Thursday, June 23, 2011

My new running buddy. Not.

Last year we got a new dog.  He's a hyperactive poodle mix.  He runs around the house like a lightning bolt, jumps like he has springs in his legs, and always has tons of energy.  For grins, I decided to take him on a run.  I knew he wouldn't be able to make it for my usual 10K route, so I just set out for a mile around the lake.

Turns out he's more of a sprinter than a long distance runner.  He did OK for a few minutes, but began to slow significantly in less than a quarter of a mile.  I let him rest a moment, then proceeded to drag him while I ran a few hundred more yards.  He was trying to stop, so I picked him up and ran with him for a few steps before figuring out that was uncomfortable for both of us.  I put him back down and we continued around the lake, walking at a brisk pace.  Finally, after about 3/4 of a mile, he stopped.  Sat on the sidewalk and refused to move.  I picked him up and carried him the rest of the way home.  Oh, well.

Coco doesn't really get into posing for pictures.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vibram Five Fingers Treks

I have been remiss not to give an update on my experience with my VFF Treks!  Short review: I love them!

You may recall that I had some not so great experiences with my VFF Trek Sports (read here).  I bought a pair of Trek Sports, and split a seam in less than 30 miles, got a replacement, and split the seam again in less than 30 miles.  I was pretty put out, but due to Vibram's generous return policy, I got my money back both times.  I finally found a pair of Treks and couldn't be happier with them.  Treks have the same sole as the Trek Sports and the same basic design, but they have a leather upper instead of the nylon mesh of the Sports.

So far, I have run a trail marathon (Cross Timbers) and a trail 50K (Toughest in Texas) in the Treks, plus a bunch of training runs on trails.  I don't know the total mileage, but they have held up well through it all.  I still love running in them, I just have to decide whether they will be sufficient for longer runs on rockier trails.  At the TnT 50K, when I was running with Joe P., I mentioned that I had met one of his Austin runners who was running in one of Joe's races in VFFs.  Joe's comment was, Yeah, but he hasn't finished those runs!  As comfortable as they are, they do lack the foot protection that many trail running shoes offer.  I may need to try another shoe for some of the runs on my calendar, but for shorter runs, and runs on trails that are less rocky, VFFs are the shoes for me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Quest for Adventure, by David Horton

Last year I wrote about the documentary The Runner, which followed Davd Horton's record-setting run of the Pacific Crest trail (my review here).  A few years before this effort, Horton set out to break the speed record on the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine.  A Quest for Adventure tells the story of his 1991 A.T. run, as well as his 3rd place finish in the 1994 Trans America race.  With daily dispatches from both runs, Horton and his co-author Rebekah Trittipoe give us a detailed account of what it took to finish both of these feats.

After watching The Runner, I was ready to lace up my shoes (or Velco up my VFFs) and follow Horton's footsteps on the trail.  The DVD has the benefit of both the visual element--the scenery was spectacular--and the time element--you get the whole experience in less than 80 minutes.  By contrast, after reading A Quest for Adventure, I was convinced that if I ever run or hike the Appalachian Trail, I will do it nice and slow, preferably in chunks.  And I don't think I ever want to run across the U.S. 

Horton does love to run, that's clear.  Unfortunately, the tone of Quest leans more toward pain, loneliness, and suffering.  Horton's wife was reluctant to send him away for the months the AT run would take.  He frequently speaks of how he missed her, of crying on the trail, of longing for home.  Some days he had someone running with him, but much of his time was spent running alone.  I'm sure the scenery was great, and the trails were great, but that paled in the misery of the long days (30-40 miles or more) day after day after day.  Even his finish in Maine seemed anticlimactic. 
OK, I've run the whole trail and set a new record.  Can I go home now?
At least the AT run was on nice trails and had a view.  The Trans America race was pretty much all pavement, with some nice views, at times, I'm sure (we live in a vast and varied nation with some beautiful sights to see), but running on the road all that time had to be a drag.  Some was on the shoulder of the interstate, some was even on highways with no shoulders, with 18 wheelers blasting by!  Plus, there was very little drama here.  After the first few weeks, the top spots were separated enough that the best the runners could do was to maintain their place.

Please don't hear me saying that I minimize or belittle the accomplishment of running across the U.S. or setting the AT record.  But I'm left asking, Why?  Horton, a Christian who teaches at a Christian university, speaks frequently about glorifying God in his accomplishments and relying on God's strength and provision.  He said he felt the prayers of his many friends and acquaintances who were praying for him, and he sensed God's answers to his prayers along the way.  I was reminded of the time I was deep into a 50 miler and asked God for his help to finish strong.  I clearly heard God laugh at me and say, "I never asked you to sign up for this race!  You're on your own, buddy!"  (OK, so maybe that wasn't really the voice of God. . . .)
During the Trans American run, David paused at the crossroads of the AT and the Trans America course.
Horton did give an idea of what a production each of these runs was.  In both the AT and the Trans Am, he had dozens and dozens of people crewing for him at one time or another.  And he doesn't go into a lot of detail about the expense, but it sounds like it definitely took some careful planning and budgeting to make these happen.  On the AT, he even washed dishes and cleaned to pay for some of his lodging!

The other striking thing is that he grew stronger through each run.  Rather than wearing him down, the daily runs built up his conditioning, so that he was running as strong, if not stronger, near the end as at the beginning!  Clearly, this type of feat is nor for everyone, but it seems to agree with Horton.

A Quest for Adventure may not be the most beautifully written or profound book you've ever read, but as a journal of 2 remarkable runs, and as a resource for those who want to take on such a challenge, it's worth a read.

More info on the book here:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Justice Run done

Saturday I ran in the Justice Run at church, which I mentioned here.  I did a poor job of recruiting pledges, overestimated my readiness to put in big miles, and underestimated the heat factor.  In spite of that, we had a good time and raised some money to rescue young girls from the sex slave industry.

I started the day early, rising before 5 to leave the house and run to church.  I took an indirect route and got in about 15.5 miles before I got to church.  I took it slow and easy, maintaining a 10:30-11:00 pace, so I would have plenty in the tank for the run itself.  I got to the church with a half an hour to spare to get registered and rehydrated for the run, which was scheduled to start at 8:30.  I was waiting around for the start before I realized there wasn't really a start, just an open invitation to run whenever you want, so I took off a few minutes after 8:30.

I still ran pretty slowly, taking time to visit with friends who were running and to tarry at the aid station.  This was certainly more social than competitive, and many of the participants weren't runners, so there was a variety of paces and a lot of walking on the course.  It was nice meeting a new friend from NTTR, who came with 2 of her friends and her daughter.

After a few one mile loops, I realized I did not want to keep running in the heat to hit my 50K goal, nor did I think I could finish before 11:30, the stated stop time.  So I quit at 11:30 after having run 11 1-mile laps, bringing my day total to about 26.75 miles.  It wasn't a certified course, but using my Garmin mileage I'm putting it down as a marathon-distance run--a very slow marathon run!

Sorry, no pictures.  I should have at least taken a couple.  Many thanks to David Moore who organized the run, and especially to Kelly's parents for sending me my one and only pledge--and a generous one at that!  (If you still want to contribute, you can!  There are plenty of slaves needing redemption!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy National Running Day!

What is national running day?  I don't really know. Here's a web site:

Any excuse to encourage running is OK with me.  So go run!