After being chosen as an I/O Merino Guest Reviewer, ultra runner Sarah Murphy headed East to the inaugural Surf Coast Trail Marathon to put her new Altitude Long Sleeve Crew through its paces.

By I/O Merino Guest Reviewer, Sarah Murphy.

Running a marathon on the surf coast in the middle of winter seemed to be the ideal opportunity to run in my favourite of all fabrics – Merino – and as an added incentive, I/O Merino were also one of the event sponsors.

I run a lot, and I run long distances. And I must admit, I always struggle in Winter to get my clothing choice right. Like a lot of women, I really feel the cold. But as soon as I start running I heat up real quick, and a good run can turn pretty bad if I’m overheating.

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Sarah stays warm and comfortable in an Arizona Hoodie and Highpoint Necktube while she checks out the course the day before the race.

After the initial excitement of receiving my Altitude Crew Neck Base Layer (long sleeve) to wear and review during the event, my next thought was “oh no, what if it’s too warm!” Those thoughts were short lived as the weather rolled in and the forecast for race-day included gale force winds, rain and possible hail. Oh perfect, just the conditions for running a marathon on the coast.

I was receiving regular updates on the weather that was heading our way, and while we’d had beautiful cool but sunny weather the day before, it looked certain it was going to hit hard just in time for the event. Next day however, I awoke at the ungodly hour of 5:30am to cold, calm and clear skies. Had Mother Nature spared us?

Standing around for an hour and a half before the event start with no shelter was not ideal, but was a pretty good test of the warmth of layered I/O Merino. I wore my Altitude Crew Neck Base Layer, with an Arizona Mid Layer Hoodie over the top and a Highpoint Neck tube worn as a headband over my ears. I’m not sure what the temperature was, but the ice on the windscreen that morning suggested it was definitely single digits as the sun came up.

Ready to go at the starting line of the Surf Coast Trail Marathon.

At 9am it was finally time to go. By this time the sun was shining and I’d happily stripped down to just the Altitude base layer, with the neck tube worn as a headband to keep my ears warm for the start of the run. The first 5km or so of the race were relatively easy and flat terrain, (compared to what was to come), which allowed me to run at a decent pace.

As predicted, I warmed up quickly, and shed the headband within the first few kilometers. I always prefer headbands to beanies or hats when running as when I get too warm it’s easy to whip it off and loop it around my wrist rather than hanging on to it, or trying to get it in my pack while on the move. I pushed my sleeves up just a little and my body instantly found its comfortable temperature.

The next part might sound a bit odd when my task was to review a product, but that’s the last I thought about what I was wearing for the next 4 hours. And trust me, that’s a good thing! Whether I’m on a training run, running an ultra-marathon or Rogaining in the bush, the last thing I need to be thinking about is what I’m wearing. Between thinking about where I’m going, how fast I’m going, how much I’m eating and drinking and how much it hurts, I don’t want to be putting things on, pulling them off, pulling them down to avoid the dreaded chafe, itching, and of course thinking about how much I’m going to smell in a few hours.

I’m happy to report I did none of these things, despite the varied conditions including the odd patch of drizzle, ups, downs, running on the beach, sheltered inland trails, exposed cliff tops, and into strong, cold head winds. I wasn’t too warm or too cold, there was no riding up, no itching, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t smell too bad at the end of it either! I got a little damp with the drizzle, but the fabric didn’t hold any moisture and dried quickly. So for all those reasons, the Altitude base layer gets a big thumbs-up.

Sarah took some time out the day after the race to do a little sight seeing. Pictured here wearing the Arizona Hoodie.

As for the more technical details:

  • One of the softest and definitely the stretchiest merino I’ve worn (and trust me, I’ve worn a lot!). Presumably due to the 4% elastin, I think this really added to the comfort factor and meant that I didn’t notice what I was wearing all day despite running for four and a half hours.
  • Love the thumb loops and added length in the sleeves, great for cold days, especially as I never run in gloves.
  • All flat-lock seams and no tags to itch or rub. Ok, you can cut a tag out, but it always leaves a bit behind. When there is no tag to begin with, there is nothing to leave behind!
  • The garment overall is a lot longer than I would normally wear. From a performance perspective it meant that it didn’t ride up leaving that pesky gap between the waistband of my shorts and the bottom of my shirt, which is just perfect for getting cold or sunburnt, not to mention chaffing from my pack. Nothing worse than needing to adjust and yank down my top every 5 minutes. Also, if I was wearing it as a base layer under something else there’s plenty of length to tuck it in without it popping out every time I put my arms up.

I loved not only the Altitude base layer, but also the Arizona Mid Layer Hoodie, Park City Mid Layer Vest and especially the Highpoint Neck Tube, all of which I lived in over the 5 day trip.

If I could live in Merino, I would. Best fabric ever.

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