Monday, August 8, 2011

Drymax Max Protection V4 Initial Test

I had a full day to dedicate to running in Shenandoah National Park. I have run here numerous times and really enjoy the long climbs and mix of rocky trails and old forest roads. The week before I ordered a pair of Drymax Max Protection socks from Running Warehouse. Drymax has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. I have been wearing there standard running socks for a year now and love them. This lead me down the path of spending $25 for a single pair of socks. If I was not satisfied I would contact Drymax and take them up on their offer. 

Location: Shenandoah National Park

Weather: 80+ degrees down low and raining off and on all day

Time/Distance: I covered around 38 miles / 9000 feet of ascent and descent. I was away from my truck for a total of 11 hours including refilling water out of streams, talking to people, changing socks, and taking pictures. (Think enjoyable day, not race pace)

Details: My feet were wet all day and the socks worked wonderfully. Around 20 miles in I started to feel a little pain behind my second toe and on my one heal. This is a very normal place for me to get blisters. I ran down 2000+ feet of rocks and sat down to change into a standard pair of dry drymax socks I had in my pack. My feet looked like they had been soaking in water for 2 days, but no visible blisters or damage. The new socks felt great for an hour but then the pain started to come back. I stopped one more time before a 7 mile descent down some very runnable fire roads. I was going to put some body glide on my feet to see if this would help prevent any additional damage. I ended up taking off the standard socks and putting back on the wet and dirty max protection socks. I ran out and the pain did not get worse. The next day once my feet were dry I had very minor hot spots that did not bother me at all. Much, Much better than I would have expected with wet feet all day. I believe if I had a second pair of max protection socks I would have been even better off.

Recommendation: I cannot speak of their durability or long term usage. What I can say is that if I need a goto sock for long distance this is my sock. I highly recommend them to anyone with blister issues. Do not bother spending your hard earned money on them for every day use or the mid week run, but when the big and wet miles are calling break them out. You will not be sorry! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jennifer Pharr Davis AT Speed Record

UPDATE: She Did It! On Sunday July 31, 2011 at 3:26 PM she reached Springer Mountain setting the new AT Speed Record. I recommend taking the time to read through her blog. Her husband Brew Davis did a wonderful job of bringing the adventure to us all. I really enjoyed his writing style (humor) and pictures. Check it out at

A few weeks ago I was reading through Karl Meltzer's Hardrock 100 odds. After the odds I saw a paragraph on Jenn Pharr Davis's speed record attempt on the Appalachian Trail. Pharr Davis already owns the women's record at 57 days 8 hours and 33 minutes (2008). This time she is after Andrew Thompson's record of 47 days 13 hours and 31 minutes (2005). You can look up these records and read about them and others at the Fastest Known Time web site.

She is traveling north to south. At the time of this post she has completed 1257 miles in 28 days. She is somewhere in Shenandoah National Park. This puts her at an average of 45 miles per day. The last few days she has been logging over 50 miles per day. She will need to average around 47 miles per day the rest of the way to break the record.

I remember first hearing about and seeing Jennifer at the pre-race briefing for the Holiday Lake 50k. David Horton introduced her and told us about her planned AT record attempt. She was there to run the race and promote her book "Becoming Odyssa". I remember thinking how great it would be if she could pull it off and one up all the guys out there.

You can follow her progress on her blog. Her support crew is posting daily updates (I believe they are a few days old when posted for safety purposes).  Follow her on Twitter @JenPharrDavisYou can also check out her progress on Type her name in the search box to find the discussion on her attempt. The blog and the discussion boards are great reads and will give you some insight into what goes into such an endeavor.

This ultra runner is pulling for you Jennifer. GODSPEED!

Friday, July 22, 2011

6 Reasons to use a Treadmill

Treadmills have been around for a long time. There is nothing polarizing about them. The "I hate treadmills" camp is strong, but I have a hard time finding anyone in the "I love treadmills" camp. There is also a strong opinion that running on treadmills is easier than running outside on pavement. I am not here to argue this point one way or the other. I for one am on the opposite side of this and think running on a treadmill can certainly be harder than running on pavement outside (given the conditions outside are similar). It is fine if you disagree and I will not say you are wrong or right. What may be harder for may certainly may be easier for you.

There are some major advantages to treadmill running:

1. Uphill Training - Unless you live in the mountains you probably do not have access to a hill that theoretically never ends. A treadmill gives you this. If you do have access to long hills you will have to run down after getting up. This may not always be ideal if you are going for just an uphill workout. I am an ultra runner and love mountainous races. I live in an area with 0 hills. The treadmill is essential to prepare me for the long 1000+ feet climbs of most of the races I run.

Monday, July 18, 2011

UPDATE: Yurbuds Ironmad Earbuds Review

I have been through a lot of headphones. I listen to music or podcasts 100% of the time I am running on the road and probably 75% of the time I log on trails. It is very discouraging to pay big $$ for headphones to have them sound poor or fall out repeatedly while running. The Yurbuds Ironman headphones are “guaranteed” not to fall out. The looked pretty cool the first time I saw them at the store, but at $50 they were pricey. I had been running in and loving the Nike Sport Flow headphones, but after wearing out 2 pair it was time to try something new.

The Yurbuds come in an impressive package that includes a storage pouch, the headphones, and a set of replacement ear pieces. I tried them on and they fit well. I took them out for a short run and as advertised they did not fall out. At first they felt a little weird and I could hear a noise almost like they were making some microscopic movements in my ear. After a while it went away. I am not sure if I just zoned it out or it stopped all together. That is really my only issue and after I have used them a few times the noise is non-existent.

I established they worked well for shorter runs, the next test was a 50k race. If I could wear them for 5 plus hours while pushing hard they would be a winner in my book. The Yurbuds worked flawlessly and I did not touch them once during the race. They stayed in place and after a while I forgot they were even in my ears. At one point I turned off the music for some silence, but just left the buds in.

$50 is a lot of money to spend on headphones, but for me the Yurbuds Ironman series are worth every penny. I am not sure how durable they are and will report back once I get some more time in them. If I can get 6 months out of a pair of headphones I am happy and will gladly pay for another pair if they last that long.

Yurbuds has a lot of pictures and technical specs on their website. If you are considering buying a pair you should check it out at


I have now been using the yurbuds for 3 months. I have used them on 7 mile mid week runs and on 20+ mile mountain runs. They have held up well and sound quality appears to still be the same as when they were new. I cannot recall any time when they fell out of my ears and overall I am happy with them. At first I was not very impressed with their perceived durability, so far they have not let me down. I really think the jury is still out on this one. I have inadvertently pulled them out of my ears with no ill effect. Will they last for 4 months or a year or more? Time will tell. For the cost I am hoping I can get a year out of them. Well see………

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Hate Strength Training, But Its Important

I consistently lifted weights from the time I was 16 until I was in my late 20s. Then I started training for Ultras and my passion for throwing around iron quickly transitioned into covering miles. I have tried time and time again to get back into strength training as I believe it could make me a better runner. Time and time again I have pledged to do better and take time from running to cross train. The problem is I always fail. I LOVE to run. I can wake up at 5 am to run in the dark and watch the sun come up, no problem. Getting up pre-dawn to lift weights, no thank you. I will take my sleep any day over that. Maybe my problem is rooted in the lack of progress I see when lifting. If I run consistently I see measured improvement in energy, endurance, resting heart rate, body fat, and the list goes on. When I would lift consistently I did not see any real improvement. So what if I could bench press 10 more pounds this month than last month. Big deal, what does that get me in the real world, nothing. Covering miles, now that is something useful in the real world. 

It is not my intension to get scientific here. I am going to go on the assumption that strength training can make you a better runner. There are many extreme cases of this. Here is an article on a guy who only did the basic crossfit workout each day (with no additional running) and was able to run 80 miles in 24 hours. On his blog,, ultra author Neal Jamison has written about and shared others experience with crossfit and ultra running numerous times (here and here) including Adam Eidson's 5:19 finish at Holiday Lake after running only 7 miles in the prior 3 months. Those are some pretty amazing feats for non runners and there has to be something too it. I am not about to go and take up crossfit. No time or desire for that, but I think we can learn a lesson from this. Strength training is important.

Backing up that notion is an article written by Dr. Bill Henderson over on Dr. Henderson sites some studies where strength training of the legs made the subjects better at running. This is attributed to better running economy. I think we are on to something here.

So where does that leave us runners who despise lifting weights? I am a firm believe that to be a better runner you need to put in the miles. So we must find the balance between running and strength training. The balance where weights do not interfere too much with running and everything else we all have going on. This is a question we all must answer. I am taking the approach of more is less. My main strength workout is based on research presented by author and Master RKC Kenneth Jay in his book Viking Warrior Conditioning. Kenneth lays out protocols for increasing strength and VO2Max using the kettlebell snatch. Unless you have trained with Russian Kettlebells in the past this may not be a good fit. You must be proficient in the RK style of snatch or you will get injured. I am also going to do some basic movements, including pull ups, pushups, and squats. I will count this a success if I can get these workouts in twice a week. Ideally you would do the VO2Max 3 to 4 times.

I will keep you posted on how this goes for me. Hopefully it will work out and I will not fall off the strength wagon as my mileage and time on the road/trails increase.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun With Numbers - Analysis of my Average Weekly Mileage

I have been battling a calf injury for the past 2 months. This has left me with a little extra time to look at some mileage data. I started training for my first ultra in the fall of 2007. Since then I have kept track of my weekly mileage. I decided to produce some charts based on my 16 and 32 week averages. Below are those charts.

16 Week Average

32 Week Average

As one can quickly see my average mileage per week is at a low point right now. Part of this is due to some time off from injury, the rest is due to taking most of last summer and a few scattered weeks last fall off. On the contrary my race times are getting better. The last Ultra I ran was the Holiday Lake 50K and I cut off around 25 minutes from 2 years ago (also the catalyst of my injuries). Maybe if I can stay healthy and get my mileage back up I can make a run at a 100 this fall. Injury is going to dictate this. The first part of 2011 is lost, but God willing the rest of 2011 will be better.

If your interested - I produced these charts and keep my weekly mileage log in Google Documents. This "cloud based" service works well for non-technical spreadsheets and allows me access from any web-enabled computer or device. Drop me a comment if you want to know more about my setup.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Holiday Lake 50K++

Three long years ago Holiday Lake was my first ultra. I remember that weekend vividly as I packed up my wife and 5 month old daughter for a weekend journey into the unknown. I had no idea the adventure, pain, struggle, will power, and pure joy that day would be the catalyst for. People often ask me why I want to run such long distances by myself in the woods. I honestly do not have an answer for them. I don't know if you are born with it, or if it is like a healthy virus that infects you when you are around other like minded runners. Once ultras get their hooks into there is no turning back.

Much has changed since that cool and sunny February day back in 2008. My little girl is now 3 and refuses to give me a hug when I come home from a run if I am sweaty (she asks if I was racing and says "Daddy, your all wet!"). My fitness level and race knowledge have also grown through training and race experience. So I decided to come back to Holiday Lake once again to try and quantify how much things have changed.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 in Review

2010 was good to me. I only logged 1465 miles, down from 1856 in 2009. I did not put in a ton of miles, but my workouts were of a higher quality and my overall distance per run and pace per run were both significantly up from 2009.

I ran 4 ultras in 2010:
  • Umstead 100
  • Promise Land
  • Laurel Highlands
  • Mountain Masochist
Umstead was my second attempt at a 100 and my second dnf, so right now I am 0/2. More on rectifying that situation in a later post. I ran my best race at Umstead with a PR for 50 miles, but in the end did not have enough in the tank to start the last lap, so at 87.5 miles I called it a race. My feet were beat up bad and my body had shut down. I got the idea in my head of running under 24 hours and simply went to fast.

Promise Land is always a great race and this year was no different. I was not fully recovered from Umstead, especially my feet. I was still able to set a 18 minute PR.

Laurel Highlands was longer this year by 7 or 8 miles because of a detour around a removed foot bridge. I had a good start, but my feet really suffered (probably still not right from spring races) and I walked in the last 25 miles or so. A good experience, but not how I had planned it.

Mountain Masochist was, as always, a great event. I picked up some a new brand and style of shoe and took the chance of wearing them for the start of the race. My dad was crewing so I could change out if need be. It was a gamble but it paid off (I do not recommend new shoes and new socks on race day!). I changed socks once early on and had no hot spots or blisters the entire day. My feet felt great for having run 50+ miles. I set a course PR too.

Hopefully 2011 will be even better.