Wednesday, October 30, 2013



I have several go-to products that I use for racing and heavy training that I want to promote.  They really helped me and I want you to know how, and what they can do for you.  I haven't received anything in exchange for doing this.  (though I would love to in the future).  I will continue to use these products even if the company in question makes fun of me.  (I am talking about you HOKA). 

1.     Hoka One One Shoes

I run almost exclusively in Hokas.  I have been for a little over a year.  The first time I saw them was at the North Country 50 last August.  My niece pointed them out to me and said "you should have shoes like that!"  I bought a pair of Stinson Tarmac's (shown above on the left) for the Chicago Lakefront 50/50 which I was going to run the 50 mile option, all on pavement.  I was shocked at how soft they were.  I should caution than for the first few weeks while I was breaking them in I was sore in the hips in a way that I had not been previously sore before.  Nonetheless, my legs, knees and hips felt great.  I ran a 8:22 at that race.

I had originally decided that I would keep a pair of Hokas "in my toolbox" for long races.  That was a lie.  Once I ran in Hokas I couldn't go back.  With very rare exception I always run in Hokas.

I use the Stinson Tarmac for road running and very easy trails.  They are my favorite shoe and I wear them whenever possible.  I can get around 500 miles out of them, after which I still use them for short dog jogs until they scream out for retirement.

For medium trails, or for easy trails in snow or mud I wear the Stinson Trail (pictured above right).  I wore these exclusively for the Superior Trail 100.  I can get around 700 miles out of these shoes.

I also have a pair of Bondi B's which I wear for shorter road races and a pair of Mufate's which I wear on gnarly trails and in deeper snow.  I enjoy both, but the two pictured above are the ones I must have.

I have not suffered a major injury since I started wearing Hokas.  I have run about 3,000 miles in them and so far I can report that I have not noticed one bad thing about them.  If you ever want to be my best friend for life buy me a pair of Hokas:)

I have ugly feet.  (See previous blog entries).  I am prone to black toenails, calluses and other conditions.  It is a constant struggle to try to keep my feet in a good running condition.  The best solution I have found to date is the use of Injinji toe socks.  I know that they feel weird.  They are hard to get used to.  The are also hard to put on and take off....especially after running for several hours.  Nonetheless, I swear by them and they are worth every penny.

3.  Vitargo

I try to eat as low carb as possible.  I also avoid refined sugar when I am following my eating plan.  Nonetheless, when I run more than 50 miles I use Vitargo.  When added to water it makes a very thick drink that is a little unpleasant to get down the first time.  It is also a little tricky to mix.  This video helps with that:

when I drink a Vitargo it feels like I have been awoken from a death march (which is usually the case).  I have a sustained boost of energy, but most importantly, it feels like I have new legs...or at least revived muscles in my old ones.  I drink a Vitargo shake every ten or so miles after 50 miles.  I have never thrown it up and it has always helped.

I became very tired of Gells and Gu's while I was still running marathon distances.  The sugar and the sweetness didn't really agree with me.  To this day I avoid them unless I have no choice or I am in a strange circumstance.  When I am following my standard eating plan I avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars.  As such, I spent some time looking for a food that I could use like a Gell or Gu that was all natural and tasted good.  When I discovered these 1.15 oz. packets of almond butter I was in heaven.  They come in several flavors if you have a sweet tooth (chocolate, honey, maple and vanilla).  They also make a peanut butter and hazelnut butter.  This is good clean fuel that makes me run better and feel better than sticking sugar in my system.  As an added bonus Dovi LOVES them if we get lost I have nutrition for him as well.  I highly recommend trying them, even if you are not on a carbohydrate restrictive eating plan.

5.  Arc'teryx

I use Arc'Teryx base layers, jackets, gloves and hats.  Their products are a little more expensive, but every single thing I have bought from them is awesome!  I especially like their cold weather gear.  My Arc'Teryx jackets have saved my life on the cold winter trails.

Monday, October 14, 2013


My blog has been quiet for some time because I have been recovering, taking it easy and because I have had a lot on my mind.  I recently proposed some changes to my ultra running group and I was a bit surprised and disappointed by the responses of many of them.  This weekend reminded me of one of the main things that attracts me to ultra running as opposed to road running.  We support each other.

This weekend I had the opportunity to run in the Farmdale 50 in southern Illinois.  Due to the government shutdown the race had to be changed to a new location at the last minute.  An unknown course.  Bow hunters near the race.  7 loops instead of 5.  No one cared.  People actually showed up to register on race day in spite of these "complications."

My friends Katerina Claiborne and Tony Silvestri were going to be attempting their first 50 mile race at Farmdale.  It was a blast to ride down with them and listen to their concerns, fears and excitement about tackling a new and challenging distance in unknown conditions.  I got to share my pre-race podcast with them and work out a good race strategy.  They both rolled with the punches, they didn't get psyched out, they dove headfirst into the unknown.  They impressed me greatly.

The vibe at Farmdale was unbelievable.  Good people, good friends and a great trail.  My friend Paul Wilkerson spent the day manning the only aid station (often by himself) and I know that without him neither Kat nor Tony would have made it to the finish.  It was a bit warm and and trail seemed a bit difficult to me.  I had a three-fold tragedy involving some late night Olive Garden, some friends (and RD's) who kept me up wayyyyy too late and a toe that went black and blue.


I pulled out at mile 30 with a  DNF.  It did not bother me one bit.  I kept true to my promise to myself during Farmdale - no more suffering in 2013.  I located my bag of Cheetos, my M&M's and my lawn chair and I plunked myself at the finish line to spend the next five hours cheering for other runners.

Let me digress for a second to tell you about my last DNF.  Kettle Moraine 100 in June 2013.  I quit that race (purportedly) because: 1) I wasn't having fun; 2) I had nothing to prove; and 3) I didn't have a good enough reason to finish.  This is of course all total BS.  I was a selfish wimp.  To add insult to injury I committed one of the cardinal sins of ultra running.  I left.  I missed seeing my friends finish.  Some of them finishing their first 100 mile race.  I can tell you honestly in retrospect that the second biggest regret in my running career was pulling out of that race.  The biggest regret - was not being at that finish line.  I don't think I will ever forgive myself for that.

Some of the friends I abandoned at KM 100.  

Tony and Kat both had heroic performances.  They both finished their first 50 miler.  I am so glad I was there to help and to cheer.

Tony Silvestri - 50 Mile finisher

Katerina Claiborne - 50 Mile finisher!

 You both knock me out!

Sunday I spent watching the Chicago Marathon.   I had a total of 37 people on my list to cheer for.  I did not see them all, but I was glad to see as many as I did.  I am proud of all of those who tried, who finished and who couldn't because of injury.

I am extremely proud of my best friend Aaron German.  He has been training his ass off for a year on the lakefront path with the hope of finishing sub 3 hours.  I was reading a book by Tim Noakes the week of the marathon which took the position that telling someone they CAN do something increases their chances of doing so.  On Friday I did the unthinkable.  I told Aaron he would run 2:50-2:55.  He ran a 2:53.  Although I  didn't run one step I am still calling that an assist.  Good job knock me out.

I still have a lot on my mind.  Many people didn't bother to go out and cheer for the runners.  Many people finished Farmdale, picked up their award, and went home.   I saw a lot of litter on the trail.  We cannot turn into a sport for the selfish or the self-absorbed.  What I love about this sport is that we realize that we can't do it alone.  The race doesn't happen without the RD's.  No one could finish the distance without the AS volunteers.  We need pacers, and crew members and donations and volunteers.  We need people to stick around and cheer.  We need to teach newcomers about the traditions and culture of this sport.  We are a community and a family.  Once we lose that, everything that is special about this sport is gone forever.  These is nothing more disappointing to me than a self absorbed runner.  ESPECIALLY when it is me.