Thursday, August 24, 2017

Product Review: Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail Shoes

The Under Armour Horizon RTT

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Under Armour Horizon RTT to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

The new Under Armour Horizon RTTs are one of the companies first forays into the trail running scene and parallel their inaugural trail running series that includes stops in Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado. (See my review of the Vermont Weekend here: Vermont Vert Challenge.)  

I circulated the RTTs into my shoe lineup and was able to get out in them for a few runs before this review.  Though they do not have a lot of miles on them at this point, I have noticed a few things already both pro and con that you might want to consider.

Color and design.  I am not a big fan of the colors on the shoes I demoed.  Black, while it might not show the dirt as much, is way too hot to run in if you are on any trail outside of the woods.  White shows way too much dirt.  The venting on the top surface, though there appears to be quite a bit, doesn't actually breathe well and makes my feet hot even on short runs.

While there seems like a lot of ventilation on the shoe, it does not actually breathe very well.

The gusseted tongue is a great addition, but I would love one more hole for the shoelaces on the collar in order to tie them tighter as I do with my other trail shoes.  Finally, the word "Charged" on the outside of both shoes is already starting to peel off.

The word "Charged" started peeling off on just my second run.

Durability and stability.  The RTTs have what seems like some pretty solid lugs on the bottom for trail running.  Though they might wear quickly on the roads, they should hold up pretty good on the trails.  That's not a guarantee by any means, and I could be totally wrong.

The shoe is probably a more neutral foot shoe.  I need a bit more stability in my shoes and could definitely feel a lack of support on my right foot the longer I wore them.  I also did not find them comfortable to just wear around as I do with some of my trainers because of the lack of support and because they got too hot as I noted earlier.

The tread on the Horizon RTTs does seem to be pretty solid for trail running.

Conclusion.  I think these might be a good trainer for a neutral stride trail runner who wants some good traction.  If, however, you are looking for something with a bit more support or for a shoe that breathes well, this might not be the best fit.  I see them fitting into my line-up more on colder days when I am concerned about my feet getting colder on a short trail run, or possibly as a good shoe to strap snowshoes on in the wintertime.  

I think that they are a fair first attempt by Under Armour into trail running and I look forward to seeing improvements in the future.  Enjoy!

Hanging out in my Under Armour Horizon RTTs the day after the Under Armour Vertical Challenge in Killington, Vermont.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 Racing Season: Under Armour Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT, August, 19, 2017

The main slope to the top follows on the left-hand side along the gondola track to the top of Killington.

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Under Armour Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT, as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews. 

As I have thought about this event, I realized I needed to break it into two parts along with a bunch of pics.  So, this post is going to contain a review of the event as if you the consumer were considering paying the entry fee and going to the event.  The second part will contain my own thoughts on the race as it pertains to my personal experience.  Finally, I will close with a bunch of pictures.  Enjoy!

An interesting collection of sponsors, this grouping seems like something one would find at an extreme sports venue.

A Review of the Event:

Under Armour put together this trail running series covering three locations in 2017, including stops in Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado.  Along with their new trail running shoes selection, (one of which I will be reviewing soon), this is their attempt to break into this side of the running market.  I would have to be honest and say, however, that I had not heard of the series at all until mid-July.  After I was able to get the time off and started to train for the event, I began hearing about it all over the place on social media and more notably a major trail running podcast that I listen to frequently.  

Their website,, while helpful to some degree, did not have all the information I had hoped to find and often left me feeling frustrated and having to go to social media or my contact to find out what I needed to know.  At one point, I had read 3 different start times for my event and did not know for sure the true time of the event until 24 hours before when I checked into the race at Friday's packet pickup.  (I also talked to another racer who had the same experience.)

Speaking of packet pickup, this was fairly easy to find and go through on Friday afternoon. The staff was fairly knowledgeable and pointed me to another person when I had specific questions about the course itself.

The main ski lodge where packet pickup was hosted and which served as the background to the food, retail, and service vendors who set up outside.

The series hosted 7 events over the course of Saturday and Sunday, including the 50K, Marathon, Marathon Relay, Half Marathon, Vertical Challenge, 10K, and 5K.  Each had significant elevation change and while there were several first-time racers, (at least by a number of people who raised their hands when we watched the half marathon go off), these were not races to be taken light-heartedly.  In terms of coming to iconic, beautifully scenic but tough areas to race, Under Armour hit the nail on the head with these courses.

Under Armour also had made some great deals with Killington Mountain Resort for places to stay as well as deals for some of their summer activities.  We took advantage of some of these and ended up in a place to stay just 15 minutes from the mountain and about the same to nearby Rutland, which was the perfect middle ground.

During the weekend there were a few vendor offering services to the athletes including a Fleet Feet store from my own area of Rochester, NY, as well as tents demoing the Under Armour line of trail shoes, Gore-tex products, and services to help runners recover like massage.

Swag included a nice Under Armour 1/4 zip as well as a large finishers medal, (seen below) and several coupons for local places as well as some samples including some awesome BBQ Chicken Sticks that I enjoyed yesterday at work! 

The finisher's medal along with a beer and gear sit next to me as I relax on the deck and stare up at the Killington Mountain after taming the Beast of the East.

In addition, after completing the race, up at the top of Killington, the emcee gave away several pieces of Under Armour clothing including hats, socks, and hair bands.  They were even nice enough to give my son a hat as he really wanted one and then wore it almost constantly anywhere we went the rest of the weekend.

A boy in his hat riding down the gondola.

The race itself, (I did just the Vertical Challenge late Saturday afternoon), went off promptly and without a hitch.  The course was marked well with lots of staff around to make sure people were okay.  They had even had even hauled up some snacks for us after we finished separate from what was down below for the racers from earlier in the day.  

Overall, I would have to say that Under Armour did a solid job of putting the weekend together.  The main changes I would make if I were them for the future, would be more publicity and much earlier on in the year, as well as a much more functional and information loaded website.  While it did not matter for my event, I would also consider a meal option at least for the longer events on the first day of the weekend.

A view of the course from the ski gondola.  That's steep!

My Event or How This Race Scared Me and Threw the Switch Back On:

I dropped 7 pounds in 3-3 1/2 weeks through changing my eating habits back to more what they were like 2 years ago, ran on some of my favorite trails seeking as much elevation gain as I could, and even trained with poles on (road) hills just to get used to using them again for this race.  I ran numbers through my calculator and looked back to all my major trail and mountain races that had significant elevation gain, in order to compare them against what I was looking at for just 1.25 miles: 1500 feet of elevation gain with a steepness grade as high as 58.5% percent for part of Killington Mountain.

I was prepared to take anywhere from 40-75 minutes and even come in last if need be, but I had decided, short of a heart attack, I was finishing this race.  I have run just about every major race distance from the mile to 50K, so the distance was not the issue.  I have run races with more elevation gain and at altitude.  But, I have never run a Vertical Challenge, which in this case was really a Vertical Kilometer over about a 2 kilometer distance.  Races like this are pretty popular over in Europe, and are starting to pop up more and more in the states, but they certainly are not for the faint of heart.  

Lining up for the start!

After I signed up, I wondered if I was one of those faint of heart.  While 2 years ago I raced some pretty challenging events in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, and then later PRed in Wisconsin at a 50K, we had since moved as a family, my healthy eating habits had basically all but disappeared, and my training was barely netting me 15-20 miles a week.  I had been struggling with a case of PF that was close to finally being healed, felt fat, exhausted much of the time, and had ("have" as of writing this), a half marathon on local trails the next weekend.  Was this a good idea?

YES!!!  This may sound crazy to some, but here's what I believe: I believe God used this race to kick me in the butt and get me out of my funk and back into feeling confident again as a trail runner.  Sometimes there's nothing like having an uncomfortable challenge looming directly ahead to shake us to the core and get us reset in life.

The little orange speck just under the gondola line on the rhs of the pic is me!

The Under Armour Vertical Challenge was that for me.  As the event drew nearer that afternoon, I ran into a man a little older than me named Mitch.  He was from the area and trains on the mountain.  He told me the time he thought it would take him, how far you could "run" until you would need to start hiking, and how he thought the final part of the course would end.  He later introduced me to Lee, a little older than both of us, and the only other person than myself to use poles.  She told me her plan, how she'd use her poles the whole way, never stop once but just keep pushing, and about how long she thought it would take her as well.  These were the local, more experienced, elders of the mountain, and I appreciated their wisdom and friendship.  

They both were also pretty much rock solid in what they told me, except they were both faster than they thought they'd be...but that was okay...because so was I!  

The race started on a bit of service road without too much of a grade but then headed into the woods and onto the trail paralleling the gondola line.  While the first stretch wasn't too steep as we stayed within a denser stretch of forest, the more the ski slope opened up and widened, so the trail got steeper.  Soon I was breathing hard enough that as I passed people they looked at me funny, but onward and upward.  

This was the first race that I set my watch to mainly track the elevation gain versus distance and/or time.  I knew I had to get from 2500ft to 4000ft in order to finish.  The first few hundred feet were not too bad, but as I noted above, as the ascent got higher, the grade got steeper. Soon I was stopping every 50-100 feet for a quick breather instead of every 100ft or more, and I wasn't the only one.  However, I was also crushing my best-estimated guess of a finish time, so things were going well.  

Atop Killington and waiting for more finishers at the Vertical Challenge.

As I got closer to the top, I crossed over a service road and could see the headwall to the lodge atop the mountain, but knew we would not be doing that part as it was too steep!  It was shortly after this point that the trail turned to the right and the grade dropped off significantly.  After running through a little stretch, I thought I started to hear something, but figured it was coming from above me and that I still had about a 1/10 of a mile to go---when I came around the bend and there was the finish line about 100 yards away!  I took my poles up and ran as best I could and crossed the line!  I not only beat 40 minutes, I came under 32! My final time was 31:45 and I came in 26th out of 41.  Mitch was 12th, Lee was 20th.  Those of us my age or older beat out a number of younger people!  

After the awards, my wife and son and I walked up to the lodge atop the mountain for the gondola ride down.  We must have looked an interesting group of people as we trail runners passed by several people in their best dress coming to the top of the mountain for a wedding! 

It must have been one scenic wedding!
The ride down on the gondola and then back to the hotel as well as driving around the rest of the was all afterglow...I had done it.  There were no tears like at the end of my first 50K...just a realization...I can get back to where I was and do even more crazy races if I trust God and am willing to really commit to my training.  

Thanks to Under Armour and BibRave for letting me participate!  It was a great weekend and both before and after the race, we got to enjoy some of the resort's amenities as well as the local vibe in and around Killington and Rutland, VT.  If they have this race again next year, I would mark it down whatever distance you want to go for and then commit yourself.  I did, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Enjoy!!!

Additional Pics:

Packing and taking a variety of shoes to choose from for the race.

Looking the opposite direction of the mountain.

One of the fun amenities at Killington includes an alpine roller coaster!

Other amenities include a maze, ropes course, playground, alpine slide, zipline, mountain bike trails, and more!

Runners getting ready for the start of the half marathon.

The vertical challenge map.

Ready to start.

After the finish. Glad I brought poles.

I needed to finish with family at the top!

Snacks at the top.

More finishers coming!

Self explanatory.

My first beer in 2 weeks went down fast afterwards and tasted great!

This was great, great, wood-fired pizza with an awesome selection of beers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 Racing Season: Preparations for the Under Armour Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT

The saddle between Sacajawea and Hardscrabble Peaks outside Bozeman, MT.

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Under Armour Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT, as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews. 

It's been a while since I have been scared of a race.  We all have various levels of anxiety as a race approaches, but only every so often, (if we are honest), are we actually scared. Now, I'm not crying myself to sleep or biting my nails, nothing like that.  But, running, or more likely, hiking up Killington Mountain, gaining 1500+ feet in 1.25 miles, has me...concerned.  As many of you know, I've not had the best running since we have moved to New York and I changed careers.  I probably haven't had a run longer than 13.5 miles since 2015.  A good week for me right now is 15-20 miles a week.  

So, signing up for a Vertical K Challenge on August 19 right before I have a 1/2 marathon on August 26 sometimes makes me wonder if this was a good idea.  But, while a bit has also made me...healthier?

Yup...I've dropped 6 lbs since I signed up.  I have reduced my white sugar and white flour intake.  I haven't had any soda or alcohol in over 10 days.  I am really working on making my hips more flexible and working out my PF.  

Back in July of 2015, a few days after racing the Bangtail Divide 38K, I hiked up Sacajawea Peak with my two oldest boys, (Sacajawea Peak Trail Review), which gains 2000 ft in less than 2.5 miles.  Though I am two years older and not in quite as good of shape as that month we spent in Montana, I am also not coming off a 24 mile mountain trail race at elevation.  

Sacajawea has some steep spots too as it climbed up to 9700 feet.

So, I am seeking to get myself rested, healthy, and hydrated over the next few days as I prep for the UA Mountain Running Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT and keep repeating to myself a favorite verse that Paul wrote long ago to the church in Philippi, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Product Review: OOFOS Ooahh Sport Slide Sandal (Black)

My OOFOS Sport Slides have become my go to shoe at home after work and/or running.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of OOFOS Sport Slides to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

As many of you know, several changes have happened in my life in the last 18 months.  As part of that, my running has decreased, time on my feet due to a different career has increased, and I have been battling a case of Plantar Fasciitis for quite a while now.  Several things help, but it is still an ongoing issue.  Enter recently, the OOFOS Sport Slides.

One of the problems in dealing with PF is that you need time off your feet, especially certain pressure points, to let you foot heal.  That's hard to do when you are working retail and still trying to run enough that you can at least finish a up to a half marathon a few times a year. OOFOS are made to help relieve some of these pressure points.  

OOFOS are active recovery for your feet.  Instead of traditional shoe foams which make you rebound to propel you forward, the foam in OOFOS does the opposite and absorbs 37% of the shock taken with each step in order to give your feet some relief.  Basically, and I would agree with this from my own personal experience, they are allowing your feet to get the relief and recovery they need after hard running workouts, or even a hard day on the job. While the relief starts at the foot, don't forget that that then impacts leg joints, knees, hips, and lower back.  

OOFOS Sandals are so light that they float!

I have never been a big flip-flop sandal person, one reason being that there is simply no arch in many sandals.  OOFOS addresses this with a built up arch.  That helps your foot move more naturally while again taking pressure off the feet, legs, lower back as just noted.

I have been wearing these almost all the time when I have been home lately and can say that I think that they are helping my foot recover.  They are lightweight, moisture resistant---aka---no water/bacteria can get in the closed cell foam, yet also machine washable.  (My feet don't seem to sweat in them either.)

You may be wondering how durable the shoe is?  Typical shoe life is 6 months to 1 year depending upon a few variables of the wearer like amount of wear, body type, foot strike. According to the company, the bottoms will wear out before the foam is condensed.

The OOFOS Sport Slides are biomechanically designed to flex with your feet and the ground.

The OOFOS Ooahh Sports Slides run around $60 on their website, That price seems fair for the amount of relief and recovery that they provide.  While they are not the only answer to the issues I am dealing with, they are helping a lot, and compared to a acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage session, seem like a good investment long term.  

Many of us who work on our feet a lot in various service industries will spend big money on quality shoes for use during the work day.  These are your recovery shoes for at home and kicking around after your runs and long work days.  I would encourage you to pick up a pair if you have any issues with your feet, lower back, or knees.  Enjoy!!!

Wore my OOFOS driving home after a 9 mile 1460 foot elevation change trail run just the other day!!!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

2017 Racing Season: Preview Under Armour Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT

The map for the Vertical K Challenge in Killington, VT. Courtesy of

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Under Armour Vertical Challenge, Killington, VT, as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews. 

As part of being a Pro, I have been waiting for a more local trail race that I can partake in to represent our great organization, and recently that came true.  The race is part of a 3 race series sponsored by Under Armour and takes place in Killington, VT, about 5 hours from where I live.  But, while I am excited to go to Vermont and do my first race there, I had a few concerns as I looked to decide upon which event(s) I would participate in at this beast of a race.

First, I had to get the time off.  This looked like it was going to be pretty slim, but as I just came off 8 days in a row, I think my boss had pity upon me and when I asked and told her what I was looking to do, she came back that it just might work out.  Praise God and thank you to my boss!

Second, I have a half marathon on the trails nearby here in Western New York the week after Vermont, and I want to be able to come back from Vermont and still race here in what is my favorite park to run in with lots of excellent trails.

Third, this meant that I needed to think about what event to do in Vermont, especially as I still have a case of PF.  The events on tap: 50K, Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 10K, 5K, Vertical Challenge.  All of the events have significant gain according to the site, with the two shortest events on Sunday morning, right before I would have to leave to come back. My contact said the initial possibilities were actually the 10K, 5K or Half.  I really wanted to do the Vertical Challenge, (and initially) maybe one of the shorter events on Sunday.  The more I thought about it though, racing a second time on Sunday right before going home and then a half the next weekend with all that gain, looked a bit too much.  I was finally given the go ahead to do the vertical challenge, so that is what I signed up for the other night.

YIKES!!!  Can you say 1507 ft of elevation gain in 1.25 miles. Am I insane!?!  I went out today to train in the park in which the half the following weekend is being held and ran 9 miles with 1460 ft of change, (728+/732-) and definitely felt that!!!  

I will definitely be quoting Philippians 4:13 to myself a lot over the next couple of weeks and looking to God for major strength!!!  (That verse reads: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me.)

Training today in Mendon Ponds and looking to get as much gain as I could training for the Vertical K in just over 2 weeks.

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