The Weekly Stoke: Bad news for Vibram, running nutrition, rad moms and murder and intrigue in Texas

Vibram Five Finger shoes. (wikipedia commons photo)

Vibram Five Finger shoes. (wikipedia commons photo)

We’re back for a more normal version of the Weekly Stoke, and I’ve got some good links for you. So sit tight and check these out…

First up is some big news from the world of running footwear. A recent study showed that people using Vibram minimalist shoes were more prone to foot injuries, and the company is working hard to get a legal settlement over disputed health claims of its Five Finger shoes.

Just in time for Mother’s Day: A list of eight of the most rad moms you’ll ever know.

Here is a post about some things to think about in terms of nutrition for your long run training days.

And finally, here’s a yarn about adventure, murder and intrigue in a small west Texas town.

Gear review: A first look at the Salomon Sense Mantra trail shoe


It seems the world of trail running shoes has taken a whole bunch of paths to find the right fit, so to speak.

We went minimalist. Basically uppers and a rubber sole. We’ve gone maximalist, with tank-like kicks that are the footwear equivalent of monster truck tires. People swear by both.

I’ve tend to veer toward the former approach, liking the idea of strengthening my feet and legs by allowing my feet to feel the ground rather than just steamrolling over it.

But there are limits. I’ve gone just short of barefoot and sandals. Foot injuries ensued, even with gradual, low-mileage beginnings. I went the next step up (a 3-mm drop with a slightly thicker sole) and had better results. But those old foot issues just kept cropping up. So the need to adjustment continues.

What am I looking for? Something with trail feel, something designed for people with a mid-foot to forefoot strike, but something that won’t wear out my feet once the miles start to pile up.

Salomon thinks they have that shoe: The Sense Mantra. They kindly sent me a pair to test. So what you have here is my initial look at the Sense Mantra; I’ll be revisiting the shoe a second time to see how well it holds up under higher mileage over time. Anyway, here are some of the product specs and my initial impressions…

The Sense Mantra has a thicker sole than minimalist or neo-minimalist shoes: 10 mm at the forefoot, and 16 mm at the heel for a 6 mm drop.

The sole’s traction system is designed to give you grip in multiple directions. This is particularly helpful on uneven surfaces, and on uphill and downhill stretches where trail-grip needs change.

The Sense Mantra also includes its OS Tendon, which is geared to give you proper flex in the sole as well as energy return.

The lace-up system is also different than your typical shoe lace. The Quicklace system allows you to tighten up and stay tight, and the loose end tucks under is a small pocket on top of the tongue.

Salomon also included an extra layer of material called Profeel Film built in to the sole that extends from the arch to the toes, giving you a little extra protection from pesky protrusions on the ground, like rocks, roots and stumps. This is particularly important for us mid/forefoot strike runners and for those who prefer highly technical trails.

The Sense Mantra also has a sleeve on the interior of the shoe that hugs your foot. So no sliding around in the shoe, a concept that dovetails nicely with the security you get with the quicklace system.

At 8.5 ounces, it’s also pretty light.

Finally, as you would expect in any decent trail shoe, there is added, tougher material around the toe box.

( photo)

( photo)

So how well does all this engineering come together on the trail? That’s what I aimed to figure out on some of the most technical trails I could find.

I do the bulk of my trail running at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. The wooded ridges in this park are basically an extension of the Ozarks of western Arkansas, and the trails here are a favorite haunt of runners and mountain bikers. Ask anyone who has been there, and they’ll tell you that the trails at Turkey Mountain are some of the most rugged, technical and demanding routes you can conjure up.

I would agree. There are plenty of rocky, rooty and steep pitches interspersed with loose dirt and rocks and bare, slabby sandstone that usually crop up in the steepest parts. It’s on this demanding and at times hazardous track that I took this pair out for a series of test runs over the past several weeks.


First off, the fit of the shoe is excellent. I have moderate arches and wide feet, and the shoe wrapped itself around my feet like a well-fit glove. While the shoe seemed a little stiff upon first examination, that faded away once I slipped them on and started moving. Through regular strides, jumps, sidesteps and varying angles of ascent and descent, and at various speeds, I experienced no slipping, blistering or hot spots. I’ve never had that sort of luck breaking in a new set of kicks.

And then there was the traction. Those multi-directional nugs (the grippy knobs on the sole, like you’d see on cleats) I mentioned earlier did their job. Uphill or downhill, and at high speeds, my thinking was, “this must be what it feels like when the big cats run!”

What that translates into is control. Ultimate control, and on various terrain.

And on a more personal note, no foot pain. Hallelujah. That’s saying something, given the abuse I subject myself to.

One small word of advice: If you’re the type who likes to use trail shoes for your pavement running as well, I’d advise against that. I’m sure these shoes would do just fine on the road, but the grind of pavement would prematurely wear down the nugs and reduce trail performance. Keep these puppies on the dirt.

The Sense Mantras have a suggested retail price of $120, but can be found online as low as $80.

Stay tuned for a follow-up review to see how well the Salomon Sense Mantra fares in terms of durability.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Gear review: A second look at the Inov-8 F-Lite 195 trail shoe


Not too long ago I wrote up my initial review of the Inov-8 F-Lite 195 minimalist trail running shoe. I’d put on relatively few miles (about 15), but they were rugged and varied, which gave me a good idea of how the shoe performs in terms of initial quality. (You can read the first review here)

But initial quality doesn’t mean anything if the product doesn’t hold up under some sort of sustained punishment. And that’s where we are today.

It’s been about 6 weeks since I wrote that review, and to say the least, I’ve put a bunch more miles on these shoes. And I have definitely put them through the wringer, much more than any footwear I’ve ever purchased.

Just to review, the shoe is a 3mm drop, 6.9-ounce trail runner that is minimalist in design. It’s not as bare-bones as some (which can be basically an upper, a sole and shoe strings), as it has some cushion, but you’re not going to get near as much in these kicks as you might in other, more standard running shoes.

Of course, that’s by design, following the minimalist trend toward more basic footwear that allows you to feel the running surface more — and strengthen your feet and legs — without having to go all the way to barefoot running.

Also in the design — a rugged tread for gripping varied surfaces and a crease near the forefoot to allow bend for midfoot and forefoot strikers. Again, like other minimalist products, heel-strikers will be terribly uncomfortable running in these unless they change their stride.

The manner in which I’ve tested these shoes has been pretty rigorous. So far, I’ve used them in three races — two trail races and a 5k. Running lengths have varied from as short as that 5k to as long as 15 miles.

Additionally, the surfaces have varied from pavement to trail, with trail difficulty ranging from soft to highly technical.

Surface conditions have also been wide-ranging: dry, rainy/wet, snowy, icy and muddy.

As I noted before, the shoe does well in gripping wet or muddy surfaces. It drains quick when it gets wet, and a prolonged wet/rainy run doesn’t leave it waterlogged for long. That bodes well for blister prevention when you run (very much tested in a damp 25k I ran) and keeping the stink factor down as it dries. Drying quickly also means the material will last longer.

But the real question is how well has the shoe maintained its integrity after hitting the century mark in miles.

The answer: Quite well. If I spiffed them up (cleaned off all the mud and dirt), you’d think they were new. There is some creasing in the rubber near the forefoot, and just a tiny bit of wear on the edges where I tend to supinate. But the tread looks almost out-of-the-box new otherwise, and the stitching is well intact. I’m really happy with this because another pair of minimalists I own has not fared as well with similar mileage. My wide feet and supination do bad things to a lot of uppers and soles in the shoes I use.

I’d note once again that if you’re not used to minimalist shoes, start gradually with really low mileage and let your feet and legs get used to the additional stress caused by the lack of support inherent in minimalist design. The reward for your patience is a stronger body all the way around and probably better running form, but it won’t come immediately. So don’t go sign up for a 25-50k trail race in these or any other minimalist shoes if you’ve never worn them before or if you’ve only just started.

I’ll probably give this pair a little more time (ie, more miles) before I give you a final verdict. But Inov-8 is developing quite a reputation among trail runners and fitness enthusiasts for a reason: They make a damn good shoe.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088


Gear review: Inov8 F-Lite 195 trail running shoes


I’ve run trails wearing a variety of different shoes – anything from light hiking shoes to the barest of minimalist shoes, and about everything in between.

Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. But what I was hoping to find was a product that hits the sweet spot – light and fast, but also rugged enough to take the pounding of highly technical terrain. I was also wanting to take something out that could handle a variety of conditions.

In short, a minimalist-style shoe with a sole (soul?) of a hiking boot.

I’d heard rave reviews about street running shoes from a U.K.-based company called Inov8, and one of the people I talked to mentioned an extensive list of trail shoes the company offers. I figured it was worth exploring.

The shoe I ended up with was the Inov8 F-Lite 195. It’s a 3-mm drop, 6.9-ounce shoe that feels like it’s barely there on your foot. While not as light as a Vibram or Merrell minimalist shoe, the Inov8 F-Light passes the test of being light and comfortable. I was told by the retailer where I bought them that the company only does “whole sizes” (no halves), so I opted with an 11. A little roomy in the toes, but that’s a good thing on the steep downhills. Most importantly, it hit the width of my foot right.

The sole is also designed to flex right where the toes and the balls of your feet meet – a good spot for mid-foot and forefoot strikers.

Unlike my minimalist shoes, the F-Lite does have some cushion. Not a lot, but some. It’s thin enough to feel the ground, but not quite as bare-bones as you might find with traditional minimalist shoes, which are often nothing more than a thin rubber strip on the sole.

I would note, however, that if you are accustomed to running on traditional running shoes with a lot of support, you will notice a difference and you will need to ease into them over time. Don’t buy a pair and bust off a 12-miler unless you are used to running with minimalist footwear. Also, as with other minimalist and neo-minimalist shoes, heel strikers will need to adjust their gait (go mid-foot or forefoot) or go in another direction with your purchase.

The test runs I did were meant to give an impression of initial quality. I picked a variety of surfaces and conditions, and the weather cooperated nicely. The initial tests could be divided into technical terrain, snow/wet conditions, and muddy trails.

Technical trails: My first run in the F-Lites took me to my favorite trail running haunt. The route I picked included steep uphills and downhills, rocky and rooty singletrack and loose soil and rocks.

Grinding my way up the steep inclines was made easier by the shoes’ light weight. That was the most notable difference. With jutting rocks and tree roots (as well as other variables), the sole thickness gave me a good feel for the terrain, but just enough protection to where I didn’t think an obstacle was going to stab its way through the bottom of my foot. That’s not always the case with thin-soled shoes. Similarly, loose dirt and rock was more easily navigated because of the lighter weight of the shoe and the “feel for the road” I got through the sole.

Snowy and wet: The beauty of a breathable, light upper is that you avoid the sweaty mess that comes with long runs (and the blisters!). The flip side is that if you’re doing to run in rainy, snowy or slushy conditions, your feet will get wet. The shoe drains well, however, and dries out quickly after the run. I found that even running hills on fresh, wet snow (up to 3 inches in places), I had excellent traction. And despite getting wet, my shoes never got squishy or heavy. That’s a huge plus.

Muddy trails: All the snow and rain we got inevitably left some of my trails pretty muddy. Mud can be fun in a sadistic sort of way, but the reality is this: Mud kills traction, slows you down and, when it collects on your shoes, weighs you down.

The F-Lites’ traction on mud wasn’t any worse than other trail shoes I’ve tried. I think bigger knobs on the tread would help, but that would add weight to the shoe. And let’s face it – if the mud is thick enough, it doesn’t matter how well your shoe is cleated. It will collect mud. I’m not sure there’s a magic bullet for that. As long as the mud wasn’t too deep, my traction was good.

A note about minimalist and neo-minimalist shoes: One thing you will notice with the F-Lites and any other shoe like them is that your legs will work harder than they would if you wore thicker, more heavily cushioned footwear. Initially, this will lead to more leg and foot soreness, particularly in your calves and on the bottoms of your feet. But as your feet get stronger, so will your legs, and you will become a stronger runner. So be patient in that regard.

In the future: The question I get is about durability, and that is a question that I will have to answer after many more runs in the future. So expect a follow-up review on that topic.

If you’re interested in checking this shoe out, the F-Lite 195 retails for about $120, but can be purchased at discount retailers for about $80.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Reclaim your human birthright: Take off on foot, and quickly

I’m trying hard not to write a “you know you’re a runner if” post here. All kinds of goofy things would come of it, usually things about how many showers a day you take, how many pairs of shoes you go though a year, how much Lulu Lemon stuff is in your closet or how much you’re addicted to Gu.

You know, all that geeky runner crap that sounds cute in passing, but makes for pretty bad prose.

But a couple of things got me thinking about this subject.

A few months ago, a friend of mine had called me up wanting to grab some lunch. Trouble is, my car was dead on its axles. This wasn’t a problem, because at the time I could walk or bike to work. But that wasn’t in the cards here. A walk to our chosen restaurant would have taken about an hour.

So I ran it. Twenty minutes, I was there. It was cool outside and it wasn’t a long run, so I showed up looking no worse for the wear.

I thought that was kinda cool. Burned off some calories right before chowing down with my friend.

Several months later, I was on a business trip in Wisconsin. On this trip, the company sponsoring the week-long event had pre-planned after hours get-togethers in which bottomless alcohol was served. To help people out, the company provided shuttles from the venue to the various hotels where people were staying.

An excellent idea. Great hosts taking care of people so no one gets in trouble or hurt.

Those shuttles stopped at some point, and I missed mine. My hotel wasn’t far, so I decided to hoof it.

But I got impatient with the slowness of the walk. I wanted to get to bed. So I ran it in.

It wasn’t far, and it was a cool evening so I didn’t trot in sopping wet or anything. But it got me there quickly, which got me to bed. Mission accomplished.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “He’s gonna say ‘you know you’re a real runner when run everywhere you go.’ Lame.”

I don’t run everywhere I go. Sometimes I walk. A lot of times, I drive my car.

But it’s nice to know that I have the option to set out on foot to get somewhere, and pick up the pace to get there more quickly.

The best thing about this, however, is it is not limited to “runners.” It’s for everyone.

Contrary to what some doctors might tell you, we are made to run. The design of our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, our muscles, our feet, even all the ligaments in our bodies, from head to toes, are made for running.

You may think otherwise, but that doesn’t make it so. We all have this God-given design to speed up from a walk to a run, and to do it for long distances over lengthy periods of time.

If we can shed some of the modern junk that quite literally weighs us down, dig deep into our primordial roots and stretch out our strides, we might realize an interesting truth.

Want to know if you’re a runner?

Can you breathe?

Can you walk?

Yes? Then you are, indeed, a runner.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Experimenting in barefoot running

What better place to run like a kid than in a park?

So I’ve been doing the minimalist running thing for a couple of months now, and I can say it’s been a mix of good results and new challenges.

The good results: It’s helped change my running form to something healthier and more sustainable. I’ve also found that without the significant support of traditional running shoes, my legs have had to work harder to get me going. Translation: Stronger legs, particularly my already outsized calves.

All of this has been good. So good that I accelerated my mileage in minimalist running shoes quite a bit. I’ve taken them out on trails, and rugged ones at that. My longest run on the minimalists shoes has been 6 miles on highly technical trails.

Now for the bad news. I’ve experienced some soreness and pain in my feet, particularly on the upper portions. The level or soreness and pain is high enough to alter my stride, so I had to back off and run in more robust shoes when I hit the trails. I’ve been told I’ve tried to do too much, too fast. I believe it.

Enter barefoot running.

Seems counterintuitive, but I truly feel the key to overcoming injuries like this will be to improve my stride and strengthen by legs and feet.

I do not believe the answer is going back to shoes with lots of cushion, motion control and support. Call me crazy.

I’m not sure I’m ready to start doing the barefoot thing on pavement. Places where I go seem to commonly have broken glass and such. I’ll pass on that. But in my reading, I learned that Stanford University’s track team had its athletes run barefoot on grass to strengthen their feet, improve their form and cut down on injuries. From what I’ve read, they’ve had success in those areas.

There’s a park I sometimes go to for quick trail runs. Tulsa’s Haikey Creek Park has a 1.3-mile trail loop that is quite a bit different from my favorite trail haunt. Its trails are mellow, non-technical and relatively flat. The loop circumnavigates a rather large green space or mowed grass.

The green space is where I did the barefoot thing.

Some initial impressions:

– Similar to running in minimalist shoes, barefoot running really works the calves and forces you to run more upright, with shorter strides and eliminates heel striking. It’s harder work it first, but that means strengthening is happening.

– Foot fatigue came quickly, but not too much. I was able to pound out some miles the next day without any issues related to the previous day’s barefoot exercise. This is good!

– The bottoms of my feet started to feel hot. The friction of hitting and rubbing against the ground contributed to this. At that point, it was time to stop.

All told, this lasted about a mile after a short trail run on regular running shoes.

I think I’m going to add this into my training on a weekly basis, while also continuing to throw in workouts in the minimalist shoes.

I’m looking forward to seeing if my foot strength and overall fitness improves.

Have you tried barefoot running? Is it working for you? What are your experiences with it? Let me know!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088 

A short, outdoorsy summer reading list

People often come up with summer reading lists. I’m not sure why summer is all of the sudden a season for reading, but that seems to be how it breaks down.

It also got me thinking about a few of my favorite reads. Some of mine are current events-type books, so I’ll spare you that. Besides, my favorite books tend to be more geared toward two things I really enjoy: good writing and a good yarn with an outdoors flavor.

One of my absolute favorites is “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. It’s well-written, expertly reported and thoroughly engrossing. Many of us who are into the outdoors have often dreamed similar dreams as did Chris McCandless – chucking away our normal lives and going on a permanent road trip adventure. His story ended tragically, but the pulse of the book is one which matches my own, and it’s very much a Gen-X tale (my generation!). If you like Krakauer, then “Into Thin Air” (about the 1996 Everest disaster), “Eiger Dreams” (an anthology of his essays) and “Where Men Win Glory” (his excellent and sad biography of ex-NFL star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman) are worth a look.

Speaking of risk-taking authors, you really should check out the works of Sebastian Junger. He’s done some good work, but my favorite of his is his most famous: “The Perfect Storm.” Chances are you’ve seen the movie. The book is much better. Few people can put together the cold, hard facts of science and history into the human tales in which they are intertwined. Skillfully reported, he takes you into the wheelhouses and cockpits of the vessels and aircraft caught up in one of the freakiest storms to ever strike the Eastern Seaboard. See also his anthology “Fire,” which includes a great piece about Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader of Afghanistan who was killed days before 9/11.

The newborn runner in me is also really into the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. The writer takes us to the Copper Canyons of Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains and into the lives of the super-running tribe of Tarahumara Indians. Also in the book is quite a bit about the late Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco), the American runner who learned the Tarahumara’s secrets and founded the Copper Canyon ultramarathon. The popularity of the book is widely seen as the catalyst to the barefoot/minimalist running movement that has taken hold in recent years.

Are you as fascinated by Mount Everest as me? But also horrified by the circus that seems to kill unwitting climbers there every spring? “High Crimes: Mount Everest in an Age of Greed” by Michael Kodas is a very good read that describes just how seedy things have gotten on the world’s highest peak. Another good one in this vein: “Dark Summit” by Nick Heil gives another view of how ambition, greed and amateurism is transforming the narrative of high altitude mountaineering.

That’s a pretty good start. What books are you reading? Let me know and let’s discuss!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

The (hopefully) transformative hell of hill training

Going up…

I’d just got through running a mile warm-up on a pleasant little trail, stretched, then took a look at the work before me. Earlier that morning, I’d dreamed up a workout that was designed to help me overcome what has become somewhat of a weakness.


Given any run I’ve been on, hills have been kicking my butt. I didn’t think much of it until a race a ran a couple of months ago showed just how lacking I was on hills. The race finished with a long, gradual climb that lasted for about a mile and ate my lunch. I’d been exposed.

So that’s what this particular workout was designed to remedy. I walked up to the trail and looked up. About a quarter mile away and about 100 feet up was the first of four hills before me, and then I’d have to run back and do them all over again.


A lot of people run to race, run for fun, or run to meditate. All of those are perfectly great reasons to lace ‘em up and go, and to a certain degree I’m motivated by the same desires. But first and foremost is another goal: to perform stronger at higher elevations.

I like mountains. Big ones. I like to hike them, ski them and climb them. I’m new to these high country endeavors, but I’m rather addicted to them. Planning routes, picking lines, hiking trails and clinging to rock all give me a measure of satisfaction and enjoyment that few other pursuits can.

But I have to admit that my performance at altitude has been lacking. My last mountain hike (just a hike, mind you) was arduous and much harder than it needed to be. I tagged a summit and got down just fine, but this should have been more fun than it was. My struggles going up meant a weary plod down.

I want to avoid that, and that means I have to get stronger when it comes to motoring uphill.

Hence my search for inclined paths to beat my stubborn body into submission.


The route I’m on is called the Powerline Trail, and for obvious reasons. Tall steel towers carry electrical lines from a power plant to the north to Tulsa’s southern suburbs and beyond, splitting through thick woods and rugged stretches. A trail for runners, hikers and bikers follows that line, but does it in purist form. There are no switchbacks, no trails hewn into the side of the hill to avoid sharp rises and drops. The Powerline Trail is actually a short side route that joins up with Turkey Mountain’s more extensive trail system that goes on for miles. But what Powerline lacks in length it makes up for in elevation gain and loss. Do the whole thing down and back and you’ll gain 500 feet in about 3 miles.

It’s more than 90 degrees outside, and I’m feeling every yard that I go forward and up. That first hill is the highest and steepest. When I get to the top, I’m gassed. What lies before me is a mellower but technical drop. And then it’s up again.


I think a lot about racing. Not really to compete, just to participate. I know I’m not going to be beating anyone. I’m pretty slow, relatively new to endurance athletics and trying like heck to get my body reconditioned to maintaining a high level of activity for long stretches of time. It’s a process, and a tough one for me.

My past training has a lot to do with it. It would help if I was about 10 pounds lighter, and I’m working on that. But my exercise habits date back to high school, consisting of workouts that are heavy on weights and cardio routines that focus on high intensity for short bursts of time, then rest, then repeat. I’ve played a lot of basketball, did seven years of jujitsu and lifted a lot of iron.

What this all looks like: Bursts of power to lift heavy weights in sets lasting about 20 seconds. Quick cuts, sprints and jumps up and down the court with frequent stops and starts. Grappling and kickboxing for 3 to 5 minutes at a time, with 1-minute rests between rounds.

What all this creates: A body designed to jump, sprint, lift and otherwise burn lots of energy in short bursts, followed by rest. Think high intensity interval cardio (I also do a lot of that) but much more varied, and you get the idea.

It got me healthy. Helped me keep the pounds off. Kept me in shape.

But it did very little to help me during those 10- to-12-hour days on the mountain, very little to help me in that race and very little overall to go up.


A rugged section of the Powerline Trail. (TATUR Racing photo)

The middle of the Powerline is at the bottom of the route. Behind me are two hills – well, one is really a “sub-hill” of the first. Ahead of me are two more inclines that are part of one really long uphill stretch. In front of me is a situational creek (water flows when it’s been raining, but dries up later) and the wreckage of some non-descript truck that used to be painted all white. It’s a twisted mess, and I have no idea how it got down here. The nearest road is a half mile away, so the only thing I can think of is some fool either drove it off-road and crashed (likely rolling many, many times) or it was stolen, then ditched here. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but it’s pretty likely that truck isn’t doing anywhere anytime soon.

Trail running here is complicated. Much of Oklahoma is pretty flat and grassy, but this particular part of the state includes wooded hills and ridges that are an extension of the Ozarks further east. That makes the trails rocky, rooty, sandy and muddy. And anything but flat.

Downhill running presents its own challenges. Great care has to be taken with each footfall. You can’t just barrel straight down. It’s more of a matter of picking a line, avoiding slick spots and controlling speed with quick, short steps. It’s pretty easy to bite it here. Speed, tripping hazards, loose soil and rocks – if you’re not careful, you just might end up like that crumpled pickup.

Of course, the uphill sections have their own way of cutting you down to size and wrecking you.

Crash and burn, baby.


I’ll admit it. I didn’t run the whole Powerline. I made a point to run every uphill section. That’s why I’m here. But I also “powerwalked” some level spots or even just stopped for a blow. I admire ultra trail runners. They amaze me, mostly because I know they’d cut through this trail like it was nothing. Astounding.

I’ve seen others out here, but most folks are avoiding the Powerline, taking the gentler nearby trails instead. One woman I passed was a hiker, taking a seat after being thrashed by that first hill. I saw another person – a biker – walking his rig up that same hill, then saddling up once that nuisance was past.

I don’t blame them at all. It’s getting hotter. The wind is blowing 20-25 mph out of the south, which means it’s in my face on my return trip. By now, I’m looking pretty feeble.

But in the back of my mind is a number. To be more precise, 14,000 feet. How fast can I get there? Or more to the point, how strong will I be when I get there?

Then there are future endeavors. How about that 15K coming up? Or maybe a half marathon a couple of months later? Or the ultimate goal: an ultra at altitude?

Is it acceptable to run half of those races, but end up walking the remainder? Or pulling a DNF simply because I wasn’t strong enough?

How will I get past all that unless I run this last, long, steep hill?

Up I go. Slowly. Heart pounding. Legs burning. Lungs seemingly – perpetually – unable to suck in enough oxygen to get this thing done.

I hit the top of the hill. Stop. Hands on knees, stooped over, panting like a dog. Soaked with sweat. I need a couple of minutes before I take off for that last quarter mile, all downhill, all steep. I gather myself, then begin picking my way down the route, finally hitting the flat straightaway leading to the trailhead parking lot.

I spend the rest of the day tired. Sleepy. Hungry. And not impressed with my performance.

Those hills are my weakness, but they’re the gateway to bigger – and hopefully transformative – things.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Today is National Running Day. What are you doing about it?

Today is a lot of things, most memorably, it’s the 68th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

On a less serious note, it’s also National Running Day.

I’ll be honest, I’m beat. I’ve been hitting the road and trail pretty hard over the last several days so my legs are pretty trashed at the moment. But I may pound out an honorary mile just because.

I’m hoping more of you will tackle this day with a bit more style than me today. So here’s the question: What did you do/are you going to do for National Running Day? Why do you run? Feel free to tell me about it here. I’d like to hear what’s going on out there with any readers who are also runners.

So go on. Get out there and crush it, then tell me about it.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Micah True, aka ‘Caballo Blanco,’ died from heart disease, autopsy shows

Micah True, aka Caballo Blanco

An autopsy report released Tuesday says renowned ultra runner Micah True died of heart disease while out on a 12-mile trail run a little over a month ago, The Associated Press reports.

According to the report, True, 58, had an enlarged heart and the left ventricle had become thick and dilated.

True’s body was discovered March 31, four days after he’d gone missing while running in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness.

True was a central figure in the best-selling book “Born to Run,” which chronicled the exploits of Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians and their penchant for long-distance running in little more than homemade sandals. True was the founder of the Copper Canyon Ultra race, which takes place annually in the region of Mexico where the Tarahumara live.

To read the full AP report, click this link.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088