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Clare Gallagher - Where my Kaptivas have taken me

Crossing the Opilak River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Austin Siadak

Where my Kaptivas have taken me...

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I admit that when a new shoe comes out, I’m hesitant. I’m not a gear junkie and if something works well 90% of the time, whether it be a shoe, a car, a bike, a computer, well, that’s usually good enough for me.

So when the Kaptivas arrived, I was slow to fall in love. What could they do that a Bushido or Helios or Lycan couldn’t? I had tested a prototype of the Kaptivas last summer, while traipsing around the Dolomites, not far from the La Sportiva headquarters in the Trento Valley. The protos were fine. The sock-like inner sleeve seemed overkill and I honestly was just peeved at having to carry another pair of shoes halfway across the world.

Little did I know, one year later, I’d be crossing the finish line of Western States 100 wearing a pair of Kaptivas, with arguably some of the happiest feet on course that day. So how did I get to the point of trusting that this shoe could take me 100-miles in 17-plus hours? Well, a spring filled with heavy usage provided a heavy dose of confidence—exactly what one needs when toeing the line of an ultramarathon.

Rewinding to this past winter, when my journey towards my A-race of Western States began, I tested a Gore-Tex proto of the Kaptivas, essentially the winter version of what is sold today. These babies had been refined since the last protos. Although still skeptical, after a few hard runs, I knew these shoes would surge to the top of my quiver. I wore that proto pair for every long run and hard trail session from January through March 

A trail shoe that fit and runs like a road shoe and keeps my feet relatively dry and warm? Finally!

I wore them during the Way Too Cool 50k in March, which was essentially a four-hour sprint with more mud than I’ve ever run through and more river-crossings than you could count.  In a sprint finish over the last mile, I finished first ahead of relentless competitor and dear friend Addie Bracy. I didn’t get one blister. Not even a hint of a foot issue. Little did I know, these Kaptivas would continue to provide happy feet results over the next few months. 

Clare Gallagher running the WAY TOO COOL 50 - Photo by Jonathon Levitt

Clare finishing the Way Too Cool 50k, Photo: Jonathon Levitt

When the current version of the Kaptivas hit the shelves, the non-Gore-Tex version, considering my successful winter runs, I was more eager than usual.

My spring was a mashup of hard training and nonstop travel, and amazingly, I had the confidence to bring just the Kaptivas on trips. To bring just one pair of shoes? Gasp! But yes, they could run on the roads just fine in a pinch and were the only trail shoe I wanted to run in. 

My hard efforts were all run in the same pair of Kaptivas. I set the FKT of Boulder’s Mesa Trail, a 13-mile out and back, instead of finding a race. On an overcast Saturday morning, I laced up my Kaptivas on my porch, just miles away from the LaSpo North American headquarters—unrelated to my effort, but a fun fact—warmed up the 3-miles to Chautauqua Trailhead, and sprinted for 13-miles on the backyard grinder. The trail has sharp granite rocks, is properly technical for short sections, has wet and hard mud in other sections, and has buffed out double-wide gravel paths, essentially a track surface in a trail setting. The shoes matched the variety perfectly. Not one issue.

Clare getting the FTK of Mesa Trail

Mesa Trail FKT, Photo: Guy Love 

A few weeks later, I was in Chamonix, France for a 6-hour run up and down Les Planards trail for Running Up For Air Chamonix. A Patagonia Europe event to raise awareness about air pollution in the Mt. Blanc Valley. All 6-hours I ran in the Kaptivas.

Running the RUFA Chamonix

Clare Gallagher running RUFA Chamonix, Photo: Ollie Bowman

A few weeks after that, after a 15-hour drive in my Prius, I ran 37-miles across Joshua Tree National Park, setting the FKT, just a few minutes off from the men’s FKT. Same pair of Kaptivas. Things were looking good. My feet were happy. My body was holding up and I had one final hard race one month out from the Western States 100, Scout Mountain Ultras in Pocatello Idaho.

Clare in Joshua Tree, California

Clare at the North Entrance of Joshua Tree, Photo: Alastair McDowell

I rocked up to Luke Nelson’s race, tired after driving from J Tree through Utah with a few too many stops to run. So many trails in Utah! I was in a groove though, travel had become my middle name and this race was no exception to performing well, albeit a bit disheveled.

The 21-miler is a world-class race, one of the best short-distance trail races I’ve ever run. It boasts snow, rocks, forested single-track, grass, and the teeniest half-mile of road. I started with my pseudo-Daddy, Jeff Browning – he’s old enough to be my father and we share fair complexions, so obviously there’s a chance I’m his college love child—and finished in the men’s podium, 3rd overall and set a new CR. Little would I know that the person’s who CR I broke, local Brittany Peterson, would end up returning to my life in a few short weeks in a very seminal way?

Clare running in the Scout Mountain Ultras

Running in the Scout Mountain Ultra, Photo: Jana Herzog

So, all of this running was done in one pair of Kaptivas. 

Then,  a last-minute, insane opportunity to go to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Alaska came up, with climber Tommy Caldwell, Luke Nelson, and photographer Austin Siadak. Guess which shoes I wore? Those Kaptivas. I forged knee-deep glacial water river crossings wearing those trusty shoes. Somehow, my feet survived the Arctic. Time to race the Western States.

Clare crossing the Opilak River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Crossing the Opilak River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Austin Siadak

4:55 am, June 29th, 2019, I laughed and jumped in place, waiting for the start of my biggest race of the year. On my feet? You know the answer. Granted, I indulged in a fresh pair of Kaptivas, as my original pair had over 300 miles on them from the spring. I’ll still add miles to those, but I wanted to run WS100 in a fresh pair.

17 hours, 23 minutes later, I was still in the same pair, having raced the second-fastest time ever. Brittany Peterson put on the most entertaining race arguably in history, catching me at mile 93. I charged like I was in a road 10k and didn’t look back. 

Clare doing a river crossing in the Western State 100

The Western State 100 river crossing, Photo: Bryson Malone

The only issues on my feet? I kicked a rock really hard in those final six miles, resulting in a few bruised toenails. Zero blisters. Basically zero issues. 

Needless to say, I’m happy and confident in bringing one pair of shoes on most of my adventures, road trips, and races. It’s smart to be skeptical, but when you find what works, stop questioning and live your life. Happy feet to you all!

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La Sportiva Mountain Running Athlete Clare GallagherCLARE GALLAGHER is a member of the La Sportiva Mountain Running® Team.

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7/23/2019 9:54 AM
Posted in Running By Clare Gallagher

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