Friday, December 12, 2014

Gear Review! Mountain Hardwear’s Scrambler 30

When it comes to backpacks for my daily run commute I tend to have a few “must haves.” First it has to have both a chest and waist strap. Second, it needs to fit comfortably on my back and shoulders and third it needs to hold all of my stuff. Well the Scrambler 30 covers all of these things and more! My history of backpacks goes back four or five years when I used standard backpacks to run commute. The result was frequent chafe marks on my neck (not sexy) and my running shirts also often got rubbed the wrong way along the waist and the fabric would get pilly. Never mind the shoulder support would usually be non-existent, giving me sore shoulders. Eventually I wised up and got a Salomon hydration pack that fit well but the chest strap was one long piece of elastic so I would perform a funky yoga move to get in and out of it every time-oh and lord help me if I was wearing a hat too! Thankfully I never dislocated my shoulders. Then came the scrambler 30. I was dubious, I mean going from a 3 liter pack to a 30 liter pack seems like it would add a lot more weight right? Nope. The pack itself is less than a pound. It certainly covers the “hold all my stuff” requirement, and then some. I have even been able to run commute to the mall, do some Christmas shopping and keep going home (with space to spare)! The shoulder straps are not heavily padded but with the waist strap adjusted I can easily find a good weight balance so neither my hips or my shoulders get tired. And that’s one of the best features of this backpack. It has a lot of straps so you can adjust it in almost any way you need to to get a good fit. It also has straps for trekking poles (which I have yet to use) but the absolute best strap is the chest strap-it has a clip! Yay! No more yoga posing as I try to get it on. One click and I’m out! The back portion of this backpack looks almost space-age, with its strategic padding, but it makes a huge difference over running with no back plate or padding of any kind. I hardly notice I have it on and my back is so much happier not having the odd work shoe digging into my back! The one feature this backpack boasts is its waterproofing. I’ve become accustomed to having to fit a bag (garbage bag or otherwise) over my backpacks for years living on the coast. Now I don’t have to. Ever. Again. I was out in a downpour and yes, the backpack got wet…but the inside didn’t! Not a single thing!! While the outside fabric feels like any other pack the inside has a plastic-like film that keeps everything dry and the pack itself dries out in seconds once it gets indoors. I was so impressed by this I posted it on Facebook. Lol. This backpack will be with me for a long, long time. I’m not sure about it going into a race with me (it’s a bit more pack than I would likely need), but for my daily run commutes and long runs on the weekend, this bag is a must-have.
#findingwinter
http://www.mountainhardwear.com/scrambler-30-backpack-OU6056.html?dwvar_OU6056_variationColor=090&cgid=equipment-packs-climbingSport#start=9

Friday, November 28, 2014

New, FREE Stuff!




My friends, yesterday this is what was waiting for me:
It has arrived! Okay, so the back story first. I applied to be one of Mountain Hard Wear's Winter Ambassadors when I saw an ad on one of my favorite websites (TAUR). I filled in the fields, wrote a few paragraphs on "How I find Winter" and pressed "submit". Then I really didn't think much of it because, honestly, I really didn't expect to get picked-but I did! So, I've got the newest and incredibly light Ghost Whisper winter coat (in midnight blue) and a beautiful pink coat and a waterproof backpack called the "Scrambler 30." With today's temperatures being on the warmer side (0 degrees Celsius) I opted for the pink coat and the scrambler made its maiden voyage with me this morning. My initial impressions? The coat is very wind proof and the high collar kept my neck and lower half of my face toasty. More to come on that one after I've taken it out for a run. The same goes for the scrambler-who I think I will name Trixie-but already its been so nice not to have to squeeze all of my stuff into my small Salomon pack-that I'm sure was never meant for the daily abuse I've put it through these past 2 years. The fact this pack is waterproof is huge for me-especially here in Nova Scotia where the weather changes on a dime. I'll certainly have more formal reviews of all three items in the weeks to come, and I'll be sharing my adventures as I am #findingwinter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gear Review (of sorts): Buying running gear on the cheap

So I've been running regularly for about eight years now. In that time I've worn a lot of shorts, capris, shirts, buffs and socks. And, since I decided to start running during the decline of the economy I found it prudent at times to buy running gear on the cheap. That means buying it from places like Walmart and Target. This post reviews what I've experienced so far by sampling Target, Walmart, Brooks, Running Room and Nike running clothes. First, the bottoms. In this category you get what you pay for. At Walmart I bought a pair of running shorts that after one run spent with me trying to make them not ride up, they have become gym shorts only. The same goes for a pair of compression shorts bought at the Running Room. Yes, they compress, a bit too much, my legs look like sausages in them so I worry about circulation...and yet they ride up and the waist has a draw string (a draw string?!). Next I tried capris from Walmart (no possibility of riding up) and still wear them from time to time today. On the thinner of the two capris the waist band is flimsy and can roll at times. A second, thicker pair, I bought there has a small tear starting in the thigh, so they're headed to the garbage, but the fabric waist band is superior to the elastic-type band on on the thinner pair. So for $15 on average a pair, they get the job done but offer no support or warmth at all. Not bad for 5ks but I would never wear them on a long run. At Target I found a pair of shorts ($15) that although they are thicker than I normally would prefer, have been my go-to short for this past summer. The capris I bought, less so. While the fabric print is cool and a nice change from the straight up black of my other shorts and capris, they don't stay up until I have run at least a mile and have added enough sweat to make them stay put (yucky, sorry). Not so fun. For an average of $20 a pair, I wouldn't bother with capris from them, but the shorts were a nice surprise. Now for my go-to brand. Nike. I have had a pair of Nike shorts that I thought I would wear until the end of time..until my dog chewed them up :-( They were supportive and were a great base layer in the winter tempretures. I still haven't been able to find a similar pair that has the same leg length (I'm a long-short runner). For the winter I have a fantastic pair of lined tights from Nike that my husband bought me. They have seen 7 years of wear and still are supportive and warm. In fact, they are in my pack right now, waiting for a spin this afternoon. All in all, while you might have some one-in-a-million luck at the department stores, you'll probably find a lot more comfort in paying out a few extra dollars to get a pair of durable and well fitting bottoms. Shirts, on the other hand have been very tricky for me. I'm short waisted so a lot of running shirts run long in both the arms and the length. I think I have tried every variation out there. And most I should have left on the hanger, to be frank. I bought a super soft, pretty little pink t-shirt at Running Room, only to fight with it for a 5 miler to stop it from riding up..my abs aren't THAT nice and I don't want to give my neighbors a show. Often Walmart and Target t-shirts are not a lot better than what you get a races, baggy, ill-fitting through the shoulders and not durable after a few washes. I decided to take a chance and bought a Brooks t-shirt online (I know, I didn't even try it on!-gasp!) and I wore it until it hummed all the time..even after washing. It was a fabulous t-shirt. I then took a chance and got a long sleeved shirt for the winter at Target, and while I question the amount of venting it provides (I mean really, when you buy a long sleeved shirt you want to be warm, right?) it is a pretty little purple thing that does a decent job of staying put when I run while not being too clingy. In this category Target gets a hats off for decent long sleeved running shirts at a great price. Socks are the key to keeping your feet dry, comfy and free of blisters on the run. I've bought expensive ($25+) pairs of Nike, Running Room, toe socks and Brooks socks, and only the Nike socks have been durable and kept my feet free of blisters. On the other hand Walmart sells athletic socks for 10 for $10 that have honestly performed better than some $15 pairs I've owned. So in this category Nike and Walmart tie it up. In the end I would argue that for some running clothes you can certainly get away with going cheap. But for the essentials, like shorts and shirts I really recommend you try things on before you buy so you don't spend a run fighting with your clothes just to toss money out the window. Consider it an investment, lord knows my Nike tights have been worth their weight after 7 years. Not many other articles of clothing can boast they have lasted that long.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I made the team!

I did a double take, then a triple-take before I read the rest of the email from Mountain Hardware yesterday. "Congratulations, you've been chosen to be a Mountain Hardware Ambassador" was the line I read over and over. Seriously?! Me? YES!! I had submitted an application had crossed my fingers and hoped for the best but I never really believed I'd be picked to join the blogging ranks of runners like Geoff Roes or Ellie Greenwood. Whaaaaat!? Okay, okay, so all excitement aside, this is the deal. I run (duh), wear Mountain Hardware products (all supplied to me free!) and let you all know how it all went this winter. I'll be blogging, posting or tweeting once a week with an update and I'm thrilled to have you all follow along on my winter adventures around Nova Scotia. I'll be hitting the trails, exploring new places and trying to find interesting ways to test out Mountain Hardware products. I can't wait to get started! Now, onto my day-to-day. I've had a killer week so far, logging 10 miles on Monday and 8 miles yesterday. Today is a bit tougher with having to get my daughter to dance practice when I'd normally be finishing my workday to head out for a run, but I usually manage to squeeze in 7 miles or so on these days. I'm just hoping the rain holds off, at least until after dance class! I tried running to and from work on Monday, which was less than spectacular. It showed me though that I really should be incorporating more morning runs into my training because holy moly it was a long slog. I had a much better run in the afternoon, probably because that's what I've gotten used to, so lesson learned, yesterday I grabbed Nutty (my dog) and out we went out at 8am. Yesterday's 8 miler was much better, but it was also more of a fartlek workout since I had Nutty with me (stopping and sniffing every other telephone pole). It was nice to have the company though, however hairy ;-) Have a great day everyone, and happy running!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mini Goal 40-4-40

I've been settling into "base" training for the next season. So far (knocking on wood) so good. My ultimate goal is to build up my base mileage per week so when I start actual training in January I'll have a great foundation to build on and avoid overtraining (unlike last year). My runs in August and the first bit of September were 5 miles a day, for 5 days a week with a longer run on the 6th day. Then I increased that to 6 miles a day for 5 days a week with a longer run on the 6th day. That was until last week when I increased it for the last time (until january) to 7 miles a day, 5 days a week with a longer run on the 6th. When I figured out the math I realized I'd be hitting the 40 mile mark each week (maybe more depending on that long run). I thought that coincided nicely with the fact my hubby is turning the big 4-0 this year, in 4 weeks' time, in fact. The number coincidence was too much to bear so I've made it a mini goal. Run 40 miles a week, for 4 weeks, until Richard's 40th birthday. I asked him if he wanted me to go public, and raise money for a charity that he would chose, but he declined. I think having more than a few people know he's turning 40 is enough for him..putting it out on Facebook, yeah it's a bit much. Some runners might scoff and say 40 miles a week is measly, but my lord, if I can hold onto that streak it'll give me to biggest mileage count for a 4 week period ever (160 miles/257 kms). So, one week down, three more to go.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

To post or not to post?

For the past couple of months I've been able (thank god) to break out of my funk and get some consistent training under my belt. I've aimed to get at least 50km in a week, usually more. For the second month in a row I've managed to run more than 200kms. I should be posting that on Facebook or Twitter..hell yelling it from the rooftops, but I haven't. It's not like it hasn't taken commitment or persistence (it has) but it's that I feel like I would be rubbing it in someone else's face...namely another Facebook friend. She's gotten the running bug, which is awesome. She runs 10ks and loves to post pictures of herself running. For the past couple of months she's been posting how she's gotten to 125km in a month and how thankful she is, how great her body is for doing this, how wonderful the world is because of it (not really) blah, blah..etc.. Then it's followed up by comments about how epic her effort is, how inspiring she is for doing that, etc. It gets to be a bit much when I (enviously) read my other friends’ posts about how they just ran (yet) another 100km week. So do I post about my own accomplishments, knowing they might been seen as a slap in the Facebook face by her and a pathetic attempt to gain attention by the other friends who are mileage monsters? So, I do nothing, although I'm busting my ass and achieving mileage I'd never thought possible of myself. Is there room in social media for everyone, not just the overexcited newbies and experienced mileage masters? I don't know, so I follow other, more experienced runners' lead, and don't bother posting, because really, what's most important is that I'm proud of what I did, not the social media world. I think I hear the trails calling...;-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

No DNF today! Half Marathon Race Report

Everything hurts! But it's a good hurt, really. This morning as I woke up and felt all of my achy muscles protesting it erased any doubts I had yesterday about not giving the half marathon my all. I did. I didn't get the awesome, super PB time I was hoping for, but I had gone into the race knowing that a sub 2:10 would be out of the picture given my recent training times. So, hoping to come closer to 2:30 than 3:00 I had achieved my goal with a 2:38. And wow, can I feel every minute of it today! Yesterday was overcast with a chance of rain. Bah! I said, even if it does rain I knew I'd be covered most of the way by trees so I wasn't too concerned. I did choose to wear my husband's red running coat, you know, just in case. I filled my handheld, grabbed the energy bar I was pretty sure I wouldn't need and a wad of paper towel and was good to go. My husband and daughter drove me to the start and milled around with me in the 5 degree weather as I debated another porta potty break. Then it was time to line up and I managed to get both my watch and my music started before crossing the mat (a minor miracle for me). We took a different route than the last time I had run this trail half marathon but I enjoyed the change. This course took us through a whole other section of the park before having us all double back to the start to begin the second loop. In all we did three loops, doing the first one twice, making a bow tie with the start/finish in the center. I started off with the main pack-dangerous with this crew-and noted I was running a 5:30 per km pace. Whoa! I slowed myself down to a manageable 6:30 and tried to hold on as long as I could until I got to the first turn around. The way back took us all through a section I've run in the Bluenose marathon a couple of times so I knew what to expect there. I checked my watch again and I'd covered 3 miles in 34 minutes-pretty quick for me running a half marathon. Happy with that I focused on my music (podrunner) and kept plugging along until the next turn around. While I was making my way there I came upon an older runner who was clearly having trouble. He was hobbling badly so I stopped and offered my help. After a few minutes he was sitting, assured me he'd be ok and I headed back out on the trail. Not even before I hit the second turn around did someone come up beside me and declare his cramped calf muscle had popped and he felt great-was the older runner I had just helped. Ugh I said to myself as he trotted past, clearly feeling much better. I think karma rewarded me though because when I hit the second turn around they had a huge stock of salted caramel GUs. Yum! I grabbed some and started back, trying to stay focused and determined. Then, panic took over as I suddenly needed a porta potty. In the middle of the woods there was only one thing to do, go bushwhacking to some privacy off trail. Thank goodness I had brought the wad of paper towel! Embarrassing situation over, I tried to pick up the pace but realized how much harder that is to do after 14 or so kilometers. But, I pushed on, focusing even more on the podrunner 180bpm to keep my pace on track. At 16kms in I saw that I could realistically come in before the 3 hour mark and that was all I needed to push me through the final kilometers to the finish where my husband and daughter were there taking pictures and video taping me as I made the last turn and went across the mat (with a smile). There. Goal achieved. No DNF here today!