Sunday, January 20, 2008

La Sportiva Loveliness

Ever since I started running for La Sportiva a year ago, Buzz, the mountain running team manager, has been telling me about the new lightweight shoe that the Italians had/have in the works--the Skylite. I began running for Sportiva because of my preference for the Slingshot, but the Skylite was supposed to be even lighter than its 308 gram predecessor. However, not only is Sportiva coming out with the Skylite in a couple of months, they now have available a very similar shoe--the Skylite's fell-running brother, the Crosslite--which is the exact same shoe as the Skylite except for with a much, much more aggressive (read: heavier) outsole.

Nevertheless, after having my appetite whetted at the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show back in August, and then getting another preview when the Colorado Running Company (the store I work at) brought in a couple (very small) pairs of the Crosslite, I was finally able to get a closer look at the Skylites and actually try on a pair of the Crosslites this past week when Kyle and I took a visit to Boulder for a little ultra running get-together with the Boulder Trail Runners.

All of this anticipation may seem a little ridiculous, but trail running shoes are very important to me. First, since shoes are the only really (mostly) necessary piece of running equipment, and because I am a huge nerd of the sport, I naturally am very geeky about my shoes. Additionally, my particular (minimalist) philosophy of running and running footwear lends me to be even more interested in my shoes.

Second, trail running (and especially, trail racing) footwear is an industry and technology in relative infancy. Trail shoes have only been around for really no more than 15 years, and in the beginning they fell into basically two categories: either brown/black road shoes or a glorified hiking boot. Obviously, neither of these categories really did the job.

In the last few years, though, many companies are understanding that a trail shoe needs to be fundamentally different from both road shoes and hiking boots, and Sportiva (along with Inov-8) has been an industry leader in this idea. With shoes like the Raceblade, Fireblade, Slingshot, and now, the Skylite and Crosslite, Sportiva has shown that they realize a trail shoe will deliver more effectively if it has a lower profile (but more dense than a road shoe) midsole, and that the virtually bomb-proof upper of a hiking boot is simply overkill--and hugely detrimental when running uphill--for a trail running shoe.

Most importantly, they are showing deliberate efforts to manufacture actual trail racing shoes, which probably arises from their European, short, fast, hill climb/mountain running roots, as opposed to the American trail ultra running roots of a company like, say, Montrail. (Although, this season Sportiva has obviously made a concerted effort to start significantly supporting the trail ultra running community in earnest through new sponsorship of many of America's top ultra trail runners and of more ultra-distance trail races.)

After meeting with Buzz and Jonathan (the president of La Sportiva, North America) and picking up a couple pairs of Crosslites to take home and try out, I am quite happy with the shoe. The Crosslite is listed as a men's US 9 (sample size) weighing in at 12.42 oz or 352 grams. That is light for a trail shoe, but actually pretty heavy for a road shoe. The Slingshot was advertised as being 308 grams (previously Sportiva's lightest shoe) and the Skylite has been advertised at both 250 grams and 268 grams (depending on the website). That is a legitimately very light trail shoe. The only other shoe on the market that compares is Inov-8's F-lite 250 (250 grams), which is being updated this year with the lighter F-lite 230. When I took my pair of size EU43.5/US10.5 Crosslite's home, they weighed in at 12.5 oz on the CRC's mail scale.

But, then came the time for my personal modifications. After some extensive carving (which I will get into in detail soon), I now have my size 10.5 Crosslite down to ~8.2 oz. Considering that the the size 9 Skylites are supposed to be ~100 grams (almost 4 oz) lighter than the size 9 Crosslite, I hope to get a pair of Skylites down to the high 6, low 7 oz range...even lighter than Inov-8's F-lite 230s. (I haven't seen a pair of the 230s, but my pair of 250s were already so stripped down that there was basically nothing I could do to them to make them much lighter without significantly compromising their structural integrity---plus, I really believe in the value of supporting/representing a company (Sportiva) that I've already developed a very positive relationship with (Buzz is great) and is doing a ton to positively support the sport of trail running in North America.)

On to the modifications (if I can scrounge up a camera from some body I may post some photos in the coming days):

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Week Log 1/7-1/13

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:05) Garden
PM: 8 miles (1:05)

Tue-AM: 30 miles (4:05) Gold Camp
PM: 4.5 miles (:41)

Wed-AM: 30 miles (4:21) Buckhorn-Intemann-Red Rocks-Garden
PM: 4.5 miles (:40)

Thu-AM: 30 miles (4:10) CRUD Tempo
PM: 5 miles (:41)

Fri- 10 miles (1:31)

Sat- 42 miles (5:34) Rampart Range Road Overlook

Sun- OFF (left shin)

Total: 179 miles (24:53)

I was very pleased with this week until the weekend, obviously. Even without getting a speed session of any kind in on Tuesday, I was very excited with comfortably getting the mid-week volume that I did. The ice and snow definitely hindered the quality, but I'm not too concerned about that---I run to run in the mountains, and I got to do a ton of that this week so it was great.

We'll see how big of a deal the shin turns out to be. I'm fine with taking a few days off--it's not ideal, but preparations rarely are--and I'm just going to try to remind myself to not force anything. If the shin disallows Rocky, so be it; I'm not going to try to get too worked up about it.

Finally, I'm excited about having Kyle in town for the next couple of months---it's fun to get up in the mountains with some company.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Saturday Jan 12, 2008

AM- 42 miles (5:34) Rampart Range Overlook out and back through Manitou (Roclite)

Ran with Kyle and jacked the anterior tibialis in my left shin. That's the short version, I guess.

I woke up this morning and the shin basically wasn't an issue at all, so Kyle and I set out with him planning on 4-5 hours and myself hoping for 7-8 hrs. It was a beautiful morning, so we dropped our long-sleeves right before heading through the Mesas and actually spent a little while later in the day running shirtless. Ah, January in the Springs.

Rampart Range road ended up being a slick, icy, packed snow-fest. Eventually, we just had to accept the slower pace and settle into the rhythm of slipping with every single step. After nearly getting shot up at the shooting range, the road improved marginally with a few gravel patches and the views improved significantly with great overlooks into both Queen's and Williams Canyons.

After almost 3 hours, Kyle and I got to the overlook, ate a gel, packed some snow in our water bottles and then headed back down. Running down was, of course, much faster but with just as frustratingly poor footing. Kyle's Montrail Highlanders seemed to be getting better traction than my Roclites and after a half hour or so I definitely noticed that my left shin was starting to get a bit aggravated and tight.

By time we got back down to the harder packed road by the shooting range I was slipping and sliding everywhere and the shin was getting more and more angry. I thought maybe just the downhill was causing the issue, so Kyle and I parted ways back in the Garden like we'd planned, but when I encountered the next uphill down in Manitou Springs my shin complained in a big way and I simply limped to the nearest pay phone to call Jocelyn to pick me up.

However, somehow Jocelyn and I missed each other and I ended up running the 5 or 6 miles back to campus on the streets; my shin didn't seem to get any worse on the flats, but it was definitely already pretty inflamed. I finished up with a couple extra miles to get my discarded long-sleeve shirt and finally limped back to the Recovery Room for copious amounts of icing.

Needless to say, the shin was swollen and the anterior tibialis tendon was remarkably inflamed. I'll almost certainly take tomorrow off.

Friday Jan 11, 2008

AM- 10 miles (1:31) Monument Loops+Rail Road Tracks (PC II)

Ran really easy with Kyle and Jocelyn. By the end of the run my left shin was a bit sore/tight on the front, which is weird because it was such a low-key, short, easy run. I spent a lot of time icing it in the evening, so hopefully it's better in the morning. Also, a pretty windy, blustery day, so I hope tomorrow isn't a repeat of last Saturday's hurricane run.

Thursday Jan 10, 2008

AM- 30 miles (4:10) Cheyenne Canon CRUD Tempo-Stratton-Bear Creek-Monument Loops (Roclite)
PM- 5 miles (:41) North Monument Loop (sz 11 Slingshots)

I woke up at 4:30am feeling pretty tired and it took a while to feel good, especially with the colder temps. Kyle didn't have to be to work at 9am like me, so I was flying solo this morning.

There was a big group at the CRUD tempo workout, but the ice and snow on both the paved and gravel roads were really bad. The Inov-8s were giving me pretty poor traction. As a result, I did the climb in 41:04, but got to the gate in 28:40, so it actually wasn't horribly slow. There were about 6 inches of fresh snow on High Drive, though.

On the run back I spent a lot of time looping through Stratton and Bear Creek and then added on a North Loop to make it the full 30 miles. I'm so lucky to have a job where I can show up a half hour late in order to accommodate spur-of-the-moment decisions like that.

I did the second run in mid-afternoon after getting off work. It was a pretty standard North Loop, but lately I've been questioning the need for that second run when I go for a 4+ hour run in the morning. I think there's some use when the weather is warm enough for it to be barefoot, but this time of year when I'm still just tooling around in shoes I can't think of any real benefit other than to inhibit my recovery (which obviously isn't a benefit).

After the run, Kyle and I went and did some major shopping at the local food co-op and I even picked up a very cheap futon mattress to contribute to the Recovery Room---a great little addition.

Wednesday Jan 9, 2008

AM- 30 miles (4:21) Mt. Buckhorn-Intemann-Red Rocks-Garden+Monument (Inov-8 Roclite 285)
PM- 4.5 miles (:40) CRC Run-North Loop (Roclite)

In the morning, Kyle and I set out to break some trail in the mountains. The run through Bear Creek and up High Drive was pretty tough--it took 45 minutes to make the High Drive climb that is typically a half hour affair. But, the scenery was unparalleled.

Coming back through Intemann, Red Rocks, and the Garden the weather warmed up very nicely and we maintained a fast pace on the more well-packed trails in those areas. After dropping off Kyle at the Recovery Room (what we are calling our apartment since it's basically just a place to eat and sleep in between runs) I continued on for a pretty slothly extra loop around North Monument to get in the 30 miles. We did the whole run without water or gels, so there was a lot of snow-eating going on the second half. The Inov-8 Roclite 285s worked great on this run (Kyle loaned me a pair), but I think I would want to take a little bit of height off the heels.

The evening was just the typical CRC jaunt around North Monument, but the weather had turned snowy and wintry again in the afternoon (right after our morning run). My right shin actually felt pretty good.

Tuesday Jan 8, 2008

AM- 30 miles (4:05) Gold Camp out and back+North Monument Loop (sz 11 Slingshots)
PM- 4.5 miles (:41) Safeway and back via Shooks Run (sz 11 Slingshots)

There was so much new snow this morning that I knew I wouldn't be able to do the speedwork I had planned. Instead, I decided to just go enjoy a gorgeous slog through the mountains. After struggling through all the new fluff in Bear Creek I hopped on the freshly-plowed Gold Camp Road and took it all the way to its end at the parking lot. The morning warmed up nicely and the very few tire tracks through the powder made for some nice, sticky footing. I finished up with some speedy (mid to low 7's) miles around the North Monument Loop.

In the evening, Jocelyn, Boggs and I ran up to the Safeway and back on Shooks Run to pick up some ingredients for fondue. By time we got back Kyle had gotten into town, so we all went over to the apartment (really, a tiny little studio) that he and I are sharing rent on, and made some food.

Monday Jan 7, 2008

AM- 15 miles (2:05) Garden of the Gods (sz 11.5 Slingshots)
PM- 8 miles (1:05) Monument Loops+Beacon Street (sz 11.5 Slingshots)

The morning run was gorgeous with all of the new snow. I didn't feel great, but certainly not horrible, and was just sort of a rote run.

After working at the CRC until 7pm I immediately got out the door for an easy run in still more snow. Probably another 4 inches of snow had fallen since yesterday morning, so it ended up being a very wintry jaunt. My right shin was a bit tight, but not bad.

Sunday Jan 6, 2008

AM- 32 miles (4:07) Gold Camp Road out and back+Monument (sz 11 Slingshots)
PM- 10 miles (1:32) Bear Creek-8th St-PPG Trail (sz 11.5 Slingshots)

In the morning, I got up at 4:30am so that I could get the run in before picking Jocelyn up at the airport. it started snowing once I got to the mountains about an hour into the run, and once I realized the new snow made it too slick to run up High Drive I instead headed up Gold Camp for an out and back to the collapsed tunnel at the St. Mary's Falls trailhead. It ended up snowing maybe the hardest I've ever seen (~6" in two hours) and by time I made my way back to town everything was a winter wonderland.

I was moving quickly (7 minute pace or so) coming down Gold Camp and continued that through Bear Creek and for the extra loops in Monument. It was good to move quickly like that at the end of a long run.

The evening run was in the cold and dark with Jocelyn, and the snow was such an issue that we just bailed by Wal-mart and hopped on 8th Street. My right shin was kind of sore, but other than that it was a nice easy evening run.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Saturday Jan 5, 2008

AM- 50 miles (7:15) Garden-Rampart-Williams-Waldo-Cascade-French Creek-Highway 24-UPT-Manitou-Intemann-Section 16 Loop-Bear Creek-Monument (PC II)

Wow, what a run.

Friday Jan 4, 2008

AM- 10 miles (1:30) Monument Loops+Rail Road Tracks (Puma H Streets)

Ahhh, the Friday run.  This day is always a looked-forward-to respite from the arduous week of training.  I always need this very easy day each week.  It recharges the energy stores before launching into what is typically a huge weekend of running.

I've done this run with Jocelyn a lot in the past, and she always drops me.  I go slow and very flat on this run.  The idea is to simply get out there and get the heart pumping, shake out the legs, and just sit back and enjoy the leisure of it all.

And, that's just what I did today.  Once again, the weather was spectacularly beautiful--it basically felt like a warm spring day--and I really enjoyed wearing my incredibly beat up Puma H Streets (they've stopped making them) that have somewhere between 1500 and 2000 miles on them.  My shin was a little bit tight, but I think today should help it get healed a little bit.  All in all, a good run.

Thursday Jan 3, 2008

AM- 30 miles (4:10) Cheyenne Canyon CRUD tempo run (PC II)
PM- 5 miles (:43) North Monument Loop (NB240s)

This morning's workout ended up going better than I'd planned, considering yesterday's longer run.  After waking up at 4:45am to run the 7ish miles over to the Starsmore Discovery Center (the starting point of the tempo run at the bottom of Cheyenne Canyon), it took a while to loosen the legs up and start feeling good.  However, once I got closer to the mountains, I could feel hot blasts of air coming out of the canyon--a harbinger to the unseasonably warm weather we would have today.

The Cheyenne Canyon Tempo is a 4.2 mile uphill with the first 3ish miles being on pavement and the last mile being dirt (High Drive).  This means the last mile is usually ice/snow-covered until later in the season.  The hill starts pretty gradually but really ramps up in the middle and the last mile and a half or so to gain 1646' total (average of a 7.4% grade), going from ~6200' to 7800'.

The key to this run is not letting the flattish start fool you into going out too hard and then suffering big-time on the steep stuff in the middle.  I did a decent job of controlling that today and ended up hitting splits of 11:34 (Mt. Cutler sign), 18:11 (10mph sign), and 26:09 (gate) and then slipped up the icy High Drive to get to the top of the hill in 34:26.  I think that's my 2nd fastest time ever to the gate, so I was really happy with the effort.

However, all the speedwork isn't being too kind to my right shin.  On the run down, my shin was aggravated so much that I bailed onto the (much more beautiful) Columbine trail to get back to the bottom of the canyon instead of running down the asphalt road with the group.  I was pretty tired on the trail, but I took a gel at 2hr that perked me up and then headed back towards home via Stratton and Bear Creek.

However, once I got to Bear Creek I was feeling a lot better so I decided to turn it into a longish run (the gorgeous mid-50s weather was also a motivator--I ran shirtless for the entire last 1.5 hrs of the run) and took a loop around there, and then when I got back to Monument I did a snappy North loop to finish out the run.  My shin felt a lot better the second half of the run.

This whole run was great.  It's fun to start so early in the morning--the sunrise is always fantastic--and Cheyenne Canyon is an exceptionally beautiful place early in the morning.  Finally, the ridiculously gorgeous January weather topped everything off.

The run in the evening was predictably crappy.  I didn't get off work until 7pm again, so I ended up heading out in the dark for a desultory North loop.  The shin was pretty tight and my heartburn was terrible.  I'm not that sure why I do these evening runs---mostly to practice running while feeling like shit, I suppose--but I guess I always do feel better after they're done.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wednesday Jan 2, 2008

AM- 30 miles (4:13) Mt. Buckhorn-Section 16 Loop-Intemann-Red Rocks-Garden-Monument (sz 11 Slingshot)
PM- 4 miles (:33) CRC Run~Monument Loops (NB240s)

This morning's run started off miserably cold in single digit temps.  However, once I started the 2000' climb up High Drive things warmed up nicely and by time I got to the top of Buckhorn it was a brilliant sun-shiney day.

After running back down High Drive, the climb to the top of the Section 16 loop went surprisingly well.  The trail was packed well and my legs had a lot of pep.  Right before dropping off the ridge, though, I took the social trail out to the rock ridge that marks the end of the mountain--it has an amazing view of Colorado Springs!  I'd never ventured out there before, but it was well worth the 5-10min side-trip.

My legs continued to feel solid for almost the entire remainder of the run even though I didn't take any gels or water with me--I did eat some snow when I was in the mountains.  The last few miles I really had to scamper so that I could shower before going to work at noon.  Great run all around.

In the evening, I ran with Alex and Kiran and the rest of the CRC crew, but my shin was fairly sore.  It's always a little cranky in the evening, but it was particularly unhappy tonight because I didn't have time to ice it after the run this morning.  I definitely need to keep being diligent about taking care of it.

Tuesday Jan 1, 2008

AM- 21 miles (2:37)~Rescue Run 10K in 36:45 (PC II)
PM- 6 miles (:51) Monument Loops (NB240s)

In the morning, Kiran and I ran the 8ish miles to Palmer Park so that I could bandit the 30th annual Rescue Run 10K.  I could've gotten a comp from the CRC to actually register for the race, but I didn't decide to jump in until late the night before.  It's always a lot easier to run hard with other people than by one's lonesome, so since the 1st fell on a Tuesday this year, I figured it'd be an easy way to get in my weekly tempo run.

The danger with using a race as a training session is that you'll go harder than you should, but I did a good job of maintaining a relatively controlled effort for the whole distance.  I lined up behind Paul Koch--one of my college XC coaches--and followed his pace up the daunting 1 mile climb that kicked off the course.

At the top of the hill I passed Koch and tried to settle into a comfortably hard pace for the next few miles which looped around on the rolling roads on top of Palmer Park.  Although the first mile wasn't marked, it couldn't have been much faster than 6:45, so that means my next couple miles were just under 6min pace to hit 3 miles in 18:36.  

Over the next two miles I concentrated on maintaining pace (one slightly uphill mile in 6:14 and then the same mile back in 5:46) before bombing the final 1.2 miles (the initial climb was now a downhill) back down to the finish in 6:05.  My final, somewhat flatter half-mile was right at 2:30, so I figure I definitely broke 5 minutes for the last mile---that's really moving for me, even if it was downhill.  Overall, I managed to keep it at tempo effort until the last 1/2 mile or so.

After turning off right before the finish chute (I was 6th overall in the race) and picking up my discarded stocking cap, Kiran and I jogged the 7 miles or so back to the house.  It was fun to do some extended hard running, and I actually hadn't expected to run quite that fast, so it ended up being a nice start to the new year.