Saturday, February 18, 2017

Training for Joshua Tree Traverse

When my buddies, Chris and Jack, agreed to do something epic this year, I knew there would be training involved. I had thrown out the choice of taking a month (or two) off and biking the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico. Or, we could maybe look at running rim to rim at the Grand Canyon. Both seemed challenging with real possibility of injury and/or failure in either training or execution. Jack, looking at the two choices, threw out third option; why not do the Grand Canyon, but run rim to rim to rim? That would entail an out and back with about 10,000 ft of elevation change over a distance between 42 and 46 miles (depending on the trail).

I don't know why, but all three of us loved that option. We began training, Chris and me in Kansas, and Jack in southern California. In January we met and drove to Joshua Tree to get a run in in the high desert. The 16 mile run we chose was an out and back with a solid (read soul-sucking) single track climb that needed to be surmounted outbound and inbound. I had been having serious calf issues, and had only felt semi-confident to tackle something like that a few days before.

But it worked out. The run was challenging and beautiful. When we finished, however, we were confronted with the reality that the Grand Canyon run probably would have similar difficult terrain, but also 3 times as long. That was pretty sobering. From our text and email follow-ups, I know that we were all getting a bit intimidated thinking of the Canyon.

Upon our return to Kansas, I upped my game and began to run 20 miles on trails once a week. I had one bad experience where I hit the wall. . .  hard. I have only had that happen once before. This instance really sucked and took me some hours of recovery. Four days later though I was back on the trail knocking out the same 20 miles. And I did it again a couple more times the following week - even reverse-splitting the back half on one of the routes.

I have one short trip planned for Joshua Tree before mid-March when our prep run, the Joshua Tree Traverse - a 37 mile run across the upper part of the park - will take place. The traverse will give us an idea (very roughly) of how we might do in the Grand Canyon in April.

For me, the past several weeks of cranking out long runs have served to boost my confidence. When I hit the wall, I took a pause to really examine what I had been doing that might have caused that to occur. Subsequently, I increased my food intake on the run twofold and added a larger load of electrolytes and trace minerals into my fluids. Those changes have seemed to work well.

For me, the longer distances are not simply a way to build up endurance. They serve to expose weaknesses and issues both with equipment and physiology. While completing long runs is a guarantee-free endeavor, having worked out as many bugs and identified as many potential issues as possible while training can only serve to better one's chances of completing the goal that has been set.

I'll post a bit more once we're closer to the traverse.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Weathering Winter Weather in Kansas

Nothing beats running in shorts and a long sleeve shirt on Christmas Day in Lawrence, Kansas. It was 45F when I took off. 8.2 miles later, it was over 50F. Soon it will be in the 60s. Sometimes Kansas is fantastic in winter.

And yet, Saturday (yesterday) found me running in tights, gloves, 2 shirts, a cap, and a heavy-duty hoodie tied into a tight circle around my face. It was 23F when we started. Heavy fog made everything seem even colder.

And yet still, 4 of the 5 runs prior to Saturday were done on a treadmill in my basement because last week had a whole lot of single digit weather. But Wednesday (last Wednesday, that is), it was nice enough, in the middle of the terrible stretch of cold, to knock out 7.5 trail miles.

Ah, Kansas. What a freaky place for weather.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hoka and UD updates.

Allow me to add to my last post regarding my experiences with Hoka One One and Altra. I have been using relatively new Hoka Bondis and old Hoka Odysseys for road and easy trail/gravel running over the past couple of years. I have used Altra Lone Peaks for more intense (read technical) trails. Interspersed throughout, I still run a bit in Salomons and every now and then an ancient pair of Mizuno trail shoes. Today I tried something different. I have a pretty good love affair going on with the two aforementioned Hoka models (there are also a couple of Hoka models that, um, don't do it for me - to be nice about it). Anyway. today I wore my old Hoka Odysseys on a 10 mile technical trail run. I wasn't expecting to like the experience much, but I did. While I'm certain that I wore some serious life out of the soles (they truly are not meant for this type of running), the Odysseys performed as good or better than any trail shoe I have worn. I normally feel a few jarring stabs from rocks and roots on this particular trail. The Hokas cushion rejected all unwelcome advances of that sort. They also remained stable and provided the right support on uneven ground - something about which I had been a bit concerned. I don't know if I will take them on too many other technical runs. But it is great to know how well they held up should I decide to use them for this type of running in the future.

The Scott Jurek UD pack with soft bottles also has performed passably. Last week I used it with a bladder (from Nathan) instead of bottles. I think I will not do that again without using a bladder designed for UD's deep back pocket. But for runs where smaller quantities of H2O are required, the soft bottles work great and the pack feels snug yet nonrestrictive.

Over the past year, I have begun to subscribe to the philosophy of 'Buy less. Buy better'. I have stopped buying clothing from companies that aren't responsible. Lately, all purchases (and there are only a few) have been Patagonia or Prana products. All are either recycled or contain organic materials - after reading about non-organic cotton, the decision to switch was easy. And for non-necessary purchases, I am still donating the equivalent of 10% of the purchase price to charities and relief agencies, or organizations that support human rights. Thinking about buying less and buying responsibly whenever possible is a bit of a change. But it is a practice that causes me to stop and think before automatically pulling the trigger on a purchase that may be much more of a want than a need.

A good book to read on the subject that I knocked out last week is Yvon Chouinard's, Let My People Go Surfing, which is an autobiography of a sort, that covers his life, his business life (with Black Diamond and Patagonia), and shares a lot of his philosophy of trying to do the right thing for the planet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Summer and Fall Report. Hoka and Altra micro reviews.

I have taken a lot of time away from this blog as I work on the sequel to RUN. It is coming along well. In order to write a novel, it requires precedence (for me, at least) over all other writings It is difficult to switch gears and get back in the swing of things in the real world of blogging after spending hours in a fictional realm. I've also been working on a website that caters to outdoor literature and poetry. It is also progressing nicely. I will post a link to that site someday soon. It has calls for submissions regularly, and does not ask for any exclusivity or rights from authors/poets/essayists who wish to submit works.

The summer and fall were both kind to me and I was able to amass easy miles in (for the most part) beautiful weather. Due to the oak mite infestation in this area (NE Kansas), I mainly stayed clear of trails, which allowed me to do a lot of speed work on the roads. Shorter, faster runs, with regular reverse splits became de rigueur. It was an enjoyable change that allowed me to really get to know my Hoka One One's.

Here's a quick breakdown of my feelings for Hoka road shoes.

Odyssey - Love them. My Favorite Hokas ever. Almost too comfortable to only wear when running.

Clifton - Dislike. While light, they have an odd pinch at the big toe joint over the ball of the foot for me. Somehow, they just don't fit me well. Though if you are looking at a pair of Bondis, this would be a good model to use for comparison.

Clayton - Fun shoe. Much firmer. I like them, but I prefer a bit more squish in my Hokas.

Bondi - This is the shoe that, for me, will replace the Odyssey (which Hoka doesn't seem to manufacture anymore). Light, comfortable, with a slightly more firm feel, the newest iteration of the Bondi seems to fit the bill.

3 Pairs of Hokas and my Altra Lone Peaks

As fall returned, I knocked out a few trail 25Ks (actually 2, with a DNF in a third after losing a skirmish with a rock). I ran all in my Altra Lone Peaks. The LPs performed well - as they had when I used them to climb Mt. Elbert earlier in the year. The shoes have massive toe boxes, so there is almost no incidence of getting black toe from smashing up against the front of the shoe on a downhill run. For super rocky running, a runner might want to consider getting a brand/model with a more serious rock plate. But on the whole, the LPs perform well, providing decent cushioning, great ground feel and grip, breathability, and comfort throughout a decently long run.

I plan to run R2R2R (if you don't know what that means, look it up;-) in April with 2 buddies. I'm slowly starting to increase mileage and add in meaningful hill work. I may pop out to Joshua Tree over the winter and do a couple of long downhill runs from the Mojave Desert through the pass into the Colorado Desert (see pvs posts re that run). Mile after mile of non-stop downhill is not something I would normally advocate doing. But when looking to do major canyon running, it might be nice to have a little bit of that training in hand.

I hope to have more here soon.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer Respite: The Getty Center, The Nelson, and (a bit about) Running

I haven't posted here in a while. My new blog and twitter accounts have been eating up a bit of my writing time. After a long summer, I've been taking a week off from running in order to give the legs a rest and to swim, work on the new novel, spend time with friends, and visit museums.

Speaking of museums, the Getty Center has a great show, London Calling, featuring works of Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossof and more. Sometimes the Getty's stunning architecture and views will eclipse the art housed inside. But London Calling is able to hold its own. If you are in the LA area, check it out. You won't regret it. Here is a link:

Tip: While at the Getty, do avoid the Chinese Buddhist cave painting exhibit at all costs. You will needlessly stand in line only to be hurried through reproductions (gasp!?!) of the actual caves along the Silk Road. It was the strangest and most disappointing show I've ever seen at a major museum. Even though the exhibit is free (with gratis, timed tickets required to enter), we still felt robbed of our time.  Instead, I would suggest taking the time to explore some of the Center's fantastic permanent collection - always a treat.

I'll also give a plug to the Nelson Atkins' (in Kansas City) Roman jewelry show. If there is one type of art that interests me less than Roman jewelry, I can't think of it. But I am glad I did not let that outlook prevent me from going to the show. It was phenomenal. If you are lucky enough to be able to see it, you will be treated to a history lesson, and will gain an appreciation for just how talented the artists and craftsmen were in ancient Rome. Interestingly, not a lot has changed in the way fine jewelry is manufactured in the intervening millennia. Here is a link:

On to running: Thanks to Ad Astra for putting on a successful Defend Lawrence Run for a second year. A week ago Sunday, a whole lot of people showed up on Mass Street in Lawrence, KS at 4:30AM in order to take part in the run that commemorates the day Quantrill and his raiders attacked the city. Ad Astra put together the route, the starting time, pre and post race refreshment (with mimosas even), and giveaways. This event is turning into one of the best free runs offered in the area.  Save the date on your calendars for next year. It is well worth tossing the covers off a bit earlier than normal to start your day with this event.

And in other free run news, the Trail Hawks had their annual birthday run in early August as well. Everyone who had a birthday in 2015-2016 was invited to attend the all-day event on the Clinton North Shore trails. Food was plentiful, as were friends of two and four-legged varieties. The good vibes coming off the event buoy everyone's spirits until the annual club meeting.

Finally, a book recommendation. Check out The Emerald Mile. The book is about the fastest run through the Grand Canyon in history by boat. But while reading about running rapids in rafts and dories, you'll also learn a whole lot about water use and planning in the western US, as well as how dams work and who oversees their placement and operations. The book is available in all formats and even works well as an audio-book for long drives (I listened to it on my way to and from Leadville).

Until next time, keep putting on leg in front of the other.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Baker Wetlands

This morning I stopped by the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center. Baker University should be commended for the fantastic trails, buildings, and exhibits that they have put together to create this remarkable place. 

If you have not been, you should go. This is a remarkable example of a functional wetlands. If I had the ability to post the videos I took, it would show elevated walkways, an amazing berm building, an observatory, and more.  

Birds, reptiles, mammals, and fish are all present in good numbers.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Food, Brexit, and a New Giving Formula

I try to mainly write about running - the running I do, running I hope to do, things to do related to running, and any aspects of the whole running oeuvre that cross my mind. But on this hot morning, where the leaves in the trees are awash in refulgent splendor from the unimpeded rays of the sun, I think I'll write a short bit about other topics.

1) This first item is for readers in Lawrence, Kansas only (though others should take note and see if their cities offer similar programs). Lawrence has a summer program that offers all children up to age 18, regardless of need, a breakfast and lunch at different locations throughout the city. You may have heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Except in this case there is - if you are 18 or under. Here is a link to locations of the free meals.  You will note that on July 4 other plans will need to be made.

Please, if you know someone with kids who is struggling to make ends meet, let them know about this program. No ID. No reservations. No notice is required. Just have the kids show up and they will be fed.

2) On an unrelated note, I am really hoping that the UK remains in the EU. An EU with an elided Britain will certainly survive. But like a clod being washed away, Europe will be the less. And British citizens will face a future where travel, trade, jobs, and security may be put in jeopardy as the continent moves forward without them. As an erstwhile tourist, I have loved the ease of travel between each wonderful EU state. And, perhaps then to conclude with a self-interested note, I hope it remains a piece of the continent for that reason alone.

3) A few nights ago I woke up with the thought: there are people starving and hurting in the world and I don't do enough to assist them. OK, OK, I know. That is not really that much of a thought. We all probably think that from time to time. But the urgency of the nocturnal cogitation remained with me in the morning. So I looked at what I gave to charities of various sorts last year. I had given more that three times what I donated the previous year. That seemed good. but on closer examination, some of the donations weren't really to charities, but to non-profits like arts organizations, libraries, etc... And there is nothing wrong with donating to good causes like museums and libraries. But those organizations don't put food or medicine into people's bodies. They don't put a roof over people's heads. And they don't provide sanitary living conditions.

So, to address my concerns, I devised the following plan: for as long as I can do so, each time I purchase something that is not food, medicine, travel-related, or insurance, I will donate an amount equal to 10% of that cost to charities that work with issues of hunger, poverty, displacement of people, climate change/environment, and human rights.

My hope is that there will be a two-fold benefit to this scheme (British sense of the word, scheme). First, I will make more considered purchases, accumulate less stuff, and not contribute to the glut of crap that populates much of the space in our garages, attics, and basements. Second, any purchases I do make will obviously benefit charities and organizations working to solve the most pressing (in my reckoning) issues facing humanity today.

I still plan to give to arts organization and libraries. But I want to see how much more I can give if I really think about it and incorporate this formula into my purchases.

Next time I hope to write more about running.