Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where did the Joy Go? Insomniac Babbling

As I mentioned in my last post, this weekend's race didn't go so well. I have compiled the following list of lame excuses, which are actually just mistakes of arrogance:

-Losing 3lbs at work the night before, and not diligently replacing it(my work was over 100 degrees)
-Not eating a decent meal the night before(three tacos from Taco Bell...but that Doritos shell is magnificent)
-Being on a 2nd shift sleep schedule, and then getting up at 5:20am(result:2 hours sleep)
-Forgetting my "security blanket" Garmin in the car(its a flat, straight course, so mile splits help immensely).

...and these problems were before the race.

They're all things that I did wrong leading up to the race, so I still take responsibility. Nobody to blame but me. Despite these setbacks, I regrouped myself after getting sick, ran a decent race, and finished with a sub seven mile. I spent some time with a new friend, and still finished in the top third despite giving up and walking for 35 minutes. My time and pace were disappointing to me. What does this mean?

I've got my head up my ass,
I compared this running of the Kal Haven to my more successful and faster race of two years ago, and realized that I was a different person then. I took it seriously, but because I wanted to squeeze every bit of enjoyment from it. This time, I didn't take it seriously, and didn't enjoy it. Doesn't this fly in the face of the hobbyjogger code?

I've quit running ultras for my own enjoyment. What I'm now doing it for, I have no idea. It's time to put a stop to that. The small bits of success that I've had have caused me to turn this hobby into a job. The problem with that is that I've never had a job I liked. The word "job" has a connotation to me that says "obligation" or "commitment." The same old grind gets old, even when it comes to recreation.

I know that rediscovering myself won't be like turning on a light switch. Hell, I may have to abandon running altogether to do it. I hope it won't come to that because I've got one hell of a nice collection of shorts that would look weird anywhere else.

The plan is to rediscover adventure, and to remain the outsider. Being the small fish in the big pond always kept me full of wonder and humility(is calling yourself humble a sign of arrogance?). This has proven true in all aspects of my life and not just my jogging habit. I've always been happier with a B+ without studying than an A with a cram session. As a good friend once told me "The A students are the business owners, the B students are the movers and shakers." I forget what C students are. Either teachers or strippers I think. Thanks JP.

That was a cloudy explanation. How about this: I'm going back to being a "jogger." I had more fun, felt more balanced, and was more successful. I'm not in pursuit of athletic greatness, but rather the next thrill.  Anyone who wishes to pass judgement on that can kindly kiss my ass.
Raise a glass to finding ourselves, won't you?
To the never ending search.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Half Assin' and Mustachin'

This week sucked wholesale ass with regard to running, so if you're expecting the optimism of a functioning adult, keep looking.

The taper week leading up to the Kal Haven Trail Run was a dysfunctional mess. I did a whopping total of three 2 mile runs to the little creek near my house. I have no real reason for the sporadic low volume running, other than my tendencies to self-sabotage. The entire week, I tried convincing myself that I was looking forward to the race. Only in hindsight do I realize that my head was never in it in the first place.

The run started out great. I was with a good group consisting of past and current members of the WMU Running Club and some cool folks from Gazelle Sports. The frist 10 miles were trotted by effortlessly. Other than a few people stopping to pee, we ran in a tight pack. Kept a steady intake of GU and water coming in, but was starting to feel a little off. I kept thinking about dehydration, and remembered that I soaked through two shirts at work the night before. With a couple miles left until the halfway point at the town of Bloomingdale, I decided that I had to go drop a deuce off trail.

Yadda Yadda Yadda, hiding in bushes a couple feet from passing strangers, yadda yadda yadda...

I hopped back on the trail(I wish there was a better word for that trail. Its less technical than a sidewalk) and tried to catch the group. That would prove difficult since Alex and Evan decided to drop a couple sub7 miles after I stopped.
Nick(left), Me, and Robbie pulling into Bloomingdale. Robbie kicked ass in his first ultra
and was great company in the second half.

By the time I arrived in Bloomingdale, Alex and Evan had already had enough time to do what they needed to do. I decided to take off with them anyway without taking a leak or grabbing extra GU. This is where things started to fall apart. The plan for us to run as a team should have had a clause stating "you know, unless we don't." I wasn't surprised. I stopped to pee, and it left a gap of about 200m that never got closed. I felt weak, my stomach felt like it was in a knot, and motivation was sapped now that I was running solo.

After noticing a couple rocks in my shoe, I stopped on a bridge, the only scenic spot on the 34 mile trail. I shook the rocks out of my MR00s, but not before dropping one off the bridge. Fuckin' A. Who drops a shoe, honestly? Luckily ir didn't fall in the creek and I didn't have to walk too far to get it.

The next hour or so was a death march of alternating between "welp, this sucks. I might as well walk" and "if I run, this will be over faster." As one person after another jogged past, I realized that I just didn't care. It was no longer a race for me. Whether it was physiological, psychological, or some combination thereof, I just didn't feel like continuing. After a cup of Gatorade from an aid station, I puked up some nasty thick contents of my stomach. Instert nail A into coffin B.

A little more walking, and I heard someone calling my name. It was Robbie. He came along and I finally started running again. We ran the last 4-5 miles finished together. It was a blessing to have somebody come along and run the last parf of the course with me.

My time was 4:50 or something, which was good enough for 29th place. I'd like  think I've gotten faster in 2 years, but in 2009 I ran the course in 4:23. This isn't the abysmal failure from a numbers standpoint, but I can't help but feel dejected. There was a time when I started races with determination. This further engrains my belief that I'm less a runner and more an outdoor enthusiast. I'll have to continue the search for what I truly enjoy doing. Running is an wonderful hobby for me to express myself, but the details of where, and why are immensely important.

After the race, however, was a wonderful afternoon of beer and mexican food and more beer. Awesome pub crawl with friends from school. Drinks and dancing until 2am, followed by a bike ride the next day. On the positive side, I gave up halfway through an ultra and still finished in the top third, went on a lengthy drinking adventure, and then had a nice bike ride the following day. I'll stop bitching.
Okay, so I'm not the serious downer I was talking about.
Just have to get my mojo back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Balance Minimus Road Zero: 100+ mile wear test

First things first. Though I do test pre-production models for New Balance, I bought the MR00s outright, and even had to wait for them to be released to get my hands on them. Hey, I'm no elite, so my limited running prowess and inside connections only get me so far.

A nice coating of dirt road and two-track dust finally toned down the pearly whites

I’m not typically into road running. In most cases, I’d sacrifice the mileage and take the time to drive to trails. Lately, however, I’ve been finding my time to be too limited to be choosy about where I run. I live in a rural area in Western Michigan, so flat country blocks and "not so public" two tracks had to become my training ground until set out for Colorado in April.

I knew I’d need a road shoe that would allow for high volume with relative comfort. After trying the cheaper, bulkier cousin of the MR00, the NB 730, I decided to just bite the bullet and pay the money for the Road Zeros. My biggest fear was them being like the last version of the Minimus Road, which was quite terrible.

The Minimus Road Zero is flat, foot-shaped, and light. It has a very "moccasin-like" feel.

Long story short: I’m totally enamored with the shoes.

Upon trying the shoes on, they felt like many other minimal offerings:

A relatively smooth upper, a couple weird lumps here and there, and plenty of room to wiggle my toes. This issue with just slipping your feet into a shoe to see if you like it is that its like sitting in a new car to see if you'll like it 200,000miles later.

The weird bump in the shoe, at least for my foot, was on the lateral side of my arch, on both feet. It's either a seam or a small lump of extra cushioning. The true zero drop, super feathery weight, and cool aesthetic made me look past it and hope for the best.

After a few runs, the issue was totally resolved. I did, however, notice that I developed a little callus from the seam on the lateral side of my midfoot. This is pretty normal with any shoe. They all rub in different spots, and easing them into your running will help the skin to adjust accordingly.

The day I got the shoes, I ran in them. 7 days later, I had 90 miles on the shoe, including a track workout, a marathon+ distance road run, trails, and gravel roads.

The Minimus Road Zero seems to strike just the right balance. There's enough protection to run on gravel and semi-technical trails, but it's still flexible enough to run those flat sections of pavement. The upper gave me no blistering, and shows no signs of damage after 130 miles of use. I don't like to blame shoes for injury, but the truly flat, uninhibiting feel of these kicks has helped me run 2 quality weeks of road running injury free.

The Vibram Rubber on the outsole has also weathered quite well. The outsole design of the MR00, despite being a road shoe, provides more protection than the Minimus Trail Zero*. The MT00 has less rubber on the forefoot, giving it a more flexible feel, but less protection. If I were to buy one of these shoes and use it for both road and trail, it would be the more comfortable Road Zero. The Trail verson hasn't got the cool "burrito tongue." If you know me, you know I love burritos. I coudn't say no to a shoe inspired by a burrito, could I?

Any negatives? Sure. The upper is missing the uppermost shoelace hole, which I like using for tying my shoes in a "heel lock" pattern. This keeps me from tying the shoe as snugly as I typically like, and made the heel rub my foot a little. Still no blisters though, so no harm, no foul.

Lots of the jargon tossed around in reviews is less useful now than in previous years. Shoe companies like NB are hearing us, and making products to fit the needs of minimalist runners as we get more mainstream. The issues now are durability, cost/enjoyment ratio, and fit/feel. This shoe passes all those tests for me.

If you're looking for a great road shoe, I'd say this or Merrell's Road Glove are the way to go. Or the Nike Streak XC. Or the Somnio Nada. Ok, there are lots of good road shoes out there, but isnt that what we've been asking for?
Yeah I used the same photo in two blog posts. I like it, so look at it again!
The Zeros allow our legs to work the way they want to.

*I tested the MT00 this summer, and wore it for the Leadville Silver Rush 50.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tad bit flabby, but none too shabby.

My sister ever so nicely pointed out my love handles this week, hence the title of the post. Not to mention, it rhymes, which is more important. My mileage wasn't phenomenal, but is it ever? Considering how early in the year it is, I'll take it.
4 easy miles - Damn you daylight savings time! Slept until 11am, giving me a couple hours to run, check out my squeaky ass brakes on my car, book my flight to Denver, and get my lease stuff sorted. Barely had time to stop for a bitchin' burrito! My legs felt surprisingly great after the long run. Ahh, the restorative effects of veggie pizza and staying moving. I'm trepidatiously starting to feel like a runner again because I felt like doing more.

16 miles - Started out on a route I knew to be 12. The sun was shining, it was 65 degrees, and I was struttin' around with no shirt on. Sorry, Dalton Township. I added an extra 2 miles on a golf course/affluent subdivision. I arrived at home with extra energy still, so I ran to Samantha's house. I haven't had a run like this in a long time. I ran the entire time, comfortable and smooth, fueled by nothing more than a prerun GU. Must be the sunshine.

It reminded me of my first experiences with running, which must have been about 4 years ago. I once ran for three hours straight, which was 2.5 hours longer than my previous best. I paid for it the next morning, but I'll never forget the feeling of not wanting to stop. My neighborhood looked so different on foot. I've spent the last years trying to recapture it. It doesn't happen often, but it's worth the daily chase.

9 miles - Planned on doing a fartlek or hill workout, but just didn't feel right. Ran the first 4 pretty easy, then did a few pickups in the latter half, making sure to sprint the only hill in a 3 mile radius of my house.

I've decided that getting "mountain ready" is pretty much a lost cause. I feel that the best plan of action is to just get generally fit and take the lumps that are coming to me in those first couple weeks in CO. My heart and lungs will be ready, but my  quads are going to take a beating. Can't wait! The beatiful weather today made me realize just what a beautiful place I'm leaving behind.
Empire Bluff, near Traverse City, MI
There's potential for me to work here upon returning home.
Don't ask what my plans are, for I have no idea whatsoever. 
AM 7 miles - Standard 7 miler around the house. Felt good and barely felt my legs. Considering that I've run 100 miles in 7 days, I'd call that a good sign. Finished with some fartlek in that last 2 miles.
 Not having the time to drive to trails is liberating and boring at the same time. It's nice to just put the shoes on and jog out the driveway, but I do miss my trails. Driving to the trails would add an hour or more to the total time I take to run each day, so I'd rather do a fast, flat road run for 90-120 minutes than a 30 minute trail run. Plenty of trail time to come.

PM 4 miles - Finally bought headlamp batteries and went for a post work(and pub) jog from the house. I hadn't doubled in a couple weeks, and this felt pretty good. I don't know what to attribure my recent increase in vigor to lately, but I'm going to let it ride and try not to burn out. With the Kal Haven race approaching, overdoing it would be a mistake...so that's probably what I'll end up doing.

4 miles - The night run caused me to stay up late. Staying up late caused me to sleep my morning away. I woke up, ran for 30 minutes, and went to work. I am a rather boring individial that only runs and operates a grinder. Those running magazines are full of shit, man. I see no tan girls with nice stomachs while I go running. No glory. No well placed beads of sweat. Just a pasty, red-faced kid plodding down a dirt road for no reason at all. It's not a glamorous hobby, not even with new shoes on. I'll never be a poweful looking runner gracing the pages of a magazine or winning mega huge prize purses. That's not even what I want. What am I spending every minute of free time I have on this for anyway? I'm chasing a dream that is just a mirage on the horizon, my eyes in an aimless stare. I'm moving toward...something, but I don't even know what it is. The desired result from all my effort? I have no idea. Just keep chasing an elusive dream.

Random frustrations aside, I discovered a beautiful section of singletrack near my house today on some "not so public" land. I jogged around on it for a bit, sat near the small, widing creek and had  peaceful moment. Small moments like this are all we get sometimes, and this was all I needed to feel right again. The nagging questions, the hows and whys of this ludacris hobby just faded away as I realized why I do it. My feet brought me to this little trail, next to this quietly flowing creek, where all was right for a minute. That's why.

Why do I get so serious? Other people get all serious and shit, and I tell them to lighten up.

17 miles - Parked at Snug Harbor, ran a quick trail loop, then headed into North Muskegon for some mile repeats on the track. One small oversight on my part: Hydration. By the time I reached the track, my water bottle was nearly empty, it was 76 degrees, and I was on a black rubber track. Not a drinking fountain to be found. I did manage to find a half full bottle of water lying in the grass, so I dumped it on my head. 3x1mile@5:50. I was aiming for 4, but bagged it early when the last one was substantially slower(5:59).

On the way back, I stopped at my Grandparents house and help them move some boxes into their garage attic, filled up my bottle, and jogged back to the trails. I made a point to visit my favorite section of trail, a tight singletrack on a ridge where the dunes meet the woods. A great run overall, and my final hard effort before the Kal Haven Trail Run. The trail run and the sun-baked road sections were great. Sweat pouring out of me and taking in some easy miles in my favorite place to run.

5 mile - Felt sort of blah, didn't really feel like running all that much. Must have been the food coloring in all that green beer.  An easy run around the block just for the sake of staying moving.

66 miles  - Sixty-Six actual miles, verified with either a Garmin, gmaps pedometer, or a track. All decimals were simply rounded off. The past two weeks have been great to me. Relatively low mileage(not for me, I feel like a baus, but for real runners), but some speedy runs, some relaxing jogs, and some quiet reflection have made me feel more at ease. No days off, which is nice.
The week was kind, as was the weather. Shirtless running and flaunting of the muffin top.
Let's see how I survived the winter. Kal Haven Ultra next weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saugatuck Dunes and the Kal Haven Trail Ultra: Help Me Help Evan Help the Dunes

Mentioned on this blog as the crazy jogger who kicks my ass at track workouts and tempo runs, Evan Groendyk is one of my best friends. Evan has a Bachelor's in Environmental Science, and has a special place in his heart for the Michigan out-of-doors. He convinced me to run the Kal Haven Race again. He and Alex are going to kill me, but it will be great to start the race with them. Mr. Groendyk has written th following note to call us to action. I'll let him explain it the way only he can:


I normally do not use Facebook for this purpose, but I would sincerely appreciate it if you would disseminate this information to any and all who may be interested in this.

I am running my first "ultra" distance race on the 24th of March. It is the Kal-Haven trail race and you run from Kalamazoo to South Haven on the trail. I am doing so not only to experiment and learn some things about myself, but primarily to raise awareness for what is currently happening in Saugatuck, a neighboring community. A person by the name of Aubrey McClendon has recently been trying to develop this land. Allow me to paraphrase good old Wikipedia to accurately provide a condensed version of the dune drama:

"From 2004 to 2006, McClendon bought 400 acres of undeveloped duneland fronting Lake Michigan in Saugatuck Township, Michigan, for $39.5 million with plans to build luxury homes, 28 condos, a hotel, a marina and a golf course. In 2006, the Saugatuck Township Board rezoned the land to R-4, severely restricting the use of the land and requiring a PUD for any developmen. The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance opposes McClendon's plans, citing environmental concerns. In 2009, McClendon sold 171 acres of the land to a conservancy. In March 2010, McClendon sued the township in federal court to overturn the zoning. In July 2011, McClendon and the Township Board submitted a proposed Consent Agreement to the court for approval. In November 2011, Judge Maloney rejected the proposed Consent Agreement, but outlined a way for the parties to proceed toward a conclusion of the litigation."

My problem is that this gentleman will not take no for an answer. Who sues a township over zoning? It's crazy. So, my involvement in this race is to raise awareness and illuminate the wonderful group effort trying to protect this land. The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance is an organization dedicated to preserving this threatened landscape. They exist to protect one of the rarest ecosystems on earth: the freshwater dune. According to their website: "The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance is a coalition of individuals and organizations working cooperatively to protect and preserve the natural geography, historical heritage, and rural character of the Saugatuck Dunes coastal region in the Kalamazoo River Watershed, beginning with the Saugatuck Dunes."

So, if anyone could pass this along to their friends (copy/paste in email form) or just give me a big fat "like" that would be great. I am looking for people who want to donate to this group to help this important cause. There are two ways to donate.

Method 1: on-line thru their website ---> www.saugatuckdunescoastalalliance.org
Method 2: send them a check -----> PO 1013, Saugatuck, MI 49453

As an added bonus, a copy of the book Saugatuck Dunes: Artists Respond to a Freshwater Landscape will be given to every donor kicking in $20 dollars or more in my name. So send some cash over to these wonderful people if you can afford to give some. If not, tell your friends and try to support them in some other way!


Evan Groendyk

There you have it. We'll be out there running. Spread the word and help the Dunes.
Me(borrowed middle school singlet), Alex(loud Brooks singlet) and Evan(thumb up)

Oil on canvas, MICHIGAN DUNES by Jens-Peter Kemmler

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Forward Movement, Gradual Improvement

Started the week off right...by not running.

7 miles - Nice road run around the house in the sun. You would think that knowing how the weather impacts your mood would make the weather impact your mood less. Not so much. Shorts and a long sleeved shirt made the run feel great. Considering that it took less than 50 minutes(Forgot to wear a watch, but noticed when I left and returned), It must have been a well rested effort to take it easy.

To start building some mountain strength, I did step ups on the tailgate of my truck for 2 minutes immediately after the run. That'll hurt tomorrow(yes, I'm that out of shape).

1 miles - Just enough to get a run in in my new MR00s, or whatever the new flat Road Minimus is called. Nice! Working 1-11 is enough to eat up a whole day. Good day to start the countdown to quittin' time. Damn step ups from the day before actually hurt. Not while running, but dammit if it didn't make climbing on and off a forklift painful.

10 miles - One of the most effortless 10milers I can remember. No watch, just trying to find a "comfortably strong" pace and glided down the roads. I'm not usually a huge fan of road running, but some rolling hills on dirt roads and a little two-track running made of one nice jog this morning.

10 miles - ...maybe 9. Whatever. Met up with Ephraim and Evan for a long overdue track session. 2.5 mile warmup, 6x800m with 200m rest in between, and 2.5 miles back to Evan's. All the 800s were under 2:50, so 5:30-5:5:40pace. We ran them all progressively faster, starting with a 2:49 and working down to 2:44ish. Evan kicked my ass and dropped a 2:40 on the last one.

Runs like this make me realize that I'm just a little weird. Quietly running single file on the track at these speeds makes me anxious. I feel as though I could run just as fast if I relaxed and smiled. I'll have to experiment with that. Since my goal is not to actually get faster at track racing, I'll just take the workouts for what they are and try to enjoy them. Maybe I'm just destined to be on the upper end of the jogger scale and not break into runner territory. Good run followed by delicious vegan pizza at Brickroad Pizza(I'm not vegan, but this was awesome).

7 miles - A little recovery from the trackwork. Nothing hurt, and I ran at my normal recovery/base pace. Felt pretty smooth, even in a nasty headwind.

27 miles - Met up with Dr. C for a leisurely paced, flat road run around Spring Lake and on some dirt backroads of Grand Haven. Kept the pace pretty casual, somewhere around 7:45/mile. We never really made a conscious effort to speed up and just ran along. First shirtless run of the year. Awww yeah. We had 26 miles, but wanted the full Mary. We jogged just long enough to need water, so we went to a bathroom to fill bottles. Great run and great times. We even did 13 pullups each for the sake of extra manliness.

62 miles on the week. It's a little sad that I'm so proud of this, but whaddaya do? I worked 50 hours this week as well, so I'm happy. At least my motivation is back!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Glimmer

26.2 miles - Technically it was two 13.1 mile runs as my commute to and from work. They were both PM runs, so I stick to my arbitrary and ever-changing book keeping rules. The run to work was freezing, as I feared permanent damage to my Brooks Infinity III- clad schwantz. The lakeshore was so cold that I ducked into the Lakeside Neighborhood to keep warm.

The run home was much more pleasant. I had warmer clothes with me, and I was able to stick to the lakeshore. It was quiet and peaceful, which is nice after a 8.5 hours of running a hissing sandblast machine.

Not a bad way to start a week. I'll try to make this a weekly occurrence, but we'll see. It's awfully flat, and boring if I'm not in the right mood.

I don't think I ran on this day. Getting home at 12:30 and staying up until 2am drinking beer caused me to nearly oversleep for 2nd shift. Dammit.

4 miles - rolling hills and a short run around the house. Not a lot of time, so I just made sure I got out.

4 miles - see above. Same route.

Forgot to run. Seriously.

Did not forget to run. Chose not to run.

18 miles ? - 2.5 hours at Yankee Springs with Alex and Evan. Really great run that renews my vigor. Awesome trails, great company, and enjoyable weather. I'm currently stuck in a low point of life, where monotonoy and complacency are tough to avoid. It's great to spend time being reminded of what I love to do, and doing with people who celebrate life.

52 miles this week. Prit-tee lame. Two "long runs" and still barely cracked 50. If my deal with the devil wasn't coming to an end, I'd have a hard time dealing with it. I feel like I'm trying to keep a tiny little ember of a dream alive as I toil away. I don't even feel like a runner anymore. It's time to realign my perspectives and just enjoy myself. Can I still chase  a dream of running a great mountain 100mile time while still being the affable, fun loving jackass I'm so proud to be? Its a tough tightrope to walk, but maybe I'm just the guy for the job.