Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tofurky Trot Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 20th Edition 
269.2 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Tofurky Trot
Place: Portland, OR
Miles from home: 1 mile
Weather: 50s; Slight drizzle; overcast

I don't believe in jinxes but I should have probably kept my mouth shut.

Going into this 5k on the very hill Mt. Tabor (which I look at every day from my desk in Southeast Portland), I made mention this was the best my legs had felt basically in all of 2014. I said I did not remember the last time I went into any race where there was not something bothering me in some capacity.

My plan to run this race originally was because I was in town, I could sleep in my own bed before the race, get ready in my own house and then simply go one mile to the starting line. Fantastic. When I saw it was a "Tofurky" trot I knew I would have to wear my Team Beef singlet just to have some fun. They say they run FOR the Turkeys, so I figured since I was promoting beef, we would get along just fine.

A friend asked if I thought I might win the entire thing to which I said that one never knows. But the short distance races such a 5k do not favor people like me who:
1. Have no short twitch muscle fibers;
2. Are out of shape;
3. Are still wary of their legs working after a rough couple of years;
4. Basically don't warm up until mile six.

Yet I would give it my best.

At the packet pickup before the race, I looked at the map of the course and chuckled. There were no less than 800 million turns on this 5k course. OK, possibly a few less. But it was going to be a  twisty-turny course, half run on trail, half on road, with tons of descent and even more tons of climb, all in just 3.1 miles.  Oh, did I forget to mention no less than five flights of stairs, a variety of other pedestrians (with their dogs) seemingly oblivious to the few hundred of people trying to run around them, slick roads and oodles of other obstacles? To be honest, it sounded like a little bit of fun.

My bestie Shannon, herself recovering from injuries and surgery, who runs at Tabor more than I do, wanted to try out her lungs, legs and everything else on the course.We arrived with plenty of time to use the bathroom once last time before the race should have started. With about 8 minutes to go until said start time and ~40 more people in line to register, we knew there would be no on-time departure. The Chicago Bears game was starting at the ungoldy hour of 9:30 a.m. PST (weirdest thing about living on the West Coast which I don't think I will ever get used to are 10 a.m. NFL starting times) and with the race supposedly starting at 9 a.m., I was bummed I would miss the beginning. As it turns out, the beginning was the only good thing for the Bears on Turkey Day. Alas.

I expected the normal kooks of Portland to be out and about but even more so in full force of their liberalness because of the sponsor of the event. Some girl had a shirt on that said, if I recall correctly, "Pro-feminism, Pro-LGBT, Animal-Lover, Plant Eater." So, in other words, she was sort of a decent human being but wanted to make sure everyone else knew it, too.

 As I milled around waiting for anyone to comment on my shirt, one gentleman came over to me and said my shirt was a hoot. Rocking my Team Beef shirt, I was hoping to get a few more people chatting with me about my wardrobe choice but I had a feeling most of them weren't exactly vegan either. They looked too healthy. *rimshot*

When we were finally ready to go, I lined up close to the start. A guy and his two young sons sauntered up and positioned themselves right in front of me. It was quite apparent they didn't need to be RIGHT at the front and this might be potentially dangerous. Then a few seconds later three tiny little girls slid through the crowd and positioned themselves right in front of the guy and his sons. Ugh. No doubt when this race started there would need to be a clean-up on aisle four.  I moved over to my right some so that when I started I would not have to hurdle the little bodies falling down in front of me. I wasn't in the mood to be helpful and tell them they might want to move. Some days I just don't have the energy.

Mile 1:

We started, made a right hand turn, and immediately went up a hill.  I knew this was short-lived and we would get what was essentially the only downhill of the course until the last quarter of a mile, coming up soon. I shot out just to get around all the lil chitlins for what was inevitably going to be a trouncing from the other runners behind them. I was somewhere in a heap of about 10 runners as we hit the first staircase which we all eschewed in favor of the path next to it. Then down the slippery paved road we went. I had wisely worn my ICESPIKE for this race and it undoubtedly was a deciding factor from having me fall on my butt numerous times.

Almost immediately a kid rocking one fantastic white man afro was gone out in front. Well, any delusions of winning were now shot down. In a quarter of a mile he had a ten second lead on me and just about everyone else. Given the slippery, uneven footing of the course I had opted to wear my ICESPIKE, as I mentioned, which were serving me well. I could tell on the slippery road I would have lost footing a few times without them.

We evened out, and made a couple of quick turns to make a loop around the first reservoir of the day. This reservoir has always reminded me of the rock quarry in Breaking Away. Some days it is empty and others filled to the brim.  It was a filled to the brim sort of day here but I was more concerned about keeping my footing. As we circumvented it, we had to go up two cement stairs and then ten feet later go down two cement stairs. Looping around, we had to then go down two more stairs, make a super fast right hand turn, run in between two tress which were perilously close to each other  (one also had a tree limb hanging low enough to decapitate anyone over six feet tall) and then sprint across a mushy grass field. It was actually kinda fun in a "going to destroy all my ligaments" way.

As we passed runners about to go around the reservoir, we ran down another hill, made an ankle-breaking 120 degree turn (Volunteer: "Be VERY careful! It is slippery here!") and then down a rocky embankment. Spitting out onto a road, we had to make an abrupt 90 degree turn on this road before rejoining a dirt trial about twenty yards up the road which meandered through some trees.

This is all the first mile.  I ran it in 5:50 and was quite pleased.

Mile 2:

This trail had us skirting past some lovely old trees for a bit as we surged up and down over the hills. We briefly came into view of the lowest reservoir on Mt Tabor which I love to do repeat sprints around. At .57 of a mile it is a good place to do mile repeats. But we only saw it for a minute as we began climbing back up from where we had just come. The downhill was done for the day and it was time to hurt. On the dirt for a while, we began running up the paved portion of the frontside trail on Tabor. (I don't know exactly how many miles of different trails there are on this mountain which does not have a ton of square mileage but there are a great deal.) As we climbed further, we saw runners behind use taking the aforementioned slippery 120 degree turn.  We turned left away from them and back onto another trail.

At this point I got passed by what would eventually be the female winner of the race. I simply didn't have the lungs to hold her off but hoped the later hills would be an equalizer. I had already shrunk the gap between me and the handful of runners in front of me who I figured were not aware how hilly the last two miles were. It appeared they might be within my grasp if I just held it easy for a minute here. My problem with 5Ks is I forget there really isn't supposed to be a time where you hold back.

We flattened out and began a semi-complete loop around the middle reservoir where earlier this year I had watched the Adult Soap Box Car Derby. As I ran in the girl in front of me's shadow, we saw a woman out for a leisurely run in front of us. She was coming down another path and she and her dog and its 6 foot leash decided that right now would be the perfect time to go directly in front of us on this narrow trail that cut through the trees around the reservoir.  As I watched the girl in front of me navigate her way around, I assumed the jogger would think maybe to look around and see if there was, you know, other people wearing bib numbers who might appreciate if she got out of the way. Right then, not paying attention to my footing but instead watching her, I twisted my ankle. Sweet Fancy Moses, did I twist my ankle.

I almost never twist my ankle. I roll them all the time, take one step, and it is as if nothing ever happened. But searing pain shot through my foot and ankle and then into my shin, causing me to come to a dead stop. I took a couple of very tentative steps. It didn't feel like I had done anything that would keep me from finishing so I gingerly put some weight on the foot. A few more steps and I think adrenaline took over. There was no pain worse than what I would expect so I took off again. I passed the woman with the dog, perhaps a tad closer than necessary to make her jump a touch, and began the big climb to the top.

Mile 3: 

As we all once again went from trail, to paved road, to gravelly road to trail again, I heard some breathing behind me and a second female runner passed me. She had some cute tail fathers and I think a pilgrim hat made out of cardboard on a headband.  I laughed.

Even though it was a touch cool on the mountain, I was generating some ferocious heat.  As I slowed to take on this beast of an uphill, my Julbo sunglasses fogged up. I guess running much faster had at least kept some cool air circulating over them. Here, not so much. I then realized I was thinking too much. This is another reason why I am not good at the shorter distances. There really isn't all that much time to think. If you want to do well, you have to run hard, think as little as possible and just make it hurt. So I decided to do that.

Finally and mercifully nearing the top of Mt. Tabor, there was another set of stairs I ignored and instead went up the grass next to them. I could see both ladies and three men all in front of me within striking distance. As we rounded the top, numerous pedestrians were enjoying their day, barely making way for us. As we began the descent of one staircase, a family of approximately 634 was coming up the stairs at the same time. Dodging, hurdling, and somersaulting this family had me right in the hip pocket of one of the runners. I passed her on the steps and taking them two at a time, started to reel in the other runners.

At the end of the third staircase, the adrenaline finally wore off and I could tell the ankle was hurting. Destroying myself for a 5k was not on my To Do list today so I eased off the throttle, slide down the remaining hill and came in under 22 minutes  in 21:52, good enough for 9th place overall. Three other runners had barely finished 10 seconds in front of me, and the speedster who probably ran 15:xx on a normal course, barely cracked 19 today.

As I found some ice to immediately try to stop the swelling I was quite hobbled. I sat down near the finish after speaking to the few people who had finished in front of me. We all agreed it was a darn tough course. I was hoping Shannon had not had the same problem I had. Somehow I missed seeing her come in but she walked over to me. Seeing the ice on my ankle, she said "Uh Oh."

I hobbled down to my car. Luckily, I had driven even though it is only a mile away (it had been raining and I am lazy- give me a break.) After continuing to ice it and using my SKINS compression socks for that day and the next few, I found out it was a third degree ankle sprain. It could have been much worse, but it nonetheless has put my running on hold for a few days at the very least. Fortunately, it doesn't hurt much but it sure is ugly. So I will be resting it a bit as I am in no hurry to rush back just so I can hit some arbitrary number of miles per week to make my spreadsheet look more full.

My goals are to treat 2015 like what 2014 was supposed to be before a string of ailments sidelined it. As such, I have no problem whatsoever hanging up the shoes for a bit and hitting the pool.  Not what I was expecting when I signed up for a trot a mile from my home but life is full of what we don't expect.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Six Ways You Can Succeed in Running

I have sponged a great deal of running tips from running greats, common folk, and everyone in between in my past 15 years or so of participation in the sport. I don't have all the answers (I am not even sure I have any, come to think of it) but I do know ways which will help you be a success at this sport regardless of what your finishing time is. Here are six ways to get the most out of your running.

1. Adjust Your Plan

It is admirable to push through a race when it is not going your way. It is foolhardy to think that on race day, if things start to go south, that you shouldn't change your goals or strategy. This follows the same with workouts. You will be doing non-races more often than races (well, you should, at least) and you are going to have plenty of  days where what you wanted to do is not what you are going to be able to do. Weather, exhaustion, and time constraints can all throw a monkey wrench into your well-oiled plans. Roll with it. Do the best you can at the time with what you have. That's a good mantra for life, actually.

2. Stop Worrying About Others

I wrote an article for the Good Man Project called Do It For You.  The article talks about how many get motivated by what others say they cannot do. I think this is detrimental to mental health. There is nothing more powerful than indifference. You should feel the same way about others' workouts, personal bests, or finishing places. No matter how hard you work, some people are going to be faster than you. On the flip side, you are that person to someone else. You were given a set of DNA that you simply cannot change. I don't say use this as an excuse not to try but the only person you should try to be better than is yourself yesterday. It sounds like a stupid phrase which should have the backdrop of clouds and a fake attribution to Morgan Freeman, but it is true. You’ll be much happier if you relish in your accomplishments and stop trying to be or beat somebody else.

3. Get Over Bad Runs

I have one friend (actually like 10,000 acquaintances) who simply do not seem to get that one bad run doesn't define them. Listen, it stinks to have a bad run, doubly so if it is during a race. But don't worry about it so much that it derails the rest of your week, month, year. Preparation and hard work are key but so is knowing when to realize that sometimes DNF means Do Nothing Foolish. Cannot tell you how many bad runs were followed the next day by an exquisite one.


I coach athletes and the most annoying thing is telling them to take a rest day and then noticing they ran an "easy three." That isn't rest. The year I ran 52 Marathons in a row was also the year I ran the fewest miles I have run in a year since I have been keeping track. I averaged a 3:21 marathon by knowing I needed to give my body time to recover, or at least as much time as was possible. Without rest, our bodies simply can’t repair, rebuild, and strengthen. If you feel guilty or weak for taking a recovery day, do some pushups. After about 100 you will be cool with your rest day.

5. Learn to Embrace Discomfort

I am not a fan of the whole "Harden the Eff Up" fake toughness displayed by some. "I will NEVER not finish a race," they say. Well, yeah, someday you probably will. It happens. However, the best way to know the difference between pain and exhaustion is to know what discomfort feels like. It is OK to be tired. Or hungry. Or thirsty. I see so many people going for runs and they have a Family Buffet wrapped around their waist. You are going to be gone 90 minutes - you don't need a sandwich.

6. Remember How Lucky You Are

Personal bests are great. Besting your opponents are fun. Getting a six-pack of abs is fantastic (I have heard. I've never had one.) But the main and best thing about running is that you get to do it. If it is cold and rainy, it might be tough but guess what? You get to do it. It is going to be hot out there today but guess what? You get to do it. Boy, that run was absolutely awful. I had absolutely no energy. But guess what? YOU GOT TO DO IT.

You are traversing the world, one foot at a time, releasing tension, strengthening your body, mind and soul. There are thousands who wished they had it so easy.

Don't take it for granted.

Friday, November 21, 2014

PowerBar Product Review

I have been eating Powerbar products for as long as I have been running. Back in 2006 when I was doing 52 Marathons I also got braces on my teeth.  I remember for a few months I couldn't eat their signature bars and got so frustrated.  When I finally could, I was so relieved.

I have been a part of Powerbar's Team Elite since 2010 and have made full use of my time on that team, enjoying and promoting their products. I have written before about much I love the gels Powerbar offers, but I felt it was time to update that and offer a few more product reviews.

First, the gels. Not all gels are created equal and people definitely have different tastes. Obviously people are going to enjoy one flavor over another. But when it comes to both flavor and consistency, I think nothing beats the Strawberry-Banana gels. Unlike other brands which can almost be chewy in their consistency, these flavored gels are almost liquid. I love how easy they are to consume and how good they taste. I always have a stash with me on my trips and when I can't prepare food I want in the morning before a run, I know I can always rely on the old standby I have been eating for like a decade. Even more important is during a race, you don't have to fumble around trying to figure out how to swallow some sticky mess. While it is always nice to have water to help wash down a gel, I have always been surprised how easily these go down without it.  That's essential if you need some energy and are not near an aid station.

The second product that stick out to me are the PowerBars gel blasts. I first remember reading about these many years ago when someone who absolutely adored their cola-flavored blasts absolutely lost their mind when they learned they were being discontinued.  Fortunately for the sanity of this poor girl (I have to find her rant) they were brought back. I tried the cola ones and they were fine but once again my tastes go toward the Strawberry-Banana.  But before you think these taste or even chew like other block products, let me say that once again the consistency of the gel blast is a huge selling point. In addition, there is this thin coating on the top of the gel blasts which makes it taste even better. When you bite into it, there is small amount of of yumminess in each center which is reminiscent of a jelly-filled doughnut.

I recently introduced a fan at an expo to a pack of these delicious snacks and they were hooked.  They do not stick to your teeth like other similar blocks, are easy to chewy and are delicious. I have had them on hand for virtually every ultra run I have done in my career.  They are quick, easy and I always know what they are going to give me. You truly owe it to yourself to try these. You will be very surprised.  (The raspberry are quite good as well. Just not my favorite.)

A final product which I was just introduced to this year at Hood to Coast event in August are the Energy Wafers.  Remember those Sugar Wafers we ate as kids (re: like two weeks ago) and how you were always excited to see them. Then you had like one and instantly you remembered how much they tasted like cardboard. Why did we never remember that? We always got suckered in to trying them afresh each time. Well, think about those but think about them actually tasting good. Voila! PowerBar Energy Wafers.

I had a box of these for my team at the end of HTC and while I am handing them out, I had someone from another team try to come and snake some. Never met the guy but he apparently had tasted them previously and went all Mad Max savager  on me. I gave him some to try and get him to scamper back to Master Blaster. But I digress. These wafers rock. Get some.

I will review a few more of my favorites soon but I think this should keep you satiated for now. Time for me to go grab some gel blast and head out for a run.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Camelbak Rogue Review

I have been reviewing some Camelbak products for the past few months. (See here, here, here and somewhat here in my Lake of Death Relay recap.) As one of the newest athletes to the Camelbak stable I am trying to review as many different Camelbak products as possible.  I am wearing some of the products in non-tradtional ways, such as the Camelbak Powderbak vest, normally meant for winter running, in the summer to try them out in every possible venue (I will be reviewing that soon after I give it some proper cold weather testing). Today, I will give you my thoughts on the Rogue.

The Rogue is traditionally a mountain bikers pack. I don't much mountain bike (as in I think I have done it once at the X-Trifecta Winter Triathlon) so I wanted to see how well-suited it would be on some traditional runs. I took it on three separate and varied runs to watch how it performed.  The first was a nice 9 miler taking me about an hour. This run is pretty straightforward and doesn't include a great deal of turning or jostling.  The second run was an up and down run of Mt. Tabor in Portland.  Given the nature of the climb and descent it puts the pack in different positions. Finally, I took it on a quick run in Laurelhurst Park, meant to jostle the pack by having me pumping my arms and changing my stride. The Rogue completely surprised me.

Virtually every pack I wear seems to irritate my neck on the left a little bit. This has to do with everything I have ever worn.  Undoubtedly my left arm does something a tad different and off-kilter. I have just come to expect it a little bit and adjust my shirt or whatnot accordingly.  However, with the Rogue, there wasn't a hint of irritation. On all three runs it left nothing but skin that was dolphin smooth (like Abraham in Walking Dead).  Big thumbs up here.

The two-liter pack has just about enough reserves for a two hour bike ride, give or take (according to its description and other reviews I have read.) It is definitely a slimmed down pack with no a large amount of storage space. Again, this should be no surprise to anyone as that is what it is touted for: sleek and light. (From the website: DESIGNED TO CARRY: Multi-tool, pump, spare tube, phone, wallet, keys.)

The zippered space is somewhat limited but there are two large mesh pockets on either side. Obviously on a run the need for pockets is greatly diminished but this seems to be more than adequate storage for a short ride.  If you need more, than maybe your ride is too long and a different pack would suit you better.I think it was overall well-designed for what its intended use was and think you will as well.

Here are some products specs for you:
* Hydration Capacity: 70 oz / 2 L
* Total Capacity: 183 cu in/ 3L+ 2L Reservoir
* Total Weight: 9.17 oz / 0.26 kg (pack only)
* Dimensions: 15.5 X 10 X 5.875 in / 39.5 x 25.5 x 15 cm
* Torso Length: 13 in / 33 cm
* Materials: Air Mesh

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Asphalt vs Concrete

I thought about writing a post to dispute the ever-persistent "Concrete is harder on your legs than asphalt" debate. Then when doing research I saw an extremely well-thought-out, scientific assertion (which encapsulated many similar findings) showing they are essentially equal. Following it were comments such as:

"Very interesting stats, but I know my brain tells me that asphalt is softer."

"I'm not buying this. Physics aside I once read concrete is as much harder on the legs than asphalt as asphalt is harder than dirt or grass, and I believe it."

I then realized writing a post trying to convince people one way or the other is probably a fruitless endeavor. If people are not going to listen ("physics aside"?!) they are not going to listen. It is like when someone denies climate change, adds "Look, I am no scientist" and then goes on to refute the scientists who universally agree it is happening. If you believe concrete is worse for you than asphalt, I am not going to change your mind.  Like a political debate, no one has ever changed from Republican to Democrat (or vice versa) when showed the other's stance.

So, rather than waste my time on a blog, let me sum this up thusly. While there are some things which make asphalt better (less dog crap, less uprooting by neighboring trees), if you actually are not so set in you ways that you will allow physics and facts to overcome "Well, I just know my knees hurt more" suffice it to say there is no difference between the two when it comes to hardness and impact on your knees, legs, muscles, etc.

The same goes for trail and dirt which, actually, given their often uneven nature, roots, rocks, etc are more prone to injure you in other ways like ankle turning. I know this goes against all those who think trail running is the one true Lord, but don't argue with me. I am not physics. I am just a guy who has run countless miles in the past decade on concrete with not one running injury to show for it. Undoubtedly, you have your own opinion what works for you and science and facts don't get in the way.  Except for the fact that facts don't care what you think.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Santa Barbara Veteran's Day Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 19th Edition 
266.1 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Santa Barbara Veteran's Day Half Marathon
Place: Santa Barbara Half Marathon
Miles from home: 943 miles
Weather: 70s; Sunny and warm

This marks the 5th time I have run a race at Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon weekend. It is only because of a scheduling matter and my dunderheadedness (100% a real word) that I missed running this race in 2011. The race is not an easy one.  In addition, Santa Barbara itself should just change its name to It’s Always Sunny In Santa Barbara as it is perfect for all activities outside of running a long-distance race. As such, obviously there are reasons why I return again and again to a race where I have never run fast.

As a side note, let me point out it is entirely possible to run fast here.  My friend Sarah Hallas set a marathon PR here two years ago in the low 2:50s.  I don’t know how she did it but she did. But one main thing which brings me to the starting line every year is the involvement of the organizers Rusty and June Snow. Year after year, they simply put together a fine race. Even when problems arise (unfortunately, this year due to a customs hold in the dock in L.A., the medals would not be ready for those who finished) they solve them (by mailing thousands of them out individually to runners.)

The course has changed a few times during the time I have run it. Nothing major but you can tell they are always tinkering to make it better. This year, with a finishing line right at Leadbetter Beach, I think they have had the best race yet.

I addition, the past few years the race has been tied in with Veteran’s Day. This connection is something I very much applaud and is another one of the main reasons I run this race. To show my thanks for all the veterans, I have, for the past three years, ran the entire race carrying a large American flag.  It is tiring and cumbersome but just a fraction of the pain and suffering those guarding our country go through each day.

My running in the race this year was actually a last minute decision.  I have been dealing with an Achilles/calf issue all year and until about two weeks ago I hadn’t decided if I would do any races at all in November and December.  I love running but I don’t like running while injured or out of shape.  I see nothing brave or studly about stumbling across the finish line in a far from stellar time just to collect facebook applause or a shiny bauble. When I realized it appeared I would be able to run this race without causing further damage, I sign up immediately.

Unfortunately, even the normal sunny weather would be warmer and sunnier than usual this year.  As I signed books at the expo, I told runner after runner the same advice: Tomorrow is not the day to try and set a PR. Realize this race is going to test you because of the heat and simply dial it back.  Runner after runner agreed with me. I can only wonder how many actually followed the advice they asked for.

I wished to shoot for right around 1:30 even though I knew that would be a stretch, all things considered. However, when the gun went off I found myself comfortably running right at that pace. I had quickly moved to the side to avoid having my flag in anyone’s face. More than a few runners were confounded as they had to navigate around a tight opening stretch where a group running for some organization had staked out the left third of the starting line. I heard someone lament that it was great they were raising money or awareness or whatever but it was also necessary to not endanger runners by being out of place.

At my pace, even taking it slightly easy, I felt a stab or two of pain in my calf in the first mile.  I hoped they would quickly subside, which they did.  Even running conservatively here, the 1:30 pace group stayed just in front of me. Over the next few miles it would pull a tad in front of me, although I was running the same pace.  Given the fact that the last six miles of the course contain a series of uphill and downhills, the pacer, Craig, had intended to bank some time here on the mostly flat portion in order to make up for the inevitable slowing later. I simply wanted to run a good pace and stay out of everyone’s way.

The flag is fantastic to run with in regards to the lift it gives you. Everything else about it is difficult.  It is
unwieldy. It blocks your peripheral vision. It sure does make grabbing a cup of water hard. The first 2.5-3 miles of the course have you running mostly on wide open roads which are closed to traffic.  In spite of this, and me making an effort to stay far to the left or the right (out of every one’s way) I noticed a few people who seemed to always be close to me. I felt bad if the flag flapped near their face until I realized there was only so much I could do to stay out of the way.  I looked when and where I could behind me to not cut anyone off (as I had done last year as shown by this photo.)

The next three miles or so are spent running on a narrow bicycle path with all of its obligatory twists and turns. One main reason I had not continued to run with the 1:30 group was because it was a very large pack. The last thing I wanted to do was negotiate tangents with twenty people in a tight-knit group.  However, as cautious and courteous as I was to others, I still deserved to run my own race. I assumed runner etiquette would kick in later on in the race, since one or two runners near me didn’t seem to be showing it right now.

On more than one occasion, I had one female runner pass me, only to fall into place right in front of me where she promptly slowed. I would pass her, switch the flag to the other hand so that it would flap against me and not into her face, get a reasonable distance in front of her, switch hands and then maintain the exact pace. I didn’t understand the logic in her racing plan but so be it.

When I hit the 7th mile, I was pleased to be right on pace for a 1:30.  I knew, however, this would not continue as the sun was baking me.  More importantly, trying to tackle hills effectively where you cannot use your arms is a difficult task. I knew the hill ending at mile seven was the nice long gradual one but not too steep. The hill around mile nine was a double hill with a nice downhill prior to going up again. But both of these paled in comparison to the one going up Cliff Drive at mile 10ish.

Each time I went up an uphill I had to make a wide pass around the same female runner from before. She did not seem too strong on these uphills.  Now that we were on the wider road this was not a problem.  I would veer to the side and stay out of her way.  However, I still found her in my hip pocket.  As we crested the hill at mile nine, we made a right hand turn. With the flag in my right hand, I could see nothing to my right. As such, I nearly collided with her as she tried to sneak into the curve on my inside. I almost came to a complete stop out of shock but continued on.  As we went down the long 1.5 mile downhill, she started to pull away from me.  Good, I thought. I would rather not have to deal with her anymore.

This section was the first in quite some time where runners were afforded a reasonable amount of shade from the surrounding mountains. Santa Barbara is rather oddly positioned on the coast. Given that it slopes diagonally back east, the sun actually rises over the Pacific Ocean in places.  If you know anything about geography, this is quite unsettling. Fortunately, because of this oddity, these mountains shield you from the sun at this point in the course. When there was no shade, I am not ashamed to admit I would try to use the flag to provide me some shade.  I was drenched in sweat from mile one on but knew I would still sweat even more.

As we hit the next aid station (which were very plentiful and well-stocked) I noticed the female runner in front of me had stopped to grab a drink. I slide right through the aid station, reaching across my body to grab a cup of water.  I drank my water in stride and motored on running on the far left curve. A few spectators had made their way out to this portion of the course and were cheering us on.  Given it was barely 8:30 in the morning, I was very flattered.  In fact, while not necessarily six deep, there were plenty of places where spectators had lined the course. In addition, multiple volunteers where on-hand to direct traffic and runners.  Top notch all the way around.

As I continued down the hill, I could hear the footsteps of the female runner, but given the position of my flag, I could not see here. As we neared the end of the downhill and were about to make a left handed turn onto the brutal Cliff Drive Hill. I could see what was going to happen.

Sure enough, as we made the turn, this runner thought the turn was sharper than it actually was and turned directly in front of me.  Only after seeing we could run to the other side of the road, and after I did a full stop to avoid the collision did she change course.  To her credit she twice apologized to me over her shoulder. This was appreciated but it didn’t make the situation any better.  I have often said to friends that all apologies do not have to be accepted.  Many people will say “That’s OK” to someone when it is in fact, not OK.  If this had been just a simple mistake, hey no problem.  It happens to us all.  But repeated repeated behavior had me thinking “Man, I am going to talk about what an ass you are in my recap.”

Since she had headphones on I didn’t even think of saying anything to her.  Instead, as soon as we began the run up Cliff Drive, I passed her again. Near the merciful top, my calf twinged sharply and I pulled over to the side. I walked for about five steps before I realized it was fine.  If I had not been dealing with calf issues all year I doubt I would have even noticed.  I expected the runner behind me to pass me but she never did. I continued on.

At this point I began to reel in runner after runner who probably wanted to run a 1:30 but chose the wrong day and course best suited for their chances to do so. We did a quick couple turns through a neighborhood, with one small surprise uphill left before the 1.5 mile downhill toward the finish.  At the final mile two separate servicemen, who appeared to be highly ranking were handing out small US flags for every runner to carry.  This entire last mile is lined with flags every ten yards or so on both sides. It is extremely moving even when you are sucking wind. When I passed the high-ranking solider with the flags he looked at the 3x5 footer in my hands and said “This man needs no other flag.”  I felt honored.

As we entered the last quarter mile, I saw the finish had two sharp turns before a straight 50 yard finish.  I looked to my sides in order to make sure no one was sneaking up on me and might get hit by the flag.  Then I heard someone say something to a runner who was obviously not too far behind me “You go, girl!”  Oh, for the love of all that is holy, she’s not going to run into me again, right?

With the two turns out of the way and no one around me I raised the flag high as the announcer called my name and made specific notice of the flag.  I brought it down again about ten yards from the finish because I didn’t want to poke and deflate the inflatable arch at the finish. Suddenly, as if from under my arm, I’ll be damned if that female runner didn’t scoot by and in front of me. Again, I had to pull back as to not trip over her.

I finished in 1:32:34 which was actually faster than last year (1:32:57) when I ran in slightly cooler temps with a better leg. I was 49th overall with this time as opposed to 77th last year.  I was very happy with my performance - later.  At the finish, all that would stick in my craw is the chutzpah of the woman.  Running for some charity, I was surprised she would be so brazen with her bad etiquette. A few steps passed the finish line, she turned around and smiled at me sheepishly as if to once again say “sorry.” I held my tongue. People think I have an acerbic wit and a sharp tongue, both which are true.  But if people knew how much I do not say which comes into my mind, I think I would receive some sort of trophy. (The other odd things is how the last time I was carrying the flag I had another runner actually sprint past me at the line and almost clip me. I don't get that.  It almost seems disrespectful to the flag. What does one gain by getting one more step at the finish in the middle of the pack?)

I thought when writing this recap I might call this runner and the organization out publicly in order to make sure this sort of things doesn’t happen again. Then I realized that will change next to nothing. In addition, I will be the bad guy who criticized a charity runner. If you care, it wouldn’t be hard to look at the results and times to get a name of the runner and the organization. I am sure this runner is a fine person who does good deeds. But they were basically a jerk on this day. All in all, the only thing I want all runners to do is have fun, be competitive, and be courteous.

As I have always said, except for one infinitesimally small accident the entirety of the complete universe is comprised of everything but you. Try to remember that when you do anything. Do you best to avoid unnecessarily inconveniencing others. If anything, the Veterans for whom this race honors have done that exact thing.  The sacrifices we make in order to show we appreciate their actions are very small.

Having stated all of that, you should definitely put this race in your to-do list. Then, I would suggest staying around for a day or two. The weather might be a bit warm for running, but once you are done, it is darn nice for everything else.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Long Hair; Don't Care: High School Runners Help Fallen Competitor In Spite of DQ

Tierney Winter and Kailee Kiminski helped freshman Jessica Christoffer over the finish line in the Minnesota State Girls Cross Country meet. Then they were all subsequently disqualified

High school cross country rules state you are not allowed to assist another runner. Looking at the situation makes one wonder, should Winter and Kiminski be disaqualified for their heartfelt gesture?  Absolutely. It is against the rules. Should this rule be applied liberally at best? Absolutely.

I have been pondering this rule ever since I heard about this result which took place last weekend. Rather than go with the knee-jerk reaction and say the ruling is ridiculous (which it is) and these lovely lasses should just be allowed to run, I tried to figure out the reasoning behind the rule. This reminded me of an event a few years ago where runners were disqualified at the Lakefront Marathon for a litany of silly reasons. I don't blame the officials who applied the rules or the directors of the races who abided by those rulings. I don't exonerate the runners for not following or knowing the rules. I do, however, have to wonder why they even exist.

If you are assisting another runner in a race, there seems to be no way in which this can benefit you. The only thing you could possibly be doing is harming your result, your team's result, and the overall score. Perhaps it is that last thing where we find our answer. The rationale behind the rule may be that by helping the runner, this is affecting the outcome of all the runners coming in behind you. I guess that sort of makes sense. Or maybe it is so officials can ascertain the severity of the injury in the downed runner. Unfortunately, that is all my brain can muster as a reason.

Regardless of the end result of these rulings , you have probably heard of similar helpful gestures in other sports.The one with the girls carrying the softball player around the bases gets me every time.(Apparently in softball you can not only assist but literally carry your opponent the entire way to home plate.) This one might hit really close to home since I too only hit one home run in my entire baseball playing career. I can actually take you to the exact spot where it landed on the Babe Ruth playing fields near  the rusted hull of the Cytemp Steel manufacturing building in Titusvillle, PA.

But what surprised me in doing some research for this post was that these girls weren't even the only girls on the same weekend who got disqualified. In neighboring Wisconsin, another runner helped carry an opponent over the finish. There is an epidemic of selflessness! Let's quash that with more rules which make no sense.  (By the way, looking for the link about the softball players I posted above, I found that the same action happened again in another game just this year. Let's just say this has been an eye-opening night of link searching for me.)

Look, I am not saying these runners should break the rules. However, many rules simply seem to have no real reason for existing, at least on a non-elite, non-professional level. But if it takes a few girls with the cojones to not care about a result in order to get light shone upon some archaic rules, then I say kudos to them indeed. Fortunately, their solid people-being has not gone unnoticed.

When asked why Winter and Kiminski helped the downed Christoffer, Winter replied "Just to be a friend.  A friend of a runner, I guess."

The world is probably a much better place because these girls are in it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pettet Endurance Project Apparel Review

I was surfing the web the other day (that is what people who remember the beginning of the internet
occasionally still call it because we are old) and happened across Pettet Endurance Project's page.  I was interested in trying the product out so I contacted PEP about doing a review.

Specially, I wanted to try out their Gresham shirt and their Shevlin. I have no idea what Shevlin is but Gresham is the name of the town neighboring Portland to the East so I figured I had to have that one. I am kidding about the names being a factor.  Like colors of clothing and shoes, outward appearance should be about last on why you want to wear something. Sure it counts but come on.  What really made me want to try these products was I have never really heard of merino wool before. Plus, I love helping companies which are obviously being started by just a few people. Being a bit of an entrepreneur myself, I always root for these type of underdogs. Even cooler, the Pettet name itself comes from the hill in the Bloomsday 12k which the founder of PEP, Greg Poffenroth, grew up near in Spokane, WA. Pretty neat to give your hometown a shout-out in your apparel brand.

First some quick facts about Pettet. It is a small company based out of Seattle that is roughly two years old, having officially launched just this year The big thing which makes their clothing different from others is both what is made of and how it is made. You can read more about their clothing in their own words here. However, basically, they wanted to make their clothing out of merino wool and they wanted to make it in the good ole U.S. of A. Those are all great things but the only thing that really matters is how it works.

According to Poffenroth, the merino wool the clothing is made out of is stench resistant, very warm, and soft to the touch. Also, while most merino wool is expensive, PEP keeps their prices low because it uses only a direct-to-customer sales model.  This means you will have to try the stuff on once it has been shipped which some find a drawback. I found the clothing fit rather true to form but I have a long torso. Decide for yourself.

After a couple of runs in each shirt I can attest to a couple of things for absolute certain.

First, this shirt is extremely soft and stylish.  The Gresham could easily become my go to favorite shirt for expos.  Just nice. Second, they are not kidding about the warmth.  I went for my usual 8.65 mile Bridge Run in Portland on a 50-something degree day and could have wrung the shirt out about four miles in.  Granted, I am a heavy sweater, but I could tell this would not be a shirt I personally would want to wear in the summer too often. Again, that is me being the ever-present furnace. For others, it might be wonderful in warmer weather.

That said, even with the warmth, it was a pretty fantastic article of clothing. The weight ratio to how much warmth it provides was rather astonishing. I am looking forward to wearing both shirt again here when the temperatures get into the 30s this winter.

Furthermore, the price is rather nice.  Just $60 for a long sleeve shirt with the wrist extenders to cover your hands?  That's pretty hard to beat.  In addition, PEP participates in  1% For The Planet, an organization that helps them donate 1% of all company revenues to an environmentally-friendly non-profit. How extremely Pacific Northwest of them.

As I have not had them long enough to know if they stay stink-free longer than other materials, I can say they didn't smell like my usual manly musk when I was done and forgot to put them in the laundry basket, as per the usual. So they have that going for them.

All and all, this is a fine garment at a great price. Their selection is still somewhat limited right now but Poffenroth mentions some of the products in the works are a men’s and women’s half-zip top, a few pairs of merino shorts, and some other super-secret items that they are prototyping. I personally think you will be rather pleased with these if you grab yourself a few items.