Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mt. Wilson via Echo Mountain, Mt Lowe Railway, 23.5 miles

The weather here in Pasadena has reverted back to winter this weekend, with a good rain Friday night and again last night.  It was predicted to rain this morning with the snow-line dropping to 3500 ft. So this morning I got up  early, packed a day pack with extra clothes, donned my Goretex-lined Merrell Ascend Gloves, and headed to the Lake Avenue trailhead of the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain for a 6:30am start, intending to run to Wilson summit for a 24 miler and enjoy the snow:


It was a beautiful morning!  Clear and cold, but no rain, just magnificent cloud walls over Los Angeles and the back range.  I fast hiked to Echo Mountain (2.7miles) and started running there on the traverse trail over to the Mt. Lowe railway.  I ran comfortably up to Markham saddle and took this photo looking east towards Mt Wilson and the Mt Baldy high country:

On through the Mueller tunnel and hit the Mt Wilson Road for the 2 mile run up to Wilson summit (11.75 miles, 2:25).   I was mindful of my footing as there were patches of ice on the road and it was COLD.   I picked up water at the faucet north of the summit snack bar and ran the return trip down after donning a windbreaker as my fingers had gone numb.

It was a fast run down and I felt solid the whole way;  total time was 4:06 despite the 4800 ft of climb and having walked the first 2.7 miles.   Wonderful morning!  Hip felt good as did the achilles; it felt to good to run reasonably fast.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mt. Wilson 20 miler

This morning I got out early and did the walk-up/run-down workout up Mt Wilson, 19.5 miles by GPS from outside the Eaton Canyon  Nature center to the summit of Mt Wilson.

It was a beautiful morning with the air fresh and clean from a light rain that started yesterday afternoon and continued through last night.

I made good time up (2:45) and the round trip time of 4:03 is right on my race pace goal for the Angeles Crest.

I ran in my back-up pair of Merrell Ascend Gloves from 2013, the ones that I used primarily during the 2014 season.  These shoes last!  I tucked a liner in the shoes with a 4mm wedge in the heel for the walk up, then took this out for the run down.  The achilles felt good the whole way.

A little discomfort in the power walk up, the glutes and hamstring on the injured leg are still a bit weak. The run down was great, I feel like I am gaining strength, and managed just under 8 minute miles the whole way.

I feel like I owe a very big thank you to the orthopedic surgeon who screwed me back together after my fall last May.

View from the Mt Wison Toll Road running down this morning-  LA in the distance

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review of Merrell Trail Glove 3: First impressions on Mt Wilson 18 miler

Last week Merrell announced its new Trail Glove 3.  I was excited about this and immediately ordered a pair which arrived yesterday.  This morning I tested them out on an 18 mile out and back  on the Mt Wilson Toll Road with 4000 feet of climb and descent.  The TG3s were great.

 Over the last two years I've run almost exclusively in Merrell's "barefoot"  Trail Glove-1 (for runs less than 20 miles) and the Ascend Glove (for runs > 20 miles).  These shoes are without doubt the most comfortable running shoes I've ever run in.   I haven't found another make that fits me quite right, accommodating my wide feet and enabling me to run light and comfortably over ultra distances without blisters.

I'd been concerned as Merrell's  barefoot line had been drying up of late-  the Ascend Glove was discontinued as were many of  the various  Trail Glove spinoffs.    I'd  recently bought a pair of the Bare Access Trail but found it to be more of a conventional shoe design that doesn't fit my feet right, being too narrow up in the toe box for my paws.

Enter the new Trail Glove 3.  Some observations:

1.  The construction materials and construction quality hail back to the Trail Glove 1:  Double stitching, same tough fabric; this bodes extremely well as I have found that my Trail Glove-1 uppers simply do not wear out (whereas the Ascend Glove upper is a thinner fabric which is a bit prone to tearing).  I have a pair of TG1s that I wear around as walking shoes after honorable service in ultra training and racing  of probably close to a thousand miles, with the vibram lugs worn smooth:  They are still excellent day-to-day walking shoes.  The uppers are in near perfect condition still.

2.  The Trail Glove 3 toe box is wide -- seems a bit wider and more flared than the TG1 in the same size and the fit is very close to my Ascend Gloves in size 11.5.

Trail Glove 1 to the left;  Ascend Glove, middle, Trail Glove-3 to the right.  All are Mens size 11.5; all are new and unused (the TG-1 and Ascend glove are from my closet stash).
3.  The TG3 lugs are more aggressive than the TG1 and 2, almost as deep as  the Ascend Glove.    This is great as I've found TG1to be a bit marginal on the sand and gravel on steep terrain that I encounter on long mountain runs in the San Gabriel Mountains.  The TG3s were great on the Wilson Toll Road this morning.

Outsoles for Trail Glove-1 (left); Ascend Glove (middle); Trail Glove-3 (right).  Note the arch protection  in the TG-3 at right, which is firmer than in the TG-1 at left.
4.  The sole is a bit thicker on Trail Glove3 than the TG1, very close to the Ascend Glove in terms of thickness and ground feel.  (Both TG3 and the Ascend Glove are specified at 10.5mm stack height).   I like this as I tend towards longer runs (15 to 30 miles on the weekends) and for me the Trail Glove-1 is a bit skinny for anything over 20 miles.   The rock protection was great on this morning's Mt Wilson run.

5.  The Trail Glove 3, like the TG1 and TG2, has a swatch of rubber that conforms to the arch to provide rock protection.  The material used in TG3 is firmer than the material used for TG1.  It was unexpectedly noticeable when first donning the TG3s but seemed to disappear when I started running.

All in all the Trail Glove 3 looks like a great shoe, which is intermediate in "armoring" between the Trail Glove 1 and the Ascend Glove.  I'll be using it for longish runs ~ 20 miles this season.  I am very happy that Merrell is sticking with the barefoot line.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A new Merrell Trail Glove: Trail Glove 3....Yay!!

Wow, just yesterday I was moping about the apparent demise of Merrell's Trail Glove/ barefoot line...

This morning Merrell announced the Trail Glove 3:  It looks great, with a rock plate and burlier lugs.  I can't wait to try a pair.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mt Lowe, 16 miles; Final verdict on my Solomon Sense Ultra SGs

I got up and power walked the Sam Merrill trail again today, this time taking the traverse from Echo Mountain over to the Mt Lowe railway and power walking up to the 8 mile point, about halfway around the north side of Mt Lowe.  It was a spectacular morning with Santa Ana conditions-  the visibility extended out to Catalina Island
The photo above doesn't do the view justice.  It was just spectacular and great to be out.

As I was changing bottles at my turn around point a group of runners led by Ruperto Romero came running past on the Lowe railway.  I quickly got myself put back together and gave chase.  Catching up with Ruperto we shared a couple of miles running down to the Idlehour trail junction, where he and his compadres split off down the Idlehour trail.  It was great to talk with him;  I hadn't seen him since he came charging through in the lead at the Idlehour aid station at the  2014 AC100 which he won at age 50. In a bit of karmic artistry, he ran a perfect strategic race defeating a deep bench of  pre-race "favorites" several of whose  race projections and comments on blog sites and social media were rather hubristic...

I started the run today in my pair of (clearance) Solomon Sense Ultra SG's.  These shoes, which list at $160, had come available at $96 in an online clearance sale and I couldn't resist trying them out.  After my first run in them a couple weeks ago I had an acute bout of plantar pain that took 3 days to resolve;  today's run was a test to see if that experience was a fluke or somehow related to the Solomons, which are otherwise great shoes.  I did stuff a pair of my old Merrell Ascend Gloves into my running pack as a back up.

It was no fluke:  By the time I reached Echo Mountain about 3 miles in, the arches on both feet were just aching.  I stopped and swapped out the Solomons, donning my Merrell Ascend Gloves....ah, relief!!

Something about the Solomons just does not agree with my feet:  I suspect its the stiffness of the soles with their integrated rock plate, forcing my feet to bend/flex in ways that they are not designed for and that they don't like.  I have strong arches:  Barefoot running, or running in completely unsupported shoes like the Merrell Trail Glove gives me no problems;  its seems its the Solomons.  Pity that this lesson cost me nearly a hundred bucks.  I'll see if I can find a pal who likes Solomons and give them away;  failing that I'll put them up on eBay to try to recoup some of my money.

When I got home I went on line and bought a couple pairs of Merrell Ascend Gloves from various sites listing them for less than $70.  I just love these shoes and decided I would lay in a stash while they can still be found, having regrettably been discontinued by Merrell in favor of more conventional  shoe designs.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Run to Inspriration pont

This morning I covered 11 miles, power walking up to Inspiration Point via the Sam Merrill trail out of Altadena and then running back down via the Mt Lowe railway fire road, transiting back to the lower Sam Merrill Trail to Altadena.  I did the run in my Merrell Ascend Gloves, and it felt great.  I was a bit cautious running down the Sam Merrill as I haven't run steep technical single track since my accident, and my legs haven't recovered full strength;  plus I am a bit leary of slipping due to the lack of lugs at the rear of the Ascend Gloves (which I was wearing when I had my accident last May).

I've been experimenting with various models of trail running shoes lately trying to find something like the Ascend Glove but with more aggressive lugs.  It seems that in the last year, the offerings of low profile, minimalist running shoes has really dried up, evidently the minimalist trend on running shoes has crested.   Inov-8's Trailroc 255 shoes are decent but I find them a bit tall, with a much thicker sole than what I am used to -  and somewhat unstable as a result.  They are also a bit narrow for my feet, they work but need to be broken in, unlike the Merrell's that I've been spoiled to wear the last two years.    Skechers' Gobionic Trail which I've had good luck with seems to have been discontinued (as has the Merrell Ascend Glove).  I bought a discounted clearance pair of Solomon Sense Ultras on line.  What shipped though was Solomon Sense Ultra SG, which has super aggressive lugs.   I decided to try them:  I wore them last Sunday for an 8 miler and a couple days later I woke with really severe pain in my left foot, feeling like planar fascitis, which I haven't had in 24 years.  I took three days off and treated my feet morning and evening with an ice pack followed by a hot water soak.  They felt OK by Friday so I resumed my walks and runs, and the feet felt fine today.   This may not have been due to the Solomons but a few more trial runs will sort this out.

I've bought a pair of Merrell's Bare Access Trail today, which look like Ascend Gloves but with more aggressive lugs;   maybe these will be my go-to shoes this season.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Starting training again for the 2015 ultra season

Its now 2015, and after a low level of training and ongoing fracture (  rehabilitation through the fall of 2014, I am beginning to train again for the 2015 ultra season.

I managed between 15 to 25 miles per week through the fall,  split about 2/3 running, 1/3 walking;  and I continued regular stretching to limber up the injured right hip, and rehab/strengthening exercises for my achilles, particularly the right, which has been tweaked ever since I resumed weight bearing on the injured right side.

My  orthopedist believes the right achilles was painful due to atrophy of the right leg muscles, particularly the calf muscles, during the June-July non weight-bearing phase of my fracture recovery.

I did see a physical therapist specifically about the achilles in mid-November.  He directed me to change the manner in which I do eccentric heel drop exercises-  which I had been doing regularly according to method described here:  heel drop exercises on stairs.   Rather than using stair steps, with the weight-bearing foot placed on the flat of a step, he suggested that I use a slant board.  The basic idea is the same,  however, with the weight-bearing foot on a slant board, the exercise is rather different:  With the straight leg exercise the posterior tibialis muscle, which wraps under the medial side of the ankle, is more effectively isolated.  Interestingly, even after having built up to sets of 3 x 30 reps with 57 pounds on my back, 30 reps on a slant board without added weight was initially difficult for me to complete and left me quite sore.  Also significant was that using the slant board I could feel my big toe much more engaged in the exercise, preventing an inward rolling motion.  I suspect that this whole muscle system had atrophied;  it may have also something to do with sciatic nerve irritation due to my fracture and the surgical wound to repair it:    I have found that if I do not religiously stretch my hamstrings and "roll" my gluts/piriformis/hamstring attachments on the injured right side, I experience tingling on the right big toe, particularly after sitting for a long time.  This seems consistent with poor "firing" of the big toe/posterior tibialis and excessive resulting pronation, that could cause the achilles irritation.   So my focus has been:  at least twice a day hamstring stretches using a loop of webbing, lying supine and pulling my straight leg up with the webbing;  rolling the glutes/piriformis/hamstrings daily, and 4 sets of 30 reps of eccentric heel drop exercises on the slant board (2 sets with straight leg, 2 sets with bent knee).  For a slant board I use a 2 foot long 1"x6" board set on the bottom step of the stairs I normally use for my heel drop exercises. (The step rise is 7 inches per step).

In any event these exercises seem to have helped and lately (the last 2 weeks),  I have been running pain free with both achilles pretty much nominal.

Walking is another matter:  Lately I have started long uphill walks and these leave my right hamstrings/glutes stiff and sore.  I have a much longer stride while power-walking than running and so it hurts more to power-walk than to run....more extension.. Go figure!  Nevertheless I have been lately doing more than half of my mileage as fast walking to firm up my base musculature before starting serious running.

I've signed up for the Leona Divide 50 in mid April as a qualifier for the 2015 AC100 on Aug. 1.