Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reasons I run #17: Pumpkin Cheesecake

So yesterday for my birthday, my wife ordered an amazing pumpkin cheesecake.. one of the best I've had (next to the Chocolate Guinness version from the same bakery).  So yes, cheese cake is decadent, and not necessarily the healthiest, but so what? It tastes amazing, and I don't eat one every day!

The point is, there are always special occasions, and reasons to live life and enjoy these kinds of things.  Where we get in trouble is when every day becomes a special occasion :-).  You could eat three meals from McDonald's one day each week (although not sure why you would want to), and spend the other days of the week just eating "real" food, and you would be fine from a health perspective.  Granted, I am not a dietician, but you get my point.  So if you focus on consistently eating well, and exercising, then take advantage of those periodic opportunities to indulge yourself, and go for the good stuff!

From a running perspective, I did the Incline last week on Tuesday and Thursday (Thanksgiving), and was happy to finally start moving my time down, cutting 2 minutes off on Tuesday, and another minute on Thanksgiving.  My goal is to break the 40 minute mark for the climb before the end of the year.   These 1 mile climbs followed by a 3.5 mile trail run back down twice a week have done wonders to offset my cheesecake forays!  I've also been trying to work in at least two 5k runs a week around the neighborhood.

Also, after I go again on Thursday this week, I'll post up a review of the Injinji Outdoor Series toe socks I've been testing with my Invisible Shoes.

Have a great week!

"Preserving the health by too strict a regimen is a
wearisome malady." - Fran├žois Duc de la Rochefoucauld

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More socks... and a thank you

Just realized that I've been blogging about 6 weeks already... time flies when you are having fun. So, for those of you that have been following along, reading, commenting, and posting on the Facebook page, thank you!

Blogging has been a great way to journal my random thoughts, and talk about some of the things that are important to me.  What I didn't realize was how many great people I would "meet", and how much I enjoy reading all the other great blogs out there.  From a barefoot/minimalist perspective, it's been great to network with others and to learn so much. I've also enjoyed taking time to talk about recipes and healthy eating as well. 

Now.. on to toe socks, because I know that's at the top of everyone's minds these days :-).  About two weeks ago I did a review of the Injinji Performance Series toe socks, and how they performed with my Invisible Shoe huaraches.  Well, the fine folks at Injinji have sent me a couple pairs of the "Outdoor Series" toe socks that I will be testing out over the next week, so by the end of next week I should have a new review on this series, how they worked, and how they compare to the Performance Series.  I will be testing out the original weight outdoor series in a mini-crew length, as well as the light weight outdoor series in a new "no show" cut.

Again, thank you for taking the time to read my sometimes random ramblings.  If you have any ideas or feedback you'd like to share, please do!

"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." -Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let's eat!

A quick note before the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow.  We are in the midst of the holiday season, filled with great celebrations, and more often than not, filled with lots of food centric activities.  Don't get me wrong, I love to eat and I love good food.... I just hope that more people take the time to truly "know" what they are eating. Before I jump on a soapbox, please understand that I am not a dietician or physician (although it would be fun to play one on TV). I'm just a normal guy from a normal family that decided we would be much better served by eating well.

I shared an article earlier this week on Facebook about the addition of cellulose (wood fiber) to a wide variety of processed foods.  If you missed it, click here to read it. Over the past year, our family has worked really hard to eliminate processed foods from our diet, and to focus on whole foods, preferably organic, and ideally local. And for those other items we buy, we have made a concerted effort to read labels, and to avoid those things that have ingredients that are not recognizable as "food".  It's certainly not easy, because if you stick to those rules, you've eliminated 90% of what can be found in most grocery stores. By focusing on eating this way, my wife and I have both lost weight, our boys are amazing healthy, and I've managed to drastically reduce my cholesterol.  As as side benefit, I've become much more physically active.

So, as we head into this holiday season, my wish for everyone is that they don't count calories, don't become fixated on fat intake, sugar intake, carbohydrates, or any other dietary fad or focus.  Instead, just truly understand and know exactly what it you are eating, and do what you can to make sure its real food ingredients.  If you want some very easy rules, just follow Michael Pollan's "Food Rules" and you can't go wrong.  And finally, eat the real stuff. Choose butter over chemically orchestrated simulated butter spreads. Choose agave nectar, or organic cane sugar over high-fructose corn-syrup or artificial sweeteners.  Keep it real! Your body will thank you.  To quote Andy Bellatti (who really is a registered dietician), "Stop fearing a home-cooked holiday dinner. Your mom's mashed potatoes worry me much less than Big Food's ubiquitous crap food".   So.. there you have it.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

"Within each of us, nature has provided all the pieces necessary to achieve exceptional health and wellness, then left it up to us to put them all together."  ~ Diane McLaren

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On any Sunday...

Anyone remember the movie, "On Any Sunday"?  I realize I am dating myself, as this movie came out in 1971.  Now, my memories of it as a 7-year old growing up in Southern California, was that it was a great movie about motorcycle racing, on and off road, and Steve McQueen was in it.  However, what I remember most was going to the theater to see it (with my older cousins presumably), and that there was a delay in getting the movie started.  What broke out at that point was pure anarchy in the theater, and I remember taking cover behind the seats as Milk Duds and popcorn rained down like dietary shrapnel.   Anyway, is there a point to the story? Not really.. its just Sunday, and this is my random thought for the day.

Coincidentally, we have twin boys who are 7 years old, and today was a special "date" day with dad for one, after earning it with excellent choremanship.  So on this particular Sunday, I was asked to take him up the Manitou Incline.  Since much of this blog is focused on my addiction to the Incline, of course I was more than happy to take him.  I had taken both boys up a few weeks ago, but we only went half way up (1/2 mi), and back down the 2 mi trail.   Today, I was told we would go to the top. So, off we went.. and with a few snack breaks, we made it to the top (1.1 mi and 2,200 ft).  From there we did some rock hunting, and then headed down 3.5 mi of the Barr Trail .  And here is also where I had to chase J all the way down the mountain.  While I slowed my pace for him going up the Incline, he was pushing me faster than I normally hoof it down the trail.  Needless to say, I think there may be a Leadville 100 in his future, based on the pure joy he had cranking it down the trail.   So.. here are a few pics..   hope everyone had a great weekend.

Jogging is very beneficial.  It's good for your legs and your feet.  It's also very good for the ground.  It makes it feel needed.  ~Charles Schulz, Peanuts

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey Trot Predict 5K, and cupcakes!

Today I participated in the Pikes Peak Road Runner's, Turkey Trot Predict 5K, which was great fun.  The goal of the run is to predict your finishing time, and the 6 closest to their times win a turkey.  So each runner took off at the time they predicted as the clock ran backwards.  If everyone was exactly right, every runner would finish at the same time.  It was a beautiful fall day in Colorado Springs... in the low 50's about the time the race ended.

Based on my 2 mi times from my last Nielsen Challenge, I had predicted/hoped for 33:47, but ended up running it in 35:53.  2 minutes better than my best 5K so far, but still kind of a let down.  I'd really like to get up to a better pace, but I know I need to be patient.  Considering 6 months ago I couldn't run 400 yards without stopping and walking, and now I can run 3.1 miles in minimalist sandals, I guess I shouldn't complain.

My feet felt great in the sandals, and I am pretty sure I could have continued on at that pace and completed a 10K.  What I'd like to do is figure out how to get a little faster.  I have a feeling it has to do with cadence (and perhaps getting down 25 more pounds!).

Again, I was "that guy" in the odd sandals..  at least this time though I did spy a pair of VFF's, Merrell Trail Gloves, and a few New Balance Minimus shoes out there.

I realize I have been remiss in keeping up the healthy eating part of this blog too.  So, I am adding a new recipe to the Recipe tab.  This gluten-free/dairy-free Raspberry Cupcake is another one from Lillian's Test Kitchen ,which looks awesome.  Planning to make these tomorrow, so I'll let you know. I embedded her video on making these below also... they look super easy!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

"I can't be funny if my feet don't feel right" - Billy Crystal

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Moonlighting... and a review of Injinji toe socks.

After almost two weeks, I was finally able to do the Manitou Incline . Between the weather and traveling, I've missed my twice weekly ritual.  It was an amazing morning... a very bright 1/2 to 3/4 moon, not much of a breeze, and temps I would guess to be around 35F (2C).

I wore my headlamp, but realized halfway up that I didn't need it with all the moonlight, and with the time change, the sun was close to rising as I took a short break at the top.  I did the climb/run in my Invisible Shoe sandals, however today was my first opportunity to use my new Injinji toe socks (review below). They worked great.. kept my feet warm, and fit perfectly with my sandals with little interference.

I have to admit also, that during my run back down, I kept thinking about the 100-UP technique recently circulated by Chris McDougall. Like anyone who has watched the video, I tried out the drill, and I appreciate its simplicity. At those times when I felt my form was faltering, I mentally thought of the drill, and subsequently got my knees up, my foot strikes lighter, and a quicker cadence. One thing I noticed was that it certainly felt better and got me back on track.  Anyway, curious as to feedback from anyone else who has tried to integrate this drill.

Ok, now for my first product review.  This is purely my own opinion of a product that was purchased, and not provided by Injinji.

I have been looking for options to help keep my feet warm during the Colorado winter, but to stay as minimalist as I could. I love my Invisible Shoes huaraches, so I looked for a sock option.  I tried out a pair of Injinji Performance Series, Original Weight, Mini Crew toe socks. Injinji offers this series, plus an outdoor series and Yoga series, each in a variety of weights, colors, and cuff heights.

When I got the socks, I first tried them on for fit. Now, these are not the socks to put on if you are in a hurry to get out the door! It took me several minutes to align my toes with each slot, and to use my fingers to press down between each toe to get them snugged on. It made me realize that I have a ways to go in developing the individual dexterity of my toes... so many years in shoes that my toes like to behave as one cohesive unit.  I noticed that the packaging says to be patient with your first wear, and to allow time to adjust. Once on though, I really liked the feel.  I've never worn VFF's or toe socks, so the feeling of each toe being separate was cool, and it reminded me that I could move them individually if I concentrated!

Next I put my sandals on.  This particular weight of sock is ideal for the Invisible Shoes..  I didn't have to adjust the cords as it was a comfortable fit over the socks.  I spent the next hour running around the house and working etc just to get comfortable.

This morning I put them to the road test. As noted above, it was a cool morning, and an ideal time to try them out.  They did a great job of keeping my toes/feet warmer. I didn't begin to feel any sharp cold until near the top of the Incline as I had to cross a short section over compacted snow/ice, and that transferred to my feet quickly.  However, at the top, I took a short break, warmed my toes up with my hands, and was ready to roll.

The rest of the run is a 3.5 mi (5.6km) downhill trail run on dirt, gravel, rocks etc.  I had next to no slippage of the socks inside the sandal, and the traction of the sock against the rubber footbed of the sandals was good. Not as good as barefoot, but it certainly didn't cause me a lot of problems or issues.  In other words, the trade off for warmer toes was absolutely worth trading a small bit of traction and a more muffled ground feel.

So, for my intended purpose of finding a sock to add warmth/protection with minimal disruption to the performance of my huaraches, this sock fit the bill and I would recommend it.  I would like to try out the Outdoor Series of the sock, and perhaps in a heavier weight to see if it will allow longer running in sub-freezing temperatures.

Review Summary (out of 10 Toes):

Fit = 9 Toes   my little toe didn't want to stay in all the time, but maybe I have weird feet
Performance = 9 Toes  Minimal slippage, excellent comfort
Style = 10 Toes   I don't think I should even cover style.. I'm a typical guy... they are black, and black goes with everything right? :-)
Intended Purpose = 10 Toes   These did everything I was looking for

If you've made it this far.. thank you.  Feedback is always welcomed!

"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play" - Heraclitus

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Just a quick note today to thank all of those who are, or have served our country.  Especially, my dad, and my father-in-law.

Also, we are on a short trip to Las Vegas this week, celebrating the 75th birthday of our best friend's mom.  Crazy day in Vegas, as it appears everyone is here for a birthday or a wedding!

One of the cooler things about this trip is the runs I did yesterday and this morning. Great temps for running, and another good friend from Seattle (who also recently took up running) joined me for both runs.  I normally run alone, so it was fun to have some company and someone to chat with. Also, living and running at 8500+ ft elevation, it feels so great to run below 2,000 ft and enjoy the extra oxygen!

Ended up doing a 5k each morning, and the first time I've run two consecutive days in my sandals.  I've pretty much worn them everywhere around Vegas, crazy looks or not.  I also discovered that they performed well on the Zipline ride down Fremont Avenue! I will however put on actual shoes for the birthday celebration tonight :-)

Here's a video from the Zipline ride down Fremont Ave, where we happened to see Jesus, Spongebob, and Elvis together!

Have a great weekend!!

There are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools you can't get into, but the roads are always open."   - Nike

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Twincliners"... or.. I can't keep up!

This afternoon I took our 7 year old twin boys up the Manitou Incline for the first time.  Ever since I started doing the incline twice a week in the early mornings before they were awake, they've asked me about it, and whether or not they could climb it.  Today, I said sure.. lets go.  My plan was to let them try it.. and if they got tired early on the less steep part, we could walk back down. And at best, we'd get to the halfway point, and take the cut off trail from there back down.

We got there, and they were very excited. I spent a lot of time yelling "slow down!". First, because I wanted to keep them close to me in case they lost their balance or footing, but mostly because they were dragging me up there faster than I go when I'm pushing myself in the mornings!  Well, we made it to the halfway point no problem, and they were ready to push to the top, however it was late in the afternoon, and I knew that the 3.5 mile hike back down the Barr trail would eat up a lot of time.  So we took the 1/2 way point bailout to the trail back down.

On the trail, we were passed by several people that were running...  so of course, off they went... and again, me trying to rein them in.  A few minor slips, bumps and scratches and they slowed themselves down a bit. But all the way down they wanted to know when we'd be back so we could get to the top.

Needless to say, add two more "incliners" to the rolls..   and yes, I am happy about that!  Included a few pictures below, but to see the rest, check out the Facebook page.

Hope it was a great weekend for everyone..

"You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough."
- Joe Louis

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Am I a freak? Am I "that guy"?

This morning I went down to Colorado Springs to participate in the monthly Nielsen Challenge. It's a two mile handicapped run that the Pikes Peak Road Runners club hosts on the first Saturday of each month.  This was my 3rd one, and my second run in my huaraches.  What amazed me was that out of 114 people that showed up to run, I think I may have been the only one in any kind of minimalist shoe.  I didn't even see a pair of VFF's.  The first two times, I saw at least two people in them.

Granted, it was in the mid to high 20's, but still.  Also, since I was by myself, and didn't really know anyone there, I was just hanging out waiting to start, and I keep noticing these sideways glances.. you know.. where people are looking, but don't want you to know they are looking.  Sure, I was the only guy with exposed feet, but it got me to thinking.... am I really that far out of the mainstream? Am I going to be known as "that guy"? 

Maybe I've been too involved in reading all the other barefoot/minimalist blogs and books, but it just seems to me that everyone would be on this bandwagon with me. I mean, I've never been one to be on the bleeding edge of anything.  Who knows.. perhaps I am out there with a select few... but I'd like to think of us minimalist/barefooter's as the ones really in the know :-)

Regardless, I did manage to cut about a minute off my time, and may have even passed a few octogenarians this time.  And yes, I still outran my couch today.

For those of you bare foot/minimalist runners reading in the Colorado Springs area, maybe you can put down 12/3 on your calendar and come meet me at Monument Valley Park...  at least then instead of "that guy", it could be "those people"!

Have a great weekend!

"Today I will do what others won’t, So tomorrow I can do what others can’t". - Unknown 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

4WD for your feet!

Today was my first run up the Incline in the snow. There was still a pretty good amount of snow on the way up, and Barr trail was well covered at the top also.  What a blast!  And when I got to the top, it was the quietest its ever been... so cool.  Also, I got to see the carved pumpkin that someone had left up at the top.

So, as I said yesterday, I knew I would be running in my shoes today, as I am not a bare footing superman just yet. I borrowed some YakTrax from a good friend to help with traction.  Let me just say that they performed INCREDIBLY..    I wasn't sure what to expect, but I swear I could have run up a vertical wall of sheer ice and not slip! I ran down hill on compacted ice and snow and had no concerns. They are that good...    needless to say, they move to the top of my wish list.

Now, as far as running goes, I was a little sad to see my invisible shoes being left behind this morning.. I've gotten so used to running in them (and wearing them most of the time).  But... I made a great discovery..  running barefoot and in minimalist sandals has made me a better runner in shoes!  Forcing my brain to imagine I wasn't wearing shoes help me to maintain a shoeless form, and did not heel strike. However, the thick heel was kind of annoying as it wouldn't allow the full compression I would normally get in my sandals or barefoot. Also, not having the more direct contact and feel, I did trip a few times since I was not able to adjust quickly enough to changes in terrain.  But, this does make me optimistic about finding some minimalist trail running shoes for extreme conditions like today. If you have any recommendations, please comment!

I did take a number of pictures today, and I'll post most up on the Facebook page, but here are a few.

"I often hear someone say I'm not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner."
-Bart Yasso

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snow day!... and a little history

One of the few, if the only, drawbacks of working from home...  no snow days!  School was canceled for the boys, but unless the snow manages to knock out my phone and internet service, I'll still be working.. ah well.

I did take the opportunity to run out to the driveway to get the paper in 5-6 inches of snow in my bare feet...  I've got a long ways to go in conditioning my feet for that, but it was refreshing nonetheless..    I have a lot of respect for anyone that can run barefoot in sub freezing temps!

I am excited to do the Incline tomorrow in the snow. As I noted yesterday, borrowing some Yaktrax from a friend to try out.  May go up a little later in the morning to get some cool snow pictures.

After posting my Incline video yesterday, I poked around looking for other videos on the Manitou Incline.  Came across this 2 part documentary from 2009... its about 12-13 minutes, so check it out if you have time.. I learned a few things.  As far as opening the trail legally, it is getting closer, but I would guess its still a year away.

"Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow."
- Henry David Thoreau 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ice is nice... well, not really.

Felt so good today to head up the Incline, since the last opportunity I had was last Monday.  It was a little chilly, but not too bad really. I started up with my home made toe socks, but for some reason today they kept wanting to bunch up to the front of my foot/toes.  I don't know.. maybe they shrunk or something...   so before getting halfway up, I took them off.  Everything was great until after cresting the false summit.  At that point there was a good stretch of the Incline still covered with compacted ice/snow.  Needless to say, after crossing that section, my toes chilled down quick!  Also, I had to slow down quite a bit.... last thing I wanted to do was bobsled back down. Once at the top, I sat for a minute and warmed my toes up before heading back down the Barr trail.  Fortunately, the trail is just about ice/snow free all the way down.

For those of you not familiar with the Incline, I'm including a video I made in August. It was dark heading up, so not a lot of footage there. Mostly shots from the top, and then bits and pieces of the run down. Sorry for the bumpy footage, but I shot this with my Flip Video in hand :-).

It's supposed to snow tonight.  I'm planning to go up again on Thursday, this time borrowing some YakTrax from a friend to see how the work before investing in some.

Make it a great day!