Sunday, April 18, 2010

Powerlines training

Today my friend Adam was supposed to join me on a 20 mile run so I could show him the Powerlines that I regularly train on. He called me early this morning and told me that he wasn't going to make it because his alergies are really acting up and he's sick. So I decided to take my new camera along and take pictures so I could show him what he missed. I get asked so many times what I think about on these long runs. I have a hard time answering that question without somebody being there seeing what I'm seeing. So today I present a photo essay of my morning run.

Ready to go! (and looking like a dork)

There is a 1.3 mile run on the road from my house to....

The entrance to the trail.

Thats as long as your shoes will stay dry, even if it is nice out.

The surface consists of nice soft trails to...

...lots of rocks and mud. Facebook friends of mine will remember that 3 weeks ago I posted a picture of my knee blown up from where I slipped on this trail. This is the spot where that happened. The big rock on the left is the one I smashed my knee into.

Much of this trail is ankle deep water with no way around.

3.5 miles into the run the trail crosses a dirt road and starts to go up. The steepest part of the climb is a half mile and this is where I do my hill repeats.

Nice soft trail. In the summer this part is covered with wild flowers. What you can't really see in this picture is how steep it is.

This is where it really starts to get steep. Its not so steep that you have to walk, but it is about as steep as I can go while still running. Perfect training.

This section is 4 miles in. Is is ankle deep mud that leads to a long waterhole.

Nowhere to go except strait through it.

It is so cold it is hard to get through it.

You crest a hill after the water hole and then it goes downhill to this section.

This goose was screaming at me. I'm guessing that there were little ones around.

At 4.85 miles you cross this class 6 road. Lets take a side trip.

Look up in the trees. There is part of a large tree about 20 feet up. Result of the windstorms that we had a few months ago.

A little ways up the road there are remnants of a front yard. There are steps going to nowhere.

And an old well.

I had to peek. I was bummed to see a beer can at the bottom.

I don't know much about old houses, but I think this was part of the foundation. I love imagining what it might have looked like when it was there. How long ago, I wonder?

The first time I explored the area I found this ammo box under a rock. I was freaked out that it was there and then I noticed that it had a NH geocashing website written on it so I had to peek inside to see what it was all about.

I wish that I had brought something to put in! Of course, I left everything exactly as it was.

I head back down the road and jump back on the powerlines. Not long after I have to cross this mess. It is knee deep and the bottom is full of soft sand. It fills my shoes with mud.

A little after the 7 mile mark there is a snowmobile trail that runs parallel to the powerlines. Its nice to change up the terrain. As you can see, it is as wet as the other trails.

The trail dumps out back onto the powerlines where its time to climb again.

I know that there is nothing I can do to get prepared for Leadvilles altititude, but this steep rocky trail is about the best training I can do around here.

More powerlines, as far as the eye can see. I'm heading over that ridge in the distance.

At 10.5 miles in, I run through a farm. There is a horse who could care less about me and these sheep.

After the farm, I run another .5 mile then turn around and head back. This is the view from the other way. This is at about the 12 mile mark. I stopped taking pictures because I ran the next 6 miles at marathon pace per my sadistic coaches demands. It feels good to open up the legs and breath heavy after stopping so many times to take pictures.

This is the view from the top of the steep hill where I run my hill intervals on the way back. Once last summer I was sprinting down this hill when I saw a bear running through the brushes on the right. I was flying and only saw a flash of black fur to my direct right, about 15 feet in front of me. If he kept going we would have collided. Luckily I startled him and he stopped in his tracks and turned. I have never run so fast in my life as I ran down that hill. If I had hit him he would have killed me. Scary stuff.

Below is a map of the run. Sorry the blog layout cuts it off, but if you click on the "view details" link at the bottom right you will go the full page showing the elevation, pace, map, etc for the run. I ended up running the 20.1 miles at a 9:06 pace. Not bad considering that I did the same run on Thursday! Hope you enjoyed coming on my run with me. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shoe Review - Vasque Transistor FS

I'm a bit of a shoe fanatic. I used to make fun of my wife for the amount of shoes that she has (and wants) but now I can't say a thing. Since I began running I have always been in search of the perfect shoe. The truth that I discovered is that there is no such thing. Since I run both road and trails (and races/courses that have both) I have found that different types of terrain demand different types of shoes.

There are so many variables to running that different types of runs and terrain demand different types of shoes. My usual week this time of year consists of 65-80 miles. I run a mid-week long run of about 15 miles and a weekend run that is almost always over 20 miles. During those long runs I typically run some paved roads to get to trails and the trails have smooth single track to muddy, swampy, sandy, hilly sections.

In the last year I have found that I like lower, softer shoes. My favorite shoe for just pavement is the Nike Free 5.0. I find this shoe to feel almost non-existent on my foot, but it has enough cushioning to protect my feet. The problem is that as soon as the road turns to trail the shoe is terrible. It has no off road traction and doesn't drain water at all.

In my quest to find an offroad shoe that feels similar I have turned to the New Balance MT100. This new shoe from NB feels like a slipper, but has a thin sole that has a rock protection plate in it. I love this shoe, but for longer runs that have considerable pavement they are too thin. Anything over 20 miles in these shoes feels to hard.

Between these two shoes I'm pretty much covered for most of my regular training runs. The problem is that I am training for several 100 mile races (VT100 and Leadville Trail 100). Both of these runs consist of some pavement, some trails and lots of hardpacked dirt roads. Neither of the above mentioned shoes are going to work for me as the Free's don't work for off road and the NB's don't have enough cushioning for running 20-25 hours.

Last week I got the new edition of Trail Runner which has a review of new trail running shoes. In the review there was a shoe that caught my attention. The Vasque Transistor FS. They were described as low to the ground, lightweight (10.4 oz) and looked to have a lot of protection and cushioning. My only concern was that they looked like every other over built trail shoe.

I decided to take a trip over to EMS in Concord because I noticed last week that they had a bunch of new model trial shoes in stock. I thought that I might have seen the Vasque and I had to go see if I remembered correctly.

Upon walking into the shop I was immediately greeted by Garrett and Joe. Garrett says "Nate, glad you came in, we have a bunch of new shoes that you should check out!" I walked over to the wall and was psyched to see that they had the Vasque in stock. Garrett grabbed a 10.5 and I was extremely surprised at how they felt. Although they looked burley, the felt super light and surprisingly low to the ground. The souls felt flexible which is extremely important to me. I hate running in shoes that don't flex with my feet. The other thing I noticed was that there was no insole to the shoe. I've never had a shoe like that. The shoe felt very comfy and had a lot of room in the toe box, which is great because I have long monkey toes and often I feel my toes against the front of the shoes when descending, even when they are not to small.

I bought the shoes for $100 and took them out the next day. I took them on a route that would throw everything at them. I left my house and ran 2 miles of pavement to the trail head. They felt great on the pavement. A little stiff in the heals compared to the frees, but acceptable. As soon as I got on the trails I fell in love. I felt low, but protected. This is exactly what I've been looking for. I could feel every element of the trail but still had cushioning. After about .5 mile the trail heads up a big muddy hill that is covered in fallen branches. The grip felt excellent and I wasn't slipping at all. What goes up must come down and the steep following hill offered me the first chance to see if my feet would stay put or if they would jam in the front of the shoe. Again, they felt great and had lots of traction at the steep muddy bottom.

The trail then dumps out to a class 6 road that is wet and rocky. This is the first time I had a chance to run in the shoes wet. I would like to see a little bit better draining as the shoes felt like the held in the water a little bit longer than I am used to in the MT100s. It wasn't bad and to be fair, I have never found a shoe that drains better than the New Balances. The rest of the run had a little more pavement and lots more wet, muddy trail. It is a out and back run so I turned around and went through the same on the way home. I finished thinking that the shoe was low and feels thin underfoot, but still offered way more padding and protection than a typical minimalistic shoe would.

I can't give a full opinion of these shoes until I take them on some more longer runs, but after that first run I am really looking forward to putting some more miles on them. I think I might have just found the SUV of trail running shoes for those of us looking for a minimalistic shoe that acts like a burly trail runner.

These are my fist pair of Vasques, and I'm impressed.