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Monday, January 31, 2011

New Race and January Summary

First off, I just signed up for the Pocatello 50K which is on May 28th in Pocatello, Idaho. This looks to be a burly 50K that is actually 35 miles long and sports a healthy 8,000 ft of gain...just the kind of race that interests me. Check out the race website here.

Next January's numbers:

30 runs
153.26 mi
26,312 ft
27:57:55 h:m:s

And a stat I like to see: Median Elevation gain 1,037 ft...this means that half or more of my runs had 1,000 ft of gain or more...this is good for me and is reflected in my new best for a month of elevation gain of 26,312 ft. This bodes well for this years running if I can keep consistent and healthy. The good news was that I didn't feel like January was a huge effort despite running in some rugged temps and snow covered trails for the majority of it.

The biggest change I've instituted this month was the decision to run everyday. I made this decision in the first week of January and have run 26 runs in a row since with only 1 day off in the month (on that day I went on a 45 minute hike with Zach and Alyssa while we were on vacation). I am attempting to gain a new level of consistency in my running that I feel I lacked last year. It seemed that when I was struggling with some soreness or nagging tendonitis it was a result of subjecting my body to large shocks all at once. I would take a day or two off when I got sore, but then first run back I would bust out a 12 miler at a quick pace and wonder why my body wasn't liking it...this month I never even broke 10 miles, but put in at least 45 min or 4 miles (usually with 1000 ft of gain or more) a day and had long runs in the 1:30 range around 8.5 to 9.5 miles with 1,500 - 2,500 ft of gain. So in short nothing crazy, but nothing unsubstantial.

I realized one thing along the way...being an ultrarunner isn't sexy...success in the sport is likely the result of putting in a lot of seemingly insignificant runs to the point where your body is as prepared to run as it is to eat, sleep, laugh, and work. That is what I'm attempting at this point...I'll let you know how it goes. I know one thing; I'm enjoying every minute of it.

A nice sunny, but brisk run in Joshua Tree National Park earlier this month.



Friday, January 14, 2011

Minimalism and My Shoes Choices for the New Year

The shoes to the left are my New Balance MT101s with the mud and timing chip from the North Face Challenge 50K. This race will be the last one for these shoes. I've made a decision to try to limit the differential from heel to toe on my shoes to a 6mm drop or less. These are 10mm so they are outside this window. They are really a good shoe and have served me well, however, I have found the extra heel to slowly erode away at my form and allow for a little more sloppy running than I'd like.

I found my way to the New Balance MT100 and MT101 (the 101 was an update to the 100) because I got a very bad rock bruise while descending a 6.5 mile 3,600 ft climb on a very rocky trail/road here in Eastern Oregon wearing my Vibram FiveFinger Treks. I spent the better part of two months slowly trying to recover while still wearing the Treks and the trail version of Soft Star RunAmoc running moccasins without much success. I kept re-bruising the same spot on the ball of my right foot. This led me eventually to the New Balance MT100 as I was continuing to crank up the mileage for my first 50k and couldn't afford to simply take the time off to let the foot heal. I have since then slowly made my way back down the minimalism spectrum to where my go to trail shoe is the Inov-8 F-Lite 195 and X-Talon 190, both of which have a 3mm heel-toe drop and not as much cushioning as the MT100/101s and weigh hardly more than a FiveFinger.

I know for most people the MT101 is a minimal shoe...I supposed it is to me too or I wouldn't have considered it. However, with the 10mm drop it allows for my heel to land much earlier (read microseconds) than it would without the heel. Even if landing on the forefoot or mid-foot (natural foot strike for barefoot running) in these shoes your heel inevitable lands earlier because of the heel lift. I tried, without much success, to cut the heel down on my MT100s, but it was very hard to get an even cut all the way through to ensure a consistent surface on the rear half of the shoe. That said, the MT101s are now relegated to being used sparingly only when I feel that my calves or tendons have been overworked and need a little break without actually taking time off.

Because I started my running career in Vibram FiveFinger KSO's I became a staunch minimalist and was not willing to compromise with a shoe that had any cushioning or heel on it...at that time FiveFingers and barefoot were really the only option. Since then many companies have come forward with more minimal offerings in a wide spectrum from completely zero drop to moderate heel heights (4-6mm). I've also, through my experience had to temper my initial barefoot enthusiasm and now look at shoes as tools to use if and when appropriate. My guiding axiom for shoe selection is: "Don't wear more protection than necessary for the terrain to be run on."

Now, I know this can be different for some people than others and believe that shoe selection is really a personal issue. It includes being able to read your body and know it is responding/recovering to the running you are doing. I've found that road running requires less cushioning than trail running, and the technicality of the trail also changes shoe selection. Note: I have NOT found arch support, pronation control, or much cushioning (around more than 10mm of cushioning) necessary for any running condition, therefore probably 90% of shoes on the market are quickly not considered. This is my bias towards minimalism and for carrying the lightest and least amount of shoe possible on my feet for the task at hand. I want the shoe to adapt to my foot rather than my foot having to adapt to the shoe.

For me, I have used or plan to use these shoes for the purposes listed below. Some of the shoes listed I have owned for over a year and a half and some I have yet to try but plan to. Also note, I'm an experimenter and therefore like to constantly try new ways/approaches to gear and training. I by no means feel that the amount of shoes I own or list are necessary to run. A pair for road and a couple of different pairs for trails are all that would be necessary to the serious runner. I may get there someday (which would be part of the goal for a minimalist), but part of that process is finding what works well and what doesn't.

Here is the list (YTBR indicates "yet to be released" and as so I've not tried them, but intend to use them for the category listed):

  • Road Training: Vibram FiveFingers (KSO, Sprint, Bikila), Luna Sandals, Terra Plana Evo, Soft Star RunAmoc Lite Street, Inov-8 Road X-Lite 155 (YTBR).
  • Road Racing: Vibram FiveFingers (KSO, Sprint, Bikila), Terra Plana Evo, Mizuno Wave Universe 3, and Inov-8 Road X-Lite 155 (YTBR).
  • Non-Technical Trail (elevation gain less than 100ft/mile and minimal rocks): Inov-8 F-Lite 195, Inov-8 F-Lite 230, Leadville Luna Sandals, Vibram FiveFinger Trek (probably sparingly), Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 (YTBR, when muddy/soft), Merrel Trail Glove (YTBR), and New Balance Minimus Trail (YTBR)
  • Hardpack Technical Trail (elevation gain > 100ft/mile and worse footing and/or rocks): Inov-8 F-Lite 195, Inov-8 Roclite 285, Inov-8 F-Lite 230, Merrell Trail Glove and New Balance Minimus Trail (YTBR, depending on the level of rock protection for both of these and probably only on shorter runs)
  • Soft/Muddy Technical Trail and Off-Trail: Inov-8 X-Talon 190, Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 (YTBR, if enough protection from rocks), Inov-8 Roclite 285, Inov-8 X-Talon 212, and Inov-8 Oroc 280 (for off trail and very slippery conditions only because they have metal tips embedded in the shoe)
  • Winter Training (temps below freezing, with snow/slush/ice): Inov-8 Oroc 280 (especially great for ice), Inov-8 X-Talon 190, Inov-8 F-Lite 195 (cold hardpack snow), Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 (YTBR), Inov-8 Road X-Lite 155 (YTBR, for road), Terra Plana Evos (for road), InovCrescent Moon Gold 12 running/racing snowshoes (deeper packed snow), Crescent Moon Gold 10 snowshoes (backcountry snowshoeing)
  • Recovery/very occasional use: New Balance MT101 (to relieve achilles/peroneal tendons and calves)

Ok, that is quite the listing, I realize, but hopefully it was either interesting or helpful to someone :). You might have noticed a lot of Inov-8 shoes in the list and this is partly because I'm a semi-sponsored runner for them (see sponsors page). But mostly (and this is the reason I applied for sponsorship with them), it is because they have a whole host of neutral trail shoes with a 6mm drop or less with more sole types for specific off road uses than I thought existed (all the shoes listed above besides the MT101s are 6mm drop or less). So far I have been very impressed with their shoes and gear and hope to get extensive time in some of the models I haven't tried yet. If you are looking for trail shoes, especially for technical terrain, I think Inov-8 has the most options for the minimalist runner.

Yes, New Balance (w/the Minimus), Saucony (w/the Peregrine), and a few others (Altra, Stem) are starting to come out with minimal trail shoes, but so far these companies are only offering one model for trail running, where as there are 8-10 Inov-8 shoes that I would say fit the minimalist criteria for non technical and technical trail running. More selection means being able to choose the most appropriate shoe for the task at hand and this hopefully leads to the most enjoyable and injury free running experience.

I promise not all my running posts this year will be so gear oriented :). Hope you all are getting out in some form or fashion this winter...it's tough in someways in the winter, but it has its charms and rewards too.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

New Year and Year in Review

Well the holidays are behind us and I just returned yesterday from a family vaction in Palm Springs, California. I didn't know what to expect heading down there for running, but was pleasantly surprised and actually did a little more running that I should have because of all the nice single track they had heading up into the foothills surrounding Palm Springs. I put in 37 miles, 7 hrs 28 minutes and 8,645 ft gain into 8 days of running down there. It was really nice weather near the end and I had to pinch myself a few times during an awesome 8.5 mile run up to the summit of Murray Hill (2,500 ft elevation gain) where the weather was so nice I was cruising along shirtless in 55 - 65 degree temps.

Well today was a rude awakening getting out for a run and it was 25 degrees and solid ice on most of the streets. Lucky for me I received a pair of Inov-8 Oroc 280s for Christmas from my parents and got to test them out today. They were great and really gave me some extra confidence on the ice. They have about 8 metal carbide tips embedded into the tread, kind of like a studded tire on a car.

I've got plans to try and get into the high country around here as much as I can despite the arctic conditions we've been having (single digit and even negative temps in the mornings). Just before we left to Palm Springs, I tested out some Crescent Moon Gold 12 racing/running snowshoes, that I recently purchased, on some of the more packed snow trails behind my parents place and they worked great as well. I was able to keep a running cadence and not trip all over myself, which is all I could hope for from a pair of snowshoes for running purposes. In addition to these two new winter running gear items, I've got my regular snowshoes (Crescent Moon Gold 10 backcountry shoes) and my parents let my wife and I borrow a pair of XC skis if we have time to make it up to Anthony Lakes ski area (45 min drive). I think these new tools should let me get up in the mountains much more this year than last year, where I mostly ran around town.

So far my plans for next year are not solid yet other than the White River 50 Mile race in July. The first half of the year is going to be hard to travel in for us as Alyssa and I are expecting our 2nd child (first biological child, so first birthing experience...scary but exciting) in March and am therefore needing to stay close to home during that time. I'm looking to get in some real solid months of training locally and do some longer training runs that I normally wouldn't do if I had a race coming up right around the corner.

Looking back last year will be marked as the year where I found out that I really enjoy running. I started out the year having only begun my running career 4 months prior (started running near the end of August 2009) and planned on doing a 60K at the Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters, Oregon on April 11th. I ended up barely finishing the 30K (ended up being just over 20 miles) because of my only significant training injury of the year which happened in February and March. I had only run something like 30 miles after recovering from my injury before running the 20 mile race in April.

After that I really started to make gains in my running. I did a local half-marathon in May that had 900ft of gain and placed 3rd with a time of 1:47:13 which was 10 minutes faster than my first half-marathon I did in September 2009, which was flat as a pancake and I stumbled in at 1:57:10.

During the summer, I just did some local 5k and 10k road races (all we really have here in Baker City), managing to push my 5k pr down to 19:23 and my 10K pr to 41:10. These were leaps and bounds faster than my times just 6-9 months prior.

My largest month of training during the year was in August where I put in 185 miles, 26 hrs 49 minutes, and 18,499 ft of elevation gain leading up to my first ultramarathon (and my first run longer than 20 miles for that matter...I had a weird thing mentally where I wanted to do my first ultra before I did a road marathon...hard for others to understand, but I really was fascinated with ultrarunning before I could even run more than 5 miles and it basically took me a whole year to get my legs conditioned to run for 31 miles. Ultrarunning in the mountains captivated my imagination and continues to be my motivation to run).

On September 18 I finished the Cle Elum Ridge 50K, near Cle Elum, Washington, which had 6,500 ft of elevation gain over rocky muddy single track. I placed 20th place overall out of 96 finishers with a time of 6 hrs and 40 seconds. Looking back this is by far my best performance of the year and August (my training month leading up to it) was my best month of training all year...so probably shouldn't have been a surprise :).

After that high note, I make a rookie mistake (that sounded good on paper) of signing up to run the Portland Marathon only three weeks after my first 50K and not taking any recovery time after my 50K. As most of you that have read my blog know, this led to a nagging IT band issue that hung with me through the marathon and into my running a few weeks after. All said and done, I'm glad I ran the marathon for the experience and didn't really post too bad of a time at 3:38:18 considering I ran in Vibram Five Fingers, in pouring rain, under recovered, 3 weeks after my first ultra. Still, I was hoping for a much better time and will look to put in a good marathon sometime in the near future...it isn't on the top of my priority list, so don't hold your breath :).

To cap the year off, I heading down to the Marin Headlands in San Fransisco to run the North Face Challenge 50K. If you want more details on that, just look to the previous post below. Safe to say, I learned another huge lesson and gained some valuable experience that will shape my training and racing for the future.

I look forward to the year to come and have the main goal of having consistent injury free running and a fun time doing my first few 50 mile races (and possibly beyond). Here's to a great year of living to the full and running free.

I'll leave you with some numbers from this last year:

January -121.74 mi, 3,194 ft
February - 38.38 mi, 992 ft (injured from Feb 12th to Mid march)
March - 21.95 mi, 392 ft
April - 70.74 mi, 2,070 ft
May - 82.28 mi, 4,404 ft
June - 82.27 mi, 8,456 ft
July - 112.89 mi, 11,046 ft
August - 185.20 mi, 18,499 ft
September - 162.94 mi, 18,279 ft
October - 101.91 mi, 5,771 ft
November - 131.71 mi, 13,927 ft
December -39.52 mi, 7,066 ft

Totals for the Year: 194 runs; 1,151.54 mi; 174 hrs 25 mins; and 94,096 ft Elevation Gain