Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spanish Peaks Hiking Report

Sometimes it's the path of mistake and uncertainty that turns out the best. The plan was for Jill and I to go on a two day, 23 mile backpacking loop in the Spanish Peaks, about 45 minutes south of Bozeman. Jill found the hike in a book, we had the directions printed out and hit the trail early Saturday morning. about 45 minutes into our hike we came to a junction which the directions sited as being mile 3, our first clue something was wrong, we surely hadn't already gone 2 miles, but we took the trail to the left, leaving the green Meadows dotted with yellow and purple flowers and were swallowed up by the green forest.

We came to the next junction at 4.5 miles marked with signs indicating the which trail the different paths lead to, but none of them lead to the trail we were supposed to be on, again we chose the path to the left, staying on the same 407 Spanish Peaks trail. We left the flat forest floor and began a climb that would weave in an out of the forest, past lakes and streams for another 4+. With the change in elevation came the change in trail surfaces, from mostly dirt single track to mostly rock single track. Not really notable aside from the fact that I was wearing my VFF's. The plan was to start in VFF's and switch to my cross country flats when my feet start to hurt, but upon arriving at the trailhead I realized I forgot my flats, and I surely wasn't going to wear my hiking boots, so it was VFF's or nothing.

About 4 miles into the climb we reach the next trail junction. By this time we were certain we weren't going to complete our predetermined look, but the mountains were beautiful, and we decided to follow the trail where it leads us. Neither one of us had been in the Spanish Peaks before and didn't know what to expect. With it's green Meadows and tall grey jagged peaks, we both agreed it reminded us of Glacier National Park. The thing I love about hiking in the mountains that I can't get while hiking or running in the forests of the Midwest is the uncertainty of the views that lay ahead. You never know when you're going to pop out into a break in the trees and be greeted with a sprawling view of the mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see, and once you get above tree line, every climb is made with anticipation of what lies beyond.

We again decided to take the trail to the left, which from looking at it seemed to lead over a mountain pass but wasn't clear where it went from there. As I reached eye level to the top of the climb I caught a reflection of the sun in the ground above me. As I took a couple more steps, gaining a couple feet in elevation I could see an alpine lake about 10 feet in front. It was pretty cool to just walk up a mountain and be greeted by a pristine lake with no forewarning.

The lake was just sitting on a break of two mountains about about 7000-8000 feet in elevation the pass was about 100 yards long, and was we followed the trail to the other side of the lake and got our first glimpse of what was beyond, we found our selves staring down into a lush green valley, equipped with a fast network of streams green grass and wildflowers making up the colors of the rainbow. It was such a vast contrast to what we had experienced the last 4+ miles of our hike. We went from rocky mountains to lush green valley in the time it took to butt slide down a 100 yard snowfield.

We followed the trail throughout the valley about a mile before deciding that there could be no better place than this to camp for the night. So we set up our tent, the only residents in the mountain enclosed valley. Well...there was one other resident. A very curious deer that kept making wide circles around our camp site, always coming back within 20 or so feet of us before eating some grass and making another loop. This went on for a couple hours before he finally went to bed for the night.

the next day we made our way out of the valley, climbing up the fallen rock to the side of the snowfield we had sled down, past the lake, down the mountains, through the woods, into the Meadows and back to civilization. Another successful Montana summer weekend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

3.1 miles, 9:04 pace, roads barefoot.

Not only do I have to worry about the sprinkler systems when I run on the sidewalks around my place, but now I have to deal with the tiny pellets of fertilizer the lawn care companies leave scattered all over the sidewalk. Landminds to tender bare feet. Nice little run today. the feet felt good. Achilles still sore when I start but loosens up after a few minutes.

Jill and I will be going on a two day 20 mile backpacking trip this weekend. Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

8.2 miles total RHR:54

4.7 miles, to and from work (took a detour which added a few tenths) VFFs

3.5, trails, XC flats

put in some slow miles today. my legs are a bit weary. I think I'm at the point where I've gone from no training to a moderate amount in a short time, and the training I've done in the past two weeks hasn't had enough time to set in a make me stronger yet, so I'm running out of steam. I should start benefiting from my increased training in the next couple weeks and hopefully things will start continue to progress.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

10.6 miles, roads, 6 miles barefoot, 4.6 miles VFFs, RHR: 56

I'm starting to try a new variation of training. Multiple runs per day of short distance. I'm doing this for a few reasons, 1.) it fits nicely into my schedule. I can run before work, run to work, run home from work, then run in the evening. 2.) I'm hoping that forcing the body to get up and go multiple times a day will improve my recovery time when I increase the mileage further. 3.) I'm hoping the short runs will help me transition into barefoot running more safely, allowing me to perfect my form and toughen my soles, instead of trying to go too far too fast. 4.) I'm always looking to change things up and see what works and what doesn't. So I'm going to try to get in at least three runs per day 2 or 3 times a week for a little while and see what happens.

I had a pretty good day of Barefoot running today. 6 miles total, which is the most I've ever run barefoot in a day. On my runs to and from work I noticed a significant reduction in discomfort from last week when running the same path. There were only a few spots that are still a little shaky. my final barefoot run this evening was a little rough, my soles were a bit sore, but it's nice to no the limits, and I still haven't developed any blisters or any other foot damage.

I've been having trouble with the nutrition side of things as I start to increase my miles. Since I haven't been doing much running for a while, I've been eating less and I need to consciously work increase my caloric intake to make up for the extra calories burned.

I've got some tired muscles from my increased mileage but my body feels good. my only ailments are my left achillies which gets sore after I get back from runs, and needs to be stretched and warmed up before the run, then it feels fine, and the balls of my feet which are a bit brusied from barefoot, but are getting stronger.

3.1 miles, 8:49 pace, roads, VFFs

2.2 miles, 10:33 pace, roads, barefoot, run to work.

2.2 miles, 10:40 pace, roads, barefoot, run home from work.

3.1 miles, 8:42 pace, roads, first half VFFs, second half barefoot.

Things to watch: sore left achillies

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


8.2 miles, 8:24 pace, track and road, VFF's RHR: 55

I got in 8.2 miles today, not exactly what I had planed but it will do. My original plan was to run 10 miles on the track after work...well, my real original plan was to get up and run before work, then run after work, but that didn't happen. So I went to the track around 6:30 and ran four miles but stopped because I ate too much before I went running and the food was sloshing in my stomach. I let it settle for a couple hours then went back out on the roads for 4.2 more miles. Decent daily mileage overall. All in VFF's

things to watch: sore left Achilles

Sunday, July 12, 2009

3 miles, 22:48, VFF's, dirt track

Back on the track for 3 miles to finish out my first week of training at 40 miles.

mile 1: 8:13
mile 2: 7:57
mile 3: 6:37

Weekly total: 40 miles
Ran 10 miles this morning on a dirt track, in my XC racing flats. I love running in the wilderness as much as the next trail runner, but unlike many trail runners I also enjoy going round and round on a 400 meter track. It makes me feel like I have total control over my pace, and I like knowing exactly how fast I'm going, and seeing how much harder I can push myself. I would say it comes from my roots of running track in high school, but I never ran track in high school, so I don't know where it comes from.

I was pleased with my time on the track today. I started of slowly the first mile, then kept a pretty good pace through the next 4 miles, then reigned it back in so I could finish the 10 mile run, then let it fly the last mile. I was happy an surprised that I was able to bust our the last mile in 6:39. This was an excellent workout conisdering my lack of training over the last 6+ months.


mile 1: 8:43
mile 2: 8:11
mile 3: 8:08
mile 4: 7:52
mile 5: 7:34
mile 6: 8:26
mile 7: 8:24
mile 8: 8:21
mile 9: 8:26
mile 10: 6:39

Total time: 1:20:49
overall pace: 8:05
dirt track, XC flats

Saturday, July 11, 2009

7 miles, 8:30 pace, roads, VFF's

felt good, bottoms of feet a bit sore, but no blisters. Felt better than yesterday, probably because I had more sleep.

Friday, July 10, 2009

7.5 miles, VFF's, road, 8:56 pace

I am in Billings today for work, it's a little over 2 hours east of where I live in Bozeman. Billings is the antithesis of Western Montana, Big city, no mountains, both things I would rather avoid. They do of the Rimrocks, which in essence is a rim of rock that goes along the city, other than that it's got nothing for me. I got out for a 7.5 mile run this morning in my Vibrams. It was the longest continual run I've done in months, I felt good, though i was definitely getting tight at the end.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

3 miles, 30 minutes, barefoot

nice and easy. tender feet, but no blisters...yet. I'm learning to relax more which helps ease the pain of stepping on tiny things on the sidewalk, relaxed feet are more absorbent than stiff feet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This afternoon my feet were still tender from my barefoot run to work so I decided to start my run home with my homemade huarache running sandals . These are nice sandals to walk around in but I had never tried running in them, after a few minutes a realized that A.) they were heavy (heavier than anything i've run in in a long time anyway) This is because I used the bottom of an old rubber boot to create my sandals, and B.) they were effecting my foot strike, and causing some foreign stretching in my Achilles, so I ditched the sandals and went barefoot, instantly I felt better. The feet were still tender but I'm learning more and more how to lessen the impact of those tiny pebbles and debris.

A few hours later I went back out for another short run, I started in my VFF's because of tender feet but ditched them for bare feet after about 3/4 mile. I am really starting to realize the difference between minimalist footwear, like the VFF's and barefoot, there's a big difference! VFF's are great for improving running form, but nothing is as good for your form as running in bare feet. With VFF's you're still blocking a lot of the feedback your bare soles get from the ground. You're still able to be a little sloppy with foot placement and dragging your feet off the ground. If you really want to perfect your form, eliminate blisters and injury skip the VFF's and go barefoot. build up short and slow until you reteach your feet how to run. That being said I'm still going to wear my VFF's because I need to step up my training and put in the miles, and right now I can't put in the miles I need to get ready for a 100 miler with bare feet alone. If you need to wear something on your feet VFF's are the way to go!

so I ended up running another 3+ miles bringing my daily total to 7.5 miles. All around 10 minute pace, due to being barefoot and generally just taking it easy. This week I'm not focusing on speed. I'm just putting in some miles to remind my body what it's like to run consistent mileage, something I haven't done in a long time!
I ran to work this morning barefoot. it's about 2.2 miles. The pace was slow (about 10:30) due to teeny tiny pebbles on the sidewalks which can be a pain to a tender foot. I've come a long way in my minimalist running. My lower legs and feet muscle are strong enough to handle barefooting for long distances, but the soles of my feet are still tender, so that's what I'm working on now. I'd like to be able to run a marathon barefoot sometime in the near future.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My official training plan started today for Pony Express. I'm not one for following plans, but I am one for creating them anyway. It's not really a plan yet, as much as it is a vague outline. The only thing I have planned so far is starting at a 40 mile week and adding 5-10 miles per week to peak at 80 miles for a few weeks. the structure of those miles is to be determined, I'll take suggestions. I plan to do some track speed work (because for some reason I'm convinced speed work translates into strong 100 milers) a lot of barefoot road running, mountain running in my XC flats, some biking, and other odds and ends. The barefoot running is going to be my key for toughening up my feet in hopes of avoiding the bruised soles I've received in all my other attempts of 100 miles. I plan to run the race in my XC flats, the same shoes I ran Old Gabe 50k in. I love those shoes, very minimalist, 6 0z each, no support no heel raise, just a little bit of rubber and a mesh upper, perfect! Right now I'd like to think I'll be aiming for a sub 24 hour finish, but I'll judge those chances when the time comes.

Today I ran 3.3 miles barefoot on smooth cement sidewalk at 8 minute pace (some at 9 minute pace, some at 7 minute pace)

Friday morning I ran 4 miles in my VFF's at 8:30 pace on roads, and a gravel path around a lake in Helena. Friday afternoon Jill, Liz and I hiked into the Bob Marshall wilderness and camped at an alpine like at a decent elevation, 7,000 or 8,000 feet, the hike is 6 miles in, but we did at least 7 due to navigational blunders. The lake was beautiful, and COLD! The snow all around the lake was fair warning of the frigid temps but we jumped in anyway. We hiked out Saturday morning, no wrong turns, for 6 more miles. Hopefully I'll get some pictures from Jill to add here later.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pony Express 100

If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that if I'm not working towards something I won't work at all. So I've come up with my latest race goal: the Pony Express Trail 100 in Utah. This is a very low key run, no entry fee, no aid, no markings, no cuttoffs just a dirt road, a hand full of runners and the Utah desert. My girlfriend, Jill will be crewing for me, and there may be another runner from the Midwest that joins me in the fun, although I will keep his name concealed for now. The race is October 16, so I've got 3 1/2 months to get ready, plenty of time. It's one of those "easy" 100 milers with only 7000 feet of gain, run on a dirt road, 50 miles out, 50 miles back, in the middle of nowhere. anybody else wanna come??

Check it out here:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I still haven't run since my race on Saturday, but I feel good. I wasn't very sore at all due to the slow pace. The only thing I sustained, besides very tired muscles, were a few nasty blisters on my toes which have kept me to a walk for the last few days, but that's a small price to pay. I'll take the tape of my feet tomorrow and see how they look and hopefully go for a stroll.