Carson Footwear Welcomes Athlete Megan McJames; Olympic Skiier

While many see running as their first sport, others know that running is a great way to keep strong during their off season.  Megan is one of those athletes, and we have welcome the opportunity to support her athletic endeavors as she chases all her world cup (and beyond) ski dreams .  While she loves running and many other outdoor activities she really shines on the ski slope, and has competed in the past two winter Olympics!  WOW!

Here is a little about her in her own words;

Hi, I'm Megan: Professional Skier, Biker, Baker, Adventurer!

At 2 years old I learned to ski at Alta Ski Resort in Utah. I grew up doing many outdoor sports including mountain biking, hiking, camping, soccer and tennis but especially fell in love with skiing!  I am proud to have represented the United States in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and four World Championship events including 2017 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Most recently I won the women’s giant slalom at the US Alpine Championships.

For the past four winters I have been competing at the international level with no support from the national team. Overcoming this challenge has been an exercise in athletic perseverance, passion and work ethic. I believe that these traits translate from the athletic arena to the business world and, along with my athletic achievements, I hope to be a role model of these life skills!

In my off time, I am a student of finance at Westminster College, enjoy relaxing in the kitchen while baking and watching movies.

You can follow her on instagram: @meganmcjames

Read about her here: http://www.worldcupdreams.org/athletes

or follow her blog: https://meganmcjames.wordpress.com/sponsers/

Athlete Spotlight: Rachel Bell Kelley and a new CR Cruel Jewel 56 Mile Race

Screenshot_2017-05-22-15-50-12-02Leaving mile 31, feeling great! PC: Elizabeth Towe

I think races are always good for an athlete, despite the outcome.  If we listen closely they will each tell us something we can take and learn from and if we are really motivated we can use them to do better next time.   I think that my success in Cruel Jewel was, in part, due to my epic failure at Black Canyon 100k, and also Run Rabbit Run last fall.

Back in Feb I ran Black Canyon 100k and had a disappointing day.  I can't blame anyone but myself coupled with a touch of bad luck, however, what I did do was listen and take what that race was telling me and fix my problems.

The first problem I started to address was some wacky gait pattern.  My best guess is its from a concussion I sustained from a fall last summer.   After falling I ran Run Rabbit Run 105 mile race just 19 days after being confined to complete bed rest for my head between the fall and the race.  I picked up, and reinforced a weird limp I had from the fall resulting in a swollen knee and irritated hip.  Things that REALLY hurt during Black Canyon had just started to hurt during Run Rabbit Run.  Clearly training through the pain and hoping that I could correct my gait myself wasn't working, so after the race I started visiting Brian Beatty at Balanced Movement Therapy on a regular basis to address this problem.  My coach also helped me train smarter, not harder keeping my problematic achilles in mind.  Left to my own devices I am always tempted to over do things. Meghan smartly guided me to just the right amount of training, but not more than my heel could handle.

Second problem: nutrition.  I have been ultra running since 2012 but the right fuel plan has been ever elusive.  When I first started ultra running I was a vegan, which was actually great for recovery, but I just don't build muscle, so I was really tiny and not very powerful.  In 2015 I added meat back into my diet, being aware of where the meat was from, and if it was raised responsibly and with out hormones.  I gained some strength, but still had energy highs and lows(crashes) during races.   My friend, Sam, recommended the book ROAR this past March, which really helped me gain a lot of insight to fueling and recovery for women.  Its a book specifically for female endurance athletes.  It addresses the different hormone changes throughout a woman's cycle and how different times of the month need different fueling strategies.  A lightbulb went on for me!  Training got better, I changed my hydration strategy, I ate more protein after exercises, added in good carbs during high hormone times, and I gained muscle, and got leaner.

I also stopped trying to drink my calories, meaning I separated food from hydration.  I found that Skratch works best for my personal hydration needs.  THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING!  In the past I wasn't bonking due to lack of calories, I am pretty sure I'm an awesome fat burner while at ultra pace...I was DEHYDRATED all along!!  So how did this all help?  Well, even with unseasonably hot weather, and a nice stretch of pavement mid day, I stayed hydrated THE WHOLE RACE! (read no energy dips!) I didn't eat any more than usual, I think I ate one beef jerky stick, 3 or 4 picky bars, bone broth I made, and also a home made smoothie at mile 30 a few chips, a salted potato, and some gummy bears.  Not a lot of calories, but I felt really great.

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All of us at the start PC: Elizabeth Towe

So if you're here for a race report, the course is the same as it was in 2015, with the finish being slightly altered due to some down trees. You can read my race report from 2015 here.  I was a few minutes behind my 2015 pace into the first crewed aid station at mile 25, but I stayed positive, being mindful that there was so much more race ahead, and it would eventually cool down.  The mid day heat was HOT and I felt feverish around noon.  Fortunately this is where my crew had an ice bandana for me that helped immensely.

The first half of the race is the "runnable" half, while the second half is where the technical steep climbs come in.  I switched out my Orange Mud Hydraquiver, for the Endurance pack because the time between aid stations would get much longer and I didn't want to get dehydrated so late in the day.

As I ran the "dragon spine" or the Duncan Ridge Trail, I remember exactly where things went bad for me previously, but this time I felt strong and ran all the sections I had opted to hike the last time.

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Getting a little encouragement butt slap from my honey. PC: Elizabeth Towe

The last 8-9ish miles are broken into a mile straight up Coosa Bald with no switch backs, and then back down over rocks and roots for roughly 5 miles to a water stop, and then more gently up for 2 miles and back down for a downhill finish into Vogel State Park.  This is where I picked up time.  I was feeling awesome! I ran/hiked up to the top of Coosa, paused at the top and braced myself for the long downhill.  By this point my quads were TOAST.  Coming out of Black Canyon I had aggravated my Achilles tendon so during training I was more conservative so I didn't do any downhill training.  I put my head down and told myself from there on I was going to suck it up- ignore my quads and run--and run I did...down the hill, pausing once or twice to make sure I was going the right way.  I didn't stop at the water stop, just cruised right by smelling the barn...in 2015 I think I mostly hiked from the water stop to the finish, I was not going to do that again.  Just as I ran over the bridge here the wind picked up, and I saw a tree fall over to the left of me....like I needed any more motivation to keep running.  The cold rain felt amazing, and the thunder and lightening made my hair stand up.

I didn't once look at the time on my watch after cresting Coosa, 11+ hours had passed. I knew I wanted to better my last Cruel Jewel time of 13:33, I actually stopped and told myself here that I could do it if I just went for it, and I did!  I was shocked to see the blinking red lights of the finish line clock through the driving rain still under 13 hours!  I was ecstatic!

12:57!  36 minutes faster than my last CJ50, and 33 minutes better than the women's CR of 13:30!  First place female and 3rd overall!  The rain continued into the night, and stopping only as the sun rose. After a quick shower and food we stayed up to watch every last one of our group from Chapel Hill finish. Congratulations to you all!

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12:57 New Course Record! PC: Samantha Terry

I have to give thanks here to Carson Footwear and Everett's support, Orange Mud and Josh for the hydration packs! Big thanks to my coach Meghan Arbogast too!

Also, to ET and her lucky crew pants.  I so appreciate having you there to boss me around, to Liz for her first 50--you were awesome!  Thanks for the fun birthday weekend, and for the training runs.  Thanks to Brian and your magic PT, thanks Lawst, Galoot, Nymf, Riff, Kyle, Elliott, Steep, and Tim for getting in on the weekend fun. Congratulations on your races as well(and for your crewing)!  Saving the biggest thanks to Drew and Emmitt, thanks for being my guys and supporting me. love you!

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PC: Elizabeth Towe

Shoevelution: Our Ambassador Tony Konvalin Shares his Observations

Shoevelution: Shoes Over the Years

By: Tony Konvalin

While shoes may not be a hot topic of conversation with the average person on the street, talk to any runner and often shoes are at the top of their list of conversations to be had.  Not long ago I wrote a post called “Running Shoes: My Tenuous Relationship” dealing with my issues with running shoes over the 44+ years I have been at it.  Shoes are so integral to running that everyone has an opinion on them and the longer you run the more opinions you will have.  The problem is the whole conversation on shoes tends to revolve around just that, shoes, and often does not even deal with the feet we put in them, accept maybe with regards to how the shoe will deal with or control them.  We are so used to just wanting to find what we see, well feel, as comfortable shoes we often neglect taking the time to reflect on how those “comfy” shoes will affect ones feet; both in the sort term and long term.

My goal in this post is to take a 32000FT view of shoes.  In doing this I am not here to denigrate any particular model, style, or type of shoe but to help us to ask questions we may have not thought about with regards to shoes and invariably our feet.  Also, I will not be dealing with how shoes came about and how we moved from bare feet to some from of protection but instead want to look at shoes starting from where I know best, the 70’s when I started running and when the running boom, in general, started.  The running boom of the 70’s led to such a demand for shoes by opening the door for all sorts of people to run that the shoe market was ripe for growth and there were companies ready to fill the sudden void and profit from the rise in need.  Don’t get me wrong, making a profit is not wrong, but often the incentive for growth can lead for ones vision to be one sided and that view is often short sighted.

I started running in 1973 not because of any running boom and not because Frank Shorter had won the Olympic marathon in 1972.  No, I didn’t start running out of any altruistic desire but started running because I did not make the tennis team and did not want to take PE, thus started my life of running.  I remember my first real running shoes in High School being from Adidas.  I saved up and purchased the Adidas Country, SL72 and then SL76.  They were colorful and had various innovations with the SL76 having speed laces that were really no more than plastic loops that allowed the laces to tighten more easily.  As for comfort with no real reference point other than bare feet, dress shoes or the canvas foot coverings the school provided previously they were indeed comfortable.

Of course over the years I have had all kinds of shoes but one thing they all have had in common was that each one was to fix some issue I had in my feet and was supposed to be better than the one before it.  It may have been more cushioning as with Nike’s first air shoe the Tailwind or Brooks Vantage with the Varus Wedge to help deal with “over-pronation”.  You name the foot malady, real or imaginary,  and the shoe companies had a shoe, or insert, for it.  Every year there was a new innovation or even gimmick as there were those.  So many in fact looking back one would wonder how anyone every ran in the past when shoes were just shoes and used mostly for protection instead of correction. Let me add here I am not saying that companies were seeking to take advantage of an uninformed public as many of the innovations were created to deal with perceived issues and the public clamored for them.  More often than not the innovations were well intentioned if not misguided.

Jump ahead many years, and any number of shoe changes, and innovations continue to flourish in the shoe industry due to the seemingly never-ending search for shoe nirvana, and the publics demand for something new.  With yearly changes being made to better often already good shoes and new shoes being made to fill ever smaller gaps in the shoe lineup you would think in all these years we should have come across what makes a good shoe by now.  Truth is if you are like me there have been shoes in the mix that met your needs only to have been made “better” the next year making your favorite shoe no longer the shoe you were looking for so you head off to the latest magazines shoe reviews to find a replacement.

In all these attempts to create a better shoe I have finally come to the realization, yep it has taken over 40 years to realize this, the shoe industry in large is not asking the right questions.  Instead of asking what is best for ones feet, legs and physical health in general they seek to remedy issues that may or may not exist or could be corrected by other than a shoe or shoe accessory.   Much like so many things the focus tends to be on dealing with a problem instead of dealing with the cause so there is no longer a problem.  This again is not only driven by the shoe companies as the public often demands quick fixes because often the real cure takes time, effort and sometimes discomfort and that is not appealing to most.  Let me stop and add here that I am sure that there are people that need some from of correction and that many shoes will help but my advise to those people is to also look long term so that you are not tied to requiring the latest “fix” and instead work to correct the issue by natural means.

In comes the minimal movement, jump-started by Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run.  The good side of this jump start was it got people to look at their feet, and shoes, in a way many had not before.  The bad was many who up till then had given little regard to their feet and legs were convinced by the arguments for minimalism and took it up too quickly and ended up injured and jaded at the idea of less-is-more.  Thus the move towards minimal shoes, in my opinion was stalled not due to incorrect assumptions but maybe over zealousness.  Keep in mind minimal shoes are nothing new.  Abebe Bikila won the 1960 marathon in Rome barefoot and won again in 1964 with what would be a very minimal shoe by today’s standards.  Actually many of my PR’s in my younger years, including my marathon PR, were run in a shoe with very minimal support and cushioning, the Tiger Jayhawk.  Thus, the idea of needing less than we think we need is not new and the move to more maximal shoes is.

Let me also add that Born to Run looked at the Tarahumara Indians and how they ran in sandals and did so for miles upon miles.  First thing to realize that is that while they run miles and miles with little on their feet they have been doing this for years and in doing so have strengthen their feet and legs.  It should also be realized the Tarahumara have very few paved roads and concrete they have to traverse.  Instead of simply trying to imitate something a people have been doing for centuries the takeaway should have been that we see a need to strengthen our feet and legs so that whether one runs in minimal shoes or not we would not need all of the added accouterments that come with todays shoes.

The author sprints to a sub 6 hour finish at the Yamacraw 50k PC:Greg Davis

Can and should everyone run in minimal shoes?  That is a tough one as truth is probably not, as some may have gotten so far down the supported shoe road that change may be difficult, painful and maybe not possible.  However for most moving to shoes that seek to do less and allow ones feet to do more is entirely doable even if not immediately.  This is not to say “protective” shoes do not have a place as again there will be many that will not want to, or cannot, take the time and effort to build up their feet so as to be able to move away from this protection.

What I have learned over the last couple years is that while I have any number of issues with my feet most of them can be rectified if my feet and legs become stronger.  This started, and continues today, by running in sandals – starting at only walking and working up, at present 3 miles running.  What you soon learn, and this is what anyone will tell you who runs barefoot or in minimal shoes, is that how you run will change as your body works to protect itself from damage.  Over time I have found that my feet gradually get are getting stronger, as do my legs.  I am far from where I want to be and do not want to make the mistake of many and move to quickly before I am ready to run in more minimal shoes.  With many years of wearing shoes designed to manipulate my feet and sadly in the process make them weaker I need to reverse this and that will take some time, effort and pain – yes pain as change can be painful.

This is where Carson Footwear comes in.  While they are not the first minimalist shoe, and probably not the last, they do fill a niche that is greatly needed; minimal shoes with some level of protection and cushioning.  A level that is such that it does not impede the natural function of the foot but have enough protection to allow running on a variety of terrains, including roads.   In my thinking they are designed to do what shoes originally were designed to do; protect ones foot.  Many minimal shoes seek to be as close to barefoot as possible and thus reduce cushioning to virtually none but while for some this is OK for most it in a way creates a hindrance to even attempting a move to minimal shoes.  This is not to say that Carson shoes will not take some getting used to if you are not already a minimal shoe user as it has taken me some time, since I run mostly on roads, to get up to 8-11 miles which at present the longest I have gone in them.  I will add that my move to Carson’s was also helped in that I previously ran in a Zero drop shoe so did not have to condition my feet and legs to having no drop in the shoe.  With regards to millage I have talked to others that have run Ultras in them so it is entirely possible with time and a goal of mine.  Let me also add that these shoes are supper comfortable thus that is not what you will need to get used to.

I recently became a Carson Footwear Ambassador and did so not simply to get discounts on shoes but because I have seen the need for my feet to be strengthened and Carson’s looked to be the shoe to help in that.  Another reason I applied was that in 44+ years of running I have never been contacted by the owner of a shoe company when I had questions as I was by Everett Carson.  Everett obviously has a vested interest in his customers and this is easy to see when he contacted me to answer my questions.  I was also impressed that when I let them know I would not be running my longer races yet in Carson’s, as my feet were not ready, they were good with that knowing it takes time to get ones feet transitioned to minimal shoes.

The main take away I hope you get from all of this is that when looking for shoes instead of asking what can the shoe do to my feet ask what will the shoes allow my feet to do for me.  Realize that with some effort and work in most cases you will not need the latest trendy feature in shoes but can instead look for shoes that allow your feet do what they were intended to do: move you forward efficiently.  Also, if you are one of those people who have foot issues realize that while you may need a particular shoe for now there is hope for change and that you can work to get your feet back to where they were intended, for most people.

 

Want to read more about Tony, check out his blog!

 

Athlete Spotlight: Bren Tompkins Wins Ft Clinch 100

by Rachel Bell Kelley
Recently Bren Tompkins ran and won Fort Clinch 100 mile in Florida.  The course consists of a 10 mile loop through oak shaded single track trail, some road, and a bit of hard packed sand.  We wanted to gain a little insight to who he is, and what it took for him to win this 100 mile race.  Below he shares some of his race training, nutrition, and how exactly he got into this crazy sport!
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PC: Chris Thompson
RBK: How did you get into running and ultra running?
BT: In 2010 I quit smoking almost three packs a day and gained some weight - then my back went out because of the construction work I was doing and added weight I had gained. I was told I have degenerative spine disease and that I would never be able to run. I'd never really ran before. Because of where I lived I saw people running all the time and guess I took the doctors words as a dare. I'd drive the few blocks to Daffin Park and run walk the 1.5 mile loop then drive home. I'd do that every other day after work. I had no clear goals besides losing weight and maybe to run the Savannah Bridge Run one day. Running also made my back feel better, so I was hooked. Through running I also started meeting amazing people.
RBK: Tell us a little about what your regular week of training consists of.
BT: I run six days a week, usually taking Monday off. I try to keep my schedule the same, so I guess you could say I'm always pretty much training. My usual run is about 6-7 miles. I have one day of easy, one of speedwork on a track, a long run, one with strides last two miles and one day running the 4% grade Talmadge bridge (our only hill). I may throw in some parking garages too or a tempo run every few weeks. My long runs usually are about 12-20 miles once a week. Then I use races like 50k to 50 miles as long runs also. I also ride a mountain bike (the added resistance from the bigger tires are better than a road bike) to/from work 4-5 days a week, adding about 11 miles a day. I  try to do lunges and side lunges after runs 2-3 times a week after a run. Nothing fancy, just 10 of each. I usually do 10 jumping squats to warm up for a run. I stretch after a run with pigeon and cobra poses. I do a 30 minute core routine of different crunches, v-ups with hand weights, Russian twists, leg raises, and planks 4-5 nights a week. My diet throughout is usually a high fat diet with no bread, corn, rice or beans in it. I usually heavily regulate my sugar intake and two weeks before a race go sugar free. The no sugar and the fact I only drink water everyday gives me the benefits of the sugar and caffeine boost during a race. This is my standard routine for the most part, I do like to tinker and add stuff to see if it gives me benefits depending on my goals.

RBK: What do you usually eat during a long run or race?

BT: During a long run, I usually don't eat anything. If it's warm out I may take a bottle of Gatorade or maybe a gel. During a race I usually have Gatorade or tailwind in my bottle, I take a hüma gel once an hour, a salt tab an hour, shots of coke cola and bacon. After a few hours I may switch to food and do not eat gels at all. Usually I start drinking water and diluted sports drink so I know I'm hydrated and peeing the right color late in a race.
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PC: Kevin Bartow
RBK: Do you have any pre race rituals?
        BT: I tend to get really nervous and listen to Eminem's Lose Yourself before the race, maybe a bit of Metallica too.
RBK: What is it that you love about running, what can be difficult about running?
BT: I love how everything just fades away. You're just out there living. Also I really love the people I've met through running! The most difficult thing about running for me is patience, especially in longer races. Something I one day hope to master.
RBK:  What would you say to, what tips do you have for someone who is thinking about signing up for their first 100 mile race?
BT: Do it! Maybe sign up for a looped course so you'll always know where your aid is, it takes some of the worry away. Also make sure you've made up your mind about completing it. You run 100 miles with your heart, it's inside you. You have to know you are going to do it no matter what. This will help when it gets to the dark places. You can do it!
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PC: Chris Thompson
RBK: Talk a little about your race, did you go in with a plan that you stuck with? Were there any problems you ran into that you had to solve mid race?
BT:  Going into Fort Clinch I wanted to beat my 100 PR of 17:55, but it had been over a year since I'd done anything near 100 miles. Also I wanted to beat my previous Fort Clinch 100 time of 24:32:35. It always bugged me I didn't go sub-24 because that's how I got into that distance, doing 24hr races. So went in to beat that and during the race I had to adjust my pace because the course really beats you up. There are no steep climbs, but with sand in a few spots sand and then the undaunting small hills that go on forever - it beats you up pretty bad. It is a deceptively difficult course. Eventually it took a toll on my knee and by 85 miles it was difficult to run. So I power-walked the last bit until I was able to get ibuprofen to kick in the last few miles. The walking definitely hurt my time, but I was still able to keep the lead and finish.
RBK: What's your must have gear?
BT: My pink tifosi shades, have to have them. I really enjoy my Carsons too!
RBK: What's on your 2017 calendar, what other events or races do you have coming up?
BT:  I try to do one ultra a month so in order: Homestead 10x5k, Keys Ultra 50 miler, DFL 12hr, Hot to Trot 8hr are what I have until July now. I'm thinking of another goal 100 for the fall and will plan races to train for that. I've always wanted to do Pinhoti 100 and there's another 100 in the fall, so we will see. My biggest draw back is I live in a place called Savannah, so mountain training can be difficult.

RBK:  Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, any any last thoughts or comments you'd like to add?

BT: First I would like to say that I am very honored that Carson Footwear asked me to do this. When I started running, no way would I have believed I'd complete or win a 100 mile race. I'm a single dad raising two kids by myself and part of my running career I went to college to change careers and worked. My advice would be:  Don't ever think that you can't train or make time to better yourself. Sometimes you may have to get creative and that will make it fun. Main thing is be consistent and believe you can do it. The only thing impossible is what you believe is impossible, well and traveling faster than light 🙂
We are honored to have him as part of our team and hope he is recovering quickly!
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PC: Ann Kerkman