Archive for March, 2013

Insider Secrets: Shoe size

I’d estimate that 80% of first-time runners wear their shoes too small.

They think that their running shoes should fit the same as their street shoes or dress shoes.  This is not the case.

You should typically buy a running or exercise shoe at least a half size larger than your regular shoe size.  Sometimes you may even need to go up a size or even a size and a half, depending on the brand.

You want to have a good thumb’s width behind the front seam of the shoe.  The reason you need all of this extra room is that as you exercise longer, and especially as the days get warmer, your feet will swell. You want to make sure that the shoe is just as comfortable at mile 3 as it was when you first put it on.  A shoe that is too short will mean that your toes will be butting up against the front of the shoe, causing blood to pool under your toe nails, which is why some runners will loose their toe nails when they train for long distances.

A proper fitting shoe will make all the difference.

Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what size you need.  You may even find that your feet “grow” over time.  My feet have grown a whole size since I started running.  As you age, your feet may grow (due to gravity and falling arches).  If you give birth, your feet will typically grow a half size with each child.

So do yourself a favor and buy a larger size next time.  No one will know that you wear a size 10 now except for you.

(Just for an example, I wear a size 8 in a dress shoe.  In a running shoe I wear a 9.  In some models I have to wear a 9.5.  I learned my lesson the hard way).


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The long run is an integral part of any distance runner’s training plan.

I love the long run. I look at the long run like a challenge to be overcome, and a chance to clear my head.  Because it takes so much longer than a typical training run, there is ample time to work out problems in my head.

The long run is hard, no doubt — especially if you’ve just started training for a longer distance.  But the first time you complete your long distance, you will feel like you’ve just climbed a mountain.

I completed my first long run in 6 months yesterday.  The way I approach a long run is that I only have to run half of the distance.  Once I get to the turn-around point, all I have to do is get back.  And there’s no getting around the fact that once you are 3 miles from home, there’s no way to get back to the comfort of a warm shower and a stretch except under the power of your own two feet.  Here is lonely road at the half-way point of my 5 mile run yesterday.

IMG_20130327_095242Nothing but me and the road.  The smell of spring.  Beautiful scenery stretching as far as the eye can see.  Hills and valleys and farms. My only companion is the occasional bird, watching smugly from it’s perch on the telephone line.  By the time I’ve gotten here, in my mind, I’ve already completed the run. There is nothing that can hold me back from completing this challenge.


How do you approach the long run?  What tricks do you play on yourself to complete the distance?



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Any time you’re going to be running more than an hour, you need to worry about carrying hydration with you.  Some people find that they even need water on shorter runs, but if this describes you, you may want to first look at whether or not you are properly hydrating throughout the day.

Once you start training for longer distances, having access to water is always a concern.  There are a few ways to approach this particular problem.  Each approach has it’s advantages and disadvantages, which I will outline here.  And remember that the training phase is the time to experiment.  Try different methods and figure out which one works for you.  What you don’t want to do is try a new method on race day.  That is always a recipe for disaster.

  • Plan your training route so you have access to water at public locations like gas stations or park pavilions.  While this option doesn’t require you to bring anything with you, it will require more planning and a little research.  You may have to do several smaller loops in order to make this happen.  If you are planning on buying a water at the gas station, make sure you bring cash or a card with you (in general, this is a good idea in case of emergencies).
  • Before your run, drop disposable water bottles along your route.  Many people do this.  They hide a bottle in the bushes along the trail prior to their run and know where they can stop ahead of time.  I’ve never done this, mostly because of my irrational fear that someone will come along and … what?  Poison the water?  I don’t know.  So personally, this option isn’t for me, but I know a lot of runners who always do this for their long runs.
  • Bring a small, hand-held water bottle designed for runners.  This is usually where people start.  A small hand-help water bottle will generally hold about 8 oz. of liquid, and usually comes with a small pouch for carrying car keys, ID, cash, etc.  Personally, holding something in my hand during a run would drive me nuts.  But you need to figure out what works for you.  Here is one great option from Nathan:
Nathan QuickShot Plus $19.99

Nathan QuickShot Plus $19.99

  • If the hand-help option doesn’t work for you, try a hydration belt.  A belt will generally carry anywhere from 2-6   8- or 9-oz. bottles, plus a small pouch for on-the-go necessities like nutrition.  Again, Nathan makes a nice 2-bottle belt:
Nathan Speed 2R, $39.99 retail

Nathan Speed 2R, $39.99 retail

But my favorite brand of hydration belt is Amphipod. Amphipod’s belts allows easy customization to fit your exact needs.  The bottles detach from the belt and can be attached either vertically or horizontally.  You can also add 3M reflectivity, pods or pouches for carrying nutrition, music or iPod pouches, and additional bottles.  This makes it a great choice for short runs and long runs and anything in between.

Amphipod RunLite2 Plus, $35.95 retail

Amphipod RunLite2 Plus, $35.95 retail

Amphipod Snap Pod, $15.95 retail

Amphipod Snap Pod, $15.95 retail
The Snap Pod would also be great for carrying nutrition trash until you find a garbage can. Never leave your trash on the side of the road!

Now that you have some options, you need to figure out what works best for you.  I think that it is a good idea to invest in a hydration belt like Amphipod’s early because you can always add or subtract bottles as needed.  If you’re doing short runs and plan on sticking to that, the hand-held option might be better for you.

All of these products are available at TerraLoco!

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I HATE the BMI as an indicator of health.

I HATE the so often perpetuated myth in our body policing culture, that a fat person cannot be healthy.

I HATE the “news” stories that are trotted out every. single. day. about the “obesity epidemic” — which blames so many of society’s ills on fat people.  If only we weren’t all so fat, we wouldn’t die of cancer.  If only we weren’t all so fat, we wouldn’t have diabetes.  If only we weren’t all so fat, etc. etc. etc.

It’s depressing to see and hear every day people talking or writing about how my fat body is less than; that my fat body should be changed and shaped into something more “acceptable” to fit society’s beauty standards.

I am a strong proponent of the Health at Every Size movement, which focuses on an individual’s health, rather than hir body size.  That’s why I no longer engage people who try to talk about how fat they are, how much weight they need to lose, the new diet they are trying.  Women, especially, are conditioned to believe that their bodies need to be better. Every since we were little girls, we’ve heard the other women in our lives talking about weight.  Maybe we saw our mothers dieting for 20 straight years.  Maybe we were told as teens that we were too fat and needed to loose weight.  We have seen thousands of weight loss ads on t.v., in magazines… now, they are even delivered to us on our phones, constantly shaming us into believing that we need to buy some new weight loss supplement, a new piece of equipment, or join Weight Watchers for the sixth time.

Understanding this concept takes some time.  But since I’ve discovered and embraced it, I am much happier with myself.  In fact, it wasn’t until after I discovered the fat acceptance movement online that I decided to start exercising.  When I started thinking about my health and fitness, rather than my weight or clothing size, that is when I started to see results on the scale.

For those of you just embarking on your running journey, I strongly suggest you put the scale away.  Measure your progress by how many flights of stairs you can go up without getting winded, how far away you park your car at the store, how your clothes fit, how many miles you can run, your resting heart rate, the size of your appetite… I mean, there are hundreds of better ways to measure your fitness level than by stepping on a scale.

Here’s something that will put this in perspective.  I’ve lost over 30 pounds since I started running.  I’ve run a triathlon, two half marathons, multiple 5Ks, a 5 mile race, a 7K race … you get the picture.  I can easily run a 5K now at a 10:30 pace.  Before I started exercising, I couldn’t even walk up one flight of stairs before I got winded.  My resting heart rate has dropped by almost 20 bpm.  But according to the CDC’s BMI calculator , I am just shy of obese.  I would have to lose another 30 pounds before I would even dip into the “normal” category.

My stats are all good, in case you were wondering.  I have really low blood pressure and normal cholesterol levels. But according to the CDC, I am obese.

Compare what I’ve just revealed to another woman my age.  She weighs a lot less than me.  She fits into skinny jeans without a problem, and people have even told her she should model.  The BMI calculator tells her she is “normal.”  But she never exercises.  She has high cholesterol thanks to her mother’s genes. She smokes a pack a day. She couldn’t run a mile to save her life. Is this hypothetical woman healthier than me? According to the CDC, and a lot of casual observers, she is. Simply because she is thinner.

Remember this: thin does not necessarily equal healthy.

While I don’t necessarily have this problem, another issue with the BMI calculator is that it only measures weight and height, not body fat.  So someone like my dad, who has a really low body fat percentage, but has a lot of muscle, might be considered overweight, maybe even obese.  During the last Olympic games, there was some talk about the BMIs of different athletes, which I thought was great.  Many of theme are considered overweight according to the BMI, despite them being some of the fittest people on earth.  Here is a great infographic on the heights and weights of various Olympic athletes that illustrates the point.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because this great picture came across my Facebook feed the other day and I just had to share.


We come in all shapes and sizes.  You don’t have to hate your body.  You can love it.  I give you permission.  Even if it’s fat.

Disclaimer: *There is a lot more to unpack under the concept of HAES, including bullying, the politics of being fat in public (Chris Christie, for example, forced to talk/joke about his weight rather than his policies), body policing, Big Pharma’s role in the weight-loss industry, medical mistreatment of fat patients, etc.  There are plenty of people across the internet talking about these issues if you’re interested.  One of my favorites is Melissa McEwan at Shakesville (though forewarning, it is a very progressive blog, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to skip it).*

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Race etiquette

On Saturday the hubby and I ran the Get Lucky 7K in Minneapolis (link will take you to my race pictures).  Despite the cold, it was a fun race.  I mean, any race where you get a free beer at the end is a good one, right?

I get that this is more of a “fun” race for folks, as it falls on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which for a lot of people is just an excuse to get drunk and party, but that doesn’t mean that race etiquette just falls by the wayside.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of people there that either didn’t know proper race etiquette, or just didn’t care, which is unfortunate.

If you’re new to running, or thinking about doing your first race, these are things that you may have not even thought about.  So without further ado, here is a list of “rules” to follow when you’re racing:

  • Be realistic about your pace and line up at the start accordingly. Hubby and I lined up in the 11 minute per mile section, which is exactly what we ended up doing the race in.  But we passed 767 people on our way to the finish!  That’s 767 people who did not line up in the right place, meaning that we had to weave in and out of everybody during the entire course.  This wasn’t a big deal on Saturday because we weren’t looking for PRs, but what if we were? (FYI – Many larger races will ask for your expected finish time at registration, and then will put you into a “corral” according to your estimated finish time.  Each corral will be released at a predetermined time, which is called a “wave start.”)
  • Just like in a car, slower runners and walkers should stick to the right side of the course.  Weaving in and out of race traffic wouldn’t be as necessary if the slower folks were all to the right and faster people could pass quickly on the left.
  • Be aware of the other runners around you, especially if you have to stop to walk or tie your shoe, or if you have to slow down for a bit.  No one is going to judge you if you have to take a quick walk break, but they might judge you if you come to a stop right in front of them.  If you’re moving along at a good clip, and the runner in front of you suddenly comes to a stop, you’re liable to crash right into them.  Before you stop/slow down, take a quick look behind you, and then move over to the right.
  • Keep moving at water stops.  We didn’t have to stop for water during this race, but in others I have noticed that people tend to just stop in front of the water station while they drink.  Other runners behind you might have to wait for you to get out of the way just to get their water.  Faster runners will want to grab a single swig and keep moving.  So grab a cup as quickly as you can and then keep moving or move off of the course if you have to stop to drink.
  • Keep moving at the finish.  At longer distances, some people might be disoriented at the finish, which is why volunteers are there to keep traffic moving.  But in any case, keep in mind that there are people finishing right behind you, and if you stop right after you cross the finish, you might create a roadblock or cause another runner to slow down just at the time when she wants to be going as fast as she can.
  • Be considerate of the environment.  Throw away your water stop cups if there are trash cans provided.  If you are carrying nutrition, don’t toss your wrappers on the ground.  Throw them away if trash cans are provided along the course, or hang on to them until you have access to one.  At a lot of races, volunteers are there to help clean up the course after the race is over.  But let’s not make things any harder for them.
  • Thank the volunteers.  These people are taking time out of their busy lives to stand in the cold (or heat) and cheer on runners, pick up after them, and make sure they stay on course.  Thank them for their time.  And don’t forget to thank the police officers who are keeping car traffic from running you off the road!
  • Wear your bib number on your FRONT. It doesn’t really matter where it is on your front, as long as the race officials can see it.  I usually pin mine to my right pant leg instead of to my shirt.  Your bib number on the front help to verify your finish time, as well as match any pictures from the event to you.

Those don’t seem like terribly difficult rules to follow.  Essentially they all just boil down to: be considerate of others.  Your fellow racers may have been training for months to run this race, and your deciding to suddenly casually walk right in front of one of them might be cause for a disaster.

At the race on Saturday, early on in the course, a walker was going down the middle of the course.  There wasn’t much room to go around her, so as I squeezed past, I said, “Walkers move the right please.”  She responded with something that I can’t repeat here.  Please don’t be that person! Remember to think about the others around you, and we’ll all be just fine.

(Here are more etiquette rules for runners from the Road Runners Club of America.)

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This post has two purposes.  One, to re-introduce myself to the blogging world (sorry about that super long hiatus!) and two, to let you know about my racing plans for the summer.

First off, a lot of things have changed since I last wrote.  I no longer work at The Running Room and instead am a full-time employee with TerraLoco, a new active-lifestyle store in Rochester.  TerraLoco is a great place to work.  Not only do they have incredible product (Newton, Hoka One One, Sanita, El Naturista, Merrell, Olukai, among many others), but they are locally owned and dedicated to being a part of the running community in Rochester.  They sponsor races, host packet pick-ups, weekend clinics, and more!  It really is an exciting opportunity for me, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for me there!

In August, I ran the Lady Speed Stick Half Marathon, which, honestly, was a complete disaster.  I started feeling groody at mile 11 and got sick at mile 12, making me walk most of the way to the finish.  My race time was significantly slower than the Disney Half I ran in January, so it was disappointing.  After the race, I took a few months to recover.  My body just didn’t feel up to running longer distances and I was struggling with frequent nausea and lethargy.  After a trip to the doctor discovered I had a pretty low iron count, I started taking a supplement, which has really improved my day-to-day energy levels.  Now, I’m looking to get back on wagon, and give myself a new challenge.

The challenge that I’ve decided to take on is the Treadman Duathlon that takes place the end of September in Pine Island, a small town not too far from here.  Let me first introduce you to the infamous hill that I will have to bike up:

Now that you’ve had a moment to let the length and grade of the hill sink in, consider this: Before I bike up this hill I will have run 3.3 miles.  And AFTER I bike up this hill I will have to run ANOTHER  3.3 miles.  The bike portion is 21.6 miles.

So, yes, this is a challenge.

It’s been almost 3 years since I gave myself that first challenge of racing the St. Croix Valley Sprint Triathlon.  That summer I spent nearly every day getting my run, swim, or bike in.  In the years following I’ve kept up my fitness level, but I haven’t progressed much further. So for the next three months I will be following a base-building plan that requires 6 days of training each week, building up to an 8 mile long distance run, and a 30 mile long distance bike ride, with tempo work on both the bike and the run, as well as bi-weekly hill training on the bike, because, yikes that hill looks brutal.

Following that will be another three month training cycle where I’ll work on improving my VO2 Max and lactate threshold.

While I’m doing all of this training, I’ll be documenting my trials and tribulations, probably reviewing some new products, and generally entertaining you all (while distracting myself from the pain I’ll probably be feeling).  It will be a fun ride!

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