Winter sandal running (running snowshoes?)

I think I might be obsessed with running in Luna Sandals. I either run with no shoes or I am wearing sandals. This would be perfect if I did not live in upstate NY where my aversion to treadmills and addiction to running mean I often find myself running in temperatures well below 0 Fahrenheit or on slush filled roads or both. What is a crazy sandal runner to do?

Staying warm

When I first started Winter running, I remember a post snow storm run on slush filled roads in Vibram Five Fingers. I remember it well, because I could not feel my toes for the next day. I figured that there had to be a better way. I did some google searching and found some guy in Colorado that ran in snow with boiled wool tabi socks and Luna sandals. The original blog I found seems to be gone now, but he has this web site: mindyourheadcoop.org.  Apparently running barefoot is good for head injuries. He had found a couple of options for tabi socks on etsy. (here is my blog about the discovery http://blog.timesunion.com/running/winter-barefoot-running-and-half-marathons-boston-week-4/8947/).  There were two options and I ordered both of them. The cheaper one fell apart pretty quick.

However, the custom boiled wool version here: http://mollyspurl.com/running-tabi-socks.html have been awesome. We have gone many places together. Braved blizzards and stepped in frozen streams, all the time keeping my feet toasty warm. Sadly all good things come to an end. The socks have worn a few big holes in them, one in the heel and one in the big toe.

Somehow they still manage to keep me warm. However, the sight of bare skin while on top of a snowy mountain has started to worry me. The obvious choice would be to order a new pair, but Molly seems to be taking an extended break (possibly permanent) from making awesome wool tabi socks for crazy sandal runners.

I do have a plan to repair those socks, but finding a new source of wool tabi socks would be the best long term strategy, and I like to help others run in the winter with sandals as well. There are some other options like fleece (plastic) tabi socks. I have several pairs of those and they are great for some days but not all days. They do not do well when the temperature too far below  0 F. The are no good at all in salty slush.  For dry road runs in “normal runner” winter weather they are great. However, for mountain adventures snow storms and extreme cold, boiled wool is the only way to go.

After some searching on etsy, I found these https://www.etsy.com/listing/174232914/new-style-toebiter-tabi-slippers-made-to?ref=pr_shop.  Which is actually the same person that was selling the cheaper tabi socks years ago. The new version are custom made to your foot. You send a foot tracing in, and in a pretty short amount of time you get some custom tabi “slippers”.IMG_20170401_100642

The seem very solid. The foot bed is industrial pressed boiled wool, and the upper part is made from old boiled wool sweaters. This gave me some concern at first since the upper part is more breathable than the thick molly’s socks I have grown to love. However, I have been able to put them to the test (since winter is refusing to leave now that it finally got here), and so far they have been fantastic. I have run in deep wet snow, stepped into a frozen stream in the middle of a two hour run, and done a post snow road run with slush and below 10 F temps. I think they could also be used in milder weather without overheating like the molly’s socks do.  Although winter is nearly over, I am going to declare victory on the search for a replacement sock, thank you Daphne!

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Traction

Now that we can stay warm, what about slipping and sliding on ice? For roads you can get away with any sandal with some sort of tread. However, for trails with snow and ice, yaktrax work pretty well. But for serious stuff I am now a huge fan of microspikes.  I have run up and down mountains with ice, rock and snow and the spikes make me feel like spider man. They fit perfectly over the the original Luna monos, and should work with any thickish Luna sandal.  An extra benefit is that they keep the snow from gathering under your toes and creating little snow balls that eventually turn into ice rocks.

Wet snow Moreau and “running snow shoes”

In what I hope will be the last snow run of the season, I “ran” my favorite trail 15K loop at Moreau Lake. The trail has about 2K of elevation and can be tricky to navigate in the summer. In the snow when the trails are painted white everything looks the same and it can be hard to follow the markers. I was about half way when I encountered some fresh tracks in the snow. Looked to be a man, woman and a dog out for a hike. I picked up the pace as I did not have to keep trying to find the trail.

I eventually caught up to the young couple and their dog. I thanked them for making such nice tracks. The woman said, “wow, those are cool running snow shoes”. I explained that they where actually sandals with microspikes and wool socks. She just looked back at me with nothing to say. I thought about asking them where they parked so I would not follow the tracks to the wrong place, but I didn’t. I proceeded to follow the tracks and enjoyed a really nice decent that should not have been there…  After half a mile I did not recognize the red trail markers or a nice down hill at that point. I stopped and headed back up. Of course I ran into the couple and the dog again, this time I asked them where they parked and sure enough it was not where I parked. They even apologized for leading me astray, I assured them it was totally my fault. Back to the untracked trail and getting lost every other marker. I eventually made it out in one piece.

Summary

With Luna Sandals, wool tabi socks, and microspikes, you can run in any winter weather on any surface.

Here is the strava from the Moreau loop: https://www.strava.com/activities/923633574

If you purchase some Luna Sandals please use this link to save 10% and get me some monkey points: http://r.sloyalty.com/r/usujK17DWNhS

 

 

 

Best laid plans of mice and runners (Celebration Florida Marathon race report)

How did I get into this?

About three months ago M says he is going to run the town of Celebration Florida marathon at the end of January.  I like to run marathons, and I like going to Florida in January as well. Figuring I would be shot down, I mentioned the idea at home, and it was surprisingly well received as we could also visit with family. Southwest tickets were pretty cheap for a quick round trip to Orlando. A plan was hatched.

The plans

Upon turning 50, my qualifying time for NYC marathon became 3:14 or better. That became part of the plan. In addition, I wanted a better starting time for Boston this Spring. I qualified at the very hot Boston last Spring with a 3:26.  Not a great seed time, but enough to get an old guy to the starting line. The last day to change your Boston qualifying time happened to be 1/29/2017, so that became another plan. The final plan would be qualifying for Boston in 2018.

The Journey

I dusted off my Advanced Marathoning book, and started in with a 12 week program based on the 70 mile a week plan, although I modified it to be a 60ish mile a week plan. T and J were always up for a long or hard run, making the training fun.Global warming also helped with not so much snow and mild temperatures for upstate NY weather. For most of the Winter I was actually to run on the Zim Smith treadmill.zim This is pretty flat run/bike path that goes for about 17 miles without having to worry about cars or traffic most of the way. It is the closest to a treadmill that I run. Normally in the winter this is a snowmobile/ski trail, but for most of this year it has looked a lot like the picture above just without the green.

I had some great long runs with J, T, and even A.

Getting there is half the “fun”

Race weekend arrived in what seemed to be no time at all. As my wise brother told me time appears to go by faster the older you get because each day is a smaller percentage of your whole life. This seems to hold for running as well, the longer I have been running the quicker a 12 week training plans goes.

What state is Orlando in?

The flight to Fla. was uneventful and even early. We quickly moved through the airport to the rental car desk. To my chagrin, we quickly discovered that I had booked the rental car in NC instead of Orlando. Obviously, that was less that useful to us. Unfortunately, there was some sort of sports event going on in Orlando and all they could rent us was a compact car. We walked over to the car and it was tiny, think clown car tiny. We managed to squeeze in our 3 roll-ons and 3 backpacks. Before we pulled out, the family gave me the look that the vehicle was less than adequate. I returned to the desk and pleaded for another option, although stiimg_20170127_191241ll smallish the next choice had a trunk that held all of our stuff.

 

Made it to the Expo on time

The rental car incident ate up all the extra time we gained with the early flight. The plan included picking up the race bib before the Expo closed at 8:00 pm. Like a well-oiled machine, we arrived at the Expo 4 minutes before 8. Bib pick up went smoothly and I even won a drawing granting me an extra shirt from the previous year. The only hiccup being the sandal un-friendly timing chip. It attaches to your shoelaces… At least I would have a day to figure that one out. We obtained a reservation at Columbia a very nice Cuban restaurant at 9, giving us just enough time to check into the hotel before dinner. After staying up way too late watching Shannara Chronicles on Netflix, it was time to sleep.

Visit Daytona Beach

The next morning, I ran the traditional 4 easy miles before a marathon.(https://www.strava.com/activities/846991184). It gave me a good opportunity to check out the start line for the next day. When I returned we made a quick trip to the local Publilx grocery store for some breakfast shopping. The kids were still sleeping. After shopping and eating, we departed for Dayton Beach where I spent my teenage years. The trip went well with a visit to the Kale Cafe, a fantastic vegan food and smoothie restaurant. We even made it for a short visit to the beach which even on a cold day always manages to inspire.

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The Race

The race started at 7:00 am, which is pretty early for a marathon, and kind of nice because it meant I would be done at a reasonable time. However, it did mean I had to get up early. I like to stop eating and drinking an hour before a marathon, so I set the alarm for 5:30. I ate a few sprouted grain almond butter and honey sandwiches chased down with chia and tart cherry juice then climbed back in bed for a little while. We left for the start at about 6:30 taking the same route I had run the previous morning. The weather was cold for Florida (48 F) and raining. I decided to wear my llama hat and some gloves. I debated barefoot or Luna sandals and decided on the sandals because of the rain and lack of barefoot training during the past 12 weeks.

I made it to the start line with about 5 minutes to spare, which makes for a perfect start to the race. Since it was overcast and still a bit dark, I found it hard to read the pace on my Fenix 3 GPS watch for the first few miles and went a little fast. The marathon had 400+ runners, and the half marathon had about 1700 runners. Since the half and the full shared the course for the first 12.5 miles, it meant for a big crowd. However, I started near the front and never felt crowded.

At mile 4, I ran past the hotel where Naomi was cheering me on, and I was able to ditch the hat and gloves. For some reason 48 and rain is warmer in Florida than in NY.

 

The course is mostly roads, except for the celebration-04boardwalks starting around mile 7. These are wood planked walk ways elevated over Florida swamp land. They seem to be expressly designed to keep people from running on them. They have lots of twists and turns and are of course slippery when wet. Fortunately, the planks only cover about a mile of the course.

As I approached the 12.5 mile point in the race, lots of happy halfers were glad to be done with the race as they picked up the pace and headed for the barn door. For me and the other marathoners it was back out for another lap. I held on to my target pace until around mile 18.  The second round of boardwalks gave me even more of an excuse to slow down (it is all such a mental thing).

In the last mile, I am pretty sure I was passed by number 1 and 2 in the 50-54 age group, I was just out of steam running in the 8’s.  Can’t say I was hurting bad, just not going terribly fast. I crossed the finish line at 3:19:31 my second fastest marathon ever. Not the 3:14 NYC qualifier I was shooting for, but not a bad marathon for the first one of my 50s. Here is the strava data.

I put in my time on the Boston page as it was 7 minutes faster than my BQ time and should push me up in the starting line in April. As another bonus I am now qualified for Boston 2018 by more than 10 minutes. That should allow for an early stress free registration. Next race will be Boston this April, and since I am qualified already if the weather cooperates, I plan on going for a barefoot run from Hopkinton to downtown Boston.

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Here I am with my award for 3rd in the 50-54 age group. You can see the timing chip that I had to attach to one of my wife’s hair bands wrapped around my ankle.

Heading home

We spent the rest of the day at the hotel with my sister in law and nephew.  As we watched the news unfold my youngest created a sign on a pizza box to bring to the airport to join in the protest of the travel ban. However, by the time we reached MCO he was the only one protesting.

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The trip home thankfully was uneventful and we arrived home a little early.

Recovery

My calves were about as tight as they have ever been. I guess that is the result of 26.2 very flat miles. From an 11 minute per mile 3 mile run on Tuesday to an 8:52 paced 13 miles on Sunday the recovery went well, and I would say eight days out and I am close to 100% back in business, can’t wait for Boston!

Oh yeah, looks like Winter is back as well:

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Touching the sky (and microspikes are awesome)

 

On New Year’s day 2017, after sleeping in a bit late, and futzing with the woodstove for a bit too long, and packing a bunch of stuff in some small packs my friend J and I left my cabin in Wilmington for a run up Whiteface memorial highway. The temperature was warm for winter at about 28F, but the winds were vicious and howling. J reported that the mountain tops were -15F windchill. I was wearing boiled wool tabbi socks with Luna Sandal Mono’s. I had a fleece neck warmer and my favorite knit alpaca hat from Peru. I was wearing long REI running pants, a long sleeve half zip winter tech shirt and my favorite blue all weather running shell. After about a mile down the road we both were feeling pretty warm and maybe a bit overdressed.  

The wind was blowing pretty hard but mostly making a racket and not freezing us at all. Heading down the dirt road with mountains looming ahead the day’s adventure was looking to be a great one. HONK!  Yikes, we both about jumped out of our skins as a pickup truck snuck up on us. The man and woman in the pickup truck apologized for honking at us, but said they had been following us for a while and really just wanted to get by. Apparently the wind and light snow cover on the dirt road was an effective pickup truck silencer. Fortunately for us the pick up truck meant us no harm and the people were very nice (love quiet country roads and the people that travel them).

At a mile and a half we made a left turn and headed for the “big” 4 way intersection in Wilmington.  At the intersection we turned right and started the climb. The Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway, is the only road that goes up one of the ADK 46 high peaks and was completed in 1935. The last 5 miles of the road are a toll road that is only open during the summer. In the winter that section of the road is not plowed and is usually covered in snow. As we climbed the plowed section of the road we passed the famous North Pole one of the original outdoor theme parks which opened in 1949.  I am pretty sure I remember a sign noting the elevation of the North Pole at 1700 feet. When would this run get started…    Continue reading “Touching the sky (and microspikes are awesome)”