Sunday, January 17, 2016

2016 Plans

My tentative race plans will be:
  • Zumbro Midnight 50, April 8, 2016
  • Spring Superior 50K
  • Kettle 100
  • Fall Superior 50
Context is important. My little guy will be a big brother some time in late July. This means running will be effectively shut down once kiddo no. 2 shows up. A couple notes on each race and my plains for them.

Zumbro is there for the overnight training, and the potential to run in adverse conditions. I've raced there twice (2012 and 2015) and dodged the 2013 and 2014 years of nasty weather. We'll see what the weather brings in 2016. 

I also ran this race poorly early on and got hurt half way through last year. This year, the run will be smart and even. I have score to settle with the course, if you will. With ideal conditions and smart running, I think sub-ten hours is doable.

1/31/16 EDIT: I will also be running be running that New Prague Half-Marathon (I know! A race shorter than 50K.) on May 7. It's part of the Kettle-specific training to run fast on dense terrain (asphalt), see below.

Spring Superior 50K, if the lottery gods favor me, will be a final training run for Kettle. I have a long-term goal of running this (and Afton, for that matter) sub-five-hours, but again this race needs to be run smooth and even. My PR here is a 5:19 or so, and I am confident I can best that. EDIT: 1/31/16: The lottery smile upon me, and I will be running this race. 

I have a score to settle with the Kettle 100 as well. This will be my "A" race this year, and I need it to qualify for another round of the lottery for Western States (for the 2017 race). I'm going to train as specifically for this as I can, identifying two portions of the course that kicked my butt last years: the heat; and the hard-and-flat first section that you go over four times. I'll do what heat training that I can, and do some quality workouts on the road to best simulate the conditions of that concrete-stiff surface. The grass running and dirt sections can be trained at Afton and Lebanon, and the single track can be trained at Afton and on the SHT. Goals: 1) Finish; 1.5) Finish with consistent effort and nothing left in the tank; 2) Sub-24; 3) sub-22; 3) Sub-Matt Patten's 2009 6th place 19:35:16. 

Fall Superior 50 miler will be run with whatever is left in the tank. I don't expect a good time, but I do expect a finish. I'm running this and not the 100 because the new kiddo is more important, and if I'm going to run a 100 miler - particularly this one - I need to put everything I have into it. And I can't run do that with a newborn taking priority over everything: sleep, training, etc. Running the 50 also means that my time away from the new one and my wife will be ~30 hours (Friday afternoon to late Saturday evening at the least) instead of something close to double that (Thursday afternoon to Sunday AM). This race will be run on my residual remaining fitness from earlier in the year, and so I don't expect something hard or fast, just a finish please. 

What comes after this 50 miler will likely depend on whether I finished Kettle. If not, I may need to look to Western States qualifiers in October and November. I'd rather avoid that, but I also don't want to miss a year of qualifying. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Altra Superiors 2.0, 2016 model year - initial impressions and comparison

Apparently I missed that Altra was tweaking the Superior 2.0 for model year 2016 to fix the exact problem that plagued both of my original 2.0 pairs. 

Here's the update, per 
  • Altra has made an incremental upper update with height added to the toe box as well as a lengthening of the men's shoes by about a half size. The midfoot and forefoot uppers receive some internal reinforcement to lessen mesh blowouts.
The new versions, model 2.1(?) it could be called, hit my local running store today and I tried on a pair. Photo comparison below. Old are black/green, new is green/blue. 

My 2.0's are size 8.5, my 2.1's are 8.0. The new 8.5's were simply too long and my foot badly slid forward. The width at the balls of my feet was a little tight, but it's very similar to my New Balance MT10v3's that I now run in and have in their prior iterations. I imagine this will relax a bit as I run in them. 

The toe box is indeed slightly higher. This was an issue in version 2.0 with the reinforced toe protector on the upper pushing down and putting pressure on the toenails. 

The upper is indeed reinforced. The upper is stiffer throughout, but particularly in the forefoot. There is a large grid-like middle layer (shown in a pale blue in the upper, most noticeable around the heel) to the main parts of the upper, in what appears to be a three-layer construction. The padding around the heel appears to have lessened, something that was annoying and unnecessary in the 2.0s - it made it harder to tighten the shoe down to get a solid heel lock. 

The lacing is also different, as you can see the 2.0's have six eyelets, all in line with the tongue, where as the 2.1's have five eyelets adjacent to the tongue and one angled down and away (that one you never ever use but is useful when you need to lock your heel down). The laces are too short to effectively use the sixth eyelet on the 2.1's, so if you need those plan on getting some different laces. 

The shape of the heel appears to be narrower, and I am pleased on first impression of my ability to lock my heel in. 

The outsoles are the same, and appears to be the same material. If so, this shoe will be great on everything but hard, even ground and wet rocks. 

More later after I've put in some quality runs with them. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Confident training week

"Don't get cocky, kid."

---Han, to Luke, Episode IV: A New Hope

'scuse the reference, but Star Wars is on the brain. I spent part of Saturday afternoon taking in Episode VII and was extremely satisfied. I'll see it again, if only to look for more, for lack of a better term, Easter eggs, that I didn't pick up on second viewing. 

I ran a solid 60 miles over eight runs this week and had a good long run at an actual 25 percent of total mileage for the week. The runs were generally slow(er) than normal, as they tend to be in the winter's cold and darkness (floating from 8:30 to 9:00 min/mi, or slower, vs my usual 8:15 +/- 15-or-so seconds. 

Other good parts about this week's mileage. It occurred during a holiday week and I avoided the usual gluttony (I did eat (more?) than my fare share of cookies, etc. I was well rested, for the most part, and the body was not sore at any point. I was tired at the end of the days, but that is usual. Getting up at 5 AM tends to beget going to bed, or wanting to go to bed, around 9 PM. Two more weeks of this volume and then I jump into doing some faster quality workouts, instead of just a long run with strides on my easy days. I just can't get cocky and need to trust in the plan.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Altra, you're fired

I fired the Altra Superior 2.0 as my trail shoe last week. 

And until they get their problems with the upper's durability fixed, I'm not going back. 

This was my second pair of Superior 2.0's. The first pair failed two weeks before Superior 100 at my 30K birthday run. Both shoes were torn on the inside and outside next to the balls of my feet. The fabric when shredded looked like a flimsy woven tarp with its crinkled threads. No biggy, I thought. Those shoes ended with just under 220 miles on them. They'd had a good go, but the outsole was still in wonderful condition. But for the tears, they had lots of good life still in them. 

I was frustrated and wanted to look elsewhere, but the proximity to Superior 100 and minimal miles between that Saturday and the race in 13 days meant I couldn't adequately ensure that a never-before-raced-in shoe would cut it. Cardinal Rule #1: nothing new on race day. And so I dutifully got a second pair, this time a half-size smaller (to my usual 8.5) with the thought it would minimize side-to-side movement in the toe box and eliminate one potential for lateral stress on the fabric. 

The shoes performed admirably at Superior 100 - no (new) blackened toenails and the soles looked great considering how rugged that course is and how much I walked. But there was a similar hole on the inside of my left shoe, just behind the ball - right in the same spot. It looked like there is stiff backing to the upper just behind where the hold was, like the stiffness is contributing to the tearing of the softer, more pliable fabric that comprises that portion of the toebox. 

I wore pair number two one more time, at the Afton Fat-Ass race last week, and only because we were instructed to wear clothing that could sacrificed to the deer-trail god of the single track. I did as instructed, and made the hole bigger. The shoes were retired with 143 miles on them, ~103 of which was Superior 100 and eight were from the Afton FatAss.

I'm not the first person who has complained about durability that I'm aware of; those that I run with have anecdotes, either of themselves or personally, from these issues. The durability is a major issue, as a failure in-race could mean a DNF for lack of footwear. Runners have been forced to drop because of a shoe failure, and I don't want it to happen to me. 

I'm not broken up about this right now either. The Superior 2.0 had some other non-major issues, mostly related to fit, and so I'm OK looking for something better. The padding around the heel and ankle was the biggest issue, as it was cushy and made it difficult, if not impossible, to really get a good lock on the heel. Ginger Runner had a great review of the shoe, and I agree with his praise and criticisms. Hopefully these issues get fixed if and when they issue version 3.0. 

It's also the off season, and so I'll have plenty of time to test another trail shoe or three in time for the 2016 season. I also usually do plenty of running in dedicated trail shoes in the winter because of the snow conditions here in MN. The City may plow the paved public trail behind my house, but it doesn't - and can't - get everything. 

What will I look for in a new pair of trail kicks? Lots of the same stuff that I did when I first went searching after New Balance discontinued the 1010's.

What that is, I'm not sure right now. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A cross country race?

I ran the Rocky's Run 6K today. It's on the women's course for the Roy Griak Invitational at the U of M's Les Bolstad golf course. The race is fundraiser for the family of Rochelle "Rocky" Racette, who died in 1981 in a car accident. She was damn fast, for lack of a better description. Proceeds from the race fund a scholarship in Rocky's name. Her sisters were on hand today and dolled out baked goods to finishers. 

I ran it on the open invite from John Storkamp. I've never raced the course myself, as I was an alternate (our number eight guy, usually, for a seven-man team) if my memory serve me right one of the years my high school CC team ran there. 

I was an odd trail runner among much thinner, visually sinewy specimens of the human form. As Storkamp, BJ Knight, Steve Quick and myself joked while we were on the light, the four of us had some huge trail runner calves. Everyone else was tall, lanky, and waif-like. I felt grossly out of place. 

I thought on a really good day I could put down a 24:00, which is essentially a 20-minute 5K just extended out another kilometer. That mean going out in a 4:00 first kilometer and about a 6:26 mile, which is what I thought I was capable of knowing that I have had a sub-6:40 tempo/threshold pace from earlier in the 2014-15 running season. That said, I had no predilections about running well. This was a run-like-you-stole-something, an effort that was long enough to require endurance but fast enough that it's going to hurt to push hard. I also thought I could keep the last member of the U's women's team in sight. Sure thing, boss. 

I was tight and sore from this week's all-to-jittery runs, but loosened up plenty in the low 50's weather with 15 mph winds after I put down a solid 4K on the course at an easy jog.

I went out in a 3:57 first kilometer, and felt pretty proud of myself for letting the huge pack go. This was going to hurt, but I didn't want to implode.

But I knew it was going to get harder, and that 240-second per kilometer pace wasn't going to hold. The first mile was 6:35, 2K in 8:20, 3K in 12:45, two miles in just 13:55 ish (meaning I ran a 7:20 second mile?). Things got better consistent after than, and I ran mile three in 7:19 for a 21:12 or so.

It was in this last 1,200 meters that I felt like I had plenty of gas in the tank, and that I could have run another kilometer or three at that pace, but couldn't go much/any faster. As I described it earlier on Twitter, I felt like I was a two-cylinder car that had a 25 gallon gas tank that got 45 mpg at the Indy 500. Low top speed, but the ability to hold that speed for a hell of a long time. I guess I need to do some 1,000 meter repeats (again) in training this year. 

I came in at a 27:06, approximately, about 20 seconds behind the last member of the U's women's team. All in all, it was a damn good day. 

2016 race plans are up in the air. Like many, my schedule will firm up on Dec. 7 when Western States holds its lottery. I put in for the race this year, my first ever entry, and so my one ticket and pitiful chances is only there to help me in years to come. Also on the radar: Zumbro Midnight 50; spring Superior 50K; Bighorn 100 (need a hard rock qualifier); and Superior 100; etc.