Monday, September 29, 2014

LLS and the Empire State

In three short weeks - October 19th - I'll be running in the Empire State Marathon. I've decided to do so as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training program in order to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. So I've set up a little widget in the right corner of this blog - anything you can spare would be appreciated. (Mobile users might need to view the standard webpage.)

Some history: my wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Lymphoma last year. While she has since eradicated the disease (after undergoing an unpleasant chemotherapy program), the whole experience was extremely scary. The LLS website was one of the few calm, objective sources of information that helped us get our minds around what we were dealing with in the initial dark days after the diagnosis.

Since the recovery, I strive to continually be grateful for my family's health, and recognize how lucky I am to spend absurd amounts of time running outside. So it only seems right that I spend some of that time trying to help those that aren't as lucky. The LLS does excellent work funding treatments that save lives every day; like immnuotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. I was beyond impressed how the oncologist was able to customize a chemo "cocktail" to address my wife's specific form of lymphoma. LLS helps give doctors these tools.

So if you can, send along what you can to help us get closer to a world without blood cancers. Any money I raise will be matched by my company - so anything you give will be doubled! If you don't have any money to spare, no worries - I get it. Thanks for your attention, and i'll be sure to let you know how the run goes!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Banned Books Week!

"We all know that books burn, yet we have the greater knowledge that books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny of every kind. In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man's freedom."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
The American Library Association has named September 21-27th Banned Books Week as a way of celebrating the freedom to read. It's remarkable to think that it wasn't so long ago that books were regularly being censored - the famous ones I can think of are The Catcher in the Rye, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Naked Lunch, and - one of the great formative novels of my youth - Robert Cormier's excellent The Chocolate War. Luckily, through vigilance and additional delivery platforms such as eBooks, censorship appears to be minimized these days, but it's worth remembering how grim the situation was.

In reading about this event, I came across this powerful afterward added to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451:
"About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young Vassar lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles. But, she added, wouldn't it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women's characters and roles? A few years before that I got a certain amount of mail concerning the same Martian book complaining that the blacks in the book were Uncle Toms and why didn't I "do them over"? Along about then came a note from a Southern white suggesting that I was prejudiced in favor of the blacks and the entire story should be dropped.  Two weeks ago my mount of mail delivered forth a pip-squeak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to reprint my story "The Fog Horn" in a high school reader. In my story, I had described a lighthouse as having, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was a "God-Light." Looking up at it from the viewpoint of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was in "the Presence." The editors had deleted "God-Light" and "in the Presence." ... Do you begin to get the damned and incredible picture? How did I react to all of the above?
By "firing" the whole lot.
By sending rejection slips to each and every one.
By ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell.
The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches."
h/t Daily Kos

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mizuno Wave Hitogami 2

The Mizuno Wave Hitogami is a brilliant shoe for fast paced running.  Plus, with a MSRP of under $100 -- and several stores selling them for $75 or less -- the price is certainly right.

Aesthetically, though, they're a bit of a disaster (not that that will keep me from running in them).  Yes, I get it, if you take the left and the right shoe and line them up just so, they sort of look like a Japanese kabuki mask.  So, Mizuno added a bunch of extra overlays to create a feature that has nothing to do with running and that nobody will ever see, just for the sake of a talking point?  Add on top of that the generally clown-like colors, and I just wasn't impressed.

Luckily, Mizuno will be abandoning all of that for the Wave Mizuno 2, overhauling the upper to create a shoe with an aesthetic closer to that of the now-discontinued Wave Ronin series.

Coming in January 2015, the Hitogami 2...


Friday, September 5, 2014

Long Island Running: the Greenbelt Trail

The only good picture I could find of the Trail Map
I work for a company that sends me to the heart of Long Island a few times a year. It's pretty much all suburbia, with windy roads trafficked by too many cars, and so I'm always on the lookout for some running trails. Internet searches kept mentioning this Greenbelt Trail, but I just couldn't find any real information on it.  So here's a rundown of my experiences for any of you looking for some Long Island Trail Running.

I stay at the Hyatt next to Hidden Pond Park in Hauppauge, NY. By looking carefully, I was able to find the entrance to the trail on the north side of Long Island Motor Parkway, which was a break in a chain-link fence overgrown with vines. Once inside, I worked my way up and down some steep hills, moving somewhat slowly due to the loose gravel on the trails. This first portion of the trail system has a series of interconnected trails - some are single track, some are wider and designed for mountain bikes. Continuing north, you'll drop down into Hidden Pond Park itself, where the path flattens out once you start to see the swimming pool and baseball fields. There are a number of trails running around this complex, but if you keep winding north, you'll find yourself in a narrow trail winding in a small right-of-way between neighborhoods and golf courses. Despite this, all of my runs on the northbound portion of the Greenbelt Trail were quiet and isolated - I think I've seen one other person in all of the times I've run there.

I should mention the strange blaze system in the HPP. White blazes mark the main trail, but when coming to a fork or change in direction, there are two white blazes - the second one to ostensibly indicate the change in direction, but it's somewhat confusing. These are interspersed with blazes of different colors, but I haven't determined the reasoning behind these markings, nor have I seen a trail map anywhere. Regardless, once you hit the golf course, the trail is unmistakable.

After crossing Townline Road, the trail is more rural, following a stream and a few tranquil bodies of water. As such, there are a number of helpful wooden bridges over the more marshy portions, all of which were constructed by the local Boy Scouts. (Thanks!) The trail twists and turns, and contains a large amount of roots, so it's hard to keep up a fast pace here, but you'll want to take it slow anyways to enjoy the silence and to catch all of the rabbits bouncing out of your path.

The most challenging part of the runs i've done here was traversing route 347. It's essentially a highway, with no crosswalk or lights anywhere nearby, so you just have to wait for a break in the traffic and sprint across. It's worth it though because the next section of the path takes you through some confier forests with all of the quiet running that involves - the pine needles just swallow up the sound of footfalls. The trail continues from here all of the way to the North Shore, but i've only gone as far as the shopping center in Smithtown. Click here to see my longest northbound run on Strava here.

The section southbound from Hauppauge is located directly across the road from the northbound trail on Long Island Motor Parkway. Here, the trail follows the power lines for a bit, weaves through some significant rolling hills with evergreen trees before dropping down to Old Nichols Road. On the other side of the road, the trail is pleasantly flat, meandering around some horse farms before meeting up with the power lines again. At this point, I lost the trail - the map indicates that the trail continues down to the Long Island Expressway, (somehow) crossing it en route to the southern edge of the island. Here's what this portion of the run looks like. I'm planning on giving this another go during one of my next trips because there's a nice looking Strava segment south of the interstate that I'd like to tackle.

In summary, there are some trails in the meat of Long Island, you just have to know where to look! If anyone reading this has any other good suggestions for running in the Hauppauge area, please drop me a line in the comments.

Bridge over a marshy area

McKinley Pond. Usually see a Heron here!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hoka One One Clifton review

There's been a lot of hype lately around the Hoka One One's new lighweight offering, the Clifton.  However, sometimes hype is just hype, so I ignored it for a while.  However, after reading positive reviews by two bloggers that I respect, by Sam Winebaum and Steve Speirs, I decided to pull the trigger.  I've now had them for about week, and have taken them on quick runs, slow jogs, and a long run of 17 miles.

For me, the most important attribute of a shoe is how a fits.  No shoe is going to fit every foot, but happily, the Hokas fit my feet well.  After swapping out the standard insolve for the thinner Ortholite insole (included in the box), they fit almost exactly the same as the Mizuno road shoes and North Face trail shoes that I ordinarily wear. 

The Cliftons are indeed soft, especially at the heel, and I worried a little bit about how well they would run.  It turned out that my worries were unnecessary.  The shoes turn over very quickly and with very little effort, and I consistently found myself to be running faster than I had planned.  And what's more, I was having fun doing it!

There are a few downsides that come with such a stripped down, ultra-cushioned shoe.  When I passed through a few wet spots in the sidewalk, my feet slid.  The Cliftons have very little traction.  And when I ran on the side of a cambered road, my foot sank much deeper into the cushion on the outside, making an otherwise very stable shoe become unstable.  I've also noticed more wear on the sole than I would have expected after 40 miles.  It may be nothing, but we'll see how long the Cliftons last.  (I've now posted an update looking at the Cliftons after 150 miles).

I'd originally envisioned these as a long run shoe, but I'm not going to have a hard time not reaching for them on days when I want to run fast, whatever the distance.