Friday, September 28, 2012

The Longest Race Book Review

“If you fall, then you crawl.”

The Longest Race Book Cover

The Longest Race : A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance by Ed Ayres (The Experiment, distributed by Workman) will go on-sale October 9th. I was happy enough to get an advance copy and read it before, during, and after The North Face Endurance Challenge, really ideal timing.

The bones of the book, as it were, is a single running of the JFK 50Mile Ultramarathon in 2001, but Ed fleshes this out with a lifetime of experiences. Not just running, but musings on nature, examples of research, and tales of family.

Ed proposes some novel ideas, all through the lens of sustainability and his many years of long-distance running. Having competed in over 600 long-distance races, including finishing third in the inaugural New York City Marathon, as well as starting the magazine Running Times, he has the authority and knowledge to make these comparisons work.

Probably the most interesting line of thought, or the one that resonated the most with me, is the evolution of man the prey to hunter or hunter-and-gatherer, to farmer, to urban dweller. He posits that, because we no longer hunt, we have fallen prey to some serious mental confusion, since we are no longer honoring that evolution by distancing ourselves from our food source. Further inflaming this discussion, he posits that, by no longer hunting, some people have become warlike to sublimate that hunting need in the killing of others. Whew. A parallel thread looks at how the hunter-gatherers evolved alongside each other, with some members of the tribe being those that could run down the animals, others to make the kill, with the remaining in support roles of carrying the animal back to the tribe, and so forth. Really fascinating.

Many other things I found myself in agreement with, such as his take on competition: “But for a sixty-year-old man balancing the emotional pulls of family, country, and world, as well as the management of his own body and soul, ambivalence goes with the territory.” I’m not a sixty-year-old man, but even as a forty-six-year-old, I feel that same ambivalence—it’s hard for me to get overly excited about a running race compared to so many other important things in my life.

We're both optimistic about the future: “Worldwide, a hundred million long-distance runners, and who knows how many other allied communities of mindful people, are steadily, quietly moving forward toward more enduring, less consuming and corrupting, lifestyles—both as highly independent, self-directed individuals and as consciously interdependent members of their communities, ecosystems, and world.” I would definitely count myself as one of those allied with this community.

The Longest Race concludes with “Notes for an Aspiring Ultrarunner,” with Ed’s suggestions and advice on gear, nutrition, mindset, training regimens, technique, and more. 10 points are made for those looking to ultramarathons as a possible goal, with Ed’s admonition that:
“Ultrarunning is not separate from the rest of life. It will affect your overall vitality, endurance, and patience, and may also affect your relationships and worldview.”
Powerful stuff. This book should be on everybody’s list, whether or not you are planning on running long-distances. Much like ultrarunning, this book may affect your worldview.

About the Author: Author Ed Ayres  has been running competitively for 55 consecutive years, and he loves it as much now as he did when he joined his high school cross-country team in 1956. He was the founding editor and publisher of Running Times magazine, and he worked for 13 years as the editorial director of Worldwatch, published by the Worldwatch Institute.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - via The Experiment Publishing. 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 websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Universal Sole Trail Challenge

I wasn’t sure what other events, if any, I might register for this year, until Kim of Ilax Studio told me about the Universal Sole Trail Challenge, a trail race in Schiller Woods that was taking place in mid-November. I’ve driven by these woods many times on the way to O’Hare Airport and wondered about running there. This would be an opportunity to check it out in a supported fashion. Laima and I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but it’s a definite possibility. If you’re interested, head over to the registration page.

The Square by Clean Bottle

The Square by Clean Bottle -- No, it probably won't fit in most bike cages, but it's meant more as a "lifestyle" bottle, good for bringing to the gym, having on your desk in the office, that kind of thing. There are designer purses, designer sunglasses, designer watches, etc. but there's no real "designer" water bottle, so Clean Bottle wanted to address that need. They wanted to design a water bottle that is not only functional (opens from both ends for cleaning, doesn't roll away if dropped, guaranteed for life) but also looks stunning! If you're interested in supporting them, check out the Kickstarter video.

Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon is coming up very soon! Laima and I are considering running next year. Anyone running it this year?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock and SlapStrapPro

Made of nylon, weighing less than a pound and a half, the Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock is designed for family-friendly car camping and backpacking. We, along with our kids, loved it! With a 400 pound capacity, heavy duty triple-stitched seams, and simple set-up, it’s a guaranteed favorite for everyone, except for the inevitable squabbling over whose turn it is. :)

Carabiner attachments mean easy-on and off, with no worries about knots coming loose or becoming impossible to untie. We took our hammock all over the place, on walks and bike rides to neighborhood parks, in our backyard, and on our camping trip to Ottawa Lake  during The North Face Endurance Challenge. Since it compresses neatly in its attached stuff sack, it’s a cinch to toss it into the camping box, into a backpack, or just hang off the handlebars if you want.

To make things even simpler, and to give yourself WAY more options on where to hang it, get the SlapStrapPro hammock suspension system. At a half pound, they don’t add much in the way of weight, but allow you to hang the hammock between trees that are too wide for the hammock itself. Flat webbing is tree-friendly, while sewn-on loops allow the hammock carabiners easy attachment at a variety of tree space widths.

This is truly a must-have for anyone who spends time in the outdoors, especially if you have kids. Not only is it a romantic spot to snuggle with your significant other, it gives the kids a place to play or use as a swing. Turn it into a couch and sit back in front of the fire (not too close!) or lay back and laze away an afternoon. Lightweight, simple to use, and totally portable, it’s a win in every way.

For more information or to purchase your own, check out the Eagles Nest Outfitters website,  follow on Twitter,  and Like on Facebook.

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

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brooks Running PureConnect and ID Elite Long Sleeve

Brooks Running PureConnect

The first time I wore these shoes I hated them, partly because they pinched my instep, but mostly because they weren’t my new favorites, the PureFlows. But I overcame that initial mental hiccup, adjusted the laces and guess what? They’re pretty cool as well, though quite different than the PureFlows. The PureConnects are the lightest and most flexible shoe in the line, with open mesh materials for featherweight breathability, and a split toe groove that gives extra flexibility. Their goal with this shoe puts as little as necessary between you and the ground. The Nav Band provides close-to-foot fit (but also can pinch if laced too tight, at least in my case). What do the experts think? The PureConnects were named "Best Debut" by Runner's World in their Winter 2012 Shoe Guide. Not bad.

These shoes are incredibly light, give support yet retain ground feel, and are comfortable for a variety of distances. It seems to me that they are a bit narrower than the PureFlows, but it also might just be the 2 pairs I am comparing. These are an excellent shoe for someone who is interested in trying out minimalist shoes, but isn’t quite ready to give up some cushioning and support. I ran in them again this morning, just to confirm that my initial impression was wrong—and it was. These shoes will definitely be a part of the rotation going forward.

Brooks Running ID ELite Long Sleeve
Vibrant color, no?

The ID Elite Long Sleeve is an interesting shirt, to say the least. I wore it on a hot day in mid-summer, but also on a cooler day this fall. It worked in both cases. The ID Elite is an update of the Equilibrium LS , achieved by adding ultra-soft mesh Silc Lite for added breathability and comfort on the skin. 360 degrees of reflectivity, and vibrant Brooks Blue for daytime visibility, this fitted top lets you be seen and also work out in comfort. Brooks makes no claim for this shirt beyond moisture-transfer for dry running, but it really is 2 shirts in one, as it also works as a primary layer for cooler days.

As always, their products come with the Brooks' True Blue Guarantee, a no-questions-asked, 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your new Brooks equipment within the first 30 days after purchase, they will replace or exchange your product. Nice.

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

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Motivation: What's Next?

Ann Trason Ultrarunning Quote

"It hurts up to a point 
and then it doesn't get any worse."
-- Ann Trason, Ultramarathoner

First run post-50K yesterday, cold at 37 degrees, felt strange to be bundled up, wearing gloves and ear covers. Not a long run, 3.5 miles or so, but felt pretty good, apart from some knee soreness at the end. Interesting to run with no goal, no plan, but now, with the completion of The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K, I fulfilled a long-time dream to complete an ultramarathon. It has really been my focus over the past year or so, and especially in the 20 weeks leading up to the event. So what's next?

With Hero Rush Chicagoland cancelled, all I have left planned in terms of events is the Bonfield Express, our local 5K that we run with the kids. I'll look around and see if something catches my eye, but everything would have to line up just right for me to sign up for another event this year. In 2013 the focus will shift to the Chicago Marathon--Laima will be running her first marathon and that's the one we've chosen (though I did mention possibly doing The North Face Endurance Challenge marathon instead...we'll see.)

Two projects that remain unfinished this year are mileage goals I set for myself, 1,000 miles running and cycling:
  • Cycling: 758.82 miles, leaving 241.18 miles, or about 17.25 miles per week.
  • Running:547.58 miles, leaving 452.42 miles, or about 32.5 miles per week.
Depending on our winter weather, the cycling goal should be relatively easy to attain, but I'm going to have to be very motivated to make the 1000 miles running. 32+ miles a week would be a LOT for me to average (I've averaged just under 14.5 this year), though of course it's quite doable. It would also give me a good head start on my marathon base for next year.

What are your plans for the rest of your year?

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Funny: Ultrarunning Humor

Ultrarunning - if you die, we split your gear
I saw this over at

I thought it would be nice to celebrate the end of my first week as an ultrarunner (still can't believe it!), with a little ultrarunning humor. Following are some funnies related to ulrarunning (author noted where known, sorry if I shared something without proper acknowledgement).

"Any idiot can run a marathon. It takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon."

"Ultramarathon Basics: Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Repeat as needed."

"If you start to feel good during an ultra, don't worry, you will get over it." - Gene Thibeault

"If you look up, you're going down!" - Eric Steele

"I decided to go for a little run." - Forrest Gump

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three Things Thursday

We had a great time at The North Face Challenge this past weekend. Especially gratifying to see was the Karno Kids Runs, one held on Saturday, the other Sunday. On the second day, we actually met Dean Karnazes just before Tazer and Munchkin toed the line. I then took a short video of the actual start--Dean shows up near the end of this minute-long video, hamming it up for me. What a guy!

Don't forget that the Handful Bra Giveaway ends at the of today. Laima has gotten a great response over at Women's Endurance Gear, so head over to get your entries in!

Women's Endurance Gear Handful Bra Giveaway

Chicago Hero Rush will not be held this year, unfortunately. An earlier date was rescheduled, but it appears that most early participants did not want to or could not make the change. Here's what the race organizer's had to say: "...we’ve made the incredibly tough decision to not hold the Chicagoland event this year. While there have been some new registrations the last six weeks – and aggressive attempts to get new registrants through Facebook, email and locally – it was not enough to offset the loss of many of our participants." It's a shame, but hopefully they'll be more successful next year. On the positive side, the cancellation means that our anniversary weekend has opened up to more choices now!

Hero Rush Logo

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RV Camping at Ottawa Lake Campground

Ottawa Lake Campground Collage

Since the start and finish of The North Face Endurance Challenge Madison is held on the grounds of Ottawa Lake Campground (in the Kettle Moraine South Unit, Wisconsin), we decided to make it a family camping trip, renting an RV for the first time. It is a beautiful camping area, relatively close to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, and features sites for RVs (electric and not), and tent camping only. While some spots are reservable in advance, some are held back for same-day camping, which is nice if you can't always plan ahead. With multiple bathroom houses (some with showers and one with a laundromat), one could easily spend up to the allowed 14 days here. Manmade fun include the lake beach for swimming and wading and a couple of playgrounds. On Saturday night, we were treated to an evening lecture about wildlife rehabilitation, meeting Waldo the Woodchuck, who entranced the kids (he WAS very cute!). Nature surrounds you, and there are hiking and equestrian trails to challenge any level of fitness. Some are even okay for trail running. :)

Pets are allowed in some of the campsites and on several trails, though not all, and should remain leashed at all times. We saw some dogs unleashed at the owners' campsites, and all the dogs (save one) seemed well-behaved. Definitely a nice place for a dog outing!

We switched sites after the first 2 nights, since our original spot was sufficient, but not beautiful, and somewhat open for our taste. The most beautiful sites, in our opinion, are the outer ring sites, but one area which included the electric abut the main road and the others had no electricity, which we wanted for our RV. None of the sites have water, which meant we had to conserve the onboard tanks for toilet flushing and dish washing, but water fountains, showers and toilets were available nearby, so not a big deal all in all.

RV Rental Collage

For our first-ever RV Rental, we discovered DeHaan RV Rentals, conveniently between our home and the campground in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Their rates seemed very reasonable and fair compared to some other places we looked at and, since they were only about 25 miles from the campground, we didn't have to pay onerous mileage fees! RV rental is not an intuitive act, but DeHaan made it it relatively painless. By far the best aspect was their RV Intro Hour, where Aaron walked me through every part inside and out, explaining how it all worked, then had me take him for a test drive to make sure I was a relatively safe driver. Not sure other RV Rental companies do that, though they should, gave me lots of peace of mind.

The RV itself was more than adequate for our family of 6, especially since Little Worker slept with Laima and myself. First 2 nights, I had really good sleeps, which is nice when trail racing is involved the next morning. The slide out room gave us a feeling of spaciousness, while the outdoor awning gave us a covered area to eat and hangout. Storage was plentiful, but awkward, probably since we were only spending three nights. We used the TV Sunday night, just to catch our breaths and try out the system--totally adequate except it was difficult to hear the sound over the fan noise. Since it was relatively cool, we turned off the fan and problem solved.

Monday morning we stopped at the refuse location, dumping our waste with no problem--another good reason to have the introductory hour at the rental location (ever seen the movie "RV" with Robin Williams? Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!).

S'Mores Collage

We are definitely planning on returning next fall for the next Endurance Challenge--Gaigai says she wants to run the half-marathon (Dean was impressed when she told him--did I mention we met Dean Karnazes?!). We will camp again, and will just have to decide if we want to tent-camp, rent an RV again, or maybe try a travel trailer--we'll definitely head back to DeHaan if we opt either of the latter.

Both the North Face Endurance Challenge and Ottawa Lake Campground are worth a try--hopefully we'll see you there next year!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 TNF Endurance Challenge Madison 50K

"Great job Papa!
You're an ultramarathoner!
You're also the best Papa in the world!
XOXO Gaigai"
(from a card she made me after the race)

For my first ultra, The North Face Endurance Challenge in Madison was an inspired choice—gorgeous course, thorough and professional race directing, outstanding volunteers and, for a relatively remote trail race, a large, loud and supportive mass of spectators. The fact that we could camp several hundreds of yards from the start/finish line made this a complete weekend, a true immersion into the ultra experience.

The morning of the race dawned cold and misty, with a beautiful fog rolling through. To pick up my bib, I wore arm sleeves and gloves, and was still chilly. Having forgotten the antibiotics I needed to take while on the course, I walked back to our camping spot, for more time with the family and the appealing warmth of the RV. Knowing the day was going to warm up, I decided to jettison the warmer gear and head to the start with minutes to spare.

2012 TNF ECS Madison

Not long after returning to the festival area, I ran into Kim (Ilax Studio),  who was to be my running partner for the race. Almost immediately, another runner/blogger, Rachel (Running in Real Life)  approached Kim and introduced herself. She brought along Matt and Kim (of Life in the Twin Lane,  who was pacing Julia of Pain, Pride and Perseverance,  who was running her first 50 Miler). Since Rachel was planning a similar pace to Kim and I, she ran along with us and, subsequently, Matt and Kim popped up at so many of the aid stations and along the course to cheer us on, which was really inspirational. Just before the start, Laima brought all the kids down, which was a great way to set off!

True to something needing to fail on race day, my Garmin turned on and then immediately off, which was both good and bad. Without the watch to fall back on, I could not look at my wrist every few seconds to gauge our pace. Kim and Rachel were both wearing watches though, so I kept track through them. Beyond the Garmin, I wore my Brooks PureFlows, Compressport calf sleeves, Brooks Sherpa 2-in-1 shorts, a Brooks tech tee, Ryders Eyewear sunglasses, a Compressport visor, and a GoLite hydration waist belt. Everything excepting the Garmin worked really well and were good choices, though there were times I wished I had a sleeveless shirt (it got warm!).

Kettle Moraine is comprised of endless hills, prairies, and beautiful wooded areas. We ran on an incredible variety of surfaces, ranging from mown grass to soft sand to ostrich-egg sized rocks (and bigger!). It kept things interesting and on our toes. Well, most of the time--we all took some tumbles, stubbing toes on exposed roots and rocks, falling ass over teakettle.

The first 13 miles of so were a pleasant interlude, as we got to know each other and enjoyed the incredible scenery we were running through. At one road bend, I ran into Brian of New Leaf Ultras, who I had never met before, but recognized from Facebook—he was there to support his wife Kelly, cheering her on with his son. Heading into the second third of the race, I developed a pain in the ball of my left foot. At the 16 mile aid station, I re-laced my shoe, took my antibiotics and pain reliever,, and hoped for the best. It temporarily seemed to do the trick, but the pain soon returned, adding some sharp knee pain as well. Not good. By the 22 mile aid tent, I was alternating running and walking, and the pain went from knee to calf to ball of foot, just a dull ache that would not stop. I continued alternating running and walking, allowing Kim and Rachel to get ahead before running to catch them—after awhile, it hurt just as much to walk as run, so I ran as much as I could.

There were times I really felt like stepping off the course and not finishing. Knowing that Laima and the kids were waiting for me at the end of the race was one of the things that kept me going and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I also felt like I owed Kim and Rachel a full effort, as we had supported each other so much during the early stages—they were so strong, really impressive! The other thing was that, apart from the leg pain, I felt really good, somewhat tired, but not struggling. At the aid stations I ate bananas, brownies, and potato chips, with some water, Nuun, or Gu Roctane, so my fueling and hydration seemed to be okay. So, on I went, and we all finished together, which was as it should be, having started together.

2012 TNF ECS Madison 50K

We got back just in time for me to watch Tazer, Gaigai, and Munchkin run the Karno Kids Race, a kilometer long fun run with a variety of children’s characters running alongside, including Spongebob Squarepants. The child who could beat Spongebob won a North Face backpack! Tazer got third on Saturday and then second on Sunday, when they reprised the race—so close!

While waiting for the Kids Race to finish, I started feeling lightheaded, so I walked over to the Medical Tent, where they gave me a bag of ice to put on my neck and a chair in the shade. Not long after, I threw up some water, ate a banana, and felt a lot better. Laima and the kids collected me, we walked back to the RV, and I lay down for a while until it was time to make dinner—well, collect dinner, as we had pizzas delivered to the campground gatehouse. It was a nice celebration.

If you had asked me if I planned to run another ultra on Saturday, either during or after the race, I probably would have answered no. By Saturday evening, I was starting to reconsider. In a bit of serendipity, I am reading Ed Ayres' book The Longest Race, about ultrarunning and human endurance (among other things, a great book, a must-read for aspiring or current ultrarunners, review forthcoming). The knee and leg pain may have been just bad luck, but I believe it was more a case of not having enough deposits in the bank, not enough miles in my legs to actually run this race. I think the Smart Marathon Training Plan  was a good one, I just did not execute it to its fullest, and will definitely use it going forward.

I can see the appeal of ultramarathons, at least the ones run in beautiful surroundings, with the testing of oneself and the conditions received. Next year Laima and I are planning on the Chicago Marathon, so I will make sure to get in plenty of longer runs before then. Healthier eating is also a must, as is weight loss – at about 40 pounds overweight, I ran this ultra as if I was carrying an extra toddler! Really displaying grace and endurance, Laima ran an amazing half marathon on Sunday at The North Face Endurance Challenge, her first trail race! Read all about it at Women’s Endurance Gear!

2012 TNF ECS Madison Finishers Medals

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Monday, September 17, 2012

2012 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K, Madison

TNF ECS Madison 50K Finish Collage

The weekend is over, from the photos above you can see I finished my first ultra, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K, with Kim (of Ilax Studio) and Rachel (of Running in Real Life). Laima (Women's Endurance Gear) rocked the half marathon, her first trail race! Recap tomorrow.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 20: The North Face Endurance 50K Training

Taper week - was looking forward to this, but with this massive toothache, am bummed that it is more painful than relaxing. Not the way I would have planned on tapering, but, on the positive side, it is forcing me to take it easy and not try to get some last bit fitness in--we all know how well that works!

Monday: 15 Mile Ride
  • No way I was riding this morning, was just hoping that the dentist could see me and suggest how to get rid of the pain. Luckily they got me in just before lunch, suggested a root canal (scheduled for Wednesday) and prescribed pain killers and antibiotics.
Tuesday: Drills
  • Hoping to ride this morning, but did not get rested and, even with Vicodin, the toothache persisted. Add nausea and some dizziness, and, as Laima suggested, not a great idea to go riding. Oh well.
Wednesday: Tempo 6 Mile Run
  • Um, nope, just planning on getting through the day until I get to my dentist appointment this afternoon. Feeling pretty good today, the antibiotics are working and much of the pain is subdued. Laima and I had a good date night last night, heading into the city for a restaurant review of Untitled Chicago. Great company, great dinner, and a really nice walk before and after our meal.

Chicago Architecture - Night
Beautiful view of the buildings, lights, and river from a bridge

Thursday: Core
  • Root canal yesterday was tougher than expected; dentist kept me waiting over a half hour with a numbed mouth, then it wasn't enough to dull the pain, sore this morning, but I'll take that over the excruciating pain before. 
  • One last day of teleworking, I've started some of the planning/packing, but tonight and tomorrow morning will really be when it all has to come together!
  • Quick 2.5 mile run to knock the rust off. Felt good and barely noticed the tooth, hopefully harbinger of good things to come. 70 degrees and humid, similar to what we can expect Saturday, though humidity may be lower.
Friday: OFF
  • We're headed out today at lunch to pick up the RV and then on to Ottawa Lake Campground, where we will be camping and The North Face Endurance Challenge will start and finish--very convenient! Really looking forward to 4 days together as a family, trying out RVing, and, oh yeah, doing some trail running.
Saturday: Race - 50K (My first Ultra!)
  • Hard to believe that tomorrow I will finish my first ultra. It's been on my mind for a couple of years and, after 20 not so consistent weeks of training, the day is nigh. I'm really approaching it as just part of an amazing weekend experience, and, while I'm confident I can finish, hope that the journey will also be enjoyable. On Wednesday I got some great news, when Kim from Ilax Studio agreed to run with me - should be a lot more pleasant with someone else along, though she warned me she plans on becoming smelly and I might have to ditch her. We'll see.
Sunday: Laima's Race - Trail Half-Marathon
  • As inconsistent as I've been, Laima has been the exact opposite. I have been so impressed with the work she put in getting ready, definitely not easy when you are the mother of 4 crazy kids! She is going to have an awesome race--her first trail half! Read about her training and her race report next week at Women's Endurance Gear.
(Training Plan adapted from Jeff Horowitz’ Smart Marathon Training)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bad Little Falls Audiobook Review

I don’t normally listen to audiobooks, simply for the reasons that I’m rarely in the car, don’t own a handheld cd player, and would usually rather curl up with an actual book instead. Recently, however, my interest was piqued when I received the audiobook version of Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron and, coincidentally, I had to spend some longer times in the car. It's read by Henry Leyva and I found it pretty fascinating how he was able to modify his voice to reflect the many accents, styles, and near-dialects of speech in this tale. I’m a big fan of books set in wild, remote places, probably because they are diametrically opposite of my own life. Outdoor thrillers are also fun around the time you go camping, as we are this coming weekend.

Bad Little Falls Audiobook Cover

Maine game warden Mike Bowditch has been sent into exile, transferred by his superiors to a remote outpost on the Canadian border. What starts as a rescue mission in the wilderness soon becomes a baffling murder investigation. If Bowditch is going to catch a killer, he must survive on his own wits and discover strength he never knew he possessed. Falling for the wrong woman, whose nerdy son also captures his heart, Bowditch must get past his usual impulsive behavior, convince skeptical superiors and compatriots, and believe in himself to bring the murderer to justice.

If you’re not a fan of audiobooks, try this one out; barring that, get the hardcover and enjoy the story on your own.

About the Author: Bestselling author Paul Doiron is the editor in chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine. A native of Maine, he attended Yale University and holds an MFA from Emerson College. His first book, The Poacher’s Son, is the winner of the Barry Award, the Strand Award for best first novel, and a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards. Paul is a Registered Maine Guide and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine with his wife, Kristen Lindquist.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - via Macmillan Audio. 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 websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Earth Runners

Earth Runners Sandals
Earth Runners are the first ever conductive minimalist footwear inspired by the world renowned long distance runners, the Tarahumara Indians of Northwestern Mexico. The original conductive design allows you to absorb ever-present subtle electrical energies of the Earth. This provides an experience similar to that of going barefoot while still enjoying a measure of safety from varied terrains or street hazards. The soles of our feet are natural access points for life force energy from the planet. Typical footwear blocks these natural incoming flows of vital ground source energy, and thus impacts our health and how we move and live upon the earth.

The self-molding sandals give you that satisfying "ground feel", while offering both protection and comfort in an exceptionally functional sandal. Earth Runners come in two unique models - the Quantum and the Ultralight; both are designed to accommodate wearers comfortably in a wide range of urban and outdoor environments. They’ve tested the sandals across hundreds of miles of terrain over the past year and now are excited to share them with the world!

They’re passionate about promoting a more grounded way of living that’s available when we tap into and connect with the vast resource of abundant electrical energy of the Earth itself. They pledge that for every ten sandals sold, they will donate a pair to Seva Sandals  - an organization dedicated to providing sandals at no cost to children in India.
I’ve tried other running sandals, with mixed results. My primary concern has revolved around the lacing system, typically a woven lace similar to those used in sneakers. Earth Runners have definitely improved on this by using webbing, which means they are waterproof and won’t stretch, and the webbing lies flat on the feet, for more comfort. Friction buckles means they can be tightened as much as is desired.

Earth Runners Foot Scan

To get the sandals, one must trace and measure a foot and then email the results to the company—not difficult and it makes for a more custom fit.

The website is full of information, questions were quickly answered via email, and overall it was a good customer experience. If you’re in the market for running sandals, or are interested in what they’re all about, Earth Runners is a good place to start.

Please visit the Earth Runners website,  follow on Twitter,  subscribe to their Youtube channel groundedSymbiosis,  and “like” their Facebook page.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Earth Runners. 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 websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gnar Lube

Gnar Lube Collage

The gnarliest lube on earth. Lube increases chain life and reduces chain noise. What makes it gnar is the patented formula they developed with top scientists from the fields of all things oily and lubilicous. Basically, it's made from the best unicorn dust in the multiverse and other stuff made here on earth.

Gnar Lube - made of unicorn dust

Basically, your bike chain needs to be lubed. Gnar offers a fun way to do it, and involves not just sight and touch, but your olfactory senses as well. And they offer lubes for a variety of conditions, allowing you to maintain your bike year-round. Pink Delicacy, vanilla scented, is best used in a variety of conditions, wet, dry or dirty and is Teflon-enhanced. The Blue Opal, coconut scented, is best in extreme weather conditions and is Moly and PTFE infused. Gang Green, apple scented, is great for all conditions.

Gnar Lube Products

One of the best thing about these products is they smell good, so your bike smells good. And it doesn’t squeak. If your bike squeaks, it sucks. Don't have a squeeky bike, use Gnar Lube. Gnar Lube also has other great products: apparel, accessories, posters, mountain bikes through Land Shark Bikes. Products that work, are fun to use, and a company with a sense of humor - check them out.

Welcome to Gnarnia!

More information can be found on the Gnar Lube website  and on Facebook.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Gnar Lube. 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 websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 19: The North Face Endurance 50K Training

Monday: Core
  • Felt like cycling today, so I put aside my anxiety about riding in the dark and off I went. Nice morning for it, cool but humid, so odd sensation of sweating hard and feeling cold at the same time. Good way to start the week.
  • Tazer's injury (See Training Injury and Training Wheels) made this a less than happy day, but ultimately he seems fine, which is all that matters.
Kovas - postrun

Tuesday: 15 Mile Ride
  • Rode yesterday and no run on the schedule today, but felt like getting out for a short run, trying out some new apparel from Race Ready and new Brooks PureConnect shoes. Planned on an easy 3-4 mile run, but ended up running through the neighborhood and down through Maple Woods, ending up just over 5. Maybe the shoes or pre-race nervousness, but ran too fast most of the time.
  • In great news, Laima and I were able to find an RV to rent for the Endurance Challenge. I had put off getting it done, and then it turns out that NASCAR was holding the GEICO 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway on September 16th, so RVs were few and far between AND the ones that were available were priced through the roof. We would have tent-camped if needed, but I'm glad we don't have to. Our first RV camp outing!
Wednesday: OFF
  • Enjoyed a stroll around downtown during my lunch break, city feels so different with summertime visitors absent, not quiet, but less crowded and easier to get around.
Thursday: 10 Mile Run
  • Knew I probably wouldn't get this run in today, but no worries, a had Friday and Saturday if needed.
Friday: Strength/Core
  • Daily Double Run 1: 5 miles on the treadmill, started watching "French Kiss," pretty funny and a good soundtrack as well.
  • Never got the second of the daily double in, too much going on--this is a crazy busy weekend, with soccer games, neighborhood block party, work today, etc.
Saturday: 20 Mile Ride
  • Put this off until Sunday, hoping to get the remaining 5 mile run in. Another busy day derailed those plans, but no worries, running fitness will not be improved markedly so close to the event anyway.
Sunday: Speedwork/Drills
  • Serious rainy storm passed through the night, leaving everything wet and slick, so no road riding for me and no trail riding as not to tear up the track.
  • I probably would not have ridden this morning anyway, as I had a serious toothache, painful enough that I literally could not lie down to sleep, but instead napped sitting upright in a chair. Resulting lack of sleep made for grumpiness and lethargy. The worst of it is that the toothache is in a tooth where a crown was put in a year ago (A YEAR AGO!)--seriously considering having the tooth pulled; would love to change dentists, but she's the only game in town for our insurance.
(Training Plan adapted from Jeff Horowitz’ Smart Marathon Training)

Total Training:Next week is taper week, looking forward to it. All that remains is a 15 mile ride and a 6 mile run, though I'll try to remain active as much as feels comfortable.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Making the Big Time: Mentioned in Outside Mag

Outside October 2012 cover

I've been a long-time fan of Outside Magazine, subscribing for probably 20 years or more. It's given me ideas for outdoor activities to try out, destinations to visit, and a lifestyle to emulate (more often covet). Their 35th Anniversary Issue is a compilation of readers' thoughts, suggestions, and prized outdoor possessions. I've spent a lot of time outside, using all sorts of gear, from my youth at the beach to skiing to rock climbing to triathlon. So many pieces of gear could have been my favorite. Ultimately however, the one that came to the forefront the strongest was our Kelty Backpack Carrier, which allowed us not only to continue heading outside, but also allowed us to bring our kids along. Here's the excerpt from Outside:
"It's been with us through four children. It has acted as a high chair, a napping station, a backpack, and so much more."
Very cool way to start the fall season! Kids were pretty impressed, too. :)

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Skora Running

Do you know about Skora Running? They believe that running shoes should be built to encourage running performance that is as biomechanically correct as possible, with minimal interference. Their footwear lets people run naturally -- Run Real is their philosophy. Looking forward to trying out these funky but chic running shoes!

TNF Endurance Challenge Madison

Just over a week until we run in The North Face Endurance Challenge! Great news this week in that we finally found an RV to rent for a reasonable amount. I procrastinated and almost paid the price -- turns out that the GEICO 400 is being raced the same weekend at Chicagoland Speedway and, since NASCAR fans are willing to pay exorbitant amounts to party in the infield, there were few RVs available around us and those that were had huge price tags. Whew!

Far too rarely, my mountain bike sits forlornly in the basement--this weekend, for more trail time, I'm going to make the effort to use my 29er rather than my road bike. Who knows, maybe next year I'll race the WORS (Wisconsin Off Road Series)!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Man Vs Wild Season 6 DVD

Man vs Wild Season 6 DVD cover

Love him or hate him (and there are plenty of people in both camps), Bear Grylls knows how to deliver entertaining adventure, along with some useful survival tips. Ever since I saw “Escape to the Legion,” a 4-part series depicting Bear’s brutal introduction to the French Foreign Legion, I’ve been a fan. Many were dismayed to find out that parts of “Man vs Wild” were staged, but it’s filmed entertainment, it’s to be expected, in my opinion.

In Season 6 of the hit series, Bear tackles a series of adventures that give him plenty of opportunities to show off his skills. Grylls never fails to entertain as he willingly strands himself in remote locations to demonstrate localized survival techniques, endure extreme challenges and bite into some unconventional foods along the way. Set in Arizona, Borneo, and other locations, the variety of terrains challenge him in different ways. He shares with viewers such necessary survival tactics as how to find water in the parched desert landscape, building a sand-buggy from a wrecked aircraft, crossing rock drops, fashioning a wetsuit from a seal's hide, trapping a wild boar, and skin diving without a mask. I hope we never have to utilize any of these skills, but it sure is fun and educational to see them done.

If you haven’t seen “Man vs Wild” before, or just haven’t checked it out in a while, pick up this entertaining Season 6 DVD. I especially urge you to find some younger children to watch with—their infectious enthusiasm will have you cheering along in no time./div>

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - via Krupp Kommunications, Inc. 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 websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Training Injury and Training Wheels

Tazer Injury Collage

In what is really the worse case scenario, Tazer got hurt while Laima was training yesterday. I would gladly get injured any day, in any way, before seeing Laima or the kids get hurt. I dropped Laima, Tazer, and Gaigai at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve, so that Laima could run on the Illinois Prairie Path while the kids played bike sherpa. I took the other 2 and headed up the road, where we would cheer them on at the 2 mile mark. While waiting, Laima phoned me and let me now Tazer had crashed on his bike, passing out briefly maybe and beating himself up in the process. Tazer has crashed plenty of times before, so I wasn't too worried, but when I saw him crying, bloody, and confused, it broke my heart. I try to be all business when there is an injury and work on cleaning up, maintaing calm, and figuring out what to do. We were headed to the in-laws and, since Laima's dad is a doctor, decided to continue on and have him checked out. Tazer continued his crying, stopping only to state that he couldn't remember anything--really terrifying to think that he could have suffered a concussion or worse. Later, we got him settled at the house and he seemed to improve as the afternoon progressed. We lazed by the pool and finally got him to go in when it seemed he was okay--I knew he was fine once he started being mean to Munchkin. :) This morning it appears that, apart from the physical contusions, he's just fine, thankfully.

Munchkin No Training Wheels

In more positive news, also with bike crashes, Munchkin decided that yesterday was the day he was going to start riding his bike without training wheels. We took him to Hooper's Hollow Park, where a grassy hill let us roll him down and then release him on the flat base. While not yet comfortable, Munchkin made lots of progress and will soon be careening around the neighborhood on his own.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Week 18: The North Face Endurance 50K Training

Monday: Core/20 Mile Ride
  • Today was a day that just didn't stop. With an all-day trip driving around Wisconsin looking at office space slated for Tuesday, lots of planning was going on. Cycling got pushed aside and just never made it on the day's agenda. Since I didn't have time to eat breakfast when I wanted (and I skipped cycling), I opted to try an intermittent fast. In my case, I didn't eat until lunch. Pretty much everyone agrees that eating a lower calorie diet is the way to go for longevity and long-term health (most people may not like hearing it, but the science is pretty conclusive). Now studies are looking at whether intermittent fasting can give some of the same benefits--in my understanding, intermittent simply means it is isn't ongoing and maybe doesn't last too long, but at this point, it's all up for grabs as the scientists sort it out. Anyway, it seemed a good opportunity and I spent the morning none the worse for wear.
Tuesday: 8 Mile Run
  • Really a nice morning for it, felt good the whole run, really feeling confident now for the ultra. Definitely feel like I can finish, now it's a question of enjoyment. This week's 20 miler will be a good indicator. Glad I got the run in before today's tour of Southern Wisconsin -- all day in a car!
Wednesday: OFF

Thursday: 20 Mile Run
  • Knew it wasn't going to happen today, too much on the docket workwise. Planned on making it up Friday or Saturday.
Friday: Strength/Core
  • A morning of working on the house, mowing the yard and other outdoor projects felt like plenty of work to me.
Herrick Lake Prairie

Saturday: 20 Mile Ride
  • 20 mile make-up run: 17 miles. This was a success/failure outing in every way. A success in that I wanted to quit after 1 mile, as my legs were dead, but continued running. A failure in that lots of walking was involved, but a success that I kept going. A failure in that I only got 17 miles in but a success that I got that far. The 20 miler a few weeks ago is an indicator that, on a good day, I can run farther. 
Sunday: Speedwork/Drills
  • After yesterday's long run, speed or hill work probably wasn't a good idea. Instead, spent the day hanging out with our baby, while Laima drove Tazer to his soccer tournament--3 games since they made it to the championship game. Nice to have a relaxing day.
(Training Plan adapted from Jeff Horowitz’ Smart Marathon Training)

Total Training: 25.26 mi, 4:30:44. Not sure what happened to cycling this week, just wasn't a priority. Hard to believe in 2 weeks I'll have run the Endurance Challenge, cheered Laima during her first trail half marathon, and enjoyed a weekend camping with the family!

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Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women