Monday, February 27, 2012

Keepin' on the Grind

A day late,
A buck short,
I'm writing
The Report
On losing,
and failing
when I move
Im flailing

The week of running was ho-hum and I wrote this post a day after it. Pardon the Blink-182 reference.

I'd say this has been a tough week, but I'd be embellishing. I've enjoyed my week immensely. My job is going fairly well, I had a couple great(but short) runs, and spent some time with friends and family.

Drinking coffee and tea while I work my nights and weekends away. Keepin' the dream alive.
Training, however, has been shit. One track workout(totalling about 9 miles), and some 30-60minute runs. Maybe 7 hours total of running for the week. I'd like to blame the 50 hour work week, but I think it's just a case of malaise. I'm so excited about heading west in a month that plodding out road miles alone doesn't even feel like running, but some boring activity altogether different. I need the shocking reminder that fitness is fitness, and the more base I have when I arrive in Colorado, the better off I'll be.

That being said, training for a mountain race without mountains is like training for soccer with no soccer ball. I'll call these next 4 or 5 weeks "conditioning."

In the past, I noticed that few people in the manufacturing profession participated in endurance sports. I thought it would make a good compliment. Being on one's feet all day and keeping active at work seems like a great way to avoid injuries and get a little extra training in. I have discovered the explanation, at least as it applies to me.

My job is monotonous. Running, especially long distance running, is also monotonous. Using a monotonous activity as a release from the confines of another monotonous activity just doesn't make sense. A typical day consist of grinding, inspecting, and transporting 120-200 steel pipe molds. Each day presents a new challenge, but its essentially just polishing the same skill over and over. My ambition to get out and go for a 2-3 hour run on my only day off just isn't there. If this were a more permanent situation, I'd go back to my old lifestyle of action sports - Motocross/Enduro riding, mountain biking, snowmobiling. Drowning in the simple makes me yearn for the more complicated and energetic.

The inverse of this holds true for me as well. Last Summer, my running addiction spiked, right along with the complexity of my life. Multiple activities all over the city of Boulder with a demographic I've never worked with (those with disabilities), a new environment, and a hectic schedule kept me on my toes. The 1-3 hour sessions on the trails were my release, the time in my day there putting one foot in front of the other and leaning forward were the objectives. It's been a learning experience for me to say the least. If I want to continue to be a runner, I've got to take advantage of a lifestyle more conducive to high volume exercise.

Notes from the week:
Track Workout: Just a simple 3 mile warmup, 6x800@2:45-2:55, then 4 miles back to Evan's place. Very much a "Wam Bam Merci Ma'am." approach. The whole damned thing took about an hour.

The rest, just joggin around, somewhere around 7:30 7:45 pace for the most part.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Looking Forward

This week was mediocre at best with regard to volume. As far as quality goes, I think it went pretty well. A few miles at "base pace," some pickups and short (200-800m) repeats, stair repeats, and plenty of hills. If I do this, but at twice the volume, I'll be in great shape.

5 mile loop around the house. I wanted to see if my lingering fatigue was from being inactive(and still losing 3lbs) or if I was still sick. Other than my lungs being really tight, the run felt effortless and my legs felt good. I ran at my usual base/recovery pace(7:35-7:55) without much effort. Funny how being sick makes the lungs so sensitive to pollutants like diesel exhaust.

Overslept. This sickness is really hanging in there. Maybe I'll try a run after work. I haven't done a night run in a while, and should keep in practice. The fitness part of a 100 is tough enough, but the logistics and timing is equally as I'll see if I can manage that.

....9 hours later(ever watch SpongeBob?)

Didn't happen. Hittin' a bit of a low here. Time to get my head out of my ass.

11 miles - Parked near the lakeshore and ran some easy road miles to the park. Ran stairs and hills for about 40 minutes, and some miles on sand. For kicks, I ran out on the break arm to the light house as the waves collided with the ice covered rocks and hit me. Probably an unnecessary risk, but it was fun and made me feel alive for a minute before going into a windowless metal box full of airborne carcinogens.

12 miles - A run at GVSU with Jeremiah. Muddy trails, hills, and fast pickups on dirt roads. Quite a bit of quality running. I'm faster on flat ground, He makes me look like a hobby jogger on hills.

Off. I'm really bad at having a life outside of working

Off again. see Friday for further details.

15(ish)miles - met up with Evan to do a few laps at Robinettes. 2 laps at around 36 minutes each, then another lap and some cool down miles with Efrem. Relatively high intensity running. Tagging along with those who run faster is how I peaked in college, so I might as well try it again. I felt great after the run, ready to do some.

43 miles. All things considered, it wasn't that bad. As much as I constantly beat myself up about mediocre mileage, you'd think I'd just get over it and just run. I also worked 50 hours this week. I certainly won't be making any excuses. Many people run more miles, work more hours, and have kids, so my hat's off to them and I'll just keep trying. I did treat myself to some retail therapy and order up some new shorts and shoes.

The ship-out date for the West has been moved up. It appears that I'll be breathing the thin air as early as the first week of April. If I can hold onto this foundry job until then, my plan just may come together and I'll make it. The trick now is to stay in decent shape so I can start training when life changes completely.

Happy trails, all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week Ending 2/12: Barely Note Worthy

This week pretty much sucked on the running front. I think I ran 20 miles. Monday was an easy 5ish miler to recover from the hard 17. Tuesday was 13-14 miles of hills and dirt roads with Jeremiah. I took a day off wednesday in preparation for a mid-week long run. On Wednesday I got sick. I assumed it was just a little stuffiness and a lack of sleep, but it got progressively worse. By Friday, I was passing out after work, and waking up in time to get up and go back to the shop. A downward spiral took effect once I was simply alternating between environments of foundry dust and dog hair.

A little time of absolutely no running was...weird. Usually, I'm at least thinking about running, talking about running, or looking at running-related material online. Times have changed a little. I now work in an environment where I rarely talk to anyone about anything, especially not my little jogging addiction. Limited internet access keeps me out of my online social circles, and all the hours are keeping me from my "real world" training partners. It was a true 5 day retreat from my running-centered world.

This was a reminder that we really are alone at the end of the day. I don't say this to be negative or pessimistic. I mean that when we look at ourselves and our motivations in life, we have to take extra caution not to get caught up in other people's worlds. I'm often preoccupied with whether I'm being present-minded or continuing to do this because it's just what I've been doing. I see the online training logs of friends, and feel inadequate.  Do I still love to run? Could the simple act of jogging from A to B really be holding my interest for this long?

The answer is yes. It's not a passing interest, nor a search for validation. I've always been the undercheiving slacker amongst friends. I've just got to accept that I've found something I actually care about and have my own way of doing it. I'm feeling a sense of security that almost feels foreign. I think it's coming from accepting who I am. Is some elite runner status in my future? Most likely not. Can I continue to improve, seek advendture, and live a life of passion and pursuit of my personal potential? Oh, hell yes, and excuse the alliteration. I've done some fun things in my short time, and the ideas are just starting to roll in.

As far as a week off from illness? Not too worried. As the wise red-assed baboon from the Lion King said, "Who Cares? It's in the Past!"

Moving on...

VIVOBAREFOOT NEO Trail Review: Like Traction?

Most shoes are just that: minimal- just the way we like them. Little cushion, little support, and little weight. This, for the most part, is great. I don't know about the rest of the world, but there have been a few times where I'd gladly carry a little extra weight to keep my face and/or ass out of the mud and/or snow.

Enter the NEO trail.

The folks at VIVOBAREFOOT were kind enough to provide this shoe for my review. As I prepare for an upcoming season of running, I'm on the lookout for great shoes.

First Impression:
-This shoe has one aggressive lug pattern. The lugs on the forefoot are nearly 1/4'' long.
-It's cool looking. The "ligaments" on the shoe give it the look of a lightweight, minimal hiking shoe.
-Fit and finish: As usual with VB, these shoes appear extremely well built.
-A little on the heavy side. With all that rubber on the outsole, not too surprising.
-True zero drop - flat from heel to forefoot(a fundamental design of Terra Plana/VIVOBAREFOOT)
Large forefoot lugs grip snow, mud, and wet sand extremely well.

I was excited to wear the shoes, so I wore them walking around casually first. I never know when running stink will set in in a pair of shoes, so I give them the "casual test" first. When walking on pavement, I could feel the lugs pressing into my feet. This had me thinking the shoes wouldn't make good road shoes. Good thing they're trail shoes, right? We minimalist runners have a tendency to misuse shoes, then gripe about their lackluster performance. The upper was quite comfortable and the shoes were very roomy. Since I've been wearing racing flats lately, this was quite a departure.
These things have tons of room.
So much in fact, that it made driving a manual shift car difficult
They're running shoes, not driving shoes.

On the Run:
The first run in these shoes was a snowy, muddy trail loop here in Michigan. In these conditions, I usually make the choice to either wear my yaktrax or leave them at home. I wanted to see how these shoes performed all on their own.

I wasn't disappointed. On hard packed snow, the NEO Trail gripped like crazy. I was able to power up hills without too much worrying about foot placement. I felt just as confident on the way down. The combination of big lugs and a thin sole works well in this situation. The runner's foot is still low to the ground, but lugs are still there to dig in and do their job.

The shoes also dug sand really well. The lugs are spaced out enough to be self-cleaning and keep digging. Another plus was that the shoes don't have the see-through mesh uppers of most modern minimal shoes. Sometimes you just want to keep the sand and snow out. In a really muddy, sandy, or snowy trail race, I'd pick these shoes and maybe a pair of gaiters.

Roads proved to be the bane of these shoes' existence. They simply aren't road shoes. They felt a bit bulky, and I could feel the lugs pressing into my feet. For this reason, I opted to leave the insoles in. The shoes are voluminous enough that leaving them in still allowed for plenty of wiggle room. If I were running a long race with more than a few miles of road running, I'd leave these at home. As I mentioned before, these aren't marketed as road shoes, and their extreme trail-worthiness doesn't require them to apologize for it.

The NEO Trail is a no-nonsense rugged trail shoe. Rather than pleasing a wide array of runners, this shoe fills a narrow niche very well. The thin yet rugged sole offers a great deal of protection, but the flexibility allows the foot to move as it should.
For an ultrarunner, the shoes could may cause issues on courses with lots of varied terrain. For people who insist on owning only one pair of shoes, they may want to look elsewhere. Love running in mud, sand, or snow? Get a pair! They're also great hiking shoes. The hydrophobic mesh panels keep water out and still breathe. They aren't waterproof, but are much better at repelling water than most minimal shoes out there. This class of shoe employs good ideas that have existed in traditional footwear, and allows our feet to move as they need to.

I think these shoes are the best looking of VBs running lineup.

BTB Sunglasses: Good Glasses, Good Cause, and a Discount Code.

I was approached by the marketing people at BTB Sport Optics to review a pair of their sunglasses. During this time, I was debating whether to continue doing reviews. For a hobo, I've acquired some great swag over the past couple years. That being said, I was wondering if I should keep writing in exchange for free stuff. I took the "Dexter Morgan" approach and created a complex code of ethics.

I went to the BTB website and communicated with their marketing people. The products looked nice and the prices were reasonable. The tipping point- they supported a cause. The BTB Foundation actively supports healthy lifestyles for kids by raising money for youth sports. Call me idealistic, but I firmly believe that getting our society more active can cure much more than sedentary disease. Getting our kids active could save their minds as well as their bodies, and that could mean much more than any cholesterol test. I discovered the wonders of physical activity later in life(okay, I was 19, but I'm only 24 now), and would be glad to help a company that's spreading the good word.

Anyway, on to the review. Here's the BTB 250 model, recommended for sports and outdoor activities.

Let's not beat around the bush. Most of the time, form follows function. With sunglasses, I'd say it's nearly a tie. If they don't work well, I'm leaving them in my glovebox of my car. If they don't look cool, same result. These white glasses are pretty cool looking. Imagine if they put them on someone who was good looking.

I'll be brief. I'm not much of a sunglasses expert. I put the sunglasses on and they felt comfortable The lenses were big enough to leave my peripheral vision unhindered and my straightforward vision unaltered. Some lenses are curved and tend to refract light(example: my safety glasses at work make me sick).

We actually got some sun in Michigan in February, so I was able to test them out. I didn't want to have to BS the whole review, so I'm thankful for the clouds taking a brief vacation.

The rubberized temples help the glasses stay in place and provide some extra comfort. Though it does make them more aesthetically pleasing, I also found them to be helpful on the run. My head got sweaty and my hair was wet, but the BTB sunglasses stayed in place. The same rubber is used on the nose pads, which have small vent holes in them. I'm not sure if they contribute to the non-slipperiness(I tried to think of a better term there, but I'm at a loss), but the glasses held in place very well.

Another great feature of the glasses is that all models exceed ANSI, OSHA & Military Impact Specifications. I'm an aspiring vagrant, and have done many different jobs to make some cash. Excavating, manual labor, maintenance, and the like require safety glasses. These glasses are not only approved, but work exceedingly well for that. The "ballistic" rating is also valuable to cyclists, since we never know what road or trail debris could be heading straight for our eyeballs.

There you have it. They fit well, look cool, keep the sun from scorching your retinas, and save the world, one little athlete at a time.

Want to buy some? Here's the discount code. That's right, my very own 30% discount code:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

C- for the Week.

Well, my attempt to run 100 miles in a week while working full time fell drastically short. No injury, no, lack of time, no real reason. Just a change of heart is all it took to derail me.

As I've mentioned, I started my job two weeks ago as a temp to make money to get out to Colorado and to pay off some debt. Getting a head start on some finances will help me spend more time enjoying the Summer and take the pressure off to find immediate employment upon arrival. A job may fall into place immediately, or I may struggle for a bit. Given my luck here in Michigan, I just may struggle a bit. So I abandoned the "find a job that utilizes my degree" job search and go where the money is. I'm working in a foundry that produces super alloys for aerospace and prosthetic joints.

Well, my first day on second shift was eventful. I was loading materials onto a machine when I heard thunder...or a train...but I could feel it in my chest.  Ended up being none of the above. A furnace full of molten metal bridged over, superheating to 4300 degrees(operating temps are about 3400), and exploded. The building was evacuated and we were all sent home. From what I understand (keep in mind that I'm new and only know what I'm told), its incredibly fortunate that nobody was killed. The roof buckled, cement walls were cracked, and bolts as big as a human femur were pulled right apart. My own brother-in-law works in this department on a different shift. Once I confirmed he was indeed at home and not dead in a million pieces, I realized that arbitrary things like numbers, training miles, and money mean fuckall when all is said and done. I run because it makes me feel alive, not for my ego or other bullshit reasons. When I first started running to honor my cousin's memory, I told myself that the day it felt like a job was the day I gave away my running stuff.

That's why the "working man challenge" was scrapped and I just mellowed out. Still turned into a good week, and I loved every minute of it.

13miles - Flat road run near the lakeshore, but in ankle deep snow and slush. It was warm and there were some cool views of the lake and some farm fields. I ran comfortably, but new I was going a little quicker than normal. Didn't look at the watch until I got back, but it was around 7:00pace. A few under, and a few over, with the exception of my always-slow warmup mile.

15miles - another road run with some rolling hills. Its easier to run roads than to drive to the trails. I ran to a point I knew to be 7-8miles, then turned around. No watch, but kept the pace feeling fast. Presumably about the same as the previous day.

10 miles - This is where I learned that doing the same run day after day is a bad idea. Got about 8 miles in, and suddenly felt like crap. Not sure what was different, but my pace slowed to nearly 8minute miles and instantly started walking. Gathered myself ran jogged the last mile home. Running at a faster pace for 3 days with no recovery jog in between was a mistake. If I decide to run a certain amount of miles in a week, I need a plan for it. Maybe next week I'll give it a go with more planning.

6 miles - needed the recovery run, so I just did a nice easy loop around the block. My recovery pace seems to be about 7:30-7:45 on flat roads. This is what I've found based on my own experiences, and also is in accordance with Matt Fitzgerald's "Brain Training for Runners" book I'm reading. Nice to know I'm doing something right.

0 miles - Got caught up watching my stories. No shit. I wasted my morning watching TV. What an ass. Is Supernatural and acceptable show for men to watch? If not, then I should deny being addicted to it. Seems a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but cooler. I've shared too much.

10 miles - 8 with the Joggas at Hoffmaster on the trails. Flat roads make me really appreciate a good hill. Digging the toes in and sprinting up a long hill feels powerful after the repetitive, graceful motion of road running. I think whether a person is a road or trail runner, roads can compliment trails vice versa. 2 more easy with Sam in the afternoon.

17miles - great run on River Road, a windy, hilly road that follows the banks of the Muskegon River. If it weren't for the traffic, it would be my favorite road route. I ran pretty fast, but started out nice and easy. Eventually got down to a 7:00minute pace. On the way back, I picked it up momentarily, and decided to run a fast mile. 5:55. I took a rest mile at 7:15, then hit another fast mile at 5:45. I was elated to run that fast after having run 13 miles already. Got a cramp in my foot on the cool down, but it seems to be subsiding now. Despite being thin and only weighing 6 ounces or so, the Nike XC 3's are stiff as hell and seem to mess with my feet just a little.

71 miles for the week. Considering that most of it was on the faster side, I'm on my feet doing manual labor 8 hours a day, and I took two days of little to no running, I'm really happy with it. I'm about where I want to be.

Carry on all, spring is pretty much here.