New Home

So it’s been a while, that’s okay. Life has been busy. Since I last posted, I hosted another kick ass fat ass. Sixty-five plus people that all astonished me. Some awesome volunteers who braved the cold and stood around outside making sure people knew where they were going and were happy.

I’ve also managed to keep plugging at 20-25 miles per week mending my achilles. It’s long and slow, but I think things are getting better. Think.

I’m also hosting – sort of – another ultra on 8/22 in Paradise Park in Windsor, VT. Just a six hour, but a hell of a 2+ mile loop. Lots of up and down, technical trails, some not so technical. Should be fun. Register here: Six Hours in Paradise.

Unfortunately, I won’t actually be there to put it on. I’ll be in my new home in Dublin, GA! We finally did it. Not that we didn’t love Vermont, but between the price tag of Vermont Life and the dismal weather, we decided to go elsewhere. (Don’t worry, Six Hours in Paradise will still go on, I just won’t be running the show directly.)
water tower

Hopefully, I’ll be keeping up more with this thing. Sharing new adventures and red dirt. Hoping to host some ultras down here, and start to find a new community. Woooo sweat!

Sale or Giveaway?

Every once in a while a really good sale comes a long. So good it’s limited to one per household. A sale we can’t really call a sale, but a give-away.

Well, the fine folks over at SKORA Running have done it again. A shoe give-away masked by the word ‘sale.’ Until the end of today, all purchases over $109 will get a free pair of FIT. Free FIT. That is a deal.

Sale ends 11:59pm PST, so get on it.

New England Weather, Snow Plows, and 130 Laps

A month or so ago, I was alerted to a marathon happening in Hartford, CT. I’d only run two marathons before, and since this was an indoor marathon, it seemed like a good chance to go for a long run and give the Achilles a nice little test run. Sure I could go for a long run and see what happens, but it just made more sense to do it when the furthest I would ever stop from the start would be a tenth of a mile.

All the stuff.

All the stuff.

Gearing up I didn’t really have a plan. I had an idea, but no real plan. My hope was to go out, run some seven minute miles and see how things felt. If nothing else I could slow down, but ideally I wouldn’t go faster than that. But of course, as things go, this would certainly not be the case.

As race day approached, the forecast started warning of a snow storm for the Hartford area Friday night into Saturday. As Saturday progressed, the snow was supposed to worsen. It sounded like getting to the race would be easy enough, but coming home might be a struggle. I checked the weather the night before and figured two-and-a-half hours for a normal two hour ride would be fine. It was all down at least two-lane interstate and I wasn’t supposed to hit snow until at least halfway there.

The 'clean' roads of Massachusetts.

The ‘clean’ roads of Massachusetts.

About a half hour into the ride, the snow flakes started falling. Not heavy, but they were coming. As I got closer to half-way, the snow really started coming down. Speed slowed from 80 to 40. At points I couldn’t see the lanes – 6:30/7:00 on a Saturday morning, no plows in sight. At a couple of points I almost turned around, but convinced myself that I had already paid my money and things couldn’t get that much worse. I was sort of right.

Vermont does something funny with their roads. I’m not sure what it is, a lack of salt, sand, no plowing, something; for as soon as I hit the Massachusetts border, the roads cleared up. What was once unidentifiable as a road quickly became a skim coat of slush on top of pavement and we started driving a little faster. We were still going slow, but I still had almost two hours until race start. I was a little behind schedule, but would be okay.

I’m not sure where I was when it happened, I recall seeing a sign for Hartford, CT 44 miles, but don’t’ know if I was infront or behind. Slowly traffic in front of me started building and we started slowing down quickly. It reminded me of rush hour traffic getting off of NYC. As we got to a long downhill, I could see the hold up, three plows across two lanes of traffic driving 20 MPH. There was no way around them and it looked like they were making the roads worse. As I rode behind the snow plows it started to dawn on me that I would not make the race on time. I convinced myself it was okay. It was just laps.

Lap Number...

Lap Number…

Finally the plows pulled off at an exit and I was on my way to Connecticut. Not having clocked mileage I had no idea how far it was to Hartford. I knew the exit, but no mileage. And of course, the kind folks in the Connecticut DOT don’t feel it’s necessary to put up those signs, so once again, I was driving blind with a timer running out and no sense of how far I had left to go. Finally about five minutes before race start, I pulled off the exit. The arena, which I assumed would be well marked with road signs, was not. As I looked skyward to the top of the buildings, I saw a big ‘xl’ on the side of one, surely that was the xl Center. Wrong. But they did give me directions to the right xl Center.

At 9:15 I showed up, grabbed my bib, got changed and hit the track. The adrenalin from rushing around and being late had managed to push all sense out of my head. My 7:00/mile race plan vanished. There were people everywhere on the track and I just went. I clicked off the first couple of laps in 1:20 (it was 5 laps to a mile) and knew I was too fast. I tried to slow down and I managed to for a few laps here and there, but it was a constant battle. I had found a rhythm and with people all around and a DJ who thought he was hosting a roller skating dance party in 1994, it was all but impossible to break out.

When I run, I talk to myself. Sometimes I whistle or sing. It’s all out loud. Usually outdoors, this doesn’t matter, I’m relatively alone and no one can hear me. Inside is a different situation and I got more than a few looks as I tried to talk myself into slowing down, mostly by cussing myself out and using a litany of derogatory terms.

I rolled through the first half in a 1:27ish and knew I was going to be hurting by the end. I could keep the pace for a while longer, but I wasn’t sure how much longer. By mile 17 I had stopped carrying my Orange Mud Handheld for a couple laps at a time and carried it consistently. By mile 20 I was shot. My quads were beat and I knew I was done. I stopped at the water station a couple of times and chatted to the girl while she filled my handheld. All sense of urgency was gone and I was hitting 8:00 miles.

It was the first time I used Gatorade during a race. Usually I’m just a rinse and spit kind of guy, but as it was indoors, there was no spitting. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind it, and while I didn’t feel any difference in energy, it did taste good.

SKORA Form, Orange Mud duffel and Handheld. First time my name is on a bib!

SKORA Form, Orange Mud duffel and Handheld. First time my name is on a bib!

I ended up finishing third in an official time of 3:19:52 but if I had showed up on time, or if the clock started when I started it was a 3:06:28. Given that I’ve been running 30mpw since July, I’m pleased. I will add that the DOMS are killing me. I recovered faster after the Joe English 6hr than I did this marathon.

FORM Review

IMG_8400Some time ago – back in October – I got a pair of SKORA Form. Yes, October was a long time ago; it was over three months ago. So why has it taken this long to write up a review? Partly sheer laziness, and part of it was me trying to put some miles on these guys. Ideally, I like to get atleast 200 miles on a shoe before I make any ground shattering pronouncements, and with my buggered up achilles and off-season, I didn’t get 200 on these guys until mid-December. (I know it’s mid-January, but shh…).

Anyway, if you’ve followed along on this blog, or read my SKORA reviews (PHASE, CORE, FIT), you know that each shoe appears to outdo the last. Well, the FORM has without a doubt, outdone them all. I kid you not, this is the best shoe I have ever worn; running or other.

There’s so much good about these shoes, I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start from the top. Like the CORE, the FORM are made from Pittards Goat Leather. I’m not sure if the FORM undergo different treatment than the CORE, but the uppers seem a little different; slightly more supple while being a little bit thicker. There is also a patch of Pittars sheepskin in the heel of the shoe to keep your foot from sliding around on some silky smooth goat leather.

Like all SKORA to date, there is essentially no tongue, but instead a sort of wrap

Velcro

Velcro

that goes underneath the asymmetrical lacing system. The lack of a standard tongue and the asymmetrical lacing eliminates hot spots. There are no pressure points when you tie these shoes on meaning if you want, you can go barefoot with next to no ‘break-in’ period. SKORA has also included a velcro strap across the back of the heel that allows you to tighten the shoe down from the back. To be honest, I’ve never really tried to play around with this much. I tightened it a couple of times and really didn’t like it. I much prefer the heel to have some movement.

They also have a reflective stripe down the center of the faux-tongue and the heel. The reflection only occurs when light hits the stripe, so while these shoes are typically all black, there is a built in saftey feature for night runners.

The FORM, like all SKORA models is a zero-drop shoe, but has a stack height of 13mm. (2 more than the PHASE and CORE, but 3 less than the FIT.) I removed my insole for a stack height of 10mm. The heel is rounded to provide a more anatomically correct fit and the sole is made from two different materials. There is the black, molded EVA, and then the blue high abrasion rubber. The high abrasion rubber allows you to run on some pretty gnarly surfaces and still put many miles on these shoes.

The ground feel on these is quite nice, but not quite as good as the CORE or the PHASE with the insoles removed. This is due in part to the extra 2mm of stack on the FORM and also the high abrasion rubber. Despite this though, the FORM provides a great ride in ultimate comfort.

woodsI can’t say that I’ve beat on these shoes to the max, but I have given them a pretty good run through. They’ve been on trails, roads, tracks, snow, ice, water, pretty much everything. With their low profile, they also double up as everday shoes when the weather is too crummy for flip flops (which it is quite frequently this time of year…).

Another huge plus that I love about the leather FORM, is the ability to retain heat, but breath. Typically with synthetic shoes, I would have to double up on socks when temps dip to single digits and below (Farenheit), but with the FORM, a cheap pair of cotton socks is all I need.

One of the big drawbacks to the FORM is it’s price, but this can be looked at a couple of ways. They cost $180. That’s a lot of money. At the same time, these shoes will not break down. You won’t poke holes in them with your toes, or trip over a stick and rip them down the middle. And you’re going to have to work quite hard to wear the sole down. That said, these shoes can easily go twice the distance a mid-range running shoe will normally get you, and when (if) the sole wears down, you can still use them as casual shoes without any problems.

form and cordAnother trick is to pay attention for sales and discount codes. Right now SKORA is running a massive 30% off sale, and if you use the code ‘warmup10′ at checkout, they’ll give you an additional $10. That’s a pair of FORM for $115. Seriously, one of the best bargains out there. And while you check out the sale, make sure to sign up for the newsletter, that’s how ou find out about these sales, and you get entered into a raffle for a free pair of FIT. It’s almsot like stealing…

Other SKORA Reviews
PHASE
CORE
FIT

Running Perspective

Perspective is one of those things that changes. From individual to individual, from subject to subject; our past experiences shift how we view the same things, and running is no different.

One thing people say when they learn I ran 100 miles is: “that’s a long way.” In truth, I suppose it is, but coming into it, I didn’t look at it as a long way, but just another event.

When I first started running, there was no real fixed distance we would strive to attain during practices. Rather we’d head out with our coach and he’d tell us when we were done – usually somewhere in the 50-60 minute range. Race day would come and we’d run our 5k, and then be back to random non-distance measured runs. I knew what a mile was, but I guess I never really grasped the distance of it. It’s just a distance, not long, not short; point ‘a’ to point ‘b'; four times around a track.

As I got older, I entered longer races: a 10k road race, a 15k road race. I did well enough that I convinced myself I enjoyed the ‘longer’ distances. The thing was, now that I had done a couple of these longer races, a 5k seemed like a short little jaunt. It was still demanding, but it seemed shorter.

They say when you’re training for a specific race, you should make at least one of your long runs longer than the actual race. For half marathons and below, this is an easy enough feat, but when you start getting up to marathons and 50ks, it becomes a little trickier – though still doable. One of the things going long does is to warp your perspective. If you’ve run 20 miles before, 13.1 is a heck of a lot less.

I was nervous going into my first 100. I’d run 50 miles before, once, and it was okay, but 100 miles seemed like a big undertaking, albeit, not as big as some of the races I’d read about. I’m not sure if I have some simpleton nature that stops me from being able to comprehend how long an hour is or how far a mile is or if it was hearing about guys running 400+ miles in one outing at a 6-day event, but the enormity of 100 miles is lost on me.

In October I ran a 6 hour timed race. Six hours might seem like a long time – it is a quarter of a day – but in July I had run (read: moved forward) for 19:36, six hours is less than a third of that time. It would be a cakewalk I told myself. In the end, it was rather enjoyable. Coming up in a couple of weeks I have an indoor marathon. My training has been sub par for sure, maxing out at 30 miles per week with no real speed work to speak of. I have no hope of a ‘good’ time, but I’m not scared of the distance. Compared to some of the recent distances I’ve done, a marathon is nothing.

If you want to run long, run longer. Forget what you know about far and short. Ignore what an hour is or isn’t. Go run and run and run some more. Change your perspective. Stretch it out. Let what you once deemed long become average.

Moving Forward

It’s been a little while since my last post, and not for any real lack of things to say. I hosted a little Fat Ass and got some much-needed help from VT Trail Girl in some abominable weather conditions. I got a chance to see 100:Head/Heart/Feet. I consciously neglected registering for one of my favorite half-marathons. And as the end of December came, I realized my mileage had seriously fallen off and I would be eking through the year on heavy miles put in early in the year.

Last year, when the New Year rolled around, I made a list of goals. As I look back, I achieved a good number of those goals, and while I should be happy, I’m not. I missed the most crucial goal: stay injury free. Last February I buggered up my Achilles and continued to run through it. It didn’t hurt to run, but over time, the stiffness as I got out of bed started to last longer into the morning. I knew what I was doing, but could only focus on running my first 50 and going on to complete the VT100. While I managed to do both of those things, my performance at VT was sub par for what I had hoped, but I still got it done. Part of the sub par performance was due to the Achilles finally catching up and hampering my training: lower miles, little to no speed work, and a bit of mental angst.

Since VT I’ve been hitting 20-30 miles per week with the exception of a 6hr race in October. The reduced mileage and slower pace has certainly helped. My Achilles, while it is still swollen, is not nearly the size it was back in July. Most all stiffness is gone in the morning, though my miles are still low. If I hit more than 7 or 8 miles, it’s sore the next day. There’s still some awkward pinching, and I know the end is not near. Consequently, my plans for 2015 have taken a huge change.

I mentioned that I neglected to sign up for one of my favorite half marathons and while cost is certainly a factor, there is also the knowledge that I would be heavily under-prepared and if I want to go for a 13 mile run, I can do so on my own. I was also planning on running the Lake Waramaug 50m or 100k this April, but that too has been sidelined for next year. And while I could probably putter my way through, it wouldn’t be wise, or fun. The next event quickly approaching is registration for the VT100. I’m not entirely sure yet if I want to run the 100m or the 100k, I can figure it out as the day approaches. However, with the Achilles, I’m not even sure I want to sign up. $250 is a lot of money to waste, and I’m kind of afraid that with a race picked out that far into the future, I might try to push before things are ready to be pushed. Do I register and cut my financial loss if I’m just not ready? It’s 6+ months into the future, I should be good to go, but can’t be sure of it.

Perhaps I’m being over-cautious after giving my self some serious issues, or maybe I’m just trying to protect my ego. Hopefully by September/October I’ll be trained and ready to hit some fall ultras, but we’ll see. Just lots of rehabbing in the mean time.

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Black Friday Blog

As much as I hate the whole Black Friday shopping thing – I’ve never actually done it… – I’m going to post this here. Links to reviews of some quality products from Orange Mud and SKORA Running. Both companies are having some sweet Black Friday deals and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your desk chair. Check it out:

Orange Mud is giving away free LED lights and 25% off with the code BKFRIDAY14

HydraQuiver Review
Vest Pack Review
Handheld Review
While I haven’t reviewed their wraps, I have had one for a while, and I’ll tell you it’s more handy than you’d think.

SKORA Running is also offering 25% off sitewide. No code needed. I haven’t written a review for the FORM, but I tell you, it’s better than all the others. True story.

PHASE
CORE
FIT

And finally, over at Dead Skunk Racing, we’re having a sale on coaching! We’ll cut all our prices in half if you sign up with us by December 1st. Great deal for two coaches.

A Turtled Stroller and the Jelly Shoe Girl

The other day, in one of the facebook groups I’m a part of, the question was posed “What is your most awkward running related moment?” Awkward was qualified as having to be seen by or noticed by another individual, immediately there went a handful of good stories. (Most poop stories, like the time the tree I was leaning against gave way, were inadmissible.) I stareted to do some thinking and realized that I had a couple. I won’t recant the strange awkward runs from high school or college as pretty much everything I did at that age is now awkward and embarassing.

Turtling Strollers

In the week following the VT100, my feet were too swollen to fit into my standard running shoes. While it didn’t deter me from running, I was taking things incredibly easy and so chose to ‘run’ with the double jogging stroller to the local pond for my son’s swim lessons. The pond is about a mile away, and right on the road, but in order to get to the beach I had to run an extra tenth of a mile up the road to the driveway and then double back. Or, I could just hop the curb, hold onto the stroller down the embankment, push it across a little bridge and arrive safely to the beach. I hate walking so I decided on the latter option.

Previously, I had taken the single jogging stroller down the steep embankment to the beach, so the double wasn’t too big of a stretch. As I approached the downhill, I did as I did with the single – I let go. The tether was still attached to my arm and I would have better control of my body weight leaning backwards than trying to control the stroller as my weight leaned down the slope – physics. Of course, what I failed to realize was the slope has a pitch to it and my 40 pound son was on the low side, also the same side as the tether.

In a sort of slow-motion train wreck, one of the back wheels of the stroller started lifting off the ground. As I reached out to grab the handle of the stroller, it rolled further down the hill and the wheel got higher off the ground. Suddenly, the balance of the weight in the stroller tipped and the wheel went from hovering off the ground to flipping over. Luckily, the kids were strapped in so no one “fell” out of the stroller, but they were pinned underneath the stroller, upside down. My son and daughter screamed mid-flip which caused all the other parents at the beach to witness the flipping. All the while I was in my home-made huaraches, still hobbling from the VT100. Parent of the year right there.

The Jelly Shoe Girl

When we lived in Georgia, I did a good number of my runs late at night. Sometimes I wouldn’t leave the house until 11:30 at night. The problem was that while the city was still alive and well, none of the businesses were open. More than once I ran into the issue of having to use the facilities but having no facilities available, but too many street lights and too many people to find some place discreet.

On this particular evening, I had gone for my run and was on my way home when it hit. I needed a bathroom bad. The house was only 3/4 of a mile away, but that 3/4 of a mile wasn’t happening. There was really no place I could go, so I stopped by the local track knowing that there would at least be a trash can and while it would be lit up, the chance of anyone being there was slim.

As things work, the Jelly Shoe Girl was there. I never talked to her, but I did bump into her a few times at the track. She would run a handful of laps, walk a bit, then run some more. She was a runner, but wore jelly shoes, and jean shorts. She didn’t look the part at all. We made eye contact a few times, but she had an edge of wariness to her.

I approached the track and saw her running her laps. There was nothing I could do: if I turned around, there would be a mess on the road, at least here it would be contained. As I shuffled towards the trashcan I noticed a t-shirt that had been there the night before. I gingerly squatted as little as possible to pick it up and continued my shuffle to the trashcan. I tied the arms together to make a kind of bag, the type you might see on a horse in the city. I tried to pull the trashcan into the shadows, but there is no doubt she saw what happened. There’s also no doubt the security cameras at the track (it was a private school in a rough area)didn’t see what happened.

Indoor Laps

I’m kind of in the ‘planning-for-2015′ mode, but haven’t gone all out yet. I have some key races in mind, but a lot depends on the Achilles and how it’s recovering. Of course it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped running. I still train lightly and have been perusing the race listings.

One of the problems with New England is that the winter has next to zero races. There’s a few frozen 5ks here or there but for the most part it’s a snow shoe race or a XC ski race. Not my thing. (There’s also the Winter Wild Series, which I think I’ll try out this winter.) The other day, I was turned onto the Arena Attack event happening down in Hartford, CT. There’s a handful of events happening at the Arena Attack, including a half-marathon, a marathon relay and a marathon.

Unfortunately, I was too late for the marathon, and all that’s left are slots in the half-marathon race. I emailed the RD and have had my name put on the wait list – #7 – not too bad, but as I perused the open slots, I noticed that the 11:15 half-marathon had a three hour time limit (the earlier one was a 2:10 time limit). Of course my wheels start turning, and I asked the RD if I could use the entire three hour time limit to run a marathon. He replied and told me I could, and that he’d feel hard up making me stop at 3:00 if I only had a little bit to go, but he can’t give me too much extra time because vendors will start charging. How awesome is that!?! I have no plan of taking anymore than three hours. If I hit the marathon in three, awesome, if not, it’s no big deal. The plan is to use this as my first real long run and sort of a test run (to see how a 3:00 marathon feels) once I’m back from the off-season. 130 laps, here I come!