Friday, February 29, 2008

Los Pinos: voices of OCTR

We plan to run Los Pinos trail this Sunday.
Los Pinos is the only trail marked as strenuous on the map of that area: even infamous Holy Jim is called "moderate to strenuous".

Distance: 8.2 miles (one way or 16.4 miles overall)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Net elevation gain: 3,300 feet
Access: The upper trailhead is on North Main Divide road 5.8 miles from Ortega Highway (Hwy 74). The lower trailhead is in Hot Springs Canyon, 1.5 miles beyond the San Juan Fire Station off the Ortega Highway on the Lazy W Ranch.
Map of the area:

As I had some questions about directions to the trailhead, I asked OCTR about it. I guess even if I announced I wanted to do Badwater without any support and right after that run back to the start line where I planed to park my car, it would cause less response than my question about our little Los Pinos run this Sunday.

In a word, I never remember being so nervous before a training run. I guess I was less agitated even before my first marathon or my first ultra. As I am trying to pull myself together, I decided to publish most interesting answers in my blog for the next rookie that might dare to challenge Los Pinos after me (and in case I do not manage to come back from there):

Greg Hardesty

Go straight to Hell, take a quick left at Hades, then a right at Eternal Misery, and finally you will arrive at the cul-de-sac locals refer to as Complete Agony. Have fun.

It's up and down, up and down, on pretty technical, overgrown singletrack. Bring lots of fluids and food. It seemingly never ends. Don't do it alone. It's in one of the most remote areas of the Santa Ana Mountains. Awesome views, if you can see through your tears. If I had to pick a worse fate, it would be being forced to watch a season-long DVD of "Grey's Anatomy" or "Scrubs." Los Pinos is the kinder of the options.

The Los Pinos trail snakes up and down (and I mean up and down) on the spine of a ridge, starting at about the 4,200 level and eventually ending somewhere in the high 100s. There are steep ascents and descents too numerous to count. Most of the trail is on loose dirt and rock, and portions are seriously overgrown, making it a very technical challenge (or nightmare -- again, depending on your mood).

Here is the full recap of Greg’s first acquaintance with Los Pinos trail:

Keira Henninger

Robo and I did Option #2 and added 20 miles on the San Juan Loop trail for one hell of a run the other weekend, and it was awesome! It took Rob and I two and a half hours to climb it (8 miles), and we were freaking pushing it and ran the whole thing (no I am not kidding).

Sunday is gonna be warm and I swear this trail is gnarly! Bring lots of water (camelbacks are a must). It is exposed, very steep and just down right rocky and tough, but by far my favorite trail anywhere! You can also hit it off the bell ridge trail, or from Blue Jay take Main Divide. I have done a few different loops using Los Pinos, and never once has it been anything but a bear!

Kirk Fortini

Dmitri, I'm only echoing what's already been said, but this trail's the real deal. If you find yourself looking up, and you see another trail segment that you sincerely hope you don't have to climb, chances are that's where you're headed. There's more up and down than I can find a comparison to (at least not one that's not ribald).

I guess that in its own way, Pinos is just one of those trails that exposes your weaknesses in a manner that sort of sneaks up on you as the miles progress. Everyone that traverses it has their own impression of the thing.

It, as with any particularly difficult trail, demands of you a high level of humility. When at last you finish, if you think that you've conquered Los Pinos, take a look back over your shoulder. It will still be there, very much unconquered, waiting for the next runner. The only thing that will be conquered would be your own body, tired from your efforts. So, approach your run with the idea that, though challenging, the strenuous nature of the trail will be your silent companion on a path of personal strengthening. Win, lose, or draw, you will discover that you are only human after all.

Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."

Charlie Nickell

Be very conservative for this run. If it's really hot, I would bag it. We kid around but if something happens to you halfway up Los Pinos, you're in serious trouble; there’s no relief and no easy way out. BE CAREFUL and SMART. I've seen seasoned runners get absolutely crushed by this trail so hit it first. Eight miles of hell. Make sure you’re will is in order.

Chris Diaz

How to get to Los Pinos Trail? - Train, Train, Train!

The only time I did this trail, I found myself questioning the meaning of life.
Just Run It. What could happen? Bring lots of water and fuel.

Monday, February 25, 2008 urban running routes

You have no excuse for not keeping your New Year's resolution now that you can take that jog almost everywhere you go., a user-generated database of running routes all over the world, uses Google Maps mashups, allowing runners to look up routes in their area and choose them by length, difficulty, scenery and other user-rated criteria.

Business travelers who want to keep in shape on the road will be glad to find routes in all 50 states, as well as in dozens of foreign countries. The site is still in beta, so look for more routes to come.

Better than: Getting purposely lost just to mix up your running routine. (Fast Company)

I just tried it to see whether there is anything useful in there:

It is similar to but with a way better interface and a database of running routes.

The site is great for business travelers and city routes, but does not work for trails as all the routes are built out of 100 points max. I tried to map our Black Star Canyon run on this site and due to very curvy trail managed to get only to mile 2 as I ran out of points.

If they do some improvements to the interface this site might become one of the best tools ever!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Black Star Canyon: Ghosts in the Rain

Out of all the days this week, Sunday was the least suitable for a long trail run. But we got out there bright and early anyways. Initially we planned on running in Crystal Cove but figured if rangers evicted us when we came down to PCH, it could be pretty tricky to get back to the Ridge Park. So we picked a different location – Black Star Canyon that never gets closed rain or shine. Although there was a bunch of runners ready to run El Moro despite rain and rangers, Jeff was the only one who showed up Black Star Canyon. Jeff mentioned that Black Star has a bad reputation because of the local ghosts, dark cults and squatters (more about it below).

When we started at 6am today it was still dark and drizzling a little bit with the temperatures in mid forties. Still it was as muddy and slippery as the previous time when we ran there.

At some point we found a rusty piece of ancient machinery where I left one of my four clothing layers.

The 8-mile ascent proved I have not fully recovered from Orange Curtain yet: I did run all the way up, but it was more difficult than the last time. After our previous run in the Black Star, several people mentioned that we should have made a stop in the hut on the top to warm up before the decent. I guess we found the hut this time: not exactly my definition of hospitality.

Around mile 6 we ran into a cloud and drizzling turned into some more serious rain with heavy wind. So we would not mind a hut with a roof up there :)

We ended up running 16.1 miles today, which took us 2h 55min. Despite my 2 upper supposed-to-be weatherproof layers I ended up soaked to the bones just like the previous time.

I just did a quick research about Black Star Canyon and ghosts in it. Yup, there is no way something having "black" in the title could have gone unnoticed by all of those hunted websites.

Black Star Canyon - The site of multiple Indian massacres dating back to the time of Spanish occupation, Blackstar Canyon is home to many strange phenomena. Indians said to have been spotted both roaming the ridges on horseback and walking the creek for a few steps before disappearing completely. Many night hikers report the feeling of being watched, and the sounds of an invisible presence pacing them shortly off the trail. Screams and howls haunt the night along with the faint chants of an age and people long past. Note: If you are planning an expedition to Blackstar Canyon, travel in groups as it is a very dangerous place, and pay no mind to the homemade "Private Property" signs. The Orange County Sheriffs Office has confirmed that all of the trail is in fact open to the public, and those signs were hung some time ago by squatters attempting to keep people off the land.

Enter “Black Star Canyon” into Google, and the first hit that comes up is a site called, which tells a first-person story of rabbits that won’t die—even when shot at close range—and shadowy figures who may be the specters of Spanish conquistadors believed to have slaughtered the indigenous inhabitants back in 1832 (it used to be called CaƱada de los Indios). Others tell tales of seeing UFOs and KKK meetings; the canyon is listed on the Shadowlands national index of haunted places
But the dangers aren’t merely supernatural: Some less-than-benevolent local residents often aggressively dispute the idea that the canyon road is public property. It is, and you’re entitled to go through, should you so desire; explain this calmly if confronted.

Black Star Canyon - It's located behind Irvine park and the signs that say "no authorities will help you beyond this point" is a main reason why people don't go in. It's supposed to be home of the "KKK" and strange sightings and noises are heard such as running and screaming. Also lion type figures are said to be walking on the mountain tops. "Warning" If you do plan to go take flashlights because it's is freakishly dark (a sort of weapon would also be a good idea)

I am not sure about the ghosts. The whole subject is questionable but I somehow do not believe in them. Nevertheless there is some truth in all those hunted stories.

When they say that "strange sightings and noises are heard such as running and screaming" they did not lie. After running through the mud and puddles both Jeff and I looked pretty strange – you should have seen those foamy bubbles on Jeff’s knees as if he does not looks strange enough without them. As for running and screaming, it is totally us two running downhill trying not to fall down into one of those puddles on the slippery trail.

Still I am not arguing Black Star Canyon can be very scary. Here is a Blair-Witch-project-style home movie made there. I guess it is all a function of alcohol and hash consumption after all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

RECOVER-ease: quick review

I have been using RECOVER-ease for three weeks already and can see the difference. It took my legs only two days to recover (even if not completely - to the level when running becomes comfortable again) after the Orange Curtain 100k last weekend. And the recovery itself was a way less painful than 10-days-long recovery after my first half marathon in 2006 :)

I usually take 8 pills after a race or a hard training runs (and 2 additional pills if the course was planned by Lambert), 4 pills after more relaxed long runs, and just 2 pills after weekday 3-5-mile quickies.

See the Wicked Fast website for more information of RECOVER-ease:

When I was contemplating about whether to join the herd of RECOVER-ease drug addicts, I did a quick study of 8 ingredients of RECOVER-ease to make sure there are no side effects or anything like that: the whole thing sounds to good to be true - take a blue pill and you will outrun iMichelle and Keira in no time :)

Besides the fact there are no known negative side-effects from any of those 8 ingredients, one of them - "citrus bioflavonoids" - is instrumental in the prevention of cancers and cardiovascular disease. Just one more side effect (or better to say side benefit) of the RECOVER-ease...

P.S. Here is a review of RECOVER-ease from an independent dietary supplements reviewer:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Orange Curtain 100K (the mind misery)

February 16, 2008:
Bib: # 6
Place: 7 (out of 32) - Overall results
Distance: 62.1miles / 100km

Elapsed Time: 11:34:49
Average Pace: 11:11 min/mile

Elapsed Time (first 50K): around 5h 7min
Average Pace (first 50K): 9:54 minutes/mile

Blisters: almost 0
Black toenails: 0 new
Sunburns: 1 (I did not use sun any block – is not it still winter after all? – and my face is bright red now except for a white headband mark on my forehead)
Running Shoes: Asics Trail-Attack II (that have 650+ miles on them)

Race Summary

All in all it was a great race. The repetitiveness of the course got on my nerves, or - I guess - on everybody’s nerves. Pounding asphalt for 11+ hours is not exactly my definition of fun either. But the overall experience with the race is positive and the chances are that I might be back next year to beat my time. I know I could do better than this!

The course is not too boring as you always have river on one side – and looking at water all the time has some nerve soothing effect. On the other side of the course you see either green loans of Liberty park of Cerritos, or stables with horses, ponies and goats (sticky but cute), or another park in Long Beach.

The course is as flat as it gets. There are just 3 bridge underpasses. If each of them has a 10ft of elevation loss and gain, than the whole course has probably about 600ft of overall elevation gain. Pretty unique for an ultramarathon, is not it? But it has some disadvantages too: you never have a valid excuse to walk for a change, and when you are running up and down, you use slightly different muscle groups. This gives your legs a chance to have some rest – except for the cases when the hills are too steep and wear you out.

I ran the last 10K from bridge to bridge trying not to think how much more of the course is still in front of me. Once I was going through an underpass, I was focusing on the next bridge and so on. After the very last underpass I got really excited from the bare notion that this darn race is about to end for me very soon. It was dark and I could not see people at the finish but I still accelerated at first from 11:30 min/mile to about 9 min/mile, and then to 7 min/mile pace. If I ever had a strong finish that was it – I squeezed out of myself all the remaining juices, at least all I was capable to dig out. I even passed another runner just 400 yards from the finish line.

Familiar Faces

The first runner I saw when I got to the start line at 6:15 in the morning was Catra Corbett. Well there was a little crowd there, but if there is Catra in it, you can barely notice anyone else, at least for the first 5 minutes. She looks exactly like her photos in her blog :)

After I finished I also met Jorge Pacheco whom I met for the first time at Mt. Disappointment too. He was also there to cheer us up.

After 8th loop (or was it after my 9th?) I spotted Eric Kosters at the North aid station. Being our North OC VP he simply had to show up and remind Kirk and me that our performance is not up the OCTR expectations and we should go faster! It helped: I drastically reduced the time of my usual watermelon pit-stops.

Lorraine Gersitz

It was very difficult not to notice Lorraine in the race. First of all, she was the only runner (on the whole planet?) running the race in her rubber Crocs Clog shoes.

Second of all she was wearing a pretty unique shirt with the RunDown logo on it, and I was the second person in a shirt like that :)

Lorraine is actually the 50K female winner who finished the race in just 4:45:44.

Eric Clifton

I saw Eric Clifton in Cerritos as well. He was running a way too fast for me to catch him up and ask why he was wearing a skirt instead of pants. The first guess that it has something to do with ancient Scottish mountain running traditions falls apart immediately as Eric’s skirt has little to do with Scottish kilts. Anyways it worked out just fine for him – he finished 50K the third in just 4:10:59.

Gregory Moore

I ran with Greg for a couple of miles and learned more about sheriffs, police, and highway patrol than I ever knew in my life. Greg is a deputy sheriff in Lakewood. As far as I got it right now he is one of those guys who patrol the area in helicopters. Greg also mentioned that there is an annual run of all police and sheriffs departments in LA and OC counties when they run all the way from one department to another to commemorate all of their colleagues that got killed in the field.

Vinnie Torres from Pasadena

I met Vinnie whom I was running with most of the way from Red Box II to West Fork aid station at Mt. Disappointment last August. Vinnie helped me a lot back then to keep running. It was cool to see another familiar face again especially as he is also running Leona Divide 50-miler in April.

Natalia Norman

I was looking for Nattie at the start but she did not show up for the race. I guess I will still have a chance to meet her in person at the next race. Nattie wrote a brilliant recap about her experience with Orange Curtain 100K in 2007: “Brain decay at the orange curtain 100k”. Luckily I read it only after the race. It resonates with me a lot – I have been through the same thing too!

Kirk Fortini

Kirk started the race with some serious stomach issues, which slowed him down a lot. Nevertheless he managed to get through the race and finish 100K under cut-off’s. Kirk did not finish as fast as he would otherwise but his result is still more than remarkable – I would not have guts to last as long as he did, and despite all the obstacles still finish the race! He basically survived a race most of us would DNF from!

We were exchanging hi-five’s with Kirk when running into each other on the course, until I realized it’s not really advisable: Kirk’s powerful hi-five’s were switching off my GPS :)))

Gabor Kozinc

Gabor easily finished the 100K. What is a 62-mile race for a Badwater finisher? Gabor was very explicit about this. He ran without a stop watch, and without a water bottle: just a recreational jogger on his morning 100K jog. Last 20 or 30 miles Gabor was running with a 2-feet-long tree branch in hand – to spank rookies that do not run fast enough according to him.

Carmela Layson

I ran with Carmella for a while as well. I never had a chance to meet her in person before but she still recognized me somehow. Carmela kept up a pretty consistent pace and finished 100K in style in 12:47:01.

Gary Hilliard

It was great to see that Gary showed up to run 50K on Saturday. An ultra-marathon just 6 months after that horrible accident! Some of his buddies came over just to walk with him a part of the distance. Jay warned them however that Gary is pretty fast and can kick their butt. I guess this is exactly what happened afterwards. At first Gary was power walking, but after a couple of laps he started to run and finished 50K in 7:30:46. His ultimate recovery goal was to do Badwater again this year as a big flip off both to his accident and reckless deer that caused it and ran away. I will not be too much surprised if Gary manages to do it in 2008 against all odds!

Leigh Corbin & George Velasco

Leigh and George were training for some gruesome waterless ultra-marathon in Africa. That’s why they ran this race with huge backpacks on their backs. George mentioned those backpacks are “not too heavy”: his was about 15lbs, and Leigh’s one was around 12lbs. They looked a way bigger and heavier to me though. In any case even if 15lbs does not sound like something heavy, just imagine how it should be feeling running with this damn thing for over 30 miles!

Barefoot Ted McDonald

I ran into Barefoot Ted for the first time at the Clear Creek aid station of the Mt. Disappointment race last August. When I realized he is running the whole 50K race really bare-feet I was shocked and speechless. This time Ted was about to try his bare feet on asphalt for the entire 100K distance without any sandals or his Five-Finger soles.

Ted ran away in the head of the pack and passed the 50K mark well under 5 hours. To my surprise I caught him up somewhere in the middle of loop 7 (mile 39) and we ran next 2.5 loops (16 miles or almost 3 hours) side by side.

Ted turned out to be the opposite to what I expected to find. Besides the fact, he is a great athlete he turned out to be an extremely intelligent and educated person. I like his “life-flow” philosophy, which resonated with my own views. After we talked about different things for about an hour I could not help suggesting Ted should write a book.

Three hours of running on a pretty non-entertaining course you just ran through for 15 times in a row is a lot of time. We have discussed a lot of stuff from his strange bare-foot running thing, to life philosophy in general, to the information technology advances, to renewable energy sources and energy crisis, to thermonuclear fusion… We covered both hot fusion reactors with magnetic confinement, Tokamak-type, and cold laser-driven fusion. The funny thing is that I am not kidding about it :)

The standard dialog:
- Hey, Ted, where a heck did you loose your shoes?
- Hey, I use super-advanced nano-technology stuff, while you wear a product of mass-marketing brain-washing that was produced in China and tested for only 15-20 years overall.

Ted finds bare-feet running more natural, but still admits he would be able to run a way faster if he wore regular running shoes on top of his natural nano-technology-based ones. Still Ted does not seem to care too much about outrunning everyone else in the field.


Miles 0-21: I started with pretty conservative slow music to make sure I do not take off too fast: Stan Rogers and some Bluegrass staff.

Miles 21-36: I got eventually tired of Stan’s fishermen songs and switched to my Rock ’n’ Roll collection. This was quite a kick! It slowed down my mental decay. I recall I was running and dancing at the same time. Caught some weird looks at the aid station while eating my watermelon and dancing there – I guess they were wondering whether it is time to call for paramedics and if I might be of any danger for people around me.

Miles 36-40: For the first half of the race I decided not to use my secret weapon (using iMichelle’s terminology) – Iron Horse / Apocalyptica / Metallica / Anthrax. A lot of those songs can accelerate and pace me, but the problem is I would not be able to last for very long at that pace. So I wanted to leave it all to the end. I started with Iron Horse, which is softer and less brutal...

Miles 40-56: … and never actually got to the heavy artillery. Around mile 39 I caught up Barefoot Ted, and we ran for the next 16 miles together chatting.

Miles 56-62: I was tired and although I ran the whole last loop by myself, I decided to leave my MP3 player in my bag at the aid station and listen to the music of the sunset for a while…


I had 7 pills before the run (daily Centrum, Vitamin C 1000mg x2, daytime Cold Relief x2, and Imodium x2, my secret weapon against my stomach that does not always agree with energy gels and other crap we consume to stay afloat during those long races) and 8 pills after it (RECOVER-ease). 15 pills…

Billy Mack: Here's a message from your Uncle Billy kids. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give them to you for free! (Love Actually)

During the race I was mainly eating PowerBar Double Latte GEL with 2x caffeine – a packet after each 10K. This stuff really kicks even a notch more than Red Bull. First couple of times the kicks from it were so powerful – I found myself running at 7 min/mile pace – that I am wondering if this stuff is legal at all.

The race was sponsored by Accelerade, but considering the distance I preferred not to experiment with it and drank only Gatorade.

Eating Disorder

Did I mention the watermelon? I bet I ate half of their overall watermelon supply. After it got hot after mile 24 I started to waste too much time at the Northern aid station devouring the watermelon piece after piece. It was virtually impossible for me to stop. I could have gotten same amount of liquids from 1-2 Gatorade glasses but the watermelon was so irresistible. I spent over 27 minutes at the aid stations during the whole race. And at least 15 minutes of it all I was just standing at the North aid station eating the darn watermelon. I am lucky they did not have any of it at the South aid station, or otherwise I would come to the finish line another 20 minutes later. Lesson learned: I am not eating any watermelon at the races anymore!

New PR’s

Distance PR: I never ran distances beyond 40 miles prior to this race.

50K time PR: I finished 50K in 5h and 7min or so and could definitely finish it a way under 5 hours did not I have to run another 50K right after that.

Lowest bib number PR: I had a bib #6 – something that will be difficult for me to beat :)

More Photos

More photos from the race:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

OC100K quick update

I will do a formal race report later on when I have a chance. This is just a quick update.

I got to the finish as one piece in 11h 35min or something like that. I did better the first 50K in about 5h 7min, but had to pay for my enthusiasm later :)

I avoided injuries and any major blisters, but my legs ache a lot right now, and the cold I caught earlier this week kinda got worse after the race.

I met a lot of great people there. As we were running the same course back and forth the human component of the race was a completely unique experience for me. This is why this race deserves a better recap than that. I will post it within the next couple of days.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Interview with Karl Meltzer

A pretty interesting an informative interview with Karl Meltzer: there is a lot about Karl’s ultras, goals and training, but still most of it is about nutrition.

Part 2 of the same interview:

Karl is promoting OPTYGEN formula by First Endurance. OPTYGEN is designed to increase VO2Max, increase the body's ability to acclimatize to high levels of physical stress and increase anaerobic threshold and reduce lactic acid.
Sounds like a new legal steroids-free doping :)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sleepless in El Moro

We had a great time at El Moro today.
Pete scheduled a pretty cool training run there consisting of 3 loops:

Loop 1 - 10 miles - Start 5:00am - Finish Time 7:05ish
Loop 2 - 7 miles - Start 7:10am - Finish Time 8:40ish
Loop 3 - 10 miles - Start 8:45am - Finish Time 10:44am
I did only the first two loops: 17.5 miles with about 2:55 overall time. And I would go for the third one, except that something told me that running 27+ miles would not go along with my tapering before the Orange Curtain next weekend.

For the very first time at El Moro I ran through all the up-hills on both loops. Keira had some hard time with me last time kicking my butt and dragging me up the BFI. I guess the spirit of Keira kept staying with me (or better to say kept kicking me :) Go figure!

But my adventure actually started a bit earlier today - at 4:30am. Once I crossed the bridge on Crown Valley Pkwy I found out that Crown Valley is completely shut down in west direction: the was a blinking police car standing right in my way. I have no idea what happened… I had to U-turn, get back to Antonio, turn on Oso, then take I-5 South to get back to Crown Valley on the other side of the police cordon. To my surprise I nevertheless managed to get to our Ridge Park meeting point on time and did not miss the run.

So today I met in person a lot of OCTR folks I never had a chance to run wit hbefore – like the authentic Pete Vara (the one that never broke his ankle), Marisa, Lori, Beiyi, Sid, Cyrus, and …
OK, I have to openly admit it now – once again – I am awful about remembering names (I remember faces a lot better) and I met a lot of new people today – as embarrassed as I am, someone please help me out to fill in the blanks in the blog…

There were a few familiar friendly faces too: Jeff, Shelli and Ryan.

The highlight of the race: when we hit Laguna Canyon, we ran through a big field of a very high green grass – the upside of the recent showers. The greenness of the field looked strange for Southern California where we are more accustomed to a much more yellowish palette. The grass was covered with dew drops that were sparkling in morning sun like diamonds. I tried to take a picture but failed to capture the beauty of it.

Another highlight (same Laguna Canyon, second loop): it was pretty difficult to keep restless Marisa on the trail all the time. She was making circles around us checking out surrounding rocks and caves, and getting additional mileage as well. When Marisa climbed one of those rocks to a cave, and I took a picture of her in it, she suggested I should try it as well. Had not I listened to the internal voice (saying that I was gonna look like a chicken if I do not follow Marisa there), I would not have slept on that rock and would not have found myself embracing a cactus underneath it. My right arm was looking like a hedgehog after that with a bunch of cactus’ thorns sticking out of it :)

I recall Jeff saying that on the bright side I would have something to blog about. And this is exactly what I ended up doing tonight :)

More photos from our today's run:
Sleepless in El Moro

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

PUMA: Why do you run?

Another pretty good commercial I can relate to. These guys really caught the spirit of it.

Why do you run?

There are no crowds here… No fans to cheer you on…
No competition… No finish lines…
So why do I run?

For the love of it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Under Armour: THE FUTURE IS OURS!!!

The new Under Armour commercial is one of the most genius sports commercials I ever saw.

It is us or them!
The game has changed!
You are the new prototypes!
We are Under Amour!

Excellent idea, great timing, seemingly flawless execution!

1) Under Armour built a great premium brand, built up a very strong retail position, and it was totally the right step for them to diversify their brand expanding it into footwear

2) They chose a big bang strategy to make sure everyone gets the message: it is not a brand evolution, but a revolution

3) And what is a better moment to come up with this message and get *really* noticed than the Super Bowl?

4) Look at the positioning: "It is us or them!" This slogan portrays zero tolerance to any competition! We are the Clan! The future is ours! If you are caught wearing Nike or Adidas - even when cleaning your garage - you are not one of us any more!

5) The passion and drive of the commercial are extremely contagious! The references to Matrix are cool too! Few commercials resonated with me more than this one.

6) Finally the Under Armour's commercial is pretty unique!

Just have a look at this Asics commercial: Sound Mind Sound Body

And compare it with this Nike's Just-do-it! thing:

Nike's and Asics commercials are so similar that it is difficult to tell one from the other. They are both high-quality and fun to watch. But they are far from being any unique and do not stick as much as Under Armour does.

Anyways, I just wanted to say there should be some kind of Academy Award for marketing people too, and one of those should definitely go to Under Armour.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Our Mud Run in Black Star Canyon

“One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We've been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stinging rain and big old fat rain, rain that flew in sideways, and sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.”(Forest Gump)

We ran 16 miles in the Black Star Canyon today. It was muddy, it was slippery, it was freaking cold – especially after we went above 2500ft elevation mark. Did I mention that it was also raining like hell? When we got wet last Monday I thought it was it. I realized today that it was not. We were running for 3 hours through the rain that never stopped. I got wet through my supposed-to-be weather-proof running jacket and 2 long-sleeve shirts. My shorts, socks and shoes were completely soaked. I ended up running through puddles not worrying about getting wet anymore – I just was not physically capable to get any wetter than I got there.

We started up our run from the Black Star Canyon gate at around 6:45 with Jeff, Linda, Oline, and one other Linda's friend (I am horrible about the names – never remember them). Around mile 5 into the run (mile 5.28, 5.29, 5.30, 5.31 to be exact – Linda knows what I am talking about) we parted. Jeff and I continued our up-hill battle against mud and rain, while the rest of the group turned around and went back.

At the end of mile 8 we stopped and looked around. We did not really reach the top of the mountain – we probably missed a turn or something. We stopped there for a quick snack and immediately froze to our very bones under the wind and rain. All I could think about was an aid station where I could DNF from this “race” and get a lift to my car.

By the way, I noticed my hill repeats are yielding some positive results – running uphill is less of a torture for me now. We ran all of these 8 miles uphill and never switched to walk.

On our way back Jeff gave me a 40-minute lecture about different types of sweat, sweat cells, sweat ingredients and the reasons why sweat turns into a soapy foam under the rain :) You can see that foam on Jeff’s knees in the pictures below. And my knees did not look any better. I know it is kinda gross to go into details about this stuff, but I have never seen this “foam” before as I never ran this far in the rain.

By the end of our run we both felt pretty strong and picked up the pace. We ran the last mile at around 8 minutes/mile pace, and even sprinted last hundred yards or so when we finally saw the gate :)

This is not a moon, but a rain drop in the light of my camera flash:

Our pit stop at mile 8:

A picture of Jeff's foamy knees at mile 10:

Mile 16.3 - wet but extremely happy we finally got back to the parking lot:

This is how dirty we were:

Keira, Lambert, we are so sorry you could not join us today. Yup, it was wet and muddy but a lot of fun at the same time… And you missed all Jeff’s foam too :)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Montana de los Muertos: coming 2008

They have the skull there for a reason: this race is gonna have over 50,000ft of overall elavation gain.

So it looks like Barkley Marathon is gonna have a decent competition soon.

Barkley so far seemed to be the most gruesome of all those races. Not as well known as Badwater microwave race, but nevertheless Badwater sounds more like a cool vacation on an island compared to it.

Since the race began in 1986, only 6 runners out of about 600 have finished Barkley within the 60 hour cutoff.
The course record is 56 hours 57 min :)
It has 52,900 feet of elevation gain and a few more cool surprises :)

Talking about these races is like talking about merits of Veyron 16.4 (I bet insurance premium per year for it is more expensive than both of our cars are worth altogether :).
Still having a little meaningless chit-chat about Bartley's and Veyron's of the world is always kinda amusing :-)