Wednesday, March 30, 2011

La Sportiva Crosslite mountain running shoe

One of the most important parts of the wardrobe of a trail and mountain runner is the shoes...and as a member of the Wasatch Speedgoat Mountain Racing Team I was introduced to the La Sportiva brand of trail running shoes. If we didn't have them as one of our sponsors, I may never have tried them, but I'm glad I did.

Back about 2 year's ago, I decided to try this minimalist craze to see if I could help rid myself of a nasty case of Patella Tendinitis. I had read Chirunning and learned of landing directly underneath your center of gravity and how to "push off" less and keep your legs more relaxed. Along with this style of running was the recommended shoes that have a lower heel than most, which claims have been made that point to these "higher heeled" shoes creating more heel landing and shock being sent up your legs. So, with this in mind, I looked at LaSportiva's lineup and saw the Crosslite running shoe. Lower heel, less cushion, lighter shoe...this sounded exactly what I I ordered a pair.

Original and new 2.0 version of Crosslites

The first thing I noticed is that they had this cloth covering over the laces and that they were a little narrow on my wide forefeet that have been smashed flat and wide from 36 years of running, many of those miles on the roads. So I thought that maybe if I removed that cloth covering I could get to the laces in order to do my magic that I have to do with all my running shoes.  

So I did the following steps to make these narrower shoes a much better fit for my feet and I hope it can help some of you, too.

Before and after

The first step and the most important one, I think is to remove that corset over the laces. I understand LaSportiva's reasoning behind this, which is to keep grit out of the shoe, but if I can't wear them, then what's the point. A little trick I learned from Dennis "The Animal" Herr during one year (2003) at Hardrock after surfing the scree down Grant Swamp Pass was it's a good thing to sit down now and then, take off your shoes, dump out the grit, take a drink and take in the beauty surrounding you. From that day on I never wore gaiters and enjoy my sits during the race. If I feel a stone in there, it's good to take a break, let your heart rate drop a little and continue on.

So with that in mind, I took a pair of scissors and cut down through the center of the corset, shown in the photos above. When I did that, it was like a spring had spring loose, the shoes exploded in width! I put them on to feel and they felt like slippers!

Next step is to trim away the excess material with a blade of some sort by just following the stitching on the edge of the material. Here is the finished product...

After the material is removed

Before and after

The shoes now fit my feet really well and probably increased a half inch in width without that material pulling the sides in.

I also do several other things, one is tying a knot up around three loops up to prevent the forefoot of the shoes from tightening up continually every time you tighten them. One thing I also do is take out the midsole and shove a tennis ball into the front of the shoe and leave it there for several days to stretch it out even more. I take out the insoles in order to not leave a permanent impression in that....I want my feet to leave that impression, not a round tennis ball!

That's it! The shoes then only get better with wearing them. I'm on my third pair now and in the Crosslite 2.0, which I like even better. They are no different to modify, even though they look different at first. Cut the corset down the middle and trim off the excess. It does no damage to the shoe at all.

I can't say enough good things about this shoe, they served me well all last year, with a slight tryout of the discontinued Skylite, which I wore at the Bear 100 last fall and the recent Salida Trail Marathon. The latest version, the Crosslite 2.0 feel even better with only an 8mm drop from the heel to toe (26mm/18mm) and are about as light as the earlier version at 295 grams. The rugged lugged outsole grips really well on my local Elk trails I run on in New Mexico in the Jemez Mountains...and the more stable, lower to the trail shoe keeps my feet planted well on the trail. Rocks? Don't feel them at all...

So if your feet are triangle shaped like mine are, narrow heel and wide forefoot, try the mods and let me know if they helped! Oh and my Patella Tendinitis? I think it's gone :-)

Until next time, 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Salida "Run Through Time" Trail Marathon

Town of Salida, Colorado

The Salida Marathon was one of many was our first race of the year, which is always difficult, is at altitude and I've only been here for 8 weeks, not nearly enough to be racing up over 9000' and it was also what will most likely be our shortest and fastest race of the year! All negatives, but this turned out to be an extremely positive experience!

Runners gathering for the start

First of all, the race just gets better the further into it you go. It begins in the small town of Salida, Colorado, which is about 4.5 hours north of our home in Jemez Springs, NM. The running surface starts as an asphalt road for a few miles, which then becomes a dirt road (this has been all uphill, btw), which then becomes a steeper uphill trail to the turnaround and highest point at around 9100' and a little over 10 miles. You then go back down for a bit, take a left onto a jeep road at 13 miles, which eventually becomes a rugged, gnarly and rocky downhill road, some sandy trails, then the final downhill, twisty, turny trail named Li'l Rattler down to the finish. So instead of it's real name, I think it should be named the Salida "it gets better 'n better" Trail Marathon.

One of the many nice sections, this around mile 9

As for my race, I decided to start out at a brisk, but comfortable pace. I wasn't sure how I would react to the altitude at a racing pace having just moved here from NH just 8 weeks ago, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I knew from past higher races, that I'd have no trouble running down, just on the ups...and the only real issue I had was from around 7 miles to 13 miles when it was up higher than where I live and have been training. My breathing was real heavy and my legs felt like I just went with it and did what I could. One thing this did do was allow me to really crank the pace on the downhills and catch many runners who had gone out too fast early on.

But not all of the course was nice smooth road

Hunter Swenson from Los Alamos, running his longest race

I did get to spend some trail time with Hunter, who I had just met at the pre-race checkin. Hunter is a local Los Alamos runner who I hadn't met yet and Jason Halladay introduced me and Deb to. Hunter was pushing the ups a little harder than I could handle, but I soon re-caught him around mile 18 on a beautiful downhill section of the course. I just told him to keep drinking and stay ahead of the gels and he'd be fine. Before I moved on down the hill he took this photo of me.

Photo of me with Salida and the mountains in behind
This is around mile 18

Just after passing Hunter on an extremely steep and rocky downhill section, my toe caught something and I did a good Superman impression, actually flying with my arms outstretched, but tucked them under me as I landed, remembering the broken arm I got 11 years ago. It's always a shock to faceplant on flat terrain, but on a steep and rocky downhill, it always messes with your head. I got up as quickly as I could, knowing runners would be coming down behind me and made sure nothing was broken. My arms, hand and knees were scraped up with the palm of my left hand taking the full impact and I scraped a good chunk of skin off of it. With blood dripping down off my hand, I started to walk, then jog and within a few minutes could start running again....but I don't think I dared to fly down like I was again in the race.

Right around this corner, I played Superman

Or maybe it was here....

From this point on, I felt great.... catching runners and just flowing down the hills. My goal was to run under 5 hours and if I could keep this pace up, it would be close, but should get it done. I always wonder what surprises would come and at one point in the last 5 miles when I was sure I'd cruise in for that sub 5, we hit a steep and sandy uphill on a hot section. I walked by several runners just bent over at the knees alongside the trail. The warmer (60 degreeish) temps in this canyon section and steeper trail had gotten to them. I had run out of water and the previous aid station (20 miles) only had Gatorade, which my tummy doesn't like, but I took a half bottle with the promise that there was another aid station 3 miles out.

One of the sandy sections in the canyon

What was working really well for me was the First Endurance EFS wild berry liquid shot. It tasted better than the vanilla to me and was watery enough that I didn't need any water to get it down...I just had one flask with me today, which had 400 calories and some electrolytes. I never did sweat much during the race, so didn't need to take any electrolyte caps.

Ahhh, finally some water!
Mile 23ish...

At 23ish miles and near the top of the "S" hill up above Salida I reached the final aid station and yes, she had water...delicious water. The woman that was manning the aid station handed me the bottle and I drank a good half of it right there, knowing that I wouldn't be drinking much more....had to start cranking again to see if there were any more runners I could pass.

This is what running down to the finish looked like on Li'l Rattler

As I made my way down the hill and around the corner, I was able to pass several runners who were just getting it done. In the distance I saw Tom Sobal struggling a bit and stepped the pace up a bit. I knew Tom had won the over 50 division last year and is a legend in trailrunning, snowshoe racing and burro racing, but also knew that 55 year old Steve Bremner from Colorado Springs was probably enjoying his first beer by now... We had maybe a mile to go and Tom stepped aside to allow me to pass on the final narrow single track and at the bottom by the railroad tracks I pushed the pace some more, about as fast as I could manage now, passing yet another struggling runner. I then heard footsteps and with about a 1/4 mile to go and just before the turn under the bridge, Tom went by me like I was standing still....I tried to react, but the legs just couldn't turn over any faster. I pushed down the hill under the bridge, but ran out of real estate...crossing the finish in 4:52. Goal accomplished, but why does there always have to be something that you wished hadn't happened? ;-) It would have been sweet to re-catch Tom and outkick my fellow senior runner to the finish line, but it's just too early in the year for that kind of stuff for this 59 year old runner. And yeah, it will be nice to run next year and maybe be the first over 60, but there was a 62 year old runner just 1 minute and 2 places behind next year I might have to do some hill repeats with the Los Alamos runners before returning here. ;-)

Shoes - La Sportiva Skylites
Fuel - First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot and water
Weather - 30's-60's and sunny, slight breeze
Altitude - 7100' to 9100' and back
Attitude - Felt great, it was a good effort for race #1.

Deb said her race was a fair one, but considering the fact that just 9 weeks ago she was in a serious truck accident, she's lucky to be running at all. She always has trouble going out quickly and needs a long warm up, which is why she does so well in 100 mile races. Here she had to get going right from the start to avoid the tight cutoffs at every aid station, so she pushed it a bit and ended up in a little deficit at mile 18 and it took her until mile 23 to feel like a runner again. Once she regrouped, she was able to get running again and brought it in just over 6 hours in first in her age group... according to the RD, Jon McManus, but looking at the results it shows a woman ahead of her at age 54, so we don't know what happened. There seems to be many misprints in the results, so maybe this is one of those. Regardless, her race was a success considering the accident. She figures she lost a good 30 minutes during her down period.

Deb getting it done...

So #1 of the year in the books...and it went well for both of us considering. After many years of racing in the East, it is going to be fun running against most of who are Coloradans, or so it seems. Maybe in a few more months my lungs will cooperate a little better in the thinner air.

For results go here:

For the rest of my pictures I took during the race go here:

We were thinking of the Collegiate Peaks 50 as our next race, but May is so heavy with miles planned and our first big race being in June (San Juan Solstice 50 miler), that we are reconsidering and just going to stay home and train. We have the wonderful MTNRNR series to run every weekend and also will be sweeping the Jemez 50 mile, which is about 40 miles and that would be the weekend after CP50, so possibly too much. We've moved up to #'s 18 and 20 in the Hardrock Hundred wait list, so we're still hopeful for that and will train as if we are in the race.

So with that the race schedule is:
June - San Juan Solstice 50 mile
July - Hardrock (hopefully) and Speedgoat 50K
August - nothing (yet)
Sept - Wasatch 100 (Deb) and Bear 100 (Me)
Oct - Nothing planned yet, but hopefully a Grand Canyon R2R2R
Nov - I turn 60, so will find something ;-)

So that's it and until the next post....Happy trails!
Steve and Deb

This is me the next morning on a hike with Deb and the dogs....
....all bandaged up from the fall.