Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quote of the day

"All composite things are impermanent and a source of suffering. All
phenomena is not self." -the Buddha

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Running around the USNA in Annapolis

I'm in Annapolis for some training this week and I had a nice run around the U.S. Naval Academy. Here is the RunKeeper page complete with some nice pictures around the campus.

Monday, February 20, 2012

RunAmocs Across the Sky

RunAmocs Across the Sky: One of the first e-mails I sent after signing up for Leadville was to Soft Star. I had a favor to ask … and I thought I knew what the answer would be, but for reasons I’ll explain shortly, I wasn’t 100% certain.

Last year, I hemmed and hawed and postponed making a decision about what footwear to use for my 100-mile trail run until virtually the last possible moment. This year, it’s one of the easiest decisions I’ve made; I want to run Leadville in Soft Star RunAmocs.

It’s only fitting to do the Race Across the Sky in a pair of minimalist shoes; after all, in many ways Leadville can be considered Ground Zero for the whole minimalist revolution. As chronicled in Born to Run, the Tarahumara dominated the race in the early 1990s wearing nothing more than old-school huarache sandals. An executive named Tony Post was at the 1994 race representing Rockport shoes, attempting an ill-fated sponsorship deal with the Tarahumara. That project fell through, but Post’s experience would ultimately lead to his joining a little company called Vibram, and eventually becoming its United States CEO.

Barefoot Ted at Leadville 2010; photo from Ted's website

Fast forward to the modern era, where Barefoot Ted McDonald – who figured prominently in the Born to Run story – debuted Vibram’s FiveFingers KSO Trek at the Leadville 100 in 2009. The following year he ran large portions of the course completely barefoot, and when he used footwear, it was his homemade Luna sandals. (He now markets Luna sandals to the public, and I have a pair I’m testing for review this spring.) One of his pacers was none other than Born to Run author Christopher McDougall, who wore his own pair of Lunas for his entire 4-hour night shift on the trails. Last summer Barefoot Ted and his pacers all completed the race again in Lunas.

Leadville is also the favorite proving ground of one Anton Krupicka, an ultrarunner of distinction who is known for his blazing speed and his minimalist lifestyle. He also has a longstanding habit of carving and slicing his running shoes until the platform is flattened and every ounce of unnecessary material is eliminated. Krupicka (as well as a roster of ultra studs) recently joined forces with New Balance, resulting in the most impressive lineup of reduced and minimalist high-performance trail shoes on the market today. (Before you ask: yes, I have the Minimus Trail Zero, and a review is coming soon.)

Leadville champion Anton Krupicka: minimalist style, maximal performance; photo from Leadville race website

The point of all this is to say that unlike some other ultras, showing up at Leadville in minimalist footwear isn’t going to strike anyone as particularly unusual. But it’s one thing for Anton Krupicka, Barefoot Ted, and the legendary Tarahumara to demonstrate that less is more … and completely another for some idiot from California to try doing the same. I have a few 100-milers under my belt, but I’m by no means an expert at this distance. I don’t have any experience at high altitude, and my prospects of getting any before race day are exceedingly slim. In other words, there’s a very real possibility that the whole thing could end badly.

That’s why I decided to e-mail Soft Star and run the sponsorship idea by them again. I figured that if I somehow ended up battered, broken, and passed out on a mountain trail somewhere, it wouldn’t exactly be a soaring endorsement of the company whose gear and logo I was wearing at the time of my demise.

But as I said at the top, I had a feeling about what their answer would be. Part of the Chief Elf’s reply to me went something like this: Leadville?!! That is a really exciting goal – it sounds just … well … COOL. And CRAZY. And if you want to run in RunAmocs, we would be honored to sponsor you.

Tahoe Rim Trail, summer 2011

So with that, Team Soft Star rides again in 2012! And if I manage to make it to the finish line in Leadville this August, it will be a privilege to add one more footnote to the ongoing saga of minimalist runners at one of the most challenging courses in the world. Between now and then, I’ve got a lot of training miles ahead of me – so if you happen to encounter a crazy-looking dude running down some remote trail in moccasins and a Soft Star shirt this spring or summer, feel free to say hi.

One more note on Soft Star: effective tonight, they have a brand new website for your shopping enjoyment. It has a cleaner, more modern look to it, and is supposed to be faster to navigate. There are also some cool features like shoe comparisons (especially with their collection of RunAmocs), an easier Design Your Own interface (many Soft Star customers get pretty creative with colors), and lots of product details for every model.

The only bad news was that I had to re-do all of my links to their product pages – so please make it worth my while by heading over to the new Soft Star website to take a look around.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chuckanut 50km - spots still available!

Chuckanut 50km - spots still available!:

I am super excited for my first real race of the year which will be Chuckanut 50km in Bellingham, WA on March 17th. I've got the Frozen Ass 50km in Calgary this coming Monday but that is a low key, local race that I just do for some fun training, a bit of company and great to catch up with some Calgary area runners.

It will be my 4th year racing Chuckanut this year, I just can't keep away and like TNF 50 in Marin Headlands is the ultra wrap up on the year I always feel like Chuckanut is the race to start a new year. Krissy Moehl and Ellen Parker put on an awesome event with lots of attention to detail, a great course, good post race food and cool draw prizes etc. At a bargain race entry fee too. It's a race for everyone too - a great first ultra as the course is not tootough, but that means the added challenge of pushing the speed for 50km (which Geoff Roes certainly did last year with a CR of 3h41!) if you can.

Anyway, this year the first 500 spots sold out in 3 hours but recently another bunch of spots opened up as Krissy and Ellen secured race permits for a higher capacity. So, there is still a few weeks to extend your runs and be ready for March 17th. Sign up at www.ultrasignup.com!
Happy trails

Jenn Shelton, myself and Darcy Africa heading out on the interurban trail at start of Chuckanut 2011. Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Muir Project Trailer; Running Water Book Review and Giveaway

Muir Project Trailer; Running Water Book Review and Giveaway: Sure, the calendar says it’s winter, but it’s never a bad time to start thinking abut epic outdoor adventures for long sunny days ahead. On that note, today’s post offers two glimpses of the adventurous life – and in both cases, you have an opportunity to enjoy the stories in more detail for yourself at some point.

A couple of months ago I embedded a trailer called “Almost There” by The Muir Project, which was a teaser for an upcoming feature-length documentary about a group of artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers who spent 25 days hiking 230 miles on the John Muir Trail. The clip managed to capture both the chill vibe of going off the grid for an extended period of time, as well as the epic beauty of the trail.

Their film now has an official name: Mile … Mile and A Half, and is currently in the finishing stages of editing. The filmmakers are looking to secure final funding, and have completed an official trailer to generate increased awareness of the project. The trailer follows below, and you can contact The Muir Project website to contribute and help the project get completed.

“Mile … Mile and a Half Official Trailer” by The Muir Project (click to play):

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

- John 7:38 (New International Version)

This next outdoor adventure has a very similar premise to another I recently reviewed: it’s the story of a guy who runs across America.

However, the manner of Abraham Louis Clark’s journey is about as fundamentally different than Marshall Ulrich’s as you can imagine. Abe didn’t have a support staff or film crew to keep him company, and didn’t have an RV for shelter and comfort (a relative term in this case, but you get the idea) along the way.

Abe and Ruby on the Atlantic coast

Instead, Abe took the solo approach, and in 2010 became just the 15th person to run across America alone and unsupported. His only companion was an amazingly durable running stroller named Ruby, although he did utilize the support of others at various points along the way to replenish his food supplies and borrow an occasional warm bed or hot shower.

He also had a higher purpose in mind, as described in his book Running Water: his intent was to raise money for Living Water International to support its relief efforts in the earthquake-ravaged nation of Haiti. Abe describes himself as a “Christian-focused endurance adventure athlete”, whose mission is to take on epic adventures that will “inspire people to dream more, give more, and be more.” As an encore to his cross-country run, in 2011 Abe led a group on a 9,200-mile bicycle tour circling the lower 48 states that raised $30,000 for the creation of wells in Ethiopia.

Two epic adventures

By the end of his solo run, Abe raised nearly $90,000 for Living Water International, and Running Water is a detailed account of Abe’s remarkable journey from nervously dipping his feet in the Pacific Ocean to joyously splashing in the Atlantic roughly four months later. Along the way, he demonstrated a somewhat contradictory combination of extreme self-reliance and extensive community outreach.

On most nights, Abe slung his tent hammock anyplace he could find a secluded patch of real estate. His exploits in finding a warm dry place to sleep often border on the heartbreaking, such as when he was rousted in the middle of the night by a policeman so that he’d move his setup about 20 feet, or when he was turned away at the door of a church by a pastor who told him, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do for you.” (Seriously.) One of the most dramatic moments happens fairly early in the trek, when Abe is forced to dig himself a snow cave to wait out a long cold night in the Rockies.

However, in various small towns along the way Abe had set up host families who took him in for a night or two, and in those situations he shared his vision and objective with anyone who would listen. He booked guest spots on radio shows, spoke to school children, and visited church groups to spread the word about Living Water International and solicit donations. (If you’re wondering, whenever he was picked up off the road, he returned to the exact same spot before resuming his run – in many cases being driven in the opposite direction he needed to be heading.)

Running Water reads like a series of journal entries from nights spent along the road, which in essence it really is. It’s a self-published work, so you’ll find the occasional typo or odd grammatical arrangement – which will be a bigger issue to some (guilty!) than to others. I found that the story frequently gets too bogged down in details – what shoes he was wearing, how his stomach and bowels were functioning, what supplies he stocked up on - while too rarely describing the larger significance of the effort.

Living Water International is certainly a worthy organization, but Abe never really describes exactly how that organization or the plight of Haiti in particular weighed upon his heart. It’s unclear if he had some prior involvement with the organization, or some other personal experience that shaped his vision, and there’s very little discussion of the actual impact that water restoration will have on the impoverished community. I found myself wanting to sit in on one of his presentations to a church group so I could hear more details about the missionary aspect of his endeavor.

Another frustration I have is that the book is chock full of photos taken along the way, but they’re all black and white, and the quality is so bad at times that it’s hard to see what’s being described in the caption. Many of the scenes such as sweeping vistas, open landscapes, or characters he met would lend themselves very well to sharp color prints, but the shots in the book don’t do them nearly enough justice.

I guess my overall reaction is that Abe’s story deserves to be told in a bigger, grander way – but Running Water is still a fairly compelling account of a remarkable adventure that supported a noble cause. The book is available for $15 from Amazon.com, and Abe has graciously agreed to provide a signed copy to one reader of my website. Leave a comment below this post to enter, and I’ll announce the winner this Saturday night. Good luck to everybody, and thanks very much to Abe Louis Clark for sponsoring this contest.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Running Terms (taken from the ValleyForgeStriders)
  • 10-K pace
    • 10-K pace, when used in a workout to describe how fast to run, is simply the pace of a runner's last 10-K race.
  • 5-K/8-K/10-K
    • K is for kilometers, 1,000 meters. A 5-K is equal to 3.1 miles; 8-K is 4.96 miles; 10-K is equal to 6.2 miles.
  • 400 meters
    • Equivalent to a quarter mile or 1 lap around a standard track.
  • 800 meters
    • Equivalent to a half-mile or 2 laps around a standard track.
  • aerobic
    • Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that's sufficiently easy for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and slow enough that lactic acid doesn't appreciably build up in your muscles. Generally, you can sustain a slow aerobic pace for long periods of time, provided you have the endurance to go long distances.
  • anaerobic
    • Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that makes it impossible for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and fast enough that lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, thus producing a tired, heavy feeling. The pace associated with anaerobic running cannot be sustained very long.
  • anaerobic threshold (AT)
    • The transition phase between aerobic and anaerobic running. Good training will increase AT by teaching the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently, so that less lactic acid is produced. Also known as "lactate threshold."
  • bonk
    • See "hitting the wall."
  • chip time
    • Finish time, as measured by a computer chip that's usually worn on the shoe.
  • cool-down
    • Slow running or jogging done after a workout or competition to loosen muscles and rid the body of lactic acid.
  • CR
    • Course record.
  • cushioning (or shock absorption)
    • The ability of a shoe to absorb the impact of footstrike.
  • DNF
    • Did not finish.
  • DNS
    • Did not start.
  • DOMS
    • Delayed onset muscle soreness. This type of muscle soreness normally peaks about 48 hours after a particularly intense or long run.
  • elite runner
    • An athlete who has reached the highest level in his/her sport.
  • fartlek
    • Swedish for "speed play;" variable pace running; a mixture of slow running, running at a moderate pace and short, fast bursts. Fartlek training is a "creative way" to increase speed and endurance.
  • "hitting the wall"
    • The dreaded point (and awful feeling similar to what your body would feel like if you ran into a wall) during a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you.
  • intervals
    • Training in which short, fast "repeats" or "repetitions" often 200 to 800 meters, are alternated with slow "intervals" of jogging for recovery; usually based on a rigid format such as "six times 400 meters fast [these are the repeats] with 400-meter recovery jogs [the intervals]," interval training builds speed and endurance.
  • junior
    • According to the IAAF, a junior is any athlete who is under 20 on December 31 of that year. For example, an athlete whose birthday is November 12, 1979 will be a junior in 1998 but not in 1999.
  • junk miles
    • Runs at an easy pace inserted into a program in order to reach a weekly or monthly mileage total rather than for any specific benefit. Despite the name, "junk miles" often serve as recovery from harder workouts. The value of "junk miles" is still hotly debated among training theorists.
  • lactic acid
    • A substance which forms in the muscles as a result of the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Lactic acid is associated with muscle fatigue and sore muscles.
  • lactate threshold
    • See "anaerobic threshold."
  • last
    • A shaped piece of wood or metal on which the shoe is built. The shape of the last determines the shape of the shoe. Shoes are made in three basic shapes: straight, curved and semi-curved, but all three shapes vary from company to company as each company has its own lasts.
  • lateral
    • Refers to the outer edge of a shoe.
  • LSD
    • LSD is an abbreviation for "Long, Slow Distance," which refers to the practice of running longer distances at an "easy" pace rather than shorter ones to exhaustion. The slower pace allows the runner to go longer and, therefore (supposedly), gain more fitness.
  • Marathon
    • 26.2 miles; According to legend, in 490 B.C., a Greek soldier name Philippides ran the distance from the site of the battle of Marathon to Athens, where he died after the Greek victory over the Persians.
  • Master
    • An athlete 40 years of age or older is designated a "master" in the U.S. Many other countries use the term "veteran."
  • maximum heart rate
    • The highest heart-rate reached during a specified period of time.
  • medial
    • Referring to the inner side (or arch side) of a shoe.
  • "metric mile"
    • 1500m, the international racing distance closest to the imperial mile.
  • midsole
    • The area of the shoe between the upper and outsole that's primarily responsible for the shoe's cushioning. Most midsoles are made of foams: either EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or polyurethane. EVA is lighter and more flexible than polyurethane, but it also breaks down more quickly. Many midsoles also have additional cushioning elements such as air, gel and various embedded plastic units.
  • mile
    • 1609 meters, 5280 feet, or 1760 yards. Note: 1600m is not a mile.
  • motion control
    • The ability of a shoe to limit overpronation.
  • negative splits
    • Running the second half of a race faster than the first half.
  • NR
    • National record.
  • outsole
    • The material, usually made of hard carbon rubber, on the bottom of most running shoes; the layer of the shoe that contacts the ground.
  • overpronation
    • The excessive inward roll of the foot before toe-off. Overpronation is believed to be the cause of many running injuries.
  • pick-ups
    • Accelerations done during a run, normally done in shorter durations than fartleks. Pick-ups are simply another way to spice up what would otherwise be an easy-run day.
  • plyometrics
    • Bounding exercises; any jumping exercise in which landing followed by a jump occurs.
  • post (or medial post)
    • Firmer density of midsole material added to the inner side of the shoe. A post is designed to reduce overpronation.
  • prep
    • In the U.S., a high school athlete. From the term "preparatory school," a school for preparing for college. Slightly different from the IAAF definition of "Junior."
  • pronation
    • Pronation begins immediately after the heel contacts the ground. It is a normal and necessary motion for walking or running. Pronation is the distinctive, inward roll of the foot as the arch collapses.
  • PR/PB
    • Personal record/personal best.
  • repeats
    • See "intervals."
  • ride
    • The ability of a shoe to provide a smooth transfer of a runner's weight from heel-strike to toe-off. Ride is a largely subjective quality, but shoe wearers know it when a shoe has or lacks a good ride.
  • runner's high
    • A feeling, usually unexpected, of exhilaration and well-being directly associated with vigorous running; apparently related to the secretion of endorphins.
  • running economy
    • Refers to how much oxygen you use when you run. When you improve your economy, you are able to run at a smaller percentage of max VO2 (your maximum rate of oxygen utilization).
  • splits
    • Refers to your times at mile markers or other pre-planned checkpoints along the way to the finish line.
  • stability
    • The ability of a shoe to resist excessive foot motion
  • strides
    • Short, fast, but controlled runs of 50 to 150 meters. Strides, which are used both in training and to warm up before a race, build speed and efficiency.
  • supination
    • The opposite of pronation. It's an outward rolling of the forefoot that naturally occurs during the stride cycle at toe-off. Oversupination occurs when the foot remains on its outside edge after heel strike instead of pronating. A true oversupinating foot underpronates or does not pronate at all, so it doesn't absorb shock well. It is a rare condition occurring in less than 1 percent of the running population.
  • taper
    • Runners usually cut back mileage (or taper) one day to three weeks (depending on race distance) before a big race. Tapering helps muscles rest so that they are ready for peak performance on race day.
  • target heart rate
    • A range of heart rate reached during aerobic training, which enables an athlete to gain maximum benefit.
  • tempo runs
    • Sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 30 minutes in length, at 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace. Another way to gauge the pace of tempo runs: a pace about midway between short-interval training speed and your easy running pace.
  • threshold runs
    • Runs of 5 to 20 minutes at a pace just a little slower than your 10-K racing pace; Threshold pace is roughly equivalent to what exercise physiologists call "lactate threshold," or the point at which your muscles start fatiguing at a rapid rate. Running at or near lactate threshold is believed to raise your lactate threshold, which should allow you to run faster in the future.
  • toebox
    • The front portion of a shoe's upper. A wide toebox allows plenty of room for the toes to spread.
  • underpronator
    • Underpronation is less common than overpronation. The shoes of underpronators show outsole wear on the lateral (outer) side not just at the heel but all the way up to the forefoot. Typically, underpronators tend to break down the heel counters of their shoes on the lateral side.
  • upper
    • The leather or mesh material that encloses the foot.
  • veteran
    • International term similar to "master" in the U.S. According to the IAAF, men become "veterans" on their 40th birthday; women, on their 35th birthday.
  • VO2Max (maximal oxygen consumption)
    • The maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the atmosphere and then transport and use in the body's tissues.
  • wall
    • See "hitting the wall."
  • warm-up
    • Five to twenty minutes of easy jogging/walking before a race or a workout. The point of a warm-up is to raise one's heart rate so the body (and its muscles) are looser before a tough workout begins.
  • "world best"
    • A recorded best time for an event in which formal world records are not kept. For instance, the fastest time at 150m, a non-standard distance, is a "world best" rather than a "world record." Similar distinctions are made for road races which do not meet certain standards, such as races with excessive amounts of downhill.
  • WR
    • World record.

The White Horse rides to the rescue

The White Horse rides to the rescue:
Caballo is going to head-butt me for that headline, so please note that i’m risking his wrath to capture your attention. The New York Times looked into famine conditions in the Copper Canyons, and their findings are almost identical to what Caballo told me two weeks ago: the mass suicide tales are bogus, but the hardship is all too real.

One bright moment in the coming weeks is the annual running of Caballo’s Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, the race that’s featured in Born to Run. How Caballo pulls it together every year is an absolute mystery. This year, the race is totally full: hundreds of Tarahumara and 80 runners from outside the canyons (including Barefoot Ted) will be gathering on Sunday, March 4, for 51 miles of bad-ass backcountry trailrunning.

Not only is Caballo giving away hundreds of pounds of corn as prizes, but he’s also digging deep to provide corn to Tarahumara villages in advance of the race. If you’d like to help an honest man who gives every cent directly to the people who need it, check out Caballo’s “Norawas” operation.