Friday, March 30, 2012

An Ode to Earbuds, Great and Small. But Mostly Small.

By request from my friend Nancy – who, by the way, is the one responsible for getting me into this Disney running thing in the first place – today’s post is all about earbuds.  Yes, those nifty (or not) little doo-dads we jam into our ears to let the tunes flow, to steady our pace, to lift our worn-out exercise spirits.  I don’t know about you all, but I NEED my music to run.  But keeping the beat going comfortably has turned out to be a lot harder than I’d ever expected.

Apparently, I have freakishly small ear canals.  Which has led to more ear infections than I care to recall, which, in turn, has led to a decent amount of hearing loss.  (Okay, spending much of my teens and 20’s planted in front of guitar amps may have been a contributing factor, too.  But that’s another story altogether…)  So, when it comes to earbuds, I’ve got two complications: not much space to hold the suckers, and a need for lots of volume.  Folks, I’ve tried a bunch.  Look for yourselves…

Earbud stew

Those that will mostly stay put in my ears are so tight, they hurt after 10 minutes.  The little ones are rubbery and seemed like the perfect match, but, though they’re small enough not to hurt, they constantly fall out in our humid Florida air.  Know which are the most comfy?  The 90s-era headphones.  No pain, the little foam covers soak up sweat – bonus! – and they wouldn’t budge if I managed a triple flip in the middle of a training run.  But they have lousy sound quality and, well… I feel pretty geeky wearing them in public.

Not long ago, my quest for the Perfect Earbuds led me to these:

They’re made by Sony and I found them at Target for less than $30, which is at least $20 more than I think earbuds ought to cost.  I’ve been using them for several months now, which is a decent endorsement, I suppose.  They don’t cause pain, though I sure wouldn’t describe them as “comfortable,” either.  The little speakers don’t really fit my ears, but the giant loop keeps them from falling to the ground and tripping me mid-stride.  And they can take the highest volume setting on my iPhone, so even though the buds aren’t planted where they should be, I can crank it up loud enough to hear  Christina Aguilera tell me “I am a fighter” and “I ain’t gonna stop” when I’d really like to round the corner for home and eat a cookie.  Or twelve.

As Nancy’s request attests, I know I’m not alone on this subject.   So tell me – what have you found in the earbud market that works and doesn’t work?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slow Down to Speed Up – Fuzzy runDisney Math

Shout out to my dear friend Lauralee, who taught me the surprisingly accurate mantra,  “You’ve got to spend it to save it!” when it comes to vacationing at Disney.  Between the two of us and our fellow Disney travelers, we’ve made a fine art of budgeting our many Disney trips using Fuzzy Disney Math, or FDM.

FDM works like this, when applied to how long one has to wait for the next Disney vacation: current day, day of departure, weekends, national holidays, random days off from work and school, birthdays, anniversaries, dentist and doctor appointment days,  and pay days do not count.  Using this formula, our next runDisney event, the Expedition Everest Challenge on May 5, is only 24 days away… which is only 10 days more than 2 weeks, so it’s really like almost 2 weeks from now!

Applying FDM to our next Disney vacation budget: we’re staying on my Disney Vacation Club points, which are basically free because I’ve already paid for them and their annual dues and anything paid in the past is already gone and not part of the vacation budget.  Tickets are free, too, because we already have our Floridian annual passes.  Race registration’s been paid, so, again, free.  Food isn’t free… except that it is when I pay for it with my Disney Visa rewards!  The reward points won’t cover all of our food intake, but the rest will go on my Disney Visa, which I just converted to a Premiere card, which will earn 5% in new points with every dollar spent… which means free food on the next-next trip!  In conclusion, the total budget for our Everest Challenge weekend is $0 in FDM.

Okay, now that you’ve got a handle on how FDM works, let’s look at FrDM – Fuzzy runDisney Math.


I’ve been diligently trying to increase the amount of each run interval and reduce the amount of each walk interval in my training and the results have included injuries, low energy and diminished recovery. Not to mention an injured knee.  So this past week, I tried slowing down to go faster.  This isn’t my idea – I’m following Jeff Galloway’s training programs and his suggested bump-up from :30/:30 run/walk intervals is to 1:00/1:00, not the 1:00/:30 intervals I’d been pushing for.  With thoughts that a slower pace might be better for my knee, anyway, I gave it a try, doing 1:00/1:00 for my two mid-week training runs and my weekend long run…

WOWSA!  First, going “slower” really did make me “faster”: those longer walk breaks gave me better recovery, leading to much stronger – faster! – run intervals.  Second, because I was recovering better, I had a whole lot more to give in the last segment of each run; my pace there improved quite a bit.  Third, I finished strong and not feeling run-down.  Read: instead of an all-day nap, I followed my long run with lunch out with my boy, shopping and a little Frisbee in the backyard.

I’m sold.  I’ll stick with the 1:00/1:00 intervals for a while before bumping up to whatever Mr. Galloway suggests next.  For the record, I’m in no way being compensated to sing his praises… I’m just happy to have found a training method that keeps me pain-free!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Time for an Intervention?

Hi, I’m V.  And I’m addicted to compression sleeves.

Image courtesy of Road Runner Sports

I put on my orange bands of bliss after a training run two days ago… and have only taken them off to shower.  They just feel sooooo good!  Like a warm (but not too hot), squeezy (but not too hard), hug from a good friend (the kind who tells you things like, “Those jeans really make your thighs look skinny.”)

I’m seriously considering getting sleeves for my arms, too.  Just because.

If the compression is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eagle Lake Classic - Race Recap

Woo-hoo, my first timed race is in the books and I didn’t throw up, pass out or come in last!  And, given my bum knee and major anxiety about running on my own, I thought the first and last of those were likely.
The race in question was the inaugural Eagle Lake Classic, a 5K run through a local nature park.  It happens to be one of my favorite places to run and is stunningly beautiful by Florida standards – meaning, if you like fields of palmettos, water birds, live oaks and the occasional alligator as sightseeing along your run, walk or bike ride.

The folks putting this together did a fantastic job!  The free pancake, egg and banana breakfast post-race was a welcome treat.  Everything was clearly marked and well-staffed.  The race packet swag was astounding – three $20 Aveda gift cards, race T-shirt, water bottle, sunscreen, hair ties, lip balm, Biofreeze… I felt like I hit the jackpot before I even started running!

As for me – I dosed myself with Advil, Biofreeze, and a new patella ligament band and my knee never hurt a bit.  I also did the unthinkable and - GASP! - wore my brand-spanking-new shoes, which proved themselves worthy of keeping.  The two weeks of low-impact cross training paid off in legs that felt sturdy and strong.  The pollen count down here is so high, it’s literally off the charts, making my breathing feel like that of a coal miner, but it didn’t slow me down much.  I came in with a chip time of 37:40, so a 12:09 mile average pace.  (Because I’m a little OCD, I also used my trusty Runkeeper app during the race, which logged a total distance of 3.2 miles in 37:47 for an average 11:49 mile pace.  I like that one better!)  Either way, not a bad place to start my timed racing career. :)

Best part of the race:  It’s a tie, really - Finally passing and remaining in front of Pink-Top-Blond-Ponytail, with whom I played the running equivalent of leap frog for the entire second mile.  And getting a big high-five/extra squeezy hug from Leo at the end as he said, “I’m so proud of you Mom – you DID IT!”

Worst part of the race: Having to choose between giving an all-out sprint to the finish line… and peeing my pants.  I realized about mile 2.6 that I should’ve laid off the pre-race water a half hour earlier than I did.  In the end I split the difference, running as fast as I could while clenching my innards like a vise.  Made for a loooovely finish-line photo.  Ugh.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Survey Says... RUNNER'S KNEE!!!

So, my visit to the doctor went something like this, just about the :30 mark... 


Yep, it's not a stress fracture, nothing to do with a meniscus tear, no ACL issues and not bursitis.  Just plain ol' runner's knee.  Per doctor's advice, I'm to slather the sucker up with Biofreeze and run like the wind Sunday. 

And strengthen my quads like it's my full-time business. 

Also, I now have a referral to an orthopedist specializing in sports medicine.  Because, "You don't need to see him now, but you will at some point.  All runners need an orthopedist at some point."  My doctor has two sisters who run.  Clearly, she knows, lol!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reprise: Diamonds on the Soles of my – OWWWW!!!

So much for the “Perfect Running Shoes.”  They are now on a UPS truck, bound for the returns department at Road Runner Sports.  In their wake, they've left me with a very painful right knee and possibly related achy ankle.

Naturally, this comes less than a week before my first timed 5K.  Shoes aren’t a problem – I have my old running shoes that do not lead to injuries;  they’re worn enough that I don’t want to put many more miles on them, but they’ll be fine for a 5K until I get new ones.  The knee, however, is a problem.

P. R. O. B. L. E. M.

I can walk on it with minimal or no pain, but a few running strides and OUCH!  Piercing pain just below and to the inside of my knee cap, extending its reach like slithering tentacles of fire down and across my shin, meeting up with a less intense variety of pain coming up from my outside ankle.  I see my doctor Thursday, three days before the race.  My hope is that she’ll agree to a shot of cortisone and some good wrapping to get through the 5K, after which a week or two of rest will bring me right back on track.  Unrealistic?  Maybe.  But I’m hopeful, nonetheless.

Meanwhile, I took some strides (heh, heh, pun intended) to prepare for the longer runs coming up in my training program...

A couple more pairs of my new favorite socks by Smartwool, compression sleeves for shins/calves and ankles, and a couple different fuels to try: CLIF SHOT BLOKS® and Honey Stinger™ Energy Chews.   I lovelovelove CLIF Bars, so I figured the SHOT BLOKS (just to be clear, I’m not randomly capitalizing here – that’s how CLIF advertises them and I’m following suit) were worth a  try, and the Honey Stingers have a little protein in them, which seems like a good idea.  I haven’t had a chance to try either of them yet (curse you, right knee!), but I’ll report back when I do.

I did get to try the compression sleeves, though…  and to quote the Monkees (RIP Davy Jones), I’m a believer!  What a difference the shin/calf sleeves made in recovery after even a short run.  Note that I got them in orange, which turns out to be the exact color of orange sherbet.  I salivate every time I see them, which maybe isn’t great for my diet.  They’re not real great for my running wardrobe, either; it consists of all black bottoms, but my shirts are lime-green, royal blue, purple and fuchsia.  Add in my new (coming soon) lime-green and purple shoes, plus the sherbet-hued compression sleeves, and I’ll look like an escapee from Cirque du freaking-Soleil.