Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Shoes

Yesterday, I received a pair of these.

They're the Lone Peak trail shoes from Altra.  I took the on an easy 5 miler tonight on the COGGS trails at Lester.  Altra is a new company out of Utah that currently makes a very small line of shoes, all of them with a Zero heel to toe drop.  That means the the heel of the shoe is not elevated above the forefoot of the shoe, as it is in most traditional running shoes.  Indeed, Altra builds all of their shoes to have the heel and the forefoot on the same level.

Another unique aspect of Altra shoes is the wide, very wide toe box.  The folks at Altra believe that the toes should be able to splay naturally upon impact and that a healthy foot should be widest at the toes.

Altra does not like to think of these shoes as minimalist, but I think they fit many of MY definitions of minimalist footware.  I personally see minimalist shoes as meeting at least three of the following requirements: One, weight.  I feel that minimalist shoes should weigh less that 10 ounces (for a men's size 9), Two, heel to toe drop.  I think minimalist shoes should have no more than a 6 millimeter difference between the heel and the forefoot.  Three, simple upper design.  I think minimalist shoes should have an upper that has very little overlays, allowing the foot to move naturally, to NOT be strapped in by "arch wraps" and "flex panels".  Four, flexibility.  Minimalist shoes should be relatively flexible, again to allow the foot to move naturally.  Others will have their own opinions on what "minimalist" shoes should be, but those are my criteria.

So Altra does not consider the Lone Peak (or their road shoe, the Instinct [the women's shoe is called the Intuition]) a minimalist shoe, and I think it's because the Lone Peak still offers a decent amount of midsole foam, something that's often shunned by the hard core minimalists.  However, the midsole in this shoe is relatively firm.  What I found was that I still had really good "ground feel" without feeling like I was barefoot.

The traction on the Lone Peak seemed to work pretty well.  There was little to no mud on the trail tonight but I had excellent grip on some of the steep downhills and sharp turns.  The shoe has a relatively flat outsole, so there is plenty of ground contact and the lugs are aggressive but not intrusive.

Overall, the shoes performed very well.  Despite being a bit wider than what I normally like for my narrow foot, they still felt agile to me, something that I find to be very important when running technical trails.  I was impressed with the Lone Peaks, enough to replace my X-Talon 212s?  Probably not, but I think many people would like them and they'll make for a great second pair of trail shoes for me and if there's another 100 miler in my near future, I'm sure I'll use these for most if not all of it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A little spin on the SHT and an RIP to the Talons

Today I went out for an easy 2 hours on the Superior Hiking Trail.  I started at Enger Tower, headed west of an hour and came back.  The trail was in great shape, very runnable (as "runnable" as the SHT can get) save for the wooden bridges and planks which were very slippery.

It's so nice to have so many great trails to choose from in this town.  I can go from technical single track like the Superior Hiking trail, to hilly ski trails, to relatively flat snowmobile trails and get in a long run on any of them, and all of them are within a few minutes of my house.  I feel lucky to live in such a place on this planet.

Speaking of the planet, a couple of weeks ago I came across this video:

When I see this video, I think of the power of "home".  On this single planet, we all have a home.  It may be difficult to think of 6 billion people unified, but this video is evidence that we are, at least in a sense of sharing a home.

RIP to the Talons

After the Living History Farms race, it became apparent to me that my beloved Inov8 X-Talon 212s had ran their last race.  I'd gotten 3 good seasons out of those shoes, literally using them year round.  I'd taken them through mud, rain, snow, standing water, slush, sand, tall grass.  Over rocks, roads, dirt, ice.  Never have I ran in a shoe that was so able to handle all of those conditions so well.  I'll be buying a new pair soon and will look forward to many miles of wonderful running with them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living History Farms

This past weekend I traveled down to Des Moines to participate in the Living History Farms Race.  The "Farms Race", as it's known in Iowa, is a 7 mile cross country race that brings in over 7000 people.  It's the largest cross country race in North America.  The course is a challenging one, with 7 creek crossings, plenty of mud and steep hills.

Dave Schuneman, Kandi Geary and Shane Olson came down as well, so we had a great DRC contingent to represent northern Minnesota.  Shane ran the XC race with me, Kandi cheered us on and Dave raced in the first ever Survivor Cross race, a CycleCross race later in the day that ran along the same course.

I've ran this race a few times over the years, but it's probably been about 8 years or so since I last ran it, so it was really fun for me to get back there.  This race is admittedly over crowded, and I knew that the first half or so would be slow so I started off in the middle of the pack.  I didn't start my watch, but I'm sure my first mile was around 10 to 11 minutes.  I didn't really care, running fast wasn't my priority, I just wanted to have fun and re-live the race.

As we twisted our way through some of the living farmsteads of the Living History Farms grounds and the old familiar smell of horse crap filled our noses, I started moving up.  Through corn fields and pastures we eventually worked into the wooded areas of the complex and began our series of creek crossings.  Jumping into the first crossing I must have hit a low spot because I sunk down and the water wet up past my knees.  This caused me to fall forward a bit and my hands caught me as I was heading down, sinking deep into the muddy bank on the opposite side of the creek.  I pulled out both hands and they were black with Iowa mud.

Most of the creek crossings were pretty shallow and only required a step or two to get through them but on 2 or 3 of them, a very steep, slippery bank waited on the other side.  These were a challenge to get up but they are what make the LHF race so famous.  It's why people come, to get really muddy and have a blast!

I finally caught Shane, who had gone out really fast, around mile 4.  I asked him how he was doing, "I'm trying to catch Sponge Bob," he said.  So I took it upon myself to find Sponge Bob, who apparently had been ahead of Shane for the entire race, almost taunting Shane with his squeaky voice and square pants.  I took off, trying desperately to chase down that bastard Sponge Bob.

Literally over the river and through the woods I went, searching for a giant yellow square sponge.  I made the last, long climb up through a pasture, hurdled a few logs along the way and came back into the town area to finish along the main street.  Alas, I never saw Sponge Bob but I had a great time anyway.

Below is a short video of Dave traversing one of the creek crossings during his CycleCross race.  The steep climb up the muddy hill had to be even more difficult with a bike on your shoulder!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Nice Double and The Folly of Moderation

Today was a great day of trail running for me as I was able to squeeze in not one, not three, but TWO good efforts on the trails!  This morning I did 2 hours out on the Voyageur course.  I started at the zoo and went out for one hour.  I got about a mile (maybe a little less) beyond the Beck's Road before I turned around and came back.

It was interesting because the usual thought is that for the full Voyageur, it's a little more difficult coming back (from the zoo to Carlton) than it is going out (Carlton to the zoo).  So with that in mind, I assumed I'd get back in about 55 minutes since I (a) went out very easy and (b) pushed it a bit more coming back.  Well, I pretty much ran the second half of my run today in the same time I ran the first.  This makes me believe that (a) it's very possible that when doing the full Voyageur that the second half is slower (and if so, is that a result of the course being more difficult or is it more because you're just so damn tired?) and (b) maybe, the difficult climb up to Spirit Mtn. is more than made up for during the long downhill on Skyline and after crossing Beck's Road?  (this being on the way back to Carlton.)  Interesting, I'll have to delve deeper into that mystery.

My second run of the day was the 5.5k NMTC run at Pine Valley.  It sucked!  Okay, truth be told it was a lot of fun.  The trails were great, there were a lot of great people out there to chat with before and after the race, and I didn't puke!  Yep, we'll call that a success.

The course was a roller coaster, (minus the upside down loopy thing) with really nice surface to run on.  My legs were predictably not willing to try to race for 1k, let alone 5.5k but my brain was stubborn so I pushed on pretty much as hard as I could.  By 2k my brain was starting to question itself and my legs were saying "See!  I told you so!  Why the hell don't you listen to me!?"

Well, my legs were pretty much my parents and my brain was pretty much an insubordinate teenager (as it nearly always is) so I pressed onward, consequences be damned!  As it turned out I ended up gaining a few spots in the middle of the course and finished in the top 19 which wasn't too bad, for me.  Plus if you throw out the college kids and the recently out of college kids (which you should, if you're 40) and if you throw out the other people who are simply way faster than me, then I'm sure I finished in the top 5.

As it turned out, today's running was a bit of a tribute to Barb and Gene Curnow.  Barb and Gene have devoted countless hours to the running community over the years; directing the Voyageur and Half Voyageur, and heading up the NMTC races.  They both retired from the NMTC and Voyageur races.  Today was their last event as directors and will be sorely missed as such.  They are living treasures of running in Duluth.  And while I've only known them for a very short time, it's been an honor to assist in the NMTC races, to run the Voyageur and to hear all of their stories of running and runners over the years.

So with today's double that I did, and the fact that they both required some effort, I got to thinking about Moderation.  It's a concept that I'm very familiar with.  I have Norwegian blood, I come from 2 families of Iowa farmers.  Moderation is our creed, our mantra.

However, I've often heard the phrase "everything in moderation".  Now maybe I've blogged about this before, (sometimes I forget where I share with people my version of genius) but the very term, "everything in moderation" is, by definition, NOT moderation.  Because you can't do "everything" in one way and consider it Moderation, you simply must do some things in excess.  Like Chocolate.  Face it, chocolate is a helluva lot better in excess than it is in moderation.  (Again, consequences be damned!)

And as I proved today, running is sometimes better in excess.  (Hell, I probably proved it at Sawtooth but I'm not always quick to discover the obvious)  Moderation would have told me to not run the NMTC race today but I'm really glad I did.  My legs will probably have the final say (parents usually do) but I will sleep tonight pleased with my excess.  I can say, with a moderate amount of confidence, that excess equals satisfaction.  (But not always)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Winter Running (Soon, Tony, very soon)

It's been an amazing Autumn for running, lately.  The temps have been slightly about normal and we've had very little rain.  I really love running during this time of the year for a couple of reasons, one being the weather.  But also, I love the fact that the racing season is over, and you can simply run just to run.  There's a difference between running and training, and it's nice to get out of the training mode for a bit and just enjoy the run for what it is.

That being said, I'm also really looking forward to some winter running!  I love the sound of that first crunch of snow underfoot, the completely different scenery along the trails and the soft, forgiving surface.  The video below, of Tony Krupicka, describes it well.