Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Favorite Things

Okay-busted. I am not Oprah Winfrey. We actually do have one thing in common that's running related in that we are both finishers of the Marine Corps Marathon-but I am pretty darn sure that's where the similarity ends.

The above is one of my favorite SNL clips of all time. I'm not sure which moment is the best...Tina Fey eating the ham like a wild-eyed Mister Peepers, or Amy Poehler's head exploding. Anyway, as part of my taper madness, and also a way of kick-starting my mental check list for tomorrow's packing, I present my favorite racing things.

I know the above straws do not look like anything special, but they're actually a neat little tool that when used in a marathon as directed by fellow runner Bill Allen, or The Geetah as he's known in the online running communities.

Some runners do plan to walk through all aid stations as part of their plan for the big day, taking their time to drink a full beverage before starting to run again. Others like to keep moving as much as possible, though, minimizing stoppage time. I fall into that latter group. It's not a value judgement on one method or the other, but I have always noticed that I'm far more likely to have aches and pains creep up on me personally in races if I take regular walking/drinking breaks versus moving as much as possible.

This presents a problem, though. I big Camelbak is heavy and not really a great choice for a distance event. A handheld (I'll get to that later) is really nice but you can't store enough in one to last the whole race. The Geetah straw is the perfect, easy solution to the problem.

It's really nothing more than a bendable kid straw, either cut a little short, or short to begin with (like the ones I was lucky enough to find at the store the other day) so that you can run up to the aid station, grab your water or electrolyte beverage, bend the straw so it's at the lowermost point in the cup, and pinch or smoosh the top of the cup closed around the straw. This allows the runner to slow down for just a few seconds and trot on their merry way without slopping fluids all over themselves while trying to drink.

I used one at MCM with great success. The only problem was my own mistake of only bringing one. I was storing it in my skirt pocket, and it got more and more mangled with each aid station. I reached for it somewhere after the halfway point, only to discover the thing had finally fallen out. I'd also used a longer straw, so it stuck up a little further than if I'd trimmed the end, but it still worked well despite that. It was still a huge time saver while I had it, so the plan this time is to have three or four of them, and try to stow them a little better.

Next on my list of favorite things for race day-my Ultimate Direction handheld water bottle. Sometimes it's nice to have a little something with you during a training run or race, and without lots of extra weight. There are times, even at races with regular aid stations, where one might get a little thirsty or need an extra boost. The handheld above has been my go-to method for that kind of hydration.

It's even got a little room in the zip pouch there for a GU or two. While I usually stick gels in my skirt or shorts during the race as well, it's nice to not need to stick EVERYTHING in there. I have another handheld from Road Runner Sports, made by Nathan, but I like the UD best. It's pretty much leakproof because you pull open the soft spout with your teeth, and give it a little pinch to get the water out. The strap on the pouch that holds the water bottle just keeps it on your hand, no gripping necessary.

The Nathan works very well (and does come with an insulated pouch, one advantage for summer days), but if you forget to close the lid, you're going to spill some fluids from it. I did this several times last summer, and it's frustrating to realize you just dumped out what was supposed to keep you healthy and hydrated for the next few miles. I can't hate the Nathan too much, though-it was a nice bottle to leave in my car on long runs for my loop route. I'd go out with the UD bottle, finish a loop, slow down at my car and grab a fresh bottle. It was the best of both worlds to be able to hydrate properly without feeling like a camel.

The above socks are taking their maiden marathon voyage on Saturday, but they're definitely the new favorite piece of gear during the current training cycle. If you talk to a group of runners, there will be some people who snap back and recover from long runs, hard runs, and races VERY quickly. They can knock out hard efforts regularly and experience nothing but minimal aches and pains. Others, like me, sometimes get leg aches and pains so severe that it keeps them up at night after hard efforts, and feel extreme soreness.

A fellow runner and blogger was wearing a pair of the above socks in a short video from one of her marathons, and after we all joked about the cheerleader look with the socks and running skirt, we started asking the serious questions. I started reading up on them and thought it might be worth it for me to try a pair, but I'm naturally a skeptic so I knew they might turn out to be nothing more than an expensive pair of socks for puttering around the house in winter.

Thankfully, I was very WRONG about the probability of their usefulness. They may look incredibly goofy, but my OxySox have made such a difference. I now have two pairs-one for my long run, race, or hard workout, and then the clean pair to sleep in during the night after the hard workout. I now feel like I'm one of those fast recovery people. Okay, not quite. Still-when I used to be in actual pain, not just sore, after some workouts and races, it's amazing to just feel normal-sore. It's got a trickle-down effect of allowing for better sleep, less soreness, and more enthusiasm for the next workout. In the past, I would just cringe, knowing how sore I'd be for the next workout if I had pain and extreme soreness. Now, I'm generally pretty enthusiastic, or at least indifferent to starting my next workout.

I have a few other staple items for race day, including my Garmin with the nifty little auto-lap function. I used to be a Garmin slave and spend tons of time looking at it during races and runs, but I'm getting a bit more comfortable with feeling my pace and just checking the laps, or intermittently if I feel like I'm sagging too much or maybe going the other way and surging too early.

As a pale and pasty girl with fair, sensitive skin, I love to race in skirts because I've experienced less chafing with them than with my shorts. I used to get this terrible lower back chafe from the waist band of my shorts, and in fact still have a scar there from last summer when my skin was rubbed raw after a long run. I'll be sporting my purple cheetah athletic skirt style running skirt Saturday, so long as a last minute blizzard does not move in. My marathon's just down the road from my alma mater, Kansas State-home of the Wildcats. When I saw that runningskirts.com was doing a specialty skirt that was kind of Wildcat-ish, and even the right color-I knew right away that I wanted to wear it for the race. If we get surprise terrible weather, I'll just switch gears and go with a K-State tech shirt and tights. Either way, I plan to be purple girl out there!

The last thing above my not be a favorite-yet. It sure will be if it keeps me on pace and away from making running math miscalculations. I've used free paper pace bands before for halfs, and my one full marathon, but lost them each time. I just know that this time, if it's getting really close again, I want to be able to know exactly where I am versus where I want to be in the later miles.

So, that's about it. Everyone's got their own favorite race day set-up, but the above were just a few of my favorite things! As always, they're subject to change as I learn about other people's favorite things, and consider ideas I'd never thought of, but seem to be good tools of the trade when used by others. Of course, the best tool of the trade is good training-so hopefully, all the little things will make it easier to morph my training into a good race.


Oz Runner said...

really enjoyed reading about all the "stuff" that you will rely on for your upcoming marathon...those socks sound interesting, i've never heard of them, and the straws are a clever idea...love that you're racing in purple (go state!), hopefully the weather will hold up and let you wear the skirt...really pulling for you to BQ...have a great race!

Preston said...

Where are some good sites on those socks? I have heard that water bottle is like "the bottle of bottles". I had not heard of the straws that sounds pretty clever!

TiredMamaRunning said...

I realized after the fact that I missed several things but geez, it would've made a ridiculously long entry even longer. :P Looks like the forecast has gone down a few degrees but is still mostly the same-I'm sticking with the wildcat skirt until it becomes clear that there's a blizzard moving in!

Preston, there are several places to get them....Nat (you know, Nat Nat) recommended Revel Sports. They ship really fast and although they are about a buck more there than a few other places, they don't charge for shipping and wind up being cheaper in the end because of that.


Peter Sagal (from NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) writes a column in RW, and he had a funny piece in there just last month about the compression socks, if you can find a copy.

TiredMamaRunning said...

OK...found the column online.


chasing dreams said...

OxySox are the bomb!! I can't believe how good they make my legs feel. I'm planning on wearing them through the long HOT Florida summer...although the local running store just got compression leg sleeves in...they are thinner and lighter...might have to try them.


sllygrl said...

Good Luck KAZZ!!! I'm going to be 'tunin in' to hear you cross in 3:39:27. That's my prediction!!!