Tuning Into Your Surroundings

As we are moving into Fall, it is important that we constantly remind ourselves that it is getting dark earlier.  I don’t mind running in the dark but, unlike winter, fall nights can be pitch black as there isn’t any snow for the light to reflect from.  I am careful to run as early as I can after work, wear visible clothing, and not take chances.

Over the past several weeks, the Town has been resurfacing Upper Middle Road, a major road which runs across our little piece of suburbia.  Multi-bar crosswalks, the kind that reminds me of a Beatles’ album cover, have appeared at many intersections along it.  The first morning I saw them, I was blinded by their whiteness and complained about how ugly they were.  That same evening, though, when finishing a run, I realized that I would be that much more visible to cars when I cross those intersections; without a doubt, the bright white lines were going to make things safer.

“Beatle Bars” along Upper Middle, designed to make pedestrians more visible at night.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne arrived at my house for an easy run.  It was still early (6:3o) and we planned to be finished before dark.  In true training partner style, we laughed as we greeted each other in bright pink shirts; apparently, we both knew that we needed to make ourselves visible to traffic.   Kelly-Lynne and I spent a good chunk of time running on sidewalks; we ran facing traffic when we took the road.  With less than a mile to go, we came to a red light at one of the “new” corners of Upper Middle Road.  Both of us stopped, made eye contact with drivers to make sure that they saw us, and ran across the “Beatle Bars” to the opposite side.  The light turned yellow while we were crossing and red – just as we were reaching the other side.

I had just put my left foot down on the sidewalk when a car rushed through a right turn on a red light, barely missing my right leg.  I screamed ‘Hey!’ and looked at Kelly-Lynne, who was on my left and she also jumped out of its way.  A lady who was walking two dogs gasped, yelled or somehow reacted as I bolted after the car, wanting to get its license plate; to my surprise, the driver pulled over and stopped.

“You need to watch where you are turning!” I yelled at her.

“I know.  I am sorry.”  The driver was in her 50’s or 60’s and had a man, possibly her son, in the passenger seat.

“You nearly hit my friend!”

“I know.  I don’t know how I missed you girls; you’re in bright colours.  I was distracted.  Is your friend okay?”  I looked at Kelly-Lynne, asked if she was okay, and she was fine.  I was fine.  Fortunately, neither of us got hurt but this woman made a right turn on a red light without stopping, nearly hit us, and that was not okay.  I was angry.  I looked at the man in the passenger seat again and realized that he was probably the source of distraction.  He showed no emotion – no reaction whatsoever.  Suddenly, I felt sorry for her.  I was still angry, but I got it.  And she stopped when she could have kept going.

“You need to slow down,” I said.  I wasn’t yelling anymore; at least, I don’t think I was.  I felt calmer, still angry but calmer.

“I know,” she repeated.  “I’m sorry.  I was distracted.”

“You need to slow down.  Nothing is worth rushing through a light for.  Nothing.  Just be careful.”

“I know.”

“Be careful,”  I repeated and I turned from her so that she could drive away.  When I got back to Kelly-Lynne, I repeated our conversation.  Kelly-Lynne told me that the driver in the car behind told her, “You girls were absolutely right.”

And we were.  We did everything right.  We wore the right colours and we crossed at the light.  We didn’t take chances.  But more important than anything else is we were paying attention to what was going on around us and that let us react.  Truthfully, I have never felt that I have been in that much danger before; I can still feel the car brushing against my right side as I write this.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne went home to her husband and I tucked my boys in bed.  A split second could have left this with a different ending.

 

Cold Winters; Warm Feet

A Saturday morning surprise – lots of snow to plow through on a long run.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is being able to truly experience all four seasons – until we get into the coldest days of the winter.  Then, life as a runner isn’t all that great.   Some days it means sliding, not running, along sloppy snow/slush-covered roads; others entail running straight into a biting wind that hurts your face;  and, then, there are the days that it is so cold that you don’t just see your breath, but your lungs can also feel the thickness of the air while you run.   Fortunately, we haven’t had too many of these days but, when we do, everyone complains.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to layer for the different types of winter weather that we can get; what we can’t double or triple, though, are our socks.  It is so important to wear the perfect pair.  Like summer socks, I want something that is comfortable, blister-free and, if possible, a more anatomical fit.  In the winter, I want all of the above and warmth.  This season, I finally found the perfect sock.

During the break, I went to the Running Room to replace what has been my go-to winter sock: double-layered and blister-free.  I pulled them off the rack, only to put them back.   They didn’t feel right.  The quality wasn’t there any more.  Clearly, it was time to make a change.

I scanned the walls and noticed Feetures brand, a product that I have seen quite a bit in sporting goods stores. I hadn’t heard anything about their socks, but I was pulled towards the packaging.  “No blisters” and “merino” on the winter running socks had my immediate attention; “lifetime guarantee” kept it.  These weren’t cheap, though.  In fact, they were about $10 over my budget.  But these socks wooed me.  They were a soft wool, had a L/R foot anatomical fit, and made promises that most long distance runners would succumb to.   These seemed to be the right socks.  Lured by their cushioning, warmth and promise to keep me blister-free, I bought them.   All I needed was another cold snap so that I could try them out.

Within days, Mother Nature dropped the temperatures for us.  Since purchasing my Feetures, I have worn them three times and they have not disappointed my feet.  The fit is great and my toes have not felt cold at all, which is unusual for me.  Yesterday, I ran in them for 21K in a windchill that gave us -20C temperatures and the Feetures winter running socks did everything they claimed they would and more; they made me want another pair.

 

***These opinions are solely my own.  This blog post is not endorsed or sponsored by Feetures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running With the Girls

And by girls, I don’t mean daughters, friends or other women who run.  I am referring to the “girls”,  breasts, bosoms, or whatever anatomically correct or affectionate nickname you want to give them.

A few weeks ago, I was doing the “mom” thing: hanging out at the park with my friend, Susan, watching our boys run around with soccer balls.  For some reason, and I can’t ever imagine why (heehee),  our conversation turned to running.

“I wish I could run.  You’re so lucky,” she commented.  “It must be so nice to feel that freedom.”

Admittedly, I was surprised. Susan is a single mom of two boys who are involved with hockey, soccer and swimming.  When she is not working, she is often chauffeuring them from one activity to another and, when she isn’t, you can be sure that it is because she is cooking, cleaning, and looking after them at home.  I honestly didn’t think that she wasn’t interested in running or participating in other types of fitness for herself.  Until now, the subject never really came up.

“You can run,” I said.  “You just need to start slowly.  I can help you get started.”

“I can’t.  I need to find a bra that fits first.   It’s too painful to run.”

duct tape
Mangled, ripped and stained – and no supportive fabric.

Susan continued to describe one of her bras that she duct-taped together.  “Both sides were duct taped so the underwire would poke me.  Then the underwire started coming through the bottom.”  The struggle was real.

 

DSC_0388
Running Skirts Strappy Top

Fortunately, finding a sports bra is something I have never had to worry about.   I always wear Running Skirts strappy bra, which is comfortable, supportive and cute but, for my Double K friend, that just wouldn’t do.  I started to picture previous covers of magazines with running success stories, photos of larger women who have lost inches and dropped sizes after they started to run.   What did they wear?   I have read about some ladies who double-barrel to give them the support that they need.  We talked about designing a bra for her and finding a seamstress to make it.  I was determined to find a solution.  Someone must have an idea of what works.  That’s when I turned to social media.

 

One of the groups I reached out to was Another Mother Runner on Facebook.  I explained the problem my well-endowed friend was facing, and asked if they could reach out to their community.  After a few days, I had dozens of responses and it became clear that Susan was not alone.   Not only did we have a list of sports bras to select from, we had online sites  (Break out Bras, Her Room, Bare Necessities) with great customer service that Susan could turn to for more advice.

Today, Susan headed to the Inside Story , known for its amazing customer service, for a fitting and decide on a purchase.  She has narrowed it down to….

Freya freya bra

Panachepanache

Enellenell

 

 

As bad luck would have it, the store doesn’t carry any sports bra that fits – period.  The sales associate is going to do her best to find something that works.  We are also looking at shopping online, a little easier but still a very frustrating process.  The Juno bra by Moving Comfort, for example, was highly recommended for big-bosomed ladies, but we can’t find her size.   Hopefully, we’ll find something that does the trick and keeps the girls under wraps before the end of the summer and Susan can “feel the freedom” that she is wanting so desperately.

 

 

 

 

Do You See What I See?

A few weeks ago, when mornings were suddenly dark at 6:30, a friend emailed me:

“Cynthia, I’m so upset.  I almost hit a jogger.  I didn’t even see him.  He was wearing black.  I’m still shaking.”

Tonight, while driving along a dark and quiet street, I went through similar emotions.  A man was running on the road, facing the direction of oncoming traffic (i.e. me), and wearing an orange jacket with a reflective strip.  He likely thought that the orange made him visible; it did not.  The jacket itself was not reflective and the reflective strip was worn so I didn’t see it until after I saw his face – at the last minute.   I swerved to get out of his way and he was fine.  In fact, he probably had no idea of what was happening or that I felt panic; he continued jogging down the road and I cursed the fact that he wasn’t wearing reflective clothing.

Visibility for runners is essential.  Whether it is day or night, we need to be seen.  For this reason, I tend to run on the road – and am sometimes criticized for this by my non-running friends – but I am safer.  First, drivers are more likely to see me when I am on the road than on the sidewalk; since I am sharing a lane with traffic, it is hard for them not to notice me.   Secondly, without trying to sound too cocky, most drivers can’t judge my speed; if I am on the sidewalk, a driver will often try to quickly swerve into a turn, thinking that he/she can beat me to the intersection but, instead, forces me to a grinding stop just as I am about to jump off the sidewalk onto the road.  For me, running on the road often seems to be the better option; I just have to dress for it.

For the past few winters, I was sporting a Vizipro jacket by Saucony.

Reflective gear 1
Kelly-Lynne and me in our Vizipro vest and jacket.

I loved its vibrant pink and, even more, the battery-charged piping that lit up when I ran.  When training with my club, I often did a reverse-Rudolph run and ran at the back of the pack so that we could be sure that cars from behind would see us.

In January, when I found myself lying face down in the middle of a busy road, I clearly remember thinking “It’s okay.  Drivers will see me.  I have my jacket on.”  The next day,  I looked at my running gear and noticed a rip on the right sleeve of my Saucony jacket.  Since I loved that jacket, I considered fixing it with duct tape but I didn’t want to spend the rest of the jacket’s life looking at the sleeve, remembering the night that I broke my jaw.  My husband agreed.  “Get rid of it,” he said.  Being frugal, I usually pass unwanted gear onto running friends but this one didn’t make the cut; I didn’t ever want to see someone else wearing this pink vizipro because of the negative connotation it now had.  Straight into the garbage it went.

Since I haven’t really needed to run in the dark or the cold since that night, I haven’t had to worry about a jacket either. Reflective gear2 A few  Tuesday’s ago after school, I was dressed to run when my husband stopped me at the door.  “You are not wearing that,” he insisted.  “You’re wearing black.  By the time you get home, it’s going to be dark.  No one will be able to see you.”  I reminded him that I hadn’t replaced my reflective jacket yet.  “Take my Brooks jacket.  I don’t need it.  I have another.”   It is orange (not my favorite colour), a little big on me and a little warmer than I need right now, but it does the trick.  I can be seen when I run.

Tonight, I realized how much I do need this jacket until I do replace it with one that fits better.  In the past few weeks, drivers have slowed down to let me go first, or they have given me space on the road; I know they can see me.  But the guy who was running tonight when I was in the car?  He was not visible; he may as well have been dressed in black.

A simple trick to check your reflectivity is to ask someone to shine a flashlight on you, dressed in your gear, before you head out the door.  If that doesn’t work, trying taking a selfie outside.  You may be surprised by what you do – or don’t – actually see.

Save Our Clothes

laundry post
Dirty running gear doesn’t belong on the floor; hang it up to dry before you wash it.

Over the years I have made several laundry mistakes, some of them fatal.  On the night I delivered my first son, for example, I left my wet cycling gear in a plastic bag (let’s keep in mind that this was 15 years ago, a few years before recyclable bags became common place) and forgot about it – for about 4 weeks.  Needless to say, those clothes went straight into the garbage.

Another time, while visiting my brother, I let days of wet running gear pile up on the tiled floor.  The morning we left, I started to pick it up and found dozens (fortunately, only dozens) of ants scurrying underneath them.  As soon as we got home, the clothes went straight into the wash.

I realized through these errors, though, that there are two simple ways to care for your running and workout gear to stretch out their life.   First, I don’t leave wet clothes in a pile on the floor any more.  They don’t dry.  Layers of wet clothes trap moisture, which in turn, promotes bacteria and smell.  So, as soon as I can after a workout, I hang up my clothes to dry.  Then, I throw them in an open laundry basket with other dirty workout gear.

This is a simple trick that I have shared with the guys I run with.  Last week, when our coach mentioned that his wet clothes were on the floor a day after our workout, there was a collective gasp.  “What?  You don’t hang up your wet clothes to dry?  Haven’t I taught you guys anything?”  Even my husband decided to start airing out his clothes and his hockey gear.  When he gets home, he lets all of his equipment dry out in the garage to help keep the stink away (and freezing that stink in a cold, Canadian garage in the winter probably helps too).

Another easy trick is pack your wet gear in a towel or a reusable (and machine washable bag).  Stuffing everything into a plastic bag usually means that the clothes stay wet and trap bacteria so that they smell that much worse when you pull them out.  Rolling them into the towel that you used to change with or a cloth bag absorbs some of the moisture which, in turn, helps eliminate the spread of stink.

In the past few years, a few laundry soaps have been developed to specifically clean sports clothing.  For example, Sport Suds is laundry detergent which is specifically for athletic clothing,  Tide recently began to carry sports specific detergent, Sunlight boasts of a deep-clean wash.   Honestly, I haven’t tried any of them.  Every time I consider buying some, I remind myself that I really don’t need to.   I can just hang up my clothes instead.  By doing so, my athletic wear simply lasts longer; it doesn’t retain body odour the way it did many years ago.   And, as an extra bonus, I no longer have the fear of finding ants hiding under my sweaty gear.

What’s In Your Pocket?

10672333_1605563229722205_5049302564460780315_nI love my running skirts, but not just any running skirt.  The original, designed by the running twins, Cindy and Christy Lynch at www.runningskirts.com, are comfortable, fashionable, and designed with performance in mind.  For me, one of their best features are their pockets.

Being asthmatic, I almost always carry my puffer with me when I run.  It’s cumbersome; about the same size as a gel pack but rounder and solid, my puffer can’t be squished or shoved anywhere.  side pocketsThe runningskirts.com pockets are ideal as the stretchy mesh panels at the side of the skirts means that the pockets can hold a lot.  In fact, this was one of the biggest reasons I first tried running skirts back in 2008.   Needless to say, I was hooked by their comfort and practicality and haven’t gone back to shorts since.

The pockets in a running skirt are also great on days when I have a long run.  Yesterday, as part of my Chicago Marathon prep, I headed out for my long run of 13 miles.  I needed my puffer, especially with the heat, but I also wanted two Gu’s and my iPod shuffle.  Thanks to Running Skirts, I was able to carry everything easily.

Yesterday, Coach Kevin wanted to take some pictures but commented that he couldn’t carry his phone while running.  “Well,” I said, “if you wore a running skirt, you could easily fit your phone into the side pocket.”   He thought about it, but I knew that I couldn’t convert him – yet.

What are your must-haves when you’re on the run?  What’s in your pocket?

 

 

Wacky Wednesday – Dressing for the Occasion

Sunday’s road conditions were terrible: ice on the surface, covered with snow/slush which eventually became just slush. The weather was messy for everyone, especially for those of us who were racing.

That same morning at church, one member approached my friend, Katherine, about my running gear:

So, when she is running in this kind of weather, what does she wear?
Well, I don’t know. Just regular running clothes, I guess.
And, what does she wear on her feet? Does she have special shoes for days like this?

Special shoes? Yup! With booster packs on the back!

Picture them – just for a moment. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Let’s Go, Mom

I thought I was going to sell my baby jogger this spring. When my first child was four years old, I did sell my first baby jogger; running with him had become really tough – to the point where I wasn’t enjoying having him tag-along anymore. Well, I wish I had known I was 8 weeks pregnant when I said good-bye to it. No wonder I was tired!

Last August, Number Two, who was nearing 4 years and almost 40 pounds, was also becoming harder to push – especially when facing winds close to 30Kph (not uncommon here). Remembering how hard it was to run with my first son when he was 4, I was sure my baby jogging days were over.

When I pulled the jogger out of the garage for the first time this spring, Number Two couldn’t wait to jump in. I don’t know if I was more surprised by his willingness to be pushed around (and, do note that there is a reason we do no longer use the word “baby” when referring to our jogger) or my ability to still run with him. Regardless, it was clear that I have another season of core-strengthening running ahead of me.

Last weekend, it has HE who wanted to go for a run. We had just got home from grocery shopping and he ran to my room, opened my dresser and started to pull out my running gear. “Here, Mommy. You can wear this top – your princess top,” he said as he handed me a hot pink strappy top from Running Skirts. “You’ll look like a princess.”

On Tuesday night, I was off for an evening run at 8:15 and tears started when he realized he was going to stay home with Daddy. “I want to go for a run too,” he cried. It was clear to me that he would fall asleep in the jogger so bringing him with me didn’t seem like a bad idea at all.

I planned to run today in the late afternoon but Mommy duties got in the way. Sure enough, tears started again and I wondered how long it would take him to run upstairs to my room to find my running clothes. After promising that we could go after dinner, he calmed down.

And after dinner, he was the first one ready to go. Dressed in his jammies and winter jacket (yes, it’s that cold), he hopped in and told me a story about Batman and his superhero friends for the first mile. By mile 2, he was dosing off; he was asleep when we got home.

Thank goodness for the baby jogger (shh).

Running Skirts – Product Review

www.runningskirts.com
Last year, I stumbled upon Running Skirts while I was on Facebook. I loved what I saw: a fashionable, sexy look to running. Later that month, Runner’s World arrived in my mailbox which just happened to have Running Skirts on the cover. “Great,” I thought, “They’ve found me.” After reading a very positive review about their skirts, I knew I wanted one. But, online shopping is not my thing so I drooled and waited and drooled some more.

This spring, when previous skirts were being cleared out, I ordered two (I was paying for shipping anyway so two seemed to be a better idea). Now, I have to compare this to getting my hair highlighted when I have waited and waited for weeks and, once it’s done, I wonder why I waited so long. Running Skirts feel comfortable (One gal likens it to running naked. For me, that’s really stretching it; unless you’re 3, how could running naked possibly be comfortable?), and they also have a silky, soft and sexy feel to them that creates a feeling of power.

The owners of the company are twins who run – and these gals are fast. Being runners themselves, they know exactly what women need and want for training and racing; this lets them design like no other company has been able to before. They have created running skirts for all seasons (the sub-zero skirt with tights is coming out this fall), a general athletic skirt and a quickly becoming popular maternity skirt. Like their products, their customer service is excellent.

Many women who wear Running Skirts never go back to shorts. Me, I tend to save my power-suits for Race Days only. But, if I’m having a day when I have to drag myself out for a run, I pull on a skirt and my whole attitude changes. For me, it all boils down to how you look; when you look good, you feel good and you run great.

Coming soon: Running Skirts tops and jog bras review.