Category Archives: Gear

Crazy Desert Race 100K

“It’s only 100K with no hills.”

I regret going into the race with that sort of attitude. I didn’t prepare as well and my performance suffered as a result. I didn’t have a terrible race, but I know it could have been better. Many small things added up to a frustrating race.

One of the bigger culprits was not getting enough sleep. The day before the race, I got up before 6 to go hiking with a coworker, went to work, and then drove 3 hours to San Angelo, finally getting to bed around 11. That is far from ideal. Sufficient sleep is vital for good performance mentally and physically. When I started the race, my legs felt heavy.

I wore my newish Ultimate Direction hydration pack. I’ve worn it a few times, but never raced in it. I think it still needs to be broken in. Maybe 10 miles in, I noticed my bottle was jamming my rib cage, making a very tender spot. After I finished the first loop, I put on my old Salomon pack and it just felt great. I also love the huge back pocket that I can reach into without having to unzip or zip. Basically, these little gear niggles should be worked out prior to a race, not during.

Coming into the second to last aid station, I found out that the course mileage was off by 5 miles. I was heading into the last aid station when I should have been finishing the loop. This threw me off mentally. What would happen now? Would we have to run a 75miler? I imagined several possible scenarios that could play out, finally resolving not to sweat it, Rob would figure something out. No way would he make us run an extra 13 miles. Like I tell myself all the time, just focus on the mile in front of you.

The sky had been overcast for the entire first loop. It seemed like it was going to be a perfect day for running. Thinking it would stay that way was wishful thinking. Wishful thinking that got me mildly sunburned and drained quite a bit of energy from me.

My old man hat and ice bandana have saved me on numerous sunny occasions. I had them in my bag at the start/ finish, but chose not to bring them with me as I foolishly thought it would be overcast all day. Katie offered sunscreen, which I declined. 2 huge mistakes, likely due to lack of sleep and fretting about the course mileage issue.

The clouds burned off and the sun was in full effect. There was very little shade on the course, it was extremely exposed. Every I looked, there was cactus, as if to remind me that I was in the desert. I used my buff as an ice bandana, and that worked okay. Proper ice bandana is way faster to fill and wear. There wasn’t much I could do about the sun. Whenever I saw shade, I stopped and took a short break.

Hydration and nutrition were okay. Shat once before the race, but still had enough for three more times during the first loop. Wore Calderas first loop, but switched into Lone Peaks for the last two loops. Forgot iPod on second loop, only had music for last loop.

I have never looked at my watch so many times during a race. It became incredibly frustrating near the end trying to figure out how much longer I would be running. I wanted to do 12 hours, and kept trying to calculate in my head if I could. Each time I did the calculations, my results changed. That was pretty demoralizing. And add to that the fact that we had to run a few extra miles because of the marking error, so I wasn’t entirely sure how close I was to the finish.

Leapfrogged with several runners, including Julie of course. Finally caught up to Dustin in the very last mile. He had been puking but was moving. I didn’t stop to talk or run wit him, I just ran past him. Finished in 12:58 for 5th. Dustin showed up two minutes later to finish in 13 hours on the nose for 6th and Julie came in at 13:01 for 7th. She won 100k last week and again this week. Amazing.

So while not a terrible race, it was a far cry from the planning and execution of the last race. What’s worse is that now I am behind in points (but I think just barely) for the Desert trail race series. The winner of the three race series gets $500. I’ve never won any money from running, and it would be awesome if I did. The last race is the Franklin Mountain 50K in November. It looks like if I want to win that money, I am going to have to train, plan, and race my ass off. So maybe being behind is a good thing, providing me the motivation to focus on the task ahead.

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Zion 100M

Waiting forever for a flight? Write a race report!

 

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All smiles before the race. 

Went with Elizabeth, my buddy Ed, and his gf Katherine.

 

Start was a hill. Slowish going, not bad, good warmup. Run behind Ed. Lots of dust. One spot had a rope to use or you could go around. Never seen that before. Chose to go around. First aid station top of hill. Do I need aid this early?

Starts getting light. You can see the scenery. Take shots with GoPro. Stash camera in pack. Stop to poop. Commence running again. More awesome scenery, grab camera and… I’ve been filming for 20 min. Definitely was filming during my poop break. Wonder how that’ll turn out. And I’ve managed to get separated from Ed. Don’t see him again till Mile 50 or so.
Running behind two guys. See kid up ahead, holding out his cupped hands.  He offers the first runner,  “Ca- SHOOS?” No thanks. And the second runner, “Ca-SHOOS?” No thanks. And them me, “I LOVE cashews!”  kid dumps some into my hand. I chastise the runner in front of me for not humoring the kid and taking some cashews. Dry and flavorless, I eat a few and chuck the rest.
Taking a selfie at a lookout. Put phone down, set timer. Hear what sounds like a horde of buzzing bees. Look around, it’s a freaking drone! I give it the peace sign, it hovers for awhile. I try and take my pictures, it’s still there. I give up and start running downhill. It follows me for a bit. I think, Okay. I’ll try and haul ass down a rocky descent, give it something worth filming.” But eventually it flies away, following a runner going uphill. Just as well. I sure hope there aren’t any drones when I have to, uh, you know.

 

Garmin 920xt failure. Feel smart for finally remembering to use Ultra Trac mode. Watch should last a long time. Miles are clicking by. Before I know it, I’ve done 20 miles. And then a few minutes later, 21 miles… Wait, that can’t be right- 21 miles in 3.5 hours? Ask a girl nearby what’s her mileage? 14. F*********ck! GPS is off by SEVEN miles? Rest of the race, hear the mile beeps but can’t look cause I know they are wrong. Makes the whole race a little more difficult not knowing what mile I’m at. (You could say,  “The aid stations are at known mileage points, just go by that,” but that doesn’t help.) Same thing happened to a guy I ran with, except he was smart enough to start his watch over at an aid station and use just regular GPS. I decided against that because …. I’m an idiot.

Adding insult to injury was when watch beeped low battery, after only about 20 hours. The Whole point of Ultra Trac is extended battery life. Now I don’t even get that? Next time, will try and use a charger during the run. Or bring along my old Garmin. (But that’s annoying to have two separate files for the race. Or is that just me?)

The big climb. Talked to a guy named Danny leading up to the climb. Said he’d run the race 5 times. Two other races he’d also done every year. As we began to climb the hill, he cursed at the hill, “Come on mother effer!” Very amusing. The hill was steep and longish, but didn’t seem that bad. Poles were a tremendous help. Made it about 2/3 up before I realized to turn around and look at the beautiful scenery behind me.

 

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Mile 35 doesn’t look like much a hill from the photo. 

 

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Got to the top, the volunteer recording our race numbers was a young girl about 12. She greets me with, “Alright! You made it to the top of that stupid hill!” I was like… Accurate!

This was probably the best section scenery wise. We ran along the edge of the mesa which provided some spectacular views, although these pictures don’t fully convey that.

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Paul, whose first 100 in the US got him one ticket, with which he got into Western States.

 

The rain finally shows up. I’m running down this dirt road that is quickly turning into the worst kind of thick mud. Super slippery, thick, and gloms onto your shoes, weighing you down. I come to a T section, there is a car stuck in the mud, and 3 cars waiting on it to get unstuck. For a split second, I feel like I should stop and help. See several other cars coming up the hill, tires spinning out because of the slick mud. Can only think that these people are morons. Film one girl driving a tiny ass car spinning out.

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Couldn’t figure how to edit video, so here ya go. 

Running out the red loop. Somehow miss the first turn. Run about a mile before I realize I’ve not seen ANY confidence markers. Think that’s okay, maybe they assume you know this must be the way. Did see one guy running opposite direction, so…. It must be… Turn around and run back. See a pair runners a bit aways, yell at them if they are doing the red loop. They are. I was def off course. Get back on, see where I made my mistake. I think I was readjusting my pack. Pretty upsetting but I don’t dwell on it that much. It’s about this time that I stop running and can only hike. My right shin has started to hurt.

The White and Blue loops were tough: I couldn’t run, I felt like the sections weren’t well marked, it was dark, I was alone, I’d heard all my music by this point, I wasn’t eating well because my stomach wasn’t happy. (At the aid station, I actually threw up for the first time during a race. It was just a little bit, nothing major, but still.) And it rained on and off, which had me taking off my pack to put on my jacket and then 10 minutes later taking off my pack so I could take off my jacket. And the miles seemed S U P E R  L O N G. BUT I never got to a really low point, my mental game was pretty good considering. I managed to slog through the night, and my spirits rose when it started to get light.

After I finished the blue loop, I was supposed to do the final trail section to the finish, but because of the rain, the course had been modified to have us run the dirt road back. This route was 2 miles shorter, but would still make for an exact 100 miles.

Walking out to start the very last section to the finish, I see a guy I thought I had left in the dust. Take off my coat and pack, try to stash my poles in my pack. He takes off running. Puts up a good distance while I’m fumbling with my pack. I start running, want to catch up. (He doesn’t know it, but he’s racing me.) Haul ass done a dirt road, stop to sh*t. Hope the guys I just passed are far enough back…  I pass a lot of people in this home stretch. Everyone is walking. Eventually catch up to him. I run 90% of the last leg. Final mile I see the 55kers heading out. Film that. Keep seeing roller after roller, more flags, wondering where the f#ck is the finish???

 

Finally see the inflated finish gate. Haul ass, pass 4 more guys. Run it in strong. Want to cry. Go to the finisher tent, lady basically tells me which one to pick. I’m done. I got my damn buckle.

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Ed and Katherine are at the finish. Ed dropped after I saw him last at the aid station. Katherine’s race got rerouted to a lame out and back on a dirt road, so she was able to defer till next year. We waited several hours for Elizabeth to finish. She also got rerouted but finished with only about 82 miles.

 

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Food wise: Pickles were good! And Bacon and Avacado. Quesadillas are okay, but tend to de dry and flavorless, which is a bad combo because it seems hard to generate saliva towards the middle and end of race. Need juicier things, things with higher water content. Also don’t eat or drink the same thing at every station. Especially soda, it makes my  stomach acidic. (At least in the quantities I ingest.)  Have to alternate or pace the soda intake. Alternate liquid nutrition with solid foods.

Dissolvable seltzer tabs helped. Ibuprofen always helps.

Bladder and a bottle. Best combination. Cannot overstate convenience of a drink tube.

Change of socks. Dry clothes. Bring even more pairs when expecting rain or tough environment. Vaseline and Double sock treatment kept me blister free. Do not care for La Sportiva Bushidos for more than 20 miles. Ran 50 in them and was glad to get them off. Good traction, but not entirely comfortable. Calf sleeves, still not sure about, but my calves weren’t terribly sore after the race, but then neither were my quads, so… Batteries. Extra headlamp. Gaiters. Need to order gaiters.

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My dopey new hat

New hat worked out beautifully, although it is kind of heavy and bulky. New rain jacket worked beautifully. Kept me dry and warm, did not overheat. Watertight bags worked fine. Not sure if they got rained on, but my stuff was dry. (They were also inside ziplocks, so they had better be.)
Changed contacts mid race. No issues with blurry vision. This was a huge win, as having an issue with my vision would have made the night that much more difficult. But it was hard to put them on. Need to practice without a mirror. Always have something clean to catch them on.

Naps. Took two (three?) 5 min naps. Points I felt woozy, like I was drunk. Glad I had my poles at the end. More sleep prior to race, especially if travel is involved.

One carry on bag only. Elizabeth had two(?!) suitcases and that was problematic. Always have a proper post race drop bag. Dry clothes, a blanket or hoodie, cash and ID. And beer and food if possible.

Walking was sore the next day, but not nearly as bad as in the past.

Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set Pack Review

After using the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set pack for several months now, I feel it’s time for a review. I bought it back in January(?) and I’ve worn it for 20 hours doing R2R2R, at the Treviso marathon, (I know that’s weird), Hell’s Hills 50 Miler,  and dozens of multi hour training runs. It’s gotten to the point that I feel weird if I run without it. Bottom line: I really like the pack.

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Official product image via salomon.com

First and foremost: fit and comfort. For me,  the pack fits beautifully. It’s like wearing a vest vs carrying a “backpack.” That is a huge difference. The vest style design eliminates the sore shoulders that result from a backpack style pack. At my last race, even after 9 hours, my shoulders felt fine. There is more surface area than most other packs, which means more pockets and places to stash things. This increased surface area helps distribute weight. The elastic material along the outer edge pulls the pack load closer to your body. This helps the pack stay put and keeps stuff from bouncing around. And one of the things I like best is there aren’t any loose strap ends flapping about.

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Official product image via salomon.com

It comes with two 16 oz soft flasks, but get this – IT DOES NOT COME WITH A BLADDER.  (Yet it does come with an insulated sleeve for a bladder.) This really confused the heck out of me, why sell a hydration pack without a bladder?

So I bought a Camelbak 2L bladder. I filled it with water and tried to put it in the insulated sleeve… It wouldn’t fit. I believe the sleeve is made for a 1.5L bladder. Not the end of the world, just throw the bladder in the pack without the sleeve.

Then I ran into another snafu. Some official looking photos (not on the Salomon website) show the hydration tube running out the “tail” and under the vest. However this requires a bladder with a spigot that routes sideways rather than upwards. Again, not the end of the world, just route the tube over the shoulder.

It was at this point I wished the pack had come with “instructions” or a small guide. (There’s a small illustration for how to secure trekking poles, but that’s it. ) Or better yet, these details made clear on the website.  That way I could have known to buy a 1.5L bladder with a sideways spigot.

I haven’t attempted to use the soft flasks because I think it would be more troublesome trying to reinsert a soft flask vs a hard bottle. That could be a mistaken assumption, but I’ve been using two 21 oz Camelbak bottles and that’s been great. It’s nice because I can have water, a liquid nutrition, and a sports drink. The only thing I need now is to find bottles that have the long straw so that I don’t have to remove the bottles…

There are pockets galore! It’s a little overwhelming at first what to do with them all, but eventually you’ll figure out your system. Most of the pockets are easy to get at. The zippered pocket on the side opens easily with one hand, but you need another hand to hold the bottom of the zipper to zip it up. No big deal. The big open rear pocket is tricky to get into without taking off the pack.  And although it feels sketchy to have the rear pocket secured only by the tension of the elastic, I’ve yet to have anything fall out on during a run.

Lately I’ve been running during the hotter parts of day. The pack is constructed with mesh material and breathes well. However, sweat easily migrates through the mesh, so make sure whatever you carry in those pockets is sweat tolerant. If you carry your phone, you would be wise to keep it in a Ziploc baggie. The evaporated sweat also leaves a visible salt residue which is a visual reminder that the pack needs to be washed.

At $185, (WITHOUT a bladder) I cried when I bought this, however it has been worth every penny. REI recently started carrying the pack, so if you’re a member you’d get $18.50 back on your dividend.

Finally, the name is in desperate need of shortening or simplifying. Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set just does not roll off the tongue easily. Or at all. Someone asked me about the pack and I couldn’t remember the name. Maybe Salomon can work on the name for the next version.

R2R2R

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Going up North Kaibab

This past week, I ran R2R2R.

There’s no way to capture the scale of the Grand Canyon in a photo, so I was looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes and as I  ran through it. The canyon lived up to the hype. It was impressive and a little ginormous. The run, however, wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I expected to be on Death’s door, shriveled up and/or burned to a crisp after finishing.

But it wasn’t that bad, which was oddly disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. Especially the last four hours hiking up Bright Angel Trail. But overall, it felt like another 50 mile race, just with more vertical. I feel like I trained pretty well for the run, but what really made it “easier” was the weather.

Perhaps the trail gods pitied us, as there was cloud cover for a good portion of the day. This made a huge difference: It spared us the heat of the inner canyon, which is supposed to be tortuous. It allowed us to run for longer periods without overheating. And it kept us from running out of water. (Sort of.)

Ultimately, I’m thankful we didn’t have to endure the heat.

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We began under a full moon. (Or pretty darn close.)

I ran with four other people from our group of 20. We started about 4:45 am. Once it got light, the first few miles were spent oohing and ahhing and taking pictures. It was awhile before we really got going. We took our time and drank in the Canyon. We made several stops along the way, but the majority of the first 15-20 miles was uneventful and went by relatively quick.

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This is what I came to see!

 

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Chris and Michele on one of the bridges.

 

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I could still manage to get lost…

 

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You can see the cloud cover starting to roll in.

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Lower mid right, that white streak is a baby waterfall.

 

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Tanya and Jason sporting matching hats.

As the day went on, it warmed up. Going up North Kaibab was probably the worst of the heat. It was hot, but not unbearably so. We stopped in an awesome shady spot and lounged for a bit. The rock was cool and felt great on our tired legs. Once we started back up, we were greeted with a never-ending series of switchbacks to the top.

We eventually made it to the top of North Kaibab and had lunch. One of the other sub groups was already there, so we got to to eat and chat with them. But the best treat? The water. Oh-my-goodness!! So cold and refreshing. (I felt guilty about dumping out  my bladder just so I could refill it with cold water.) Oh, and mental note for next time: Extended breaks make it extremely hard to get moving again. 

After the agonizing uphill, running –actual running– the downhill was really fun. I felt we had been trudging along all day (which was probably actually a good thing), but now was a chance to to open it up. I love the feeling of bounding through rocky trails as fast as I can. So I started running up ahead at my own pace and then stopping and waiting for the others. They were never that far behind, so that worked out great. But I had to remind myself to keep it in check because there’d be hill to pay later.

At Cottonwood, we stopped and soaked our feet and legs. The ice cold water felt great, though I could handle it for only like 10 seconds at a time. The others had no problems sitting in the water up to their waist, so eventually I had to do the same. It felt great for like a second. It’s crazy how fast the water evaporates though.

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Ribbon Falls. Don’t you just want to touch the fuzzy greenery?

We took a detour to check out Ribbon Falls.  It was a great little water fall. You can climb up to the top and stick your head under the water. As you might imagine, it felt great.

And then came the slog. Running back through the inner canyon was the running version of Groundhog Day. It was the L-o-n-g-e-s-t S-e-v-e-n  M-i-l-e-s  E-v-e-r. We would have really suffered here if it weren’t for the cloud cover because the rock absorbs the sun’s heat all day and then radiates it right back out into your face.

By this time, the moon was nowhere to be seen and it was pitch black. Michele had a problem with her headlamp/batteries, so I let her use my headlamp. I ran between her and Tanya and was able to see well enough. The trekking poles were a lifesaver here. They allowed me to cross over the logs more easily, helped provide depth perception, and overall stability.

This was by far the toughest section to get through. It was certainly  challenging physically, but even more so mentally. We could hike only so fast. Partly because we were tired and partly because of the fear of walking off the cliff. Chris had said if we could do a 30 minute mile, we were doing well. That sounded ridiculous, but I think it was true.

There were some lights at the top of the canyon that we seemed to be moving toward but not getting any closer. We seemed to be hiking forever but not making any progress. All we could see was five feet in front of us. And those damn lights up top. I started thinking about food. I would have killed for a burger and a Coke. Seriously.

Strangely, it wasn’t even midnight yet and we started getting bombarded by other runner’s (presumably)starting their R2R2R journey. It was disappointing because many of the runners didn’t yield the trail to us or even slow down. (Trail etiquette dictates that those moving downhill should yield to those moving uphill.) A few bellowed the “Looking good!/ Good job!” line which was a little too chipper for my taste.

Some time after midnight, we finally made it to the top of Bright Angel. I thought for sure I would cry, but I didn’t. I was too tired.

 

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Mega thorny cactus flower.

Other Notes/ Advice type Stuff

Water: Jason and Michele both ran out of water twice.  We gave them some water the first time, and the second time was right before a stop. They got lucky. It’s better to carry too much water than to run out. Simple as that. And really, how do you run out of water twice?!

I had a 2L bladder for water which I filled completely at each stop and a 21 oz bottle for Perpetuem/ Heed.

Calories: I brought around 6,000 calories, almost twice what I actually consumed. (Although about 2000 of that was Perpetuem and Heed.) Often what seems edible in the grocery store is anything but on the trail. And again this was the case. A dozen+ gels, 3 bars, cola flavored gel chews (next best thing to a Coke), pretzels, beef jerky, cookies, almonds, single serve tuna fish with crackers, olives, a real sandwich, and powdered Perpetuem and Heed. And I forgot to bring Payday candy bars. I think those would have done me well.

I love my Salomon pack. I bought it specifically for this trip and it has been great to me. Maybe I should finish the review I started.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT did work in the canyon (even though it was constantly losing satellite reception), lasted over 17 hours. I never stopped it, if I had, it might have made the whole trip. What I should have done was to stop it at each water stop and treat that as a run. The drawback is you have to remember to restart the watch…

Trekking poles were a HUGE help going uphill. I’ve never used them before (hills in Texas?) but they were easy to get the hang of. Most of us rented them from the General Store. Best $12 I ever spent.

A wide brim hat or a legionnaire’s cap is a must. And sunscreen.

Make sure your headlamp works! Put in new batteries and/or carry spares. You might even take two headlamps. If your sole source of light breaks somehow, you’re in a tough spot.

Proper foot care  the week prior to the run: Clip and file your toenails, pumice any tough spots, and moisturize with lotion.  Wear double socks – toe socks under Drymax- and gaiters. And carry a spare pair of socks. Dust and sand still managed to infiltrate the mesh in my shoes, but I had ZERO blisters.

Take lots of pictures. Duh!

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Salomon XR Mission Trail Shoe Review

Are you looking for a new trail shoe?  I just got a pair of Salomon’s XR Mission shoe, and they’re pretty dope.

Your next pair of trail shoes?
Your next pair of trail shoes?

During the holidays, my dad and I were at a military BX and he spontaneously offered to buy me a pair of shoes as a present. The selection wasn’t the greatest, and I normally research things I’d like to purchase. I don’t buy things on a whim.  but a new pair of shoes is a new pair of shoes!

I’ve had good luck with New Balance and there were a pair of New Balance that had lugs that looked like they would provide wicked crazy traction. But when I tried them on, they cinched up weird, so that was a no-go. Kind of a bummer, but it wasn’t meant to be.

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I picked up the XR Mission shoe. I’d never read any reviews about them and I’d certainly never owned a pair of Salomon’s before. They looked stylish, but more importantly, sturdy and solid. The laces were weird – I’d never seen this “system” before. The price wasn’t outrageous. Hesitantly, I tried them on…. They fit like Cinderella’s trail shoe. I’ll take ’em!

(This is the second time I’ve had the Cinderella experience. The first time was with a pair of Brooks. Unfortunately, it was not a happy ending. I ended up carving off parts of the sole.)

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Initial impressions

First and foremost, the fit is perfect. The toe box feels spacious. I can wiggle my big toe easily. The collar feels pleasantly snug. When I cinch the speed laces, the shoe feels secure. The shoe feels balanced.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about how I felt about the laces. It seemed like a good idea, but what you were supposed to do with the dangling pull? I ended up loosely tucking it under the other laces; that seemed like a terrible solution. I thought this was a serious design blunder.

However, I just now found out through the magic of Youtube that there’s a pocket in the tongue to store the pull! Somehow, I missed that.

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Can you spot where the pocket where the fastener is?

The pocket makes a world of difference. With the loose end  tucked away, there is nothing that can get snagged and trip you up. Everything is one smooth unit.

Weight-wise, they feel similar to my Cascadias. However, if I wiggle my feet wearing the Cascadias, the weight feels concentrated in the sole like a big lump. It doesn’t move well. When I wiggle my feet wearing the XR’s, the weight feels evenly distributed, the shoe actually feels balanced and lighter as a result.

The sole under the forefoot and the heel of the shoe flares outward toward the ground. I believe this is part of what gives the shoe such great stability.

The soles flair outward and provide greater surface area to steady your landing.
The soles flair outward and provide greater surface area to steady your landing.

Performance on the trails

Socks can make a big difference on how your shoes perform. Blisters can be a nightmare. Sockwise, I run with a pair of thin weight Injinji’s under a heavier Drymax trail crew sock.

I broke in the XR’s  with with back to back 20 milers training for the Bandera 100K. Not a smart way to break in a completely unknown shoe, but sometimes often I do dumb stuff. (I was excited to test them out.) After the first run, I had a huge blister in the same spot on both of my big toes, obviously due to the shoes. The second run wasn’t as bad.

I had a few other runs after that, but the next big run was the Bandera 100K. I wore them the entire race. They were totally comfortable and more than capable on the course.

There were no problems where I’d blistered previously. But during the race, I thought my baby toe toenail was falling off. Only after the race did I fully remove both socks. The toenail was actually fine. The irritation I had been feeling was a huge blister on the inside of the toe! I attributed that to an Injinji sock malfunction.

The XR’s don’t have a rockplate, but I plowed through plenty of rocks without any problems. They provided plenty of protection underfoot from the 8 billion rocks on the Bandera trail. It makes for a much better run when you have confidence in your shoes.

The XR’s aren’t as nimble as my New Balance Minimus, but they are  more agile than my Cascadia’s. On the uphills, they have really good traction. I felt like I was  wearing a pair of comfortable 4×4’s. I haven’t  seen how they perform in mud, but I have high expectations.

I came across a website called ZOZI.com selling two discontinued  colors (in all sizes) for $55, which is quite a deal. Otherwise, they  typically retail around $65 – $75.

Overall, I’ve been quite pleased with these shoes. So if you’re in the market for a new pair of shoes, or have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, or you’re a shoe slut, or whatever, check ’em out.

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Full disclosure: Salomon is not a sponsor, nor did they provide free shoes for this review. But boy would I ever love to have them as a sponsor and/or receive free shoes to review.  YOU HEAR THAT, SALOMON?

Tuesday Long Run

Missed an opportunity to run at Bandera this past weekend, and wanted to make up for that.

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Hard to see, but some of the trees are turning red.

A beautiful sunny afternoon with temperatures in the forties, it was a perfect day to be out for several hours. The plan was to run to the Power Lines and then turn around, the Power Lines being a three mile stretch of hills that my running group uses for hill training. The trail runs beside electrical power lines, thus its name. Looking at Mapmyrun, the round trip looked to be around 22 miles, with the bulk of the mileage coming from just getting to the power lines. Setting out at noon, I figured on being out 4 – 4 1/2 hours, plenty of time to think about stuff.

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It begins…

I had a short sleeve wicking shirt over a long sleeve wicking shirt. Generally, for “cold” weather in Texas, this works out fine. But there were points where the wind picked up and chilled all the sweat in my shirts. I really felt that and it worried me. I did bring a spare shirt, but it was -surprise!- another wicking shirt. What would that accomplish? That’s when I realized, “That’s what a windbreaker’s for. You should get one of those.” Fortunately, the wind didn’t stick around, but I’ll definitely be looking for a windbreaker soon.

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Looking back, you can see the neighborhood going up. It looks all naked.

Cold hands are the worst! Gloves helped tremendously, but that’s pretty obvious. I was surprised that I could actually operate my phone’s touchscreen without having to take off my gloves. They aren’t those fancy gloves designed specifically for that purpose, so it took a few tries, but I could do it. This allowed me to take a few more photos than I would have if I had to remove my gloves every time, which is nice because one of my goals is to take more photos while out on runs.

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Looking up from directly beneath a tower.

A new thing for me was a Buff bandana thingie, which I was using as a neck gaiter. Holy cow, that works out great! I never realized how nice it is to have a warm neck. The Buff is a ridiculously simple thing, just a super thin tube of stretchy fabric, but it really provided some real comfort. Which is great considering it was ridiculously over priced – $25 at REI. If it continues to provide as much usefulness later on, say in the summer, then it will be totally worth it.

Buff bandana as neck gaiter. Dope!
Buff bandana as neck gaiter. Dope!

One more thing I want to mention is Hammer Perpetuem. It worked well for me in my last race, and it worked just as well on this run. The last two long runs, I didn’t carry much food since I relied on Perpetuem for calories. On this four hour run, other than the Perpetuem, I got by on two gels and a handful of beef jerky. To me, that’s nuts. To me, that says Perpetuem really works. The flavor is very subtle, and I’ve not had any GI issues with it. If you are in the market for liquid calories, you ought to check it out.

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What kind of birds are these? Pretty sure not vultures…

Final tally for the day was 21.22 Miles in 4:04.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Clock

A few weeks ago, I discovered a “hidden” function on my Garmin that has since provided me with greater peace of mind. The function? Keys Locked.

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Stop Worrying and Just Run!

As a road runner, I used to obsess about my times, pace in particular. Pace was the measure of my progress as a runner. The faster my pace, the better I felt. And in order to keep that pace nice and shiny, if I stopped, walked, got a drink of water, had to stretch, take a sh*t, or whatever, I would stop my watch. I mean, why would you track the parts of your run when you’re not running, right?

I don’t completely know why I did this. Maybe because my running buddy always did (and still does) the same thing. Maybe this was just to seem faster without actually having to be faster. Maybe it was just wanting to have good numbers to look at at the end of the run. This bad habit stuck with me as I transitioned to trail running.

Whatever the reasons -or justifications- there was a problem with this constant watch-stopping. On far too many occasions I would forget to restart my watch. These miles were “lost,” and my weekly totals would be lower. And for a trail runner, mileage is more important than pace. Losing mileage was worse than a slow pace!

I tried using both types of the auto pause function and those were somewhat successful. After a few trials, I went back to the old fashioned manual stopping. Then when I forgot to restart my watch, I started chalking up the lost miles as offerings to the Trail Gods. That seemed like an absurdly acceptable solution.

While I would like to be a pious trail runner, I was offering more miles than necessary to the Trail Gods. Perhaps the Gods had been appeased and decided to take mercy on me: they showed me the Keys Locked function.

Near the start of a run, I had pressed some combination of buttons and accidentally locked the keys. I couldn’t figure out how to unlock it, so I just said the heck with it and ran. I realized I didn’t have to worry about stopping or restarting my watch. All I had to do was run. My pace might be slower, but so what? I realized how silly it is to stop your watch anytime you stop for something. You don’t stop your watch during a race, so why should you during training? You’re only fooling yourself if you’re not counting your down time during a run.

When I finished my run, I dinked around pressing different combinations of buttons and eventually figured it out (MODE and the UP ARROW). I was amazed how liberating it was to not worry about the time. Since that run, I lock my keys and let the clock roll, Pace and Time be damned. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. I still obsess about pace, but I realize it only really matters during a race. And even then, it only matters in a road race.

So if you are a watch-stopper, stop stopping your watch and lock your keys!

Heinz Laundry Detergent

Heinz makes laundry detergent? What?

When I run, I’m not a big sweater, compared to some people I know. But afterwards, my clothes still stink. What’s worse, I am loathe to admit this, but I usually wear a pair of shorts twice before washing them. Yeah, most people probably think that’s gross, fair enough. It’s on those second wearings when, say I kneel down to tie my shoe, I catch a whiff and think twice about this habit. “Geez, I stink!”

Even after washing my shorts, I noticed that I could still detect a faint odor. There are sports detergents that are supposed to completely take care of stank, but they are kind of expensive. I’ve gotten over paying $15 – 20 for socks, but $15 – 20 for detergent? Where does it end? So I turned to the internet and Googled “eliminate odors in running clothes” and a couple sites recommended…. vinegar.

Yep. One cup of good old fashioned white vinegar and warm water – nothing else. Supposedly, the vinegar kills the bacteria that create the odor. This shouldn’t be surprising since vinegar is great for cleaning a million other things. I happened to have a big gallon jug and immediately tested out this claim. Results: My clothes were odor-free!!

I’ve been using the vinegar for a couple weeks now, my clothes are consistently stink-free. So if you’re a big stinker, ditch the detergents and give vinegar a try!

Heinz "Laundry Detergent"
Heinz “Laundry Detergent”

Wanna Run Faster? Listen Up!

Sleigh Bells / Treats
Sleigh Bells / Treats Album

Song: Straight A’s on the Treats album by Sleigh Bells

I can add music! Very cool! Run to this song and you will feel like a badass!

Treats is a solid album in my book. There are some great songs for running track workouts. The songs are relatively short but super intense. If you’re not on the track, you’ll do a mile lickety-split. There are a few slower songs in there as well, so you won’t burn through all your glycogen straight off.