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Archive for June, 2013

It’s a well-known fact in the running world that “cotton is rotten.”  In other words, avoid cotton as much as you can when choosing your exercise gear.  This includes socks.  You want to find a sock that is made of a technical fabric – often times a poly/nylon blend or merino wool.  These fabric wick moisture away and keep your feet cool and dry.  They also prevent friction.  Since moisture and friction is what generally causes blisters, a good technical sock can help prevent your feet from developing uncomfortable blisters.  Another interesting point about cotton socks is that because of the friction they can cause, cotton socks will eat away at the inside of your shoe, causing it to break down faster than it would if you wore a technical sock.  So, repeat the mantra, “cotton is rotten” and get yourself a good pair of running socks.

There are, of course, many different kinds of technical socks.  You can get cushioned ones, and thin ones, tall ones, short ones, ones that wrap your arch, and seamless ones.  There are so many different kinds of socks because there are so many different kinds of runners.  Personally, I like a thin sock, but many people prefer as much cushioning as they can get.

But, by far my favorite kind of sock is the toe sock.  Toe socks work by aligning the toes properly in the shoe, instead of bunching your toes together.  They can improve balance and give you a tactile feel.  Most importantly, they can keep your feet cooler and drier.  I like to compare toe socks and regular socks to gloves and mittens (this is like a SAT question: toe sock:regular socks as gloves: ?).  If you want to keep your hands warmer, you choose a mitten.  The warmth of your own fingers in a single pocket will keep you hands toasty.  If you choose a glove, your fingers will be colder as they only have the protection of the glove itself, rather than the heat from the rest of your hand.  The same thing is true of toe socks.  Toe socks, by separating your toes, will keep your feet cooler.

For people who suffer from hammer toes, bunions, or other toe problems that cause blisters or crossing toes, toe socks are a godsend.  Because they separate each toe individually, you are less likely to experience any of these problems.

Ever since I went on my first run using toe socks, I refuse to wear regular socks.  I wear them for daily use as well.  My feet are always more comfortable in toe socks.  People ask if the fabric between the toes bothers me, and the answer is no.  The fabric in the toe socks that I use is so thin that you would be hard pressed to notice it after a few steps.

Yesterday, for some strange reason, I decided to try a pair of regular socks that I had been given by a rep at the store.  They were thicker than I would have liked normally, but I was only running 2 miles with my Learn to Run class at the store.  By the time I got home, my feet were hot and uncomfortable, and I had developed a large blister on the end of middle toe.  So that was a failed experiment.  Back to toe socks I happily go.

My favorite toe sock is the PhD Toe Sock Micro from Smartwool, seen below.  It is very thin, the merino wool does a great job of regulating temperature, and it has small ventilation holes on the top that help the sock to breathe.Image

My second favorite toe sock is the Injini brand (which was my first introduction to toe socks).  The great thing about Injini is that they have many different styles of toe socks, anything from ultra thin to extra cushion.  They have yoga toe socks, and toe socks for trail running, as well as compression toe socks.  They come in a vast array of colors and heights, so you can always find what you are looking for.Image

If you’re unhappy with your current sock, I suggest you give these a try.  You might be surprised at just how much you like them.  Perhaps, like me, you’ll become a toe sock convert.  Happy Trails!

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Fear

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Fear can be a great motivator. But it can also hold you back.

When I started teaching my Learn to Run class this summer, one of the major themes from the newbies was that running was a way of tackling something they fear. One amazing woman said this year she was doing all of the things that she was afraid of.

I was lucky in that I never really felt that fear when I started running. But it’s been an entirely different story when it comes to the bike.

The bike is scary ya’ll.

Think about it: you can go up to 30 mph on a downhill, only some foam and plastic between your skull and the road. Cars pass too close or don’t see you on a curve. The shoulder isn’t wide enough. And what happens if you pop a tire 20 miles from home?

I’ve always thought that running was much easier. You don’t go nearly as far, so if you end up having to turn back for some reason, it’s usually doable. You can run on gravel, out of the way of traffic. And finally, I’ve always found biking alot more tiring than running.

It’s alot of excuses. But what it ultimately meant was that I have this amazing road bike that I’m too afraid to take out on the road.
Did you read that? A road bike that I’m afraid to take on the road.

That’s ridiculous. So today I strapped on my helmet and headed out. I tackled my fear head on. I brought my phone with me just in case I needed to call someone to pick me up, but guess what? I didn’t need it.

I only rode ten, hilly, exhausting miles, but I could have stayed home.

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Turn around point on Co. 11 and Co. 2. I discovered after I turned around that I had been riding with the wind the whole way out. Go figure.

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cf-lg*Disclosure: I did not receive this item free from Garmin to review, but I did receive a special pricing discount *

About two years ago, in order to help me train for a half marathon, I bought the Nike + GPS watch.  It’s been great.  I’ve never had a problem syncing to a satellite, using the watch, charging it, or uploading my data to my computer.  Until last week.  Now, granted, the problem may be my laptop computer, which is ancient and slow, but the watch has also seen 700-ish miles, and I will freely admit that I don’t always take the best care of my electronics.  Whether or not the Nike watch will live to see more days has yet to be seen, but once it started acting up I decided to take the plunge and buy a Garmin Forerunner 10.

The Forerunner 10 retails for $130 which is the lowest priced GPS watch with the ability to sync to your computer on the market.  If you are just getting started and you simply want to know how far and how fast you have run, then this is the watch for you.  The Forerunner 10 also has many other fun features including interval timers, virtual pacer, and auto-pause (more about these in a minute).  It comes in a plethora of fun colors, so there is something for everyone.  One of the best things about this watch is it’s size.  It is only slightly larger than a typical sports wristwatch, making it the smallest GPS watch out there (which is great for people with small wrists).

The Forerunner 10 was extremely easy to use.  I could have used it right out of the box, but instead I plugged it in to my computer to charge for a bit, using the USB cable and charger that comes in the box.  After charging for a short time, I took it outside to go for my first run.  I was planning a 5.5 mile run from my house to the store, followed by a 1.5 mile run/walk with my Learn to Run class.   To start recording your run, you simply push the button on the top left corner (indicated by an image of a runner) and wait for the watch to connect with the satellites.  The watch synced in less than a minute.  I turned on the auto-pause feature and the virtual pacer feature (both features can be turned on and off using the “Settings” page on the watch, but you cannot change the settings once you start a run).  I found out the auto-pause feature works really well almost immediately as just past the driveway my husband flagged me down to remind me about something.  Almost immediately after I stopped moving, the watch stopped recording, indicating that it was paused.  As soon as I started running again, the watch began recording again.

The auto-pause is a great feature if your runs often include stop lights or other kinds of stops along the route.  This way, your time and pace won’t be affected by the 2 minutes you stood waiting for the light to change to green.  The virtual pacer feature was interesting, but I’m not sure how useful it will be.  I set my goal pace to 10:20 min/mile.  Unfortunately, the watch only tells you if you are under or on pace when you are on the Time/Pace page.  So if you are currently more interested in your distance, you won’t get an alert letting you know if you should speed up or slow down.  The other down side to this feature is that you would only know if you are under or on pace if you actually look at your watch, and simply by glancing at your current pace you would get the same result.  I might have to do some more experimenting with this feature to see if it comes in handy later, and I will definitely update this page if I find a different result.

What I really love about this watch is that it’s settings can be changed right from the watch itself.  With my Nike + GPS watch, if I wanted to change the intervals, or turn them off, I have to actually plug the watch into the computer and change those settings using the installed app.  With the Forerunner 10, when I got to the store and finished my run, I simply turned off virtual pacer (note: virtual pacer and intervals cannot be run simultaneously) and turned on the intervals to 1 run: 1 walk.  Then I was able to use the watch for my class.  Actually using the interval timer during our run was fantastic.  When I used my Nike + GPS watch for intervals, the beep that tells you to walk or run was often so quiet I didn’t even hear it.  But I definitely won’t have that problem with the Garmin!  The Forerunner 10’s interval alarm is so loud that most of my group could hear it.    I can imagine that being a problem for some people, but I definitely liked having no question about when to run or walk without even looking at my watch.

The only thing I was disappointed about (and really, it’s a small thing) was that the Forerunner 10 does not count down what you have left on your run or walk interval like the Nike watch does.  With the Nike watch, a quick glance down at my wrist will tell me I have 1:25 left in my run interval.  The Forerunner 10 only runs a continuous timer.  So if you are 10 minutes into the run, it shows 10 minutes, and doesn’t show how much remains of the current interval.

Overall, I’d say it was an excellent purchase.  I haven’t yet had the chance to upload these runs onto the Garmin website and poke around to see if Garmin Connect has the same features as the Nike + website (though some research has told me it does).  In the brief time that I was on the Garmin Connect website, I did notice that it has some training features that could be useful, especially for someone who wants to follow an exact schedule.

I would recommend the Garmin Forerunner 10 to someone who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, and just wants to be able to keep track of how far and how fast they’ve run.  It would be a great choice for a new runner who is doing interval runs and doesn’t have a wristwatch with an interval timer.  That being said, if I was going to replace my Nike + GPS watch entirely and just rely on a Garmin, I would probably spend the extra money and go with the 610 version which has all of the bells and whistles, including a heart rate monitor. (That is one feature the Forerunner 10 does not have the capability to do)

After I use the watch a few more times and get a chance to poke around on Garmin Connect, I will update this post.  The true test of a GPS watch is a summer of long, sweaty runs, so if I run into any trouble with this watch, I’ll be sure to post it here.

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By now, you probably know that every one of my posts will start with something like, “Be sure to visit your local running specialty shop….”

I feel like I sound like a broken record, but whenever you are looking for products to help you with a problem in your running life, your local run specialty shop should be able to provide some answers.  But prior to shopping, a lot of people like to know their options and that’s where I come in.  Today I’m going to talk about a few products that are a necessity for running in the dark, twilight, or early morning hours.

prod_wristid_int prod_wristbandFirst things first, no matter when or where  you are running, you should carry some form of ID on you.  This way, if you are in an accident and unable to speak for yourself, a first responder will have all of your vital information available.  Road ID is a great option for runners.  Instead of carrying your driver’s license with you, which won’t give your emergency contact information, the Road ID can be worn on your wrist, ankle, or shoe.  You can add any information you’d like to the RoadID.  I have my name, date of birth, two emergency contacts, my blood type, and that I am an organ donor.  You can add an inspirational saying if you don’t need all of the space for your own info.  Many styles come with reflective stitching or bands, which would be great for running in the dark.

Next thing you are going to look for are clothes with reflective strips.  Almost all technical running clothes will have at least one small reflective strip.  Often the logo will be reflective.  Other places to look for reflectivity will be the zipper, zipper pull, pockets, down the center of the back of a shirt, and on the bottoms of pants.  But usually this small reflective strip will not be enough.  That’s when you look for accessories that will light you up on the trail or road.

446_lg_0 450_lg_7 473_lg 492_lg_1First up are Amphipod‘s visibility accessories.  From left to right is an LED visibility vest (great for Ragnar), a basic reflective vest, reflective bands, and LED reflective bands.  LED lights on top of 3M reflectivity will really make you visible on the road.  Sometimes the LED light is a requirement for running on the road at night.  The reflective bands are great because they can be worn anywhere, not just on your wrist or ankle.  You could strap the reflective band to your backpack or bike.  If you already have an Amphipod water belt, you can add reflective tabs directly to the belt.

Nathan also has great visibility accessories.  In addition to many of the same products that Amphipod has, Nathan also has reflective tape that can be literally be attached to anything.  If you wear a jacket at night that could use a boost in visibility, add a reflective strip and you now have a high-vis jacket.  You could add reflective tape to shoes, bikes, helmets, and other gear.  From left to right is Nathan’s Streak vest, reflective tape, clip on strobe LED light, and the lightweight LED light spur which attaches directly to your shoe (like a spur, go figure!).  Nathan also suggests wearing the light spur when cycling.

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All of these accessories will make you easily seen by cars on the road, but you still need to see what’s in front of you.  Great options for this are a headlamp for runners and the knuckle light.  Petzl makes some great headlamps for running that are lightweight and won’t bounce as you run.  The Knuckle Light is another great option for lighting your way.  It attaches to your hand and is lightweight and in the perfect position for lighting the road in front of you.

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Finally, make sure you stay safe when you are out in the dark by following safety rules for runners like running on the left side of the road (facing traffic).  Also make sure to tell your friends or family where you are going and when you expect to be back, as well as what route you intend to follow (and then, stick to it!).  Read more road rules here.

Stay safe out there, folks!

This is the third post in a series of FAQs for runners.  See other posts here and here.  If you have suggestions for other topics you’d like me to cover in this series, message me by clicking on the Contact Me page or by leaving a comment on this post.

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