Monday, February 1, 2010

Preparing To Brave The Beast

Winter training continues. I feel like I am in product test mode. First of all I have been working myself into more "minimalist" running shoes - less shoe bulk, closer to a barefoot feel with the protection of a sneaker. So I checked in with Oregon ultrarunning ace Jeff Browning for his advice. He has been doing some real excellent testing in this department (and offering some great advice on how to transition into running in more minimalist shoes). He suggested trying the INOV-8 X-Talon 212. Sounded good to me, so straight to the Zombierunner website I went and ordered-up my first pair of INOV-8s. They not only look cool but they are nice and narrow and fit my foot great and they are extremely comfortable!

This past Saturday Karen F. and I did a "test-run" on a path along the Chenango River at the Chenanago Valley State Park. It was below zero degrees when I left my house and only slightly warmer at the park (still sub-10 degrees), very little sun, and a bit of wind. This would prove to be an excellent test for the upcoming Beast of Burden race that I am preparing for. We ran a 2.8-mile out and back along the river, utilizing the warm restrooms and our cars as refuelling stations. The highlight of the day was that we were watched for two out-and-backs by a pair of bald eagles that Karen tells me nest nearby. How amazing it was to see these awesome birds up close - I had never seen one in real life before. I was absolutely stunned by their size and beauty!

So here are some reviews/findings that I discovered in our 5 1/2 hour, 23.2-mile run. This test run on this brutally cold day proved to be probably the most important thing in preparation for The Beast . . . had we not done this, I think I could have made some potentially bad choices that could ruin my race.

1. Hydration I wore a waist pack carrying two CamelBak insulated drink bottles. The water in the bottle did not freeze, however, water that splashed above the insulted bottle portion into the cap and mouthpiece did!

2. Fuel I carried a flask of Hammer Perpetueum (in concentrated paste form), which my stomach tolerated very well. However, I carried the flask in the chest pocket of my Nathan vest and this did not provide insulation and the paste froze in the mouthpiece - fortunately I was able to remove the cap and get some of the frozen slush out to keep me fuelled. Hammer Endurolytes - at the rate of about 2 caps per hour (since I was not noticeably sweating) worked well to keep the electrolyte balance.

3. Clothing I wore my Seirus Stormsocks and my feet stayed dry and toasty-warm for the entire run! These things are a dream; I have been utilizing the same pair for 3 winters now and after multiple washings/dryings they still keep my tootsies warm and dry. Love 'em. Sweating did not seem to be an issue at all - I stayed dry and only changed my shirts & jacket once (and only then because I needed a jacket that would go over my hydration pack to see if this would help keep the bottle caps from freezing). I didn't even have to change into dry clothing for the drive home. And I did try the face mask out - that didn't last long. I am not a fan of having my face and mouth covered, no matter what the temp. I prefer slathering Vaseline on my skin and have found this to be a very effective skin protectant (although a bit messy). And my hands stayed dry and warm with just glove liners on - hands pulled inside my jacket sleeves when necessary.

On the drive home (1 hour, 20 minutes) I refuelled with 16 ounces of chocolate milk, some salt & vinegar potatoe chips, root beer, and a fish sandwich. And then I treated myself to some excellent black olive and feta cheese pizza, chicken wings (OK, not healthy but I earned them!) and an Arrogant Bastard Ale. Awoke on Sunday feeling great and ready to run again.

This trial run was exactly what I needed. Yesterday I pulled out my old CamelBak Flashflo and attached the insulated drinking hose and gave that a trial on a 7-mile run in 6 degree weather with winds a bit higher than Saturday's run. A bit of ice build-up was noted in the cap over the mouthpiece, which I think could have been avoided by blowing the water back out of the mouthpiece and into the hose after taking a drink. I will have to test-drive this unit on a longer run, but I think this is going to be the most effective method of carrying fluids.

So that's where I'm at with winter training. This is really fun! I only hope that we don't incur something awful like a warm spell for the race! I am totally looking forward to the challenge of some brutal conditions. So . . . Cowgirl Up! and let the games begin!!


  1. Chris! Good to see you're trying some of the Inov-8's. I absolutely love the X-talons 212's...they are for sure my new favorites. I wear them for long runs, short runs, speed, everything. I may even wear them for Bighorn. Also, I have been making a pancake batter-like gel out of the Perpetuum and it has been working for me to supplement other foods/gels in ultras. Glad it's working for you too. Keep it up and good luck my friend! :o)

  2. hey yassine! yup, lovin' the x-talons! i will for sure wear them for The Beast. unfortunately, if multiple shoe changes are required then i will have to revert to the cascadias, but it would be great if i don't have to. as for my fuelling - well, my iron-gut has proven to be more sensitive to what i eat than i thought. the perpetuem works great - the cafe late flavor rocks - and we'll see how it keeps me going over the long run! keep running strong man - i would love to hear your ideas on what other inov-8s might be good to try out.