serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews
 

New Balance Warrior Prequel Running Shoe Review

October 11th, 2013

photo 1.JPG

New Balance gave me the chance to check out the new Warrior Prequel Running Shoes and I couldn’t wait to lace these babies up and take them for a spin around town. The Warrior Prequel is the first in it’s series and is a shoe built from the ground up without any creative constraints.

photo 4.JPG

The first thing I noticed when putting on the shoe was the molded tongue for a tight fit in the upper part of the shoe. I personally haven’t run in any shoes with this kind of support in the tongue and I was pleasantly surprised at how it cradled my entire foot. The upper is seamlessly welded for unmatched fit in any type of runner. This also lends itself for high performance for all types of foot shapes and sizes. The Warrior Prequel combines comfort, stability, and is ultra-light speed all in one package.

photo 3.JPG

The external stability cradle maintains the foot positioning in the center heel which helps all types of athletes. New Balance was also able to add rev-light material in the heel which is 33% lighter than other shoes with the same amount of cushioning.

I ran in these shoes but New Balance wants you to know these shoes are perfect for anyone playing team sports, crossfit, or anybody. New Balance tested them with recreational athletes and professional athletes to show it can work for anyone. I think they are great all around shoes but if you are looking for a running specific shoe you may want to try another New Balance running shoes.

Check out this video on how they designed the shoe.

 

Georgia runner to run XTERRA National Championships

September 16th, 2013

Deanna McCurdy of Peachtree City will be joining 700 other runners in the XTERRA National Championships this weekend. Deanna is running in support of Team Miles for Smiles, a Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics, or F.A.S.T. Her youngest daughter is diagnosed with the disease. Those effected are born missing a segment of their 15th chromosome on the maternal side and require life long care.

Deanna placed 1st in the XTERRA Deep South Trail Run 15k (no big deal, right?) that she described as really, “a way to have a date with my husband, we were going to go mountain biking after I ran the race.” Sounds like a tough woman. But don’t be afraid, Deanna just has perceptive from raising a child affected by Angelman Syndrome. Her running mantra is, “I run because I can. When I get tired I just remember those who can’t run and what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.” Deanna wears a blue reminder bracelet and friendship bracelet in support of Foundation of Angelman Syndrome and a friendship bracelet is from her 8 year old daughter.

Deanna says that when their daughter was born it turned their world updside down. The fact that you don’t know when “someday is” makes you jump on every opportunity if it presents itself.

What’s unique about Deanna’s foundation is that a cure doesn’t seem in a distance future, it’s being tested successfully and a cure could become imminent. 1 out of 15,000 children have the disease but Deanna says that many more may be prevalent in mis-diagnosis as autism or cerebral palsy.

If you want to support Deanna, her race, and the foundation, please visit their site at miles-for-smiles.org.

7 Training Tips on Preparing for Tough Mudder and Spartan Race

September 16th, 2013

Guest post:  Deanna McCurdy

Preparing for a race, whether it’s the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or other challenge, can seem like a daunting task- especially if it’s your first go-around. With these simple tips on preparing for an upcoming race, you’ll have no problem waltzing onto the battlegrounds and keeping up with the big dogs, possibly ending as a winner.

Preparing for a race, whether it’s the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or other challenge, can seem like a daunting task- especially if it’s your first go-around. With these simple tips on preparing for an upcoming race, you’ll have no problem waltzing onto the battlegrounds and keeping up with the big dogs, possibly ending as a winner.

By The National Guard via Flick (CC-BY-2.0)

  1. 1.                  Lose Weight

Trying to win a race when you are carrying extra weight is an obvious recipe for failure. In the few weeks prior to the event, try to lose as much excess weight as possible. This excess weight is doing nothing but weighing you down and leaner contestants will have an easy time passing you up. Just make sure you lose weight in the healthy way with plenty of good foods and exercise. Don’t join a fad diet or eat too few calories or you will end up doing your body more harm than good.

  1. 2.                  Run

One of the best ways to train for a marathon is by running. You’ll obvious be doing a lot of that in the impending event, so you want to build up as much endurance as you can. If you don’t get used to doing a lot of running, start off slow by only doing light jogs, mixing in sprints when you’re ready. Increase the amount of running and intensity of the run each time to build up your legs and endurance. Don’t run every day, as this can be hard on the knees. Instead, try to run at least 3 times a week with a maximum of 5. Overdoing it will do nothing but stress out the body and cause aches and pains before the race.

  1. 3.                  Endurance

There will be many other activities during the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, and you need to be prepared for everything that comes your way. Instead of focusing on just endurance during running, you also need to worry about the endurance of your entire body. For this part of training for a marathon, you need to do several weight workouts several times a week (on the days you aren’t running). Do plenty of muscle-building on the arms, legs, stomach, and back. This will help your overall performance. But again, don’t do so many muscle workouts that you harm the muscles. Instead, start off light and build up intensity with each workout.

  1. 4.                  Plenty of Rest

When people begin preparing for a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder, they can typically become overwhelmed with everything they need to do. This, in turn, may cause contestants to lose sleep. However, this is very bad for the body and reverses any training that may be done. Make sure your body gets plenty of rest and has ample time to recover.

  1. 5.                  Eat Healthy

Eating healthy is a practice that should be held year round. But if you are just now jumping on the healthy food bandwagon to get prepared for the upcoming marathon, give yourself a pat on the back. Eating healthy is vital for the body, especially when it is training at a high capacity. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and meats to ensure your body is revitalized with proper nutrients. You may opt to start a ‘clean’ or ‘vegan’ diet in the weeks prior to the event.

  1. 6.                  Get the Right Apparel

Working out in the wrong apparel can be incredibly uncomfortable, causing possible damage to the body. Buy the right workout gear, including apparel that supports the body. Pay close attention to shoes, making sure to buy running shoes that offer plenty of comfort and support for the foot. You may consider shopping at Under Armour shoes store as they offer a wide selection of running shoes, and you can use an Under Armour promo code to save on your purchase.

  1. 7.                  Taper

In the week before the event, you should taper off from strenuous runs and workouts. The body needs time to heal and rest before the big occasion, and tapering off is a great way to regain lost strength and leave your body feeling fresh and ready to take on the challenge.

Author Bio: Jane Hudson is an avid blogger with a passion for writing. With over 3 year- experience and a unique writing style, she creates pieces that are interesting to read in relation to fashion, exercise, and deals. Let visit her blog or G+ for more interesting articles.

 

5 Reasons to not slow down at any Finish Line

September 10th, 2013

There are many examples in sports where a competitor prematurely celebrates or “lets up” at the last second turning what appears to be great success to embarrassing failure.  In the NFL season opener on September 5th between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, Danny Trevathan purposefully dropped a Joe Flacco intercepted pass at what turned out to be inches before he crossed the goal line to celebrate.  What appeared to be a Denver touchdown quickly turned into a Baltimore first down.  In the August Ironman 70.3 Brazil race, Jérémy Jurkiewicz of France stopped short of the finish to celebrate his victory and literally had to push back Brazil’s Igor Amorelli only inches from the tape to grab the win.  This calls for a look at 5 Great Reasons for NOT slowing down at the finish line!

Finish the Drill

Several sports teams including the University of Georgia football team have adopted “Finish the Drill” as their slogan.  There is great satisfaction both mentally and physically when we complete a race knowing that we left absolutely nothing on the trail.  I feel great knowing I gave it my best shot and I feel lousy knowing I held back ….regardless of my excuse.

Cameras Keep Rolling as Time Keeps Ticking

There is always at least one camera rolling and the footage is hard to refute especially when there are multiple angles.  Those computer chips don’t lie so slowing up at the finish is hard to refute even when the argument is between you and yourself.  After the race, look in the mirror and feel confident telling yourself that you ran through the finish and not to the finish.

It Makes No Sense to Come Up Short

Whether the race is 100 meters or a marathon, giving it your best shot for 99% of the race only to let up at the finish makes no sense.  We have all seen it happen to others but we don’t think it can happen to us.  It can.  It takes both mental and physical toughness to avoid coming up short.  Winners never quit and quitters never win.

You May Get a Big Surprise

I was fortunate enough to be the anchor on my college mile relay team my sophomore year in a dual meet with our arch rival.  We were 1 point ahead going into the final event meaning the winner of the mile relay event would win the dual meet.  Unfortunately their mile relay team was far superior as evidenced by their sweep of the open 400.  Surprisingly their leadoff man lost control of his baton coming out of the blocks!  Baton retrieval was costly however the gap had disappeared by the time the anchor legs made their exchanges.  We went stride for stride through the backstretch. Their anchor patiently waited to make his move.  I just knew I had him beat until I hit the tape and caught a glimpse of him hitting the tape at the same time.  I had no idea he was that close!  First place judge picked me.  Second place judge picked me too.  The points were split and we miraculously won the meet.  I swear I did not “let up” but if I had “let up” no way I would have admitted it.

Your Pain Will be Even Greater After the Race If You Let Up

That inner voice may tell us that we have run a long and hard race and no one will ever know if we let up just before the finish or celebrate those last few steps.  That is no one will know but us.  Truth is the “pain” saved by the “let up” in no way compares to the pain of coming up short especially when a competitor passes us up at the finish line.  Don’t take the risk.  Run through the finish in every race both on and off the trail.

SeriousRunning Partners

August 27th, 2013

We’re seeking partnerships with race directors of trail running, dualthalons, and adventure race events. SeriousRunning, established in 2008, is expanding beyond trail running to include adventure racing. SeriousRunning has the largest database of running trails across the US and has been listing  endurance events for over 6 years.

Any adventure or trail race event would be an ideal partner. We’ve done promotional blog posts in the past for XTERRA races and Spartan Race. If you’d like to learn more or have your race featured, please email me, Chris Barber at chris@seriousrunning.com.

We’re also offering internships for military Veterans in digital marketing and Internet businesses. SeriousRunning is run by battle buddies, Chris Barber and Brian Ansley. We worked together in Iraq and are both passionate about helping other Veterans make a smooth transition to civilian life.

If You Don’t Like To Run…Then You’re Doing It Wrong

August 16th, 2013

I’ve heard many people over the years say why running is just “not for me.”  I think I’ve heard just about every excuse in the book as to why they don’t like running, don’t run at all anymore, or never even tried to run because of some sort of physical barrier.  I will be the first to admit that I haven’t always been a runner.  In high school, my running consisted entirely of what I did in football practice or games.  My attitude was, “If it was anything longer than 100 yards, then just go on with out me.”  However, once I became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, running became part of my culture.  My division is known for long distance runs in Area J (a sandy, wooded, and hilly area on Fort Bragg).  Our runs together in Area J were often times pretty tough, but it was something that brought us all closer together.  Today, Chris Barber and I still reminisce about those runs we had.  There is still an ongoing debate as to who was the fastest runner in our platoon, but it was an experience that he and I will never forget.

The power of long distance running is unmeasurable.  I think it’s crazy when I hear people tell me that they weren’t built for running.  There is enough science out there now that proves ALL human beings were built to be distance runners.  Running is what we do.  It’s in our DNA, and there is not other animal on the planet that can do it quite like us.  Our natural ability to run long distance has been a primary contributor to our evolutionary development and success.

Here are four little tips that may help get rid of a few of those excuses as to why you aren’t a distance runner:

1.) If your body hurts when you run, then you probably need to evaluate your running form.  We could get into the whole debate about running shoes, and minimalist versus support shoes, but form is often times the main culprit for running pain.

2.) Tailor your runs to your own personal wants and needs.  This means that you must listen to your own body.  If your running partner is much faster than you, then don’t risk injury just to be able to keep up with his or her pace.  There’s nothing wrong with pushing your physical fitness levels.  Actually, I highly encourage it in order to make you a stronger runner both mentally and physically.  However, do it judiciously.  Distance running is a game of patience, so just relax and take your time.

3.) Enjoy your runs by running in a comfortable environment.  This means if you don’t like to run in the heat, then schedule your runs for the early morning or in the evenings when the sun is not so intense.  Is your trail not too safe after dark?  Then run with a friend or during daylight hours.  The important thing is that you plan your runs in a safe and comfortable environment so that you can focus on running, and not be distracted by a whole lot of external factors.

4.) Be a grateful runner.  Not everyone in the world has an opportunity to enjoy running because of physical or mental disabilities.  It is something that we all take advantage of, but it is an important thought to keep in mind when you’re running.  I’m grateful every time I lace up my running shoes and get out there on the trails.  Having an appreciative outlook on your ability to run can be an enormous contributor to your motivation.

In the end, just get out there and run.  There are going to be things that work for you that don’t work for other people.  However, in order to find out what works you have to get out there and learn your body.  Find out what your physical and mental limits are, and don’t be afraid to set new ones.  And lastly, remember that we are all runners.  It’s not unique to only certain human beings.   Instead, running is in us all, but it is up to you to bring it out.

Take life one mile at a time.

Military-Style Pull Up Workout

August 13th, 2013

Pull ups are one of the best upper body workouts that you can do.  They force you to use all of the muscles above your waist in order to reach the top of the bar.  When done correctly (which means not kipping like a CrossFitter) you can seriously transform your upper body strength.  Your pull up workout should be done once a week in order to both maintain and achieve the best possible results.  You can also incorporate your pull up workout with your gym routine.  For example, I do my own personal pull up workout and workout my back muscles on the same day at the gym.  However, it is not imperative that you do both.  It is all about personal preference, as well as one’s own physical condition.  With that being said, you can also tailor the repetitions to fit your own physical abilities.  The repetitions provided in this workout are only a model for you follow.  I hope you enjoy the workout, and feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns while executing this exercise (brianansley.ba@gmail.com).

Equipment Needed:

- Dip Belt (optional)

- Weighted Plates (optional)

- Pull Up Bar

 

Pyramid Pull Ups (30-60 seconds of rest between sets):

 

Set 1: 10 reps

Set 2: 9 reps

Set 3: 8 reps

Set 4: 7 reps

Set 5: 6 reps

Set 6: 5 reps

Set 7: 4 reps

Set 8: 3 reps

Set 9: 2 reps

Set 10: 1 rep (hold your chin above the bar until muscle failure)

*Repeat pyramid sets, but this time work from 1 rep to 10 reps.  Once you’ve completed both pyramids, do the entire workout again as a chin up  workout (palms facing towards you this time).

Military-Style Pushup Workout

August 12th, 2013

Okay, SeriousRunners.  Here is a simple pushup workout that can be done just about anywhere, and requires very little equipment.  If you don’t have some of the equipment, then simply substitute it with something that you might have laying around the garage or basement.  Also, I would suggest wearing a watch so that you can keep precise time in between sets.  Remember to stay consistent with your 60 second rest times, and focus on correct form to achieve maximum results and avoid injuries. *If you have any questions regarding this workout, then just hit me up at brianansley.ba@gmail.com.

Equipment Needed:

1 – Swiss Ball (any size)

1 – Medicine Ball (any weight)

1 – Weighted Plate

Rest 60 seconds between each set

Standard Pushups (no weight):

Sets: 3

Regular Style (hands shoulder width apart): Max reps

Wide Style (hands further than shoulder width apart): Max reps

Diamond Style (hands close together to form a diamond): Max reps

Two Arm Medicine ball Pushups:

Sets: 4 (Close Grip on top of the medicine ball)

Reps: Max

Elevated Swiss Ball Pushup:

 Sets: 4

Reps: Max

One Arm Medicine Ball Pushup:

Sets: 4

Reps: Max

Weighted Pushup:

(Adjust weight accordingly)

Sets: 4

Reps: Max

*Repeat entire workout until muscle failure is achieved.

Reebok Spartan Race Partners with NBC Sports Group to bring Adventure Racing to Television!

August 8th, 2013

Barb Wire Crawl

I knew they would eventually do it, Spartan Race is now going to be televised! I recently got interested in Spartan Race because of the close ties to the military type obstacles and military style exercises it takes to complete these gnarly obstacle courses.

Why so gnarly you ask? Because it was started by a Royal Marine who’s first race direction didn’t have a waiver and he named it Death Race. That’s gnarlesbarkley and why I can’t wait to watch the World Championships on NBC. Think World’s Strongest Man in an Octagon with a lot of mud and barbed wire. Plus a lot of grunting, yelling, and relentless opposition. You have to want to finish this race. This is death, not your Mom’s tough, muddy adventure race. (disclaimer: I love my Mother and all Moms, tough or mudlike)

NBC will be airing the 2013 Reebok Spartan Race World Championship featuring athletes competing for $250k cash & prizes! That’s crazy! I wonder how much Usain Bolt gets paid to run? I bet it’s not as much as Jay-Z gets paid by Reebok to land in Europe.

This is revolutionary for the Sport of Adventure Racing and I’m excited to be a part of it happening. Spartan Race is also doing a 90 minute special on the athletes competing that will feature those whom have overcome other types of obstacles through running. My battle buddy, Brian Ansley, and I have both experienced difficult transitions to civilian life and we both agree exercise is key, that’s why we’re doing SeriousRunning together and why we dig what Spartan Race is doing. It’s good for all Veterans to have battle buddies.

You should sign up if you want to put your body through physical pain and intestinal fortitude training. Your body will recover, but your mind will never be the same. Show Spartan Race who’s mentally tougher, you or some former Royal Marine dude.

And watch the special on the athletes on NBC. Maybe you’ll see Ansley…

Welcome to the Heist. #Macklemore

Great Trail Running Quote

May 5th, 2010

“I keep running and when I get to a place I can’t run anymore, I turn around and run home.”

downhill-trail-running-manI read this quote in a running magazine a while back and thought it was really neat.  The quote comes from a trail runner explaining how, and probably more importantly, why he ran down a steep rock cliff that all the other runners stopped and walked down.  This quote symbolizes why I love to go serious and extreme  Trail Running.  It’s a freelance, exhilarating activity where you get whatever you put into it.  If you want to walk down the cliff, you can, but if you want to challenge yourself and heighten your senses, then you run down it.  It’s up to you. Challenge yourself.

Another important challenge behind this quote is not the decision the Trail Runner made to run down the cliff, but the decision to just simply run until he can’t run anymore.  How many of us have run until complete exhaustion where our bodies could not physically run anymore?  I want to challenge myself to do that more often (probably not on a remote trail though).  I truly don’t know what I could be capable of achieving in running until I run to complete exhaustion.

Bottom line, I’m sure the quoted trail runner didn’t stand at the top of the cliff and think, “Should I run down this?”  He just did it.  Hansel from the movie “Zoolander” said it best, “I just grip it and rip it, that’s just how I live my life bro.”  Grip it and Rip it on your next trail run.

What is a Runner’s High?

April 12th, 2010

runners-high

Most trail runners have experienced it, some run just to attain it, while others have no idea what a “Runner’s High” is.  If you are a trail runner and have never experienced a Runner’s High then you need to run faster, push your body harder, and attain the point where you lose conscientiousness of what your body is feeling.

A Runner’s High can be described as an elevation of the senses while running, typically long distances and in a natural environment.  It is difficult for trail runners to describe the exact feeling (much like drug users) they get from a Runner’s High, but many equate it to the feeling of an orgasm.  Another good reason to go trail running.

Technically, a Runner’s High is associated with the release of endorphins in the brain.  Endorphins are any group of opiate proteins with pain-relieving properties that are found naturally in the brain.  The word endorphins comes from two parts: endo- and -orphin; which are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine, intended to mean “a morphine like substance originating from within the body.”  Knowing that human cells have receptors for this drug suggests that the body produces its own morphine like substances which it is believed can be released into the body by running long distances and gives trail runners the feeling of a Runner’s High.

While it is difficult to quantify exactly what feeling different trail runners get from this release of endorphins, it is agreed that there is a definite mood change.  The difference in Runners’ Highs can be a positive or negative one with differing levels of intensity.  Maybe that is why many trail runners become so Serious about Running, because they are the type of runners that get this intense positive feedback from running.

Whatever the science is and however your brain reacts to trail running, one thing is certain, there is a typical emotional feeling derived from trail running.  Everyone records their feelings differently but there is always a point during a trail run that your body changes.  So go out for a long trail run, and push to attain a close connection between your mind and body.  Let your mind take over while your feet are still moving, one in front of the other, and you are only aware of one thing…yourself.  Trail running is a free self-awareness seminar!

So say no to drugs and help keep the kids stay off the streets.  Get them running on the trails instead and let’s get hiiiiiiiigh together….on Trail Running.

Is Gatorade good for Trail Running Hydration?

June 16th, 2010

gatorade-hydrationHydration and energy are essential for successful Trails Runs, but is yours being sabotaged by sports drinks?

Sports drinks were originally developed by scientists at the University of Florida in 1965 to help the school’s football players perform better during their 3-hour long games in 100-degree heat. Sound like your Trail Runs? Didn’t think so. Most of us have trail runs that last from 1 to 1 ½ hours at a moderate pace. The American Dietetic Association explains that unless you are an elite athlete or engaged in vigorous activity for more than 1 hour, plain water works perfectly for hydration.

There are two main components of sports drinks that aid in performance and hydration: carbohydrates and sodium. The carbohydrates come in the form of sugar to sweeten the drink and to add calories for energy. The sodium works to replace the sodium lost in sweat. However, neither of the components are necessary in drinks used for thirst and hydration for moderate runs that last less than 1 hour. In fact, drinking sports drinks when they are not necessary can add extra calories to your diet. The usual size 20-ounce bottle of a sports drink has an average of 140 calories, which means that you will have to run an extra 15 minutes just to burn it off!

Instead of drinking regular sports drinks, here are some healthy options:

- Flavor regular water with lemon, lime or orange slices

- Use lower calorie versions of sports drinks such as Gatorade G2 (71 calories per 20-ounce bottle), Propel Fitness Water (25 calories per 20-ounce bottle) or Powerade Zero (0 calories per 20-ounce bottle)

- Dilute your favorite sports drink with regular water

I know what you are thinking. “But I always drink Gatorade during races. It makes me feel better.” And you are right! There are instances when you do need to replace needed calories and energy during or after trail runs. I know that when I am training for half marathons, I tend to get leg cramps at night. What does that say to me? I am losing too much potassium through my sweat and need to replace it better. Ways to do that are through potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, or sports drinks! Consequently, I usually end my long runs with a large glass of Propel, berry flavor to be exact. The 45 minutes directly after your run is the best time to replenish the body’s losses.

Essentially, think of your body as a night club. As the night goes on, more and more cabs line up to take people home. Just like as your muscles work, they need to be replaced by what they lose, so transporters in your body line up to bring those lost elements from your bloodstream to your muscles and tissues. After the night club closes, people linger for awhile, so the cabs stick around for another 45 minutes or so to assure that everybody is brought home safely. Similarly, in your body, those transporters stick around for about 45 minutes to bring every needed mineral and nutrient available to replenish the muscles and tissues, which help to prevent soreness and cramping.

Moral of the story: Sports drinks work magnificently to replace your body’s losses if you are trail running for longer than 1 1/2 hours, hit that wall during a trail race when you feel your energy bottoms out, or are in need of extra calories and electrolytes. Otherwise, water is your best bet. It will quench your thirst without adding excess calories that you just worked so hard to burn off.

Happy Trail Running and Hydration!

-Lanier Thompson, M.S.

How to Find Your Way if Lost While Trail Running

April 7th, 2010

yellow-tape-in-front-of-trail

These past two weekends I ran two trail races and during both of them at one point I found myself without any other runners around me.  Once this happened I began to second guess if I was on the right trail.  We all want reassurance from our peers that we are traveling down the right path.  Of course, there were arrows on the ground and tape cutting the trail splits on these trail runs, but when you are running, pushing yourself, and in the zone, you tend to just keep running on the path right in front of you.  The path of least resistance.  However, sometimes it’s best to run down the trail less traveled…

So let’s say you go for a trail run, by yourself, to get out of the city, to be in the forest, and maybe get some clarity.  While attaining your runner’s high, you zone out of your immediate surroundings and suddenly find yourself lost.  You are running by yourself, you don’t have a GPS, or a map but have a general idea of which Cardinal direction you need to travel to find your way back.

What should you do?  Try to survive and wait to be rescued?  Possibly, but if you are trail running, you probably aren’t that far off your intended location.

1.  Walk downhill until you reach water. There are two reasons why you want to find water.  First off, you want to make sure as you aren’t running around in circles which can very easily happen.  Following a water way ensures you go one direction and make progress.  Secondly, population centers are usually on or near waterways, so if you follow one long enough you will reach civilization.  If not, you’ll eventually reach the beach.  Once there, reward yourself with an umbrella drink and a rub down.  You deserve it.

2.  Look at the Moss on the sides of trees. Moss often grows on the North side of the trees.  Based off this you can determine which cardinal direction you want to travel.  Left of North is West.  Right of North is East.  South of North is…well, South.

3.  Find the North Star. If it is night time and you are in the Northern Hemisphere you can find the North Star as the brightest star on the handle of the Little Dipper.  Just think about the big tent in Elementary school with the stars displayed on the ceiling.  The North Star and Little find-your-way-by-sunset-resizeDipper are probably the easiest stars to recognize.  Unlike B-list celebrities, which are often difficult to recognize.

4.  Look up to the clouds. You can look to the sky to pray; while you are looking up there, notice which way the clouds are traveling.  Clouds usually travel East to West.  They don’t follow the exact Cardinal directions but it can point you in the right direction.

5.  Watch the sunset and sunrise. While you’re lost, take time to appreciate the simple things in life like the sunrise and sunset.  The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Only “ride off into the sunset” if you want to travel West.

Overall, make sure you don’t panic and think rationally.  If you have no idea which direction you should travel then your best option is to just stay put and make yourself visible for possible rescue teams.  Things like bright clothing, fires, and being on a high point are great ways to get yourself noticed.  Being obnoxious and loud is a horrible way to get noticed.  If you have confidence and a calm demeanor you’ll get noticed every time, on and off the trail.

XTERRA offering $15 Race Entries Tomorrow!

April 14th, 2010

xterra-trail-races-discount-dayTo give us Trail Runners a little tax day relief XTERRA is offering $15 race registrations tomorrow, April 15th!  Finally someone is recognizing the positive benefits of Trail Running and giving us tax breaks.  When is the federal government going to get on board with XTERRA and Trail Running?  Hopefully someday we’ll get enough Justices on the Supreme Court to pass tax breaks for Trail Runners.  Until that happens, register for one of these trail races, tomorrow, April 15th for only $15!  What a break!

Register for one or more of these upcoming XTERRA Trail Race events for just $15 each:

XTERRA Lake Las Vegas 5/10/21km Runs – Henderson, NV – April 24, 2010

XTERRA Waco 5/10/21km Trail Runs – Waco, TX – May 22, 2010

XTERRA Oak Mountain 5/10/21km Mud Runs – Pelham, AL – June 12, 2010

XTERRA Richmond 21km Xduro and Fugitive 10km Trail Run – Richmond, VA – June 19, 2010

XTERRA Bend 5/10km Trail Runs – Bend, OR – September 18, 2010

XTERRA Wheeler Canyon 21km Xduro Trail Run – Ogden, UT – September 18, 2010

XTERRA Makena Beach 5/10km Trail Runs – Makena, Maui, HI – October 23, 2010

XTERRA Kualoa 5/10km Trail Runs – Oahu, HI – December 5, 2010

Thanks XTERRA, you are truly great Americans.  Wait, isn’t XTERRA made by Nissan…

Running Vertical

April 21st, 2010

191peachtree_run

When I can’t run on trails I like to run races that mirror urban trail running.  Last weekend I got a chance to participate in a unique race: running to the top of 191 Peachtree, a 50-story office building in downtown Atlanta. I was sorta bummed the race wouldn’t be happening in the Bank of America building as it had in years past since BofA is the tallest in Atlanta (and 8th tallest in the US) but at 770 feet, 191 Peachtree ain’t no slouch (it’s the 4th tallest in the ATL and 57th tallest in the US). The race was held as a benefit for the American Lung Association and each racer is required to raise at least $100 in donations on top of the $25 entry fee.

vertical_run_lineup1

At around 9am on Saturday morning the racers lined up on the street outside of the building and I chatted a few folks up to see what my strategy should be. Everyone I spoke to laughed when I asked if they ran the whole way – most of them planned to walk. One guy I spoke with said he walked the whole thing last year in a time of around 12 minutes which didn’t sound too bad. Heck, I could do almost anything for 12 minutes!

I hadn’t done any training for the race but I still thought it should be possible to jog up at least the first few floors. A couple years ago I used to include stadium step running in my training routine and I was actually sorta good at it. But running stadium steps is a little different than running up 50 flights of stairs – at least you get a break when you descend the aisles.

At the race, runners were sent up the stairs in 10 second intervals to avoid a massive traffic jam. The event was chip timed with mats at the bottom and top of the course. I decided to start off at a decent clip, taking 2 steps at a time and I immediately started passing runners who started before me. Before I knew it I blew past the first water stop (seriously) on the 8th floor. Next thing I knew, I was still jogging at the halfway mark, 25 floors. My strategy was to run up the stairs and walk across the transition landings which helped because I was starting to get dizzy from running around in circles.

By the time I hit the second water stop at the 38th floor I was starting to feel pretty spent and around 40 I have to admit I walked 2 or 3 floors. With one final push to the top, I ran up the remaining levels and entered the 50th floor to a cheering crowd lining the hallway. Gatorade and sweeping views of the Atlanta skyline awaited and after cooling down for a few minutes I took the elevator back down to earth.

I didn’t time myself during the run so I waited around for the results and was surprised at how well I did: 7 mins, 30 secs (9 sec per floor) which earned me third place overall out of about 200 runners. As my brother Chris said, it seems like I may have found my race. With a little training I’ll be back next year, ready to take first!

Dances with Dirt Trail Race – Gnaw Bone

April 27th, 2010

dances-with-dirt-gnaw-bones-trail-raceWeak, wimpy, treadmill running pansies who don’t want mud on their shorts can stop reading now.  Trail Running lovers who enjoy being scratched, muddied, and bruised, stay here because we have the Trail Race for you, Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone Trail Race on May 15th!  Expect to get to the edge where life is in full color.  Expect a day that makes you realize you are fully alive, awake and crackin’ on all cylinders.  Expect insanity, stupidity, and nirvana (or those things at higher than your normal levels)! 

Dances with Dirt is a series of four ultra/marathons/relay trail running events that will test your mettle no matter what age or fitness level you are.

dances-with-dirt-gnaw-bones-trail-race-2The second race of the Dances with Dirt series, Gnaw Bone takes place in Nashville, Indiana on May 15th.  No matter what distance pushes you to the limit, they have it for you with a 50 mile, 50K, marathon, half-marathon, and 50 mile relay.  You can start the 50 mile ultra at 5:30 AM but you better bring a headlamp because you will be running in the dark.  Is there a better sunrise than one you see at mile 4 of a 50 mile run?  If you don’t own a headlamp there will be another start at 6:15 AM for the 50 mile race.  The 50K and marathon start at 7:00 AM with the half-marathon bringing up the rear starting at 9:00 AM.

From comments and suggestions, Dances with Dirt races have polished this gem of a race course to make it more exciting, fun, and challenging.  The race surface consists of mud, rocks, and river crossings.  The trail is not maintained in certain areas but is well marked with signs that say “Wrong Way dances-with-dirt-gnaw-bones-trail-race-finishMoron.”  Is it the right way if you are not a moron?  I don’t know, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it.  You won’t get swept down any river rapids.  There are some hills but supplemental oxygen isn’t needed.  Overall it is a great run in a beautiful environment…with some stupid spots.  Perfect for runners of all abilities looking for a fun challenge!  Check out the course map if you don’t value the element of surprise.  After the race, celebrate your accomplishment and stick around to pig out with your fellow extreme runners eating a couple of roasted pigs, pizza, and beer (cash bar)!

You don’t have to take my word for it though.  See what the Head Goat Randy Step has to say about this spectacularly good time event.  Yes, he knows he looks like Maury Povich.

Why Trail Running is becoming more Popular

May 19th, 2010

trail-runners-runningRichard Burgunder recently published a great article about the rise in popularity of Trail Running named, “Trail Running:  Racing Towards the top in Popularity.”  In it he states that Trail Running is, “…considered the sixth most popular extreme sport s in the USA, only behind skating, skateboarding, paintball, climbing, and snowboarding.”  I’m not sure what type of skating this refers to, I assume roller skating, which I don’t consider very extreme.  Skateboarding and snowboarding are both board sports enjoyed by a different type of extreme athlete than the Trail Runner and Mountain Biker types and paintball is more of a game so I don’t consider it a sport.  Which leaves Trail Running as the 2nd most popular extreme sport behind rock climbing!  He goes on to say that in 2006 there were 6.7 million regular Trail Runners in the United States and at the current pace Trail Running will soon become the most popular extreme sport in the United States.

That is why we started National Trail Running Day last year with over 5,000 trail runners participating in events across the United States.  Plan an event, register it on the website and mark your calender for August 21st to do some serious Trail Running this year.  When we started National Trail Running Day some avid Trail Runners didn’t like the idea, citing the purity of the sport, being alone running on the trails and exploring paths on their own.  While we understand, we at SeriousRunning.com don’t agree; we think everyone should trail run, the more the merrier.  There are enough trails out there for all of us!  Share and review your favorite trails on our Trail Running listings and help your fellow Trail Runners get the most out of this awesome extreme sport.  We hope that the rise in popularity will lead to better Trail Running information, new gear to help make Trail Running more enjoyable, and an overall better social experience.

So why has Trail Running become so popular?  Well, first off, recently there has been a Running Boom Across America which we determined was due to the poor economy and translates well into the boom of Trail Running.  Many runners get tired of running the same routes and surfaces of road running and have ventured out to the trails for a new experience.  The transition from road running to trail running is simple, using many of the same techniques as running on roads.  Another reason is that Trail Running is easy to access; all you need is a trail.  While many trails have restrictions on mountain biking or horseback riding, virtually no trails exclude runners from running on them.  Even if trails do have restrictions on running then just walk fast if come across another hiker.

So what are you waiting for?  Get off the road and go Trail Running!

New Balance MT100s Trail Running Shoe Review

May 26th, 2010

new-balance-mt100-trail-running-shoeI first became injured on May 19th of last year with Jumper’s Knee.  Over the past year I have been nursing this injury, never fully recovering.  I have undergone countless physical therapy sessions, MRIs, multiple X-rays, a plethora of doctors’ touching my knees, different types of knee braces, and everything else you can think of to subside this injury to no avail.  What was left for me to try?  Minimalist Running shoes.

I received a pair of New Balances’ MT100s Trail Running Shoes and thought this must be a sign to take the first step…running.  The New Balance MT 100s (WT 100s for women) are New Balances’ new version of the New Balance 790s.  Since I had never tried minimalist running before I decided to try the New Balance 100s as my minimalist shoe because they offer more support than something like Vibram Five Fingers and are tough enough for the trail, which is where I run mostly.  I started with a little street running in these trail running shoes, only to get to the trail.  My philosophy is you can’t drive to the trailhead if you are within running distance.

When I first started I ran down a hill in front of my house and could really feel the pounding on my feet.  This probably had a lot to do with the fact that I had never run in minimalist shoes, and these were made for trails, not asphalt; and not to mention I was running down a steep hill.  However, if you are looking for cushioning and comfort then these are not the shoes for you.  If you want a fast ride and to feel the trail but still have some protection, the MT100s could be your new trail running shoes!

new-balance-mt-100-trail-running-shoesThe heel of the shoe is made up of cut outs for rear traction.  This really helped when I was running over some sandy and rocky terrain as I was able to push off better.  The midsole tread looks like someone took an ice cream scooper and scooped out pieces of the sole.  My guess is that this is to reduce the weight of the shoe, as well as increase flexibility and breathability.  You won’t be getting any dirt, mud, or rocks caught in these cylinder shaped holes.  The front tread is made up of some smaller ice cream scoops but mostly squares around triangles which lend for good traction while still giving you ample feeling of the trail.

The Rockstop embedded into the forefoot provides decent protection from sharp rocks and roots.  The puncture-resistant toe material in the toe wrap also helps provide some lightweight protection from trail debris, but I would be careful out there, it isn’t built like your normal trnew-balance-mt100s-trail-running-shoesail running shoes.

The midsole resists compression sets which allows it to bend, feeling more like running barefoot.  However, there is some cushioning in this sole.  I didn’t have any aches or pains in my feet after taking these bad boys on a 6 mile trail run.  There is a little arch support from the rubber that wraps around the sole which helps if you are not used to running in minimalist trail running shoes.

The upper is a synthetic mesh which is really lightweight.  The mesh works great for water drain.  I ran through a couple of creeks and felt like the shoes were completely dry after only 4 or 5 steps!  The mesh also gives a tight fit to your feet.  Helping is the Sure Lace technology that New Balance is using on a lot of their shoes now.  It definitely keeps your shoe laces from loosening or coming undone on the trail.  The tongue is really small too which adds to the lightweight and snug fit that the New Balance MT100 trail running shoes give you.

Overall, great trail running shoe if you are looking for a minimalist trail running shoe or maybe even a trail running shoe with a lot of performance on a trail race.  Now if they would just release with some more rad colors so I don’t have to buy 3 pairs in the same color.

Dance with Dirt: Devil’s Lake Trail Race

June 2nd, 2010

Legend has it that people who complete Dances with Dirt gain superpowers.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my super power is, but I’ve narrowed it down to the following possibilities:

1.  Able to scale sequoia sized tree trunks in a single bound

2.  Able to slide straight down a hill (while trying to run up it) without losing all my fingernails

3.  Able to smile at the end of a 4-mile leg that turned into a 6-mile leg when my actual legs felt like they weighed about 20 pounds  apiece

This is a mere sampling of the chstpauligirls-runnersallenges I experienced while running a Dances with Dirt trail race.  Dances with Dirt (DWD) is many things to many runners.  It is a 50 mile trail relay event (5 runners), a 50K or 50 mile ultra event (for the truly masochistic runner), and a half-marathon and full marathon event (though not at all a typical race at these distances).

I was asked to be the fifth runner on an all-female team planning to dress for the occasion in a Princess Barbie theme.  Yep, there is a team theme and costume contest thrown into the relay, which should be your first clue that this is no ordinary event.  The winners of the “Creative Team and Vehicle Award” earn a free entry into the next year’s event.

I’m not a “girlie” girl by any means, nor were any of the women I was racing with, so it was an interesting choice, but I rolled with it and happily ran in my sparkly tiara and pink Barbie sunglasses while carrying a blonde “runner” Barbie (our team baton) over the challenging race course.relay-exchange-dances-with-dirt

The inaugural DWD, in 1997, hosted 22 teams in Hell, Michigan.  Each year for the past five years, 400 teams have hit the trails.  The event sells out within minutes, which is one of the reasons DWD expanded into venues including Indiana, Wisconsin, and Florida over the past couple of years.  Another reason is that event organizer and promoter Randy Step believes that the race calendar can use a few more relay events and he has so much fun creating the DWD course that he’s more than happy to take his show on the road.  The next event is at Devil’s Lake in Bambaroo, Wisconsin on July 10th.  Hurry and register now before prices go up in 6 days!  Devil’s Head Resort will again play host to the Devil’s Lake trail race.  This is going to be another epic Dances with Dirt trail race for sure!  Check out the race course if you dare.  Click on the link on that page for a full description of each of the legs on the relay.

Although every distance is equally challenging and fun, the relay aspect of the race is truly a blast.  Once runners begin the race, the rest of the teams take their maps and pile into their official DWD vehicle (1 per team please) to head for the first transition point.  Each team transitions at the same spot, but obviously at different times, so each transition area is kind of like a floating tailgate party with people constantly coming and going.  Some folks are very serious about running DWD (why shouldn’t they be, this is SeriousRunning.com) and take off at high speed in hopes of competing for first place overall or a top place in their category.  Others pack coolers of beer and treat it like an afternoon jogging in the woods with friends.  The rest of us are somewhere in between those extremes, hoping to run a decent time overall, but interested in having fun along the way.

dwd-fun-team-finishI recommend packing two extra pairs of shoes, a change of clothes and a cooler full of food and drink to last about 8 hours.  Experienced teams scout the course beforehand and figure out which legs of the race are best suited for each team member.  Legs average 4.5 miles and each runner is required to run 3.

DWD was definitely one of the most memorable running experiences I’ve ever had.  The organizers clearly love what they do, the participants love to do it, the course is out of the world beautiful, sometimes ridiculously hard, but always lots of fun.  All of this makes for a great combination of competition, community, craziness, and classic moments.  As a result, my DWD “Survivor” medal will remain a tremendous source of pride for years to come.

Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Running Skirt Review

June 7th, 2010

skirtsports1

Let’s face it, sometimes running the same old routes day after day can be pretty boring. Or if you’re like me, many days it’s hard to get motivated to run unless you’re training for a big race.  It’s days like these that I put on a running skirt and everything changes.

I love running in a skirt, especially my Gym Girl Ultra skirt by Skirt Sports, mostly because it’s so comfortable! Form-fitting shorts, or “shorties,” made of semi-compression mesh fabric, are attached beneath the lightweight jersey skirt. The mesh shorties help you stay cool and dry on long or short runs.  And unlike some running shorts that can creep up, the shorties in the Gym Girl Ultra stay put while the skirt is free flowing with side slits to allow a full range of movement. Plus, the shorties have small pockets on both legs that are perfect for carrying your ipod shuffle, keys, cash, or energy gel.

Not only is the Gym Girl Ultra comfortable and functional, its seriously stylish. The Endless Summer pattern has pink, teal, and white swirls and tendrils which are a perfect representation of the free flowing spirit I feel when wearing it. The skirt covers about 3-4″ of the top of my thighs and completely covers my backside so I can still look great while grabbing a bite or knocking out a few errands after a workout. Why hide under baggy sweats or skimpy track shorts when I can wear running clothes that not only flatter my legs and butt, but also show a hint of my real personality.  To be honest, I’ve been tempted to just put this skirt on a Saturday morning to wear around town.  The Gym Girl Ultra is a multi-tasker and low maintenance, too.  I wear the skirt at least once a week and toss it in the laundry on normal wash cycle and it stays bright and colorful.

Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Review Front

The Gym Girl Ultra is definitely my favorite piece of running attire for its high performance design and super stylish fit. I know I can count on this running skirt to make me look and feel good. Whether running a 5k or marathon, having a positive mental attitude is just as important as being physically prepared. I’ve found it’s easy to get that extra boost of confidence to go just a little farther or push just a little harder by simply wearing a skirt!

Thanks a bunch to the folks at Skirt Sports for sending this fantastic skirt and a special thanks for inventing the running skirt!

Appalachian Trail to Expand for some Serious Trail Running

June 8th, 2010

fastpackingRunning on National Trails can be some serious trail running.  National Trails often offer running trails that are less traveled, which lends them to be more technical and secluded.  The Appalachian Trail is a great example of a fun run where you can find some great remote running trails.  With 2,175 miles of trail running along the Appalachian mountains you could spend a good part of a year trying to run this whole trail, even in segments.  If you are a little more extreme, you could try Fast Packing to cover more ground over a longer period, being able to sustain yourself with a small pack of supplies, but distance limits are usually around 600 miles for fast packing.  So do it in two fast packing trips.  Too late, it looks like it’s going to take more than two trips to cover the entire Appalachian Trail because of a new expansion effort to Europe underway.

In 1994 the Appalachian Trail, whose Southern point starts in Northern Georgia, was expanded from it’s Northern end in Maine to the edge of Canada’s Maritime Province to form the International Appalachian Trail.  Well, the IAT is going to grow even farther now, across the Atlantic to Western Europe where the Appalachian mountain chain’s other half goes into Morocco.  A few hundred million years ago the continental plates of Europe and North America collided, then broke up and drifted to their current locations.  The new IAT will brush the East Coast of Greenland before picking up in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.  It will resume on mainland of Norway and proceed South through France, Portugal, nip Western Spain, and end in Morocco.  Now that’s an extreme Trail Run!  Travelers will have to take a ferry or train to pick up the route across coasts, or you can just try running on water.  Although I’m sure someone will run the entire length of the trail someday, this length of running trail is way too much Trail Runners to swallow; however, the new segments in Europe look to be very exciting!  Trail Running trip across Europe anyone?

2010 Trail Running Statistics

June 15th, 2010

trail-running-trailThe Outdoor Foundation recently published a new report on the state of the Trail Running industry where they found that 4.8 million Americans Trail Ran last year.  We wrote about the growth of trail running a couple of weeks ago, those numbers were based off of Richard Burgunder article which was taken from a 2006 survey.  Well, it’s 2010 so here are the 2009 numbers.

4.8 million Americans considered themselves Trail Runners last year.  In addition, 4.8 million Americans considered themselves pretty awesome.  Weird.  They went on 153.7 million Trail Running outings.  That’s 31.8 days of Trail Running per person.  I know it isn’t always easy to get to the trails, but come on Trail Runners, only one month a year of Trail Running?

13.1% of the respondents said they went Trail Running for the first time in 2009.  That’s a great growth rate!  They said that friends were the most influential reason they started Trail Running.  Take a friend Trail Running on National Trail Running Day August 21st, 2010 to increase those numbers!

Donna Williams, Montrail Sales Manager says, “We are seeing a new breed of runner on the trail as well. One that is youthful and driven towards achieving success in their outdoor pursuits. That is exciting for our industry.”  Thanks Donna, we couldn’t agree with you more.  We think that one of the most beneficial aspects of the growth of Trail Running is the industry is now developing gear and events that cater to our growing population of enthusiasts!  Hooray for Trail Running!

Why Soccer Players are good Distance Runners

June 24th, 2010

professional-1-startline-blog-resizeWhen I ran cross-country in High School the best runner on the team was always a soccer player.  I went to High School in the South where soccer season is a Fall sport, just like cross-country, so most soccer players never even tried running cross-country.  Even with this barrier, our best runner was always a former soccer player which got me thinking, ‘Why are soccer players such great runners?’  One of which, Ian Dickinson, ran cross-country for the first time his sophomore year and then won the State Championship his junior and senior seasons!  He went on to run in college at the University of Georgia and has had a lot of success in running.

So was it soccer that made Ian so fast?  A study done in 1970 tracked one soccer player during a game and showed he ran for a total of 8,800 meters, or 5.5 miles.  They observed the player moving at five different speeds:  walking, jogging, cruising, sprinting, and backing.  2/3 of the distances covered were at low intensities and 800 meters was at fast speed utilizing 10-40 meter bursts.  Today it is thought that soccer players run about 10,000 meters a game, or 6.2 miles.  Midfielders were found to run the most, central strikers and defenders the least…and the goalie.  With training runs of 10 miles or more for cross-country running, their soccer games can’t be the reason for their superior running ability.

An aerobic base for core stamina is important for soccer players to posses.  They should be able to run 10-15 kilometers straight to be in decent soccer playing shape.  Some soccer players run fartleks (sprinting, jogging, then repeat) to condition for the constant burst of speed required for soccer, but that may not necessarily be the best training plan for them.  Stamina is the key to being a successful soccer player.  Stamina is what is needed to continue to burst for 90 minutes straight, and the burst themselves are not as important.

Perhaps that is why soccer players are good cross-country runners, because they need to have stamina to compete.  The soccer players that transitioned to my cross-country team did not make the soccer team, so they became cross-country runners.  Perhaps they were staying competitive in soccer because of their superior stamina and not necissarily their soccer skills.  Whatever the reason, they were happy they made the transistion and enjoyed a lot of success in cross-country.  Hopefully more states will host soccer in the spring so these players can test their stamina skills in cross-country, leading to more dominate Trail Runners later.

Then the US would dominate the world in Trail Running like we do in Soccer!  Go USA Soccer in the World Cup!  It might be a long tournament, but we’ve got stamina on our side!

Project America Run: 4514 Miles of Remembering their Sacrifice

July 1st, 2010

projectamericarun6smMike Ehredt remembers when he was in the Army during the 1980s.  Now he’s a retired postal worker, going postal and murdering some serious miles!  Mike is running across the United States, from Astoria, Oregon to Maine, 4514 miles in remembrance of those who have lost their lives defending our country.  Project America Run.

Mike isn’t taking this task lightly, he knows what it takes to put on the miles.  He has competed in two Eco Challenges (Borneo and Fiji), finished New Zealand’s famed Southern Traverse and in 2004 finished Primal Quest in California.  He’s not just an adventure racer though, he’s a trail and mountain runner too.  In 2006 he completed a 250 mile Trans-Himalayan run in Nepal.  Twice he has finished in the top 150 at Marathon des Sables – a six day race across the Sahara.  In 2008 he became 1 of only project-run-america-run34 people to ever finish the Rocky Mountain Slam which consists of Brighorn, Hardrock, Wasatch, and the Bear 100 mile races.  He’s fast too, with a 33:54 10K, a 2:52 marathon, and a 7:24 50 miles.

He runs about 30 miles a day for Project America Run.  He says, “I never wanted this to be a political statement, I just want to honor and remember  them.  It’s just out of a sense of honor and duty, to say think you to those who served in Iraq.”  He runs solo, soaking in his surroundings and thinking about why he is running.  He places a small American flag with a yellow ribbon around it in the ground every mile he runs.  Handwritten on the ribbon is the name of a fallen soldier to be remembered.  He becomes oblivious to the fact that he is projectamericarunrunning, heightening his senses and awareness (probably gets a runner’s high) as he thinks of the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

As a combat veteran of the Iraq war myself, I truly appreciate Mike’s focus and determination.  We are all support you Mike.  A truly great American.  Consider contributing to his great cause at http://projectamericarun.com/Donate5.htm.  Happy 4th of July!

Leadville Trail 100 Run Training Camp 2010

July 6th, 2010

leadville-trail-100

This is a guest post by Hawwaiian Shirt Ray who has a great blog where he shares his experiences to inspire others to do extraordinary things.  His mantra is, “You Gotta Keep Moving.”

Leadville Training Camp is three days of trail running on the course for the Leadville Trail 100 Ultra Trail Race.  The camp is designed to give runners all the tools they will need to start and finish the Leadville Trail 100 in less than 30 hours.  The camp directors truly do not want to see any runner fail in their attempt to finish the Leadville Trail 100; that is why they have the training camp.  There is a panel of experts that volunteer their time to help answer all of your questions.  The panel is made up of runners that have done the Leadville Trail 100 multiple times; most of them have ten or more finishes under their belts.  That is over 1,000 miles of running the Leadville Trail 100 race, so they really know what it takes to get to the finish in less than 30 hours.  The panels of runners are out on the trail with the camp participants running and are interspersed in the front, middle, and back of the pack.  They are there to answer the runners questions about the course or any other question that they might have on how to finish the Leadville Trail 100.

Who should attend the Leadville Trail 1oo Camp?

The camp is designed to give first time Leadville Trail 100 runners the tools to finish the race in less than 30 hours, and for veterans of the course, it reinforces the strategies to complete the race.  This is my third time at training camp and I have returned yet again to gauge how my training is coming along, and also to remind myself of the course.  The first time I came to the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp I didn’t know what to expect during my first attempt at running a 100 mile ultra trail race, let alone running the Leadville Trail 100.  During my three days at camp I learned what it was going to take to cross the finish line in under 30 hours and I also left with the feeling that “I can do it!”

Camaraderie and New Friends

Another thing that I really like about camp is the camaraderie of all the attendants.  There are a wide range of runners some that have completed the race before, runners that never have run a 100 mile ultra trail run, and runners that have never even run a 50 mile ultra trail run.  My experience has been that all of the runners want to help each other finish the race.  It is a great way to make new friends, learn their stories, and then see them at the race.

The first two days of camp everyone meets for breakfast at 6:30 am and this is the first opportunity to start meeting the runners that you will be running with during camp.  Each year I have made new friends and it is fun to see them at other ultra trail races and to see them on race day at the Leadville Trail 100.  Then at the end of each days’ run it is fun to hangout and share each other’s stores from the trail.

Three Days of Running on the Leadville Trail 100 Course

The three days of trail running consists of two daytime trail runs and one nighttime trail run.  The goal of those runs is to familiarize the runners with the course.  Day 1 run consists of the “Double Crossing.”  The runners start at Twin Lakes, run over Hope Pass at 12,600 feet to Winfield and return to Twin Lakes; about 20 miles.  The evening of Day 2 there is a dinner and Q&A session with the panel of experts after the dinner.  This is a great opportunity for the runners to get all of their questions answered about the race how to finish the race in less than 30 hours.  Day 3 is the night run which starts at Twin Lakes and goes to Tree Line.  The first year I attended the camp I did not go on the night run because I thought I knew all the trails so well that it would not be of any help.  Wow, was I wrong.  During the race I had no idea what was ahead, where I was, and how much longer I had until the next aid station.  I highly recommend any runner attending the Leadville Trail Training Camp to participate in the night run.

For the next three days I will discuss each day of training camp in detail.

Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp Day 1

July 8th, 2010

mount-elbert-and-mount-massive-leadville-trail-100

Hawaiian Shirt Ray’s adventures at the Leadville Trail 100 training camp continued.  Check out Hawaiian Shirt Ray’s blog.

On day one all the runners meet at the Mining Museum in downtown Leadville for breakfast at 6:30.  This is the first opportunity for the runners to all meet and start to make new friends.  After breakfast Ken and Marilee introduce themselves as the Leadville Training Camp directors.  Ken discusses the purpose of the Leadville Training Camp as a means to become familiar with the Leadville Trail 100 course.  It is not a race and I would advise first time runners not to run it as a race.  Ken also introduces the panel of experts that will be helping during camp.  This year he also asked all previous Leadville Trail 100 finishers to stand up whereby he directed all the new runners to tap us as a resource on how to finish the Leadville Trail 100 in less than 30 hours.

May Queen

After the introductions, the runners are bused to the May Queen camp site where the runners will start the first days run to Twin Lakes.  During the race this will be the May Queen aid station, the first aid station at mile 13; while the Twin Lakes aid station will be at mile 40 during the actual race.

May Queen Campground - the start of the first training run

May Queen Campground - the start of the first training run

One of the strategies to having a good experience at camp is to try to run each day’s run as though it is race day.  This is very hard to do since all the runners have fresh legs.  For example this run starting at May Queen, the runners will have already had 13 miles in their legs on race day and at camp they are fresh.  Right out of the May Queen aid station there is a small incline that most runners at camp run.  Trust me, on race day they runner will be walking up this hill.  I use this hill as a great spot to refuel before running the next section.

From May Queen the runner run up to Hagerman Road which is a dirt road with a gradual incline; first time Leadville Trail 100 runners are recommended to walk this section.  Again, for a 30 hour finish there is no reason to run this section.  During camp there is a small aid station on the very first hairpin turn.  Runners should be aware that this aid station will not be there during the actual race.

Turquoise Lake from Hagerman Road

Turquoise Lake from Hagerman Road

Hagerman Road leads up to the top of Sugarloaf Pass and descends the “power lines.”  This is the first long downhill stretch and it can take about 45 minutes to run down.  (Hint, so coming back at mile 80-ish, guess how long it is going to take to get back up).  Once the runners are down the power lines they come to a paved road and head to the Fish Hatchery aid station.

Fish Hatchery

During the Leadville Trail 100 this is the second aid station for the runners.  during camp the aid station set-up right off the road, but during the race the runners will have to take a right-hand turn and run up to the Fish Hatchery.  It is maybe about .2 miles up the road, but during the race if you are not expecting to have to run up to the Fish Hatchery it can seem like a very long distance.

Stay tuned for the rest of Day 1 of the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp!

Descending Sugarloaf Pass - aka "The Powerlines"

Descending Sugarloaf Pass - aka "The Powerlines"

Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp Day 1 still

July 9th, 2010

descending-sugarloaf-pass-leadville-trail-100-powerlines1Hawaiian Shirt Ray brings it to us again.  Day One at Leadville Trail 100 Training camp continues…

Tree Line

From the Fish Hatchery there is a long stretch of pavement until the runners come to “Tree line.”  For many runners this is a mentally tough section.  It is slightly downhill from the Fish Hatchery until the runners turn onto Halfmoon Road.  I suggest that runners take advantage of not having to think about running and foot placement and run as much of the pavement as possible, depending on race conditions.  If there is a strong headwind then runners discretion should be used since the headwind equates to running up hill.  Again, during camp there is an aid station setup here, but on race day there is no aid station.  However, the runners are allowed to have crew access at Tree Line.  For crews there is plenty of space to park and it is very easy to see their runner coming in.

Box Car (aka Halfmoon II)

Last year the Leadville Trail 100 course changed slightly and no longer runs up Halfmoon Road through the camp ground.  The new course has the runners turn left at Tree Line and run into Box Car Gulch.  One of the benefits of the new course is that runners no longer have to deal with all the traffic and dust on Halfmoon Road.  The new section is the same distance and actually has more climbing than the old section.  Although there is more overall climbing, the runners do not have to run the punishing climb out of Halfmoon camp ground that the old course dished out.  The Box Car aid station is at mile 30 outbound and mile 70 inbound.  During camp there is an aid station setup here for the participants, but during the race runners cannot have crew assess at this aid station.

Twin Lakes

From Box Car runners return to the previous Leadville Trail 100 course which connects onto the Colorado Trail.  This is one of my favorite sections of the course; running through the pine trees and aspen.  During camp this year I was reminded just how much climbing there is through this section.  For me, I use the first time I can see Twin Lakes as a gauge that I have about 25 minutes to go and most of that is downhill.  There are sections on this stretch of downhill that are on very, very narrow singletrack with some substantial drop-offs.  The singletrack drops runners off onto a very step and rocky dirt road leading into Twin Lakes.

Once the runners are at Twin Lakes they are done for the day and treated to BBQ and beverages.  And since Coors Brewery is a sponsor of the Leadville Trail 100, there is no shortage of free beer.  Runners are invited to hang out and relax until the last shuttle bus heads back to town.  At camp they run shuttles back to town often in case runners are ready to call it a day.

Leadville 100 Training Camp Takeaways from Day 1

Day 1 of the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp gives the participants a firsthand experience of the 26 miles of the course.  Many of the camp participants that I spoke with came away with “that was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” but not an intimidated or defeated attitude.  Rather, they received the experience that the Leadville Training Camp is all about; it let the runners realize how they are going to need to train and how they will need to strategize on race day.  There are a few runners at camp that ran the Leadville Trail 100 last year and did not finish.  They are at camp this year with the regret of not having participated in the training camp prior to their first attempt at running the Leadville Trail 100.  In other words, for those of you who want to run the Leadville Trail 100 for the first time I highly recommend coming to training camp to give you the tools you need to finish in less than 30 hours.

Get ready for Day Two!

National Trail Running Day August 21st

July 20th, 2010

national-trail-running-dayI started National Trail Running Day last year because I love trail running and I wanted to share my love.  So there it is, I love Trail Running and I’m not scared to admit it.  Although, it wasn’t love at first run, my love grew.  First, I was a track runner middle school, then a cross-country runner in High School, then a road runner in college, and I finally became a trail runner in my first job after college, United States Army Officer.  Every morning at 630 my unit would venture out into the forest of Ft. Bragg, NC trails.  Running is what defined many Army Officers and I was serving in the 82nd Airborne Division which prides itself on being the most fit unit in the Army.  Just to pass Airborne School you had to complete a run test that many could not conquer.  So the leaders in the 82nd were expected to be fit; and there is no greater test of physical fitness than a long run in the woods.

One of the reasons I joined the Army was that I love  the outdoors.  Running trails in the morning was my favorite time of day while serving.  The early morning dawn coming through the pine trees, everyone trudging through mud and sand; an exhilarating way to start the day.  It was a time to reflect on the task in front of you while also pushing your body to its limits.  At the time I didn’t even know trail running was becoming a sport of its own, I just knew that exercising in a natural environment made me happy.

army-platoonAfter two deployments and over four years of service I separated from the Army to take on new challenges.  At the time of separation I had to decide where I wanted to live, which graduate school program to attend, and what type of job I wanted.  I had gone straight from college to the Army and up until this point, the Army had always told me where to live, what schools to attend, and what job to do.  I now faced some major life decisions for the first time.  I was up for the task though, I had been a Platoon Leader in Iraq conducting combat missions and making decisions effecting 30 men’s lives.  I was used to making important decisions.  However, I quickly learned that these new decisions that lay ahead of me were much different than the quick, reactive decisions I was used to making for the Platoon, now I had more time, more variables, and the decisions only effected me.  I began working on these decisions with the same fever as if I was still deployed, working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I was maintaining my work-out schedule, but I was often drained and exhausted, running on fumes. (pun intended)

I continued on this pattern for 3 months straight before I finally broke down.  I stopped everything.  I had reached my decision benchmarks and now I could relax.  Slowing down forced me to think and understand everything that was happening.  I realized I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Was this the path I wanted to take?  I had quickly made all of my life decisions and began executing them before thinking if they were truly making me happy.  I quickly became depressed under the weight of my ignorant direction.  While in the Army I had such great responsibility, respect, and prestige for what I was doing.  All of a sudden it hit me, I was just like everyone else.  But I wasn’t like everyone else; I was a civilian with no valuable skills, specific direction, or contemplated long-term goals.  I had to reinvent myself.  Not knowing how to attack this problem I started running more.  Training gave me goals to work toward without life changing commitment.  I decided to start each day the same why I did when I was in the Army, starting with a trail run.  Eventually I decided to stop doing the job I had picked only because I had to pick an industry for my MBA applications and started doing something that I love; running and writing about running.  That is why I started SeriousRunning.com with my brother and later National Trail Running Day.

National Trail Running Day is a day to celebrate the benefits of Trail running with runners taking to the trails of varying difficulties and distances, connecting with nature and the environment, slowing down their lives and getting back to the basics.  For more experienced runners, Trail Running offers a more technical version of road running that allows runners to challenge themselves.  The fact is, everyone can enjoy Trail Running and National Trail Running Day is a great way to increase awareness of the sport.

Trail Running changed my life forever and it could do the same for you.  Take a friend trail running on August 21st, 2010 and enjoy the trails.  It’s all about happy trails.


Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp Day 2

July 12th, 2010

hope-pass-leadville-trail-100

Hawaiin Shirt Ray tells us what to expect from Day 2 of the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp:

Leadville Trail Training Camp Day 2, the “Double Crossing”

Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp Day 2 is the “Double Crossing!”  The Double Crossing consists of running from Twin Lakes (the lowest point in the Leadville Trail 100), down the backside, then 3 miles on a dirt road to the town site of Winfield (the 50 mile turn-around point).  Then runners turn around and run back to Twin Lakes.  The total distance is only about 20 miles, but it can take 7 hours at a conservative pace to run this section of the Leadville Trail 100.  Last year during the race I was having a very hard time and it took me over 8.5 hours to complete the Double Crossing!  Be prepared to push yourself farther than you may have ever done before in your life.

Again, the runners meet for breakfast at 6:30 and receive a briefing about the days run ahead of them.  Then the runners are bused to the Twin Lakes area.  The runners have a few options for running the Double Crossing:   1) run to the top of Hope Pass and return to Twin Lakes, 2) run up to the top of Hope Pass and descend to the bottom of the back side, then run back up and over the Twin Lakes, or 3) run all the way to the town site of Winfield and return to Twin Lakes.  During the training camp there were runners that chose one of each of the three choices.  Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville Trail 100, made it very clear that if you are going to run over the top of Hope Pass you must be prepared to get yourself back up and over Hope Pass.

Later that evening there is a pasta dinner for all the runners followed by a Q & A presentation with the panel of experts.  This gives the runners an opportunity to get all their questions answered about how to finish the Leadville Trail 100 in less than 30 hours.  Some of the topics discussed were:  what it takes mentally, course strategy, nutrition, hydration, crews, pacers, gear, and weather conditions.

Twin Lakes to Winfield (Outbound)

The way the Leadville Trail 100 course is described is “Outbound” and “Inbound.”  When the term “outbound” is used it refers to running from the Start to Winfield.  When the term “inbound” is used it refers to running from Winfield to the Finish.

During the actual running of the Leadville Trail 100, the runners leave Twin Lakes Aid Station at mile 40, cross over highway 2, through the river and meadow to the Hope Pass Trail.  However, during training camp the runoff in the river is too fast and dangerous for the runners to cross safely so the runners are bused up the highway to Parry Peak Campground.  This actually adds a bit more distance to the actual race course, but it is the only safe alternative for getting the runners across the creek.

Dangerous Water Conditions on the River

Dangerous Water Conditions on the River

From Parry Peak Campground the runners follow a trail that is perpendicular to the actual trail for the Leadville Trail 100 race.  The runners come to a rusty sign that says something to the effect of “no motorized vehicles past this point.”  They make a sharp right to start the climb up to the top of Hope Pass.  Now the runners are actually experiencing the true course.  The “outbound” climb is longer than the “inbound” climb, but is not as steep.  While climbing this section the runners break through tree line and get their first glimpse of Hope Pass.  One nice thing about seeing Hope Pass is that there are no false summits.  After that, the only other nice thing about running Hope Pass is being done with it.

During the actual running of the Leadville Trail 100 race there is an aid station on Hope Pass called the Hopeless Aid Station, where all the aid station supplies are brought up on llamas.  However, during the Leadville Training Camp there is no aid station on the mountain so the runners must have everything they need to cross Hope Pass.  This includes all the food, water, and clothing for any type of weather conditions.  When I cross Hope Pass in training camp it was actually snowing very lightly.

Hawaiian "Pants" Ray at the top of Hope Pass

Hawaiian "Pants" Ray at the top of Hope Pass

For those runners who decided to continue down the backside of Hope Pass, there is an aid station set up at the bottom close to the road leading to Winfield.  It is important to note that this aid station is not there during the actual running of the Leadville Trail 100.  Again, for those runners who decided to continue to the town site of Winfield, they turned right after the aid station and ran three miles uphill on a dirt road to the 50 mile turn-around point.  During the race, Winfield is a full aid station with a medical check, at training camp it is only a minimal aid station.  My advice for first time runners of the Leadville Trail 100 is to run this section during training camp.  I heard a few people say, “I have run enough jeep roads that I don’t need to run 6 more miles (out and back).”  However, this section can be mentally tough if you are not familiar with it.  And the point of training camp is to familiarize runners with the course, not just to be running to put in the miles.  During the race this section can seem like an eternity to get to the Winfield Aid Station.  Those camp participants that did not run this section will have it very tough on race day.  Another thing is that runners need to know about running the section on the road during race day is that the dust is awful.  There is a lot of traffic going both directions during race day.  It is advisable to have a bandanna or dust mask to cover your nose.

More advice tomorrow as Day Two continues…tomorrow.

Day 3 of the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp

July 15th, 2010

This is the last installment from Hawaiian Shirt Ray on SeriousRunning.com.  If you like what you read, check out his blog, Hawaiian Shirt Ray – Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things:

Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp Day 3 “The Night Run”

night-run-at-leadville-trail-100-training-camp

"The Night Run" climbing out of Twin Lakes

Leadville Trail 100 Training camp Day 3 is “The Night Run.”  Camp participants have the entire day to explore all the outdoor activities that Leadville has to offer.  For me, I spent the day fly fishing and it was a good day for the fish.  The first time I attended the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp I did not participate in the night run because I thought I knew all of the trails.  I regretted my choice the night of the race because I felt lost at night, did not know what was ahead, or how far it was to the next aid station.  For me it was mentally tough running from Twin Lakes to Treeline.  Then for last year’s Leadville Trail 100 race the course was changed and it was difficult running the new section for the same reasons.

Twin Lakes to Tree Line

The sun setting the evening of "The Night Run"

The sun setting the evening of "The Night Run"

The camp participants meet late in the evening at the Leadville Trail 100 Headquarters and were bused to Twin Lakes.  By the time we started the sun was down and it was dark enough that we needed our headlamps.  Runners left Twin Lakes and climbed uphill for about an hour of hiking before the trail is even worth putting the effort into running.  The runners ran on the Colorado Trail and then turn off into Boxcar Gulch.  Technically this section is not tough, but it is nice to be able to familiarize yourself with how the trail feels running it during the night.  Runners were having a lot fun during this section and I could hear all sorts of “interesting” sounds from one group (I’ll call them the “fun Group”).  They were making me laugh with their monkey, pig, and other strange sounds they were making.  The Tree Line aid station was stocked with burritos, hot cocoa, and beer.  I can still hear the pig noises of the “fun group” coming into the aid station.  Bottom line is that the night run is just plain fun!

Next:  The Leadville Trail 100

After camp I feel that I am ready to achieve my goal of running a sub 25 hour Leadville Trail 100 race.  I also know that even if my game plan goes bad, I know that I will still cross the finish line in under 30 hours.  For me, this is what the Leadville Trail 100 Camp is all about; re-familiarize myself with the course and to mentally prepare myself to know that I will finish the race no matter what challenges lay ahead.

Photos by:  Francisco Moreno

The Best Running Trails in Raleigh, NC

July 16th, 2010

national-trails-dayThis is a guest post by Alexis Bonari, a Serious Runner who loves using the trail running resource tool to find new local running trails.  Alexis is a freelance writer and blog junkie.  In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.  I hope you wrote this on you desktop!

It’s easy to find amazing local trails with this effective locator tool.  From the homepage , it’s the bar that reads “Find the best running trails in….” with a drop-down menu of states and other options like “District of Columbia” and “International.”  The results are extensive and include reviews with photos of the trails, so try it out to get an idea of where to run in your area.

My search for trails in North Carolina offered results that specified which cities hosted the trails, enabling me to sort out which ones were nearby in Raleigh.  True to the reviews, there were some great finds that have me coming back pretty consistently.  Check out what I found and start a local search in your state to find trails that will inspire you to keep running in the great outdoors.

Beaver Dam Trails

These trails run for about 26 miles through a dedicated state recreation area.  Thanks to the photos posted with the reviews, I knew that the rocks would pose a challenge, so I wore my serious trail shoes.  It’s not ideal for anyone with knee problems or significant foot pronation – it’s easy to trip – but for anyone who would rather run away from the beaten path, it’s a great choice.  The only other caveat is to watch out for bikes, as this seems to be mountain bike territory, but the reviews were really helpful and prepared me to keep an ear out for them.

Umstead State Park

The other suggestion for the Raleigh area was this location, which is much more friendly to runners who aren’t looking for a technical challenge.  I found it to be easy going, with wider trails and some gravel for extra stability, just as the photos indicated.  The warnings about equestrians were really helpful and recommended some more specific locations that tend to be avoided by horseback riders.  When I’m looking for a light workout, this is my new go-to sport, but the Beaver Dam location really fits my running style.

American Tobacco Trail

Friends have been recommending this trail to me and I’ve been wanting to try it, so I looked it up with the locator tool.  Thanks to the reviews, I found that this is definitely not worth the drive out to Durham.  There’s no shade and all of the photos show paved trails – it’s described as “hot, flat, and boring” and looks inferior to the other great trails recommended by the search tool.  Besides helping to find ideal place to run, this tool is useful when it comes to checking out recommendations, so be sure to take advantage of it.

See what trails are listed in your area and review the ones you’ve already run so your fellow trail runners know what they are running into!

Thanks Alexis for the guest post.  If you would like to be a guest blogger too, then just send us an email to info@seriousrunning.com titled “Guest Blogger” and what trail running topic you would like to write about.  The Internet, bringing people together.

26.2 Car Sticker, 13.1 Car Sticker, but 3.1 Car Sticker?!

July 27th, 2010

marathon car stickerI’m going to have to say (well, write) something this time.  I first saw the 26.2 sticker about a year ago.  I believe it was on the back of a station wagon or hatchback of some sort that looked like every outdoor product ever purchased from REI was displayed on the back of the windshield.  I wonder if I could get sponsored by so many companies…

I remember thinking the car sticker was a decent idea, people are proud of running a marathon.  RunningUSA statistics show that there were 467,000 marathon finishers last year.  With a US population of 304 million, that means that .0015% of the population ran a marathon last year.  So if you were one of those runners I’m impressed.  I deduct that about 1% of the population has run at least one  marathon in their lifetime.   Finishing a marathon is a great accomplishment that runners can be proud of for the rest of their life.  It makes sense to attach a permanent sticker to your car signifying this feat.

Then I started seeing the 13.1 stickers, usually appearing on SUVs next to stickers that allow access to a private neighborhood or a favorite beach area.  At first I balked at this display, the first half of a full marathon is the easy part, but then I realized that running a half is still an accomplishment to many runners.  Who am I to judge?

5k-running-sticker-on-carBut now we’ve gone too far with the running stickers.  My brother saw this 3.1 sticker on the back of a car this past weekend (in a burger joint parking lot).  I think anyone that runs, sets goals, and works to accomplish them is awesome, no matter what the distance or goal is, but placing a 3.1 sticker on the back of your car is a little excessive.  I mean seriously, Elementary School kids can run a 5K.  Pretty much anyone can run a 5K.  But my real problem with this is that the sticker is permanent.  So what happens when you want to challenge yourself to run 6.2 miles or farther?  Stickers can’t be removed, that’s what they are made to do, they stick.  Why stop at your first accomplishment, keep pushing yourself, that’s what running is all about.

This is also one reason why I prefer trail races to road races, runners are more focused on finishing the race, pushing their bodies, and seeing what they are made of rather than distance and PRs (personal records).  It’s not because Trail Runners are any different than other runners, it has more to do with the fact that no two trails are exactly the same so PRs are tough to compare.  Also, distances tend to vary more than road races because geographical features keep them from being exact distances.

Either way, whether you are trail running or road running, setting goals and bragging about your accomplishments is part of the positive feedback you get from running, just don’t stick to one accomplishment.  Keep challenging yourself…and don’t put a 3.1 sticker on the back of your car.  That’s lame.  Seriously.

Outdoor Retailer 2010 and the Minimalist Trail Running Movement

August 13th, 2010

outdoor-retailerI went to the Outdoor Retailer conference last week and had a blast checking out all the new trail running  gear and shoes companies were boasting for their Spring 2011 product lines.  I’ll be sharing the cool new products I checked out with you during the next couple of weeks so stay tuned if you’re into that sort of thing.  The bounce back in business from 2009 could be felt across the show with huge displays and excited retailers.  There were a lot of great new innovations.  I was amazed to see how much outdoor retailers are constantly changing their product lines to fit consumers needs.   I also didn’t know companies started selling  and promoting their new products so soon will many set to be released in the Spring of 2011.  I guess that’s why the big trail running news from the conference is the minimalist movement.  A bit late to the party I would say, but every company from New Balance to Terra Plana were presenting their new minimalist trail running shoes.  And so the movement moves on.

I learned a lot about minimalist running while I was there.  A quick recap of what the minimalist running movement is all about.  It really took off after Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run where he followed the Tarahumara Indians to learn how they are able to run for such long distances without injury.  The theory is that human beings are made to run long distances in order to outlast the prey they hunt.  Now we just drive to the store.  Humans are made to run landing on their toes first and absorbing their weight in the ankles and foot.  Overtime running shoes have been developed with extra cushioning in the heel which has lead runners to begin running by striking our heels first.  This heel strike leads to a longer stride which results in more lateral movement of the legs throughout the stride, much of which is absorbed by the knees.  Running shoe companies have been taking notice and are now releasing more minimalist trail running shoes to keep up with the demand for minimalist trail running shoes.

However, no one really knows what the long-term effects of this young movement will be.  Are we just trading absorbing impact from one area of the body to another?  When running in minimalist shoes runners must shorten their stride which could be the reason for the decrease in injuries and not necessarily the shoes.  The shorter stride also may decrease your speed.  As one prominent ultra runner told me at the conference, “I’ve never seen anyone win an ultra wearing minimalist shoes.  I don’t buy it.”  Yeah, because you don’t buy any of your trail running shoes, you have a sponsor.

I have had a severe knee injury for the past year and have held off of surgery in hopes of a less intrusive cure.  So I’m going to put minimalist running to the test.  I am going to train for a half marathon, because it incorporates both speed and distance running, to see if I can run the same time as my last half marathon, 1:24, but in minimalist shoes.

Next I’ll share what I learned from Lee Saxby of Terra Plana vivobarefoot who also helped Chris McDougall run injury free.

Minimalist Running Techniques and Instructions

August 17th, 2010

Above is a video of a test run with minimalist running shoes, Vivobarefoot EVOs, I did with Lee Saxby at Outdoor Retailer.  Lee cured Chris McDougall’s, who authored the book Born to Run, plantar fasciitis with his minimalist running techniques and instructions.  So I jumped on the treadmill to see what Lee could teach me about minimalist running to cure my own knee injury.  Since I was on a treadmill and not running a lot of miles the pain difference in my knees between the minimalist running shoes and my trail running shoes was marginal; however, I did learn how to run in minimalist running shoes.  Many runners overlook the fact that you need to change your running style when making the transition to a minimalist running shoe.  Before you put on your new vibram five fingers or minimalist running shoes and go for a 20 mile run you need to make sure you are running in them properly.  Here are some tips on how to correctly begin running in minimalist running shoes:

Head and Chest Forward: Minimalist runners should keep their head and chest leading their body, not leaning back which is what most of us do when running.  Make sure not to lean forward at your waist but rather tilt at the ankles.  This will help your feet strike underneath your body instead of in front of it.

Strike Under Your Body: Minimalist runners need to strike directly underneath their body so their center of gravity is positioned directly under the foot strike.  As the foot makes contact with the ground, tendons, and elastic components of certain muscles stretch beyond their natural length, thereby capturing and storing injury from the impact.  If you strike directly under your body, the rest of your body absorbs the impact instead of your knees.  The timed and coordinated muscle actions direct the energy back into the ground, sending your body upward and forward instead of side to side.

Arms swing Forward and Back: Minimalist runners want to make sure their arms move forward and back and have little side to side movements.  This allows your body to run straight up and down without encouraging movement in the rest of your body from side to side, which leads to injury.  Your elbows should never cross forward past your torso.  Keep them close to your chest with a compact swing.

Land on the front of your Foot: Minimalist runners need to make sure that they land first on the front of their foot rather than their heel.  Part of the debate around minimalist running shoes is that traditional running shoes have cushioning in the heel which has lead runners to begin heel striking rather than a natural front foot strike.  As you can see from my video, most of us strike on the back of our heels, concentrate on landing on the balls of your feet.  Remember, you don’t have to run on your toes; allow your entire foot to touch the ground, just roll from your toes all the way back to your heels.

Rhythm: Concentrate on developing a rhythm by counting 1,2,3,4 over and over as you run.  This will keep your strikes balanced, mitigating emphasizing one leg over the other in your new minimalist running mechanics.

Unfortunately, Lee suggests starting on the roads to hone the technique before running on uneven surfaces like trails.  I suggest you don’t have to do everything Lee tells you.

Celebrate National Trail Running Day at Where’s Waldo 100K Ultramarathon

August 18th, 2010

How are you going to celebrate National Trail Running Day this Saturday, August 21st?  One way could be to run an ultra.  What, you haven’t trained?  Well, if you don’t want to run an ultra then maybe you should try being a spectator at one.

wheres-waldo-100k-ultra-trail-running-raceA good ultramarathon is the Where’s Waldo 100k which is set to have a loaded field this weekend.  The men’s lineup includes Colorado’s Scott Jaime and 2009 Montrail Ultra Cup winner Victor Ballesteros; women’s race features Big Horn 100 winner Ashley Nordell and 2010 Montrail Ultra Cup Champion Meghan Arbogast, both of Oregon.

Some of the nation’s fastest ultrarunners are headed to Willamette Pass Ski Area on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010, for Where’s Waldo 100k, a challenging 62-mile race that takes place mostly on single-track trails southeast of Eugene, Ore. The event kicks off the 2010-2011 Montrail Ultra Cup race series, and the top two male and female finishers will earn automatic entry spots into the 2011 Western States 100.

“We have a great field of runners, hailing from the Northwest and beyond,” said co-founder and co-race director Craig Thornley, “The race continues to draw both competitive athletes and recreational ultrarunners, not to mention a dedicated army of 150 volunteers who help make the event a reality.”

Now in its ninth year, Where’s Waldo is a fundraiser for the Willamette Pass Ski Patrol and is named after nearby Waldo Lake and the ski run that shares its name. The race is funded in part with room tax funds from the city of Oakridge, Oakridge/Westfir Area Chamber of Commerce and Lane County. Race sponsor Sunsweet Growers is providing 100 percent of the prize money, which is awarded to first and second place finishers in the open and masters categories. The first place male and female finishers will each earn $500.

All told, 125 runners will toe the line starting at 5 a.m. (3 a.m. for early starters) at Willamette Pass. Their journey will take them over three major climbs of more than 2,000 feet each for a total of 11,000 feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of loss.

This year’s men’s field features Scott Jaime, 40, winner of this year’s Zane Grey 50 mile race and Pocatello 50 mile race; Victor Ballesteros, 40, winner of the 2009 Montrail Ultra Cup; Aaron Heidt, 34, 2009 Chuckanut 50k champion; Mark Lantz, 45, 2009 Where’s Waldo masters winner; and Dan Olmstead, 38, winner of the 2008 MacDonald Forest 50k. John Robertson, 36, a 13-time Ironman finisher, will also be taking on the challenge.

The women’s race includes Ashley Nordell, 30, winner of this year’s Big Horn 100; Meghan Arbogast, 2010 Montrail Ultra Cup champion and recent White River 50 winner; Jenny Capel, 2009 Montrail Ultra Cup winner; and Amy Sproston, 2010 S.O.B. 50k winner.

The Where’s Waldo 100K Ultramarathon is a challenging 100K loop-type course starting at Willamette Pass Ski Area (70 miles east of Eugene, Oregon) at elevation 5,120 feet, climbing up several mountains including Fuji, The Twins, and Maiden Peak before returning to the ski area. The route is 97% single-track trails with some fairly remote sections and has many incredible views of pristine Waldo Lake.

Check it out and watch some serious trail running on National Trail Running Day!  What a great way to celebrate!

Terra Plana Vivobarefoot Evo Running Shoe Review

August 23rd, 2010

vivobarefoot-evo-minimalist-running-shoesGalahand Clarck, a 6th generation shoemaker, took over eco-friendly shoe company Terra Plana.  At the time he noticed an old university friend of his who introduced him to the benefits of natural movement.  Clark, who previously lived in China already understood the importance of foot health through his exposure to Eastern medicine, began talking to experts, coaches, and biomechanic experts.  In 2004, with the help of podiatrists and movement specialists, Terra Plana developed Vivobarefoot with a mission to improve posture, sensory perception, and general well-being.  Weird, I thought Chris McDougall was the first person to realize the benefits of barefoot running.

The Vivobarefoot Evo has a patented vivobarefoot-evo-minimalist-running-shoe-reviewultra-thin puncture resistant rubber sole which allows Vivobarefoot to offer all the health benefits of being barefoot with the protection of normal running shoes.  I started running in these on the roads, but quickly moved to the trails and they held up just as well on the tough terrain of trail running.

The bottom of Vivobarefoot Evo is made of an ultra thin rubber that is very bendable.  You can fold these shoes in half and stick them in a backpack if you decide it’s time to run naked; barefoot I mean.  Although the bottom is thin, it is still made of very tough rubber.  You barely feel the ground in these shoes when running on any type of surface.  The soles have small hexagons evenly across the entire bottom except for where the arch is.  I hypothesize that this is to save some of the weight from the shoe, why put traction on a portion of the shoe that doesn’t touch the ground?  These lightweight minimalist running shoe soles protect your feet and have something that your feet don’t, traction.

The upper is made of a very thin fabric with a plastic honeycomb on it.  Apparently it’s a TPU cage with lightweight mesh and microfiber reinforcements to provide maximum breathability.  Well I can attest that they breath really well, and you don’t even feel the sides of the shoes when running which gives even more of a barefoot feel.

vivobarefoot-evo-minimalist-running-shoeThere is a thin insert in the bottom of the shoe that gives you a little cushioning.  Although there is cushioning, it’s done the right way for a minimalist running shoe, it’s distributed evenly across the foot so your running style doesn’t favor landing on your heel like in traditional running shoes.  The shoes are made to fit loose so your foot can move naturally like when barefoot running.  The front of the shoe is wider than the back to allow your toes to move around while running.  However, this makes for a loose fit with a tighter fit in the heel so your foot doesn’t come out of the shoe.  I got blisters from the heal the first time I ran in the Vivobarefoot Evos but I blister easily, just make sure you wear socks with these shoes the first couple of times you run in them.

I also really like the look of them.  They look a bit like a 80s European style, which of course is awesome.  I plan to wear these out around town so I’ll always feel like I’m barefoot!  These shoes are perfect for anyone who wants to make the transition to minimalist running shoes, just remember to also change your running style when making the minimalist transition and get on the trails!

National Trail Running Day is tomorrow!

August 20th, 2010

national-trail-running-day I don’t know about you but I’m excited.  The 2nd annual National Trail Running Day is tomorrow!  It’s like Christmas for trail runners.  NTRD is a day to promote, celebrate, and experience the sport of Trail Running this August 21st, so, like you know, tomorrow. Trail Running is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States with runners taking to the trails of varying difficulties and distances to connect with nature and the environment, while also building strength and more technical running skills.  If you’ve never tried trail running before then here are some reasons why you should get out on the trails:

  1. Strengthens your leg muscles that road running does not.
  2. Improves balance and agility from running on uneven surfaces.
  3. Increases your mental toughness.
  4. Biophillia – humans want to be close to nature. Trail Running increases your time in nature.
  5. The primal thrill of using your body for what it was made to do, be a long distance, all-terrain vehicle.
  6. Reduces injury because running on soft surfaces is better for your joints. Also, the differing steps do not put as much stress on specific parts of your body.
  7. Less traffic and cleaner air.
  8. Running in the shade is cooler, allowing you to run longer distances and get a better overall work out.

Check out the National Trail Running Day website and find an event or group run close to you and give trail running a try!  If no one has organized an event in your area then go explore a new trail near you using our running trail locator tool.  There are many ways to celebrate NTRD but the only thing you really need to do is get on the trails.  Give your favorite running trail a big hug and tell it how much you love it.  National Trail Running Day is all about sharing the love.  Share your love with us with what you are doing/did for NTRD, email chris at seriousrunning.com and we’ll share it with the rest of the SeriousRunning.com trail running community!

New Balance 101 Minimalist Trail Running Shoes Review

August 24th, 2010

new-balance-men-101-minimalist-trail-running-shoesI got to take home a pair of the new New Balance 101 Minimalist Trail Running Shoes from Outdoor Retailer a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been taking them for test spins on my trail runs ever since.  I’m not new to New Balance minimalist trail running shoes, I checked out the 101′s father, the New Balance MT100 minimalist trail running shoes a while back and really liked them.  The 101s have the same genes as their father, but they have a personality all of their own.  Acting like your father isn’t cool; unless your dad is Willis Haviland Carrier or something….

The New Balance 101 minimalist trail running shoes have the same exact sole as their father.  Just like the 100s, “The heel of the shoe is made up of cut outs for rear traction.  This really helped when I was runningnew-balance-101-minimalist-trail-running-shoe over some sandy and rocky terrain as I was able to push off better.  The midsole tread looks like someone took an ice cream scooper and scooped out pieces of the sole.  My guess is that this is to reduce the weight of the shoe, as well as increase flexibility and breathability.  You won’t be getting any dirt, mud, or rocks caught in these cylinder shaped holes.  The front tread is made up of some smaller ice cream scoops but mostly squares around triangles which lend for good traction while still giving you ample feeling of the trail.”  Honestly, who quotes thyself?  I do I guess.  The midsole is very flexible which allows the shoe to bend like your foot does, giving you the minimalist feel.  However, the soles are tough enough (are you tough enough NKOTB?) that I’ve run on all types of gnarly terrain in these babies and the bottom of my feet haven’t hurt yet.  This son understood what his father meant when he said to make sure to always have protection.

new-balance-101-minimalist-trail-running-shoesThe biggest difference in the New Balance 101 is the shape of the front of the shoe.  The protection strip in the front is made of a sturdier plastic and covers more area than the MT100s did.  An upgrade for sure.  The toe area also seems to be wider than than the New Balance Trail 100s too.  I really like this difference because it gives my toes more freedom to move around while I run, allowing the shoe to harness the benefits of minimalist running.

There is less cushioning in the New Balance 101s than the 100s, but you won’t notice it when you run.  They’re minimalist trail running shoes, so if you looking for cushioning then you should check out a pair of cushioned trail running shoes, not these running shoes.  There is an area for your foot to rest if you have high arches, but the NB 101 minimalists don’t have any arch support.  It’s about time you stopped supporting your arches, they’re well over 18 now.

The upper is a synthetic mesh which keeps the New Balance 101 Minimalist Trail Running shoes dry and breathable.  I ran these straight through a couple of creeks and new-balance-101-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-reviewthey were dry in a matter of steps; as you can see from my picture to the right!  They also have New Balance’s Sure Lace technology but let’s get serious, did shoe laces really need new technology to keep them from becoming untied?  I have my own Sure Lace technology, it’s called double knotting.  There is more fabric on the lip of the tongue (make sense?) than the New Balance MT 100s which is nice because it keeps the ultra-lightweight tongue from getting stuck down in your shoe.

Overall, these are very legit minimalist trail running shoes.  Not many changes from the New Balance 100s, but if it aint broke, don’t fix it.  New Balance did come out with the new fly green color.  Check out the other colors when New Balance releases the 101 Minimalist Trail Running Shoes to the public!  Hope you enjoyed the sneak peek!

New Balance Headphones

August 25th, 2010

new-balance-headphones-for-runnersNew Balance has announced they are teaming up with iHome to launch a sport/fitness headphones for runners and endurance athletes.  I personally never wear headphones when I go running, especially when trail running.  How can you connect with nature if you can’t hear it?

At any rate, from the SportsOneSource.com article, “New Balance is dedicated to offering innovative products to help athletes of all abilities perform at their best,” says John Cullen, general manager for licensing at New Balance. “iHome’s experience and expertise in the audio solutions industry will allow us to offer a range of innovative sport headphones to complement our existing line of performance footwear, apparel and accessories.”

“Listening to the right type of music while running, training or competing in an endurance-style event can have a very positive effect on performance,” said Evan Stein, vice president of marketing for iHome. “Merging iHome’s ability to create compelling audio devices with New Balance’s expertise in the world of athletic products is sure to be a winning combination, and we hope many athletes will soon be beating their personal bests with the release of our New Balance Sport Headphones this holiday season.”

The New Balance 439 headphones have removable ear-hooks and detachable cables of varying length and will retail for $34.99.  The New Balance 447 will be foldable and sit on your ears but also feature the interchangeable cables along with an in-line player remote for iPhones and iPods; it will retail for $34.99.  Lastly, the New Balance 467 will be behind the neck headphones (neckphones?) with interchangeable cable links and sell for $24.99.

We’ll have to wait and see how well a shoe company like New Balance can manufacture and market headphones for runners with their partner iHome.  Maybe we’ll start seeing more of these partnerships in the future.  I however think New Balance should stick to its core competency; making those laidback grey sneakers that everyone used to like so much….

Georgia State 8.5 Mile Trail Running Championship

August 26th, 2010

xterra-georiga-trail-raceI’ve been running in the Dirty Spokes Productions trail races for the past two years and they are some of the best trail races I have ever run.  They always offer distances that any type of runner can participate in, have a competitive field of avid trail runners, and are well run trail running races.  The Georgia State Championship Trail Running Race is coming soon so start training.

From the Race Director Tim:

Coming soon is the Georgia State 8.5 Mile Championship Trail Running Race, Tribble Mill Park, Gwinnett Co., October 23rd, 2010! That´s right the official state championship trail running race brought to you by Dirty Spokes Productions!  Here´s your opportunity to find out who´s the best trail runner in the state of Georgia!  We will crown the overall male and female witrail-running-over-bridge-in-georgianners on October 23, 2010 – CASH PAYOUT!  We will be giving away $300 1st Place Male, $200 2nd Place Male, $100 3rd Place Male / $300 1st Place Female, $200 2nd Place Female, $100 3rd Place Female that is the top 3 overall finishers (as well as hand out medals to the top 3 finishers in each age category)! We will also be giving away Sweet Custom Embroidered Running           Jackets (Georgia State Champions – Custom Embroidered) to our Overall top 3 male ⁄ 3 female finishers.  Each runner who finishes out top 3 in their category will receive a “free entry” to the XTERRA Georgia Victoria Bryant 10K Trail Running Race, December 4th, 2010 (you must mail these in and we must receive these by November 15th, 2010 to take advantage of the free entry).

xterra-georiga-trail-runWhat are the qualifications to enter the Georgia State Championship Trail Running Race? None. You don´t have to have run any previous races or have to enter any times to us from any previous races to qualify (you don’t have to be a member of any club or group either). Do you need to be from the state of Georgia to qualify? No, if you live in another state but think you can hold the title in Georgia, not a problem. If you want to compete – come on out!

Each participant will receive a “Dri-Fit” shirt as well as our custom “Georgia State Championship Trail Race Socks” $35.00 value – race registration $40.00 (no guarantee of a dri-fit shirt or custom socks with late or race day registration)!

We will also have FREE PIZZA after the race for all participants from Cooleys Pizza!

Directions To The Park:
Tribble Mill Park
2125 Tribble Mill Pkwy
Lawrenceville – GA, 30045

ENTRY FEES (We will be taking race day registrations):
* Again, NO GUARANTEE of a Green Layer Dri Fit Shirt or Custom Socks with late or race day registration (we will not mail shirts or medals, you must pick them up).

xterra-trail-running-finishTIMING:
We will be doing chip timing RFID Timing System (each participant will receive their own timing chip at the registration table 10/23/10 – your timing chip will correspond to your name and bib number.  At the end of the race we will collect your timing chip back (after you cross the finish line).  If for some reason you are unable to finish the event we will still need to collect your timing chip (you will be billed $35.00 for any chip lost or not returned).  Once you have started the race you may not change categories (distances).

PACKET PICKUP:
Packet pickup will be the morning of the race starting at 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Race starts at 8:30 a.m SHARP!

Race Course:
This 8.5 mile race course has a little bit of everything! This is one of the toughest trail running courses we have put together!  The race will start in an open field and quickly narrow down to a double track trail… the first .9 of a mile is back and forth uphill (double track) once you get to the top of the hill you will cross a gravel road and quickly start back down (still double track).  Then you start to hit the single track sections and once you get there you will find this course / terrain is made up of a little bit of everything!  The terrain is rolling hills, steep hills, single track, double track, granite rock outcroppings along with technical sections (tight and twisty along with rocks and roots) along with two shallow creek crossings.  We are calling it the Georgia State Championship Trail Running Race for a reason (bring your “A Game”)!  We will have the GPS Data listed on our site as soon as it is finalized…

So check it out, maybe win some money and run with the elite trail runners of Georgia!

Note:  Pictures above are not from this particular trail race but another Dirty Spokes Productions trail race.

Leadville Trail 100 Race Experience

August 27th, 2010

Ultra runner Hawaiian Shirt Ray shared his experiences with us about the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp about a month ago and now he’s here to tell us about his race.  Check out his awesome website helping ordinary people do extraordinary things.

hawaiian-shirt-ray-leadville-trail-100-11Raising the Bar

Its Hawaiian Shirt Ray again and I am “fresh” off running the Leadville Trail 100 for a third year in a row.  I would like to share my experience running the race, but I am not going to bore you with a play-by-play of running aid station to aid station. I would like to share my experiences during the race and my previous races and hopefully be able to inspire you to dig deep when you are in a race and things are not going as planned, and help you realize; as Ken Chlouber (President of the Leadville Trail 100) says, “you are better than you think you are and can do more than you think you can.”  For me this was my third time running Leadville Trail 100 and I decided to raise the bar a bit higher than just to finish in under the 30 hour cutoff; I set my goal to run the Leadville Trail 100 in under 25 hours!

The Leadville Trail 100 is Bigger than Just Me

This race is bigger than just me.  It is a combination of all my friends and family who helped me get to the starting line.  This includes all the outings I missed because of a racing or training, having my friends take care of my great dog Simon and them have to rearrange their schedules around me. I think you get the point; training and racing takes a toll on our loved ones and without their understanding and constant support it would make it impossible for me to run the Leadville Trail 100.  So when I am running the race I keep this in mind.  If I quit I am failing all of those who helped me get to the starting line.  Sure, if I quit my friends would tell me that they were proud of how far I gone, and say something to the effect of “I would never be able to do what you have done”, blah, blah, blah; but for me the reality is that I failed all of them.

My Great Crew

My attempt at running the Leadville trail 100 in under 25 hours would have been impossible without my great crew. Being part of the crew is not an easy thing.  There is a lot of waiting around, planning, and preparation. For my first Leadville Trail 100 in 2008, it rained, hailed, sleeted, and snowed for 28 of the 30 hours of the race.  Talk about being miserable for the crew. For the third year in a row my sister Laura was my crew chief and a pacer.  After last year she looked me in the eyes and said that she will never do this again.  The next day she said she was sorry and would do it again.  For the crew it is just like running an ultra; it is a long day, none stop, and exhausting.  As a runner we cross the finish line and say “never again”.   Then the pain goes away and we sign up for our next event.  It is pretty much the same for the crews.
Also in my crew was Rick Mann.  He crewed with my sister for the entire race and was always upbeat and positive when I came through the aid stations.  My other pacers were Lina Kelso: paced from Winfield to Twin Lakes (miles 50 to 60.5), David Besnette: paced from Twin Lakes to the Fish Hatchery (miles 60.5 to 76.5), and Neeraj Engineer: paced from the Fish Hatchery around Turquoise Lake (miles 76.5 to about 93).

hawaiian-shirt-ray-leadville-trail-100-2Talking with my sister after the race she told me how nervous my crew was not to let me down, and that they hoped that they would really be able to help me with my goal.  She also told me about how excited they were to be part of the Leadville Trail 100.  Hearing this made me feel good because here are my friends sacrificing their weekend for my goal.  My hat is off to everyone on my crew, thank you so much!

My Goal of 100 miles in less than 25 Hours

The Leadville Trail 100 has a 30 hour cut off to finish and all the runners who finish in less than 30 hours receives an “Under 30 Hours” belt buckle.  For those runners who can finish the race in less than 25 hours, they receive a much larger “Under 25 Hours” belt buckle.  Well, after running the race for the last two years I wanted the big buckle.  You should know that my times for the last two years were: 29 hours 44 minutes 6 seconds, and 29 hour 12 minutes 26 seconds.  So I had to shave a mere 4 plus hours off my best time.

There is usually around a 55 percent attrition rate which means when you are at the start of the race looking at all the other runners; more than half of them will never see the finish line.  If you do not have the mindset that you are not going to be one of “them,” you will become one of “them.”  Standing at the starting line of the Leadville Trail 100 you must know that you are going to do whatever it takes to keep moving and get across the finish line.  You have to be prepared to dig deeper than ever before and keep my mantra of “you gotta keep moving,” running through your head.  I knew I was not going to be one of “them.”  I trained hard, had the best season of my life, and I was going to put it all out on the line to get that “Under 25 Hours” buckle!

Digging Deeper than I ever Have Before

To accomplish my sub 25 hour goal I had planned all my splits between aid stations which put me across the finish line in 24 hours 55 minutes.  This really did not leave me any breathing room, but it was the reality of getting the big buckle.  I have trained on the course many times this year and I was secretly hoping that I would actually run a bit faster than my splits and start “banking” some time.  I’m not talking a lot, but just a few minutes here and there.  The splits made the race different than my last two finishes since before my goal was to just finish.  In my previous two finishes there would be sections of “why bother running this, I have 30 hours.”  Well I did not have that luxury this year and I had to run sections of the race that I never have run in the past.

My splits kept me honest and made me start digging deep early in the race.  By the time I made it to the 50 mile turn-around at Winfield I had 20 minutes in the bank.  I left Winfield feeling pretty good about where I was at time-wise and the three mile stretch to the Sheep Gulch Trailhead went good.  Then I started the climb back up and over Hope Pass and my legs had nothing in them.  I hit my lowest point of my race climbing back up over Hope Pass and it took everything I had to make it to the Hopeless aid station on the other side of Hope Pass.  I sat at the aid station while Lina tried her best to get me moving again.  I had to regroup and get some food in me.  It was so hard for me to stand up and leave that aid station and I had to dig deep to keep moving.  Once I started headed downhill my legs loosened up and I was able to run again and I was on fire all the way back to Twin Lakes.

Unfortunately the time I had in the bank was now down to two minutes.  My secret desire of banking time and not having to push from aid station to aid station was gone.  If I wanted that buckle I would have to push through to the next aid station, and then the next and the next.  I kept pushing and digging deep and when I finally got to the May Queen Aid Station (the final aid station) at mile 86.5 I had 3 hours 4 minutes and 4 seconds to get to the finish line in less than 25 hours.  Here is the kicker, the last two years through this 13.5 mile section my times were: 4 hours 1 minute, and 3 hours 42 minutes.hawaiian-shirt-ray-leadville-trail-100-3

I left the May Queen Aid Station running.  I mean running!  Neeraj was pacing me and could not believe the effort I was giving especially after running 86.5 miles.  I knew that I had to give it all I had; I mean EVERYTHING!  I ran that last 13.5 miles faster than I ever have before.  I did it in 3 hours 10 minutes.  Do the math, I did not make sub 25 hours.

The Finish was in Sight

I pushed that last section so hard and left nothing on the trail.  I even dropped my pacer when with about 25 minutes left I picked up the pace.  It hurt so bad to be running that last section into town which is all up hill.  I could see the finish line when 25 hours expired, but I kept running all the way in.  I was going to give it my all and I did!  Although I missed my goal words can’t describe how great I feel about my 25 hour 7 minute 29 second finish.  I can’t look back at any part of the race and say “if only I pushed harder”.  I pushed the entire race.  I guess the point of all off this is that in life if you are true to yourself and give whatever goal you are working toward your all, I mean really your all, everything; although you may walk away short you can still stand tall and be proud of what you have accomplished.  You must also learn and grow from your experience and become a better person for it.

hawaiian-shirt-ray-leadville-trail-100-41

Exercises to Strengthen your Ankles for Trail Running

August 30th, 2010

ankles-trail-runningEvery type of runner rolls or twists their ankle at sometime or another, but trail runners are especially susceptible to ankle injuries.  Rocks, roots, shrubs, and uneven terrain can lead to devastating ankle injuries which can only be cured by rest; not cool for trail runners.  Also, runners who are new to minimalist running should use ankle exercises before starting in their minimalist running shoes to ease the transition.  Minimalist runners sustain  more of an impact on their ankles than running in traditional running shoes.  There are exercises that can be done to strengthen ankles to avoid injuries while trail running or minimalist running, here are some that you can practice:

1.  Walk 40 steps on the balls of your feet with your toes turned inward.  Then walk 40 steps backward with your toes turned inward.  This will help strengthen both the muscles on the outside of the upper ankle along with the muscles on the top the foot.  This can also be done while riding a stationary bike.  Simply pedal on the balls of your feet while inverting your toes slightly.

2.  Walk backwards.  Obviously do this in an open, grassy area or on a track to avoid tripping over something; and hurting your ankles rather than strengthening them.  This exercise strengthens the muscles behind the ankle, and the calf muscles for an added bonus.

3. Rotate ankles 25 times clockwise and then 25 times counterclockwise.  This is a good exercise because it can be done anytime of the day.  This exercise strengthens the superior and interior extensor retinaculum; the ligament that binds down the tendons around the ankle.  This rotation is a great overall ankle strengthener.

4.  Sit in a chair with your back straight up against the back of the chair.  Extend feet out parallel to the ground and point toes straight out.  Do this 25 times a day to strengthen the muscles on the front of the upper ankle.

Doing these simple exercises will strengthen and stretch your ankles which will lead to less ankle injuries while trail running or minimalist running.  If possible, do these exercises just before running in order to get a good stretch in your ankle muscles before heading out.  Also, these exercises may cure cankles, although doctors still aren’t sure what causes or the exact cure for this horrible disease…hopefully some day…

A Different Kind of Trail Running: Adventure Races

August 31st, 2010

mud-running-raceUSA Today posted an article yesterday titled, “Runners get down and dirty for a thrill in Extreme Races” where it discussed the rise of less traditional running races.  The article mentions obstacle-course-themed mud runs, adventure runs through the woods and across rivers with only using GPS, and mountain runs, but while most of these races are done on trails, it never specifically mentions trail running.  We at SeriousRunning.com agree, trail running is a category sport all of its own.  However, any running on trails can be considered trail running, but when you throw in mud slides, GPS navigation, or multiple race vehicles, we categorize them as “adventure races” here on SeriousRunning.com’s race listings.

Vonda Wright, assistant professor in orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for Sports Medicine and author of Fitness after 40, says in the article, “Overuse injuries can happen when people just run, run, run.  Our bodies, our muscles in particular, have muscle memory, and the best way to challenge them without getting stuck in an overuse rut is to mix it up.”  That’s the same with trail running.  There has been a strong movement for runners to get off of the roads and into other activities, whether it be triathlons, adventure races, or trail running because they now understand the medical benefits of changing their exercise routines.

But adventure races have also caught on because they are fun and can be done by people are not necessarily athletic.  When the Warrior Dash came through town a month or two ago I had friends that I didn’t know ever exercised say they were going to participate.  One friend even went out to buy a bike at Target just for the event!  If you’ve ever wanted to try an adventure race here are some cool ones to check out:

Columbia Muddy Buddy:  Two teams traverse over a 6-7 mile course and 5 obstacles.  At the start of the race on team      muddy-buddy-racemember runs while the other will ride the bike.  Once the bike rider reaches the first obstacle they drop the back, complete the obstacle and begin running to the next one.  Once the runner reaches the first obstacle they must complete it, then pick up the bike and ride it to the next obstacle.  You and your partner leap frog like that until the end of the race where you will have to crawl through the famous mud pit and cross the finish line together.  A fun race that anyone can do, with events being held all across the country.

running-verticalStair Climbing or Vertical Running:  You’ll need to go to a big city to run a vertical running event.  These events are run in downtown buildings in which runners run up 30-50 flights of stairs.  They are a great work out for your quads and if you aren’t a big runner you can always walk up the stairs.  Runners are sent up the building in 10 second intervals to allow for spacing so passing can be difficult.  The view at the finish line is usually pretty sweet though!

Fell Running:  These races are mountain running with a twist, racers are required to navigate themselves and must bring survival gear.  I consider mountain running and trail running to be interchangeable because both are about running on trails over varying terrain, but fell running takes mountain and trail running to a new level by not having a specific race course.  Runners must use a map to navigate the route they want to take to the finish and checkpoints.  Fell Running is more popular in the UK than the US, but who knows, it may grow here.

Hash Running:  There are Hash Clubs all across the United States.  Hash running involves chasing after the Hare who leaves directional signs of where the route is to go, sometimes pointing in more than one direction, and everyone runs to the finish.  There is drinking involved so make sure you are 21.  More information on Hash Running.

Non Trail Races with a Twist:  Lastly there are races that add a twist for some extra fun.  Like the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh,krispy-kreme-race NC hosted by students from NC State.  In this race runners must run 2 miles to the local Krispy Kreme donut shop, eat a dozen donuts, and then race back 2 miles.  If that isn’t extreme I don’t know what is.  Another extreme challenge I’ve tried is running naked.  Butts A’ Runnin’ Race Enterprises (the race director’s last name is actually Butts) puts on a race series every year held at different nudist resorts around the Southeast.  These races are a blast!  Runners may run fully clothed or completely naked.  I opted for completely naked except for running shoes and socks.  Read more about my experience running naked.

Try some of these new races and have a blast!

Men’s Vibram FiveFingers Minimalist Running Shoes

September 1st, 2010

At Outdoor Retailer this year Vibram had a lot of action at their booth.  Probably because of the surge in popularity that they have seen lately.  The reps from Vibram wouldn’t let me take any pictures (must be some top secret stuff), but they did show me all of the new styles along with the old ones and gave me some information to take home with me.

Vibram Five Fingers is a revolutionary footwear design that allows our anatomy to work naturally and move more freely.  According to Vibram, Five Fingers is footwear that can actually help make the foot healthier, that can strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improve range of motion and increase sensory reception import to balance and agility.  Vibrams make running safer and healthier, bnew-picturey encouraging forefoot strike and a more natural running form that creates less impact on the knees, hips and lower back.  After running for many years and being injured, Vibram has my attention.  Whether you are trail running, road running, or cross-training, Vibram Five Fingers has a style for you.  Here are the styles that Vibram has in store for Men to go running in:

NEW Men’s Vibram FiveFingers Komoto Sport (pictured left): (MSRP $100) Vibram FiveFingers has raised the intensity with the Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport.  This aggressive multisport design inherits what we love about the KSO with functional improvements that appeal to the most active fitness enthusiast.  For the first time ever, Vibram introduces a stitch-free, seamless 2 mm footbed to reduce friction.  Heel and instep hook-and-loop closures help secure the stretch nylon upper to the contours of your foot-just like a second skin.  The KomodoSport wouldn’t be complete without a 4mm Vibram 4mm TC1 performance rubber outsole which provides the grip and protection needed for a variety of cross training activities.  These shoes are great for running and fitness.Vibram Five Fingers KSO Men's

Men’s Vibram FiveFingers KSO: ($85.00) Over the past two years, the KSO has become the most popular model for men due to its comfort and versatility.  A thin, abrasion-resistant, stretch nylon and breathable mesh upper wraps your entire forefoot to “Keep Stuff Out,” and a single hook-and-loop closure helps secure a fit.  A non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber outsole is razor-siped for a sure grip, and a 2mm EVA insole enhances plating protection and comfort.  These shoes are great for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, fitness, after sports, water sports, yoga and pilates.

vibram-five-fingers-sprint-mensMen’s Vibram FiveFingers Sprint: ($80.00) The lightweight and open design of the Sprint has made this model a long-time favorite.  Adjustable hook-and-loop closures across the instep and around the heel deliver a comfortable, secure fit.  A thin stretch nylon fabric comfortably follows the contour of the foot.  And a flexible, non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber sole is razor-siped for improved flexibility and slip resistance.  These shoes are great for climbing/bouldering, running, fitness, after sport, water sports, yoga and vibram-five-fingers-bikila-menspilates.

Men’s Vibram FiveFingers Bikila: ($99.95) Unlike any running shoes on the market today, the Bikila was their first model designed specifically for a more natural, healthier, and more efficient forefoot strike.  While many folks have been running in their Vibram FiveFingers for years, the Bikila is their first model designed specifically for a more natural running experience.  Built on an entirely new platform, the Bikila features a Dri-Lex covered 3 mm polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a 4 mm anatomical pod outsole design that offers more plating protection, and distributes forefoot impact without compromising important ground feedback essential to a proper forefoot strike running form.  A more athletic padded collar and topline, a single hook and loop closure, 3M reflective surfaces, and tear resistant TPU toe protection finish off this breakthrough design.  These shoes are good for running and fitness.

Check out more Vibram FiveFingers Men’s styles.

Or check out some of the Women’s Vibram FiveFingers styles.

Men’s Vibram Five Fingers Minimalist Running Shoes

September 2nd, 2010

I went to Outdoor Retailer a couple of weeks ago and checked out the Vibram Five Fingers booth.  Although they didn’t allow me to take any pictures (must be some top secret technology they’ve developed) I was able to get the run down of their new FiveFingers minimalist running shoes and some more information on their older models too.  Check them out:

New Men’s Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS (MSRP $100.00) Following in the footsteps of the original Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, the new Bikila LS offers a closed speed lace system to accommodate a wider foot or higher instep.  It shares the same revolutionary platform as the Bikila, featuring a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a 4 mm anatomical pod outsole design.  This combination provides superior plating protection and distributes forefoot impact without compromising essential ground feedback.  The Bikila LS upper is constructed of Coconut Active Carbon for natural breathability.  An athletic padded collar and topline, 3M reflective surfaces, and abrasion resistant PU toe protection add to Bikila LS road worthy design.  The defining feature of the Bikila LS is its closed quick lace system assuring a custom fit for a wider range of foot type.  These shoes are made for running and fitness.

vibram-fivefingers-mens-treksportMen’s Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport($99.95) Building on the success and versatility of the KSO and KSO Trek, Vibram FiveFingers presents the TreakSport.  The TrekSport offers a 4mm EVA midsole for plating protection and a lightly cleated 4mm Vibram performance rubber outsole for added traction on a variety of surfaces.  The Coconut Active Carbon upper offers natural breathability and abrasion resistance for maximum performance during your outdoor and athletic pursuits.  These are shoes are made for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, and fitness.

Men’s Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek($125.00) The Men’s KSO Trek is a more rugged version of our popular KSO.  The vibram-fivefingers-mens-kso-trekkangaroo leather upper and sock liner are soft against the foot, yet strong and tear resistant, with outstanding breathability.  A 4 mm EVA midsole offers plating protection from stone bruising, and a lightly cleated 4mm Vibram performance rubber outsole delivers improved traction on trails and over more rugged terrain.  The Vibrams are good for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, and fitness.

vibram-fivefingers-mens-flowMen’s Vibram FiveFingers Flow($90.00) The FiveFingers Flow was specifically designed for use in water or in cooler temperatures.  A 2mm Neoprene upper and EVA footbed provide thermal insulation and protection.  The outsole features razor siped IdroGrip performance rubber for added slip resistance over a variety of surfaces.  While more slip resistant, the IdroGrip rubber is a marking compound.  These are good for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, and water sports.

Men’s Vibram FiveFingers Classicvibram-fivefingers-mens-classic($75.00) From day one the FiveFingers Classic has drawn the attention and praise of the press and active barefoot enthusiasts alike.  Available for men and women, our original FiveFingers design takes a more casual and minimalist approach to barefooting.  The upper features a thin stretch nylon fabric that fits low on the foot.  Our non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber soles are razor-siped for improved flexibly and slip resistance over a variety of terrain.  These are good for barefoot runners, fitness, yoga and pilates.

Check out more Vibram FiveFingers Men’s Styles.

Or check out some of the Women’s Vibram FiveFingers.

Women’s Minimalist Running Shoes: Vibram Five Fingers

September 8th, 2010

After days of going over Men’s Vibram FiveFingers, it’s the Women’s turn now.  Vibram had their new collection of minimalist running shoes along with their old favorites at Outdoor Retailer this year.  They told me all about them and here’s what they said:

New Vibram Women’s FiveFingers KomodoSport: (MSRP $100) With today’s athlete in mind, Vibram FiveFingers has raised the intensity with Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport.  This aggressive multisport design inherits what we love about the KSO with functional improvements that appeal to the most active fitness enthusiast.  For the first time ever, Vibram introduces a stitch-free, seamless 2mm footbed to reduce friction.  Heel and instep hook-and-loop closures help secure the stretch nylon upper to the contours of your foot-just like a second skin.  The KomodoSport wouldn’t be complete without a 4 mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber outsole which provides the grip and protection you need for a variety of cross training activities.  These shoes are good for running and fitness.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-kso1Vibram Women’s FiveFingers KSO($85.00) Over the last two years, the KSO has become the most popular model for women due to its comfort and versatility.  A thin, abrasion-resistant stretch nylon and breathable mesh upper wraps your entire forefoot to “Keep Stuff Out,” and a single hook-and-loop closure helps secure the fit.  A non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber outsole is razor-siped for a sure grip, and a 2mm EVA insole enhances plating protection and comfort.  These shoes are good for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, fitness, after sport, water sports, yoga and pilates.

Vibram Women’s FiveFingers Sprint: ($80.00) The lightweight and open design of the Sprint has made the is model a long-time vibram-five-fingers-womens-sprintfavorite.  Adjustable hook-and-loop closures across the instep and around the heel deliver a comfortable, secure fit.  A thin stretch nylon fabric comfortably follow the contour of the foot.  And a flexible, non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC-1 performance rubber sole is razor-siped for improved flexibility and slip resistance.  These shoes are good for climbing/bouldering, running, fitness, after sport, water sports, yoga and pilates.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-classicVibram Women’s FiveFingers Classic: ($75.00)From day one, the FiveFingers Classic has drawn the attention and praise of the press and active barefoot enthusiasts alike.  Available for women and men, our original FiveFingers design takes a more casual and minimalist approach to barefooting.  The upper features a thin stretch nylon fabric that fits low on the foot.  Our non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber soles are razor siped for improved flexibility and slip resistance  over a  variety of terrain.  These shoes are good for fitness, running, after sport, yoga and pilates.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-bikilaVibram Women’s FiveFingers Bikila($99.95) Unlike any running shoe on the market today, the Bikila was the first model designed specifically for a more natural, healthier, and more efficient forefoot strike.  While many have been running in their Vibram FiveFiners for years, the Bikila is Vibram’s first model designed specifically for near barefoot running.  Built on an entirely new platform, the Bikila features a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickets under the ball) and a 4mm anatomical pod outsole design that offers more plating protection, and distributes forefoot impact without compromising important ground feedback essential to a proper forefoot strike running form.  A more athletic padded collar and topline, a single hook and loop closure, a 3M reflective surfaces, and tear resistant TPU toe protection finish off this breakthrough design.  These shoes are great for running and fitness.

New Vibram Women’s FiveFingers Bikila LS(MSRP $100) Following in the footsteps of the original Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, the new Bikila LS offers a closed speed lace system to accommodate the wider foot or higher instep.  It shares the same revolutionary platform as the Bikila, featuring a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickets under the ball) and a 4mm anatomical pod outsole design.  This combination provides superior plating protection and distributes forefoot impact without compromising essential ground feedback.  The bIkila LS upper is constructed of Coconut Active Carbon for natural breathability.  An athletic padded collar and topline, 3M reflective surfaces, and abrasion resistant PU toe protection add to Bikila LS road worthy design.  The defining feature of the Bikila LA is its closed quick lace system assuring a custom fit for a wider range of foot types.  These shoes are great for fitness and running.

Check out more Women’s Vibram FiveFingers.

Or check out some of the Men’s Vibram FiveFingers styles.

New Women’s Vibram Five Fingers Minimalist Running Shoes

September 9th, 2010

I went to Outdoor Retailer this year and got some good information about the new and the old models of Vibram FiveFingers coming out.  Here is some information from Vibram themselves that may help you make your decision about which one is best for you:

New Women’s FiveFingers Jaya(MSRP $85.00) The Vibram FingeFingers Jaya fosters grace and power in a minimalist design.  Created specifically for the modern fitness enthusiast, the stretch nylon upper and padded collar comfortable secure the foot during exercise.  The athletic upper provides coverage that will secure the Jaya on the foot.  The 5.5 mm EVA sole makes the Jaya one of the lightest models in our collection.  Strategically placed Vibram TC1 performance rubber pads provide grip and durability to this unique sole design.  The Jaya can be worn for a variety of indoor and outdoor fitness activities requiring balance, agility, and power.  These shoes are great for fitness and after sport.

New Women’s Five Fingers Jaya LR(MSPR $100) Sleek leather overlays and feminine topline differentiate the Vibram FiveFingers Jaya LR.  Don’t be fooled, this new model for Spring 2011 will stand up to high reps and grueling intervals – all in a foot-flattering design.  The 5.5mm EVA sole makes the Jaya LR one of the lightest models in our collection.  Strategically placed Vibram TC1 performance rubber pads provide grip and durability to this unique sole design.  The Jaya LR can be worn for a variety of indoor and outdoor fitness activities requiring balance, agility, and power.  These shoes are great for fitness and after sport.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-treksportWomen’s FiveFingers Treksport ($99.95) Building on the success of versatility of the KSO and KSO Trek, Vibram FiveFingers presents the TrekSport.  Our TrekSport offers a 4mm EVA midsole for plating and protection and a lightly cleated 4mm Vibram performance rubber outsole for added traction on a variety of surfaces.  The Coconut Active Carbon upper offers natural breathability and abrasion resistance for maximum performance during your outdoor and athletic pursuits.  This shoes is good for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, and fitness.

Women’s FiveFingers KSO Trek($125.00) The Women’s KSO Trek is more rugged version of our popular KSO.  The vibram-five-fingers-womens-kso-trekkangaroo leather upper and sock liner are soft against the foot, yet strong and tear resistant, with outstanding breathability.  A 4mm EVA midsole offers plating protection from stone bruising, and lightly cleated 4mm Vibram performance rubber outsole delivers improved traction on trails and over more rugged terrain.  These shoes are great for light trekking, running, climbing/bouldering, and fitness.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-flowWomen’s FiveFingers Flow($90.00) The FiveFingers Flow was specifically designed for use in water or in cooler temperatures.  A 2mm Neoprene upper and EVA footbed provide thermal insulation and protection.  The sole features razor siped IdroGrip performance rubber for added slip resistance over a variety of surfaces.  While more slip resistant, the IdroGrip rubber is a marking compound.  These shoes are great for light trekking, climbing/bouldering, running, and water sports.

Check out more Women’s Vibram FiveFingers.

Or check out some Men’s Vibram FiveFingers styles.

Tips for Beginning Trail Running

September 14th, 2010

trail-running-tipsFind a Local Loop: Find a local trail running loop near where you live.  Many of us don’t live close to an epic trail run (sucks) and it is difficult to get out to a good trail run during the work week.  But don’t fret, you can use SeriousRunning.com’s trail finding tool to find a trail that is close to your home or your place of business, or even home business!  Even if your local trail run isn’t the gnarliest around, a trail loop that you can run regularly can be a great barometer for your trail running training.  You can race against yourself and see improvement.   Running your local trail will also give you consistent practice running over the same terrain, allowing you to improve as you learn through repetition.  I suggest reading this article over and over.

Run Different Types of Terrain: I know, this is the opposite of what I just said, but so as I say, not as I….um, say.  While it is good to practice on the same trail loop to gauge your improvement, trail runners also need to practice running on trail-running-on-rocky-terraindifferent types of terrain to gain the many trail running skills needed to have a complete trail running repertoire (repertoire is French for “tool belt”).  No two trails are alike, so you must be prepared for any obstacle before they come.  Or overcome obstacles.  Whatever you prefer.

Walk: I never stopped and walked on a run until I started running trails.  I didn’t do it because I was tired though, but because of strategy.  It is better to take long strides and walk up most steep inclines rather than running up them.  Walking uses slightly different muscles than running which will give your running legs a rest during a trail race.  Also, walking up steep inclines gives you close to the same results as running up them, while using half of the energy.  However, I would mainly use this technique when trail racing or intense training for a trail race.  Otherwise, pushing up hills is a great way to build your trail running base.

Hills: Run lots of hills.  Trail Running hills are much different than road running hills because they were made for trail runners, mountain bikers, and hikers, not cars.  They are often much steeper and longer than hills on the road.  Practice running trail hills by doing hill repeats; charge up to the top of the hill, then jog down.  Do this over and over until you can’t do it anymore.

No Headphones: Leave the headphones at home.  The best part of trail running is connecting with nature.  If you want to connect with Lady Gaga then just run roads.  Ditch the headphones and take in the surrounding environment when trail running.  Also, headphones can be dangerous when trail running.  When road running cars often see you, mountain bikers don’t see you as they come barreling around the corner.  Take out the earphones and avoid collisions.

Don’t Run for Time: Trail runs vary in difficulty so running for time doesn’t work very well for trail running.  Rather, run for distance, this will give you motivation to push yourself no matter how difficult the terrain is.

Run Year Round: Trail Running is beautiful at any time of the year.  In the Summer briers and small bushes trip you up and in the Fall leaves make for a slippery trail.  Trail Running terrain differs with the season so run year round to get experience on the different types of trail running surfaces.  Unless you live in Southern California where its one season all year long; Cool.

Run in all Weather: This is the same as running year round.  Different weather leads to much different trail running trail-running-in-mudterrain.  You never know what the weather will be like on race day so it is best to have experience in running in all types of weather.  Running in the rain is the best, try it.

Gear: I’m not a huge gear guy, I like to be free on my trail run, but there are three very important pieces of gear:  trail running shoes, a GPS watch, and a hydration pack.  Trail Running Shoes are very important.  I have seen many runners run in road running shoes on trails, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Trail Running requires a bit more support, protection, and traction than road running.  You will enjoy trail running much more if you are in trail running shoes.  A GPS watch is great too because it can give you the exact distance of your trail run.  Also, if you get lost it can help you get found.  Lastly, the hydration pack or any other water holder is a must.  When trail running you are far from civilization where dehydration is a concern.  Always be prepared with some water.

Now you’re ready to hit the trails!  If you have any other questions about trail running use the search box on the top right of the page.  Ask it a question, it has answers.

XTERRA Trail Run Nationals this Weekend

September 15th, 2010

xterra-trail-run-nationalsThis weekend marks the end of the XTERRA trail run season with the Trail Running National Championship in Bend, Oregon.  This Saturday, September 18th at 9 am the elite trail runners from every part of the nation will meet in Bend, which was named “America’s Best Trail Running Town” by Outside Magazine, to see who is the fastest trail runner in the nation is.  The trail race is a “Xduro” half-marathon course that runs through the Deschutes National Forest.

More than 500 trail runners will descend on Bend this weekend including champions from each XTERRA trail race series region who get a free entry to the XTERRA Nationals.  Saturday they’ll get a chance to compete against trail runners more their speed (pun intended) like 2-time defending champion Max King.  Don’t fret if you’re not the fastest in your region, they have a 5K and 10K race for the mortals too.  The race course weaves from downtown Bend to pristine forest trails and then along scenic Deschutes River trail.  It entails a lot of switchbacks on sandy, rocky, and dirt-strewn single and double track.

This should be an awesome event to attend even if you aren’t running.  Race prizes range from $1,000 for 1st to $200 for 5th so you know a lot of great trail runners are going to be there.  Good luck trail runners!

Scarpa Pursuit Trail Running Shoe Review

September 17th, 2010

scarpa-pursuit-trail-running-shoesI got a pair of the Scarpa Pursuit Trail Running shoes a while back, but I was in between running shoes at the time so I really didn’t take the time to try them out until later.  I wish I had tried them earlier though, they are a great shoe to throw into my trail running mix.  I like to use different trail running shoes depending on the intensity of my run and terrain.  The Scarpa Pursuits are my slow paced, comfort trail running shoes.  Scarpa boasts, “cushioning meets stability” and they are right on.  The Pursuits have the comfort of a hiking shoe and the stability of a trail runner.  So if you are looking for a performance or minimalist trail running shoe, then these big guys aren’t for you.

These are my first Scarpa trail running shoe and I have to say that I’m pretty impressed.  The thing that sets them apart from other trail running shoes I’ve tried is the triple density midsole which gives a much softer ride on both the heel and forefoot.  When my knees are hurting from yesterday’s run and I still need to put some trail miles on, these are the shoes I run in.  The insoles are removable, but these trail running shoes don’t require any additional inserts, which is a nice change for once.

They give good traction but I am very careful when running on wet rocks in these shoes.  The soles remind me more of a scarpa-pursuit-trail-running-shoes-reviewhiking shoe than a trail running shoe because they have large traction squares around the outer portion of the sole.  The middle of the sole are large triangles that weave into each other giving a fast push when running over loose dirt or sand.  The soles are very flexible which gives more of a lift in each step which helps propel you even though the Scarpa Pursuit is a heavier trail running shoes.

The front toe guard is sturdy and allows for some protection from rocks and roots on the trail.  The heel cup also has some hard plastic which gives it some protection and provides stability.  The upper is made from synthetic leather and mesh.  The sides are mesh which allows for them to breath; however, these shoe are more suited for cold weather running.  A lot of the comfort is derived from thick sides that line the heel cup and the toes.  The tongue is also made of a thick fabric which ads to the comfort and warmth.

Overall, these are solid trail running shoes, but may be more suited as a day hiker or everyday wearing shoe.  They provide a lot of comfort and good stability, but this adds weight and bulkiness that is just too much for a trail runner.  It’s a great shoe to put in your trail running mix for a slower, more comfortable ride, but I wouldn’t recommend this being your primary trail runner.  If you are looking for a day hiker or an everyday shoe then grab a pair of Scarpa Pursuits for sure.

2nd Annual XTERRA Colorado – Marathon of Trail Races

September 20th, 2010

xterra-colorado-trail-race-marathonAfter the successful inaugural run last year, XTERRA Colorado series is back again, starting on October 9th at Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  Cheyenne state park is Colorado’s newest state park nestled in the mountains overlooking Colorado Springs in the countryside that inspired the song, “America the Beautiful.”  The event will feature a marathon, half marathon, and 5K trail race distance.  The marathon is two loops of the half marathon course so make sure you bring your mental toughness to run past the half marathon finish line for another lap.  XTERRA Colorado labels this event as both challenging and rewarding.  The event sold out last year and is on pace to hit the 300 participant limit again, so register soon for the epic race.  Online registration closes on October 6th, after that prices increase $10 for race day entries.  The marathon entry is currently $65, half-marathon $45, and the 5K is $25.  All participants get a technical race t-shirt, finisher’s medal, food to replenish, entry into swag raffle, and the swag gained from knowing they xterra-colorado-trail-racecompleted the XTERRA Colorado Marathon of Trail Races!

Race director Victoria Seahorn started the XTERRA Colorado race series in honor of her late best friend, Lindsey Gabe, who passed away from breast cancer in 2005 at age 60.  Victoria and Lindsey ran many races and began their training together.  Victoria has run 29 marathons and countless half and short distance races.  At Lindsey’s wake Victoria stood up and announced she was going to put on a race, to honor Lindsey.  That is when Victoria set out to organize the inaugural ING Atlanta Marathon which was the 2nd largest inaugural marathon and half marathon combo of all time, with 15,000 participants toeing the start line!  Now Victoria has set out to honor her best friend again by hosting a trail race where Gabe passed away, in Colorado Springs, with the 2nd Annual XTERRA Colorado Marathon of Trail Races.  Victoria is a true, genuine, caring person who embodies everything it means to be a runner.

So come out and run this great event, challenge yourself, accomplish your goals, enjoy the scenery, and honor the runners that have run before us with a marathon of a trail race in Colorado Springs.

Salomon XR Crossmax Guidance and Neutral Trail Running Shoes Review

September 21st, 2010

salamon-xr-crossmax-trail-shoesSalomon had some pretty sweet new trail running shoes on display at outdoor retailer this year.  I got the sneak peak at the new XR Crossmax Guidance (Women’s) and XR Crossmax Neutral (Women’s) trail running shoes which haven’t been release yet.  I got to play around with them and had the Salomon experts tell my why these shoes are so close to spectacular.

Salomon boasts the XR Crossmax Trail Running shoes as being built for door to trail running; strong enough for the road, but PH balanced just for the trail.  I personally love to run to the trail so I am glad that a running shoe company is realizing the need for a hybrid shoe that works for both road running and trail running.  Salomon is making this their focus for 2011 because they think it’s the next big thing.  It makes sense, every trail runner probably runs on roads and buying two pairs of shoes sucks.  We’ll see what the public thinks when these are released.  I also like that Salomon has broken down these trail running shoes into motion control/stability (XR Crossmax Guidance) and neutral/cushioned (XR Crossmax Neutral).  Until recently trail running shoes were merely categorized as “trail” with no denotation of what type of pronation they are built for.  It seems Salomon is listening to their trail running customers.

The grip on the sole of the Salomon XR Crossmax Trail Running shoes are built for traction.  The grip under the toes is an aggressive shaped grip that is a new product Salomon calls contragrip LT, which stands for lightweight.  The front is made up of hang glider shapes, which point to the toe of the shoe for that extra traction when pushing off of loose sand or dirt.  These shoes were definitely made for runners who run on their toes.  The heel grip is totally different, Salomon calls it contagrip HA for high abrasion.  This heel grip is focused more on support and durability rather than traction and runability like the front.  One the bottom of the shoe the Salomon XR Crossmax has an over-sized tendon that looks like a glow in the dark tube running from the toe to the heel of the sole.  This is to give stretch and balance from the heel to the toe in transition.  It is made to absorb the flexibility when your foot makes its transition, like the tendon in your foot.

The upper fits snug for a couple of reasons.  First, it is an all welded upper with very little stitches so you don’t get blisters in different parts of your foot from running.  It is made out of sensifit which is a stretchy mesh that goes all the way across the top of the instep.  This is made for a tight fit around your toes but loose enough so it won’t irritate them if you have injuries or are susceptible to blisters.  Also, the inside is a one-piece liner so the interface of your foot is seamless with the shoe.  Snuggy.

Check out a pair of the Salomon XR Crossmax Guidance and Neutrals when they are released.  Start saving your running shoe money, these trail running shoes are going to be retailed for about $130.

New Balance Minimus Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Evolution

September 22nd, 2010

new-balance-minimus-trail-running-shoeNew Balance released an article today about how they went about developing the new New Balance Minimus running shoe.  New Balance has been on the forefront of minimalist trail running development for a while.  I’ve personally reviewed and enjoyed trail running in the New Balance MT100s and the, not yet released, New Balance 101 Minimalist Trail Running Shoes.  I’m excited to see what the Minimus is all about when they are released in 2011.

The article talks about how the running shoe developers at New Balance met Anton (Tony) Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs at a running store in Colorado and heard about how these guys were doing a different type of trail running and ultra-running, in minimalist shoes.  These runners are all about stripping down to the bare essentials.  To run as natural as possible to increase the most basic primal experience from running.  Tony and new-balance-minimus-trail-running-shoesKyle began working with Senior Designer Chris Wawrosek of New Balance, giving advice and challenging prototypes.  Once they got to the product they were looking for, New Balance determined the broader consumer base wasn’t ready for minimalist trail running shoes.  Then came Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, and the general population was ready for them.  However, after New Balance released the MT100s they still felt they were a year or two early because not everyone wanted a flat, flexible shoe.  Shoe companies like Vibram and Terra Plana have already been developing running shoes with flat soles and now New Balance is joining the party.  I wonder when are the next big shoe manufactures are going to develop a minimalist trail running shoes?

Check out Tony’s inspirational video:

Downhill Techniques for Minimalist Trail Running

September 23rd, 2010

downhill-trail-running-techniquesInjury has led me to take part in the minimalist running movement.  I’ve been concentrating on my minimalist running technique but have found it very difficult to keep form when running down hills.  If you are new to minimalist running I suggest starting on flat or uphill terrain to hammer down your technique.  This may be difficult, where I run what goes up must come down.  Gravity, always making running difficult.  Here are some tips I learned on how to stay safe, injury free, and able to maintain proper form when gravity is pulling you downhills in minimalist running shoes.

Running downhill puts more stress on your ant-gravity muscles like the hips, legs, and ankles that running on flat or incline surfaces does not.  The “braking” muscles absorb most of the impact, which leads to more injuries, primarily on the quadriceps, hip extensors, and knees for minimalist trail runners.  Practice specifically on running downhills in your minimalist running shoes, this is the hardest part about learning minimalist running techniques; then hit the trails for increased difficulty.  When downhill trail running, don’t brake, grip and rip baby.  That’s how you live your life.

Proper technique when running downhill in minimalist running shoes is even more important because your legs don’t get the cushioning that traditional running shoes provide.  First, you want to make sure you continue to keep your foot directly under your center of gravity so you don’t begin heel striking on downhills.  This is difficult because gravity is pushing your feet forward, fight the urge, remain landing on your forefoot.  You also want to make sure you keep your cadence, 1,2,3,4.  You may have to increase the speed of your cadence on downhills, but make sure you continue to keep it consistent.  When trail running downhill try to plant your foot in rhythm by stretching or contracting your stride.  Overall though, you want to to glide down the hill with shorter strides.  Make quick and light steps as if you were running in the mud.  If you need extra help, consider taking ballet lessons.

Sometimes the minimalist movement runs downhill, don’t fall behind the pack.

Minimalist and Barefoot Running Race in NYC

September 29th, 2010

vivobarefoot-minimalist-barefoot-race-nycWell, not really a race.  It’s actually kind of cooler than a race.  On October 10th at 830 am the NYC Barefoot Run will begin on Governor’s Island running the largest ever official barefoot and minimalist shoe race in NYC.  Will there be more barefoot and minimalist running races coming to a town near you?  Who knows?  This race is a “Run Your Distance” event where everyone starts together and each individual decides when they want to stop.  The NYC Barefoot Run wants to promote healthy, safe, and fun running, not crazy “break your knees down so you can’t run anymore” running.  The course is just a 2.1 mile loop that runners can run as many times they want.  It’s a really unique idea, a run that is geared precisely for fun and health.  Awards and T-shirts are for suckers.  We’re all winners in this race.

Terra Plana and VivoBarefoot are sponsoring the event.  Galahad Clack, owner of Terra Plana and creator of Vivobarefoot states, “This is a growing community of people who are questioning conventions and are passionate about rediscovering the right way to run.  We are proud to support a weekend of events based around education and building the movement.”  VivoBarefoot is on the forefront (or foot) of the minimalist movement, I reviewed their Vivobarefoot  EVO and really loved them.  Terra Plana is innovative and have been working on minimalist running shoes for a while now.  I also personally learned minimalist running techniques from Lee Saxby at Outdoor Retailer this year.  A perfect company to partner with for this event, especially since their only retail store in the United States is in NYC.

This event is, “a weekend of educational, social, and athletic happenings to support the growing recognition that going barefoot, or as close to it as possible, is the healthiest way to be.”  There is going to be a lot of notable attendees to help educate runners about the barefoot movement such as Daniel Lieberman, the Harvard professor who found that barefoot running was healthier than traditional running, validating the ideas in the book Born to Run.  Barefoot Ted, the larger than life barefoot runner who some consider to be the grandfather of barefoot running will be there, along with many other very notable barefoot runners.

So if you are new to barefoot running (I would wear minimalist shoes on the streets of NYC) or just want to learn more about the movement, this is a great event to attend.  You only have to run is 2.1 miles!  If you don’t live in the NYC area, then maybe a barefoot/minimalist race will come to an area near you soon.  Maybe that’s the new movement…

Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes

September 30th, 2010

hoka-one-one-trail-running-shoesThe Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes movement may be moving down the trail next.  From minimalist trail running shoes comes the complete opposite, the Hoka One One.  The Hoka One One was invented by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean Luc Diard of France, who had previously worked at Salomon.  From an adventure race in Sicily was born a love for running over mountains and on trails.  Nicolas and Jean wanted a trail running shoe that they could fly downhills even if they were heel striking (opposite of minimalist again).  They came up with the Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes.

The Hoka One One soles are 2.5 times larger than traditional trail running shoes which is what sets them apart from other trail runners.  Hoka claims the foam gives a 30% softer ride and is able to dissipate 80% of the impact of a heel strike.  Even though the shoes look bulky, they are relatively light, 15% lighter than traditional trail running shoes.  There is a 13 cm rockering profile at the toe which provides a spring in your step when running on flat or uphill terrain.  According to Hoka, the low ramps angle also allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, engaging the gluteus and lower back, as opposed to isolating the quads like traditional downhill trail running.  The bottom of the shoe has 50% more surface area so you run straight over rocks and roots without feeling anything or changing your stride.  Like a mountain bike barreling down a hill rolling over every obstacle in its path rather than avoiding them.  The sole is etched with large lugs, also like mountain bike tires, for the best possible grip.  The Hoka One One was invented so trails runners could run fast over any surface and any terrain.

What do you think?  Anyone ever try these?

Kigo Footwear CURV and EDGE minimalist running shoe reviews

October 18th, 2010

kigo-minimalist-running-shoes-reviewI checked out Kigo Footwear at Outdoor Retailer this past year and love what this new start-up company is doing, developing green, minimalist shoes that are not only functional, but also stylish.  They say, “Kigo footwear is committed to making shoes that are stylish enough for everyday wear, sturdy enough for athletics, and constructed to be good for the Earth and body.”  Kigos are good for barefoot (well, minimalist) athletics and everyday wear.  They produce the Kigo CURV for women which can be used for commuting, fitness, or general wear, similar to a Mary Jane style.  No, not the eyes closed, eating Cheetos, and listening to Pink Floyd Mary Jane style.  The Kigo EDGE is for active men and women and has complete foot coverage for a fully protected barefoot stride.  Although they are strong enough for a man, Kigos are really PH balanced for women.  As they should be, the staff at Kigo are all women who know about endurance athletics and being stylish at the same time.

Kigos are constructed of lightweight durable materials with a beathable, stain/water resistant upper.  The outsoles are kigo-minimalist-running-shoesflexible because they are made with a high density rubber which is 1.5 mm thick.  You can bend these shoes in half with just your hands.  Kigos have a higher vamp for increased toe room which gives a better barefoot running experience.  I also like that they have a deeper ankle opening than most shoes which prevents rubbing when running.  Kigos are built around the body health benefits that come from going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes and allows your foot to move more naturally.  This strengthens the muscles in the foot, promotes better posture, and creates a more effortless stride while running or walking in Kigos.  Not only were Kigos designed for minimalist benefits but also with the idea of having a comfortable shoe that is portable.  The idea for Kigos came when the founder couldn’t enjoy a night out with friends because the only shoes she had were ski boots after a day on the mountain.  I wish I had some Kigos about 10 years ago when I donned on ski boots prior to boarding a plane because I couldn’t wear running shoes in first class (free upgrade for being in the military).  Someday we’ll live in a classless society where non-runners and runners alike are treated equal.  Until then, bring your Kigos!  The shoes are about 4 to 5 ounces and can be easily bent for the easy storage.  They also come with a hookless toe cap and fixed webbing loop for easy pull on and off.  They have orange, green, black, or white styles and MSRP for $69.99 USD.

Currently Kigo is participating in British Airways competition for small businesses.  Click here and vote for Kigo to help this small start-up business!  There are only 2 days left to vote!  The Kigo staff are magnificent people with a positive outlook on barefoot running and staying stylish.  Support small businesses and try some Kigos yourself!

Running My First Frogtown Trail Challenge 2010

October 5th, 2010

I’ve been training for the Augusta Half Marathon for the past several weeks and been wishing for some variety on my long runs.  Low and behold, on the day before the sold-out Frogtown Trail Challenge I was fortunate enough to get a friend of a friend’s number.  Perfect! A 10 mile trail run should be nice on my bones… or so I thought.  I had trail run before, been tossed around on a mountain bike, and even had a few marathons under my belt, but I never ran a race quite like the Frogtown Trail Challenge.
frogtown0
It was a cool, dewy fall morning and ideal weather for the race.  The race was capped at 600 entrants (for both the 4-mile and 10-mile events), a manageable sized crowd, but despite this event being called a “challenge” rather than a “race” I knew I was certainly among many serious runners when we got into our corrals.  After a quick prayer–the event benefited World Children’s Center and Christian Runners–the race started and into the woods we sped.  Very quickly we encountered the first stream crossing and hill scramble.  No one really slowed down, including myself, this trail running stuff is extreme!

frogtown1

Then I saw signs saying “Fear the Hill.”  Ugh, we hadn’t even run two miles yet and everyone had slowed to a crawl, literally, up a nearly vertical cliff.  After the hill I made up some time and got to the three-mile mark around 29 minutes. Right on track, I thought. I had hoped to run at least a 10-minute/mile pace.  Suddenly a guy in an ATV rides by saying something about a cargo net.  A cargo net?  Yup.  We had to scale a cargo net that was draped over a large fallen tree in the trail.  This race was crazy and I had only gone three miles!
frogtown2
And it got even crazier–around the half-way point we had to run about a mile through a creek.  The creek was twisty and rocky in places and I had to duck underneath several low branches or logs. I made the mistake of passing another runner by skipping a turn and cutting through the creek bed, but then I found myself too far from the next runner in front of me.  The water was murky and choppy which made it hard to pick a good line.  It was also hard to spot any deep spots. I got tripped up in one or two deep spots and though I was able to catch myself with my hands, I still got soaked up to my chest.  I was happy to be out of the water and next time I’ll be sure to follow someone and let them find the bad spots for me.  Some people were smart enough to change their shoes after the creek run, but I ran the next 4-5 miles with squishy shoes full of sand.

frogtown4
The rest of the race had more hills and tons of logs a foot or higher to leap over.  Overall the Frogtown trail race course was technical yet flowed well; this race puts Muddy Buddy to shame.  The “obstacles” at Frogtown seemed sporadically placed but natural giving the course its good flow.  This race really demanded a lot of physical and mental energy.  Its easy to mentally tune out on road runs, but not paying attention during a race like this could lead to a serious disaster. Somehow two days later my back is still sore from running at Frogtown, I used muscles like I never have before in other races.  The soreness is worth it though, especially for finishing among the Top 10 Females!  See you next year at Frogtown!

Running on Faith Book Review

October 27th, 2010

jason-lester-running-on-faithI was sent the book Running on Faith, written by Jason Lester and Tim Vandehey, so I gave it a read.  It’s a good book whether you are a trail runner, road runner, or participate in triathlons, it is always motivating to read a story of someone who has overcome worldly obstacles to reach their fitness goals.  We all push our bodies and minds, but sometimes you want to quit.  You won’t want to quit again after reading this book.  As I sat in jury duty I got so inspired reading this book that I went on a quick run during our hour break.  Maybe the fact that I was dripping in sweat was the reason I wasn’t selected to be on the jury….

Jason Lester is a physically challenged extreme athlete.  When he was twelve years old, a speeding car ran a red light, sending him into the hospital with twenty broken bones and paralyzed arm.  Jason and his father had always planned on him becoming a professional baseball player, now that dream was gone.  But Jason refused to let his injury impede his goal of becoming a professional athlete.  He went through more trials and tribulations in his life and always found solace in sports.  He began running and participating in duathlons in High School.  After college he moved to Los Angeles and fell into the typical partying Hollywood lifestyle.

After more negative life experiences, Jason started decided to start training for the Ironman in 2004, and has since competed in numerous extreme races.  In 2008, Jason became the first disabled athlete to complete the Ultraman (320 miles of biking, swimming, and running), and in 2009, he won an ESPY award for Best Disabled Male Athlete.  He is the founder of the Never Stop Foundation, and organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children and adults through athletics.

One thing interesting about Jason is that he calls his condo “the lab” and gives instructions on how to build your own lab.  The lab is your custom-created training environment.  It’s your lifestyle while training.  However, Jason takes this to the extreme, putting his complete focus, twenty-four hours a day on getting himself physically and mentally ready for the race.  He says, “it’s the environment where your needs come first.”  At some points in the book I felt that Jason sounded a bit selfish in his training; only participating in activities and hanging out with people who were helping him achieve his goal.  He even admits he missed out on time he could have spent with his daughter instead of training.  Training can become addictive.

I think we all need to keep focus on our work-life-training balance.  While most of us don’t need this type of intensity in training to achieve our race goals, the idea is the same, you do have to give up some things in order to be successful, but don’t let your goals get in the way of helping others.  While Jason is very appreciative of all the people who helped him during his journey, he may have missed out on helping those who needed him during that time.  Other than being an inspiring and exciting story, I think the book is really about helping others being like giving to God.

Maybe Running on Faith will inspire you to do something great, like helping others.  There is a study guide for you to share the story with your groups for discussion.  If you want to be inspired for your race goals there are some helpful appendices to help in your training for how to cook tasty organic food and a sample training schedule.  Overall, good book to get you inspired for your next endurance goal.

Project Athena Races Series: Virginia Beach

November 4th, 2010

project-athena-race-seriesI know SeriousRunning.com is all about trail running but sometimes extreme endurance sports bring out stories and causes that need to be talked about; and Project Athena Foundation is one of those.  I met founder Robyn Benincasa at a running store event a while back, along with her associate in the Project Athena Foundation, Victoria Seahorn who is also the founder of the XTERRA Colorado Trail Race Series.  There’s your trail running connection die hards.  They are currently promoting their newest event in Virginia Beach on November 20th, the AKALI Project Athena Racing Series.

Why run this event?  Because helping others is better than any runner’s high you’ve ever gotten.  As a two-time cancer survivor, Norfolk resident Sara Jones became an Athena last year.  She is now fighting for a third time, a personal battle with terminal metastatic breast cancer; this event is to raise awareness and funds for Sara and the rest of the Project Athena Foundation.

It was just three years ago that Robyn Benincasa and four friends brought a dream to reality by creating the Project Athena Foundation.  All of these women were serious athletes and all had faced medical setbacks in their lives.  Through sport and through the support of one another, they were able to regain active lifestyles.  The non-profit organization provides a “goddess” network to help women not just survive medical setbacks, but to strive for more and unleash the athlete within themselves.  Since 2008, 30 women have received Athenaships, or grants, to participate in some awesome events.  Sara Jones who had to retire from her job as a Norfolk area firefighter, was an Athenaship recipient last year and participated in the 155-Kilometer Coastal Challenge rain forest expedition run in Costa Rica.  Sounds like some gnarly trail running to me.

The event will be held on November 20th at First Landing State Park in Virgina Beach, Virginia.  The unique recreational series offers a variety of run/walk/adventure activities for all skill levels and age groups.  They will have a 15K God/Goddess Race, 6K Athena Team Trek, and Merrell Mini Athena & Mini Zues Kidz Challenge.  There is a 20% discount on all registration fees for military and their dependents, the registration code is PAFmilitary (case sensitive).  I was in the Army so I can tell you, impersonating military personnel is a serious offense.  Registration is $45 per adult and $25 per child.  Race day registration is $55 per adult and $35 for children so register now!

Run this event on November 20th in the Virginia Beach area, meet some amazing people who have overcome obstacles to achieve great things, and help others that are less fortunate than yourself.  Sounds like a beautiful Saturday morning run to me!

Death Race: You May Die in Vermont

November 9th, 2010

death-race-vermontThe Death Race could be one of the most difficult adventure races known to man (or woman).  The tagline of this race is, ‘You May Die.’  Yeah, that sounds pretty gnarly.  But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right?  Well signing the three word race waiver that states, “I might die” may make you second guess that statement.  The race is 24 hours of physical and psychological challenges full of barbed wire, sharp rocks, mental tasks, and carrying things for no particular reason.  There are no ground rules so you can’t train for this race, just be ready to kill yourself.  It’s like any race though, 95% mental right?  Well, probably more like 110% mental; and I realize that giving anything more than 100% is mathematically impossible…

Race Director Joe DeSena says, “…failure always comes when there’s a lack of commitment.”  Joe knows about hard work and commitment.  He’s from Howard Beach, Queens where he parlayed a pool cleaning business into a job on Wall Street.  Who knew they had pools in downtown Manhattan?  From that job Joe made a small fortune and bought a 400-acre spread in the Green Mountains.  There he has established a securities trading concern, a wedding retreat, and yoga studio.  This smart businessman even bought the local trading post, why let someone else make money on the increased visitors you attracted to this small town?  When Joe isn’t busy building a small town empire he runs Ironman triathlons which include desert crossings, river safaris, and ice treks.  Joe wanted to create a race that separates the tough from the mentally tough.  He even discourages participants during the race, telling them to just quit.  Sounds like a combination of my fraternity hell week, Ranger school experience, and my “nothing was ever good enough” father.  Sign me up!

Here’s a race recap, so you can expect the unexpected.  From 8-12 on a Friday night you take your bike and mandatory gear up 1800 feet to get instructions and make your game plan, then go back down the hill to try to sleep from 12-330, race starts at 4:00 AM.  First you crawl uphill in a ditch under barbed wire until you get to a bunch of 1 foot tree stumps.  You have to find the stump with your number on it.  The task is to dig the tree stump out of the ground with the roots using an axe or any other equipment you may have.  If you don’t do this in 2 hours, you’re already out of the race.  Thanks for trying.  Once you get the stump out of the ground you have to carry the stump, along with your other gear, back down the barbed wire ditch.  You then grab your bike and other equipment and crawl down another barbed wire ditch leading to a rocky river.  You walk about a mile or two down the river, filled with only jagged rocks on the bottom, until you come to a man with a single match (not waterproof).  Take the match, turn around, go back upstream, and up the ditch you just came from, still carrying all of your equipment and the stump.  You are led to a pile of 20 large logs where you must quarter split every log.  Some logs can take up to 30-40 minutes to split.  Make 6 of the splits small because you will be taking 6 logs, along with your bike, gear, stump, and match with you.  You go for about a mile where you can drop the logs before climbing up a steep mountain.  At the top of the mountain you have to memorize 10 names.  Turn around and go back down the mountain to recite the names, if you mess up guess where you are going back up to.  Once passing this task you get into another barbed wire ditch and crawl to a foot bridge with Legos on it.  You must memorize the Lego structure and colors and go back down the ditch.  You come to a pond where there is a bag of Legos for you to recreate the Legos formation you just saw.  You then travel back down to the rocky river, but this time you make a right and go upstream to a flame and torch in the middle of the river.  You must then search for a hidden chicken egg in the forest.  You must find some wood and make a fire to boil water (hope you still have that match) to cook the egg then eat it (I’m allergic to eggs, otherwise I’d do this race).  After completing this task you go over a hill where your bike tires are and ride to the finish.  Of course not before adding 20% of your body weight worth of rocks to you.  Try balancing that.  Sound easy?  Then you must be confident like Donald Trump.  DT’s gone broke multiple times you know.

Or if you want to see what you are really made of then sign up.  Still not sure if you can handle it?  Check out this video that shows some sections of the course.  Still not sure?  Try it anyway, don’t worry, you may die.

Keen A86 Trail Running Minimalist Running Shoe Review

November 22nd, 2010

I went to Outdoor Retailer a couple of months ago and still haven’t been able to share everything I learned yet.  Come on, I know you would rather go trail running than read about trail running.  The reason I know this is because you’re reading the blog while forced to be in front of a computer at work.  I’ve seen the web statistics, no one visits SeriousRunning.com after 5 pm or on the weekends.

keen-a86-minamilist-trail-running-reviewWhile at Outdoor Retailer I kept passing by the Keen booth not quite sure what to make of them.  They offer a lot of products, predominately bulky hiking shoes with a lot of support and durability and started with a closed toe sandal.  Well just like everyone else, Keen is trying their hand (or foot) at the minimalist trail running shoe movement with the A86 due out in January 2011.

Instead of an over-sized toe guard like most of Keen’s heavy duty products this shoe is like a racing flat.  Don’t worry, the A86 trail shoe does have a small toe bumper in the front.  The lack of bulk still doesn’t compromise the support and comfort needed in a trail running shoe.  The Keen A86 is 9 ounces and Keen boasts, “has a glove-like fit and a feather-light feel.”  The asymmetric lacing allows trail runners to make the shoe as tight or as loose as they want for that lightweight minimalist feel.  The tight fit still breaths too with a consistent mesh upper allowing air to flow through the feet.  The light PU mid-sole provides ample shock absorption and the high rebound foot-bed gives that extra cushioning you may need, but it is removable if you want a more minimalist feel.  The dot matrix, multidirectional 3 mm traction lugs make it fit not slip on the trail.

Keen says they stand to, “create, play, and care…for us it’s a way of life, we call it the Hybridlife.”  We’ll see if they can create a hybrid minimalist and trail running shoe that we care to play in.  The design looks great and the feel is promising.  This could be a great minimalist trail running shoe or perhaps like the famous band Keane (not Keen) says, maybe they are, “Trying to make a move just to stay in the game.”

Note:  Trail Running and Minimalist Running are not games to us.

Christmas Gifts for Trail Runners

November 24th, 2010

santa-runningCyber Monday is going to be as hot as it sounds, so we’re here to make life easier.  No more pushing users, crashing virtual shopping carts, or waiting in long pageview load lines this holiday season.  Here are three gift ideas for your favorite Trail Runner.  Or your boss, who is probably also a trail runner.  Like a boss.

The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running:  If you want SeriousRunning.com in print then this is the book to get.  Nancy Hobbs tells you everything you need to know about trail running.  Nancy is an original trail runners who has been an ambassador to the sport for many years.  She is the Executive Director of the American Trail Running Association, a writer for both Running Times and Examiner.com, and a chairperson for the Mountain Ultra Trail Council.  She knows what she’s talking about in this book.  Learn from an expert.  trail-running-fuel-belt

Fuel Belt:  Keep your trail runner running by giving them a fuel belt.  In the belt they can carry water, GU, and toilet paper.  The toilet paper is more for comfort than fuel though.  This one is tight fitting and has space for 4 water bottles along with two pockets.  Perfect for any runner traveling more than 10 miles and not too bulky for those 25 milers.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-kso-trekVibram Five Fingers:  These are the hip, new ‘Tickle me Elmo’ for the running community this Christmas.  They are sometimes difficult to find in retail stores but they are here on the Internet.  So powerful.  If your trail runner hasn’t tried running in Vibram Five Fingers yet I guaranteed they have thought about it.  If you want to get them the gift that they want but would never buy themselves, then this is it.

We hope this helps.  We based this list on items that we currently don’t own but would love to have.  Hear that Grandma?  We’ll keep supplying you with ideas this holiday season as we survey how much we really don’t have.  Window shopping is fun!

Christmas Gifts for Trail Runners – REI’s Cyber Monday Sale

November 29th, 2010

REI.com is having a Winter Sale that ends today, Cyber Monday.  We sifted through all the items to find the trail running gifts you want and need.  Please Mom!  Please Mom!  But I neeeeeeed it!

petzel-tikka-xp-2-led-headlamp-trail-runningPetzl Tikka XP 2 LED Headlamp (was 54.95, sale price 41.99) For trail runners that are looking for a light, durable, bright light, this is the one for you.  Don’t let the small size fool you with this headlamp.  The Petzl Tikka XP 2 headlamp has a powerful and adjustable beam with tilt head that can guide you down the trail as fast you can run it.  I guaranteed you’ll never catch up to this light, this white light reaches up to 60m out.  For those foggy nights there is a spring-assisted, flip-up diffuser lens which changes the beam shape from spotlight to area light.  It also has a red LED light positioned to the side in case your buddies are running in night vision goggles.  This light can last all night long, oh yeah, giving 160 hours of white light and 80 hours of light on the high intensity setting.  Not that it matters, you wouldn’t be able to last that long on the high intensity setting anyway.  Honey, it’s getting dark outside!

Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon Hat(was $30.00, now $20.99) Trail Runners aren’t different from anyone else, mountain-hardwear-dome-perignon-hat-trail-runningthey loose their heat through their heads too, but they don’t have to.  They can stay warm with less bulk by donning the soft Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon hat made from Polartec 200 fleece and Gore Windstopper fleece.  That’s science keeping you warm.  This hat is unique because of the fleece earband which blocks the wind and keeps your ears toasty warm.  For the egg head in your life there is a stretch fleece insert in the back of the head to give a nice fit for any mishaped head.  If you have a big head (literally) then this is the hat for you.

smartwool-midweight-wool-long-underwear-trail-runningSmartWool Midweight Wool Long Underwear(was 70.00, now 59.99) Keeping the lower extremities warm while feeling uninhibited is important to every trail runner and this long underwear allows you to have the comfort of both worlds.  The SmartWool Midweight Wool Long Underwear Bottoms offer natural stretch and breathability for when temperatures fluctuate, like before you run and during your run.  The underwear bottoms are made of 100% super-fine (like me) merino wool to help maintain your comfort in any climate.  The flatlock side-seam construction and the covered waistband prevents chafing as you move your legs back and forth down the trail.  They are easy to wash too, throw them in the washing machine and dry on cool temperature to avoid shrinkage.  We all know how bad shrinkage can be…

So take some time this Cyber Monday and get some Christmas shopping done.  I know you are at work but you can’t just jump back in after your holiday hibernation.  Take some time to ease back in, like an old man getting into a warm bath.

Weight Lifting for Trail Running

November 30th, 2010

Weight lifting is very important for trail runners to help avoid injury.  The stronger your body is, the better equipped it will be to take on the uneven terrain it impacts on finite parts.  So for trail running specific weight training, it is best to focus on the lower body.  Upper body weight training is more for long distance running.  So if you are running long distances and on trails then you’ve got double the weight training to do.  It’s cool, you’ll get the overtime results.

When weight training for trail running you want to focus on strength, power, and balance.  Don’t be like Saddam Hussein squats-for-trail-runningand  only have 2 out of the 3 attributes, trust me, it won’t end well.  Start with squats to strengthen your thighs, hips, buttocks, and hamstring.  Don’t lift a lot of weight even though you may be able to.  Grunting and throwing down your weights isn’t cool, likewise, kicking them  like your in the movie, ‘The Program’ is pretty lame.  Squat your body weight.  If you want to avoid squats try the leg press but again, although it may be tempting to your ego, don’t put excess weight on.  Another way to exercise similar to squats is to hold two dumbells to your side and practice lunges.  This gives you the benefit of isolating one leg at a time, much like your body will encounter on the trail as you pivot and stretch to the next safe step.  You can also do single leg squats on the Smith machine if available.  These exercises improve your ability to vary your steps on the trail without straining your glutes, quads, or hamstring.hamstring-curl-for-trail-running

The next exercise you should do to get specific exercise is the hamstring curl.  To the left you can see it being done on a machine.  If you are not at a gym you can lay flat on your stomach and lift your muddy trail running shoes for extra weight in the same manner as the picture.  This exercise will improve your breaking ability when trail running downhill.  However I don’t recommend breaking when trail running downhill.

Another important area to improve for trail running with weight training is your ankles.  Grab some ankle weights or wrap a flexible weight around one ankle.  Then rotate your foot from side to side, in a circle, or do the alphabet.  You know the alphabet motion.  Do this exercise one ankle at a time to prepare your pivot points for single impacts on the trail.

Another great work out for the trail is calf raises.  Use the machine at your gym or stand up repeatedly like your in the back of a group trying to get into the picture.  This will help in your uphill trail running as you dig each step closer to the top.  Although it may be tempting, avoid adding too much weight.  You want to focus on more reps to run up the long hill not carry furniture up stairs.  It is important to stretch before and after calf raises because calves tend to get tighter than other muscles.

Even though your lower body is taken care of don’t forget to work your core and back, both are important as you pivot your upper body down the singletracks of the trail.  Remember, you don’t have to look like a trail runner to be a trail runner.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself, bulk up!

The Best Running Shoe Laces

December 2nd, 2010

running-shoe-lacesI’ve noticed the past couple of years that running shoe laces have been going through an enlightenment period; evolving at a faster rate than ever before, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good thing.  Personally I have the latest technology in shoe lace science in my New Balance MT101s and to be honest, they have been coming untied a lot lately.  The good thing about shoe laces though is that they are interchangeable, you can put any type of shoe lace on any type of running shoe.  We examine if it’s time to go back from the future for your running shoe laces.

Flat woven:  These are your traditional running shoe laces.  They are a 1/2 inch wide, flat and square with plastic end points for ease of lacing.  They range from 27 to 72 inches and have traditionally been about 34 inches in running shoes.  They can be made of cotton, jute, or hemp which is different from modern running shoe laces made from synthetic fibers which tend to be more slippery.  The length of the flat woven on traditional running shoes allows for little excess lace to dangle on the side of your shoe.  This results in an extra tight shoe as runners must tighten enough to have plenty of lace for the tie.fat-shoe-laces-running

Fat Woven:  These are very similar to the flat woven running shoe laces above; however, they have a width of 3/4 inch.  The idea behind having fatter woven laces is that they won’t loosen in the lacing holes on the shoe as you run.  They also make it easier to tie for all intensive gripping purposes.

Round Braided:  These first appeared in basketball shoes and made their way into running shoes.  The lengths range from 27 to 72 inches; however, most are 72 inches because of their basketball “baggy look” heritage.  The 72 inch laces are much too long for running shoes as runners feet pass each other very closely.  Basketball players are able to tuck the long laces into their shoes but runners can’t due to chaffing.  Don’t buy these shoe laces and if they come with your running shoes throw them out.

SURE LACE:  This is what my New Balance 101s have.  The length of the laces are 34 inches.  The laces resemble round braided laces but are computer knit designed with a reciprocating wave pattern.  New Balance says it, “secure shoe laces, provide added midfoot support, and keep the shoe snug around the foot.”  I agree with all of these except it keeps the shoe laces secure. Here’s a video about them:

Overall, you have to find the shoe lace that fits you, but don’t be fooled by gimmicks like SURE LACE technology or the hip long lace fad.  If it aint broke, don’t fix it, just tie a double knot!

Karhu Fast Fulcrum_Ride Running Shoe Review

December 10th, 2010

mens-karhu-fast-fulcrum_ride-running-shoeThe Karhu Fast Fulcrum_Ride road running shoe is scheduled to hit stores in the United States on February of 2011, but you can get these hot new shoes now on Amazon.com.  The Internet spreads across oceans.  If you haven’t heard of Karhu before, it’s probably because they are a Finnish company, but they have been producing running shoes in Europe for over 100 years.  Karhu has a rich history in running shoes.  After WWII they sold their 3 stripes trademark to a little known German brand named Adidas for the equivalent of 1600 Euros today and 2 bottles of whiskey.  That better have been some good whiskey.  In the 1980s Karhu sold off their outdoor shoe division to Merrell.  Karhu is now back with its new fulcrum technology and bringing it to its new running shoe line.

The patented fulcrum technology they say is, “independently tested and proven, collaborates with the foot to convert your body’s natural energy into forward motion.”  Much like a fulcrum would but with collaboration with your body.  The technology is located in the sole of the shoe.  The fulcrum is more efficient with its lower pronation angle and velocity because it allows for appropriate pronation during the gait cycle.  The center of pressure moves along it’s natural path vertically from the heel to the toes without interruption.  Traditional running shoes transfer pronation energy from side to side.  The fulcrum also allows for more balance because it is naturally centered which accelerates the transition, the most unbalanced portion of your stride.  Traditional running shoes with flat cushioning and vertical posting can create braking and angular forces.  The fulcrum keeps you moving forward with less vertical oscillation.  Stop wasting energy on oscillating anywhere but forward, unless you’re running up stairs or something.

The Karhu Fast Fulcrum_Ride is a neutral shoe built for performance; that’s why its named “fast.”  The Fast Fulcrum_Ride is womens-karhu-fast-fulcrum_ride-running-shoes1able to transition pressure to energy.  The body’s nerve signals anticipate contact with the ground at a natural heel strike, and because of the fulcrum, the force of the impact is distributed evenly.  The activation leads to forward movement, following the body’s natural inclination.  The mid-foot is fully loaded and the body pivots over the fulcrum.  The maximum horizontal velocity is applied in a final push off the fulcrum, driving the body forward.  It’s just science.

The new Fast Fulcrum_Ride are great for flat footed runners.  The fit is true to size, with a narrow and low profile for speed.  However, they feel like they may not be as durable as other running shoes so the Fast Fulcrum_Ride may be best kept for race day.  The cushioning is great but the amount of padding seems unnecessary for a performance shoe.  The extra padding makes the shoe heavier, especially if it gets wet from rain or sweat.

It’s an interesting new concept and you can feel the difference when you run.  Check out if the fulcrum technology fits you.  It could be a fast ride.

Born to Run: Minimalist Running Shoe Store

December 13th, 2010

vivobarefoot-evo-minimalist-running-shoeThe next logical step has come in the barefoot and minimalist running movement, a minimalist only running shoe store.  First, athletes started running barefoot.  Seeing the loss in business, running shoe companies started developing their own minimalist running shoes.  Established running shoe companies like New Balance developed minimalist models and many new running shoe companies sprang up who focused predominantly on minimalist shoes like Kigo Footwear and Terra Plana.  Someone has to sell these new models of running shoes; enter Born to Run: the barefoot shoe store.  Wait, barefoot shoes?  Oxymoron anyone?

The store is located in Bellevue, Washington and is owned by Barefoot Ted McDonald, one of the original and expert barefoot runners, along with Dan Fairbanks as CEO.  They started Born to Run because, “We believe that the human foot was created perfectly as it is.  Our mission is to spread the joy of free feet by educating others on the benefits of minimalist footwear, teaching how to use it properly, and by selling the highest quality of minimalist footwear on the market.”  There is a lot of great information on their website about minimalist running techniques.  They also have weekly minimalist running seminars at the store along with minimalist group runs.  A great place for minimalist runners to learn from each other.

I couldn’t find any other minimalist running shoe specific brick and mortar stores on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I think this is a great idea which has finally capitulated since ‘Born to Run‘ the book was released.  My problem is with their store name though, “Born to Run.”  They are already capitalizing on Chris McDougall’s book, ‘Born to Run’ which created the demand for a minimalist running shoes for a specific store, so why go all the way and name the store the exact title of the book?  Their website URL is actually borntorun.com!  In my research I also found another running shoe store that is named Born to Run Inc., obviously before the book was released.  I’m not sure how trademarks work, but I found that the store has trademarked the name ‘Born to Run’ for their use.  I wonder how this is legal?

At any rate, I wish Barefoot Ted and Dan the best of luck in their endeavor to grow this minimalist running shoe store across the country.  It’s a great idea and should prove to be a profitable concept, they just missed the mark on creating a unique brand.  No one knew what a Google was when it first got started, but that doesn’t mean they should have named the company, “Search Engine Plus.”

XTERRA Footwear 50% Trail Running Shoes Christmas Sale

December 14th, 2010

xterra-mens-xr-1_0-trail-running-shoesXTERRA Footwear is having a 50% off sale on their Trail Running shoes now until December 17th.  Looks like Christmas is coming early for trail runners.  Use coupon code:  “Xmasjoy” when checking out to receive the 50% discount.  XTERRA started as a SUV, then it was 1 trail race, and now it has grown to 195 events in 16 countries!  It is the premiere trail running organization which spans across the United States and now they have moved on to making trail running shoes.  Why not, they have the feedback of thousands of trail runners all over the nation, who have run and raced on all types of trail surfaces?  Their team members worked for many of the best footwear brands in the industry.  Now they are building the best trail running shoes for the greatest running events anywhere.  Their shoes have been tried and tested on the most intense race courses XTERRA has to offer.

XTERRA has made a trail running shoe that performs on hard packed dirt, loose soil, sand, rock, asphalt, or a combination of all.  XTERRA Footwear builds shoes for the XTERRA races, training, and outdoor lifestyle.  The XTERRA XR 1.0 is made for support and stability which doesn’t mean it has to be “overbuilt” and bulky.  It’s lightweight and stable which provides the optimal flexibility, breathability, cushioning, and support to handle trails and neighborhood roads.  The XR 1.0 is made for heel-strike and forefoot runners.  Colin Chapman, designer and builder of the Lotus Cars, once said, “Simplify and add lightness” and that’s what XTERRA tried to do with the XR 1.0.  They found that most trail running shoes were too stiff, too heavy, and the lugs were so sever they could be felt through the shoe, but running on trails in a road shoe didn’t provide enough support, traction or protection.  That is why they developed the hybrid XTERRA XR1.0 running shoe, a shoe that can go both ways.  So enlightened.

The XTERRA XT1.0 and 2.0 is a light, comfortable running shoe designed for XTERRA trail racxterra-mens-xt2_0-trail-running-shoese training.  XTERRA race training includes all things active and fun.  Your routine might include running your favorite trail, hiking, scrambling, playing hid and go seek, chasing Fido at the park, surfing, leaping tall buildings, or even going to the gym.  (Lame).  At any rate, the XT 1.0 and 2.0 are made for all of those activities plus running.  If you don’t like having to change your shoes then this is the running shoe for you.  This shoe is designed for shorter XTERRA and road races.

So how do they fit and feel?  Well I don’t know what your foot shape is, but that doesn’t matter, XTERRA offers a 100% absolute guarantee on any purchase of shoes!  50% off and a 30-day money back guarantee, you can’t go wrong with these shoes as a present!  Go to XTERRA footwear and get your Christmas shopping complete.

Free Running or Urban Trail Running?

December 15th, 2010

You may have seen the new flip camera commercial that features kids participating in free running, above is an example of parkour or free running.  Free runners use city and rural landscape to perform movements through structures.  Free running is a translation of parkour to the English language with a bit of a twist.  In free running, participants use efficient movements from parkour but add aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics.  Free running embodies complete freedom of movement, allowing runners to “find their own way.”  The goal is to use the environment to develop yourself and to always keep moving forward and not backward.  However, free running is not simply moving from “point A to B” but rather testing oneself physically and mentally.  The founder and creator of free running, Sebastien Foucan, defines free running as a discipline to self development, following your own way, which he developed because he felt that parkour lacked enough creativity and self-expression as a definition of each free-runner who must follow your own way.  However, even with the differences in philosophy, free running and parkour are very similar.  Not one of the founders and developers of the discipline, apart from Foucan, see two different sports in parkour and free running.

new-balance-trail-running-shoes-urbanWhichever discipline you want to name it, the philosophies of parkour and free running are very similar to trail running.  They test oneself physically and mentally; emphasizing efficiency while allowing freedom of movement.  However, they are even more similar to a sport I conceptualized in August of 2009,  Urban Trail Running.  Urban Trail Running allows runners to get the exercise benefits and excitement of trail running without having to travel far from the cities they live in.  Running in the city can lead to many types of injuries because of the continuity of flat roads and rigidity of surfaces.  Urban Trail Running is about varying the terrain and movements while running in an urban environment.  Animals tend to take the path of least resistance, but we’re not animals, so why not take the path with resistance?  Your body will thank you.

So how do you go Urban Trail Running?  First focus on finding differing surfaces, this can be the most difficult task because urban cities are often dominated by flat roads.  Try to find parks and other grassy areas, small running trails, or windy/old roads.  Grassy areas allow you to work on traction and give your running motion variation.  Small running trails often have many curves which is great for working on your balance.  Windy and old roads are great because the potholes and loose surface mirrors the variation in steps when trail running.  Overall, any uneven surface that will force you to focus on lateral movements and your balancing muscles is where you want to run.  Also, much like parkour and free running, run through obstacles in your run which mirror obstacles you may encounter on a trail run.  Jump over benches like they are tree logs across the trail.  Use light posts on corners to whip yourself into a quick, tight 90 degree turn.  When you encounter water, don’t take the bridge, run through it.  Any urban obstacle can become a trail obstacle, run through it.

Overall, the point of Urban Trail Running is to create your own path, don’t run where the sidewalk leads you, blaze your own urban trail and get the benefits of trail running right outside your front door.  Go Urban Trail Running!

Georgia Trail Running Races 2011

January 13th, 2011

xterra-thrills-in-the-hills-trail-raceIt’s another season of trail running races in Georgia for 2011 and Dirty Spokes Productions along with XTERRA have some great trail races coming up soon.  Start the new year off on the right foot, toeing the line at the 1st Annual Dirty Spokes 8.0 Mile Trail Running Race at Heritage Park on February 5th or the classic 5th Annual XTERRA Thrills in the Hills at Fort Yargo State Park half-marathon.

The Dirty Spokes Trail Run Series begins this year at the 1st Annual Dirty Spokes 8.0 Mile Trail Running Race at Heritage Park in Watkinsville, GA or also known as Farmington, GA, on February 5th.  I’m not quite sure which town is the suburb of which town.  At any rate, these are some pretty sweet mountain biking, horseback riding (watch where you step!), and of course trail running trails, ranked #12 trail running trail in Georgia by SeriousRunning.com users.  Dirty Spokes says about the race:  ‘This is a great single and double track off road running experience!  The race will start on the gravel road (required for spacing) but will soon lead into the woods.  The terrain is made up of a little big of everything, rolling hills, single track, double track, technical section (rocks, roots and tight twisty sections), creek crossings (shallow and narrow).  If you have never visited Heritage Park – do it!  The course is beautiful and offers 5-csomething for every runner truly wishing to ‘ditch the city.’  Nestled in the woods of suburban Atlanta lies a true gem.  Well groomed system of trails with gentile slopes and beautiful scenery will leave you breathless (if that doesn’t, the 8.0 miles will).  Once you descend into the woods, you forget about the city.  As a matter of fact, you will come t o know why we follow the creed ‘ditch the city.”

The race is on February 5th starting at 8:30 with packet pick-up between 7:00 and 8:00.  Register now until January 25th race entry is $30.00.  After that the price rises to $35.00 with $40.00 fee at race day.  Each runner will get a “Dri-Fit” shirt but there is no guaranteed for late entries.  Medals will be given out to the top three finishers in each age and sex category.  This is sure to be a great race and become a Dirty Spokes tradition.  Get in on the 1st Annual action!

xterra-thrills-in-the-hills-trail-racingAfter you get the trail racing taste in your mouth try the next XTERRA Georgia trail race series race Thrills in the Hills.  This is my favorite trail race in the series.  It’s at Fort Yargo State Park which is rated as the #2 best trail in the United States according to SeriousRunning.com users.  There are 21K and a 42K race distances available.  Register now through February 18th for the 21K distance for $35.00, after that it’s $40.00 until February 24th, then $45.00 on race day.  The 42K is $45.00 from now until February 18th, $50.00 after that until February 24th, and $55.00 on race day.  Register here!  New to this year, Firehouse Subs of Winder will be giving away free subs to all participants of the race!  Subs are my favorite food after a trail race for sure.  If you want to read more about the race check out my race recap of the 2009 Thrills in the Hills trail race.  Or check out more 2011 trail races in Georgia.

VIP sections at Races Discrimanates Runners

January 17th, 2011

publix-georgia-marathon-vip-treatmentIn the past week I have received an email from two different races promoting their new VIP sections, Publix Georgia Marathon (formerly the ING Georgia Marathon) and the P.F. Chang’s Rock N’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon.  At first I thought this was a good way for races to increase revenue, but then I began to think is it really necessary?  Aren’t we all runners and deserve the same amenities on race day?  Everyone runs the same distance and endures the same amount of pain after a race.  That’s what makes runners such a tightly connected group.  Why would a race want to break up the comradery of runners?  Why wouldn’t the race just improve its overall experience for all runners and attract more participants rather than charge more for a more comfortable race?  Maybe it’s because the race logistically sucks.  Read my race recap of the 2009 ING Georgia Marathon to see what I mean.  I know I’d probably be willing to pay for the VIP at this race, but that doesn’t make it right.

Here’s what you really get for the $75 VIP charge:

  • Express Packet Pick-up Line at the Expo: This race requires everyone to go to the Expo to pick up their race number.  Why?  Because they want you to buy products from the vendor booths they charge to be there.  If they would just mail race numbers instead of forcing runners to attend the Expo, then there wouldn’t be a need for express packet pick-up.
  • Reserved Race Day Parking Next to Centennial Olympic Park: If you read my race recap, I was late being dropped off to the race because of the traffic.  Then after the race I had to walk a mile back to my ride’s car because that was the closest he was able to park.  However, I don’t blame the race organizers on this, more so Atlanta’s horrible mass transit system.  There is a subway station at the start/finish which should alleviate traffic, but the problem is that the subway stations are not very convenient to where most people live and are coming from.
  • Private Restrooms: I would pay good money for this; however, shouldn’t the race organizers already have enough restrooms available?  All it takes is ordering more port-a-lets.  Its easy to estimate how many people will need to use the restroom, it’s exactly the same as the number of participants.
  • Private Gear Check: The gear check before was just a tent to put bags under.  Anyone could have taken your bag or stuff so the rule of thumb here is to not bring anything you don’t want possibly stolen.  So unless you are carrying your sweaty socks and underwear in a Gucci bag then this isn’t necessary.
  • Pre-race Continental Breakfast: Who eats right before they run a race?  I guess you could show up to the race 3 hours early, but then you wouldn’t need the reserved VIP race day parking space…
  • Free Post Race Massages: Wasn’t this always free?  Race organizers don’t even pay for this service, massage therapist do it for free to promote their business.  Just contact more massage therapist in the area so there isn’t a long wait.
  • Post Race Buffet: Isn’t Publix the headlining sponsor?  Shouldn’t this be free anyway?
  • Printable Results Available Immediately Post Race: How about automating posting results online so I can view my results on my smartphone?  I’ve seen smaller races have results and print them out within minutes of finishing.  The finishing times are all automated, so where’s the race organizers digital follow through?
  • Access to dedicated VIP Area located in the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce near the Finish Line: Is this some sort of club that politicians hang out at or something?

The P.F. Chang’s Rock N’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon call their VIP area “The Zone.”  It gives you private transport to the start line, private parking area, fluid replacement drink, sunscreen, body glide, safety pins, and free gloves.  Really, they don’t provide safety pins for your race bib unless you are very important?  I guess everyone carrying their race bib as they run aren’t VI.  Why not just give them a scarlet letter to hold onto as well?

Overall I can’t blame these race organizers for trying to increase revenue; race organizers would operate at a huge financial loss if they actually paid the thousands of people who volunteer to help execute the event.  In this economy major sponsors are spending less money on event marketing and people are less willing to pay high race fees.  However, more people have begun running because of the poor economy.  Therefore, the solve of lost revenue from race organizers shouldn’t be VIP treatment at higher prices, it should be to increase volume of participants with better amenities and a lower prices.  I understand that there are capacity constraints because roads can only hold so many runners, but race organizers could spread out the operating time of the race; it’s not like they are paying race volunteers by the hour.  With more start waves, spread farther apart, it would also alleviate having to provide adequate amenities for 50,000 people all at one time, thus overall race experience would improve.

I understand that race organizers need to make money, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of improving their race.  Increase the pie, not your slice of runners.

Merrell’s Trail Glove Mens Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Review

January 18th, 2011

merrell-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-trail-glove This past year I went to Outdoor Retailer and got a sneak peek at Merrell’s new minimalist trail running shoe collection.  Pictured to the left is the Men’s Trail Glove Minimalist Trail Running Shoe which is scheduled to hit stores in February of 2011.  Get ready!  If you like what you read here about the Trail Glove then you may want to check out what I found out about the other new minimalist trail running shoes in Merrell’s collection:  Tough Glove and True Glove for Men; and Pace Glove, Power Glove, and Pure Glove for Women.  Find which one best fits you your running style…like a glove!

The Merrell representative told me that the reason Merrell got into the minimalist trail shoe movement is because their company’s core values are to bring customers to find their outside freedom and the Trail Glove lets runners’ feet follow their natural instincts to that freedom.  How philosophical.  Merrell teamed up with Vibram to fuse together their knowledge of barefoot running with Merrell’s knowledge of outdoor footwear.  The biggest difference between Merrell’s minimalist trail running shoes and others on the market is the wide toe and heel boxes.  The wide toe and heel boxes are to encourage your foot to find it’s natural stride by giving it plenty of room.  Stop suffocating your foot and give it the room to learn on its own.  Merrell’s Trail Glove is its medium weight minimalist trail shoe in the collection; combining an ultra-lightweight feel with all the protection needed from rocks and roots.

The upper is made of a treated synthetic leather and upper mesh.  This allows for a tight feel which fits snug against the upper part of your foot, according to Ace Ventura, like a glove!  The snug fit in the uppers is important because your foot tends to slide around in the excess room built in the lower for freedom of movement.  The Trail Glove also uses Merrell’s Omni-Fit lacing system, secured with welded TPU, to help tighten the upper more and give the glove feel.  There is a hard toe bumper that is fused on the front to provide protection against rocks and roots on the trail.  On the back Merrell put synthetic rubber fused on, this is more for stability in your heel than protection from the trail.  The Merrell representative also told me that they have a microfiber footbed treated with an antimicrobial solution that resists odor, but we’ll have to see about that.  I’ve never met a minimalist trail running shoe that didn’t stink….or maybe that’s just me…

The midsole and outsole has a 4 mm cushioning in it, just enough for a semi-soft landing while still allowing for the minimalist trail running feel.  The part I like most about the sole is the 1 mm forefoot shock absorption plant which helps maintain forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure.  The Trail Glove is the first minimalist trail running shoe I’ve seen that has taken into account that minimalist runners run on their toes.  In fact, Merrell also told me that they would be providing instructions on minimalist running techniques with every pair they sell of their minimalist trail running shoe collection; like a manual for a car.  I think this is a great idea because I’ve heard of too many injured runners throwing on minimalist running shoes without changing their technique and further injuring themselves.  The sole is made of a rubber compound TC-1.  What does that mean exactly?  I don’t know, but I trust any sole made by Vibram; just like I trust websites on the Internet.

Stay tuned the next couple of days as I review the other new minimalist trail shoes in Merrell’s collection.

Merrell’s Tough Glove Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Reveiw

January 19th, 2011

merrell-mens-tough-glove-minimalist-trail-running-shoesThis past year I went to Outdoor Retailer and got a sneak peek at Merrell’s new minimalist trail running collection from one of their representatives.  If you like what you read here about the Tough Glove then you may want to check out what I found out about the other new minimalist trail running shoes in Merrell’s collection:  Trail Glove and True Glove for Men; and Pace Glove, Power Glove, and Pure Glove for Women.  Find which one best fits you your running style…like a glove!

Merrell’s Tough Glove is somewhat similar to the other minimalist trail running shoes in the collection.  It is made so your feet and legs can follow their natural instincts, giving them the room to flow.  The Tough Glove is the heaviest shoe in the collection.  It does have an uber-lightweight upper with a stabilizing rubber foot sling from Vibram which protects your underfoot from pointy rocks; however, it doesn’t have the toe protection that Merrell’s other minimalist trail running shoes do.  Maybe that’s why they call it Tough Glove…

The upper is made of a synthetic leather and air mesh which gives a looser feel than the other shoes in the collection.  This shoe is for runners who absolutely want to give their feet the freedom of movement when trail running.  The Omni-Fit lacing system that Merrell owns still makes the shoe fit snug enough to be considered a “glove.”  It does have a toe bumper for some durability, but it’s not as heavy duty as the other Merrell minimalist shoes.  There is rubber in the rear of the shoe too, but this is more for easily slipping them on, while giving your heel a tight feeling, rather than for protection.  The Tough Glove supposedly also has a footbed treated with Merrell’s antimicrobial solution which I was told resists odor but that’s hard to believe in a minimalist trail running shoe; one that usually is run in without socks through water, mud, and everything else.

The Vibram midsole and outsole are the same on all of Merrell’s minimalist trail running shoe collection but in case this is your first read:

The midsole and outsole has a 4 mm cushioning in it, just enough for a semi-soft landing while still allowing for the minimalist trail running feel.  The part I like most about the sole is the 1 mm forefoot shock absorption plant which helps maintain forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure.  The Trail Glove is the first minimalist trail running shoe I’ve seen that has taken into account that minimalist runners run on their toes.  In fact, Merrell also told me that they would be providing instructions on minimalist running techniques with every pair they sell of their minimalist trail running shoe collection; like a manual for a car.  I think this is a great idea because I’ve heard of too many injured runners throwing on minimalist running shoes without changing their technique and further injuring themselves.  The sole is made of a rubber compound TC-1.  What does that mean exactly?  I don’t know, but I trust any sole made by Vibram.

Yeah, I do feel weird quoting myself but you never know who your audience is on the Internet.  The Tough Glove is perfect for runners who want the closest thing to the barefoot running feel without baring it all.  It is also a great shoe for minimalist runners who run 90% road and 10% trail and want a hybrid shoe.  So for the Glove of God, check out Merrell’s new collection which comes out in February 2011, we’d love to hear what everyone else thinks of them!

Merrell’s True Glove Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Review

January 21st, 2011

merrells-mens-true-glove-minimalist-trail-running-shoeThis past year I went to Outdoor Retailer and got a sneak peek at Merrell’s new minimalist trail running collection from one of their representatives.  If you like what you read here about the True Glove then you may want to check out what I found out about the other new minimalist trail running shoes in Merrell’s collection:  Trail Glove and Tough Glove for Men; and Pace Glove, Power Glove, and Pure Glove for Women.  Find which one best fits you your running style…like a glove!

The Merrell Barefoot collection is made to allow minimalist runners’ feet to follow their natural instincts.  They are uniquely designed to engage the feet efficiently, avoid injury, and strengthen your body’s core.  The collection is the best minimalist trail running shoes I’ve seen and the True Glove is my favorite shoe in the collection.  The True Glove upper is made of a sheepskin leather.  Sheepskin makes true glove feel so much better, and safer!  The sheepskin is the reason that the true glove is the lightest in Merrell’s minimalist trail running collection.  Even though it is light, the upper wraps well around the foot because of Merrell’s Omni-Fit lacing system, pretty much the reason these shoes can be called gloves.  The True Glove supposedly also has a footbed treated with Merrell’s antimicrobial solution which I was told resists odor but that’s hard to believe in a minimalist trail running shoe; one that usually is run in without socks through water, mud, and everything else.

The midsole and outsole has a 4 mm cushioning in it, just enough for a semi-soft landing while still allowing for the minimalist trail running feel.  The part I like most about the sole is the 1 mm forefoot shock absorption plant which helps maintain forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure.  The True Glove is the first minimalist trail running shoe I’ve seen that has taken into account that minimalist runners run on their toes.  In fact, Merrell also told me that they would be providing instructions on minimalist running techniques with every pair they sell of their minimalist trail running shoe collection; like a manual for a car.  I think this is a great idea because I’ve heard of too many injured runners throwing on minimalist running shoes without changing their technique and further injuring themselves.  The sole is made of a rubber compound TC-1.  What does that mean exactly?  I don’t know, but I trust any sole made by Vibram.

Check them out in February of 2011.

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race Turns Epic (1 of 5)

January 24th, 2011

2011-twin-lakes-race-hawaiian-shirt-rayOur friend Hawaiian Shirt Ray wanted to share another race story with us.  Thanks Ray!

I would like the thank Alec Muthig, Josh Fuller, Nate, Josh Artery, Ted, the entire Twin Mountain Trudge Crew who stayed late into the night until I was safe and Search & Rescue.  Without all of your help my Epic adventure could have had a very sad ending.

The 2011 Twin Mountain Trudge Turns Epic

Epic is the term that mountain climbers use when they talk about a climb that went wrong.  The party got lost, gear was dropped, days being snowbound in a tent, destroyed camps, or even death.  This year’s Twin Mountain Trudge turned into an epic day for me and all involved in the race.  Just like on a good climbing day, everything starts out fine and then slowly the situation begins to deteriorate.  Some epic tales have a good ending while others do not.  When things start to go bad and the situation begins to become dire, will you be ready to survive?

I am writing about my epic Twin Mountain Trudge because I want to share my experience with you so you can also be prepared for when things turn epic.  I am very experienced in mountaineering, back country adventures, and ultra racing.  Through the years I have never had any of my adventures turn epic, but I am always prepared just in case they do.  And I sure did not think that the Twin Mountain Trudge would have turned into my first Epic adventure.  Take for instance that I always carry a full first-aid kit with me when I hike.  I have been lucky and in over 15 years of hiking in the Colorado Rockies and elsewhere I have never used it.  Does that mean that I should stop taking it?  Of course not.

The Twin Mountain Trudge (aka The Trudge)

This was my second year running the Twin Mountain Trudge.  The Trudge has an 11 mile race and a 22 mile race which is two of the 11 mile laps.  Here is a quote from Alec Muthig’s email about this year’s race:  “The conditions this year could very well prove to be the worst we’ve seen for this race…I NEED to stress that this is an “adventure” event and not a typical trail run.  You need to try to be self sufficient.  We will have a minimal aid station on the course, but you should carry enough for a long, tough outing.  My guess is that the fastest single loop will be around 2.5 hours, with the others being out for over 5 hours…yes, for the single loop.  Please be prepared to be out that long and please plan on emergency situations.  If you get injured it will be quite a bit of time before we can get in a pull you out on a sled.  Will you be able to not go hypothermic in the time it takes us to get to you?  While only 11-12 miles, this truly a backcountry adventure.  Please be prepared.”

This is a serious adventure event and should not be taken lightly.  It is in Wyoming in the middle of winter through tough and challenging terrain.  This year I once again signed up for the 22 mile race and I know firsthand from last year’s race that Alec is 100 percent serious about the conditions and the need to be properly prepared.  This year my preparedness was put to the test…Read More to find out how.

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race Turns Epic (2 of 5)

January 25th, 2011

2011-twin-lakes-trail-race-hawaiin-shirt-rayHere’s how Hawaiian Shirt Ray prepared for the Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race.

How I Prepared for the Trudge

Food

I knew what I was signing up for when I entered the Trudge again this year.  Beacuse I knew I was in for a long tough day I started out eating a hearty breakfast of:  2 breakfast burritos, a large smoothie, banana bread (see my banana bread recipe), and a few cups of coffee.  For the race I had packed two chicken sandwiches, two chicken and rice burritos, pretzels, and granola bars.  Plus, I planned on eating hot soup at the start/finish aid station before running my second lap.

Hydration

For hydration I carried 80 ounces of energy drink on each lap.  Yes, that is a total of 160 ounces for a 22 mile race.  My plan for the event was to drink the entire 80 ounces each lap.  This event is a Trudge and it takes double if not more effort to run the same distance on dry trails.

What some people do not realize is that when it is is cold outside you still need to drink and eat as much as you would during a warmer day.  For distance runners, dehydration can complicate and accelerate the onset of hypothermia.  Remember, that when the temperature outdoors is lower than your body temperature, you will give up heat to the environment.  Your natural metabolism is usually enough to maintain your core body temperature.  However, when conditions become extreme your body’s metabolism may not be able to protect you from heat lose.  The result is hypothermia.  Staying hydrated helps your natural metabolism to regulate your body’s temperature (see my story Cold Weather Running).

Gear

I came ready for any conditions.  I signed up for two laps and I came prepared to run nothing less than two laps.  Once I was at the start/finish line I assessed what gear I was going to take with me on each loop.

Here is what I took:  a running backpack with a hydration system, arm warmers, neck gaiter, ear warmers, extra wool hat, chapstick, salt tablets, ginger, Tums, Imodium tablets, Acetaminophen (not Ibuprofen), toilet paper, plastic rain poncho, sunglasses, Photo ID, long sleeve wicking shirt, wicking vest, wind jacket, ski poles, Gore-Tex jacket, headlamp with fresh batteries, and a plastic bag to put my clothes in to keep them dry.

Yes, I carried all that gear plus my food and water.

What I Wore

A Hawaiian Shirt; heck it’s an extra layer (fashionable, not too functional), a long sleeve wicking shirt, a long sleeve resistant full frontal zipper jersey, wicking underwear, mittens, running tights, over the tights a waterproof and windproof shell, running shoes, neoprene socks, neoprene shoe covers, hiking gaiters, and micro spikes.

Read more tomorrow to find out why Hawaiian Shirt Ray was glad he had all this gear.

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race turns Epic (3 of 5)

January 25th, 2011

2011-twin-mountain-trudge-trail-raceThe first two posts Hawaiian Shirt Ray shared were how he was prepared for the Twin Mountain Trudge.  Now you’ll find out why it was a good thing he was prepared…

My Trudge and How it Became Epic

As you can see I was well prepared and mentally and physically ready to start The Trudge.  From last year’s Trudge I found that many of the 22 mile runners would start to really slow down on the second lap.  My strategy was that the adventure really doesn’t start until the second lap and I would use the first lap to keep fueled and stay hydrated.  I set my watch to go off every 30 minutes to remind me to eat a few mouthfuls of food.  Then on the hour I would take two salt tablets (they are not just for running in the heat).  Plus, as I mentioned earlier I wanted to drink the entire 80 ounces of fluid that I carried.

My first lap went just as planned and I was feeling great.  Upon my return to the start/finish area I had a cup of warm broth, refilled my hydration pack with another 80 ounces of fluid, and was ready to go out for my second lap.

At this point Josh Fuller and Jen Malmberg tried to talk me out of going out for my second lap.  I came to find out that twin-mountain-trudge-trail-racenobody was willing to tough it out for a second lap.  It took me about 3 hours and 25 minutes to go 6 miles!  That’s how tough it was.  With this, Josh couldn’t let me be the only runner going for a second lap and got his gear together and took off with me.

The second lap was actually “easier” to run since all the other runners had trampled the trail down.  I still was prepared that my second lap would take me at least 4 hours to complete.  Having a target on my back and Josh chasing me down made me run a lot more of the course than the first lap.

The Spiral into an Epic Adventure

I was still following my set plan of eating every 30 minutes, taking salt tablets every hour, and staying hydrated.  My goal at this point was to stay out of the sights of Josh.  Mentally I wanted him to turn every corner, come to every meadow, and start the long climbs without him being able to see me.  I was able to do this and I started thinking about how it was going to feel to come in first place under such challenging conditions.  I started thinking about the dinner all of us were going to go to after the race and all the stories that we would tell about our adventures out on the course.

Well, during all my day dreaming I missed the cutoff to head back to the start/finish line and ended up starting to run a third lap.  I did not realize I missed the cutoff until things started to look familiar, like I have already run this section.  I decided to backtrack to the last intersection.  When I got there I was thinking this is where the cutoff was supposed to be and it wasn’t.  I decided to start running forward again and went a little further than the first time.  This time I knew for sure that I missed the cutoff.  What really solidified this reasoning is that if I was on the correct part of the course I would have ran into Josh, and I didn’t.

I was already tired, and now I just wasted more energy running the wrong direction twice.  I really started to feel tired around 6 hours into the race and by this time I have already been out for about 7 hours.  I started back tracking again and by now it was getting dark.  Being prepared, I put my headlamp on and started backtracking.  It seemed that I was backtracking further than I needed to.  I have to admit, I had a little panic at this point but quickly regained my composure.  Check out what happens next.

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race turns Epic (4 of 5)

January 26th, 2011

twin-mountain-trudge-snow-shelterWhat was Going Through My Mind

Here is a checklist that was going through my mind:  First, I needed to stop moving since I did not know where on the course I was.  Making the decision to stay in one place gave me the direction of what I needed to do until I am rescued.  Plus, it is mountaineering 101 to stay in one place and have the rescue party find you.  Second, Josh and I are the only runners doing a second lap and when Josh comes in Alec will ask him where he past me on the course.  Josh will respond, “I didn’t pass Ray” and with this they will know I am lost.  Third, Alec would not leave any runner on the course.  Fourth, I knew it took Alec about 6 hours to mark the course.  This meant that I needed to stay safe for 6 to 8 hours before I could expect anyone to find me.

The bottom line in all my thoughts was not to panic and make any stupid decisions, and to stay calm.  By going over my checklist I had a rational plan that I would be rescued and this gave me a sense of reassurance.  However, it was most likely going to be a long time before they found me with no guarantees that I would be able to hike out on my own.

My Plan of Action

Since I made the decision to stay where I was, I was going to need a shelter to combat the high winds and snow.  The task of building a shelter gave me a focus and kept me from panicking.  No matter what, I needed a shelter.  What would happen if for some reason they could not find me and I had to stay out overnight in temperatures that would be in the low teens.  I decided that not only would I build the shelter for the short-term, but I also mentally prepared myself that I might have to stay out overnight.

I started building my shelter’s frame with branches and sticks.  I built it about 10 feet off the Trudge course so it would be easier to find.  The snow was like champagne powder and was not ideal for building a shelter.  I used my poncho as part of the wall facing the wind to help give my shelter the most protection.  I was beyond exhausted building my shelter, but what kept me going was that by building it I was keeping warm, and that I MUST have a shelter if I wanted to survive through the night.  After over 6 hours my shelter was ready.  By this point I had been in the cold, wind, and snow for over 13 hours.

I took my ski poles, crossed them over each other and stuck them standing up the snow on the trail in an “X”.  This was a signal that my shelter was here and that I am inside.  I could not take the chance that I would stay conscious and needed a piece of mind to know that rescuers would see the poles and explore the area and find me.  I was ready to take refuge in my shelter, crawled in and barricaded myself inside.  For those of you who have never made a shelter out of snow, it is extremely important that you leave air holes, otherwise you can suffocate and die from asphyxiation.  On the ground of my shelter I put sage brush and pine branches so I would not be lying directly on the snow.  I put on the extra clothes that I brought and then laid on top of my running backpack and the plastic bag that I used to pack my clothes in.

Read More to find out if Hawaiian Shirt Ray made it out alive.  Well, of course he did, he didn’t send me this story from the wifi connection in his shelter…

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race turns Epic (5 of 5)

January 26th, 2011

twin-mountain-trudge-inside-of-snow-shelterHawaiian Shirt Ray shares how his Epic experience ended up:

The temperature inside the shelter was warmer than the outside temperature but was still very cold.  I knew that I could not fall asleep so I set my alarm on my watch to go off every 30 minutes.  To stay warm I did sit-ups and moved my legs and toes vigorously.  At this point I knew that I would survive the night but I was going to be miserable.  I knew that as the temperature dropped that I would start shivering uncontrollably and that I might lose toes to frostbite, but I would survive.

The Rescue Finally Came

As I laid in my shelter trying to keep warm I heard in the distance two snow mobiles.  I did not want to immediately punch out of my shelter just in case they did not come close because I would then have to reseal myself in and I would lose the little heat that I had generated.  To my relief they came right to my shelter and stopped in front of my ski poles.  It was Search and Rescue and the Sheriff.

When I came out of my shelter they did not think I was the person they were looking for since I was still a functioning twin-mountain-trudge-inside-snow-shelterperson and seemed to be fine.  They asked me if I’m the person that needed to be rescued and after I gave them my name they were convinced I was the right guy.  I have a feeling they were thinking they were on a body recovery mission and not on a real rescue mission.  Once we were back to the start/finish line they made a comment that they have never had such an easy rescue.

The Bottom Line – Be Prepared, Always

My epic adventure could have turned out to have a really sad ending.  Because I took the seriousness of the adventure event and Alec’s advice I was prepared and survived my epic ordeal.  I saw other runners that took less than the minimum requirements set by Alec.  If they would have gotten lost their Epic tale would have been of a recovery and not a rescue.  If you are not educated on survival skills you should not even think about attempting The Trudge.  If you are not willing to take the proper gear because it will weight you down and you are more concerned with “racing” you should not think about attempting The Trudge.  Unfortunately I see people going into the wilderness unprepared all the time and my friends in Search and Rescue are the most frustrated with the people who are not prepared.  Don’t be one of those unprepared people.

Merrell’s Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Shoes: Pace Glove, Power Glove, Pure Glove

February 1st, 2011

Last year I went to Outdoor Retailer and saw Merrell’s new minimalist trail running shoe collection, well “glove” collection.  Each shoe is called a “glove” because they fit, “like a glove.”  The Men’s minimalist trail running shoes in Merrell’s collection are the Trail Glove, True Glove, and Tough Glove.  One of the coolest things the Merrell rep told me was that each pair of minimalist running shoes sold will include instructions on minimalist running techniques.  I know too many people who have tried minimalist running to help with an injury, without changing their running style, and end up injurying themselves more.  Most new minimalist runners don’t know that they need to change their style.  Well, the ones who buy the Merrell shoes womens-merrell-pace-glove-minimalist-trail-running-shoewill…

The first women’s minimalist trail running shoe in the Merrell collection is the Pace Glove.  The Merrell representative told me that the Pace Glove is the “medium” of their three shoes in the Women’s collection.  It is made for runners who haven’t yet made the transition to minimalist running and want a shoe that gives them the same feeling without sacrificing protection.  The upper is made with an air mesh.  They have a lacing system called Omni-Fit which is the reason the shoes feel like a glove.  This is also important because the toe box is a bit wider than normal; in order to give your feet the feeling of running barefoot.  The heel cup is same as the lacing system, made of a synthetic leather to keeps your foot tight in the shoes.  There is a fused rubber at the front which is really sturdy and protects well against roots and rocks.  The sole is made from a rubber compound by Vibram for protection as well.

The next shoe in he collection is the Power Glove.  The Power Glove is more of a hiking shoe than a trail running shoe, but womens-merrel-minimalist-trail-running-power-glovecould be used for both, kind of like a road to trail shoe; a hike to trail running shoe.  It’s a little bulkier than the others so if you aren’t sure about minimalist trail running this may be the shoe you want to try first.  The upper is made of soft leather for the tight fit around the ankle.  The lacing is different though, using the Double Merrell Easy Z-Rap Closure System.  These are kind of like the Velco shoes you used to wear as a kid.  They make for a tight fit around your foot and ankle; good for those who have problems rolling their ankles, and allow you to never have to learn how to tie your shoes!

womans-merrells-pure-glove-minimalist-trail-running-shoePure Glove is the lightest in the collection.  They call it “pure” glove because it is the closet to natural, they let your feet go free while giving them the protection and traction your bare feet just don’t have.  It has a lycra mesh in the upper which makes it super light.  It also only has on strap in the front, giving your foot freedom of movement and the feeling of running barefoot.  This shoe is for runner who want to go barefoot running, without going barefoot running.  Trails can be tough!

All of the shoes also have a microfiber footbed treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution.  The Merrell rep told me this was to resist odor but I’m not sure why they put it in the Women’s shoes.  Women’s feet smell like flowers.  I mean, not roses, but lilies at least.

Does the Military allow Minimalist Running Shoes for PT?

February 8th, 2011

army-platoonI began my trail running days in the sandhills of Ft. Bragg, NC and have been running off road ever since.  I also began deteriorating my knees by jumping out of airplanes at Ft. Bragg, NC, which has lead me to only running in minimalist shoes today.  Since minimalist running has kept me trail running with less pain I wondered if others in the military, specifically those who are Airborne qualified and have some of the same knee issues as I do, had begun minimalist running.

I know the largest organization in the United States is slow to change, but I found that some soldiers were finding ways around the regulations to wear Vibram Five Fingers and other minimalist running shoes while others were being told flat out that they could not PT (physical training) wearing them.  FM 20-21 states that soldiers must wear white ankle socks with no logos while conducting PT.  The first loophole some soldiers point to is that the FM doesn’t state that soldiers must wear socks, just that if they do, the socks must cover their ankles and have no logo.  Since most commanders will not honor loopholes, some soldiers have been wearing Injinji socks which fit in Vibram FiveFingers to cover their ankles.  Another part of PT regulation states that soldiers may not wear athletic shoes that are “trendy” or “faddish.”  For this reason many base commanders have banned Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist running shoes completely.  I somewhat understand the reasoning because sometimes if you give soldiers an inch they will take a mile; and being in the correct uniform is important for building unit cohesion.  However, making a regulation based on “trendiness” may be constraining soldiers who legitimately need to wear minimalist running shoes to avoid injury.  According to the Army Times, even Lt. Cmdr. John Mahoney, a Navy doctor and physical therapist says, “Vibram FiveFingers are the best thing out there for rehabilitating lower extremity injuries.”

In a typical flip floppy manner, the Army has also banned minimalist running shoes on the PT test because they believe the shoes may be “unfair.”  So if they are deemed unfair then they must help soldiers run better in training, right?!  Then why not let soldiers wear them?  This may be a case in which the military must make a blanket policy to cover the well-being of the whole instead of allowing Commanders make their own SOPs (standard operating procedures).  The same Army Times article quotes Dr. Steven Pribut, a podiatrist and sports medicine expert in Washington, DC, who specializes in working with runners saying, “I’m seeing a lot more injuries from people wearing them.  It’s not a problem with the shoes themselves; it’s mostly a function of people doing too much too soon.”  Military personnel are definitely susceptible to over doing it because they are all taught to push their bodies to the limit and to ignore pain.  It looks like the Army is pulling the trigger and making a blanket ban on Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist shoes in a policy released through BirthdayShoes.com today.  The new policy amends the current policy which states that Commanders “may authorize the wear of commercial running shoes,” as it goes on to say, “Commercial running shoes do not include minimalist shoes, lightweight track/road running flats, racing spikes, toe shoes, or shoes that simulate barefoot running.”  This is coming from the same organization that makes it’s soldiers run and walk 10s of miles in combat boots.  Oh well, there you have it, Army personal are now not authorized to wear minimalist running shoes during PT.

I believe because of the rapid growth in popularity of minimalist running the Army is making a rash decision without doing their research.  They even have a Marine study that was done 6 months ago which studied fitting recruits with motion control, stability, or support running shoes would have an effect on injuries.  The study assigned a control group, of 432 Men and 257 Women, with only stability running shoes.  They then formed an experimental group, of 408 Men and 314 Women, who were fitted with the correct running shoe based on plantar shape.  The study said the incidence of injury after the 12 weeks of basic training had no difference between the two groups.  If types of traditional running shoes don’t increase injuries, then why do they believe minimalist running shoes will?  I understand that soldiers are the military’s greatest assets, but banning something that may decrease injuries is absurd.  Maybe the military should start by developing an “Army issued” minimalist running shoe based on their doctors’ recommendations.  This would most likely increase the available fighting force while allowing soldiers to train as their body needs them too.  The Army ruined my knees, the least they can do is try to prevent that from happening to the rest of the Men and Women serving our county.  I guess for now, just like everything else in the military, you simply have to play the game, whether you agree or not.  Thank you all for your continued service.

Hoka One One’s new Combo XT and Bondi B trail running shoes

February 18th, 2011

hoka-bondi-b-1-trail-running-shoesThe Hoka One One movement is still rolling down the hill.  These trail running shoes are the antithesis of minimalist trail running shoes, they’re the antimalist (I just trademarked that term).  Hoka One One was invented by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean Luc Diard of France, who had previously worked at Salomon, so they do know something about running shoes.  From an adventure race in Sicily was born a love for running over mountains and on trails.  Nicolas and Jean wanted a trail running shoe that allowed them to fly downhills even if they were heel striking, again, the antithesis of minimalist trail running.

The Hoka One One soles are 2.5 times larger than traditional trail running shoes which makes them look a bit like Jimmy’s strength shoes from Seinfeld.  Hoka claims the foam gives a 30% softer ride (how do you measure and quantify softness of a ride?) and is able to dissipate 80% of the impact of a heel strike.  Even though the shoes look bulky, they are relatively light, 15% lighter than traditional trail running shoes.

With the success of their initial release Hoka One One has set two new versions of trail runners to be released in February: the Combo XT and the Bondi B.  The Combo XT is a hybrid running shoe intended for roads and on trails.  Hoka One One says they developed the Combo XT because they have been seeing a rise in runners who want a shoe that is adaptable for both surfaces.  The Bondi B is named after the beach in Sydney, Australia, which also happens to be the place I saw real life boobs for the first time, just thought I’d share that.  The Bondi B has a reduced level of cushioning by about 10%.  It has an oversized outsole to improve responsiveness on hard surfaces and is lighter for road running.  The rocker sole seems more pronounced in the Bondi B than previous Hoka One One trail runners; however, the lugs are less pronounced which gives it more of a road running feel.

The Hoka One One shoes have a 13 cm rocking profile at the toe which provides a spring in your step when running on flat or uphill terrain.  The low ramps angle also allow for tremendous confidence running downhill, engaging the gluteus and lower back, as opposed to isolating the quads like traditional downhill trail running.  The bottom of the shoe has 50% more surface area so you run straight over rocks and roots without feeling anything or changing your stride.  Like a mountain bike barreling down a hill, rolling over every obstacle in its path rather than avoiding them.  The Hoka One One was invented so trail runners could run fast over any surface and any terrain.

Check out the newest improvements in the evolution of the Hoka One One trail running shoes and let us know what you think.  Could this be another new movement in running shoes in the opposite direction of minimalist?

Running with multiple iPhones: Citizen Broadcasting

March 2nd, 2011

marthon-running-with-gearI came across this article about Joseph Tame, 33, who completed an “online” marathon in Tokyo last week.  He ran the race in 6 hours and 28 minutes.  The first thing I thought was, “He could have probably run the race in 6 hours without all that junk strapped to him.”  He had 4 iPhones in his contraption:  1 pointed at his face, 1 at the pavement in front of him, another using the GPS feature so people could track his progress, and a 4th for typing out tweets.  Oh, and there was an iPad on his back displaying his tweets, seems only natural.  He said, “It’s citizen broadcasting.  Can we take live sports events coverage to the next level?”  He had 3,000 people following his progress at one point so apparently there is some demand for this type of media, but were people really watching his race or his gimmick.  Joseph was also wearing bright pink plastic toy windmills on his helmet and pink bunnies on his sneakers which had nothing to with the run or his broadcast.  So I began to think, is there a market for this?  Do people want to watch races?  Are competitive runners willing to strap on gadgets so we can watch what they see and feel during a race?  We know Joseph said he won’t do it again, that 10 pounds of gear was too much for him!  Good idea dropping the equipment, maybe you can finish under the 6 hour mark next time.

I recently met a very good ultra runner who takes video of his races and shares them online.  He said, “I usually finish in the top 10 but I’m never going to win a race, those guys are on a whole other level, so I figure it doesn’t hurt me too much if I stop and pull out the camera for a bit.”  I see his point, I’m in the same boat, I’m never going to win a race, but I still want to try to get 2nd or 3rd.  If I stopped to pull my camera out it would really slow down my efforts.  If I’m unwilling to do it I assume most competitive runners feel the same way.  In addition, do people really like to watch a video of a race?  I assume there is a reason why there are as many races televised as bowling tournaments.  I know a lot of runners like to share their race recaps on blogs and other places online, but do other people like to read them who don’t have any relation to the runner?  Dailymile.com has been able to bridge this gap by combining “friendships” with running feats, but does anyone ever search for a race recap?  My experience has been no; that’s why I stopped writing race recaps. However, I have found that people want information about races, it’s just usually before buying a race entry, but not after the race.  Oh yeah, and they don’t care that I got tired at mile 5, so I ate one gel, then I stepped in some mud…

I mean, I’m a 21st century digital boy, but I hate trail running with any unnecessary gear strapped on.  I don’t trail run with an iPod, iPhone, shirt ( if temp above freezing), or even water belt (if under 20 mile run).  However, I do run with a GPS watch so I can make up my path as I run.  I guess that’s the point, I trail run to be free to roam where I want to and get away from my digital life.  I run to clear my mind and don’t want an iPod blasting noise into my head.  I trail run to get away from my cell phone.  My voicemail message actually used to say, “I’m probably on a run right now…” because 90% of the time that was true.  Running was the only time I was away from it!  Trail Running is about connecting with nature and the enviroment and I find it difficult to do so if I’m connected to anything else at the time.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like tweeting while running!

Overall, I would watch elite runners if they were to broadcast themselves running a race, but I understand why they wouldn’t want to strap a camera to their head.  I definitely have no interest in watching someone trudge along at a 14 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles and think many other runners would agree with me.  Maybe we could get some cameras mounted in trees or something, until then I guess we’ll just have to watch more bowling…

Destin Beach 50k and 50 mile Ultramarathon Race Recap Part 1

March 7th, 2011

This is an entry from my friend Sean who owns RunBum.com.  He calls himself Run Bum because that’s what he does.  He travels the world, bumming lodging, food, and race entries in exotic locales.  His latest expedition took him to exotic Destin Beach, Florida to run the Destin 50 Beach Ultra.  Here’s what he had to say:

destin-50-beach-ultraAs a runner who loves to run as many races as I can and who loves adventure and new challenges, I stood under the full moon that reflected across the water onto the beach.  It was just moments before the Destin Beach 50 Mile Ultra Marathon and I was about to encounter a race like no other I had run before, 50 miles of sand.  The race had caught my eye months ago.  It sounded like hell, and it sounded like something I wanted to be a part of.  That’s what being a Run Bum is all about, I find delight in the unknown.  Where my comfort zone ends is where I have found the most joy in my life.

My game plan for this race was to run a smart race and really save myself for the marathon I was going to run the next day.  I also put on some neoprene socks, no telling what running in the sand for 50 miles would do.  I also knew that I wanted to run close to the water where the sand was the hardest.  Another fear was the extreme slant of the beach.  The beach we were running on has about 50 feet of soft sand and then hits a big slope down to the waters edge for any where from 2-8 feet depending on the tide.

It was 5 am when the race started.  Surrounded by darkness that was illuminated by the moon, I started running.  I started my easy jog and then walk from the get go.  I knew I wasn’t in shape to run 50 miles non stop that day.  I didn’t have to use my headlamp because the moon was so bright.  About 20 people took off in front of me and another 20 behind me.  I was amazed by the sheer beautify of the race.  Here’s what my camera captured that morning:

I was surrounded by ocean and sand; massive dunes lined the shore, not houses. I would run toward scattering crabs, shine my light toward movement just a couple of feet ahead to see a group of birds scatter out of the ocean. It was like an explosion of nature. I was running directly at the sunrise, but the moon was still shinning bright enough to give you a sunburn. It was almost like they were competing, but we all knew the sun would eventually win this battle.  The air was a perfect temperature, 60 degrees with a light breeze. The air had a hint of ocean saltiness. It was the prefect moment to be running…Read Part 2!

Destin Beach 50k and 50 mile Ultramarathon Race Recap Part 2

March 9th, 2011

This is a continued race recap Sean Run Bum Blanton’s Destin Beach 50k and 50 mile ultramarthon:

Check our Part 1 if you missed it.

destin-beach-50k-ultramarathonWhen the sun was rising and pushing me forward I was at mile 10.  I was in about 13th or 14th place and all of a sudden a guy comes rocking past me going the other way.  I said, “Hey, great job man, keep it up!”  He had his head down and was in the zone.  Too far in the zone to respond.  As I grew closer to the turn around I saw more runners coming the other way.  My smile elicited high fives.  The bond you share with people on ultramarthons is almost as epic as the race itself.  It was like we were all in the same Platoon, fighting the same way, enduring the same hardships together.

At the turn around I could see the the high rise hotels at Destin Beach way away.  They looked close but I knew from earlier in the race, objects appear closer than they really are!  I thought it must be 15 or 20 miles away.  Then I thought for a second, no, it was exactly 25 miles away!  The exact distance I still had to run!  The sight made my stomach sink.  Like opening the mail box expecting to see your new iPod but instead you see a jury duty summons.

I was running the same 15 miles now I had just covered; however, everything looked different because it was daylight.  Running through Grayton Beach I encountered what appeared to be “THE RED TIDE.”  Thank god I thought.  Being the terrible fisherman that I am, the fish would to flock to me and boom, free sushi!  Well, not so much.  It was just where the swamp water cut its path through the dunes and sand as it makes its escape to the ocean.  Brackish water its called.  The mix of fresh and salt water.  See, you learn something everyday.  Frankly though, it looked like blood.  Like some one had stabbed the earth and she was bleeding.  There were about 5 of these along the course.  I saw other runners tip toeing and trying to not get their feet wet.  I pushed right through them, not breaking stride; not only was I too tired to expend energy running around them, but my neoprene socks were working like a charm!

As I was chowing down on some Chia Chargers around mile 25, a guy passed me running with his dog.  No way!  Well, I guess the dog does have 4 legs to run on.  It didn’t matter though, I went from walk to Chuck Norris speed in the blink of an eye.  That’s right, faster than you can say delta force!  I paced off this guy for about 2 miles before he turned around.  I guess he wasn’t part of the race…

Less than a mile away from the resort I could see the tents at the start/finish.  I hurdled a dead jellyfish and downed the last of my water.  I was in 5th place.  I had a huge smile on my face and said to the race director, “Man, this is a great race.  I love it!”  He laughed and said tell me that again in 20 miles.  I laughed and got a nice picture taken.  I took off but soon realized I had forgotten my drop bag of goodies.  Oops!  I lost about 2 minutes going back to get it.  But worse yet, I forgot to put on my sunblock!  If you’ve ever seen me before you know that I’m part albino, part Irish.

I took off screaming and running with new confidence.  I had finished 30 miles and I hadn’t even started to tap the tank.  People along the beach just looked on most likely wondering, “What the hell is this pale weirdo doing?  Oh, he must be drunk.  Oh well.  Honey, shield the kids’ eyes.”  The first 30 miles were secluded beaches, the last 20 miles I was face to face with people enjoying the beach.  If I wasn’t a run bum, I’d be a beach bum.  The next 8 miles would be spent running with some good buddies I met, the couple from Vermont, Serena Wilcox and Patrick, I believe….Read Part 3.

Destin Beach 50k and 50 mile Ultramarathon Race Recap Part 3

March 10th, 2011

This is the last installment of Sean Run Bum Blanton’s race recap of the Destin Beach 50k and 50 mile ultramarthon.  Will he make it?  Build up the suspense, start at the beginning with Part 1.

destin-beach-50-mile-ultramarathonWe passed some more race people checking our numbers and I saw one drinking a beer.  My eyes lit up.  I asked the guy if I could grab a beer.  He looked puzzled and laughed.  I told him I was serious and he tossed me an ice cold beer.  I chugged it.  Beer has never tasted so good.  I later motioned for a toss from some Frisbee players.  The guy overthrew me by 10 feet so I went into the ocean to retrieve it.  The ocean was like Andre 3000, ice cold.

The next aid station was at mile 36.  It was a restaurant that I was told we could order anything we wanted.  I had in my mind from the beginning of the race that I wanted oysters so I came into the aid station screaming, “Oysters, Oysters, I need half a dozen on the half shell!”  Apparently this wasn’t a normal request because the aid station workers were laughing at me and I had to go speak with the owner about my special order.  He said he’d have them ready when I came back around after the turn, at mile 42.

Those next 2 miles to the turn around point were tough.  I saw some ladies playing beach volleyball, baywatch style.  My jaw dropped and my head moved; then my whole body dropped.  I stepped in a hole that some kid had dug, probably attempting to reach China.  Splat.  Right in front of the girls.  Smooth.  I walked it off like nothing happened.  I made the turn, passed the girls again, and reached my oyster eating aid station.  I threw down the sweet ocean goodness in no time and took off for the final 8 miles.

I decided to cut all my food and just hammer water for the last 8 miles of the race.  I don’t recommend anyone else doing this, it’s a gamble.  With about 3 miles to go I saw a familiar face, my boy Wayne D, aka LIL WEEZY.  He was shouting, “Blanton, Blanton pick it up!”  He really got my spirits up and told me to try to catch the guy in front of me to finish 3rd.  At this point I was more concerned about conserving my body, I still had to run a road marathon in 16 hours!

I closed a mile gap into 400m gap with 800m left to go in the race, but decided to slow it down and ease into the finish, I was here to complete the race, not race it.  I moved off of the hard sand onto the soft sand to finish line where I was greeted with a sweet custom finishers medal.  Final time:  8 hours, 32 minutes in 4th place overall!

I pounded some food and treated myself to an amazing post race massage.  I now stood in the wake of determination.  Or rather the wake of 50 miles, 3 beers, 6 oysters on the half shell, and a whole heck of a lot of fun.  Sun kissed and forever changed.  Humbled, yet happy.  I had found one hell of a good time and I will definitely be back again for more fun in the sun, only next year I’m going to make sure I don’t forget my sunblock!

Now you’ve read about it, watch it.  The book is always better than the movie…

Spartan Adventure Race – Texas Recap

March 28th, 2011

We’ve been hearing a lot about thesspartan-adventure-race-houstone adventure races lately and our first thought was, “So they are like trail running but with man made obstacles?”  Adventure races seem to be really fun and challenging, which are two of our favorite words, so we thought we’d have our contributing blog writer Brian Ansley, the Great American, check one out for us.  He competed in the Spartan Race Texas this past weekend and here is what he thought:

I pulled into Rocky Hill Ranch about 10:15 this past Saturday morning and followed a path into an open field with what seemed to be hundreds of cars parked for the Spartan Race.  I have done several races in the past, including the Houston Triathlon last September; however, this was going to be my first adventure race.  I was definitely up for the challenge and excited about the course I had heard so much about.  As I was walking to the packet pick up line I heard a huge explosion go off!  Someone said, “A new heat just started!”  I hadn’t been in many races with heats, usually everyone starts at the same time.  I knew this race was more about the challenge of finishing rather than competing against other participants.  I love competing against myself, because I always win (insert “bi-winning” joke here).  After I received my packet I made it way closer to the start line so I could get a good look at the action.  There was a man dressed up in full Spartan attire pumping everybody up right before the race began.  I couldn’t wait for my heat to start!

Before I knew it, 11:30 was almost here.  I took a last minute drink of water and made my way to the starting line.  The Spartan hype man grabbed his microphone and began pumping up the crowd like Technotronic circa 1989.  Everyone in the crowd would reply to his statements with, AROOO!!!  I was ready.  Boom!  The familiar explosion that starts the race echoed through air.  Not knowing what to expect I began my first adventure race

As I made my way down the course my first obstacle was a massive marsh area, followed by a flaming pit that I was forced to leap over; better than running straight through I suppose.  The next mile or so was nothing but soaring hills to wear down your legs for the remainder of the race.  After an extensive low crawl under barbwire, two more water crossings, and the completion of an 8 ft wall, I was nearly complete.  As I ran the last set of obstacles I sprinted to the finish line.  As I rounded the corner thinking I was in the clear I spotted a couple of massive men dressed in Spartan attire just like the hype man at the beginning of the race.  The only difference was that these guys weren’t holding microphones, they were holding padded sticks!  I tried to put my best moves I learned from American Gladiators but it didn’t work.  They both struck me with their sticks at the same time!  However, I can say I proudly crossed the finish line on both feet.  As an avid racer, I found that adventure races challenge me in a way that other events haven’t.  The combination of running and obstacles together provide a demanding, yet exciting setting for a race.

The course was easily marked throughout and there was also a sufficient amount of volunteers to guide you if you were not sure.  The obstacles were rather challenging and incredibly fun.  The organization at this race was handled very well, especially given the amount of participants.  I can honestly say I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.  Two thumbs up for the Spartan Race!  I can definitely see more adventure races in my future.  AROOO!!!

Running on Empty Trail Running Book Review

April 14th, 2011

running_on_emptyRunning on Empty” is due out today, April 14th and I was able to get a first read, it isn’t a risky investment, it’s well worth the price.  If you want a good read, motivating tale, and dreams of running farther and longer than you ever have before, then this is the book for you.  It’s one of the most inspiring running books I’ve read in a long time and includes a lot of twist and turns.  The focus is on the Run Across America, but the story is all Marshall Ulrich.

In 2008, at age 57, Marshall Ulrich set out to break the Guinness Book of World Record of running across the United States.  The task is to run from San Francisco City Hall to New York City Hall, using any route, in the fastest time possible.  Even though Marshall has a impressive resume he admits that this endeavor was, “…the biggest thing I’d ever done, the hardest, the longest, with the most potential for both injury and enlightenment, my magnum opus.”  Here’s a list of Marshall’s previous accomplishments to put that statement into perspective:

  • “The Last Great Race” – completed all six hundred-mile trail races in one season, finished in the top ten in five of them, first person to do so
  • Badwater 146 – many times, four wins and course records, current record holder for the summit of Mount Whitney
  • Pikes Peak Quad – one of the first, and only person to do it twice
  • Run across Colorado – three times, current record holder
  • Leadville Trail 100 and Pikes Peak Marathon in the same year – only person to do it
  • Eco-Challenges – one of only three people to compete in all nine
  • Badwater solo, unaided and self-contained crossing – first and only person to do it
  • Badwater Quad – first person to do it
  • Summit Mount Everest – reached the top of all Seven Summits on first attempts

So as you can see, Marshall was no rookie to running long distances before embarking on this journey, but he wasn’t always a runner.  When Marshall’s wife Jean was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 80s, the stress he suffered caused hypertensions and a doctor recommend he try running.  Marshall found he had a body built for running long distances and began pushing himself harder and harder.  And pushing away his relationships…

Running on Empty” isn’t just Running Across America with Marshall.  It’s about him running away from his life.  It’s about what it means to be an ultrarunner.  Like Marshall says when referring to his surgically removed toenails done for performance, “Look, the toenails are the least of it.  The kind of sacrifices you make when you’re running hundreds of miles are considerably more profound than whether you’ll ever get a proper pedicure again.”  He goes on to say, “The real sacrifices?  Family relationships often suffer in the ultrarunning community; clearly, mine are no exception.”  During the run his personal revelations turned his world upside down.  Maybe reading this book will give you some perspective and personal revelations…without having to run all the way across America…

If you’re looking for your next good book and some inspiration to push your body further and further on your runs then pick up a copy of “Running on Empty.”  But you don’t have to take my word for it…

Is Treadmill Running a good Work Out?

May 23rd, 2011

treadmill-runningI’ve never been a fan of running on the treadmill.  Maybe if they had a “trail” setting on it; that would be pretty sweet. I miss the outdoors when running on the treadmill; even if the weather is less than perfect, I miss it.  I also don’t get the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a treadmill workout, probably because I never go anywhere.  More importantly, I don’t think I get as good of a work out running on a treadmill and don’t think the distance tracking is accurate.

One reason that treadmill running seems easier than trail running outside is that there is no air resistance.  You may think that air resistance isn’t that big of a deal, but some runners can experience a 10%  harder run when running outside vs. inside.  Try running behind your buddy next time; the larger the buddy, the more you’ll be able to feel the difference.  Drafting is an important part of competitive trail running for a reason.  Wind resistance matters.

The problem with treadmills is that there is no variation in running surfaces.  The ability to maneuver branches, rocks, roots, and sharp turns is key to being a successful trail runner.  Not only does treadmill running not improve those skills, it can diminish them as runners become more complacent.  Treadmill runners tend to develop a more relaxed manner of running, trail runners need to be aggressive.

The thing that I like least about treadmill running is that it’s inside.  I don’t like to watch tv when I run.  I don’t like to listen to a Pandora “running” station.  I definitely don’t read a magazine when running.  I like to go on an adventure.  I like not knowing what is coming around the corner.  I like not knowing exactly how far or how difficult my run will be, but I am a risk lover.  There is something to be said for the consistency of treadmill running; and it will probably be said by someone who is risk adverse.

I’ve always lived somewhere I can run outside all year long, but treadmill running can be a good substitute if you absolutely can not run outside.  In addition, treadmill running can help runners that need a little more assistance in training keep a consistent pace and run accurate tempo runs.  In addition, some runners like to do another activity when running; such multitaskers.  Overall though, if you’re a treadmill runner, jump off sometime and concentrate on the trails!

Zensah Trail Running Socks Review

June 9th, 2011

zensah-trail-running-socksI’ve never really been into which type of socks I wear trail running but got the opportunity to try the Zensah Trail Running Socks so I went for it.  Man, did I realize how much I was missing by wearing my generic Puma ankle socks from Ross.  These socks actually made my feet feel better after a long run!

At first feel I thought the Zensah trail running socks were too thick.  I was nervous that they would be too warm, leading my feet to sweat more, which would result in more blisters.  I’m personally blister prone and have been waiting for about 20 years and 10,000 miles for my feet to toughen up.  If rucking hundreds of miles in Army boots haven’t done it, I don’t know what will.  It’s just something I live with; but I didn’t get any blisters in the Zensah trail running socks!  Zensah says they are, “thermal regulating so your feet don’t  get too cold or hot” and I’ve found that to be true, running in both cold and extremely hot weather.

Starting from the top of the sock, when pulled up it goes to the middle of your shin.  If you want to wear them lower they squish down easily like they were made for 90s wear.  The top has a bit smaller circumference than the rest of the sock and has thicker netting which helps it hold in place.  I didn’t have these fall down my leg at all when running!  The black portion just below the top of the sock is the thinnest material and made of fine, cris-crossing thread.  I think this is to increase breathability in the spots where support isn’t as important.  The front part of the ankle is a vertically woven pattern which hugs closely to your shins.  The back of the sock from the upper ankle to the heal is the thickest part of the sock.  This portion reminds me a lot of hiking socks and I believe is for increased blister protection.  From the middle of the heel to to top of the forefoot is the same material used at the top of the sock for increased breathability.

The midsole of this sock is what sets it apart from any other sock I’ve worn.  When holding this sock you can actually see that this portion is smaller than the rest of the sock.  This is to give a tighter fit on your arches.  The bottom is tightly woven and runs horizontal across the bottom of your foot.  The top is made of a mesh type pattern but is very durable.  This is where you feel the difference in the Zensah sock.  Zensah says it is a, “patented knitting technique that creates a support zone around your arch and ankle that adjusts to your foot shape to increase comfort and enhance support while trail running.”  Wow, patented knitting technique?  That must be some knitting technique if no one else has come up with it since humans started wearing clothes!  The toe is made of the same thick material as the heal for blister prevention.

Overall I really like these socks for trail running.  If you are looking for some trail running socks you should definitely check them out.  They aren’t too hot but are able to protect my legs from sticks and briars.  Wait, I thought it was cool to have scratches from trail running…

24/7 Superhero Obstacle Course Challenge Trail Race

October 3rd, 2011

Our Serious Running friend Brian Ansley tells about the Superhero Obstacle Course Challenge.  Even though Brian is a real life superhero, you can be a regular human and still enjoy this race.  He says:

I had a lot of my mind as I pullesuperhero-obstacle-course-challenge-texas-trail-running-raced out of my motel in Dripping Springs, Texas around 6:15 AM to make way to the Flat Creek Crossing Ranch.  This morning I was going to be competition in the obstacles that have made this unique race.  My heat wasn’t set to start until 8 AM, but I was scheduled to do an interview with the videographer at 7 (I’m famous).  I made my way down the dark and winding roads of the Texas Hill country, concentrating on the race that was ahead of me.  I thought of the 7 miles of rocky terrain and the 24 obstacles that I must conquer.  In spite of what I had on my mind, I couldn’t help but smile.  A familiar smile I get every morning before a race.  It was race day and I was ready.

When I arrived at the ranch I received my race packet and linked up with the videographer.  During the interview the main thing I tried to stress is the camaraderie and positive environment at the race venues.  I can recall battling out that last few miles of a tough trail race with a fellow runner, a total stranger, but hugging him at the finish line as sign of respect for their talent and determination.  I played a lot of sports growing up, but none of them have given me the satisfaction of running or endurance racing.  Once I finished the interview I had about 30 minutes to relax and watch the sunrise from behind the hills.  It was perfect.

I trotted up the hill to the start line about 10 minutes before the race.  I assessed some of my competition and then listened to the race director’s last minute instructions about course markings.  The next thing I knew the race had started!  I noticed right off that bat that this race was technical.  I have done several trail races, but never with terrain this rocky.  The elevation shifts were remarkable as well.  The inclines were exceptionally rugged, and it took a lot of focus to make it up with speed.  The declines were just as rough.  You had to make sure your feet were set on the way down in order to maintain your stability.  In other words, this was not your typical Piney Woods trail!

I made my way out to an open field to complete a sandbag carry, traverse a wall, and a few other obstacles.  Thsuperhero-obstacle-course-trail-running-texase trail then took me back into the canyon to the tire flip, boulder hop, and then the creek crossing obstacles.  I made the vertical climb out of the canyon and back on the rugged trail again.  The remainder of the trail seemed to be a steady vertical rise at this point.  With approximately three miles to go in the race, I decided to turn up the pace.  I completed the wall jump and sprinted my way down the trail.  I could hear the cheering and the announcer.  I continued to accelerate my way through the trail.  I threw myself under one last low crawl obstacle and then rushed up the muddy hill to slide into the Muddy Mayhem obstacle.  I low crawled through the muddy water as the crowd cheered and race as hard as I could to the finish line.  The race was complete and there was a medal being placed around my neck.  I felt the familiar smile returning to my face.

I waited at the top of the hill for the guy that was behind me to finish.  We ran together for a couple of miles, completed a few obstacles together, and did the creek crossing.  We congratulated each other and shook hands.  We both thanked each other as well.  This is the type of unity that races like 24/7 Superhero Obstacle Course Challenge brings to communities.  As a Veteran, this is something that I miss.  Racing is definitely something that fulfills that desire that I no longer have with my brothers in arms.  Of course I will always have that brotherhood with my fellow paratroopers.  I have found racing to be such a pleasurable experience.  Thank you Rafael Trinidad for giving me the opportunity to run in your outstanding race.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rafael “Trini” Trinidad, the founder of the 24/7 Superhero Obstacle Course Challenge.  Rafael is from San Antonio and is a member of the San Antonio Police Department and SWAT team.  No wonder he knows how to make obstacles and endurance races!  The 24/7 Superhero Obstacle Course Challenge is run within Rafael’s family.  I asked him about his goals with the race.  He said, “I would eventually like to expand.  I would like to try and take the race to Houston and Dallas.”  I told him Houston and Dallas probably couldn’t handle a race like this.  Maybe he’ll give you a chance see in the future!  The charity that the races raises money for is Kidd’s Kids.  This is a fantastic organization that helps raise money for the terminally and chronically ill children.  Rafael will also be hosting the Superhero Run in San Antonio at the beginning of 2012.  He said, “The main goal is to promote fitness and fun.”  It will consist of a 10k, 5k, and 1k even for the kids.  Keep checking the 24/7 Superhero Obstacle Course Challenge Facebook page for more updates on this event, or go to kiddskids to rally round an excellent cause.

Outdoor Retailer: Trail Running Gear from Pearl Izumi

February 8th, 2012

Ok, so trail running isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Pearl Izumi but at Outdoor Retailer I got a chance to check out their latest running gear and came away suitably impressed. With products ranging from footwear to outerwear and tights, Pearl Izumi offers a full line to outfit trail runners for extreme conditions.

Footwear

peak_ii_pearl_izumi

Pearl Izumi is offering several trail-specific shoes in 2012 but the one that caught my eye was the Peak II. The shoe felt incredibly light in my hand while featuring a decent amount of cushioning. The Peak II promises great protection against rock strike, both in the toe and forefoot, yet I found the sole to be fairly flexible. The inside sock liner felt extremely luxurious and I really appreciate the subtle nod to the state of Colorado on the tongue ribbon. Pearl Izumi calls this a “minimalist trail running shoe” but fortunately the Peak II doesn’t use the minimalist concept to sacrifice quality or comfort like other shoes on the market.

Pearl Izumi also offers shoes oriented toward road running and I could definitely see myself wearing something like the Syncro Fuel RD on urban runs that incorporate off-road detours along the way.

Outerwear

pearl_izumi_jacket

The Ultra Barrier WxB Jacket from Pearl Izumi features Cocona fabric technology, a waterproof-breathable treatment that many companies from the North Face to Isis are using in their clothing these days. The upshot: you’ll stay warm and dry without soaking yourself from the inside with sweat on your next trail run. Of course if you’re like me you’ll probably need to reserve this jacket for only the coldest and wettest trail runs of the season.

The Ultra Barrier WxB can be completely folded and stored in its integrated pouch and features a hood as well. This jacket should retail for around $180 MSRP.

Running tights

pearl_izumi_pants

Apparently we’re not the only ones who think fuel belts look ridiculous on runners (the fanny pack of this generation!). Pearl Izumi has integrated mesh bottle holders into tights like the ones pictured above to position bottles for maximum comfort and agility on the trail.

Pearl Izumi’s US operations are based outside Boulder, CO, a hotbed for trail running and outdoor activities and the company’s understanding of runners’ needs is clear in the 2012 line. We can’t wait to see how these products perform on the trail!

Soft Star RunAmoc Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Review

February 27th, 2012

soft-star-runamoc-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-picture

Several months ago I acquired a pair of RunAmoc trail running shoes/moccasins from Soft Star shoes. If you would like to skip all of the details of the review below, I will cut to the chase: I highly recommend these shoes. If you are a barefoot road runner who wants to transition to trails, these would be an ideal choice. If you are a minimalist runner, and want a truly minimal shoe for road or trails, these probably trump any other product on the market when it comes to minimalism.

The sole of the shoe is a composite produced by Vibram, with a very light tread. The thickness is completely uniform and only about 3mm thick. Soft Star also makes a version of the RunAmoc with a thicker sole and aggressive tread, but given my bias towards absolute minimalism (bare), I ordered their ‘street’ shoe. The upper is 100% leather and is perforated throughout for great ventilation. A simple drawstring around the ankle allows the shoe to be secured at the front with a typical knot.

Until a few months ago, I was running between 30 and 60 miles a week (I had to quit running at the end of 2011 while I finished my doctoral degree and searched for a job). Since 2007, I have been a barefoot purist, running without anything on my feet and disliking the way many have used ‘barefoot running’ as a substitute for ‘minimalist running‘. This, of course, has made winter running a bit difficult, as I’ve always been too proud to cover my feet, even when temperatures are sub-freezing (the two exceptions being for December marathons with start temperatures in the 20s). Aside from the two winter marathons that I ran in Land’s End slippers (similar to leather-bottom moccasins), I have run one marathon barefoot, as wells as some 5k and 10k races. I also enjoy summer all-comers track meets, and typically compete in the 1500/mile. To keep myself fit for track racing, my weekly running typically incorporates short intervals at the track (400m) and tempo runs. The majority of my running over the past few years has been done in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, but I have also run barefoot as I’ve traveled within the U.S. and abroad.

Benefits of the shoe:soft-star-runamoc-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-review

1. Foremost, these shoes have enabled me to begin trail running. Although I love to mountain bike, I didn’t realize how exhilarating trail-running would be. I’ve used the shoes both for casual runs and for one 15k trail run. In all cases, they performed excellently.

2. The sole of the shoe is truly minimalist. Unlike other minimalist running shoes on the market, the sole of this shoe has a uniform thickness and is quite thin. Even Vibram FiverFingers or Fila Skeletoes add additional material in certain areas around the heel, ball, and toes. The sole uniformity is beneficial because it ensures that the shoe will be less likely to cause problems in a proper barefoot stride, meaning that moving back and forth between barefoot running and RunAmoc running will be as seamless as possible. For me, this means that I can easily interchange days running barefoot on the road and using RunAmocs on the trail, or wearing RunAmocs on cold days and running barefoot on warmer days.

3. The shoes are very lightweight and durable. After a few months of running, they have shown very little wear.

4. The perforated upper makes the shoe very breathable (as well as contributing to the lack of weight). With plenty of air gliding across your foot, you really don’t feel like you’re wearing a shoe.

5. The shoe is quite wide at the ball of the foot, and is not restrictive around the foot – it allows plenty of room for the foot to expand naturally while contacting the ground. Despite this, the shoe never felt too loose while trail running. It always maintained contact with the foot without shifting.

Downsides of the shoe:

1. The shoes left a black residue on my feet during the first few weeks of running. This was not a major problem – just an annoyance.

2. In my personal opinion, the shoes aren’t nearly as cool looking as other products on the market. Soft Star has partly rectified this issue, as they have introduced a number of new moccasins in the latter part of 2011.

3. Given their light weight, and the perforated upper, these shoes are not ideal for very low temperatures (low, of course, is a subjective assessment). They are definitely much better than running completely barefoot on cold pavement, but other shoes on the market would provide more warmth.

I should emphasize one aspect of these shoes: I have found these shoes ideal for trail running, but for many other runners, the sole would be too thin. In particular, if you are a barefoot road runner, seeking to transition to trails, these shoes would probably suit you perfectly. If you are simply looking for a minimalist road running shoe (whether or not you have any experience with minimalist running) these shoes would also probably suit you perfectly. However, if you are looking for a minimalist trail running shoe and don’t have any experience with barefoot running, I believe the RunAmoc with thicker ‘trail’ sole would be better.

In conclusion, I absolutely love my RunAmocs. They have performed well in a variety of conditions and are the most minimal shoe that I have put on my foot. There is no doubt that I will be a long-time Soft Star customer as I will continue to use their products off-road and in cold weather.

FILA Skeletoes Minimalist Running Shoes Review

March 1st, 2012

fila-skeletoes-minimalist-running-shoe-review-soles

Several months ago I acquired a pair of Skeletoes running shoes from FILA. If you would like to skip all of the details of the review below, I will cut to the chase: I have thoroughly enjoyed using these shoes for running, hiking, walking, playing basketball with my children, skateboarding, and a number of other activities. They have been an excellent minimalist shoe for trail running and cold-weather running, although my preference would be for a thinner and more uniform sole (such as the Soft Star RunAmoc). However, the thicker sole has allowed me to use them for a greater variety of activities.

Description of the FILA Skeletos shoe:

This is a toe shoe, with many similarities to the Vibram FiveFingers. Their distinguishing feature (aside from the cool tread which looks like foot bones) is that they only have four toe pockets instead of five. No, this shoe is not made for a mutant sub-population with only four toes – the fourth toe pocket is designed to accommodate the last two toes of the feet. The intent is to facilitate the process of putting the shoe on the foot. The sole of the shoe is similar to a Five Finger sole, in that it conforms to the contours of the foot, and is quite minimal. The upper is made of a neoprene-like material that expands well and conforms to the foot. A single velcro strap at the top of the foot secures the shoe, with an additional velcro strap at the heal to adjust the overall fit.

About me:

Until a few months ago, I was running between 30 and 60 miles a week (I had to quit running at the end of 2011 while I finished my doctoral degree and searched for a job). Since 2007, I have been a barefoot purist, running without anything on my feet and disliking the way many have used ‘barefoot running’ as a substitute for ‘minimalist running’. This, of course, has made winter running a bit difficult, as I’ve always been too proud to cover my feet, even when temperatures are sub-freezing (the two exceptions being for December marathons with start temperatures in the 20s). Aside from the two winter marathons that I ran in Land’s End slippers (similar to leather-bottom moccasins), I have run one marathon barefoot, as wells as some 5k and 10k races. I also enjoy summer all-comers track meets, and typically compete in the 1500/mile. To keep myself fit for track racing, my weekly running typically incorporates short intervals at the track (400m) and tempo runs. The majority of my running over the past few years has been done in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, but I have also run barefoot (in a variety of conditions) as I’ve traveled within the U.S. and abroad.

fila-skeletoes-minimalist-running-shoe-reviewBenefits of the FILA Skeletoes:

1. Foremost, these shoes have enabled me to begin trail running. Although I love to mountain bike, I didn’t realize how exhilarating trail-running would be. As I’ve increased trail running, these shoes have performed excellently.

2. The four-toe design of the shoe greatly facilitates putting them on the foot. Although I have never run in Vibram FiveFingers shoes, I have put them on my feet a number of times, and always had great difficulty (because of the final toe). I’ve been told by friends who use FiveFingers that this process gets much easier as the shoes break in, but putting the shoes on my feet was never an issue with the FILA Skeletoes. The four-toe design was an excellent concept.

3. The shoes have performed quite well on trails and in wet conditions. The tread didn’t cause problems, even when hiking over wet logs.

4. The upper material is dense and is excellent in cold-weather conditions – my feet have always felt quite warm while using the shoes in low temperatures.

5. In my opinion the shoe is pretty cool looking.

Review of FILA Skeletoes:

1. When it comes to running, my preference is for an extremely minimalist sole (such as that of the Soft Star RunAmoc). The sole of the Skeletoes has some structural reinforcement and additional material around the heel, ball and toes. Have said that, they don’t have more structure than the Vibram Five Fingers, and are much more minimal that almost every other minimalist running shoe on the market.

2. After several months of use, the upper material has started to separate from the sole at the side of one of my toes (see last photo). This hasn’t affect the functionality of the shoe (I have still been able to use them without even noticing the separation), but I am now self-conscious while running in them because I have a toe sticking out of the shoe (yes, I’m a very proud person). This is also indicative that their durability may be sub-standard.

3. While the dense upper is good in cold weather, it isn’t good in warm/hot weather. Despite the fact that my feet rarely sweat, I have found them to be hot and sweaty after using the Skeletoes in warm weather.

In conclusion, I have really enjoyed my Skeletoes. While I don’t consider them my ideal running shoe (since I prefer an extremely minimal sole for trail running), the additional structure that they have built into the sole has made them ideal for a greater variety of activities than would have been possible with a more minimal sole. Aside from trail running and cold-weather road running, I have used them for running errands, hiking, playing basketball with my kids, and skateboarding. I would highly recommend them for an individual transitioning to minimalist trail running as well as an individual who is looking for a minimalist shoe that would be well suited for a wide range of activities.

Taos Ski Valley Up and Over Trail Run Race Recap

July 16th, 2012

This year’s Taos Ski Valley Up and Over Trail Run is scheduled for Saturday August, 25th at 9 am.  Nancy Hobb’s tells us about her experience at the race.  Think you can handle it?  Then Register.

Imagine standing at a race start line, looking upward, and seeing only the first 1/4 mile of the race course because the trail bends around the back side of a ski mountain and the summit is so far above you that it is not visible from the base of the mountain.

It is with trepidation perhaps, or maybe excitement, or even dread, to consider a climb of more than 2,600 feet in three miles before reaching the halfway point in a race course. Once the initial shock is over—the climb of course—it’s all downhill.

Getting back to the climb…think rocky, unstable footing, no shade, lack of oxygen, gut-busting steepness, heavy breathing and even some gasps and groans from the effort. Oh, but the views! Incredible if taking the time to enjoy them. Me, I was dizzy from the elevation gain and had no plans to stop. Why? Competition. There were two women ahead of me. A top-three place finish was great considering how I was feeling on the uphill, yet I knew if I could just maintain, I could pick up time on the descent and maybe make up some time and a place…or two.

Before the race I estimated about 12-14 minute miles on the uphill, 7 minutes per mile on the descent. I figured this after looking at a tiny ski-trail map of the Taos Ski area online and judging how long it took me a few weeks prior to run to the top of Vail Mountain on a similar elevation gain over three miles.

For me, it’s a bit about planning. Some people don’t care about the course, the terrain, or the competition, they just show up and run. I like to know all of these elements of the race plus what the weather is going to be on race morning, where the restrooms are, what the trail looks like just beyond the start line, what the approach to the finish line looks like, and everything in between. If possible, I like to run part, or all of the course before I race. Certainly not practical when arriving the night before the race.

Of the 31 runners on race morning, Saturday, August 25, for the Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10k Trail Run, only a few decided to stand on the start line. Trepidation perhaps. Starting at 9,207 feet with 2,612 feet of elevation gain looming. Trepidation for sure, if not dread.

We got some last minute instructions about the course and were informed that there would be no countdown to the start, we were to just “go” after we heard a gun shot. Of course no one knew when the gun shot would come so we nervously waited with our fingers on our chronographic watches. Somehow I was in second place right from the start and I was taking it easy. Only one fellow took off in the lead and he, like many rabbits, became a turtle as the race went on. I made the first switchback turn and slowly approached the second before a few men passed me. A woman I spoke with at the start then surged past me in the first 1/2 mile. Her name was “Tas” I later learned and she had run the race last year, in the first year of the event. At the start she told me that it took her about 1:10 to 1:12 to race it—so I guessed she was probably last year’s winner since the organizer told me the women’s winning time for 2006 was 1:12. She would be my competition along with another woman I saw warming up at the start who just “looked fast.”

I settled into what I felt was a comfortable, yet oxygen-deprived, 12+ minute pace and a solid top-10 position which I hoped to keep up for the duration of the climb. Consistent pace is what I suggest to runners for this type of event. “Get into a gear that you know you can sustain for the duration of a climb,” is my best advice.

There would be three aid stations on the course, one halfway to the top, another at the summit, and a third at about the 4.5 mile point. When I looked at my watch and saw 25 minutes at the first aid station, I knew that my 12 minute pace was a fleeting dream and I was hoping now to go under 50 minutes on the climb.

The second woman passed me somewhere along the climb before that first aid station, she was the one who “looked fast” as she warmed up at the start. I could see her just ahead of me for the rest of the climb and I figured if I could just keep her in my sights, I could catch her — just maybe — on the descent. Considering how I was feeling toward the top—dizzy, unsteady, depleted, tired—that dream was in jeopardy of becoming rather distant as well. I managed a sub 50 minute ascent so that invigorated me…sort of.

It is amazing how cresting the top of a climb can change your attitude rather quickly. Just three miles to go and all downhill. This is my kind of running.

Tas was right, it was steep…and rocky. The speedy second-place woman was just ahead of me tiptoeing down the mountain. I blasted past her and she yelled out, “You go sister!” Inspiration for sure.

The descent was my strength, but the pounding was pretty intense and the footing was a bit treacherous in spots. I even had to slow down in several sections and amend my seven-minute pace accordingly. I passed the final water stop and knew I still had a mile or so to go. It was fairly solitary running, much like many trail races that have small fields and are also rather challenging. I saw one other runner ahead of me on the trail whom I thought I would catch, but didn’t, and heard no one behind me.

There were no spectators on course save for the aid stations and a few supporters who hiked up from the finish line to cheer on their friends, which also adds to the solitary nature of trail racing. When I saw some supporters near the finish line they urged me on saying that I only had 1/2 mile to the finish line. It was a bit longer than that, but close enough to ramp up my pace a bit.

I crossed the line in 1:13:05, good enough for second woman and sixth overall. Pleased to be in the top ten, second among the women, and equally pleased that we top-three women were all in our 40s.

The race awards ceremony started after everyone had crossed the finish line and post-race chatter was well underway. Every participant received a coupon for lunch with their race entry. Lunch, along with a cute T-shirt and some great swag made the nearly four-hour drive from Colorado Springs more than worthwhile. Add great volunteer support, and this low-key, small town event is a must-do mountain race for your August racing calendar.

Article by Nancy Hobbs from www.trailrunner.com

The newest obstacle race to land in the US, The Battle Run

December 7th, 2012

 

The newest obstacle race, The Battle Run coming to Atlanta.  Check it out and see if you are up to the test.

The Battle Run is a military themed obstacle and mud race that will challenge you in ways you never thought possible.  With challenging and sometimes frightening  obstacles, The Battle Run will force you to face your fears, rely on the people in the trenches with you, and push you further than you ever thought you were capable of going.  I’ve been in the Army and there are a lot of things I couldn’t have done without the help of others.  Sounds like a great concept to teach teamwork in the individualistic sport of running.  It’ll be interesting to see who works together and who leaves their comrades behind.

According to the race director Cameron, “Your athleticism will be tested.  Your mental resolve will be crushed.  You will be broken and battered until nothing but a hardened, battle ready, monster remains.”

The Pitch:  Do you have what it takes?  Register for The Battle Run and find out! The first stop on The Battle Trail is Atlanta, GA on August 3rd, 2013.  The exact location is yet to be announced but negotiations are underway with a very special venue  Registration for this event is now open and details can be found at www.gobattlerun.com.  There you can register and use coupon code FIRSTINLASTOUT for a short time to receive $10 your registration.  Other discounts include military 50% off, Emergency Medical Service Professional $10 off, Students 10% off and Team Registration $10 off.  Visit the website and register today for the time of your life that will surely reveal what you’re made of!

SeriousRunning back in bizness.

July 15th, 2013

SeriousRunning is back in business. The business of getting back in shape. After 20 years of competitive running, I had to stop due to injury. After MRIs, physical therapy, and a variety of treatments, I gave up on cardio exercise for the past 1.5 years. After trying all of these remedies, my doctor’s final advice was, “Just stop running.” I was devastated.

Running is what I had been doing my whole life. As long as I can walk, I want to run. Recently I got a doctor’s 2nd opinion, the prognosis: “You’ve over worked your running muscles, stop running….but do do any other fitness activities.” So I’m back and ready for my next challenge baby! I guess I’ll just have to be more careful about my only weakness, that I work too much…

I thought my knee issues stemmed from jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division or maybe from “taking a knee” too many times in Iraq, but I think I just overworked my running muscles. I’ve learned the importance of cross-training and plan to give myself a trail triatholon race goal instead of purely a run. I love to trail run, running will always be my passion, it’s what I’m best at, but we learn and grow by challenging ourselves in new ways. I will be competing in the XTERRA World Championships.

I started SeriousRunning with my brother, Jeff Barber, in 2008, and at that time trail running, adventure racing, and XTERRA began gaining popularity. I ran many of the XTERRA trail races and wrote about them here. I started National Trail Running Day in 2009 and had thousands of participants in the inaugural year. 2013 date TBD.

I want to come back from this injury, accomplish my goals, and prove to myself that “I’ve still got it.”

Hope you enjoy my efforts. I also plan to improve this site, please feel free to send me a message at chris@seriousrunning.com. Happy Trails!

Running for military Veterans

July 15th, 2013

After serving for over 4 years in the Army, I started SeriousRunning without any idea of what to do. I had no experience in technology, social media, or “business,” only an attitude that “I can accomplish anything,” supplied by the U.S. Army. After being in combat, everything else in life is easy.

But it’s actually not, it’s difficult for Veterans to find equal paying jobs as civilian’s with the same years of experience. Civilian employers don’t seem to value military experience the same ways, they only value experience in particular skill sets. This is a mindset I hope to change, this is a problem that I want to try to help solve.

I’m starting by employing Veterans myself. All of SeriousRunning and National Trail Running Day’s proceeds will go toward employing Veterans.

I’m also going to raise awareness for the Veterans employment problems by running the XTERRA World Championship, a highly visible trail triathlon in Hawaii. Running is what connects my military persona to my civilian self. The regiment and structure of fitness is what separates those who execute, with those who can’t seem to take one step forward. I’ve been running prior to, during, and post my military service, but was told by doctors to stop running, but they didn’t say anything about trail triathalons….

If you’re interested in helping Veterans find employment, please email me, Chris Barber at chris@seriousrunning.com.

Internet Marketing Internships for Military Veterans

July 15th, 2013

I want to help military Veterans get outstanding employment in the civilian world. I think our military Veterans are currently the United States’s best resource and can make a deep impact. The problem is that military Veterans just don’t have the right skills for today’s economy. It used to be that a “business manager” was a viable career path, but that’s no longer the case in our hyper-digitized society, everyone must not only be able to manage, but also create value with individual skillsz.

I got lucky. I had a brother that introduced me to technology and the Internet early on. I want to pass that luck to other military Veterans.

The first person I’m going to help is Eddie. Eddie has 23 years military service, is a SFC in the Army, and is preparing himself for the civilian world by taking classes in web design at night. He’s using the post 9-11 Bill to pay for it. I used the post 9-11 Bill myself to pay for (a very small portion) of my MBA at Emory University in Atlanta. I’m going to give Eddie some projects to work on for SeriousRunning and National Trail Running Day and connect him to industry professionals.

I’m also going to work with Justin. He was in the Marines for 4 years and is currently in the Army guard. He has a job that allows him a lot of free time in front of a computer so he’s going to try to write a couple of articles and learn how to create quality online content. He can then use these skills writing other sites like About.com. He’s interested in trying adventure racing but he just needs the shoes to take that first step. I’ve got plenty of extra shoes and I can only wear one pair at a time so I’ll help him make that first step.

If you are a Veteran and are interested in learning more about the Internet business please feel free to email me at chris@seriousrunning.com. Those two examples are real people that are beginning an Internship now.

Areas of study:

Social Media

Blog Writing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Email Marketing

Event Marketing

Digital Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Online Advertising

SEM

Google Adwords

Google Analytics

Potential perks include free race entries, gear, and marketable skillz. Plus doing fun, extreme stuff like XTERRA adventure races.

Requirements are that you must commit to 10 hours per week and 1 weekly phone lesson. Please simply send an email describing yourself and what you are interested in to chris@seriousrunning.com. No resumes please. Internships are open now and will last until November 1st.

Happy Trails!

Chris

Co-founder & CEO

SeriousRunning & National Trail Running Day

Cross Training

July 16th, 2013

 

I thought I’d ease back into this blogging thing with the ever popular “toes with background” picture. Gotta get ready for the XTERRA World Championships

I took this picture to show the alignment in my legs. See how they don’t seem symmetrical? It’s because they’re not, I didn’t cross train. The swimsuit? Oh, no, that’s just my ordinary swimsuit. It’s suppose to be like that.

The problem is that my quads are freakishly larger than the rest of the muscles in my legs because of too much running (apparently there’s such a thing). My experience in the Army was to always push through walls and not to feel pain, but I’ve since learned that it’s better to train smarter. I didn’t listen to my body and pushed way too hard.

When you over train one area of your body you ignore the other muscles. It’s all about opportunity costs, pick what you want to improve and start there. For me right now, it’s everything but my quads….

So I swam. And then layed out.

And gave some muscles some much needed attention.

SeriousRunning – Trail Running, Adventure Races, Military-style Fitness

July 25th, 2013

Hello, I’m Chris Barber, CEO and co-founder of SeriousRunning.

In 2008 I separated from the Army after 4.5 years of service. I knew I wanted to be an “entrepreneur,” so I started in commercial real estate development. I had no idea what I really wanted to do. I attended graduate school at night with hopes that would give me a clearer vision of my career path, but it didn’t. The military taught me tons of intangibles, but my experience didn’t seem to fit any of the skills needed for the jobs I was seeking. While I enjoyed my years of service and performed well, I left the military because I wanted to be in a different type of organization and making that career transition seemed impossible at times.

I joined my brother and took over one of his newly launched web properties, SeriousRunning. I’ve been a runner my entire life and know a lot of about the subject, but I didn’t know anything about technology or websites. I reasoned, ‘I didn’t know Field Artillery but I learned how to do that, how tough could it be?’

I spent years posting, engaging, and learning on SeriousRunning until I finally worked too hard, my running (plus jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division) caused my knees to give out. After MRIs, PT (physical therapy, not physical training), and many appointments, my final prognosis from the VA doctor’s was, “Stop running.” Thanks…

I spent about 2 years off running but was able to get a 2nd, non-VA opinion recently. This time the prognosis was similar, but actually helpful, “You ran too much, stop running, cross train and build up the other muscles in your legs.” So I was too serious of a runner. I’ll guess I’ll have to add that to my other two weaknesses, “working too hard” and “being too nice.”

So I reached out to my battle buddy from Iraq, Brian Ansley (who called me in less than a minute after us not speaking for years) and told him I wanted to do a race in 90 days with him and he’s all for it! He’s a stud and crushes adventure races, so hopefully he doesn’t embarrass me. We’re going to be working on SeriousRunning together and telling you about our adventure race in 90 days as well as tips for military style training. We’re deciding between Spartan Race, XTERRA, or Tough Mudder right now. Any recommendations on which race are appreciated!

What I hope to accomplish with this race:

1. Prove to the doctor’s that I can still run at a high level

2. Prove Veterans can be successful in Internet and Technology jobs

Running was my passion in 2008, that’s why I started SeriousRunning, but getting Veterans Technology jobs is my passion now.

Running and exercise helped ease my transition from a combat environment to civilian life. I was lucky that I had a brother working in Technology and was given the chance to learn a growing industry; I want to give other Veterans this same opportunity. Ansley is about to start graduate school in Environmental Studies and feels like he’s one of the lucky ones too. His story is much more powerful than mine. We both have a passion to help more Veterans become the lucky ones like us. Even if we have to stay up all night

 

Happy Trails,

Chris Barber 

 

Brian Ansley – Adventure Racer Joins SeriousRunning

August 1st, 2013

Barb Wire Crawl

My name is Brian Ansley, and I’m a former United States Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.  I did two tours of duty conducting combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for a total of 27 months.  Once I became a veteran, I realized that I needed to fill the lack of excitement that the civilian world recurrently brings to the table. I started doing road races, triathlons, and duathlons in 2010. In 2011, I became very serious about racing and eventually began running at the Ultra Marathon level.   In addition to traditional-style endurance races, I also began to run obstacle races. I qualified for the Spartan Race World Championship! Get $10 off, Use Code: SPEAR10 – Sign Up Now!, and placed in 14 additional races in the state of Texas throughout the year. 

In my free time I enjoy lifting weights, running, kayaking, hiking, and pretty much anything outdoors.  I also still remain true to my military roots, and continue to do military-style workouts on a weekly basis.  Much of my military-style workouts include a very intense pushup and pull-up workout, as well as ruck marches to strengthen both my lower and upper body.  In the past few years, I have really focused on my diet and what I put into my body.  I eat all organic foods, and stay away from genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and preservatives.  I don’t follow any one specific diet plan, but I do try to minimize the amount of processed foods and grains that eat.

SeriousRunning has provided me with an exceptional opportunity to share the things that I love to do. My interaction with like-minded endurance athletes, veterans, and highly motivated individuals is an invaluable instrument to help others, as well as myself, to reach new levels of physical and mental toughness.

When to Stretch for a Run

August 25th, 2013

Many runners are confused about when they should stretch for a run. In the past, it seemed like it was standard practice for runners to stretch both before and after a run. Stretching before and after a run was said to loosen your muscles, ease soreness, and help prevent running injuries. I did this for years until I read an article a few years ago in an ultra runner’s magazine. The article made me question my own stretching routine, so I decided to switch it up. Instead of stretching before my runs, I began to stretch only after my runs were completed. There was a noticeable difference after the first week once I stopped stretching before my runs. My legs actually felt sturdier during the runs, and I was convinced that stretching prior to a run was not the right thing for my body. However, I still continue to stretch after my runs to work out any tightness that I may feel, and also to help maintain my body’s flexibility.

I don’t think there is an absolute right or wrong when it comes stretching. I think that it depends primarily on the individual runner.  You should figure out what works best for you, and try not focus too much on what is said to be the “right way”. In some cases, you may prefer to not stretch at all for a run. Runner’s World has a very comprehensive article that touches on the topic of stretching.  There is also a video that can show you various types of dynamic stretches if you still feel the need to stretch your body.

The important thing to remember is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to stretch for a run. If what you’re doing works, then keep doing it. On the other hand, if you are questioning your stretching routine, then don’t be afraid to try out a new technique. Like I said in a previous post; listen to your own body. Nobody knows when, or if, you need to stretch better than you.

Take life one mile at a time.