Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vibram Sole Review (and Shoe Give-Away!)

One of two things usually come to mind when you hear "Vibram": solid soles or those funny finger shoe things that are oh-so cool right now. (Keep reading, btw. I have three pairs of trail running shoes to give away).

I myself climbed the highest mountain in Colorado on the backs of Vibram soles. Naturally, I was excited when I heard that they were looking to get back into trail running. Vibram struck a partnership with Saucony and are featured as part of the Xodus shoe, which is earning very good reviews, btw.

My job was to review the soles, not the shoes. I took them out on all types of different terrain to see how they would perform.

First Impression
This is like running on air! Fantastic!

Smooth Single Track (10/10)
Perfect! I was flying on buttery, rolling single track. The soles handled small obstacles (small rocks, occasional root, etc.) with ease. The best part was that I was able to cut around sharp turns (such as switch backs) without having to worry about losing traction. That's a HUGE advantage. You can really make up some time here during races.

Rugged, Technical Single Track (8/10)
The soles definitely performed very well here, too, especially on the uphills. I was a little worried about sliding when traversing larger rocks or boulders. But I shouldn't be running those anyhow.

Rooty Trails
No complaints here. Exposed roots did not turn into slip'n'slides as they so often can.

Fire Road
Didn't I say something about flying earlier? You can FLY on fire roads with Vibram soles. Just enough grip to hold on to the dirt, but light enough to feel like you're running in road shoes. I was positively surprised!

Very Steep Inclines
Climbing was absolutely no problem. Perfect traction here. On very, very steep downhills (30%+), I did lose traction a couple times. But I have never not lost traction on these particular sections of trail. Gravity can be a pretty strong force (thanks, Newton!).

Sandy Trails (9/10)
There aren't too many around...unless, of course, you run a race that traverses a beach. No complaints here.

Road (10/10)

Yes, sometimes you have to traverse asphalt or, worse, concrete to get to a trail. No issues here.

Soooooo, here is the part you have all been waiting for. I have three (yes, THREE) pairs of Saucony Xodus' to give away, so you can try out the Vibram soles yourself. In order to enter, you have to answer one of two questions in the comments:
  • Why do you want a pair of free trail running shoes? OR
  • What is the wildest (or most unexpected) thing that has ever happened to you out on the trails?
Sign with your name and city. You have until 11:59 pm PST on August 7, 2009. I will pick the winners on August 8. Check back then, and contact me if you're one of the lucky ones. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Instead of telling you how wonderful a time I had at the Salt Point 50k, I have to give you an injury update. Rats! My ankle was hurt bad enough that running 31 trail miles would not have been a good idea. I do value long term health (and my ability to run!) over short-term fun. With that I stayed home all weekend and worked. Yes, I'm busy as heck with my work and with the wedding coming up. It's all fun actually. Just get to do less blogging.

One interesting thing that happened was that my ankle/foot went numb some time during the middle of last week. Freaked me out a bit. Turns out that I had been icing it a little bit excessively. Imagine that: an ultra-runner going above and beyond what's required. :)

I have started to run again albeit lightly. The focus is now on the fall season, which will be busy, busy, busy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tale of a Short One at Sequoia

I was really looking forward to yesterday's Sequoia 30k. Not only was it supposed to serve as a final tune-up before the Salt Point 50k eight days later, but I was anxious to test out my racing legs. I had been training hard over the last month despite a twisted ankle three weeks ago, which had sidelined me for (fortunately only) four days.

The lady would again join me partaking in the challenging 10k version of the race. Her friend Meghan was also coming along for her very first (but not last!) trail race. We were running unusually late, and I got there 10 minutes before Wendell sent us on our way. It was just enough time to check in and say hello to some friends (Caitlin (50k), Will (20k) and Mark (50k)). Knowing these trails fairly well, I would know when to push and for which sections to conserve my energy. My goal for this race was to break 2:40, which would be challenging but attainable.

Mark and I are cute, aren't we?

From the start, I was running somewhere among the first seven runners between the two races (both the 50k and 30k started at the same time). Soon we hit the first aid (Moon Gate), and I was rushing through in an effort to catch up to Caitlin and/or Mark in order to pace with them. At Moon Gate, speedy Berkeley runner (and quasi neighbor) Bryan Wyatt said hello. It's always nice to see familiar faces at aid stations.

Runners taking off so fast, it was too much for the camera to handle

Then it was time to hit the single track. A very steep and technical trail (Tres Sendas?) connects over to the infamous French Trail. I've run down this trail many times and knew exactly what was coming. Charging down as fast as I did was simply stupid and my reward came quickly in the form of a nicely twisted ankle. Game over! Having twisted my ankles many, many times to varying degrees, I have the useful ability (I guess) of assessing very quickly how bad it is. I immediately knew the race was over for. This sprain was worse than the one three weeks ago (same ankle), but it wasn't nearly as bad as the one that severed three tendons and took me out of commission for two months almost two years ago.

The good news was that I was close to an aid station with road access. Only a half mile climb out of the ravine and I'd be on my way back to the start/finish area. Trailrunners being trailrunners I got lots and lots of "Are you OK?"s. Many of them stopped (some running in the top ten in their respective races). I felt bad about that knowing that I could make it back under my own power, so eventually I took off my race number (looking a bit more like a hiker).

Back at Moon Gate, I watched Will and Guillaume Hansel fly by as leaders of the 20k. It turned out to be a bad day for Will as well, and he would later drop out. The Moon Gate crew gave me some ice for my ankle and some M&M's for my soul, before Craig (?) drove me back to the start/finish.

Back at the finish, volunteers were scurrying about getting ready for the 10k runners to finish. I obviously couldn't help them, so I joined a group of about a dozen wives and husbands waiting for their loved ones while tending to dogs, kids or both. It was kinda nice to sit on the meadow and enjoy a gorgeous day. I really tried hard not to let the disappointment get to me. Keeping up my spirits got much more challenging once the first finishers came in though. I had hardly gotten a workout in! Ummph. Soon, I spotted Caitlin who opted to run just 20k instead of the planned 50k. The trails had been kicking her butt lately (literally!), and she was smart to listen to her body and drop out. We chatted some before Meghan and Melanie finished.

Despite the disappointment of a DNF, I really enjoyed myself out there. The trailrunning community pulled through once again. In many ways. How can you not enjoy yourself? Injuries are part of the game, and the trails aren't going anywhere, so you may as well enjoy yourself out there, even if things don't go your way.

Thank you, Wendell and Sarah (where were you?) for yet another great race and, of course, all the volunteers, especially the Moon Gate crew.

P.s. There is a chance I may run Salt Point this weekend and an even greater chance I won't. The ankle is still very sore.