Monday, February 28, 2011

Farm Boy to Mountain Man

I'm home for spring break, and had every intention of piling on the miles while I had some time off. Here I sit on day one...0 miles. I'd like to blame the exposed flesh on the bottom of my foot, but I feel as though my mileage wouldn't skyrocket in the event of sudden dermal regeneration. Haven't done much today, but the boredom and excess energy resulted in a fit of pushups. Oh, and I hauled in some groceries.

Maybe this lack of motivation stems from a growing boredom of winter. The trails are hit or miss when it comes to traction and traipsing around on the sloppy roads is no fun. Perhaps I'm preparing to give it hell once spring comes and my feet can touch dirt once again.

In other news, I've been offered an internship. This particular internship will be one that could advance my career, be rewarding, and give me experiences that will make me a better person. Oh, and its in Boulder, Colorado. No details yet, but I was officially offered the gig in Therapeutic Recreation. Details to come. All I know is that I'd better get my lazy, athsmatic lungs used to climbing mountains at elevation

A photo sent to me from my roomie Sara on spring break. I'd better get in shape by May.

A weak week

I can't believe I feel so wrecked this week. Though early, I think I'll take this week as an easy period for two reasons. The first is that running in this broken state sucks. The second is that my school's spring break is next week, which frees up quite a bit of time for running places further away, places that I normally dont get to visit. I'll try to rest my legs this week for some fun training runs in the next.
Monday
3 miles- A bit of a hectic schedule today. Lower legs still feeling brittle and achy. I managed three barefoot miles on a treadmill. with the grade set at 10% and the speed at 7mph. I have no idea what that means, but treadmills sure are boring.
Tuesday
7 miles - I visited Sam at GVSU for a couple days, so I had a small change in scenery. Left her place and ran some country roads, which eventually took me to the Grand River. The trails were snowed in with ice chunks underneath, which really slowed my pace...to a walk. It was cool watching the gigantic islands of ice floating down the river, colliding and drifting apart. The only sounds I could hear were the wind in the trees and the ice crashing together. When I closed my eyes, it sounded like chaos. When I opened them, it looked like an orchestrated dance. Nature has that amazing capability. Something about watching a river pass before me made me lose all concept of time and forget that I was standing in ankle deep ice with no socks on. I soon noticed that it was time to meet Samantha for lunch, so I pressed on, breaking first snow on the campus trails and making my way to her apartment. A great way to spend an hour and a half outside, even with achy legs.


A shot of the river, but in a different spot where the ice wasn't flowing so heavily

Boring country roads, but at least the sun was shining to warm up the cold wind



Wednesday
 2 miles - Wow, when I give myself permission to rest, my lazy side takes full advantage. I know the weather sucks, but damn, do I not feel like running today. I know once I get out, I'll be fine and enjoy the rare view of all the frozen trees, but knowing that the trails look like an icy minefield and the sidewalks are...well...sidewalks, I simply can't help but sit and fantasize about spring.

Ended up doing 2 miles on the treadmill again. I have no idea what 8 mph at 10% grade means, but I was sweating. My client likes some company when she does her aerobic workouts, so I've been suffering on the treadmill while she hammers out eliptical or bike miles.
Thursday
AM - 6 miles - I woke up this moring planning on doing a boring road run just to get it out of the way. It was then that I noticed that the snow was of a perfect consistency for traction. I changed my plans and headed to Al Sabo for a long overdue trail outing. The ice storm here left me with a great place to explore. This small nature preserve and I seem to have developed a bit of a relationship. I was once bored with it, but then began to get so familiar that I noticed all the little changes that take place as time progresses. After leaving the evergreen part of the preserve, running in the ice covered oak put me into a world of contrast. The sky was white, covered entirely with mid-day clouds in front of the sun. The trees seemed black, waterlogged from melting ice. The ice and snow seemed only white as it covered the ground, trees, and shrubbery. I was there for about 1.5 hours, stopping at all of my usual spots to take a few seconds to observe. The ice covered branches swayed in the wind, clinking together like the windchimes on a front porch.


Apparently, ice is rather heavy.





The only thng that could provide some contrast was my pink skin.

Standard view from the lookout tower. Hard not to just stare for a while when I sit there.

Friday
0 miles. Spent the morning in the library, then headed to Allendale, then home for the night.
Saturday
180 miles...of snowmobiling. Had an amazing ride with my family and some friends. 11 hours of rough trails beat me up badly enough, so I simply couldn't manage a run after getting home at 11pm.
Sunday
26 miles- A lakeshore run the Jason, Jeremiah, Mark, and Rick. Took Scenic drive along Lake Michigan from Muskegon State Park to Whitehall. I left all of my "road worthy" shoes back at school, so I borrowed a certain pair of MINIMal ROAD shoes from Jason. Jeremiah and I ended up tacking on some extra miles, and both enexpectedly got some blisters. As I sit here applying anti-biotics and trying to air out this pustulent mess on my foot, I fear that it may put me out of comission for a couple days. There goes my plan for a high-mileage spring break.

Mine wasn't that bloody, but it tore right down past the superficial layer of skin.

...And the award for grossest foot of the day goes to Jeremiah Cataldo.
44 miles...bllaaaaah
Notes from the week:
Frustration and freedom- For reasons unbeknownst to me, I became frustrated at the thought of being hurt. Im not "hurt" in the sense that I have any crippling pain, but wearing track spikes and running at a relatively fast pace gave my legs a beating from the knees down. Every run starts out well, but the dull, achy "long run" feeling creeps in after only a few miles. This inability to steadily increase mileage had me flustered and concerned for the upcoming season of runnnig. Then the answer hit me in the form of a question- who cares? My notoriously "B"(okay, maybe B+) efforts have served me well in the past, and Im its feeling more comfortable and effective as time wears on. I realize that work is required for improvement, but work and struggle aren't mutually exclusive. I'll let the miles come to me and enjoy myself; It's how I've gotten where I am, and I can probably squeeze out some more improvement before having to actually "train."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the way the cookie crumbles

Monday
AM - 5 miles - Nice run to Military Fitness this morning. The sidewalks were almost bare and the light of day is just starting to peak over the trees on my way in. Not actual daylight yet, but I can tell the sun is on its way. Did some warmup laps on the track, then did mostly push ups and sit ups for the remaining 40 minutes. Not creative, but there's something meditative about repeatedly bashing one's body against the hard gym floor. I must be in a good mood despite a bruised up back and sore arms.

PM - 8 miles - little warm up, then a 3 mile tempo run on Oakland drive. Alex was gracious enough to stay with me. We thought it was a 1x1.5 mile set, but we found out after the first 1.5mile loop that it was a continuous 3 miles. Held a solid pace and negative splitted every 1200m. Just a hair under 5:40 pace. The workout's aim was to be between race pace and a normal run, and I think I nailed it, effort wise. A very slightly undulating loop, but overall flat compared to the rest of Kalamazoo. Running indoors really sucks, but apparently a little toiling away in the sweatbox helps, as was made evident by a nice outdoor workout today. This gives me a little hope of breaking the 17:00 5k barrier in the near future. Had Alex and I run the extra .1 mile, we would have broken my current 5k road race PR while chatting to each other and making jokes.

Tuesday
AM(barely)- 12 miles - Hopped out of bed and decided to do the road route that Abbey and I did Saturday. Managed a decent pace, staying under 8min/mile for most of it. I realized a few miles in that this was foolish, since I have a 3x1 mile at 5k pace workout tonight. I pressed on regardless, enjoying the sun and feeling spring fever set in, albeit too early. Didn't eat before or during, which makes this huge bowl of Life cereal taste delicious.

PM - 5(?)miles- a workout in the field house. 1 mile's worth of warmup, 2x1mile, then an 800. It actually went pretty well, considering I ran 12 earlier in the day. Must have been the nap and a little caffeine. 5:19(KSOs), 5:18(Saucony Crescent Sprint Spikes), 2:28 800. Cooled down barefoot for a few minutes. I attribute this successful workout to increased beard length and decreased shorts length.

Wednesday
AM - slept right through Military Fitness. several expletives strung together. I guess the daily mileage will take a hit today. At least I've banked some up over the last 2 days(I've been told repeatedly that this is a foolhardy strategy during races and training, but I'm not one to do wise things).

PM - 4 miles - Breathtakingly beautiful run at Al Sabo today. Shorts, MT101s(with Yaktrax XTRs), and a light cotton shirt. I even ran shirtless briefly after a difficult uphill run in the sun. The footing was terrible and my legs were exhausted, so 4 miles was all I could muster up in the time allotted. I may have been able to get more in if I hadn't lazily perched myself on the railing of the lookout tower for 10 minutes, soaking in the sun with no shirt on. I must have looked like a model...but aesthetically unpleasant in several ways.

...planned on a night run, but got home late from a work meeting. Damn, I was having a good week too.
Thursday
AM - 6 miles - went to Al Sabo for what felt like a combination of ice skating and glacier climbing. That place is a mess right now. The shaded spots are glare ice with water on top. The sunny spots are mud(which is welcome and fun). The in between spots are 6-8 inches(15.24-20.32 cm to our foreign friends) of slush. I made my way around with the best effort I could work up in the conditions. I started out without my YakTrax, but turned around after .2 miles to go get them after my body was so tensed up that my neck hurt. The spikes helped on the ice, but not the slush. I ran about 5 miles, then headed back to my car, grabbed a sandwich and water, and went to the lookout tower to eat outside for a change. I watched the snow melt near my feet and trickle down over the freshly exposed rocks on the hillside. Great way to spend a late morning/early afternoon. No high mileage due to the indoor 5k tomorrow and sprain-inducing ice on the trails.


Kind of an odd combination, but Trail Gloves and YakTrax XTRs wasn't terrible.


Wouldn't want anyone to forget what I look like, would I? Mustaches and flannels are essential running attire for bad assedness.

Perched on the railing of the lookout deck, about 20 feet up...

...eating a Nutella sandwich!

The snow is starting to leave, exposing the leaf covered trails.
PM - 5 miles - Ran to the fieldhouse for a short practice and pre- prerace meeting. This is a big deal to our coach, so we at least want to put in a little effort for him. I hide all long runs and ultras from him, so he thinks we're all excited. The others will do great, but I've proven several times that short races are not my strong suit(not that I have one, but this is definitely not it). Alex and Joey will show that collegiate level racing can be done by privateers. I will either pass out or show what I ate for lunch.

Friday
6 miles - GLIAC Conference indoor track meet. Got a decent warm up in with Alex. It was super windy and cold. Milled about for a while in the track infield, did some jogging, some dynamic warmup, and ran the race. 16:58...I think. We didn't receive hip numbers for some reason, so we were unable to get our times recorded. I despise bullshitters, so I'll update if I find my actual time to have been slower. A small cooldown with Sam, then off to the Hobbyjoggers meeting for beer and food!

Saturday
AM - 7 miles - Meet Mark, Jason, Shelly, and Tony for a trail run at Hoffmaster State Park. The trails were pretty tore up from the freeze/thaw we being treated to, so we opted to run the roads instead of twist our ankles. I knew it was bad when Jason and Shelly suggested road running, since they really dislike pavement. My legs felt fine one minute, but then wanted to splinter into pieces the next. I survived, but felt really discouraged. The run was really the secondary reason for going to the park. I was called upon as acting talent/eye candy for a Hobby Jogga Review Video. Cha cha cha check it out!

PM - 5 miles - My grandmother needed her car dropped off at her house, so I took the opportunity to save some gas by driving it to her, then running home. The first three miles felt great, then my lower legs started to revolt. The only thing I can think of is the hard effort from Friday coupled with wearing tight track spikes affecting my gait.

Sunday
7 miles - Left home hoping that my legs would be rested and back to normal, but found out about halfway through that they needed some recovery time. The route I had chosen had no "bail out points" to make it shorter, since I live in the country and the blocks are about 2x3mile sections of land. Made it back just as it started snowing. Sam and I ate some lunch with my parents and we headed back to school in a nasty ice storm.

Total: an even 70. This sure felt harder than a 70 mile week.
Notes from the week:

As I read this before I post, I see that I started out feeling better than I've ever felt, and ended up feeling broken and defeated. Funny how that works.

flukes of fitness- The earlier days in the week have been good to me. I have no real explanations, other than that the previous 60-something mile week felt nearly perfect when it was over, despite a small case of...well...overhang on Sunday morning. I feel refreshed and excited to run. In the past weeks, I've been finding myself between "obligated" and "complacent" with most things in life. Call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, burnout, laziness, whatever. This week is different. I'm even eager to get up and make the familiar uphill run to Military Fitness three days per week(edit-slept through Wednesday). Monday's tempo run gave me a real shot in the arm, some positive reinforcement that the "grind" of winter running isn't without its merits, and that some efficacy may blossom along with the plants when the snow melts.

Flukes of frustration- despite having a great start to my week, it kind of fell apart at the end. Lack of sleep(roommate induced insomnia) Thursday night not only made me tired for Friday's race, but also thwarted my efforts to get a shakeout run in the morning. The race itself must have put a good hurt on me, since my legs felt terrible for the weekend.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

failing to plan is planning to fail.

Monday
6 miles - left from home and did the arboretum loop + a loop around campus. Rather uneventful, but held a decent clip on the shitty sidewalks. Hoping to get another 6 in tonight, either on the dreadmill(no idea why) or outside in the dark.

...didn't happen. Found out I had to work in the morning. It was cold, so I wasn't exactly heartbroken.

Tuesday
6 miles - Afternoon shakeout at Al Sabo. The sooner I could get done, the more rest I could give my legs before the indoor workout tonight. I ran for 1 hour, but the total time out was closer to 1:15. Some sections of the trail had poor footing, so I got a decent workout at high cadence in. I couln't help but stop at the lookout spot to gaze over the treeline to the west as the sun, though still high in the sky, was beginning to come down. When looking off the wooden platform, one can't see any roads, buildings, or manmade structures. It lets me forget for a moment that I'm currently caged in a city, albeit a small and pleasant one.

8 miles - Indoor workout. 3 mile warmup downtown, then went inside for a dynamic warmup, some light stretching, and some jogging. The workout was pretty mellow this evening, but I still felt it. 8x300, 300m rest in between, with 2 extra laps after the 4th 300. Hitting around 5:20 pace, so not too shabby I guess. Thats about my goal pace for the spring 5ks, so I had better get pretty comfortable at that speed. 2 mile cooldown outdoors.

Wednesday
AM - 7 miles - Ran to Military Fitness, then found out it was running day. A mile or so of alternating between sprinting and walking. This was bit irritating, since it would feel better to alternate between sprinting and jogging. Slowing down to a walk hurts, especially when the rest of the sqaud puts the breaks on in a hurry(probably from being better at following orders than I). Then a 2 mile run, but I lost count and then just ran until everyone else stopped(I was in front, so I'll go ahead and assume more than 2). some pushups, some ab work, then ran home in the 4 degree temps.

PM - 5 miles indoor...again? Had some good times at the fieldhouse again with the running club. The running in there was god awful as I flopped around on the track, knowing I should be resing my achy knees(damned ITB is flaring up). As always, lots of laughs and shenanigans to accompany some running that is beyond my skill level. I was reprimanded by someone I assumed to be a school employee for not wearing shoes in the track. I borrowed Evan's sneaks, but my joints hurt so bad that I went down to my socks in hopes of the white foot coverings would throw off the shoe police. Just easy running today. Coach insisted we run inside due to the negative temperatures.


Thursday
6 miles - Actually woke up with no alarm clock at a decent time. I ended up "running" my errands in the sunlight and really enjoyed it. To the bank, then put on a couple extra miles, then headed to Qdoba for a veggie burrito with habanero salsa, chips/queso, and a Mountain Dew. I was incredibly full, but still managed a decent pace for the 2 miles home. I guess it's like a mini ultra training session.

Friday
AM- 6 miles - Ran to Mil Fitness, but was actually awake on the jog there. I felt a little springy for once, which felt pretty good. Abdominal work for 20 minutes(no rest...ouch), then 20 minutes of running. Ran home, and was in a suprisingly great mood, despite a week of getting up at 6:30am at the latest. Must be the extra hour of sleep coupled with an Expresso Love GU.

PM- 4 miles- ran to campus to turn in a paper, took the back way home through the arboretum loop. Something about the run didn't feel right. I know I have to commit to training so I can be in good shape for spring, but I'll be damned if I don't feel a little guilty for making myself do things I really don't want to. Pretty slow as well. February's half done, then a few more weeks until the heat comes back.

Saturday
12 miles - Did Abbey's long run with her since she was in town this weekend. I took the Garmin with me(for the first time in a few weeks) so that we could just run the backroads and know the mileage. A fun, hilly route on the country roads West of Kalamazoo. The 12 miler was mostly and out/back, but with a small loop at the end. Some curvy roads with some good hills(considering the general flatness of West MI. Leisurely pace, but going up the hills slowly put a bit more of an emphasis on power than grace and light-footedness. The weather was great. It felt good to sweat for a change.
Sunday
4 miles- Sam and I woke up after a night out and went for a nice jog in the sun. She's trying out the new Merrell Pace Gloves, so we took it a little easy. She's a forefoot striker after years of softball, basketball and volleyball forcing her up onto her toes, so I expect her transition to go smoothly. I may do a seperate writeup on her transition, just in case someone might be interested in her story. The run went well; Sam had no pain to speak of, and even her Plantar Fasciitis stayed quiet(she's been struggling with it for a while). Good, relaxing run to round out a lackluster, easy week of running. I may go out for another 4-5 miler this evening, but I feel that the mere act of typing my intentions will thwart my effort.

Total: 64. (makes wanking hand motion over coming short on mileage)
A few notes from the week:
- Coming off an "easy week"- The hardest part of this week was getting the momentum going after a poorly planned week of rest. I was suprised by how rusty I felt after one low mileage week. Once wednesday rolled around, I felt no fatigue, no pain, and was in good spirits. It's funny how one's comfort zone can be found at a higher workload rather than lower.

- Knee Pain- Im slightly baffled here. At the end of my third "high mileage" week, I had run over 80 miles. Though I felt great, I decided to take a rest week to prevent burnout, avoid injury, and maintain a zeal for running by letting my body rest and grow stronger. Low and behold, I return to running and experience a twinge of Iliotibial band syndrome. What gives? I rest, running a mere 28 miles in one week, and then my knees decide to hurt? The conclusion that I draw from this is that too much rest can be as dangerous as too little. I was doing very little stretching and lots of sitting at my computer, which may have caused a little tightness in my legs.

- MT101 shoes- I'll be honest. I thought the 101 was a crappy upgrade from the 100. The heel collar tore up my foot, the raised heel gave me knee pain, and they felt heaver than my old trusty 100s. I then realized that all three of these things could have been the result of one modification I made to the 100s- I cut the heel off with my hunting knife. I had nothing to lose since the 101s weren't the least bit enjoyable to run in, so I cut the heel off of them as well. The shoe was instantly better for me.. The lower profile made it easier to prevent overstriding on the roads. The removal of the rear outsole not only made it lighter, but also allowed the upper to move more freely with my foot, completely eliminating the heel blisters. I use the shoe mostly for its stiffer platform. It makes it much easier to use traction devices on slippery trails.
Improved upon MT101s and the technologically advanced improvement aparatus.


New running club singlets. The more legit I look, the more obvious my mediocrity will be.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Merrell Trail Glove Review

Well, here it is, and not a moment too soon. I've had the Merrell Trail Gloves in my possession since October, but have yet to write a review of them. My friend(and source of the "media sample" shoes prior to release date) and training partner Jason Robillard has posted his review, and my opinions on the shoe are not that different from his. I do feel, however, that my perspective on minimal shoes is slightly different from his. I'm a slightly more "traditional" runner than a true barefooter. I trained exclusively barefoot for nearly a year, but now I run in whatever foot covering fits the bill best.

The Trail Glove was a long-anticipated shoe for me, along with the rest of the barefoot and minimalist shoe crowds. In previous months, the shoe's release was a bit overshadowed by the murmurings of the New Balance Minimus line. I'm proud to be a small contributor to that murmur when I was able to test both the wellness and trail versions of the shoe.

Wearing the Minimus Trail in the Woodstock 50mile
The New Balance Minimus line would certainly be hard to top. I loved both models I tested, and desperately wanted to keep them. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic because I won Woodstock in the Trail model and just missed 1st in the wellness. I was able to cover both courses sans socks and feel great in them.

In comes the Trail Glove. I remember picking them up, and thinking about how similar they were to the Minimus Trail.
The fit/upper
The shoe is aptly named-it truly does have a "glove like" fit. The midfoot and heel wrap snugly around the foot, but the toe box provides ample room for the toes to wiggle and the forefoot to splay. This does give the shoe a bit of a clown shoe look, but form follows function and functional look of the shoe makes them cool...get it? When the shoe fits properly, all of the flex points of the upper are nearly perfectly placed. The unrestricted feel of the shoe is a real plus when coming from a barefoot background. The upper is made to be worn sockless, which earns it a big "thumbs up" from me. I experienced no heel rubbing, which is usually the game ender when I attempt to go sockless(unmodified New Balance MT101s gouge the heck out of my heels, but are also meant to allow sockless wear). The only negative points I can make about the fit is an issue that arises when the shoe is brand new. The EVA sole  has slightly thicker portions in the midfoot that feel a bit...lumpy. The shoe feels just a little uneven when standing in them. This nearly disappears when running, and absolutely fades with some breaking in. After less than 100 miles, the shoes conformed to my feet and felt like a worn in pair of slippers. I would suggest that Merrell eliminate the extra EVA, but the Trail Gloves fit me so well now that I'm glad the materials used are there currently. I guess if you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break a few eggs.


Pictured on the left are the Trail Glove(my feet, furthest left), the women's Pace Glove(Shelly's feet), Vibram TrekSports(Mark), and Rick with some sweet snow chains on.

Traction/outsole


The shoe simply grips well. Upon closer inspection, the sole of the shoe bears a striking resemblance to that of the Vibram Fivefingers Trek Model, but without the separated toes. While on a training run with my friend Mark(who was wearing TrekSports), I noticed that he and I were leaving almost identical footprints on the beach of Lake Michigan. Since the Treks are, prior to the release of the Merrell line, my favorite shoe for road/trail combination excursions, I took this as a sign that it was going to be a great shoe.

The Vibram outsole design works superbly on a variety of terrain.

Like the Trek, the Trail Glove has large "toe grippers" that allow for excellent traction on uphills in loamy soil and snow. This was of particular interest to me. With barefoot running, we're told not to "push off," but instead to lift. The only situation this doesn't apply to is loose uphill terrain. Merrell must have really done their homework when they put the traction devices where they needed them and saved weight and bulk where it was unnecessary. This indicates an advantage over the outsole of the Minimus Trail, which seems more well-suited for rockier terrain. Another benefit over the Minimus is the weight. The EVA midsole of the Trail Glove not only privides a marginal amount of cushion(of debatable value), but saves weight over a solid Vibram sole. The lugs on the rest of the outsole are rather small, but effective on a wider variety of surface. The smaller sizing of the lugs makes a very slight sacrifice in traction for a great gain in ground feel, flexibility, and versatility. Though I still prefer a more minimal shoe for 100% road running(Vibram KSOs), the Trail Glove is one of the best shoes for runs requiring road running that connects neighboring trail systems together.


Though not identical, it's pretty obvious what the inspiration of the Merrell outsole is. Our Vibram "one finger" has arrived.

Aesthetics
I touched on this briefly before, but I'll mention it again. The shoe has a bit of a utilitarian look, but the color schemes and design are in line with the rest of Merrell's outdoor offerings. Though not as attention-grabbing as the orange  NB Trail Minimus, The low key look of the shoe has certainly grown on me(note: the Trail Glove also comes in a crazy electric yellow/greenish color, and its pretty awesome looking).


Overall
Positives- I think the traction, protection, ground feel, and flexibilty of this shoe is near perfect...for the niche that its designers intended it to fill. It offers slightly more protection than a Terra Plana EVO or Vibram Fivefingers(even the Trek model), and provides the groundfeel and barefoot-like performance that is unmatched by any other offerings thus far(ie, the MT101, Inov8 x-talon 190). I could get wordy, but the bottom line is that the shoe is great. Durability is  clearly a non-issue. I abuse the hell out of these shoes. I run in cold temperatures, on roads, trails, rocks, and whatever else I come across. I usually leave them outside when Im done, and occasionally wash them in hot water when I hop in the shower after a run. While at home over holiday break, I dried the shoes by putting them next to our wood stove that usually warps shoes and deforms gloves due to the heat. The Merrells still look great and seem to perform better with break in. My pair is currently approaching 600miles and a single stitch has come undone.


I'm not sure why, but the feeling of running sockless is almost as important to me as running shoeless...

Negatives- I love the Trail Gloves, but I have to paint its portrait, warts and all. Barefoot purists may be put off by the amount of "squish" in the shoe when it's new. When initially standing in the Trail Glove, it doesn't have the "barely there" feeling of Fivefingers or Huaraches. Others may take issue with the "arch" of the shoe. When tied snugly(the way I prefer), the lacing system pulls the upper and the sole tightly around the midfoot. Though offering a negligible amount of pressure(dare I say it...support), the snugness had NO effect on my running gait, nor did it lead to any foot pain. I'll take some of the responsibility for this, but I have to make a note here. These things freakin' stink! They have the same smell as my Vibrams, a stench unlike anything else I own. I have other running shoes that don't smell this way with regard to the type or magnitude of stank. Finally, the biggest issue I had was during a frozen 33 mile run in December. For some reason, The upper tore the crap out of my foot. I attribute this isolated incident to the cold temperatures(single digit below zero). I was so cold pre-race that I could barely tie the shoes properly. The shoe has yet to give me this problem since, and I've run further in them.
...socklessness does come at a price sometimes. My feet after a 33mile race in the Trail Gloves. So far, a fluke.
 That's one hell of an image to leave you with, isn't it?

Forget the Cover, Let Me Read the Book.

I should spend less time writing this blog than I do, especially since it pertains to only a fraction of my life. I would hope that those reading this understand that I'm not obsessed with running, but just consider it a part of my life. There have been murmurings in some of the online communities I'm part of about a bit of a disdain for "running only" blogs. Though my ramblings usually are about my runs, I chose to write about them because they are enjoyable. Ideally, I'd like to write less about running and more about my observations on my runs. As members of a civilized world, we don't get to interact with nature unless we set aside time to do so. This is where running comes in for me. There are other apects of my life that I'm not at liberty to discuss. As a member of the healthcare feild, its not only unethical, but a direct violation to discuss patient interactions. Even if I replaced names and didn't divulge any identities, I would still consider it disrespectful, for patients and clients would be able to recognize when they were being discussed. Im more than willing to discuss my own struggles and triumphs, and am making an effort to do so in hopes of it aiding in my development as a writer.

This week certainly got off to a slow start. I did tell myself to just run when I felt it to be appropriate. I found out that when given permission to rest, running in single digit temps and high winds on jagged, icy sidewalks feels less than appropriate. I ran 0 miles on monday. The silver lining is that I simply didn't care. Taking a 1 day hiatus from a schedule that typically has me exercising 2-4 times daily felt good. I don't really want to make it a habit, for I truly like the lifestyle of constant motion. I chose to take monday off for a few reasons. The biggest was that I hadn't slept more than 3 hours in a night for 4 nights. Whether my choice, like the 3am 6 hour run with Jeremiah and Jason, or circumstance, like my strange insomnia induced by knowing that an early rise was upon me, it was time to face the fact that several hours of daily exercise could not be maintained on minimal amounts of sleep. I actually felt fine, like I could maintain higher mileage and keep up with life, but I also knew that keeping on that track would eventially lead to overtraining. Why wait until disaster when I know its coming? Taking a proactive approach seemed the most ligical.

Since the combination of gym classes and speed workouts would still have me moving all week, the most logical things for me to cut out for rest purposes just happens to be the least enjoyable parts of training. Cold, dark, windy runs on paved streets are boring and at times unenjoyable, yet often a source of mileage for me. Removing them for a bit would give me the opportunity to rest up mentally and physically, giving me lower mileage for the week. If I can hit the 40-50 range, I'll be happy and so will my legs. After that, its time to aim closer to the 75-80 range for the next training cycle. SLOWLY increasing what I already consider respectable mileage for this time of year will allow me to feel more comfortable when the snow melts and Im trying to consistently run higher mileage weeks. Before starting this blog, my weekly distance seemed to have gone from 40ish miles per week to nearly 80, but was then followed by sporadic highs and lows of injury, burnout, and ingnorance. Im no less ignorant, but I'm trying to improve.

Tuesday
10 miles - unexpectedly high mileage today considering I only ran once. 2 down the the field house in a pretty nasty headwind/snow, then a mile outdoors with the run club guys. 2miles worth of warmup indoors. 1 miles at comfortably fast pace(ended up being 6:02). Some rest jogging, then 6x300 with 1-2 laps worth of rest. 1 mile cooldown, then my 2 mile jog home. There was a lot of miniscule adding, so I ballparked it to 10. It was nearly 2.5 hours between leaving and returning home, so I don't think its unreasonable. The workout itself wasnt as bad as I predicted. I felt really sluggish at first from the long run/sleep deprivation weekend, but my body remembered what (it's verson of) speed felt like.

Wednesday
Zippo- We ended up getting a snow day here at WMU, as did the rest of the state. I slept with no alarm clock, which allowed me to get up at the crack of noon to greet the day...or what was left of it. I joined my friend and training patner Evan for a workout in the pool. That was the extent of my exercise for the day, along with some shoveling. I read, wrote, and studied chemistry for the rest of the evening(Damn you to hell, Online Web Learning). I've learned something in my week of laziness already- I wouldn't be any more studious if I were to focus solely on school. The amount of time I can focus on academic pursuits as limited by my short attention span, not my schedule. This does beg yet another question: how can I struggle to spend 40 straight minutes reading chemistry, which I'm starting to enjoy, yet still hunger for more running after 6 hours alone in the trails?

Thursday
AM - 5 miles - Amazing trek at Al Sabo. 1.5 hours in the trails, and I only covered 5 miles. The cross country skiers and snowshoers helped out tremendously, but it was still quite tough to get any footing. The real fun came when I wandered into the totally untouched singletrack. The snow on the northern side of the preserve was knee deep and fluffy from the blizzard. The YakTrax XTRs sunk down into the powder and gripped the hardpack base really well and made for some fun climbs and descents on the small hills. One hill in particular by the Lookout tower was especially fun. I descended really quickly, powder flying over my head as I bounced down the hill. I ran around with a smile on my face, playing like a little kid. The entire run actually reminded me of how children play. I ran as fast as I could in the powder, even lauging to myself at times(I know, corny and overdramatic). When I got tired. I plopped down in the snow and stared up at the sky. There wasn't a single cloud and the sun warmed me as I lied face up in the snow. I stopped at some of my usual vantage points and rested. I hadn't realized how much I missed the sun until it was there, smiling down on me. The feeling was reminiscent of my snowmobiling trips with my family and my ski adventures with my girlfriend Samantha. I strangely felt the same way I do when they're around - happy and complete.
A great combination of caffeine, candy, endorphins and vitamin D.

...not sure why I decided to write "AM" there. Oh, right, I missed the indoor workout due to work stuff. Hobby. Jogger.

Friday
6 miles- Ran to Military Fitness to do pushup/situp day(notice a lot of variety?) Ran a 18 minute "cadence run" around the gym. If I ever need proof that the cadence of a traditional shod runner is different from a minimalist/barefoot runner, this was it. I constantly screwed up the cadence of the run. Just making sure I don't get taken seriously or anything like that...

Saturday
7 miles - Headed to Muskegon State Park to run my favorite singletracks while I was home for the weekend. Approximately 30 seconds into the run, I stepped a couple inches off the packed trail and sunk into thigh-deep snow. Ugh. This is essentially how the rest of the run went. I tried to traverse the ridges of the sand dunes near the channel, but was met with quite a bit of powder. I once stepped onto a cornice and sunk chest-deep in the snow. This is one of the first times that I actually desired the use of cross country skis or snowshoes. The run took nearly 1.5 hours, and I was sweating every step of the way. My YakTrax XTRS repeatedly slipped off the heel of my MT100s. The weather was great, the views of the lake were spectacular, but the run itself was a tad arduous.

Sunday
0 miles- Took care of my parents house/dogs/horse all day and headed back to school

Total
28 miles. Weak. I can't even do rest in moderation. I either seem to run to the point of breaking, or rest to the point of rusting. I suppose its what I wanted and I shouldn't bitch. Here's to a good week back into normal mileage.

Missing summer all of a sudden