Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daddy shoe, momma shoe and baby shoe

Lots has been written lately about how as runners, we have become too dependent on big thick, cushy heals on our shoes.  Our adapted stride causes the heal to strike first, which while cushy, still sends quite a jar up into your leg.

Humans didn't evolve to run like this.  How can you tell?  Just take off your shoes and run barefoot in the grass. You don't slam down with a heal strike.  You land much more gently on the middle or front of your foot.

This growing awareness, combined with all the foot, leg and knee issues runners have, has kicked off a wave of different flatter, softer and less supportive shoes.  I have been slowly moving in this direction, unsure of where along the line the changes make sense and where they become silly fad.

First, my older running shoes, a pair of Saucony ProGrid Omni 8's.  Fairly heavy.  Lots of support.  A huge thick heal.  I like them I knew their design would encourage me to pound away and I already have enough knee problems for several people.

A month or two ago I bought a new pair of shoes, INOV8 Road-X 255's. These shoes are more like racing flats. They're thinner, lighter, with less structural support and a much lower heal. I have been using these for all my running lately.

At first I was worried that these would pound my feet until I learned to run softer. Eventually I realized that I already ran fairly softly. The easiest way to tell is to run up behind someone. If they can hear your thud-thud-thud over their iPod while you are still 50 feet away, you need to change your stride. I frequently run up behind people and scare them (not intentionally) because they don't hear me until I am coming around them. I have been able to do my 10 mile run without any more issues than I would normally have (from lack of conditioning). No sore feet and the knees are hanging in there.

And finally we get to today's acquisition. These ugly little things are what happens when you buy a Vibram Five Fingers Bikila at a huge discount because the color is a crime against humanity. I'll mud and grass them up quickly though.  Yes, they actually have toes in the shoe, so you look a wee bit like a chimp with neon feet.

These shoes are supposed to be like running barefooted but you have something to protect you from rocks, glass, and such. Some people actually run marathons on pavement in these things, but I only plan to use them for my speed work days. I always run on nice, well-kept Park City soccer fields for this. My experiment is to see if these things deliver on their promise of improving your stride and the muscles in your calves and feet so that I have fewer knee problems.

There are lots of warnings about people trying to run too far, too fast in these shoes without adjusting.  People complain about everything from very sore, tired calves to broken bones in their feet.  I plan to be careful and avoid any such issues.

If you would like to learn more about why this idea seems to be catching on, try here.  It is a Harvard web site and covers it from a perspective not motivated by selling you shoes.  For an easier read, try this piece from Runner's World.

More as I find out what works and what doesn't.

Pawsatch Snow Dogs

I was out at the Friends of Animals Rescue Ranch this morning. While I was there I saw the Pawsatch Snow Dogs (a play on the Wasatch mountains). They have kids camps throughout the summer. The kids learn to ride the sleds, care for the dogs, and train them.

One started howling about something and lots of others joined in. This excited the dogs in the ranch, who mostly just started barking.

I like their attitude. If we aren't going to pull, I'm taking a nap!

As fluffy as they are, they seemed to be doing quite well in the sunshine. I was surprised they didn't seem hotter than they were, but there's always a stiff breeze at the ranch.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Running progress - week 2

I'm getting there. During the past week I lost another pound and cranked my longest run up to 10.5 miles, with an extra 1.5 miles of walking at the end. I'll just keep trying to add for a few more weeks. Five and a half weeks until the race.

Getting ready to go for my long runs is quite the effort. I realized that it was somewhere between an assault on Everest and a woman packing for a spa weekend with friends. I'll leave it to you to figure out which has more things to bring. I decided it actually needed to go on the blog.

First the things that are required before walking out the door.

We have:
  • Sunscreen for the face and back of the neck. The sun here is 50% stronger here than at sea level and two hours in it would be a lot.
  • Runner Glide for the inner thighs to keep from chafing. I would think that my skinny little thighs wouldn't have this problem, but I guess there is a lot of friction when you rub your thighs together 10,000 times on a long run.
  • Car keys for traveling. Why drive when you can run out the front door? Right now my knees are a definite weak spot. The doctor said something about "yadda yadda stop running forever yadda yadda". I didn't catch all the details. So, I can either run fast, or long, or hills, but right now, no combinations. Everywhere around us is hugely hilly, so I drive about 3-4 miles to find some flatter turf.
On to the actual running garb.

  • A 24 ounce water bottle that has a strap to grab your hand. It makes it less work to carry it all that way.
  • Two 10 ounce water bottles that go on the little hip belt. I don't have places to refill, so I should probably be carrying the other 2 10 ouncers that go on the belt.
  • The belt, for water and all my other crap.
  • Clif Shot Bloks for energy. These serve the same purpose as power gels, but they are much more pleasant, like square gummy bears. I don't start hitting these until my runs get around 8-10 miles.
  • A wrist strap from RoadID. It has my name, address, phone, emergency contact, blood type, and NKA (no known allergies). If you run, hike, bike or whatever, you should wear something like this in case of an accident. They are inexpensive and last forever. http://www.roadid.com
  • A very light, airy hat for sun protection.
  • A wash cloth. I sweat like a pig when I run and I like to try and keep some of it out of my eyes.
  • An iPhone to provide music and call for help when I run too far from home. Haven't had to do that in a few years, but it did happen running to Wake Forest one day. Thanks Julie!
  • Headphones with good ear grabbers so they don't get flushed out in a sweat torrent.
  • A ForeRunner GPS watch. Sometimes I use the iPhone for tracking my progress, but the watch is more accurate and easier to check as I run.
  • A heart rate monitoring chest strap that talks to the watch. I almost never use this, but I was getting it out for something else and decided to strap it on. The results were different than I expected, but that is for a future blog post as I learn more.
You would think that is enough, but I also have two supplies for the post-run.

  • I simply can't stay hydrated with what I can carry, so I get back to the truck and down 32 ounces of water.
  • Then the ice pack goes on the knees. Sucks to get old.
I see some of the other runners go by with just an iPod Nano and some headphones. I'm just hoping they are doing a 3-4 mile run and nothing more.

Maybe I should just get one of those kid strollers, load it with all my supplies and push it along. That might not work for the Jupiter Peak run though.

American Cars

It's always interesting to see Cars.com's annual evaluation of the most American cars. They make this judgement based on where all the parts come from and where everything is assembled. Odd to see Toyota and Honda with cars at the top of the list.

Click for the list and details.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just wandering around the local towns

Jasper and I went on a little photography adventure yesterday. We started with a trip up to Guardsman's Pass, up near the top of Deer Valley. There's still a fair amount of snow up there and Jasper was so happy to be in it again. To make it better, there were little pot guts (ground squirrels) running around for him to chase. It doesn't get much better than that.

The mix of the trees finally getting some foliage, blue skies, white snow, and granite were beautiful.

We ran across some leftovers from the winter. There are a number of cabins in the area that once the snow falls, are only accessible by snowmobile. You pack in all your supplies. I have to guess this snowmobile died on a trip and was left for summer recovery.

The area around the Montage hotel was clearing pretty quickly. We watched for a few minutes and never saw a human. I have to guess that you won't have any problems getting a vacant room.

This week they discovered a collapsed mining tunnel up on one of the ski runs. It's a good thing this normally happens in the summer instead of during ski season. They haven't figured out how deep it is or how to fill it. Welcome to a small town with 750 miles of tunnels. They have blocked the mine entrance off with fencing, but it may be worth a hike up for a peek and a photo.

As we head down to much lower elevations, we started seeing a lot of spring flowers.

These flags were lined up in preparation for the Oakley Rodeo, held over the July 4th weekend.

The snow melting from the mountains is causing quite a bit of flooding, but at least it isn't as bad as it would have been if spring had been warmer. All the low lying fields look like they should be growing rice.

Look closely. One of the horses is a bison.

The Weber River is normally more like a creek. Not now. You can see that there is only about 18" of space under the bridge, and that's a busy highway.

In places were you could normally splash around in the shallows, there were large rapids. On the left you can see a guy working on the sand bags. Utah now has hundreds of thousands of sand bags. Some are working well and others have been overrun.

There are lots of houses with water in them. You can see someone's trampoline in this picture. Their yard has become part of the river.

It's tough to see the water's flow, but it is actually flowing out from under the front door. That's never a good sign.

The only good news for those being flooded is that it looks like we may have maxed out the levels. The warm weather should cook off the bulk of the snow over the next week and then everything should dropping back to its normal summer drought.

With the cool, wet spring, everything here is much greener than normal. Grass and trees are growing more than usual. By now we are normally experiencing summer in a high altitude desert and we almost never see rain. The funny (in a sad way) thing to hear the TV news talking about the big floods and at the same time, "boy is all this growth going to be a big fire hazard when it dries out."

Savor the Summit 2011

It is becoming an annual habit. They close down all of Main Street and restaurants line the street with tables, top to bottom. There were 30 restaurants participating and I would guess about 1500 diners.

We had perfect sunny weather with temps in the 70s. Our group ate with 350 Main, one of our favorite spots to dine.

It really is a wonderful event. 1500 people eating outdoors together. Live music. All in the middle of what is normally a busy street.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Spring and summer finally arrive

After all what felt like nine months of winter, we skipped spring and jumped to summer. We are finally seeing temperatures hit 80, the trees are greening up and the early flowers are blooming. Yeah! Now we are having day after day of brilliant sunshine.

Now that the weather has warmed up, everyone switches to their summer activities: running, biking, mountain biking, softball, and of course, hot air ballooning.

I was driving to CrossFit the other morning when I saw this balloon landing. When you are subject to the strength and direction of the wind, you often land in less than ideal places. In this case, it was right in the middle of a shopping center parking lot.This is a big no-no but sometimes you take what you are offered.

The warm weather is starting to cause some pretty significant floods. There's still a lot of snow up high in the mountains and it is melting pretty quickly. The Mirror Lake Highway is a very popular road into the Uintah mountains taking you to some spectacular scenery and lots of camping and hiking. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of snow on the road, some has drifted 20 feet deep. UDOT said they still have to remove 250,000 tons of snow before they can open the road.

The weather is shaping up nicely for all the July 4th events next weekend. My cousin Sara is coming in on June 30th.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Running Progress - week 1

Down 2 pounds. Jogged 8.5 miles this morning and walked another 2.5. My arbitrary cut-off between going for a run and a jog is 9:00 minute miles. Hoping to find a 10-mile run in the next two weeks.

Here's a picture of Eric, one of my CrossFit instructors, in a recent competition. He's doing lunges for speed with a good sized weight overhead.

I spent a few minutes checking, and then double checking. There are definitely some muscles that simply don't exist on my body. I think I got ripped off.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Howl the Gilded Moon

A decade ago, Raleigh did an auction of artsy wolves to raise money for non-profits. Most cities have done something similar. Here in Park City, they did moose (huge) and then dogs. Julie bid on and won a wolf statue called "Howl the Gilded Moon". He is quite pretty and lived in the pool/bar room in our house in Raleigh.

Once we knew we were selling the Raleigh abode, we either had to bring the wolf to Park City or find a good home for him. Since he would be irrelevant here in Utah (not part of a city-wide wolf collection) and he was big and fragile, we went with find a home.

We started trying to get interest from NC State's Wolfpack Club. Should have been a great fit, but they were useless. Then we went to the city of Raleigh's Arts Commission. They were very excited to get him, but there is quite the process in place for accepting art for display. He was eventually blessed and now has a new home.

They made him a nice base and some custom plaques. Here is the press release that the Arts Commission just did:

The City of Raleigh Arts Commission is pleased to accept for its permanent collection the sculpture "Howl The Gilded Moon." The artwork was created by Antonio Colon and Lee Lewis in 2001 as one of 100 fiberglass wolf sculptures exhibited throughout the city as part of the Arts Commission's "Raleigh Red Wolf Ramble" public art project.

The Raleigh Red Wolf Ramble was inspired by other public art projects around the country featuring such creatures as pigs, cows or fishes. Selecting the red wolf as the theme resulted in partnerships with local organizations, including the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. The project created a fun environment while offering educational information on the red wolf's plight as an endangered species.

During 2001 and 2002, the completed wolves were showcased throughout the city in parks, campuses, museums, shopping malls and other venues. Howl the Gilded Moon was exhibited at Crabtree Valley Mall. Following the exhibition, the wolves were auctioned, with proceeds benefitting the Arts Commission's public art program.

Howl the Gilded Moon was donated by former Raleigh residents Steve and Julie Joyce, who relocated recently to Utah. The sculpture can now been seen in the lobby of Marsh Creek Community Center at 3050 N. New Hope Rd.

"We appreciate the Joyces' generous donation, and are excited to add Howl the Gilded Moon to Raleigh's art collection," said Kim Curry-Evans, the City of Raleigh Art Commission's public art coordinator. "The Red Wolf Ramble was a very popular public art project for the City."

Many of the wolves can still be seen "roaming" the city in venues such as the Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex and Sertoma Arts Center.

For more information, contact Kim Curry-Evans, public art coordinator for the City of Raleigh Arts Commission at 919-996-4688.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This morning's full moon

Just a cool view this morning from the deck as the full moon set behind the mountains, about 30 minutes after the sun had come up.

A closer view of the moon with some Park City ski lifts. Can you Park City people figure out which ones they are?

And even the Montage looked pretty this morning.

All this on a day they said was supposed to be rainy. It was 33 degrees when I was taking these shots, so I think the rain might have come down white and fluffy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jasper the Wonder Dog!

I know everyone thinks their pets are special and wonderful, but I am quite convinced that Jasper is specialer and wonderfuler.

Today we were out at the city park playing fetch with Jasper's ChuckIt. After a while, a little boy wandered over to watch. Jasper looked at him and decided he should join in. He walked over, dropped the ball at the boy's feet, backed up a bit, and then laid down waiting for him to throw it. I gave the little boy the ChuckIt so he wouldn't have to suffer the agony of Slobber Hands.

Even though the boy could only get 20-30 feet out of a throw, Jasper brought it to him over and over again. When they were both through, the boy gave Jasper a pat on the head and Jasper gave him a quick lick.

I just sat and watched the whole thing take place. When we got back to the car, I gave Jasper a big dog biscuit as a reward, but he probably had no idea why he was getting it.

Nice to have such an easy going, friendly dog.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Uh oh. Time to get serious

Bill Shakespeare wrote: "To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream". I woke this morning with a similar thought cadence: "To laugh, to cry; To cry: perchance to get outside and start running".

The Jupiter Peak Steeplechase is less than eight weeks away. It's 16 miles of running, up 3,000 feet of vertical and back down. Up is fatiguing. Down is punishing. Anyone with any good sense would be running about 40 miles a week now and starting to do some serious hill climbs. The only good news for me is that "four-tee" and "four-teen" sound pretty similar, so I can say that I am close.

I went back and looked at my exercise log. I have been quite busy over the past two months. Unfortunately, busy mostly means traveling, rowing, CrossFit, hiking, and some stationary biking. I have lots of great excuses for not running: snow, cold, more snow, lots of travel, and of course, even more snow. Excuses don't propel you up the mountainside. My conditioning plan now requires some form of Papal miracle, which is unlikely since I am not Catholic or even religious.

At least I woke up motivated. Perhaps better late than never? I am still packing most of my winter's hibernation fat. Isn't that supposed to come off during the winter instead of increasing? Works for bears, but I guess they stop eating and drinking, and that just isn't going to happen. I would love to drop 10 pounds before the race. Mostly I am just lazy and can't imagine running 16 miles with a 10 pound dumbbell, especially a jiggly one.

Our travels are complete for a few months. The snow has stopped (mostly, perhaps...). No more damn excuses. I need to get back to what worked for my marathon training, a weekly mix of distance, speed, hills and less couch time.

We shall see. This morning I slogged 7 miles and walked 2 more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Visiting the moms

Our last trip for spring of 2011 was to Maryland and then Michigan, to visit my mom and then Julie's. We spent four days with each, catching up, helping around the house a bit, and getting out for some exploring.

My mom is a very avid bird watcher and is always running at least five bird feeders at her house. Here she is executing her morning ritual of feeding the two Mallards that show up around 6:30. Whose ever heard of ducks coming to a bird feeder?

We got down to Annapolis to see the Secret Garden Tour. In the older parts of Annapolis, the houses frequently have quiet little back yards, blocked off from public view by the house and perhaps a fence. Each year, they hold a fundraiser and open 10-15 of these gardens to the public. Some were quite pretty. One had a gorgeous yard on Spa Creek. I was drooling at the big dock (for an 80' boat), easy water access and oops, the 4.5 million dollar asking price. It really was nice!

While the flowers were pretty, this little cat was by far the most interesting sight. He had just had his summer shave. His head looked so big I thought he would fall over forward. He could easily be the main character of a children's book.

One night we popped down to Alexandria to have dinner with Jim and Kathy Covaleski. It was wonderful getting to see them. Kathy put on a great meal, especially given that she had to get up around 3:00am for a flight the next morning. I doubt she looked quite as cheerful then.

On to Michigan. I couldn't help but giggle at the BWI airport rental car facility. When you turned in your car, you had to take the bus to the airport, several miles away. Can you guess which way to go for the bus? In case you got lost (along the straight line with a 20 foot wide sidewalk, they put these signs, all identical, about every 30 feet. If you couldn't read, it was ok. The bus was actually in plain view the entire walk.

One of the factors that determined when we would take this trip was the high school graduation celebration for one of Julie's cousins' daughter. If you have followed this blog, you might remember that almost every year, Julie and I make a pilgrimage to Michigan to join Bill and Kathleen Donnelly for a Michigan football game. This is Bill with the recently graduated Mehgan. We have managed to catch all three of their kids graduation events. The oldest, Michael, just graduated from Michigan State and will be heading to Chicago to work.

This is Julie's mom holding her new prize. We went to the Verizon store in search of a new cell phone and came home with the phone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab. It's a 7" tablet that runs Android. (Apple fans, think little iPad).

Julie got it configured correctly and Joan got to start playing with it before her trip to Oregon. It's quite the impressive little tablet. Over the next year or three, I think most people who just use their computers for email and web access will toss the laptops and go with a tablet.

I'm always the one taking pictures, so I normally only show up in those odd-angled pictures where I am holding the camera pointed backwards. Julie's mom took this one, so it isn't my usual close-up (a good thing).

A great trip! We got to see lots of family, do lots of interesting things, and even managed to do a good job of eating healthy and exercising, which is our normal travel failure.

After a half dozen trips, it's time to stay at home for a few months and enjoy Park City's cooler weather.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Drive by photography

Julie and I are leaving on a trip to visit the moms (in Maryland and Michigan) so I didn't have that much time, but I did get out and shoot a few pictures. Of course, I took my co-pilot, co-photographer and wildlife spotter Jasper.

There are babies everywhere. These are mystery ducks but I am guessing Mallards.

A pretty duck, but one I have been too lazy to look up yet. I have started bird watching with a long camera lens too often lately. I just snap a shot and look it up when I get home. Anyone?

Bless the people who named this one. None of that odd, hard to remember stuff. It's a yellow-headed blackbird. It's not a great shot, but I wanted to show what is in the next picture.

I've been having fun trying to capture birds in flight lately. Some have very interesting patterns that only show when they fly. Notice the white patch on the wings. The kicker is trying to aim and focus with a 400 mm lens.

I have no idea where my Sandhill Cranes went, so I found another pair. These are just down the road from the local zebra, buffalo and family.

They have two little colts. I wanted to get better shots, but I decided it was more important not to disturb mom and dad.

It was funny to watch them cruise back and forth through the fence. They could do it effortlessly, but mom and dad were much too big. Every time they would get on the "wrong" side, one of the adults would give an authoritative honk and they would come running back.

Leaving the cranes, we stop by the side of the road to watch the Pot Gut Squirrels. They look mostly like squirrels, but group and behave just like prairie dogs. Here's one on guard.

They would yell back and forth to one another. They could belt out quite the call for such little animals.

Some were standing guard while others appeared to be in charge of hiding. This one refused to come out no matter how patiently I stood still.

This one gives you more of the traditional squirrel pose.

And as is often the case, we end with my favorite for the day. How cute!

Off to the sunny (and humid) east coast!