Friday, December 19, 2014

I am not just a runner

If you're reading this then you know that I am a runner. I focus a ton of time, energy and effort into training to compete. But we all know that competing isn't important at all. Trail running is more about the peace and strength we find in the wilderness and the connections we make on the trails. I have such a huge "family" in the trail running community that I am so thankful for. A lot of people aren't that lucky and I really do feel fortunate.
If you know me, even as an acquaintance, then you probably know some of the things I struggle with. If you know me personally then you might even know my demons and you probably know that running saved my life. It changed me. It picked me up from rock bottom and continues to keep me balanced. I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for my legs. I am grateful for the mountains and the forest. I'm grateful for the dark places we sometimes have to push through in order to see the beauty in the world, because without the darkness the sunrise would not be breathtaking. That's why I run.
But it seems like runners self identify with uncomparable passion. I completely understand that, because after all, I am runner. But over the last year I started to realize that running isn't all encompassing. I used to introduce myself as if it were: when people would ask what I do or who I am,  I would say "I'm a runner."  Like "Duh! That's it! That's all that matters!" But I don't feel that way anymore. Not because I don't love running, but because life is full of so many brilliant and beautiful moments. So many little things mean so much to me now.
I love music. All kinds. I love to play guitar. I love to write songs. I love bad poems. I love cookies and the way they smell when they come out of the oven. I love coffee and tea. I love movies. I love pizza! I love to cook. I love to drive with nowhere to go. I love to watch the sunset. I love the way my woman's lips feel against mine and the way she looks at me. I love love and love that my old friends hate that I'm that way.
This list could go on for days. Pages and pages of things you might not care about. And as I get older it just gets bigger. I'm not writing this to down play the importance of anyone's identity, I know how important it is to have an identity that you're proud of, but lets not forget what the world is made of and how beautiful it can be with or without your running shoes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Running Mount Wrightson

Here is a cool little video my friend Jamil of Aravaipa Running and Run Steep Get High threw together of Catlow, Sion, Jamil, and Myself Ascending Mount Wrightson via Old Baldy Trail and descending via Super Trail. Enjoy!

Topo Athletic MT Review

I had never heard of Topo Athletic until I saw a post from Seven Hills on Instagram, but it looked like a solid shoe so I got in touch with the company for a wear test and was happy to get my hands on a pair. With a weight of 8.2 oz for a mens size 9 and an MSRP $100 we have the Topo Athletic MT (Mountain Trainer).

This shoe has an anatomical fit which provides a truly natural shape and the mesh upper is tightly woven and seamless which I found to be very breathable, drying very quickly when wet and keeping even the smallest debris out, I really enjoy the snug fit in the heel and mid foot that opens up to a very roomy toebox, it's super comfortable right out of the box. That being said, it doesn't have the performance fit needed for really technical terrain. The toebox was just too wide, which left me wanting a more secure fit on techy descents. On flip side it was flawless on more mellow trails.
Topo set an extra eyelet very low on the upper (pictured here with the lace through it) to accommodate runners with both low insteps and high insteps with different lacing options. I would say that I have an average instep and didn't find the need to use the low instep lacing option. I found that when not in use, the lower most eyelet protruded a bit and made it feel like there was a pebble wedged in each of my shoes. The irritation was not enough to cause any blistering or hot spots, but just enough to be noticeable, particularly on descents. 

The midsole has a 2mm offset with a stack height of 17mm in the forefoot and 19mm in the heel. It's made of a triple density EVA which provides a semi firm ride. This is the first time I've run in a shoe with a drop of less than 4mm and it was noticeable. I didn't get any extra soreness in my calves, but I did feel like I paid more attention to my foot strike, landing more midfoot. 
All in all I really like the ride. They're flexible and have just enough cushion without being too firm. I found them to perform best on groomed trails, but if you're used to a low drop and semi firm ride, then I think you'll also enjoy the ride on road. However, I found them to lack the necessary protection on rock strewn technical trails. I really had to tip toe down this type of terrain or risk a rock bruise.

The outsole is great. With shallow multi directional lugs and sticky rubber, the MT offers phenomenal traction. I found the grip to be better than 80% of the shoes I've run in lately. They did well in sand, on rock, on wet rock and even rode well on asphalt, though they may not perform as well on excessively muddy trails. After miles of testing, the lugs show very little signs of wear, which is uncommon down here in rocky Southern Arizona. 

This a great shoe for people who enjoy a minimal shoe with a natural shape and a good balance of cushion. They fit true to size and feel really good right out of the box. If you live somewhere with tons of jagged rocks, I might consider something a little more protective, but all in all I was pleasantly surprised with this shoe and plan to keep them in my current rotation.

Thanks for reading!
Feel free to follow me on twitter @koreykonga
As well as Instagram for daily shots of beautiful trails and other nonsense: koreykonga

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week ending 08/31/2014

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 01:00 - 400ft - Speed. Apartment to Tram Road. Warm, then 1 to 3 min at 5K effort with equal recovery, cool.

Wednesday - 01:12 - 300ft - Recovery. Apartment to 7 Falls to the 5th crossing. Very easy (and hot).

Thursday - 01:13 - 700ft -  Moderate. Steady pace on the tram road from the apartments with Sion.

Friday - AM - 01:10 - 1,000ft - Moderate. Apartment to Blacketts Ridge, not quite to the top out. Ran into Garett and started chatting , decided to meander back down. Easy on the way down.
            PM - 01:25 - 1,700ft - Moderate. Apt. to Blacketts Ridge. 0:35 to the top. Practicing my power hiking with

Saturday - 01:40 - 700ft - Moderate/ Hard with heat. Apartment. to 7 falls with Steve. Ears clogged/ blurry vision on the return.

Sunday - 04:20 - 5,500ft - Moderate pace, but easy on the back half after bonking (lots of hiking). Mt. Lemmon: Bigelow to Barnum Rock, back to Bigelow, down Bear Wallow to Sunset, up Marshall Gulch, up Aspen to Radio Ridge, over to the Observatory, down Lemmon rock look out to Wilderness of Rocks. Return via Marshall/Sunset/Wallow. Running with Catlow. He's one cool dude. It's nice trying to keep up with a national class mountain runner though I couldn't help feeling a little bad about my slog of an effort. I kept trying to get him to go ahead, but he'd wait for me at junctions and push me to finish so I couldn't cop out. It was a fun and productive day for me!

Total time: 12 hours.
Total elevation gain: 10,300ft

I suspect the reason I couldn't sustain Catlow's moderate long run effort come Sunday is because I did too many moderate/hard efforts during the week. I definitely haven't been running enough easy days since I've been back in Tucson and today that was made very clear.
I think I'm going to have to limit my group running to speed work days and weekend long runs, that way I can run 70% of my mileage at MY easy/recovery pace and hit the hard work outs on the nose.
Here are some photos from my most recent outings:

From atop Barnum Rock, Mt. Lemmon
"Where's Catlow" (Aspen Tr. to Radio Ridge)

Cooling off

Phoneline Trail

Blacketts Ridge

Sun setting on Blacketts Ride Trail

Moon rising after the decent

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pulling the plug on the monster

I was really excited to test my limits at the 100 mile distance when I signed up for the Mogollon Monster 100. I was sure I would train. And train. And train. I imagined big weeks with epic runs in the Catalinas, but after moving to Tucson I've yet to do even one monstrous run.
Some of my lack of motivation may stem from slightly overtaxing my body in the heat. I was trying to push the pace pretty hard in 95 to 105 degree heat, mostly on exposed trails, before I was acclimated. Even though I enjoy the heat, I've never been able to run fast or hard in it, my body just doesn't respond well to it and I haven't gotten stronger or faster. In fact, I just feel tired and slow. Even my easy runs have been feeling difficult and I've only been running 60 miles per week with minimal vertical and no significant long runs. So instead of crawling my way to a 30+ hour finish, I've decided to pull the plug on the MOG100 this year.
The rest of 2014 is going to be exciting though! Since I won't be focusing on 100 mile specific training I'm going to focus on getting my energy back and dialing in my speed for the 50K distance. I will be heading up to Oregon in October for the inaugural Oregon Coast 50K and in December I will most likely skip TNF 50 Mile in San Francisco (for the 3rd year in a row) and instead run the Deception Pass 50K in Washington. What better way to spend a weekend back home than at a Rainshadow Running event?

See you on the trails!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Vertigo Night Runs 31K Race Report

The vertigo night runs are part of Aravaipa Running's Insomniac Night Trail Running and Relays Series. Vertigo is held on the competitive track at the White Tank Regional Park starting at 7p.m. You would think that as the sun sets in Phoenix it would cool down, but on July 26th that wasn't really the case.
I didn't run this race particularly fast. Not because I didn't want to, I did and I tried, but it was so damn hot that my 8 minute pace felt like a 6:15 pace! Not to mention the technical terrain, sandy washes and the course being illuminated by only my headlamp. It was 105 degrees when we started racing which made me want to drop on my first loop. The metallic taste in my throat and my seemingly unquenchable thirst didn't help. The main reason I didn't stop running is because almost every runner I passed on the course (the 10K, 31K, and 63K were all running their races on the same loop) offered words of encouragement. Just another reason I love this sport. Thank you all for the positive vibes!
All of the eyeball-baking-energy-sucking-heat aside, it was a really great experience. The first 3-4 miles of the 6.5 loop were fairly flat, but rock strewn with abrupt rollers through various sandy washes. Around mile 4, my favorite part of the race, there was a small climb. At the top I would look back down on the Sonoran Competitive Track to see all of the headlamps scampering below me. It was an awesome sight. From there it was a fun and fast, short but technical descent to an aid station followed by a fast and mostly flat 2 mile section back to the start/finish aid before I'd head out for another loop.
On my last lap a storm started rolling in shooting bursts of electricity through the night sky which illuminated silhouettes of saguaros and revealed ominous clouds in the distance. The 63K runners eventually had to be pulled from the course due to dust, wind and lightning, but my friend and training partner Sion Lupowitz came through the 32 mile mark in 1st place well ahead of the runner up, so he took the win on the shortened course. 
Aravaipa Running put on a class act event. I've run a hand full of their events and they only seem to get better. My favorite new Aravaipa Running perk at this race was the free finisher photo at the end (Plus a finishers mug and a gym bag). Their live result system is awesome, their aid stations are always stocked and the course is always well marked. If you find yourself in Arizona, do yourself a favor and run an Aravaipa event. It's well worth it!
Thanks to Nick and Jamil for having me up there and putting on a stellar run. Thanks to all of the volunteers for being out in the heat all night to help all of us crazy Insomniacs. And thank you to Pearl Izumi and ClifBar for the continued support.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @koreykonga

See you on the trails!

Sion and I were sporting the same kicks: the Pearl Izumi Trail N1. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Kickin' it before the race. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Sun setting before the 31K start
31K start. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Coming through the second loop. Photo: Aravaip Running

Finisher photo. Photo: Aravaipa Running

Female winner Suzie Kramer and myself at the finish . Photo Aravaipa Running.

Lightning popping off!


Sion demanding something delicious before his final lap. Photo: Michelle Sager via Twiinkly App.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My first trip up Mount McLoughlin in 2014

Yesterday I went out to summit Mt. Mcloughlin for my first time this year. To get to the summit you climb about 4,000 vertical feet in just over 5 miles. It's a great place to practice both technical uphill and downhill running. And the views don't suck either.Last year my PR from the trailhead to the summit was 01:12. But the trail has changed a a bit. There are more loose rocks and downed trees, plus my legs were a little tired from my 20 miler on the rogue the day before, so it took me 01:30 to summit. 
On the way down I did precisely what I thought only inexperienced hikers do on Mcloughlin; I got lost on the scree field to the right of the ridgeline  instead of following the ridgeline to the left. Luckily I'm smart enough to back track instead of continuing on in the wrong direction. I'm also in good enough shape to be able to run back up the mountain in a short amount of time. So that's what I did. I saw a few guys down the ridgeline on the actual trail and caught up with them until I got back on course. This added a little over an hour to my trip, but it was all well worth it. Another beautiful day on the trails!

McLoughlin from a distance

Loose rock on the trail

The snow is almost gone

Heading up the ridgeline towards the summit

The view

The last 100ft to the summit, steeper than it looks


Instead of following the ridgeline from whence I came, like a smart mountain runner, I took the scree field to the right.