Posts Tagged ‘Gear’

I got a great birthday package from Sara with an awesome workout gift…and after a month of half-iron training, I could use a little boost! Sara sent me an awesome SweatyBand for my hair. She included a sticky note telling me it would not budge, even on ‘our’ super fine hair. I tried it out while I was on my bike trainer and it really didn’t move. Then I sported the orange, yellow, and red band during a run; again, no slipping at all.

Zoe thinks I'm beautiful in my SweatyBand!

The bands are made of ribbon with a velvet-y backing and elastic that goes under the base of your head for a comfortable fit. I’m going to have to stock up on these, because I love wearing headbands during workouts to keep my hair off my face. Testimonials on the SweatyBands.com website include a girl whose band stayed in place even when she took a helmet on and off! Amazing.

– albledsoe

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Stick it to me

Since I got into endurance sports a few years ago, I’ve heard lots of praise for a gadget called “The Stick.” It was supposed to work wonders for sore, tight areas, especially IT bands, where I’ve had some trouble. So I was super excited this Christmas when Santa Clause brought me one of my very own (well, it was actually from my mother-in-law, but you get the idea).The Stick comes in various sizes, and is a flexible, plastic…well, stick, with spindles that roll independently to stretch and apply pressure to problem zones.

the stick

The Stick

I tested out my stick this afternoon after returning from a run of just over 9 miles. I followed the instructions, which include about 10 recommended exercises for arms, back, neck, and legs, and then added a couple of my own. The verdict? My muscles don’t feel nearly as sore as they did after last week’s run. Plus, using The Stick forced me to take the time to stretch following my workout, which I admit I don’t always do. I think I could use this almost every night and it will help with my general well-being. It’s super easy to use, and small enough to tuck away in a corner or on a shelf (as opposed to the foam rollers which are often recommended for similar use).

If you’re like me and can’t afford weekly massages during training, I would recommend grabbing a Stick of your own. Your body will thank you!

– albledsoe

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Although the Smarty Panties didn’t win the No Skirts Allowed Adventure Race this year, we did get a sweet door prize: vouchers for a free pair of Salomon XT Wings Trail Running Shoes. I was so excited…what girl doesn’t love shoes? And free ones at that!

Salomon XT Wings

Salomon XT Wings

Within a few days of returning to Louisville at the race, I headed to the Trail Store to get fitted and mailed in my voucher. Funny enough, the staffer who helped me was wearing these shoes, and he gave a great testimonial. He said he wears them for running and casually, and loves them. Sweet! Less than a week later, the box with my shiny new shoes had arrived.

I had been running in a pair of Asics that were described as road/trail hybrids. They did the trick, but a dedicated pair of trail shoes was definitely on my wish list, and now here they were on my front stoop! The first run in the XT Wings started out great. The shoes are lighter, have great traction/tread, and I really like the cinch-style (“Quicklace”) lacing system, though it’s taking some getting used to. A bonus is that they’re pretty cute, gotta love the green and grey color scheme (like F2BT!).

A couple miles into the test run, I got an all-to-familiar feeling…blisters forming on the arches of my feet. This is a personal problem I have learned to live with, and after several years I’ve found a pretty reliable fix (or fixes): Superfeet insoles, BodyGlide, and the perfect socks (which can vary depending on the shoes, and takes some trial and error to discover).

We slowed to a walk and finished our route, I let the blisters heal, and next time time tried the shoes with my insoles. No blisters!

The best thing I’ve noticed since I started running trails in these shoes is the sturdy reinforced toe. I can stub my toe on a tree root or the dirt (yeah, I’m not the most graceful runner around) and not even feel it. I even tripped once and fell flat on my face, but my toe was no worse for wear! They’re also easier to clean, which is handy for muddy Kentucky winters.

I’d give these shoes 3.5 of 4 stars so far. If I had paid for them, I would definitely be satisfied with my purchase.

– albledsoe

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Running off the Turkey

Actually, the run was before I ate the turkey, but I think it still helped. My running partner Valerie and I met up early on Thanksgiving morning for the Iroquois Hill Runners Thanksgiving Day Run. I like this race because the t-shirts have turkeys on them, hehe. It’s 5 miles, but the first two are straight uphill. Great warm-up!

I’ve always thought of running as therapy because the sweating helps ease stress and frustration and the monotony is conducive to thoughtful prayer and problem solving. And running with a buddy makes it even better because you get to talk about whatever is on your mind. This Thanksgiving run was a great way to get in the holiday mood since Valerie and I discussed family, traditions come and gone, and our favorite dishes.

As we headed into the downhill around mile 3, I also thought about how much I have to be thankful for as I pursue a healthier lifestyle. The people and opportunities that have come into my life make it a fun adventure, and even when my body doesn’t want to cooperate, I appreciate it nonetheless for carrying me through this crazy life!

I’m obviously lucky to have Valerie, the ultimate training buddy. We keep things on our calendar, hold each other accountable during training, and cheer each other on during races. I’m very fortunate to have a great friend and athlete who complements my style perfectly.

Iroquois Hill runners thanksgiving run 2009

Valerie and Amanda at the IHR Thanksgiving Day Run. Action Shot:)

My husband, Adam, is the best support team ever. Even though he thinks I’m insane for taking on some of the things I do, he not only cheers me on throughout training and at races, but he also puts up with my fatigue and crankiness when I’m sore or tired from training. Not to mention my weird eating restrictions and the seemingly crazy stuff I have to spend our money on (Gu? Body Glide?). He was my hero when I was training for the Memphis St. Jude marathon; every week when I came home from my long run, he’d greet me at home with one of my favorite recovery foods (usually thin crust cheese pizza or homemade guacamole).

Speaking of the marathon, I’m very thankful that I am a marathon finisher. It’s one of those things that I’ll always have, and can always think back on when things get tough. I mean, I made it through that, as painful as it was both physically and mentally, so I know that now I can handle just about anything.

I’m thankful, especially at a cool, damp November morning race, for great running and fitness innovations like disposable hand warmers and sweat-wicking ear covers. Genius!

Of course, I’m very blessed to have the greatest blog partner on the planet in Sara. Her smart, funny posts make me laugh, I admire her work ethic and creativity, and I appreciate her support in life in general. We’ve been great friends for years, and it’s fun to have this new adventure to share, too!

Mostly, I’m just thankful that I have the ability and desire to push myself. Our bodies are fragile and not everyone gets to use theirs fully, so if we’re blessed with good health we should fight to maintain it. I love feeling strong, feeling like I have some power over something. For that, I give thanks.

– albledsoe

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My mom and I were recently discussing how overwhelming it can be to try to be healthy, because there is so much information out there, much of it conflicting. Do you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, or half your body weight in ounces, or something else entirely? Is soy a great veg source of protein, or does it screw with your hormones? The influx of information can be mind-boggling and often paralyzing. Even if you have the best intentions, it can sometimes feel impossible to know if you’re actually doing and eating the right things.

Here at F2BT, we attempt to wade through the unreliable information, bring you the most up-to-date advice, and deliver our real-life results, good or bad. Here are just a few places I regularly turn for health-related info and ideas. There are hundreds of others out there, and we’d love to hear your suggestions as well.

Runner’s World and Women’s Health magazines. I’m a magazine addict anyway, and these two (both by Rodale) are high-quality, info-packed reads every single issue. Both have great websites as well. I especially love the Newbie Chronicles by Mark Parent in RW for it’s honest, hilarious take on being a beginning runner. Warning: Runner’s World may inspire you to do crazy things, like run a marathon.

MapMyRun.com. This site allows you to plug in any starting point and map a running route which you can save, share, etc. You can set up a profile to track your runs, search for other runs in an area and more. Sister sites include mapmyride.com and mapmyhike.com.

Dr. Andrew Weil. I’ve referenced Dr. Weil several times before, but this Harvard-educated physician has proven to be one of the most reliable sources I’ve found for all things health. He believes emotions and spirit play a bigger role in our well-being than most people acknowledge, and he believes some things are best treated by conventional medicine, and other things are better treated in a more natural manner. I always check out what he’s written on an issue before I take any action.

Self magazine. I had to include another mag, since Self has topped my pile for years. The print issue covers everything for cancer survivors to fashion and celebrities to the best new gear, and I love the editor, a triathlete and mom with a great blog of her own. We at F2BT also check out the Eat Like Me blog at self.com, where a registered dietician photographs and posts every single meal she eats. Great stuff!

iTunes. This isn’t very original, but I check out iTunes for inspiration for workouts, both music and podcasts. I love the sports mixes that include “coached” workouts. I own Lance Armstrong’s and Kara Goucher’s. It’s also inspiring to see the top Power Songs (“Eye of the Tiger” anyone?). And I’ve gotten some great podcasts with workouts, yoga and meditation, etc. Check out Mayo Clinic and Dr. Weil there for medical advice, and listen to interviews with top athletes to keep you motivated.

Ken Combs Running Store. This of course will vary depending on where you are, but your local running store is a great resource. For the most part, the people working there love to run, bike, or whatever, and they want to help the endurance community grow (read: free advice). All running stores I know of also get involved in putting on races, are very active in giving back to the community, and generally have ties to running groups (or coordinate their own). I love Ken Combs in Louisville as well as Swag’s and the Trail Store.

– albledsoe

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Hotel Fitness

I was back on the road last week for work, this time to San Diego. After trying airplane exercises and hotel running maps on my last trip, I wanted to mix it up a little this time. It was my first trip to San Diego, and it was a quick one. Luckily, the weather was great for walking, and the hotel had a great complimentary fitness center (and I did grab a running map from the concierge, but didn’t end up using it). There was a beautiful outdoor pool as well, but it wasn’t quite that warm!

Turns out, the Omni San Diego also offers a Get Fit Kit for guests, which they bring right to your room (they’ll even bring a treadmill to your room for a “nominal fee”). The kit was delivered to my room while I was at the conference Monday; it contained resistance bands, light weights, an exercise mat, towel, bottle of water, and a brochure with suggested exercises. Although I really enjoyed my workout in the fitness center, it was nice to be able to use the kit to get a workout in without leaving my room. The bottled water was also nice, because I always seem to have trouble getting enough water when I travel.

Get Fit Kit at Omni San Diego

Get Fit Kit at Omni San Diego

I did a combination of the suggested exercises and some of my own, and that seemed to work pretty well. I haven’t had a lot of experience with resistance bands, so I appreciated the recommendations; my favorite workout was side leg lifts with the band looped around my knees. Quite effective!

It’s nice to see that more and more hotels are considering the needs of guests who want to continue their healthy lifestyles when they’re on the road. I tend to judge hotels by their fitness centers these days, and an in-room Get Fit Kit was a nice bonus. Have you stayed somewhere that has great fitness options?

– albledsoe

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Once we retrieved Valerie’s missing tire from the offending team and reassembled her bike, we were ready to set out for checkpoint (CP) No. 1 of the NSAAR! Rough start aside, we were still pretty excited and anxious to make up the lost time. The first bike leg took us out of Jameson Camp and through several neighborhoods, then down to a mall.

Some of the CPs were manned, and the staffer or volunteer would initial or punch our “passport” sheet. Others would be unmanned, but we’d have to answer a question from our clue sheet to prove we were there. Things like: Is the sidewalk on the N, S, E, or W of the intersection of such-and-such streets? How many light poles are between this street and this street? One of the clues really threw us off, because it gave us an intersection to locate and asked us to give the name of the company on the large blue sign at the NW corner of the intersection. Well, there was a solitary giant GREEN Prologis sign at that corner. We looked around, double-checked the compass, checked further down the street, and scratched our heads for several minutes (several other teams came along meanwhile doing the same). We finally determined it was a trick question, and our official answer for that CP was: No Blue Sign.

As a team, the Smarty Panties finally figured out how to coordinate three women on bicycles with a clue sheet, maps, compass, and passport/pen between us. It took some trial and error (and trust among partners!), but we finally settled in to a comfortable system just in time to jump into a canoe and right out of our comfort zone!

Valerie checks her gear at the transition area

Valerie checks her gear at the transition area

Gear was an issue the entire day, though I think we did exceptionally well for complete newcomers. Leaving our bikes on a creek bank and getting into the canoe was interesting; I think we’d been expecting these types of transitions to happen in the transition area (right?). That wasn’t the case. You pretty much keep all your crap with you all the time (backpack, helmet, shoes, food, pocketknife, duct tape, etc.). Getting into the canoe, our biggest concern was our backpacks. There was already water in the bottom of the canoe, and we didn’t want everything soaked. I wore my pack, and was able to keep Valerie and Marcia’s packs on my feet since I was in the middle. Valerie took the front position and Marcia steered from the back.

All of the Smarty Panties had some canoe experience, but these canoes and the creek we were in still proved to be the most difficult event of the day. We assumed it would be a chance to relax, eat and drink, review maps/clues, and gather ourselves for the next portion of the race. That assumption is pretty hilarious in hindsight, because we spent the entire time in the canoe (which was wobbly, yellow, and plastic, much like a Fisher Price toddler toy) stressed and frazzled, trying not to tip over and carrying the thing through areas that were too shallow to paddle through. We were one of the few teams that managed to not end up tipping, which helped us have a better rest of the day.

We had a small orienteering course in another park at the end of the canoe debacle, followed by a LONG walk back to our bikes. This trek included some bushwhacking, but I think we probably could have avoided that. Oh well, we felt very adventurous hiking through the weeds, and finally did make it back to the bikes (we even went over/under a chain link fence…quite Rambo of us, huh?).

Team Smarty Panties: Valerie, Amanda, Marcia

Team Smarty Panties: Valerie, Amanda, Marcia

The last bike portion was simple now that we’d mastered our system (and safety-pinned the strap of my backpack together after it broke), and we were soon back at the camp, where we received another map outlining a ropes/team-building course and another orienteering course. We completed several of the team-building challenges (one point for each team member that completed it), but the lines were very long, so we decided to tackle as many of the orienteering CPs as possible in the hour or so we had left. [Teams that finished after the 6-hour race deadline were penalized for every minute they were late.]

The weather ended up being perfect most of the day; sunny and clear, but cool enough that we weren’t overheated running around with backpacks and long pants.

We finished about 30 minutes before the deadline, the fourth team to cross the finish line. I was so proud of our team, we came in with no idea what to expect, and when we faced a problem, we made it work. Valerie, Marcia, and I were all happy with our finish, especially that we finished DRY, and are ready to come back next year armed with experience, lessons learned (like the importance of a better backpack), and great attitudes!

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After about two months of training, team meetings, and gathering supplies, the day of my first adventure race was here. Although we had very little idea of what to expect (despite our best attempts to weasel information out of the race coordinators via e-mail), my Smarty Panties teammates and I practiced our mountain biking and orienteering and prepared as best we could to take on a brand new challenge. We were only slightly concerned about what exactly bushwhacking is, and what we might need precisely 3 yards of duct tape for.

The No Skirts Allowed Adventure Race (NSAAR) is held outside Indianapolis and is for women only. This was the third year for the event, and it doubled in size from 2008. The 2010 race is already scheduled for October 9 “somewhere northeast of Indy,” so check it out if you’re interested.

Departing Louisville for NSAAR

Departing Louisville for NSAAR

We arrived at Jameson Camp on Friday night in the pouring rain, and checked into some pretty nice cabins (I grabbed a top bunk, as always), and then headed to the nicest campground lodge I’ve ever seen for registration and meetings. As the women congregated, the buzz and excitement grew, and I almost forgot I’d been sick all week. The event staff remained quite adept at dodging our questions and left us clueless about any details of the race. We did have a required ropes clinic, where we learned fun tidbits like “if you see red (on the harness buckle), you’re dead.” The group was amazingly attentive during that session…

My Smarty Panties team of Marcia and Valerie were joined in the cabin by four other ladies from Louisville, most of whom know Marcia and her husband through their Rogue Racing Project. More on that (very cool) topic another day. We were all bunked in the same room, and spent the night trying to set out all our supplies and make sure each individual and each team had all the required gear. Luckily, everything worked out and we were all good to go with few complications. Bags were packed for the following day, clothes were set out, food and water were gathered, and we settled into our bunks.

NOTE: Trying to figure out the concept of 3 yards of duct tape and how that would work? Some smart gal figured out to wrap it around a water bottle!

None of the seven of us had any adventure racing experience, so there was a lot of unknown. Luckily, the forecast was clear for Saturday, and we were prepared to have fun, learn some new things, and, if all went well, spend as little time bushwhacking as possible!

– albledsoe

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We’ve been shopping, gathering, and packing for the No Skirts Allowed Adventure Race for weeks now, but when the day came to actually leave for the event in Indianapolis, I was a little lost as far as how to pack. Heading into an event in which I’d never participated was a little daunting; I wanted to be prepared without over packing. Weather conditions were crazy, plus we were sleeping in a “cabin,” which I’ve learned can mean vastly different things to different people.

Here’s how I managed to have what I needed without forgetting anything, and without taking a ridiculous amount of extra stuff:

– I always pack as I get ready that morning. It may be risky to wait until the last minute, but it’s easier for me to lay things out as I use them.

– I made lists on paper and in my head leading up to departure day. So I had a few options for race outfits in my head, knew what bags I was taking, had compiled all my race-specific gear together. This helped eliminate last-minute oversights, since I’d really been brainstorming for over a week.

– I used the gear list provided by the race directors. Super helpful since I didn’t really know what to expect. Although it did kind of make me nervous wondering what I’d be using some of these items for…

Packed and ready to race!

Packed and ready to race!

– I collaborated with my teammates. This was essential, because the above-mentioned gear list included items that were 1 per team or required things that were 1 per person. So we Smarty Panties kept each other in check and checked in on what to wear, who was bringing what, etc.

– I went through the event in my head. This comes from my triathlon experience and mentally running through each event and transition so you can think of what you’ll need. Again, this was difficult since I didn’t really know what to expect. But I knew what the basic events were going to be (and that I’d need to pack bedding and food), so I visualized each of those and what I would need to use and wear.

– I unpacked. This is a must for me on any trip (unfortunately it took a couple extra-baggage fees before it sunk in): I throw everything I think I may need on the bed, and then thoughtfully remove about half of it. On my last business trip, this tip helped me carry on all my baggage for the first time ever!

I was confident I had everything I intended to take, but very worried I’d need something I didn’t expect. Turns out I was comfortably dressed and had everything I needed for the race. How’d we do? Stay tuned!

– albledsoe

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Shoe Shopping

My current running shoes are much older than I care to admit. The last pair of running shoes I bought were Nike+ compatible to go with my ipod Nano. I’m ashamed to say it, but two years later, I’m still wearing the same shoes for running, workouts, spin class, etc. Yep, I know how bad that is.

Seven weeks ago I kicked off the C25K running plan. After completing two of my training runs last week, I woke up with a sore ankle. By the end of the day my ankle was tender and swollen. What have I done?! I knew I couldn’t put off shoe shopping any longer.

Amanda, my go-to fitness gal and fellow F2BT blogger, suggested that I leave it to the professionals and go somewhere that would give me a proper shoe fitting. She said my ankles would definitely thank me for this. I knew she was right, but I was a little nervous about going to a store that specialized in helping runners. I don’t feel much like a runner. I’m just a newbie at this sport, and I was sure I would get laughed out of the store. Also, I was nervous that they would insist that I needed to buy a pair of really expensive shoes.

So, last weekend I hit the stores. I gave myself a budget of $100 and intended to embrace the help of some footwear professionals instead of just picking the prettiest running shoe off of the rack. I started out at Dick’s Sporting goods and I lasted about 5 minutes. There was a giant wall of shoes, about 10 other people browsing the shoe department and no workers anywhere in sight. I scoped out a couple of displays and realized I needed to head to a specialty store if I wanted to find the right shoes.

Off to Fleet Feet! Several friends recommended Fleet Feet for their service, and the promises on their website sounded nice and welcoming. “Whether you walk, run, or simply need a good fitting pair of shoes, the experts at Fleet Feet Sports will work with you to evaluate your foot’s gait and natural biomechanics to help you select a shoe that offers the best fit and function for you.” And, I must say that is exactly what they did.

The shoe expert who helped me took me through the fitting process step by step. He analyzed my foot and found out what my running goals were so I would end up in the right type of shoe. He really took the time to figure out what I needed and he came up with a match. As it turns out, I’ve been buying my shoes a half size too small for years!

My new gear and October event calendar.

My new gear and October event calendar.

After a test run around the parking lot, I was sold. Not just on the shoes, but the whole experience. I found out about some social running clubs available in my area and an upcoming midnight 5K run that sounds like a lot of fun. I left the store with new shoes (the Saucony Progrid Guide 2) and socks, the October calendar of events and a renewed desire to hit the trails.

I definitely recommend giving the professional fitting a try if you are looking for new running shoes. It was an experience that I unfortunately put off for much too long. I can’t help but think that all of my previous running endeavors might have stuck if I had found the right shoes years ago!

Do you have a favorite running shoe? Have you ever had a professional shoe fitting?

– Sara

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