Monday, January 30, 2012


Something has finally clicked and I feel ready to start building up the mileage once again!

It's easy to forget how much it sucks building mileage after a few months off... The last few weeks have been a struggle to get into a routine and to build mileage without feeling fatigued. But after the third week of build-up, I have finally hit a rhythm and am now able to plan my 13 week training cycle for Worlds (which is in Italy, awesome).

The plan for Worlds is to basically do what I did last year: several weeks at or around 110 miles, with some progressive run workouts designed to be at or just under goal pace for the 100k, then ramp up the mileage to around 150 with a few 4+ hour efforts in the mountains. All of this should lead to being in excellent shape for the race, and hopefully another team gold for USA! More details to come once the workouts start.

As for other life developments, I have recently accepted a job at Brooks Sports and will be starting early February. I will now be living in Seattle, so if you read this and have any suggestions on running groups to link up with or favorite runs in the area please comment with the details.

I have also changed around my race schedule for the year, and will be adding more local races. Rainier to Ruston is one I'm considering, and White River may be an annual event now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ideas on Minimalist Shoes

After working for over a year in a running shoe store, I think I've gained a solid stance on how I feel about minimalism and the shoes that have been created for this purpose.

First and foremost, I am a firm believer that whatever works for you, works for you... It's that simple. If you have had success with your shoe of choice, whether it's the Brooks Beast or the Mizuno Wave Universe, then that's great and I hope it continues to do so. That being said, I have had quite a bit of experience with answering questions about minimalist shoes (and maximalist shoes for that matter) and think I can offer a bit of insight to people looking to find the right shoe.

I think the minimalism fad popped up so quickly because people were fed up with buying shoes that were heavy and really didn't seem to offer any help in the way of injury prevention or even to reduce muscle fatigue. The only difference a lot of people noticed was that they were wearing a brick on their foot. The idea of wearing something light on their foot was exciting because it offered a faster, more free feeling. Combined with a well-known book adding "legitimacy" to the movement, the idea kind of blew out of proportion. People swung from one extreme to the other without even considering the middle ground as a possibility.

Another element that led to a large upswing in marketing of minimalist shoes was the mainstream specialty running brands and running shoe stores starting to make and sell these shoes. A lot of people thought this was due to the running shoe brands finally admitting that they were selling people expensive, injury causing running shoes, and conforming to the simple and "right" way to make shoes. On the contrary, I would like to think it is because corporations and running store owners alike are smart and wanted to make money off of a current fad like any other fashion brand would do (and its exactly the reason you see all minimalist shoes come in like 40 different color waves for one shoe).

But its not really the hype or the misinformation that bothers me most about the minimalist movement. It's the most important feature in the shoe's construction that throws me off...

STABILITY- I agree with Geoff Roes' blog post about needing more cushioning for longer distances, but I also think the body can adapt over time to get used to higher impact... if that's what you want to do for some reason. On the other hand, if a shoe is inherently unstable for a person's mechanical movement, it can be quite dangerous (kinda like running in a pair of Shape-Ups).

For some reason, stability has become a 4-letter word. Stability can be achieved in more ways than just adding a dense posting to the medial side of a shoe. More often than not just increasing the width of a shoe increases the stability. Think of it in terms of a snow shoe vs. an ice skate. A snow shoe is much more stable since it has such a wide base. But the fact that most minimalist shoes are designed in the shape of a foot....

....really bothers me. They are so heavily drafted under the arch of the foot that they offer absolutely no support to the foot or ankle (i.e. ice skate effect). This not only allows the collapse of the arch and ankle, but in most cases it actually exaggerates it, almost like the shoe is purposefully designed to throw you off balance. I have seen a large number of people with neutral mechanics running in these shoes and they almost always overpronate. Don't get me wrong, I have this problem with a lot of regular running shoes too, but I have only seen two or three "minimalist" shoes that has a decently wide base for the foot to land.

The marketing concept of a more "natural" foot strike has bothers me as well. The idea that changing your preferred foot strike is the "natural" thing to do is completely absurd. A lot of research on the topic of gait analysis has shown that any change in your gait will cause you to be less efficient. People who forefoot strike and try to change their gait to a heel strike will become less efficient and vice versa. And the concept that any one prescribed method of running will work for everyone in the world is complete BS. A natural foot strike should be one that feels natural to you. Whether its heel, forefoot or midfoot, it should feel comfortable and unforced.

With regards to all the reports of people being injured from overbuilt shoes..... Chances are, there are a few things at work here. The most common thing I've seen in the running store is a person in a shoe that is completely wrong for them (they bought it because it was $25 at BIG5 or at Nordstrom because it looked cool, something like that). They are also increasing their mileage for a race like a marathon. The combination of wearing the wrong shoe and increasing their mileage by 300% leads to their body responding in a negative way. Simple as that.

My advice for people who are having problems with their current pair of shoes or training:

-Bring your current pair of running shoes into a running specialty store. More often than not, any one of the employees here will be able to help you find the right shoe. Whether its having you run on a treadmill or down a hallway and back, they will be able to see which shoe looks best as you're running in it. Keep in mind that you want something to match your foot shape without having to wrench down the laces. If you have a narrow foot, see if they have any narrow versions in stock. For men this will be a B width, women will have a 2A width. Wide widths are usually available too, 2E or 4E for men, D or 2E for women. Make sure the shoe feels comfortable as your running in it. No amount of support will benefit you if you can't wear the shoe. Lastly, make sure the store has a good return policy so you can try the shoes out for a bit. It's often a prerequisite to be a runner if you work in a running shoe store so chances are they'd be able to offer advice on training.

-If you're training for something or just getting started, a lot of people have aches and pains associated with entry into a sport. It's really easy to blame the shoe, but more often than not its just the body saying you're loading too much too soon. Keep a mileage log and make sure you're not bumping up your mileage too quickly. If you do 10 miles the first week, then bump to 15 and feel horrible, keep in mind you've just increased your mileage by 50%. It's nice to keep things in perspective.

In the end, I think anything that gets you out the door and running is awesome. If thats a new pair of shoes that you've never tried before, GREAT! Just keep in mind that if you're going to try something drastically different, do so cautiously. If you find something that works for you, stick with it. If not, figure out what isn't working. Trial and error will help you find your way into the right shoes.

I always feel like I haven't explained my stance well enough, so if you have any questions please don't hesitate to comment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I had a friend email me recently to ask a few questions about marathon training and I thought it'd be a good opportunity to put a few of my opinions on running out there. most of these are general guidelines on how to stay healthy and avoid injury when bumping up the mileage. Anyway, here ya go!

There are too many factors in a person's day to really single anything out, but there are basic elements I tell people to focus on when they are training for a long distance race like a marathon.

EAT WELL - i see too many people going for the "beach body" and skimping on calories because they think training for the marathon is gonna help them lose weight. this is a large cause of injury. on the other hand, don't cram in crappy, calorie dense foods just because you're hungry. Try to eat calorie dense foods with nutritional benefits like almonds, cashews, peanut butter, hummus, etc. vegetables and vitamins are very important too. protein should probably be the last thing on a person's mind when training for the marathon. the average american eats probably 2-3 times daily what they actually need even if they are training for something like this.

STAY HYDRATED - very important. i'd keep a bottle with you at all times and refill at fountains.

MULTIVITAMIN - if there are any inconsistencies in your diet, or you want to take something during the winter months with lots of vitamin c and d, i'd recommend SportMulti. its what i use now and its awesome. then again, if you already have one that you like just stick with that.

SLEEP - invaluable

STRESS - while its a natural occurrence in any persons day, make sure you remember to take it easy on the runs during stressful days. you're likely to be a lot more exhausted and depleted.

PROGRESSIVE RUNS - so here is an interesting topic. the idea of a progressive run is very simple... you start out slow, let your body warm up, and then you can lower the pace to basically anything you want. I started using this idea for every single run this year and it works really well. most people (like myself before trying this) start out trying to maintain a pace the entire way. If you don't give your body time to warm up, you'll feel fatigued later in the run. next time you're out, try starting out running easy to the point of being annoying. do that for ten minutes and then work your way down to a comfortable pace. these runs are also valuable for "speed work". i hate using that term because it implies interval training most of the time. with progressive run training, you get much more long-distance benefit. you're teaching your body to handle faster paces without the starting and stopping. it takes much less time to recover from progressive runs than interval training.

another problem is that people are running all of their miles too fast. if youre trying to hit a target pace for a marathon, that doesn't mean you need to spend 90% of your time running at that pace. its a quick path to injury.

RUN ON SOFTER SURFACES - if your body is a constant muscle ache, you might want to try getting onto a dirt road or trail of some sort. the roads are between 30-50 times harder than even the hardest packed dirt road. also some single-track trail with strengthen your stabilizer muscles while giving you a change of scenery. strengthening stabilizer muscles makes a huge difference late in races.

AVOID MINIMAL SHOES - this is way too big a topic to explain in a few short sentences, but i feel minimal shoes are absolutely the worst things you can put on your foot whether you're running 100 yards or 100 miles.... but especially if you're running 100 miles. if you're going to race in a racing flat, maybe get in a few runs with the flat to make sure its comfortable. it shouldn't be a "full-time mileage" shoe though.

I'll write more on minimal shoes in my next post............

Monday, November 21, 2011

JFK Race Report

Heading into JFK I had mentioned the sneaking suspicion that it would be easy for someone to break the existing course record.... As it turns out, it was probably two guys trying very hard, but making it look easy! Congrats to both David Riddle and Mike Wardian for their accomplishment. David has very quickly shown that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

As for me, the race was the last of the year and I was interested to see how my body was holding up. Going into the race I hadn't done much intense running and was trying to balance healing with sustaining an acceptable weekly mileage total to maintain fitness. This tactic didn't turn out to be the best!

At the start of the race I let the front pack go almost immediately. I could tell these guys were ready to demolish each other on the trails and I wanted to run at my own desired pace for the technical section. At the start of the trail I felt great and began settling into my usual quick steps, pretending the trail was just a long obstacle course. It was really nice to be back in the northeast and to see the difference in landscape.

Slowly I began reeling people in and made it to about 6th place with a mile to go on the AT section. This is where I began to hit a bulk of the early starters. While dodging between two men I caught a rock with my left foot and lunged forward, slamming my right knee into a large, pointed rock. My initial reaction was more frustration than pain. After about 25 steps I began hobbling and felt my knee locking up. So I began an awkward looking sort of shimmy down the trail as a few of the elite guys passed by.

At the break between the AT and the C&O canal, I ran past my dad and he told me to stop for a second to assess the damage. I had a bloody welt the diameter of a quarter on my knee, and a massive desire to puke. I think this was the point where a lot of people had seen me stall and thought I would drop. After a few minutes of encouragement from bystanders I decided to see how I'd feel in a mile and slowly began hobbling toward the towpath.

Once I got on the path I felt a large rush of adrenaline and was able to get into a pretty solid rhythm. At this point I was probably running 6 minute miles and felt pretty good. I soon caught up to USA teammate Matt Woods and we began running together for the next 7 or so miles until the adrenaline left and I was forced to ease off the pace. Watching him surge forward, I felt a bit disheartened at not being able to join the fun at the front of the pack.

Normally I would have been extremely frustrated at the turn of events. However, I was happy to be taking part in the race and had resolved to finish regardless of time or place. The fatigue I was feeling made it difficult to sustain a pace, but whenever it became too much I simply walked and waited to catch my breath... taking in plenty of scenery as I walked along.

At one of the aid stations I hung out with my crew for an extra minute and enjoyed a Yuengling beer. It was fun to take a step back from the usual competitiveness and just enjoy the atmosphere for once, not to mention a beer I haven't enjoyed in a few years.

Towards the end of the tow-path I found Matt Woods hanging out at an aid station. When I asked him what happened he said he had blown up. I told him to join me and we began clicking off the final miles of the race in a slow but steady fashion. I think we were both relieved to only have 8.2 miles to go.

Finally at the last aid station I felt the itch to finish and thought I could finish strong. I left Matt and picked up the pace. My finishing time was somewhere around 6:23, not terrible but not anything to throw onto my list of top performances. I think I can do better, and this race is one on which I'd like to devote an entire training cycle.

Things I learned: 1) Although the trail section is short, it is a vital part of the race. I need to dedicate a bit more time to running extremely technical trails before running this race again. 2) Even though I didn't have a great race, I had a great weekend with friends and family, and actually got to spend more time with them while making the race fun. 3) David Riddle is a badass!

Now that the season is over I am planning to take a month off of any sort of physical exertion aside from hiking and the metabolism-boosting Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving Day. I'm also going to use my time and energy trying to get my hands into a few more volunteering opportunities as well as ranting on the blog about races, fads, funny stories, etc.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Running, as of late, has been a struggle. It's not an injury or sickness, I am just content with hitting 50 miles a week and feel that anything more would be a detriment to arriving at JFK perfectly healthy.

The last few months have been interesting. After World's I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. And although I was disappointed with the fact that I could have gone in the low 6:30's or high 6:20's that day (cramping issues), I am still extremely satisfied with my time as well as my placing in the first international race I've ever done. I am also ecstatic to be on the first USA team to win a gold medal in the 100K event. But after the glow of such a huge event, one that I trained a whole year for, I'm finding it difficult to get motivated.

There is also the question of health. After world's I felt extremely depleted. The same issue happened after the Point Defiance 50K. Although I feel healthy on nearly every run, I still feel that the hard efforts take a little something extra out of me. In summation, I'm glad JFK will be a last effort! It's time for a little R&R and I'd like to spend a few weeks working on a beer gut! Before that happens, some serious racing needs to be done.

JFK is a race I've always wanted to do. And this year, I think the field of elite runners are going to push the finishing times down to a course record. With 90% of Team USA toeing the line as well as a few other really fast guys, I think this is a year it could be done. Of course, someone has probably said that every year since 1996. The fact that a time could stand for that long means it is solid for sure. But I also have this nagging notion that it can be easily done. Without giving too much of my strategy away, I think going through the first 15.5 miles in under 2 hours is doable without a superhuman effort, and from there you should have enough in the tank to hit 6:40's the rest of the way. Granted I haven't seen the course and I've heard the first section is extremely technical. But after that I've heard the terrain is quite pleasant. Combined with a large pack of equally talented runners, it should be an interesting day. Enough talking about it for now, I guess we'll see!

Another interest that has grabbed my attention lately has been a local group called Dock Street Runners. It is a group started to give the homeless an outlet for exercise. With a large amount of free time and no outlet, it is easy to see why an overwhelming majority of the homeless are either drug/alcohol abusers or obese. This group with combat some of those issue. One guy has already lost 50 lbs in 8 months! Wenche (phonetically spelled Van-Kuh) Wahl is the leader of this group and she has 54 committed members running with her every wednesday at 10AM. After speaking with her I learned that she is in need of new/slightly worn shoes, tech running shirts, shorts, etc..... anything we need as runners. At the moment I am trying to find ways in which to procure some of these items, one way being to place a donation bin at my running store. Please let me know if you have any other ideas. If you'd like to contact Wenche directly or make a donation, here is her contact info and website.
(253) 229-1654

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

3rd Place at Worlds!!!!!

That's right! My first event on an international level and I finished 3rd!

I haven't had a chance to write since I went back to work the next day after arriving back in the States. I'll have a very detailed write-up of the events in Winschoten soon.

For now, I'd like to say that I'm extremely happy about my race and being able to contribute as part of the first American team to win a Gold medal in the 100k World Championships.

I'd also like to say that Meghan Arbogast is a beast!!!!!!!! She now holds a world record at the event.

And lastly but not leastly, Montrail athletes did some serious work this weekend! Way to go guys

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Long, Slow Taper & two shoe reviews

World's is just about 1 month away! It's crazy to look back at the last 17 weeks since 100k Nationals and see the myriad changes that have occurred: fatigue, strength, sickness, various races that have either worried me or exactly the opposite. It's all gone by so quickly, yet so much has happened. Here is a look at the progression of mileage and some races I've done to prepare for the biggest race of my life....

Week 1: 18 miles
Week 2: 40
Week 3: 32
Week 4: 55 (Lost Lake 50k, 1st place)
Week 5: 62 (Capital City Marathon, 11th place)
Week 6: 52.5
Week 7: 77.5
Week 8: 101.5
Week 9: 92
Week 10: 81
Week 11: 98
Week 12: 110
Week 13: 103 (Four on the 4th four miler, 3rd place 19:54)
Week 14: 133 (3 X 8K @ 28:30 pace)
Week 15: 114
Week 16: 94 (White River 50 Mile, 4th place 7:15)
Week 17: 90

The increase in mileage was slow, but I think this was the best possible course of action I could have taken. Although I've raced far less this year than last, I think that has really paid huge dividends in health and recovery. At the end of last year I was so fatigued every day that I could barely run 3-4 miles without stopping to walk or double over. I had been overtraining and lacking in important recovery areas such as sleep, nutrition, and hydration. This year has been far different and I am 100% on track to meet and possibly even exceed my goals for worlds. That being said, I'd like to reveal a bit about what I had in mind.

Since the 100k National Championship I have had an idea that I could potentially put down a very serious time at Worlds. The course has everything a person is looking for in order to run a fast time. From what I'm told, this is one of the few places where the 100k world event is taken very seriously, and the event is done extremely well. The course is also extremely fast and below sea level. The last American Record was broken here (6:30:11) and I intend to make an attempt to better that record. Its a bold statement, but one must have goals in order to reach their full potential. I think the competition in this race will help me achieve this goal, since there are quite a few guys out there that have already run much faster this year. I can only hope that the weather will be kind, and I can avoid completely wasting myself in the first half of the race.

There are still a few workouts I need to do before the race and I will update very soon on my progress towards the World 100K.

In other news, I have received two pairs of shoes from Montrail as well as some pretty gnarly gear from Mountain Hardwear to test for the Spring 2012 line.

Montrail Badwater - This is by far the best shoe I have placed on my foot from Montrail. I think the company is headed in a much better direction with the Spring 2012 line! So to give a full review I'll split the shoe into 3 parts: the upper, midsole, and outsole.
Upper - The upper material wraps the foot extremely well. Montrail has taken great care in cleaning up the stitching on the upper and has instead used mostly welded overlays to create structure in the upper. This means it has a nice, smooth feeling on the inside of the shoe and less irritation where stitching can sometimes create hotspots. Although a bit rigid at first, the upper material gives after about 20 miles and to a certain extent creates a custom fit for the person's foot. Combined with a subtle appearance I was pretty happy about the aesthetics and comfort of this shoe's upper.

Midsole - The midsole of this shoe is fairly simple. Since it is a hybrid road/trail shoe (thus the name "badwater") they have added certain elements to make the ride a bit smoother than a normal trail shoe. The foam is a bit softer than the average trail shoe, which makes it extremely comfortable from the moment you slide your foot it. However, they have used a unique styling of the midsole to create something that transitions smoothly but still performs well when moving laterally. It is extremely difficult to get the best of both worlds, but with Montrail's geometric design on the midsole, they have gotten about as close as one could get to creating a true road/trail hybrid.

Outsole - The outsole of the Badwater is about the only area where I would make complaints, and that is only because I am a true shoe nerd. The medial side of the shoe is beautifully done, and the micro-lug design is another feat of engineering that make this shoe responsive on the roads, and rugged on the trails. The one complaint I have for the shoe is that the heel area is not decoupled enough and the lateral side of the heel actually built about 1 to 2 millimeters higher than the medial side. This is something that is common in most shoe companies (to name a few, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony) and it doesn't necessarily hinder the shoe too much it just creates a bit stiffer ride. If the rubber outsole could be decoupled just a bit more on the lateral side I think this shoe could be mechanically sound for just about anyone who placed in on their foot.

Montrail Rogue Fly - All I have for this one is an iPhone photograph!

For those of you who have seen or worn the Rogue Racer, this is the exact same tooling (outsole and midsole) as the Rogue Racer. The only thing that has changed on the shoe is the upper. In my opinion it is a much better fit and it actually feels like a competitive shoe. Coming in at a scant 7.5 ounces, it knocked off about 1.3 ounces just in the upper material! I think this shoe is going to be able to rival any other minimal trail racing flat out there once again due to the 3-point microlug system that allows for smooth transition on the road (felt great at the 100K) but also for great grip on rugged terrain (felt even better at White River). This is, without a doubt, going to be my shoe for the World 100K!!!