Thursday, December 30, 2010

Icing on the Cake

It finally looks and feels like winter here on the Front Range of Colorado. About six inches of snow have fallen and the temperature has dropped to about 5 degrees. I would rather run in a blinding snowstorm than with the temperatures in the sixties and that nasty wind we can get here so I threw some weight in the back of the pick up and drove down to Eldorado Springs. Six inches of snow had already fallen there and was still coming down when I pulled in to the Dowdy Draw Trailhead.

I put my iphone in a ziplock bag in my windbreaker pocket and headed up the trail. I clearly was the only one out; it was virgin powder as they say in Colorado. The South Spring Brook Trail and the Goshawk Trail are somewhat twisty and rocky; on the way up I was able to at least see where the larger rocks were covered with snow and avoid them. It was a little slower going moving my feet through the snow but the running seemed easier because of the trade off of slower speed.

At three miles and 700 feet of elevation gain I turn and headed down opting for the North Spring Brook Trail which is slightly longer, less steep, but canted to the downhill side. This proved to be more difficult because the upslope wind was driving the snow into my face and the late afternoon light was completely flat so I could no longer visually distinguish any rocks, unevenness of the trail, or holes under the snow cover. They say that if you let a horse run how it wants it won't step in a hazard. I must have had the horse sense in me today because I couldn't see anything and had no mishaps, just a great run that you had to be there to appreciate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1200 Miles for 2010

I was hoping to run about 1600 miles this calendar year but a stress fracture cooled my heals. I didn't run for about two months and then started back slowly and didn't build back the base I had because of priorities. I am happy with where I am for the moment though. I had a cold a couple of weeks ago that made me miss ten days but I've run the last eight with each day including progressively more elevation. Today's 8.6 miles had 1000 feet of elevation gain mostly in the first half of the run and I felt good all the way so I'm content.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NB MT101 Disappointment

Up until a couple of weeks ago I had been doing some aggressive trail running on the weekend but not much midweek, then I caught a nasty cold just as winter break was beginning. I recovered relatively quick but had to ease back into hills and distance. For Christmas, I made sure I received a pair of New Balance MT101's.

The weather has been mild and we have absolutely no snow. Christmas Day I put the new shoes on and head out to some nearby trails. I liked that the MT101's required me to run with a barefoot gait. The three-pronged nibs on the soles provided decent traction. That is it for the pluses. Descending even the slightest incline did not feel right; my impression is that more forefoot flexibility is necessary for the feel I'm looking for; the rock stop layer certainly makes the front stiff. This also made my foot/ankle want to twist too easily with any uneven step, although I was able to plow through rocky trails without much concern for the bottoms of my feet. The shoe also doesn't come in anything broader than a D width. I had to buy an 11 instead of a 10 1/2 which was snug all the way around. By the time I was done with 6.5 miles my big toe was screaming with every step.

It seems as though New Balance just took a racing flat or cross country shoe and put a stiff piece of silvery plastic in the sole and called it a minimalist trail shoe. I suppose that would be a manufacturer's strategy to get something on the market in a hurry. I hope someone has designed something from scratch and has it on the market sometime this spring that isn't just for the narrow-footed.

In the meantime I'm just running with screws in any old worn down pair of running shoes. I have enough of those.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Haven't a Thing to Wear

...on my feet.

I have a pile of running shoes in my closet; four of them were purchased this year. None of them suit me and it doesn't seem that anything on the market matches what I perceive as my need. Over the years I've run mostly in Asics Evolutions or a similar medium motion control model. I usually ran on the roads and the typical feedback from my body during those years told me that my limit was about 35 miles per week.

Last spring as I incorporated barefoot running, I switched to mostly trails, and my feet and ankles strengthened accordingly I discovered I could run much more without my body complaining. Unfortunately, the Asics were causing a problem that wasn't apparent until the miles went up and was exacerbated by scanty padding in the FiveFingers or bare foot.

After seven weeks off because of a stress fracture I believed I should ease back in to running while protecting the injured part; I was sold on some big New Balance boats (1226)which allowed Achilles tendonitis to develop in just 44 miles of a walk/jog combination over 18 outings. I've gone back to the old Asics, but the problem of uneven thickening and callus build-up caused by the pronation-limiting features returned. This is what caused undue stress to occur to the second metatarsal that fractured. I've cut a hole in the insole to allow some space there.

I like the flexible bottoms of the FiveFingers although a couple millimeters more in thickness might protect better on rocky trails. They don't protect well from stubbing a toe. They're also quite cold in the winter. I was hoping the NB MT 101 would be the shoe, but they haven't been available around where I live (Boulder) to even try on and they don't make them in a width other than a D. I have the Nike Free. I was sold a larger size to make up for their lack of width so I can tolerate running in them for three or four miles on pavement (they do permit a typical minimalist foot strike) but they're like wearing skis on a trail, not to mention that the tread is unsuitable for trails.

I may venture to market again to see if there isn't something I previously presumed unsuitable. If I do find a shoe I am convinced that it is important to break myself into it little by little. The alternative shoe and the fall back shoe will be the old Asics, the tread worn off, but with hex-head screwed for traction.