Saturday, September 29, 2012

Montana Fat And Slow Division: Tread Lightly Trail Series Race Review

Montana Fat And Slow Division: Tread Lightly Trail Series Race Review: So, the grand question for me was what to wear. Yes, I've got the standard running shorts, cool logoed shirts, but I was trying ...

Tread Lightly Trail Series Race Review

So, the grand question for me was what to wear. Yes, I've got the standard running shorts, cool logoed shirts, but I was trying to decide what to use for water bottles. My plan was to go Euro-style, pushing on the legs, while trying to propel myself up the mountain. I decided to just go light, since I figured any extra weight would slow me down on the mountain. On the upside, I knew that Trail Glovers are amazing uphill shoes (no weight, enough traction), so I did have the shoes.
Anyway, the race swag bags were awesome. I got a cool Asics logo running shirt, a cool set of socks, a cool shirt with the race logo, a cool Nathan handheld water bottle, a cool Pearl Izumi water bottle, and the obligatory Hammer gel. There was the chip thing, which I tied into my shoes, and I realized that I really need to just start wearing an ankle pouch for these things. I'm obsessive about the lacing systems, and putting a chip in there is annoying for me.
My plan for Mount Helena race was to get a sweet start, and keep it strong on the uphill. I did manage to get a cool start during the flat section, but I had a harder time than I would expect doing the uphill. For some reason, my legs were miserable on the uphill angle, and my arms are really not in the propelling shape that they were back when I still had the gym membership. The other problem was that the temperature was just hot enough combined with the smoke that I was really getting dehydrated fast. I though that I'd be fine to storm up the mountain and back, but I usually ran Mount Helena during the days of good air and in the cool of the evening. So, I ended up not having as much leg strength as I expected and doing the uphill climb much weaker than I expected. So, overall, I was ever so slightly disappointed in my performance, but think that I've got a decent amount of time to get ready to do straight uphill hiking, probably with a sweet ballistic vest for weight.
Overall: 1.52mi, 29:31.84 1378 feet of ascent.

For the second part, we ended up doing a cool part of Mount Ascension that I never had experienced before. There's a really nifty trail off of Lime Kiln that meets up with the saddle, and is in amazing shape. There's something about running fresh, rather than beaten trail that just softens up the body. I decided to carry both handhelds, not because I was super worried about water, but rather because I was worried about having something to take the rocks when the inevitable slings and arrows of misfortune call. I ended up getting a bunch of water on two nifty gals on the trolley, which made me feel super sheepish. Also, I ended up using quite a bit of arm to keep stable while standing on the trolley (this will be important). I did a nice .67 mile warm up with the fast crowd, which felt really good. I feel the importance of warming up, I just usually fail at it. It's probably better to get a nice, leisurely, mile in before the starting line, especially as today's athletes are so gelled up that calories aren't an issue for distance races.
There was quite the spring at the start, since there was only about a quarter of a mile before hitting the singletrack trail. I ended up being further back than I wanted, so I got to do the strange hill passing thing. The problem is that passing is difficult, and there are three parts, uphill, downhill, and flat, where certain people are faster. I did get some sweet assistance from my fellow runners when the tree took out my hat. So, I spent most of the first part passing the galloping horses of the first section, and then once we hit the new trail that wraps around the North part of Mount Ascension running with the crew. I did pass of the lovely ladies on the 2006 switchbacks, and got passed once we hit Little Moab. In fact, I did see one of the lamer things on the day, where one lovely lady with headphones was basically blocking the same gal who cruised by me. I was almost frustrated, as it was on a downhill technical section, and its dangerous not to let people pass on those sections. I don't know if it's bad karma, or bad racing, but headphone girl ended up slipping on the Moab rocks, which my strong New Balance Minimus Trails held strong. Love that downhill grip!
There was a cool uphill part on Acropolis where I realized that I was pretty much set in where I would finish, so I enjoyed 30 fine seconds of walking the uphill before settling into the final stretch. It was a good rest, since my legs basically had nothing left, and I'd just been running on technical downhill skill. Plus, I was really low on calories, but I didn't have the opportunity to Gel up.
Vital Stats: 3,48 miles, 29:53.43, total ascent 503 feet and decent of 1587 feet.

The most race food and festivities were mostly cool. The Pearl Izumi rep was really nice, even if the shoes were way tight on me (foot swell, and general tightness). Plus, they have a lot of midsole, and I run in Minimus and Trail Gloves. It's too bad, although I hear that Izumi is going to do the Hoka One One route (which my local running store needs to carry before I try a pair at Runners Edge and have a spare $160). Inov8 had stuff more my style, but the rep was actually a real jerk, who seemed to have no interest in me, but had interest in the gal and her hipster (trucker hat and torn off jean shorts / plaid flannel wearing hipster) boyfriend. So, I'm not buying anything from Inov8, since they have really bad reps. Take that Google sentiment!

I did manage to come in first in my race division, which was a good feeling, even if there probably weren't a lot of people in it. I did run much faster than all the people who stayed home. I got some cool compression socks for it, although I think I'd like the bragaddocio of having a cool medal to go along with it.

I was asked by the race director if it would be cool to make a running weekend of it. I completely agree. Maybe a running movie on Friday along with a casual beer run and a cool running workshop with someone would be a good thing. There's talk of adding a long Sunday race to go along with it. There's some cool things that can be done with that, such as doing the Centennial trail (which could make a sweet out and back) or bringing back the
The only that I actually question is if the race needed to give prize money to the winners. I suspect most of the people who ran did so because they wanted to do the race, rather than because they needed / wanted the money. One option, which might be worth considering, would be to divvy up the money for the local running clubs and let people represent those. It's far enough from the Montana Cup, and I suspect that the first time the Bozeman runners come up and take $1500 for Bozeman will get all the Helena runners going strong. I didn't seem to bring out the elite runners the way the Icebreaker does. As the race gets bigger, splitting up the crowd on the singletrack is going to be a real issue. Adding another mile before hitting the singletrack would probably do a decent job, without being unfair to anyone. Wave start may or may not be a good option, although doing starting times based on a set of qualifying races might be worthwhile.

So, next year, y'all should do the series. It's awesome, the people are awesome, the swag is awesome, the post race food and beer is awesome.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Racing For Fun And Profit

Today, I volunteered at the Mount Helena Classic, a fine tradition put on by the local running club.  I got a nifty shirt, hung out with a cool friend, and otherwise enjoyed myself.  I was happy to put in my time, seeing as how I’ve done a pile of races, and wanted a chance to help put one of these on.  Plus, I’m a veteran crossing guard, even if race directors won’t give me the proper tool for the job.
The Mount Helena Classic probably breaks even, and might make a bit of money for the local running club.  I was glad to spend my time helping out.  Most races hopefully break even, make some money for the group putting it on and a bit of money for a cool local charity.
At a run that I did, which I will keep confidential, I was talking with one of the members of the board of directors about putting on such an event.  Even with thousands of entries (which were not entirely cheap), him and the rest of the board of directors ended up chipping in a few grand each year to help out the sponsor charity.  He was the kind of guy who had a few grand to chip in, and was glad to raise awareness for what they did.  I just thought it was interesting how $250,000 in entry fees get eaten up by expenses.
The point that I’m making is that I fundamentally view running as a non-profit event.  I pay entry fees, those entry fees get split behind a combination of a charity and running club.  The race directors here in Helena work way too hard, put up with way too much junk, and don’t really make any money off of their events.
Today, I saw an advertisement for a ‘warrior dash’ (name changed to prevent promotion of a blatantly commercial project).  They wanted $60 in early entry fees, along with $20 for money to go to 'hurricane victims.’  They also had a volunteer sign up.
This is where I really start to get annoyed with the whole she-bang.  The Missoula Marathon had 500 volunteers.  Assuming the average volunteer put in four hours, and makes ten bucks an hour, it’s $20,000 in free labor of the cause.  And, I think, everyone can agree that the Missoula Marathon is a worthy cause, as is Run Wild Missoula.
On the other hand, a commercial race would simply pocket that labor as additional profit for the race organizer.  Events like the popular Rock And Roll marathon series (link not given, to avoid promoting commercial crap)  draw thousands of competitors and spectators.  Yet, those events exist only to draw money for some corporation called Competitor, Inc.
And, going back to the theme of this article, I’d be fine if these events simply came out and entirely talked about what they did.  Maybe a commercial racing company has tastier gel, softer asphalt, or better post-race massage.  I’m not sure it would draw me away from hanging out with a cool bunch of Vigilantes.  But, calling anyone working to promote and help a strictly commercial enterprise is pure bullshit.  General Motors doesn’t have volunteers, it has workers, which it pays.  Even in the healthcare section, profits and non-profits compete.  But, at the end of the day, the for-profits have to provide the value paid for by consumers’ wallets, not volunteers hearts.

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Balance Minimus Trail Review

I've decided to branch out to the exciting world of gear reviews. So, all you awesome running companies, send me piles of junk and I'll figure out a way to review it, and I'll look cool wearing it. Plus, unlike those losers in the front of the race, I'm always cheering with spectators and waving to people, which is way more important than actually winning these events.
On a trip to my local gun store, I found the New Balance Minimus Trail in 10 on sale for around $79. I already had the Minimus Zero in 9.5, which I really liked, but had major problems with feet getting pounded and the top has started to come undone. Likewise, my year old Trail Gloves in 9 are nice, but I know that I really do need to move up to the 9.5 as a standard. I had already been wanting to consider something in a 10, mainly for doing longer races when I know the feet will expand.
The Minimus Trail has a lot more foot protection than either the Trail Glove or Zero. The Vibram outsole is hard, but there's otherwise minimal padding. I'm hoping that it will hit the rocks a bit better than the super soft options that I've been wearing to this point.
Likewise, the shoe has good heal to arch fit, which is what I've been looking for. I've realized that I'm going to need to allow for more toe splay on the longer runs, as the toes swell up over distance.
I took the Trails out for a road run last night, to start the breaking in process. I didn't get the usual sole beatings that I get with most minimal shoes, but still felt plenty of ground contact. My only real complaint is that there was a bit of slide around the left big toe that would have started to blister. I'm not sure how much of that is due to shoe newness, how much is due to sock newness, and how much is due to general foot wear and tear. I think I'll take blisters over sole beatings at this point.
I would recommend the Minimus Trail for people who want an introduction to low-padding running, but don't feel ready to feel the feet pounding of the more minimal cousins. Trust me, once you hit that first rock, you'll be glad to be wearing shoes with hard, rather than soft, sole.

Big Dipper Last Chance Half Marathon

I missed this one last year, and really ended up regretting it. I did a run up Great Falls way with the ever annoying Lucy Helena, whose favorite pasttime was making me late for races so I couldn't get stretched out properly, and arguing with me about what to wear for races. However, no such problems this time, as I get to pick up the packet at Tread Lightly, and get ready for the Big Dipper Last Chance Half Marathon. I see that the shirts are way cool Sporthill shirts (everyone is ordering those these days), and I get the standard Hammer Nutrition pamphlets. I also get another Hammer gel to add to my collection, which is currently flush with little gel packets to open up and goo out during races.
We start over at the edge of Le Grand Cannon, on the traily part. I see Scott is doing this race, and I'm talking with his friend Chris before it starts. As the race starts, I see Scott come running back toward the starting line. The RD decided to give us all a few early minutes, which caught Scott unprepared. I'm having a tricky time getting paced out on the starting part, especially as the trail is hammering my feet in the trail gloves. Those are the worst shoes for trying to tackle gravel. Big rocks they can handle (or I can avoid), but there's nothing to be done about those piles of killer little pebbles. I'm not feeling fast, but I am going fast. I'm a bit behind a triathlete who is doing a warm up half marathon. I also am behind two girls with hypnotizing ponytails on the Le Grand Cannon asphalt path. Y'all know me, I'm obsessed with hair.
We head down from the Le Grand Cannon trail into the mansion district, where I get to 'wooooooo' at the high school cross county volunteers. Y'all rock volunteers. There's some nasty up and downhilling, and some awesome aid stationing provided by Debbie's family. I'm still getting myself established before hitting Park.
Once we hit Park, the officer is nice enough to keep traffic stopped, and we begin a long uphill. There's a three mile steady hill climb past Unionville that we all know about, and get to deal with in our own ways. I keep at a steady pace, and slowly start passing through the pack. At some point, along Rodney Ridge, I remember passing someone at at 12:00 min / mile pace, which is normally going molasses speed. Yeah, there's nothing quite like slow speed passing, even when giving flatout effort. I eventually reach Unionville, where I start to run into the race leaders coming back from the turnaround. I like turnarounds, they remind me that I'm doing the same event as faster runners. Once we get past Unionville, I know that I've got roughly a mile to go before getting away from the uphill hell and back downhill. I see Scott at roughly a tenth of a mile from the turnaround, so I figure I might have a good shot hitting him on the downhill. I high five the volunteers at the turnaround, deal with the last part of the hill, and change gears for a downhill run.
As I'm hitting the downhill, I realize that I'm not going to pass anyone. Actually, I do pass one guy who was two gals for a support crew and is getting his photo taken. I'm not going to pass Scott, and that's all that matters. I end up getting passed by a gal who comes out of nowhere and is flying down the course as the course makes it way back to the city limits. I also get to deal with staying on course, which is hard when I'm used to running a section in a certain way. I manage to stumble my way across the finish line, which is cool, and actually feel good doing it,

Garmin stats: 13.10 miles, 1:55:15.97, 1552 feet ascent, 1727 feet descent

Zombie Escape Run Review

I have absolutely no idea how to classify a zombie escape run. There's not really anything cool for finishing first. In fact, it was part of my plan not to finish first, but then again, plans aren't that important.
The goal of the zombie escape run was to not get mauled by people dressed as zombies, which jogging through a 5k course. This is a major pain, as the zombies have been standing around, while I've been sprinting around. Nonetheless, I got dressed up, worse some flags, and spent five bucks to have some extra flags. We get to run around the fairgrounds.
There's some obstacles along the course, which were actually somewhat pointless. I think they existed mainly to keep the runners from getting in nice bunches, which would make it harder for the zombies to do their thing. I fondly remember seeing a fox after the first water station, which adds to the cool wildlife theory of running. Actually, the waterslide obstacle was cool, even if I am not that good at doing waterslides. There's something about taking big running leaps that is really hard, since runners are not usually natural leapers.
The one reason why this ended up being insanely difficult is that it was a combination of jogging and sprinting to avoid people trying to grab me, which actually does get old somewhere in the first two clicks. Being near the front of the pack is inviting trouble, and really gets to be a drag. I have to give respect to the other cool zombie who grabbed my flag from behind at the end of a section, right when I slowed down too soon. That was awesome.
So, anyway, I did the event, and it actually was pretty fun. I wouldn't brag about it being the most awesome 5k ever, still don't know what I feel about obstacle style racing (here's a hint, physical fitness isn't a prerequisite, and doesn't help to win) but found it a change-up from the usual racing. The trail series runners had to deal with a bear, so I'm taking coolness points for avoiding dealing with avoiding the bear.

August 18, 2012

An Ri Ra Race Review

An Ri Ra Race Review

I end up being forced to deal with getting my mom registered for this one, along with my own registration. Yes, nothing gets me riled up like people who expect me not only to pay for things that they do, but also to make sure that they get done, but I didn't do enough of a job to get out of this one. So, I get there nice and early, pick up packet (shirts aren't as cool as last year's, weaker design and fabric) and ask when the buses to the starting line leave. I'm told 8:30, so I don't take the time to take personal break and get otherwise prepared. We roll out at 9:00. No big deal.
The straight line from Emma Park to the starting line is less than a mile away. Unlike last year, we start a bit further back on the road, and get to hit the trail, rather than deal with a strange loop out. I like this aspect of the course, although it is a bit strange to start with an uphill. The course starts above Butte, goes past three or four headers along asphalt trail looping toward MT Tech, and actually jaunts around town and through downtown at the end. I talk with a guy about the Memphis Marathon (sounds cool, but it sells out way too early, since it's a wintertime marathon and registration was full when I checked) and settle myself near the back of the pack.
I had absolutely no idea how to situate myself for this race. I usually do well on downhill, but still had all the tired legs and sore feet from having done the 50k a week before. On the other hand, I always like getting races done with. I end up going hard on the initial downhill, and passing a bunch of people along the way. It ends up being tricky, just because the course is narrow and there is enough weave to make racing lines matter. I'm still feeling awesome when we hit Tech's campus, which is where the downhill really starts to level out.
I'm suffering the great problem of most races on tired legs, which is that I've got no power on the uphill sections. So, I'm really struggling to get uphill. On the other hand, I'm inspired by running alongside a cool guy with a double baby jogger. He's got bigger uphill / downhill swings than I do. We hit a huge uphill in downtown Butte, and I manage to crest it while still being alive. After that, the race course gets a bit tricky to follow (lots of turns at the last part, and traffic to deal with), and I end up getting passed by someone who looks young enough to be in my age group. I end up getting passed by a fresh legged Kenny Romaine, which does bother me. Punk youth and their fresh legs.
So, at the award ceremony, I get announced as finishing second overall, in the women's division. Yeah, something strange happened there. I check the final, final results, and see I managed to take second in my division, which probably won't be happening again for a long time, since I'm moving in the guys who know what they are doing, but still have to work age group. And, despite the great overall descent, it isn't enough to make this a fast course, just the easiest possible course in hilly Butte.

Garmin Stats: 6.11 mi, 46:05, ascent 404, descent 954 August 11, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Elkhorn 50K Race Review

Doing a 50K is a new experience.  It’s a combination of heaven and hell, feelings of euphoria combined with misery.  The only way to get through one of these is to have determination, a long view, way too much training, an amazing support crew, and a lack of sanity.
The night before the race, I do the obligatory race check in / dinner / meeting about the course.  We follow orange tags to continue, make a version of a figure eight and head back.  I see a few familiar faces from HURL, and a few unfamilar faces who came in from out of state.  I’ve done the 23k component of the course (even seen coyotes at play for it), haven’t had a chance to do the rest of the course.  I end up not winning any unnecessary swag, had back to town, and head back to bed far too late for a 5:30 wake up call.  I’ve got stuff packed, including the reliable Vasque shoes, the Nathan water pack, and a bunch of Hammer Gels / Justin Peanut Butter packs.  I make a huge mistake, and decide not to put an extra pair of socks in my pack.  Next time, I’m going to carry another pair of socks, with negligible additional weight, but pounds of additional comfort when switching from a beat up pair to a new pair.  I’ve got the charged Garmin, and I’m otherwise ready enough.  I discover that my fat iPod touch does in fact, fit fine in the side of the Nathan pack.
My strategy is to do the initial ascent nice and slow, and then get everybody on the downhill.  We get there early in the morning, while it is still cold in Montana.  At 7:10, we are off, running up four miles of road.  Because I knew the course, I decide rather than fly up the fast part, I would hold back.  This was actually the best part of my strategy, and I was actually at the very back of the pack for a little while, talking with a cool runner who came up from Mississippi.  I started moving ahead of people even during the initial section, despite just hiking for the first four miles of road at about a 15:00 pace.  I caught up with Dave, and kept bouncing around with him until we hit the trailhead.  Coming up the trail, we passed a gal from North Carolina and enjoyed the switchbacking path.  Right after passing a pair of ladies, they commented about ‘how pretty the view is,’ which I had to take as a compliment.  Yep, even during a long race I’m having a good time.  I passed another gal with a ton of Skittles in her pack before hitting the nice downhill section of Casey Meadows.  When I’m running around the Meadows, I talk to the cool Albertan couple (in the sense of two people who know each other, since the male half of the couple was waiting for his wife to finish the 50 miler at the end) who comment on following my nice orange shirt.  I end up at the back of a conga line of four people at the creek crossing, but manage to get across the creek nice and dry.  At roughly the pinnacle of the first section, I move past the conga line, and run along with another cool local guy for awhile.  I’m feeling super good on the downhill, and manage to roar along until I hear the fastest of the 23kers coming up behind me.  Since I’m feeling the pull of the downhill, I roar into the aid station.  I’m feeling fine, grab some misc food (fig newtons are what I remember, along with pretzels) and move along toward Elk Park aid station.  I get the important idea to retighten the shoes and socks.
Heading up to Elk Park is a bunch of uphill power hiking across a few streams.  I manage to get myself wet but keep moving uphill strong.  I look on over, and think how this will be nice to head back down and even pass a few people going up.  I get wet on one of the stream crossings, also use the opportunity to wash the face and get the hat nice and wet.  Wetting the hat in streams along the way is a great trick.  The path up to Elk Park is mostly on the east side of the ridge, so I’m getting some sun exposure.  Also, after going a half an hour without seeing another human being, I decide to fire up the iPod, and listen to some classic ZZ Top.  ZZ Top is great for doing some good hiking, nice riffs.  I keep heading up, and hit the Elk Park aid station in style, where I talk in some more food, and have some experts tackle the water pack situation.  The aid station volunteers (along with the rest of the volunteers on this course) are an amazing bunch.  I take in some pretzels, but the watermelon is not yet ready.  Also, having someone else futz with the water pack while taking in food feels great.  I’m feeling ready to rock heading out of here and toward the Elk Park area.  I actually get in a bit of jog on the rolling downhill sections.  Once I get onto the road, I start to see large muddles of mud, and I see an awesome frog in the middle of one of the muddles.  I talk to the frog (who doesn’t talk back), run through some grass, above some grass, and manage not to see another human being for nearly an hour an a half, before running into a decent amount of the race field at the turnaround.  There’s a section of roughly 2.5k in and 2.5k out and back where everyone gets to see everyone else.
Once I hit the aid station, I make the decision to pull back the socks and shoes, and do a reapplication.  It helps a little bit with the blisters, which I’m starting to really feel.  In retrospect, I should have asked for help at the first aid station, and probably just gotten them duct taped.  Yes, next important lesson, apply duct tape to blister, and no longer worry about it.  Possibly apply duct tape to blister prone area before setting out, as it instantly bonds to skin creating a thick barrier to rubbing.
On the way back, I’m getting back into the zone when a guy yells, ‘hey, you’re going to wrong way’  so, I head back to the intersection, and follow him the right way.  I manage not to go the wrong way, which is a good thing.  I get to do a nasty (and seemingly endless), climb back up to Elk Park.  My legs are just aching through the mess, and I’m starting to do the hallucinatory thing.  It feels like it should level out, but it’s a major uphill hike of over 2k feet.  I guess it’s not so bad when I think of it being less than a klick.
I get to Elk Park.  Unfortunately, all that downhill I looked forward to has become difficult, as my ankles are not flexing anymore.  In addition, I’ve got blisters on the back part of my heel and my toenails are completely jammed.  So, I being a very long, slow, and painful descent back to the finish line.  I suspect I’ll end up getting left large toenail removed, along with the three largest right toenails.  Yeah, it’s a miracle that I’m still in the walking phase, but I’ve had them all come off before anyway.  I limp back to the finish line, in time that can be formally summed up as way too long, or all day.  But, even without a skinny little blond to deal with a the finish line, I can say that I’ve had fun.

So, there’s some great lessons.  First, the Vasque shoes showed great potential of being completely ruined by the end of the race, and are now retired, as they broke up during the race.  So, I’m probably buying a pair of special shoes for each of these long races and using them just to train for the race and a single long race.  I guess I got multiple marathons and a 30k out of the Vasques so they did properly get the hell beat out of them.  Second, socks are cheap and light, I should carry more of them in the Nathan pack.  Third, toebox matters, I get to get used to running with splayed toes.  I’m not used to it, but it beats heading out to the podiatrist to get toenails removed by professionals.
Rock and roll, debating doing the 50 miler next year!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Famous Missoula Marathon

Last year, I did the whole marathon in Missoula. The first half of the race is peaceful (or boring), the second half is where the action is. There was a shortage of aid stations in the first half, the second half was surrounded by community members and full of calories. Since I had plans to do a 50k the weekend before, it made sense to just sign up for the famous Missoula Marathon (13.1 mile edition). Strangely enough, the full marathoners not only get cooler medals, but they also get cooler shirts which have no half mentioned anywhere on the shirt. Yes, I'm feeling some buyers remorse, although the real point of this was to get something in during July and then focus on getting trained for that upcoming Elkhorn 50k.
I get to Missoula later than expected, but still get packet picked up, and still get to check out David Boone at Ten Spoon, which is always a good thing. I'm a big fan of David's stylings, and get to enjoy some awesome wine, along with some awesome rain.
The plan was to wake-up for the race at 4:00 and get there early. I oversleep with the alarm set to silent mode (this is one annoying feature), but am fortunately woken up and manage to get to the race on time. I do end up struggling to set up the annoying hard chip that needs to be zip tied into the shoelaces. I'm really tempted to start just putting those in the Nathan packs, since they are such a pain to deal with, and I really care about lacing systems. I get downtown, get on bus, get to starting line, stretch out, wait for race to start.
I do the smart thing, and start at the back of the pack. Actually, that isn't quite so smart at Missoula. The event is large enough that I spend a lot of time pack weaving, including dealing with the super-annoying Galloway method runners. I have no object to using Galloway for personal training, but it goes against the spirit of racing, and makes life more difficult for fellow runners. I also get to deal with a few walkers who managed to weasel their way to the front of the course.
So, I spend the first three miles trying to weave through the pack. Actually, I spend the first two dealing with the mess, then I blow by the water station, completely ignoring it, and life is now good. One thing I learned in this race is that I'm getting really good at hitting the water stations. The trick is to only slow down a bit, bend the cup, and take a huge gulp. There's an art to it, which I figured out. Despite my water station skills, they still ended up being problematic, as fellow races would completely wreck pace ahead of me, beside me, and behind me at the many stations alongside the Missoula race course.
The other upside to Missoula is that Missoula has a lot of spectators. For someone who tends to high five everyone alongside the course, and toss out the famous 'wooo' this is a good thing. There's more spectators at Missoula than at the rest of the events I'll do this year, and the spectators are well spaced along the course, rather than clustered at the end. Missoula gets credit for this, because Missoula is good, and does good things.
Anyway, I start flying on the course once I get my bearings. My pace for the race was only 8:53 per mile, but that was a really strong 8:53, and I felt like I was getting faster and stronger, rather than slower, as the race went on. Since I had 3:45 of difference between gun and chip time, I knew that I was running people who had slower pace than me as I passed, which was a good feeling. The one difference between this and the other runs that I've done is that Missoula has enough people on course to always be in a crowd. Once I hit the University district, rather than the usual thinning of racers, the field actually became more crowded.
So, I guess I've got to say, I ran this one strong. The time probably would have been better if the legs hadn't been so busy in the last week, but I don't really care. It's my last race until the Elkhorns, and I'm feeling good going into it.

Cody Custis
Helena MT USA

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Elkhorn 23k Warmup

Running has always been about addiction.  There’s nothing logical about hurling the body over rocks, hills, and dales to just say its been done.  Yet, I still do it.
I ran into Dave at Alive at Five.  I’ve always liked Dave’s running style, which is about keeping a steady pace.  I still tend to over thunder at the beginning, and I pay for it down the line.  He asked if I wanted to do the Elkhorn 23k course with him on Saturday.  I had a few plans that I had been juggling, but I realized that I needed to do this to get used to distances before doing the 50k in August.  So, I agree. He asks what time we should leave.  I suggest that we leave the Women’s mural at 5:00.  Yep, I get to discover that it is possible to encounter 4:20 without the influence of drugs, just to get ready to go run 23 klicks.
I decide not to pack music, which was greatly wise.  We get to the parking area, and head up the road toward the trailhead.  There is an amazing view alongside the road, with all the green fields and forest, along with a bunch of no hunting signs, which are all in green.  The sun is barely up, and things are nice and cool.  The upside of running super early is that there is plenty of cool weather, and one doesn’t get overheated.  There’s a good upslope to the road, but not enough to switch from running to power hiking.  We hit the trailhead, and see a bunch of ugly shotgun shells.  I know that shooting is allowed on federal lands, but it still seems a good place to pick up the brass (or plastic or steel).  Plus, it’s littering, in a bad place to litter.  Go find some ugly BLM land, and leave the forest alone.
We head up the mountain, I manage to get the shoes wet, running through a stream that took over the path.  There’s a strange combination of running and power hiking here, along with many places where there just isn’t good traction.  We get up to the Casey Meadows.
As we are moving from cairn to cairn, and figuring out how to move over a path (trail does not describe what we were on), I see a coyote running across the trail ahead, chasing something.  We stop for a moment, and watch the coyote run.  It’s the closest I’ve even been to one, and the first time that I’ve ever seen one while out running.  It’s a very cool experience.
From the meadows, we continue to head up toward the top of the mountain.  It’s great to have Dave, because he keeps me honest.  My natural tendency is to sprint and trudge, he keeps me at a goodly pace moving up the mountain.
We eventually reach the top, and I realize that I cannot see my place, but I could if I lived in the valley.  Yet, looking out over Casey meadows, and down, I realize how amazing it is to see an entire watershed and the amazing valleys formed by erosion and uplift over the millenia.  So, we head on back down the mountain.  Near the bottom, we run into a bunch of the running group, which is cool.  Once we hit the road, we end up thundering back to the vehicles.  We get done around 9:00, and have a whole day to find new challenges and adventures.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why The Team Is Awesome

The Spring Fitness team does not do light workouts.
When I was a gymgoing man, during the dark days of wintertime, when the sun was far from invictus, I was back on the rowing machine.  A man can hide on a rowing machine.  It’s based on an ancient form of exercise practiced by galley slaves from the time of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.  One day, when I looked up, I saw a large woman.  She had the elliptical machine cranked at a mighty three miles an hour.  Sweat poured off her with the exertion.  Another day, a skinny little brunette eased on the elliptical machine.  She cranked it at a mighty two miles an hour, her toned body effortlessly going through the motions, while she read Self Magazine.  That first woman reminded me why the gym is a house of fitness, while the second turned it into a den of iniquity.
We aren’t the sort of group that gathers for group photos on a squirrel path.  Yet, members have run their first half-marathons, first 30Ks, gotten out and gardened as they never have before.  We don’t look pretty when we exercise; when we are done, that is when we look pretty.
Take my mom.  She’s not a skinny little blond.  She’s had blisters, shin splints, and days when she hasn’t felt like getting out of bed.  When it comes to fitness, she’s in the 1% of Americans who actually get off their duffs and do a half-marathon.  That’s awesome.  She’s not keeping up the Kardashians, she’s getting things done.
Our team is awesome.  We set goals and we accomplish them.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vigilante Mile 5K

The weather report for this weekend predicted the cold rain and snow.  I was supposed to be in Missoula, but ended up staying in Helena, which probably is for the better.  On Tuesday, I did a track workout, which always feels strange.  The problem with doing Yasso 800s in Helena is that the wind was blustery, so it always felt fast heading down the track, and a battle to come back up.

This morning, it was sub-40, and there was a nice light rain coming down.  I got up, threw on the Trail Gloves, dug out the Brooks Running overshirt, and wore the long sleeves from Spokane.  I ended up having to grab the water bottle waist doohickey just so that I would have somewhere to put the keys and the fob.  Yes, my fellow residents gladly trade liberty for the illusion of security, which really angers me when I’m busy being their physical superior.  I run up to the Capitol building, run into Roberta (hurrah for knowing people), and wait for the race to start.  No swag for this one, but it does support the Montana Historical Society, and has an ‘interesting and well marked course.’

We start behind the Capitol building, and head eastbound.  I’m familiar with this from my time at work.  I get jammed up a little bit, by one runner with an odd technique and behind a pair of kiddies.  I actually start to get annoyed with the kids, since they are running side by side, and getting in my way.  I end up fartleking them with some fast running and slow down, and they still keep pace.  They only do it for half a mile, but I was glad to get past the kids and get on my own pace and space.

After getting away from the kids, I get to run at my natural pace, and see the runner with the strange technique ahead.  I’m fairly content to be behind him, and not really in the mood to try and run too hard, since I don’t know the course.  The course was interesting, including curb running, and running across fields to get to a track.  We head out towards Smith school and onto the quarter mile dirt track.  The only downside is that track (rocky track) is really tough on the Trail Gloves.

About halfway around the track, a guy in a black Brooks coat comes flying by me.  I’m not sure where he got his second wind, since he had a lot of speed.  I just kept pace heading back toward the Capitol building.  Once we hit Montana, we did get a nice little elevation challenge toward the Capitol building.

I’d already decided that I didn’t have it in me to run another mile before I started this, and I felt better about that decision afterward.  I probably would have another mile on a weekend with fresh legs, but this was mostly about keeping up after doing the Marathon, not about setting new records.

Overall: 23:53, middle of the pack. 5 kilometers of fun.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Windermere Marathon Review

So, on Saturday, May 19, I wore the standard race gear, and ran 42.2 kilometers in 4:37:57. Yeah, it’s long.
We headed out from Helena to Missoula (the land of hope and dreams) on Friday. After getting into Missoula later than expected, we headed toward Spokane, and arrived later than we wanted to. We were staying with my awesome friend Catherine, so life was awesome. In our packets, I got a really cool jersey style shirt, a cool grocery bag, and another sweet beer coaster for the Missoula Marathon. At the last moments, I found out that Don was downgrading, so I would be running this one solo.
For some reason, this marathon turned into a mental battle. On the way from the bus toward Post Falls, I started to realize how crazy I was to run this insanely long race. After all, I’m coming off of a nasty 30K from last weekend. On the other hand, as I often remind myself, there’s nothing to do but get ready and run for the next four hours.
So, I got ready, and got to wait around Post Falls industrial park for half an hour. There were plenty of honey buckets, including a special ‘men’s room’ that had no lines. God bless the port-a-urinal!
The thing about running a marathon is that marathon runners tend to be a talkative sort, and Montanans are just naturally talkative. I got a chance to ask Amy Biviano about Spokane’s political situation (she's running for state representative, and you should vote for her, if you live in Spokane Valley), I talked with a man from Spokane doing his first race, I talked with one of the race sponsors. I felt strange, because everyone seemed to know the course marshals except for me. I was like the new kid in a John Hughes marathon.
We start in Post Falls industrial park, and head east, to get the required distance. The start is chaotic (as usual), but fun. My goal was to start slow and steady, and rock the course. I start slow, and get moving super fast on the downhill part of the course. Once we get heading west, I notice a huge billboard for Showgirls, the Northwest's Premier Gentleman's Club. I thought perhaps the smart people were there, rather than running a silly long race.
Anyway, I spend the first two miles jostling around and trying to find pace. I love crossing over the river into Washington, over an absolutely beautiful bridge. There's a good deal of roll in the first part of the course, but the weather is still reasonably cool. We head down toward Spokane. I skip the first water / Heed station, and enjoy talking and pacing with Darrel. Yep, the start of the race is strong and steady, just the way that I like. The course parallels the river, and I see a flock of Canada Geese flying over the water. There's some amazing irises growing along the way.
I keep a steady slightly over 9:00 pace heading for the first part of the marathon. I feel good and steady for the first ten miles. Then, between mile 10 and 11, the wheels come off. I go from easily running at 9:00 per mile to struggling to run 10:00 per mile. I have to walk the slightest uphill. The only explanation is that I was worn out from running the 30K last weekend and doing the nasty 10K Rodney Ridge run on Wednesday. Yeah, I ran too hard, and overdid it. So, all I had ahead of me was sixteen miles of hard and heavy running.
I trudge toward the spot where the full marathon and half marathon come together. I see a lady run by me, and I congratulate her, only to have her turn around and ask where the relay is. Yeah, I am annoyed by relayers. I actually am more annoyed by the high school relayants who passed me after Argonne.
When the full and the half meet up, a great sense that I actually might be able to finish this event. The rule for finishing marathons is that one should not worry about time, or honor, or pain, but merely to continue forward. And, so, with legs of pure jelly, I head onward toward the finish line, with distances counting down, rather than up.
At the 10K point, Catherine joins up with me as a pacer. It's nice to have someone to keep my mind away from the pain and frustration. She leaves me at the four mile to go mark, but Don comes back and pulls me to the finish line.

The strange thing about it all is how surreal running a marathon is. I didn't get anywhere near my sub-four goal. On the way back from Spokane, I talked with Don about how running Rodney Ridge with a bunch of hardcore old men on Wednesday didn't help. Yet, I finished what I set out to do this past week. That's the point, to finish.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Prickly Pear Land Trust Don’t Fence Me In Review

Gal at food table: ‘Did you have fun?’
Me, after having run 19.02 miles with 6092 feet of elevation gain in 3:52:29: ‘No’
Annoying blond with hipster boyfriend who doesn’t know when she’s being talked to: ‘While, I had fun.’
Me: ‘What race did you do?’
Still annoying skinny little blond, who doesn’t realize that I have zero tolerance for her kind under the best of circumstances, and these are not those circumstances (in singsong happy voice): ‘I did the 12K’
Me: ‘I did the 30K’

So, last Tuesday, I got the bright idea to scout the trail.  I know the Mount Ascension part of the run really well, along with the Rodney Ridge sections.  Rather than try to figure out the Wakina Sky part, I decide to head south and over the ridge past the Springhill Stables.  On the upside, I discovered that the Nathan Hydration pack really does work as well as advertised, and that I really do like Hammer gel.  Hammer gel is absolutely awesome, and I will say so until someone decides to send me some better gear, or until Google starts realizing that I abuse the Googlesense rankings.  I do this run in 70 degree weather (six days after it snowed) and with blisters from a run on Friday (for the record, Fila, and all associated products, are terrible and should be worn by no one.  If Fila wants to argue, send Codeine pills to deal with blisters, and I’ll try miserable Fila products again).  So, I do the run.  A good 20 klicks in three hours.  By the end, I’m falling apart.  I get home, proceed to deal with leg cramps and blisters aggravated (but not caused) but way too much effort in way too short a time.  I finally get the bight idea to hit up some Hammer Endurolytes, which slow down the cramping, and allow me to get to sleep.

I go into a Saturday morning with nasty blisters on both feet, and a left leg cramped up from too much running and not enough salt.  Water is easy for me to find, but salt is much harder, since I don’t get salty.  So, my goal, which is perfectly fine, is to finish this thing.  I know I’ll be doing an easy 26.2 next weekend in Spokane, and I’m faster than the thousands of Helenans sound asleep in their beds.  Packet pickup is race day (boo), over at the Library.  I get a cotton t-shirt, a cool mini-bay (I could put booze in it!), a Hammer gel, a Clif bar, and some ads for various events when I’ve already got plans.

So, we start over by the section 8 housing development, and run on the roads until we hit the Eagle Scout trailhead.  I’ve got a brilliant and secret plan.  First, I’m already feeling shot, so I know I’ve got no chance of qualifying for Western States on this one.  Second, I know how insanely long this course is, and that there are six major uphill sections.  Third, I’m having too much fun.  So, I lope to the trailhead, and powerhike all the way to the cutoff where we hit the North loop of Ascension.  I’m talking with the old men, letting people pass me, and have a huge smile.  I also realize that the distance markers (including 3) are not mile markers, but modern metric distance markers.  By the time of the cutoff, I manage to pass a few of the horses ahead of me, including a few on the uphill part.  As we swing onto the North slope, I get a chance to start talking with a cool couple doing the race.  By the time I hit the summit, I’m actually feeling really good, and ready to shoot through the saddle.  Nonetheless, I hold back, wait for the real summit, and then start to hammer out the downhill.

Downhill running is an art, and one that will ruin anyone unfamiliar with it.  There’s not a whole lot of technique to running uphill, but downhill requires skill, and also requires a decent amount of leg strength.  I pass about ten people on the easy downhill, and then really start flying on the lower part of the Entertainment trail.  This is actually where I nearly got into a few collisions, as there were people who weren’t letting the faster people pass, or even move aside to do a pass.  After jamming past 20 people in a series of conga lines, I finally slow it down as we approach Davis Gulch.  I be sure to tell people that they’ll be passing me on the next uphill section, and try to maintain politeness.

After we cross the road, we head over the Rodney Ridge section.  At this point, the race starts to spread out, and I start passing and being passed by the same people.  I made the very smart decision to only race with a single bud, so I could head everyone perfectly.  I powerhike up the meadow, and then fly down the trail toward Orofino Gulch.  This is a really nice section, because there is just enough angle to get moving fast and not enough to have to fight gravity.  After this, I hit Orofino Gulch, which involves running up (yes, up is a direction, and a type of hill) for a few klicks before hitting the first aid station.  I see Martin (and, yes, as in all races, the volunteers get an awesome rating.  Y’all rock!) and slam two cups of Heed, and replace the Hammer Gel that I took on the uphill.  I also do a good job of hitting those Endurolyte capsules, which is nice (when I get home, I can see the salt crusted on my face).  We head into Wakina Sky, which has always been a mystery.  There’s not a lot of car access, and it’s the most confusing patchwork of public lands, private lands, and trail easements in the south hills system.  I hit the uphill part slow and steady, and get to move out a bit more in the meadow part.  Someone thankfully left some oranges at the junction, which I parttake of.  Yeah, I’m known for eating just about anything someone hands me on the trail.  We junction out, head down far too fast for my taste, and come back before heading down and over to Grizzly Gulch.  It’s an odd part of the trail, because I actually lose eye contact on the next runner for this section, and feel entirely on my own.  That’s not a bad thing, although since the trail is windy, and I don’t know this area, I would like someone to follow.  Eventually we break through (and even get to cross a bridge) and onto Grizzly Gulch.  I go down the road (or at least less uphill, I’m convinced that Grizzly Gulch goes uphill both ways), head up the Mini Gulch trail and see the second aid station.  Yep, there are 30K and two aid stations.  Good thing that I’ve got the awesome Nathan, and at least that’s as many aid stations with gel that I encountered on the Missoula marathon.  I grab another gel to be hit on the uphill.  After about 20 minutes and 700 feet of uphill (the Garmin don’t lie), I end up on the Mount Helena Ridgeline trail.  I know exactly where I am, and a great sense finally comes over me.  22 klicks into the race, I am tired and weary, but I know how to get from here to the end, I know what is involved in that, I know where to go slow and where to go fast.  I say goodbye to the fine people I hiked uphill with, and hello to speed and familiarity.

I enjoy most of my run down the ridgeline, and get to do some more fine passing.  I enjoy it all the way until I get to the last stretch of the West End trail, where I managed to catch a rock in the trail with my right leg, and sprawl to the ground.  My hands are bleeding from the force of the impact, and my right foot is feeling it in a really bad way.  My toes feel like the nails came off.  So, I can either figure out how bad a condition I am in, or take advantage of the fact that I know that I’m close to the end of this, and just go forward.  I verify that there’s no one behind me, and start heading toward the very last part of the race.

However, before the race is over, I get to climb to the very top of Mount Helena.  It’s another few hundred feet of climb, and there’s nothing else to do.  So, I drag myself to the top of the mountain.  I then brace myself for 1300 feet of decent in two miles.  This is the worst part of the race by far.  One runner manages to fly by me on the Prospect Shafts, and I have no idea how he manages to do it.  I manage the last two miles in twenty minutes, although my knees are absolutely killing me (by the way, RD, if you want to switch to 1906 for the last leg down next year, it will be greatly welcomed).  I stagger and roll across the finish line, where I find the food tent, and one very annoying and skinny little blond, who finished 18K behind me.  I knew I was in bad shape when the gals from Hellz Bellz comment about how beat up I look.  I stagger to Taco Del Sol and enjoy an awesome extra large veggie burrito.  I check my finish time online later (nothing the Garmin didn’t tell me) and discover that I’m still in the age group of annoying sponsored college kids.  But, I did finish 18K ahead of the blond, and 30K ahead of most of Helena, so I’m not complaining.

In the end, I’m only missing the beat up end part of my big toenail.  There’s a bunch of strange black, and I’m not sure when I’ll be easily flexing them.  On the upside, I learned the following things:
I can handle long runs.  I can handle the 50K, and I can train and handle the 50 miler in October.  I’ve got the strategy to survive it.
Starting slow is a great idea.  It wasn’t the slow start that kept me from finishing faster, it’s the blisters and beat up from Tuesday.  And, for the record, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Keep an earbud out.  Your fellow runners are more interesting anyway.

So, one week of resting, and then a good run in Spokane.  I’m measuring that at 42.19 kilometers anyway.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Forced To Run

I got asked how I got into the trail running thing.  I suppose there should be a story about how I read Born To Run and found it the most inspiring thing ever.  I should talk about how I felt kinship with the natives, how I learned about the importance of forefoot form, and how I want to become a vegan who drinks far less.
However, the real story is probably more interesting and yet less interesting.  I work in the Capitol complex, which is about 1.5 miles from my domicile, taking the streets.  Even before I started running, I had the habit of taking long hikes home from work through the mountains to the south of town.  It just felt good to be outside during the summertime, and was convenient to take the long way home.
The problem with living where I do is that there is one direction from where I live, up.  Anyone who lives on a street with the name Gulch will sympathize.  Also, I live in downtown, which means a lot of traffic crossings, and Helena is not friendly for runners.  Something about seeing the human form expressing it’s beauty really riles up the rednecks in their big trucks, whose last fast movement involved gulping down pisswater beer.
Initially, I started running up sections of Mount Helena.  The big myth about Mount Helena is that one starts at the parking lot, hikes hard to the H, and heads back down full of braggadocio about the accomplishment.  The problem is that Mount Helena is 1200 feet tall, and that manages to miss both the first 400 and last 400 feet.  So, I started running from my place halfway up the mountain (where the trails would lead back down) and getting into that.  I liked being out on the trail, and not dealing with traffic.  The downside was dealing with piles of bad behaving afternoon hikers and their bad behaving dogs’ piles.  Plus, although there was plenty of trail, there was the issue of dealing with traffic coming to an fro the trail.
So, I leaned how to power over nine and a half miles and twenty five hundred feet of elevation gain.  The best part about trail running is that one feels the ebb and flow of the uphill.  One feels like the king of the mountain, not even catchable by bicycle.  It’s an amazing place to be.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Montana Warrior Run

 So, I'm supposed to talk about the races. Well, since I write the reviews, and these are more important weekend reviews, you all get to read about a ton of random banter as well. I saw Pakistani singer Arif Lohar, backed by Arooj Aftab, on Thursday night. It was all manner of piles of awesome. On Friday, I went to the gun show in Helena (as opposed to the gun show in two weeks, or the gun show in a town near Helena) before going to a rodeo. After the rodeo, I decided that I'd need to get up nice and early in the morning, so I could totally rock the Montana Warrior Race.

So, I'm doing a 10K, then a 5K, then a 1 miler for this race. The 10K is supposed to start at 8:45. However, I get there at 8:25, and I'm told '10Ks and trifectas to the front of the line.' So, I wait in the shorter line. I get to the front, and they say, race day registrations only. So, I have to spend another five minutes waiting in the pre-registration line, while there is no line for race day registrations. Yes, for positive behavior, like registering in advance, I get a major negative consequence, which is waiting in line. Not only that, but the line moves slowly while people spend time contemplating decisions that they should have made when they filled out their pre-registration. Once I get to the front, I say 'Custis, Cody; trifecta; men's large; thank you' and get on with my very important business. So, because the lines are ineptly run, I don't have time to take care of personal business, don't have time to head back to the rig and grab the Nathan bottle and belt carrier. I go wait for the race start, which happens ten minutes late. My mom ended up registering for the 10K, which is a bit unexpected. Swag is a sport-tek t-shirt (which I put on over my current shirt, since I wore little and it is colder than expected) and a race chip / number. The race does use the cool shoe tag.

For the 10K, we run out and back to Ft. Harrison, which is actually a pretty cool route. We head out and down across Henderson, which is tricky because there's fast decent and ascent of about fifteen feet. Once we get out to Jocelyn, we head slightly uphill, until we get on a county road towards the fort. There's moderate traffic control, but we still end up alongside the road. The upside is that there's decent spectator turnout. The downside is that my iPod decides to go crazy, and so I spend the entire race listening to fits and starts and being annoyed. Anyway, I be sure to give the spectators plenty of high fives and shouts, along with the race volunteers. Yeah, I'm like that. After the fort, we head back. There isn't much positional jostling, I do manage to make a great push at the end. Like most Montana courses, it isn't hilly, but it is never flat.

Vital Stats: 6.05mi, 46:25, 486 gain and 470 decent.

After the race, I head over to the school to do some important personal business, after grabbing a water and bagels from the food table. By the time I get done with the business, and back to the race area, it is supposed to start. I do get the iPod fixed, which makes me happy. We end up starting the 5K about eight minutes late, but there isn't much to do. Fellow races are more unhappy about situation of waiting and starting times. I must agree. If there's a fixed schedule between races, racers are entitled to give rest breaks. I do see my friend Victoria doing the 5K, which gets massive sweetness points.

The 5K is a loop around the neighborhoods near Capital high. It's actually more flat than the 10K. Last year, I got jammed at the starting line, but, since I paid more, I get off starting line and into pace real fast. There's a few teenagers doing the starting line flameout, but it's otherwise the same crew from the 10K. I do notice that the college students have set out a table full of beer for the runners, but I decide that beating Scott (which I do not do, but I do keep it close) is more important than drinking on a 5K. On a half marathon, I have better priorities. Anyway, I run this one strong, and finish with a time that makes me happy. On a related note, I hear from a fellow runner that the college students that I high fived out toward Fort Harrison were swooning over my hair. Maybe I need to find Lucy race volunteer?

Vital stats: 3.14mi, 23:37.75, 295 ascent / 293 descent (yet, I feel that not)

So, the race participants are grumbling about starting times, and the timer insulted my mother. I was about to get real ornery (one of the consequences of making my mother cry is that I will do things to do that will make your mother cry once she sees the results on those things), but it turns out the guy is just an ignorant, slow-witted, inconsiderate jerk. So, I don't have to do anything bad to him. After waiting way too long, the third leg finally starts at 11:22 (twenty minutes late).

The main thing about doing one mile is that I am not used to it. I start slow, find a pace, start passing people. I'm good at getting a slow start, and rocking once I figure out what I am doing. For a mile, I am completely confused. Anyway, I run way too fast at the beginning, and really don't have any kick at the end. I do see some kids playing Quiddich in the corner of the park, which does make my day.

Vital stats: 1.00mi, 7:20:35, 87 feet ascent / 92 feet descent.

My mom summed up this one best 'it's not bad, but it's not worth traveling for.' For some reason, the race was a lot more fun last year. It also seems to have better attendance (or maybe I wasn't too busy running past everyone). I'm really hesitant to recommend this one, especially as there are more interesting races elsewhere in the state on the same day. Last year, it was a lot of fun, but just didn't have a whole lot of try this year. Yes, I know I cannot blame the volunteers, but I must blame the RD when badly designed packet pickup creates problems.

I meant to follow this up with some time at the range, but had other things that needed to be done. I did see Kevin Koutnik (whose new album is awesome), and hung out gaming from 4 until late. At that point, I staggered back to home, figured out how to work the annoying fob thing, and slept.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

King Of The Mountain

The roads are ruled by beasts of steel and iron, creations of engineers, fueled by the bones of dinosaurs. There is no skill or honor in their activity, only a need to get from one place where nothing happens to another place where nothing happens.

Paths are rules by cyclists, whose power rules a different beast of steel and iron. Like levers, they amplify the power of man, beyond that which man would be capable of. Yet, the amplification comes at a cost. The cycle gains great power on the flat, at the cost of maneuverability and contact. On the incline, the cyclist suffers upward, and few enough can control their descent downward.

Trail is where the runner is king on the mountain. The runner propels up the trail with the mechanical advantage, the ground rising to meet each bound. The runner hugs the tight turns and switchbacks, avoiding the rocks and trees. Downward, the runner uses gravity to augment the power of man, power earned not through the dead or through metal, but through work. Like an elastic band, the runner springs back downward, using potential energy to the fullest potential.

The wide and flat belongs to beasts of steel and iron, but the mountains and paths belong to the running king!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Fitness 2012 - Goals

Through a variety of random reasons, I became the captain of my Spring Fitness team. It's eight weeks, and a diverse crew, everyone from marathons and distance cyclists, to people just getting into fitness.

As hard (or maybe easy) as it is to believe, I didn't really start running until roughly this time last year. Actually, I know I started sometime around spring break. The reason why I started it, and why I kept it up, was that I knew that I was signed up to do 13.1 miles out in Spokane, and didn't want to let my friends down, or be physically unable to handle it. After all, most people think of a half-marathon as a major goal. Of course, after I did it, I decided to go big or go home, and signed up for the Missoula marathon, and had the brilliant goal of doing a second marathon, which I highly recommend as motivation.

So, back to the goal at hand, what is a good, and what is a bad, set of goals for eight weeks of fitness?

An easy goal is to up activity by 1,000 step-equivalents per day. This should burn through a grand total of 100 calories, depending on weight. However, I have a real hard time thinking about what 100 calories actually represents. 100 calories represents 2/3 of a can on Cola-Cola, or a quarter of a Big Mac. So, two miles equals one Big Mac. Still, it's amazingly easy to add in more mileage. Park further away, take the long way to the bathroom, rather than the close way, or else take the stairs, rather than those creepy elevators.

Another good goal is to pick an event of suitable impressiveness, and sign up to do it. The upside of signing up for a race is that not only does one acquire another shirt made of magical-moisture wicking material, there's also a very public declaration that one will be able to do whatever physical task is required on that day. I'm not sure that everyone is ready to handle a 30K trail run, but anyone can handle a 5K or 10K.

A bad goal is to lose weight. Why is this a bad goal? First, the easy way to lighten the scale is to simply weigh in early in the morning, before you get a chance to rehydrate after the evening. Second, muscle weights more than fat. As one increases muscle, one actually will gain weight, or hold steady, rather than lose weight. Waistline loss is legitimate, being lighter on a scale is pointless.

I'll talk about some diet advice in the next iteration. I'd recommend finding a good goal to be ready to go when May rolls around, and let your friends know. Backing out of the 13.1 miles is easy when you are the only one who knows it, it becomes a lot harder knowing you'll have to explain why, rather than how interesting it was!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Finally Better Than TV

So, when I was running today, I had another realization. I love being able to think, and need to do something to focus on how insanely insane I am for running over a mountain.

It's not just that we should have better things to do than watch the people on television, it is that we do more interesting things than the people on television. Now, I'm not saying that my life is more interesting than the continuing adventures of Captain Picard, Data, and the rest of the Star Trek gang. However, running down a mountain and over a hill is far more interesting than the junk that is on television these days.

How insanely pointless are bad singers and drunk Kardashians? Why would anyone prefer to watch those people than watch scenery fly by at high speed and power over a mountain? I know American culture is on the skids, but surely, we must be capable of more.

So, now that winter's icy grasp has gone, go do something. Go run over a hill, play with your kids (or your friend's kids), and realize that you are more interesting than the people on television.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pure, Unadulterated, Joy

Last summer, I started trying to run Mount Helena. I never could get a good run up the whole thing, in fact, I had a hard enough time getting up to the halfway point (which is the parking lot where most of y’all park). Having an annoying Lucy who put zero support into my running didn’t help. So, this year, I’ve been starting early at getting into the running swing, and trying to get over the nasty injury from Butte. Last Sunday, I ended up calling my planned really long run short, and had a miserable time bounding up the mountain, and a gimpy knee once I got down.

So, today, I decided to run through the Agrestic village, and up the Prairie Trail. It was an amazing evening to run, with the sun safely behind Mount Helena, and a nice Westerly breeze at the start. I remember struggling by the time I started up the roads through Agrestic, and now I powered through the shallow slope toward the trailhead.

Once I hit the trailhead, I went up Prairie, and kept the strong pace. Hitting Prairie is nice because the trail starts to have a bit of roll, in the sense that some of the trail has more uphill slope, and some of it has less uphill slope. It’s about a half mile (and another 300 vertical feet) before the trail finally crests. It then hits a set up actual roll (uphill and downhill) before heading into the junction with Direttissima. I love the Direttissima jaunt, it adds some distance, and avoids the nasty switchbacks of the Swaney trail. It was heading downhill where I felt something that I haven’t felt in a long time while running.

To begin, any downhill running is well earned. Anyone who says that uphill and downhill balance out is an ignorant fool who probably has never run up more than a mere hill in their entire life. Uphill running is a body pounding endeavor, which forces every muscle to propel uphill. Unfortunately, most downhill running is difficult in its own way, as the body has to strain against gravity and one bad footfall results in disaster. But, if there is just the right angle of downhill, and the least amount of rockiness, the body floats down the trail. Running becomes effortless, and one feels propelled by forces from beyond. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling.

Once I hit that on the lower part of the Swaney and North Access trail, I floated on down to the Tubbs trailhead. From there, I headed back along Le Grand Cannon on back into town.

So, the biggest change is how I feel from last year. Last year, I could do the run, but I felt like I was struggling through way too much of it. Now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I should be doing, and I feel like I should be doing this and more. It’s going to be a fun summer!

Total: 5.62 miles, 00:52:28, 1058 feet of gain, and 1020 of loss

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rodney Ridge Run

So, I was running a temperature this Friday, and decided to take it easy this weekend. While, the problem with taking is easy is that I can only handle so much sitting around before I start to get ill. So, my choices are to either go running and be sick, or sit around and be sick. Yep, better try the former. Helena’s been socked in with a nasty fog all day, and temperatures are right around 40 degrees.

So, Rodney Ridge is due South from my place. It’s an annoy patchwork of private property, city lands, and forest service lands, so there’s not a nice trail onto the ridge. There is a trail through a city park, a nasty city dirt road, and an annoyingly jaunty trail until hitting the middle half of the ridge, which is mostly forest service land. Since I wasn’t feeling like proving anything with my uphill running skills, I decided to hike the uphills, and not start running until I hit the downhills. So, I power hiked my way to Rodney Meadow, and continued southward along the trail. Once I hit the apex, I started running downward. The path continues through forest service land and into private property. Fortunately, as far as I can tell, and based on the ‘pedestrians welcome signs’ the landowners in the south part of the ridge are cool with the trail travelers, although I did notice that horses are not allowed on the path that goes near the stables. Anyway, I run the path down to Arrastra Gulch, and cross the road over to the path that goes onto Spring Hill road. It’s a small trail, and easy to miss if one doesn’t know where to find it. I was feeling alright for this part of the downhill, and enjoying getting the legs moving fast again. I took Oro Fino back down until I could get back onto the waterline trail. I really like running on the waterline trail, although I was really feeling under the weather at this point. Headed back into town, and back home for a well deserved shower.

Distance: approx 8 miles (wore the Garmin, but had a bunch of data from Thursday messing it up).

Time: approximately 2.25 hours. Roughly half hiking and half running.

Elevation: approximately 1500 feet of gain.

Overall: I do like the run, and really like taking Spring Hill out rather than Arrastra. Didn’t really help will the illness, but I may as well be miserable while recovering. The main downside is that I always feel like I’m giving less than my full effort (probably because I have quite a bit less than my full effort to give).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Run To The Pub Race Review

I was smart, and decided to reserve a motel room for this one. So, on Friday, my mom and I got to head down toward Bozeman. When we left Helena, the weather was overcast, on the way to Bozeman, it was torrential rain. That slowed down the travel, although we had plenty of time. We got to the Rainbow Motel (which is really conveniently located), got checked in, and headed over for packet pickup. Unfortunately, they decided to give t-shirts to both those who preregistered and those decided to do last minute registration. So, they were out of my large and my mom’s extra large shirts when we came to packet pickup. I did pick up last year’s shirt for a mere five bucks, since I can always use a wicking running shirt with sleeves. We headed over to the Ale Works, got some amazing food and beer, headed back, and my shirt was resolved. Their comment was ‘you can pick it up in the morning’ which does not make sense when people are trying to avoid drop bags. Later, we learn that the printer messed up, which does make it much easier to take problems with getting correct shirts.

We decide to ride out and scope the course. This is my new recommendation for all road races, as it is much easier to do a race when one knows about where one is, and where one is going.

Figuring out what to wear for the race was a miserable challenge. I ended up wearing most stuff that I brought, being miserably cold while waiting for the race, and then miserable hot one mile into the race. After three miles, I managed to get the windbreaker off and wrapped up in the waist carrier, so I was only slightly too hot for the race.

Anyway, we meet up at the Running Company around 8:15, kill half an hour waiting for the busses, load up at 8:45, get out to the race start at 9:20, and wait until 10:00 for the race start. During the wait, we were miserably cold and windy, while the weather flipped about five minutes into the race.

So, I decided to do the trick from last time, and start at the back. There’s nothing quite like knowing I’ve got chip time over the people ahead of me. The race wound toward Hylite, with a slight uphill. Keep in mind, a slight uphill means that the legs are shot, the pace is off, and the effort is high. On the upside, I did get to do lots of passing, which makes me feel fast. Once we hit the first subdivision, one of the locals was handing out Rainer, in salute of the St Patrick’s Day. So, me being me, I take advantage of the opportunity. Hence, I learn the important lesson that it is difficult to drink while running, and bad beer turns into foam.

First aid station is roughly four miles in, near the hills south of town, and the crew is filling water as fast as they can to keep the line down. Since I beered up, I dropped off the can where it could be properly disposed of. I get my water, and prepare for a nice downhill run back into Bozeman. We finish running through the subdivision, and head back along 3rd ave. I notice the huge set of port-a-potties alongside the road, and figure the next aid station must be soon. Around the seven mile mark, I see the aid station on the left, and so I do the Hammer gel that I had been saving. For the record, I seem to need just a single Hammer, around roughly the hour mark. That did the nutrition trick. We hit the station, and notice a huge mess of green Dixie cups ahead. Yep, the 10kers stole our Jello Shots!

The race continues uneventfully until the nine mile mark, when we make a right hand onto Goldenstein Lane. From nowhere, we are hit with a head deathwind. So, in addition to being tired, going slightly uphill for way too much of the race, we get to deal with a nasty headwind for a few hundred feet. Around the ten mile mark, we finally catch up with the tail of the 10kers, including my beloved mother. So, we get to deal with the walkers right as we get off of Bozeman’s roads and onto the trail system. Actually, any of the remaining 10kers were sufficiently slower than the runners to be easy to pass.

At around mile 11, my right knee finally started to give out. It didn’t give out in the sense of being painful to run, just in the sense that it finally ran out of all power. Nonetheless, I managed to regroup and keep moving forward. Although the trail system was annoying rolling, I managed to make it toward Church and move to the finish line.

So, I go through the finish line, and get my awesome water, and wait for a few minutes, then head toward the massive beer mess. I spend way too long waiting in line (including getting cut by one very rude gal who was encouraged to cut by her even more rude mother) only to sneak one of the prefilled Harps off the table, with no bib mark. By the time that I finish my beer, I head toward Bogart and run into my mother, who I help limp toward the finish line.

So, overall time, 1:54 and change. I didn’t break 1:50, but the course and weather didn’t make it easy. The course was deceptively tough, with just enough uphill to fool the Garmin and drain the legs. I felt strong for most of the race, even though my pace was not as strong as I wanted it to be.

Swag: Last year’s shirt, this year’s shirt (both long sleeve), a really cool pint glass, advertisments for Bozeman events.

Clothing: magic running underwear, green running tights, old-school green sweatshorts, cold weather Brooks running shirt, Adidas running shirt, winderbreaker / hoodie, gloves, hat, waist carrier for the iPod.

Upsides: Family Promise is an amazing organization, the people who do the race are really cool, pint glass is good swag, course is pretty and interesting.

Downsides: packet pickup logistics problems, water stations had water only (no food, or even Poweraid), disorganized mess for most race beer pickup. Mostly, there are a few minor logistical issues that need fixed.

Overall: I found myself enjoying this, although I think I’m going to try a different March schedule next year.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Run For The Luck Of It Race Report

On Thursday, I had some paperwork to take care of on the third floor. While I was communicating, I ran into Victoria, who told me that she was headed up to Missoula this weekend, so I asked if I could ride along with her. She said it would be awesome, and I was happy to have some time to spend with her. I really do not get enough time to spend with cool people, and being in a car is a great chance to converse and find out how people are doing.

So, since I had this and a bunch of other good reasons to come up to Missoula (including an awesome show by the amazing Kevin Koutnik and the Protectors on Saturday night), I head up to Missoula. My beloved mother had already registered for the Lucky Race, so I look up registration on Thursday night, give them the magical Visa information, and print out the confirmation.

On Friday, we wait in line for an hour for packet pickup at Runner’s Edge. I thought that this would be a great time saver, but Saturday had no line. I also bought a sweet Brooks winter shirt (which I wore to the race, and needed), the new New Balance Minimus Zero, and some awesome compression socks. I’ve got a post just about my experiences there, and I’ll never buy running shoes at any place without a treadmill again.

Saturday morning, we get up and hit Liquid Planet for breakfast and food. Caffeine is among the non-banned stimulants, and it’s a generally awesome place for breakfast anyway. The race was supposed to start at 8:40, so I head out at 8:25, thinking I would be late by the time I moseyed over there and got stretched out.

At the starting line, there were a few nasty delays, and we did not actually get going until close to 9:00. Considering the pass fest that happened at Snow Joke, I start way in the back, and decide to be the passer rather than the passee. I didn’t really have any great time goals (it’s an odd distance, but not my first listed 7 miler), but was looking forward to the course.

The first mile was the usual jockeying and getting a pace set. I started slow (around 8:30) but quickly found myself feeling much more comfortable with a pace slightly below 8:00 per mile. I got in a good rhythm and just started going. No one to follow, and eventual passing when others tired out, or when I was feeling good. I also made it a habit to give high fives to the volunteers and otherwise cheer them on. Those people work hard so I get to have fun, and get my eternal gratitude.

We headed out through the beautiful Northside neighborhoods and back over the bridge across the tracks. One thing about bridges (or any elevation) is that the knee injury has sapped my uphill power, but I still have the skill to hammer downhill. It’s not as nice as being on the flat, but at least I’m good at it.

Around the three mile mark, we did the part of the race that I was looking forward to the most. The race goes through the Northside graveyard. I removed my racing hat (out of respect for the dead) and enjoyed the beautiful gravestones. Graveyards make good places to walk, and would be fantastic places to race, although the bereaved (and caretakers) might not appreciate this use. But, I thought it was awesome.

Around the six and a half mile mark, we met up with the fresh leggers doing the 5K. Now, I understand that RDs get a choice. Have everyone start at the same time, and finish in annoying trickles, or stagger the starts and get a mass finish. Nonetheless, running through a pack of fresh legged weekend runners is really annoying, especially when the knee was starting to hurt. Yep, the knee injury from Frigid Digger is still nagging. I don’t think it hurt my performance, it just requires being able to ignore some pain. Anyway, the pack of fresh leggers were running at a slower pace than the sustained 8:00, so I got to get pack into passing mode.

I also ran into my fellow runner, Scott, from Helena. Scott and I had very similar running times during the South Hills trail series, so its good to see a friendly face and have someone to compare myself with. Scott passed me on the seven mile mark, and I didn’t have the leg strength to catch back up.

The last challenge was the pedestrian train bridge, about a half a mile from the finish. It was fun to run up a corkscrew, over the tracks, and back down again. Only downside was weaving around the fresh leggers. I had one gal step in front of me, forcing me back and putting way too much impact on the knee. I considered that it would have been easier for me to just apply my body weight and send her sprawling, but I did have other things to do.

Finish line soon came up, and I manged to complete the whole thing in 55 minutes and change with an overall pace every so slightly below 8:00. So, I’m more than happy, because this means the 1:50 half marathon is very much doable, as is the sub 4:00 marathon. With the weather changing, two months to prepare, and a downhill course, I can rock Spokane.

After the finish line, there was good Irish stew for the victors, and plenty of Highlander beer. I got my beer, my mom’s beer, and another beer because I stood in line again (the beer man offered). Not a ton of variety, but the stew was good and different.

Clothing: Larry Bird style blue shorts, Brooks cold weather shirt, Champion magic athletic underwear, green Adidas running shirt, awesome running gloves, running hat, fanny running pack without bottle to hold the iPod. I regret not wearing running tights, Missoula was cold in the morning.

Music: Dave Matthews Band, Live at Lakeside

Swag: green tech shirt, a bunch of Missoula stickers, two beer coasters, and another shopping bag from a local physical therapist. Nothing particularly unique, but I did this more for the course than the cool swag.

Overall: A good Missoula course, although I’m not sure I’d recommend traveling just to do it. The graveyard gives it some unique character.