessed narcissist, comparison is a game you will virtually always lose if you zoom out far enough. When you compare yourself to other people, cracks start to form in self-esteem. These little leaks can eventually spring into massive existential crises. Comparison doesn’t just make running less fun—it can ruin running careers. So here are four tips to drop comparison and find self-acceptance on the trails.

 

1. Accept your limitations in the present and your decline in the future

The rarely talked-about reality of running is that the very best trail runners usually start with fortunate genetics. All champions work hard, but the reason that certain athletes’ hard work translates to world-beating race results is, simply, that they chose the right parents.

The goal of running training should always be to get what you can from trail running, constrained by the genetic hand you were dealt, along with your life circumstances and goals. As tweeted by Bradley Stulberg, author of Peak Performance, “Those with the longest, healthiest careers do care about results, but are not defined by them.” If you start defining yourself through comparison to others, you may be disappointed—often by factors outside of your control.

The comparison trap also applies to self-comparison. Trail-running fitness does not follow a linear progression. Instead, it follows something more like the flight path of a drunken duck that swerves and then crashes into a lake. You’ll progress, you’ll get a bit worse, you’ll progress some more and then you’ll decline gradually with age, before eventually dying. At some point in that trajectory, you’ll peak without really realizing it, only to have an epiphany one day that your best is behind you. In the face of a chaotic trail-running journey, embrace the present, no matter where it is. Entropy will win eventually, like it always does, so resolve to enjoy the game while it lasts.

 

2. Train by effort, not pace

During that drunken duck flight, your pace will change. Eight minutes per mile might be a sprint one year, and then a jog a few years later and then a sprint again a decade or two down the line, due to changes in training, stress, age and countless other factors. It’s extremely difficult to remove self-judgment from pace splits, both over the long-term and even over the course of a single training cycle.

Last week, an athlete I coach was crushing her workout. She was on interval eight of 10 and loving life. Feeling good, she lapped out her watch to check her pace. Her heart sunk when the number wasn’t what she wanted. On interval nine, a great run turned into a terrible slog.

The point I tried to make to her is that for trail runners, pace within a workout barely matters. Our races involve hills, rocks and streams, with hundreds of variables impacting pace. Besides, “fast” workouts don’t necessarily translate to fulfilling races. My worst races often come after my fastest workouts, because in my fastest workouts, I am running too hard.

Training by effort (easy, moderate and hard) removes the option to judge your pace during runs, making sure you stay in the moment and focus on the correct stimulus. You might not be able to run eight minutes per mile every day—or every decade—but you can always put in a good effort.

It’s okay to check out your pace afterward (or during) if you are able to not take it too seriously. But for some Type-A personalities, even checking after-the-fact may be too much feedback. I encourage many of the runners I coach (including many pros) to not use a GPS watch at all. GPS feedback is like fire—it can be fuel, or it can burn you alive.

 

3. Take pride in keeping your easy runs slow

Eventually, almost all runners with longevity in the sport learn that easy runs are sacred. Getting caught up in what others are doing (or in what you do on days you feel perfect) often leads to running faster than you should on relaxed training days. Too much intensity causes injuries, burnout and fatigue. It also causes your workouts to suffer. Running fast at the wrong time can make you slow all the time.

 

4. Only race when motivated by the process, not the results

If you make a living from running, disregard this point. Results might help a pro (or an aspiring pro) put food on the table.

For most of us, though, race results are not what let us afford pizza and beer. For us, racing can be motivated by lots of things—self-exploration, adventure, the joy of inconsequential vulnerability. But if motivated primarily by results, racing can be a slippery slope to inadequacy.

So step back and ask yourself a simple question: “Why am I running this race?” There are two main kinds of answers: those that are results-based and those that are process-based. If your “why” requires you to finish in a certain time or place, your motivation to race is results-based. Almost any other kind of motivation, from wanting a goal to train towards in the first place, wanting the most out of the months of training you’ve put in or experiencing fun trails, is process-based.

If there’s anything coaching has taught me, it’s that results-based justifications for trail running can be dangerous and often result in existential crises. If your goals have a finish line, what happens when you get there? For some, the results-based approach is sustainable. For others, it results in post-race blues with both bad and good races.

Reframe races as a step along a journey as opposed to a destination, and the pressure lifts. Little by little, removing comparison as a means to define success in training and racing can help some runners find unconditional self-acceptance.

In the process, the goal is never to use training and racing to answer the question “Am I enough?” Instead, the goal is to trail run joyfully knowing “I am enough, no matter what.”

 

David Roche runs for HOKA One One and NATHAN, and works with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play.

Why Fueling With Real Food Matters

Food is food is food, right? Well, not quite. Runners tend to be highly aware of what we put in our bodies. We know all about carbohydrates, fat and protein, and how many grams of each to consume throughout the day. But numbers do not tell the whole story. In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

What you eat is just as important as how much you eat. An avid runner training six days a week needs somewhere between six and 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound runner, that means around 400 to 680 grams of carbohydrates per day.

But is 400 grams of pasta the same as 400 grams of dark leafy greens? If we just concentrate on the number and not the quality of food, we can trick ourselves into thinking we are eating healthier than we actually are.

Carbohydrates

When you hear the word carbohydrate, do visions of pasta, bread and potatoes dance in your head? If so, congratulations—your carbohydrate-food-associating skills are on par with 99 percent of the population.
However, although pasta, bread and potatoes are indeed carbohydrates, they aren’t the type to emphasize in your day-to-day diet, because they don’t give you much besides energy. In contrast, fruits, vegetables and whole grains (oats, rice, kamut) are carbohydrates and chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and water. These foods give you more bang for your buck compared to the processed, refined, nutrient-devoid version.

The Almighty Protein

For some reason we’ve had drilled into our brains that it is really difficult to get enough protein. This is simply not true. The average endurance athlete requires 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means our 150-pound runner needs about 80 to 95 grams of protein per day. Those grams add up fast.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 21 amino acids in the body used for building protein. The body can synthesize several of these amino acids on its own, but nine of them—the essential amino acids—must be obtained through foods. A protein’s quality is a reflection of its biological value in the body.

The best sources of protein are found in real, whole foods. Picture this: one cup of protein powder versus one cup of lentils. Which one do you think is better for your body? If you answered lentils, you are correct. One serving of protein powder typically contains 15 to 20 grams of protein, but contains a long list of unrecognizable ingredients. And the taste … oh, the taste. Of course, processed powders pack a lot of protein into one serving, but such high amounts of protein are unnecessary.

Lentils, on the other hand, contain plenty of protein, along with other vital nutrients like fiber; vitamins A, B-complex, D, E and K; calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and potassium, to name a few.

In general, animal products like turkey, chicken, beef and dairy are easy sources of high-quality protein. They contain all the essential amino acids.

Does that mean animal proteins are essential for healthy nutrition? Not at all. As our cup of lentils demonstrates, it’s easy to meet your protein needs through a plant-based diet, although variety becomes even more critical to get all the essential amino acids. High-quality plant-based protein sources include quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and edamame.

However, be wary of supposedly “healthy” plant-based proteins like tofu and “alternative meats.” These fall in the processed, refined-food category and lack all the same things that a piece of bread lacks. Instead, aim for plant-based sources that you can recognize as real food.

Embrace the Fat

We used to be afraid of fat, but it’s starting to make a better name for itself. Fat is one of the most important nutrients for an athlete. Well, all nutrients are essential, but because we’ve shunned fat for so long it’s vital to highlight its importance. Fat is involved in everything we do, from growth, immune function and recovery to absorbing vitamins and minerals.

The same rule of thumb applies: focus on real-food sources, such as high-quality olive oil, nuts, avocado, cheese, full-fat yogurt, coconut oil, whole eggs and even butter … gasp! Yes, butter is perfectly fine. It’s a naturally occurring fat, and our bodies require some saturated fat in moderation—especially the endurance athlete, for whom overeating is rarely the issue. If you limit the number of foods you eat out of a package, you will naturally improve the quality of fats in your diet.

All of this can be summarized in three words: eat real food. Prioritize the kind of food you put in your body, rather than the amount of food. Shop local, get to know your farmer and treat food as a precious commodity …  because good food is. We can’t thrive without it.

 

The Danger of Focusing on Numbers

Both sample meals below yield the same number of carbohydrates (80g), and, on paper, look the same. But the food quality is quite different.
Example A is made up of processed foods, while example B focuses on real foods. The higher-quality foods in example B mean more vitamins and minerals, along with fiber and water for greater satiation.

Example  A 

Turkey Club Sandwich, 6”    42g
Tortilla chips, 1oz    19g
Granola bar, chewy chocolate chip    19g
TOTAL Carbohydrate:    80g

Example  B

Brown Rice & Vegetables, 1c    37g
Apple, large raw    31g
Broccoli, 1c cooked    12g
TOTAL Carbohydrate:    80g

Stephanie’s Real Food Smoothie

You don’t need protein powder to make a delicious post-run recovery smoothie. I make one with lots of protein, but it comes from real food. It’s better for your body and your wallet.

Ingredients:
½ c plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
½ c frozen blueberries
¼ c quinoa
¼ c sweet potatoes
1 T nut butter
1 large handful of greens
½ c milk or choice (or kombucha) to taste
Ice, if desired
Add to blender,
turn on. It’s that simple.
The author has a PhD in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition. When not geeking out on nutrition, she can be found on the trails in Bend, Oregon, with her dog Riley.

WATCH: Pacing Hardrock

In 2015, 27-year-old Kevin Douglas was the youngest person to finish the Hardrock 100. His pacer, Salomon athlete Jeff Pelletier, captured their experience at the race. Through Pelletier, we feel the excitement of race morning and the air of anticipation at each aids station as crew members eagerly await the arrival of their runners. We see race leaders Kilian Jornet, Mike Foot and Adam Campbell. We experience the beauty of the San Juan mountains through sleep-deprived eyes.

WATCH: An Ode to the Hardrock 100, Rap-Style

On Friday, July 14 at 6:00 a.m., 145 runners set off from Silverton, Colorado for the annual 100-mile journey through the San Juan mountains. Often referred to as a giant ultra-family reunion, Hardrock is one of the toughest 100-milers in the U.S. and has one of the most devout followings of any U.S. ultra.

This rap video, by Run Steep Get High, celebrates the race, its traditions, its iconic peaks and its beautiful scenery.

This Little-Known Peak-Bagging Challenge in Washington Will “Kick Your Butt”

Over July 4th weekend, 2017, Washington-based ultrarunners Ras Vaughan and Seth Wolpin became the first people to complete the Harvey Manning Peak Challenge, a route linking 18 peaks in the Issaquah Alps outside of Seattle.

The challenge, which involves roughly 95 miles with around 40,000 feet of elevation gain, was designed by George Orozco, who is a fixture of the Seattle running community and engineered the locally famous Issy Alps 100K and 100-miler challenges.

“It’s almost like Barkley,” says Vaughan. “You don’t really ask, ‘Why?’ You just do it because [Barkley race director] Laz said so. Or, in this case, because George said so.”

 

Origins of the Harvey Manning Peak Challenge

The Harvey Manning Peak Challenge is named after conservationist and hiker Harvey Manning, who is responsible for protecting many of the Seattle area’s most iconic wild spaces. The challenge is reminiscent of Nolan’s 14, in the sense that there is no set route—merely a requirement to tag the summit of 18 specific peaks. Start and end points are specified, but what happens in between there and the 18 summits is up to each runner.

Orozco specifically chose these 18 peaks because they are rarely—if ever—visited. After spending time on the Seattle area’s more popular peaks, he says, “I started exploring the south side of the I-90 corridor in hopes of finding new peaks to tag, and what I found was challenging summits that offered just as rewarding views as the north side but with much less foot traffic.”

Many of the peaks on the route have “faint trails” to their summits. Others have no trail at all. “Reaching many of the summits […] requires the person to do a little homework and study maps,” Orozco says.

To date, only two other people have attempted the route. Even Orozco has never given it a go. “I am not that crazy!” he says. “I have tagged most of the peaks in the challenge. Just not in one go.”

Vaughan (left) and Wolpin (right) at the start of their attempt. Photo by Seth Wolpin

 

Firsties

Both Vaughan and Wolpin were well acquainted with the Issaquah Alps, both having completed Orozco’s other major Washington peak-bagging challenge, the Issy Alps 100, in solo, unsupported fashion. (Only one other person has done so in this style).

Vaughan, better known by the nickname “Ultrapedestrian,” has earned a reputation for quirky, obscure “Only Known Times” (OKT), like a covering the 93-mile Wonderland trail around the base of Mount Rainier in both directions in one push—what he calls the Double Wonderland.

Wolpin is a professor of public health at the University of Washington, and spends most of his free time leading fastpacking trips and running a non-profit in Nepal . He has held FKTs on the Annapurna Circuit and the Manaslu Circuit, and an OKT on the Kathmandu Valley Rim Trail, and finished one lap at the 2016 Barkley Marathons.

“Harvey Manning had been in the back of my mind since George first announced it,” says Vaughan. “But I always have way too many projects going on.” He had initially been planning to attempt a double Issy Alps 100 over July 4th weekend, but his pacers fell through.

Wolpin, who had been doing recon on the Harvey Manning route for the last month, invited Vaughan to join.

“Our main goal was just to do it,” says Vaughan. “It was such an obvious OKT, ripe for the picking. We decided that no matter how bad things were, we would just settle in and embrace the grind, even if it wasn’t pretty.”

Vaughan and Wolpin took a photo at each summit, holding up fingers to denote the number of summits passed. Photo by Ras Vaughan / Ultrapedestrian.com

 

78 hours

The Harvey Manning Peak Challenge contains everything from well-maintained forest-service roads to boulderfield scrambles and bushwhacks so overgrown it takes a few minutes to move a few feet.

“Early on, we realized that our initial goal of 60 hours would come and go long before we were done,” says Vaughan.

The most efficient way to connect many of the peaks was via steep, tree-covered ridgelines. “The detours would have been 10 or 12 miles and 3,000 to 4,000 feet,” says Wolpin. But the ridgelines weren’t necessarily an easy way out.

“There were two ridges in particular where we were battling thick trees,” says Wolpin. “Imagine 10 Christmas trees packed into a five-foot-by-five-foot room. Now imagine trying to walk through that room wearing a pack with an ice axe strapped on.”

Despite being below treeline, the exposure on these ridges was extreme, and fall potential was high. “It would have been easy to bust through the trees and tumble down,” says Wolpin. “I did Barkley in April, and certain sections [on the Harvey Manning route] are harder and more dangerous than anything you’d find in Barkley.”

The crux of the linkup came on the traverse from Green Mountain to Mount Teneriffe.

Wolpin had scouted the connection, and thought he knew a way to access the ridge between the two peaks. But when he and Vaughan got there in the dark, he grew uncertain. A short, vertical 5th-class section, which had looked doable during daylight, now seemed too dangerous. “I climbed 10 or 15 feet up, and I realized that if I fell, I could have died,” says Wolpin.

He retreated, and led the way down a scree chute that skirted under the sketchy ridge. “It was dark, and we were traveling by headlamp with this huge runout below us, which we couldn’t see,” says Vaughan. “You would kick a rock down and hear it falling and crashing somewhere very far below.”

The traverse was saving Vaughan and Wolpin thousands of feet of climbing, but both had doubts about whether it would go.

“We were just grabbing onto weeds to keep from slipping,” says Wolpin. “Ras took his ice axe out, even though there was no snow. It was that steep. And we didn’t know if we were going to get cliffed out.”

After two hours, they reconnected with the trail up Mount Teneriffe. The “hard” part of the route—the off-trail navigation—was done.

They ultimately reached the Rattlesnake Mountain Snoqualmie point trailhead in 78 hours 36 minutes, three days after they set out.

“I got full-body goosebumps and a huge smile on my face,” says Orozco, of the moment he received a message about Vaughan and Wolpin’s successful run. “Perhaps even a little teary-eyed. Finally, [Harvey Manning] got the attention it deserved, and who better to have completed it than Seth and Ras.”

“It’s great to have other people looking for unique ways to make their mark on classic trails,” says Vaughan. “[Harvey Manning] is such a cool route. It touches on a unique pocket of Washington history. It’s not Rainier, or the Olympic Peninsula—it’s not any of those classic Cascade routes—yet you find these challenging local crags that will kick your butt.”

 

Trophy Series Recap: Champions of All Ages

The Trail Runner Trophy Series, presented by Altra Running, is a points-based race series, with 186 events of all distances, all around the country. The series begins in March and culminates in September. Grand prizes are awarded to the runner who logs the most miles, and the runner who runs the most races. The “Mile Mogul” wins a Run the Alps trail-running tour through the French and Swiss alps, while the “Trail Fiend” wins a coveted spot on the cover of Trail Runner magazine.

The Trophy Series is well under way for the season. Here are some updates and stories from the last few weeks. Dale Reicheneder, the 2016 Trophy Series “Trail Fiend” Champion, is currently in first place for winning the cover shot, while Donna Loparo is the lead for the trail-running tour in the Alps.

 

The Long Island Greenbelt Trail 50K and 25K: May 13, New York

Despite rain and cold wind, multiple athletes returned to defend their titles at the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Runs earlier this season. The athletes raced on a hilly 25K out-and-back from Sunnyside Boulevard trailhead to Cold Spring Harbour. The 50K racers braved the course twice, as the chill and rain worsened.

Winning the women’s 25K for the fifth consecutive year was Heather Williams, 41, of Centerport, New York, in 2:19:03.

Meanwhile, in the men’s race, Jossi Fritz-Mauer, 32, a new resident of Long Island, did not let the weather deter him from setting a new course record—1:50:12. His run was six minutes 13 seconds faster than the previous record, which was set by 47-year-old Huntington, New York resident Todd Rowley in 2015. This year Rowley took the silver medal for the second consecutive year, in 2:01:08.

In the women’s 50K, Jodi-Kartes Heino, 47, of Quogue, New York, was first to fly through the finish line in 5:53:45, followed by Indira Schwarting, 34, of Southold, New York, in 6:08:17.

Aaron Heath, 42, from Chappaqua, New York took his fourth consecutive 50K title in 4:40:24. Giving him a run for his money was Jesse Goodenough, 32, of the host Greater Long Island Running Club, finishing less than a minute back in 4:41:21.

 

West River Trail Run: June 3, South Londonderry to Jamaica, Vermont

Katharine Ogden won the women’s 5K. Photo by Hubert Schriebl Photography.

In southern Vermont, runners took to the trails in aid of non-profit organization “The Collaborative” to tackle the race known as “11 miles of trouble,” a three-person relay and a 5K.

The challenging course wound along the West River, through wooded trails, crossing over the beautiful Angel Falls, and traversed up the steep Ball Mountain Dam switchbacks, finishing in Jamaica State Park.

Winning the relay race was Team Turducken, comprised of co-workers Orien Elliot-Rielly, Sean Armstrong and Rogan Lechthaler. The trio finished in 1:39:08.

Katharine Ogden, 19, of Londonderry, Vermont and Andrew Newell, 33, of Shaftsbury, Vermont took first place in the 5K. Both Newell and Ogden have raced internationally as members of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team—Ogden has raced the U.S. Super Tour and in the 2016 World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, while Newell has been on three U.S. Olympic teams and seven U.S. World Championship teams and has three World Cup podiums to his name. Ogden finished in 1:17:14 and Newell finished in 1:07:51.

 

Rock Hawk Trail Races: May 27, Castle Rock, Colorado

Ariel smiling during the Rock Hawk Trail Races 10K. Photo courtesy Rock Hawk Trail Races.

 

The Castle Rock Miller Park & Ridgeline Trail system welcomed runners of all ages for the Rock Hawk Trail Races, earlier this spring. Among those racing was 11-year-old Ariel Walker, who won her age group in the 10K alongside her mother Rebecca Walker.

“During my trail running career I decided to run a race called the Rock Hawk with my mom, after having a great time at another of [race director] David’s races, Bear Chase,” says Ariel. The lollipop-style course starts and ends in Castle Rock Miller Park, winding through moderately hilly singletrack.

For Ariel, the highlight of the event was the friendly race volunteers and the festive finish line scene. “You will be a half of a mile from the finish when you will see it and hear the music,” she says. “There is a downhill at the finish line that makes you finish strong. At the finish you get a very cool medal and lots of pancakes from Flippin’ Flapjacks, soda and people to hang out with. If you are first, second or third overall you get a very cool trophy.”

Ariel is already looking forward to her next trail race. “I think after my experience at Rock Hawk I will come again and do David’s other trail races that he puts on,” she says.

Trophy Series Standings

Run most races
First          Dale Reicheneder, Malibu CA, 255.2 miles, 22 races
Second      Samantha Weaver, Jersey Shore PA, 247.5 miles, 19 races
Third        Gerald Bailey, Glencoe KY, 242.8 miles, 13 races
Run most miles
First          Donna Loparo, Winter Springs FL, 320 actual miles, 2 races
Second      John Dufour, Carrollton GA, 286 actual miles, 2 race
Third        James Barnard, Clinton TN, 264 actual miles, 1 race

 

Ultra Standings
Male
First           James Barnard, Clinton TN, 1056 points, 1 race
Second       Jeremy Reed, Pikeville TN, 630 points, 1 race
Third          John Dufour, Carrollton GA, 472 points, 2 races

Female
First            Donna Loparo, Winter Springs FL, 1080 points, 2 races
Second        Greta Reed, Pikeville TN, 576 points, 1 race
Third (TIE) Jess Mullen, Seattle, WA, 400 points, 1 race/ Van Phan, Maple Valley WA, 400 points, 2 races / Elaine Stypula, St Clair Shores MI, 400 points, 1 race / Caroline Boller, Solvang, CA, 400 Points, 1 race / Rebeca Wilson, Eagleville TN, 400 points, 1 race / Stacy Dittmer, Brandon MB, 400 points, 1 race / Kelly Teeselink, Iowa City IA, 400 points, 1 race, n/a
Non-Ultra Standings
Male
10-19   RJ Bascom, Front Royal VA, 255.6 points, 5 races
20-29   Matt Lipsey, Kersey PA, 222.8 points, 4 races
30-39   Robert Spies, San Francisco CA, 157.2 points, 3 races
40-49   Steve Templin, Muncy PA, 176.3 points, 4 races
50-59   Dale Reicheneder, Malibu CA, 898.3 points, 22 races
60+      Gerald Bailey, Glencoe KY, 340.2 points, 13 races

Female
10-19   Elizabeth Shaffer, Jersey Shore PA, 251.4 points, 5 races
20-29   Johanna Ohm, State College PA, 245.8 points, 5 races
30-39   Brianna Bair, State College PA, 276.1 points, 5 races
40-49   Samantha Weaver, Jersey Shore PA, 418.4 points, 19 races
50-59   Carole Dudukovich, Port Matilda PA, 437.6 points, 9 races
60+      Jane Kone, Howard PA, 294.1 points, 6 races

Andrew Hamilton Sets Two (More) FKTs on Nolan’s 14

Andrew Hamilton has never won a race. He has never even gotten close to a podium. But when it comes to big peak linkups, he has put down times that many of the country’s best trail runners can’t touch.

The 42-year-old Denver native has held the record for summiting all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks—14ers, in local parlance—on three separate occasions, twice in typical supported fashion and once “self-powered,” linking all of the trailheads by bike.

Just 10 weeks after his latest record run, in 2015, he nabbed the overall FKT—53 hours 39 minutes—on Nolan’s 14, a choose-your-own-route challenge to link 14 14ers in Colorado’s Sawatch Range in under 60 hours. He did so unsupported.

Last week, in the space of 72 hours, Hamilton added two more FKTs to his resume, adding a 15th summit to Nolan’s 14 for an Only Known Time (OKT) on what has been dubbed Holy Nolan’s and, in the process, also setting a new FKT for the north-south direction on Nolan’s proper, in 53 hours 42 minutes.

 

One missing summit

A brief pause at a crew stop. Photo courtesy Andrew Hamilton

When asked where he got the idea for Holy Nolan’s, Hamilton simply responds, “It was an idea whose time had come.”

The concept of linking all 15 Sawatch 14ers has, according to Hamilton, been “floating around for a long time.”

“Over the last decade plenty of people have asked me why we didn’t add on Holy Cross after Nolan’s,” he says. “It wasn’t a brand new concept.”

One of the first people to act on the thought was Mike Priddy, 41, of Superior, Colorado. A long-time ultrarunner with an “increasing appreciation for the aesthetic of stringing multiple peaks together,” Priddy had known about Nolan’s since the early 2000s, but always felt it was incomplete, since it only included 14 of the 15 peaks that make up the Sawatch Range.

“I briefly considered Nolan’s 14 as a target project,” says Priddy. “[But I] rejected it as a mere part of a whole for its exclusion of Mount of the Holy Cross.”

Instead, Priddy christened a challenge he called the Sawatch 15. Priddy’s challenge was different from Nolan’s in that it did not impose a 60-hour time limit on the Nolan’s 14 summits, and did not have required start or end points. In fact, the northern terminus of the Nolan’s route—the Leadville Fish Hatchery—is significantly out of the way.

Hamilton was inspired to link the Sawatch 15 concept into an official Nolan’s run after talking with fellow Nolan’s attemptee Kendrick Callaway, who had already mapped out a route between Holy Cross and the fish hatchery.

By going out of the way to tag the official start and end points, and make the 60-hour cutoff, “Andrew conformed to the ‘rules’ as defined by the original Nolan’s event,” says FKT-aficionado Peter Bakwin. “I think these precedents are important.”

 

Hamilton’s aid stations consisted of a horseshoe of boxes around a camping pad. Photo courtesy Andrew Hamilton

Holy Nolan’s!

 Most of the other runners Hamilton knew who had considered a Holy Nolan’s run had conceived of doing it south-to-north, adding the extra summit at the end. “A smart person would probably have done [that],” says Hamilton. “Because by the point [you reach Holy Cross] you’re done with the Nolan’s portion and you don’t care about time.”

But Hamilton had already completed Nolan’s in the south-north direction. “I wanted to do it north-to-south,” he says. “Because I had never done it.”

A computer programmer by trade, Hamilton approaches all of his peak linkups and record attempts with mathematical precision. Unlike his previous Nolan’s FKT, which was unsupported, Hamilton chose to bring a crew. The reason: he wanted to see if he would run faster with the lighter pack made possible by frequent restock points, or if the refueling stops would add back the time he had gained. In short: if supported, could he beat his own FKT from 2015?

He ditched the 20-liter pack that had accompanied him on previous Nolan’s trips, and instead readied three different packs, which his crew would carry between aid points. At each meet-up point, Hamilton switched packs depending on what he would face in the upcoming segment—a large pack for the 15-plus-mile unaided sections, a small pack for mid-sized sections and a minimal vest for the few sections of road.

“In between sections, I would come in to my crew point and sit on a camping bad with storage boxes in a horseshoe around me,” says Hamilton. “We had a footcare box, a medical box, a box of rain gear and warm layers, a box of shoes … ” At each crew stop he changed his socks and shoes, attended to blisters, added or dropped layers and got out before he was tempted to linger.

Initially, he had estimated an 84-hour finish: 15 hours on Holy Cross, eight hours to sleep at the Fish Hatchery (the only sleep he would take) and 60 hours for Nolan’s.

But when he finished the initial Holy Cross leg in just 12 hours, three hours ahead of schedule, he decided to change the plan and commit to a 72-hour finish. “I thought, how cool would it be to finish in three days,” he says.

On a normal Nolan’s run, Hamilton doesn’t sleep at all. However with the added summit (and time on trail), he knew he would need to catch at least a few hours of shuteye. After completing Holy Cross he spent six hours at the fish hatchery resting and regrouping, before continuing.

“Going from less than 60 hours for a regular Nolan’s to about 72 hours for Holy Nolan’s, as Andrew did, is a big add, since it requires a whole extra night,” says Bakwin. “It’s way harder to go three nights with minimal sleep than just two. Andrew is just a monster when it comes to dealing with sleep deprivation.”

Indeed, Hamilton cites his ability to handle sleep deprivation as a major asset. Where an elite ultrarunner might move faster on the trail but take long stops with their crew, Hamilton makes up time by not stopping, and not sleeping (or, doing so as minimally as possible).

“I am a terrible runner,” he explains. “I would get my ass kicked at Leadville or Hardrock. But when you’re running 100 miles over the course of 53 hours, speed isn’t important so much as the ability to keep moving.”

 

Hamilton above treeline at sunrise. Photo by Ryan Marsters. 

A smooth ride (mostly)

For the most part, things went according to plan. The weather was perfect, though the air was laden with smoke from wildfires in nearby Utah, which caused Hamilton’s asthma to flare up—”by day two, my voice had changed,” he says.

The biggest issue was his legs. “My climbing legs never kicked in,” he says. “Luckily I was able to make up time on the descents.” Frustrated, he pushed away the thought of beating his 2015 FKT, and focused solely on finishing in 72 hours.

When he tagged Blank Cabin, the official southern terminus of Nolan’s, he was just three minutes shy of his 2015 time—still good enough for a north-south FKT.

“Looking back, I see that my unsupported time [from 2015] was really amazing,” he says. “Even when someone else comes and crushes it, I’ll still be happy with it.”

He has no shortage of goals for the future, though. Next year, he is considering a centennial record (linking all 100 of the highest peaks in the U.S.). “I’m trying to work out if I can get under 20 days,” he says.

He may not be done with Holy Nolan’s, either. “Secretly, I wonder if I could do the whole thing in 60 hours,” he says. “If I took away the six hours that I spent at the fish hatchery, that’s 66 hours … it is a mathematical possibility. It would be amazing.”