Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ultra Legend Micah True Found Deceased in New Mexico

Just wanted to offer a moment of silence for Micah True, also widely know as "Caballo Blanco". True, renowned in the ultramarathon community and made famous in Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run," was found in the New Mexico wilderness near the Gila National Forest, after failing to return from a planned 12 mile run four days ago.

Like so many others, I was inspired by this lone and yet passionate runner and race director. I hope there will be some solace for his family and friends in that his death, though untimely, came in pursuit of his passion.  Run in peace, Caballo Blanco.

Snow Machine Trail Run

It's a brilliant day out but much colder than I like to run outdoors at an even 0 degrees. On the plus side, the hard freeze really firmed up the snow machine trails on the tundra behind my home here in Bethel, AK, so I pulled on the new Marmot Precip Pants that came in the mail this week and added a hash of running and non-running layers (with too much cotton on the skin, but sometimes you just want to get out the door) and got out onto the trails with my two short-legged village dogs, Lola and Chewbacca.

Yeah, colder than I like, but the snow pack was better footing than I'd hoped for. Just the loose stuff on top but firm directly beneath that--no breaking through a top crust into soft snow. Not a long run, 2-3 miles, but quiet and bright with sunlight reflecting off of everything under ice and snow, and only the sound of the occasional snow machine in the distance to interfere with that "broken glass" sound you get running on hard, icy snow. And the breathing. And calling the dogs back to me occasionally when some remains of cut salmon from last summer called to their noses from beneath 3 or 4 feet of snow.

Warmed up after a half-mile and started moving more freely and extended the run beyond the original out and back to the post office. The snow pack was just another place to work on my form. I spent 2011 basically building a modern running form out of what was a pretty disorganized mess: heel striking, bending forward, hands crossing the mid line, a cadence in the 140s. So, whether I'm on a treadmill, running roads, running the LA Marathon 2 weeks back, or out here on the snow, I'm "pulling a string" from my ankles to the sky to keep my butt in, body straight, and the only bend in my ankles. Arms at 90 degrees rotating mostly back and forward and very little across the body, cadence usually around 170 at slower speeds on up to 198 at marathon pace. And the little things, like keeping hands, face and shoulders relaxed, "grasping a butterfly by the wings" with my fingertips...and that foot strike, bringing the foot down under my body and not out in front; working for an even mid foot strike even in more cushioned shoes like the Nike Vomero + 6's I was running in today.

My thinking on mid foot has evolved over the last 18 months (as has so many other's). One thing I want to be is forgiving of myself. I believe that even if the heel is hitting slightly before the forefoot, if the mechanics are otherwise correct--foot coming back to land under the body with knee bent, pushing back as if "pawing the ground" as you continue through the gait, the higher turnover rate--then I think I am getting the benefits that come with this more efficient form. I fall in the camp of those who want to benefit from the research and thinking going into barefoot and minimalist running, but I want to combine that with good cushioning that keeps my feet from feeling beat-up after a run of 10 or more miles.

So the mileage over the last week--4, 6.5, 4 and now roughly 3--was on the light side; but the move outdoors after doing all winter running here in town indoors made for an exhilarating change.

The day was too beautiful, so back out on the same paths in the afternoon for an unmeasured distance. Conservatively, 4 miles for the day run on snow machine trails.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First Outside Running Days 60 deg. North

The extended spell of 20 below temps finally broke in Bethel last week, putting a few runners out on the "road". We're still running on ice much of the way, and more slush and mud as this western Alaskan town starts to thaw out after six months of snow, ice and sub-zero temps. Bethel is land-locked (we have roads, but they don't connect us to any outside locations), with a main horseshoe road that's about half paved and half dirt and gravel, maybe 6 miles point to point. It used to be a loop, but a land dispute took the top off the loop (leaving the horseshoe). During the winter, however, a small lake at the top freezes over and, once the ice is a couple feet thick, the city grades it and we have a 6.5 mile loop until the road melts. That will be in another week or two.

In the meantime, during the brief spell when the temps rise into running range (above freezing for me) and before the road is once again aquatic, the loop is in play.

This week I ventured out Monday on the paved part of the loop for an out and back 4.1 miler (35 minutes), following up a pretty good previous week: LA Marathon on Sunday, runs of 5, 7 and 10 miles through Saturday after returning to 60 degrees north Bethel. Yesterday I ran the loop in an hour flat. My goal has been to keep my fitness at a high level post-marathon, unlike last summer, when my miles dropped to nothing after the Mayor's Marathon held during summer solstice in Anchorage. So far so good, but the right achilles tendon that has been sore for the last two months is going to need both rest and treatment at some point if I'm going to get to where I can keep the miles up without soreness.

Next race on the schedule is a variable: I'm signed for the Chicago Marathon in October, but need something between now and then (and travel & lodging for Chicago--not yet locked-in). Considering Lost Lake trail run or a half or full marathon within a reasonable flight distance (makes it tough, not being able to drive to any races). Suggestions for a June race welcome!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Honda LA Marathon Race Report

Three inches of rain and temperatures in the 40s the day before the LA Marathon led to predictions of a cold and wet 26.2 miles on Sunday March 18th. Fortunately, the weather turned and the 23,000+ runners lined up in Parking Lot 6 at Dodger Stadium ran in dry conditions, around 50 degrees, a mix of sunshine and overcast, and air as clean and crisp as something rolling off the Alaskan tundra. Only the headwind for most of the course kept it from being ideal running conditions. My goal had been to run the flats at an 8.24/mile pace and average-with stops and any slowdowns-enough speed to get under 3:50. That, and enjoy a course that I expected to be a treat run with a bunch of fellow enthusiastic marathoners.

My #1 take away is that this course, now in its second year, is a treat. Enough hills to be honest but still fast, and about as much of an LA experience as any course could offer-with the Big Blue start, Kodak Theater, Capital Records building, Hollywood Sign, Rodeo Drive, and a stuning finish along the beach in Santa Monica. The elite runners spoke of the wind costing them some time, so a relative tyro like me is safe suggesting that a few minutes were given up to the wind, but averaging 8.37 pace over each of the first 10K's and overall produced a new PR at 3:46.01, well under the target of 3:50. Gear choices turned out to be solid as well, and I was lucky to break a cardinal rule of distance running without paying the price. That maxim is Never run in anything untested at distance, and its a good one to follow. The predictions of rain and cooler temps, however, meant an LA buying spree-tights, short and long-sleeved shirts, Brooks running jacket-in combination with the Brooks Launch shoes, Injinji socks and Injinji gloves I had been training in over the weeks preceding the race. The Brooks Launch get a 5 Star rating from me: probably the lightest neutral cushion shoe out there, the lightest at this level of cushioning in any event. Enough room in the toe box, a 9.5 mm drop and a smooth roll off for a midfoot striker led to a comfortable and fast-feeling ride.

You always risk hot spots or worse with untried gear on a long run, but the tights (Champions from Target), Nike Miler short sleeve and Brooks LSD Lite Jacket II added last minute were all optimal, giving me just the right amount of protection from the coolest wind, and the security of some water resistance from the rain (that never showed).

The volunteers and spectator support were great although I rarely figured out where the Ultima sports drink was on the course and made do with water. I also emailed the LAM staff beforehand to question the choice to hold off on the calories until after mile 20. Ultima is a near-zero calorie sports drink, and putting the only calories on the course (CLIF shots) so late meant that just about everyone would have to pack their carbs-of-choice in order to get the nutrition to the muscles in time to make a difference in the last 6.2 miles. Frank McCourt has taken a justifiable beating in the press for his handling of the Dodgers, but it's the opposite story with the marathon run since 1986 and purchsed by the Dodgers owner in 2008: a struggling marathon with no real identity and an ever-changing course now holds a mirror up to La La Land, and allows good overall pace and a fast finish along with iconic scenery.

I'm grateful to the sponsors, Race Director and staff and all the volunteers for putting on an outstanding race and Expo, and look forward to running this slice of So Cal flavor again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcome to run60north

This site is under construction, and will document reviews of running gear, books on or by runners, training ideas and principles, and my own efforts to gain form and (a little) speed as I pursue marathon running as a late adopter. Training at 60 degrees North latitude in Bethel Alaska where we live and drive on ice 7 to 8 months each year means a lot of indoors training combined with running through a wide range of weather and conditions. It’s an exciting time for runners, however. The discussion on form and minimalism, running shoes morphing at a rate heretofore unseen, the technology available to runners both on-wrist or arm and on computer and internet, and the hundreds of blogs and web sites dedicated to going fast or far or just getting out and going forward all speak to a modern running revolution. So, welcome and please allow time to get this thing built!

Week 9 Long Run

At 8 below and windchills lower still outside, ran today’s 15 miles at marathon pace + 20 seconds, 8:49 pace. LA Marathon coming up now in 8 weeks and it will be unlike the Mayor‘s Marathon in Anchorage June 2011, where at least the last 6 or 7 weeks could be run outdoors. This time all but the taper will need to be indoors. Several pieces of new gear coming in for evaluation for this race:  a pair of Brooks Launch lightweight trainers (or heavy racing flats, depending on point of view); a singlet from Ink N Burn; shorts from Sugoi and Brooks. Photos and impressions of each to follow. Also working to sort out my Garmin 310, which has been failing to connect with various footpods needed for cadence data and indoor splits.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Brooks Launch

First try in Brooks Launch today running 1200 meter intervals, and they rise to the top of the stable. This shoe seems to hit the sweet spot in a number of ways--it's either a racing flat on the heavy side or a cushion trainer on the light side; at 9.5 mm stack height differential, the heel is set lower than most traditional trainers, but is higher than any minimalist shoes; and while it can clearly handle a heel-striker's needs, it rolls forward smoothly from a midfoot strike and feels fast. A full review with photos coming soon.