Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trail Review: Company Mill Trail at William B. Umstead State Park

Company Mill Trail

Trail Location:Umstead Park Map
William B. Umstead State Park | Raleigh, NC

Trail Distance:
5.8 miles

Trail Difficulty:

Elevation profile & map >>
See the Umstead park map >>

I imagine that most trail runners living in the Triangle know about Umstead. Ease of access to the park from points west and east make it one of the most convenient places to run trails in the Raleigh area. And, the Company Mill Trail is a fantastic representation of what Umstead offers the trail-lovin' runner.

If you haven't been there already, you'll want to enter the park at the Reedy Creek entrance via Harrison Ave. and I-40. Follow the wide, gravel path northwest from the parking lot to get to the Company Mill trail head. Orange squares nailed to trees lead you along the Company Mill trail. (If you're counting meters, I start running from the parking lot, not necessarily from the trail head)

With moderate technical terrain and a few decent hills to keep your leg muscles in check, the Company Mill Trail provides a great workout. You can take on the path at an easy pace for a laid back, but steady, run. Or, speed things up a bit with hill surges thrown into the mix for a good bit of trail training.

root-filled portion of the Company Mill Trail at UmsteadThe park map indicates that Company Mill measures 5.8 miles. Someone else's Garmin data shows that the trail measures 5.77 miles from the Reedy Creek entrance parking lot. So, both sources concur that the trail is a little under 6 miles.

portion of the Company Mill Trail at UmsteadMy Favorite Features of the Company Mill Trail:

  • At least 3 challenging hill climbs and descents
  • Gorgeous, extended views of the creek
  • Proximity to other trails within Umstead State Park for an extended run
  • Convenient location relative to North West Raleigh and Cary

Features I Dislike:

  • stairs built into the hill near the Reedy Creek Bridle Trail intersection


Given the distance, varied elevation, and diverse technical terrain; Company Mill is an excellent trail for both mildly short or long training runs. You can complete one lollipop loop for a decent run in about an hour. Or, run the course two or three times for a long run on a nice day. The trail doesn't get boring!

The Company Mill Trail elevation profile.
Check out an interactive map, too >>

check out the Company Mill Trail elevation profile

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Running with a Cell Phone

There was a time in the not-too-distant past—like, a few months ago—that I laughed at the thought of running with a cell phone. I would see people running with their cell phones in arm straps or in their hands. And, I'd think, "Why are these people running with their phones? Are they so addicted to being connected and reachable that they can't put their phones down for a run?"

not my cell phone, but my cell phoneFast forward to a month or so ago when I decided to run during my lunch break. I'd neglected to bring my watch with me. And, being the stickler for recording time that I am, I figured that my cell phone's clock would be an adequate means of keeping track of my start and finish times.

But wait, perhaps my cell phone has a stopwatch feature. Of course it does! I imagine that most any cell phone has a stop watch feature. It's such a basic thing. How could any cell phone manufacturer neglect to include a stopwatch feature in a cell phone?

So, there we go: Carrying a cell phone is a legitimate thing to do while running when you need to track your time!

That revelation got me thinking about the other benefits a cell phone might have for a runner:
  • Photograph your route with the cell phone's camera. I've often wished I could photograph a particular scene during a run. If I'm carrying my cell phone with me, I can do this.
  • Safety. Duh! (Okay, I realized the significance of this benefit long ago. Shame on my for laughing at the thought of having a cell phone in the past) Having a cell phone with you while running alone in the woods can certainly be useful if you happen to fall or get chased up a tree by a bear.
  • GPS mapping. Aside from the obvious apps available to iPhone and Droid users, there are lesser known tools available for download on other cell phones. These are subscription services, though. And, I don't see the point in paying for such a thing, especially if you already have a Garmin, or whatever. But, hey, it's there if you want to have such a feature on your cell phone.
  • Being reachable when necessary. Say, for instance, your wife is pregnant; and the due date was yesterday. You'd probably want to be reachable via phone at all hours of the day. In such cases, you'd want your cell phone with you while running.
  • Emergency services. If you're running on a trail and find someone who's injured and can't move, you'll be glad to have a cell phone handy so that you do not have to run far to get help.

Granted, I still prefer not to carry a cell phone with me when I run. But, when I do it, I definitely have a reason.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Salomon Men's Fast III Jacket Review

Or, I'm so Glad I Chose the Jacket Instead of a Vest

When I received a Running Warehouse gift card for my birthday a couple of months ago, my first thought was that I should use it to acquire some winter-weather running apparel in anticipation of the impending cooler temperatures. As a relatively inexperienced runner, my running apparel wardrobe is still relatively scant. So, outerware of some kind would be in order. But, the common question presented itself: Should I buy a jacket or a vest for running in the cooler temperatures.

Needless to say, I chose to get a jacket, the Salomon Men's Fast III Jacket. And, I am so glad I did! I've been wearing it on every morning run this month, while the temps have hovered between 10 and 25 degrees, sometimes with strong winds.

The Reason

So, why did I choose the Salomon Fast III Jacket?

Salomon Men's Fast III JacketWell, look at it. You have to admit that it's pretty stylish. And, the correlation between the Salomon brand and trail running was not unnoticed by me when comparing jackets. Salomon Men's Fast III Jacket

Also, the features and specs listed for the the Salomon Fast III jacket made a pretty good case for this piece of running apparel:

  • ClimaWIND provides wind resistance, water resistance, and breathability
  • SMART SKIN technology provides moisture management and high-mobility fit
  • Front and back reflectivity
  • Full-length, lockdown zipper with zipper garage
  • 2 side zippered pockets with lockdown zipper
  • Thumbholes
  • Side and back stretch panels

I'd originally intended to purchase a running jacket that was brightly colored for the sake of safety on my morning runs. But, I decided not to base my decision on visiblity, since I use a light while running on well-lit sidewalks. So, although this jacket is available in three flashy colors, I went with the black option, because I thought I'd be able to wear this as casual outer ware, too.

Comfort Range

An important thing to consider when shopping for a running jacket is the temperature range at which the jacket will be protective and comfortable. Naturally, the question of comfort as it relates to temperatures is a very individual thing. So, for the sake of establishing perspective, know that my preferred attire on a sunny day with no wind and temps in the low 30s (f) consists of running shorts, a base layer tech-tee shirt, and a lightweight long-sleeve tech shirt.

Now, then, if it is 45 degrees with wind and light rain, you'll be hot in this jacket with a tech-tee underneath. But, you'll be glad you're wearing it, because the rain would be annoyingly cold otherwise.

If it is 40 degrees, sunny, and windy; you'll be hot in this jacket and wish you'd not worn it over your tech-tee.

If it is dark with temps in the mid-30s, you'll be fine wearing this jacket along with a tech-tee underneath. You could probably get away with skipping the tech-tee underneath. But, that's not very comfortable. I mean, really, if it's in the mid thirties without wind or rain, you'll be better off wearing a long-sleeve tech shirt and leaving the jacket home.

If it is dark with wind gusts up to 15 mph and temps in the low 20s, you'll want to wear this jacket with at least a long-sleeve tech shirt as a base layer. You'll be even more cozy in this jacket if you wear a short-sleeve base layer and a long-sleeve mid layer under it.

If it is dark and snowing or sleeting with temps around 20, you'll be surprised at how much more comfortable you feel than you did when you wore this jacket in the gusty wind, provided you have a long sleeve layer underneath.

If it is dark with temps in the low teens, you'll be okay as long as you have at least one long-sleeve layer beneath it.

The Verdict

I stated before that I've not had the opportunity to try out a wide variety of running clothes. So, I'm easily impressed. But, I'm pretty confident in claiming that this jacket is definitely a finely crafted piece of technical apparel. It feels lighter than a couple of my tech shirts. And, it is definitely resistant to moderate gusts of frigid wind. Wearing a jacket like this in conjunction with one or two under layers allows me to keep the bundling to a minimum while running in winter temperatures.

So, if you are looking for a lightweight, wind and water resistant jacket to wear while running, the Salomon Men's Fast III Jacket is available at Running Warehouse right now for a pretty good price.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mileage Base Buildup: Winter Running Has a Purpose

I'd been wishing for a stronger foundation, mileage wise, since beginning the Higdon marathon training program over this past summer. And, with the dearth of appealing distance races scheduled this month, I finally outlined a training schedule for me that will help me establish some decent base miles.

For those of you who are newer at this than me, base mileage is important because these added miles facilitate a boost in aerobic conditioning, develop muscle fibers, increase blood volume and glycogen storage, strengthen connective tissue, and enhance the body's ability to burn fat. Essentially, base miles help you become a better runner.

A Runner's World Online article, Build a Better Base, conveys the following pointers for base building:

  1. Know your base pace. Base miles should be run at a comfortable, conversational pace.
  2. Plan your increases. Jack Daniels's rule for increasing mileage, in which he mandates that a runner should never add more than one mile per week for each running workout you do per week, is a popular method for adding weekly mileage. So if I run four times a week, I'll add up to four miles to my weekly training. But it's important to keep in mind that, once those new miles are on the weekly schedule, one must train at the new weekly total for three weeks before adding more mileage. A ten to twelve week base training program often allows for maximum benefits.
  3. Don't forget quality training entirely. When base training, the majority of workouts should be made up of steady aerobic mileage. But, it's also beneficial to throw in a 20- to 25-minute tempo run once a week. Hills or strides once or twice a week will be helpful, too.

So, with those points in mind, my mileage buildup plan is in effect for the winter.

trail in black and white

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cold-Weather Running and the Unpleasantness of Long Pants

'Tis the season for new-ish runners to determine how much cold they can stand, when we figure out what sort of attire to put on during inclement weather. Is 30 degrees farenheit too cold for shorts? What if it's raining? How many layers do I need.

I recall running outside once or twice when I lived in Chicago a few years ago. But, I don't remember what I wore. I had a pair of track pants back then. So, I'm sure I wore those. But, then, I was a member of a gym. And, if you're a member at a gym in Chicago, that's where you exercise in the winter. Trust me.

Anyway, the drop in temperatures here in central NC these past few weeks has allowed me to experiment with the cold-weather running apparel and layering practices that have eluded me for so long. I mean, really, this is my first winter running in NC. Previous winters here have always coincided with my annual running hiatus.

Salomon Men's Fast III JacketSo, I have this jacket that I purchased from RunningWarehouse a few weeks ago. It's the Salomon Men's Fast III Jacket. I like it. The jacket is incredibly light and breathes as well as we're led to believe.

I wore the Salomon jacket for the first time on a sunny, 45-degree afternoon in strong winds. The base layer was a short-sleeve t-shirt. I was too warm. Either the sun, the temps in the forties, or both were too much for this jacket.

So, the next time I wore this jacket was during one of my morning runs last week. The temps were in the twenties with a real-feel temperature of around eighteen degrees. I wore a long-sleeve tech shirt under the jacket that time. And, it worked out perfectly. I was slightly chilly for the first mile. But, I was more than comfortable for the rest of the run. The tech shirt and the jacket did very well with pulling the perspiration away from my skin so that I didn't freeze in the cold wind.

I haven't tried the jacket in rain yet. Perhaps tomorrow.

Moving on to hats and hands: I wear a pair of Giant cycling gloves for my cold-weather runs, because that's what I happen to have. They're definitely a technical type of fabric that wicks away moisture. So, I'm sure that's helpful. If I didn't have these gloves, I'd experiment with cheaper options before investing in anything fancy.

Gloves are a must for me if it's under thirty-five degrees out there. I can stand not having gloves if it's warmer than that. But, if it's less than forty, my hands are pretty cold for the first couple of miles.

My usual, baseball-hat-style running hat has served me fine in temperatures as low as the mid twenties. It keeps heat in while pulling sweat away. But, its the ears that get ya on cold, dark mornings. So, if it's windy or just super cold, like, in the low-twenties and teens, I wear a ski cap that covers my ears. I don't think it's necessary to invest in a fancy tech hat here, either.

Okay, now we're on to the subject of pants: A runner will never appreciate shorts more than when he has to put on a pair of long pants in order to run outside. Pants are confining.

You'd think this is obvious. But, I certainly hadn't counted on it once the temperatures dropped this year. I have a pair of wind-resistant track pants that I've been running in over the past week. They're a few years old, something I bought at Marshall's. And, I do not like them. (Knowing that, you should take my opinion of running in long pants with a grain of salt) They make a swoosh-swish sound with every step I take, they're an inch too short, and they're only semi-wind-resistant.

Nevertheless, I'm glad I have these long pants when the temperature is below the mid-thirties. And, I'll probably head out to Target soon in order to purchase a cheap pair of quieter track pants. One day, perhaps I'll invest in a pair of running tights. But, my wife's smirk every time she she's a man running in tights pretty much means I'm not allowed to buy them at this point.

Besides, this is North Carolina, after all. How much cold-weather running gear does a runner need?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Raven Rock Rumble 10-Mile Trail Race Report

I’d been really looking forward to this race after registering for it a couple of weeks ago. Since the marathon, I’d been uncertain about my fitness level. And, I really wondered how much speed I’d lost over the past four weeks of easy, low-milage recovery runs.

So, the Raven Rock Rumble, which took place at Raven Rock State Park this past weekend, was to be my official test race to see whether I could officially say that I’m ready to get out of marathon-recovery mode.


I was driving along a quiet, two-lane, country highway on the way to the race. The white Mercedes in front of me suddenly slowed to a near stop, because the car in front of that one was making a right turn into a driveway. I had plenty of space between my car and the Mercedes. So, I didn’t have to break to a screeching halt, or anything. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with the Subaru Outback behind me.

bamMy car lurched forward and loose change flew out of the cup holders, landing all over the floor. I’d been hit—hard! But, fortunately, I hadn’t been pushed into the Mercedes, which sped away, apparently oblivious to the crushing sound and bouncing automobile behind it.

My immediate thought as I pulled off to the side of the road and turned on my hazard lights was, "Oh, son of a &itch! I'm going to have to call the police. And, I’m going to miss the race! [Expletive, expletive, expletive]!"

I guessed that I was no more than five minutes away from the park. Packet pickup was scheduled to close at 8:30, and the 10-mile race would start at 9:05. It was roughly 8:10 when I stepped out of my car to talk to the guy who hit me.

His Subaru had more damage than my car suffered, because his airbags deployed upon impact. The windshield was broken, the rear-view mirror had been knocked off, and the interior of the car was cloudy with some sort of chalky substance released with the airbags. My car's bumper was smashed.

The guy was nice enough about the incident. He asked if I was okay, offered me whatever papers he could find in his glove compartment, not sure what the insurance information would look like. I called my wife while he called his sister (because it was her car, apparently). My wife instructed me to call the police so that we would have a report for insurance, etc. Being the dutiful husband that I am, I did exactly what she told me to do.

Of course, I didn't want to call the police, because I knew that waiting for them to show up would greatly increase my chances of not making it to the race on time. But, I'd have to be an idiot not to do what my wife told me to do in this situation.

So, I spoke to the 911 operator who dispatched a state trooper to our location. The trooper was very professional and spent around 20 or 30 agonizing minutes in his car doing whatever he was doing with our automobile info. All the while, I'm pacing, bouncing on my toes, and checking the time on my cell phone. I kept debating whether it would be futile for me to attempt driving to the race if I happened to finish here before 9:00.
  • 8:46: the trooper walks over to me and explains what I should tell my insurance company when I talk to them.
  • 8:47: I'm back in my car driving toward Raven Rock State Park.
  • 8:50: I'm parking the car and pulling on my Inov-8 Roclite 285s.
  • 8:52: I'm sprinting to the packet-pickup area, which happens to be a full 3/4 mile away from the parking lot! Sure, the packet-pickup cutoff time was 8:30. But, I'm hoping that they'll take pity on a fellow who’d just been in a car accident.
  • 8:59: I reach the starting area as the 5-mile racers are lining up.
  • 9:00: There are two very nice ladies at the packet-pickup area who graciously allow me to retrieve my bib after I breathlessly explain why I was late. The 5-mile racers run by and I hear the race director say that it’s four minutes until the start of the 10-mile race.
  • 9:01: I thank the ladies profusely for understanding my delay and ask where the porta-potties are located. (What? I had to pee!) They point to a clearing just a few meters away. I run over there.
  • 9:03-9:04: (I really had to pee!) I'm out the door of the porta-potty and running toward the starting area. There's no one there! A dude asks me if I'm running the 10-mile. I say yes. He says it starts back there, pointing toward the park gate, a few tenths of a mile further away!
  • 9:05: I'm running to the start as the other 109 ten-mile runners pass me in the opposite direction. Someone kindly lets me know that I’m going the wrong way. "I know!" I say.
At last, I joined the runners at the back of the pack. I'd not felt relief of such a high degree since finding the porta-potty five minutes ago! Sure, there was no time for stretching, no time for listening to music, or getting into the "zone" before the race. But, I was there and running the trail.

The Rumble

So, once on the trail, I was faced with the challenge of catching up to the portion of the pack in which I'd normally have started out, somewhere in the middle. On single-track trail, passing people is not always easy or safe. So, I hung out in the back for a while. This turned out to be a good thing, because the slower pace allowed me to catch my breath and slow my heart rate to an ideal level after running so hard from the parking lot and porta-potty.

The first couple of miles were comprised of pretty technical, single-track terrain with a few little hills here and there. It was difficult to pass anyone at this point. But, thankfully, the trail eventually widened to a very comfortable width, and I managed to gain a little headway.

I pushed myself a little harder with each mile, still figuring out this whole race-pace thing. I matched pace with a couple of other runners now and then. But, mostly, I was trying to makeup for the position at which I’d started. I had no idea how many people were ahead of me.

My favorite parts of the race had to be the hills. One big hill in particular allowed for some serious bounding off of rocks and steps. It was awesome.

Two of the toughest hill portions required us to run down and back up the same incline. This was especially challenging at less than a mile to the finish, because the largest hill on the course was right there waiting for us. I'd seen the five-mile runners on their way up this hill as I was bounding down it after passing the 10-mile halfway point. So, I realized I'd have to save some energy for this hill on the way back.

I spent a good deal of mile 7 and 8 all alone. It was an interesting division point in the 10-miler pack. In fact, for a while there, I thought I might have taken a wrong turn. But, I finally saw a runner wearing a bright orange shirt up ahead. I almost blurted that I was glad to see him as I passed. But, I figured that'd just be weird.

From the Raven Rock State Park websiteThroughout the run, I was looking for the scene pictured here. But, I never noticed it. The park is bigger than I expected with lots of trails we didn't cover. So, I'll have to go back sometime to see the actual rock. But, then again, I may not have been looking hard enough. I mean, if you look up too much during a trail run, you're guaranteed to fall down. (I didn't fall this time, by the way)

With less than a mile to go, I was following three other runners up that monster hill that I mentioned two paragraphs ago. The four of us had stuck together for the past half mile or so. And, I was waiting for one of them to make a move to go faster up the hill. No one did. So, I managed to do it.

In retrospect, it's surprising how much energy you can find in yourself once you do it. I know that sounds lame. But, it's true.

Crossing the street and following the ringing cow bell toward the finish line, I made a mental note to declare myself officially ready to get out of marathon-recovery mode. No more weeks full of easy runs. No more wondering if I'd ruined my legs. I was ready for a new training program.

The Epilogue

I finished three minutes later than my other 10-mile race time. But, this course was hillier. And, hey, I started at the back of the pack with no starting mat to cross. So, I don't consider the difference in the two race times to be all that indicative of a loss in speed. I run 10 miles on a trail in about an hour and a half. I've always been relatively not fast. So, finishing in the middle is pretty much the way it's been for me. Fractions of minutes only matter to me, I think, in the case of road races or finishing close to the top.

Raven Rock Rumble red race shirtI didn't qualify for an age group award or any door prizes. But, I'm really happy with the shirt. It's cotton, so I'll wear it as a casual shirt rather than just for running. Kudos to whoever designed the logo for this race.

And, speaking of kudos, I'd like to send a big thank you out to the volunteers who were so helpful to me at this race! The lady who cheered me on at the halfway point and finish, mentioning that I'd been in an accident just before the race: you're my new best friend!

I will definitely look forward to this race next year. And, hopefully, I'll arrive with time to spare.

Note: At press time, the Raven Rock Rumble website did not have photos posted. So, I don't have any photographic proof that I was there yet. But, AC's blog features a few with a link to even more great photos. See what I mean by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Inov-8 Roclite 285 Shoe Review

The Reviewer
Weight: 153 lbs | Height: 5’ 11"
Foot strike: Mid
Recent Shoe History:
Mizuno Elixir 4 (size 11.5), Inov-8 Flyroc 310 (size 11.5), Inov-8 f-lite 230

The Shoe

Without divulging too much at the outset, I’ll just say that the Inov-8 Roclite 285™ is probably my favorite shoe. There. Now you know. The mystery is gone.

Once you get past the bright red color and minimal cushioning, you realize that this shoe offers more than good design and sleek styling. Like it’s sister shoe, the f-lite 230, the Roclite 285 features a 2-arrow Shoc-Zone™; a soft, low-cut heel cup; and flexible mesh upper—features I find incredibly conducive to running.

Inov-8 Roclite 285 Tech Sheet

In fact, if it weren’t for the technical-trail-friendly lugs on the outsole and beefed up toe box protection, the Roclite 285 is pretty much the same as the f-lite 230. This is especially useful to know if you’re looking for a more rugged version of the otherwise perfectly-fitting f-lite 230, which brings me to my next point.

The Reason

A review of the Roclite 285 would be incomplete without comparing it to the f-lite 230.
my feet in the Roclite 285

After wearing the f-lite 230 for a couple of months, I grew to love it immensely. The fit of the 230 is superb thanks to a flexible mesh upper that allows me to fit my rather wide forefoot into a seemingly narrow last. However, the rather flat outsole left something to be desired when running on particularly rocky, technical trails. "If only the f-lite 230 had more traction on the technical trails," I thought to myself.

Enter this year’s version of the Roclite 285.

When I saw the Roclite 285 on the Inov-8 website in September, I was immediately struck by the similarities it appeared to share with the f-lite 230, namely the low profile midsole and heel cup. If the Roclite 285 was indeed a f-lite 230 with bigger lugs and a different color, then this was the ideal trail shoe for me!

my feet in the Roclite 285I researched the web for impressions and insights of the new Roclite 285. But, it was too new to have been reviewed at any length. Sure, there were mentions of last year’s model. But, that looked very different from this year’s. And, any verbiage I managed to find about the shoe wasn’t sufficient enough to compare it with the f-lite 230. I had to know whether the Roclite 285 would fit me like the f-lite 230. When the Roclite appeared on the Running Warehouse website, I took the chance.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed. The Roclite 285 fits just as well as the f-lite 230. It’s as slipper-like and smooth as the 230 with the added benefit of gripping lugs for technical trail maneuverability. The extra protection on the toe box slightly detracts from the flexibility in that area at first. But, after a few runs, the shoe’s upper conforms to your foot just fine.

The Running

The Inov-8 website describes the Roclite 285 as "ideal for short, fast races." This is certainly true. However, I wore this shoe in my first marathon after just a couple of long training runs. And, I was perfectly pleased. Sure, I’m not an elite runner by any means. But, once you get used to running in a shoe like the Roclite 285, you can definitely wear it for a trail marathon. There’s just the tiniest bit of support there to get you through the last few miles.

As the tech sheet above makes clear, the Roclite 285 is perfectly at home on rugged trails. Its sticky rubber outsole grips large rocks and logs well. And, the lugs are adept at providing traction in soft grass or mud and pushing pointy stones away from the bottom of your feet.

Also, I’ve run through a few shallow creeks in these. And, I wasn’t at all disappointed with the rate at which they drain water.

my feet in the Roclite 285Some of my trail runs with the Roclite 285 have included a few fractions of miles on pavement. This shoe is adequate on pavement, certainly more comfortable there than the Flyroc 310. However, you certainly wouldn’t want to spend more time running on pavement in the 285 than you have to.


In case you forgot after reading the first paragraph of this review: I love the Roclite 285. The redundancy of this statement after reading my review of the f-lite 230 speaks volumes, I think. If you like the 230, you'll like the 285. It is an ideal, lightweight trail shoe.

So, unless you wear a size 11.5 (save those for me, thanks), you should definitely give this shoe a try. I obtained my Roclites at RunningWarehouse. But, you can certainly find them at other online retailers.

Happy running!

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Enjoy a Lunch-Break Run

(Photo from Wikipedia)
Running during work hours is often an elusive activity for most runners. Even if a runner is fortunate enough to work in an environment that's open to casual attire, the opportunity to squeeze a decent run into a lunch "hour" is a rare thing. I mean, every minute counts while you're walking out the door, changing clothes, running, stretching, cleaning up, changing back into work clothes, and sitting back down at your desk.

I've made the lunch-break run a reality for myself on a few occasions in the past year. And, the only time I've been able to do it in less than an hour was when I ran two miles on the treadmill in the gym downstairs—not the best way to enjoy a run, at least not in my opinion.

So, here is my how-to guide for having an enjoyable run during regular work hours.

Run when you know you can afford to take a long lunch break. Sure, the standard American lunch break is an hour. But, if you're lucky enough to work somewhere in which there's a degree of leniency in your lunch break duration, make sure you take advantage of it. Don't take long lunch breaks all the time, of course. Not many employers would appreciate this. But, if one or two long lunch breaks are acceptable, go for it. (Apologies to those of you on strict lunch break time limits. This how-to guide does not really apply to you)
It is important, though, that you do not take an overly long lunch break. An hour and a half is doable. Two hours is too long. So, timing is everything in this exercise.

Make sure you bring all the running gear you'll need. Also, be sure to have a towel or something to wipe off the sweat when you'r done. If you want to take a shower in the gym, assuming a shower is available in your work place, then go for it. I don't bother. Diaper wipes are excellent for wiping away perspiration. Don't forget the deodorant either.

Pick a day when the weather is gorgeous. Don't plan to have an awesome run on a treadmill. you won't. Sure, treadmills are great when circumstances mandate that you run inside. But, this guide assumes you're attempting to enjoy a pleasurable run, something on ideal. So, we're running outside folks. And, if we're running outside, we want to run when the weather is fantastic. Don't run during lunch when it's 89 degrees with a dew point of 70. You and your colleagues will suffer for the rest of the afternoon. Choose a day in the Fall or Spring when the weather is more pleasant.

Bring your lunch to work that day. You will be hungry after your run. And, you won't have time to stop for lunch on the way back to the office. So, have lunch waiting for you when you return.

When you're ready to take your lunchtime-run break, leave quickly. Have your route picked out. Know where you're going to park if you're driving to the running course. The travel time must be executed with precision. How long does it take for you to get out of the building? How far away is the starting point? Where are you changing into your running clothes? There is no time for dilly-dally!

Know the course. Whether you're running the course for the first time, or not, you need to know where you're running. This is especially true if you're running on a trail rather than the streets near your office. As you know, technical trails can take up much more time than easily navigable pavement. And, taking a wrong turn on a trail can lead you far off course, thereby extending your time running. Getting lost is a sure way to turn an extended lunch hour into an afternoon off, which is not what we're trying to do here.

an enjoyable run on a Fall day during lunch in Umstead State ParkEnjoy the run. Since we are addressing an enjoyable run during work hours, I assume you've chosen a running route that has the potential to be enjoyable. This is a matter of personal taste. And, for me, an enjoyable run would be in a park with trails, somewhere that gets my mind away from the office and computers. Sure, we're in a bit of a rush here. But, it's all pointless if you don't take time to enjoy the run itself.

Stretch as efficiently as possible. The run is over. But, you still need to stretch. Do it quickly and effectively. I do not advise skipping the stretching session. Also, be sure you have water to drink immediately after the run. You'll want it. You always do.

Change back into your work clothes quickly. If you've driven to a running location, determine if you want to continue cooling off in your running clothes while driving back to the office. I change into my work pants in the bathroom at the park where I run. But, I leave my running shirt on while driving back. This ensures that I don't sweat profusely all over my work shirt with my back pressed against the car seat. You may find that you'd rather change completely once you return to the office. Figure it out.

Begin some work immediately upon returning to the office. Open up your email, or whatever, so that your computer looks busy. This is good, because it gives the impression that you've not been gone long. Hopefully, none of your office mates have eaten your lunch while you were gone. Eat that lunch. It'll be delicious.

Finally, don't get used to an enjoyable lunch-break run. The weather isn't perfect for long. And, you may find at times that your schedule, or that of your supervisor, is not as conducive to long lunch breaks. So, you should appreciate these types of runs during work hours for the rarities that they are. Do not be tempted to abuse them. That'll just make them less enjoyable for you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Puma Men's Running Shorts Review

As someone who researches anything he's about to buy for weeks, I am always on the lookout for opinions and reviews of whatever article of running-related clothing I think I might "need". So, if some of you are considering the Puma Men's Shorts offered here for a great price, I submit to you the following review.

First, I'll make it known that I've not worn many different varieties of running shorts in the past. Really, the only other shorts I've worn are the Target C9 brand running shorts manufactured by Champion. So, take my opinion about the Puma Running Shorts for what it is—limited.

These shorts are awesome. If the point of a pair of running shorts (aside from covering a fellow's junk) is to feel like nothing while a person runs, then these shorts succeed wonderfully. They're incredibly lightweight. And, the 3" inseam pretty much guarantees that you will not feel restricted by the hems.

Here are some details about the Puma Running Shorts from the RunningWarehouse website:

  • 3" inseam, 10 1/2" outseam (size Medium)
  • Mesh side and back panels enhance ventilation
  • Fast drying inner brief with key pocket
  • Reflective detail
  • Elastic waistband with drawstring
  • (100% Polyester Microfiber) quick-drying material to keep you drier longer

The brief lining is much softer than the lining in the C9 running shorts. And, I definitely notice a difference in the elastic within after running for more than an hour. The C9 shorts seem more inclined to chafe than the Puma shorts, if you know what I mean.

The key pocket in the waist lining of the shorts is ample. In fact, a runner could probably stash a gel or iPod Nano in there if he were so inclined. The design is stylish yet subtle. And, the shorts are available in a wide range of colors.

A review of running shorts would be lacking without addressing the issue of the inseam length. Most American men are not accustomed to wearing shorts that are truly short. The C9 running shorts are probably hemmed with a 6" or 7" inseam, falling approximately one inch above my knees. And, I won't even venture a guess at how long the legs are on most casual shorts.

So, the 3" inseam on these Puma running shorts is conspicuous, especially to the man who is not accustomed to wearing short running shorts. The Puma running shorts here were my first pair of short shorts. And, of course, being the modest fellow that I am, I felt a little self conscious the first time I pulled these on. But, that sense of unease is pretty easy to shake off once you begin running.

There's a point at which you just don't care what people think of your attire while exercising. And, allowing yourself to put on a pair of really short shorts helps you reach that point quite quickly. This affords you the capacity to realize that shorter shorts result in a feeling of physical freedom, which is more conducive to optimal running comfort. At least, that's how I felt once I ran in these 3" shorts.

That's a personal thing, though. And, I hasten to add that it is not necessary to wear shorter shorts in order to run fast.
Comfort aside, one thing to keep in mind when considering a short pair of shorts like these ones from Puma: No lunges in public. Okay, maybe quick lunges are fine. But, the Yoga lunges seen here are not a good idea in short shorts of this caliber.

Sure, the fellow in the picture looks perfectly presentable in his rather long-length shorts. But, if that were you there in a pair of shorts with a 3"-or-less inseam, junk would be hanging out. I'm just sayin'...

So, if you are as modest as me, keep in mind that you cannot do this in the presence of others. There are plenty of other stretches for running you can do, though.

So, in short, these men's running shorts from the good folks at Puma are fantastic! They're short. They're comfortable. They're less expensive than many of the other running shorts out there. I highly recommend these ones!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Free to Breath Lung Cancer Mile Walk Report

Okay, so this isn't a race report. But, I took part in the mile-walk portion of a race event. So, this account is running related, I think. Besides, it's my blog. And, I'll post whatever I like.

Free to Breathe Lung Cancer 5KThe family and I participated in the Free to Breathe Lung Cancer 5k/Mile Run Walk this past Saturday, November 6, in Raleigh. Since both my wife and I lost our mothers to lung cancer in the past six years, this event held particular significance to us.

We elected to walk the mile in lieu of the 5k, mostly because dragging along three little boys for this family event would have been disasterous over the course of 3.1 miles. And, since my darling wife had other plans that morning, I didn't have time to run the race immediately following the mile walk. This was for the best, though, since I'm still in reverse-taper mode after October's marathon.

It was a chilly Saturday morning with overcast skies and a slight, intermittent drizzle. I was cold in my three layers—tech-tee, long-sleeve event tee, and cotton hoodie—and we had the three boys bundled in winter coats.

The event was well organized in the registration area. There was something of a rally before the walk commenced. And, it was touching to see the handful of lung cancer survivors leading the walk. The chill put a damper on things, since it was hard to want to listen to the speakers while we were all freezing.

There were several teams there, wearing team shirts and carrying signs in honor of the people for whom they were participating. My wife and I wore stickers that indicated we were walking in memory of our moms.

In spite of the trademark fussiness of our children, which is pretty much a given at anything we try to do as a family, walking with a group of people who'd suffered a loss to lung cancer was every bit of a memorial of sorts as I'd hoped. There we were, hundreds of people walking quietly on a cold morning in honor of people we loved.

We'll be back again next year. Maybe one of us will even run.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Post-Marathon Malaise

Into Every Life a Little Rain Must FallSo, nearly three weeks have passed since I completed my first marathon at Medoc. And, over the course of these weeks, I've definitely noticed some sporadic bouts of depression and malaise. I didn't sit around crying in a dark room or contemplating the purpose of my existence while ignoring the requests of my loved ones.

Rather, I could simply sense a change in my overall mood, a despondency of sorts. This was especially true during the first week of recovery. When my thoughts would turn to anything running related, I wouldn't get the same feeling of excitement that I'd experienced over the past several months. My interest in running discussions on the Runner's World forums waned dramatically. And, I barely cared to think about future running goals.

I did a little research on the web about post-marathon depression and found that it is quite common.

An article on states, " any big event in life that after the planning and work to have it all come together, the result, no matter how great, will leave you a bit let down once it is all done." This is obvious, especially after I read it on the screen.

The RunningFit author goes on to explain that it is important to set new goals and really take time in recovering from the marathon.

So, almost three weeks later, I'm back to my happy-runner self again. I'm on week two of the Hal Higdon post marathon recovery program. And, running regularly again after a few days of zero-to-two-mile recovery runs really helped to elevate my spirits. It's difficult at times to make myself follow a training schedule that's just a fraction of what I was doing four weeks ago. But, my body really is tired. And, I'm happy to be taking it easy for a while.

The dilemma for me, though, is now that I have my enthusiasm for running again, I'm anxious to participate in challenging trail races as soon as possible. I'm giving myself a full month before "racing" again, though. Don't worry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Running Warehouse Gift Card Delay

I am a fan of—a big fan. With their huge selection of running gear, generous return policies, and free, two-day shipping; I don't see how any other online running retailer can compete. RunningWarehouse is the best. And, I'm making this opinion known of my own volition, no freebies from RW here.

So, with that being said, I have a slight gripe the RunningWarehouse gift card distribution practice:

RunningWarehouse gift cardsMy brother purchased a RunningWarehouse gift card for me on Friday, October 29—my birthday. It wasn't the physical, plastic kind of card, mind you. It is the kind of gift card you receive via email, which consists of a number and pass code for activation.

Well, the gift card didn't arrive in my inbox until yesterday evening. That's four days later!

Apparently, due to a high frequency of fraud, it is necessary for a RunningWarehouse representative to call the purchaser of a gift card in order to confirm the order. That's understandable. However, I am surprised at this delay in delivery since the point of any conceptual gift one buys for delivery via email is to expedite delivery of the gift. Amazon has no problem sending a gift recipient the email gift as soon as the purchaser clicks the "purchase" button.

Anyway, there are probably numerous factors that influence the delivery time of a gift card from RunningWarehouse. Maybe my brother didn't answer the phone when the representative first tried to call him. Perhaps the gift card guy at RunningWarehouse doesn't work on weekends...

RunningWarehouse is still the best place to buy running gear online. Just be aware that purchasing a gift card there will not necessarily incur immediate delivery.

Now, what to buy at RunningWarehouse with my newly acquired gift card...?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Millisecond Trail Running Adventure:

Or, How a Runner Defies Gravity Mid Stride

There's a county-maintained trail just a few miles from my house that serves as my go-to spot for a Saturday long run. It's my favorite run of the week. And, I'm always looking forward to it the night before. The trail terrain is a mixture of wide, loosely packed rocky roads and some technical single-track. It's not an especially challenging trail. But, it's near my house and makes for a very enjoyable run. Despite being so close to area subdivisions and a highway, the fact that the trail follows a portion of the Neuse River makes the trek feel comfortably remote.

As a kid growing up in Colorado and, for a couple of years anyway, North Carolina, I spent countless hours exploring the fields and forests near my parents' home searching for wildlife. Yes, I was a geek. I memorized field guide images, watched nature shows on PBS, and, before I entered adolescence, I'd aspired to be all kinds of -ologists (marine biologist, herpetologist, ornithologist, etc.).

So, being out in a natural area nowadays always brings about the nostalgia for my exploratory days of childhood. Obviously, that's one reason I find trail running so appealing. My senses are challenged in a pastoral manner, a welcome contrast to my weekdays in front of the computer. This all proved doubly true on a particular Saturday last April.

It was a crisp morning after a week of unseasonably warm days. I was running along the technical portion of the path, leaping rocks and roots, listening to the rustling leaves, and really enjoying mile four of my nine-mile run. The early morning sun shined intensely through the tree canopy, creating areas of intense contrast on the forest floor. I allowed myself to take in the scenery, glancing from the trail to the forest, being distracted by the lizards and squirrels dashing through the leaves.

Copperhead (not my photo)

I passed a clearing to the left and looked from there to the trail again. My eyes adjusted to the contrasting shadows among the leaves. And, I suddenly recognized the shape of a snake stretched out across the trail beneath me. It wasn't just any snake. It was a big, fat copperhead!

The ideal image of a runner in action would show the runner with both feet off the ground—one leg bent with the knee pointing forward, the other leg extended behind the runner just after the toe pushes off. This is the sought-after "floating" picture described and appreciated in many running groups. Imagine me in this position, floating above the ground between strike and toe-off. Now imagine me lifting both legs from the knee up to my hamstrings, thereby increasing the distance between me and the snake by at least twelve inches. I didn't know I had reflexes like that.

Given my history of seeking out and catching snakes when I was a kid, I'm not bothered by snakes. I wouldn't even be bothered by a venomous snake like the copperhead I met on that trail. But, the fact that I didn't see the snake until I was right above it really alarmed me. Hence, the rush of adrenaline and miraculous levitation over the trail.

When I finally landed on the ground who-knows-how far away from the copperhead, my pace increased a bit. I was thankful that I'd not had the misfortune of actually stepping on the snake. But, I was concerned over the fact that I would have to return over that same portion of the trail in just a few minutes so that I could get home.

I kept thinking, "I'll be such an idiot if I get bitten by this snake on the second pass. I'll be such an idiot, such an idiot..."

Luckily, the snake wasn't there on my return trip. Perhaps my heavy stomping on the way back scared it away. Perhaps it was just as scared of being stepped on as I was of stepping on it. Either way, I'm glad he moved. And, I'd rather not see him again.

So, what have I learned from this little adventure on the trail? Watch out for snakes. But, don't let it keep you from running!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 12th Annual Inside-Out Sports Classic 10K Race Report

Note: This is an archive-edition race report for the May 16, 2010, Inside-Out Sports Classic 10K in Cary, NC.

I set a time goal for this 10K: Run it in under 50 minutes. I failed. And, I realize that there's a lot to learn about how to run a race. That's probably a good lesson for first race, right?

I arrived early at 6 AM, an hour and a quarter before the 10K start time. It was no problem to arrive early, because I'd been lying awake in bed since just after 3 in the morning. (I was more than a little excited about my first race) The sun was rising in an overcast sky, giving the morning a blue hue with a touch of crispy humidity from the evening rain. I parked in a shopping center approximately a half mile away from race headquarters in order to have a nice warm-up run with purpose before the start time.

The bulk of the participants hadn't arrived yet as I picked up my race materials: Bib #1020, the green tech shirt, my timing chip, and a course map. I wanted to take a few photos before the races. So, I'd brought my phone in an arm band on my trek to the race area. But, after that half mile warm-up, the arm band was already getting on my nerves. So, I walked back to the car and tossed the phone, arm band, and race shirt inside. By the time I returned to the race area, the crowds had arrived. I attached my timing chip to the black laces of my Mizuno Elixirs (the IVs for anyone who cares) and watched everyone go through their various pre-race routines for a few minutes.

It was around 6:40 when I decided a bathroom break was in order. Unfortunately, a few hundred other people had the same idea. The line for the porta-potties was long! Luckily, the 10K start time wasn't until 7:15. But, the half marathon was scheduled to start at 7. And, the half marathoners in line with me were getting antsy. One of the girls forgot to lock the porta-potty door. (I don't think there was enough time for that to be awkward, though)

I walked up to the starting corral and placed myself towards the back third of the pack, as the rest of my fellow 10K runners listened to the race director describe the challenges of this course. There was something about hills. The runner in front of me was wearing a pair of Puma street shoes. I wondered whether he knew exactly what he was doing or vice versa.

The starting horn sounded and the pack began shuffling across the starting line. I kept telling myself, "Start slow. Start slow. Start slow...." And, I must say, I managed to start out marvelously slow! Perhaps that warm-up run helped dissipate some of the jitter-induced adrenaline.

So, there I was, embarking on my first race, comfortably jogging at the back of the pack while the sun gradually turned the sky from blue to orange. The humidity hung in the air like cigarette smoke. I maintained my conservative, easy pace for at least a mile, passing people slowly and watching for hills. It was fantastic!

The course took us down a rural road leading into Umstead State Park on gravelly bridle trails. After about three miles, we turned around, only to diverge from the first mile point and follow Black Creek Greenway to a longer finish than I'd anticipated. (Why couldn't they have made a race map to scale?) Due to park restrictions, there were no mile markers posted. And, since I don't have a GPS device, I found myself holding back most of the time out of fear that I'd not covered as many miles as I thought. Yet, I gradually moved forward in the pack, distributing the good-works and great-jobs at random. It felt great!

The last mile and a half was the most challenging for me, because I found myself feeling almost lost (no, not literally) due to not knowing how much further to go until the finish. "Do I hold back some more or start sprinting? Hold back? Sprint..?" I really wished I'd known the course better.

I saw the lead runners pass by in the other direction, which meant they'd reached the final turnaround. But, where was that turnaround? Oh, there it was! The volunteer there said we were at about mile 5.5. So, I started picking up speed. Somewhere behind me someone screams an expletive in rage. I'm glad I wasn't right next to the guy.

And, then, there was a hill. No, not a big one. It was small, but steep enough to put a kink in my otherwise even pace. More critical, though, was that this hill made me realize I was more tired than I thought I was a few seconds ago. And, this little climb, followed by another little climb, really hit my legs where it hurt.

I passed a guy who was walking. Told him, "Good job, man." And, he replied in kind. Then he sprinted ahead of me! I could hear the cheering just yards ahead and picked up my pace as much as I could. Another volunteer was guiding Mr. Walk/Sprinter and me toward the final right turn, which would lead us downhill across the finish line. (Note to race directors: A downhill finish is awesome!) I tried to catch up to the walk/sprint dude before crossing the finish, maximizing my stride and ignoring the slight discomfort in my left knee. But, he beat me by a few seconds.

In the last few meters I suddenly remembered that there'd be a photographer around. I saw her just as she focused on the person behind me. Hope I didn't look like an idiot.

My official finish time was 53:13, an 8:34 pace. I'd really hoped to finish in under 50 minutes, especially on such a relatively easy course. But, perhaps that goal was a bit uneducated. I'd never actually timed myself on a 6.2 mile course. So, the 50 minute goal was really just me choosing a nice round number that seemed reasonable for a first 10K. I mean, it's my first race, and I had no real idea how I would run in it. I'm just so glad that I ran at all! It was fun!

Thanks to all of you for the tips you provided while I obsessed about this first race in the days prior. And, thanks if you've read my babble up to this point.

The weapon of choice: Mizuno Elixir 4

Mizuno Elixir 4 photo

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rock2Rock 10K Trail Race Report

Note: This is an archive-edition race report for the May 28, 2010, Rock 2 Rock 10K Trail Run near Asheville, NC.

When a race director's course description bluntly states, "You will not run this entire course," believe it! The Rock2Rock Trail Run was an enormously challenging race! With more than 2000 feet of climbing in the first half of the race and trails that epitomize everything in the word "technical", this course kicks any runner's glutes. Damn it was fun!

See photos of the 2010 Rock2Rock Trail Run on Flickr

The family and I began planning to visit my brother and his wife in the NC mountains a little over a month ago. When I read that the Rock2Rock Trail Run would be taking place on the very same weekend I planned to be in the Asheville area, I was ecstatic. The race description had me at "trail run".

This was only my second experience at an organized race. And, it was the first time I ran in the mountains. I knew the air would be thinner and the hills would be higher than anything I was used to. After seeing in last year's results that the majority of the participants were from the mountains, I knew I would be out of my league in this race. The other bit of advice in the race description, "add about 60% on to your usual 10k time," pretty much convinced me of the fact that I wouldn't be setting any records for myself here. But, I was sure it'd be fun.

I arrived at the race site later than I expected, just a half hour before the 5:00 PM start time. But, it was a fairly small race with less than 200 participants. So, I didn't have to wait in line to register. Set in a traditional summer camp at the base of a mountain with a small lake, the race site couldn't have been more beautiful. Runners were accompanied by their families (well, not me, unfortunately) with little kids playing on the lakeside beach and doggies running around greeting the runners. We all parked in a soccer field and warmed up by running the few hundred meters between it and the registration table.

The swag was nice: A nifty visor, a sport bottle, and a tube of lip sunscreen stuff from Gore-Tex. La Sportiva had a tent set up with shoes available to try out during the race. I resisted the urge to try the new shoes, reminding myself of the cardinal rule: Nothing new on race day. Besides, my Inov-8 Flyroc 310s really needed this experience.

The director called for us to line up in the starting area, a flat, grassy space beside the lake. There were not mats. We just stood in a bunch behind a line of really fast-looking runners. I stood very close to the back of the pack. After a few introductions and warnings about the steep climbs in the course, we were off!

Several of the runners took off quickly, some of which I ended up passing in the first quarter of the race. The initial climb was pretty easy over a wide, gravely trail. After a few 160-degree turns, the incline became almost twice as steep. A few people who were ahead of me started power hiking. The trail leveled out for a few meters at 15 minutes (my time of course) into the race, taking us through a clearing with waist-high grass on either side of the trail. But, we were soon vertical and under the cover of treetops again.

At almost 19 minutes into the race, I decided to take a turn at power hiking. It was strange to pass people while hiking. And, I found myself wondering whether I was going at an appropriate pace, wondering if I was conserving enough energy.

I was able to run again when the hillside became less vertical. Others did, too, of course. Then the trail turned into a single-track, seemingly-75-degree cliff face for too many meters to count (not that I could have counted).

We moved in small batches, each group held up behind a leader until someone broke free to advance toward another group of hikers. We huffed. We puffed. We sweated. We made sure the people who'd stopped were okay. There's a genuine comraderie among this bunch of trail runners. Perhaps it was because the race was a small one. Perhaps it's just because we're runners.

Each time the incline became rockier and more mountainous, I thought I was near the top. But, no. This single-track climb went on forever. I second-guessed my ability to finish the race, wondered what happened to people who DNF this thing. Do they take a nap before walking back down the trail?

My quads were tingling with each step over the rocks. Fallen tree limbs were true obstacles. And, I couldn't even imagine running again. But, what's this? The trail is leading down hill?

I told my legs to act like they were running. And, they did, in fact start to run--fast! I knew that the downhills were key to gaining an edge in this race. And, I did my best to avoid busting my rear while weaving around tree trunks through chest-high vegetation. I couldn't believe I was actually running again. I heard footsteps behind me, keeping pace with my footfalls as I navigated the trails and followed the orange flags. As the trail leveled out, the fellow behind me passed by and said, "thanks for the pace! I don't know what I would have done."

"No problem!" I replied.

Then, after just a few meters of downhill, we were hiking uphill again.

That first incline must have been the first "rock" in the race. I hadn't yet reached the second "rock", the highest point in the race, which is where the water stop would be.

So, I again found myself pushing harder than ever in an effort to scale the trail. Time passed slowly again, each big rock fooling me into thinking that the water stop was just around the corner.

Finally, I heard someone encouraging another runner up ahead. The encourager sounded like he had far too much breath in his lungs to be a runner in this race. So, I knew it must be the water stop.

I was right! Located on a large rock formation with a view of the lake and surrounding mountains far below, the water stop was a welcome site. I've never been so happy to hold a little Dixie cup in my hand.

The water stop guy told me that there was just 200 more meters of uphill trail. The rest of the race would be downhill. Awesome! I thanked him and hurried on my way, looking down at the ground just as the race photographer snapped my picture.

When I reached the second summit, I again made my legs run. The momentum was easy to build as the trail dropped steeply downward. The single track through a perilous tunnel of azaleas and fallen trees and over slippery, steep trails was an exciting start to the final descent. I felt certain that I'd end up injured by the end of this race. But, I ran downward as fast as I could, half sliding as if on skis, half propelling from tree trunks.

Someone was behind me and keeping pace well. I debated moving to the side and letting him pass right away. But, I was having too much fun racing through the tree tunnel without slowing down for someone. He seemed to be cool with it. We passed several runners who were clearly uncomfortable with the angle of the descent. I encouraged them as I went by. Although, I'm sure it sounded something like, "hhhwhwhwgohood jobpffpfp!"

Eventually, I slipped and swung to the right on a tree trunk in order to stop myself from falling down. This gave my pursuer the edge he needed to pass me. So, he was ahead now. No problem. I'm not competing here.

The trail changed to what appeared to be a dried up, rocky creek bed for the remainder of the last mile or two. The incline was less steep. But, dodging and jumping the rocks made for some interesting footwork. I kept thinking, "This is gonna hurt tomorrow. That's gonna hurt. Ooh, that's could have really hurt!"

A stream crossing allowed me to test the drainage capabilities of my Inov-8s. I guess they work fine for that. The cool water felt good on my feet.

Suddenly, the rocky trail opened up onto a gravel road. Not only that, but the incline was more than managable. I sped up, following the orange shirt in front of me. We rounded a corner onto soft mulch and were faced with one more small hill. People were cheering and clapping, urging us toward the finish. A little girl stood a few meters from the finish line saying that we just have to round the tree and we'll be golden!

And, just like that, my run was over. The volunteers at the finish tore the bottom portion of my bib for timing (No chips in this race). My finish time was 1:16:22. I was 84th out of 130 runners. Like I stated earlier, these mountain runners know how to run!

I walked around a bit, eating a banana and helping myself to the water in the refreshment tent. My legs were hot and numb. I marveled at the workout I'd just completed. As more runners approached the finish line, I clapped and cheered for them. I stretched, cooled off, and watched the award ceremony before a thunderstorm started dropping rain on us. It was a fantastic experience!

The weapon of choice: Inov-8 Flyroc 310

Inov-8 Flyroc 310 after the race

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inov-8 f-lite 230 Shoe Review

The Reviewer

weight: 153 lbs
height: 5’ 11”
Avg MPW: 30 - 35
Foot strike: Mid
Recent Shoe History: Mizuno Nirvana 5 (size 11.5), Mizuno Elixir 4 (size 11.5), Inov-8 Flyroc 310 (size 11.5)

The Shoe

Inov-8 f-lite 230 in the boxThe f-lite 230 is a great, lightweight shoe. I won’t repeat what you’ve likely read about the f-lite 230 on the Inov-8 website. I can confirm for you that the shoe is every bit as blue as it is in the pictures (unless you buy the black ones). The mesh upper material stretches nicely, which is one of this shoe’s best features. And, it truly has a slipper-like fit, seeming to wrap around my foot rather than encase it. The transition from mid-foot to toe-off is smooth and comfortable thanks to the shoe’s flexibility. In short, the shoe fits and rides wonderfully.

I was nervous about buying the f-lite 230, because it is a rather narrow shoe. I certainly didn’t want to have another cramped shoe that gives me black toenails (I should have ordered a half size larger in the Flyroc 310s). But, I’d read somewhere that the mesh upper is flexible enough to allow for a greater feeling of freedom than one might think. This is true.

I was surprised at how comfortably my average-to-wide forefeet fit into these shoes. When I first put the shoes on, they definitely felt snug. But, after walking around and going for a run in them, the f-lite 230s proved incredibly adaptable to a wider average width foot.

The Reason

Buying the f-lite 230 was a pretty big step for me (no pun intended). After running primarily in heavy stability shoes for a long time, I knew that picking up a pair of neutral flats would be risky. I’d been working my way from the hefty Mizuno Nirvana to the lighter Elixir while running my long trail runs in the Inov-8 Flyroc 310s. I chose to work towards a lower profile shoe after reading about the perceived benefits of running barefoot or in minimal shoes. And, the f-lite 230 had been lauded by minimalists for it’s 6mm heel-to-toe drop and flexibility. So, I went for it.

The Performance

Inov-8 f-lite 230 on my feetI transitioned slowly into these shoes. I first used them for short, three-mile runs on pavement. They felt great. And, I suppose my time in the Flyrocs conditioned my achilles well enough to handle the lower profile midsole. After a few short runs, I took the f-lites out for a long run on the trails. They were perfect the whole time. I’ve managed to go as far as 18 miles (on trails) in the f-lites before feeling like I could use a bit more support for a longer distance. (Enter the Inov-8 Roclite 285)

As one might expect, the f-lites have a relatively minimal tread. The shoes handle pavement and hard-packed trails perfectly. I’ve worn them over technical single-track trails, too. And, I’d pick something else for that kind of terrain if you’ll be running on it for a long time. The shoes handle the surface well. But, you definitely feel the pointy rocks jabbing into the thin outsole. Having slightly bigger lugs on the bottom is better for the technical trails.


I love the f-lite 230. Their flexible upper and slipper-like feel make them a pleasure to wear. Try a pair on if you can find them anywhere.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Xterra Fisher Farms 10-Mile Trail Race Report

This is an archive-edition race report for the September 5, 2010, XTERRA Fisher Farms 10-Mile Trail Race.

The Fisher Farms Trail Race was the final event in a series of four NC trail races sponsored by XTERRA. Dirty Spokes Productions organized each race. And, from my experience at the Fisher Farms race, they did a nice job of it. (Although, it is odd that they didn’t have a race photographer. But, those pictures usually suck, anyway) The race offered a 5-mile and 10-mile option. The 5 miler consisted of one loop around the course, and the 10 miler doubled that. I chose the latter.

Fisher Farms Landscape
Fisher Farms is a recently developed park near Davidson, NC; an area with pleasantly rolling hills and lots of horse farms. The well-marked course utilized a series of mountain bike trails. So, there were plenty of moderate drop-offs, switchbacks, and jumps on this otherwise well groomed single-track trail. Much of the trail terrain was quite technical and offered a few rolling, decently steep hills. Thus, even running the same trail twice, I was never bored with it.

I rationalized my selection of this race based on the fact that it was less than three hours away from home. That is, I wouldn’t have to impose my overnight absence on my family, because I could surely wake up early and drive three hours to the race.

But, my wife told me that rationale was silly and urged me to just spend the night in a hotel near the race. So, I did. I found the cheapest hotel on the internet within a 30-minute drive from the race, and spent a very uncomfortable, sleep-deprived night there.

As many of you know, lack of sleep on the eve of a race doesn’t stop us from racing. So, I was energized when I woke up (for the fourth time) on Sunday morning. I dressed quickly, checked out of the room, and walked out into the cool morning air. It was still a bit dark at 6:45 (I wanted to get there early). And, traffic was light, which made my slight detours on the way to the race less frustrating.

Arriving an hour early, I picked up my packet and noted the rather simple, yet nicely crafted New Balance tech shirt in the bag. I stayed in the car to keep warm while other racers drove into the lot. I listened to my iPod for the first time in months.

Approximately thirty minutes before race time, I chewed a couple of shot bloks, put on my shoes, and did a few strides on the gravel road. The sun glistened on the dew-dotted hills. People stood in line at the port-o-potty. And, a Dachsund pranced around the parking lot proudly, because he was the only dog there. I laughed to myself when I noted that the "barn" of this race was actually across the parking lot from a real barn.

The RD called us to the starting point, which was a few meters from the starting line. He instructed us to follow him for about a tenth of a mile on the gravel road before turning around toward the starting line. This helped distribute runners into more manageable pacing groups. As we began our steady run, I saw the second-place winner of my last trail race. So, I figured my chances of being the overall winner this time were pretty much nil (read with ironic tone).

Upon entering the trail, I settled in behind a pair of Asics. This one didn't like running down hills. So, I passed at the first convenient opportunity. I'd forgotten my watch this time. So, I had to run on pure perceived effort, which is pretty much what I do all the time. So, running along at a comfortably fast pace for the first mile felt like a great way to start the race.

I ran behind a rather chatty, energetic fellow who seemed to want to coach me while we passed people. Shortly after mile 2 (I knew the distance because he provided reports from his Garmin every couple of minutes) I realized this guy was actually running the five mile race. So, I stopped keeping up with him in order to conserve my energy.

The question of whether to pass or pace kept cropping up in my mind during this race. Being that the course was predominantly single track, there were few convenient points at which to pass people. And, given my somewhat anti-competetive nature, I found myself settling on the pace of the person in front of me for a while. I wondered if I was being rude. Then I wondered if it would be more rude for me to pass the person right away. Then I wondered if it would be even more rude if I'd been running behind this person for a while only to spring past them when I decided to do so. (You see why I have very few friends)

The first five-mile lap was over much more quickly than I expected. I felt great. I grabbed a cup of water from the friendly aid station dude and set it down on the ground. (I know. You're supposed to throw it)

The last five miles went quickly, too, thanks to a very accomplished 60-something-year old runner. (He placed second in his age group. That's how I know) I was really impressed with this guy, not because of his age, but his size. He was at least as tall as I am (just shy of 6') and rather stocky on top. But, he knew how to move. And, that sort of thing is inspiring to me. So, I kept up with his pace for around two or three miles before finding a wide part of the trail at which to pass him. And, then I used as much of my energy as I knew how to use to race the last mile or so to the finish.

I placed second in my age group, 16th overall, with a time of 1:29:xx. But, then, it was a pretty small race. So, that's not a huge deal to most racers. But, it feels good to place, because I've never received an AG award before. The medal is neat. And, my four-year old claimed it as soon as I arrived home.

The weapon of choice for this race: Inov-8 f-lite 230

Inov-8 f-lite 230 after the race

Brief Interview with a First-Time Marathoner: A Medoc Trail Marathon Race Report

Note: This is not a real interview. I decided to have a little fun with the format of this race report. So, I composed it as if I were being interviewed by a running magazine.

After completing his first marathon at Medoc State Park in Hollister, NC, on October 16, 2010; AshwynGray (Ash) discusses his experience with Imaginary Running Magazine (IRM).

photo by Ron FlemingIRM: So, a trail marathon. What made you choose the Medoc Trail Run as your first marathon?

Ash: Since getting serious about running this past spring, I realized that I like running on trails more than roads. So, it seemed logical to choose my preferred terrain for my first marathon. I knew I wouldn’t be running a fast race. So, why not run a trail where I’d have fun navigating the rocks, roots, and hills?

IRM: Did the course meet your expectations?

Ash: The Medoc course is fantastic. The marathon consisted of three loops on a relatively runnable trail. I’d thought the course might consist of one big hill surrounded by flat terrain, since the park is called Medoc Mountain State Park. But, there were quite a few more hills than I anticipated, which proved more challenging and painful in the end. However, there were some very decent, flat portions that offered relief from the climbing. There were stairs, too. And, the loose, rocky areas didn’t disappoint.

IRM: And, for our gear junkies out there, what were your weapons of choice?

Ash: Ah, well, I ran in my Inov-8 Roclite 285s.Inov-8 Roclite 285 They were perfect: Lightweight, excellent traction...And, I didn’t suffer a single blister. I wore a Puma tech shirt and shorts, both lightweight and comfortable items, and a standard type of running hat to keep a little warmth in my head.

For hydration and holding my Clif Shot Bloks, I carried an Upward Direction 20oz bottle in a Nathan handheld strap, because the Nathan bottle tends to leak.

IRM: What was your frame of mind just before the race?

Ash: Well, of course, I was incredibly anxious. I’m just that way anytime I do something unpredictable for the first time. I’d spent the previous five days being very conscious of my nutrition, eating more carbs and protein per serving than I normally would, avoiding high-fat foods, etc. And, I thought I was sufficiently carb-loaded. Also, the weather was perfect (mid forties), and the atmosphere around the starting line was relaxed. So, I felt good. I was excited.

‘Course, my penchant for lateness caused me to have to run to the finish line from the parking lot, because I took forever when pinning my bib to my shirt. I took my place in line just eleven seconds before we were told to go. That made the start interesting for me.

starting the race

IRM: And your feelings afterward?

Ash: I was happy and disappointed at the same time. I mean, I’d secretly hoped to finish the race in four hours. I had no factual information on which to base this wish. I just thought that four was a nice round finish time for a first marathon. So, finishing in 4:55:xx was a bit upsetting. But, the timing aspect was secondary to the experience. So, I was ecstatic over the fact that I’d just completed my first marathon. I didn’t walk, shuffle, or hobble across the finish line. I ran! Then the nausea set in.

IRM: Ah, yes, your blood sugar was low. How long did it take for you to feel less nauseous after the race?

Ash: I ate some beans and rice, a banana, and drank a coke with water while resting in the grass for a while--maybe half an hour. Once I’d finished the coke and started driving home, my stomach felt better.

IRM: You trained for this marathon by using the Higdon Novice II plan, right? How did that go? And, how well do you think the training plan prepared you to run a race of this distance?

Ash: The plan seemed like a good one for someone who’d never run more than ten miles before. So, I definitely think it’s a great plan for a beginner. I bonked a couple of the long runs during the hot summer. But, I also had some very successful long runs, too. I figured that kind of imperfect training was normal. So, I didn’t let it get me down.

I’ve read comments by others about the Higdon plans being designed only to get a runner to the finish line. And, I agree with this. If I’d had a greater base and more endurance, I think I would have had a better time. The peak week in the Higdon plan was 35 or 36 miles. That’s really not much when training for a marathon. In the future, I’ll definitely base my training on a program with higher requisite milage.

IRM: Do you have any specific marathons on your calendar right now?

Ash: No, not really. The amount of time I needed away from the family on Saturday mornings was not ideal. Plus, at some point around mile 21 of this race, I thought to myself that it would be nice to just be done. I was hurting, tired, and thinking I’d been out there far too long. Those last five miles were the longest I’ve ever run.

I think that, if I had the ability to cover the distance more quickly and confidently, I would be more enthusiastic about the full marathon distance. So, I want to get a better handle on my endurance level and speed before planning to run another marathon.
Of course, that could all be done within a year’s time.

IRM: Would you run Medoc again?

Medoc 2010 Marathon SwagAsh: Yes, absolutely, even if it was the 10 mile race instead of the marathon. The race directors were really great about communicating with the runners prior to the race. Aid stations and race swag were top-notch, too. (There were boiled potatoes at the aid stations. And, I loved them!)

The finishers of the marathon received a nice medal and running vest in addition to the spiffy long-sleeve tech shirt.

IRM: Before you go, do you have any specific memories from this race that stand out in your mind?

photo by Ron FlemingAsh: Well, I ran with a couple of awesome ladies for the first several miles. This was their first marathon, too. And, they really helped me to remain conservative with my pace. When I ran ahead of them in the latter third of the race, I felt a little selfish. But, that changed when one of them chicked me in the last three miles and finished around four minutes ahead of me.

Also, while I was resting in the sun after the race, I was cheering other runners on as they ran toward the finish line. And, I saw one guy running to the finish as his two young kids (around 5 and 7, I’d say) came bounding over to him saying that they wanted to run with him. He gave each of them a high five, and the three of them ran to the finish line together. It was touching. I missed my family a lot at that point.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Site About Running?

Yes, welcome to another website devoted to running. There are myriad blogs and websites by runners for runners in existence already. So, why, you may ask, would I want to create another freakin' running blog?

I don't know. We'll find out together, I guess.

Thanks for reading!


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