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My sister, Mallory, usually writes about all of her cooking adventures. She is an amazing baker!
She also runs (picking up the sport after me — a little competition perhaps?) and a couple weekends ago, ran the Twin Cities Marathon. It didn’t go so well. But you know, that’s life. I’ve had my share of failed running experiments and I learned a lesson from every single one.
Here’s Mal’s blog post on her “Marathon Fail.”

The Lentzed Life

Seriously, why do I do this to myself???????  For some reason it really sounded like a good idea, not sure why because the first one didn’t go so well.  I honestly thought, experience would be on my side and I’d do much better than the last time…  I was wrong and I need to remember to stop believing in myself 😉

I could blame a lot of things on another failed marathon attempt, but I take full responsibility…  I am not meant to run 26.2 miles, and I understand that now.  I truly enjoy running and like seeing what I can do (obviously it’s not marathons).

I don’t mean for this post to be a pity party, this isn’t an Attention Seeking post.  I’m not looking for uplifting words like “At least you finished” or “That’s impressive, I would never do that”, or “Lots of people wouldn’t have even started”.  All…

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Your Winter Wardrobe

I changed jobs last winter.  I went from one running store to my current place, but unfortunately, all of my current winter running clothes have the name of my previous employer plastered all over them.  So, I’m in the process of purchasing some new pieces for fall/winter.  Because money is always tight, I’ve been thinking very carefully about the best pieces that will be versatile enough to get me through a variety of weather conditions.  If you’re a new runner, you might be in the same boat, trying to decide what you actually need for running through the winter and what is just fluff.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve been thinking and which pieces I have bought or am going to buy.

First thing you have to consider when deciding what to purchase is whether you run hot or cold.  Some people are always cold, some people are always hot, and obviously, whichever one describes you will determine which pieces you need to get for the winter season.  I usually run a little warm, but my hands and ears get really cold once the temperature dips below 50*.  So keep that in mind as I talk about the pieces I am investing in.

Remember that the best way to dress for winter is in layers.  You’ll want a good base layer, a mid layer, and an outer layer, plus protection for hands, head, and feet.

Jacket or Vest: There are great jacket options out there if you are one of those people who runs a little cold or who runs a lot in snow or rain.  You want to look for something that is water-resistant and wind resistant.  You also want to find something that has a lot of reflective details for this darker time of year.  I don’t run a lot in snow and rain and since I run hot, I’m going to be purchasing a vest.  I’ve narrowed it down to two choices:

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Brooks Nightlife Essential Run Vest

Smartwool PhD Divide Vest

Smartwool PhD Divide Vest

I’m trying to decide between the two.  I already have a running vest from Brooks that I really like (but is too big).  However, I’m really interested in the extra warmth that the Smartwool vest would provide.  It’d be great to have both, for different weather conditions, but that is not always an option.

Here is a good option for a jacket.  I like this Saucony one because it is stretchy and breathable in the back, while still providing wind protection where you need it most.

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Saucony Women’s Kinvara Jacket

Base layer: Fortunately, I already have a great piece for this, and I want to share it with all of you, because it is literally the best article of running clothing I own.You might not be able to tell from the picture, but this top actually looks like a fisherman’s net up close.  The tiny holes in the fabric trap heat when used as a base layer under a technical top, and, when used on its own, it regulates body temperature like nobody’s business.  Despite being full of holes, the shirt is really quite warm.  I’ve worn it twice now.  The first day I wore it on a 50* morning, with a wind-resistant vest over the top.  It was a little too warm for that weather, but interestingly, I discovered that I actually felt cooler with the sleeves down than with them pushed up.  The second time was last night, when I wore it under a jacket.  It was misting and chilly, but I still ended up pushing up the sleeves of my jacket, which shows how warm this top actually is.  I probably won’t need anything else for the rest of the season because I can see this top being incredibly versatile.

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Brooks Equilibrium Base LS

While you don’t have to spend the money on this top, you’ll definitely want to invest in something that is moisture wicking and is fairly tight.  The base layer is the most important one because this layer will be right next to your skin.  Make sure to pay attention to the seams (you don’t want chafing!) and fit.

Mid layer: A mid layer piece can be worn on its own or with a base layer, depending on the temperature.  You can find a good mid layer pretty much anywhere (even Target or Costco).  Again, pay attention to the fit and seams, and make sure it has moisture wicking properties.  My favorites this year?

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Smartwool NTS Light 195 Printed Zip T

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Nike Element Half Zip

I like a half-zip because you can unzip it if you get a little too warm, which, if you remember from the beginning of my post, happens a lot.  But basically, you are just looking for something that is going to give you a little extra warmth over a base layer.  Being moisture wicking isn’t as important with this layer, (since, hopefully, you will have a technical top as your base layer) but it doesn’t hurt!

Tights: I’m sure someone could make a reasonable argument for wearing pants for winter running, but you’ll never convince me.  I like a tight for several reasons.  First, it doesn’t drag on the ground, getting wetter every minute you are out there.  Second, it won’t allow wind to sneak its way up through the bottom.  Third, because it is tight next to your skin, it prevents chafing and bunching.  In some situations you might want to do a base layer tight (like a Smartwool long john) under a warmer pant, but I’ve never been in a situation that calls for that.  I have a pair of tights like this Nike pair below, but it has my old employer’s logo on it.  I’ll probably invest in this Nike pair for this winter.

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Nike Element Shield

Although again it’s hard to tell from the picture, this tight is great because it has wind panels built in to the front.  During winter running you’ll probably notice that your thighs get really cold, really fast.  This tight protects your thighs from the wind and the rest of the tight is a nice thermal weight.

I also already bought this tight for the not-so-cold days:

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Nike Epic Run Tight

Remember, you’re going to be most concerned about keeping your core and extremities warm, so a really warm pant or tight probably isn’t that important.  I find that I’m plenty warm most winter days with just a light tight.

Undies: Weird, right?  You wouldn’t think that underwear would be something you’d want to be concerned about.  But trust me, without undies for the winter, you’ll discover soon enough why they are vital.

Personally, I wear underwear during the winter to keep from chafing and give me an extra layer of warmth.  But running undies aren’t just for ladies.  Guys, you will definitely want to invest in a pair too.  Many of the men’s undies have wind protection on the crotch, which I imagine would be helpful.  I’ve heard horror stories about guys getting frost bite down there, and that is definitely not an area you want to take any risks with.  My favorite pair of running undies is from Road Runner Sports.  For men, I would suggest either of these two options:

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Smartwool Men’s PhD Lightweight Wind Boxer Brief

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Brooks Men’s Equilibrium Wind Brief

Hands, Head & Feet: Obviously, you want to protect your extremities whenever you’re going to be exposed to cold and wind.  I like an ear warmer/headband because it still allows the top of my head to breath.  When it’s really cold I’ll go with a hat (and ladies with long hair, look for a hat with a hole in the back for your ponytail — it makes life so much easier!).  I’m currently thinking about this option:

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Smartwool PhD HyFi Training Beanie

You may also want to consider a neck gaiter or a balaclava for really cold days.  I like a neck gaiter, because I can pull it up to cover my mouth and nose if I get really chilly.  I’ve been eyeing this one at the store, mostly because I think it’s super cute. 🙂

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Smartwool Pattern Neck Gaiter

For my hands I like a glove for warmer days and a mitten for when it’s really cold out.  If you’re planning on running through the worst of the winter, you’ll want to look for something with wind protection as well as warmth.  My favorite mitten for this kind of weather is the Saucony Run Mitt.  It’s really warm (we’re talking <20*) and it has plush cloth on the thumb and along the inside of the glove for wiping your nose (I know!  Running companies think of everything!).

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Saucony Run Mitt

Finally, don’t forget your feet!  When it’s chilly out, your feet can go numb with the cold.  You also want to think about the fact that you’ll likely be running through snow and/or puddles.  A cotton sock would be the absolute worst choice for this because once it gets wet, it stays wet, and then your feet will get even colder.  I like a merino wool blend sock for winter.  Merino wool is a great temperature regulator and once it gets wet, it will dry really quickly.  When wet, merino wool will also keep your feet warm.  Since you know I like toe socks, my options for the winter are Smartwool toe socks or Injinji toe socks in NuWool.

So there you have it.  Key pieces for building a winter wardrobe:

  1. Base layer
  2. Mid layer
  3. Outerwear (jacket and/or vest)
  4. Tights/Pants
  5. Hat/headband
  6. Glove/Mitten
  7. Warm, wicking socks
  8. Sunglasses (Ok, so I know I didn’t talk about this, but for me, sunglasses are a key part of my running wardrobe at any time of year.  During the winter I find them especially important because of the snow and rain, as well as sun reflecting off the snow.  This is something else I’ll have to be investing in here shortly, because I accidentally ran over my good pair of sunglasses with my car.  I’m probably going to get a pair of Smith Optics sunglasses with interchangeable lenses.  Once I get a pair, I’ll definitely be posting a review, so stay tuned!)

For those of you in Rochester, most of these pieces can be found in our store!

 

Progress

I remind people all the time that most runners weren’t born with speed and endurance.  At one point, we all were slow and exhausted.

That’s why you should never compare yourself to another runner.  However, it is perfectly acceptable to compare yourself to, well, yourself.

When I first started my transition from couch potato to athlete, I remember being exhausted after running just 15 minutes at the slowest pace possible.  When I completed my first race, the St. Croix Valley Sprint Triathlon, I ran my four miles at a 13:30 pace.  Today I average a 10:20 min/mile.  But lately I’ve been seeing progress on that front too.  On my short, three mile runs I’ve been pushing my limits, closing in on a sub-30 minute 5K.

All of this progress is thanks to my new furry friend, Toby.  Toby is a one and half year old Retriever/Corgi mix that we adopted from Paws and Claws Humane Society after we lost our first furry companion.  This dog has energy.  If he doesn’t get a run or a walk in during the day, he goes absolutely bonkers when we’re trying to relax at night.  The hubby and I have been taking both dogs on walks a lot, and we’ve been taking turns taking Toby out for a run.

On Sunday, I took the dog out for an eight mile long run.  I brought my new hydration belt, filled with Nuun-flavored water*, and a packet of Sport Beans*.  I even followed my own advice and stretched first.  It was a cool morning with a slight chance of rain, which translated into a beautiful day for a run.  While I was out, I was thinking about everyone running the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon and 10-miler.

I like doing out-and-back runs because I need to play mental games with myself in order to keep running.  So I planned to turn around 4 miles from home.

Conveniently, the City of Rochester placed a Porta-Potty at exactly the half way point.IMG_20131006_113831

Toby waited patiently while I sucked down some water and ate about half the Sport Beans.  Then I tried to get him to pose for some pictures.IMG_20131006_114003IMG_20131006_113918It was a bit of a failed experiment in taking a selfie with one’s dog.

On the way back it got a little chilly, so I pressed on at a faster than normal pace for my long runs.  About 2 miles from home I saw a runner on the shoulder of the road ahead of me.  Imagining myself at the TC 10-mile, I tried to catch her.

This was also a failed experiment.

But it definitely helped me in achieving my fastest long run average pace.

The lesson from this ridiculously long description of my workout? If you just keep at it, progress will happen. (Also it was just an excuse to post these pictures of my adorable dog!)

*Reviews to come!

Review: Hoka One One

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Hoka One One Bondi B

Here’s how I sell Hoka’s at the store: I know they’re ugly, but they are the most comfortable running shoes you will ever wear.  And at mile 20, do you really care how they look?

First things first, what is Hoka One One?  From their website:

Hoka One One was founded by two trail-running adventurers that set out to design road and trail running shoes. While across the running shoe industry, the trend has been towards minimalism and creating lightweight shoes with less cushioning, Hoka One One went a different direction. Taking cues from the “oversized” trend that has surfaced in skiing, golf, tennis and mountain biking, Hoka One One introduced a revolutionary, first-of-its-kind oversized shoe concept in 2010. The goal? To provide a shoe for runners of all levels.

The result? By merging aspects of minimalism and maximalism, Hoka One One has pioneered a patented innovative design, engineering lightweight, nimble shoes utilizing an oversized outsole footprint, maximally cushioned midsoles and active meta-rocker technology. Hoka One One’s loyal customers use words like “weightlessness” and “effortless” to describe running in the shoes, which, counterintuitive as it may seem, are 15% lighter than the average running shoe.

Hoka One One shoes are designed to minimize impact while maximizing comfort, traction and stability and for a relaxed stride. Whether on pavement or trails, runners maximize their speed, efficiency and distance and achieve improved running form and body mechanics.

The first thing to note about any pair of Hoka’s that you try is that they have significantly more cushioning than a traditional running shoe, but they are about 15% lighter.  You wouldn’t guess that by looking at the shoe, but once you try it on, you will definitely be impressed.  I’m not normally one to go for a super cushioned shoe, but once I tried on the Hoka Bondi B, I was hooked.  The first time I took these shoes out, I intended to do a 5 mile run.  On my way back to the car I realized my feet and knees and hips felt great, so I just went for an extra 2 miles.  That’s how great they felt.

The cushioning is firm enough to not make it feel like you are wearing pillows on your feet.  It’s responsive and the meta-rocker bottom helped me do a mid-foot strike and therefore increase my turnover.  The shoe is wide (particularly the BondiB), so it will work great for someone with a wider foot.  The large midsole and wide base controls overpronation but works equally well for someone with a neutral foot.

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Hoka One One Kailua Trail

As for the price, it’s a little more spendy than other traditional running shoes ($170 for the BondiB and $135 for the Kailua), but it’s definitely worth the extra bucks, especially if you’re doing a lot of miles in one go.  Hoka One One was first made popular by ultra endurance runners, but it’s picking up steam in the marathon/half marathon market now.

Bottom line: I would definitely recommend this shoe for anyone looking for more cushioning or for a wider base/toe box.  I will warn you though, once you make the switch to Hoka it is incredibly difficult to go back.

For anyone in the Rochester area, next Thursday at 6pm we will be having a Hoka One One 5K (your $5 registration fee gets you a marked course, food and drink after, and the proceeds will go to a local charity).  Our Hoka rep will be here and you will get the opportunity to try out the shoes for yourself.  We will even be giving away a pair of Hokas to one lucky runner!

I went for a trail run today, wearing my new Hoka One One Kailuas (review in the works).  I took my new dog, Toby, a Golden Retriever/Corgi mix that we adopted from Paws and Claws Humane Society just about two weeks ago.  He is a great running partner, although he could use a little conditioning (not unlike myself).  He approached the narrow trail head with trepidation.  It was a single-track dirt path winding through a small suburban forest.  Toby led the way, occasionally falling behind.

At the top of one particularly steep hill I realized that I needed to tighten my shoes.  The path was a little more harrowing than I had anticipated, and I felt like my feet were sliding around a little too much for comfort.  We stopped, Toby grateful for the break, and I bent over to untie my right shoe.  Immediately we were attacked by a pack of mosquitoes (a horde?  a gaggle?  a flock?).  Toby’s tail whisked back and forth over his hind end while he attempted to get the mosquitoes that had landed on his back with his teeth.  I’ve always been sensitive to mosquitoes and they’ve always been particularly fond of me, so this wasn’t good.  They landed on my neck, my face, behind my knees, on my arms, and in my armpits (of all places!!). A few flew directly into my mouth when I accidentally inhaled them.  The shoes were still loose, so I shook my head, blew raspberries to keep them off my face, and swatted, whilst simultaneously untying and retying my shoelaces.

When I finally got my shoes retied we headed off immediately.  And while I hadn’t noticed the mosquitoes in the woods before we stopped, now they seemed to come at me from every angle.  We hurried home as quick as we could.

When I peeled my sweaty running clothes off before getting in the shower, I counted the number of mosquito bites. Twenty-one.

Time for a chamomile bath.

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This is Toby. He just can’t get enough of looking at himself in the mirror.

Hiatus

It’s been a while, I know.

First there was the family vacation, then the broken refrigerator, then our dog got sick and we ultimately had to euthanize him, and finally, I had a biopsy on a mole on my back (which was negative for cancer, btw).  What that ultimately meant was a couple of weeks without running much at all.

It happens.

Life gets in the way of training sometimes.  What’s important is what happens after the hiatus is over.

That’s why I love running.  You can always pick it back up.  You might not be as fast or able to run as far as you did before you took a break, but you ultimately know that given a couple of weeks and some hard work, you’ll be back to your old running self.

A hiatus sometimes means though that you have reevaluate your goals and plans.  Realistically, I’m not ready to race the duathlon in September, so I’ve put that race off for this year.  Perhaps next year I’ll be able to do it.  But I’ve signed up for the Monster Dash Half Marathon (October) as well as the Disney Princess Half Marathon (February), so I know I have to get back on track with my long runs.  Prior to all of this chaos, I was up to a 9 mile long run.  It’s unfortunate that I’ve now lost all of that progress I made, and I’ll probably have to start back at 6 miles for my long run.  But I have time, and all it takes is some effort.

Game on.

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!