Sunday, February 22, 2009

Two Weeks of Training, Kahtoola Microspikes, and Why I Hate Shopping for Clothes.

If the title hasn't sent your mouse over to the browser bar to go off to some other site, I thank you. The last couple of weeks haven't been anything really special or different from the past couple of months. I still desperately want to run an Ultra this year. I am still frustrated with my IT Band friction syndrome limiting my training. I am even more frustrated with my utter disregard for nutrition and weight. On the plus side, I have a Physical Therapy appointment tomorrow with an ultra friendly therapist. I also bought some new gear that has allowed me to really put in more time on the trails, which makes me very happy.

First, here's my attempt at posting a video, as well as my first time using my new 'TofaTR Trail Cam". Bent on adding more media to the blog, here goes. A couple cautions, I have an eye disease wherein I don't have pigment on my retinas, so snow and sun are vicious to my vision, hence the squinting. Also, the initial audio might be very soft, again, first time using the new gadget.

Basically a couple segments tearing up some of the Bay Circuit Trail with the newly acquired Kahtoola Microspikes:

Kahtoolas were outstanding on the trails and provided superb traction on ascents, and provided ultimate confidence charging down hills. I was a little wary of spending $60 on a piece of seasonal gear, but the performance on the initial run was enough to convince me that they will be a great investment as long as the design and longevity are equal to the traction benefits. I was out on the trail for nearly an hour and they were not a burden as far as requiring extra movement or effort, thus not killing any energy better used in propelling oneself up the trail. In fact, my mile splits were almost a minute faster than the previous week's run on the same trail in the same conditions. The only downer was having to cross pavement with them on, but the ease of removal made this a moot point. Very high marks from this trail runner!

Next, very briefly, the last two weeks of training have been sort of mezza-mezza for me. Here are the details:

Week of 2/14: 4 days, 16.2 miles,

Long Run: 7.2 miles - 86 mins. (3.3 on Bay Circuit Trail).

Week of 2/21: 3 days, 14 miles,

Long Run: 7.5 miles - 78 mins. (4.3 on the BCT).

The thing is that I want to be running 5 to 6 days a week, I want to be working toward an ultra, and I want to be healthy. I do have the appointment with the Physical Therapist tomorrow, and the fact that I am able to run for 90 minutes with soreness, but not pain, is a plus. I might be that dude popping advil with S-Caps during an ultra. Hopefully tomorrow I will have a plan and a path. I passionately want to be on the trails this spring, and I want to test my limits as often as I possibly can. Absence from the long run has made me crave it more.

Finally, I HATE going clothes shopping. First, I find no happiness in spending money for clothes, but being married and having a wife that thinks that pants that have been in husband's wardrobe since they graduated from college 8 years ago are no longer appropriate for work. Whatever. I am creative, but I am a t-shirt and jeans guy. Writers need not be eccentric in person or snazzy dressers. More than all that, I just hate looking in the mirror, concerned with how my thunder thighs and keister don't fit in this or that style. I know, real macho, but I look at the junk in the trunk or the jiggle, and think, how I am going to run an ultra with all that coming along for the ride? I am surprised the USATF or Trail Running community leaders have not beat down my door and ripped up my runner credentials. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that is cool, but from my diet and weight loss last spring I have become lax about nutrition and diet because of injury and am mostly frustrated about that!

Oh well, the great part about the trail running community is the friends one makes. I am really looking forward to a group run next weekend with a group of fellow all-conditions junkies, and the best part is that we all come as we are. The point is to enjoy the trail, chat about our adventures - past and future, and simply put one foot in front of the other to reach a common goal. Though the venue or arena of the challenge may be different, the tie that binds is the satisfaction we will all find in the crossing of a finish line.

So here's to the trail!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

GEAR REVIEW: Yaktrax - Walker

Okay, first and foremost I want to state that I am a runner, and furthermore, I am a trail runner, hence the title of this blog.

So a couple months ago I got an email from a marketing company asking me if I'd like a free pair of Yaktrax to wear test and review. Being a fan of free stuff, and in desperate need of something to help me negotiate the ice, snow, and everything in between that occurs over a New England winter, I took them up on the opportunity.

So the package of Yaktrax and other goodis arrive and I open the box to find the Yaktrax, only they are the Walkers. Bummer.

In the interest of making lemonade when life provides lemons, I decided that I would wear test this style of Yaktrax
based on my daily commuting and running needs and they proved to be a sweet find.


Let there be no mistake about it, these Yaktrax are more for the commuter or everyday pedestrian, and are not engineered for masochistic trail runners bent on beating the feathers out of a piece of gear.

The design of the Yaktrax Walkers is simple and stylish - composed of polyelastomer material wrapped in abrasive resistant 1.2 mm steel coils, providing traction in icy conditions.

They are EXTREMELY easy to get on and off one's shoes, and each individual Yaktrak can be folded over in half to minimize the amount of space it takes to store. In fact, on a training run where I tested the Yaktrax on snowy and icy trails, the Yaks were easily stored in the two side pockets of my running vest.

Additionally, because they are not designed like cleats I found that when I removed theYaktraks any debris like salt, sand, or snow was easily remove with a couple shakes, and made no marks or scars on my dress shoes.

On The Move:
First, when used as they are intend, the Yaktrax Walkers provided superior traction when I was walking to and from my office, as well as when I had to head to other buildings. They fit snugly to my dress shoes, were secure with no shifting, and provided confidence crossing patches of ice, or going through shallow snow.

They are simple, easy to use, and effective. So as an investment for the commuter that has to deal with icy sidewalks or parking lots these are definitely a must!

Second, I threw these Yaktrax on my road running shoes and took them for a few training runs over snow covered roads and they worked extremely well in this capacity. Over years of training on roads in New England I was always hampered by snow and ice on the shoulder of the roads. This resulted in injuries from slips and falls, and zeros in the training log because the roads just don't seem clear enough to get in a few miles. Some people swear by putting steel screws in old trainers for traction, while I have tried using old cross country spikes with small pyramid spikes for traction, but they are brutal to the bottom of my feet.

On numerous training runs of 2 to 4 miles, where there was anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of snow on the roads, I found great confidence based on the traction the Yaks provided. They were effective on ascents, descents, and flats. They didn't limit my pace or ability to sprint when needed. Up here in New England, where snow can come even into April, having these Yaktrax provided great incentive to get out and run when there is a few inches of snow and ice on the roads. An additional plus was the lack of shifting on my foot during the course of a run, which was an initial concern. One thought about the lack of shifting is that I have a size 10.5 foot, and the medium size gives a bit more of a tight fit for my foot. So I cannot unequivocally say this would be the same for those with Yaks that have a more loose fit.

After beating them up on snow covered roads, there were, and still are, no visible signs of wear to thePolyelastomer or the steel coils. A+ so far in the durability department.

The greatest caution and detraction for using these is to stay off of clean pavement. I never wore the Yaks in a situation where there were a couple patches of slush or snow amng mostly clean pavement. They are definitely not to be worn for a 3 mile run where you think you might encounter a couple icy patches.

Finally, I took theseYaktrax on a trail run in some deeper snow. They seemed to work well for the first section of trails that resembled slightly snow covered roads, but eventually they began to shift and get beaten up by the snow covered trail. The last couple miles were filled with stops to re-adjust the Yaktraks on my heel and toe. Oddly enough, the shifting was really the only problem. They were very, very durable considering the punishment I was applying.

Bottom Line:

A person interested in Yaktrax Walkers for pedestrian usage to and from work, the train station, or the car, will find these to be a great addition. At $15-$20 they are affordable. For the runner who is looking for a little more traction out on the roads during or after snow, before the plows have cleared the roads, I would say the Yaktrax Walker could be used with confidence, but one might also look at the Yaktrax Pro model, which are only a few dollars more and provide a little more security with a strap that goes over the top of the foot, allegedly keeping the ice grippers secure.

Trail runners might do well to look at other cleated traction systems for those adventures over snowy trails. I just recently tried a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes and they were excellent on the trails, but what they have in trail traction, they lack in versatility as they are only for use on the trails. Versatility, Value and Effectiveness: Why I really have enjoyed the Yaks and would recommend them.

Until Next Time.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

First week of training in my Thirties... :-)

Wow, my legs didn't fall off and everything seems to still be in tact after the week where I managed to run 4 days out of the week. Of course I mean it all tongue and cheek regarding the age thing. My best friend from High School had his 30th and it was sort of weird - cake, presents, people. I wasn't sure if it was a wake or a party. Not to mention, the only indication that it was his party was that I was holding a beer. Being at this party made me instantly decide I didn't want a "Boo Hoo, Goodbye Twenties" party. Not withstanding, what I thought was going to be a quiet dinner with my Wife, kids, and Mom, turned out to be a very cool time with friends and family. It was totally unexpected, and a very nice surprise. Happily, when the waitress asked what I'd like to drink, I ordered a Guinness, which seems to only taste great when there is a celebration of some kind happening. Coincidence? I think not! I think it is just a part of the Brilliance!

Over the course of the week one lesson I have learned is that stress will kill me if I am not careful. It doesn't matter how many miles I run, or how fit I get in the process, if I become a prisoner to my anxiety and stress I am not going to make it very far.

Case in point, this week when I arrived back at work after taking a vacation day Monday, I am sorting through the 150 emails I received to find the appointment request for my "performance review" on Wednesday. It is probably a good thing that I didn't know about it beforehand, it surely would have spoiled the weekend, but lately I have been feeling like things haven't been clicking with my job, and that has been in part, a reason for a lot of the depression I have been dealing with. Having the performance review did sort of help, and I guess I am better for it, but once again I have been told that my eye for detail needs to be replaced with more of a passion to crank up the production numbers. It is tough because my eyesight really does limit me, and it is partially what chased me out of teaching and sales.

It sort of reminds me of the disregard for craftsmanship these days. Sure, there are furniture makers and artists that get paid for crafting great works of art, but we live in a Walmart and Ikea society where people would rather spend less money on cheap plastic or particle board. Mass production is king. I am almost too young to remember a time where things like furniture were handed down through the generations, but we still have a couple of modest heirlooms in our little apartment that were given to us. They probably weren't handcrafted like some of the swanky stuff that rich folks have, but they'll probably last longer than the P.O.S. dresser we got for our kids at Wal-Mart. But the fact remains, our world is one of selling more, and doing so faster. The crap furniture makers want you to buy their junk, because they know it will break down and you'll need another one sooner or later, which equates to more profit.

I work hard at my job, and to hear I am not producing enough really pisses me off. I went to college, got an education, and now because I don't put enough widgets together in a given week it doesn't matter how smart I am. These moments really make me question life and existence. The same was true in my stint teaching High School English. They threw 125 students at me and said, "Okay, make them smart", and then they threw me Ed. plans for half of them, and told me it was essential to make sure I was teaching in a way where I could make a connection with all of the students' learning styles. HA! So now I wake up go into an office, and feel a lot like this:

I am thankful that I have a job with all of the people who are losing theirs lately, but it doesn't take away the desire to do something with the time I have been given, and it would be nice to find a job where I feel like I am doing something of worth, instead of just indirectly making someone money - which I realize is the case in most professions. I think each week my inner altruist dies a little.

Beyond the mechanics and musings of the metaphysics of life and living I did run this week.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I ran for about 20 minutes each day, feeling how my IT Band would react to running on consecutive days, which went fine. I strapped on the Yaktraks Tuesday night after I got home from work and ran on roads that were covered with about three or four inches of snow. More on my wear testing of the Yaks coming soon! I took the next three days off as the temperature when I woke up in the morning, as well as when I came home from work, was barely getting out of the single digits. I am not afraid of the cold, but when looking at 20 minutes of running, in 7 degree weather, I'll pass. Wimpy, I know.

Today was much better, in that I decided to run for a little longer, check out the carnage on the trails close to home, and enjoy that tropical heatwave of 38 degrees! Stretching in the living room I noticed my three year-old was imitating me, and then the five year-old joined in. In joking I asked them if they'd like to go running with Dad. Three said 'yes', Five said 'no'. Then fate or karma or the ghost of good Fathering present, slapped me upside the head. I decided to invite the little one to come out and run a loop around our apartment building. Pumped and jacked, he threw on his shoes and after numerous attempts to make sure Five wasn't upset that Three was getting the attention, we headed out.

I truly didn't expect much, and, if anything, I figured we'd get halfway around and he'd decide that he was done. Letting the little one dictate the pace, we ran around the building, covering about .16 of a mile, and when we got back to the door he says "Daddy, let's do it again!". By this time, Five is at the window clammering to join us, so we take a break, let him join in, and run another loop. Of course, both want another loop, so we go. In total, I think Three ran close to 3/4 of a mile, as did Five (we had to run another loop so he could be the same). It was actually really impressive, and kind of a proud moment for me.
My "big boy" run was interesting. I took the Yaks along hoping the snow would be in a state where I could get some tough, but enjoyable running. About ten steps on the trail I realized that unless I uncovered a Genie Bottle, wherein Barbara Eden appears with Snowshoes in hand, I was out of luck.

No genie bottle, no snowshoes, and certainly no trail running. In fact, the only thing I did get were super sweet cuts on my legs from postholing in 2 feet of snow that had about four different layers of varying constitution, it was that quarter inch of frozen slush that was easily broken through going in, but not as generous when foot and leg were brought back out. Thus the cuts and blood running down both legs, yay! Instead of heading home I ran a little further up the road, feeling actually sort of comfortable with the slower pace, and decided to run a loop that I knew about from looking at the local maps, but hadn't tried yet. It was sort of an ultra training run, as I kept the pace slow and walked some of the uphills that required more effort. I couldn't do much about hydration, as I didn't bring any water, but since it was an hour-long run, that really didn't become an issue until the last ten minutes, and even then I was heading back, so not really something I worried about at all.

In total, it was 7.3 miles in 65 minutes. I honestly thought I'd be averaging 10 minute miles with the sporadic walking breaks, but it wasn't bad for a day where I just went out to run - no more, no less.

Until next time, Cheers!