Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm a Race Snob

The e-mail from a national running club opens up to reveal numerous races over the next couple of months in my region. 5K 'Fun Runs', Community 10Ks, 'Trots', five or ten mile obstacle course runs, 25K's or half marathons, shorter trail runs, and even marathons are mentioned. The e-mail is deleted.

It dawns on me. I have quickly become a race snob. It's probably not a good thing, and makes me appear like a major jerk. These community, and shorter runs, are good fun and would have plenty of people that would leave me in the dust. But they don't feel like they fit me.

Upon finishing the Deception Pass 25K in December, I was hit with the strangest feeling.  I wanted more.  I wasn't tired enough, and ultimately thought the race was too short. The same feeling hit me after my Beacon Rock 50K.  I want more. I want to do another loop. I am tired, yes, but I don't feel like I've completely explored all my limits. 

So, I'm now a little more than 30 days away from White River 50 mile. I wait in eager anticipation. I can't get the thought of the race out of my head.  I want to experience the Buck Creek aid station and beyond. I want to see what it feels like at the end of 50 miles.
White River 50 Course Elevation Profile

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hydration: Bottles or Packs?

Bottles or Packs? Packs or Bottles? Both? I decided to put together a list of the things I've found most noticeable, in terms of the pros and cons of each.

Handheld Bottles
Pieces of one of my handhelds.

I've been loyal to my handheld bottles for some time.  They've taken me through many runs, both 25K's and 50k's.  I've specifically utilized the 20oz Amphipod handhelds, which feature an ergonomic design and a pouch where you can store a couple gels or keys. In races, I've used two bottles at once, and have also used just one.  This usually depends on how hot it is, and how far apart the aid stations are.  I use bottles consistently in my training runs, as weekday runs are in usually between 1-3 hours.

  • Quick to refill at aid stations. Unscrew top, fill 20 ounces, screw top on, go.
  • Flexibility with handling (one bottle). I can switch hands, hold different ways, and place the bottles in the back of my shorts if I want to free my hands.
  • Flexibility with filling. Fill with water between aid stations, switch to electrolyte drink at the next, and move to soda the next.
  • Two bottles become heavy on my arms after awhile, and slightly annoying.
  • Noticeable difference, for me, between a full bottle, a half-full bottle, and empty bottle. That also applies if the pouch has gels in it or not.
  • Spouts stick (Amphipod only?) and I have to bite down to open and then pound them closed. Not dentist approved.

Conclusion: I don't mind bottles, especially the Amphipod, for training runs less than 3 hours.

Hydration Pack
In my quest to improve my times, a friend passed along this article to me recently, and the analysis certainly shifted me to entertain running with a pack.  In short, the study examines the impact on performance if you've got the option to run with two bottles or a pack.

As well, I'll be running the Angel's Staircase 60K in August, and the race requires runners carry two bottles or hydration pack, hat, gloves, and jacket.  A pack seemed like the best option considering I had to carry all of these things, but may not end up using them. Otherwise, I need to be carrying a fanny pack, along with two bottles.

I just recently purchased the Ultraspire Surge, and used it in the Beacon Rock 50K last week.  The pack utilizes a 70oz bladder (vs. 40oz if you're carrying two bottles), has multiple compartments to store everything from electrolyte pills and gels, to larger  items such as a hats/windbreakers/bear spray. I normally keep gels in one pocket, Clif Shot Blocks in the next, electrolyte pills in a nifty electrolyte pocket, and then contacts/wipes/socks in some of the back pockets. This still leaves me with room for some more stuff as well.

I personally found the pack to be quite comfortable. Maybe the best way to describe this is to think back to high school and carrying books.  If you have to carry one book here and there to class, its not that bad, and your arms don't get that tired. You make multiple trips to your locker, and move along.  Two books also requires trips to your locker, and your arms probably get a little more tired.  But if you have to carry your books by hand all day, you're going to wish you had a backpack.  That's how I view the difference of the pack vs. the handhelds.
Back of Ultraspire Surge
Front of Ultraspire Surge
  • Hands are free to stop from falls, grab a gel and go at aid stations, or give high-fives mid-race. Either  way, having free hands is quite comfortable.
  • Easier to carry more stuff. I don't feel the need for a drop bag or fanny pack. 
  • Easier to move through aid stations.  During my last race, I only stopped once to refill my bladder.  The rest of my aid station stops consisted of grabbing a S! Cap, Gel, and then a cup of Ginger Ale.  Probably in and out in less than 15 seconds.
  • Water level difference wasn't annoying.  This may be due to the fact the weight is distributed over the back, but I simply didn't get annoyed by an empty bladder compared to a full bladder.  
  • You're carrying extra weight with full bladder and slightly full pack.
  • When you have to fill up, its going to take a little longer.
  • If you like the being able to go shirtless, its probably harder to take off a pack and then put it back on, and I can't speak to chafing if that decision is made, because I have yet to wear this shirtless.
Conclusion: I'll be utilizing the pack for long races, and long training runs. I like having my hands free, more than anything, and also enjoy not having to fill up but every four hours or so. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wild Turkey Vengeance

Not this, calm yourself.
In the midst of run on the South Hill Bluff trails yesterday, I got the pleasure of experiencing my first 'animal attack'. Which means nothing more than I got charged, by an angry wild mother turkey.

I think I'm semi-prepared for bears and other animals. I carry bear spray when running on Mt. Spokane. I've read what to do if you see a moose, or handle a rattlesnake bite. I know to check for tics.

But I have no idea what to do as I round the corner of a slight downhill, and 15 feet in front of me is mother hen leading a bunch of Thanksgiving Day 2013 dinners across the dirt trail. The bird starts squawking and batting her wings and runs a couple of circles around her young. She then comes at me doing the same. I throw my hands up, start talking to her and start slowly backing away. She retreats, keeps squawking, and follows her kiddies and another large bird (Dad?) up into the woods. I then decide to continue my run.

I have no idea if what I did was right. I read online later that you can run, or chase a bird away with a stick, and that while they may attack, they are pretty harmless. My plan if she got close enough was to just try and punt her through the uprights of a couple of nearby trees. In hindsight I might just turn around next time and run away, or grab a nearby stick and defend myself.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beacon Rock 50K Race Report

I'm going to write a slightly unconventional race report for this run, as much as a story would be great, it didn't seem to play out that way (at least in my head) for this run.

To summarize, the run was a loop course through Beacon Rock State Park. 25K runners do one loop, 50K runners do two.  An extremely fun course, that I would do again in a heartbeat.  It was a perfect mix of everything I love about trail running: gradual climbs, steep climbs, wide open double track, narrow single track, technical single track, 'runable' single track, rocks, roots, creeks, forests, views, plenty of extremely fun downhill, and then the smallest amount of road just to remind me why I find very minimal pleasure in running on pavement.
I ended up with a time of 5:44:24, good for 11th place.

Heading up the second climb, there is a runner about 50 yards in front of me.  They turn right to go down the trail at a T-intersection.  I get to the intersection and notice there is marker directing me to go left. I pause, and it sets in they have gone the wrong way.  

"Wrong way!"

No reply, and no movement down the trail from what I can see. I run down the trail - the wrong way (the way they went, about 100 yards).


No reply. I can't see the runner, and I'm bellowing at the top of my lungs. I look up the trail to notice a couple of runners have now passed me and headed up the trail the right way, and decide that I've done my due diligence.  I feel bad, but get back to running, as the runner will soon enough realize they have gone off course.

Heading up the second loop, after the 15 mile turnaround, I see said runner.  They are wearing headphones/earbuds.  

Conclusion: If you're going to wear earbuds on a trail race, it's my opinion to either keep one in and one out, or keep them at low volume. And don't, for any reason, wear noise cancelling earbuds. I don't wear earbuds, as I like to hear the sounds of the forest and things around me.  I think it's part of the experience, to listen to everything around me.

A majority of the first 15 miles is spent running close by a man and his husky (or other big breed of dog that strongly resembles a husky). The dog is extremely well behaved, and does its share of passing me at points, and then allowing me to pass it at points.  The man was slightly behind me at the 15 mile turnaround, and ending up leaving his dog at that point to do the next loop alone.  The dog obviously paced him well, as he passed me halfway up the 3rd climb, and I never caught up to him.  I heard him mention at one of the aid stations that she would drink from the streams and creeks during the run to stay hydrated.

Also, a girl finishing the 50K came in with her husky leashed to her backpack.  How cool is that?

Conclusion: This made me want to get a running dog.  Not a little yappy dog. Not some cute lap dog. Not a crazy dog. Rather, a dog that has no problem training up to do the occasional 50K with me.  

My fueling for this race went extremely well.  I consumed some sort of gels, blocks, or soda every 20-30 minutes.  I drank every 10-15 minutes.  I took in 3 S! Caps throughout the race as well.  I never got double vision, never had stomach issues, and felt entirely level-headed the entire race.

Conclusion: Discipline and education are essential in fueling. I'm learning more about hydration, nutrition, and overall endurance. With that, my body and training are adapting.  I've yet to encounter any major problems with food or stomach issues, and I completely attribute this to discipline with my diet, especially during a race.  It should be interesting to see how things go in my first 50 mile race.  My understanding is that when you get to the 50 and 100 mile events, proper fueling is something that is a much more vital aspect of the race.

Do Work
Poop happens. I've been carrying handi-wipes, and realizing if I gotta go, its alright to go bushwack into the woods for a couple of minutes to feel immensely better for the rest of the race.  That said, I didn't have to go during the race, and slight urge only came when I was pounding the final downhill.

Conclusion: While it could be the result of high fiber diet, or consuming too many calories during the race, I would rather have enough fuel and energy during a race, with the drawback being I may have to take a bathroom break here and there. 

I'm going to post further on this later in the week, but this was first run in my new Ultraspire Surge and not with my Amphipod Bottles.  Suffice to say, I liked using the vest much more than carrying bottles.  It felt much more comfortable to have my hands 'free'.  The pack was very light, and I really didn't notice a difference whether the H2O bladder was full or empty.  As well, it made it extremely convenient to carry my gels and other various things in my pack with me, and not have to carry anything around my waist.  Again, will post on this further in the week.

Conclusion: I really enjoyed running with a pack compared to water bottles.  I hardly even realized the pack was there, and I will certainly be using it in future races.

Pre-Race Food: PBJ and Apple
Pre-Race Music: Limited to a couple of Chevelle Songs. More reading, as I finished off Vince Flynn's Kill Shot
Post-Race Food: Apples, Cookies, Potatoes, Chocolate Milk, Bridgeport Hop Czar

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Montrail Badrock Review

I bought three different pairs of shoes last week to try out.  I'd recently had some blister issues with my the Vasque Mindbender due to what I think is a very straight last, and toe box that is fairly hard and doesn't allow my toe's to expand as much as I would like on my long runs.  I wanted to check out three shoes from Montrail, because I've generally read good reviews on their shoes.

Montrail Fairhaven - I immediately shipped this back, as it was way too narrow in the forefoot and toe box for my wide feet.  I didn't run it, and so I'm not reviewing it. I wouldn't recommend this shoe to anyone with wide/high volume feet. 

Montrail Masochist II - This shoe felt alright, and I have heard nothing but good reviews on it.  I probably would have kept it, ran in it, reviewed it, and not shipped it back, if it wasn't for the fact that I got the Badrock. 

Montrail Badrock Review - (If you want all the specs for the shoe, go to Montrail's website and take a look.  Now for my subjective review.)

Right out of the box, these shoes were very comfortable. These shoes do a great job of accommodating (probably made for) wide or high volume feet, particularly in the toe box and mid-foot.  The shoe features variable width lacing, so you can customize the fit as well.  This worked well for me, as I have a fairly narrow heel that likes to be locked down in a shoe, while allowing for splay of my forefoot and toes. This shoe did just that.  

The grip worked really well on a 25 mile run I did around Mt. Spokane this past weekend.  I ran over some technical trail, rocks, mud, snow, and some road.  The shoe held up well and really was a nice mix of cushion and support.  I can tell the shoe has only a partial rock plate (compared to a full plate in the Mindbender) and actually preferred it that way, as it felt less stiff. The shoe was also quick to dry, which is nice because I can't stand carrying extra weight around after running in puddles or rain, or sinking into some snow.  

I've put runs of 12 miles, and then 25 miles in it so far.  The only question I have about the shoe is really my own issues with sizing.  I like to carry plenty of room in the toe box, so that I can bomb downhills not having to worry about my toes cramming into the front of my shoe.  I get this on the right side of my big toe of my left foot, and it's purely a personal preference for my feet.  My feet are wide, and I'm picky.  That said, the toe box protector 'gives' much more than the Mindbender's toe box, and so I didn't end up with a blister.  I may size up to a 14 for racing...we'll see.

Bottom Line:  Montrail Badrock is a great cushioned, support, trail shoe for those with wide or high volume feet.  I highly recommend it.  This will most likely be my White River, and default race shoe.