Friday, October 29, 2010

And in other random news...

  • Picked up my race packet for this weekend's ChiMonsterHalf, had a cool winter hat and hooded half-zip tech pullover. In the photo above I'm trying to look gangsta like Patrick (The Road [A Multi-Sport Blog]) or Q (Q on the Move), but I actually appear like a pensive homeless person. Oh well. The folks putting on this race had a line out the door, had been there 3+ hours already, and were non-stop cheerful, makes me feel confident the race will be enjoyable on Sunday. Lululemon, where the packet pickup was held, has some outstanding yet expensive clothing, thinking I should become an ambassador to get some free stuff. Write-up and photos of the baby buckle next week.
  • Running most consecutive marathons - Mike Buss sets world record by running 51 marathons in 51 days, and he's shooting for 100 in a 100 - of course, since he did it on treadmills, only EMZ actually cares.
  • I recently won a 3-pack of Asics Men Sorbtex Performance Low Cut Sock from, they are really outstanding socks, comparative to the Powersox I reviewed recently. If you don't read I Run Far, they have a really outstanding group of writers who review gear, training destinations, and races. Plus you can get a free bumpersticker! In my dreams I would set up a similar site and retire to a life of leisure. Patrick has tried to dissuade me as it being impractical, but...
  • My post yesterday ruffled some feathers, with people upset that I was defending thw World Triathlon Corporation's way of doing business. BDD and I had a spirited email debate and we've agreed  (I hope) amicably to disagree. In a bizarre move, apparently WTC cancelled the VIP program, even though it had sold out (so some people won't get to participate in something they believed in). While I stand by my assertion that WTC should be able to conduct business as they see fit, it is not my intention to upset anyone, unless I want to, and then it will be quite clear. Along those lines, Rene Descartes famously almost said, "I disagree with the way you do business, but I will fight to the death for you to run your business as you see fit." (Or something like that.)
  • Upcoming reviews will include the Camelbak Delaney Race Pack, Brooks Nightlife Jacket and Cascadia 5 trail shoes, Treksta Evolution trail shoes, Thermajock, Shutterfly xamas cards, Nuun, Clif Bloks, and a couple of John L. Parker books. Is there something you'd like reviewed? Let me know! (If you have a product, send it to me!)
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Best Tap into Fat Stores for Energy

(Image from his website

Fascinating article in the November/December 2010 inside Triathlon by Torbjørn Sindballe about the best way to incinerate body fat, tapping into our fat stores for energy, called "Fat Burning Machine". He used himself as a human guinea pig to test out several hypotheses as to the best way to train one's body to use fat for energy rather than glycogen (though both are necessary). The generally accepted method is to train for long hours in the saddle or on the roads/trails. The hypotheses (all claiming to help the body learn to efficiently burn fat) he tested were:
  • Supplements - L-carnitine, caffeine, and the like don't seem to work, at least for him
  • High-Fat Diets - diets such as Paleo - while he felt it was a healthy diet, it did not seem to be beneficial for endurance athletes, at least at the IM level; a 2006 study by Kiens and Burke concluded much the same thing
  • Periodized Nutritition - based on the results of the Paleo diet, he thought maybe modifying it would help, so he followed a normal diet schedule, then did 5-6 days of high fat, followed by a day of carbo-loading before an event; theoretically this might work, but researchers have found that this hypothesis results in a reduction in ability to perform intense workouts, which limits its usefulness to endurance athletes
  • Zero Cal Rides - a tweak to the generally accepted methods of long slow distance (LSD) is to complete an entire or partial LSD on nothing but water. While initially difficult for him, he felt that, as he became inured to the lack of fuel going in, he felt stronger and was able to extend the sessions. Lab tests confirmed that he burned fat at a higher rate and this is his suggested modification for endurance athletes.
We are all an experiment of one, and I urge you to keep all these hypotheses in mind. I personally feel comfortable eliminating the first 3 on practical grounds and will possibly try the extend the duration of the last when I feel comfortable doing so. I have already ridden and run up to an hour and a half on nothing but Nuun, so replacing that with water should be easy to do.


(Stepping on to soapbox.)

As a side note, to those who are confused, saddened, angry, or in any way invested in the concern over WTC raising event prices, creating new event series, or extending VIP offers, I would offer these 2 thoughts:

  1. WTC is a business. Their goal is to make as much money off of the Ironman brand for as long as they can. If you have any conflicts with the way they run their business, look elsewhere. literally has thousands of triathlons listed. Look into those races.
  2. If you are competing in an event simply to get a particular tattoo or hear a particular finishing refrain, it might be time to check your motivation, in my opinion. If you are comfortable with that motivation (and there is no reason not to be, I'm not trying to be judgmental), then you need to be willing to pony up to achieve that experience. They built the brand and they deserve to profit from it.
(Stepping off soapbox.)

My motivation? It changes daily. However, I recently read an article on cyclocross by Adam Myerson in the November 2010 issue of Bicycling magazine that I feel sums up how I generally feel:

"You're left, finally, with the feeling of joy and
satisfaction that comes with self-inflicted torment
 -- the essence of endurance sports."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Importance of Believing

Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute Mile barrier

Nobody believed that a human would ever run a 4-minute mile, until Roger Bannister smashed that barrier for all on May 6th, 1954.

"He had finally found the ultimate limits to himself, the final boundary of his being that he had never before come near enough to truly contemplate, despite a lifetime of trying." - John L. Parker, Jr. Again To Carthage

Pain. Except for sophomore year high school football, when I enjoyed it too much, I've always been ambivalent about inflicting and receiving pain. Blessed with a high pain threshold (or lack of sensory awareness maybe), I never found pain to be much of a deterrent. I've always struggled with the mental side of pain, preferring to be "comfortably uncomfortable" rather than really pushing myself. I ran the 1995 Chicago Marathon during a difficult time in my life, with no training, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, though I ended up walking/jogging miles 20-finish. Over the last several years of my life, however, I've been pushing through both mental and physical stress by mountain climbing in winter, learning to play ice hockey, and training for triathlons.
"Act as if you already are. This is one of the many mantras that we employ when it comes time to go after a goal that is beyond what has already been accomplished. Breaking new ground physically requires you to first break that mental barrier so that it can come into being."  - Terrence Mahon, Team Running USA's head coach

This is how I'm approaching my first ultra next year, the Ice Age Trail 50K. Mentally, I already know that, barring a calamity, I will finish. What I don't know is what kind of experience it will be. I'm researching training plans, suggestions, and methods now and hoping that my preparation will allow me not only to finish, but enjoy the ride.

What new ground are you breaking physically?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Midwest Trails: Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve and REI Double Shot Product Review

One of the DuPage County Forest Preserves, Springbrook is another midwest trail that is smooth, relatively flat, and purposefully made as a multi-use trail.

"Originally slated to be the site of a 200-acre dragon-shaped lake with a swim beach and campground, today, the 1,867-acre Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve in Naperville is instead one of three regionally significant grassland bird communities in the state and home to species like meadowlarks, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, woodcocks, and bobolinks as well as state-endangered northern harriers, short-eared owls, and Henslow’s sparrows. A stream re-meandering project has created twists and turns and a wider, shallower bank along the namesake Spring Brook. These changes have slowed the flow of water, improving aquatic habitat and allowing the brook to more easily pour over its banks and into the preserve during heavy rains, a valuable flood-control feature for nearby residents."

While not technical or demanding, the 5.5 mile loop coupled with a second 1.8 mile loop, creates an opportunity to get in a slightly longer run or multiple loops to create any distance desired.

Gravel trail with mown grass/dirt section

I really struggled over the first  three or so miles. At first I thought maybe I had just been trying to do too much, maybe a bit overtrained, but all my runs recently have been quite comfortable. No, I lay the blame squarely on the...

REI Double Shot Waist Pack. I had actually won this hydration pack back in January, from FitEgg, but had never actually used it. It appeared to be well-made, adjustable, and had a large central pocket for my phone, keys, and map (yes, I now always carry a map). Also, the double bottle system made it appealing for eventual longer runs.

It takes a lot more than keys, map, and phone to fill the pocket, which is a shame, because my phone bounced in the pocket non-stop. The keys were not so bad, as they were clipped inside the pocket. Also, to keep the bottles from bouncing, I had to really crank down on the waist straps, which then dug into my hip bones (on the positive side, I've lost enough weight that my hip bones are no longer padded). As I neared the end of my first loop (to the right on the map above), I had 3 options:
  1. Stop at the car, ditch the waist pack and continue with the original plan of completing the main 5.5 mile loop;
  2. Stop at the car, have a good cry, and then head home; or
  3. Suck it up, prove to EMZ that I'm no pansie, and run at least a little bit longer with the waist pack.
Main route typical view

I chose option 3, as there is nothing more demeaning than a buckle-clad EMZ laughing at my wussiness (or, as The Running Fat Guy might say me "being a (synonym for) kitten"). So I buckled down (literally), ran out for a few more miles, then headed back to the car. With undisguised relief, I headed up the last incline and removed the offending waistpack with gratitude. Now this is an older model of the waistpack, but, judging from the comments on the REI site for the newer model, they haven't solved the problems yet.

The REI Double Shot waist pack might be made for running, but I won't use it for that again, though it is comfortable enough just walking around that I might consider it for a hike.

Pros: 2 water bottles, secure belt cinching, large pocket, comfortable while walking

Cons: large pocket with no dividers, no hip padding, uncomfortable for running

Springbrook Prairie is yet another option in my ever growing arsenal of midwest trail runs. Close to home, smooth, undulating trails, and to top it off, add gorgeous views:

Monday, October 25, 2010

PowerSox Product Review + Giveaway

Power-Lites Lo-Cut

I was recently given the opportunity to try out some PowerSox, specifically the Power-Lites Lo-Cut pictured above. PowerSox are a Gold Toe brand, and I've always looked to Gold Toe for quality business socks for work, so my initial thought was that the PowerSox would probably be quality as well.

I wasn't disappointed. I have worn the Power-Lites for all my recent runs and cycling as well. These socks fit me snugly, but were not uncomfortable. Though Gold Toe states that the PowerSox have strike zone cushioning, I was skeptical, because these are very thin socks (my preference, actually). I have to say though, that the cushioning was welcome on my longer runs, so I was wrong to be skeptical. An interesting thing about these socks is that, while they felt quite warm on my feet, sweat was never a problem. The Powersox are 71% Polyester, 21% Acrylic, 6% Nylon, 2% Spandex, AquaFX® moisture management, and ventilation panels. I have to say their technology works.

Many people don't consider socks to be important. I myself have a hard time shelling out dollars for something that seems inconsequential. However, there is nothing like a good sock to make a ride or run more pleasant. Gold Toe states: "Like a sophisticated piece of equipment, the PowerSox® brand is engineered for exceptional performance. We combine the latest technology and construction innovations with the finest fibers and sport specific designs to create the best performance sockwear for your athletic activities. We utilize moisture management yarns, contour fit, selective cushioning, flat toe seams, ventilation panels and arch support to meet performance goals and exceed expectations." Their marketing department really hit it on the head, while their engineers back up the marketers' words. These are quality socks.

Gold Toe has signed some endurance athletes (Dave Hahn and Pam Reed) to be the face of PowerSox. Dave Hahn is a mountaineer, and probably of not much interest to most of the readers of this blog. Pam Reed, however, is a well-known runner, who also used to direct the Tuscon Marathon (not sure if she still does). She and Dean Karnazes have long been linked as arch-rivals, though both deny animosity exists. Kind of fortuitously, I've been re-reading Pam's book The Extra Mile (2006, NY: Rodale). In it she describes her experiences as a mom, wife, former anorexia victim, ultramarathoner, and more. She was the first woman to win Badwater and also the first person to run 300 miles without sleep. She probably knows a thing or two about socks.

Interested in free PowerSox? PowerSox was giving away free socks to the  first 30,000 to fill out the registration form at (I got a pair that way as well!), but those are gone, though you can still get 25% off any CoolMax sock purchase through 11/30/10 - just enter CoolMax25 at checkout. Since you can't those free socks anymore, how about through this blog? Of course. How to enter:

  1. Be a follower.
  2. Follow the blog on FB.
  3. Follow me on Twitter.
  4. Retweet, FB this, link on your blog, make a video of you dancing in your socks.
Leave a comment for each thing that you do. Contest will run through Thursday, November 4th, 2010, winner chosen using, and then posted Friday, November 5th.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Jennifer at Maguire Public Relations, Inc and GoldToeMoretz, LLC. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give it a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

Have a product you'd like reviewed? Contact me at


Monday Weigh-In results:

Weight: (Goal of 165) - 189.2
BF: (Goal of 11-22) - 12.2
TBW: (Goal of 50-65) - 57.5
VF: (Goal of 1-12) - 5

First week that I tried not being exact with logging all my calories in. Added a few pounds, not bad, but clearly still need the LoseIt! crutch to continue weight loss.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Top Ten Diet Myths + Inspiration for (from?) The Road


"According to, about 80 million Americans each year go on a diet, spending $40 billion annually on weight-loss aids and programs. Since dieting takes up so much of our collective consciousness, you'd think we would know everything there is to know about the facts of weight loss. Unfortunately, this isn't true--myths about dieting abound in magazines, weight-loss books and online diet sites and are interwoven into society's conventional wisdom. One of the best ways you can get on the path to real, lasting weight loss is to identify and understand the myths and misconceptions about dieting that can keep you from getting the pounds off and keeping them off.

Skipping Meals

Ask most people and they will tell you that the key to losing weight for good--and the reason why they fail at dieting again and again--is to skip as many meals as possible. Eating fewer meals is good, right? Wrong. The National Institutes of Health's Weight-Control Information Network reports that skipping meals--particularly breakfast--and eating fewer meals in the day is linked to heavier weight than people who eat small meals four or five times a day, including breakfast.

Water Will Help You Lose Weight

While drinking plenty of water daily keeps you adequately hydrated, it doesn't take the place of the nutrients in food, boost your metabolism or flush out fat. If you try to lose weight simply by drinking lots of water, your body is still going to need the energy it receives from food and you won't be able to hold that need off for long.

Never Eat After 8 p.m.

Many people firmly believe that calories consumed late in the evening turn to fat during the night while you are sleeping. According to dietitians, however, this is incorrect: your body's digestion of food and calorie usage remains the same at any time of the day or night, and energy that is stored in the evening is simply used the next day. It isn't when you eat, but what, how much and how many of the stored calories are burned off with physical activity during the day that determines weight gain or loss.

Some Foods Burn Fat

There is no food that, just by you eating it, can burn fat and magically melt away pounds. Throughout the years, dieting gurus have exalted everything from grapefruit to celery to eggs to cabbage soup as the one thing you need to eat to lose all the weight you want. While all these foods are full of essential vitamins and minerals and should have a place in every healthy diet, none of them can speed up your metabolism to the point that you will lose weight.

Exercising While Hungry

According to the That's Fit website, exercising when you're hungry not only doesn't cause your body to burn fat exclusively, if it lacks enough available carbohydrates to burn for fuel, your body will begin to use muscle tissue instead. Burning muscle decreases your metabolism and makes weight loss less, not more, likely.

Small Meals Boost Metabolism

While the idea that simply eating a series of small meals throughout the day instead of two or three large meals can make your body burn calories faster is appealing, Real Simple reports that how you consume your daily calories has practically no effect on your metabolism. The key to upping your metabolism isn't eating a bunch of times a day, but increasing your muscle mass: a pound of muscle tissue burns seven times as many calories in a day as a pound of fat tissue.

Eat High-Protein, Low-Carb

According to the National Institutes of Health, a diet that focuses on high-protein foods and strictly reduces the number of grains, fruits and vegetables consumed provides unbalanced nutrition that may yield results in the short-term only because of restricted food choices, but may end up contributing to a number of health conditions, including high cholesterol, increased heart disease risk, kidney stones and gout. Additionally, That's Fit reports that, when compared to low-fat dieters, low-carb dieters lose weight quicker, but gain it back in six months and end up no thinner than their low-fat counterparts. It is also untrue that eating starchy carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes or bread is instantly turned into sugar, then stored as fat. It's extra calories that cause weight gain, not carbohydrates, which should be an essential part of every healthy diet.

Fad Diets Work

Going on any short-term diet that requires you to make extreme changes in your regular eating patterns or cuts your calories below recommended daily levels is not only going to be difficult to keep up over the long run, but can possibly affect your health and make you upset when the weight you lost at the beginning of the diet creeps inevitably back. There aren't any quick fixes when it comes to permanent, sustainable weight loss. The best way to get the weight off and keep it off is to make healthy changes that you can maintain for a lifetime.

Eating Certain Foods Makes You Fat

Just as consuming certain wonder foods won't magically melt fat off your thighs, eating other "bad" foods like nuts, red meat or dairy products aren't a guarantee that you will instantly gain weight. Nuts, lean red meat and dairy products all provide vitamins and minerals needed by your body and, in moderation, can certainly be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Go Vegetarian to Lose Weight

While vegetarians overall do tend to consume fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians, it is not true that simply switching to a vegetarian diet will cause you to lose weight. There are as many ways to eat high-calorie, high-fat foods and exceed the number of calories your body needs while eating vegetarian as there are eating a more traditional diet. As with every aspect of weight loss, focus on what you eat, how much you eat of it and how much physical activity you engage in regularly."


Get Patrick on your Kindle!

In completely unrelated, yet supercool news, Patrick from The Road [A Multi-Sport Blog] is now available on Kindle. Now you can take him wherever you go. (That is, if you own a Kindle and actually want him along wherever you go.) There is a charge through Amazon, though Patrick is not in this to make money, so find a workaround if you can. Also, head over to his blog and check out his request for inspirational quotes and the like for a new page on his blog. First 50 responders get a Road T-Shirt!

I sent in a poem written by Jon "Blazeman" Blais. On my RoadID, I have an excerpt from that poem: "Face your Fears. Follow Your Dreams."

What inspires you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Big Bottom

"Big bottom, big bottom; Talk about bum cakes, my girl's got 'em; Big bottom drive me out of my mind; How could I leave this behind?" (Spinal Tap). So is it almond M+Ms or peanut M+Ms that gives a woman a big bottom? It doesn't matter - this post does not relate to a woman's big bottom, but rather, to trail shoes.

Hoka One One Trail Shoes

Contrary to many shoe companies, who are moving towards, or at least embracing the commercial possibilities of, minimal running shoes, the Hoka One Ones have opted for a different solution.

"Levitating - By using an EVA 30% softer and increasing its total volume to 2.5 times that of a typical trail running shoe, we allow for more cushioning than any other shoe on the market today, dissipating up to 80% of the shock associated with heal striking when running. Allowing for as much as 20mm of compression in the heel, with a low ramp angle allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, as runners can now engage their gluteus and lower back as opposed to isolating their quads, relaxing the body and making running downhill fun and comfortable.

Rolling Up - 40mm high sole design enabled to design a 13cm rockering profile , representing 50% of the sole length. This design allows for fluid and natural stride transitions, lessening the movement of the knee by as much as 20%, increasing efficiency.

Like a Feather - 15% lighter than reference trail running shoes. At 320 grams size 8UK per pair, they'll make running uphill as much fun as they make running downhill.

Grip - With 50% more surface area than the typical trail running shoe, and 35% more rubber crampons, you've never run as confidently as you will in a pair of Hoka's.

Stability - With a foot recessed into the midsole, you've never run as confidently as you will in a pair of Hoka's."

When an ultrarunner like Karl Metzler endorses them, there's something to pique the curiosity. So, being the good blogger buddy that I am, I requested a sample pair, crossing my fingers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Midwest Trails: Herrick Lake + Danada Forest Preserves

Map shows how Herrick Lake + Danada are connected

My longest run in recent memory, about 11.5 miles, took place on the rolling crushed limestone trails of Herrick Lake and Danada Forest Preserves, sitting cheek by jowl in the western suburbs of Chicago. While not technical, these DuPage Forest Preserve trails connect to the Illinois Prairie Path, allowing for almost limitless running (as long as by limitless you mean less than 75 miles or so).

"Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton is home to an impressive variety of wildlife. Ecologists have recorded over 254 resident and migrant animal species among the preserve’s 470 different types of plants. In the mature upland woods, stately 150-year-old white, red and bur oaks provide habitat for animals like woodpeckers, squirrels and owls. White-tailed deer and coyotes roam through adjacent fields of European grasses, where dickcissels, savanna sparrows, bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks nest among the fescues. Slowly emerging within these fields are young planted forests of American elms with understories of smaller maples, oaks, lindens and hickories. Viburnums, dogwoods, roses and blackberries are common in this immature upland woods, which attracts black-crowned night herons, eastern wood peewees and American woodcocks. Along the forest preserve’s pothole marshes and streams, silver maple and buttonbush grow. Raccoons, woodchucks, northern orioles, wood thrushes, and various frogs and toads dwell in this area, which is seasonally covered with colorful swamp buttercup and wild iris. Herrick Marsh, which lies in the middle of the forest preserve, supports communities of cattails and reeds, a draw for eastern tiger salamanders, northern leopard frogs, pied-billed grebes, blue-winged teals, red-winged blackbirds, minks and muskrats."

Herrick Lake

Herrick Lake is a very busy preserve on a Saturday morning, with walkers, high school cross country teams, and various sundry utilizers. It was a gorgeous morning and this area is really quite beautiful in winter as well.

Photo taken winter 2009-10

Herrick Lake Prairie Trail typical view

The trail is wide, smooth, and, while not specifically groomed for cross country skiing, would be admirably suited to the task. The Herrick Lake portion has a small wooded section, while the majority of the trail takes one under open skies and prairie views.

Typical Herrick Lake wooded trail section

There is obvious demarcation to let one know that you have entered Danada Forest Preserve; if you missed the sign, you really would have no idea. Danada has more of the same types of open, wide paths, though it is more developed, with the former home of Dan and Ada Rice situated there, along with stables, a training track, and other equestrian facilities, along with the Dupage County Forest Preserve headquarters.

Dan and Ada Rice's former home, now a visitor center

"Danada has a rich history as the former home of Daniel and Ada Rice, and Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair. Today, the preserve is the home of Danada Equestrian Center, which is surrounded by 783 acres of rolling terrain that encompass wetlands, woodlands and prairies. A large wetland complex interspersed with fields is located in the area west of Naperville Road. Although the natural prairie is gone, a 35-acre region has been the target of intensive restoration efforts that have yielded a healthy, restored prairie. This ecosystem complex attracts a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, grassland birds, and a heron rookery."

Starting gates for the grass training track

So I had brought along my IPod and earphones, intending to implement the Shut Up and Run Long Run Music Method (SUARLRMM). Here's what Beth has to say about long runs and music:

"Do the half and half. I like to break up my long runs by taking the first half in peace and quiet. No music. Just my breathing and my feet on the pavement/trail. At the half way mark, I put in some music and it becomes a different run entirely."

SUARLRMM? Fail. I forgot to start the music at my turnaround point and didn't want to mess with the protocol, so I'll try it again on another run. Seems like it might work.

Beautiful preserve with civilization close by

There is a small section of trail optimistically called the Nature Trail and,while approaching something more similar to single-track, is still smooth and groomed for the horseback riders. It does have more trees and thus, more shade, so on a hot day, it would offer welcome relief.

Danada Nature Trail is closer to single track but still groomed

For a shorter run, Herrick Lake can be done as a loop. To run as far as I did, adding Danada, however, it becomes an out and back, with some options coming and going, so it does not become overly tedious. While not my favorite of the forest preserve trails I've tried out, the twin forest preserves of Danada and Herrick Lake give a welcome opportunity to get in a slightly longer trail run near to home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Running in the Cold + ThermaJock

(Image originally posted by Mark Iocchelli at Complete Running)

Recently, Q posted about running in the winter. And, while I gave him a hard time (because he's Canadian, a hunky blogger dad, intelligent, and he can take it), many of us are now thinking about cold weather and exercise. Treadmill or outdoors?

Gentlemen, if you're going to run, consider the ThermaJock, designed to protect your valuables from freezing or chafing. Kind of funny, because towards the end of high school, a friend and I designed a "pepé wetsuit," for protection while surfing in cold water. It never got beyond the talking phase, but this ThermaJock is for real. I've requested a sample and, if it is forthcoming, will review and post in the future.

Perusing the Web, I came across this basic list over at It's nothing earth-shattering, but I'm reposting the list slightly edited) in its entirety for your enjoyment and edification.

The 20 degree rule. A good approximation is to dress for temperatures that are 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the actual temperature. So if it's 20 degrees out, dress for walking in 40 degrees.

Dress in layers. Layers will keep you warmer than a single layer, and allow for flexibility of removing some of your insulation.

Shed after warm-up. If practical, you can overdress for the first mile or so, until you warm up. This requires you having somewhere to discard the extra clothes, or a way of carrying them.

If your hands are cold, wear a hat. This is an old boy scout saying, but it works. If you core temperature starts to drop, your body will protect your vital functions by sacrificing your extremities, such as hands and feet.

Don't sweat through. If you wear too many clothes and sweat too much, you will sweat through your clothes. Once your clothes are soaked, you will become suddenly chilled. This means you will probably have to dress to be slightly cold, rather than toasty warm.

Windproof layers are a mixed blessing. A windproof layer will boost the insulation value of the underlying layers, which can really help keep you warm. Unfortunately a windproof layer also stops sweat evaporating, which regulates your temperature. This makes it much more likely that you will sweat though and become cold. I use a windproof layer, but open it up as soon as I warm up, then try to stay slightly cool. A windproof layer is very useful as an extra layer, as it can be wrapped around your waist easily. I will wear it until I warm up, then carry it in case I need some extra warmth later in the run.

Hydrate. Just because it's cold doesn't mean you don't need to drink.

Try to stay dry. Rain can chill you very quickly, so in cooler conditions, you need some rain protection.

Your lungs are fine. Your lungs will not freeze, not even at -40 degrees. Your lungs may get irritated by the low humidity, but they will get used to that. It is possible to get exercised induced asthma, which is a narrowing of the airways when exercising. If you suspect you have this condition, seek medical advice.

No cotton. This is true for any conditions, but worth restating here. Wear clothes made from synthetic, wicking fibers.

Watch for frostbite. Your extremities may go numb early in your run, but they should warm up. Anything that stays numb needs to be checked.

Watch for ice. Slipping on ice can pull muscles or cause falls. You can get traction aids to attach to your shoes if ice is a significant problem.

Hat and gloves. These are important to keep you warm, but they can also be taken off and tucked in a waist band easily. This allows you to adjust your insulation for the conditions. I like gloves that convert into mittens.

Vaseline. If you are still having problems with your hands and feet, spreading Vaseline over them before putting on your socks or gloves will dramatically improve the insulation. It's a bit strange the first time you do it, but it works very well.

Sunglasses. Keeping your eyes protected can help you keep a little warmer, and reduce how runny your nose gets. Use sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, so you can use clear glass when it's dark.

Chemical Warmers. Using chemical warmers can help keep your hands from getting too cold. These seem to not only keep hands warm, but also provide some extra warmth to the rest of the body and a little psychological boost.

Neck Warmer. A fleece neck warmer can protect your face and neck from the cold.

Warm Up Inside. Often the first mile or so is the worst, as your body has not started to produce sufficient heat to offset the cold. Warming up for 10 minutes inside, by running up and down stairs, doing a jump rope, or using a treadmill.

Start into the wind. If it's windy, start your run into the wind so that on the way back, you won't freeze due to sweating.

Suck then blow. If you have a problem with the tube on your hydration bladder freezing up, blow air back down the tube each time you have finished drinking. The drink is unlikely to freeze in the bladder itself, but the tube is very hard to keep warm. Insulation around the tube helps a bit, but not enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Clinton Lake Trail Race + Taco Dinner + Monday Weigh-In

Another possible trail race for the Spring, the Clinton Lake Trail Race is a 10 mile or 30 mile trail race on March 26, 2011. I think the 10-Miler might be a good warm-up race for the Ice Age 50K in May. Put on by the Second Wind Running Club, this race is several hours away from our house.


Seasoning packet came with the serving plates, the rest we bought

Several weeks ago, I was invited by Old El Paso via MyBlogSpark to participate in Old El Paso family taco night, a pack which includes a packet of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning, a Cactus Chip & Dip Serving dish, a set of 3 Fiesta Chili Pepper serving dishes and a $10 gift card to purchase your taco fixings. Since we eat Mexican food as often as we can, this was welcomed by the whole family. I decided to make it an Old El Paso night by purchasing the taco shells, refired beans, and green peppers made by the company. I added some chorizo seitan and some "ground beef crumbles" from Morningstar, as well as some yellow, green, and red bell peppers, plus a grain mix, making this a vegetarian-friendly meal. We added canned tomatoes as well as some water to the seasoning mix, super simple. The taco shells went in to the oven for 5 or so minutes, crisping them and really bringing out the corn flavor. I spooned in the toppings and then topped with shredded cheese.

The tacos came out really well, with all of us finishing every bite. Even our penultimate child took part, suprisingly, scarfing down a cheese-filled taco shell. My two older children are starting to like spicier food (nothing like me yet though) and said that they would like to make Taco Night more often. Of course, Old El Paso wants you to plan a family taco night as a special occasion or designate as family taco night one night a week! Yum.

The only negative was that the $10 VISA card that came along with the pack did not work. Hopefully I can figure out why and get some reimbursement for part of this dinner.


Monday Weigh-In results

Weight: (Goal of 165) - 187.8
BF: (Goal of 11-22) - 12.1
TBW: (Goal of 50-65) - 57.5
VF: (Goal of 1-12) - 5

First time under 190 in many may many years!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Rise of the Power Vegan + POM Wonderful + GoGo Juice + Tillamook Cheese Winner

Men's Journal (October 2010) had an article that both elated and depressed me. Kevin Gray's "The Rise of the Power Vegan" was a welcome notice by the mainstream media of the benefits of shunning animal products. Spotlighted public figures included Tony Gonzalez, tight end for the Atlanta Falcons, Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner, and Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.They also include a 3-week trial, with challenges and solutions for those that want to try it. That's the elation.

After lauding the diet, espousing its benefits, and praising it to the sky, they conclude with a final paragraph that starts thus: " Gonzalez also eats fish five times a week, and chicken and turkey every few nights." That's the depression. Not sure how fish, chicken, and turkey fit into a life style that shuns the use of all animal products.

I appreciate the attention Men's Journal is bringing to the vegan diet, just disappointed that they included Tony Gonzalez, who apparently only did the 3-week plan.


A shot of me enjoying some POM - yes, my diet is working

It seems like years ago, but it's been only months, since Ryan from POM Wonderful sent me samples of this pomegranate juice to try out (sorry for the delay, Ryan). From the website: "POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx are full of antioxidants called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals protect plants from harmful elements in the environment, like ultraviolet radiation and pests. They also provide plants with their sensory characteristics such as color, flavor and smell. Polyphenols are an important class of phytochemical. And tannins, particularly punicalagin, anthocyanins and ellagic acid are all members of the polyphenol family. While many fruits contain some of these antioxidants, pomegranates have large amounts of all three. POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice contains a great deal of these vital elements because of the way we press our fruit. Immediately upon harvest, we take our fruit to our specially designed presses, which are similar to those used to press champagne grapes. These presses allow us to extract antioxidants and polyphenols from the inedible portion of the fruit, as well as the arils." I have a soft spot in my heart for pomegranates, from my middle school years growing up in SoCal. Our middle school playing field was surrounded by houses, several of which had pomegranate tree branches hanging over their rear fences. After school, when they were in season, I would grab ripe pomegranates and eat them on the way home, arriving there stained in red juice. POM Wonderful takes me back, and if you had a deprived childhood devoid of pomegranates, this is the product to rectify the situation.

 As you can see from the graph, pomegranate juice is very high in total polyphenol content. That's why, in the evenings, as a recovery drink, I've been mixing my POM with some red wine - maximum benefit, maximum pleasure.


In exchange for signing up for the company newsletter, GoGo Juice sent me a sample of their pear juice. "GoGo Juice is a pure, NOT from concentrate, certified organic juice drink that is just like what you would make at home with a juicer. We take ripened fruit, peel the skins, remove seeds and cores, and juice them. That's it! We do not add any sugar, colorings, preservatives (except Vitamin C), press aids, filter aids, chemicals or other stuff. GoGo's products are, and always will be, suitable for families on special diets such as Gluten Free/Casein Free, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Feingold and many others."  Our entire family really enjoyed this juice and the bottle did not last long, even though the juice is bottled full strength and they suggest you cut it at least 50% with water (or maybe wine?)!


The winner of the Tillamook Cheese giveaway is Karen, who left comment #7. Denver is safe for now, as Beth was comment #8 and thus not the winner. I wish she had been the winner, because she is feeling down due to a fracture of her femur neck, which apparently is not in her neck but rather in her hip. We are all happy that falling off the stripper pole onto her head was not the cause of the injury. Karen, email me with a name and address where you'd like your prize package sent.

(Disclaimer: I was sent these products for free to review on my blog - courtesy of POM Wonderful and Tillamook. The Gogo Juice was a free sample in return for signing up for the company newsletter. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this review, or agree to give the items a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company websites, the opinions are my own.)

Have a product you'd like reviewed? Contact me at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good Running Reads + Red Bull Trail Daze + Chris K Rematch!

With an ultramarathon looming large next season, I've been reading quite a few running books lately. While I won't be writing any book reviews on these any time soon, I still thought it was worthwhile sharing these good reads.

  • To the edge : a man, Death Valley, and the mystery of endurance / Kirk Johnson (2001, NY: Warner)
  • The Power of team : three ordinary people and their run to greatness / Peter Wortham (2007, IN: AuthorHouse)
  • 50/50 : secrets I learned running 50 marathons in 50 days--and how you too can achieve super endurance! / Dean Karnazes with Matt Fitzgerald (2008, NY: Wellness Central)
  • Ultramarathon man : confessions of an all-night runner / Dean Karnazes (2005, NY: JP Tarcher/Penguin)
  • Born to run : a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen / Christopher McDougall (2009, NY: Knopf)

In other fun running news, I recently registered for the Red Bull Trail Daze, being held in Suburban Chicagoland in the Palos Forest Preserve (see my post on this Forest Preserve here).  It sounds like a fun event: "On November 20th, Red Bull Trail Daze will be coming to Pulaski Woods in the Palos Forest Preserve in Willow Springs, IL. Competitors will choose to race one of three courses with each course getting progressively harder, but progressively shorter (don't worry, the longest trail won't take you much past the 7 mile mark)."  And the best is yet to come - all participants will receive an official Red Bull Trail Daze beanie. You read that right, a beanie. I'm quivering with anticipation.


Chris K - the so-called "average athlete"
Whistling his way past the graveyard, Chris K now maintains that his recent defeat at the hands of a K-Venom fueled Kovas (yes, sometimes we write in the third person and also with a royal we) was a purposeful dive on his part, as apparently he was skipping during the race, stopping to smell the flowers, take photos, and generally enjoy the SoCal average athlete lifestyle. He now wants a rematch. Dependent on the appearance fee, I am game, and have upped the ante - I've suggested that he run a half-marathon on Halloween, as I am also doing. Will he accept? Suggest an alternative? Make a break for Canada in order to participate in the Canadian-only Gu giveaway or run in the snow (gasp!)? Stay tuned for breaking news.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

K-Venom Product Review + Giveaway

Don't let the Jedi smile fool you; this stuff is potent!

Though not slated for release until 2011, the championship success of our sponsored athletes this past weekend in Kona has us salivating at the new opportunities to make some quick cash. K-Venom has been strenuously tested, passes all of the FDA safety requirements, and is guaranteed to make you faster, stronger, and better than before.*

Head over to The Road for a product review and giveaway.

(*Not for human consumption; may cause heart palpitations, hairy palms, and diarrhea of the mouth; Coach Ken doll sold separately; an urge to take self-portraits is common; no animals were harmed in the testing of this product; product may differ than that shown; actual mileage varies; Canadians may feel more American after prolonged use of this product; illegal in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico; not affiliated with BALCO, tainted steaks, or pedal motors; must be a Road follower to win; sponsored athletes may not realize they were given K-Venom; MSRP, actual cost will be higher when fees ad miscellaneous clauses are included; K-Venom takes no responsibility for results unless you win; past results are no guarantee of future returns; positive results guaranteed; not for use when aquajogging or barefooting it; may or may not help nagging aches, pains, or other endurance-related injuries; all rights reserved; slower traffic keep right)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 Ironman Champions: Chris McCormack + Mirinda Carfrae

Saturday, Chris "Macca" McCormack and Mirinda Carfrae were crowned as the 2010 Ironman World Champs. While both were expected to compete well, neither was the expected victor, leading up to the surprise wins.

In a reaffirmation of triathlon's growing acceptance by mainstream culture, Wheaties FUEL was chosen as the official cereal of the Ironman Triathlon. I received a sample box of Wheaties FUEL in the Lake Carroll Triathlon goodie bag and, while it was a bit sweet for me, my wife and kids really enjoyed it. Wheaties FUEL, as a sponsor of the event, also unveiled Wheaties FUEL Prepare to Win Ironman nutrition tips from Ironman competitors from all over the world. The inaugural video is available to view on the Wheaties Facebook page, as well as on

Wheaties also announced that Macca, the Ford Ironman World Champion, will be featured on the famous orange box in the coming months. This announcement marks the first time an Ironman World Champion has been honored with an appearance on a Wheaties box.

Lucy Pemoni / AP Photo

"Born out of a fortunate mistake in 1924, original Wheaties was created when a health clinician accidentally spilled a wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove. The result was tasty, crispy wheat flakes that became known as Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, the cumbersome name was shortened to Wheaties. Baseball legend Lou Gehrig was the first athlete featured on a Wheaties Box, when he appeared on the back cover in 1934. In 1958, American champion pole-vaulter Bob Richards was the first person to appear on the front of the package, jumpstarting the phenomenon of “being on the Wheaties box,” which has since been graced by some of the greatest athletes of all time, including Bruce Jenner, Walter Payton, Mary Lou Retton, and many others."


Monday Weigh-In results (on a Tuesday):

Weight: (Goal of 165) - 191.2
BF: (Goal of 11-22) - 11.7
TBW: (Goal of 50-65) - 57.9
VF: (Goal of 1-12) - 5

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shirts That Go Giveaway Win!

A few weeks ago, I won a tee-shirt for my son from Running Diva Mom (thanks Jamie!). The shirt came from a company called Shirts That Go, a small family-owned business in operation since 2008. To say that their shirts are fun is a complete understatement - they rock!

My wife and I spent quite a bit of time deciding which shirt we should get, because so many of the designs were appealing to us and they have 13 to choose from. We finally narrowed it down to a couple of options and then decided to go with the Helicopter, which turns out to be the newest design (we are so hip and cool). After letting Nick (the owner) know which shirt we wanted, he told me it would be a few days and to be on the lookout for a cool box. Was it ever! Take a look:

You can tell this is a quality company, from the website to the packing materials to the tee-shirts. Did Mantas like his shirt? What do you think?

Nick also created a special discount for you, my special readers. Just enter code "kovas," good for 10% off any single tee orders. These are an ideal gift for sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, neighbors (ages 2-12), so check them out! Did I mention the FREE SHIPPING?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chris K Must Die! 10-10-10 Virtual Race Report

Even though I knew Chris K must die (or BQ), I needed inspiration to run. Perhaps it was the extra glass of wine Friday, along with many many many M&Ms, or perhaps the nearly 2 hour taper run I finished yesterday, or just possibly that I'd just gotten off my bike after a 1 hour warm up ride, but I was strangely unenthused about running fast. I thought about who might give me a good reason to race. If Beth were to ever get out of the Porta-Pottie, I might ask her, but the door remained steadfastly shut. Em had finished 100 miles, even though her new buckle made her running shorts sag, but she was off petting horses. I couldn't ask Chris, as he was my opponent. I needed motivation!

And then it hit me. Patrick had slandered me in an email, practically calling me a blogsitute, yes a blogstitute!

(Notice that even in his envy he has added his name, typical riding of coattails.)
That was it! In an unusual display of macho bravado, I spit in my hand and offered it to Chris - while he was thus disgustingly distracted, my son snuck in and tied his shoe laces together. Too quickly, Chris noticed and my momentary advantage was lost. I turned to look at the crowd, roaring at this Pacific Coast versus Third Coast match up. Non-partisan, they were just bloodthirsty and eager to see what transpired in this theater of pain.

We took off running, initially side by side, then, as Chris U-turned, I took the alternate route, with a single left turn. Would this be enough to make the difference? As I broke the tape, I looked up at the clock, which read 4:41:15, and I turned to extend my hand to Chris, but he wasn't there. From the roar of the crowd I knew he was close and he soon aquajogged his way to the finish line, happy with his podium finish.

As I relaxed in my ice bath bath after the race, I began to daydream about the first app I would use on my new Ipad...

Good luck in Boston, Chris!

Happy birthday, Neil!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Return to Winter Sports

So through a confluence of motivators, I am excited to return to some old favorites and perhaps add a few. It’s been many years since I have been skiing (maybe 13?). Several years ago, I took up ice hockey in order to challenge myself and to really learn how to skate. Plus, living in Chicagoland, it’s a sport we have available – after purchasing my skates, I had free access to our local pond and also in Millennium Park downtown Chicago.

Now that my kids are getting bigger (well, 3 of them), they are branching out in terms of what they are willing to try. My wife’s family purchased a condo in Breckenridge, CO at the beginning of this year. So, everyone but me headed out for some spring skiing (I was saving leave days for when our newest arrived – the price of being a working father, sigh). Our two oldest spent 3 or 4 days in the ski school and loved it! Our then youngest spent a short time (15 minutes?) on skis and was done, but this year he’s already announced he’ll be in ski school. (Don’t think so, I believe he’s too young).

So now I’m starting to get excited. I’ll l try skiing again, but I’m more excited about being a “Gray on a Tray,” or middle-aged snowboarder (I learned this term in a book I recently read and, even if it’s out of date, I kind of like it.) I’ve wanted to try snowboarding for MANY years. In fact, I even rented a snowboard in 2007, to try out at Wilmot, in Wisconsin. It was not to be, as our son could not get the hang of the rope-tow, and I Sherpa’d him up and down the bunny slope for the half-day we were there. So close, and yet… About 10 minutes from our house is Four Lakes, a typical Midwest resort in that it has minimal vertical and convenient location. In any case, it’ll reintroduce me to the slopes and give us some practice before we head for Breckenridge.

Why snowboarding rather than skiing? Mostly to try something new, but also for pragmatic reasons. Skiing injuries are usually leg-related, while snowboarding is upper body. I’ll still be able to run with a broken wrist, not so much with a torn ACL.

What sports do you do during winter?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Righteously Raw Organic Raw Cacao Bars Product Review

How cool is this? I requested some review samples of the Righteously Raw Organic Raw Cacao Bars and Audrey, the president of Earth Source Organics, sent me not just samples of each bar, but a super comfy Righteously Raw tee shirt! A six-year survivor of breast cancer, you just know that Audrey is an amazing woman by the saying at the bottom of her email: "The Most Essential Element To Flying Is The Courage To Leave the Ground......"

Righteously Raw Organic Raw Cacao Bars are:

Certified Organic
Certified Kosher
Certified Vegan
Certified Gluten Free
Soy Free and Non GMO
No Refined Sugars
Made in a Nut Free Facility

(Quite the outstanding list!)

Cacao contains over 300 compounds including: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium. Magnesium helps to build strong bones and is a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness. Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps form strong nails and hair.

Açai Cacao Bar

Açai is a palm berry found in the Amazon rainforest and is a rich source of antioxidant flavonoids, plus it tastes great. The cacao bar also inlcudes Himalayan Pink Salt and Organic Raw Agave Nectar.

Caramel Cacao Bar

90% dark chocolate, low-glycemic Bahri dates (high in glucides and potassium) and the sub-tropical fruit lucuma (high in beta-carotene and iron) are several of the tasty ingredients in this bar.

Goji Cacao Bar

Along with the Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, organic raw agave nectar and organic cacao found in all the Righteously Raw Cacao Bars, this bar also features organic golden hunza raisins and goji berries, which enhance the immune system, improve circulation and eyesight, and protect the liver.

Maca Bar

Maca root is chock-full of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. It also rebuilds weak immune systems and enhances libido (hubba-hubba!). Best for endurance athletes (well, after the increased libido) is the benefit of maca increasing stamina.

So they are certified to be Organic, Kosher, Vegan, and Gluten Free. They are made entirely from raw, high frequency foods and retain their raw state throughout the entire process from raw ingredients to finished product. No refined sugars are used and everything is processed in a nut free facility. The question is: Do they taste good? Here's the truth. At first I wasn't sure. The first time I was kind of surprised, because these are unlike any other chocolate bars I've ever tried. Then, eureka! These are NOT chocolate bars, these are cacao bars, much closer to the source ingredients than I would have ever thought possible. These are really amazing and unexpected and different. I like different. Well-worth searching out. Super high quality, a new cacao experience, different is good!

Righteously Raw can be followed on Twitter at and liked on Facebook at

Yes, I've already started my winter beard. Muy macho, no?

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Earth Source Organics. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this review, or agree to give the items a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

Have a product you'd like reviewed? Contact me at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

I was tagged for the Versatile Blogger Award by Trail Running Barbie. Rules for winning this award:
  1. Thanks and link back to the person who gave you the award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award to other bloggers.
1. Thanks EMZ, I couldn't have done it without you and all the other little people; you like me, you really like me!

2. 7 Things about myself:
  • In college, I was a DJ at KXLU, at that time one of the most influential radio stations in the country.
  • My wife and I  got SCUBA certified, dove on our honeymoon (Bay Islands, Honduras), and have never done so since.
  • The island we stayed on for our honeymoon, Guanaja, was destroyed several weeks after we left by Hurricane Mitch.
  • I think it would be really cool to be a sponsored athlete and just run (or bike or whatever) for a living.
  • Sometimes I wish we lived in a more temperate climate.
  • In 1986-87, I was in a SoCal band called No Doubt - imagine if I had stayed with them! (Actually no idea if there is any connection.)
  • If I could eat only 2 foods for the rest of my life, it would be pizza and burritos.
3. Tagged bloggers:
"Quem corre por gosto, não cansa." - Who runs for pleasure never gets tired.

Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women