Monday, April 23, 2012

Gear Review

I've had to take a break from running thanks to, of all stupid things, a muscle pulled doing Zumba.  Or a very localized shin splint far off from my shin.  Or a deep vein thrombosis.  Maybe polio.  Yeah, I don’t know what in heck it is, only that it requires a little time off and lots of ice, lol!  I’m too annoyed at this point to discuss it, but I found something else to talk about…

GEAR!  I’ve had time to try lots of new things over the past month or so and thought I’d offer some reviews.

Meet my new BFF’s, Lucy and Ethel:

Fuel Belt Sprint 10 ounce Palm Holder

Nathan Sprint 10 Ounce

Yes, they’re water bottles.  But these gals are closer to me than some friends.  Bizarre?  Maybe.  But I’m now running in near-90-degree temps in Florida and hydration is no laughing matter.

Okay, all joking aside, these bottles are fantastic!  I got one of each style because they were the same price and both got stellar reviews; I couldn’t decide.  And I need two, since Leo often runs with me and is terrifically bad about taking in adequate fluids.  Having tested them out, I can honestly say both are incredibly comfortable, easy to use and welcome additions to our gear stash.   Just don’t tell Leo the one he uses is named “Ethel,” okay?

Also tested over the past few weeks were the CLIF Shot Bloks and Honey Stingers.  Both get thumbs-up from me for taste, though Leo proclaimed the Shot Bloks “too sweet.”  He loooves him some Honey Stingers, though.  I may or may not use them as incentive (read: bribes) to go for training runs.  Both items definitely gave me some much-needed energy on longer runs, so I’m feeling good about them when the really long runs come along.

What else?  Oh yes, a couple of super lightweight tank tops from Asic.  My short-sleeve C9 tops from Target are not cutting it in this heat.  In fact, they've been leaving me feeling like I’m wrapped in Saran Wrap.  So I tried this:

Women's ASICS Core Singlet

Oh. My.  What a difference!  The open weave of the fabric let lots of air flow through as I move forward and the lack of sleeves is surprisingly helpful.  (Really, can the reduction of two sleeves’ worth of fabric make that much difference?  Yes, yes it can.) 

Rainy season’s starting up down here, too, and I’m worried about my brand new iPhone getting caught in a deluge one of these days.  Aside from wanting it with me for safety, my iPhone tracks my runs via Runkeeper and keeps me entertained with my Badass Mother Runner, Run, V, Run!, and Pissed-Off Princess playlists.  She needs better protection than the cheapo armband I’ve been using.  So I ordered one of these:

Amphibx Fit Waterproof and Sweatproof Armband

It’s awfully big… and my upper arm is not very long.  But it’s surprisingly not uncomfortable, despite taking up the entire length of my bicep, and keeps the phone safe.  I’d call that a winner!

Last, but far, far from least – I’ve joined the Bondi Band Wagon!  After hearing really good things about these wicking headbands, I decided to give them a try myself.  Have I mentioned that it’s HOT down here?!  Lo and behold, Bondi Bands really work!  I didn’t need help keeping my hair back, but they do that very well.  What they do exceedingly well is trap sweat before it runs into my eyes and down my face.  And then they dry.  Real fast.  Like Lamborghini-fast.  Two big thumbs up from V.

I think (I hope!) we’re fully stocked on gear for a good, long while now.  Which is good, since another runDisney event is almost upon us, and that Mouse has a knack for making me spend more than I intend. ;)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Race Recap: 2nd Annual Turtle Trot 5K

Well, Leo’s second race and my third is in the books and it was a fun one!

The Turtle Trot 5K began last year to benefit our local nature parks and their amazing programs.  The folks running these places don’t just keep the parks up beautifully, they also do a ton of work in schools and around the community to educate folks about environmental matters.  Both Leo and I are happy to be supporting their efforts.

The morning of April 14 was surprisingly gorgeous – a most-welcome cold front brought morning temps down to the high 60’s and humidity levels somewhat lower than “jungle.”  It was a welcome relief here in West-Central Florida, where it’s already starting to feel like summer.  For a small race, things were surprisingly well organized with lots and lots of volunteers getting runners checked in, running water tables and keeping folks informed about where to be and when.  Kudos to all involved!

The course first wound through McGough Nature Park on asphalt and gravel trails that would allow runners to go two abreast with room for a third to pass, then left the park for several blocks of closed residential streets, entered a Bonner Park and continued through its VERY narrow, very rough (as in dirt, rocks and big, gnarled roots) paths, exited back into the few blocks of streets, and finished with a short jaunt through McGough’s paths again to the finish line in the parking lot.  I heard that the number of participants had doubled since last year and there were a few spots where things got log-jammed.  Particularly problematic were the super narrow trails in Bonner Park, where it was impossible to pass due to the thick vegetation (that could very well have housed any number of poisonous fauna) on either side.  It was a short stretch, though, and it was supposed to be a fun race, so I didn’t see it as a major problem.  I do hope they cap it at this year’s total, though, and maybe consider starting in waves; I can’t imagine a bigger pool of racers working.

Leo and I finished with an official time of 43:59, blowing away Leo's previous 50:32 race time!  He walked an awful lot of it and complained often of being “too tired” to run.  I don’t get it; we train at a much better pace than that.  For whatever reason, he just wasn’t feeling it, I guess.  But he finished and had a good time doing it, and I’m very, very proud of him. 

No medals for this one, and we weren’t lucky enough to win one any of the many great raffle prizes (all of which came with a dozen or more fresh shrimp – gotta love FL!), but there were yummy muffins and fresh fruit after the race, as well as T-shirts and swag bags full of all sorts of coupons for local merchants.

All in all, it was a fun race and I sure hope we can do it again next year!  Now we turn to preparing for the next race: runDisney’s Expedition Everest Challenge – a 5K through Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park with obstacles AND clues to solve before crossing the finish line!  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Running Babes

Looking back at my last few posts, I realize there’s an awful lot here about ME and not so much about my partner-in-running-crime, Leo.  And, frankly, that’s because this whole distance running enterprise hasn’t been all that problematic for him.  At almost ten years old, my son simply doesn’t face the same kinds of challenges my 41-year-old body does.  His knees haven’t known years of ballet and skiing abuse; he has no need to drop a few pounds (and, in fact, could afford to gain a few); and a slow run to him isn’t the end of the world.

I could stand to learn a thing or two from my boy. 

Last night, for instance, I had a terrible run.  First, it’s become HOT down here in West-Central Florida: close to 90 degrees and enough humidity to render unnecessary the use of Body Glide; there’s simply no chafing when every inch of you is sweating.  Also, I’ve been fighting shin splints all week and they made their presence known in no uncertain terms throughout our run.  Gawdforbidathousandtimes I should maybe just take the night off… oh no, my training plan said “30-40 minute run” and I wasn’t about to skip it.  That would feel like quitting and if there’s anything I’m not, it’s a quitter.  So I slathered on some Biofreeze under my compression sleeves and set out, intent on not only finishing my prescribed run, but doing so at a nice, speedy pace.

Leo wasn’t battling shin splints, but he was sick over the weekend and maybe wasn’t quite back to his usual self.  For 30 minutes, I became ever more frustrated with his slow pace, which, in turn, slowed down my own pace.  At the halfway point, he announced that he needed to stop at a water fountain and I anxiously paced back and forth while he took his good ol’ time lapping up some lukewarm water.  A few minutes later, he pointed out a batch of ducklings swimming around the golf course water hazard and commented on how much bigger they were than the last time we’d seen them.

“Uh-huh,” I replied, not bothering to look.  “C’mon, let’s pick up the pace.”

The path we were running winds around a lot and toward the end, Leo cut across the grass, skipping a long loop of path to meet me on the other side.  Inside, I heard my thoughts say, “What is he doing?!  He just cut his distance by 20+ feet!  Not fair.”  Apparently my inner self becomes a petulant 5-year-old when running in discomfort.

As we rounded the bend back into our neighborhood, Leo announced that his breathing wasn’t so great and his side was hurting; he was going to walk home from there.

“Fine,” said I, with an obvious edge to my voice,” you go ahead and walk.  I’m going to push my pace up for the last few minutes and try to get our average pace back up to where it should be!”

So I turned on the afterburners, putting as much effort as I could summon into each stride, trying desperately to ignore the singeing pain running up the inside of my left shin, and did, indeed, bring my average pace down a notch.  I arrived home utterly depleted in both mind and body.  My legs had to be dragged up the flight of stairs to my front door, my breathing was labored, and I felt completely defeated.  I met Leo at the door and we went in together, in silence.

My mother asked, as we took off our running shoes, “So, how was it?”

Before I could answer with tales of woe and a stream of negativity that would make the late Andy Rooney sound like Suzy Sunshine, Leo piped in, smile lighting his entire face, “It was great!  The ducklings are getting so big, and the Canadian geese are still here; they haven’t gone home yet.  And guess what?  There was a baby bunny near the bushes!  I saw the Red-Shouldered Hawk nearby, so I hope the bunny’s okay.  Also, there was a car from South Dakota in the golf course parking lot; that’s far away, isn’t it?  Oh, and Mommy finished the whole thing, even though her leg was hurting a lot.  Way to go Mom!”

I just stood there, stunned and humbled by my insightful, observant offspring, who clearly didn’t give a rat’s ass what our pace was.  And then, after a deep breath ending in a whoosh, “I needed that,” he said.  “I feel so much better after running.”

I had nothing to add.  I just pulled my boy close, gave him a big hug and, with two big bubbles of tears threatening to tumble from my eyes, said, “Thank you, son.”  And we headed off to our respective showers.

Yes, I could learn a thing or two from my young running partner.  We have a 5K next weekend to benefit our favorite nature park.  The race goes through that park, plus another nature park.  Think I’ll let Leo steer.