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Course Marking for the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon and an Awesome Trail Run!

Posted by scott on November 21, 2011

I feel like I have finally been to China, after 6 or 7 visits!

I had a Saturday free between work days and after Googling around for trail routes came across something called the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon – sounded like my kind of thing!  The race is set for Saturday, November 19, 2011 so unfortunately 1 week later than I would be in Shanghai.  But I managed to get connected to Nicolas Musy, the Race Director, and joined he and another expat runner, Doekle, for an epic trail marking / training run.

 

Hangzhou (map | wikipedia) is a beautiful city about 1 hour by high speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao station.  I booked the same train as Doekle, whom I hadn’t met before, yet we easily met up in the train station as we both stuck out like sore thumbs as tall white guys in outdoor clothes.  After arriving, we met up with Nicolas and grabbed a cab to Shangri-la hotel where Nicolas and a friend were staying.  We quickly changed into running kit, packed water and food, and grabbed a taxi (and spray paint) to head out to Longjing, a small town up in the mountains which is famous for producing the wonderful Longjing tea.

We were dropped at the edge of town, partway up the side of the mountain right at the edge of the tea fields.  We were quickly ascending up into the mountains on dirt trails through stepped and perfectly manicured tea fields, and it was breathtaking in every direction.

The views didn’t quit for the next four hours.  We summitted various peaks around Longjing and Hangzhou, and ran trails and saddles (sometimes as narrow as 2 meters) between them.  Nicolas refreshed his course markings with bright green dots on trees and rocks, with 3 dots in a row to indicate a turn coming up.  He lamented that they had been aggressively paving the trails in the area, so it was getting harder to mark a pure trail course – but I have to say the stonework was very beautiful.  The weather was perfect – mid 50s and quite sunny which had been rare lately.

Nicolas and Doekle were excellent running mates.  Nicolas has been organizing the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon for several years, and also the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 100k for even longer (13 years?).  I had to laugh when I heard that – I remember learing about that race several years ago before my ultra days and sending it to some friends saying “can you believe this race!”  Doekle has completed his first couple of ultras and is gunning for Mongolia next year – he will do great.  I heard many tales throughout the day of their runs throughout Asia with the Hash House Harriers.

We dropped into small mountain villages now and then, refueling as necessary and running down the cobblestone streets to odd looks.  One young guy up in the hills even wanted his picture taken with us!  Some parts of the trail are stone-paved, but the vast majority is awesome single track.  There are some crazy rugged climbs that reminded me of the Superior Trail, as well as serene flats that ran along creeks and through bamboo forests.  We ran by monks.  We ran by people getting married.  We even ran through a restaurant patio at one point!  It was quite the adventure run.

We finished by following the cobblestone trail called 9 Creeks that connects various small villages and ultimately finishes in the West Lake area of Hangzhou.  Hangzhou is immensely popular with Chinese tourists because of the beauty of this area, and we saw them in full force.  Our last 4k were like running through a mosh pit – dodging through travel groups, bicyclists, inline skaters, and sprinted to stay right in front of (then immediately behind) and electric tram.  We stopped for tofu, and even took time to fill out a tourist survey!   It was hilarious.

All in all, we finished marking 20km of the course in 4 hours, which is a testament to the rugged nature of our route.

Nicolas was kind enough to let us clean up in his room, then we enjoyed some Longjing tea and conversation on the balcony as the afternoon faded.  We had a fantastic dinner at Shangri-la, then said our goodbyes and Doekle and I grabbed the train back to Shanghai.  I tried desperately to stay awake and be good company for Doekle, but I sure I feel asleep a couple of times – sorry!

If you happen to be in Shanghai next weekend, definitely check out the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon – it will be a fantastic event!  Thanks Nicolas and Doekle for letting me join you, hopefully we can share the trails again sometime.

Posted in Races, Training | 2 Comments »

Nathan Endurance Hydration Vest Review Posted

Posted by scott on April 4, 2011

I wrote up a detailed review of the Nathan Endurance Hydration Vest I have been testing lately.  It makes some nice incremental improvements over the HPL #020 vest that has been so fantastic.  But it doesn’t lose any of the #020’s goodness!

Posted in Training | Leave a Comment »

Fargo Marathon Recon Run

Posted by scott on March 2, 2011

I had my coldest run of this winter in Fargo last weekend:  -15 degrees F air temp / -28 degrees F windchill.  Layered up and no problems over 14 miles:

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I was in Fargo for a hockey tournament, but took some time out to do a recon run on 8 miles of the Fargo Marathon route for Neil, who is considering that race.  I was giving him a hard time about doing it, but now I feel a little bad.  It was no Superior or Twin Cities route for me, but it was an enjoyable, low-brow run with a small-town feel.  It reminded me of a 22-miler I did through Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa while training for Grandma’s Marathon.

The mileage I did was in the middle and was very residential.  My guess is you would have a lot of spectators for most of the route.  I did brief segment that went through the quaint area of downtown Fargo and that was nice; though I would be tempted to stop at Sammy’s pizza and risk a DNF.

I think I even ran the “hilly” parts of the course – which were actually just running the dips of underpasses.  I think the thighs will be alright on this one.

Anyhow, this is definitely a flat and fast course.  Though I’m not really fast on any course.

I also had a successful test of keeping food and hydration warm:  I took water bottles and Gatorade, put them upside down in wool socks (so any freezing wouldn’t freeze the lids in place, it would be at the bottom), put gels and Clif bars in the socks, added hand warmer packets, and then stuffed them in my Nathan Endurance vest.  They stayed room temperature and drinkable for 2+ hours in -15F temps, very cool!

Posted in Races, Training | 1 Comment »

The Monkey Diet and Vespa Power

Posted by scott on October 8, 2010

I’m in the middle of a nutrition experiment.  I’m normally not a big fan of dieting or formal diet plans, which is no surprise since I’m also not very interested in formal running/training plans.  But I’m on a short-term mission to see how a several week pre-race nutrition strategy might work out for an event.  I became interested in Vespa Power products, and that’s where it all began.

About Vespa

Ironically, I actually got interested because I saw an ad featuring Zach Gingerich, who is tearing up the heavy duty ultras like Badwater and Arrowhead – no small feat.  I immediately remembered an interview with Zach in Silent Sports where he talked about how basically ate “garbage” and thought I should see what Vespa is about.  But after some conversation with Peter Defty of Vespa and Dale Humphrey (a successful local 100-miler), I found that diet is a big part of using their products.

In a nutshell, the goal is to “blunt” your insulin response by combining any carbs with protein or fat.  You also want to avoid refined carbs as much as possible so your body grows more accustomed/prepared to metabolize fat.  Vespa supplements purport to increase the body’s ability to metabolize fat and are taken before and during endurance activity (they are not a daily supplement, etc.).

The Monkey Diet

I am not a huge fan of “diets” (see above).  But I took Peter’s advice and wanted to give Vespa the best chance to work.  I took a look at various low-carb diet plans such as Paleo, South Beach, and Aitkins and decided that I didn’t like any of them.  Too many rules, and nothing that I would stick with.  Of course, they might be more founded on research than anything I would come up with, but whatever.

Here are my current diet rules:

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates – sugar, corn syrup, etc. at all costs; but also white rice, white pasta, white flour
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, of any variety and quantity
  • Eat meat, beans, tofu, nuts, cheese of any variety and quantity
  • Restrict alcohol to only red wine
  • Still drink coffee (but no coffee drinks with added sugar)

I’m following this plan 95% of the time, and have been doing so for the last 3 weeks.  I have broken the rules for things like work dinners where its just not worth it to me to be too strict, but am following it very well day-to-day.

Results So Far

The first thing I’ve learned is just how many things have sugar, corn syrup, etc.  Holy cow!  You don’t realize the reach until you start reading every label and really try to avoid them.  I’m definitely eating healthier in this regard.  I love to snack during the day and have found a lot of great alternatives to what I used to eat.  Fruit also now tastes very sweet to me – its my dessert.

I didn’t enter into this to lose weight, but I’m shocked how much I have lost – about 10-12 lbs.  I have been weighing myself every morning, and this seems to have stabilized.  My BMI has also dropped to around 21.5.

I have been doing my longer runs as soon as I wake up, with no carbs prior or during and I’ve used Vespa.  At this point, I have only gone up to about 2 hours.  Those runs have gone just fine, but they are really not long enough to get my body metabolizing fat.  Hopefully my body is seeing them as a hint, and I can get some much longer distances in during October.

The big test for me will be Surf the Murph.  My goal there is to take in mininal carbs, use Vespa, and see how far I go without bonking.  No specific fuel plans just yet, but we’ll see.  At the very least, I think this eating plan is a smart thing for me to do once or twice a year just as an eating-habits reminder.  But I don’t think its a long term plan for me.

Posted in Training | 4 Comments »

The Anti-Gear Junkie

Posted by scott on September 8, 2010

I had to first admit that I’m a gear junkie.  I’m always interested in hearing about new gear, and have tested pre-release products for several companies and blogged about it.  And I love all of that.  But in the end, I tend to stick with just a few items and try to eschew the insatiable consumerism that surrounds running as a hobby.
TATTOOED POST RUNNER  --  Delivering the mail in Old Japan (2) 入れ墨
Photo credit: Okinawa Soba on flickr

Do you really need so much brand name, expensive gear to run?  Too many runners really get their heads wrapped up in their gear, and think they can’t perform well, or sometimes even at all, unless they have certain pieces of equipment.  I definitely have a few pieces of what I call expensive gear, that I rely on in certain situations:

  • My Nathan HPL #020 Race Vest is my favorite hydration pack for runs of any length.
  • My Moeben arm sleeves are my favorite piece of clothing for hot or cool weather.
  • I always wear a Garmin, but not sure if my brand new 405 was really worth it over my used 205.
  • My Vibram Five Fingers KSO are my favorite running shoes.  They are the most expensive priced shoes I have bought, and the cheapest by far per-mile.
  • My Petzl MYO XP headlamp is heavy but totally worth the carry for night runs.

Many of these items last for a long time, so were durable purchases.  I buy clearance running gear almost exclusively, and still question the need.  At any rate, I also remind myself that I enjoy those items, but I don’t really need them.

I love seeing Anton Krupicka run through an aid station at the Leadville 100 wearing a button up shirt.

I love reading about Joel’s new Dickensian wool running pants for winter, $3 from Goodwill.

I love hearing that John through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in Chaco sandals.

I had a blast running 18 miles once with just a wallet, shorts, and sandals.

I think you can do a lot more than you think with a lot less.

Posted in Training | 5 Comments »

Custom Homemade Longboard!

Posted by scott on July 15, 2010

I swear I am actually doing some running to prep for the Superior Sawtooth 100.  But there is too much other fun stuff to do in Summer that I’m doing a lot of other things too.

Our latest project was a homemade longboard skateboard with custom finishes – including Bones Super Reds bearings.  This is such a cush ride, it will glide you right into the sunset!

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Good times.

Posted in Training | 3 Comments »

Summer Barefooting and Cross Training

Posted by scott on July 6, 2010

We are finally getting into some great weather and, as usual, I am distracted with many things other than running. My big plans for the very long runs (30+ miles) get replaced with 3 hour runs and trips to the beach/pool/cabin/lacrosse/etc for family fun. And it’s a great trade!

photo credit: jiaren on flickr

I decided to hit barefooting hard this summer and am doing most runs barefoot, and then some in FiveFingers. I haven’t worn “real” shoes since I crossed the finish line at Zumbro, and I’m having a blast! I have had a few blisters here and there when I took the pace up too fast, but for the most part no problems whatsoever.

I had my real test last week when I carefully packed my running supplies to run home from my son’s lacrosse game in Coon Rapids – hydration pack, S! Caps, food, TP, map, etc. – and then left it all at home when we left in a hurry. I was so bummed when I realized this at the game! But then I got to thinking… I had put my running shorts on under my clothes for an easy change afterwards, and I had worn my Garmin. I had a phone, wallet, and sandals – did I really need anything more? No! So I kissed wifey goodbye and hit the pavement barefoot for 18 miles home. I carried my sandals to put on for buying aid in stores and chowed my way home. The pace was slow and my feet were pretty tender when I got home, but it was an exciting experience to go that far barefoot. No blisters, cuts, etc. No sore muscles, joints, etc. I had been waiting to clear 30 miles before signing up for Sawtooth, but after that run, I’m all in!

My summer is also filed with cross training and I love it. A lot of people say there really is no cross training for running, but I believe otherwise. I think anything balance oriented is great cross training. I have been hitting the wakeboard (no crashes this year), and doing a bit of yoga.

I also picked up an Indo Board and am loving it. It’s way more interesting to me than the bosu ever was, and it looks cooler! ;-) Its been hard to get the hang of it but I’m up to doing 15 uninterrupted full squats now. Next up – hanging 10!

Posted in Barefoot, Training | 4 Comments »

Why I Love Trail Running

Posted by scott on June 2, 2010

Photos from an early morning 13 miler last Monday say it all. What’s not to love about scenery like this? I will take this over pavement any day.

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Posted in FiveFingers, Training | 4 Comments »

Eagle Peak Trail Running at Mount Diablo State Park

Posted by scott on November 14, 2009

I was speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco a couple weeks back, and preceded it by spending the day with some field reps in the East Bay area.  I had researched a number of the NorCal Pacific Coast Trail Run course maps and locations, and even printed out a couple Google Maps thinking I might be able to sneak out of downtown SF for some trail running.  But I gradually accepted that long days and early sunsets would mean no trails this trip.  Right before leaving the hotel Monday morning, I quickly decided to just throw in my Five Fingers, some running wear, GPS, a towel, etc. just in case… you never know.  Man am I glad I did!

Final (?) Approach to Eagle Peak in Mt. Diablo State Park

As luck would have it we ended the day just a tad early out in Walnut Creek.  I had noticed some signs for Mt. Diablo State Park on the drive into the hills.  After we shut down for the day I dove into my travel folder and dug out one of my Google Maps, remembering that PCTR hosts a Fall event at Mt. Diablo.  What luck!

With GPS backing I was at the trailhead in about 15 minutes.  If only I had printed out the course maps before I gave up on my trail running dreams for the trip, I could have run the race route.  Fortunately, there was a good map at the trailhead, and trails are very well marked.  I didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t want to get lost on a big loop, so I quickly settled on an out and back up Eagle Peak on the Mitchell Rock Trail.

The trails were in great shape and the views were beautiful.  Sunset provided mesmerizing shadows and amusing but easily tolerable temperature differences between the valleys and the peaks.  The weather was absolutely perfect for an evening run and a light breeze wafted sage and juniper aromas.

Terrain varied a lot from sideslope traverses to ridge backbones to bizarre tunnels through thicket you had to duck under.  Most of the trail was a nice flat narrow gravel, with occasional rocky outcrops that reminded me of the Superior Trail.  I was a bit worried about making it out of the park in time to avoid the threatened lock in at sunset so I stopped for some photos but tried to keep moving on the way up.  I managed to summit the 2400 ft. Eagle Peak in 51 mins, which was a pretty good clip for me.  I saw the only other runner just descend the far side as I summitted.  I brief break for the views, and I started the descent at a full, quad-pounding clip.

I made it down in plenty of time for a total of around 6 miles.  My quads were screaming by the time I got down and it felt great.  The Walnut Creek folks are lucky to have a park like this in their back yard – I would love to camp with the family through smaller state parks like this someday, a lot more appeal in many ways than the packed National Parks.

View from Eagle Peak, Mt. Diablo State Park

View of Mitchell Rock Trail from Eagle Peak

More photos at flickr.

GPS details at Garmin Connect.

Posted in FiveFingers, Training | 1 Comment »

Parkour Training for Trail Running and Ultras

Posted by scott on October 5, 2009

Image credit: amfdesigner on flickr

I have recently become fascinated with Parkour (sometimes referred to as “free running”).  I know in internet-meme-time I’m like 3 years behind the curve, but so what.  I first heard about this in a Trail Runner article awhile back, and I have to say I rolled my eyes.  It almost seemed invented for print, I didn’t get that there was a whole movement around this thing, and some more interesting aspects that were missed.  Then a Rocketboom segment came along and I was a bit more intrigued.  Finally, I fell off my chair laughing at the Parkour scene from The Office.  OK, I’m getting the signal – I need to look into this.

Parkour is briefly described as the art of overcoming obstacles in the most efficient way possible.  Like anything, it has morphed into many sub-genres that span a spectrum from running combined with vaulting to street-based floor gymnastics to jumping buildings with multiple flips.  I will leave the building flips to others to thin the herd, but the most basic movements in Parkour are very appealing as a training tool for trails and ultras.

When basic Parkour is done well, you almost look like a fugitive.  The intent is to move very rapidly, as if in an emergency situation, and vault or otherwise clear obstacles rather than traversing around them.  Free running seems to emphasize freedom and creativity.  Parkour emphasizes directness, efficiency and economy.

There are a few basic vaulting techniques – Lazy, Speed, Kong, and Dash – that are foundational to Parkour and are used almost constantly.  These are the easiest techniques to start integrating into running, along with Wall Runs and Tic Tacs.  The great thing about these is that it turns a normal run into a heavier workout, adding core strength, balance and impact landings.  For a guy like me who loves to run races like Superior but just doesn’t take the time to put in laps at Afton this a great training technique.  I can pound my quads right in my own neighborhood!  It’s also very Crossfit-ish – you can get a very short but very intense workout in.  Do you remember the old fitness trail concept where some city parks added exercise equipment on the route?  Adam was recently onto a similar idea of adding obstacles and exercises on a course at RTA.  Sounds like a blast.

There is a lot of noise around Parkour, but here are a few resources I found useful:

Sites / Organizations

  • American Parkour is a large site with some good basic tutorials and large discussion forums.  Also links to many local groups.
  • Urban Freeflow is a UK-based group that also has a great site.  They have convenient links in the footer to YouTube videos they have posted for many specific Parkour techniques.
  • Meetup has groups for local Parkour groups that meeting for training sessions and Jams.

Videos

There are a million videos of Parkour on YouTube.  Here are a few I found most interesting.  These are more along the running side of thing than the gymnastic side of things.

  • Parkour in Latvia -ignore the “ninja” stuff in the title, this is a classic example of Parkour
  • Extreme game of tag – this is kind of amusing, but again gets to movement for speed and efficiency to avoid pursuit, not a lot of time-wasting techniques
  • Nearly human – this is dramatically arranged around an animalistic theme and has a mock encounter at the end, but is otherwise another great example of Parkour as means of fast and efficient movement.  And most of the techniques are in FiveFingers!

Posted in FiveFingers, Parkour, Training | 1 Comment »

 
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