Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sidelining Injury - Back to Minimalism

Last week was a solid training week for me. I logged some longer runs with increased paces and felt more efficient overall. I was also very excited to have a break in ugly weather and be able to hit the trails. Last week I ventured through an area of San Juan Capistrano unfamiliar to me which included some bushwhacking and fence jumping. I guess the trail is a horse trail and had not been cleared by the city maintenance yet and it ended on the top of a hill with no direction. At the top of said hill all the “trails” led to private homes which I was not going to try and get through, that’s called trespassing. So I found one home where the driveway was long enough that all that I would separate me from the street would be said driveway, no entering of someone’s backyard. PS, I am sorry to the person who saw a random guy running through their driveway, but you were the only home without a huge barking dog and with street access, so sorry I ran across, my bad.

I did not think much of it after the run and ran again a few days later. I had an awesome run, a little less than 10 miles (9.88) close to 9-ish min/miles which is one of the fastest long runs I have done. By the end of it you ask? - Limping. The course was flat and the only difference was side gusts (up to 20 mph); I was at the beach and sprinkling and wind got me for the last 1.5 mi of the run. After the beach run I hit the trails (slowly) with a friend and the rain and wind, aside from chilling me to the bone probably helped my left leg not swell, was not too much fun. I thought it was nothing because I have had aches and pains before, pretty standard.

I must have tweaked something in my lower left leg because I have been hobbling around for a few days unable to put much weight on my left. Can’t point my toes up, there is just no cooperation. If I had to pick sometime to have an injury it would pretty much be anytime but now. The LA Marathon is in a month, and the American River50 is coming and I really wanted to put in a solid month of training before it. But, the world works in mysterious ways.

I do think that my form has a lot to do with it…i.e. it got sloppier and I was running in my VFF a lot less. I get lazy and heel strike or I start speeding up just to get through the run by widening my stride instead of picking up the cadence, just sloppy. I am going to start doing some shorter runs in my VFF and other minimal-style shoes (brooks mach11, etc.) to get the form back into order. It helped me become a runner, and I trust it will again. In the spirit of good form click on this link to a blog I read a lot (running and rambling) for a contest to win a pair of NB Minimus (4mm drop, vibram soles, and they look awesome!!). Good luck with your runs, remember form and avoid trails that lead nowhere.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CamelBak 2011 Octane XCT

Ever since I began to consider hydration the first name was: Camelbak.  Everyone who I knew when getting into cycling before this whole running disease swore by Camelbak.  I have gone through, i.e. beat to a pulp, two other hydration systems I used for mountain biking and can attest to the quality and durability of their products.  My favorite Camelbak, still in full service, is still my black Transformer (100 oz) pack which is my go to for travel and general outdoors activities.  So when looking for packs for my long trail runs Camelbak was a shoe in, but which one?  I wanted something minimal that would allow me to carry a lot of water, but only the essentials for the run…I find the more space I have the more junk I throw in it; the XCT does not disappoint.  And being a newbie to the whole running/ultra running/ trail thing I figure another beginner would like to have an idea of what to expect.

First Impression (straight from the box)
When I received the package and saw the pack I was concerned with the material.  The black material outer, not the mesh against the skin, seems so fragile that it will rip.  It was like touching a windbreaker or poorly constructed board short (sorry can’t describe it any better).  Adjusting the pack was easy and it was comfortable felt snug 2 minutes flat.  I really like the new Antidote Reservoir instead of the old Omegas.  Not that I did not like the old version but the Antidote is lighter, closes faster (quarter turn), the tube separates in order to clean faster.  I will probably change the bite valve to the straight military style like my TransFormer, maybe, but that’s just my first thoughts.

Pack is according to Camelbak, has a 100 oz. bladder which for me is about 2.5 to 3 hours on a trail.  Cargo capacity is 200 CU in; honestly I don’t know what that means.  I just know I can put stuff in it for a long run, but not so much that I would take this for an overnight trek, but for sure a long run.  It has a belt (2 side pockets), large pocket (near the bladder), some reflective materials, and a larger bungee cord where you can lock down a jacket or gloves.  It weighs 11.2 oz. without water. 

Fit options are two…a little loose so the belt is around the waist.  Leaving it loose will cause it to move a lot when the 3L bladder is full and running downhill, could throw your pace off.  Also leaving it loose seemed to put more pressure on the chest strap and make the side pockets a mission to get to while going at any reasonable pace.  On the up side a loose fit I find lets me feel less constricted and if I know the trail well I usually go this route.

The other option is to have it on tight, and the belt will be a little above the waistline or right at it.  If you are not used to adjusting gear on the run then this may not be the pack for you.  I use the tight fit to really focus on form and I find that the belt keeps me honest.  Once my form goes to trash the pack feels very uncomfortable.  Also when keeping the bag tight I can feel when I am running low on water and that’s a benefit since you know you must start rationing it to make it to the next aid station, whether that be home, or a 7-Eleven.

The zip bags on the side are a fairly easy to use.  I know a lot of reviewers have said that they are pretty far back there and it takes some pulling stuff in and out to get to what you want.  I read reviews before getting anything anyway… I decided what to put in there at the start of the run.  Right side, assortment of GU, Honey Stingers or Cliff Shots…picking a random flavor was kind of exciting (like the lottery) and gave me something to think about on the trail.  Left side I put a camera, and salt caps in a plastic bag.

The back pocket (outside bladder towards the middle) is large enough for a blackberry, wallet, and cliff bar comfortably.  You can always put more stuff in there with the bladder, everyone says you shouldn’t but Camelbak is the premier quality bladder, unless you are putting sharp #2 pencils in there it should be fine to throw in a windbreaker, extra sox or whatever you may need.  (sox may be a bad idea if the bladder starts sweating – but whatever experiment that’s the fun part)

I did not get any hotspots with it either on the belt or on the shoulders and my first run with it was 5 hours.  I will say that when the trails get technical or I had to jump over fallen trees having the pack be tight to my body was nice because I did not have to worry about it snagging anywhere.

However, definitely the bag can benefit from additional shoulder or strap pockets.  This would give some variety to the available nutrition and electronics you would want to carry and it would make the pack more appealing since it would allow for longer runs, because honestly you can carry more food in the back but who wants to take off a sweaty pack after three hours and then throw it back on and keep heading out?

The pack itself is billed as minimal and that is exactly what it is.  If you consider yourself a minimalist and want to go out there with the bare essentials this is a good choice.  The bells and whistles are that it works, stores what you need, lots of water (for us crazy sweaty people) and it lets you run hands free for a long time. .  I would recommend this bag for both hikers and trail runners.

It is also a good choice for those runners who just like taking random turns.  The pack being 3 liters definitely gives you the confidence to get out there and explore different routes that you may not if you were limited to 1.5 liters as you are with many other packs.

(pictures are from and <---awesome prices and service.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Reflection

I am not a fan of cookie cutter holidays. In general I am very much against them; however there are times when such a holiday is necessary to get your mind focused on what is really important assuming you know what to focus on. A long time ago Valentine’s Day was a huge deal for me. I actually dropped out of pledging for a frat in college because the “rush” day of the week landed on that day and I preferred to drive 60 miles to spend 20 minutes with my then girlfriend. Unfortunately, this holiday is now a whole other animal.
It is an infomercial for what a relationship should be and a reminder of all the things your relationship is not. I think that the push for this day should not be to check what you lack and make up with it with flowers, chocolate or jewelry…instead it should be a celebration of what you do have. There are a lot of people like me that will spend this day single; some by choice, circumstance or a third group who doesn’t know what the heck happened but here we are. Because you may or may not fall in these groups does not mean you do not have relationships to be thankful for. I could write about appreciating your family and friends but that would be the normal way to go with this post.

I would stress to remember the wonderful relationship you have with wait for it….yourself. Sometimes during these cookie cutter holidays we forget to take care of ourselves and as a result we forget to take of those around us. I know I am guilty of this. I did not take care of things in my past and those personality traits came back to bite me later. But I am thankful for getting along with myself a whole lot better. I used to push myself as more of a punishment for my own weaknesses instead of as a celebration of my strengths.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What’s with this Running Obsession? - Helpful Reminders

I asked a friend of mine if they thought I was obsessed about running.  Their answer was yes…stating that I seemed to jump from activity to activity.  One just naturally leading to another and that it was very clear when I was “into” something.  He also stated that sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing but that he did think I went overboard.  It was interesting that he said it could make me one dimensional.  That was one that I had never heard before.  He said that if you only talk about one thing than you possibly alienate others who are not “into” the same thing.  

Unfortunately he is right, to a degree.  Maybe I have gone overboard, maybe.  But I see it as a season.  I know in June/July I am all about cycling…it’s been that way since 2002 because the tour de France is on versus and yes I am the guy who wakes up super early to hear all about the teams the performances and hopefully catch some of the webcast.  Traditionally during winter I simply eat a ton.  For Mexicans its "tamales" season and those go straight to the ol’ gut.  Since I can remember I would gain 10 – 15 lbs. during this time and then I would transition into spring.  Spring I tended to start slow to work my way back to cycling in the summer.  I would start with some team sports like softball tournaments that would get me out but not kill me after my winter hibernation.  More recently (3 years approx) I started playing golf more frequently because warmer and I can hit balls most days in the spring.  The ball goes further in good weather and it makes no sense to be miserable and play during the winter.   

Why would I pay $60 bucks to play a course during the winter to have shorter distances, shabby courses and less daylight to play?  During winter you always…ALWAYS get stuck behind one of two golfers…the never quit guy who hacks at the ball all day and it takes him 40 strokes to get onto the green and an hour to read the wrong break, or the overachiever child and parent.  Since Tiger would go play at three, so do all children, and its not like you can tee off and fire at the back of a toddlers’ head.  I really wanted to take out the parent for not letting me play through but that’s a different story.

So going with the comment, yeah this running thing is new for me and maybe even an obsession.   I have run through heat, rain, and cold, dirt and road…it’s like this thing does not have a season like everything else I am into.  Maybe that is why it is seem by some of my friends as an obsession and I am ok with that.  My day is long and the only time that my brain gets a break is when I run.  When I run it’s all about being efficient and focusing on the next step, that’s it.  Pressure from work, school, family…the hundreds of pages I am supposed to read this week…bills…phone calls…texts…all the trivialities are life are closed for that time and I am free.   

This obsession helped me get over a lot of sadness and tragedy in my life.  These moments to breathe I see clearly.  I see what I want my life to be.  I want to be better.  I want to be a good person not only for me but for others.  I want my life to mean good and spread positivity and not hostility.  The mental breaks my mind takes allows it to think outside the little box I keep it locked in all day at work and at school.  This break keeps me humble, keeps me honest and it translates that humility and honestly to my relationships with others.  My brain can breathe, it can take a pause and the endorphins are not to shabby either.

My “obsession” is also infecting others.  Others around me are talking about miles and shoes as opposed to liquor and drugs its like an epidemic and others are catching it.  My obsession is helping to change people for the good.  My obsession is helping me motivate not only myself but others.  Instead of going to happy hour we are organizing trail runs/hikes.  Instead of talking about the next company party or next crazy night in Vegas we are talking about the next goal, the next race, and the next milestone.

It made me so excited but felt so foreign to have someone tell me that I motivated them on the run.  I always have seen myself as a jerk or at best a stand offish nerd.  I have never seen myself as a motivator much less an inspiration to get off the couch, but some people close to me have expressed this sentiment and all I can say is that they are infected as well.  They are infected not with running, but with trying to be better people.  For me this running thing has helped, it makes me want to keep going no matter what.

Now tonight I had a reminder that I still have a long long way to go.  I unintentionally was causing someone grief.  This person means a lot to me and I would never want to cause or add to anyone's plate, unless I am serving awesome food..which could hypothetically happen, just saying.  I was being narrow minded and had tunnel vision regarding what actions or inaction to take.  Thankfully this person being a lot wiser than I am shared their thoughts and really put the spotlight on my ignorance.  For me it was a blessing in disguise, i was being rather heartless even though i did it with the best intentions.  Maybe i just need to become more aware of others instead of just reacting to them? We'll see.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nathan HPL 020 2.0 Liter-Hydration Race Vest Review

In my limited running experience besides my form, lack of preparedness has hurt me. If you go over my older running posts it is pretty standard, almost like Gilligan’s Island…I go out for a run, get lost or disoriented, run out of water + food, trudge back and hate my life…then repeat. Most of the time it is easily resolved by stopping at a liquor store and purchasing some water or food. I can’t do my longer runs in the middle of the day anymore so either late night or early morning. I love trails and seeking to complete my first marathon and ultra marathon this year so I purchased a few packs that I will be rotating during my long runs.

This hydration pack was designed for ultra runners by ultra runners (period). The pack was designed in part by Dana Miller, a multiple time Wasatch 100 finisher. But, I was attracted to it because so many ultra and trail runners not only sung its praises but wore it. What pushed me over the edge to go for this pack is my ex roommate from college. He started running trails and said, I got a Nathan because everyone else has them and it has been great never really looked at anything else. This guy has never led me wrong so here goes.

First Impression
It is minimalist and lot lighter than I expected it to be. I had purchased the 1.5L race vest first and sent it back because it just seemed so small..this one is not that different, but I do appreciate having more water. I honestly held it out of the box and I was very skeptical. How could so many people like something that is this simple. There were no bells and whistles on this vest it simply was what you needed and very little of it.

The pack is more of a vest, like a fishing vest minus the feathers and gigs and funky smell. It is intended to fit loosely. In the back part of the pack there is the main compartment (for the 2L water pack), a zipper pocket with a divider in there and a key ring thingy (the technical name); in the front there is a zipper compartment on the right and a drawstring compartment on the left. There is also a bungee type chord that can help you lock down a jacket or windbreaker in the back. The chest strap also doubles as a tub clip so you always will know where the water source it, and that’s nice…less moving parts.

According the Nathan Website here are some of the specs (my comments):
Three way – Propulsion Harness (not really sure how it helps – pack is loose fitting and once you adjust it that’s pretty much where it stays, but ok)

2 Liter Hydration Bladder with Slideseal top closure and bite valve (like the slideseal, took me a minute to get used to the idea. It helps you clean the bladder quickly, but the bite valve is great, quick on the giving fast on the closing)

Dual front Power Stretch Mesh pockets –– one with zipper closure (awesome, can easily work either the draw string pock or the zipper pocket on the run…last night had GU in one side and a headlamp in the other with no problems.)

Shock Cord with one-pull tension lock for jacket or gloves (I assume this is the bungee thingy…not sure about putting gloves there…but ok)

Vertically adjustable sternum strap with tube clip (I thought the tube clip part was sort of odd, but it does work well on the run, you can adjust it to feel a wider chest or narrow it up. It allows you to change the feel of the bag quickly and not having to take it off)

I have done both a trail and a road (I know a sin for ultra training) runs in this vest. The trail run was in the middle of the day. The actually put the vest on after having been out for about an hour running with some friends. It fit well and was not uncomfortable even thought I was already sweaty. I able to adjust it a little while moving, but those adjustments were limited to the chest strap. In the heat of the day the pack did not rub me in the wrong way nor did I get any hot spots after the run. Def noticed the weight at first but after half a mile it felt similar to wearing a loose wind breaker…it is there only if you focus to notice it.

The road run was late at night. The pack did not feel the pack as cumbersome, but I did sense the weight at the beginning of the run, I think a full 2L bladder may have had something to do with that (recurring theme?). Had the vest been tight inevitable it would have ridden up my back and bothered me especially at night. I think the darkness and the solitude every little thing gets noticed, with the exception if anything directly in front of you.

There are pieces of equipment that after you get sweaty and gross stick to your skin and feel awful. The fact the vest was loose seems to let its mesh wick away sweat so it did not get that stuck to my body feeling, which is a huge plus.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Saturday Trail Run - Eerie Sense of Change

Until my last run I never had hit “the wall.”  I had been tired and beat down but never to that degree.  It was a good learning experience and it definitely was an education on hydration and preparedness.  From now on I will error on the side of packing more than needed than less.  Last Saturday I went to Peter’s Canyon, a local popular trail.  It was good, but the amount of people threw me off a little.  I am used to running trails mostly by myself and not having to talk much.  However, this was a buddy’s first trail experience so this was a good place to give it a go.  The miles ticked off pretty fast.  The only thing I did not like was the mountain bike riders.  I consider myself a mountain bike rider but these guys were going way to fast.  There were packs of 3- 5 riders flying down trails were toddlers and families were strolling around.  No offense to the riders, but man up and go to more remote trails and have your expensive bikes earn their keep.  There is no point in rolling around a groomed well taken care of trail with a $5k bike just to have to slam the breaks to avoid mowing down kids, just my 2 cents.

I have an eerie sense that things are going to change soon, no idea what I just have an ominous type feeling.  When you go to a movie and you know something is going to happen just before it does…sort of that way.  I am not sure if it is going to be a good thing or a bad one, but something.  I am tired nowadays, not mentally, but physically I have been kicking my own ass.  I am not sleeping as much as I should and for the next few weeks enough sleep is going to be a priority.  The other things that’s been going on physically is that my left foot swells up on any run longer than 5 miles.  I first thought that it was the shoes, but it has happened in three different pairs of shoes.  I am going to reduce the amount of salt in my diet and see how that goes.