Sunday, August 30, 2009

Down By The Water

The saga continues . . .

I've run on a lot of beaches and generally enjoy them very much. The shore is such an amazing place, a liminal place filled with violence and also tranquility. I love the beach, the way the trees grow because of the wind and the dune grasses. Mostly I love the beach because it is a step away from reality for me. I decided to make the most of an opportunity to do some beach running.

Why beach running? Aside from a nice getaway, running on the beach makes your muscles work (hard) while lessening the impact of your footfalls with the result that you can do distance more easily.  Besides, pick the right beach and it is sure pretty.

After returning from my 18-miler on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail I hurriedly packed, ate, walked the dog, and got a ride back to AR to load into the van for the drive out to Ocean Shores. I was tired and it seemed that every time I ate something my body's low fuel alarms would go off after five minutes (yes, I have them, they sound like General Quarters alarms). We were scheduled to leave at 2:00 and so I got a pastry and coffee from Starbucks (it'll do in a pinch).

Spent most of the drive fast asleep in the far back seat of the van. I really needed the kip after the run in the morning and also my general lack of sleep the night before. This went on for 85 miles when I felt the van stop and then heard the back doors open. Bestirring myself and rubbing the sleep from my eyes I discovered we were in McCleary, about 85 miles out from Seattle. Why?

E, an AR client, was going to be riding her bike to as close as she could get to Ocean Shores. While Coach T got her ready I walked into a fresh fruit stand where I bought three not-quite-ripe pears for one dollar and three not-quite-ripe nectarines, also for one dollar.

I had thought we would be heading straight to Ocean Shores and that I would have time to get another 3-miler in to get me up to the 20 I was supposed to run but things did not turn out as planned. Instead, Coach T and I marked the turns for E for the 28 miles between McCleary and Aberdeen. Let's just say that I got a little "speed work" in as Coach would pull over and I would jump out with a chalk bottle and put directional arrows and then run back to the van. I've not spent much time out on this part of the Olympic Peninsula and so this proved to be a nice way of actually seeing things. A nice tour through Elma, Satsop, Montesano, Grays Harbor, Cosmopolis, Aberdeen, and Hoquiam. All places I have read about in the news but had never seen. It was nice to see.

Things got a bit complicated in Aberdeen where the 101 splits and kinks all over the place. We directed E off the bridge over the Chehalis River and went down into the city to mark the rest of the course. We found where she was to come out and I ran out to mark an arrow. A homeless person, who was standing at the bottom of the off-ramp with a sign, gave me the funniest look as I ran past her up the sidewalk a ways, set down an arrow, and then ran back down towards her. I stopped and gave her a few dollars and a smile and then crossed the street and continued marking a rather complicated turn. I now can say that I have run in Aberdeen, WA (albeit for a few minutes) and had the chance to see some of the interesting public art on the sidewalks before we were off to mark more complicated turns. This was fun, but I ended up getting covered in green chalk and flour.

Things being as they are, both Coach T and I had to pee so we stopped at the MacDonalds on Sumner. This was about 1800 and I was getting hungry (again) so it was cheeseburger to the rescue. Then we sat and waited for E to check in and for the rest of our traveling party to catch up before heading on. 25 more miles to go to Ocean Shores, a very pretty drive during which I was excited to see the shore and to smell the sharp scent of brine in the air. Not sure when we pulled into Chalet Village,  our abode for the night. I ended up in #3, a fairly small place but comfortable half of an A frame. Shared with PT and her DH. One bed! Uh Oh? Guess who got the couch. :-P

Dinner at Mariah's, the highpoint being an excellent class of Syrah (yes actually) and the lovely Tiki heads at the front door. As hungry as I was, I could barely finish my dinner (a theme for this entire weekend I am afraid). It took a while to get our food as they had a large party. It was OK. I had a salad, a chicken strip burger thing (turned out to be batter fried), and fries that came late in the meal (couldn't finish them).

You have to love Tiki  (right?).

Late night shopping trip in a Toyota FJ. I'd never driven one and, frankly, not sure I rather enjoyed it much because of the restricted vision. I felt like I was driving a pill box around by looking out through the machine gun slits.

Then to bed for an early start.

Ah, bed. Couch is too small. Hmm. Is there an extra blanket up there? No, but here is a bag of bedding and an extra pillow. I made a burrito out of the sheets and stretched out on the floor in front of the fireplace.

Slept alright but 5:45 came very early. 58 degrees, overcast, with a fairly stiff wind coming out of the NNW. We would be running down coast from Copalis Beach to Point Brown, a distance of 13 miles. 13 Miles! Yippee! I could get in the three that I missed from yesterday. Breakfast? A yogurt, couple of swallows of juice, and some nibbles off a blueberry muffin. I simply could not get myself to eat. Loaded into Godzilla and off we went to the north.

I was the first runner to start not because I am special but because I was the slowest. :-P Just before 0730 my Garmin acquired its birds, I punched the start button, and started down towards the tide-line where the sand would be firmer and then headed down coast.

Running on the beach was eerie. There were some people out but not many as it was still early. What made it eerie was that it was such a gray morning: gray seas, skies, horizon, and even birds. Aside from the sand, which was the usual brown and tan, everything was some shade of gray and it was all moving. The surf is the most obvious. Less obvious were the birds, especially the Sand Pipers whose movements I would first sense before actually understand what I was seeing. And then there was the sand which, though it was not perceptibly moving, looked like it was because of all the sculpting do on it by wind, water, footfalls, and car tires. Large buildings on the horizon looked like they were out to sea when, in fact, they were actually a good deal inland. Still I started enjoying all this variation once I got warmed up. Having the wind at my back was also nice as I could feel its gentle push speeding me along. It was hot though and, obviously,  humid and in short order I was both dripping wet and hellishly thirsty.

And then I decided to push it a bit.

Yesterday's run was something of a disappointment to me because I just didn't seem to be able to run as fast as I wanted to. I know! I know! It was mostly uphill, etc. but still. Once I loosened up on the beach I just decided to set a goal that I could meet by pushing a bit but without going all out. Could I  run six miles under an hour (something I used to be able to do with some regularity but not recently)? It looked like I could and so I went. 58:21! OK. I did that. Second goal. Can I run 12 miles in under 2 hours? Yup! 1:55:57. Still some pep in the old legs!

By mile 11 the tide was coming in forcing me to run on softer sand which slowed me down.

Finished the run trotting alongside Coach T and chatting for a total time of 2:07:29, not too far off from my Nookachamps time, my last half marathon (2:05 or so). It was great!

I did stop every once in a while to look at the birds. It has been a while since I've actually seen large groups of Brown Pelicans but the birds were much in evidence today, mingling in with the Seagulls of every sort and spooking first as I came along. Lots of Sand Pipers and other tiny shore birds. I did see something that looked for all the world like a Penguin. It was black and white and had short stubby wings but it was also standing like a Cormorant does, airing out its wings. Haven't been able to figure out what it was but I've some bird books and a friend who birds to consult.

Ran through some beached algae. That was a mistake as it glued itself onto my shoes and soon I was carrying half-an-inch of algae and sand with each step. Had to stop, sit on a log, remove shoe, beat vigorously on tree trunk, replace shoe, repeat with other shoe. The algae was a lot more pleasant than the Pomegranate-Blueberry Gu Roctane as recovery fuel.  I got this as a freebie during the Seattle Rock 'N Roll Marathon. Can I say "BLECH!" loudly enough? What were they thinking?

I cannot wait to do this again! The running part I mean  . . .

Back to the Chalet, shower, breakfast at Our Place. Reasonably priced with really good blueberry pancakes, couple of eggs, and some bacon with coffee and grapefruit juice. The ambiance is definitely interesting (check out the "For Sale" sign in the door). Again, I couldn't finish my meal.

Slept most of the way home and was pleasantly surprised to wake up and see the trees of Ravenna Boulevard going past.

What a great weekend although it feels a bit unreal.

Reality, I am sure, will set in tomorrow.

Oh, that small couch? It converts into a sofa-bed. I suspect that I slept better on the floor than I would have on such a contraption.

And, one more thing 

Greetings from Ocean Shores!

That First Step

It was hard to make my right foot take that first step.

6:25 AM on Saturday morning found me standing up on the old railroad bridge at the Meadowbrook Trail Head of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. It was very gray, almost depressing, and ahead of me was a planned 20-mile run—10 miles up and 10 miles down. The first 5 miles are fairly flat and then its a 1 to 2 percent grade up to Rattlesnake Lake. I've done this run quite a few times so I know what to expect and decided to start running a little earlier so that I could get home in time to pack for an overnight trip out to Ocean Shores.

I stood there, feeling every one of the 16 miles I had run the three days previous and the hard fought 43 miles from last week that forced me to to take two days off. Waking up at 3:30 didn't help either. It was chilly and misty with a forecast for rain (it had been raining in Seattle as I drove out). I just stood there. My right foot didn't want to move and had, evidently, been discussing the matter the left one because it didn't want to move either. I felt rooted like a tree. A tree getting rapidly soaked in the mist.

So I willed my foot to take that first, tenuous step and then willed the left and off I went, very slowly, with my pack sloshing around, my glasses fogging from the chill and the heat trapped under the brim of my hat. I was going so slowly I could read the signs for the Mount Si Golf Course (golf course property for the next 1000 yards, proceed at your own risk) and got a good look at the early morning duffers. 1000 yards. Wow, I finally have a physical representation of what that actually looks like.

Trotting along I see a duffer off to my left. There is high net on either side of the trail and he is mucking with his ball next to the net. He is wearing blue. I keep going and then hear a "whoosh SMACK" as his ball smacks into the net about five feet above me. He seems a talented fellow, much like this guy. :-P A few yards down from the scene of this near-beaning there is a huge hole torn in the net and I wonder what happened. Did someone drive a golf cart through it?  Then I am clear. I've run 1000 yards. Only 34200.32 yards left to go.

There is no one around now and it is getting grayer and mistier. There is Black Bear Scat all over the trail (why is it called "scat") which means that there are bears around. It is early enough for other creatures of the forests to be out and about too. Secretly, I am hoping for the thrill of seeing something but am afraid that I am making too much noise.

At about 50 minutes, just before 5 miles (geez I am going slow), the skies just open up and I am quickly soaked to the bone. It just keeps raining, harder at times. The sound that the rain makes hitting the tree canopy makes a soft background to the crunch, crunch of my shoes. And then I see something as I approach the I-90. A whole family of Elk grazing on the bushes under the road. I slow down even more and get my phone out to take a picture. They are obviously nervous at my approach (wouldn't you be if some guy wearing a Rave Green Sounders jersey and a red and gray backpack came trotting in your direction?). There are at least four young Elk and two older ones (females) and they move away as I stand there photographing them. Eventually, they head under the freeway and off into the woods to the East. I keep going along, looking at all the houses huddled along the river and close-by the freeway. It is still early enough and I haven't seen anyone yet, nor can I smell the usual breakfast smells.

At this point the trail starts a gradual and constant climb that will continue all the way up to Rattlesnake Lake. A couple of years ago I ran down from the lake during the Mt. Si Relay. It was a hot and dry day and that made for the hardest 7.x miles I think I've ever done. My thoughts wandered, thinking about that day and also about watching those runners whose assigned legs were to climb this grade at speed. 1 to 2 percent doesn't sound hard but over time it just thrashes your legs. It started raining again, harder, and soon the rush of the freeway was replaced with the soothing noise of the river below. It is funny how easy it is to confuse the two.

I saw a dog! And another one! They both came to say hello and I greeted their humans too as we passed each other. A brief encounter but a welcome one. Watching dogs play out in the woods is one of my favorite things. They are in their element and there is no dissembling—the joy they exhibit genuinely comes from deep within their doggish essences. Passed a sign in someone's yard, "Invisible Fence + Honorable Dog = No Worries", and I knew that the Rattlesnake trail head, and my turn around, was fairly close. Only a couple more miles. The rain had let up but it was so fogged in that you could never guess that Rattlesnake Ridge was just above.

D was up chalking the course for the rest of the AR runners and I saw him as I reached the toilets. Stopped and chatted with him for a bit and then went off to add a little distance to make 10 miles before heading down. Followed a road that I was not supposed to and ended up in a place I was not supposed to be, at least that much was obvious given the signs that were posted everywhere. Got back to the parking lot and Coach T was there. Running 10 back down the way I had just come was not something I wanted to do so he suggested that I add on the 3-mile Christmas Lake Loop (I call it the Boxley Loop) and then head down to the five and call it 18. Sounded like a good plan and off I went. D caught up with me and we felt the course out. Running single track, even with rubbery legs on slippery rocks and grass, was a welcome change after the long trudge I had just done. The "Tunnel" section was, D remarked, even more tunnel-like because the rain was weighing down the bushes (this section runs down and then up through some sort of berry patch). My clothes were beginning to dry when I started, or at least they were not getting any wetter as the rain had stopped, but I got soaked again on the loop. Had to walk some of the slippery parts too. My legs are impressively scratched up from this escapade.

Reaching the parking lot there are more AR runners coming in and standing with Coach T. Nobody else was going to run Boxely. I trotted down, ran around, and then headed down the Snoqualmie Trail. I didn't recognize many of these folks. PT has a funny story about a conversation she had with one of them but I'll let her relate it if she has a mind to. And then I was alone again. Down 5 miles. I can do that. Sure.

It was hard. My reluctant legs wanted to stop but I forced them to go on (didn't really have a choice) and pretty soon I was under the freeway and to the pick-up point. This time the houses were all awake and dogs made sure that I was aware of their territory as I passed. The sounds of the river faded, replaced by the rush of the freeway. I spotted another couple waiting at the pick-up, one ran 15 and the other biked along, and it took a bit for me to remember how to talk. She is also training for Portland. We compared notes but mostly just got colder and colder as we waited. It wasn't raining. 

A little disappointing not to get 20 in but given the exertions of the past couple of weeks 18 is a significant accomplishment and my next long training run will be all the more easy for this run. Especially if I can make a go of the 10 miles on the beach tomorrow morning.

I seem to be having a lot of these mentally challenging runs lately. The kind where the mind just starts questioning what the body can do and is actually doing. Yep, that first step is often the hardest one . . . probably about as hard as the very last one.

Repost: Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants

Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants
Published: August 30, 2009
Upstart companies are challenging the running-shoe status quo with thin-sole designs meant to combine the benefits of going barefoot with a layer of protection.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Increasing Knee Stability

New York Times

Increasing Knee Stability
Published: 09
Athletic trainers Gene Schafer and Jason D'Amelio demonstrate four exercises that can help provide stability to the knee joint.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Pause

I am sure you have experienced that moment between when something ends and when something else begins. That moment where you drag yourself exhausted from one task and get on with the business of renewing for the next. Sort of like that E-Flat Major Chord that opens Das Rheingold, stillness leading to undulating action and then . . .

That is where I am today. In honor of the "Dog Days of August" here are a few random things:

I put Summer Quarter 2009 to bed in a marathon grading session that lasted from Friday a week ago to this past Sunday. The UW has finally gotten web-grading going and so at 5:45 PM I submitted my grades and sent out my farewell email. It was a fun quarter with strong students, a strength that I fear I will miss when I return to The Learning Factory in Mid-September. And thus begins three weeks of blessed rootlessness (even my yoga class is on hiatus) in which much will be done (course prep, travel, reading, house work, and running). It felt so good to just hang around the house yesterday, sitting outside in the sun reading with the dog snoozing at my side.

Religious critics, some of them at least, finally see the religious imagery in Harry Potter! Me? the last film really kinda bored me.

Today was a downtown day for me and I FINALLY rode the Link Light Rail down to Othello and back. Nice and smooth and it accelerates quite fast for a train. The new stations are really cool with interesting art and design. Seats on the train were a might uncomfortable though, probably intentionally. I can't wait for the line to open all the way to SeaTac. For that matter, it will be really cool when the U-District Line is done and also the line up to Everett, via Edmonds and Lynnwood—"Bike+Train+Bike = MyCommute". Some very strange conversations on the train including a woman to apologized to a 5 or 6 year old girl for yelping in surprise. "I am under a lot of pressure" she said, to a little kid?

Café Pho is quite tasty. Today's lunch (with PT) was a Spicy Pork Vietnamese Sandwich (yum) and salad (Iceberg?)

Summer must be winding down. Pike Place Market (downtown in general) didn't seem as crowded this afternoon. Made it all the more easy to get my Beecher's cheese (I know, I know, you can buy it in the stores but there is something about going to the source) and my baguette from Le Panier.

My legs are feeling quite fragile after a week of very hard trail running. Spider Meadow (16.25) two weeks ago, Cedar Butte (6.44) , Cedar Butte + Rattlesnake Ridge to Snoqualmie Point (15), followed by a 10.75 miler in town. Let's see. I've been running trails all spring and summer and haven't fallen yet, even during trail races. It took a simple run from home around Green Lake for me to catch a foot on a rock and crash to the ground scraping and bruising both knees and slicing open my left shoulder. Must have been something to see. I would ask the 6 runners who went past me as I was trying to sort myself out but not one of them even asked if I was alright. Sheesh! Toughed it out for another 7 miles came home and slept. Taking two days off too because of this crash, even skipped a pretty cool trail run this evening (it is killing me).

Everywhere I go I hear snippets of conversation about the upcoming Mayor's race. Mostly it is about how sorry people are that Nickels didn't make the general election. Perhaps instead of running an attack campaign he should have expanded upon his concession speech? I am just sayin! It is possible I just hang around in the wrong places but this is what you get when 31% of the people vote and they are pissed off about snowstorms, tunnels, and math. It is getting complicated too. I get the sense that neither of the two candidates who's names start with M know much about running a city (some interesting analysis of the election here).

Jay Winik's April 1864: The Month That Saved America is a riveting read, and one that I'll be able to finish. I can't help but wondering, though, if some of the same schisms Winik discusses remain and that they are manifesting themselves (I skipped to the end and, no, he is not so bold as to draw out the mystic chords of memory).

Seattle Opera's third cycle of the Ring begins this evening. My DW is going and I'll see very little of her this week. I couldn't quite bring myself to sit in the theater this year and am enjoying watching The Met's 1990 production. Best seat in the house with easy access to the bathroom, my couch. I can even eat popcorn (not that I have any on hand).

Berry season is winding down now and I miss them already. Not that I didn't gorge myself until thoroughly sick. Next summer seems so far away.

Here is something to look forward to: "Swine Flu to hit 50% of us?" Could be? May be? Might be? Wait, this is a conspiracy to get socialized medicine, right, now I get it. Wash your hands folks. This fall at TLF is going to be interesting given the unhealthy behaviors of so many of my students. "Sleep, what's that? I can make do with two cans of Full Throttle per hour . . ."

Getting a little tired of spammers on your Twitter feed? Meet Twitblock.

Professor Fish has some interesting things to say about how to teach writing which, though I don't directly do this, I tend to agree with. All you Comp instructors out there, feel free to agree or disagree, just make sure that your charges get to me able to put more than six words together, cogently.

I am living in a nation at war but you wouldn't really know it because, aside from the almost daily casualty reports mentioned in passing, Americans seem to have stopped talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a problem. What are the consequences for a democratic society in which a majority of the population gets used to the "low grade" headache of constant conflict? A really depressing prospect but at least someone is actually thinking about this.

It is pretty amazing how many people are searching for Iskiate and landing here. McDougall's Born to Run has gone global. Speaking of which, anyone catch him on The Daily Show? Apparently, Jon Stewart is . . . not a runner.

Portland is just over the horizon and the reality that my next marathon is on the way is really sinking in. Up to 40-ish miles a week now. Tired but happy.

Yes, tired but happy in this pause before the next thing . . .

I can't wait!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The plan?

Run a modified Cedar Butte Loop (roughly 5 miles) and then head up Rattlesnake to the Ledge and then out to Snoqualmie Point (roughly 10.5 miles). I needed to be ready to start the second part of the run with the AR group at 7:15 AM and, since it took me about 1.5 hours to run the CB Loop this past Tuesday, I had to start running no later than 5:45 am and THAT MEANT I had to leave my house to drive out just after 4:30 AM. Dedication or foolhardiness? You decide.

Got up at 4 and was out the door just after 4:30. It was so dark out there but the further east I went I could see that the sky was lightening up. It was still darkish when I pulled into the parking lot at Rattlesnake though. Quick bathroom stop, strapped a lamp to my head, and I was off on the first part of my run. This went so much better than Tuesday. I still walked the really steep parts (kind of a theme for the day actually) and had to be careful because of the dark. Skipped the summit climb and also the traverse back through the berry patch tunnel and ended up with 4.83, a little less than I thought it would be. The forest was waking up around me. Birds were starting to stir and I could hear things moving around in the bushes (mostly birds). Some heavy things moving through the brush too but I tried not to think too much about that. Took me just about an hour to run this section and I was having fun, thinking about the main section of the run and trying not to crash on the rocks or trip on the roots (also kind of a theme for me today).

Got back to the parking lot just before 7 to join my group, get my running pack, and grab a snack. Got pretty cold just standing around waiting for my release time. Coach finally let me go at about 7:20 and off I trotted for the first significant climb of the day, 2 miles up to Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail up is really a series of giant switchbacks that get steeper and more challenging as you go along. I tried running but was pretty tired already and ended up fast walking (pretty fast though if my splits are anything to write home about but I didn't know that then). Took the time to actually see the Ledge and take some pictures. It was pretty cloudy up there but the view was still spectacular (not as neat as Spider Meadow but still). Mt. Si was covered in clouds with an occasional sunbeam coming through. Very pretty. A long way up, easy to fall.

The next two miles were similarly challenging because of their steepness and I quickly lost contact with the group of runners ahead of me. All the chatter from the lead group also died away and I was (characteristically) alone. Stopped every once in a while to enjoy the view and have a snack (PT pressed one of her homemade energy bars into my hands as she went past the Ridge, yummy!).

I would say that this, the climb to the highest point, was the real low point of this run for me. I trotted when I could but basically slogged it out and didn't feel much like a runner. A fast hiker maybe but not a runner. I think my spirits were pretty low, especially since there was more climbing to do and it was hard even to trot. I started thinking that I really didn't need this today, how the Hell was I going to get 18 miles (I wasn't), and if I couldn't hack this how could I ever think of running a longer trail run. Doubt became my running companion, and an unwelcome one at that. Still I knew that some 6 miles of pretty spectacular downhill was coming and that, and the fact that I knew I could finish, kept me going. Stopping to eat and take pictures helped too.

The downhill was amazing, but (there are always "buts" on this day) I really need to relearn my downhilling technique. This was a hard pounding the whole way down. Of course, the course is unrelenting too. There were sections where I could really run though and that perked me up so much. Started catching other runners too. L with about 4 miles to go, then S with about 3 to go. I love the wooded section from the summit on down to the power lines. The trail from the power lines down is interesting but also exposed and I was just wanting to get it over with at that point. So many hikers coming up too, many with dogs and, of course, I had to stop and say "Hi" and wish that I had brought J (she would have loved it). Went past a family coming up and one of the kids reacted to her mother's warning that I was coming with "Is he a robber Mommy?" Daddy said "No, I don't think so." Another little kid was carrying a stick like a spear and almost impaled me as I went past (that would have been a fun story wouldn't it have?) Also ran into a couple of guys that had hiked up to the ledge and were now going up from the other side. "Trying it from the other end" I said as I went down past them. The lower section sure has grown since I was last there. There had been a fire a few years before, still much in evidence today but less so. It was nice to run the flats during the last mile or two, squirrely little fun single tracks. I was amazed at how steep that descent really is and would hate to hike up it.

The run ended too abruptly. The parking lot just appeared (boy have they done some work out there). I did a circuit of the lot, got sniffed by a miniature schnauzer whose owner told me was harmless (no dog is actually) and merely a nuisance and then I was done.

The car ride back to the lake was interesting, my knee was screaming because I was crammed into the back seat. Took some Advil when I got into my car and it helped. The drive home was interesting. My eyes kept on looking at the ridge that I had just run. My! What a long distance. Amazing.

Couldn't go soak in the lake because of the Dragon Boat Festival. There was no legal parking close to the lake and the city was out ticketing. So I went home, showered, ate, and then fell asleep for a couple of hours.

What a day!

Almost 8000 feet of climbing.

But the question is "Is this the best way to train for a marathon?"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blood Sweat and Words

I have never liked to suggest that writing is grinding, let alone brave work. H. L. Mencken used to say that any scribbler who found writing too arduous ought to take a week off to work on an assembly line, where he will discover what work is really like. The old boy, as they say, got that right. To be able to sit home and put words together in what one hopes are charming or otherwise striking sentences is, no matter how much tussle may be involved, lucky work, a privileged job. The only true grit connected with it ought to arrive when, thinking to complain about how hard it is to write, one is smart enough to shut up and silently grit one’s teeth.
--- Joseph Epstein, "Blood, Sweat, and Words"

Every once in a while one of my colleagues pops off in a division meeting or a hallway conversation about how hard it the academic life actually is. All the grading and dealing with lazy and recalcitrant students. Epstein, via Mencken, sets that argument to rights. For all of the wearying aspects of the academic workplace is truly is "lucky work" and I remember that every time things get tough.

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spider Meadows Run

Pretty amazing day! The pictures really don't do the scenery or the experience justice.

This day started early, really early. Four AM early to be exact. Four AM to get up rattle around, eating, doing final preparations, and then getting out to get the AR van for the drive out to the Phelps Creek Trailhead for a 16-mile round trip run up to Spider Meadow and thence to Spider Gap. I had not slept so well in anticipation of this run. I missed last year's outing (an exciting one that involved a precipitous descent of a glacier in front of a thunder storm) and was completely wired. Seven of us were going up (and then coming down).

The trailhead is at about 3500 feet, only about 3000 feet higher than what I am used to, and it was a bit cold when we arrived. What can I say? I got out of the van, looked up, and my mouth dropped open, at how spectacular the surrounding ridges looked in the morning sun (my mouth spent most of the day open in wonderment and effort). I put on my second shirt. Took the time to sign the trailhead book too. Tested my camera and found that it was taking pictures strangely so opted to leave it in the van and rely on my iPhone camera. Someone joked about the bright orange shirt I had on. I responded that it was my "spot me for helicopter rescue" shirt (also known as my "Don't run into me while I am running along the side of the road" shirt). We were so far out that none of our cell phones had signals and I was thinking about radios at that point. Had a hard time waiting for my time to go and took off at about 8:53.

The first five or so miles was through forest on a track that trends up with easy climbing and descents punctuated by numerous stream crossings (some wide and others easily to leap over). The track is littered with really interesting rocks. The further along I went the more they began to look blue. Literally blue (I have one that I carried out). I didn't get a mile before it was too hot and I stopped to take off my long-sleeved shirt. It was so quiet and isolated out there. Isolated save to the occasional backpacker and the swarms of black flies that covered me every time I stopped. Side trails led to campsites, some occupied, others not. Breathing was pretty hard and my heart was racing and I hoped that things would calm down.

On a particularly narrow part of the trail I ran up behind a backpacker walking along listening to music on his iPod. He moved over to let me pass and I stopped to chat a little. Everyone I saw on this day was in a cheerful mood with a ready smile and hearty greeting (everyone except the sullen teenager out with his Dad and his Dad's buddies who didn't want his picture taken while crossing a stream, even he seemed concerned about impeding my progress). This guy was going to spend a few days out somewhere near Phelps Basin if I remember what he said correctly. I commented on how pretty it was out in this section of the forest and he said "Wait until it opens up into the meadow!" He wished me well and off I went. Got back on track after digging a 6" hole as Coach went past me going very strongly and steadily. I got the nagging sense that I was now DFL in the group but, what the heck, it was a straight shot out and back AND I was poking along just enjoying the wild flowers, the water, and the various amazing decayed and carved Cedar stumps.

Approaching Spider Meadow I could begin to see the western ridge that overlooks it and then, while distracted by the sounds of children yelling and various cooking smells, I stepped into the Meadow.

It was like the sky just opened up. Slightly overcast but the sun was burning through and beginning to brighten things, a real contrast from the forest from which I emerged. The path through the meadow was deep, narrow, rooted, rocked and obscured in many spots by a thick growth of rather tough-looking grass, still wet with the morning dew. Broken branches and scattered rocks and boulders testified to avalanche damage from this past year. Birds were chirping, black flies were buzzing around, butterflies were floating, and I could hear the clicking of grasshoppers as I set off up (yes "up") the meadow towards Spider Gap. Ahead I could see groups of hikers making their way up the hills. Around mile six I passed three hikers and exchanged pleasantries. Just after that I came to a junction where the trail splits going up to Spider Gap and down to Phelps Basin. There was a camp to my left with a guy tidying his camp in preparation for the day's hiking. Here is where I discovered the limitations with my Garmin 305.

I had been navigating using a preloaded course. The sign was a little obscure with an arrow pointing left for Spider Gap and Lyman Glacier and another right for Phelps Basin. I looked at the track on my watch. Went right. Got to a fairly big stream crossing and then the watch told me I was off-course. Backtracked to the sign. Went left, past the campsite, and into the woods. The track ended and my watch beeped at me again. Hmm. Went back to the sign. Ran up the track straight ahead. The watch beeped again. Head scratch. No other tracks. Got out my phone and pulled up the topo map I had loaded on it. I was looking at it when the group of hikers I had just past caught up with me. They asked if I had been here before and which was the correct trail. I said I hadn't and was trying to puzzle it out as well. They had a map, a real one, and we figured that it was the trail straight in front (shown on the sign as to the left). I confirmed with the guy making camp who said that it was the right trail and that it would take us up and around Spider Nob. Thus began the second most challenging part of this run. Two miles to Spider Gap, a mental and physical test from 5000-odd feet to almost 7000 feet.

I started the ascent by running up a very steep hill that eventually curved around to the left. The track emerged from the woods onto a steep rock face that towered above me, with a band of bushes, and a jumbled rock field on my right.
On my left was a fairly precipitous slope that dropped away, getting steeper the higher I went. The track itself changed from the nice dirt and loam of the forest to loose rock punctuated by boulders that reminded me of my run up and over Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale. For me this meant paying very close attention to where I put my feet because, as I would later explain to Dave as he passed me coming down, my feet really are quite clumsy and prone to catching on random protrusions. Problem on this sort of track is that a misstep or catch could send me rolling down a really steep hillside. I walked. A fast walk to be sure, but a walk none-the-less, up a unrelenting set of switchbacks, climbing ever-higher while the valley receded into miniature. Coming down was going to interesting, it is always easier to go up than to come down. Mental challenge number one: overcoming the fear of falling off the trail and trusting my instincts and skills.

Walking up a particularly steep section of switch back I heard my name echoing and stopped to locate the source. There, up a few hundred feet, looking like he was balancing on the edge of a cliff was Dave telling me what to do once I got to the top ("Go left onto the glacier." "There are arrows."). I asked if I was the Tail-End and he said "Yes" and turned to go. I continued climbing and came to a flat slightly downhill section that took me to the foot of Spider Glacier.

From Spider Meadows Run

As you can see the scale of this scene is gigantic, at least in my limited experience of such things. I understand that in years past the glacier was much bigger but I still had to stop and say "Wow!" as this is the closest I have been to one of these.

Sure enough, there were arrows scraped into the snow and I dutifully followed them down onto the face of the glacier and began the long, slippery slog up to the top at Spider Gap. I was warm/comfortable despite the fact that I was walking on an field of snow and ice and there was sharp breeze blowing. I could see a long scraggly line of hikers going up the field, occasionally slipping and sliding as the slope increased. There were rocks all over the place and other debris and this very interesting red ice (the result of algae). It took me about a minute of sliding around to remember to cut into the snow with the inside edges of my shoes and, with periodic slipping, I duck walked my way all the way to the top.

This was a long way. Almost two miles and rather steep with sun-cups, exposed rocks, branches, etc.. Enter Mental Challenge #2: The fear of sliding out of control down without an ability to arrest the slide. Yep, I read about this in a mountaineering book some years ago, a description of the death of a climbing partner who just slid into oblivion off of Everest or K2 (don't remember which). I might not go sliding into oblivion but could get really banged up. Had a little preview of this a little later while mucking about on Lyman Trail.

Can I saw "Wow!" again?
From Spider Meadows Run

This is the view from Spider Gap down towards the Lyman Glacier (off on the left).

PT and I got to go off down the trail for about 20-minutes and see what we could see, to take pictures, and otherwise marvel. Coach joined us as well. Took the time to eat some trail mix, rejuvenating. It was so quiet—just the wind, marmot whistles, and rocks falling amidst a violent landscape. Lyman Glacier was just hanging there, a long ice trickle reaching down into the valley, feeding the azure lakes below. I could have stood there looking at this for hours but weather was coming in, a finger of cloud was slowly making its way through a gap and the sun, which had been making enough of an appearance to bake my face, was losing to the overcast. It was time to go. I was glad to have had as much time up there as I did (others in our group had less time).

As predicted, the descent was an interesting challenge. What is the best way to descend a snow field on a glacier? Ram your heels into the snow as hard as you can. If you slip and start sliding flip over onto your belly and dig your hands in as hard as you can. Such was coach's advice. It took a while but I made it without falling too many times or sliding out of control until I got to the foot. Dave passed me (he seemed to be skimming the surface) and I next saw him lounging at Spider Nob drinking tea (or rather water in which the tea bag had broken). I met the backpacker and the family with whom I have consulted with earlier, still on the way up towards the Gap. The father said that I must really be in shape to have made it up here so fast (he had been stopping at every switchback). I guess I am. :-) Talked a bit about the weather and then noticed that the dad was wearing basketball shoes (I thought trail running shoes were bad enough but, yikes!). Hope they made it.

Got to the Nob needing to rest my knees a bit so I explored some of the campsites out on the Nob. Windy, cold, but very spectacular views. Then it was time to revisit Mental Challenge Number 1. Took my time going down the steep sections. Dave passed me on the way down and stopped to chat a bit. Again, I was impressed with the lightness of his approach to the trail, he was running what I really could only imagine walking carefully. I watched him and then started to emulate his style—running more up on my toes with very quick feet that react rapidly to the changing conditions. It worked and I finally understand in a tactile sense Scott M's pre-race discussion of running at every Cougar Trail Race. I kept this up all the way down into the Meadow.

5.5 miles to go.

The trail was more crowded now and I was either stepping off the trail for backpackers or being allowed to go through while others moved aside. I was amazed at how many people were actually heading up into the meadow to points beyond (judging from the number of cars at the trailhead in the morning this should not have been a surprise). Lost count of how many times I was asked what I was training for and how far I had run.

I was tired but focused on form (ala Miller's Programmed to Run) in the places were I could settle into a steady gait to help keep myself going. At this point my watch kept on losing its signal. Coach had said that the last mile of this run is the worst because you just want it to be over. Can't say that that was what I was feeling. I was thinking that I had found an out-and-back run that I would happily do again. My watch was stuck at 1.67 miles to the finish. I turned a corner to the left, crossed a stream, went up for about 25 yards and saw the gate. Done!

Signed out and trotted down to the van to stretch, eat, change, and wait for the rest of our group to come in. Then, after an endless ride on a dusty road, dinner at the Squirrel Tree Restaurant in Coles Corner. A hamburger, fries, and salad well earned. Then, another endless ride home, a long day that ended at 9:30 PM.

Garmin Entry: (this is all screwed up)

Time: I am reckoning on 04:56:00 total time out there.

Amazing day. :-)

Next up? Rattlesnake . . .

Monday, August 10, 2009

Update: More On The Free & Iskiate

12/04/09 Pinole and Iskiate Recipes

Compliments of the gorging season folks.

Matt at has a Pinole and Chia Fresca recipe and discussion—

8/23/09 Quick Updates
Adjusting to them well and am moving into slightly longer runs. Ankles and calves are no tired anymore (yoga balancing poses help with develop this area as does balancing with one's eyes closed whilst brushing one's teeth).
One thing of note. The soles of the Frees pick up and hold stones and this changes the way the shoe interacts with your foot and the ground. Sometimes the stones come out on their own, otherwise I've had to stop and dig them out if they become bothersome. A little slippery on wet surfaces too. Wonder what it will be like running in them in the winter here.

8/10/09 Quick Updates
Bought some Nike Free 5's the other week and have been slowly breaking them in (or is it breaking me in?). Coach's advice is to ease into them over a period of weeks with the mileage no more than 10% of total. Sound advice (he is working in a pair too). I spoke with another runner, a real cheetah blessed with a very light and neutral stride, who has been working them in over a period of a few months. He has recently run a couple of 10-mile runs and is enjoying them.
Me? I've taken them on a couple of short runs and am finding them incredibly comfortable. Their lightness is welcome after a whole day on my feet in my work shoes. I have also noticed that my weight is distributed a bit differently given the move to the mid-foot and/or forefoot strike AND than the shock is now more evenly distributed all up and down my legs rather than being isolated in the lower leg and knee as before. My hamstrings have also loosened up considerably, a welcome development. Knees have been eased as well.
So easy to make and delicious too. I don't mind the seeds anymore and am finding that I prefer the simplicity of the drink. I've been using it as my after run drink. It is refreshing and gives an extra boost until I can get to a meal. The Tarahumara really are on to something.
Speaking of which, you can order your Tarahumara Sandals here.

Running on Vacation - Well Blog -

While some tourists remember their vacations from the pictures in their camera or the stamps on their passports, runners mark their journeys with their soles.

Whether it’s dashing past Iguazu Falls in Argentina, jogging over bridges in central Istanbul, passing cows at sunrise in the Salzburg countryside or trekking through the serenity of Angkor Wat in Cambodia — our running readers say seeing the world is always more enriching on fleet feet . . .

Running on Vacation - Well Blog -

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Up! Down! Up! Down! Up! Down! Around! Around! Up! . . .

Let's start with this . . .

and then, let's continue with this . . .

Cougar Mountain Series 13-Miler?

Yep, its that time again! :-)

The Bottom Line:
Official Time: 2:48:08
Unofficial Time: 02:47:28
Official Place: 102
Gender Place: 71/92
Number of Gels Consumed: 2
Race Firsts: Did not trip, stumble, wobble at all.
Number of Bee/Wasp Stings: 0
Fun Factor (scale from 1-10): 10
Best Line I Heard All Day: "Umm, this is going to be harder than running around Green Lake"

The Blow-By-Blow (sort of):

They changed the course from last year! No ending climb on Cave Hole. Instead there was a wonderful jaunt up Quarry Trail before hitting Fred's Railroad back to Sky Country. Still seven climbs, most of them quite challenging but it was nice to finish on a general downhill.

Different course which means, as PT has been telling me while rolling her eyes, I cannot really compare what I did last year to today's jaunt in the woods. But I can (just to be silly and stubborn).

Much stronger today and faster overall with a lower overall AVG HR and MAX HR. I am also a lot less beaten up going into this race. Last year I smacked my foot on a rock but good and it stressed something in my pelvis that later made walking, sitting down (and getting back up again), and running impossible for about a month. Today, no such damage and, though tired, I am moving around quite well. Moreover, I am starting with a fairly high mileage base. This year I walked the uphills more and did so at a faster pace overall. Last year I tried running much more. Best of all, my glasses didn't fog. :-P

For me this race unfolded in three phases: a strong start, a worrisome fade, and a very strong finish.

A Strong Start:

It is interesting that we started in the place where people would mostly likely turn an ankle, the grass field just past the old Nike site. Footing was uneven and the grass obscured the various holes and uneven spots. There were marker stakes delineating the course which were hard to see in the crowd, some hilarity ensued. But the field and subsequent run on Clay Pit Road helped spread out the pack. I found myself running in a long line of runners on Coyote Creek but by the drop down to Klondike Swamp and then Lost Beagle things had thinned considerably. I cannot believe how fast this section went. Though flatish, this section is very rocky and rooted which necessitates lots of quick foot work. I dropped back a bit to allow myself a clear view of the trail but still maintained contact with the runners ahead of me (they were never out of sight). It is hard to see what is happening when running so closely behind someone. I had one or two people behind me. I could hear their breathing and their footfalls. They eventually passed me but I ended up catching them in the end.

Overall this phase of the race was very strong. I felt solid and had lots of energy with good foot turnover and a nice high step.

Wilderness Peak, the first significant climb of the run, and Wilderness Cliff, about 1 mile of steep descent, went pretty well too. Ran-walked the climb and ran the downhill strongly, perhaps a little too strongly. I did get passed on the descent by a few folks running together, one guy was just flying. This is generally when my glasses start to fog (at least they did so last year) but no such trouble today. It was fun to swing myself on trees to help sling-shot myself around various curves (I think I was the only one doing this).

A Worrisome Fade:

Maybe a better way of talking about this period of the run is that was my "Grumpy Time". My legs felt trashed coming off Wilderness Cliff and I took the time to walk a bit and eat a gel before going up on Wilderness Creek to Longview and Deceiver. I caught the pack that had passed me and walked through them, they then passed me in turn. My legs really felt awful and I began to think that the 30-mile bike ride on top of all the running I had done earlier in the week was exacting its toll. I could only manage a shuffle and was unenthusiastic about going downhill. And then there was Russell. At least I think his name is Russell.

Russell was part of the very chatty group that had passed me going downhill and with whom I had been trading places along the southern section of the course. They got separated from each other with the guys forging ahead. And then, from behind I heard "RUSSELL!!!" And then from ahead "Yeah! I am here!" This went on periodically and, well, I was kinda grumpy and didn't want to hear this and all the other chatting going on. The group eventually passed me but I never lost sight of them OR was out of hearing range. Pretty odd experience for me as I am usually out in the woods by myself, even during races.

In retrospect I probably could have used more food at this point. :-P

I knew I would finish but was a little surprised a how done-in I felt and was worried about what would happen during the remainder of the race.

"Russell!?" "I'm HERE!!!"

(Actually, this was kind of sweet.)

A Very Strong Finish:

(but first we have to get there)

My spirits improved and my zing returned by the time we reached Far Country (about 8.47 miles). Last year this is about the point where I stubbed my toe that I hobbled myself for a month. No problems this time around and I had fun bombing the downhill towards the De Leo Wall (the dreaded De Leo Wall)—such an interesting trail. It starts on an uphill and is actually a series of uphills with a very steep section around 9.53 miles. Really steep.

I caught one of the Russell Posse before the Wall and he seemed thwacked. We exchanged pleasantries as I went past. Then, out of nowhere, a woman wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants came flying past me on a downhill and blasted an uphill. Then she blew up and I passed her again (I last saw her on Coyote Creek and then didn't see her again until the finish). There was a guy walking his two dogs going up the Wall too and I got to run with them for a bit. Another couple were chatting along around me at this point as well. I just kept going at what I thought was a consistent effort and stopped at the 10-mile Aid Station for a Electrolyte Tab and a glass of water. Got asked if I had gotten stung. Nope, but I immediately thought of PT and hoped she hadn't had a repeat of her experiences during the 10-miler (No such luck. She did get stung, twice, sigh!).

Marshall's Hills Trail was a fun descent and I began to reflect on how fast this whole race was going (at this point last year it felt like I was barely moving). What was left of Russell's Posse was ahead of me as we turned onto Quarry Trail, the last challenge of this course. Quarry is just about a mile of really steep climbing in what is, in places, simply a steep, slippery, rocky chute. I was walking, simply walking, maintaining contact with the people ahead. Another runner was behind me, walking very heavily and sounding pretty done-in. I think he could have passed me had he had the omph but he didn't and contented himself with walking behind me. This walk went so fast and soon I was running the final .7 or so on Fred's Railroad. I was so happy to be carrying my running pack with drinking bladder.

I felt strong and getting stronger the closer I came to the finish line. In fact I started thinking about what I wanted to run tomorrow. I passed one guy who was shuffling along and leaning hard to the right. He looked hurt. I asked him if he was alright and he said "I'm OK. I am just done." I asked if he needed any food and he declined saying he had Nuum in his water bottle (Uh, Nuum is just electrolytes, it is not food!) Pushed harder when I made the turn off of Fred's Railroad onto Bypass (a XC team was out there with water and lots of encouragement and I thanked them as I went past).

The race ended quickly with me going fairly fast down Bypass and then Old Man's, though not as fast as I have in the past, not a lot of get-up-and-go for even a short up-hill. I did pour it on once I got to Old Man, passing the Chatting Couple and then blowing past one of Russell's Posse. Then I was right on Russell's tail as he entered the final sprint to the finish line. I caught him and crossed the line just a shade behind him (I wonder how many hundredths of a second this was)—2:48.xx I think. Thought I had a grimace on my face but (according to PT) I had a big smile and I guess I did, the whole crowd was cheering as we came in. It was so nice to have a little extra in the tank. Brilliant finish!

Ahh. That watermelon tasted ever so good and I was eventually able to bend enough to stretch.

It was great!

I am still tired but not nearly as beaten up and down as I was last year.

Good Show!

What's next?

Tomorrow, easy recovery. Nine weeks until Portland. Lots of Long Slow Distance ahead of me, punctuated with speed work. And summer isn't over . . . yet!

At some point I want to get out to Wellington on the Iron Goat Trail (some historical things to see) and I am dying to run the Kendall Katwalk. Spider Meadow in a couple of weeks. Tofino? How about the Lone Cone Challenge or following the Edge to Edge course?

Any takers?

Addendum (8/10/09)-Russell doesn't seem to exist. :-P

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nike Free 5.0 V4: First, Second, and Third Impressions

"Those are ugly. But in the coolest possible way. But Nike? Come on..."

"Well, those are pretty understated aren't they?"

Updates: 11/27/108/09

Some introductory stuff:

Generally Nike shoes and I don't get along. At least we haven't since my first pair of purple and pink waffle trainers I picked up cheaply at the local K-Mart sometime back in the late 1970's and/or early '80-'s—they matched my terry cloth wrist and head bands. I had some really cool purple and black Lava Domes that I used for generally mucking about in the Santa Ynez Mountains behind SB but they wore out and I could not find any more. Finally, a few years ago in my ever futile quest to find the perfect pair of actual running shoes I tried the Pegasus (at least I think that is what they are). Disaster. Massive problems that resulted in over-correction, a tweaked IT Band, and inflamed ankle tendons that kept me from running for a good three weeks of prime fall running. They fit well but did not play well with my orthotics.

About a year and a half ago it dawned on me that I had been basically injured in one way or another almost constantly since getting my orthotics. I trusted them too much even when I could feel the over-correction when coupled with stability and motion-control shoes of every description (Asics, Mizuno, Saucony, Addidas). I am a big guy (generally just shy of the Clydesdales in the races I enter) and no self-respecting shoe store employee would sell me neutral shoes for me to use with my orthotics—too flimsy or not cushioned enough. And, I thought, they know what they are doing as does my Pod and I should trust their advice. Big mistake. Made all the worse by the fact that most people I knew had injuries (PF, broken bones, stress fractures, the works) because of problems with orthotics, shoes, and, of course, training errors.

I started reading and decided on looking at over-pronation in a different way. The foot needs to gimbal and adjust to the conditions within which it finds itself. It often isn't pretty but it is effective. Moreover, the foot, ankle, and legs need to be accustomed to the gimbaling and strengthen accordingly. So I began to ween myself off of the orthotics, strengthen via yoga (thanks LD and Om Town), and run barefoot every once in a while, just like I did in Australia. Thinks seem to be working. My feet, though flatter than pancakes, seem to be coming alive again after years of feeling quite dead. Reading Born to Run put me over the top and, though not quite ready to run unshod, it was time to take the plunge into shoes with minimal support. Two options: Nike's Free and Vibram's Five Fingers. Bought a pair of Nike Free 5.0's the other day.

First Impressionsrunning around inside Nike Town:

Putting them on for the first time I was struck by how light they are and how sock-like they feel. Walking around the store they felt very comfortable and it would have been easy to forget that I was wearing anything but for the eerie fluorescent orange glow coming off of them. A couple of laps around the circumference of the hardwood floor of the store gave me some sense of how they would hold. Again, they were comfortable but I felt a bit awkward making the transition to a shoe with little heel support. Forefoot padding seemed a bit lacking. Very different from even my default "go fast" shoe, the Mizuno Wave Elixir 4.

Took a while, thinking about the risk and, admittedly, the color, but I decided to bring them home.

Second Impressions—a neighborhood walk:

Wore the Frees on the dog's evening two-mile walk. I had a run a fast (for me) 12-miles in the morning in the Mizunos and spent the bulk of the day barefoot or in sandals. The shoes felt as natural as they did in the store only this time I could feel the individual "chunks" that make up the sole moving independently. My foot felt supported enough but also able to move freely. Toes were also very comfortable with enough room to flex and spread as needed. The uppers seem to be a rather fine and stretchy mesh which, coupled with the wool socks I generally run in and the 89 degree temperature, made for some hot feet.

It didn't take me very long to realize that these shoes would be really comfortable just to walk around in all day. The real test would come in a run.

Third Impressions—a run:

I put 4.48 running miles on the shoes this morning. Went from my house down through Ravenna and Cowen Parks and out to the Green Lake track where I was meeting PT, AK, and RP to video our running forms for some amateur analysis (more on this in a different post). The route was mixed sidewalk, dirt path, and then grit track. A fair amount of hills at the start too. This allowed me to explore the shoes with different paces from my standard shuffle, marathon pace, and going fast.

Going downhill took some getting used to as I was unsure about how to place my feet. The heels were cushioned enough though and I got the hang of it, noticing that I was coming down more lightly on my feet (my bulkier trail shoes allow for a heavy heel-strike and foot fall). Running the flats on dirt I found that my propensity to move up to my fore and midfoot was enhanced and that there was enough cushion. The soles did their work, flexing as necessary. I was not shy of rocks and pebbles and found anything that got stuck in the grooves did not stay there for long. Going further forward on the forefoot became pronounced as I got to the flat concrete section along Ravenna Boulevard. The three 400's (8:51, 8:05, and 6:37 pace respectively) saw the shoes coming into their own. The faster I went, the further forward I went and it was comfortable, especially on the forefoot where the cushioning that is there was all I seemed to need.

Ended all this with legs and knees feeling quite good.

Tentative Verdict:

I am keeping them despite the color (kind of have to now because they got a little muddy). I'll use them for shorter runs twice a week or so until I am used to the way they work and my body strengthens even more.

And yes, I think I'll get a pair for every day walking around. How about?

Oh and . . .

Runblogger has a series of posts detailing his experiments with Vibram Fivefingers, the New York Times has an interesting piece on the controversy over barefoot running (8/30/09) entitled "Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants", and the NY Times Well Blog has an interesting entry on running barefoot (9/1/09).