Tuesday, February 19, 2013

For the love of it... or how a 10K trail run turned into 10.5 miles

Wow...    today was such a great day.  I'm not exactly sure what all came together on my run today, but it sure felt great. No, I didn't set a PR.. (I was actually quite slow)... no, not a milestone training run. I just ran.  I love trail running...   and today I ran because I loved it so much.... no other reason.

I set out today to run a local loop trail because it was a beautiful day, and since I'm shooting for the 120 day challenge, I needed to run at least a mile anyway.  Besides, I had some new trail shoes to test out for a review.  But once I got on the trail and started thinking about it, I realized that today my main reason for running was because I truly loved it.  And that still sounds kind of crazy to me.  I think I was in a thoughtful mood because I am about halfway through Vanessa Run's book, The Summit Seeker.  I love the way she describes why she runs and in many ways I can identify with it.  Also, what came to mind was a post in early December from my friend Trisha at Barefoot Monologues about how getting so wrapped up in training that you lose sight of why you started to begin with and you lose the joy of running.

Her post was really great.. and you can read it by clicking here.  A great quote that stands out is:
"Today I realized something very interesting: that running makes me happiest when I am doing it for no reason. No reason at all."  

At the time, I thanked her for such a great post and the message, but truthfully I was in the middle of a set marathon training schedule, and doing my training runs etc etc.. so I didn't dwell on it a lot,  but that message did stick and linger in there somewhere.  I think that is why I was not overly upset about missing my marathon goal, but instead just happy to have finished the race, and to have enjoyed the experience.

But today, that message rang home... the empty snow covered trail, beautiful sky and mountains..  the foothills all to myself. And the feeling that I could go anywhere...  this is why I run.

When I got to the top of the loop... I paused to take a break and enjoy the scenery and the quiet.  And then I decided I was enjoying myself too much to head back home.  So, I ventured over onto Rampart Range road and just kept running...    I've been down this road many times before, but it was much different than the Jeep jarring washboard, dust cloud billowing drive in search of some fun 4X4 trails...  instead it was a 5 mph, quiet and peaceful ride...  the only sounds being the birds, wind through the trees, my steady breathing and rhythmic footfalls..

So, I ventured on until I thought it was a good time to turn around..  didn't pay attention to the distance, or my time... just enjoyed being able to move and enjoy the beautiful place we live.

So.... does that mean I will no longer be training or entering races?  Nah... races are great fun, and are motivational, so not going to change that.  But... I'm thinking I am going to shift back to more of a free form training program..  just running when and how far feels right for any upcoming races.  But most of all, I'm going to do my best not to get sidetracked or distracted again from the whole reason I got out there to begin with...running because its what I love to do..    Thanks Vanessa and Trisha!   Life is good :-)

Happy trails!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You Are What You Eat: Clean Cuisine Book Review and Giveaway!


Hey look.. it's a post about something other than running! :-)

You are what you eat. It really is true, and I've learned a lot about that over the last few years.  After reading Michael Pollan and others, it really hit me how the Standard American Diet (SAD) is so messed up.  SAD is an appropriate acronym.

In an effort to kick start healthier eating habits, I worked with my doctor at True Life Medicine. His practice is focused on Functional Medicine (which could be an entire blog post, but click here to learn more).  He started us with a 30 day "elimination" program, effectively removing just about all known inflammatory foods, and later reintroducing them one by one.  Anyway, we learned a lot from that process, and subsequently have changed our diet to avoid (as much as possible) processed foods, funky chemicals/preservatives, gluten, dairy etc.  And the results have been great.

Ok.. so you've heard this before...  let me get to what I meant to blog about!  During the journey to better health I'm always open to reading books, cookbooks, blogs and websites about clean eating.  So, I recently had the opportunity to read "Clean Cuisine" by Ivy and Andrew Larson which was just released last week. 

So, first and foremost, I did enjoy reading this book.  I think it has a lot to offer, and at various levels.  From a straight-up, keep it simple perspective, this book relays the message that always resonates with me. To be healthy means to eat "real" food.  Simple as that.   Real food as defined by the Larson's is "nutrient-dense whole food found in its most natural and unrefined state". 

I like that message, and when things become overwhelming, especially when you get wrapped up in looking at specific diets (Paleo, SCD, Gaps, Vegan, Vegetarian, Fruitarian), or trying to decide what foods work best for your body, it's good to just step back and realize that if you are avoiding fast foods, processed foods, and any other staple of the SAD diet, then you are way ahead of the curve in taking care of your self.

Now, on a more detailed and complex view, this book offers some really great information specifically about different types of foods (carbs, fats, protein) etc.  I struggled through some of these sections because they can be a little overwhelming.  But I found them to be good resources to go back and look at when I had a question etc. 

The book is divided up into sections and the following is a brief summary:

Part 1: This is the introductory section, and it speaks to the simple ideas I noted above about getting back to eating real food, the role of micronutrients, and plant based phytonutrients.  The gist is in line with Pollan's all encompassing mantra of, "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much".

Part 2: This really gets into the micro-level explanation of the components of clean cuisine and clean eating. Some really fascinating info, but not a quick read. 

Part 3: This section focuses on a prescribed 8-week Clean Cuisine program which incorporates their 30 minute "Full Fitness Fusion" workouts, along with a program to facilitate a transformation to clean eating. Unlike the elimination programs I've done, this one focuses on increasing the intake of clean foods, while making weekly changes to habits as you go along.  I like how each of the weeks provided 3 areas to focus on in terms of changes, and offers a lot of great tips. 

Part 4: This final section offers over 100 recipes to support clean eating. I haven't tried any yet, but after browsing through them, its obvious they are well thought out, and not overly complicated etc. 

As I noted at the beginning, I did enjoy reading this book and I think it has a lot to offer. Especially if you are just getting into making a change to your lifestyle.  And it is exactly that.. not a "diet", not a temporary fix or magic pill.  It's a permanent lifestyle change, and one for the better for sure!

At this point, I am happy with my current workout/running program, so am not looking to try the workout portion here, but if you are not on a program, I think this book has a great one to start with. It looks like a great balance between core and cardio, and of course, tied together with clean eating will certainly get you on the right track to being healthier and happier.  Notice I didn't say lose weight...    I learned this go around that you can't focus on that.  Forget counting calories, points and all that.  Eat what you want, as long as its real food.  Exercise along with it, and you will feel great.  Weight loss is just a nice fringe benefit to making a permanent lifestyle change for the better!

Ok...  if you stuck around this long... thank you!  And to thank you, I'm happy to provide a copy of this book to a lucky reader.  You know the drill.... complete entries via the Rafflecopter box below.  I'll run this contest until 10PM MST on February 20th.  Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always, thank you for tuning in!  And if you have questions, comments, rants etc... feel free to leave them below. I try to respond to all questions.  You can also email me at barefootinclined@gmail.com

Happy Trails!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

All Weather Adventure: VFF Speed XC Review

Vibram Five Fingers Speed XC

Finally back to a shoe review!  I've been meaning to get to this one for a bit, but with the holidays, work, school, and my first marathon, I've been a bit busy!

Today's review is of the VFF Speed XC released last fall.  This is the third VFF shoe I've tried, after the VFF Flow and VFF Spyridon.   And, each of these shoes, while sporting the iconic five finger toe sleeves, are quite a bit different.

First of all, the Speed XC's are noted on the VFF website as being a trekking and after sport shoe. I read this as being more of a multipurpose and casual shoe.  And, based on my review, they really do fit that mold! But before I get into my impressions, here are some stats and fact about these.

 First of all, these were built to handle cold and inclement weather. The upper is comprised of several layers with taped seams that provide water resistance and warmth.  Also, compared to the other VFF's I've tried, these have a healthy sole and foot bed in them. With a 4mm eva midsole, a 4mm outsole (see above), and a lining, I'm guessing these are in the 8-10mm range for stack height.   Also, you can see the sole has a more traditional shape to it, coming in at the arch area. The upper has a one-piece construction (integrated tongue), with standard lacing versus any velcro strapping

Guess I could have rinsed them off first.. :-) 

When looking at them side by side with the Spyridon and Flow, you can certainly see the more formed fitting shape, versus the sasquatch-like wide sole of the Spyridon.  Consequently, the Speed XC's certainly have more of a "shoe" feel to them when wearing, versus more of a second-skin type feel of the thinner and more flexible models.

One feature I really liked about the construction of this shoe was the interior.  Vibram did a great job of keeping the seams minimalized and the overall feel inside very smooth.  I had a harder time wearing the Spyridons without socks due to some of the stitching, but I didn't have that problem in the Speed XC's.  Very comfortable to wear sans socks.

So, I managed to put the Speed XC to a variety of tests.  First and foremost was a run up the Manitou Incline, followed by a run down Barr Trail... by now you know the drill!  First run in them as around 20 degrees F out, and a fair amount of snow on the ground.  I combined the XC's with a pair of mid-weight Injinji toe socks, and I stayed quite warm, even while running on snow and ice.  Granted, I'm still a wimp with cold, and I know a lot of folks that would run in these conditions barefoot.. but I'm not there... yet.

Traction was pretty good, especially coming down the trail. Not as good as the Spyridons, but I attribute that to a sole that was a little less flexible so I couldn't wrap my toes around the various features of the trail as well.  I had no problems staying dry either. So, as a trail running shoe.. not bad, although I would choose the Spyridon for serious trail runs over these, although they wouldn't be as warm.

Now, on to other applications!  I had a great opportunity to put them to use at a weekend event sponsored by UpaDowna (Up a mountain, down a beer), a local non-profit with a focus on outdoor education, and simply just getting folks out there and moving.. .such a great group!  I recommend checking out their website and Facebook pages!

Sorry.. getting sidetracked again.  Anyway, at this event (which the boys just loved), we got to sled, snowshoe, and ride FAT BIKES!  If you haven't heard of fat bikes before, they are simply awesome. They were supplied by The Hub Bicycle Shop in Colorado Springs, and it was my first opportunity to try one. With the huge balloon tired and superb gearing, these bikes were amazing. The sensation of floating while pedaling across 6 inch deep snow was so cool.  Anyway, the Speed XC's proved to be terrific biking shoes!

And not just biking, the XC's worked awesome in a pair of snowshoes.  This was the first time I had tried snowshoes as well, and the boys and I had a blast.  Finally, I got my share of sled runs in as well!

So.. .my overall impression of the VFF Speed XC's is that they are very well suited for hiking/trekking and playing around in the snow as I did.  A great multipurpose shoe that I also wore as a casual shoe on several occasions.  As a hard core trail runner, I would spot them below the Spyridons, but they performed well for snow/cold conditions.  A better fit for snow running looks to be the new Lontra's, and hopefully I'll get a chance to review those for you as well before the winter is over... which around here could always be awhile!

For me, the biggest drawback was that they didn't have the same "feel" as my other VFF's...  with the thicker  and more structured sole and upper, they had more of a shoe feel than I am used to.  If you are looking to transition to VFF's, but aren't comfortable with a super minimalist feel, these may be a good fit for you. Especially if you are looking for an all around trekking shoe that you can wear for just about anything in just about any weather.

So.. again, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know!

I'll leave you with a photo of the sunrise I took the morning I went up the Incline in my Speed XC's..

Happy Trails!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Alternative Energy Sources: The New Primal and Energybits Review and Giveaway!

No.. don't worry, this isn't a post about green energy alternatives to power our world... I'll leave those discussions to my buddy Matt over at PeakGeek.com!  He finds the most amazing geeky info around so check it out!

No.. this post is about fueling your runs or workouts.   During my marathon training runs I was experimenting with a variety of ways to fuel up before and during a run.  Of course I've run with the basic electrolyte/energy drinks and gels, but I also tried a variety of whole foods (dates, sweet potatoes etc).   In addition to this, I tried out a few protein type options... so here are a few reviews of some cool new products and a giveaway of course!


The New Primal is a relatively new company out of Charleston, SC founded by Jason Burke. The company is a result of his pursuit of better health through primal foods such as lean meat, and raw nuts, fruits and vegetables.

So.. what does The New Primal make?  Simply some of the best tasting beef jerky I've had..    Their jerky is hand-crafted from grass fed beef, gluten free/all natural,  and is minimally processed without the use of any preservatives, nitrites or artificial ingredients. 

Besides the grass-fed jerky, there are also three "trail" packs that include raw almonds and cashews combined with either cranberries, pineapple, or mango.   And yes... they are way tasty!

Sorry for the poor picture.  Food has to be one of the toughest things to photograph, and I'm a marginal photographer at best... so if it doesn't look appealing, trust me it's great stuff!!

I ended up tucking a pack of these in my waist pack on one of my 20 mile training runs...  about halfway through I stopped briefly and took the opportunity to refuel.  After running with just gels/water, there was something about the salty sweet crunchy chewy combo that was incredible.  Compared to some jerky, this may be a bit more saltier than I've had, but it was just what I needed during a long run.  These would be awesome for backpacking/hiking as well.


So how do you get a hold of some?  Right now, it is only available in certain stores, mostly in the SC area, but you can order them online at their website http://thenewprimal.com/.   Packs are $6.99 each for the 2 oz jerky, and 2.8oz trail packs.  Yes... a little pricey, but for great ingredients and artisan quality production, it's not bad.  And you can get discounts if ordering in quantity.


Ok.. now on to a slightly more unusual fuel source.  Energybits... according to the company are:

100% algae 60% protein & ONLY ONE CALORIE each! Healthy little snack and natural source of ENERGY to supercharge you, leaving you mentally and physically stimulated for any activity!

Ok.. so I don't know a lot about spirulina.. perhaps some of you do. I know its an algae that is packed with tons of vitamins and good stuff.  In reading more about it on the Energybits site, I learned that it is also the richest source of protein in the world.  It is basically like a super food energy drink, compacted into a small tablet.

Now, it is recommended to swallow about 30 bits before a workout in order to gain energy, endurance and mental clarity.  You can chew the tablets (they are food after all), or simply swallow them with water.  The packaging noted that you may have to work up to chewing them, as they have a pretty interesting flavor.  The boys were excited when I got the tin, but after opening it up and seeing green bits that smelled like fish food, they decided to pass!

The tin I sampled probably had around 50 or so bits, so I split it up and used it for two 10+ mile runs.  The key difference I noticed when using them was that it seemed like my energy level was a bit more balanced throughout the run.  Before trying these, I could sometimes tell when I was running out of energy from my pre-run meal and would work to keep things in balance refueling on the run.  I didn't notice this nearly as much when I started with the Energybits... things just seemed a bit more stable and perhaps I had more energy? I think I need to try these more to see.

The company also offers other types of "bits" which are basically either chlorella algae, spirulina, or a combination of both.  I only tried the Energybits (100% spirulina).

So how do you get some?  Bits are only available on the Energybits website at http://www.energybits.com/  and are sold in a foil pack of 1,000 bits for $115.  This is noted as a 1-2 month supply, but I guess it all depends on how much you take.  So, not inexpensive, but if you get results from it, it may be reasonable.

But.. if you would like to try a tin for your self, just leave a comment below and I'll choose one comment randomly on Friday February 8th after 8PM MST, and Energybits will send you a sample tin!

2/8/13 8:15 PM MST:  Congrats Tracy! You were randomly selected for the Energybits tin! 

Ok... thanks again as always for tuning in.  And as always, please leave me feedback, questions, rants etc below!

Happy Trails!