Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Racing Naked! Bolder Boulder 10K Race Report

Yes... I am bold! Bold enough to race naked!  Well.. ok, not exactly naked.  I wouldn't want to subject anyone to that... BUT.. bold enough to run with naked feet!  Or at least give it my best shot...


On Monday May 27th 2013 was the 35th Annual Bolder Boulder 10K, and the 5th year that we have participated in the event as a family.  This year was the second time I've run instead of walked the event. Last year I ran it in Bedrock Earthquake huaraches, and this year I had set my sights on completing the event barefoot.

Here I am at the start, along with my father-in-law Jerry (with his game face on).  I just love this event... it is so much fun.  It is know as "America's All-Time Best 10K" and I believe it.  It has to be one of the most well run events from beginning to end. They smoothly get more than 50,000 runners/walkers through the event by 11:30 am, allowing those who choose to stay an opportunity to watch the men and women international pro's race and finish in the University of Colorado (CU) stadium.

There is nothing like finishing your 10K in a huge stadium with crowds cheering as you take the final lap!

And, all along the course there are so many great bands playing, and even more entertainment from the folks in the small Bolder neighborhoods trapped in their homes during the event.  Their yards include slip-n-slides, snacks, crazy music etc... all the things you would expect from fun loving folks (some who begin imbibing adult beverages before 8am!).

Bacon instead of energy gels... why didn't I think of that!

Anyway, as far as the race went, I had high hopes even though my longest run barefoot was 2.5 miles, and I had managed a 5+ mile walk barefoot.  I carried my "J"uaraches custom made by my buddy Muddy J as my backup, so I wasn't too worried.  By the way, the "J"uaraches are amazing, and my next post will be a full review of them!

So, at just before 9am, our wave started the journey to CU Stadium.  Granted, it was one of the faster walking waves (my wife, her dad and sister, and our boys would be walking), so I did spend some time weaving around walkers as I ran. For the first two miles I was feeling pretty good...  the asphalt of the normally busy roads was smooth, and they also had a lot if nice painted lines to run on which were really nice.  My feet were holding up until about 2.5 miles in when the course began weaving through the small neighborhoods.  Here, the road was much less smooth, and the sidewalk was not much better.  This is where the limits of my unshod conditioning were met.  Determined not to do any serious damage, I stopped just short of the 5K mark and put my thin leather huaraches on.   In retrospect, I probably should have done so sooner, as my feet were a bit tender, but I pushed on.

Surprisingly, I didn't get a lot of looks... whether when barefoot, or in huaraches.  I saw one other guy running barefoot, but beyond that, very few minimalist shoes or sandals which still surprises me.  As I approached the CU stadium, I stopped and took my sandals off... I figured I had to at least finish this thing naked.  I winced my way into the stadium, and made the lap around the track to finish.  The track was covered in an aluminum platform flooring which had some anti-slip material on it.  Normally it would have been ok, but my tender feet were not happy! But I stuck it out and finished.  Hopefully there will be some good shots from the race photographers later..    I ended up finishing about 2 minutes slower than last year, but I was happy with that since I managed to barefoot to the halfway point this time.

From there I grabbed all my race swag (they have the best canvas lunch bags filled with all kinds of goodies/snacks), a cold beer (Michelob Ultra.. I wouldn't call it a beer per se, but after running over an hour in 80+ temps, it was great), and found my mother-in-law in the stands to sit and wait for the rest of my family. Upon examining my feet, I had a quarter sized blister on my left foot... and of course my feet were nasty dirty!  That blister has since faded a day later and my feet are feeling good.

As for my family, they had a great walk... for one of our twin 8 year olds, it was his second time, and for the other his first.. so that was awesome.

After we all got settled, we enjoyed watching the pro men and women run the race at incredible speeds...  we could watch them on the big Stadium screen along the course,  and then see them finish live in the stadium.

Allan Kiprono of Kenya won this year, with a time of 29:28 .... WOW

After that, we got to enjoy the annual Memorial Day festivities including sky divers representing each branch of the Armed Forces,  appearances by honored veterans, the induction of 75 men and women who took their oath of service on the field, and a very moving 21 gun salute.

So there you have it... another Bolder Boulder 10K in the books!  Already looking forward to next year.  If you haven't participated before, and get the opportunity.. I truly recommend it!!

Happy Trails!


Monday, May 13, 2013

You're Grounded! I mean it! Earth Runners Circadian and Alpha Sandal Review

I'm sure a number of you have heard "you're grounded!" from your mom at one time or another.  But, in the spirit of celebrating Mother's day yesterday, let's take that as good thing to hear!

As you may know, Earth Runners is a terrific sandal company launched last year, and they make high quality grounding huaraches sandals which are terrific to run in.   Last October, as part of their Kickstarter launch, I reviewed the Quantum sandal, and you can read that review here.


What makes Earth Runners unique? Well, besides producing a quality performing sandal, they also incorporate features which allows you to ground yourself with the earth.  I don't know a lot about grounding, or earthing, but I'm sure there are benefits.  I mean, it truly feels good to go barefoot outside, that's for sure.  If you are interested, a brief discussion of the benefits of grounding can be found here, or just message the folks at Earth Runners!

Now, the exciting news is that Earth Runners just launched a new Kickstarter project to fund equipment needed to produce two new models, the Circadian and Alpha.  Check out the video below for their project:

As you can see, the Earth Runner's team has been hard at work developing a more technologically refined running sandal that also keeps you grounded. I was really excited to see what was in store as I've been providing feedback to Michael at Earth Runners about what I like and dislike about different huaraches.. how did they do meeting my needs? ( not that it's all about me but.. :-)  )

First off all, let me give you my impressions of the Circadian model.  The circadian utilizes a 6mm Vibram sole. The material and tread pattern are very similar to the Bedrock Earthquakes, and the sole on the RunAmoc Dash Lites.  I really like this particular sole due to its light weight, and balance of proprioception and protection on the trail. For me, 6mm seems to be the sweet spot for trail running in huaraches.

What is unique about the Earth Runner version is that it has been slightly molded, or shaped, around the edges as you can see in the photo's.  Some of this happens naturally over time, but I really like the way they have been pre-molded.  What I liked about the Quantum model release last year was the curved edges of the sandal, and in particular in the toe area.  I found that this shaping helped to relieve much of the strap strain between the toes going down hill by allowing your toes to gain some purchase against the front of the sandal.

Both the Circadian and Alpha are available with a naked foot bed, or a sueded version.  The Circadians I ran in were naked, which kept them at the 6mm thickness but also boast some incredible traction in the foot bed, even when wet.  I was really impressed with the traction of my foot against the bed in some steeper trail down hill sections.  This traction combined with the molded sole took a lot of pressure off the toe strap.

Speaking of the strap, this is one of the biggest changes over prior models.  No longer are you standing on 4 or 5 copper studs to get grounded.  Instead grounding comes through the single copper stud in the toe post and is transferred via the conductive lacing to your foot (Conductive laces are an option).  Pretty slick!

Otherwise, the nylon lacing system is similar to past models with the side mounted, lever action locking clip for adjustment.

Now, the Alpha model is based on a 10mm Birkenstock sole (reminds me of the old days in Seattle... wearing my Birks with socks and shorts!). This beefier sole can be ordered with a naked bed, or with a sueded foot bed as shown above.  Conductive lacing is also an option.  These soles are also molded, even more so than the Circadians.

Here is the Birk tread pattern, and the conductive copper stud in the toe post that grounds you via the conductive lacing.

I enjoyed running in the Alpha's as well, but not as much as I did in the Circadian's.  Much like the Luna Leadvilles, the Alpha's provide a muted ground feel due to the thickness of the sole, but that is the trade-off for greater protection from nasty trails, or if you prefer a little more cushion over the long haul.  I have not trail run more than 10 miles in any huarache, so I can't say what my preference would be for a really long run.. guess I need to get out there!

As for the sueded foot bed.... it's really comfortable!  But... for running, I would stick to the naked bed option. While the suede is comfortable, I didn't get the same traction as I did with the straight rubber foot bed.  However, for a comfortably casual sandal, these are amazing! I've taken to wearing them around on the day after I've run barefoot a long way, as my feet tend to be a bit tender.  The soft suede is really nice under foot for those days.   Also, they make terrific bike riding sandals!

Obviously, the thicker Alpha is a bit less flexible over the Circadian on the right, but both are pretty decent, and have also begun to custom mold to my foot pattern.

The ONLY issue I had with these sandals was that it took a little bit of adjusting of the straps to find the right fit, but that is common with most running huaraches.  Part of the issue is that the strap coming across the foot from the toe is at a bit more of an angle than many lacing or strapping systems because the locking adjuster sits just above and in front of the ankle, rather than mid foot.  I noticed this difference in angle (similar to the Luna's), and it took a few runs to get accustomed to it.  Also, it really bothered me on the Alpha's at first, but thanks to advice from Michael at Earth Runners, it was simply a matter of pulling the toe post out of the base, and twisting the strap to a better angle (matched it to the Circadians), to relieve the pressure I was feeling... problem solved!! Oh, and the only other minor issue is that the copper points that touch your feet will leave a little gray spot that washes off.... at first I thought they were little bruises!!

So, the bottom line is, if you are looking for a way to stay grounded, but not always run barefoot, these Earth Runners are a great solution!

Now a quick note about pricing.  As far as running huaraches go, these Earth Runners are priced in the mid to upper middle range. Both the Circadian and Alpha are the same price and include the same options noted below:

The base price for a standard size sandal with nylon laces (non-conductive) and no bedding: $55

Add conductive laces: +$7
Add Leather Laces: +$10
Add Leather bedding: +$10
Add Conductive inserts +$14 *this will not be available on the Alphas
Custom sandal via foot trace: +$10

BUT...  while the Kickstarter project is running, you can get 20% or more off these prices by backing the project before 6/2/13.  Click HERE to see the Kickstarter options.

Thanks again for tuning in to another lengthy review... trust me, I tried to shorten it up! But I could talk about huaraches all day :-).   As always, if you have questions, comments, or if I missed anything, let me know!

Woops... almost forgot the pre-requisite Pikes Peak shot!  Here you go

Happy trails!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

"The Cool Impossible" by Eric Orton: Review and Giveaway!

It's here!  The much anticipated book from our favorite coach from "Born to Run"!

Eric's book was just released on Tuesday May 7th, and I was fortunate enough to get to preview the book about a month ago and put together this review.. AND... stick around because I also get to give away a signed copy of The Cool Impossible to one of you!

Before a review of the book, just a little back ground:

Like many of you, I was first introduced to Eric Orton as Chris McDougall's coach in the book Born to Run.  Eric helped move Chris on from a broken runner to completing a 50 mile ultra marathon in the Copper Canyon land of the legendary Tarahumara.  Of course, I loved the book and, like many others, it pushed me into the world of running, and in particular barefoot/minimalist trail running. 

Since then, Eric launched B2R, a company focused on a training system that is comprised of footwear, strength training, running form, and nutrition.  Last year I was able to utilize this system in preparation for my first marathon, and you can read about it here. 

So.. what exactly is The Cool Impossible?  According to Eric it is "a mindset and philosophy that redefines fear, giving way to a heightened state of awareness where the only thing impossible is failure.  It is about getting back to daydreaming and creating the biggest, coolest fantasy we can think of to achieve.  When we do this, it is human nature to say I can't, or wonder if we will succeed, and, most times this "need to know" stops us because fear enters into our thoughts and keeps us "safe". But fear is necessary to achieve great things and through visualization techniques and mind performance strategies, we can learn to embrace fear, learn to love it, and be free to create anything we want for our running and in our lives. We can achieve a great deal, even the impossible, if we just stop worrying about whether we can or not."

The Cool Impossible is also a terrific book!  I struggle with book reviews because I don't want to just give away everything in it, or take lengths to explain everything, so let me just give you my overall impressions.

  1. I love that this book was written from a perspective of you the reader actually traveling to beautiful Jackson Hole to spend a week training and learning from Eric.. I REALLY want to go now. How great would that be? I could blog my experiences and... oh sorry, daydreaming :-)  
  2. This book helps to answer the "how" that you may have walked away with after reading Born to Run. 
  3. It is both a philosophical guide to learning how to change your way of thinking, as much as it is a technical "how to" guide to running, strength training, and nutrition. 
  4. It feels much like getting personal one on one training, which is pretty tricky via the written word. 
  5. Athleticism is Awareness. This is my biggest take away from the book... not just awareness of form, technique and effort, but awareness of what and how we think. The final chapters of this book nail this and delivers a strong and motivating message. 

A portion of the book is dedicated to learning how to develop foot and leg strength (such as using the slant/balance board above) and other exercises/drills specifically to strengthen and balance the right muscles for running.  Additionally, there is a fully detailed 20 week two phase program that focuses on these exercises, and a HR based running program to develop what Eric calls a "Strategic Running Foundation".  I've been integrating the strength exercises into my workouts (and using the slant balance board on conference calls!), but am going to look at trying out the running program as well...  hopefully as part of training for my next marathon.

I think what I liked most about this book is that Eric's overall philosophy just "clicks" for me. Especially his treatment of nutrition and diet.  Volumes have been written on this subject, but Eric is able to simplify it in much the same manner that I've changed my eating habits in the last several years.  For me, it's spot on advice for healthy nutrition in the real world.

So..what's my Cool Impossible?  That's right... the Leadville Trail 100.  What? Can a formerly obese guy pushing 50, with one slow marathon under his belt seriously think he can run 100 trail miles at crazy altitudes? Damn straight..  mentally I can visualize it..  and I will keep working towards it.   And what about Eric.. his Cool Impossible? Global running, or having at least one runner per household... worldwide.  How cool is that?  VERY

Ok.. thanks again for hanging with me.  Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter to win an autographed copy of The Cool Impossible!  This contest is limited to the U.S. only, and will run until 10PM MST on Wednesday May 15th, 2013.  Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again.. and happy trails!!