May 23, 2016

Trail Work Somewhere on the PCT

Hiking Up to PCT from Fobes Ranch

"You mean you didn't volunteer just because you wanted to?"

I had a feeling this question would find its way into a conversation last weekend. And sure enough it did, when some of the other volunteers learned that I was doing trail work as part of a requirement to run a certain ultra marathon.

Doug Cutting Fallen Tree

Of course I've been meaning to do trail work on my own time, for my own reasons, not just to satisfy another ultra race application. But I haven't, so there I was, yet again, doing trail work, to "check the box." (seeking redemption now).

I shouldn't feel bad, I guess, because, well, um, I was out there, right? I look at it as a fringe benefit of our sport to those who use trails. We are here to give back, and its part of our sport's culture. But how many of us give back without being asked to? (redemption fleeting now...).

Trail Captain Don in full PCT Recline

It was a great time regardless of intentions. A group of 11 of us met at the Paradise Valley Cafe and drove out to Fobes Ranch. Once occupied by the famous Timothy Leary, the ranch sits inconspicuously in far away canyon in a place known as the San Jacinto Wilderness. We hiked several miles up to a closed section of the PCT where we went to work cutting fallen trees, picking rocks and pummeling rogue weeds. At 6'500 feet, we had stupendous views of the Coachella Valley while we worked.

Selfie to remind myself it's good to give back

I've run on the PCT so many times. It was nice to give something back to it, even if it was just a little bit. And as Bob, my fellow volunteer said, I'm always welcome to give more.

Keep it real runners.

Hiking Out on Public Trail

May 15, 2016

Harding - Joplin - Santiago Loop

Today’s run came to me after waking up and drinking my first cup of coffee. It’s been like this for me this year. I don’t know why. Planning training runs – something I used to obsess over – is like so not interesting for me now. Hell, do I need to plan what kind of sandwich I’m going to eat next week? Or what song I’m going to listen to on my way to work tomorrow? I don’t know, I’m beginning to think planning is a disease of an OCD economy. Is it crushing our inner-bohemian-hunter-gatherer instincts?

Ok, I just watched a two-hour interview with Noam Chomsky so I’m a little stirred up. Lets move on to the run. It started as an out and back. From the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary up Harding truck trail to the top of Modjeska Peak and back. No big deal, something in the range of 23 miles or so, with a healthy climb of about 4,000 feet.

But then I started to think. How boring is that? Run back on the same trail I ran up? Again, it’s been that way for me this year. I’ve started out on a run with a clear idea of where I’m going. Then my inner-gatherer kicks in. A loop is always preferred over and out and back. And an A to B is always preferred over a loop. But A to B’s entail logistics (which can be hard in areas with no cell reception).

So that was the decision. Mid-Harding. Make it a loop. Up Harding, across Main Divide, down Joplin and Santiago truck trail, then back down Modjeska Grade road to Tucker Wildlife location where my Jeep was waiting.

Plan or no plan. Time on foot. It’s all that matters.

May 14, 2016

New Balance 860 - A Review

The Boston Marathon.  Starting line. Sacrifice made. Promise kept. A runner’s dream. No excuses now. No quitting now. Adrenaline. Endorphin. Emotion. Then elation. It can’t be explained. Don’t try. You’re there. So run. Simply. Run.

If I were to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon again, I would do so using the New Balance 860. Why? It’s one of my favorite road shoes. It passes the taco test. It gives me room and keeps me on my game. Best of all, it goes the distance.

I’ve run in a lot of shoes. Hundreds at least. Lots of brands. Most end up in a Goodwill donation heap after a couple of runs. The best looking ones are usually the worst. Such is life. But then there are the few.

Like the New Balance 860. Like all the shoes I’ve owned and kept around for second, third and even fourth purchases, it passes the taco test and keeps my planter fasciitis from flaring up.  It does this with a T-beam plastic shank in the midsole, which helps give the shoe excellent stability.

Another positive feature of the 860 for me which may indeed be a negative for others is the wide forefoot. I can’t stand shoes with a narrow toe-box because – you guessed it – I have a wide forefoot. Running in shoes with a narrow forefoot and tight toe box not only makes my feet feel like they are being suffocated, it creates breeding ground for developing a neuroma.

As one who has rolled his ankle umpteen times, including during a 100 mile race, the stability of a shoe is critical. It’s like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is weak, it doesn’t really matter what you build on top. Eventually your gonna get screwed.

The 860 has three separate types of foam with varying densities to maximize stability while maintaining a comfortable ride. The shoe also hosts a free moving strap that supplements the lacing system from the base of the shoe at the mid foot. It all adds up to a steady-eddie feel that keeps the ankle rolling visions and episodes at bay.

It’s always a little disappointing when you purchase a shoe as a distance runner and the shoe itself can’t go the distance. You know what I mean. Like when you wear a shoe for a couple of runs and the sole starts to dislodge from the base.  Or the tread pulls a disappearing act after the second or third long run. Not the case with the 860s. I’ve run with the shoe for many months and it has held up quite well. This is my experience with shoes from New Balance in general which I think is an all around solid company.

So, for my seriously finicky feet, the 860 is a keeper that isn’t headed to the donation heap anytime soon. The version I've run in is version 5. Version 6 is now available with some enhancements. Who knows, if New Balance comes out with a trail version of the 860, it could become my sole companion.

PS -
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Will C