Sunday, February 26, 2012

End of a Series.. and the Beginning of further and faster..

End of the 10K race. Courtesy of

Saturday I ran the 4th and final race in the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series.  This series is in its 33rd year, and is comprised of a variety of trail races in and around Colorado Springs.  The last race was a 10K, and it was my first official 10K race (running that is... I've walked the Bolder Boulder 10K several times).

It felt really great to finally run a 10K, and made me realize that I really can continue to add distance, working my way to a marathon and beyond.  A year ago when I couldn't run 200 yards without stopping to catch my breath, I would never have believed it.

It was a beautiful sunny Colorado day, and even though most of the course was covered in snow/ice, the Vivobarefoot Neo Trails (with Yaktrax for the more slippery first half) performed really well.  The course was hilly, with a couple of pretty long grinds.  On two of those, I switched to a fast walk when I realized my "running" was slower than walking!  Regardless, I finished with a 1:12:31, against my personal goal of 1:15:00.  What really helped was a little pull from a really nice guy Andrew (in pic above).  We had been passing each other off and on most of the race, but at 4.5 miles in and working our way up another hill, I asked him how his VFF's were gripping on the course.  Being a minimalist runner, I'm always looking for those running in non-traditional shoes :-).  Anyway, our conversations inbetween grabbing what oxygen we could provided a nice distraction, and I think we both kicked up the pace in the last mile. Thanks Andrew!

Also, before I forget, many of these pics come from Tim Bergsten at Pikes Peak Sports..  Tim runs an awesome site, takes amazing photo's and videos.  If there is a race going on, you can count on seeing him there.. thanks Tim!

Here is a quick recap of the first 3 races:

The first race was a 3.3M true trail run. Another gorgeous Colorado day in Cheyenne Mountain State Park. A lot of single-track, that happened to be covered with some pretty slick ice and some fun downhills.  Ran this in the Neo Trails and Yaktrax. Finished in 39:19 For a full report click here.

This little girl pwned me.  Courtesy of

The second race was a 4 mile out and back along Fountain Creek in Colorado Springs. Basically packed dirt/gravel and pavement.  Gradual uphill heading out, and downhill coming back...wee! First run in the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves and they were fast and comfortable.  Finished in 41:01.

Race #3 finally lived up to the Winter Series name. This was a 5 mile race, and when I arrived it was 18 degrees, the wind was blowing 20+mph, and it was snowing sideways!  Fortunately it was an out and back with the wind behind us on the uphill. Needless to say, it was pretty cold on the way back. This was also a day dedicated to running for Sherry Arnold, which made it pretty special.  I also posed for a pic with two other runners running for Sherry... I later found out that Tiffany (in the middle) writes a great blog at  iRun-4-Mom.  Obviously, this was another run for the Neo Trails.  For more, click here.  Ran this 5 miler in 58:13.

Heading into a blizzard.  Courtesy of

Which brings us back to the last race yesterday.  Leading up to this one, I was a little nervous, as I had only run farther than 6 miles one time before, and that was the Wednesday before this race.  Now I'm excited to run more, and am looking forward to the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day.  I have always enjoyed walking this one, and now I'm hoping to run it, ideally as close to 60 minutes as I can.

What a great day, and a great way to end the series!  Besides looking forward to longer races this year, I'm also looking forward to the Fall Series put on by Pikes Peak Road Runners this fall too.  Here's to further and faster in 2012 :-)

Happy Trails!

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves...The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."
-Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes things click.. oh..and COOKIES!

Ok... so what does a picture of a crushing golf swing have to do with anything?  Well, there was a point in time where I attempted to be a less than bad golfer.  I would go through long stretches of whiffs, slices, hooks, and horrible divot digging swings... BUT... about the time I was ready to give it up, everything would click into place and I would just nail a perfect swing... enjoying that moment of stepping back and watching that irritating little golf ball just rocket off exactly where I wanted it to go..  and the feeling I got from that swing would be enough to carry me through the next 50 crappy swings that would inevitably follow.

Now that was a long time ago, but that feeling came back to me today.  I've been participating in the 120 Days of Running: The Challenge and today was day 14.  The past two or three runs for me have been really tough.  The distances weren't long... anywhere from 1 to 3.5 miles, but for some reason they were just not any fun.  Mentally all I thought about was just stopping.  Everything felt heavy... like running in thick mud.  I started thinking about why I was pushing myself to do something that I obviously am really bad at. BUT... like the crushing swing, my 5K + run today was the best time that I have run...  things just clicked and it felt great the whole way.  Not that it was super easy, but mentally and physically I was able to enjoy the effort and to push a littler harder.  In many ways, coasting back into the driveway was much like enjoying that perfect swing...   Let's hope that feeling gets me through the runs to come...  I like it much better when I feel like this guy..

Speaking of runs, Saturday will be my first 10K when I run the 4th and final race of the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series.  I'm a little nervous, since it will be the longest distance I've run, since I started running 10 months ago.  But, I've found that I seem to do better when running an event, versus out on the trail or road alone.

Oh... and before I forget..... COOKIES!   Yes...  in my quest to find good for you, yet good tasting treats, I came across an awesome recipe for gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free, processed sugar-free cookies!  Now, after a list of "free's" like that, you are probably thinking of something akin to a cardboard chunk or a road apple.  BUT.. you have to try these... they truly are amazing...and super easy!

Banana-Coconut cookies from

These are from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen and are not only yummy, but are packed with protein.  I've added this recipe to the "Recipes" tab above, along with a few of my own notes.

Of course... they are amazing with a great cup of coffee.....

Hope you all have a great week, and that all your running (and golfing) adventures are ones that just "click"!

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Review...and other stuff

7/19/13 Updated:  If you would like to read a review of the Trail Glove 2.0, click HERE
If you want to know how these compare to the Merrell Road Glove, click HERE

Ok.. I think I've logged enough miles in different environments to be able to provide my initial impressions of the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove.

If you are curious about my review methodology, or lack thereof, you can click here.

UPDATE:  If you also want to know how these compare to the Merrell Road Gloves, click here. 

Ok, I got the Trail Gloves from Merrell about 3 weeks ago, and since then I've probably put 35 miles on them in various weather and terrain.  If you've been following this blog, you'll know that before these I got the Vivobarefoot Neo Trails as a winter running shoe.  So, after relaying my initial thoughts on these, I'll provide a brief comparison between the two shoes for those that are interested.   

The first thing I noticed when unboxing these shoes was how light they were.  Granted, I haven't tried a lot of different shoes, but the Trail Gloves weigh in at 6.2 oz each, versus 8.7 oz (without insole) for the Vivo's.  Also, they looked pretty narrow, which had me concerned.   I also noticed that the tongue had been folded over a little when packaged, so I had to make sure it flattened out before putting them on.

As I put them on, I certainly noticed a very snug fit... almost glove-like... ha! sorry, I couldn't resist.  My initial concern was that these would be too constricting for my feet, but the Merrell "Omni-Fit" lacing system was pretty slick, and allows you to adjust tension in each section of the shoe according to your liking.

I think I have fairly "average" feet, but my guess is that if you had a really wide foot, these may prove to be too snug.  However, I did find that the toe box was still roomy, and allowed me to flex and spread my toes without difficulty.  What is funny is that with this glove-like fit, to me the shoes felt "fast".  The second time I ran in them I set personal best mile splits in a 4 mile trail race, so that was pretty cool.

As for the sole, the specs list it as a 4mm compression molded EVA made with a Vibram Rubber Compound TC-1.  What all that means? I have no idea :-).  What I can tell you is that the sole provides pretty decent ground feel, and the 1mm forefoot shock absorption plate is a nice addition for rugged terrain.  The lug pattern is not super aggressive, with the most traction showing up in the front below the toes. They performed fairly well on compact snow and a little bit of mud that I found, however my concern is that they don't seem to have an agressive enough tread for heavy snow, ice, or slippery mud.

I've run in these both barefoot, and also with a pair of Lightweight Injinji Outdoor Series socks.  They were very comfortable with and without socks.  I mainly wore the socks however, because I ran a lot in below freezing temperatures and it was more comfortable. The open mesh upper will be nice when the weather is warmer, but for now a little extra warmth helps.  Anything above freezing however and I would ditch the socks and grab more ground feel.  The lining and stitching inside the shoe was relatively smooth and I didn't have any issues from rubbing etc.  Also, they have yet to develop any unique or interesting odors, so the anti-microbial treatments seems to work well, however these shoes can easily be dropped in the washer and air-dried as needed.

 Of course, my first test was to take them up the Manitou Incline, followed by a trail run back down Barr Trail. Climbing in them was great, and for the few patches of compact snow/ice that I hit, they performed well.  Running down the trail, I did notice the little assistance that the 1mm shock plate provided when hitting a few nasty rocks.  It wasn't so much that it dramatically lessened the impact (I still felt it pretty good), but it did seem to help dissipate some of impact outward which was helpful.   Overall, I really liked the feel of the shoe and how responsive they were on the trail.  Maybe I've just run in a lot of heavy shoes, but again, the glove-like molding to my feet, the lightness, and the overall performance made running this trail a lot of fun.

 I almost forgot the obligatory "flexibility" picture... my bad.

So, overall, I really like these shoes, but in particular I find them best suited for times when extra traction is not required, or when it's not super cold out.  Some of the best runs I've had in them have been on compact dirt trails and pavement where they have excelled.   I would recommend that you take time when trying them on to ensure you like the form-fitting feel of the shoe etc.

Ok, now that I've relayed my impressions, I want to provide a little comparison between the Trail Glove and the Neo Trail.  Besides my Invisible Shoes, the Neo Trails were the first minimalist trail shoe that I purchased. I did an initial review on these at the end of the year which you can read here.  When I was trying to decide on which minimalist trail shoe to get, I settled on the Neo Trail as it seemed the best fit for winter running in Colorado.  I am glad that I got the opportunity to try the Trail Gloves also, as they were a close second during my decision making.

The difficult thing about comparing these shoes is that, in my mind at least, they are both quite a bit different in both fit and performance, so its almost like comparing a tangerine to a pear (I had to come up with something other than apples and oranges).

The 3 key differences in these shoes are the tread, the fit, and the weatherproofness (I don't think that's a word).  The Neo Trail has a much more aggressive tread, and also more surface area as you can see in this pic below.

The Vivo's sport a 5mm lug height in a chevron pattern that grip all kinds of terrain very well.  These lugs sit on top of a 3mm base, so there is a little less proprioception in them versus the Trail Gloves.  However the sole is very flexible.  One drawback is that the unlike the Trail Gloves, the Neo Trails do not have any kind of impact plate in the forefoot, so sharp nasty rocks can still get you (and have gotten me several times).  Regardless, what I found was that for running on snow, compact snow, or irregular ice, the Neo Trails have a distinct traction advantage over the Trail Gloves.

As for the fit, the Neo Trails are wider mid foot, and the overall upper is thicker, especially around the ankle.  So, you get less of the "glove" fit, but it is still very comfortable.  Also, the composition of the upper in the Neo Trail makes it shed water much better than the Trail Gloves, and subsequently provides much more warmth in the toe box.  Alternately, the Neo Trails will be too warm for the summer, at least that is my feeling, and they probably won't drain nearly as well if they get submerged in water etc.  Good news is that Vivobarefoot has just launched the Breatho Trail which has been designed to address many of these issues, and looks to be a great warm weather alternative. I would love to try those out!

So, for me, its more of a matter of choosing the right shoe for the conditions.  I realize however that not everyone is going to have 2 or more pairs on hand to select from.  If I had to choose just one shoe, it would be the Merrell Trail Glove.  Primarily because I could make it work in the winter and summer.  Now, if I had the opportunity to try out the new Breatho Trail, that may change the equation.  But for now, my go to shoe for snow, cold, and slippery terrain would be the Neo Trail, and for warmer, less demanding environments, I like the Trail Glove.

IDEALLY, I would merge these two together...  take the fit of the Trail Glove, and add the more aggressive treads and warmth.. OR... move the shock plate to the Neo Trails, and add a slightly more snugger fit and breathability and I'd be set.    Ah well...  as the video from Steven Sashen at the upper left notes, since I'm way into barefoot running, I need a lot of shoes!!

Wow, this has to be my longest on most blathering blog post to date.  If you made it this far, I feel like I should award a prize.

Thanks for tuning in... as always please leave feedback, questions, snarky comments etc below.. I love to get mail!

Happy Trails...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Winter run for Sherry...

Today was the third race in the 4 race Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series.  As you may know, today was also the Virtual run to remember Sherry Arnold.  Like me, you may not know her, but you may have heard her story. I learned about it through various Facebook posts and friends, as well as from the blog, Shut up and Run (SUAR).  To learn more about Sherry's story, please read the related posts on SUAR's blog.

It is such a sad and tragic story, yet today was focused on ensuring that "Sherry's goodness, courage and strength prevail and she is not defined by the tragic way in which she died."  And it is for that reason, many of us dedicated our runs today to Sherry.

When I got up this morning, it looked to be a fairly nice day.. not too chilly, and a little bit of sunshine coming out.  However, as I drove down the pass I quickly dropped into what was becoming decent snow flurries.  After heading north on I-25, the road got nasty, and there were a few accidents (no injuries from what I could tell).

By the time I got up to the trail head for the start of the race, it was between 15-20F (-9C), the wind was blowing and it was snowing pretty good.  Today's trail was basically an out and back, with a slight uphill on the outbound, and downhill on the way back.  Fortunately the wind was behind us on the uphill, and the slight downhill on the way back helped to drive through the wind. 
I had originally put on my Merrell Trail Gloves for this run, but after looking at the snow conditions (ranging from frozen dirt, compact snow/ice, to 2-3 inches of soft snow, I opted to go with the Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. The more I run in them, the more I realize how well they are built for this exact type of run. 
Photo courtesy of Pikes Peak Sports
While the conditions may seem a bit extreme, it did feel good to get out there and run.  It's funny, but even though I never knew Sherry Arnold, just the fact that I had committed to dedicating my run in her honor made a more significant impact than I realized.  As my mind was working during the run, I became more and more thankful for everything and everyone in my life.  And, as I realized I was a bit behind my goal pace for the race at the halfway point, the feeling that I was doing this run for someone else got me energized, and I pushed harder on the second half.  I did run into a few others sporting the "Running for Sherry" bibs, so that was cool to see, and had my picture taken with a few ladies there that were also running for Sherry. 
Awesome event by the great volunteers at PPRR!

Hot apple cider, and frozen donuts!

 After grabbing a hot drink, and a mini-doughnut (I know.. I know.. but it was just a little one!), I got back into the car to head back home.  After driving through more snow, I finally began the climb up Ute Pass and back home...  as I climbed, I came up and out of the snow to pop out into a beautiful sunny day, with the trees all covered with the freezing fog that had been around earlier in the morning.

What a beautiful sight after having slogged through all the wind and snow that morning. 

In addition to completing the 3rd race in the series (1 more to go, a 10K in two weeks), I also completed day 5 of the 120 Consecutive Days of Running challenge started by Jason Robillard.  The challenge is to run at least 1 mile per day, for 120 days in a row.  So, I am 5 for 5 after today!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend, and that each of you take a moment to reflect upon everything and everyone that you are blessed with.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The "Joe Sixpack" of reviews...

No.. I'm not about to post up my suggestions on how best to review gear on a blog...  I don't even know what I'm doing myself :-)

Photo credit:

But, I have promised a few personal reviews for the Merrell Trail Glove, Road Glove, Vibram VFF Flow, as well as a follow up review of the Vivobarefoot Neo Trail.  I will get those posted up here over the next few weeks, just need to keep logging more miles!

In the interim, I thought it might be good to at least provide a little insight as to where my thoughts are when putting together a review.

I am certainly not a Big League runner/blogger, and vendors are not spamming my email begging to send me stuff to try out (But they are welcome to!).  I'm not sure I'm even Little League...   maybe T-ball...   anyway, I digress.  To quote a former high school classmate, I would consider myself the "Joe Sixpack" of blogger/reviewers.  In other words, just your "average" barefoot/minimalist runner... working to get healthier, lighter, faster etc etc...  all while having fun, and during that journey, as I come across shoes and stuff... I try them out, and then relay what I discover to you all.

I know that I should be concerned with providing reviews that are heavily researched/tested, or to ensure I cover specific criteria and statistics etc.  But honestly, what I end up writing is about the stuff that I look for when I read a review!  I find that reading personal reviews of products before I purchase them is very helpful.. especially if I can identify with the reviewer.

So, what you'll get is my impressions, likes/dislikes, and a narrative of the way the shoes performed (for me).  Granted, what I'm hoping is that I really am somewhat representative of "average" and that my reviews are helpful to those trying to make a decision.  I will also try to provide as much perspective as I can (comparison with other products I am familiar with), and if I don't know something, I'll say so.  But that is where you come in.  I truly appreciate any comments/feedback that are posted, as that helps to add more depth to what I have posted, and I always learn something.

Ok... I'm off to log more miles in a few different shoes... all for sake of reviews... well, no not really. Off to rack up more miles because it is just plain fun, addictive, and it's good for me too!

Happy trails!

Food Rules #2: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food - Michael Pollan