Monday, March 17, 2014

UD hydration pack testing on Cougar Mtn.

Fun run through hail, rain, fog and sun today on Cougar.  Ahhh spring :-)  Loving the new UD packs so far. Pictured here is the new Anton pack. It's gonna see a lot of use in the months to come for sure.  Great features.  Really dialed in features on this (the second version) pack.  Looking forward to getting the PB and the SJ packs on the trail soon as welll. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The state of Seattle Mountain Running Group

A re-posting from the message I posted to my trail running group a few days ago:

Thank you to everyone for the appreciation expressed yesterday. It's been a pleasure managing this group over the last few years. Some of you have been members of SMRG from the beginning, and many are relatively new to the group - it's been growing quickly! Soon, we'll be at 1,000+ members.

For those who recently joined, allow me to share a bit of what we've been up to. SMRG has hosted many runs in our local mountains. There have been innumerable low-key runs organized through this group (from 5 milers to 100 milers). We have hosted the Humpdayathon (runs on Wednesday) series, which include the Issy Alps 100k/50k (occurred last year and the year before); the Tiger Mountain Trail 50k/50m; the Chirico Tenpeat (which Jess Mullen continues to host); many 'ghost' 50k/50m/100ks around our local peaks, and many more ultras and sub-ultras which others could elaborate upon. A splinter group from SMRG, the High Heels Running Group, emerged and offers women a female-specific trail running group - meeting regularly for weekend trail runs. Across our local mountains, on any given weekend, you’re likely to bump into small groups of SMRGers – many of whom met via our Facebook-based group. I’m delighted to say that I’ve met many of my closest friends in the NW through this group.

SMRG has generally kept a rather low profile, and operates entirely on a grass-roots basis. While most of our events have occurred on the trail, we've done stuff around town too. Among the higher profile of our community-oriented events, I was happy to propose, and then organize, the first community event at 7 Hills Running Store (a premiere of the movie The Mountaineers), and then two of the subsequent events at the store. These events have either been free or of negligible cost. Phil continues to offer up events of this kind.
Soon, a new trail-running friendly store will be opening in Issaquah, Uphill Running. I'm excited to see what Trey brings to the local running community, and know his store will offer up new opportunities for community building.

Personally, I'm glad we have social media as a resource for bringing together trail runners who live all around the Seattle area and beyond. I hope many of you newer members will consider offering up your own grass-roots events. I encourage you to use this site as a vehicle to do so. Let's see how many ways we can leverage social media to build the largest and most vibrant trail running community around. See you out there!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mountain Ultra Planning in 2014

My running calendar is slowly unfolding for 2014.  No rush.  Nice letting plans roll out organically.  Only made it as far as April so far, but that's a good start.
This Sunday, I'll lead a group of Seattle Mountain Running Group friends on the classic '12 Summits' 50k, on nearby Tiger Mountain. 
On April 23rd, some friends and I will run a 'ghost' 50k on the Yakima Skyline course.  Should be a great time, and hopefully we'll score some sun again this year.
After that, who knows?!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snow Running article in the local press

My friend Roger and I were interviewed for Outdoors NW Magazine this month.  The article is titled: On The Run: 5 Reasons to Hit the Snowy Trails

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Upcoming gear reviews

2014 is revving up to be a busy year, gear-review wise.  Lots of great stuff coming out, and I'm looking forward to testing/demoing and reviewing several exciting new releases. 

Sunglasses for running (and an active lifestyle):  Maui Jim Nakalele and Maui Jim Olowalu.  Both of these glasses are incredibly light, have titanium frames, and feature the newest lenses made my Maui Jim, the MauiPure lenses, which are reported to be about as clear as it gets.  I ordered the HCL Bronze lens in both pairs of glasses, as these offer the best contrast (very helpful for running over technical trails through variable light conditions).  I've had a hard time finding sunglasses that are light and comfortable enough to wear while running long distance.  I think the Maui Jim line offers some exciting items toward this end.

Hydration packsUltimate Direction Signature Series (version 2).  I love my Ultimate Direction AK v1 vest.  It's by far the best hydration vest I've run with so far.  I'm very curious to see what updates have been made to the AK vest, and to check out the SJ and the PB vests.  Once I've logged some miles in each, I'll review them - detailing the various merits of each.  This will be a comparative review. 

Shoe reviews:  Hoka Conquest  I've been waiting to try these babies out for some time.  A significant step forward for Hoka.  Looking forward to trying a more responsive Hoka ride on the trail and the pavement.  Read about them via the provided link.  My review will appear on iRunFar.

HeadlampPetzl Tikka RXP  I've used this little gem on the last two Sunday morning runs, and I'm really liking it.  A detailed review coming soon! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Morning mountain run on Tiger with Simon

Gotta love the inversion effect. Sun and warmth up high, cold and fog in town.  One more reason to roll out of bed and hit the trail for dawn patrol.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

In April of 2013, I began using a Suunto Ambit to log my runs.  I've been conflicted about using a GPS watch before, but have come to enjoy it.  The fact that it was really the first watch created for active mountain fitness drew me in.  Given that I don't usually have a race to train for, I've found it helps to keep me honest and to push myself a bit in my 'training'.  Here are my year-end stats, as given by Strava:
from April - December:
Distance:  1,080.2 mi
Time spent running:  214h 23m
Elevation Gain (my favorite stat):   253,343 ft
# of runs:  139
I seemed to average just over 40 miles a week, with about 4 runs per week.  Most of my miles were done in the mountains - nearly all of my runs were on some sort of trail.  I'm looking forward to having a watch for all of 2014, and curious to see what my stats will look like next year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

This month’s Trail Runner Magazine Blog Symposium question is, “is too much emphasis being placed on competitive results in the sport (of trail running)?”  

The nascent sport of trail running is still getting off the ground in terms of garnering corporate sponsorship and attention.  While crowds have grown exponentially in the last several years, large sponsorships are still few and far between.  There is an inherent problem in the sport of trail running – it’s difficult to watch.  Small crowds of supporters gather in the woods to catch but a glimpse of the runners passing by or sprinting to the finish.  Technical single track doesn’t allow race vehicles to tow alongside the runners, and watching GoPro videos of a runner bombing down hills tends to induce more nausea than inspiration.  

Common trail banter often includes discussion of what the leading competitive runners are up to, and which races are coming up.  Some of the sport’s leading competitors enjoy wide-spread acclaim and draw (relatively) large crowds when they come to town to speak and join a group run.  It’s difficult though to relate to the most competitive performers.   Ninety-nine percent of us can’t realistically hope to complete a 50k at break neck speed, never mind racing for 100 miles through the woods at sub 8 minute mile pace. 

If trail running is difficult to film, and top-level competition is hard to relate to, then what other areas of trail running might be emphasized and how?  I would suggest that we look closely at what inspires people.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘inspire’ as making “(someone) want to do something,” or giving “(someone) an idea about what to do or create,” causing “(something) to happen or be created,” and finally causing “someone to have (a feeling or emotion).”  

Perhaps we could take a lesson from new trail runners, who seem to best embody what Shunryu Suzuki called ‘beginner’s mind’.  New trail runners have a sense of wide-eyed wonder about them.  They’re taken with the beauty of the trails, are eager to meet other trail runners, and are hungry to learn from those who’ve been at it for some time.  This is where our goal-oriented culture creeps in.  New runners hear about the big ultra marathons and the requisite training that should precede them.  Runners capable of running throughout the day and night, and races covering one hundred miles are captivating to hear about.  Many of us are, at this point in our introduction to the sport, looking for something to strive for.  Ultra running intrigues with what seems to be an almost superhuman level of challenge.   The beauty of the woods, freedom of exploration, and pleasant conversation while running down singletrack can take a back seat here, as ambition sets in, only to be replaced with dogged determination later.  

I tend to see that same quality of ‘beginner’s mind’ also embodied by those who, at least occasionally, eschew racing in events in favor of creating their own trail running adventures.  Take, for example, Peter Bakwin.  Peter began long-distance trail running by running the 40 mile Continental Divide with some friends.  During that run, he and a friend decided to train for the 500 mile Colorado Trail.  Since then, he has gained some notoriety for these feats.  He writes, “though I have done many races at all distances in many different countries, big adventure runs always attracted me the most.  I wanted to explore my limits.  I wanted to attempt things I had no idea that I could finish.  I wanted to dream up my own adventures and figure out how to make them happen.  I spent some years pursuing those adventures, having amazing experiences, traveling widely, and seeing a lot in the process.” 

Ultimate Direction recently recognized the value Peter brings to the sport by creating the Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest.  Peter was one of three runners who had a vest named after him - the other two being well-known competitive ultra runners, Anton Krupicka and Scott Jurek.  UD also featured a lengthy blog post by him, complete with pictures, on their website.  This allows UD fans to read about Peter, learn about his approach to self-supported ultra running, and be inspired by his story.  Actually, two of the three posted comments following his writing communicate how readers were inspired by Peter’s example.  When a sponsor like UD chooses to publicly appreciate the efforts of a primarily non-competitive ultra runner, they help spread awareness of the legitimacy of these endeavors – efforts which are inherently worthwhile, and inspiring in their own right. 

In my mind there is the ‘sport’ of trail running, and there is the ‘practice’ of trail running.  While the ‘sport’ certainly receives the lion share of attention, it’s the ‘practice’ that I’m more drawn to.  I’m not alone.  I found it quite refreshing when, just last weekend, I ran with two friends and none of us had any races planned for 2014.  My friend Jay shared, “I run for the training and get what I need from that.  The guys who impress me most are the guys that come out all the time and just run trails.”  That statement resonates with me, and I would love to see more coverage in the print and online media of the trail running adventures happening under the radar.  It would also be wonderful to see more sponsors recognizing the potential in supporting and promoting the efforts of more adventurous ultra trail running.  There are many stories worth hearing, seemingly innumerable lessons to share, and adventurous trail runners aplenty to be inspired by. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Salomon has kicked off the 3rd season of their trail running video series with an inspiring bit on Bernd Heinrich.  He's still running, and has spirit, and knowledge to spare.  Particularly enjoyed watching him sway with the tree tops.  Reminiscent of John Muir.  Worth a quick view:  Salomon Running S3 Ep1

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Autumn morning run on the Ira Spring Trail with Lars Larson

Running down the mountain - a morning well spent.
Morning sunrise
Into the sun
Fall colors in effect
Uphill runner
Fog - all the way to the sound.  Blanketing the valley. 
Can you find Lars?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Salomon Fellraisers arrive

I've been waiting for the arrival of the Salomon Fellraisers for several months now.  Salomon knows trail running, and I'm a big fan of the Salomon Sense and Sense Ultra.  Neither of those shoes have much in the way of tread or protection though, and both seem to lead to foot fatigue when running technical trails for more than 30 miles (in my experience anyway).
I enjoyed running in the Speedcross, but they had a bit too high of a heel/toe drop for me (9 or 10 mm depending on who you ask).  They weren't terribly breathable either.  Enjoyed the aggressive tread though, and the quality of build.
Salomon took the best of the bunch and threw it together.  This is the Fellraiser.  The tread is just as aggressive as the Fellcross1, with slightly elongated lugs.  The major difference is the upper.  I still can't run in my Fellcross, as the upper is crazy stiff, and seems to have been designed to withstand hurricane forces and grenade launches on the world's gnarliest singletrack conditions. 
The Fellraiser features a 6 mm drop.  The upper is mesh with lots of reinforcements around the side.  The overlays are in effect, but seem well integrated.  The toe box is relatively wide for Salomon, but that's not saying much.  Not as narrow as some, but still a fairly narrow shoe.  I have a 2E/medium width foot, and the fit is fine - true to size.  Personally, I'll take the more tapered fit, as they provide a more secure ride when running downhill and taking turns fast.  No Altra Lone Peaks for this guy, thank you very much.
Salomon uses the same quicklace system of all their SLab (and other trail running) shoes.  However, there's a slightly deeper pocket on the top of the tongue that easily packs all the excess lace after tightening.  Salomon also uses their OrthoLite insole, which I enjoyed in the Speedcross.  A nice cushy ride without any undue pressure under the arch.  My size 11s weighed in at 10 ounces.  Keep in mind though that most shoe companies advertise weights of size 9 shoes, so mine would be seen as weighing less on most vendor sites. 
These shoes are clearly made to go the distance.
First impressions after first (very short) trail run - they feel light, quite flexible, incredibly grippy, nimble, well-cushioned, not over structured and not minimalist.  I can imagine running for a long time in these puppies, and will run with them on the PCT this weekend and likely around Mt. Saint Helen's next weekend.
I'm going to have a lot more to say about the ride after I get some miles on them.  Till then, these were my first impressions.  Seem like an awesome addition to the Salomon line for those of us who like to bomb technical trails, and find ourselves between minimalist trail shoes and more structured traditional trail shoes.  Nicely done Salomon design team!  

Phil, at Seven Hills Running Shop, posted that he'll likely have these babies in very soon.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Finally beat the elusive 4 hour out-and-back time on Rattlesnake Mountain today.  Came in just over 3:59, but I'll take it!  My Movescount data 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last weekend my father and I visited the Grand Teton National Park for the first time.  We stayed at Jenny Lake Lodge, in the southern Teton range.  On Friday and Sunday, I was able to get in some great runs.  Some of my pictures are shown below, and I thought I'd relay a few of my thoughts regarding trail running in the Tetons for any of my friends who haven't had the chance to run there before.

Following my landing, I was struck by how beautiful the area is.  The view from the airport is striking, with the Tetons seemingly just a stone's throw away from the runway.  The airport itself is quite nice, and you exit the runway by walking through an arch comprised of antlers as you enter the ranch-style building.  Once I caught my ride to Jenny Lake, I asked the driver to stop at the nearby mountaineering store.  I wanted a good trail map and a small canister of bear spray (the Tetons are home to a large population of bears and moose).   

Jenny Lake Lodge, where we stayed, is situated just across from the foot on the Tetons.  It's a lovely little place, with approximately 35 log cabins and a main lodge (pictured below).  The restaurant is highly acclaimed and serves an extravagant breakfast, a simple but tasty lunch, and a five course prix-fix dinner that is out of this world.  The food was great, almost too great, as it's challenging to burn off enough calories when you're eating that many tasty and elaborate meals each day.  The staff was incredibly friendly and highly personalized in their approach to service.  Neither my father nor I rented a car during our trip, and we were provided free SUV shuttle service by a young man who was quite happy to be working in a national park for the summer.  If you are a guy and decide to visit the lodge, bring along a dinner jacket, as the restaurant is formal and jackets are encouraged. 

I couldn't eat lunch fast enough after landing.  I was so excited to get out on the trails.  I wolfed down a portobella burger in the restaurant, an IPA (I was on vacation, so...), and headed out.  Fortunately, my 5L Salomon S-Lab hydration pack allowed me to easily carry a canister of bear spray in one front pocket and my camera in the other.  This is such a great pack for these half-day trail runs.  I don't usually carry bear spray in areas home to black bears, but the presence of grizzlies and large bull moose seemed to warrant some precaution.  The map I purchased noted that running is particularly ill-advised in this park due to the large animals present.  Rangers I ran across echoed this, suggesting I walk slowly lest I become part of the food chain.

The way I chose to approach running in this bear/moose-heavy area was to run on populated trails.  I generally prefer running in more remote places, but I was successfully intimidated by all the bear talk, and was running alone.  When I got home, my friend Kevin told me that he visited the park a few years ago and met a runner who had been mauled by a grizzly.  He pointed out that he did though make it into Runners' World Magazine.  Lucky him.  

I can't recommend the run through the Cascade Canyon enough.  That canyon is exquisitely beautiful.  A towering cliff rises on the right several hundred feet, with waterfalls emptying onto glaciated snow.  The Grand Teton, Teewinot, East Prong, and Mount Owen are to the left of the trail.  As you run or hike along the trail and away from Jenny Lake, you face The Wigwams up ahead.  One of the looming rock faces you're running toward looks remarkably like El Capitan.  Such is the epic scale of the peaks surrounding this trail.

I made it up to 7,800 before I encountered deep snow (they had snow up until last week).  This is also the point that I encountered my first bear.  The bear was moving over the snow and around a corner.  Since I'd taken the South Fork turn, I hadn't seen or heard any people.  Things became darker and very quiet.  That, coupled with the snow and the bear, helped me decide to turn around and head back. 
On Sunday, I ran the same trail, but took a different route.  I ran the more circuitous trail so I could see the large waterfall and Inspiration Point.  Shortly thereafter I ran across some folks who just fun across (nearly into) a large bull moose on the trail. 

The trail is at altitude, at least by my standards from beginning to end.  It starts at about 6,800 ft.  I'd hoped to make it to Hurricane Pass, but the snow was prohibitive.  I felt the elevation while running, but it wasn't too much of an issue.  The air is incredibly dry though, and I was glad to have a little Burt's Bees lip stuff along, as my lips became quite chapped.  This trail, and apparently many of the trails in this area, are quite exposed to the sun.  Not a great place to forget sunscreen, as the elevation coupled with steady sun are pretty intense. 

This set of waterfalls really captivated me.  I scurried up the scree to get a better look, and rank these falls among the most beautiful and idyllic I have ever seen. 

Yellow bellied Marmot.  These guys were all over the place!  I'm not sure who startled who more as I ran by.  But, they have a very high pitched scream, which definitely wakes you up if you start feeling jet-lagged and sleepy during your run. 

This was a 200 ft. waterfall on the short trail up toward Inspiration Point.  The spray reached the trail where this pic was taken. 

This area has a sizable fire several years ago, and the area around Jenny Lake is a young recovering forest as a result. 

We saw this cub not far from Jenny Lake.  Just wondered where Mama was...

The fellas approaching Inspiration Point

View from Jenny Lake looking out toward the Tetons

First moose seen on the Friday trail run.  This guy was no more than 15 feet from the trail, but seemed impervious to passing hikers and this runner.  The seemingly tranquil disposition can be misleading though, as moose are notorious for their mercurial temperament. 

the ferry boats across Jenny Lake run continuously during the day, escorting hoards of tourists to the trails below Inspiration Point. 

This little fella didn't want to play, but thankfully slithered out of the way just as I ran up to him

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nice little video from Tim Noakes re: heart disease, hydration and running, as well as the advisability of eating fat in our diet (click here)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Symposium question: Can trail running develop into an unhealthy addiction?

Trail Running and Addiction - Staying Mindful
This month’s Blog Symposium question is a tricky one for me.  I’m a psychotherapist who works with people struggling with addiction, and I’m also a long-distance trail runner.  I’m reluctant to apply a clinical word like addiction to a generally healthy pursuit like trail running.  Trail runners, like all runners, are often healthy, happy, functional and well-respected people.  That being said, any activity can lead to addiction if that activity results in a feeling of elevated affect.  In other words, if I get a pleasurable feeling from participating in an activity, I’m more likely to repeat that behavior and could become ‘addicted’ to the feeling it provides.  If I continue with that activity despite negative effects on my life and the lives of those I love, an unhealthy addiction has developed.  

On a personal level, I don’t like considering the possibility that the positive feelings I obtain from trail running might lead to an unhealthy addiction.  I’d rather move on to a different Blog Symposium question, thank you very much, and honestly hope that next month’s question is less personally challenging.  However, my aversion to openly and candidly answering this month’s question makes me think there must be some truth to the possibility that trail running can become addictive in an unhealthy way.  My hesitation to answer points to the possibility of denial, and denial is a common attribute of (an unhealthy) addiction.  

I think it’s important to point out that people also have healthy addictions.  We feel compelled to breathe, eat, sleep, drink, clean ourselves, and procreate in our everyday lives.  Of course, these activities (with the exception of breathing) have the potential for abuse and can become problems in our lives.  That being the case, it seems silly to assume that trail running couldn’t also become problematic in practice. 

It would be easy, and far more comfortable, to take a narrow view of this month’s question, and to arrive at the conclusion that trail running, even in excess, doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria considered to constitute an addiction. 

- Trail runners don’t develop tolerance, as drug users do.  Or do they?  Many ultrarunners I know start with 50k’s and slowly move up to time-consuming 100 mile trail races, presumably responding to an inner need to cover more distance in order to arrive at a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. 
- Trail runners don’t have withdrawal symptoms.  Or do they?  Personally, I feel drained and a little depressed for a day or two after a trail ultra. 
- Trail runners don’t keep running, even when they know running causes physical or psychological problems.  Well…I can recount several stories of runners I know (myself included) who ignored medical advice and resumed running too quickly after incurring a running-related injury.
- And, let’s face it, many of us long-distance trail runners cut back on time that could be spent with family and non-running friends due to our adherence to training or racing.  

There are also neurological factors to consider when answering this month’s question.  Trail running, like other aerobic activities, results in an increase in endorphins.  Running can elevate the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.  The combined effect is multifold – runners report feeling that famous runner’s high, and may experience a reduction in anxiety and depression, as well as a sense of satisfaction and consequent relaxation.  Personally, during my trail runs, I’m often aware of feeling more connected to nature, less worried about day-to-day life stressors, and often drive home feeling very satisfied and more centered overall.  My anxiety lessened, my restlessness diminished, and feeling generally content - it’s hard to spot a problem.

I like to think of myself as passionate about my trail running, and I suspect nearly all of my running friends do the same.  Can passion become addiction?  According to Dr. Gabor Mate, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, “any passion can become an addiction; but then how to distinguish between the two?  The central question is: who’s in charge, the individual or their behavior?  It’s possible to rule a passion, but an obsessive passion that a person is unable to rule is an addiction.  And the addiction is the repeated behavior in which a person keeps engaging, even though he knows it harms himself or others.  How it looks externally is irrelevant.  The key issue is a person’s internal relationship to the passion and its related behaviors.”  

Perhaps trail running, like other recreational pursuits in which we engage passionately, exists on a continuum.  On one hand we have passion and moderation, and on the other end, excess and addiction.  I think the question of where we are on this continuum is one we can either answer honestly after thorough consideration, or one we can dismiss out of hand as being inapplicable.  Speaking for myself, I’ve noticed that I can, and sometimes do spend too much time online reading running-related articles and social media posts.  I feel compelled at times to buy more running gear when I know I don’t really need, so much as want the gear.  At times, I can be inflexible with family planning, as I feel a need to get in more time on the trail prior to a long race or self-supported ultra.  In her book Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth, Alice Miller asks us, “what is addiction, really?  It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress.  It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood.”

My personal intention is to be as mindful as possible of the internal relationship I have with trail running.  When I feel compelled to run or pursue running-related activities, I hope to be aware of that felt need, and to respond by dialing back my level of involvement (at least on an emotional level).  Running should be joyous and generally pleasurable for a runner (well, most of the time anyway), and family and friends should be able to look toward a runner’s passion with appreciation and respect.  When these conditions aren’t present, I think we can safely assume that something is amiss and we’re sliding toward the wrong end of the continuum.

Post note: Thank you to the editors of Trail Runner Magazine for choosing this article as this month's Editors' Choice winner.  Thanks too to everyone who offered their thoughts, comments and congratulatory words this week.  I really enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts and am touched that the article resonated with so many.

My Training Log