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Friday, May 9, 2014

My Running Shoe Rotation

Tomorrow, I'm planning on attending a running clinic at Appalachian Running Company and it's inevitable that I'll be tempted to purchase a new pair of shoes.

As runners, we tend to over-complicate an otherwise ridiculously simple sport with products designed to make you run better, recover faster, and so on.  And for most of us, our worst vice in this area falls under the category of footwear.

Entering my 5th year of running (wow, I cannot believe it's been that long!  I should be winning marathons at this point or something...), I feel like I've got a good handle on which shoes my body and mind require for various types of runs and workouts.  Not only does it help with injury prevention, it also tends to help me focus on the task at hand, be it a fast workout, long run on roads, or technical mountain running.

Now I'm not going to get into anything scientific or technical about form or footwear.  SOOO many other people do this way better than I ever could, and frankly I just don't have the patience to learn all that crap.  Instead, I'd simply like to shine a light into the window of my world of shoe choices and purposes...basically a What and Why of what I put on my feet when I head out the door for a run.

Compared to other runners, I think I keep it pretty simple in terms of shoes, but my basis for this statement doesn't have much supporting evidence.  I have visions of all other runners with inventories like The Ginger Runner, staring into their technicolor closets on race morning, poring over which shoes to wear like a teenage girl on the first day of 10th grade.

That is not me.

At any given moment, I have 4 pairs of shoes in my rotation:

1) Fast, light trail shoe
2) Cushioned trail shoe
3) Fast, light road shoe
4) Cushioned road shoe

And these are the specific models of shoes that I (currently) wear for each of these categories, respectively:

1) Brooks PureGrit

2) Hoka One One Stinson Evo Trail

3) Saucony Kinvara 3

4) Brooks Ghost 5

Some of you may already be judging my choices, saying things like "the Kinvara isn't really a fast and light shoe" but keep in mind that these are the shoes for me: my feet, my legs, and my fucked up head.  YMMV.

So that's the What.  As you can imagine, the Why breaks down without confusion as far as Trail vs Road applications.  The other considerations really aren't complicated either, kinda like me.  And since I'm currently at work while writing this post, why not make a handy dandy flowchart?

In general, if I'm running a "shorter" distance race (which I consider anything <=13.1), then I will use the fast shoe for the appropriate surface.  It really helps mentally to "feel fast".  The only exception would be when I know the course is going to be very hilly with long descents, which normally will only be in trail races where I live, so I'd go with the more cushioned shoe (option #2) to save my legs as much as possible from the pounding long downhill stretches can impose.

By running varying speeds and distances throughout training for different distance races, I find this logic mixes up the shoes pretty well and I'm not constantly running in the same shoe, day in and out.

"But, hey!  I only want to wear one pair of shoes!  What would you do then?"

If I had to choose one shoe for everything?  I'd probably go with the Patagonia Everlong.  Based on what I've heard and read, it's a lightweight trail shoe that works great as a hybrid road/trail shoe, with weight and feel similar to the Kinvara.  Perhaps that's my next shoe purchase?  I do need to replace my PureGrits very soon :), unfortunately ARC doesn't carry Patagonia.

Hey Runners!  I'd love to hear from you!

  • How many pairs of running shoes are in your rotation?
  • Do you have a decision-system similar to mine?
  • If you had to choose one shoe for any run, which would it be?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Middlebury Maple Run Half Marathon - Race Report 2014

It's been a busy week, but I wanted to get this post out there before I get into planning other fun adventures and forget all about it!

This time around, since the race was a hefty 7-hour drive from home, I decided to create a video race report!  More of a stream-of-consciousness than anything, though...

Training leading up to the race:
  Monday: rest
  Tuesday: rest
  Wednesday: 4ish recovery miles (trail)
  Thursday: 4ish recovery miles (road)
  Friday: rest
  Saturday: 5 leisurely miles

Race Gear List:
  Cheap-o Target special long sleeve C9 shirt
  GoLite Mesa Shorts
  Feetures Socks
  Saucony Kinvara 3
  Ultimate Direction SJ Vest 1.0
  Garmin Fenix
  Adidas Cap
  Garmin Virb Elite Action Camera
  DIY Monopod

Race Nutrition:
  Clif-type bar and Coffee for Breakfast
  ~8oz of water at every aid station

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ironmaster's Challenge 50K Race Report - 2014

If you took a peek at my training schedule this spring, it would have been obvious that the Ironmaster's Challenge 50K was my first "A Race" of the 2014 season.  As is very often the case however, things don't go as planned.  Despite not having the best training going into the race, KNOWING this fact on race day was critical in ensuring a fun, albeit painful outing in the PA Woods.

The start and end point of the Ironmaster's is Pine Grove Furnace State Park, right where the Appalachian Trail passes thru.  It's located in a valley so you can bet on some good climbs during the course of 30+ miles in this region.

If you think of it like a half pipe, the 50K course starts at the bottom of the "U", goes up one side, down, then up the other, down, then up the first side and finishes back down at the bottom of the "U".  For a detailed visual on what I'm referring to, please see my amazing handy work using the hugely under-rated Snipping Tool from our friends in Redmond.

Bad-ass drawling skills

There's pretty technical (class 2-3) climbing and questionable "trails" for the first 2 miles, ending at a gorgeous viewpoint known as Sunset Rocks where some backpackers had positioned themselves for a rude awakening on a Sunday morning.

Living within 15 minutes of the race definitely gave me an advantage knowing what was in store for the first few miles.  Thankfully, I was smart about it and took it conservatively out of the gate through mile 4 or 5.  If I hadn't, it would have been a much less enjoyable day.

I'm not going to be dramatic about the whole thing though...other than getting lost several times and just being unprepared (training wise), things went really well.  No stomach issues, no injuries, I made some new friends, caught up with some old ones, and managed to capture a good chunk of the adventure on video!

And finally, there are certain aspects of every race (that charges an entry fee) that are pretty much expected: some sort of swag item, a bib, course markings, etc.  This final section is meant to highlight areas where the race went above and beyond expectations, as well as where it fell short.  This is a new section for my race reports, but I think I'd like to give it a name.  Something like "Buzz Lightyear and The Sloth"....we'll see if that sticks.

Buzz Lightyear
- Post race celebrations and atmosphere.  Full on meal + free beer = WIN!  Plus having it right at the "L-shaped" mansion with a bunch of picnic tables so everyone can hang out and cheer on the finishers was very nicely done.
- Results were up on Pretzel City Sports within 24 hours!  Without chip timing!
- Nice, classy tech shirts with a unique color, but not overly loud

The Sloth
- The course was marked really well in some places, and quite poorly in others. Almost everyone I talked to post-race had described at least one incident in which they were lost (personally, I veered off course twice).   Runners don't need markings every few feet, but we DO need them clearly at EVERY possible intersection! Even faint side trails! Just put one little flag on the course just after the intersection to let the runner know they're still on the right track and there is one less thing to worry about.
- Aid stations weren't as well stocked as some other ultras I've run with around the same turnout. This wasn't a big deal though, and I'll let it slide a bit cause the post race grub was nice :)
- Mile Markers 22 - 25 were wrong. 22 should have been 23 and 26 didn't exist. Now that I'm writing this, it really seems trivial, but in the mind of a runner who's been out there for 5+ hours, it's a HUGE difference between being at mile 24 or 25.

Training leading up to the race:
  Monday: rest
  Tuesday: brief 1.5 mile recovery run
  Wednesday: 11 easy trail miles
  Thursday: Commute on bike (8 miles total)
  Friday: rest
  Saturday: 2 mile flat hike

Race Gear List:
  Race Shirt from the Philadelphia Half
  GoLite Mesa Shorts
  Darn Tough Vermont Socks
  Hoka One One Stinson Trail
  Ultimate Direction SJ Vest 1.0
  Garmin Fenix
  Garmin Virb Elite Action Camera
  DIY Monopod

Race Nutrition:
  Greek Yogurt, Cornbread, and Coffee for Breakfast
  Water refills at almost every stop
  Clif-type bars or Stinger gels roughly every 30-45 minutes
  About 1 SaltStick pill per hour as I felt cramping coming on
  Questionable orange-drink at one aid station

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hooper's Island Trip with Mom - April, 2014

Christmas in April.  Not a phrase spoken or heard often (if at all), but it happened this year for Mom and I.

You see back in December, for the first year ever I decided rather than giving away material things, I'd be giving away activities.  Shortly after Christmas, Mom and I sat in front of a computer screen, scanning sites like Amtrak, VRBO, Kayak, and Southwest.  The possibilities were (almost) endless, and ultimately we decided on a place in Southern Maryland through airbnb.  I've heard nothing but great things from friends regarding this site and I can't say I've had a negative experience yet.  My other (and first) foray into airbnb booking was in Nicaragua and it worked out perfectly!

Labeled as the "Best Kept Secret by the Bay", our airbnb house and the surrounding area was certainly that!  We couldn't believe how quaint and non-commercialized Hooper's Island was...just a small fishing village on the bay where literally everyone waves at passers by and blue crabs are served "fresh off the boat" in season.

Without an itinerary, we also visited Cambridge and Annapolis during the trip, and couldn't have asked for better weather: Sunny with a bay breeze and highs in the low 70s!

It turns out that many of the roads and sites we visited would soon be home to the newest Ironman Triathlon in the US: Ironman Maryland.  I've never done a tri, but after running and driving around this area, be ready for an easy course terrain-wise.  I mean, like zero hills.

I'm really looking forward to doing this style of Christmas gift again next year; can't wait to see where my family wants to go next!

Enjoy some photos from the trip, as well as a (mostly) dash cam video at the end of this post.

On the harbor in Annapolis

Maryland State House

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (bald eagles were nesting)

Along the trails in BWNWR

Speedy little run!

The forest beginning to devour an abandoned tractor along the trails in BWNWR

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's in your collection?

You're invited to a friends' house and upon entry to a certain room (or rooms!) you encounter a gathering of memorabilia bordering on excessive, and way past crazy.  It's a collection of something you've probably thrown away thousands of times: perhaps bottle caps, or maybe postcards?  In any event, you don't understand the obsession, but your friend is passionate about their private stash.  We've all met him or her, and if you haven't, maybe it's you!  No worries though...

we all have quirky things that we save

One of mine is rather specialized collection which focuses on a specific set of parameters.

  1. It must be a hood ornament from a car (and no...I'm not tearing metal off of vehicles!  These are found along the side of the road)
  2. It must be found while running

Because of these stringent requirements, well, I haven't accumulated many (read: 3).

That thing gotta Hemi?

As you can see, I've also turned this collection into a small arts and crafts project with a little glue and some magnets.  Totally not my idea though, I was inspired by a friend. (who may or may not have their own quirky collections!)

I like to think of myself as fairly minimalist, so I'm not much of a collector of anything else, but the glimmer of a shiny object along a road run gets me instantly excited.  Maybe I'm just entertaining myself, who knows?

What sort of running related things do you collect?


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Buck Ridge Burn Trail 1/2 Marathon Race Report 2014

Being literally 15 minutes drive from my front door and in the scenic Michaux State Forest, I had no excuses not to run this race.

The Buck Ridge Burn half marathon and 5K was held on a gorgeous spring morning on 4/6/14.  Beginning and ending right at the Appalachian Trail Museum and the adjacent Pine Grove Furnace, you couldn't ask for a prettier setting in the South Mountain Region.


Now in its 4th year, RD's Bill Bechtel and Jennifer Henry put on the perfect, low-key trail running event with help from an army of well-trained volunteers.

Appalachian Running Company served as the headquarters for all pre-race packet pickups and such on the Saturday prior.  I'd like to note that walking in the door at 9:04AM, I had the honor of being the first to pick up their packet! (Pretty sure that deserves a selfie high-five)

I had a few friends run this race last year and enjoyed it, but I had no idea I was in for such a treat.

Training during my "layover" week between half marathons was few and far between, and had no intentions of putting in much mileage because of how hard I pushed the second half of The LOVE Run, sustaining speeds I'm just not used to doing recently.  This lack of mileage was also due in part to the constant rain we received here in Central PA that week.  Said rain set us up for a wet and muddy run for the Buck Ridge Burn...just enough to make it fun!

Plenty of mud out there today!

With countless stream crossings, varied scenery and terrain, this race is great for the seasoned trail runner or people looking for a good running adventure.  I would not recommend this run for road runners uncomfortable with sketchy footing for hours on end.  To see a good example of what I'm talking about, see around the 2:00 minute mark of my video posted below.

You got a little something on your cheek...

I wish I had more photos to share, but the video took up all my attention!

And finally, there are certain aspects of every race (that charges an entry fee) that are pretty much expected: some sort of swag item, a bib, course markings, etc.  This final section is meant to highlight areas where the race went above and beyond expectations, as well as where it fell short.  This is a new section for my race reports, but I think I'd like to give it a name.  Something like "Buzz Lightyear and The Sloth"....we'll see if that sticks.

Buzz Lightyear

- Plentiful aid stations for only a half marathon distance with tons of fruit and other sweet treats, gels, and various liquids
- Speaking of food, the post-race spread was great! (see video)
- Price: it was only 40 bucks.
- Extremely well marked course
- Lastly, and most impressive...Results were up on Ultrasignup the same day!  Without chip timing!

The Sloth

- I would prefer a higher resolution course map on the website (such as MapMyRun or Garmin Connect) so individuals who live closeby can get out on the course prior to race day.  Or if seeing the actual course isn't an option, have a better idea of elevation and terrain so they can do some race-specific training wherever they live.

Training leading up to the race:
  Monday: 4 mile hike
  Tuesday: Rest
  Wednesday: 7 miles moderate on BRB course
  Thursday: Rest
  Friday: Rest
  Saturday: Rest

Race Gear List:
  Race Shirt from the Frederick Half
  GoLite Mesa Shorts
  Feetures Men's Light Cushion Quarter Socks
  Brooks PureGrit
  HTC One
  Garmin Fenix
  Garmin Virb Elite Action Camera
  DIY Monopod

Race Nutrition:
  Banana, Nature Valley Bar, and Coffee for Breakfast
  Water @ every stop
  About 4 Power Bar chews around mile 7

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Philly LOVE Run Half Marathon Video!

So I made a video!  It's my first one that actually includes some editing, so bear with me while I learn!  It's been fun shooting and editing and I look forward to doing more to share.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The LOVE Run Philly Half Marathon Race Report

In its inaugural year, the Philly LOVE Run Half Marathon(held by CGI Racing) was a spectacular success despite the challenges involving weather.  My experience went a little something like this...

It's always sunny in Philadelphia...


The day before the race I went out on a solo trail run which in hindsight was pretty stupid given the chance of injury as well as risking fatiguing myself right before the race.  It all worked out in the end though, I had fun, got in some good vert, and enjoyed some nice views:

Hawk Rock

Continuing with the "being dumb" theme, nutrition for the remainder of the day was well, less than ideal.  The only thing I did right in this department was constantly sip water all day, probably getting in 100+oz.  I mean, that'll offset my stellar pre-race dinner of Loaded Fries, Fried Cheddar Broccoli Bites, BBQ Wings and diet soda...right?

The weather was crappy all weekend, hovering in the low to mid 40's and constant rain at varying degrees of intensity.  But the 2 hour drive out to Philly was uneventful and I arrived at the expo around 2pm.  Getting to the expo was a little difficult, even after arriving at the convention center; LOVE Runners had to navigate through the labyrinth of Gospel Singing Conventions and Karate Competitions.

Being its first year, the expo pretty much blew me away.  It felt like I was at a race expo for a big city marathon (albeit a little smaller in square footage).  There were hundreds of volunteers and everything went as smooth as it possibly could.

Signing the LOVE floor

The remainder of the evening consisted of a healthy dose of Curb Your Enthusiasm on demand, and the aforementioned junk food "dinner".


I slept very comfortably on my sister's couch till the 6am alarm sounded, and I hit the snooze, twice (pretty sure the lousy weather had something to do with this).  By 7:30am she was dropping me off along the Ben Franklin Parkway, and into the cold, spitting rain that would linger throughout the day.

Being 30 pounds over my ideal racing weight, there was no way in hell I was going to PR this race, so it was more about having fun with the other runners, as well as testing out my new monopod and Garmin Virb during a race.  I was still going to give it a solid effort, but I knew there was no point in trying to average a 7:30ish pace for 13.1 miles; that would have led to lots of pain, and possibly vomit...ummm - no thanks.

Having done the Philly Half in 2011, I knew the basic gist of the course layout and while I'm not a fan of out-and-backs in races (or training runs for that matter), it was a well designed run, giving the runners a chance to pass by LOVE park twice in the earlier parts of the race.

Most of my camera work was done in the first half with the idea that fatigue would be setting in by mile 8 and all I'd want to do by that point was finish the run.  That plan was solid, especially considering the downpour that started around mile 9.

Happy with the way my legs and lungs felt at that point, it wasn't out of the question to step up the pace a bit and I ended up with a considerable negative split.  It's also an amazing mental boost to be passed by just a handful of people in the final 30 minutes of a race.  The rain seemed to pick up in intensity as we neared the finish, and I crossed the line at 1:48 according to the gun.  My chip time ended up being 1:46 something: about 10 minutes off my PR, which was pretty much what I expected.

Next up was medal time, then grab some post-race grub and try to get warm!  I definitely would have stuck around the finish area for longer if it wasn't for the weather.

After a quick drive back to my sister's place in South Philly and a shower, we headed to The Industry for brunch and ran into a group of ladies who had just finished the race as well.  One of them had just finished her first half in around 2:15!  Other runners continue to impress and amaze me with what the body and mind is capable of.  Which is one of the biggest reasons why I find my limits.  But we'll save that for a different blog post.

Hopefully I'll be capable of back-to-back half marathons again, cause I got one this coming Sunday!

Thanks to CGI Racing and all of the volunteers who made this race possible, and certainly very memorable.

Keep on the lookout for my race video on YouTube later this week!


Video has been published!

As always, here are all the details from the run:

Training leading up to the race:

  Monday: 8 miles moderate, trails
  Tuesday: 4 x 800m @ HM pace (8:00/mi) with 400m recovery jogs
  Wednesday: 4 mile sunset run/hike, leisurely
  Thursday: 1 mile flat walk
  Friday: Gentle Yoga
  Saturday: 5 miles moderate, trails

Race Gear List:

  • HTC One in sandwich baggie
  • RoadID
  • DIY Monopod

Race Nutrition:

  • Clif Bar and Coffee for Breakfast
  • Water @ every other stop

Friday, March 28, 2014

DIY Trekking Pole + StickPic Monopod

So I've been playing around with the Garmin Virb quite a bit over the past couple of weeks.  Various mounting options and techniques have been explored, shot down and tweaked.  The latest iteration is a Franken-mount of sorts, in an effort to save on weight, cost, and most importantly, meet my specific needs as a runner and hiker.


- Reuse as many materials on hand as possible
- As lightweight as possible (within reason) without sacrificing function
- Usable in all-weather conditions
- Versatile, and usable in various action shooting scenarios


- One Trekking Pole ($40 for pair, already own 2 pairs of this model)
- One #2 The Stick Pic ($14 + S/H)
- Garmin Virb Cradle (comes with Garmin Virb Elite)
- Tennis Racket Grip Wrap ($4 @ Target)
- About a foot of duct tape

Step 1: Remove any baskets and dirt

Step 2: Twist (or flip, depending on model) to unlock lowest section of pole and remove

Step 3: (For twist-lock poles only) Screw down expanding mechanism to lock in place and apply duct tape to secure all moving parts.

Step 4: Wrap "handle" section (opposite of pole tip) with tennis racket wrap.  Secure according to wrap instructions.

Now if you have the StickPic with any other camera, you're pretty much done and can essentially wiggle the StickPic onto the tip of your new creation, mount your camera and go to town!  For the final steps regarding my engineering on!

Step 5:  Secure the Virb Cradle --> Tripod Mount  --> StickPic

Step 6: Twist StickPic onto tip end of pole!

Step 7:  Go record some videos of you and your friends doing some cool shit!

Of course, this whole process wouldn't be any fun if I didn't record a video using this new here you go:

Some final notes:

- I didn't "kill" the trekking pole; it was simply taken apart and some tape applied.  If I need to reassemble to create a complete pair of poles, it'll only take about 5 minutes.
- The monopod is not telescoping.  I can use the other trekking pole for this, plus I wanted to shave weight for use while running (8.5 oz less)
- One could argue that the cost makes absolutely no sense because you can find a similar product online for a reasonable price, but I'm certain my product is of higher quality, plus recycles/repurposes items that I already own.
- With the Virb weighing in at 6.4oz, the entire rig is only 10.9oz...not too shabby!

Happy Customer

Friday, February 28, 2014

Turning Lemons into Pollos in Miami

Please forgive me, after just completing Nikki Sixx's book This is Gonna Hurt, I'm on a bit of a photo kick.  Then again, it might not be all that bad for you to be temporarily relieved from my ramblings :)

On the way back from Nicaragua, a massive snow storm along the entire east coast led to cancelled flights out of our connecting city of Miami all the way up through Boston.  After exhausting all of our options, we sucked it up and joined hundreds of other travelers and spent Wednesday Night on the hard, unforgiving floor of MIA.

Our rescheduled flight was to leave Friday Morning and we miraculously landed a hotel room for Thursday Night with a check in at 8:00AM!  That's what I call early check in!  Needless to say, our luck was picking up.

Having all day to spend in the city, we got a quick nap and headed to a lunch spot Amy had been raving about: Pollo Tropical.  The food was great, and the place was like an unrefined Chipotle with a Cuban flair.

Next up, we navigated on foot to a Brewery and a Geocache through the arts district, an area home to amazing graffiti work blanketing almost every vertical surface in sight.

It was my first time visiting Miami and I believe we made the most of an unfortunate situation.  I can't wait to come back and spend more time enjoying the city, as well as the nearby National Parks!  Adios!

View from the hotel room

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Stroll and a Swim: Ojo de Agua, Ometepe, Nicaragua

On the day following the Fuego y Agua 50K Race, we donned our sandals and swimming gear and headed over to Ojo de Agua, which was only a few kilometers walk along the main, but hardly buzzing road.

Unfortunately, right after the final photo in this series was taken, yours truly decided to knock over the stool holding my camera phone and send it into the depths of the "The Ojo".  The next 36 hours consisted of drying it out and then photos appeared to capture, but mysteriously failed to save on my SD card.  My camera was having a moment not unlike the movie "The Hangover" where they couldn't remember anything about the previous night.  This was probably a good thing for me, considering our next stop was San Juan del Sur and we were being hosted by our new friend "Military Mike"; a guy who knows how to party.

Tiled-paved road walk, abundantly green

Roadside scene

Looking east

During the dry season, one of the few flowing streams on the island

Big trees!

Welcome to the swimming hole

Ojo de Agua (AKA Tourist Community Swimming Pool)