Friday, May 11, 2018

If Your Shoes Don't Have At Least 2,000 Miles On Them, You Don't Need New Ones

It’s Not My Fault If You Choose To Follow My Husband’s Advice
Issue #3

If Your Shoes Don't Have At Least 2,000 Miles On Them, You Don't Need New Ones

I should've bronzed these and put them on my buckle shelf

I’m cheap. I mean, really cheap. I don’t like buying stuff I don’t need (the kids make this a little bit of a grey area as we buy them lots of stuff they don’t need). I don’t like going out to eat at a restaurant. I don’t like buying new clothes. I don’t need a second car. I don’t have a flat screen TV. You get the idea. And I’ve been like this my whole life. Before I was part of Team TROT, I was a runner clothed in whatever was cheapest at Academy (sports store) or Ross. If it was over $40, I didn’t need it.

Running is the earliest sport and most inexpensive. It was one of the first things humans did (even if it wasn’t sport) and it required very little, if any, equipment. Just get out and go somewhere. This is one thing that appeals to me about running. And even now that I have sponsors for some of my equipment, it’s hard for me to let go of who I am.

The way I used to pick out running shoes was to go to Academy, find the section that had running shoes that were between $30-$50, and try them on. One shoe on one foot and a different one on the other. I’d run up and down the aisle, and the winner would go on to the next round. This would continue until I had found my shoe for the next year. I know that early humans couldn’t buy shoes, but at 11 cents per day, I could afford these shoes.
It didn’t matter if they were trail or road shoes. In fact, I didn’t know there were such differences when I started running ultras. I was at Cactus Rose 100 going up a hill, and a guy behind me asked if my shoes were road shoes. I didn’t know what to say. “I guess so.” They were road shoes (as I now know), but they worked fine and got me through that and several other trail races.

Anyway, back to the point of this. I never wanted my running habit (as I was running more and more and racing more too) to become expensive. I knew that running shoes were expensive. Companies tell you to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles. But I couldn’t afford to buy a new pair of running shoes every month and a half. So I wouldn’t. And I found out that nothing happened. So I kept running in them. And running. And running, until they literally fell apart. I remember the first time that happened and I recalled a pair of running shoes that I used in high school. I had them from sophomore year until i graduated. All the rubber on the bottom was worn off, duct tape surrounded both toe boxes, and they were comfortable as hell.
For the last 3-4 years, Altra has been a sponsor for the team. And although it took me a little while to get onboard with running with these shoes, I really love them. They have a wide toe box, zero drop soles (heel and toe at same level), and a great selection of trail and road shoes with minimal to maximum cushioning levels.
Now, I don’t know if I have some perfect stride or the perfect foot strike or whatever and that this is the reason for me not getting hurt while putting a ton of miles on each pair of shoe that I own. But I can tell you that I’m never injured. I’ve been tracking my shoe miles since 2010 and the table shows when I purchased and retired the shoes with how many miles each have. Form your own opinions. Share them if you so choose. Experiment on your own. Just don’t get hurt.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Talk to Other Runners

It’s Not My Fault If You Choose To Follow My Husband’s Advice
Issue #2

Talk to Other Runners

I’m not a very outgoing person, especially if I don’t know you. I don’t typically like meeting new people and stepping out of my comfort zone. This very much includes talking to complete strangers. However, running ultras has sorta changed that part of me. I still don’t talk to lots of people, but I race-chat a lot more now than I ever did when I started this back in 2011. And I really enjoy it. The talking may be just for five minutes while our paces match or it may end up being 85 miles (a 15+ hour date!). There are so many different reasons for race-chatting. I’ll try to get all the angles on why you should talk to other runners while you run. They are in no particular order, except when I quiz you on them at the next race.

  • Pass the time
    Talking to others will keep your mind off the pain, suffering, boredom, low points, etc. that you might be enduring. Before you know it, you’ve gone 10 miles and it happened so effortlessly.
  • They feel better
I can’t confirm this one. And I know what assuming does, but I’m assuming that they feel good too since I do.
  • You know you’re running the right pace
When you can carry a conversation without constantly losing your breath, you’re going at a pace that can be continued for a long time. One of my hugest advices is to run at conversation pace.
  • You get to know someone new/make friends
Now that we’re adults, we kinda suck at making new friends. You may never hear from this person again. You may end up being bff’s. They may be a name you’ve heard of but now can put a face to (unless you’re a Facebook stalker). Maybe you already sorta know them, but now you can find out something more. And maybe you like them enough that you want to spend the rest of your life running with them and Rob Goyen marries the two of you after you finish your first 50-miler as a couple.
  • Gives you a break/picks up your pace
Sometimes we’re silly and don’t correctly pace ourselves even though we know better. This can be your opportunity to slow down and give your muscles a chance to recharge. Or it might be that someone faster came by and you picked up your pace to run with them for 10 minutes and that got you out of your walking rut.
  • You’re not gonna win anyway, so have some fun
With the exception of a few people in each race, none of us really expect to win. We’re out there to challenge ourselves. Going a little slower at one point isn’t going to ruin your race or be a pace killer. It might be just what you needed when you’re at a low point at your race and you reflect back on this fun memory that your new friend shared earlier that day.
  • You get to see that your race/distance is not the only one out there
Races with varying distances usually have staggered start times so not everyone is crammed onto the narrow trails in one spot at one time. Maybe you never knew of 50-mile or 100-mile races. Talking to one of these “crazies” might spark your curiosity and cause you to discover what your real limits are and become one of these normal people.
  • You feel better (aka-the selfish reason)
According to a show I used to watch, there is no such thing as a selfless act. The real reason why you are nice and talk to others while running (whether you think of this or not, but now you will) is because it makes you feel better. And races are so much easier to endure if you just feel good all the time.

I am certain that the coolest and most interesting people are found on the trails. You just have to talk to them to discover it for yourself (and help them to discover you).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Running and Ice Cream Will Solve All of Your Problems

It’s Not My Fault If You Choose To Follow My Husband’s Advice
Issue #1

Running and Ice Cream Will Solve All of Your Problems

After some races I get to talking with people and my goofy advice always comes out. And just recently, I decided that I would like to share why my advice isn’t as goofy as one might think.

But I feel like I should preface this and every article that I write with one my wife’s favorite sayings at races: “It’s not my fault if you choose to follow my husband’s advice.”

Feeling sick? Headache? Lonely? Depressed? Anxious? Tired? Hungry? Stressed out? Getting over a bad break up? Don’t want to get out of bed? Overworked and underappreciated? No coffee? Frustrated? Kids driving you crazy?

Whatever it is, running can solve it. You might not be at a time in your life when physical activity is as easy as it was when you were 15, but that’s ok. You gotta start somewhere. Go outside. Walk. Jog. Run. Whatever you want to call it is fine. Just go out and do it. You might only be able to go for 10 minutes before you call it quits. Maybe you can’t run 3 miles without walking. So what! Don’t make excuses. Just get outside and do what you can. Don’t hurt yourself by pushing yourself to limits that shouldn’t be explored for several months or years down the road. But go outside and do what you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s in some beautiful forest or your favorite hiking trail or on the sidewalk around your neighborhood block. Getting outside and running (or whatever) will help with the problem. I won’t tell you how. You get to figure that part out only if you make the commitment to yourself to consistently get outside and run. Don’t take any headphones or music. They won’t help you solve your problem. Go out and just run. Do it several times a week. Make it a priority. Find your answers. And since you’re out running, you might as well reward yourself with some ice cream. Don’t make it boring vanilla either, unless you’re having a rootbeer float. Try rocky road unless you’re allergic to nuts. Then just give it to me.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Here Comes The Sun (do do do do)

There are two things that bug the bejesus out of me while trail running. The first is seeing trash on the trail (or anywhere for that matter). Ask my kids what their new punishment is. The other is as follows:

While finishing the last 20 miles of my race, I had to bring out my light so I could see since the sun decided to go down before I could finish. My current location on the course contained two-way traffic. Over and over, as a fellow runner came toward me, this was my view (unless they had a pacer, then double the lights). Now, as fun as looking into the sun and then attempting to keep running while blind for a few seconds may sound, I really hate it. This caused me to reflect back to my early days of running ultras and the lights I used. My first headlamp was about $10, used one AA battery, had two itty bitty LED lights, and (now that I look at the output) I swear was only good for reading a book while not moving at all. I don't know how I could see the trail as I ran through rooty forests or up and down crazy rocky hills with that tiny little candle on my forehead. Fast-forward a couple years and I bought a brighter one which worked much better until it got too temperamental to be trusted anymore.

Zephyr Fire 300 (link to product)
What I currently use isn't a headlamp. It's a hand torch (flashlight) from Nathan (click for link to product). I have never liked having anything in my hands while I run. My hands are happiest when they're empty. So I was a little hesitant to get the hand torch. However, as you can see, it has a little wristlet doohickey that allows you to hold it without needing to really grasp it. (It's also great for when you trip over roots so you don't lose your light.) The light is already angled downwards. This allows you to see all that you need and allows oncoming traffic to not be blinded. I've used it through most of the night before, even though the webpage claims only 6 hours on low.

Now, I'm not saying you need this particular light. But please remember that when your mini sun on your forehead is fooling the squirrels into thinking it's morning, every oncoming runner you encounter is getting blinded because your light isn't angled properly. Please be courteous to your fellow trail nerds.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wildflower Race Recap OR How to not end up walking at the end of an ultramarathon

So I ran Wildflower this last weekend and I told myself it’s just a 50k and it’ll be over before I know it. But the other part of my brain told me that since it’s shorter, I’ll have to run faster. And I hate running fast. And before you think that, the terms ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are all relative. Your fast is someone else’s slow and vice versa. And your slow at the beginning of a race may be lightning fast at the end of your race.

How to run right (according to me)
Let me preface this all with what a gold shiny friend once said about me: “He has been known to make mistakes...from time to time.”

I’m too cheap to get a Garmin or Suunto or whatever. I learned to run by listening to my body. It might sound like I’m some Zen man or whatever, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it. And I use this to help me with my long 50-100 milers. Maybe the same concept works with shorter runs. I don’t know. Try it out. So here’s what I’ve learned that works great for me.

If you go too fast for too long, your muscles will die out before you’re mentally ready to quit. So you have to slow down at the beginning. It’s a little annoying because you feel so fresh and you just want to go at the pace you feel comfortable with. But believe me, ‘future you’ is gonna open a can in about three hours down the trails. And it won’t be pretty. Lots of people will be ahead of you and the competitive devil inside you will try to convince you to speed up. But for most of us, we’re not out here trying to win. We’ve all got various reasons for why we torture ourselves (as others consider it). You need to keep your body’s work output lower than what it can produce from your “energy reservoirs” and the awesome aid station all-you-can-eat buffets. Otherwise you’re using up energy faster than you can produce it, ‘future you’ becomes ‘present you,’ and then Pandora’s Box is opened.

How do I know when I’m going to fast? Again, I never even look at the watch I carry. It’s strictly used to keep track of overall time when I finish my run. You could use a heart rate monitor and do whatever calculations keep you below your max heart rate. But that’s a lot of work. I feel that heart rate is closely connected with breathing rate. All I need to do is listen to my breathing rate and that doesn’t cost me a fancy anything. If I’m breathing hard and fast, my heart is beating too fast, and I’m running too fast. And ‘future me’ tells me to slow down. My favorite pace is what I call ‘conversation pace.’ I’m pretty sure I got this from the Bible*. It states that if you’re running too fast to hold a long conversation with someone, you’re running too fast (for a long endurance run).

My race recap from this last weekend’s Wildflower 50k at Bastrop SP
There were five 10k loops. My times were 55 minutes, 53, 56, 59, and 61. Consistency goes along with paying attention to your breathing. I know I could’ve ran a much faster first and probably second lap, but then my other laps would’ve been incredibly slower. I have found that consistent pace with a jog is better than a fast run followed by slow walking. I found a pace that felt slow enough that I’d be able to hold it throughout the race. I was by myself for a lot of the time- sometimes this can be difficult because there isn’t anyone to encourage you, but it can also be good as you won’t get sucked into someone else’s race pace. I vaguely remember stopping at the aid stations to refill water, pick up some pbj’s and gels, get a sponge of ice water over my head, and then be on my way. But I know that the volunteers helped get me back out on the course a lot faster than I could’ve done on my own. Huge thanks to all of them.

Gear Used
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak NEO- I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again. I don’t think this was the purpose in the design for the shoe, but there were plenty of sandy spots on the course and after finishing the race and removing my shoes, I had NO SAND at all in my shoes. Just sayin’.
Water: Nathan Peak waist pak- The aid station was only 3-3.5 miles away and the insulated 18 oz bottle was plenty large enough to keep me hydrated and keep the water colder for longer.
Gear Bag: Victory Sportdesign Kodiak- I love the moveable dividers on the inside. I also like to put another one of my Victory bags (the Bear III) inside of the Kodiak for even more organization.

*The Bible being referenced here is “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.

Brazos Bend 50- April 2017

I had just tied my shoes and was finishing up my breakfast which consisted of a small handful of granola from Katie Graff, when all of a sudden I heard Rob Goyen counting down "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!" and I thought to myself, "Well, I should probably put my drop bag by the aid station and start this race." It's one thing I love about ultra running- there is an overall hurry but a minute or two lost here and there don't really make much of a difference.

The weather was beautiful for a long run, but I knew it wasn't gonna stay that way and was ready for the upcoming heat. I had my Nathan 4L water pack which has two 18 ounce water bottles in front and I put a 2L empty bladder in the back in case I started going through water too quickly.

I took pbj's at the first several aid stations so I could have some real food for fuel before I switched to gels. And this is about all I ate throughout the whole race- I was promised a certain ice cream truck was gonna stop by but I must have missed him.

I ran the race by myself the whole time. Usually I like to find people to talk to and run with for awhile, but I didn't do that this time. I got to spend the morning entertaining myself.

The race has an out-and-back section with a turnaround at 4 miles before the finish. This is my least favorite part as it seems to get longer and longer each next time you run it. On my first of three laps I counted runners ahead of me. I was in 13th place. I didn't know what to expect, but decided to go about this one like every other race: find a nice sustainable pace and maintain it til I finish. I think it's the best way to run ultras. It's not easy as you have to run slow when you have plenty of energy. But the tradeoff is that at the end, you'll still be jogging instead of walking. And walking sucks (at least to me). It takes a lot of patience to know that there are people ahead of you and that you could easily pick up the pace and catch them. But I've done this enough times to know that patience pays off. Eventually. It just took a couple hours til they slowed down and I passed them.

By my third and final lap, there were runners from other distances on the course and I had a hard time knowing exactly which place I was in. So I stopped worrying about it and just kept running. But the goofy me saw two opportunities to have even more fun than just running 50 miles. With about 100 meters to finish my second lap, I saw Bhakti Chavda up ahead. I got close to her and them with about three steps to the finish I jumped between her and her friend and said "I beat ya Bhakti." I still had another lap to complete and didn't dint at the aid station long enough to let her yell at me for scaring her.

The other opportunity for fun presented itself on the dreaded forever-long out-and-back section. I had seen another friend, Lisa Decker, a number of times on the course. This time I got her. I snuck up on her as best as my I've-already-ran-43-miles legs could and I jumped and grabbed her shoulders. We laughed and hugged it out. I might owe her some Fireball now.

Back to the race. I felt awesome the whole time. No down times. And that helped me run the entire time. I never stopped except to pick up my pbj's and refill water bottles. Proper pacing is the key to success.

I used an ice bandana on my neck through the last two laps. I filled up my 2L water bladder with 12 miles left. It was nice not having 4 pounds of water on my back for most of the race.

I saw Luis Murillo coming back from the turn around, just a few minutes ahead of me. I never caught up to him, but was glad that I was almost done. I came into the last aid station and gave Rachel Adamson her last sweaty hug and thanked the volunteers for being there for us. My middle son Drew was waiting for me to race me to the finish with 100 meters left. He beat me. And then I was told that I was 3rd place. I really didn't expect that and had long since lost count of my place. I finished a few minutes behind my TROT teammate Luis Murillo for the second race in a row. I didn't beat my time from my first time out here, but it wasn't a bad time. I finished in 7 hours 15 minutes (8:42 pace). I was able to enjoy the rest of the afternoon talking with friends and hanging out (another great part of trail racing).

Four things I learned about the alligators in the park: don't feed them; don't approach them; don't annoy them; don't molest them. I'd have to agree with the last one.

Shoes: Altra Torin 2.5
Water needs: Nathan 4L Krar vest
Gear bag: Victory Sportdesign Kodiak

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Since 2011, I have raced in several 100-mile races. And with the exception of one that has foiled me twice, I feel I have done fairly well while racing. For a few reasons, I did not compete in this year's Rocky Raccoon 100. It was a very hard decision to make as I have raced it very successfully over the last six years. A friend of mine decided that he was going to run his first 100-miler at Rocky. He completed the Habanero 100 (100k) for his first ultra. And since I was not going to be racing, I felt that I should ask if he wouldn't mind if I helped crew and pace him for the last forty miles. I never dreamed of how much this would affect me.

His first two laps were what I expected. The third was much slower. As I waited for him for two and a half hours, the lazy part of me wanted him to have already decided to quit because I was getting tired and wanted to go to sleep. He came by and I happened to see him. I quickly got up and ran over to him. He was very upbeat and ready to go out. My sleep would have to be put on hold for a while.

I have never paced anybody so I could only guess how I should handle this. I know how I like to be paced, but I did not know if the same would apply for him. We talked about various things, joked around, and avoided root snakes. For the most part, I stayed about 10-15 paces ahead of him. It felt weird, but my thoughts were that he would see me start to run and then he would just follow. I could be his voice in his head (I am the good angel of course) urging him on. It worked very well. We worried a little bit about making the cut-off times, but it all worked out and he finished.

But that is not what I really wanted to talk about. I was thinking about why I race 100-milers and love them so much. They remind me about life. Some parts suck or cause you pain and you just have to get through them. Sometimes you are on the top of the world and nothing can stop you. You get a reward for persevering to the end. There are countless people, most of whom you do not know and will never see again, that are part of your life for a little while and you get to share your life with them before they disappear, sometimes forever. No matter how great or seemingly insignificant you are, there are tons of people pulling for you to be successful. You are never alone. The amount of time that you are out there varies for everyone. To be successful, you need to learn from your mistakes and hopefully share that knowledge with others. Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare, your plans fall apart and you need a Plan B or C. Sometimes you fail, so you try again and again until you figure it out. I'm sure that I can add more if I ponder it during my next race.

I am so fortunate to be a part of Team TROT and the other running families that my family has met. Never in my life did I ever expect to have so many wonderful friends that I can consider family. I cannot imagine a life without running. It is truly a necessity in life.