A Little Irish Luck On St. Patrick’s Day

Heading out for a lucky 4-miler.
Heading out for a lucky 4-miler.

Everyone knows St. Patrick’s Day honors the patron saint of Ireland, not those tiny men in suits hoarding pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. But it’s fun to get carried away with tales of leprechauns anyway. In fact, we can learn a thing or two about speed work from those little green guys.

According to Irish folklore, leprechauns often pulled practical jokes on the unsuspecting, sprinting away so quickly that no one was able to catch them in the act. If you do manage to capture one, he’ll grant you three wishes. Ask for all the happiness in the world, and he’ll give you a marathon medal. (OK, I made that part up, but see how fun this can be?)

Whether you’re celebrating with a St. Patty’s Day run or a pint of Guinness (green beer is for amateurs), I hope today is a lucky one!

No pinches for me! I'm wearing the greenest gear I've got.
No pinches for me! I’m wearing the greenest gear I’ve got.

An Irish blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! How are you spreading the luck of Irish today?

Need A Boyfriend for Valentine’s Day? adidas Has You Covered

It’s funny how noticeably single one can feel this time of year. Sure, Valentine’s Day is only a Hallmark holiday, designed to sell chocolates, flowers, and greeting cards, but when those sweet nothings don’t show up at your desk for all of your coworkers to see it’s easy to feel left out of something pretty cool. Maybe you don’t want a boyfriend—they’re whiny, forget to call when they’re late, drink all the milk, and leave their dirty socks all over the apartment. Still, cozying up on the couch with one on a random Thursday night is pretty nice. (Michael K. Farrell, that nice part is about you. xo)

adidas Boyfriend Stripe Tank ($28) and Three-Quarter Tight ($50).
adidas Boyfriend Stripe Tank ($28) and Three-Quarter Tights ($50).

Back in my free agent days, I’d spend V-Day with two guys who loved my thighs, Ben and Jerry’s—something I once even admitted to in a national fitness publication. Perhaps buying myself a new gym outfit would have been more productive and lasting, but the adidas Boyfriend collection didn’t exist back then, so the thought never came to mind.

The line seems like the perfect stand in for a real man. Easy going, yet dependable (the stripe tank offers a relaxed fit and is made of moisture-wicking fabric), flexible and supportive (those three-quarter tights would really move with you), and super cuddly (just looking at the training pants makes me want to snuggle).

adidas Boyfriend Crew ($45) and Live In Capri Pant ($45).
adidas Boyfriend Crew ($45) and Live In Capri Pants ($45).

I haven’t tried the line out myself, but I can’t wait to get my hands on that Boyfriend Crew—it looks so comfy!

What are your V-Day plans? Anyone going on a romantic run?

Note: I wasn’t paid, nor did I receive compensation of any kind to write this post. I just thought the line was cool and you’d like to learn about it.

I’m Hitting The Bottle (of Sunscreen) Before Every Run

I grabbed this tube of Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 on a recent trip to Target and I’m kicking myself for not buying a couple more—they were on sale!
I grabbed this tube of Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 on a recent trip to Target and I’m kicking myself for not buying a couple more—they were on sale!

Yesterday it was 49 degrees when I left my apartment for a 4-mile run. I was wearing Capri pants, a long sleeve top, and a light vest (I needed the pockets, darn it).  The sun rose higher into the sky, the mercury creeped up about 6 degrees, and my body temperature soared. I wanted to slow down to a walk and cool off for a bit. Instead, I took off my top, tied it around my waist, and kept running.

I convinced myself that a few minutes of ultraviolet exposure wasn’t going to kill me. And I tried to keep to the shady side of the path to prevent my now exposed arms from experiencing the full force of the sun. I can be a little obsessive when it comes to applying sunscreen—I’d rather sport a pasty white appearance than risk skin cancer or age spots, so my unprotected run created a lot of anxiety.

Ultraviolet radiation is a known carcinogen, and melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is increasing in this country—I know, I’ve written stories about this scary subject for a number of women’s magazines. We’ve all gotten smarter about SPF, but like me yesterday many runners still find themselves unprepared in the middle of a run. And we don’t put enough thought into winter exposure.

From now on, I’ll be putting sunscreen on head-to-toe before lacing up my sneakers in anticipation of a mid-run wardrobe change. Ready, set, protect… and then, go. I encourage all of you east coasters thawing out this week after the recent cold snap to get on the sunscreen bandwagon, too!

What’s your favorite sunscreen? Do you lather up before leaving or bring a tube with you on runs?

Does Shaving Your Legs Really Help You Faster?

See what I mean? Without hair, it’s really going to be tough to tell our sexy stems apart.

The other night Michael K. Farrell made an announcement that no girlfriend wants to hear, ever. “I’m shaving my legs,” he stated with an air of finality. My response: “If you’re starting, then I’m stopping.” (One of us should get to take a break from the chore of hair removal!)

The idea of me turning into a hairy beast has held off the manscaping so far, but I’m not sure how long my little threat will work. Of course my main fear is that he’ll use my razor and gunk it up with his strawberry-blond fuzz. But my other concern is that his legs will look sexier than mine. He does, in fact, have very nice calves.

The idea that he NEEDS to shave at all is a bit suspect to me. Many triathletes will tell you that reaching for the razor shaves minutes off a race time. (Ha! Sorry, I can’t resist a pun.) In an attempt to verify that hypothesis, I contacted the National Center for Biotechnology Information. A very lovely press officer directed me to a 1989 study conducted on nine swimmers at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, Muncie, IN. Scientists there concluded that removing body hair reduces active drag and decreases the physiological cost of swimming. In other words, bald swimmers glide more easily and therefore more quickly through the water.

Smooth Makers: Schick Quattro Razor and my new favorite foam eco-armour Shave With Benefits—it’s made with love. I don’t want to share these goodies with Michael K. Farrell!

Still not convinced, I continued to look for studies that prove whether or not shaving has any impact on speed when running or cycling. And I found… crickets. Clearly, someone needs to fund this much needed area of research.

Michael K. Farrell’s latest argument: “Smooth legs will make massages better.” He does have a point there. “It’s much easier for me to get deep into the muscles and fascia when I’m not worried about tugging a client’s leg hair,” says NYC-based massage therapist Danielle DeMaio. But she also admits that she wouldn’t want her boyfriend to be hairless either.

What do you think? Does shaving your legs make you faster? Would you let your man borrow your razor?

Road Tested: Pearl Izumi W’s syncroFuel Road II Shoes

Recovery runs are slow and boring, and I feel like they’re a waste of time. My coach assures me that doing it right (running 3 to 4 miles at a pace that would allow snails to pass you) helps your muscles recover faster after tough workouts. And then you’ll be able to push your legs even harder later in the week.

I’ve tried all kinds of things to make recovery runs more bearable. Running with music—but I tend to match the beat and my speed increases, even on slow jams. Catching up with a buddy is no good either, because I pick up the pace too much when I talk.

One thing that does help: Testing out new shoes. (This discovery is going to be rough on my bank account.) Having to slow down helps me focus on how my feet feel and the performance of the shoes. I recently tried the Pearl Izumi W’s syncroFuel Road II. Besides being cute, they’re really comfy—great for those who like to baby their feet on high mileage runs. I did experience some heel slip, but it was easily corrected when I lock-laced them. Do you know that trick? I tried to take a couple step-by-step picks to illustrate the technique.

Step 1: Lace your shoes normally. When you get to the top, create two loops (one on each side) by putting the laces into the last eyelets.
Step 2: Cross the laces over the front of the shoe, and thread them through the opposite loops.
Step 3: Pull tight and finish by tying as usual. Now the shoe will be extra snug around your ankle, correcting the heel slip.

Have you tried any Pearl Izumi kicks? Got any tips for making slow runs more fun?

Is Anyone Else Feeling Hot And Bothered?

There’s a chunk missing because I accidentally dropped my Gold Bond Friction Defense on the floor, but I still love this slippery stuff!

Humidity is not my friend. It zaps my energy and turns me into a sweaty mess. Case in point: Saturday morning’s 16-mile long run that ended up being an 8.32-mile mental whine fest. My entire body was wet, my sports bra was chaffing, and it felt like I was trying to breathe through a hot, damp t-shirt.

I have to take some of the blame for the irritated skin. Lately, I’ve been applying Gold Bond Friction Defense before getting dressed, but I was still half asleep that morning and it totally slipped my mind. Have you tried this anti-chaffing rock star? I slick it on around my waist, ribcage, and over my shoulders to prevent waistbands and bra straps from rubbing me the wrong way. It’s not sticky, and doesn’t leave oily marks on my clothes—the way some petrolatum-based skin lubes can.

So yeah, that humid run left a red mark in the middle of my chest and put me in a funk. I get really down on myself when I give in to feeling uncomfortable and cut a long run short. I start thinking that I’m not tough enough, that I’m not really cut out for running, and that I should just give up my marathon goal this year.

A cold shower, an icy glass of Coke, and a couple of hours sitting next to an air conditioner later, I was looking up different routes to try out on Sunday’s run. What a difference the temperature makes!

What do you do when humidity makes running outside miserable? How do you cool off?

Gear Alert: My New Timex GPS Watch is a Confidence Buster

The Timex GPS Watch certainly doesn’t make my skinny arm look fat. (And in its defense, it did get this training run right.)

That’s right, I said buster. I’m so disappointed with this thing I could throw it on the ground and shout, “I’m an adult!”

I was pumped when I bought the Timex GPS Watch. Finally, an affordable GPS option for runners who want to know distance and pace without all the unnecessary bells and whistles that some of those other devices offer. I practically squealed when the box arrived at my apartment. (I ordered it from REI—love their website!) And I read the entire user’s manual. But since our first meeting, this timepiece and I have had a miserable relationship.

I stand in front of my building before every run for a full minute or more, waiting for the darn thing to lock onto a GPS signal. It chirps when it finds one and I take off, only to have it beep at me 15 to 20 minutes later to let me know that it lost the signal. I can’t begin to explain how upsetting it is to look down and see a 13:20 per mile pace when I know I’m not really running that slow.  And this fancy arm candy took a nap during the run leg of the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon—it clocked me finishing the 13.1 miles in 1:58:30, while the official time was 1:59:30. (I’m sure there are other reasons for that minute difference, but I’m annoyed so I’m blaming the watch.)

I never minded running off the grid before I had this bulky thing (there’s no denying it wasn’t designed for my small wrists), but for some reason now that I own a GPS watch I actually want to know how far I’m running while I’m running.

I really, really want this watch to work—darn it! But it doesn’t. Sadly, I think it’s time to hit up the returns counter at REI Soho and say farewell to the Timex GPS Watch.

Do you have a GPS watch? I’d love to try something else—got any recommendations?


Feeling Flirty In My Skirt-y

As if the skirt weren’t enough to prove I’m tough, sometimes I run around with a girly pink backpack, too.

When running skirts first hit the scene, I thought they were lame and too girly to be taken seriously. I even made fun of a friend for wearing hers around Central Park. But then I discovered how comfortable, yet chic they are compared to split shorts. I got a basic black one from Brooks and happily wore it on weekends. I could pull it on and instantly be ready to go to the farmer’s market, pick up dry cleaning, or meet friends for brunch. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to actually run in it.

Then I had a conversation with Missy Park, founder and CEO of Title Nine. She’s a huge fan of “skirts with benefits,” because they’re perfect for the active lifestyle she promotes through her catalog and website. “You can get up and move in any direction, whenever you feel like it in a running skirt,” says Park. And that’s where she thinks we gals have an advantage over the guys—“We’ve got more [clothing] options that allow for unencumbered movement,” she says.

But we didn’t always come out on top in the movement department. Park remembers a time when women’s sports teams didn’t get the same funding that the men’s teams did. “Being among the first to play basketball at Yale under Title IX certainly shaped me,” says Park. “I learned leadership skills, ways to deal with stress on the court, and that, as a woman, I have value.” Park brought those sensibilities to the office when she started Title Nine. “Back then, women would wear two jock straps sewn together because sports bras didn’t exist,” she laughs. “The fitness apparel market just wasn’t ready for girls.”

From sports bras to running skirts, times have certainly changed for the better. The Title IX Education Amendment prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. President Richard Nixon signed it into law on 23 June 1972, and schools across the nation had to offer equal opportunities in sports to boys and girls. Since then hundreds of thousands of women and girls have set foot on fields, courts, and tracks across America. “It wasn’t about being treated like the boys,” says Park, “It was about having the same opportunities.”

I’m now the proud owner of three running skirts. Park sent me one shortly after our meeting, I still have the Brooks skirt I mentioned earlier, and I recently bought this ruffled Lululemon number (pictured). And I actually take them out for loops in Central Park. They no longer seem frilly or silly to me. Instead, these skirts remind me of the opportunities and options that I’m so thankful to have.

It’s good to be a girl! Happy 40th Anniversary, Title IX!

Do you own a running skirt? Do you feel confident when you wear yours?

My Shirt Is Going To Blow Your Mind! (And Not Just Because It’s Cute)

Sporting the Reebok ZigTech Running Top pre-run. My muscles feel recovered already!

Woven into this seemingly ordinary Reebok top is some of the most scientifically advanced fiber in existence: Celliant.

Celliant is a blend of thirteen “optically responsive” natural minerals (yes, as in the stuff rocks are made of) that have been pulverized and manipulated until a fiber-like texture forms. The fiber is then woven into fabric, which can be used like any other fabric material to make clothing. Except this material is magic.

According to the company’s literature Celliant is able to “absorb and store the electromagnetic emissions from the human body and release them where they are reabsorbed into the skin and deep muscle tissue. In the deep muscle tissue they act as catalysts for natural, biological processes resulting in enhanced oxygen levels and more balanced body temperature during sleep, rest or physical activity.”

Say, what? In plain English: Your body is constantly producing energy, which escapes through your skin in the form of light that is invisible to the naked eye. When you wear this fabric, it bounces that light energy back at you, so that the energy can be reabsorbed. Once it’s reabsorbed, the energy improves your circulation and delivers more oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. And that boost in blood movement helps your muscles recover faster. (Sounds like legal blood doping to me!)

The idea that a fabric can affect your blood flow may seem like new age-y quack-science. But researchers at the University of Calgary Human Performance Laboratory have hard data* to back up these claims. They found that when a Celliant garment is worn during exercise, participants used less oxygen to accomplish the same amount of work. Showing that the body can be efficiently active for longer periods, without getting tired.

That little spring in my step is probably from all the extra oxygen.

In an attempt to conduct a test of my own, I put on this top before running my typical six-mile loop. Since I know my times from past runs (wearing any-old-tank-or-tee), I figured it would be easy to compare my time running in this shirt. The numbers really don’t say much: I ran an average 8:32 minutes per mile (typical), felt like stopping at a water fountain around mile 4 (per usual), and was pleased to be finishing when I neared my starting point (yep, that’s about right).

Clearly, more research needs to be done. And I should probably learn how to factor out variables, like weather and mood. But man, did I look good out there!

 

Are your workout clothes made of high-tech materials? Do you think they improve your performance? 

 

*The study was conducted on 12 subjects and is pending publication.

Guess Who’s Not Feeling Ready for Her Half Marathon Next Weekend?

My mind isn’t there yet, but at least my feet will look confident in The North Face Single Track Hayasa sneaks!

Surprise, it’s me. (Not really a big shock there, huh.) Between stressing out over work for the past month and coming down with a chest cold (gotta thank the boyfriend for that one—every time he gets on a plane he comes back with the sniffles!), I’m not feeling super confident going into what should be a taper week for the upcoming The North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon at Bear Mountain. But thinking back on every single significant race I’ve ever participated in, I’ve never felt ready.

The morning I toed the line in Hopkinton for the 2011 Boston Marathon, I was full of dread—I didn’t think I could handle the hills. Minutes before the gun went off for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon I briefly considered crossing the barricades, finding my dad in the crowd, and telling him to drive me back home—I wasn’t sure if I had put in enough mileage. And in the first mile of the 2009 NYC Marathon I almost pulled over to throw up on the Verrazano Bridge—the anxiety over not being positive that I could complete 26.2 miles was making me nauseas.  I finished all of those marathons. Clearly, my body was ready and this is all mental.

Still, going into my first ever trail half-marathon presents new hurdles for my head. Did I run enough on actual trails to prepare my legs, ankles, feet, tendons, and muscles for the inconsistent terrain? Should I have practiced carrying my water bottle more? Was my training enough? Am I enough?

My mantra for this week leading up to the race: “Yes, I am enough.” I have no doubt that I will finish all 13.1 of those woodsy miles on Sunday 6 May. It just might not be pretty. And I might be sniffling on the way home.

What helps boost your pre-race confidence? Got any trail running tips?