Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Xmas List

The Modular Gym Bag, by Orange Mud
Orange Mud Gym Bag - (Preorder) This one is a doozy. I have been needing a better bag to start going to the gym on lunch hour and being able to shower and get back to work. This guy is perfect. As with everything OM does, it was built to withstand everything that rough and tumble trips to the gym entails. It's also basically of nesting doll of awesome for storage of all the stinkies that need to be kept contained. Pre-order yours right here with a 10% discount using the code 'Sasquatch'.

Amrita Bars - I tried these and found a hit! I had been eating Honey Stinger Waffles and they are quite good but these had more flavor but not in a excessive way. Also, it is a soft bar, which had me worried, but not a wad of clay like a lot of other soft bars. Think more like a soft-baked cookie. The bars were quite tasty and really did the trick while out running and bounding through the woods. I brought them out with me on my last Fat Ass race and they were awesome. I never once felt out of energy or ill. I think I need more.

Skora Tempo - Coming 2015- I cannot wait to give these guys a lot of miles I love the Fit and and cannot wait to see what the Tempo brings in terms of flexibility and feel with little extra protection for them extra pointy angry rocks. Another thing I love is Skora durability. I have  had 6 pair and only 1 had had to be retired, and that was after almost 500 mi of tough as hell trail, rocks, roots, obstacle courses with what can best be described as nuclear waste ponds, etc. They earned their keep. And the Forms, my first pair, have almost 800 mi and still routinely kick out awesome runs. LOVE THESE SHOES!
fēnix® 2

Garmin Fenix 2 - I have always wanted a full-fledged GPS watch and HRM. This one seems to be one of the best of the bunch. I try not to dictate my workouts by a singular number, but I do like looking at the data post run and marrying that with how I felt. Besides, I not having to run my phone would be nice and, well, it looks nice. Cause that matters too right?

The TITIN Force™ Shirt System

Titin Tech Weighted Shirt - Ever since I saw these on Twitter a few months ago and an AWESOME review by my buddy Ultrarunner Joe I have been intrigued. I am not a big "hit the weights" guy. I have bad form and sub-par knees (thanks collegiate tennis). but this seemed like a means to get a little more strength training in while I was doing what I loved, running. The premise and design seems so much more sound versus just a big bulky weighted vest that would bounce around. I really want to give this a good spin around our little hills and see how it helps when the big hills come into play as well as build better endurance late in races.  (P.S. - If your looking be sure to check out Joe's review as he has a nice little bonus if you buy, an Orange Mud towel which is it's own bit of awesome).

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Hawk 2014

Lumbering, I came out of the woods that marked the trailhead, followed the tree line past the playground, then made a 90 degree right turn right to a table and a big digital clock. The clock read 5:32:52 and beside that clock was Danny Miller, the Hawk Hundred Race director. Danny asked me how I felt. I mumbled something about much better than the half on the same trails the week before and accepted the medal he handed me and moved on past him to the area to sit down. I know he said something else to me, but it didn’t register. I found a way to a bench seat, and there, alone, I was overcome with emotion. This was last year and this was my first marathon. It was difficult, and the path was difficult and it all caught up with me and I was a bit choked up holding the medal, marathon finisher, in my hand. That was a high point. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.

Fast forward a year and it was time to toe the line again. I had rebounded from a bad year and was feeling ready to change my fortunes. I was running with my buddy Josh and we were going to treat it as a long training run for FlatRock 50k in 2 weeks. Beyond that, things were all falling into place. Training had gone well, the weather was impeccable, it was time to chase my mojo.

I set my alarm for 5AM that morning which, of course, means I woke up at like 440AM. I quickly and silently got ready (I thought I was silent, but I always seem to make more noise when I am trying to be quiet then when it doesn’t really matter). I snuck out the door into the unseasonably cool air. For Kansas, in September, 37 degrees is about as rare as a free lunch or fast moving DMV line. The crisp air that morning was very welcome, but the fog is what made the day. There was a dense patch hanging over the river valley on my way to Lawrence as well as a dense patch sitting over Lake Clinton. I knew then, things were going to be fun. I got there, got parked, got checked in and found my buddy. We grabbed some breakfast and stood by the fire waiting for the ultrarunners to depart. At 630 they lined up and took off, headlamps dancing in the pre-dawn darkness. From our vantage point in the shelter area we could then turn around and see those same headlamps, dancing like fireflies, in the fog below us. It was really going to be an amazing day.

We were up next so I got my pack and everything and got ready. Soon it was time to get lined up and we slid into the middle with the intense determination to not go fast. Nah, actually we were watching the sun come up, looking at the ginormous dog that would be towing his owner through the marathon, and generally just hoping to keep the pace slow and steady. And with Danny’s call, we were off. Up the road and through the nature path we went, across the open field and back down into the trailhead we went to add the 1.2 miles we needed to make a marathon out of the 25 mile loop. Along the way Josh hit his head on a low lying branch in what would become a theme throughout the course, well, low lying branches was the theme thankfully not hitting our head. After we dove into the trail we almost immediately headed to Saunders Mound where we were treated to some of the coolest views of the lake and the dam shrouded in fog. Up and down we went then back into the trail.

Kansas isn’t the most scenic of states, we don’t have oceans or mountains or vistas that belong on postcards. We do have some gems though. To me at least, and I am writing this so my opinion wins, the Red Trail at Clinton is one of those gems. When you catch it at the right time as we did, you could stop and just take in the scenery. It is a rocky outcropping that runs right on the lake beach, slap some layers of fog, some cranes in the water, sun rising, you have stuff that pictures are made of. Unfortunately I suck at taking pictures and was kind of in the middle of a race, so I left the photo ops to the pros (Mile90) and kept on going. It was already becoming a special day.

Onward we went, continuously trading places with dog, and his owner. We were moving well, but not too fast, consistent I guess. We were running most of the time, walking the larger uphills, and generally swearing at the point rocks as appropriate. The day was getting warm enough that gloves and long sleeves weren’t necessary anymore so we were waiting to shed them at the next aid station. Through the branch hut we went and were on our way to Bunker hill to hit the aid station. As a side note, I LOVE the branch hut. It’s so random, a hut made out of large branches right there on-trail that you run through for no other reason than be there and probably house terror-spiders when it is really warm out. Well, on second thought that is probably why it is there, people trap. Alas, we weren’t dinner today, but I digress. Into the aid station we got.

I love this aid station. It has the best volunteer ever. She takes care of everyone without flinching, hugs all us sweaty folks, isn’t afraid of sweaty packs and gnarly clothing. However, if you are not paying attention to your nutrition or are loitering, she will tell you to get a d!@# move on. She’s the best. Out of West Edge we go, on to Bunker Hill and another one of the majestic Kansas views. Bunker hill is, shockingly enough, a hill. Who knew? However it is out in the open, outside of the trail, run through grassy field. As you weave your way up and down up and down again there is an amazing view of the lake behind you and this morning was no different. Also, Bunker hill has a bunker, because why name a feature Bunker Hill if it has neither. As you come down the hill, you see it, just right there, a door, leading to who knows what? It’s probably Narnia. Anyways, back to West Edge and another refill and a few snacks and onward we go back into the trail.

We were still feeling pretty good but this trail is back loaded and the hills and more angry pointy rocks awaited us, as well as the ever present huge dog dragging and his running mate. This part of the trail has a lot less interesting bits and requires a bit more determination. We kept going and going and going and started slowing down. This is where we needed to remember that this was still training and not a race for us. We did, we walked when necessary, spirits were good, we passed stairs that we have to run up when we did North Shore last year (I hate those stairs to this day). We passed the spot where I fell last year (and had a conversation about no one being around to see falls and getting back up?). We starting ticking off locations that I knew were drawing us closer to finish line. It was here I started to A) hurt more and B) smile more, at least internally. We were getting close and this just made me happy.

About 3 miles out I started walking. I was definitely feeling it and didn’t really want to strain too much as this we still all about being ready for Flatrock, however, we took it in stride and kept on talking and being in generally good mood, how could we not be? We got passed by the big dog for the last time and a few others came by. We came up on the road that we skirt by and talked to the volunteers there for a second who loved the OrangeMud packs and loved our VP2 vest (shameless plug). We were a mile away or so at that point, getting closer to the end. We got passed by the big dog for the last time, which meant it was about time to run it in. We got moving again, and surprisingly a lot of my hurt had went away. I am not sure if it was just the walk or being so close to the end or what but it felt good to run again.

Lumbering, we came out of the woods, followed the tree line by the playground, took a right turn and ran right up to the table and digital clock. There, Danny was waiting, medals in hand, asking us how we felt. This time I said something about the wonderful weather, he remarked it was better than last year and I agreed. I moved past and eyed the food hungrily. This year it was not a teary moment, not a moment for self-reflection. It was… a victory. I finished, did what I needed to do, and got my mojo back. It felt amazing, but more so it felt like I was ready for more. I didn’t run the race any faster (or really any slower) than last year but I felt so much better. After a quick burger and some fruit it was time to go home and play with the kids. That was it, the most beautiful of training runs, it was an amazing day that will hopefully lead to another in Independence.

 P.S. - The AMAZING photographers at Mile90 took all these awesome pics. Check them out, they are awesome people and take the best race pics in my opinion and experience.

P.P.S - Massive thanks to all the people who helped make the race awesome. The Lawrence Trail Hawks for being awesome hosts,  all the phenomenal volunteers taking care of the sweaty folk coming through, Orange Mud for keeping me hydrated, Skora for keeping me moving forward, Injinji for keeping my toes happy, Tailwind for making hydration easy and tasty, Honey Stinger Waffles for being delicious, and BioSkin for the recovery.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Come here running...I just want to love you again

It’s be a crappy year. Well, no, it’s been a disappointing. I mean, I am still alive, have both legs, and running. But I have great expectations for the year and so far I feel a bit bummed that I haven’t really hit any of them.

This makes me laugh every time...

So what happened? Who cares? Life happened and I was wallowing in some woe is me. During the summer I even lost my running mojo. I was avoiding it. I was not enjoying it. I lost my way, figuratively of course, getting literally lost is occasionally fun.  One thing, though, kinda kicked me in the backside and got me moving again and it wasn’t really what I expected it to be…an Obstacle Course Race.

Mountain for some, speed bump for others

A good friend asked me to do the Rugged Maniac with him in Weston, Mo. I reluctantly said yes because, free beer and good company. Only after saying yes did I realize it’s on the ski slope there. Oops. So, back to training for me. Up hills and down hills up hills and down hills up some more hills and down some more hills. In hindsight, some core strengthening would have helped, maybe a little legs and arms too.  But hey, whatever, that stuff is easy right?

Not Pictured, me, but I did make it up the wall on my own

No, no it isn’t easy at all. First of all it had rained a good amount right before. EVERYTHING was muddy. Thankfully we were in the third wave but even then everything was pretty well torn up. Poor saps after us would have a hell of a time. Also thankfully it was relatively cool out at that point and not the unbearable hot and humid it would be later in the day. But enough about the weather, the race happened too. First of all, we started off by running up a mountain. AN EVERLOVING MOUNTAIN! Well, ok, technically it’s a tiny ski slope with maybe 200-300 ft of climb in say maybe 3/10ths of a mile. It isn’t Hardrock, but for us Kansas folk it might as well be. After that it was fairly standard stuff, climb over this, swim through the pond that smelled of sewage, climb over that, swim through another pond that might be glowing green from the power plant right down the road. Normal stuff.  There was the crawl through the incredibly confined spaces made for little people (nope, NOOOOPPPPPEEEEE, claustrophobia demands I stay way the hell away from those ones), and the inevitable army crawling under barb wire.  That one is always fun, nothing like being face-to-ass with total strangers, right?  
Where are our beers?

It wasn’t until we go to the ladders with big inflatable balls swinging all over, and then a ring swing that things got fun. Of course, I let a ball knock me off cause I was too busy trying to be cute. I made it half way across the rings, which is basically like running a 4 min mile. The most fun, however, was running up a wall. If you have ever seen American Ninja Warrior, you know what I am talking about. This one isn’t quite as tall, but then again, I am not quite as in shape as they are. So after watching people run at it, some making it, some being hoisted up by the people on top, and some going face first into wall and cartoonishly sliding back down it was my turn.  I charged hard and got to the top, clinging, and eventually scrabbled myself up, thank god. I turned around and tried to catch my buddy but failed, and caught him the second time around, ‘cause I learn from my mistakes, I guess? After that it was smooth sailing, well, except for the incredibly un-smooth and tailbone murdering slide down into the muck. Then, we were done. Then, we hosed off. Then we got our free beer, and it was good. I am not an obstacle racer but this was fun, it was different and it helped void my mind of a lot of stupid stuff that had lodged itself there.

Oh, there they are.

That is really just the beginning though. I knew it would be back to the grind, only a short time left for the Hawk Hundred Marathon and the FlatRock 50k. Finally, however, I was training like I wanted to train, hitting runs like I wanted to hit them. I was smashing through spider webs with purpose (although I still swear to all that holy that a squirrel jumped on my head on one run). I felt so much better, like a burden or stigma had been lifted.

Into the crypt where the beers (and bodies) are stored

I guess now that I have rambled this far it is time to get to the point. I learned that sometimes I am my own worst enemy. In seeing that I was really struggling, I kept trying to press and press and only mired myself in my problem. I should have stepped out and done something different, taken a breather to get a fresh look. Hopefully it wasn’t too late for this next 3 week stretch, and while I may be a little more under-trained than I would like to be I am in a better mental place than I was. You know in those “Should Have Had a V8” commercials where they bonk them on the head for saying they ate this crap or that instead of their veggies? It was like that only in the form or mud, rings, walls and one uncoordinated squirrel.

P.S. - Hopefully this also means I can get back to posting. I have so much to review: Orange Mud VP2, Orange Mud Handheld, Tailwind, Skora Cores, Skora Fits, BioSkin Calf Sleeves, Honey Stinger Waffles. Whew, that is a lot. I, also, have (and hopefully will have) more race recaps to work on too. Wheeeeee!

P.P.S. – If you find yourself in and/or around Weston, MO make it a point to go seek out the Weston Brewing Company (pictures above) and go down into the crypts cellar bar. First of all, their brews are tremendous. Secondly, the room is amazing and historic. Take the tour if you have time. You’re welcome. 

I'm Famous...Kinda

Some very cool links to check out:

Below is profile of me on the Orange Mud Blog Site - In case you don't know these guys are just taking over the world of hydration and running accessories! Check 'em out here! I am fortunate enough to be an ambassador for OM and absolutely love the products they put out.
The Runner Files: Geoff Alonso

Below is Hawk Hundred pics from Mile90 Photography -  They are some of the absolute BEST race photographers around! They are incredibly talented and dedicated. Check them out here.
2014 Hawk Hundred

Skora Running #1 - Another company I am privileged to be an ambassador for is Skora. They were recently voted #1 shoe brand on Active Times, see article below. They make my favorite running and wearing 'round shoes. For a zero drop, low stack, super flexible ride, check them out here!
Skora #1

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pacing Flatrock 101K

So, I have been relatively quiet for the last few months. There has been a lot going on. I have been in the process of selling my house and moving as well as a massive work implementation. So the time to write about my shenanigans has been few and far between. On top of that, after Cross Timbers I haven’t had any races. However, a couple months ago I was asked by one of my friends and training buddies if I would be interested in pacing him as he went for a finish at Flatrock 101k.
Finishers get a buckle, Pacers get a bib. 
At first I was rather leery, I had never paced, I wasn’t really training like I wanted to, I knew the course was tough but had never been there, I was pretty much unsure. A little sweet talking and I was in. I really wanted to get some course experience as I would be running the 50k in September. So this was as good a means as I could think of. On top of that, the buddy that I was pacing has been absolutely instrumental in my love and growth on the trails so I owed him big time. Now that I was in, it was time to get down to business of being ready. I couldn’t think of a better way than getting eyebrows deep in a massive work project as well as sell my house and move out at the exact same time. On top of that I had a nagging foot pain that kept me from running as much and as well as I wanted to. In the end I decided that I should do 16ish miles of pacing instead of 21ish to keep the threat of me doing more harm than good down. He continuously reminded me that by the time I picked him up he would be moving very slow with a lot of walking, but still, would had to be the drag instead of the boost.  So by the time race day rolled around I was undertrained and wee bit nervous about what all was going to happen.
Pre-race fireworks?
For as beautiful as the trail turned out to be (more on that later) the drive was the absolute opposite. A 2 lane highway through Kansas farmland can be very boring, especially when you are in great anticipation of getting where you are going. And I had a lot of anticipation. The weather-guessers had been predicting a chance for storms ranging from barely noticeable to fury of a thousand suns. It did storm in the area that morning as well, although, thankfully not on the course itself (on a sad note, there were storms that day and they were severe with loss of life). For us however, the day stayed basically dry. The real problem I would find out when I got there was the heat. No, for the record, 80s isn’t hot, not even remotely close by Kansas standards. However, having a cold, prolonged winter and have this be the first really warm day of the year made things a bit trickier on the runners. And this was the state of affairs I found myself in when I arrived on scene.
Some flat ground to run on
Surviving the drive of great boringness I closed in on the park and I could tell, even from a few miles out, this was going to be AWESOME. In Kansas when you come across noticeable hills, or landmarks of any variety it is exciting. This are of Kansas is a little more plush with this kinds of noticeable distractions compared to other areas. So as I drove in my excitement level went Defcon 2.   When I arrived I scouted the race home camp, hosted by the awesome folks at Epic Ultras. Then, I got to business, time to go potty from that drive. After that important part was taken care of, I got dressed up, glide’d up, Orange Mud HydraQuiver Double Barrel ready and packed up, then, shoes. This was a predicament to me. I had been training in my Skora Forms heavily to be moving away from any need for other shoes on the trail, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to move totally away, but alas, there I was and I gave it a shot and I was not disappointed at all. Never doubt the Skoras. Even plopping the Newtons on afterwards to walk around in felt weird, but it was what I brought. Next time the cores come along as the cool down shoe. After I got my stuff ready I could see my ride coming and it was time to go, I wolfed down a sandwich and we were off to the turnaround point. I had questions along the way for my driver (my pacee’s wife) about how he was moving, feeling, weather, etc. By the time I got to the turn to wait, I had both a good idea and no clue what to expect, and it was fun.
Pace is for suckers. 
After a little while, along came my buddy with another runner into the aid station. This was rather exhilarating as they were the first people I saw come out into the aid station. I knew my buddy was in 3rd, but this looked like a 1st place outing right now.  He got food and drink and changed socks and stuff then we were off. Now it was time to see what was really going on. First of all, it was hot. As I said about this ‘warmer than it had been’ weather was taking its toll on most everyone. I say most because the person actually in first place was already nearly 10 miles ahead and almost done with the race!!!! As for us, we were sitting in 2nd place, which was good news, but nausea was weighing heavily on my buddy and it would prove to be a factor the rest of the evening. This meant that walking was the name of he game despite not having any serious muscle fatigue. For me this was actually tough, once I knew the place we were in I wanted to tear off and preserve that, but, I also had not been out here for the last 11 hours. However, onward we went, ever moving forward.
There is a hand hanging there that you slap as you finish...or else. 
We had another guy (The guy who rolled into the aid station with him) with us for probably a good 6 or 7 miles. He was laboring too, come to find out this was his first run ever over 13 miles…EVER!!! That’s some indomitable human spirit right there, or as he put it a lot of stupidity. He ended up taking off to try and run it out shortly after we had gotten passed after about 7ish miles never to be seen again, or, until after the finish. As the daylight was fading we got passed by the first place woman, 5th place is where we found ourselves and 5th place is where we stayed. The nausea lingered and reared its head on occasion, climbs were especially rough. But always moving forward we made progress. 5 hours later, down a dark road, head lamps on, we saw the end, heard the Epic Ruckus, and made our way to the line and finished 16:03:13. Even more epic, there his family waited and he was able to run across the finish line with his kids. It was AWESOME. And there, shortly after, he collapsed, happy and done. I was ready to turn around and go back, that was fun!
I think I felt better than he did at this point...

That is a brief account of 5 hours of solid walking. But I have left a lot of my personal observations to be expressed here, ‘cause while I was pacing and racing for him, I was also experiencing the course for me. Here is that part. From the outset you can tell this course is amazing. This is not normal Kansas trail. While we have our own bits of rocky, rooty, hilly joy, this is a different beast all together. It is a 16mil stretch of finding your footing while trying to take in the surroundings. The motto of the race(s) they have here is “If you look up you are going down”. This is a very valid warning, but truth be told it was hard as hell not to do.
As you start diving in to the trail from the back end, you carry along the Elk City river, and this is absolutely gorgeous. From that point things start getting rockier, and not the bad rockier, but literally, rock formations. That is the theme of the course, obviously named Flatrock, and it is truly a beauty to behold.  As you progress you run along the awesome rock walls and eventually up them to a higher vantage point over the river and lake. This may not be a Tahoe, Squamish, Grand Canyon level vista, but it is gorgeous in its own right. However this is not the only remarkable feature. Throughout the trail you also have many instances of running rock “canyons”. Places where it looks like rock has pulled away and allowed a trail to form between. It was a very different experience for most of us here in Kansas. It’s also badass at night with a headlamp on (unless you don’t like that kind of thing in which case it could be terrifying I suppose). There as a point with a sort of waterfall that we ran past, I was told that in the more rainy times it is awesome to run through. From there we kept on meandering through and going up. As it got darker there was less to see, kind of. While it was a bit more difficult to take in the scenery there was still plenty to look at. The moon on the lake was gorgeous. But what really stole the show was when we came to a clearing, turned our headlamps off, and looked up. It was unlike anything I had seen before being so farm from a major light source. You could see so much, feeling so very small out there in the woods.
Just right of center frame is a person...

Sorry, this was long. But it was a truly awesome experience and I do recommend it if anyone feels like traveling to the area. I was very happy to get out and help give, and also get an awesome experience. It was just what I needed too with as much as I have had going on. I needed a reminder that stress rolls right off like sweat when you find something to get your mind right and my mind needed righting. So. Thank you Flatrock. 
I'm terrible at trail pics.
I'm really terrible at trail pics.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cross Timbers Trail Marathon Recap - DNF

D-N-F, Did Not Finish, 3 letters that runners despise.  Up until Valentine’s Day weekend they were letters that I knew existed, but had not experienced put together as a runner. They were mythical, mysterious, dreaded, like zombies and unicorns. Things that happened to other people.  I had contemplated them, like my first trail race, but not allowed them in. Like door to door salesmen, they were banned from entering and thus, they couldn’t get me to buy into their scheme. Unfortunately, one snuck past the goalie in this case and there really wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

I have bad luck, well, more bad timing. Last year saw snowstorms cut short a race trip, ran a half on the hottest day ever (roughly), and had a clan full of super-sick before a marathon. Apparently just the challenge of the race isn’t enough, I must do it with a big sack of life on my back. This race, The Cross Timbers Trail Marathon, was no exception. I had been fighting knee soreness the last month or two and so I eased into training. I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be, but wasn’t completely unprepared. That was the small problem. The large problem came about a week before the time to travel. Kids got really sick, which meant that a few days before it was time to leave I got really sick. Luckily it was one of those in and out in 24 hours, drive through flu type sicknesses. But the damage was done. I drudged myself down to Texas, still reeling a bit.

I can be a pretty stubborn guy. If you tell me I cannot do something, I am probably going to try. I am strongly adverse to quitting or giving up. I think this tends to be a necessary trait for runners. Mrs. Squatch said I should have stayed home, and she was probably right, but I didn’t. So when race day morning came, I wasn’t quite sure what the day had in store for me. I didn’t have quite the same nervous excitement. It was more, anxious dread. I knew at BEST it was going to be very difficult day, and at worse, a DNF was in play. But again, my own head was telling me I may not be able to do this so I needed to try it. Besides, I didn’t drive 500 mi to go even lower and get a DNS (Did Not Start) right?  Off we went to the race, very early in the morning, mostly me in my own head wondering if I had enough in me to do this.

I am going to start with the bad part of the race first and get it out of the way. I felt so much better Sat. morning illness wise. It was basically gone. However I still had some lingering, disruptions. I wasn’t eating as well as I had hoped/needed to be. When I got to the tent to get much bib, I seriously contemplated asking if I could drop to the half (in hindsight this would have been 100% the correct call). I didn’t, I wanted the full or nothing because stubborn. I got my bib and pinned it on and waited. Time soon came and off we went. This is a new trail to me, so I was rather cautious to not go too fast not knowing what all was in store for me other than the general reports/terrain map. It was not easy. It wasn’t by any stretch brutal or impassable, just more challenging than I had though. That really wasn’t a big deal as I wasn’t setting a blistering pace or anything. What really started nagging on me by about mile 3 was that I had no energy what so ever. Everything felt absolutely dead. I felt like I had finished running a marathon and was starting a new one.  This was very disconcerting to me. What was compounding the issue was that I was still having trouble eating. It was around mile 9 that I decided to pull the plug and withdraw. I wasn’t necessarily broken at that point, I wasn’t in acute pain, and I wasn’t violently ill, I just knew that things were deteriorating rapidly and I was putting myself in a bit of danger. Out I went, back to the tent, phone call to my dad to get me, and some real disappointment and lament. My first DNF.
This is actually from the Ft. Worth Nature Conservancy Trail we hiked the next day. It was pretty though. 
It wasn’t a total loss though. Now, on to the good stuff. First of all, I did 9 tough miles on what was at that point, basically a shell of myself. Could I have done more, probably, could it have damaged me, probably. I made a decision to protect myself and I was proud I wasn’t too stubborn for my own health and safety. Another reason I made my decision is due to the awesome terrain. There were lot of tricky ups and downs (for me, I mean, I am sure this would be considered a bunny course for them super gnarly trails) and some had decent drop offs to the side. I was getting really worn down and dragging my feet, which generally results in tripping. It’s one thing for this to happen on mile 20, but another at say mile 8. I didn’t want to injure myself, I have much bigger plans this year. So I was at least content with pulling out. Furthermore, I got to see 9 miles of an awesome trail. It was gorgeous. The lake at sunrise was worth the admission. It was misty/foggy out, really just one of those nature moments you soak in. The trail ran along the lake and had very nice views. It was tough enough to require attention be paid, but open in areas to soak it in. The sandy dirt was not super-tough, or super-slick where wet and muddy. The climbs were hard and had names. S.O.B. hill and Stairway to Heaven were aptly named. While not having gas in the tank, I had a lot of fun experiencing the trail. The aid stations were great as were the people in them. The one I stopped at to withdraw was awesome. They were playing catch and having fun until the next runners came, then right to action. They learned my name not just my number and took care of me, keeping my spirits up despite the situation. Plus, it sat right on the lake, so if I had to do the unwanted deed, it was at least a scenic place to do it and reflect for a few minutes.
Also the Nature Conservancy. I actually regret not getting more Cross Timbers pictures, it was gorgeous. 
In the end, I am glad I efforted, I am glad I tried. I hate DNF, very very much, but I understand it. I failed to do what I had set out, but perhaps I also was successful at recognizing what was happening and preventing something worse from happening.  It sucks that I was looking forward to this for so long and it didn’t pan out, but, there is always next year. I do need to come back and redeem myself, still stubborn after all. It was an amazing course with amazing people and I want the damn medal. I guess when I get there, it will be that much sweeter. Until then, I have a little motivational agitation.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Topeka to Auburn: Did a Cow Just Fly By?

Almost a month in to 2014 and no race recap yet? Please forgive me for my failure to provide running ramblings. Let me fix that immediately. The first outing for this year was the Topeka to Auburn Half Marathon.  It’s a local race put on by the local running group, the Sunflower Striders. It’s got a lot of things going for it: over 30 years of races, great hills for the area, Kansas’ standard could be anything weather, and varied scenery. I thought , when I signed up, it would be a good test to get ready for my goal races this year. It was.

Let’s start off with me. I have been nursing a nagging knee nearly 9 (yeah, take that alliteration) weeks. I had basically decided I need to back down and really re-build things. Slow slow slow was the name of the game and it seemed to be working relatively well. I decided I needed to carry that into the race too. Which meant slow the eff down and don’t mind them people passing you. Oh and something about enjoying the scenery along the way yada yada yada.

Now, on to race day. This deserves it’s own paragraph. Kansas, we do love ourselves some weather.  One of literal draws to this race is that it is in late Jan and not even god knows what the weather will do.  Well, we knew a week out it was going to be windy. And it did not disappoint. Thankfully though, the temps were very un-seasonal. Upper 40’s to love 50’s is a rarity around here. That being said, it was still windy. Well, windy doesn’t describe if very well, gale force may be more apt. We had 30 mph sustained with 50+ mph gusts. If I had a sail, I could have taken off.

Thankfully the course was laid out so that for the most part, the first half of the course was either in areas where the wind wasn’t quite as strong, or was at our back. This was mostly residential areas, a couple hills, nothing too out of the ordinary. The second half, however was a different story. Starting at about the halfway point is Urish hill, which is the biggie. Now, I get it, you folks near mountains would think our little hill is a speed bump, but for us it is one of the best we have locally.  That being said, it wasn’t race shattering. Doing more trail running lately, I enjoyed this part. They set a camera guy at the top to capture people slogging up it, sort of a race tradition. All in good fun. This point on, the hills rolled and we moved on to gravel roads. Another thing that changed is we moved out of the residential and into more open farm land area. This meant far less wind blocks as well as a turn back into the wind. And man, it really punched you in the face going up hills into a 30-50 mph wind with the lovely around of cow being rammed into your nostrils. Just for fun, it also started sprinkling a bit, or light hail, I couldn’t quite tell as hard as it hit us. Again though, it was fun. It was different, I enjoyed it.

Finally coming around a corner and over a hill or two we could see the finish area. At Cowtown I talked about passing a little girl that passed me previously, here, in a Karmic kick in the butt a 12 year old-ish girl absolutely flew past me. I did nothing but laugh and wish her luck. She was earning it. For me, it was a slow sprint (I know that is an oxymoron but it really is what it was for me) to the finish. I gathered myself and felt great. I bounced around a little to see how the knee felt and it was good. I saw friends, talked to them a bit, and rode a wind gust back to my car feeling like I actually followed a plan for once. I really wanted to use this a training run and I think it went well. Skora Forms took care of my feet, Orange Mud Hydra Quiver Double Barrel on my back felt amazing for carrying water and other gear and goodies, the Island Boost “gel” was delicious and rocket fuel as usual. I think I am ready for Cross Timbers in TX on the 15th which means I am completely not ready or something incredibly odd will happen. But that is the fun right? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Orange Mud Hydraquiver Double Barrel Review

One of the drawbacks of being human (or sasquatch-ean?) is that water is necessary to sustain life. While this is probably good news for companies that sell water, for people on the move it also means the need to schlep water around. A water bottle on my desk at work or in the gym cup holder is relatively simple and probably not worth much fuss. Running around in the great outdoors on the other hand is a bit more problematic. Once upon a time one could probably have stopped and taking a refreshing pull from a crystal clear stream to quench the thirst. Now, if you do that, you will probably die within 10 yards from some horrific cornucopia of parasites.  This leaves us runners few options for carrying this necessary liquid. Bottle in hand, bottle stashed along your route, belt, or a hydration pack.

First and foremost I am not fond of carrying anything in hand while I run. I have an irrational (wait, I do it all the time, so totally rational) fear of falling. And I know if I fall with a bottle in my hand that my bottle, hand, arm, and/or pride are going to take a massive blow. I like to keep my hands clear to pretend at least like I could catch myself. Plus, you can’t fight off the inevitable werewolf attack with hands full of water. That’s important too. Stashing bottles is a flat out no, come on, that’s just asking for someone to tamper with, or drink it in a thirsty moment of panic.  Plus it ain’t easy making your way out into the middle of a trail just to set water down then back so you can start your run. Unless you have a Iron Man suit or something, which I do not. Speaking of super heroes, belts always made me feel like bat man. I should be flinging batarangs not sipping Gatorade from them. And again, should I (ha, should I, how about when I) trip, having a bottle precariously close to regions of my body that should NEVER be used to cushion a fall is a bit disconcerting. This brings us to packs. Most packs are big and bulky with bladders that are heavy and flop around. That works about as well as it sounds. This leads to a tough decision on what to suffer with. Well, queue up your best infomercial voice. That is no more. Let me introduce you to the Orange Mud HydraQuiver Double Barrel.

Unlike an infomercial, this is a bad ass product. First of all it comes in 2 flavors for runners: the single barrel and the double barrel. That is how many water bottles it holds. “But you hate bottles” you say to me. Well these are bottles you hold these are bottles that sit in holsters on your back. Not low slung like a bladder but high on your back between your shoulder blades. This is awesome as it means that the swaying and flopping is very minimal and is so much easier on the back for long distances. The lightness of the pack cannot be understated as it was one of the toughest things I dealt with for my long trail races. I assume it’s called a hydra quiver cause it really is like reaching in and plucking out an arrow from a quiver, which, when you get down to it is awesome. Furthermore, you don’t even have to use their bottles if you didn’t want to, although they do make for a perfect fit in the holster. It also has abundant cargo space for food stuffs or whatever on the shoulders, making for an easy reach. On the back is another compartment for phones, wallets, cards, cash, maps, and assorted other small things needing carried. There is even a draw cord between the barrels for cinching down a shirt or jacket or whatnot.

I really cannot understate how comfy and easy this thing is to use. No water tube to keep clean or have a plastic taste. The padding is soft and easy on the back where it rests. Really it is exactly what I had been searching for out of a pack. My only qualm was really just getting used to putting a bottle back into it’s holster behind my back. But once I got used to where it was, the mouth of the holster is wide to guide it back in and it became a smooth action. I had been concerned that the straps that go under the arms to secure it to the body would chafe but I really didn’t even know they were there. I saw pictures of others wearing them with no shirt so I think they are very well placed to minimalize that kind of thing. I highly recommend this for anyone who needs a means to carry water (be it the single bottle or double) or doesn’t like their current method for transporting it. You won’t be disappointed. For the record, I purchased mine online at www. so my opinion is my own and isn’t influenced other than my own squealing glee at having a pack I love instead of dread.