Saturday, March 3, 2012

Running stuff I love

Before I tell you about the running-related things I love right now, I thought I'd give a quick training update.  I started doing workouts this week and couldn't be more thrilled.  I've done two workouts with the instruction to run them as a progression and at light to medium effort.  They both went so much better than I thought they would.

I did a 4-mile fartlek workout of 1 minute on/1 minute off on Monday with my teammate, t-meat and my coach.  This was awesome because I was pushed by them and definitely completed the workout faster than I thought I would.  It was also a tricky workout.  Yes, I know it seems pretty straightforward.  The trick is that you run each mile faster than the one before.  If you think about that, not each mile has the same number of on and off minutes in it, so you have to be really careful to start out slow enough and then speed up both the "on" and "off" repeats.  We averaged 6:25 pace for the whole thing (including the off minutes), and negative split the workout.  It felt great to get the legs moving faster than the easy pace I've been running for the last four weeks.

Thursday, I did a traditional tempo run--something I haven't done in ages.  My goal was to start out very comfortable and cut down each mile, ensuring I had to keep my mind in the game to maintain pace the last mile.  I had the good fortune of having a partner for this one too (thanks, Bat)!  I started at a comfortable 6:36 pace and cut 5-8 seconds per mile off each mile, finishing at 6:22 pace.  My coach told me he doesn't want me worrying about paces right now.  The goal is to execute the workouts correctly, regardless of pace, to program my body and brain to always start out slowly and increase my speed.

Not only does this program require progressing within the workout, but each workout gets faster during the training block.  For example, I will start my next tempo run (in 2 weeks) at the average pace of the one I just did, so around 6:30 pace and cut down each mile from there.  The next will start at the average of that one and so on.  You can see how easy it would be to get sideways with this program if you start out too fast.  There's a lot of self control needed to get through the program in one piece.  I will also continue to up my mileage each week until I reach 80-85 miles per week at which point we'll assess whether I go higher or stay there and add cross training as a second workout some days.  I'll run a little over 50 miles this week.  

I feel like I have recently hit upon some real winners in the way of running-related stuff and wanted to share.  Here are some of my new favorite things:

Balega compression socks--the best of both worlds

The great thing about compression attire becoming popular is that the selection has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years.  I have worn compression sleeves and socks for close to three years now and have tried just about every brand.  I was hooked on CEP socks for a while because of the high level of support they offer, but I have always hated the foot of the sock.  I often found my foot sliding inside my shoe while wearing CEP socks and would end up with crazy blisters, especially when wearing my racing flats.  Compression sleeves are an alternative that allow me to wear whatever sock I like, but the compression is just not the same with those.

So, imagine how excited I was to see that my favorite sock brand, Balega, started making a compression sock AND that was selling them for half the price of CEPs!  I immediately ordered a pair and was very pleased.  They do not have the tight compression of the CEPs that requires 10 minutes to roll them up your lower leg, but what appears to be less compression certainly does the job.  I love wearing these socks for recovery with boots at work too.


Right before the Olympic Trials, I started to use Nuun.  I honestly can't recall why I bought a container of these tablets--probably product placement near the checkout counter (gets me every time), but I am so happy I did.  I was plopping these tabs into my water on a daily basis before the race and felt much better for pumping those electrolytes into my body.  I like the fact that I can use my own water bottle with these too,  eliminating my consumption of sports drinks in plastic bottles.  They also have no sugar or corn syrup or nasty artificial flavors or colors in them.  This helps keep my water bottles and my body clean.

I liked the product so much that I decided to try a 1/2 tablet with water in each of my special fluid bottles at the Olympic Trials.  It's typically not a good idea to try something new on race day, but I felt like I wasn't taking a big chance with this.  I loved the combination of Roctane Gu and Nuun tabs for fueling.  I normally will only take water in a marathon because of concerns that sports drink would impede my digestion of Gu during the race.  The addition of Nuun didn't have that effect.  It was the perfect complement to the Gu I was taking every 5-7 miles.  


With the large volume of running I typically do, I have relied a lot on finding good tools for self massage (keep it clean, here). My favorites are my $2 lacrosse ball, and the Grid.  I recently dusted off my Stick  when I was having soreness in my calf muscles and was reminded how great a tool that is.  I decided to see what new devices were out there on the market that I could try out.  I ordered the MuscleTrac because it was similar to The Stick and the description on their website sounded convincing.  It was a $45 investment that I felt I could afford to make.  What I like about the product is that I can really dig into areas in my muscles with adhesions.  The little knobs are more effective at getting at the adhesions, I think, than the flat rollers on The Stick and it is a nice alternative to a Lacrosse ball for my calf muscles and quads.  I like having the whole suite of tools, actually, because they each give a different result.

LuluLemon MacGyver Jacket

I need to admit that I have an addiction.  My addiction is to LuluLemon running gear.  Yes, their gear is cute, feminine and fits really well, but the main reason I love their stuff is because it does not stink!  This is a small miracle for someone like me who spends a lot of time in workout gear and has oft been embarrassed by the perma-stink that emanates from my old moisture-wicking shorts and bras within milliseconds of beginning a workout.  I have a very sensitive nose and absolutely cannot stand the smell of dozens of workouts on my clothes.  I tried everything to get the stink out of my old clothes, and I mean everything!  Feel free to suggest things I haven't tried, but I believe I have exhausted my possibilities.

I was super skeptical about Lulu's claim on the anti-stink properties of most of their fabrics, but I am now a believer.  I have put these clothes through the test too!  I have worn some of their silverscent shirts 2-3 times trying to get my BO stink to embed in them with no luck.  The shorts I have found to be easier to stink up, but the stink also seems to wash out of them with a regular wash using regular detergent and doesn't continue to build.

Another thing I love about the products is that they are very creative with their designs.  I love to explore the new garments I get to find the hidden pockets and special writing on the inner lining.  I love one of my tops right now that has words on the inside of the built-in hand mitts that state "cold hands" on the left inner glove and "warm heart" on the right.  There's something special about these little features that make me smile when I put on the garment.

The jacket I am enjoying the most right now is what I call my MacGyver jacket.  It is a warm, down jacket that I run in when temperatures are below 40.   I thought at first that running in this thing would leave me boiling by the end of the workout, but it has these amazing long zippered vents on both sides in the front that effectively cool you down and the under sleeves are a light, stretchy fabric that allows your pits to let off steam.  By far the best feature is the reversible nature of the jacket.  It becomes a reflective beacon when you turn it inside-out.  Perfect for cold, dark, early mornings.  It's also very fashionable, and I wear it around with regular clothes too.  And it doesn't stink!

One of the challenges with LuluLemon is that their popular products fly off the shelves and they don't seem to replenish their stock.  So, you have to be willing to bite the bullet and pay what seems to be a hefty price for something that you really like before it is gone forever.  Well, you can always find stuff on eBay, but the price is typically jacked way up!  Many people complain about how expensive their clothes are, but they are not much more than other brands.  I will always pay more for a superior product, anyway, especially one that keeps me from stinking like a dog's overly expressive anal gland.      

believeiam Relaxed Hoody

I adore my believeiam hoody-dress.  It is my go-to post-workout and lounging-around-the-house clothing option that I can slip on over tights or wear as a dress.  I love the idea behind the cryptic floral designs printed on the believeiam products.  If you look closely, you see that the flower is actually a bunch of letters forming an inspirational word.  The idea is to wear the clothing as a costume so that when you put it on, it's doing more than just covering your body parts--it makes you feel relaxed or strong or whatever the flower design says.  I actually own two of these hoodies now.  I found out the hard way that you shouldn't clean the house with bleach in garments you care about.  I now have a white spotted house cleaning hoody and a hoody that I can wear out in public.  Unfortunately, the bleach spots did not form an inspirational word on my hoody, but they did inspire me to belt out a few choice words of my own!            

Here's to cool gear and running happy!


  1. Nice going with the workouts. That's great advice from your coach about executing the workouts correctly and not worrying about paces. I think that can apply when conditions aren't great (hot or windy). Also, some athletes just see the times run in a workout as the determining factor of the success (or otherwise) of the workout. They'll strain to hit particular times, or hit the times early and then fade.

    With the compression socks, aside from the recovery benefits do you think they provide any time benefit in a race?

  2. I think that's spot on, Ewen, though I must admit it is tough to see slow paces and not get discouraged about lost fitness. I have just decided to embrace the process as a progression rather than look at any one workout.

    I am not sure what to say about racing in compression socks. I am not sure they offer an advantage in that race. I generally do race in them, but that is because I feel like I recover faster if I wear them. Perhaps that's an advantage for later races?

  3. First time commenter, long time reader...TOTALLY can relate to the bleach thing...but they're so darn comfortable and look great! I just wanted to say, I love reading about your journey. As a 40-something runner, who may not have the raw talent, but has an unlimited amount of passion for running, I admire your drive and perseverance. I totally understand where you're coming from. I've sometimes said "She's crazy!", while reading your blog; but at the same time, hearing myself in your words and understanding exactly where you're coming from. And it's been reassuring.

    As much as i'd like to convince myself that I should just pack it in, that running sucks , I should forget about running...I should just take up golf....I can't. My dream is to run Boston. And that dream just won't die, no matter what I tell myself. So, thank you for never, ever quitting! You're an inspiration.

    1. Lisa, your comment made me cry a little! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I'm quite glad you find my craziness reassuring:) I doubt you're ever going to convince yourself to pack it in. Keep dreaming and you will get there!!!!