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March 26, 2010

Weekend Ramblings

"Then very slowly, with a slow and marvelous grin spreading all over his face, Grandpa Joe lifted his head and looked straight at Charlie ... He threw up his arms and yelled "Yippeeeeeeeee!' ... he jumped on to the floor and started doing a victory dance in his pajamas."
- Roald Dahl, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

All right then … I suppose it’s time to bring everyone up to speed on some of the things I’ve been talking about tangentially for the past few days, as well as some things I haven’t even mentioned yet. This post will happen in somewhat scattershot fashion - and since none of the topics are particularly related to one another, I’m taking the easy way out and working from bullet points.

* I mentioned that I’ve been busy with product reviews, although you won’t be seeing some of them on this website. For example, I spent several weeks testing the Brunton L3 headlamp for a review on FeedTheHabit.com. It’s an external battery-pack lamp in the same category as Black Diamond’s Icon or Petzl’s MYO RXP (see my comparison review of those two), with a few distinctive features of its own. It’s a solid lamp, but I don’t see it replacing either of those others as my first “running through the night” option later this year.

* Likewise, I published a review of the Nathan Elite 1 Plus waist pack, which combines a 22-oz fluid bottle cradle with a gel holster on a very comfortable pack. This one was - as Randy Jackson might say – just a’ight with me; I typically carry gels in individual packs instead of in a dedicated holster, but perhaps that’s just a personal preference thing.

* Remember last spring, when there was a bit of feather-ruffling between me and a member of the Big Sur Marathon Board of Directors in regards to a Monterey Herald item I wrote after last year's race? Unfortunately, if you don’t remember, you’re out of luck, since I later purged those particular posts from my archives.

Anyway, I guess I’m not one to hold a grudge for too long, because in this week’s paper, my friend Mike and I are pretty blatantly slurping up to the marathon again. Despite my personal issues with the Board, Big Sur is a fantastic race that celebrates its 25th anniversary this April. Our Monterey Herald article is here.

Now for the most exciting stuff …

* The shoes I’ve been wearing for most of my trail running lately – including last weekend’s Carmel River run – are indeed made by Soft Star, whose moccasins are about the most comfortable footwear you’ll ever own (see my review). They recently announced on their blog that they’ve been developing a minimalist running shoe to launch later this spring; I’m fortunate enough to be one of the wear testers they asked to help with the development process.

Soft Star Run-A-Moc (possible name)

It’s really been a fascinating experience to see how prototype footwear is designed, then constantly tweaked and adjusted and redesigned in response to feedback from me and other testers. And I’m excited to know that they’re very close to having something market-ready. (Plus, the working name of the new model is “Run-A-Moc”, which is about the coolest and most perfect name I could imagine for a running moccasin.)

I’ll have a more in-depth description of the development process in a separate post next week; in the meantime, check out their announcement, and feel free to weigh in on the name - they’re apparently taking other suggestions, although I can’t fathom why – and anything else you’d like them to consider while venturing into the world of minimal running footwear.

* As for what I was doing yesterday: a couple of months ago I received an invitation from CLIF Bar and Company to visit their headquarters in Berkeley, to find out more about the company and the people who work there. I’ve heard a lot of great things about CLIF, and my past experience with the company had been nothing but positive – so I obviously jumped at the chance to peek inside the factory.

Even better, they let me bring a couple of friends along. Remember in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Charlie finds the golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s factory, and his whole family starts cheering and dancing around the bedroom? That was pretty much what my friends and I were doing when I told them we could visit the CLIF shop. To say we were looking forward to it is an understatement – and the company not only lived up to our expectations, but exceeded them in ways we almost couldn’t believe.

Of course, since my friends both happen to be ultrarunners, we couldn’t think of making a trip to Berkeley without scoping out some local trails and going for a little adventure beforehand. So we woke up three hours before sunrise and reached the east Bay in time to hammer out a pretty awesome 21-miler before heading over to redeem our golden tickets. I’ll have full reports on both the run and the tour in separate posts coming soon.

So there you have it - you’re up to date on what’s been happening in Running and Rambling Land lately. I’ve given you a fair bit of reading to do, and I’ve got an awful lot of writing ahead of me, so let’s call it a wrap here and touch base again next week.


Rainmaker 3/31/10, 7:20 PM  

Very cool on the Cliff Bar tour - that's awesome! I'm definitely looking forward to that post.

And those shoes look like some sorta batman creation.

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