Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Website Plug!

I found this gem of a website through (I guess that makes two website plugs in case you're keeping track!):

This has become my go-to website to find new gorgeous trail-related background images for my computer (sorry Runner's World!). All of the photos are super high quality/resolution images sent in by my fellow trail runners around the world. It certainly gives a runner a good place to start making their trail running bucket list! The only suggestion I would make to the website would be to include a bit more of a back story to each picture, even simple details on how far the route is or when the best time of year to run it would be really appreciated. Ah well, for now I'll just enjoy the pics! Here's a sample:

Squamish 50

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shoe Review! Skechers GOwalk...Rock!

I love my puppy, Spence, really I do. But he's gotten the cold shoulder from me these past few days for chewing my beloved Merrell Glove shoes (mary jane style). Gosh I loved those shoes, they went everywhere with me, I even ran a few times in them since Merrell posted that as a feature of the shoes. So when my husband held up a chewed Merrell on Saturday morning from the floor by our bed all I could do was wail "NOoooo!" and insist that I would now need new "everyday" shoes.

The search was on. We went to Walmart to start (I know, I know, but I was trying to be agreeable to a cheaper alternative than my $125 Merrells) and had no luck, although I was impressed by how many of their shoes had a nice comfortable sole, however the uppers on all of their casual shoes were rigid and I could picture pretty impressive blisters forming from each one that I tried on. So, our next stop was Globo Shoes. I usually don't have much luck with this store, simply because I find their shoes tend to run pretty narrow and they never seem to have any other width options available. This time however I was in luck. They had a big display of the whole Skechers Line, and although I was wary of trying on shoes from them based on my GOrunII experience I tried on a pair of their GOwalk shoes.

Skechers GOwalk - Tech

Wow! First of all they were just as light as the GOrunII shoes (only 4.5 oz per shoe) and even feature a very similar tread pattern. These were easy to slip on and the stretchy upper gave my toes tons of room to breathe and move. The upper is made of a soft chenille fabric that understands alot of us want to wear these barefoot. They are super comfortable. After four days of wear I don't have any blisters or hot spots. I can feel the ground beneath my feet but Skechers designed these so that even though you can still feel the ground it feels like you've got a ton of cushion underfoot. One neat feature of the GOwalk is a heel loop that allows you to grab this small hole and quickly pull the shoes on-great if you're a busy mom trying to keep up with her busy family!

Skechers-you've redeemed yourself in my eyes. The GOwalk -Tech shoes get a 5 out of 5 from me. I know I'll be wearing these shoes to death...oh and they have a nice home in our front closet so Spencer can't sample them. I think I'll GOwalk!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back to Vibrams?

How I can go for a year without worrying so much about my running shoes only to be stuck in this predicament I don't know. Okay, I'll lay out the issue: I was loving my NB 1010s then they started falling apart. I thought they were the answer to my trail running (with a lug-based minimalist sole) but  prior to falling apart my NB 1010s had been giving me a significant amount of calf pain which I was trying to figure out but never quite got to the bottom of. So NB1010s back in the box and in with the Asic Kahanas. Nice, grippy shoe that seems like it would be the ultimate winter running shoe (and I'll keep them for next winter's training for sure). The problem? They gave me pretty nasty blisters on each arch which have led to two weeks of hobbling around. I hate blisters and open blisters are the worst (one runner calls them "Pure hell," I agree). At one point the foot with the open arch blister got so swollen I had to adjust my regular minimalist everyday shoes to accommodate my new cankle. Ugh. Even expensive blister patches only went so far in mitigating the foot pain in my Asics. I ran anyway-I know, stupid-but ask any runner in training for an ultra if they would just take off two weeks to recover from blisters, I'm betting most would laugh at the suggestion. So I ran, I even raced, but yesterday the prospect of running another 10k in the Asics seemed like en experiment in running torture.
I looked at my options. I had to run on my treadmill (snowstorm) so I knew I could go completely barefoot, wear toe socks or run in my old Vibram Sprints. I decided to try on my VFFs to see how they felt and if they would rub up against my sore arch. I was happy to find they didn't bother my arch at all. So I started my run, walking really for the first mile, no major pain, so I turned it into a run and was happy to see my speed was better than it had been in the past few runs. I finished my 10k happy and surprisingly not sore at all. I expected at least a bit of calf pain because I hadn't been running in VFFs in a few months but there was none. Maybe the NB 1010s were minimal enough that my calves could handle the 10k. Sweet.
I felt so good I even considered another 10k run later in the day, but due to family activities it wasn't really possible unless I wanted to sit through a gymnastics class a sweaty mess. I erred on the conservative side and didn't run again.
Today though I packed my VFFs for my indoor track run (also a 10k, but at a faster pace). My dilemma is though that I still have a trail ultra to run in 1.5 months and I know the VFF sprints just don't have enough grip for the terrain I'll be running. So I've started looking at to see what new models have come out. To my surprise they've made a trail VFF called the Spiridon LS (named after the first marathon winner in the Olympics). These VFFs certainly look like they've got enough sole to handle what I'll throw at how do I convince my husband I should buy a pair of these after just spending $100 on the Asics?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Race Report! Moose 25 km Race

If I had to choose a favorite annual race it would be the Moose Run. It has scenic ocean views for most of the out and back course, challenging terrain, donation-based entry, vegetarian food at the finish and great volunteers. I've run it 5 times, and managed to come in next-to-last at least 3 of those 5 times. It doesn't matter though since most of the runners who run this are the hardest core road runners in the area. Even repeat Boston Marathoners Remi and Denise run this one. Every year Remi wins. I gauge my performance by when he passes me on his way back to the finish. This year I managed to meet up with him on Bissett road, the furthest I've been able to get before meeting him. It's at this race where those elite runners are at their most down to earth, encouraging those of us slow pokes just as much as we cheer them on to another victory.
The Route
Yesterday, being St. Patrick's Day, everyone was encouraged to wear green. Green tutus, top hats, ties and even shamrock high socks were everywhere. We started off strong, the group stayed together longer than normal. I reminded myself to run my own race over and over. It's easy to get swept up in the pace of these awesome runners, an issue I've paid for before. This was the last 25 kms of my 65 km training week. The day before I had run 16 km so my legs were not very fresh. Still I held a good 12 minute pace average throughout the whole race. We sped downhill for the first 3 km, then a steep small hill before the rolling road of Cow Bay before we reached the 12 foot tall Moose statue.

The Cow Bay Moose
It was there that the two runners in front of me walked up to the first aid station and handed in their bibs. They were done after 4 kms. Usually people wait until the 8 km mark before they quit this race. I sped past, not needing water as I had my handheld. After the Moose is a sharp downhill then a winding road ("the causeway") alongside a massive wall of boulders design to act as a wave breaker for the ocean on the other side. After that is another steep short hill followed by another sharp downhill. Then more winding road and another, more gradual hill, another downhill then the epic hill after the church which is followed by an equally epic downhill. After that it's mostly rolling roads until the turnaround point. Typically though those first hilly 8 km freak alot of people out so they quit (or modify their distance) before running the out and back section of Bissett road.My husband and I refer to the out and back section of Bissett road as a 'time warp'. It's a rolling, winding road where every turns looks like the last and you end up feeling like you've been running on the road forever, even though it totals only 4 miles. Once I got back out of Bissett road I hit a sharp hill before a wonderful downhill slope. Half way down the slope I met up with my husband, daughter and our dog. I hadn't asked Richard to bring anything (I didn't think I'd need any extra supplies) but, being the ever supportive runner himself he thoughtfully brought me a much needed banana which I gobbled up in three bites before running off, estimating I'd be finished in 45 minutes if my 12 minute pace held. I soon regretted how quickly I had eaten the banana, my stomach cramped and rolled but I ate a couple of old jelly beans at the bottom of the handheld pouch (don't judge!) and pushed on, power-walking up the epic hill. By then I'd been out on the course for 2.5 hours and the pretty sunny day had clouded over and the ocean wind picked up dramatically. By the time I hit the breakers again the wind was doing a good job of pushing me backwards. I kept my pace steady and powered through to a turn which forced the wind to be at my back. Thank the gods!! With a mile and a bit left to go my phone, which I had been using to coordinate with my husband, sputtered and died. I shoved in my pocket and pushed on, loving the last downhill and gutting out the last straight section before the finish "line" (a guy with a clip board who yells "You're Done!"). No matter how poorly the race goes, and trust me, this was not my best performance, I still finish this race with a satisfied smile on my face. Because this race is hard, really hard, and just finishing it is an accomplishment in my eyes.

I met up with my husband and daughter at the finish (they had watched me finish as they pulled into the Buffalo club/aka Finish line) and we enjoyed some beans and tea while watching the prize giveaway by the race organizers. My daughter was kind enough to let her Mommy eat some food before she declared the place stunk and asked if we could go. I can't really blame her, stick 200 runners into a small hall after a 25 km run and it smells pretty ripe. I was happy to be driven the 1 km back to our house where I promptly showered and took a nap watching Sea Quest re-runs. Another Moose Race finished...until next year!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Asic Gel-Kahana Review-Part 2

I've been out on three runs, totaling 14 miles in my new Asic Gel-Kahanas. I had forgotten a runner needs to break in regular running shoes. Those 14 miles have been sloow but cushy. Okay, so here's what I've learned from my Kahanas so far:

  • expect these to be a barefoot-friendly shoe. Not. At. All. I forgot my socks on my second run and once I put the insoles back in the shoes I thought I'd be fine. Two huge blisters on the arches of both feet showed me these shoes prefer a sock.

Blisters suck
  • assume that because the trend is toward making lighter running shoes that these will be too. They are pretty heavy, compared with the minimalist runners I've been using for the past 3 years. I keep telling myself that these will be great once I have actual technical terrain I have to cover but on the roads these feel like clunky and heavy.
  • expect to run with the same gait as with minimalist runners. I've kicked myself in the leg more times than I can count wearing these shoes. Apparently I have a narrow gait, which is good information to know, now if I could just widen my stance a bit maybe I can save my calves.
  • expect these shoes to go the distance. They hold up really well to different terrain, and I've run on everything; dirt road, muddy hills, indoor cushioned track, concrete, pavement, crushed gravel, snow, and ice. Nothing has been an issue, these running shoes can take whatever a runner throws at them and grip it all nicely.
Serious Treads!

  • assume there will be some "break in" time. That of course depends on the runner and the type of shoe they typically run in.
  • enjoy the cushion! It has been really refreshing not to stub a toe or get a stabbing shot of pain when I step on something really sharp. I've realized I don't need to pay as much attention to where I'm stepping with these shoes since they just roll over everything. 
So in the end I would give these running shoes a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I'm taking a full point off for the weight, they are pretty heavy, and a half point for not being barefoot friendly. Removing the insole helps but doesn't completely cure the seam issue along the sides of the shoes.
What do you think? Have you tried these shoes and loved them? Hate them? Let me know!
Enjoy your Saint Paddy's Day weekend everyone. I'll have a Moose 25km Run Race Report for you all next week-my favorite race in Eastern Passage/Cow Bay NS!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shoe Review! Asic Gel-Kahana 6

Okay, look. I didn't plan on new running shoes until at least July or even August I swear (!) but...last week I was getting ready for a run and I noticed that my New Balance 1010s had started to have an issue. The fabric on one side of my left shoe started to pull away from the plastic side of the shoe.

It got to the point where I had to tie my laces a bit tighter to compensate for the growing gap on the side of my shoe. My new tight laces were now too tight and I was finding myself fighting a constant battle between a numb foot and a shoe that was too loose. So I went on Facebook, straight to the New Balance Canada's page and saw that another consumer had posted about a defect in a different model but had success with their customer service line. Duh! So I called and explained what had happened and to my surprise they said they would replace the shoes if I sent the defective pair in to them. Sweet! Then reality hit and I realized I didn't have a back up pair to wear. Not that I wanted to continue to wear my increasingly annoying 1010s either though.
So that's how I came to be face to face with a wall of running shoes on a Sunday, my 6 year old daughter preoccupying herself with the kids section a few feet away. Shoe after shoe I looked for the tell-tale signs of a trail shoe (big lugs) but found only road shoes that look like they would be a one-way ticket to the hospital on the slick rocks I'll be running. Finally I found the one pair of trail running shoes they had, luckily in my size to boot.
My initial impression of the Asic Gel-Kahana 6 is that it like slipping your foot into a pillow. The shoe hugs your foot without making it feel constricted, even the tongue is padded a little bit. The sole has sizable lugs, I think it'll handle mud and slick rocks pretty well. One thing was missing though, the feel of the ground beneath me. It feels really strange to go from feeling every rock to feeling just a big cushion underfoot. I realize I might damage any credibility I might have as a minimalist runner by wearing these but I can't say I don't appreciate the extra cushion.
Well, tomorrow is another Monday and another training run scheduled. I'll let you know how they handle the roads/trails.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is the introduction of bigger prize purses at trail races a positive or negative thing overall?

Not to toot my own horn, but when I was awarded Trail Runner of the Year last year by the local trail running club, it was NOT because I was a fast runner or especially skilled at handling tough terrain, nope, none of that. did that toot my own horn? Anyways, the reason I was given this award was because of my attitude which, apparently embodies the essence of being a trail runner; getting out there, reaching for new goals but also just enjoying the experience, the nature and the other runners. Yup, I'm S.L.O.W...but once I'm out on the trails that doesn't matter to me as much as it usually does on the roads. I like to run trails fast but I know I'm not at the level of most of the other trail runners I've run with, and that is okay. I've had alot of trail runners pass me and, unlike road races, they always have encouraging words, a high five or even advice to help me through a rough patch. If trail races offered more cash to the winners I doubt they would take the time to say "hey" to us slow pokes.
I see trail running as the great equalizer; trail runners all love getting into the woods, running wild and free through single track, scrambling up steep hill sides and bombing down muddy slopes. Whether you do it fast or slow we're all out there with our childish enthusiasm loving every minute of it. To dangle big cash incentives as a carrot at the end of the tree branch takes something away from the purity of the sport, the reasons alot of us got into trail running.
For me, I'll answer the question posed with this: Introducing bigger prize purses at trail races is a negative thing overall. Not only will it take away from the spirit of running trail races but it would discourage alot of us from even participating in trail races. For alot of trail runners we're not there for the competition with other runners, we're out there to push and challenge our own limits and boundaries. It's about the race between the runner we are and the trail runner we hope to be.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Picking a Distance

Last week a got an email I've anticipated receiving each year for the past two years-Team CBC was letting me know they'd be open for team registration in a couple of weeks! Yay! Okay, let me back up a bit. Team CBC is a running team put together by the kind folks at CBC Halifax to run the various distances at the annual Halifax Bluenose Marathon in May.

It was the first running team I ever joined and its always been a wonderful experience. Not only do they host weekly team runs, give team members lots of free swag, host a bunch of free workshops and free cross training sessions at the local YMCA but they've also paid my registration for the Bluenose for the past two years! Of course I'll be joining again this year, but the next question is, What DISTANCE do I run?! The Wasskally Wrabbit 50k Trail race will be two weeks before the Bluenose this year. Last year they were only a week apart so I felt confident in choosing the 10k at the Bluenose, and everyone around me agreed, running a 10k race a week after a 50k seemed reasonable..well as reasonable as that whole sentence can sound to a normal person. When I got to the 50k trail race last year and was milling around the other runners someone brought up the Bluenose and then, of course, what distance everyone was doing. To my utter shock, they were all doing the full marathon. Yes, a 50k (or even an 80k for some) one weekend, just to turn around and run a 42k the next, and then some were even going to head up the coast and run a leg of the Cabot Trail Relay (not for the weak, you MUST maintain a 6:30 pace per km or better for each leg-no pressure or anything!).
This year thought I thought I'd up the ante a bit and figured if my husband would do the half marathon then I would run that with him. The other night I mentioned I wasn't sure which distance I'd run (meaning the 10k or the half) and he looked surprised, saying he thought I would do the full marathon. I did a double take..nope..that look said he was serious. Then I thought to myself..Could I really do it? Run a full marathon two weeks after a 50k? I'm still wondering.
My training has been pretty good. I like to think I've trained smarter and harder this year. I've averaged 50km or so each week, sometimes getting up to 66km. Starting this week I really amp up my long runs and I'm feeling good about that. I haven't pushed through illness like I did last year, I've taken time off when I feel I need it, then found the runs even better when I get back on track. My pace has improved a bit, not as much as I would like, so I'm keeping my speed workouts and hill runs going throughout my plan, unlike last year when I did them separately and dropped both altogether a few weeks before the 50k race. So do I have what it takes to finish a 42km race two weeks after a 50? I've read that if you're not planning on racing the second long distance race that anyone with 50k training could complete a 42 a few weeks after, so in theory it sounds fine, but I also don't want to be the last finisher of the 10 year anniversary of the Bluenose Marathon! Ahh, the inner debate continues..but hey..if you're reading this let me know what you think!