Brooks Running Apparel Review

I’ll be honest: I was really, really bummed a few weeks ago to have to miss my favorite running event of the year.

So much so that I backed off of my running, which is so not me.

Compounding that wave of sadness was seeing happy social media posts from countless friends who had recently completed races while I moped on the sofa.

I was feeling left out. Left over. Left behind.

And then I knew I needed to pick myself up, dust myself off and hit the road, one foot in front of the other.

Cute clothes never hurt that mission, either.

I’ve been wearing Brooks running shoes for several years, faithfully rotating out worn pairs for new ones, but inexplicably, I don’t think I’ve ever owned any other Brooks running gear.

I saw this outfit on another blog and was able to track it down on sale:

The shirt is called the “Streaker.” I’ve now seen it in both short and long sleeve versions, as well as tanks.

While I purchased the pink/cobalt combo above (and the colors are so gloriously bright in person; I love this shirt), it is also available in a red/orange pairing and a seafoam/turquiose one.

Here is the last one on sale at Sierra Trading Post:

This is a close up shot that shows the color gradient:

The shirt is moisture wicking and made of antimicrobial fabric, so here’s hoping that it wards off perma-stink for the entire summer and fall running seasons.

And let’s talk about those capris. The “Go-To Running Capri” comes in this awesome hot pink color (boringly called “641” on the Brooks website), as well as black and navy. The fabric is really smooth and these capris have two pockets in the waistband to hold money, keys, etc. I love this feature. The pockets are also trimmed with fluorescent yellow fabric, which is a cool contrast IMHO.

While I ordered the above directly from Brooks (the shirt was on sale but looks like it might be sold out now), I also found some screaming deals on Brooks gear at Sierra Trading Post, Amazon, 6PM.com, REI, and even Nordstrom.

At Sierra Trading post, I was able to get this cute pair of capris for over 50% off retail and also score this tank for less than $10.

Here is a screen shot of the capris, which are called “Greenlight SE.”

There is a cute ruching detail on the leg:

And here was a surprise: they are reversible! I like the striped side better, but the pink/navy is also nice.

Since they are reversible, the capris are also just the right amount of thickness. Not too bulky to be hot, but also not too thin to venture into transparency. Nobody wants that look.

The fabric is the same silky smooth knit as the first pair of capris. They  have a wide waistband that I appreciate and also come with a pocket for essentials.

I am hoping this new gear gets me set and in the right frame of mind for fall marathon training. I ended up hitting the trails three times over the weekend, so I am feeling positive and off to a good start.

What is your favorite brand of running gear?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orangetheory Fitness and Me

I recently started attending classes at Orangetheory Fitness.

Here’s a description of the workout from the Orangetheory website:

Our heart-rate monitored, high-intensity workout is scientifically designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy.

Here’s my take: This is a killer workout that uses heart rate monitors to force you to your breaking point.

The ostensible goal is to get 12-20 minutes per workout in the “Orange Zone,” where you are working at 84-91% of your maximum heart rate.

Ok, this is really hard to do.

The hour-ish long workouts combine running (or walking) on a treadmill, rowing and calisthenic exercises, usually with hand held weights.

Participants spend about half of the workout on the treadmills and rowing machines, and the other half in the weight area. The cardio time consists of stints of working at Base Pace (which is what I would consider my normal running pace, maybe 6.3-6.5 MPH, or a 9:30-9:10 minute pace per mile), Push Pace (1-2 MPH over Base Pace), and All Out Intervals, where you just go nuts and run until you feel like your heart will explode.

Why I decided to try this:

  • I love running and have been working hard for the past six months or so to get faster. Speed work – which the Orangetheory workouts naturally include – are a necessary pain to achieve that goal.
  • I secretly have always wanted to be a rower. Spouse was on the crew team in college and later taught me to row. I regret not trying it earlier, especially in college because I think I would have been pretty damn good at it.
  • While I love to do cardio, I hate to lift weights. Without the pressure of a personal trainer or a group, I just won’t do it. And I know weight lifting is important to overall conditioning.

Here’s a dirty secret about Orangetheory: if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape when you join, it’s going to be really, really challenging to get 12-20 minutes in the magic Orange Zone during the class.

For me, getting to the Orange Zone requires running on the treadmill at a speed of at least 7.5-8 MPH, which is waaaaaaay faster than my normal pace.

And it is super uncomfortable to do so.

On the flip side, if you’re not in good cardiovascular shape, you could easily get to the Orange Zone just by briskly walking on the treadmill at a modest incline.

I routinely see people get 20+ minutes in the Orange Zone, whereas it is a struggle for me to reach 12. This is humbling. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that while I am working extremely hard, I need to work harder. Part of me always wants to throw in the towel and feel Good Enough with what I’m doing, which is often a lot more treadmill work than the person next to me.

But I guess that’s the whole point of Orangetheory. Push. Push. Push.

Yesterday was particularly humbling: I went to a class and got zero Orange Zone minutes.

My heart rate monitor read a steady 112 BPM even when I was running 8 MPH at a 5% incline.

Something was not right.

At the end of the class, I approached the (very fit) front desk worker and said that my heart rate monitor did not seem to be working. He asked me to show him how I was wearing it, which prompted lifting my shirt and providing an embarrassing display of my abdomen to the entire studio.

Turns out, I was wearing the heart rate monitor upside down, and it will definitely not work properly that way. Whoops.

Big sigh for my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sneaky Ways to Get More Steps

I started using an activity monitor – again – a few months ago, and it’s satisfying to see the step numbers ticking upward every day.

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The positive reinforcement also motivated me to find ways to get in more steps, every day. 

Most of these ideas are simple, but effective:

  • Schedule walking meetings. My colleague/friend, G., and I have been trying to take a 20 minute walk together nearly every day this summer. Sometimes we talk about work. Sometimes we don’t. We would likely have spent the time commiserating anyway, so the steps and extra Vitamin D are bonuses.
  • Take yourself out for a quick stroll. My neighbor D. and I were talking about this last night: when we feel frustrated with work, we take a quick walk break. It’s only five minutes or so, but it allows time to chill out/cool down, and there’s almost nothing work-related that can’t wait five minutes. Over the past few months, I’ve done this up to three times per day. That’s a substantial number of steps.
  • Find “lost” time. Everyone has junk time in their day, i.e., those moments that could be used more productively. For me, it’s the time that it takes to turn cases over in the OR. Regulations on cleaning operating rooms require at least a ten minute break between most of the cases I do, and with spending two to four days per week in the OR – often doing quick cases in succession – I  quickly discovered that I can walk laps around the perimeter of the OR suites and get at least 500 steps in between cases. I used to spend this time drinking coffee in the doctors’ lounge, FYI. This feels better.
  • Walk around your house – a lot. A few months ago, I started making domestic chores a lot harder than necessary (and, if you follow regularly, you know I hate/avoid all domestic chores). I used to fold laundry like this: dump everything on my bed and fold it while listening to NPR, then precariously carry a stack of folded laundry to each child’s room, my own closet, etc, when I was done. Now I do this: dump everything on my bed, intermittently listen to NPR, grab the first item I see and then fold it while walking it to its proper home. This requires dozens of trips to my kids’ closets, my own closet, etc, but it can rack up a thousand steps or more in the process. More advice on how to maximize this “house walking” strategy can be found here.
  • Be strategic about your exercise. Last spring I was flirting with the idea of taking a bicycle trip to Napa Valley this fall with my good friends J. and B., so I decided to practice biking by riding the Expresso machine at the gym, which is a sophisticated exercise bike that allows you to ride virtual courses and mixes up the terrain. Basically, it’s riding a bike in a video game, and it can be a phenomenal workout. Except … my activity monitor didn’t credit me for any of it. Zip. Nada. However, the elliptical machine does count every step. So when I need to make it count, I’m rocking the elliptical all the way.

Please share any tips you have for getting in more activity!

Run Disney Race Reports – Late 2015 & 2016 Edition

This is an extremely overdue report of three Run Disney events:

  • 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon
  • 2016 Marathon
  • 2016 Pixie Dust Challenge
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Photo via Run Disney

When I left off last fall, I was headed on a complicated trip that took me to the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon via a whirlwind trip to Dubai, which was not the most convenient – or relaxing – pre-race preparation.

Spouse was running this with me and we were slated to meet in Orlando on Saturday morning, with the race starting Saturday night. I had two flights to get there: a 17+ hour one from Dubai to Atlanta (in coach, ugh) and then a quick 90 minute jump from Atlanta to Orlando. The first leg was miserable; I was cold, uncomfortable and could not sleep. Thankfully I wore compression socks to reduce some in-flight leg swelling, but I was still pretty cashed once I deplaned.

After a quick shower and some major teeth brushing for me, we hit the expo, which was also pretty cashed. I’m usually not big on buying official race merchandise, which is a good thing because there was none left at this point.

The rest of the day involved a nap and waking up to head over to the race start. We were staying at the Swan Hotel, which was not one of the hotels offering transportation to the starting line, but it was easy enough to walk next door to the Boardwalk, which was. We arrived around 7 PM and the bus lines were long. After waiting about 30 minutes, we boarded and headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Bus traffic was also crazy; there were traffic jams and the ride took about 30-40 minutes.

The conditions when we left the resort were hot and humid, but by the time we got off the bus the temperature had dropped several degrees and the wind had picked up. There was lightning in the distance and I had a bad feeling about the race. Let me also say that at this point, I was not feeling too hot. Even after a nap I was still exhausted from the travel. My legs felt heavy. I knew the race was going to be a push for me to complete. I was focusing on Getting It Done and making it to the famed after party where racers can enjoy EPCOT until 4 AM.

We then started to see people moving from the grassy starting area towards the ESPN stadium. Tweets were coming out that the race was being delayed due to weather. We slowly walked with everyone else into the stadium, where we were officially on hold.

As more than an hour of limbo ticked by, I started to think that Run Disney would either need to cut the distance from 13.1 miles to something less or entirely cancel the race. There was no way all of the runners could complete the course AND get to the after party with enough time to enjoy it by 4 AM. Standing between hangry runners and the Wine and Dine Expo was not going to work.

Finally the announcement came that we could head out to the corrals. Spouse and I were in different ones. I had submitted a proof of time and was in corral D; he did not and was in the last one. Once in the corrals, there was an announcement that indeed, the race was going to be cut to a shorter distance. If they announced the shorter distance, I didn’t hear it, but in the end my watch said that we had done 6.75 miles, so this became a Half Half Marathon.

Personally, my exhausted legs and I were ok with this turn of events. Many, many other runners were not.

Since I was fairly early in the corrals, I didn’t get caught up in a lot of foot traffic, but Spouse did. I think I finished in about 1:07. I waited for him at the finish and he crossed nearly an hour later. His corral started about 40 minutes after mine, which accounted for most of the time but he also reported areas that were so congested he had to walk.

We’d taken advice from a lot of other bloggers and brought fresh clothes for the party. By the time we hit EPCOT it was after 1 AM. Neither of us was particularly hungry, which was good since the lines at most of the booths were loooooooong. We both had an artisanal wine and cheese plate and I had a sushi roll from Japan, while Spouse waited in line to get a beer and something from Germany. We made it to nearly 4 AM and were able to walk back to the Swan Hotel via the International Gate, and then we promptly collapsed. The one thing that I did right about this trip was to NOT return home on Sunday; we gave ourselves an extra day and came back on Monday. On Sunday we slept late, ate lunch and spent a leisurely day together, followed by dinner at Il Mulino. We came home on Monday without a hitch.

Considering everything, would I do the Wine and Dine again? Probably. However, if you follow Run Disney events you would know that they’ve changed it to a morning race and added a 10k, plus a 10k/half marathon challenge option. It’s also a moot point for this year since I was shut out of the 2016 registration, which filled with lightning speed like always.

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Ironically, I have less to say about the 2016 WDW Marathon than the Wine and Dine, even though it was essentially four times the distance of the latter.

2016 was my fourth time on the course, but it was my friend L’s first marathon and that made it really special.

The week leading up to the race held an unexpected event for me: my 94-year-old grandmother died. I spent most of the week helping with arrangements and then attended the funeral in Wisconsin on Thursday.

L. and I met up in Orlando on Friday – two days before the race – and hit the Expo. Most of it was the same as before except that we had to go to a different area outside the stadium to pick up our wristbands for the Race Retreat (side note: whenever possible, spring for the Race Retreat; it’s totally worth it).

On race day we were up and out the door before 3 AM. Transportation was smooth and we waited in the Race Retreat tent until it was time to head to the corrals. Even though it was her first marathon, L. had posted some amazing half-marathon times and was placed in corral D. I was in G, so we split up at the start and before I knew it, we were off.

I knew this wasn’t going to be my best marathon (it turned out to be my second worst), especially since the week leading up to the race was really stressful. I took a short walk break after 8 miles and then spent the rest of the race taking unscheduled walk breaks every 30 minutes or so, usually for about two minutes at a time. I did a lot of bargaining with myself to get to the next mile, run through one more song on my playlist, etc. 

Eventually I reached Hollywood Studios, which is my favorite part of the course. The last five or so miles of this race always seem to go quickly for me, especially since the crowd support along the Boardwalk is so strong. I rounded my way through EPCOT and crossed the finish line in 4:59, which took a push at the end to squeak in under the five hour mark.

As I mentioned above, this was my second-worst marathon time. (Worst was my second marathon, which I trained for while I was postpartum and completed when my daughter was less than eight months old; the finishing time was 5:03). This was also my ninth marathon, so I am not new to this rodeo. While I am a lot older than I was the first time I did this race (January 2006; 4:24), I also determined that I need to get leaner and train differently to improve my running. This is something I’m working on now. L. was more successful in her race.

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L. and I met up in the Race Retreat tent after we finished. Due to her faster time and earlier corral placement, she’d been done for about 45 minutes by the time I staggered in. After a ten minute massage and a giant plate of breakfast, I was feeling like a human again and we headed back to the Swan Hotel, where we were staying. L. showered and left less than an hour later, so I was now on my own.

One really interesting thing happened: I got to see the end of the race. From the hotel balcony I had an eagle eye view of the course, right where the path leading from Hollywood Studios crosses the bridge to the Swan and Dolphin. There were still a lot of runners out there, and I decided the best thing I could do was to go down and cheer them on.

I think this was the first time I’ve been a spectator, not a runner, at a race. It was so much fun. I was waiting to see the legendary Balloon Ladies (the last people to start the race and the pacers for the course cut-off), but I missed them. I did see the course close as bikers and Disney people put cones across the path.

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The end of the race

I would definitely do this race again.

My final recap is the 2016 Pixie Dust Challenge, which is part of the Tinkerbell Half-Marathon weekend.

Photo from Run Disney

Photo from Run Disney

This is absolutely one of my favorite races and something I look forward to every year. 2016 was the fifth anniversary of the event, and I was in the Legacy Runner group.

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A list of the Legacy Runners that was at the Expo – and I’m on there!

Being a Legacy Runner gave me a special bib and a gift, which was a small mirror. I was oddly touched by it all. I’d also forgotten that I’d sprung for a warm-up jacket when I signed up – a departure from my usual avoidance of buying official race merchandise ahead of time, which I consider a bad omen because I am superstitious like that – so I was pleasantly surprised to receive it at the Expo. It was soft, fit like a glove, and I wore it several times during the weekend and since.

For the Pixie Dust Challenge, there is a 10k on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday. This year I was staying at the Sheraton, which is about a 15 minute walk from the starting line (one of the reasons I love this race is the easy accessibility of the starting line, as well as the many real bathrooms to use pre-race). When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was raining. Not just sprinkling, this was full-on rain. I scratched my plan to walk to the starting line and decided to take the shuttle bus. This almost turned out to be a huge mistake. After waiting with several other runners for 20+ minutes for the bus, it finally arrived and we were dropped off on the far side of the park. There was still at least a 10 minute walk to the starting line from there. Fortunately, the rain had cleared by then so I was able to stay dry, but I reached my corral (B) right as the Star Spangled Banner was being performed. This was a bit too close for comfort.

The race had a slow start. Many runners were cautious on the still-wet pavement and I had a hard time getting through congestion for the first 1.5 miles. My usual 10k goal is to finish in less than an hour, but I wasn’t sure that I would make it due to the slowdowns. At the three mile mark, though, my watch said 32 minutes and I decided to push it to the end. I finished in 59 minutes and change, so this worked out.

Conditions were much better on Sunday. I was still doing some bargaining in my head. I decided that it would be ok if I walked a bit, but I needed to steadily run at least the first half of the race. When I got to the six mile mark, I also knew that there was a really boring part of the course coming up from miles six to nine. I was feeling ok and decided to keep going until mile eight and then consider a walk break.

When I got to mile eight, I discovered that the Red Hat Ladies and their awesome crowd support were stationed there this year instead of in their usual spot outside of Downtown Disney. These ladies gave me quite a boost and I quickly went through miles eight and nine.

At mile 10.75, I decided that I would take that walk break, so I did for about three minutes. Next I decided that I would take short breaks in miles eleven and twelve, but when I reached 11.75, I felt good enough to skip them and kept soldiering on. I finished in 2:09, which is also not my best half (1:54) but not my worst.

This race also racked up some serious bling, especially since I’d also signed up for the virtual She Rocks race and used the half-marathon to complete the distance.

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The medals are (left to right): She Rocks, Tinkerbell 10k, Tinkerbell Half Marathon, Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast-to-Coast (for completing races in Florida and California in the same year).

Not counting Castaway Cay 5ks, I’ve now completed 16 Run Disney events. It feels slightly dorky to admit that, but hey! There are worse habits to have.

 

Pixie Dust Challenge Recap

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Yesterday – Mother’s Day – I completed the inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge, a two-day, 19.3 mile event from Run Disney.

Event one was a 10k on Saturday morning, followed by a half-marathon on Sunday.

Earlier this year (February, to be exact), I did a similar thing in Florida, so I felt like I had the drill down.

Just like Florida, Saturday was colder than Sunday, less crowded, and overall, I liked the 10k courses better than the half-marathons.

It’s easy to see why, though: by the time you realize you’re running, you’re well into the 10k, and then it’s over before you know it. Since the course is shorter, there’s also much more running time within the theme parks than in the surrounding streets, which of course is a lot of fun and a great distraction.

I didn’t check my official time yet, but my watch said my 10k time was 57:29, which is pretty typical for me. I could have gone a bit faster, but I was nervous that I could flame out on Sunday if I went out too hard on Saturday, so I held back a bit.

Here’s a shot from the starting area at 5:30 AM Saturday, plus a post-race nap I took in front of a fire in the lobby of the Grand Californian hotel (20 minutes of heaven).

 

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On Sunday, I felt better than I expected. The course is honestly a bit boring in the middle and I’d planned to take a short walk break around mile 8 if I needed it, but I didn’t.

Soon I saw miles 8, 9 and 10 tick away. When I got to 11, I knew I would be done in less than twenty minutes, so I kept moving forward.

Again, I didn’t check my official time, but my watch said 2:05 when I crossed the finish line. I felt strong.

And on to the bling!

I actually got four medals this weekend, but you can only see three above. I left the 10k one in my hotel room. After finishing the half-marathon, I got the medal for that (far left), one for the Pixie Dust Cahllenge (middle), and then a Coast to Coast one (pink, on right), for completing half-marathons in both Florida and California in the same calendar year. The middle one was my favorite!

But, the truth is that while I loved participating in these races and felt strong – which I think is really critical to share with my kids – I missed them terribly. I made a mistake in not bringing them with me, especially since it was Morher’s Day. That fact was poignant and I was envious of other women whose kids were cheering for them and hugging them in the reunion area. I’d like to rectify this next year, if possible.

I couldn’t get home fast enough.

P.S. I bought this rainbow unicorn hoodie from Raw Threads because, well, it’s a rainbow unicorn and totally hilarious. Also, I was cold!

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First Outdoor Run of the Year

Last weekend the temps soared out of the single digits to the solid mid-double digit range.

Time for an outdoor run.

(And yes, I am a baby. I despise sub-zero temps and ice slippage with its resultant injuries, so I will mostly run indoors in the winter).

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Not Me.

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Also Not Me.

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Definitely not me.

I have actually run outdoors many times this year, just not in my hometown.

Because the weather here is generally terrible. 

Last Sunday, I set out to change that.

The first run of the year is always – every 25+ years into the process – a bit of a culture shock.

There’s no streaming Netflix to watch, no clean towel to wipe away sweat, no convenient water fountain and no climate controlled temperature like on the treadmill at the gym.

And there’s wind, traffic, uneven sidewalks, and other unexpected obstacles.

But there’s also sunshine, lung-piercing fresh air, and (often) solitude, which is just the way I like it.

I also find that I generally run a lot faster outdoors than in; I feel like I get to let my natural pace take over and it’s usually more varied but overall quicker than any workout I’d set on the treadmill.

Bring it on, Spring.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon

Last year my friend B. proposed that we run a destination race together, along with her sister-in-law J.

B. and J. are both totally fun and super cool, so my immediate response was “yes!”

Except that I didn’t quite imagine that the race would be here:

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This is Dublin, folks. As in Ireland.

B. suggested the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin half-marathon, which is scheduled for August 2nd, 2015.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love running destination races and the best way to see a city is on foot. 

Here’s a description of the course from the event website:

Starting in Dublin’s Docklands area, running along the north side of the Liffey River, runners are in for a treat as they pass all of the fan favorites!  After crossing over Memorial Bridge onto the south side, the route passes the famous Ha’Penny bridge (cue the photo opps!), Christ Church Cathedral, Brazen Head Pub (Ireland’s oldest pub), James Joyce Museum, and of course, no tour of Dublin would be complete without… the Guinness Brewery.  Although, the smell of hops and barley will be fleeting, as runners continue on past the Royal Hospital and Kilmainham Gaol into Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled city parks in Europe.   It’s there that the journey turns scenic as the route winds its way through the lush park, taking in the Wellington Monument, the Papal Cross, the President’s House (Áras an Uachtaráin) and the famous Dublin Zoo, finishing with a rockin’ concert in the park!

I’ve never been to Ireland so this is going to be a huge adventure. 

I’m hoping to kick my training up a notch and have a great race.

And I’m already starting to get excited.

P.S. If you’ve done this race or visited Ireland before, please send me tips!