Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Adidas Kanadia TR4 Trail Running Shoe Review

You can't really judge a running shoe until you put it through hell. That is exactly what I did with my Adidas Kanadia TR4 running shoes. It has been one year since my half empty wallet allowed me to buy a discounted pair from Sports Authority in North Port. These shoes have been through a fair range of conditions and challenges, sometimes surprising me, sometimes falling short.

Let me set the scene. In the past year I have worn these shoes for every run and every race. That comes out to 195 miles of running including 2 trail races, 7 road races and 1 State Championship. It was a fulfilling schedule for my first year of running but it did have some drawbacks.

Right from the start I was pushing myself too hard. After I bought the shoes I only had time to do one practice run before my first 5K race. My feet were hurting bad after that run. I should have started with a shorter distance but it did give me the confidence to complete the race in full.

I started running once a week, always on trails and slowly got more comfortable with the sport and the shoes. Along with my increase in miles came an increase in foot comfort. I can't blame the shoes for early foot pain, they are snug and the traction knobs give great stability especially in dirt and mud. If only I could stay on the trails.

My next 8 races were on the road. Here is where the problems started. I kept putting off buying another pair of running shoes so I was doing miles on the concrete in shoes that weren't made for it. The hard bottom and inflexible sole turned longer races into high impact exercises. My feet were striking hard and paying the price with foot pain.

To prepare for the 10K State Championship I was doing long runs half on the street and half on trails. The problem here was that when I started getting tired on the trails and I stepped on a rock or root, the inflexible sole would cause my ankle to roll. This encouraged more injuries.

While the Adidas Kanadia TR4 is an older shoe, it is still being sold online and at some stores. It is a good pick for someone looking for a trail running shoe at a low price with a solid exterior and tough laces. We are talking about supreme durability. I ran in mud, rain, water up to six inches deep, on concrete, asphalt and loose dirt, yet these shoes still look brand new. They hardly have a scratch on them.

One last downside is the weight. At 340 grams, this is not an ideal race shoe. They can slow you down in a longer run and they do absorb water which makes them even heavier. All things considered, they were perfect for my needs at the time and they will remain my go to shoes for trail running. For more info on their trail running line of shoes check out the Adidas website.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

SCORR Scavenger Hunt - A Fright to Remember

In the blissful perfection of a cool October night the Sarasota County Off Road Riders assembled on the island of Venice for another of their fun, unforgettable fundraisers. The theme this time around was a Halloween scavenger hunt. Fifty participants assembled at Centennial Park on Main Street just as the sun was disappearing over the ocean. Each offered up their donation which would go towards the cause of building and maintaining mountain bike trails in the Carlton Reserve. 

With the darkness falling and a light-hearted challenge rising, the fun began.

Riders arrived in all manner of costume and on every arrangement of bike that you can possibly imagine. Starting with the Road, Cruiser and Mountain bikes, people decked out their wheels with adornments, glow sticks and flickering strands. While everyone had bike lights for the night of riding, some bikes were positively pulsating in the darkness and could be seen a quarter mile down the street.

One resplendent design put on display was by group regular Thomas Obermeier who brought a Penny Farthing with the front wheel decorated into a pumpkin face.

If there had been a costume contest the big winner would have been the Executioner Trek which held a full size prisoner who, with the flip of a switch was violently electrocuted. The dummy shook back and forth shaking and lighting up with its mouth wide open. It was a terrifyingly brilliant creation (See Pic at top of article).

If you were hungry, they had it covered. One couple came as Bacon & Eggs, another as Salt & Pepper and there was even a Taco walking around with a backpack full of Jello shots. The creativity of these ensembles had no end. Among an array of tutus and wigs there was a Rodeo Cowboy, a six foot tall Bottle of Beer, a Werewolf, a Pirate and a cute red haired Raccoon as well as ET and Elliot.

The Scavenger contest itself was a well thought out game. Groups of riders were given a list of items or places that they were to take a picture with, on, beside or near. The list included word tricks that one would only know if they spent a lot of time on Venice Island. Mostly it was simple location shots like a lifeguard stand at the beach, posing with a giant turtle or placing green M&Ms up your nose.

Some challenges were sillier than others. Someone in your group would have kissed a frog, rode down a slide or done an intimate pose with a statue in the park. Facebook will forever remember these people and for that, we thank them.

Between searches there were stops at local bars where the music played and riders enjoyed craft beers. The evening streets were full of groups traversing the traffic in hopes of crossing off all the items. For some it took a mere half an hour, for others it was a more inebriated and entertaining 2 hours.

Passing information back and forth was one of the fun teasers. Some people held tight to the secrets they had obtained while others raced from one of end of Main Street to the other, often in a desperate attempt to find a tiny green frog hidden in a Banyan tree. That was a tough one.

The end of the hunt came at around 10pm at the Tap & Cork bar. Prizes were either given to those with the best pictures or merely thrown into the crowd of merry cyclists. Between riding, photos, karaoke, pizza, beer and laughs it was truly a night to remember.

Since every group had a different experience we don't have photos of them all. However Terri, myself and a friend completed everything on the list. Feel free to enjoy the pictures of our adventure. Photo Gallery from Terri & Alex's Scavenger Hunt

Watch for more pics on the SCORR Rider Facebook Page

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Building the Ultimate Man Cave (Part 2 of 2)

There are some projects you just never finish. They start as errands on a checklist and end up becoming part of your identity. Part 2 of my man cave building experiment is all about expansion. I started with a trophy room that extended outward into a bike garage. This is meant as a place to store, clean and fix bicycles as well as being a hang out spot beneath the house. Originally I hoped to limit it to a finish date but I might be working on this for years to come. So here I give you the first wave of changes.

As stated in the previous article (Which can be read here) I'm on a severe budget so everything has to be on the cheap. The only things I have an abundance of are effort and determination. In the first photo above you can see that most of my time has gone into cleaning and painting. Removal of cobwebs, vines and random nails was followed by white and green paint. At the bottom of the shot you can see a blue tarp and brown hose which has become a bike cleaning station.

The workbench is now actually being used for work tools, go figure. After a good cleaning and paint job you can see that I added some BMX trophies to the shelves, some recent magazines under the desk light and a television which is hooked through the wall to a DVD player. Now TVs in both the trophy room and bike garage can play a simultaneous feed. By the way, a used TV at a thrift shop only cost five dollars.

Seems easy enough right? Always keep in mind that for one change there are fifteen steps along the way. I've had to adjust electrical wires so that I have power only when and where I need it. I've had to sort through and throw out barrels of junk and then sweep the rugs regularly before adding new ones. It was originally a dirt floor.

Speaking of junk, that twisted metal mess of a shelf was nailed to the wall. After detaching it, removing extraneous screws and repositioning all of the wires, I set to painting yet again. The old blocked doorway had to remain blocked but I took to the outside and added screens to keep out the bugs and rain. The full garage is 15 by 25 feet with a 12 foot ceiling and by adding to the current construction it is now 80% screened in.

Finally, the biggest part of the project was the front doors. The old ones were tattered wood, off kilter with broken pieces and no lock. After removing the lattice I put down a base coat of paint, then a second coat so it would be bright white. Then I buried a rock and a cinder block at the base of the hinge beam so that the door would swing evenly. The vinyl lattice had to be cut for a perfect fit and nailed into place. Finally I added a coil that pulls the door closed along with multiple locks to keep it shut. From all angles, it looks beautiful.

Concerning the budget, well, it did start to grow in cost but so far it has stayed under $200. in total. Concerning the bikes, I'm still working on how best to use the space. I have many ideas but from this point on each step will take more time and planning. What I can say is that it has all been worth it and I'm enjoying the process. The house, even the neighborhood, benefits from these upgrades in ways both seen and unseen.

I look forward to developing this project in the future and one day I still might have a garage party to display the renovation of a space worth celebrating.

 Click here to see Alex's complete library

Sunday, October 20, 2013

14 year old Wins Howl at the Moon 2

14 Year old Darielle Costa for the Win!
You never know what will happen when the Zombies come out to play. On Oct 19th, 2013 runners enjoyed the 2nd annual Bocca Lupo Howl at the Moon 5k. What makes this race special is that it is infected with the spirit of Halloween. This chilling trail run was especially magnificent as the festivities started in the inky darkness of early morning illuminated by the light of the harvest moon.

Who dared to take on the fright? 241 runners set off the line just before sunrise fully aware that evil was creeping through the woods, awaiting delicious hordes of tasty athletes. The Zombies were exceptionally hungry and creative this year. Screams could be heard at several parts of the race course as bloody ghouls, often very young in age, jumped out of the bushes to surprise their victims.

Zombie attitude from Lauralyn & Fawn Brashear
Englewood residents made a statement in support of this hometown race by taking some top spots in the competition including Overall Male Mark Stueve (19:42), Female Grandmaster Dorothy Korszen (27:11), Female 11-12 year old winner Isabella Park (28:55) and Male 20-24 winner Danny Duncan (20:55). Local businesses made an even bigger mark by providing a wealth of raffle prizes for participants.

The most astonishing story of the race has to be the Female Overall winner Darielle Costa of North Port. It is astonishing because Darielle is only 14 years old. A member of the North Port High School cross country team, the Bobcats, she came to Howl at the Moon as an unknown entity who quickly ascended into the limelight. At a race won last year by local professional Heather Butcher, Darielle stepped in to fill some big shoes and did so with style. Her time was 21:18.

Team of runners from the Farr Law Firm - Run Farr!
When you Howl at the Moon, running is only half the story. This year's costumes were fantastic! Marvel and DC superheros filled the crowd right alongside Darth Vader, Rainbow Dash, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and an array of zombies. The contest itself was emcee'd by Kimmi Van der Veen with winners picked by the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd.

The finalists came down to Howl's very own Zombie poster boy plus a Werewolf Hunter played by Reagan Park and a woman pregnant with a Zombie baby! The crowd loved the Zombie Baby created and carried by Kathryn Carparelli. Not only did she win the contest but also took 4th in her class with a time of 26:04. The evil fetus did not slow her down one bit.

Kathryn Carparelli wins the Costume contest!
It was a Saturday morning full of racing and fun enjoyed by an array of colorful characters who celebrated with pizza and prizes. Bocca Lupo even handed out commemorative glasses to the finishers. All of these quirky details are what makes Howl at the Moon one of the events you must put on your race calendar.

Get your race results and photos from the following links:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book of Mountain Bike Short Stories in the Works

Sometimes it is easy for people to forget who they are. You get distracted by the all of the exciting opportunities or unforeseen challenges that life puts before you and in the process loose track of your purpose. I was born to be a writer but not the kind that sits behind a desk staring at books all day. I'm an action writer, the kind who dives into the deep part of the pool and learns to swim, the hard way. Often times I am completely unprepared for what I'm doing but for me it's the most invigorating way to learn and that is how I draw my inspiration.

My seven books were all based on real life experiences, some of which were deeply personal. From my time as a trouble teenager who was bullied in high school to my battles in both the wrestling arena and boxing ring, even my work as a political activist - each served as fuel for fiction. Some of those events were traumatic so it felt liberating to empty my psyche onto the page, call it therapy for the soul. Due to this new found mental health I have not written a book in five years. However, that is about to change. Something else has been building up inside of me. Let me tell you how it began.

Promo from my novel 'Almost Columbine'
In 2008 my brother Kevin and I were watching the Beijing Olympics on television. There we learned that Mountain Biking had become an Olympic event. Truth is, we didn't even know it was a sport. We looked into it and saw that there was plenty of bike shops and bike races around where we lived in Massachusetts. We both bought bikes and six months later we were covered in mud and knee deep in mountain bike racing.

My brother and I traveled all over New England taking part in the Root 66 race series and the Eastern Fat Tire Association (EFTA) series. We started attending group rides with the trail maintenance non-profit known as the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA). Later adventures in racing Downhill and Super D would provide me with a whole new perspective on the sport. That view was further enhanced by participating in events like NEMBAfest in New Hampshire and Diabloween in New Jersey.

My brother Kevin and myself at the 2009 Mass State Championships
In 2011 the sunshine state would provide me with a new challenge but the wheels were a little smaller. Florida has always been known for being a hotbed of BMX racing action. With 15 tracks to explore and 2,000 racers to meet and compete with, I found a new adventure and once again dived into the deep water. 

This time my wife Terri would be my partner in crime. The two of us started racing, joined teams and competed on the local and state levels. We also started a BMX news website called the Bog Dogs Race Report. While competing we covered racing news at over 75 events. These included several Sunshine State Association (SSA) Florida Cups races, All Star races and a few Nationals including one in Nashville, Tennessee.

That's me getting real close to the BMX racing action
I reason I tell you all of this is that once again I have turned the page. I have returned to mountain biking, joined the Sarasota County Off Road Riders (SCORR) local trail group and started exploring Florida's MTB scene. In addition my wife and I traveled two thousand miles west to experience the Colorado Freeride Festival and see what it is like to ride a bike at over 10,000 feet.

This brings us up to date and as you can imagine, my brain is swimming with stories. Not only the ones I experienced but also the scores that people have told me from all over the country. Like a sponge I have soaked up the atmosphere from cycling's multiple disciplines. Over the summer these dramatic snapshots started to stitch together into a collection, each with the unique signature of my twisted imagination.

Atop the Rocky Mountains with a sweet ride
My goal is to display a dazzling array of scenarios familiar to bike riders/racers that captures the intensity of our passions while also subtly touching upon the meaningfulness that underlies this lifestyle. From the supernatural to the sacred, from steroids to sex, from Striders to Freeriders, no stone will be left unturned. This book of short stories should be completed sometime in 2014 with a release date in 2015.

You can follow this Facebook Page for updates: