Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Down Side of Dogs and Mud

This morning the air was crisp and fresh as I headed to the Stroud Preserve.  This is one of my favorite places to run.  They have some small hills, woods, fields and a nice pond to run around.  It was a little on the cold side today and I have to admit I wasn't really in the mood to run... I'm not sure why.  After I went up the first hill I came across a guy walking his dog (Welsh Corgi).  I was running towards them and this little dog started running towards me.  The next thing I know it jumps up (the little bugger jumped almost as high as my head) and started snapping at me.  On the second jump he got a hold of my running shirt (Columbia GRT) and put a big hole in the side.  Sooo frustrating!  The guy was nice enough and offered to buy me a new shirt.  Not the one I am wearing but a Columbia fleece.  I haven't decided to take him up on it.  If it's not the same shirt or something comparable then I don't really want it so why have him go through the trouble to get me something I probably won't use? 

After that I fell into my normal rhythm.  I was still feeling kind of crappy but maintaining a 9 or 10 minute pace.  At the beginning of mile 2 I ran through about 200 yards of mud.  Now the trail itself was muddy in places but this is the kind of mud where you sink to your ankles.  It was a little cold but I didn't think too much about it.  I figured the Vibrams could handle it and kept right on running.  It wasn't until mile four or five when they started to dry out that the problem occurred.  The muddy water seeped into the shoes and the water got out but it left quite a bit of dirt behind.  The toe pockets of the shoe started feeling tighter and some of the dirt got pushed in front of my toes which made things slightly uncomfortable.  I debated taking them off and rinsing the shoes in the stream and then continuing on however, my mind got the better of me and I cut the run in half... ending with only a six mile run instead of the 12 mile run.  The worst part is that I was sooo motivated last night.  I was thinking that I might do 18 miles today.  Oh well, I'm not going to worry too much about it.  I haven't really run for the last week and a half so I suppose I shouldn't just jump back in to my long runs.  I actually have my runs scheduled from now until June 12th.  I just need to sit with my wife and put them on her calendar.   

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 12, 2010

The training runs for the Laurel Highland Edurance run have been going very well. I'm doing regular half marathons. This was the week that my "formal" training program started. As it so happens I was in Phoenix, AZ for my brothers wedding. While staying with some friends in Queen Creek I located a great trail run on (a great site that I have found extremely useful over the last few months!). Anyway, the entry for the run on the web site was a bit vague so when I arrived I wasn't sure exactly what I would get. Since I was coming from freezing cold Philadelphia I decided to fill the hydration pack to the brim and throw in a few cliff bars as well. I arrived at the San Tan Mountain parking lot around 7:30 AM. The next three hours were amazing! As it turns out the entire park is a cross hatch of trails. The main trail seems to be the San Tan trail which circles most of the park. Since I was running in the desert, new experience for me, I called my wife and told her that I would be running on the San Tan trail. As I ran I had so much fun that I took a number of side trails (I sent a text each time I diverted). There was only one stretch that I wasn't too fond of... the trails went through a number of dry creek beds and washes. The bottom of these was full of some deep sand. It was like running on the beach and I'm not talking about the fun sand that is hard from the water. It really gave my legs a work out.

After about 11 miles I ran across the first humans... there were three older couples working up the side of a mountain. It was really rocky and I was frankly quite surprised they were attempting the trip. Then a guy came running past me on an alternate trail and he headed up the same mountain. I hadn't planned on going up the mountain but after seeing everyone else head up I decided to give it a go. It was way too rocky and rough to run up but I was a great thigh workout. Once I got to the top the view was amazing!

I ended up meeting up with the guy that passed me at the top of the mountain. He was originally from Minnesota and we started talking Big 10. He ran the last mile and a half and we had a great discussion. After 13 miles I arrived back at my car. I contemplated doing another seven miles but I had two issues. First, I was out of water. Second, I only had a limited time to spend with family and friends so I decided to head back.

I have to say that this was probably my favorite run so far. The solitude of the run, beautiful landscapes, and running in the Vibrams made me feel a real connection to what I was doing and where I was... I can't wait until it starts to warm up in Philadelphia and I can find some trails to run.
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December 12, 2009

As you can see I'm not really posting these things real time... by the time December rolled around I was running exclusively in the Vibrams. I knew the snow was coming but I didn't pay close enough attention to understand how much was coming. A friend of mine was supposed to meet me at my house to go for a six mile run but due to the snow he cancelled. My wife thought I was crazy but I felt that it was an excellent opportunity to see whether the Vibrams were viable cold weather shoes as well.

All I wore on this run were the Vibrams, warm up pants, two cotton t-shirts, a cotton sweathshirt, scarf, ear warmers and hydration pack (more on why this is relevant later). I wasn't sure how things would go so I started with a mile loop that brought me back to my house. After about an eighth of a mile my feet warmed right up and I didn't have any issues. Once I finished the mile I was feeling great and decided to do six more. The first two miles were great then I hit some knee deep snow. It didn't make it any colder but it made it much more difficult to run. Still no issues with my feet. The last two miles were the worst. As it turns out I was running into a very stiff cold wind in driving snow. It was snowing so hard that I couldn't even look up... I pulled my scarf up as far as I could and simply kept running.

It was at this point that I started to realize that I didn't wear the correct cold weather gear. The wind was blowing right through my shirt. It didn't help that my undershirts were pretty much soaked with sweat by this point. The second issue was the space between the Vibrams and the top of my athletic pants. Since there was nothing covering that part of my foot it got really cold. In fact, if you look at the pictures you can see that the snow actually gathered and froze to the bottom of my pants.

My wife thought it was really funny that I had ice frozen to my eye lashes when I got home....

My verdict is that the Vibram, when being actively used (i.e. running), is a viable cold weather and snow running shoe. I don't recommend it for walking as that doesn't seem to be enough of a work out to keep the foot warm. I solved the cold upper foot problem on later runs by cutting the bottom of some socks off and strapping one end under the Vibram strap to hold it in place. Voila, no more cold ankles.

Since that day I have run in the snow at least ten other times. Running on fresh snow is great... running on old hard frozen snow is not much fun. The problem is that as the snow freezes and re-freezes and makes for a lot of jagged sharp points... kind of like running on big gravel. Not very fun.
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