Taper report TNF Bear Mountain 2013

Oh wait, you’re supposed to down-train for an endurance race right?? You see, the problem for me when it comes to running is that I perform best when I feel fit, and I feel fittest when I feel tired… the more tired I am the more fit I feel. Of course this can sometimes lead to me feeling like super-man and running a training run like a super-old-man; which is probably why I need to taper. Also, something about glycogen, I think I read that somewhere. In a book. With pages. I’m not sure that I’ve ever gotten the taper thing exactly right… I’ve only done it for a few times… and one of those was for a race that didn’t even happen… I recall bitching about it’s cancellation with a whine of “BUT I TAPERED FOR THIS” but I’m pretty sure that I thought that replacing running time with beer drinking time constituted a taper… I’m not wholly convinced that this is true (but not wholly convinced that it’s not true).

You see, in addition to the very obvious correlation of my perceived fitness to my weekly mileage, a lot of other things are wrapped up in it.. Like my ability to handle stresses, an embarrassingly large part of my self-esteem, and my willpower overall. Since I’m obviously rambling, let me show you some charts to better elaborate my point.

First, here’s my actual Taper:

Here’s how that seems to work with my overall fitness:
Now, I can’t just sit around, and pretend to go to the gym, I obviously have other things to do, like prepare for a recital that I foolishly scheduled less than 24 hours before a 50 mile race…. Oh, and apparently I need to blog.

Running is obviously a big time and energy consumer, so obviously that time has to be spent on something, here’s a rough outline of how I’ve  been spending those extra hours.
The hardest part of the taper is that since I’m not tired, I can actually see how fit I am, but I’m not allowed to use any of this until Saturday.. This is like taking a fat kid, and putting him in a candy store with a hundred dollar bill, and saying you can’t buy anything…

 Tomorrow I plan to go out and run, because I do that every day, I’ll probably run for a half an hour… which is really the running equivalent of having “just one beer” it sounds good on paper, but in actuality it’s incredibly unsatisfying. Maybe I’ll do it barefoot, so I can pretend that it’s having some sort of positive effect on my biomechanics, but most likely I’ll run up a hill. With rocks on it. Then I’ll go and practice for hours on end, because I need to do that. 

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Running Store Fail

Disclaimer: The author of the following rant is a bearded, long-haired, barefooted mountain runner who often runs multiple times a day exclusively in “minimalist/barefoot” shoes. While he chooses not to self-apply the name hippie, it would not be an inaccurate description, and the following paragraphs should be read with this in consideration. Also, this rant is about the running store in general, not any specific establishment.

Rant written by this guy…

I hate the running store. It bothers me on many different levels, from the most basic frustration that there is an entire industry built upon selling us things we don’t need, to the brick and mortar face value experiential existence of these awful establishments. This being said, I understand the necessity of the running store, I have to wear shoes, I have to buy them somewhere, someone needs to make money selling these shoes, and someone needs to make money manufacturing these shoes. These are all very simple concepts, and I have no qualm with the capitalistic nature of these endeavors. In fact, I’ll even forgive the running store/shoe company for manufacturing the over-built foot-coffins that they sell the most of. I’ve long since given up on the idea that the majority of runners will abandon these form debilitating shoes in my lifetime.

My gripe with the running store this time around is substantially more personal. In the past few weeks, I’ve been visiting different stores in an attempt to find a new pair of road running shoes to replace my present pair of MR10’s. Now, when I go into a specialty store, there is a certain degree of knowledge I expect from the salespeople, I also expect them to look their part. So if I go into a camping store to buy a new 65 liter backpack, I expect to be sold this item by a knowledgeable person, who most likely has attempted, if not completed a thru-hike in their life. This would usually constitute them as an expert in the field, and compounded with the abundance of knowledge that the representatives of companies impart on the floor-sales persons, should give the salesperson the knowledge to effectively assist me in finding the most appropriate tool for my needs. In my experience, no one works at a specialty store unless they’re specifically interested/active in whatever that store sells. You work at one of these stores to be around the community, and take advantage of the fantastic discounts it avails you, not for the meager wage that they most often pay. This in mind, I expect my running store to be staffed by runners who make me look/feel like a recreationalist. I do not expect to be assisted by Kilian Jornet, Ryan Hall, and Anton Krupicka, but I would like to at least be able to imagine my salesperson having run the Boston Marathon, or at least A marathon, or have participated in collegiate XC, or something to that effect, but instead I am approached by individuals trying to hide their beer bellies under a polo and track pants….

Secondly, the running store almost NEVER has what I desire. It took me five stores to finally locate a pair of 3/4 length tights, (located at REI… not a running store) and I’ve yet to see the MT110’s in any establishment (mine were ordered online). Split shorts for men are also in short demand, and while my choice in attire may not be the most popular, we ARE talking about a niche store, are we not? I expect them to be able to provide me with the running garb I desire. Never mind the often pathetic selection of shoes for my demographic. As previously mentioned, I’ve been looking for a replacement for my MR10’s. The update is officially out (Minimus Zero Road) although, no stores anywhere near me seem to stock it, and while I love my pair of MR10’s, they have 833 miles on them to date, meaning that what little cushioning they had, is long-gone, making a new pair feel rather cushy to my foot these days. I’d continue to run my present pair, happily, if the outsole were not beginning to fail, but replacing them with a new, identical pair, would require a few hundred miles just to break down the cushioning enough to make them feel similar to these.

833 Miles… and still ticking
Upper Still intact…

This last bit, has less to do with the store, and more to do with the manufacturers of running shoes. As I mentioned previously, I understand the economic requirements of the industry, at an elementary level at least, it’s simply not worth making something that doesn’t sell… this, makes sense. However, the running shoe company continuously fails to provide my demographic with a sustainable shoe, something that I do not have to modify to fit my needs.

Raised heel? Not if my breadknife is handy…

I’ve tried on several pairs of shoes over the past few weeks. Mostly a collection of Saucony, and Brooks models, attempting to find something that I feel like I can run high mileage in, but won’t interfere with my form/posture. My basic requirements of a shoe can be seen here. For the most part, my requirements of a shoe haven’t changed very much, lightweight, wide toe box, small-ish stack height, minimal drop (4mm seems about right, i also like zero drop) fundamentally, I want to feel the trail/road, but not be annoyed by it. The shoes I’ve encountered however, meet few if any of these requirements, and these are what the manufacturer is claiming as a minimalist/barefoot shoe! Most often I find that the shoe has a stack height akin to the traditional over-built running shoe, but has omitted the raised heel, and while I understand the impulse to do this, these are NOT the shoes that I’m seeking! Otherwise, it seems, that if a shoe has a reasonable stack height, and a reasonable drop, it’s outfitted with an over-cushy insole that negates the whole purpose of a shoe like this. If I wanted my feet to feel like they’re walking on clouds, I’d buy a pair of Asics, or Hoka’s, but I want a glorified racing flat, that allows me to feel the ground, and doesn’t bother my form. Now I know, I can remove the insole, and I do, but shoes with removeable insoles often use the insole to hide the shoddy sewing work that lies underneath it, which for those of us who prefer to avoid socks like the plague, is a complete deal breaker. All I’m asking for, is access to shoes that I can wear sockless, and let my feet feel the earth. Is this too much?

I very well may be a barefooted sot, an idealist searching for a shoe that doesn’t exist, or perhaps it does, but it’s yet to be donned by my foot (until I bought the MT110’s I didn’t think my ideal mountain running shoe existed without extensive modification). Understandably, with the obvious exception of multi-day music festivals, the barefooted long-haired 20-something demographic is not traditionally the most lucrative demographic to appeal to, and it seems that the available running shoes reflect this. Some companies understand (*cough* New Balance, *cough* Merrell) So perhaps I’ll break down, and mail-order a pair of Minimus Zero’s, they’ve gotten good reviews here and here, so it’s probably worth the gamble, especially knowing that it appears to meet my needs.(I may also try the road glove) While I may have just wasted a bunch of time ranting about the running store/shoe companies, this does not mean that I’m going to refuse them my patronage, but rather that I’m going to patronize them begrudgingly, because in spite of their consistent failure to satisfy my needs, they’re still the best (only) game in town.

Tammany

I’ve got a fever, and the only cure, is more summits…. This morning Dave and I ventured the 45 minutes West to the Delaware Water Gap to tackle some technical trails, and some of the most condensed vert available within a reasonable drive. The loop to ascend Mount Tammany gains and loses roughly 1165 feet over the course of 3.3 rocky, technical miles, and the view across the Delaware towards Mt. Minsi and the rest of PA is arguably one of the best in the state.

The guide claims that the “hike” should take ~3 hrs to complete, although, through a combination of running/power-hiking, we covered the loop thrice in ~2:17, with the first lap at ~:38. By the end of the first lap however, we began to run into rain/sleet, which made footing more challenging, especially on the more technical terrain. By summit 2, it started to become apparent that I was substantially under-fed relative to my effort, and in spite of my consumption of a gel immediately prior to lap 3, I was unable to avoid the impending bonk. This means that Dave was subjected to a litany of incoherent rambles, songs, and caveman grunting throughout the third loop. Like most runners, I loathe bonking, but I’m more than acutely aware that becoming familiar with this degree of depletion is  important, especially with consideration of my racing goals. Having not hit the proverbial wall in quite some time, it’s nice to know that even when my legs are feeling heavy, and I’ve lost the ability to form complete sentences, my muscle memory can take over, allowing me to continue without a substantial change in pace.. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how far this autopilot can go for!

With ~3500 feet of vert under my feet today, I’m definitely feeling pretty depleted, as well as sore in the leg, making me wonder about the prudence of running the Broken Shin loop this evening with the Hashers… But, what’s another 5 miles!?!?

False Summit

Mt. Minsi

Dave does downhill

Descent!


C.C. Summit pose!

Faces made mid-bonk….
Not as flat as it looks

All photos that I’m in are courtesy of Dave Franz

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….

Summary 12/4-12/10


Sunday 12/4 4.1 Miles through local neighborhoods 32:47

Monday 12/5 1 Mile barefoot 10:07

Tuesday 12/6 7.1 miles on local roads with an emphasis on hills. I tried to run this quickly in an attempt to jump start my fitness so that I can return to the local trails with some hill climbing strength, and without my breathing being too labored. total time: 51:19

Wednesday 12/7 1 mile through sleet/freezing rain (shorts were a bad idea) 7:29

Thursday 12/8 Broken shin loop, 5 miles 44:29

Friday 12/9 1 mile 8:29

Saturday 12/10 FINALLY my foot feels almost normal, for weeks, it had taken several steps after waking up for the tightness to go away, and even then, there would be a bit of lingering discomfort, but today, it feels like a regular foot again. 10.62 miles to, and around Schooley’s Mountain. This is one of my favorite trail systems to run, mostly because of its proximity to my house, and despite the fact that it’s roughly 2.8 miles of FLAT to and from the mountain, the trails on the actual mountain are rather unforgiving, requiring very steep ascent/descents, and very technical terrain. This run is by nature slow (my record on the course is somewhere in the high 1:4x:xx range, with an average run taking just shy of 2 hours. Saturdays time was 2:03:56, my longest run (time-wise) in weeks, perhaps a month.

Total: 29.4 miles 4h 39m

So I’m not quite “back” yet, but things are getting better, I spent some time with Mr. Foamy today after a short 4 mile trail run with Brian, and my foot is still a little tender, but runnable. I’ll probably stick with a lot of road running in the next few weeks, working on bio-mechanical efficiency, and trying to get my leg and cardiovascular strength up a few notches so that my more ambitious trail runs take less of a toll on me physically, especially with regard to my energy levels later in the day.

MT 101’s ~260 miles

Ghetto Heel Drop (a la Krupicka?)

Some typical NJ trail

Allamuchy Sun 12/11 Photo courtesy of Brian James

More NJ trail… before my feet went through it
Ice and mud covered feet

When I got to the car, my shoelaces were frozen tied… So enter the shoe dryer

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.