Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150: A Sneak Peek via the Minimalist Runner

Some running-centered website people have all the luck. Look what the Minimalist Runner gets to try out:

I like that the toe box appears to be quite a bit more roomy than previous Inov-8 racing shoes. Can't wait to try this in the Fall—when Inov-8 makes them available to the rest of us. ;-P

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shoe Photo: New Balance MT10 Minimus Trail

Today seems like a good day for another shoe photo post. And, I'm continuing with the what's-recently-rested-on-my-car's-floorboard theme.

So, here we have my new pair of New Balance MT10s (aka the Minimus Trail). They are awesome. And, I'm in the process of writing a review for you.
Stay tuned.
New Balance Minimus MT10 Minimus Trail

Friday, March 25, 2011

FY(effin')I: Run/Walk/Bike for Umstead
April 16, 2011

Umstead owlAs I was leaving the Reedy Creek entrance parking lot this afternoon—after a fantastic run on Company Mill—I grabbed a brochure advertising the Walk/Run/Bike for Umstead event. I hadn't yet seen information about this opportunity to support one of the area's best parks. So, I figure it won't hurt to spread the word.

Here's my summary:


Choose a 4-mile walk/run on a park trail, a 4-mile beginner mountain bike tour, or a 10-mile intermediate mountain bike tour. Enjoy live music along the trail and on the main stage. This is a community event for the appreciation, use, and preservation of William B. Umstead State Park. Funds raised will be used for controlling invasive plants, protecting native wildflowers, environmental education, and land acquisition.


Saturday, April 16 (rain or shine)


A private farm on Reedy Creek Road next to William B. Umstead State Park. The Walk/Run/Bike route starts and ends at the meadow and goes along the gravel, multi-use trail in Umstead State Park.

Now go read more about it on the Umstead Coalition's event page >>

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Inov-8 Offers Insights on Transitioning to Natural Running

In an effort to keep you, dear readers, up to date on the latest educational data available to us from the running shoe industry, I'm letting you know that Inov-8 released a marvelous little brochure on the subject of "transitioning to natural running."

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150
Inov-8 Bare-X 200
The Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 and Bare-X 200 appear to be due to for release this Fall.
If you've had the slightest inkling about running in minimal footwear, this brochure will teach you nothing that you probably haven't read already elsewhere on the Internet. However, Inov-8 does a nice job of conveying how the company perceives its varied line of shoes relative to barefoot and minimalist running.

Another benefit from spending a few minutes with the brochure is that you'll see two zero-differential Inov-8 shoes for road running that are slated for release in Fall 2011: There's a Bare-x Lite 150 and a Bare-x 200. I've seen announcements about the Inov-8 Road-x 155, which is due out this Summer. But, the Bare-x line is new to me.

One final point I'll make about the transitioning brochure before you check it out for yourself is in regard to the profile figures: What's up with the unique hair styles?

I get that Inov-8 is edgy and cool. I mean, I'm an edgy and cool kinda guy. And, of course, I agree that Inov-8 is for everyone, regardless of hair style.

Sure, the hair styles are fun. And, kudos to the designers for wanting to make this fun. Really, much respect to them for taking time to make the figures interesting. But, in profile, features like spiky mowhaks do not look cool. That's just my opinion.
Transition to natural running chart
Furthermore, each figure has a different hair style. So, there's a visual implication that only runners with short, carefully mussed hair can wear the elite-level, natural-style performance shoes. Meanwhile, spiky-haired punks are likely to heel strike, thereby requiring the most cushioned Inov-8 shoes available.

I suppose that the graph could be showing how progression in natural running also tends to coincide with a progression toward hair-style minimalism. Maybe the dude who started out running on his heels with a spiky mowhawk is the same guy at the far-right side of the arrow with shorter hair. (If so, what the hell was he thinking in shock-arrow zone 1?)

After all, the journey from heel-striking to zero-differential shoes is not a brief one for most people. And, who wears a mowhawk for more than a year anyway? I mean, the amount of hair product needed to sustain a mowhawk while distance running is unfathomable to me. So, okay, maybe the graph is illustrating one runner's journey.

Anyway, the brochure is neat. And, thanks to the Minimalist Runner for alerting me about its existence!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trail Review: Neuse River Trail :: Anderson Point Park to Skycrest Dr.

Neuse River Trail: Anderson Point Park to Skycrest Dr.

Trail Location:Neuse River Trail Segment 3 Map
Anderson Point Park | Raleigh, NC

Trail Distance:
7.7* miles (out & back)

Trail Difficulty:

Elevation profile & map >>

See the Raleigh Parks and Rec. map >>

* approximate distance
The next time you happen to find yourself on the East side of Raleigh with your running shoes and clothes at hand, check out a pastoral pathway along the Neuse River that connects Anderson Point Park to (the future) Skycrest Drive. This is segment three of the Neuse River Trail, which will one day become the "central spine" of the Capital Area Greenway.

Here are some snippets from the project description on the website:
...This trail will begin at Falls Lake Dam and will extend along the river to the Wake County line, a distance of 28 miles.
The Neuse River Trail project is divided into several segments for the purposes of awarding construction contracts.
Construction is scheduled to begin after the completion of the design of each segment with final completion of the project scheduled for late 2012.

According to the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department's plans, this trail review will be partly obsolete by 2014, because they intend to pave the entire Neuse River Trail (Pavement disqualifies a trail from being a trail. My rules). A recent article indicates that the paving of segment three will take place sometime this year. So, if you prefer dirt and mud to asphalt and dodging bikes, get out there before paving begins.

trail head of the Neuse River trail from the parking lot at Anderson Point ParkCurrently, though, the Neuse River Trail surface is mostly comprised of groomed dirt over a trail wide enough to accommodate standard-sized vehicle traffic. The trail terrain is primarily flat and easy to run with just a couple of beastly hills in the middle of the course to make things interesting. The north side of the trail turns into a single-track, technical path; which is probably the highlight of the whole 3.9 miles (point to point).

As the name implies, the trail follows the Neuse River. So, you'll have some pretty nice views of the water during your run. And, the sound of rushing water in certain spots along the way is definitely a plus. It's not uncommon to see deer staring at you from the forest's edge.

The Neuse River Trail doesn't exactly put you out in the middle of untamed land, though. You'll pass a couple of housing developments along the way. And, Hwy 64 crosses the river around mile 1.5 from the park. So, don't worry about getting lonely out there.

Running the Trail

I run this trail pretty frequently, because it is convenient to where I live. The trail measures roughly 3.9 miles in one direction from the Anderson Point Park parking lot to the "trail end" marker. Obviously, it would be silly to run less than four miles point-to-point. So, you should plan to run this trail out and back, making your run a total of around 7.7 miles. It's a good way to spend an hour on a nice day when you can't make the trip to Umstead or Falls Lake.

Neuse River Trail mostly flat

Starting your run on the gravel path from the parking lot at Anderson Point Park (the first parking lot before the bridge), you'll turn left after a few meters and see the trail head marker. The river will be on your right as the trail rolls up and down before leveling out for a while.

A couple of wooden bridges add variety to your footing as the trail itself shifts from crushed gravel to hard-packed dirt. After a decent rain, the Neuse River trail becomes especially muddy in some spots.

You'll continue along the path at a comfortable pace, cross beneath the Hwy 64 bridge, and keep going until the trail turns left through a swampy corridor of trees. If there were alligators to fear, this would be the spot to be cautious.

A paved road intersects the trail now. Don't worry. Just turn right onto the road and continue running. Make your first left up a short, steep hill—no shame in hiking this one. Then turn right onto the gravel trail. Goodbye pavement.

avoid the dachshundNot the actual dachshund.
Two more hills and a wooden bridge bring you to the portion of trail that borders the Hedingham housing development. This is can be a treat, because someone here likes to walk her aggressive dachshund on the trail. She uses a retractable leash on the dog, but doesn't appear to know how it works. So, if you see a dachshund and an incompetent dog owner on the path while you're running, pass them cautiously. The dog is annoyingly confrontational.

After a mile of the wide path behind Hedingham, the trail becomes more technical and narrower with some decent tree cover. This is the best part, of course. Sadly, though, this root-ridden, sometimes rocky section extends for only about a quarter of a mile before leading you to the trail's end. But, on the bright side, you get to turn around and run the technical section all over again!
some technical terrain along the Neuse River Trail

My Favorite Features of the Neuse River Trail (Segment 3):decent hills here and there

  • that technical section towards the end (middle if out and back)
  • Flat or slightly rolling terrain makes for a predictable workout.
  • the river
  • one or two relatively challenging hills
  • convenient location for those of us living on the east side

Features I Dislike:

  • Housing developments detract from natural beauty.
  • flatness can be boring sometimes
  • A dearth of tree cover and humid conditions make running the trail in Summer months unpleasant.

Getting There

I prefer to drive to Anderson Point Park (map) and start at the first parking lot. If you cross the bridge over the highway to park in the lot directly beside Anderson Point, you've gone out of your way. Starting near the park affords you the opportunity to use the restroom or fill a water bottle.

(Okay, fine, you'll have to walk or run across the bridge to the facilities if you park where I told you to park. Use this as a warm up. You could use the entire paved park path as a warm up, too. I just like parking in the first parking lot, because I don't always have to use the restroom. But, if you'd rather be closer to the facilities than the trail head, then, by all means, park next to Anderson Point)

Some people park just off Hwy 64 where the road crosses the Neuse river. You'll probably see a car or two in this area. The area for parking here is small. And, the highway is busy. So, park at your own risk here.

There appears to be unofficial parking at the "Skycrest Dr." end of the trail, too. I've never parked there, though, because it's inconvenient and lacks facilities.


While the Neuse River Trail is certainly not Sycamore or Company Mill, it's not without its charm. The river landscape is enjoyable. And, the relatively flat terrain allows runners to pace themselves however they like.

Although I'll be very disappointed when the Neuse River Trail is paved, it's fantastic to see such grand plans for the trail in the works. I mean, running on an asphalt bike path beats running on sidewalks any day. And, the fact that this path will extend all the way to Falls Lake's trails is spectacular! Kudos to the Raleigh Parks and Rec. Department for that.

The Neuse River Trail (Anderson Point Park to Skycrest Dr.) elevation profile.
Check out an interactive map, too >>

check out the Neuse River Trail elevation profile

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Effin' Facebook Page

another effin' facebook pageI've long been hesitant to sign up for a Facebook account, because, well, I don't really know anyone. And, I certainly didn't need to be reminded of my social shortfalls by registering for automatic reminders of this fact.

But, everyone else uses Facebook. And, everyone includes race directors and race participants. Moreover, everyone pretty much assumes that everyone else is using Facebook. Thus, as someone who didn't have a Facebook account, I would often find myself excluded from updates and photo galleries relative to races.

So, I finally gave up and created a Facebook page, which is actually a little more complicated than I expected.

(Great. Something else on the computer that sucks my time away. If any of you have tips for using Facebook effectively, I'd be most appreciative)

And, now, staring at my wall, I am depressed. Who wants to be the first to like me? No pressure. I'll understand if you pretend not to have seen message.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roanoke Canal Trail Half Marathon: 2011 Race Report

post-race coffee and cheap pastry
It's funny, the things you'll let yourself eat after running a race, food you'd never eat in real life.

The Roanoke Canal Half Marathon and 8K Race this past Saturday featured donuts, danishes, trail mix, bananas, apples, pizza, and these things in the picture. I think they're called pin wheels, a snack-sized cousin of cinnamon rolls. Since I avoid dairy, these pin wheels served as my primary source of sustenance after the race. I was famished. And, there are only so many bananas a fellow can eat.

Before I get carried away, I want to post a big shout out to all the volunteers and race officials who made the Roanoke Canal Half Marathon and 8K possible. You were all fantastically encouraging and helpful!

I chose to participate in the Canal Race after receiving an email about it from the good folks who put together the Medoc Trail Race last year. They did such a good job of making that race fun, I figured they'd do the same for this Roanoke Canal Race.

not my photo of the Roanoke Canal Course
Course photo borrowed from here.
At first, I was hesitant to register for this race, because the description indicated that it would be on a flat course "that is waiting for you to set a PR." Sure, it's a trail race. But, what's a trail race without a bunch of hills with roots and rocks to slow a runner down?

As I thought about it a bit more, I figured that running a flat course would be a lot of fun. It'd give me a chance to finally figure out what sort of pace I could run in a road race without having to actually run on the road. Besides, I hadn't raced a half marathon yet.

Viewing the lake before the Roanoke Canal Race
The lake that blew cold wind at us while waiting for the race to start.
It was chilly on race morning. But the temps promised to climb into the low fifties by the end of the race. There was a cold wind blowing over the starting area from across the lake. So, I waited in my car for a while before we were called to the line.

According to my predicted pace time, I was assigned to run in the first wave at the start. The race director asked us all to think about the recent catastrophe in Japan and how lucky we all were to be running. I clapped, because I was glad to be reminded. Then we ran.

I started out fast, probably a little too fast. I wore my watch this time. And, I was impressed to see that I managed to maintain a 7:02 pace for the first two miles. I'd never noted paces per mile before.

not my photo of the Roanoke Canal Course
Course photo borrowed from here.
Then I realized that I should slow down a smidgen, because I could feel myself getting a little tired too soon. By mile six, I was definitely hurting. But, that's how it is supposed to be, right?

The out-and-back course proved as serene and beautiful as I presumed it would be after viewing these photos.

Roanoke Rapids is an industrial town, from what I saw. And, perhaps the most interesting landmark along the course was a huge refinery of some sort with billowing "smoke" spewing from the smoke stacks. It didn't stink, though, the smoke. So, I just gawked at the immensity of the architecture.

Anyway, with the exception of a couple curse-worthy hills on the return trip, the course was flat and soft. There were a couple of road crossings, one of which required traffic to stop and wait for us. And, the spartan muddy sections made for some fun footing. It was easy to pass people at pretty much any point.

I owe thanks to a couple of people who served as challengers for me:
Dude in the light-blue shirt: You definitely pushed me for the middle section of the race. And, first-place-overall girl: You were an inspiration for miles ten-ish through eleven-ish. Awesome running!

a finish-line photo from the Roanoke Canal Race
Random finish-line photo: That's not me receiving the medal, there. But, the scene was probably similar to this one when I finished my race.
As I rounded a sharp turn toward the finish line, I managed to avoid slipping on the leaves while mustering as much energy as I could for a fast finish. The finish-line staff handed me the finisher's medal and, even better, a bottle of water. I was very thirsty after finishing in 1:38:xx.

While waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, I went back to my car and put on some jeans, since that cold wind from the lake was still blowing. Then I wandered around eating bananas and those cinnamon things. Runners gathered to watch live race results appear on a flat-screen tv, which was a nice distraction from stretching.

Awards ceremony at the Roanoke Canal Race
Racers congregate and clap during the awards ceremony.
The race director announced the awards for the 8K race first. And, naturally, the half marathon awards followed. The overall half-marathon winner finished in 1:25:18. My humble finish time garnered a third-place age group award for me, though: a pint glass with the race logo. That and the long-sleeve tech shirt made for some pretty nice race swag.

So, as I type this report two days after the race, I realize that I'm more sore than I've ever been after a race. This is strange to me, since there were very few inclines on the course. Maybe I should have done a recovery run yesterday in order to shake out some of the muscle stiffness. Or, maybe I ran with more effort than my body expected. Whatever the cause, I'm glad that the soreness in my legs is the good kind, not the injury kind.

In short, the Roanoke Canal Half Marathon is a fantastic race on an easy course that beats running on pavement any day. I'll definitely keep this on my calendar for next year. You should, too.
pint glass awardThe pint glass award
pint glass awardThe weapons of choice: Inov-8 f-lite 230 (the black ones)

Roanoke Canal race swagThe Roanoke Canal Half Marathon shirt and finisher's medal

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Trail Race Wish List (Had I But World Enough and Time)

If I could travel to Western NC or Georgia for a trail race every other weekend, I'd definitely do it. However, as a family man with limited funds, I have to be especially selective about the races on my calendar.

I generally need to find races close to home, an hour or two away unless we're visiting my brother in Asheville. And, my penchant for trail races limits my selection a bit. Of course, even with a limited selection, I certainly can't throw money into registering for every trail race that strikes my fancy. So, essentially, I have to be choosy. And, to be choosy about one's races, one needs a long list of races from which to choose.

But, finding a comprehensive list of scheduled trail races in the North Carolina region can be challenging. Sure, Trail Runner Magazine's race calendar is always a great resource. And, the Running Journal's event calendar provides you with lots of race listings. (However, it's not always obvious which of the listings there are trail races)

Yet, every time I think I've seen all there is to see on the NC trail race calendar, I read about some other trail race that would have been more than convenient for me if I'd only read about it three weeks ago. Some races are just not that well publicized.

I'm not complaining that there's a lack of sufficient trail race calendars. I just want to point out that each calendar lists only a portion of the trail races in a given region. And, I mean, how can we expect those poor race directors to publish their race info on every major race calendar across the Internet?

So, I created a little spreadsheet in order to keep track of the races that interest me. It's a wish list, really, a handy way to plan which races I can run each season. And, I don't have to check five different sites, at least not every week, each time I decide that I can register for a race the following month.

bold text = Strong interest | gray text = sold out | green background = I'm registered

Obviously, this spreadsheet isn't a comprehensive list of every trail race in the NC region either. It's a list of races that meet my criteria, which is largely based on geographic convenience and race appeal (i.e. trail vs. road).

Nevertheless, maybe my list will reveal something that you hadn't yet seen in your own race-calendar searches. And, more importantly, perhaps you'd like to suggest a race that you think I've overlooked, something close to Raleigh perhaps.


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