Friday, April 29, 2011

Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White

With the utmost respect...

Some people wear Superman pajamas.
Superman wears The Manly Runner pajamas.

The Manly Runner doesn't breathe, he holds air hostage.

When The Manly Runner crosses the street, the cars have to look both ways.

The Manly Runner can speak Russian.

The Manly Runner doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.

The Manly Runner knows Victoria's secret.

The Manly Runner can run a 3-legged race by himself.

The Manly Runner can tie his shoes with his feet.

M.C. Hammer learned the hard way that The Manly Runner can touch this.

Time waits for no man, unless that man is The Manly Runner.

Have a great weeekend all!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Relentless Forward Progress

"If it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, then run!"
-ultrarunning adage

Relentless Forward Progress is riding the cusp of the ultrarunning revolution. Bryon Powell, publisher of the iRunFar website, has distilled the basics of training for an ultra, the recent surge in popularity of trail running, and the desire of people to know the basics before starting, into a useful manual on how to train for and run one's first ultra or improving during subsequent attempts.

Fleshed out by today's better-known ultrarunners, the book goes step by step through the things you need to know to run an ultra. While technically an ultramarathon is anything beyond the 26.2 miles of a "regular" marathon, most people use 50K, or just over 31 miles, to designate the initial ultra distance. Training for your first ultra is not that different than training for a marathon, though the increments beyond (50 miles, 100 miles) require a different mindset and set of skills. Training, the necessity of walking, trail running basics, hydration, nutrition, dealing with injuries, and ultrarunning gear are all covered. There is probably nothing in the book that research on the Internet or reading Ultrarunning Magazine won't unearth, but it's a well-organized introduction and useful how-to reference guide in one fell swoop.

A former food and drug attorney in Washington DC, Bryon chucked the safety net and headed West, landing first outside Yosemite and now in Park City, Utah. Beyond publishing iRunFar, he is involved in freelance copywriting and journalism, trail and ultramarathon race coverage, running gear reviews, running discussion pieces, social media, and coaching, amongst other things.

In a nice nod to our local ultrarunning community, he mentions the Chicago Ultrarunners and also includes a quote by Paige Troelstrup, author of a Serious Case of the Runs: "The mind is a very powerful thing, and it's generally the only thing standing between you and something incredible. You can always do more than you think you can."

The book concludes with two appendices, the first by Meghan Hicks and the second by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee. Meghan Hicks writes about what she calls beyond-category adventuring, which is really similar to my approach to endurance pursuits these days. Sandler and Lee, of Run Bare, write what I believe is the most thoughtful and incisive introduction to the benefits of barefoot running I have read.

If you have ever considered training for an ultra, but are somewhat confused by the plethora of often conflicting advice that is available from myriad sources, this book is a good primer on how and where to start. Definitely worth picking up. Autograhed copies available through Bryon's website! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sidi Zephyr Carbon Road Bike Shoes

I recently treated myself to so Sidi Zephyr Carbon Road Shoes as a way to jumpstart the spring cycling season. While I now primarily consider myself a runner, I still really enjoy cycling and, when I can afford to move up in quality or performance, I'm happy to do so. Now I'm not looking to race like Patrick or Craig, but speed coupled with comfort is always nice.

Perfect for club riders, amateurs or casual racers, these carbon-injected road bike shoes go the distance in training and racing. Molded heel cup, padded tongue with fit "relievers" and three Velcro straps for a power-enhancing fit.
  • Millennium III carbon injected sole is 56% more rigid than the previous Millennium II sole, more durable and less susceptible to changes in stiffness due to prolonged use and altering temperatures
  • Synthetic leather and breathable mesh upper keep your feet cool and protected while you hammer up those hills
  • Molded heel cup puts you in position for maximum pedal power
  • Replaceable heel tab makes walking easier than ever
  • Padded tongue with fit relievers distributes pressure evenly for extra comfort
  • 3 Velcro straps guarantee a secure fit
I brought my current shoes, a pair of entry-level Sidis I've had since at least 2007 (can't remember the model name), so I could somewhat compare the 2 shoes. My old shoes were in decent shape, but, after consulting with my bike authority Patrick, I decided that the step up to the carbon sole was probably worthwhile. I purposefully also waited a week to make sure this was not an impulse buy. Putting one old and one new shoe on each foot, I could immediately feel the difference in fit. The cut looks very similar, but the Zephyrs were clearly the more snug and form-fitting, perhaps because of the 3rd strap, perhaps for reasons I could not fathom. Since I was stepping up in performance, I decided to also pick up a new pair of Look Keo cleats, to start completely fresh. This way I also have an ever-ready backup pair should the need arise.

Though they felt better in the store, the Zephyrs would reveal themselves as superior (or not) on the bike. On the trainer, the feeling was immediately different, obviously superior. I felt like, with a similar effort to my normal spins, I was turning the cranks faster and with more power transfer than before. I instantly became a believer.

If you are in the market for a new road bike shoe, or are buying yourself your first pair, I would definitely counsel paying the extra for even an entry-level pair of carbon-soled shoes. I've only ever tried Sidis, so I'm partial to their fit, but whatever brand you choose, go carbon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why We Race Part 7

At the end of 2010, as people planned and posted their race schedules for 2011, I couldn't help wondering where all these people got their motivation. I have goals and experiences that I look towards in the coming year, but somehow racing just wasn't that important. Why?

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?

Part 1 was my introduction, while Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 began the sharing of people's responses. Here, in order of receipt, is Part 7 of the responses:

Barbara, Trying A Tri:

Why do I race?
I absolutely thrive on the competition, not just with other people but within myself. I am always striving to better my last time - there is nothing better than knowing I have given my all and come out with a PB. I also love searching for my next goal to train towards and know that I will one day achieve. I guess its kind of like a cycle - dream, train, achieve (only to do it all again) WHAT COULD BE BETTER.

Why am I willing to pay for a race?
 Well firstly, not many things are for free - especially races. But aside from that I don't really see the dollar sign - I focus more on the fact that I really want to do that race - for many different reasons, whether it be the meaning behind the race, the area, if friends are going - because I CAN. I am really lucky I have a supportive husband and family who tolerate my craziness and who are willing to help to help me succeed in everything I do.

My motivators?
It's really quite simple, because 2 yrs ago I couldn't and now I can. Because 2 yrs ago I was sick and in a really bad place and now I am healthy and stronger than I have ever been in my whole life. Because 2yrs ago I thought I had lost all sense of who I was and now I am ME again. I also race because I want to show my kids that anything is possible. It doesn't matter how old you are - you can do anything so long as you set your mind to it. I hope I have become a positive role model for them.

Adam, The Boring Runner:
I think that there are a number of reasons to run actual races (I run only road races).

I think a lot of it comes down to goals.  Or, maybe more accurately the bookends that I put on each of my training cycles.  I use formalized races to measure my level of training success.  The fee is a small price to pay for an objective third party to help me test my overall fitness.  I can and do conduct time trials of my fitness, but there is something special about shelling out money.  Probably a placebo effect.

Also, I generally run alone, and running races is one of the few times when I can run with a very large group of people with a common goal.  Similar to the blogging community, within the race community, friends come easy and relationships sometimes last a very long time.  I have met a number of people whose names I still remember who helped me get through the very tough miles of a race.  Additionally, I've met up with a number of blogger friends at races and bonded with them over the very common goal of traversing the same 10K, 13.1, or 26.2.

Jason, Cook Train Eat Race:
Racing to me is a the measuring stick.  It shows me how my training has been going.  It shows me how much further along or short I am compared to previous races.  It also helps me to measure myself against my peers.  I am a very competitive person and racing allows me to prove that I am prepared against those in the race as well as against myself.
As a numbers person I am capable of seeing the numbers (data) and say that this discipline improved and this one lagged.  I can then adjust my training to focus on that area and get better there.
I also love the camaraderie of race day.  We are all lined up looking to do our best and be better than the person next to us but once it is all said and done we have conversations, hugs, high-fives and smiles with those around us.  Training can be lonely but come race day there are others around you and the community is there for support.

That said, I do seem to plan races in random cities (more directly in alignment with my 50 states goal).  This is probably a result of my love for travel and the fact that I have frequent flier points which makes it relatively affordable.

Oh, and the medals......I love the medals.....

Allie, That Girl Is A Running Fool:
I think I race because to me spending money is the ultimate commitment. I love money and if I pay for a race it pretty much guarantees that I will do it, otherwise it was a waste of money. 
I also like to be out there with other people that share the same passion for running as I do, I think this part is especially meaningful for me since I have yet to meet a real running buddy. Maybe it wouldn't be so important to me if I had friends in real life that ran. 
A marathon is a whole other beast, I will run a marathon some day (not this month since I got hurt) and the money will not matter. I will run a marathon to be able to say I did it, to prove to myself that I can do it and of course so I can display a really nice medal on my wall for everyone to see. :)

Stay tuned for Part 8!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Virtual Trails

If you live in the north half of the United States or Canada, at least a portion of your training will take place indoors, on the treadmill or the bike trainer. Every person fills the time differently; for me, it's usually movies on dvd. Since my workouts usually occur before anyone else is awake, it's my opportunity to watch movies that are not appropriate for young children, filled with sex and violence. There is an alternative however, in virtual trail dvds.

EnvisionTrac was launched in late 2009 in search of beautiful outdoor settings to film. Fitness is an important part of life and at EnvisionTrac they want to inspire more people to be active and enjoy the experience of running on trails, beaches, and landmarks in some of the most beautiful places in the world, right from home. The company is built on the belief that healthy living promotes healthy families and communities. They strive to provide DVDs that capture the beauty in nature and and deliver it to your living room to enhance your workout experience.

The virtual trails DVDs are meant to be viewed on your home entertainment system while operating your fitness equipment such as, treadmills, ellipticals, or stationary bikes.Each DVD has the choice of a Walk/Jog speed (approx 3mph) and a Run/Cycle speed (approx 6mph) and includes two music tracks to choose from - Ambient and Techno. The three dvds I received, showing trails on Mount Rainier, Maui's Waihee Ridge, and Oregon's Eagle Creek (my favorite), were all 30 minutes long, with an additional 2 minute cooldown portion.

What I liked:
  • Beautiful scenery.
  • Nice alternative to television or movie-watching.
  • Unusual product.
  • Small business.
What I didn't like:
  • Initial viewing made me feel a bit motion-sick, though it didn't last (only on Mount Rainer DVD).
  • DVD ends mid-run - lack of closure.
  • The DVDs are all 30 minutes - required changing or restarting to extend workout.
What I would change/add:
  • Make DVDs with differing durations.
  • Pan across the views occasionally, which is what I do when I run trails.
  • Make the videos of the trails point-to-point or a loop.
  • As a history and nature geek, I'd like an alternate soundtrack consisting of the history and flora/fauna of each trail, to make it more educational.

Overall I really enjoyed these and will make use of them as an alternative to just watching movies. It's also an opportunity to see trails from places I've never been and may never get to. If you or someone you know trains indoors for any part of the year, this is a great addition to their training gear!

This is a great time to purchase these DVDs, as the company has two great sales to choose from! Buy all 5 DVDs and save $25 or buy 2 DVDs and get a 3rd one free. Head over to the company's online store now and check out all their products.

Get more information on Envision Trac's virtual trail DVDs on their website, YouTube, and Facebook.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of EnvisionTrac. 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?
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Friday, April 22, 2011

State of the (Running) Union

Over the last 6 months or so, as I've made the transition from triathlon training to primarily run training, I've found that my philosophy of training has changed as well. Triathlon, or multisport, is heavily geared towards competition and has the HTFU mentality of never slowing down, never taking it easy. That just doesn't gibe with my personality, which is more sloth than cheetah. I also realized that I had no interest in competition and have eschewed races this year, in favor of progressing at my own pace towards markers I wish to achieve. I'm not following any plan, just running 3 days a week and cycling on the off days both as crosstraining and a way to work opposing muscle groups. So far it's been a nice progression: I'm up to two 45 minute runs and a long run of about 2 hours. At some point I'll try adding some back-to-back long runs on the weekends and will then decide if they fit in to my plans or not. The cycling has lagged, as I usually don't feel like riding very long on the trainer. Now that the weather is changing (is the weather changing?), I hope to start riding longer as well.

I had hoped to run my first ultra this year, and that is still a marker I'll hit, but I'm in no hurry - when it happens, it happens. For next year my main goal is to run a multiday journey from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, but again, if it happens, great, if not, it will come. At some point I'd like to run to our family's lakeside cottage in Michigan, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred miles - it will be unsupported and easily the most ambitious thing I've ever tried in terms of endurance. No specific date, just a specific goal.

My main concen is that this admittedly lackadaisical attitude will simply delay all these goals and they will never get done. That's a real possibility, but, since I'm enjoying the journey more than ever, I also expect that they will happen in due time, unless I get distracted...SQUIRREL!!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Land of Lincoln

I'm headed for Springfield, IL, for work. The morning will be taken up by train travel (incredibly expensive by plane and a long, monotonous drive), then meeting with a client agency and lessors to view possible space to house said agency. If I had the time, which I don't this trip, things I 'd like to see there include:

The Dana-Thomas House. "In 1902, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to undertake the design and construction of a massive renovation of the Lawrence family home in Springfield, Illinois. The home was to be more than a mere residence -- it was to be a showcase. Upon its completion in 1904, the new edifice completely engulfed the original home. It immediately became a symbol of artistic and architectural excellence. It now stands as the finest example of the creativity and uniqueness characteristic of the Prairie School of Architecture." From Governor James R. Thompson's Executive Order August 23, 1983.  Unfortunately, even if I had time, the house is closed fore restoration until mid-summer. I've long been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright - some people can't see past his personal problems, but to me, many of his structures are pure works of art. Maybe next visit.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is the premier repository for materials relating to the history of the Prairie State. The Illinois State Historical Library was created in 1889 by the Illinois General Assembly, which charged the new library with collecting and preserving "books, pamphlets, manuscripts, monographs, writings, and other materials of historical interest and useful to the historian, bearing upon the political, religious, or social history of the State of Illinois from the earliest known period of time." This is a relatively new structure, and, from the outside, combines the lower lines typical of Midwestern architecture with interesting shapes reflecting interior uses, along with a beautiful stone and glass facade.

If you haven't read my wife's post, Tidbit Tuesday over at Women's Endurance Gear, you really should check it out. Who knew you could combine chia seeds, post-coital urination, and plane travel into a cohesive post? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RIP Grete Waitz (1953-2011)

Grete Waitz won the NYC Marathon 9 times, more than any other, but her favorite memory of the race was completing it with Fred Lebow, just before he succumbed to cancer. She worked with her sponsor, Adidas, to give 5% of the Grete Waitz and Modern Classics collections to the "Aktiv mot kreft" (Active Against Cancer) cancer care foundation she started. No small irony that cancer took her life as well. When I was younger, and just starting to get interested in running, she was one of the runners I looked up to - her modesty, hard work, and care for others made a deep impression on me. She is the type of role model I hope that my daughter looks up to, seeing a strong woman who won and worked not just for herself, but her family and all those impacted by her foundation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seed The Future

As some of you knew before, and all of you know now, I work for the federal government. My job, with the General Services Administration, entails acquiring space for client federal agencies to house their employees as well as any special requirements their particular mission entails. As such, we realize that our carbon footprint is pretty massive, and do what we can to minimize it, through green building practices as well as other projects. Yesterday we received a card redeemable for a tree being planted through a reforestation project somewhere in the world. I believe in fixing my own backyard first, so I elected to have a tree planted here in the United States through our Seed The Future initiative.

All Seed The Future projects support Trees for the Future, a non profit that supports agroforestry resource centers around the globe. The resource centers are helping people in developing countries improve their rural livelihoods through the introduction of environmentally sustainable land management projects focused on beneficial tree planting.

Most communities around the world recognize that they need to plant trees on their degraded lands if they are to improve their lives. By providing technical knowledge on agroforestry and sustainable development, along with planting materials, communities can return their degraded lands to the sustainable production farms they once were.

Beneficial trees minimize soil erosion, supply forage for animals and provide a source of fuelwood, but planting trees is difficult when the topsoil has been eroded, and the climate and growing conditions have changed. Through a network of technicians, volunteers and community leaders world-wide, the program reaches remote areas and gives local people the knowledge and ability to rehabilitate their environment.

Since 1988, thousands of communities in around the world have been able to improve their livelihoods and their environment by planting nearly 50 million trees. We calculate that these trees remove approximately one million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

As a human being, father, and as a trail runner, I really believe in the importance of clean air for all of us in general, for my children, and for my efforts training outside. I'm proud to be a part of this effort.

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day this year
or reduce your carbon footprint in general?

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Chicago - The Domed City

(A minor rant.) Are you kidding me? This morning, April 18th, we woke to snow on the ground. Now it's just a little bit of snow, but for some reason, this year, we continue to shake our heads and wonder when this winter will end. I, for one, would gladly get behind any effort to place the Chicago metropolitan area under a large dome, where we could enjoy our midwestern existence in a Truman Burbank state of bliss. Another benefit would be that the area outside the dome would revert to wilderness, giving us many more options for trail running.

And now for something completely all the participants in today's Boston Marathon, Happy Patriot's Day and good running to you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Icebreaker GT150 Run Ace Long Sleeve Crewe

After the success of the GT260 winter weight top as an integral piece of gear, I was excited to receive the Icebreaker GT150 Run Ace Long Sleeve Crewe to test out and review. GT Run is a premium range of technical garments designed specifically for runners. Icebreaker merino breathes, controls temperature and protects runners from the sun's harmful rays. Here's what Icebreaker says about the shirt:

The sharp silhouette, core colours and dynamic reflective piping on the right shoulder give this long-sleeve crewe its distinctive edge. What you'll really love about the LS Ace Crewe, though, are its run-specific technical features - the lightweight, non-itch, highly breathable fabric; the eyelet panels for even greater ventilation; the cord management loop to make it easier for you to listen to music; and the handy stash pocket.
  • Reflective piping detail on upper right shoulder
  • Thumb Loops
  • GT150
  • Eyelet panels for breathability
  • Cord management loop at neckline
  • Back stash pocket
  • Icebreaker logo and GT wordmark
Much like the GT260, this shirt is both lightweight and comfortable, with warmth appropriate for its use. It conforms to the body, but not in a clingy fashion and once again, the thumb loops are an excellent addition, for days when bare hands might not be enough, but gloves would be too much. As with all Icebreaker clothing, there isn't a need to wash it very often - the merino wool acts as a scent suppressor, so even after 6 or 7 or more workouts, the apparel has no stink. Simply amazing. Extremely high quality, superb performance, once again, highest marks for use as a standalone piece or lighter-weight baselayer.

One thing more environmental companies are doing is allowing the consumer to see where the materials for the product came from. Icebreaker offers the Baacode for consumers to see where their wool was sourced. It displays the possible stations from which the wool was sourced, then discusses their environmental and manufacturing ethics, followed by their thoughts on animal welfare.

Environmental Ethics

The French factory that cleans Icebreaker merino fibre recycles and cleans its water. Lanolin oils, produced as a waste product by this process, are sold to the beauty industry.

The German factory that spins the fibre reuses heat produced by processing for air conditioning, while the factory that makes Icebreaker garments conserves energy through large-volume dyeing. It also has a water recycling plant and a heat transfer plant to reuse energy for heating.

Manufacturing Ethics

We chose our manufacturing partners very carefully, and monitor them to see they meet our strict ethical requirements.

Our manufacturers are required to demonstrate strong business ethics, and have an up-to-date manufacturing plant and access to the latest technology.

They must be part of, or working towards, a global quality assurance programme (such as ISO 9001). They must also be part of, or working towards, a global environmental assurance programme (such as ISO 14001), and/or comply with Oeko-Tex environmental standards for textiles.

Manufacturers must also be working to incorporate sustainable practices into their business.

We require our manufacturers to respect their workers and provide them with a caring, community environment that includes good natural light, clean air and healthy working conditions. Workers are paid above the prevailing minimum wage, given three meals a day and offered accommodation if necessary.

Animal Welfare

More than one million sheep supply Icebreaker with merino fibre. These hardy free-range merinos roam the mountains, grazing on pasture, and are given extra feed at times of year when the pasture grows slowly.

We pioneered the practice of signing contracts for our future fibre needs directly with high country merino growers. This gives growers the security of knowing they can plan their future fibre production ahead of time; in return, they agree to meet our strict animal welfare requirements.

These five non-negotiable requirements are:
  1. Freedom from thirst and hunger.
  2. Provision of appropriate comfort and shelter.
  3. Prevention of (or rapid diagnosis and treatment of) injury, disease or parasite infestation.
  4. Freedom from distress.
  5. The ability to display normal patterns of behaviour.
Our suppliers must also meet Icebreaker's standard of care of sheep dogs.

I think that the Baacode is a nice start and I realize that it is expensive for companies to enact policies like this one. I have to say that I hope Icebreaker expands this and shows the path from grower to consumer, including all intermediate steps. So I would like to see the station(s) where the wool was sourced, then follow it to France, then Germany, then China, all the way to the United States. Larger companies are doing this already, hopefully Icebreaker will be able to follow suit.

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?
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Pleasures of Falling

(Left photo source
Right photo source)

If you run exclusively on roads, you might be a bit baffled by the post title, and I don't blame you one bit. I'm not talking about the impact on the road, that initial surprise followed by the stinging, the blood, and yes, the resulting tears. No one likes to tweeze gravel from a palm or knee.

No, what I'm talking about is the trail fall, where danger is imminent and the adrenaline rush like a hit of speed. I'm talking about that initial stumble, slip, or fall on a trail and the first excited wonderings of whether you're about to get seriously injured, many miles from home. I'm talking about hitting trees or rocks or logs, bouncing off and then taking stock. Lying amidst the leaves and dirt, you assess basic bodily functions, check for blood and broken bones, then get up and take that first step. The first step is like Michael Johnson out of the starting blocks, heart pounding, muscles pushing, lungs gasping for air, as the energy surges through your body. It takes several moments for the brain to convince the body to slow down, that you are only several miles into a long run, and, just because you got away with one there, no need to rush into the next dicey situation.

In the last month or so, I've had two really good falls; in both cases neither injured me anywhere near what I deserved. Several weeks ago, while bushwhacking through the woods of a forest preserve (there was no trail), my foot was entangled by old barbed wire, I tripped and smashed my face into a log. Happily, the log was old, soggy, and soft, so I didn't even get a scratch. This past weekend, I tripped over a root and went down on all fours into some serious muck, also without resulting harm. In both cases, as I charged forward before getting myself back  under control, it struck me what a thrill each fall had been, what a pleasure it was to pick myself up, discover I was uninjured, and move forward.

Of course, the pleasure of falling exists only when the pain and/or resulting injury doesn't impede forward progress - no one likes to get hurt to the point of danger. But the rush and the pain and the joy of still running, jumping up and over roots, rocks, or logs makes the fall a good reminder of what dirty running fun is on the trail.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zensah Trail Running Socks

I'm not sure what makes these socks trail-specific. Typically, I run in no-show or crew-cut socks, so perhaps the length is the reason these are considered trail socks. "The Zensah trail running socks go up to about the runners mid-shin and the superior comfort come from the fact that they are seamless in design to prevent any blistering or skin irritation. They are also thermal regulating, so your feet never get too hot or too cold. Each sock features a patented knitting technique that creates a support zone around the arch and ankle that adjusts to your foot shape to increase comfort and enhance support while trail running. Each pair of trail running socks is made in Italy to ensure the best quality."

These socks have a tight knit that would probably ward off most dust, sand, or grit on the trail, which might be the main reason to wear these for trails over roads. While Zensah makes no claims to these being compression socks, the feeling is similar, though not nearly as supportive as their compression socks. These socks have a good amount of cushioning, but not so much that my shoes felt any different. All in all they are a very comfortable, cushioned running sock that most, if not all, people would find comfortable. I used them outside in the chilly winter weather as well as on the treadmill. In all cases, even soaking wet from a muddy trail run, these socks kept my feet comfortable and I never felt like they were sagging or blister-prone. My only complaint is a personal one, in that I just don't like the length of the sock. Maybe because they feel like a compression sock or that I typically wear short socks, but the mid-shin length just felt awkward. I would suggest either lengthening them to the knee like a compression sock, or shortening them to the ankle area. Otherwise, these are a quality sock that keep your feet comfortable and protected on the trail (and on the road and on the bike as well).

More information can be found at the Zensah website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Zensah. 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?
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why We Race Part 6

At the end of 2010, as people planned and posted their race schedules for 2011, I couldn't help wondering where all these people got their motivation. I have goals and experiences that I look towards in the coming year, but somehow racing just wasn't that important. Why?

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?

Part 1 was my introduction, while Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 began the sharing of people's responses. Here, in order of receipt, is Part 6 of the responses:

Lindsay, Chasing the Kenyans:
In no particular order, why I race/travel for races/etc.:
  • Change of Pace - I typically train alone, so it's nice to switch it up and have 'competitors' to run against (even though I'm truly only racing against the clock)
  • Measure Success - I'm sure some people can just run and run and run, but I need to have some sort of "validation" that my training is paying off - with a new PR, a great race, an age group award, etc.
  • An excuse to Travel - Although I've never been gone for more than a long-weekend, it's fun to run/race in different states and at least have an excuse to take a long weekend somewhere. 
  • 50 States Goal - Before I ran my first marathon I made the goal to run a marathon in every state, so that's another reason why I travel for races
  • I'm not all that great at planning a race schedule, but for a few of the 'big' races (usually marathons out of state) I can piece together once or twice a year. I plan the weekend around the race cause, well, I want to run the race!
  • I don't really run for the shirt or the medal, though those are nice. I guess my biggest "why" would be to clock an "official" time. I know I can go for a 3.1 mile run on any day of the week, but it just doesn't count as an official race time (or potential PR) unless it's in a real race.

Jen, The Running Artist:

Why do I race? Mmm, a great question and one that I ask myself all the time. In some way I do it because it's so new to me, I having only been racing for three years now and there is still a lot of excitement when doing something new, sort of like the proverbial honeymoon period. Funding is real tight for me, so I have to pick and choose carefully, although I realize I would probably run in anything I could get too. It seems, as time goes on that it is beginning to be less about the newness of it all and more about conquering an obstacle. Making an effort to do better is always top on my list. That doesn't necessarily mean faster, but also smarter, or being stronger, or having more endurance. I do like the whole race atmosphere and meeting new people, seeing new places is cool too, but it's not everything to me. I don't find myself training in blocks or anything I just would like to be in shape to race anytime, and very important to me; always having fun. Most recently though I have found that I really have a competitive streak. I don't think it's because I think I'll win the race or anything, but somehow when I pass people, especially late in the race, I really get off on leaving people in the dust. I find that I love passing people! I love the strategy of looking like the easy-going, slow-going, non-threat and then passing people in the end. It really gets me going, the adrenalin is fantastic and pushes me through the end of the race. Ha! I know it is shallow and even indifferent but that is what keeps me moving and improving and having fun.

Emily, If I Can't Convince You, I'll At Least Confuse You:


Ok. Because I love it and I can.

Oh and the little voice in my head that tells me I can do better than the last time....ya that's definitely a part of it too. If I can run a marathon - I can run 50....if I can run 50-I can run 100. ;)

Stay Tuned for Part 7!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bazi Energy Shots

What the company claims:

BAZI Benefits

  • Superior ORAC value over other energy or fruit shots (based on a 2 oz. serving size)
  • Naturally energizes (no artificial chemical overload, i.e. less caffeine; less sugar)
  • Healthy fuel (no crash and burn; non addictive)
  • No warning label (it’s safe)
  • Great complement to an active lifestyle, not an unhealthy, artificial fix


The Phyto8 Blend of the most nutrient-rich fruits in BAZI can support:
  • Hours of energy, the way nature intended.*
  • Improved focus and performance.*
  • Enhanced stamina and endurance.*
  • Metabolic and immune system support.*
  • Cardiovascular protection*
  • Convenient (only 2 ounces)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

My Observations:

If there ever was a weekend where I could have used more energy, this was the one. Saturday nearly a 2-hour trail run, followed by a long drive to the middle of nowhere for my son's soccer game, then home for an afternoon around the house. Sunday morning a midlength ride on the trainer, then out to the Boondocks to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday (champagne!), then home for the Blackhawks game and playdates for the kids. Enter Bazi Energy Shots.

Now I didn't notice the disclaimer until this morning, but Bazi states that these shots are best served chilled. Each time I used them was at room temperature. If you have children, are in your second childhood, or have a memory of being a child, then you will understand what I mean when I say that room-temp Bazi tastes like liquified children's multivitamins. It's not a bad taste, just very distinctive. It tastes healthy.

Bazi Energy Shots have 80 mg of caffeine, so it's something to consider if you don't normally ingest caffeine or if this will be an additional amount for you either pre or post-workout. It also suggests that your kids should not be using this either. I didn't notice any particular effects in regards to this, but each person is different.

I also didn't notice much in the way of obvious effects in general: no big burst of energy, no tingling, no jittery nerves, nothing to make me feel I had even taken this product. That being said, however, my energy levels on Sunday were higher than could have been expected considering the amount of activity I was involved with this weekend. Due to the flavor, I hadn't wanted to try Bazi Energy Shots mid-training, but did try them before and after workouts and hadn't noticed any sort of increased performance or recovery, so I'm thinking that this is a product to use when you need sustained energy, not just for a short burst.

Considering the simplicity and variety of the ingredients, I'd recommend searching out Bazi as an energy drink over a lot of the other products, with their multisyllabic concoctions and endless ingredient lists.

Get more information from the Bazi website, on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Bazi. 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

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stunning Public Relation News

In a move that has set the blog world abuzz, Patrick of The Road [Multisport] has revealed that the public relations firm Butkus + Lykett will no longer be exclusively representing bloggers Beth of Shut Up And Run, ChrisK of The Manly Runner, or EMZ of If I Can't Convince You, I'll At Least Confuse You. What this means? Pundits are unsure, but word on the street is that this is a golden opportunity for other bloggers to revel, at least for some time, in the warm glow of blogger adulation. Who will be the next Celebrity Superblogger? Could it be You? Why Not?

If you are in the market for representation, or just feel that Butkus + Lykett might be able to push your blog over the top, head over to their website and let them know why you are deserving.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Boston Qualifying, Trail Runner Magazine, Why Wear Trail Shoes?

"At least 99 percent of running is just showing up,
getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other."

- John Hanc, The Essential Runner

Once I made the decision to make this a ChrisK tribute blog (who can resist The Manly Runner?), it was only fitting that he appear (not literally) in a well-known, national magazine. Yes, that's right, not only Beth from Shut Up And Run (SEWER) made the big leagues.
  1. Not only was the article entitled BQ or Die, but
  2. They mentioned ChrisK's blog, BQ or Die as well. 
Bravo Chris, you're almost famous! Maybe now a woman will be able to love that 47 year old shallow commitment phobe searching for single, drunk, and horny women for booty calls or possible meaningless relationships. 

The most recent Trail Runner Mag is soon to be released, and you can actually access it digitally by heading over to If you haven't read this magazine before or you don't have access to it, the digital editions are fun to look through.

Recently Patrick (of The Road [Multi-Sport] ) and I tweeted back and forth about trail running shoes. He was looking at some very cool La Sportiva shoes, but I questioned whether he actually needed the more technical trail shoes for the locations he normally runs. I have some more technical trail shoes, which are a boon in winter and on a few of the trails I run on, but for the most part, I am just as comfortable running in road shoes. I decided to do some research into whether or not trail shoes are necessary and, while both sides are well-represented, there is no hard and fast rule. Runners World did, however, have a really great article on the benefits of trail shoes:

Why Wear Trail Shoes?

Here are a few reasons why trail shoes…are trail shoes.
  1. Traction. The soles of road shoes are meant to grip roads, meaning they’re not very effective on dirt, mud and rock. Trail shoes utilize various traction—like large lugs, multi-directional lugs with teeth strategically placed to maximize grip, and sticky rubber compounds to give you more control on a variety of trail surfaces.
  2. Protection. Unlike road shoes, trail shoes often feature tighter-weaved mesh uppers to protect your socks and feet from trail debris, as sand, silt and dirt is blocked by the tight weave. Also, those beefy, rubber caps you often see on the toes of trail shoes serve an important purpose. They’re called “toe bumpers,” and they protect your toes from pain and bruises, should you kick a rock or root. And finally, most trail running shoes have some sort of flexible (some are more flexible than others), hard plastic plate within the midsole that’s there to block sharp jabs from rocks, roots, stick and such. The plate saves the underside of your feet from surprising pain.
  3. Support/Stability. Some road shoes—the ones built for overpronators—have stability built into the midsole to straighten our a runner’s footstrike. But trail shoes provide stability to all runners, neutral and overpronators alike…and everyone in between. This is a different kind of stability (though an increasing number of trail shoes are integrating traditional medial posts into their shoes). Trail shoe stability comes from more supportive materials on the upper that really aim to strap your foot down and keep it from slip-sliding around too much. That, joined with what’s often a more secure fit in the heel that fans out to a wider toe box, provides stability within the shoe. Externally, trail shoes often feature a wider platform…picture fat, bumpy tires extending from the sides of an off-road vehicle.
  4. Looks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a white trail shoe, and if you did, it wouldn’t be white for long. Trail running shoes are darker colors to hide, or at least, to provide a colorful backdrop for, all that great dirt and grime you’ll pick up on the trail. Plus, they look a lot cooler with your jeans that your whiter-than-white road shoes.
(List originally appeared on the Runner's World website.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Under Armour Socks

While I've tested (and will continue to test) quite a few shoes in a quest to find those that support, cosset, and protect me while running, I'm always amazed at just how much difference a good pair of socks can make. I recently was given the opportunity to test out two styles of Under Armour's HeatGear® line of running socks and came away impressed for several reasons.

  • Signature Moisture Transport wicks sweat and accelerates evaporation.
  • Strategic Cushion provides shock protection and space compensation.
  • ArmourFit™ elevated support for a more secure fit.
  • True Seamless Toe for ultimate comfort.
  • Strategic vent zones built into key points where the body dumps heat, keeping you cool, dry, and comfortable.
  • ArmourBlock® helps prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria in the sock. The result: moisture transport with maximum scent suppression.
  • HeatGear®: For when it's hot. Keeping athletes cool, dry, and light. Ideal use: Extremely warm weather. Over a decade ago, HeatGear®, the original second skin layer, sparked the revolution of performance apparel.
These socks interested me for two reasons. One, they feel soft and fluffy in hand, yet stretch to thinly cover the foot, without losing the feeling of cushioning, something I can't figure out. Second, these socks are in no way expensive for the comfort and seeming quality they possess.

  • Under Armour's best technology, built specifically for running. Seamless toe eliminates abrasion for total comfort.
  • Advanced cushioning elements provide protection and space compensation.
  • Left/Right technology gives an unparalleled anatomical fit.
  • Accelerated moisture release technology filters moisture to the outside of the sock, keeping you cool and dry.
  • HeatGear®: For when it's hot. Keeping athletes cool, dry, and light. Ideal use: Extremely warm weather. Over a decade ago, HeatGear®, the original second skin layer, sparked the revolution of performance apparel.
These socks felt and looked like they would make me a better runner, though, of course, that is idle daydreaming on my part. They do however, work as advertised. Incredibly comfortable, wicking and breathable, these will be in heavy rotation for warm-weather running. Or, as luck would have it, continued treadmill running as winter retains its grip on the Midwest. These socks are also designed as a left or right specific sock. I kept planning to try the sock on the opposite foot to check whether this claim held water but, I kid you not, without looking and without fail, I put the left sock on left foot and right sock on right foot. I wonder if they are subtly weighted differently. Considering how many times I ran in these socks, it seems more than chance that they always ended up on the correct foot.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Jennifer at Maguire Public Relations, Inc and Under Armour. 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

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling

From Chronicle Books:

Cycling is exploding—in a good way. Urbanites everywhere, from ironic hipsters to earth-conscious commuters, are taking to the bike like aquatic mammals to water. BikeSnobNYC—cycling's most prolific, well-known, hilarious, and anonymous blogger—brings a fresh and humorous perspective to the most important vehicle to hit personal transportation since the horse. Bike Snob treats readers to a laugh-out-loud rant and rave about the world of bikes and their riders, and offers a unique look at the ins and outs of cycling, from its history and hallmarks to its wide range of bizarre practitioners. Throughout, the author lampoons the missteps, pretensions, and absurdities of bike culture while maintaining a contagious enthusiasm for cycling itself. Bike Snob is an essential volume for anyone who knows, is, or wants to become a cyclist.

If you are a fan of BikeSnobNYC (aka Eben Weiss), you need to realign your expectations before opening Bike Snob Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling (2010, San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books). There ARE a few choice literary tidbits like "While some Roadies do ride off-road as well, many are put off by the presence of distasteful things like mud, rocks, fun, and a spirit of camaraderie" (comparing Roadies and Mountain Bikers). For the most part, however, the book is a serious look at cycling, though it has more breadth than depth. The writing is of good quality, pithy stories are intermingled with sound advice, and all in all it's a decent read. Not at all what I expected or wanted, I think a compendium of blog posts is warranted, to give Eben his due. Still a decent effort and worth searching out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Blogger: You

The Manly Runner has done it again. In the perfect combination of blog laziness and sheer genius, he is having his readers create the post and, I have to admit, the results so far are interesting. Haven't seen it? Haven't added your 2¢? Head over to his blog, where the Guest Blogger is You!

Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women