Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Running Gear

15 Hours of Absurdity at Boston 2018

One of the Canadian runners staying at my inn pretty much summed it up.  “Absurd, just absurd.”

3 A.M.  Hard rain has started in earnest, pounding on the metal roof outside my Back Bay window. I  sleep off and on but finally give up.

6 A.M. I’m ready for coffee and  dress just enough to be presentable in the dining room. The inn has set out a 6 a.m. breakfast for marathoners. The speedy group assembled from Sweden, Canada and several points in the Western U.S. are enjoying bagels and yogurt before making a dash to their buses. I’m left to chat with a few early rising non  runners.

7 A.M. It’s back upstairs to get dressed for the battle with the weather. Assuming we will be running into the wind the better part of 26 miles, I tear a piece of dry cleaner bag into a rectangle, anchor one end in my running bra and the other in the waistband of my tights as an extra layer of protection on the chest. Then, I tear a small square for the crown of my head before adding my beanie and the yellow runner trucker hat that was a giveaway from Trackmaster. It turns out the hat is perfect for the weather with a bill large and wide enough to keep the rain directly off my face.

Finally, I ask myself whether a sane 70-year old woman would wrap herself in plastic to run in pelting rain for 26 miles. No one answers.

8:55 A.M. Left my inn for the short walk to meet my friend, Becky, on the Boston Common where we catch the bus to Hopkinton.

Given that it rained most of the day pre-Boston Marathon, I decided earlier to take one of the last buses out. You can get away with that when you are in the 4th Wave, 2nd Corral. I’ve been to wet Bostons in the past and could envision the condition of the Athlete’s Village.

Everyone in the bus line is ensconced in old marathon heat sheets, plastic bags, throwaway rain jackets with a few in some really solid quality rainwear. Anything that keeps the unrelenting rain off. The temperature is in the upper 30’s but feels colder with the wind and rain in our faces.

10:15 A.M. ish We arrive at the Athlete’s Village or what is left of it. Picture hours of pouring rain, a couple of large tents with shivering runners squeezed in for cover, a knoll at the edge of the field leading to the tent and portapotties that now resembles a mudslide.

Shortly after arriving, the announcer calls for the last of the 3rd Wave folks to find their way to the start, then encourages Wave 4 to begin finding our way as well.

Becky brought a change of shoes and headed down the mudslide to  the tent. I called after her “I’m not following” but I’m sure with the pelting rain she did not hear. It was a good decision to stay where I was and walk through the Village on the paved path. Wave 4 runners making their way up the knoll from the tents were slipping and sliding, some crawling to keep their balance.

I spotted a few porta-potties only steps off the pavement and joined the line. Volunteers  had devised boards and tarps to keep us out of deep mud and to protect what if anything was left of the grass and sod.

11:00:  We’re moving en masse to the start line. A man on my left runs by hurrying to his corral. His feet slip on the slick pavement and he is down. A couple of us around him try to assist, but he pulls himself up, left calf and knee bleeding and he continues on in a run. I’m sure the rain fully washed that blood away in minutes.

Near the start line, I remove my warmups and place them on a pile of clothing that would later be collected by Big Brothers and Big Sisters. My running skirt, compression socks and the thick layers of body lotion on my skin would have to do for lower body warmth.

11:20 A.M.  I’m looking for my corral and expect to be squeezed in like previous years, but no – they were releasing runners on arrival and we simply moved through the start.

Miles 1 – 3: Running more slowly than usual, getting a feel for the slickness underfoot I make my way through castoff clothing and plastic bags and try to get a feel for pace.

Mile 4: I move to the edge of the course when the rain subsides a bit and remove the throwaway warmup jacket under my rain jacket, then rebundle myself with arm hole vents open, every other zipper tightly closed. My fingers are getting cold and my gloves sopped so it is taking more time than I anticipated.

Mile 6: Why, oh way, didn’t I bring waterproof gloves? I find a plastic bag stuffed in my pocket, tear it in half and wrap pieces around each hand. It’s working. Not that my hands are warm, but there are degrees of cold and this was better. I see people wearing latex gloves and wondered why I hadn’t thought of this.

Mile 9: I take a moment to be thankful that I had the foresight to bring my North Face rain jacket. Not necessarily warm, but it was a nice layer against the wind and kept my upper body dry while rain ran down it.

Mile 14: Another thankful moment that my goddaughter Jess is out along the course and if I must drop (yes, it did cross my mind), she will be but a call away.

Mile 17: The strongest gale yet hits us head-on and I am lifted off my feet. I feel a hand on my back and for a moment think I am having a religious experience, but no. The hand belongs to a man running behind me. We continue to run, his hand on my shoulder blades, until the gale passes. Thank you, kind stranger.

Mile 19: Is that hale?  I try to convince myself it’s sleet but it is in fact little hale balls. It must be localized because within five or six minutes, I run out of it and back to plain, simple heavy rain and wind.

Mile 25: Turning right onto Hereford, the pavement is swathed in raincoats, plastics, everything the 22,000 runners ahead of me had used in attempts to keep warm and dry. I pick my way through the few spots of still bare street, understanding runners ridding those layers for that last drive down Boylston where they know finish line photos and dry clothing are waiting.

I ridded myself of nothing. Any sense of reasonable appearance was left behind many miles ago, and in fact was left behind as I left my room. I would not have identified myself in the finish line photo save for the yellow bill of that trucker hat.

Finish Line: My watch says 4:53:40. The shivering begins as soon as I stop running. A short and fast walk to my inn. water continues to stream off me as I enter. I reach for a hot cup of cocoa, hand still shaking.

After a long, warm shower, I cuddle into a blanket and pull out the various snacks (yeah, salty potato chips) from the finish bag, replenishing with additional snacks from home.

OK, I am done and not coming out from under this blanket.

Dinner invites declined.

Good night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 GIFT IDEAS FOR SENIOR FITNESS FANATICS

B-B Mistletoe KissDo you have a few blank spaces next to the names of friends and relatives who continue – or have begun – to pursue exercise or athletic endeavors in their senior years?

My suggestions here focus on gifts for runners, primarily women, but the same gift selection thought process and some of the items can be applied to men and to almost any other sport or activity.

In past years, I’ve done a gift list post or two on my blog and most of those manufacturers and categories still hold true.

In addition to my earlier finds, there is an array of items out there, from the economical and practical to the snazzy or cutting edge. So, let’s get started. Perhaps you will find just the thing for your senior runner or other athlete.

When it comes to gourmet gifts, here are some suggestions to consider:

Healthy Foods and Ingredients

By choosing healthy foods and ingredients you can pick up an economical gift for your runner/athlete host or hostess. They will make a nice addition to the healthy array of foods likely already in the athlete’s cupboard.

Organic food stores carry a number of packaged items and ingredients that can sometimes be difficult to find. Here is a list of organic food stores from across the geographic spectrum.

Organic Restaurants

Eating out can be a challenge for athletes who prefer healthy food, so here is a gift card opportunity. Spec out an organic or generally health-conscious restaurant that your friend or family member has not yet found – or one she particularly likes.

Cookbooks

On my personal wish list this year is Run Fast East Slow developed by Shalane Flanagan, recent winner of the New York City Marathon, along with chef, nutrition coach, friend and college track teammate, Elyse Kopecky.

The cookbook has been around for a year or two, and I have enjoyed some of the recipes prepared by friends who were among the first to purchase it.

Moving on to clothing choices, here are some interesting items that I would definitely consider:

Tights

When hiking, running, doing strength work or cycling, tights are almost essential. Although we all keep that one pair of black tights that can morph from the trail to looking quite nice under a dress or long sweater, the wild splashy colors and prints in tights are far more fun.

Don’t let age stop you from making these a gift purchase for your senior athlete. Join in this trend and go wild. Stop into any athletic store or browse around online, and you will find them.

Socks/Gloves/Hand Warmers

Does your favorite athlete have a favorite brand for socks, gloves and hand warmers? Then stick with that. Most people have worked out what fits best in their running and cycling shoes and what level of warmth is needed.

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Your fitness fanatic may appreciate compression socks. They’re a good gift choice – useful for long runs or when traveling soon after an endurance event.

Do you know what kind of gear your friend needs? Let’s look at the choices:

Reflective Gear

Reflective gear is always a nice addition and can be a stocking stuffer. It can be anything, from a reflective strip with a velcro back that can attach to any clothing item to something offering more coverage.

My very favorite gift received last year was the Tracer360. I can be seen in the dark, coming sideways,front or back.

Activity Timing/Tracking

Activity timing gadgets are very personal. I enjoy Garmin products for timing and pacing information on runs, hikes and swims. I also like to look back through the data over time. Seeing the maps of trails trodden in the past can bring wonderful memories, much like photos.

However, there are many technical products, and you will want to know your athlete very well, and perhaps get her input, before making this purchase.

Happy shopping!

If you are 60 or over, what is on your fitness fanatic gift list? If you are the new or experienced athlete, do friends and family encourage your activity with gifts, large or small? 

This article was previously published in early December on Sixtyandme.com

 

B-B Mistletoe Kiss 

 

Accessorizing for Safety

 

Being prepared for our own safety is important for everyone. For those of us over 60 years of age, it’s imperative we stay active to maintain as much strength as possible.  We can also supplement our strength with accessories, which may or may not have a bit of flash and sash to them.

From high tech to low tech, we all have our favorite safety accessories. We may not think of them as such and while they are not appropriate or helpful for every situation, accessories they are.

For my lifestyle, safety when running the roads and the trails is where I most frequently rely on low tech devices. Whatever your lifestyle, for the majority of outings safety accessories are not needed. However, if we have one or more of them handy, it is one less thing for you or me to be concerned about. Then, we can concentrate on the beauty of the day on the trail or enjoying the sights in the city.

So, let’s look at a few low tech devices I have in mind to accessorize your look and your well being while out and about.

The Other People (OP) Strategy

Seriously, surrounding yourself in a group can be a safety accessory. Think penguins.  When penguins take that leap into the water, they do so as a pack. When penguins take that dive with the pack, they are less likely to be gobbled up by a seal. Take that swim alone and it’s nearly a sure thing the penguin won’t be returning to the safety of shore. It’s similar for humans. If we’re with a group, the OP strategy generally works. We are less likely to be hassled, intimidated or something worse.

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OP are an excellent safety device when hiking the Appalachian Trail. They’re also fun company.

Alas, we are not penguins. Many of us enjoy a  run or a stroll without OP. Are there times you want to take a solo run or see a movie or show that doesn’t appeal to friends and family? Here, the OP strategy doesn’t work unless you forego your own interests. Are you in this category? Well then, we’ll move to the next option.

“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?”

Your name is likely not Steve, but that was the advice from Lauren Bacal’s character to Humphrey Bogart’s character in “To Have and Have Not.” It’s a question for you if you want to stay safe. Can you whistle when your safety is in question? You can if you have a basic trail whistle. I have several models for the trail and usually wear one on a chain around my neck tucking the whistle into my running bra. Some people attach a whistle to their auto or home key chains.

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A whistle is also great for getting the attention of a crowd

Whistles can be less than a quarter inch in diameter and no more than a inch or so long, and yet make a loud, shrill sound. This is a wonderful passive device that can quickly be used if you become lost on the trail, are hurt and immobile and need help, or if you are in a dicy situation anywhere.

I’ve looked around and found that whistles now come in some elegant styles. You can find a variety on many websites, such as Etsy.

Carry a Big Stick

So said Teddy Roosevelt and so can we. There are variations of the stick that will work for your particular lifestyle. If it’s a run, hike or walk in the woods, a hiking pole will suit.

The citified version of this would be a cane or a walking stick. Whether or not you need it for strength or balance, it can be handy in self-defense and also  quite stylish.

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My friend Carol with her hiking stick maneuvers around a rough course and any unsavory humans or animals that come her way. 

The street and travel version can be the very elegant and decorative canes I have seen used among friends. They vary from rhinestones and animal prints, to classic wood business styles. You can find canes specifically for women at many retail stores or on lines at numerous websites such as this oneI haven’t taken this up as a safety accessory myself but if it is something you use as a safety ruse, please comment on how it has worked for you.

Who Are You?

If you are hurt and can’t speak for yourself, let your identification bracelet or necklace speak for you. It won’t keep bad things from happening, but it can quickly provide necessary information to medical or other professionals. Most outdoorsy folks will wear some form of identification that gives their name, at least one contact person and any other pertinent information.

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ROAD ID bracelet just happens to match running gear for the Harrisburg Mile.

Road I.D.is one of many companies where you can find them. Mine is on a wrist stretch band so small I sometimes forget I’m wearing it.

What’s That Odor and Why Are My Eyes Burning?

Pepper spray or mace can be a safety accessory. You can find these in most sporting goods stores. Models vary from handheld to clips.

Some sprays can be considered a weapon and are not welcome everywhere, so think twice before throwing one in your handbag or pocket when you visit certain office or government buildings, arrive for a flight or travel by any means to foreign countries.

That’s my list. Now it’s your turn. What do you recommend adding as a low-tech safety accessory?

(A version of this post was previously published on sixtyandme.com.)

 

 

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.