Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Running Gear

A Beautiful Day for a Marathon – but

But, not my day.

It began as a perfect day for a marathon. With temps starting in the low 40’s and clear skies, I lined up with friends for the Aspire Harrisburg Marathon. Everyone was looking forward to taking a spin on the new course, seeing fresh neighborhoods and finishing on Restaurant Row among early diners and cheering spectators.

Cruising over the bridge at Mile 2.

Cruising over the bridge at Mile 2.

The first 7-8 miles were well-paced staying around 9:30 – 9:40. At around mile 9, I took a sip of my Tailwind and soon after began feeling nausea and light in the stomach. I continued on pace, hoping it would pass, but it was not to be. It persisted with some side cramps adding to the mix.

I was holding my pace but after another couple miles, I knew it was time to take stock and make a decision to tough it out or call it a day. I had looked forward to running the new course around mile 16 – 20 through a small neighborhood and historic rural scenery along the river.

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On Front St. with historic architecture backdrop.

Around mile 12, the internal discussion began.
Ego was firm. “You can do this. We’ve finished marathons through nor’easters, waves pummeling over breakfronts, 80 degree heat on asphalt roads. You’ve never dropped from a race of any distance for any reason. Why now?”
Body said “I’m really not looking forward to another 14 miles of this. Give me a break.”
Mind piped in: “Rationally, this is the time to run the new section of the course while it is safe and closed to traffic.”
Then Spirit spoke with a louder than usual authoritative voice: “We’re only doing the new section if Ego goes to sleep. Body is hurting and must have consideration. If we continue to the new section, we walk so body is comfortable.”

OK, so team decision, we walked miles 16 – 20 with Ego only once or twice trying to pump back up to a run but quickly brought into line. We walked past Fort Hunter, past homes in the Village of Hekton, and saw both again on a fast walk back to the turn into city neighborhoods.

At mile 19.75 having run and walked 3 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds, we completed the new section. We then left the course, diverting to the McDonald’s parking lot and my husband’s waiting car.

A ginger ale with ice followed  by a hot shower did wonders. I felt much better although still slightly nauseous. I have a body that is thankful, an ego that is quietly grumbling and ready for the next race, and a spirit that is thankful I’ve learned to listen.

The Outdoor Life, Western Style

Cheyenne sky at sunrise

Cheyenne sky at sunrise

There is no other way to say it. I’ve fallen in love with Cheyenne, Wyoming.

On a recent travel exchange with Friendship Force, I was introduced to this wonderful city and the surrounding area. The scenery, outdoor lifestyle, friendly people and food made for a memorable trip.

Our band of 16 travelers was hosted in the homes of Cheyenne Friendship Force club members. From my host’s home, after giving myself a couple of days to adjust to the 6,500 ft. elevation, I slipped out the door for some early morning runs. A nearby dirt road led me up a steep hill to the water tower and a ranch meeting the outskirts of the city.

Ranch sculpture at the crest of my gravel road run

Ranch sculpture at the crest of my gravel road run

I supplemented those runs with several hikes during the week. For our first hikes and sightseeing, we dressed in layers ready for weather changes and cooler temperatures as we would gradually climb to around 10,000 feet.

Our convoy route took us through Laramie, then slightly south dipping into northern Colorado for a few miles before turning north again. Along with fields of cattle and horses, we spotted antelope, mule deer, elk and goats. Sadly, we also saw fallen trees and others still standing but with dried dead limbs, evidence of the pine beetle destruction known as beetle kill. Enroute, the mostly brown flat land turned to hills, then craggy mountainous region.

With a stop and museum tour in Encampment, we enjoyed our first of several delicious picnic lunches eaten in the brisk, thin mountain air.

Aspen Alley

Aspen Alley

With fall weather changing from sunshine to rain to sleet and back to sunshine again, we  proceeded to  Aspen Alley and the Snowy Range. Making our way across Medicine Bow National Forest we appreciated the beauty of the gold leaves of the aspen where trees had not quite peaked, but were lovely nonetheless. Standing quietly at the edge of the forest, the aspen make a murmuring sound our hosts described as trembling.

Some of us decided to hike the road through the Alley and meet drivers on the opposite end. We then continued on driving by or making stops and short hikes at Silver Lake, Mirror Lake, Snowy Range Lookout points and Libby Flats at altitudes up to 10,800 feet.

As we hiked Aspen Alley, we spotted this ranch hidden from the road

Hiking Aspen Alley, we spotted this ranch hidden from the road

We stopped at the Continental Divide near Centennial (think James Michener’s novel by that title) where we later had stopped at the Old Corral for dinner. The building is authentic western with large tables and wooden walls. not to mention a worthwhile gift shop and a hotel, frequented by cyclists, hikers and sightseers.

Wyoming has a beautiful wide-open sky. This particular day, it put on a spectacular show with a morning rainbow that guided us through the first hour or so as we dipped south, closing our day with a distant evening lightning show during the dark drive back to Cheyenne.

Medicine Bow National Forest

Hiking Medicine Bow National Forest

So ends our first full day of this trip. So much more to tell on another Travel Tuesday.

When is Black the New Bad?

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About 50 feet away, that’s me holding a safety light reflector (that white speck you see).

Answering my title question upfront: Black is the new bad when worn at night without reflective material anywhere there is vehicular traffic.
I’m saddened by three recent reports of people over the age of 65 killed in pedestrian/auto accidents. Two I knew personally; one a neighbor who power-walked past my home almost daily, the other a former colleague and community volunteer. To my knowledge, none of the three were runners. I don’t know the details of the accidents but I do know under any circumstances vehicles and people are not an even match. 

So why am I telling you this on a blog post primarily about senior runners? Because it dawned on me that I, and I suspect you, don’t take adequate precautions when we are are not in running mode.

Out the door for a run anytime of day or night, we are in safety green or day-glo yellow. At dusk or dawn, we are wearing headlamps, flashing red lights and those bizarre but effective neon circle lights. But dear fellow senior runner, what are you wearing when you step out during the holiday season? Is it that little black dress that you can still get away with because you are a runner and in great shape? Are you out for happy hour in bluejeans, black knee-length boots, maybe a dark fleece jacket to shield you from the evening cold? Black gloves? Uh-huh, I thought so.

At about 30 feet away, look closely, safety light still in hand, I am barely visible.

At about 30 feet away, look closely, safety light still in hand I am barely visible.

Are we as attentive when out in the evening socially as we are when running? On a run, I find I can still do a fast ditch-dive when a vehicle comes too close. My antennae are on alert. Do I have the same level of caution crossing streets when out socially in the evening?  Honestly, no.

When we walk across a dimly-lit parking lot on our way to a holiday concert, to church, to a restaurant to gather with friends, is a driver likely to see us in dark colors – before it is too late?

Probably not the driver on their cell phone, not the driver talking to soothe a tired child, not the driver hurrying to a store before it closes. Even the driver with brilliant attention and quick reflexes may not spot us in time.

About 12 feet away from camera. Would a driver stop in time?

About 12 feet away from camera. Would a driver stop in time?

I’m taking my own advice here and please join me. Black is a great evening color and without it my closet would be nearly bare, but the fatal accidents of late have convinced me that it won’t hurt a bit to keep something lightweight and reflective tucked in my purse or pocket ready to add when in dark areas.

Please be safe out there and when taking in holiday events with family and friends or when crossing a street in the evening. Use the same precautions used when out for a pre-dawn run.

We are approaching the year’s shortest day and longest night, with sunset tonight at 4:43 p.m. 

Just added to my gift list - an amphipod xinglet.  Can be adjusted to fit any size and over any coat.

Just added to my gift list – an amphipod xinglet. Can be adjusted to fit any size and over any coat.

Lighten up!

Stay safe and healthy. Peace. 

Stocking Stuffers for Runners

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Credit: funny.pictures.picphotos.net

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are past and I see a stream of discount ads for running items flood my inbox. With all that, my annual suggestions for apparel shopping for your running family and friends has hit a standstill.

Looking at my post from last year, running shoes aside, it was clear I haven’t purchased any significant items in a year or two.

 

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2010 Harrisburg Mile: Apparel – navy shorts, blue piping.

My frugal nature demands I take care of what I have, and purchase only when necessary.

 

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2014 Boston Maraton – Apparel: Same navy shorts, blue piping. Maybe it is time for a holiday purchase update.

Wardrobe aside, here are a couple of items I’ve begun using that would make great stocking stuffers, or a host(ess) gift when visiting runner-friendly households through the season.

Local Craft Fairs and Farmers Markets

– If you’re looking to buy local, every craft fair I attend has products made of locally-accessed materials and farmers markets provide options of runner healthy gift food items and – one of my favorites – soap from a local goat farmer that is great for chapped hands after a frigid run.

Crafty Running Friends

– You likely have these as well in your running club and training groups. I have running friends who make and sell those crafty stretchy headbands that keep wisps of hair off my face during races. Trail running friends buy their gators from a fellow trail runner who makes them and donates proceeds to a cause. Check out your sources.

Your Fellow Bloggers

– There are a number of running bloggers who occasionally share their creations on posts and some sell as well. I’m impressed with their creativity and ability to produce what they do amid running schedules, family and work.

Fresh Wave Natural Odor Eliminator

I use their products almost everywhere, but particularly the laundry, my car and my gym locker.IMG_1044 I have a sports gel tucked under the backseat of the car and make sure there is a fresh gel when I’m doing day trips to races or doing long runs where sweaty running clothes may be stashed in the vehicle for several hours. I see they now have a sports spray and I will include that with my next order. This is a product made in the USA with headquarters in the Midwest.

 

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Sun & Earth Products

I received a sample of their hand soap and cleaner at the Runner’s World 1/2 Marathon. I’ve used the hand soap to hand wash some running clothes and it does a great job. I see on their website they have a laundry product as well. This product is again made in the USA, in Eastern Pennsylvania.

 

 

Check out your sources. How do you gift? Do you have local sources for your running and active living supplies? Let us know as it’s the season to share.

NYC Marathon Bookend Days

Destination marathons, and even home town marathons, have a before and after. Taking on 26 miles requires your mental space. That may mean a day-before get together with friends who will patiently listen to you second guess your training plan. It may mean sitting quietly with yourself for even a short time, a moment to focus physical and mental energy. The closing bookend may be a day back at the office where the mind wanders to the previous day’s accomplishment and while your  body reminds you that, yes – you really did do that – again.IMG_0978

With New York, there was a before day to gently roll into that weekend and an after day of soaking up some post-marathon activity before a mid-day departure.

Our threesome took the ever-convient Amtrak in, with a window of time to discuss running, catching up on other miscellany, and more running talk.

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With running friends Carol and Becky. My green bib is a giveaway that they are speedier runners.

With a mid-day Friday arrival, we dropped our bags at the hotel and off to the Expo shuttle bus for the Javits Center. From the start, there is the distinct international feel to this marathon. We had ample time to pick up our registration bags, check out the running gear and with an extra day before the marathon, we dared to taste test the myriad of sample energy products on display.

There are items I know after a brief scent or a bite are not for me. Others I’m willing to try. I brought samples home to experiment with as I begin my next cycle of long training runs. I’ll let you know how they work for me.

Large selections of running gear did not tempt me. I seldom buy gear at an Expo. Well, there was the time in Boston when my luggage took another route, but aside from emergencies I’m more likely to ponder my selections until its too late. It’s a great way to save.

After a few hours of browsing time, the crowd was growing and we exited the Expo for an early dinner at Joe G’s, a Manhattan favorite for me, located below street level with a grotto feel and deliciously seasoned Italian.

Saturday started with an early shake-out run from the Da Vinci Hotel, a boutique place chosen for its proximity to the NYC Marathon finish line. The friendly, helpful staff were a bonus.

2-DSC00768 A cold rain fell and by mid afternoon the wind was picking up. It was a relaxing, do your own thing day. We could easily have fit in a show, but kept things unstructured,  rendezvousing for a few meals. I particularly liked the Bread and Honey market neaby,image where we restocked on snacks and bananas and enjoyed a hot cup of soup. A quick stop at the Westerly Natural Market (more samples in my cache), then a late lunch/early dinner was nearby at the Ivy Bar. It was time to call it a day.

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A gracious Meb signs autographs

Our closing bookend day had a great start, thanks to Terri, my running friend and fellow blogger at  See Jain Run. From her, I learned about a post-marathon day presentation and information session on a product I have yet to try (another sample I’m saving for an upcoming long training run. I’m looking forward to trying the product  – more on this later). IMG_0997There we had the opportunity to hear Olympian and winner of earlier Boston and NYC Marathons Meb Keflezighi  offer comments and insights on running  and competing and life, and some nutrition information from running coach and author Greg McMillan as well.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

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Whoever invented the rolling suitcase, thank you.

Off to catch the train with no time to spare, the bookends fold and marathon weekend is complete. Great marathon, great city, nasty weather. We’ll be back. Maybe.

 

Losing my Sole in Stockholm

 

Events at any destination, even cities as beautiful and inviting as Stockholm, can bring disappointments, some of the traveler’s own making.

A Stockholm Sunday in the Park

A Stockholm Sunday in the Park

This was doubly true for my visit. The first disappointment came a month or two before departure when I took a detailed look at my itinerary. My “eureka” cry upon noticing that we would be arriving in port the morning of the Stockholm Marathon, was squelched when I hopped over to the marathon’s website.

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Stockholm Marathon runners – I’m not one of them. Lesson learned: She who hesitates in scrutinizing travel itinerary gets shut out of race registration.

In large, blaring type were the two words no runner wants to see: REGISTRATION CLOSED.

On this Stockholm Sunday, my closest connection to their marathon came as I sat with other travelers, caught up in traffic that wasn’t moving, straining to  see the mass of runners several blocks ahead while listening to fellow passengers complain about the inconvenient delay caused by these crazy marathon runners.

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Walking trail near archeological dig of Viking cemetery

The second disappointment of the day came on a grassy lane, looking at a recently dug archeological site somewhere between Vellentuna and Täby.

As we walked on wet grass and soil, I felt an unfamiliar flop underfoot. The sole of the my left shoe had parted ways with the upper. This was no ordinary shoe.

A lost sole

A lost sole

I was looking at the disintegration of my favorite travel shoe purchased roughly ten years ago at the Plum Bottom. I have worn them on many a journey, walking miles a day over cobblestone, broken pavement and city thoroughfares in comfort.

This shoe was made by Stonefly. I don’t see the model on their current website (10 years is a long time in fashion years). I’m sure I paid a princely sum at purchase, but amortized over years worn, they are a bargain. This is a shoe that is waterproof, sophisticated enough for the city, can make the leap from sightseeing to a dressy lunch and have the comfort of a sports shoe.

With weeks of travel to go, I was relegated to walking my way through European cities in my Brooks Ravenna,Unknown a model I chose for travel because it does a double duty for light trail running and road running. It is not my preference in the city.

My damaged Stonefly’s are back home and sitting on the shelf. I’ve avoided taking them to my shoe repair, not wanting to hear that they are beyond help. Maybe next week.

Not bad in appearance after 10 years of hoofing around the world.

Not bad in appearance after 10 years of hoofing around the world.

And, maybe a new model Stonefly for the next 10 years of travel.

Wishing you a good Fitness Friday with your soles intact.

 

 

 

Local, Global – or Both? Holiday Shopping for the Senior Athlete

While writing a follow-up to last year’s walk through the athletic wear closet, I picked up on a NPR Radio series from the program Planet Money.  It shed new light on my process of identifying where my clothing, particularly my athletic wear, is made.

globe, world GlobeIn this series, Planet Money follows the making of a men’s Jockey T-shirt from cotton fields in the U.S. around the world in Asia, with finishing in Columbia, South America.

A quote from one of the interviews went right to the heart of the matter:

“There is a saying that is going to sound horrible,” Crystal’s CEO, Luis Restrepo, told me. “Our industry follows poverty.” It’s an industry “on roller skates,” he said, rolling from Latin America to China, to Bangladesh — wherever costs are lowest.”

The least percentage of cost in the t-shirt followed around the world was the labor. The Restrepo quote gives a bit of bite to my holiday shopping joy.

How this consumer (and gift recipient) fits into the picture is puzzling on two fronts.  First, am I helping or hindering by not purchasing or suggesting items made by workers earning wages that barely provide food and shelter? I struggle with that.  Second,  I’m not a numbers cruncher, but if we must go around the world to make a cheaper t-shirt, or high-end sportswear, how is it that I can buy excellent quality running apparel from companies that manufacture in the USA at a comparable price?

With those questions unanswered but worth considering,  I again provide a brief list of brands that are primarily manufactured domestically and sometimes locally and offer quality products. They are durable and nearly everything on my list is still in my closet and wearing well.  Keep your running apparel away from the fabric softener and a hot dryer and it wears a long time.

I’ve added only a few items to my closet:

Keen Footwear is located in New Hampshire and manufactures a variety of footwear items.  photoThe socks I recently purchased are made of imported merino wool and manufactured in New Hampshire. Affordable, lightweight and warm for winter running. They keep my feet warm in my running shoes and my toes stayed cozy while snowshoeing earlier this month.

Handful Bra, a company that manufactures sports bras for fitness enthusiasts, is moving operations from overseas to the United States with a base in Oregon. Their move was financed in part through crowdsourcing. Their sense of humor is apparent on their home web page.

And, a rerun of my suggestions from last year’s holiday shopping list:

Darn Tough, another sock company I love is located in Vermont.

Nuu-muu makes my list again. I wear my Nuu-muu for running, but more frequently for biking. This year Nuu-muu has expanded the line to include shirts.  They are based in Washington State. They run some very nice specials on their website.  As a senior runner, the percentage off when you turn over a decade becomes increasingly enticing

And one I haven’t yet purchased,  Aspaeris Technical Performance is a domestic manufacturing company.  Their line of  tights is designed to reduce muscle fatigue.  If anyone has tried these, please comment with a review.

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I shopped early and took mine into the snow and crisp winter air.

That’s my list for this year. Enjoy your gifts and the gifts of the season on your runs, walks or rides in the great outdoors.