Monday, March 18, 2013

Running Down The Luge

Here is a video of me running down The Luge, which is a trail in the Saddleback Mountain trail system. It is a favorite of those on mountain bikes, and trail runners should enjoy it too.

A few weeks ago the Orange County Trail Runners scheduled a roughly 20mi run that would go through O'Neill Park, Whiting Ranch, across Santiago Highway and on Saddleback Truck Trail which runs along some of the smaller Santiago mountains, smaller at least compared to Santiago Peak, which is in the same range. I have no idea why it is called the Saddleback Truck Trail. It was never wider than 4-5 feet and often just a foot wide. The run would wind back up in O'Neill Park. It is an 18-20mi run depending on where you start.

That run got cancelled, but I decided to do it anyway. My house is just two miles from where the big loop would have taken us so I ran to that trail head and headed off. It was a good run, but I was especially happy with one particular section about 13mi into the run called The Luge. The altitude is about 2,100ft at the start and 1,450ft at the base, which is almost exactly one mile away. The grade is just enough that you can run some segments at full tilt. It is more like a controlled fall than running.

I decided to run it again this weekend, this time with my son's GoPro 2 camera. I purchased the chest mount harness to hold it. I was surprised that for the entire distance, the extra weight never bothered me. The camera is really light.

As you can see from the video, much of the Luge is on the edge of the mountain with just a few inches of weeds on the right marking the edge of the trail. You do not want to go over the edge.

If you want to jump to the Luge, hit the above video at about 50sec. I recorded some of the other trails I ran on to get to the Luge. Sorry for my hands being in the way, but the wide angle of the GoPro 2 I was using captured everything. I recorded in 4:3 aspect ratio to maximize the vertical height that was captured.

If you enjoy trail running and have the opportunity to run in Orange County, this is a trail you must hit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Finally Have My Luna Sandals Dialed In

Almost perfect, but not quite
I think I have figured out the ideal, or nearly ideal, lacing position and pattern for my Luna Sandals, and it only took me about 530 miles to get there!

The first pair I ordered used the ATS lacing, which sounded like the best option, but I never could get them to fit perfectly. You can see them on the Luna Sandals site, as it is their default lace on all models. My left foot continually moved to the left of the shoe, with the toe lace portion moving under my big toe. That is painful after a while. I also didn't care for the underside of the buckle. It would generally either rub my foot raw or just scratch it.

Now my walking sandals
After about 250 miles of that, cut those off and replaced them with hemp laces. Those worked much better, but by now, the sandal footbeds had conformed to my feet, and my left foot was off center. I decided to get a new pair, which was a good decision. These have right at 490 miles on them now and are still in fantastic shape. I figure the footbed will last 1,500-2,000 miles. My hemp lace pair are now my casual sandals. I ordered another pair of the Luna Sandal Originals with the leather covering, and this time the 3/8" laces.

I've finally figured out the best way, for me at least, to lace them. First of all, as you can see in the top image, the toe lace comes straight up. This is close, but not perfect. I actually have it so that toe lace comes to the inside of my foot, so it is slightly tugging on my big toe. Contrast that to the hemp lace at left that is slightly tugging away from the big toe.

Shaved off the edge, making the laces
thinner and easier to tie
The other modification I made was to make the laces thinner at the top. A 3/8" strap of leather isn't easy to tie off. I went to the hardware store and picked up a few C-clamps and some thin strips of aluminum and shaved off about 1/8"-3/16" off of the last 16" of the laces. This made a world of difference in tying them off at the top. It may not look like much in the picture, but trust me, it is night and day.

I am wondering what a full set of 1/4" laces would be like though. I like the feel of the 3/8" laces on my foot. I need to order a set of trail sandals, and I may go with the 1/4" lace system.

I am still slightly tweaking as I go. Unlike shoes, sandal laces are in constant need of adjustment. You cannot just slip them on, tie them off and go. I spend about 2-3 minutes each morning I run putting them on, and may adjust slightly in longer runs, though I've run for 15 miles with no adjustments needed at all.

After having run in classic running shoes for 800 miles, Vibram Five Fingers for almost 3,500 miles and now sandals for just over 500 miles, the sandals have been the most comfortable and least annoying thing to wear. I would like to run barefoot more, but I get into areas where there are rocks and debris, which takes a significant chunk of joy out of running. And just running barefoot around the neighborhood 10-15 times just gets boring.

And yes, I'll admit, I enjoy the looks I get from people as I run by them in my sandals. They think I am some sort of hippie. But I know my feet are far better for it instead of being in a shoe put together by someone in marketing and then sold as the ultimate running shoe, until they dream up the next model.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Free Summer Barefoot Running Magazine

If you are interested in barefoot running or even more minimalist running to minimize injuries and maximize fun, check out the free Summer 2012 edition of Barefoot Running Magazine.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Healthy Doesn't Just Happen - Effort Required

Making a commitment to get healthier or more fit is the first step, but that alone does nothing. Action is required!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Don't Bother With Runner's World Shoe Recommendations

I love reading Runner's World magazine. I like the features on running gear, various running events around the world and the back story on people that are big in the running community. Since subscribing to it a few years ago, I always took their running shoe reviews with a huge grain of salt, and eventually came to read them so I could get all of my eye-rolling for the month done in one quick session. Now it seems Runner's World itself has said as much.

Christopher McDougall, author of the Born To Run, has posted some information from Runner's World itself that indicates not only that some of the shoes it has been recommending may exacerbate injuries, but that every shoe posted is basically recommended for at least one type of person. In other words, there are no bad shoes!

This was from a 2008 shoe review:
We’ve reported in the past that a more stable shoe will help relieve the pain you feel just ahead of the heel. But recent research has shown that stability shoes are unlikely to relieve plantar fasciitis and may even exacerbate the symptoms.
Whoops! Sorry about that readers.

The founder of Runner's World started the shoe review as a way to help readers find shoes that would help them run better and be worth their hard earned money. Now, the reviews are little more than advertising. In fact, I'd go so far to say they are nothing but advertising. He states the reviews are "a grading system where you can only get an A."

Your body was designed to run. Man has been running for thousands of years with sandals or in bare feet. For 99.9% of running, you don't need much more on your feet than to protect them from the surface you are on, and that is surprisingly little. A thin 2mm strip of rubber in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, huarache sandals or any number of other minimalist shoes is all you need.

Well, that and good form, something modern day shoes discourage! Heel striking is increasingly looked at as a fundamental problem in running, and it is something that wasn't done until the mid 1960's. It is almost impossible not to heel strike when you have a shoe that has a thick heel. It is going to touch the ground first, and that inch of foam isn't going to do anything to protect your joints and muscles for thousands upon thousands of steps.

The vast majority of people don't need anything to correct our strides either. Motion control, stability, etc. Those are all marketing terms. Runner's World is figuring this out, or it already has and just isn't willing yet to tick off all of its advertisers just yet. Most shoe stores don't like this trend either, though the smart ones are getting behind it.

I sincerely hope in 5-10 years, we'll look back on the "modern running shoe" and laugh like we currently do about decades old fashion. After all, current running shoes are little more than a fashion statement. They aren't doing anything for your health.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Luna Sandals From Here On Out?

Less Is More - Luna Original Sandals
After deciding traditional running shoes weren't for me a few years ago, I switched to Vibram Five Fingers and have put over 3,400 miles on them in about 2 years. I couldn't go much more than 13 miles in them without a nice set of callouses though from the 3-5 points they rubbed on. I then started wearing Injinji socks, which drastically reduced the problem. Still, running 40-50 miles a week left me with small callouses on the outside of my big toes, which would start to burn a bit on runs over 15-16 miles and be seriously annoying by mile 20, and by mile 30, I was done.

A fresh pair of socks would usually take care of it, but Injinjis are too expensive to be replacing every 200 miles for me, so I recently decided to try something different.

The ultimate minimalist shoe is the huarache sandal. This is little more than a rubber sheet with laces of some sort. I ordered a pair from Luna Sandals, the company run by Barefoot Ted. I got a pair of the originals with the suede footbed and ATS laces, a combination that looked to be the best for the type of daily street running I do.

After A 7 Mile Run
I immediately put them on after they arrived this past Wednesday and decided to see what they felt like. I took them out for a 2 mile test run and they felt good. I must have stopped about 10 times in the first mile tweaking the laces though, adjusting them so my feet stayed securely in the middle (front to back, side to side) of the shoes. The second mile I ran straight through.

I thought I had them adjusted right until the next morning when I went out for a longer run. The right one fell off before I had passed 100 yards. I tweaked them again about 4-5 times and by just over 0.6 miles, had them where I wanted them. I ran the next 6.5 miles with no issues.

I went for a longer run on Sunday. I had a better feeling for how they should be on my feet, though I still don't have them exactly right. I had to adjust them about 5 times over 16 miles, though only the first adjustment was necessary. On all of the others, I was just fine tuning and experimenting. I am getting to where I can diagnose the issue and know exactly which straps to pull on and tighten or loosen to move my foot around.

The point is though, I ran over 16 miles with absolutely no issues at all, and nearly a mile of that was on a mulch-covered trail I discovered today, something the Luna Originals weren't designed for. I could have easily gone further but decided not to push it. Without taking my shoes off and carefully examining my feet, I couldn't be sure there were no early stages of a blister or raw spot on the skin. Over 10 hours after the run though, my feet feel fine.

I was worried the buckle, which is like a miniature buckle on a backpack to adjust the straps, would rub a raw spot on the top of my foot. When I took the sandals off, there was definitely an indention where it had been, but it wasn't raw and didn't hurt anymore than the indention my iPod arm band leaves on my arm, which is to say, it didn't hurt at all.

It is still early of course, having only done two real runs in them in the last five days, but I can say that I've never felt this good after a run as far as shoe comfort goes.

Some may ask why I don't just go barefoot? I do a few barefoot runs each month, but I find I am spending way too much time watching where I step, to the point I lose what is going on around me. Not only do I need to watch out for glass, rocks and other debris, there are cars, pedestrians, cyclists and pets I need to watch out for. Barefoot running requires too much focus on the ground. Having a thin layer under my feet allows me to only worry about larger debris. I still cannot tromp around like I had a pair of Brooks Beasts on. The Lunas give plenty of ground feedback and I can still feel even the smallest branches and debris the size of an apple seed, it just isn't annoying like it is when barefoot. That allows me to focus more on my surroundings.

Does that mean I'll never wear VFFs again for a run? Maybe. Right now, something would have to go seriously wrong though for me to go back, at least for street running. As an added benefit, my feet don't sweat, which is likely a big reason for the lack of blisters. Water+skin+fabric is the worst thing for any type of repetitive exercise lasting over an hour.

For trails, I'll still take my Vibram Spyridon LS shoes for now. If I continue to get better at lacing them up and not fooling with them during the run so much, I can see getting some of the trail sandals, which simply have a thicker sole and an aggressive tread.

As an interesting aside, all of the Luna Sandals still use outsoles made by Vibram, which is what the company has been known for for over 80 years. They never made shoes until VFFs in about 2005. No matter what my decision, I'll still have Vibram technology with me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ragnar SoCal 2012 Recap

Team Sole Train
The Southern California Ragnar Relay is over. Team Sole Train finished Saturday afternoon around 4:23pm on Coronado Island in San Diego. We started at 6:45am on Friday morning. That means that for 33 hours and 38 minutes, someone on our team was running non-stop, around the clock, to cover the 203.5 mile course. The only exception would have been at a busy street corner while waiting for the light to change, and sometimes not even then.

Pictured left is our team, except for Susan, who was about 3 minutes out on her way to where we were waiting at the finish line, and Zoe, who must have wandered off camera right as I snapped this. I really want to thank them for letting me be on their team this year as an alternate. I had a fantastic time and hope I did the team proud. Team Captain Adam did a fantastic job of keeping the team motivated and piloting Van 2, in addition to running the fastest times for the team. Amy, Matt, Mark and Susan were the others in Van 2.

Ivy kept Van 1 organized, which also had Rob, Zoe, Jen, Lauren, and Michael.

While the mileage was roughly even between the two vans, each van had its own challenges. I would say without question, those that ran on Friday between noon and 5:00pm bore the brunt of the heat and had the toughest runs because of it. All of Van 2 had a piece of this and Jen from Van 1 got the tail end of it. My 4.9mi leg in 96 degree heat and was the toughest run I've done in a very long time. I was never so happy to get through a run and grab a cold Zico Coconut water and Vega Sport Chocolate Coconut protein bar, as well as continually wiping my face down to keep sweat out of  my eyes.

I'd say that the leg that Jen started right after us was the toughest leg of the entire journey. It was a 10 mile run that started around 4:30 or so and the temps were still in the upper 80's at least. The first mile was a near 300ft elevation gain. To make matters worse, it was in a section that had no sidewalk or trail, so Jen was forced to run most of the distance on the shoulder of the road. She is a kindred spirit in her running style and was shod with a set of Vibram Bikilas. The problem is the shoulder was full of rocks and there is no protection at all in those shoes. They are made for streets, not pebbles and rocks. One of the Treks or a pair of the Spyridon's would have made a world of difference. She did an amazing job finishing that leg. I am not sure if I could have.

Right Before The Temps Got Insane
Whereas Van 2 ate heat during its first leg, Van 1 definitely got the short end of the sleeping stick. You'll see why shortly.

Van 1 started at 6:45am on Friday and knocked out 25.4mi by around 11:00am or so, give or take. They ran from Huntington Beach towards Corona, but it was early and temps were nice. Van 2 took over from there with 33.5mi ahead of it, all in the heat and deeper into the desert. Adam had the first leg, which was 8.8mi. The first 4 to 4.5 were pretty easy and he declined any support as we met him half way. He said he felt fantastic (left with the Camelbak) and didn't need cold water. Notice Amy had two bottles of semi-frozen water he declined to drink or have poured over him. By the time he got done though, the temps had shot up and he was feeling it. The five remaining members of our team would have to finish 24.7mi among us in temps that were never south of 90 again and the heat index got up to 115. Oh, I cannot forget the obligatory "it was a dry heat."

Sleeping Quarters For Van 2
We wrapped up around 4:30pm, exchanged the wrist band with Van 1 and Jen headed off on her brutal 10 miler described above. We wished them well and headed off to dinner. It was right in the middle of the day so Van 1 didn't do much while we were running but roast in the heat. No one could really sleep that early in the event with the sun burning down on them. Our rest time though was as the sun was going down. We drove 47 miles to the next exchange, spread our sleeping bags on the golf course and caught some zzz's. I read on my Kindle for about 15 minutes and turned if off as it was getting dark. I was asleep in 10 minutes. My teammates got varying levels of sleep.

Around 12:30am or so, we woke up, packed up as Ivy finished her 2nd leg and passed the wristband to Adam. Van 2 was back on the road. This is where Van 1 should have had a good opportunity to rest. Unfortunately for them though, running conditions were excellent and for some reason, we only had to cover 22.2mi, which we did in well under 4 hours. By the time Van 1 drove to the next exchange, found something to eat and settled in, they would have less than 2 hrs to rest. It didn't help that everyone on our team posted their best times of the event. Van 1 didn't stand a chance to get real rest here, and it was their only opportunity under the cover of darkness.

We wrapped up around 3:30am-4:00am, and off we went to the next major exchange. Once again, we would have more time as Van 1 had to cover 32mi. We arrived, got out our sleeping bags and were laying down by 5am. The sun was coming up, so I just slid down into my sleeping bag and got at least 2hrs of sleep.

Our final leg would be a 43mi stretch that started at Torrey Pines, just a few miles north of La Jolla. The scenery should have been fantastic, but the marine layer was thick. We only saw the sun for about 30 minutes on Sunday. Again, prime running conditions for us. I am not sure how the individual legs were broken up, but for some reason, one of the six legs we had to cover here was 11.1 miles, over 25% of the overall distance for the 3rd leg of Van 2. Adam had seen my website and assumed I was the right guy for it. This was the only big mistake Adam made the entire weekend. I was tired, sore, dirty, sweaty and in the same clothes I had been in since 3am on Friday morning when I got up. I decided to duck into a gas station and change my shorts and put some anti-chafing cream on my lady parts before my run. I threw my Camelbak in the cooler a few hours before I started and decided that was all the prep work I could do.

All Of My Run Times
It was a pretty good run for me. The first 4 miles and last 5 were pretty flat and scenic. The middle 2 though were several hills through a neighborhoods with more than 200ft in elevation change in about a mile. Not the toughest hill in the world, but it wasn't nothing either. Out of about 10 runners I was around, I was the only one that ran the whole thing. Everyone else walked. I chalk that up to the hills I have to run on every day around my neighborhood.

Once I got on the other side and things flattened out a bit, I turned on my metronome to reset my cadence back to 180. I was feeling good and stepped it up a bit, switching my iPod Nano to some Blonde Redhead. Not exactly running music, but it works for me. The worst part now was having to stop at a few red lights and dodging people that were walking along the harbor. I wanted to finish this leg with nothing left, so kept pressing ahead. I passed a few people that had passed me near the start of this leg, which made me feel good. For the last 500 yards or so I was sprinting and when done, I truly had nothing left. I could hardly walk, much less run another mile.

Overall, I had an 8:55 pace on that leg. I ran a half marathon in 8:31 last year but I hadn't trained for this event much, was sleep deprived and had already run early 10 miles in the preceding 24hrs, so I was happy with it.

I had a fantastic time and got to know a few more people, especially in Van 2. I hope I did the team proud.

I'd say the Ragnar officials did an overall good job. Sure, there were a few exchanges that were questionable and I ran into a few forks that the only reason I knew where to go was to follow the person in front of me (usually way in front) and hoped they knew where they were going. One fork I had coincidentally run last weekend when I was in San Diego for other reasons. If it wasn't for that, I likely would have gone the wrong direction. Overall though, it was a great event that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'd have to say I enjoyed this run more than any other official runs I've done.

While we had fun, there was a good cause we were running for. If you have time, click on this link and donate a few dollars to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.