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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get some great free stuff to review. StrideBox kindly sent me two boxes full of running goodies over the last two months. Let me just say straight up that I’m a pretty thrifty (okay fine, call me cheap) person and usually I would not sign up for a subscription service like StrideBox. But I also believe that money spent on fitness is money well spent, and at the current price of $15 per month, I can see how StrideBox is a good value for the avid runner. I particularly love that there are various gift subscriptions available (hint hint) without any long-term commitment.

First of all, it was a delight to receive a box in the mail. There’s something so fun and indulgent about receiving a package and opening it up to see what’s inside. And the great thing about StrideBox is that you’re bound to find at least one or two gems in each box. Not everything is going to be a winner, but that’s okay! It’s worth it to find out you didn’t like that particular protein cookie, but you really loved that flavor of protein bar.

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I wonder what’s inside this carefully wrapped StrideBox?

My first box contained lots of wonderful goodies.

 

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My absolute favorite, and something that I wouldn’t have found on my own, were the iGloves. They are the perfect weight for a chilly SoCal morning and they actually work when I try to start a podcast on my iPhone. No more tearing off my gloves in frustration when I want to answer a text or open the MapMyRun app.

I was surprised to find that I liked the Yogurt Berry PR Bar better than the Peanut Butter Granola one (which was also good, but both my 8-year-old and I preferred Yogurt Berry).

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Can’t forget the sports detergent that was in the box too.

In the second box, I found a few more favorites.

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Lots of goodies, treats and tips.

I am already a fan of Honey Stinger Waffles in my marathon training, and I am excited to try the Wildflower Honey flavor. And the morning I opened the box, I used the new-to-me Escape SPF 50 lip balm – a must-have in sunny Southern California. I look forward to having the HyperGo After Sports Wipe when I am out and about, trying a new trail somewhere while one of my kids is at ballet camp or tennis camp this summer and I’m squeezing in a run while waiting to pick her up. Love the massage tool too – that will really come in handy after a long run.

All in all I recommend StrideBox for a fun treat for yourself or the passionate runner in your life!

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Twelve more days until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon! I’m in the thick of taper — or more accurately, the thin of taper as the training miles thin out and my muscles recover to get ready for race day. I used to hate taper and the nervous energy that comes with it, but I’ve learned a few tricks to harness that nervous energy and put it to productive use.

10 Productive Things to Do during Taper

1. Review the race course. Check out the course map online and look at the elevation profile.

With a net elevation loss of over 5,000 feet, here's hoping runners of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon did some downhill training in preparation for race day!

With a net elevation loss of over 5,000 feet, here’s hoping runners of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon did some downhill training in preparation for race day!

If it’s a smaller race or you’re hoping to be in the front of the pack (not me) make sure you know the turns. I’m lucky with the REVEL Canyon City Marathon because the directions are like, “Yo, run 23 miles down the mountain on route 39 and continue on Azusa Avenue.” It’s nearly impossible to get lost with just a few turns in the last two miles of the course.

2. Review your fueling strategy. Um, I confess I kind of failed on practicing my fueling strategy during training. I did try out a new fuel I’m very happy with — Honey Stinger Waffles. But after I signed up for REVEL Canyon City many months ago, I forgot all about checking the on-course fuel and I trained with Gatorade as my sports drink for the past six months. I just checked the course electrolyte drink and it’s not Gatorade — it’s PowerBar Perform. Oops. I’ve got just one more long run to test my tummy when I fuel with that. Fingers crossed.

3. Try out any new race gear, even if it’s the same brand/model you always use. I trained over the past few months with two pairs of Brooks Adrenaline 14s. They each have about 250 miles on them (which I know thanks to the Gear Tracker on MapMyRun.com) so I ordered up a new pair of Adrenalines for the race. I will put about 30-40 miles on them before race day just to make sure they fit the same and there are no flaws in the shoes (I’ve always been happy with Brooks but I have heard horror stories of people ordering the same brand and model of shoes they’ve always worn and finding problems with them). Plus I like to change out the laces with Lock Laces (see the link below to Marathon Tip #1: Fasten Your Shoes with Lock Laces) and test them out ahead of time to make sure the fit is right.

4. Decide if, when and how to carbo-load. The literature is unclear on whether carbo-loading really helps (especially for women) but in my personal experience I find it helps and certainly doesn’t hurt. In the three days before the marathon, I increase carbs to about 70% of my daily diet. That translates to 10 to 11 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight. I like to lay out a general plan of how to reach that total amount of carbohydrates because it’s harder than you think. Of course, every time I taper remind myself to write down that plan to save for next time, and every time I completely forget about it in the excitement leading up to and after race day. Maybe this time I’ll actually type my plan on the computer and keep it for Boston 2016!

5. Go over your travel and race day logistics. I did this yesterday and it eased my mind a lot. I wrote out directions to drive to the expo to pick up my bib and directions to the parking on race day. I gulped a little when I saw that I need to be at the marathon parking between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to catch a bus for the one-hour ride up the mountain. That’s going to mean getting up around 3:45 a.m., getting to the parking at 4:30 or so, arriving at the start at Crystal Lake Cafe around 5:30 a.m., and being prepared to wait in the cold for an hour and half before the race starts at 7 a.m. Thankfully the race organizers provide coffee, hot chocolate, gloves, and mylar blankets at the start. I’m actually really excited to be racing in cool weather after months and months of training in the heat. I mean, come on, Southern California, 90 degrees for the high today on October 26? Have mercy on us!

6. Keep your family and friends involved. If the race offers real-time tracking, send out the link to track you on race day. Pick a place to meet your fellow runner friends at the start of the race and your loved ones at the finish. If you will not have support at the race (ugh, Santa Rosa Marathon — great race but I missed having someone there!), make sure you have a solid plan for recovering and getting back to your hotel or home safely.

7. Trim your nails a few days before the race but don’t go crazy with it! And leave those hard-earned calluses intact. You don’t want to end up with black toenails after the race, but you also don’t want to have sore toes or feet before the race.

8. Gather your gear and put together a checklist for race day. This post should probably be titled 11 Productive Things to Do during Taper because in order to gather your gear, you also need to check the weather for race day. I’m going with a short-sleeved technical tee and Saucony Bullet shorts. I’ll take a hat, sweatshirt and sweatpants with me to wear until it’s time to turn in my gear bag.

9. Write down your race goals. And notice how I said “goals” and not “goal.” I already laid out my race goals for REVEL Canyon City.

10. Visualize the race to boost your confidence and calm your nerves. I’m willing to bet that at some point all marathoners have that nightmare where they oversleep on race day or can’t find the starting line and they end up running around frantically, wasting energy they should be saving for the race itself. To try to head off that kind of bad dream, I practice visualizing myself at the starting line. I’ve successfully completed my training and arrived at the race healthy (that’s half the challenge right there!) I’ve got all my gear and my Garmin is fully charged and working. I start out at a steady pace — not too fast — and slowly work up to race pace. I execute my running and fueling strategies and cross the finish line with a smile on my face!

For more advice on what to do (and not do) during taper, see 10 Tips for Taper. And for more marathon training and racing tips, see:

Marathon Tip #1: Train for the Course and Race Conditions
Marathon Tip #2: Fasten Your Shoes with Lock Laces

What’s your best advice for gearing up for race day? Do you have a race coming up on your calendar?

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My family stays active through a wide variety of activities. Take Mondays for example. My marathon training plan usually calls for an easy 3-4 mile run that day. My husband and oldest daughter practice tennis together for a couple of hours in the evening. My middle daughter attends ballet class, and my youngest goes to her pre-competitive swimming lesson. I love it! But you know what I don’t love? The laundry that goes with it all. With five sets of regular clothes and five sets of workout outfits and towels, I do an average of two loads of laundry a day (much of which is technical gear that has to be hung to dry!) Often my family members end up pulling clean clothes from the laundry bins before we even get a chance to sort them and put them away. And can you guess what the number one most sought after item is? A matched pair of workout socks. I am constantly in competition with my husband and eldest daughter for those darn socks. I have tried everything – buying multiple pairs of plain white socks, buying each person a unique brand and color of socks, it doesn’t matter. Those socks are in such high demand that every matched pair is fair game.

In an attempt to defeat the sock pilferers, I ordered up a pair of performance socks that would be mine, all mine, not only due to the pink and white color (defeating the teen who claims to hate pink) but also due to the awesome female empowerment message on them (take that dear husband)!

She Believed She Could Socks

So She Did Socks

I hid the socks away until I could try them out on a short run. The first thing I noticed is that they are super soft and feel great on my feet. They come in one-size-fits-all which suits my rather large feet well (size 9.5 regular shoe, 11 running shoe). I also like that the ankle height is higher than the average running sock which means that they don’t get pulled below the tongue of the shoe in front or rub on the heel in back.

The one thing to be careful with these socks is that the weave is looser than normal, which I discovered when I snagged my ring on it as I took them off after my run. But they’ve held up well after two more washings and dryings, and — did you see this one coming? — two more wears by my teenager! Yup, she stole these socks too and she likes them! (My husband has yet to steal them but I wouldn’t put it past him. He has gorgeous long hair and is often mistaken for a woman when waiters come up behind him at restaurants. And can you guess who he’s going as for Halloween? Caitlyn Jenner.)

I finally managed to steal the socks back again from the clean laundry and I wore them on the perfect occasion — my ballerina’s “parent participation night” at the ballet studio. Now, parent participation night was fun and easy when my daughter was in Ballet 2 and we did all the most basic moves. But this time she is in Ballet 4 and I got a real taste of the athleticism of these girls! With all the running I do I’ve got some pretty tight muscles and it was quite a challenge to do the barre work and the floor moves. As I lined up with the two other brave mothers to do a series of leaps across the room, I flashed them my socks. Remember ladies, “She believed she could, so she did!”

So if you’ve got a female best running friend or an athlete in the family, these socks would make a thoughtful gift before a big race or a great stocking stuffer at Christmas. Or treat yourself to a pair as a motivation or a reward, just beware the sock pilferers in your own home!

Hooray for Made in the USA

Hooray for Made in the USA

These Socrates performance socks retail for $8.99 at GoneForaRun.com. I received a free pair of socks for review purposes but was not compensated for my honest review.

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Today I turned 43 years young! I took a few minutes this morning to reflect on the fact that I am more fit now than when I was 33 or even 23 (not when I was 13 though — I was a competitive swimmer then, training alongside Olympian Janet Evans before she became Olympian Janet Evans.)

My family spoiled me from the moment I got up this morning. I turned off the alarm on my cellphone and then checked my email to find that my husband had booked my airline tickets to Santa Rosa — that’s right, I’m headed back to Santa Rosa in September to run Ragnar Napa Valley with my college roommate Renee and the rest of the Ragnaritas!!

Then I saw that my 9-year-old chose to wear this shirt today:

I love mom

and she insisted on making my coffee for me in the Bodum French Press. She is very handy in the kitchen and she makes excellent coffee!

Also waiting on the counter for me was this beauty:

Breville Juice Fountain Duo

Breville Juice Fountain Duo

I have wanted a juicer for a long time and my husband got me the perfect one! And you’ve gotta love the note he left with it:

The note says "Boston Fuel Machine. Happy birthday!"

The note says “Boston Fuel Machine. Happy birthday!”

So, even though the cat threw up on the carpet this morning and I have to spend my birthday evening at the junior high for 2-3 hours of Back to School Night, it’s a very happy birthday indeed! P.S. I got the best birthday wishes on Facebook too. Someone knew just what I wanted:

Have a wonderful day and may you cross the finish line ever earlier.

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You might recall that last spring I won a Saucony spring trio of running clothes from the lovely ladies at Another Mother Runner.

Saucony spring running outfit

Saucony spring running outfit

I promised to post a picture of me in the gear as soon as I got my act together enough to take a photo of myself. Problem is I was a little too busy actually working out in the gear to take a decent pre-workout photo of myself and it wouldn’t quite be fair to Saucony to take a post-workout photo — trust me! The good news is that I have tested the gear all summer long during marathon training and I love it!

And here's the awesome Saucony spring trio in action! Yes, I put on my new green running shoes to match my green jacket, but I swear I only bought the green shoes because they were the cheapest, not because I care about being matchy-matchy!

And here’s the awesome Saucony spring trio in action! Yes, I put on my new green running shoes to match my green jacket, but I swear I only bought the green shoes because they were the cheapest, not because I care about being matchy-matchy!

Now that I’ve put the gear to the test I can list some things I like about each item:

Saucony Run Lux short-sleeve running shirt: the tailored fit is great, but the thing I like best about this shirt is the bright pink color. I wear this shirt on all my long runs when I am going to be out on the road and need to be as visible as possible to car drivers.

Women’s Ignite Tight Capri (on sale now for $13 in black-on-black sizes XS and M!!): I wear these when I want a little more coverage than my skimpy compression shorts provide. They are comfortable and practical for all sorts of weather. Best thing about them though is the zippered pocket in the back where I can store a key during those shorter runs when I do not wear my fuel belt.

Saucony Transcendence Jacket: Fortunately I haven’t had to wear this windbreaker/rain jacket in any bad weather here in Southern California but I anticipate wearing it more often this fall. I love that it’s lightweight yet functional, and it has thumb holes in the sleeves. My 11-year-old saw me in it yesterday and begged to me to let her wear it, so you know it has the cute factor going for it!

Thanks again Saucony and Another Mother Runner!

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I wore my Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch for the Spring Blast Half Marathon on May 11 (race recap here). I had fun uploading the data to Garmin Connect online and analyzing the race splits. As you might recall, my target race pace was 8:35 per mile, and I came in overall at 8:40 per mile. The chart below says I came in at 8:37 due to a 3 second difference between my Garmin running time and the race official’s stopwatch, and between the 13.1 miles on the course and the 13.17 I actually ran as I navigated the course and dodged people on the path (I didn’t think I did much of that but obviously enough to add 0.07 — a little over a football field in length — to the course):

GPS Garmin Race Splits

Overall I’m happy with how it went. In analyzing these splits, I can tell that wearing a GPS watch helps me a lot. If I don’t wear one and don’t pay attention to my average pace for the current mile, I go out way too fast in the beginning of the race when I feel fantastic, and I don’t push hard enough when I start to lose steam toward the end. For the half marathon, knowing my mile splits helped me keep more of an even pace. In fact, when I checked to see if I negative split the run, I found I came in at nearly even splits, taking just 15 seconds more to run the second half of the race than the first.

You can tell by the mile splits above that I felt really good through about mile 9, then started to lose steam at mile 10 as I was going up the slight incline, then picked up speed on the way back down for mile 11, slogged through mile 12 at about 15 seconds behind the goal pace, then gave it my all for mile 13 at 6 seconds ahead of pace, and sprinted to the finish at 40 seconds ahead of goal pace.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t obsess over my race splits or beat myself up over what I could have or should have done. It’s simply interesting to look back over it and see how the splits compare to how I felt during the race.

Do you wear a GPS watch for training runs and races? I love my Garmin and I wear it most of the time, but I make sure to take it off occasionally and just run naked.

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Running emboldens me and humbles me at the same time. I can go from the high of finishing a great race to the low of gutting out a tough training run. Through it all I open myself up to feeling vulnerable, to meeting new challenges, to learning more about myself and the sport. And inevitably along the way I find little nuggets of encouragement, often when I need them most (Thank You Kind Sir, Twenty Mile Run to the Ocean, Twenty Miles on Coyote Creek Trail).

On Saturday I finished up week 11 of 16 weeks of training for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. Five more weeks to go. I’m vacillating between “Let’s do this already” and “I can’t believe it’s coming up so fast.” I’ve completed four of five 20-mile training runs. As the training ramps up and up and up, I find myself doubting my plan. Can I complete it without getting injured? Is it wise to follow an advanced marathon training plan for my second marathon? Saturday’s 20-mile run to the beach went well but left me feeling spent (as a good long run naturally should!) As I sat on the beach, warming up after soaking my tired legs in the cold Pacific Ocean:

Note that I am wearing a Saucony running visor. Then read the next sentence!

Note that I am wearing a Saucony running visor. This will be important.

I received word that I had won a Saucony running outfit from one of Another Mother Runner‘s “hump day giveaways”! I had just run 20 miles wearing my Saucony running visor, and I won a Saucony outfit!

Saucony spring running outfit compliments of Another Mother Runner!

Saucony trio compliments of Another Mother Runner!

Would you believe that I do not own any running capris? Or a running top that has a zippered storage pocket in the back? Or a windbreaker running jacket? How lucky am I?! It’s lovely to receive this much-needed running gear. Even more lovely is the encouragement it gives me. I choose to take this lucky win as a good omen, one that says, “You’re on the right path. Keep going! You can do it!”

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