Accessories and apparel


My brother recently wrote a really good post about conquering fears.  Even though he was relating it to running, it really could apply to so much in life. Please read it here on the blog: Coaching, Training and Motivation.

One of the things I love about my brother is his willingness to help others, and even though he has an amazing running ability, (one that most of us would pretty much die for), he always seems very low-key about it. When I told him that one of my very fast runner friends thought my brother was ridiculously fast in comparison to him, I could tell I made him blush over the phone.  He said, “you know I spend so much time talking to people about speed, I just seem to take myself out of the equation.”

I love people like that – people who could be all “big about themselves” for a variety of reasons, but they choose not to. People who dig down deep and face their fears. People who follow their heart.  (FYI, clicking on this picture of the elevation chart will blow it up for you.)

Elevation Chart for Leadville 100 course, which is an out-and-back, so what goes up must come down, and vice versa.

My brother has come a long way in a few years. He made a career change that took him from one of constant stress and anxiety attacks (literally) to one that he’s so devoted to that when he comes to visit, he always has his laptop out so he can communicate with his running clients. When he was on a bus enroute to come see me last fall, he asked if I could give a client of his a call, to let them know he’d be sending an email as soon as he got to me, telling them final strategy tips for their marathon race the following morning.  When I contacted his client, he said that my brother was an awesome coach, and so dedicated.  It was no surprise to me, but I think it might have been to my brother.  That’s just how he is.

A few years ago, he barely seemed to have the energy to train for marathons. Now he’s training for the Leadville 100, and signs his emails about it, by using the phrase “Crazy Train.” [At least he knows he’s nuts. :-)]   I like the fact that he’s pushing himself to another level (figuratively and literally, as the Leadville Race has some mileage that will be run above the tree line.)

In case you are wondering, yes, a longtime friend of his and I have already volunteered to pilot the Medivac Helicopter for him when the race is over.  We’ve watched him run the marathon at Philadelphia a few times, and always wonder “Why do we drive all this way [from D.C. and Boston] to see him fly by us for just a few seconds during the course of 2-3 hours??” LOL

Brooks ST Racers, image from Amazon.com

I’ll never have my brother’s speed (6 repeat 800s at 2:45, anyone?) but I’ve been thinking of ways to challenge myself too, running and otherwise.  On my brother’s advice, I’ve just bought a pair of racing flats to try out this year: the Brooks ST Racers. (This link takes you to the new model, 5, but I think mine will be the 4, pictured at right.)

I never thought that they were for people like me, before.  By that, I mean  people who tend to run in the middle of the pack. However, Ive seen my times improve over the past few years.  So, now I want to see if having less physical weight on my feet, and the added mental boost of knowing my feet are lighter, will help speed up my times. (Even though they will clash with all of my running clothes, color-wise…)

I’ve been meeting new people and reaching out to others more than I used to. I’ve tended to move away from people or situations that are not right with me, and doing so lifts a heavy load off of me, mentally.  Sticking with them just tends to make you look backward, and I don’t want to do that anymore. (I’m not saying it’s bad to remember everything, I think you need to learn and grow from past experiences, and not always dwell on the past.  It won’t change it.)

I’m also toying with the idea of learning how to rock climb. People who have known me my entire life know how terrified I am of heights.  So, I’m thinking more of learning what they call bouldering, because with that type of climbing, it’s more about the challenge of forging a route to the top of a, say, 30-foot high piece of rock that others might not see.  Or, it’s the challenge of finding handholds or footholds that work, while others might find them impossible. (At least, this is what I have read about it.)  You don’t have to be 100 feet off of the ground, or trying to scale the flat faces of Yosemite or Zion out west.  I’ve always liked reading about people who challenge themselves physically and mentally, such as the mountaineers who climb Everest, or any of the other 8Kers (mountains taller than 8,000 meters).  I’m thinking that maybe I should experience some of it rather than just reading about it! (Although, don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to actually climb an 8,000 meter peak!)

So, who knows? I may go to a class or two and find that “yep, I really do not like heights” or I’m so clutzy as to find the endeavor totally laughable, and feel like a complete and total jackass.  I may end up in a class with a bunch of under-10-year-olds.   But I will never know until I try it.

p.s. A friend suggested I find a half marathon to run this spring, after having run 10.2 miles (walked about .2 of it) on the treadmill yesterday. I am considering it. Some days, you just feel like running long and zoning out, and I’m just trying to go with the flow these days, in so many ways. I’m trying to make a concerted effort of keeping my workouts fun, and even think I’ve found a new good friend to run with now.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

Footnote (ah, forget subtlety)/Headline to Mom: Stop Reading Now. It Ain’t  Gonna Get Any Better. And “yes, you did raise me to say these things.”  LOL

I swear, people, this post goes downhill from here. Read on, if you will.

When I was training for the half marathon at the end of June, I was definitely experiencing some pain in my quads. One of my coaches thought it was because I have powerful quads, and therefore I rely on them a lot when running. Well, for whatever reason, I found the foam roller with ridges that I bought from Marathon Sports to be quite helpful. That is, once I learned how to use it and it didn’t hurt my wrists so much.  (I know, foam roller, wrist pain, doesn’t make so much sense, now, does it?)

In case you are wondering why I’m bringing this up now, it’s because I’ve been running a lot more since my move, oftentimes doing 6 miles before work rather than just 4, and yesterday I began to feel like using the foam roller more often might be a good thing again.

Image from opentip.com

I realize some folks coming across this blog may have no idea what a foam roller is. It’s a hard piece of foam that allows athletes to provide their bodies with self-massage.  Here’s a picture I found that shows you how weird it can look (and seriously, what’s up with this lady’s hair? They couldn’t update the pic just a bit?!)

The first time I brought it home, I set myself up in the kitchen in my former home, which was kind of in an L-shape. I figured, lineoleum floor, this baby should roll quite easily on here. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t come with a video like the roller Lis has, so I was left to my own devices. Or, should I say, imagination?

Ruthie, just hanging, outside after our walk

Anyway, I was in the one side of the kitchen, and Bill was on the other side.  He couldn’t see the bottom half of my body.  As I rolled back and forth on the torture device, I’m sure I must have made a few groans.  (We all know the sweet pain those things bring.) I also had my hands placed as if I was doing push-ups, so I think you’re all getting the mental image, am I right?! Add to that Miss Ruthie, who, of course, thinks that if you are down on the floor, there can only be one reason, and that’s to play with her, so she kept running back and forth trying to get attention from me, while I rolled and groaned away, over and over and over.  Bill just looked at my upper half and said “Are you sure that’s what you’re supposed to be doing? It looks like you’re dry humping something!!” And there we have the title of my post, lol.  (And yes, the next few times I used it, he decided to add in a soundtrack of grunts in the background.  Um, yeah, that was fun, and not at all a bit distracting….)

(In case you all forget what  Ruthie looks like, I saw her last week, so that’s why there are some pictures scattered here.)

Ruthie in the living room, looking adorable "don't you want to pet me?"

I can only imagine now the types of searches that people will do that will bring them to my blog. Do you have any idea how many people do searches on “topless running?”

Speaking of topless running, since my earlier post on that topic, my friend Meg, @mak506 on Twitter, and Lis, have both tried it. Both found it to be quite freeing, and Meg even commented to me, “why hadn’t I done this before?” So there you have it ladies, take off your shirts, and get out there and run topless. You just might find you like it. 🙂  (Added bonus: that much less laundry to do.)

So, I jinxed myself with my last post – it happened. As soon as I said I expected to have a crap run, it reared its ugly head.

It started out with a warning sign – my tummy.  Luckily that cleared itself up by my delaying my run for about 10-15 minutes. Then, there was the “yes, we really are dying on you” signals from my headphones.

Pink Sony overear headphones, photo courtesy of amazon.com

You know the type – the music is only coming out of one earpiece, unless you hold the wire just so. Luckily, my bouncing all around seemed to help them today.  (I bought a new pair tonight, in pink. Yes, they are totally girly. Get over it.)

Then, there was the first big hill which I encounter within about a half mile or less from my front door. It’s not bothered me much lately, but today I could feel myself laboring up it. I think I may just use that hill as my baseline from now on to see how I’m feeling.  (The terrain here is much different from where I moved from, as I might have had one hill like it, on my “hilly” route, which is to say I ran it when I felt like it, not on a daily basis.)

I decided to run down a hill that seemed to scare me until today, because it looked really steep, and I was afraid that once at the bottom, I’d never be able to climb backup it again. Boy, am I glad that I faced that fear today. I ended up finding a road called Hammond Pond Parkway. Other than the two lanes of traffic in both directions, I kind of felt like I was in the woods. Trees and trails on both sides of the road. If you ran on the grass and soft terrain rather than playing chicken with the cars, and kept your head cocked a bit to the left, you could almost mentally put yourself somewhere else.

(I have to admit, when Opticon by Orgy came onto my headphones, it was a bit jarring, considering my surroundings.) (Warning: my link goes to a video on YouTube where Opticon appeared on Charmed, one of my favorite TV shows. Mock if you will.)

Hammond Pond Parkway reminds me of the Blue Hills where I ran the 13.1 Marathon just south of Boston. Truth be told, it’d be hard to beat that area for scenery (and really difficult hills, Good Lord), but since this road is within running distance from where I am living, and offers its own sense of serenity, I will take it. I love running by the huge homes nearby (which are constantly being tended to by landscapers), but this area was just different. Those of you in the southwest would likely be jealous of how green it is. I’ll have to take a pic and post it.

Speaking of, below is another photo of the reservoir near me – the sun is beautiful when it reflects off of the water. For those of you familiar with, or who have run the Boston Marathon, you can usually see the Prudential and Hancock Towers off in the distance.  Right after I took this, I ran into someone who retired from my work a few years ago, and who always has a big smile on her face. She gave me a big hug even though I was a sweaty mess (it was hot and humid – news flash – what else is new?!) and I cut my run short to walk back toward my building with her and catch up.

So, the run was short (4 miles), hot, involved walking, and had minor music troubles.  A few years ago, that would have put me into a major funk.  Today, my attitude was this:  at least it wasn’t a race, and no one died. Tomorrow’s another day. 🙂

Reservoir reflections

Yep, I really do. Guys, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not out there shaking my boobs for everyone to see, no matter how much you wish that were the case, LOL. Running topless=running bra only. I think this will be my new Season of Topless Speed! 🙂  Because, honestly, when it’s hot and it’s humid, what is the point of a shirt anyway?  A towel that you wear as clothing? POINTLESS.  I run much faster without it (if you don’t believe me, see my time below.) 🙂

Today was Track Tuesday.  I’ve started something new at track practice. Running with my iPod. I figure, I’m usually runing by myself anyway, so why not motivate myself by actually listening to music, rather than trying to get a song going through my head just before I arrive, and then use my mental playback powers? You know what? It totally makes a difference.

I’ve decided to start following the mid-distance workouts, rather than those for the folks running long distance, so I can really focus on speed. Tonight’s workout was 6  300s, with active recovery of 200 shuffle, or as I call it “the old lady jog, where it looks like you’re running, but really you’re not because both feet are always touching the ground.”  Water break, then repeat, for a total of 12. While some people hate the shorter distances, I absolutely love them because for me, it’s basically a sprint.

Average 300 meters without tunes: 1:15-1:16. (First 4 done wearing a shirt/top.)

Average 300 meters with tunes: 1:11, with my fastest being the last one, at 1:09. (All done topless.)

Best two songs for this evening: Your Love is My Drug, by Ke$ha, and Untouched, by the Veronicas.

Tonight, I also tried out one of two new running skirts I bought last Saturday when I picked up my number for the half marathon. I figured, we got 13.1% off of what we bought that night, so why not pick up one?  Ok, how about two?

PR Mesh Skort (photo from Brooks Running)

The one I wore tonight is by Brooks, and it’s called the PR Mesh Skort. I gotta say, I loved it!!  I bought it in an XS because there is no drawstring around the waist, unlike the Nike one I bought (in a small.)  The shorts underneath didn’t ride up at all. The mesh definitely makes the fabric pretty breathable, so my fear of overheating never actually became a reality. (Truth be told, that’s why I’ve never work a running skirt before.  I figured wearing two layers would get too hot. It was about 80-82 tonight when we had practice.) 

There is a pocket in the back that will take some getting used to – it’s not as deep as I’d like, but I figure for races of 5 miles or less, I can get by with just one packet of sports beans so it should be enough. It closes with a zipper, which makes me feel good about storing a car key in it too. 

Oh, an added bonus – it’s girly!  Just my own personal opinion, but it appears to be more flattering to the figure than the shorts we ladies get to wear to run.  So here’s what I say, ladies:  we work hard for these legs, we might as well show them, LOL!    There is a retired gentleman who is part of our track workouts, whose name is Bob. I told him I was trying out the skirt tonight in case I run a race on Saturday, and because he’s kind of injured, he was hanging out with our two lady coaches. He yelled out “nice skirt!!” at one point, and then he told me he got some good-natured grief from the coaches.  He was like “she’s trying it out, I gotta tell her it looks good!” 🙂

Too bad I can’t wear it in a race I just got an email about, called the Ladies Night Out at the Great Leg Road Race, in Lowell, MA.  (I’ll be out of town.)

P.S. from Wednesday a.m.  My only bad news is that I think I might have plantar fasciitis again. For those of you who have never had this, thank your deity of your choice.  It felt better as I warmed up and ran more last night, but walking Ruthie this morning, it felt like someone was stabbing me through the bottom of my foot. I even wore that ugly-ass night splint all last night too. Felt ok when I got up, but the walk this morning was hell!

I get asked this a lot from people in southern climates: “how do you do it in such cold weather?!” They think they could never do it. But, they could, they just need to wear the right gear. And being a card carrying Gear-Head, I’ve got lots of it. Although I have to admit, I’ve acquired much less this past year. Maybe because two years ago, I was such a Gomer (to steal a word and refer you to my friend Jill, of Jill Will Run’s blog), that I was a total running merchandiser’s dream.  Tell me something would help me run better, and I’d buy it.  I was so worried about not having that dream piece of equipment or clothing that would make me an awesome runner rather than just a middle-of-the-packer.

And then, I got real. And realized I was not ever going to receive a raise again, even though I work for a pretty well-off school. Plus, before my husband switched jobs last November, he’d taken a 10% pay cut at his previous job. Doesn’t sound like a lot at first, but it does make a difference in your budget. At least the professors kept their “student entertainment” funds intact, and the students still have food brought in at dinnertime, just for, you know, showing up to class.  Ah, well. (Can you tell I’m a bit bitter about that?)  Ok, enough about that – I can’t change it, so why try? (No, really, I was part of a focus group that suggested cuts in order to save jobs, and that was one of the suggestions. Clearly, it went unheard.)  Ok, I really am digressing…need to get off this subject!  

Brooks Wanganui Cabrio Mitt, photo from thefind.com

So, I’m going to write some reviews about my purchases that have gotten me through the cold weather. Usually bought with discounts through my employer or by signing up for email coupons.   By the way, so as to not piss off the FTC, I should mention no one has asked me to review these products, or sent them to me free of charge. As I said, I paid for them with my own money. The only reason my work ID gets me a discount is because my employer is a pretty big one in my area.

To keep these posts (relatively) short, I’ll just cover one per post. I know, you’re sitting on the edge(s) of your seat(s), wondering “what will she review next?!” Ok, so the Brooks Wanganui Cabrio mittens.  I did pay $28 for them (minus my 10% discount) when my husband woke up one morning saying he wanted to get some “real” running shoes. READ: expensive, not bought at the discount store. I was excited. This meant maybe eventually we could do a race together, and I could go to one of my favorite (albeit expensive) stores: Marathon Sports

One thing that sucks about wearing just gloves or just mittens in the northeast. Your hands love them at first, and then as you warm up, so do your gloves. Your hands start to sweat. And before you know it, you’re left with the unenviable dilemna of “should I take them off, and risk cold numbness, or should I keep them on, and get hot, & sweaty, and then let the sweat turn to cold wetness?” With these gloves, I feel like I’m wearing, simultaneously, a heater and air conditioner on my hands. Really. They are nice and thermally (is that a word? If not, it should be.) They’re not too bulky to throw in your jacket pockets if you get REALLY hot, or you just plain overdressed to begin with (Exhibit A, my last post from the Bradford’s Valentine Road Race). (Did I also mention, they’re also good for wiping sweat off of your face?)
 

The mittens are magnetized, so when you flip back the mitten part, you don’t have to worry about that rounded part just flopping all around the place. Y’all know what I’m talking about. The fingered portions of the gloves are just long enough to keep your digits warm. I also must add that they are just long enough and warm enough to prevent my knuckles from getting all dry-skinned, red, and cracked, as would otherwise happen if I was running, and had to completely take my gloves off every time I ran outside and got hot. (Yep, it’s happened to me in the past, and it’s pretty painful. It sucks.)

The one thing I would advise is this – if you are a person with small hands, make sure you do buy a small, and don’t let yourself be impatient and buy the medium size, just because you are at the store with your husband and don’t want to be the only one leaving empty-handed. I did. So, the thumbs are a bit on the big side for me, which can make opening up my snack baggies filled with sports beans a bit on the difficult side. I’ve learned to deal with it by opening up the baggies with my pointer and other fingers, but it does make me slow down a bit so I can concentrate and not fall on my butt in front of a car, at the same time.

Nike thermal gloves with key pocket, photo from thefind.com

I prefer these gloves over other pair, which are thermal gloves from Nike, with a key pocket in the palm.  I can’t fault these gloves for being not warm enough. For me, they’re just too warm. It may be that I sweat more than the average person (ok, my husband says, so romantically, that I sweat “like a farm animal.”) But, I end up having to take them off, then getting cold, and then putting them back on again, during my runs that are anything longer than 2-3 miles.

Bottom line: the Wanganui mitts may seem expensive at first, but they are totally worth every penny.

I am so far behind on posting, it’s not even funny.

A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected, but very nice message on Facebook from someone with a company called 32North. They are a company based in Maine, and they make products for people with active lives who live in northern climates, such as the Boston area experiences.  Last year, I ran outside a lot, even in the snow and ice.  I was happy to have  bought a pair of their Stabilicer Sport product last year (you can read more about my experience with that product here.)

Anyway, I’ve registered as a fan on the 32North Facebook page.  They had a random drawing to give away a pair of Stabilicer Lites, and guess who won? ME!  I received my prize very quickly from their representative and it was delivered along with a handwritten note. When is the last time you could say that you got something like that?  (By the way, I should mention that when I called the company last fall, a real person answered the phone and helped me with my questions on sizing, etc. They didn’t keep me on hold forever either.   Again, when is the last time you could say that you had that experience with a company?)

I’m really looking forward to trying out the Stabilicer Lites and seeing how they work compared to the others I bought last year. I’ll write up a review on here when the time comes. (For the record, I’m not looking forward to the usual Boston winter.)  I see on their website that the Lites are best used for lite outdoor exercise such as walking, and the Sport model is more for running. Well, this year, because I now have Ruthie in my life, and she appreciates being walked every day, I think the Lites will get a lot of use.  As anyone who lives in cold climates knows, it’s really important to be prepared for the weather, especially if you don’t want to get sick or injured.  32North is a company that can help you do that!

In case you’re curious as to what they look like, I’ve put pics below, which I would like to acknowledge are from their website.

Also, be sure to check out their channel on YouTube!

So, I’m not really in run long distances anymore – yes, right now I am considering anything over 8 or so to be long. I am hoping tomorrow morning changes that – Lis recommended a state park that is not too far from me. I’m going to go there tomorrow morning – that’s the plan anyway, and find some of their logging roads. Just me, nature, my iPod, and oh yeah, the pink Camelbak.

carries 50 oz of liquid
carries 50 oz of liquid

That should blend in just fine, don’t you think?  If I see something pretty, I’ll take pictures and post them. 

God, I hope the love of running longer comes back, I want to do well at the Half Marathon in May and honor my grandmother’s memory, but right now, I’m just not feeling motivated. Not motivated for much at all, honestly.

Good thing is, the weather is supposed to be nice – it hit the 50s today, and it was sunny. Could it really be spring soon? 
Thanks to everyone for all the nice comments you left for Corey earlier this week. His fundraiser is next week, and Bill and I are planning on going and supporting him. He even said Abi and her family are going to be there – I hope I get to meet them!

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