Chasing 42

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Archive for the tag “RAGBRAI”

June Wrap-Up

It’s amazing how fast time can seem to speed by once you are looking back, even though it can be moving infinitesimally slow when you are in the moment. You know the feeling I’m talking about, whether you are running around a track like a greyhound, or on a treadmill like a gerbil, it always seems like the clock isn’t moving until you’re done, at which point you convince yourself that it “wasn’t so bad”. The mind is a wonderful tool for positive spin when the alternative is much less desirable. The first six months of 2014 seem to have disappeared while I was busy registering for a race, and yet I can’t let myself forget the horrendous winter that wouldn’t end, which has now been replaced by monsoon season in Iowa. I wasn’t aware that there was a rainy season in the “heartland”, but I share it now for all of you. Consider yourselves warned.

June was indeed a busy month, complete with an amazing Relay Iowa experience, plenty of heat, wind, and rain, and another consistent training regime that kept me trained for any and all upcoming races or spur-of-the-moment crazy ideas that might come my way. I managed just over 200 miles in June, despite ample rest periods, and those miles put me over 1400 miles for the first half of the year. I’ve transitioned into more early morning running to avoid the heat and humidity, and ushered in some additional track work to try and give myself a speed boost for that final kick, whether it’s 10 meters or 10 miles long.

We put our artist talents to good use and painted our own gnomes...who knows where you might find them!

We put our artist talents to good use and painted our own gnomes…who knows where you might find them!

I found myself in a bit of a training gap following Relay Iowa, however. I had only registered for one race, the Route 66 Marathon, for the remainder of the year, and I needed a bit more structure on my schedule! I was shooting for a late August or early September race to set my sights on, and I did my usual extensive research before making a choice. I was very tempted by the Lean Horse 100, as I had heard really good things about the course and it is within driving distance. Unfortunately, the August 23rd date is only two days before the beginning of the fall semester at Iowa State, and I wasn’t all that excited about slowly hobbling into my first lecture after a weekend of sleep deprivation! Ultimately, I decided on the Mark Twain 100, which takes place on September 13-14 in Berryman, MO. The course consists of four 25-mile loops on mostly single track with about 10,000 feet of total elevation gain. The weather should be (fingers crossed) perfect at that time, and the epicurean and I will be able to camp near the starting line for free, along with Looper. It looks like a beautiful course, and I’m excited to push myself over the summer to prepare for it. I’ll probably run another leg of RAGBRAI this year as well, as the timing will be perfect for my schedule.

I’ve also been spending a bit more time on speed work at the ISU track to supplement my training, and I’m learning to enjoy my 200 and 400m repeats around the soft oval! It’s a nice way to mix up my schedule, and works nicely as the first of my Tuesday two-a-days. It’s also a consistent course, which means even less concentration as I go around in circles. The rain has been falling by the bucket for the last few days and there is a lot of flooding around town, so the track has the added bonus of being dry!

Luckily the berry patch isn't flooded. It's strawberry season!

Luckily the berry patch isn’t flooded. It’s strawberry season!

Other than these developments, it’s been pretty slow around here for the past few weeks. The calm of summer has definitely settled in, leaving plenty of opportunities to set my own training schedule and work around teaching and writing tasks. Have you thought about your fall race schedule now that we are entering the heat of summer? What are you training for in the coming months? Do you have an A race or are you just playing it by ear? I’d love to hear about your upcoming adventures, so commence your commenting and happy running!

My RAGBRAI Adventure- Part II

Ok, so where was I? Ah yes, I had just left Minburn, and was chugging along on my RAGBRAI journey.

I'm not looking too bedraggled yet, eh?

I’m not looking too bedraggled yet, eh?

Intermission: By this point, three recurring discourses had already established themselves, and would stick with me throughout the day. Aside from the general well-wishes, these three general conversations were repeated more times than I was able to count. After the first few hours, it almost became comical and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. Needless to say, it made the experience that much more enjoyable!

1. Cyclist-  “How far are you running today?” / Me- “All the way to Des Moines!” / Cyclist- “Wow, that’s crazy, good luck!” — pretty darn positive, eh?

2. Cyclist- “Are you running all of RAGBRAI?” / Me- “No, just running today…working my way up to the full route.” / Cyclist- “Oh, ok.”

Commentary- these comments struck me as a bit strange, and I fought the urge to be jokingly offended. On many occasions, peoples’ reaction was one of almost disappointment, as if running 50 miles while they blissfully pedaled wasn’t enough. I guess I’m going to have to step up my game next year!

3. Cyclist- “Are you Richard?” or “Hey, I saw you on TV.” / Me- “No, I’m Adam, I’m from Ames.”/ Cyclist- “Ah, ok, good luck!”

Commentary- As it so happens, there were two men running all 406 miles of RAGBRAI this year. One of these men, Richard Kresser, was raising money to support a home for wounded veterans. He had done an excellent job getting the word out about his cause, and had appeared in the local news media quite a bit, so his name and face were out there for everyone. In terms of general features, we looked enough alike that folks easily mistook me for him.

At this point, I think it’s important that I comment a bit more on Richard Kresser’s amazing accomplishment. I had decided on my own that I wanted to run a leg of RAGBRAI to test my own personal endurance, and I was incredibly excited by the prospect. Capt. Kresser took it several steps further, trained incredibly hard for close to a year, and raised money for an incredibly important cause. When I decided to attempt this run, I stumbled across his blog, and eventually emailed him to let him know how impressed I was with his work, and to let him know that I’d keep an eye out for him on the course (I never ended up seeing him). We exchanged emails a few times, and I followed his training and adventure on Facebook and Twitter. Throughout all of this, I gained an enormous amount of respect for what he was doing and why he was doing it.

As a result, I found myself in a very interesting position when people began mistaking me for Richard. On the one hand, I was focusing on my run and trying to manage my pace, stride, and breathing so I could have very easily just ignored the comments. However, this just felt wrong to me. The last thing I wanted to do was inadvertently take credit from an honorable guy doing something incredible for an amazing cause. In the end, I knew I had to do my best to not only make sure people knew who I was, but also that they knew his story and how his run was going. There were definitely people that flew by too quickly for me to say anything. However, whenever possible, I chatted briefly with folks, and gave them the updates I had on his run (from Twitter) and shared his cause and how they could donate. It felt really good to be supporting him in this way, and in the process, my own running took on a very different feel.

Simple Iowa beauty along the route.

Simple Iowa beauty along the route.

By the end of the days’ journey, I felt my own desire to run for something more than myself. I had a lot of time to think about a variety of things during the course of the day, and gained a deeper sense of meaning in the process. I haven’t flushed out my ideas completely, but the wheels are turning, so you can expect more on this topic in the future.

** Back to your regularly scheduled program **

After leaving Minburn, the next 8 miles flew by pretty quickly and I found myself entering Dallas Center.

Stop 2- Dallas Center: This was a much quicker stop, but I was beginning to feel myself getting a bit dehydrated, so I found a delicious mango raspberry smoothie to wash down my protein bar. The town was a bit smaller, and the crowds of riders weren’t as thick since a lot of folks didn’t stop. I was still maintaining around a 9:30 pace, and realized pretty clearly that I needed to slow down or I was going to be hurting! As it was, the rolling hills were beginning to embed themselves in my quads. I finished up my smoothie and hit the road.

A delicious and hydrating pick-me-up!

A delicious and hydrating pick-me-up!

In between the towns along the course, folks love to set up their own carts and sell or give out all kinds of things in the middle of the country. You never quite know when you’ll stumble across a beautiful white farmhouse, next to an iconic red barn, and a family of five passing out free watermelon to passing riders. The quaintness and hospitality is uniquely Iowan in my opinion, and part of what makes RAGBRAI such a unique experience. Throughout the day, I was amazed by the generosity of others as they handed me watermelon, popsicles, and bottle after bottle of water. I repeatedly heard “you look like you need this” and it brought a smile to my face every time. The same was true of riders along the course, many of whom stopped to offer me water or snacks from their own supply. I couldn’t think of a more supportive or caring “crowd” experience.

Stop 3- Van Meter: I hit the 50K mark as I rolled into Van Meter, and knew I had to celebrate with pie! More than any other food along the course, RAGBRAI is forever connected with pie of all flavors. At almost every stop, you will find someone selling slices of pie baked fresh in a church basement or someone’s home, and it is some of the best pie you’ll ever taste. The amazingness that is pie inspires people to ride in the first place, as it did several NPR journalists this year. My giant slice of apple pie was the perfect reward for hitting a milestone in my run. By this time, my legs were definitely beginning to burn a bit, but I was feeling good overall, and my endurance was holding up. I made sure to drink some extra water, and I popped an s-cap as I headed back out of town for the next leg of my journey.

RAGBRAI + pie = delicious!

RAGBRAI + pie = delicious!

Longer conversations- Part of what made this run such an amazing experience was the people I met along the way. Aside from the three passing conversations I mentioned earlier, so many people were genuinely interested in what I was doing, why I was doing it, and me as a person. Folks slowed down and rode with me for as long as a mile, and I got to hear stories of previous RAGBRAIs, weight-loss journeys, international travel, and a host of other random information. It made the miles pass that much faster having someone there to talk to, and I was amazed by the generosity of spirt of folks.

Stop 4- The side of the road 🙂 : Beekman’s homemade ice cream. I would have stopped for this delicious treat even if it was 400 meters from the finish line. I already knew to expect delicious ice cream churned in front of me, but I didn’t expect it to be twice as good after running 40 miles. Maybe I did, but I doubt I was thinking clearly at this point in the day. The weather had been perfect all day with overcast skies, a light breeze, and no rain whatsoever. The sun had just come out when I arrived at the Beekman’s truck, and the timing couldn’t have been better. While waiting in line, I had a lovely conversation with two women from northern Iowa who loved trail running and ultra running, and we shared our bucket lists, and I got some great ideas for more local places to visit for some hill training. Apparently there are some secret locations in Iowa that aren’t completely flat. Who knew?

I bought my peach ice cream and wandered over to an inviting ditch. i wasn’t sure sitting down would be a good idea, but I decided to risk it, and I enjoyed my delicious cold treat and watched others file through. Part of the appeal of running was knowing I’d see so many cyclists pass by during the day, ranging from the more hardcore riders in the morning to casual (and hung-over) riders later in the day. RAGBRAI truly is a people-watching extravaganza.

After 40 miles, I earned this ice cream!

After 40 miles, I earned this ice cream!

I finished up my ice cream, and “hopped” back on the road to knock out my last 10 miles. My pace had forcibly slowed by this point, but I was still averaging 10:00 minute miles for the most part. My legs were definitely feeling sore, however, so I had a feeling the last segment of my journey would take a bit more time. I focused on hydrating and putting one foot in front of the other, and just enjoying the experience.

What followed was a bit of a blur. There were probably not nearly as many hills in those last 10 miles as I seem to remember, but my foggy brain might as well have been back at Surf the Murph riding the elevation waves. I made better use of the hill-walking ultra strategy in this last leg than I had previously, as much out of necessity as desire. Despite my best efforts to hydrate properly, I was beginning to feel the effects of the heat and distance, and I couldn’t drink enough water no matter how hard I tried. I’m always surprised by how strange it feels to be simultaneously incredibly thirsty, and heavy with water sloshing around in my stomach.

Bridges, bikes, hills, people...I generally remember most of it :)

Bridges, bikes, hills, people…I generally remember most of it 🙂

I stopped a few more times to fill up my water bottle and take in some more nutrition, but I was ready to be done running, so I pushed on. When I got to West Des Moines, I texted a friend that was planning to pick me up in Des Moines to let her know that I would be there in 90 minutes or so, but my brain was so foggy that the best description of my location I could come up with was “going left into town, at the top of a really big hill.” Needless to say, this wasn’t very helpful.

Around 5:00PM, my Garmin hit the 49 mile mark, so I knew I had to be close (the route was 49.6 miles) and I was looking enviously into the distance. I watched each tenth of a mile tick off, and when 49.6 came and went, and I then hit 50 miles, I started to get a bit concerned. Had I misread a map somewhere? How much further did I have to go? Luckily, I turned into Waterworks park as these thoughts were racing through my mind, and I saw the “Welcome to Des Moines” sign in the foreground, with hundreds of tents dotting the grassy landscape.

Welcome indeed!

Welcome indeed!

I hit 51 miles and came to a stop in front of a make-shift bus stop that was transporting riders downtown. I put my hands on my knees, stood up, took a drink of water, and got in line to take the bus to downtown Des Moines for my ride home. There was no finish line, no timing mat to cross, and no medal to place around my neck. Amidst the sea of riders, I’m not sure anyone even realized I had just run 51 miles, and nobody even asked. It didn’t matter though, and I didn’t care. I had met so many people in the past 10.5 hours, gathered so many wonderful memories and photos, and helped redefine what running meant to me. I’ll keep that medal around my neck for a long time to come.

My RAGBRAI Adventure- Part I

I’m 35,000 feet above the ground as I type this post, heading from Boston to Chicago, and then on to Des Moines. This, in and of itself, is not very interesting. However, it has been a fast-paced, adventure-filled past two weeks, culminating in this 6AM flight home. Let me begin by saying that waking up at 1AM to drive two and a half hours to Boston to catch an early morning flight is not my preferred manner of transportation. I am not a morning person by nature, and this experience lands somewhere between an all-night bender (with none of the enjoyable or regrettable memories) and an early morning wake-up call from a dead sleep. However, I’m excited to begin chronicling my adventures, so you get to experience my sleep-deprived ramblings 🙂

My time in Maine is fresh on my mind, but before I jump ahead to island adventures and scenic ocean views, I need to rewind, as promised, to last Tuesday, and my two-legged cycling imitation. As I indicated in my “Out of Office” post, I did indeed tackle my RAGBRAI run last Tuesday, and finished successfully. Along the way, I experienced one of the more unique running accomplishments of my life.

A quiet RAGBRAI campground in Perry around 6:15AM.

A quiet RAGBRAI campground in Perry around 6:15AM.

Until the day before, I was uncertain of my travel plans to Perry, IA for the start of this 50 mile adventure. At the last-minute, a friend offered me a seat in his car for an early morning trip down to Perry. I wanted to begin running as early as possible so this offer was quite welcome. I woke up at 4AM, shook off the sleep hangover, ate a light breakfast, and checked my new Salomon pack to make sure I had everything I needed for the day. He picked me up around 5AM, and we drove the 45 minutes down to Perry, and found the park in the center of town where a majority of folks had camped the night before. There had been a rather significant thunderstorm early in the evening, so many of the entertainment plans the town had organized were rained out, and the mood around the city park was quiet and subdued.

My ticket to ride...errr...run!

My ticket to ride…errr…run!

I found the official RAGBRAI trailer and purchased a day pass. Riders need these in order to be able to utilize the sag wagon, and call more quickly for medical support. I had emailed the RAGBRAI organizers earlier in the summer to see if I needed a pass to run, but heard nothing and figured I’d rather be safe than sorry. They were a bit uncertain of which pass to give me at first, but landed on a regular rider day pass. With that logistical step complete, I followed the early cyclists heading out-of-town, and began my run.

Lets get this party started!

Lets get this party started!

As I headed through Perry and out-of-town, it didn’t seem all that different from any other run. I was early enough that there weren’t too many cyclists starting the day yet, but running down the middle of the street set it apart from other weekday runs. I was pleased that my pack fit so well, despite being loaded to the brim with nutrition and emergency supplies, in addition to a full bladder. By the time I reached the outskirts of town and felt the journey really beginning, I had been quietly consumed by waves of cyclists.

This particular leg of RAGBRAI, because it was ending in Des Moines, was one of the more heavily populated days, combining official riders with bandits who simply jumped on the course for the experience. Thus, it made sense for me to make my way to the right side of the road so that riders could pass easily. It felt a bit strange to be running “with traffic” but definitely made the most sense as I made my way down the road.

Within the first few miles, the well-wishes and words of support and encouragement began. People were curious, excited, intrigued, and a bit surprised to see me running along side them, and they weren’t afraid to share their thoughts. One of the best parts about RAGBRAI is always the friendliness of the people. Cyclists come from all over the world to ride across the state of Iowa, and have been for the last 41 years. Somehow, despite the mix of personalities, ages, and maturity, everyone seems to magically assume a “midwestern nice” persona as soon as they hop on their bike and begin the rambling trek across the state. From the get-go, this warmth emanated from the waves of riders passing me. People began asking my name and where I was from, and throughout the day, I heard folks calling me by name as they passed. It was as if folks were playing a giant game of telephone and I was the subject of their evolving statement.

My route for the day!

My route for the day!

The route was very nicely broken up with small towns, which made it much easier to look at the run as a series of smaller runs, with breaks in between. I had planned on making these stops from the beginning, and experiencing what each town had to offer in order to have an authentic RAGBRAI experience despite my lack of wheels. Communities across Iowa go all out when they are selected as a part of the course, and it’s amazing to see each community showcase all that they have to offer.

The first official stop along the route was in Washington Township, and I paused to get a bottle of water and take in some honey stinger chomps, but I kept going with the intention of breaking for breakfast in the next town.

A sea of riders heading into Minburn, IA- looks like a nice excuse to slow down!

A sea of riders heading into Minburn, IA- looks like a nice excuse to slow down!

Stop 1- Minburn, IA: At this point, I had knocked out the first 12 miles or so, and was averaging about a 9:30 pace, which was a bit faster than I had planned, but I knew I’d slow down later on so I wasn’t too worried. A good friend passed me coming into town, and she waited for me at the outskirts of town, so we walked into town together (you don’t have any choice but to walk when thousands of bikes are squeezing into a small street), and found some pancakes and coffee for breakfast and fuel. While we were sitting and eating, I struck up a conversation with a guy, who after asking me if I was running the route, shared that he had volunteered at the Wasatch 100 and many other ultra-marathons for many years. We talked for quite a while about altitude training, volunteering and pacing at races, and working up to tackling some of these beasts. It was the perfect break in the morning, and amazingly motivational as I said goodbye to my friend and headed out for the next leg of my journey.

That's not actually enough coffee, in case you were wondering!

That’s not actually enough coffee, in case you were wondering!

At a little under a third of the way there, I’ll pause here and give you time to soak in the ambiance that is RAGBRAI. Stay tuned for Part II of my report to hear more about some of the amazing conversations I had, the delicious food I ate, and the motivation I found along the way!

Great friends make the best crowd support!

Great friends make the best crowd support!

Forward Progress: Amazing Tales to Come!

This continues to be a whirlwind of a week! I am proud to say that yesterday’s RAGBRAI run was an amazing success 🙂 Without giving too much away quite yet, I’ll simply say that I stretched my Garmin further than ever. I’m now packing for our east coast adventure to Maine and the final running of the Great Cranberry Island 50K. The organizers of the #GCI2013 have decided they would go out with a bang, so this will be the last running of the race. It will be known as the #bestraceforever.

I'm out enjoying the world on foot...is there any better way?!

I’m out enjoying the world on foot…is there any better way?!

The above is my version of an “Out of Office” message 🙂 When I return next week, you can expect a full recap of both the RAGBRAI run, as well as GCI 2013, along with a few surprises along the way! It’s amazing how you never really feel busy when you are doing what you love, isn’t it? I hope everyone has a great week, filled with runs, rest, and plenty of other things that bring you joy. I’d love to hear about your running and non-running plans for the upcoming week, so leave a comment and tell me about your forward progress!

Ultimate Direction SJ Race Vest vs. Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set

I analyze things. No, I don’t think you understand. I REALLY analyze things. I’m the guy that spends all day reading reviews before deciding on the type of peanut butter to put on my sandwich. It can be a problem, but it does have its perks. One such perk is the fact that I’ve put a great deal of thought into every running decision I’ve made and every piece of running gear I’ve purchased. I approach a lot of these choices from a “what if” perspective. That is to say, I try to think about every conceivable scenario in which I’d be using this item and make sure it is the best choice for most of those scenarios. I wish I could say my level of scrutiny increases as the prices of items increase, but I probably spend as much time on a $10 water bottle as a $150 race vest. This brings me to my most recent quest, which I alluded to in my last post.

I’ve been on the hunt for the best possible ultra race vest. I wanted something that I could load up with enough nutrition and other various supplies to last me through a 50 or 100 mile trail run. Obviously I can’t bring enough water on my back for that distance, so water transport became a major focus of my research. After my negative, albeit skewed Camelbak experience, I had convinced myself that bladders weren’t for me. I wanted to be able to store handheld bottles that I could carry if I wanted, refill when I wanted, and change out when I wanted. This factor limited my search somewhat, and after reading copious online reviews, watching YouTube product reviews, and constantly reassuring myself, I had narrowed my search to the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest and the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 set. What follows is a mostly unbiased review based on my experiences with both packs.

I should begin my disclosing that I have the most amazing and supportive partner ever. As I was midway through my research, the beautiful epicurean disclosed that she intended to buy me a pack as an anniversary gift. I needed only to let her know which pack to buy. After I had narrowed down my search, she suggested ordering both packs, giving them a whirl, and deciding after some hands-on experience. My hesitation up to that point was due to not being able to actually try either pack on. There are no dealers for either pack in the entire state, and although I was committed, I wasn’t going to cross state lines to try on a hydration pack. So, we ordered both packs and they arrived incredibly quickly, which worked out perfectly, because it gave me enough time to test them and decide on a pack before my RAGBRAI run!

I’ll begin with the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest. I can admit upfront that I really wanted this to be the pack for me. I just finished reading Eat & Run, so Scott Jurek is fresh in my brain. On top of that, the pack is just really sexy. He helped design the pack to suit his ultrarunning needs. The pack uses incredibly innovative materials to make it super lightweight (7.5 oz.) and durable. The main compartment is very flexible, utilizing Cuben Fiber to make it easily expandable and collapsible. In total, it holds 9.2 L. It is hydration bladder ready, but does not come with a bladder. This pack really shines in the front, however. On the outside of two adjustable sternum straps are slots for two water bottles. The pockets rest parallel with the body, and sit high on the chest. There are mesh pockets on the sides of the bottle holders, as well as the above and below the bottle holders. It even comes with two Ultimate Direction 20 oz. kicker valve water bottles, which is a nice touch. They suggest measuring your chest for proper sizing, and my 36″ chest meant purchasing a size Medium (31- 38 inches).

Race Vest 1

The UD vest arrived first and I eagerly pulled it out to try it on. I slipped it on, adjusted the sternum straps, and sat with it for a bit. It is INCREDIBLY lightweight, and even with the water bottles, I could barely feel it on my back. I loaded up the pack to simulate running conditions, and took it for a spin around the block. I was careful not to get sweaty so I could still return it if need be. Overall, the material felt great to have on, and the water bottles sat comfortably on my chest. The sternum straps tightened well and prevented any movement, so I don’t think I would be concerned with chafing. The side panels are hex mesh, so there is no ability to adjust the fit other than the sternum straps. It sat nicely on the upper part of my back, and the contents I loaded up didn’t move around at all. However, I noticed, even after adjusting the fit, that there were pretty sizable gaps between my shoulders and the straps. I adjusted the sternum straps in every conceivable position, but the gaps remained. this gap didn’t seem to bother me while running around the block, but 100 miles might be a different story. I began thinking about the various aspects to look for in fit for a hiking pack, and many of the same principles would apply here. Overall, though, I loved the back, and might have found myself in love with the idea of the pack even a bit more than the pack itself.

Race Vest 2

Pros– lightweight, lots of storage, nice water bottle placement (reviews for placement with women seem to be mixed)

Cons– fit customization, sizing, need to use after market bladder

The Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 set is the veteran in this race. This race vest was originally released several years ago, and have evolved to meet the needs of ultra runners around the world. In all the reviews I read, I honestly could not find any significant negative comments about this vest. People were basically drooling over the versatility and comfort of this vest, so it was an obvious option for me. This vest does come with a hydration bladder specifically designed for the pack, as well as water bottle holsters up front. The bladder is very well designed, with a quick release hose at the bottle, and an insulated sleeve to keep your water cold longer. The hose actually gets tucks along the pack under your armpit and up to your mouth, as opposed to most hydration systems that track the hose over your should. The water bottle holsters are angled at around 45 degrees out, as opposed to the parallel orientation of the SJ vest. I comfortably fit 20 oz. bottles in each pocket, but they could be used for a camera, or other nutrition items as well. There are several mesh pockets on the side of the vest, and two large compartments in the back. The pack weighs a bit more than the SJ vest (12 oz.) but this is partially due to the bladder, which is removable. Storage capacity is almost identical, although the Salmon website lists it at a bit less since they assume you’d have the bladder in as well.  The vest offers to adjustable straps across the sternum that are movable in a triangular format to allow for more adjustment. There are bungee straps on top of the shoulders as well so you can cinch the pack closer to your back. A mesh pass-through space at the bottom on the back offers a perfect location for a second layer as well. Small, detachable (velcro) pockets up front offer even more storage.

Race Vest 3

Luckily, the Salomon vest arrived the day after the SJ vest, so I had quick access. As soon as I put the vest on, I knew exactly what all the reviewers were talking about. In about 30 seconds, I had made all the adjustments I needed, and the vest literally felt like a second skin on me. I loaded the pack up with the same items as before, and took it for a spin around the block. I was initially worried that my arms would rub on the water bottles while in the holsters because of the angle, but this wasn’t the case. If anything, the pack kept my posture more upright and my shoulders relaxed and arms down. It sat nicely on the upper part of my back, and there was no movement whatsoever once I cinched everything down. This pack was literally a part of me when I was running. There is more than enough space in the back for all your nutrition and other supplies as well.

Race Vest 4

Pros– fit, fit, fit, hydration bladder option, fit, lightweight

Cons– a bit less storage space in the back with a bladder, price

Ultimately (pun-intended), I overcame my infatuation and decided on the Salomon vest. I just couldn’t argue with the fit! It had everything I needed, and in the back of my mind, I wondered if I should give hydration bladders another go as well. This pack has everything I need and more. On Saturday morning, I bit the bullet, cut the tags, and loaded it up with two water bottles in front for a morning 22-miler. After the first mile, I knew I had made the right choice. The fit was amazing, and my pace and stride weren’t impacted in the least. With the two water bottles, I had everything I needed for a long run. By the end of the run, I was starting to feel some pressure on my ribs from the water bottles. At that point, I stopped and adjusted the straps to better fit my chest. Good grief! I wish I would have done that earlier 🙂

Yesterday, out of utter curiosity, I filled the bladder, and headed out for a quick run to give it a try. Maybe I was wrong…it happens occasionally, right? As I started running, I could hear some sloshing, which was to be expected. However, i didn’t feel the bladder moving around in the least bit. After the first mile, I may have enjoyed the vest even more with the bladder full and more space up front for nutrition. I never would have guessed I’d come back around, but I couldn’t be more happy that I did. Hopefully, in the midst of this lengthy review, I can save you some time of your own. Both vests are excellent options, and widely used (looking at pictures of the elite runners at the Hardrock 100 tells you all you need to know about the popularity of both vests). The Salomon vest is a bit more pricy, but in my opinion, worth every penny. I’ll be getting many miles of use out of this amazing race pack!

On my way home...just another day in Iowa!

On my way home…just another day in Iowa!

My 2013 Endurance Goals

It’s easy to avoid committing to something when it only exists as a series of passing conversations with friends. Over the years, I’ve had the best intentions to complete quite a few things, but they’ve never gotten much further than a passing comment or an adrenaline-fueled pronouncement. Now, this is not to say that I haven’t kept myself busy, because I certainly don’t have any empty time just lying around waiting to be picked up by another great adventure. However, I’ve shared before that my race goals for 2013 have been a bit up in the air following the Little Rock Marathon, and I knew I needed to get things set in stone before the heat of the summer set in. Otherwise, the reasons to avoid the heat would begin to overwhelm my desire to run. As such, I am considering this my official “no turning back” endurance announcement.

My first commitment is returning to the scene of the crime for RAGBRAI 2013. You may be wondering how often I’ve gotten out on the bike this year, what with all the running miles I’ve been logging (I’m sitting at around 1100 right now). The answer is…none. Well, I suppose I can count the handful of rides I’ve done on the trainer in the basement, but that’s about it. That’s why I’ve decided to pick one day of RAGBRAI (Tuesday, July 23rd) and run the route instead. This particular leg weighs in at about 50 miles, and is close enough to home that I won’t have any of the travel and lodging concerns that typically come with a longer race. I’ll be running from Perry, IA to Des Moines, IA.

RAGBRAI-route-2013

While riding RAGBRAI last year, I saw several folks throughout the week that were running portions of the course, and I was extremely impressed to say the least. Over the past year, my passion for endurance races, ultra-marathons, and other crazy running adventures has exploded, so this seemed like a logical challenge! At some point in the future, it would be amazing to attempt to run the entire RAGBRAI course, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s never actually been successfully done in the 40 year history of RAGBRAI, but there is an amazing guy attempting it this year, and I wish him the best of luck. Hopefully I’ll even see him out there on the road. By running, I’m guaranteed to see pretty much the full scope of riders, and I’m sure to have some great interactions with people throughout the day, which I’m really looking forward to as well. In addition, it’s the closest leg to home, so many of my friends will be riding as well, so I’m sure to run into them.

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Interestingly enough, this happens to be the same week that I’ll be traveling with the beautiful epicurean to Maine to run the Great Cranberry Island Ultra. Not only will this be an amazing and challenging week of running, but it will be a good training benchmark as I prepare for an even more significance 2013 endurance goal. After my first 50 mile race last fall, I was completely hooked on ultra distances and wanted to continue pushing my body. Running a 100k race seemed like the next logical step. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a race that worked with my fall schedule and didn’t involve a significant financial commitment. However, we were already planning a trip to Phoenix during the holiday season again this year, so I thought I’d scan the race schedules and see if anything was being held while we were there.

GCBI50K

As luck would have it, I found a race. At this point, I should mention that I’m pretty good at rationalizing just about any decision I have my heart set on making. So, although I had initially been looking at 100k races, I knew I had found the perfect fit when I saw the Across the Years  6 day & 24, 48, & 72 hr Footrace. Now, I don’t have any experience with timed races, but this truly seemed like too amazing of an experience to pass up. Although I wish my body was capable of running for 6 straight days, I was immediately drawn to the 24-hour option. After doing the math, running for 24 hours straight seemed to be the training equivalent of a 100-mile race. This is certainly a jump past the 100k mark I had initially set, but I have six months to train, and already have an excellent base to build on. The race itself is going to be as much mental as it is physical, and that challenge excites me even more. I’ll be spending 24 hours running a 1 mile loop over and over again…perhaps Einstein’s definition of insanity is coming to mind at this point?

ATY-Website-Header-6-Day

I’ve finalized my training plan and began week 1 this week, leading to the December 28th race. I am certainly not naive enough to think that this is going to be an easy task, or that I have plenty of time. I know that I will need to focus on my training and nutrition as much, if not more, than I ever have before. Ultimately, that’s what excites me about both of these challenges. My mind thrives on being pushed to extremes and testing what I’m capable of, and the next 6 months are going to do just that. I’ll be experimenting with a lot of different nutrition and gear options, so you can look forward to those reports as well.

It's nice to have company when you are running for 24 hours, right?

It’s nice to have company when you are running for 24 hours, right?

So, I am putting these goals down in writing not because I have any interest in a pat on the back, but to make them real. Each of us has goals we want to achieve and things we’d like to accomplish that we maybe think are just out of reach. However, unless you really stretch yourself, you’ll never know! Feel free to share your goal…put it down in writing…make it real!

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