Tuesday, July 28, 2009

60 minutes...

Always an hour short! That seems to always sum up my weekend long ride cross training (although if you were to ask my wife it would be always 2 hours too long), this weekend was no different. With friends in from the UK it was a case of multi-tasking and with brunch organized for Sunday morning the plan was to ride through to the coast meet for brunch (refuel) and ride back.

I set off early and soon found I was over dressed with arm-warmers and a vest, after stripping them off I made my way through Malibu Canyon; one of the more gentler canyon rides, hit PCH and headed south towards Santa Monica. I arrived in good time and so did a few hill laps and a little spin along the beach path while everyone else arrived finally sitting down, after throwing the bike into the back of the car for safe keeping, with 45 miles on the clock. I forgot to stop the Garmin and so it merrily chirped away for ninety minutes or so while I devoured a large stack of pancakes and washed them down with coffee and Nuun. We said our goodbyes and I left my wife and two boys to visit the pier and local aquarium while I headed back.

A solid headwind for 15 miles up the coast killed my average MPH which up until that point had been 16+, I cut back through Malibu Canyon and was left to decide which was worse; the cooling wind or the torturously hot canyon temperatures, I reached Calabasas and dove into McDonalds to liberate some ice! The thermometer on the outside wall said 112f! Calabasas is always hot; it’s like a bowl that retains the heat. I headed further north and finally arrived at home for a quick turnaround. We were in and out again like greased lightening and headed to a local silent auction raising money for Hurdle Jumpers a local cancer relief charity and promptly bought a Manhattan Pink cruiser for my mother in law; she’s just had a replacement knee and has another scheduled and is a keen cyclist but can’t swing her leg over a top tube so this step thru was a great buy for her and all in a good cause.

And so this was my last long bike ride; scheduled 100, miles 85 on the clock when I finished, like I said always an hour short…bring on the long runs!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Compression Socks; the conclusion...

As a follow up to the four compression socks/sleeves I reviewed I thought it would be fun to place all the info in one place in an easily digestible format that, hopefully, allows you to make an informed choice. To remind you I reviewed the Recovery Sock, Zensah sock, The Sugoi R&R sock and the RecoFit calf sleeve (click on the links to go to the reviews).

Whilst widely accepted as being beneficial post exercise and effective in aiding muscle recovery and reducing edema there is little scientific evidence for benefit during exercise and so most of this info is based on my opinion and is anecdotal.

Firstly here’s a comparison based on some consistent factors:

(Grading scale Poor/OK/Good)

It’s important to remember that these comments are somewhat subjective and are based solely on my experience.

Certainly from a recovery standpoint I am 100% convinced that the compression technology does work, I posted some pretty big numbers (for me) including 76 and 68 mile weeks without any issues. From exercise standpoint I was initially concerned that I would overheat and I didn’t, that my feet would get overly wet due to poor wicking and they didn’t and that I would be pointed at laughed at; I was a bit but I am overly 40 so who cares!

So from an exercise standpoint I do think that there is some, well actually a lot of merit in the idea of compression technology, of course as a muscle group while running your calves do play a part but obviously not as big a part as say hamstrings, and as has been pointed out to me to realize the full benefit of compression technology, a full leg covering is required, this I can concur with, and to try and imitate this as best I can I wore these socks my CW-X ¾ tights, which I have been running in for over a year, and of which I am a huge fan of, and I was grateful for in the cooler 5am morning runs.

So, some high and low lights:

Recovery Socks:
– Highs; look funky, long, not too thick
– Lows; poor overnight compression, they fell down by morning and struggled to last a day!

- Highs; solid compression over time, can be worn to work
- Lows; not variable compression areas, colors a bit dull, may be a bit short for tall person

- Highs; variable compression, nice and warm, funkyish looking, nicely padded sole
- Lows; very long, not the best wickability

- Highs; very contoured to muscle shape, very wicking, can be worn with any sock
- Lows; dull colors, no support for lower ankle or foot

So, due to the subjective nature of my results, my suggestion is to try them, try several pairs if you can, borrow a pair from friends or get them from somewhere that has a good return policy. If you're looking to combine running and recovery and you prefer a cushioned sock go for the Sugois or Zensah, if you're prefer thiner socks or you're stuck on your own brand/model go for the Recofits. Unfortunately the Recovery Socks fell down on the exercise front and to be honest they fell down, literally, on the compression front as well.

As you may have read in the individual reviews two of the socks were provided by the Wilderness Running Company and as part of the follow up to these reviews they are offering a discount for the next 7 days of 10% on the Sugois and 20% on the RecoFits plus and extra 10% if you use the coupon code “Quad10” at the checkout and free shipping to the lower 48 for orders over $50; follow this link to qualify. Finally a big thank you also to Zensah and Recovery Sock for supplying me with their products.

See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at quadrathon@gmail.com.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review; Sugoi R&R Compression Socks

Following up on the previous reviews of compression socks the good folks at Wilderness Running Company kindly sent me a pair of Sugoi R&R Compression socks for review.

From Sugoi’s website the sock’s features include:

* Structured cushioning at footbed
* Dense cushioning at heel and toe where maximum impact occurs
* Mesh ventilation for improved breathability
* Lin-Toe reverse toe construction
* "Y" heel gore for improved fit, reducing slippage
* Progressive support from arch band to top welt
* 156N Hydrophobic/hydrophillic yarn combinations
* Anatomically correct left and right foot construction
* Lace pad cushioning

Like most quality socks they are foot specific. The first thing you notice is the various levels of compression that the sock provides; it is graduated throughout the leg section of the sock and also through the foot area. This is interesting and I wonder if the different zones are designed based on different muscle, tendon, soft tissue etc requirements; for example there is less compression on the toes, top of the foot (to make room for the lacing) and achilles area when compared to the calf area, where it is pretty tight. The heel construction is a little different from most socks which ‘turn’ a heel, the R&Rs have a Y shape that contours towards your heel from the front of your ankle and has a virtually invisible seam. The toe seam is also barely visible, this minimizes hot spot or blister points.

Internally the sole of the sock is cushioned, the cushioning is not uniform but is staged in little ‘islands’ along the length of the foot with a fully cushioned heel, I am not sure if this is based on reflexology or massage points in the foot or not but the cushioning is very effective. I have used these for post run recovery and have run a couple of 10 milers in them without issue, I wore when running the second run of a back to back session on long weekends (20m+/10m+) and my initial worry that that they would be hot was unfounded as they breath very well; which is good with local temperatures going north of 100f in the last two weeks. The cushioning works well, which is an advantage, in my opinion, over socks that have no cushioning. The elasticity is also very effective and they do not lose any stretchiness during a run or particularly overnight; something I have experienced with other compression socks.

Colorwise they come in sensible grey but the white trim, including some discreet logos, makes them a little more funkier than some socks; better for running, not so good for work on a Monday morning. Fitwise, as with all the other socks I reviewed, these easily reached all the way up my calf to below my knee. I had the size large and my calf measures 18' from ankle to below the knee.

Overall these a solid pair of compression socks from a reputable company, the big advantage for me is the fact I could run in them which gives them a dual purpose and in the current economy getting the most bang for your buck is never a bad thing, with that in mind WRC is offering an extra discount for Quadrathon readers of 10%, plus if you use the discount code 'Quad10' when you check out you’ll get an extra 10% off, click here to qualify for all these discounts and free shipping in the lower 48.

This is the final post in the review of the compression socks line up; check the 'Reviews' section in the right hand menu for the other three, the other companies who had offered products didn’t come through, if they do I will gladly review them, I have a final conclusion post which I will post later this week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Off Plan but On Schedule!

Like most runners I like to plan, I plan my race calendar, I plan my training plans, I plan for race day; as anyone knows failing to plan is planning to fail…yeah I am bit OCD. Well you may have seen the little widget thing on the side bar pictured to the left, which listed this year’s races, it’s gotten smaller as I have ticked them off and now there is only one which has a splash of ‘Registered Red’ by it. I like racing to train, it helps gauge fitness and it helps overcome race day nerves, there's free support and you get a T-shirt and medal...if you finish.

By and large the first half of year went well, I ran three out of the four races faster than I have done previously and I would have at Leona Divide had my stomach not gone south, well north actually…oh well!

There were two place holders for August; Mt Disappointment 50m and Bulldog 50k, well these bit the bullet. Put simply I can’t fit them in. Mt Dizzy falls on a night run weekend and Bulldog falls on a weekend when I am on vacation…oh well, it’s not such a problem, running in Las Vegas in August is going be more of a problem!

Timewise I am nearly halfway way through my training plan, I have 8 weeks left including the two-week taper. Training so far has actually gone really well, I am injury free, have run my biggest week ever; 76 miles, I have only missed one run in eight weeks and by the end of this week I will be only 9 miles short of the 340 run miles and 18 miles short of the 542 cycling miles, that being said I am only 44% through the plan in terms of miles; I have my last long bike ride this coming weekend; a century and then it’s long runs; the shortest of which is about 26 miles and the longest 69 miles run on my Birthday weekend in August.

So while I am changing my plan I am at least on schedule!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Needs must!

Sometimes you just have to get it done, no fancy views, no ocean breezes, no stunning mountain descents, sometimes you just have to get on and go. That pretty much summed up Sunday’s ride. Rationalizing that the 40 minutes drive to the ocean would be about 10-11 miles riding which would add up to 20-22 in total with the return trip I choose to simply ride around the local area; loop after loop. Target distance 90 miles…close but not quite, about an hour short by my reckoning still an surprising elevation gain of nearly 10,000’…not sure how exactly though!

My cycling skills are coming back slowly but try as I might my average speed still hovers around that 15-16mph, my cadence is up around the mid 80's and for a short ride in the early 90's. I know it’s the engine that counts but there has to be something in the machine that makes a difference, I am still lusting after my Roubaix…maybe when I get that I’ll go up a notch.

Cyclists any advice?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A change of pace...

Yesterday my wife and I and two other friends found ourselves up at the crack of dawn and heading towards Ventura Harbor where a boat awaited to take us to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is one of five Channel Islands that lie about 20 miles offshore. They are classified as a State Park (although some parts of them are owned by a Nature Conservancy). At over 96 square miles in size it is California's largest island.

The island contains two rugged mountain ranges, a large central valley/fault system, deep canyons with year-round springs and streams, there is 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tidepools, and expansive beaches...so plenty to do and see. Due to the boat's arrival and departure times (10:00am and 4:00pm) we were limited to in scope of how much we could do, there’s one boat a day and if you miss you’re left to plan some unexpected camping!

We arrived to find low cloud/fog and a cool temperature and once we were under way fairly choppy seas, on the way we stopped to admire so basking seals and we also saw dolphins. I’m no sailor but an hour of up and down almost got to me and I was very happy to see the island appear out of the mist! We went ashore and was given a brief; no fires, no litter etc from the Park Rangers, after which we were left to our own devices.

We had picked a hike that took us up from Scorpion Anchorage to Smugglers Cove a 7 mile round trip. As were at sea level everything was of course up and this was the path we took. Along the way we took a side track out to a look out and was treated to a great view, boats bobbing and crystal clear water. The further we went inland the more cloud lifted until we were in clear blue skies.

We hiked onwards until we reached the high point and then started on the second half, which was downwards into the Cove. We could have hiked up to one of the islands highest ridge lines but I couldn't convince anyone and all that sea air combined with an early start had everyone on the hungry side.

We arrived to find a beautiful cove with a eucalyptus grove and a big pebbly beach. We stayed there for lunch and after an hour during which we explored the beach and spent some time combing for treasure (none was found), chatted to some regular hikers and admired the brave souls who went swimming; the water temp was about 60f, we headed back.

A couple of hours later we were back at the anchorage and with an hour or so to go we found a nice sunny spot and had a nap! An uneventful ride home and we headed to a local fish taco restaurant for some well earned liquid refreshment, check out the label!

If you ever get a chance this is a fabulous trip that really takes you off the beaten path. The island offers much more than hiking alone with camping, snorkeling diving and kayaking so there's plenty to do.

Here are the photo’s from the day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm a Mac, I'm a PC, I'm a Runner!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll probably know that I am a bit of a tech junkie, however since joining the ranks of “self employed” my habit has had to been curtailed due to a lack of Benjamins. Having had to migrate my mobile computing, in fact all of my computing onto an Mac after the untimely demise of my PC lap and desk tops, I had to suffer the foibles of Garmin Training Centre on the Mac, which is to be frank…crap!

You may have noticed that at the end of most of my “long” runs or rides I embedded the “ViewPort” data which was generated from MotionBased. MotionBased was an add-on provided by Garmin as either a limited free or more bells and whistles subscribed service. I’ll save you a long description of it as, as of June 30th it was retired. In its place Garmin provide Garmin Connect (GC). GC was originally introduced with the 405 and 50 models of the Forerunner and since then has been expanded to support all of the Garmin Fitness Models (Forerunner Models; 50, 201, 301, 205, 305, 310, 405, 405CX and Edge Models 205, 305, 605 and 705), which was completed in May.

Uploading to GC is easy and you simply hook up your device to your pc via the cradle and USB cable and go to their website register/log in and follow the instructions, I found it easier to just upload everything and then sift through it at a later date. GC boasts some pretty cool features, the nicest of which is the Player which provides a stride by stride (well not quite) analysis of your run (or bike).

As you would expect there are a raft of features that are designed to attract the novice athlete through to the more hardened. There are, however, some things missing that I liked in MotionBased; Moving Time vs. Total Time, Weather, Wind Speed/Direction, HR Zones and distributions across elevations, zones, speeds etc. Viewing more than 20 activities in a list has also gone. One thing that is retained is the ability to export data to Google Earth so you can look at it in 3D, you can read more about that in this post. You can also create a goal from frequency, distance, time or calories, this seems to be a total copy from the Nike+ goal feature, but isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? You can create reports and also export the data into CSV format (Comma Separated Value) which allows you to import it into Excel and review your mileage splits compared to the same time last week, month, year etc, this is great is you run the same route or want to analyze track workouts or a tempo run.

There is also an ability to create a RSS feed which I have added to my side bar, you can mark private the activities that you don’t want other to see and so to avoid going out at 5:00am and finding some weirdo on my doorstep I have blocked those that start at my house but you can see my weekend shenanigans. There are a few more features but rather than go on and on and on, check them out here.

Garmin is in the process of migrating the data files over, as a Project Manager I can somewhat empathize as this project is running about 6 months behind schedule. Here’s some info from Garmin’s migration website:

A few things to note:

* If you don't see an activity from your MotionBased account on Garmin Connect, don't panic. We are migrating activities by date and size. The most recent activities have been uploaded first, as they are likely more relevant to you. Larger activities (more than 1,000 track points which equate to 10% of our total) will be uploaded in June/July.
* Some of your activities may not have migrated because they were either large files or had some data peculiarities. We will run several phases of our migration script to eventually get all of your activities from MotionBased to Garmin Connect. In some rare cases, we may not be able to migrate your activity to Garmin Connect.
* MotionBased will no longer accept uploads from Garmin fitness devices on July 31, 2009. At that time, we will migrate any remaining activities from MotionBased to Garmin Connect up until July 31, 2009.
* Garmin Connect is using a different methodology to smooth elevation gain/loss compared to MotionBased. As a result, especially for Forerunner devices, the elevation gain/loss numbers will be inflated. We are still working on our smoothing algorithm and intend to run this across all activities at Garmin Connect in the future to more accurately reflect the actual gain/loss.
* Garmin Connect does not support weather at this time. We plan on introducing this feature at Garmin Connect. When we do, it will run against all past, present, and future activities at Garmin Connect.
* Garmin Connect does not offer the Analyzer, Saved Reports, Dot Racing, or Viewports features, as you know them at MotionBased. We plan on offer these features at Garmin Connect in the future. When we do, they will be much more robust and customizable where applicable.
* At this time, Garmin Connect does not have a premium service. All of the features at Garmin Connect are free. We plan to introduce a premium service in the future. MotionBased customers with a premium account will be grandfathered into the Garmin Connect premium service for a period of time at no cost.

So as you can see there is an effort from Garmin to create a higher level of analysis than currently on offer and bring additional features into the package. Ultimately this is a good thing for the end user. There are several other options available to Mac users to review their GPS data, these include Ascent and TrailRunner. I tried both of these and to be honest I was not impressed by either they both just “hung” and I was unable to actually get anything to load…disappointing to say the least doubly so with the latter as this is designed for exactly what I do! This is not an exhaustive list by any means and if you use something that actually works please let me know.

Finally, before I hear the cry of SportTracks, I would love to use it but it’s not available for the Mac! Another main player; Training Peaks requires a $120 a year subscription.

And so with all that said I am ordering a PC later this month but until then I am a Mac! But as we all know…

Monday, July 13, 2009

Backbone Trail; Skinny-Ass 50k

A Fat-Ass run is typically one where the runner provides his or her own supplies usually in the form of something on the side of the road, it's usually a recognized race distance and there is never any hoopla, shirt, medal etc. This Skinny-Ass one was, well, 51.64km to be precise and a whole different ball of wax; especially on the supplies front!

This weekend’s long run was a scheduled 28 miles; I was planning to run the reverse of last week’s (less the getting lost bit) to try and connect the Northern half of the Backbone Trail. On the map it looked around 30ish miles; I figured I could make it 31 and call it a Fat-Ass 50k. I started early and was on the trail by 6:15, my pace wasn’t fast; I was really looking for time on my feet and had agreed with my wife to pick me up at the coast between 1:00 and 2:00pm which would give me about 7 hours, I was running with my cellphone (which I hate) but whatev!

The forecasted temperature along the way was for around 95f inland and 85f on the coast at midday, how ever you looked at it, it was going to be hot. With that in mind I had dropped 2 liters of water at what I thought would be around mile 12, it turned out to be mile 15. I was carrying two handhelds and another liter in my vest. The temperature was rising but was runnable, I consciously took things easy, walked the ups and even some of the flats, taking lots of photos and even some video clips.

I had gotten through most of the water by the time I reached the drop and made up two more bottles and refilled the liter bag, I called my wife who was in no rush and so I said that I would call again once I had gone over Sandstone Peak, at 3,111’ Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, and would lead me into the section where I missed the turning last week. The climb was uneventful and I took the detour to the summit for a video opportunity.

Coming down the backside was all very new territory to me and was very barren with very little shade, in fact zero shade, this was around midday and like me the temperature had slowly been climbing; it was best described as “very bloody 'effing hot”. I picked up the elusive Chamberlain Trail which I had failed to find last week. My assumption is that this trail is little used, it was very overgrown and was a bit of pain to navigate, just as you got into your stride you would have to stop to avoid being torn up by some very aggressive and overgrown bushes. However that being said the view was spectacular, I have seen the ridgeline a million times from lower elevations but had no idea that a trail ran over it. I called in again expressing my ETA and said that I would call in again once at the bottom…duh!

Finally I reached familiar territory and headed to the canyon floor this was at the mile 25/26 point after about 7 hours and I was running very low on fluids, I grounded out on Sycamore Canyon Fire Road which would take me straight out to coast, I dug out my phone; No Service – bugger!

At this point I would have been quite willing to call it quits and make my way to the coast but I had told my wife to meet me further up the coast at the next canyon exit and so there was nothing to do but climb to higher ground and hope I got a signal. I started a very methodical walk up the next hill periodically checking my cellphone, after a mile and a half I finally got a signal and then noticed that the battery was running out! I got hold of my wife who was stuck in traffic and told her that I had about another 4 miles to go, I did umm and ahh about going back but I was nearly at the summit and so with the available option of finishing what I started I pushed on.

By this time I was totally out of fluids and was reluctant to have a gel or bar, as I knew that would just gunk up my mouth, slowly but surly I climbed, there was zero wind and the heat was radiating off the ground. Finally I reached the top and was treated to a cool ocean breeze. I mustered all I had and ran/walked the last three miles downhill to find my wife with a car full of drinks waiting!

Twenty minutes and combination (not mix) of 100oz in Gatorade and chocolate milk later I was standing in the ocean cooling my feet!

So the final tally 32.09 miles in 9:08:21 (told you I wasn’t fast), 7287’ elevation gained and 8783’ lost, average HR 131 which was pretty much where I wanted (in the ‘go all day’ zone) and 3504 calories, I weighed myself when I got home and I had lost 8lbs! This is a real no-no for AC100 where they weigh you at the Aid Stations for weight loss and dehydration; 3% loss and your asked to drink more, 5% loss and your made to drink more (8lbs would represent 4.62%)!

Recovery was ok, I missed my early slot for today’s 14 miler so I had to go out mid morning, it was never going to be a fast run and it took a good two and half hours, again in the midday sun, around the local streets, taking a lesson from yesterday I carried cash and replened at several gas stations on fluids and ice. When I got home the thermometer in the garden said 96f. The average temperature over the last three years at AC100 has been mid seventies and so this really is good heat training, that being said the coolness of a 5:00am run definitely has it’s appeal!

Here’s the link to the Garmin Connect player and the photos from the day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ultra T-Shirt Etiquette

In the ultra running community the wearing of race T-Shirts has become a sign of accomplishment and fashion. Choosing just the right T-Shirt for that special occasion can be a daunting and difficult task. The following guidelines have been compiled (in fun) to help the responsible T-shirt wearer avoid potential embarrassment and/or elevate their status.

1. A shirt cannot be worn unless the wearer has participated in the event. (crew, significant others and volunteers are exempt)
2. Any race, less than a marathon distance, shouldn't be worn to an ultra event. It simply doesn't represent a high cool factor and sends a red flag regarding your rookiness. If you set a PR at Pikes Peak Marathon, definitely wear that shirt whenever possible.
3. When returning to a race in which you previously finished, then wear the shirt from the first year you completed the race. Don't short change yourself by wearing the shirt from the year before. It doesn't adequately display the feat of accomplishment or the consummate veteran status that you are due.
4. Never wear a race shirt from the race you are about to run. It displays a lack of running integrity and might put the mojo on you.
5. Wearing a T-shirt of the race, while currently running said race, is discouraged. It's like being at work and constantly announcing "I'm at work". Besides, you wont have the correct post race shirt then.
6. Never wear a shirt from a run that you did not finish. To wear it is to say I finished it.
7. A DNF'er may wear a race shirt if... the letters DNF are boldly written on the shirt in question.
8. During a race the wearing of shirt from a previously completed year is acceptable. Wear the oldest T-shirt you have (see guideline #3). This is probably a good practice because you now have no excuse to drop out since you've done it before.
9. Runners should buy all crew members and, as appropriate, significant others (they let you run the race in the first place) T-shirts which can be worn without regard to running the race. (see guide #1)
10. Volunteers have full T-shirt rights and all privileges pertaining thereto.
11. No souvenir shirts therefore friends or anyone else not associated with the race may not wear a race shirt. If mom thinks that the Leadville shirt is lovely, tell he to send in her application early for next year so she can earn her own.
12. Wear the race shirt of your last race at the current race pre race briefing. The more recent the race the better. This is a good conversation starter. However avoid the tendency to explain how that it was a training run for this, and this is just a training run for the next, etc. It just sounds like your rationalizing mediocre performances. Sometimes it's best to live in the here and now. ("I've never been more prepared for a race! this is the big one!)
13. It must be clean (dried blood stains are okay)
14. If you've finished Hardrock 100 then wear it as often as possible, since the race is so damn hard.
15. Never wear a T-shirt that vastly out classes the event you're running (exception: see guideline #14) Example: Never wear a Western States 100 T-shirt at, say, Cool Canyon. Too many roadies will feel put down.
16. It's okay to wear a WS100 or Leadville or Wasatch T-shirt at ultrarunner cult events such as Gibson Ranch or Jim Skophammer 24. It's probably not okay to wear your Trans-America footrace T-Shirt to your local around-the-lake Fat Ass 50k unless you want to psyche out the competition.
17. A corollary: never wear a blatantly prestigious T-shirt downtown. People will just think you have a big head, which you do.
18. If you don't know what things like DNF, WS100 or Crew are then you shouldn't wear any race shirt until you know what they mean.
19. T-shirts must be used sensitively. Worn responsibly, they can help expand one's consciousness and immerse you in a great conversation with your ultra brethren. Worn stupidly, they can cause blisters, vacant stares, sprained ankles, and cause social anxiety.

NOTE: Publicly these guidelines will be denied and possibly ridiculed by ultra runners, but privately and when discussed confidentially, they sing a different tune.

Borrowed from Kevin Sayers.

FYI this is the one from AC100 collection.
At mile 80, a few miles out of Chantry Flats on the heavily canopied Upper Winter Creek Trail, he lurks around the next bend in the trail in the Danger Zone, the shirt reads: "Legend has it that the Rhino Chaser were a breed apart, fierce competitors who challenged only the toughest of big game"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review; RecoFit Calf Compression Component

Having reviewed two pairs of compression socks I thought I would turn my attention to compression sleeves, namely socks without feet. The good folks at the Wilderness Running Company sent me a pair of Recofit Sleeves. As per the usual form here’s the info from the website:

RecoFit’s calf compression units’ superior design and materials include:

GreatFiT ™
Gradient Recovery Exercise & Activity Technology delivers gradient compression where it’s needed most to reduce negative exercise and travel effects and maximize recovery. Careful pattern making and construction provide gradient compression from the ankle up towards the knee, helping to return the blood to the heart.

Negative-ion circulation assistance through Resistex™ carbon yarns increases blood oxygenation and supports the immune system as well as offering ribbed massage, compression, moisture-management and breathability.

Superior Materials
The finest breathable and most comfortable Italian fabrics and flat-seam construction that do not bind or irritate. The contour and cross-grain-cut of the fabric provides maximum compression benefits.
Versatility and Performance
Recofit components are more versatile and specific than shorts, tights or socks.

Left and Right Specific
Maximum benefits result from left- and right-specific components, as well as a wide range of sizes to best suit individual needs.

Although designed by a cyclist (who suffered from shin-splints) for running I have been wearing them for both sports, with over 100 bike (longest ride 75 miles) and nearly 100 running miles (longest run 20 miles) on them in recent weeks here’s my take.

At first appearances they look too short and too wide or baggy, but this soon disappears once you have them they are snug and supportive. They easily reach from below the knee to below the level of where an ankle high/crew sock would stop. I made the mistake of putting them on the wrong legs to start and thought they were really uncomfortable, closer inspection revealed the instructions (Left Leg/Front etc…pretty obvious really). The fabric is featherweight and you soon forget you are wearing them. They are constructed out of two panels; the first panel wraps the front of your calf and the seam follows the contour of your gastroc muscle (the bulb shaped one at the top), the rear panel envelops your gastroc. The front panel is stretchy and is ribbed inside which I assume is the Resistex, the rear panel is even stretchier but is a thinner material.

There are some discreet logos on the front and side and really that is all there is to them, however do not let this slim description fool these things are effective! I think a combination of their lightness and the support is amazingly effective. After both long sessions mentioned above I had zero aches or pains and after both of them I followed up with a minimum of an 8 mile run with little complaint the next day.

Specially designed for recovery and exercise (Reco – Recovery/Fit – Fitness) the real beauty of these sleeves is that you do not have to give up your favorite sock, you can mix and match them for cycling and running as I did and I am sure you could use them for hiking or even skiing or snowboarding as well. They do not get overly warm even in black; they are available in white also. They do come in multiple sizes and the company stresses the need for accurate fitting; I was using a size large. They also have some other products in the pipeline to address shin-splints and full leg and arm sleeves. One additional side benefit I noticed was that they took the worst of the beating that my shins take on the trails from low hanging branches etc. So if you’re stuck in your own socks these could be the ideal thing for you…and don’t forget you can get 10% off them through Wilderness Running using the ‘Quad10’ code at checkout.

Monday, July 6, 2009

You do the math!

You may have seen a similar image flashing in the right hand menu for the last month or so and wondered what the hell is this; so allow me to explain. A while back I was contacted by the Wilderness Running Company promoting themselves. I had seen their adverts in Trail Running Magazine, and this prompted to go to their website, a dialog was entered into and they asked if would be interested in writing some trail reports for their City Guides section of their website, always willing to share the beauty of my local mountains and with my pending assault on the Backbone Trail I jumped at the chance.

Then more recently I received another email inquiring as the whether I would be interested in reviewing some of the items that the carry in stock. Now if you know anything about me you'll know that I am a complete kit magpie; if it's shiny I want one! And so I jumped at the chance and one I got, in fact, one of each of the following:

Bridgedale Socks (Multisport, Trailhead, and Bamboo Lo)
Drymax Socks (Trail Running and Lite Trail Running; to follow)
Darn Tough Socks (Run-Bike Merino Wool-Cushion and the Run-Bike Merino Wool-Mesh)
Sugoi Socks (R&R Compression Knee High)
RecoFit Compression Calf Sleeves

They've a sock promotion going on in July and August, but I also got a pair of Oboz Ignition II trail shoes!

Now before you sigh and say sellout let me tell you a little about the company; they're a fairly new company, so they need all the help they can get. Like me, their focus is on trail running, like me, they like ultras but they are expanding to marathons and trail races in general. They provide online City Guides for trail running, an Owners Journal about new kit and ongoing tests, there's an affiliate program and oh yeah they have top notch product reviewers, (no not me) Donald from Running and Rambling is on board and he just finished the Western States 100 race!

And so c'mon what not to like, well how about sharing some of the love you ask; well okay, use the code Quad10 when you place your order and you qualify for 10% discount on your order and orders over $50 after the discount will also qualify for free shipping (in the lower-48). Click on the image above, the one in the side menu or here to place your order; don't click on the sock links or it won't work.

So far I am three pairs in so stand by for a sockreviewathon!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Backbone, Beach and Beer!

With the 4th of July celebrations landing on the weekend I decided to mix up the weekend which involved moving Sunday’s long run to Friday and then move Monday’s run to Saturday which would leave me most of Saturday and all on Sunday for holiday shenanigans. The schedule called for 25 miles/5 hours and I had reviewed the Backbone Trail map and calculated that I could cover the first 25-30 miles in fairly good order. My wife agreed to pick me up so I could leave my car at the start point until later in the day.

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts, I was late leaving and then it took me ages to drive through the mountains to leave a drop bag with some water and goodies on the roadside where the trail crosses the road. Then when I got the trailhead, I had to wait for Park Rangers to open the gates. By then time I was underway I was behind schedule by over an hour.

Starting at the coast means that pretty much the only was is up I headed up the Ray Miller trail which climbed up and into the low cloud, temperatures were cool and the cloud hugged the coastline. I dropped down into the next valley and followed Sycamore Canyon Fireroad, here I missed my turning but was put straight by a couple of mountain bikers. I found the right trail and started the second climb of the day. This section of trail I had run and raced on previously during the XTerra race series, maybe it was because of the familiarity or maybe I just missed the turning but that’s exactly what I did. The climb up Boney Mountain has two false summits over three and half miles and it wasn’t until I had reached the top that I concluded that I was on the wrong trail. I checked my map and decided that there was not enough time to back track and called my wife on the cell phone to give her a new collection point. I made my way back down the mountain and during the remaining 90 minutes took a couple of side trails, (including one to monument the parks donation), that I had always fancied but never had the time to take the last one putting me at the bottom of a mile climb up a tarmac road! I also stopped and topped off my handhelds from the water bag I was carrying; a sign of how warm it had gotten as usually two bottle are enough. I finally got to the parking lot at a little after 1:00pm having been out on the trails for just over 5 hours and with my Forerunner chiming in the 20th mile of the day.

In some aspects it was a disappointing run; missing the turning and coming up short mileage-wise was insanely frustrating, as was the delayed start. On the up side I got some good heat training, the thermometer in the car said 89f when I got in and I had been in the sun for the majority of the run. Also I now know that I need to connect the trails coming from the opposite end to ensure that I know where I am going; it’s much better to screw it up in practice than when I will be running the entire Backbone Trail in August; where time constraints don’t give me much margin of error. My wife’s interest in the hiking the Backbone Trail has also piqued and we’ve divided up the trail into day hike sections; so I have extra opportunities to ‘recce’ it out before August.

After getting home and cleaned up we headed back to the ocean for a classic "seaside" lunch of fish'n'chips and the largest bottle of beer I could find at Neptune's Net an eclectic cross between a bikers bar and a surf shack and then spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

Saturday morning I was out early for 8 miles, even though I have two more long rides in the coming weeks; this marks the start of running back to back runs. And so ends week 5 of training; 48 miles run, 116 miles on the bike, 16 hours training. Here are some photos and the link to the Garmin Connect data.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review; Zensah® Compression Sock

As previously mentioned Zensah® originally offered Twitterers free compression socks in return for a review and so without further ado here it is. But first some background info from their website:

Based on the Italian word "SENZA" meaning to be "without" so too should athletes be "without limits." This mantra inspires us each and every day to create the most cutting edge sports apparel. All of our products are based upon seamless technology or without seams. Zensah was created to help athletes at all levels improve performance by developing technical sportswear with the use of cutting-edge technology.Zensah’s revolutionary seamless design consists of an ultra-breathable moisture wicking fabric that draws sweat away from the body allowing the garment and athlete to stay cool, dry and light.Zensah, the pioneer of gradient compression apparel, has created an innovative seamless garment designed as a true second-skin, providing the athlete greater performance, comfort and mobility. Features include:

*Seamless construction – Eliminates Chafing
*Zensah Silver Ions- Reduces bacteria growth & Takes Away the Stink
*Soft Hand – Most comfortable workout you will ever have
*Moisture Wicking- Faster than the other guys

I have been alternating the Zensah compression socks with the Recovery Sock post run and ride. However they do have a cushioned sole which has allowed me to run in them, but more on that later.

The socks are foot specific and for the easily confused, such as myself, they are clearly marked. They have a compression free toes; meaning there is plenty of wiggle room. The compression starts just below the toe seam, which is seamless, and continues through the ankle turn all the way to the top. They are long enough to reach just below my knee (18” from ankle bone to below knee). The compression is very supportive and uniform throughout, it is long lasting and is still holding it’s own at the end of the day or in the morning if I wore them overnight. There is a line, more than a seam, which rolls over the ankle from the turned heel but this is more visual than physical. The sole is cushioned by way of a very dense looping inside; this provided enough cushioning for me to run in them.

I have run in them 3-4 times during the month ranging from 8 miles through to 15 miles without issue. I was initially concerned that I might (a) overheat in them but this was not a problem or (b) that my shoes would feel too big due to the compression but this was not the case. Overall the compression really felt that it was delaying the fatigue especially at the longer distances

Available in black, white or beige the socks can be worn with daytime "civvy" clothing as well as what we all feel more comfortable in; sports clothes. Although some more funky colors wouldn't go amiss.

As previously stated it’s hard to gauge the scientific impact of compression as I can only compare it to historic ‘without’ data, what I would say is that I recently finished June with 51 hours of training including 180 miles running and nearly 300 miles on the bike without issue.

I am saving my final conclusions until the end of the series. Up next RecoFit Compression Calf Sleeves