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Friday, February 27, 2015

McFarland U.S.A. Review





Cross-country isn’t a popular sport in the United States, particularly at the High School level. Neither myself, or anyone I knew became a “big man on campus” because we could run a 2 mile race between 9 and 10 minutes. The only people I can remember seeing at the meets were coaches and some hardy parents, willing to stand around in the rain and cold at the start and finish lines. There were no cheerleaders. Running is a sport that I would reluctantly agree is closer to a cult than a big time sport like Football (both the American and World versions), basketball and baseball.

Ask anyone, running is painful. It’s not “fun.”  We trackmen used to laugh at football players and tell them that their sports punishment was our sport. Still, that was more to make ourselves feel better about the suffering we all endured. So, why would people be willing to spend their money on watching a movie about a bunch of high school kids running cross country?

Because whether or not people are willing to admit it, there are few things in the United States where the game isn’t rigged. Whether its Congress passing laws written by lobbyists for Corporations who will reap the benefits from that law to Haliburton making billions from the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and the blood spilled by our military, this is a corrupt nation.

Running is pure. It’s objective. It doesn’t matter where you live, what kind of clothes you wear, what your politics are or if you are popular. And it doesn’t matter if you are poor kid that picks produce from McFarland, California. What matters is what is the time on the clock. Fastest, wins. PERIOD. Growing up, I loved running because even though I wasn’t strong or popular, I had a chance to win.




As I see it, the magic of McFarland U.S.A. is that the makers of this film show non-runners the purity of being a runner. The film properly shows the suffering and the sacrifices runners go through in order to compete. It also shows the unbreakable bond that runners share who’ve been through the TRIAL OF MILES. It can’t be faked. There are no Cliff Notes or friendly counselors to help you get through the tough times. It’s just you facing your pain and overcoming it. The makers of this film do a fantastic job showing this side of running.

I only have two minor issues with this film. First, the animosity between the teams was something I never experienced as a high school runner. Whether there were racist comments made by the Palo Alto coach and his runners, I have no way of knowing. It may have been something put into the screenplay for dramatic effect. The second issue also deals with the Palo Alto team and that is the smug and racist coach for Palo Alto. I never met a coach like that in all my years of running. The people who’ve I met are coaching runners because they love the sport and they are often doing it with little or no pay.


Aside from these two minor issues, I loved this movie and found it inspiring. Kevin Costner did an able job of portraying a man swimming against the tide of despair. The other actors were authentic and believable. Best of all, it’s a true story. I believe that every runner or anyone thinking of becoming a runner should see this fine film. Well done Disney!    



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Salomon Skin Pro 3 Pack Review




For those trail runners who don’t like carrying water bottles and hate wearing a clunky, heavy pack, this pack is for you!

Salomon advertisements for this pack state that it’s “P.A.C.E. fit utilizes hard and soft elements for comfort, protection, and freedom of movement during intense races and workouts.”
What this means is that the body and shoulder straps are a very light nylon blend that doesn't pinch and stays on your shoulders, even if you have, like me, narrow shoulders.

The pack has an adjustable waist belt that is essentially a narrow elastic band that clips onto plastic rectangles on the left shoulder strap. At first, I was leery of this system. but after many runs on all kinds of terrain, I’ve discovered that the chest and waist straps are comfortable and stay put with little or no bouncing. .

On the front of the straps there are convenient pockets for energy gels, food or even a small hydration bottle. The water reservoir with a bit valve on/off system, much like a Camelback works very well. I had no leakage problems. For storage there are rear and side pockets which I used for my phone and jacket. There are also trekking pole-specific loops included as well as a  whistle included for added safety should you encounter a rabid raccoon. I have yet to fill this pack to capacity, even on all day runs where I changed from leggings and a jacket to shorts and a tee.


All in all, this is an outstanding pack for trail runners. I highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Should runners be "Dazed and Confused?" The debate over runners smoking pot to improve performance





In the February 9, 2014, Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-debate-over-running-while-high-1423500590?mod=e2fb writer Frederick Dreier interviews several runners to ask about their using pot during and after races.

Not surprisingly, the evidence of its positive effects are anecdotal at best. Yes, pot is helpful in battling nausea experienced by cancer patients and it does encourage eating. But does that translate to a better running performance? Pretty unlikely would be my opinion. As a runner in high school beginning in the fall of 1969 and graduating in the spring of 1974, smoking pot was very popular in my high school. Did I ? No-for the same reason that I didn't smoke cigarettes, I didn't want any smoke going into my lungs. I instinctively knew that bad lungs equals a slower runner.

But, whatever floats your boat, man.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Manifesto for Runners



I refuse to surrender to the despair of the "voice" in my head who tells me to stop running fast because it hurts.
I refuse to conform to modern society that constantly tells us that easier is better.
I refuse to spend my life making money at the expense of my family and my health.
I refuse to stop running, ever.

I will fly on the trails, my feet nimble and connected to the Earth.
I will praise and encourage all who run, who by running, refuse to give up, to conform, to kneel
I will listen to the rhythmic breathing of my soul as I run and feel blessed to be alive
I will race, knowing that ignoring the "voice" that tells me to take it easy, to treat this race like a training run or that "it just wasn't my day" will mean that every day is MY DAY.

I will run, always.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Buddha was a long distance runner

"Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes."
Buddha

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hoka One One Clifton Shoe Review


REVIEW OF HOKA ONE ONE’S CLIFTON SHOE

 

Hoka One One, a Maori term meaning “time to fly” is a recent entry into the Darwinian world of the running shoe industry. With “new models” coming out every six months, a company coming up with a really innovative shoe is a near impossible task. That a brand new company has done so is truly mind boggling.

 

Full Disclosure-I went to school with the President of Hoka One One, Jim Van Dine. That said, it took me almost two years before I tried a pair of his company’s shoes. I have always worn neutral cushioned shoes for my high arched feet with no problems. I’ve worn and trained in all the major brands. In that respect, I’ve been very lucky to have not suffered any major injuries that resulted in my going under the knife. So why would I try a shoe that offers the ultimate in cushioning?

 

Like many runners, it’s not the long hard runs that caused pain, it was the day after and the day after that and the day after that spent in “recovery.” Long recoveries meant less total mileage. So, while I wasn’t injured, I still missed valuable training time. I read that people wearing Hoka’s recovered from hard runs faster. So, with that in mind, I went to my favorite running store of all time-Transports in Oakland and picked up a pair of the Cliftons.

 

Looking at the shoe from the side, the assumption would be that the shoe is a heavy clumsy beast. That assumption is wrong. Once I got on the shoes, I was amazed that they felt lighter than my Saucony trainers. And the ride? Very soft without feeling I was running with pillows strapped to my feet. I am not a big heel pounder and was curious if the rocker design of the sole would feel strange. The design is meant to encourage an easy transition from the heel to the fore foot which allows for a more efficient and ultimately faster stride. I felt like I was landing on the ball of my foot as I had with all my other shoes, the difference was that the push off with my toes felt effortless. It just happened. The toe box is generous while the heel counter locks in the heel without pinching or rubbing. It’s clear that a runner designed this shoe. A runner that does serious mileage. It shows.

I wore these shoes for long runs. I wore them on the treadmill and more amazingly, I wore them as racing shoes in a trail half marathon and a 11.5 mile long obstacle race. The shoes were outstanding performers. Light, nimble and comfortable. The best part was that my recovery days dropped dramatically. The Frankenstein like walking after a hard run or the races because of my locked up and painful quads had gone away.


Bottom line-while there is no such thing as the “perfect shoe” this one comes damn close. Try them.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Next Season

It's the end of the year and for most runners, it's also a time for reflection and planning for the next season. With that in mind, I'd like to mention that in 2014, I only ran two races. The first was a trail race in San Francisco from the Marina to the Cliff House (1/2 marathon) where I did it in 2:02 resulting in a 2nd place finish in my age group.
 
The second race was sponsored by Mens Health and Hoka One One and was a 11.5 mile race with 15 obstacles thrown in. I finished in 1:49 resulting in a 3rd place finish in my age group.

 
What else did I do? Well, I did a lot of hiking and cross training.

Next Year's Wish List:    1)  Run the Way Too Cool 50K in May
                                         2) Run a destination race, either in New York or Vancouver
                                         3) Try snowshoeing with the goal of doing a race in the future
                                         4) Do more back packing trips this summer