Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inov8 Roclite 295 - Product Review

Inov8 has updated their popular Roclite 295 model for 2011.  Gone are the dull gray and blue uppers and endurance rubber soles.  This year's shoe has a sharper black and lime green upper with the Inov-8 logo boldly displayed.  Not that fashion matters among trail runners.  It's function that counts and the 295 performs very well under a variety of terrain and surface conditions with it's new sticky rubber soles.

Let's start from the ground up.

The minimal heel-to-toe drop and low arch structure of the shoe keeps you low to the ground and less likley to roll an ankle. Although the sole is now made with sticky rubber it keeps the traditional Roclite lugs that work well on hard-pack, mud and other surfaces.  The sole grips well on muddy trails and over wet rock and roots but it will wear faster than the harder endurance rubber of other Roclite models.   The softer sticky rubber is also more flexible than the endurance sole and gives the runner a better feel for the trail.  This soft, flexible sole does come with a price besides less durability.  It does not provide enough protection on technical trails from sharp rocks and gnarly roots.  You will feel them through the sole which can become a problem after hours on the trail. 

The mesh upper has a tighter weave than previous models but it still drains well and should be more resistant to wear and tear than a looser mesh.  There isn't much structure to the upper which contributes to the shoe's light weight. But less structure means less support.  To help control lateral movement, Inov8 has developed the Met Cradle.  It's an upper webbing system positioned to cradle the forefoot and provide a secure foot hold.  It works to some degree but there is certainly more foot movement in the 295 when compared to the heavier, more structured upper of the Roclite 319. The toe box is generous in height and width and gives your piggies plenty of room.

In my opinion, the Roclite 295 is another winning shoe from Inov8.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail Run, Sections 6 & 7 - Navigation Nightmare

This past Saturday I completed my 5th and longest run to date on the Bay Circuit Trail.  With warmer weather approaching and the expected increase in biting insect activity I was hoping to make it to the halfway point on the BCT.  By doing so I could take a break from the trail in July and August and return in the fall to complete the journey. I first had to finish up the last two miles of Section #5 on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail before continuing onto Sections 6 and 7. The total distance should have been around 28 miles but with all the detours I took by getting lost I ended the day with 30 miles.  I love bonus miles!

Overview of BCT Sections 6 & 7

Just enough changes to make it interesting.

The first four miles were not the most enjoyable for me. The first two were on the paved rail trail and the next two were on Route 27.  Pavement does a number on my plantar fascia and IT band but I managed to make it though this stretch without issue.  I did have a few distractions along the way to help past the time.  First, I saw a rabbit and a large flock of turkeys on the rail trail and then saw a big group of riders blasting down Route 225 in Westford.  Still, I was very happy when I made it to Nashoba Brook Conservation Area and saw dirt under my shoes.

The trails through Nashoba Brook were overgrown and appeared to be seldom used.  Even thought the weather has been dry lately the low-lying trail was very muddy or wet in spots.  This would not be a good place to run in early spring. I was also somewhat surprised at how technical the trails were in some areas.  Most of the trails I have run on the BCT previously have been fairly tame.  Trail marking in Acton was excellent and I never had to stop to check the map or trail guide.  That would change later in the run.

 Overgrown and narrow single-track trail.

 Crossing Nashoba Brook.

Wet, technical "trail." The mosquitoes were eating me alive in here.

Tranquil brook-side location.

Two interesting sites I came upon in this area were the location of a former pencil factory, complete with a history lesson on the progression of the pencil and a stone chamber dug into the side of a hill.  It appears the stone chamber was used to store ice in the winter and farm products such as root crops at other times.  The chamber was very cool and I would have explored deeper into it had I been carrying a headlamp or flashlight. 

 Location of former 19th century pencil factory.

Stone chamber just off the trail that I had to explore.

 "Is anyone home?"

As I was leaving Acton though a grassy meadow I was attacked by horse flies.  I moved quickly but could not avoid getting bitten a few times before crossing into Concord and into the Annursnac Hill Conservation Area. While there I looked for the World War II bunker in the woods.  I saw two vent pipes coming out of the ground so I assumed I was near it, or on it, but did not see any other evidence that it existed. I continued moving south, then east making my way to the Minuteman National Historical Park.  It amused me to think I've lived in Massachusetts for 56 years and never visited this park.  It took a crazy idea, like running 200 miles on the BCT to get me here!

Stopping at the vistors center gave me an opportunity to top of my Camelbak before checking out the rest of the park.  I didn't want to linger too long but did want to get a good look at the battle site of April 19, 1775.  There were many visitors at the park on this beautiful Saturday morning.  One or two may have looked at me in an unusual manner but it was understandable.  It's not every day you see a sweaty old man wearing a Camelbak and bandana with packets of Gu stuffed in his pockets and running around taking photos of everything that isn't' moving.  OK, time to move on.

A good place to take on fluid when the well is running dry. PS they also have restrooms!

The bridge where the battle was fought.

The Concord River, looking upstream.

Leaving the park I passed though Concord town center and headed south-east along a flat stretch of road before turning into the Hapgood-Wright Town Forest. After running a mile of trails it was back to pavement for a short distance before crossing a very busy Route 2. Lucky for me there was a traffic signal to stop the speeding cars and I was able to cross safely. This marked the end point for Section # 6 and also the halfway point for this long run.  I had made it 15 miles without a hitch but the wheels were about to fall off.

 Concord town center.

The home of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 More muck in Hapgood-Wright Forest.

After crossing Rt 2 I entered Walden Pond State Reservation.  I circumnavigated the west and south rim of the pond, crossed a road and entered the woods on the other side.  The trail then entered a large field.  It was here where things began to get confusing.  I had a difficult time following the trail guide and lost the trail somewhere in the field. I ending up scaling a stone wall to make my way back to last know reference point.  From there I was able to locate a trail marker at the intersection of Route 126.  

Then my troubles began.

I misread the trail guide and thought I needed to go left and follow the perimeter of a large farm field until I saw an opening into the woods.  In fact, the guide was referring to the farm at the next intersection.  So I spent the next mile running around the farm looking for an opening that didn't exist before I realized my mistake.  The farm hands watching me all this time must have had a good chuckle!

Leaving the trails near Mt. Misery (how appropriate) I got confused again by looking at the south to north directions instead of the north to south directions.  I now believe it's more important to take an extra minute to fully read the guide before running off and wasting many more minutes by going in the wrong direction or missing key reference points.  Anyway, back to my misadventure.   It took me 20 minutes to cover the next 0.7 miles because I was never sure I was going in the right direction.  It turned out I was.

The next 4.5 miles was a mix of trail and roads that I covered without issue. Then I found myself standing at the edge of the nightmare known as Sedge Meadow.  Two miles of tall grass with several intersecting trails heading in all directions. And no trail markers!  I spent the next 30 minutes taking different trails that seemed to be heading in the direction I wanted but they always curved off in a different direction after a short distance.  I got tired of this trial and error approach and decided to just go in one direction and see where it would lead me.

It led me to the Wayland Country Club.

Waist high grass trail in Sedge Meadow. Got ticks?

Right or left?

I was happy to be out of the meadow and even happier when I spotted the clubhouse.  I had been out of water for a while and really needed a drink.  I settled for a ice cold Coke.  After guzzling half the bottle I made my way to a rendezvous point at the intersection of Routes 20 and 27 where I was meeting my rescue party.  All the mistakes I made along the way had put me behind schedule and I didn't want to miss my ride back home.  I cut my run short by a mile but still manged to bag 30 miles for the day.  Damn, I really wanted that 50K!

The good news is I've completed half of the Bay Circuit Trial with an estimated 103 mile covered so far.  My next run will take me south of the Mass Turpike and one step closer to the shores of Kingston.

Hey, it's summer!

More photos from my Sections 6 & 7 run can be found HERE.

BCT Legs 6 & 7: 28 miles + 2 miles of "wandering'
Surface split: Roads 10.6 + 2.3 paved rail trail,  Trails 15.1 + 2 on grassy meadows
Elevation gain: 960 feet
Highest Point: Strawberry Hill, 327 feet
Start Point: Heart Pond, Chelmsford
End Point: Pelham Island Road, Weyland
Other towns: Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Lincoln,

Green spaces: Nashoba Brook, Spring Hill, Stoneymeade Cons. Land, Annursnac Hill Cons. Area, Hapgood-Wright Town Forest, Walden Pond State Reservation, Mt, Misery, Trout Brook, Castle Hill, Sedge Meadow and Cow Common
Hydration: 100 oz Heed, 50 oz water, 20 oz Coke
Fuel: Gu gel (4) PB&J crackers (12)
Footwear: Brooks Cascadia 5, Injinji socks

Total BCT Legs 1-7: 103 miles
Surface split: 63 trail & dirt road, 33 pavement, 7 paved rail trail.
Elevation gain legs 1-7: 4049 feet
Highest Point 424 feet

BCT remaining: 97 miles

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Find Your Strength

I've always been fascinated with creative people.  They possess a gift that allows them to transform their thoughts, ideas and visions into something tangible for others to enjoy. I recently worked with a large group of creative people shooting a commercial for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital's "Find Your Strength" program.  It was a very enjoyable, educational and exhausting experience.  I never realized the amount of time, effort and creative thought it took to make a 30 second spot for television.  I'd like to thank Monique, Vlad and all the hard working crew for a day I'll never forget.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail Run, Sections 4 & 5 - Cushy Trails, City Streets And A Rail Trail Too!

Saturday morning was a perfect day for a long run.  The air was cool and the cloudless sky a deep blue.  Bill H. and I were off before 9 am to run the 4th and 5th sections of the Bay Circuit Trail.  Although I was looking forward to running the many trails in the AVIS network I was dreading the run through the streets of Lowell.  This section of the BCT from the Merrimack River to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is not finalized so we would have to negotiate the Lowell stretch on our own.  Al French had offered to help me obtain access to the Concord River Trail (currently not open to the public) so I could avoid some of the city streets.  Unfortunately, I decided to run section 5 at the last moment and Al would not have had enough notice to work out the details with the Park Service.

Sections 4 & 5 from Andover to Chelmsford.

The town of Andover has done an outstanding job preserving green spaces throughout the town.  They also keep the trails well marked and maintained.  This was the first time I have not lost the trail during my many miles on the BCT.  Well, almost anyway.  We did make a minor error in Doyle Link but it only added a short distance to the run.  This is what happens when I take the lead. Bill is a good navigator and he has saved my butt a few times during our past two runs.  I decided to follow him the rest of the way.

Running along an esker in Indian Ridge.

West Parish Meadow

Towering trees in Doyle Link.

Water crossing in Harold Rafton Reservation.

We actually saw a deer in Deer Jump though it did not jump.

The trails in AVIS are not technical and many or them are covered in soft duff making for easy and enjoyable running.  It was nice not having to look at my feet for a change!  We hop-scotched from one AVIS reservation to the next by running short sections of pavement before making it to the banks of the Merrimack River.  Here we were able to run an uninterrupted trail until reaching the town of Tewsburry.  In the winter you can continue along the river through a golf course but it's off limits during the other three seasons.  This meant we had to take a 2 mile detour around the golf course via the roads. Yuck! This was just a small preview of the torture to come.

Follow Bill along the Merrimack River.

Much of the trail is close to the river's edge.

If you know "The Rivah" you know exactly where I am!

After skirting around the golf course on the Tewsburry- Lowell line we were back on the river for another mile before hitting 4.5 miles of hell (aka pavement) in Lowell.  I mapped out a zigzag route thought the city trying to avoid the traffic of major roads.  We got a few strange looks from some people on these side streets.  Something told me they didn't see many runners in this part of town.   My feet were really getting sore from the beating they were taking on the road.  I was able to take my mind on the pain at least temporarily, when Bill noting our scenic surroundings quipped, "This the the only trail run where you can get your muffler changed if you wanted too."

Cool trolley car in Lowell.

Did you know Lowell is the mecca for long-distance runners?  All the cool cats hang out at the Ultra Lounge.

After what seemed like an eternity we arrived at the start of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.  The trail is nearly seven miles long but it is all paved. Thankfully, we had parked 2 miles shy of the end at Heart Pond. Still, there was no way my plantar fascia was going to survive another 4-5 miles of pavement.  I was able to avoid most of the pavement by running along the sides on a mix of dirt, stone and tall weeds. 

The beginning of the end.

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Shady rail trail.

I was beginning to feel tired after twenty miles and wasn't sure how many more we had to run.  All along I thought the rail trail was flat until Bill told me we were running uphill.  Sure enough the trail had a slight incline in this direction and it was unrelenting.  I finally told Bill I needed to take a walking break.  After walking for a minute or two I was thinking to myself, " How am I going to get my legs moving again?"  I was beat.  Then, before we started running again, Bill pointed to the right.  When I looked up I saw the parking lot and Bill's car.  I was overjoyed!  What a pleasant surprise and 22 miles on the nose to boot.  Bill suggested I run the remaining miles of the rail trail and offered to wait for me to return.  I thanked him for the offer but declined.  I will save that for another day.

Uphill finish

Our final destination, Heart Pond

After a quick cool down in Heart Pond it was time to pack up and get a move on. Bill drove me back to Andover to pick up my truck and we departed for home.  Bill had the Red Sox game in mind.  I had my mind on a shower and nap.  Yeah, it's tough getting old, but it's better than the alternative.

Until next time...
Many more photos of the run can be seen HERE.

BCT Legs 4 & 5: 22 miles
Surface split: 8.2 trails, 9.4 roads, 4.4 paved rail trail (some of paved rail trail can be avoided by running on soft shoulder).
Elevation gain: 935 feet
Highest Point 220 feet
Start Point: Lupine Road, Andover
End Point: Heart Pond, Chelmsford
Other towns: Tewsburry & Lowell
Green spaces: Doyle Link and Merrimack River Trails.  Indian Ridge, West Parish Meadow, Harold Rafton and Dear Jump Reservations.
Hydration: 100 oz Heed, 32 oz Gatorade
Fuel: Gu gel (2) PB&J crackers (12)
Footwear: Brooks Cascadia 5, Injinji socks

Total BCT Legs 1-5: 68.7 miles
Surface split: 41.4 trail & dirt road, 21.9 pavement, 4.4 paved rail trail.
Elevation gain legs 1-5: 3089 feet
Highest Point 424 feet

BCT remaining: 131.3 miles

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Running In Red Rock Canyon

Last Sunday I took advantage of a drop from the previous days 90+ degree temperatures to run in the desert of Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, Nevada. Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the adult playground and is in marked contrast to the neon, noise and crowed streets of the concrete jungle known as the Las Vegas strip.  

Arriving in late afternoon I didn't have time for a long run so I took the first trail I saw leaving the Visitors Center.  I decided a short out and back was the best course of action given my unfamiliarity with the area and the time of day.  The weather conditions were a bit unusual for this time of year.  The temperature was in the mid-sixties with strong wind and gusts up to 50 miles per hour.  At times it was sunny, but it was mostly cloudy during my run.  I even felt a few drops of rain but that lasted less than a minute.

This was the first time I ran trails west of the Mississippi and I really enjoyed the experience.  I would love to return here some day when I have more time to explore.  The Red Rock Fat Ass 50K in January would be a good way to start off 2012.  Then again, I need time to decompress after living the 24/7 lifestyle of Vegas if only for a few days.

You can view my photos of my Red Rock Canyon run HERE.

And that, I'm afraid, is all I can share about my trip to Vegas. ;-0
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