Tag Archives: ultramarathon

My First Ultramarathon

I say “first” because then I went and signed up for a 50-miler a few days after this race, because an ultramarathon is an addictive thing. I want more. I want to do this for days.

Pre-Race Calm, and the Weather

Last weekend I finally ran the 32-mile ultramarathon race I have been training for (TARC Fells Winter Ultra). Unlike almost all the races I have run in the past two years, I did not have an anxiety dream the night or a few nights before. I have had terrible anxiety dreams before my last two marathons. I had an awful anxiety dream a few months ago, when I paced someone for the last 25 miles of her 100k (in the dream I forgot my shoes, among other things!). So you’d think, since I’ve psyched myself out of ultras for the past few years, I’d have a doozy of a dream. Nope.

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Photo credit: Douglyss Giuliana

Well, OK. I did dream that I showed up for the race and ran two or three loops but then found out I’d arrived too early and hadn’t picked up my bib … so I had to get my bib and start over! But this dream didn’t bother me.

Seriously, I have never been so calm before a race. The only drama was the previous night, when I was checking the weather and really torn between shorts and capris (looked like 30 degrees at start of race, increasing to 39 degrees … but since I’d be going slowly, I wouldn’t get as hot as usual … see my dilemma? I get really hot when I run). My friend Dana checked in with me to say good luck and when I told her I was down to the huge question of “shorts or capris” she said shorts.

What.

Turns out she was checking the weather much closer to the race location than I was (don’t ask, but it looked like closer to mid- or high 40s later in the race). So I made a last-minute decision for shorts. THANK GOD. I ended up in shorts and a T-shirt, with arm warmers both up and rolled down, depending.

Anyway. I’d told my husband and kids that if they wanted to come watch — and I totally didn’t expect them to or need them to, and it’s a tricky race to spectate — I might be passing by Panther Cave at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. That was a rough estimate based on my plan for two hours per eight-mile loop, allowing myself two-and-a-half hours for my final loop.*

This worked perfectly with my training, expectations, and the prediction that UltraSignup had for me (the registration site makes predictions based on your past races and the general field of racers). UltraSignup had me at a finish time of 8:37, which was pretty close to what I’d predicted for myself. My “hope” was 8 hours. I’d be happy with 8:30 (that means eight and a half hours). And I’d be fine with 9. Honestly, I knew it was a tough course and that a lot of people don’t finish, so my main goal was to finish my first ultra … smiling.

*They showed up!! But I missed them, because my timing was all off. They went and got lunch and came back … and I missed them again!

Shoes

I also had shoe issues in the weeks leading up to the race. My trail shoes (NB Leadvilles) were pretty worn out. I’d tried one training run in an ancient pair of Salomons, stiff and heavy, not ideal. I tried some runs in my old Leadvilles, which felt mushy. Mushy like you’re running in your grampa’s old floppy wool socks. Not exactly responsive, you know? And I did my 24-mile training run in a brand-new pair of Cascadias which turned out to be too narrow for my poor triangular flipper feet (why oh why do you all keep narrowing your toebox??). While they were nice, my pinky toes deserved a lot better, and I wasn’t going to risk trashing them on race day.

I bought a new pair of Leadvilles, which I didn’t get a chance to run in before the race. Crap. You know how it can take a little time to get the lacing adjusted just right, especially if you have big deep feet like mine? Yeah. (Did not wear them.)

Race Day

I had my drop bag ready (warm clothes, a baggie of ibuprofen and spare contacts and this and that — and I am really impressed with how weirdly organized I was for this, even though I didn’t need any of it), the plastic heat blanket I’d been given two weeks earlier at the Philly Marathon (I walked the half with a friend), food, a thermos of of coffee. My hydration pack was all packed and ready … though I didn’t have my snacks well organized, it turned out, with just one Honey Stinger Waffle available to me and the rest of the stuff unreachable unless I removed my pack (love my hydration pack, but it’s a pain to remove it/put it back on).

I was so calm before the race. I have never been so calm before a race. I even offered to help set up tables with the race director. I chatted with people. I met a lovely woman in the Portapotty line (I ended up going in the woods) who totally cranked on the trails and remembered my name and greeted me each time we passed and she won for the women in my race (go, Hannah!).

 

I think this is Loop 2 for Hannah. She rocked it. Photo credit: Jeff LeBlanc

I think this is Loop 2 for Hannah. She rocked it. Photo credit: Jeff LeBlanc

 

 

My plastic heat blanket was awesome; I pulled off my sweatpants and wrapped the heat shield around me as a a quick and easy way to stay warm.

First Loop (Miles 0-8)

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Loop 1. Photo credit: Jeff LeBlanc.

First loop, great. Except instead of running it in two hours, I finished in an hour and a half. Oops. Crap. I’d be sure to pay for that later, right? The course was  short lollipop stem and then the loop, and you had to go down the stem each time to check in at the Start/Finish area each time.

When I paced Annette at her 100k back in October, I’d been a little embarrassing at the aid stations. They’re so full of food! Sandwiches, soup, candy, chips … and I hadn’t eaten well before the race, and a few times Annette left without me while I chowed down (sorry, Annette!). This time I was better prepared and better fueled, and my goal was to spend as little time in the aid stations as possible (there was an aid station at the Start/Finish and one at the halfway mark).

First loop, I breezed in, checked, in, ditched several layers, ate fast, and headed out again. Didn’t even stop at the halfway aid station.

Second Loop (Miles 9-16)

Second loop, stopped at halfway aid station, hugged my pal Alyssa, and marveled at the fact that I was standing out in the woods in December in New England, eating fresh raspberries. Amazing!! Isn’t that amazing? I don’t think I even stopped at the Start/Finish this time except to check in my bib number.

Oh, so here’s the deal: You could run the loop in either direction. I did two counterclockwise, one clockwise, last loop counterclockwise. I had mostly run alone so far. I’d passed my sometime massage therapist standing on a rock outcropping (“Hey, are you here for me?”). I’d run for a bit with a nice guy named Will from New Hampshire, who gave me a gel when he learned I’d forgotten to bring any (THANK YOU, WILL!). He handed it to me on a flat, smooth section of trail, and of course I tripped and fell flat on my face reaching to take it from him.

Funny moment: Will and I passed an older gentleman out for a walk, who stepped off the trail to let us pass.

“You look good, you guys,” he said encouragingly.

Will said, in the most polite, sincere, earnest tone imaginable: “You look good.” I don’t know if he added “sir” but he might as well have. It was tremendously funny to me.

Near the end of that loop, though, I recognized a tattooed calf (this happens when you run behind someone even once) and realized I was running near a guy named Eric, who I should not have been anywhere near, because he’s really fast … so I was still ahead of schedule (that loop was about 1:45).

Change of buff, ditched a few top layers, still happy! Photo credit: Jeff LeBlanc

Change of buff, ditched a few top layers, still happy! and wow is my vest adjusted all wrong!! Photo credit: Jeff LeBlanc

Third Loop (Miles 17-24)

I caught up to Eric again, somehow, and others. It was nice to run near a group of people for a while. But I felt weird. Dizzy. Lightheaded. I couldn’t talk to them. I knew we had one more small hill to get over and we’d be at the halfway aid station.

I thought I might black out.

Ahead, one of our pack turned his ankle. Runners stopped, gathered near him … “Are you OK?” I asked, hoping like hell he wouldn’t need me because I was about to sink to the ground and what is wrong with my head and he smiled and said, “I’m OK” and others were with him so I struggled on, mile 20, my head is a balloonkeep moving

Aid station. I ate a lot of quarters of PBJs, and there were pickles, so I ate those too. I ate and ate. My group caught up, fueled, ran off. I watched them vanish up the hill. I couldn’t care. I felt weird. I felt better. I could run again. I should go. I left the aid station.

I was alone again. I couldn’t lose more time. Sure, I’d lost a lot of time at the aid station, but I still needed to keep this loop to two hours. But then there were only orange and green blazes, no white blazes.

For chrissake. I’ve been running these trails for 11 years. I backtracked. I couldn’t find the white trail. I stood there in the trees, still lightheaded, confused. Where did the Skyline Trail split off?

Soon enough, a runner trotted up from the opposite direction. I greeted her, thanked her, and ran off from where she’d come. Hooray! Back on track! I checked my watch. OK, you need to keep up this pace to stay in your two-hour limit. Hahahahaha. The minute I picked up speed, after cruising up a hill, I realized I’d lost the white blazes again.

I cursed myself for choosing to go the opposite direction on the third loop. I’d already directed several runners who’d missed turns, but now here I was missing all the turns and going off trail. I wasn’t dizzy anymore, at least. The food had kicked in. I felt solid again, and I’d simply not paid attention in my quest for speed.

Oh, did I not mention the Yeti? TARC standard. I was sad to not see him this year, and then -- loop 2 -- there he was! Where I needed him! Out in the woods! And we high-fived and I said I was so happy to see him. Which is weird because I have absolutely no idea who was in the Yeti costume this race.

Oh, did I not mention the Yeti? TARC standard. I was sad to not see him this year, and then — loop 2 — there he was! Where I needed him! Out in the woods (not where this photo was taken)! And we high-fived and I said I was so happy to see him. Which is weird because I have absolutely no idea who was in the Yeti costume this race.

I found the white blazes again and made it back to the Start/Finish. Someone tried to take my pack to refill it, but I wouldn’t let her. I guess I still felt weird (also, my hydration pack is a pain in the butt and if you don’t get the top on right, it leaks all over my back). I didn’t know what I wanted from the aid station. The race director came up and asked if I was OK, and I babbled at her. But I was OK. Just not making a ton of sense. The aid station had cola. Cola! I haven’t had soda in more than a decade. It was cane-sugar sweetened, no high fructose corn syrup. I had three mini dixie cups of it and it was divine. My god. So good.

Fourth Loop (Miles 25-32)

And off I went. This time, I remembered to grab my visor. Remember, I knew from all my training runs to have this? It was on my “must have” list from the beginning … and I forgot it for the first three loops, which probably contributed to my dizziness. Sharp bright sunlight hitting from above, below, the side, straight on … With the visor on, I had a lot more control.

(Oh, control! My shoes! The old mushy Leadvilles! As I said, like running in Grandpa’s old floppy wool socks that puddle around your feet! Sure, my tread is worn almost smooth on those things, but they stuck when I needed them to, going up rock or down rock. They never slipped, they held fast, they might have been a little thin on the cushioning since they’re so old and worn, but they got me through! Thank you, New Balance!)

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Photo credit: Douglyss Guiliana

I could see, and I was fueled, and I’d had cola. I had a sandwich in easy reach (confession: sandwich is still in my hydration pack nearly a week later! I will remove it tomorrow). This last loop, I’d allowed myself 2.5 hours, but I did it in under two again.

Finish time: 7:22. Second in age group, ninth woman finisher. More than an hour under my projected time.

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In my favor: Extremely mild weather, good health, good training, a sense of calm. Visor for the fourth loop.

Surprise factors: My old beat-up trail shoes held up admirably. I thought I had my fueling down but didn’t make it accessible so all but one fuel waffle was available. I didn’t expect my first loop to be that fast and thought it would come back to bite me, but it did not.

Etienne. A TARC staple. He was just out for a run but it is always a joy to see him.

Etienne. A TARC staple. He was just out for a run but it is always nice to see him.

 

Oh, and I forgot about this, but I was bitten by a dog in the third loop, maybe mile 23. It was leashed, too! (There were a lot of off-leash dogs in the Fells that day, some not very voice-trained.) It bit me on the wrist, but I had on thick arm warmers and my Garmin, and it didn’t break the skin, and I didn’t want to stop and hassle the owners about it.

Post-race: Ate a lot of chips, ate a big dinner (burgers — thanks, husband!). Was hungry as hell the next day (there was just not enough food for me) but my body felt fine. Quads hurt Monday/Tuesday (the downhills!) but then fine. I ran 5.5 miles today, all fine. I feel like this was much easier to recover from than a road marathon. I’d like to run 10 miles tomorrow but just don’t have time.

Next step: I signed up for a fall 50-miler but am quite sure I need to run another ultra before then. This stuff is addictive!

(There are more pictures of me, from Douglyss Giuliana.)

Big Thanks

Bill Howard, who agreed to meet me for a weekday loop and calmly agreed a third loop would be good for my state of pre-race calm.

Dana and Justine and Florentien and Alison and all of you who were never fazed by this idea but instead encouraged me.

Hilary, who met me for a weekday loop and tried to give me an “out” (which I refused), and Lein, who cheerfully came along for a loop one day.

Dana again, for suggesting shorts.

Samantha and Carolyn, online support.

Ardith, all the boot camps and running (Burpees????).

Chris, who not only didn’t mind my taking time for six-hour runs (WHAT) but also knew I’d want burgers the night after the run and got the stuff and MADE THEM. Yeah. While fending off kids so I could just eat chips and shower and feel pretty buff. Thanks for all of it.

All my awesome running people, road and trail, SRR and Weekday Pancake Runners and TARC, because you all are fantastic and supportive and you believe.

TARC, who always put on the best races and aid stations and cheering and support.

 

 

Running in the Woods

You know when you want something so much you can almost taste it? That was me today. I woke up craving runny eggs and sautéed spinach and buttery whole wheat toast. Instead, I got dressed in the dark and headed to the woods for a four-hour run.

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My friend Hilary was meeting me for the first loop — the first two hours. I am training for my first ultra (and I’m actually going to run it this time and not talk myself out of it a few weeks before!). This race is 32 miles on some gnarly raw single track, all rocks and roots and hills and climbs. As the race description says, “A nightmarish course of rocks and roots with a bit of elevation thrown in.” That sums it up.IMG_6650-0.jpg

There’s also a 40-mile version, but I’m not ready for that on this course. I chose this race because it’s very local, where I first started trail running, and it’s so notoriously difficult that many people don’t finish it. Plus it’s in December so it could be sleeting or snowing or raining, or just icy-leaf-covered.

So I’m pretty excited about it. We ran the first loop slowly. It’s an 8-mile loop. For some reason I’m really tired today. Around mile 6, Hilary was asking me if there’s coffee at these races. I said it depends on the race and on who’s running the aid station. And then I had the brilliant thought that I should bring my little thermos full of coffee and have it in my drop bag at the race.

BAM!

I was facedown on the trail. My knees, one elbow, and both hands had landed on rocks and roots, neatly missing the softer dirt in between. I rolled onto my back and blinked.

“Do you have ibuprofen?” she asked.

Ibuprofen, I thought. I should put that in my drop bag, too.

We finished the loop and I was so tired and still thinking about eggs. Two eggs, over medium. I wanted to be done.IMG_6647.JPG

“I won’t tell anyone if you don’t do a second loop,” she said, climbing into her car.

“Well,” I said, “I would know.” Here was that voice, though, telling me I should go get some coffee and then come back. Go get some coffee. My to-do list is a mile long. I have a bunch of phone calls to make, jobs to apply for, things to take care of. I am bleeding from a lump on my knee. 

Once alone, I texted another friend, Dana: “I am super tired and completely wiped out hitting rocks with every joint. I don’t feel like going for lap number two.”

A text back: “Ugh! Hang in there! Second wind about to hit!”

What? Did she just basically tell me to get out there and do it? 

Eggs. Eggs and coffee. They could be mine. So fast. So easily. I could listen to that little voice in my head telling me to give up, give up….

No. I started my watch again, pulled out half a PBJ, and headed out again, power-walking while I ate. And then I began to run again.

I knew if I just went out for an hour, I could be done….because then it would take me an hour to get back, so I would have no choice but to do the whole loop.* This time I went clockwise. Rumor has it counterclockwise is easier, and what better time to check the truth of conventional wisdom?

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They’re right. Counterclockwise is much easier. Clockwise has all the steeper uphills. I shamelessly walked every hill. I went on. Two miles. Blinded by all the sunlight coming through the unleafed trees and glaring off the shiny oak leaves carpeting the trail. Visor. I’ll need a visor. Three miles. Oh hey, 5.5 miles, still blinded by the sun and shiny leaves. Six. Almost done! In this direction, the climb to the fire tower was near the end of my run. Fire tower! A mile to go! Half a mile!

Done. I’d ignored that little voice of defeat in my head and I went out and did it. A 16-mile trail run today.

And then I got into my car and drove right to the diner and ordered those over-medium eggs and some coffee and spinach and the buttery whole wheat toast. Honestly, I didn’t even really want all that food at that point, but darn it, I’d been wanting eggs since the alarm went off at 5:30, and I was going to have them, even if I didn’t quite feel like I needed them so much anymore.

Who knows how the race will go? All I know is I trumped that little defeatist voice today. And that was what I needed.

 

*You might be thinking, “Two hours to go eight miles? Really?” Yes, really. I ran one loop last weekend with some really fast guys, and we did it in 1:41. I could probably do maybe two loops at that pace or near it, but then I’d really slow down after that, and I’m not trying to get anywhere fast. I’m trying not to sprain an ankle. This is not a trail you run really fast on — well, I don’t, anyway. And that’s fine.

Changing the Race Distance: Staying Fit While Being Sensible

Well, I’ve been quiet around here on the running front. I lost my running mojo, even after deciding to train for my first trail ultramarathon (well, first ultramarathon overall). Then I got my butt back in gear and got back into training mode, pulling a midweek 10-miler out of nowhere and then running almost 30 miles over a weekend.

My old calf injury started to flare up, but did that stop me? No. Has moderation ever been my strong point?

So right after that 30-mile weekend (which I hadn’t properly built up to), I participated in a boot camp class to kick off PlanetShoe’s #Fit4Fall campaign. High knees! Jumping! Sprinting! All of it! I ignored my aching calves and Achilles tendons.

Later that same evening, I could barely walk. I could only skate around our apartment, sliding my feet on the hardwood floors. Next day, too.

I couldn’t run all week.

The following weekend, I was supposed to run 26 miles one day, 10 the next. Since I am actually not quite as big an idiot as I may appear, I knew that would be a bad idea. Sure, if I’d stuck with my ultra training plan from the get-go, then it would have been OK. But I hadn’t. I was jumping in full-bore, midway through.

I’m not ready to train for an ultramarathon right now. I’m just not. I’m starting too late, and my calf isn’t fully healed. I don’t want to cause more or long-term problems. Plus, I missed too many long runs, and I’ll be at a conference next weekend, which means I’ll miss another long run (26 miles). Between adjusting to the kids’ new school shedules and trying to get all of my own freelance work done, I just don’t have the time right now to train for an ultra, frankly.

So my new plan? To run a trail half-marathon instead. The race I was going to run, the TARC Fall Classic, is a great trail race with several distances to choose from, from 10K to 50K. I’m switching to the half marathon, which will certainly ease up my training schedule (since I can run more than 13 miles now) and (hopefully) avoid injury. I’d like to go for the full marathon, but not until the calf has been pain-free for many months of running.

An ultra? It will have to wait until next year.

 

“Don’t Give Up”: Back into Ultra Marathon Training

I’m back! Back to running! I got my mojo back, or my groove on, or whatever. A lot can happen in a week, and after practically giving up my ultramarathon goal last week (and almost giving up on running altogether), this week I decided to buck up, fight harder, and stop whining.

OK, well, part of why I decided to get it together was that someone commented, on Facebook, on my “I give up” post:

Pish Posh Julia! Get out there and do something. You got me running. I’m running my very first half marathon mid September. I’m starting to burn out. But if I can turn it around so can you! Let’s do this!

Pish Posh, I think, is what nice people say instead of Bullshit or Are you fucking kidding me? Pish Posh. I should try using that expression for a while. The commenter in question is someone I have known since kindergarten. That is a million decades ago. She had really cool blue eyeglass frames, which apparently I talked about a lot, and I clearly recall when my mom first met her: “I’ve heard so much about you and your blue glasses!”

Anyway, we didn’t stay close through high school, but we spent much of our childhoods together, and we’ve reconnected on Facebook. And when she pish-poshed me, I recalled when she started running, not too long ago, with a couch-to-5k program. I encouraged her, reminding her she could do it and totally had it in her.

And here she is running her first half marathon and throwing my words right back at me. That, friends, is what got me off my ass. It’s what made me think, Wow, yeah. How often have I said, “You can do it! Baby steps! Mind over matter! Believe!” to a new runner? How did I manage to forget that mantra?

So pish posh, I decided to believe in myself again.

Saturday, I ran 7.25 miles on trail. I could have run farther, but I’d gotten a ride to the trail head with some other runners and had to head home when they did. The next day I went and ran another 7.5 miles on trails. Yes, my legs felt a little tired.

Tuesday, I missed my run, but Wednesday morning I got out there and ran 10 road miles. Ten miles! Before breakfast! A weekend long run, midday! It helped a lot that one of my running friends joined me for the middle five miles.

Thursday, five trail miles.

Today, another rest day. Tomorrow, I run 10 or 15 miles with a local trail-running group and then Sunday, 15 or 10 (depending on what I run tomorrow) with some of my usual trail-running friends.

I’m trying to get to bed earlier, eat more protein, and take better care of myself so I’m motivated. I’m starting to think like a runner again, in terms of nutrition and such, which feels nice and normal. One change I’ve made is to add protein powder to my day. I used to scoff at the stuff, arguing that you should just eat real food. Yes, yes, you should. But mornings here are harried, and I often found myself not eating breakfast. So I bought protein powder and now make a point of downing a glass after a run. It helps.

Speaking of going to bed earlier, I’m going to bed now. I have a lot of miles to run this weekend (but oh! Not as many as next weekend, which calls for 26 miles one day and 10 the next! Are you kidding me??).

I can do it. Thanks, Mary, for the kick in the pish-posh. 🙂

 

 

 

New Balance 1210 Review (and PlanetShoes, too!)

It’s no secret that I love trail running. My favorite races have always been trail races (especially last fall’s trail half marathon), and I’ve recently decided to give up my road marathon plans this year and train for a trail ultra instead. (Oh, yes, really — I just registered this morning!)

So when PlanetShoes offered me the chance to try out a new pair of New Balance shoes, of course I chose some trail running shoes. After some trial and error, I ended up with the Leadville 1210’s. My current trail shoes are the New Balance Minimus 1010, which are fantastic but which I don’t love for long runs. I do love them for shorter runs and rely on them for all my regular trail runs, which are about 4.5 miles long.

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The New Balance Leadville 1210’s are marketed as a shoe inspired by the legendary Leadville 100, which is a crazy-tough 100-mile trail race (steep, at high elevation, etc.) in Leadville, CO. They’re a shoe designed to carry you on for miles and miles on trail, a shoe for ultra-runners. And since trail ultras are in my future, well, these were an obvious choice.

[Of course, I consulted with my local trail ultra-running group to find out if the 1210’s were a good choice for a trail runner with wide feet — the answer was YES!]

The Leadville 1210’s are lightweight. The tongue is connected on the sides to the shoe upper, to keep out debris. The tread is surprisingly…small.

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Such small-looking tread and outsoles that my trail running friends assumed they were road shoes and said, “Oh, so those will be OK for trail, too?” They do look more like a hybrid shoe than the rugged trail shoes I’m used to.

As an East Coast trail runner, I’m used to big lug soles and serious traction, shoe bottoms that are not dissimilar to my mountain bike tires: designed to give me traction no matter how deep the mud, to push me forward to matter how wet the roots or how slick the rock.

Typical Trail

Typical Trail

The first morning I was to run in my new New Balance trail shoes, I awoke to heavy pouring rain at 5 a.m. I dozed off again, hoping for a change in the weather. By 6:30 a.m., when I hit the trail, the rain had mostly stopped, but the water on the trail was ankle deep in places.

That’s when I remembered that Leadville, Colorado is a dry, hot place of sand and gravel, not mud and roots and mud and rocks and mud and everything all slippery. Oh, dear.

My running partner was slipping and skidding all over the place when we got to the really rocky parts of the trail. Me? Surefooted as a mountain goat. Also, when I went through ankle-deep water, they drained very quickly, instead of holding the water so that I’d slosh heavy-footed as I ran. The 1210’s emptied fast.

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Mud, dried.

When I wear or use anything new, I’m hyper-aware of it, constantly checking for flaws, even subconsciously. With these shoes, I forgot I was wearing them. I completely forgot about them, which to me is an excellent sign in a running shoe, especially since I have a wide forefoot and usually find shoes to be a little snug there.

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I ran another regular weekday trail run in them and then a nine-mile weekend run (for the longer run, the trail was dry). The comfort and traction were just as good on dry trails as on the wet ones.

In short: The New Balance Leadville 1210’s are an excellent shoe for wide-forefooted trail runners, even on the wet/muddy/slippery/rooty/rocky trails around here. I am so happy I’ve found my new long-run trail shoe, especially as I’m gearing up to run my first trail ultramarathon this October.

The only con — and this is a weird one — is that my socks tend to slip down a little more easily in these. If I’m extra-careful about lacing through the higher eyelets and tying a little more tightly, I can avoid this problem. Also, wearing socks a little higher than my low-cut ones might help. fro

Another thing I like about these shoes and the chance to review them: New Balance is a local company that produces a consistently quality product. And PlanetShoes has an incredible array of products as well as this:

This company is green, people, in many ways. They have a real commitment to eco-ethics.

Even nicer, PlanetShoes recently partnered with New Balance to donate 300 pairs of shoes to Big Brother/Big Sister of Massachusetts Bay in Boston! How cool is that?

Disclosure: PlanetShoes provided me with a free pair of New Balance shoes for review purposes. All opinions are my own.