Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Introducing Tire Drags To My Training...

Things suddenly got real for me when I signed up for the Mogollon Monster 100 race. How was I going to run in that type of terrain when I live in terrain that’s like this______________________.  It's still 3 months away, but I knew I’d have to get creative with my training.
I’ve made several trips to the hill country to get some running in rugged elevated trails, but I can’t afford to make those trips weekly (as much as I may want to).

There are options: Running back and forth over an overpass gets old very quickly. The dreadmill, you ask? Don't even get me started with it. As boring as it may be, it's helped me too, but I felt like there had to be more options out there.

At a friend’s encouragement, I decided a month ago to add tire dragging to my workouts. I was a little intimidated because I’m not the strongest person and wondered if I would even be able to drag this tire. I had no choice but to do it.
The 1st thing I did was tell my dad to be on the lookout for any tire on the side of the road. Being from the RGV, unfortunately, people dump tires on the side of the road almost everywhere. Within a day, my dad called me that he found 2 tractor tires. “Ummm. I was thinking something smaller.” Was my response. “Maybe, like a small car’s tire.”
By the end of the day, he called that he’d found 2. By the way, I was making 1 for myself and 1 for my friend, David, so this was perfect.
Surprisingly, it was very inexpensive to make:
-          8 feet of ¼ nylon rope:          $2.75

-          Screw with a loop head:        $2.50     (full disclosure: don’t know the actual name)

-          Weight belt:                             $19.99
-       Tire:                                           Free
I've seen others wrap the rope around their waist, so I guess the belt could be optional, but this looks too painful/uncomfortable. I even read somewhere somebody posted on FB that a belt for this could be made from duct tape. Nevertheless, I suggest a belt.
I have done 4 workouts (1 x week) the last month using my tire drag. The 1st drag was 1 mile (to test it out) on the street in front of my apartment. The last 3 weeks I’ve increased the workout by 2  miles. I've done runs of 4, 6 and 8 miles.  
In my opinion, the street / paved is a little bit easier than gravel / dirt. 3 out of 4 of my workouts have been in the dirt next to a canal.
The Verdict:
I feel like my quads are getting stronger, and  I think my running is getting stronger too. I’ve made 2 trips to the Hill of Life in Austin in 3 weeks and have done the similar workout (repeats) but with different results. The 1st time we did repeats, I really struggled. They’ve difficult and I earned every single step. This last time, it was still difficult, but I felt more comfortable out there. I think I was even hiking “with a purpose” as I like to call it…and let’s be honest: I hike the uphills on most ultras.
At the 5+ mile point of dragging my tire, my quads feel like that indescribable feeling towards the end of a long trail run when you are drudging up a huge incline. That’s the only other time I’ve felt that way. Simulating that feeling's gotta be a good thing.
It feels as if my core is getting an intense workout...almost like I'm dragging it and doing crunches at the same time. I've been ending my tire drag with a couple miles to cool down (without the tire). At the onset, I'm flying without the added resistance, but suddenly, within several hundred meters, it kicks in...the fatigue. It's running on tired legs, I keep telling myself.
The plan is to increase my weekly tire drag run by 2 miles each week. Tonight, I'm due for 10 miles. I remember that 1st time when I barely could muster 1 mile. It's been 5 weeks since that evening. No joke.
I won’t discount that fact that it might be all in my mind, but even if that’s the case, I’ll take it.
I definitely recommend tire dragging – especially for those of us (as we are fondly known) flatlanders.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A (slow) Freight Train Coming At'cha: PETZL TIKKA RXP review)

I don’t know about you guys, but I have a difficult time running in the dark – even with a headlamp and glasses. I prefer not to run with my glasses, but the reality is I need them. Glasses along with a good headlamp is a must.
A while back, the Valley Running Co.. guru, German Madrazo, told me of a new Petzl headlamp he'd received in his store. He spoke about it with a passion (but then again, German, speaks of anything running with a passion) and that I just had to try it.
Having several Captain Karl's night races coming up within the next couple of months, I was in the market for better lighting.
After being intrigued with the specs of the TIKKA RXP, I gave in and purchased it. My 60 lumen Petzl headlamp was still good enough, but it probably was time to upgrade after several years with it. Besides, you can't really compare 60 to 215 lumen. It's no competition. 
So I gave in and purchased it.  
I used it a couple of time during several miles in the dark and was instantly convinced it was a great deal.
It features REACTIVE LIGHTING technology. Reactive what, you ask? It has a light sensor that allows the light output to adjust automatically. When I first saw this in an ad for the headlamp, I was skeptical. Who better than myself to determine how much light output I need? I was wrong. Sometimes when I’m  running, I just don’t want to turn this knob/button to adjust this, adust that or the other. If this is you, this headlamp is for you. Or should I say, it does it for you. Really. It does.  
It comes with a USB Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, but if you are out running for hours and hours like myself and a couple of my friends, you may want to invest in extra battery packs (my plan is to have a couple charged battery packs in my vest to switch out). This would allow to for having it on max all the time. I'm not a big on having it on a lower setting to extend battery life -  I need the max light and that’s all there is to it.  
 The highest setting offers 215 lumen lasting 2.5 hours. The medium setting offers 160 lumens at 5 hours, and the lowest setting offers 70 lumens for 10 hours. Even at the lowest setting, it is an improvement over my previous headlamp.
Last night, I truly saw it at work. I had a somewhat long workout to complete. Although I started early in the afternoon, I knew the possibility of ending up running in the dark was high, so I took my headlamp with me. Just in case. I’m glad I did because I ended up running along a darkened canal and street for about an hour.
Part of my run went through a shopping center, by the way.
As I started running through the canal, I had a huge spotlight lighting the way. As I turned towards the trees, my spotlight followed.
As soon as I hit the shopping center parking lot, the light dimmed. Just as advertised…it sensed that I didn’t need the huge spotlight. Nice.
Less than ½ mile later, I was going down a tiny darkened road. There was no side walk, and as I crossed the street, I noticed that incoming cars were slowing down before they even came close to me. I guess I looked like an incoming vehicle to them. A slow incoming vehicle, of course.
I'd strongly recommend getting a good headlamp with adequate lighting. In the summer time, we all tend to start running later because of the heat and inevitably end up running in the dark. Plus, we all know that it's just us runners against the vehicles out there. Always assume a driver doesn't see you. With the TIKKA RXP, they won't be able to miss the freight train that is you coming.
To my running friends considering running the local night racing series such as the Red White & Glow 10k, Rock the Night 10k or Firefly 10k, I suggest you seriously run to VRC and consider your choice of lighting. When you're running a darkened trail alone and think you heard a noise behind you..you'll thank me. Trust me.