The Most Motivational Man On the Planet (IMHO)

I met Alfred, a United Kingdom native, a few years back on the stairs leading up a limestone mountain. One thousand two hundred and thirty seven steps up a mountain, to be exact. I was walking fast up, he was running down faster. I had seen him a couple of times before and hadn’t said anything to him. This time I couldn’t resist.

“How fast you get up to the top today?” I asked, almost afraid he’d tell me a time that was faster than I did. I had no idea how old he was, but he was definitely over sixty years of age, and his hair was whiter than the clouds floating above our heads. I had climbed those stairs hundreds of times by then. It was my favorite place to exercise for the previous three years.

“About 17 minutes, not very fast today, just a slow day. I was up yesterday and took it at a good pace,” he answered.

HOLY WHAT? Now I was definitely afraid to ask what a good pace was. Seventeen minutes? My GOD! After I spoke with him, I was sure he was seventy. He was thin as a rail, same height as me – 5’11”, and apparently fitter than any senior citizen I’d ever seen in my life. I’d been walking up the steps for years and I’d finally got down to 12m 25s to the top. It’s a 280 meter vertical climb (about 900 feet). It was super hot the day I saw him. It was 98°F for sure. The humidity was always through the roof – I’ll guess 80%.

He didn’t seem particularly beat that day I first spoke with him. He smiled, joked, laughed, and said we’d talk more next time as he had somewhere to be. As he continued running down the stairs I stared, dumbfounded. I couldn’t help feel like I’d just met the first athletic mentor I’d ever had. I mean, the guy was PURE AMAZING.

Today Alfred is 75 years old. After a bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer he is back on the steps and climbing, hitting the heavy bag at the gym, and walking kilometer after kilometer on the beach near where he lives in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. Recently he completed a stretch of 7 days out of 8 in a row climbing those same steps.

The guy is a legend.

A couple of years ago he did the Malacca 12-Hour Walking Race in Malaysia. He placed 16th out of 300+ competitors, OVERALL. All age groups. He made it 50 kilometers in under 8 hours, just walking.

Though it isn’t often I have days where I don’t feel like going out to run at the park or mountain trail, or climb the stairs, when I do I think of Alfred and how he’s kicking life in the ass daily.

It’s my long-term goal to be climbing the steps up this mountain when I’m 75… 90. I want to be doing the stair climbing races in Bangkok, and other major metropolitan cities across the globe when I’m his age. Just like he is. He has done the Banyan Tree Vertical Marathon in Bangkok, Thailand for the past six or seven years in a row now. He places higher than many kids in high school, that should be beating him by tens of minutes.

Alfred is really an inspiration. There is something awe-inspiring about someone 70+ years old that can still do things many young adults cannot do.

He’s an inspiration to me and everyone that happens to catch a glimpse of him as he passes them on the stairs going up or down. Some days he runs up the section from step 840 to 925! You should see people’s mouths drop open.

He’s the real deal. He’s had tremendous adversity in his life, and he’s overcome it all. I’ve been shooting video clips of him over the years, and I’m intent on making a video to try to capture a bit of his inspiring life.

Do you know anyone of age that is inspiring?

It’s magical, isn’t it? The idea that, at that age, you too could maybe be accomplishing amazing physical feats. You know what most people his age are doing? Sitting at home watching television and thinking about the days when they ran down the beach or rode their bike a few miles on a sunny day.

Seeing Alfred to it all the time gives me the idea that I can make that happen anytime I choose. I just need to keep it up, keep having fun for the next 30 years and I can be just like that. In 30 years he’ll likely be gone, but I’ll remember him as I’m climbing the hell out of the stairs and the mountain trail we have climbed together up another hill twice as high in elevation as the hill with the stairs.

Thanks Alfred, you’ve been the most amazing inspiration… you have eliminated my fear of the future… of an older Vern that can’t hardly walk. I will be able to walk. I will be able to jog at your age. I will be able to do the things you’re doing now, well into my 80’s. I’m sure of that now.

Cheers my friend!

Vern

Ultimate Technical Trail Shoes – New Balance Minimus MT 10OB2 (10v2)

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Side

More New Balance Minimus MT 10OB2 (10v2) photos and videos are at the bottom of this article.

The ultimate trail running shoes are in my opinion, the New Balance Minimus MT 10OB2 series. I bought these in Thailand, they are also known as the MT 10v2 series in the USA and came out in 2013 there.

I first saw the Minimus in a sports store in Thailand in a mall late last year. I thought they were Chinese rip-offs of real New Balance shoes. I picked them up, almost laughing out loud at how light they were! How flexible (flimsy)! I thought – what junk!

Then I saw a couple runners online wearing them on some technical trail. WTF!?? Were the ones I saw real? I hauled-butt back up to the store, logging another 100 mile drive, but I had to know – were these the real deal? If they were real and that light and flexible, they’d be ideal for my feet.

I got there and immediately tried a pair on – sure they’d be too tight for my wide forefoot. Nope – a perfect fit. I couldn’t believe it. They felt strange, but I walked around with both shoes on my feet in the store for five minutes. Finally I pulled the trigger and bought the last pair they had – my perfect size – 10.5 EE, and they were on sale for around $100 USD.

I went home and got online to find more. I searched all over. I couldn’t find anyone to deliver to Thailand. Then finally a friend in Thailand went back to the USA and I bought 2 pair online and had them shipped to his house there. He brought them back for me to Bangkok.

I wore them to run on the grass at the park for a couple weeks before I tried running up and down the steep mountain near my home in Southern Thailand. They felt great on the grass. I was able to land flat and a bit with the forefoot striking first and that felt great. Over those couple of weeks I noticed my feet were hurting less than they usually did. My arches didn’t cramp as much as they did with other shoes.

When I ran up the mountain for the first time they felt great. After the run I noticed some achilles pain in both heels, but more on the left. I added a bit of stretching to my repertoire and ran on the flat some more before starting up the mountain again.

On the mountain, no pain since. These shoes are absolutely perfect for this technical mountain trail which contains patches of sand, packed clay, smooth and flat rocks around 20 inches around on average, root covered path, and leaves. The grip with these shoes is perfect. Not too grippy that they stick me to something, like the roots. They don’t grab the roots at all. They are flexible enough that I feel the surface I’m running on, but most of the time that is just soft dirt and sand. When I do bound across rocks or roots I feel them just enough. Not painful at all unless I come down hard on one foot on a very sharp rock, which I’ve only done once in 30 runs now.

The Minimus is very lightweight – like 30 sheets of paper if you’re holding one. They are great when wet, with or without socks my feet didn’t slip inside them at all. It’s always over 90°F when I run, and they stay cool enough that they aren’t the cause of my feet sweating. As long as I wear socks, they stay very dry, and most of my socks stay dry during my fast 80 minute runs up and down the mountain.

Positives

  1. Very lightweight shoes.
  2. Very minimal – flexible and the ground can be felt underfoot.
  3. Airy and cool, ideal in hot environments.
  4. Socks are completely unnecessary.
  5. Perfect grip for Thailand jungle terrain.
  6. The Minimus MT 10OB2 dry out quickly after wet

Negatives

  1. Some other reviewers of this shoe said feet slipped in them. I never had that happen.
  2. Some didn’t like the lacing system. I loved it.
  3. Some didn’t like the round shoelaces… I’d have to agree. I’d prefer soft flat ones.
  4. The heel is fitted for the heel and achilles. I got blisters a few times, then OK.
  5. They are very hard to find unless you are in the USA and have the right sized feet

New Balance Minimus MT 10OB2 (MT 10v2) Specifications:

Type: Trail running, specifically technical trail with smooth rocks & roots. Not good for concrete.
Construction: Vibram sole; Acteva mid-sole
Extra: Anti-microbial treatment (anti-fungus).
Weight: 6.2 ounces
Vertical Heel Drop: 4mm from heel to forefoot
Men’s Sizes: 7 – 14 D and 2E
Women’s Sizes: 5 – 12 B and D
Men’s Colors: Black; black and orange; black with lime green; solid yellow; blue and green; black and yellow.
Women’s Colors: Silver and purple; grey and blue; blue and pink; blue and black.
2014 Price: $100 – 130.

Oh, I almost forgot… my 75 year old stair climbing buddy bought one of my pairs of Minimus because he loved them so much. Now I definitely need to buy more!

Anton Krupicka’s New Balance Minimus Video – he talks about the minimalist ideal and what it means to him. He is wearing a version of the Minimus Trail that looks very similar to the shoes reviewed here.

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Tread

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Toe Guard

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Lacing

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Heel

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Side Logos

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Spacious Toe-box

New Balance Minimus MT 10v2 Box

Ultimate Trail Running Shoes – Nike Free 7.0 v2?

Nike Free 7.0 v2 Trail Running Shoes

If you’re a trail runner you probably wouldn’t consider the Nike Free 7.0 v2, first produced in April of 2010, as a trail running shoe. It does have a small toe guard, but that’s about all that might clue you in that the shoe could work on the trails. After 157 trips up and down my favorite very technical mountain trail, I now believe it is a usable alternative to other trail running shoes I’ve had in the past (mostly Terra Kiger). But, maybe they’re not for you.

Finding the ultimate trail running shoes was proving very difficult from here in Thailand. First off most of the shoes I find in the stores are cheap China rip-offs. They replace rubber with cheap foam. The stitching is ridiculously sub-par. The price is the same as the authentic trail running shoes. These shoes are available in all the sports stores, in the outlet malls that are supposed to have authentic items from major OEM’s like NIKE, ADIDAS, SOLOMON, etc. I usually just check two things in these stores – the stitching, and whether there is real rubber on the bottom of the shoes. The rubber they replace with plastic or foam, it’s very easy to feel the difference. Rubber is grippy. Foam and plastic are slippy. The stitching is also usually a very obvious clue. Nothing on decent shoes is single-stitched. On fake shoe rip-offs – there are places where single-stitching is evident.

I first found these trail running shoes by Nike called the Nike Free 7.0 v2 in a Big C store in southern Thailand. Of course, they just had Thai sizes which stop at a men’s 9 (US Men’s 9). But, when I tried it on at the store, though the length was insufficient, that size nine was almost big enough in the toe box for me. That’s just what I was looking for because I have a wide-forefoot and need a big (wide) toe-box.

The sole is very flexible and has grooves cut into them to allow a lot of foot flexing. The heel is more stable, but still allows some flexibility. The foam is pretty soft, and the shoe fits very comfortably – everything is soft and feels good. The drop looked slight – later I found it to be 7.0 mm, not bad, and a good fit for my feet because I was coming off a bigger drop and wanted to ease down into a lower drop shoe. I wasn’t ready for a 2mm or no-drop, so I thought I’d break my Achilles’ in slowly with these 7.0mm drop shoes first.

I went home, got online and ordered a size 11 at eBay and waited for them to arrive. It is always a risk when ordering shoes online. Heck, if I’m in a shoe store I try on twenty different shoes before I choose one. I didn’t have a good expectation that these shoes would fit when they arrived, but I hoped. When they came in the mail I tried them on and immediately jumped back onto eBay to buy 2 more pair of the same shoes in the same size! They fit perfectly. I didn’t even know whether they would work well on the trails I had in mind for them, but I didn’t care. Finally, I actually had trail running shoes that fit.

I wore the first pair – the blue and black you see in the video – over the next 5-6 months. I ran up and down a 6 mile long very technical mountain trail with them as well as running on the flat concrete at the park about the same number of times. Add to that about 20-25 trips up 1,256 steps up another mountain and that was what it took to destroy the outside of the toe-box area. All in all, after paying $120 USD for them (the high shipping cost to Thailand got me), I got around 1 workout per dollar. Not bad at all, and I’m super-satisfied with that. These are no doubt the best trail shoes I could have found for my feet with the scant resources I had.

If you need a wide toe-box and you run up trails and want something minimalistic, but not ridiculous like Vibram 5-Fingers – get a pair of these Nike Free 7.0 v2’s. They are lightweight, strong, flexible, and very stable if you’re a forefoot striker. There is absolutely nothing in the heel for stability except the sole – which is flared a bit. I have not twisted my ankles at all in these shoes and that is REALLY saying something because with my New Balance running shoes I wore on the trail prior to this I twisted my ankles regularly.

You might look at the tread of these shoes and laugh. You might think they couldn’t possibly be used for a technical trail. I have to tell you, they are perfect for the very rooty, sandy, rocky trail that I run on a few times a week. I can’t use a tread that has the real grippy arrow things like the new Solomons because I’ll be hanging up on roots and rocks too much. These have just the right amount of grip so I can go fast over the hard-packed dirt, sand, rocks, or roots. Probably if I had originally started running my trail in Solomons with the grippy tread, and then tried to switch to these – I’d have balked. Having done it the other way, I know I couldn’t run in a trail shoe with a very grippy and knobby tread.

Nike Free 7.0 v2 Trail Running Shoes Specs:

Sizing – These run true to size. I take between a 10.5 and 11. I bought the 11 men’s and it fits perfectly for length.

Toe Box – These run wide. If you need a wider shoe – get this, you will probably be very happy with it.

Stability – Great. The sole flares out at the forefoot and heel to give added stability. It works incredibly well for forefoot strikers on the trail.

Durability – Average to good. I got 100+ workouts – very hard workouts – out of these shoes. I’m very satisfied.

Price – $60-90 on Ebay. Hard to find elsewhere.

Colors – Red/Grey; Blue/Yellow; Blue/Black; White/Orange; Grey/Black; White/Black; and sorry I didn’t pay attention to women’s colors other than remembering there is a Teal/Blue.

Availability – You will probably have a very hard time finding these shoes as they are from 2010. Still, there are some on Ebay and some in places like Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam if you happen to be traveling Asia and want to pick up some cheap shoes.

Nike Free 7.0 v2 Review Video:

Again, MOST PEOPLE will like the Nike Terra Kigers better. Find them HERE >

20 Reasons Trail Running is More Fun Than Road Running

I’ve run most of my life on the roads. I did running races, triathlons, and all my running pre-2012 has been on the road. I told myself I enjoyed it. Sometimes I did. Recently I began running dirt trails up mountains here in Thailand and Malaysia. I can now say that I love running more than anything, including biking, swimming, or any other sport I used to take part in.

Here are 20 Reasons Trail Running is More Fun!

1. Trails are cooler. No matter what time of day I run, the trail is always cooler than the roads are. In a hot place like Thailand, it’s essential that I take advantage of this fact.

2. Less direct sun cooking cancer on my skin. The last 30 years I’ve spent in Hawaii, Miami, Tampa, and Thailand. I’m not fond of the sun anymore and I don’t want to give it any more time to cook up carcinomas on my skin. Running on the trail with the tree canopy over top of me gives me more protection than I’d otherwise have. PS: I don’t like running with hats or sunblock.

3. It’s easier to talk people into joining me. Try asking your non-running friends (or even your running friends) to join you for twenty laps around the high school running track and see what happens. Nobody is interested. Ask the same group to go 5 miles in the forest and you’ll get more takers.

4. Trails go up and down more than roads. For some reason it’s in my DNA to climb hills. Must have something to do with our high school soccer coach making us run “hills” in front of the school after practice. I was always good at it. Climbing hills on the bike too – I’m made for it. So, anytime I can run up something – I’m much happier than running on the flat.

5. I can talk to myself on the trail. Yeah, I talk to myself sometimes when I’m trying to hash out a solution to something that’s bugging me, or, if I am trying to plan something. It’s funny, but as you get older you start to realize it’s OK to talk to yourself. At least where there is nobody around. Try that as you run down main street and you’re going to lose friends and gain gawkers. I also yell at myself on the trail. “Get your ass up this hill, you didn’t push THAT hard that you can’t bang this out!”

6. I can breathe PURE air – no automobile exhaust! The only bad smells I have to worry about are those foul odors coming from runners and hikers ahead of me.

7. Recovery is much faster! If I run 6 miles on the concrete, the next day I feel it quite a bit. Doesn’t matter if I’ve been running on concrete for the entire year before that, I still feel it at age 47. When I run 6 miles on the dirt and sand trails, I hardly feel anything the next day. I can train more, I can enjoy running a lot more without breaking down as much. I am injured much less since switching over to trails. My ankles, knees, everything is much stronger because the trail stresses everything gradually and strengthens it quickly.

8. I can look the fool. If I want to wear a half shirt just below my nipples, like those that were popular back in 1982, I can. If I want to tie my shirt into a headband and wear it, I can. If I want to jack my shorts up past my belly-button so my waist-pack doesn’t chafe me, I can. If I have to wear one of my running socks inside out because I have two “R” socks and no Left, then I can.

9. If a tree falls in the woods, YOU HEAR IT! I’ve had two big 80-100 foot high trees fall relatively close to me as I was running up the local mountain. The splintering starts, and panic ensues. There’s something about a hundred thousand pound tree flying through the air that will snap you into the present moment real quick. You have to quickly try to guess where that tree is going to fall. You have a couple of seconds. You never do figure it out until it hits the ground, but, the adrenaline rush is good for a couple minutes off your 10K time on the trail. Talk about feeling ALIVE!

10. Does a bear drop mud in the woods? YOU CAN TOO! I wake up early when I run, so I down a couple liters of water, Gatorade, and coffee before I start. Inevitably I’ve eaten a spicy meal at dinner the night before, so I’ve got to do a bear’s share of fertilizing the soil. Running on the streets you’ve gotta duck into stores and restaurants, gas stations, other places there might be peepers lurking. I prefer the trail for obvious reasons.

11. Wildlife. I’ve seen flying lizards, flying snakes, flying squirrels, geckos, mountain lizards, giant monitor lizards, red bugs, blue bugs, purple bugs, and polka-dot bugs, eagles, wild pigs, a deer no higher than my kneecap, a keelback snake, rat snakes, vine snakes, gibbons jumping tree to tree, and two hikers procreating. There is so much more fun stuff to see on the trail than on the city streets.

12. Easy to meet people. How many times have you met someone on your run down the street? It’s easy to meet people on the trail. They inevitably ask – “Are we almost there yet?” I’ve met people from all over the planet on my runs up the mountain.

13. I like not knowing what’s around the bend. There’s something innately exciting about running on a path through the forest that twists and turns a lot. The run is filled with continual surprises. Sometimes it’s a new tree that fell down, sometimes it’s an animal on the path, a spider’s web across the face, a bird that flies in front of your face, or a root that catches your foot and face-plants you. There are lots of surprises on the forest trails.

14. The trail forces me to be in the present moment. When I run on the roads I often drift off into some daydream about something that happened before, or something I hope will happen in the future. Road running almost demands this from my mind because I just don’t enjoy slapping my feet on the pavement tens of thousands of times during a run. On the trail it is much different. My mind stays fresh because it’s always in the present. I run on technical trails for the most part, so I have to watch where every foot-strike is going, or I will fall flat on my face very fast. I’ve proven this numerous times. There is something awesome about not thinking of the past or future.

15. I can bring my Bear Grylls folding knife with serrated edge! And I use it! Trail maintenance, you know. I hack thorn bushes, roots, vines, and these killer tree trunks with strong pointy things coming out of them. Not to mention the remote chance I’ll get attacked by a lynx, bear, or tiger. Once a Boyscout, always a Boyscout. Be prepared!

16. I can rest as long as I want, and nobody sees me slacking! On average I see only 2-4 people on the trail during the two hours I run there. That means I can run naked if I want. I can sleep for an hour at the top if I want. I can fly a kite at the top if I got the urge. Try falling asleep on a bus stop bench after running 10 miles on the road and see what newspaper and blogs you end up featured in.

17. Panoramic views road runners never get to see. There is no road up most of the mountains here, so I get to see these great panoramas that few people get to see. I love summiting, no matter how big the hill. Running up trails gives me many more opportunities than I’d get on a bike or in a vehicle.

18. I drink less water. That means I carry less water. Actually what I do is bring 1 liter of water and a 600ml bottle of Gatorade or some other drink. I hide the small bottle of fluids behind a tree somewhere on the run up the hill. Then, on the way down I grab it. This way I don’t need to carry it the entire trip. You wouldn’t dare put a bottle of Gatorade behind a tree on a city street. You know someone would do something distasteful to your drink – right?

19. No dogs! Though I’ve seen paw prints, I’ve yet to encounter a dog on the trail here in Thailand. I have been chased and nearly bitten on the streets though. Foreigners in Thailand all look like the mailman to dogs here. Be careful if you’re road running in Thailand!

20. I can routinely blow people’s minds. The conversation usually goes something like…

Some 25 year old friend of a friend: “I heard you climb the Ngorn Nak Mountain trail a lot.”
Me: “Yeah…”
Him: “I hammered it to the top with my buddy last week in 3 hours round trip.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s pretty good.”
Him: “How long does it usually take you to get up and down?”
Me: “70 minutes.”
Him: Mouth drops and puzzled look on his face…

No more questions.

Anything else you can think of that makes you love running trails more than the roads?
List ’em in the comments…

Anton Krupicka – the Simple Life

This is a new video that just popped up on YouTube. I’ve been following “Tony” Krupicka for a while as my ultra-running obsession started a few months ago. Tony seems like a very likable guy, and he’s very accomplished in the sport of ultra-running. I never really had a role-model to look up to when I was younger, so I tended to use athletes to motivate me to do better, do more right than wrong. People like Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Arnold Swarzenegger, James Fixx, and others – became my childhood heroes because I didn’t have any real-life heroes.

Anyway, at 47 years old I can’t say there’s been anyone I’ve looked up to for at least twenty years. Anton is one of those people I’ve found in the ultra-running community that seems like a solid guy. There are a number of ultra-runners that I think I’d like to get to know on a personal level. Maybe someday in the future. For now, enjoy this video of Anton and his girlfriend as they run and make food together. Quite a different piece of Anton’s life here. Good to see more of the big picture.

Personal Record Running Up the Mountain – Ngorn Nak, Krabi

Top of the mountain in Krabi, Thailand called Ngorn Nak. Great hiking and running trail there for beginners or those that enjoy moderate difficulty while running technical trail.

Yesterday I woke up, excited to go do a run up my favorite mountain around here. It’s called, “Ngorn Nak.” It’s located in Tub Kaak, Krabi, Thailand. It is 500 meters high and is extremely technical. Roots and loose rocks, as well as a couple of scrambling sections that will get you on all fours running up like a monkey.

Then Nick called off. Sick, he said. Damn. Then I looked out the window and saw the weirdness. Low clouds or fog, maybe it was mist. Just plain weird. We have about two days a year like this in Krabi. You never know what it will mean, a light rain falling all day, or no rain at all and eventually it clears up.

I got prepped and was ready to head out. Nick SMS’ed me: BBC news just said clouds over Krabi are remnants of Hurricane that devastated Philippines. I sent back: FML.

Then about 2.5 hours later, when I was sure I was just going to work on my books all day, I took another look out the window. It looked worse. Darker clouds. But still, no rain. I SMS’ed Nick: WTF, it’s either the most perfect day EVER for running on the mountain, or the perfect storm is brewing out there and it will be the worst. I’m going…

And I did. I fired up the motorbike, drank half a can of Red Bull. At the 7-11 I grabbed two 500 ml Gator-Ade bottles and a water, and was at the base of the mountain around 11:30 am. It had barely warmed up at all, the temperature was about 72 degrees. That is one of the coldest days I expect in the next year, so I was hoping my body could handle a hard run. I left one of the ‘ades in the motorbike seat and took one and one water bottle. I tried to assess how I felt. I had done some great workouts in the week leading up to this. That might mean my legs aren’t ready for an all-out effort. Or, it could mean they are. I never know until I get started.

I jogged a bit, loosened up a bit, careful not to stretch anything. I clicked “Start” on the IronMan watch and took off. I felt good. Then I felt really good. I hid the Gator-Ade behind a tree to save some weight. I headed up for a good 5 minutes and reached the split in the path where, if I arrive under 5 mins, I’m on a great pace. I was at 4:57. That was very good because I wasn’t really trying that hard yet. I was definitely ready to push.

The next section is a pretty good incline, some parts are barely runnable, some just are not. I did the best I could and approached the first major steep climb. That one takes 90 seconds to get up, and if I go too fast, it zaps me by the top and I stand up there sucking wind. I took it cautiously. Quick and cautious. At the top I felt OK and charged ahead, running for the short slight incline down and then back up some steep sections, then to the flat… then another gradual climb, and then bam, steep climb number 2. This one only takes about a minute if I go quickly, but sometimes I’m already out of juice to go quick. On this run I was able to get through it to the top and keep going without any breaths rest. A great push.

The next section is a lot of flat. Maybe 1/2 km, 550 yards? Something like that. I pushed hard and felt great.

That was basically how the entire run went. I pushed hard and felt great.

After the last vertical climb is a patch of maybe 350 m flat, but technical terrain. I attacked it and pushed harder than I ever have on that section.

Result?

I knocked off 2 minutes off my fastest time there ever. An amazing run.

What do I attribute it to?

The weather mostly. Usually I’m running this trail in 92 degrees F. 72 was a godsend.

I did also push very hard, but it was because the weather was so cool that I was able to do so. I have lost some weight, and down to 76 kg (167 lbs) so i am feeling, and now getting faster. It’s a great feeling.

So that’s it – just a personal record that i’ve been looking to beat for 2 yrs now. The best time previously was during a race up that mountain where I got 41 minutes to that same point at the top. To think that I got 39:07 without having anyone there to push me, is really phenomenal. I think during the next race in March, I should be able to do a little better than 39 if I have a good day and keep losing a little bit of weight. Would be nice to get down to 72 kg for that race.

OK then – cheers, and here’s some advice…

Take advantage of the cool and dry days. I never feel better than when I’m running at 84F or right around there… because we just don’t have days like 72F very often. Usually it’s raining hard when the temperature is that low here. The difference between running in 95F and 72F is at least 4 minutes. That’s my guess. That’s up a mountain over a 4 km trail.

Best of luck out there, hope you set a PR on one of your favorite runs by the end of the year…

3 Days – Trail to Peak, Flat Concrete, Stairs

Exceptional views at the top of this 500m mountain.
Exceptional views at the top of this 500m high mountain.

I’ve been working my way up gradually to competition level fitness. I stopped doing triathlons, running, and bike races around age 31 as I just didn’t have time for the long training anymore. Now I have the time again, and I’m being smarter about it. I’m training for some 10k, and half marathons on trails coming up in 2014 and I’d like to not suck, considering I’ve never sucked at any of the sports I trained for in the past.

I’m 47. For the past 6 years I’ve done nothing but stair climbs. My stair climb of choice is a 900 foot high elevation block of limestone in southern Thailand close to where I live. There are 1,256 steps up the side of it. The steps average 8.75 inches high, much higher than a normal stair height. So, it’s a nice challenge to do in 95F heat and high humidity. I’ve climbed it over 1,200 times now – way over 100 vertical miles. It feels great to have done it, and I was happy doing that 5 to 15 times per week as I had time for. I knew I was just training my anaerobic system and my body was burning pure muscle glycogen as I climbed, but again, I wasn’t competing so there was no problem. I felt like I was in good shape. My heart rate was down to 45 BPM most times I measured it, and I had no health problems except I was gaining weight since my mid 40’s.

Today I’m ramping up to longer trail runs of 6 miles to 13 miles. I hope to do a marathon and some ultra runs in 2014, but even just a marathon would be a great milestone reached.

So, I found a 3-day program that I really enjoyed doing. I’ll share it here.

The problem with working up to running every day is that my joints are only ready to walk up and down stairs. There is no variety in the angle of the steps, no roots, no stones, no sand, no dirt. My main focus is trail running so I started out my 3 days of intense workouts with a trail run up 1,500 feet of elevation on a mountain trail bordering the ocean. It’s a wonderful run, very technical, and I bust my ass to get up in 41 minutes. Then I turn around and run halfway down, then back up to the peak, and finally down to the bottom. Bottom to peak, it’s 3.7km, though my GPS has tracked it as between 3.7km and 5km. I think it’s closer to 4.5, but it’s just a guess. Anyway, that’s my first workout. It takes about 2.5 hours to do it, and I’m trashed at the end of it – but could still run on the flat some if I had to. It’s my favorite run, by far.

The next day I run at the park near the river. It’s a 1.1 km perimeter run around the park on a concrete trail. It’s flat, with 2 little bumps just to aggravate runners. I do 8-10 km. The first 3-4 km go pretty fast (for me) at 8:30/mile pace. It’s so funny to write that. When I competed I was doing 6 minute miles for races, and I never did try a one-mile to see how fast I could go. Under 6, but no idea what my fastest pace for the mile would have been.

I feel good after that, and tired. The next day I head up to the stairs and do 1 to 2 climbs. The first – quickly in 13-14 minutes. The second, slower in 15-16 minutes. By the end of that I still have energy, and could climb a couple more times on most days, but the following day is a rest day and I know I need to curb my enthusiasm.

My goal is only to work up to running nearly every day at 5-6 miles per day. Then I’ll ramp that up and add a long-run and some intervals into the mix.

So, this schedule works for me. It may work for you if your goal is to run up mountain peaks on trails. My times on the trail have been dropping considerably since I’ve combined these three exercises, and it doesn’t even feel like much work. I’ve also lost 8 lbs, so it’s like not carrying a gallon of water up the mountain. Feels great.

By running my favorite trail up the mountain first – I can do it at speed and with all the effort i can put into it. That makes me feel emotionally, spiritually happy inside. That’s essential. The next day is basically recovery by running on the flat concrete at the park. When I can I move over to the grass if it’s flat enough. That helps. Day two at the park, though I run 5-6 miles, feels like an easy day. The next day is another hard one up the stairs, but it only lasts a short time for both climbs. In 1 hour, I’m finished and on my way home.

At the moment there is this one nice trail leading to a peak around here. I hope to add another, very nice climb to 4,300 feet elevation once I can get a guide to go up a closed trail with me to scope it out and make sure it’s safe to run on. There was a landslide there two years ago which killed about 18 villagers below during a wicked rainy spell.

 

Ultra Running Basics – Michael Arnstein – 3 Videos

Michael Arnstein ultra-running lecture video series.
Running is “the most natural form of exercise we can do as humans.” – Michael Arnstein.

Michael Arnstein is a New York businessman that has run over 40 ultra-distance races in eight years. He eats raw fruit and vegetables for his diet, and has done so for more than four years. He puts an emphasis on fruits with super-high water content like tomatoes, papaya, oranges, and watermelon. This lecture on the subject of ultra running is the most informative video series available on the subject. I’ve found nothing else even comparable. Sure other ultra-runners could have made something similar, but Michael really goes into depth on the subject of the 4 stages of ultra running.

What are they?

The 4 Stages of Ultra-running:

  • physical
  • mental
  • emotional
  • spiritual

I really enjoy how Michael goes into the emotional experience of running ultras in these videos.

“Ultra running is an extreme state of existence.”

Video 1 – Ultra Running Stages:

Video 2 – Ultra Running Aids and Their Effect on Recovery:

Video 3 – Ultra Running Specific Training Recommendations:

Hyperventilation to Improve Running Performance?

Hiker in Mountains

I’ve been doing some controlled hyperventilating to see what effect it has on my performance on the long stair climbs and on the mountain peak trail I climb often. Here’s how I go about it…

I don’t use this ventilation technique frequently, but just when I am putting out an extra hard effort and I think it may help. I am usually 20-30 minutes into a climb when I’ll be approaching a steep section of trail or steps. As I approach the section I start forcibly hyperventilating – breathing fast and shallow for about 30 seconds.

My experience is that I feel like I have more energy for 30 seconds to 1 minute after the steep section starts. I feel like I have more energy than what I would have had without having done the forced breaths.

I used it today on the mountain during an extra steep section, and once the effect wore off I did it again in the middle of the hard section and I felt like I was able to finish with more energy and speed up that difficult section of mountain.

Again, I don’t do this often enough to really get a feel for whether or not it is definitely helping. But, I would guess it is helping me by giving me somewhere around 15% more power for a short time.

Does that make sense to any of you that routinely push your bodies past the limit?

Can some of you try this and see what you think?

I am not sure whether the body is able to inhale enough oxygen during peak efforts (90%+ of max heart rate) to give the muscles all the oxygen they need. If so, then this technique is probably worthless. However, if there is some bottleneck at the lungs where the lungs just can’t get enough oxygen in to fuel the muscle contractions – then maybe this does work.

I am guessing that it works – it sure feels like it does. But, it could be due to my expectation of it working – and might not really be a true benefit at all.

You know how the mind works! It’s powerful beyond measure. It could definitely trick you into thinking whatever you’re doing – has some effect.

Curious if anyone out there is doing this. Let me know in the comments if you would.

Cheers,

Vern

[Photo credit – Rick McCharles at flickr.com]

UPDATE –

I just found something by a guy that may know what he’s talking about. It directly contradicts my idea of hyperventilation providing some benefit before exercising very hard.

Here’s his answer:

Chris Larson, Post-doc/Fellow Laboratory of Genetics
Area of science: Biochemistry

First, there is no benefit to hyperventilation. Hyperventilation, which consists of taking short, quick breaths in rapid succession, seems like a way to get more air in your lungs. However, researchers have shown that (i) you take in a smaller volume of air than when you breath normally, and this leads to (ii) an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide and decrease in the concentration of oxygen in both your lungs and blood. Certainly hyperventilation before any exercise is counterproductive, and after exercise athletes are encouraged to take as deep of breaths as possible since this will speed the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.

I’ll keep looking to see if I find anything to contradict this. If true, it makes me marvel even more about the power of the human brain as we exercise. Here I am, definite that I feel a benefit to breathing hard and fast for a while before a major effort. As it turns out, it may actually be counterproductive!