Hoka ATR 4

Well, I’m only one run in on them, but I wanted to give some quick feedback on my first impressions…

I primarily got the Hoka ATR 4 in hopes that I would find a trail running shoe that would give me some of the knee/back forgiveness that seems to be at the core of Hoka’s fame. After the first session on them I am really digging them. I had to resort to the treadmill for my run due to all the snow on the trails right now, but I think that might actually be a better cushion test than a trail run since I seem to have a heavier strike on treadies over natural surface. I noticeably felt like my body took on a bit less stress and I came away with a smile. As someone cautiously making my way back into running with normally aggravated responses post-runs, I was stoked to find what might be just what the doctor ordered to keep me rolling!

Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles

This morning I took out the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles for a spin on the local trails. Here are some first thoughts. UPDATE – After a little over a year now with these poles and putting them through the paces on many climbing/hiking trips, I’m happy to report that these poles have held up extremely well and have been reliable and up to the task. Super happy with the performance!


  • Great grips
  • Easily adjustable (both shaft length and wrist straps)
  • Light weight
  • Cool red/black color combo
  • Solid feel on non-technical ground
  • Adjustable screw allows effective “dial-in” repair of poles if they start to collapse.


  • Felt a little “weak in the knees” when using them as support while descending technical terrain
  • The shock felt overly stiff, like a locked out MTB fork. (Although too much rebound can be detrimental on tech sections.)

All-in-all, a solid first go with these poles, they’re a good choice. Neither “whoa!” nor “blech!”, just kinda living in that world of “these will work.” If you’re someone who is regularly fully-loaded in long, steep, super technical terrain, where you’re placing tons of weight on the poles for support, you might want to choose something a little more burly (but that will likely come with a significant weight penalty). If you’re like the other 95% of backpackers, adventure racers, climbers, hikers, etc, these will likely be an excellent choice for your needs. More to come as the mileage increases!

SwimRun NC Recap

Matt and his teammate Will Reiner on top of Moore’s Wall during the race. Photo: Richard Hill, SwimRunNC

Our friend Matt Barbour was kind enough to give us the low-down on a unique swim/run event that took place at Hanging Rock State Park, NC on Oct 29, 2017. This race was definitely out of the ordinary and has us itching to try it next year!  Check out the interview below for the scoop from Matt.

AA: Hey Matt! I got an email from you about some crazy race you did last weekend. All I remember is something about 14 miles of running, 2900 meters of swimming, and running through the woods in wetsuits to the surprise of some locals. What the hell was this event?!

MB: The event is called a Swim/Run.  It is an endurance race with a combination of trail running and swimming which goes back and forth between the two disciplines with no transitions.  Two person teams run in wetsuits and swim in their running shoes.  The race originated in Sweden in 2002 when a group of friends in a bar challenged each other to a competition which involved passing three different restaurants on three different islands.  The race was later was called “Otillo” which means island to island.  For more history check here:    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimrun

AA: What was your personal highlight(s) from the race?

MB: The race we did was the 2017 Swim/Run North Carolina.  About two hours in we fell into a good pace behind Team Persist a mixed female/male team heading up Moore’s Wall, 642 steps up to the highpoint of the race on Moore’s Knob at 2,579 ft.  As we steadily climbed I asked the group ahead of us if they had done this type of race before.  They politely said “yes” and we discussed some other Swim/Run’s and the differing terrain at other locations.  We explained this was our first Swim/Run.  We hit the checkpoint at the summit lookout tower, paused for a quick race photo and headed back down still on Team Persist’s heels.  A race volunteer directed us to a make a hard right hand turn to stay on course and told us to watch out for the slick rocks and roots to come on the descent.  A member of team Persist said thanks but that they knew which way to go and what to expect.  As Team Persist lost us on the downhill my teammate Will turns back to me and says “you do know that was Herbert Krabel the race director for this race on team Persist don’t you?”  Obviously neither I nor the volunteer recognized him.  Herbert personally caught up with us after the finish, congratulated us, and asked how we enjoyed the experience and what we thought of the course.  Great course and an even a better group of people racing, hosting and volunteering.

AA: Any advice to anyone thinking about doing this?

MB: Definitely do some pre-race training sessions with your full kit.  This typically involves wetsuits, goggles, swim paddles, modified pull buoys and shoes.  Some teams like to use tethers on the swim sections.  It’s good to train going back and forth between swimming and running and transitioning all your gear.  Most teams use swim paddles.  Some simple carry them the whole time while others wear a waist belt and attach them with a carabiner.  It’s also good to check for any chaffing issues while running in your wetsuit or with wet shoes.

AA: Any local finds (restaurants, pubs, hotels, attractions, nearby parks, etc) that you stumbled on while in the area?

MB: Just like the original Swim/Run our race started and ended at a bar.  Ours was called the Green Heron Ale House.  It was right on the Dan River and a perfect, warm location to share one of their many draft beers and compare race notes after the event.  Here’s a link:   http://www.greenheronalehouse.com/

AA: What is the website for the event?

MB: Link to the website for this specific event:   http://swimrunnc.com/   You can also find the event on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/SwimRunNC/

Special thanks to Matt for the info! Matt is a Virginia-based runner, mountain biker, triathlete, climber, surfer, and adventure enthusiast (the guy does it all, and well!). Among many other noteworthy experiences, he has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, climbed Denali and Kilimanjaro, and scoured numerous international shores for perfect waves.  Here’s a cool pic of Matt on a recent climb in the Adirondacks: