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