At the 28th World Mountain Running Championships held on Sunday, September 2, 2012 in Ponte di Legno, Italy, the four-member U.S. Women’s Mountain Running Team took the gold medal with an incredible score of 18 points to best the second-place Italian team by 11 points. Switzerland claimed the bronze medal with 58 points.
Overcast skies with temperatures in the 50s with just a slight breeze at the 10:30 a.m. start were welcomed by the nearly 90 runners who competed in the senior women’s race. With rain for two days prior to the race, it was a nice change to see the sun breaking through the clouds from time to time during the 8.8-kilometer mostly-uphill course that featured 760 meters of elevation gain.
Leading the U.S. women was 26-year-old Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID, who finished third to take the bronze medal in a time of 47:26 over the 8.8-kilometer, mostly uphill course. “It was hard,” said Arritola, “It’s always good, but it’s always hard. I like mountain running because it’s a chance to see who can suffer the most. The team result was great. Individually, I did all I could today. And today, two people were better than me and that’s how it goes,” said Arritola.
Those two women were Austria’s Andrea Mayr who posted a time of 46:35 to take the win, and Italy’s Valentia Belotti who ran 47:04.
Second for the U.S. women was 28-year-old Stevie Kremer, Crested Butte, CO, who recently moved to Italy to teach for one year. Kremer finished in seventh place with a time of 48:54. “In an uphill race it’s always difficult – I don’t think you ever feel great,” said Kremer. “It was an amazing course and an amazing experience and I’m glad to be part of Team USA.” Asked whether her pre-race expectations were met, Kremer said “I didn’t know what to expect…I really had no expectations. In my head and in my heart I was hoping for a top five, but I’m happy with a top 10. My future is in mountain running, it’s all I want to do.”
Finishing in third for Team USA was Melody Fairchild, 38, Boulder, CO, who was three seconds behind Kremer to finish eighth overall. “The energy at World’s has lifted me up. The competition has inspired me to start training tomorrow for next year,” said a beaming Fairchild, “I visualized a finish in the top 5 – I was eighth. Now I know that I’m in the ballpark. I’m excited to train for cross country season as a stepping stone for mountain running and next year’s team selection race. I think the competition is going to get more fierce every year. I think the word is going to get out about mountain running,”
The top three finishers for USA were all first-time team members. They joined veteran Brandy Erholtz who has been on every team since 2008. Erholtz, 35, Evergreen, CO, had an admittedly off day finishing in 40th position with a time of 53:13.
Said women’s team manager Ellen Miller, “The women delivered what we thought they could. A gold medal. They elevated the American women back on the podium. It’s a dream come true.”
There were 19 teams competing in the senior women’s division.
This was the third gold medal for the U.S. women’s team with the first in 2006 and the second in 2007. The women’s team also won bronze in 2004 and 2009.
Individually, the U.S. women now have two bronze medals, the first won in 2007 by Laura Haefeli. Added to the medal count is the incredible gold-medal performance by Kasie Enman at last year’s world championships.
The six-member U.S. Men’s Mountain Running Team finished in fourth place at the Championships, repeating last year’s team finish. However, their combined team score this year was 88 compared to 112 in 2011.
Winning gold this year was Eritrea with 17 points, followed by Italy in silver-medal position with 31 points, and Russia scoring 75 to take the bronze medal.
The men’s course was 14.1-kilometers and featured 1150 meters of elevation gain starting at the village of Temu and finishing in the village of Tonale. Although this was considered an uphill year for the World Championships – the event alternates in odd-numbered years to an up/down format – there were significant downhill portions in the course this year including a steep and technical downhill section of about 400 meters between the three and four kilometer marks and a 200-meter very fast downhill finish.
There were also sections of flat running through the village of Ponte di Legno crossing two wooden bridges before heading up a steep grassy section of switchbacks which led into a rolling section of single track through the forest. And of course there were some steep sections of climbing, some on rocks, others on grassy areas.
For Team USA, three men finished in the top 20. The first finisher was newcomer to the team, Glen Randall, 25, Mesa, CO, who posted at time of 1:05:48 for ninth overall. “I went through a major rough patch. I had a side stitch at 6 kilometers into the race. I just stayed totally within myself then managed to go better. I was hoping it (the side stitch) wouldn’t last long and it didn’t,” said Randall. “I’ve been working on my finishes and I’m really happy with my finish and I’m definitely pleased with my race.”
Next up for Randall is the ING New York Marathon where he has two goals, “First is to go out at the right pace, second when the moment comes, I’ll seize it. That moment defines the race.”
Fellow newcomer to the Team, Sage Canaday, 26, Boulder, CO, was only seven seconds behind Randall and finished in 12th place. “It was my first U.S. National Team and my first time wearing the team gear, which is nice.”
Weight: 7.77 oz / 229.786 grams
- Synthetic lining
- Breathable textile mesh upper
- Non-marking rubber out-sole
- 3mm multi-directional lugs
- Removable high-rebound EVA foot-bed
- Protective toe-guard
While I'm a big fan of the KEEN lifestyle and their shoes, I have to admit, I had some apprehension about putting them in the performance category. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. The A86 TR are comfortable right out of the box and even when worn barefoot (not necessarily recommended) I had no problems with chaffing or rubbing of any kind.
At first look, the asymmetrical lacing seemed more of a stylistic than useful feature, however, as I began running I found it to make for a softer feel on my foot than conventional lacing systems. Normally, I have to be careful with hot spots on the top of my foot if I get my laces even slightly too snug, but the A86 TR made this issue obsolete. The tongue on my right shoe did leave a slight gap once I had been running for a while, but nothing that effected my run; just left a thin strip of dirt on my sock. I consulted other KEEN fans online and they have had no issues with the tongue. The lacing ends a bit low so I had some slight concerns that my heel would move around too much, but it wasn't an issue. The shoe is so flexible and laces up nice and snug it left a very secure fit without being binding.
The cushion on this shoe is effective but minimal, so unless you're a seasoned minimalist runner, I would be cautious when rapidly increasing mileage. (which you shouldn't be doing anyway) That said, I'm currently putting only about 15 miles a week on trails with the A86 TR and have had no issues with any kind of foot, knee or hip pain. Because my mileage is so low right now, I had another athlete, putting in a lot more mileage, test the shoes as well. Her reaction was about the same as mine, "No joking, these are the most comfortable trail shoes I've ever run in... they feel like a moccasin."
The three directional lugs are effective on dirt, rocks and mud but when it got really muddy I did have some slippage issues. I have my doubts any shoes would have kept me upright through ankle-deep mud. The shoes are incredibly flexible and light and though I could feel the rocks and terrain as I ran, my feet felt well protected.
The sizing was right on for me, but KEEN advises that the shoe runs a half size small. If they are available, I would recommend trying them on before you buy to make sure you get the right fit if you plan on purchasing online. As an added bonus, they come in eight colors!
Overall, I'd have to say, KEEN has produced a solid trail shoe with the A86 TR and it has enthusiastic fans to show for it.
For more information about KEEN products go to: www.keenfootwear.com
" Some shoes may be adequate for dirt paths while they will underperform when taken to more technical heights. "
The dull disappointment of oncoming winter is nothing new to the triathlete. For some reason, my friends seem to train in some sort of fog of denial as they acknowledge in disbelief that cold slap in the face; the moment you first realize that your knickers and windbreaker will no longer hack it on canyon descents. Whining and moaning they retreat to their caves, be it basement trainers or gym treadmills to work out their salvation among the herd of New Years resolutions and college students. While I wholeheartedly admit it is impossible to avoid the indoor training altogether if you intend on staying fit through the winter, I cannot help but feel a slight sense of glee with the first drop of freezing rain. It means I will have virtually all my favorite training grounds to myself for up to five long months. With the proper gear, winter training can be absolute bliss. There’s a completely different vibe among the outdoor athletes you occasionally run into in the ‘off season’. Cyclists that barely glanced in your direction during the summer, though you've passed them daily for months, now offer a friendly “Hello”. Any runners you see on the muddy trails deep in the mountains give a familiar smirk as they pass. The smirk that says you’re running with one foot in crazy. The smirk that acknowledges you’re one of them, and believe me, there’s more of them gallivanting about the trails and ice covered roads than you think. They’re an amazing group of people hell-bent on living life in all it’s seasons, and it’s time you crawled out from your cave and joined them.
In my own search for shoes to run in through the winter, I stumbled upon many solutions, some helpful and some... well, not so much. More than a few people mentioned the practice of putting small screws into the soles of an old pair of shoes. I see two problems with this; one, it’s an OLD pair of running shoes (the one’s you were supposed to throw out because they’re ruining your feet) and two, they always followed up this piece of advice with a funny story about how the screw made it’s way through the shoe and embedded itself neatly into the foot of one of their training buddies. Enough said. Yaktrax were another suggestion. A great alternative for icy roads, but people seem to have problems keeping them properly placed and functional in mud and on trails. There were also a few complaints that the coils upset foot placement and made their contact with the road a bit “off”. Still, it’s better than being stuck indoors. Another suggestion was to only run on plowed roads. This wasn't a bad suggestion except that snow seems to trap the car exhaust even worse than in the summer and can make running in suburbs and the city a bit miserable. Not to mention dodging sliding cars driven by texting 16 year olds. Seemed I was going to have to eek it out in the city and make do like everyone else. Somehow, a random search engine result landed me on the page of a Swedish shoe brand called ICEBUG. After glancing at the shoes, I frantically searched for an English translation. If anyone knows ice, it’s Scandinavia and their shoes didn't disappoint.
The men's ATTLA and the women's Pytho2 are made with “BUGrip”, the name of Icebug’s grip technology. The sole is made of a special rubber compound and has 15-16 integrated steel studs. The design of the studs together with the properties of the rubber compound give these studs a dynamic function. They work independently from each other and are not completely fixed. When weight is applied the studs push in toward the surface of the sole. How far they are pushed in, depends on the pressure exerted by the user and the resistance from the ground. What does this mean for the winter runner? This means excellent traction on ice, snow and mud without compromising on fit and weight.
The first time I took the Women’s Pytho2 out for a run, I paired it with some gaiters and put them up against a good muddy trail complete with patches of snow and ice. My husband came along with his Men’s ATTLA, gaiter free. Thankfully, since it was 12° F, the generous toe-box allowed me to run with wool socks and molded PU cage still kept the fit secure. Where it’s normally recommended to buy running shoes a full size larger, I would recommend going only a half size up in both the ICEBUG models we tested. I slogged in the mud, jumped around in snow and even spent a few minutes in a small stream to test out the water resistant nature of the shoe. While the Pytho’s don’t claim to be water PROOF, I did find that I could give them all the mud and snow I could find without any problems. In addition, I lasted in the small stream for a good 5 minutes before I began to feel any water seeping through. Another nice feature that I discovered was the fantastic grip it gives on slick tree trunks. My husband commented that he felt like a ‘gecko’ with his ‘grippy feet’. His Men’s ATTLA’s performed much the same way, but with a bit heavier sole intended for light trail running and hiking, whereas the Pytho2 is intended for more advanced high speed trail running. While I don’t recommend them specifically for rocky terrain they do perform about the same as my other running shoes on slick rock. At the risk of losing a stud however, I would recommend against it if possible.
Since my search engine stumbled on the ICEBUG’s I have been blissfully enjoying all the winter terrain has to offer. My advice is this; don’t fear the winter, just get the right gear and stop breathing that stale gym air. Get out and get muddy, then soak up the look from the check out lady when you stop to get milk on the way home. You’ll be smiling from ear to frozen ear. I highly recommend taking the advice of our frozen Swedish brothers and investing in a pair of ICEBUG’s for yourself. Whether it’s the ICEBUG’s or playing Russian roulette with the implanted screws, I’ll see you on the trail my friends and remember to give me a smirk as you splatter mud in my direction; I’ll know what you mean.
For more information and locations to buy ICEBUG's, go to www.icebug.se and click to see a list of retailers.