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...?


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