Summary August 26 – Sept. 1

Sunday August 26
5 Miles 740′ 42:10
Trying to nail down a consistent time/effort on the Power Lines, but things keep on fluctuating well beyond what I’d prefer, both in actual elapsed time, and perceived effort. Averages seem to be in the 42:xx range, which is definitely slow for the course, but it’s still early in the recovery process.
PM 1 Mile 9:06 Barefoot It’s nice to have a proper mile course right around my neighborhood…

Monday August 27
5 Miles 740′ 42:06
Two days in a row with a really similar time… I’m starting to feel the groove again

Tuesday August 28
5 Miles 740′ 42:27
Still a slow ride through the trails, but 3 times in a row with a total diff of 20 seconds is pretty consistent by my (non-GPS wielding) book.
PM 2 Miles 100′ 14:55 Jaunt down to the park and back, feeling too soggy in the legs to really go for a run, but it was just too gorgeous out to not be running. I’m longing for the kind of fitness where I could have gone out for a couple hour run on my second trip of the day… in time… in time.

Wed Aug 29
4 Miles 700′ 39:40
Allamuchy TH-Summit in 16:42 then around the rest of the hill back to my car. It’s nice to be finally getting back on my usual stomping grounds, even if the runs are still much shorter. Hopefully in the next week or 2 I can give a test on the 11.6 mile route, and hit the downhills I’ve been missing on this truncated loop.

Thurs Aug 30
5 Miles, 360′ 38:34
Ran ahead of the pack for the first time in what feels like ages (and quite simply has been ages). Bob reeled me in on the top of the first hill, but as our usual game seems to go, we only got faster from there. I didn’t set out to run sub-8s but it’s nice to know I can. Even better is knowing that I can hang on with a little bit of friendly competition (although Bob most likely could have dropped me with relative ease at any point)

Friday Aug 31
5 Miles 740′ 43:23
Feeling rather sluggish, and battling some gnarly heartburn.

Sat Sept 1
4 Miles 700′ 40:33
Allamuchy TH>Summit around and back to the car. Feeling really awful after the first 10 minutes, dead legs, heartburn, upset stomach, really the whole works as far as shitty sensations on the run. Also it’s the first time in a LONG time I’ve seen any runners on these trails, A group of  8 or so were descending on my first sustained climb…. looked like road runners judging by the hesitation, and most of them had dogs with them. Can’t complain though, there’s only one way to get comfy on that terrain, and that’s to run it, and the more people doing so, the better for the sport.
PM 1 Mile 8:40 Barefoot

Totals: 37 Miles, 4820′ 5h21m

Still a little low on totals, but mostly out of laziness, general tiredness, and getting myself ready for the upcoming semester. Overall, my legs have been feeling really dead, but in the sort of way that I know is temporary, once my body adjusts to running consistently the recovery time should quicken up, and allow me to confidently start raising my mileage from there. Even with that in consideration, it’s encouraging to look in my log book and see several consecutive 30-something mile weeks and not have any knee pain…..

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Review: Merrell Road Glove

The efficient road shoe is elusive. How do you find the right combination of lightness, ground-feel, and protection from pebbles whilst not interfering with the natural motion of the foot, and subsequently the remainder of the kinetic chain up the leg? When looking for a road shoe, I often find myself making compromises, some are too squishy, others too stiff, do I want a Zero-Drop shoe? or would I be better off with a bit of a heel?

The Merrell Road Glove is Merrell’s answer to the minimalist road running shoe dilemma. Based on the same last as their incredibly popular Trail Glove, the Road Glove is really a result of some minor alterations to its trail-oriented brother. Here are the Stats:

Weight: 6.6 oz (men’s size 9)
Cushioning: 4mm EVA foam
Vibram Outsole
ZERO drop

Okay, so that’s the boring part, and precisely what one would expect from the Merrell “Barefoot” line of shoes, so I’m really not telling you anything new right now. The fit on the Road Glove is exactly what any barefoot/minimalist runner would be looking for, snug in the heel, wide in the toe box. This allows the foot to feel attached to the shoe (in fact, it eventually feels like the shoe is molded onto your foot) while giving the runner enough toebox room for the toes to splay naturally. There is a piece of foam that touches the arch directly, much like the Trail glove. This is NOT an arch support, it’s foam, and is there to lock the foot into place within the shoe. This foam has no rigidity, and collapses easily when your foot flattens out, so it is in no way taking any load off of your arches.

The ground feel on these shoes is fantastic. Merrell has taken an approach that concentrates more on the outsole than the midsole of the shoe, so there’s only a small layer of EVA (4mm) between your foot and the outsole, but the outsole is present for the entirety of the sole of the shoe. While this makes for a very consistent ground feel, and prevents any squishiness in the shoe, it does feel a little stiff when compared to the outsole designs using pods (like the NB MR00). However, this is such a minor complaint, it’s barely worth noting. In fact, the Vibram outsole combined with the modest amount of cushioning seems to take the edge off of any pebbles you may encounter, while not sacrificing the overall ground-feel (a major upgrade from my VFF’s which leave my feet sore on any run <5miles)

How are they different from the Trail Glove? Simply stated, they have a different (less aggressive) outsole, and have eliminated the rock-plate. There have also been some changes to the upper, since a trail shoe really needs to be more connected to the foot than a road shoe requires. These handful of changes makes for a lighter shoe that will hopefully last longer on roads (the trail glove is reported to wear out very quickly on the roads… although it was never intended for road use).

Conclusions? I like them… a lot. While I don’t run exclusively in Zero-Drop shoes (I’ve found that I prefer a 4mm drop in my trail shoes) These have found themselves used heavily in my rotations. I would definitely consider racing in these, and am looking forward to putting some 20+ mile runs on them in the near future.

Note: These shoes were provided to me as part of my Merrell Sponsorship to Participate in the Outdoor Nation Summit.

Pursuing direct lines

Spending some time in the Pine Tree State running the local mountains… I’d forgotten how much fun, and how challenging running directly up a big mountain can be. For the sake of brevity, and my (still) lack of trust in my right leg, I’ve been choosing the most direct lines to the summit, to reduce the amount of actual mileage, while still getting myself above treeline, which has amounted to pretty short trips (~45 mins) but with maximal effort throughout the entirety of the trip.

Only a few short months ago, I would be frustrated going for a run where the overwhelming majority of my time would be spent hiking. In fact, it seems that hiking, despite its inherent necessity in mountain running, (especially at the ultra-distance) hiking is often under-appreciated. The reality of the situation is that these more direct lines, while shorter in mileage, more than make up for their brevity by requiring a backbreaking effort throughout. Nothing can compare to an extended incline session with your nose to the ground, hands on your knees, and breathing heavily with every planting of the foot. Sure, it’s not a run, but it’s still the most efficient way to move quickly through the mountains.

 This past weeks worth of serious vertical abuse has helped me to successfully regain a lot of the lost trust in my right leg. In spite of the brevity of my sessions (the longest being ~1h46m) I managed to really attack some vertical gains and losses, and contrary to my expectations, my knee/ITB feel great, even after bombing down scree, leaping over boulders, and generally being reckless. Perhaps more importantly to me is the fact that I was able to consistently get above treeline almost every day this past week (I did take a day off for prudence, and one for travel). and if the sunburn on my shoulders is any indication of summertime mountain-efforts, I’m doing pretty well.

Saddleback in the fog, Photo courtesy of Snake-Girl

Wearing the ITB strap… for prudence

Summit Proper

Return from the Horn

Outdoor Nation Recap

This past weekend, courtesy of the folks at Merrell I attended the Outdoor Nation Summit in New York. In addition to camping out in Central Park (literally creating a tent village) the 50 or so attendees (the other ON summits have ~200 people) spent the majority of the weekend learning about non-profits (as in, how to start/run one) grant money,  and creating plans to encourage young (which ON defines as ~16-28) people to get outside.

The attendee’s were broken down into 5 separate groups, based primarily on location (although my Jersey-centric group had a few locational outliers) with the intention of creating projects designed specifically to encourage people to GTFO through whatever means possible. The projects ranged from urban farming, to social-networking, databases, to literally creating space.

The project I was directly involved in should be launched in ~3 weeks, and primarily focuses on using social networking (facebook, blogger twitter etc) to incentivise people to bring their friends out. Focusing the lack of mentorship amongst outsiders, we’re hoping to motivated the experienced to share the wealth of information, using a combination of prizes, and competitions, the plan is to mobilize those of us who are regularly outdoors to take those among us who aren’t along on our adventures.  More on this later as the project fully-develops (we’re in the process of determining the official name, branding, and creating a logo before the official launch).

The most inspiring part of the summit was hands-down, the diversity. Usually when you think of the “great outdoors” in the parks and recreational sense of the word, you’re thinking of a bunch of crusty old white dudes hiking slowly through our national parks (and getting aggravated when they’re passed by a half-naked tarzan in split-shorts). But, this collection of people was as American as could be. Every demographic was well-represented, socially, economically, racially, and I think that’s arguably the most encouraging part of the whole thing. Getting out has no barriers, and with some luck, ON will succeed in their mission.

OH, and Merrell gave everyone a free pair of Mix Master 2’s!

Yoon was very excited about his free Merrell Mix Master 2’s

VERY excited


Carlos, the Jester

Brandon

Enjoy the Mountains

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. — Jack Kerouac

I understand that it’s unbelievably clichè to begin any posting by quoting an author, and even more trite to do so by quoting Jack Kerouac, but he makes a very valid point in this quip from Lonesome Traveler. Kerouac is emphasizing the grand importance of not only self-reliance, but the joy of the wilderness, and this was in 1960. If Kerouac had to emphasize the importance of the outdoors then, well before iPads, iPhones, Wireless internet, HDTV, Xbox, and the litany of other technological distractions we’re privy to in the current generation, how are we to encourage the importance of life outside?

Next weekend I’m attending the Outdoor Nation summit in NYC, courtesy of Merrell, who have chosen me to be among a small handful of delegates attending these summits across the nation. So myself, annd approximately 70 other 20-somethings will find ourselves camping in Central Park, getting to know each other, and brainstorming. Fundamentally, the purpose of these regional summits is to gather young people to generate ideas and projects to encourage our peers to spend more time in the outdoors, reaping the benefits of the woods and mountains, and helping to preserve what is left of our great unadulterated forests.

John Muir once said “Climb the mountains and enjoy their good tidings.” In going outside, and participating in true outdoor distraction-free travel, we can as individuals, discover our strengths, our weaknesses, and more importantly, come closer to the realization of what it truly means to be human.  About a year ago, I decided to backpack through the White Mountains, into the Mahoosuc’s via the Appalachian trail. Compared to the folks who hike the entirety of the footpath, this was a miniscule trip, but by dumb luck, I found myself placed inside of the “bubble” where the Northbound Hikers (who typically start in Georgia in March) and the Southbound Hikers (who start in Maine in June) cross paths. This, by default gave me the opportunity to converse with a wide variety of hikers, all there for their own personal reasons. While the hikers were as individual as could be, they all had a handful of things in common: their love of the woods/mountains, a huge amount of pure guts, and that joie de vivre that you can only get by spending the vast majority of your time outside.

In running, I’ve found similar traits to be prevalent. Trail runners, when they come across each other on trail, seem to always acknowledge each others presence, often stopping to chat for a bit (something I’ve never experienced on the pavement…) and moreso, even within a race, the sense of comraderie is a huge contributing factor to the overall vibe. Outdoor people seem to all know that we’re part of some sort of club, while our activities may vary, the intention is the same, a pursuit of peace, both inner and outer, and the overwhelming desire to embrace our humanity by submitting to nature.

“In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir) So go out, run, walk, hike, kayak, climb, do whatever you can to get yourself outside, and reap the benefits, they’re free, and will always give you more than you’re seeking. In fact, do one better, and take a friend with you, preferably someone who’s unfamiliar with whatever activity you chose, be it hiking, running, kayaking, or climbing, they’ll thank you for it.

Take a Buddy!

First day back on the hill in 6 weeks…

Summary Jan 15-21

Sunday Jan 15, AM 5 Miles, 42:19 Broken Shin Loop with Limpy, Roadie, and Jeff Boy-ar-Dee. Met the guys for a frigid AM run, wish I had worn socks, and managed to freeze my beard pretty well… although, the companionship made the wind and unreasonably cold temperature a lot easier to deal with.

Monday Jan 16, AM 11.6 Miles, 2:04 Ran through Allamuchy with Dave, again, wicked cold (~8 degrees) but we covered roughly 1550 feet of ascent/descent over the course of 2 hours, without running particularly hard at any point (but managed to test some speed on a few technical downhills). We also took the time to take some rather contrived trail-running photos, and upon returning to the car, and changing, my jacket (a lightweight softshell) froze completely solid… I suppose winter has come….
PM 3.85 Miles, :40, Turkey Brook loop with Roadie, Jeff, and Hairy, a nice second run of the day, trying to stay loose, also wore uber-minimalist shoes to concentrate more on biomechanics.

Tuesday Jan 17, AM 4.85 Miles, 40:39 Power Line Trails, completely frozen over, making for a rather nice variety of rocks, and frozen mud, good traction, fast trail, I think this is either THE, or close to the fastest time for me on this route… eventually I’ll check the log-book and find out. Also, took a pretty great digger tripping over an embarrassingly small rock.

Wednesday Jan 18, AM 10.15 Miles, 1:16:04 Tempo-ish hill run through the local roads, running this route at mid 7 pace is becoming increasingly easy, I’m going to need to find a harder tempo run in the next few weeks… or pick up the pace substantially (still haven’t decided which yet)

Thursday Jan 19, AM 4.85 Miles, 41:02 Power Line trails… Ground has softened up a lot creating a strange combination of really soft mud, ice, rock, and frozen soil, footing is a complete guessing game. This variety of trail conditions is part of how, and why I run the same routes a lot, I may cover the same ground, but each run is fantastically different from those that precede and follow it.
PM, 5 Miles, 37:52 Broken Shin Loop, ran ahead of the pack, and then was chased down by Bob, power of ego overtook my better sense, causing this intended recovery run to be much faster than I would have liked.

Friday Jan 20, PM 4.85 miles, 44:16 I originally tried to run 10+ at Allamuchy, in fact I drove all the way there, stood outside my car for a few minutes, used the bathroom, and instead of running, returned home…. a  few hours later I pushed myself out the door for the Power Line loop, and ran the whole thing convinced that I was falling asleep

Saturday Jan 21, AM 10 Miles, 1:26:41 Ran through Schooley’s Mountain and surrounding Rail Trails during a snowstorm. This was by far the most challenging run of the year, mentally, physically, and especially with regard to the elements. The snow made for questionable traction(causing me to fall on level trail), as well as providing additional drag/forcing me to keep my knees higher than I would otherwise like, not to mention the constant head-wind, and snowfall pounding my face. There’s a beauty to the solitude of being the only runner out there in this sort of weather, and the challenges that face you while attempting to run trails under  these conditions.

Total Miles:  60.15 8h52m, Falls: 2 Frozen Beards: 4

Gino also has his beard frost over

Jeff around Turkey Brook

Dave and I on top of Allamuchy (Photo courtesy of Dave Franz)

Ice Beard at Allamuchy (Photo Courtesy of Dave Franz)

Descent is steeper than this shows (Photo courtesy of Dave Franz)

Finally, it snows

Downhill in the snow

Summit!

Summit Profile

Not quite postholing, but close…

Week Summary Jan 1-7

Sunday Jan 1, 6.1 miles, 51:37 Ran through Brooklyn and Prospect Park. Started off the year by running shirtless in split shorts, far cry from my usual ice-encrusted beard for the winter months

Monday Jan 2, 6.0 miles 44:19 Running local roads, trying to alternate trail mileage with roads in an attempt to not completely surprise my body with the sudden jump in mileage from last month to this.

Tuesday Jan 3 AM 5.22 miles 55:48 1300ft elevation gain/loss through Schooley’s Mtn Park, would have run longer, but mild ankle issues made the effort cut short after summit #2.
PM. 6.0 miles 43:41 Same route as Monday morning, getting quicker, decent tempo-ish run

Wednesday Jan 4 AM 4.85 miles 43:58 running along local powerline access trails, steep ascent/descent, overall tough run, but within ~1 minute of personal best
PM 4.85 miles 43:30 Rarely do I run a double that includes the same course twice, even rarer that I run the second loop faster… I blame it on the shoes (MT101’s in the Eve, as opposed to uber-minimalist Merrells in the AM) Felt sluggish, but the stopwatch says otherwise.

Thursday Jan 5 AM 10.15 miles, 1:24:55 Hill run on the roads, this point in the week I’m starting to feel the residual fatigue of higher mileage (especially compared to my lackluster numbers in Nov/Dec)
PM 5.0 miles, 40:50 Broken Shin Loop, felt rather anti-social Ran the second half of it with Roadie, first half being Chased by HH, sorry about the moon….

Friday Jan 6 AM 4.85 45:55 Semi-recovery-oriented run over powerline trails considered doubling it on the spot, but prudence got the better of me.
PM 6.0 miles, 50:26 Still in recovery-running mode, legs feeling rather soft by this point

Saturday AM 5 Miles, time: ???? (55??)Freezing Cold Hash

Totals: 64.02 miles 9h20m, Frozen beards: 4, Falls, 0 (hash excluded….)

I have no excuse….

Weekly Update 11/6-12

Sunday 11/6
7.03 miles 59:20 Ran around the local hills on the road, nice to get out and see the area on foot.
Monday
AM 4.85 miles 46:23 Often when I don’t have a lot of time to run on a particular day, and want to get on trail, I’ll run the paths for the power lines local to my house. They’re surprisingly technical, covered in medium sized rocks that challenge my running technique, and the paths right by my house essentially go straight up, and down hill. I did however, take a rather hard fall tripping over an embarrassingly small obstacle, which resulted in my knee being sore for a few days, and my foot still being sore today.
PM 1 mile 10:54 slow, almost barefoot(vibram) mile to shake out the stiffness from the mornings fall
Tues 0 Knee and Foot very sore
Wed 0 Foot very sore, limping noticeably (still!)
Thurs 4.85 46:45 Ran the same power line trail as Monday, foot still feels awkward landing on technical downhills
Fri 6.2 miles 1:40
Ran to High Point with Brian mostly through Appalachian Trail, we decided beforehand to take it rather easy, and split the difference between running and hiking, particularly with regard to my sore foot, I’m not sure how much we ran, and how much we hiked (i figure 1/3 hiking 2/3 running). As a runner, we spend a lot of time training in solitude, and it’s nice to have the chance to be social again, especially since my rehearsal schedule has prevented me from our usual Thursday runs with the Highlands Hashers.
Sat 0
Came down with head cold, probably for the better to keep me off the trail, as my foot is still substantially sore, and negotiating rocks/roots isn’t the best game plan to recover.
Totals:  23.93 miles, 4:25 Looking forward to my foot healing some, and getting myself back into the 60’s 70’s/wk

Here are some photos from High Point, Brian and I both decided to wear hydration packs, a deviation from my usual “bring nothing” M.O. With the mercurial weather predicted for the day, it seemed prudent to bring a couple of extra layers, especially knowing that our pace would vary, and that it wasn’t terrain that either of us were intimately familiar with. So, while I prefer nothing more than a handheld water bottle (and boy did the sloshing of the bladder annoy me) sometimes, bringing more is the best plan

Winter Running

If you read any of the running blogs from the Mountain time zone, you’re well aware that they’re already beginning to experience the joys, and perils of winter running, and here on the East Coast, as a result of an unprecedented October snow storm, we have as well.

Many of my friends, both casual runners, and non-runners often ask me how I maintain mileage over the course of the winter, especially as a trail runner, and since last weekend I remembered just how awesome winter runs can be, as well as the oft forgotten downsides of running in sub-freezing temperatures.
So, since many runners I know tend to reduce their mileage, or go towards the treadmill during the winter, I figure I’d try to explain as best as I could, how I maintain my mileage through season. First, attire, everyone has a different approach to cold-weather running, and much like my summer runs, I try to keep things very simple. A pair of tights (yes tights) lightweight baselayer, and a running wind breaker seem to be the most I wear during winter months. A lightweight pair of gloves, and a hat also are helpful. Many runners tend to overdress for cold weather, and end up actually being too warm. The downside of dressing as I do, is that you WILL be cold for the first few miles, the purpose is comfort in the long run, not in the first few miles.

Now, winter runs have their upsides and downsides, the most obvious downside being the negotiation of temperature/wind, hence the windbreaker and other attire mentioned above. The other, less obvious downsides are the shrinking roads as a result of snow (they get so much thinner!) which of course, makes avoiding cars much more of a problem (run trails). Trails however, get faster it seems, especially in the snow, which seems to fill in the changes in terrain, making for fast downhills, and less worry regarding rock avoidance with the extra cushioning. There is, of course, a lack of traction. I’ve found that on normal circumstances, I fall every ~300 miles or so when running technical trails, usually as a result of some mud, wet rocks, or a concentration lapse. On snowy trails, I fall roughly 1.5 times for every 10 miles, this obviously is a result of poor traction, and i expect the ratio to go down as the season progresses, and I get used to it. 
So why run in Winter? Well, here:

Trail Head
Tights and my Merrell Mix Masters
Snowy Bridge on Columbia trail

Blurry Picture, Deer in Snowstorm

Trail heading up Schooley’s Mountain

Long Valley

My Head

What makes a good shoe?

Today I received two pairs of running shoes from the Merrell company. As some of you may know, Merrell tends to do things a little bit differently, and strongly encourages the average Joe hiker/runner to test their beta models, and provide them with honest feedback, which I think is awesome, this system helped produce the Trail Glove (review coming soon) and checking out the shoes I got today, I can see that they’ve really got their heads in the right place as far as providing sustainable running shoes for (barefoot) form-oriented mountain runners.
I mentioned in a previous post that my rule as far as running shoes and reviewing them is concerned, is that I require ~100 miles on a pair of shoes before I think I can give an honest assessment of their value, and I plan on sticking to this, it helps that I (when not tapering) run relatively high mileage, so testing a pair of shoes rarely takes more than 2 weeks in my rotation, with perhaps a few extra days to re-compare them to favorites in my pile.
Now for the nitty gritty, there are certain things that I require in order to consider a shoe for racing/every day running usage.
1. MINIMAL Heel-Toe drop, Yes, minimal, a zero drop is preferable, but to be honest if it’s only a few millimeters, it doesn’t effect my gait, and thus becomes a non-issue (greater than 4 mm seems to get annoying, and often will be ghetto zero-dropped by me, over a beer or 3, with a bread knife)
2.Reasonable amount of protection. Depending on the ruggedness of a trail, (or road) the amount of protection necessary can vary (imho). Jason Robillard talks about the same conundrum here. Basically I want enough protection that my feet don’t hurt after a long run/race, but not so much that I can’t feel the ground beneath me, and end up making stupid mistakes resulting in ankle twists, falls, etc etc etc. This is a fine line to walk, and every runner/running shoe is different.
3. Water Drainage. A trail shoe especially MUST drain water well. I cannot tell you how many times in a single run I end up with my foot submerged in water, this water must exist my shoe, and the shoe must dry quickly, this is not negotiable. I do not believe in gore-tex running shoes, I understand the principle, but in my experience, I often find myself in water above the top of the shoe, which results in a gore-tex shoe/boot being filled up with water, and turning into a bucket attached to my foot, not ideal.
4. Traction. A good shoe should track well. There is a fine line between good traction and durability, which is why I insist on 100 miles before i announce my review. Softer rubber holds onto rock better, but also wears much more quickly, the opposite is true of harder rubber. Lugging must be wide enough to shed mud easily, and not turn my trail runner into a mud-caked flat, but also close enough to hold well in less than ideal terrain. Vibram typically makes a good sole… they are not the only reasonable sole out there though, and often I am surprised by what a sole looks like, and how well/not well it performs.
5. Lightweight. The heavier the shoe, the heavier the shoe, you figure it out.
6. Breathable upper. Also self-explanatory. The upper should also keep the foot securely in the shoe,and not blow out too easily (100 miles!)
7. Flexible heel. Allows for natural foot motion
8. Wide toe box. Allows toes to splay, keeps foot motion natural, helps body absorb shock better, leading to less injuries etc etc etc.

That’s pretty much it, I’ve got some reviews queued up, as many of my shoes are beyond the 100 mile mark, as well as some training updates to post soon.