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Nov 30, 2012

New Winter Jacket / Beanie

Rest day on the schedule today.


Yesterday in the mail I got my delivery of new running stuff from Running Warehouse(com).  I purchased a new winter Jacket for this season.  I've been running with a NorthFace jacket and it's served me well and continues to be a great jacket but I purchased another one so I could swap out jackets on a daily basis.  Here's what I got:
Pearl Izumi Infinity Windblocking Jacket
It's the Pearl Izumi Infinity Windblocking Jacket.  This thing is built for winter.  In fact, it's rated for temperatures BELOW 30 degrees.  Yes, you read that right, I want to stay out in the winter in colder temps.  Ha.  Ok, not really but if I'm going to be out there, I might as well be comfortable.  This thing has it all:
  • Wind and water resistant
  • Breathable
  • Thumb holes
  • Built in mittens
  • Zipper Jacket on the neck
  • Two hand pockets and a rear zipper pocket
  • Active moisture transfer material with a soft-shell
  • Reflective on both front and back
  • Warm!
The best part about it?  This jacket was on sale for just under $80.  I used my Running Warehouse gift cards, which I got for 20% off the price of the gift card so the bottom line price --- $64!!!!  How awesome is that?  It's a $135 jacket if you go to Pearl Izumi's website.

The other item I purchased is a Salomon beanie:
Salomon winter beanie
This is one of the most comfortable beanies I own!  The unique thing about it is that it has two sleeves on the side to allow your glasses to fit on your head properly.  A really great design for a winter hat.  Glasses stay on and in place and your head stays warm too.  This one was a bit more expensive but still only under $20(with my 20% discount from the gift card and a 10% regular discount) for a quality winter hat.
I'm ready for what winter brings me.
Of course, now that I'm ready, it's going to be in the 50's this weekend.  Haha!  I'll take it though.

Full reviews to follow on both after I run with them about about a month or so.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Nov 29, 2012

Book Review: The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges

Recently, I sent an inquiry asking to review the book:  The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges by Richard Hoad and Paul Moore.  As many of you may have seen in the past, Velopress is a publisher of numerous books for runners, triathletes and cyclists.  In fact, I also just finished reading Hanson's Marathon Method, another outstanding book published by Velopress as well.  Check out their website for other titles available.

Here's the book Velopress sent:
Hard cover book
The book is a collection of 50 events around the world.  These events are not only running events, but also triathlons, biking events, trail races, canoe adventures, swim events, Ultra marathons, Kayaking events, cross county running, skiing or cycling events, dog sled races, hiking adventures, ocean rowing and sailing races.

Some events are in extreme heat while others are in extreme cold.  All are extremely interesting to read.  The book is organized through the various continents including Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, South America, Antarctica and Cross-continent challenges.  I'm sure some of the events you have heard about - especially running events like the Western States 100 or the Comrades Marathon but many of the event I've never even heard of.
Sections broken down by Continent
The book is a very easy read.  Of course, I also love reading about adventures that most people, including myself, only dream of doing in their lifetime.  I received the book on Friday and I had read the entire book, all 205 pages, by Saturday evening.  The book is also organized in a fashion that you could read cover to cover or if you have a particular interest, you could move around the book to read what interests you most first.

Of course, I loved all the running events but all the other sports are equally interesting.  In some events, I found myself wondering how these regular people, as many of them were, are able to train for such tough challenges.  The description of each event starts out with "Key Facts" of the event including things such as the type of sport, the distance, what the main obstacles are.
Key Facts
It then goes on, describing the details of each event, that it feels like you are there.  Even if you don't feel that way when reading it, once you see all the incredible color photographs of the event, you'll be mesmerized by it.  I gazed at them in amazement and with wishes of being there.  I found myself reading and inspecting the photos and also assessing myself and whether I could see myself in that challenge.  Haha!  Alas I'm not sure I'm up for most of the events which makes it incredible to think that many that are taking the challenges are people like you and I who must work for a living and train as a hobby.  
Incredible photos
Sorry, mine don't do it justice
Some of the events, though, are so tough, that you need to qualify at other races or be invited to the event in order to even get into them.  The majority of the locations of these races take place in extreme areas as well such as the mountains of Switzerland or the shark infested waters off South Africa or the wilderness of the Yukon.

Along with each event, there is a portion of the race description, detailed by an athlete perspective.  In my opinion, it was one of the best ideas of the book and one of the most interesting.  It's like a race review of a participant, how they trained, what they endured and how they triumphed to complete the event.  Many of them finishing in the top of the race.
Athlete Perspective section
It truly is an inspiring book and I feel most of you would have a great interest in it as I did.  The book is available online and in stores now.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I received a complimentary copy of "The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges" in exchange for a review of the book.  I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a particular opinion on the book.

Nov 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 11/28/12

Coming soon - Review of the Brooks Ghost 5

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Nov 27, 2012

So many 2013 spring race choices....

Rest day on the schedule today.


As I continue to put together my race schedule for 2013, it always seems that April/May/June is a very busy time for races - specifically half marathons and it's really tough to choose what to race when without getting over trained.

I've already got two races on my schedule for March 2013 which include:

I have run both of these events and both have been excellent races in the past.  If you have not run a Kona Running Company event before, ShamRock N Roll is their first race of the season.  Also, the Rock CF Rivers Half is a great run around the Island of Grosse Ile to help support those with Cystic Fibrosis.  I love the race because it's one of the few half marathons you can run in Michigan in March to help get your season going and/or prepare you for a full marathon in April so check out both of these races to get you started in the spring season of 2013.
Kona Races
Rock CF
Here's some other half marathons in Michigan coming in April/May/June:

  • April 13 - Invasion of Races, Dearborn*
  • April 13 - Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, Grand Rapids
  • April 14 - Go the Extra Mile for Covenant Kids, Saginaw
  • April 21 - Lansing Marathon/half (* I'm already signed up - first time running this)
  • April 27 - Let's Move Festival of Races, Mt. Clemens*
  • April 27 - Trail Marathon/half, Pinckney
  • May 5 - Kalamazoo Marathon/half, Kalamazoo
  • May 11 - River Run 25k(15.5 miles), Grand Rapids
  • May 19 - Back to the Beach, Shelby Township*
  • May 25 - Bayshore Marathon/half, Traverse City*
  • June 2 - Dexter to Ann Arbor, Dexter
  • June 8 - Kona Run 10 mile, Northville*(I count this because it's like running a half)
  • June 22 - Charlevoix Marathon/half, Charlevoix
  • June 29 - Lions of Michigan Foundation half, Oscoda

If I missed any others, I apologize, or let me know what what I missed.  My point is that there are so many races in Michigan to pick from(which is awesome!) over this mid April to end of June time period, how do you pick?  I wish I had the stamina and money to do them all.  For the record, I put a star next to the ones I have run in the past.

Also, for those of you looking to run Bayshore this year, a reminder that registration is December 1.  My suggestion is to sign up that morning as soon as it opens or you may not get in(especially for the half marathon).  I believe it filled in a few hours last year.

How about the others on this list, have you ever run any of the other events that I have not raced?  If so, leave a comment here on your thoughts of the race.  I'd be interested to hear them!

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I am a race ambassador for both the Kona Races(and compensated blogger) and Rock CF this year.  While neither required me to post their information, I did receive a free entry into each of their events to do a race review on their 2013 events.

Nov 26, 2012

Injinji Outdoor Series toesock Review

As many of you have probably read in my past reviews, I love running in the Injinji brand socks.  I've also shared that I can't believe I actually like to run in them since they feel funny when you first start wearing them.  I never thought I'd like them.  I was completely wrong!  These are some of the best pairs of socks I've ever worn and I'm so glad that I tried them out because I'm a customer for life.

I've been running in Injinji for the past season.  You can read my past review on their Performance series socks HERE.  My past review allowed me to try out their Performance style socks in both a lightweight and a mid-weight interface.

This time around I asked Injinji(via Scott at Outdoor PR) for a pair of their Outdoor series socks.  The key difference in the Performance and the Outdoor series is the material used to make them.  Both have the toe design, arch support, vector heel and dual welt band making them both equally comfortable - at least in my opinion.  Here's what he send:
Outdoor Series

The difference is in the materials to make the toesock.  The Outdoor series is made with 70% nüwool(Australian Merino Wool), 25% nylon and 5% lycra.  The Performance series is made with 70% CoolMax, 25% nylon and 5% Lycra.  Since I was looking for something that would provide more warmth, I figured the Outdoor series would be a great sock for testing in cooler/colder months.

I've been able to run in them the last several weeks and I continue to love everything that I love from their other socks.  They help keep blisters away, made with high quality in mind, they fit perfectly and they remain in place.  Now Injinji does not make any claims that their outdoor series is perfect with cold weather but given it's wool blend, it helps keep your feet warmer.

I will say that I probably need more protection than this sock for weather colder than 25-30 degrees.  I took a couple runs in the low 20's this season and my feet were pretty cold.  I'd say that these are perfect though for that cooler day from 30-45 degrees give or take 5 degrees.  They are also great for running on the trails or for hiking which is what Injinji geared these for so I'd say on the trail, the temps can be much higher since wool helps wick the moisture away.

I typically like wearing a mini crew length but actually preferred the crew length in colder times to help keep me warmer.  Although I'd probably opt for mini-crew if I were going to run the trails in warmer weather.
Crew length
Crew with Nüwool
Still the great Injinji fit
Actually, my favorite pair of socks I've ever run in are Injinji's mini-crew, lightweight socks in black.  These were socks I purchased shortly after I reviewed the first Injinji socks I started wearing.  I love that "barely there" feeling but unfortunately that barely there feeling is only great for the warmer seasons.  Do they take a bit longer to put on?  Sure but it's only seconds and not a big issue at all in order to give you the wonderful comfort of the socks.  Give them a try.  I think you will be surprised by the comfort of any of their socks.  If you go to their website now, they have a great sale going on but it ends today(November 26th) so hurry.

Interested in learning more?

Go visit their website, HERE.

Go visit their Facebook page, HERE.

Go visit their Twitter page, HERE.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Nov 24, 2012

Goals of my race reviews

Cross training on the schedule today.  Ten miles on the bike and also lifted weights.


Just to be perfectly clear, I want to explain the main reason I do race reviews.
  • For runners - to give them an idea what the race was like so they can join in(or not).  With the growing number of races, most runners need to pick and choose wisely for what they want to run since they don't have unlimited funds to race.
  • For race directors - to help them improve their race each year by reading a runners perspective.  It never hurts to have an extra pair of eyes look at something and I think this holds true for races as well.  My hope is that everything I write about a given race is analyzed to make it even better.  Whether some believe it or not, I write these reviews to help improve their race, not bash it.  They are a fair assessment of MY experience.
  • For myself - hey, let's face it, I'm a runner, so I want every race to be a success because I love that the Detroit area has lots of race choices.  With the growth of our sport over the last couple years, races are an important part of our sport and one that I personally enjoy and want to continue to support.
My goal is to provide a fair and honest opinion of my race experience.  That being said, I review the race like any other runner would review it.  I join the crowd and see how the chips land.  I don't see all the details of the planning and I realize that the planning is a huge logistical challenge no matter the size of the race.  I try to review it like any other runner would critique a race and those categories are registration/packet pickup, start area, course, aid stations, finish area, amenities, organization and overall.  The key to my reviews are always honest opinions no matter what happened.  Frankly, I've not had really bad experiences at most of the races I've reviewed.

Some races are much better than others, but overall, most are enjoyable experiences - even the ones I didn't enjoy as much.  I'm happy to be out there running.  To have to do a race review that is less than complimentary is not something I enjoy writing.  It's not something I want to do.  It's something I need to do.  Brutal honesty is my policy.

"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." - Chinua Achebe

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Nov 23, 2012

Detroit Turkey Trot 2012 Race Review

Short Version:

Finished in 48:33(Official Chip time)
Overall place:  677/7695; top 10%
AG(M40-44) 59/439

Overall Men:  557/3727

Overall the worst race organization I've ever ran in a race.  I love the course because I love running in downtown Detroit but changes must be made or I'll never be back.  And nobody should blame it on the crowd because that can be managed better.  Great weather conditions with the start in the mid 40's.
Registration/Packet Pick Up
This was the simplest part of the race.  Register on-line to select your race.  E-mail confirmation sent to confirm you were registered and you were all set.  You could also go on their website and confirm your registration as well.  Runners without internet access could sign up by mail too.  You could also register the day of the race.  There were people at the race registering that morning but I can't believe the race even allows it with the amount of people that run this race.  It's the largest race in Michigan when figuring in all three races including the 10k, 5k and one mile - 22,100 registered!!!

In regards to packet pick up, you could pick up your bib and shirt at a number of locations about three weeks before the race.  Just show up at the allotted times and give them your name and they assign you a bib right there.  Because of this, it didn't matter what location you went to.  I liked this feature since my pickup was only about 4 miles from my home.  Frankly, if I had to go to downtown Detroit to pick up the packet before the race, I probably would not sign up for it.  The only issue I had when picking up my packet is that the volunteers that were supposed to show up, didn't.  This left the bank employees there to do it but they got through it just fine.  I only had to wait about 3 minutes.  Very easy process.

Since I've run the Turkey Trot before, I knew that things would be busy and traffic would get backed up.  
Waiting to park....
sorry for the pic quality - iphone at nice = bad pic
I was expecting it so I left my home about 5:30am and got in my parking spot around 6:45am.  It actually worked out Ok but the freeway at Cobo Hall where the race start is located was backed up.  I can only imagine what it was like by 7am but the race warned everyone ahead of time to get in your parking spot by 6:30am to ensure you didn't miss the race.  

Start Area
Because the start area is on Woodward & Jefferson, I was able to wait with the thousands of other runners in Cobo Hall until the race started.  I had a chance to go use a real bathroom - a bonus in any race.  The lines were huge but moved quickly(at least for the men)  They had the one mile go off first right by Cobo so that helped clear out some of the people as well.  I waited until about 7:30 and headed over to the start line.  It was just two blocks up and one block over.  Having Cobo open for the runners is especially great when it's frigid outside which it clearly was not this year(in the 40's to start)
Waiting at Cobo Hall before the race with thousands of runners
More runners at Cobo Hall waiting to race
View on the walk over to the race start - Ren Cen(GM headquarters)
Notice the traffic still(some race/some parade)
Runners walking to the start line
This was a steady line of people for at least 15 minutes
This is really where things took a turn for the worse in regards to the race.  There were several "waves" indicating where you should be but I didn't realize I went into the wrong one.  
Starting line - oops I'm in the wrong one - too far back
Quick pic before I moved to my correct corral.
No worries - I moved up and got into my correct corral which was the "comet" wave.  Last time I ran the race(2010), it was set up to just line up where you wanted and it was a complete mess.  I thought this year would be better with the waves but I was mistaken. I'm ready to race.  I'm in the correct wave
Too bad so many others are not.
The biggest issue from this is that there are almost 20,000 people running the race and many do not pay attention(or frankly don't care) to where they should be.  While the different "wave" areas were Comet(5-8 minute mile), Blitzen(8-9:30 minute mile), Dasher(9:30-11 minute mile) and Prancer(11+ minute mile), they also had the  Rudolph wave for walkers and many decided to go wherever they wanted to line up.   I signed up for the Comet group and based on my pace, it's exactly where I should have been.

My personal opinion is that if the race is not going to enforce the wave areas(and they were split off separately), then what's the point in having them?  I blame runners too for not going to their correct wave but it's the race management's responsibility to make sure this is organized correctly.  

When I ran the Flying Pig marathon, they had volunteers checking your bib.  If you didn't have the correct bib, you didn't get in the corral you signed up for.  THAT's the way a start area should be done.  It was very disappointing to see all the people that didn't belong in the "Comet" wave including family, strollers, dogs.  Not too many 6 year olds running a sub 8 minute mile.  While I understand this is a "family oriented" run, please race organizers, change the rules and don't allow these things in a faster paced wave or don't allow them at all.  In addition, it probably makes sense to start the race further along on Woodward as, once again, there were runners that were backing up to Jefferson.  It could easily be changed as the turn around later in the race could be adjusted to allow for the same distance.

The course was similar to what I've run in the past.  I love running downtown Detroit and this course does not disappoint.  It's a nice course overall and you get good views of the city while running it.  It's one of the main reasons that I go to the race.  That being said, they could change the route to make it better for the start/finish areas.
Detroit Turkey Trot course via Garmin
Unfortunately, the course was not well marked.  Because there is a split for the 5k/10k courses, there needs to be a HUGE sign pointing the direction to go.  If you have ever run the Detroit marathon, it's very clear where the split between the half and full are and this is what they need for the Turkey Trot.  I was lucky enough to hear a volunteer calling out to turn right at the split(for 10k) but I know this was also an issue in the past where runners did not hear it and ended up running the 5k in error.  Of course, I don't wear headphones so I didn't miss it but they needed more signs.  I also think that because of the size of the race, headphones should not be allowed.  There's way to many people in the race to be wearing headphones and it's frankly not safe.  Overall though, I love the course.

It started off quite slow and I had to run around an incredible number of people.  Of course, had they been where they were supposed to be running, I would not have had to do that as much but it slowed me down quite a bit.  I was a little worried about my knee as it has been giving me issues but overall, I felt good and really did not push things too hard.  I really could have pushed it harder but I didn't see the need to since I'm not really even training for anything at this time.  Given what happened at the finish, which you will read below, I'm glad I didn't push it harder.  We had an incredible day for weather with temps in the mid 40's to start and finishing in the low 50's.  Probably one of the best days weather wise on Thanksgiving.  Here's a look at how slow things were at the start and finish:
See how slow it was at the start and finish.  Super flat course.
Ah, yeah, extremely slow at the start.
Note I turned off the Garmin early(0.02) in error
Just shows you how slow the finish was given the time difference.
Running on Woodward near Comerica Park/Fox Theatre
This is why I like this race!
Beautiful sun coming up
MGM Grand Casino(and the only port-o-potties I saw the entire time including start/finish)
Second turn around in the course in Corktown
Heading back to downtown
Back in downtown
Love running downtown Detroit
Almost to Cobo.  This area was packed with runners but it's hard to tell from this picture
Slight hill at Cobo
Slight downhill near cobo
As you may have noticed, I'm starting to get used to carrying my camera on the run.  Not all the photos are perfect but I'm working on improving my photos while still maintaining a consistent speed.  For the record, when I take pictures on the course, I don't slow down so I'm not causing issues on the course.

Aid Stations
There seemed to be plenty of aid stations on the course as I had seen water stops at plenty of spots.  I carried water so I can't remember how many there were but more than enough.  I would say for the number of runners though, there were not enough volunteers out there at these stops.  One water stop I only saw four volunteers.  Not only is that not fair to the runners, it's not fair to the volunteers.  They also had a Candy Cane and Cookie aid station which I think is a fun idea although most of the runners at my pace didn't grab anything since really, who is going to eat a cookie during a 10k run?  It was a fun idea nonetheless.

Finish Area
This was probably the biggest mistake of the entire race.  Last time I ran the race, the finish area got a bit backed up but not like it did this year.  Runners were walking at the end of the race before the finish.  Yes, I'm not kidding, people had to walk because things got so backed up.  I stopped my Garmin at the first timing mat thinking that was the end but we still had more to go but could not go anywhere.  I'm told that it got even worse as more people started to come in.  
Things like this on the course, while cool to see, are frustrating if you want to actually run the race.
Yes, four runners were pushing this.
Note I am walking here.  See the clock ahead to the left.
Walking at the finish line.  That's a first for me(and hopefully the last)
I would say that if you kept at least my pace or less, you were affected by it but not like some of the people in the 9+ pace group.  This back up was unacceptable.  Nobody should have to walk at the finish because of a backup.  Now please don't get me wrong, I understand this is a "fun run" but there is no reason, in my opinion, to even have the finish right at Cobo Hall.  I also understand that the food is there as well, but jeez, we could walk back to it if needed or put it someplace else.  The race organizers need to find a better place to finish the race.  I'm sure with the parade getting ready and people coming in for the Lions game does not make logistics easy, but something has to change or they are going to start losing runners in future years.

One thing that really slowed things down was the race medals.  There were many volunteers handing out medals but I don't think many runners realized that everyone was going to the first two or three volunteers.  Many of the volunteers were sitting there with nothing to do because most runners had their medal by the time they got to where they were standing.
Still in line waiting for the medal and to get into Cobo Hall for food
Huge back up but at least we're past the finish line; not true for those behind us.
It would have been very easy to hand out the medals inside of Cobo Hall.  I don't really need it right when I cross the finish line.  It would have helped not back up the place if runners would have received their medals after they went through the food lines.  Apparently, the race also ran out of medals as well.  I don't understand how this can even happen?  You have a certain amount of people registered, you buy a certain amount of race medals.  Nobody gets a medal that does not have a bib.  Seems pretty simple to me.  Purchase more medals than registrations to ensure you don't run out.  The race organization did tell everyone that did not get a medal that more would be ordered so everyone would get one soon.  At least they are correcting the issue.  I'm sure many of the kids who raced were extremely disappointed not to get their medal and I felt bad after reading about it when I got home.  Many adults were upset too(for themselves) but frankly it's not that big a deal for an adult as long as the race is making good on it later.

After the finish, we lined up to get food the race was offering.  They offered bananas, apples, pretzels, cookies, candy canes and bagels.  
Waiting in line to get food
Here's the food line
There was also water but the water was still mostly packaged up when I got there.  Why it was not ready the day before I don't know.  In addition to the finish line food, you received a long sleeve tech shirt, a race medal, police support on the roads along with the candy cane/cookies on the course.
Tech shirt; many don't like it.  It's Ok - not my favorite either
Sticking to two colors is much better in my opinion.
Race medal - awesome!
Great design for the medal - love it.   Well done.
Back of medal
The organization of the registration and packet pick-up was good.  However, from the start line confusion to the course not marked enough, from not enough volunteers to not enough port-o-potties(I didn't even see any except on the course) and the completely unacceptable finish line back up.  This was the most disorganized race I've ever run.

Now I want to make it clear that I was not expecting to PR at this race.  It's way too large of a race, there's too many new runners/walkers to even think of trying to PR at a race of this size but that does not excuse all the errors that happened today.  It's clear that the race organization needs to either get someone else to organize the race or find some additional individuals that have an interest in trying to make the race better.  It seems that they hold up their hands and say, "Hey, its a large race, what can we do?" to which I say fix the issues or risk losing runners to your race for next year.  Please learn from your mistakes and make it better.  As for me, will I run it again?  Probably but I don't think I'll be running it anytime soon(not next year for sure) until I get a clear picture that things have improved. 
Another race completed!
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I paid for my own entry into this race and was not compensated in any way for this review.  All opinions in the race review are my own.