serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Archive for November, 2010

Weight Lifting for Trail Running

Tuesday, 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!

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

Monday, November 29th, 2010 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.

Christmas Gifts for Trail Runners

Wednesday, 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 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, 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!

Keen A86 Trail Running Minimalist Running Shoe Review

Monday, 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 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.

Death Race: You May Die in Vermont

Tuesday, 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.

Project Athena Races Series: Virginia Beach

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

project-athena-race-seriesI know 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!