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Posts Tagged ‘Army’

Does the Military allow Minimalist Running Shoes for PT?

Tuesday, 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 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.

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.

National Trail Running Day August 21st

Tuesday, 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 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.

Project America Run: 4514 Miles of Remembering their Sacrifice

Thursday, 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  Happy 4th of July!

How to Find Your Way if Lost While Trail Running

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010


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.

Knowing When To Take a Rest from Running

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

“You’ve got to listen to your heart.  It’s going to tell you what to do.  It might need a lot of runnin‘ but it don’t need you.” -Tom Petty (lyrics re-written by Chris Barber, 2009)


I’m not listening.  I’m concentrating on playing guitar while singing.  That’s called talent.  However, sometimes you’ve got to stop what you are doing and just listen; to your body and heart.  My knee is hurt.  I was pushing myself too hard.  After a half-marathon goal of running under 1:25, (I ran 1:24 in case you care) I decided I would take about a month and start training for a difficult 50K trail race, the SweetH20 50K Trail Race.  My next goal would be about a month after that to run the Peachtree Road Race, the World’s largest 10K, in under 36 minutes.  I like to race different distances to keep myself interested and challenged.   I also run smaller races during my training to keep myself competitive; maintaining one universal race goal, to finish in the top 1% in any race.  I’m an outlier.

At any rate, I over trained and didn’t listen to my body; and I’m paying for it now.  I starting putting too many miles on too quickly after running a moderate amount of mileage in my Half-Marathon training.  Both of my knees started hurting directly after the race for some reason.  I took some mileage off for about 5 days after the half marathon before starting a training plan again.  I may have started running too much, too soon.  The last two weeks the pain got worse so I starting trail running 4 or 5 days a week and running on roads instead of the sidewalk as much as possible.  This past weekend my left knee buckled on me.  It was a sharp pain that shot quickly from my knee up my thigh.  I began to hop on one foot.  I hopped a bit and then kept running; slowly.  It happened again about a mile later.  I stopped and walked about half a mile, I was on my way to meet some other runners for a morning jog.  I hate walking.  So I started to jog again.  About five strides into it and; sharp pain!  I stopped and walked the rest of the way.  I told my friends I would try to run with them if we could do it on the grass.  As soon as we started I said, “I can’t do it.”  I don’t say those words very often.

The point is, you have listen to your body.  I probably should have started listening to my body two weeks ago and stopped piling on the 50+ mile weeks when my knees first started hurting.  I’ve learned.  I’m listening to my body now.  I used to know I could do anything.  Now I know I don’t have to do everything.  I’m mature.

This is my first encounter with a knee injury.  I know my knees have deteriorated from jumping out of airplanes in the 82nd Airborne Division and the countless times of getting “on a knee” on concrete surfaces while in the Army.  I’ve had trouble with my right knee from one jump in particular but this buckling was my left knee which leads me to believe I’ve just put too much stress on my knees.  I’m on day two of no running.  I did an Army work out today and am going to get to the weight room soon.  Maybe I’ll jump in a pool.  Maybe I’ll ride a bike.  Maybe I’ll just use the extra time to to write award winning blogs.  You deserve only the best.


The Most Interesting Man in the World (I have a website)

5th Ranger Training Battalion Ranger Run, Mountain Bike Race, and Duathalon

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Have you always wanted to be an Army Ranger?  Then join the Army and go to Ranger school.  However, if you have other commitments that won’t allow you to join the Army then do the next best thing, participate in the 2009 Mountain Ranger Run, Mountain Bike Race, and Duathalon.


The 5th Ranger Training Battalion (5th RTB) in Dahlonega, GA is hosting a 5K and 15K run, duathlon, 34K mountain bike race, and children’s 1 mile fun run on May 30th, 2009 to benefit local charities.  The courses are the most challenging and scenic trails in North Georgia.  They are the trails that Army Rangers use to train on, did you think they would be easy?  Challenge yourself in any of these events.  If you want more of a challenge than just running then try the dualthalon which starts with the 5K runners, transitions into 34K mountain bike race, and ends with a 2 mile run.  Are you more of a team player?  Perfect.  So are Army Rangers.  Teams of six people will participate in the 15K and will be required to stay together through out the race.  Just like a Ranger.  Never leave your teammates behind and finish the race together.  Use this event to bring your organization, club,  or business closer together by accomplishing a difficult tasks as one unit.  The Army has been using this technique to build teams and teach leadership for years, it will work for your group too!

Not only is this a challenging race but it is also a great event for the entire family.  Even your young Rangers can compete and challenge themselves in the 1 mile fun run.  After your family is done being all that they can be, stick around for the other activities.  There will be static displays, awards ceremony, fallen Ranger Memorial Dedication, and a Rangers in Action Demo.  What a great way to see what the men (and not women, who are technically not allowed to be Army Rangers) who are defending the United States.  There will also be a open house which will have Army Ranger combat techniques, military mountaineering, hand-to-hand combat, as well as the static displays.  What a great opportunity to take a peek into what real United States Army Rangers do!

You can register for this awesome event online or by paper.  Register by May 25th to pay the lowest entry fee possible.  The 5K and 15K are currently $25, 34K is $30, duathalon $35, a team of 6 is $100, and the 1-mile fun run is $5.  See, although the Army is uniform they are still able to differentiate prices.  Pay for what you race and stay around for the free Army Ranger entertainment!

Be all that you can be, in the 5th RTeeeeee-B…2009 Ranger Run, Mountain Bike Race, and Duathalon!  What a great way to challenge yourself and see if you have what it takes to be a United States Army Ranger!

Big Peach Running Company Event: Adventure Racer Robyn Benincasa

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I attended an event last night hosted by a local Atlanta running shoe and accessory store, Big Peach Running Company.  It was a lot of fun and featured the guest speaker, adventure racer Robyn Benincasa.  Big Peach Running Company events are a great way for runners to come together to talk and learn more about running.  What better place to talk running than at a Running Company store?  Big Peach puts on a lot of great events which attract a variety of organizations from Get Fit Atlanta to Trail Blazers Adventure Racing.  If you are a novice runner or fitness guru, there was information available for you.  Not to mention the free food provided by Sweet Tomatos in Kennesaw!  I probably should have just mentioned that at the beginning.


I was a real treat meeting Robyn Benincasa.  Robyn is a EcoChallenge Adventure Race World Champion, Raid Gauloises Adventure Race World Champion, has finished in the top 5 in over 20 Expedition Adventure Races, is a 10 time Ironman finisher, and is a San Deigo firefighter on an all female crew.  Obviously she has pushed herself to the limits both physically and mentally numerous times.  Robyn was able to share with the group in attendance video clips of some of the amazing stories she has had in Adventure Racing.  During her presentation I kept thinking of similar situations I had been in while in the Army in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Ranger School.  I thought to myself, ‘I had to be in these stressful situations.  Why would anyone volunteer to do such strenuous challenges?”  To push and learn about yourself.  To become mentally stronger.

This is why Robyn does a lot of corporate presentations, to motivate organizations, build leaders, and focus on teams.  Sounds like the Army to me.  Robyn was able to share some amazing stories like the local villager who was recruited to fill a spot on a team and compete in an Adventure Race without ever being in a canoe or even riding a bike!  The team finished in 2nd!  The local villager at the beginning of the race said, “I’m not sure if I can do these things, but I know we can as a team.”  The strength of teamwork is universal.  No matter who you are or where you live in the World, the team is always stronger than the individual.  This is the main difference between pushing yourself to your limits while running versus Adventure Racing.

Another inspirational story and video she shared was when her team, in 1st with a 3 hour lead, reached the final stage of the race and could not find their support team who had their bikes.  They found out that their support team was about day behind them.  Robyn’s team was visibly distraught by this news.  However, one team member didn’t lay down in exhaust and anguish, he set out to solve the problem.  He was able to break the language barrier and arrange to purchase locals’ bikes to finish the race on.  They even incurred other obstacles in the form of penalties from race officials for not using proper bicycles, although the ones there was using were far inferior to the official race bikes, and were able to overcome and finish the race.  This was a true test of mental toughness and determination.

Robyn is sharing that mental toughness and determination she has gained from adventure racing to start Project Athena.  The mission of Project Athena is to help women with breast cancer and other medical or traumatic setbacks live their athletic and adventurous dreams. Awareness for Project Athena is achieved through the ultra endurance endeavors of an experienced and high profile all-female adventure team who embody the spirit of Athena.  It is a non-profit foundation that encourages women to not just survive–but go on to STRIVE after enduring life altering yet life affirming medical conditions.  Robyn Beninecasa and Project Athena aim to keep the dream alive.  Please click here and donate to help keep this dream alive.

In order to keep our dreams alive we all have to work together to accomplish our goals.  Thank you Big Peach Running Company for organizing this great event and bringing a magnificent team of runners and experts together.

3rd Annual Gator Run Simi Valley

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

gatorrun2smThe 3rd Annual Gator Run is on April 26th at the Rancho Santa Susana Community Park at 0730 in Simi Valley, CA.  Register by mail or online.  Race distances are 5k Run/Walk, 10k Run/Walk, and brand new Healthy Kids 1-mile Fun Run!

Oh.  I’m sorry.  This race benefits deployed military personnel and I reverted back to my military writing style.  That first paragraph is your BLUF:  Bottom Line Up Front.  Military people are so busy.

So like I said, the 3rd Annual Gator Run benefits the non-profit organization For the Troops which makes care packages to send to troops deployed overseas.  After returning from a 15-month tour in Iraq I was asked, “What should we send deployed soldiers?”  I thought about all the things that were sent to my unit like food, toiletries, and books.  These were all very nice, but what really mattered to us was knowing that someone cared and was thinking about us back in the States; plus the excitement of getting and opening a box.  So I told her to send a huge box, filled with anything, even balloons, and a personal note.  The show of support is what really matters.  Participating in the 3rd Annual Gator Run and/or donating to For the Troops is a great way to support our military men and women currently deployed overseas.  Events like this let them know that their hard work is not forgotten.

But don’t run this race just to support America and its troops, do it because it is a great event!  These 5k and 10k races are made for all types of runners:  beginners, recreational athletes, local heroes, walkers, you name it.  It is also a great LA Marathon taper!  Run this race and attain a new 5k or 10k PR!  If you’d rather save your PR for the LA Marathon then run this race for the other great things it has to offer like the free commemorative pins to first 500 entrants.  Not to mention the free souvenir t-shirt, goodie bag, “Buy one, Get one Free” ticket to the 20th Annual Cajun Creole Music Festival and more with every registration.  There is a special military division with prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.  They also have prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place overall male and female in each race and medals being awarded for each age group.  Leverage your marathon training and win a prize!

The registration fee is only $25 if you do it now.  You actually have two more days to do it before the entry fee goes up to $30 on April 10th.  It’s cool to be frugal these days.  Be cool and register now.  Save that $5 for when you go to packet pick up at Simi Valley Town Center Mall Food Court to buy your pre-race lunch filled with tons of carbohydrates and a bit of protein.  Hang out at the Health and Fitness Expo.  The 2-Day Health and Fitness Expo begins on Saturday, April 25th at the Simi Valley Town Center Mall with pre-registration, vendor booths, free samples and much more.  Saturday expo hours are 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

So support the troops, attain a PR, and have a beautiful Sunday morning by running the 3rd Annual Gator Run!  Your Uncle Sam wants you…to run this race.

Recon the Race Course

Saturday, March 28th, 2009


Here are the best ways to recon your running race course, utilizing my military training with running experiences, to help you do the most effective route reconnaissance.  There are four types of recons:  map, ground, foot, and aerial.  Sorry Rocket Man, but capital probably limits you from doing the aerial type of recon so we’ll just stick to the map, ground, and foot recons.  The foot recon is the most preferred method but map and ground recons can be fine substitutes.  If you listen to me you’ll have the best information possible going into the race, Private First Class Runner.

Map Recon: These days there are numerous sources on the Internet to find any type of map.  When I was deployed to Iraq we would even surf google maps to see if there were any bad guys cruising around the streets.  Not really Grandma.  Seriously though, first you need to get a map of the race course from the race website.  These courses are very well drawn out with street names although some smaller races may only have directions in text.  If this is the case, then go to google maps and print off the area your race runs in.  Then take a highlighter and draw out your course.  Isn’t it fun to make crafts!  If you want to mark the distance on your paper map, take out a pieces of string along the route and compare this to the scale at the bottom of the map to measure your distances.  Or you can just got to and do it on the computer.  That’s all that website is good for though.  Come back to for all things running…minus mapping capabilities.  It’ll come.  Do beware though, the distances on these mapping programs are not very accurate.

Ground Recon: Get a course map and hop in the car to drive the race route.  Make sure you start a new trip on the odometer so you know your distance.  Point out your the easily identifiable landmarks to give you an idea of where exactly you are while running the course.  While racing you always want to maintain situational awareness.  Always know where you are and your estimated time on target.  As you are driving, visual how you will be feeling and what will be going through your head at certain points along the route.  Utilizing this recon technique at night doesn’t make much sense unless you have night vision goggles…or live in Alaska.

Foot Recon: Find out the race course and go for a run.  Try doing it by yourself.  Don’t race it.  Take it easy.  Take is slow to see everything around you.  Focus on what you will be feeling at which points.  Notice all of the hills that you will have to run up.  Notice of all the downhills you can pick up some time on.  Think about the other runners.  Where will they probably be tired?  This is where you want to make your move.  Make sure you don’t put your move point too far from the finish.  You want to be able to make your move earlier than the other runners and sustain it.  The best way to learn is through experience.  Get some ORT, On the Route Training.  The Army is into the whole “acronym” thing.

See you on the objective!