Monday, June 29, 2009

Friends in High Places!

A friend on Twitter knows someone who knows someone…well you know how this goes. Anyway I was looking for some new XT Wings; my trail shoe of preference, problem is they’re not exactly cheap at $120 a pair + shipping.

Anyway she said she could and well, look, she did! They arrived last week but well, you know, anyhoo how smokin’ are these!

It'll be a crying shame to cover them up with gaiters. I only hope I can run as fast as these things are's ok you can stare a little but no touching! (Edit for Jo Lynn, they're red, as in red hot!)

Social media…love it or hate it it’s here!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


And that’s how I like it, 72 miles and change on the bike, cool temperatures, cloudy skies for most of the ride although it was early 80’s by the time I finished. Drove through to the ocean so I could slingshot myself up the Pacific Coast Highway and back again.

Four hours and thirty-eight minutes riding time and a negative split by two minutes. All the vitals were pretty good; average HR 120, cadence 88rpm and speed 15.7mph, not super fast but north of 15mph and that’s where I wanted it. Nutrition good, hydration good, t’was all good, sported some new compression calf sleeves, which were awesome (review to follow). Only downer was seeing a Coroner’s truck on the side of the road! Took some photos but the weather nixed most of them. So starts week 5 of training.

Here’s the Garmin Connect data

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Review; The Recovery Sock®

So a while back I was on Twitter and Zensah socks asked would anyone be interested in reviewing their recovery socks, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth I of course said yes. Then later on the same week another company approached me about their compression socks. Following Donald’s idea I found some more compression sock manufacturers and approached them to try and collect as many pairs and provide as broad a set of reviews as possible, a couple said yes but most ignored me, then the second company backed out and only one came through in addition to Zensah. Subsequently a retailer has provided me with another two pairs; and so I in the order that they were received this is the first posts of four (maybe more if any more arrive) about Compression Socks.

As an intro to compression socks you should read this article written by Joe Friel, it seems that jury is still mostly out so this review is based simply on my personal experiences.

My training now includes weekly long runs of nothing less than 25 miles and I have one remaining long ride of 100 miles; my combined mileage will averaging around the 140 per week between now and AC100 in September so am I looking for any edge for recovery and injury prevention. I have been wearing these for a month (alternating with the Zensahs) and here are my findings.

The first review is on The Recovery Sock®. Here is some info provided by the company:

Testing Environment
We highly encourage you to test the socks after a hard workout likely to leave your lower legs sore. For us a solid hill repeat workout typically do the trick, of course most any extended effort can get the job done.

Technical Features; a few of the highly functional components The Recovery Sock offer include:
Graduated Compression Technology (GCT); unlike other compression socks, the Recovery Sock utilizes a Patented GCT (Patent # 6,092,397). GCT means tighter compression in the foot and ankle area and a lessening compression in the sock as it travels up the leg to the calves. GCT causes an upward flow of blood helping to get un-oxigenated blood out of the leg and replaced with fresh oxygenated blood.

What are they made from and how long will they last?
The Recovery Sock is made from a polypropylene fiber called Silver DryStat, which has moisture wicking and antimicrobial (silver ions) properties: it keeps skin dry in all climates, it is extremely lightweight and completely stain resistant due to its antimicrobial treatments.The life of the sock will depend on care and use. We suggest to hang them dry in order to not ‘cook” the fibers which will last longer.

Cold Weather
The Recovery Sock can also be worn during races and your workout. Due to GCT the blood flow upward is constantly functioning and blood circulation enhanced in your lower extremities. You can wear them in cold weather situation beneath your tights or other long pants for a daily.

And so for the review. As you would expect the sock’s fit is snug all over but one noticeable feature is that they are not overly tight on the foot. There is some heavy compression ribbing that runs from the foot arch to above the ankle there is plenty of room for your toes and the ankle turn is nonrestrictive. There is a nice arrow design on the heel which is probably there to promote the marketing position of the blood flow upwards but it also serves to ensure that you have nothing twisted. The toe appears to be seamless and although the literature states that they can be worn while running I opted not to as there is no cushioning under the sole and that it my preference for running socks. One thing I did notice is that they had the effect of making your shoes feel bigger, this is probably testament to their compression compared to regular socks.

Onto the leg. The socks take a bit of getting on, they are not foot specific. Above the ankle at the point where your soleus and gastoroc muscle meet the compression rubbing thins out. They then continue upwards to the top where there is a cuff, I was wearing a large and my calves measure 18” from ankle to knee and 17” at their widest circumference, they were plenty long enough, but maybe could have been a little tighter.

The fabric boasts silver ions included which has natural antimicrobial and wicking properties, I’m not 100% on the science but I can say that even with a full days wear my feet were not hot nor funky.

At face value the sock is simply a tight high sock, it really only is after wearing for a while that you can fully appreciate the effect it has. I would wear them after most weekday runs and long runs/rides from the weekend (alternating with the Zensahs), during the month I had an issue with one calf (maybe a slightly pulled muscle?) and I am sure that the compression added to the recovery, 10-12 days and it was cleared up. In addition to the overall compression they do a great job of keeping your legs warm which probably adds to the recovery.

My only complaint with these and this is only generated ‘by comparison’ is that the compression wore off, that is the stretchiness lessened over time, usually by the end of the day, it was however, revitalized after a wash and air dry; as recommended I did not put them in a dryer.

Available in several colors, yes there are some nice girly ones; pink, and a more practical black for ‘dress’ wear for men for that Monday morning back at work look.

It’s hard to gauge to scientifically gauge the impact of compression as I can only compare it to historic ‘without’ data, what I would say is that I recently finished by biggest running week ever with 76 miles including a 21 mile (4 hours) and a 26 mile (seven hours) runs, injury and soreness free and I am certain that the recovery between runs/rides was accelerated by wearing compression socks. Next up are the Zensahs...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I am back!

Not that I ever went away but some of you may have noticed a distinct lack of comments on your own literary diatribes, well I apologize but I have now rebuilt my reader, I’ll spare you the det’s but suffice to say that my Google ‘follows’ were going into a different folder from my RSS subscriptions that wasn’t visible due in part to the preference settings based upon the folder architecture and there were left unfiled and unread…hello are you still there, hello!

Anyway I have trimmed the fat, blogs that have not been posted to in over 3 months and some where I am just not feeling the reciprocal love (read: I am a comments whore!) have been cut and I am left with, hopefully a manageable number (currently bobbing around 80, I did have over 150!), as you would expect most are about running, some are about triathlons and some cycling, a couple about nutrition, most are mid packers like myself but there are a few pro’s or semi pros, I nearly have an A – Z with only H, Q and V not represented! I'll be catching up with everyone over the next few days.

You can check out the list here, this is not a complete list because there are some are a manual RSS subscription; these are just the Google follows, so if I have not left some quick witted comment for you in a week or so let me know that means I cut you by mistake I did use a rather sharp knife!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chantry Flats 74.55 – Finish Line 100.2

Saturday night was my first opportunity to run on the AC100 course and I joined 35 or so other runners in Alta Dena for this practice run. The route would cover the last quarter of the course of which some of it may be covered during the night. We all stood looking at the hills trying to second guess the weather. That day at my house some 45 miles away had gone from 50 degrees at dawn to rain to clear blue skies and 75 degrees in the afternoon. I had tried to pack for every eventuality but in the end went with CW-X ¾ tights, my Go-Run in SC shirt from Robin and my Running with Scissors arm sleeves. A bandana as I was wearing a head-torch for most of the run was the choice of headwear…I actually looked like a cross between a ballerina and a pirate! Two handhelds and my Nathan Race Vest completed my ensemble!

After some shuffling about we were broken out into cars who would drive us to the start point, we couldn’t do it ourselves as they lock the gate at the bottom of the hill! We got a short brief and without any fuss we were off. The speed demons took off and those that knew the course were asked to mark it, they did an excellent job and I didn’t loose my way once.

The first three or four miles were in rapidly dwindling sunlight, the cloud as low and it was going to get foggy as the sun set and we climbed higher. My Forerunner decided to play up and would not lock on for the first 48 minutes which left me just over three miles short in measurement, but hey; what’ev! By the time we reached the first summit we were in full on head and hand torch mode, spirits were high and we all getting to know each other. We started the run down Mt Wilson Toll Road, road is used very liberally as it is strewn with rocks, I paired up with another brit and we wild the time away chatting for the next four miles or so, we almost missed the turn back onto the single track and it was here that he ran on, he was just faster than me and then I fell over, no damage just a stupid trip! From this point we dropped lower into the canyon and the temperature got cooler as we hit the bottom and crossed a few shallow streams. Then onto the next climb I noticed that my pace was dropping off a little, the downside of being on my own and I think this is where a pacer will really help (Billy/Rachel!). I started to recognize the trail as this was where I had done my trail maintenance two weeks ago and so with the knowledge that there was probably another 2-2.5 miles of climbing to go, I set my chin and just dug in. The low cloud was being a real pain at this point and was just reflecting the light I was trying to use so I turned off my brighter hand held torch and just used my head-torch which seemed to work okay.

I popped out at the top and was greeted by the two organizers, one of which is a Park Service Officer, he had opened the gate at the bottom and made the long drive up with cookies and Mountain Dew, not wanting to be unappreciative of his efforts I partook of both, refilled one bottle with water and set off. I had about 10 miles to go and had been told it was mostly downhill.

And downhill it was, the problem was was the steps, switchbacks, and rocks so you struggled to really get into a groove and not wanting to do anything silly like roll my ankle I gingerly made my way down, I caught up with someone who was marking the trail and we ran/walked together for a couple of miles until I needed a bio break and he took off. Around this time the weather decided that we weren’t quite wet enough from the low cloud and mist and so it started to rain, not hard and not for long but enough just to make things wet all over, oh yes and I mis-read the trail and what looked like a shallow stream with pebbles was actually about 5 inches deep so I had two wet squelching feet to boot!

The trail wound its way down with some odd little ups and there were short sections on tarmac until you dropped off back into the woods, the orange glow in sky was getting brighter and finally I saw the city lights off in the distance, I had come out from under the cloud. I found myself on a tarmac road and as I rounded the bend I could see the end of it opening up onto the street, a minute later I was there and a minute after that back at my car. Shortly after the two organizers rolled up as I was getting into dry clothes and we bid our farewell.

Overall this was a great run, the weather was not so co-operative but hey that’s the mountains for you. My nutrition was good, because of the funny start time I had no dinner and I had tried not to eat anything after 4pm, (there’s a lot of poison oak and wandering around in the dark looking for a spot…well you can see where I’m going) I am also trying some new gels and they are working a treat so far. The big takeaways are travel time in the dark; I was averaging a 17:30 pace so that will help with my pace charts and that the last ten miles or so of trail are a mine-field for twisting your ankle!

No photos the one above was taken from the road and shows some of the low cloud taken from and the Garmin Connect data, MotionBased is being retired!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

California needs your help!

California is in the crapper…financially it is a broken state, with a budget deficit of $24.3 billion dollar; yes that’s a billion! Teachers are being let go, Government employees are being put on is to be frank a disaster!

To try and address the balance CA Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has recommended cutting $70 million from his state's parks budget. If this move passes, it would result in the closure of 220 of the state's 279 parks! I’ll spare you all the details but needless to say for some one like me this could spell disaster, indeed the State Parks provides tens of thousands of acres of recreational land to not only runners, but hikers, mountain bikers, families who picnic, children on field trips…the list goes on.

The parks were under threat last year and were spared; several studies have shown that their closure will actually potentially add to the deficit with the loss of income from parking, donations etc. The Parks under threat are illustrated on the map as you can see the knife is sharp and may cut deep. The list includes; mountains, desert, lakes, beaches, woodland, there is in fact no environment that is spared

My running club; The Trail Runners Club, who, I have to admit I have been remiss about running with since moving, will be holding a Rally to generate local support for this issue, the event will be held at Will Rodgers State Park in Pacific Palisades this Sunday June 21st, there is an organized run starting around 7:00am for two hours followed by refreshments etc at 9:00am, all are welcome, bring your family, friends and a big sign. If you are local I urge you to attend and show your support.

Many of you will be too far afield to attend, however if you are located in California I ask you to put pen to paper to express your opposition to this proposal, to make things easier there are several pro forma letters that only require you to add you name address and a stamp, these are available to download online via you can find them here. In fact even if you are further out of state or even out of the country I ask that you bring pressure to bear on the state legislature.

There are several sites dedicated to this cause, California State Park Foundation is leading the charge and also has a strong following on Facebook, please visit them for more information about their proposed license plate visitors fee which would make the Parks virtually self funding even turn a profit!

Your support will be appreciated by not only me but by many.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A little something for the weekend!

This Saturday I have my first organized course run for the AC100, there are four runs like this that pretty much cover the whole course, unfortunately I missed the first one and I’ll miss the third one also, so I end up jumping in feet first Saturday night, yes night, the run starts at 6:00pm, we’ll be covering the last 26 miles of the course. The racebook describes parts of this as follows:

the Upper Winter Creek Trail rolls uphill for 3 miles to the signed 3-way Hoegee’s Junction. The AC100 course bears left up the Winter Creek Trail towards Manzanita Ridge and the Mt. Wilson Trail for 2 miles

Ok so that’s 5 miles of climbing and here’s the elevation profile. Nice of them to add the elevation gains on the bottom, just over 5000’ of climbing…sweet…err…sweat over 10 miles! I am estimating 6 hours. This run is a planned dent to my schedule knocking it sideways from the alternating long run/rides and this means that on Sunday I have 65 mile bike ride scheduled with a rest day but no rest night this week as such...
...I am just glad that next week is a step back!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Good Company…the mile killer!

Cloudy and cool, it had been that all week, perfect for running. I awoke Sunday and when the sun came up there was nere a cloud in the sky! Twenty miles was on the plan, the first of nine 20+mile runs I have over the next twelve weeks. Fortunately the coolness still had a hold on the morning and the temperature was, like me; slow to climb!

Billy (L A Runner) had graciously agreed to join me on this run, deliberately chosen by me because of the amount of climbing. The route was more or less eight up eight down with a little detour to up the total to the required 20 miles, more importantly I wanted 4 hours on my feet, my long runs also have a time element to them to build up the ‘on my feet time’ into the teens as the runs get longer and longer over the coming weeks.

We started the run and were soon sucking Os, it really was a pipe opener to put you in your place and remind you who is who, as I said to Billy on the way, it’s this the determines who wins and who finishes; winners run up and finishers walk! I am clearly a finisher. The route is actually two joined together by a short section of road that offers a brief respite. Once we had got our legs and breathing under control (well I’ll speak for myself at least) the conversation was free flowing and easy, we slowly caught up on recent events and future plans, discussed books we had read and generally put the world to rights. Before long we were at the summit of Castro Peak some 2000’ higher than when we had started and heading back down. A short out and back detour onto the Backbone Trail for a mile or two put us on the final run down and we hit the starting point with around 19 miles on our Garmins and about 3:50 in time, wanting the extra mile and 10 minutes I ran back up for a half mile and back down again and finished up with just over the 20 miles.

I had promised a replen of chocolate milk; which I had kept cool in an ice bag and so we toasted each other and bid our farewells.

A great run only improved with good company, we both agreed that really makes the miles fly by, which I hope will be a sign of things come in September.

This was also the first of the series of scheduled back-to-back runs (albeit a small one) and I put in another 10.25 this morning before breakfast.

Thanks Billy, see you on the next one!

Some pictures and the MotionBased data:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A picture is worth a 1000 words...

So consider yourself lucky...

Some snaps, some video and the MotionBased data from last Sunday, got totally lost, was totally late; got in trouble and had a total blast!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A conversation with a non-runner...

So I took our kids to a birthday party this morning, (seriously who has a kid’s birthday at 9:30am on a Sunday; but I digress). Chatting to one of the parents I had a conversation that went something along the lines of…

Parent; so do you watch sports?

Me; no, not really the Tour de France if I can but that’s about it I guess

Parent; oh so you don’t watch soccer…but your British?

; no, sorry, I run a bit and ride a road bike

Parent; oh do you race?

Me; yes, not to win though, just to finish

Parent; do you run 10ks then?

Me; no, I like longer races

Parent; oh?

Me; well I ran a couple of 50kms and a 50 miler earlier this year

Parent; oh…

Me; and I have just started training for a 100 mile race

Parent; oh…so have you run any marathons?

Me; yes I’ve run a couple, I ran LA last year

Parent; wow, running a marathon, now that’s a long way

Me; um yeah!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Detox Debrief

So a month ago I announced the great detox. The rational was to attempt to clean out my system of all those nasties that I am sure had built up over the year. I should state up front that consider myself actually very lucky to not suffer from any food allergies and actually have a pretty strong constitution, my metabolism is slowing but that is to be expected in part due to my age. Typically our house eats healthier than some and not as healthy as we should, time and effort always being the major constraints on clean living.

The objective of the exercise was to eliminate; caffeine, chocolate/candy, soda, wheat; specifically gluten, alcohol, red meat and dairy for four weeks.

There are some household concessions that made things a little easier; we usually have a lot of Soy milk in the house and we only have decaf coffee and some things were pretty tough; I love cheese and a sandwich is about the easiest thing in the world to have for lunch.

So to address each thing at a time:

Caffeine; wasn’t too hard, it became a case of remembering to ask for de-caf at Peets, Coffee Bean etc. My morning cup of “english” tea was replaced with its de-caf equivalent which to be honest tasted crap! But I did not need to have the fruit teas that smell so good and taste like bath water. I did make a slip with green tea but consoled myself that the caffeine content was so low as to not be having a major impact.

Chocolate; substituted with fruit, a sliced apple and a spoonful of peanut butter has become a staple replacement for this, my only concession was the chocolate content in Silk chocolate soy milk which I use as a recovery drink. Regular candy just fell by the wayside surprisingly easily as did soda!

Wheat (gluten); this was a little trickier, a sandwich was a staple for lunch, toast, bagels, most breakfast cereals, cookies and beer all fell by the wayside. With a little imagination sandwiches were replaced with lettuce wraps. Some digging around in Wholefoods uncovered some gluten free cereal which was great and some gluten free cookies which were…not so. FYI both Trader Joes and Pavillions/Vons now offer an ever widening spectrum of gluten free food. Rice was a good substitute although "rice pasta" is an acquired taste and you have to eat it pretty soon after you cook it otherwise it all sticks together.

Alcohol; actually not as hard as you’d think, I’m not a big drinker, my only concession was some alcohol free beer which broke the gluten rule but hey it was our wedding anniversary!

Red meat; yeah I am a carnivore and I like a good steak, but for four weeks, well five, I just choose chicken or fish, surprisingly easier than I thought it was going to be!

Dairy; as mentioned soy milk is prevalent in the house so not such a biggy. Cheese was tougher, but Tofuti cream cheese worked well and other than a splash of milk in a cup of English that was it.

So as you can see not quiet 100% but pretty close all things considered. And so onto the results. The numbers speak for themselves, I dropped 5.2lbs and dropped 1.5% in body fat. I really wasn’t counting calories as such and the workouts for the month were only maintenance miles; 120 for the month, had I been in full training mode chances are it would have been more

In terms of how I felt, well actually; really good, no spiking or crashing and no hunger pangs. The food really turned into fuel and was enjoyable at the same time. Additionally as part of the mental game is was an interesting side project to see if I could say no; as expected over time this became a lot easier until things never entered the equation. As with everything I life preparation was the key, bulk cooking when possible, finding convenience items is always good; TJs microwave brown rice is great, Mochi is really good, soy "dairy" products are an easy substitute for most things; yogurt, milk etc. Tofu; well I had one good experience (thanks Christine) and one bad. We are really lucky with our grill, which is a nothing special one from Home Depot but it cooks everything really well, a slow cooker was also very useful and the Vita-Mix really came into it's own for hummus and home made peanut butter; I will never be buying a jar of PB again.

While I have reintroduced some of the thing back into my diet; quality bread and a little cheese here and there, there are definitely some things that I will carry on with; no soda, no candy and minimal chocolate. Red meat, while not eliminated, is now reduced to 'good' red meat and rather than quantity I'm going for quality and resigning it to the status of "treat". Alcohol is consumed so rarely that it not so much of an issue but Becks now do a non alcohol beer and O'Doul's Amber is pretty good too. The gluten free cereal I use is really good as well and I see no reason to not stop using it. I am going to stay as caffeine free as possible so I can utilize it better on race day and race night and race the next day!

It's been a fun(ish) month and seems to have set me up nicely for this training cycle. I am still looking to drop to the mid 160lbs so I have about 5lbs to go...hopefully that won't take long with the volume of training coming my way, of which Week 1 is now complete with no incident.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Going all Lance!

My training started for AC100 last Sunday, I had a couple of easy rides during the week and closed out the first week of training with no incident.

With over 1000 miles to cover on my bike in the coming weeks and having had my bike tuned up it was time to tune me and my kit, I dug out all my cycling kit and ran it through the washer; all spruced up and ready to go. Next a good wash and scrub for my trusty helmet and clean of the shoes and I am all set.

Next thing was a quick cyclist trim for me; call it curiosity, call it a desire to be more streamlined, call it what you like but 5 minutes with a pair of clippers followed by a little follow up action with a razor and voila!

All I can say is that it feels very very different!

First long ride this weekend ; 50 miles

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The path to the start line...

As they say failing to plan...well you know the rest!

Some highlights:
  • Back to back long runs Sunday/Monday
  • Running doubles due to time constraints on Fridays
  • Significant Cross-training; road cycling, you can see the routes if you copy and paste the url into a browser
  • Sunday long runs/rides are run for time although there is a target distance
  • Hoping for three or four long runs on the course to cover as much of it as possible
  • Weekday/road runs are pushruns; 10 pushups every mile
  • Biggest week in total; 179 miles
  • Longest long run 69; miles
Now it's all about the execution, as someone I met on the trail maintenance day said "it's all a head game"...and the game started last Sunday.