Rose Tinters

I think I can say, without much dispute, that the majority this blogs audience are runners, or other athletic types of some nature. Anyone who has been way-laid from their sport of choice, has an idea of what happens when we aren’t able to walk outside, close the door behind us, and disappear for an hour, two, three, or even more. I don’t think there is any one single reason we need to venture off for fractions of our day, but for me, it has something to do with exploring.

Zipping around in cars, on the same roads every day, we forget to see things. We stop looking. We might see the oncoming cars, or the roadkill that wasn’t there last night, we might even notice a field slowly turning colors as the seasons plod on. But on foot, we see more. We have more time to admire the little flourishes of God’s paintbrush all around. We can truly examine the natural world; see colors once thought unnatural outside of a Crayola box, witness purples melding into creams, greens turning to orange without border – we can see things we can’t see from the comfort of our bucket seat or the swivel of our desk chair. On foot we see things few others do. We are privy to a world that only a select few take the time to admire.sunrise1

Not running, I started noticing that I was missing these things. I was focusing on how not being able to cruise for 15 miles at a clip was forcing me to stay in a tiny sphere (there are only so many routes to go when you’re running a mile at a time.) I began noticing how much noise there was in my head and how impossible it seemed for me to escape them. All these things started adding up, and driving me nuts.
mushroomonlogblewitt

It’s taken a while, but I’m starting to get over all of the missing. I’m starting to realize that while I can’t get out and cover 20+ miles at a time, I can still explore. That there are smaller things to see. That walking lets me see things I might not on a run. That sometimes a walk with the family can be just as enjoyable and mentally quieting as a 60 minute jog in silence. Sure, these sunrises would be better seen from the road with miles behind me, but they can be just as awe inspiring from the comfort of my porch, coffee in hand, dog at my feet, child on my lap.sunrise

I’m not done. I will continue to plug along, and hopefully someday – soon – I’ll be back on the road, putting down some miles. And if not, it’s the little things that will have to suffice.

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The New Long Run

Things have been quiet here – the blog, not real life – and while I have a lot of reasons for the silence, the main reason, the overwhelming problem pertaining this blog is this: my Achilles. I put it through the wringer – knowingly and not. I had an idea of what I was doing, but I had my goals in mind (VT100) and that was all I could see. I knew I would have to take sometime easy, but no clue how long, or what the process would be like.

The last time I raced was the Arena Attack in January. After that, I started to take it easy, though not easy enough. I found myself caught up in my mileage. I had scraped my yearly mileage goal of last years miles, but tried to stay on pace for 2000. When my Achilles didn’t seem to get better, I opted for the “at least 100 miles a month” program. Still, things didn’t seem to get better. The stiffness in the morning was less, and every time I lowered my mileage, the discomfort would go away for a couple of weeks, and then show up once more. It was a slow downhill game of cat and mouse.

When we got to Georgia in June, I forsook my shoes and went barefoot for at least a month. Just as things started to feel better, the feline of pain caught up. In a final effort to save any sort of future running – and playing with the kids as they get older – I bought a pair of the Iguana Racers from Carson Footwear, cut up an insole from a pair of SKORA Tempo and shoved the makeshift 5mm heel lift into the Carsons. I also gave up on any mileage goals, (but am still hanging on to my runstreak) and started running 1-1.5 mile days. It’s been like this for over a month now – 8 mile weeks, a 37 mile month, a long run that doesn’t pass as a warmup. It’s my hope that tomorrow the slope takes a change and starts to head back towards the sky.

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Tomorrow is my first “long run” in over a month. It isn’t far. Nine laps on the quarter mile loop I mowed info the field: 2.25 miles. I have no idea how it will feel. I’m hoping that I won’t be cussing myself out on Friday morning. I’m hoping that this is the way to recovery – along with lots of other p/t type stuff – and by the two year anniversary of this injury 2/4/14 – I’ll be slowly building and maybe even signed up for some races.

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So in short, the main reason its been quiet here: there has been a serious lack of running.

The Strays

We were always two dog people. We had two dogs, then we had two kids, and despite the two kids there were plans to replace the eldest dog when her time came. We enjoyed her, but the balance between enjoyment and senility had been tipping for sometime – poop on the floor, “let me in, now let me out, nope I want to come back in again,” the pacing across the tile floor, the standing in the corner waiting for something to happen.

We weren’t set on a ‘replacement dog’ just yet, and in all honesty we were only remotely planning one. We love our two dogs but neither were really ‘dogs’ by the whole man’s-best-friend definition. The younger dog was malnourished as a puppy and subsequently her hips aren’t the greatest. Long walks or hikes leave her whimpering and sore the next day – forget running. And of course the older dog. She has always been a bit standoffish – uninterested in affection and just more of an overall lone wolf than best friend. Neither really listen to commands and so can’t ever really be off-leash.

I always thought it would be fun to have a running dog. Something that could lope along aimlessly with me over hill and dale. Preferably something big and young, something trainable. In Vermont, something big was key as it could have helped against the mythical Catamounts. Down here in Georgia the biggest predator you have to worry about is a coyote or maybe a stray black bear; all the same, something bigger was my hope.

Unfortunately, one of the bigger issues I have with the South is the lack of people who alter their dogs. Couple unaltered dogs with lots of loose dogs and you end up with a whole lot of dogs. And of course when dogs have puppies and people don’t know what to do with them, they set them free. Drive enough back roads and you’ll find yourself a stray. This all leads to a very dangerous formula that looks something like this: stray dogs + sappy wife + kids = new pets

Needless to say, one early morning while my wife was driving to work, a mother dog and her yearling pup throw themselves in front of her car. She tried to scare them off, but of course that didn’t work so she brought them home to stay in the yard until we could get them to the pound. Long story short, we now have two more dogs added to the collection.

Ginny Dog

Ginny Dog

Mama Dog

Mama Dog


Combined, they aren’t the size I was hoping for. Both about twenty pounds and maybe twenty inches tall. The younger one is a little taller, lean and wiry. She doesn’t mind a little running here and there, and while she isn’t leash trained yet, she’s not bad. I’m not sure she’ll ever be able to run far, but I guess it will have to do.

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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