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

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!

Rain, Mud and Fog

Pre-Race

This past Saturday night, I had made the decision to travel down to Amherst, NH for the Joe English 6 Hour Twilight challenge. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the drive home. It was going to be late; I was going to be alone; I was going to be zonked. Thankfully, at the last minute, I found two local runners – one that I knew previously, and the other I met that day – who were also going. That meant I didn’t have to drive and could get to know some more local running people.

Thankfully, it didn't rain that much.

Thankfully, it didn’t rain that much.

Going down, it poured. The forecast called for rain – all night. In fact, one forecast called for a quarter of an inch of rain. That’s a lot of rain. My main concern wasn’t so much the mud, or the rain, but the temperature. Being constantly wet for six hours when it’s 50 degrees means you’re going to be cold, even if you’re running, you’ll be cold. Thankfully, the temperature didn’t drop that much and the rain only really came down for an hour or two block in the beginning.

I went into things not really having a ‘goal’. Sure, 40 miles would be nice, but training since VT100 had been poor at best. Most of it was just recovery 20-30 mile weeks with an 8.25 mile long run. My Achilles was still not 100%, but had been healing, and I was ready to ease up at a moments notice with thoughts of future races. Of course, tendonitis being what it is, it didn’t hurt until I stopped and then it started to stiffen up a bit.

The Course

The loop was a 2.62 mile loop. There was a turn around a quarter of a lap in to pick up a half loop at the end, time permitting. It wasn’t your typical single track mountain trail, but it was reminiscent of a groomed high school cross country trail. It is a horse trail and is a minimum twelve feet wide at all times. Some if it is gravel and dirt, some of it grass. Some of it is under tree cover, and some if it in open fields.

Drop bag. Easy access at all times.

Drop bag. Easy access at all times.

It started out quite nice, but as you can imagine a dirt trail with a number of runners running loops in the rain gets pretty sloppy, and it didn’t take too long before some of the steeper declines became slip and slides. By the end, even the herd paths through the grass had to be avoided.

The Race

Having never run a timed event before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my mindset went something like this: “Go out comfortable until you can’t, then just keep moving forward. There’s no distance to be covered, just time to be eaten, move forward.” And so I went out and just ran. My splits were fairly consistent for the first six laps, and then slowly started to deteriorate.

Lap Time Pace
1 20:55 7:59
2 21:15 8:06
3 20:24 7:47
4 20:34 7:50
5 20:33 7:50
6 20:35 7:51
7 21:19 8:08
8 21:10 8:04
9 22:17 8:30
10 23:02 8:47
11 24:04 9:11
12 24:26 9:19
13 26:56 10:16
14 27:31 10:30
15 28:02 10:41
15.5 10:54 8:19

Things started to fall off around the tenth lap – about three hours in, just before I hit the marathon mark. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but there are a variety of things that I can and will blame. Starting with the thing out of my control:

The Weather

Two things here – firstly the course was getting sloppy and shoes were getting wet. Gravel had entered shoes at this point and was getting uncomfy. The rain and mud made things an uncertainty so running down the hills took a bit of precaution. Secondly, the fog. Sometime in there the fog became super dense and there was a bit of a mist. If you’ve ever driven in the fog you know that the reflection off the fog can reduce your visibility pretty good. Well, the same holds true for runners. I’d be willing to guess – no exaggeration – that visibility was 20-30 feet for a while, at points even less. There was no cruising, lots of slowing down around turns to make sure you were following the flags.

Decided to go with my FIT. Excellent choice.

Decided to go with my FIT. Excellent choice.

And now for the real reasons:

Food

Being the genius that I am, I left packing until the last minute. In doing so, I managed to forget my sweet potato mix at home which meant, I had no food. Around two hours in, I realized I needed to start eating and grabbed a couple of Nilla Waffers off of the aid station. The next lap in, I realized I couldn’t make it on cookies and grabbed a couple of Cliff Gels. Over the next hour, I consumed the gels and started to feel kind of gross. Not crampy or anything to really stop me from running, but my guts just weren’t happy. I asked one of the volunteers for a burger and they kindly obliged, so I ran the last 2.5 hours of the race with my Orange Mud Handheld in one hand and a burger in the other. Not an ideal source of calories, but it worked – to some degree.

Mindset

I was awake for the start, but as the day wore on, waking up at 6:00 AM was finally catching up to me. My body felt okay, but mentally I started to drift. I lost track of laps and just kept going forwards and that was good enough. My legs were feeling fine, but my back was sore and the head lamp and fog was really starting to give me some tunnel vision. I won’t say I threw in the towel, but I wasn’t really hell bent on pushing it either. If you look at the pace of my last half lap, you’ll see that I had plenty of gas left in the tank and probably should have been pushing a bit harder. Had I shaved a couple of minutes off my last two laps, I might have been able to eek out a full 16 laps instead of 15.5.

In the end, I can blame it on some extraneous variables, but it was really the head that broke on this one.

The Final Hour

Coming into the final hour I had lost count of laps and asked on the way in how many laps I was on. They told me and off I went. While I’m not the world’s greatest mathematician, I quickly tried to do some mental gymnastics to figure out how many laps I needed to hit that magical 40 number. No matter how many times I did it, I feel tragically short. There was no way I was going to hit 40 so what was the point in pushing on? (Not my everyday mindset, but the mindset I was in at that given moment.) As I ran I slowed down and tried to think about how many laps I could get done in the allotted time. There was no way I could do three, so I slowed down and planned on doing 2.5. In the end, I probably could have picked the pace up a bit and nipped three laps. I guess this is where a crew of some sort might come in handy. It’s hard to think sometimes…

Coming into the barn off my final full lap, I looked at my watch and saw I had sixteen minutes left. Through out the race I used the 1/4 turn around as a point to check my time. I’d been making it to the turn around the last two laps in around seven minutes. If I hustled, I could pick up another mile plus. I tossed my burger and handheld to the side and headed out of the barn. Knowing I was close to the end and having that deadline in front of my nose pushed me on. There was no more I had to do, when I got back, I could be done, so I pushed. I guess you could call it a kick, though kicks are generally associated with speed. There was no speed in this. I finished and was glad it was over. I wasn’t totally trashed as expected, and after chatting with my carmates, and checking the splits on my watch, I realized I had run 15.5 laps, and not 14.5. I had cracked 40, and with that I was stoked.

Pros of the Timed Event

Being my first timed event, I figured why not share what I liked and didn’t. One of the big pluses with a loop is the familiarity you can gain with said loop. After the first two or three times through, you know the tangents, you know when big hill is coming, or where the rock hiding in the grass ready to send you sprawling is waiting. It’s also quite helpful to never be far from an aid station or your stuff. It means you can carry less, and if you forget something, you don’t have to hold on long before you can get to it.

People. I’m not always a big fan of people. I like my quiet. I like my solitude, but people also give you something to chase. On a loop course, there’s always carrots, always someone in front of you ready to be hunted down. It also means that you can chat it up and meet people when you want/need and breaks up some of the monotony.

Cons of the Timed Event

In crummy weather conditions a wet loop can get beat up pretty bad.

Yeah, that’s about it. I really liked this loop.

Misc.

I’d also say that as a first year event, this thing rocked. It’s one I’ll probably do again, and one I’d suggest to others. It’s cheap. It’s an excellent setup. The people who put it on were some of the most helpful and pleasant I’ve met.

Results

Full Results

Full Results

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…

Not Vermont

Get'em while you can!

Get’em while you can!

But it might suit your fancy. While I’m still working on my VT Part II post, I figured I’d fill in the time by mentiong that SKORA is having a massive sale. By massive I mean 40-70% off almost everything. It’s a clearance sale, so sizes might be limited, but there’s a lot of shoes there with a good number of sizes. Also, I bet you didn’t know this, because SKORA uses the same platform for their shoes, they’re essentially unisex. The fit is the same from men’s to women’s, the only difference is the size which is offset by 1.5 sizes. So if you’re a dude in a 9, you could also wear a women’s 10.5. Or if you’re a lady with a size 12 you could jump down to men’s 10.5. There are some gender neutral colorways, so give it a shot.

Reviews:

SKORA Fit

SKORA Core
SKORA Phase