My 50k Race Is Cancelled

The course is buried under 18″-20″ of snow and is criss-crossed by dozens of downed trees, so the race director made the tough decision to cancel. On the bright side, I’m guaranteed entry into next year’s event. I’ve really enjoyed my training, so while I’m disappointed to not be attempting my first ultra next week, I’m not too upset. I’ll use this good base to carry me through my March marathon.

Honey Stinger Energy Chews Review

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You know the smell of a freshly mopped floor that was cleaned with lemon Pine-Sol? Pretty nice as a floor smell, not so nice as a food smell.

When I opened my first pack of Limeade Honey Stinger Energy Chews, the strong chemical-based cleaner smell sent me reeling. I’d committed to a whole box of ten packs after spotting these usually expensive chews on a deals site. Gulp.

I steeled myself for a taste commensurate with the nasty artificial citrus smell, and was pleasantly surprised by a mild, inoffensive artificial citrus flavor, somewhere between green gummy bears and Sierra Mist.

The surface of the chews is slightly sticky. Not sticky enough for all ten chews to tumble out of the foil packet in one gelatinous clump, but sticky enough for two chews to stick together, or for fingers to pick up fibers or stick together after handling them. Sticky fingers during a run, especially a gloved run, feel gross.

Texture-wise, Honey Stinger Limeade Energy Chews are similar to fresh, soft gummy bears or gummy worms. They are easy to bite through and aren’t so dense that they stick to teeth much.

I’m not a coffee drinker and I cut out soda after having been a religious Diet Coke drinker, so I’m now fairly susceptible to caffeine’s effects. Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks give me a nice jolt of energy to get me ready to lace up in the morning, or to spur me on in the middle of a long run. These…are not Clif Shot Bloks. The 32 mg of caffeine in Limeade Honey Stinger Energy Chews can’t hold a candle to the mighty 100 mg of caffeine in a pack Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks (50 mg/serving). They gave me no discernible energy bump. Admittedly, the slight mental and physical boost of pausing for a snack with these was the same as with any other snack, not worse, but if I’m going to stop for a snack, I want that energy boost too.

Over a few weeks, I worked my way through the entire box in order to give these a fair shake and not waste my purchase.

Pros:
-Gluten-free — matters to some people
-32 mg caffeine from green tea
-Inoffensive taste — not so good that you’ll be sneaking these between workouts
-160 calories per pack — these could work for a short race or workout
-Easy to chew

Cons:
-Frightening smell
-Not enough caffeine
-Expensive
-Sticky

Overall, 4/10. I just don’t like my running nutrition to remind me of hospitals.

I swore I’d never get Twitter, but…

I like to think that I’m a well-rounded, reasonably interesting person. I read contemporary literature as well as classic literature (I’m currently tackling Moby Dick a second time, hoping to get something different out of it now that I’m a bit older). I read non-fiction books. I like to have in-depth discussions about books. I watch all sorts of TV shows, such as: Breaking Bad, Chopped, Myth Busters, Family Guy, and Jeopardy. I’m a long-suffering fan of Washington DC’s NFL team.  I play slowpitch and fastpitch softball. I work out at a Crossfit-type gym and a conventional gym. I’m in a healthy relationship. I have a dog. I like to travel. I love trying new restaurants.

And oh yeah, I run.

Despite having all of those other interests/hobbies/things going on, running is one of the top things I think about, at least when I’m not running. When I’m running, I either go headphone-free and do some quality thinking about other things, or I get lost in my audiobook. But when I’m not running, the ticker tape in my brain is often RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING.

With a solid 10″ of snow on the ground in the DC metro area, today was a snow day for me, which means lots of thinking about running, and because I’m not able to treadmill, no actual running.

So to stave off total cabin fever madness, I’m dipping my toe into the online running community to see if it’s as warm and welcoming as the in-person running community can be. I’ve created a Twitter account and a YouTube account, so starting soon you can connect with me in both of those places via @HopeTheRunner and HopeAgainstHopeRunning.

Morning Motivation

 

Discipline means understanding and respecting the difference between what you want now and what you want most.

In the wee hours of the morning, sometimes I think I want to sleep more than I want to get up and run. My sleepy animal brain may not know it, but I really ultimately want to run. So I do.

 

If it hurts to walk, and it hurts to run, then run.

Solid advice I read somewhere from an ultrarunner.

 

Often enough, courage will save a man, if his courage holds.

This one got me through the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon. It was handwritten on the back of the shirt of someone in front of me. Knowing that I had the New York Marathon the very next week, I was facing a lot more than 26.2 miles that day and courage got me through.

 

Each new day is another chance to be great.

I doubt that this is original to me, but it’s less a quote and more of a description of the way I feel each afternoon when I start dreaming about the next morning’s run.

 

Look at how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go.

It’s easy to feel defeated at mile 18 of a marathon.There are eight punishing miles left. But those miles are only going to be tough because of the 18 already behind you. Focus on that accomplishment and let it inspire you to finish the race. The first 18 miles probably seemed impossible at some point, too.

 

Don’t tell people your plans. Show them your results.

Translation: shut up and get to work.

Little Afternoon Win

I love Nature Valley granola bars, but sometimes it seems like I need a bowl and a spoon to eat one. Upon the first bite, the bar basically shatters into little oat-y shards and crumbs. Not very convenient for on the go! This afternoon, I’ve been too busy to come up for air, but the Hungry Monster (a cousin of the Taper Monster) started growling, so I grabbed a Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey bar from my office’s vending machine and scurried back to my desk. Both bars in the pack disappeared in about five chomps. Gone in the blink of an eye. Or so I thought. I was too intently focused on my work task to realize that I’d left behind the crumbs — fully another bite of sweet, crunchy goodness! Finding that secret last bite might not seem like much, but it put a smile on my face.

Running when Descending Stairs is Hard and Sitting Down on the Toilet is Even Harder, Plus a First Look at the New Brooks Transcend

One of my favorite feelings is the soreness and contented tired feeling after intense physical exertion. Tough gym workouts and long runs are my usual source of post-exercise bliss. It’s only a blissful feeling on the day of the exercise; if the soreness and fatigue extends into the next day, it ceases to be satisfying and starts being inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Today I woke up feeling like I was old enough to be Methuselah’s mother: I was so creaky that lowering myself onto the toilet was a real chore.

Rather than wallow in my aches and pains, I resolved to drive them away with a short run on the treadmill. Bracing myself with a hand on each bannister, I limped downstairs. For the uninitiated, this probably does sound like a literal descent into madness — another run less than 24 hours after clocking 21 miles and growing prodigious blisters? Well, the blisters receded quickly as a result of not messing with them. But non-intervention won’t cure sore, lactic acid-laden limbs.

Last week I received my Brooks Transcends. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard the initial buzz about these shoes because I have a lot of love for Brooks running shoes and these are really up my alley. I saw an ad for them and immediately thought, There’s my next marathon shoe. It was as though I’d dreamed them into life: a pumped up version of my beloved Brooks Glycerin 11s, the shoes that helped me not just break 2:00 in the half marathon the first time ever (and the first time I wore the Glycerin 11s for more longer than about 5k at a stretch), but absolutely crush it — my time in that pivotal race was sub-1:55. I generally like cushioning over the long haul. And for recovery days.

Today was certainly a recovery day and a great opportunity to bust out these boat-bottomed behemoths. The sole of the Brooks Transcend under the arch is so wide that I had a hard time standing with the shoes clear of the treadmill belt so it could start. That sole and midsole geometry looks a little weird, but the eye-popping colors keep this shoe from looking like a therapy or geriatric model. Check out the pictures at the bottom of this post to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Frankly, I don’t really care what the sole looks like since it feels like marshmallowy clouds beneath my feet. For the second mile of my very brief shamble, I eased the treadmill up to 6:40/mile pace and the shoe responded gamely — I didn’t feel weighed down by the Transcend and my turnover rate increased on pace with the belt, unencumbered. The full contact sole felt buttery smooth under foot. I’m accustomed to this type of shoe and this type of feel from Brooks and I love it. The Transcend does feel like a plusher, more cushioned Glycerin 11. I’m eager to see how these feel on a long run.

This morning’s short run purged some, but not all of my soreness. I’m still stiff, but no longer zombie-like. I surprised myself by upping the speed from a modest 8:20/mph after the first mile — what I had thought would be a death march wasn’t so bad after all. Thanks to this morning’s effort, I’ll be feeling worlds better tomorrow and I’ll be able throw myself into a more fun workout.

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Taming the Taper Monster, or How 16 Miles Turned into 21 Miles

This week I cut my mileage in half in order to taper for my upcoming (and my first-ever) 50k race. Distance is my game; the first three miles of a run are often a slog for me but I positively float later, so as my mileage has dropped down to about five or less daily miles, and with multiple rest days, my spirits have plummeted as well.

Aching to put some real ache in my muscles, I leapt at the chance to join my trail running club for an informal group run. I aspire to roll-with-the-punches, laid-back, awesome trail runner status, but I’ve only ever run trails in races, never just for the simple joy of it, so I can’t rightly call myself a real trail runner. I can’t even grow a bushy mountain man beard to help my trail cred.

The planned route for this weekend was about six miles. I decided I’d run to and from the start, about five miles each way, to give myself a solid 16 mile workout and get the long run gorilla off my back.

Funny thing about plans when you’re trail running: you can’t depend on them working out.

When I woke up this morning, I felt like crap on a cracker. Yesterday’s BFit workout involved 150 air squats and 100 kettlebell swings that left my quads and lower back feeling like they’d been hit by a train. Walking was a struggle,
let alone running. Looking at the outside temperature, a bracing 28 degrees, didn’t inspire visions of a fun romp outdoors. Somehow, I talked myself into lacing up anyway.

The hilly miles en route to the group run meet up spot were murder on my already torched quads. An incredibly steep downhill descent the length of a city block further stressed my already fatigued braking muscles. The nearly five miles to the meet up location were tough and slow — so slow that I missed the appointed start time despite having left ample slack time based on my usual speed, but luckily the group hadn’t left yet.

The run itself was an adventure: we clambered over large rocks, scuttled beneath a low bridge like gnarled old trolls, and even hopped a fence. Everyone was friendly and smiling. Trail running is all joy. At one point, the run leader told us that we could up the mileage to seven if we took a small detour. More run, more joy, right? After some grumbling about not having brought water, and about having been lied to too many times on trail runs, the group agreed to tack on the extra distance. It wound up being closer to eight, rather than seven miles. We stopped a few times during the run to let stragglers catch up, so although it was by no means a walk in the park, it wasn’t overly challenging.

Nonetheless, when it was through, I knew that my quads were not up to the punishment of reversing the hilly route back. So rather than run about five hilly miles, I opted to run about eight miles on a flat, paved trail.

I’d eaten a Clif Builder’s Bar before I laced up, then a pack of caffeinated Clif Shot Bloks during the wooded trail portion of my run, for a total of less than 500 calories. Those had been burned off miles and miles ago — my stomach growled ferociously on the way back. I was wearing lugged trail shoes on pavement, with socks I’d worn before, but never in those shoes, and big blisters were growing on the balls of my feet. I drank every drop of water in my hydration pack and thirsted for more. The final miles of this run were far from physically comfortable, but I at peace. Not only that, but I was having the time of my life. I was on a long run, and the taper monster was calmed, at least for the time being.

Brooks PureCadence 2 Review

Truly excellent running shoes never go out of style. Color palettes may change and trends may slide up and down the minimalist/maximalist spectrum, but the shoe that works for you will still work for you. Buying last year’s models is a great way to snag premium shoes for cheap. So what if they aren’t the latest and greatest of what’s available?
With this in mind, I offer up the Brooks PureCadence 2 for your consideration. Brooks introduced the PureCadence 3 at the start of 2014, so the PureCadence 2 is on its way out, although it may still be on the wall at your favorite specialty running store, and it’s still widely available online.
Brooks exhorts runners to try the Pure line with the tagline, “Feel more with less.” Somewhat ironically, I consider these shoes to be feature-rich despite the minimalist/reduced running shoe hype.
Features:
-Lightweight: 9.3 oz for men’s size 9
-Low drop: 4 mm drop
-Ideal Heel: undercut heel discourages heel striking
-Nav Band: elasticized band creates a personalized fit
-Stay-tied laces: lumpy lace ends reminiscent of sausages help secure knots — I always double knot my shoes in order to avoid having to stop to re-tie my shoes, so I’m not really in a position to notice any benefit from this feature, but it’s worth identifying
-Split toe: Supposedly this small split at the front of the toe box allows the big toe to flex independently from the other toes. I call bologna here. All I noticed the split toe doing was kicking up rainwater and getting my feet absolutely drenched. Check out my complaints in my mid-testing update about the PureCadence 2.
-Progressive Diagonal Rollbar: a tri-density midsole which controls mild-moderate pronation and smooths transitions. This pronation control is subtle.I can’t recall having been fit for a shoe that was perfect for my specific pronation control needs, so I don’t know what “just right” feels like, but I do know what crazy floppy and out of control feels like (I’m looking at you, Adidas Energy Boost), and this felt controlled and comfortable.
-Burrito style tongue: the tongue is only loose on one side, so it doesn’t squish down into the front shoe when you stick your foot in the shoe. I thought I would hate this, but the tongue is the right size so it doesn’t gap. In fact, it’s so gapless, that I frequently try to move the wrong side of the tongue — the side that’s attached to the rest of the upper. Surprisingly precision fit.
-One piece upper(?): It looks like the upper of the PureCadence 2 is one piece of fabric with some overlays. This gives the shoe a pretty slick look, and I imagine that it saves weight as well.
My Runs in the Brooks PureCadence 2:
-1/3/14 (morning): 4.03 miles, 31:55, 7:55.19/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/3/14 (evening): 4.03 miles, 32:05, 7:57.67/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/6/14: 1.5 miles, 11:38, 7:45.33/mile average pace, 6:53.79/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/7/14: 4.04 miles, 32:05, 7:56/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/11/14: 10.27 miles, 1:27:30, 8:31/mile average pace, Paved trail and somewhat hilly sidewalks
-1/12/14: 3.13 miles, 26:24.40, 8:26/mile average pace, 6:35/mile max pace, Mostly hilly sidewalks
-1/20/14: 14.14 miles, 2:02:18, 8:39/mile average pace, Paved trail and somewhat hilly sidewalks
-1/21/14: 6.14 miles, 49:04, 7:59.48/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/24/14: 4.14 miles, 32:43, 7:54.14/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/27/14: 4.03 miles, 31:31, 7:49.23/mile average pace, 7:08/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/28/14: 8.19 miles, 1:03:59, 7:48.74/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
Total: 63.64 miles, 8:41:12.40 time running in the Brooks PureCadence 2
Free Form Thoughts About the PureCadence 2
Sometimes I run for speed, sometimes I run for distance, and sometimes I run for mood — a good run can make the crappiest day melt away. These shoes are a good choice for any of those types of runs. The light weight can go long and go fast, although the lower drop leaves my legs more tired than more traditional running shoes since muscles that aren’t used to working so hard are put through their paces in the PureCadence 2. The more miles I put in these shoes, the better they felt — I think I was beginning to adjust. I completely forgot about my shoes during the 14-mile run.
Despite the rubber pods on the sole, the ride is reasonably smooth, but those pods don’t make for ninja-like footfalls…at times I heard myself slap slap slapping along. Eventually I either got better at running in these shoes, or I figured out how to tune out the slapping noises eventually.
The medium-plush heel cup provides a touch of extra comfort which cradles my heels with a soft fabric hug. I’m excited about the maximalist trend in running shoes. You may never catch me in Hoka One Ones, but I like to feel protected and cushioned in my shoes, especially over the long haul. Other features such as pronation control are arguably more important, but the comfy shoe and the good-looking shoe win the day with me, and probably most runners if they’re being honest, when buying new running shoes. If the looks and the out of box feel don’t excite me, the shoe isn’t coming home since I won’t want to run in it.
My Non-Running Activities in the Brooks PureCadence 2
-Casual wear
-10 hours of driving to a friend’s wedding
-BFit workouts
-Regular gym workouts
The PureCadence 2 is eye-catching, especially the all-over red version that I have. I took off my high heels after my friend’s wedding and donned these bad boys to drive to the hotel and really confused the night manager when I strolled in with my loud, incongruous shoes. These will be great casual shoes when their running life is over since they look great and perform adequately in non-running applications.
By the Numbers
Looks: 10/10
Just awesome. Initially I thought that I wasn’t that into the non-traditional look of these shoes, but when I opened the box and put these on, I fell in love pretty quickly.
Durability: 7/10
The all-fabric toe ripped when I fell during a run. Rocks, crooked sidewalks, and other obstacles will occasionally and naturally get kicked during a run. It’s a shame that the upper can’t stand up to the ordinary rigors of road running. I can’t fault any of the seams or the construction, but the lack of an exterior toe cap (there is a semi-rigid plastic toe cap underneath the fabric) is a significant flaw as far as I’m concerned since tears in the toe area can affect the entire upper because it’s one piece.
Comfort: 8/10
Certainly not the most plush shoe I own, but the interior fabric is soft and cushioned all around. Good comfort, but not great.
Feel: 8/10
I can go fast in these shoes, but I don’t necessarily feel fast in these shoes, if that makes any sense. The lower drop makes me work harder, but I realize that that’s my problem, not the shoe’s problem; were I more into reduced/minimalist running shoes I would be better equipped to run in the PureCadence 2 without difficulty.
Price: 10/10
Jump on these if they sound like your cup of tea and if you can find them — expect to pay less than $70 since retailers will be looking to clear them out in order to make room for the new PureCadence 3.
Overall: 9/10
I surprised myself with how much I liked these shoes — they aren’t perfect, but they are very, very good.