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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Good eats

Need healthy food that tastes great?  It's almost time for The Holidays, when most people just accept that they'll gain a few pounds at the expense of indulging in tasty treats.  But what if these treats didn't always have to be bad for you?  Why must we sacrifice our hard earned abs, just to enjoy a few nice meals with family? 

A skilled cook can easily figure out exciting flavor combinations without overdoing it with sugar and butter.  Check out the pictures provided by Chef Elizabeth Sasseman and tell me you don't want to try her cooking:

Oh and she is a stud Ultrarunner who completed the Leadville 100 this year at the baby age of 23!  So you know she understands the importance of proper nutrition for the long run.

Photo:  Chef Elizabeth Sasseman

Warning:  this is a shameless plug for my friend Liz's cooking, but seriously I'm plugging her cooking and food because after talking to her, I can tell she is really passionate about cooking healthy food for people who might otherwise not have the time to do so.  Not to mention she is a fantastic cook who makes healthy food taste great.  Its not easy to do. 

Check out here website here:  http://chefelizabethsasseman.com/
Like her facebook page:  chefelizabethsasseman
Send her an email:  chefelizabethsasseman@yahoo.com

Photo:  Chef Elizabeth Sasseman

Photo:  Chef Elizabeth Sasseman

Photo:  Chef Elizabeth Sasseman

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon - Stagecoach Line 100 Race Report

While I've ran several hundreds, this race definitely had the longest name.  Its a mouthful.

I was in the Mood for a hundred.  I think running 1 or 2 a year is a good number for me, also I feel that as long as you're running fairly consistently, 1 or 2 hundreds a year is all that is required to maintain 100 mile fitness.  Just a guess though.

So before I knew it, I had registered for the inagural F2G 100.  I registered several weeks before running UROC, so I had it in the back of my mind that recovery from UROC was going to be key in getting ready for a 100 miler only 3 weeks after a very difficult 100K.  

I think I showed more restraint than usual, although I probably threw in a few too many hard efforts on the treadmill in week 2.  I did really show taper discipline and only ran once in the 4 days leading up to the race.  Furthermore, my roomate Katie was kind enough to stretch my legs out for me occasionally, even if I did complain the entire time.  

Several things appealed to me about F2G.  First, the late start on Saturday (2pm).  I knew the drive to flagstaff was a doozy, having done a similar road trip to the Grand Canyon a few months earlier.  Thinking I could stretch the trip into a nice long leisurely drive, poor planning and life got in the way.

First problem, I ended having a very important, can't miss, meeting on Friday afternoon in Boulder.  Secondly, both the folks who generously volunteered to crew/pace with me couldn't leave until Friday after-work.  Oh well, and thank god it was a late start.

Somehow, someway, we had no traffic down I-70 on the way to Moab.  Driving through Monument Valley under a full moon with no other cars in sight was a treat.  The guys were great, and insisted I catch some zzz's while they drove.

Sunset in the mtns driving down I-70

Polar bear express under a full moon

Look ma, no flash!

Long story short, we arrived in Flagstaff around 6:30am.  I think.  I can't really remember.  We ate breakfast at a diner featured in Diners Drive-ins and Dives which was a total let down.  You suck Guy Feiri.  

Then we drove to the race start, found the gate locked and decided we were early.  Time for a nap!

Woke up after about 45 minutes of sleep and decided to double check all my drop bags etc.  Got everything squared away and tried to go to the race start again.  This time, success!

This being a fairly small race it was a very relaxed atmosphere. I kind of felt like the odd man out as it seemed all the runners knew each other.  Def a locals event.  We took some pictures, Ian Torrence, the RD gave us a short speech, we clapped for some volunteers who were critical in making the race happen.  And then we lined up for gun and then we ran.

Pre-race words

Inaugural hundred milers

Sure, maybe I got a little caught up in the excitement of the race.  Maybe the fact that I was running next to ultralegend Eric Clifton also played a role in my early race excitability.  Regardless, I found myself throwing out the race plan early and shooting for the moon!

Honestly, the first 20 miles of this course is incredibly, undeniably, ultrarunnery, special.  A nice long gradual climb to seperate out the field, then a quick downhill, a brief stint on some county roads, and then my favorite part of the day.  A long but quick and smooth descent on buttery soft singletrack through aspen groves full of golden majesty.  Yeah, that good.

Glorious singletrack for miles (Photo by David Blanchard)

More Aspen Groves (Photo from F2G website)

Unfortunately during this section my nipples started to chafe.  Oye.  Coming into the aid station at mile 21, Andrew was quick to act and smartly taped my nips right up.  Now thats crewing!  I grabbed my headlamp and was back on the trail.

My initial race plan was to come into the mile 21.5 aid station at 3.5 hours.  Whelp, here am I running into the aid station at 2 hours and 53 minutes.  Crap thats way too fast.  At this point a lead pack had formed consisting of myself, Michael Versteeg and Brian Tinder.  We all agreed we were going out too hard.  And no one slowed down a step.  I should point out around this part of the story that both these guys beat me quite handily at UROC (by hours in fact) and I was well aware of this.  We continued our downhill gallop, occasionally a member of the pack would stop for a bathroom break or what-not but not much separation was gained.

Aid stations came and went, chicken broth was consumed, and darkness became the predominant theme.  Around mile 40 aid station, I pulled ahead of Brian who was struggling with some back spasms and found myself jogging along a dirt road all alone.  I tried to find a comfortable pace and decided to turn on a podcast to help keep me company.  Speedgoat Karl reminded me that "100 miles is not that far" and I kept moving along.  Sometime during this section three things happened 1) Mike caught up and passed me 2) I got really cold 3) I ran out of water. 

Slightly discouraged by Michael's easy pass, I tried to keep on motoring, but found myself floundering a little bit.  No biggie, I've run a long ways already today I reminded myself, just focus on maintaining your momentum.

Then a long dirt road section, and lights ahead, this must be a major aid station, where I knew my crew was waiting with warmer clothes, new shoes, etc.  I ran at a decent clip along the dirt road and too my surprise found Michael, who must have been having his own low spot, jogging down the road. Greetings, and rhythm were shared and we ran it into the aid station.  

My awesome crew was waiting, I put on my Sugoi Firewall tights (which I expected to be overkill but were perfect), and fixed some other things.  I think I ate some pizza too.  In a hurry to get out of the aid station and get moving again, I took off.  In retrospect I wish I had stayed at the aid station and fueled a little bit more.  I'm rusty at hundreds.

The next section was very challenging for me.  I could not stay on the trail for the life of me.  It wound in and out of scraggly juniper trees and the occasional wash-out would lead me astray.  Running down the path the water had carved all of a sudden my trail would dissapere under a tree or off a ledge and I'd realize I'd gone the wrong way and backtrack.  This theme continued for a while.

Michael soon caught up to me as a bumbled about in the woods, and I gladly let him guide me through this section.  Somewhere around mile 65 I felt fatigue hit me like a hammer and Michael ran on without me.  It was the last I'd see of him.  I bumbled around looking for trail a few more times but eventually found my way to the next aid station.  It was around then that my right eye started to bother me.  It became hazy.  Like looking through a glass of watered-down milk.  It only got worse as the night progressed, not helping my navigating skills.

Soon I found myself at mile 67 and picking up my pacer Mark.  Excited to gain some company and also wanting to try to catch up to Michael I did not stay at this aid station very long either.  Stupid.  Should have ate and drank, especially when I was starting to fight the sleep demon.  I wanted a nap damnit.

I don't remember many details from this section, except Mark kept me entertained with stories and did his best to keep me eating.  It seemed to go on forever and I felt like I was running in circles as we ran through an endless series of small descents and ascents.  My right hip flexor was starting to really bother me and I kept catching my right toe, as I couldn't lift the leg very well.  At least once we came to a few not-so-great marked junctions of trail and luckily always chose the correct path.  I also seem to recall attempting to show Mark my layup form while we were talking about basketball.  That ended poorly and the scabs from my crash are still healing.  I also started to think that my headlamp was getting dimmer and dimmer, but that seemed unlikely as I most lamps these days have regulators that maintain a constant brightness.  Some post-race reading informed me that the Petzl Myo does not have this feature.  Good to know.  Always use the Fenix from now on. 

Still in 2nd, Mark and I came running into the Hull cabin aid station where Andrew was waiting to pace me for the last 19.5.  Again I sat down and had some snacks, but probably not enough.  Then the unthinkable - 3rd place came running into the aid station, and he looked FRESH.  I hurried out, a mistake, wanting to put some distance between myself and 3rd.  A long climb after Hull and then back onto to trail, Andrew had to remind me occasionally where the trail was.  I swear, it was my dimming headlamp...  3rd place, Bret Sarnquist soon came jogging on by, looking very strong, man that guy ran a well paced race, big congrats to him.  I removed my contact thinking that was what was causing the problems with my eye, and my vision did not improve at all.  Needless to say I was quite worried, but there wasn't anything I could do about it at this point.

The sun was up, I felt maybe a little revitalized, but not much.  I was blown up and I knew it, things hurt, but the sleepiness and fatigue was the worst I've ever dealt with.  I could barely lift my right leg because my hip flexor hurt so badly.  So, I went into survival mode.  Quiet, trying to keep moving.  Andrew kept me company and kept me eating, but I knew that there was nothing left in the tank.  I went out too hard, went for the big W, and now I was suffering the consequences.  In retrospect, still totally worth it.  The first 60ish miles were so fun.  

A few more aid stations and then only 2.5 miles left!  I was so tired.  It was going to be over soon

Across the finish line and found a chair.  In typical fashion, I was not feeling so good.  Andrew and Mark got my cot set up for me and then I'm asleep.  When I woke up my eye was already feeling better.  Fatigue/cold/altitude/dry air, I'm still not sure the cause.  It was very weird. 

Ian hooked me up with my belt-buckle, the real prize for running a hundred, and we piled into the car for the drive back to Colorado.  With a quick stop at the Grand Canyon of course.

We got back to Denver at 4:30 am on Monday.  Wow.  What an insane series of events.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  Would I be able to talk Andrew and Mark into 72 hours of sleepless driving/running, I doubt it?  Thanks a ton to those guys for helping with the adventure. 

Final Thoughts
Ill try to remember to eat more at aid stations in the future and be in less of a hurry.  A hurry is fine for a 50 mile race, but 100 miles requires so much more attention to the little things.  My quads handled the run very well, it was my hip flexor that bothered me so much, I'm not used to running so much flat I think.  Perhaps running in a pair of Salomon Senses was too little shoe for that long of an event.  Going for it is fun, just be willing to suffer the consequences if you blow up.  The second half of the race course seemed much rockier and more technical than the first half.  Perhaps that is a good tidbit of advice for anyone racing this one in the future.  I suspect that this will become a very popular race down the road, and my pedestrian 19:30 won't even land in the top ten.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bad day at the races, So what? - I still had fun

UROC 100k Race Report

Been seriously neglecting my blogging duties.  Sorry, I'd say I didn't have time, but I did.  I guess I was just lacking something to write about.  

But now I have a story to share.  Its called, I got ROC'd at UROC/remembering how to have fun at races.  

I had a really good summer of training and racing.  There is no way I could complain about the two top ten finishes at the Leadville series of races.  But then I had to go back to Michigan, finish my dissertation, move out of my apartment, defend my dissertation, move to Colorado, start a new job, and hopefully train as much as possible.  

I did all those things, but some of them I did a better job at than others.  Actually I trained really well through late August and into mid September.  However, after starting a new job doing research at the University of Colorado, I was noticing that my system just felt stressed.  OK, I need to rest, I'll start my taper for UROC.

UROC is the first of the series of races I signed up for to keep myself out of trouble this fall.  Its the unofficial "World Championships" of ultrarunning, but actually it was the championship race for Skyrunning.  This meant that it drew an incredible field of the best runners in the world, and I was excited to see what I could do relative the what is generally considered some of the fittest endurance athletes in the world. 

In fact, I was so excited that I was vibrating the entire day before the race, it'd been a while since I was so excited mentally to go out there and run run run.  Maybe it was because I'd been spending a lot of time cooped up in the lab. 
Sammy and I - ready to party

It snowed a lot up high the night before the race, and by up high I mean above 11,000 feet.  That's really high up if you're not from Colorado.  Like two miles up.  

Anyways, after figuring out what I thought was appropriate clothing, I found myself giving Sammy a high-five and making my way towards the starting line for the start of what could only be something EPIC.  The gun sounds and we're off.  A stampede along the road until we hit the ski slopes in Breckenridge.  As soon as we hit the climb I knew something was wrong.  I felt really good on the flat, then going up had NOTHING in my legs.  Scary Nothing.  Like a mile into a 60+ mile race scary.  Whatever, I've run enough of these things to know that sometimes you just gotta be patient and stick it out and things will turn around.  

On the climb up I kept the elites in sight and watched Sage, Dakota, Killian, Rob Krar, and Emelie Forseburger-doodle go flying down the singletrack towards Frisco.  Yay, my turn to go down.  Then people started passing me.  Thats weird, not a lot of folks can usually pass me going downhill, quads kinda feel achy.  Uh oh, flashes of previous poor races came rolling back into my mind.  I pull myself together, keep running and find that as we get closer to Frisco (and lose altitude) I start to reel back in the people who passed me earlier.

Frisco Aid Station.  Its cold, but not terrible.  Ryan informs me that I am currently 5th woman.  I get a good laugh out of his joke, slurp down a half frozen gel, and run back out of town.  No clue what is ahead.

I'm starting to realize this might not be "my day."  I've been blessed to have a lot of good races; perhaps because of my grad student-ness, I was typically well rested/unstressed before races.  Shiiiit.

Going up.  up.  up.  I talk to some folks, and then they run away from me.  Glarg, competitive spirit does not like it.  I try to go harder.  I feel sick.  Almost puke.  Slow down.  Long race, not even 20 miles in right now.  You'll catch them later.  

Holy crap, all of a sudden we're above tree line and there is...  ~10 inches of snow on the ground. Slip.  Slide.  No motivation to run hard.  Francesca Canepa trucks on by me.  She looks super strong.  Euro power.   Wait, I'm in a good mood?  Look around.  Crazy wild terrain, where in the world am I?

12,500 feet up running along a ridge line looking out over the 10 mile range at some jagged peaks covered in fresh snow on a blue bird day.  Oh.  Ok, ok ok, this is still fricking awesome.  Descending now, into the Copper Mountain ski area.  Really muddy with all the snow melt below tree line.  No problem for me.  I like mud.

Hmmm, GPS says 28 miles and I'm not at the 26.5 mile aid station yet.  Consistent theme throughout the day.  See Ryan, Liz, Tiffany, and Justin when I finally get to the aid station.  No BS to Ryan, bad day for me, just going to enjoy myself.  Then 12 miles of road.  Legs fall off again, while going up.  Some guy passes me.  His pacer is carrying all his shit for him, #cheating #idontcare.  I'm walking, but walking fast...  Im whining in my head right now.  No, I'm such a stud to be walking so fast. 

New aid station up ahead, I act like I've been running the entire time.  Oh hey, its Geoff Roes.  I make a few jokes, he laughs, now the paved bike path heads downhill.  I jog, then run, then run fast.  I'm flying.  I pass at least 4 or 5 people.  I take a gel, I feel really good, make jokes at another aid station, keep the mood light, stay positive.  Now I'm running up this big climb.  Ok, hitting about 11,000 feet and snow again, I'm in a strong pow-hike, no one is gonna catch me at this rate, 42 miles in and I might be finding my form.  Some guy goes running by me like its no big thing.  I deflate physically/mentally (not sure), laugh, and decide not to suffer so much and relax.

I get to the top of the second to last climb.  Coughing.  A lot.  Kinda deep chest rattle.  Pulmonary edema?  Don't be dramatic.  Eat a gel, instantly barf neon green into the snow.  Lemon lime gel.  Eat another gel.  Stays down.  Run down fast.  Start seeing other runners who were way ahead of me.  I'm actually catching up.  Get to Minturn, GPS watch says 56 miles, aid station says 51.  Someone is lying.  Bachelorette party offers me a cigarette, I strongly consider taking a drag.  Decide no.  Grab my headlamp, and for no known reason decide to change shoes.  Bad idea.  Eat two turkey sandwiches on my way out, to the amusement of many passerbys I'm jugging Turkey Sandwich #2, headlamp, gloves, jacket, shirt, waterbottle.  

Up.  Up.  Up.  This again?  I catch a few more people, feeling strong at this altitude.  Starts getting dark.  Turn on headlamp.  Uh oh.  Not working.  Bad.  Arrogantly didn't think I would use it at this race - didn't change my batteries out from Leadville pacing duties (4pm-4am).  Rotate batteries.  Maybe 20 lumens.  

Top of last climb.  Eat soup.  Too hot, burn mouth, spit it out.  Politely ask them to put water in it.  Try again.  Good.  Ask for soup in my waterbottle.  Get a weird look.  Confirm that is what I desire.  Sipping on chicken broth all the way down the mountain.  

Where am I?  Lost again.  Turn around, go back up.  Find trail.  See a person with a pacer, dash ahead of them.  Stay ahead.  Run off trail into bushes and into a branch.  People behind ask if I'm OK, yes, just lost.  They guide me back on trail.  I dash ahead again.  I'm being stubborn.  OK lost again.  Last time I swear.  No reflective tape on flags, very few markings, headlamp almost dead, blah blah, poorly marked course at night.  Now the people who've I've been dashing in front of are gone.  Where did they go?

Finish line in sight.  Just finish.  Almost go the wrong way.  Finished in under 14 hours (30th at the "World Championships"), get belt buckle (all I really care about).  Coughing, trying to find Pizza, end up in a room that was supposed to be locked.  Its all set up for a wedding reception in the morning.  Am I hallucinating?  Smell Pizza, FIND PIZZA.  Chair.  People who I kept dashing in front of finish.  They got lost, despite the fact the pacer had run up that road earlier that day.  See!  Not just me.   I swear.  Hot tub.  Beer.  Sleep.

And that folks, is my UROC summary.  Everyone said it was long.  Probably 4 miles long.  66-67 miles, depending on how many times you got lost (67 miles for me!).  My legs honestly felt dead tired if I tried to go fast, they didn't ever really hurt, I had no cramping issues to speak of, but struggled mightily to find energy and keep food down when I got up above 10,000 feet.  That being said, I had a fantastic time, the pressure of racing hard was gone because I knew I just didn't have it.  Its nice to know that I'm strong enough to just kinda meander through a race on a sub-par day and still find the finish line.  I can't help but wonder if the race had been another 33 miles, would I have reeled in more people?  Despite no speed, I felt capable of moving at my pace all day, probably because I was going so slow earlier.

First year races are a gamble.  They need to figure out the distance, and mark the course better for night time running.  I believe 73 people finished out of 215 starters or something.  Thats a very very low finishing rate.  Perhaps that speaks to how hard the race is, but also how demoralizing it is to get lost/find out you have 5 miles further to go than you thought.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger Review

Enter the Nike Trail Collection: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger Review
By Jason Robertson

        After my block of 50 milers in July I was ready to explore a new shoe.  I had run the Devil's Lake 50 miler in the Nike Zoom Streak XC3s on July 13th.  Two weeks later, I competed in the Voyageur 50.  In this race I tried the La Sportiva Vert K and switched into the XC3 about 20 miles into the race.  The upper on the Vert K was just too loose, allowing for a lot of forward foot movement on the downs.  I'm sure this is why my two big toes have black nails.  I love the XCs, but they just aren't built for the long, technical terrain that the Voyageur dished out.

Nike Zoom Streak XC3: Not quite a 50 mile shoe...

        Towards the end of the Voyageur,  I came up to a guy wearing the Nike Zoom Terra Kigers.  Chris Beck had sent me some info on these a few days before the race, so I was pretty excited to spot these shoes out on the course.  I initially passed him about mile 38ish, not noticing his footwear.  However we came to a steep downhill leading into the Chamber's Grove aid station and he quickly caught me, then passed me upon our exit from the station.  I managed to catch him a little later and we started chatting shoes.  He had purchased the Kigers the day before the race and he stated that they were great, right out of the box.  I had noted his downhill prowess in the shoes and thought I should try them out.

What is this new line?:
        The new Nike Zoom Terra line derives from an old 'Earthy' line of, what I think, was a cross country shoe line.  Nike pulled the name Kiger from a breed of wild Mustang native to the Oregon area.  Two shoes exist as of now in this line: The Terra Kiger and The Wildhorse.  The Kigers have Nike Trail printed on the insole, so I do believe the company is entering the foray of low-drop, lightweight, trail racers.  And in my opinion, have entered in a crushingly, fantastic way.

Enter the Kiger:
        The Kiger is NOT a new shoe.  The Kiger is pieced together from several other Nike shoes and a brand new sticky rubber outsole has been added. According to Nike the last is taken from the Free 5.0.  In my opinion, the entire shoe reminds me of the Free 3.0 v.3.  With its half-tongue (think New Balance road 00) and buttery smooth inner with a beautifully loose (no heel counter allowing for a flexible but still supportive heel, it is hands down the most comfortable trail shoe I have.  The Brooks Pure Grit comes close with its satin-like heel material.  But, the award for the most comfortable upper now belongs to the Kiger.  This didn't surprise me, I loved the Free 3.0 and this shoe is a direct blood relative.  

Very nice heel fit, soft yet supportive

The fit of this shoe is not overly wide like the Altra Lone Peak, but not as narrow as the XC3.  Overall, sizing is comparable to the MT110, I wear a size 10 in both of these shoes.  There is no rockplate but because the shoe has a full length rubber outsole, the protection is somewhat comparable to the peregrine.  Runningwarehouse has the stack height at 23mm in the heel and 19mm in the forefoot.  The shoe feels very flexible and has a nice amount of energy return.

Lacing system and shoe

The lacing derives from the new Flyknit system, where little string eyelets are looped to receive the laces.  This system performs the midfoot lockdown, and does this quite well.  While the upper and the last of the Kiger is not new, the outsole has not been seen before.

all new outsole- the colors create a bullseye to reveal where the zoom air units are located, good stuff!

Initial findings out on the trail:
        Socks or no?  I decided the very first run with these would be sockless.  The upper feels great on the skin. Satin on the heel/achilles area, seamless construction throughout- out of the box, sockless run- no problems, no blisters.  If you've ran in the Frees and felt good, you'll like this upper.  This is one of the nicest uppers of the trail shoes that I have worn.  However, it did loosen a little on my initial run.  I have a foot length discrepancy: my left is a full size bigger than my right.  I size to my left foot, which puts me in a 10.  My right would fit nicely in a 9.  On my right foot, the shoe did slip a little, especially after the water crossing.  I simply tightened it up, and on my way I went.  No major issues, but I did read a few initial reviews about how the Kiger's upper was too loose for some tastes, so I wanted to take notice.  The shoe drains nicely, laces stay put, and there is good mid-foot lockdown.  The upper is not as responsive as, say a 110.  It gives a little, but I did not think it squirmed too much on the tight, twisty mountain bike course where I was testing.

Is the outsole good enough?:
        Ok, this was my dilemma.  The Brooks Pure Grit were the most comfortable shoes in my quiver.  However, if I even thought of running when a little moisture was present, the shoe became downright dangerous.  After slipping on the Kiger, I immediately thought of the Grit's comfort and hoped this thing hooked up on the slicks.  Sure enough, at least my initial findings, this thing grips just fine.  The trail was relatively dry, but I went through the stream twice and with a wet bank on either side.  The shoe gripped going up and down, no slippage.  Took the Kiger over a wet, wooden bridge, no problems.  I'm thinking the shoe will hook up well, but until I run through a slop-fest, rain-dance, I'll be slightly cautious.  It seems the outsole patterns itself similarly to a Cascadia.  It has a similar lug pattern around the outside of the shoe and little blocks/pods in the center switching directions just after the arch creating a multi-directional system.

Final Thoughts:
        This is a beautiful shoe.  I had wished back in 2010, when I had worn the XC2 for Stumpjump and the Free 3.0 for a few long trail runs, that Nike would create a trail specific shoe that would hang with the likes of the New Balance 100/101. I think their first shot at this is successful. I think they waited until the ultra-minimal phase was over and then jump in with both feet. The shoe is not uber light, but the company did not false advertise: a male size 10 is 8.6 oz, just as mentioned on the Nike site.  The 4mm midsole drop shoe is VERY comfortable and so far, does a good job on hooking up on the trails.  The shoe is pricey at $125 U.S., but with Salomon's Sense line toping out at $180-200, nice trail shoes are going to put you back a little.

Just on a side note - I think this is a great direction for trail shoes to be headed.  "Minimalist" shoes such as the 110 just don't have enough protection and cushion for a lot of us, yet personally I still desire something with a low drop and relatively light weight.  The Kiger achieves both these things, while also providing adequate protection.  Nike has been a long time coming in entering this arena, but I think this shoe not only performs great, but also represents the direction consumers (and thus the industry) are desiring.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New toys out soon

Scouring the web in my free time for new shoes/gear that get me excited is something that I do oh too often.  But, the 5-10 people who actually read my blog get to enjoy the occasional preview on gear-to-come.

Fellraiser  (photo Castlebergoutdoors.uk)
Fellcross 2 (photo wiggle.uk)

Sense 3.  Did I miss the 2?  (photo Wiggle.uk)
S-lab Skin 5L pack with new soft-flask pockets.  I'll be looking hard at this pack.
(photo Castlebergoutdoors.uk)

Sense Ultra Softground
I'd heard rumors!  It does exist.  Also see Adam Campell wearing it in his movie "Silence"
(photo http://exploringthelimits.wordpress.com)

Inov-8 has also redone the color scheme for several of their trail shoes.  Whether there are changes in performance characteristics, its unclear.  I heard in an interview with Joe Grant that the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 was moved from blown EVA to injected EVA and that gave the shoe a little more protective ride.

X-Talon 212 (photo wiggle.uk)
Oroc 280 a shoe I would love to try out (photo wiggle.uk)

Inov-8 X-Talon 190 update (photo wiggle.uk)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Silver Rush 50 Race Report

How did I end up back here again? I thought as Ryan, Liz, Justin and I drove into Leadville.  Having run the marathon just two weeks ago, this felt strangely familiar.

Yesterday we watched the bike race and got some...  beta... on the trail conditions and what the course was like.  In typical Leadville fashion, a lot of the race took place on old mining roads, which was fine with me, while the aesthetic nature of single track is lost, you do gain wonderful views from the open roads.

Somewhere before the race started, I lost Ryan and Liz and found Ryan and Alaina.  Im just that awkward single guy tagging along with various couples.  After taking care of some early morning business, Ryan (Case) and I shuffled towards the starting line, which coincidentally was at the base of a steep hill.  First one to the top of the hill wins a prize (no, really they do).

In there somewhere

I walked up the hill.  And the masses swept around me.  Then once we hit the single track on top of my hill we started running for real.  Maybe I was running too fast, but something didn't feel right.  I was off my game, physically.  That put me in a bad place mentally almost immediately.  With something like 2 miles in, I was already feeling less enthusiastic than I needed to.  Just keep grinding along, you'll be good bro.

I think part of this feeling was that the first 10 miles is essentially all uphill.  Sometimes the up can be deceiving in that you don't even notice its going up, but your legs feel it.  Add that to the fact that you're running at 10,000 feet above sea level, and its easy to get down.  I kept running trying to find my rhythm.  It wouldn't come.  Where was Hagy and Jenny, my faithful crew who always lift my spirits?  This race felt like Mohican, compacted into one shorter race, with all the ups and downs I experienced there.

I was feeling particularly discourage as the trail just kept going up and up.  Looking back I have to laugh at my thoughts during the first little bit of the race.  I was thinking about dropping.  That would've been terrible, dropping only 10 miles into the race.  Oh, this just isn't your day, blah blah excuses excuses.

Then I heard someone belting out "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name too".  I immediately knew this was none other than the Ryan Case.  I gladly ran with Ryan for the next 10 miles, finally, being able to talk to someone (and finishing the long uphill) my brain and legs came around and I was in slightly a better place.  Along the way we went through the Printer Boy aid station, where I saw Gary a friend of a friend whom I had just met, but again, it was super motivating to see a smiling face.

My climbing legs were working really well on the ascent to the high point of the course on Ball Mountain.  Run run run hike run hike hike run run run run hike etc.  you get the point.  The combo of a strong power hike and efficient running cadence really helps me cruise these kinds of sections.  In fact I love climbs (10%+) that dictate this sort of effort, rather than 10 mile climbs at 6%.

Smiling still

I was finally starting to feel good, if not a little dehydrated.  The aid stations for this route were approximately 6-7 miles apart, which in the mountains can be 2 hours if you're not moving fast enough.  My little handheld bottle was not cutting it.

Its too bad I didn't notice this earlier and make an effort to drink more fluids at the aid stations.  Because soon the combination of my aggressive fueling strategy and lack of water caught up with me and I was full on nauseated.  I had made it down the pass that went over Ball Mountain (mile 21ish) and was heading towards the turn around point when I was forced to go from a run to a jog, or else I was going to lose my cookies.  I saw the leaders coming back towards me from the turnaround and tried to give some encouragement and not puke on them.

This continued for way too long.  I had gone through the turn around and was heading back up the mountain, feeling terribly sick while still trying to get in calories and water.  Since this was an out and back section, I was now seeing a lot of other runners, which actually helped lift my mood a lot.  Despite the sick feeling, the constant interaction with others helped me forget about my stomach and just focus on saying hi to people and running the gradual climbs on the mining roads before the steep climb.  In fact, it wasn't until mile 28ish that I let out a huge belch and felt like I was given an instant energy boost.  I suspect my stomach finally emptied all the fuel I had been forcing down into my intestine where it could be absorbed.  I really cranked through this section taking risks on the downhill and generally enjoying myself.

Some reference points added.  My graphic design/computer skills are out of control these days

I caught two or three more people before reaching the Printer Boy aid station, but noticed that one runner behind me would not be deterred.  What the hell, no one gains ground on me late in races like that!  I ran really hard after Printer Boy, despite the wicked long climb, and then turned around.  This guy was 3 steps behind me.  He said "hi" and we started to chat.  I immediately realized it was Mike Aish, a former Olympian and 2:12 marathoner.  hah.  Of course it is.  No wonder I can't outrun this guy.

We ran together for a good 10-12 miles.  He was super friendly and was giving me encouragement as my stomach had started to sour again.  I don't think I took on any fuel for the last 1:30 of the race, which is just a terrible idea.  But I didn't want to barf, and have lots of other excuses.  Mike and I ran together, and he told me he was just out for fun and had done a 7.5 hour run the day before.  I felt like we were crawling along for this last 10 mile stretch, which is a hard section, because although its slightly downhill, the gradient isnt enough to really carry you, and you have to actually run it, which if you're hammered like I was, its torture.  I couldn't believe how much I was looking forward to anything that had an incline, I felt so much better going up than down.  Somewhere along this way, Mike suggested that I had 4th all wrapped up and he would let me finish ahead of him out of kindness.  No way was I going to let this guy, who was clearly the better runner and just keeping me company, let me finish in front of him.  I was already planning out my "fall" right before the finish line so that he would be forced to beat me.

Finish.  Where are my sandals?

Luckily right around then Mike, the course record holder and last year's winner, told me we had 5k left, to which I replied "well get after it!"  He sprinted away and put 2 minutes on me in a mile.  I realized I was close to the finish, put on my game face and ran the last mile or so to the end.  My feet hurt so fricking bad I couldn't wait to rip off my shoes and get my flip flops on.

Overall I was pleased with my performance, but I am sure I lost at least 5 minutes due to the nausea and another 5 due to being a total and complete wuss on the last 10 mile decent.  Oh well, always nice to have room for improvement right?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gluten intolerance and neurological illness

Gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley) make up a large portion of our daily diet, and these grains have become staple foods in the Western world.  Gluten itself is a protein structure that has been shown to elicit an immune response in some susceptible individuals.  Those who are gluten intolerant can be afflicted with what is known as celiac disease in which an immune response against self-enzymes is elicited upon ingestion of even tiny amounts of gluten (1).

Adapted from (6)

Celiac disease is a systemic immunological disease that is most commonly associated with gut dysfunction and gastointestinal symptoms.  Celiac disease is becoming an increasingly commonly recognized disorder, and it is estimated that approximately .75-1.0% of the general population suffers from some degree of celiac disease (1,2).  While the traditional concept is that celiac disease results in gastrointestinal distress, there appear to be a number of symptoms that occur outside of the gastointesinal system.  However, an interesting symptom commonly found in persons who suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease are unexplained neurological symptoms. This is actually not that new of a concept, as early as 1966 doctors have associated celiac disease with neurological illness (3).

The biological foundation for this observation is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that the gastrointestinal system actually has its own nervous system which communicates directly with the central nervous system.  There has since been the hypothesis proposed that states:  "Gluten causes symptoms in both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance, by its action on the nervous system" (1).

Proper neurological function is required for general health and well being; there has been a good amount of investigation into the relationship between gluten sensitivity and neurological function.  Proper digestive activity, including gut motility and gall-bladder function rely on proper nervous system activity.  Thus, the gastrointestinal symptoms reported in celiacs could largely be related to nervous system dysfunction (1,3).   In a report investigating the occurrence of neurological disease in celiacs and non-celiacs it was found that 51.4% of those with celiac suffered some sort of neurological dysfunction, while only 19.9% of those without celiac presented with neurological illness (1).  Other studies paint a slightly less dire picture, with between 10-25% of patients with confirmed celiac presenting with neurological illness of some sort, however the neurological dysfunction that is associated with celiac disease still presents a  large economic and social burden (2).  Similarly, there is a high prevalence (46%) of headache/migraines found in patients with celiac disease compared to those without celiac (29%) (1,4,5).  Taken together, these data suggest that those with celiac are over two-times more likely to have neurological dysfunction, of some sort.

In studies conducted at the Mayo clinic, patients with childhood onset celiac disease suffered from ataxia, peripheral neuropathy and seizures at an abnormally high rate (1).  Dementia has been associated with adult-onset celiac disease, such that dementia began soon after the onset of celiac symptoms, although this appears to be a rather rare phenomenon.  Furthermore, in patients in which celiac disease is associated with neurological dysfunction, cognitive impairment is commonly reported as well as amnesia (1).  The onset of cognitive impairment is also especially found to begin soon after the onset of celiac disease-like symptoms (1).

Adapted from (6)

One of the more interesting concepts regarding gluten sensitivity and gluten tolerance is the differentiation between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.  I have more or less lumped these two terms together there, which I believe is a practical consideration as our diagnostic methods for these different conditions are constantly evolving and have yet to been unified.  For example, Hoffenberg et al. reported on a large cohort of children who were screened for evidence of celiac disease and found that 724 presented with high anti-gliadin levels (a diagnostic measure of celiac) (4).  However, upon histological examination of these children, 4.3% were define celiac (94% improvement with gluten free diet), 6.6 % were possible celiacs (with 75% improvement on a gluten free diet) and 89.1% were not-celiacs, despite the fact that 53% of these children reported improvement of symptoms with a gluten free diet (1,4).

Interestingly and importantly, neurological symptoms (tiredness, lethargy, irritability, sleep disturbance) were commonly reported in all three of these groups with 71% of the confirmed celiacs, 65% of the possible celiacs, and 51% of the non-celiacs reporting these symptoms (1).

While the association between celiac disease and neurological dysfunction appears to be fairly strong, without understanding of potential mechanisms, I remain unconvinced.  However, there does appear to be a fairly strong mechanistic basis for these observations.  Celiac is an immunological disorder, in which B cell produce auto-antibodies against transglutaminase or gliadin, the enzymes required to digest and absorp gluten or a portion of wheat, respectively (6).  Thus, the current belief is that gluten sensitivity results in auto-antibody production, which in turn damages nerve cells and results in inflammation.  Evidence for this hypothesis consists of the fact that 64% of celiacs who presented with neurological disease also had anti-ganglioside (a nerve cell) antibodies (5,6), in their circulation.  These antibodies have been shown to bind to a number of critical nerve sites that result in immune mediated damage to the nerve.  

Furthermore, studies mapping blood flow in the brains of patients who are gluten intolerant who are on a gluten free diet and those who are not have found that there is significant differences in the perfusion of various areas of the brain between the two groups (7).  While the direct cause of this is unclear, this could be related to inflammation and immunoreactivity, or direct toxicity from gluten.

While alterations in growth and body composition may be expected in persons suffering from gastointestinal illness such as celiac, the concept that this is accompanied by neurological illness as well has significant implications and is possibly less appreciated.  Those with celiac may also suffer from a wide spectrum of neurologic an psychiatric symptoms, including neuropathy, ataxia, migraines, epilepsy, lethargy, irritability, and depression (4,5). 

A search of the literature suggests that gluten can cause neurological harm through a combination of cross reacting antibodies, as well as further immunological damage, or toxicity (6),7. 

Works Cited

1)  Ford RP. The gluten syndrome: a neurological disease. Med Hypotheses 2009;73(3):438–40.

2)  Currie S, Hadjivassiliou M, Clar MJ, et al.  Should we be ‘nervous’ about coeliac disease? Brain abnormalities in patients with coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion.  J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2012;83:1216–1221 

3)  Cooke W, Smith W. Neurological disorders associated with adult coeliac disease. Brain 1966;89:683–722.

4) Hoffenberg EJ, Emery LM, Barriga KJ, et al.  Clinical features of children with screening identified evidence of celiac disease.  Pedatrics 2004; May;113(5):1254-9. 

5)  Bushara KO.  Neurologic Presentation of Celiac Disease.  Gastroenterology 2005;128:S92–S97
6) Green PHR, Alaedin A, Sander HW, et al.  Mechanisms underlying celiac disease and its neurological manifestations.  Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 2005; 62

7)  Addolorato G, Di Giuda D, De Rossi G, et al. Regional cerebral hypoperfusion in patients with celiac disease. Am J Med 2004;116:312–7.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


The month of June has shaped up to be a pretty good month of running for me.  Managed to run very consistently throughout and have lots of long long outings, even if the mileage isn't extraordinary.

June 3rd-9th:  Total of 98 miles, time on feet: 19:42, with 20,446 vertical gain.  Highlight of this week was climbing Grays and Torreys (Sufferfest for me) despite the fact that there was still quite a bit of snow cover.

Worth the view

June 10th-16th:  Total of 95 miles, time on feet: 21:18, with 19,907 vertical gain.  Ran up to South Arapaho peak one day in Indian Peaks Wilderness, pretty neat area.  Highlight of the week was a double crossing of Hope Pass with a group training for Leadville.

Hope pass x2 (boobies?)

Stole this from Ryan's instagram account

June 17th-23rd:  Total of 84.5 miles, time on feet:  20:30, and 18,602 feet vertical gain.  Supposed to be a "step-back" week, but between travelling to Oregon for a job interview, and 3 long runs, I'm not sure I achieved what I was supposed to, although I did feel exceptional on Sunday for a quadbag (Flagstaff, Green, Bear, and South Boulder mountains) with Ryan Case.  Definitely did not feel well recovered after this week.  Highlight of the week was a long run from Echo lake, up to Mount Evans and back down, with lots of wildlife.


June 24th-June 30th:  Total of 66.5 miles, time on feet: 10:15, 12,278 feet vertical gain.  "Taper" week for the Leadville Trail Marathon (report here).  Hard to cut back on running when having so much friggin fun...

Totals for June:  364 miles, 78 hours, 79,760 vertical feet gained.  Definitely a new high in the time on feet and vertical gain department, even if its at the sacrifice of running a few less miles.  I think a very solid June last year was about 15,000 feet of vertical gain, so I think that puts things in perspective a little more.  Not sure why I'm running so much, but it seemed to pay dividends at the Leadville Marathon.  Now for the Silver Rush 50 mile!  We will see what happens, I'll try to run a more conservative race than I did at the marathon in hopes of feeling good and keeping my wits about me for 8+ hours above 10,000 feet.