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Running Gear

10 Oct

Last night my husband called me a running snob.

Let me back up for a second. I was talking about how I had just been to the local running store, gift certificate in hand, and was looking for two items in particular. Well, three items really. The main item was S caps, or salt caplets. I don’t know about you, but I always figure that the specialty running store which is located literally a mile, two miles at most, away from Rodale which is the headquarters of Runners World and Running Times, home to such famous runners as Amby Burfoot, Bart Yasso, David Willey, Kathleen Jobes whom are only a few of our local elite. I live in a runner’s haven people! On any given weekend you can head out to the Parkway and count upwards of 50-100 other runners. Seriously. Anyway, you would figure that a specialty running store located amongst all of this would carry some specialty items, right? I am continually disappointed every time I cross the threshold of this particular store. I would not have even gone into this store yesterday had it not been for that gift certificate.

That damn gift certificate. I remember receiving the gift certificate and upon sight sighed a brief disappointment, “Why wasn’t it for the other local running store? The other, much better running store.”  Yes, I have become a convert to the other local running store, the competitor. It’s too bad really since the first one I talked about is located just a couple of miles from my house. The other store is about a 20 minute drive across the Valley. No big deal, really, in the grand scheme of things. It’s just unfortunate that the second store blows the first store completely out of the water. Running store #1 didn’t have arm sleeves or compression socks either. In fact, 4 brands of sneakers hung on the wall, the only running apparel was a very select couple of Mizuno items (one long sleeve shirt, two running jackets and one style of long pants), Balega brand socks and nothing else, some Ironman watches (not even Polar or Garmin GPS watches) … forever disappointing. The clerk had never even heard of arm sleeves and when I pointed out to her that they were more of a cycling thing, she literally asked me where the local cycling shop was. Umm, excuse me dear, it is located across the street and a couple doors down from this shop.

Seriously! It is sad.

This is why I have taken to ordering my shoes and arm sleeves and compression socks and will order my S caps online. And I buy all of my clothing at Dicks Sporting Goods or Target (love the C9 collection!) Yep, I am among the masses, I am supporting the big guy as opposed to the little guy.

Back to that running snob comment. I calmly explained to my husband that I am not a running snob. Far from it. Now that I have some years of running experience behind me and would like some specific items to aid me in my sport, that does not necessarily make me a running snob. It’s not like I’m looking for the best of the best. I do not condescend anyone or anything in regards to running, or with anything else in life for that matter. Just because I’m logging some longer mileage now, that makes me a snob? I think he’s a little confused. Just because I expect a little more from the local running store than they provide, just because I feel their sales staff should be a lot more knowledgeable than they actually are, that makes me a snob? (Remember, this is the same store that sold me the wrong running shoe which ultimately ended up causing me a stress fracture and sidelining me one year ago.) In my opinion this particular specialty running store is not much better than shopping at Dicks or Sports Authority or The Finish Line for that matter. They mostly cater to the novice runners who don’t know the importance of a good, quality shoe, nor the difference for that matter. I’m not faulting the novice runner at all. I’m just saying they don’t know. So, Mr. Specialty Store flashes all sorts of brand names at them and does their fancy foot work and the novice runner walks out $100 or more poorer, and not always for the better. But he is ignoring the seasoned running community at large. He is not supporting our needs. And I am forced to take my business to the internet.

I’m not even going to get into the whole local running club thing. That is an entire other rant.

Okay, with all that said … they have arrived! At long last, they have arrived. My new pink running shoes. Actually, they are more of a fuschia color. Now I am not typically a fan of the color pink. In fact, I’m pretty darn sick of it as I have two little girls and it seems that the majority of their wardrobes consists of varying degrees of pink. I have two pink items in my entire wardrobe, a fuschia Under Armour running shirt and a fuschia tech shirt from a 5k race for breast cancer a couple years back. I would much more rather own a pair of red running shoes but these are hard to come by. I have searched high and low for them, even found a red pair of Saucony racing flats but never bought them. I’m just not fast enough to wear flashy, bright red racing flats. So, pink it is. Oh, stopped at the local running store to use my gift certificate from the 5k I raced in August, the one where I placed first in my age group. (Probably the last time I’ll do that, too.) Grabbed a pair of Balega socks and some Clif Shot Bloks – not that I’m a fan of Shot Bloks, just trying to use up the gift certificate.

Oh yea, here’s a shot of my other New Balance 769’s, the orange ones. Notice the number 2 I had to write on them with my Sharpie to tell which pair was which. By the way, Pair #1 is still kicking and going strong with 300 miles on them. I compared them to the brand spanking new ones and while I can feel wear on them, it’s not too bad. I think I still have a good 25-50 miles before they bite the dust.

And now on to the arm sleeves. Here is a photo of the pair I already have by DeFeet. The design is suppose to look like lace. I really like them but as I mentioned in a previous post, they feel more like a knit than the smooth lycra feel I was trying to find.

I have earnestly been searching for arm sleeves over the past couple of weeks. My search keywords have been “cycling + arm sleeves” and it’s been turning up several options. I finally settled on a pair off the Sheila Moon website. You can find the solid colored arm sleeves all over the place but I wanted to go with something a little more funky so I settled on this one (pictured at right.) And since I’m such a cheapo $15 was a much better option than $40 or up at some other sites. Even with shipping added in I ended up spending $21 which still isn’t too bad. I came pretty close to ordering from the Terry website, they had these cool hibiscus arm sleeves. You just have to do the research.The Sheila Moon arm sleeves, pictured below, are already on their way to me. I can’t wait to get them sometime next week. I love all of this new gear. If I could only find some running pants that were grey instead of black, I’d be a happy camper.

On the website backpackinglight.com I found an informative post by Larry Savage on arm sleeves which mentioned several different brands if you are in the market for arm sleeves this year:

One of the better arm warmers I’ve used comes from Ibex. Craft, Pearl Izumi, Descente, Sugoi, Giordana, Sock Guy, Castelli, Garneau, DeFeet, Canari,Terry and tons of others make quality arm warmers. Primal Wear makes them in Camo and Tatoo pattern, you can get them with state flags on them but my favorite is from SheBeest called Pink Highball.

Found another good cycling site: teamestrogen.com. They have running stuff, too, and some very cool socks by the Sock Guy. I love my Sock Guy socks.

And now that I’ve had my coffee and the sun is starting to show it’s light, I’m going to lace up my new kicks and head out for a recovery run.

Just one question for you: Are you satisfied with your local running store? What do they do best? What don’t they do best? I’d like to hear about your experiences and how your running stores compare to mine.

Watching The Sun Rise Is Exactly How You Should Start Your Day

9 Oct

Yes, early morning running is where it’s at, for me at least. I’ve been talking about morning vs. afternoon running all week and today’s run snagged it for me. My sweet spot is in the early morning after one cup of coffee. The temperature was about 55° and in the middle of my run it started to mist for the rest of the time. My absolute favorite runs are in mild temperatures with a mist to cool me off, so today’s run goes down in the books as a winner.

According to UPS my new sneakers are out for delivery. That means that at 4:00 pm the UPS truck will be stopping outside my house and dropping off a package. I’m so excited. Don’t you just love new shoes? And the best part is that within the next several days I should be getting an email from onlineshoes.com with a discount code for my next pair which I plan to order in a couple weeks. I have had the best luck with ordering my running shoes from this website. The prices are perfect and the shoes have always been great.

Good luck weekend racers!

Wrightsock Challenge Update

25 Aug

This is my last Wrightsock Challenge update since the sock review period is coming to an end. For those who have not been following this, I was given six pair of Wrightsock brand socks to test during the month of August. I had to run exclusively in these socks and provide feedback here on my blog as well as on the forum over at the Runners’ Lounge.

I have tested all six pair of socks. They all differ from each other in thickness, padding, feel, and single vs. double layer.

A quick review of the styles:

Single Layer
SLT Tab Seamless
SLR Lo Quarter Seamless
SLX Lo Quarter Seamless

Double Layer
Running II Lo Quarter
Coolmesh Quarter
DLX Lo Quarter

I’m not sure what else I can say other than what I have already said in previous posts. I’m quite surprised that I liked the double layer socks as much as I did. I never would have tried them if not for this opportunity. The DLX are listed below as my least favorite sock but I’d like to mention that it is Summer and I don’t feel they are a good sock for running in the heat. This Winter they indeed have a good chance of becoming a favorite cold weather running sock. They are simply too thick for warmer weather.

Rank from favorite to least favorite:

  1. SLT
  2. SLX
  3. SLR
  4. Running II
  5. Coolmesh
  6. DLX

There is one more requirement to fulfill for this Wrightsock Challenge: Join in a podcast discussion on August 31 to wrap up the sock challenge.

Wrightsock Challenge Update

18 Aug

By now I have tried all six pair of Wrightsock socks and have formulated a couple of favorites in my mind, for the moment. One must take into consideration the time of year that we are testing these socks because I feel that some of them are best suited for colder weather and others for warmer weather.

Of the three single layer socks the SLT (the thinnest of all the socks) continues to be my favorite. I seem to be in the minority amongst the Wrightsock Challenge group because this seems to be the least favorite for the majority of testers. What can I say, I like my socks thin. The thinner the better. The SLT has exceptional wicking abilities and feels amazing on my feet. Most importantly I don’t even notice that I’m wearing a sock. They are so thin that my feet don’t get hot and sticky.

My next favorite sock would have to be the SLX. Personally, these are a bit too padded for me but I do like the fact that the top of the sock is thinner than the bottom of the sock, as well as being thinner in the arch. This is actually why they win out over the SLR as the SLR is padded the same all the way around. I wore the SLX on a 12 mile run over the weekend with no problems.

I was quite surprised that I liked the Running II sock as much as I did. Honestly, I didn’t think I would like any of the double layer socks but I have to say this one was actually a hit with me. I’d say it’s a medium thickness sock, similar to the SLX and SLR but it wicks great and feels really comfortable. I’m thinking the double layer helps keep your foot drier since the first layer will wick sweat to the second layer. I’m anxious to put these to the test again later this week.

The DLX is a really tough sock for me to review. I really feel that this sock cannot be adequately tested and reviewed in the current season, at least for me. It is too thick of a sock for summer running and is much more appropriate for cooler temperatures. The thickness makes this really uncomfortable to run in, my feet get hot and I just don’t want to wear them. Once the weather cools off I will happily compare these to my other cold weather socks and provide a better review.

This leaves me with one final sock, the Coolmesh Quarter. Yes, I do like this sock. In my last update I mentioned the fact that I first wore these without washing them and subsequently felt my foot slipping around inside my sneaker during the entire run. Upon washing them they shrank just enough that they fit my foot perfectly and during my next run while wearing these I did not have the same experience. Again, I feel the double layer adds an additional element of wicking above and beyond the wicking power of the single layer socks and they are thin enough for me to enjoy my summer running. I guess I am a thin sock fanatic when it comes to summer runs.

Wrightsock Challenge Update

11 Aug

Since receiving my bundle of socks in the mail last week I’ve been able to wear my Wrightsock socks on three runs. I opted not to wear them for my race on Saturday. That was a little too risky for me since I wore my first pair on Friday and had 5 other pair that hadn’t been washed or worn yet.

My initial choice for a 2 mile run was the Coolmesh Quarter sock, a double layer and very thin sock. I was pretty skeptical of the double layer socks from the start. I just couldn’t imagine how a double layer sock would be comfortable. I envisioned my foot slipping around inside my shoe with each stride. I wore these without first washing them. They were a bit loose and my feet did slip around the entire time inside my shoes. I did not like that one bit. I have been very fortunate in my past two years of running to not have had any blisters on my feet from any of my runs, whether they were short (2 miles) or long (20 miles) runs or whether it was a rainy summer day with wet feet or cold winter day with cold feet. But, my biggest worry while wearing this sock was that I was going to get a blister from the friction of my feet slipping around. After washing the Coolmesh Quarter sock and slipping them on my feet again I noticed that there was some shrinkage and now they fit my feet perfectly. I will give this sock another shot to determine whether or not the slipping around was due to the double layer or my not washing them.

At this point, all six pair of socks are washed, so my initial issue with the socks fitting a little big has been resolved. I washed all the socks in cold water and dried them with no heat. They all shrank slightly.

Next, I wore the SLT single layer sock on a 5.5 mile run. This is the thinnest of the single layer socks. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I have two sock wardrobes just like I have two running wardrobes. I have my winter socks and my summer socks. Winter socks are thick and summer socks are thin. I was really excited to give the SLT sock a try. They are very comfortable, I did not even notice them on my run unlike the Coolmesh which I noticed the entire time. Half way through my run I realized that I had not even given the sock a thought and tried to focus on how they felt while I was running: comfortable, my feet weren’t sweating so they were wicking well, no rubbing. Then it began to rain and my feet were soaking wet as I had no choice but to run through several puddles. This was an excellent test and the SLT held up exceptionally well. I am extremely happy with this sock and from here on in will consider it a permanent member of my summer sock wardrobe. The SLR is very similar to my SmartWool Ultra Light Micro summer running socks, very thin all around and unnoticeable while running.

Finally, this morning I wore the SLX single layer sock on a 6 mile run. This is very comparable to the LL Bean CoolMax socks that I have been wearing. I typically like to wear them in winter but will wear them in a pinch on a summer run when my other summer socks are all in the laundry. This is because they are, in my mind, a mid-weight sock. The SLX is padded on the bottom and thin on the top, unlike the LL Bean CoolMax which are padded all around. I really liked the SLX, I figured I would but wasn’t sure if they’d make the cut for summer running. In fact, they do make the cut. They wick well, they are comfortable and I like the thinness of the sock on the top of the foot.

Check back next Tuesday for my continued review of Wrightsock socks.

New Job Title: Sock Tester

7 Aug

I’ve got two things to talk about today. First let’s deal with the running. Just a couple of easy miles this morning around the neighborhood to get my legs moving a little. Started slow (9:02) and eased into a very natural 8:20 pace by the end of the run. My legs wanted to go, I am taking this as a good sign. 58* outside + 55* dew point = 90% relative humidity. The cool temperature made me really excited for Fall.

Thanks for all the well wishes for tomorrow’s race. The race jitters are almost all gone, maybe just a tiny butterfly here or there. I’m looking forward to toeing the line tomorrow morning, but not the 9:00 am temperatures. Hope it’s cool!

Next … the Wrightsock Challenge.

As some of you know, I have been hanging out over at the Runners’ Lounge for the past year. Some of you do, too. It’s a really great, interactive community of runners with so many fun things going on and lots of participation. Members contribute to the site by submitting articles, videos, stories, joining groups and interacting in the forums. Each day of the week is generally devoted to a certain topic. Sunday is a running recap from the past week of news headlines. Check in on Mondays for the weekly giveaway. (I’ve actually won things twice: iron on reflective decals and my current favorite trainers – New Balance 769’s.) Tuesdays you can find a great write-up with links to members’ blogs. Then there is Take It and Run Thursday. A certain topic of the day is unveiled, you blog about the topic and then add a link to your blog. Friday is called Open Mike and a RL member is highlighted and interviewed. And there is so much more. I’ve really come to enjoy participating in this community.

I was very excited when I got an email from Tom (one of the site owners) asking me if I was interested in joining a team to try out Wrightsocks and then provide feedback. And this is how I became a sock tester. My socks arrived yesterday, it’s always exciting to get a package and quickly open it to see what’s inside! There are six different styles of socks, three of which are single layer and three are double layer. As per the website:

Double Layer socks:

WRIGHTSOCK TM Double Layer delivers the no blister promise through a three-part system:

1. Moisture Management : Dri-WRIGHTTM inner layer wicks moisture off the skin better than any other fabric. The Result… your feet stay dry.

2. Temperature Regulation: Staying dry means staying cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The Result… your feet are more comfortable.

3. Friction Reduction : Interaction between the inner and outer sock layers absorbs friction that is normally transferred to the skin. The Result… skin shear is eliminated.

Single Layer socks:

WRIGHTONES™ premium performance line:

Our new premium single layer performance line offers many benefits for the active user.

1. Seam Free Design: Eliminates irritation on the toes.
2. Temperature Regulation: Dri-WRIGHT IITM fibers keep the foot cool and dry.
3. Y Heel: Promotes an anatomically correct fit for added comfort.
4. Stabilizer ZoneTM: Enhances the fit and keeps the sock properly positioned on the foot.
5. Color Coded Size Indicator: Helps match sizes after laundering.

I received the following socks to wear and review ($60 worth):

Single Layer
SLT Tab Seamless“A lightweight premium performance sock that provides a second skin feel. Perfect for all running activities.”

SLR Lo Quarter Seamless “A premium performance sock featuring a midweight cushioned footbed that adds comfort and protection from shock for all athletic activities. This sock provides all the protection you need without shoe sizing issues.”

SLX Lo Quarter Seamless“This premium performance sock is ideal for all athletic activities. It features dense terry cushion in key stress zones to provide exceptional comfort and shock absorption. The SLX also has venting channels for added breathability. “

Double Layer
Running II Lo Quarter“The Running II sock is still a flat knit (no cushion) midweight sock designed for all running activities. This new style also has a bit more Lycra® and a Stabilizer ZoneTM for a snug (but not tight) fit. Features the perfect combination of moisture management and friction-free control. This sock provides all the protection you need without shoe sizing issues. Perfect for the Running sock user who would like just a slightly snugger fit.”

Coolmesh Quarter “Our lightest, most breathable Double Layer. Features 30% lighter weight than the Running sock along with a mesh panel across the top of the foot. This panel allows for maximum “wicking” action away from the foot, keeping you drier and cooler than other socks. Designed for all activities where lighttweight is preferred. Perfect for Running, Cycling, Hiking and Walking on or off trails. “

DLX Lo Quarter“The Cushioned DLX provides a light amount of cushioning for added comfort. Dri-WRIGHT II™ wicks moisture away from your feet and the two layers absorb all the friction and foot shear. Stabilizer Zone™ helps lock the sock in place. A great addition to the WRIGHTSOCK™ line. “

The rules are pretty simple:
1. Wear the socks for all my runs during the month of August
2. Blog about it
3. Join in the discussion with other team members in the Wrightsock Challenge Group at Runners Lounge
4. Join in a podcast discussion on August 31 to wrap up the sock challenge

Whew! Are you following all that? I am planning on reviewing the socks each Tuesday during the month of August so check in for my feedback on all of the Wrightsocks.

Slugging Along In Mile One

6 Aug

I have yet to give an official review of the compression socks I bought last month. I have been wearing them after speed sessions and long runs but I have yet to notice if they do anything other than keep my lower legs warm. Then again, it’s not like I’m marathon training and dealing with tired legs like last year. My speed sessions never produce tired or achy legs. My long runs haven’t been too tough on me this summer. So, the jury is still out on the compression socks. I will defer my judgement for another day.

Yesterday was the first official speed session with my new racing flats. I didn’t even notice anything special about them, which is a good thing. That means they feel great, fit perfectly and I have no issues with them. I mean, you definitely notice how light they are when you first put them on, no doubt about that. But after a while you just get use to that and sort of forget.

compressions socks – 0
racing flats – 1

I didn’t hear my alarm this morning and I had it set for something like 5:50 am. That’s sleeping in for me. My husband had to nudge me and tell me that my alarm was on. I sleepily wandered downstairs and drank a half a cup of coffee before heading out for my run. That was one of my tougher first miles in a long time simply because I was tired and not fully woken up yet. I did my good mornings, not too happily, and then pulled out a really slow, uphill first mile in 9:23. Wow. I never have a mile that slow except on my Sunday long runs. Oh well, I decided to just run a very relaxed 4 to 5 miler and let my body do what it wanted to do. No need to push anything two days out from a race.

I guess my body woke up because the rest of the run felt super easy, my inner mana just poured out and I was floating along. Nice! 8:41-8:36-8:37-8:24 Just floating along. In my groove. Temps were cool, sporadic sprinkles came down from the sky. This ended up being a really nice run.

My back is feeling much, much better than it did a week ago. Or rather, my SI joint. I am heading back to the chiropractor later this morning for another quick adjustment but that should be it.