Wow! Austin Marathon! Gear!

We are back from Austin.  What a great trip!  I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

Packing is hard!

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Before:  I packed three potential marathon outfits.  All for hot weather.  Anything above 30 was gonna be hot.  I’m thinking I’ll go with my brand new Skirt Sports Gym Girl Skirt and last year’s e-bay purchase of a Skirt Sports Tank.

After:  Yes, Skirt Sports skirt.  I think I’ll buy another.  No way on the tank.  Can’t do the CamelBack without sleeves.  Went with the Grandma’s Marathon T.

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I don’t look exactly like that.

Before:  My CamelBack.  I hate carrying it, but I haven’t really mastered the water stop thing.  I have to figure it out before Boston because no CamelBacks allowed there.  Not sure how I managed last year.

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It’s a good pack.

After:  Followed my Maine Marathon plan of 4 swallows, breathe, 3 more swallows, every mile (get your mind out of the gutter – this is a PG blog).  After the Expo, decided to throw two Nuun tablets in there.  Worked fine. Ran out of water (I think about 72 ounces) at mile 25.

Before:  Lots of Gu’s.  I have such a love/hate relationship with those nasty, sticky, way-too-sweet things.

After:  Wanted to die and quit after mile 5.  After Caramel Macchiatto Gu hit around mile 6, I felt much better.  “Gu’ed” every 5 miles after that and rode the waves of caffeine and sugar driven ups and downs.  Felt like puking every time I tried to down a shot and vowed to try training with shot blocks or sport beans next time.

Before:  Body Glide.  I swear, the first year I ran, I never had chaffing issues.  Now I do even in the dead of winter.

After:  Still chaffed after liberal application, but I was much better off than I would have been without it.  Worst spot is a huge strip of raw skin on my upper inner arm from the CamelBack.  Thank goodness they won’t be allowed in Boston.  Addie says it looks like bacon.

Before:  Since the race was going to be on Valentine’s day, I thought it would be cool to wear my SkirtSports Heart Socks.

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After:  Decided it would be too hot for knee socks.  Darn Toughs never let me down.  Wore a nice, new, cushy pair.  No regrets what-so-ever.

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Before:  Almost brand new Adidas Ultra’s.

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After:  No regrets.  Pretty happy to put on my flip-flops after and let my feet spread out, but no sore feet, no blisters, nothing.

Other Gear:  Tom Tom Spark Music (still haven’t loaded any music), Target/Champion Sports Bra, IceBreaker Women’s Siren Hipkini.

In the past, figuring out all the outfits I wanted to wear on vacation would have been a struggle, but that was nothing compared to trying to figure out what I wanted to wear for the race.  As always, I ended up wearing the same few things over and over and could have gotten away with bringing much less.

I think this may have been the last journey for my current suitcase, so maybe I’ll down-size which will force me to finally learn that lesson.

Next up, Expo Review.  And maybe Shake Out Run Review.  If I can fit both of those things in one post.  I don’t seem to do well with short summaries.

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New Shoes – Adidas Ultra Boost

Is there anything more exciting in a runner’s life than getting a new pair of shoes?

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Our Shoe Graveyard

(Forgive the dark photos.  Not much daylight around these parts right now.)

No matter how many different routes I have, how many distance and pace variations, how many weather variations, there’s always a bit of monotony to running.

Having some kind of newness really makes my run – especially when that newness is what’s supporting me through all this running.

There aren’t many things where I won’t try to find a cheaper option, but with running shoes, I don’t bat an eye at price.  I justify by calculating how much it will cost per mile.  I have 654.52 miles (approximately.  Did I mention I’m a nerd about stats?) on my current pair of shoes.  They cost me $180, so that’s about 28 cents per mile.  Actually, I might be kind of upset to drop a quarter every mile I ran (that would pay for a lot of my bad diet Pepsi habit), but mostly, it puts it into good perspective for me.

My last two pairs of running shoes were the Adidas Ultra Boost (first black, ugh, then bright pink/purple, better).  And if you must know, before that it was Asics, Nike, Brooks Ghost 7, Brooks Glycerin, Brooks Ghost 7, Brooks Ghost 7 (did I mention I’m a nerd about stats?).  You’d think I might like to keep things simple and stick with the same thing over and over again, but that would eliminate that newness factor that I love.  I at least need a different color!

So, after Christmas, Amazon credit was plentiful, cash – not so much.  As I was approaching 600 miles on my current shoes, I figured I’d better do something, so I ordered these beauties.

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Loved the gray color.  Well, it turns out they weren’t the exact same as my original Ultras.  On top of that, I accidentally ordered a half size down, so back to Amazon they went.

Which worked out pretty well, since I was getting some pressure to switch brands.  Mike just bought his first Hoka One’s.  After his first run in them, he urgently texted me to say I should drop everything and order the Hoka’s.  He was in love.

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After all that returning and mind-changing, pay day finally rolled around again, so I thought I’d pick up a pair at our favorite local running store, so I could at least try them on.  We left a little early for our running group – also put on through Fleet Feet Sports – so I could try them on and presumably buy them.  It was complete chaos in the store with the running group there.  Craft was also doing a demo night (tried a shirt – nice – but not my tried and true wool).  And there was also some kind of spin class going on.  I still made the poor sales guy take me through the whole thing.  I tried on some new Saucony’s, the Hoka’s, and the same Ultra variation I had ordered from Amazon.  Every time I try on running shoes, I hope for some kind of sign – I don’t know, angels singing, rays of light, something – that these are the shoes for me.  But they all feel great, so I just never know.  I decided to go with the Hoka’s, since Mike was so excited about them.

As I got ready to pay, the nice sales guy said I could use them on my run with the training group and pay for them after if I liked them.  Or not if I didn’t.  Our coaches had a nasty hill workout in mind for us, but I actually felt great, and the shoes felt great, but . . .

I had a few little twinges of tight calves and tight arches.  Not a big deal, and I figured I would get used to it.  But as I was running, I got to thinking that at my last marathon, I had no calf problems at all while in my first three, the only major pain I had, especially in the last 6.2 miles, was in my calves.  Before that I’d never even given that any thought, or if I had, maybe I just figured I was in better shape.  As much as I’d like to continue to think that, maybe, just maybe, it was the shoes.  First three marathons – Brooks Ghost 7, last marathon – Adidas Ultra Boost.  That was it, finally, some kind of solid evidence (maybe) for a decision.  (I’ll let you know after this marathon.)  They were very gracious when I got back to Fleet Feet and told them I wouldn’t be buying the Hoka’s after all.  (I sure hope they can still sell them to someone else – I assume they have some kind of strategy for that.)  I wanted to get my Ultra’s right then and there, but they only had black (a girl’s gotta be a bit girly) and were still very busy and about to close.

I found my new babies on Amazon.  Here’s the unboxing . . .

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Aren’t they pretty?  Even in the 5:00 am light?
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Here’s another shot for good measure.

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I only have about 15 or so miles on them.  Two recent snow storms and tapering for Austin have completely sapped my motivation.  I’m still planning to wear them for the marathon.  Is that crazy?

Since then, (like almost the very next day), Adidas has announced a new shoe which seems similar to the Ultra’s but specifically for women.  Maybe my next pair.

Off to pack for Austin.  Woo hoo!  And help my daughter with some kind of crazy school project.

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Mike is tracing Addie, so she can turn herself into a character for her book report.  Somehow she ended up with what he calls “Grasshopper Legs”, so we need to redo the bottom half.


She has way too much homework for a third grader.  It’s ridiculous and frustrating, but that’s a post for another day.  Anyone else in the same boat?

Cold Weather is here: What I’m wearing.

This year has not exactly been a typical Maine winter, especially after our record 70 degree Christmas Day. Today we received a small taste of winter with morning temps of 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a wind chill of 12 degrees.  Finally a chance to wear some winter gear without fear of over-heating.  I don’t always get this right, but today I had the perfect combination of gear that prevented me from being too cold, too hot or chafed at the end of this 15 mile jaunt through our neighborhood (lots of loops today in Evergreen Cemetery to protect from the wind).  To quote Goldilocks it was “Just Right!”

From the inside out, here was my gear for the day:

  1. ICEBREAKER Antomica Briefs: These have been a revelation for running.  Previously I had been using synthetic compression shorts from Nike and Under Armor.  They were good, but chafing was still an issue for longer runs. The Icebreaker briefs are 100% merino wool (not itchy at all); they have kept me dry down there and I have had zero chafing in those unmentionable parts!  FYI: they run small, so be sure to order 1 or 2 sizes up.

Anatomica Briefs

2. Mizuno Breath Thermo Layered Tights: I bought these last year at Fleet Feet in Portland.  They are synthetic (nowadays I’d probably get wool tights), but they have a great feel.  I have worn these in temps as low as 10 below zero (F) and my legs have never felt cold.  An added bonus is the the compression feel of these tights that seem to give my legs an added boost in those hellbacious later miles.  They require more washing than wool due to odor, but I’m sure to baby them by washing in cold water only and never put them in the dryer.  These have held up well.

Mizuno Running Men Training Apparel Bottoms Pants

3. PEP Shevlin + Running Shirt: I reviewed this shirt and company back in October.  All I can say is “AWESOME!” This is the perfect wool base layer.  Its water wicking is amazing and the shirt’s durability has been off the charts.  Also, ZERO nipple chafing!  Not sure if the ladies out there have this issue, but it can be excruciating, especially that first trip under the shower after the run.  I almost could have went with this as my only layer under my jacket, but I was feeling a bit wimpy for the first sub 20 degree run of the month.

4. Darn Tough Socks: Like the PEP shirt, Darn Tough Socks can’t be beat.  My Adidas Ultra Boosts are wonderful running shoes, but the mesh top provided virtually no warmth.  Not a problem with Darn Toughs even if I manage to trek through a puddle one mile into a double digit run.  For winter runs I prefer the crew socks with light cushion in order to avoid chilly ankles.

Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion / Charcoal/Lime / M Small

5. IBEX Stretch Merino Glove Liners: I have used these for every run in November and December in temperatures ranging from today’s 20 degrees F (windchill of 12) up to 50 degrees.  They have been terrific.  My hands have been dry and warm without another glove on top.  Today I did use the “hobo” glove top from the PEP shirt and they both held up well after the initial chilly fingers during the first mile.

Lightweight insulating stretch Merino glove liner

6. IBEX Indie Skimmer Hat: For outer layers, IBEX seems to be the winner for providing the most warmth.  This hat is like a nuclear power plant on my head.  In fact, I revert to my SMARTWOOL hat for temps above freezing because the IBEX wool is so warm.  For today’s run this was ideal though.  Never had to shed it and despite being soaked with sweat my head was warm from start to finish.

Unisex's - Indie Skimmer Hat

7. SAUCONY Run Strong Sportop: I wore another layer above my base PEP layer mainly because I wanted coverage around my neck.  Like IBEX’s wool, SAUCONY’s synthetic fabric seems to be the best.  It has a soft feel and a comfortable fit.  Last winter, this was my usual base layer, but chafing was the issue as was the case with all other synthetics I wore.  This shirt performs well by itself on warmer days (45-55) and I like the quarter zip for venting if I get overheated.

RUN STRONG SPORTOP, Tangelo, dynamic

8. ASICS Lined Winter Running Jacket: I’ll have to check on the model, but the Asics jacket I have was a wonderful purchase.  I bought it last year on clearance at Sports Authority.  The jacket features side pockets and a very handy breast pocket where I store my phone with headphones coming out.  The warmth of this pocket is great because I have been finding that my Iphone 6 will shut down at the slightest sense of low temperature (very frustrating when using Runkeeper to track the run).  It is lined with a waffled liner that dries out quickly after the run.  Additionally the extra long cut and sleeves with attached “hobo” gloves help to provide a very protective outer shell.  My jacket has weathered snow, sleet, hail, and low temps like a champ!  If I was a Mail Carrier, I’d wear this jacket.

9. Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes: I wear these no matter what the weather, but I thought I’d include them here.  Will do a more thorough review at some time, but my third pair of Ultra Boosts this year continue to impress.

A fun part of running is the gear.  One thing about winter running is that there is a lot more gear that is required, but it is fun to search out the best in that quest for the perfect run.

See you on the road!

 

 

 

Speaking of Wool Running Gear: Get DARN TOUGH!

If you want the best running socks hands down, get your feet in some DARN TOUGH Vermont Socks.  Since switching to these last February (first wool socks ever for me), I have not had cold feet or a blister yet!  In fact, I’ve dumped all cotton footwear from my dresser and wearing Darn Toughs exclusively every day (running or not).  My feet are grateful!

My first pair of Darn Toughs. Still going strong after 700 miles or so and daily wear at work.

Bought this pair for the Maine Marathon. Sore feet were not an issue thanks to the cushioning! Also have another pair that I used all summer long.

Just bought these a couple of weeks ago. Now my everyday non-running sock. No more sweaty, stinky feet at work. Helps keep my feet energized for after work runs!

Wow! A one week review of the PEP Shevlin+

Last week my Pettet Endurance Project Shevlin+ wool running shirt arrived in the mail!  It was exciting to see the package, but I was even more impressed when I opened to the packaging inside the mailing envelope:

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I loved the gift wrap and it was very cool to have a personal note from one of the PEP representatives.  Even before seeing the shirt I was so impressed with PEP and their vision.  They are committed to using a renewable resource (merino wool) in order to enhance the running experience.  They have a plan to keep their prices low ($60 for a 97% high quality shirt is a bargain and a half!), produce in the USA, and contribute back to the environment.

The shirt itself is better than advertised.  I am glad that I went with the Shevlin+ rather than the basic Shevlin.  The + has heavier fabric which will provide more warmth in the coming months (“Winter is coming”).  Plus I just like the feel of a heavier shirt.  The fit is perfect being snug across my chest and a bit loose towards my waist.  When I first put the shirt on I was a bit surprised how low the neck went and was puzzled that the thumb holes seemed tough to get into.  Oops! I had the shirt on backwards.  Turns out that the small PEP logo is on you back.  Once I put the shirt on correctly, it was a perfect fit. Most importantly, I have found the ITCHYNESS factor to be almost zero.  I noticed a bit of itch during my first run when some heat started radiating from my torso, but it was gone within moments.  This amazes me with a shirt that is 95% Merino Wool. So far I have worn the Shevlin+ for runs in temps from 27 degrees (this morningd!) to the the mid 40s.  For all of the runs I have had my Saucony windbreaker on top (the reason to follow).  Cold has been a non factor and at the same time I have not been close to overheating.  The shirt has been very comfortable and it will probably all but displace my Nike DriFit Wool shirt (I like it but have some issues with the neck area) for cold weather running.

I am looking forward to trying a run without a top layer above my Shevlin+, but the black color option was not a good choice because I currently only have black running tights.  Without a top layer this is the effect:

I don’t want people to think they’re watching a public performance of modern dance during my runs, so it looks like a purchase of non-black bottoms is in order at some point.

I will provide some more insights on the Shevlin+ as I accumulate more miles in it. Will review my Nike DriFit soon as well.

See you on the road!

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Katie had a better comparison of my all black attire:

The TOMTOM Runner

My purchase of the TOMTOM runner came out of necessity.  Back in August, Katie surprised me with a gift of a Polar M400 for hitting the 1,000 mile mark for this year.  My first experience with a GPS watch was fantastic.  I had been relying on Runkeeper from my Iphone to give distance and pace updates.  This was great especially since I was still in headphones mode for all of my runs.  Additionally, I liked having runs instantly tracked on Runkeeper.  However, as I transitioned deeper into marathon preparation, I discovered the joy of running without headphones which made a GPS watch essential to feed my craving for stats.

The M400 worked great.  I found that it was right on with distance and it had cool features like split times.  I liked the M400 app, but it was frustrating to manually upload from the Polar app to Runkeeper. I have invested so many miles in Runkeeper that it is difficult for me to make a switch to another tracking app.  Problems came a couple weeks before the Maine Marathon when my M400 stopped charging.  I suspect the charging port became corroded due to sweat and moisture leaking into it.  Whatever the cause, there was not enough time to deal with warranty stuff and there was no way I was running the marathon without knowing my pace.

Katie and I headed out to Best Buy for another Polar.  While there, the Applewatch caught my eye…

Despite the $350 price tag, this seemed to be the perfect fit.  Linked directly to my iphone and Runkeeper.  Plus it is a cool piece of technology bling to flash around town. Unfortunately, my Apple Watch experience was a disappointment.  I did not like having to have my phone with me for runs in order for the GPS to work and on a couple of trial runs the watch kept pausing mid-run.  Maybe I should’ve given it more time, but for $350 I wanted my run tracking to be accurate and easy to use.  Apple watch has many other cool features, but run tracking is my main purpose and that had to be perfect.

So we loaded back into the VW Microbus(Thanksgiving is on my mind) our Honda and headed back to Best Buy.  I checked out the Fitbit Surge and a couple of other brands (I’m forgetting now), but in the end, my $100 was spent on this:

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The TOMTOM Runner is the lowest model of TOMTOM’s GPS watches.  The other models have bells and whistles like a heart rate monitors and swim tracking ability.  The Runner model has turned out to be a perfect fit.  Its charge lasts long,  the GPS has been very accurate,  it shows splits, and is very it also has many ways to customize its display for my use.  Best of all, TOMTOM automatically uploads to Runkeeper.  I aslo like that the charging port seems like it will hold up better to moisture than the M400.  It’s still less than a month, but time will tell.

The TOMTOM is a great entry level GPS watch.  It’s easy to figure out and has simple inputs for runners just looking for basic stats.  I suppose at some point I may just run for pure enjoyment and not care about the stats graduate to a more advanced watch, but for now the TOMTOM Runner works well for me.

Forget Facebook, RUNKEEPER Is Now My Ultimate Work Distraction!

Used to be when I lost interest motivation at work, Facebook was a nice distraction to pass the time. Now my first stop on the WWW is Runkeeper.com.  It is much better to relive some great (and not so great) miles on the road rather than status updates, George Takei, video recipes and pictures of everyone’s perfect children.  It’s also fun setting new goals and getting motivated for my next run.

Yesterday’s Runkeeper distraction convinced me to log 11 miles in order to hit the 1,500 mile milestone for 2015.  I was planning only a quick 4-5 miles, but I saw I was at 1489 for the year, so after getting home, I strapped on the Camelbak and set out for an 11 miler.  Kinda stinks that this morning I realized that I’m actually at 1,499.7.  I guess Runkeeper rounds up.  Gonna run a quick 5k tonight and actually get to celebrate this accomplishment (my previous high for yearly miles was about 600 about 15 years ago.

Speaking of Runkeeper, it is one of the key elements that has turned me into a “runner”.  I love stats (thanks to baseball) and Runkeeper is fantastic at provding them.  Total miles, pace, total climb, average pace, personal records.  It amazes me that this app is free.  On top of that I have used Runkeeper’s FREE training programs for 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon race training.  I exceeded my goal time for all of those distances!  You could almost say I’m addicted to the app because I get anxious if a run is not recorded to Runkeeper.

Another weekend breakfast run tomorrow!  Plus my first run with the newly arrived PEP wool shirt.