Category Archives: Run

Starting your day with an early morning run is a great way to make sure your day can’t get any worse

Do Our Streets Make Us Unhappy?

Quite an interesting OpEd in the Washington Post. Some of the numbers quoted in the piece are very specific to Washington DC, however, the averages around the country for metro cities in terms land use are pretty close to those. The number of non-car homes is much higher in DC than many cities (like Atlanta that lacks robust transit options).

One particular quote really stands out, and it is something that we are hearing more and more from city planners, both large and small:

“We’ve built an unsustainable transportation network that makes all of us feel isolated, vulnerable and embattled, no matter how we’re getting around.”

While even if we have rich and robust non-car support in our transportation budgets and spaces, many people will still opt to drive, but the path we are on makes driving the only viable option, and that just makes the problems worse.

http://Do Our Streets Make Us Unhappy?

North Atlanta Winter Bike Sessions

With the end of the 2016 summer cycling season starting to wrap up, it is time to start planning for 2017. The number one question I recieve as a ride leader this time of year is both an obvious one, but also the one that presents an obvious problem, how to get in the work when light and cold weather become a challenge. In addition, Atlanta has a very good program available if you are willing to to drive an hour from the north side, and let me be right up front about this. I am not a certified cycle coach. Robert Wilhite is, so what he has to offer may be more coaching focused than what I am planning here, but the drive to his Winter Bike League is brutal and I personally love the group of people we have up here, so this is as much about enjoying the company of people that have built relationships during the season while building and maintaining fitness for 2017 so we can do it all again.

With that in mind, I wanted to layout what I am thinking, and let everyone make their own choices. A couple of notes before I get into the structure and schedule that I have in mind.


With the season wrapping up, and a plan to get better for the next season, this would be a good time to get in touch with your fitter and schedule a follow up, or schedule your first if you’ve never been professionally fit for your bike. Yes, it will be relatively speaking, expensive. However the cost here is less than many of the other solutinos we throw money at to be more comfortable, and faster on a bike. In many ways, everything else riders wish to accomplish on a bike start with the fit. Sadly, a good fit can introduce position changes that incur a short term slow down as muscles adapt to new body positions. We are blessed here on the north side with several good options.

  • Eddie O’dea @ Endurance House
  • Curtis Cannon @ Cannon Cyclery

Both of these gentlemen are well respected in the area.. I obviously have a preference, but these are two of the most respected in the area.

What makes this so important to do now is that most of us arr in the best shape we’ve been in this season. Our bodies are best suited to adapting now, and with the work of the winter, any short term losses will turn into net gains by the time spring rolls around.

Indoor Trainer

While not required, an indoor trainer will make staying fit, and increasing fitness through the winter. Part of the plan for these Winter Bike Sessions is to leverage one or two indoor virtual workout(s) a week. Any indoor trainer will do the trick, but to really maxmimize the experience and the benefits, a Smart Trainer does make the experience more enjoyable, particularly when paired with Zwift.

At the high end, the Wahoo Kickr and the Tacx Neo are probably the most approachable and readily available in the area. Personally, though I really like the Neo and the way it is built, when it comes right down to it, I don’t like training indoors enough to justify the cost. Instead, I use something in the middle of the road, and it remains my top choice/recommendation for a couple of reasons. The Tacx Bushido hits a great middle ground of smart functions and price. It also has the additional benefit of not needing a power plug making it portable. It is also a dual band unit that supports both Bluetooth and ANT+, so it can pair with a Garmin for logging, as well as to a computer, phone or tablet to control and record workouts.

The last thing to think about here, is that while the indoor workouts will be defined, and could be performed without anything but the trainer and stop watch, there is a nice mental shift that keeps things social when you add in the virtual training game that is Zwift. As a part of the Winter Bike Sessions, the plan is to hold a corresponding virtual group workouts on Zwift.

Session 1 – Baseline, Bike Skills and Climbing

Dates 10/31/2016-12/11/2016
Target Event Ridley Master’s Underwear Ride – TBD (12/11/2016 estimated)
Optional Event WBS 1st Annual New Years Eve 3 Gaps Ride (12/31/2016)

The first session it intended to focus on finding a base line for where we are, then to build from there work into some specific bike handling skills before really starting the prep for some climbing skills. Since this block will be the first after daylight savings time comes to an end, it will also be the one to challenger our collective time and daylight management skills.

Week 1

Monday – Ride – Speed Work: Intervals 4 ( Group Event on Zwift )
Tuesday – Run (Optional) – Tempo 2 Miles
Wednesday – Core (Optional) – Plyometrics 45 minutes + 500 yard swim
Thursday – Ride – Steady State: 1.25 hours with 2 up tempo spins
Friday – Run (Optional) – Speed Work: 3 miles with 3 short intervals
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Ride – Long Ride: 2.5 hour 70% effort

Week 2

Monday – Ride – Speed Work: Pyramid 3 ( Group Event on Zwift )
Tuesday – Run (Optional) – Hill Repeats x2
Wednesday – Core (Optional) – Pilates 30 minutes + 1500 yard swim
Thursday – Ride – Steady State: 1.5 hours with 3 up tempo spins
Friday – Run (Optional) – Speed Work: 3 miles with 1 long intervals
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Ride – Long Ride: 3 hour 70% effort

Week 3

Monday – Ride – Speed Work: Intervals 6 ( Group Event on Zwift )
Tuesday – Run (Optional) – Tempo 4 Miles
Wednesday – Core (Optional) – Plyometrics 45 minutes + 1000 yard swim
Thursday – Ride – Steady State: 2 hours with 4 up tempo spins
Friday – Run (Optional) – Speed Work: 4 miles with 3 long intervals
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Ride – Long Ride: 3.5 hour 70% effort

Week 4

Monday – Ride – Speed Work: Pyramid 7 ( Group Event on Zwift )
Tuesday – Run (Optional) – Hill Repeats x4
Wednesday – Core (Optional) – Pilates 30 minutes + 2000 yard swim
Thursday – Ride – Steady State: 2.5 hours with 5 up tempo spins
Friday – Run (Optional) – Speed Work: 3 miles with 2 long intervals
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Ride – Long Ride: 4 hour 70% effort

Week 5

Monday – Ride – Speed Work: Intervals 6 ( Group Event on Zwift )
Tuesday – Run (Optional) – Tempo 4 Miles
Wednesday – Core (Optional) – Plyometrics 45 minutes + 1000 yard swim
Thursday – Ride – Steady State: 2 hours with 4 up tempo spins
Friday – Run (Optional) – Speed Work: 4 miles with 3 long intervals
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Ride – Long Ride: 4.5 hour 70% effort

Week 6 – Event Week – Lighter Load

Monday – Ride – Speed Work: Pyramid 5 ( Group Event on Zwift )
Tuesday – Run (Optional) – Recovery 3 Miles
Wednesday – Core (Optional) – Pilates 30 Minutes + 1500 yard swim
Thursday – Ride – Steady State – Steady 90 Recovery
Friday – Walk – 30 minute walk, leisure pace keeping loose
Saturday – Ride – 60 minute light spin
Sunday – Event Day – Enjoy, and trust in the training. No breaks over 5 minutes to keep from tightening up.

The Ten Minute Threshold

Ten minutes of transit time. That is the length of time most of the people that I talk to are willing to travel via alternative means before they will ‘just drive’. When asking around to find out what that threshold is amongst the suburbanites I live around 10 minutes has been the most consistent answer. However, that answer is almost always accompanied by a qualifier; If there was a safe route.

Therein lies the issue. Safe routes remain scarce in the suburban build out, and so, the car has become the default mode of transportation.

Interestingly, the communities that have traditionally been the least likely to invest in non-car infrastructure, are the very same ones that are now seeing the light and becoming the first communities to invest deeply into establishing new infrastructure. Sadly, in many of these communities, the drivers are all wrong, but he results may well be the right ones.

Today, the drivers that are urging this infrastructure build out are purely commercial in origin. These new ‘walkable’ suburbs are being driven by small commercial centers and new suburban residential centers, with high dollar price tags. Small walkable hubs have started springing up in the affluent suburbs around the country. While these hubs are all about these expensive homes and high end retail which really isn’t the point of good, non-car infrastructure at the end of the day, these builds outs accomplish the long term goal encouraging walkable communities.

Curiously, the side effect of these little suburban enclaves is starting to show a side effect. The neighborhoods that are just a little further out from the community hubs are pressing for viable infrastructure as well, at least in our little suburban enclaves.

These are the very pressures that have to exist in order to garner the money and incentive for our communities to undermine the 50 years of car primacy, which is particularly egregious in the suburbs and the rural edge communities.

But let us step back and think about what 10 minutes means:

  • The average walking pace is about 18 minutes per mile, or just a tiny bit over 3 miles an hour.
  • The average pace of a casual bike ride is about 6 minutes per mile, or about 10 miles an hour.

So, if you extrapolate that from these little community hubs and draw a circle of just one half mile in radius from these hubs in order to see just how much of the residential areas are encompassed. When you expand that circle out to a 3 mile radius, and you start connecting these micro community hubs with real, viable non-car infrastructure.

city centers

Just look at this image. The green circles are the city hubs and walkable areas within that 10 minute threshold, while the yellow circles are the 10 minute ridable from those same community hubs. In this image, they are focused on the community retail hubs, but they could just as easily be dropped on high schools or existing recreational hubs. What is clear however, is that by focusing on infrastructure from any of these as focal points, the overlap quickly covers a vast area of the suburban sprawl. When you look at the area covered, what also becomes clear, that by following this approach of focus, the near term goal of providing safe, viable alternative transportation options of bicycle safe routes in between each hub ceases to be about corridors, because there are very few locations that require a transfer point, which is the problem with todays approaches.

So the question becomes, can we leverage the idea of the 10 minute transit time into a near to mid term solution to obtaining the funding, and construction of viable transit alternatives?

Fitness is not an accident

Way back when, before I cleaned up my own lifestyle and got back on the bike. Before I started running, before I stepped on the scale that fateful day and had my “whoa” moment, I often looked at some of the slim, fit bodies and blamed genetics. Like many people, I wanted to attribute my body type to genetics, and let my failures to manage the bad things that my body type exposed be lumped into that genetics thing. Like so very many people, I assumed that most of the “pretty people” were just blessed with great genetics. What I now understand is that yes, they may have been blessed with great genetics, but the level of work that it takes to maintain what we are born with is no accident.

In so many instances, our bad habits are formed at a very young age. Those early years set the stage for our life long struggles, as we build habits that are inhibitors to the work of living fit. Personally, I struggle with an addiction to caffeine in the carbonated, cold variety and a raging sweet tooth. I love chocolate, preferably in large quantities, served with an ice cold soda. These are bad enough, but some other lifestyle things only make it that much harder to keep fitness. I work a desk job where I sit for 8-10 hours a day. With kid schedules, I will often spend another 2 hours a day in a car. Factor in meals and sleep, finding time to get in a good workout is tough.

Over the last couple of years, it has become harder and harder to maintain the discipline required to get those workouts in, and my waistline shows it. That is the hidden part of the fitness equation. Getting fit is hard. Staying fit is harder, as the demands of life intrude upon the demands of training.

In the past, it was a little easier for me, as I used my commute to the office as part of my daily workout. For the last year, some schedule changes have changed that because I have had a passenger. I haven’t been able to ride the 4-5 days a week of the past. This has impacted my base fitness, as well as my ability to get in the volume of work I needed, to overcome some of the bad habits I hadn’t been able to kill off.

So now it is time of fix some diet issues that were masked by the volume of work being done, while also reworking some schedule to fix the issues.

Sharing the Trail

Haw Creek Park MTB Trails

Haw Creek Park MTB Trails

Trail running is some of the best run training you can do. Even if you do your racing on the roads and never want to trail race, running the uneven surfaces of trails is still something that should factor into the training plan. There are so many reasons, some physical, some emotional. Physically, the uneven surfaces improve balance and strength. The obstacles in the trail help form better stride habits. The short ups and downs of a trail will force stride adaptations that will help deal with road imperfections on race day. The softer surface reduces impact and repetitive stress injuries. The shade of the trees reduces the impacts of the sun on your body. Running through the woods evokes something natural and almost primal in your mind. Enjoying nature, and the sights of a trail run are fabulous ways to rediscover the fun that is running.

Running can be great fun, if we allow it to be. Sadly, too many people associate running with sidewalks and greenways, or tracks and laps. When running is confined to artificial spaces, much of the joy of the experience goes away. Running is not an easy sport. When there is nothing to focus on but the discomfort of the run, it becomes exceptionally hard to enjoy. Fortunately, trails provide a great solution.

There are some good trails to run, but these days, many of the best trails are not being built and provided by runners and hikers, but are instead being built and maintained by the mountain bike groups. Some of those trails are closed to runners, but the ones that aren’t, they are fantastic places to run.

One of my favorites in the area is a little 3 mile loop at a park called Haw Creek. It is a perfect little loop to run. Like so many in the area, it is built and maintained on county park land by the local mountain bike organization. Fortunately, they are willing to share their work with us the walkers and runners.

In this situation, we the runners and walkers are the ones that need to respect those that made this happen. It is the rare case, where the pedestrian does not have the right of way. Sharing the path, we need to remind each other to be courteous to the cyclists. Follow the signage, to run and walk counter to the daily flow of the bikes, as most trails reverse directions on a daily basis. In addition, keep a headphone out so you can hear the bikes and give them due space as they pass.

Like on the roads, we can all coexist if we simply extend a bit of courtesy. If we do not make the effort, we will lose these facilities on both sides. The bike organizations will stop building and maintaining, and the park administrations will stop allowing them if these areas become conflict points.

So please, runners and walkers, let’s make a concentrated effort to support organizations like SORBA and RAMBO in their efforts to build the trails, but also to respect the users and donors that have made them possible when they are sharing those facilities with us.

Ragnar? Why Not!

So today the OGREs are heading out to do a little weekend run. Just a ~200 mile kog from Chattanooga to Nashville with 10 of our friends. How did this happen? Because someone asked. Was there thought or planning that went into this? NOPE! Welcome to the life of an OGRE. Sometimes, you just have to say “screw it, sounds like fun”

Shopping – Skora Running

We here at the OGRE HQ ( otherwise known as the Swamp ), have a strong bias towards shopping local, shopping small, and shopping made in USA. It is hard to do all of the above these days, but with care, you can usually hit 1 or 2 out of the 3. In addition, we like to add a 4th category, and that is shop with quality people.

Skora Running

Shop Small: Yes — Shop Local: No — Shop Made in USA: Sorta

This time we are profiling a small shoe vendor from the Seattle, Washington. They are not really local and they do not currently have any retail dealers in the Atlanta area. Unfortunately, they are not using US manufacturing either, but that is not unusual in the shoe industry. Even New Balance only builds a limited number of shoes and products in the US at a significant price premium.

Because of the limited retail presence, Skora has put together an excellent process for returns that works with their “Love Your Run” Guarantee. Shopping for shoes online is still a bit of a stretch for some, but it might be worth a shot for you.

Before we discuss the vendor itself, it is probably a good idea to explain what led us to consider Skora in the first place.

When I started running, I was ‘fit’ into a structured shoe, lots of padding, lots of correction. I was a heel striker with a slow cadence. I ran like that for about 8 months, but eventually, things started to hurt (knees, hips, hip flexors, etc). That tends to happen to a lot of runners, particular later in life, new to running, runners. Like many of those runners I decided to fix the stride. In the process I went through a small boatload of shoes trying to find something. You name it, I tried it.

What I finally decided was that less, is more. A lot more. It was an educational process. I learned more about shoes, shoe construction, foot dynamics, and a lot of theories about running. There is a lot of science, mixed with a lot of assumption when it comes to shoes, stride and feet. There are not many hard and fast conclusions that you can take away from all of this information.

What I ended up with from all of my research and testing was not a specific shoe but a set of fit concepts.

  1. It all starts with the toe box. Lots of shoes advertise a wide toe box, but this circles back to the individual foot, and too wide leaves a lot of room to slide around in.
  2. The arch isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Found out the hard way that too much arch support weakens the foot, and actually makes mid-sole striking harder to do and support. Arches in my ideal shoes have more to do providing shape and keeping that wide toe box from sliding around than supporting the foot.
  3. Heel cups suck. Just because I want a wide toe box doesn’t mean I have ankles, and need a huge heel opening that cannot be kept tight on the foot.
  4. The sole shape in the heel of the shoe influences the entire stride, from foot to lower back. If you have ANY pronation or supination in your stride, the shape of the heel by definition alters the shape of the stride.
  5. Padding is not evil, but can interfere with the shoe comfort.

Notice, I don’t note ‘minimalist’ or ‘zero drop’. Those are not criteria, they are results.

What I ultimately found was that to meet the criteria I had to kiss a lot of frogs. Along the way, I learned a lot about shoes.

At the end of the day though, I did almost 3 full years running in a minimalist trail shoe that met the criteria. Wide toes, shape, but not arch support, enough padding to prevent tears when I stepped on something rough or sharp, a heel that didn’t slip and slide, and a heel sole that was rounded that let my stride flow smoothly from my natural landing position into the push off, all while protecting my very very damaged knees.

In the last year, that shoe was discontinued, so I had to find a suitable replacement.

That led me back to the list of shoes and vendors I had tested initially. During that initial cycle of research I had tried a shoe from Skora Running that I really liked but it had one little problem. A design tidbit that caused some blistering on the back of the heel at the cuff around the shoe opening. I had been using that shoe as an every day walking shoe for the last year or so. Based upon that, and the addition of some new products to the line, I thought I would give Skora another chance.

You see Skora have a couple of things that you can’t find in other offerings. The design of the heel’s sole is unique in that it mimics the shape of your heel itself and provides no “wedge”.

Skora Fit

It meets all of my criteria and adds a seamless inner that makes is suitable for wear without socks. It is a zero drop shoe, but has a 16mm stack. That stack makes the shoe itself and exceptional candidate to wear on all terrains. So it was, early this year, I picked up a pair of Fit’s to give a shot at replacing the shoe that had been my staple for the last couple of years.

That is the background, so let us talk about the shopping experience.

First thing, since they lack a retail presence, all of the ordering process is handled through their website. Fortunately, for small web retailers, the web site is very well designed and the ordering process is painless. In addition, they have a nice little tool that will compare the fit of your chosen Skora to most of the established shoes on the market, including the more obscure shoes that I was wearing at the time. Shipping was also remarkably prompt considering Skora is in the northwestern corner of the US, while I am in the southeastern corner. That’s 3000 miles for those counting it.

Looking back at my notes on the first run in the Fit on TrainingPeaks, I see that I loved them right away, but didn’t like the laces. Not the lacing, but the actual laces, or more specifically, the need to tie them. I had already switched to the Nathan Lock-laces on my other shoes, and missed them. However, the shoe itself was an instant hit, and required very little transition time going from a 4mm drop 8mm heel stack to a 0 drop, 16mm heel stack. My only reservation at the time were a dimple pattern on the inner that I worried would make the shoe uncomfortable for long runs, or sickles runs.

I need not have worried. The first longer runs proved that the textures in the inners improved comfort. Shortly thereafter, the Fit got promoted to be the shoe for this season. I ran a pair of sprint triathlons, and an Olympic distance race before I made the decision to run the Chattanooga 70.3 in those Fits. I was concerned about moisture retention. The early races proved that not to be an issue, so it was that I found myself running the 70.3 in those very same Skora Fits.

That was in May. Fast forward to the end of August. Those Fits now have 450 miles on them. I have two more pairs waiting in the wings, and have yet to put a mile on one of them, while the other has been being used to fill in. At 450 miles, my running shoes are usually very worn, and ready to be retired. These on the other hand have at least 4 more weeks and a full marathon left in them I think, as they are going to carry me through the end of the training and race day for the Chattanooga 144.6 (yes the bike course is 4 miles longer).

To say that I think the Fit is a great shoe is an understatement. It strikes a near perfect balance between the minimalist/barefoot and cushioned running trends while making few sacrifices associated with either.

Along the way though, Skora tossed a curve ball. Middle of July, they teased a new version of the Phase.

Skora Phase

I loved the look, and there were some subtle changes in the shoe that I had to grab a pair to try out. The arrived in early August, and I rotated them into my running. The issue that held me back from the original Phase was gone, and this is the best minimal shoe on the market, bar none. I did 13.5 miles in my first run in them, I did a sanctioned 13.1 in them 2 weeks later. What I know is that they are the best shoe I have ever run in.

That was not what I expected, and after the 144.6, I expect the Phase to become my primary run shoe, but I am unwilling to change the plan from the Fit 6 weeks prior to my first 140.6 long course triathlon.

What you can take away from this though, is simply this. I believe that running shoes are even more of an individual comfort choice than wetsuits are for triathletes, and that every runner may need to try many shoe options before they find what suits them best. I believe that anyone that is serious about their running shoes needs to give the little guys at Skora a real shot. The product matrix is simple, with 5 products, at 3 targets. I am sitting on two of those products as the 1 & 2 in my personal favorite shoe list, and the Tempo, the max cushion shoe they offer would be my go to over other max cushion offerings. The Core and Form both look like they are excellent products as well, I simply haven’t had the opportunity to log miles in them.

In closing, I want to also give special mention to the excellent customer service from the company. In each instance that I have had a question or concern, I have had an answer within a day at most. Knowing the size of the company, and that they are doing it all in house, that is impressive in this day and age when customer service is a lost art.

Race Report – Area 13.1 Half Marathon

Area 13.1 Half Marathon – Race Report

Area 13.1

Usually, this would be an easy report to write, as this is the third year for us running in this one. Well, 3rd for Scott. Dru skipped a year, and last year the even conflicted with our race in Savannah. Anyways, I digress. For us, this is an event that we look forward to on the calendar because it is very much a home town event, and the format is different and fun.

What makes this so different?

To start with, the race is an evening race that finishes in the dark, by design. In addition, the route itself lends itself to a kind of eerie, alien and rock n roll vibe. Finishing in the dark, on a course that can only be lit by tower lights and generators means alot of handheld or head lamps, which only adds to the fun vibe.

OGRES ready to run

The big downside to this event is that late August in Atlanta is almost a promise of heat and humidity. This year was no exception, with temps in the mid 80’s, but crazy humidity. To the point that I have done runs in the rain where I finished the run feeling cleaner and dryer than this one. Sticky? no, soaked. To the point that a pair of merino wool socks were completely soaked and the feet were full prune status by the end of the race.

This year Scott and I went out at the same time, instead of prior events where we would split into self selected pace groups. Both of us had time goals in mind and they were not too far apart. It made for a good time.


This year, the half course saw some changes from the course used in prior years. While in the past the course has been nearly pancake flat, this year a couple slight variations. First was a change to moved an early section of the first out and back loop from an old gravel residential road to a crushed gravel nature running trail by the river. It certainly made a scenic change, but at the same time it created a narrower course at a early point in the race. There were still alot of runners in close proximity this early, so some of the spots got tight and slowed the pace down. The second change added a good hill to the route. Essentially, 110 feet of climbing in about a mile, starting at mile 6.75. To put it mildly, it kinda hurt, but in a good way.

Elevation Profile

All in all, the changes slow the race down, but still make it a better overall event. In addition, the changes work hand in hand with the other new feature this year. In addition, they added a 5k that runs on the same first out and back loop that goes off about 15 minutes after the half starts. After running the race, I am pretty sure that the course changes in the first loop were to accomodate the 5k and I think the net result is great for the event on the whole. Though the participation numbers appeared to be higher for the half, the 5k should allow the even to grow into a premier Atlanta event over the coming years (assuming Roswell doesn’t do something silly with permits as they did in 2014).

In the end, this is an event that has had some trials getting to this point, but today, I think they have built a great foundation, and are set for it to become one of Atlanta must do events each year.

There is one other big thing to note. In past years, water stops and frequency have been a concern for this event. Judging by the setup this year, I think organizers heard the concerns and tackled them quite directly. With water more often than every 1.5 miles, there was more than adequate supply of hydration, and nutrition along the course..


On a would we do it again scale, the answer is, yes. As long as we don’t have an event that conflicts in the coming years, I expect to keep running this event. I really hope the stick with this new course layout as well, as it just flows really well.