Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shoe crisis

I'm afraid that I'm about to have a shoe crisis. See, I got into running just before the whole minimalist deal starting getting legs. I read about it, gave it a shot, and what do you know, I liked it. I'm not one of those, "I used to get injured every time I ran in my 'normal' trainers, switched to VFFs, and now I'm setting world records in Huaraches!" minimalist success stories. I've never been injured, so I didn't really have anything to magically be fixed overnight when I made the switch. I just like running in light, flexible, low profile shoes with enough ground feel that I don't feel like my feet have gone numb.

It's been in the news for a while now that sales of minimalist running shoes are drying up. Shoe manufacturers have to make money. They have to make shoes that they can sell. If minimalist shoes aren't selling, then that's not what they're going to make or market. It's no secret that I have an affinity for Merrell's Barefoot line of shoes. The original Road Glove is my favorite running shoe of all time. I was eager to try the Road Glove 2 and gave it a fair shot, but ultimately was disappointed in them as a running shoe (although I think they do look cool and work great for casual use). It felt like Merrell had reacted and maybe over corrected a bit for my preferences. The follow ups were thicker, firmer and felt like they were resisting my feet and legs more than working with them.

Perhaps I'm overreacting a bit myself. This is only one shoe from one brand. There are still plenty of other brands that market themselves as minimal, and there are definitely plenty of options to be had for all kinds of tastes and needs in running shoes. However, more and more I'm seeing words like "protection" and "support" not to mention larger stack heights than I'm used to seeing in marketing materials in places I didn't expect it. My shoes had just the right amount of cushion, protection, and material under foot before. Please keep making them.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 in Retrospect

2013 may go down as the year where my training to racing ratio was the most unbalanced towards training. The last race I ran was a 10K in February. Yep, that's nearly a year ago. I honestly didn't realize that it had been that long until I typed those words just now. We went through a few too many life changes this year to piece together anything close to a regular training schedule. I just can't bring myself to wake up early any given morning, Google for a local event with race day registration, and then run it. I have to fight for a good night's sleep and against stress on the starting line enough as it is. Entering a race without training specifically for it (or as part of a build up to another race) just isn't the way that I like to go about it.
That's me at about the halfway point of my last race

You're right: it's really not that big of deal. It's not like running is my job, and since no one knows me at the races anyway, no one even expects me to run fast. I even really prefer to wing it a lot of the time in my life, but when it comes to racing, I probably take it a little too seriously for the level of runner that I am. Still, I wouldn't say that this has been a bad year for my running.

While I may not have raced, I did run quite a bit. My paces haven't been what they were along that flat Pennsylvania levee, and a lot of it wasn't a formal workout. Don't tell them that I said this, but I've actually come to enjoy these mountain roads (except for on speed work days, still working on that one). Hills used to be a big problem. Now, at least normal sized ones just aren't. I topped 1,111 miles for the year. I didn't have a stated goal for this, but it has inspired me to set one for 2014: 1,500 miles (roughly 29 miles a week).

I found a group of guys to run with as many as three times a week, something that I didn't really think I cared about until a few months into it. I've also come to really appreciate exploring a good trail, which we seem to have buckets of around here, thankfully. Besides getting acquainted with my new, and now usual routes, I got to run in San Francisco and got a taste for what it's like to be a city runner (not as bad as I imagined, actually). I also won (yes, outright won) a 5K back in February. It's a fun story that maybe I'll tell sometime, but in short, it was cold, snowy, and the race had a low turnout, of course.

Anyway, here's looking forward to 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

20 Miles with a Camel [on my] Bak

Last Sunday afternoon, I did my second real long run with my newly gifted Camelbak Rogue (70 oz). I've done some shorter trail runs with it, but nothing really long, or with a specific pace goal in mind. I also hate carrying anything in my hands while running, and anything resembling a fanny pack is out, so this seemed like a good option. We live in a great place for trail runs, and there are decent options for long street runs too, but if want something that's not always going either up or down, you pretty much have to drive to it. All of my flatter route options within running distance involve running on a much busier, speedier road with no good exit strategy if things start to get scary, and honestly, I live on a flipping mountain: nothing is that flat up here.

The route is just over two miles out (mostly uphill), then a series of 2.7 mile loops until I have enough miles, at which point, I head back down those same two miles (mostly downhill now). The loops are about a third uphill (170 ft, give or take according to Garmin), a third rolling, and a third downhill. It's not the easiest route, but it's manageable, and I tell myself that I'll be glad to have the bonus hill training.
I love this chart, but man, it's a bit of pain to make it.

My training schedule called for an 18 miler two weeks ago, and a 20 miler last week. I normally find that I need water on anything longer than about 13 miles (and that's a stretch in warmer weather). First off, filling this thing up is no problem. At no point did I feel like I was in any danger of spilling. Judging by my ability to keep pace with the thing on my back, it does just fine on the run too. There was some initial, "Woah, I'm running with a thing on my back, and it's making a sloshing noise," type feeling, but after a mile or two, I was used to it. I was worried it would start to feel heavy as the run went on, but since I was technically lightening the load with every swig I took, it actually felt lighter as I went along. It was also nice to grind out a hill, drying out my mouth breathing heavily, and then take the edge off with a nice, cool shot of water no matter how far away I was from the nearest water fountain. Speaking of taking a drink, you have to bite the mouthpiece before drawing in order to do that, and even when I was tired, gasping for breath at the top of those hills, this wasn't a problem. Even on the 20 mile run, I wasn't close to running out of water either. Finally, if you are the sort of runner who likes to listen through your headphones on the run, the top zipper pouch worked well as an iPhone storage compartment (forget accessing it without taking off the pack though).

If I'm honest though, there are a couple of small nitpicks. My 140 pound frame doesn't exactly have the broadest of shoulders, and I have to cinch the chest strap pretty much all the way tight to keep from feeling like the straps are going to fall off. When it's cinched all the way, I don't get this sensation, but as I kept running, I felt the chest strap start to loosen, and I started catching myself tensing my shoulders to keep the shoulder straps in position. Concerning cargo space, there's plenty of it for a runner (certainly for a 20 mile run). Though not to the same degree as I dislike carrying things with my hands on a run, I dislike carrying things in my pockets. I found that I actually preferred carrying everything on my back instead. However, I ended up having to unhook the chest strap, unhook the drinking hose, and take the pack off of one shoulder when it came time to take a Gu. After fiddling with it some more, I found that the lower zipper pouch can be accessed without partially removing the pack, but it's still not as convenient as I would have liked. Finally, I found that I had to disconnect the drinking hose in order to take a drink. The angle required of my neck to accomplish this without disconnecting it just wasn't practical.
It's even UGA, I mean, "Racing" Red

All things considered, I'm glad to finally have one of these. I've heard of people shunning the aid stations and wearing them through marathons, but I think I'll stick to aid stations during races for now. I've never really had a problem with crowded aid stations anyway. I do intend to keep wearing it on long runs, and I certainly feel like I could have used it this previous summer. It a good piece of kit to have for when you need it, certainly preferable to dehydration.

Update (2014-01-05) - I've got some more quantifiable information concerning just how long I can go on a fill up since the original post. Granted, it's winter right now, so on a warmer run this might be a different story, but I can go 2+ hours on half a fill up. Given that the pack is rated for "2+ hours," I'm going to go ahead and say that Camelbak is sandbagging on this one. Also, running while wearing this thing makes me feel like I can run way farther than I'm actually planning to run. One passerby remarked that I look like I "just summited...something."

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Unicoi Trail (Helen, GA)

This week, we took a family trip to Helen, GA for an early Christmas with my wife's folks and sister's family. Helen is a small, Bavarian themed town along the Chattahoochee river in the north Georgia mountains.
Low and behold, a trail!
Lately, I've found it a bit difficult to cobble together anything resembling a consistent string of training runs, so beyond looking forward to some time with family away from work, I was really looking forward to having a extended window to go for run for 5 days straight. I've been to Helen before, but not in my running life, and as it turns out, I've decided that Helen has exactly one of every kind of run a runner could want.

I started out with what was supposed to be an easy 7 or 8 miles on Saturday, but turned out to be the biggest road climb of the week (hill work, check). It wasn't much compared to what I normally climb (250 ft versus 600 ft), but it was a little cold, and I was pushing it a little more than usual. After I got back down the hill, I ran around town for a bit (4 to 5 mile easy loop around town, check). On this part of the run, I also came across a flat stretch of pavement that was low on automobile traffic and went on for a little over a mile (speed work, check).

It started raining that night, rained all day Sunday, and was still raining on Monday, so by Monday afternoon, we were all feeling a bit angsty. Enter flat, paved mile. Let the mile repeat stress relief commence.
The trail ran along (and sometimes over) the river
I looked at where I supposedly should have been as far as pace goes according to my original training plan, cinched up my Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LSs and decided to give my best shot at 3 5:51s. Happily, I nailed the first two repeats (5:50 and 5:51). It started raining again during the second repeat, and coupled with fatigue/gut issues, I fell off on the third and final repeat (6:05), but on the whole, I was encouraged.

I decided that I had done all the exploring around town that I cared to do, and turned to Garmin Connect to see if anyone else had posted a good route. Low and behold, a trail! Just to round off the "one of everything" rule, the Unicoi trail is there for the fun of it. I had just received a Camelbak Rogue for Christmas, and a trail run seemed like the ideal way to take it for a test run. I'll save more remarks on it for after I've used it on a proper long run, but I will say that my initial impressions were positive. Anyway, I hadn't counted on a trail run, so even though I brought 3 pairs of running shoes (yes, I'm a dude who travels with 4 pairs of shoes for a 5 day trip), my trusty Trail Gloves weren't among them. Having run trails in my Road Gloves and VFFs, I know that both of those are less than ideal, which left only my Merrell Bare Access 2s.
Lake Unicoi
BAs are my goto road distance shoe, and I honestly didn't know how they would do on the dirt.

The trail surface was mostly dirt with a few rocks and roots poking through here and there. It was a bit soggy from all the rain, but it was well kept double track all the way. Bikes aren't allowed on the trail either, and there aren't that many visitors to Helen this time of year, especially during the week, so you really feel like you have the whole forest to yourself. The sun had just started to poke through the clouds, and the air was crisp and cool. I snuck up on a blue heron at one point, and on the way back, a white tail deer and I startled each other. The first couple miles were flat to rolling hills with one good ascent/descent and a good long stretch right along the river as well.

At this point, the BAs were doing well enough.
I bet it's awesome to sleep in one of these when it's raining.
There is enough material underfoot that the roots and rocks don't get through, but there isn't really much in the way of tread so there was a noticeable lack of traction in mud, particularly on the ascents/descents. One advantage that they do have over my Trail Gloves on a non-technical trail like this one is a wider base. I hadn't given this much thought before this run, but since the trail was wide and wasn't changing directions, elevations or surface quickly, I didn't really need to be as nimble through it. The wider base was more stable, of course, and that meant that I didn't have to be as intentional with each footstep.

Just before mile three, the trail dumped out onto a road, where a sign read "Lake Trail" ahead. This sounded like a pretty good idea to me, so I followed it. Dead ahead, there was Lake Unicoi.
Sorry, no bikini girls on the beach today.
The lake itself isn't so big. The trail around is just under two miles, but it's flatter and wider than the trail leading up to it, and while not as secluded, it's plenty peaceful. Oh, and of course, the trail comes with a great view of the lake. Apparently, you can rent cabins which look like giant silos or steel drums turned over on their sides too.

After completing the Lake Trail, I jumped back up on the road to make my way back to the Unicoi Trail. Immediately upon stepping back onto asphalt, it felt like my BAs let out a sigh of relief, and you could almost hear them say, "Now this is more like it!" I've felt this same kind of transition only in reverse going from a trail to the asphalt in my trail shoes. The shoes gripped the pavement evenly, my transitions became suddenly super smooth, and my pace quickened with what felt like the same or even less effort.
A little mud on the tires
As capable a stand in for a trail shoe as the BAs had been, there was no denying at this point that these are road shoes. The road is where they belong, and the road is where they want to be. I crossed over dam, and started back down the Unicoi Trail towards home.

I liked the trail so much that I ran it again the next day. On the whole, I'd say it was a good running week, certainly the best that I've had in a while. I logged hill work on 3 days (counting the trail runs as hill work as Garmin is giving me about 900 ft of total ascent for each one), and had a good speed work session too. If you add the miles I ran after we got back, I'm at 31 for the week with a long run to go. It's not a monster number of miles, and I really could have used a tempo run in there, but it's much better than it has been lately. There are 11 weeks until Albany, so I'm starting to feel the pressure to focus in on my training and bit more.

With all that said, here are a couple more shots from the trail that I wanted to include in this post:

A pretty good panorama of the middle of the lake

...and one of the dam too.

Lake side of the dam

The river along the trail

I'm sucker for good footprint pics

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marathon Training

My last and only marathon to date was the 2012 Marine Corps marathon. I trained hard, prepped well, and according to everything I read, should have been capable of running a Boston qualifying 3:05. I was right on pace until about mile 17, when the DC pavement finally got to the soles of my Road Glove clad feet. My legs felt fine. I was running again a few days after the marathon, but my feet were absolutely killing me. It felt like I was running barefoot on gravel. I did a run/walk combo from about mile 18 on, and finished in 3:26:13. I don't feel like this was a bad time, but I also think I could have run much faster.

Two lessons I learned that day: 1, go ahead and replace those shoes before the big race because it's not like you won't have to replace them eventually anyway, and 2, maybe wear something with a little more material between your foot and the road if you are going to be running that far. I love running in a little shoe as possible. I still run in Road Gloves frequently, but I get that shoes are tools, and just like there are different types of hammers for roofing, hanging pictures, and driving railroad spikes, there are different shoes for different types of runs.

Since that day, I've wanted to give the marathon another shot. I chronicled it a bit already, but life has changed a bit since that race, and it just hasn't really worked out. A few weeks ago, I got a text from my running buddy Tim back in PA who was looking for a Spring race down South. Long story short, we're signed up for the Albany Marathon in March 2014, and training is already under weigh.

I'm finding it harder to be consistent this time around. There's the obvious terrain challenge where I live now (sure do miss that PA levee). Every road around here is either going up or going down. I've also got a second kid this time around who isn't sleeping as well as her older sister did. 3:05 and a Boston qualifier is probably out of reach again, but I think I can cobble together enough of a training regimen to at least improve on my time. The fastest pace group runs a 3:15, so I think that could be a good goal.

As hard as it is to get out of bed at dark thirty again when I used to be able to just run when I felt like it, it is good to have something on my calendar. Some weeks I get five runs in. Some weeks, I only get two, but come March, I'll feel the pre-race jitters again, and spend 3+ hours putting one foot in front of the other wearing shorts that are too short while checking my watch too often.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bluff Trail Revisited

This Saturday, we went tromping at the Lula Lake Land Trust. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of tromping, it's when you throw the entire family in the car, head out to some place in the wilderness and hike around until the kids get hungry, tired, and cranky. Tromping can also be enjoyed before you are married with kids. In this case, it often takes the form of a bunch of dudes running, jumping, and climbing around in the woods, all not wanting to be the wimp who first suggests that you start heading back, until you are all hungry, tired, and cranky.

That was this Saturday. Last Saturday, I decided to give the Bluff Trail another shot by starting at the other end: the Ochs Gateway. The trail starts with a half mile decent including a couple of switch backs before flattening out and running along the ridge. It was only 8:30 in the morning, but it was already hot and still plenty humid. It had also rained a bit the day before, and while it wasn't really muddy, the ground wasn't exactly bone dry either. It had been a fairly full running week as I already had 30 miles on my legs, and I was hoping to claim 10 more to top 40 for the first time since January. I've run trails like this one maybe three times in my life, so that makes me, you know, pretty much completely new at this. What I lack in experience though, I at least like to think I overcome in observation.

Observation #1: it's hard to observe anything if you can't see. I realized pretty quickly that I had forgotten to put in my contacts, so I would be running blurry. In road running, I was taught to keep my head and eyes up, oriented towards the horizon, in the best position to spot the most likely thing to kill you while you are fussing around with your iPod: SUVs driven by teenagers texting while driving like the cops are chasing them. On the trail, I've realized pretty quickly that you have to pay much more visual attention to your feet, where they land, and where they are going next. One thing seemingly more likely to kill you than a bear (or a teenager) out on the Bluff Trail is fussing around with your iPod and running off of a cliff.

I'm nowhere near blind, but without correction, the world kind of looks like I've just opened my eyes up underwater in a pool. I could tell that I had less time to decide and adjust my stride length because the variances in the terrain just weren't obvious until I was right on top of them. I stubbed a toe and nearly tripped going up a rocky hill once. I ran face first into a big spider web, complete with spider which I am very grateful not to have swallowed (seriously, it was close, and I hate bugs). It was like the trail was sneaking up on me. I was having to concentrate too much on foot placement unnecessarily and at the expense of should have been an enjoyable run.

I past a group of about four hikers (five counting their dog) in the first half mile. I always feel a little awkward passing hikers while running, like this is really their sanctuary, and I'm running through it irreverently, but they smiled and let me pass. At the fork, I decided to explore a bit and cut back heading South down the trail. I followed a couple of side trails (the names escape me at the moment) and finally ended up emerging from the forest at Maggie Bluff. Seeing no other trail to follow, I turned around and headed back towards the Bluff Trail. By this point, it had become pretty obvious that I had made one minor miscalculation.

Observation #2: socks don't do crap against pointy rocks but actually do affect my ground feel noticeably. Yes, I normally run without socks. I'm a minimalist, so you already think I'm weird. This should not be surprising to you. I was running in my Trail Gloves like last time, but last time, the pointy rocks kept sneaking around the rock plate. I decided to see if adding a little something extra between the ground and my foot would help, plus padding out my skinny feet might keep the toe box from shouting "Olé!" as the rocks slid by. In short, all the socks did was hinder my ability to feel what I actually wanted to feel (non-painful, subtle, terrain feedback) while letting everything that I didn't want to feel right through, namely, the pointy rocks. Furthermore, I felt like I was rolling my ankle more than last week. One sensory organ was already handicapped, and the socks were handicapping a second. It was basically the unhappiest of mediums. I suppose that they also made my feet hotter too. In any case, they weren't helping me to cope with the blurry vision in the slightest.

I past that same group of hikers a second time. They were gracious again and didn't give me any dirty looks. I could tell that I was running slightly uphill on average this direction, and my legs were starting to get a little tired at this point, I really wanted to push through and get to 10 miles, but at 5.5 miles, I reached a fork, and rather than guess at which one to take, I decided it was time to head back to the car, meaning that this run would top out at just around 8 miles. Mini observation: trail running is more taxing per mile than road running. I could feel my legs really starting to fatigue, and my gait getting a bit sloppy. If I was going to get myself hurt out here, it was going to be now that I was tired, and probably on a wet rock surface.

Observation #3: pointy treads are great on every trail surface except for wet rock (and ice, but that wasn't really a problem). I love the tread on my Trail Gloves. If you've ever tried to run around a baseball diamond in anything other than cleats or run a race in the Northeast in February, you know what it's like to run a trail without proper trail footwear. Those treads let you turn on a dime and pull hills without your foot slipping on push off, that is, until you plant your foot confidently on the face of a wet rock. As I mentioned, it had rained the day before, and I was running on the morning shady side of the mountain. This being Summer, the leaves had pretty much created a leaky sauna, and every exposed rock bigger than my foot seemingly became a death trap. I at least felt like I needed to slow to walk in order not to bite it through these sections.

I past that same group of hikers one last time, and promised that this would be the last time. They thanked me for knocking down all the spider webs, which every short kid likes to hear. I ended up running out of steam and hiking the last quarter mile or so up the hill to my car, looking like I had just gotten out of the creek. Thankfully, I had brought a bottle of water with me, and even though it was less than cold at this point, I happily drank nearly the whole thing in about 10 seconds. I can't help but wonder if I could have gone longer if I had some hydration on the trail. I've never run with Camelbak, but I'm interested to try it now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bluff Trail

One of the things that I said I would definitely do more once we moved back to Chattanooga is get out on the trails. I've heard it said (though never verified) that we have 54 trail heads within 30 minutes of downtown Chattanooga. I do know that there are enough around here to make a 50 mile trail race possible (and a 100 miler in the works). In any case, some of the trails we have are converted rail trails, wide enough for a car and paved with gravel, some are less than a mile in the middle of the woods and more suitable for hiking, and some are anywhere in between.

I've fallen in with a group of runners in the neighborhood (dudes like me with kids and day jobs). We run three times a week, and pretty much stick to the roads.
It starts out nice and easy...
It's good to be running with other folks again, and it has really been good for boosting my mileage. However, I caught a serious itch to run a trail on Saturday. Maybe it was the amazing coolish snap we've had the past couple weeks after I complained about the heat. In any case, I laced up in my Trail Gloves, and headed out the door. Thinking that I might see some sights worth preserving in pictures (and just in case I ran into an issue on the back side of a mountain all by myself), I brought along my iPhone.

The trail that runs down to Cravens House is a little over two miles from our house. I seriously hate driving to the start of a workout, so it's a good thing that there are plenty of options like this nearby. I'd seen the trail head plenty of times driving up and down the mountain, but I'd never run it. It turns out that it's wide, well kept, bright, and paved with gravel. It even takes you up under the Incline Railroad tracks.

It's at this point that I should probably stop for a minute and comment on my shoe choice. The Trail Glove has a rock plate on the forefoot to help with surfaces such as a gravel road.
...but eventually turns to this.
The Merrell Barefoot line (like all good minimalist shoes) is known for having a wide toe box. I love the toe box on all my Merrell Barefoot shoes, but the thing is, I have long, skinny feet which don't even come close to filling that bad boy out. While this is great for toe splay, it also allows rocks to push the rock plate to the side if you land just right, causing you to realize just how minimal the shoe actually is. There is no rock plate under the heel either. I don't care how proud you are of your super efficient, running nerd, forefoot strike: sometimes there is a pointy rock that happens to be protruding just behind where you planted that forefoot strike, and it will catch your heel. You're not going to get a puncture wound or anything, but it is something of a jolt to be cruising along (and believe me, you absolutely can cruise along in these lightweight, low profile shoes) worry free, then land with a pointy rock towards the outside of your foot. The low profile also translates into basically no ankle support. As the shoes have a small base, the leverage against your ankle is never as big as something with a larger platform. I don't have sore ankles today, but if you are looking for roll protection, you won't find it in these shoes.

After about a mile, the trail abruptly ended into the Cravens House parking lot. I had heard that there were more trails around Cravens House, so I just kept running, and before long, I came across another one, albeit a wooded, single track.
One of the many rock faces along the way.
This was what I was looking for when I set out this morning. The trail started up and winding with a couple rolls on a mixture of dirt and rock. It got steep enough to make me walk a few steps here and there. Sometimes, there were rock steps. Sometimes, it was just dirt. At one point, I passed a group of three women and their huge dog (seriously, Great Dane huge) coming the other way. After a while though, the trail (mercifully) leveled out, and I began to sort of recognize where I was.

I was on what I now know as the "Bluff Trail." It runs around the western edge of Lookout Mountain. As the trail winds along, you run up next to rock faces, underneath rock overhangs, and cross what may even be the start of a mountain stream or two. The rocks get bigger and smaller, more dense and less dense as you go. Every once in a while, the trail turns out from the mountain and there's a break in the trees, giving you a pretty sweet view of the valley below. It's beautiful. It's also terrain and settings like this where the Trail Glove does its best work. Yes, you still have the issue of rocks sneaking around the rock plate, but the treads are great for gripping on dirt, and the ground feel means you can really plant your foot with conviction.
This is really someone's back yard.
I felt like I knew exactly what to do and exactly what I was doing with my feet the whole time.

I soon saw signs for Sunset Rock, a spot that I hiked to a few times when we lived here before. The thought crossed my mind that even though you can't see civilization at all out there, and I was technically in the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, I wasn't too far from someone's back yard. I do love how quickly you can get seemingly into the middle of nowhere in Chattanooga, and how quickly you can slip back when needed. As I rounded the base of Sunset Rock, I saw repelling ropes hanging from the cliffs above. Glancing up to make sure that a repeller wasn't about to sit on me, I rounded the corner and saw a couple of repellers who had just finished their decent. The girl was in the process of changing her shorts. No, I have no idea why. Yes, it was slightly awkward. All I could think to do was say "Howdy," and scamper on by. "Be careful of bees down that way," she said. "Bees. Got it. Thanks!" I replied.

From then on, the trail got thinner, as in undergrowth was starting to slap against my legs. I came upon a couple of other runners coming the other way.
You wouldn't know it, but there's a trail in there.
They looked way more like they knew what they were doing than me (Camelbaks and Salomons on the both of them), so I yielded and let them by. At one point the trail was completely blocked by a felled tree, and I had to nearly crawl under it. Eventually, I came to a fork, took the high road, and ended up back on a road that I recognized, at the trail head for the Ochs Gateway. A couple of less than thrilling road miles later, and I was back home with 11 new to me miles in my Garmin and little mud in the treads.

Not that you should take my word for it as I definitely haven't run in anywhere near enough trail shoes to have a completely informed opinion, but I like the Trail Gloves. They scratch my itch for lightweight, low profile, flexible and good ground feel in a shoe while still letting me cut loose a bit on varied terrain. Having made the mistake of running a trail or two in my Road Gloves and once (only once) in my Vibram FiveFinger Speeds, I can tell you that the rock plate does make a difference. As for the Bluff Trail, I hope to make it out there again soon. With so many other trails to run, it may be a while, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself out there. I'd be interested to see how much faster I run it when I'm not messing with my iPhone too.