Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Review - Highlights

1. Raquel Mares, born 8/12/12, weighing 8 lbs. 12 oz.
My niece was born.  The kid cries and I think its the cutest thing ever.  She does not shriek like the boys did when they were babies; just won me over the moment I laid eyes on her.

2. Returning to Law School
With the help of friends, especially Sam, I got my priorities straight and worked hard to get back into the mix.  When I left law school it was amidst economic and personal crisis.  I was very lost; I felt and like an empty shell.  I was lucky enough to recognize true friendships who helped fill that empty shell with positivity and helped me re-discover the things I missed.  I am lucky that those crisis only ended up costing me money so no real permanent damage. I am forever thankful for that.
3. 2+ hour 50 Mile PR.  Rock'n River 50_11:37 & at American River 50_9:31
I had a great support system leading up to this race.  I was super excited that my training went well.  The night before I was still hoping for a 10:59:59 finish to qualify for the Western States 100.  I did not realize how well the day had gone until 5 miles before the end when my not-planned-4-pacer Chris was hooting and hollering that a sub 11 was in the bag. Report Link.   

4. Headlands 100 in 32:52:14, 9 minutes ahead of the final cut off.
This one hurt, Race Report.  My first 100 hurt, but this one was a different level.  It stung more because it was supposed to be a family affair.  Two family members were supposed to pace me through this one dropped out a few weeks before the race.  I had no pacers and no crew.  But, guy upstairs was looking out, I met Victor of Victory Sport Design, who hooked it up with drop bags and paced me from mile 50-75 through what was probably one of the coldest most painful nights of my life.  Then Roberto and Kristen drove from Davis to crew and pace; Lucille and Huan, who had helped a friend move up north joined as well.  I ended up having more than enough crew and pacers…and was able to just squeak in 9 minutes to spare.  

5. Have faith, God has a plan.  
I have given an honest effort to become the best person I think I can be.  I smile now instead of smirking.  I have a great relationship with my family.  I have not been able to say it for over a decade...but I am really happy with where my life is.  I have met a plethora different people from all walks of life that just like me want to be better, and leave this planet a little nicer than they found it.  So I will keep working hard and hope that what I do motivates others to pay it forward.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Connecticut Tragedy

I am preparing for the last final of this semester on Monday (Contracts); got a great run in yesterday.  I ran 8:14 avg for over nine miles which I had never done before.  I have been feeling stronger, but am having a hip movement issue.  My leg muscles are just tight and are causing lower back pain.  I went to the chiropractor and had the legs stretched out to try and get motion back into the hip.  The pain is tolerable, but it does concern me a little because of the heavy miles planned for the break and leading up the the AR50.  But all I can think about are the families in Connecticut.

In addition to this blog I write in a Moleskine; been doing it for years.  My Moleskines, many of them destroyed, see the inner part of me.  They record the part of me that is callous and ruthless but at the same time the part of me that is weak and scared.  Most of my private and not as politically correct thoughts go to there rather than this public forum.  But, this one is different.  I cried today for no reason other than thinking "what if it were my nephews (PEM just started Kindergarten); what if I were a parent?"  I consider myself a pretty tough guy, but kids just have a way of getting to you.  

They may be rascals and break things and throw tantrums but they are innocent.  They have life to look forward too, everything is new.  Some angels will not open the presents under the tree this year; taken away because the cowardly acts of a deranged person who did not look for help and thought it best to plague the world with his actions.

I do not think that it is the right time to talk about gun control as many people do.  I do not think that it is time to have to politicize this tragedy.  It is time to look into ourselves and recognize that things have to change.  Aurora, Columbine, Littleton, VA Tech what the heck is going on?  How are we failing as a country that individuals think this is the way to respond?  Maybe there is no answer.  Maybe mental disease is at a place where folks who need help are not getting it.  

I do not know what any of us could have done about this tragedy.  How can we know if there is danger in our midst?  All I can tell you is what I plan to do. I am going to appreciate the relationships I have a and help everyone I can in whatever way I can to be better.  I pray the small things I do generate kindness and compassion that will spread across the nation and hopefully kill the seeds of hate and despair before they grow.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

American River 50 Sign-Up / Training Thoughts

     This season has been up and down for me.  I battled a stress fracture that made me over 90 seconds per mile faster (odd I know), hip locking issues (my chiropractor called me a "patch job"), yoga (multiple attempts, ouch), law school and even hints of Churchill's black dog.  Taking a breather and getting a long run in tends to make me feel at ease.  So naturally after a run I decide to go back to my roots, the American River 50 (Race Report).  The race takes place in April and has been the scene of my highest high and lowest lows.  

     Below is my race plan for my first attempt at this race; right off the bat I can tell you that is way too much water and looking back I am not shocked that I over hydrated and DNF'd at Beal's Point, roughly 27 miles.  

     If you have followed my blog or check out my race reports you will notice that my planning is significantly more detailed than it was back then.  I now bust out excel spreadsheets like a statistician and pick gear as if I am on a Mars Rover mission.
     A big reason for the detail is reading other blogs.  I have gleaned so much knowledge from other runners experiences, both good and bad, that I feel compelled to share my success and failure in hopes that others will have positive experiences.
     Below are images of me at the same aid station a year apart (Negro Bar Aid station 22 ish miles).  The second time I ran AR50 I knew what I was getting into.  The only thing that was on my mind was "get to Beal's Point."  I ran smart and took advantage of my course knowledge both forwards and backwards having run the reverse route at the Rock'n River 50.  I also was fortunate to get into a solid conga line for the single track section.  The group pushed in silence, each motivating one another with effort rather that words with a few grunts and "on your left" thrown in there.  

Negro Bar - 2011
Negro Bar - 2012
          Funny I did not realize my number in 2011 was 476 and in 2012 it was 497...the difference being roughly the distance I failed to complete the first attempt at AR.  April 2013 will be my third time running this course. I am excited and scared at the same time. 
     I do not have the DNF chip on my shoulder which was a huge motivating factor for me.  I do have a little more experience and my perspective on ultras is a little different.  I run to be happy and my race plan will revolve around keeping a healthy sustainable pace and if all goes to plan hope to be able to smile and enjoy a brew at the finish line.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Headlands 100 Race Report

Headlands 100 is a 4 loop course around the Marin Headlands north of the San Francisco Bay. When browsing a possible race I knew the course would be "hilly" but with a 33 hour cut-off time I felt confident. Naturally, I was assuming a solid training cycle and no injuries. Sorry for the delay on this one but here it is.

Tops: North Face Jackets -Salomon Running Vest - RaceAdapt Tech Tee
Bottom: NF Flight Series 5" Short
Headwear: Headsweats Visor /Buff (night)
Accesories: Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves (white) / Gore Gloves /iPod Shuffle (top ten list) /Oakley Radar Sunglasses (standard for my races nowadays-love oakley just sayin.)
Socks: Drymax Lite Trail Run 1/4 Crew & Drymax Trail Run 1/4 Crew High
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak (used 1-25 and 80-100) /Hoka Mafate
Tracking/GPS: Garmin 310XT and 910XT
Night Specific: Fenix HP11 (blinding animals on the regular) /Fenix E11 Flashlight
Gear: Victory Design Bear 1 - Drop bag (2) (link) /Ultimate Direction Fast Draw Plus Handheld (Review) -Bodyglide Liquified Powder, Zombie Runner Blister Needles
Nutrition: Tailwind Nutrition (link)

20,000 ft of Elevation Change

Pictures - Course Pictures (marked) courtesy of Donald @

Note on Nutrition:
Tailwind is an amazing product and I will be reviewing it individually soon. I used it as my primary fuel source and it kept me strong for 30+ hours. I have successfully used other products at different race distances ranging from 26.2 - 100; gels, drink mixes, solid food, etc. However, what drew me to this product is that it is all inclusive. I am forgetful and a little lazy to be quite honest; especially in the later miles. I always forget to take suggested S-Cap per hour, gel at 45 minutes etc so this product is right down my alley of keeping things as simple as possible. A secondary consideration was energy spikes. When taking gels I get a boost of energy 5-10 minutes after ingesting, which is great if you have the energy to spare, but deadly if you are just trying to keep even splits and conserve in the first half. Tailwind took care of everything; hydration, caloric needs as well as my electrolyte balance. All of this and it was easy on my stomach. I was able to throw down anything aid stations had to offer and there were no ill effects. For ultra-running GI issues will take you out of the race the fastest (unless you are struck by lightning during competition, sorry Lee Trevino). For the foreseeable future I will be training and racing with tailwind.

Loops 1 - 2 (50 miles)
Overall the first 50 were pretty solid. I ran conservatively and did not speak to any of the other runners until loop 2. I probably seemed like a jerk to most, but I know my style. I will turn into "chatty kathy" (sorry to Kathy's out there) in a heartbeat and completely forget my game plan if I had started talking at mile one. It also takes energy to talk and recalling my training was not optimal I decided to maximize the little fuel I had in the tank. In classic alex racing style I got lost in the first 3 miles. Because of the heavy fog (shocking for SF I know) a group of us missed a turn and we lost about 10-15 minutes.
At mile 25 I changed shoes because I felt the Altra Lone Peak's were not flexible enough for the rocky terrain. I was having trouble leaping from place to place along the single track sections. My foot would slide inside the shoe and because there was not a lot of flex I was concerned about rolling an ankle and possible blisters. Looking back I probably should have not made such an extreme change (went to the Hoka Mafate). It was not new and I had made the change before (AR50 - Newton Gravity-to-Hoka) with great success. Unfortunately at mile 40 I tweaked something in my right knee. I had been dealing with an injury to my left leg leading up to the race. My left leg was subconsciously/consciously babied all day and I had placed extra strain on the right. The pain stopped me in my tracks and made running downhill impossible. The pain started as sharp jabs to the area below the kneecap, then over time it went to throbbing and finally did a combo of aching and sharp pains from time to time.

Loop 3-4 - 50-100 (Night-time)
If I had gone out to try this on my own as planned, I would have dropped at mile 50 or 60 at the latest. My knee just gave me no hope for running downhill. I was doing great on energy level and nutrition. I expected to be a lot worse shape than I was but the whole plan was working, except for the right knee of course. I was still relatively chipper and could muster smiling which is huge considering it was dark so I could have frowned and no one would have been the wiser. I simply couldn't put much pressure on the right knee; especially downhill without wanting say "F(orget) this" and tap-out.

There were a few motivating factors to keep going into the night (not in order of importance)
(1) I wanted to run at night b/c I bought a gnarly headlamp, and fully expected to blind me some wildlife. (mission accomplished - a buck, few deer, spotted a coyote and 2 raccoons)
(2) I had pacers Victor (UltraSignUp Results - VictoryDesignBags) and Roberto (RocknRiver Crew - seen me finish 50 milers & get tied to a gurney by firefighters (don't ask, but we go way back))
(3) I had a support crew - Roberto, Kristen, Lucille, Huan (how it came together)

The next 50 miles can be summed up in one word; grind.

I felt terrible putting Victor and Roberto through that ordeal. I was moving so slow it felt I would never make it. Victor was awesome helping me to keep my mind in the race throughout the night. We chatted about topics ranging from the Ultimate Warrior/Yokozuna to his 3rd fastest recorded time around the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail (Podcast Link). His trail and local knowledge was huge. In the fog at night headlamps reflect off the water particles and if you are not careful the trail magically disappears. With Victor there I did not have to think, just move. Pirates scary as hell at night especially on a bum knee. I am sure I would have gotten myself lost without him.

Roberto as a pacer has has this sixth sense. He knew when to give me the facts or when to give me a ninja kick to the rear. He suggested a sock and shoe change which probably saved the race. I had a blister on the top of my foot. I know its weird...I think the fog soaked my socks and overnight the friction just got me. Taking care of that issue mentally got me back in the game. I felt that I was doing everything possible to keep going and that's a huge win after 24+ hours of movement. I was pretty lucky to have him volunteer to help me out on the 75-100 loop.

Like Vegas what is said on the trail stays there. But, I will say that having a crew help get my bottles ready and help motivate me to get to the next station was awesome. Just knowing that someone you know is going to be there is a huge mental bonus and these guys were awesome.

Muir Beach- Tenessee Valley - Rodeo Beach - Finish
The hardest part of the race were the last two aid stations. The hike down to Muir beach was awful on my knee and I could tell my pacer was getting nervous about the cut-offs. On the way from Muir to TV, I told him we would go until they pulled us off the dam course. He nodded but we were both feeling the stress. The 4.2 miles from Tennessee Valley to Rodeo Beach had a lot of climbing which had been my strong suit since it allowed me to negate a lot of the pressure on the lower knee cap. I had come into the 50 mile mark and the 75 mile marks with a few hours in the bank, but these last four I was cutting it too close for comfort. When we got to TV, I could tell Roberto was dreading having to give me the bad news that I would not make it. He looked stressed, like....oh crap I am going to have to tell this dude that going for 30+ hours may not be good enough. Mentally I had been preparing myself for that news all night.

When we arrived the aid station volunteers knew me, "oh hey the knee guy, right?" Yup that's me a body part. One of the aid station volunteers asked me if I had put anything on it, I said no. She went into her personal bag and grabbed a balm (which I do not know the name of but it was bad ass). My knee started feeling numb. It was awesome, the pain was gone and for a moment I thought about running. Roberto kept telling me to go only as fast as I could not to cause permanent damage. Whenever I would push it anything he thought excessive he would reassure me we had time and that I needed to reign it in.

I made it with 9 minutes to spare. It was pretty emotional for me. The emotions came a day later after my zombie-like state was mitigated. At the time I was just so tired and so out of it that all I could think about was a shower, food and laying down. I'll admit I did tear up at mile 99.1-ish when I felt that I was really going to make it, it was just so long and that last aid station looked so far away, but like they say one step in front of the other. 

Final Place 
31 Entrants
27 Toed the Line
17 Finished within the cut-off
#17 - Alex Mares, San Clemente, CA - 32:51:14

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Headlands 100 Course Change/ Injury Update

A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice.
-Bill Cosby

Situation - Status
"PACER: A very good friend who runs with you for part of a 100+ race... with some of the more difficult races, having a pacer is more of a security blanket than anything else. Someone to make sure you don’t deliriously wander off the trail or freeze to death on some remote section of the course." (definition courtesy of Outside Magazine: Ultra Lingo). 

A few months ago I was confident I would have two pacers. Three weeks before I have one, and 2 weeks prior to the race zero. I cannot blame anyone for not wanting to pace or bowing out because it is a thankless job that you do because (1) you are intoxicated at the time of commitment (2) lost a bet or are in debt or (3) are an ultra runner. The guys that were going to pace me have young families so that's a solid excuse as well.

DROP BAG: something in which to pack your preferential race day items (extra socks, fried sweet potatoes, headlamps, etc.). Volunteers will typically collect this motley assortment of bags on check-in day and drive them to designated aid stations for en-route access."(definition courtesy of Outside Magazine: Ultra Lingo).

I decided that I would drop bag the race and just crew myself.  I am not as prepared for this race as I should be; training is not there. Also the more people involved in travel the tougher (read as: expensive) it is logistically and being in grad school I am penny pincher nowadays.

I contacted Victor B. an elite ultra runner and creator/designer of the Victory Sportdesign - Bear 1. This bag was invented to get in and out of aid stations quickly, but has tons of applications outside of the ultra scene. I need a bag that is durable, rugged, and efficient. The Bear 1 fit the bill. Victor was kind enough to ship the bags over quickly. In addition to helping me get the bags he said he would be willing to pace me if his schedule allowed. (Note: Victor has won the last 4 races he has entered, all longer than a marathon, all on trails at blazing speed.)

Crazy right !? Out of nowhere a guy who wins these crazy races offers to pace a total stranger at night in the wilderness (relative term) knowing that I will probably be destroyed, moody and moving a the speed of evolution. Ultra running is just that sort of community. Everyone from the first person to cross the finish line to the last...we all suffer together, its like AA for non-alcholics. (note: its confirmed V. is pacing me - 7 pm ish to 9 am ish)
I also text my friend Berto (Crew/Pacer: Rockn River 50 - Race Report) asking if he knew anyone running up in the Headlands that weekend. A few texts later he says he will be there to crew and pace me for a loop and I never even asked him too...I think he is buttering me up since I am going to be in his wedding (note: buy lots of booze, destroy all cameras and ensure awesome bachelor party).

There is also a shot that some others will swing by the race to check it out which will be nice, but I am not banking on them helping since they aren't familiar with the format and will probably be shocked at the dumb things I put myself through.

Headlands 100 Changes
Course Correction - instead of the Rodeo Valley Trail we are using the Bobcat trail, same elevation but more gradual rather that straight steep. 

Golden Gate Aid Station - NO GELS ALLOWED - you can provide your own, but for fear of littering the race cannot provide them.

Injury Update
I had a great chat with my doctor. He confirmed that I have some issues going on. We decided that I will be shutting it down for a month (bike and swim only) after this race and chat sometime in October. I will looking at trekking poles (Euro-style) this weekend and make it a game time decision, but most likely I will stick to what I know and just get strong real quick.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Headlands 100 - Pre-Race Preparation

I am sure that you are tired of hearing it; the training is not there. My average miles per week have been pretty low (almost crazy to attempt low) considering the race. My name is Alex and I am a hypocondriac. There may be a stress fracture in my left shin but I emphasis "may." The situation is one of two possibilities; either fantasm pains or a real problem. I will sort that out with the doctor but in any case after the Headlands I am forcing myself to take a month off from running. I will most likely do some other activity like hiking or bike riding but definitely will lay off just to mentally reset for the next attempt. Anyhow, here is the plan.

Ideal Splits
Loop 1 - 6.75 hours
Loop 2 - 6 hours
Loop 3 - 7 Hours
Loop 4 - 7.5 hours
Total Time: 27.25 hours

I am not sure that I will be able to hold that consistent of a pace. The plan is to finish within the 26-28 hour range. Assuming I have no big setbacks that is in the realm of possibility but going easy at the start and still beating the cutt offs may be a challenge if the heat kicks up. A huge thanks to Chris G. (first pacer at RockyRoad100) for the chart.

Ideally - 250-350 Cal per hour
Tailwind Nutrtion - will be my main fuel source. It is a power similar to Vitargo (less calories per volume - can do 600 cal of Vitargo in waterbottle, but bo electrolytes) TW includes electrolytes so having that regularly rather than remembering salt caps "in the midnight hour" will be a plus. the benefit to these types of nutrition over just regular gels is that its all in one and helps reduce the instances of GI issues since it sa slow feeding rather than throwing down calories chased by water.
Secondary Sources - Cliff Shots, Aid Station Regular stuff -I will probably stick to solid "real food" for the first half and then gels for the second. I will mostlikely take a few gels fromt he tables when I get to them just in case I need the extra kick of sugar.

-GPS/Time - Garmin 310XT and 910XT (50 miles on one - potentially 50 miles on the other, taking extra precaution becuase I am probably going to fight cut-offs)
-Headwear - Headsweats Visor, Oakley Radar Glasses (crowies), Buff Headwear (pretty standard evening/night gear for me.
-Headlamps - BlackDiamond Storm, Black Diamond Sprinter, Possible Fenix head+hand combo (going to look into)
-Clothing - NF Better than Naked Jacket, Patagonia Long haulers 3"/ NorthFace Flight Series 5" (depends on weather), RaceAdapt Tech Tee, Perl Izumi Sun Sleeves (white), Moeben Arm Warmers (black)
-Music - iPod Shuffle (2nd half)
-Hydration - 2x - Ultimate Direction Handhelds (worked for my first 100) - Daylight hours keeping it light and easy two swap in and out from, then Salomon Advanced Skin (Review), easier to work with a pack at night and especially dealing with Fatigue. I am also probably going to carry a flashlight as a 2nd light source to get some deapth perception, since one light only tends to lead to tunnel vision.
-Drop Bags - Victory Sport Design Bear 1 - waterproof, tested and I can't risk wet or damaged gear especially considering the varying temperatures @ the Headlands (review to follow after the race)

Drop Bag Content
I am not sure what aid station I will hit the dark at so I will be packing similar items in both bags just to make sure. But the bags will be placed at Rodeo Beach (start) and Tennessee Valley.

-Tailwind Nutrition - large container and plastic bags already set up to grab (each plastic bag will contain 2 servings equivalent to 200 cal. - one bag per bottle during the day.) Because I will be using the pack at night I will be going with 4 scoops per full pack (1.5 liters = 50.7 oz). Reasoning for this is that I know to stay awake I will be chewing on food or downing soup in addition to the calories from TW.

-Headlamps - BlackDiamond Spot/Sprinter (#1) blackDiamond Storm (#2) - unless I can nail down this fenix lamp.

-Shoes - Hoka Mafate - sucessfully used at a AR50 and Calico 30k (Altra Lone Peak will be my main shoe, but I may want to extra cushion after 50 or 75 so the Hoka will be in the Rodeo Beach Drop Bag)

-Gels - Hammer Gels just in case some of the cliff flavors @ the race don't agree with me

-Misc - (both bags) nail clippers, band aids, duct tape, needle+string, Ibuprofen, S-Caps, extra socks, gloves (in case weather turns), Moeben arm warmers, extra Buff (both bags), heavier North Face Torpedo Jacket (in case of high winds)/Salomon Vest - NF and Vest are interchangeable probably one in each bag.

I know that I will probably have to shrink my dob bag content or shuffle some gear but for now that is the plan. In the next few days when I find out what the status is of the shin I will be dropping a few more bits of info.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” –Proverbs 27:17

This is not going to be a Biblical lecture, but I do think that we can take value from his statement.

The endurance lifestyle not only reflects your strengths but also highlights your weakness. It is difficult for active individuals to imagine a time when they will be unable to push beyond the pain or over the next tribulation. Personally, I recognize that I am very impatient. In my training I tend to lose my cool and push too hard too fast with one of two results, epicness or failure. I want results yesterday and need new challenges everyday else my mind begins to wander and my training waivers. Luckily I have been fortunate to have stumbled across a community that understand the stress of balancing life, work and play while attempting not to lose one’s mind.

Random Fact: between 1915 and 1924 Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs called themselves the Four Vagabonds and would take long camping trips during the summer. Can you imagine the insight you would gain by sitting around a campfire with some of the era’s most elite men? Listening to the leaders of industry and cultural icons talk about life, business and the meaning of it all would be a wealth of knowledge that no book could ever teach you.

I mention the “Four Vagabonds” because in our modern era such meetings are held behind closed doors and any conversations would be privileged or simply unavailable to the public. But what can we do now? Find iron and get working. There are brilliant people around us we do not engage because we are “too busy”. All of us have communities in which we can make a difference and that can make a difference in us. Can you imagine what you would do if you knew 10 years ago what you know now? Besides investing in google and apple stock, I think most of us would make better use of our time and find those people who we can help and who can help us sharpen our strengths and polish out our weakness.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Birthday Reflections

Every year when my birthday comes around I reflect on where my mind is now in relation to the goals I set for myself years ago. Most years I would be depressed for a week because my life is not where I thought it should be. I think we all have a list of “things to do before age “1XX”…bungie jumping, a marathon, reading the Bible, whatever it may be.

This year I decided to take stock of my original plans. I quickly saw they did not account for personal and environmental growth. They assumed that everything would remain the same and I would want and need more of the same perpetually. As I have grown I understand more and more the age old saying “the only thing permanent is change” (I think its Aristotle, but not sure).

I think that we all give up control of a lot of things we should have a handle on. Example, “I don’t have time” (we know it’s a lie, come on), “I could never “blank” (yes you could, why stop yourself before the start?), “I’ll do it tomorrow” (tomorrow is always a day away, never today).

I decided to start a birthday tradition. I want to run/bike/hike/walk my age in miles as long as I can. It will become my tradition. I don’t want to worry or obsess over how my life is not where I thought it would be, because I understand that it never will be. There is always “something.” So instead of worrying I am going keep working hard to achieve my goals and thank God for the ability to move by celebrating life and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

Monday, July 9, 2012

June Injury / Headlands 100 Update

     June 2012 was not what I expected. In May I came off of two huge PRs at the 26.2 and 50 mile distance, I was invincible. I was running faster and throwing up mile splits I could not even fathom a few months back. After the PRs I trained harder and faster without as much focus on my recovery and I paid for it. I over trained and under-recovered and naturally my body gave me the finger after a few weeks.
     The first two weeks of the month my left calf muscle hurt every step I took. I tried massage, visits to the chiropractor, even acupuncture...but what I needed was to rest. I stopped for a few days and felt stronger. Once my calf did not hurt to walk on I cranked out 8 miles at redline; that night the pain returned. I was not longer enjoying my runs and no longer being happy.
     It was the slice of humble pie I needed. After the PRs I was having a lot of fun shattering times on my regular routes. Feeling so lean and fast I did not want to stop, but the truth is my body was putting out more than it should have and since I did not recover the injuries forced me to do so. Last week I logged 30 running miles and it is an achievement considering the month of June was a fraction of what previous months were. But I learned a valuable lesson, don’t cheat recovery and run happy or else you’re not doing it right.
     My realization is very timely since the Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR) announced on their website the Headlands races are still happening. I guess some other group stepped in and will be putting them on. The RD announced on Facebook the PCTR company was shut down, so I figured that the event happening was 50/50. The injuries have reset my goals for this race. I will be going for a finish rather than a sub-24 performance. Again, humble pie but if I want to be doing this for the long haul I need to let my heart and mind work to get it done instead of allowing my ego dictate pace.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hydrapak E-Lite Vest

I first saw the E-Lite vest on the Running and Rambling Blog (Link) and subsequently on the Runblogger (link). My first thought when reading was why would anyone want a 1 liter vest? At the time I read the reviews I ran heavy when it came to gear selection. When I hit the trails I over packed. I carried everything but the kitchen sink. I still believe that more is better than less when you are starting out but once you get your trail running in tune you find you can make do with less. Now that I have my "routes" and run efficiently I find myself “in between equipment”. Often I want to carry enough but not too much because lean towards a bare bones or minimalist style.

Weight: 9.09 oz with reservoir -  5.6 oz without - (empty)
1 Liter Reversible reservoir with Plug-N-Play Connector
2 Expandable Front Zippered Pocket
4 Integrated Holster-style pockets
Soft Mesh Back pouch holds 1 liter Reversible Reservoir (included)
Quantum Clip (I think this means magnetic)

Right off the bat I can tell you this looks toddler size. I am worried that the single pouch approach for the bladder will not be enough for all the bouncing on trails. The mesh overall seems very "airy". The vest reminds me of the Nathan #028 vest + a bladder. Even though the Nathan #028 is a staple of any ultra field I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing yet.

Construction / Structure
The two zippered pockets are well designed. The zipper is not sown all the way down as was the style with the original version of this pack. This improvement keeps the pocket sleek without the worry of dumpling all the contents out while trying to access them.

The Hydrapak site states that there are 4 integrated holster style pockets. Do not get excited. They are helpful but bigger items fall out of them. On runs I reserve these for used Gel packs, i.e. trash, or a convenient place to have your plastic bag with Salt Caps.

The standard for pack adjustment is pulling the straps down or back in order to tighten or loosen. This makes it tough to know if everything is balanced. I know its a tiny difference but over the course of a few miles you will notice that the left or right shoulder is sore and then you will thank me for reminding you to check.
This pack adjusts by pulling forward which allows you to see that the sides are even. As an additional benefit it lets you adjust on the run. Try pulling backwards while trying to run forward, not as easy as you think.

The construction is as solid as they come. The Hydrapak bladder is a top fill bladder with a slide close. This system is great for ultra marathons because you refill and move out of the aid stations quickly. 

I have not only used this vest for medium to long range road runs but have also used it for the Rock’n River 50 Miler (report). The decision to use this vest rather than my standard Salomon Advanced Skin 5 was because the distance between aid was not so great to need the extra fluid and I focused on running light.

Running with the E-Lite Vest @ Rock'n River 50

Because of the sleekness of the pack and its light construction I find that i adjust it on the run as the bladder empties which is not really an issue or consideration with larger packs like the Salomon Advanced Skin (Updated Review). This is probably not a big deal, but if you are against adjusting anything at all you will probably find this fact annoying since the fit is completely different when you have a full bladder as opposed to an empty one.

For me the E-Lite Vest fits perfectly into that in between category. One liter gave me enough fluid for a longer run without having to plot a course with water stations to refill bottles. The storage also permits carrying gels, maybe a phone or light if getting caught in the dark is a concern. So with that in mind I have put the vest through its paces and have come up with a few concerns for an otherwise wonderful piece of equipment. 

-Size - enough water, but not overbearing
-Light - you literally feel like you have little to nothing on
-Construction - its sturdier than I initially gave it credit for.
-Magnetic Connection for Drinking Tube - thought it would be terrible, but despite lateral movements on trails it held up and secured the tube. (may be an issue for you depending on how you adjust - fyi)

-Chest Strap - this can be adjusted vertically or horizontally. However, when it goes vertical and the pack has too much stuff in it, it will actually un-clip from its wires and forcing you to stop and fix it. 
-2 of the "holster pockets" are behind the zippered pockets, I think they could have done without them and given you a "pills pocket" with a magnetic connection or something.

If you can afford to pick this up definitely do so. Its a sleeper item since it is not as well advertised as some of the bigger brands "minimalist" vests but it is worth a look. It is reasonably priced compared to its competitors and it offers a lot of features for such a small item. If you ever find yourself in between I suggest you have this in your gear closet. The pack can be purchased from (LINK) and while there be sure to check out the work Bryon does, he is the NYTimes of the ultra running community.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Minimalist Running

Over the last couple years the shoe industry has been trending towards minimalism. Shoe manufactures are cashing in on the movement (Fila Skeletoes) or rethinking assumptions about shoe function and building from the ground up (New Balance Minimus). Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run, has motivated thousands to kick off the foot coffins and hit the streets “naturally”. Zealous minimalist runners preach dumping shoes altogether while moderates assert less is more when trying to run “naturally”. 

Anecdotes and stories generally fall under one of the following themes (1) heel striking is bad (2) less shoe = less injuries (3) trails over road (natural over man-made). After wearing different manufactures and comparing the wear on them when I retiring a pair I discovered I heel strike with shoes that have a drop of 6mm or greater.  While heel striking my knees hurt and my stride over commits (read as: gets longer) and I feel more fatigued at the end. Lower drop shoes (flatter) have helped me shorten my stride, run further, and stay stronger. 

Do I wish I was a Tarahumara? Having the ability to traverse hundreds of kilometers on beer and Chia seeds? Si seƱor. I read Born to Run like everyone else and what I gleaned from it was: GET OUTSIDE.

I think that the gift of minimalism to the running community has been to demystify “running” by showing that there are as many ways of doing it right as there are people. Whenever I am asked my opinion on “toe shoes” or minimalist shoes generally say to do what works. If they feel better in a “minimal” shoe and it keeps them injury free and smiling, do it. If you want to try it out for possible performance gains, transition slowly. Any info beyond that point is an experiment of one.