The legs feed the wolf.

The legs feed the wolf.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Running in the rain

My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.  It had been raining all night.  It was still raining, I could hear it.  I got up and walked towards the bathroom where I had laid out all my running clothes. I had some decisions to make.  Shorts or tights?  Jacket or no jacket?  Gloves?  It was too early to make decisions.  I put my socks on and threw the rest of the stuff in my bag.  I walked downstairs naked.

As I turned on the light, Vader, one of my dogs, who is sometimes allowed to sleep in the house, rather than the garage, raised his head.  He looked confused, as if he did not quite understand the presence of the light.  He's getting old, I thought.  He raised his bones and came over to greet me at the base of the stairs.  I let him out.  It was raining hard.  All I could think was this is going to suck.

I'm following a training plan of Jack Daniels and today's workout was 22 miles at easy pace, which for me is somewhere around 7:30-8:00 minute pace.  I got the coffee started, took a shit and got dressed.  I went with wetsuit theory.  A wetsuit only works after cold water enters it and the body warms the water up.  I was certain, no matter what I wore, I would be soaked.  I would at least try to maintain some body heat, so I covered everything.

I got my coffee.  I sipped my liquid crack.  I was hoping it would stop raining.  I knew it wouldn't.  It was pouring.  I got in my car and drove to the coast in Encinitas like a man condemned to his fate.

I parked my car on Highway 101 at the north end of San Elijo State Beach near the restrooms, which always seem to be open, clean and have toilet paper.  I walked with an umbrella, which struck me as ironic, as I would be completely wet in about ten minutes and took another shit.

Back at the car, I popped the rear of the wagon and sat on the edge, protected, a bit, from the rain.  I sipped my coffee.  A few moments later, Greg Fall drove up.  He had let me know he was down for the run the day before, after running 30 miles.  Greg is one of my running buddies.  I only have two, the other being Chris Bryan.  Running buddies are hard to find.  They need to have at least four qualities, they are punctual, they rarely flake, they can hang and you like being around them for two to three hours at a time.

I had posted the run on the SEHRC Facebook page.  One member, with the name of Boston Dos Mil Quince (Boston 2015), had indicated he was going.  We waited until 6:35, but he did not show.  I wore a long sleeve shirt, a light jacket, running tights, a beanie and my Hoka Cliftons.  Greg wore a pair of shorts and his Alta Olympus Zero Drop, no shirt.

We ran south through Solana Beach and into Del Mar.  Out in front of Seagrove Park, we saw a hopeful lone surfer in the water.  Greg and I laughed.  It was high tide and this guy was getting nothing.  Up a little bit we passed a car with a Dakine sticker, with two guys inside, presumably watching the surfer.   Greg pretended to be one of the occupants and joked, "If he gets one, we'll go."

We turned around at the end of Stratford Court, which got us to 7 miles and headed back north.  At the street intersections, mini-rivers ran down the hills toward the Pacific.  We hurdled some, others we just ran through.  It didn't matter.  Every part of us was wet.

The coast was empty.  There were no bikes, hardly any cars and only a couple of runners and walkers. The runners we did see, looked to be quality.  Greg and I were enjoying ourselves.  How often do you have the North County coastline to yourself?

Mile 21.  Done.
Around mile 10 we ran into a fellow SEHRC member Cindy Lynch and her friend Fernando.  I had never met either, but shouted out to them before they passed.  They quickly stopped and we chatted for a minute or two about races and a couple people we each new.

We got back at it and continued running.  We were dead on for my pace and I was amazed at Greg. He was showing no signs that he had put in a hard 30 less than 24 hours before.  We continued to chat and caught up on things.  You really get to know someone when you run.  I've surfed and rode with guys for years, but the conversation gets truncated all the time.  When you run with one person the conversation just flows.

We got back to our cars and I tossed in my jacket.  We then kept going past Swamis, through Leucadia and then turned around at La Costa in Carlsbad.  Neither one of us brought food.  Greg had some water, but I just drank a couple times from a few water fountains.  Around mile 19, I finally felt some discomfort, but not too much.  I was getting hungry, we were talking about food, the rain seemed colder and the wind had come up.

We pressed on and were hit in the face with 30-40 mile per hour winds in the last mile.  Then we were done.  I didn't make 22, but we did do 21.2 at around 7:38 mile pace and it never stopped raining.  I figured I had done enough. There was no way I would have run the 21 without Greg or at that pace.  It would have been a grind.  Instead, we turned the rain into an opportunity to get a bit more mentally tough.

Anyone can run when it's nice out.  What really matters is whether they can run in the rain.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hoka One One Cliftons Size 10.5

A long time ago, in a northern county of San Diego, a man searched for two pairs of shoes . . .

I returned the size 10 Cliftons and ordered a pair of size 10.5 online.  I received the Cliftons on Friday and wore them in the office for a few hours.  On Sunday I ran 18 miles in them for the first run.  No problems.  At 7.7 oz for a size nine, it's hard to believe these shoes are so light and so plush.  

I now have the Clifton road shoe, and the Challenger ATR trail shoe.  

My life is complete.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hoka One One Cliftons and Challenger ATR Review - one for the road, one for the trail

I was wrong about the Hoka One One Cliftons.  Size 10 was the wrong choice.  Too small.  Got a nice blood blister on my small right toe.  If I had been motivated, and I wasn't, I'd measure the toe box of the Cliftons (size 10) and compare to the Nike Pegasus (size 10.5).  I'm betting the Cliftons are narrower, based on my visual observation.

I returned the Cliftons to REI.  Had 100 miles on them.  REI asked no questions and gave me my coin back.  Got to love it.  Interesting thing.  REI gave me a $20 gift card when I bought the Hokas.  As a result, I ran 100 miles in the Cliftons and got paid twenty bucks to do it.  Cool.

I'd get a size 10.5 in the Cliftons, but due to the longshoreman v. ship owners thing happening at the L.A. ports, they are no where to be found.  I straight up love this shoe, even if it made me bleed.

I was able to get a size 10.5 Challenger ATR, which is the trail version of the Cliftons. They're 8.6oz, with a 5mm offset, heel at 29mm and forefoot at 24mm.  Meta-rocker, whatever that is, is "early".  These shoes are an ounce heavier than the Cliftons.  Since I ain't got no Cliftons, I've been running the ATRs on the road.  I love them.  I've now written "love" twice, it must be close to Valentine's Day.  Got your flowers for the wives, boys?

I'd like a physicist to do a comparison with a pressure plate or some such device and measure the force returned on foot strike between the Cliftons/ATRs vs. the Pegasus.  Which aids the runner more?  You'd think this would be part of the specs for a running shoe.  I guestimate the Pegasus, which feels a bit more solid, returns more energy, but who knows.  At times, the Hokas feel a bit, now this is technical, squishy.

Let's talk names.  "Clifton"?  Really?  Sounds like I'm buying a pair of chinos from the Gap.  Challenger is better, but why add "ATR", that just detracts from the name.  I'm assuming ATR means All Terrain Runner or some such thing, but I couldn't be bothered to look it up.  I told you, I'm not very motivated right now.  My problem with the Challenger name, is for me, its sacrosanct.  I was 14 when the Challenger blew up, so there can only be one Challenger.  Have some respect.

Conclusion?  The Cliftons and Challengers rock.  They are the illegitimate love child of the Nike Free 5.0 and Pegasus, only better than their parents.  Light-weight and plush.  It's like carbon fiber for the feet.  I enjoy running more while wearing the Hokas and feel less beat up when done.  Buy these shoes!

Caveat #1:  the foot strike based on the rocker, takes a few miles to get used too.  If you can, alternate between your old shoes and the Hokas for a few days, so that your muscles adapt, otherwise, you may get sore.

Caveat #2: due to the design of the shoe, it's like you're running in high heels, not that I'm familiar with wearing women's footwear or underwear . . . 
On the road, it's no big deal, but on trail, I think, at the very least, until you get used to the shoe, the chance of rolling your ankle is increased.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Running Hermit & Call to Arms

I'm in the midst of preparing for the Boston Marathon.  As a result, I'm a running hermit, doing my own thing.  Most people are not interested in running their Sunday run at two easy, five at threshold, five minute jog, four at threshold, four minute jog, etc.

I had hoped that in my absence the Sunday runs would continue.  They have, but as I joke and sad to say, the reality is, as we get more members, we have less runners.

I'm the club leader, so I have to take responsibility.  I have to drive the club forward.  The only problem is,  I'm a reluctant leader.  I am an individualist at heart.  I wish to empower others to grab the reins and control the horses.  However, most people don't want the reins.  They wish to sit in the back of the buggy and let others lead.

Fine.  I accept that.  Although, a club without members who shoulder a bit of responsibility is not much of a club at all.  In economics, this is called the free rider problem.  It's where those who benefit from resources, goods, or services do not pay for them, which results in either an under-provision of those goods or services, or in an overuse or degradation of a common property resource.

Here, the common property resource is me, and I feel degraded.  I've made an effort for 20 months or so, to lead Sunday runs.  I've rearranged my schedule and negotiated with my wife so that I could lead club runs.  Yes, it's what I wanted to do, but at the same time, it was in the hope of growing the club.  When I've asked for a bit of reciprocation from the free riders, I'm told, "No, I can't".  

At the same time, members RSVP then don't show up.  This demonstrates a lack of consideration for others, as it results in a group of people standing around waiting for someone who isn't coming.  I ask that people who can't make it, just change their RSVP to a "No".  

With that said, I wish thank Chris, Greg, Erik and Dax, as they have broad shoulders.  When I've asked, you've delivered.

I will continue to soldier on, but ask those who are in the club to reflect on what that means.  Does it mean just show up and run on Sundays, or something more.  Think about it, because without more, I'll go back to being a lone wolf, rather than a rabbit.

Peace out.

Friday, January 23, 2015

San Diego 50 Race Recap: Chris Bryan's first 50

    Finish Time: 7:54:13----2nd in the 40-49 age group----13th/168 Overall, 3rd Master(old guy)
The Goal:
The goal going in was either ” run to finish” or go for a sub- 8 hour. I kept waffling back and forth but decided on going for it. I didn't train my ass off to play it overly safe. I woke up too many mornings at 4 am and spent  too much time out on the trails before sunrise to wimp out.
Debated on going with Hoka Stinsons or the lighter and more responsive Hoka Huakas. Decided that I’d appreciate the extra cushioning of the Stinsons late in the race, even though they are more narrow  in the toe box and I’d have more chance of losing toenails with them. Good choice even though it appears I’ll be losing 3 toenails post-race( note: I performed self surgery on one so far, it hurt and needed to go sooner than later).
Nutrition Plan:

The plan was to drink the course electrolyte drink and eat two powerbar vanilla gels an hour. I pretty much stuck with that but switched to water instead of electrolyte drink somewhere around  mile 30. As it got warmer, I started to get thirsty between aid stations and my stomach started feeling a little sloshy, leading me to believe I was taking in too much sugar and not processing the liquid quickly enough. Making the switch to water seemed to work as my 22 oz. bottle was enough to get me to each aid station( which were about 5 miles apart). I got a little nauseous at one point and stated to take a gel every 40 minutes and supplement with ginger ale at each aid station. That seemed to work. I feel like I executed this aspect of the race well. My energy level stayed pretty constant throughout. My legs, another story altogether.
Race Recap:

It was about 45 degrees at the start and I was happy to get going. I ran the first 15 miles averaging 8:30ish pace and it felt like I was shuffling along. My plan had been to start slower( 9 minute pace) but early on I felt that if I had slowed down it would feel like walking- plus the start of the course was the easier part of the 25 mile out and back. I suspected I would likely be running the second half slower as the temperature was going to quickly rise into the the high 70’s to low 80’s with no shade. I ran the first 10 miles with the eventual 3rd place female finisher and we chatted the whole time. She was from Virginia and had run a 100 mile road race in 16 hours two weeks prior to this race. This made me nervous that I was running with her--I feared I was  WAY out of my league and going too fast even though the effort felt like recovery run pace. I figured she must still be tired and she told me she wasn’t going to “race” unless she was close to the women’s leaders late.I ended up leaving her on one of the climbs as she walked and I ran it. Never saw her again( she ended up finishing in 8:34 I think).

My IT band/glute on the right side started getting tight around mile 11, uh oh! Weird as this hadn’t bothered me in training. I suspect the cambered surface on parts of  the trail  and my starting too fast on a cold morning( I didn’t do any warm up)  were the cause--such a rookie mistake! It pretty much bothered me the rest of the race and started cramping on and off around mile 15-16?? I just stopped to stretch it out every couple miles and at the aid stations. It was somewhat painful from mile 30 on in but it wasn’t getting worse. It just hurt. I lost some time over the race stretching it out.
I slowed after mile 30, feeling pretty tired from miles 20-30 which were the harder miles of the race with some short but steep climbs. Perhaps I should have power hiked more of the climbs. It also started getting warm which contributed to the slowdown, I’ve been doing all my runs early in the morning when it is cool and it felt hot to me. I recall hitting the half -way point in 3:45 ish(  7 hour 30 m pace). I knew  going in that I would likely positive split  the  race on my best day, because the way back was a bit harder and because it was going to be much warmer--but I didn’t expect to feel so tired at the 50k point. It pretty much sucked from that point on.  I was tired, my legs were aching(especially the quads) and my IT band/glute hurt. But I just kept moving forward and tried to block out the pain and the strong desire to walk. I really wanted that sub 8 and knew I was going to have to suffer to get it. I just focused on getting to the next aid station and taking in my nutrition and trying to maintain good form. That seemed to take my mind off the discomfort.
I FINALLY reached mile 40 and started to only think about getting to the next aid station 5 miles away. My legs aching badly but my energy level was decent . My nutrition was spot on but the legs were not cooperating as well as I’d hoped... I recall thinking, “I’ve never hurt so bad running so slow”. Running down even the slightest downgrade hurt. Now I understand why I’ve heard people say downhills late in ultras hurt more than the uphills. Got to the aid station after what felt like an eternity, and was happy to be at the bottom of Raptor Ridge. I decided to power hike it, figuring in my current condition I wouldn't be running up it much quicker. I hiked it pretty hard and it was a huge relief on my legs. Running down it sucked though. I didn’t run down it much faster than I had hiked up the other side, haha.

The last 4 miles were mostly flat with a slight downgrade and I picked up the effort the last two miles to ensure the sub 8. It wasn’t fun but I  recall thinking( with some moral support- thanks John!) that I didn’t want to waste the suffering I had felt the  last 3 hours to wimp out the last 30 or so minutes. It wasn’t going to hurt that much more. But it certainly wasn’t fun and I’ll have to forget the discomfort of the last 20 miles before I do another of these. :}

That was harder than I thought it would be, but I’m glad I took a risk and went for it. It hurt like hell, but IT’S SUPPOSED TO. That’s what I signed up for and why I trained so hard. In hindsight, I probably went out a little too hard and with a better executed race plan, might have been able to run 10-20 minutes faster.  I certainly understand the distance better. During the race and immediately after, I felt like I’d never do it again. But after just a couple days, I’m already thinking how I could adjust my race prep, race  management , and apply  my understanding how the distance feels in order to do even better. However, I must say that I enjoy challenging(hilly) 50k’s MUCH more and will now race a few of those this year. My wife isn’t keen on my running and training for another of these in the immediate future either. I think this distance might be a one time a year distance for me and am likely to run the Avalon 50 next year on Catalina Island--I haven’t informed my wife of this plan yet. I do know when I do another 50, I want it to be somewhere I’ve never run before and that is scenic.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the experience and proud of the result. I had to work hard to achieve the goal and push through a lot of discomfort. I feel like I have a better understanding of ultrarunning and that I managed the fade decently. While I slowed, I never gave in to the hurt and kept battling. While 50k’s are ultras, this was an entirely different beast. I can’t even imagine what a 100 would be like though. That still scares the crap out of me.

--Chris Bryan

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