Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Maze - Rogue Running Trail Series 10K

Last Sunday I ran in Rogue Running's Trail Series run, The Maze. The series consists of 3 trail
runs, each occurring at a different location over a 3-month period. The Maze took place at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. Walnut Creek contains over 20 miles of trails and is located 10-minutes north of downtown Austin. A pretty sweet park for both trail riding and  running, although a word of caution-most of the park is an off-leash dog park so watch out for loose pets.

There are two options in the Rogue Trail Series, either 10K or 30K. Entry fees are reasonable. The 10K races are $45 if you hit the early registration and the fees include a great technical tee-shirt and, maybe more importantly, an awesome breakfast buffet after the race. I opted for the 10K version of The Maze, I'm not ready for 30K on the trail yet. The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 am. I arrived at 6:45 to pick up my packet, bib and timing chip. It's pitch black. I start to wonder if I missed some instructions that suggested a headlamp for the start of the race. It's also cold. Surprisingly cold, about 42 degrees. So I check in and return to my car to wait and keep warm, hopeful that the sun will rise soon. Twenty minutes go by and it's still dark. I wonder if I should run home and get a headlamp? Do I have time? Probably, but really, the sun is going to rise before the race right? Google...what time is sunrise? 7:31 am. Why didn't I ask Google sooner. All is good, the sun will be up at the start of the race, but note to self, add headlamp to race bag.

I leave my car at around 7:18 and start my pre-race prep, which if you know me, means some half-hearted attempts at stretching and nervous pacing, then two trips to the port-o's and I'm ready to line up with the 210 other entrants at the start line. The 85 souls in the 30K left at 7:00 (some with headlamps on, by-the way), and the leaders will be turning their first of three laps about 15 minutes after we launch. I am dressed for the weather. Shorts, long-sleeved wicking shirt with a short-sleeved wicking shirt atop it, my yellow one...every race...really? I was smarter than usual and grabbed a wool knit cap on my way out the door. My head is toasty and my ears are warm. I figure if I get too hot during the run I can just take it off and hold it in one of my hands or tuck it in my waistband.

The start line is also the finish line and there is a big timing clock clock there. It is running in countdown mode. One-minute-thirty to go, I set my Runkeeper app to start with a 90 second delay and launch Pandora for some tunes. I always train with music but I have never run a race with it. This will be a first for me.

Timer hits zero and we are off. There is a pretty tight pack at the start. The trail is
narrow and everyone is bunched up. Even so I turn an 8:28 mile, but in retrospect I wish I had started closer to the front of the pack as I found myself hanging back, waiting for the pack to thin out. I believe I gave up at least 30-seconds during the first mile to the traffic. The trails have been well marked by Rogue and they are in good condition, mostly hard-packed clay and rock, except the occasional loose gravel or sandy areas. There are two water crossings along the way, the first just after mile one and the second just before mile five. Both are navigable without too much trouble and with some rock-to-rock hopping, my feet stayed quite dry. Rogue also had a timely aid station set up just after mile three, perfect chance for a quick drink and breath-catcher after one of the more strenuous hill climbs. Unfortunatly, I grabbed a cup with something off-color and possibly bubbly that tasted terrible. Not sure what it was, and while it wet my whistle, it wasn't satisfying and left a bad taste in my mouth. I will be more careful next time and grab the clear stuff...

This is my first full out trail race where the only goal was to run. No obstacles, no multi-sport events, just trails. Walnut Creek Park, like most places in Austin, is relatively flat. Over the course of 6.5 miles there was a total elevation gain of 342 feet, most of which happened in 4 chunks. The course is called The Maze because the design of the trail system here is super tight and compact, leading to lots of zigging and zagging. It's pretty impressive how tightly packed the trails are. It was easy to get into a rhythm and let my mind wander a bit, but as in any off-road run, focus was important else the trail will come up and bite you.

I choose to wear my New Balance Mimimus 10 Trail shoes for this one. The prior week's Iron Warrior Dash was my first race in them and this was my second. Like last week they did not disappoint. I tied the lower laces a bit tighter this week and my toes faired better. I will say that the sharper rocks and larger roots still telegraph through the sole a little more than I would like, but the run was still delightful. I do have a new pair of Merrell Trail Gloves that I have just started to break in, but I haven't raced in them yet, so more to come on those soon. Turns out the rest of my ensemble worked out well. The long-sleeved shirt was a good call, the sleeves, with their elasticity allowed me to pull them over my hands to keep my fingers warm early on and the wool hat was great. I wore it until mile five at which point I just clenched it in one of my hands for the last mile.

One of the best features of this race was the finish. After crossing the line and catching my breath I noticed what looked like a giant food buffet. There was a plate of gummy bears, another of trail mix, one with M & M's, bananas and a few others that I missed. Better yet, the Rogue crew was cooking for us. Fresh off the griddle pancakes, bacon and turkey bacon with strawberries, bananas and syrup to top it all off. Quite possibly the best end to a race ever! I really enjoyed The Maze and now I am looking forward to the next two races. I hope that breakfast is served again. The LOOP at Emma Long is about 3-weeks away. I haven't run at Emma Long, but I think that I biked there about 5 years ago, so I am excited about the new scenery. I finished The Maze in 00:59:21 which equates to a 9:09 pace. Pretty good for a trail run and considering that I had taken the week off from running after the Warrior Dash I feel pretty good about it. I finished 70th out of 211 total racers and 13th out of 38 in my division.

Thanks to Rogue Running for putting on a great event.

Merrell Trail Glove - Review

A few days ago I starting breaking in my Merrell Barefoot Run Trail Gloves. I wore them to work a couple of times, then on Friday, went for a run. Initial impression is that they are not as comfortable as my Merrell Bare Access shoes and the Vibram soles are super hard.

The 2.8-mile shake-out run was on 80% pavement and 20%
trail. The Trail Gloves are definitely grippy and more comfortable off-road than on. I could really feel the density of the Vibram when I was on the pavement and it wasn't really enjoyable, but once on the trail, I enjoyed the grip and the soles were much less noticeable.

We'll see how these feel after I get more miles under them, but so far, I am more comfortable in my New Balance Mimimus 10 Trail shoes.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Iron Warrior Dash: The Recap

So about the Iron Warrior’s Saturday morning, Chris picks me up at 6:15 and we arrived at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville Texas around 7:00 am. We are fortunate that we are probably one of the first 100 cars to arrive and apparently the organizers aren't ready for us- no one collecting parking money. By the time we walk from the car toward the event, which felt like every bit of a mile, they are collecting money. Score one for us (that's 10 bucks for an extra beer after the event). Check-in is well organized and we breeze through it. One feature that you don’t always see at events like these is a bag check. They use a tear-off from our bib number to attach to our bags and we check them during the event, which is great and means that we have towels, snacks, phones, wallets etc. on-site instead of a mile away at the car. So we check our bags and proceed through our pre-race rituals, which varies from person to person. For me this means some fake stretching, aimlessly walking about and at least one if not two trips to the porta-potties (which were plentiful) to try to eliminate the need to stop on the course. Otherwise I might have to tragically give up a pair of socks to the woods- this has never happened to me, but to a close friend of mine, twice.

Pre-race ritual complete, we head to the start line. It's about 7:55 and although we were both scheduled to start in the 8:30 wave, Chris decides to start at 8:00 since he runs a slower pace. I join him at the start, intending to cheer him on and then wait for my 8:30 start, but in a moment of excitement when the gun goes off, I decide to go ahead and start my run as well.

As in all races I seem to start out running faster than I am capable and although I don't have a timer on me (mistake noted) one of the other runners near me does and for the first 3 miles I was working on a 8:30/mile pace which is close to my normal road pace so I'm pretty happy. The course is hard-packed clay for the most part with some sand in a few places and few rocky stretches. There aren't too many elevation changes, overall there is ~320 ft. of climb and 160 feet of that is in the first mile and a half. After the first climb there are three more smaller climbs, all less than 50 feet a piece.

Then of course there are the obstacles, 24 of them on the course. Twelve of them are shared by the 5k'ers and 12 of them are unique to the Iron Warriors. I wish I could remember the order of the obstacles, but I've tried and I really don’t. Worse yet, at the moment I can only recall 17 of them. I’ll describe them and sum them up at the end of this, but right now I want to talk about some lessons I learned during the race and things that I’ll need to remember next time around, things that may be helpful to you for any event like this. If you're bored already, skip on down to the obstacle section....

Race Start: Before the start of the race, it’s a good idea to choose a meeting spot for your team or friends to meet up after the finish. While you may plan on running together, things happen and you might find that the group breaks into multiple groups or someone gets a cramp and the group splits up. Having a place pre-designated to meet will alleviate some of the frustration of trying to get back together afterwards.

Shoes: I talked quite a bit about my shoes in my Training Blog andI am happy to report that my feet fared really well during this race. I enjoyed the New Balance Minimus shoes. They gripped well, drained really well and did a reasonably good job of masking the rocks and sticks on the trail. I did experience some hot spots near the end of the race and I was concerned about multiple blisters, but to my surprise I only have one small blister on the end of my right “index”’ toe and I think it is mostly caused by having my right shoe tied a little too loose. I should warn you though, Chris noticed multiple people on the course wearing barefoot style shoes experiencing severe foot/shoe issues. I am guessing they didn't practice off-road in these shoes first. If you are a ‘barefoot’ style shoe wearer I highly recommend putting them to the test before the race or finding a sturdier pair of shoes that you are comfortable in for races of this type. I will be wearing the New Balance shoes in the Tough Mudder races in June and July. One other foot note (hah-hah), trim your toe nails, otherwise the constant pounding from the top or end of your shoe will push them into the nail bed and you’ll be left with a black toenail that will most likely fall off…some of us wear this as a badge of courage…

Food: I don't typically take food along with me on my runs. Rarely do I use gels or bars, but in retrospect I wish I had brought some along for this race. My biggest reason for not bringing bars or gels was for lack of a way to carry them. I didn't have good pockets and didn't want to carry a pack of any sort. I didn't need to carry water since there were 7 water stations along the course - more than enough to keep me hydrated in the cool temps. But by the 9-mile mark I was hungry. I sucked it up this time, but for the Tough Mudder races I will be bringing some food along. I haven’t yet figured out how. I saw some people wearing CamelBaks as well as waist packs and while they are comfortable and efficient, I’m not sure that I want to wear one for 12-15 miles. I will have to take a training run with a light-weight CamelBak and see.
I did talk to one fellow after the race and he wore knee-high socks, which not only served to protect his lower legs from the abrasive sand, mud and vegetation; they also allowed him to slip a couple of gel packs in them. I really like this idea and will probably steal it.

Clothing: There's a lot of water and mud as well as plenty of sharp things to snag your clothes, so, while it goes without saying, I'll say it anyway, don't wear anything you really care about. I wore a wicking Asics running shirt, one that was bright yellow/orange so that I could be easily spotted in photos. I've been wearing this shirt in races for years and I can't believe that it is still in good shape, but it is. It also seems to shed mud really well after a quick wash. For shorts I wore a pair of polyester Adidas shorts that have a spandex inner-short. I chose these because the close-fitting spandex keeps everything in place and also tends to keep small rocks and gravel out during water and mud excursions. I was pretty disappointed in how long they took to dry. Being polyester I expected them to shed water better, so for future races I will be looking for a much lighter weight pair of shorts and will just add a spandex under-layer if it isn't already incorporated. I already mentioned the importance of quick draining shoes, but wanted to point out that socks are just as important. Even though I wear barefoot style shoes I still couple them with socks. I have been a huge fan of Smartwool socks for years now. So much that 90% of the socks I own are Smartwool, including my dress socks. Look for a non-cotton sock that has good wicking properties to keep the water and sweat away from your feet. Even after 2+ hours of wet shoes and socks, my feet were only slightly wrinkled.

Eyewear/Headwear: I usually forgo headwear while running but I think I am going to change that. I am bald and even though we were in the woods most of the morning, my head still sunburned. I think a hat or a Buff or other head scarf would be helpful. You do run the risk of losing them on a fall in the water or a swim, but you can always tuck it into your waistband, pocket or shirt during the obstacles to prevent that. The Same goes for sunglasses. I watched two people lose their specs into the depths of the water obstacles. If you are going to wear them, get a tight-fitting, floating tether like Chums or something similar. Again, I recommend training with these to make sure they are comfortable enough to wear for the duration of the race; else you run the risk of having to ditch them along the way.

Race Finish: Take a second or two to enjoy the moment, then find your friends or family and celebrate. No matter the race or run, finishing is an accomplishment especially in longer events like the IWD or the Tough Mudder. If you checked a bag at a gear check, get it – there are probably some dry clothes, a towel, some food or drink items that you thought were important before the race that you can now enjoy. I suck at packing my race bag the day before a race and I’m even worse packing it the morning of. I suggest doing this days or even a week before the race. Think about what you crave after a training run. Think about the items you scurry around looking for before a training run and make a list or pack them up as you think of them. I always forget something. I would think by now I would take my own advice. I will next time…sure…

The race was awesome, actually better than awesome! Probably one of the best races I have participated in. Red Frog Events did a fantastic job producing the race and Rocky Hill Ranch was a great venue. The food and beer lines were short, there were plenty of facilities and the smoked turkey legs were steller! Oh yea, I finished the race in 2:46:51 which works out to an 11:07/mile pace. I'm pretty stoked about this. My ultimate goal was three and a half hours and my stretch goal was three, so this finish was almost a minute faster per mile than my stretch. I can't wait to do this again in June at the Tough Mudder in Colorado. I have my sights set on at least three Tough Mudders (Colorado, Tahoe & Dallas) this year, and I'm sure I will fill in the gaps with some other adventures. Just this morning I ran The Maze, the first of three Rogue Trail Series runs, a 10k race series that is all off-road at three different venues around Austin. Hopefully I'll get a race summary up here in the next day or two.

The Obstacles:

So what about the obstacles and training for them? There are three things that I think are really important...

Hills: Hill training is a must. Hills force your body to use different muscles than the flats and even relatively flat locales like Austin have hidden valleys that diabolical race organizers will ultimately funnel you through during the race. Even if it’s just once a week, work them into the training. It will make a difference.

Upper Body: At least 30% of the obstacles in these races rely on some upper body strength. Your upper body will be called upon to use ropes while climbing angled walls, climbing up and over vertical walls or for obstacles that are similar to the monkey bars from the playground of your youth. Practice the monkey bars. Find a park and practice them. Go bar to bar one direction, turn around without letting go and come back, do it again, skipping every other bar. This will prove useful. Your upper body may make the difference between completing all of the obstacles and not.

Swimming: I think you need to know how to swim. Several of the obstacles are in water that is deeper than you can stand up in. Okay, so you can swim...but can you swim in ice cold water? I was surprised at how much the cold water affected my muscles. Not only was it difficult for swimming, but it was truly amazing how hard it was to run after coming out of the water. This may be hard to practice or experience outside of the race, maybe there is a pool or creek that you can experiment with. If you have the opportunity to do so before your first race I would encourage you to try.

Here are some obstacles I experienced with a short synopsis – I have named them myself since I don’t know all the official names. They are used across many different events so the descriptions may be more helpful anyway.

Barbed Wire Sand Pit

Real barbed wire stretched 18-24 inches above a sand covered pit. Requires belly crawling while using your elbows to pull your body forward.
Difficulty: Easy

Monkey Bars

Similar to the playground style with one wrinkle, the bars are attached to a central spine instead of on the sides and alternating bars are attached one below the spine then one above the spine, changing the height by about 4-5 inches either up or down from bar to bar.
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard

Plywood Valleys

Eight Plywood walls set up like hills and valleys; you climb up the first then down the second, up the third, etc.  There are slats or blocks for footing and ropes in the middle valley for balance.
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Hill covered in plastic with water streaming down it, real barbed wire overhead with ropes to use to claw your way to the top on your belly most of the way.
Difficulty: Moderate

Vertical Walls
Six to seven foot tall vertical walls made out of 2x6 lumber. You have to grab the top and hoist yourself over. I found that I could get my toe just enough of a purchase on the seams of the boards to help raise myself enough to throw my other leg over the walls. This obstacle takes some upper-body strength.
Difficulty: Moderate

Balance Beam
Just like you see on the Olympics, except 10 feet above a pool of water. Requires balance. I started out slow and the beam got wobbly, I was sure I was going to fall so I just ran forward and cleared it without incident. Buy a 4x4 at Home Depot and practice walking across it – leave it at ground level unless you have a safety net…
Difficulty: Moderate

Floating Dock Blocks
This is essentially a floating structure made of large plastic blocks that you have to swim about 20 yards to get to and then climb up the 3-foot face. There are ropes to grab and separations between the blocks that you use to assist in pulling yourself up on. Once on top, you climb down a stair-step of blocks back into the water. This time there is a cargo net submerged just below you. You can use the net to pull you along while you float above it. At the other side you climb back over a couple of floating blocks, then you are back in the water to swim another 20 yards or so to shore.
Difficulty: Moderate

Tires with Overhead Suspended Cargo Net
A few hundred tires laying flat on the ground, edge to edge, touching one another with a cargo net suspended about 3 feet above them. Most people were inclined to step inside the center of the tires while holding the net above them with their hands. This method works, but I preferred to walk on the sidewalls of the tires while using my head to keep the net out of the way. The risk here is a twisted ankle and net burns on the forehead.
Difficulty: Easy

A three-foot wide by four-foot deep muddy trench with barbed wire above. Basically a mud pit offering the only option of crouch-walking or crawling through the mud to the other end.
Difficulty: Easy

A-Frame with Rain Shower
Climb up the back side of a 12-foot tall A-frame which has horizontal 2x4’s spaced a couple of feet apart. All the while you are being sprayed with pond water. Once you summit the A-frame you climb down the plywood backside with the aid of ropes and horizontal boards that run the width of the obstacle.
Difficulty: Easy

Pegboard Hell
Imaging 3 walls 10 feet off the ground in a u-shape. The walls have holes in them a bit bigger than silver dollars - these holes do not go all the way through. You have two pegs that fit in each hole - sort of, and you are supposed to traverse from one edge of the horse shoe to the other using said pegs, to move from hole to hole while supporting your body weight. This one was near impossible. The pegs only went part way in the hole and the holes diameter was larger than the peg so the peg slanted. I tried twice. Landed on my back...twice. I did see two people complete the obstacle, so it wasn't impossible...but it was really, really tough. Toughest out there and I'm pissed I couldn't complete it. I'm a sore loser...
Difficulty: Almost Impossible

Sewer Pipes with Muddy Water
Plastic black drainage pipes, 3-foot diameter by 15’ long, lying flat on the ground in shallow trenches. Each filled about 12 inches deep with muddy water. You crawl through them. They are relatively smooth on the inside, but still hard on the knees.
Difficulty: Easy

Cargo Net Tube
Cargo Net Tube
Essentially a cargo net shaped into a 15-foot long, three-foot diameter tube suspended a few feet off the ground that you crawl through from one end to the other. I liked to call this the birthing canal.
Difficulty: Easy

Chain Ladder
Similar to an A-frame ladder, but replace the rungs with metal chains. Hold onto the wooden frame supports while you climb up and over the obstacle.
Difficulty: Easy

Trenches with Dirt Mounds
Deep Trenches
Picture a 5-foot tall mound of dirt that once you climb up, over and down, ends in a 4-foot deep trench with vertical walls followed by another hill of dirt. Repeat four times. The hills, once you are on them, are easy. The trenches, once you are in them, not-so-much. Most participants worked as teams to get through this one as it was really hard to find anything to grab to pull yourself out. This requires upper body strength to ‘mantel’ yourself out (mantelling is a climbing move where you push down on a ledge or other feature to hoist yourself up).
Difficulty: Hard

Fire Jump
Intimidating but really pretty easy. You only need to clear a pile of logs about 16 inches high. The worst part about this was the smoke that was blowing right into my face as I approached.
Difficulty: Easy

Barbed Wire Mud Pit
Barbed Wire Mud Pit
Real barbed wire stretched 24 inches above a mud filled pit. This requires a lengthy belly crawl. It seemed like the easiest way to traverse this was to actually use a swimming motion with my arms.  Kicking was dangerous as there are people all around. Walking at the end was possible once the barbed wire was past, but swimming was more efficient.
Difficulty: Easy

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Training for the Iron Warrior Dash

Last week I participated in the Iron Warrior Dash (IWD), a 15-mile off-road obstacle course. In early January I suddenly had the urge to start running again. No, this wasn't a New Year resolution, just a coincidence that I suddenly felt the desire to begin running again. The weather here in Texas was pretty mild and running is a great way to take advantage of that. My other motivation to start running was this race. I happened to have seen an email in my junkbox from the folks that put on the Warrior Dash, that advertised that they would run three new races this year called the Iron Warrior Dash. The original Warrior Dash is a 5k with 12 obstacles; the new Iron version is 15.2 miles with 24 obstacles. I ran the 5k version in 2011 and it was a lot of fun and well produced, so this sounded like a great challenge. I invited my good friend and business partner +Chris Hackerd  to join me and he heartily accepted...Truth be told he had already asked me if I wanted to do event this with him but I must not have been listening….some people say I’m hard of hearing, others say I have selective hearing...

So now I had a goal and about 10 weeks to train. I put together a training plan similar to one I used for a marathon I ran in 2004. The plan is essentially a graduated step-up plan, with four days of running per week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being a long run day. For example, Week #4: Monday, 4 miles, Wednesday, 3 miles, Friday, 3 miles and Saturday, 8 miles, the following week would be 5, 4, 4 and 9.

Throughout my training  I was pretty excited because I managed to stick to the schedule almost perfectly from week 1 through week 8. Unfortunately week 9 brought about a couple of wrinkles. First, I had traveled the prior week, and somehow tweaked my lower back during the trip. I’m not sure if it was the hill running I had done or the bed I slept in, but the pain was intense enough that standing up for longer than 20 minutes was near impossible. To add insult to injury, we had a rather large wind storm here while I was gone and my mother-in-law’s fence blew down. I spent a few hours rebuilding it on Friday night and in the process really aggravated my lower back and probably tore some back muscles. So running during week eight was non-existent. But by Wednesday of week nine I felt better and ran Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, although there was another wrinkle that week, which was that I was on vacation and in Colorado. So these runs were at elevation and I learned a valuable lesson here, running in Austin at 700’ on mostly flat terrain is incredibly different than running real hills or at elevation. I know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, but actually experiencing it makes it really hit home. Taking this into consideration, my next training plan will involve real hills and varied inclines on the treadmill.

Some things I did and learned along the way...First, I ran a total of 140 miles during my training period. My goal was 175, but the week and a half of injury and my vacation scrubbed two long runs. 

Road vs. Treadmill
Urban Running
Treadmills…boring. Almost everyone agrees. In January about half of my runs were on treadmills but in February only 20% were treadmill and in March, none of them. I found that 3-4 miles is my limit on the rolling electric  road, anything more and it bores me to tears. So to the real road I went. I learned something out there as well. I am a point to point runner. Meaning I don’t enjoy running laps, loops or circles, rather I’d really enjoy starting at point ‘A’ and finishing at point ‘B’. This revelation turned into a great experience. Not only was I running in a lot of new places, I also enjoyed the process of planning the runs. Through this I ran on routes such as starting from our neighborhood, through the University of Texas campus, around the State Capitol, down to Lady Bird Lake and along the shoreline of the lake. Nine miles of sightseeing. What an awesome experience. Obviously this takes some planning and often a partner. Fortunately my wife was always ready and willing to pick me up, drop me off or help me drop a car somewhere the night before so that my run would be fun and different. I also managed to run home from work a couple of times, a 6-mile jaunt, and then I rode my bike to work the following day to recover my car.

Merrell Bare Access
I mostly run in zero drop barefoot runners. All my training was done in Merrell Bare Access and Bare Access 2 Runners and about 90% of my training runs took place on asphalt or hard packed, decomposed granite trails. I love these shoes, but when I did my first real trail run with them at a local park, I realized that I could feel even the tiniest pebble through the sole and this made for a pretty uncomfortable experience. Even though they feature an 8mm cushion, I was pretty sure I would hate them in the Iron Warrior so about three-quarters of the way through my training I got a pair of New Balance Minimus 10 Trail shoes. The Minimus appeared to have a more substantial sole, more conducive to trails.
New Balance Minimus
While these aren't a zero drop shoe like my Merrills, they are close with only a 4mm drop.  I can’t find a spec for the cushion thickness but the bottoms looked much more conducive to trails, so I gave them a shot. While I wouldn't recommend them for extreme off-road running through unpacked trails, they worked really well for my purpose on hard packed trails. They are light at 8 oz., durable with a grippy Vibram sole and they drain well, which is super important in a race that involves multiple water crossings.

Compression Socks and Sleeves
I experimented with several versions of compression socks and a set of compression sleeves for my calves. The socks I run in are the CEP Progreesive Running Socks. I ran in them for most of my long runs as well as some of the shorter ones. I also wore a pair for several hours after many of the long runs. While it is difficult for me to quantify how helpful they were, I do know that even after a 20+ mile week of running, that my legs while tired, were in much better shape than I ever expected.

Trail Running
I don’t have a lot of experience with trail running, at least not recent experience. Years ago I use to participate in adventure races, but that seems like forever ago. I learned one thing while training, you really need to concentrate on picking up your feet on the trail. It’s easy to shuffle along on the road, sidewalk or track, but on the trail this will most definitely lead to a trip and possibly a fall, especially as you tire.

Hydration & Food

Leading up to the race I used a waist mounted bottle system from CamelBak called the Arc 4 Hydration Belt, it features four convenient 8 oz. snap-in bottles that are easy to remove and replace while maintaining pace. The back band of the belt has a small zipper pocket for keys or maybe some gels. It seems to awkward with four bottles so I removed the two from the front. While it was good for 16 oz. of water when I needed it, I just never got used the weight on my waist while running.

So I learned a lot along the way. This was the most serious training that I have put in since a marathon almost a decade ago. While I missed my goal for total mileage during my training period, I feel like I built a solid foundation to which I look forward to continuing to build upon after I recover from the Iron Warrior Dash. I already have several other races on the docket to continue to motivate me throughout the spring and summer. I'll chronicle the details of my follies in the IWD tomorrow.