Sunday, January 25, 2015

Don't Put Off Buying New Shoes

My dad has a saying, "don't put off buying new tires." It's not worth the potential wear and tear on your car, or even a possible safety risk, of delaying this important purchase. I'd say this wisdom extends to running shoes as well. Good running shoes help support your body and reduce the chance of injury.

Conventional wisdom says to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles. I'm diligent about tracking my running miles - my silver/purple/coral Saucony Guide 7s have 225.2 miles on them. Which would suggest they still have some life in them. What I'm NOT good about, however, is refraining from wearing my running shoes when not running. I try to wear my older shoes when I'm not running, but sometimes I'm wearing something that matches the silver/purple/coral better. And those times, I let fashion overrule my better judgement.

Back in August these were brand new!

In late December, I noticed the numbness in my feet seemed to be getting worse again. I've had it under control for a while with the switch to wider shoes, Lock Laces, Superfeet inserts, and run/walk intervals. I wondered if my neuromas were getting worse. I worried about what to do. And then it occurred to me that I might just need new shoes. Is it possible these shoes were really over 300 miles with the unlogged walking around? Yes. Is it possible that I'm hard enough on my shoes that I need to replace them closer to 300 miles than 500? Yes.

Coach Shannon special-ordered the new Saucony Guide 8s for me in size 6 wide. I've learned I need to size up a whole size & width to accommodate my swelling & neuromas (I wear size 5 medium-width street shoes). The wide shoes usually only come in one or two color combinations, unlike the medium width shoes. I selected the white/twilight/pink color because: 
  1. I like them better than the grey/sunset/citron option that also comes in wide, and 
  2. They are similar enough to my old white/teal/citron shoes so I should be able to avoid the fashion urge to wear my active running shoes while walking around, which diminishes their running life.

my new Saucony Guide 8s with pink Lock Laces

I finally got to put my 13.1 BeeCause Charm
on my shoes! This came in a RunnerBox last year.

Since I was buying new shoes, I also bought new Superfeet inserts. I've been wearing the berry Superfeet. But I suspected that my high arches and pronation would benefit from the extra support of the green Superfeet, and decided to try them out this time. 

berry vs. green, top view
(berry has been worn for 6 months)

berry vs. green, side view
Here you can see the additional support in the green

I tested out my new shoes on a short run earlier this week, and today was the long run test. I ran 6.2 miles with no numbness or discomfort. It was such a relief to feel my feet for the whole run again! 

Having the right shoes to support your runs is so important! I recommend getting professional help at a running store to have your gait analyzed and your needs assessed. Saving money is nice, but when it comes to shoes, don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Know what you need, and when you need it. Don't put off buying new shoes!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Shrink, Sink, and Lift the Diamond!

Does that phrase sound familiar to you? It does if you've taken a pilates class with Dovalyn at Reston Pilates. The "diamond" represents your core and "shrink, sink, and lift" is the shorthand to remind you of how to properly engage it. Or if that's too much to remember, just giggle! Laughing reminds you exactly where those ab muscles are.

Coach Jodi owns Reston Pilates and she generously offered a free mat class to anyone who wanted to check it out. Anyone? Yes, anyone includes you if you are local! Get your coupon for a free mat class or 50% off a private session here.

We all know how important a strong core is for running. A strong core reduces your likelihood of injury. It supports good running posture and form, enhancing speed and agility. Yet many of us neglect our core, myself included. Pilates is a great way to strengthen your core. A group of us decided to take Coach Jodi up on her offer and see what Pilates was like.

Our intrepid Pilates crew!
back l to r: Megan, Susan, Lynn
front l to r: me, Molly, Laurie

What is Pilates? What do you do?

Some people think that Pilates is intimidating, and that it involves a machine that looks like an ancient torture device. But you don't have to do Pilates on a reformer. For many people, especially beginners, Pilates "mat" classes are more accessible and an easy way to start becoming familiar with Pilates exercises. 

In a mat class, you are on an actual mat, much like you would be in a yoga class. An instructor leads you through a series of core-engaging exercises, helping you with your form, and providing tips on modifying the level of difficulty.

Dovalyn made liberal use of humor to engage our giggle muscles,
keep the class fun, and distract us from how hard our cores were working!

Here's an example of Lynn & Molly laughing while working hard.
Susan was laughing so hard from simultaneously (1) trying to master
this move and (2) watching Lynn laugh that she totally rolled over...

Susan & Megan didn't coordinate their outfits. Really.

The goal here isn't to touch your toes.
Dovalyn gave specific instructions about what you should feel in your core,
and which parts of your body should actually move.
This is a subtle but powerful exercise!
Laurie rocks a killer plank!

What Comes Next?

After the class we all felt temporarily more "buff." The muscle memory of engaging your core lingers with you for at least a few hours. You are aware of your core, and consciously remembering to tighten it. You can feel how much of your body's strength, power, and balance radiate from your core. The homework Dovalyn gave us for the week really made sense:
Whenever you are standing in line, or stirring a pot at the stove, pause and remember to "shrink, sink, and lift your diamond." Don't clench your butt. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Mindfully engage your core.
Think how much stronger all of our cores could be if we kept this in mind and practiced it regularly! I am making a concerted effort to do my homework.

There is a quote I like from Joseph Pilates on the home page of Reston Pilates:
"In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you'll be on your way to having a whole new body."
I believe it. I think it would serve me (and my running) well to keep practicing Pilates consistently!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Do You Want to Run a Relay?

In my head the title of today's blog post is sung to the tune of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" (I just want to make that clear because how else would you know?!)

The idea of a relay race intrigues me. It blends the best of both worlds - solitary running with the social support and solidarity of a team. I've read many Ragnar Relay race recaps with great interest (see my favorite recap, by Deborah). But I'm not ready for the multi-day commitment of Ragnar. I'm not sure I want to run multiple legs of a relay with minimal sleep or showers.

Enter the perfect solution - Rock the Creek Relay. Here's a quote from their website that sold me:
What are you committing to? Running a six leg relay, of about 30 miles total (legs range from 4-6.5 miles each) over the course of about 4-5 hours. And eating some good food. And listening to some good music. In a beautiful environment. With some great running friends.
Sounds pretty awesome to me. And in case I needed another sign, Race Director Bob told me the pink flamingo mascot shares the name of my son, Freddy.

There were already two teams of women signed up from the Reston Runners Best Foot Forward group. I set about to put together a third team, and found two more BFFs plus three ladies from the Potomac River Running Training group.

I'm eagerly anticipating rocking the creek in September with my fellow Reston Rockettes:

(photo courtesy of laurentina photography)





Yes, I want to run a relay! Maybe you do, too...?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Running in the Cold - My Favorite Gear

This morning was our first *really* cold training run for the season. The temperature was 14 degrees F, with a "real feel" of 3 degrees. I was apprehensive about whether I had chosen the right clothes, but my run was successful and after the first few minutes of warming up I was quite comfortable. What did I choose?

Shannon, me, Jen, & Lynn on the snowy trails of Reston
photo credit: Laurentina Photography

I used this SparkPeople infographic to guide my selections. It shows up regularly on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and there is good reason - it's a great guide. You might find that you run a little warmer or cooler than this, but for me it's pretty much on target.


Today we were facing the lowest row, below 20 degrees F. For my base layer, I wore a wicking tank top and running tights. For the insulating layer, I wore a pair of running pants and a long-sleeved compression shirt with a high neck and hood. For my protective layer, I wore my Nike Shield Max Jacket (aka "Ninja" jacket).

Lynn calls this jacket the "Swiss Army Knife" jacket
because there are so many features tucked into it

This jacket is lightweight and protects against the elements. It includes a neck gaiter that tucks into the hood and mittens that tuck into the sleeves. You can't see the full mittens in the picture above, but they completely enclose your hand. This jacket is the best purchase I made last year. Although I kind of wish I didn't own it yet and could buy one this year, because it now comes it pretty colors like purple, red, and turquoise. 

this is the color I would buy if I didn't already own it...

For accessories, I turned to Mizuno Breath Thermo socks and gloves. The fabric gets warm when it gets wet (i.e., when you sweat). My fingers and toes regularly go numb from the cold and these socks and gloves really make a difference for me.

this glove is thin enough to layer under other gloves

this sock also comes in "crew" height and in white

For the beginning of the run I wore the mittens from my jacket over the gloves and took them off when I got warm. I also started out with two hats and peeled them off as I warmed up. When I take off accessories like hats, gloves, and neck gaiters I tuck them into the front cord locks of my Nathan Trail Mix hydration belt.

I never run without this!
(unless I'm running with my Nathan hydration vest)

I can stow my stuff securely without having to stop and I have easy access to it if I need to put it back on. There are two 10-ounce bottles on the back (hydration is important in the winter, too!) and a big pocket that I can put my phone, car key, drivers license, health insurance card, and lip balm into. I also keep band-aids, advil, bobby pins, and safety pins in there just in case someone needs them.

So that's what helped keep me comfortable during today's frigid temperatures! To see more of our freezing training run, check out this cool vimeo Laura created.

The PR Reston Cold Weather Warriors!
photo credit: Laurentina Photography

By the way, I am not an ambassador for any of these companies or trying to sell you anything. There are no affiliate links above that earn me any money. Just my honest opinion about gear that really delivers. Stay warm out there!

Jen, Michelle, Viji, & me - the cold never bothered us anyway!
photo credit: Laurentina Photography

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Theme for 2015: Simplify

This is a popular time of year for setting goals, making resolutions, and generally thinking about making and/or breaking habits. My mantra for 2015 will simply be: Simplify.


"Simplify" works for a variety situations for me and can be used as a guiding principle for me this year:

  • Declutter. I've got so much stuff in my life, my house, my head. Pare it back, clear it out.
  • Say No. Part of that clutter comes from accepting too much into my life and onto my plate. Just say no.
  • Be Present. I have a tendency to multi-task, zone-out, and miss out. Focus on the moment.

"Simplify" also applies to my race calendar this year. I love looking at my 2014 race calendar on the side of my blog and feel reluctant to retire this year's accomplishments. I ran a lot of races, I set PRs, I conquered new distances...I had a lot of fun! My full 2014 race calendar with recap links is below:

For 2015, however, I need to simplify. As tempting as it is to fill out the calendar, I am staying focused, limiting commitments, and keeping it simple. For now, I am only committed to, and registered for, a single race - the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. I will certainly run other races this year, but I want to be mindful about what I add to the schedule. Simplify!

2014 Race Recaps

It makes me a little nostalgic to retire our 2014 race calendar from the sidebar on my blog. Here are links to all of our races and recaps for the year. 

01/01 - Commitment Day 5k
02/09 - Run Your Heart Out 5k 
04/06 - Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
04/27 - Nike Women's Half Marathon
05/11 - Mother's Day 4-Miler
06/15 - Run With Dad 5k
06/21 - Fit Foodie Fun 5k
06/21 - Twilight Festival 4-Miler (1-mile)
08/24 - South Lakes 10k
09/12 - Divas DC 5k 
09/28 - Perfect 10 (10k)
10/12 - Army Ten Miler
11/08 - Mustache Mile
12/31 - Fairfax Four Miler

RICK (Kim's Hubby):
01/01 - Commitment Day 5k
03/15 - Lucky Leprechaun 5k
03/22 - Run for Haiti 5k
04/13 - Loudoun Half
11/02 - The Parks 10k
12/31 - Ringing in Hope 10k

FREDDY (Kim's Son):
01/01 - Commitment Day 5k
03/29 - Mighty Mile - Reston
05/18 - CYA Trophy Mile
06/15 - Run With Dad 5k
06/21 - Twilight Festival 4-Miler (1-mile)
06/29 - Mighty Mile -Fairfax
09/07 - Mighty Mile - Leesburg
11/28 - Gingerbread Man Mile

HARRY (Kim's Dad):
06/15 - Run With Dad 5k

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fairfax Four-Miler Recap (2014)

What a difference a year makes! I have such vivid memories of running the Fairfax Four-Miler in 2013 and contrasting them to my experience running the race last night is striking. Both times I set a PR (personal record) and felt really good about my performance. This year, however, I was with friends and had an entirely different and far more fun experience!

Pre-Race Prep

Glow-stick bling is a must for this race. I picked up some in the dollar bin at Target and a fancier "party pack" at Amazon. I am really glad I got the party pack because it had some fantastic accessories and the quality of the glow sticks was far superior. Next time I will skip the Target bargain buy.

Amazon promo pic for the party pack (source)

Freddy helped me make some of the accessories the afternoon before the race. He wanted to start earlier but I told him we needed to wait until closer to the race so the sticks would still glow during the race (a little tip I found out last night - putting active glow sticks in the freezer will preserve the glow...I also heard that putting a "dead" glow stick in the freezer can reactivate it - albeit fainter than before - but I haven't tested that yet).

glasses and headband

triple-strand bracelet
(accessories shown above my hand)

accessories for necklaces, earrings, & a ring

Pre-Race Logistics

We had two teams of four ladies registered from the Reston Runners Best Foot Forward group. Pacers ran a nice promotion where you could register four runners for the price of three and we took full advantage of the discount! Seven of us met in Reston and carpooled to Old Town Fairfax. We parked in the Courthouse shopping plaza and made a potty break pit-stop at Safeway.

Groupie at Safeway! Clockwise from back left:
Susan, Laurie, Roz, Terri, Lynn, Molly, me

Then we headed back to the cars to add some more glow accessories and finishing touches before heading over to Pacers to meet up with Norma.

Roz rocks glasses, earrings, a necklace & bracelets

Lynn, Laurie, & Susan showing off their bling
(photo hindered somewhat by reflective gear)

Then we headed over to Pacers where we linked up with Norma who gave us fancy bead necklaces.

In full bling mode!
back from L: Susan, Terri, Norma, Molly
front from L: Lynn, Laurie, me, Roz

I bumped into my friend Andrea before the race.
She and her friend Sara rocked some sparkly tutus!

The Race

The race is a lollipop course that goes down George Mason Blvd, around the George Mason Campus, and back up the boulevard. It has some sections that are dark and some uneven pavement, but most of it is sufficiently lit. 

Course map (source)

We all started together but ran our own races so we separated quickly. I decided to do 5:1 run:walk intervals for the race. Lynn stuck with me for more than half the race, which was awesome. We got to see some of our friends during the two small out & backs on the loop and cheer for each other. 

I focused on negative splits and picking it up during the second half of the race. I ran the first half in 24:18 and the second half in 22:00. My finish time of 46:18 was a PR by just over a minute; last year's time was 47:20. I was happy with my performance and PR. I felt a bit frustrated the last half mile or so when I wanted to go even faster than I was going and I just couldn't get around all of the people on the narrow section of the course. I remember that happening last year, as well, and I just accept that it is the way this particular race is.

Molly's feathery headband was easy to spot on the course!
Here, BFFs lined up after the race to cheer for us slower folks
(photo courtesy of Terri)

Crossing the finish line was fun - I heard someone say "way to go, ears" and my faster BFF friends were lined up at the chute cheering for the rest of us.

Post-Race fun

We all headed over to the Pacers Photo Booth and got a group photo taken:

photo courtesy of Swim Bike Run Photo (source)
Note: photo booth is designed for smaller groups and
wouldn't normally show "long fence" sign & fencing.
We broke the photo booth!!!

Then we went inside the Old Town Hall and enjoyed some pizza while soaking in the ambiance and listening to the speedy age group awards.

Inside the Old Town Hall
(photo courtesy of Terri)

We left the race and went to a nearby bar where we toasted the New Year and each other.

Terri, Roz, & Norma with the 2015 headbands
(photo courtesy of Terri)

The Ladies Room sign that made us laugh

Post-race revelry at the bar
(photo courtesy of Terri)

We marveled over how we all felt like we had known each other for ages, but just a year ago many of us hadn't known each other at all. Last year at this time I only knew Lynn! And now some of these women are among my closest confidantes. How quickly things can change. Here's to a great 2015! Happy New Year!