We’ve had a good bit of sorely need rain the past few days. The other day I got caught in a downpour, and it was glorious. There’s just something about running in the rain that is so fun. Once you get over the fact that you’re soaked to the bone, it’s not so bad. The creek (or crick as some would say) beds are normally bone dry, but they were (alive with running water. The creek is not an active creek, more of a drainage creek, which is far less charming, but it’s nice to see it’s doing its thing.
Last night we got even more rain. I didn’t think about how that would affect my run to the gym until I saw the water. There were at least five spots where the path was flooded over. But it’s just water! I took off my shoes and socks and walked through. Putting my toe socks on five times was a bit of a chore.
The other day I saw a deer, which is not unusual. They are generally skittish and don’t stay still for pictures, but this one was in a clearing that allowed for a clear-ish shot. One day, I’ll get a good shot of a deer. Also saw a gathering of what looked like vultures at a watering hole. They all scampered off when I ran by except for one guy. That would have been a much better shot with his friends.
Today I saw a heron (?), a vibrant green snake that surprisingly didn’t slither away before I could take its picture, and a snail. Yes, a snail. Oh and I always see cardinals, but they are so fast – by the time I think to take out my camera – they’re gone. One day… I don’t know much about animals, but it’s cool to see them on the trail.
Ran through some drainage channels in the neighborhood behind my gym. This appears to be where the a bunch of seventh grade graffiti artists hang out. (It’s not very good graffiti.) I thought perhaps I should bring a can of spray paint and see if I can do any better.
Got to the gym sweaty and stinking to high heaven. Worked out for an hour and headed back out. By then it was noon and hot and HUMID. I was surprised I wasn’t more tired. I downed a citrus flavor Clif gel which was pretty good. It tasted like a Pop Ice, those colored frozen stick pop things. Great flavor for hot weather.
Took a shorter way home, and this time I didn’t bother to un-shoe myself through the flooded spots. Just plowed right through. The water was cool and felt great. So great in fact, I took a break and sat down waist deep in the creek. It was nowhere near as nice as sitting in the creek at the Grand Canyon, but it did the trick. And yeah, the water’s brown and filthy, but as a trail runner, so am I!
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: Ireally like the pack.
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.
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.
Wow. I got a taste of mountain running and I want more!
Eight of us went and camped at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. It’s a 7 hour drive but luckily I didn’t have any driving responsibilities. (Hello naptime!) We got there Friday afternoon, set up camp, and suited up to run. The weather was dry and cool, but the nonstop wind made it rather chilly. None of us expected it to be as “cold.”
The first day we hiked up Guadalupe Mountain. The starting elevation was about 5800′ and topped out at 8700′ for a gain of 2900′. That isn’t that big for a mountain, but it’s way bigger than anything we have in town.
The rocky terrain was pretty challenging. You pretty much had to keep your eyes glued to the trail. If you wanted to take in the view, you had to stop. There were a couple of scary vertical-cliff-so-don’t-look-or-you’ll-fall-off points along the trail. There were also some runnable portions , but they were few and brief.
The peak was marked with a big pyramid monument and had a book to sign for posterity. We hung out there for a bit, soaking in the view. But before long we were off, ready to enjoy the downhill payoff.
Prettiest cactus I’ve ever seen.
Bush Mountain (?) from the RV parking lot.
The monument at the peak. The metal case has a book to sign.
Julie, Chris, Kellie, Brian, & Lorenzo posing at the peak.
Hat hair and loud sunglasses.
Almost a cool pose photo.
Near one of the other peaks.
Cute little red flowers along the trails.
El Capitan, not the famous climbing one, but his lesser known cousin.
* * * * * Day 2
The second day we ran Bush Mountain. This was all sorts of awesome. The initial climb was a slog fest. It seemed like there was an inexhaustible amount of uphill. But I focused on the trail in front of me and kept on pushing onward. Once we reached the peak, the views were fantastic. (Although they don’t look very fantastic in any of my pictures or videos.)
The best part of the run was the final few miles of downhill which were very runnable. It was a blast to be able to cruise along after having to dodge rocks all day. Lorenzo and Stefan full out raced the last miles and I would have liked to have joined them, but I was a bit more cautious.
We finished early in the afternoon. I had a few beers which put me into power nap mode which is unfortunate, because a few of them went out and ran a picturesque 5 miler. I was bummed when they got back and I saw the photos. So save the beer for the evening when you’re sure the running is done for the day!
* * * * * Day 3
On Sunday we did Guadalupe Peak again, which I thought was weird. But it was still fun, even if the vicious wind turned me into a popsicle. Always be prepared for cold weather in the mountains, even Texas mountains. A simple shell jacket, gloves, a buff, these small things can make a huge difference.
This might sound/seem dumb, but one of the things I was excited about was seeing the profile of the climbs we did. It’s sort of like looking at the results from a race, seeing your efforts measured and recorded in black and white. I almost feel like I should print out and frame the profile until I run another mountain.
Ran the powerlines today. It’s a 3 mile unofficial trail that crosses a golf course and some neighborhoods. It’s pretty hilly. As I finished the first half of the first lap, I saw something move at the top of the hill. Got up the hill and saw that it was a dog in the street.
Black and white, medium sized, he was wandering around, looking lost, peeing on everything in sight. I whistled at him. He came over and let me pet him briefly. He had a collar, but no tag. I walked around the street looking for an open gate or a hole in a fence, but found nothing. And no one was outside. So I just let the dog be, and continued on the trail.
After a minute, I heard something behind me. I turned around – the dog was following me.
I was like, “Hey boy, want to go on a trail run?” And amazingly, that’s exactly what he did. He led the way and paced me for the next three miles. I was really impressed. He handled the rocks pretty well for going barefoot. Sometimes, he’d stop and turn around to make sure I was still following him. When he saw that I was, he’d start off trotting again. He seemed pretty happy.
It was really cool running with this dog. It was nice having company that I didn’t have to try and make conversation with. He just led the way and I followed. And weirdly, although I’ve never been scared running this trail, I felt safer.
I’ve never had a dog before. Lately, I’ve been thinking about getting one, but my current situation doesn’t allow for a dog. But if I got a dog, it would force me to change my situation… Hmmm… I started thinking what I would name him.
At the top of one hill, he was panting pretty heavy. I made a small ziploc “bowl” and filled it with some water. He drank just about everything in the bowl. As I was attempting to refill the bowl, the water squirted out of the hydration tube like a little garden hose and the dog started licking the stream of water. I thought that was cute. I felt bad when I had to cut him off. Fortunately, it had rained the night before and we came across a few big puddles for him to drink from.
When he was drinking up the puddle, I noticed that his ribs were really showing. If he did belong to someone, they sure weren’t feeding him near enough.
We hit Babcock Road which completed a lap. The dog crossed the street and waited for me to follow. I contemplated what to do. Take him to a vet to see if he’s microchipped? Would he be returned to irresponsible owners? Would he be put up for adoption? Would I be ready to adopt him? Do I take him home and put up flyers in that neighborhood?
I hate to be the guy who “doesn’t want to get involved,” but that’s basically the route I took. I decided that I would run him back to where I found him. I figured at the very least he would be free to roam as he pleased, peeing everywhere.
We had to cross a road that had two lanes in both directions. It’s not terribly busy, but there’s limited sight and cars tend to drive fast. Instead of crossing the street, he was walking in the middle of the road, oblivious to an approaching semi truck. (And here I thought he was a smart dog.) Thankfully the truck driver was alert and was able to slow to a complete stop. I tried to call the dog to me so that I could grab his collar and hold him, but instead he took off. The driver waited patiently as I unsuccessfully tried to corral the dog. I wished that I could inform the driver this wasn’t my dog – no way I’d be dumb enough to let my dog run into traffic. The dog wandered onto the sidewalk, and the truck slowly passed. When the coast was clear, I sprinted to the other side and the dog followed.
Right after, a lady in an SUV stopped and rolled down her window. As she did, I got really excited thinking she was the owner, but no such luck. She thought the dog was a Malamute.
Two miles later, we were back at the street where I found him. I followed him around, hoping that he’d wander back to his house. Then I could just ring the doorbell and the dumb owner would come out and be overjoyed at the sight of the beloved dog. We walked down a few streets and by now there were people out and about. I asked everyone if they’d seen this dog before. One guy said he’d seen the dog wandering around all day, but that was it.
I got nervous when the dog started heading toward a mother and her three small children. As I’m running toward them, I asked the mother if she’d lost a dog. She said no, and her daughter said, “We already have a dog.” I jokingly asked if they wanted another. The girl says that she does want another dog. As I got further down the street, I heard the little boy say, “That’s a werewolf dog!”
The dog was going door to door at this point, every once in a while, he’d turn around to look at me. He seemed to be in his element. I figured it was only a matter of time before he got back to his house. That’s when I decided to leave him. I felt really guilty knowing that he was going to turn around and not see me. I felt like I was letting the dog down, and I didn’t want to be like his shitty owners. A dog this nice really deserves to be treated better.
I tried to help the dog, but I should have done more. I’m thinking that I should print up flyers and head back up there tomorrow to see if he’s still there. Who knows, maybe I’ll come home with a new dog.
* * * * *
Has this ever happened to you? What did you do?
What’s the best thing to do in this sort of situation?
I was so close to not running the race. Mentally, I had thrown in the towel and my poor brain started rehearsing an explanation of why I didn’t run the marathon. But I did run the race. It wasn’t a great race, but it was a great learning experience.
* * * *
Initially, I planned to set up my trip itinerary with all the necessary details. However after some emailing with my sister, it seemed like she had the whole trip squared away for me. She’s a more than capable individual, so I relaxed and left it in her hands. I now know that I should never leave things to chance (or someone else – capable or not.) I should have done my research anyway.
Just getting to the Expo was a major hassle.
We planned to check out a city market that was on the way to the Expo. We were running a bit late and, and were hustling to get to the market before it closed. The “directions” to the Expo were in Italian, so I had no idea what I was actually reading. There didn’t appear to be a specific physical address, just general instructions depending on which way you were coming from. But we figured we could plug in the street names listed on the form into the GPS and that should be good enough. We had all afternoon to find it.
It was cold and rainy out, which made for miserable driving conditions. To make matters worse, the windshield wipers made this loud honking sound with every pass. So rather than endure the honking, my sister kept switching the wipers on and off manually. Every. Three. Seconds. I found this to be extremely annoying.
We passed the market and it started raining harder. Neither of us wanted to deal with the rain, so we bailed on the market. Turning our attention to locating the Expo, we found that none of the street names from the race form were getting us any results from the GPS. We sat at a gas station pondering what to do.
At this point, we were about 30 minutes from the house. I suggested we head back home and get the other printed race info we had, but my sister didn’t want to drive back; she figured we could find it anyway. Somehow. So we headed off toward Treviso.
The next two hours were unbearable. We didn’t really know where we were going. I don’t know what my sister put into the GPS, but we seemed to be driving forever and getting nowhere. Both of us were getting severely agitated from the drive and with each other. Finally we stopped at a gas station. Amazingly, there was a map taped to the window. Even more amazingly, I found “Piazza Borsa,” one of the locations listed on my form. We input some of the nearby streets into the GPS and headed off again, feeling hopeful.
There was still a lot of circuitous driving, but then merging into traffic, we saw it: a tiny yellow arrow with the word EXPO on it. Hallelujah! As we headed down that street, more arrows appeared, and finally I saw the building where the Expo was held. I was so relieved that we’d finally found the needle in haystack.
The Expo was small and crowded. I got my packet containing my bib and chip, and my goody bag. It had all sorts of goodies: the t-shirt, pasta, walnuts, crackers, jam, even a small bottle of Prosecco! My sister went shopping at a COIN (no idea) store for girl stuff and I stood outside and took pictures of stuff. We had lunch at a small cafe nearby and then headed back.
We got home and I was exhausted. I watched TV and got sucked into the black hole that is Imgur. It wasn’t until late that evening that I started prepping my race clothes. As I went through my goody bag, I realized that the packet containing my bib and timing chip were not in the bag. I looked everywhere in my room, then the living room, the car, the bathroom. I asked my sister if she’d seen it and she hadn’t.
I somehow lost the entire packet?!!
I thought the packet probably fell out there when I was showing off the goodies in the bag at the cafe we ate at. We called the place, and surprisingly, they were still open. The person that answered hadn’t worked during the day, we should call back in the morning at 8. There was still a chance the lady who served us tucked away the packet. So we planned to drive to cafe in the morning.
I got my stuff ready. I slept maybe two or three hours. We got up extra early to make the hour+ drive. We got there and saw an old man setting up chairs on the outside patio. I showed him a note asking about the packet. He ushered us inside and showed the note to (who I assume was) his wife. She was the one who served us, and she said there was no packet. My stomach sank. I was sure that it was going to be here. Now what?
My sister, who was majorly pissed off at this point, drove to the start so I could ” talk to an official” and straighten this out. I was in a daze at this point. I had accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to run the marathon.
We got the the race and I went to find an official, but registration had shut down hours ago. I went back to the car and told my sister there was nothing I could do. She told me, “Run it anyway. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They kick you out of the race?” This had not occurred to me as a possible solution.
So I ran the race as a bandit. Of sorts.
Even though I had paid for the race, I felt like a fraud at the start. I was paranoid and nervous, thinking someone was going to notice that I wasn’t wearing a bib. But no one noticed. And really, why would they?
The best thing about the race was the people. Hilariously, during the first mile, tons of guys peeled off left and right to urinate. As we entered each town, everyone was really happy and the spectators were all smiles, yelling, “Bravi, bravi!” I high-fived lots of smiling kids which was awesome. (It’s my hope that this would inspire a kid to become a runner.) People on bikes tagged along, several runners pushed people in wheelchairs, one wheelchair guy propelled himself with only one arm. Saw a guy guiding a blind guy. I’d never seen this kind of spirit in US races.
The race was a struggle for me, as I was already physically tired and mentally drained. The course didn’t seem spectacularly scenic, but I was okay with that. I was just glad that it never rained.
I saw my sister yelling during the last bit, and that lifted my spirits. However, the last mile into the city was torture because there were so many turns and it just seemed to go on forever. Once I saw the finish, I gave it everything I had, which wasn’t much by then.
I crossed the line around 3:45, unofficially.
I was a bit nervous at the finish, as volunteers were removing the timing chips. But I walked through undiscovered. And then I was saddened when I saw the piles of finishers medals. I didn’t try to claim one. Despite not being an “official” runner, I was really glad I ran the race. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the medal, it’s about the run.
In our group email forum, one group member mentioned that he held the Strava course record for the 1/2 mile long hill climb that a bunch of us were planning to do repeats on. He offered a light-hearted challenge to beat his record. I was not a Strava user, but I’d certainly entertain an open challenge.
Last Thursday, I met up with almost the same group of people from Tuesday, – Rachel, +Stefan, +Thor. (Yes, that’s his name. He is fast, having recently run a 3 hour marathon in New Orleans. ) We did an easy mile warm up, thankfully without running into the angry driver. We stashed our bottles at the bottom of the hill and slowly began our hill repeats.
The first two laps I fell in behind the group. Someone mentioned the email challenge, but everyone seemed content to trudge onward. (Actually the running joke was to have Thor carry everyone’s GPS.) The third lap, I’d had enough following and got out in front and went a bit harder. And then I think it was the fourth lap, I ended up racing Thor up the hill. Or, it seemed like a race, so that’s how I took it.
He took off incredibly fast. My brain says, “Forget it, you whipped.” Almost immediately, I was sucking wind and wanted to stop and walk. And then I was reminded of the time I’d been dropped exactly like this by a girl.
But I kept running. My brain kept telling me, “Stop! This is ridiculous!” My heart replied, “Stupid brain, you shut up now.” Coming in second is perfectly acceptable, quitting is not. Keep running!
Maybe three quarters to the top, I realize I’m actually closing in on him… and then… I catch up to him… and… I pass him! My legs feel like lead but I run the last stretch as hard as I can…. I make it to the stop light and practically collapse. Holy Crap! I caught up to him and passed him. Did not see that coming.
Thor is two or three seconds behind. He stops, says “Good job,” and gives me a high five. He is pretty nonchalant. Was he even trying? I struggle to catch my breath as we wait for the others to summit.
I don’t know Thor well enough to gauge his competitiveness, but if he’s like me, he was not pleased that I managed to catch him and next time he will really be cranking up the hill next time. Which means I’ll have to do the same. This will create a feedback loop of intensity that will undoubtedly result in some great hill workouts and probably some new course records. That’s my hope, anyway.
This little race up the hill reminded me of being a kid. Pure and simple, let’s race and see who’s faster. What I realized is that Direct competition is a great way to really push yourself. It is a tool that can propel you and also allow you to gauge your efforts afterwards.
Yes, (ultra) running is mainly a competition with yourself, but what better way to test yourself than by directly competing with someone else who is also pushing himself?
* * * *Are you competitive? What’s your take on competition?
I’m going to Italy! And I’m going to run a marathon while I’m there!
My sister is in the Air Force, stationed at Aviano AFB. She’s been there for two (three?) years and is nearing retirement, at which point she’ll return to the states. Back in January, we were talking and I said I’d love to visit her before she left Aviano. And coincidentally, I had enough frequent flyer miles to get to Italy.
Her response: “Book it!” And so I did.
I looked for races around Italy, and found one in the city of Treviso. It a road marathon, and it’s point to point. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race that didn’t finish where it started. It’s great because maybe I’ll see more sights. And I plan to carry a small point and shoot camera, so I don’t plan on running it fast. Of course I say that now, but once I’m in the thick of the pack, the run may very well turn into a race.
I’m hopeful that I can run every day, but we’ll see. Apparently the weather is pretty crummy right now -cold and rainy, definitely not a good combination. Pizza and gelato sounds like a much better combination!
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to take more photos when I’m out. Here are a few neat things from my last few runs.
Met up with some of the running group at 5 am to do hill repeats. (That’s right, I got up at 4 so I could drive across town to run up and down a hill several times. I still can’t get over how nuts that is.)
There were five of us. The plan was a short warmup, and then up and down the same biggish hill for 70 minutes. The area where we were running is half businesses, half residential, with lots of traffic during the day. However since it was so early, there was virtually no traffic.
So we started off on our warmup and are making our way up a smaller hill. The “trail” we were running was basically where the sidewalk would be if there were one. Four of us were on the “trail” and one girl, Kelli, was on the road running close to the curb.
At the top of the hill, an oncoming truck started honking like crazy as it approached us. I don’t recognize the truck, but I figured it must be a late runner. The truck came to a complete stop next to Kelli. I didn’t hear what the driver said initially, but I quickly got the gist of it when Kelli replied, “Are you aware that there are two lanes?”
The jackass driver then started yelling, and threatened to call the cops if Kelli didn’t get off the road. He then called us a bunch of hippies and took off.
It all happened so quickly, and seemed so unbelievable that I think we were all shocked. At 5 in the morning, this guy felt compelled to stop and yell at a bunch of strangers because one girl happened to be running along the curb. Seriously dude, are you for real? Hippies?
This event is both baffling and infuriating.
I really do not understand how or why someone would act like this. Mr. Jackass, I ask you: Why do you feel like you have the right to tell us to get off the road? Does the fact that you are driving a truck grant you some special authority? Are we unworthy to travel the same road as you? Was the other lane not good enough for you? Is it because we were traveling on foot and are therefore “hippies”?
The worst part about this type of situation is I feel like there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no way to show this misguided individual the error of his ways. I really wanted to chuck a rock at his rear window, but as satisfying as that may have been, it obviously would have made things much worse.
I wish I knew the best way to deal with this sort of situation because Texas is a breeding ground for idiot truck drivers. It’s hard to let incidents like this slide, but maybe that is all I can do. After all, no one was physically injured, it was all just words coming out of some d-bag’s mouth. At least one person of the group will be running again on Thursday, and I may join him. If I do, I will definitely stay off the roads so as not to re-antagonize Mr. Jackass or his brethren. And maybe carrying a can of bear strength mace is in order.
Has something like this ever happened to you? If so, how did you deal with it? If not, how would you deal with it?
I’ve read about plenty of other runners that use Udo’s Oil and swear by it. Both Geoff Roes and Scott Jurek are on the Udo’s train, and they know a thing or two about running. I want to be like them (someday), so I’m getting on the Udo’s train.
“Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend contains the ideal balance of Omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids (2:1)… Every cell, tissue, gland, and organ is dependent upon the presence of essential fatty acids. They are the main structural component of cell membranes and are necessary for cell growth and division.” – From the box.
Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s? Yeah, I’ve heard of them, but what exactly do these Omegas do for me? How do they fix my insides so that I can run faster or farther? Am I going to have to learn some basic biology again? (Really, I should.)
Since I currently don’t fully understand how it works, I might as well consider it “magic.” Hopefully it’s more magic than snakeoil.