I received a wear test pair of the new f-lite 311’s a few weeks ago. Since then I have put a 100 miles or so on them and for the most part I give this shoe a thumbs up.
The f-lite 311 basically replaces the old f-lite 301. It is listed under the “Urban Running” or “Parkour” category in the catalog and website. However it is also a nice longer distance road shoe and off-road shoe, providing the surface is not muddy or too soft. The F-lite 311 has the 3 Arrow Shoc-Zone (9 mm differential in height from heel to forefoot). The highest is the 4 Arrow Shoc-Zone (12 mm differential) which was found in the older f-lite 301. The f-lite 311 weighs in at 311grams or 10.9 oz and has a sticky rubber outsole (flat outsole- non lugged). The last in the f-lite 311 is our comfort fit and is quite roomy. It also comes with our 6mm footbed. I would assume the slight weight gain in the f-lite 311 compared to the f-lite 301 is due to the upper having more material then it’s predecessor and a roomier last.
I ran most of the wear test miles on the roads under some pretty hot and humid conditions. I enjoyed the sticky rubber grip especially when the roads were wet. I experienced a much-improved ride over the f-lite 301. The 3-arrow Shoc-Zone felt perfect for my mid-foot strike. The 311 had just the right amount of cushioning, while the 4-arrow f-lite 301 felt too cushy and soft for my taste. Because I have a high volume foot I appreciated the wider last. On dry trails the f-lite 311 felt great as well and actually felt pretty stable. I attribute this to the extra material comprising the upper, as it holds the foot into place quite nicely without feeling too tight. I also enjoyed the lacing system which was easy to adjust to meet my needs. The look of the shoe is pretty cool and the white inov-8 logo really pops out with the darker black background.
The only drawback I had with the f-lite 311 was its lack of breathability, a problem in warmer weather. The upper that helps protect and keep the foot stable does not allow the foot to breath as much as I would like under hot and humid conditions. The summer months in NC were probably not the best time for wear testing. Running on hot pavement in mostly black colored shoes with lots of material (the shoe has a suede-like feel) in the upper can start to take its toll.
I recommend this shoe to anyone who appreciates a roomy fit and would like to see what our shoes feel like on the roads. Due to this roomy fit I wear a US men's 11.5 in this model where as other inov-8 models I've needed a size 12. I’ve worn many roclite models on the roads but the flat outsole in our f-lite models is an even better option. Expect a slightly quicker wear if you do choose this shoe for lots of road miles due to the sticky rubber outsole. The MSRP of the f-lite 311 will be around $105.00 and it will be available in a couple weeks (mid-August). For now I’m going to save these shoes for the cooler months.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
There are 2 US National Trail Championships in the ultra distance this weekend. First off we have the White River 50 mile at Crystal Mountain, WA where Yassine Diboun will be in the mix. This course is set in the shadow of Mt. Rainier and has a solid 8,700' of climb. The second championship race is the Burning River 100 miler. Scott Dunlap and Todd Braje will do battle along the banks of the Cuyahoga River and Cuyahoga National Park in the Summer heat and humidity of Ohio.
In Riverside State Park just outside of Spokane, WA, Gina Lucrezi will be racing at the US National 15k Trail Championships. At the Tsali Recreation Area in the mountains of NC we have the second race in the Xterra NC Trail Run Series. Dwight Shuler will be racing the 11 mile distance and Amber Moran will be in the 4 mile race option.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Last Sunday in Flagstaff, AZ was Team Run Flagstaff's Snowbowl Road 7 Mile Hill Climb. This was the inaugural year for this race that was well attended, had a deep field of elites consisting of local runners, and had great prizes. The prizes consisted of cash payouts for the top three men and women with additional bonus cash prizes for the first male and female to win the first mile and additional money to the first male and female to take the "Mama Burger Challenge" of devouring a double cheese burger with a mile to go in the race.
This race had an interesting blend of road and trail elite runners ranging from two local Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers (both have run under 2:17 in the past year!) to other local trail elites. I think the combination of the smooth paved surface, the elevation gain of over 2000 ft and high altitude finishing above 9000 ft helped equal the playing field amongst the elites. Deeming it a race where no one was the solid favorite...it really was anyone's race to win.
I showed up to the race wearing my favorite Inov-8 shoe--the F-Lite 230--an excellent shoe for training and racing. This shoe has become my favorite because it is lightweight, flexible, responsive, and has a flat tread making it a versatile shoe not only for the hard packed trails around Flagstaff but also for a road race.
Photo taken by David Blanchard
Knowing that the competition was going to be deep, I decided that I would be happy if I finished in the top 5. Overall, the race unfolded nicely. I started out slow, opting out of the 1st mile bonus. Trent Briney, one of the marathoners, took that prize. After that, Jeff Eggleston, the other marathoner, took over and dominated the rest of the way. I was a little ways back staying in 4th place for about half the race, then worked my way into 3rd place, until I was passed with about 1.5 miles to go by an emerging trail elite, Zach Thomas. Being in a solid 4th place with 1 mile left, I thought about attempting the Mama Burger Challenge, however, my stomach instantly told me that was probably not a good idea. So, I pressed on, and finished in 4th place overall. Jeff won the race by two minutes, with Zach eventually climbing into 2nd, and Trent in 3rd. Not a bad day. I can't wait for next year's race.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It was a great weekend of race results from Team Inov-8. Amber Moran was 4th OA at the Beat the Heat 5k in Winston-Salem, NC in a speedy 17:05. Scott Dunlap was 5th OA in 5:35, 1st AG, at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k. At the Barr Trail Mountain Race, Alex Nichols was 4th OA in 1:36:13 and Peter Maksimow was 5th OA in 1:36:19. At the Xterra NC Beech Mountain6.2 Mile Run, Dwight Shuler was 8th OA and 1st AG in 54:36. At the Vermont 100 the ladies ran strong all day and took 2nd-4th female places. Led by Aliza Lapierre in 2nd OA with a very fast 17:20:47, Serena Wilcox was 3rd OA in 18:56:48 and Amy Lane was 4th OA in 19:43:43. On the men's side Mark Lundblad got 4th OA in 17:07:33 and Chris Reed ran a strong race and got 6th OA in 17:19:01.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
This weekend I was fortunate enough to have been able to contest Run the Keweenaw held at the Top of Michigan in Copper Harbor. This small community with population of 75 people is best known for being the launching point to Isle Royale National Park, snowmobiling in the winter and as the northern terminus of 2000 mile US Highway 41 that begins as a tree covered tunnel-like road and travels south to Miami, Florida. If you have not seen the fall colors in the Copper Country, you have missed out some breathtaking sights. More recently, they have put themselves on the map as having some of the best multi-use trails around with help of the Copper Harbor Trails Club and the Keweenaw Trails Alliance.
It was these trails that hosted the 2-day, 3-event trail race held on July 10-11, 2010. This stage race starts with a 6km hill climb to the summit of Mount Baldy from Eagle Harbor at 9am on Saturday morning. Then just a few hours later at 5pm, is the 12km trail race held on the trails in Copper Harbor. The weekend reaches the pinnacle with final event, a 25km trail race on Sunday morning. The total mileage is just over a marathon in distance, not counting the 6km that competitors have to run on Saturday morning from the Summit back down to the start, as there is no crew access to Mount Baldy.
Stage 1: 6km Hill Summit
The temperatures on Saturday morning were much warmer than I had anticipated. I warmed up in my Team inov-8 singlet but standing at the starting line I was dripping with sweat and passed my shirt off to Laura. The main competition for the weekend was Team Vasque athlete and friend Danny Dehlin. There are not many distance runners from Upper Michigan, let alone many trail runners so it was natural that we would become friends.
The race started fast with a short road section that lead into the trail. Due to construction in Eagle Harbor, this year the race did not start on the shore of Lake Superior, but equidistant away on an adjacent road. The trail began as a two-rut jeep road with tall grass in the middle over a flat section but quickly began to climb. The footing varied from soft beach sand to smooth rocks the size of soccer balls that were embedded in the terrain. I chose the mid-ranged inov-8 roclite 295 for footwear. They provided tremendous grip on the rocks and with their flexible nature, hugged the roots of the later portion of the course. I mistakenly wore sunglasses with dark lenses and with running directly to the east, we were facing the rising sun which would occasionally peak through the tree cover and make trail visibility tough.
The scoring for the weekend was based on a weighted system of finishing placement for each event, summed at the end of the weekend and the lower the total, the better. In the event of a tie, overall time summation would be used to determine the higher placement. I managed a 6:46 first mile and settled nicely into 4th place. I had a legitimate shot at 3rd place but knew that the effort to get there would not be worth it with two more events to go. With the scoring system in mind, I knew that I just needed to do enough to stay in 4th and live for another race.
Despite being in 4th, I did still want to put forth a good effort and I pushed the envelope in miles 2 and 3, though the splits were clearly slower at 7:08 and 8:12. This was mostly due to the increasing heat and the continued steady climb at a rate of 225' per mile or 5% grade as with a half mile, there was a false summit. After a short drop of 120', we would immediately make that back up in the last 1/3 of a mile before crossing the finish line at the summit of Mount Lookout.
My 24:15 for 5.8km (construction based adjustment) earned my 4th overall, though there were 5 people who finished within a minute of my time. The overall winner and 5th place finisher were not competing in all three stages, so the remaining 7 male runners would be the main competition for the rest of the weekend.
Top 9 Men
1 Walczak, Karl 21:01
2 Dehlin, Daniel 21:48
3 Waite, Matthew 22:52
4 Charette, Eric 24:15
5 Kinnunen, Skidmore 24:41
6 Keteri, Dean 24:43
7 Lovell, Timothy 24:53
8 Carn, Simon 25:00
9 Juntti, Jeff 25:19
After our recovery run back down the summit, Laura drove Dan and I over to the harbor where we took a swim in harbor where the water was a refreshing 65 degrees. We had just 6 hours before the next race would begin.
Stage 2: 12km Copper Harbor Trails Challenge
Staring at noon, there was an old-fashioned cookout that featured live music that preceded the awards ceremony. We stuck around for awards before walking over to the Mariner North for a sandwich. I enjoyed quite a restful nap before heading back over to the Copper Harbor Community Building for the start of the next stage at 5pm.
Just before the start I had asked Dan about the course profile. He said that the first half was "all climb" and then after a fast ride down, there were a few rollers before the finish. With the temperatures soaring into the mid 80's, it was bound to be a test of who could suffer the most that would prevail.
After a short road section to thin out the crowd, we were quickly back on the trails. The pace was fast from the onset and crossing a field toward the thick north woods, we were in the very low 6's on uneven footing. We looped around a small lake and onto the Garden Brook Trail heading west. By the time we crossed the highway, Dan was long gone but I still had flashes of Matthew Waite, who was running in second.
Within minutes we were onto Woopidy Woo, which turned out to the be the climb that Dan referred to in our pre-race chat. The pace slowed in the second mile to just under 8, but the effort remained even as I climbed about 400' to the crest. I was exhausted from the summit but ready to attack the fast downhill and could no longer see Matthew but sensed the pack closing in on me from behind.
I really pushed the pace in the ensuing two miles and tried to create some separation from the pursuants. The trail was full of tight turns, hairpin corners and banked single track as it dropped rapidly down and crossed the river. The course turned back to the north and moved onto Garden Brook Trail, running in between the upper crest and the highway. I wasn't feeling great but was able to keep the pace in the upper 6's which was decent considering the hill beat down from earlier in the day.
Crossing the road back onto the stem of this lollipop course, I knew that I did not have far to go until the end. The course was advertised as 12km but if it was back on the same trail as the out section, the distance was going to be somewhat short; I was fine with this as I was running at my threshold and probably would not be able to hold that intensity for much longer. The footing was full of roots and loose rock which slowed me slightly but I notched up the effort to close it out.
Returning back to the lake, there was a small added loop around the field on the Copper Harbor Loop Trail, which provided some visibility of the runners chasing me. I was surprised at how close they were and if the course was true to distance, I was starting to wonder if I could hold them off. The difference in a single place (from 3 to 4) would mean that I would have to make that up on the final day and I was hoping to have more of a cushion in the 25km on Sunday.
The final stretch of the course was the same as what Laura and I had warmed up on, so I had new found confidence that the end was very near. I finally felt safe when I rounded the last winding corner entered the park where I could see the finish line ahead. I crossed with a final time of 43:10.
Top 8 Men
1 Dehlin, Daniel 39:11
2 Waite, Matthew 41:06
3 Charette, Eric 43:10
4 Juntti, Jeff 43:28
5 Lovell, Timothy 44:12
6 Keteri, Dean 44:58
7 Mullins, Corey 45:30
8 Carn, Simon 45:50
Series Points after the 12km (Runners in contention only)
1 Dehlin, Daniel 2+1=3
2 Waite, Matthew 3+2=5
3 Charette, Eric 4+3=7
4 Keteri, Dean 6+6=12
5 Lovell, Timothy 7+5=12
6 Juntti, Jeff 9+4=13
Stage 3: 25km Keweenaw Trails Run
Who wouldn't love a course that was run on trails with names like Woopidy Woo, Dza Beet, Here We Go, Say Hello, Paul's Plunge, Der We Went, Ma Maki and Rock n Roll?
After tumultuous night of thunderstorms that began at 3am, I woke early to get in a decent cup of coffee and a poptart prior to walking over to the start. The entire town of Copper Harbor is 10 blocks long and 3 blocks wide, so driving anywhere is just plain silly. The night before we ate dinner at the Tamarack Diner and I had a great carb dinner of a pasty. For those that are not from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or familiar with mining communities or are descendants from Cornwall, England, it may sound strange but they are pretty damn good!
The rain managed to subside before the start of the race and while it seemed to cool the temperatures down a little, it also made it more humid than the day before. I knew the point situation to make a podium finish (Dan with 3 and Matthew with 5 and Eric with 7) meant that I would have to beat Matthew by 3 places (eg me in 2nd and Matthew in 5th) to move up into 2nd. Having ran with he and Dan for two days now, I knew that unless they went out too hard or fell and broke a limb, that they would be steady enough not to falter.
1 Dehlin, Daniel 2+1=3
2 Waite, Matthew 3+2=5
3 Charette, Eric 4+3=7
On the opposite end, I was also looking down at places 4-6 to see if they could possibly kick me out of the top 3. The gap from 3 to 4 was 5 so Dean or Tim would have to place 6 spots higher than me to move ahead, or 5 spots higher to tie and then break the tie with faster cumulative times. This didn't seem likely either.
4 Keteri, Dean 6+6=12
5 Lovell, Timothy 7+5=12
6 Juntti, Jeff 9+4=13
The start was similar to that of the 12km; a short road section before turning onto the Copper Harbor Loop trail section across the field. We spread out into a single file line through the field, but instead of heading toward Garden Brook Trail, we turned left and began the ascent up Stairway to Heaven. Dan had mentioned that you did not want to get stuck behind any slower runners on this section as it was a 1/3 mile of elevated (24" wide wooden plank) foot-bridge that was full of twists and turns and a general ascent of around 100' to the top, but would continue to climb after that. I was maybe a little more aggressive than normal into this section considering what Dan had said and as we began the climb, I found myself in second place.
At the top we turned onto Here We Go, Da Beet and Blue trail that lead to the highway crossing. I politely let Matthew pass me before the road by stepping to the side. I knew that we were going to climb again shortly and I wanted to be in full control at my pace when that started. The pace in the early miles was in the high 7's; something I knew I could sustain for 15 miles.
The second climb of the course was running the Garden Brook / Woopidy Woo section from the 12km but in the reverse direction. As I started the climb, I just remembered how on Saturday night during the 12km that this descent seemed to go on for miles and now I was in the middle of climbing it. On every turn or switchback, I would catch a glimpse of the pack behind me. It was Jeff, Tim and maybe Dean and they seemed to be running the hills very efficiently. They closed the gap to less than a minute by the top and that is when I made the choice to make a statement. Even though I knew that it was not likely for me to miss the podium for the weekend and I could just play it safe, I decided to pick up the pace and go for a top 3 in this race too. My leg turnover got faster as I was leaning slightly forward and attacking the downhills.
I really felt like I had made significant time coming out of this loop but on the last switchback I could still see the chase pack. They too picked up the pace on the way down and were about the same distance from me as they were on top of the hill. I refused to let this bother me and just kept hammering the pace.
Coming through the finish line (completing the first loop) and heading east now toward the flat section of the course, I made another push. The Lake Fanny Hooe Trail was flat to rolling with the width of a snowmobile trail and then returned along the lake on single track adjacent to the campground. I was running in the mid 6's now and really made up quite a bit of time as to where I could no longer see anyone behind me. For once a race tactic worked for me!
The final climb was up a rugged and nasty trail called Paul's Plunge. I am not sure what Paul was thinking but I had to take a few long walking strides and grab a few trees to climb this short but steep section. From there it was Red Trail, De Deet, Say Hello and Ma Maki trails. Nothing too eventful as I just tried to keep a steady pace in the high 7's to low 8's depending on how much roll of the terrain there was. I finished off the rest of a Honey Stinger Gold that gave me a little lift to make a final push to the finish. There had been kilometer distance markers on the course today which was a nice addition as my GPS didn't seem to be measuring quite right.
The final section was back down Stairway to Heaven. The skies had gone dark and opened up with rain, making it very eerie to run in the woods. Now I was barreling away down a wooden bridge without a care in the world because my inov-8 roclites had great tacky grip and never let me slip.
There was no cruising into the finish, as the rain was coming down in buckets and I wanted to be done. I started a sprint about 1/2 mile out and kept it up right to the finish. Standing there under a pavilion were Dan and my wife Laura to cheer me on. It was very refreshing, both mentally and physically to be done with this endurance event. My final time for the 25km was 1:40:58. I was surprised that I closed in on 2nd place so much in the second half of the race with the surges on the flats.
Top 6 Men
1 Dehlin, Daniel 1:31:18
2 Waite, Matthew 1:38:25
3 Charette, Eric 1:40:58
4 Lovell, Timothy 1:42:49.6
5 Keteri, Dean 1:42:49.9
6 Juntti, Jeff 1:43:25
Final standings for the RTK Weekend
1 Dehlin, Daniel 2+1+14
2 Waite, Matthew 3+2+2=7
3 Charette, Eric 4+3+3=10
4 Lovell, Timothy 7+5+4=16
5 Keteri, Dean 6+6+5=17
6 Juntti, Jeff 9+4+6=19
Thanks to Aspirius Keweenaw, Hammer Nutrition, Down Wind Sports, Vasque and othe sponsors for making this event possible. Lori and Dan were also very key in the overall direction, awards and making this a true destination event. I would recommend that you add this to your race calendar for 2011!
As a footnote, I had tons of questions of inov-8 from people seeing my trail shoes and my inov-8 team gear. They asked about how they felt, what I thought, where they could get them, etc. Most trail races I go to people are wearing inov-8 but this event was in an area where they were not as widely known. I was very proud to spread the word about inov-8 and hope that when I come back to the Keweenaw, that more and more people are wearing them!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Last weekend (7/3/10), Amy Lane grabbed another female overall ultra title, this time at the Finger Lakes 50k+, she also placed 4th OA in 5:01:50.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Question: What do you do when you’re recovering from back surgery and the Southeast is in the midst of a killer heat wave? A) Put on your most cushioned trainers and go for an easy jog on the treadmill at the air-conditioned gym; B) Lace up the hiking boots and head for the high country; or C) Blow off your workout and lounge by the pool.
If you’re an Inov-8 athlete, the answer is none of the above – you grab your lightest weight trail shoes and head down south to check out a new trail. Yesterday I found myself with a few extra hours to kill in between dropping my daughter off at Girl Scout camp and giving a talk at a high school cross-country camp down in South Carolina. Seeing as how there are supposed to be some killer trails down in that area, I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to do some exploring and while I’m at it, take my new x-talon 190s for a spin.
I headed down in my usual unprepared fashion. In the rush of getting Emma packed for camp, I had no time to check out trail maps or to take the shoes on a shorter test run. I had a vague idea of where I might find a trailhead and an even vaguer notion of what these shoes were all about. Despite my lack of preparedness, neither the shoes nor the trail disappointed. After two hours on the hilly but decidedly non-technical Palmetto Trail, my legs felt great and my feet were blister-free, even after a couple of stream crossings.
Minimalist running shoes aren’t for everyone and I would caution those who are used to a more supportive shoe to take a gradual approach as they transition to something less substantial. However, if you’re a fan of the x-talon 212, I think you’ll find its sibling the 190 even more fun. Not only is the shoe 22 grams lighter (that’s .8 ounces for those of us on this side of the Atlantic), it features less differential between the heel and forefoot (3mm as opposed to 6mm) and a 3mm footbed. This allows the foot to remain closer to the ground and provides a better feel for the trail. I have a wide, high-arched foot and have found the fit of the 212 to be slightly constricting, but the 190 fits like a charm, possibly because the slimmer footbed takes up less space. The 190 features the same x-talon studded sole, which is especially good on soft surfaces and loose scree. The 1 Arrow cushioning does not offer quite as much protection as the 212 but does allow for the most natural foot position, ideal for forefoot strikers.
As I return to running following a back injury, putting my trust in a minimalist shoe seems counterintuitive. Initially my plan was to find the most cushioned shoe that I could find in order to minimize the shock to my spine. During my rehab, however, I have had the incredible opportunity to relearn how to run. Turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong all these years. Rather than landing on my heels and relying on heavily cushioned shoes to absorb the shock of ten times my body weight with each step, it makes more sense to lean slightly forward, step lightly and land on my forefoot. Although I had read many articles containing this advice, it didn’t hit home for me until I went to a workshop with Danny Dryer of ChiRunning, had my physical therapist give me the very same advice the next day, and tried it for myself.
I’ve been practicing ChiRunning for about a month now and really believe it has made a difference in my recovery. Yesterday I discovered that the 190 seems to have been made for this style of running. Stepping lightly on the trail, staying on my forefoot, the shoes felt almost like an extension of my foot. Other than providing protection from the occasional rock or pinecone, they barely let their presence be known. That’s about as close to barefoot running you can get while wearing shoes.
The x-talon 190 is a unisex shoe available in U.S. men’s sizes 5-13 and women’s 6.5-11. Look for it at your local running store this September.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
As the weather continues to heat up we have lots more racing action this weekend from many running disciplines. We'll get things started this Friday night at 6:30 pm, where Joe Gray will be representing Team Inov-8 & Team USA at the NACAC Championships / Canmore Challenge. This race is the Canadian Championships but also the North American and Central American Championships. The course will be 12 km long and climb over 1km in elevation, an all uphill, true mountain race. Eric Charette will be busy this weekend in the UP of Michigan at the Run the Keweenaw, 2-day, 3-stage event. Starting with the 6k Mt. Baldy Summit Run on Saturday morning, then that afternoon the 12K Copper Harbor Trails Challenge, and finishing on Sunday with the 25K Keweenaw Trails Run. Michele Hartwig will be at the Dawg Gone Long Run 50 Miler. Located at Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville, OH. This course has 3 loops of 16.4 miles all on single-track trails.
On Sunday, Gina Lucrezi and Kevin Tilton will be at the Ascutney Mountain Run, the final race in the USATF-NE Mountain Circuit. (check out the current standings and you will see many Inov-8 runners listed near or at the top) The Ascutney Mtn. course is an all uphill road race of 3.7 miles with 2.3'k of climbing and an average grade of 12%. Peter Maksimow will be racing the Summer Round Up 12k Trail Run at Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs, CO. The out-and-back course is mostly uphill on the way out, and mostly downhill on the way back. Starting elevation is about 6,170', and the elevation at the turn around point is about 7,165'. Dwight Shuler will be at the Carolina Rock-n-Race Off-Road Duathlon. The duathlon will be a 3K trail run, then a 20K mountain bike, then finishing with a 8K trail run.
Mt. Washington and Mt. Greylock Half Marathon Double 2010
8,250 feet of climbing
I wasn't that excited about the Mount Washington Road Race this year, despite the 50th anniversary. After training hard for the race last year, I had a rough day, and even on a good day it's really not my best event. I'm a good climber, but not really good enough to do well at that type of race. Based on this, I decided to not focus directly on Mt. Washington this spring as I have the past few years by doing treadmill runs in my garage. I'd much rather be out on the trails, so I skipped the Washington simulations on the treadmill, and just ran in the woods. While this seemed like a recipe for a poor run up the hill, I didn't really care. I'm practical, and I've known for a while that I won't be making the U.S. Mountain Running team. Having said that, the ability to go uphill fast is the best way to win difficult trail races, so it's not the worst skill to focus on. In hindsight, there were two things that saved my race: Peppercorn Hill and Gavin.
Despite the fact that I had a traffic filled stress inducing drive up to Jackson for the pre-race festivities on Friday, the celebration of the 50h running of the race and the founding of the Washington Hall of Fame actually got me excited for the race. There have been so many great runners and performances on the mountain, and the induction speeches were truly inspiring. One of my biggest issues contributing to last year's poor race was actually my busy work schedule leading to a lack of sleep. I was still very busy at work this year, but I was much better at getting some rest. This was easy the night before the race with my own room all to myself at Ken Tripp's condo. However, my excitement for the race started to turn back negative as it steadily warmed the morning of the race. I felt pretty good on the warm-up, but not as good as Dunham who was running remarkably fast considering his recent plantar fascia injury. I tried to warm up gradually to avoid generating too much heat, as it looked to be a hot one.
The cannon finally went off, and I was soon buried behind several dozen runners of all abilities. I settled into my stride, and soon started weaving through the field. I felt good, but was not very confident, as last year I felt OK for a mile, and then started to feel horrible. I tried to hold back as much as possible through the first mile in 6:35, and waited for the wheels to come off as I started the second mile. A few runners passed me back on the steep slopes of mile 2, but I was holding my own for the most part. One interesting incident was when the women’s leader cut in front of runner a few steps ahead of me, and then suddenly slowed her pace. The male runner put his hand in her back to avoid runner her over, and she yelled and swung her arms out. It was all quite dramatic, but there was a happy ending, as the male runner calmly explained that slowing after passing makes things difficult, and she seemed to understand. That's why I like runners.
At some point in the second mile, on a particularly steep section, I realized I needed to take Gavin-sized steps. My 3 yr. old son loves to hike, and when I lead him up technical trails, I always have to make sure to find paths that his little strides can handle. Unless you are Jonathan Wyatt, a short stride is the best strategy for running a strong consistent race. So, as the road came closer to my face, I told myself to take Gavin steps, over and over until the road backed down to a somewhat sane incline. By the time I reached mile 2, I was feeling confident I would have a good race, and had settled in behind the lead woman as we chased a pack of mostly Inov-8 runners, Alex Nichols, Peter Maksimow, Jim Johnson, Shiloh Mielke, and Justin Freeman.
I hit halfway in 32:45, which was good considering the heat, but a few seconds faster would have been nice. I tried to conserve a bit from that point until the tough climb from 4.5 to mile 5, which was always rough. It seemed to be particularly difficult for several runners ahead of me, and I finally passed Andy Ames on this stretch. Andy crushed me in the second half of the race two years ago when I ran my PR. I got pretty close to Jim and the rest of the Inov-8 crew on this stretch, but they took off at 5 miles on a faster section. For some reason, I didn't remember the steep grade around 5.5 miles, which almost reduced me to a walk after the hard work I put in to get mile 5. I was doing OK, relatively though, as couple of guys were walking and laughing at their inability to lift their knees. When I started to consider walking, I thought back to the hikes I've down with Gavin in his pack at Blue Hills. I've been picking him up from daycare pretty regularly this spring, and we often stop off at Blue Hills for a 90 minute hike on the Skyline trail, which has many short, steep hills. I have no problem running these hills, but with 45 pounds of Gavin and pack on my back, I struggle with simple forward motion on the stair-steep climbs that are at 20-30%. It's obvious that it's a great strength workout, but at times I stop to tell Gavin that he might need to get out of the pack. He always tells that it’s OK, and that I can do it. He's right, I just need to slow down and pace myself.
Over the next mile, I slowly reel in Jim, and pass him after the hairpin at mile 6.5. My quads are really feeling it at this point, and I can't seem to accelerate on the easier grades. Jim passes me back, and goes after Ryan Hafer and Peter Maksimow, who then take off themselves. My quads aren't really interested in letting me do anything very exciting, and I just try to keep pace. I see Peter take an elbow from Ryan just before the headwall, which was unfortunate. However, it was great to see Peter running well and literally fighting for a place for the first time in a while after struggling with fatigue for quite a while.
When I turned to make my ascent of the headwall, I realized that I've never been happy with my finish at Washington, where I really struggle up the headwall. I figured if I can hike an extended 30+% grade with Gavin on my back, I should be able run up a few meters at 22%. So I clenched my teeth, lifted my knees, and hammered up after Peter and Jim as hard as I could. I thought I saw 1:08:54 as I crossed the line, but I definitely stopped dead after the first timing mat, and just about keeled over. My official time was 1:08:59, which I can't complain about. It's a minute off my PR, but I'd have to say the heat in the first 4 miles probably cost me a minute or so. I think some of the price of the hot first half caught up with me in that last mile.
I was shocked to score for CMS, and have us win the team title. When I scored for the team in 2008, we lost the team race to BAA! Matt Russell of CMS had a great race and almost joined Joe Gray on the strong US team. For a first time at the mountain, Alex ran a great 2nd half. It was definitely nice to run a decent time without spending 1-2 runs a week in the garage on the treadmill. While those workouts are definitely enjoyable at times, they don't compare to actually being outside on the trails. One my reasons for being able to skip the treadmill workouts was that I found a towering 200ft hill on my way home from work that I could get to regularly, Peppercorn Hill. There is a nice steep trail to the summit, and I was able to get in good workouts of 10-20 repetitions. It doesn't sound like much, but in southeastern MA, it's a gold mine! Maybe next year I'll have to try to do long hill workouts with Gavin on my back, cracking the whip!
My 230's were great for the long grind, and I saw a number of other bright blue 230's headed up the mountain, mostly ahead of me!
You know you are a trail runner when your wife asks you what you want for Father's Day, and all you ask for is a family trip to a race! As soon as I could get down off of Washington (which involved nausea and brakes on fire), I headed home for a relaxing dinner with the family, and then packed up the car for Greylock. I've done this double many times, and it's not as bad as it sounds. Washington is exhausting, but you aren't doing much pavement pounding at nine minute pace with a 6 inch stride. As long as you refuel, racing the next day is certainly possible. It's also nice to be able to summit the highest mountains in NH and MA on consecutive days. Over the last few years, there have been many versions of the Greylock half marathon due to road construction on the summit road, but this year was returning to my favorite version where you climb for about 5k to the summit, run 4 miles of extremely technical singletrack, and then hammer down very runable singletrack and carriage road to the finish. I'm not the best climber, there are other guys that can run technical terrain faster, and I'm not known for my speed on the roads, but I'm pretty good at all three types of trail that you find at Greylock.
The competitive context of this race is pretty simple. I haven't won a race all year, and although I have won Greylock 5-6 times, one of the first people I saw when we drove in was Brian Rusiecki, who beat me at 7 Sisters and both the Bear Mountain and Pineland Farms 50 miles. My trail racing record this spring has been:
Northern Nipmuck 3rd
Merrimack River 2nd (10 seconds back)
Blue Hills 2nd (32 seconds back)
7 Sisters 3rd
Bear Mountain 4th
Soapstone 2nd (26 seconds back)
Pineland 2nd (way back)
Most of my wins at Greylock have not required beating someone that regularly beats me, and considering that Brian drops me when I am fresh at 7 Sisters, I was a bit worried what was going to happen the day after Washington. I didn't really have much time to worry about it, as I barely had time to warm-up after getting to Adams quite late. Considering how hot and humid it was, my lack of warm-up was probably not necessarily a bad thing. It would have been good to tighten the news shoes again though. I was excited to give my new Oroc 280's a real trial by fire. I had run in them a few times, but nothing near as intense as the Greylock course.
I guess my plan was try and get Brian to go out at a pace that was too fast for him. For a little while, I thought I might be able to put some time on him up the 2500' climb in the first 5k, but after about a mile, he started to reel me back in. I kept pushing as much as possible without totally ruining my legs, and he followed me closely for the first 25 minutes of the climb. As the trail steepened towards the summit of Mt. Greylock, Brian passed me, but didn't really pull away. I thought about passing him back a couple times, but we weren't exactly going slowly. We hit the summit at about 33 minutes, which I think is pretty quick for a singletrack climb of 2500' over 5k Although I thought we had pulled away from the field, I heard cheers for Ross Krause as we neared the summit, who had been very strong at 7 Sisters earlier in the year. Brian put a few seconds on me up the last steep pitch, but it's better to have a bit of a gap on the downhill that was coming up to see where you are going. In general, it's not a safe place.
As soon as we hit the first wet, slimy, rocky, rooty, narrow and muddy downhill off the summit, I knew that the Orocs were going to do well. I was very confident in the incredible grip and reassured by the protection from sharp rocks and raised roots. The next 4.5 miles of trail really were a mess. I probably took about 20 normal strides over that entire section, and spent most of my time hopping, stutter stepping, bobbing, weaving, hurdling, and praying that I wouldn't fall. A fall in this section would most likely involve a loss of blood, conscious, teeth, or all of the above. Brian seems to love technical trails, so I wasn't surprised at his aggressive pace over this mess of a trail. As each mile passed, I became more and more confident with my 280's, and thought about passing Brian for a second, maybe two. I then remembered that I wanted to see my son grow up, and tried to give Brian enough room where I wasn't instigating any accelerations above stupid pace. Brian and I usually talk quite a bit during 50 milers, but there was no talking going on at all at Greylock.
Due to the concentration involved, miles 3-7 seem to take forever, but we finally reached the 300 foot plunge down Jones Nose and then out of the singletrack at mile 7.5. Brian was moving well as we hit the fast carriage road downhill, but I decided to see if I get a few seconds on him before the last gradual hill from 8-9 miles. My recent smoking fast 16:00 5k made me delusional about my leg speed, and I did manage to pull away. I was expecting Brian to reel me in when we started the hill past mile 8, but he was just maintaining the gap. I started to think that I might be able hang on to the lead if my legs would hold up, as the last 2.5 miles is flat out to the finish, and I was hoping all my speed workouts would pay off.
I struggled to maintain my pace through the puddles from miles 9-10, and Brian was only a few meter behind as we started the descent to the finish. I was just trying to turn my legs over as fast as possible, and carry my momentum through the many turns. The stable forefoot of the 280's was really appreciated on some of the rockier hairpin turns, and I seemed to be slowly but consistently inching away from Brian. By the time I reached the final mile, I thought I had built up a solid lead. Right at that point, we passed a couple who cheered me on. I enjoyed that for about 5 seconds until I heard them start to cheer again. The last mile is tight singletrack, and my legs were ready to be down for the weekend. My race almost ended on the last bridge, which is made of synthetic decking. While the studs in the Orocs are outstanding on slimy wood bridges, that plastic stuff is rather slippery. I saved myself from flying into a creek with a cat-like grab onto the handrail. I ran scared the rest of the way in, and managed to hold on for an 8 second win in 1:41:25 Bob Dion thought it was strange that I was looking behind me right towards the end, but soon saw Brian fly out of the trees, and it then made sense.
Brian and I were both about 2 minutes faster than the course record for that version of Greylock, when I was chased by Greg Hammett all day. It definitely was not a fast day this year, so I'm happy with the time. The Orocs were comfortable with any sort of terrain at paces that probably ranged from 5-15 minutes/mile. Steph's Dad came with us to the race so she could run the 5k, where she finished 3rd without any complaints from her troublesome hamstring. Gavin had a good time with his Grandpa and his trail buddy Shep, so a good time was had by all. After hanging out in the post-race waterfall for a while, we headed out for sandwiches and ice cream, which turned very messy in the 90F heat!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
For the benefit of those interested in shwag, I'll start there. Checking in the morning before race start was like everything else at WS- organized. Volunteers usher you through line where you get weighed in your race gear, get your pulse and blood pressure taken, and get banded with that information for the medical checks during the race. They must have had 5 or 6 stations to process all the people.
Shwag-after processing you go through line and collect: a WS micro fleece jacket, tech shirt, medium sized backpack, gels, a white tech athletic cap. Pre-race, they mailed you injinji socks and a race magazine.
Pre-race meeting was like a who's who of ultra running for both sexes. This was the deepest field WS had fielded. That being said, I was gunning for a top 10 to 20. I knew it would be a stretch but planned on running moderately hard on the uphills and running the downhills hard. I thought I was prepared to hammer the downhills.
Shotgun goes off, I run the first 3.5 miles moderately hard-pushing my heart rate up to 155 but feeling pretty good. I could feel the altitude a little but it wasn't bad- I was breathing a little harder than I should have been but it wasn't bad. I think I topped off-in the snow-around 35th place or so. We quickly started running downhill through the woods in fairly deep snow. It was a blast. I was whopping and hollering on the way down. Along the way, we'd hit short patches of uphill that were more or less creeks filled up with all the runoff. I felt like I was almost cheating wearing Inov-8s through the snow. The cleats were great in corn snow. I was able to pretty much run at will through the corn snow.
Life was fine through the first 10 miles. By the second aid station I was pretty far up in the pack and only down by 6 minutes to the leaders. Out of the first 10 miles, 7 were downhill. I started backing way off as it felt too hard but still kept my heart rate up between 140-150 for most of the next 20 miles. Things were going fine. I was getting passed by a lot of people but felt good and felt like I was running a smart enough race. I didn't want it to be easy but thought I was on track for what I could handle.
I came into the 23.8 mile aid station in something like 3:27 and was feeling pretty good. We had a long climb into the first major aid station at mile 30. I came in around 33rd place and was feeling good. We had a very long descent coming out of 30 and going into Canyon country where it was expected to get up into the 90's. I stopped on the way down, tucked my shirt in and filled up my shirt and hat with dense corn snow. I had a white, long sleeved tech shirt and hat on and felt prepared for the heat. I normally don't like heat but really felt prepared for it.
Well, this hill pretty much did me in. It was a very, very long downhill and I ran pretty hard. At the bottom, my quads were already cooked. I started to struggle and had pretty much made up my mind to drop by mile 55 when I saw my wife, Dee, again. I told her I was dropping and she talked me into going back out for 6 miles. I started talking to someone about my quads on the run and he suggested getting in the water at mile 68 to cool the legs off. I felt physically fine and was taking good care of the eating and drinking, it was the quads. By mile 58 or so, I ran across a small creek filled with ice cold water and got in. I squatted down in the creek and gave myself a full three minutes of cold on the quads. Coming out, I felt pretty good again and was able to at least run slowly.
That was pretty much the race from 58 to 74. At mile 74, I caught back up with Ian Torrence and his pacer. Leaving the aid station he was right on my tail. It was great as it started feeling like a race again. After pushing for 20 minutes or so, I dropped back and started running with Ian and his pacer. It was starting to get fun again. They were good company and I ran with them until late in the race when I joined Annette Bednosky and her pacer Amy. Amy has inadvertently paced me in 100's before. As Annette and Amy were passing Ian and me, Amy said "come on Todd, let's go." So I went. I think I had just commented to Ian and his pacer that it'd be nice to change their legs in for a couple of ultra gal legs. Ah, wishes granted.
The evening was finally getting cooler and I was enjoying myself. I didn't exactly have a lot of get up and go but thanks to Annette and Ian, I was able to "run" most of the last 26 miles.
Overall, the race course was exceptionally beautiful. The course isn't technical but for the snow in the early morning. The uphills are certainly long and hard. One uphill had 36 switchbacks for example but it's the downhills that make it a hard race. I'd like to do this one again and train specifically for the race in a way that I hadn't anticipated being necessary. It's not a climber's race so much as it is a descender's race.
My heart rate averaged 126 and I only burned 15360 calories vs 19000 and change for Grindstone. The race's huge body of volunteers is truly amazing. 2,500 hours of trail work. 1500-1600 people working on race day. Every racer has his own escort through the aid stations. They are serious about getting you in, out and on your way in a safe manner.
I was wearing Ino-8 295's for the race. I went into the race with well over 600 miles on them and was confident that they were still up for the job. They were. I did toss them post race. I should have changed socks or put more glide on my feet as I had 5 blisters on each foot bottom. I normally don't blister and blame the wet conditions. Maybe I'm getting old and soft too, but I'd like to think it was the wet conditions as we spent a lot of time in the morning crossing creeks and getting muddy.
It was interesting to have your electrolytes tested at the race's end. My weight was exactly the same as my pre- race weight. My electrolytes came back perfect as well. The lab tech said the results could not be any better in fact. I guess I've learned something over the last 12 100's anyway. While it's not the race I set out to run, I know what I've got to do differently next time
Monday, July 5, 2010
Peter Maksimow had a holiday weekend worth celebrating. He ran a PR on the Vail Hill Climb course and got 2nd OA in 51:35. Then the next day he decided to jump in the Independence Day Trail 10k in Breckenridge and won that race in 39:05. Chris Reed got a speedy 5k PR (17:22) and finished 2nd OA at the Sunshine Festival 5k in St.Simons, GA. At the Loon Mountain Race, Gina Lucrezi once again took top honors for the ladies with another strong 1:00:49 finishing time. We also saw solid performances from Kevin Tilton who was 2nd OA (49:01) and Jim Johnson who was 5th OA (50:14) in the 5.5 mile race with 2.2'k of climb.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Joe Ziegenfuss will be at the Afton 50k in Afton State Park, MN. The course is two 25k loops through woodlands and prairie. There is also a 25k race option for this event. Speaking of race options, Amy Lane will racing the 50k course at the Finger Lake Fifties this holiday weekend. The race is located at the Finger Lakes National Forest in Hector, NY, has 2384' of climb and is race #3 of the Western NY Ultra Series. Chris Reed will be checking his turnover at the Sunshine Festival 5k in St. Simons Island, GA. Peter Maksimow and Alex Nichols will be going uphill at the Vail Hill Climb. The course is a 7.5 mile climb from Vail Village to Vail Mountain’s summit, a total gain of 2,500 vertical feet. On Sunday, Gina Lucrezi will doing some more vertical running of her own at the Loon Mountain Race. A point-to-point race 5.7 mile race to the top of Loon Mountain on dirt and grass at the Loon Mtn Ski Area in Lincoln, NH.