Why HOKA with Tony Kanaan

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Why HOKA?

My name is Tony Kanaan and I’m a professional race car driver. I’m 45 years old and I’ve been racing since I was eight. Yes, eight. I started in go-karts because my dad was a huge auto racing fan and got me into it when I was little. Watching races together was “our thing.” One day he took me to watch a race at the track and I was immediately hooked… Before we left the race track I heard the magic words from him: “Hey Tony, would you like to try racing go-karts?” Well, we went straight from there to the go-kart factory! But, what does this have to do with running? We’re getting there…

When I first got into a go-kart, I was tiny. Like, tiny even for my age, tiny. Since I needed to build strength and conditioning, but at eight you can’t really go to a gym, my dad put me in swimming lessons, had me running and riding my bike. I started racing and was actually pretty decent at it, so I would spend a lot of time at the track. If I wasn’t in school or at the race track, I was exercising. As I was growing up, I was also moving up in racing. Unfortunately, dad passed when I was just 13 after battling cancer for a few years. Just before he left us, he asked that I never quit chasing my dreams, always help my mom and sister and never, ever quit racing. Pretty tall ask for a 13-year old that was losing his dad, best friend and biggest supporter.

Life went on and I kept the promises I made to dad. I didn’t quit racing and in order to keep myself in good physical shape, I was always working out. Working out became part of me, part of my daily routine (some might even say that if I don’t work out I get cranky…). Fast forward to many years later, a good friend and coach approached me one day and gave me a suggestion: “Hey TK, you swim, you bike and you run. You should get into triathlons.” That was a pretty easy sell and shortly after that I was dipping my toes in my first ever tri experience, a 70.3 distance race.

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Triathlon became a passion of mine and even having a busy travel schedule because of my job, I always found time to train for a 70.3 or a sprint triathlon. By the end of 2010 I went to the 70.3 Worlds in Clearwater, FL and got connected with the folks at IRONMAN. That led to an invitation to do Kona in 2011, which was something totally out of my comfort zone, but I couldn’t pass on that opportunity! I trained for Kona as much as I could during the INDYCAR season. The Kona event would take place between two INDYCAR races, so I needed to make sure I was not draining myself too much in order to perform at a top level while having to drive at 230 miles per hour one week after doing Kona. Everything turned out well. I raced Kona at my pace and got back to my day job the next week.

After the Kona experience I continued with my workout routine and doing my 70.3s here and there, but suddenly I hit a roadblock with shin splints. It got to a point that I wasn’t enjoying running anymore and it became something that really bothered me. My tri coach told me that there was this new shoe company on the market with an innovative product and that I should give it a try. He sent me a picture of a HOKA Clifton. I didn’t know what to think about it when I first saw it, but if it was supposed to get me back into running, I was sure going to try it. I placed the order online and after my first run with the Clifton I couldn’t believe how much easier running became to me. I slowly started running again, getting back into it, building confidence and in no time my pain was gone. Not just gone, but I was running better than I ran before I had any pain. Those Cliftons got me back to running, back to enjoying running. And that’s my “why HOKA” story. Pretty simple: HOKA got me back to running and made me a better runner at that. What’s not to like about it?

Tony Kanaan is wearing the new IRONMAN Kona Carbon X

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Hannah Halvorsen’s Return to Ski

Hannah Halvorsen has been a member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski team since 2016. After growing up in Truckee, California, she moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 2017 to become a full-time college student and member of the elite team at Alaska Pacific University. She was a sprint finalist at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and a member of the first relay team to win a medal at Junior World Championships in Park City, Utah. In November of 2019, Hannah was hit by a car while crossing the street. After missing the 2019/20 race season, she is making her way her way back to the world stage with a long year of recovery and learning invaluable lessons about patience and gratitude.

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I am a 22-year-old professional cross country ski racer who has been on skis since I could walk. I was born and raised in Truckee, California, which has sunshine and mountains and a large community of active people who take advantage of it. My family was part of this culture, and my five younger siblings and I grew up playing all kinds of outdoor sports. The one I connected most with was cross country skiing. Throughout middle and high school my goals in skiing grew with me because I loved the way it challenged me. To compliment my ski racing and change up my training I ran cross country in the fall and did triathlons in the summer. This gave me another way to be a part of the endurance community and enjoy the trails, lakes, and mountains.

After graduating high school in 2016 from Sugar Bowl Academy, I wanted to continue pursuing my Olympic dreams, so I moved to Anchorage, Alaska to join Alaska Pacific University, which has one of the best elite teams in the country. At the same time, I have had the opportunity to pursue a double major in Psychology and Business. Since moving to Anchorage, I stopped competing in triathlons and running races in order to focus on training for skiing full time. In the summer and fall we dryland train with a mix of roller skiing, running, and strength. In the winter we race throughout America and Europe. It has given me a sense of purpose to apply myself to the challenge of becoming the best ski racer I can, and I have made steady progress with my results each year. In my most recent ski season (2018/19) I raced my first world cups, which is the highest level of the sport.

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At the start of November 2019, everything was heading in the right direction. I was in the best shape of my life and I was excited for the chance to put another year of hard work to the test. I was three weeks away from getting on a plane for the 2019/20 race season when my whole life went on pause. I was crossing a street when a car that didn’t see me turned left and hit me head on. After being knocked unconscious, I was rushed to the ER, where they found I had suffered a skull fracture, bleeding and bruising in my brain, a tibial fracture, and my left MCL and PCL were torn completely detached from the bone. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be racing in the 2019/20 ski season.

For the first ten days after the accident, I slept 18-22hrs a day due to the concussion. I then flew to Vail, CO to have my knee looked at by the specialists at the Steadman Clinic. When the knee surgeon, Dr. Hackett, examined my knee he knew immediately I needed surgery, and I was scheduled for later that week. However, the night before I was supposed to have surgery, a brain trauma specialist called and told me he had delayed my operation after looking at my brain scans. He said there was still severe bleeding in my brain, and he didn’t think it was safe for me to be put under anesthesia. I ended up having to wait five weeks for the significant bleeding spots to drain so that I could more safely have my knee reconstructed. Today, this doesn’t seem like a significant amount of time to wait for such a life-threatening reason but at that time it made the challenges I was up against feel bigger. I am used to progress, even when things are hard, and although my brain was healing, my knee was on hold until I had the ligaments fixed. This made me feel like I was spending my days in pain without the consolation that my knee was getting better.

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However, once I had the surgery, it felt like things were moving in the right direction, and I clicked into the rehab protocol the same way I would a training plan. Similar to training for ski racing, it progressed one step on top of the other. This motivated me to work hard at each step, because accomplishing that would allow me to go to the next one. In May, which felt like an eternity of waiting, I was able to start running. To start running again after a knee surgery on two completely torn ligaments did not mean I was able to put my shoes on and go train how I normally do. It meant I was allowed to jog for thirty seconds, and then stop and walk for a minute, and then repeat that nine more times. So that’s a grand total of five minutes of jogging. Each week, I was able to run five more minutes. It’s in my nature as a competitive athlete to push the limits, so this cautious and slow progression challenged me to be more patient. Even though I wanted to jump out the door and run as far and as fast as I could, I was diligent with the progression because I wanted to be able to run for the rest of my life. It is an amazing way to be outside, exercise, and see beautiful places that you can’t get to almost any other way. And by not being able to run for half a year, I realized how important it is to me. One thing this healing process has taught me is that when something is taken, and you have to work months to get it back, you see how special it really is.

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I decided I wanted to get shoes that would best support this goal as well, so I chose HOKA’s Clifton Edge and EVO Jawz. I have been impressed with how well they balance responsiveness, stability, and support, which are all things I take into extra consideration as I make my way back to full time training. I feel stable and balanced in my HOKAs while at the same time minimize the pounding on my healing knee. At this point, I can run for two hours, and have even done track intervals!

Now when I run, I am more present and aware of the joy it brings to my life. Good health is something I took for granted until I didn’t have it for many long painful months. While sitting out for a race season, I have had time to recognize how fortunate I have been in my ski career. I haven’t experienced much injury, sickness, or setback, and it took a big one for me to realize how fortunate that is. I have also realized how much support I have. The community of endurance sports that welcomed me in and believed in me when I first started ski racing didn’t hesitate to extend the same support to me when I needed it most.

If there’s one lesson that will forever be in my heart, it’s that I have not overcome this obstacle alone. I now make more cognizant choices to take care of my health that I have worked so hard to regain. Every day I have this realization that I am still alive and that I have no permanent injuries. I didn’t race this season, but it still feels like I accomplished some huge goals. I can run and ski again, and that means more to me than a lot of my best race results. I am a few months away from heading into the 2020/21 ski season and I have a new motivation and fight for the sport. I am grateful for the opportunity to be outside, challenge myself, and share my life with others. I head back into ski racing with big goals. The next winter Olympics is less than a year and a half away, and I believe I can make it there.

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“Stringing Hundreds” with Patrick Reagan

Patrick Reagan has been steadily climbing the ultrarunning ranks since he jumped into the sport in 2015, and there’s no end in sight. Perhaps more impressive than his finishes at top ultra races, though, are the sheer number of races Patrick enters. We asked Patrick to walk us through his 2019 racing calendar, which saw four 100K or 100-mile races, and how he balances training, choosing his races, and more.

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Finding ultrarunning changed my life in the most positive fashion possible. In 2013, I was working full time as a head cross country coach at a university in Savannah, GA. My motivation to train was coming back, like a fire burning hot again off embers that never quite cooled from my collegiate running days. I started to experiment with running 5K-10K races again, having some success which lit the fire for me to run my first half marathon in 2014 and my first marathon in 2015. In the summer of 2015, ultrarunning found me.

In 2015-16, I began exploring my limitations by training on trails for distances of up to 35 miles. I began exploring my local region in Savannah – primarily on roads and trails in Chattanooga and Asheville. After experimenting with the 50K distance in 2015, I became curious about the 100K, racing both the USATF 100K Road Championships, the Ultravasan 90K, and the IAU 100K World Championships in 2016. The IAU 100K WC was my first race in a Team USA singlet and I was fortunate to finish on the podium in 3rd place. This was a big turning point in my career. Four weeks later, I signed my first professional running contract with HOKA ONE ONE.

In February of 2019, I decided to leave my full-time job as a collegiate cross country and track/field coach to concentrate on my running career. The year in sum was chalked full of transition and adaptation. When reflecting on the year, I think of it as a season of “Stringing Hundreds.”

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. . .

Typical training weeks for me are between 85-110 miles which include two days of strides and two long runs per week. Each week I typically engage in three days of core strength training, two days of weight vest strength training, and five to seven days of Phil Wharton’s activated isolated stretching program. Key workouts include 6-12 mile tempo runs, 1K/1 mile interval training at half marathon pace, and 2-3 mile intervals at marathon to 50K pace. Strength training (both core and weight vest) has become much more important for me as I’ve transitioned to 100 mile races. The quadriceps strength required to run Western States in particular has been the main catalyst for my coaches (Magda Boulet and Roxanne Vogel) to provide more strength training work. To enhance core and leg muscle strength, I walk my dogs for 2-3 miles a day while wearing a 20 lb weight vest.

When designing a yearly racing schedule, I pick 3-4 “A” races that are emotionally important while picking other events in the build to these where I can test my fitness and enjoy a new event on somewhat tired legs. Both Project Carbon X 100K and my first Western States 100 were slated to be my “A” races for the first half of 2019. In the sunset of the year, I planned an ambitious double of Javelina Jundred and the USATF 100 mile National Trail Championships (Brazos Bend 100). The gap between Javelina and Brazos was only a six week spread.

My year began with a win at the Daufuskie Island 40 mile Ultramarathon hosted by Rough Runners in January on one of our beautiful coastal islands in my region. Running in the southeast is quite different from the mountainous trails out west, yet showcase beauty in an entirely different way. The dirt roads around the island and beachfront running is a great winter escape for any runner from outside of our region. I set a new course record at the event racing to a 4:21.36 finish on the 39.3 mile course.

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In the build to Western States 100, I decided to take two trips to California to specifically prepare for the course. Living in the coastal southeast is limiting from a vertical ascent/descent perspective; thus, I decided to race the Way Too Cool 50K in March followed by an extended weekend of training on the Western States Course. The plan also included the Western States 100 training camp in late May. I’d recommend the Western States training camp to any runner preparing for the Western States 100. It’s open to competitors in the current Western States and anyone that would like to experience the last 30 miles of the historic race over the course of three days.

Midway through the build to Western States was my first “A” race of the year: the HOKA ONE ONE Project Carbon X 100K. Eight athletes competed in Sacramento, CA to test the limits on both the 50 mile and 100K world records. Sage Canaday and Kris Brown paced me through the 50K mark in 3:09, directly on pace to achieve my goal on 6:20 for the 100K distance. Through 40 miles, Kris brought me through in under American Record pace, but I hemorrhaged some time on my way to the 50 mile mark, crossing in 5:08.21. Finishing second overall, I finished in 6:33.50 for the 100K. My time held up as the fastest 100K by an American in 2019 and the 6th fastest all-time by a North American.

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My first Western States was 8 weeks to the day away from the finish of the race; thus, I had to prioritize recovery and rest. Following ultras, I take one day off for every 10 miles raced to focus on my other hobbies which include playing music, reading, and playing Magic: The Gathering. Recovery went smoothly and I was able to get back to training right on schedule.

The Western States experience is very unique. I was fortunate to be selected with an at-large bid by the Ultra Trail World Tour to compete in 2019; thus, I wanted to prove I belonged in the race by running patiently and finishing strong. The high country was quite snowy, but the weather started heating up as we entered the three canyons within the course that lead to Forest Hill, CA (the 100K mark). At Devil’s Thumb, I found myself in 22nd place and crept into the top 15 by the time we hit Foresthill. At the River (80 miles), I moved into 12th place and by the Highway 49 crossing (Mile 93), I saw Kyle Pietari who was the 10th place male at the time. From Pointed Rocks (Mile 94) to the finish, I ran the fastest split ever recorded to finish in 8th place and earned my spot in the 2020 edition of Western States.

Between Western States and Javelina Jundred (my next A Race), I had a significant amount of time to rest and prepare for the next training block. I took two weeks off from running in July and kept the training leading into August casual. In August, I ran both the Transrockies 6 Day Race with Camelia Mayfield to win our classification and finished 16th at OCC 56K in Chamonix, France.

In 2017 and 2018, I won the Javelina Jundred and wanted to repeat for a third victory in 2019 with intent to break the course record I set in 2017. I ran the first loop slower than the first two years, maintaining a more controlled effort that would allow me to even split the race. Loops two and three put me in a solid position to take a run for the course record. I finished first in 13:11.48, just ten minutes off the course record. Following the event, I had 6 weeks to the day until the start of the USATF 100 Mile National Trail Championships. This would be the most challenging double of my career. I stuck to my initial plan of taking off ten days following Javelina Jundred and resumed light training on day 11.

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The training block between Javelina Jundred and Brazos Bend was primarily focused on strength work, mobility, and lower mileage. I didn’t exceed 70 miles per week in my training and my longest run between the two events was 18 miles. On race day, I lined up feeling fresh and confident in my experience in the 100 mile discipline. The event went out fast, passing through the 50 mile mark in 5:57 in 2nd place. At the 100K mark, I took the lead and began to distance myself around the 75 mile mark. At this point, the fastest 100 mile race was the 2017 Javelina Jundred in 13:01. By the 90 mile mark, I’d distanced myself from the field and was chasing the clock. I won my first USATF National Championship with a mark of 12:11.43 and a new course record.

The body of work in 2019 earned me a 4th Place finish in Ultrarunning Magazine’s Ultra Runner of the Year voting. The year was all about pivoting, challenging my own limitations, and being confident in the training heading into competitions. This won’t be a year I forget anytime soon.

Patrick Reagan is a professional ultrarunner at HOKA ONE ONE and GU Energy Labs. He is the owner of Patrick Reagan Running Coaching Services in Savannah, GA and co-host of Tortoise and the Hare Podcast.

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Tara Warren’s Wind River High Route FKT Attempt

Tara Warren has been a HOKA Flyer since 2015, but has been running trail ultras for much longer. With a lack of races on the calendar, though, Tara decided to make lemonade out of lemons and attempt a bucket list item befitting of a decorated ultrarunner: the Wind River High Route Fastest Known Time (FKT). We asked Tara to describe, in her own words, what brought her to this FKT, the literal and figurative highs and lows of this spectacular route, and the importance of celebrating small successes amidst disappointment.

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The buzzing and flashing lights on my alarm shocked us out of our sleeping bags at 1:30am. Delusional from the early hour, it only took a few seconds to realize where I was and remember what I was doing here, what was about to take place. My husband, Bryce and I were dropped off just hours earlier at the Trail Lakes trailhead outside of Dubois, WY, for me to make an attempt at the Wind River High Route (WRHR) “supported” FKT.

The WRHR in Wyoming covers close to 100 miles with over 30,000′ in elevation gains. It’s been said that it’s the finest non-technical Alpine route in North America, as it stays close to the crest of the Continental Divide in one of the most rugged and glaciated mountain ranges in the lower 48. The route is thrilling, the scenery spectacular and 65% of the trail in’t even on trail – ZERO trail. It’s as extreme and exposed as you can imagine, and then add some. The journey takes you between 10,000 and 12,000 feet and in a north/south traverse attempt and is bookended by Downs Mountain and Wind River Peak which are both above 13k. This route also takes you up and over Europe Peak (another 13k) to complete the trifecta. Clearly this wilderness is bear country; however, it may as well be deemed as mosquito country.

My goal was to finish the route in under three days – 72 hours. Although I was going for distance and going for speed, in the research done with most other attempts, it seemed that fast packing with shelter and extra supplies made the most logical sense in order to move confidently through the glacier wilderness. Even though I was in the best hands possible with Bryce at my side, with this type of isolated adventure, we wanted to be prepared for anything and not get the helicopter ride out. We would rest/sleep when we needed to, and push though the nights until we could go no more.

We started looking into doing this FKT attempt last winter after reading about the successful attempt by Sara Aranda and Emma Mure. This range drew us in because of its remoteness, technicality and unbelievable beauty. The calendar started to fill up with races (for both of us) and other family activities, and the window to explore the Winds is really short and with that, still sketchy or potentially problematic with the warm days, cold nights in the northern glacier region. We just didn’t think timing would work do try it this year. Then came COVID-19 and races disappeared. We decided to give it another look and see if we could pull it off. Bryce and I have two sweet and crazy boys – 12 and 9 years old. Most people would get away for a beach vacation with their partners when given a 5 day break, but we decided to tackle the WRHR on the first full moon in August. Although I have eleven 100 mile finishes to date, all pretty mountainous, rugged courses ranging from Ouray to UTMB and Bighorn, this WRHR attempt would be something bigger, scarier and more extreme than anything I had ever done.

Traveling light would be the key. I kept my gear pretty simple. Starting with shoes: I brought my trusty HOKA Mafate Speed 2s. The yellow and blue actually matched so much of the glacier lichen attached to the high altitude granite slabs we bounced over for hours. I’ve trusted this particular shoe for years now in pretty rugged all-season terrain and races. The Vibram soles with lugs that grip terrain like a superhero would definitely be the most important part of my kit for this attempt. I’ve worked with HOKA ONE ONE for over 5 years now as a HOKA Flyer and appreciate the level of detail and support they provide to their athletes in their personal endeavors – including this one!

. . . . . . . .

After that early alarm, it didn’t take too long for us to pack up our camp, get our packs loaded together and head towards the trailhead. The anticipation of adventure was flowing and even though I couldn’t get my pack lighter than 18lbs, it seemed light as a feather, sort of, as we marched through the dusty camping area to get started.

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Day One:
2:18am – WRHR Start
We went at n easy pace ascending the first 8 miles / 2500′ up the trail towards Downs Mountain. Although we were traveling by headlamp and couldn’t see into the deeps, the smell of the pines as we continued to climb was so good. Then it was about there where the foot path ended and we began following the little blue line downloaded on my Suunto 9. We were making great time and were right where we wanted to be through Goat Flats for the sunrise. The sky lit up the glacier cut canyons with pinks, blues and oranges like a snow cone. I had never seen anything like it before. As I took it all in, the enormity of the space, I’ll be honest and say that a twinge of trepidation gave me goosebumps as I could now clearly see the mountain range carved along the sky.

10:36am Downs Mountain Peak (Mile 15ish)
We hit the summit and realized – psych – the summit was still a few hundred feet away. I dropped my sweaty pack on the scree and felt like a rockstar maneuvering through the parking lot of boulders to the top 18lbs lighter. At 13,335′, Downs is a giant lump of scree that survived the last ice age and the area is also the home of six glaciers and several permanent snowfields. Snow gear wasn’t needed to get to the top, but for me, tons of patience was necessary. For reference, jumping the boulders going 724 feet up to above 13k took me 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was tough. We paused to have a few snacks and glory in the views of this beauty, we had already gotten a few hours behind. It wasn’t spoken, but my agility in boulder hopping wasn’t as speedy as I had hoped it would be.

With every foot placement, so many questions had to be answered all at once… how am I landing my foot? Is it stable? What’s below this? Is that gonna move? Where do I go next? Which way is the rock shifting? Am I balancing my pack? Am I on the trail? Where did Bryce go? But we press on.

We knew would be slow going, but this pace was definitely messing with my mind.

1:15pm
I’m crossing my first snow patch and can see the gorgeous Connie Glacier in the distance. These stretches in the snow were just fine for me. Living through the generous northern Utah winters has helped me cruise around the white stuff just fine. The HOKA Mafates set up nicely with the little bit of slushy parts keeping my feet pretty dry unless I’d bend an ankle on a suncup. We would go between scree fields and suncups through these miles. Although I was watching my footing, it was hard to not gawk at Yukon and Klondike Peaks against the dark blue sky with their bright spikes lit up from the summer sunshine.

I am so grateful for Bryce. He was literally in heaven cruising around this terrain like no big deal. My slow-ness didn’t seem to bother him and we were trying really hard to work together with our navigation. Meaning: I had the Gaia and the Suunto, he had his wolf-like instincts. Sometimes I had to gently rein him in where other times his logic would create perhaps a better way than imagines. We took a break in one of the most picturesque settings imaginable. Try navigating the wilderness with your partner sometime – that could go either way and lucky for us, it was going pretty good.

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2:30pm
When we came around and dropped into the Sourdough Glacier and Baker Lake area, I felt my life was complete. It was like each bend we’d come around something else specular. This was intense beauty and calm. There was a really positive energy here that came out through the light blue-green colors of Baker and Iceberg Lakes, the millions of micro wildflowers under our feet and also the sheer magnitude of Sourdough Glacier. This was a good place to hangout and eat for a little bit and take in the moment.

Trail math is hard. We had been up now for about 12ish hours. Stopping here, we were at 19 miles. That meant the last 10 miles we did took about 10 hours. That was not good news. Our “A” goal was to get past Alpine Lakes for a snooze so that we weren’t hitting the steep sunups that would maybe ice-up first thing in the morning. That goal was gonzo. “B” goal was to make it past Blaurock Pass. While we feasted by Baker Lake we discussed the harsh reality about the pace, lack of daylight and goals. If we really pushed until dark, we could possibly still make our “B” goal.

With no distractions except the beauty of where we were sitting, it was amazing to just feel so peaceful in this special place. As a couple, we don’t have the option for trips like this too often. When we are training, we usually train separately as a means of a release from kids or work. We don’t have access to grandparents or a ton of family that would take our kids for weekends and such. Most of our getaways over the past few years, although wonderful, have been race-related. So this time in the Winds was extra special. There was definitely a clock in mind, but soaking this time up together became pretty sweet.

Newly hydrated and tummies filled, I realized a few rookie mistakes. First, I was sporting a really bad sunburn on my legs already. Bad meaning lobster with a shorts line that looked like I had put a tourniquet on each leg. Uh-oh. Traveling for hours in the sun above 12k had really left its mark. I had plastered sunscreen on my face and neck, but never thought about my legs. They were even sizzling to the touch. I applied what little we had between us that could last potentially 3 more days and hoped for the best. Next, my mental occupation in boulder climbing, snow shuffling clogged my mind with eating enough that first part of the day. I was super calorie deficient and I knew better. I had to try hard and push the calories the next few hours.

3:30pm
“But, the blue line is saying we need to go HERE.” I tried being reasonable but was getting impatient.

“That’s fine, but if we go THERE, we’ll end up sliding down the entire Grasshopper Glacier into what looks like a arctic lake,” Bryce reminded me, pointing in that direction as the landscape dropped several hundred feet down the glacier slide.

“Let’s check the Gaia again. We can zoom out and check for other options where we don’t get cliffed out,” I added.

This was a constant conversation and a HUGE part of the learning curve while maneuvering off-trail. As effective as my Suunto 9 was in being a constant directive for staying on-course, we still needed to check the topo map on Gaia pretty frequently to make sure we weren’t getting ourselves in trouble. We couldn’t figure out the right way to go. Even using our foldout paper map was not helpful at all. The look Bryce had on his face really worried me and I was ready to turn around and just go back the way we came at this point rather than put ourselves in danger. Every risk taken thus far was pretty manageable, but now we were stuck and we were both a scared. Hours earlier at some point, I had some cell service. A sweet text came through from my 9 year old, “Be safe Mom and Dad.”  All I could think about at this point were my sweet boys and that we were definitely NOT being safe.

Our GPX was current, but with snowmelt and just varying conditions, stopping to check on a route we were unfamiliar with really slowed us down. And this time, it would paralyze us for two hours as we decided on a re-route up a ramp filled with purple wildflowers, backtracking near the Sourdough Glacier. It was a pretty intense discussion and decision to get to that point. I may have cried a bit as I mentally knew the FKT was probably over at this point.

5:10pm
The re-route eventually connected us back on the planned route. We were safe, but mentally spent. Bryce and I could keep hiking for days, but the altitude paired with the emotions and maybe the sunburn were starting to get the best of me. We hugged and pushed forward still chasing daylight towards our “B” goal.

Crossing the snowfields towards the Dinwoody Glacier area was pretty cool. My legs were on fire and scooping up snow really helped take away the sting. Bryce was pretty far ahead of me, although I could still see him. I checked the route on my watch and realized that we/he was WAY off route and I couldn’t yell loud enough for him to hear me. I watched intensely for any sign of him turning around so I could wave my poles around and he would stop. When I got his attention, he had already realized the same thing. He was quickly approaching the Dinwoody Glacier from above and we needed to be miles below. I began backtracking as he eventually caught up with me and we ran down the suncup field of Upper Dinwoody together.

Off of the snowfield and paused, we checked the map wanting to figure out how long it would take to Blaurock. Seemed like it would be 2.5 to 3 miles. We were traveling around 45-60 min/miles. It could possibly take 2 or 3 more hours. We were beat, super hungry (I still hadn’t been eating enough) and had the sleepies. However, we had signed up for this and knew what it would take.

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7:30pm
We pushed on across the jungle gym of more boulder hopping while the sun began to disappear behind Flagstone Peak. It was not even close to where we wanted to be – mile 24?
I was definitely enjoying myself and having an amazing time with Bryce, but was just baffled by the slowness – MY slowness. It was overwhelming to imagine not finishing, but for the first time, those ideas started popping up in my head.

We kept on moving as best as we could, but it was still a 45 min/mile pace. The drainage we were moving though at this point was amazing. Squishy tundra moss filled with water, little creek beds everywhere with minimal mosquitos. We walked and talked for a minute about just camping here for the night, but decided to move forward maybe an hour or 1/2 more.

Not even a walk 200 yards away the landscape changed and we found ourselves at the top of the decent into Dinwoody Glacier. We looked at each other, the magnitude of physicality and mental strength we’d need to get down that, and exchanged swear words. It was a lot to take in. All I kept thinking about was my James and his text, “Be safe Mom and Dad”. We decided to turn around and set up camp.

The tears started flowing for me as we got out the all gear. I felt like the worst partner. My stubbornness is super helpful in a lot of situations, but the feeling of “not cutting it” and wanting to just be done was hard. I went to start collecting the water for our stove and heard the pressurized leaking sound of maybe the gas? Something had happened to our gas stove and we lost 1/2 the fuel right off the bat. I cried some more.

The math added up to a few options which we were going to sleep on. Take the glacier trail out in the morning which we would hit directly in about 3 miles and loop us back about 20 miles to where we started. Choice 2: We could go a little further into the canyon and see how it was going, possibly make up some time or bail out at another junction with a much trickier chance of getting a ride out. Or choice 3, finish the WRHR with potentially a 4 day adventure. Lots to think about.

I started to realize that I was pretty messed up from sun exposure and not enough to eat. After throwing down about 2500 calories (yuck), I put on every piece of clothing I brought and curled up in my bag. Before going to sleep, I sent a message to our friends Gabe and Jenny Joyes (who had graciously dropped us off at the start) if there was any chance they could shuttle our truck back from the finish sort-of-not-really close to where they live in Lander, back to the Trail Lake start hours away. Turns out that they could! So, we considered that as our first option. As the night closed in.

The sky was filled with diamond-like stars that disappeared as the almost full-moon popped out into the evening. For the majority of the night I had constant shakes, convulsions or whatever. I couldn’t get warm, the sunburn was throwing off my body temperature, and I kept having nightmares that I was having heat stroke or COVID symptoms and had to be rescued out of the canyon (which I now know I was neither). I made my mind up through the shivers that I was done. The risks of staying the course for me weren’t safe anymore, and my nine year old’s voice kept reminding me of that.

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Day Two
6:30am
This was as close to a DNF as I’ve ever experienced. It hurt. I questioned the decision and weighed the options over and over and over. Although I knew that Bryce would have loved to have kept going, he was sweet and supportive entirely. He did ask me, “Are you sure?” a few times, but I’m thankful that he didn’t push it. I had the best backpacking meal of my life of grits, chives, white cheddar and ham. I wasn’t at the “no regrets” phase yet, but I could feel myself accepting the resolve of our new agenda.

Taking the Glacier Trail out would still mean 25 miles ahead. With about 4 more miles of off-trail boulder travel, the remaining bit would be on a dirt ribbon through those sweet smelling pines and eventually re-connect with the original miles we came up in the dark. We decided to divide up this last chunk of miles into two days and really enjoy our time our here together.

We held hands though giant meadows of the most intensely colored wildflowers, went though re-growth sections of forests that had burned with young life popping up though the dark charred wood, puttered alongside the magnificently ancient Dinwoody Creek that roared down the canyon and waited though a knee-deep river crossing that never seemed to end. But, it did. As all hard things do. They eventually end.

7:30pm
There was an awesome place to camp amongst the millions of mosquitos at Double Lakes. The gas even was filled enough to cook our suppers, but ran out for the next day’s breakfast. We nervously laughed about bears and slept with each of our bear sprays beside us. It was heaven.

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Day Three
9am
Just about 9 miles to go this morning to get back to our truck. Some tough uphill that felt good to push. After the climb, it was less than 8 miles mostly downhill to the trailhead. Bryce caught bug to run it out to the end. I squeaked out some 14 min/miles down the very dusty Whisky Mountain Trail that took us to the end.

1:30pm
Much to our surprise the good people that shuttled our truck back to the finish also left some perfect peaches as a treat for us. That got my juices flowing again as I thought about how many incredible people helped out on this experience. Yes, there was still a strange guilt about not finishing, but such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the wonderful people that helped put all the pieces together to make this option even possible.

Take-Aways:

  • We had too much stuff. Although we used everything we brought, I need to not be in “mom mode” and bring ALL the stuff just in case.
  • Our packs were too heavy to move quickly. See above comment.
  • Garmin InReach Mini is a killer tool. Glad we have one now. I don’t think we’d use it for the GPS or mapping, but the satellite messaging is a lifesaver.
  • Extra socks are always good.
  • Wear sunscreen. I sustained 2nd degree burns on the backs of my legs from my short lines to my calves. Yuck.
  • It was really hard to walk away and pull the plug on an adventure that was just right there in front of us, but it really was the best thing to do. How interesting it is now over a week out to see how clear the decision should have been.
  • Go without the camping gear. Take a risk and run through the night the next time.

Yes, there will be a next time. Stay tuned…

XXOO
-Tara

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” –Denis Waitley

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Other gear:

  • 40L Ultimate Direction Fastpack
  • 3 pair Injinji toe socks
  • Patagonia LS lightweight with Hoodie
  • rabbit mountain climber shorts
  • Arcteryx tank
  • UD rainpants
  • Arcteryx hooded down jacket
  • Electric sunglasses
  • 2 Hoorags (buffs)
  • Leki Micro Trail Pro Trekking Poles
  • Nukimoi Surf shop trucker
  • Lululemon sports bra
  • Hyperlite Tent and mesh lining
  • Klymit sleeping pad
  • Mountain Hardware +10* bag
  • Small ground cover
  • Suunto 9
  • iPhone
  • Ursack Minor for food protection from critters
  • MSR Pocket Rocket stove
  • One canister of fuel
  • Matches
  • Katadyn Be Free 20oz. water filter
  • UD body bottle 500ml
  • GoPro
  • Garmin InReach Mini
  • 3 Jaybird Sport wireless earbuds
  • Chapstick
  • Petzl Nao + 3 spare batteries
  • Sunscreen Stick
  • Wipes, Squirrels Nut Butter and Blister kit/bandaids
  • Power cords and batteries for GoPro, Suunto 9, phone, Jaybirds and InReach
  • Over 10k calories made up of dried meals and smoothies from
  • PackitGourmet (the grits and also the peach-passion fruit smoothies were my favs)
  • Gnarly Nutrition BCAA’s
  • 5 packs of cinnamon RunGum
  • 5 VFuel Cool Citrus gels
  • 3 GoMacro Bars Coconut and Granola
  • 3 mini chocolate bars

Chatting All Things Clifton Edge with Matt Wilpers

When you cross a 4x NCAA D1 athlete with 10+ years of coaching experience, you get one of the best Peloton coaches out there: Matt Wilpers. Matt has a wealth of experience with running and coaching, and Matt was able to sit down with HOKA triathletes Sam Holness and Sarah Crowley to chat about training, racing, and the new Clifton Edge.

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What do great athletes and great shoes have in common? Great results! As a former collegiate running, running coach for over 10 years and now a Senior Instructor at Peloton, long ago I started noticing more and more runners wearing HOKAs. Then, one of my top athletes went from being riddled with injuries to having some of the best performances of his life, simply because he started running in HOKAs. Soon afterwards, I too started running in HOKAs, achieving new successes and have never looked back.

Today I am excited to interview HOKA triathlete Sam Holness and HOKA pro triathlete Sarah Crowley about the new Clifton Edge. But before we begin, here is some background on Sam and Sarah:

  • Sam is a triathlete who happens to have Autism and is training to achieve his goal in competing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. His intention is to motivate others by showing the world that Autism is a superpower.
  • Sarah Crowley is female pro triathlete who joined the HOKA family in February 2020 and placed 3rd at the 2017 Ironman World Championships.

Matt: Sam and Sarah, first of all, it’s an honor to chat with you today. Prior to triathlons, what was your athletic background like? When did you start racing triathlons?

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Sam: Prior to triathlons I had a limited athletic background. I started swimming at 4 years old, didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 14 and joined a running club at 18. I came late to sports because there weren’t many opportunities for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to participate, and when I did, they were team sports, where my ASD made them less enjoyable. However, I soon learned that individual sports like running, swimming and cycling were more suitable for my ASD and led to my decision to become a triathlete.

My interest in sport began after I started doing Saturday morning 5k park runs, this grew into 10k races and duathlons. My interest in triathlons started in 2016 during my time at St. Mary’s University while studying for a sports science degree. The first was Dorney Lakes, at the sprint distance, since then I have completed several half-marathons and triathlons at Olympic and 70.3 IM distances. My goal is to move up to the full IM distance in 2021.

Sarah: Growing up in Australia was all about sport. I have two older brothers, so I was always included in games. At school I was involved in just about every sport from softball and badminton to Australian rules football, but I settled into swimming and running at high school.

My interest in triathlon started in 2003, from watching a local aquathon in my hometown of Adelaide, South Australia. It was an enduro format race that consisted of running and swimming. I was fascinated by the race and thought it was so exciting. I signed up for a triathlon club and was out there training the following day.

Matt: What do you find most challenging about being an athlete?

Sam: My ASD issues are mainly with communication difficulties. I didn’t start talking until I was 4 years old and still find speaking challenging sometimes. The good news is that sport has improved my ability to express myself, meet new people, travel and improve my self-confidence, and of course speaking.

I would like to see more coaches trained to work with aspiring athletes with ASD and other disabilities. I also want to see a wider diversity of triathlon participants. One way that I want to achieve this is by motivating athletes with a disability and/or from a black and other minority backgrounds to take up this wonderful sport and become great triathletes.
My journey has been made easier by my family’s involvement. My Dad coaches me, books and drives me to events, carries my bags and works with me on a daily basis on my training plans, and Mum manages my nutrition and wellbeing.

The good news is that there are some traits associated with ASD that are beneficial for athletes. For example, I am very focused and not easily distracted, I thrive on structure and doing repetitive tasks (like training) and am highly motivated. I have never missed or been late for a training session, unless I was injured. Being a triathlete is the best job ever, I love it.

Sarah: I think sacrifice is the hardest thing about being a professional athlete. Participation in high performance sport requires strong physical fitness and a healthy body. Maintaining proper nutrition, though, can undermine social activities. I sacrifice a lot across the board, but time and social activities are the hardest for me to give up. I am always declining invitations to important life events for my friends and family because of my commitment to my training schedule.

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Matt: As COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in most races for this year, how has that changed things for you? What does your training look like now?

Sam: I have missed competing and growing my medal collection during the COVID-19 lock down. Although I was unable to go swimming and to the gym for 3/4 months I wasn’t really bothered, I started indoor rowing to replace swimming, and more body resistance strength training and yoga to compensate for the gym.

A typical training week of between 15-21 hours includes 8 hours of cycling (300km), 2-3 hours swimming (10km), Indoor Rowing (40k), Running 50km-60km, including 17km Hill Reps. Friday is my rest day and I do yoga for 60 minutes each night. I also sleep for 12 hours per day (with a 3-hour siesta) so that I can recover from my morning workouts. My goal is to up my training volume and intensity in preparation for the full distance triathlons next year.

Sarah: Ordinarily we would be travelling to Europe in May and then the USA in July for my Ironman world championship preparation. This year we have had to stay local and with no races, we have adjusted my training to be more sustainable and to also have less drag on my immune system. I am lucky to live in Queensland, Australia, which has been relatively free from COVID-19 cases, so we have been able to add some variety to my training by travelling to various locations around the state. We travelled to Noosa to swim open water during the initial lock down period when pools where closed. Right now we are in full Ironman preparation for IM Cairns in September back in my home training base.

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Matt: What are your thoughts on the new Clifton Edge? How does it compare to previous HOKA’s that you have worn?

Sam: The first thing that hits you about the Clifton Edge is the large heel. Although I tend to be cautious about anything new, within 10 minutes of my first run I was impressed with the feel and was happy that my pace was not impacted. I like the style of the shoe, and a lot of runners have asked me what I thought about them. The Clifton Edge is perfect for runners that heel strike. My only suggestion to HOKA is to make a wide fitting version of this shoe.

My Carbon X and Rincon shoes are used for race days, The Clifton Edge and Mach 3 are used for daily distance workouts and my Speedgoat 4 for trail running. I love all of these shoes, please don’t let me choose between the Clifton Edge and Mach 3.

Sarah: I enjoy the light feel of the shoe, with soft and springy foam it feels very plush, comfy and responsive. I usually train in the Rincon and race in the Carbon X. The Clifton Edge is more like the Carbon X than the Rincon and so I hope to utilize it more as my standard training shoe. I like the way the shoe extends out from the midsole. I am a heel striker, so it allows me to contact with the ground earlier and roll forward more efficiently onto the front of the shoe. The upper of the shoe is also similar to the Carbon X with very little stitching. I really can see the Clifton Edge becoming my training shoe of choice to compliment my Carbon X on race day.

Matt: Personally, I was surprised that once I started running in the shoe, it felt easy to just keep rolling. Is this what you experienced?

Sam: In terms of what I look for in a great running shoe, the Clifton Edge is right up there, it is innovative, comfortable and fast. This a light shoe, and I quickly forget the oversized heel and started to enjoy the running experience and racking up the miles.

Sarah: Yes! I have particularly loved the Clifton Edge on long runs where my focus is often maintaining a consistent high cadence. I find the shoe helps the transition from the heal to the forefoot and also provide some leg protection from the soft and springy foam. I will still use my Carbon X for speed sessions, but this shoe has been perfect for my long tempo training sessions.

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Matt: What are you planning for the remainder of the year for training?

Sam: The key focus for the remainder of 2020 and until the season starts next year is to build a stronger aerobic base, iron out any swimming and running technical issues, and improve my core strength and flexibility. I will also increase my weekly training hours and intensity in readiness for next year’s assault on full IM races.

I plan to run a couple of 50k trail races in 2020, do some cross-country running in 2021 and more indoor rowing during the winter months. I am booked to attend a tri-camp in Lanzarote in January.

Sarah: Well with a year as strange as this one we have made a lot of changes. We are hoping to race the Cairns Ironman in late September. So, it is full gas with training at the moment preparing for that. After Cairns we intend to travel to the USA to race Challenge Daytona. It is obviously a very loose schedule at this stage, with restrictions changing regularly. We will train in Southern Utah or Arizona for Daytona. We are yet to confirm what racing we will do after Daytona.

Matt: As someone who’s always looking for the silver lining, 2020 has been a year of training, lots of sleep and reassessing my training routines. What are some positives that you have experienced this year?

Sam: I agree with the sleeping part, I sleep for about 12 hours each day. Training is all about mastery for me. I train to do a task to the best of my ability and then execute it in a race. I believe that if I work hard and have the right training plan then I will do well.

Although not racing in 2020 has been annoying, I have been happy that I have had more time to work on my endurance in readiness for 2021. I am a glass full kind of guy.

Sarah: I have spent a lot of time in 2020 reflecting on ways I can leverage my brand and set up my marketing in a way that better supports my sponsors. I started working with professional photographer and videographer, Dale Travers at the start of 2020 with the intention of taking my marketing and advertising to the next level so my brand would grow and be more valuable to sponsors and generate future income streams.

I noticed in 2018 that I was developing a strong personal brand but hadn’t formalized what it looked like and really hadn’t sent a consistent message out about who I was and what I represented. This was a key driver for the brand review with Dale, and the current tone of my images and my website relaunch. Now, with a clear brand, I am able to service followers and fans better with merchandise and more appealing content.

At this stage I am fully focused on my next race and maintaining my performance at the top of the triathlon game. However, from this experience I have become very passionate about helping fellow athletes maximize their value and am more than happy to chat with them about strategies to realize their individual brands. If you would like help, please reach out to hello@JSIglobal.live.

Thank you both for your time today and thank you HOKA for creating such an amazing shoe. I look forward to watching you both crush your goals!

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