TowneBank Shamrock 8k, Brooks Hyperion, and compression socks

The luck o’ the (honorary) Irish was with me last weekend for the TowneBank Shamrock 8k in Virginia Beach, VA. Not only was the travel smooth the entire way (in stark contrast to last year’s Carlsbad 5000), but the sun came out for my course preview/warm-up run.

Disbelief that there is no rain in this photo

The 8k course runs south parallel to the beach for 2 miles before turning around and heading north up the boardwalk for 2 1/2 miles. The last 1/2 mile finishes with a turnaround back southbound down the boardwalk into the finish chute. Though temperatures hovered in the mid-30s during my warm-up run Friday, I quickly shed layers. Words cannot describe the relief I felt to run with the sun on my face and an absence of water in my shoes.

Though I rolled into the hotel around 1 a.m. Friday morning (and couldn’t go right to sleep), I forced myself to get up and run by 8 a.m. Start time for the race on Saturday was 7:45 a.m., which would feel, to me, like 4:45. 3:45 if you count the fact that we moved the clocks forward a mere six days earlier. It was a Hail Mary attempt at acclimating to the time difference and it actually worked.

Dawn in Virginia the next day didn’t feel as awful as I thought it would.

TowneBank Shamrock 8k start

Yep, still a bit dark outside

The race itself went as well as it could have, given my rough patch in training lately. This winter I’ve alternately struggled to get back into shape after the holiday break and then possibly overtrained to prepare for this 8k. I tried to go out aggressively and hold on as long as I could. Though I held third place (overall female) for most of the race, I lost it turning into the last half mile stretch to the finish. I don’t love the time I ran (29:54, more than a minute slower than my last 8k last spring), but it was enough for 2nd place in the masters race, and since the masters winner is in an older age group, another national championship title for women 40-44.

TowneBank Shamrock 8k

Race photo courtesy of MarathonFoto and TowneBank Shamrock 8k

I also tested out some new gear during this race. How cool are these Brooks Hyperion shoes?

Brooks Hyperion

They are the most cushioned of any road racing flat I’ve worn, yet still maintain the lightness and flexibility you want in a racing shoe. Moreover, they make you look fast and isn’t that half the battle?

I also tried out compression socks for the second time in a race. While they were certainly comfortable, I’m still unconvinced that I felt a difference when running in them. I did, however, get right on a plane after the race, so perhaps there is something to them. My lower legs were not remotely sore in the days following the racing and traveling.

Though it wasn’t pretty, it was a solid race weekend. I can’t thank Mike, my coaches (Jim Lilly and Bethanee Randles), training partners, and friends for all of your support. It takes a village. Really.

Rain, the pity party and PNTF XC Champs

Seattle just broke the record for rain in October. By the end of last night, we recorded 10.05 inches of rain for the month. As a point of reference, the typical month of October sees an average of 3.48 inches, so we almost tripled our suffering. And while rain will always trump heat in my book, I’ve had it. This pretty much summed up my feeling this morning as I headed out the door for ANOTHER RAINY RUN.

Rain face

Between the rain, morning darkness, and a couple of intense weeks of training, how does anyone stay sane? I mean, do you know how hard it is to keep this guy clean in weather like this? It’s like trying to dry off a dirty mop.

bailey

Yep, I’ve been throwing myself a big ol’ pity party lately. Last week was a big week of workouts. Almost all of them involved some combination of rain, mud, and running in the dark.

But today I discovered something good in the rain. This morning I tried out my new Brooks Drift 1/2 Zip and found the perfect rainy day top.

Brooks Drift 1/2 Zip

The yellow part of the shirt is windproof and water resistant and kept me dry for the entire run. It’s the perfect layer for days like today, fairly warm and definitely wet. I could stay dry without overheating and the bright color and reflective stripes provide needed visibility on dark, rainy roads.

By the end of my run things cleared up a little, at least in my head and attitude. Which is good because I need to get my head right. With Club Nationals on December 10th, we’re only halfway through cross country season. I’ve been flagging a bit since the weekend. But sometimes all you need is a good race. Luckily Sunday is USATF Pacific Northwest Open & Masters Cross Country Championships at Lower Woodland Park in Seattle. Interested in running? Sign up here by Thursday 11/3.

Part 2: Pacing Rhody in the Brooks T7 Racer

Yo, Brooks. You totally nailed the T7 Racer.

Brooks T7 Racer

That’s my girl cheering me on.

This was apparent two weeks ago at Port Townsend’s Rhody Run, a fantastic destination race for those who like superb race organization and support, a stunning location (historic Fort Worden), and free beer. There’s even a family that offers a champagne stop along the course every year. Who says there can’t be joy in suffering?

Rhody Run 2016 start

Equal to the general cheering and encouragement I heard on the course were comments about the shoes.

“Nice shoes!”

“Go… wow, look at those shoes!”

I wore the T7 Racer for both the 12k Rhody Run and 8k Beat the Bridge. They’re lightweight but offer a little more cushioning than the Mach 17 Spikeless (currently on sale on the Brooks site!) that I wear for shorter distances (generally 10k and down). The T7s have been really popular and are a bit difficult to find these days as the new T7 model should be released this month. But I was able to find mine on Zappos, and they still have a good selection of sizes here. It’s a unisex shoe, ladies, so don’t go looking for the women’s version.

This shoe is so good that I saw a 1:37 improvement over my 2014 Rhody Run time. OK, maybe Brooks can’t take credit for all of that. Maybe there’s something to this whole pacing thing.

Apparently the phrase “pace yourself” isn’t just a meaningless platitude. I tend to run with the eternal optimism that if the first mile feels good, maybe the rest of the race will fall into a place with a big PR. Theoretically it makes sense. But in running, it doesn’t always work out that way.

The last time I ran this race I ran the first mile in 5:52. The rest of the race was a hot mess and ended with an average of 6:17/mile pace. This year, I was determined to prevent that misery from happening again.

Rhody race organizers shifted the race a week later to move it away from Seattle’s Beat the Bridge 8k, which has been on the same Sunday for the past few years. This enabled them to attract a standout field, which included Joe Gray (6-time USA Mountain Runner of the Year) and Drew Polley (Olympic Trials marathon competitor) on the men’s side, and Jamie Cheever (Olympic Trials-bound) and Emma Polley (Olympic Trials marathon competitor) on the women’s side. I had run the first mile of Beat the Bridge with Jamie and Emma the week before, and knew that would not be the path to a happy race this time around.

Orange was well represented too. Go Club Northwest!

Orange was well represented too. Go Club Northwest!

So, I held back and ran the first mile around 6:02, finishing the 12k in 44:36, averaging 5:59/mile pace. It was over a minute and half faster than the last time I raced there, and so much more comfortable. You really can’t argue with this strategy of racing.

The effort was good enough for 5th place, out of the prize money but the fun of the race more than made up for that. This really is a great race, and an easy ferry ride from the Seattle area. Mark your calendars for next May, and don’t forget to pace it.

A 1500m PR in the Brooks PR LD3

The last time I gambled I lost $80 playing the walnut shell game in Times Square. You know, the scam any idiot, especially a college student in her third year of living in New York City, should have known better to avoid.

Watching this now though, how can you afford NOT to do it? Everyone’s winning!

Which is a long way to say that I am not no longer a risk taker.

And therefore, was not super excited about rolling the dice on this weekend’s Ken Shannon Invitational track meet at the University of Washington. What I really wanted to do this weekend was run Bloomsday in Spokane. I raced it last year and had a fantastic experience. But with fewer opportunities to get my time down in the 1500m, and a good race at the UW, I had to ditch my Bloomsday plans. Instead, I took a gamble on whether or not I could even get into a race at Ken Shannon. As it turns out, I made it by the skin of my teeth.

Ken Shannon Invitational heat sheet

My seed time of 4:56 from the Doris Heritage Distance Festival last month had me ranked 16th out of 17 runners. That’s not a lot of wiggle room considering they were only going to run one heat of the race.

The great thing about being 16th out of 17 is that there would be a pack of runners to follow and plenty of runners who are faster than me. I was hoping they would pull me through to a sub-4:50 time.

Husky track, Ken Shannon Invitational

How cool is that Husky purple track?


They pulled me through to a 4:41.34
. I’ve mentioned before that this is not my optimal distance. I’ve never had shorter distance speed, not even as a collegiate runner. But I’ve been working on it over the past few weeks, on the track and in the gym, and was really excited about that number. I’ve never run that fast in my life; my best college time was a 4:52.

I definitely could not have done it without my coaches, training partners, and these Brooks PR LD3 track spikes.

Brooks PR LD3

You know what has changed since 1992? Spike technology, apparently. Before today, I had been wearing the same track spikes I had worn in college. What can I say? I am a total cheapskate and figured that a spike was a spike. Why buy a new pair of shoes when I have a perfectly serviceable pair in my closet? It didn’t seem like it would make a difference. Oh but I was wrong. The Brooks PR LD3 are lighter and faster than their 24-year-old compatriots and thanks to Brooks and Club Northwest, I’ve had the opportunity to see that for myself. They’re giving me a little gear this year.

Brooks gear with Brooks PR LD3

That’s Christmas in April right there

And opening me up to the possibility that there might actually be gear that is worth the investment.

After yesterday’s race I’m feeling a little more secure about my seed time for the Trials. But we wouldn’t be racers if we didn’t want more, right? I’m gunning for you, sub-4:40. Good luck to everyone at Bloomsday today!

Vibrams: In praise of the Five Fingers

I realize it’s no longer cool to be sporting the Vibrams. Or at the very least, support has been waning.

Vibrams Five Fingers

In fact, this lawsuit would suggest that they are downright dangerous.

But I never did it for the fad of it. I’ve been running in these shoes since 2011, around the time that they were peaking in popularity. At that time I happened to have been feeling twinges of plantar fasciitis that I had never experienced before, and bought in to some of the anecdotal claims that they could strengthen your feet and the small muscles of the lower legs to help protect against injury. And though it is these claims that seem to have fueled the lawsuit, I found them to be completely accurate in my case.

I don’t know if I have the right running mechanics (though I’m a bit of a heel striker, so I don’t know if that’s it), or if it’s that I’m light and the body impact isn’t as intense (though I also think I pound harder than your average runner – in other words, I run like an elephant), but for some reason these shoes work for me. For the last 4 years I’ve done 2 (out of 5) of my shortest runs of the week in them. I even ran a race in them.

Vibrams Viking Fest 2013

Viking Fest 2013

That was, until last summer when I tweaked my calf and cut back to 1 run. And then this fall when my foot started acting up I gave them up altogether. I was back to remedial running in my supportive trainers and custom orthodics.

Brooks Adrenaline

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Brooks Adrenalines. But after my 2 1/2 week break from running over the holidays, the foot wasn’t feeling significantly better. The problem was in this toe joint.

toejoint

The operating theory is that the joint was bruised from running in shoes that weren’t working well for me. And apparently a joint can take a long time to heal. Especially when you spend a month running on it to make it through one last race of a season. But it didn’t feel THAT much better even after time off. The other issue I was having was that my shoes were feeling really tight. Which got me thinking about bringing back the Vibrams. And you know what? I had a breakthrough run in them. Suddenly the joint wasn’t bothering me in the same way. I managed to do a (short) run without pain, something I hadn’t done in two months. And as a bonus afterward, my shoes weren’t feeling quite so tight.

Now, I’m not saying to run right out and buy yourself a pair of Vibrams. And if you do, you need to slowly and carefully build up to running in them. I think I’m trying to make a broader point about doing what you need to do FOR YOU. It doesn’t matter which shoes/diet/training philosophy everyone else is following at the moment. Everyone is different and everyone has something that works for them. Have the confidence to stand out on your own. Even if that means wearing crazy shoes that have were the subject of a lawsuit.

The good, the bad, and the truly hideous

Y’all, I’m trying to keep it real around here. Things are not always sunshine and finish line medals.

The struggle is real. The body, apparently, would very much like the season to be done NOW. The season, however, has one more month to go. So I’m fighting the good fight and trying to keep everything together with duct tape and bubble gum. And these.

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TOEssentials toe stretchers. I get plantar fasciitis in my arches from time to time, usually after a race, and it knocked me off of most of my runs last week. I’m balancing the fine line between being smart to keep an injury at bay (i.e. cutting down on the running), and maintaining some semblance of fitness for the culminating race of the season. So when my good friend Melisa told me about an elite who wears these regularly, I figured I had $11.95 to throw at the problem. They just arrived yesterday so I can’t speak to how they will work in the long-term, but it feels good to put them on. And they seem to be an extension of this awesome stretch that helps a lot:

According to the post on Breaking Muscle:

When you look at your feet, what is the widest part of your foot? It should be the ends of your toes, but for many of you it will be the ball of your foot. If this is the case, it means your shoes have squished your toes out of their optimal position.

The purpose of this exercise is to stretch the plantar fascia along the bottom of your foot, along with helping to restore the natural position of your toes. This exercise will also passively mobilize all of the joints of your foot and ankle.

The ends of my toes are definitely NOT the widest part of my foot. Perhaps TOEssentials are just what I need to set things right. I’ll keep you posted.

Bananas for Yonanas

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Do you like frozen treats and immediate gratification? Have I got the product for you.

We ordered this little number a couple of weeks ago, just in time for the stretch of 90+ degree days that hit our region. It is a replacement for the 15-year-old Krups ice cream maker that I rendered useless last year when, in a fit of cleaning, I threw out a small, but crucial, piece of the machine.  I had always had issues with the amount of planning needed to make a batch of ice cream in it anyway. Freezing the bowl for a full day really takes the fun out of eating ice cream. I mean, when you want ice cream, you want it NOW. Not 24 hours from now. 

Since I’m unwilling to shell out $500 for a compressor-based machine (though they do appear to be on sale for $272 on Amazon right now), which would eliminate the need to freeze the bowl, I looked into other options. And came up with the VonShef. For Amazon’s sale price of $29.95, I was willing to take a flier. 

It’s more blender than ice cream spinner, and if you are really hankering for true ice cream goodness, this is not your answer. But if you have kids like mine who are more interested in the frozen, sweet, and immediate aspects of their summertime dessert, or want a healthier, guilt-free alternative, then I can’t think of anything better.

The way it works is this: freeze pieces of fruit. (OK, yes, this DOES require some planning ahead, but once you start, you can keep a stockpile of it in the freezer.) Note: bananas work well and give the end product a nice creamy texture, but be sure to peel them before freezing.

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Then feed the fruit through the chute.

And voilĂ . Dessert! The instructions call for frozen fruit, but I also experimented with frozen yogurt, chocolate chips, and caramel sauce and they made it through the machine without much trouble. My very complicated frozen yogurt recipe:

Take plain yogurt, whisk in sugar to taste, then freeze in ice cube tray

One of the best things about this is that the kids can make their own dessert. And it’s even healthy. And both of those things go a long way in this house. Other reviewers complain about the noise of the machine. Which isn’t nothing, but compared to the typical racket around here, is not so remarkable. The last (and possibly very best) thing about this machine is the clean up.

It breaks down easily into four large pieces, none of which could be mistaken for a piece of a kid’s toy and thrown away. Ahem.