Sunday, August 2, 2015

2015 Angeles Crest 100: 7th place in 23:14:50

It was a very satisfying weekend at the Angeles Crest 100.   At the end of the day, I earned the same finishing place, same time (within a minute) and same Rhino award as I did in 2013:   23:14:50, 7th place overall, 6th man, Rhino  (master's) trophy winner.

The path getting there was a bit different though as this year was hotter, more humid;  nevertheless I ran 45 minutes faster for the first 60 miles  than in 2013.  But then the heat took its toll along with blown quads, bruised  feet, severely sore lungs from smog or poodle dog pollen or whatever, and a large puddle of vomit in the Chantry parking lot, so that I ultimately lost that 45 minutes and finished with the same finishing time as 2013.

What is important to me in all this is first,  my great gratitude that  I was able to  run  despite fracturing my hip socket in a fall at Idlehour last year (, and second, my great gratitude for the joy of my son crewing me with my friends Dale and Tina.  It was fabulous:

My son running me through Chilao to my crew set up.  What a smile!

That picture, shot by Tina's son, summarizes what the day was about for me.  His smile is worth  100 silver buckles or bronze rhinos, but it was nice to get those too:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Race week!

At last we are in race week!

A final tweak:

I have been dealing with an increasingly painful toe joint problem-  on the right foot, when the toes are dorsiflexed (pulled upwards) and the foot loaded, the second toe metatarsal-phalangial joint hurts a LOT.

I had the bright idea last week to stiffen the Hokas further with a steel insole to keep the toes from flexing.  With a bit of  help from my pal Al, I soon had a dxf drawing and last Saturday Fred Nelson cut it for me at on his CNC plasma cutting machine at his shop in Azusa.  It worked!  A bit heavy, but definite improvement.

Monday I visited the doc to make sure the darned toe wasn't broken  and to find out just what was going on with it.  The diagnosis:  No hint of a fracture or Morton's neuroma, just synovitis;  the prescription:  A carbon fiber insole to keep the toes from dorsiflexing!

I pulled out the steel insole and the doc had a good laugh, telling me that was old school, how they treated this problem before carbon fiber composites!

It works great and is much lighter than my steel prototype. Here is a photo of the generations:  Hoka far left; Plastic insole first try left, steel- middle, carbon fiber, right.

And I got a care package from my training partner Alex: What a guy!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

...And the last biggish run before the AC100

I  did my usual Sunday hike up/run down 20 miler on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road this morning.  I took it easy and completed the 20 mile circuit in 4:15, capping off an 81 mile week, week # 1 of a three week taper before the Aug. 1 AC100.  This coming week I will again focus on increased rest and only run 10 milers for 2-3 days.  I plan to hit Mt. Baden Powell for a 15 miler at altitude next weekend for a 50-60 mile week;  and then take a compete rest for race week.

I feel great with the exception of my screwed up right foot.  The increased rest this week has me feeling peppy at last and I am much stronger than I was in 2013 --if a bit slower.  In 2013 I was doing the Mt Wilson circuit routinely in 4 hours, this year I am consistently about 10-15 minutes slower, mainly on the uphill leg.  I think my power-walking hasn't fully recovered since the hip socket fracture.   On the other hand, increased core strength work (pull-ups, push ups, sit-ups) has me without any abdominal soreness which was a recurring theme in 2013.  The right foot -  second and third toe pain-  capsulitis or Morton's neuroma or whatever it is--seems to be manageable with the Hokas and a metatarsal pad helps as well.  We will see how it feels in two weeks.   I am a bit nervous about it and thunderstruck that such a problem could come on so suddenly  after trying the Brooks Pure Grit, and that it could be so persistent.   If 2013 was the year of calf and achilles issues, 2014 the year of major fracture, then 2015 looks like the year of feet fun.

Unlike yesterday, when I got caught unprepared in the thunderstorms, today I brought a pack with some warm gear and a rain shell as weather predictions indicated morning T-storms.  No storms-  and the run down was  hot, muggy and tropical.

I spent the afternoon putting together a kiddie pool for the little ones which we all enjoyed in the unbelievably muggy heat.  Just as were getting out and drying off, the skies turned purple and the winds picked up for some nice afternoon showers.  My young son and I baked cookies to celebrate the stormy weather.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Taper run on Mt Wilson

This is the first week of my three week taper for the Aug. 1 AC100 race.  Coming off three consecutive 100 mile weeks with back to back 30+/20 milers on the weekends, I was ready to taper.  During the last work week I took more rest than usual and still felt pretty tired through Thursday.  Today's run therefore was designed to push fitness without being too exhausting:  Mt Wilson via the Sam Merrill trail and Eaton Saddle, for 24 miles round trip.  My pal Alex and I completed the run with a 3:58 run time running relaxed.

The weather was fantastic:  Thunderstorms rolled through and we got thoroughly soaked several times as we ran through storm cells.  Heat training it wasn't but it sure was fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hoka One One Challenger ATR review ....and fixes

I will begin this review of the Hoka One One Challenger ATR with the clear acknowledgment that without these shoes I would probably not be able to run right now.  Thats a big deal for me since I just completed a training push of 3 sequential 100 mile weeks in preparation for the AC100 this coming Aug. 1.

As I have posted in recent weeks,  I have a foot injury on my right foot, that makes it excruciating to weight the foot with my second and third toes in a dorsi-flexed position (i.e. toes pulled up).  I don't have a diagnosis of this injury but it may be Morton's neuroma; there is numbness on the top of the second and third toes, but the key point is that it hurts like hell unless either I am walking barefoot or running in Hokas.   I do know that the injury came on while trying out a pair of Brooks to deal with a bruise on my LEFT foot;  I provisionally attribute the onset of the right foot injury to excessive toe spring in the Brook's design.

The Challenger, like all Hokas, has an extremely thick midsole which enables the outsole to be sloped up at the front and rear while preserving a relatively flat surface for the foot inside the shoe.  The side view photo of my size 11's shows this:  The shoes have 250 miles of them at this point.
This sloping allows the foot to roll through a foot strike without loosing energy-  Hoka calls this their "meta-rocker" technology, and I think this only makes sense for heel strikers.  But I am forefoot striker.

 The reason it matters to me is that the upslope in the forefoot allows me to run up hills (and down) without flexing my toes,.  Again, at the moment, flexing my toes is excruciating.  I love this feature of the Hokas and am grateful that Hoka made these shoes, with their 5mm drop, which has saved my racing season.


There are a few things about the shoe that I really do not like and have had to modify in order to wear the shoes.

For starters, the shoe is too narrow for me, but making matters MUCH worse  is the fact that the insole surface is surrounded by a rim of firm midsole rubber, which prevent the foot from "finding extra space" by stretching out the upper shoe fabric.   The top and bottom of the rim are highlighted with red arrows in the image below:
This became extremely painful due to bruising on the lateral side of my feet  within about 150 miles of running in the Challengers.  Exacerbating this is the fact that the outsoles on the Hokas slope down laterally on both the left and right shoes, and extend appreciably beyond the outline of one's feet:  The photo below of the right shoe shoes this clearly.
Since the outsole extends several millimeters beyond the outline of one's foot, and since the shoe is designed with the slant seen in the photo above that forces the lateral side of the feet to strike the ground first, the next result is that wearing the Hoka's unmodified is a bit like trying to run down the center of a drainage ditch!  It HURTS the side of your feet after a while! And its not great for the knees either!

The problem was worse on my left foot...which makes sense in hindsight:  My left foot has a high arch and tends to have a slight roll to the lateral/outside (varus angle).  Initially when I tried on the Hokas, my left foot felt like it was being forced to rotate inwards (like it was making me  a bit knock-kneed).

No matter, there is a fix:  The photo below shows that I trimmed the midsole rim on the lateral side of my Hokas to allow my feet to splay a bit.

I also trimmed nearly a centimeter off the lateral side of my left shoe, which had the worst lateral foot pain due to the Hoka-induced "varus deformity":
If the images of the modified shoe look like the cuts were made by a madman with a hunting knife, that is because they were made by me, with a hunting knife.  I might add that it  is a rather harrowing experience to take a hunting knife to a $130 pair of fairly new running shoes and I was a bit pissed off that I had to do it... But I have done it already on a second set of Hoka Challengers (size 11.5 this time).  I took the modified shoes out for a 30 miler last weekend, and then a 20 miler the next day and they were great.

I love these Hokas because they are keeping me running but the fact is that I cannot wear them without significant modifications -  and the modifications are dangerous and time-consuming to make.

Finally, after 250 miles my right toes have begun to hurt in the Hokas.  This is due to midsole compression at the ball of the foot.  The shoes are fine if I place a pad in the depression;  nevertheless I have bought a fresh pair of Hokas, a half size larger to ameliorate the narrowness of the shoes.  The toe pain is gone again in the new shoes.   250 miles in a $130 pair of shoes amounts to a higher cost per mile than driving my car, and that is NOT a great selling point.

My wish is that Hoka would:

  • Make a wider shoe to fit people that do not wear stylish pumps all day (my feet do NOT taper to the front nor do the feet of  anyone I know) 
  • Keep the base of the shoe no wider than the foot and for Pete's sake, eliminate the midsole rim that bruises the lateral sides of my feet.
  • Use a firmer midsole material:   at 250 miles is too little for  $130 pair of shoes to last, this is NOT a great selling point.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mt Wilson 20 miler, capping off a 96 mile week

Beautiful morning on Mt Wilson for a 20 miler to cap off a 96 mile week:
I did the hike up from Eaton Canyon as usual;  My pal Alex and his friend Jose, who will be pacing Alex in the upcoming AC100, caught  me about half way up having run from Eaton Canyon about 15 or 20 minutes after I started.  We hiked the remainder to Wilson summit, watered down, and then cranked the down hill.  My round trip for the 20 miles was 4:10.  Still a bit slow on the uphill but the downhill felt like powder skiing, it was fabulous.  Jose brought a couple gallons of ice cold papaya and pineapple which he served up at the end, with mexican seasoned salt-  chile pepper, lime, and sea salt.  Out of this world fantastic!

I find myself at the end of a 96 mile week feeling like I want to run more, what a gift.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Brown Mountain on the 4th

I led an outing this morning for my son's cubscout pack to march in  the Sierra Madre July 4th parade.   The kids had a great time.

After the event I took an afternoon run up the Mt Brown firewood, 13.3 miles round trip.  I ditched the legs on my Columbia pants and wore my lightest cotton dress shirt, to see if I would fair better in the heat than yesterday.  I felt great;  I expected the run to be a hot smoggy slog, instead it was a beautiful run.  Afterwords my family joined my brother and his family for an epic cookout.  Bratwurst is outstanding recovery food!

I took out the metatarsal pad on my left shoe insert on the run.  The big toe is fine in the Hokas and I don't need the pad anymore.

Tommorrow:  20 miles on Mt Wilson.