Monday, January 22, 2007

Trail Nerds Play hard and work hard!

If you've ever run with us Trail Nerds, then you know that our trails are in good shape. Partially because we keep so much traffic on them, but also because we build them to stand up to the elements while remaining as natural as possible. We don't want to have too much of an impact on the land that gives us so much enjoyment.

This past weekend, there were several workdays around our area. One of those was down in Fall River Lake State Park near Fall River, KS. If you've never heard of it, don't worry. Neither have most people in the surrounding area. It's a beautiful park with a good sampling of various terrains to enjoy.

As you can see from the picture, it turned onto quite a snowy day. The weather ended up cutting our work time short due to safety reasons, but we still got about 4.5 miles of initial ground breaking done with the Kansas Single Track Society and the Kansas Trail Council organized by Mike Goodwin.

This project is planned in four phases and total mileage planned is around 31 miles. This is going to be a beautiful trail system worth making a short trip to experience!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fun on the Ice and Psycho Activities

It's cold and icy out on the trails! As long as you're dressed properly and are wearing some "winter traction devices", you'll be okay running this time of year.

Here are two good choices for traction on the ice while running:
Screwing your shoes or Yaktrax (the "Pro" model, only). The YakTrax "Pro" model has an extra strap across the top of your shoes, and stays on your feet; something the regular model has problems with, while running.

Putting screws in an old pair of running shoes works exceptionally well, also. Be sure to follow the instructions closely, though. As Cheri Sutton recently said, "I tried out "screwed shoes" for my Saturday trail run this past weekend. They worked like a charm! And they worked great in the parking lot afterwards too."


You can find the YakTrax product in the Kansas City Area at:
Garry Gribble's Running Sports
Sitzmark Sports (the ski shop)
Dick's Sporting Goods

Trail running advice such as this can be found on our "Advice and Info" webpage.

"Group runs" update:
During our group runs this past week, we've had no fewer than 8 runners show up on any given group running day. The weather hasn't made much of a dent in participation for trailrunning, at all. One of the main reasons: If you run in the woods, you are out of the cold wind. Out on the roads and sidewalks, windchill is a factor, but not on the trails that we run. Also, it's much safer to run where there are no cars to slide into you. For road runners, winter is the most dangerous time of year. (And they have to wear all of those flashy lights, reflective vests, etcetera). We can run in "stealth mode" and can be more a part of nature.

Psycho WyCo update:
In one short month, we'll have our group's first race of the year, the "Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run." We already have over 100 runners signed up. Thirty-five are signed up for the 50K, alone. This is the 3rd annual version of of the race, and I'm expecting about 300 entrants, this year. We had 213, last year. The first year we only had 44. You can download the most current list of entrants for this year's race here.

The course for Psycho WyCo is tougher than most runners expect to find in Kansas. On each 10.35-mile loop, there's over 5000 feet of elevation change. The footing is also very technical for about 50% of that. We usually only have a 50% finish rate for the 50K and 20-miler. Being a 3-loop 50K, the temptation is always there to drop out at the end of your 1st or 2nd loop. So it's also mentally challenging. You can download a course map here.

We always have nice shirts and finisher's hardware for the race. This year, we'll have long-sleeve "technical" shirts with the "Psycho" logo on the front:


I won't divulge the color of this year's shirts in advance, though. That's something left for you to find out on race day.

Our finisher's medals are pretty cool, also. The 50K and 20-miler finishers get this medal:

The 10-milers will get a "dog tag" version of the medal. The design was created by trailrunner and talented graphic artist, Jason Crosby. He now lives in South Carolina, but will be traveling back to K.C. for the Psycho WyCo race.

All three race distances have a $30 entry fee. Any leftover funds goes toward trail maintenance activities and the Parks Department for the area.

This low entry fee is typical of our group's trail races. Many of our shorter races cost less than 10 bucks. Our motto is "Dirty feet, run dirt cheap."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How To Pick Your Trailrunning Shoes

If you are ever wanted to try trail running and wanted to find and buy a decent pair of trailrunning on.


I consider myself an experienced runner and trailrunner. I ran for more than 25 years on pavement before converting to trails exclusively, about 5 years ago. Back in my "roadie" days, I finished 38 road marathons, including Boston, and many, many shorter races. In the past 7 years, I've run in many short-distance to long-distance trail races, from 5K to 100-mile trail runs. I train for at least 50 miles per week on rocky, hilly, and root-filled trails, (even after dark). I've never been the fastest guy around, (but I'm tenacious as hell). I used to have every chronic running injury known to man, when I ran exclusively on the roads. I even used to get blisters on a marathon, which I now consider a "medium-distance" run. It's extremely rare for me to get a blister now, even on a wet & muddy 100-mile run. I don't have any chronic running injuries anymore, and I'm approaching 50 years old. Why am I telling you this? Because if you are going to purchase a pair of trailrunning shoes with your hard-earned cash, you might be able to use some of my hard-earned knowledge.

There are many "trailrunning experts" online. For instance, this is what the supposed "experts" at will tell you:
"Trail shoes are, for the most part, quite similar in construction to road running shoes. However, they have added traction and more durable uppersoles. Some road shoes work well as part-time trail shoes (e.g. the Saucony GRID Stabil), while many trail shoes work well on the road (e.g. the Adidas Trail Reponse). Features to look for include: added traction, durability without too much weight, and motion control for running on uneven surfaces."

This is absolutely incorrect information. This is advice from someone who is obviously a roadrunner or a "rails to trails" trail runner. He should be drug through the mud by his poseur-trail-shoe laces!

This is some more experienced advice:
True trailrunning shoes are not just roadrunning shoes with more durable uppersoles and added traction. Trailrunning shoes should be fairly light, and have more protection for your toes and forefoot area, to keep from getting "rock & root-induced trauma." You also want your heel to sit lower within the back of the shoe to avoid ankle sprains. Roadrunning-style "motion control shoes" tend to be higher in the heel area, less flexible, and more prone to putting torque on your ankle area than true trailrunning shoes. While wearing these "high-heeled" shoes, If you were to step on an small stump, rock or root, (which you eventually will), you would have a much higher chance for a severe ankle injury. Not good. Also, the stiffer the shoe, the less of your shoe bottom contacts the surface of the uneven-surfaced trails. You therefore have less control and less "trail feel" with a stiff shoe. Stiff also equals heavy, in most cases. There is absolutely no reason why a decent trailrunning shoe should be any heavier than a roadrunning shoe.

More on motion-controlled shoes:
Not wearing a motion-control shoe on an uneven surface seems counter-intuitive, at first. What your motion-control shoes do for you on a road surface, is protect you from the common over-use injuries associated with running continuously on a flat, hard surface. Over-use injuries are negligible on uneven (and softer) trail surfaces. It's a whole new world of running. Since your pace, foot-strike angle, etcetera, is constantly changing on a trail run, you won't use the same-old muscle groups that you do for roadrunning. You will also be running on a softer surface, and won't be taking as much of a pounding. Hence, over-use injuries go out the window.

By the way:
With trail running, you will trade the chronic, over-use injuries for the occasional "acute" injury. Paying attention to the trail constantly is part ot the fun, though. Now back to trail shoes...

Another much-touted trail shoe shoes made with GoreTex uppers. Don't get me wrong, GoreTex is a fine product. I own a pair of GoreTex trailrunning shoes myself, but it's not the only type of trail shoe that I own. But, I WOULD NEVER USE MY GORETEX SHOES ON A COURSE WITH STREAM CROSSINGS. Why? Because when GoreTex shoes fill with water and the water will not drain out. I've known many folks who have made this mistake. You will see them lying on their back after their 2nd or 3rd stream crossing, with their feet in the air, trying to drain their shoes out. What would I use GoreTex shoes for, then? I would use them on a muddy or slushy course in the wintertime; a course without stream crossings or over-the-ankle-deep puddles. GoreTex shoes tend to keep your feet warm, so they are a good choice for winter runs, given the right course. They are hotter than blazes in the summer though, and they will fill-up with your own sweat! Having a drainable, breathable top is a better choice, if you will be hitting any stream crossings during your run or event. You will find that your shoes will dry-out noticibly after about 10 minutes of running.

What about "trail running sandals?" In two words: they suck. They let every stick, pebble, and piece of sand come in potential contact with your foot. The stuff will accumulate between the bottom of your foot and the sandal bottom. Shoes with a severely-open mesh top are in the same boat. There's a balance between having a breathable / drainable top, and having a totally-open top. Always keep in mind the 3 things that cause blisters: friction, heat, and moisture. If you are letting pebbles and sand in on a regular basis, you're going to have a problem with blisters due to adding a bunch of friction-inducing crap to your shoes.

Something else to look out for:
Many trailrunning shoes have soles with cut-out areas in the arch area of the tread to save weight. Experienced trailrunners call these cut-outs "mud pockets." Sticky mud will tend to accumulate in these mud pockets, and make your shoes extremely heavy during your run. It's best to avoid shoes with mud-accumulation areas if you run in muddy conditions, or if you will be running a race with mud. There are worse things, though. Nike's new "Shox Junga" has about 20 areas on the bottom of each shoe for mud and crap to accumulate in the "shox" areas. In my opinion, these shoes are made for wanabee trailrunners with way too much money to spend, who never intend to run on a trail. It's kind of like people who will buy a Jeep Rubicon to commute on the freeway everyday, without ever intending to take it off-road.

Finding the right fit:
Luckily, trailrunning shoes come in a wide variety of fits, sizes, and types. You should be able to find a shoe that is right for your foot type, style of running, and the conditions that you plan to run in and on. I always advocate "try, before you buy" at your local merchant anyday, over ordering over the internet. They will provide you the attention needed to find the right fitting shoe. Even with "free shipping" back to the the vendor, do you really have the time to re-package your ill-fitting internet shoes, to ship them back?

How long do they last?
How many miles can you put on your trailrunning shoes? About as many as on your roadrunners...500 miles maximum. Do not be fooled by tread life. A better indication would be to look at the sides of the midsole (the foam part between the outsole and the upper). If it is noticeable "wrinkly," it's probably time to buy a new pair. Also, if they start to "feel dead" during a long run, then it's time to get rid of them. An excellent strategy is to rotate several pairs of trailrunning shoes at the same time, even if they are the same model. It's also nice to have a different model for "special conditions." Also, trail shoes should never cost any more than roadrunning shoes.

Final advice:
Don't be fooled with gimmicks. This is true for all running shoes. What works, works. And what works for you, may not work for everybody else. If you want to get more advice about trailrunning shoes, check out what the ultrarunners are running in. They tend to run more miles on trails than the average, occasional trail runner.
Some other sources of information: Ultrarunning Magazine and TrailRunner Magazine or any old opinionated (but experience) fool, such as myself.

What trail shoes am I currently running in?
I'm always searching for that "perfect" trail shoe. Currently, I'm running in these models:

1) Vasque Blur - my current fave and an all-around good shoe. Good for 5K's to 100-milers. Decently lightweight with a flexible forefoot and really good rock protection. They have very good "trail feel" for a shoe as cushy as they are. They dry fast (after water crossings), too.

2) Keen Ochoco - A good winter mud/slush shoe. They may look odd, but they keep your feet warm and are incredibly comfortable. I ran a 50K in them on 1/1/07, and they felt great for the whole run. Don't wear them through deep stream crossings, though (because they will fill with water).

3) Montrail Continental Divide - A decent shoe, but not as good as its predecessor, the Leona Divide. (Too tall in the heel area and "too substantial" for my tastes). I've had better results with this shoe on flatter trails (and actually on pavement), and they felt great under those circumstances. This shoe would be a great choice for running very long distances on the Trolley Track trail, on the Blue Springs Little Trace trail, or at the Heatland 100/50 mile trail races.

4) The 2007 version of the Mizuno Wave Ascend (the Wave Ascend 2)- Much better than their 2006 model...a terrific trailrunning shoe with light weight and good traction. It's another current favorite of mine, at least for short to medium distance trail runs. They have excellent trail feel, they dry-out fast, and just feel fast. They would be a very good choice for running in warmer weather, as well. I'm going to try them out on 40-miles of my next 100-miler, to see how they hold up on a longer run. Update: I ran the last 60-miles of the Feb 3rd Rocky Raccoon 100 in these shoes. They were terrific. Gary Gribble's carries these locally.

5) Montrail Odyssey - I've only run in these shoes twice, but they really fit the bill as decent, lightweight trailrunning shoes, with lots of trail feel and flexibility. I need to run in them for a while, and at least do at least a 50K in them to give them a full review. I wouldn't use these on a muddy run, though, because they have a large "mud pocket" built into them. Gary Gribble's now carries these locally.

Where can you purchase trailrunning shoes locally? Click Right HERE.

What about extra traction on the snow and ice??? Click HERE.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

I'm the "Imelda Marcos" of Muddy Shoes!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fat Ass 50 Km, Cameron, MO

Early New Year's Morning, a gaggle of Kansas City Trail Nerds headed north to Wallace State Park, in Cameron, Missouri to run in the 10th annual Fat Ass 50-kilometer run. It was a 1-hour drive from suburban KC. What a better way to start the year than to run a 31-mile trail run?
2007 Fat Ass 50K
Bob and Sara Risser always have a very low-key and fun event, followed by some good homemade "eats" in the Park's shelter house. The Risser's have been putting-on this event for 10 years, now. Keeping in the tradition of a true “Fat Ass” New Year’s event, the run is always free of charge to enter. Prior to the start of the race, Paul Schoenlaub presented them with two 10-year anniversary jackets.

2007 Fat Ass 50K Frontrunners
The Front-runners

The Trail Nerds all did well in the fun run. Young Caleb "Gumby" Chatfield, who's now on the regional Montrail Team, "took it easy" and did a 4:13:00 50K on the hilly, rocky, and slightly icy course. He proudly wore his new Trail Nerds long sleeve shirt in the 27-degree weather. He was having some gastro-intestinal distress, and had to stop 3 times to "eliminate" the offending issues, costing him about 10 minutes. What a better time to "do" that, than at a fun Fat Ass run?
2007 Fat Ass 50K Caleb Chatfield
Caleb Chatfield

2nd Place finisher, Dave "the Prince of Perry" Wakefield had a decent run and a fun time on both the course and on the finish line, with the ever-obnoxious and "frequently depraved" Trail Nerds.

Rick "Hypothermia" Mayo ran a great run, followed closely by Greg Burger "the 4th." Rick will be running at the Rocky Raccoon 100 with me in a month, and Greg will be heading to the Leadville 100, this year.

Gabe "Big and Ripped" Bevan ran a fast 50K. He also ran a very fast first 100-miler at Heartland, just 3 short months ago.

Paul "Chatterbox" Schoenlaub cruised through the run in a decent time, using it as a "social trainer." He did his traditional extra 6-mile loop and coached a friend on her last loop.

Stuart "Shawnee" Johnson ran well, followed closely by his ever-faster wife, Deb. Deb took 1st female honors. Bob "Garmin" Billings ran at a steady, "metronome" pace and did well.

I took it easy and did a slow 6:08:00, having run for 7 days straight (to have a high-mileage pre-100-miler training week). I was fine for the first 19 miles, then I had about an hour of "tough time," but I pushed through it and felt better the last 6 miles of the event. The next day I ran a short, fast 4-mile trail loop in SM Park with the Trail Nerds to loosen up. (Many of them ran one or two more 4-mile loops that same night).

Sarah Sinning ran well in her first-ever ultra. She has come a long way in a few short months. She took 2nd Female honors. Her "good friend," Brian ran a few fast loops with the front-runners, then rested his sore knees at the start/finish area, to cheer Sarah on to a good finish.

Gregg from St Joe, MO, had a sub-7-hour finish. He's come a long way in a year.

"Good Ben" Reeves was running well until he ripped a leg muscle, about 25 miles into the race. What a wuss! He could have finished if he had taken my advice and just favored the other leg 100% of the time; or walked on his hands for the last 6 miles.

"Markos" Jacquez was running very well for the first few 6-mile loops until he started dry-heaving like Mel Gibson on a pre-rant bender.

Results below.

All Fat Ass photos by Dick Ross at

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Fat Ass 50 Km, Missouri Version
Cameron, Missouri
January 1, 2007
Caleb Chatfield, 27, KS 4:13:02
David Wakefield, 32, KS 4:29:00
Joe Winch, 50, IA 4:48:30
Rick Mayo, 31 4:48:38
Greg Burger, 40, KS 4:50:48
Gabe Bevan, 34 5:10:47
Paul Schoenlaub, 47 5:18:42
Ken Plumb, 54, WS 5:24:28
Stuart Johnson, 47, KS 5:41:55
Deb Johnson, 47, KS 5:51:40
Bob Billings, 42, KS 5:58:14
Ben Holmes, 49, KS 6:08:34
David Swenson, 51, IA 6:22:02
Sarah Sinning, 23, KS 6:28:28
Cindy Gronstedt, 46 6:43:55
Gregg Mikvicka, 41 6:49:40