Coming off of my experience with the Pearl Izumi’s Trail N1, I was excited to try the Peal Izumi Road N1 and had pretty high expectations. I anticipated the shoe would be a fun, smooth ride very similar to the Trail N1. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I quickly fell in love with the Road N1 and no longer rotated between any of my other road shoes. That’s right, the Road N1 became my ONLY runner I picked up come road-run days. I was immediately hooked.
In comparison to the Trail N1, this shoe gives you a much better impression of how the e-motion technology (still confusing) works. There isn’t much outsole to take away from ground feel. The bottom of the shoe is almost entirely exposed EVA aside from a couple of lateral heel squares, lateral toe squares and the long outsole strip that waves across the bottom length-wise. Head’s up, the shoe can be a little squirrelly in the rain so that outsole strip becomes crucial.
Overall, I only had a few issues with the shoe, but those were far outweighed by the positives. Some of you minimal guys won’t like the shoe because of it’s soft cushioning, but for someone like me who’s a little larger, likes to go long and has decent form, you may fall in love. If you can, get your feet inside a pair of these road flats and have some fun!
Ok, here we go! I want to emphasize: READ ALL THESE INSTRUCTIONS! The last few giveaways have seen some spirited entries that have failed to follow all of the rules. I hate to see people put time into participating and being disqualified because of not reading the directions all the way through. So, again, READ EVERYTHING TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT!
So here’s what’s up, Pearl Izumi has this site set up with funny videos that outline the downsides to a more efficient run. I have chosen my favorite video out of the bunch for a very special reason. The video is below, the reason I chose it is further below:
For those that don’t know, I’m a Los Angeles comedy actor. It’s what I do, it’s what I love (in addition to running of course!). A few years back, I was on an episode of 1000 Ways To Die (SpikeTV) as a nerd-turned-outdoor-adventure-host. I venture into the woods, eat some poisonous plants, and die. Brutally. It’s funny! One of the Pearl Izumi “Downsides” videos hit close to home so I had to choose it as my favorite. Now that we got the exposition out of the way, here are the rules to the Pearl Izumi giveaway (since removed. Contest is over, but I left the text and video here for posterity)
After running for the past few years with a Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch, the damn thing broke. This immediately threw me back into the market for a new watch to replace the old one. I started researching like a madman and realized based on the activities that I was doing – road running, trail running, ultra running, hiking, etc – I knew that I needed more watch than what the Forerunner series could provide. I needed a watch with long battery life, fantastic durability and endless customization possibilites geared towards mountain life and distance training. Through my research, I figured out there were two watches that fit the bill: The Suunto Ambit and the Garmin Fenix.
After wearing both watches for a few months in various conditions and environments, I can safely say they are BOTH beasts. They are deep with features, customizable data screens, and both do any job I’ve thrown at them damn well. While I may lean towards one watch over the other only due to how it fits on my wrist, I’m torn to the other watch’s ability to be future-proof. There is so much tech in these watches that I highly recommend you take them on a test run yourself to determine which would fit your needs. It’s going to come down to personal needs, and you’re the only one that knows what those needs are.
So which watch am I wearing? Well, it honestly came down to price and the wrist-fit factor. The Garmin Fenix now sits on my wrist for all of my running endeavors and so far I love it (I ended up swapping my unit for a new one under warranty due to the multiple software crashes I was enduring). I’ve had to reprogram some of the buttons to perform functions I prefer (start/stop now doesn’t require holding down a button, but a simple quick press) and set up the appropriate data screens for different activities. As for battery life, this thing hasn’t failed me. I still had more than 30% battery left after logging the entire 11hrs of my brutal Leona Divide 50mile race!
But just when I finally feel comfortable with my watch selection, Suunto goes and releases the Ambit 2 and Ambit 2s. DAMMIT! Hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on one of those and give it a proper review to see how it stacks up!]]>
This last weekend, caked in mud, sweat and tears, I completed my very first ultra marathon – something I NEVER thought I’d be able do if you asked me a few years ago. This wasn’t just any ultra, this was the insanity that was The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k race in the Marin Headlands of San Francisco.
By now, some of you may have heard the stories, the gossip, and the legends of this weekend’s race. Well, lemme toss my story into the mix. I’ll do my best to recount (I might still be drunk!) all that I encountered to give you an idea of an average racer’s experience as well as what it was like to race my first Ultra distance.
So after running a handful of marathons and riding 204 miles earlier this year, I figured it was time to dabble in something a little more extreme. I’ve followed Ultras for years, dreamt of the illusive Western States belt buckle, and wished to run alongside Kilian and Krupicka at some point. But I never had the courage to sign up. I didn’t think I had enough experience RUNNING long distances yet. I can hike like nobody’s business, but man, running up and down mountains on repeat is pretty daunting for a beer and sweets addicted Ginger. Well, in June, I did what any stupid runner would do at some point in their career – I signed up for my first ultra.
The North Face 50k seemed like a perfect fit for me. It was just north of one of my favorite cities (San Francisco), it was in a colder month, it had dope race schwag, had plenty of elite runners to ogle at, and offered seemingly endless race day volunteer support. My running buddy, RockHardRunners also signed up so I had a partner in crime. I was set. Now came the time to train.
The course brags about 6000 feet of vertical. Me, being a ginger dumb dumb, thought it seemed like a small enough number that a few weekend trail runs would suffice. Well, after being left exhausted by the SF Marathon this last July and seeing a total elevation change of only 1,007 feet in that race, I knew I had to kick it into gear and get some REAL hill training in.
Weekends started to include longer runs on trails and amongst the SoCal hills. I scoured local blogs and websites promoting which trails ultra runners ran in hopes of gaining some of their knowledge and insight. When training for a marathon, I would make Sundays my LSD, usually capping at 20 miles. For this run, I figured I’d train the same, but double up on Friday and Saturday – Friday being LSD on trails and hills, and Saturday being half the distance on trails as ‘fatigued recovery’ to simulate race-day.
The longest trail run I got in was a 21 miler. Total elevation change of 3400 up, 3400 down. Not NEARLY enough, but that run HURT LIKE A MOTHER FUCKER. Crap, was I going to be ready to DOUBLE that elevation and add another 10+ miles? Was I in over my head? I started realizing this race was The North Face World Championships for a REASON. It was going to be hard as shit for a regular shmoe like me. Tag on the fact that RockHardRunners had to bail on the race for family or drunken partying reasons – still not sure which. Now I was alone, about to take on the unknown and possibly die an embarrassing death of hill-climb-failure.
Where’s the whiskey??
Well, jump ahead to the week of the race. By this point, I had come to grips with running the race alone. Thank goodness my girlfriend, MileLongLegs, jumped on board to be my crew and support (always my rock with a sexy ass, that one!). But I had started to hear grumblings of horrible weather, course changes, and the scariest (or most relieving): RACE CANCELLATION. Thursday night, before the race, I was prepping to fly out to SF the following morning when I got an email that the race had been forced to change the course due to horrible, innevitable weather conditions. I was officially fucked. Now I had no idea what to expect.
Side note: A HUGE amount of props has to go to the RD and staff at TNFECS for making tough calls, communicating with all the runners HOURS before the event, and getting the word out about course changes. Probably one of the best sponsored races I’ve ever run when it came to communication.
Friday morning, I put my fear aside to enjoy the short flight to SF. Unfortunately, the weather was SO BAD in SF that our flight was delayed almost 3 times. Then our pilot had to emergency abort the take-off due to some malfunction with the radio system. ACK! What the hell was happening?! My already rattled nerves, were at near breaking point. I couldn’t stop worrying that everything was an omen to NOT run this race.
We arrived in SF in one piece, grabbed our car and headed to TNF for my bib pick-up. The volunteers there had no idea what the new course was like, only that it would be similar to the full marathon course. So that meant the 50 mile race, the 50k race AND both marathons were running the same trails? Let’s hope there’s passing lanes!
By this point, I just needed to focus one step at a time. Get food. Get hydrated. Relax. Prep race-day items. Study the new course reroute, Sleep. (Oh and stop by my friend Tyler’s chocolate factory, TCHO, for a glass of wine and some of the finest damn chocolate you’ll ever let melt in your mouthhole). But this new course had me worried. Not only about the number of runners that were now going to clog the same 13-14 miles of trail loop, destroying what solid dirt was available and pulverizing it to deep mud, but also about getting lost and being unfamiliar with when the hills would sneak up on me.
All I could count on for race morning was that it was going to be raining, the trails were going to be muddy, I was going to get very wet, there would be plenty of volunteers, there were going to be plenty of hills, I was going to get lapped by the elite 50 milers at some point, I trained all that I could on terrain I had access to, and I was going to take my sweet as time enjoying whatever I could about this race.
After getting as much sleep as I could muster, listening to the pounding rain on my window, we woke up early, got some calories and caffeine in, and made our way to the shuttle station. We boarded the bus in the dark and ventured across the Golden Gate (which we had just run across in the SF Marathon) into the unknown Marin conditions. Once there, we stepped out into pouring rain and were instantly wet. Awesome. It begins.
Just walking to the start-line was a struggle. We were greeted by sloppy mud already deep with footprints from the 50 milers and their friends and family who started 2 hours earlier. And here I am thinking I could keep my shoes clean. Nope, mud-town USA.
We wandered the start, I dropped off my finish bag, and found a bit of warm relief on a nearby school bus. As the minutes counted down to the start of my first ultra, a calm, zen-like state took over. A very similar sensation to what I felt before the Portland Marathon a few months ago. I could handle the rain. I could handle the wind. I would be ready for anything the day threw at me. It was time to beat this beast. And what a wicked beast it was.
As wave one of the 50k runners lined up for the start, I glanced around and ogled at how many of these men and women looked seasoned, grizzled, and ready for anything. One dude even donned a short pair of shorts, no shirt, and no hat. We were all in this together – clothed or semi-naked (weirdo!).
The sun was starting to illuminate the fog and rain around us so headlamps weren’t a necessity anymore. When we started off on our adventure, I kept it slow and steady, not pushing any pace or objectives, just cruising to my own rhythm, letting those with more experience (or less) pass me without much thought.
I knew to expect some big hills, so when we started our first assent of what I lovingly call, “Blue Ball Loop” (more on this later), to the top of Bobcat, I wasn’t surprised. But MAN was this an early killer. The hill went on for what seemed like forever until finally after miles of up, we dropped into the first aid station (Alta). I quickly went through, grabbed some GU Chomps and headed down towards the mile 6 aid station back near the start.
The fog and clouds obscured what I imagine to be amazing vistas of rolling hillsides and ocean. While I could see a ways up the hills, I longed to look out and see how high we were. By this point, we were snaking our way up even more hills and switch-backs, following the course markings, to mile 9 at Tennessee Valley. I know MileLongLegs was there waiting, so I couldn’t wait for the energy boost of a familiar (and beautiful) face.
Before Tennessee Valley, there were some seriously tricky spots. The trails had been recently traversed by early 50 milers and had started to give way. The mud was in full effect and this was the first instance I felt that my shoe choice may not have been correct. I continued to keep the pace easy and had fun down the descent into TV where MLL greeted me with a beaming, rain-drenched smile.
I quickly grabbed some nibbles, saw Bryon from iRunFar and gave him a creepy, “thank you for doing what you’re doing today!” and pounded on towards Muir Beach. This was the section I was most excited for on this new figure-8, shortened course.
The trail started to ascend pretty quickly out of TV so I opted to slow it down again. I really had no idea what the elevation profile was going to be like on this course so I didn’t want to blow my race by going too hard too soon. This was only mile 9, I had plenty more to go. And this next stretch was…well, let’s just say it was an experience for the books.
What I imagine is some of the most amazing and gorgeous cliff-side single track in all of trail racing, was changed into something much more frightening. Hundreds of people pounding lengthwise across a fire road, turning it to mud is one thing, but the same number of feet being confined to a 24″ wide single track is another.
The trail from TV to Muir Beach was downright treacherous. My shoes could barely keep traction as the trail rolled up and down. My goal was just to stay upright, so I took cautious steps and slowed my pace in many patches of some of the worst trail conditions I’ve experienced. While the rain continued to hammer us runners, the trails were feeling the brunt of all of it.
The final descent into Muir Beach was the worst. The very steep trail may have widened, but every square inch had been decimated, leaving a thick slippery goopy mud that I had to literally ski down. It was all I could do to keep from tumbling down and finding myself rolling over a cliffside. What’s crazy is I was being passed by countless runners screaming down the trail without a worry. How the fuck were they doing it?! Was it just about loosening up and letting your body take you down? Every fiber in my body told me to be cautious and not let speed play a part here. I held back.
I rolled into Muir Beach at a snails pace, grabbed some more nutrition, refilled my bottle, and headed back up the trail. Yes, the SAME TRAIL I HAD JUST COME DOWN. By this point, we were being passed by a lot of the elite 50 mile racers. In my head I realized this was their SECOND trip up and down this same trail. I can imagine how frustrated they were to not only dodge all us wanky 50k runners, but to also deal with all of the destroyed trails a second time.
Side note – while most of the runners in my vicinity and similar pace were awesome, talkative and overall supportive heroes, I made a point to shout a “congrats” or “Nice work” to any elite runner that passed me in either direction. What sucked is NONE of them gave any sort of response or acknowledgment. Look, I’m not asking for a conversation, but maybe some eye-contact or a finger tip to at least know you heard me would be awesome. We’re all kind of in this shit together, right? I want you to do well. Hell, I want you to WIN so I can tell stories to my kids someday that I talked to a winner once! But really, I was getting the same vibe from every runner that I feel when I’m training on my bike in SoCal mountain country. An almost, “you’re not good enough so I won’t acknowledge your friendliness” vibe. I’ll chalk it up to being in the “competitive zone” or because “they don’t speak English”. Regardless, I did get to see/pass some of my Ultra heroes and that was cool.
Back up the trails I went, crawling on my hands at points due to lack of traction. There was a memorable moment when it was all I could do to get footing in the mud when from behind, an elite Salomon racer (realized later it was Miquel Heras – the WINNER of the men’s 50miler), screamed up the slope, hands on his knees, like it was a set of short stairs. A cameraman quickly followed. Fuck my face, they were fast!
Once to the top, I thanked the racing gods I didn’t have to do a second loop like the 50 milers. That was one awful stretch of trail.
My pace had really slowed here. I was getting pretty damn fatigued from all the mud-fighting and steep terrain. I couldn’t make up any time on the downhills due to lack of traction. I could only hope to make it up on the small plateaus and lower flats to come. I heard the distant sound of TV’s crews and spectators so I nutted up and continued down the treacherous single-track into the aid station.
I don’t remember much from this stretch of trail. I remember there being hills and slopes, lots of mud, very little traction, and lots of wet. I was just using the knowledge that once I got to Alta, I’d only have one more 9 mile loop to complete and I would be done. I thought a lot about beer and food and what I would eat once I finished. I thought about how my feet hurt and what I could do to alleviate the pain. I thought about all the elite runners passing me and if it’d be rude to ask them for autographs. Then I traversed into the forest and knew Alta was just up ahead.
As I entered Alta, I was joined by an elite 50 miler who was extremely jovial and talkative. Jorge Maravilla (Salomon) joked about having the volunteers whip him up a hamburger as he downed his Pepsi. It was neat to see someone so deep in a 50 miler (and on track for 16th place) have so much positive spirit. I joked with him about finishing strong and leaving me some of the bottom of the keg at the finish as he pounded on down the hill. I envied his strength and closeness to being finished. I still had a long ways to go.
I started to gain more confidence in the mud by this point. I had found a happy place with my shoes speed-wise that allowed for a little bit of grip in the mud and ability to push through. I also realized at this point just how much horrible tension I was holding in my shoulders and trapezius muscles. I HAD to relax on these downhills. So i did. It helped immediately.
As I made my way to the flat stretch before Fort Barry, I began to see more of my environment. The soggy was getting replaced with dry and the fog was more clouds. Man this was a gorgeous course. I can’t imagine how much more gorgeous in sunshine.
From the trail, we cross a bridge and hit paved road as we head up to Fort Barry. Once there, I was greeted with the lovely MLL and the most horrible of fake-outs, the finish-line turn around. You literally run down the finish chute, stop JUST before you cross the timing lines, quickly turn around, and head back out to summit Bobcat again (which I now lovingly call Blue Ball Loop. Just as I was about to cum all over that finish line, I’m forced to hold it in for another 6 brutal miles. Just like college).
On my way back out of FB, I experienced one of my favorite race moments: passing Anna Frosty (Salomon) pacing Emelie Forsberg (Salomon) – who I’d later find out WON the woman’s 50 miler! But, when I passed them, I got so excited at seeing Frosty, that I shouted, “Hell yeah, Frosty!! GET IT! FINISH STRONG!!”. It wasn’t until right after I passed them I realized, 1) Frosty was a PACER and 2) she was pacing the WINNER whom I didn’t even acknowledge. Emelie, if you’re reading this – which I doubt you are – I owe you a beer or 5. Nice strong finish and way to kick serious ass out there!
Ok, now back to blue balls. On my way back up Bobcat for the second time, I walked next to a woman who had just started her second loop for the 50 miler. I forget her name, but she seemed so strong mentally. I was extremely impressed. Not only had she been on the course for almost 7 hours and had 20 more miles to complete, but she still had to go through the horrible Muir mud-zone from hell again AND keep her pace up to keep from being DQ’d for missing cut-off times. I couldn’t even imagine her mental strength and will power. I still don’t know if she finished the whole thing, but hell or high-water she wasn’t going down without a fight! And neither was I.
In addition to her, I met a cool guy I had been leap-frogging with ALL day named Greg. Nice dude wearing Hoka One Ones. He was very positive, and nearing a 50k PR. He just needed to keep the pace up on the downhills. I gave him some of my salt tablets, and we pushed each other to the top of Bobcat pretty quickly. This was a low point for me, so I needed the extra push. Thinking about helping this guy get a PR became my new immediate goal. I just had to finish to get my own PR, so pushing a little harder to get him his was awesome. But after cresting Bobcat and heading into Alta again, he peaced out and screamed down the backside towards the finish without me. GO GREG!
I also passed a struggling female elite 50 miler who not only looked like she was on her last legs, but she was pretty disoriented. I asked her if she was good or needed anything and I got a, “No, I think I’m fine” response. She obviously didn’t want to be bothered and was probably having a rough day, so I pushed on and wished her a strong finish. I later found out it was Megan Kimmel who hand to drop just yards after I passed her due to two blown calf muscles and severe cold. Pretty sure she’s as hardcore as they come.
Now this was a special moment for me. I looked down at my watch and started to tear up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I hadn’t noticed, but this was the furthest I had ever run. Ever. 26.2 miles was now a thing of the past. I was almost at 28 miles and on my way downhill towards the finish. It literally was downhill from here. I fought back tears, increased my pace and charged towards that damn finish line.
These last few miles were a whirlwind. I didn’t talk to anybody, just charged my way back into Fort Barry. I had peeled off my orange rain jacket as the temperature had warmed and primped my Train.Race.Beer shirt for the finish line pictures. I was exhausted, spent, depleted, and ready for warmth.
I rounded the last turn towards the finish line, let the tears flow. Nothing was going to stop me.
I pounded down into the finish chute, this time I could continue on over the timing mats and under The North Face banner. I was done. I had just ran 30 miles and I felt great. Best part, I did it in under 6 hours (my gold time for the original 50k course). My watch said 5:34:48 but the official time is 5:47:54. Not sure where the discrepancy is, but I don’t care. I did it. I fuckin did my first Ultra and it was amazing.
So much so, I’ve already signed up for another.
I am absolutely ecstatic at my experience. Not only did I take on something I thought impossible, but every screw was knocked loose, rearranged, and shoved back into this machine to make it as hard and stressful as possible on the runners. Weather, course changes, mud, elements, crowds, everything. And I did it, and felt great doing it.
This to me not only makes this experience that much more memorable, but that much more rewarding. I never would have known this feeling had I not pushed myself to try. As I always say, “You’ll never regret trying something. But you’ll always regret NOT trying it.” This couldn’t be more true. Oh, and a very big thank you to The North Face for being incredibly organized and efficient. Most races would’ve crumbled, you stood out as a prime example of how to do it pro-style. And props for shutting the course down for Sunday races. I couldn’t imagine going out on those trails after the Saturday pounding AND the overnight storms. Well played, TNF.
RACE SUPPORT: 9/10
RACE ORGANIZATION: 8/10
PRICE: 8/10 ($75)
BONUS: 8/10 (Course; Volunteers; Communication w/ racers)
OVERALL TIME: 5:47:54
PLACE OVERALL: 107/347
PLACE IN SEX: 81/213
PLACE IN DIVISION: 29/86
I got the chance to review the convenient and innovative HydraPak Softflask. It’s a simple, yet innovative device that allows a runner to carry multiple servings of gels in a single container without the heft or volume of a hard flask. It conforms to your hand or waist belt and adapts as it gets emptied. I love it. Click to watch the review above and don’t forget to subscribe to my youtube channel! (CLICK HERE TO SUB)
note: this item was provided by Hydrapak for review. The opinions are my own.]]>
The Montrail Rogue Racer light weight trail runner is a pretty stellar piece of footwear. It’s not only light and fast, but extremely comfortable. This is my go to trail shoe for longer distances on compact trail surfaces. While a little thick in the heel to toe department (9mm), they do provide enough cushioning to help on those steep descents. I highly recommend you check out and try on a pair of Montrail Rogue Racers. Visit http://montrail.com for more info.
I’ve spent the last few months running trails on and off in this shoe. Salomon does an amazing job with the Speedcross 3. It’s rugged, relatively light, fast, and grippy. Not having run in earlier iterations of the Speedcross, I can’t speak to the changes from the previous versions, but I can stand by the solidity of this model. The lugs allow for constant grip on softer surfaces, even performing beyond expectation on snow and ice. I can now understand why Salomon ranks high amongst trail runners for brand loyalty & quality of goods.
Despite an overall positive experience with the shoe, I did have a couple of problems. The shoe is pretty bulky and the heel drop is pretty extreme, especially for someone like me that favors reduced running shoes or even minimal running shoes. Salomon seems to be addressing that with the Sense, due out later this year. The shoe is also a bit narrow keeping my toes from splaying properly. And finally, like the La Sportiva Crosslight 2.0, the shoe is condition specific in that the bigger lugs limit it’s usefulness on hard pack trails like those I run in Southern California.
Despite these shortcomings, I really love the shoe. If you are a trail runner like me, definitely slip some on and get some miles in. Even the minimalist in me likes them and the soft comfort will impress you! If you have any questions or want more information, be sure to visit: http://SalomonRunning.com and follow @Salomon_Running (these shoes were provided by Salomon for review)
Also be sure to subscribe to the Ginger Runner YouTube Channel here:http://bit.ly/subGINGERRUNNER
While it’s been a few weeks since I actually ran the Point Mugu XTERRA 11k trail run, I still remember it in vivid detail. It’s easy to say that this run might be one of the most beautiful and breathtaking races I’ve participated in.
The race is located far outside Los Angeles, up the Pacific Coast Highway, north of Malibu at Point Mugu (obviously). I had never been to this park before so I was pretty excited. Driving along the Pacific Ocean and watching the sun rise was a wonderful race warmup and definitely put me in the right state of mind. It wasn’t until I started seeing hordes of cars parked along the side of the freeway that I knew I was near the park, snapped out of zen and into race mode.
This was also my first XTERRA race so I was interested to see how it was set up, knowing it would be smaller scale than some of the bigger city races I’d participated in. The start was well marked, plenty of tents were set up to get me signed in, snag my bib and Tshirt (not a great design), and prep me for the hills ahead. Having a race supporter (Jimmy Dean Freeman, ultra running coach, WS100 and Badwater finisher, and creator of the Coyote Running Group) give us a pre-race speech and explanation was awesome. It’s nice to have someone fun and approachable explain an unfamiliar course and some it’s finer points before I race it. It gave me the opportunity to form a strategy before I started.
All of the 11k racers readied themselves at the small start banner, prepped to leap up the first hill just meters ahead. Jimmy Dean mentioned that the first 400 meters are flat but are followed by over a mile of granite steps and climbs that are damn near single track, making passing almost impossible. The idea was to get out fast and avoid stalling behind slower runners in this first section. If all else failed I could make up some time on the wider fire roads at the higher elevations between mile 3-5.
BOOM. Jimmy counted us down and we were off. I tried to leap frog up towards the front but was almost immediately in a human traffic jam. Everyone seemed to want to fight for the front. Damn. And just like that, we were on the slope and steps. The run quickly turned to a slow single file walk upwards. The line of people as far up and back as I could see. Every section of wide trail, I did my best to move forward a few positions. I just wanted to get up to racers my speed and be able to control this race.
Once I got further up towards the fire roads where the trail widened out, I was able to push harder and pick up my pace. This race was also an opportunity for me to put some hard miles on my recently healed foot (which I injured during the San Fran Marathon) so I considered the first few slow miles warm-up and now it was time to push. I felt the spikes on my Salomon Speedcross 3s dig into the soft earth and glide me forward and upward.
It was around mile 4.5 that I clicked into my groove and began to open my eyes to my surrounding. I was at the top of some of the most majestic rolling hills I’ve seen in the Santa Monica mountains. The fog subtly drifted across the valley floor while the sun and heat began to rise. According to Jimmy Dean, the best was about to come. I couldn’t wait.
It was around mile 6 that this race took on an entirely new meaning to me. I had just crested the last climb, out of breath, and sweating at a good rate. The trail began to narrow again as it fell over the other side of the peak. I looked out at the view and was graced with an amazing 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean thousands of feet below. With the sun, the mist, and the steep cliff on either side of me, I felt invincible. The trail snaked it’s way back down along a skinny ridge on the side of a near vertical cliff. To my left, ocean. To my right, the slope I had just conquered. These last few miles, I made sure to enjoy every last drop. I let gravity do most of the work as I opened up my stride and ran the shit out of this downhill. I felt like I was flying. It was awesome.
Some of the best miles of trail I’ve ever run to date.
When I finished, my quads felt like jello, my heart was racing, and I wanted to immediately do it again. Well done, Point Mugu, well done. I grabbed my medal, ate some provided breakfast, iced my foot, walked to my car, and enjoyed the scenic drive home. Another race complete.
RACE SUPPORT: 9/10
RACE ORGANIZATION: 9/10
BONUS: 11/10 (spectacular views, weather, shirt, fast expo)
PLACE OVERALL: 36/181
PLACE IN SEX: 33/106
PLACE IN DIVISION: 6/14
I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been looking forward to trying these shoes out since some sneaky images of them appeared online months and months ago. Well, the press release is out, the shoes are pre-orderable, and they start shipping next month.
Needless to say I’m pretty excited to try out a quality, extremely light, zero-drop shoe – especially with the Portland Marathon just around the corner (looking for a nice shiny PR!). Many of you know I’m a fan of Newtons and currently run in their lightweight trainers (video review coming soon), so this should be a fun review. Stay tuned!
From their press release:
Newton Running Debuts the MV2
Zero-drop, 5.8-ounce natural-running shoe encourages faster, more efficient gait
08.08.2011– (Boulder, CO) – This September, leading natural-running education and footwear brand Newton Running is launching the MV2, a super lightweight, zero-drop shoe that encourages a natural-running posture, provides protection and energy return. The 5.8-ounce MV2 (pronounced M V squared) offers a unique solution for runners who want to run faster, perform better and avoid injury by adopting a natural running stride, but not sacrifice protection.
“While all Newton Running shoes feature a low heel-to-toe ramp angle to support natural-running posture, the next logical addition to our line was a shoe that was completely parallel to the ground,” says Newton Running co-founder Danny Abshire. “The MV2 facilitates landing on your midfoot instead of the heel, which supports proper biomechanical alignment, faster turnover rate and greater running efficiency. This means you run faster with less effort.”
The MV2’s second-generation Action/Reaction Technology is the next evolution of Newton Running’s patented midsole technology. Five articulating lugs align with the foot’s five metatarsal heads. With each step, the low-profile lugs depress into a chamber and rebound quickly with the aid of a highly resilient membrane.
Therefore, unlike racing flats or minimalist shoes that employ a thin layer of midsole EVA foam, which dissipates energy and breaks down rapidly, the MV2’s Action/Reaction Technology provides long-lasting impact reduction without dampening responsiveness or proprioception.
The highly breathable mesh upper is reinforced with a durable microscreen to block out dirt and debris and transparent PU support strapping ensures a high-performance fit.
Included with every pair of the MV2 are instructions for adjusting to a zero-drop shoe.
The MV2 is available in men’s sizes 6 to 14 and women’s sizes 4.5 to 12 and will retail for $125. Pre-orders are available now at www.newtonrunning.com and will be in specialty retailers by mid-September 2011.
If anyone says marathons are easy, they deserve a punch in the balls (or groinal region). They’re not. No matter how you spin it. Despite having trained long and hard for this, my third full marathon, it was by no means a walk (or run) in the park for me. In fact, it may have been my most difficult race yet both physically and mentally.
I started training for this race in early January after I ran a few decent half marathons in the fall of 2010. My last marathon in 2009 left me battered and never wanting to run again, so even doing those half marathons was difficult for me. But something clicked inside me during that fall that not only kept me running, but also planted the seed for this site. I knew that I wouldn’t give up on running again. I signed up for another full marathon, the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 1st.
Come January, post-holiday cookie weight in tow, I began my full marathon training. I felt confident early on because I already had a decent base to build upon from the 3 half marathons months earlier. I was going to approach this training a little differently than before. My first marathon – 9 years ago – was all about finishing. I didn’t care how fast or slow, I just wanted to see if I could do it. My second marathon was almost the same seeing as I had a 7 year break in between the two. “Could I still do it?”, I thought. I did, but BARELY. The BMO Vancouver marathon was going to be my redemption marathon. I was committed to making it my best at all costs. Unfortunately with all races, you really have no idea how your body is going to perform until you are already racing.
I started my training by running 4-5 days a week with my long runs on Saturdays. After a few months, I was tired of my plan and didn’t think it would make me aggressive or fast enough. My mileage was steadily increasing, but I wasn’t really challenging myself like a marathon does. I changed it up to a 6 day running schedule with Tuesdays being tempo days, Wednesdays being hill & trail days, Thursdays being easy/medium pace days, Fridays being fartlek days, Saturdays being another easy/medium pace day, and finally my LSD (long slow distance) on Sundays to coincide with race day (also on a Sunday). This proved difficult the first few weeks as my body wasn’t quite used to all the running. I let my body adapt slowly until it became difficult for me NOT to be running. It felt great.
I definitely had bad days and good days training. Bad days can be horribly disappointing, especially if it’s a speed day and you’re trying to achieve a certain pace. But when the good days would come, they made all the bad ones disappear. Almost.
Two of my worst training days came on my two most IMPORTANT training runs: my 20 mile LSD runs. The first 20 mile attempt happened to fall on an extremely hot Sunday morning. I filled up my bottle with plenty of Heed, Gels, and electrolyte tablets. I was ready to go. The run started out good enough until I hit mile 14 and started to bonk pretty heavily. I’m still not sure what contributed to it, but I was having a hell of a time finishing the mileage. Mentally, I was a mess. This was one of the most important aspects of my marathon training and despite having killer training days up to this point, I was failing myself. I finished far below my expected pace and felt lucky to even get home.
My second attempt at 20 miles was even worse. The weather was hotter than the first so I started earlier in the morning. Regardless I could tell by mile 8 that I wasn’t fueling properly. I was tired, sore, and dehydrated. But no matter how much liquid I took in, I couldn’t get my liquid levels back up. I managed to get to mile 17 before I had to stop dead in my tracks – about 2 miles from my home. So not only was I done physically, but I still had to walk the 2 miles home in 90 degree temps. I spent the afternoon fighting nausea, passing out, and headaches. I was stupid.
Both these runs destroyed a lot of my race confidence. I knew that I didn’t have any more weekends to spare to add another LSD. This was it. I was either trained or I wasn’t and I felt like I wasn’t. (cue my post about turning fear into fuel). By the time I got to my taper week, I had lost a lot of faith in my abilities to accomplish what I had set out to do. But there was no way I was going to back out at this point, I was far too curious to see the results of all this time, energy, and money spent on training.
Days before the race, It seemed even more things were going awry. I was prepping my suitcase for my flight to Seattle Thursday evening, when I went to check in online. “Hmm, that’s weird…I don’t see my flight info for tonight anywhere”, I thought. That’s because while I had been planning on flying out to Seattle Thursday evening and driving up to Vancouver Friday morning, I idiotically booked the flight out for Friday evening. You have to be FUCKING KIDDING ME. How could I be so STUPID? I had planned on meeting my Seattle friends, Justin and Destiny (who were running their first half-marathon ever), Thursday night and travelling to Vancouver early the following morning. Obviously that plan was shot to hell. I had to pay a small fee and change my flight from Friday night to early Friday morning. In the end, the mistake cost me $25 (same-day flight change), lots of sleep, and hours of travel to Vancouver. Fuckin idiot, Ginger.
Regardless, I got to Vancouver in one piece. Eventually. At that point, Justin, Kim, and I went to the race expo in hopes of beating the weekend crowds. Kim (MileLongLegs) and I agree on this: expos suck. I have yet to go to a race expo and not feel like I’m being bombarded by salesmen trying to sell me on their “revolutionary product” or service. I really do want to know why people like the expos. I understand the necessity to let your sponsors showcase their goods, but it’s not like they’re selling anything for a HUGE discount over online/local run store prices. Maybe it’s to get us into the “race spirit”? If that’s the case, give me free booze.
With bibs, chips, blue BMO race-gloves, and good spirits in tow, it was now time to spend a couple of days with my favorite people on this planet in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We ate sushi, watched movies, walked the waterfronts, tried to avoid alcohol (*tried*), carbo loaded and hydrated like motha-fuckers. I couldn’t have asked for better company during such a stressful few days. The four of us were ready to attack the BMO Vancouver race course. Justin, Destiny, and Kim were doing the half-marathon. I was going for the full-on, 26.2 mile goliath.
So, needless to say, the weekend of the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon was a delight. I got to share in the excitement of the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon being Justin and Destiny’s first half-marathons ever. The longest race they had either done up to this point was the Seattle St. Patrick’s Day Dash (5k).
Now, A factor I was concerned about leading up to this weekend was the weather. The Northwest is a fickle bitch in that she can dump rain or snow at a moments notice at any point during the year. You might have sunshine and high temps in the morning only to go to sleep with a foot of snow on the ground. Trust me, it’s happened. Lucky for us, the outlook was fantastic for this weekend with sunny skies and moderate temps.
The day before the race, the four of us focused on taking it easy by relaxing, hydrating, eating, and planning out the following day’s activities. We got in a 2 mile walk along the Quay and made a deliciously healthy protein/carb-centric meal. I was excited for my own race the following morning, but even more-so for my friends. If I didn’t have a good race, there was at least a great shot that one of them would have a stellar time to make up for it. We tried to minimize our anxiety enough to grab some shut-eye, but as it is before all big races, the sleeps had a way of toying with us. Finally, after tossing and turning for an hour, I found sexy sexy dreamland.
Waking up for raceday has never been a real problem for me. I end up sleeping so lightly the night before that I’m usually up before my alarm goes off as it is. Jumping out of bed at 4:15am to start the coffee maker was easy. I hopped into the shower (still not quite sure I know why I need to shower before a big race, but I do it) and began dawning the race gear (including my brand new, custom “TRAIN. RACE. BEER.” singlet!). Once we were all ready, we scarfed down our bagels, peanut butter, bananas, and water and started our trek downtown. We lucked out with a fantastically close FREE parking spot in front of the train station.
We walked to the start line with plenty of time to stretch, converse, “relieve” ourselves (aka shit like there’s no tomorrow), and find a place in the hord of people. Since the full marathon started 30 minutes after the half, I relaxed and stretched some more in the crisp cold sunshine. Before I knew it, the half marathoners were OFF and into their rhythm. I sent good vibes to my friends in hopes of speedy, safe finishes for all of them! As I made my way into the starting corral, I heard my name called out from a distance. I looked up just in time to see Destiny making her way along the elevated parkway about 1 or 2k into the race! That easily put a smile on my face.
Looking around the starting line, I made out quite a few runners also wearing Newtons (my shoe of choice). This made me happy. It’s nice to see a brand that has the runner in mind getting more and more customer awareness. A few people commented on mine as well as my singlet. We shared some smiles, laughs and few words. We all were about to get down to business so the mood, while light, stunk of anxiety. I positioned myself near the 3:40:00 pace bunnies, not necessarily knowing if my pace would be good or bad today. These bunnies would be my medium and I would use them as a speed-gauge throughout the race. Ok, time to breathe and focus. It’s all come down to this.
“15 seconds!”, cried the announcer. And without a 5 second count down, the airhorns blasted signaling the start of the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon. It took about 2 minutes for me to get up to and cross over the start line. I activated my Garmin Forerunner 110 and hoped it helped me keep accurate pacing. The race was underway and there was no turning back at this point.
We made our way through the first few kilometers relatively easily. The corners are pretty tight, and with the crowd size, the turns proved pretty dangerous. Many people got elbowed, complained, and through fits at other runners. No one wanted to give up their line. Knowing this kind of shit happens in all races, I kept my cool and tried to stay outside of most of the tight turns. There would be plenty of time to make up a few seconds here and there due to taking an early corner too wide.
With the sun and blue sky in full effect, I was taken aback by some of the early sites. Running under the chintown gate was awesome. Running up and over some of the parkways was stunning. Before I knew it, we were about 7 miles into the race. I was maintaining a pretty even, slow pace (low 8s) in hopes that I could really push through my fuel in the last 10 miles. I ate a gel, drank some fluid and kept on pushing. It was also at about this point that I started to get a stomach cramp. I wasn’t quite sure what it was or what it meant seeing as I RARELY get stomach cramps. Was I not hydrated? Was I OVER hydrated? Was I hungry? Was I too full?
Panic set in.
Something wasn’t right and it was still pretty early in the race so my attention was focused squarley on the light cramping, seeing if it continued to get worse or better depending on what I drank or ate. Until it got any worse, I kept up my pace. I wasn’t letting this distraction get to me. Until mile 10. It was at that point, I had a wave of nausea come over me. My entire body tingled, I felt light headed, and I knew something wasn’t right. I quickly slowed to a walk. By this point, the race took us through probably the worst burrough of Vancouver. Literally as I stopped to regain my balance and not throw up all my nutrition, I stepped right over a drug needle. “Nice, Ethan. You picked the WORST mile in this entire marathon to feel sick and start walking”. It didn’t matter where I was, I had to walk it out. I had to push my panic down and away. If I threw up, I threw up. Nothing I could do about it. Just had to focus on each step, not worry about losing time, and do what my body needed it to do.
I walked for about half a mile before I started to run again. I still felt like my body was on edge and at any moment I could yak over some homeless dude playing banjo and smoking weed. Maybe they’d get a kick out of it. I wasn’t gonna give them the satisfaction. I snapped out of my rut when I heard crazy homeless man #34 yell, “Hey, how many laps are you guys doing?” to which a polite female runner replied, “we’re running a marathon. 26.2 miles”. The crazy homeless man took a beat then yelled back, “So how many laps is that?”. That was all I needed. I wasn’t letting this nausea dictate my race. I ran on. Thanks crazy homeless man for making me smile! GO DRUGS!
Looking over my race splits, the next mile turned out to be one of my fastest. It was straight through the downtown corridor en route to Stanley Park at the northwestern end of downtown Vancouver. I don’t know how I did it, but by the time I got to Stanley Park, I started feeling really nauseas again. I pounded a gel in hopes that it’d quell the sick. I pushed on. By this point, more and more fans were making there way to the sidelines to watch the race. Finally I was getting some recognition for my custom singlet! But the recognition would always happen about 10 seconds after I’d pass someone. I’d run by along the sidelines, and I’d hear, “Train….Race…..Beer……OH, BEER! That’s AWESOME! Go, dude, go!” well after I had already passed them. But anytime I got a shout out, I’d shout some witty comment back as a thank you. It kept me going. They kept me going. No WAY I was gonna hork my breakfast in front of 100 people cheering for me!
Passing under the half marathon gate along the sea-wall in gorgeous Stanley Park surrounded by crystal clear views of the mountains around me was all I needed. After one final wave of nausea, something happened. My stomach grumbled. It was small and subtle, but it cured the entire worry and anxiety that my cramps and nausea had been causing. I realized that I was starving. My breakfast hadn’t satiated me and my nerves before the race kept me from eating any more food. By this point, my body was CRAVING something to eat. I quickly ate through my last Hammer Gel 10 miles too early knowing there would be more handed out eventually.
As I started to feel better mentally, my body came back alive. But in the process it brought with it the realization that a lot of the damage done by pushing so hard on so little fuel was already done. My legs felt like giant stone pillars, my feet killed me with each step, and my form was fighting to stay accurate. Muscles were cramping all over the place, but I knew I just had to keep plowing through. By this point, the full-marathon course had detoured away from the half-marathon course. We were running through forest lined streets heading towards the notorious Burrard Street bridge – a long hill climb you cross over just before mile 18. I had done this part of the course before on a training run so I knew what to expect, but my body was in much different condition that day.
Once over the bridge and into Kitsilano, I was treading on unfamiliar territory. I wasn’t really sure what to expect on this side of the water having never run here before. The only thing I really knew about Kitsilano was that I’d eaten at The Eatery many times (delicious sushi and awesome atmosphere). I passed an awesome group of all blue (read: SPANDEX) cheerleaders and hundreds of more spectators along the streets on my out to the last out-and-back. I knew once I got to that turn, and started heading back into town, I was nearly finished. Just had to get there in one piece.
By this point, my body was failing me miserably. Everything hurt, especially my lil feetsies. But my spirit, still pumped with the excitement that all my problems were hunger related, battled on. I grabbed a couple of GUs supplied at one of the nutrition stations and hunkered down at a moderate pace for the final few miles. I kept glancing at my watch to gauge my mile pace, but had completely forgotten to look at my watch for the OVERALL time. I hadn’t seen any pace bunnies for awhile now so I really had no concept of what my finish time would be.
When I finally made it to the turn around, I decided to do the math. As the bright sun heated the pavement and brought ambient temps up considerably, I looked at my watch. I remember seeing the total time elapsed was 3:10:00. I was right around mile 22.5. That meant I had less than 4 miles to go, and over 50 minutes to do it in in order to beat my old PR. As long as I could hold it together, I could REALLY beat my old PR. I started crying.
Yup, I’m a pussy. What sort of pansy-ass momma’s boy would cry during a marathon? This one, bitch. Trust me, you push your body hard enough and work towards a goal for months on end, the second you realize you were within grasp of it, you’d shed a lil tear too. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I still had a long ways to go until I crossed that line and a lot could happen in that time.
As I made my way back towards the bridge, I could see it looming on the horizon. When you’re down along the waterfront and you gaze up at the 200 foot high structure, it’s daunting to say the least. The worst part was that the course takes you back directly towards the bridge, then under the towering bohemoth, then around the backside of it, until finally the course dumps you square into the bridge’s sights. All I had to do was get up and over.
The adrenaline kicked in. I was still a mile or two from the finish, but that was all I needed. All those extra days of training on the hills around my house payed off. I stormed up the backside of the bridge like nobody’s business. As I passed other runners, I shouted words of encouragement. We were ALL almost done. We ALL had a little bit more gas in our tanks. We just had to find it. And just like that, I crested the climb, and started the downhill sprint to the finish.
By this point I was emotionally and physically trained. By muscles were going into spasms and I wanted nothing more than to be done. Fans were screaming for us as we left the bridge and started along the last stretch of road to the finish. “IT’S ALMOST TIME FOR BEER!”, “BEER IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!”, “GO, GINGER, GO!”. I have to say, the fans were really great on this course. I doubt many of them realize just how much influence they have on getting us to the finish.
Before I knew it, I could see the finish line. Not only that, I could see the pace bunnies for 3:40:00. Not only that, but I passed Justin and Destiny cheering their asses off for me near the finish. Not only THAT, but Kim and her whole family were screaming for me as well! Bam. HUGE Adrenaline burst. Everyone finished. Everyone looked excited. I was the last one to be cheered in. I wasn’t about to disappoint them.
I made my way down the last 200 yards screaming at the crowd to cheer louder. I’m still not quite sure why, but I’m pretty sure it was my ego wanting to be recognized by thousands of strangers on my new full marathon PR. That and I hoped it would excite the other runners. I dislike spectators who only care about their one runner. Show some support for everyone! And they did. Loudly.
I crossed the finish line in 3:43:58. 16 minutes 49 seconds faster than my previous best. While I realize it isn’t a spectacular time (Boston requires a 3:05:00 finish), I’m very proud of it. It’s hopefully a strong start to a long race season. By next fall I hope to cross a finish line within grasp of a BQ. But enough about that, it was time for beers, booze, and celebration with my best friends. I soon found out that Justin and Destiny broke all expectations and finished well below their goal-times; and Kim PR’d on her half-marathon race! A truly spectacular finish for all of us.
So if you’ve made it this far in the blog, you’re about due for some hot review action! So let’s go over some things I liked and didn’t like about the BMO Vancouver marathon.
First of all, I loved the course – with caveats. Not having been from Vancouver, but fairly familiar with the city from subsequent visits, it was nice to see parts of the city that I hadn’t seen before and parts that I love. The starting line was located near the giant Omnimax sphere on the waterfront which was a nice start. I also liked being able to travel through gastown, downtown, through the always gorgeous Stanley Park, and over near the Spanish Banks in Kitsilano. I always felt like there was something to see or a breathtaking view to admire. I also hear the course is changing next year, let’s hope they have less out-and-backs. One of my least favorite aspects of larger races is the use of the out-and-back to waste mileage. They’re boring and an obvious cost effective way of shutting down fewer roads.
I thought the race support was pretty darn good. The volunteers were always peppy and ready with cheers of support. I never had a problem at any of the water stations mainly because I’ve learned from experience to bring my own water bottle with me. There have been countless reviews from this race that talk about water stations running out of cups, which is obviously unacceptable (especially after 40 years of putting this race on). But my comment back to those runners is to NEVER depend on a race to provide you with ANYTHING – no matter how sponsored or big it is. You are running a marathon where you are putting your health at risk. Better safe than sorry; bring your own shit. The opposite side to the argument is that you like to run light and don’t want to hassle with extra gear. I understand the argument, but unless you are an elite or front-of-the-pack runner who can depend on early race support before the masses take over, take care of yourself. Think about how much faster it is to have your own water and nutrition and be able to run right through a water stop. I’ve learned the hard way, as most people will.
As for dislikes, the first problem I have is with the shirts. But I also have a legit reason. BMO hosted a race shirt design contest of which I was one of the top 3 final designs chosen. First place got their design printed on all the race shirts, $1000 in gear, the race fee waived, and a 2 day, 2 night stay in downtown Vancouver for the weekend! The public voted and the winning design was put on the shirts. Unfortunately, my design did not win. It was a design, now having seen the shirt, no one seems to understand. It looks like a giant red “W” shape or some weird looking boxer on top of a clip-art city. I will never be wearing the shirt. (And frankly, I’m kinda bummed BMO didn’t give the 2 runner-up designs at LEAST a free race entry!)
Also the finishers medals have a meticulous problem. I know I’m being nit-picky with this one, but the ribbon that goes around your neck is twisted 1/2 turn too much. The medal will never sit flat or comfortably around anyone’s neck. A major oversight in the design department.
Other than that the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon was a great race at a great price with great support, a great course, great weather, and amazing friends. I will definitely consider racing it again in the future!
RACE SUPPORT: 8/10
RACE ORGANIZATION: 8/10
BONUS: 6/10 (spectacular views, weather)
TIME: 3:43:58 (New Marathon PR)
PLACE OVERALL: 692/3225
PLACE IN SEX: 560/1827
PLACE IN DIVISION: 98/246