Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Does cushioning in your shoes affect your running?

A blog I follow has a really good synopsis on the potential affects of cushioning in your running shoes. I know that for me, eliminating cushioning in my shoes drastically changed how I run for the better. I feel that I run much more efficiently and am less prone to injuries in my knees and hips because my muscles now absorb the impact instead of my shoes and joints. Check it out:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park - July 2010

Our adventurous family activity for the summer was a family backpack trip in early July in  Rocky Mountain National Park.  We were out in Ft Collins for a week for my sister-in-law's wedding and were able to take a quick break from the planning action earlier in the week for a quick overnight trip.  William was 1 yr 5 mths old and Isaac was 10 months old.  I pulled all my gear together very last minute, but fortunately my gear lists were pretty up-to-date and it didn't take too long.  I decided to see if I could borrow a tent or if I had good fortune, find a Golite Shangri-la 4 or 5 for sale in Colorado.  Neither worked and I was afraid we would be forced to car camp with my soon to be brother-in-law's 20+ lb cabin tent.  I had not brought sleeping pads for the boys, so when at Walmart looking for the cheap blue foam pads, I happened to see they had a relatively lightweight compact 4 person tent.  I decided to pick it up as it was only $30.  It turned out it was only about 6.5 lbs without the stakes... really not too bad at a little over 1.5 lbs per person.  I wouldn't trust it in a storm, but it will be fine for dry, calm weather.

We headed out with two packs and the two kids.  I rented a pair of trekking poles and bear canister from an outfitter in Estes Park and we were on our way.  According to the map, it was 1.7 miles to our campsite (Old Forest Inn Sites) and William was able to walk almost 1.25 miles of that.  Hindsight, I'm really impressed he made it that far.  Unfortunately, we only brought the one kid carrier for Isaac and had to carry William on our shoulders or in our arms.

We picked the lower of the two campsites which was tucked into the convergence of Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River.  It ended up being a pretty good drop-off to the Big Thompson River, so either way I knew that we would have to watch the boys like a hawk.  Between keeping the boys corralled and keeping objects out of Isaac's mouth, we didn't have much rest time, but it was a lot of fun watching them explore and toddle around.  Isaac started walking end of May, so he was getting around pretty good by this time.

We crawled into our tent at dusk and enjoyed some family time in close proximity.  Isaac quickly crashed and we enjoyed watching the stars come out with William and then he fell asleep pretty quickly with both of us out soon after that.  Meg said she would much rather camp out here then back in MN.  She said she preferred the drier weather and campsites.

Heading out late morning the next day, I lightly load Meg's pack with sleeping bags and clothes and sent her on the way down the trail so that I could finish breaking down camp.  She put Isaac in the carrier, pack on her back and took off with William in hand.  I quickly broke down camp and took off after them.  I figured it would be much easier to get the rest of the stuff packed up without the interference of the two boys and it was.  I caught up with them after about a 3/4 mile and by that time William was done so I carried him.  He quickly fell asleep and we walked along with two sleeping boys trying to keep them shaded from the vicious high altitude sun.  We made pretty quick of the remaining mile, but it was pretty brutal carrying the sleeping weight of William along with the heavier pack.    We didn't have hardly any food left and I definitely prefer to have more in case of an emergency... I will have to plan that a little better the next time.

Enjoy some pictures.


This must be fairly early in the hike...  William was still cruising along pretty good here.  I wished we would have had some minimalist shoes for him as he is used to running around barefoot all the time.  The shoes we had for him were quite the clunkers and he was constantly tripping in them.  I wore my Feelmax Osmas and they surprisingly worked quite well.  The have no support and no padding in the bottoms, but were just fine with my 35 lb pack and carrying both boys at times.  William was about 31 lbs and Isaac was about 26 lbs at the time.


Our campsite was up on a cliff overlooking the convergence of Big Thompson River and Fern Creek.  Maybe not the best place for two little boys to be playing.  It was a full time job keeping them corralled in the confines of our campsite.  Our $30 Walmart tent worked quite well for us and will be a great car camping tent for us.  I have since purchased an MLD Supermid with netting around the bottom and am anxious to try that out.  This purchase was primarily for winter camping, but will work great as a small group and family tent.


Having fun in the tent before crashing hard.   The fleece sleepers worked great for them for sleeping in.  Isaac hates having a blanket on him, so bundling him in a sleeper is necessary.


Winding down for the nite in the tent...  We left the canopy off for a while so we could watch the stars.  William loved it!



Enjoying a Starbucks Via and some morning sunshine with the boys.  They loved crawling and climbing around the rocks.  They are quite the adventurous little guys!


Gotta like that view.  We didn't see a whole lot of elevation change from the trail head, it's quite a bit further up to some really spectacular views.  Not really feasible with the two little guys...  Hopefully I can get back out for a solo trip one of my next trips out.


Gotta love this picture.  Beautiful and precious!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Summer's gone, fall is here!!

It's been almost 5 months since I last posted, Wow how time flies and boy has life and work been busy!!  Following my spring Trail Mix 25k race, I discovered that the pain outside of my knee was Iliotibial band syndrome.  I also discovered that the more I ran, the worse it got thus I bailed on the Superior Hiking Trail 25k race and the Afton 25k race.  In fact,  I stopped running all together to let it rest and then started to incorporate more stretching and cross-training into my schedule to hopefully take care of the root of the problem.  As a minimalist shoe runner, I attributed the ITBS to a combination of overuse and a muscle imbalance.  Strange as it was, while the pain was too much to run with,  I was fortunately still able to bike, hike and backpack with no pain.

I'm finally getting back into the routine of running and am experiencing no pain.  I think the key for me is to stay balanced in my cross-training and stretching.  I am eying a couple 5k races this fall and just waiting to see how our family schedule pans out before I commit...

Other blog posts in development:
June 2010 Superior Hiking Trail Solo Trip Report
July 2010 Rocky Mountain National Park Family Trip Report
Backpacking Gear Update

Friday, April 30, 2010

sectionhiker.com Golite Ultralight Down Quilt Raffle






Philip Werner over at sectionhiker.com is raffling off a Golite Ultralite Down Quilt and part of the entry is answering a series of questions.  I thought it be fun to take a stab at the raffle, so here's the answers to the questions I'll be submitting:

1.     1.  How long have you been backpacking and what's the longest trip you've taken?
·         I grew up camping and in my junior years we started going to the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) in northern MN.  The typical group canoed the lakes and carried all their gear including the canoe over the portages (between the lakes).  We packed very heavy with lots of gear and luxuries... but that was all we knew and I'm sure that's the only way “the dad's” would be willing to go.  Fresh out of college, my brother and I went out for our first official backpacking trip.  We did a 13 mile loop called the Angleworm trail up in the BWCA.  Again, way overpacked with heavy gear, we stayed 1 night on the trail, almost started a forest fire and got lost!  Yet still, it is one of my fondest memories of backpacking!  After that trip, I started buying traditional backpacking gear.  The longest trip I have made to date is 5 days.

2.     2.  When did you realize that you needed to reduce the amount of weight that you carried in your backpack? Please explain the circumstances which led you to this conclusion…did you have a bad trip experience, or just figure it out?
·         In the summer of 2006, myself and five of my buddies set out for a 4 day trip on the Superior Hiking Trail.  I had accumulated a fair amount of gear between my boundary waters adventures and car camping, so I felt pretty prepared. I took a lot of time to organize and try to get all six of us guys on the same page as far as our gear. As much as I tried to communicate to them that I had all the essentials covered, they all ended up bringing their own. I guess that meant that I was going to have to carry "more than my share". 
·         I don't know for sure, but I think our packs were probably at 50-60 pounds each... About half way through the second day, my knee started to have some throbbing pain.  Not wanting to swallow my pride and ask for help, I kept pushing right through the pain. By the end of the third day, I was moving very, very slowly and every downhill slope was pure torture. 
·         Upon returning home, I went to visit a sports doc and was diagnosed with Patellofemoral Syndrome. Basically, my knee cap doesn't ride right over the end of my Femur. Why does this happen? Doctor said I'm getting old and too out of shape to "overdo" it on the trail. He recommended shoe inserts and basically to get in shape before I try to "prove" that I am a man on the trail (my own interpretation).  This experience motivated me to quickly get some inserts and then put me down the road of transitioning to lightweight backpacking. And the journey began....

3.     3.   What is the total weight of your big three: backpack, sleeping bag/pad, and shelter?  Please include manufacturer, make and model names, unless homemade.
·         3-Season set-up: Backpack - ULA Ohm (24 oz); Sleeping Bag - JRB Sierra Sniveller (25F - 24.3 oz) or Lafuma Extreme 600 Bag modified into quilt (45F - 18.8 oz); Sleeping Pad - Nunatek Luna Pad (12 oz or less depending on season); Shelter - SMD Wild Oasis (13 oz) - Also have a Tarpent Squall (2 Person @ 27.0 oz) and a Tarptent Rainshadow (3 Person @ 41.0 oz) for when not going solo.
·         Winter set-up: Backpack - Golite Pinnacle (22.1 oz); Sleeping Bag - Combine JRB Sierra Sniveller (25F - 24.3 oz) with Lafuma Extreme 600 Bag modified into quilt (45F - 18.8 oz) plus insulated clothing as needed.  Sleeping Pad - 1 or 2 Nunatek Luna Pads depending on temps (12-24 oz).  Shelter:  SMD Wild Oasis (13 oz - but probably not a good idea in heavy snows) and an Oware Heavy Duty Pyramid (4 person - 90 oz) for group.

4.     4.  Do you own a scale for weighing your gear? If so, what kind? How often do you use it?
·         I have a food scale (up to 5 lbs) and a fish scale (up to 50 lbs).  I have pretty much all my gear weighed and entered into a spreadsheet.  I obsessively pour over my spreadsheet every trip I make to try and figure out ways to lighten my load without spending much money.  Planning for a trip is as much fun as the trip itself for me.

5.     5.  Where are you in the process of going lightweight? What have some of the notable weight reductions in your gear list been? Is there an example of a choice you made between two different alternative gear choices you can explain, or are pondering?
·         I'm pretty much where I would like to be.  Now I just need to find more time to get out and use it.  Most of my adventures are with a group, so I have purchased much of my gear with that in mind.  My backpack and shelter were the two biggest reductions by far.  I am currently trying to find a smaller and much lighter winter shelter than my Oware Pyramid and am looking at an Oware Pyramid, vs an Oware Alphamid vs the MLD Duomid.  I can't for the life of me decide which one I want.  So, I may end up making my own out of tyvek. 

6.     6.   How much has cost constrained the rate in which you reduce your gear weight? Can you cite an example?
·         It's taken about 3 years to get to where I'm at now.  I sold off all my old gear and have bought and sold several renditions of each piece of gear since then.  Almost everything I have for gear was previously used/purchased or on sale. This has saved me a ton of cash. 

7.     7.   What was the largest amount of pack weight you dropped by replacing or eliminating a piece of gear?
·         This is a toss-up between my pack and shelter but the “biggest loser” is the shelter.  My solo shelter used to be a 4-season 7 lb Walrus Rapeede that I sold to buy a 1.5 lb Floorless Tarptent Contrail and then in turn sold and now have SMD Wild Oasis (13 oz + 1.5 oz ground sheet).  Over 6 lbs savings.  My pack evolution has given me a 5 lb savings.

8.     8.    What's your view on the trade-offs between the following types of backpacking gear, for your specific climate conditions and needs? Are you at the stage where you want to try different options or not interested and why?
a.       Down vs. Synthetic sleeping bags?
o   I have both and there are certainly pros and cons to each.
b.      Backpacks with an external frame, internal frame, or no frame?
o   I have an internal frame and a frameless.  Both function great for me.  Normally I use a closed cell foam sleeping pad and this provides the structure (frame) for a frameless pack.  I bought the internal frame because sometimes I use my Big Agnes Clearview pad that would not provide a frame structure for a frameless pack.  My GoLite Pinnacle (Frameless) has a larger volume which I need for my winter camping.  The smaller and compressible volume of the ULA Ohm (internal frame) works great for the low volume packing of the summer.
c.       Double walled shelters, single walled shelters, and tarps and bivies?
o   I don't really see the need for a double wall shelter anymore after using single wall shelters.  With proper ventilation and/or steep walls (pyramid style), condensation can be minimized and/or avoided.  My bivy use is isolated to cold weather to minimize drafts with my quilts and for sleeping on snow on floorless shelters.
d.      Full size sleeping pads vs. torso sized?
o   Depends.  Full size is necessary in cold weather and in Minnesota, most of the year constitutes as "cool" weather needing full padding for the northern part of the state.  I combine a torso sized with the backpad in my ULA Ohm pack to give me the full length in the summer.
e.      Boots vs trail runners?
o   Trail runners hands down for all but really cold and snow.  I've even used my trail runners down to 25F and snow.  I use Steger Mukluks for colder weather.  The Mukluk is a light boot with a flexible bottom that feels like walking in slippers.

9.     9.  What would you say are the biggest benefits of carrying less gear? Dig deep here. Have you had any spiritual or personal breakthroughs by going lightweight? Has it affected your relationship with nature, for example?
·         It is easier to connect with and observer your surroundings when you don’t feel burdened by a huge pack on your back.  My gear is much less simpler and easier to use which frees me up to relax and enjoy nature more.  I also bring a lot less stuff which means it is easier to find and use the stuff I do have.  Knowing that I have the bare minimum to survive, forces me to sharpen my survival skills and heightens my adventure experience.  Lastly being minimalist with my gear has spilled over into my running gear/footwear and overall general lifestyle and diet.

10  10.  What advice would you give to someone else who wanted to start reducing the weight of their backpacking gear?
·         Start by weighing all of your gear and enter it into a spreadsheet so that you know where you are starting from.  Then focus on buying used gear or highly discounted gear because you will probably end up selling it anyway to get something different.  The Gear Swap forum on BackpackingLight.com is where I found most of my used/pre-purchased gear.  Be patient for gear to show yet be quick to buy.  Pour over the info on this website and others to get a good background of what is available in the Ultralight and Lightweight world of gear.  Everybody has a different style, climate, and environment that they hike in and thus the gear needs are different.  Find a blog of someone that lives in a similar situation as yours and follow it for ideas.



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trail Mix Race 2010 Map

When I first signed up for this race, I couldn't find a map anywhere of the route for this race.  So, now that I have run it, I proceeded to create my own rough map using Google Earth overlay for others to use as a reference.  The resolution got pretty low, so sorry about that.  Without buying some map software, I'm not sure how to improve that.

Word on the street is that this route does change from year to year, so don't assume this is the way it will always be.  When trail conditions permit, the race loops through the down-hill ski and snowboard area.  This was not the case this year and instead a loop through the wood chip trails near Richardson Nature center substituted for the ski hill.

The loop as detailed below is 12.5km (7.75 miles).  The 25k would obviously be 2 loops and the 50k race would be 4 loops.  It sounds like the aid stations ran short near the end of the 50k race, so those participants should plan accordingly for future races.  It looked like a lot of the 50k runners set up there own little aid stations near the start of the loop alongside the trail.  I thought this was a pretty smart thing to do if you want to make sure you have the water and fuel you need to push through to a strong finish.

The Race (red line) started at the green start button and headed north and stayed left up through to Richardson Nature Center.  It loops back to the south and stays to the east of the northbound traffic.  This creates a couple places where there is 2-way traffic, but the trail is plenty wide for this.  The loop near the Richardson Nature Center is all on wood chip trails that felt somewhat like running on a mattress, not easy!!  There was an aid station set up at the south end of the 2-way traffic that provided water and gatorade.  I'm not actually sure if they had anything to eat as I brought my own gels.  The race loop pushed across to the east side of the park and followed the east side of Hyland Lake where once again, there was 2-way traffic.  At the split of the 2-way traffic, there was another aid station set up.  Both aid stations are pretty strategic in that you won't run any farther than about 2.5 miles without a station.  After the second aid station, the loop heads south and then west up a good size hill.  This hill was pretty defeating for me on my second loop and end up being my slowest mile split of the whole race.  The loop then circles back north and then east to meet up with on-coming traffic on the east side of the lake.  Looping around the north end of the lake, the trail heads west to finish up where it started.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trail Mix 25k Race Report

This being my first race ever, I had no idea what to expect going into it.  Fortunately this one is pretty low-key, so I just went with the flow.

The 50k race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am and the 25k race at 7:30 am.  Race numbers were available for pick-up at 5:30 am.  I was there around 5:45 am and there was hardly anybody there yet, so I picked up my race number and then wandered around for a bit.  Not finding anything to do or anybody to talk to, I moved my car down closer to the race start.  Most everyone that was there was hanging out in their vehicles at the time.


At about 6:30 or so, I walked back over to the Visitor Center to the restroom.  After doing my business there, I had my first and only VFF siting of the day.  I tried to strike up a conversation with him and he ended up taking off while I ended up chatting ti up with a couple other guys about them.  One guy had a pair that he wears off and on for training for the last three years but hasn't run a race in them.  The other guy I chatted with a little longer as we walked back to the race starting area.  He seemed pretty knowledgeable about the VFF's, but did not have his own pair.  He was running the 50k and took off to finish prepping for the race as it was only minutes away.

I cheered on the start of the 50k and noticed there was a guy wearing a World Vision shirt.  I had thought about running this race as a World Vision sponsor, but just never got my logistics together to do it.  Maybe I will get this set up for the Superior Trail Race.  It's a great cause that I have supported in the past.

I took off my "warmth" layers, grabbed my water bottle, gloves and headed for the race start.  It was warming up nicely and I suspected I wouldn't have to wear my stocking cap for very long.  I hung around the back third of the pack or so and couldn't hear anything the race director was saying.  There seemed to be some confusion as they were trying to line us all up behind the race start.  All of a sudden the starting horn bellowed and we were off.  Somewhat anti-climatic and unexpected start, but I guess that's the way it goes for such a low profile race such as this one.  In the excitement of the start, I forgot to start my watch until over a quarter mile into the race.  Oops, now my splits are going to be a little off.

I really had to hold myself back the first few miles and still felt like I was going out too fast.  I can't stand running on the heels of other people, so I found myself pushing hard to get around several groups as it was really cluttered.  After the third mile or so, I fell into a groove and stayed there for quite a while.  Turns out that miles 2-3 was my second fastest split, but no harm done looking hindsight at my overall splits.

There were places where the trail was a bit wet and muddy, so I picked my way through those trying to keep my feet dry as long as I could.  Inevitably, my feet got a bit wet and muddy.  Wet feet has not bothered me yet in any of my running except for a little discomfort.  Didn't even phase me during the race.

The 25k race consisted of two loops and at the beginning of the second loop, I was feeling pretty good.  I felt I had maintained a pretty consistent pace throughout the race thus far and was content with continuing that.  Fortunately I remembered to suck down a gel between miles 8-9, otherwise I probably would have crashed pretty hard.

I struck up a conversation with a couple guys at around mile 9 and the three of us yo-yo'ed with each other for most of the rest of the race.  It was nice to hear their perspectives as they were both experienced runners.  One of the guys at a couple titanium rods put in his leg a few years ago as a result of a hockey injury, so it was pretty impressive he was out running this race and maintaining this pace.

At about mile 12, I hit the wall as a small hill loomed in front of me.  I walked up the hill hoping that it would give my legs enough rest to push hard through to the end.  This was the ticket and I was able to push through to the end after the walk.  The last mile was my fastest split at 7:43 and I was able to pass several people and got passed by one, a girl.  I fought my pride and let her push on ahead.  ;-)

Here's a pic of me coming into the finish line taken by my beautiful wife who was cheering me on and my little boys watching.



My overall official time was 2:16:11 resulting in a pace of 8:47 for the 15.5 miles.  I am very happy with that for my first race ever and am looking forward to the next race!!

Here are the top 5 finishers for the 25k and 50k races below.  Their times are absolutely amazing to me!!

25k Race
Place Name Age S City St Time Pace
===== =================== === = =============== == ======= ===== 
    1 Fish Wilson          25 M Onamia          MN 1:35:25  6:09 
    2 Brett Busacker       24 M Orono           MN 1:37:38  6:18 
    3 Kirk Walztoni        38 M Eagan           MN 1:38:05  6:19 
    4 Josh Riff            35 M Edina           MN 1:38:23  6:21 
    5 Alex Hooke           26 M Rochester       MN 1:40:12  6:28


50k Race


Place Name                Age S City            St Time    Pace  
===== =================== === = =============== == ======= ===== 


    1 Brian Peterson       25 M Minneapolis     MN 3:16:52  6:21 
    2 Chris Gardner        33 M Duluth          MN 3:28:34  6:43 
    3 Kelly Mortenson      38 M St Paul         MN 3:37:40  7:01 
    4 Aaron Drevlow        36 M Woodbury        MN 3:42:14  7:10 
    5 Jim Ramacier         46 M White Bear Lake MN 3:43:51  7:13 


Thanks to O.C. Williams (the race director) and all the volunteers for putting on such a great race!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Minimalist Shoe update and Trail Mix Race

As most of you know, I picked up a pair of VFF KSO's last fall for running.  Prior to "retraining" myself to run in minimalist footwear, I was not able to run more than a 1/2 mile with out severe knee pain that would force me to stop and walk.  I also had major knee problems backpacking which was very disheartening since it is a major passion of mine.  One year ago, I backpacked about 16 miles in two days with a really light pack and that was about as far as I could go as my knees started to hurt too bad.

Last summer I visited a sports doc and received some PT for my knees, gluts and all around core strength.  This seemed to help some, but didn't seem to really fix the problem.  It helped balance out my muscles some as well as my flexibility, but that was the extent of it.

Fast forward to last fall, within minutes of starting to run in the KSO's my knee pain was gone and to this day has remained mostly at bay.  I can still feel twinges of pain here and there, but it is nothing like what I experienced prior to using minimalist shoes.

As I've discussed in previous posts, running in a minimalist shoe forces you to run with the proper form.  Most people will need to completely retrain themselves to run and walk in minimalist footwear and this takes time and patience!!

Since January, I have been averaging over 20 miles per week with a high of 32 miles and a long run of 14 miles.  Generally I run on a paved trail (or next to) during the week and to a long trail run on the weekend.  It has been great and a joy to run with minimal pain.  The pain I do have I attribute to my body adjusting and is very different than the pains I experienced before.  When my body is fatigued, I can feel my form start to deteriorate and strangely enough, 'old' pains start to surface.  These 'old' pains quickly remind me to pay attention to my form and I correct it immediately and the pain subsides.

In December I day-hiked 12 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in my Inov8 295's with no knee pain and this included some running and wearing a 10 lb pack.  I was super excited about this as there were some major downhill sections and this was where my knee pain would previously surface.  Being able to run down a big hill with a pack on and not have knee pain was a tremendous encouragement for me and I was sold on training in a minimalist shoe.

Per my previous post, I backpacked about 24 miles in 2 1/2 days on the Superior Hiking Trail with no knee pain and a 25 lb pack.  I hiked it in my Inov8 295's as much of the hike was either in snow, on ice, in icy slushy water or muddy conditions.  I thought about wearing a minimalist shoe for this, but conditions were just not right for it.

Any way you look at it, I feel that training in minimalist footwear has cured my knee pain that I was previously experiencing in traditional running shoes.  It has also made my feet and legs much stronger and greatly increased my sense of balance as well as core strength.  Running in minimalist footwear has also improved my form tremendously and for the first time in my life, I enjoy running!!

This weekend I will run the first running race of my life (admittedly, I'm not counting 8th/9th grade track as it was all less than 2k.)  The race I am running is the Trail Mix Race that takes place in Hyland Park in Bloomington, MN.  I will be running in the 25k race and will be quite content to be in the middle to bottom of pack for finish times.

One month from now, I will be running a much more challenging race that takes place on the Superior Hiking Trail. The Spring Superior Trail Race will be a very fun race and again I am running the 25k portion.  I will post more on this race later.

Wish me luck for my race on Saturday!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Winter camping more spring-like on the Superior Hiking Trail

I apologize as I am very delinquent at getting this out, but here is my trip summary from our trip to the SHT the weekend of March 12-14th.  I forgot to charge the battery on my camera, took three pictures, then the camera died... bummer!

What was initially planned for a winter camping trip, turned relatively warm.  Temps were in the 35-45F temp range and mostly cloudy until Sunday when we saw a little sunshine.  The early spring warm-up we had this year provided for some rains just prior to our trip that would normally have produced an incredible amount of snow.  We were really hoping to use the snowshoes and truly set up camp winter style with a pyramid tarp and 0F bags.  But, we ended up leaving the snowshoes in the car, donned regular shoes, lightly insulated clothing and my Tarptent Rainshadow.



I was wearing my ULA Ohm pack, my brother Bryan had my GoLite Pinnacle pack (2008) and Barak was wearing a old Mountainsmith pack that he picked up at a secondhand store for $7.  He was very proud of that purchase and it really wasn't too bad of a pack.  Fairly light and yet carried weight pretty well.  We each had somewhere between 25-30 lbs in each pack (including food and water).  At that weight range, mine was a little overloaded and I ended up with some chaffing on my hips.  The hipbelt is not really designed to carry much weight as it is more for just stabilizing the pack.  This was an error on my part to try and transfer too much weight to my hips.  Both of the other packs carried really well.

On Friday, we hiked from Castle Danger to a multi-group site just west of Gooseberry Falls State Park.  The trail had up to 12" of wet slushy snow and occasional clear spots.  The lower lying areas provided us with trails that were all or partially under water.  As we neared the gooseberry river, the trail was largely under water as it followed the banks of the river.  This left us but now choice to walk in cold, slushy water.  I elected to wear my Inov-8 Roclite 295 trail running shoes with a pair of merino wool liner socks and my Simblissity gaiters.  My feet did get quite cold when walking in the water, okay, they were numb!  But would quickly warm up as soon as I was out.  I might try and find a pair of neoprene socks to wear in these kind of conditions.

Since we got a late start, we push hard and hiked about 8 miles in 4 hours and ended up setting up camp in the dark.  Not a big deal unless you are trying to find dry wood to heat up water for dinner and a cocoa.  We ended up bypassing three campsites as all the tentpads were under hard-packed snow/ice.  We finally came upon the multi-group site that offered a nice dry tent pad under a large pine tree.  We had almost given up and were going to bushwack our own tentpad, so we were very thankful that we found this one.

It had been raining for the last couple days and while that had quickly melted a lot of the snow, it also saturated all the wood we could find.  We took some risk in taking my DIY J.Falk Compact Wood Burning Stove, and in the wet conditions we were in and trying to melt snow for 3 guys, either the stove or our skills fell short.


After trying to boil 1.5 liters of water for about an hour, we decided to set up a tripod over our campfire and that's how we melted snow and heated up water for the rest of our trip.  This worked out much better for us.  We just had too much trouble finding wood that burned hot enough in the stove.


In the future I will definitely be bringing my MSR multi-fuel stove for these kind of conditions.  Although, heating up water over the campfire wasn't such a bad thing, it just took a lot of extra time.  It's nice to be able to have a hot drink within about 10 minutes of reach camp when it is cold out.  Even though it's heavier, I think it will be worth it.

I was testing out my JRB quilt inside of a TiGoat Bivy and Bryan and Barak used a standard sleeping bag inside of a couple of bivy's that Bryan made out of reflective tyvek.  They had pretty major condensation inside the bivy and I had a little.  I think the their bivy's were just not breathable or just reflected too much heat back into the insulation.  As for me, not sure why I had the condensation I did.  From what I've read, it's really hard to eliminate condensation in these conditions (35F and humid).

On Saturday we hiked from down to Gooseberry Falls and then northward to the Split Rock River.  This section of the trail proved to be much drier of which we were very happy about.  However the last few miles were very icy and made for very slow going.  I was really wishing I had my Kahtoola Microspikes through this section.  Either way having our hiking poles saved us from falling numerous times.

Once again we bypassed a few campsites as the tentpads were either icy or too exposed of a site.  We ended up setting up camp on what I think was an unofficial campsite, but it had a fire ring and a tentpad and that was good enough for us.  As we were preparing dinner, Bryan announced to us that he just threw up...  poor guy! Turns out it was just a little stomach bug that thankfully, neither Barak or I caught.  He ended up not really eating anything and went to bed early.

Enter, a BIG advantage of a tarptent.  I decided to roll back the mesh door in case Bryan needed to make a quick exit during the night. (See picture of Tarptent from previous trip.)  While I was staking out the sides to give us a little more room, I hear him puking and as far as I can tell he is still inside the tent.  My first thoughts ere 'My tent is going to stink like vomit for the rest of it's life!!'  Fortunately, he was able to clear the tent and all the stink ended up on the dirt ground.  With a sigh of relief, I found a couple big chunks of birch bark, scraped it up and through it deep into the woods.  Some little critter will get a nice snack tonight I thought.

No more episodes for Bryan overnight and we all slept well.  I slept pretty warm all night, and woke up to discover quite a bit of condensation on the inside of my bivy, more than the night before.  I had been pretty warm the night before and didn't wear as much clothing, but I think I was still too warm.  My sleeping pad (CCF) was under my bivy which meant I was sleeping directly on the sil-nylon.  This definitely did a good job of trapping any moisture!!  Next time I will bring the pad inside the bivy to put a little buffer between myself and the sil-nylon.  In hindsight, we really didn't need the bivy's at these temps inside the tarptent, but personally, I just wanted to test it out to see how it works.  Bryan and Barak went without the bivies the second night and thus no condensation.  It's almost as if you need to sleep on the verge of being cold versus sleeping warm to reduce this condensation.  More experimenting will need to take place on future trips.

Next morning, the sun was shining, temps were very comfortable and Bryan was feeling a little better.  However, he was pretty weak from not keeping any calories down, so I lightly loaded my pack and let him carry it while I donned the GoLite Pinnacle (my first time carrying it).  The Pinnacle definitely felt much better at the ~30 lb weight range than that of the ULA Ohm with about the same weight.  Certainly not a fault of the Ohm as it's just not designed to carry that much weight unless you are willing to carry most of it with your shoulders.

The hike out was about 4 miles through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  The hiking was much easier as there was very little ice.  The last couple miles were especially as it was mostly downhill and on a mowed grass trail.

Overall, we enjoyed the trip and look forward to another!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

I used to wear orthotics

After being prescribed orthotics almost 3 years ago due to Patellar-Femoral syndrome (knee pains), I bought various different orthotics depending on my shoes. Initially they seemed to help a little, but after time, they didn't seem to fix the underlying problem

Last summer I went to a different doctor (MN Vikings Sports doc) and he looked at my issues as more of a muscle imbalance than a need for orthotics, prescribed some PT and sent me on my way. This sent me down a road of research on why the muscle imbalance?

At the time, I was unable to run more than a 1/2 mile without severe knee pain or hike more than about 6 miles without relying heavily on my trekking poles.

Late last summer through my research, I discovered that maybe it was my shoes and how I am walking and running that is causing the issues. Here are a couple articles that I came across:

http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/
http://treklightly.blogspot.com/2009/12/painful-truth-about-trainers-are.html

Last fall I started running and training in a minimalist shoe that offered no support, no structure, and no padding. I bought a pair of Vibram Fivefingers, put them on and went for a 3 mile run with no pain. Granted I was forced to run very different than I used to, but that was the whole idea. My calves were super sore and my achilles were really tight for about a month during this transition, but I could deal with that kind of pain. The minimalist shoes were allowing my feet to function the way they were designed to.

It didn't take too long for me to realize that my orthotics and structured shoes were not allowing my feet to function properly. They were like casts for my feet. In fact, wearing the orthotics and stiff shoes quickly became very uncomfortable as my feet got stronger and wanted to be able to move. I have since discarded all my orthotics, and rarely wear a shoe with a raised, padded heal.

I do hike in a pair of Inov8 295's with the insole removed, but they have no arch support and have a minimally raised heal. I wear them primarily for the traction as there are not very many options out there for a minimalist shoe with traction.

That's my food for thought. Wouldn't it be nice not to have to wear the orthotics??

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Camping Trip in planning stages...

My brother, a friend and I are trying to pinpoint a date to go winter camping.  We have elected to go somewhere along the Superior Hiking Trail, but not sure where yet.  I will be posting an update once we nail dates and location down.

Once again as I approach another trip, I am making gear list modifications.  My updated gear list can be found in the right-hand column.  The major modifications I have made are:

Sleeping System:
I Purchased a Jacks 'R' Better Sierra Sniveller Quilt.  This will be my goto quilt for most of my trips and should easily get me down to 25F by itself.  When combined with my BPL Cocoon Pro 60 Insulated Pants and insulated jacket/vest, it should take me down to 10-15F.  When called for, I will add my 45F poly fill quilt and use it as an overbag to give me another 15F+ of insulation.  I would like to test this sleep system out in my back yard in the coming weeks.  The great thing about this quilt is that it can be used as a Serape which is why I purchased the Sleeves Accessory.  Down to about 20F and maybe colder, this will eliminate the need to bring along an insulated jacket or vest.  This is a great way to reduce some weight.

I picked up a second-hand (unused) Titanium Goat Raven XL bivy which I am stoked about.  It was a little too small for the guy that I bought it from, so he was happy to pass it off.  The Titanium Goat website is outdated, but basically this is the long version as described with a full net hood and side zips added.  I will use this when camping with a tarp or any time it will be below freezing.  This will also be great to through in when going out for a long dayhike as an emergency shelter.  Here are a few links to this bivy if you are interested in seeing it in person.  Pic1, Pic2, Pic3  These pics were taken by William Puckett and posted in this Backpackinglight.com forum.

Shelter:
I also purchased (at a great price!) an Oware 9x9 Pyramid Tarp made out of a heavy duty 200d urethane coated nylon.  This fabric is way overkill for me, but there is no way I could fork out $240 for a silnylon version much less $225 for a similar version to the one I have.  Oware had some special deals going at the time and I was able to pick this up for $50 (very slightly used).  The version I have also has a 1' skirt around the bottom along with some additional height.  This should shed snow extremely well!  It is not ultralight at 5 lb 10 oz, but if shared amongst 4 people, it is only 22.5 oz each.  That's actually really good for a heavy-duty 4 season shelter!

Cooking:
I am experimenting with a couple wood stove comments from J. Falk at Trailgear.org.  He has plans available on his website to make your own wood stoves.  I made both his compact wood stove and his bushwhacker wood gase stove.  I have not decided if I will be bringing both of these or just pick one and run with it.  I ultimately would like to go with using wood for all my cooking as it eliminates the need to bring along fuel of any kind.  The only thing I would bring is some goods to aid in fire-starting.  This is also something I will be experimenting with on this trip.  I am very confident in my fire-starting ability, I am just trying to find ways to speed up the process.  I will blog more about this another time.

Pulk/Tobaggon:
On my last winter trip (10 years ago), I was far from being ultralight and would venture to guess I had close to 60-70 lbs of gear.  I had a Lowe Alpine Contour IV 90+15L backpack and a tobaggen that had gear on it.  Now that I think about it, it was probably much more than 70 lbs, maybe even approaching 100 lbs.  I weighed most of that gear just out of curiousity, so I should go back and add it up some time.

As posted, my base pack weight is 12 lbs 3 oz and the base pulk weight is 22 lbs 7 oz.  These really are not bad weights in themselves for winter camping, but if I could eliminate the hassle of the pulk, that would be nice.  On the flip side, if I can put all the weight in the pulk, it would save getting my back all sweaty which is inevitable for me. 

In reviewing my list posted in the right hand column, I could remove the following things from the list and drop significant weight:

1. Just use snowshoes and leave skis at home.  (-8 lbs 8 oz)  Is it realistic that we will be able to use the skis with much success on the SHT in terms of giving us that much of a speed advantage?  From my experience hiking it, probably not.  If we were going into the BWCA, it would be much more reasonable to bring skis and leave the snowshoes at home.  Skis would be great for going across lakes or open areas of which the SHT is neither.

2. Leave shovel at home.  (-1 lb 4 oz)  Can I use my snowshoes as a shovel if needed?  The shovel would really be for fun if we brought it, as it's not really a need.  I'm sure my brother will be using a pulk, so we can lash it to that if we want to bring it.

3. Leave Bushwhacker Stove at home (-8 oz).  I can always test this out on another trip or in my back yard.  The Compact Wood Stove will probably be the ticket for winter camping as constant feeding of the stove will be necessary when melting snow for water.  This is not as easy with the Bushwhacker Stove the way it is designed.  The Bushwhacker Stove will be a much more efficient stove for conditions when melting snow is not necessary.

What would this accomplish? The Pulk is no longer necessary...  Subtracting the weight of the Pulk and associated stuff sacks (~9 lbs) and it brings my base pack weight down to 19 lbs 11 oz. This is really pretty decent for a winter set-up! I will work on getting this gear list posted as this is probably the direction I will be heading...  I have posted this updated list in the right-hand column as well.

My ULA Ohm backpack is designed for weights less than 30 lbs, so it is my goal to stay well under that including consumables. This is easily manageable although I am more concerned about the bulk of the winter insulation and the pyramid tarp as this may fill up my pack quicker than I would like. I will have to check to see how full my pack gets with this gear set-up...


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two 25k Spring Trail Runs on my Schedule

It's official, I am signed up for two 25k trail runs this spring and getting excited.  The two races are the Trail Mix Race Minnesota on April 17th and the Superior Trail Race on May 15th.

The Trail Mix Race is on the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, MN and is where I'll be doing much of my weekend training as it is the longest section of trails near my house.  It will be nice to be able to train where I will be doing my first race.  This race is commonly used as part of training prep for Grandma's Marathon which is held at the end of June in Duluth, MN.

The Superior Trail Race is held on the Superior Hiking Trail near Lutsen, MN.  The 25k race starts at the Lodge at Lutsen Ski Resort, catches the Superior Hiking Trail going to the southwest.  The race has lots of ups and downs including Mystery Mountain, Moose Mountain and then turning around at Oberg Mountain.  The irony of the route of this race is that I backpacked through this section last summer.  It was a very enjoyable, scenic section of the route which helps me look forward to running it.  It will be nice to be somewhat familiar with the course going into it.

The following book was written by a gentlemen who has run this race.  The description of the book goes as follows.  I am going to have to add this book to my must read list...

"ULTRA SUPERIOR is a true story set in the country's most rugged endurance events, the Superior Trail Races at the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. The book starts as a story of preparation, training and competition; Ending as a vision and realization lasting the ages."


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Is It Better To Be Barefoot?



Is It Better To Be Barefoot?

by Christopher McDougall


Every year, countless Americans stop exercising--or don't even start--due to leg and foot pain. In response, athletic-shoe companies have poured millions of dollars into new cushioning, arch support, and shock absorbers. But despite this technological firepower, as many as six out of 10 runners are estimated to get injured every year.

If shoes are not the solution, could they possibly be the problem? Evolution might hold the answer. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, and Dennis Bramble, a biology professor at the University of Utah, argue that for the last 2 million years, humans have engaged in long-distance running. And, for almost all of that time, humans have been running barefoot, coming down on the forefeet with toes spread and bending the ankles and knees to absorb the shock. Lieberman believes that today's sneakers--with their fat heels, squishy soles, and stiff arch supports--may be causing us instead to land hard on our bony heels with our legs straight.

4 Tips for the Novice Runner

Irene Davis, a professor of physical therapy and head of the Running Research Laboratory at the University of Delaware, is a barefoot skeptic turned convert. Like most sports-medicine practitioners, she has prescribed custom-made orthotic inserts for patients with heel pain. When one of her chronically hurt patients wanted to go for a jog with a pair of barefoot-style running shoes, she told him he was nuts. Despite the warning, he went ahead--and came back injury-free. Davis herself tried running barefoot and now is logging up to four miles a day on asphalt. Doesn't it hurt?

"No," she says. "The harder the surface, the more lightly you land and the more easily you spring back." The human body instinctively modifies itself to different kinds of terrain-- just think back to when you were a kid and how it felt to run barefoot on the grass, sand, or pavement.

How to Keep Your Feet Happy

Our legs are thickly woven with rubbery, elastic tendons that absorb shock and also use it as free energy, like a rubber ball ricocheting off pavement. "If you encase the foot in thick shoes, you not only lose ground awareness, you limit natural elasticity," says Robert Schleip of the Fascia Research Center at Germany's University of Ulm. According to a study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in March, barefoot runners experienced significantly less impact than runners in shoes.

"We've gone too far with cushioning and arbitrary shoe designs," says Stephen Pribut, a leading sports podiatrist in Washington, D.C. Still, Pribut is not ready to tell all of his patients to go barefoot, though he agrees that no study has ever shown that barefoot runners are hurt more often than runners in shoes. In a 2009 review article for the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers searched 30 years of studies and were unable to find one demonstrating that running shoes make people less prone to injury.

11 Stars Who've Gone the Distance

Some of the major athletic-equipment companies already produce minimalist sneakers with little cushioning. "If this [barefoot running] is injury-preventive because it's natural motion, we're all for that," says Jim Weber, president and CEO of Brooks Sports, a running-shoe manufacturer. Brooks has been working on a barefoot-type shoe for four years. "But one reason we didn't rush it out is that retailers won't carry it," he adds.

Barefoot-running coach "Barefoot Ted" McDonald believes that the easiest way to introduce the practice to people is to have them try it out themselves. He has taught running classes on the Google and Microsoft campuses, and a few months ago in Palo Alto, Calif., I watched as he led 30 people of all ages and fitness levels in a jog down a city street. The trick to running barefoot, McDonald says, is remembering three points: Be light, be quick, and be upright. You want to land gently and then instantly lift that foot back up so it feels like you're in the air more than you're on the ground. At the same time, keep your back straight with your feet right under your hips. Gradually incorporate barefoot running into your workouts, giving your ankles time to get stronger.

It takes McDonald's students trial and error--and around 30 minutes--to get used to the sensation of running barefoot.

"It's amazing," one woman reports. "I feel like I'm floating."

Christopher McDougall is the author of the best-selling book "Born to Run."