Turkey Trots and Sales

Kind of strange still being injured. This was the first year in a long time – maybe a decade? – that neither me nor my participated in a turkey trot of some nature. For the last few years there was a Trot in New Hampshire that I had run – a 10k the Sunday before that always seemed to be freezing, before that was the Troy Turkey Trot in Troy, NY.

Here, locally in Georgia, there were a couple of races, but not much. On Saturday there was a 4/2 mile. I helped out at the finish line, mashing buttons as folks crossed; my wife opted to stay home and prepare for her sister’s arrival on Sunday. (I met and had a wonderful conversation with Dolly, an 83 year old walker, but that’s another story for another day.)

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Helpingg out at the Jingle All the Way 2 and 4 miler. (After my morning mile of course...)

The next local race was the actual day of Thanks and it was a half marathon. My wife showed some interest until she learned it was only a half marathon, at which point all interest was lost.

Instead we ended up running in our backyard, in circles on the grass track. She did 20, I did 12. It was a gamble for me, and while my Achilles has yet to flare up from it, there was some fullness in the days following. But hey, three miles, its the farthest I’ve run in months.

Of course after Thanksgiving comes Black Friday and while there’s a big push for folks to get outside instead of shopping, there wasn’t much different in our house. (Except that the lounging outside was in shorts and included some sun block.)

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The views from my Black Friday.

Of course just because your outside doesn’t mean you can’t still peruse the sales online. Check out the 25% off sale over at SKORA running. The sale goes all weekend and I’m sure they have something special planned for Monday. The same goes for OrangeMud.

I also have some discount codes for anyone who might be wanting one. 10-15%, just ask.

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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

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.

Happy Fall – Sort Of…

Happy Fall – Sort Of…

I don’t mind fall, but it harbours winter, and that sucks for a lot of reasons around here. But fall isn’t all bad: I can finally use Xfinity’s (Comcast, dirty bastards) ability to DVR 15 shows all at one time! (I actually don’t have a TV and didn’t realize there was that much TV worth watching.) In seriousness though, fall brings new lines of… SHOES!!!

Yup. SKORA just put out their new Fall/Winter Line-Up. There’s lots of sweet colors to run with. One of my favorites is the Ladies Cyan Flo. Yellow FIT.ladies cyan fit Unfortunately, I can’t fit them, so I’ll have to stick with the men’s selections, which are equally as sleek. There are a couple of men’s Fit, including a variation from the intial releases silver/cyan. These are cyan and black which really makes the cyan pop. And then there’s a black on black FIT, which almost looks it coudl be worn in a formal setting without much hoopla. men black-black
There’s also a blue-monochroatic iteration of the PHASE which looks totally dope, especially if blue is your thing.blue phase And if blue isn’t your think, there’s a pretty sweet dark version of the CORE. They call it Gray/Green/Black, but it’s so much more. A dark shoe, not black with a splash of color. Humble and quiet spoken, but shouting at the same time.gray core And then of course is my favorite. The digital camo FORM. Dark, but not too dark, and a bright red sole. Something about that colored sole just does it for me. I mean, how can it not?form
Now the question becomes, which one to get first…

The Forethought: VT100 Part I

This is Part I. Part II can be found here. Part III is here.

In The Beginning

A few months ago I decided to sign up for the VT100. At the time, I hadn’t yet run my first 50 miler but with some running background, I thought it would be a good idea. April came and I ran my first 50. My legs hurt and recovery took a little longer than anticipated, but part of me was still excited for my first go at 100 miles. Soon enough, July 19th came and my first attempt at a 100 was underway.

Of the many things I remember from racing – be it true or not – is that the sleep you get two nights before a race is more important than the night before. I tried, and I think I did a fairly decent job getting in bed early and racking up a decent eight hours or so of sleep. The night before the race was a totally different story for a number of reasons.

Leading In

On Wednesday my father came out to help me put siding on our house. Over the last year we have connected two shed dormers and raised the roof line on our house; the siding was the final step. Consequently, the three days prior to the race were predominately devoted to finishing the house and not preparing for Saturday. All my final packing, planning, making food, got put on hold until Friday night. Friday itself was spent trying to register and finish the siding.

I showed up to registration, got my packet and weighed in – 156.6 pounds and a blood

The tents on Silver Hill.

The tents on Silver Hill.

pressure of 137/78 (whatever that means) – I moseyed over to register my vehicle on foot and was told that I actually needed the vehicle to register it. Oops. I figured knowing the license plate would be good enough. Wrong. Not a big deal, it just meant that I’d get home, and come back to register the car before the 4:00 PM meeting. Unfortunately, what is normally a 10 minute drive was more like 20 with all the local road closures to VT100 traffic – thank you cranky neighbors… So instead of having a few minutes before the meeting and after the siding was completed to get my stuff together, it meant I was going to do it after the meeting, which meant after dinner, which meant after my wife got home, and more than likely meant after the kids got to bed around 8:00PM.

The Strategy

To say that I had no strategy for this race would be a lie, but to say I had any realistic idea about strategy would also be a lie. The previous 50 miler I ran was on similar roads – though no trails – and I managed to run that just under seven hours. I knew that to try and run an equally fast opening 50 would be stupid and that I should go out conservatively, but as to what conservative was, I had little idea. I knew I could run ten-minute miles for the first 50 fairly easily and probably roll through the 100k at the same pace. It sounded manageable; I was sure I would blow up, so the idea in my head was to push that out as close to the end as I could. The problem was that ten-minute miles means an 8:20 50 mile, or a 16:40 100 mile, or in other words, way too fast. Regardless, anything faster than 10:00 was not on my agenda.

One of the big dilemmas I was having concerning building a strategy was the idea of a DNF. I’ve had a couple of DNS’es thanks to over zealous race choices and a bit of a drinking problem, but I’ve never DNF’ed. Dabbling in the ultra world, I’ve come to grips that a DNF will eventually occur, but I’m not ready yet. Running my first 50 I knew I would finish. I was confident in my conditioning and ability to push through, sure 50 miles is far, but it’s not that far, even if I had to walk it in for a 15 hour finish. A hundred miles was a whole different beast. The idea of not finishing was an actual reality, especially if I went out too fast.

In the end, I ended up writing down a number of aid stations on a piece of paper with different arrival times based on pace. Ideally, I would go through the first 50 no faster than 8:20 and just hang on for as long as I could and hope that could get me back to Silver Hill of my own volition.

The Crew

Yes, I affixed a deer skull to the grill of my Man-Van. Just for the race, mind you.

Yes, I affixed a deer skull to the grill of my Man-Van. Just for the race, mind you.

For me, one of the most stressful things about this whole thing was organizing my one person crew. I managed to rope my brother into driving around all day and helping me out. I first planned to meet him at the Stage Road station about 30 miles in. I could estimate a ball park as to when he should plan on being there, and even estimate times for the next two or three handler stations, but after that, I had no clue. It would be a waiting game on his part. A time to kill some forced boredom. Even when I could tell him where to be and when, I had no idea what to tell him to be ready to do. I gave him a laundry basket stocked with things I might need: extra shirt, shoes, sun hat, band-aids, food, drink, even a camera if he should decide to capture a sliver of what I was attempting on some sort of digital film. In the end, I think a couple of drop bags could have replaced my crew as I didn’t use him much at all. And I’m willing to guess drop bags are probably cheaper and come with less guilt.

So It Begins

All my stuff: SKORA Fit, Orange Mud Vest Pack, Generic white shirt, camo bandana, and of course, the mandatory 'poop' bag just in-case (these were provided by the race due to previous participants unrully poo habits...).

All my stuff: SKORA Fit, Orange Mud Vest Pack, Generic white shirt, camo bandana, and of course, the mandatory ‘poop’ bag just in-case (these were provided by the race due to previous participants unrully poo habits…).

I set the alarm on my phone for 2:45AM, enough time to perk a cup of coffee, grab a quick shower and get to West Windsor by 3:30AM. Between the hourly, startled wake-ups searching for the cell phone to reinsure me I hadn’t slept past the 4:00AM start, and the cranky toddler who kept waking up proclaiming to all that she was apparently dieing of thirst, my potential 6 hours of sleep turned into something less.

The drive to the start was less than memorable and I ended up parking in the far lot and walking down Silver Hill in a strung out crowd of strangers, all moving towards the din emanating from the giant white tent below. There were like minded runners, with tired faces, emotions still asleep, chipper crew members  in their street clothes downing their coffee and laughing at inside jokes, and sleeping babies resting on mother’s shoulders, completely unaware of what their parent was about to embark upon.

Despite the headlamp induced, shadowed faces surrounding me, I recognized a few people I knew, and as we congregated 30 yards behind the starting line, the conversation turned to everything but what we were about to do. Eventually the starter began talking and everyone’s focus began to shift.

Post-Partum: VT100 Part III