Category Archives: running|gear

San Gorgonio Mountain – Falls Creek Loop 2011

Falls Creek Trail near Plummer Meadows

I don’t say this very often, but it was great to be running on pavement — smooth, even, consistent pavement. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and chug on down the blacktop.

I was running down Valley of the Falls Drive from the Vivian Creek trailhead to the Momyer Creek trailhead after ascending San Gorgonio Mountain (11,499′). San Gorgonio is the highest peak in Southern California, the nearest higher peaks being Charleston Peak (11,916′) west of Las Vegas, and Olancha Peak (12,123′) in the Sierra Nevada.

The Momyer Creek and Vivian Creek trailheads are in Mill Creek Canyon, near Forest Falls, on the south side of San Gorgonio Mountain. It only takes me a few minutes longer to drive to the Momyer Trailhead than to drive to Islip Saddle in the San Gabriels, or the Chula Vista trailhead on Mt. Pinos. Momyer is another great option for a scenic, challenging, higher altitude trail run that’s relatively close to home.

There are two routes I like to do on the Forest Falls side of the mountain — the High Line and the Falls Creek loops. Both start/end at Momyer and descend via the Vivian Creek Trail.

Today I’d done the Falls Creek route. This adventurous run features 24 miles of mostly technical trail that gains and loses about 6600′ and tops out at 11,499′. It’s comparable in effort and time to a tough SoCal style 50K. The High Line route is even more of a challenge.

The day had been one of those perfect, cloudless, crystalline days you get in the Autumn, with hundred mile visibility, empyrean blue skies, rich yellow leaves, and long cold shadows.

Following last Winter’s good snowfall and runoff, and the unseasonably strong storm earlier this month, springs and streams were flowing well. On the way I stopped for water at Plummer Meadows, and on the way down at High Creek. Even though I’ve been doing adventures in the mountains for decades, it’s still a little surprising how much water is needed on a higher altitude run, especially when the humidity is low.

Recently someone asked me what kind of water filter I use with a hydration pack. I’ve used three approaches for water treatment when the water source is a “good” one and treatment is a precaution.

Updated September 19, 2017

– UV light pen. SteriPen appears to be the most widely used outdoor UV water purifying pen, and several versions are available. I’m currently using the Steripen Adventurer.
– Inline filter. Before UV pens were widely available and accepted I would occasionally use an inline filter. When dry, the filter was lightweight, however its flow rate was barely adequate. The brand I used to use is no longer available, but the Sawyer 3 Way Water Filter looks similar. Specs say it weighs 1.8 oz.
– No treatment. This is the lightest and fastest option, but having watched a climbing friend fight giardia for a year and lose a shocking amount of weight and strength, I can’t recommend it.

In the Wikipedia overview of portable water purification a writer comments that “studies have shown that UV doses at the levels provided by common portable UV units are effective at killing Giardia and that there was no evidence of repair and reactivation of the cysts.”

The range of temperatures on today’s run was extraordinary. It was cool on the summit — in the low forties — but the coldest temperature was on the shaded slopes below Dollar Lake Saddle (10,000′). Here the temperature had been a chilly thirty-something. Down in Mill Creek Canyon at the end of the run the temperature felt like it was in the mid-eighties. The Mill Creek RAWS, near the ranger station, recorded a temperature of 92 degrees  in the mid afternoon with a relative humidity of only 12%.

One of the highlights of today’s run is that there were still patches of snow above 10,000′ from the storm on October 5th! One big patch at 11,000′ was beginning to become sun-cupped. I don’t think I’ve seen sun-cupped new snow in Autumn before!

The title photograph is from the Falls Creek Trail near Plummer Meadows. Dollar Lake Saddle and Charlton Peak loom above.

Some related posts: San Gorgonio High Line 2009, San Gorgonio Mountain – Falls Creek Loop

Salomon XT Wings 2 Trail Running Shoe

Salomon XT Wings 2 Trail Running Shoe

Wow — what a great ride! That was my impression the first time I used the Salomon XT Wings trail running shoe, and seven pairs and a couple thousand miles later, the XT Wings is still my shoe of choice for longer trail runs. Now the shoe has been upgraded to the XT Wings 2, and the good news is Salomon listened to the feedback from runners, and made a very good shoe even better.

XT Wings Comparison
One of the most obvious changes in the XT Wings 2 is the change from an asymmetric speed-lacing system that would sometimes fray, to a symmetric speed-lacing system with lower friction eyelets. None of my Salomon trail shoes with symmetric lacing have had lace-fraying issues, and these new laces look bombproof!

Update 07/05/10. I now have about 190 miles on each of three pairs of Salomons with the the new eyelets (XT Wings, XT Wings 2 & XT Hawk 2), and I’ve had no problems with the laces fraying.

Not so obvious until you run in the shoe is the redesign of the toe cap to increase flexibility. I thought the gait transition was smooth in the original XT Wings, and it is even better now. I was also happy to find that my new pair of XT Wings 2 (US Size 9.0) weigh 26 oz., which is a bit less than my first pair of XT Wings.

The shoes felt great on Sunday’s Trippet Ranch loop; they had that familiar XT Wings’ combination of comfort, smooth ride, cushioning, traction and support.

Related posts: Salomon XT Hawk 2, Salomon XT Wings

Salomon XT Hawk 2 Trail Running Shoe

Salomon XT Hawk 2 Trail Running Shoe

It’s funny the things you think about during a race. Running down the Chumash Trail in the Bandit 30K on Saturday, one of my thoughts was, “Wow, these may be the most comfortable trail shoes I’ve ever run in.”

Salomon XT Hawk 2 speed laces
I purchased my XT Hawk 2’s from Zappos a couple of weeks ago. Right out of the box there were several things I liked about the shoes:

  • They are light. My pair of US size 9’s tipped the scale at a light 22.3 oz. This is about the same as the Salomon SpeedComp. 
  • The shoes fit well. No weird seams, pressure points or other problems.
  • The updated speed-lacing system is symmetric. It has no offset lace anchor across the toe, and uses a new eyelet design. I’ve never had Salomon speed-lacing fray on shoes with symmetric lacing, and the new eyelet should make the laces even more bombproof.
  • The outsole looks nearly identical to the sole on the XT Wings, which in my experience provides a good balance of traction versus predictability.

Out on the trail, the first thing that stood out was the shoe’s cushioning. It feels like the shoe has more cushioning than either the original XT Wings or SpeedComp. The heel is particularly well cushioned, but for mid-foot strikers like me, there is also plenty of forefoot cushioning.
What I didn’t notice until I was running down the irregular surfaces of the Chumash Trail is how the XT Hawk 2’s combination of flexibility, support and cushioning combine to produce a really comfortable ride. Based on the shoe’s performance on the Bandit’s tough 19.5 mile course, I’m looking forward to trying the shoe on some longer mountain runs or races.

The Hill Climbing Helper

Trail runners, do you suffer the embarrassment of continually being passed on hills? Legs aren’t what they used to be? You need the new Hill Climbing Helper®.

The Hill Climbing Helper’s portability is the key! The Hill Climbing Helper® may look heavy, and it is, but that’s part of the genius of its design.

  • Can be used on all your favorite trail runs!
  • Fits most hills!
  • More effective than elliptical or stair-climbing machines!
  • Increases safety. Eliminates fear of slipping or falling.

Includes 10 stairs and 2 hand rails. Constructed of the finest oil field steel – it will last for decades!

You’ll notice the HCH difference on your first run!

(From today’s run of the Las Llajas loop.)

Related post: Chumash-Las Llajas Loop

Vibram FiveFingers KSO

Vibram FiveFingers KSO

Updated August 11, 2013.

At one time or another, most of us have run barefoot — on a beach or in a park, or certainly somewhere as a child.

As a result of the insight and enthusiasm of Barefoot Ted McDonald, and the publication of Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, runners have been swept into a new era of minimalist running using Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs). Now a runner can, with VFFs and a little care, run trails virtually barefoot.

Recently, while in Kernville, California, I stopped by Sierra South Paddlesports and picked up a pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSOs. After kayaking in the VFFs a couple of days, the next step was to try them on a short weekday run. One of my usual weekday running sites, Ahmanson Ranch, seemed like a good place to start.

The course I’d picked for the run was mainly on dirt road, but also included some single track. Trail surfaces were a mix of sun-baked dirt and sand, with a couple of short rocky sections. There was one moderate climb with an elevation gain of about 250 ft. The plan was to take a regular pair of running shoes in a pack, and switch shoes at the first sign of a problem.

From talking to other runners and reading about their experiences, I had some idea of what to expect, but was still a little apprehensive. One very common comment was to “not overdo it.” As enamored as I was about running in VFFs, running shoes have worked well for me for 35+ years. It would be really stupid to suffer my first debilitating injury (other than a few rolled ankles) running in the VFFs!

I had given a lot of thought to how I was going to run in the VFFs. My conclusion was not to dramatically change my running technique, but to refine it. Having rock climbed for many years, my goal was to use my legs and feet as appendages, rather than pogo sticks, gently meeting the ground on each stride with precision and “feel.”

It worked! Although I was prepared to switch to regular shoes, much to my surprise, it wasn’t necessary. Running in the VFFs was different, but not the bizarro experience I had imagined. There were even moments when I was just running, and did not have to concentrate on technique and footfalls. At the end of the run I felt good  — no blisters, no bone bruises, no other problems.

After dinner I noticed a different pattern of fatigue in my legs, and my feet felt a little warm and tingly, but there was no soreness or pain. The following day I ran a tough 8 mile course on the Backbone Trail (in regular shoes) and didn’t feel any unusual tweaks or twinges.

Echoing the comments of other runners, I think the key is to not overdo it. Running barefoot used to require a buildup of toughness, strength and skill. Some say the VFFs shortcut that process, and injuries are more likely. Keeping that in mind, I’ll probably run in the VFFs every week or two, and slowly build skill and strength.

Or not… It was hard to curb my enthusiasm, and I used the VFFs on four consecutive weekday runs. Two of the runs were at Ahamnson Ranch, a great area for the VFF newbie, but the other two were on more technical and less forgiving trails. By the fourth day my calves were wasted. This made it difficult to run with good VFF technique — particularly on rocky downhills. The result was a slight bone bruise on my left heel.

Update 08/11/13. Research suggests caution when transitioning to minimalist shoes. See Barefoot Running Can Cause Injuries, Too (The New York Times) and comments.

Update 08/21/12. “Barefoot sports shoes or toed running shoes” will not be permitted to be worn in the 2012 Bulldog 50K and 25K.

Update 02/10/10. I’ve been running in VFFs about once a week for several months now, and really enjoy running in them. Not only is it fun, I think running in the VFFs is refining my running technique so that it is lower impact. Now there’s research that suggests this may be the case. For a comprehensible look at the science of running barefoot, and in VFFs, see Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear.

Montrail Mountain Masochist

Montrail Mountain Masochist

Last updated 08/05/09.

The trail shoes I’ve been running in the most over the last several months are the Salomon XT Wings, Salomon SpeedComp, and the adidas Response Trail 15. I’ve been happy with the performance of these shoes, but still like to try something new from time to time.

Recently, the cushioning on one of my pairs of XT Wings died, so I thought I’d give the Montrail Mountain Masochist a try. I’ve now run about 35 miles in the Mountain Masochist, on a variety of courses, including the Mt. Pinos trail run on Sunday. Trail surfaces have ranged from smooth dirt road to very rocky, technical single track trail.

From the first mile the shoes have been comfortable, and fit my moderately high-arched, D-width foot well. At 12 oz./each (US size 9.5) are on the lighter side for a medium weight shoe.

Outsole of Montrail Mountain Masochist.
The outsole appeared to have good traction on a mix of dry surfaces without being overly aggressive and grabby. On the rocky sections of trail, the shield in the midsole did a good job of protecting against pointy rocks.

My foot likes a neutral shoe with little or no pronation control, and so far the modest amount of pronation control in the Mountain Masochist has not felt overly restrictive. (See update below.)

The shoe seems to encourage a more forward body position and foot strike, which I prefer. The forefoot cushioning is good, and the strike-to-toe transitions feel smooth. On rough trails, the shoe has been stable, and I have not noticed any abnormal tendency to roll an ankle.

Overall, the Mountain Masochist appears to be a balanced, well thought out design. I hope to get them out on a 20+ mile mountain run soon.

Update 08/05/09. I now have 81 miles on this shoe and used it on the Cottonwood – New Army Pass loop in the Sierra back in July. Overall, the shoe has performed well. I do notice the pronation control on longer runs, and would love to see a version of this shoe designed for a neutral foot.