Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trail dues!

This weekend I had planned to go back and cycle the Ojai Century ride, I had technical failure last year and only managed to complete 80 odd miles. But instead I headed out to the San Gabriel Mountains to get my trail maintenance ticket punched for the AC100, a days work is required as part of the entry and it was a good opportunity to see some of the trail up close and personal. An early start and I was at the meeting point by 7:00am surrounded by other runners and several Parks department folks who are associated with the race, all holding travel mugs of coffee and chatting away. It’s always easy to insert yourself into a conversation and it gave me the opportunity to actually talk to some Facebook friends with whom I had only said hi to on race day.

We sorted out some car-pooling and I took two others in my Expedition; hi-lift was recommended for the drive up. After a short journey we hit the trailhead and the large metal gate baring our way, after some finesse with a crowbar it was open and we were driving up the trail. The cloud was low and thick as we drove through and I wondered what lay in store at the work area. We drove for about 30 minutes eventually topping out above the cloud and were presented with some amazing views of the surrounding peaks.

After parking the cars we shook out into five workgroups of 6 people and were equipped with McCleods, Polaskis and snips and given our directions. The group included a fellow Brit (yeah we’re everywhere) as well as several other familiar faces that I know from the “scene” but had never had the opportunity to talk to. We walked down and the conversation obviously touched on the usual topics; races run, race bucket lists and the like. We had a 2.5 mile walk along the trail to our section which was only .75 of a mile long but needed some serious work on overhanging branches as well as widening and clearing along most of the way, it’s amazing how long it can take to clean a section 30’ long and the 6 of us worked hard through to a 15 minute lunch and then through to about 2:00pm. We all had a vested interest in doing a good job as this section was around the Mile 85 mark which we would be climbing between 26-28 hours into the race.

We had been told to return between 3-3:30pm and we had a mostly uphill walk. The cloud had lifted off of Mt Wilson (5710’) and I was told that it’s peak was around Mile 75 after which runners dropped down its side and back up Idlehour Trail, (the one we were working on) to an Aid Station at Mile 90.

I reached the top and shared some cookies and coke (detox over!), after a dusty drive down I dropped off my car-poolers and headed home.

All in all a good days work which will benefit not only me and a some good exposure to the race terrain, albeit only 3% of the course. It's a reminder that the San Gabriel’s are big and beautiful and, I am sure, unforgiving!

Here are some photos from the day.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nutritional Science 101...well more like 99!

A little bit of Friday fun for you with a serious edge.

Ok with all the healthy eating going on in our house we have taken to buying our fruits and veggies in bulk; TGF Costco, Trader Joes and the local farm (yes we have moved so far out of LA that there are farms around here!) is all I can say!

While in Bed Bath and Beyond the other day this caught my eye; Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags, always willing to try something new and have a bit of fun I am pleased to present you the:

How Yellow is Your Banana Experiment.

Introduction; Bulk purchase of bananas have precluded them from being consumed before they become too ripe, the objective is to extend their fruit bowl life as long as possible (in fact they live on a banana hook, they don’t play nice with other fruit)!

Research; I read the back of the box and was totally suckered in by the advertising.

Method; One banana volunteered to be the test subject and was detached from a bunch. The volunteer banana was marked with a thick point sharpie to distinguish it from the rest. The remaining bunch was placed in a Green Bag, the remaining household scientists were instructed to “Do not touch the bananas”.

Equipment; well just in case you missed it, a bunch of bananas, a sharpie pen and a Green Bag.

Results; the results are visually documented below:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Conclusion; Visually the ‘bagged’ bananas freshness was extended (they look purty longer!), however with the exception of the obvious softness from bruising the actual consistency of the two bananas was very similar, the bagged bunch were not as firm as their appearance suggested. I will be trying them with other produce but as far as bananas are concerned, the Green Bags results were a FAIL!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bloomin’ lovely!

Sunday I headed out to run a section of the Backbone Trail. I’ve run bits of it before; more by luck than judgment and I wanted to recce’ out as much of it as I can for when I run the whole thing in August. The trail crosses several main roads that run east to west as it runs itself north to south along the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains, what this means is that there are places to park and you can run sections. The plan was to park my car at Kanan Dune and run south, I was hoping for around 13 miles in total; which puts me a couple of miles short for next weeks start of training long run; 15 miles. The cloud was low and the weather was cool – perfect.

After a short sharp up the trail leveled out and then dropped down and then climbed up and then down and then up; this became a regular feature of the trail as there was very little “contouring” and mostly the trail assaulted the climbs in a full frontal manner, it was nothing too serious and gave me ample time to practice my walking!

I also managed a first for me, which is not bad considering all the miles I’ve covered; a faceplant! No harm done, more shock than pain and fortunately I landed on the side of the trail in the shrubbery! Of course what I tripped over was...absolutely nothing!

One nice feature was the continuous change in running surface; hard packed mud, to sand to trail dirt to bare faced rock in parts not only did the surface change but the environment did; literally you would round a bend and it was like being in a completely different climate; from thick woods, to meadows, to rocky desert it really was a case of if you don’t like something run a quarter mile and it’ll change. One noticeable feature was the riot of color from all the spring plants and flowers that are in bloom, yellows, oranges, purples and whites and of course accompanying the flowers was multitude of butterflies, at times it was like running through a butterfly garden.

Two and half hours of running and thirty minutes of taking photos and I was done and heading home.

For anyone local this makes and excellent and rewarding run or hike there's plenty of sign/mileage posts to tell you you're on the right trail, and if you have a buddy with a car you could easily set up a point to point rather than an out and back run. Here’s the MotionBased data and the photos.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stripped down, degreased, new rubber and a lube!

No I haven't just bought a wet-suit...what were you thinking!

One week to go before the training plan starts and in preparation I dropped my bike off at my new LBS (local bike shop). After the move my old LBS (which was ok but not great) is thirty miles away. So after a bit of research I narrowed it down to two and a call to each decided it; it never fails to amaze that people never consider their telephone manner with customers, and that sealed the deal! So off the Wins Wheels I went.

Stripped down chainset, degreased, new cables, wheels re-trued, one new tire (that had been squared off on the trainer) and then rotated, new brake blocks, new bar tape; after a moving fall, relubed, wash and polish and we were good to go. My poor bike was humbled lined up next to S-Works, Ceverlos and Willers and couple of Pinarellos but while the bike is important it's the engine that counts!

I have about a 1000 miles to cover starting next week so starting best foot, or pedal as it were, forward. Here are a few before and after photos.

Cassette and rear hub before (above) and after (below)

Bottom crankset/bracket (before) above and after (below)

Well worn Continental 4000 squared off by the trainer, replaced and rotated to front

Here's the final product, in full stealth mode:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I read this this morning and it struck a real cord, so much so that I wanted to share it with you...enjoy.

Racing is a process, the outcome of which simply measures how successful you have been moment by moment throughout the event as well as your training and preparation. Success in the now is a factor of the joy you experience in the execution of the plan, the quality demonstrated in your technique and skill level. When you acknowledge that winning is beyond your control, you can begin to fully experience the emotional rush of competition; well trained athletes seeking greatness together. Seeing the race as a journey, you feel the freedom to run in the flow, a state of relaxed intensity. Focus on the things you can control.

Form Focus:
To stay in the moment, focus on cadence, form, pace and stride. Remember there is no victory other than the joy you experience when “dancing” in the terrain. The real treasure is now. You have trained for many hours, so your body knows what to do. You just need to let your mind be in harmony with your knowledgeable body and not stand in its way by being hypercritical and obsessed with winning. A fixed rigid mind creates a fixed rigid body. When you trust your body and resist the obsession with outcomes, you create a free flowing mind and free flowing body in a mutually satisfying partnership f body mind and spirit. When a well-trained racehorse enters the starting gate it does not look around and analyze the competition. It simply waits just for the gate to open, and at the bell it lets its body do its thing – run the race. The stallion loves the process and never once thinks about the finish. Like the racehorse, show up and turn your mind over to your body and you'll enjoy the process.

Clear Confidence:
Hold on to the notion of real confidence. Many runners say that they have lost confidence in winning; how can you have confidence in doing something that you can’t control such as winning? Once you realize the futility of striving for the impossible, you can discover the confidence you can experience, not in an outcome, but in the decisions you make during the race or run. Know that you may or may not win, but you can have the confidence in running like a winner – which paradoxically, gives you more control over the outcome. Have confidence in your ability to run and race as you do in training in the absence of performance anxiety, where there is nothing at stake.

Get the Job Done:
Just do it; race without care. As a competitive group, runners are too concerned about doing it right. We need to enter one race and not give a damn; when we do, we will be better able to relax and run. Sometimes it’s more fun to show up and say “to hell with it”, “it” being the outcome. Having acknowledged that, proceed to to race with effortless effort, an attitude of asserting your level of fitness (showing what you’ve got) without the conscious attempt to do well.

Visualize Your Race:
It’s important to know in your mental race preparation it’s healthy to visualize wining (against the clock, the competition or for a certain place in the finish), but not to the exclusion of seeing the process unfold as it should. However, when you actually show up at the event, do so to simply run your best for that day. Remember that wanting to win and needing to win are very different attitudes to wards racing. The former is healthy; the latter destructive.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A change is as good as a rest...

Just for a change I headed out to Satwiwa for a change of scenery. The cloud was low and it looked like a perfect day. 15 minutes drive and I was at the trailhead. No real plan just a follow your nose run for 10 miles or so. I saddled up and headed off.

This is the location of the XTerra Boney Mountain HM that I ran earlier in the year, so I thought it would be fun (fun in the broadest sense of the word!) to try some of the course in reverse.

Going the correct way is pretty tough, although I think that’s because the distance is short so you tend to go out too fast…well that and the fact that the first mile or so is flat out downhill! By the time you reach to high point at mile 9 you're pretty spent and you tend to fall down the other side which this way round I was going up.

I picked up the trail and was over taken by some other runners who I let go on ahead into the low cloud while I stripped of a layer, despite the low cloud and cool starting temperatures running uphill is enough to warm anyone up fast and the cloud was lifting revealing clear blue skies and a big glowing orb! The group ahead turned off and I continued upwards. I was hoping that there would actually be enough of an uphill to give me 5 miles allowing me to cruise on the way back down but it topped out around 3 miles, it was here that I found another trail; “Fossil” and decided a change of course was in order, this trail took me up a series of switchbacks and I topped out above the cloud. Contouring around the hillside; the view; had there been one would have been spectacular but the cloud below me was thick and obscured everything except a few hilltops! Another half mile and I was on the downswing, oh well. I hit a signpost and choose the longest trail distance that would give me mileage in hand. Cruising down the backside I rejoined the main trail that forms part of the Boney Mountain Trail and opens up wide views over Big Sycamore Canyon.

This trail forms part of the Backbone Trail which runs the 69 miles from Point Mugu in the North to Pacific Palisades in the south and is the longest run on my training schedule for AC100, which I have nearly finished. I hit the five mile mark, about faced and started on the upward return leg. As is always the case the return distance and time flew by and I managed to miss a turning but this had me running through a wheat(?) field and cut me short by a quarter mile but whatev’, before I knew it I was back at the car!

Only 10 more days of downtime till training starts…eek!

Garmin Fail! I did not reset and restarted later runner Fail really! The first 10 miles are correct and the rest is just rubbish…oh well!

Here’s a quick slideshow of the photos.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunday morning a day early...

Just a quick post which might get to you in time!

Sunday’s are all about good coffee, cartoons and pancakes…oh yeah and early morning runs so that means that this kind of stuff usually happens on a Saturday.

I picked up some Pamela’s Wheat and Gluten Free flour during the week, based on my experience with some GF pasta during the week my expectations were not so high, but I was very pleasantly surprised; in fact the whole house was as we all chowed down on shortstacks of blueberry pancakes.

Anyway just passing on the love…

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gotta love Nike+

The Nike+ system was the genesis for this blog and the title was procured from a challenge that was stated back in 2006! In case your not familiar with N+ it’s a sensor and chip product that through your iPod or other N+ device allows you to sync up your running data and compete in virtual challenges with other runner and communicate with them through the N+ forums, it’s a great introduction for runners who want some basic running data and don’t want to spend a fortune; the kit costs $30, on more sophisticated devices (Garmin, Polar, Sunnto etc), there is a great online support forum where you can communicate with other runners.

I still track my miles through N+ more by habit then anything else and I host a monthly Quadrathon challenge which you’re welcome to join and I do post to the forums on occasion. Of the technology and the support most of all I do recommend the forums as a great support system for anyone, newbie and seasoned alike. It's a great place to ask questions and provide answers and cheer on (or trash talk) fellow athletes whatever their ability. Anyway I had completely forgotten about a challenge I had joined at the beginning of last year until this arrived in the mail, admittedly a month or so ago and in fact my N+ total is somewhere north of 3500 miles, but even so it was very nice to get!

Thanks Clover and the team!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sugar sugar!

And so the detox goes on another 1.5lb lost with little or no effort and an overall feeling of betterness!

Latest thing to be culled and I'll spare you the evangelism, but suffice to say if you have a problem with;


listen to this and get some:

It could really make a difference! Enjoy...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Night Running!

So the plan had been to get up and out early so I could be back to offer MsQ a well deserved Mother’s day lie in however our scheming kids had their own plans and they were equally early…we’re talking before 6:00am. So running shoes off and with hushed tones we hung out till we were all awake and headed out for a nice brunch. Come 8:00pm I was putting my running shoes back on and telling my wife, whose face was agape, that yes I was running on the trails, yes I had a torch; two in fact and yes I would leave a map of were I was going and call here when I got back to the car.

Night running on trails is, in my mind a lot of fun; cooler, quieter (apart from the critters) and the fact that you can’t really see where you’re going takes the sting out of some of the hills! It's also something I am going to have to get used for AC100 as I will be running through it for a long time! The plan; as it was, was to run there and back again which should be somewhere between 8-10 miles and so I drove to the local trailhead and set off, no iPod but merrily keeping myself company by recording my podcast as I went.

The run was pretty much uneventful, I managed to freak myself a couple of times thinking I was being followed, if I was whatever it was jumped into the underbrush as fast as I could turn around, there was the stupid bird that I nearly stepped on who was sitting in the middle of the trail minding his own business, and a small incident involving a low flying bird or bat which had me waving my arms around like an over enthusiastic runway controller! Still ninety minutes or so later I was back at the car and calling my wife.

A most excellent run! Here's the MotionBased data and some more photos.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review; Vita-Mix 5200 blender

I was contacted by the folks at VitaMix a while back and what with moving house, the crash of my other pc with all the photos on that of which I have just been able to recover at least some (phew!) and that good stuff I have been somewhat delinquent in my write up of my review. But here we are:

First here’s some technical info from their website:

All-new high performance appliance helps you prepare healthy meals quickly and easily without a single attachment!

* New Eastman Tritan™ copolyester 64 oz. container is as durable as polycarbonate, features improved sound damping and is chemical resistant. Comes with ergonomic soft-grip handle.
* New Swedish-built 2 peak HP motor, custom designed for this machine, runs substantially cooler with energy savings and improved performance.
* Feedback-type variable speed control provides consistent power regardless of load. Speed ranges from 11 m.p.h. to 240 m.p.h., wider than any standard blender.
* Unique stainless steel hammermill and cutting "wet" blades process whole foods like no other appliance to deliver up to 3 times the nutrition.
* New soft-touch switches and dial backed by new designer label.
* Patented, spill-proof vented lid with removable lid plug lets you measure and add ingredients safely while machine is running.
* Patented tamper for extreme processing power helps when preparing foods such as nut butters and frozen treats.
* Quick and easy clean-up. Just add a few drops of dish soap, some warm water and run for 30 seconds on high. Done!

Yes that’s right this thing has a 2 horsepower engine and spins up to 240mph, technically speaking that is actually fast enough to heat up what you are blending, think soup!

And so onto the review, here it is…this thing is awesome!

Ok here’s some detail. About a week after confirming I would be delighted to review it a box arrived, a big box! I opened it up and inside there was the requisite blender, a tamper, a 300+ page cookbook, a DVD and the usual pamphlets etc.

Let’s get onto the interesting stuff; the food! I started out simple and went with guacamole, I’ll spare you all the how to so here’s the final product, trust me it tasted as good as it looked, served up with some home made pita chips.

Looks good enough to eat...

The drip test: pass!

I'd say that went done well enough!

Then trying to be a bit adventurous I used it to make up a pasta sauce; Goats cheese and sage, this one went not so well, (but I think I messed up somewhere along the line) and while very tasty the sauce should have been thicker.

Chicken with goats cheese and sage sauce served with sauteed spinach on angel hair pasta

Since then the Vita-Mix has been used for multiple recipes from the book including: spinach spread, California salsa, peanut butter, orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream, yep it can do cold just as well as it does hot. Of the many sauces from the recipe book it’s made; pesto, rustic Mediterranean sauce, mango sauce for grilled chicken and dill tartar sauce for fish all of which tasted great and all of which were photographed and then all of which where lost in the great pc crash of 2008! Anyway in case I ever get through the book there is an extensive online library of recipes to look at as well which are searchable including low fat, low sodium, raw and even gluten free!

More recently it’s seen some serious use in making hummus, but it’s been well used for smoothies and of course I use it for making up my Hammer Perpetuem – well why not.

Garbanzo beans, sun dried tomatos, olive oil, tahini paste, water, salt & pepper... voila!

Bananas, blueberry, soy milk, ice...voila

Hammer Perpetuem, Hammer Gel, Ultimate Direction Handhelds...voila!

So let’s talk turkey, this blender is not cheap; in fact it’s darn expensive $450 for the entry level model, that being said it is of professional (almost commercial) quality and is much more robust that anything found in the aisles at Bed Bath and Beyond. So should you buy one, clearly it’s not an “I am just popping out to get a” purchase but if you a little bit adventurous in the kitchen, put some thought into what you eat and are someone who actually makes their food rather than unboxes it, and chances are you are the latter if you are reading this blog then the answer to that question is yes, then I would suggest that you give it serious thought, the mixer combined with the website and the support etc make this an investment rather than just another kitchen gadget. I am so impressed that I have applied to become an affiliate, which, if you purchase one through me you get free shipping, this is available to anyone in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Once approved I will post up the link.

There are plenty of online reviews from eOpinions, Amazon and the like but if you want one from another runner check out Juliane’s (Twitter; bicoastalite) at her blog.

There a bunch more photos online of it in action here.

*See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you'd like reviewed, contact me at

Friday, May 8, 2009

What's for lunch?

This was never meant to be a food blog but given where I am right now with detoxing and all that please bear with me?

Ahhh, no, bread no bread, no bread!!! Ok now I have got that out of my system thanks again to Christine (holisticguru) for her suggestion of a non bread alternative, lettuce wraps, so easy and so very yummy. Take one (or in my case several) romaine lettuce leafs, wash, dry, sliced avocado sprinkle of kosher salt, dollop of home made hummus and eat! That’s it and so yummy…did I say that already. For a change smear some Tofutti cream cheese on a leaf, dollop some salsa and you're away! To follow sliced apple, I prefer golden delicious, and some natural almond butter…that’s it, so good and so yummy (ok so now I am repeating myself) and not a grain of wheat in sight!

Just before I stuffed my face!
Enie, meenie, miney...yes all mine!

Up close and personal with hummus!

A little late for Cinco de Mayo...but whatev' still tastes good!

Have a great weekend...we're off to the beach!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gluten Tag...a mid-wheat update!

Excuse my clumsy punning!

So I am just over one week into the detox and it’s been interesting. No major issues so far, I have reduced my caffeine intake to one cup of (English breakfast) tea a day, my dairy is down to a splash of milk in my tea, dairy is out; I am all about the soy milk and yogurt although I do miss my Fage Greek yoghurt, coffee is decaf, no red meat and no chocolate/candy. Eliminating wheat has been a bit tricky; it’s in everything; bread, cereal, energy bars etc.

So I was mooching about Whole Foods and I saw, appropriately enough, Mochi. It’s a gluten free rice based snack that comes in several flavors either savory or sweet. I picked up a packet of “seed” flavor and tried it at the weekend, I over cooked it and it was a bit crunchy, I also think I cut it up too small but even so it was actually pretty good! I ran it by HolisticGuru on Twitter and she gave it the thumbs up and I used it a vehicle for hummus, which I am totally into of late, after listening to Brett (Texafornia) on the ZenTri podcast, to which I am a recent listener but complete addict, extol it’s virtues! Anyway back to the Mochi, basically you cut it up into 1.5” squares and bake it at 450f for 10 minutes…tricky huh! The next time around I picked up some cinnamon flavored (red packet) and it is yummy, The green pack is "seeds" and is savory great with hummus but with a dab of blue agave sweetener it's also yummy! It’s not bad value at $4.00 a packet which gives you about 16 pieces.

So that overcame the bread issue but there was still the question of breakfast. My breakfast diet for years has been oat based and for the last two years or so has been my own “Cereal Killer” anyway in another aisle I found the following, Perkys Nutty Flax and Bakery on Main mixed them together and voila! Not quite as interesting as the home made stuff but really not that bad at all! Mixed together I get about 10 days worth and that costs out at about $1.30 a bowl.

Snackwise in addition to hummus and Moochi, I discovered in Trader Joes, which was a good thing because Whole foods is not the cheapest shop on the planet, two gluten free bars, both are pretty tasty but they are really calorific the Pure bar is 200 calories for 1.7 oz and the Organic bar is a whopping 310 calories for 2.4 oz, that’s over three bananas in a bar! Both are priced around $1.50-2.00. Anyway once in a while they’re fine but not everyday.

So what are the results? Well I have 2.5 pounds with no real effort and this is despite the reduction in the rate of calorie burn from the height of my training; last week I put in 28 miles and this week will be the same. So things are heading in the right direction without any real effort. I managed to put my back out over the weekend; a trip to the Chiropractor put it straight, but this meant the P90X workouts didn’t start till last night proper; Back and Arms, I’ll report on that later…so in summary so far so good!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review; Asics Gel Kayano 15

I have been running in the new ASICS Gel Kayano 15s since January this year and have over 200 miles on them, so it seemed a good time to write a review. This is my third iteration of wearing the Kayanos, I switched when the 13s were available and you can read my report on the 14s and the reason for switching here.

The first thing you’ll notice about them is the asymmetrical lacing this is designed to contour over the foot and avoid undue pressure on the bones on the top of the foot. This may seem odd at first but my trail shoes have the same type of lacing so it was familiar to me, to be honest I found it hard to tell any difference between this and the 14s. One noticeable difference is the toe box which is definitely roomier than the 14s and from the side there is visually less of a curve along the lace line to the top of the tongue given your toes more “wiggle room”, the heel continues to offer PHF; Personal Heel Fit, which molds to your heel shape over time, which it seems to, I have never ever had a blister or even a hot spot on my heel. Inside the shoe is now lined with a ComforDry footbed liner, this is designed to mold to your foot and provide breathable comfort, personally these are the first things I take out and replace with my custom orthotics.

Moving down. Both the 13s and 14s felt flat in the forefoot after around 200 miles (this was an improvement, for me of fifty miles or so over the 2000 series), so far there is no sign of that. This is due to an increase in their proprietary Solyte foam in the forefoot. The heel has more gel than the 14 and this may cause some people a problem due to the increase in “roll”, personally I am enjoying the ride. This is also where you will find the dual density EVA that provides the support, these shoes are rated for pronators looking for support Road Runners Sports describes them as Support+ and Runners World recommends them for runners with normal arches who need a stable, well-cushioned shoe.

The sole pattern contains the gender specific Trusstic System allowing for “greater midsole deformation and more efficient foot function”. The tread pattern is nothing out of the ordinary, the forefoot is flexible but not sloppy, the heels do contain a longer lasting type of rubber that reduces wear and extends the life of the shoe. Size wise as usual I went up a half size and that fits perfectly with a regular white looped sock. The 15s are a bit heavier than the 14s weighing at 12.8 ounces but unless you work at the Post Office or the meat department at Wholefoods and weigh things every day you would never notice.

Available in red/white or gold/grey I went for the latter as they hold up against the dirt a bit longer, there are some nice female colors available too.

Warning! This are not cheap shoes they retail for $135, if you hunt around you can pick them up for a bit less or wait for the sales. Road Runners Sports have abandoned their buy 5 pairs get $100 gift certificate so I am stuck paying VIP retail, which is a bit less! But that being said in my mind they're still worth the money.