Fourth day of non-running

I just want to run, guys. This is pretty lame. (Literally.)

I ran up and down the halls at work today and could feel the threatening stress fracture, and even sitting here with my legs crossed I can feel some sort of pressure/pain there – probably from my calves. They’re big. I love the jeans I’m wearing right now, but my calves are literally bursting out of the seams. (They fit everywhere else, except they’re too big in the waist… #runnerbodyproblems.) I’m going to try running very short (4-5 mi) tomorrow or Wednesday, just in my PureFlows and with a normal midfoot strike, and see how that goes.

In other news, Sketchers made a minimalist trainer/road shoe…? With “midfoot strike technology”? Ha ha ha haaaa. I spent a good 1/4 of the rest of the game (that I actually watched) looking into these shoes instead of paying attention to the game (or extremely mediocre halftime show). 4mm drop and 6.9/4.9 oz (M/W 9/6). Somehow I don’t think I’ll be switching to… Sketchers for my road shoe. Even if they got the standard minimalist road format a little bit on, they didn’t come out with anything different, don’t have much professional credibility, and are just jumping onto the minimalist boat too late to gain any traction (tread/shoe pun), in my opinion.

peace love and recovery,
bec

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Winter night hill workout and new tights!

Last night found me unmotivated once more, thanks to a headache and disgustingly frigid gusts. Camille came to the rescue, though, and got me to do mile-long hill repeats. It was actually not terrible… dare I say that I enjoyed it? Or would have more, had my shin bit/potential stress fracture not hurt. It’s still just a dull pain for the most part, but the fact that’s it’s so centralized/such a specific spot has me worried. Plus, it hurts when I press on it – not a great sign. But it was still a good little workout, and I got in about 8 miles rather than the zero of wimping out.

And I got new tights from Brooks! It was kind of hard to judge weather (pun!) or not they were warmer than my old UnderArmour tights since the wind was cutting right through, but they’re definitely more comfortable and very reflective and cool-looking. I’m a running ninja! Next purchase will have to be some windproof tights… stupid winter.

Oh, and I got a headband and another pair of SmartWool socks too. And an IceBreaker ls shirt. And four boxes of Clif bars. I’m all stocked up for the rest of the winter  🙂

peace love and running!
bec

Brooks 2-in-1 mitten review

I originally wrote this for our new gear review blog, Dirty Boy Gear Reviews, but figured I’d share it on here too.

My house is old and therefore cold and drafty. I'm wearing these inside. Oh, college living.

We’re in Michigan and that certain time of January has finally arrived… those few dreaded weeks of utter, bitter, biting cold, the sort that freezes your lungs the moment you take the first tentative breath. And that cold stays there, steeped deep within your bones for the rest of the day until you finally seek refuge under a heap of blankets once the sun has set (about 4:30 p.m.).

Yeah, we know how to have a good time. The windchill today was -16 when I woke up at 9 a.m. It hasn’t risen above -4 all day. Yesterday was very similar, although a few degrees warmer less freezing, so I did venture out for an extremely short (and quick) trail run. While he was stuck with poor frozen fingers in his Nike Thermafit gloves (which are fine in milder temps), my hands were actually sweating in these mittens. I’m telling you, it has to be about -20 for these guys to start to even hint at the cold nastiness threatening frostbite. If it’s above about 10 degrees, don’t even bother – your hands will be so sweaty they’ll actually start to get wrinkly. But if you need hand protection from some actual cold, these are your best bet.

With the Utopia 2-in-1 mitten, Brooks used the tried-and-true method of hardshell + insulation layer = warm and weatherproof. The outer layer is, of course, a wind- and water-proof shell, complete with a fabric thumb for convenient snot disposal (although once that freezes, it’s there to stay). The inner is a soft fleece mitten. Both fit quite roomily, which I personally like; I can move my hands/fingers as much as I want, and it allows a little more dexterity than a tighter fitting mitten might allow. The fleece cuff fits snugly enough that it does a good job of sealing my hand in, while the outer layer has a bit more flare to fit over sleeves/a watch.

There’s not much more to say, other than you should definitely invest in a pair of these if you do any real winter running, or even just want a good mitten that’ll keep your mitts warm even in the most disgustingly, stupidly cold weather. Like January in Michigan.

On an entirely unrelated note, I’m transferring to southern California.

peace love and running!
bec

Cold. And new shoes! (Merrell Bare Access Arc 2)

Winter is cold.

Very cold.

I’m torn between the desire to be warm and comfy and the desire to be a committed runner… usually. But the windchill didn’t go above -4 today, and I just would not have that. So no run for me today, and yesterday was only a short (though quick and pretty) 6 miles on some home trails… and my 18-er on Sunday was straight-up cancelled. Too cold for me, thank you. I’d prefer not to get frostbite.

And how did this happen? Last Saturday was practically balmy; I did about 14 with my roommate, and we easily could have been in shorts and t-shirts rather than capris and LS. And we almost got hit by a train, which was terrifying. But anyway. My training is definitely suffering because of the cold and I downright hate it. Hate. It.

On the bright side, I recently got new shoes (my first zero drop shoes, surprisingly enough): Merrell Bare Access Arc 2.


8mm stack, zero drop, 5.5 oz.

My first run in these was a nice 11-miler. Although I didn’t notice it too much, the forefoot strike zero drop tends towards caught up with my calves later on in the day. My usual strike is much more of a midfoot (especially in the PureFlow), which I’ve been wanting to change (largely) for a little while now. The only exception to that will probably be for races longer than a 50k; other than that, I’ll be using that strike for straining and strengthening.

The shoe itself: I like it. The toebox is SUPER roomy, which took a little bit of getting used to, but that’s really nice for a forefoot strike since your foot tends to slip forward a bit. There’s also enough cushion/material between your foot and the ground that they’re protected enough for longer road runs. I’ve been using the Brooks PureFlow for my road stuff, but lately I’ve switched back to the Minimus – there’s just too much of the Pureflow underfoot for me. Also, the tread on the Bare Access is nice: it’s good for roads (that’s definitely its primary purpose), but if I want to throw in a couple miles of nontechnical trail into my run, I won’t be stopped by these like I would the PureFlow, which performs absolutely horrendously on trails. The Bare Access is also fairly adjustable: I have wide feet and it’s comfy for me, but my very narrow-footed friend has some as well and likes them. Good color options, too, although the laces were too short for me to lace the final eyelet for the “runner” finish. That’s an easy fix, though.
All in all, these seem like they’ll be pretty comfy and suitable for my distance road runs (few though those may be), as well as just wearing around. Sorry for the lack of organization in this, it wasn’t going to be a shoe review, then… it was.

peace love and… stay warm!
bec

Trusting your shoes (and slippery runs)

So a couple days ago (I think it was Saturday, when the weather got warmish and sunny), I  headed out for my run wearing my trusty old Minimus. I’d intended for my run to be on trails, but the first couple miles were a mix of exceptionally sticky/slide-y mud, icy patches, and – mostly – frigid 2-3 inch layers of half-frozen slush. The slush (while actually being somewhat fun to slosh crazily through for two miles) and mud (which was not so fun, I ended up sliding off the trail a few too many times for me to want to continue) led me to conclude that were I to continue on the trails, I just wouldn’t have a quality run. So I hopped off the trails and ended up doing about 11-12 on the road total. Still a good run.

But here’s my point: as a runner, you absolutely need to be able to trust your shoes, no matter what the terrain or conditions. If you can’t trust your shoes (or your feet), your run is going to be slower and more awkward, no exceptions. In this case, my shoes had absolutely no tread whatsoever and were therefore pretty useless in terms of allowing me to have proper footing and keep running – which is why I ended up sliding off the trail and picking my way along, barely putting any weight on one foot for more than a second. But the same goes for other conditions as well, be they dry, sandy, rocky, steep, or whatever else the trail feels like throwing your way. It’s a matter of tread and, of course, fit – how your foot feels in the shoe is incredibly important. But you need to find the right balance between the two. I’ve found shoes that I love the tread to bits, but if it doesn’t fit quite right (talking Salomon SpeedCross here, the tongue stuck out too far and it was much too big a drop for me), put the brakes on.

If you have the right shoes, you usually won’t find yourself actively thinking about how you trust them while you’re running (unless you’re like me). It’s like with climbing shoes with their super-sticky soles and aggressive shape: you slip them on and they become an extension of your foot. You just assume that they’re there and that they’re going to do their job. They’re not intrusive. Same thing with trail (and road, I suppose) shoes: lace them up and forget about them as they do their thing on the trail so you can do yours.

Anyway, now that I’ve typed up that little spiel on shoes, here’s a side note: my friend, a couple of our work friends, and I are starting a gear review blog, Dirty Boy Gear Reviews. It just went up a couple days ago, so it’s pretty new and doesn’t have too much, but check it out and then keep coming back!

And because there aren’t any running pictures in this post, have some food pictures instead! Yum food.


I made this mega-vegan burger a couple days ago. I mashed almost an entire avocado onto this guy, along with the usual hummus/onions/mushrooms/spinach/tomato/mustards/seasoning.

Vegan burger on whole wheat toast with hummus, spinach, avocado, creole seasoning, mustards, salt and pepper.
Another vegan burger. I just have so much variety in my diet, don’t I?

peace love and running and climbing and eating!
bec

one is the loneliest number (during a 32-mile run)

Whew! Finally got my long training run in on the course. Begrudgingly woke up to my alarm at 5:45 this morning and was out on the trail by 6:30. My main worries for the day were heat (with an expected high of 95)  and resulting hydration issues. Luckily, even though I ended up finishing somewhere around 12:30, I really didn’t notice the heat or humidity… because, I suspect, I was (a) out all day, so the change was gradual, and (b) the trails are shady. So the heat wasn’t an issue. I was only a little concerned about staying hydrated during the second loop, when I started drinking a lot more; I only drank about a liter during the first loop, then downed about 20 oz. at my “aid station” (a plastic bag of water, gatorade, and peanuts sitting on a picnic table near where I parked) before setting off on the second loop. Immediately – within the first 4 miles or so – I knew I’d be drinking a lot more this time around, and I did end up drinking almost the entire 2L during the second loop.

An unforeseen issue that I encountered was the fact that my right shoe is, I think, too narrow throughout the midfoot. I noticed it a little during the first loop and loosened the laces a little (alliteration!), but it really started hindering me around mile 13 or so. Then, during the second loop, it got pretty bad – it felt like a squeezing, burning sensation on the bottom and side of my pinky toe ball-of-foot area (sorry for the terrible description). Eventually, I pretty much fixed the problem by really loosening the laces up there, but even that didn’t totally resolve it.

Technical details aside, the run pretty much reminded me that running that far does, in fact, hurt. Even though you think, “Oh, ok, I’ll just go out and do a long training run,” it leaves its mark. By the time I got to 2 miles to go, I had reached the point of a kind of painful-joint-shuffle… it didn’t help that I was running alone. (I’ve decided that once you get over around 18-22 miles, company is very, very nice.) As I came down the final long, uphill, unshaded dirt road stretch, I found myself singing, “One is the loneliest number…”

Nevertheless, it’s been a while since I spent a solid 6 hours on the trails, and it was nice. Even though I was alone and didn’t see a single solitary other runner the entire time I was out there. I ache-ily drove home and proceeded to eat everything I could reach from my spot on the kitchen floor (dark chocolate oven-roasted almonds and whole wheat pita chips) before taking a blissful hot shower and eating more food. And now I’m going to sleep.

peace love and zzzzzz

PS. Quick story: I was four hours into my run, on one of the awful sunny dirt road stretches, when two old bearded men passed me in their golf cart, smoking cigars. “This is easier!” one of them said. I smiled politely and ran by, thinking, “YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT? I’M FOUR HOURS INTO MY RUN AND I HAVE TWO LEFT.” Oh, non-runners.

PPS. I usually eat PowerBars (Strawberry Crunch) during my long runs, but I forgot them at my apartment, so I took one PowerBar and a Clif bar (peanut butter chocolate chip) – and was pleasantly surprised! Well, not surprised, I guess – more glad it sat well with my stomach. I also liked that the Clif bar was a little bit less dense than the PowerBar, making it easier to eat while running, as well as having a little looser wrapping (easier to open). Two options now instead of one! (ProBars are good, but (a) expensive and (b) the one I tried did not go well.)

shiny new running things! oh boy! (brooks and nathan)

I hate spending money unless it’s on food or running things. So I bought running things. (And food.)

drumroll please…

Brooks PureGrit

I knew that I needed a more substantial trail shoe – more material between my foot and the ground, more grip – than the Minimus for the 50-miler (and probably future 50ks, just because my feet were sore after the last ones), and I knew I wanted to go either Salomon, Montrail, or Brooks PureGrit. After some research, I narrowed it down to either the Salomon Speedcross, Montrail Mountain Masochist, and the PureGrit. I really, really wanted to like the Speedcross, but… the tongue. The tongue was (a) HUGE and puffy and would have rubbed against the front of my ankle like none other, and (b) wasn’t attached and would have been sliding around. Other than that, the shoe was solid – almost too solid. It felt like a lightweight hiking shoe, which I guess makes sense since it’s a rugged trail shoe, but it was just Too Much Shoe for me. Although the grip was really nice. And I straight out opted out of the Mountain Masochist because I couldn’t find it in stores around me, and I wanted it for the weekend, so… yeah. I’d still like to try it in the future.

Which brings us to the PureGrit. As I’ve mentioned, I wear and like the PureFlow for road running: it’s light, but provides enough cushioning on the bottom and has a low drop (4  mm; 7.5 oz). Since I’ve been satisfied with its performance and fit, I figured that the PureGrit (4  mm; 7.6 oz) wouldn’t be that far of a jump, and I was right. So far, it fits a little narrower, which I would list as my only potential concern. This might be fixed by adjusting how I lace them, or maybe they’ll stretch out/widen a bit over time. I wore them on both trail runs this past weekend, and they performed admirably. They allow enough feel to have a good sense of the trail, but they also protect your feet from… well, the trail.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Brooks from now on…

Nathan Intensity vest

Intensity

Another item I figured I’d need/want for long races and training runs. I took a risk and bought the Intensity vest online without having tried it on in person, but I was fairly confident in my decision: the Nathan brand is of good repute among the ultrarunning community, and I read many, many positive reviews. It’s designed specifically to fit the female frame (or petite men), it’s light, and it doesn’t bounce around. I wanted something with easy-access pockets in front, which this has. I tried it out on my Sunday run, just 13 or so on the trails, and I loved it. Other than a bit of noise (water sloshing a little, along with general motion-noise), I barely noticed it. Having the hose is so much more convenient than carrying bottles (although I do have and like a Nathan handheld, good for shorter distances), and my water stayed decently cold during the slightly-under-2h run.

And just a shoutout to Mountain Hardwear for their tech shirts. They’re great. I’m going to get another one for my race.

(I had planned on taking my own pictures, then was too lazy. Perhaps eventually… when I’m running in these things for my races!)

peace love and running!
bec