"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Running


One of my favorite sorts of "running" is true winter trail running.  I've had several very memorable runs in the snow that included a copious amount of powerhiking, and the overall pace was rather pathetic.  Nonetheless, those runs made me stronger, mentally and physically.  The endurance needed to cover 100 miles quickly comes not only from running lots of miles, but also from recruiting all sorts of muscles in your core and legs, then beating them up.

So, I was sad last year when we barely got any snow, in fact I recall not really being able to relish the challenge of deep snow running.  So when I woke up this week with Fresh Snow on the ground, I felt somewhat of a relief and quickly packed up some cookies and a camera and was off to Stinchfield Woods to play.

Not really much to say about it besides the fact that I look forward to more.  I think I spent a little over 4.5 hours running around, taking pics, exploring off trail and just doing my thing.

First, you should listen to some of the music that accompanied me on my run, then enjoy the photos posted.  I've been thoroughly enjoying Elle King's latest release "The Elle King EP"  You should check it out.  She has one of those voices.  And I think she could kick Adele's ass.

Gravel Pit

Wall of gravel pit

Fellcross'ing the gravel pit

Trail around the rim of the pit

Best.  Winter.  Shoe.


Fall then winter

I was wayyy off trail when I found this skull in a tree. Creepy? YES.

Frosted undergrowth had a glow about it

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tecumseh Double Trail Marathon

I put my graphic design skills to work


I'd never run the Tecumseh Trail marathon before.  If I had, I'm not sure I would have agreed to run the course in reverse the night before, per Scott Breeden's brilliant suggestion.  I've run in Southern Indiana before, and I never cease to be amazed by the plethora of excellent trails the area has to offer.  The hills are also much larger than what we have available anywhere near where I live.  If you want to check out what the area has to offer, you can read Scott's article here.

Great idea Ryan.  Also, notice the nice minivan/station wagon hybrid in the background
Sometimes I like to get a little stupid.  And luckily, I have friends who think the same way.  Scott asked around, and before I knew it, he had found two other saps to go for the TTDM with us.  We all met at the campground in Morgan Monroe State Forest, where race started the next morning (Saturday).  Then, Kevin, Ryan, Scott and I all hoped in the Toeriffica and drove to Yellowwood, where the race would finish (Saturday).  After nearly driving off the road multiple times, I finally got us there safely.  We proceeded to each take a pull of paleo-style buffalo whiskey in order to provide some analgesic effects. And we were off.

Ryan, Kevin, and I enjoying a beautiful day
I should point out that it was also nearing 60 degrees, and soon we were all warm and had to adjust our layers.  The first 45 minutes or so flew by, we were moving at a good clip, and I had noted to Ryan Case at least once that the hills were rather large.

Anyways, we ran, and ran some more, the mood was light, energy seemed good, and I was running the hills fairly well (at least for me).  We had water stashed at mile 13, right at the bottom of Indian Hill, and if you've never run down Indian Hill, its really freakin steep.  After bombing down it, I realized I'd have to go up it tomorrow, and knew it was going to be fun.
Indian Hill Bombing
I think someone farted

mtn bike gloves for $5 are good for grabbing trees

We continued along our marry way, dodging dogs and hunters, until we finished.  Upon reaching the campground where our tents were set up, a muscle in my left leg notted up into a nasty charlie horse, and from then on it felt as if I had a deep tissue bruise.  Definitely a new feeling, I've never had that happen before.  I blame it on only drinking 2 bottles of water for the 4 hour run.

We refueled with Mexican food, met up with more friends, then Scott and I screwed around in the woods, foraging for firewood and falling down ravines (that part was mostly me).  Before I knew it, it was 1am, and time to crash for the night.  Slept pretty well in my tent, and then it was race morning.  The first thing I noticed when I woke up was a big knot in my leg from where the cramp had been the previous day.  Not much to do but run on it.
TTDM day 1 a success

I can't emphasize how nice it was to sleep at the race start, as there was havoc in the shuttle system, one bus broke down, another one tried to run over a car (the race ended up starting 45 minutes late).  I found some friends, said hi, peed in some bushes, then stood around anxiously awaiting the start.

We started, and half of us ran down the road, while the other half cut across the grass and ended up ahead of us.  Interesting...

The first mile ticked by in 6:45, then another 6:45, and the 3rd mile?  You guessed it, 6:45.  I thought, oh crap at this effort levels im going to bonk, and I could still see Scott Breeden, which should have been the first sign I was going to hard, but then we hit the hills and Scott was gone.  My legs had felt strong climbing the previous day, so it should only be expected that they would be flat and dead on the inclines on race day.  So I tried to back down to a good pace, and ran with some guys Scott knew from Bloomington, and still felt like it was an unsustainable effort.  Josh Wopata was still near at this point, so we shared some laughs and I tried not to think about the fact that I was getting roasted on the uphills.

Sooner rather than later, Josh scooted away, I fell down, and I started to question my goal.  What was my goal?   Oh yeah, to finish.  I figured I could at least do that.
Up direction

Mile 12 came and went, then mile 13 at 1:45 into the race, and this time we had to go up not down Indian Hill.  It was as steep as I remembered from yesterday.  However, my legs were starting to come around, I was a little suprised I wasn't feeling bonky despite the early pace, and I felt confident that I had settled into a effort that I could maintain for hours.  I started the race with two scoops of roctaine powder in my water bottle.  I figured at the high intensity I would shoot for 150 calories an hour or so and continued to fuel at this rate.  I never had any stomach trouble and just ate gels and drank water after my Roctaine bottle ran out.

Around mile 16 I started to really feel good.  Only 10 miles left, and I feel this good???  I still couldnt believe I wasn't hitting bonk city running between 7:30-8:30 miles on trail in this hilly woods.

I guess my last two races had been 100 milers and I've forgotten that you can run hard at the end of shorter stuff.  Thats great.  I slowly worked my way up the field.  I think around mile 13 I was in 10th or 11th, now by mile 18 I was in 6th or 7th.    

I pushed hard when I saw Josh up ahead.  He had slowed a little, and I was moving well, so I said hi and kept moving.  He has done this to me numerous times in races so I had little remorse about not slowing to run with him.  I picked off a few more people, until I saw Scott's friends from Bloomington, probably around mile 25.  Usually if you are running hard enough to see someone you haven't seen all day, you know they're probably blown and you can catch them easily.  This guy...  Not so much.  I think hearing my panting behind him really woke him up, and he floated up a series of switch backs.  I dug deep, went deep to the well to try to match his effort, and came up with nothing.
Almost done
A couple wobbly running steps later, I pow hiked the remaining steep portions of the switchbacks and ran as soon as I reached douche' grade, but it was to no avail, 4th place was outtro.  We came into a long road section and I could see 4th and 3rd place about 1/4 mile ahead of me.  With only a 1/2 mile to go, I smiled, laughed a little bit and ran it in.  What a day.  Scott was already finished and was hanging out with Becky and Rebecca, other members of our crew; cheering and waiting for everyone to come in.  I asked Scott if he got the W, he said yes, which gets a thumbs up from me.
Scott posing for the camera
Finishing holding hands - how cute

Ended up 5th overall, in 3:26, which means I negative split the race, and funny because I've run slower road marathons...  I think it might have had something to do with the generous downhill sections towards the end, but I'm going to pretend it was my excellent pacing.  I think everyone had a great time - Fellow michiganders Ryan and Alaina Case also participated in our pre-race shinanigans, and then crushed it the following day (Alaina was 3rd OA woman in her first trail marathon!).  I fear if those two feed off each other and really train hard, soon I'll be getting Case'd.  Kevin Kearney, the other member of our stupid adventure finished with a strong kick, beating out whoever he had been running in with, and although I'd just met him, he seemed to always be in a good mood, making for a good running buddy.

Tecumseh is challenging, but beautiful.  Friday we ran the up direction, while Saturday we had a net downhill run.  We had great weather, like 60s and sunny, and the creekbeds were relatively dry - I can see them being difficult to maneuver if there had been flowing water.  According to my Garmin the up direction (Yellowwood to Morgan Monroe) has 3400 gain and 2800 decent, with the opposite being true for the actual race.  This is slightly less than advertised, but its still a lot for a marathon.  It felt more like the advertised numbers of 3500 ascent and 4000 decent, but who knows (or cares). 

Comments on paleo and the run.  For breakfast I had a banana with a ton of cashew butter, and followed the fueling plan I described above.  I'm still very interested in the fact that I didn't bonk.  Personally, I don't feel like I have any business running that fast of a trail marathon, especially running one the previous day.  The previous day I did the entire 26 on just 2 gels, which is on the low end of things.  I also felt like I got more of a kick out of the gels than I used to.  This was the first race I've run since going paleo, and I think that at lactic threshold, I am metabolizing more fat than I used to, allowing me to run longer at a higher heart rate or intensity without bonking.  Just a thought, but it would be pretty cool if that was the case.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Asics Gel Fuji Trainer 2 Review

I was very impressed by the Gel Fuji Racer, which caused me to be quite optimistic about the new Gel Fuji Trainer 2, a midweight trail shoe from Asics that fits into the Gel Fuji line of shoes.

The geometry of this shoe is quite appealing to me.  A decent stack height with the forefoot being spec'd at 19mm and the heel at 25mm.  Overall, creating a 6mm heel to toe drop.  Furthermore, the lugging pattern looked much more aggressive than the Gel Fuji Racer, and the weight wasn't too crazy (under 10oz)

I ordered a size 11.5, which seems to be the typical size I order these days.  It is also the size I wear for the Gel Fuji Racer, and lengthwise I would say these shoes are very comparable in fit, and just right for me.  However, the Fuji Trainer 2 feels much wider throughout the midfoot and maybe a touch wider in the forefoot, something I found a little disappointing.  I should mention, I hated the skinny black laces that came with the shoes and swapped them out for a pair of old MT100 laces.

While most Asics shoes fit my feet like a glove, with a nicely tight midfoot wrap, the Fuji Trainers felt loose and baggy.  Combine this with the fact that the lacing system is a little unique (and strange), I have found it hard to really get these shoes to be tight enough without cutting off circulation to my feet.  I think this is magnified by the fact that there is not a traditional lowset eyelet and the end of the eyelets, which usually allows for the lockdown style of lacing.  Honestly, the little cloth lacing eyelet seemed kinda useless and stupid.  Thinking about it harder, I think because of the wide base of the shoe, the overlays aren't as useful as the typical Asics overlays; maybe if my feet were a little bit higher volume this wouldn't be a problem.
No eyelet for ankle lockdown lacing
Very roomy around the ankle (a little too much) (ignore the saucony insole)

Careful study of the shoes has led me to conclude that the entire area from the tongue to the heel collar is very large and open, thus if you have somewhat skinny bony ankles like myself, there is a lot of room for your feet to move around.  I am unable to get my heel to lock down even though the length of the shoe is perfect.  It hasn't caused me too much grief, except for the fact that debris enter the shoe a little too easily.  Also, there is a perforated, removable insole, which I swapped out for my favorite Kinvara insoles.

Traction on these shoes is pretty awesome.  The lugs do exactly what you'd expect.  Combine this with a full contact outsole and a wide platform and I found that they bite into just about any type of trail I have available to test them on.  The wide platform really helps give the foot a stable landing pad when running through sandy sections of trail.  The lugging almost reminds me of the Speedcross, except they aren't quite as tall.
Lug height isn't crazy, but its enough

However, towards the heel, Asics implemented a series of offset square lugs rather than the winged lug pattern found on the rest of the shoe.  I think this is to help de-couple the heel if you're a heel striker, but what I have found is that these guys really suck up mud and don't shed it well.  I've ended up with clumps of my stuck only to my heels on several wet runs.

Mud sticks to the heels a little bit
Along with the traction, the ride and underfoot feel of the Fuji Trainer 2 is probably my favorite aspect.  They are protective without being sluggish, firm without being too solid, and the 6mm drop really feels smooth when running fast or slow.  There is no rockplate, but the foam is fairly firm and I haven't noticed any problems when running across gravel on dirt roads (my nemesis).  They are moderately flexible, but nothing compared to the Fuji Racer.  I have about 150 miles on my pair, and when I definitely feel as though they have been getting a little more flexible as I break them in.  I have noticed that when running across road or very firm trail, the lugs seem to add more cushion, but also a slightly unstable feeling.  It is nothing series, but I just thought I should mention it.

As of right now, I like this shoe, but its not quite what I was expecting.  The fit and lacing issue is a big disappointment on what otherwise is a very solid offering from Asics.  If you have wide feet, high volume feet, I could see this being a great shoe.  I have since tried to add an eyelet of my own in order to help secure my heel, and it has helped, but for some reason I can't help but think Asics could have done a better job of this than I did.
Added my own eyelet

Because of the traction, relatively low weight, and the comfortable, protective ride, I can see these shoes being a great choice for a long race such as a 50 or 100, especially one that has mixed terrain.  If these fit your feet properly, I think they would be an amazing shoe.  I still enjoy mine, even though I can get irritated that with the roomy feel.  I just wouldn't expect them to fit like a pair of Fuji Racers.

Questions?  Comments?  If there is anything I haven't covered, or if you have experience with these shoes, please leave a comment to help anyone else out there, looking for...  The Perfect Shoe.