Thursday, July 31, 2008

Karl Meltzer Attempts Record Run of Appalachian Trail

At 5 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2008, at Mt. Katahdin, Maine, ultra-runner Karl Meltzer will begin his attempt to break the Appalachian Trail through-run speed record. To be successful, he must run 2,174 miles in 47 days - an average of more than 46 miles per day - over some of the roughest terrain and during the most sweltering, buggiest season on the Eastern Seaboard. Meltzer, 40, is a world-class, professional trail runner who has won 49 of the 92 ultra-marathons that he's started - including 23 100-mile races. He holds the record for the most 100-mile wins in one year: six in 2006. In 2006, he was named the USATF, Ultrarunning Magazine and RRCA Runner of the Year.

"Never before have I set a challenge for myself like this one," said Karl Meltzer. "I always thought 100 miles at a time was enough, but 2,174 miles in 47 days should raise the bar a bit." Meltzer will start at Mt. Katahdin and finish at Mt. Springer, Ga. He will spend most of the 47-day attempt running alone on the trail, but will be supported by his experienced crew.

Check in for updates at - the official tracking site for Meltzer's speed record attempt. Meltzer's compact SPOT Satellite Messenger(TM) will relay his coordinate information every 10 minutes, automatically updating an interactive map on the Where's Karl? Web site. The site will also feature a daily summary of goal-versus-actual miles and hours, a support crew blog and an image and video gallery.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shoe Test and Review - Brooks Cascadia 3

Brooks Cascadia 3
Although I like my Merrell Overdrive trail shoes (see reviews) I am not 100% satisfied with them. I have been looking for a replacement shoe for a while and have settled on the Brooks Cascadia 3. Sweet! Runner's World awarded the new Cascadia 3 "Editor's Choice" in its Spring Trail Shoe Review published April, 2008. The Brooks website promotes the Cascadia 3 as “100-percent pure trail running shoe, with no artificial ingredients. Its groundbreaking Pivot Posting System is configured to enhance balance on uneven surfaces, helping prevent ankle sprains. Ballistic rock shield technology helps protect feet from rocks and blisters. Durable and long-wearing outsole compound results in premium wet-dry traction for excellent skid-resistance. Smart shoe upper keeps you comfortable in wet conditions: Breathable shoe mesh flushes water and dries quickly; hydrophobic foam in the shoe tongue and collar lining doesn't absorb water when wet. Full-length MoGo midsole provides a soft cushy feel without sacrificing stability. A great fit for neutral runners and mild overpronators, this off-road roamer is tough enough to take on any terrain--no matter how rough, wet, or steep”.

I don’t know about all that marketing talk but I do know I like these shoes. I took them on a 2+ hour run, right out of the box, over varied terrain and trail conditions, without encountering any major problems. How many shoes can offer that? I ran at one of my favorite locations,
Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, MA. My route consisted of mostly single and double track (technical and easy), rock outcroppings, some dirt fire roads and a small amount of paved road. The trail conditions were varied as well including, dry hard-pack, loose rock/dirt, mud, water and slick rocks. These terrain and surface conditions offered a true test of the shoe as they represent almost any situation you will encounter on a trail run.

I purchased the
Brooks Cascadia 3 1/2 size larger than what I normally wear. I felt I had more room in the toe-box by doing this without compromising fit. The shoe still fits snug in the mid-foot and heel. I did not get any blisters even though my feet were wet for most of the 2 hours and the shoes were not broken in. This is very important to me because I am prone to getting blisters. Speaking of wet feet, I ran through several deep water puddles during my run. The shoes drained very well and did not keep that wet, heavy feeling for long. One annoying thing was the squish, squish, squish sound coming from the wet shoes with every foot strike. It lasted longer than it should have but I did get used to it.

The shoes look a bit bulky and heavy but don’t perform that way. I actually had very good feel for the trail and the weight of the shoe seemed about average to me. The Cascadias have better shock absorption than the Merrell Overdrives I have been wearing the past few months. If fact, the Cascadias excel on hard trail surfaces providing good traction and impact protection. They also felt good on the small sections of paved road I ran. Certainly not as good as a road shoe but better than many other brands of trail shoes I have worn in the past. The shoes are well constructed and they appear to be very durable. Time will tell.

There were two areas were the shoes did not perform well. They are absolutely dangerous on smooth, wet rocks!! The first time I ran on wet rock my feet nearly came out from under me. It felt as if I was running on ice. Fortunately, I didn’t go down. Whenever I crossed over the granite outcroppings that are prevalent on the Ridge Trail in Breakheart, I had to slow down to a snail’s pace. Do yourself a favor and don’t wear the Brooks in wet conditions. I also had problems getting any traction on uphill sections where the trail was a combination of loose stones and dirt. This can be very exhausting if the hill is either long or steep. Going downhill was not any better under these trail conditions either. The shoe was not very sure-footed and kept sliding out from under me. I had to reduce my speed to maintain control. Not something you want to do when racing. As I said previously, the shoe is very solid and I’m sure the sole will last forever. I just wish Brooks sacrificed some durability and made the sole a little softer. This would give the shoe more grip on wet rocks and loose dirt/stone.

Although it has some flaws, I am very pleased with the new Brooks Cascadia 3. It is a very solid training shoe over a wide variety of terrain and surface conditions. I’ll update you on the shoe’s performance after I have logged more miles in them.

Enjoy the weekend…

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tahoe Rim Trail 100-Mile Endurance Run

This past weekend the USA Track & Field National 100-Mile Trail Championships were held in Nevada. Erik Skaden and Mike Wolfe agreed to run in unison the final 25 miles and shared the victory. Three-time Western States Endurance Run winner Nikki Kimball of Bozeman, Montana, took the top spot in the women’s 100-mile division and placed third overall with a time of 20:18:12. For the complete story and many great photographs of the race click HERE.

All you east coast trail runners will note the lack of rocks or roots on the trails. What's up with that? They should try running in New England. We'll show them what trail running is all about!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Greenbelt Trail Race - Dog Days of Summer

The race start was at the Pingree School in Hamilton, MA and would traverse the trails and horse paths of the Pingree Reservation. The course was described as mostly single and double track trail with reasonably good footing. I’ve been a little bored with my usual running locations and was eagerly anticipating setting foot on some never explored terra firma.

I knew it would a tough day for me even as I waited in line to pick up my race number. The temperature had already exceeded 80 degrees and the humidity was very high. There was some relief in the shade but standing in the sunlight kicked my sweat glands into high gear. I have been experiencing a lot of difficulty running in the heat lately, more so than in past summers. I could only hope the trails were under dense tree cover.

As we lined up for the start of the race I went over my race strategy in my head. “Go out slow due to the heat and keep going slow until you cross the finish line”. Simple enough, I thought. Later on I would be asking, “Why don’t I ever listen to myself”? Off we went, taking a lap around a soccer field, then over a wooden footbridge and into the woods. It had rained the night before but the trail was in very good condition. The first mile was a roller-coaster ride of small undulating hills, if you can even call them that, mostly single track with very few rocks or roots. The only obstacle was a series of 5 or 6 mud holes spaced closely together. While most runners ahead of me hesitated and tried to tiptoe around the muck, I chose the more direct approach and blasted straight on through, moving up a few places in the process.

The second mile was much like the first with the addition on a few steeper climbs and down hills. I managed to run these pretty well passing a few folks along the way. The trail descended into a low swampy area where you could really feel the dampness of the day. The single track trail was lined with a multitude of ferns on both sides. The pools of water were green with algae and pollen. It was dark and sort of creepy. I was expecting to see the Creature from the Black Lagoon at any moment!

By the time I finished the second mile, I was beginning to feel the effects of the heat, humidity and my not so prudent pacing. What happened to my go out slow plan? I tried to maintain pace but then I hit the longest hill of the race. It was a struggle to keep moving but I made it to the top (barely) without walking. I continued over more roller-coaster hills and then came to an open field. The grass was about three feet tall with a wide path mowed for the runners. The field was exposed to the full sun and I felt a blast of hot air coming into the sunlight from the shade covered trail. The decaying grass, and the evaporation of the previous night’s rain, only added to the already oppressive humidity. I wanted to get off the field a quickly as possible. It wasn’t long before I turned into the start/finish area, completing my first lap. You mean I have to do this all over again? What fun!

The second lap was my demise. My paced slowed and I struggled on the smallest of inclines. I was not alone. I caught one runner by the name of Rob walking up a short steep hill. (check out Rob's
blog, Tracks of a Trail Runner) We stayed together for a while and traded war stories. He ran the WMAC Skyline trail race last weekend and his quads were rebelling on lap two. No matter how bad his quads were feeling, I couldn’t stay with Rob for very long. He pulled away from me as did a few younger female runners. I eventually made it to the finish line a little worn but happy to have been a part of the Essex Country Greenbelt Association’s inaugural trail race.

Stick a fork in me. I think I’m done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Badwater 2008

Recognized globally as "the world's toughest foot race," this legendary event pits up to 90 of the world's toughest athletes, runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and mountaineers against one another and the elements. Covering 135 miles non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures up to 130F, it is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet.

The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280' below sea level. The race finishes at Mt. Whitney Portal at 8360'. The Badwater course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000' of cumulative vertical ascent and 4,700' of cumulative descent. Whitney Portal is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Competitors travel through places and landmarks including Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil's Cornfield, Devil's Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells, Keeler and Lone Pine.

This year's Badwater event was won by Mexican national Jorge Pacheco, a 40 year old machine operator living in Los Angeles, California. First female was Jamie Donaldson, a 33 year old middle school teacher from Littleton, Colorado. Jamie also finished 3rd overall.

It is interesting to me that women took 5 of the top 10 places and 8 of the top 15. Equally noteworthy is the fact that 11 of the top 15 place finishers are 40+ years old and 5 of the top 15 are 50+ years of age. Old guys (and gals) rule!!

Well, I think it's time for me to buy a rubber suit and hit the sauna in preparation for the 2009 Badwater race. Oh, Hell no!!

Complete race results HERE

Monday, July 14, 2008

Middlesex Fells Reservation - Skyline Trail Run

This weekend I ventured back to the Middlesex Fells Reservation to take on the Skyline Trail. This trail is a challenging 8 mile loop with 1400 feet of elevation gain that follows the outer perimeter of the western Fells. Most of the Skyline trail is in wooded landscape, with several steep ascents to rocky outcrops. I enjoyed several spectacular views of Boston and the surrounding area from the many hills I climbed.

I began my run from the Sheepfold parking lot. I started out on a short flat stretch of the Reservoir trail which connected to the Skyline trail. After running for a short time I came upon the first of the white blazes that mark the trail. I immediately started to climb up a long, winding trail to the top of Nanepashemet Hill. At the top on the hill I met two mountain bikers who appeared to be taking a break. We exchanged greetings and I ran pass knowing the bikers would soon be overtaking me. The trail narrowed into a twisting, undulating single-track with several rock outcroppings to scramble over. It wasn’t long before I could hear the mountain bikers on my tail. I pulled off to the side to allow them to pass. As they rode by I tucked in behind them. I wanted to see how long I could keep in contact with them. By now the trail was starting to descend down the other side of the hill. The bikers pulled away from me with ease. I never saw those two again but did see other bikers along the route. A short time later I ran into a group of volunteers doing some trial maintenance. They were building some stone steps into a steep section of trail. I thanked them for their hard work and continued on my way.

It wasn’t long before I realized this trail was going to be more difficult than my run on the Reservoir trail two weekends ago. I ran along for the next couple of miles constantly ascending or descending a hill. In fact, there was very little flat ground during my entire run on the Skyline trail. At 4 miles I started another long climb on my way up to Pine hill. At the top the hill there is a large, stone lookout tower. Below me I could see Route 93 and in the distance the Boston Skyline. Touring the Fells on the Skyline Trail, you may sometimes believe you are deep in the woods of New Hampshire. You would never know that the concrete jungle was surrounding you so closely.

I was really beginning to fatigue after 6 miles of hard running. Lucky for me the trail was getting
a little easier. Most of the last two miles were on the same trail shared with the Reservoir loop. Here, I finally got to run some flatter terrain. It was a welcome reprieve for my weary legs. As a final test of my determination the trail took a detour up one last hill and then down a very steep, rocky trail. By now I was so tired I thought it best just to walk until I got back to level ground. I didn't need to take a tumble so close to finishing. I was pleased to see the sign for the Sheepfold parking area. I arrived back at my starting point beaten, but not broken, having survived a difficult and rewarding run.

If there is one word I would use to describe my run on the Skyline trail it would be “more”. More hills, more views, more single-track, more rocks, more stubbed toes, more sweat and more pain. Oh, and of course, more fun!

See you on the trails…..

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Merrell Overdrive Trail Shoe - Is it tough enough?

Merrell Overdrive

As you know, for the past several weeks I have been running in Merrell Overdrives when training on trails. My initial impression of the shoe was very favorable. The Merrells are light for a trail shoe but still offer good protection from sharp rocks and gnarly roots. The shoes have very good cushioning and can be worn on small stretches of pavement without any problems. The uppers are made with a large mesh that makes the shoe feel light and nimble. This also allows the shoes to drain quickly when running in wet conditions or through brooks and streams. The Vibram® Ultra-Traction sole provides excellent traction in mud and over loose rocks but is only adequate on slick, wet rocks. The sole appears to be very durable, or so I thought. Unfortunately, after only 160 miles, the outer-sole separated from the mid-sole. I’m not sure why the glue failed to hold the sole in place. It has been very wet this past spring and the shoes were often wet for hours at a time. Then again, these are trail shoes and should be expected to tolerate wet conditions. There is no way to know if this is an isolated incident or an indication of poor design, manufacturing or quality control. I like this shoe for many reasons but mainly because my plantar fasciitis has been improving since wearing the Overdrives. I’m not ready to give up on the shoe just yet. The only way I can make a final decision is to test one more pair. My second pair arrived via UPS today and I will be testing them over the next few months. I will keep you updated on my findings, but for now it’s Trail Demons 1, Merrell Overdrives 0.

Keep on truckin’…….

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Grand Tree Trail Race Series Update

The Western Mass Athletic Club’s popular Grand Tree Trail Race Series is in full swing with 10 races completed so far in the 2008 race season. The overall point leader after 9 races is perennial top-finisher Ben Nephew with 676 points. First female is Michelle Roy with 489 points. Michelle is also in third place overall. Second place is currently held by Thomas Parker who was the first place finisher for the 2007 race season. With many races still to come I’m sure we will see more changes to the leader board. Below is a list of the top ten finishers through Mt Graylock.

Place First Last M/F Age Races Total
1 Ben Nephew M 32 7 675.79
2 Thomas Parker M 41 7 496.18
3 Michelle Roy F 38 8 489.49
4 Matt Bedoukian M 28 5 448.80
5 Rich Fargo M 49 4 352.29
6 Brett Stoeffler M 41 4 350.92
7 Paul Cacolice M 44 5 345.53
8 William Heaton M 23 4 345.13
9 Bob Sharkey M 56 4 327.25
10 Beth Krasemann F 34 4 323.06

Complete results Here
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