Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Ahead...A Trail Running Trek

Looking back, 2006 was a busy year for me and my "little trailrunning world."

I had a couple of setbacks to my running activities, though; once in June, and once in late August. Both times, I ruptured my left hamstring muscle. It was weird, the whole back side of my leg turned black, blue, red, brown, and green. The second time (in August) it happened during the CCC100-miler, and I tried "running through the pain" for a number of miles. I ended up severely pulling some muscles in my lower back, because of my stubborness (not to DNF). The back injury turned out to be worse than the torn hamstring to recover from. I got by, and I only missed 3 hours of work because of it...(I hate to stay home for "sickness").

An "active recovery" plan got me back to running both times within 8-12 days. I've got 4 wonderful people that help me accomplish this: 1) my darling wife (who's a R.N.); 2) my open-minded MD (Yutake Kuwase); 3) my gifted Chiroprator/Accupuncturist (Craig Lindner); 4) my awesome Personal Trainer (Igor Gantman).

Well, here's the skinny for all of my (and my group's) activities for last year:

In addition to scheduling & leading 4 group trail runs per week, these are the races that I participated in for 2006:

• Fat Ass 50 Kilometer Run, Wallace State Park, Cameron, MO, Jan 1st
• My 4th Rocky Raccoon 100-Mile Trail Run, Feb 4, I had a 100-mile PR!!! 22:04:42
• Race directed: Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run 50K, 20M, 10M, Feb 11
• Directed #9 Aid Station at Brew to Brew 43-mile solo and relay run, March
Rockin K Trail Marathon, Apr 1st more
• Race directed and ran in the “Red Bridge Ramble” 8-Mile Trail Run (Apr)
• Corporate Challenge 5K, May
Berryman Trail Marathon, May 27th
• Co-race directed and ran in the “Summer Intro” 7-Mile Trail Run, June
XTerra Stump Jumpin' Trail Stomp 10K, July
Mt Hood PCT 50 Mile, July 29th
• Race directed and ran in the “Psycho Night” 10K Trail Run
• XTerra Pain Terrain Trail Run 10K, Aug
Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile, Aug 26 - DNF for injury
• Plan, mark the course, and run in the Xterra Dot Trail Trot 10K
• Race directed and ran in the Clinton Lake North Shore 8.5-Mile Trail Run, Sep
• Volunteer and photographer at the Flatrock 50K / 25K, KS, Sep
Sand Rat Trail Race (10-miler), Oct 1
Heartland 50-Mile, Cassoday, KS, Oct 14
• and set-up a “gypsy” aid station w/Raul Flores for the Heartland 100-miler,
• Race directed and ran in the Fall Fell Trail Race 10K, Oct
• Blue Springs Trail Marathon, 10/29/06
• Race directed and ran in the Veteran's Day 4-Mile Trail Run, Nov 11
Dude, Where’s the Trail? Fleming 50 Km, 11/26/06
• Clinton Cross Country Challenge 5-miler, Dec
• Race directed and ran in the The "Alternate" Chili Run 10-Mile Trail Run, Dec

In addition:
There were a few (paved) runs that I did "finish line duties" for, (for the KC Track Club). I'm on the board of Directors and Treasurer for the Track Club, and I also update their website's bulletin board on a continual basis.
I always put out 2 schedules of events per week on my "regular" Yahoo group running site, (with 830 members).
I put out a schedule of trailrunning events per week to my trail Yahoo group running site, (with 240 members).
I also continually update the weekly trail training run schedule on my main trailrunning website.
Good Ben and I update the Trail Nerds' activities on our blog.

A core group of the Trail Nerds (including myself), spent many hours maintaining and building trails in the KC Metro region in 2006. We also cooperated with other trail advocacy groups in the area to further our combined interest in sustainable recreational trails. For instance, I recently served on a board to help plan the future of all recreational projects at Shawnee Mission Park in Johnson County, Kansas. Kyle, Caleb, and Good Ben spent a lot of time at the public meetings, representing our interests.

Our Trail Nerd group also spent a lot of time planning races & race logistics, marking courses for our races, and everything else that goes along with planning multiple running events throughout the year.

Our Trail Nerd group also spent a lot of time planning races & race logistics, marking courses for our races, and everything else that goes along with planning multiple running events throughout the year.

2006 was also the year that Trail Nerds started to "shine." Caleb Chatfield made the Montrail regional team (thanks, Olga), won his first 10K, set a 50K course record at Flatrock (by 17 minutes), won his first 50-miler (by 22 minutes), and basically blew-away the competition in every short-distance and ultra that he entered. Kyle Amos placed in the top 3 of every race he entered, and took 2nd place at the Heartland 50-miler. Josh Pool ran well in all of his races and took 3rd place at the Heartland 50-miler. Good Ben Reeves and Shane "Crash" Jones won their Adventure Race Series by a landslide. They both did well in every race they entered. Greg Burger did well.
In shorter races such as a 10K trail run, I consider myself a middle-of-the-pack kind of guy. Although in 2006, I won the male 40-49 10K age group in the XTerra Trail Series, at the age of 49. I also tied with Caleb for having the most points in the series. (We could've gone to nationals in Tahoe, but went to Flatrock, instead). I also ran my 100-miler PR in February, and was in the upper 14% for that race.

I was very busy in 2006, but also had a VERY ENJOYABLE YEAR, because of it!

Looking Ahead:
2007 will be a little more fun, I suspect. Next month's Psycho WyCo race looks to be bigger & better than ever. We added a new ultra event in April, and still have lots of work to do to make it happen. Trailrunner magazine has put it in their trail series. Vasque shoes is sponsoring our expanded 2007 trail running series. I get to go to training camp for Western States, and will pace my friend Patrick Perry at the WS100. I plan on running just as many races as I did in 2006. And...I turn 50 next month. Woo hoo! A new age group! And I'm still having lots of fun.
Dog, Grandpa Ben, G-Son in Dec 2006. Buddies, fo sho!

Salt stains on my shirt, after I finished the Heartland 50-miler.
Kind of looks like Brazil, huh?

Now I know that I'm in my Element.

What's on the trail ahead? Nobody knows for sure.

Trail Nerds at the 7 am Start
Trail Nerds Caleb, Kyle and Stacey head out on the Blue Springs Trail Run.

Little Nerds
Little Nerds Win Da Big One at Sandrat.

Raul in Aid Station
Raul Flores, waiting for some 100-mile customers at our "gypsy" aid station at Heartland.

Yaarr! 3 Pirates at the Oregon Brewer's fest.

I appear to be outstanding on Mt Hood:

Monday, January 15, 2007

Icy Running Fun & Upcoming Psycho Events

It's cold and icy out on the trails! That's just fine with me. As long as I'm dressed properly and am wearing my "winter traction devices", I'm okay with the weather.

Here are two good choices for traction on the ice while running:
Screwing your shoes or Yaktrax (the "Pro" model, only). The YakTrax "Pro" model has an extra strap across the top of your shoes, and stays on your feet; something the regular model has problems with, while running. Putting screws in an old pair of running shoes works exceptionally well, also. Be sure to follow the instructions closely, though.


For our group runs this past week, we've had no fewer than 8 runners show up on any given group running day. The weather hasn't made much of a dent in participation for trailrunning, at all. One of the main reasons: If you run in the woods, you are out of the cold wind. Also, it's much safer to run where there are no cars to slide into you. For road runners, winter is the most dangerous time of year.

My training is going well. I had a "short" week, last week. I ran 40 miles. The two previous weeks were 72 and 59 respectively. This week, my mileage will be 35 to 40 miles. Next week, I'll taper down to 30 miles in preparation for my impending 100-miler, (Rocky Raccoon in Texas). I'd rather show up on race day at a 100-miler undertrained and rested, rather than overtrained and injured & sick. I've finished this race for 4 out of 4 years in a row. I'm going for my 500-mile finisher's jacket, this year.

The week after RR100, I'll be race-directing my group's first race of the year, the "Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run." We already have about 100 runners signed up. Thirty-five are signed up for the 50K, alone. This is the 3rd annual version of of the race, and I'm expecting about 300 entrants, this year. We had 213, last year. The first year we only had 44.

The course for Psycho WyCo is tougher than most runners expect to find in Kansas. In each 10.35-mile loop, there's over 5000 feet of elevation change. The footing is also very technical for about 50% of that. We usually only have a 50% finish rate for the 50K and 20-miler. Being a 3-loop 50K, the temptation is always there to drop out at the end of your 1st or 2nd loop. So it's also mentally challenging.

We always have nice shirts and finisher's hardware for the race. This year, we'll have long-sleeve technical shirts with the "Psycho" logo on the front:


I won't divulge the color of this year's shirts in advance, though. That's something left to find out on race day.

Our finisher's medals are pretty cool, also. The 50K and 20-miler finishers get this medal:

The 10-milers will get a "dog tag" version of the medal. The design was created by trailrunner and talented graphic artist, Jason Crosby. He now lives in South Carolina, but will be traveling back for the Psycho WyCo race.

All three race distances have a $30 entry fee. Any leftover funds goes toward trail maintenance activities and the Parks Department for the area.

This low entry fee is typical of our group's trail races. Our motto is "Dirty feet, run dirt cheap."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Year's Day - Fat Ass 50 Km, Cameron, MO

Early New Year's Morning, a gaggle of Kansas City Trail Nerds headed north to Wallace State Park, in Cameron, Missouri to run in the 10th annual Fat Ass 50-kilometer run. It was a 1-hour drive from suburban KC. What a better way to start the year than to run a 31-mile trail run?
2007 Fat Ass 50K
Bob and Sara Risser always have a very low-key and fun event, followed by some good homemade "eats" in the Park's shelter house. The Risser's have been putting-on this event for 10 years, now. Keeping in the tradition of a true “Fat Ass” New Year’s event, the run is always free of charge to enter. Prior to the start of the race, Paul Schoenlaub presented Bob & Sara with two 10-year anniversary jackets.

2007 Fat Ass 50K Frontrunners
The Front-runners

The Trail Nerds all did well in the fun run. Young Caleb, otherwise known as "Gumby", who's now on the regional Montrail Team, "took it easy" and did a 4:13:00 50K on the hilly, rocky, and slightly icy course. He proudly wore his new Trail Nerds long sleeve shirt in the 27-degree weather. He was having some gastro-intestinal distress, and had to stop 3 times to "eliminate" the offending issues, costing him about 10 minutes. What a better time to "do" that, than at a fun Fat Ass run?
2007 Fat Ass 50K Caleb Chatfield
Caleb Chatfield

I took it easy and did a slow 6:08:00, having run for 7 days straight (to have a high-mileage pre-100-miler training week). I was fine for the first 19 miles, then I had about an hour of "tough time," but I pushed through it and felt better the last 6 miles of the event. The next day I ran a short, fast 4-mile trail loop in SM Park with the Trail Nerds to loosen up. (Many of them ran one or two more 4-mile loops that same night).

Fellow blogger Gregg from St Joe, MO, had a sub-7-hour finish. He's come a long way in a year.

"Good Ben" was running well until he ripped a leg muscle, about 25 miles into the race. What a wuss! He could have finished if he had taken my advice and just favored the other leg 100% of the time; or walked on his hands for the last 6 miles.

I'm feeling better about my upcoming 100-miler on Feb 3rd. I had a 72 mile week, and it looks like this week is shaping up well. This year's RR100 will be my 5th in a row. I've had some decent times at that race and I'm in the 400-mile veteran's club. If I finish this year, I'll get my 500-mile jacket.

All Fat Ass photos by Dick Ross at seekcrun.com.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

More Fat Ass Race information

Friday, January 05, 2007


I had some photos taken at a professional studio, recently. The studio is owned by Peter Obetz, a gifted photographer. These are two of the proofs that I have chosen to have larger photos printed and framed.

The title I would choose for either of these photos would be "buddies." My grandson, dog and I are just that...buddies that have a good time together.



A funny story.

While waiting to get our photos taken, my 4 y.o. grandson was severely interested in the Airstream trailer that was parked inside Peter's studio:


He was allowed to play in it for a while. He thought it was a spaceship and liked the fact that it had a nice kitchen area and a bed. During the photo session, he asked Peter if he's ever "blasted off" in his spaceship and gone to other planets. Peter said no, he just pulls it behind his truck to special photo shoots. My grandson had a weird look on his face after that answer.

One week later, my grandson was in Santa's lap. He asked Santa for a spaceship. I didn't put two and two together, so I got him a Lego spaceship. On Christmas day, he was looking for his spaceship out in front of our house, still expecting Santa to deliver his Airstream trailer!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My Thoughts Regarding Trailrunning Shoes

Well, I started the year off right by doing a 50K on New Years day with some of the Trail Nerds. More on that later.

Here's something that I've been putting my thoughts together on, for a while:

My Thoughts Regarding Trailrunning Shoes

If you are new to trailrunning and want to buy a decent pair of trailrunning shoes...read on.


I consider myself an experienced runner and trailrunner. I ran for more than 25 years on pavement before converting to trails exclusively, about 5 years ago. Back in my "roadie" days, I finished 38 road marathons, including Boston, and many, many shorter races. In the past 7 years, I've run in many short-distance to long-distance trail races, from 5K to 100-mile trail runs. I train for at least 50 miles per week on rocky, hilly, and root-filled trails, (even after dark). I've never been the fastest guy around, (but I'm tenacious as hell). I used to have every chronic running injury known to man, when I ran exclusively on the roads. I even used to get blisters on a marathon, which I now consider a "medium-distance" run. It's extremely rare for me to get a blister now, even on a wet & muddy 100-mile run. I don't have any chronic running injuries anymore, and I'm approaching 50 years old. Why am I telling you this? Because if you are going to purchase a pair of trailrunning shoes with your hard-earned cash, you might be able to use some of my hard-earned knowledge.

There are many "trailrunning experts" online. For instance, this is what the supposed "experts" at About.com will tell you:
"Trail shoes are, for the most part, quite similar in construction to road running shoes. However, they have added traction and more durable uppersoles. Some road shoes work well as part-time trail shoes (e.g. the Saucony GRID Stabil), while many trail shoes work well on the road (e.g. the Adidas Trail Reponse). Features to look for include: added traction, durability without too much weight, and motion control for running on uneven surfaces."

This is absolutely incorrect information. This is advice from someone who is obviously a roadrunner or a "rails to trails" trail runner. He should be drug through the mud by his poseur-trail-shoe laces!

This is some more experienced advice:
True trailrunning shoes are not just roadrunning shoes with more durable uppersoles and added traction. Trailrunning shoes should be fairly light, and have more protection for your toes and forefoot area, to keep from getting "rock & root-induced trauma." You also want your heel to sit lower within the back of the shoe to avoid ankle sprains. Roadrunning-style "motion control shoes" tend to be higher in the heel area, less flexible, and more prone to putting torque on your ankle area than true trailrunning shoes. While wearing these "high-heeled" shoes, If you were to step on an small stump, rock or root, (which you eventually will), you would have a much higher chance for a severe ankle injury. Not good. Also, the stiffer the shoe, the less of your shoe bottom contacts the surface of the uneven-surfaced trails. You therefore have less control and less "trail feel" with a stiff shoe. Stiff also equals heavy, in most cases. There is absolutely no reason why a decent trailrunning shoe should be any heavier than a roadrunning shoe.

More on motion-controlled shoes:
Not wearing a motion-control shoe on an uneven surface seems counter-intuitive, at first. What your motion-control shoes do for you on a road surface, is protect you from the common over-use injuries associated with running continuously on a flat, hard surface. Over-use injuries are negligible on uneven (and softer) trail surfaces. It's a whole new world of running. Since your pace, foot-strike angle, etcetera, is constantly changing on a trail run, you won't use the same-old muscle groups that you do for roadrunning. You will also be running on a softer surface, and won't be taking as much of a pounding. Hence, over-use injuries go out the window.

By the way:
With trail running, you will trade the chronic, over-use injuries for the occasional "acute" injury. Paying attention to the trail constantly is part ot the fun, though. Now back to trail shoes...

Another much-touted trail shoe recommendation...buy shoes made with GoreTex uppers. Don't get me wrong, GoreTex is a fine product. I own a pair of GoreTex trailrunning shoes myself, but it's not the only type of trail shoe that I own. But, I WOULD NEVER USE MY GORETEX SHOES ON A COURSE WITH STREAM CROSSINGS. Why? Because when GoreTex shoes fill with water and the water will not drain out. I've known many folks who have made this mistake. You will see them lying on their back after their 2nd or 3rd stream crossing, with their feet in the air, trying to drain their shoes out. What would I use GoreTex shoes for, then? I would use them on a muddy or slushy course in the wintertime; a course without stream crossings or over-the-ankle-deep puddles. GoreTex shoes tend to keep your feet warm, so they are a good choice for winter runs, given the right course. They are hotter than blazes in the summer though, and they will fill-up with your own sweat! Having a drainable, breathable top is a better choice, if you will be hitting any stream crossings during your run or event. You will find that your shoes will dry-out noticibly after about 10 minutes of running.

What about "trail running sandals?" In two words: they suck. They let every stick, pebble, and piece of sand come in potential contact with your foot. The stuff will accumulate between the bottom of your foot and the sandal bottom. Shoes with a severely-open mesh top are in the same boat. There's a balance between having a breathable / drainable top, and having a totally-open top. Always keep in mind the 3 things that cause blisters: friction, heat, and moisture. If you are letting pebbles and sand in on a regular basis, you're going to have a problem with blisters due to adding a bunch of friction-inducing crap to your shoes.

Something else to look out for:
Many trailrunning shoes have soles with cut-out areas in the arch area of the tread to save weight. Experienced trailrunners call these cut-outs "mud pockets." Sticky mud will tend to accumulate in these mud pockets, and make your shoes extremely heavy during your run. It's best to avoid shoes with mud-accumulation areas if you run in muddy conditions, or if you will be running a race with mud. There are worse things, though. Nike's new "Shox Junga" has about 20 areas on the bottom of each shoe for mud and crap to accumulate in the "shox" areas. In my opinion, these shoes are made for wanabee trailrunners with way too much money to spend, who never intend to run on a trail. It's kind of like people who will buy a Jeep Rubicon to commute on the freeway everyday, without ever intending to take it off-road.

Finding the right fit:
Luckily, trailrunning shoes come in a wide variety of fits, sizes, and types. You should be able to find a shoe that is right for your foot type, style of running, and the conditions that you plan to run in and on. I always advocate "try, before you buy" at your local merchant anyday, over ordering over the internet. They will provide you the attention needed to find the right fitting shoe. Even with "free shipping" back to the the vendor, do you really have the time to re-package your ill-fitting internet shoes, to ship them back?

How long do they last?
How many miles can you put on your trailrunning shoes? About as many as on your roadrunners...500 miles maximum. Do not be fooled by tread life. A better indication would be to look at the sides of the midsole (the foam part between the outsole and the upper). If it is noticeable "wrinkly," it's probably time to buy a new pair. Also, if they start to "feel dead" during a long run, then it's time to get rid of them. An excellent strategy is to rotate several pairs of trailrunning shoes at the same time, even if they are the same model. It's also nice to have a different model for "special conditions." Also, trail shoes should never cost any more than roadrunning shoes.

Final advice:
Don't be fooled with gimmicks. This is true for all running shoes. What works, works. And what works for you, may not work for everybody else. If you want to get more advice about trailrunning shoes, check out what the ultrarunners are running in. They tend to run more miles on trails than the average, occasional trail runner.
Some other sources of information: Ultrarunning Magazine and TrailRunner Magazine or any old opinionated fool, such as myself.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben