Monday, March 17, 2014

Run Through Time Race Report

Last year when we came out to Salida for this race we were happy that the cool weather produced fast times, but everything else about the experience was a disaster. We stayed at the cheapest/crappiest motel we could find and the night before the race it started to snow. Then race morning was calm but it started to snow as we gained elevation. I was bummed because visibility was poor and there were none of the great views that people talked about. About mile 18 I hit a rough patch because I had no idea how far I'd come or how many miles were left. All I could see was the dirt 20 feet in front of me. Then we decided that it would be a good idea to drive home the same day and we got stranded in Castle Rock for the night because of white out conditions on the highway.

We had learned our lesson. This year, we stayed two nights at this awesome studio apartment in town that we found on vrbo. That way I was able to make a good dairy-free dinner in the kitchen the night before and we were able to grab an awesome post-race dinner at the Fritz. Highly recommend it. We got to enjoy the town more and stopped in to see our favorite Colorado potter at Maverick Potter.

Going into this race, I was nervous about a lot of things. I had a bad fall a few days earlier on the Chimney Gulch trail in Golden and ripped up my hands and my thigh. Despite the expert care that Deb at Runner's High gave me immediately after the incident (thanks for giving me your toothbrush and letting me bleed all over your store Deb!) I was in a lot of pain all week and had a lot of nagging aches. Then I started to feel sick a few days before with bouts of nausea and headaches that felt like tiny lighting strikes in my brain. I don't think I got a single good night of sleep during the week. The forecast for race day called for rain/snow and the course was reported to have a bunch of ice on it. But then it dawned on me, I just like to complain. If I didn't have those things to get nervous about I would have just worried over different things.

So race day came and the weather was great. It was chilly but clear. There were looming clouds but nothing too ominous like last year. I tried to start out slowly. The first mile or so is on a dirt road that stretches out the pack before hitting five to six mile of single track. I love the single track section and I knew that I could comfortably run the whole uphill, I just hate having people behind me who want to keep passing. I'm fine being the one who passes people but I hate being the one who causes the bottleneck. My pacing was perfect and I picked off a few people on the uphill.

Funny story, though. About a half mile in Anita Ortiz, an awesome Salomon-sponsored athlete, was in front of me and suddenly pulled to the side of the dirt road shouting to the air, "I can't do this! I just can't do it." I made my way past her and then a half mile later she came blazing by. Then about a half mile from the first aid station I see this woman making her way down the single track against the flow of all the runners. Again it was Anita, who had apparently dropped from the race at Aid 1. A few miles past Aid 1, shortly before we hit the 6 mile section of uphill dirt road, the guy running behind me shouts, "Here she comes!" Once again Anita flies by. By the half way point she had already made up a mile on me and by the end she had picked off all but four women. What an amazing racer!

When I hit the dirt road I knew I had five to six miles of relentless uphill, but I was kind of looking forward to running my own pace and zoning out for a bit. I turned on my music and started my slow plodding. Some people like to push hard with short walk breaks in between, but I know that if I let myself start taking walk breaks that they will start becoming longer and more frequent. So I ran every damn step of that uphill. Along the way I picked off some guys, but about two miles from the top I was caught by this group of amazing women. From behind me I heard a familiar voice. Colleen, who's been my periodic running buddy from a few past races, came alongside me to offer some quick encouragement before taking off. Seriously this woman in amazing! She is a mom and a nurse practitioner and even though she hasn't had time to train much this year, she killed it at both Moab and Salida.

At Aid 3, the half marathon point, I allowed myself to check my watch for the first time. I was about 2 hours 25 minutes into the race and just a few minutes ahead of my split from last year. Last year I started aggressively and faded a lot in the back half of the race, getting passed by a lot of people. I was determined to run a sub-5 hour time this year and I felt that at the half marathon point I had pushed hard enough but had enough in the tank to run the technical downhills and the twisty uphills that the second half held in the same split.

I knew that the next few miles would have snowy, icy sections so I had brought my yaktrax just in case. I didn't think I'd really use them but it was just a security blanket. There was a lot of hard packed snow and ice, but I decided against using traction. The ice was mostly in uphill sections anyway. I felt pretty tentative here after being psyched out from my big fall, but no one caught up to me for a few miles. In a really icy section I crested a hill and saw a dog coming at me, taking up the whole path. Following the dog was Cassie Scallon, Silke Koester, Silke's husband/boyfriend?, and another guy. It was encouraging to some people in such an unanticipated section of the course and since I had talked to Cassie twice before, I hollered, "Hi Cassie!" and then as an afterthought, "I've met you before." Ok, so I'm sure she had forgotten ever meeting me and I felt really stupid. I could have at least said, "I hung out with you at Mt. Werner." At least something to jog her memory, but no.

After that I passed one guy and got passed by two others, but I ran by myself for a long time. Multiple times I thought maybe I had gone off course, just because last year there was no visibility in this sectionand so I had no memories of what it looked like. About a mile from Aid 4 I got passed by a woman on an icy downhill section. She seemed familiar and when I talked to her after the race I realized that I had seen her once at Apex Park. She's the only woman who has every passed me on a downhill there. I take that park seriously:) I tried to hold on to her during the next mile of the race but she was flying.

In the last stretch I was hoping to pick off some more women, but I was only able to pass three more guys. When I saw the last aid station off in the distance I started to push it, forgetting how much uphill there was. From mile 14 to 20 I had started to feel a little pukey, but managed to keep it down. By mile 22 I was feeling a little woozy since I had only been able to put down about 270 calories (3 gels) but I decided that woozy was better than throwing up. I also had to pee, but thought there was no time for that. I realized that this was the first race where I really stayed in race mentality to the finish.

I relished the last mile or so of single track and tried to push hard to the finish. Right before the finish, Matt Trappe caught me. I had seen him near mile 12 and wanted him to catch me sooner so that I could talk to him about how awesome his new film, Running the Edge, was but of course he caught  me right as I was about to burst into sprint mode. No matter how long the race is, I like to sprint it in. So instead I just awkwardly said, "Hey you're Matt Trappe! Great film." And then took off. If you read this, Matt, thanks for not judging me.

All things considered I was happy with my race. I passed more people in the last 13 miles than the number of people who passed me. I finished in 4:52 for a 10 minute PR over last year. I think I was around 22nd place for women. I'm trying not to beat myself up about that. If I had ran my time from this year in last year's field, I would have been 13th. There were a lot of great women racing this year. For example if you take last year's second place finisher and place her in this field, she would have been fourth. If you take third place from last year and put her in this year's race, she would have been 17th! That's a big difference.

In other news... Cory did the half-marathon and got 3rd! He was pretty happy since he's had to cut back on his training while going back to school and still working 35 hpw. His race went smoothly and he finally had a race where he could confidently say that he did his best.

Beautiful day, beautiful trails!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Patagonia Everlong

A few months ago I started trying out a pair of the brand new Patagonia Everlongs. I remember on the day I received them I was lacing up my pair of go-to shoes to head out on a 10-mile trail run when the Fedex man showed up at the door with these flaming beauties. I eagerly put them on and headed out the door.

Ruby slippers

I don't typically run in "minimalist" shoes and so it might have been wiser to start out with a less ambitious run, but these shoes were a surprising happy medium. Maybe it would be good to give you a benchmark of what kind of shoe I usually run in. I like shoes that strive for moderation. I do 90% of my weekly runs on trails and since the ground is cushy I like a firmer midsole in my shoe. I like a shoe with a secure midfoot wrap but a roomy toebox... I don't want my foot to slide around but I need some room for my toes to swell up when I'm running long. My typical shoe has very little arch support and I like a flexible, seamless upper.

That said, I think that most of the reviews on the Everlong to date are put out there by men. Also this shoe was brain-child of Patagonia athlete Jeff Browning - again, a man. So, while this shoe far surpassed my expectations, I would like to put out there that if Patagonia decides to ever tweak anything about this excellent shoe in the future, they should get some more female feedback. Women's shoes are not just smaller men's shoes in prettier colors. Here's the details.

The Story
It's kind of weird to start off a shoe review with the story of how it was developed, but in this case I think that the story is what has made so many people intrigued by this shoe. Patagonia makes great clothing and great lifestyle footwear but they've long had a bad rap in the trail-running community for their running shoes. When I go to races I am quite the shoe nerd, quickly judging people by what's on their feet and I can't remember a time when I've seen anyone wearing a pair of Patagonia kicks. Obviously no one is more aware of this than the company itself and they sought out advice from one of their athletes, 100-mile specialist Jeff Browning, to come up with a shoe that would kick start their edge in the growing trail-running industry.

Jeff worked closely with Patagonia designers to come up with a shoe that had a racing-flat feel but could withstand the rigors of a 100-mile race. He wanted the bare minimum of what his feet would require and nothing extra. While wearing these bad boys he had some outstanding performances. Clearly Patagonia had done something right. Jeff Browning had his dream shoe, but would it be a shoe that would appeal to masses?

The Details
Let's work from the bottom up. The outsole of this shoe is one of it's most unique components. Instead of having a traditional outsole with lugs protruding from it, there are outsole "pods" that come out directly from the EVA foam. This provides great grip while saving the shoe lots of weight. This shoe performs exceedingly well on slick rock and hard pack. I do a good number of runs on rocky, pebbly terrain and, though I was initially worried about feeling the rocks through the foam, I've yet to have a bad experience. I definitely run more nimbly to avoid sharp rocks, but the reality is that during a long race you probably don't want to crash down gnarly hills anyway. This shoe gives you protection while keeping you on your toes. In addition, the shoe performed better than expected in mud and because of the lack of grooves and lugs, mud was less likely to cling to the shoe.
Red outsole pods, black foam.

Now on to the midsole. The EVA foam provides a very soft ride. I loved the stripped down nature of the midsole and it is easier to characterize it by what it DOESN'T have. No noticeable arch. No cumbersome rock plate. No unnessecary stability features. It boasts a 4mm drop, making it perfect for people striving to get away from the 12mm drop of the shoes of yesteryear but not ready for the zero drop of today's newest trending shoes. The amount of foam distinguishes it from a true minimal shoe, making it more accessible to people that want to feel a connection with the ground without the pain and transition period that comes with running "barefoot." The wide and stable platform made me feel very comfortable on technical terrain.

Last but not least, the upper is one of my favorite parts about this shoe. No bothersome seams to give you blisters. The tongue actually stays in place. The mesh is breathable without letting too much grit in. My one complaint is the fit in the heel. I've read a lot of reviews by men who think that the heel fit is great so here's where I'm thinking that women require something different. I found the heel to be too roomy and the fit to be a little stiff in the back. Fortunately the mid-foot wrap on this shoe fits like a glove and so there isn't much sliding or sloppiness.

Overall Impressions
I absolutely love this shoe. It's light and fast. It's eye-catching. It's everything an average runner would need and nothing more.

Bottomline: If you want to try out a "minimalist" shoe but you don't want to go through the fuss of transitioning your legs and building your mileage to get used to it, then THIS IS YOUR SHOE! Just hop right in and your legs will feel fine. 

Don't be scared off by the fact this shoe was made for a guy who wins 100 mile races. This shoe is for the everyman.