February 20, 2016

There’s No Bad Weather; Only Bad Gear (YakTrax Run Review)

My Friday was rather hectic – in addition to chasing down some big work issues, there was a much bigger issue at home. A brush fire in my neighborhood! The fire was only in the open space, though it came within 40 feet of a number of homes that border the open space. (I’m fortunately a block away – not that it would have done much good if any of the homes had gone up, since we’re all packed pretty tightly together.) Thank goodness for our amazing firefighters who kept the blaze to the grasslands and didn’t allow a single home to be harmed!

It’s crazy that the trails I run on behind my house are currently burnt to a crisp, but they will grow back, and it’s much more important than no one and no homes were hurt. I have been counting my blessings all weekend that this unforeseen danger didn’t completely strike. I had no idea that fire was one of the things I have to seriously worry about with my house, and I’m a little shaken up by what a close call we had.

This picture was taken by my neighbor, and shows the flames leaping over the fields. It certainly didn’t help that we were experiencing record winds all week, which exacerbated the spread of the fire.

But after the stress of that had subsided and the fire was tamed, my weekend kicked off with another major issue: the hot water at my house wasn’t working. I had a brand new hot water heater installed in July as part of finishing my basement, so I was upset (to say the least) that it seemed to be kaput. After calling around for a while, I ended up having to take a cold water bath in order to get at least a little bit clean until I could have a plumber come out. I told myself that plenty of athletes take ice baths as part of their recovery rituals, and thought that maybe I would discover it wasn’t so bad after all?

Nope nope nope – it was brutal. I ended up putting a towel next to the tub and hopping in and out frequently, because I couldn’t stand being in the water for more than twenty seconds or so. The worst, though, was when I went to rinse my hair under the faucet – I literally got a brain freeze from keeping my head under that cold water! I don’t know how hardcore runners/triathletes take ice baths.

Ice Bath
This was my thinking before I tried it, and it is still my thinking now.

Between the stress of trying to get my water heater fixed and my work stress on Thursday, I was not a happy camper. Fortunately, the biggest reason I moved to Colorado was because the mountains calm me down and make my stress all melt away. To the mountains it was!

Last week, I went for an easy hike up Mount Sanitas in Boulder. It’s the lowest of the mountains in that area (summit is 6100 feet), so I was crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be too snowy. In fact, it was dry as a bone 75% of the way, with a few muddy sections and one very short snow-packed section. It had never occurred to me that I’d be able to hike in Colorado in February, and I felt guilty that I hadn’t been doing this all winter! This week, hiking came immediately to my mind as a way to feel better and destress.

This was by far the snowiest part of the trail, and even it wasn’t that bad.

Today, I didn’t hike solo; I led a Meetup group to try the slightly higher (8150 feet) Green Mountain. It started out great when we were around Chatauqua, but when we hit the steps of the Amphitheater Trail, there was a lot of runoff that had turned to ice, making it slow going. We kept thinking we’d gotten past the ice when we’d come to a dry section, but then we’d turn and see more ice in front of us. Unfortunately, we hadn’t really been prepared for the ice – and while some of us had grippy hiking boots and traction devices, others did not.

For my part, I had worried that there might be a little bit of snow, and so I had worn my new YakTrax Run. I have always heard about YakTrax for winter running, but never tried them myself; however, I was recently offered a pair to test out and they proved to be just the ticket for this. To my pleasant surprise, they were quick and easy to put on (just slip them over your sneaker and then tighten the buckle), and they definitely gave me a lot of security on the snow and ice.

They were also really easy to attach to my pack rather than have to fit them inside or carry them. They are also reasonably lightweight; my size weighed only 9 oz.

The Run model that I tried didn’t have quite the same sharp spikes as the XTR model, but that actually worked out well for a hike like this, where we went through patches of ice and then patches of dirt/rocks. (Otherwise, I would have had to take the XTRs on and off throughout the hike.) Wherever the trees were shading the trail from sun, it was snowy and slick (from melting and refreezing, plus runoff); wherever the sun was on the trail, it had not only melted the snow but also dried out the dirt into dust. Colorado sun is strong!

We made it about 2/3 of the way up to the summit before reaching a segment of trail that was just slick beyond belief – several of us were on our butts and grabbing at tree roots and bushes to try to stabilize. Meanwhile, there were two hikers already descending, and they told us it was pretty much like this the entire rest of the way up. While our group knew we could have made it to the top (albeit at a very slow pace), we decided that the safer/smarter solution was probably to turn around and do this hike later in the season.

Looking across to the peak we should have summited. But look at all that snow below it! That's what we were hiking through.
Looking across to the peak we should have summited. But look at all that snow below it! That’s what we were hiking through.

Shortly after we turned around, though, there was a group of trail runners approaching from below. (Dressed in shorts and tee shirts, because trail runners are more hard core than I will ever be.) We told them what the couple before us had said about the trail being icy the rest of the way up, expecting them to consider turning around too. Instead, they simply started digging in their bags for their very heavy duty looking microspikes, which they snapped on quickly and then proceeded to keep running up the trail unfazed. Their microspikes looked like they would cut much deeper into ice than my YakTrax Run would – and I realized these were probably comparable to the YakTrax XTR model. I might need to get a second pair for particularly slick conditions!

YakTrax Run
Close up of the YakTrax Run on a pair of sneakers, so you can see how they work. They’re easier to put on than they look! However, note that this model doesn’t have spikes coming out of them like the XTRs do.

I’ve long heard the expression that “there’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad gear.” However, I’ve never really put much stock into it; I thought that some days really were just too miserable to get out there. But the fact that we were able to get so far up Green Mountain in the middle of February is amazing, and has made me completely rethink what I consider to be “winter” activities. Turns out that it’s actually quite feasible to hike year round here! I’m so glad, as the mountains were exactly what I needed to make me smile this weekend. And while it may be a few more months until the trails are truly dry and easy, I’m really happy that I can use my YakTrax to hike now and enjoy the beauty of the trails.

Disclaimer: YakTrax provided me with a free pair of the YakTrax Run traction devices to try out, but I received no other compensation for this post, and all writing is my own.


2 thoughts on “There’s No Bad Weather; Only Bad Gear (YakTrax Run Review)”

  1. Brush fires, ice-laden “Green” Mountain…yikes not a great advertisement for potentially migrating Northeasterners!!! Glad you are still in one piece! HeHe! 🙂

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