Bring on Pikes Peak!

Sam and I are planning to run up Pikes Peak on August 7th (tentatively). Sam will then do the descent. Unfortunately, being midwesterns, we are ill-prepared to take on the elevations and the unforgiving ascent.

We are preparing for the grueling haul. Sam has been doing treadmill workouts with a steep grade. I have decided to eat gummy bears while I run up sandy hills in Northwest Indiana. After the workout, I prepare my lungs by jumping into a body of water on a flooded trail and seeing how long I can hold my breath. I figure this will help my lungs prepare for the elevation change 😊. The pain is real folks!

The Barr Trail is 12.6 miles long, and will be a fun but difficult trek. I have been working hills and sand dunes in Indiana, but nothing we have will prepare us adequately for the elevation changes. The most we can do is train, stay fit, and be sure to bring adequate nutrition for the run. I’ve hiked up the Pikes Peak three times, and I don’t think getting to the top will be an issue. I might eat those words.

PP warning

Injury Issues? Check the Shoes you Wear at Work!

During one of my chronic achilles tendonitis bouts, I was lamenting to my brother that it was terrible to not be able to run, and that every time I started back up running again, I seemed to injure my achilles tendon again. During this conversation, he asked me what I wear for shoes in the office. I told him I wore shoes I got from Walmart. His reply: “😮That could be part of your problem!”

This is during the time that I had discovered the Altra running shoes. I had recently discovered that having a shoe with a wider toe box and zero heel drop would be key to strengthening my tendons. However, this did not seem to be enough as I had just hurt my tendon trying to run minimally in my newly purchased Altras. The thought that my shoes I wore everyday could be compounding the issue did not occur to me.

This is when I started to check into shoes I could wear to work that would make my feet happy! Walmart shoes would not cut it. I had recently discovered that part of my injury problems were a result of my crooked toes to do my feet being scrunched in “normal” footwear. I needed something a wide toe box. I also started wearing an toe spacer in order to help the natural spread of my toes. I found a list of shoes that would fit the bill, but ultimately, I went with the Altra Provision Walk.

The Altra Provision Walk has been great to my feet. It is a comfortable shoe that allows my toes to full spread out, and it has helped to naturally strengthen my tendons. I will soon be in the market for a dressier shoe to fit the natural footwear bill, but thankfully my workplace is just casual enough to allow me to wear the Altra Provision Walk.

If you are suffering from injury, you may want to check not only your running shoes, but check the shoes you spend most of your day in! This could be part of the problem! A runner who is looking to go back to natural form will want to look into a shoe that will allow their toes to spread out (similar to what would happen if you went barefoot) and that has a zero heel drop. For the women readers- I know high heels look great, but is it worth sacrificing your foot health? Men who wear dress shoes- is the narrow toe box and the higher heel on most dress shoes worth it if it promotes injury. I submit that you can find great looking footwear that will promote natural alignment and foot health.

Buckley 5 mile

This weekend was the Buckley 5 mile race in Lowell, IN. It is part of the XYZ Trail Race Series in Northwest Indiana. The trail series is a fun and competitive event scored on paced on a runner’s placing at the races. The group is organized through the Extra Mile Fitness Company out of Valparaiso, Indiana.

In registering for the race, there was no options to choose a shirt size. I didn’t even notice it going through the online sign up. A few days after I had registered, I received an email from the race director apologizing that they had not asked for shirt size- and asked what size I would need. I was impressed by the customer service. I had high hopes for the organization for the actual race.

The actual race started near the entrance of the Buckley Homestead. The race was to start at 7:30 AM sharp on Saturday July 22, 2013. However, torrential downpours the night before made it difficult to get volunteers to some of the mile markers since some of the trails were flooded (we still ran through the flooded trails). This caused a 10 to 15 minute delay at the start. The rain was coming down steadily at the start of the race.

There was a runner who was dressed as the farmer (he looked like Joe Dirt with his wig on). Anyone who beat the “farmer” would get a beer glass. The “farmer” for the race looked like a young kid who would actually be fairly quick- I’m guessing the race directors didn’t want to pass out too many beer glasses.

The race started out on the roads. It was basically a 3 mile out and back road section with a few hills. I started out fairly conservatively, and at one point this “farmer” was about a 100 meters ahead of me. I didn’t think I would be able to get him. My plan was to start conservative for the first half of the race, and then pick up the pace the second half. This was before I realized the first half of the race would be all road, and the second half would be mostly trail. I stuck with the plan, knowing that my pace wouldn’t be quicker due to the sloppy trails, but I would pick up the effort in the trails. I brought a pair of road shoes and a pair of Altra trail shoes to the race. I’m glad I did, as once I found out about the first 3 miles of the course, I was able to switch out to my road shoes. I was planning on it being mostly trail before I had arrived to the race.

My pre-race plan was going smoothly. At 2.5 miles, I was 100 meters or more behind the “farmer”, and this is when I picked up the effort. By the 3 mile mark, I knew I had a good chance to catch him, and I had passed a slew of other runners. I also knew we were hitting the trail section of the course, and this would play to my advantage, since I love trail running in inclement conditions. The trails were slippery, and I could tell runners ahead of me were being extra cautious. This allowed me to catch a few more people, and then finally, right before the 4 mile mark I caught and passed the farmer.

At about 4.5 miles is when we hit a flooded section of the trail. The water was up to my knees, which made it difficult to run in. At this point, a guy I had passed earlier caught me and passed me in the water. He seemed to have an easier time navigating the flooded trail than I did. We got out of the water with less than a half mile to go, and we raced to the finish. He was able to beat me, and I finished 14th overall in the field with a time of 37:51- not bad for trying to navigate muddy/flooded trails for the last 2 miles. The course was also a tenth of a mile long, but this wasn’t an issue, it just meant runners were able to get more time for more fun!  Later, I found out the course did have to be rerouted some due to the storms the night before, which accounted for the longer course. The “farmer” was close behind, and he finished 15th. I was disappointed no one was at the flooded trail to take photos, as it would have made a sweet photo op for the race.

Overall, the race was well organized, and it was extremely fun, especially the last two miles in the trails. The prizes were great, and the “beat the farmer for a prize” element added intrigue to the race for me, and literally gave me an additional goal to literally have my sights on during the race-  since I was staring at his back for the better part of the first 4 miles.

Beer glass

Altra Olympus 2.0 Product Review

My brother introduced me to Altra running shoes earlier this year. I am big fan of the shoe. They have the zero foot drop, which many “minimalist” shoes had over the years. Unfortunately, most of the other “minimalist” shoes did not have a wide toe box. Toes need room to spread out for best function. The idea is that toes in normal shoes get scrunched, and this is not considered natural and has been linked to foot injury. A podiatrist has even created a spacer for toes that have been scrunched due to their footwear.

I was in need of a trail running shoe, especially since I plan to run on rocky trails in an upcoming Colorado trip. I wanted something with cushion, but still had the zero foot drop that I had come accustomed to with my Altra Provisions 3.0 (shoes that I love for the road!). I also coveted the wide toe box. I purchased the Altra Olympus 2.0 online at runningwearhouse.com. You will notice these are an older model- these tend to be cheaper. When the shoes came out of the box, I was surprised by the stack. I also had to order a half size larger than my Provisions, due to the fact that the Olympus 2.0 runs smaller.

Altra Olympus 2.0

This past weekend, I gave them a test run at Sunset Hill Farm. I also sported a hydration pack in order to prepare for a Pikes Peak ascent in Colorado. The shoe worked perfectly. The wide toe box seemed a little narrower than the Altra Provisions 3.0, but still wide enough to fit my correct toes fitted feet. I made sure to run the hillier sections on the park multiple times in preparation for Colorado. The cushioning on the downhills really did minimize the impact of my footfalls. I was impressed.

The Altra running shoe has impressed. In the past, I have struggled with chronic Achilles pain. I believe the Altras have been pivotal in helping me maintain running with minimal pain (along with work on form, corrective toe measures, and yoga…but more on this later!) The Altra brand is a brand that will help your foot strike in a more natural position. I give the Altra brand 5 stars!

The Battle Creek Half Marathon and 5k

On Saturday, July 1 was the wonderful, (and humid) second annual Battle Creek Half Marathon and 5k in Battle Creek, MI. I thought this was a well-executed run, and I encourage everyone in the area to put it on your to-run list. I particularly think that this run is well suited for the person looking to run their first ever half marathon. So for this review I present to you the…©TimeFramePhoto.com

Top 10 reasons why you should run the Battle Creek Half Marathon as your first half marathon.

  1. The community. The Kalamazoo Area Runners boasts the largest running community in Michigan, and they had a large presence at this race. Everyone is very friendly, and if you don’t have any friends starting the race with you, you certainly will have some finish the race with you!
  2. The size. Some say bigger is better, but this small town race has all the amenities with none of the hassles. If this is your first race you are going to be nervous enough. You don’t need to also worry about logistics.
  3. The airplanes. The first 5+ miles are on the W.K. Kellogg airport around a service road and on the actual tarmac. This provides some wonderful distractions with a plane view and close-ups of fighter jets!

    ©TimeFramePhoto.com

    Closest I’ll ever get to a fighter pilot!

  4. The Pacers. These important teammates will help you reach your goals for your first half marathon. And the Battle Creek Half recruits an all-star list of experienced local pacers. There were many names of runners who have reliably paced many other, much larger, marathons.©TimeFramePhoto.com
  5. The balloons! They didn’t happen this year, but I’ve heard in years past when the weather is co-operative they launch hot-air balloons during the race as part of the festival.
  6. The aid stations. A good sign of a well-executed race are their aid stations, and the Battle Creek Half Marathon was spot on. They were well space and well stocked. Plenty of water, energy drink, and a selection of energy gels. I would have liked to have seen some pickle juice, but then again I’d most likely be the only one drinking it.
  7. The Swag. Some of the best goodies for a small race. Included with registration was a parking pass and two free tickets to the Field of Flight festival! Also included is your running t-shirt. I wouldn’t normally mention the t-shirt, but my wife made a point to compliment me on how nice I looked the first time I wore it. It must be a fine shirt if it can make even me look good.
  8. The festival. As mentioned before you get two free tickets to Saturday’s Field of Flight festival. I did not get to attend this year, but from their website it looks like it is a blast! You could at least go in and get a couple of post-race elephant ears with the money you saved off parking and admission, and catch a few minutes of the air show. https://www.bcballoons.com
  9. The chocolate milk. That’s right, I judge a race by its post-race chocolate milk. This half certainly had it, along with other post-race goodies. No better way to celebrate the end by plopping on some grass listening to the great music while munching on chips, pretzels, bananas, jelly beans, and sipping on some chocolate milk.
  10. The free photos. And of course, after you finish your first marathon you’ll want some proof to show your friends. Included is some complementary photos of yourself in sweaty, agonizing pain crossing the finish line that you’ll want to post on social media #cantwaittilnextyear!

Summer Running!

10 reasons why summer running is great…

  1. Post run ice cream (or slushies!)

Nothing is quite as refreshing as a cold ice cream after a hot run. Plus, you just burned a ton of calories- you need the food. Enjoy!

  1. Trail running

Trail running…what can I say…its great every season! In the summer, you have to face the heat and the flies in the Midwest- but it is so worth it! This photo says it all (though not as great as the view in person!):

Image may contain: sky, mountain, tree, cloud, plant, outdoor and nature

  1. Running through sprinklers

In the heat of the summer, cooling off in a sprinkler is great. Even if it may not be “socially acceptable” for a full-grown adult to run through a stranger’s sprinkler.

  1. Less layers

Gone are the days of having to wear layers and layers of clothes to say warm. Minimal clothing is acceptable. This is great, since there is less laundry to do!

  1. Running in the daylight

If you are like the author, you work an 8-5 day job. In the winter, this is a real drag on running, since it usually is dark when I head out the door ☹. Summer is a great time to run in daylight and soak in the vitamin D!

  1. Strength in numbers

More runners on the road! I find most people end up being “fair weather” runners, or they retreat to a treadmill in the winter (not this author though!). More people get outside to run in the summer- this is a great time to catch up with old friends while hitting the trails or streets.

  1. Festival races

In the Midwest, there is a festival in a nearby small town just about every weekend. Each of these festivals are accompanied by a 5k. It is a great time to test out your 5k speed in a race, and then eat great fried recovery food afterwards! In a nearby small town, they have a Blueberry festival. I ran the 5k in the morning, and then searched for blueberries.  No actual blueberries could be found! Only fried fair food goodness!

  1. Post run jump in a body of water

The Midwest has a number of awesome lakes. After a run in hot and humid weather, jump in the lake. Just watch out for the fresh water sharks– Just kidding, this is a fake news site!

  1. Burn more calories in the heat

Per this article, you burn more calories running in the heat. This means more room for the after run ice cream!

  1. Summer rains

When it is warm outside, a nice run in the rain is refreshing. I love it when it is about 80 degrees and there is a nice rain to cool you off during the run. As opposed to miserable and cold fall/spring rains, a summer rain is very enjoyable!