Monday, February 28, 2011

RecoFit Compression Components: Calf Sleeve Product Review

Susan Eastman Walton is the president of Move Sport, Inc. and the aging athlete behind RecoFit. She is prone to shin splints, among other things. After just 35 minutes, the aches and pains begin. After complaining to her husband (a sportswear manufacturer, he is a performance-fabric expert) that she wished there was something preventative rather than reactive I could do to address these issues. He suggested we further explore the compression concept, which was already on the market but no option that worked. Versatility was key and the product couldn’t look geriatric - they needed to look cool!

They came up with a high-tech-looking “sleeve.” A 2008 race on pavement put them to the test – at the end, Susan was thrilled to find her legs feeling as good at the finish line as they did at the start. The next day, there was no pain, as if she hadn’t even run the race. Named  RecoFit for RECOvery and FITness = new business born!

* RecoFit’s calf compression components superior design and materials include GreatFiT ™ -- Gradient Recovery Exercise & Activity Technology -- delivering 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.
* Resistex 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 featuring 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 for optimum fit and performance, as well as a wide range of sizes to best suit individual needs.

As mentioned, they are right and left specific and, while I didn't try reversing them to feel if there was a difference, it's kind of a nice ritual before lacing them up to peer into the sleev to find the tag, These sleeves seem to run a bit large, not in a major way, but definitely opt for the smaller size if you are close. RecoFit sent us a medium and a large (one black one white, both very cool looking), and I feel like the smaller is better for me for running, while the larger is more comfortable for recovery. What really sets these apart is how different they feel compared to other compression garments. They have none of the stretchy fibrous feel so common, but rather a silkier effect on the legs.

I wore these sleeves for both running and biking. A kind of unusual feature is that they don't feel constrictive like some compression sleeves, yet the support is noticeably there. Running was on treadmill, street, and trail, while cycling was on an indoor trainer. In each case, the sleeves performed as advertised.

Definitely recommended, both for activity and for the subsequent recovery. Especially suited to those who don't care for the typical feel of compression gear.

Visit the RecoFit website and follow RecoFiT on Facebook and Twitter.

Head over to Women's Endurance Gear to read what Laima wrote about these.

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of RecoFiT. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give it a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your product reviewed? Contact me at 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabulous Friday Features

Constantin from Highball Blog shared a really cool website recently, where "an advertising agency created this game for an organization that helps needy people. The best social awareness interactive campaign I've seen so far:" The website allows you to make hypothetical choices facing a jobless or low income person, to get an idea of how difficult some people have it. SPENT was launched in February 2011 as a collaboration between McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham. Learn more about UMD's mission at

Share This® is pleased to announce our first outdoor adventure contest. The idea is to get people excited about sharing outdoor adventures, no matter what they are. They want people to share any and all outdoor adventures between now and ending March 30th, and will choose the best outdoor adventure to win a $25 dollar gift certificate to , to purchase whatever you want! For information on how to enter, head over to Share This Adventure.

How do you begin a run from California to New York? With a single step (through the Magic Kingdom, no less!). Today,  Dean Karnazes will run out the gates of Disneyland, bang a left, and head for New York City. The purpose of this event is to inspire the nation, and its youth, to get outside and become more physically active. He'll stop at schools along the way and give talks to kids about the importance of physical fitness and good diet. Other runners are invited to join him during the run. To learn more, visit: Run Across America.

New reviews up at Women's Endurance Gear - head over and see what's happening!

And now we're off for a quiet weekend
 in Michigan - enjoy the weekend all!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Icebreaker GT 260 Pursuit Crewe Product Review

What the company says about the Icebreaker GT 260 Pursuit Crewe"You have to try on the Pursuit Crewe to understand how good our new range of technical base layer garments feel against your body. Lightweight, breathable and faster drying than ever, the fabric is ideal for high intensity sports. With sleeve gussets for east of movement, and flatlock stitching to prevent chafing.
  • Trim, athletic fit
  • Crewe neck
  • Raglan sleeves
  • Sleeve gusset for ease of movement
  • Contrast flatlock stitching
  • Reflective Icebreaker logo and GT wordmark"

Icebreaker is a small company that offers a simple credo: "Let’s be what the others weren’t. They were synthetic; we were natural. They were about sweaty men; we were gender inclusive (I have three older sisters who were big on this). They were about hard adventure; we were about kinship with nature." As a board, they meet every month for half a day to review how they are developing as a business; as a culture; as a company with responsibilities to their customers, retailers and suppliers; and how they impact on the physical and social environments they draw from and supply to. An example of their attention to environmental concerns is the use of merino wool as the base material. "Merino comes from an annually renewable source. Each year, the wool on an animal grows back, and each spring the coat is shorn once again ready for summer. Similarly, you can bury your Icebreaker in your garden and it will compost. It’s built to work across all seasons, and last for many seasons – a counterpoint to disposable consumerism."

Everything about this product screams quality, from the packaging to the garment itself. Small details make this interesting each time it is looked at. The box looks like a typical package, yet, when opened, the box contains a gorgeous image of a ram horn, with text: "Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better" - Albert Einstein. The long sleeve crewe shirt is a simple black, yet upon closer examination one notices the sail (blue) accents, the thumb loops sewn in for comfort, the subtle logos.

I ran and cycled extensively with this shirt, both as a baselayer and singly, inside and outside. Even soaked through with sweat, it retained its shape and never felt droopy or clingy in an uncomfortable way. One of their mottoes is "Think Don't Stink." I put it to the test by wearing it for 6 straight days of training: running on the treadmill and outside, as well as riding my trainer. The result? Not a whiff of body odor, no sweaty scent, nothing foul in any way whatsoever. Complete disbelief on my part - I sweat a lot! So I took it to the authority, my wife Laima. Throughout the 6 day test, she also never noticed a sweaty odor. She is as sensitive to smells as I am not, so, while it may come as no surprise that I didn't notice anything, it is proof positive of the efficacy of this product that she did not.

I wholeheartedly endorse this as a genuine necessity for anyone who runs, cycles, or participates in sports during cooler or cold weather. I never noticed any itchy feeling from the merino wool, the fit and quality were outstanding, and the complete lack of stink after use is simply amazing. Looking forward to trying their other products!

For those of you who do not live in wintry areas - I still highly recommend this for those occasional days when, yes, it drops below 60 and you start thinking about adding layers. This shirt will take the place of a baselayer and vest and, with the thumb loops, no need for gloves either.

Icebreaker can be found online at their website, their blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Take a look - high quality endurance gear that may just last forever!

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Icebreaker via the Jam Collective. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give it a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your product reviewed? Contact me at 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ICESPIKE™ Product Review

As a winter runner, I am faced with many challenges when I step out the door. Weather conditions can be dressed for, reflective gear can be worn for safety, but a slip and fall is by far the biggest worry. Some shoes are made with winter running in mind, using differing densities of rubber on the sole to create lugged soles that give you traction in most conditions. Most conditions, but not all. Thus, winter runners add traction devices for an added layer of security. These devices range from strap on spikes to wire coils to sheet metal screws. All can be effective, yet all have their drawbacks. ICESPIKE™  is a spin on the traditional screw shoe.
“ICESPIKE™ is for runners who want to keep their winter training on track and outdoors. With ICESPIKE™ you have non-slip grip shoes without the additional pressure on the top of the foot or the extra bulk underneath the shoe associated with traditional strap-on traction devices. ICESPIKE™ creates non-slip running shoes with unparalleled traction on ice and snow. When your winter running shoes are outfitted with ICESPIKE™, you retain your natural feeling of freedom and range of movement! The ICESPIKE™ system is so lightweight and effective you don’t even know you’re wearing them! ICESPIKE™ is the only traction system light enough to put in 20+ mile long runs without causing injury, muscle fatigue or alterations in running gait.

Using "screw shoes"? ICESPIKE™ makes these far superior upgrades: ICESPIKE™ ice spikes are 10 times more durable, have researched layout pattern for proper gait and engineered design for extreme traction. Simply installing ICESPIKE™ ice spikes on the sole of any shoe creates an ice running shoe, ice walking shoe, or ice hiking boot that is unsurpassed in safety and durability by any other product. The long-lasting hardness and integrity of the grip of ICESPIKE™ ice spikes has no equal. Our cold-rolled, tool quality steel of the ICESPIKE™ shoe system ice spike will outlast your shoes, yet still can be removed at any time using the ICESPIKE™ installation tool. ICESPIKE™ will not damage the shoe sole.

ICESPIKE™ is for walkers, hikers, and trail runners who want to enjoy the outdoor beauty of winter. Any footwear can be converted into non-slip walking shoes, non-slip hiking boots, or winter trail running shoes with ICESPIKE™. Having ICESPIKE™ on your winter walking shoes gives you peace of mind on the most treacherous terrain.

ICESPIKE™ gives you the freedom and security to participate in any winter outdoor activity. ICESPIKE™ is a premium product made and packaged in the USA.”
As someone who loves to run on trails, this is an absolute necessity for winter running. I was interested first and foremost how simple this product was to use, then how well it worked, and finally how it felt on pavement.
Installation is quite simple. Since the shoes I chose had a dark sole, I looked around the house for a white paint marker or correction fluid, but to no avail. I found some lime green stickers (the “it” color this season) and used those instead.

Apart from some initial muscle necessary to get the screws started, getting the screws in is not difficult. I left the stickers in place in order to have the ICESPIKEs™ show up more clearly on the dark sole.

To make this a realistic test, I installed the ICESPIKEs™ on one shoe only and headed out. First part of the run was on cement and pavement, as I ran to a forest preserve near home, beautiful place to run.

There was a marked difference between the two shoes. First, it felt strange on the cement to have the additional screws underfoot, and it took a while to get used to the sound. I purposefully ran across ice patches and some of the trails were nothing but ice, giving a good test of the efficacy of this product. The foot with the spikes did not slip a single time, while the other did. Simply put, this product works.

The ICESPIKEs™ give three benefits: safety, options, and confidence. After running on a variety of surfaces, I felt safer planting the shoe with spikes, especially on ice, though the shoe felt slightly more grippy on asphalt and cement as well. Options comes from the fact that, with this product installed, a winter run can be undertaken in even the most difficult  conditions, so one does not have to opt for the treadmill unless so desired. Confidence came from knowing that planting the spikes on the iciest uphill or downhill would result in traction.

Now I wouldn't recommend anyone else attach the spikes to one shoe only - the height difference made it somewhat awkward to run. Also, I've done the hard work for you - the spikes made an apparent difference.

If you are a winter runner and want safety, options, and confidence, this is a product that truly delivers.

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of ICESPIKES via Mesh Marketing. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give it a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your product reviewed? Contact me at 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why We Race Part 3

Several weeks ago, I posted Part 1 of Why Do We Race, followed by Part 2.  I emailed a wide-ranging group of blogging buddies and sent out a general bulletin on the Endurance Athlete Project asking some simple questions:

Why do you race?

Why are you willing to pay to run on public streets or trails, sometimes paying large amounts for travel and accommodations?

Why are you willing to plan a race around a particular weekend?

What ARE your motivators to race?

As mentioned, I received a variety of responses and wanted to start sharing them with you. In order of receipt, here is the second group:

Amanda, Runninghood: Good questions.  Originally, I raced because I was on a cross country and track team.  I raced because it was my way of paying for college and doing my "job".  I hated it really...always sick to my stomach and nervous about how I'd do or what I was "expected" to do.  Because of the pressure and nerves, I never really pushed past my personal barriers.  I could never run like I knew I had the potential to run. More often than not, I was throwing up and crying because of too many nerves to "perform" the way others thought I should.

 After college I began to run for ME.  I ran because I loved the feeling it gave me.  Eventually I started racing again but instead of racing against others or for a team, I raced only against myself and for myself.  My times were the best they had ever been and I finally felt what it was like to be in a zone.  I felt an ease to running that I had never felt before and I discovered that I was better than I ever realized I would be.  I ran my first marathon not knowing what the Boston Marathon was or even having an expectation for a only goal was to finish and have fun.  When I ran a 3:22, I had people telling me that I qualified for Boston.  Boston?  why not.  Now that I am trying to get back in to racing again after kids and a serious injury, I realize what I had then and how I took it all for granted.  I hope to run again like that or even better.  So now, I race because it gives me a personal goal to work towards.  It gives me structure in my life and I feel that it makes me a stronger person.  Working towards a racing goal does this for me:

*  Allows me to do something for just ME.  (this is important right now as a Stay at home mom who misses her career a bit).
*  It is a Model for my kids to show them that we can do anything and keep striving to conquer big goals and work on improving ourself.  
*  Allows me to live a healthy lifestyle
*  When I am training and running, I am more focused on believing in the reality of my other dreams in life.
*  Mood Booster.
*  Personal Satisfaction of knowing that I'm Mentally and Physically strong and doing something only a small percentage of the population can and do do.  
*  OH, another big motivator is VANITY....gotta say that racing and training helps me stay in awesome shape and have a great body.  Love the way my buns look in my favorite jeans when I'm in training.  :)  Hey, that's a big reason why many many women race....having a nice ass.  :) 

Jeff, Dangle the Carrot: The reason I race is because a race is a carrot on a string in front of my face.  That carrot forces me to chase it in the form of training and I love how I look and how I feel when I am training hard.  So essentially I race for the lifestyle that accompanies racing!

AND maybe more importantly: it is socially acceptable in this community to wear full body lycra in public!  

Kate, SuperKate:  I'm certainly not racing to win, though it would be nice.  Somehow, running in a race makes it all official.  Our money is always tight, so paying for a race is a strong motivator for me.  If I've paid for it, that's a commitment, and once I've committed to doing something, it's that much easier to get myself to train.  I think there's an excitement to racing that isn't there in training.  I'm coming to enjoy running, but I don't LOVE it.  A race gives me a reason to run.  Racing takes me new places (or forces me to see familiar places in a new way) and introduces me to new people...or lets me see people I already know in new ways. 
I haven't travelled more than about an hour for a race, so I haven't put big money into travel or accommodations and can't speak to that from experience.  I think all of the above still stands, though.  New places, new faces.  I love to travel, so travel + competition would be a real bonus.
I love the running/multisport community, and being at a race is a way to physically be a part of that in addition to the virtual communities we've built through different websites and blogs.

More to come: Be on the look out for Part 4!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents' Day Panoply of Products

Some time ago, the whole family tasted and loved Peter Rabbit Organic snack pouches. Recently we were sent three new flavors to try out: Sweet Potato/Corn/Apple, Pea/Spinach/Apple, and Carrot/Squash/Apple - my children are somewhat finicky eaters, yet they liked all the new flavors, as did I. Usually I only abide spinach in its non-cooked form, but this puree was well-balanced and tasty. That's the thing about the Peter Rabbit Organics - these fruit and veggie purees are marketed for babies and younger children, but my wife and I both agree that it's a nice snack for us as well - sort of a flavored applesauce.


Vi-Shape® Nutritional Shake Mix

  • Unique blend of proteins for fast and long-lasting hunger control
  • Low carbohydrates and sodium
  • Aminogen™ for maximum protein absorption
  • Pre-biotic for digestive health
  • 23 vitamins & minerals in an amazing-tasting Sweet Cream flavor
Other Ingredients: Protein Blend of (Soy Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate, and Whey Protein Concentrate), Digestive Resistant Maltodextrin (Fibersol™), High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Oil, Maltodextrin, Gum Acacia, Xanthan, Sodium Caseinate, Lecithin, Aminogen™, Mono & Diglycerides, DiPotassium Phosphate, Sucralose

Contains: Milk and Soy

What really caught my attention is the extensive yet simple ingredients list. Gluten free and lactose free as well. While marketed as a weight management product, the shake mix is actually a decent way to add fiber and protein to your diet. Check out Lindy's site and give Visalus a go. Once you get past all the promotional stuff, this is a product you might be interested in.

(*Visalus Sciences' websites have a strong late night infomercial feel, which is kind of a turnoff, at least for me.  That's too bad, because the Nutritional Shake Mix, which Lindy (who I met on LinkedIn) sent me, is a actually a tasty product.)


“MY RUN”, a new running documentary, has its upcoming ONE NIGHT only Premiere Event coming to Movie Theaters Nationwide on March 31, 2011.

They have teamed up with Lance Armstrong’s Cancer Foundation LIVESTRONG, and Life Time Fitness in the release of MY RUN, where a portion of the film’s profits will be donated to LIVESTRONG to FIGHT CANCER. It’s all about being somebody’s hero.  “Your film is so important to raising awareness of so many issues including the power of the human spirit. Mr. Hitchcock’s vision and story is one I will never forget,” said Doug Ulman
President/CEO of LIVESTRONG.

The MY RUN Story - After tragically losing his wife to breast cancer and struggling to raise three young children on his own, real life super hero and modern day Forrest Gump, Terry Hitchcock seized on an idea. He wanted to accomplish the impossible: run 75 consecutive marathons in 75 consecutive days to bring attention to the incredibly difficult lives of single-parent families. He ran in spite of freezing rain and unbearable heat, in spite of chest pains and bone fractures that wracked his 57-year-old body.  He just kept running - each day, every day - strengthening an unbreakable bond between father and son--- not stopping until he broke the finish line tape in Atlanta. MY RUN is more than a film about a guy running multiple marathons; it’s a film about the daily marathons we all run in life, a theme that’s extremely relevant and important in this day and time.


Facebook Fan Page:

Tickets go on sale February 18, 2011 at


I'm always on the lookout for a good pair of sunglasses, both for protection as well as comfort. Last summer, I put the Gargoyles Striker to the test. Head over to Endurance Gear Reviews to read what I thought.

Disclaimer: These products wer sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the respective companies. I was not compensated in any other way for the reviews, was not obligated to give positive reviews, and all opinions are my own. Some information in these reviews was taken from the company website.

Would you like your product reviewed? Contact me at 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Seriously Warm and Fuzzy

Patrick over at The Road is getting Seriously Warm and Fuzzy. Head over and take a look at his latest shenanigans. (The big question? Will that living room EVER get done?)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Salomon Running EXO II 3/4 Tight Review; Running on the Snow

Head over to Endurance Gear Reviews for my take on the Salomon Running EXO II 3/4 Tights. Is this your next step in compression technology?


Rachel Cieslewicz

Tips for the Trail - Running on the Snow
By Rachel Cieslewicz
Friday, February 11, 2011
Successful trail running is not always about who has the best heart or Lance Armstrong's lungs. Technique can be a great equalizer on the trails. There are many good runners who I have yet to challenge on the road, but I have been fortunate enough to beat some of those runners in trail races, and I credit proper form and technique for that success.
Odd as it might sound, snow days - if you are lucky enough to have snow -- are often the best days to go out and work on your form.
Although snowshoes are great and my beloved microspikes help me with fast and fun slip-free snow/ice runs, I often leave both at home and take my Newtons out for a snow run. Running without any anti-slippage devices creates a fabulous opportunity to learn critical techniques by force of nature. The most important things you can learn are: how to keep your body over your center of mass (COM); picking up the foot, rather than pushing off the ground; light quick steps; a relaxed mind and breath.  As a certified Natural Running coach, I will share the following snow running tips to help you get to the next level!
First, what is good form? Watch great runners and you will see that they keep a slight forward lean while running. This comes from the ankles, not the hips. Their shoulders are down and back, core engaged and they are light and quick on their feet. To find this position, stand tall with core engaged. Then simply start to fall forward until you need to step out. Practice this while running. Think of letting your heart lead you and watch gravity work for you instead of against! If you start to feel a pain at any time, stop. Find the form again and then go. It's amazing how injuries can be exterminated before they start. Staying over your COM is everything for snow running. Master this and the risk of falling comes close to zero - even if you have to take a sudden detour to avoid a big mean moose.
Have you ever been on a run in the snow and felt like it was no fun because all you did was sink or slip, instead of moving forward?  Want to know the secret to leaving everyone behind while you easily glide along? Simply engage your core and pick up your foot instead of pushing off into the snow or ice. Yes I just said ice because you can run on ice without falling!  Take short quick steps again to stay over COM and feel how magically you float instead of sink or slide. And then notice how this same technique transfers from snow to other terrain beautifully.
I recently raced my first marathon ever.  I hadn't done any training for it other than my training for XTERRA trail run worlds, at half the distance.  I finished 8th female out of almost 9,830 and 55th of 22,860 if you include the guys!  This was despite being tired after a 5th overall finish and an age group worlds win the week before.  Why do I bring this up? Because I practiced what I learned on the snow! High cadence and shorter steps are golden.  I will share more on this another time. But know in general, shorter steps keeps you over COM,  has much less impact on your body, and ultimately keeps you in control regardless of the terrain, snow included. Don't believe me? I had zero muscle soreness after the marathon and kept all 10 toenails intact!
Another factor that helped me in my big races was practicing what I like to call an effortless effort. Of course my body is working hard. Core is engaged, focus is strong, etc. But sometimes we forget that we need oxygen as well.  Snow running is a great time to focus on this. While working on all of the above, try to notice if you are feeling extra tired on your snow excursion. Are you holding your breath? Are your shoulders up in your ears? If so, back off! Take a couple of big deep breaths, tell your shoulders, neck and head to chill out, and then notice how much more energy you have to play on the snow. If snow running doesn't feel like it is flowing, take the time now to figure it out. Then you will know just what to do for your next big trail event.

Salomon Running EXO II 3/4 Tight Product Review

Salomon Running's description: "A 3/4 length tight designed to improve performance. Exo Sensifit provides additional support to muscles, helping efficiency."

I've been bothered in the past by some soreness in my hips, sometimes during a run, occasionally after. Rather than try to fix it by changing my gait or stretching, I decided to try compression shorts. I'm a big fan of Salomon Running gear, as it is impeccably made and seems to last forever. Thus, while initially not cheap to purchase, the gear is around for a long time, and the cost is amortized over the life of its use.

"The Salomon EXO II ¾-Tight keeps your legs feeling good, so you are free to focus on your form. Smart Skin technology balances protection from the elements with the support needs of your body so your muscles can move longer and recover faster. Flatlock seams won’t rub your legs raw so chafing is kept to a minimum." That is the description from, where I purchased my pair.

Initially, the shorts/tights felt a bit strange. I had purchased a slightly smaller size than my current, due to big plans to lose big weight. While that hasn't happened quite yet, these were still comfortable, as they are quite stretchy while being very supportive. Many people might scoff at the length and, truth be told, I'd rather have the shorts rather than the 3/4s, but it was all I could find. Rumor has it that the shorts will be available in March 2011, so there will be an opportunity to try those as well.

I'm here to tell you that these things work. Not only comfortable during the run, my hip problems have completely disappeared. What these tights supply more than anything is confidence. Since the hips don't hurt during the run nor after, I feel more comfortable pushing the pace, distance, or both. While I'm still not entirely comfortable wearing these out in front of others, they have been a constant on my runs for the last month or so.

When the shorts become available, I'm going to do my best to get a pair. I'm also going to look into investing in the full-length tights. During the winter, a base layer of tights is often a necessity and, based on the quality, fit, and performance of the 3/4 tights, both other pairs will be a worthwhile investment. Highly recommended for anyone looking to extend their use of compression technology beyond socks and calf sleeves.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest Post: How I Became Barefoot Charlie: The Origin (Part 2 of 3)

As I mentioned in Part 1, my acquisition of barefoot superpowers was elusive at first.   My latent superpowers had to be earned slowly, Legend of Kane style...Grasshopper style.  Since this is an origin story I will rewind a bit further once more to where it all began.  I had been a stay at home father, with two kids, juggling a couple of home based businesses for about 5 years.  It was a rich and rewarding lifestyle.  It was so rich that I gained about 10 pounds per year on a steady diet of mayonnaise and butter...but not always in that order.  Chocolate and Ben and Jerry’s also played a minor role in the saga of my undoing.  Every superhero has his nemesis.  In my case, it was forgetfulness.  I had forgotten how to make having a healthy body a life priority.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that my life was about to change forever.  And on one magical day, it did.  I pulled a muscle in my back “running” about 20 feet down the driveway, while playing with my son.  It was a revelation!  That was when I realized I had to become my own superhero, and I began running.

When I began “running”....I “ran” at a pace of about 13-minute miles with great effort.  I would run one or two and find myself sitting down at the end with the world spinning, wondering if I was going to pass out or not.  I figured they would find my body by the trailhead and wonder why I hadn't finished the water in the bottle still clutched in my hand. The point I make here is that my approach was not sustainable.  My barefoot perspective is that IF I had been running BF at that naturally would have been sustainable.   Barefooting makes your mind unable to outrun what your body is really ready for.  Not so with shoes.  If I had been BF from the start, I would have been forced to go slowly, saving myself many months of overuse injuries, the types of which numerous runners encounter in adulthood as they finally rise up from their couches to discover their superpowers.  I was running in shoes at that point though, and they allowed me to overtrain, run through the pain, and end up at the podiatrists office.

My feet and knees and shins were in such bad shape that I just couldn’t take it any more.  I dialed the number as if I was contacting Lex Luthor’s office.  I had this feeling like it was all wrong, like I was trapped in some delusion, but what else could I do...I couldn’t run any longer. 

Podiatrists?  I wondered about those guys.  I wondered how much stock they a group, in Superfeet.  I chatted briefly with someone at the office and told them my story and they said that I would need orthotics, special shoes, yada yada yada.  I made the appointment feeling like I had just given up flying lessons and thrown my cape into the landfill.  To cheer myself up, I hobbled into Borders.  While there, I picked up Chi Running on a whim.  Can I say thank you to Dan?  Like right here?   Right now?  Thanks Dan!  I read the book cover to cover and decided to give it a shot.  I also realized that if I filled out the paperwork at the podiatrist’s office then they would uncover my secret identity.   

So, I canceled the podiatrist appt. and began working my way through the book.  Chi Running changed everything for me.  I felt like Dan became my sidekick.  He’d be there telling me slow it down, telling me that my lean is my gas pedal, to remember to take in the chi from all around as I began to see running as less of a sport and more as a way to let energy run through my body.  Running became yoga in motion, Tai Chi at 7 miles per hour. My running form felt great, but there was still something that wasn’t working. 

I’d be like “Dan?”  He’d say, “Yes Super Barefoot Charlie?”  I would respond (whining a bit but trying to sound competent)“My ankles are still rolling too often.  My shin splints aren’t completely gone and I feel like I am trying to make your running form work with shoes, when in fact, your running form is what happens naturally when I am not wearing shoes at all.”  He’d shrug his shoulders and go “yeah...what’s your point?”  And, in between breaths (because when I run, and think at the same time, I have to pause to catch my thinking breath) “Well...what I am saying... is that Chi Running.... IS what happens naturally with barefoot why am I trying to emulate barefoot $100 shoes?”

When the execs at Brooks decided that the new Cascadia 3 needed improvement it gave me the push I needed.  I don’t know who runs shoe companies.  But I am positive that they giggle at dinner parties while dreaming up arbitrary changes that they could feasibly make to perfectly functional shoes.  While I do find it hard to believe that a 5 month old shoe has suddenly lost it’s credibility as a reliably built shoe...and must be replaced by a new version with new features that I don’t need---I must confess that I only live in 2 bedroom apartment and must not be smart enough to grasp the wisdom of such highly deductive reasoning.  At any rate, the new and expensively improved Cascadia hurt my feet really badly.  I tried numerous different shoes and found none that worked.  It was finally time to put down the Chi Running book, thank Dan for running with me and showing me the way, and to begin running as nature intended.... without shoes.  I went from 40 pounds overweight, to discovering Chi Running, to finally embracing BF.  You know from Part 1 of this 3 part series, how to NOT start out BF running.  All that is left to share in the last part is what it is like to be my own running superhero, finally drinking from that holy grail of bare feet.   I will share mainly how BF running has changed my perspective on just about everything related to fitness, health and well being.  I might also cover the cultivation of Jedi Super Powers.

Charlie is the customer service guru at PranaFlo, an online retailer of running gear and site for trailrunners to connect and get inspired to get out there and enjoy the outdoors.  He also coaches barefoot trail running in the Chapel Hill, NC area.

His sites are:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

Two months from now, I was supposed to run the Skyline to the Sea trail marathon. Not only that, but I was supposed to meet for the first time Jill, Chris K, Patrick, and Kate, blog buddies all. Running in the California sunshine through redwoods on a trail to the sea sounded like a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

But it was not to be. Due to family obligations, I won't be travelling to participate. Of course for a few moments I was upset and was fearful of letting the others know. But you know what? There's a rainbow that came along after the initial rain. Not a rainbow like Matty B might paint, but a deeper appreciation of what's really important, and that's family. Pretty much yearly monthly weekly daily I resolve to be a better husband and father, and I think this is a positive first step.

Finding balance in life, family, work, and training is often difficult. Prioritizing is an everyday evaluation of what's important. As a typical selfish individual, I usually put myself first. Unfortunately, as a father and husband, that's not always the best thing to do. To Patrick, Chris, Kate, and Jill, I apologize that I made plans and am unable to carry them out. But family comes first.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Postman Always Rings Twice

When the doorbell rang last night and I spied the UPS truck at the base of the driveway, I hoped that there'd be a big box awaiting me when I opened the door. I was not disappointed. Courtesy of Pearl Izumi and Outside PR, I got a pair of the new Streak II running shoes (pictured) and a Infinity Innercool short sleeve running shirt. Of course I ran in the shoes this morning and really enjoyed them for the 40 minutes I was on the treadmill. Super light, super vented, these will be outstanding shoes for the hot days of summer. Completely awesome on the mill as well. Reviews forthcoming.

On Monday, I started using Optygen HP, which I requested from ProLine based on an endorsement from a formerly wimpy runner who managed to BQ, with much help from myself. Here's what celebrity spokesblogger and manly runner Chris K had to say about Optygen HP: 

"I would never consider running an endurance race without first taking Optygen HP for at least 30 days prior to the event.   I had heard about the product early last year and decided to try it for a Marathon I ran last April.   In addition to being The King of Bonking, another issue that negatively affected me was having sore dead legs in the latter stages of a race or long training run.    My legs would feel like two cement pillars which made it hard to get into a groove.   While I did end up Bonking in my race last April, my legs  felt fine the whole way.  

Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday on Feb 6th, 2011.   30 days prior to the race, I took 4 Optygen HP pills every morning.    Again, during the latter part of the race, my legs felt great.  While I was still teetering on the brink of a big ol’ Bonk, my relatively fresh legs really helped me push through and retain my pace.   I accomplished my race goal to BQ am very sure that I would not have without the Optygen HP.    Of course there were many things that came together, but having legs that still felt alive was crucial.  Optygen HP is not “fuel”, you’ll still need your GU or whatever else you use, but I think the stuff if pretty amazing." 

I'll try Optygen HP for 30 days, do some long runs, and report back regarding the efficacy of the product. Not only will you want to return for my opinion, but ProLine will also host a giveaway for a 30-day bottle of Optygen HP for one winner to try!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Running With the Buffaloes; Women's Endurance Gear; Somnio Running Westridge Trail Shoes

This weekend, I reread Running With the Buffaloes (2003, NY, NY: Lyons Press) by Chris Lear. It was a gift from Coach Jill, as part of a huge care package that included Run Like a Mother for Laima and a ton of boy's clothing for our son Teo. If you haven't read this book, or it's been a while, this is a definite must-read. Apart from the amazement at how much and how fast these guys run, it's a great story of a cross-country season at the University of Colorado that had its share of tragedy, melodrama, and success.

Head over to Women's Endurance Gear, where an introductory post by Laima is up. Follow the blog, leave lots of comments, and let her know if there is a product she should be reviewing.

Six months ago, I reviewed the Somnio Running Westridge Trail shoes. Head over to Endurance Gear Reviews to read what I thought. Still feel that Somnio is on to something with their semi-customizable running shoes. After one brief treadmill run in the new Nadas, I have to say those are a home run as well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Kids Are All Right

Despite his unholy amalgamation of Andreas Raelert's and Bret Michaels' fashion senses, Patrick "The Road" (The Who?) Mahoney has come a long way. In a brief span of time, he has shed pounds, spent copious amounts of money on triathlon gear, and become the man his mom always knew he could become. But I knew him when. Once upon a time, before we became legends in our own minds, Patrick and I collaborated on several posts. Head over to Endurance Gear Reviews to see what we thought of Shamrock Farms Rockin’ Refuel™ Chocolate Recovery Drink. The ultimate in he said/he said.

If you haven't visited recently, Beth of Shut Up And Run (SEWER), is passing out Boston Marathon entries in a manner similar to the way she passes gas. That's right, Boston Marathon entries. There are two available, and all you need to do is leave a comment explaining why you should get an entry to this prestigious race. However, I urge you to put your selfishness aside and help a fellow runner out. A man who need an no introduction, to me it would be a travesty if Chris K of The Manly Man With Runs did not receive one of these entries. So head over to the Boston Marathon Entry Giveaway and leave a message urging Beth and her panel of experts to reserve an entry for Chris. Don't we deserve more amusement at his expense? Can you imagine the posts? Hahahahaha! After BQing recently, this would be a fitting end to his story.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guest Post: How I Became Barefoot Charlie: The Origin (In 3 Parts)

I met Charlie via email, after PranaFlo followed me on Twitter, I followed them back, checked out their website, and commented on a blog post, wherein Charlie described barefooting it through the snow. How's that for making connections? One thing led to another, and I asked Charlie to guest post on his barefoot running journey. As many runners these days, barefoot running holds an interest for me, though I've yet to make the leap. I'm moving my way into more minimal running shoes and will, one day, include some barefooting in my training, and so thought it would be interesting to hear Charlie's story.

Part 1

Everyone deserves to become their own superhero.  When I go barefoot trail running, that is precisely what happens.  I, like every superhero, have a gripping saga to share of how I gained my barefoot superpowers.  Gaining super powered Barefoot Trail Runner status is no simple feat (pun?).  I do not derive my powers from our yellow sun like Kryptonians.  No actually required quite a bit of footwork (snicker).  Sit right down and allow me to relate the tale of how this transformation occurred.

The other day my dad says to me “Charlie, did you know that Barefoot Running (BF) is actually going against evolution?”  I say, “No...I didn’t know that.”  He reminded me that our ancestors never would have crossed the Bering Straits, if it were not for shoes.  

All I can say is that I would never have switched to BF trail running, if it were not for shoes.  

Shoes taught me everything that was wrong with running. 

They made me very inquisitive.  They led me to seek out answers to life’s big questions...those questions that all runners throughout the millenia have pondered while massaging their shin splints, such as:
 why do my feet always hurt in different places, depending upon which shoe I am wearing? 
 why does my ankle roll all the way to China?
 didn’t someone say running was supposed to be fun?
 am I really supposed to be “running through the pain”?
 did that guy really run all the way from Marathon to Athens...and what shoes did he wear...was it the shoes that perhaps killed him?
 why aren’t humans born with arch supports?

Well...that was my list.  And you know what I learned?  What I learned is that, for my were what was wrong with running.  That’s all, nothing else.  Unbeknownst to me, I had acquired an archenemy.  Oh man...that is a good one!  “Arch”enemy.  But it’s true.  I realized that running shoes, no matter which brand I tried, all did one thing in common.  They made my feet and body hurt in different places.  Some made my right ankle roll, while another hijacked my left ankle.  All of them made my shins hurt.  My right hip wasn’t feeling so great either.  My toes banged into the end.  My arches hurt badly, but only sometimes.  My lower back would act up, but not everytime.  Over a period of years, and through many pairs of high tech shoes, I reached a point where I was just burned out on shoes, and gave up on them.  But what do you do then?  How does one run without shoes?  I wanted to find out.  

After running trails and pavement barefoot now for over a year, I can personally attest that running doesn’t cause injuries....running in the wrong shoes causes injuries.  I have found that the only right shoes I wear, are the ones permanently attached to my body.  My shoes are my left foot and right foot, and they like to go commando, if you know what I mean.

Like many of you out there today, I first tried a minimalist shoe.  I was and am an avid trail runner.  I enjoy technical trail running over rock strewn, root bound, pine conish trails that give hikers reasons to slow down.  How in the heck was I going to run barefoot on that?  I truly believed it impossible.  So, I did what everyone else did-I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers with the same confidence used when ordering a mocha.  They were trendy, stylish, and people began looking at me like I could hold my own.  I was a celebrity, people walked up to me and asked me to hold their babies while they asked me questions about my shoes.  It was cool.

AngieB on the trail

But there was trouble afoot.  On my first day on the trail in my VFF KSO’s I ran way too far.  I ran way too fast.  I got a stress fracture.  Oh, but that wasn’t enough for me.  What is pain to someone under 40?  I didn’t think I was immortal any longer, but I did think I still might be a demi-god at least.  So, I went out a few more times, just to make sure the pain wasn’t my imagination.  I broke the 2nd metatarsal.  That first run out I completely flew like the wind.  It felt so amazing.  I had the feeling of light feet, proper running posture for the first time in my life, and I must have been doing 6-7 minute miles on technical singletrack.  Yeah, I spent about 3 months barely running after that affair, besides the few test runs I ignorantly did, just to make sure something was really wrong. 

What many people now know, and what I want to pass on to you, is that your foot is not equipped to go without shoes, just because you quit wearing shoes.  The amount of atrophy and underusage of supporting structures in your foot cannot be understated.  They need time to learn how to bear the weight of your body without the false structure of a shoe supplanting your foots natural ability to support and bear weight.  What I would recommend to anyone now is to begin by walking barefoot.  15-20 minutes a day at the most.  I view shoes now as coverings for my feet when the weather is too cold, or when I need to be shod to gain legal entrance into public places like stores and restaurants.

So, there it is.  My first steps towards superhero greatness left me hobbled on the couch, watching my brothers DVD box set of Galactica.  I hate TV.  But I have to admit, after a couple of weeks, even I wanted to know what the Cylon’s were really up to.  I also wanted to know if I had permanently damaged my right foot with the fracture.  I say again...go very very slowly and introduce the idea of being barefoot, to your feet, one step at a time.  No matter which minimalist shoe any company creates, there is absolutely no substitute for the grace, form, connection and freedom you will feel while running barefoot.  Any shoe you wear will separate you from this experience.  I really want to stress that I eschew wearing any shoe at all.  Barefoot is barefoot, no substitutes.  I will also concede that there are times when you will need to have on some kind of shoe, so choose them well and do not take off running in them until your feet have really adjusted. 

On the practical side of things, if you are considering a career move, open a clinic for minimalist shoe’ll probably make a killing until people learn to slow down.

Part 2 of my saga will cover cape and supersuit construction, how I finally began barefooting on trails, and pitfalls along the way.

Charlie is the customer service guru at PranaFlo, an online retailer of running gear and site for trailrunners to connect and get inspired to get out there and enjoy the outdoors.  He also coaches barefoot trail running in the Chapel Hill, NC area.
His sites are:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Flanagan's Run; Look What Came In the Mail, ISM Adamo Typhoon Saddle Product Review

Flanagan's Run, written by Tom McNab (1982, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc) is an outstanding running read. Based on the real-life "Bunion Derby," this tome weaves in a variety of stories and history, all told around Flanagan's Run, a cross-country race from Los Angeles to New York. Really interestingly written, it reveals a time period of U.S. history as seen through the eyes of a foreign writer (McNab is a Scot). Well-worth picking up, this book will engross you for the good part of a week, or longer.


Look what came in the mail!

Sticker from Lindsay,

a cling from Aimee,

and shoes from Somnio.

Somnio Running describes the Nadas thus: "A supplemental training shoe that is meant for strengthening, tuning and stretching. The Nada is designed for a runner who wants to incorporate barefoot methodology into their routine." Cannot wait to try these out. They really remind me of my volleyball days, wearing the old Onitsuke Tigers, though these have less sole and no toe bumpers.

And, because whatever Patrick does, I do, here's the obligatory legs photo (original included for comparison purposes):


New product review over at Endurance Gear Reviews - check out what I think about the ISM Adamo Typhoon.

Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women