Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Around and around the Oval

Discovered: it’s exactly one mile from my apartment to the southwestern corner of Piedmont Park. I expect to become very familiar with this route over the next few weeks.

Atlanta’s Piedmont Park seems to be a miniature version of NYC’s Central Park. There are winding roads upon which one can run or bike, a lake, playgrounds, and tennis courts. There’s a dog park and a boathouse and a botanical garden. You’re never far from a drinking fountain or a bathroom.

And there’s a flat crushed gravel loop restricted to runners/walkers moving in a counter-clockwise direction. Yep, the “Active Oval” is Piedmont Park’s version of the Reservoir.

I decided to take my planned tempo run to the Oval yesterday, mostly because of its flatness. With 10K on the agenda, that would mean nearly 12 times around the roughly half-mile loop.

Looking back at my training so far this year, clearly I’ve been slacking on the tempo front. I used to try to work in both a track and a tempo session each week, but lately I’ve only been doing the track work. Primarily because that’s what my group was doing, but also because I actually enjoy track workouts while I generally despise tempo runs.

But sometimes you’ve gotta do stuff you don’t really enjoy. And even though it wasn’t exactly fun, I needed a long, grinding tempo to make me feel like I’m even a little bit prepared for this marathon next month.

Since Piedmont Park is a mini version of Central Park, I decided to do a mini version of the classic CPTC marathon pace/half marathon pace tempo, or as Megan recently called it, the 2 X 4 Mile Beast.

Meet the 2 X 5K Mini Beast.

I was pretty happy with how this went. Nice even splits! The last couple of miles were definitely hard, both on account of the faster pace and the fact that I was starting to get bored of looping the Oval. Total workout was nine miles and change, including warm up and cool down.

My new ASICS DS Trainer 17‘s felt great during the workout:

Before leaving my old job, I had to take advantage of my employee discount one last time. I almost picked up a pair of the new Brooks Ravenna 3, but given that I wasn’t totally thrilled with the mileage I got out of the previous version of the Ravenna, I decided to mix it up and go with a comparable shoe from ASICS instead.

Like the Ravenna, the DS Trainer is a light stability shoe, designed to provide a touch of support for mild over-pronators, while weighing in a bit lighter than a traditional stability shoe. (The DS Trainer is 8.8 ounces, versus 9.3 ounces for ASICS’s traditional stability shoe, the GT-2170.) Previous versions of the DS Trainer had run very narrow and had a weird puffy collar thing around the ankle; the new version released this year seems to be a touch roomier in the toe box, and the collar thing is significantly less puffy. So I decided to give them a try.

I’ve been running in them for a couple of weeks, and no complaints so far! It’s a nice soft shoe that doesn’t feel too clunky or heavy.

I’m still alternating with my Brooks PureFlows, but I think having a traditional cushioned shoe for longer runs is a good thing for me. When I had that weird foot pain a couple of weeks ago, I’d been running almost exclusively in the PureFlows and had done a 20-miler in them day the pain started. No idea whether the foot issue was in any way related to my choice of shoes, but I’m going to be a little more cautious just in case.

Recovery run on the agenda tonight. You’ll find me in Piedmont Park again, but I think I’ll be avoiding the Active Oval.

Free Shoe Friday

So. I’m moving in three weeks (holycrap!) and I have a #firstworldproblem: I have too many running shoes.

I get a lot of free shoes at work. Brand reps give running store employees their hot new shoes so that we’ll try them out and be able to sell them competently, with a personal slant – and hopefully wear them on the sales floor, too.

This is largely how I have, over the last couple of years, ended up in this situation:

How many of these can I take to Atlanta with me?

Although I’m pretty lucky in that I can usually run without issue in whatever shoe I want – neutral, stability, minimal, etc – sometimes I receive a pair that just doesn’t work for some reason.

Case in point: these Asics GEL-NEO33 lightweight trainers are sadly of no use to me.

Not because it’s a bad shoe! In fact, I was really excited to try it. But they’re too big. I wore them around the store for a few hours before realizing that the inch of extra space in the front was kind of a deal-breaker.

The ASICS 33 line, which debuted last December, is the company’s answer to the likes of the Saucony Kinvara/Mirage and the Brooks PureProject shoes. It’s a “natural motion” shoe, which isn’t to say that its minimalist, because there’s still a good amount of cushion in the NEO33. But the heel-toe offset is slightly lower (10mm, in this case – which is pretty conservative, compared to the 4mm found in  comparable “natural motion” shoes – but still lower than the typical running shoe’s 12mm). Billed as a lightweight shoe, it clocks in at 8.5 ounces: a bit lighter than its more traditional counterparts (ASICS’s mid-level stability trainer, the 2170, is 9.9 ounces) but heftier than, say, a Saucony Kinvara (which is around 7 ounces).

Anyway. I like the feel of this shoe, but I know that I’m not going to wear it because it doesn’t fit me. So I’m going to give it to one of you guys!

Shoe: ASICS GEL-NEO33 / Size: Women’s 9B (runs big!) / Type of shoe: I’d call it a mild-stability lightweight trainer. It does have some support, making it appropriate for someone who is a mild to moderate over-pronater. If you wear the ASICS 2160/2170, ASICS Kayano, Brooks Adrenaline, Brooks Ravenna, Saucony Guide, etc…it would be a great shoe for you!

If you want it, just say so in the comments; I’ll compile them and pick a random winner on Monday. (Shipping’s on me, as long as it’s US/Canada.)

Anyway. I have tomorrow off of work, so I’m kicking back with a beer tonight:

I’ve had this one in my fridge for a few weeks, so I’m not sure if it still qualifies as a “catch & release” seasonal, but this Sweet Water Happy Ending is delightful.

Bright hops flirt with semi-sweet chocolate in this Imperial Stout, and a strong dose of carbonation gives this beer a surprisingly quenching quality. This is not a stout that harkens your morning cup of coffee, coating your mouth in creamy richness. Rather, it reminds me of a fun chocolate truffle with something fresh and tart inside: rich, but refreshing. 9% ABV.

Bottom line: I’m rather smitten by the hoppy, bubbly quality of this beer! Definitely a fun stout to try. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $2/12 oz)

Off to catch up on about seven more episodes of How I Met Your Mother (which I’m watching serially on Netflix – and loving OMG) before I call it bedtime.

Happy (almost) Friday!

Wasted Saturday

I don’t mean like totally wasted, OMG let’s go streaking through the quad! (That was last weekend in Vegas. Minus the streaking.)

Nope, I mean squandered.

I had big plans, y’all. With the day off of work, I’d envisioned a lovely long run in the (not-too-early) morning, followed by an afternoon of leisurely errand-running or cookie-making or whatever sounded good. It would be the sort of day that blended productivity and relaxation in perfect proportions, causing me to sigh happily as I ate my (home-cooked) dinner and reflect on its loveliness.

So smug about this vision, I was, that I deliberately un-set my alarm as I went to bed on Friday night. Surely I would wake up naturally the next morning, fully rested and ready to go, at an appropriate time.

What actually happened was as follows.

At 7:25 AM, I awoke groggily, stirred by the sound of a kitty tongue methodically licking a plastic bag. (If you’re unfamiliar with this sound, consider yourself blessed.)

After finding the culprit and disposing of her slobbery prize, I checked my phone’s weather app.

Apparently my city was the bizarre calm spot in the center of a massive ring of rainy and stormy weather; surrounded on all sides by torrential rain.

You should go running now…like NOW, I told myself. A peek through the blinds confirmed that it was indeed dry outside. Obviously I had a window of opportunity here.

I shut the blinds and went back to sleep.

It was almost 10:30 by the time I dragged myself out of bed. Coffee brewing and bread in the toaster. The skies were still calm and gray.

I’m going to go running just as soon as I digest this toast, I vowed.

Noon came. It occurred to me that all of the people who had done their long runs in the morning were home and showered and enjoying a nice lunch right now. I poured another cup of coffee.

As the minutes ticked by, the run became the elephant in the room. Every half hour or so I glanced outside, half hoping to see a dangerous lightning-laced downpour so that I could finally just address this damn 18-mile run I’d planned and responsibly conclude that it was better to call it off.

But the sidewalks stayed dry.

The great thing about winter running is that, with nice cool weather, you can procrastinate your long run until mid-day if you want to. But the crappy thing about winter running is that at some point, you bump up against the early-setting sun.

So finally, around 2 PM, I decided I’d run out of excuses. I was quickly going to run out of daylight. I got my ass in gear. Naturally, as I was driving to the trailhead, it started raining.

I had the American Tobacco Trail all to myself…which isn’t surprising given the conditions, I suppose. Who the hell wants to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon running?

I’d planned to do 18 miles with a few miles at goal marathon pace, but I wasn’t feeling it today, so I just cruised easy. The gravel trail was waterlogged, making it very soft and soggy, which wouldn’t have made for a good pace workout anyway. And it would have been challenging to get going fast in these clodhoppers:

I got this pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTX last fall as a work freebie, but had never run in them until today. It’s basically the regular Adrenaline but with a Gore-Tex upper and a slightly burlier tread.

Overall, it’s not a bad shoe, but it’s definitely heavier and stiffer than what I’m used to. (The women’s Gore-Tex Adrenaline weighs in at 10.7 ounces, versus 9.4 for the regular version – and I usually run in the 9-ounce Ravenna or 7.5-ounce PureFlow.)

I will say that my toes stayed nice and dry, though! If I lived somewhere where I needed to slog though cold slush and snow on a regular basis, it would be a great shoe. (Brooks also makes a Gore-Tex version of the neutral Ghost.)

Anyway. 18 miles got done, and even though I bagged the tempo portion, my overall pace was right where I wanted it to be. I’m (optimistically) calling goal marathon pace 7:45 this time around, so 8:45 (60 seconds per mile slower) is just about perfect for a long run.

By the time I was pulling out of the park gates, the afternoon had ceded to a drizzly dusk. By the time I got home and showered, it was almost time for Jeopardy. This run pretty much dominated my day.

And that home-cooked dinner? It took the form of Ling-Lings’s Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers, fresh out of the freezer.

A Saturday wasted? Yep, pretty much.

At least the rain has stopped. If anyone wants to go streaking….

Blossoms and blood

On Friday morning, I was approximately twenty minutes in to my drive up to New Jersey for the big relay weekend when it dawned on me that I’d made the dumbest mistake I could possibly make in such circumstances.

I’d forgotten my running shoes.

Seriously.

I’d taken great pains to make sure that the wine was cozily nestled in the cooler. I’d double and triple-checked on the giant bag of candy.  But running shoes?  Unimportant, apparently.

Possibly tragic.  Except that I happened to have a fresh pair handy in the car:

I’d picked up these Mizuno Wave Precision 13’s as a work freebie.  They seemed to fit great and gosh they were cute!  (Look at the cherry blossom art!  Cuuuuute!)  But there was one problem: I’d never actually run in them.

What do we always say about races?  Never try anything new on race day.

So it was probably a pretty bad idea to try out these pretty babies for the first time on a day-long relay.

But I’m not known for making good decisions, and I sure as hell was not going to add 40 minutes to my drive by going back home to get my tried-and-true Brooks flats.  So out of the box and on to my feet went the Mizunos on Saturday morning.

You can probably see where this is headed.

Nobody makes me bleed my own blood! Except for…well, me.  When I’m being an idiot and racing in new shoes.

Overall, I actually don’t think they’re bad shoes!  But they’re definitely a little narrower than the Brooks Ghosts in which I do most of my mileage.  And I probably should have given the ol’ toenails a little trim on account of that.

But they’re light and flexible and a solid lightweight trainer…they remind me a lot of Kinvaras, actually.  Except cuter.   Because they have cherry blossoms.

Anyway.  Lesson learned.   My toe will heal and hopefully the blood stains will wash away the first time I take the shoes through a puddle.  And if not?  It will just remind me of the time when I was a badass and bled through my shoes.  (Or…um, when I was a dumbass and forgot my shoes.)

Here’s how last week’s mileage came out:

Meh on the volume, but a little pat on the back for getting a few decent workouts in and bringing that average pace down a little!  Partial credit goes to the treadmill for that, though.  It’s remarkable that an 8-minute pace feels easy on the treadmill right now, while a 9-minute pace is difficult to maintain outside.  Damn you, summer.

And July as a whole:

Definitely an improvement over May and June!

Today was kind of a long day, so I’m going to enjoy my no-cook dinner:

Smoked salmon, fluffy whipped cream cheese, and an everything bagel with a big salad.  Yum.

And sip on a little pink:

I was rather unimpressed with the 2009 version of this 2010 La Ferme Julien Rose when I tried it last year.   I’m not sure that the 2010 version is all that much better.  I mean, it’s drinkable, but it’s kinda sharp and a little watery.  A little bit of rosewater on the nose and some strawberry in the mouth, but overall it’s just boring.  I guess this goes against my pro-French-pink stance.  Oh well.

Bottom line: Skip it.  (Purchased at Trader Joe’s, $7.)

Off to rest the eyeballs for a few hours…see y’all tomorrow with a sock giveaway winner or two!

Crackin’ a forty

No, we’re not talking about beer.  (Not yet, anyway.)

We’re talking about mileage!  And about how great it feels to build it back up a little bit.  My first 40+ mile week since, uh…May?  Wow.

M – 5 mi easy (treadmill, 1% incline, 41:50, 8:21 pace)
Tu – (AM) TRX + intervals at HEAT, total ~2 mi; (PM) 3.5 mi easy (group leader for social run, 35:00, 10:00 pace)
W – 5 mi easy (45:00, 9:00 pace)
Th – 7 mi easy, met up with with Jenny and Lisa (1:01, 8:42 pace)
F – 5 mi easy, thought about doing a tempo-ish run but then just decided to do a medium-paced run, it was a gorgeous morning and I just wanted to enjoy it! (40:57, 8:11 pace)
Sa – 11 mi easy (long run w/hubs, 1:45:00, 9:30 pace)
Su – Intervals at HEAT (total ~2.5 mi)

Total: 41 miles.  Yay!

A few notes:

  • The weather was freakin’ GORGEOUS this week.  GORGEOUS.  Low humidity and everything.  It was enough to get me out of bed for a record FOUR morning workouts this week.
  • I’m still running naked and really enjoying it.  Nope, I don’t miss the Garmin at all.  It’ll continue to hibernate in my underwear drawer for a few more weeks.
  • Those HEAT classes?  Are continuing to kick my ass and I’m totally loving it.  I’m going to try to go twice a week for the rest of the summer.  Yeah, it a little expensive, but I like the format of pay-per-use better than a gym membership.  Because the fact is that I simply am not going to go lift weights.  And committing to a gym for a whole year is scary anyway.  I’m hoping these classes help my strength a little bit so I don’t get those pathetic sore abs and arms after every race this fall.
  • I can haz new shoes?

I need another pair of running shoes like a turkey needs a popsicle.  Buuuuut…this adorable pair of Brooks Green Silence was a random special order for my co-worker’s girlfriend and she decided to get a different color so these were just sitting in the stockroom, whispering my name every time I walked by them.

“We’re your size,” they hissed.  “We’re adorable.  We’re baby blue.  We’re imprinted all over with flower cutouts and would be perfect for speedwork.”

So much for silence.

I’ve worn these to my last couple of HEAT classes and I love them!  They’re lightweight (6.9 oz) and have a relatively shallow heel-to-toe drop (8mm, versus 12mm in my Ghosts and most other running shoes).  There’s not much cushion, so you definitely feel the ground a little, but I like that kind of ride.  I’m not taking them out on a 20-miler any time soon, but I think they’ll be great for speedier stuff!

Also, they are made from recycled plastic bottles or something.  And obviously, they are baby blue and cute as hell.  (They are not “Carolina Blue” as everyone around here claims.  Hello, I am not from these parts. Don’t drag me in to your college sports wars.  I just like the color blue.)

Anyway.  Another W for Brooks in my book!

So.  Now we are gonna to talk about beer.  I wish I had a FOUR-TAY of this Victory Summer Love Ale:

I’ve never been disappointed in a Victory beer, and this one was no exception.  The bottle’s kitschy label, featuring scenes from beaches and ballparks, shrouds the contents in mystery, giving no indication of the beer’s style.  I expected something pretty light.

But actually, it was more like a Pale Ale.  (Technically, it’s a Blonde.)  Everything about its flavor evokes the outdoors: you get plenty of grass and pine along with a distinct floral flavor, but on a softer level than other Blondes/Pales.  It was definitely an enjoyable beer and a refreshing break from the normal summer seasonal lineup of wheat and fruit beers.  5.2% ABV.

Bottom line: Get it!  (Purchased at I-don’t-know-where since my coworker gave it to me.  Victory is out of PA so I imagine you can find this readily at specialty shops and higher-end grocery stores on the east coast.)

Alrighty, kids.  That’s all from me for now.  We had a sidewalk sale at work this weekend and I’ve been husslin’ my butt off ringing up $2 tee shirts for the last three days.  (Yes, it was the pinnacle of my young career.)  I’m off to throw a cattle slab on the grill with some veggies and call it a week.  See ya tomorrow!

How was your weekend? And how was your week last week, workout/mileage-wise?

Knockout knockoffs

Have you guys heard about the Costco tank tops that are supposedly the same thing as Lululemon tank tops?  But of course, waaaaay cheaper?

I hadn’t, until today.  And I happened to be in Costco’s neck of the woods today.

For the love of cheese, it’s not like I need any more running shirts.  But at $12.99 a pop, I decided to give these a shot.

I’ve never owned a Lululemon tank so I can’t speak to the similarities and/or differences.  I’ll leave that to these lulunuts.  (Hat tip to Brie for that link!)  But I will say that I’ve been wearing this soft little thing all afternoon – including on a rainy run and to a core class! – and I am loving it so far.

Nice and long; fitted and flattering, without being skintight on the belly; cut low enough to be feminine, but not so low that you can’t actually work out in it.

Is there anything that Kirkland Signature doesn’t do well?

Anyway.  Worth checking out if you have a Costco in your area.

Exciting running stats from last week:

M – 45 min easy (~5 miles, ~9:00 pace)
Tu – 3 X 1 mile on the TM (6:44, 6:39, 6:37), 5 miles total (38:25)
W – 40 min easy (~ 4.3 miles, ~9:15 pace)
Th – OFF
F – 35 min easy AM (~ 4 miles, ~9:00 pace) + 25 min HEAT intervals PM (~3.5 miles total)
Sa – 50 min easy (~5.5 miles, ~9:00 pace)
Su – 60 min easy w/hubs (~6 miles, ~10:00 pace)

 

Okay, not so exciting.  But I did get a couple of quality workouts in!  Total: 33.3 miles.

And the soreness is finally fading!  Last night, my arms felt strong enough to operate a corkscrew.

This 2010 Toasted Head Untamed White is a blend of Viognier (70%), Chardonnay (37%) and just a splash of Moscato (3%).  Very light and brightly flavored with lots of juicy peach!  Very easy to drink and should please those who like a sweeter wine without annoying the palate of those who…well, don’t. Which is to say it’s a nice, fruit-forward wine that’s not at all sticky or cloying.  I happened to be eating a sandwich wrap packed with fresh peaches, honey mustard and Brie while sipping this and it was a perfect combination!

Bottom line: Get it!  A very pleasant and versatile wine at a reasonable price (Purchased at Fresh Market, $10.)

Okay…off to snuggle my new tank top in bed.

(What?  It’s dry from my workout…mostly…)

Those are not wedding appropriate

Staring at my half of our closet today, it occurred to me that I have not purchased any non-athletic footwear since…um, 2009?

I have two weddings to go to this summer and I’m already slightly dreading the attire selection process.  I have one nice dress that I bought about a year and a half ago, but at this point I think I’ve worn it to one too many weddings.  People are starting to recognize it, I’m sure.  It’s the same group of friends in attendance, for the most part.

So I’ve pretty much decided I’m going to get an (inexpensive) new dress for this next one.  I even have my eye on one.

But shoes?  I just have no idea.  What are the kids wearing these days?  Halp.

In the spirit of getting rid of the old to make room for the new, I decided to tackle this disaster tonight:

Oy.  No one needs twenty-plus pairs of running shoes.  Although many are freebies obtained through running-store employment, and from being a wear tester for Brooks, it’s still rather ridiculous.   So I combed through the pile and chucked several old pairs in a bag to take to the recycle bin at work.

And then I thought it would be fun to share a few of the newer additions with you guys!  (Running shoe nerd alert.)

Mizuno Wave Rider 14

(M 10.6 oz, W 8.7 oz, retail $100)

I want to love this shoe so badly.  I love that it’s relatively lightweight.  I love that it’s not squishy.  I love that the ride is a little stiffer, but still flexible enough to feel the ground below.  I love the no-nonsense design.

But…it’s just a little too narrow for my foot.  And the high collar gets all up in my ankle bone’s business.  (I mean, seriously?  Even though we are in the heart of boat-shoe country here, I’m not about to let my husband wear popped collars, and I don’t like my running shoes to sport ’em either.)  I hope they lower the profile of the upper a little next time they update this shoe.  A lot of people have complained about this, so I have to think they will.

Overall, though, I think it’s a great shoe and will continue to use it for shorter distances.  My foot is just a little too fat to put up with the narrower cut over longer stuff, though.

Brooks Launch:

(M 9.3 oz, W 7.5 oz, retail $90)

I actually picked these up at the Chicago Marathon expo last year.

But I haven’t worn them very much.

Because I don’t really care for them.  I’d hoped they’d be a good lightweight trainer for tempo runs and racing shoe for longer races, but they’re just too damn squishy.  I am not a squishy-cushion person and the Launch just feels too much like a pair of bedroom slippers.  I’ve relegated them to a recovery-day shoe and they work fine for that purpose, but…meh.  It’s not like I need an entire shoe dedicated to three-mile shakeout slogs.

Compared to my regular trainers, the Ghosts, the Launch weighs in almost two ounces lighter but they honestly don’t feel like they do.  I want a lightweight trainer to give me a little feeling of the road beneath me and keep me up on my forefoot.  The Launch does the opposite, with its thick cushioning, especially in the heel.

Marshmallows.  Good for S’Mores.  Bad (for me) for running shoes.

Brooks ST5 Racer:

(M 8.6 oz, these are unisex so there’s no standard W weight, but they’re light.  Probably 6.X.  Retail $90.)

Crisco-coated blue shoelaces of death!  Yep, that’s the sucker that came untied – in spite of the fact that it was triple knotted – during my race on Saturday.

That issue aside, I adore this shoe.  I had the ST5’s predecessor, the ST4, and literally wore them until the bottoms were smooth.  It feels like a true racing flat (and it is!) but I don’t grow weary of it as quickly as I would a waffle flat.  I have worn this shoe (the older model) in distances from a 5K up to a half marathon and it’s been great all the way.

I love that the updated model is this sweet orange color, too.  If I’m not going to run fast, as least I can look like I should be running fast.

And if I have to swap out the laces so they’ll stay tied, that’s no biggie.

New Balance 890:

(M 9.7 oz, W 7.6 oz, retail $100)

New Balance has been hyping this brand-new addition to their line for months.  And it looks like the sort of thing that would coast by on its good looks.  I admit, I was skeptical.

And I’ve only run in them a couple of times so far, but…I’m going to tentatively say that I actually really like this shoe.

They’re not as light as I thought they’d be.  I was thinking they’d be Kinvara-like, but they’re more substantial than that.  The collar is nice and low around the ankle, the upper is utilitarian in spite of its stylish look, and they’ve got just enough cushion to give a little bounce, but still allow you to connect with the ground.  I could see making these an everyday-rotation trainer…ooh, Ghost, might be time to get a little scared!

Shoes that are recycle-bin-bound:

  • Two worn-down pairs of Brooks Ghost 3
  • One worn-down pair of prototype Brooks Ghost 4 (cannot wait for this shoe to come out!)
  • Two well-loved pairs of Brooks Adrenaline 11 (even though I don’t really need the stability, I still think this is an awesome shoe and love it almost as much as I love my Ghosts!)
  • My old Brooks ST4 Racers (RIP, you guys did me good)
  • A pair of Adidas Ride Something-or-others that was a freebie that I never really got in to
  • A pair of Nike Span 6 from like three years ago (I don’t know why I still had these)

So that shoe bin is now only slightly overflowing.  I think I’ve done well.

And I totally think I deserve to buy a new pair of fun, non-running shoes for this summer.  Right?

Um, seriously…any suggestions on that?  I feel like I am so out of the loop on this stuff.  Slightly dressy sandals for a pair of outdoor summer weddings?  That don’t have ankle straps or loops, because my legs don’t need any help looking stumpy?

And are we sure that my sweet orange ST5 racers won’t go well with a cocktail dress?  Sigh.  Because they really are awesome.  And they’d make trips to and from the open bar much more efficient.

Strawberries and sexy white calves

I have a new tan line to add to my existing collection (which Sarah has summed up excellently here, actually).

I’ve been cheating on my beloved CEP compression socks with these Zensah sleeves.  I still love my CEPs, but have been wary of bringing them on long runs after the Horrible Red Grape Blister Incident of October 2010.  (Don’t click that if you’re eating.)

Compared to the CEPs, they are:

  • Not quite as snug
  • Much easier to get on/off
  • A little thinner
  • Cheaper (a little bit)
  • Just as smokin’ hot
Anyway, they did good by me on this morning’s long run.  I headed out to Umstead intending to run for at least 90 minutes, but with the possibility of going up to two hours in the back of my mind.  I stuffed a Gu in my pocket, just in case.  Two hours is kind of my minimum when it comes to packing food-like substances on my run.

I was glad that I did, as I ended up topping off the run at exactly 14 miles!  I headed out on the Reedy Creek B&B from its southern gate.  This trail kicks things off with a mile of downhill immediately followed by almost a mile of sustained steep climbing.  Right at the end of that second mile, I bumped in to a teammate coming through from the other direction, so I flipped around and headed back down and back up before continuing through to the far gate.  Those hills are a pain in the ass, but it was nice to have some company!

Almost 1,800′ of climbing on that run.  Ugh.  Hills, like, build character or something, right?

Post-run and post-shower, my butt hit the couch and I don’t plan on moving it for the rest of the day.  Well, except maybe to shuffle to the fridge for a beer.

Today’s EAT: Yesterday was a gorgeous day here in Raleigh!  Sadly, I spent most of it working.  But the second I got home, I changed in to running clothes, banged out a quick 7-miler, then served myself up a huge bowl of this:

I know that the whole watermelon salad thing is uber-trendy right now, but damn, it is good.  I threw together chopped up watermelon and strawberries with a handful of feta and some fresh mint and let it sit overnight in the fridge.  A perfect pre-dinner snack!

Today’s DRINK: Speaking of strawberries…

Say what you will about fruity beers, but on a sunny day after a sweaty run, that shit really hits the spot.  This Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager reminded me of a cross between a lager and a strawberry Italian soda.  Ripe strawberries and a little vanilla.  The low ABV (4.2%) might make it easy to suck down several of these, but like most sweet drinks, one was enough for me!

Today’s RUN: Today’s 14-er capped off a decent week – at least in terms of total mileage.

M - 6 miles easy (53:09, 8:51 pace)
Tu - 5 miles easy (45:11, 9:01 pace)
W - 7 miles easy (59:06, 8:22 pace)
Th - OFF
F - 5 miles easy (41:40, 8:19 pace)
Sa - 7.5 miles easy (1:01:48, 8:14 pace)
Su - 14 miles long (2:02:41, 8:45 pace)

Total miles: 44.5.  Missing: strength work and speed work.  What else is new?

Here’s how April looked, overall:

I really haven’t done much fast running since the Shamrock Half in March.  Which I think is why the pace is so much slower than, say, February…when I was doing pretty well with hauling my butt to the track every week.

Did I mention that I’m running a 10K next weekend?  I am rather frightened.

Today’s QUESTION: What’s the worst tan line you’ve ever inflicted on yourself – running or otherwise?  I have definitely been the victim of the sunscreen hand print on my back.  And once, back when I was really in to rock climbing, I managed to get a diagonal stripe across my non-Coppertoned belly and back from carrying a bunch of slings and gear, sash-style, on a long climb.

On those toe shoes

Alrighty.  I’ve had these bizarre things for a couple of weeks now.

And I maintain that they’re pretty bizarre, which was sort of my impression when I bought them, but I figured I’d give them a shot.  A couple of people have asked how I’m liking them, so I thought I’d give a little update.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve worn them running a handful of times – just for a few minutes, never more than a mile – before switching in to my regular shoes and finishing the run.  I will fully admit that I have been toying with them mostly out of curiosity, and not out of any strong desire to become a member of the Cult of the Barefoot.

Impressions:

  • While running, they are rather unpleasant.  I’m slapping the concrete like it insulted my momma and I feel like I’ve gained about 50 pounds.  (Running on dirt or a rubberized track would undoubtedly be more pleasant.  But that isn’t at all convenient for my everyday runs, unfortunately.)
  • My calves definitely feel tight after I run in them – not so much right then, but the next day.  From what I understand, that is to be expected.  (I tend to run on my mid-foot in regular shoes anyway, which results in perpetually tight calves, so I don’t know that being in the Vibrams really changed my stride all that much, but the lack of cushion was definitely a change.)
  • Pretty sure I look like a loon running around downtown Raleigh in these things.
  • As much as I’m not a fan of them for running, I am surprisingly smitten with just wearing them around.  They are really, really comfortable.  I wear them to the grocery store (shut up) and occasionally the bar (no really, shut up).
I know people have strong opinions when it comes to the whole minimalist/barefoot versus traditional shoe thing.  Honestly, I really don’t. Having given it quite a bit of thought over the last year or so, I think the theory behind barefoot/ultra-minimal/zero-heel-drop running makes sense, but, like…shoes are pretty nice, too.   And as one of my favorite internet running buddies is fond of saying, our ancestors ran without sports bras too, and I’m not about to give those up.
And you know what?  You can reap some of the benefits of going barefoot without spending $90 on a pair of foot gloves.  Doing barefoot strides after a workout as a great way to strengthen those little muscles.  Choosing a lighter, more flexible trainer also gets you a little closer to nature.  (There are so many of these on the market right now, it makes my head spin.)
Anyway, the bizarre toe shoes will definitely stay in rotation as a training tool.  If I lifted weights, I’d lift weights in them (but we all know that I don’t.)   We have a beach trip planned for the summer, and I’ll definitely bring them along for some beach running.

And for wearing to the bar?  Most definitely.  I might even wear them with my compression sleeves to complete the look.

Today’s EAT:  Gah, I have a shit-ton of fresh basil to use up right now!  How’s that for a white girl problem?

So I had a big pile of fresh mozzarella with basil for lunch.  I can pretty much make a meal out of cheese any day.
Today’s DRINKCatching up on a weekend wine…

This Lucinda + Millie Organic Chardonnay, sipped on Friday night alongside crab cakes, was wonderful.  Very fruity with lots of apple and pear and a little orange, but not overly sweet.  At $9, it was a great bottle that I’d buy again!
Today’s RUN: Was hot.  Seriously hot.  It’s only April and I fear that it’s time to switch over to morning workouts…until, like November.  I’m crying inside.  I hate mornings.
But I hate slogging through miserable evening runs more, so oh well.
Last week was a weird week, with lots of rest days:
M – 7 easy (1:00, 8:34 pace)
Tu – OFF
W – 2.2 easy (18:40, 8:29 pace)
Th – OFF
F – 13 long run, mixed bridle and trails (2:03:55, 9:32 pace)
Sa – OFF
Su – 7.3 easy, greenway, (1:13, 10:00 pace) + 4 w/3 at tempo, treadmill, (31:04, 7:42 pace)

Total: 33.5 miles.  I suppose that’s not bad for a 4-day week.

Today’s QUESTION: Have you ever tried Vibrams or the like?  Would you try them?  Am I a douchebaguette for wearing them to the bar?  Actually, don’t answer that last one…
(Edit: I don’t know why the paragraph spacing in this post is so wonky.  I can’t seem to fix it.  I’m going to just blame WordPress and go to bed, because I don’t feel like staying up all night trying to figure it out.)