Monday, April 14, 2014

Running and Longview Disc Golf Course

PT for my hamstring issues has started to work. They don't hurt much when I'm simply as they did for the past seven months.  I still experience pretty good pain when I run and stretch, but it slowly subsides to manageable levels once I've passed a mile or two.

Last week was an excellent time to put in some miles. While it happens to be snowing as I type this, the last seven days were mainly warm, with runs on Sat and Sun taking place in 70F+ temps. 

After seeing my first copperhead of the season on the Clinton trails two weeks ago, I passed my first garter snake on the River Trails on Saturday. It was good a good size critter. I tried to get it to move off the trail by squirting it with beet juice from my hand-held water bottle. I didn't want it to be crushed by a mountain or cross bike. It is odd that I've only ever seen garters and black snakes on the River Trails, and only copperheads at Clinton. You think there'd be some crossover. But I've never seen it. 

Anyway, week complete. 33 miles.


Gregory Thomas driving at Longview

After Saturday's long run, I popped out to Perry Lake with my disc golf buddies, Chris Ford, Mathew Faulk, and Greg Thomas. We normally play courses in Lawrence, but wanted to try out the Longview course at Perry Lake. And what a great idea that turned out to be. The course is challenging and one of the best-marked I've seen (in my limited experience). The pads and baskets are also perfectly maintained. It has some of the most extreme holes - in terms of shooting through canopies uphill for successive shots - that one can imagine on a course. The layout among the boulders, ponds, and trees also makes for one of the prettiest settings imaginable. Another big plus for Longview is that the pars are correct. Birdies and eagles can be had, but shots have to be well-played for those to occur. Due to the extreme terrain, plan to spend around 3 hours per 18 holes. This is not a course like Centennial - which, while challenging - is a course that can be run in about and hour and twenty minutes. At Longview, you will finish feeling as if you had a real workout from tromping up and down hills, over ravines and streams, and around ponds and boulders.

Based on the fact that I can't wait to get back to Perry to play the course again, I'd have to give it an A+ rating.

Now, I think I'm going to go and do my last run in the snow for the season. . .

Monday, March 31, 2014

Salomon SpeedCross Update & Copperheads Are Back

Salomon SpeedCross 3s

Time for an update. If you recall, some months ago, I tweeted and FB'd about a new pair of trail shoes I had purchased. Since I'm pretty much a Mizuno guy, the change to Salomon was a bit of a stretch. Still, though, I thought I should expand my knowledge of trail shoes beyond Brooks Cascadias (ok, IMHO) and Mizuno Wave Ascends (good, also IMHO). 

Now, after having logged a few hundred trail  miles on the soles of the Salomons, I feel somewhat qualified to deliver a verdict. At first use, I liked the shoes, but they felt (to be honest) weird. To stand in a pair for the first time is something akin to standing on a step-ladder that has been placed on a foundation of grade school erasers. I seemed taller. And the rubber cleats on the soles were much more flexible than those on either Mizuno or Brooks. I could stand in one place on a hard surface and sort of twist without lifting the soles - the cleats are that rubbery. And that took some getting used to.

Once I became accustomed to the new feel, however, the SpeedCross 3s quickly became my favorite pair of trail shoes. They are lighter in weight than the other two, fit my feet better than the Cascadias (and fit as well as the Wave Ascends), and are much grippier on a variety of surfaces - particularly dry rock and wet mud/sand. The softer rubber on the soles coupled with deeper-profile cleats is a combination of components that I would not have guessed would work as well in concert as they do. The height, as I mentioned, felt strange at first. The drop from heel to toe also seemed too dramatic initially. But now it feels natural. In this case, familiarity breeds comfort.

While I have only used my Mizunos for trail marathons (Wave Ascends) and gravel ultra marathons (Wave Inspires), I would happily run either in the SpeedCross 3s.  The longest distance I've logged in the Salomons was 17 miles on a relatively smooth sandy trail. Last week, however, I ran in them 5 out of six days on a variety of trails, and found no hot spots, or areas of discomfort.

This past winter the Salomons also served as my go-to snow running shoes. They performed well. The sides also endured many scrapes with hard snow and ice without showing any signs of fatigue in the rubber or wear in the fabric.

Over the past few months, the Salomons have become my favorite pair of trail shoes. They are certainly unlike other trail shoes, and thus require a bit of adjustment time. But the rewards they provide are well worth the price (slightly higher than other shoes I've bought), and the unique feel.

Clinton N.Shore Update:

I have to report that I came across my first copperhead on the Clinton trails yesterday. Even with the cold winter, the snakes are already hanging out and will certainly startle the unsuspecting runner. So pay heed.

Also poison ivy is around. I've already had my first minor encounter.  Just because the leaves aren't around doesn't mean you should grab every random vine.

I'm still looking to be bitten by my first tick of the season. And I haven't stumbled into a pack of oak mites yet either.  I'll let you know when either of those fun events happens.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I'd Rather Switch (back)

The Verdict? Too Sweet.

I use flavored protein powders occasionally. They're kind of a treat, and a switch from muesli or Grape Nuts-type cereals I usually eat in the morning. After runs, I'm a pretty big believer in hemp protein. I usually have it straight in water. But for breakfast, it doesn't seem to cut it. I usually go for a blend. Sometimes I'll throw a banana or some other fruit in as well.

A few days ago I stopped by Natural Grocers. My plan was to buy the Vega Sport French Vanilla blend. But it was out of stock. So I opted for the powder shown above. Honestly, on paper it looks just as good and costs a lot less. The ingredient profile is excellent. I was relatively stoked (if one can be relatively stoked) to give it a try.

Vega's products, to me, are slightly too sweet. And if I had a complaint in general about protein blends, the candy taste would be it. I normally mix in a bit of straight hemp protein and water just to knock down the sweetness level.  

But MRM's Veggie Elite blend brings sweetness to a whole new level. I would list it, for me, as almost undrinkable. I have used half the amount of powder they recommend, added a lot of water and hemp protein powder, and still find it to be overwhelmingly sweet. I'm kind of at a loss as to how to make this product work for me.

So, I'm thinking that reluctantly I'm going to have to give this products a big thumbs down - even though I am hugely in favor of lower-cost, quality vegan options in the world of protein powders. 



Monday, February 24, 2014

Birthday Pi

Birthday run at far end of Riverfront Trails - Al, Adrian, and Derrick

I've got a couple of friends who are planning to run the Pi Day half marathon. The run takes place on or near 3/14 of each year. Finishers get pie. Winners get engraved pie pans (glass or Pyrex or something). Anyway, it is a fun, single-track race. I've run it in training many times, and usually volunteer to help on race day.

Anyway, my buddies Adrian and Derrick are doing the race this year. so on Saturday, I met them as well as Chris Ford, and we set out to do the long loop which would pass by all of the shorter Pi Day course loop turnarounds. Since Saturday also fell on my birthday (and I like to do long runs on my birthday), I had already planned to do a good run in the am, before the ground thawed and turned into a mud pit. We met at 8:30 am, while the temp hovered just below freezing.  It was slated to be 40F by the time we finished.

A quick note here: because my birthday is Feb 22nd, the weather is normally awful. Having a day slated to be 56F in late February is a bit if a rarity. So I had planned to spend as much of the day outdoors as possible.

We ran the first half of the run on ankle-twisting hard mud ruts, created by bicycles that also use the route. On the way back, there was a sheen of mud over much of the path, making footing a bit sketchy. Still though, everyone cruised the course without too many slips (and sadly, no funny falls).

The earliest beer I've had in a long time. Hand models L-R Allen, Derrick, Chris, Adrian

In celebration of my birthday, Chris brought some nice beer to have. While it was only 10 am, is there ever really a wrong time to have New Belgium Ranger?

After lunch with the parents who loaded me up on veggie tacos and a gift certificate to Sunflower Outdoor and Bike, I played a round of disc golf before heading out for a celebratory Moscow Mule at the Bourgeois Pig, and finally, vegan pizza at Morningstar.

The great day ended as KU thumped Texas in b-ball.  

Possibly my best birthday in years...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snowy Run = Fun (well maybe)

Early AM = Cold Running Conditions

With all the snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, the past week has provided and excellent opportunity to cross train. Swimming has been the top alternative thanks, in no small part, to my proximity to an Olympic-size pool. There has also been a lot of upper-body workout in the form of shoveling. The dreaded treadmill has also gotten about 30 minutes a day of use. I would love to do more, but simply can't stand the machine for more than a short time. If we only ran on treadmills, no one would ever run.  

Last night I was playing ping-pong with a buddy.  He and a friend are training for a trail half-marathon coming up in a few weeks.  The snow has thrown a wrench into their training. I had planned to show them the trail course the past couple of weekends, but weather has prevented that outing. He mentioned that they were hoping to find some run that they could do that wouldn't be too snowy. I agreed to show them a 5 mile loop from my house into the country. We could run that and they could continue on if they wished.  I warned him that there would be one absolutely extreme hill on the course. He left promising that he would meet me in the morning.

Ten minutes later I get a text that he is bailing, but his friend is still up for it. So this morning I bundled up, slammed some coffee and hit the road with a new running partner. The snow made the first mile (where we had to run on a trafficked street) a bit dicey. After that we descended a hill via a well-plowed gravel road into the countryside. In the flats, we passed a place I love that raises llamas, and another that always has geese honking as I run by. After a couple of miles we came to the turn that would take us to the base of the monster hill. My running companion went up it with ease. For once, I will admit that the incline got to me. Normally it is not too much of an issue. But it was a bit icy, and I may have consumed a couple of shots of Basil Hayden during ping-pong the night before. I made it up (though no speed records were set). The two of us then finished a second mile-long gentle climb before turning and heading home. We only encountered one area where ice covered the road surface. Basically, we used that as an excuse to practice our running form - keeping our weight directly over our feet. 

When I got home I realized that my hoodie was frozen solid in several places, most noticeably around the collar, which made pulling it off a real pleasure as the ice rubbed my neck and cheeks. And as uncomfortable and unpleasant as much of the experience was, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do on  a dreary, cold day.
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On an unrelated note - If you can handle scary (and graphic) content, check out American Horror Story. Season 1 and beyond are all available on Netflix. I was not expecting to like it at all, but am turning into a binge-watcher. Also look for House of Cards Season 2 to be out in the next few days.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The year end summation: sort of. . . whatever

This is the last post of the year.  But who cares, really. Tomorrow is simply another day in the current week.  I'll only have to remember to change one digit habitually written on my checks.  I probably won't be up for the stroke of midnight. So 2013-2014, BFD. Honestly.

2013 was the year that I finished the rough draft of my novel.  It is/was also the year where I fianlly ran both a trail marathon and then an ultramarathon.  I have an intense dislike for organized races.  But I got talked into the marathon, and then, while I still had the stomach for it, I thought why not just knock out the ultra as well.  So check and check.  I'm now back to running for running's sake (and possibly the endorphins that the longer distances and tougher runs provide).

I'll be honest, I understand why people who have no possible chance of winning sign up for races: to establish some future goal to goad them into getting into shape to do the distance.  A marathon, a half-marathon, a 10k, whatever.  That's all fine.  They do it and then go back to whatever lifestyle they led before they started training.  But the runners I admire aren't the ones who need goals.  They are instead, the ones who do it whether a race is coming up or not.  Some of these types are actually avid and acomplished racers.  But their defining characteristic isn't the race, it's the need to run whether or not some organized event is on the horizon.

A few weeks ago, a major college running coach I follow tweeted something that relates to this topic.  Basically he wrote (paraphrasing here), "If you want to run, run. If you want to race, train."  Brilliant in its simplicity.  I can't argue with that at all.  In a way, it describes a third type of runner - one who runs to win.  I understand that mind-set as well.  But I can't imagine being that type of athlete if I didn't already love to run.

If I were to draw a Venn diagram of these three types of runners, it would be easy to see that each will overlap the other where specific runners are concerned.  But, since I really kind of hate Venn diagrams, I won't do that.  You're welcome.

Anyway, I have very little else to say about 2013. It was a year like most others. I saw two movies at theaters - The Banff Film Festival (absolutely freaking amazing event that takes place over three nights - can't wait for it to come back in 2014), and The Dallas Buyers Club (also fantastic and moving).

My running mileage for the year is just above 1,500.

So that's that.  My resolution is try to enjoy other aspects of my life a tenth as much as I do the three Rs - reading, writing, and running.  I'll try, but I doubt it will happen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Finally a Post

It has been the longest 'dry' period between posts for this blog.  I have a couple of excuses - both true, yet both still being excuses...

Excuse#1
I took time off to go back through the first draft of my novel.  Now I'm in a 2-3 month editing process that should improve a reader's experience.  Writing the novel was fun.  Editing can be fun as well.  Just not as fun...

Excuse #2
I've been injured and depressed.  I hurt myself a bit finishing the Hawk 100 Marathon.  Something went a little off in my hamstring and IT band in my left leg.  A couple of weeks later, on a 17mi training run, my shoe caught a clump of grass and torqued the same leg up higher in a groin-adjacent area (but not a groin pull, mercifully).  So a couple of weeks later, I obliterated any chance of a speedy recovery when I completed the Prairie Spirit 50 ultra.  I ran a few times after to increasing pain each outing.  Finally, after run-walking the last mile of a 7 mile run at Clinton North Shore, I decided to take a couple of weeks off.

Two weeks off running... Something I haven't done in... well ever.  It didn't really suck as much as I thought it would.  I had my Specialized bikes - Sequoia (for road) and Rockhopper (for trails) - and an Olympic-size swimming pool 100 yards from my home's back door.  I got in a few good rounds of disc golf as well.   But I fretted about losing things like muscle memory and running fitness.  After two weeks I decided to hit the trails., a pied, again and see how things had progressed.  Somewhat frustratingly, no improvement to report as I did 5 days of 5 miles on the river trails.  At least there was no decline. So it was both good and bad news...

Then, a week ago, a friend gave me a treadmill.  I got it just as the weather turned nasty.  And running 4 miles a day on the stupid thing seems to be helping, not hurting - and I'm not sure why.  But every time my hammy gets sore or stiff, I hop on the mill and run.  When we get back into the 30s or 40s this weekend, I hope to hit the trails and see if improvement has taken root.  Never a fan of treadmills, I am finding that, in this case, the machine may just become my new bff.

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My buddies at Bearded Brothers shot me a care package of their awesome natural energy bars (and a couple of groovy discs - a mid-range and a putter). That was a real pick-me-up, and hugely appreciated. If you haven't heard of them, check them out at www.beardedbrothers.com . Get on their email list as well - they run a lot of specials.