Thursday, April 26, 2012

Daily Quote

Thinking of yourself will always result in suffering. Only compassion for others will bring relief from suffering.

Post race food

Ultragen by First Endurance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Free State Trail Marathon Report

First of all, here are the results.

What a great day for a marathon. The weather couldn't have been better. It was a cool 40 degrees at the start and stayed partly cloudy and about 60 degrees all morning. The course was dry (but rocky as I found out multiple times).

We started with an out and back loop which I didn't like at first but later realized it was a good thing.  The two quick out-and-back loops provided a nice break in the atmosphere and almost made it feel like two different courses. By the time we hit the "real" trail, we were 6 miles into the course.

A few miles down the trail I found a nice rock at the top of a ledge the hard way. I had just asked a friend for the time and I was mentally calculating things in my head and kicked it rather hard.  I did a "superman" off the ledge and landed in a heap.  With both knees bleeding, an elbow and hand cut up, I managed to get to my feet. At that point I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to continue. It was easily the hardest I'd ever fallen on the trail. This was no simple face-plant. I was sailing through the air at one point. I'm a fairly regular trail runner and I can say one things for sure. There is no moment in a trail run that is more terrifying than the point right after you stumble when you know, without a doubt, that you are going to fall.  I stumble 2-3 times per run but rarely fall.  This time, I knew from the moment I kicked that rock, that I was going to be bleeding in a matter of seconds.

After the embarrassment wore off, I pulled myself up and brushed myself off with the help of the gathering crowd.  The embarrassment suffered during the first few miles of a trail run can be overwhelming. If you are alone, you just look around and thank the trail gods that nobody saw. If you are in a group, you just want to distance yourself from the situation as quickly as possible hoping the people will forget who fell.  A friend generously offered me a band-aid but I turned her down with a quick negation of damage and urged us back onto the trail.  

Just a few miles more and we were on the lovely (hrmpf) red trail along the shoreline.  This is the highlight of the Shoreline Shuffle, a 5k trail run coming up here in May. But I must say it should have been avoided on this particular course. There is a parallel trail just up the shoreline that offers the same distance but a much less dangerous trail.  The red route is just a rocky mess.  Sure it is very scenic if you are brave enough to take your eyes off the trail.  If you do take your eyes from the trail be ready for a nasty spill. There are sharp rocks and jagged ledges for a half mile or more.

At the end of the red trail there is a small switchback up to the first "manned" aid station at Lands End. This is also the halfway point of the marathon.  I felt great at this point and was a bit surprised at the time and distance already traveled.  Not only were we half done, but the rest of the race would be done in familiar territory. I have been regularly running this half of the Clinton Lake trails for the past couple years.  The aid station was run by the Trail Nerds who are the main sponsors of the race.  They are a very experienced group of runners who know how to do an aid station.  The race being a combination of ultra/marathon may have contributed to the abundance of supplies, but it was a regular smorgasbord of runner's food and drink, along with various medicinal supplies for the ailing trail runner. We quickly refilled bottles and grabbed a snack before heading out on the way to the Corps of Engineers lot a few miles up the trail.

The next few miles are the "blue" trail.  I was planning on using this portion of the trail as my meat and potatoes portion of the run.  I knew it fairly well and it is a rather flat and easy section of the trail.  I knew I could push myself and not worry too much about stumbling or falling. I took advantage of this but probably pushed too hard.  I guess under different circumstances I wouldn't have done this and wouldn't have been quite so done by the end of the day.  I knew the return portion of the loop would be on the "white" trail and much more challenging. So, I had to make some time.

By the time I was approaching the Corps of Engineers lot I had pushed away from my friend and was alone on the trail. It seemed every time I decided to slow down and coast along I would see someone up ahead and feel the "need" to catch them.  About a mile out from the CoE trail-head we took an unexpected detour out onto the road. The route pushed up the road a small way and then to the grass and over to the CoE lot. It avoided a more crowded section of the trail but cut a couple miles out of the route that I had calculated in my head. 

I also managed to catch and pass my "white rabbit" that I had picked out at the beginning of the race.  This is something I like to do in any race.  I pick an eager, overzealous, ambitious, motivated, excessively enthusiastic runner who bolts out of the gate to an early lead. I track them through the race and hopefully pass them before it's too late and finish ahead of them.  I imagine I'm not the only one who plays this little game but it keeps you motivated and watching ahead of you for signs of your prey.  In this race it was a young kid in fancy running gear who was obviously biting off more than he could chew.  I was slightly surprised that he finished when he did; just a few minutes behind me.

I only filled my bottle at the CoE station. Nothing looked really good on the table and I had just had a Stinger waffle on the trail before arriving. So I breezed through and picked up a few minutes starting with a new group of runners for the return trip. I knew this portion of the trail pretty well. I knew it was fairly technical and that I'd have to slow down and take it easy or I could easily fall. Falling at this portion of the race could easily mean a pulled muscle and possibly not finishing at all.  I knew it would be hard but I had to keep control and not try to go too fast.

When we reached Lands End again I was feeling fine. I had eaten another Stinger waffle just before arriving so again, I pushed through with just a refill. Something I didn't really need given there were just three miles to the finish. Three LONG miles.

I felt fine approaching Lands End but leaving my knees felt like giant knots of swollen tissue and bone.  I really wish I hadn't pushed so hard up to that point. I was hoping to finish feeling like I could keep going. But at this point I was shuffling along so slowly that I could have been power-walking.  This down-hills were killing my knees.  I was surprised that going up-hill felt better.  I was catching people on the up-hill only to give it back while creeping down the other side.  This was also a portion of the trail I had never run on.  I was fully expecting to be done much closer to Lands End. When I saw there were three more miles, I was a little shocked.  This is where the two miles chopped off the Corps of Engineers loop came back to haunt me.

By the time I reached the end of that three miles I was close to limping. My left knee felt like jelly and every down-hill step was painful. I came around a bend to see people clapping and cheering. I was caught off-guard since I had not run this section of trail before.  There was nobody around me in front or behind but I sprinted up the hill the best I could and through the shoot to the finish. I had to circle back around to see the clock time but I finished just under 4:30. It was an anticlimactic end to a very enjoyable run. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Balance Minimus Zero Trail Review and Giveaway

New Balance Minimus Zero Trail Review and Giveaway: Before today's contest, a reminder that you've got less than one day left to submit photo entries for my Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS giveaway contest. Tick tock!


In my Minimus Zero Road shoe review, I described how New Balance went back to the drawing board and completely revamped their Minimus lineup after collecting user and laboratory feedback about the first generation released last year. It’s especially telling that they did this with the Minimus Trail model, which proved to be one of the most popular shoes of 2011, and played a monumental role in introducing minimalism to the masses.

Or, to use another analogy: if you consider last season’s version an opening bid toward minimalism, think of this year’s Minimus Zero Trail as New Balance going all-in. It features several changes that purists will appreciate, and strips away every ounce of unnecessary construction to create an extremely lightweight, highly flexible trail runner that still provides decent protection for rugged or technical off-road conditions. Most – but maybe not all of - the upgrades from last year’s model are improvements, and with the finished product, New Balance pretty much sets a new standard for lightweight, high-performance minimalist trail shoes.

And if that isn’t enough to get you excited … you guessed it, we’re doing a giveaway! One male and one female winner will receive a pair of New Balance Minimus Zero Trail shoes to enjoy for his and herself – but in the meantime, let’s run through the standard review:

New Balance Minimus Zero Trail

Here’s what will probably happen when you take the Minimus Zero Trail out of the box: the first thought that comes to mind will be, Holy cow are these things light. And when you put them on your feet, you’ll have nearly the same reaction. Above all the other improvements, that will almost certainly be the hallmark of the Minimus Zero Trail: the shoe is almost incredibly light.

At a mere 4.4 oz, it feels like there’s almost nothing on my feet – and coming from an experienced barefoot and minimalist runner, that’s saying something. The Minimus Zero Trails weigh less than any of Vibram’s FiveFingers (including the bare-bones SeeYa), Soft Star’s RunAmoc, and virtually any other standard bearer for light and minimal footwear.

As the revamped name of these models implies, New Balance corrected the primary drawback of last year’s edition and created a completely flat platform from heel to toe. Stack height is approximately 10mm, which places it about halfway in between Vibram’s Spyridon LS and Merrell’s Trail Gloves.

From the medial view you can also see the synthetic suede overlays that help keep the foot stabilized on the insole. Because the upper material is so thin, these overlays are crucial to prevent movement inside the shoe …

… as is the lined insole, which combines with a traditional tongue and lace system to keep the foot securely in place. Unlike my complaint about the Minimus Zero Road, I haven’t experienced any problems with forefoot movement in the Zero Trail, even on steep hills or highly technical terrain.

I was initially disappointed that New Balance replaced the upper material on last year’s Minimus Trail, which had a true slipper-like feel and was one of the most comfortable shoes I tested all year. The updated upper is remarkably thin, paper-like and translucent, constructed from a durable nylon that resists scratches and abrasions quite well. It seems a bit more permeable to dust and fine grit than the previous model, and feels coarser and less supple against my skin. Perhaps that’s why …

Look at the left 4th toe ... or don't.

… the upper material gave me a nice little blister on the top of one toe after my first 8-miler. After a breaking-in period this issue resolved, and the rest of the Zero Trail’s interior is very comfortable for sockless use – however, I do stick with my custom of wearing socks for multi-hour runs in these.

Peek A Boo toes!

One more note about the upper: have I mentioned that they’re thin? Consequently, the Minimus Zero Trail may be more of a warm-weather shoe than an all-season trainer, because your toes will indeed get cold in them, comparable to the poor thermoregulation of most FiveFingers.

For this year’s Minimus Zero Trail, New Balance uses a new Vibram T-Lite outsole rubber (the green stuff) on top of a layer of proprietary ACTEVA midsole foam (the black stuff) that is lighter and more compression-resistant than most other midsole materials commonly used – at least, it’s supposedly more compression-resistant, as you’ll see. One cool indicator of the midsole flexibility is that when I take the shoe off my foot, it often bends in half from heel to toe just like my FiveFingers do.

I’ve been fortunate to have my test pair for several months now, meaning I’ve racked up well over 200 miles on my Minimus Zero Trails. To my eye, it seems that the ACTEVA material has deformed slightly underneath the higher density green pods at impact areas. Of course, minimalist runners don’t expect much in the way of structure anyway, but the wear pattern thus far suggests that overall durability may be slightly diminished compared to its predecessor.

Placement of the outsole rubber was designed after reviewing wear patterns of from the previous model. The new outsole is even more deeply lugged than the prior version, which was already very aggressive and grippy in practically all conditions, and I’ve really had no problems with traction anywhere, especially on wet rocks or mud. However, spacing of the lugs is so wide that there is room for smaller pointy rocks to jut between them – think of gravel fire roads - so if you’re not accustomed to minimalist running yet, your feet could feel a bit of bruising on highly rocky or technical terrain.

That speaks to a larger point that distinguishes the Minimus Zero Trail from its predecessor: it’s a no-apologies minimalist shoe for runners who are sure of their technique. If you’re not an experienced minimalist runner, start in small doses with this shoe just as you would with a pair of Vibrams. And if you’re still transitioning or still want some substance or structure from your shoes, the Minimus Zero Trail is probably more then you’re ready for.

So … are YOU ready for it? If so, let’s get our contest on. Same procedure for this one as for the road version: one male and one female winner will be chosen at random from the comments below. One entry for a plain ol’ comment, one extra for a Facebook or Twitter link, and a third for a blog link. Include links or URLs so I can verify, and let me know if you’re male or female if it’s not obvious from your username. Winners will be announced Saturday night, April 21.

If you’d rather not take your chance or wait that long, the New Balance Minimus Zero Trail retails for $109 from Special thanks to New Balance for sponsoring this review and contest, and good luck to everyone!

*Product provided by New Balance. Affiliate sales support Running and Rambling.

**If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

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Caballo Blanco Memorial Fund

Caballo Blanco Memorial Fund:

Donations in Micah True’s memory can be made to the Caballo Blanco Memorial Fund

Your tax deductible donation will support the Caballo Blanco Foundation, whose mission is:
  • To honor the legacy of Micah True, the race director of the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon;
  • To reinvigorate the ancient running culture of the Tarahumara (or RarĂ¡muri in their own language), the indigenous people living in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

Many thanks to our charitable partner, the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF), which will hold and administer all donated funds during the launch of the newly established Caballo Blanco Foundation.

Thank you for your help and be sure to visit our website for updates about upcoming memorials and events.  As Caballo would say, “Run free”.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don’t Be a Lifestyle Masochist

Don’t Be a Lifestyle Masochist:
Before reading this post, take this short online test here:  You will get a score from 1 to 13, write it down.
Ever notice people bitch about a lot of stuff?  I just scanned my Facebook news feed.  Of the first thirty stories, twelve are a complaint of some sort.  Almost all of the complaints involve work, bills, relationships, or body image.  Essentially, all are things that can be changed.
Yet [...]

Want to Win Your Age Group? Consider Smoking Crack

Great article about ethics and running. It really makes you wonder. I know I personally take ibuprofen before most races. It's mainly for post race pain but I can't deny it may help at the tail end of longer races.

Want to Win Your Age Group? Consider Smoking Crack
You know the problem.  You wish you were faster.  You say you run races just for the experience.  That smile and the beer in hand are just a facade hiding that deep-seated desire to run really, really fast.  You secretly fantasize about posting that age group win on Facebook so all your friends will envy you.  If only you were faster.
Some people train hard.  Some people have natural talent.  Some people just get lucky sometimes.  [...]

Monday, April 2, 2012

Blistering Weekend Long Run

I did my long run this weekend in preparation for the Free State Trail Marathon and I almost had to call for a rescue. At one point along the South Lawrence Trafficway I had to stop and ask a stranger weeding her yard for a refill on my water. I really should have carried my larger pack but I thought there would be places along the way to refill. I was sorely mistaken. I also need to find a nice hat. I am rather sunburned which is a bit odd for running in March.

Altogether though it was a great run. My body was fine aside from the elements. I wasn't sore or blistered or cramped in any way. Just parched and burned. Can't wait for the 22nd to get this marathon under my belt!