Archive for July, 2012

Asics Gel Blur 33

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The “33″ in Asics so-named line-up of middle to lightweight running and racing shoes is in reference to the 33 bones of the foot.

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The Blur is a light middleweight shoe constructed with a combination of Asics’ gel, memory foam and solyte providing substantial shock absorption.

The heel cup has a layer of memory foam that conforms to the foot to provide a glove like fit.

The outsole, typical for the 33 line-up, reduces the coverage of the tough road going rubber in favor of weight savings.

In the picture above you see the orange is heavy duty rubber and the blue is lightweight EVA type material.

Uppers are excellent quality, ventilation is excellent for 90 degree days, flat laces.

In practical use I feel that the Blur seems to slot in between the lighter, firmer Neo and the plusher Excel. It’s a fast, comfortable platform that I’m able to log six mile runs without foot, leg or back pain. Foot bed friction heat is minimal but is occasionally noticed, but not to the extent of the Excel.

Overall this is an excellent middle lightweight run/training shoe that should hold up fairly well to mileage while maintaining good comfort and reasonable stability.

Warrior Dash Minnesota – Race Recap & Impressions

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The Warrior Dash bills itself as not only the world’s largest running series, but promises you ‘the craziest day of your life’.  The former may or may not be true although Red Frog Events (the owner/organizer of the Dash) recently proclaimed a participant as the 1,000,000th runner.  The ‘craziest day’ claim?  I didn’t think the race was that crazy, nor would it likely qualify as the craziest day of a person’s life.  The Dash did however appear to be the most physically challenging day of many of the participant’s lives, at least to those whom I observed sitting or standing in the shade along the course route, cashed out, unable to proceed another step.

The race.

5 minutes before start, jammed into a starting paddock with about 500-600 other racers for the 10 AM wave.  Waves depart every 30 minutes.  The race announcer trying to get the racers fired up.  Give the person next to you a high-five, etc., etc.  Skip all that and let’s focus are my thoughts.  Let’s go.  Fireballs flaming from the top of the start arch key ‘Go!’

And we’re off..slowly..it’s a grand march across the bottleneck which is the starting grid electronic timer mat to read the computer chip on each person’s shoe.  There are chip readers all along the course, presumably to prevent people from cheating and cutting corners.  But why bother to pay $50 to do this if you’re going to cheat?

I’ve got plenty of time to turn and wave to my wife and kids!

Now through the starting gate and breaking into the open it’s a 400 meter climb up a modest slope, then a sharp left with a long downhill sweeping right through a water blaster and some light mud/running ground water.  Flat elevation up to the first obstacle which is a gauntlet of car and truck tires hanging from ropes.  You bash your way through the tires no problems really except for competitors running nearby inadvertently shoving a tire your way which can catch you off-guard.

Now comes the first of many uphill slogs.  A 10-12% grade winding slightly to the left, then at the top another obstacle, it’s a large A-frame structure standing ~25′ with about a dozen ropes hanging down that runners use to walk/climb up the wall, it’s easy, but don’t fling yourself over the top, as it’s a rack of 2×4 on the other side, widely spaced, which you must climb down, or risk falling through to the ground.  Finish the obstacle and it’s a short flat run ramping quickly into what is the first really intense, long climb, straight up a downhill ski run.  Not many are running or jogging all the way.  About half-way up, that’s it, I begin walking too, just in time for the first photography station.

At the top here’s another obstacle.  Termed ‘Barricade Breakdown’.  It’s a series of 4′ high walls inter-spaced with low barbed wire.  First you hurdle a wall, then scuttle forward hands/knees to go under barbed wire, repeat this about 6 times.  It’s easy enough to boost over the walls then go under wire, but repeating it over and over gets intense, especially after that uphill that preceeded, you leave this obstacle winded.

Off we go again, jogging lengthwise across the face of another ski slope, then we turn downhill for a modest running descent, what I’ll begin thinking of as recovery descents.  We round a corner, into a very steep descent at too fast a pace, recovering footing into the next obstacle, which are a series of narrow gang planks you must navigate up, across and then down without falling off.  At their peak they rise to about 6′ off the ground and are 8″ wide, spanning perhaps 25′.  The planks shake a little depending on who’s running in front, behind.  At this obstacle I hear a loud “Ouch!!” from a competitor.

Successfully navigate the planks and now it’s a gentle flat elevation run over a double-track into a forest road emerging to see the next obstacle, the Treacherous Trenches.  Here the goal is to choose one of four trenches topped with barbed wire to crawl 50′ through.  I picked the trench I thought would give me the least resistance.   Yes the barbed wire and logs overhead are low enough so you’ll have to wriggle through part way on your stomach.  I got zinged a couple times by barbs.  They are real, and plenty sharp.

Once through the trenches, we’re off and running, following a double track across the base of the ski resort, through another large power fan blowing water and some mud.  I now realize this fan wasn’t an obstacle, but meant to cool off runners in preparation for a wicked ascent zigzagging up, up and across another long downhill ski run.  Many, many competitors have cashed in their chips and are sitting in the shade along the sides of this ski slope.  Only one iron-man is attempting to jog up this steep beast, everybody else is hiking it.

Here’s another obstacle, a bunch of barbed wire strung between poles.  I crab crawled through this, the observer keeps yelling out ‘stay to the side if you can, there’s more room there!’  My advice: listen to him.  More room means less barbs poking you.

My son congratulating me on a finishing the 2012 Minnesota Warrior Dash. As you can see, I was able to stay out of the mud…

Now departing the ski slope we enter the forest and a single track, a mountain bike trail, going upward through a series of switchbacks, only room on this trail for one person, so it’s a huge bottleneck, a forced march..perhaps a good thing..until the single track opens up to reveal yet another obstacle.

It’s another huge A-frame, but without ropes.  You climb up both sides using 2×4′s with large openings that would be easy to fall through.  There is a negative camber at the top to climb over, be careful here.  From the top I see many are now walking around this obstacle, they are toast.

After decending the A-frame,we’re off again, the ski slope path opens onto a groomed gravel road, modest elevation, so some of us start running again.  This is pleasant run on a gravel road, up until the next obstacle which is a big cargo net climb.  It’s simply another of these enormous A-frames, but with cargo ropes going up one side and then down the other.  Easy enough, and fun.  Jumping down the last 5 feet on the back side, there are now a small group of us running earnestly again.  Sort of.  Here’s another obstacle right away, The Typhoon.  It’s two enormous wind fans blowing stinging sheets of water.  It’s welcome relief from the oppressive heat.  I stop for a moment.  My sunglasses probably saved me from losing a contact lens, it’s such a powerful gale.  Leaving the storm, now somebody yells out, it’s all downhill from here!  Those who have anything left are running again, and we’re going fast, we’re passing whole groups of people walking.  Now we’re really going downhill, and fast.  It’s borderline treacherous, this is a downhill ski slope in the summer, loose sandy loam, pot holes, somebody passes me at an insane bombing run pace.  Still none of us running lets off the gas.

Emerging from the descent, we’re into a slight looping right ascent crossing over a mild rise.  Now a precipitous downhill, more extreme than the last, here running with quick, short, choppy steps, and fast, no this isn’t a recovery descent, we’re pushing, we can see the next target, and in the distance the finish line.

Before me is the Petrifying Plunge.  It’s six slides made of thick black pond liner plastic, probably over bales of hay, with water spraying, it’s straight downslope about 75-100′ into what appears to be a mudpit.  I leap into a slide landing on my rear..and go nowhere.  I stand up, back up a little,  run and do a superman..Ouch!  But away I go like a rocket to the bottom, actually passing some more people.  I avoid the water slide mud pit by hitting the brakes and sticking the landing.  We are now getting close to the finish, you can see the fires, the crowds, and the real mud pit looming, but finally fatigue is creeping in, but still the drive to the finish line, one more kick, still passing people, many of these folks are the remnants of previous waves.

Now it’s leaping over the 3 or 4 flaming mounds they call The Warrior Roast, this is easy, okay  it’s warm but no chance of catching fire since I’m soaked.

The finish line is just 50′ away, yet between here and there is a deep pit of black slime strung over with barbed wire.  This is the final obstacle, a.k.a. Muddy Mayhem.  Going into the race, I had determined that I was going to go gingerly though that mud pit, so as to keep as clean as possible.

Forget it.  I back dove in.  Forget about keeping clean, just try and avoid swallowing any.  Surprisingly it didn’t really smell.  It was 3+ feet deep and had the texture of pudding.  Lots of crunchy stuff deep down under knees and feet which I believe may be activated charcoal, but who knows.  The woman behind me says ‘just don’t kick’!  No problem, kicking wouldn’t have resulted in any forward movement anyway.  Progress through the morass was made with a sort of doggy paddle/crawl on the knees, emerging finally, stumbling out of the pit, loaded with black mud to cross under the finish banner like an off-kilter rhino, or perhaps a wildebeest, emerging from it’s wallow.

Summary?  The most challenging aspect of Warrior Dash was, without a doubt, the terrain of Afton Alps.  Repeatedly ascending downhill ski slopes isn’t easy, not by half.  It’s simply hard to train for that type of cardiovascular event.  Next?  The heat.  It was hot, 87-degrees at race start.  There were plenty of water stations with cold bottled water.  The obstacles were all benign enough, fun factor, with just a little hint of danger should you blunder and fall off or get poked by barbed wire, or yell an occasional “Ouch!!”  I know could have pushed a little, or maybe a lot harder out there, but I didn’t need to get heat stroke.  I had seen two ATVs go by with folks stretched out in the back while I was on the course.  I wasn’t looking for a ride.

I ended up finishing in 36 minutes, placing 362 out of 6600 competitors.

My main goal was just to get out there, have fun, and see what this series was all about.  I think I accomplished all three.

Next time I’ll know how to train.  Hill repeaters, and hill repeaters and hill repeaters.  Or maybe I won’t, since this really a just ’fun run’.

Logistics.

I drove, along with my fan base – my wife, my 5-year-old son, and 2-year-old daugher from Minneapolis to the designated parking lot, a farm/gardening center near the Afton Alps Ski Resort.  Parking was at the garden center, with school buses ferrying folks to and from Afton Alps, the event location.  The parking fee was $20 per car, outrageous particularly since there are no other options readily available.

I ran in the 10 AM wave, on Sunday.  It’s the less expensive of the two days, and getting there early I hoped to avoid the crowds.

There were no problems loading a stroller and the kids onto the bus, the bus ride was 5-8 minutes to the event site.  The wait to get on busses was about 5 minutes.  Once at the site, registration and packet pick-up was efficient.  There was a nice shaded area in the fan/observer paddock where the wife and kids were able to watch the proceedings out of the heat and sun, which at 10 AM was already in the high 80′s.  It’s a 3-mile course winding all over the ski resort and only the final two obstacles (mud pit and fires) were visible from the spectator area.  The race village housed a large registration tent, food vendors, a beer garden, and live rock music played from a stage at the other end of the race village.  Porta potties, the big pile of post-race shoe donations, and the wash down were all behind the stage.

The wash down consisted of two large fans blowing water (just like the Typhoon) and a man running a firehose.  Crowds of muddy people stood in the howling wind and water which peeled off most of the outer layers of muck, but you’ll still want a change of clothes for the ride home, and a few towels to sit on.

I am a 41-year-old male, 5K and 10K race competitor, who regularly runs 20 miles per week, mostly not ever on ski slopes or in 87 degree weather.

The overall winner on Sunday was a 54-year-old man, with a time of 23:11 minutes:seconds.