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Winter Running Gear

Now that winter has decided to finally make its presence with single digit temperatures, it’s important to remember to dress correctly when exercising outdoors. It’s easy to wear too much, or not enough, and practically beg for a day of cough medicine because you caught a cold. Yuck.

The key to success? Layers that cover up as much skin as possible.

When I went out for a run on Sunday, it was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining and the wind was tolerable, so I didn’t need to wear a heavy jacket. But it was cold, so layers were key. Here’s the breakdown, from the head down.

  1. Lululemon brisk run headband in black
  2. Lululemon run: swiftly long-sleeved tech tee in black (the site says it’s black but it’s grey)
  3. Nike Dri-Fit half-marathon finisher’s tee in yellow
  4. Lululemon run:inspire jacket in lolo purple (I also recommend the Pure Balance jacket)
  5. Black gloves from Wal-Mart because I’m too poor to own a pair of real running gloves
  6. Nike Element Thermal Tights
  7. Nike Anti-Blister Lightweight Low-Cut Tab socks.

If it was colder and windier (or snowing), I’d have opted for a hat rather than a headband, and a jacket that covered up my neck. If I was going to be out for more than an hour, I’d put warmer socks on, too. Finally, if it was really bad, I’d consider a face mask. But let’s be honest: if it’s that cold, I’m probably just going to stay home. I don’t deal well with winter.

And there ya have it! If it’s going to stay this cold out, make sure you’re dressing warmly for your workouts. If not, well, let’s all be happy the weather’s warmer 🙂

Now you tell me: do you like to workout outside when the temps dip? Or are you more of a gym person? 

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Nike Women’s Half-Marathon Recap, Part II

At last, the long-awaited race report! Instead of prolonging the inevitable, let’s jump right into it, shall we?

Picking up where I left off….

My alarm sounded bright and early at 5:15am and I rolled out of bed, threw some sweats on and groggily stumbled down to breakfast in the hotel lobby. Without too much talking, I scarfed down my typical pre-run meal: a bagel with peanut butter, heavy on the pb. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I passed on all the wonderful-smelling caffeine and washed down my meal with some good old-fashioned water. Yum.

Can't you tell I'm excited?

I wanted to stretch out and slowly get ready before leaving for the race. It helps the err, bathroom department, if I’m not rushing around nervously. With a little over an hour to kill, I changed, stretched, sipped water and enjoyed the cooking channel on TV, making mental notes of meals I want Dustin to make me 🙂

More awake this time.

Finally, it was time to head to the race. After a quick photo-op, Jenna and I moved outside to what we thought would be a quick and painless bag drop-off.

Photo snapped by Digital Royalty before the madness.

Wrong. So, so wrong.

My only complaint about this race was the setup for the bag drop-off. It was so chaotic it wasn’t even funny! People were just standing still, herding themselves around the buses we needed to get to and drop off our bags. Instantly shifting into panic-mode, Jenna and I dipped and swerved through thousands of people (literally, thousands), cut a few lines, dropped off our bags and ran to the start.

We made it just in time.

….

Tells ya how long it took, huh?

After a big sigh of relief, I loaded up my Garmin and relaxed for a few minutes while the announcer did his thang. Before I knew it, the gun sounded and I was off!

Miles 1-3 were easy peasy, my legs got into a groove and I just enjoyed the course. It was still dark out when  we started, which I enjoyed way more than I thought I would. It was fun taking various pictures and watching everything shift colors as I ran along. I sipped some water at the mile 2 marker and took my first Clif shot block at mile 4. Better to take it before you’re tired, right?

Miles 4-6 had some rolling hills, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Mile 7, however, sucked hardcore. It was all  uphill. The whole thing. No leveling out or slight downhills here. Nadda. Just 100 percent incline on narrower roads that made my thighs scream.

But I survived. Obviously.

And then came the downhill. Because what comes up, must come down. Mile 8 was nearly all downhill and when I say downhill, I mean downhill. My legs were racing and I had to pay close attention to maintain proper form so my knees and shins didn’t curse me later. I made up the time I lost and then some though, which pumped me up for the second half of the race.

My go-to fuel.

I popped another shot blok at the beginning of mile 8 and chugged right along. My knees were starting to give me a lot of pain, but thankfully my hip (where I had been having serious pain before) was doing just fine. My energy was high and I cruised right through miles 8, 9 and 10 without much thought.

The views constantly changed on this course, which is phenomenal. We literally ran through every region of San Francisco. Commercial, residential, coastal, woodland (that’s when I say it seemed like we were running through a more woodsy area 🙂 ). The constant change definitely kept me distracted and the time flew by.

I ate another shot block at mile 10 and ran through another really crappy hill, but not as bad as mile 7. But still, by then my legs were saying “Uh, what the hell, Sam?” I told them to shut the eff up and keep moving. Bam.

They listened and were rewarded with what? Another glorious downhill! At this point, it really registered in my brain that I could actually PR on this race, which I didn’t think would be possible when I toed the starting line. Why, you wonder?

  1. I was under-trained.
  2. I was having a lot of hip pain during race week.
  3. The mile 7 and mile 10 hills are killer.

So when I got through the second horrid hill and this new revelation dawned on me, I gunned it downhill. With only a little over 2 miles left to race, I just wanted to go all out and get the fastest time I possibly could. No more holding back, no saving it for later. Just run.

The final two miles were a lot of fun because of the crowds. There were cheerleading teams rooting for you, Nike had a bunch of fun signs up and the fans were really supportive. Volunteers handed out a square of Ghirardelli chocolate in the last mile, but I politely declined (meaning I vigorously shook my head and kept my mouth shut, because for some reason I was convinced they would try to shove it in my mouth?). Before I knew it, I was in the finish chute and could see the final timing mat up ahead!

As I neared, I just ran as fast as I thought I could. When I saw the handsomely dressed firemen holding a blue Tiffany’s box that I knew would be handed to me, I ran even faster. Talk about motivation, eh?

Finish time: 2:10:03

Six minutes shaved off of my old PR time! BAM!

My splits were a little all over the place, but I’ll show ’em anyway so I can reference them later:

  • Mile 1: 9:21
  • Mile 2 : 9:45
  • Mile 3: 9:32
  • Mile 4: 10:18 –> rolling hills start!
  • Mile 5: 9:22
  • Mile 6: 9:41
  • Mile 7: 12:17 –> that nasty, never-ending hill.
  • Mile 8: 8:52 –> The glorious downhill that followed.
  • Mile 9: 9:56
  • Mile 10: 10:05 –> The other big hill.
  • Mile 11: 9:53
  • Mile 12: 9:04
  • Mile 13: 8:46

After snagging my necklace and finisher’s T-shirt, I immediately chugged chocolate milk, ate a banana and went to the stretching tent they had set up for us. A foam roller has never hurt so good. Afterward, I couldn’t wait another second, so I unwrapped my new race medal:

I love it! Now I can actually wear my race medal all day long and not get weird stares 🙂

Overall, I think this was a great race. Nike really did a fantastic job setting everything up and making sure you had an enjoyable experience. The course was gorgeous, the support was fantastic and there were plenty of hydration and fueling stations (Gatorade handed out stuff just like my shot bloks, but I didn’t take it). I would definitely consider racing this one again!

I’m really happy with my performance in this race as well. It became very clear how much stronger I’ve gotten since my last half because this course had much more difficult hills, and I still snagged a PR. I maintained a faster pace, learned more about myself as a runner and ended with a big goofy smile on my face 🙂

And there ya have it! I took pictures on a disposable camera (throwback!) throughout the course, but the photo center near my apartment has a broken machine right now so I still haven’t been able to get them developed. Once they are developed, I’ll make another post so you can check out the scenes I ran through!

Nike Swift U-Back Bra Holds Up to the Test

It’s true, girls usually love to shop. Hand us a credit card and tell us we have free reign and you’re likely to see yourself crash into debt so fast you won’t even have time to blink. However, there’s always one thing that a girl never wants to shop for: a sports bra.

No matter how many times I try (and manufacturers try), it’s so difficult to find a sports bra that not only conforms naturally to my body, but also provides enough support for my girls. Because let’s be honest, people — it hurts when I don’t have support up there and I’m trying to work out!

Alas, Nike has come one step closer to finding the bra of perfection that will make all other bras hide on the back of the rack and cower in shame (I like to think the clothes come alive when the store closes, much like Night at the Museum). Nike spent over 15 years studying running bras because studies show that a sports bra is the most important piece of running gear to a woman. After all that time and energy, they have come out with their latest product, the Nike Swift U-Back, featuring adjustable straps and a back closure that allows you to have a customized fit.

Nike Swift U-Back Sports Bra will be available for purchase July 2010

I tested this bra vigorously over the last two weeks because I needed to be sure I really supported this product before giving it a good review. After a lot of running, stair climbing, hill climbing, various circuit training and superset strength training routines, I have decided that this bra gets four out of five stars.

The most important thing that I look for is ventilation and support, both of which I get with the Swift U-Back. The Dri-FIT mesh inserts increase ventilation in the back, as does the U shape that cancels out unnecessary clothing irritating my skin and clogging my pores. The Dri-FIT fabric also soaks up sweat in all the right places, leaving me dry and comfortable. This may not seem really important, but the last thing I want is a pool of sweat forming between my ta-tas.

The support with this bra is the best I’ve ever received. I’ve shopped a lot at Nike for my athletic apparel; the vast majority of my sports bras are Nike because to me, they provide the best support. But this support system was like no other. The back closure allows me to adjust to the specific width of my body and makes it easy to put on and take off. The Spandex allows the bra to stretch and conform to my curves for a personalized fit, as does the ergonomic seaming, which allows me to still have the appearance of breasts! Comfort and style, who knew?!

Comfort and style comes with the Swift U-Back. Buy it in stores for $50.

The one negative comment I have, and the reason it doesn’t get five out of five stars, is about the adjustable straps. I love the idea of them being adjustable so the bra can be customized to the full extent. However, I would have preferred if the straps had the slide technology that regular bras have, rather than the Velcro straps. The Velcro irritated my skin so much that I had a huge red spot on my chest by the time my workout was finished. Not exactly the most attractive image.

So there you have it, my friends. Nike Swift U-Back is definitely a keeper, and it will be available in stores for $50 by the end of July 2010. If you like Velcro, then you’ll have no problems at all. As for me, Nike, if you swap out the Velcro then my heart (and chest) is yours forever.

Check out this video where Brenda Funk-Danielson, Design Director, Global Running Apparel and Debra Talbert, Product Creation, Global Running Apparel explain the research that went into developing the Swift U-Back and another new product, the Swift X-Back.

Nike Runs Wild with LunarGlide + 2

On June 23, I laced up my Nike sneaks and headed for a run.

My new Nike sneaks, that is.

Nike LunarGlide + 2 Women's Running Shoe

I attended Nike’s latest press event at 555 West 18th Street to test out their latest gear, from the LunarGlide + 2 sneaker all the way down to their latest sports bra, the Nike Swift. Everything I could possibly need to have a successful workout was given for me to test, and I did just that. The first two-mile run went well, but I knew I really needed to give these a good workout so you knew whether they’d be a worthwhile purchase. Here’s what I found:

LunarGlide + 2 Women’s Running Shoe

This shoe is sleek, sexy and gets the job done. I’ve already covered about 20 miles running with these puppies, plus add on the many miles on the elliptical, treadmill and stair climber. The shoe was designed for daily training use, with a fantastic combination of breathable mesh on the forefront and Nike’s supportive flywire technology along the midsole and heel. Nike also utilizes the Dynamic Support platform, BRS1000 carbon rubber and Lunarlite midsole in this shoe, which essentially adjusts the shoe to my stride. It provided extra comfort throughout my run and molded to my gait along the way. I didn’t feel the usual pain in my knees that I often experience while running (a result of a torn ACL) and my toes didn’t go numb from lack of blood flow (something I often experience due to a blood disorder — I’m a big medical mess).

The LunarGlide +2 is now selling for $100 in stores.This shoe also comes in a variety of colors and you can design them to fit your personality. Mine came in hot pink and grey and I can’t help but notice people staring at my vibrant shoes amongst the pack of dull, dirty ones I often see at the gym.

Stay tuned for my review of the next Nike product I tested. For now, it’s time to hit the ground running.