Monday, November 24, 2008

Zombie Runner Grand Opening!

Look out, wallets - the Zombie Runner store in Palo Alto, CA, is officially open! I stopped by the grand opening on Saturday to check out the wares, have a cup of Don Lundell's amazing coffee, and let Sophie wreak havoc on the new store.

It makes so much sense to have a trail running store. Want to see which headlight gives off the right beam? Want to try out the latest Inov-8, La Sportiva, New Balance, etc., before buying them? Want to taste the latest flavors of gel and mix before committing to a case? So much of this stuff is hands on! Plus hear you can get the sage advice of the trail running staff.

In classic Zombie form, Don and Gillian (and team!) have made their store into a great hang out. As a former theater, the space is large and inviting. There's a nice sitting area with the latest trail running magazines, a full wall of DVD's to peruse, and more. We even got a full demonstration of the new DryMax socks. The real hidden secret to the store, however, is that Don Lundell makes the best coffee/cappucino you will ever taste. He has his own posse of local, micro-batch roasters that bring him hand-selected beans (also available online) which Don whips into a masterful brew topped with a perfect rosetta. My prediction is that this secret won't be secret for long, and the long line for the coffee soon becomes an area to convert new trail runners. ;-)

We could only spend 20 minutes in the store before Sophie had a meltdown, but I still managed to drop a few bucks on stocking stuffers, supplies, and some new winter gear. I will certainly be back regularly!

- SD

(It's hard to miss the former theater)

(Sophie hams it up before swiping a balloon)

They have a TON of great running shoes, including most of the Inov-8's)

(A comfy seating area next to the coffee bar)

(Got snacks?!? It's every gel, bar, and mix you can imagine)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great Escape at the Stinson Beach 50k

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 450 trail runners for the Stinson Beach 12k/20k/30k/50k in Stinson Beach, CA. This hilly course put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs tours through some of the most beautiful and challenging trails in the Bay Area, sharing terrain with races like The Dipsea, Miwok 100k, and the Headlands 50k. The weather was a California Dream (75 degrees and cloud-free), and we would all finish with new sun-baked smile lines tattooed into our faces. In short, an epic afternoon of escape.

“Escape” was exactly what I was looking for this weekend. A temporary reprieve from the global economic crisis that has swept up my life with dizzying speed and flung it across the sky like a Class 5 tornado. Every five minutes I have another reminder of how impactful it is. Friends are losing jobs. Foreclosures abound. Parents are watching retirement savings disappear by the day. A NearbyNow dashboard is painting a retail industry meltdown like none this country has witnessed, and doing so with disturbing clarity. The only thing worse is “the model”. That damn Excel spreadsheet that tells me how bad it COULD be if the perfect storm continues to build. That model has cost me hours of sleep and has me cursing the education and curiosity that made it possible. Let me be the ostrich and bury my head for safety!

Get me away from here. Get me away from this spreadsheet, the 24-hour media, and the phone that never stops ringing to deliver tales of anguish and despair. Let me shed these rags and run. Let me be swaddled safely in the arms of Mother Nature, if only for a few hours.

As always, it begins with the ritual. Watching the sun rise as I drive up Highway 1, bags packed and ready, eager to see my “trail running family” who will think of nothing but the exhilaration that lies between now and noon. I’m only two steps out of the car before I’m deep in hugs and handshakes, catching up with friends old and new. We have no time to discuss spreadsheets or Wall Street, because we have more pressing matters like mountains to climb, creeks to cross, and pictures to take. To get through this adventure, we’re going to have to live in the moment. I hope my smiles are enough to convey how grateful I am just to be here and share it.

(Wendell Doman leads us off)

The weather couldn’t have been better, and we had some fast runners out to make the most of it. I was pleased to find Will Gotthardt at the starting line and ready to give his recovered quad injury a full field test. If there’s any course to do that, this is the one, with the crazy ups, downs, and uneven steps of the Dipsea and Steep Ravine trails. Course record holder Troy Howard was also here (just a month or so off of his 2nd place finish at the Los Angeles Crest 100m), as was super-Master Cliff Lentz, perennial top finisher Sean Lang, the ever-smiling Karen Hoffman, Dawn Infurna-Bean, and Jady Palko. Jady’s Mom, Barbara Ash, was also going for the 50k…how cool is that to run a 50k with your Mom? All 450 runners lined up together for the 8:30am start, and Wendell, Sarah, and Aaron Doman sent us off!

(Runners heading up the trail, photo courtesy of Banff Trail Trash)

We immediately pitched up the Dipsea Trail, and I paced with Troy Howard as the 12k/20k runners took off like a herd of gazelles. We were both astonished at the warm temperature and sunny skies, sharing thoughts of how spoiled we are to have this for a casual Saturday run. A classic California Fall weekend!

(Troy Howard and Robert Cookson heading up the Dipsea Trail)

As we entered the trees, Troy took off while I got a few pictures. The deep green forest dared us to suck in the rich oxygen and charge the hills with all our might. It didn’t take long to reach the Pantoll aid station (mile 4), where runners split off in all directions to complete their various loops. The volunteers did a great job with the hundreds of runners coming up the trail, but there was some confusion as spectators and new volunteers alike accidentally sent runners in the wrong direction. A few of us paused to make sure we had it right, then spoke with the people hollering out the wrong directions to get everyone on the same path. Two minutes well spent, I figured. I soon joined the other 30k/50k runners on the loop out to Muir Beach and could see them spread like ants across the hillside.

(Michael Amorosa heads up the steps)

The ocean peeked over the mountain ridge, sending up butterfly kisses of cool, salty gusts. What a playground! I chased Ray Sanchez and Daniel Fabun down the snake trail to Hwy 1, and saw the front-runners on their way back. Sean Lang led the pack for the 50k, with Troy Howard, Cliff Lentz, Will Gotthardt, and Kendall Wu in hot pursuit. I think I was around 9th place or so, about four minutes behind. I slammed some flat Coke and refilled my two water bottles, and headed back out.

(Into the sun and towards the sea)

(50k runner Ilia Jiminez-Colyer enjoys the single track)

For about 15 minutes, there were runners everywhere on the out-and-back section along Hwy 1 giving high fives and cheering each other on. Then suddenly, I was alone with my steps heading back up the hill. Alone and together, separate and at once…this is such a cool sport! I caught up to a refueling Kendall Wu and Brett Rivers, and we tackled the long climb back to Pantoll.

(The ocean rises up to greet us)

(Running the snake down to Hwy 1)

A quick refill and a handful of Jelly Bellys later, we were dodging hikers on our way back down to the beach on the Matt Davies trail. I had never seen so many people on this trail, but everyone was very courteous so it was no trouble to make it down. I leaned forward into the hill, having faith my feet would find the right footing among the roots, rocks, and uneven steps. Somehow they always find the right way.

We entered the turnaround (mile 18), where hundreds of 12k/20k runners were spread out on the beach and sand enjoying the day. My stomach was acting funny and I was craving some real food, so I had some pumpkin pie and Sprite. The volunteers said I was in second place, about 10 minutes behind Troy, but that couldn’t be right. But for one fleeting moment, it felt good to imagine it was true. ;-)

(The ladder on the Steep Ravine Trail)

I walked a section of the first hill to let my stomach settle, but it never quite did. By the time I hit the canopy, I “unlunched” on the grass. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’ve gotten pretty good at determining the right course of action post-vomit based on how I feel in the first 60 seconds afterwards. If I feel instantly better, then it probably was too much food, something not settling right, or too much liquid volume. If I don’t feel instantly better, it tends to be dehydration, sun exposure, or a hangover (ha, ha). This time I wasn’t feeling much better, so I power-walked and tried to get my hydration back on track.

I was soon caught be Kendall Wu and Brett Peters, both of whom are training for the North Face 50 on Dec 6th. Brett was a first-time ultra runner, but his fitness level suggests he wasn’t new to endurance racing. They were both smiling away, taking turns to lead up Steep Ravine and keeping a strong pace. I did my best to keep them in sight as we approached Pantoll (mile 22) again.

(Kendall and Brett tackle the second loop)

Kendall led us down the yellow loop, which turned out to be much more runnable than the elevation chart suggested. He led the way with me right behind, and Brett fell back a few paces. We all power-walked the last climb, which seemed to be the toughest of the day. Our reward? Do it one more time!

Brett passed me on the second loop as I finally began to regain my senses. He was really looking good and was clearly getting his second (third?) wind. I refilled at Pantoll (mile 27) one last time, had another wedge of pumpkin pie (which stayed down nicely this time), and went chasing after Brett. When I got the clearing on the Matt Davies Trail, I could see both Kendall and Brett were well ahead of me and probably going faster. So I put on some tunes (Bob Marley Remix), smiled into the sun, and cruised in for 7th place (5:31).

(Taking the Matt Davies Trail back to Stinson Beach)

Will and Sean were at the finish and caught me up. Troy Howard and Cliff Lentz had smoked the course in 4:33 and change, nearly 30 minutes better than the existing course record. Cliff won (4:31:39) with Troy right behind (4:33:42). Sean came in third (5:05), Will was forth (5:16), and Kendall Wu (5:18:55) and Brett Rivers (5:24:29) finished just ahead of me. Ilia Jimenez-Colyer won the Womens division in 5:40:53, with Rachel Rodriguez right behind her in 5:44:35 (more results here). Alexander Sebastian rocked the 30k to a new course record (2:41:35), with Holly Tate winning the Womens division (3:00:35). Ted Simpkins scored a course record in the 20k (1:38:15), with Caitlin Smith missing the Womens course record by 50 seconds on her way to a win (1:58:00). Blair Ford (1:03:02) and Jennifer Joynt (1:15:50) picked up wins in the 12k. Everyone basked in the sun, eating soup and soft serve ice cream, before heading home (or to the Sand Dollar Bar for a free beer…just show your number!). Another epic day thanks to Pacific Trail Runs and their volunteers.

I opened the sunroof and drove down Hwy 1, exhausted and renewed at the same time. My body and soul were full of mountain views, ocean expanse, friendly ferns, smiling runners and hikers, and sand- and dirt-caked sweat. Thank you, Mother Nature. I have no room left for spreadsheets this weekend.

- SD

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Forest Walks May Boost Immunity By 46%

Read this in Men's Health, December, 2008 -

"You may finally have a legitimate reason to hug a tree. A hike in the woods can boost your immunity, say Japanese researchers. They found that men who walked through a forest for a total of 6 hours over 2 days eperienced a 46% spoke in their blood levels of natural killer cells, which are part of your body's SWAT team against invading viruses. Apparently, all trees release airborne chemicals called phytoncides that not only proptest their foliage from microbes, but also help to stimulate our own immunity systems."

There is also scientific studies showing that "forest bathing" (ie, taking a walk in the forest) boosts immune systems through the reduction of stress.

So if you're looking for another excuse to do a long run, just remember it's boosting your immune system! Good stuff.

- SD

[photo courtesy of Marc Soller]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Runner Stabbed, Robbed During Race in South Africa

I can't say that this is the wisest group of thieves out there - attacking someone who can run fast and has almost no possesions on them? From The Herald in Port Elizabeth, South Africa:
A COMPETITOR in the Algoa Bus Bay to Bay Challenge was stabbed and robbed in full view of horrified runners and spectators in Port Elizabeth‘s notorious Victoria Drive at the weekend.

Theresa Matthysen, 41, from Despatch, was stabbed three times in the back and robbed of her shoes and watch by two men while running the last leg of the 50km relay event on Saturday.

The attack on a stretch of a Walmer road in which numerous motorists have been stoned, has shocked race organisers, who now plan to change the route of the event next year.

“There was about 8km left of the race near the Walmer Township when I saw two guys coming towards me,” said Matthysen from St George‘s Hospital yesterday. “I tried to avoid them, but the one guy just grabbed me by the neck and I felt a funny feeling on my back.

“They dragged me off to the side of the road and grabbed my takkies, and the one struggled to get my watch off, so I helped him.”

Matthysen, who had just been passed the baton, said she was about 0,7km into the last leg of the relay race when the attack took place.

“It happened so fast. I thought they just punched me on my back. I only realised I was stabbed when two guys who saw it happening came to help me,” she said.

Yikes! Read more here and here...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kami Semick and Team Does USA Proud at IAF 100k World Championships

THE US Womens Team had a strong showing at the IAF 100k World Championship last Saturday in Tarquinial, Italy, on their way to a team silver medal. Kami Semick finished second overall in 7 hours 33 minutes 58 seconds, while Meghan Arbogast finished sixth in 7 hours 52 minutes and 21 seconds, and Devon Crosby-Helms finished tenth in 8:01:52.

In the men's race, first-time Team USA member Michael Wardian led American men, finishing ninth in 7:06:35. Adam Lint finished in 50th-place in 8:06:35.


100 km:

1) Giorgio Calcaterra ITA 6:37:41
2) Jaroslaw Janicki POL 6:40:04,
3) Miguel Angel Jiménez ESP 6:53:44
4) Anssi Raittila FIN 6:56:49
5) Christophe Buquet FRA 6:57:59
6) Marco D´Innocenti ITA 6:58:43
7) Andrea Rigo ITA 6:59:02
8) Francesco Caroni ITA 6:59:54

1) ITA 20:35:26
2) FRA 21:44:40
3) ESP 21:49:07


1) Tatjana Zhirkova RUS 7:23:33
2) Kami Semick USA 7:33:58
3) Monica Carlin ITA 7:35:38
4) Irina Vishnevskaja RUS 7:38:40
5) Hiroko Sho JPN 7:46:35
6) Meghan Arbogast USA 7:52:21
7) Magali Reymonenq FRA 7:55:25
8) Mai Fujisawa JPN 7:55:48,

1) RUS 22:58:49
2) USA 23:28:11
3) JPN 23:42:11

Congrats to all!

- SD

Friday, November 07, 2008

Inov-8 X-Talon 212's - 300 Mile Test (Shoe Review)

So I've hit 300 miles in my first pair of Inov-8 X-Talon 212's, the new lightweight trail running shoe, and I'm a big fan! They are my new go-to shoe for training runs. I thought I would blog a bit about them in case you're looking for superlight trail shoes.

Of course, you do have to take my feedback into perspective since I've been an Inov-8 fan for years (and run for their team). But I also have Montrails, New Balance, Teva, Brooks, North Face, Avia, etc., and tend to try out a lot of shoes as I log the miles in different climates and terrain. In general I look for soft, lightweight shoes for short course and training runs, but run a sturdier shoe for the rocky terrain, loose rocks, or anything 50 miles or beyond.

The X-Talon 212's are easily the lightest trail running shoe I have ever tried (for those who don't know, the numbering of Inov-8 shoes is their weight in grams, so 212 is 212 grams). They are slim, low to the ground, and wrap your feet like racing flats. I have a narrow foot, so the Inov-8 line fits me pretty well (if you don't have a narrow foot, I usually suggest the RocLite 295's). What was surprising to me is that the soles are actually quite soft and flexible. I'm not sure why I thought they would be the "hard as pavement" feel of a road racing flat, but it's not the case. The feel of the sole is similar to the popular RocLite 295's, just a lower profile and stiffer upper construction to hold your foot in place. The flexibility allows your foot to feel a lot of the trail with every step, but you can still pound the downhills. The trademark sticky Inov-8 lugs are there, so you can go nuts in the dirt and grass.

Does it have enough to go 50k? Given the right runner and trail, I think it does. I know they are designed for mountain/fell running, but the soft feel gives it more distance power than say, the MudRoc 290. If the 50k race is fireroads, nice single track, and you're the kind of runner that like that barefoot feeling, there is ample padding for a fast and comfortable run. I've done a marathon in the x212's on the single track around my house and they felt great. But if the trail was more technical, jumping from rock to rock, I would probably want a stiffer sole to offer more support. You will probably see me in the RocLite 315's and RocLite 320's for those.

If you've tried the x212's, let me know what you think! The sizing seems right on - I am a size 11, and the 11 fits perfectly. Available at ZombieRunner.

- SD