Tougher Mudder KY: Laps and Live Music

Let me start by saying this: Great job, Tough Mudder!  That feedback email that you get after a race? Tough Mudder really seems to have paid attention.  Year after year, they have consistently gotten better.  If you read my review for the Tougher Mudder TN last September, then you understand why I made a point to start with some praise for the improvements!

With Tough Mudder starting their competitive series just last year, they were playing the sort of catch up game that any runner who has ever fallen off an obstacle or come from behind should understand (I know I do!).  They realized that Mudder Nation needed improvements, and they did what many OCR brands do not do well: They listened to constructive criticism and made changes.

VENUE and PARKING: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, KY

One of the aspects that I most love about racing, other than the amazing and supportive OCR family, is getting to see so many different parts of the world that I would not see otherwise.  Although we didn’t race in or just around the Kentucky Speedway, getting to drive by it on the way in to the venue was exciting (I do NOT excite easily).

 Parking was in three different sections, and I went with the “General Parking” option.  It was a half-mile away, but it wasn’t a half-mile of wondering where the entrance was, as for the entire walk to registration, I could see part of the course, several obstacles, and a portion of the festival area.  Parking was quick and easy.

View-from-Parking-Area

 

REGISTRATION/CHECK-IN:

There is some room for improvement here, although it is better than the last Tougher I competed in (Thank you, TM!).  With plenty of lines for the non-competitive heats (makes sense, since there are far more participants in these areas), there were only two lines and two tables for Tougher Mudders.  While it was a smooth check-in with zero issues, maybe adding a table or two would help, as the check-in volunteers were three to a table, so there was congestion.  Overall, though, it took me maybe three minutes to show my ID, get my bib and timing chip, and move on.  I also come prepared, though, so that always helps those volunteers, as well as speeds up the process for other participants.

Registration-and-Check-in

Registration-tents

There were also tables set up with plenty of markers and zip ties for timers, as well as scissors to cut the loose ends off of the zip ties.  Convenience at its finest!

STARTING LINE, GOOD TIMES, and THE COURSE (of course)

After being told that there were some starting line issues this year already, I was a little nervous about being sure I was at the gate early.  I must say, it was hard to hear any announcements and I was constantly checking my watch and looking toward the starting line.  Thankfully, it seemed like volunteers were deployed to find anyone wearing a Tougher Mudder bib and to be sure we were headed to the starting line on time.

The way people were organized into corrals by time, then sent to the starting line, was a pretty cool change from the norm of people just heading to the start and getting a wristband or something else checked.  I spoke to a few of the runners from each type of race (5k, Tough Mudder half, Tough Mudder full), and how they felt about being able to start all in the same wave.  Everyone I spoke to loved the idea of being mixed with others with different, yet the same, goal-to finish stronger and together! No one felt left out or “called out” for running a shorter race.

After I finished my race, I met up at the starting line to visit with DJ Will Gill, who is always, always a superstar at the starting line and gets everyone motivated.  He announced me when I walked up as the Tougher female winner, and that was pretty sweet.  Not a lot of starting line people really get me going, and he is one of the few. Unlike other race venues, DJ Will Gill even let me sing the National Anthem for one of the heats!  Tough Mudder allows a moment of silence and the National Anthem before each and every wave of runners.

National-Anthem

Once runners lined up, they had a flat start that went to the top of a small hill, and then it was ON!  Tougher Mudders had to follow course markings like everyone else, but we had Lap 1 and Lap 2 challenges.  We pretty much had the course to ourselves for Lap 1, but once we hit Lap 2, we were intermingled with non-Tougher Mudder runners, and while it caused some congestion, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  My husband, who ran his first OCR, was part of the 5k crew, and he felt just as part of everything and every obstacle as everyone else.  For this being his first OCR, and with him not being a runner at all, I worried he would not know where to go on the course, but he says the course was marked so well, there was no chance for any confused at all.  (He also is planning on running another Tough Mudder, “at least a half”, he says!).

Runners also crossed over where others were just getting to the race and having the cheers and encouragement as I ran by was pretty nice. I also think Tough Mudder did a great job with changing up a little how the Tougher Mudders had to compete, such as we had to complete the King Kong Infinity, and we had to swim across a pond (I couldn’t even touch the bottom!).  Towards the end, Toughers had an ice bag carry, and we carried it to the Arctic Enema, broke it open, and poured it into the water before getting in and swimming to the other side.  As one who doesn’t like any weather below 70 degrees, this wasn’t my favorite part, but I do appreciate it being towards the end of the race!

DJ-Will-Gill

Starting-Line

RECOGNITION and MUDDER VILLAGE

Not only did Tougher Mudder decide to create medals for the top three male and female finishers, they also added a podium ceremony.  I do wish the podium was out in the middle of the venue, rather than being crammed at the end of the finish line.  This allows for people to enjoy watching the announcements, as well as others, getting pictures up on the podium just for fun; HOWEVER, for Tough Mudder to have made the changes with medals and recognition, and in such a short time, was pretty rockstar of them!

Podium-Ceremony

And guess what? There was a LIVE BAND in Mudder Village, as well!  There was other music being played, but the band did a super job covering top songs, and this was a wonderful difference from so many other venues I’ve been to.  The ATM was in a building on the way in and set aside and well-marked.  There were new obstacles and others from the past were brought back, as well.  It was nice to go into a race and not know exactly what to expect.

This is a racing brand that has been around for some time, now, and if you haven’t run one yet, go do it!  If you have, think about doing it again!

I’ll be back, Tough Mudder!

 

Spartan Race: Bringing the Pain to Big Bear

Overview
Spartan Race Southern California was the third of five races in the National Championship Series. Hosted in Big Bear, CA it brought an entirely new dynamic to the season. Not only did the race start at an elevation around 6000ft, it was the first Spartan Beast of the series. Being eerily similar to the World Championships this coming September in in Tahoe, CA, it brought many of the elites from the men’s and women’s competition who were trying to make a statement halfway through the North American Series.

San Jose brought rolling hills and smooth terrain.

Seattle brought the muddy and wet conditions.

Big Bear brought the treacherous climbs and unforgiving descents

The Course
Just looking at the course map was intimidating, touting 5000 feet of elevation gain in 12+ miles. In fact, I was a little confused if it was a Skyrunning Race or a Spartan Race knowing that the terrain itself would be the challenge of the day. The start line looked up at the mountain ahead that foreshadowed what was to come. Thankfully, mother nature cooperated with dry and relatively comfortable conditions throughout the day.

The course was laid out perfectly according to the plan of Steve Hammond who wanted to create one of the most difficult courses in recent memory. After about 200 meters of flat running, competitors were doomed with the instant climb that slowed the pace to a hike, a common theme throughout the rest of the race. The beginning of the race was relatively obstacle-free allowing racers to spread out before a collection of obstacles near the top of the mountain. We were sent up slopes simply to run back down again, a seemingly endless oscillation of technical terrain. I envied those taking the chairlift above us and wished for some snow and a pair of skis on the way down. With the Atlas Carry, Herc Hoist, Monkey Bars, and the Sandbag Carry #1 peppered near the top of the mountain, we were greeted with massive descent down to the bottom. Of course, this could only mean one thing, we were going back up. Twister greeted us at the bottom of our descent as we turned the corner to ascend back into the double-black-diamond hell of Big Bear Ski Resort.

After seven miles of punishing terrain, I wanted to believe that it could only get better only to be greeted by the worst of them all…. THE DOUBLE SANDBAG CARRY. I was met with a dizzying feeling and the metallic taste in my mouth. This is where it would all end for me… my Achilles heel. After agonizing up and down a steep slope we didn’t get a reprieve with yet another climb. Up, down, up, down, up, down, it never ended!

Miles 8-11 brought more climbs at a less steep grade. While runnable on fresh legs, I was having trouble opening up any semblance of a stride this late into the race. It wasn’t until the massive descent back into the village that I could taste the finish line. Thankfully, mother nature cooperated leaving the obstacles dry and less of a factor than the massive climbs. The descents were just as difficult on tired legs, as anyone could have easily twisted an ankle or fallen flat on their face on the descent. The final descent meant only one thing, the final gauntlet of obstacles. BUT WAIT! Sneaky Steve strikes again. Just in case our arms and legs weren’t tired before, the bucket brigade gave us the opportunity the feel nice and depleted before an epic gauntlet of obstacles.

The burpee station (Spear Throw), “YOKOHAMA Tire Flip!!” (said in Steve Hammond’s voice), rope climb, and dunk wall made the likes of the slip wall a true obstacle. With the ropes just out of reach for a simple jump, competitors were forced to give every last ounce to run up and grab onto that rope for dear life. I didn’t even know you could burpee out on the slip wall until then, an option some people exercised.

Finally the rig! A nice dry rig was Bear-able (see what I did there) amongst the massive climbs of the ski slope. For anyone who ran this race, we were greeted at the finish line by a sense of accomplishment, knowing what we just endured was a difficult course to finish, regardless of chip time.

 

Men’s Recap

The men’s race continued domination by the Ryans. Ryan Woods in San Jose, Ryan Kent in Seattle, and now Ryan Atkins in Big Bear. The real questions is, will Ryan win the championship? If so, which one?

The pack of Ryan Atkins, Angel Quintero, and Ryan Woods (Woodsy) kept a strong pace the entire race and stayed in the lead pack. With Woodsy’s running ability, Angel’s intense training at altitude, and Atkins’ strength and mountain acumen, none of them could be counted out. Atkins finally pulled ahead at the double sandbag carry with a time of just above 4 minutes for the entire carry. Atkins also rocked a whole new way to carry the bucket… on his back! Atkins continued to run a clean race, leaving Angel and Woodsy to the other podium spots. Robert Killian and Ian Hosek rounded out the top 5 for the men.

 

Women’s Recap

A win by Rea Kolbl in San Jose and Lindsay Webster in Seattle, along with Faye Stenning’s two second place finishes set up a perfect storm coming into Big Bear. These were the three girls to beat. Would they continue to set the Spartan standard, or would someone else break into the win column?

The women’s race was a close fought battle the entire time. Rea Kolbl and Lindsay Webster set the pace throughout, closely shadowed by Faye Stenning.

Rea continued to punish the uphill climbs and Lindsay matched every effort with her technical descents. Faye gained ground during the heavy carries and pushed hard late in the race. By the bucket carry, Faye was in striking distance. Lindsay missed the spear throw, giving Faye the opportunity she needed to move into second place. Rea continued to push hard and was slowed by the slip wall. With its ropes higher than usual and tired legs, it was difficult to reach up to the top. Faye used this opportunity to catch up to Rea as they traded attempts on the slip wall, knowing full well that whoever could complete it first would control their own destiny. Then finally, Rea mustered the strength to run up the wall and went through the rig unscathed, taking first place and claiming her second win of the season. Faye continued with her second place performances, protecting her lead in the National Championship Series while Lindsay finished strong in 3rd place. Spartan Team Pros Alyssa Hawley and Nicole Mericle rounded out the top 5 for the women.

Summary:

The third stop along the Spartan National Championship Series proved to be a memorable one. With similar conditions to Tahoe, this was a good barometer for those looking to do well in the World Championships in late September. Whether you were an elite, age group, or open competitor, everyone who crossed the finish line should walk with their head held high. This race was definitely memorable. I think I speak for everyone when I say, Steve Hammond… YOU SUCK!

 

P.S. Steve Hammond, Seriously THANK YOU and the rest of the Spartan Team for putting on a great race weekend! You did an awesome job!

Green Beret Challenge Operator’s Course Atlanta 2018

I usually stick with Spartan, simply because the obstacles have the  “burpee-if-incomplete” option. I’ve noticed I have been becoming too reliant on it, so I have decided to start looking at more race options. More specifically, trying to work on completing events that scare the absolute shit out of me. So, naturally, when my friend suggested I join her for the Green Beret Challenge in Atlanta, I registered immediately. What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger, right?

For reference, I am five feet tall, weighing in at a pretty gnarly 105 pounds. I’m not great at heavy carries; not because I’m not strong enough, but some of the carries…well, they’re pretty much the same size as I am. Knowing that the GBC is comprised of primarily heavy carries, I went in thinking that I wouldn’t do well. It didn’t matter though. I was still proud of myself for registering in the first place.

One of the first things that caught my attention was the address of the venue. Or, rather, the lack thereof. There was no address. In fact, the address that they provided, was actually the address to the building NEXT DOOR. This venue was literally in the middle of nowhere.

When my friends and I pulled up, what we saw was the most gorgeous house. Which was…well, very different from any venue I’ve seen. The venue was actually BEHIND this house. Parking was easy, check-in was easy…actually, everything was easy. There was no long walk to the venue, pretty much you parked and it was on course. And of course, the very first thing you could see, was Mark f***ing Ballas, standing up, proud, riding on his four-wheeler. I was intimidated but very excited.

I had jumped into the 8:00 heat; the first wave of the competitive division. Standing next to me at the line was none other than Rachel Watters. She was awesome to talk to, and I was very impressed by her modesty. The men and women ran the competitive wave at the same time, which personally, I am a fan of. For me, it seems much more fun with mixed gender seems more fun and laid-back.

Also at the start line, was none other than Mr. Ballas himself. Accompanying him was a man, whose name is currently escaping me (editor’s note: it is none other than Jarian Rich, Mr. Inspiration), covered in glitter. He had an immense amount of glitter in his beard, and gold glitter covering his arms. He wore a shirt that said “no frown zone,” and with that, he wore one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen. Even though this event is known as being one of the toughest obstacle races in the series, it’s very evident that every person there is excited about it.

When it was time to run, we started running in a flat field. We had been running for maybe two minutes before we hit the first obstacle–that darn yoke carry. I’ve never completed a yoke carry before this, and boy was it humbling. I’m a runner by nature and was one of the first women to the yokes.

Granted, after this obstacle started, I never saw Rachel Watters again. I grabbed one of the first in the line, as the volunteer manning the obstacle suggested. Once I put that thing on my back, I knew that it absolutely could not touch the ground until I was done, no matter how much it hurt. Immediately I was wobbling side to side from the weight. I was getting passed left and right, by men and women alike.

Many people grabbed the string that held their sandbags to keep them from moving, and I wanted to, but I was afraid to let go of my grip from the log. A minute went by and I had already been drenched in sweat. I was starting to get nervous about how my grip would maintain throughout this new adventure but remembered–you know what, Sarah, be proud of yourself for being here, this will make for a cool picture later, and trudged on.

The carry itself felt like at least 300-400 meters, but I confess that my depth perception is not great, and I may be mistaken. Either way, you get the point. It was long. It looped into a square back to the yoke drop-off point. I saw it from a distance and had to keep my eyes on it for the remainder of the carry. My arms were shaking, but eventually, I made it.

After I put the yoke down, there was a short run until the next obstacle, which was a wall. Walls don’t scare me much anymore, but this one made me a little nervous. I jumped to get a grip on the top and struggled to pull myself up. I hardly ever struggle with pull-ups. The yoke had taken its toll; hopefully, some of the runs later could relax my upper body. I will say, even though this wall was hand-made, it did not budge one bit. Mark Ballas does a great job building obstacles.

Following almost immediately was a balance obstacle. Walk up a plank of wood to the top of a hay bale. Next: another carry, but, it was a sled drag. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but it was long. From there, we saw a couple of standard obstacles: inverted wall, barbed wire crawl into a questionable substance, and trail run on a single-track trail.

I was really surprised by the next obstacle. I’m fairly certain it doesn’t have a name, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it again. Two wooden beams, where, you have to climb over the top one, anyway how. There was a rope there to aid in the transition, and being the short person that I am, was very thankful for the rope.

Although this obstacle wasn’t too intimidating, the number of failures that came with it was a little terrifying. The ropes were completely covered in that questionable substance that we just trudged through, which was leading to many people slipping and swearing. When I approached the obstacle, I was really proud of the support from both the competitors and volunteers. The people who had failed moved over to allow others the opportunity to attempt. Finally, it was my turn…I was slow, EXTREMELY slow on the obstacle. Nobody cared. Everyone who was there cheered. I thought to myself, this, right here, is EXACTLY what OCR is all about.

(sandbag and questionable “mud.” Image by Green Beret Challenge)

After a few more carries and some walls, we were approaching the finish line. I approached a creek, which we were instructed to jump into. I was NOT expecting a swim at all, but it made for such a nice touch. The water was nice and cool, plus, the unexpectedness of the swim made for a fun and unique challenge. The end was approaching. I picked up the pace, and then one of the volunteers shouted at me: “HEY! YOU’RE SECOND PLACE FEMALE RIGHT NOW.” I freaked out. I ran as fast as I could with my final sandbag on my shoulder, not going to adjust it once. I’ve never placed that high before..and I was excited.

I was so excited that it caused me to make some really poor choices. I hit the most intense obstacle of the day: the Happy Ending. It was most certainly not a happy ending. Happy Ending consisted of a low rig, a cargo net, and some ropes to Tarzan your way through before hitting a bell. Easy. Or, it should have been.

I normally take a breather before rigs to let my heart rate calm down. I didn’t this time, so naturally, I failed. Then I failed again. Then I failed again. And then you know what happened? I failed again. And with all of those failures, I became frustrated. I lost my joyful, cool composure that I had carried with me the entire way, and I couldn’t picture myself finishing the obstacle. I made a stupid, stupid choice to give up my band. Again, stupid. But, I managed to complete it and was greeted instantly by friends and the man who was covered in glitter (he called me nick-names the entire time; fun ones like “Tiny Trap Master” and “Mighty Mouse”).

(“Happy Ending” picture by Green Beret Challenge)

After races, I typically grab my stuff from gear drop-offs and then leave. This race was different. In the end, everyone jumped back into the water to wash off, and then everyone just sat in lawn chairs, drinking and having a great time. Nobody there was a stranger. Even Mark Ballas and his lady joined in. I was amazed at how well this event brought people together, even though it was considered individual.

My overall thoughts on this race? It was an amazing experience. It pushed me past my comfort zone, but, it made me realize why I love racing. Although it’s individual, I have never seen so much love and teamwork on a course–not even during endurance events. The volunteers were extremely excited to be there…I feel like very often, people only volunteer in order to get free race codes, but this certainly was not the case.

This event was intended to push your mind, and although I was frustrated at the last obstacle, I smiled the entire time. It made me realize that when you get your mind right, you really can accomplish anything. Mark Ballas is an incredible race director. I loved the small, intimate feel and of course, the obstacles were sturdy and challenging. The “fuck Ballas” attire was a nice little touch as well!

I will definitely be doing this event again, and I hope to see you there with me.

(Mr. Inspiration, Jarian Rich, and me)

 

Ryan and Lindsay get VO2 Max Tests


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HumanN (makers of Beet Elite), sent Ryan and Lindsay Atkins to have their VO2 Max tested. Lindsay took questions from the OCR community about those tests, and we attempted to answer them here.  Spoiler Alert: We also learn about the law of diminishing returns!

Todays Podcast is sponsored by:

 

Ragnar Relay and Ragnar Trail Series

runragnar.com Enter code ORM18ALL for $60 OFF any 2018 Ragnar Relay

Show Notes:

Law of Diminishing Returns

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tight Review

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tight
4.3 / 5 Overall
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Finding the perfect compression pant is like a quest for the Holy Grail. There are so many brands out there claiming to be superior to all the others that it gets exhausting. I stumbled across several OCR athlete’s wearing Second Skin, Marena, 2XU, and Human Octane, to name a few, on social media and in race photos so I had an idea where to begin. I bought a pair of 2XU compression pants to start, however they weren’t super comfortable and I didn’t want to race in pants that I was constantly worried about so I kept looking and stumbled across a pair of Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tights at Dick’s Sporting Goods. These pants fit incredibly well. The compression was tight, yet comfortable, providing instant relief for tired legs. The contour waistband was a nice departure from either extreme low-rise waists or muffin top inducing bands on other brands. These pants were so comfortable and effortlessly stayed in place during workouts, runs, and muddy races, that they literally felt like second skin. Cheesy, I know, but so true. These pants also kept me incredibly warm, despite the ice buckets and frigid water I ran in and out of during races. The best part about these pants is I had ZERO chaffing, zero!

Second Skin Women's QUATROFLX Tights Review

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tights Features

Compression

These pants boast double layered panels for support in key areas like quads and hamstrings, reduced chaffing, increased recovery, breathability and a hidden pocket which is great for storing a gel or a key. While there is nothing super innovative, these pants perform as described, unlike competitors who list more features. A prime example is Second Skin’s contoured waistband. Other companies list similar features, yet fall short in fit and comfort when it comes to the waistband. Female athletes deserve a great fitting compression pant that doesn’t leave them looking like a busted can of biscuits at the waistband.

Fit

I really appreciated the length on these. At 5’3, it is difficult to find OCR or running pants that aren’t too long. With a 27.25” inseam and lots of flexibility in the fabric for a compression, these pants are great for shorter females as well as average height. I purchased them in a small and they fit true to size and fit extremely well through the thighs and butt, accommodating those of us who lift weights as well. I really liked the fact that there was no awkward waist gap as well. The compression factor on these was perfect. You don’t have to pry them on and peel them off, but they are definitely tight and supportive and I felt the difference.

Quick Dry

While these pants do a good enough job wicking water and sweat, this is where they have some room for improvement. Wicking is decent, however if you get wet or sweat a lot, they fall short at being a quick dry pant. To Second Skin’s credit though, they don’t claim that the pant is a quick dry, just wicking. I would really love to see Second Skin improve on the dry time on these pants.

Odor Control

True to their word, Second Skin QUATROFLX compression pants never got even the slightest bit smelly even through sweat and mud. I have worn these on runs in temperatures between 80-85 degrees in Georgia and you could tell they had been worn. Odor control comes in handy even more when you wash laundry, as I didn’t have to wash them twice to get the smell out. Anyone who runs races knows that you inevitably get that stinky piece of gear and fortunately these pants aren’t them.

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tights Usage

The design of these is nothing innovative, just another pair of black pants, but they felt like much more than that once on. I broke these in on leg day first with the assumption that if I couldn’t move around well in them doing squats and deadlifts, then I certainly couldn’t run or climb over walls comfortably in them. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get overly hot while wearing them since I prefer to wear shorts. I was able to perform lifts comfortably and didn’t even notice I had long pants on due to the breathability. I took them on several runs next to test them out to see how my legs felt after some speed work and longer runs. I definitely felt a difference with the compression support, particularly in my quads and glutes. I really felt like I recovered better after wearing these.

I wore them on several runs from treadmill to trail with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to 82. During the cold runs, the pants get me much warmer with the temperature regulation and provided ventilation during the hot runs to keep me from overheating. I wore these during my first two OCR events this year, the Bonefrog Talladega and The Georgia Spring Savage. During the Bonefrog, there wasn’t any water or mud, but I did get some water on me at a water station, and it took quite a while to dry. While Second Skin never claims that these pants are designed to be quick dry, they are supposed to be wicking. This seems to be the only drawback to these pants, but they wicked well enough for quick dry to not be a major issue on a drier course. I was super grateful for these pants during the rope climb as I didn’t feel one bit of the rope against my skin. I was concerned though, that I would end up with a rip on my pants at some point due to all the wooden walls and logs I had to climb over and under but they held up tremendously. They still looked brand new afterwards.

Second Skin Women's QUATROFLX Tights Review

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tights Durability

Unlike Bonefrog, Savage was full of water, ice, and mud. These pants were definitely put to the test here. While they never seemed to dry quickly enough, I was pleasantly surprised at how warm they kept me despite being wet. I also had plenty of traction from them when going over walls or up ramps, unlike other brands that get slippery and hinder performance.

I have worn these, washed, and dried too many times to count at this point and they have still retained their original shape. Despite going through two OCRs, being submerged in cold, muddy water, slammed on logs and wood walls, under barbed wire, etc. these pants still look and feel brand new. There has been no stretching of material, no pulling, no nicks or scrapes from wood obstacles, nothing! These pants are more durable than some that are twice the price.

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tights Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Super flattering and functional fit
  • Compress is tight and effective but not suffocating
  • Temperature control is great for OCR races that have extreme temperature shifts
  • Extremely durable against all types of environments

Cons

  • Lacks sufficient quick dry
  • Colors aren’t as innovative as the competition

 

Second Skin QUATROFLX Compression Tights Conclusion

The Second Skin QUATROFLX tights  are a great pair of compression pants that will get through obstacle course races without rips and scrapes. The lack of quick dry wasn’t a deal breaker for me as it provides enough wicking for average sweat during a run. If you are wearing these for OCR, the temperature control outweighs the fact that they take longer to dry since they provide warmth coming out of cold water obstacles and cooling ability for wear during warmer months, even in the south. I will definitely be adding more Second Skin compression gear to my gym bag.

 



Rachel Hamrick

Married mommy of three daughters, and the favorite sister of three brothers.I'm an Army veteran, and now I teach English.OCR's were introduced to me by one of my brothers, and I started running in elite waves in May 2016.It keeps me sane and is cheaper than therapy. I cannot imagine life without all of this!

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Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review – Waterproof Shoes for Trail and OCR

Topo Athletic Hydroventure
4 / 5 Overall
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We recently got in touch with Topo Athletics to review the Top Athletic Hydroventure shoes. They were rated Gear of the Year by National Geographic Adventure, so we needed to find out if they lived up to the hype! 

They certainly live up to their waterproof claim, as discovered on some wet and muddy trails as winter turned into spring in Georgia! They are also, without a doubt, the lightest pair of trail shoes I’ve had the pleasure of beating to death on Kennesaw Mountain. While more geared toward trail running than OCR, these would certainly be great for certain courses that don’t require the deep lugs.

Topo Hydroventure Features

The Topo Hydroventures boast not only their lightweight waterproof membranes but also a full-length, flexible rock plate to prevent stone bruising. This is extremely important since you expect a shoe that protects your soles from stone-bruising to also be heavy laden. Thankfully, this is not the case with the Hydroventures. I found myself feeling that these were simultaneously delicate (so lightweight and comfortable) and unyielding. It’s much rarer to find applicable shoe reviews geared toward women, so when I found these shoes, I knew I needed to let all of our female readers know about these powerhouse shoes!

Other notable features are:

  • The Roomy Toe Box: These are noticeably boxier and wider in the toe box than other trail and OCR shoes like the All Out Crushes or Reebok All Terrains. This allows for your feet to freely form their proper strike position during a run.
  • Lug Rubber Outsole: The high-traction outsoles made the transition from sand to gravel to thick mud to puddles seamless with the design that allows the shoe to release the “crud” you would normally pick up from the trail which weighs down the shoes.

Topo Hydroventure Usage

I used the Hydroventures on some pretty technical trails around Georgia. The hills and mountains, covered in mud, sand, and rocks, provided a well-rounded picture of how these shoes hold up on various terrain. They also made their OCR debut during the Atlanta Warrior Dash!

I really enjoyed running in these due to their low drop. While they aren’t zero drop, they do have a low, 3 mm heel to toe drop which is important to me, and many other runners who prefer as minimal of a shoe as possible, while still being protective. The Hydroventures also have the lower stack height of Topo’s other trail shoes and is the only women’s trail shoe from Topo with a full-length rock plate.

These have taken a beating for weeks, being the only shoes I want to wear on the trails due to their extreme comfort. While they are the lowest cushioned of the Topo trail shoes, I can’t imagine needing any more cushion or support than the Hydroventures give. I would wear these around town if I wasn’t worried about wearing down the soles on concrete!

I didn’t have to “break them in” by doing those weird things we all do to break in trail shoes – wearing wet socks or bending them back and forth for hours. They felt extremely comfortable right out of the box, slipped on over thin, synthetic ankle running socks, and taken immediately out to the trails. I found them extremely flexible, and it was easy to forget I was wearing brand new shoes at all.

Topo Hydroventure Durability

Once I’m no longer carrying this extra weight in the front (I’m now far enough along in pregnancy to be front-heavy), I’ll be taking these on the bigger OCR courses to see how they do at races like Spartan, Savage, and Tough Mudder.

I have no doubts about the future durability of the Hydroventures, however, due to how well they’ve held up thus far through my long runs on technical terrain. They’ve already gone about 50 miles and still look brand new, in spite of all that I’ve put them through. Even the laces are holding up well compared to other trail shoes I’ve run in! The uppers feel very durable, and not thin like many of the other shoes on the market, with the waterproof coating helping to seal the durability of the upper material.

Topo Hydroventure Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Roomy toe box
  • Comfort and cushion
  • Mud-release outsole lugs
  • Low heel to toe drop (3 mm)
  • Waterproof
  • Fit true to size
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • I could do with more color options!
  • They could be a little more flexible from left to right, straight out of the box, but that will get better as they loosen up during continued use.
  • If only they had deeper lugs to make these the perfectly rounded OCR shoe – allowing for better grip on obstacles!
  • The drainage could be improved, for when you really need to submerge – they are very waterproof, but there are sometimes when the water is just going to get in the shoe, and the drainage took a little longer than I preferred.

 

Topo Hydroventure  Verdict

I will definitely be looking into more Topo shoes and if these ever happen to burn out on me, they will be replaced immediately. I would recommend these to the runners who spend most of their time training and running on trails over recommending using them for obstacle races. The Topo Hydroventures could certainly hold their own on some of the courses I’ve run in past seasons but are more suited for trail running.

The waterproof feature is also going to be appealing to other runners in wet climates such as the northwestern U.S. and our readers across the pond who put in hundreds of miles in the rainy climate of the U.K.

Should you add Topo Hydroventure to your collection of trail shoes? Without a doubt! You will find these to be lightweight, comfortable, and durable, nearly all that we can ask for from a trail/OCR shoe.



Rachel Hamrick

Married mommy of three daughters, and the favorite sister of three brothers.I'm an Army veteran, and now I teach English.OCR's were introduced to me by one of my brothers, and I started running in elite waves in May 2016.It keeps me sane and is cheaper than therapy. I cannot imagine life without all of this!

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