Friday, May 31, 2013

Timbuk2 Showdown Review

Ah, the good ol' days. I remember my favorite part of going back to school. While mom would go do the shopping, I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking through hundreds of Trapper Keepers trying to find the perfect one. I looked forward to doing that every year. While I don't remember many of the ones I picked, I remember my favorite had picture of a large waterfall surrounded by green. I have a very similar photo hanging up in my house now.  Hmmmmm.

I've carried the same laptop backpack now for quite a few years. I walked into a chain store, picked out one that seemed okay, and that was that. I've had it for probably 7 or more years. It didn't bring me joy, but it worked. I use my backpack a lot for work. Sometimes it hauls a laptop back and forth to the office. Sometimes it hauls around military electronic equipment while I'm out walking in the woods. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it recently had a blowout of an inner lining. It was time for a new backpack.

I'm not a big fan of paying full price for things. I went to a few places that tend to have the best prices on outdoor gear: LeftLane Sports, The Clymb, Sierra Trading Post, and The backpack choices are astounding. I was transported right back to the 80s, hanging out in Target, picking out my Trapper Keeper. There were a few things I needed in a backpack: a place for my laptop, a place to shove a water bottle, and a place for my phone. I also didn't want anything too large since I would be hauling it through the airport, on an airplane, to the office, and in the woods/field/desert/etc. I also wanted something that would fit into my work environment (think army meets engineer) as well as something I could use to go for a day hike. Enter the Timbuk2 Showdown.

There were many to choose from, but I decided on the Showdown. It met all my requirements, and, hey, I liked the way it looked. The laptop compartment is completely separate which is nice. Plenty of times going through security at the airport, I would pull out my laptop and the papers in the divided section would come out with it. Big deal? Nah, but slightly annoying. This backpack solved that issue.
Laptop Cocoon of Luxuary

The phone pouch is oh-so-soft and will keep a phone riding in style, scratch free.

Room to throw in a water bottle, or in this case, a Flying Monkey Silipint cup.

There is a large zip pocket on the front with a mesh pocket. My sunglasses case fit perfectly at the bottom of this pocket. On the other side below the phone pouch, there is another zip pocket that is about half the size.

The main compartment has a zip pocket as well as an area for pens and other items.

There is a detachable sternum strap, a bottle opener (never know when you'll need one of those, right?), and a padded area with air channels for the back.

Two of the best things about this pack are that I managed to get it for $40 less than retail at 6pm, and it comes in smaller than most at 22 liters. It's not a waterfall, but it is a darn good backpack.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Race Report: Ice Age 2

No, not THAT Ice Age. Last year's Ice Age could have easily been titled The Meltdown for me. I had originally planned on the 50 mile, but I did the 50K because I knew something was wrong. It turned out that I was severely anemic and didn't know it. My meltdown occurred very early during the event, but I still managed to go 31 miles. Looking back, it felt like I ran that entire race in a tunnel. Truthfully, I don't remember a lot of it. That combined with the fact that I had not run an ultra since last year's Ice Age made me a little nervous for this year's 50 mile attempt.

This year, the woolly mammoth was back on the buckle, and I was back in Wisconsin to run the 50 mile.

My good friend, Don, was also back to continue our once a year ultra running get-together tradition for run #5.  It all started back in 2007 when I decided to run a trail marathon, and he ran the entire thing with me even though he had only trained for a half.  This would be Don's first 50 mile race.

When I arrived into Wisconsin in my shorts and t-shirt the first thing I noticed was BRRRRRR!  Ice Age was right. Wow! It was 60+ in Ohio ad 44 with cold winds here. The forecast called for temps between the 30s and 50s on Saturday, and that works just fine for me when it comes to distance running.  I'd much rather see those temps than 90-100 degree temps we dealt with at Brew To Brew in 2011. There was a little bit of rain predicted as well, which I could happily do without. Dirt + water = mud, and I've had more than enough of those runs thank-ya-very-much.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. ~ Ephesians 3:20" K-Love Verse of the Day 5/11 and some very great news considering I was about to try and run 50 miles.

The ~10.5 mile Nordic loop is a beautiful, wide trail covered with pine needles. During this section, we had plenty of company and ran quite a few miles with a fellow from Wisconsin named Brandon who was running his first 50 mile. The Nordic Trail seemed to be over almost as soon as it had started, and the day was turning out to be beautiful.

Section 2 of the race changes things up quite a bit. The trail turns into a lot of single track, and rocks and roots begin to get your attention... or else. This section also begins an out and back portion on a very narrow trail, and this is where my trouble began without me even realizing. Blissfully ignorant, I kept mostly to the right side of the trail jumping up onto the right section to move out of the way of runners coming back from the opposite direction. This meant my right foot was constantly running at a cant which becomes important in later miles. No matter at this point. The 3rd runner I saw coming the opposite direction was David Riddle, who won this year's 50 mile race. He was flying down the trail with ease and grace. It really is amazing to watch.

My plan had been to take a gel every 45 minutes or so which worked well for the first 4 gels as I was carrying peanut butter Gu. This was the same strategy that had worked for me in my first 50 miler. Unfortunately not all aid stations had gel so I got a little off schedule. It was around this time I started feeling a bit tired.  Hmmmmm.  The aid station at the Section 2 turnaround point (~21 miles) had a plethora of Montana Huckleberry Hammer Gel. I grabbed 3 for the return trip back to Confusion Corner.

Montana Huckleberry: the only flavor of gel available during the entire event. Don joked that they had Huckleberry Pie at the finish.   I did mix it up with some oranges. I had my Garmin set to alert me every 45 minutes to take a gel, and as the miles went by, I begrudgingly obeyed its command. Even though I was over the flavor, the energy it delivered kept me going. Don and I finished the first 25 miles in 5 hours which put us well ahead of the 12 hour cutoff. I was thankful to have energy at the marathon point as last year my pace had turned into a walk because I just had nothing to give.  I was thankful for my running buddy. I was thankful for the beautiful day that we were given. I was thankful for no mud!

Running long distances has its stages. At first, things feel great. Then, after a bit, your legs get tired. A little later, your legs are really starting to get grumpy. Eventually they yell at you. Then, after that, I can only assume the legs either get tired of complaining or your brain gets tired of hearing it. That means things are going well.

When things aren't going well, it takes every ounce of energy you have just to get up that hill at a snails pace or something or other locks up completely and won't let you take another step. We were at the 50K point, and I was amazed to find walking up the smaller inclines was more annoying than running up them. The legs were feeling it, but life was still good.

We headed out on the third and final leg of our journey to Emma Carlin for the last 19 miles. Don and I had tried to fall numerous times but were unsuccessful. Based on the amount of folks I saw with scraped knees and dirt covered clothes, the roots and rocks got in a few good punches. The last leg seemed to be the hilliest portion of the course. I thought maybe it was because I was getting tired. The truth is that the highest point on the course does occur during the 3rd section. I managed to get a few more peanut butter Gus I had put in a drop bag at mile 37. It's the little things that can bring happiness on the trail. We finally found ourselves at the 10K remaining point.  Things were really going well, and I was surprised to find myself still wanting to run the smaller inclines. Everything changed around mile 45 including the weather. Running on a canted trail finally caught up to my right foot when a sharp pain stopped me in my tracks. Ouch!  My foot no longer allowed me to run on anything with a slope. I was worried I was going to have to walk the last 5 miles. Luckily the foot was okay with flat sections. Don had been dealing with a large blister for a while; although, he's not really the type to complain much so I'm not exactly sure when that started. It was around the same time that it actually started hailing. It was so surprising and fitting (it is the Ice Age after all) that I knew that was just the way it was supposed to be. That didn't make it any less cold, though. 10 minutes later, the sun was out.

We ran through the finish and received our very nice buckles. The after party consisted of a live band, soda, beer, hamburgers, some awesome vegetable lasagna, a rain shower, and a lot of limping.

I should mention the beautiful sections of pine on this course. The trail is soft, and beautiful, tall pines create inviting tunnels that feel very much alive. These areas were my favorite sections of the trail. Overall it is a beautiful course. It was very well marked which is something that should never be taken for granted. Bonus miles can be okay but not during a 50 mile run.10 aid stations on the course meant a lot of volunteers. Not only did they give us water and food, but they cheered when each runner was coming into every station. They stood outside on a cold day to keep us moving forward, and they helped other people reach their goals.

It feels good to feel good again. Now it's time to rest and give my wounded foot a break. I wonder what's next?

Ice Age 50 Course

Elevation Profile

Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 Days and a Wakeup...

...a very early wakeup, I might add. It's been almost a year since my last ultra. Where has the time gone?

50 miles?! Geesh, what was I thinking? Sometimes I can't help but wonder why in the world I sign up for these things. Well, I did, so I guess I might as well run it.

This time last year, I was severely anemic without knowing it. I had just had my first and only root canal. I had been taking a ridiculous amount of antibiotics. I still somehow managed to make it 31 miles. So... I should make it 50 this year, right?

Hokas? Check. Dirty Girl Gaiters? Check. Gels? Check. Water belt? Check. Training runs? Yeah, mostly. Running buddy? Heck yeah!

Am I ready? It's hard to say. I've struggled with a few injuries here and there. I would have liked to have put in more training miles, but I opted to listen to my body when it cried uncle. Well, I mostly listened anyway. Motivation has been lacking a little, but I think that has more to do with a nagging hip that never seems to get completely well. I've been feeding it a daily dose of the foam roller and two Myrtl's twice a day. That seems to be making a difference.

Speaking of... I hear that foam roller calling.

If you are sitting around wondering what to do with a minute or two over the next week, send a prayer my way. I will take all of them that I can get.

Happy Running!

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Isaiah 40: 28-29