Monday, August 22, 2011

All about the gear

The first thing that any runner has to learn is that it is all about the gear. From making sure you have the right sports bra (this is crucial trust me) to making sure that you have the right sock for 30+ miles, its easy to get overwhelmed and overspent on running gear. For some, gear isn't important....for those of us who have climbed in the shower after wearing the wrong pair of running shorts and yelped  as the water (which you swear is made of thumbtacks) hit those raw inner thighs....we know different. So I decided I would list a few of my favs since I get a lot of questions about what I wear/eat/carry on long races. These are just my thoughts and are in no way product endorsements so take it as you will:

1.Shoes- I have been and always will be a Saucony girl. Since the 8th grade I have donned some sort of form of the Jazz edition and loved them always.
Bonus: They are not that from $65-$75 dollars.
Bummer: They aren't always in stock. Pretty popular so when I do find them, I buy two.

2. Socks- OK so far I love the Injinjis for long runs. I did pick up a pair or two of Smartwool's as well and currently have some regular Asics and Saucony's for the rest of the runs.
Bonus: Pretty long lasting compared to the athletic socks I wear all the time at work
Bummer: Performance socks can be pricey...check out sales/clearances

3. Tights (Capri and full length)- I am tall so I have issues with length of tights but tried and true Nike comes through for me. Fabric is always just right and there is always a drawstring and pocket.
Bonus: There is a Nike outlet down 85 South in Gaffney that carries a decent selection
Bummer: Sells out of sizes quickly when the weather turns

4. Shorts- I have fallen in love with the Saucony Run Lux shorts. I have quads and thighs so inevitably they will rub when I run. These shorts stay put 99% of the time (nothing stays put in humidity) and are so soft.
Bonus: They are the perfect length and don't have that unflattering split on the side
Bummer: Don't have a zip pocket in the back

5. Sports Bras- Not needing to strap anything down per say, I prefer the Champion brand. They last a long time and are made of the more polyester material as opposed to cotton which gets too bulky for me when I sweat. They come in a ton of patterns and colors so its easy to match
Bonus: Its a pretty popular brand so its available at most Targets, Dicks and sporting goods stores
Bummer: You have to cover up the pretty colors in the winter

6. Shirts- Yes I know this covers a lot but here is my opinions:
Tank- Nike singlet. Lightweight and flattering cut without those giant armholes or tight compression (yuck)
Base Shirt- Again, I like the Nike fitted running t's. They are dri-fit and very light...flattering length too
Long Sleeve- My closet is full of these, but my favorite has to be the Skirtsports Long Sleeve Runner Tee. I'll spear the men all the cute details, but ladies do check it out. It is very cute and very functional.
Vest- Have two but love my Mountain Hardwear running vest. It was pricey but has saved my butt many times. Its very thin but offers a ton of protection in a packable form.

7. Accessories- Covers the rest of what you may need:
Hats/Visors- Haven't found a bad one yet but I tend to look for the Headsweats brand. The terry cloth inside the brim works wonders for heavy sweaters.
Thermal hats- Love my Saucony beanie. Has a hole for the pony tail and covers my ears without making me feel deaf when I run.
Arm warmers-  Nike Livestrong. Its a personal preference but I support the foundation so I proudly don them. If you haven't discovered them, they are detachable sleeves...fantastic for days where you don't want to have to peel off the long sleeve but isn't warm enough for short.
Glasses- These can get crazy expensive, but I took the advise of Runner's World and tried Ryders. They are inexpensive but have lasted my beating them up.
Gloves- Nike thermal running gloves-keeps my hands pretty warm and the best part is that is has a build in terry cloth section on the index finger for your runny winter nose. That alone is worth its weight in gold.
Headlamp- I love my Tikka 2 Plus. Simply put it's cheap, easy to find and has a good battery. I wore it on my 24hr run and had no issues as all with it. Very comfortable.
Watch- I'm a stickler for pace and distance so I am all about my Garmin. Love it or leave it, you can't beat it
Waterbottle- Ok this one I am passionate about. Do yourself a favor and go buy an Amphipod. They are the bright green/yellow bottles with frogs on them. Whoever designed them is a genius. They are so comfortable and keep your hand relaxed while you run. Come in various sizes and have thermal sleeves as an accessory. Best on the market hands down.
Hydration Pack- Nathan Intensity Race Vests- Ergonomically designed to ride in the high center of the back (to avoid slumping) Pockets galore on the front of the best for carrying all the goodies for the race.

Again, these are just my musings but these are my favorites. You don't have to shell out a lot of money for the gear from above but some things are worth it (the Garmin will run you the most)  I encourage you to spend time online looking for deals. Anyone who knows me will tell you that very rarely will I pay full price. Here are a few websites to check for deals:

Also do visit the outlets, they run some good off deals. Its worth the trip to Gaffney or the Tangier outlets just a short drive in Georgia (one in Dohlenega and one in Commerce).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Victim of Training

As you see on the right side of this hand dandy blog, I have a few races coming up. I am biting the bullet and trying to hit the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon at the Ridge to Bridge Marathon. Which coincidentally is going to be my first "official" marathon. See I sort of leap frogged the natural progression of racing. Usually it starts with the 5ks and 10ks then onto half marathons and full marathons and then to Triathlons. Well this little lady decided  to jump into a 50k after her first half and skip that progression. My first 26.2 mile run happened during that race...with 4 miles left to go! So the R2B will be my first recorded/timed/official marathon. Which leads to training

The training doesn't seem so bad on paper as it hangs on the wall of my office/cubicle. I admit I am a bit intimidated by the 7+ miles of "screaming downhills" that are part of the race. But I am sticking to the plan (thanks Tom) and hoping for the best.  That means lots of miles. Lots and lots. Did I mention the mileage???

Its not easy to have your feet hit the floor at 5am and don running clothes while your eyes still want to stay shut and your body wants to stay in bed. That leads me to this morning's story. I have once again managed to loose a part of myself in training... another unfortunate victim of  long distance running. This time it happened in my sleep (poor pinki toe) and left me with a full foot of painted nails minus one. Much to my husband's dismay we found it frolicking in the bed sheets when I noticed it was missing. This side effect, no matter what anyone tells you, is unavoidable in my case.

Minus one :(
God did not grant me beautiful feet without imperfections. Instead he smacked me with a dose of heredity that leaves me with a less than appealing set that are not sandal ready at any point in time. I make amends with the general public by keeping the nails painted...or at least where the nail used to be, painted. To date I have lost 3 and probably more to come. I have lubed up, changed socks, tried Injinjis (those weird little toe socks), cut my nails, loosened my shoes, changed my shoes, soaked my feet and everything under the sun...and yet at the end of it all there are still blisters (although the Injinjis do help with that) and black toe nails.

Sigh...just can't be beautiful all the time. Isn't distance running glamorous? Not to mention the chafing, sweating, poison ivy, mud, rain, snow, puking, peeing in the woods, roadkill, bugs, spiderwebs (if you have ever run at the USNWC you know) and much much more that we distance people endure for this fantastic sport. It's all part of the process, and if it means my toe nails are the only price I pay for sticking to the training and loving the miles, I would give them all up. So the next time you are propping your pretty little tootsies up, take a look at your feet and think of mine...minus a few nails, lol.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A little explaning to do

Nike Human Race- Chicago
Ok so I admit, I am not a fan of blogging. I don't really enjoy reading the thoughts of other people, nor do I wish that was one of my super powers (given a choice) But since I somehow managed to land an ambassadorship with Michelob Ultra...I have to give it a shot.

To put it bluntly, I am a runner reborn . I started way back in the 7th grade running cross country for Marlington Middle School (hats off to my coach Butch) and ran a total 4 varsity years under the tutelage of one of the best cross country coaches in the world, Jerry Marshall and his fantastic assistant coach Molly Middleton. After pursuing two miserable years in college athletics at Kent State University, I stopped running altogether. I mean I would take an occasional jog here and there, but no racing or serious mileage. Mostly to keep my slowing metabolism at bay and my ass in a size 8 jeans. Along the way my husband John and I raced a few odds and ends races like the Nike Human Race in Chicago and Columbus and the Princess Half Marathon at Disney World (which I finished and swore I would never race anything longer than that.)

Fast forward to my brilliant idea to race in the Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series last year...and pursue victory in the "Athena" category. During my racing  my training partner, Tracy, filled my ear with the idea of doing longer races. I had complained to her that I didn't enjoy the 5ks as much as I once did so she suggested we give the New River 50k a shot.Forgetting what I swore at Disney World, I agreed. As we stood on the starting line that brisk October morning with about 75 others, Tom Patch (a fellow Ultra Runner, friend and coach) turned to me and politely asked "so Anji, what's your longest run far?" Knowing that I was new to this ultra running scene and having just known me through a mutual friend at the time (Beacham) Tom was simply holding conversation. I bravely stated "13 miles." This incurred the stares and chuckles from about half of the runners. I admit, I hadn't run anything close to the 30+ miles this race was calling for...and I was scared. That led to the 5+ hours of my first Ultra Race and I was hooked. Many a funny stories came from that race day, including a lost skittle and a spooked horse...but mostly it blossomed my love for distance running. I finished the Grand Prix series with the Athena Title (or as Ken calls it the "fastest fat girl in Charlotte")and decided to hang up the short runs and pursue this mystical beast called "Ultra Running".  Since then I have competed in the Freedom Park New Years Ultra, the Black Mountain Monster  and the Uwharrie Mountain Run. I have so much to learn and so far to go, but that is part of the journey and I am glad to be on it!

Tracy, Tom and I at the Freedom Park New Year's Ultra
Ok so that's how I started racing again...but why the Peanut Butter and Jelly, right? Well during that first race in Virginia, there was an aid station at the halfway point that had these little pb&js on homemade bread. They tasted like manna from heaven!! I couldn't understand why a tiny little square of protein, sugar and carbs could taste so magnificent. Whatever the staple has become PB&J's at every race and every midnight Booty Loop Run (yes we do that) Thanks to Smucker's, I can get them prepackaged, frozen and sans crust. I have spread the love for the "Uncrustables" to my fellow runners and the fever has taken hold. So if you can't find them for your kid's lunch (which they are way too high in calories for that anyway) it may be because your neighborhood ultra runner has a race and or long run coming up.

Well that sums it up for now. I hope to keep you updated on my life of racing and the great people and stories that come hand and hand with the Ultra world. Enjoy!!