Archive | February, 2012

Secondary Running Skills

26 Feb

"I asked for dressing on the side! HIIIIIIYAH."

There are a lot of lessons I’ve learned throughout my time running. Some skills and attributes I’ve developed were expected, such as sweet quads for roundhouse kicks and/or running up hills, or an iron power of will (brain: “I don’t care if you feel appendicitis-y abdomen, we’ve got 6k to go!”). These things did not come easily but they didn’t surprise me.

This post is not about the expected benefits of running. This post is about the skills I’ve developed that bear no other purpose in real life and were wholly undesired, in the sense that I didn’t even know they were things one could get better at. Here goes, my secondary running skills:

 

1. The amazing ability to convert miles to kilometers, and vice-versa, on the fly.

Great! Not only have I memorized the popular race distances in terms of miles and kilometers, I am now also able to tell American tourists how many miles it is to the golf course! Or gasp when a film character tells me that the madman was driving 100 miles an hour (that’s 160k, eh!)! These situations arise about once every two years, so… good. Great. That is something I can do now.

The walking calculator. Nobody's best friend.

 

2. The possession of a database of distances from my house to most any other place in town.

Hey friends, did you know that I know the exact kilometer count from my house to yours? Were you aware that I run past your house in the wee hours of the morning and wave at you even though I know you’re asleep/ aren’t living there because you’re at university and it’s just your parents? Well you do now! You should also know that it’s 3k from my house to the closest coffee shop, 5.5 to the fire station, 7.5 to the farm with the llamas, 1 to the nearest beach, 3.5 to the playground, and I could go on and on. I hope your Creep Alarms are blasting right now, because there might be a malfunction if not.

Me, outside your house this morning.

 

3. The chops to deal with dogs, deer, and various other creatures you meet early in the morning.

 

4. An awe-inspiring knowledge of rap, hiphop, and 80’s rock lyrics.

All I can say is that I’m pretty fly for a white girl. Ask me to rap a little for ya, and if you’ve gotten enough vodka sodas in me beforehand, I may treat you to Lose Yourself by Eminem in its entirety. You’re welcome. Plus. I’ve got the Eye of the Tiger/ I’m the Best Around/ I ride in a Chariot of Fire. So there’s that.

Tried searching for photos of me looking gangster and my computer exploded. So here's a photo of a fat baby instead.

 

5. Knowing what decibel level is too loud when yelling at drivers-by for interrupting my pace.

See I want to yell, but I don’t want them to hear me. Aggressive… but not too aggressive.

 

Of course, there are some skills I wish I would develop but don’t foresee doing so in the near future, including:

  1. How to use a foam roller on my legs without looking like a pervert.
  2. How to explain to people why I’m not going out (gotta run), drinking (gotta run), trying new foods (gotta run) without sounding like a mega-dweeb.
  3. How to stop trying to convince my friends and family to start running so I don’t have to do it by myself all the time.
  4. How to stop myself from bragging when I hit a new distance/ PR. Although, if I’m honest, the bragging rights are the best part.
  5. How to drink from the little paper cups at aid stations (I KNOW I’m supposed to pinch one side it’s just hard mid-stride, okay?)
  6. Finally, and this is a big one, how to be less awesome. It’s getting tiring.

 

Gu Review

19 Feb

So I love Gu. I heart their products so hard. And guys, no one is even paying me to say that (although, you know, you can if you want). I thought about my love for Gu at length during yesterday’s 28k. Well I alternated between thinking about Gu and being convinced that the noise the wind was making was actually murderers and/or ghosts. But my insanity can’t be that interesting for you, so back to Gu

I love their gels and their electrolyte drink mixes and I’m not ashamed of it. I know there are some fancier brands out there with all-organic ingredients and natural sweeteners but eff that I love Gu. Tried Clif Shots and they gave me the barfs. Gatorade and Powerade make my intestines cry. Powerbar Gels — that doesn’t even make sense. You can’t be a bar and a gel at the same time. Gu is where it’s at

My favourites in particular, and the products I am most familiar with, are the gels. As someone who generally tries to limit sugar, taking a shot of pure liquid carb gel is like committing adultery (also known as the most fun sin). But even I have to admit that not all Gu gels are made the same.

So I present to you, dear reader, a completely subjective and unscientific review of Gu gel flavours. I do not pretend to have any real understanding of how the gels make me not want to die during three-hour runs. I don’t care about their patented recipe or the carb mix or whatever. All I know is that some taste like heaven and some taste like balls.

 

First off, the winners:

 

Sublime happiness in portable packaging.

Chocolate Outrage:

My absolute go-to. I’ve bought several 24-pack boxes of these babies. I used to be able to knock out a whole pan of fudge in my better days; chocolate was my thing. After shaping things up food-choices-wise, I don’t get quite so much chocolate in my life. These taste like how I imagine Nutella would taste without the hazelnut. Or like Betty Crocker chocolate icing but better. Just pure chocolatey, sugary, goodness.

 

Mint Chocolate:

The obvious next step. Just as good as plain chocolate, but with mint. Like downing molten Peppermint Patties. Perfection.

 

Espresso:

Tastes how I think the specialty drinks at Starbucks and TimmyHo’s should taste.  Just thicker. Which makes it sound gross. But if you can’t get over the texture of a gel now you never will.

 

Vanilla Bean:

Like vanilla pudding. Enough said.

 

Peanut Butter:

Just found out yesterday that they’re introducing this flavour. Promptly went into convulsions of joy. Peanut butter is my ultimate, numero uno, favourite food in the world. Beating even chocolate. I know.

 

And the losers:

Anything fruit-related:

Strawberry-Banana, Lemon-Lime, Orange, Tri-Berry, Jet-Blackberry… all taste like dollar-store candy. Like something’s not quite right. Like somebody cloned the fruit in a laboratory and it turned out to be evil so they made carb gels out of them. I do not recommend these ones.

 

Gu Roctane:

I don’t dislike the idea of the Gu Roctane line; they call these products ‘race day gels’ and they’re supposed to give an extra boost with double the caffeine and other scientific crap like amino acids or whatever. It’s just that the flavours they came up with are terrible! The Vanilla-Orange tastes unholy, the Pineapple like the tears of leprechauns, and Blueberry Pomegranate? UGH. Island Nectar? What does that mean?

 

Plain:

Never tried it. Can’t get over the idea of just plain sugar goo. I need some flavour to provide at least a sheen of reasonableness, like I’m not just dipping a soup spoon into the sugar bag and downing the mountain of calories that comes out.

 

So that’s my roundup of the Gu gel product line. It’s incomplete but I live in Canada and don’t get all the cool flavours okay? Jeez. You may have different thoughts but those are mine.

Disclaimer: You don’t need gels or electrolyte drinks or protein bars unless you’re running many kilometers a week. Don’t waste your money. When I first started running I would read all these articles about proper carbo-loading and electrolyte imbalances and get myself worked up about it. Truth is, you’re probably fine with a bit of carbs in your belly and a piece of fruit and some protein as a post-run snack. I personally only use gels if I’m running 12-15k+, and then only sparingly. So relax.

Do you have a favourite brand of energy gel? Do you even use them or prefer something less Frankenstein-like (raisins, homemade carb bars, something like that)? Any recommendations? Looking forward to hearing everyone’s opinion!

Bizarre Weather Patterns

12 Feb

 

Vancouver has a pretty short span of what I would define as ‘winter’, e.g. temperatures below zero Celsius, snow, a general feeling of hope and despair… And then around this time of the year things start to look up. I don’t expect to see any more snow (although one year it snowed during Spring Break in April and I managed to maintain a week-long tantrum) and I hope the day will soon come for which I do not absolutely have to wear a scarf. In fact, I was warm enough on my run yesterday to take off my jacket. AND GLOVES. Holy eff, I know.

What the end of winter brings is a span of five months where the weather is completely unpredictable. We see sunny warm temperatures of 12 C plus one day and then thundershowers the next.

This means madness on my runs. I bring to you a brief description of the bizarre weather patterns I have come across in the past three weeks of running:

Suspicious Winds

What is a suspicious wind you ask? It is a wind that seems out of place. Maybe you’ve been running wind-free for miles and suddenly your hat gets blown off your head. This has happened to me. Perhaps you were cold enough to don ear warmers and gloves during your run and all of a sudden an abnormally warm wind caresses your face. This has also happened to me. It felt like an invisible giant was breathing on my face. This immediately grossed me out. Then I imagined that it was Hagrid’s three-headed dog Fluffy breathing on my face and I felt simultaneously better and more grossed out (giant dog breath smelling worse than giant human breath, in my mind).

Ugh now I'm imagining this creep breathing on my face. Sometimes I wish my imagination would stop for a bit.

 

Noticeable Temperature Changes

I should specify: noticeable temperature changes that are unrelated to elevation. There’s a trailhead near my house where I often park my car. Rationally, I am aware that the trail is well shaded and doesn’t get much sun. But on a sunny morning, to enter into a dark, damp, cold cave of rainforest foliage feels very ominous. I also find pockets of cold in between two small hills, which again creeps me out. And sometimes, running higher up the mountain results in warmer temperatures and this goes against everything I know about mountains. And I like to think I know a fair bit.

Come join us little girl! We won't dismember you or anything, promise.

 

Surprise Floods

I don’t know about you, but when I head out to run under clear skies and haven’t seen a drop of rain in days, I do not expect to come across newly established lakes on my regular trails. Nor does my dog, who tends to observe any sort of water with distaste (which explains the smell). Then we both end up muddy and wet and utterly bewildered as to how we got that way. I try to blame the beavers but it makes me feel racist because they’re definitely a visible minority.

Just dropping in for a bit, 'kay?

 

Opposite Day

Now I’m aware that weathermen and weatherwomen are not psychic; they make educated guesses based on years of data about what the weather’s going to be like. I don’t trust the seven-day forecasts or even tomorrow’s. But I do rely on day-of predictions. I figure that by six am the weather guessers have figured their shit out and can confidently tell me what the next couple hours will be like at least. And so I dress accordingly. This usually works out fine, except for the days when Mama Nature decides to be a dick and just throw out the exact opposite of what I’m expecting. I’ll wear three layers and leave two and a half hidden behind trees and hope that I remember to pick them up on my way back. I’ll hook a pair of sunglasses onto my fuel belt and wish I’d brought a poncho instead.

Give me a break once in a while, Mama! I’m just trying to enjoy the great outdoors. Maybe next time I’ll stay home and leave all my electronics plugged in and not separate my recyclables and pour chemicals into the ground water. How would you like that? All I’m saying is that I can fight back. Keep it in mind.

No no no I take it back! I'm sorry!

Every Trip to the Running Store Ends Like This

5 Feb

 

Well I realize it’s been a while since you heard from me. I spent the week trying to think up hilarious thoughts about running and couldn’t come up with any, so I figured I wouldn’t subject you to anything terribly unfunny.

I also spent the week ramping up for midterms and worrying about odd pains in my legs that I was afraid would keep me from my training. Of course I was over-thinking things and the strange pains, which were muscular in nature but never affected the same part of my leg two days in a row, cleared up and I managed to knock off a 24k training run yesterday morning. I was hoping to beat my half-marathon PR in the process and missed by two minutes, which I was upset about until I realized that being able to comfortably run almost as fast as a PR on a training run is pretty damn good and that I shouldn’t be pushing myself too hard anyway. Didn’t I mention somewhere that I am slow and proud of it? Maybe somewhere near the top of this blog?

So I guess that’s one of my goals for the month; I want to focus on injury prevention and taking it easy on my long runs. They’re supposed to be long and slow right? Setting records is for race day only hopefully.

In other news… I went shopping! Thought I would share my spoils with you.

Please keep in mind that I went into The Running Room with the intent to purchase only a set of $10 reflective snap bands, and walked out having spent $80 on all this stuff.

The reflective bands I was guilted into purchasing by my kindly volunteer coordinator at the public library; apparently she passed me a couple times one morning and could see me fine when I was facing her but that I “emerged from the shadows like a criminal” when she came at me from the other way. Although I kind of like the image (I sometimes like to pretend I’m a badass art thief or something when running at night), I took her kindly scolding and went to get these bands:

They are also snap bands. The 90s child within me is so very pleased.

 

They cost $10. Made by Fuel Belt. Probably I now won’t die when running in the dark, so that’s nice.

And then I went ahead and bought two new pairs of socks:

Invisible people wearing socks. This is a scary concept.

There's more than one!

 

The first green pair is to replace a nearly identical yet pink set that I wore (and bled/sweated on) all summer and fall and were like my modest little companions. Not too flashy like my neon shoes or all advanced like my Nike+. Just a solid sidekick that helped me to avoid pus explosions from my feet. You’re welcome for that image by the way.

And then my mom lost one of them. And so I filed for emancipation. Not really, but this is why I’ve tried to avoid letting my mom do my laundry since I was 14. I appreciate the thought… but things tend to disappear.

And the second set… they’re thicker and I liked the thought of not losing feeling in my toes on early morning runs. Both are from Wigwam. About 90% of the reason I purchased these over another brand was because I like to say Wigwam. Wigwam.

And finally, the hot pink foam roller:

It really goes well with my parents' living room decor. as I'm sure you can imagine.

 

I mentioned a while ago that I was interested in foam rolling. But it sounded complicated. Then I saw the pink and the foam and it was $25 so I bought it. And let me tell you… it hurts so good. I’m in love. It made its debut yesterday after the 24k and so far so good! No mystery pains.

I spent roughly $70 more than I meant to walking into that store. Why does everything in running stores have to be so cool? I want to try it all out, everything. All of the things!

So pretty much I bought stuff this week and ran around a bit and also went to school. I guess I had a typical February week. How depressing.