Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who's Packin'? :: The Old Carry-Water-or-Rely-on-Aid-Stations Debate

One might think that running a first marathon would result in having all those newbie-type questions answered:

to carry or not to carry
To carry sustenance and hydration during the marathon or not? That is the question.

That last one, the question about hydration toting, shows up frequently in running forums, on blogs, etc. This is mostly because novice marathoners, like me, actually think that the few seconds that are either added or subtracted from their otherwise perfect finishing time depend entirely on whether they're holding a 22 oz bottle the whole time.

(It does, by the way. It matters a great deal. But, then, so does the weather)

Anyway, I'm revisiting this question, I guess, because I have marathon number two scheduled for early March. And, while browsing a couple of other people's photo sets from a training run at Uwharrie, I noticed that some carried stuff and others did not. So, I got to thinkin'...

Also, I must admit that I'm not much of a long-run runner. So, I don't really know what works for me.

I know that the last long run was successful without a handheld or a hydration pack. But, how's this run going to go? Are the extra two miles going to break me if I don't have my bottle? Is a bottle going to cause handheld-dependency if I break it out for this run?

Yes, yes. The answer is as unique as the person asking. And, only I can determine whether I should carry fluids with me or stop at the aid stations. I know.

(Both options are unappealing, really. Stopping sucks. Carrying stuff for three-plus hours sucks. Too bad we have to drink during the race at all)

So, really, I'm posting this to see if anyone answers the question in the headline:

Do you carry a handheld or other hydration source during marathon racing and/or training?

Do tell in the comments below.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trail Review: Falls Lake - Section 4

Falls Lake Trail: Section 4 (Possum Track Rd. to Bayleaf Church Rd.)

Trail Location:Falls Lake Section 4 Map
Falls Lake State Recreation Area | Wake Forest, NC

Trail Distance:
5.6 miles (out & back)

Trail Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate

Awesome interactive map >>
See the Falls Lake Recreation Area map page >>


This review of Falls Lake Trail Section 4 is my second installment in the Falls Lake Mountains to Sea Trail review series. Have a look at this page to see other trail reviews on this site.

At the time of this post, Section Four currently serves as the starting point for the marvelous Mountains to Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge, which you should run if you haven't done so already.

Running the Trail

As you cross over the threshold from pavement to trail at the Bayleaf Church Rd. trail head, Section Four starts you off with a moderate incline, the kind with erosion barriers. So, the trail is a tad on the wide side here, as far as single-track trails go. But, don't worry, it gets narrow fairly quickly.

Over the hill and leveling out, you'll navigate a slightly (slightly) root-ridden portion of the trail through the typical tall trees surrounding Falls Lake. It's nice here and suitable for warming up.

Falls Lake Trail Section 4 starts here

As you descend a bit and run along a small stream, you'll notice that it's time to cross that stream and follow the trail up a rather steep hill with some conspicuous technical features challenging your footing. The trail becomes more technical for a little while after this.

A decent ascent on Falls Lake Trail Section 4You'll eventually cross a clearing that looks like it once served as a service road. (Maybe it still does). And, before you know it, you're running under some very light tree cover. The trail is very easy at this point.

The sparse tree cover and low-level vegetation gradually becomes overtaken by some uniformly sized and aligned young pine trees. It'll be sort of like running through a tunnel of small pines, which is pleasant if you're not the first person out there cutting through the spiderwebs with your face. (Not an issue in the winter)

Falls Lake Trail Section 4
Falls Lake Trail

More technical trail running awaits as the young pines seem to evolve into old pines with every step you take. Pay attention, because a particularly low level area of the trail becomes somewhat difficult to find as it weaves through what's probably a mini overflow area for another one of the creeks. (Sorry. I should have provided a picture of this critical juncture in the Section Four trail).

Section 4 of the Falls Lake Trail
Falls Lake Trail
Falls Lake Section 4 Ferns

The dense forest will give way to another strangely clear, albeit heavily overgrown area of easy footing. And, you'll suddenly arrive at the Possum Track Rd. guard rail. Go left along the rail if you intend to continue along the Falls Lake MST to Section 3.

My Favorite Features of Falls Lake Trail Section 4:

  • Ferns. There are lots of them along the Section 4 trail. And, I love ferns, especially in the early summer after a rain. They're so vibrant and friendly looking.
  • Fun contrast between challenging technical stuff and super easy, flat stuff.
  • Some moderate hillage to work those hill-running leg muscles.
  • Shade is nice in the summer.

Features I Dislike:

  • Parking can be iffy. Even though signs state that the gate will be open on Bayleaf Church Rd. at certain times, it's not necessarily open. Parking outside the gate is easily done, though.
  • Spider webs and deer flies are plentiful in the warmer months.

Getting There

As is the case with Section Five, the best option for parking to access Section Four is at the Bayleaf Church Rd. boat ramp access area. Some sort of administrative office is located adjacent to the Section Five trail head, which is across the street from the Section Four trail head. The building has a parking lot. But, if the gate is closed, you won't be able to access it. Besides, you might not be allowed to park there, anyway.

But, you can just park on the side of the road outside the gate. It's a quiet street with little traffic into the lake. Walk, or run, toward the water from the gate and look to your right when you see a paved entrance to the administrative building's parking lot. The Section Four trail head is pretty easy to see.

Falls Lake Trail


Like all the other sections of Falls Lake I've traversed, Section Four is a great one. And, one of the really beautiful things about the Falls Lake Trail sections is that you have a lot of miles to add onto your run whenever you feel so inclined.

The Falls Lake Trail Section Four Elevation Profile.

I've borrowed the elevation profile below from the MST 12-Mile Challenge race website. This image depicts elevation for sections 4 through 1. So, only the first 2.3 miles of this chart pertain to Section 4.
Mountains to Sea Elevation Chart from Bull City Running

More Triangle-Area Trail Reviews >>

Thursday, January 12, 2012

12athon Run Report for January 12, 2012

The inaugural run of the Virtual 12athon went well enough for me this morning, albeit a bit slower than I would have liked.

I drug myself out of bed around 4:40 am after having dreams about my alarm clock going off. I felt tired during the entire run. But, I've felt tired for most of the week. So, this tiredness wasn't all that extraordinary.

Plenty of bunnies and one fox skittered across the streets as I ran four variations of a 3-plus-mile loop through the neighborhood. I passed the garbage truck and realized that I'd forgotten to drag the bins down to the curb. So, I had to make a quick sojourn to the house during the run in order to take care of that little chore. Then I was back on the loop.

So, my 12 miles are done for the day. It was no run through the woods, or anything. But, it was peaceful. And, the weather was perfect (45 degrees and calm).

And, I submit my photographic evidence to qualify for the Nighthawk bonus challenge below:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

12 Reasons to Join the Virtual 12athon Challenge

I'm terrible about relaying timely information. If someone tells me to remember a message for someone else, they've wasted their breath. If we run out of cat food or toilet paper, guess who forgets to inform the better half, who happens to be at the store asking what we need.

Join the 12athon ChallengeSo, the fact that I'm mentioning the Virtual 12athon Challenge on the eve of the inaugural run should come at no surprise. Well, it's not surprising to me, anyway. You don't know me that well. So, you might be surprised that a person who pretends to be in-the-know with regard to running stuff would wait until the day before a virtual contest starts to suggest that you join in the fun.

I'll confess that I think mentioning the 12athon Challenge here is a bit redundant, because I imagine that 99% of you read StetThatRun.com as well. But, hey, the other 1% deserve a special post, too, right? (That is not a political reference)

So, if you haven't already, please visit the link in the lines above and read all about the Virtual 12athon Challenge. Conceptually, it's easy to play. And, the potential winnings make the 12athon even more intriguing. Be sure to read about the bonus challenges, too.

I'll wait while you read...

Okay. So, if your hemming and hawing over the prospect of throwing an impromptu 12-mile run into your carefully crafted 2012 training schedule each month, here are 12 reasons (in no particular order) to just go ahead and try it:

  1. It's free:
    You don't have to pay a registration fee. You won't be asked to join some sort of annoying super club that supposedly saves you money on future registration fees. It's just free.
  2. Numerous opportunities to win prizes:
    Didn't win this month? Maybe next month. Or, perhaps, the following month. Maybe August will be your month. Already won this month? Maybe you're such a winner, you'll win the quarterly prize, too! Maybe you're the fastest or slowest runner at the end of the year. Both get prizes! This contest is full of win, people!
  3. Maintain race distance fitness:
    Sometimes, when a runner hasn't scheduled a race well enough in advance, he or she might be inclined to slack off in training. Well, if the 12athoner wants to continue participating, he or she will at least run 12 miles (6 miles for the JV 12athoner) once per month. And, if you can run 12 miles, you can run a half marathon.

    So, when your brother in law comes to town and dares you to run the local half with him, you won't feel like a stick in the mud because you're too out of shape to finish the race. You're a 12athoner, dammit!
  4. Levity:
    We take ourselves so seriously sometimes that the fun of the run is eclipsed by the fact that you were three seconds off from your previous pace. The 12athon bonus challenges inspire us to add a little something silly to the run. Virtual peer pressure and curiosity might help you discover something about running that you wouldn't have thought possible.

    Maybe beer really is the best energy drink for you. Maybe running 12 miles on a quarter-mile loop is better than that trail you thought you loved so much. Maybe you actually don't vomit when you eat deviled eggs anymore. The point is, there are lots of ways to have fun with your running. And, the 12athon challenge gives you an excuse to discover them for yourself.
  5. It's a year-long challenge:
    Having a sense of accomplishment goes a long way. Admit it. Maybe you'll run all 12 of the 12-mile runs. Maybe you won't. Either way, if you participate, you'll have accomplished something in the virtual company of other runners. And, it'll feel good, whether you run for two months or the whole year.
  6. Being part of a Group:
    Sure, running is mostly an individual activity. But, we runners certainly like to talk about it, especially with other runners. Some of us, though, are not fortunate enough to have a group of running friends in real life. So, the Internet fills that void with forums and other social sites.

    The 12athon Challengers operate within the realms of StetThatRun.com and Facebook, which, for the most part, is conducive to short bursts of running-related discussion. So, you could add the 12athon Challenge to your group of running friends on the web. And, this would be an even more specialized running group. How awesome is that? (rhetorical question)
  7. You can get creative:
    One of the beautiful things about the 12athon Challenge is that creative run reports and interpretations of the bonus challenges are encouraged. So, having a chance to "prove" your 12 miles in whatever way you can leaves the door open to plenty of fun Internet posting. And, the sometimes vague challenge descriptions afford the runner a lot of leeway with interpretation. If you're especially creative, you may even receive bonus points!
  8. Mix up your schedule:
    Since the requirement is to run 12 miles on the 12th day, your regular running schedule will be faced with the challenge of accommodating a 12-mile run on, say, a Tuesday. Some of you have no problem with this. Some of you can't imagine running for more than an hour on a weekday. To the latter, I say, "Come on!"

    I understand. I'm busy, too. And, yes, it may seem impossible to fit in a 12-mile run tomorrow. But, you don't have to run all 12 miles at once. How about half in the morning and half at night? How about 1 mile every hour? How about finding out how fun it can be to accept a little inconvenience.

    (Disclaimer: I am not implying that your daily problems and challenges are insignificant. I respect everyone's problems. And, I have no intention of diminishing your problems by saying you should make running 12 miles a priority on the 12th of each month.)
  9. Cut down on impulsive race registration:
    It can be tempting to sign up for a bunch of races all at once without really thinking about it. And, then, you've spent a bunch of money on registration fees in addition to committing yourself to some race dates that you may or may not be able to attend.

    This is especially easy to do right after completing a particularly fun race while you're all high on race fumes: "Gosh, that marathon was fun! When's the next one within a four-hour drive from my house? ...Ooh, here's one scheduled for the last weekend in November. I don't think I have anything planned..."

    We do this because the act of participating in a group run can be so exhilarating at times. So, I think that the 12athon will help to satiate the desire for group-run participation, at least to some degree. Obviously, a virtual run is not the same as a live race event.

    But, I communicate with more people on 12athon day than I do at a real race. So, there.
  10. It's just one day's run:
    Some challenges incite you to run as much as you can for several days. Other challenges... Actually, I'm not familiar with very many virtual challenges. But, an appealing aspect of the 12athon is that you only have to worry about one day's run for the whole month. Figure out how to run those 12 miles on the twelfth. And, you're done until the next month! So, you won't be dreading the next requirement for the 12athon challenge. Rather, you have a whole month to look forward to it.
  11. Superb and efficient organization:
    It's easy to forget how critical the organization part of an organized event is until it's disorganized. Luckily, 12athoners have the benefit of participating in one of the most well organized virtual events I've ever seen. There are links for everything you'd need to know about the event. Reporting is easy. And, the administrator is some kind of project management superhero. I'm just sayin'.

    You'll appreciate the organized aspects of this virtual challenge. And, the fact that the organization melds so well with the play-it-by-ear philosophy of the challenge is really cool.
  12. I'm participating:
    Since, I'm participating in the 12athon Challenge, then you know it must be a good idea. And, even if it's not a good idea, I'm still going to be writing about it in various ways on this blog.

    So, you might as well join the challenge. Otherwise, you'll feel left out when I post run reports relative to the challenge and fellow challengers comment on said reports with familiar remarks. And, I comment in response with further familiar remarks. And, you'll be all, "I wish I were in the 12athon Challenge."

So join already.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Merrell Road Glove: AfnR's Bloggiest Shoe of the Week

Bloggiest Shoe of the WeekI'm amused when I see multiple blog posts about a particular shoe appear across the Web within a short time period. It's kinda like a virtual trade show dedicated to one product. Brilliant marketing, really—not that I know anything about marketing.

Anyway, since I'm not a presenter at this week's trade show, I'll assume the role of the unofficial directory. So, if you haven't seen all the Road Glove hoopla that kicked off yesterday, check out these links for photos and first-hand impressions:

Of course, there were already a few reviews of the Road Glove on the web before this week. They appeared in September and October of 2011. So, this is probably phase two of the Merrell Road Glove, etc. Spring pre-release show. Good job keeping the line in our sights, Merrell.

Now, how do I go about obtaining my own "test" pair of Merrel Road Gloves so that I can confirm or refute all the claims made in the posts linked above? Hmm....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Inov-8 f-lite 195 Grey, Red Now Available

Attention f-lite 195 fans:

After announcing the f-lite 195 colorways a few months ago, the much desired (according to Inov-8's facebook page) gray and red colorway is finally available at RunningWarehouse. I don't see this colorway online anywhere else at this time. So, not only are these shoes finally available to the rest of us, but they're available from one of the best shoe retailers in the United States!

Inov-8 f-lite 195 Grey and Red
Inov-8 f-lite 195 Inov-8 f-lite 195 Inov-8 f-lite 195 Inov-8 f-lite 195
Get 'em while they're hot, folks.

RunningWarehouse also added the white/black and grey/white f-lite 195, as well as the all black f-lite 230, to their inventory.

I share because I care. That is all.


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