Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k Race Review

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k_2.jpgSometimes it’s important to have a little distance from something before making up one’s mind about it, especially if that something is an ultra-distance event.

On Saturday, March 4, 2017 I ran the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k. My emotions that day ran the gamut from hyped to hopeless as I struggled through and ultimately triumphed over the course that chilly day.

During the first 22-ish miles of the race: “This is so awesome! I’m going to send the RD an email to congratulate her on a great event. So well-organized! Such a runnable course!”

During the following five miles of the race: “These hills are bullshit.”

During the final five miles of the race: “This distance is bullshit. 50k is a knowable distance, and we passed 50k a long time ago. That lake is pretty, but bullshit nonetheless.”

After the race: “I hurt, but that was awesome! I can’t wait for my next ultra.”

The inevitable emotional swings that happen during an ultra are nearly as up-and-down as the hills were in this race! I know it’s strange, but I love it. I want to make clear that I don’t think I’m cool for running ultramarathons nor do I expect anybody else to think I’m cool. Outside of the hardcore running community, nobody thinks that running ultra-distance races is cool. I mean that. Nobody. Part of my job involves putting on large events, so I meet lots of new people regularly. My colleagues like to introduce me to people they know with, “Meet Hope, she runs double marathons.” I have yet to get a response other than, “Wow, good for you!” or its equivalent. Ultras are crazy to non-runners, not cool and certainly not relatable, so dropping the ultrarunner factoid does little to break the ice. Running even more than 26.2 miles? Inhuman! Aching for days afterwards? Why would you do that to yourself? Chafing? Losing toenails? AAAH!

Luckily, I don’t run weirdly long distances to impress anybody but myself. I run to see what I’m made of, what I can endure. The Seneca Creek 50k certainly tested my mettle. Its rolling course, which featured its steepest ascents and descents as well as its most treacherous roots when my legs were most tired, was nothing if not challenging. Though I often found myself enjoying the serenity of running through the woods with nothing but my own thoughts for company, I wasn’t alone out there. My fellow runners and I were assisted in our journey to the finish by hardy volunteers who leapt into action at each well-organized, well-supplied aid station to fill water bottles and hand out goodies. I usually go for Oreos/Oreo-like cookies as I know how I handle them and while I did that on Saturday, homemade salted oat cookies at the final aid station were a welcome treat. There were a number of hot food items that I did not take, but was impressed to see out there. I even heard rumors of grilled cheese. The aid station volunteers deserved the “Today is a good day to be a badass” T-shirts I saw on several runners – dealing with type-A runners all day and keeping food fresh, plentiful, and hot in low-20s weather is not for wimps! I also appreciated not being told “you’re almost there!” until I was truly almost there.

I ran my own race on Saturday. I listened to my body, walked up hills when I needed to, and lingered over many (MANY – as in 15+) cookies at aid stations, taking my time to make sure I was adequately fueled to continue. My first 50k was through deep drifted snow in 6˚F weather (no kidding!) and I came in at 8:38:00, so I knew I had room to set a PR without rushing through aid stations. Setting that PR was far from the point, but I was still pleased to clock in at 6:52:14.

I felt pain in my legs and feet during the race, but that pain was the price of the elation and pride I felt afterwards. When I finish an ultra, I feel like I can do anything because little I come across in my everyday life is as difficult, as physically trying, as mentally fatiguing, as running seemingly endless miles through the woods. If I can realize that the finish line isn’t at mile 30, mile 31, or even mile 32 and still keep going, I can keep going through anything else.

Running ultras is both the sickness and the cure. I’ll be back for more of both at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k in 2018. If you want to suffer alongside me and test yourself on these punishing hills, you can find out more about the race at https://www.senecacreekgreenwayrace.com/.

Disclosure: I didn’t send that congratulatory email to the RD. Still bitter about those hills after mile 22. Certainly not a sponsored post or anything like that.

Until next time, happy trails!

-Ultrarunner Hope

Hoka One One Hupana Review

temporaryTL; DR: Not your mama’s marshmallow-y HOKAs. Light, fast, and responsive enough for fast efforts, the Hupana is a model I find myself reaching for over and over. Love it. (Click here to jump to the overall rating if you aren’t down for the full 1,200-ish word review.)

After some major missteps with the Clifton (making a near-perfect lightweight do-anything model heavier, more structured, and decidedly un-Clifton-like) HOKA One One gets its act together with the Hupana. This shoe has a sleek knit upper plus sole geometry and stack height comparable to a “regular” running shoe. A firmed up version of HOKA’s RMAT foam does double duty as both midsole and outsole, lending the Hupana a quiet, smooth ride. I put over 75 road and treadmill miles on these before I knew it — despite having loads of shoes in my collection (a truly unhealthy number of pairs), these were the ones I consistently wanted on my feet. It’s not all sunshine and roses with these, but it mostly is. Read on for my review of the Hupana in ten key areas, ultimately arriving at an overall numerical score out of a possible 100 points.

Disclosure: I bought these shoes myself and my opinions are entirely my own.

Weight
In the same way that I failed with my Saucony Freedom ISO review, I did not weigh the Hupana before I ran in them, and weighing them now after a fair amount of use is not only a gross way to use my food scale, but doesn’t give the model a fair shake. As much as it pains me to do it, I have to rely on the stated catalog weight. I have some reviews in the pipeline with at-home weigh-ins, so I won’t always make excuses! Running Warehouse has the exact same women’s model weight below listed for a size 8, not the size 7 specified by HOKA One One, so I’m leaving their specs out this time because I suspect that’s a mistake, not some different size, same weight sorcery cooked up by HOKA.

Per Hoka One One: 8.2 oz (men’s size 9)/6.3 oz (women’s size 7)

For about half an ounce more than the Saucony Kinvara 7 (Kinvara 8 review coming soon), you get a densely woven upper (will run warm in the summer, for sure), a semi-plush inner lining, and a thick, protective midsole. While the Hupana isn’t as lean as the Kinvara 7, it’s easily as spry and willing to pick up the pace. Its 8.2 oz weight matches that of the Nike Zoom Elite 9 (review coming soon) and is a couple tenths of an ounce lighter than the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 (review also coming soon). The Hupana is in good — FAST — company with these similarly lightweight models. 8/10

Ride
You already know what I’m going to say since I’m barely holding myself back from gushing on this point. Smooth heel to to transitions. Quiet footfalls (noisy shoes are a pet peeve of mine as they make headphones-free running less than serene). Good groundfeel and feedback without being bone-jarringly firm or harsh on my legs. In short, the ride is superb. 10/10

Fit
No-fuss fit with excellent lockdown thanks to the stiff knit upper. The heel is adequately plush without being skate shoe-like, allowing for secure foot hold at minimal weight.  Logos printed on both insoles are completely intact, so I know my feet aren’t sliding around. Pull the laces and these are good to go with no fine tuning needed. 10/10

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Comfort
The Hupana is another shoe that disappears on my feet so my thoughts don’t run to “ahh, so comfy!” as I’m running, but it’s also plenty cozy enough that it’s a delight to slip into after a long day in high heels. No complaints, but the comfort isn’t something to write home about. The Hupana is performance-oriented, so I don’t think that’s a knock against it at all. 8/10

Traction
The grip is surprisingly excellent. I felt as surefooted as a billy goat on wet roads and sidewalks in these. I was pleasantly surprised that midsole foam could grab the ground so well. Even wit some areas of moderate wear in the toe and lateral heel, the traction is undiminished. However, one thing to note about the Hupana’s midsole-outsole: it builds up static like crazy. Shuffle across a carpeted floor in these and you’ll turn yourself into a weapon. Worse, run on a treadmill and you’ll shock yourself over and over if you reach for a water bottle or incidentally touch the machine with your hands. I released a shock so powerful on my home treadmill that it actually turned the machine off. You’ve been warned! That said, I’m still very impressed with the traction and I can live with the perils of using the Hupana on a treadmill. 10/10

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Flexibility
It’s not reasonable to expect much flexibility out of a sole that’s just a thick slab of foam. Even with a number of flex grooves carved out, the Hupana is hard to bend, with a flexion point just in front of the first row of lace eyelets. I don’t think this negatively impacts the ride character, but it’s not an asset either.  7/10

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Durability
This version of RMAT foam is way more resilient than the easily shredded RMAT found in the Clifton 1. My pair of Hupanas is showing a bit of wear in the toe (light wear), forefoot (light wear) and lateral heel (moderate wear), but otherwise looks great. Much of the shallow texturing on the “outsole” is still intact. No creases in the midsole and no fraying in the upper or laces. The upper is stiff enough that it holds a sharp crease at the flexion point just in front of the first row of eyelets, so that may be a failure point in the future. 9/10

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Looks
The two-tone blue knit upper on my pair is accented with orange at the toe, heel, and eyelets. It’s more sophisticated for a HOKA (who has produced a veritable glut of garish models, like the Speed Goat), but it’s not quite there for me. You could slap a Skechers logo on the side and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. A truly monochrome knit might have been more sleek. I don’t totally hate the looks of these, but they don’t excite me either. 7/10

Price
I’m pretty accustomed to spending between $120-$140 for running shoes. The Hupana’s MSRP is $115, which is pretty great. It’s not the cheapest performance model out there (that title probably belongs to the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3), but it’s reasonable and given its durability and excellent ride, it’s a great value. 9/10

Suitability for Intended Purpose
HOKA bills the Hupana as an all-day shoe that can carry you from the grocery store and daily chores right through to your run. It’s meant to be as performance-oriented with its RMAT outsole as it is stylish with its knit upper. I agree with the performance side of this, but am disinclined to wear the Hupana with anything other than running clothes. However, it gets the uptempo running part of the equation so right that I can’t fault it too much for getting the lifestyle shoe part wrong. 9/10

Overall
To recap for you TL;DR folks:
Weight: 8/10
Ride: 10/10
Fit: 10/10
Comfort: 8/10
Traction: 10/10
Flexibility: 7/10
Durability: 9/10
Looks: 7/10
Price: 9/10
Suitability for Intended Purpose: 9/10
TOTAL: 87/100

I’m a tough grader, but in my defense, there are a lot of excellent shoes to choose from, so it’s important to know where a particular model shines and where it stinks. Overall, the Hupana is great and will likely be on my feet for a marathon this spring.

Until next time, happy trails!

-Ultrarunner Hope