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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is it taper time already?!

Alrighty, it's supposed to be taper time. Bah! I say. I've been steadily logging weeks of 60+kms with the odd scale-back week of between 40-50kms since September. The Shubie trail HM is in a week and although I don't have any plans to cut down on my running between now and..say Wednesday..no Thursday next week I think things will work out ok. My best long runs have come after taking a day or two off and I know I can go the distance. And I've already let my husband know this will NOT be a PB at this distance, so he might as well wait 3 hours before coming back to get me. There. I think I've got it covered. Oh, and I've already got my caffeine for the race so now all I have to do is pick up a bar of some kind in case I get hungry. Remember the goal here is to finish, not PB or drop out after half (of the half) because of whatever reason. I'm getting a bit hyper focused on finishing one of these races this year, since the last one I completed the full distance was (shockingly) back in MAY! How did this happen? One DNF turned into a DNS and another DNF! Ack! This just had to stop. There's no timing chip, no bling, not even a silly t-shirt at this race, but it doesn't matter. The point is to get out there, enjoy the racing atmosphere on a course I know well and get'r done! Now that I've got my head around the race I'm already looking into next year's season. I know a wee bit crazy. Of course I'll be back for the Waskally Wrabbit 50k in May. I think my daughter's plans to run the Bluenose 10k might get squished though since I think she has a big dance competition that weekend, so I'm thinking as a family we might run the Johnny Miles races in my old hometown of New Glasgow the month following. We'll see. The race organizers around here don't tend to set their race schedule until December and January so I'll have lots of time to think about the races between now and then! But for now, I'll try and focus on not over training before this HM!

Monday, October 6, 2014

They're all gone. Sorry.

There I sat, for probably the tenth time, scanning the Merrell.com website hoping to find some sign of recognition. All out rush? No, the pattern on the side was similar but not the same. Mix Master Move Glide? No, the tread pattern used diamond shapes, not circles. Grr. I cursed myself half-heartedly again for buying a pair of running shoes at a discount place in the states and promptly tossing the box and forgetting to note the bloody name of these shoes! I think a lot of us have been there. We buy a pair of shoes, forget to remember the name of the model and by the time it comes to replace them the model is either A. Changed. Because it is six months later and that's about as long as the life expectancy of a shoe model these days, or B. Is out there..somewhere..on some website's clearance/discount page..just waiting..and so there I sat on my laptop scanning ebay, outdoor discount retailers and amazon.com to track down MY shoe. It took about a half hour on amazon.com before I hit the jackpot. (Why I hadn't found it in my previous three dozen attempts I. Do. Not. Know.)...but now is not the time to ask questions(!), now was the time to pray that this shoe was in my size and not going to cost regular price PLUS shipping to Canada. Now I am not a huge miracle person. I do believe they can happen, yes, but overall I think we make our own luck. I tend to think many other ultra runners would agree since we are the type of people who spend countless hours training ourselves to accomplish feats most people would rather watch from the couch with a bag of chips. There's no miracle in finishing a 50k, if you've put in the hard training, have some personal resilience and determination, you can get'r done. But yesterday wasn't a day for the pay off of hard work (well, maybe a bit since it was a lot of hard Internet searching!). No, somehow I had found the shoe, in my size, and not for a million dollars. The Mix Master Glide. Yup. I had managed to find a two year old shoe to love. No wonder it took forever to track down on a website. And to top it all off, it was the Last Pair. Period. In my size or any other. It took me a few seconds of debating but in the end they're on their way to me now. Sorry, if you're looking for a pair of Merrell's Mix Master Glides in a size 7, they'll be coming north to ride the trails of Nova Scotia in the next 5-10 business days.