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?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...