Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is It Really October Already?

Whoa, 2013, slow down a bit please! Can't believe how fast this year has sprinted along. Does it seem that way to you, too? I feel like I barely have time to catch my breath, and never seem to find a moment to write anything coherent on this blog. I smell a 2014 New Year's Resolution brewing ...

Halloween is nearly upon us, and the racing season - at least here in the northern plains - is winding down. Oh, sure, we've got a smattering of Turkey Trots and Christmas Jogs on the calendar, but trail racing is just about done for the year and that's where I find the most pleasure and satisfaction.

I will be racing at the Great Pumpkin Chase 10k this coming weekend. It's the final race in the 2013 UMTR Trail Race Grand Prix Series. I've really enjoyed the races in this series over the past year, and - unlike last year - managed to stay uninjured and thus hang in there consistently enough to take home the top prize in my age group AND OVERALL. Have to be happy with that! There is a potluck gathering a awards ceremony coming up next month (Potluck! You've got to love the Midwest sometimes).

On staying injury-free: Really, I'm just talking about major break downs, because I've had my share of sore spots and nagging little stuff, like ITB tightness, piriformis twitches, and an intermittent odd pain in my left ankle. Still, I've managed to run at least a few times every week for most of the year. The rest of the days I'm either cycling pretty hard or whirling around on my elliptical in the basement, nose pressed into Netflix on the iPad. I'm going to go on record to say that the elliptical was a good purchase for me as an "older runner". Even though I much prefer being outside (regardless of the elements), the ability to eliminate most of the injury-inducing impact of gravity while still getting a quality and similar-motion-to-running workout has been really valuable. And thank goodness for lots of (mostly old and bad, but what the heck) Sci Fi stuff on Netflix! I've found that I can do a pretty good set of intervals by finding old shows/films with plenty of chase scenes, just a tip. Oh, and comedies are no good for me - I can't workout and laugh at the same time!

I hope you are prepared for winter, and plan to stay fit and active regardless of the season. I'll be back at some point with a complete recap of 2013 and look ahead to 2014. Keep running!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Forget How Fragile We Are

I was having a pretty good summer, really. Running fairly strong, doing more cross-training than ever before in an effort to stay healthy and avoid over-use injuries. Even (gasp!) eating fairly healthy foods. Seemed I was checking all of the right boxes.

Then, boom! One kid with the sniffles crosses my path, and within a day or so I'm laid out in bed with a fever, chills, hacking cough, and blinding headaches. Argh!

These little tiny things called viruses are truly amazing things. Get a couple into your system on the wrong day and you might as well have hit yourself repeatedly with a hot brick. I was a wreck for 3-4 days, then dragged myself (stubbornly) out for a short jog ... which of course knocked me right back down for 3 more days (we runners are a stupid lot, aren't we? Thinking we can "run it out of us". Sigh.).

Now, at day 11, I'm finally feeling almost myself again. Not 100% , but darned close. It's amazing how strong and capable we can feel one day, and then down and out the next. Over and over again, we forget how fragile we are.

And this is one of my favorite songs, too, Stevie.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wait ... you RAN to work today?

Well, yeah, I did. But wait, it's not THAT weird. Well, maybe it is a bit weird, but I swear it's getting LESS weird year-by-year. Allow me to elucidate ...

I ran to work this morning, about 4.5 miles on the slightly-more-scenic route (for those of you from the Twin Cities: this included heading north on Pleasant and Grand and Bryant, then picking up the Midtown Greenway east until I could climb up at Nicollet and weave my way past Eat Street and over to the MIA where I work). I wore a backpack with some essentials, and I didn't push the pace. It took me just over 36 minutes, and it felt good. Of course, I ended up rather sweaty, despite the unusually cool weather we're having (low 60s F, but rather humid in the morning).

Those essentials in the backpack? The answer has two parts:
Part One: I keep the following in my office all the time - belt, shoes, shirt, deodorant, towel, wet wipes, hand sanitizer. So I can rely on being able to towel off and clean up a bit. I'm also lucky to have an office with a door that closes, so I've got a place where I can change.
Part Two: My backpack - I recommend a Camelbak, because they are lightweight, offer plenty of straps, are built to haul water so they are built to be sturdy and to fit tightly, and finally I can adjust mine to ride relatively high between my shoulder blades so it's not bouncing on my waist. In my backpack this morning I brought along: cell phone, wallet, keys, socks, underwear, khakis (rolled up), and food (apple, yogurt, carrots, and a bag of dry cereal and raw almonds).

I should also confess that I don't run to or from work very often. I usually commute by car, mostly because I typically wear a suit & tie and often attend offsite meetings or lunches on a tight schedule. I sometimes commute by bike - which takes me almost exactly the same amount of time that it does to drive - but can be a hindrance if the weather is cold or wet, or when I have those afore-mentioned offsite meetings. So why run to work today?

I ran to work today in part because I was in a car accident earlier this week. Some guy ignored a red light and sort of t-boned my car in the middle of an intersection. I was lucky, he hit me on the driver's side but closer to the back wheel, so I just got spun around 180 degrees and came to a stop. I'm fine, just a nice bruise on my rib cage, but the car is toast. I'm dealing with the insurance companies and all of that complexity - I've never been in a car accident before, so it's all a mystery to me and I'm finding it pretty hard to find a helpful soul in the insurance biz. Sigh. Part of that chaotic milieu is the arranging for a rental car for awhile ... at least until the final decisions are made about my damaged car. That rental car is supposed to arrive today at my place of work (I do like that Enterprise Rental cars will "pick you up"), so it was simply easier for me to travel very lightly this morning (i.e., no bike). And, of course, what the heck!

A few things to note about commuting by foot:

  • National Run to Work Day is actually on the near horizon! Friday September 20, 2013. To be accurate, they call it RUN@WORK day, and you can learn more about it at the RRCA website. See, maybe it's not so weird after all, right? It's "national" for goodness sake.
  • Runner's World has posted a funny article about running to work, a bit focused on the whole getting cleaned up thing, which I acknowledge can be a challenge. I guess I'm lucky in that I'm just generally not a stinky guy. I know everyone is different in that regard, so what works for some of us may not work for others.
  • There is a blogger called The Run Commuter who has published careful notes on how to become a run commuter
  • The Guardian has another how-to article online.
  • And, check this out: there is a service called Home Run in London that will not only help you run home from work, with a group if you'd like, but they will also carry your bag home for you so that you don't have to. As they say in England, "Brilliant!"
Of course, commuting by running is not for everyone and I'm not trying to be an evangelist here. I did have a little fun with it this morning, and I'll try to do it a bit more often in the future, because frankly it's not as difficult as it may seem and it's just plain good for me.

Do you run to and/or from work? Do you have any other useful tips or links? Please post in the comments.

Run on my friends.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A (Partial) Guide to Running Road Relays

Author's note: This - rather long - post is meant to help my fellow runners plan for and accomplish a point-to-point relay race. It is based on my personal experience, and I've shared one version or another of this content through various channels since 2005 (wow, that's a long time ago). Also, As with a lot of the advice-related things I write, this guide is meant to be both informative and (at times) irreverent ... and hopefully occasionally entertaining. The goal, as always, is to combine a zest for life with a passion for running, and to express it not only with our feet but also with our smiles and laughter. Along the way, we collect life-memories that, well, no one else will really understand, you-had-to-be-there kind of stuff. So, try to read this with just enough attention to remember most of it, your teammates will probably be grateful (or at least they’ll hit you on the head less often).

What exactly is a point-to-point relay?
Essentially, you take a carload or two (or six, or whatever) of runners (and ‘temporary runners’ as needed) and you get them from a starting line to a distant finishing line. One-at-a-time, each runner is logging miles while the others drive, support, guide, chide, photograph, tease, get lost, flirt with the competition, eat, argue over radio stations, nap, etc. While that may not sound all that tough, believe me, these things can come unraveled quickly without preparation. There are numerous obstacles to overcome, being prepared will vastly reduce the headache factor and allow you and your team to focus on enjoying the race, instead of on throwing bananas and empty Gatorade containers at one another. A point-to-point relay isn’t your run-of-the-mill race: It takes considerably more planning and shared resources to organize a relay team. By comparison, for an individual race it’s you alone who will or will not be on time, have a decent race, forget your pants, etc. … if things go wrong, no one ‘suffers’ except you, so no big deal. Well, friend, now you’ve got actual teammates who depend on you to be there, do your best, and help them do their best. I’m not going to lie to you, this does add a bit of pressure, but it’s also really fun and exciting (trust me, you’ll see). We’ve all done our share of boring road races that are forgotten a month later, but you will remember your relays, forever. That’s pretty cool.

Getting There (Registration, Transportation)
Team captains will collect information and signatures to get teams entered, please respond quickly and accurately when they bug you for this kind of stuff. Oh, and send in that entry fee check you promised! Team captains (hey, here’s an idea: volunteer to be one next time!) will also be organizing (read: begging and pleading for) cars or vans for race day, and will arrange meeting points for transportation and pre-race gathering. On race day, here is how you can help the most: Be there on time (or even – gasp! – early!), and if you are a driver show up with a clean and fully-fueled car. It is simply not an option to saunter in late for one of these events … I think I’ve belabored that point enough, right?

Wait! What do I bring??
At the end of this guide, you’ll find a basic gear list. Pretty simple. Your team captains may or may not provide you with a more-specific list, but this is a decent starting point. You’ll notice that there are several items on the list that are shared. “Aha!” you say, nearly spilling your bowl of corn flakes, “So that’s why they keep bugging me about this team meeting thing!” That’s right, we will need to get together well before the race to decide who’s bringing what, among other important things.

Team Meeting Thing
That’s right, there are many good reasons for a pre-race meeting, the list of which is too long and varied (and boring) to include here. However, there will always be some sort of logistics to iron out, so when your team captain(s) set up a pre-race meeting in the weeks before the event, be there.

Race Rules
All of these relays have rules, some similar and some quite unique. The races typically have websites listing all of the details, best if you look them over (preferably while relatively sober). At the Team Meeting, team captain(s) will highlight the most-important rules for your specific race. Some rules will apply to runners; some rules will apply to support vehicles. If you violate these rules, your team can be penalized or even eliminated from the race, both of which would, well, totally suck. So don’t blow it for others.

Driving and Supporting
Yeah, okay, it’s a race and all, but that does not give you carte blanche to ignore traffic laws (or the laws of physics). Not to mention, you will probably spend time driving someone else’s car, so be cool about it. Drive sanely, keep it safe. And keep an eye on the gas gauge, nothing worse than sputtering out halfway to the next stage, and stranding the entire team. When you decide to stop and support your on-course runner, find a legal spot to pull over, and please respect the local residents. If you hand your runner a drink cup or bottle or a gel pack, then it’s your responsibility to pick it up after they’ve dropped it. Best approach: as you stop, decide on one person to provide the refreshment, who walks back up the course about 100 meters, and one person to gather the refuse, who walks the other direction down the course 100 meters. Simple, right? Lastly, some runners like to be screamed at Vince-Lombardi-style, others prefer a quiet word of support, some like to hear loud disco music, others just want cold water thrown on them every half mile … do you know how you find out someone’s preference? You ask! Amazing, isn’t it? Be a good teammate, and find out how to help the others on your squad. Oh, and say thank you when others help you … like I said, simple.

Check the forecast, and bring the right stuff. And remember that driving in bad weather is harder, so prepare for it. Hints: in cold weather, a thermos of hot coffee, tea, or cocoa is a miracle. In hot weather, bring one or two of those big ‘super-soaker’ style squirt guns and have fun blasting each other to stay cool.

Communication and Emergencies
Everyone with a cell phone should bring it, fully charged. Team captains will collect numbers for each support vehicle. Stay in touch, and when two or more support vehicles cross paths, exchange any updates that might be helpful. Please keep your team captain up-to-date on anything of importance (well, unless he/she is currently running, then you can wait until the next leg). As far as emergencies, just keep in mind that people are always more important than a race; if someone needs help, from your team or even from another team, the race immediately becomes a lower priority. When in doubt, get help via calling 911.

Most of the point-to-point races cover so much territory that it is impossible to block all traffic or to mark the course perfectly. Therefore, it is the job of each runner and each support vehicle to know the route. Best approach: each runner should bring copies of his or her stage maps in ziploc bags folded carefully so they can be viewed (stuffed into your shirt while you run). The support vehicle should carry a master copy of the entire set of course maps. In the support vehicle, one person drives and a DIFFERENT person reads the maps. Hint One: If you are in the support vehicle, and you notice an unmarked or tricky intersection, then stop nearby and get someone over there to direct your runner. Help each other! Hint Two: Zero out the vehicle’s trip meter at the starting line, this helps keep track of the race miles and thus simplify navigation.

Running Part One: Pacing and racing
Warming up: You won’t have a lot of time to get ready, so a complete warm-up (like you’d do before a typical race) is unlikely. Try to get in at least a 5 min. jog and 5 min. of easy stretching before you run, but don’t fret too much over this, you’ll be so fired up that it will be easy to get going (trust me).
Pacing: This is the hardest part about running a relay. You usually have to run more than once, so pace yourself accordingly. Typically, you try to run "tempo pace", which is about 85%-88% of your maximum effort (add about 7.5% to your per mile 5k race pace to come up with splits, but adjust for terrain, weather, time of day, etc.).
Competing: Relay teams vary in the types of runners they put into each stage. Try not to ‘race’ the runners immediately around you, just establish your pace and stick with it. If you can use those ahead of you for motivation, okay, but don’t freak if you get passed - that runner could be from a weak team with one fast person, you never know. Do your own thing, ignore the others, we’ll sort it all out at the end. If you start chasing someone, then blow up and lose five minutes in the last couple miles of your stage, then you’ve let your entire team down.
Cooling down: Just like the warm-up, finding time to cool down can be a problem. Here are some hints, but please inform your team before you jog off, disappear, and confuse everyone:
- After handing off to the next runner, continue on up the course for a mile or so of easy jogging, tell your support vehicle to pick you up enroute (cover up your race number if you do this, we don’t want to be accused of any strange-doings).
- or - After handing off, just jump right into the support car. As soon as the car makes its first support stop, you jump out and jog around to cool down and loosen up.
- or - Ask your support driver to drop you off one mile from the beginning of the NEXT stage, then jog in ahead of the upcoming runner to join back with the team (cover up your race number on this one too).
Handing-off: Every team has their own style of handing off from one runner to the next, just make sure to agree ahead of time. Most races give the team a wristband to pass along, my advice is don't try to be fancy, just take it off and hand it to the next runner.

Running Part Two: Recovering, running multiple stages in one relay race
Assuming you will run more than one stage, follow this routine after each:
1. Cool down, as you prefer (see above)
2. Towel off, and immediately change clothes – do not sit around in wet gear!
3. Store your sweaty gear in a sealed bag, your teammates will be grateful
4. Hydrate: replace what you’ve lost, and use drinks that sit easy on your stomach
5. Eating: re-fuel, use foods that you know you can digest appropriately before you have to run again
6. Hint: petroleum jelly can work miracles, use it on any skin surfaces that tend to chafe or blister
7. Wear a new set of running clothes and shoes for each stage that you run

Running Part Three: Finishing
It's common practice for the entire team to jump into the race just before the finish line, to accompany the "anchor leg" runner across the line. Plan ahead for it, get there on time, and enjoy the moment. One word of practical caution: If your last runner is engaged in a tight race with one or more other runners, don't get in the way, just jog in right behind and enjoy watching the competition unfold.

Team Etiquette
Attitude: It’s not always easy to be with the same guys and gals all day (especially if one of them has really old running shoes!), but do your best to maintain the peace. (Vehicles have roof racks or rear bumpers, tie the shoes there!). Find out how to help your teammates and do it. And if someone annoys you (for example, say, oh, an overly enthusiastic and obsessive writer of team guidelines), then just let it go. Finally, you are part of a team now, so you are respected not only for dishing it out, but also for being able to take it. After all, we’re all silly, fallible humans, might as well laugh about it. 
Smells: Yes, it’s going to be many hours in a car or van with people perspiring all around you … hmmm, why do we do this again, exactly? Anyway, at least for those of you with functioning nostrils, things can get a bit ripe, so everyone please adhere to these basic principles after each time you run: clean up, change clothes, store old clothes in ziploc bags. One last thing, if a teammate is in need of, say, a bit of improved hygiene, it is considered rude to remark “you stink” followed by faked gagging and vomiting sounds. Instead, use the the code words: “Man, I didn’t realize they had so much livestock in this state!”
Support: Things that no runner EVER wants to hear from a teammate:
a. “Are you all right? No, really, are you okay?”
b. “You’re not doing all that bad, really.”
c. “Why is everyone passing you?”
d. “The fat old guy is catching you again, hurry up!”
e. “It’s all uphill from here!”
f. “No, no, we’re not laughing AT you, we’re laughing WITH you!”

Woo-Hoo, Yippee, Hooray, etc. Hey, have fun, okay? The reason for this guide is to get all this silly junk taken care of ahead of time so that you can just let it all hang out on race day. Don’t fuss over these things, just take care of them and then relax. Isn’t that the point?

Don’t Panic! (or, Here’s what to do if …)
Things will go wrong, such is life. Here are some situations I’ve seen or been through myself, and what to do about them. Main thing is to keep your head on straight and stay calm (although it is possible to imagine situations for which hysterical screaming, bawling, tantrum-throwing, and general carrying-on might be effective … we’ll leave that up to your discretion).
1. “Uh oh, my vehicle just pulled away without me”: Walk along the route, they’ll be back for you, at least we hope so. If they don’t show after 20 minutes, start hitchhiking, other teams will pick you up. Explain the situation to them. Allow them to chuckle knowingly.
2. “I’m lost!” (while running): Pull out your course map, check. If needed, backtrack to nearest intersection and check again. Watch for other runners and support vehicles. Backtrack until you are on-course again if you have to.
3. “We’re lost!” (while driving): Stop. Check course maps. Are you sure that you are lost? If so, backtrack until you are on course. Call your other support vehicle and ask for help. Allow them to chuckle knowingly.
4. “We’re out of drinking water!”: Most relay maps will show service stations and grocery stores, plan to stop at one as soon as you can. Next time, bring more water!
5. “One of our runners is hurt!”: This is the nightmare scenario. First, get that runner any help he/she needs. Once that is dealt with, IF you can get the team back in the race, here is the usual scenario: The next runner jumps in to finish the stage for the injured runner, then the other runners all move up one stage, in serial order. This will leave the last stage ‘unoccupied’. Consult race rules for what to do about this (some races require a specified runner, others will allow any runner to serve as the substitute). The bottom line is that someone is going to have to run more than they planned, or the race is over for that team.

Basic Relay Packing List - you will likely need more than this, but start with:

Other great resources
Here are a few links to other great resources available online for planning and accomplishing a road relay. Have a ball out there, folks, maybe we'll cross paths at one of these events in the future!
So you want to/are/got roped into running a relay
Why Team Road Relays Are Flourishing
Relay Packing List - another version

You probably have something to say too
Please add your Relay-related tips, links, funny stories, etc. in the Comments below.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Pain in the Knee

Recently I've had a few runner friends contact me to ask about pain in their knees. It's a pretty common complaint, especially for any runner who is ramping up his or her training by increasing frequency, mileage, intensity, etc. As the autumn marathon season approaches, this includes a rather large percentage of runners out there.
Pain in the knee is really annoying for runners. Of course, I'm assuming here that we are talking about so-called "ordinary pain": your knee is hurting, but there is no discoloration or obvious swelling, and you did not bang your knee into something hard or fall down/twist your leg to cause the problem in the first place. In fact, you can't really pinpoint the exact day that the pain started, but it's there now and it just won't go away. And it's begun hurting so much that you can't really run on it. Most likely the pain feels like it's in the kneecap (patella), or just under the kneecap - although the pain *may* radiate a little bit up or down the front of the leg to the patellar tendon or the tendons that attach to the lower quadricep.
In other words, it's probably a classic case of "runner's knee", which isn't serious but could set you back for a time. And runners do not like being set back!

Caveat 1. I've written it before and I always mean it - I'm NOT a doctor, not even close. I am a runner of many years who's seen a lot - and personally experienced a lot - of injuries. I've coached and supported hundreds of fellow runners, and my home-spun advice has seemed to work in the past, but it may not work at all for you. Really. So promise me that if the pain gets worse (or the knee becomes discolored or swollen or you really can't bend it without wincing), please ignore my advice and go see a real physician.

There, there ...
Caveat 2: If you have different symptoms than described above, it could be another problem entirely. In that case, stop reading this post and go see your doctor!

In the meantime, try this:

1. Ice your knee, 2 to 4 times per day, for 20-30 minutes each time. Do this for one week. Ice wraps are great, so are ziploc bags full of ice cubes. The old runner's trick is to buy a cheap bag of frozen peas and just use it over and over (but I don't recommend eating them later, yuck - so mark the bag with permanent ink just to be sure).


2. Take at least 48 hours off of running, walking fast, cycling, or other leg-intensive exercise. After two days, cycling might be your best bet as cross-training. You may need to take up to two weeks away from running (let pain be your guide here, if it hurts don't do it).

3. Go to your favorite natural vitamin store and buy some Bromelain in pill form. This is a natural substance from pineapple that helps to reduce inflammation. Take 2-4 of the pills per day for 1- 2 weeks, then re-evaluate based on pain. Please don't take the stuff year-round, of course, it's for treatment not maintenance.

4. Strengthen your quadriceps. Do the exercise shown at the very end of this Runner's World article .
You can also do simple leg lifts (just straighten your leg and hold it for a count of five, 10 times in a row, a few times per day) when seated at your chair at work. The key is to work your quadriceps - when they get stronger your knee cap will track in the appropriate plane and the pain should go away. This is the most-important thing you will need to do, so be diligent about it. You are a runner, diligence should be part of your middle name!

5. Runner's World also has a short video that demonstrates several exercises that can help runners prevent knee pain. Some of these may seem almost silly, but taken as a combined set they essentially create strength in several muscles which can then take some of the strain away from the knee area. Well worth a try.

Be patient, work those quads, and you will get back out there quickly. If you ignore the pain and refuse to stop running (try to "run through" this injury), I predict that it's going to set you back even longer in the near future. Yeah, I know you hate to hear that, but truth hurts sometimes. What's the old adage? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? That's similar to the case here: when runner's knee arises, quickly nip the injury in the bud or suffer with a very long layoff and possibly lots of appointments with doctors and physical therapists.

Good luck!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Paying it Forward (while being torched at Torchlight)

I ran the Torchlight 5k earlier this week in downtown Minneapolis. This event wasn't about me trying to blast through a fast paced race, it was about paying it forward. I love running, have for more than three decades now. And I love sharing that passion with others, whether it's during a morning training run with experienced runners, or it's chatting during a brown bag lunch Q & A session with co-workers. The latter, which took place a couple of months ago, gave me an opportunity to invite more folks into our world, encourage them to stick with it, and to aim for an event together. I hope that I was able to convey my enthusiasm and sense of personal satisfaction to them, as well as to answer their many questions about training, injuries, gear, and how to do their first-ever race. (Quick note: not all of them were first-timers exactly, but racing wasn't a habit for any as of yet)

In the weeks that followed, we all planned to run the Torchlight as Team MIA. Unfortunately, it was a steamy, hot, humid night - I was a bit worried about my teammates, but tried to share some common wisdom during the day (hydrate, slow down, etc.). It was really hot out there, and I know that I backed off any ideas of "racing" and just tried to run a steady tempo pace (even then I was fading a bit during the last mile). Luckily, everyone on the team made it through the event and finished smiling (and sweating)!. Results, although the website with the results seems to be offline intermittently. I enthusiastically high-fived them all, feeling proud of them, but also soaking up their own sense of accomplishment. I've run nearly 750 races in my career, and I suppose it would be easy to take them for granted now ... but sharing the experience with runners who are relatively new to the whole concept can re-invigorate you, help you remember what it was like the first time you entered a race and finished it. Very cool. Here we are, on our feet and sharing the feeling.

George Sheehan said, "The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank." While that may be an oversimplification, what I like about the quote is that it sets an achievable goal and shows the world that our sport is welcoming to anyone who is interested. We're all in this together guys, even though we all face our own internal demons that threaten to hold us back, make us give up, and glue us to the couch. We battle those demons alone, ultimately, but during the battle it's sure nice to know that we've got allies all around us.

Keep up the good running all, and remember to welcome everyone, always.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Product Review: Go ID

I just finished evaluating a new product: The Go ID Personal Emergency ID Kit. 

This is a small, make-at-home tag that you can attach to your sports watch, shoe, backpack, zipper pull, etc. so that vital information about you is readily available should you be involved in any kind of emergency situation. 

What I liked best about the Go ID:
  • It's REALLY EASY to set up. I'll be honest here, I was slightly worried about "getting it right", and about possibly messing up my "one shot" to align everything properly. My fears were totally unfounded. All you have to do is follow the online instructions, which walk you through the process easily. Not only did I get it right on my first try, I'm not sure I could have gotten it wrong without working hard to do so.
  • You don't have to remember it! Unlike other personal ID products that I've used over the years, once you've attached the Go ID to your sports watch, it's with you whenever you work out. You could also attach it to mobile phone, or key chain, or to anything else that you are most-likely to have with you when you leave the house. Very convenient.
  • The kit comes with extra supplies. This simple fact, so often ignored by many manufacturers, really makes a difference in my humble opinion. If I actually did mess up my first try, I'd have a couple more passes to nail it. And, should my Go ID suffer a bit of wear and tear over time, I can generate a new label. Nice. Finally: If you have a temporary health situation (e.g., post-op rehab, or maybe pregnancy), you can make a specific tag with that information - then change it later when the situation is different. Voila.
  • Comes in sizes - you can measure the size of your watch if that's where you want to put it, or you can order bigger/smaller simply on your own preferences.
  • A portion of the profits from the sale of Go ID will be shared with first-responder units. Those are brave people who are willing to risk their own lives to help all of us in any situation, they certainly deserve the recognition and support.
What I liked less about the Go ID:
  • It adds a little bit of bulk, if you are picky about such things. I use a Garmin Forerunner 110, which is already a slightly big wrist watch. Adding the Go ID underneath the watch (using small velcro-style stickers) did add to the feeling of bulk while running, but honestly I stopped noticing it after only a few minutes. And it's most certainly less of a factor than the water bottle I'm sometimes carrying on hot days. Note: I didn't even notice it when I was wearing it while cycling.
  • Attaching it to a shoe is a little complex for my tastes (unlacing, threading, re-lacing, etc.), but I'm not sure how to improve that one. I rotate my shoes every time I run, so I'd have to be dealing with this over and over again if I attached the tag to my shoe (which means I'll attach it to my watch instead). I suppose this is not an issue if you wear the same shoes all the time - but I strongly recommend against that in the first place, because if you are out there on run-after-run, mile-after-mile in the same pair of shoes, your risk of injury increases, period. But that's a topic for another post.
What I don't yet know about the Go ID:
  • Durability: I've only used it a few times and it shows no signs of wear, but I just don't know yet how it will fare over time. Jury is still out on this one.
  • Availability: Not sure these are distributed widely, you may not find it in a store in your area, but you can order it online right now.

Overall, I liked the product and would recommend it. We all live in a bubble of denial when it comes to accidents and emergencies, so it's easy to think you don't need any kind of identification when you slip out the door for your workout - I was guilty of this for many years myself. But I recommend that you make sure to provide a way for emergency personnel (or even assisting bystanders) to know quickly who you are, whom to contact on your behalf, and any health issues that should be taken into account. You might be the safest, least-accident-prone person in the world, but you can't control what some other bonehead might do that could result in you being hurt. Be safe out there!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Race Report: William O'Brien 10 mile Trail Race (June 22, 2013)

It was a muggy morning at William O'Brien State Park for the annual 10-ish mile trail race, the 7th stop on the 2013 UMTR Trail Race Series. I was already dripping with sweat during my pre-race warm-up jog, so I believed we'd be in for a survival-of-the-fittest type of race (that is, those who planned to go out hard and then hang on for dear life would likely be fading fast). 

For this year, the race organizers moved the start/finish area from the river's edge to a spot with more parking a bit higher on the hillside. It made the course just a tad shorter than last year, but still more than 10 miles (about 10.3, they reported and my Garmin confirmed that). The change to the course also put the hilliest section of the loop later in the race. The new start/finish didn't make much difference from my perspective, with the exception of one short (and only) section of single track that paralleled the park drive heading down to - and back up from - the river. The front pack made it through that area with little stress, but I can imagine that the larger group behind got rather squeezed. 

Competition was stronger than my most-recent races. Out front, Jason Finch from River Falls, Wisconsin set a blistering pace in leading the race from start to finish. He must be able to float in mid-air, because he ran sub-6:00 miles on a course that - while not technical - is simply not "fast": the footing is uneven, there was a bit of mud, and there are plenty of rolling hills, particularly during the second half of the race. I found an older post about Jason here. Clearly a talented runner.

Having that one race leader flying out front tends to pull along the entire field, and this race was no exception to that rule. As my dear readers know, I'm not much of a speedster, so I was not surprised to find that I was sitting barely inside the top 25 as we pounded down the hill and through the first couple of miles. I assumed that I'd make a move when we got to the hills, but even on the first couple of them I was losing ground to those ahead. I was running as hard as I could reasonably sustain, so I began to feel settled in my fate when I failed to pass ANYONE in the next three miles. Halfway home, sitting in about 22nd place, and not making much headway. Sigh.

Finally, we hit some rolling hills on grassy terrain, and the over-eager runners ahead began to come back, albeit slowly. The fact is that no one whom I managed to pass was willing to give up without a fight, and I had to work very hard over the final three miles to reel in and move past just a few competitors. I wasn't exactly zooming home, but I did manage to crawl and battle my way slowly up to 12th place by the finish line. Results.

The top 10 runners included three teenagers (wow, nice work guys) and an array of strong runners in their 30s and 40s. I managed to capture the old guys' division, a point of pride at this point in my racing career. And unlike last year, there were no bizarre freight train incidents! A good race at a good venue, with very friendly volunteers and race organizers. I recommend it. Hope it stays on the Grand Prix circuit next year too.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I'll Take Rain Over Train Any Day

I'm racing on tomorrow (Saturday June 22) on the trails of William O'Brien State Park, a 10-ish mile trail race on rolling terrain right next to the Mississippi River. Last year, my come-from-behind racing strategy was pummeled by a freight train crossing the course, holding me up for over 2 minutes. I'm hoping that this year will be different, and putting faith in the words of several fellow runners, paraphrased as "I run there all the time, and I've NEVER seen a train!"

The forecast is for a stormy night and 50% chance of rain tomorrow, so it could be a mud-wallow. Still, I would definitely take pouring rain over a charging train any day of the week.

It's stop number 7 on the UMTR Trail Run Series Grand Prix circuit for 2013. I've managed to run all but one of the races so far this year. They have not updated the standings for awhile, so I'm not 100% sure of this but I think I'm leading the Grand Prix overall at this point. If my old legs will hold up for a few more months, maybe I'll have a shot at finishing at or near the top.

Good luck to everyone racing wherever you may be this weekend, or just living your running life.

We Have a Winner!

Congrats to Nicole B., who just won a free pair of TevaSphere trail running shoes by entering here on Notes on a Running Life.

Thanks everyone for playing, and stay tuned as I keep hunting for more opportunities like this one to share with you. In the meantime, I'm betting that you are still interested in the TevaSphere shoes, so I have a special deal for you. Readers of this blog can purchase TevaSphere shoes at a 15% discount by using this code at the point of checkout:


This offer is good until July 31, 2013, and is valid for 15% off the cost of one pair of shoes. If you'd like to buy more than one pair with the discount, you will need to purchase each in a separate transaction.

Happy Running to All!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Discount for Local Mud Race - Women Only

I've been contacted by the nice folks at Lozilu to help spread the word about their upcoming Women’s Mud Run in the Twin Cities on June 22nd, 2013. Read all about it below, and see the end of this post for a discount code that will save you 12 bucks on registration!

About LoziLu

Dirty has never been so fabulous! LoziLu is a filthy 5k festival bursting with obstacles, music, laughing, and mud! It’s the perfect girls’ day adventure for all fitness levels. A portion of the proceeds go to help young patients with cancer live happier lives.

This is not your typical 5k. Check your bag with the Valet, warm-up with our professional trainers, and browse the Fitness Farmer’s Market. Three on-course Party Oases keep you moving with fervor past 14 spectacular obstacles. After finishing, indulge at the Snack Drawer and strut the Red Carpet where our paparazzi capture dirty pictures you'll actually share! Cleanup at the Salon and be ready for an epic after-party. Whether you’re a first-timer, seasoned athlete, or casual gym-goer, you’ll love this day filled with friends, smiles, and a whole lot of filthy fun!

For more info or to register, please visit

Notes on a Running Life readers can save $12 on registration with this exclusive coupon code: TVFUJTE4H

Monday, June 10, 2013

Race Report: Sour Grapes Trail Half-marathon

I was back in the Brainerd, MN area over this past weekend to take part in the Sour Grapes Half-marathon Trail Race.
I ran this race last year, and enjoyed it despite the hot and humid conditions.

It was the first race in 2013 I'd be doing that I'd also completed in 2012, so a chance to measure the actual change in my fitness year-over-year. The results were about what I expected.

The weather conditions this year were much, much nicer: partly cloudy, temperatures rising from the high 50s to the mid-60s F, with a slight breeze. Because this spring - and I use that term loosely - has been wet, the sandy parts of the trail offered more weeds and more traction, so the course was in better shape. I ran similarly to last year, and had a couple of deja vu experiences, such as passing the exact same guy that I passed last year about about mile 4 - I swear.

There were some magical moments too. I remember running alone along a moist double-track trail in the deep woods, with streams of sunlight coming from above, punctuated by fluffy tufts of cottonwood trees floating down slowly - if I didn't look closely, I would have imagined it was snowing (AGAIN!).

I ran alone for a large portion of the race, from about 5.5 miles until almost mile 11 (except for passing several walkers from the concurrent 10.55k event). I finally caught and passed the lead female at that point. She was running strong, but one of her ankles was strapped into a rather heavy looking brace. She ran a strong race, I think she just ran out of steam. I know the feeling!

I was pleased that my Garmin 110 showed that my last mile was my fastest, with a pace in the 6:40s (not bad for a trail race). In the final results, I ended up finishing 2nd overall, and first in the 50-59 age group.

Last year: in heat and humidity I finished 3rd and ran 1:32:26.
This year: better conditions, I finished 2nd and ran 1:32:19.
Pretty close on first inspection, but honestly if the weather had been as good in 2012 as 2013, I would have run at least a minute faster. Still, that puts me only about 5-10 seconds per mile slower than last year, so maybe I'm not in such poor shape after all. Time will tell.

This was race number six in the UMTR Grand Prix, and I think I'm sitting in first place overall at this point. We'll see for certain when the series points standings are updated (hopefully soon).

One final note: I decided to build a bridge from this blog over to Twitter this week, so look for a short twitter fall to the right and feel free to follow if you are so inclined. Many times there are little tidbits of running information and wisdom that I'd like to share, but don't have the time to compose a blog entry. Let's see if a few tweets can help that. Onward and upward.

Found some photos posted on Facebook:

End of first lap, staying relaxed

End of lap two, bringing it home

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gear Review: TevaSphere Speed (including a free giveaway)

It looks like Teva is making a push back into the running shoe game. As such, they’ve brought out the Shoe Geek in me and inspired me to write a review.

I owned a pair of Teva trail running sandals years ago. I think they were called “Wraptors”, and they were very comfortable and had great traction. They looked like this:

Running in them was great, that is until you got some tiny bit of flotsam or jetsam stuck between your foot and the insole - ouch! And then it was very hard to get those bits cleared away. I wore the sandals for camping and canoeing, but didn’t do a lot of running in them for that very reason. Still, it was a cool idea. Now Teva is back with more cool ideas, and a new line of trail shoes grouped under the name Tevasphere. Teva’s press release states “With a first-of-its-kind spherical heel and pod-arch system, the TevaSphere technology delivers a more natural point of impact, efficient transition and superior stability on varied terrain”.  

I had a chance to test-drive one of the new models recently (note: my shoes, and a few other cool goodies, were provided to me free of charge for the purpose of testing and sharing my thoughts. Other than that, I was not compensated or otherwise engaged by or for any company, and I have no affiliation with Teva or any other shoe company for that matter. This review represents my own viewpoint, period. Your results may vary, of course).

Company: Teva

Model: Tevasphere Speed

Conditions: I ran several miles in the shoes, mostly on narrow, packed dirt single-track but also across uneven, grassy fields. Some of the trails were pretty technical, with tight turns, sharp-angled ups and downs, rocks and roots. The trails varied between muddy and “Spring moist”, with a few juicy puddles. I also covered a couple sections of rough gravel, a number of wet boardwalks, and a handful of pavement crossings (including a half-mile-long section of pavement to connect trails).

What I really liked about these shoes:
  • The innovative “spherical heel” is great, especially on technical downhills. It’s rounded shape and relatively narrow profile made transitions smooth and natural, not unlike a minimalist shoe. And it never got wedged into a narrow space or bounced off the edge of some obstacle suddenly. I would say this was the best feature of the shoe.
  • Torsional rigidity - bear with me here, I know it sounds technical, and this might be a plus only for some of us. I’ve had problems with my plantar fascia when I’ve run in shoes that offer little resistance to twisting. If you take a shoe in your hands and try to twist it like you were wringing out a wet towel, some models will readily give (think minimalist shoes) while others won’t at all (think wooden plank). I’ve had best success with shoes that don’t twist in the midfoot area, and these fit that bill.
  • Lightweight and agile: the shoes feel fast even though they don’t necessarily look it out of the box.
  • The midsole and outsole are not too wide; that is, they are about the same width as the upper, so the shoe fits nicely between and among roots and rocks without causing stumbling - unlike many trail shoes that are all-too-often simply modifications of road models (with added traction and usually a really ugly upper). In my opinion, nimble trail runners almost never need the kind of “stable base” that many road shoes feature.
  • The toe box fit is roomy without feeling long or clumsy, nice on your sore toenails!
  • Traction was excellent on the surfaces I ran.
  • Firm arch support (this may not be considered a plus by everyone, but for those who like a firm feeling of support under the arch, they’ll get it here).
A few things that I liked a bit less:
  • The “throat” of the shoe is cut high and tight (this is the part that you put your foot into, and where the laces are tied). In addition, the tongue is short and tapered to become more narrow at the top end. On my first run, the shoes dug into the top of my foot on both sides, leading to blisters which burst and bled. Ugh. Hint: Don’t  lace ‘em all the way up and/or wear high-cut socks. When I did that, no more problems at all.
  • The shoes are a bit stiff - admittedly, some runners prefer shoes that are a bit on the stiff side. See my comments below about the benefits of stiffer trail shoes. The shoes may break in a bit over time, but I don't think they will ever be super-flexible.
  • There is a sizable hollowed out area under the mid-foot, between the “pod-arch” sections. This had a tendency to cake up with dirt, especially if I ran from a wet surface onto a dry one. At times, I was carrying a few extra ounces along with me. This was probably limited to the conditions on the surfaces I ran, and probably wouldn’t happen at all in dry conditions.
  • The pod-arch supports: I didn’t really notice them much when running (which is good, frankly), but then again I don’t need much help from my shoes with pronation or supination, so I’m not the best reviewer of that feature. To me, it was simply a non-issue.
  • The fit is fairly narrow and slightly long. I am testing a men’s size 11, which is my standard size, but I might have been able to get into a 10.5 … however, that extra length can be a toenail saver on courses with a lot of downhill, and (unlike a few other models I’ve tried over the years) that extra bit of length did not cause the shoe to seem clumsy or make me trip and fall on my face.
  • In terms of fit, the Tevasphere Speed most-closely resembles the old INOV-8 Flyroc 310, but the Speed is lighter and has a much less-clumsy feeling toe box.
Best for:

  • Low-volume feet 
  • Narrow and technical trails 
  • Rocks, sharp rocks, sticks, roots 
  • Tight turns  
  • Climbing - stiffer midsoles always perform better on steep uphills 
  • Technical downhills

  • Maybe not so great for:
    Mixing in some road running - the Tevasphere Speed feels a bit hard for the roads and sidewalks.It also sort of “clop-clops” along on pavement, like rubberized horseshoes (probably due to the support pods on the sides).

    Here’s the FREE SHOES Deal:
    Teva has generously provided an opportunity for my blog readers to win a free pair of TevaSphere Shoes. You can enter below, and by tweeting about this deal (which you can do once per day to increase your odds of winning). The giveaway contest begins now and ends June 21, 2013, so don't waste time - get your name into the hat now (you must enter via the Rafflecopter box directly below). One winner will be chosen at random from all entries. USA only, please.

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    Race Report: Chester Woods Trail Race

    I traveled south to the Rochester, MN area this past weekend to run the fifth race in the UMTR Trail Series, the Chester Woods 10 mile. It had been a stormy night, but only a few stray showers sprinkled the car on the way down, and by the time the race started the sun was shining. What a (non)spring we've been having here!

    The race director was an enthusiastic blur of motion, jumping around trying to keep three concurrent races organized (a 50k that had started earlier in the morning, a 5k, and our 10 mile race, all sharing some of the same trails and roads). For some inexplicable reason, the 5k started prior to the 10 mile, despite a published schedule indicating the opposite. This caused the 10 mile to begin about 25 minutes later than advertised (with no explanation or apology, which was a little weird, but then again trail racing is always a little weird). So much for timing my warm-up! Ah, but flexibility of attitude is hallmark of trail runners, right? The temperatures were climbing, the humidity was up, uh oh.

    Thankfully a little breeze kicked up and soon were off. The initial half-mile or so was on a pavement, and downhill. I was stumbling along in my usual slow-footed fashion, basically losing ground with every step to the fleet-footed youngsters (and frankly the fleet-footed oldsters too). I glanced at my GPS watch, and I was running 6:00 mile pace - way too fast for me, and I was still being dropped and left behind. Sigh.

    We got into a grassy, open field trail section, soaked by the overnight rains. Ah, that's better. But those faster runners ahead were still pulling away, and I was huffing and puffing along, hoping for some technical trails and that at least some of them would come back later.

    I tried to count heads, and I think I was sitting about 15th more or less when we hit the two mile mark - each mile was denoted with Burma-Shave styled signs (cute idea, but the signs were so tiny that I couldn't read them, ah well). We were back on pavement, and I wasn't so happy about that. But soon we hit a gravel road, and then finally at about 3.5 miles we entered the woods on a softer double-track trail. I finally started thinking I might catch somebody up ahead!

    The wet trails probably slowed our pace, but they were a blessing to me. I'm a tractor, as you know, not a speedster. With difficult terrain and poor footing, I start to have an advantage. This race had almost no technical sections at all, but it did have some wet rocky downhills, two or three small rivulet crossings, and a couple of Achilles-stretchingly-steep uphills. I used them to my advantage whenever I could, and by 5 miles I'd passed two runners. Looking ahead, there was a short line of 4 more guys struggling up a hill. I felt like I could catch them, so started to push the pace. In retrospect, it was a little too early to do so, but that's racing isn't it? Live and learn.

    It took me about 2 miles to get past all but one of them, and together we'd passed another runner, so I thought I was sitting in about 8th place at that point. Up and down a few more hills and I'd moved ahead one spot - but then mile 9 came up and my left calf started to cramp. Shoot.

    I slowed down and concentrated on good foot plant and ankle flexion. That kept the cramping to a minimum, but I kept feeling the twitches. A quick glance over my shoulder showed the runner behind me closing in, and he looked pretty young and eager. I was in trouble.

    Perhaps comically, I tried my best to lift my arms and really kick it in. I imagine I accelerated maybe 1% - or perhaps not even half of that. With my arms flailing around and my gulping for air, I must have been quite a sight. But I take solace in the words of George Sheehan, "If you want to win anything - a race, yourself, your life - you have to go a little berserk".

    Somehow, I held him off (he must have been tired too) and finished 7th on the day, winning the 50-59 age group (and if I can be allowed to crow a little bit, I beat all the guys in their 40s too). Happy day!

    The venue had nice restrooms and even warm showers. Great to get rinsed off completely after a very muddy and sandy race. I was pretty spent, and downed plenty of fluids and snacks at the finish.

    A very nice race at a great park. Kudos to the Race Director and everyone else who helped make it happen.  They clearly took pride in their work, and it showed.

    On to the next one in Brainerd next weekend: the Sour Grapes Half-Marathon. I don't think I'll run as well there as I did last year, but I'll do my best.

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Innovation, Micro-funding, and Seeing in the Dark

    We Minnesotans are finally going to say aloud, "It's Spring 2013". It was a long, cold, lonely winter. We had snow beginning in October of 2012, and basically added more every single month including early May 2013! Yeesh.

    But the world keeps turning, and it seems we're finally going to see some green again. It was a long wait.

    That being said, I'm always on the lookout for ways to deal with winter running. I am an early morning runner, which means that I'm out there at 6am even in the dead of winter. It's cold, it's lonely, and most of all it's DARK! I've tried many ways to deal with that last one. I always try to wear light-colored outer layers, with reflective strips. And I'm a big fan of screw shoes when things get icy. But illumination is problematic for me. I've tried head lamps, but they are not very comfortable and anyone wearing them (including me) has an annoying tendency to look at other people, thus blasting a blinding light into their eyes - not exactly a nice move, but it's a human instinct to look at each other and very hard to stop oneself. I've tried a backpack that has a chest light on it, but who wants to run every morning with an empty backpack? I've attached a headlamp to a belt, and that is probably the best solution I've found so far, but it's hard to keep the darned thing aimed at the ground in front of you. What to do?

    Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Into these gaps in functionality come innovations. There's an opportunity here, isn't there?

    I just heard about these: Night Runner LED shoe lights. Hmm. Maybe they've nailed it? Hard to say until I can actually run in a pair, but notice that this is a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to move toward production. Kickstarter is one of the most-successful micro-financing operations around. You add some money to the pot, you often get some small benefit in return, and you help Innovators to realize their dreams. Very cool.

    I'd like to be able to see in the dark while running. No, I don't mean night-vision goggles, I'm not hunting anything. I just want to see the path in front of me, and do my best not to wipe out on icy patches or trip over snow piles lurking in the shadows. Maybe these Night Runners are the answer. I think I'll go lend a bit of financial support to the product right now. Join me if you are so inclined. I realize their timing is a bit odd (hey, guys, where were you last October??), but innovation is rarely a carefully planned thing.

    Now, if only they could invent some kind of magic pill that fixes all running injuries ... sigh, a guy can dream, can't he?

    Thursday, May 2, 2013

    Back in the Mud Again (some of it rather frozen)

    I've been lax in posting for fear of jinxing myself, because I've actually been able to put together a couple months of consistent training lately, and (gasp) managed to run the first three trail races of the UMTR Grand-Prix-style Trail Run Series.

    On April 21, I ventured to Wirth Park to run the 2013 MDRA Mudball Classic. As the starter joked while we lined up, they should have re-named it the Snowball Classic in this year of endless winter. The entire course, a loop of about 0.9 miles that we were to run 4 laps around, was covered in about 4-6 inches of slushy snow. I was smart enough to bring along a pair of trail shoes with 10 sheet metal screws inserted at various key spots. I don't think they made a huge difference, because everyone was slipping all over the place, but I do think that the third and fourth laps were better for me than for many others because of that little extra grip. I'll never be sure, of course. In my typical fashion, I started out fairly slowly, and watched the young and the restless dance away during the first mile. One striking difference this time though: two of those youngsters simply sped away and never came back - in fact, the brother/sister duo won their respective races, with 15 year old Garrett Williams finishing first overall and his 19 year old sister Kaelyn finishing 4th overall and first woman. Wait, a 15 year old won the race?! Nicely done young fella, I think you've got a future in this sport. Same for your sister. Wow, impressive. As for me, I slipped and sloshed my way around in decent if much-less-impressive fashion, passed 1 or 2 runners each lap and ended up 6th overall out of 69 runners, first in the 50-59 age group. I'll take it. First race in several months.

    Found one photo of the race online that shows us heading downhill right at the start, there I am number 818 tying to stay upright in the midst of the fleet-footed young!

    The following weekend (April 27) I ran the Chippewa Moraine Trail Run "10k" near New Auburn, Wisconsin (it is actually about 7 miles long). Taking place on the true single-track of the Ice Age Trail, I was looking forward to this one. At the same time and place, a 50k trail race was taking place - they departed about 25 minutes before we did, and we would share the same trail for the first five miles. Not a good idea. More on that later. The start was a massive downhill double-track, steep and grassy. I'm not a big fan of downhill starts, they only magnify how slowly I come out of the gates. Sigh. Anyway, after a jaunt around a meadow, we dove into the woods for some great single-track. I actually passed about 5 runners in the 500 meters or so before the trail - I didn't really accelerate, they just slowed down. The footing was treacherous. Almost all portions of the trail that were shaded from the daytime sun were frozen - not necessarily slick ice, but frozen and re-frozen snow that had a thin top layer of slush. I had my screw shoes on again, but during the steep downhills (the race director told us to walk these, but of course we didn't listen) it was very slippery. At one point, maybe 1.5 miles in, I actually did a sort of inelegant jump-stop because I simply could not get enough traction to slow myself. I jumped slightly, turned my feet and body sideways, then planted both feet and did a very poor imitation of a downhill skier stopping at the base of a steep slope. I honestly skidded at least 10 feet, but managed to stay upright. Not so about a half mile later, when a little mud puddle turned out to be much deeper than I thought, and the unexpected "sploosh" into the deep quagmire put me right down on my elbows in the snow. Oof! It was my only fall of the day, luckily, because I could have gone down at least 6 more times. Most of those times took place when we (inevitably) caught the 50k runners who were out on the course, and appropriately running at a much slower pace. I felt bad for them, because we were simply flying past and there really wasn't any room to do so. Several times I had to go off-trail and high-step it through the wet snow in order to pass. Not cool, but what could we do? (Memo to Race Director: You've got to start that 50k at least 30 minutes earlier, it's just not safe to have that many of us faster runners weaving in and out of those running much farther on the day. Please!) Anyway, I ran down a couple of guys and managed to finish 5th on the day overall, first in the 50-59 age group (results here). The final mile included a jog back up the same hill we stormed down at the start. I'm not sure I've ever run that slowly in the final mile of a race. I thought I might hit my chin on the ground in front of me. Still, I'd certainly run this race again.

    Finally, this morning (May 4) I drove south to near Mankato, MN to Seven Mile Creek County Park to race the 7@7 Trail Race. This was another of those races where I really had no idea what to expect, except that the race website mentioned that the course was entirely double-track. It rained during the drive down, but luckily for everyone it let up for the most part during the race. Again, this race had another event sharing some of the same trails. But this race director made sure that the 5k started just 5 minutes after the 7 mile, and the last mile of each respective race was slightly different, so I think I only actually overtook 2 or 3 of the 5k runners, who were very gracious to move completely off-course to let us run past (thanks!). This race course is HILLY! And several of the hills were very steep, both up and down. Not my forte these days. On the very first hill, about 0.4 miles in, I faded back from 8th place to 12th place in the space of a quarter mile. Ouch. But I set my chin and worked my way back up to the top 10 by about two miles, where I slipped past a small clutch of 4 runners. One came along with me, and we ended up jockeying back and forth for the rest of the race, picking off a few more runners until he sped past me in the final half-mile to come in 5th and I came in 10 seconds behind in 6th (first in 50-59 age group, but not by very much - results here - you can see that another runner my age was bearing down on me from behind). Did I mention that there were hills? In fact, I think everyone (maybe not the overall winner) ended up WALKING up two of the hills, that's how steep they were. Walking up a hill in a seven mile race! Unbelievable. But practical. Despite those two sections, which perhaps accounted for about 4 minutes in total, I averaged under 7:20 pace for this trail race, showing you how non-technical the course was. But still a fun day in the wet woods, and I ran as hard as I could.

    Three weeks, three trail races, three age-group wins = success, at least by my measure, considering I've been battling hamstring injuries for 9 months and I'm still barely running 25 miles per week - with every other day dedicated to cross-training instead of running. I'm not in the shape I was last year - not even close, and I know I'd get creamed in a road race right now. But on the muddy trails, where technique and experience can make a difference, I'm still hanging in there. Knock on wood!

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Spinning Wheels and Tiny Screens

    No, that's not me in the photo. But it almost could be. With this long-lasting hamstring trouble, I've spent a lot of time doing something along these lines. The winter is a bit cold and snowy in the Twin Cities to be biking outside on icy roads, so I've been getting to know Netflix pretty well over the past few months.

    I suppose the good news is that I'm actually running a little bit again. Nothing impressive, but I'm up to an every-other-day jog at a reasonable pace. I'll take it. Even if my hamstrings continue to bother me. Sigh.

    As I've noted before, NOT running is actually the time in your life when you will appreciate running like never before. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose. But I honestly miss even those aspects of being a runner that sometimes get a bit annoying - like all of the extra laundry, or the early morning alarms, or the cold fog of April, or the sapping heat of August, or the chilly October rain, or the icy cold January wind. The truth is, I'd rather be like this guy than the one above:
    Yes, that does qualify me as a bit nuts. Then again, aren't we all, in one way or another?

    Good running everyone. Hope to re-join the tribe soon.