Monday, May 28, 2018

Trail Running Sub-Ultra Distances

One of my favorite pictures from the Bangtail Divide 38K course outside of Bozeman, MT.

I have thought about this idea over the years several times.  Recently it has come back into my thinking as I once again train for a rugged, hilly 25K trail race.  It is something I call Sub Ultra.  Now, let me say this, I'm not necessarily stuck on the name.  I'm willing to change it.  I am also willing to have any of you tell me the idea is stupid.  But let me try to describe it first, and then tell me your thoughts...

Since 2002, I have (it seems like) run just about every distance from the mile to 50K.  Often, my racing year can include races from just a few miles like a 5K or 4 miler to at least a half marathon, and from 2012-2015, several races from from 5K and up to 50K.  While I have run more 5Ks than I can remember, along with half marathons on both the roads and trails, and a couple of trail marathons and ultras, many of the distances I have covered are not what one would call the normal 5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2, or 50K distances.  They include the Vertical K, Mile, 8K, 13K, 14K, 15K, 10 miler, 20K, 25K, 17 miler, 38K, and several distances from 2-6 miles, as well as 3 hour and 6 hour races.  What I find is that while I enjoyed my 2 trail marathons and my 2 50Ks, my happy place seems to be somewhere in the non-normal range of 10K-38K.  When I look for races even in this range, I don't tend to look for half marathons, but instead, may actually steer away from them.

A pic from one of the bluffs/hills at the 2015 Zumbro 17 Miler in MN.

Yet, all the rage in running of course is the 13.1, 26.2, 50K and beyond sphere.  Ultras are ultra popular, many people are trying to complete a half in every state, and countless others, including famous celebrities and athletes continue to achieve their first marathon finish.  I congratulate them and I'm glad running, both road and trail, mud, mountain, cross country and even OCR are all doing so well.  I would ask this question however, are we losing an appreciation of the shorter distances in trail racing in preference of marathons and ultras?  Some races under 20 miles can be just as hard or harder than some marathons and ultras!!!

For myself, and I'm thinking perhaps many others...I am not sure I want to pursue  putting a sticker on my car that says ___ (you fill in the number) X 26.2 or 13.1.  I have a full-time job, and a family of 8(!) so my time, like many of yours, is limited.  I love that I am getting back my long runs recently, and I have fond memories of training for several of my longest races.  Someday, God willing, I'd even like to try a 12 hour race and/or a 50 miler should that work out.  But again...

Racing on the Continental Divide for 14K outside of Butte, MT.

Since I have run so many different distances on both roads and trails, I have learned that each distance needs to be respected and each distance is trained for in a different way.  My mile on the roads had me training much different than my Vertical K up Killington Mountain.  Long run training for a 50K on the trails is so completely different than intervals on the track pursuing a PR/PB in a 5K on the roads.  

Start of the Hardin Hill Run 5K/15K Trail Race I helped direct, September 2015, IA.

So, what am I really saying?  I am not completely sure.  That's why putting this down in print is a bit difficult.  I guess I am wondering, are there others like me?  Do we form a group within a group?  Is there a trail and/or road running niche for those of us who enjoy racing the non-standard race distances?  Is it Sub Ultra?  Non-Standard?  Anti-Marathon?  (Probably not the last!---I'm not saying we don't race halfs, 5Ks and Marathons, but they aren't my preferences either.)

Is there a group within running, especially trail running, where we are open to all distances as I have been, but prefer the above 5K and less than 26.2 range?  

I would love to:

1)  Have you give me your thoughts and comments.
2) Ask questions so we can further think about this together.
3) Tell me what your past racing history is like and how it connects to this.
4) Do you think that this is a niche within trail running that is getting overlooked?  If so, what do we call this niche?  Is it really a niche, or is this what trail running is/was?


Finishing a trail 5K with one of my daughters, the day after I raced and PRed in the trail marathon, TNF ECS WI, 2014.

Postscript, June 24, 2018:

Originally I wrote this piece at the end of May 2018, just a few days before the Inaugural Frost Town 10K/25K race in Naples, NY and held at the Cummings Nature Center.  While I haven't had a chance yet to formulate my final thoughts on that race and put them down on the blog, I will say, that once again, the 25K is a great distance and just as hard a challenge as many races that are longer than it.  While this one actually ended up being a bit short of 25K, (more like a 22K), it was probably one of the most rugged races I have ever run and that includes the Hardin Hill Run 5K/15K I helped put on in 2015-2016, where we had to cut, carve, and create trail out of the wilderness for one of the hilliest trail races in the area.

As another note, I have a race next week that is described as 5 miles +/-.  Not exactly what you'd find at a USATF Certified race!!!  I have run this race before, Charlie's Old Goat Trail Run, 2016, and had one of the best racing experiences of 2016.  

Yesterday I went out to my local favorite place to run, East Esker Trail, Mendon Ponds Park, and ran a hard 9 miles with over 1300 ft of elevation change.  This route is constantly up and down, lots of tripping hazards in places if you are not careful, (I went down for the first time in several months!).  Then I came home and signed up for another race there, this year's A Midsummer Night's Trail Madness Half Marathon.  (Yeah, I know, it's a half marathon, but that's not important as much as where it's at and what I get to enjoy!)

All this to say, that a month after writing this piece, I am still lingering around the same idea.  My races, my training runs, they still seem to be more geared around this idea of sub-ultra distances.  That said, I am considering, just considering, an 8 hour race in the Fall.  However, if I choose not to do that one, I will probably do my first...30K race!  Yeah, another sub-ultra distance I have certainly run, but never raced!  

Finally, thanks to all of you, especially on Twitter that replied to me posting about this and giving me your input.  I found that several of you shared similar ideas.  Many have become enamored of ultra distances, but there are many others just happy to get out for a few hours and enjoy "shorter" distances.  As one person noted, when thinking of new races, what is the idea distance?  A good question.  I know my thoughts, but what about yours?

Trail Review: Sherwood Fields Park, Penfield, NY

View from the highest and furthest point out in the park.

Sherwood Fields Park is just a few miles away from where I live, on the way into Penfield, NY, right off of Route 441 and next to a firehouse.  The park isn't huge, but has just enough trails mixed with a few small hills and a bit of single-track on the side, (literally), to provide for a convenient trail excursion when there isn't time to drive off to something further outside the suburbs and/or city of Rochester, NY.  

A section of the trail in shade as you run downhill towards the Don Cranson bridge.

A map of the park, Sherwood Fields Park Map, shows the main trails that are primarily crushed stone.  While the map lists the trail system at 2 miles, running the main circuit around the whole park is about 1.5 miles.  There are a few places you can cross over from one side to another, but not enough to make up .5 mile.  

The main trail starts at the gate right from the parking lot and heads downhill in two directions, which will link up together to take you out further to the larger loop across the bridge.  Again, you have a couple of different options as there is another smaller loop that gives you access to either the Don Cranson Bridge or the Covert Bridge.

The gate at the start of the Sherwood Fields Park.

Once across either bridge, you will start running back up a gentle slope either on the west or east side of the trails.  The center point of the trail loop, highest point, and furthest point away from the parking lot is at the top of this hill, (obviously!) where these is a nice pergola, (I just learned a new word!) over a wooden bench.

The bench and pergola at the furthest point out on the trails.

What makes this system nice and convenient is the option with the various loops and connecting pieces is to get in whatever distance you need yet not necessarily running the same loop every single time.  There are also a few connecting single-pieces are the western and eastern sides of the main trails which do not appear on the map.  While none of these really add any significant distance, they do break things up and make the running a bit more fun.

Western Side: Woods Trail

Entrance to the Woods Trail running uphill from the south.

This little connecting piece runs slightly uphill or downhill (south to north or north to south), and brings you into the edge of the woods on a mulch covered trail.  The distance isn't much, but it's fun. I believe it was an Eagle Scout project from a year or two ago.

Eastern Side: Unnamed Trail and Commission Ditch Trail

Entry point onto the Unnamed Trail heading southwards.

The Unnamed Trail is often flooded, wet, or muddy depending upon the season.

The two eastern trails connecting pieces are a nice divergence into the woods as well, but are often flooded, wet, and/or muddy depending upon the season and/or rain/snow fall.  I was out today and these trails were still very muddy.  The Unnamed Trail starts just off the Don Cranson Bridge on the eastern side as you go uphill and comes out just before the main trail turns to head up to the pergola.  There are a few sections with boards to cross over the mud/water if needed, which in winter time when I was snowshoeing during the snow melt were definitely helpful.  There are also a few little stubby tree stumps towards the northern edge of the trail that if you miss could land you on your face in the narrower sections of the trail.

The Commission Ditch Trail runs eastward through the woods out to the commission ditch and then heads north through grasses which at this time of the year in May are approaching knee high.  The wooded piece again can get very muddy and today there appeared to be lots of deer hoof prints as I ran through there.  I didn't bother to run through the high grasses today, which are not always this bad, but I didn't feel like I needed to do that today and risk ticks and/or poison ivy which is also a possibility in this park as in many.  The Commission Ditch Trail technically runs through the park and out the other side, but eventually crosses private land.  If you go that far westward, you will see the sign, but again, you will also be running through some pretty dense grasses as this is often not kept up real well.

Pic of the Commission Ditch Trail looking southward towards 441.

Pic of the Commission Ditch Trail looking northwards.

In conclusion, while this might not be a park to run your long run in, (though if you are doing a short 1-2 mile loop course over a several hour target, it might be perfect), it is great for getting out to get a shorter run in and is especially great for the beginning trail runner who is getting use to the trails.  It is fairly gentle, has a few nice hills, and a bit of decent trail work if you add in the extra trail sections noted above in the Woods Trail, Unnamed Trail, and Commission Ditch Trail.  Enjoy!!!  A few extra pics from the main trails follow!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Online Review:

My profile from the easy to use Athlinks app on Apple. is a newer site where you can find athletic results as well as connect with fellow athletes, check on rivals, and find new events.  In addition to the site, there is an Athlinks app, and for this review, all pics are from the application found on the iTiunes store.

The screenshot above is my profile.  After the site searched on me and I approved the results that came up that were mine, (not too hard, since I only know of one other Brad Zinnecker in the country), this page will give you your best results from the ones that they have in the system.  That is important to note, because while some of the results above are my best times for different distances, the 5K road for example, is not.  The 4 mile run looks slow, but not so much if you realize it was a trail race I ran with my kids.  So, just saying, not every race is in the database, (I've competed in way more than 43 races since 2000), but quite a few are, including some pretty old ones for me as noted below:

Notice the final result is from a 2002 trail duathlon I did back in Massachusetts.  Again, pretty neat to have all these results easy to find and even show off to others, or simply remember.  Perhaps you lost a result?  You might be able to find it on Athlinks.  

The site also has an ongoing timeline for events you might have coming up or even friends of yours that you connect with on Athlinks as you would any other social media outlet.  This page also shows several of my most recent results from 2017.

All in all, the site online as well as through the app is pretty easy to use and quite fun!!!  If you haven't tried it yet, head on over to and give it a shot!!!  Enjoy!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Product Review: Rudy Project Rydon Frozen Ash with Impactx-2 Photochromic Clear to Laser Brown (hr) Lenses

Rudy Project Rydon Shades

Disclaimer: I received a pair of  Rudy Project Rydon Shades as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

Along with a sneak peak of the film GODSPEED: Race Across America, I also received a nice pair of transitional shades from Rudy Project.  In particular I received the Rydon Frozen Ash shades with Impactx-2 Photochromic Clear to Laser Brown Lenses.  That's a long title and way to say that these shades change color from almost clear to brown letting in as much as 73% light to as little as 17% light when things get sunnier.  

Here's a side by side comparison between Super G Lobbie and I:

They almost look clear on Lobbie, and while not much different on myself in the car, they have tinted a bit more brown.  Now that shading doesn't get really dark, but what's nice about it this time of year is that these glasses perform well in LOW light situations.  Though great for some sunlight as well, these shades with these particular lenses give just enough color to low light, (aka grey landscapes), especially when driving, running, or I would assume cycling, to help make things more defined.  A lot of us have sunglasses for when it gets really sunny, but what we don't often have is a pair of sunglasses that helps or transitions in between partly cloudy and grey landscapes on days when we are out and need a bit more clarity.

In addition to the great lenses on these Rydon shades, the frames along with the lenses are so light.  They are awesome for running or biking.  Also, they are super sporty and cool looking, fitting right in with the sports scene.  They come with a hard impact case as well as a soft case which can also double as a lens cleaner.  Rudy gives a 2 year warranty as well.  You can get these glasses now for 30% off with the code GODSPEED, the movie by Fathom Events that comes out on Tuesday!  Enjoy!

Movie Review: GODSPEED: Race Across America


Disclaimer: I received a sneak peak of the upcoming movie by Fathom EventsGODSPEED: Race Across America as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

A long time ago, in what seems like another age, I was actually a cyclist before I was a runner.  Running, other than an attempt at track back in 8th grade, came into my life back in 2002 when I got burnt out from cycling.  The next few years I did several sports that mixed both road and off road biking and running, (and kayaking), including an adventure race.  That said, my roots are originally in cycling, even dating back to my first ever bike race circa @ 1989 when I was in high school.  The RAAM, Race Across America was an event I had known about for a long time, so when the opportunity came to get a sneak peak for a film of the event along with demoing some glasses from one of the sponsors, Rudy Project, I was all in for that!!!

GODSPEED: Race Across America is a film/documentary about the 2015 event when Jerry Schemmel, a sportscaster for the Colorado Rockies, and Brad Cooper, CEO of US Corporate Wellness, joined forces in the two person relay to ride the 3,000 mile event.

RAAM departs in Oceanside, CA and finishes in Annapolis, MD.

Jerry and Brad competed as Team Enduring Hope, seeking to raise money for orphans in Haiti.  Just before the race, Brad had a major accident, but he didn't let it keep him down as his competitive nature sought to push the team forward through endless hours of cycling all times of day and night, in heat and downpours like some have never attempted on two wheels.

The movie is well put together for a cycling documentary and truly shows the heart of both these men along with their team, which includes many of their family members.  While ultimately their purpose and strength comes from God, the movie is not preachy.  it is a story...of their own Enduring Hope as they seek to compete and help others have hope in circumstances not easy in the land of Haiti.

Brad and Jerry chat in Kansas for a moment along the side of the road, per website.

The scenery is beautiful, and the film crew did a good job capturing the glory of our great nation from seaside in California to the plains of the Midwest and down through the hills of the Eastern states and into Maryland.  Below is a picture of Brad cycling through the countryside of Illinois.

During the film, as Brad and Jerry continue to race, they decide not only to push for their own win of the 2 person relay division, but to try and compete against others in larger divisions, including one particular German 4 person relay team.  I won't spoil what happens...but I will say, I'm not sure I would have wanted to ride some of those miles in that weather at that time of day along that side of the road...I know that sounds vague...but you'll know the moment I am talking about when you get to it!!!

I was very glad to see Rudy Project as one of the main sponsors and will have a review of their Rydon Shades shortly.  The movie comes out on May 22, just two days from now.  If you an endurance athlete of any type, I would deeply encourage you to go see it.  I enjoyed it and believe you will too.  

Kudos to Rudy Project for sponsoring a great endurance/cycling movie!!! 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Product Review: Aftershokz Trekz Air in Forest Green

The Aftershokz Trekz Air include a case, a pair of earplugs, and a charging cable along with the headphones themselves.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of  Aftershokz Trekz Air as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

Like many of you reading this right now, I often listen to music, audiobooks, and/or podcasts on some of my runs.  I have done this in the past with an old 4 GB mp3 player and wired headphones.  This mp3 player is older than some of my kids and has no potential to ever be bluetooth!!!  As many of you as well, I have listened to people rave about wireless bluetooth headphones, including the Aftershokz bone conduction headphones that allow you to hear what you are listening to while also keeping your ears free to listen to the world around you.

I finally decided when BibRave had another opportunity to try out the Aftershokz Trekz Air that I would try them out and figure a way to get one of my other devices that was bluetooth capable to work with them.  The first device I synced with the Trekz Air was my tablet which was a breeze.  I was listening to music and TV shows within moments.  My wife tried them out and used them on another floor of the house while music came from the tablet on a different floor.  Then I had to see if I could figure out a way to clear enough space on my phone to grab some music, download and sync it to the Aftershokz.  Even though this meant I had to download a different music player to my phone and move some music around from one provider to another, again, within too much work, I was again within moments, listening to music and podcasts pretty quickly.  One note, on all the runs I went on, I had used downloaded music and podcasts except for one.  While streaming works well at home or within location of wifi, on one run, I forgot to download a podcast so once I got so far into the woods, then that stopped playing and I had to switch back to my music library.

My son says I look like Lobot from Star Wars with my Aftershokz Trekz Air.

So, the Trekz Air work well with any bluetooth device.  How about sound, fit, ease of use, etc?  Sound:  They sound incredible.  Bone conduction technology basically sends the music through your cheekbones so your ears hear it, while the headphones fit around your ear, leaving the ear itself open to the environment to listen for traffic, (human, auto, or animal), as well as other noises.  The music and podcasts I listened to each time I took the Trekz Air with me sounded crystal clear.  

Fit:  Fit does take just a little getting use to, but once you get it, they weigh nothing, so you almost forget that they are on your head.  They do stick out a little in the back, so as I transitioned from winter running gear to spring, I had to figure out how to keep my head warm while also using the headphones.  I was able to figure out how to wear a BUFF® with them.  They do not bobble around and yet are not too tight.  Just snug enough to stay on but as I mentioned, without you noticing them too much.

Ease of Use:  There are only 3 buttons.  The two sound buttons control the sound and power.  The multifunction button is just that, the button that transitions you between music and music and phone calls.  Yes, that's right, while synced with your phone, you can use these even in the midst of a run to receive calls and even navigate through call waiting!!!

So easy to use your pet lobster might steal them.  Lobbie Approved!

The Aftershokz Trekz Air come with a case and charging cord.  They are sweat resistant and have a 6 hour battery.   Head to and save $30 off a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Air today!  You will be glad you did!!!  Enjoy!!! 

Aftershokz Trekz Air.
Charging port and sound/power buttons.

A lot of powerful music and sound for something so small.

Wearing the Aftershokz Trekz Air on my long run in the woods.  No problem hearing the music as well as the sounds around me.

Featured Post

2019 Week 9 Review: TrailsRoc 7th Birthday, My Facebook Rant, Weekly Stats, Trail Running Tip

7th Birthday TrailsRoc Group pic, courtesy of Chris O'Brien. A good week, though mileage is still not super high, I got out for fo...