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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sweet sweet secret spot how I love thee.....
So Im back in action, hot trail action to be specific.
I ran the secret spot the other day and man did she ever give me in spades the things that I keep coming back there for:
Amazing views
Amazing single track trails
No other humans in sight
Steep climbs, fast descents
Fairies and Nymphs
Here are a couple of pics.  Yall have seen it all before, but I am seriously in love with this place.

This is from the summit, you can barely make out where the trail joins with others, if you go straight you get quite a steep ride down, or up if you reverse it.
Here you can see the grade-steep.  Its not nearly as tough as the big drop which is longer and has lots of loose rocks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MUSAK

Ok, so over on the DM  site, I have found myself in a habit of posting videos that I have found on youtube, whilst nursing my foot injury.
Music is deeply important to me and serves many purposes.  So
Nmetimes it helps me process my feelings, other times it helps lighten my mood/heavy heart.
I have a fairly broad spectrum of music I love from the obvious (classic violin literature, symphonic literature) to neoafro instrumental funk, to stoner rock and death metal, to bluegrass and chamber pop.
I could literally communicate to others in music-sadly the world dictates I use words not rhythm, tone, and verse.  Think about it, we could say so much more!
Ok enough explaination.  I am going to use this post to chronicle my favorite finds on Youtube.  I will update this ALOT
Feel free to comment or shoot any suggestions my  way!
Here we go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LLAN29W-4w


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saucony Peregrine 2 Initial Review

I received the new kicks about a week ago, unfortunately, I was down and out with an injury and the arrival of these served to really kick sand in my face.  Trying to give injury time to heal is often a very difficult thing for me.

First Impressions:  The upper is obviously different.  Gone is the semi stiff mesh and rubber overlay of Peregrine 1, and replaced is a supple and stretchy base material with a more plastic overlay.  The fit is noticeably different on this shoe, and different than any other shoe I have worn before.  It felt like a compression sock of sorts, where the shoe is hugging the entire foot.  Very sock like would be the description.  Also, the toe bumper is much more rugged.  I got to try that out today, no bruised toes!  I did not really notice a lack of room in the toe box like I had a bit in the originals and the red Kinvara 2'z.  Again, the stretchy upper accommodated my feet and were very comfortable.
I do not care for the laces-with all Saucony laces, when they get wet, they come untied.  So, even double knots seem to come undone.  As far as the upper is concerned, this was a perfect change.  I did not really love the fit of the Peregrine 1, but 2 has one of the best upper fits I have ever experienced.  Both sitting around the house and on the trail.  The shoe felt like it was part of my foot.  A very nice feeling on techy single track, especially nursing a cuboid bone injury.
At first glance, the midsole and outer sole are unchanged.  However, I am not convinced.  One other aspect of the Peregrine 1 I didnt like so much was the stiff and almost hard feel.  That went away a bit with time, but 2 felt much more cushy and flexible.  Also, the rock plate seemed harder, not sure if there are articulation points in the new one, but flexing the shoe with my hands was easier, pushing on the outsole seemed to be harder-just an observation.  These trails today have many rocks and roots that can be a problem for shoes with out some kind of push through protection.  The rock protection on the Peregrine 2 is awesome.  I felt no rocks and roots-again, my right foot is tender from a cuboid bone issue and never had a problem from any of the trail gnarl.  These are nicely protective.  One other observation is the two toned midsole is really just paint.  Mine are dark grey and green, the midsole is black and green, the black will be coming off....

I put in almost 6 miles on single track today.  These shoes felt great the entire time, I did not hit any hard pack trails, but stayed in the mud and roots.  These shoes really accel in this environment.  In the flat open sections, I opened it up at about 6:50 MM pace and again the extension of my foot feel really felt nice.  There is a nice mix of grip, luggy confidence, light low to the ground, and protective feel here.  The new mid-sole feel makes these feel more protective and certainly more comfortable.

I really hope these stay like they are and do not fall apart like the Peregrine 1's did.
I would at this point buy with reserved confidence-the uppers are completely different and have no resemblance to the Kinvara 2/1/Peregrine 1 uppers.  The mesh just didnt hold up in these models, some fell apart alarmingly fast.  These seem to be the right fix for a great shoe plagued with durability being its Achilles heal.
First impression is a solid A.
I will put some miles on these and update soon.
*********************************************************************************
                                                                           UPDATE
*********************************************************************************5/4/12
Did a 7 miler yesterday, nothing too wild, but hilly and twisty.  I developed what looks like some tearing on the lateral side of the shoe.  Also the black painted area that you can see below on the other shoe is peeling off in big chunks, not a big deal, but if you charge $110.00 for shoes, seeing black paint peel off is not cool.
Good news is the shoes feel awesome underfoot, but with the problem of the side blowing out, I am pretty frustrated.
Not sure what to say about this...




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whats going on?

Not much!  After a long stretch of good running, it all caught up to me.  Last Thursday while running what has become a standard for me (Independence Grove single track then a nice long stretch on the DPRT South to Old School, loop around that FP and head back to IG, its about 14 miles), I felt a tightness and a slight pain in my right foot.  As I progressed at about 8 MM, it quickly got worse.  Being one who wants to get a general amount of miles in per week, I refused to stop, but changed into a heel strike as the pain was in the lateral mid-foot.  Of course, that was a bad idea....
Now, I am 1 week out, the pain and tightness is subsiding, but certainly still there.  I may test the foot tomorrow with a short and easy run, however, I will be very careful to not push into damaging my foot further.
I have Ice Age coming up in less than a month and need every healthy day I can get to be prepared.
I am also going to be reviewing a few other new spots-Deer Grove and I may head south and try a few gems that I have caught wind of-namely the Indiana Dunes area.  In discussion with a fellow trail runner who trains there, it would seem it holds great promise!
I also want to hit a some longish runs in Palos, as I feel I may have not really given this area a chance.
2 other spots up in Lake county are:
Buelah Park in Zion
DPRT North of Gurnee
Lastly, I have an old work friend in Milwaukee that really wants to try Lapham Peak with me, and I am all game.
Seeing I have so much flexibility in my schedule during the week, I may try to hit a few spots in WI that are under 1 hour from here (kind of a rule I have, needs to be less than an hour drive from here).  There are sections of the Ice Age trail in that radius, along with some lesser known places that have been on my radar for a while.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having my little brother in from WA State.  He is a very experienced trail runner and Ski Mountaineer/Climber.  We had a blast in my classic routes, the best being our 12 miler at the secret spot.  We clocked some real vert. (He wore his altimeter) and I got to see a real freak of nature run up hill.  He is in training for his leg of the Ski to Sea race that goes from the Mt. Baker ski area to Bellingham bay.  His team is always top10, and he trains by running a 1200 vert ft. peak in hill repeat fashion (think intervals that last 30 minutes on the ascent, and less than 5 to descend).  So, it inspired me to continue to develop my abilities as a uphill oriented runner.  I have some hills, but really its the treadmill that I have to turn to.
Here are some pics from our time out.
View from the top of the trails, this is the .5 mile hill from top of peak to river valley floor

This is the ski area right next to the trails, gives you an idea of the grade and sustained hill.  The right hand of the picture is the boarder of the Secret Spot.  The Secret Spot goes another 70 or so vertical ft. higher than the ski area.




Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trail Review-The SECRET Spot

I got into trail running about 2.5 years ago, both of my brothers who live in WA State have been running in the mountains for years.
Having  been told the stories of The Chuckanut 50K or White River 50 Miler ignited something deep inside of me.  When last in WA to run the RnR Seattle, I had the opportunity to run Mt. Erie on Fidalgo Island with my littlest brother-who happens to be a vertical trail running monster-http://www.pbase.com/gtach/image/94301458 (pic of my little bro at mile 21 in the 2008 Chuckanut 50 race, im adopted btw, so Im not balding!!).  Anyhow, sorry for the rabbit trail....I came back
1. Injured
2. On fire to find trails to run here in North Eastern IL-realizing there is no analog, but to get that same freeing feeling of flying up, across or down single track.
I set out to find such a place and was told there really wasn't any.  Frustrated with that, I sought the help of the internet to begin to research places I could get my fix.
I stumbled across a few MTB forums that spoke of a few spots in Lake County.  One in particular was an elusive forest preserve in the extreme northwestern corner of the county, tucked right on the WI boarder.  It was supposedly very rugged, nearly 100% single track, basically one giant hill, and off limits to anyone but those on foot.  Even though I was injured and had no business stressing my ankle with bombing down an unstable surface.
One afternoon, late fall of 2010, I decided I would go out and see what this was all about.  I mapped out how to get there and even found a trail map of the preserve.  I parked the car, and set out exactly as it shown on the map.  5 minutes later, I had traversed the first valley and found myself blinking in the sun at the summit of the "mountain"



The Summit marker from the USGS
From here you have a hand full of options of how to "get down"
  1. To the right-a short steep decent down a very technical rocky rooty sandy area, then to the fire road
  2. To the left-
    1. Down the other end of the fire road
    2. Down a very steep decent that crosses the fire road and then has another steep dual pitch
    3. Follow the summit ridge to the .50 mile long straight shot to the bottom-this is steep, with little to no break in grade.  

Typically my route will head to the right
Trail heads to the left, very unstable footing

From here you will hit a flat that will eventually take you to the main fire road, at which you go right, run about 100 yards and you will see a sign warning of the dangers that lurk in the forest and that you are not to be on horse or bike.
This area is pure magic, very rolling, twisting, and under deep forest cover.  It always smells strongly of earth and tannins from the decades of oak leaves that sit on the floor year after year.  The terrain is very rolling, either up or down, pretty much no flat for 1.5 miles.  The initial decent is fast, technical (lots of big rocks) and about .3 miles long.  You cross the most amazing glade, then climb up to a ridge that then begins the roller coaster ride for the next 10-12 minutes.  
Here are some pics of this area in various seasons:
Jungle BOOGIE





This area dumps out near the bottom of the preserve near the Fox river.  From here you can see the ski area that this preserve boarders.  I have never taken pics here as its kind of boring and I like to get through here as fast as I can.  You are now about 2.2 miles into your run and the real climbing is about to begin, as you are at the lowest elevation in the preserve.
From here you rejoin the single track and climb to the northwest, up a pitch that has a pretty steep and technical decent.  Then it levels out.  You then are at the bottom of where the other routes from the summit terminate and are now your choice of ascent.  I typically head right and take the monster-honestly, I can not run the entire way and I am pretty sure I am faster power hiking it than I would ever be running.  I have no idea the grade, but it is well past 15% and sustained for about .5 miles back to the summit we started at.
The other two routes are dual pitch ascents that will join the fire road and then climb the road to the summit.
Below are various shots of each:






I have a video of the big drop, but Ill upload it sometime I am feeling more patient.

video



To make this a 5 mile loop, I then double back all the way back to the begining where I can get water from the car, change shoes, or grab a gel.
I can not emphasize how unique this area is.  From what I understand its closest analog is Kettle Moraine in WI, which is much much larger than this little spot, however, there are no climbs this big anywhere near here-including Kettle.  Seeing this year two of my races are at Kettle Moraine, I need to run more here.  It was apparent today that I am weak when it comes to more sustained steep climbs and felt a little slow on my descents.
I wore my Montrail Rogue Racers, which performed amazingly.  They had sufficient rock protection, were light, and felt very comfortable the whole time.  I had no ankle turns and found the traction not lacking what so ever.  I had my Saucony Peregrine's in the car if I needed more traction, and they stayed put.
I am glad I finally got back there today.  It is worth the 30 minute drive each way.  Especially on a day like today.
I will leave this review with pictures from the summit, looking in each direction at the beauty that beholds those that come out to this gem:






Monday, March 5, 2012

New Trail Review-Skokie Lagoons

Today's post is back in line with why I decided to start a blog-find and review single track trails in Northern IL.
With that, I present to you-Skokie Lagoons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skokie_Lagoons - http://fpdcc.com/downloads/maps/pdf/nbn_trailmap.pdf



Like many of my finds, I came across mention of this trail system on a mountain biking forum.  All mentioning this was an intermediate level course with lots of rocks/roots/dirt and mud.  Seeing it is all contained on these man made islands, it seemed interesting.  The "formal" trails actually encircle the water portions that encircle the islands.  There is only one entrance to the trail system, this is also the only way off the island.
I scope out alot of trail on my own, I even just run through the woods and have never felt "lost".  This area was different, even though I was on a trail, I felt I had no idea where I was in relation to north, south, east, or west.  The day I chose to run here it was very overcast and the sun had no perceivable position in the sky.
I parked on the East side near the trail head.  There is no formal parking, just a wide shoulder, so I checked for signage and saw others had just parked so I did as they did.  I activated my "map my run" on my phone and ran with out my garmin watch.  I easily found the trail head and with in .25 miles I was crossing over into the "island" area of the lagoons.


  Instantly you are confronted with 4 options-right or left, straight, or kind of southwest.  I chose the southwest option, figuring I was on the more northern portion of the island and wanted to get a long stretch into the trail.
Almost immediately, I was confronted with flooded trails.  Id run a few hundred meters and then have to chug through the swampy side of the trail to avoid standing water or deep mud.
After about a mile or so, my trail punted north, I was totally confused.  I kept having to check the map on my phone to make a decision of where to head when the trail would branch off.




 As I approached the terminus of the northern tip of the island, I noticed a blue circle painted on a tree. This made everything easy.  I just started following this and soon I made my way back to where I had started.



 Then decided to take a trail that skirted the water.  This is what my shoes/legs looked like

This was tame....

Random Fish on Trail?


As I ran, the mud pits and pools of standing-freezing water got bigger.  My willingness to skirt them was waining.  I kept looking for route around these increasingly frequent obstacles, eventually I succomed to being either ankle deep in mud or at times knee deep in water.  It was a tough go but honestly very fun.




I guess that is what one can expect when you run on islands that were built to help control flooding of the river...they flood.  
As I continued on the trail southward, there were more markings on the trees.  I'm sure the MTB community knows how to navigate off of them, but for me, it just kind of helped me not feel lost.  At about the 40 minute mark, I stopped noticing what was around me or what was on trees, but rather focused on not falling or stepping in a deep pool and finishing the run.  
This was a lovely section that looked like trails I have run in WA state, minus mountains and evergreens:

Wow, now that I look at this pic, it looks pretty gloomy.  The truth is, these trails are awesome.
Granted, there are really no elevation changes (there are some very short steep inclines, but they are really nothing more than small bumps), but there are lots of technical elements that keep you present in your footing. Additionally, it would be a great place to learn how to run fast on trail.  The northern section seems to be the most twisty/rooty.  The southern portion is more cruising and open.  I really like the variety.  I would love to run here when it is dry and explore some more of the interior connector trails.  

The trails were literally underwater!

Its hard to compare these trails to other systems.  So I will just put down the pros and cons-
Pro:
  1. Single Track, next to the Edens-its very accessible 
  2. High quality and maintained trails
  3. Mix of technicality
  4. 5 miles of un interrupted trail running-not gravel bike paths.  You can actually train here.
Con:
  1. Pancake Flat
  2. Its obviously a MTB trail system, with that said, I have no idea how congested it gets and if they would share with runners
  3. IT FLOODS
For this run I wore:
Saucony Peregrines-Thank heavens, I needed all the grip I could get.  It was nice to see how well they drained.  They did hold onto mud, but any shoe would have in these conditions
Salomon running vest and shorts-these RULE and I cant see going back to wearing Nike shorts ever
Salomon EXO-SLAB calf sleeves-these multitask-ed-protected my lower legs from the un-seen nasties hidden in the depths of the water, helped keep me warm, and supported my poor lower leg muscles that were being tested by the lack of footing.
Mountain Hardware merino wool long sleeve shirt-this thing is amazing and breathes when you need it, keeps you warm when you need it.
The North Face trail socks-what ever....nothing was keeping my feet dry.
The Ultimate Direction 20 oz handheld-with water/hammer endurolyte endurofizz peach.  Love this stuff, I am very prone to cramps if I dont stay on the salts.  Im also getting used to the flavor.  This stuff is also very economical from Runningwarehouse.com.






































Monday, February 27, 2012

Something shorter, and less serious

Somehow putting down what I did the other day, has really effected me.  I think for the better as the channels for feeling seem to be larger and unblocked....so Ill leave that where it is and move on to the next subject:

Hand tailored clothing.

This has nothing to do with running or deep emotions.  In fact, its actually kind of silly.

A bit on the subject-purely my opinion and experience here.  I discovered my passion for tailored clothes when I worked for an Italian based company, after being outside of Milan for a week or so, I knew I needed a change. About the same time, I began to lose significant weight (255 down to 175).  As my body changed I noticed that there were certain looks that I could now pull off.
Not the man in a bag look that is typical here in the US, but rather a suit that would play to the shape of a mans shoulders and waist.  Pants that would fit like they were made for a leg that had contours, or just pants that fit.
I picked up a suit over there along with a pair of ankle boots that were made by an old man in his shop, by his own hands there in Bergamo (Bergamo was the town we were in). Prior to this, I like most men, thought that Armani, or Boss was "high end" and the epitome of quality.  So not the case as the next few years showed me.
I am a details freak, not as in planning details, but subtle details, like how something was made, or the variations in wood, lets call it artistic detail, not analytical detail.  I noticed this suit had stitching along the lapels, the pockets, the pants zipper, not stitching that would have been made by a machine. (See pic, these are various examples of pick stitching done by hand.  It takes a very long time to hand finish a suit or jacket this way).  I also noticed how the suit was constructed, how a suit that was put together by hand and made in the "full canvass" method, seemd to feel like wearing next to nothing.  In other words, very comfortable
I then associated pick stitching with quality and fit.  For the most part, 10 years ago, that was actually true.  Now days everything emulates a fine tailored garment, so one must know the hallmarks (and makers) of the real good stuff.
Let me take a step back and explain a few things:
1.  This kind of clothing is rare in the U.S.
2.  It is terribly expensive at retail (Bergdorff Goodman, Stanely Korshack, George Greene, Neiman Marcus are "retailers" that one can access these clothes)-I learned how to find it on close out.  You'd be impressed at how little I have paid for my wardrobe.
3.  Most men in the US are afraid to wear this kind of clothing-either because of fit or "flair"
4.  This is addicting!  I have always had positions where I wear a suit or at least a jacket and tie every day.  I needed it!

So, with the history out of the way, lets look at what really makes me purr....hand stitched garments.
Most of what I really love is indeed made in Italy.  However, there are a few exceptions when it comes to a suit or jacket.  Not so much when it comes to shoes, ties, shirts, or accessories.  The sartorial epicenter of my  universe is the town of Napoli, a dirty nasty town full of dark short people (amazing food though) at the base of a very famous volcano.  The neopolitans crank out every kind of clothing known to man in a hand sewn fashion.  When I say "hand sewn" I do not mean with a machine, but with a needle and thread.
The shirt industry in Naples alone is powered by little old ladies in their living rooms.  They recieve a bag every other day of parts of shirts that have been cut out of the specified fabric, they then have the thread and buttons (oh man, I love a nice thick Mother Of Pearl button-MOP for short). Below are some fine examples of hand sewn shirts by:
Borrelli


Kiton
You can see the tiny hand stitches in the seams!!!  YUMMY.  The buttons and button holes are crows feet stitched and sooo beautiful






This amazing town also has the best tailors in the world at work.  I have a few examples to share, both suits and jackets.  What defines each stylistically is:
Wider lapes, with a high notch placement.
Open quarters (the bottom is splayed open, closed would be a straight closure after the last button)
Very shaped sides (V shaped to follow a mans body shape)
Little to no padding in the shoulders (aka soft tailoring)
Full canvass construction (I wont get into this, but its a must)
visible hand stitching.
Cesare Attolini


Luigi Borrelli





Enrico Isaia


There are many others, but this is what I have!


There is one huge exception to the rules above.  That is a maker near and dear to anyone in Chicago.  It is Oxxford.  Oxxford is perhaps one of the finest RTW hand tailoring shops in the world.  I have a few examples.  They are located just west of the loop in Chicago.  There are tons of details that I get so excited about, namely, the button holes, they have a very distinct buttonhole that I can pick out of a crowd.  Oxxford is also the only world class label left in America.  I do not believe the export to Europe either.  Up until a few years ago, most of their models were sacks when it came to fit.  The thing I do like, is the shoulders were mostly soft and lightly padded, which meant I could have a tailor re-shape the body to get a proper fit.
Oxxford Suit:





Here is a quick snap shot of my mess a call my dress closet.  I rotate the suits and jackets out twice a year, so this is half.  The shirts get color organized when I feel obsessive.  Obviously Im not feeling that at the moment.




Ok, so now you know.  I have spent way too much time with my head in the sartorial arts....but I sure do love it!
I have ceased to obsess with most of this stuff, namely, I stopped frequenting the forum that is kind of the epicenter of it all.  I did that for 2 reasons:
1.  Wasting to much time
2.  Far too much temptation and saying "I need that".  Clearly, I have enough!
So, I still see a well made pocket square as a work of art.  I will always seek shoes made a certain way.
Ill stick to running as an obsession-it costs less and nets more!