Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Next Chapter for National Powersports

It was only 10 months after I started National Powersports (then known as "The Collectable Trader") that my vision for the company became crystallized.  I knew that I was onto something that was going to be big, and I had an image in my mind of a huge warehouse filled with hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles.  To this day that image has stayed with me.  I even wrote about it in an earlier post called "Using Vision to Change Your Life"

Well, very shortly we are about to get a lot closer to that vision.  On October 29, 2013 National Powersports will be moving to our new location at 319 Commerce Way, Pembroke NH.  This 52,000 square foot facility is beautiful!  We will finally be able to display our complete inventory, which is currently at 650 motorcycles.  I'm so excited and grateful for all of our customers and our incredible team of employees who have shared my vision and worked so hard to make it happen.

Here are some pictures of the construction going on in the building as we get it ready for our opening day, October 29th.

Outside of building.  52,000 square feet with over 100 parking spaces.
Sales Entrance sign going up.
"Big Ass Fan" We put two of these cool fans up.
We are finally going to have a customer lounge!
Main showroom
We had to build this ramp.  Here we are installing the railing.
We replaced all the old light fixtures with these super energy efficient LED ones.  State of the art lighting!
Creating the Parts and Service window.
This is the shop area.  20,000 square feet of room to work on bikes.
I can't wait to be open for business in this building!  I'll update my blog with more pictures as we get closer to our opening day of Tuesday, October 29th!  For those of you wondering where the new building is, here is a map.  It's only .5 mile from our current shop.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Patagonia EVERlong review and giveaway!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, this is going to sound like I'm beating a dead horse. There is a specific type of shoe that I am always searching for.  I love the feel of barefoot, or minimal shoes.  But I need enough cushioning and protection to run Ultras.  Two years ago that shoe didn't exist and I was forced to do a lot of cobbling to try to get what I wanted.  It seems as though I'm not the only one looking for that combination in a shoe, especially now that the popularity of Ultras is rapidly increasing.

Obviously it is not easy to make a shoe that feels like your running barefoot, but still protects your feet and protects against rocks, roots, etc for hours on end.  The newest offering from Patagonia aims to do exactly that (disclaimer: these shoes were provided free of charge for review purposes by Patagonia). Designed with help from Ultrarunner Jeff Browning (impressive list of race results here) I think they have done a great job of meeting both expectations.  

The shoe has "A flexible 4mm drop midsole and outsole allow for a more natural mid to forefoot strike while the 24.5mm/20.5mm (men) and 23mm/19mm (women) stack height provides added cushioning for long-distance comfort. A lightly padded, semi heel counter “pod” secures the heel" as described by Patagonia. 

It actually has some very interesting features, including the most minimal heel of any trail shoe I've ever encountered.  

Putting it on for the first time it felt like putting on a slipper.  Literally.  It feels like there is nothing on your heel.  I was initially concerned that this would lead to a sloppy fit and excessive foot movement.  But that is not the case.   

They feel very light on your feet and in fact only weigh 8.5 Ounces in my size 10.5.

The internal heel "pods" are almost identical in design to the heel on the Montrail Fluid Flex, and they work just as well.  

I have not experienced any heel lift while running and the softness of the heel is very comfortable.The forefoot fits nice and snug with very little lateral slop.  Even running downhill my foot does not slip forward and hit the front of the shoe.  

Speaking of the front of the shoe, the toebox is very roomy and the slight stretchiness of the upper material make it extremely comfortable.  My one complaint about the shoe is the sort of odd shaped toebox.  Specifically, the very front of it is pointy, leaving a gap over my middle toes.   It's not a big deal, but it feels like a "dead" area that I occasionally catch on rocks.  The shoe fits absolutely true to size and its the only area of the shoe that fits a bit oddly, so it's not an issue of it being to big for me.   I would have been tickled pink if the toebox was shaped like the last Patagonia shoe I tried, the Evermore (my review on runblogger here), which has one of the nicest fit of any of the shoes I own.

What I really like about this shoe is the sole.  There is a perfect amount of softness and "squish", but yet its very flexible.  This encourages a nice forefoot stride, but still is comfy when heel striking.  

The tread, while on the minimal side for a trail shoe, provided adequate traction.  I was actually surprised at how much traction they have, but that might be because I had very low expectations since it looks more like a road shoe pattern.  I'm sure in very burly conditions it would become evident that there are no toothy lugs.  I just haven't tested them in those kind of conditions yet.  As a result of this minimal tread, they are extremely smooth on pavement, making them an excellent transitional shoe good for a full day of running on roads and trails.

For another point of view, check out this review by guest blogger Laurie Greenberg on Runblogger.com.

Patagonia has generously allowed me to give away a free pair of EVERlongs to one lucky reader.  Just watch the video below and then answer this question in the entry form below.  "What slogan is featured on the bottom of the EVERlong sole?"  I will randomly select a winner on November 1.  Patagonia will directly ship the winners shoes by November 15.  This offer is good only to residents of the US and Canada.  Good luck!

Update 11/02/2013 - Congratulations to Jordon Psaltakis!!  Your the lucky winner of a pair of Everlongs!  Your shoes will ship directly from Patagonia sometime after Nov. 15! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 Vermont 50(k) Race Report

I can't believe that I haven't written anything here since July!  Ever since the Vermont 100 I have been in a pretty serious running funk.  Truth be told I've actually been in an overall funk.  There are a lot of things going on in my life, like buying a new building for my shop and all the headaches and worry that go with getting it ready to relocate.  My training has suffered, as I just haven't been motivated to run for a long time.  It seems like every time I planned on running long, I just didn't have the mental patience to stay out there for very long.

As a result, I ran only one 20 mile long run in the time between VT100 and VT50! Usually in heaving training I do at least 2 20+ milers a week, sometimes 3.  Most of my weeks were in the 45 mile range, down from my average of about 70.  I attempted to run the Hampshire 100k on August 18th, but dropped after only 10 miles.  I just didn't want to be out there that long.  I also entered the Jay Peak 50k on Sept 1, but the option to drop down to the 25k after one loop did me in and I succumbed to the fact that I could still get a finishers place by doing so.  Although I came in 7th place, it didn't feel like a success since I once again didn't seem to be able to go long.

These runs and races were supposed to be training for my fall goal of breaking 8 hours at the Vermont 50.  But the week before the race I decided that it might be smart to drop down to the 50k distance and try to have a good race rather than suffer an inevitable DNF.

I felt pretty good about the decision.  Since the 50k runners start at 8am there was also the bonus of it being warmer at the start than it normally is for the 50 miler, which starts at 6:45.  Even though it was a little chilly, the forcast called for mid 70's and perfect weather.  Although I was still a bit chilly in my singlet I knew I would quickly warm up.  I was amazed at how many runners were wearing warm weather gear and thought about how much they were going to regret wearing so much in just a short while.

At the start I ran into George Lapierre, whom I hadn't seen in quite a while.  It was really nice catching up with him and we both started from the front.  I didn't realize that it was his first 50k, and thought that he would be strong competition for me.  He is an incredible biker and he has done well in the few shorter running races he has done.

As we took off two runners immediately took off like they were doing a 5k.  One of them had two water bottles in the back pockets of his shorts and I was a little perplexed as to what he was doing.  Geo and I made a few comments to each other about his performance and settled into a nice easy pace.  When we got to the first hill we were in the top 10 or so and he said, "this is were everybody passes me".  I didn't expect that, and kept my very easy pace going up the hill.  That was the last I saw of him until the finish line.

I did not know any of the runners in front of me, but I started passing people on that first hill.  My plan was to take it super easy for the first half and then see how badly my endurance had suffered and hang on my best for a solid finish.  Since I haven't raced a 50k in years, my 50k PR was a pretty soft 4:50.  I was hoping that if I felt good I might be able to break it if I had a good day.  By mile 5 or 6 I knew I was going to have a good day.  The hills seemed easier than I remembered and there was almost nothing that I needed to walk.

The fall foliage was in full bloom and it was incredible, keeping my mind occupied as the miles ticked away.  I decided to use a similar fueling strategy that had worked so well for me at the 100.  I was going to rely on Hammer Sustained energy for my primary source, supplementing it with Hammer gels if I need extra energy.  I had one drop bag at mile 12.9 which contained a few gels and a new bag of SE power to make a new bottle. 

At 2 hours into the race my hamstrings started to tighten up.  I decided to take 2 advil.  I am fully aware of the danger of using Nsaids at races, but I've been doing so since I started races and have never suffered any ill effects.  The one rule I have about using them is that I have to make sure I'm well hydrated.  If I am showing any signs of dehydration I will not use them as the danger drastically increases.  Since I was on top of my hydration I decided to go for it.

A half an hour later I felt really good as the advil had kicked in.  I was enjoying the beautiful scenery and I was very grateful to be outside, running well and in a very good mood.  Of course that influenced my pace positively.  Somewhere in the 20 mile range a few people passed me.  I chatted with one of them for a bit and he told me that it was his first 50k and that he was feeling good so far.  He told me that his Marathon PR was 3:15 (the same as mine) but he had been training hard and was in 3 hour shape.  He sure looked it as he pulled effortlessly away from me on a flat section of dirt road.

Sometimes getting passed in a race like this gets inside of my head.  But today it didn't bother me.  I kept repeating to "run my own race" in my head and not worry about anybody else.  I've done to many of these things to know that the majority of people blow up in the late stages.  Just focusing on how I was feeling, which was great, helped me enjoy being out there.    At this time I was in the top ten, but not sure exactly what place.  I ran alone for quite a while and enjoyed the solitude that came with being in the woods on a perfect fall day.  Run Happy crossed my mind many times.

Running Happy!  (Photo, Far North Endurance)
Somewhere around mile 22-23 I came upon the guy with the bottles in his rear pocket.  He said "nice job" and told me that I was now in 5th place overall, with 2 girls in front of me.  Being a math wiz, I realized that I was now in a podium position (3rd man for those of you who didn't figure that out).  This really lit a fire under my ass.  I was not expecting to do so well and since I felt good I decided that my goal for the day was to not let anybody else pass me.  I really wanted that 3rd!

I knew that with about 10 miles to go that it was premature to place myself on the podium.  Anything can, and usually does, happen with an endurance race.  But I HAD to try.  So I ran with purpose.  I ran every single hill from that point on and pushed hard.  Somewhere in this time frame I passed the early lead woman, who was clearly struggling.  The eventual woman's leader had come by me earlier.  We chatted a bit and she told me that last year she had finished in the 5 hour range and all she wanted to do was beat that time.  She looked fresh and was running great.  Now that I had passed one of the women I was in 4th overall.

The last 5 or 6 miles I kept looking behind me to see if anybody was coming, but nobody ever came into sight.  I spend quite a bit of time with a group of bikers who were very encouraging.  I would pass them going up the hills and then they would come back by me on the downhills.  Everytime I would go by them they would tell me that I was killing it, or that I was an animal, etc.  It was a lot of fun and kept me motivated to run the hills.

I was looking forward to getting to the last aid station, which I thought was less than two miles from the finish.  When I got there I was out of my Sustained Energy so I asked them if they had any gels.  Somehow I thought that the aid stations were supposed to have Hammer gels, like in the years past, but they didn't.  Luckily somebody who was at the aid station asked me what I needed and I said I just need one gel to get to the finish line.  He said "here" and handed me a berry Hammer gel.  Perfect!!  I wish I knew who it was so I could thank them, it really helped me.

As it turned out, the aid station was still 3 miles from the finish, so I really had to push if I was going to get that PR.  I believe that my watch said I was about 4:10 into it and there are some good hills in that last section.  I put the bit between my teeth and went for it.  About a mile from the end I started to cramp and had to fumble to get two electrolyte pills out of a little baggie I had, while trying to hammer as fast as I could.  I was just praying that the cramping would hold off just a little longer!

Headed down the last chute to the finish line! (photo, Far North Endurance)
I flew down the last downhill chute to the finish line and crossed the line in 4:38:45 for third place and a shiny new PR.  I was so relieved to not only have finished, but to have placed and ran well.    I spend my of the rest of the day hanging out and watching friends finish.  There were some amazing performances on this picture perfect day.

Between my 18:53 at the VT100 and my PR at the 50k, I know I'll be back for more next year.  I love Vermont!

The top three after awards.  (Photo, Far North Endurance)