Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Runner II: Electric Boogaloo

I set off for a 3 mile neighborhood run today to shake off the cobwebs of a day of hanging out with a sick little boy (croup + strep = no fun) and to test out my latest pair of WrightSocks, this time the Runner II.

I was overcome with a strong feeling of "Meh" about the whole thing. Lately, I've been pretty solidly rocking out my long runs, or at least getting through them in heroic efforts. But I am having trouble mustering up much enthusiasm for my shorter runs during the week. It is really not a good thing, you guys, because I can't run a great half marathon just based on great long runs.

Today, I attempted to make my neighborhood 3 miler a little more exciting by Running Like Jack. Running like Jack means occasionally tearing off at full tilt. And it means that if I see a puddle, I am going to blaze through it and splash as much as possible.

Running Like Jack made that 3 mile run more memorable and helped me muster up more enthusiasm for something that has gotten mundane. I am also happy to report that the Runner II held up like a champ. Even soaking wet, I had no blisters, chafing, or discomfort.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Not exactly what I had in mind

I planned very carefully for today's 12 mile long run. And my run did not go remotely as planned.

The people in my training group who are preparing for the full marathon were doing their first 20 miler of the season, whereas we trisko runners were doing a mere 12. We got an email from one of the coaches advising us that it was going to be a hot today, so we should plan on hydrating carefully. Plus, to avoid some of the heat, we'd start at 6:15 rather than 7:00.

However, this weekend, Steve was away at a fraternity reunion in a cabin in remote Kentucky. How was I going to get away for a run? I obviously can't leave him alone, and it seemed like a lot to ask of my mom to come to Stately Wasser Manor at the crack of dawn. Then, I got a brainstorm - Jack and I would spend the night at my mom's house. I'd get up, go running, then the Cub and I would have breakfast with my mom and Doug. A huge bonus in this plan is that my mom can make the hell out of some blueberry pancakes.

I didn't sleep well, due to a combination of an unfamiliar bed, pillows other than my own, and sharing a bed with Jack. And then... my alarm didn't go off. I woke up an hour later than I should have.

A huge part of me wanted to just stay in bed and decide it wasn't meant to be. But I thought about how supportive my family was being, and that was enough to get me up and in my running shoes (and Wright Socks DLXes). I wasn't sure how to do a 12 miler from outside my usual base of operations, so I decided to break it into two 6 mile runs, stopping at the house in between for water breaks.

The weather was brutally hot and humid. In no time, I was completely soaked. And it was one of those days when nothing on my iPod was quite working for me. I kept hopping back and forth between podcasts and music. My heart definitely wasn't in it, and the miles, to put it mildly, did not fly by.

I've often heard that, in a marathon, you run the first 10 miles with your head, the next 10 with your legs, and the last 6.2 with your heart. I ran this entire 12 miler with my guts, just toughing it out because I knew that even if I didn't want to, I could do it.

When the run was over, I'd like to say that I felt triumphant, but I really just felt tired. Too tired, tragically, to even eat the blueberry pancakes.

The run was not exactly what I had in mind. But you know what was 100% awesome? The WrightSocks DLX. They were cushy and comfy, with that bit of snuggness at the arch that I like. Despite my profuse amounts of sweat (sexy), I had no problems at all with sweaty feet. Better still, I didn't have a single blister.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Socksual Experience

Friends, the Wright Socks Challenge is on!

Sock #1: The Cool Mesh. I wore this little friends on a 3 mile run on a business trip in San Antonio. I don't know if you all were aware of this, but it is really catlicking hot in Texas in August. Anyway, I thought that thin socks would be the way to go. They were comfortable and not hot, but I wasn't wowed. They were innocuous, though I've got to say, I think I like thicker socks better. So, it was on to...

Sock #2: The SLR. I wore this on a morning run to the Alamo. These were even more comfortable. They were a little thicker and even more comfortable. They're the kind of socks that hug you around your arches, which is delightful. They were a little thicker than the Cool Mesh, and I liked them better. But do I like them four times as much as the Target ones? I don't know... maybe not.

And then, there was Sock #3. This was the SLX. First of all, do they not look fast? They also hugged the arches of my feet and were the cushiest pair yet. I wore them on a 10 mile long run in brutally hot weather. Like the other two pair, they were quite comfortable and didn't annoy me in any way. But the very best news of all was that even on a long run on a sweaty day, I had no blister whatsoever. Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, we have a WINNER! I will definitely get those again.

More details of my socks life will follow.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

My Socks Life

My socks life has been pretty boring for quite a while.

For most of the time that I've been a runner, my socks have been totally vanilla. From 1984-2007, you could describe them in three words: cheap white cotton. When I decided to train for a marathon, I upgraded to cheap white non-cotton, fearing blisters.

Is it time for a socks change?

The fine folks at Wright Sock and Runners' Lounge think it might be. I have been chosen to participate in the Wright Socks challenge. I scored six pair of Wright Socks to test and review here on my blog. You might be wondering if that means that you can expect more of this cringe-inducing sock puns for the duration of the challenge. Yes, you can. To do anything less would be to admit de-feet.

My current socks of choice, the cheap white non-cottons, are C9 from Target. Do I like them? Eh, they're okay. They serve their purpose of providing a barrier between my foot and my shoe, but they don't really do much else. I do get blisters after long runs, though Body Glide seems to make that a little better. They are comfortable enough, and I can get them readily for about two bucks a pair.

That might not seem like much, but as far as I'm concerned, the Wright Socks have a lot to live up to. I can't throw a pair in the cart while I'm stocking up on paper towels. And at five or six bucks a pair, they better do more than just provide a barrier between my shoes and my feet. If I'm going to abandon the C9's, they need to (wait for it...) knock my socks off.

My box of socks arrived Thursday, and they look fantastic. There are all different kinds to try - thick, thin, double-layer, and single layer. The first pair will be tested today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How Runner Are You?

How much does being a runner influence your day to day life? I was thinking about this when, a few weeks ago, I decided to cut my hair. It was below my shoulders (which is Crystal Gayle levels of long for me) and getting a bit scraggly. The very first thing I said to the stylist was, "I'm a runner - how much can you cut off for me to still be able to have a ponytail?" And anytime I get a pedicure (admittedly rare), I make sure I tell the aesthetician, before she so much as fills the foot bath, that I am a runner and she'd best not mess with my calluses.

On the other hand, I rarely dress like a runner unless I'm actually running. And by "dress like a runner," I don't mean "wear a singlet and tights to the grocery store." I mean, there are people who I can immediately peg as runners even when they are in their civilian garb. That is because that civilian garb consists of race t-shirts with jeans or shorts and an old pair of running shoes. I don't do that (at least not very often). To prove my point: when I'm not wearing running shoes, I am usually wearing heels.

What about you? How runner are you?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Way You Look Tonight

Tonight was one of those ordinary nights that is, at the same time, special and magical.

Jack and I went to Lincoln Park to listen to a band, bringing with us a picnic of McDonald's. Then we played on the playground, where he was a knight and I was a dragon. I said it was time to go, but he wanted to dance.

The band was playing "The Way You Look Tonight." I looked down at my dance partner, four years old, wearing a t-shirt that's too big for him and his favorite pair of faded red shorts. He was covered in a mixture of sweat, dirt, and chocolate. And his dancing consisted of manic spinning and flailing arms.

The lyrics were apt:

Lovely... Never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it?
'Cause I love you... Just the way you look tonight.

Garmin's Many Uses

Devoted followers of the Church of Garmin (praise be thy name) know that it is an invaluable tool for runners. Garmin can track your time, pace, distance, and elevation. It can record splits of any length or beep at you if you're going too fast or too slow. It can pit you against a virtual opponent in a race, graph your running history over time, and help you find your way home if you're lost.

I have also heard that it can tell time, but that feature's a little harder to find than the rest.

Recently, I uncovered another of Garmin's many widgets, one I was not aware of before. Garmin is also an effective babysitter.

I came home from a run, and Jack's desire to be entertained didn't mesh well with my desire to sit on a chair and drink Gatorade. Then, I had a holy Garmin vision (praise be thy name), divine inspiration if you will.

I put Paula Garmin on Jack's wrist and told him to run around the backyard so I could see how fast he was going. Jack thought this was the coolest idea ever. I gave him my iPod (tuned to the Captain Cubtastic mix) and added a headband to hold in the earphones. The result looked like this:

Garmin then proceeded to entertain Jack until dinner time. He raced around the back yard, creating obstacles for himself, and singing along to his music (particular favorite: "We Will Rock You"). My job was to occasionally throw out some encouragement: "You're doing great!" or "Don't stop running" bought me plenty more valuable chair sitting time.

His average pace was 15:something, probably slowed by the zillions of times he fell, the one time his shorts fell down, and the times he spent hiding behind a tree.

Now we just need Garmin to come out with My First Forerunner, because as this picture of Jack after the Bix illustrates, my boy loves to run.