Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vega, River Trails, and The Candle Cafe

Vega Schwag Bag

Since I'll be in the air tomorrow at the time when I normally sit down to write this blog, I thought I'd just file my weekly report a day early. I'm in Baltimore for Natural Products Expo East, the second largest industry trade show in the US. It has really been a nice place to be. The weather has been hot and rainy. But the Inner Harbor looks beautiful, and has provided a nice backdrop for early morning runs. Speaking of which: yesterday I did a three mile run with Brendan Brazier and the Vega team. Vega put on quite a nice running event for the 10-15 of us who were there to do the run (see photo above). I have always liked their vegan protein products, and had the chance to try several of their other powders as well (pre and during run drink mixes). I have some of their bars, and will report on them after taking them on some longer runs. A couple of friends From Flora, who had been on the run with Scott Jurek earlier in the year were also in attendance. Brendan is a nice, unassuming person, who does seem passionate about the products. The event was a nice combination of low-key presentation meets high-energy output (the run).

On the run, I mainly ran with a woman who works for Health Force. She was the fastest Vibram-wearing runner I have ever encountered. We knocked out a nice pace on the way back as she told me she has always run barefoot or in Vibrams. At 45 she looked great. Her feet truly did hit the ground so lightly that I was a bit surprised. I am used to hearing people in the five-fingered shoes kind of slapping along. But my running partner made no such sound.

Someone else I met on the run was a supplement-buyer for a natural products store in Pennsylvania. He was about 60 and looked like a runner. After the run, he asked if I'd join him for a Saturday run. I did so this morning, and have to say that it is rare to meet someone who falls into a running rhythm that matches your own. We popped along the water front at an 8-8:30 pace, all the while engaged in a conversation about supplements, supplement companies, supplement suppliers, and (well, you get the idea). Super nice guy and super fun run. He and his wife also own a really good organic chocolate mail-order company (

Now let's go back in time to Monday. Chris Ford (who is totally going to place in the Nash Dash) and I knocked out the Riverfront trails in an evening run (something I never do - being almost exclusively a morning runner). We were joined for the first half by my other running buddy, Eric Henry. A few miles into the run Chris said - "Hey, let's take that new section of trail. It looks short." Well, it wasn't. It also was soul (sole)-sucking sandy. It was nice to do for a change, because it does go right along the river. But I think that I shall forego that section of the trails on future runs. Chris seemed to concur with my sentiments. We trotted in the rest of the way, avoiding the pedal-pushers who frequent those trails. Still, a great way to spend an evening...

Final note: At our booth yesterday, the owners of possibly the best vegan restaurant in the US, New York's Candle Cafe, stopped in to try our vegan burgers. They liked them (thank God). Marisa and I had met with Bart and Joy at the Cafe a few years ago. We also both own their cook books, and kind of view them like rock stars. They have a new vegan cook book coming out shortly. Look for it online or in a store near you. It was one of several wonderful moments from the show.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kansas, a state of mind. Baltimore with Brendan Brazier. Nike Lunar Eclipse update.

This past week was pretty nice. The weather cooled and, as a result, training times came down dramatically. I love running between 45F and 60F. The difference in breathing and freshness is amazing. For the week, most of my running was done on roads and sidewalks, with one run done indoors (on a particularly cold, rain-spitting morning). My knee creaked and moaned a couple of times in the past 7 days, but it was mainly the result of sitting in a car for extended periods, and had very little to do with running.

My friend, Marisa, and I took a drive over to Lyons, KS to spend the night, before working a trade show in Salina the next day. Lyons is a nice town that is situated close to another nice town called Sterling (where Marisa did her first couple of years of college before transferring to Southwestern). After knowing Marisa for the past 8 years, it was great to get a chance to see where she came from, went to school, hung out, etc. Sterling, while pretty, gives off an odd vibe when you are there. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it is palpable. It did have one of the quaintest Dillon's stores I've ever seen. Set your watch back 40 years and have fun shopping. We picked up some bananas and organic oatmeal for our breakfast. We also had vegan pizza and salads at Gambino's. The college looked like a pretty place to be.

Marisa's father's body shop in Lyons was pretty cool. Since he drag races, his main car happened to be sitting in a bay. Pretty tough '57. I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the places or cars on this trip (other than a surreal-looking natural gas plant in Conway, KS).

All in all, as morally, politically, and intellectually stone-aged as Kansas is, the state has some real physical beauty to it. I love being in the rolling expanses of the Flint Hills. I also thrive in wide open spaces, and love plains (where there are no mountains to get in the way of the view).

I even found the salt and natural gas mines to have their own industrial beauty... Yoiks!?!?

I know what you're thinking: Allen, why is there a picture of Vega Sport Vanilla protein powder posted again at the top of your blog post? See? I knew I nailed exactly what you were thinking at that precise moment...

Well, the reason it is there is because later in the week, I plan to do a run (albeit a little 5 k) with Vega's own, Bredan Brazier (if you wanna learn more, go here ). He's a triathlete, vegan, and author. Since I take one of his products, I followed up on an invite to join him next Saturday at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. I got to run with the great (and super nice guy) Scott Jurek at the beginning of 2011, and will bookend with Brendan Brazier. Not too bad - although it would be nice to do something more of a real distance sometime when time didn't constrain our runs.


Finally, below is a recycled pic of my cat, Lucas, hanging out in my Nike Lunar Eclipse running shoes. I had said that I would give an update on them (I am a huge fan of Mizuno and Brooks, and hadn't owned a pair of Nikes in years). Well, after a very rough start, the shoes have finally broken in a bit. Other than the not-attractive color, they perform admirably. The initial problems that I encountered with them were mainly centered around the hard piece of plastic that surrounds the heel of the shoes. Every footfall, particularly when running parallel to an incline, caused the plastic to bite into the side of my upper foot. It was not comfortable. I started just wearing the shoes for shorter, very flat, runs. Over the last month, though, the pair has broken in nicely. I no longer get bitten by the plastic bracing. The sole, while incredibly soft, gives good ground-feel as it offers decent shock-absorption. My current analysis would be that the shoes are a really nice pair to own and run in for any distance. I would want to have a different pair of shoes available, however, while breaking in the Lunars.

Finally, finally... I had planned to go for a good trail run this a.m. It is raining, though, so I'll probably do a shorter road run. My buddy, Chris Ford (Marisa's husband), and I are doing the Riverfront Trails (8.5-9 mi) tomorrow after work, so I think I'll be able to restrain my enthusiasm until that time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunflower close-up shot from a field near Lawrence, KS yesterday...

Before I begin, I need to congratulate Jessie of the blog, Run to the Border for knocking out a 100 mile race this weekend. If you haven't seen his blog, it is an interesting read. He posted updates of his latest race as he was doing it. It was an impressive feat. Congrats again.

I had crap news about my knee, as usual. Recovery will take about 12 weeks once I have the surgery. I plan to schedule it just before or after Thanksgiving. That way, the 3 months I will take off will be Dec-Feb, rather than months that are more fun to run. I live on top of an Olympic-size pool (literally 100 yds from my house), so I will be taking up swimming/drowning this Winter. My knee has held up pretty well. I got in about 30 miles this week.

My running week culminated with me and my running buddy, Eric heading out at 4:30 on Saturday morning to tear down spider webs from a 5 mile stretch of the inaugural Hawk 100 mile race that the Trail Hawks are putting on at Clinton this weekend. It was, at the same time, eerie and super fun to clean the course. I have never run on those trails in pitch black conditions. Eric mainly stayed in front, gamely dispatching the webs with a long stick, while I played the role of sweeper, dealing with the overlooked and obstreperous hangers-on.

Our duties completed, we headed for the main shelter that served as race HQ. We chowed down on a bagel or two. The shelter had been the site of an elaborate race picnic and potluck the night before. Now it was sparse (save for bags of bagels) and ready for action, with drop bags lining its main bench area. As a reward for spider wrangling, we were given long-sleeve race tech shirts. But that put Eric in a quandry. He won't wear a race shirt of a race in which he did not compete. I think little of that. I only won't wear race shirts when I'm competing in a race (it always seems tacky). But I don't care what I wear when I'm training. But, since this race is a 100 miler, I will follow Eric's lead and Sharpie in the word 'Volunteer,' so that there will be no confusion.

Finally, my friends and next door neighbors, Jim and Ann Jessie, called me and offered me 4 tickets to a lux Executive Suite at Livestrong for Sporting KC's game against the Houston Dynamo yesterday. So some hours after the spider run, I drove over to KCK with my friends Marisa and Chris Ford, and Jordan Yochim. Eric, who works with Ann, was also there with his wife (and my friend), Rebecca, and their daughter, Helen. We, along with the Jessie family, all enjoyed a tremendous victory from a nice vantage point. I'm now so spoiled that I don't believe I can ever go back to general admission.

Hasta pronto.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I kneed ....


So, this guy walks into his doctors office and says.... After a seriously painful day in LA following my descent from the Griffith Park Observatory, I checked in with my sports doc when I arrived back in Lawrence. Due to changes in insurance and in my condition, I agreed to shuck out a thousand bucks on an MRI. Getting the MRI was a little weird. I had to lay very still (motionless actually) under a very heavy-looking machine that made scary noises. After about 20 minutes of that, though, I got used to it and was able to doze off.

A few days later I saw my doc again. He told me that there are 4 stages of osteoarthritis on the knee (1 being good, and 4 being, well, shitty). I had always assumed that my knee was a 2 or 3 because I can go out and run a marathon without too much issue. As it turns out, however, my knee is a 4. So next week I meet with the surgeon to see when we can schedule the solution to the problem. Apparently the surgery isn't too bad. It has a quick recovery and no PT required. I'll write about the procedure after it happens in the next month or so. I have a pretty good idea of what it entails, but don't want to report something wrong.

So that kinda sux, but it will be fixed once and for all. My running is still going well. I did an eight mi run yesterday on pavement, and experienced no noticeable issue. My knee only seems to be a problem when it is a problem. I can't predict when it will happen. And it only causes me a day of pause. Still, I am happy to be addressing the problem (just keep telling myself that).

In other news, in a drunken stupor last night, I walked across glowing embers in my neighbors' lawn. It was actually no big thing. I do have a couple of small blisters where an ember or two stuck to me. But no problems - I will be running in a couple of hours. I would not, however, advise anyone to do that - particularly when intoxicated (that state always seems to lead to bad decisions). The risks are pretty great. I feel fortunate that I did no (or very little) harm to my feet.

This week, sit back and enjoy the US Open. Rafa, Novak, and that Swiss guy are all still hanging around. It makes for a good show.