Category Archives: Reviews

SPI Belt Review + 2 Fun Workouts

As I mentioned last week, I was lucky enough to win a SPI Belt through the 2016 winter edition of RunChat Hunt.  I intended to take it with me on an easy run last Sunday but totally forgot it.  That’s what happens when you never run with anything, I guess.  To make sure I followed spi beltthrough on my promise to tell you all about my experience, I zipped my GPS watch in it that night.

It just so happened my next run was a long tempo outing of 5 x 2k repeats with a 400M jog between.  Not only is this a fun workout, the weather was just about perfect, my legs felt fresh and I’d get to test the belt at a variety of paces.  Perfect!  I began with 2k at marathon pace then increased each rep to finish #5 at 10k pace.  Here’s how my new SPI Belt responded:

Fit:  The fit is great.  A highly adjustable belt allows for lots of freedom in where on my hips or belly I wanted it to sit.  For easier runs I liked it lower but for faster work I liked it tighter and a bit higher.

Comfort:  The belt was surprisingly comfortable.  I haven’t had lots of experience running with a belt but those I have had weren’t great.  The SPI Belt stayed in place without any bouncing and was barely noticeable when I wasn’t paying attention to it for this review.

Size:  I don’t wear fuel belts because every one I’ve ever tried has been too bulky.  The bands have been too wide or not fit well.  That was not an issue with the SPI Belt.  The thin strap adjusted easily to fit me just right while the width was not an issue at all.

Space:  My phone lives in a gigantic Otter Box so to make it fit, the case had to go.  I have this problem with plenty of small handbags, too, and it didn’t bother me.  Phone sans case, ID, credit card, key and gels, I shoved as many things as I could in there.  Plenty of room for all of your essentials.

My second fun workout was when I took the belt out again and got to forget it was there.  A great product that definitely met my carry-all needs.

Meredith

Do you have a SPI Belt?  What’s your favorite feature?

Monumental Half Marathon

This weekend I checked off State #24 by finishing the Monumental Half Marathon.  With no idea how my run would go, I went out to have fun and check in on my fitness.  I arrived Thursday to hit the expo, explored the city Friday and was ready to go by Saturday morning.

Monumental Half Marathon race morning was crisp and clear if a little chilly at the start.  Since my hotel was only about a half mile from the Start/Finish area, I skipped gear check and lined up next to my corral after a one mile warm up.  I say ‘next to my corral’ because I was.  They were extremely crowded and I couldn’t get inside the fence until the runners in front of me started moving forward.

That traffic continued for a little more than the first mile.  I was seeded in Corral B, 1:45 and under expected finish times but found that at 1:38 pace I was passing an awful lot of people very quickly.  Including walkers and joggers.  Hopefully there will be bigger divisions or more corrals to eliminate this in following years.  Several other runners and I spent time running on monumental half marathonsidewalks until the roads opened up after the Mile 2 marker.

There was no timing mat at 5k (22:40) but I felt OK.  My pace had been all over the place due to the traffic and I still had no rhythm.  My legs and lungs felt good with a finally steady pace after a quick walk for water at Mile 7.  Shortly after that my calves starting getting grumpy.  I’ve been spending a lot of time working on stretching both them and my Achilles and I think the longer fibers aren’t strong enough to handle that much work for over 90 minutes yet.

With chatty calves I came through another water stop just past Mile 10 in about 1:15 and I set my goal to come in under 1:40.  I needed those two minutes of breathing room with less than 5k to go when I took a break to shake my calves out.  The last three miles I tried to slow my pace down.  Unfortunately, I was stuck in a move fast groove.  I took a final calf shake out walk at the Mile 11 mark.  An easy jog through that mile lead to a strong Mile 12.  I crossed the finish in 1:39.49/13.2 with very touchy calves.

I was happy with my race and to learn my fitness is still solid.  My walk was a bit ginger while picking up my medal, bottled water, chocolate milk, a new cap and lots of snacks.  The morning had turned out perfectly for my short cruise back to the hotel.  The Monumental Half Marathon was a great experience.  It’s a flat and fast course with good organization, course support and swag.

Meredith

How many states have you run in?  What’s the next one?

Running Again + New Shoes

I’m running again!  Not hard and not far but it’s happening.  I did an easy 3 miler on Wednesday and really stretched things with a 30 minute jog, one 30 second pick-up included, this morning.  running againIt feels good to be back out there.

Part of what got me running again was the addition of new shoes to the closet.  One of the reasons my Wineglass performance was so sub-par was the age of my shoes.  I held on to them for too long and paid heavily.  When I got home, I threw out every pair of runners I had that were questionable and trotted right over the find something new.  My old Ride 5s were gone so I picked up the latest model, Saucony’s Ride 9.  It’s been so long since I ran in a new pair of cushioned shoes they felt amazing during our first run together (today’s 30 min jaunt).  I like the 8mm drop of this pair for recovery and easy days to give my chronically tight Achilles and calves a break.

I also picked up a pair of Zealot ISO 2s.  They’re a super cushioned 4mm drop shoe and something I’m totally unfamiliar with.  I ran in them for my first run back because I was excited for something new.  running againEven though they’re the same size as my Ride 9s they feel a little bit tighter but not comfortably so, more of a hugging feeling on my narrow foot.  The thing I noticed most was how disconnected I felt from the ground.  All that cushion definitely doesn’t help me feel what’s under my feet.  I’m looking forward to seeing how we work together during harder training.

The final addition was a pair of New Balance Zante V2s.  A brand and drop (6mm) I’ve never run in before, it’s a complete experiment.  Of course, my trusty Kinvara’s are still in the mix.  I haven’t chosen a shoe for the Joggin’ for Frogmen 5k next Saturday.  Last year it was run on a paved road course while this year we’ll be tackling a grassy cross country course at the Military Aviation Museum.  With little training to go on it should be a fun one.  Very low pressure.  The museum is a really neat place and I’m excited for a race I promise to have fun at.

Meredith

What are your favorite shoes?  How do you ease back into running again after a break?

RnRVB Win + Missed Goal

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach is in the can.  It wasn’t the race I was hoping for but I did finish as first female and get a solid workout in.  Even though I missed my goal of hitting a new PR, I did accomplish one thing I had set out to do: get an RnRVB win!rnrvb win

Race morning was cool, humid and windy.  Still feeling not so great about the chance to PR, I ran a solid warm up and felt decent heading into my corral.  It seemed like I stood there for a long time feeling my body slow back down when we ended up going off four minutes late.  Starting with a crosswind I felt good.  I was on pace through the first 1200M and into the first corner.  Turning into the headwind I kept pushing to maintain my goal pace.

I rolled my ankle on some broken pavement shortly after a mile and it definitely took my mind off track.  While I knew I wasn’t injured it distracted me enough to lose my rhythm.  The course turned back south at 1.5 miles but the next 1.4 miles of tailwind weren’t enough.  I couldn’t find my pace again and slowed.  I kept fighting until I saw the final turn ahead and tried to rnrvb winaccelerate.  There was nothing.  I definitely gave the course all I had and hoped for the best as I headed for the Finish.

After rounding the final turn I wasn’t sure if there was another woman in front of me.  Since the 5k breaks off from the half at a u-turn around a building in the opposite direction with roughly 500M to go there definitely could have been someone up there.  Coming out of that turn onto the boardwalk I got a nasty face full of wind and a calf cramp.  I also didn’t see any women running in front me of.  I tried to kick again but it didn’t happen.   When race staff stretched a Rock n Roll Finish line tape rnrvb winout I cruised through the final meters to break it for the first time.  Having never run through a finish line tape, it was a fun way to wrap up a difficult run.

While I didn’t get the PR I wanted or a big fat trophy and giant check, my RnRVB win did get me in the paper with this photo.  Goober alert!

Meredith

Do you have multiple goals for races?  How do you choose them?

*If you want to know more about the actual race, check out my review on BibRave*

Tropical Storm Hermine vs RnRVB

Tropical Storm Hermine tried her hardest to beat Team Rock n Roll Virginia Beach.  After threatening torrential rains and brutal winds Friday afternoon, she forced cancellation of the night’s American Music Festival concerts many were looking forward to.  Saturday and Sunday’s shows were moved inside with limited space.  While unfortunate for runners who traveled from long distances to attend this Labor Day weekend tradition, everyone’s safety was both the city and Competitor Group‘s (the parent of Rock n Roll) top priority.

As far as Rock n Roll Virginia Beach events, Saturday’s Mile in the Sand was also canceled by early Friday afternoon compliments of Hermine’s impending arrival.  After getting that news and hoping to bear the rain I made my way over to the expo as early as possible.  I picked up my swag, chatted with my RWB friends and stocked up on energy gels.  While herminethere I learned Mile in the Sand entry fees were automatically being refunded to all registered runners and they would still be able to collect their medals, towels and t-shirts.

Kudos to Competitor Group for this.  Those things were paid for and, honestly, what else would they do with thousands of items?  I guess they could have been donated but this decision was much better.  All in all, Competitor Group did an excellent job of handling the weather induced situation.  By Friday evening refunds were available not only to Mile in the Sand registrants but to runners of every race should they not wish to travel into Hermine’s path.  Emails were sent out a regular intervals to keep participants apprised of any and all changes to race conditions or expectations (like fewer bands for the half on Sunday).  They were as accommodating as anyone could possibly have expected them to be.

Luckily, even though Saturday’s race was cancelled, the beach was still open.  I took a walk down there at high tide, and almost blew away in the 40+mph gusts, but the surf was amazing.  It gave me a good idea of what to expect for wind conditions at Sunday morning’s 5k.  With possible rain, 25 mph NNE winds and gusts over 45 I’m not feeling too confident about hitting that PR.hermine

Every other runner will also be dealing with Hermine’s wrath but it just doesn’t seem like a best performance type of environment.  However…you never know, right?!  I’m estimating the first 1200M will have a crosswind, then a headwind for about 800M and a friendly tailwind for everything but the final 400M where it’s back in your face for the Finish.  I’m OK with that.  I’ll still give it all I have and get a good workout.

Meredith

How do you deal with weather changing your race plans?  Did you get out and play in Tropical Storm Hermine?

Lululemon Hotty Hot Short

While I was on my recent blog vacation, I acquired Lululemon’s Hotty Hot Short.  After spending some time trying them out with different activities I’ve found them to be just right for lots of things.  Here are the details!

Fabric:  I was looking for something different with this pair of shorts.  It’s been a hot, humid summer and with the dog days of August settling in I wanted a little more breathability.  The hotty hot shortloose fitting, four-way stretch fabric is great.  They are very light and I barely noticed them, even when they were soaked in sweat.  It’s not an easy fabric to damage with pins for a race number or a heavy cycle in the washer but I never put workout gear in the dryer and haven’t with these.  [All of my selfie shorts attempts failed so here’s what worked].

Fit/Feel:  With the looser fit through the legs, I doubt you’ll ever need the fabric’s four-way stretch but it’s nice to know it’s there.  The wide waist band is great for keeping the shorts in place without leaving its pattern indented on your tummy.  The Hotty Hot Shorts I purchased have a low, 2.5″, rise.  The fabric’s looseness and built in liner make you feel secure and covered even if your shorts tan is shrinking a bit.  If you’re taller there is a ‘long’ version available.  The single zip pocket in the back is convenient and keeps its contents as dry as can be expected.  The seam locations in these is different than some other Lulu shorts and I have no fear of the dreaded inner thigh chafe when rocking them.  All in all, they fit great, stay in place even when wet and almost make you forget they’re there.

Functionality:  With reflective details and a back pocket, the Hotty Hot Short is very versatile.  I’ve spent time in the gym with them, on the track running hard and on an easy long run.  For a longer run there aren’t enough pockets to hold gels so you’ll need a fuel belt or backpack.  For just about anything else from hiking to yoga they’re a solid choice.

Price:  At $58 (+ tax in most states) they come in right on target for Lululemon.  It’s an investment I’ve found is worth it.  The key to keeping these shorts long lasting is skipping the dryer and washing in cold water.

Meredith

What do you look for in workout gear?  What will you compromise on?

EquiKids Cross Country 5k Recap

My favorite race of the year was Saturday and all mud aside, it was another fun day.  This was the fifth year consecutive year I’ve run the EquiKids Cross Country 5k.  It’s an event for the whole family with a half mile pony run for younger children, the 5k for everyone and a one mile run with the hounds.  I was excited even though I knew it was going to be muddy after five straight days of rain.  Trails, especially muddy ones, are far from my strength.

Race morning was overcast (but not raining!) with a little bit of humidity and middle of the road temperatures.  I went with long tights because of the mud, knowing I’d been running as close to the edges of the trails as I could for solid ground.  After my warm-up, I shed the half zip I’d been wearing against the morning’s cool breeze and lined up in my tank, long tights and about-to-be-muddy shoes.  We went off into the woods a few minutes after the little ones finished their half mile pony run.

There were the initial speedsters making the first section a bit crowded but they faded by the time we hit the woods.  I settled into an easy pace on the mushy surface and waited for my first foot to hit a puddle.  It took longer than I expected to find the first muddy spot.  Not being very skilled at racing through the mud, I slowly picked my way through with tiny, slow steps and picked things up when I was back on solid ground.  At the Mile 1 mark I had plenty of running room as the crowd spread out and it stayed that way through the end.  My watch was all over the place searching for help as I wove in and out of the trees with neither of us really knowing how fast I was moving.  I slipped a few times in mud, at one point swinging around a tree to help, glad I was taking things slowly instead of risking injury in an unfamiliar environment.equikids cross country 5k

I kicked as much as I could on the wet ground coming into the EquiKids Cross Country 5k finish and landed squarely in a big puddle of water.  It was a nice finish to a solid workout that had me smiling and working to stay balanced the whole time.  Definitely not one of my best 5k performances, I was happy to come out without having fallen in the mud or getting injured.  I ended up fourth female overall and second in my age group after the overall female was also the age group winner.  A bottle of water and two slices of pizza later, I was awarded my medal and made for the nice dry car.

It was another great year with weather that held out until after the dog mile, great people and good times.  In the end, 2016’s mud laced EquiKids Cross Country 5k taught me that I could probably benefit from hitting the trails more often.  With only one trail race and five or six easy trail outings per year, I tend to be overly cautious with my feet and also have lots of trouble feeling my pace on the soft surface.

Meredith

How do you run in mud?  Do you train specifically for trail races?

Book Nook: Chi Running Review

I recently finished reading Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running.  I was familiar with the book’s content before I opened it but was excited to learn more about the method and possibly apply some of the concepts to my own coaching.  It ended up being a valuable tool to help me become a better coach and a very positive read.chi running

The book itself is well written and overall easy to get through compared to some more technical writing about the biomechanics of running.  Roughly half of the book is normal text while the rest of it is designed as a simple to navigate reference book that guides you step-by-step on your chi running journey.  It also includes sections on preparing to run, racing and nutrition that are full of useful ideas.

It was interesting to see the commonalities between Dreyer’s Chi Running and Romanov’s Pose Method.  I coach using a combination of lots of approaches, finding the biggest benefit is sometimes just being exposed to a new way to say the same thing.  Both chi running and pose running are designed to minimize injury risk while making you a more efficient runner.  They ultimately arrive there via slightly different pathways but the content of Chi Running is definitely worth exploring.  The idea of falling to move yourself forward and landing softly on your mid-foot are major focuses of both styles.  The differences between them occur in other areas, such as where your energy is coming from and how hard to train.

I don’t want to spoil all the fun of reading it yourself, which I definitely recommend, but I will say one of the things I like best about the chi method is its emphasis on core strength.  The mid-section is an often overlooked area for most recreational runners that could actually help them a lot.  Sit-ups and planks for the win!  If you’re looking for a solid piece of running literature, Chi Running is a great choice.

Meredith

Do you use chi running?  Why or why not?

***This is not a sponsored post.  I bought this book with my own money and all opinions are my own***

Coastal Delaware Half Marathon

My month of racing wrapped up as I finished my four straight weeks of ‘racing’ with the Coastal Delaware Half Marathon.  It was nice to wrap up the first week of my new training cycle by leading the 1:55 pace group of awesome runners to both hit new PRs and follow their coach’s orders by taking it easy.coastal delaware half marathon

I stayed Saturday night in Bethany Beach, a roughly 10 minute drive from the Start area.  Race morning was chilly and breezy but my car was warm for the quick and easy drive.  The Coastal Delaware Half Marathon pace team was rounding up at 6:15 and I arrived with plenty of time to spare.  We snapped a group photo then those of us waiting for the half to start at 7:30 headed back to our nice warm cars for a while.  When the marathon took off at 7, I downed a banana and a granola bar then hit the long row of Port-a-Potties that had quickly moving lines for a final pre-race go before the 9k runners started prepping for their 8am event.

I was in Corral 1 as we were given the go at 7:35am.  The course took us immediately through a quick u-turn then into the out-and-backs northbound portion into a 10-12 mile an hour headwind.  The wind wasn’t bad considering what I usually have here in Virginia Beach and a small group settled in with me by Mile 2.  The first water stop was at Mile 3, stocked with water and Gatorade.  We continued north to another water stop at Mile 5.5 before turning onto the soft gravel trail portion of the race where we hit 10k, made our out-and-back u-turn southward, ran past the halfway point and and entered road again past the Mile 7 mark.  I expected there to be some water coming up quickly at that point but there wasn’t.

The next stop was all the way at Mile 8.5 and I wasn’t the only one who suffered.  One of the guys who had been sticking with me, aiming to break 1:55, got a nasty cramp around 7.5.  Since we were solidly ahead I sent everyone else on while I hung with him to stretch for a second.  At that point we also got held up in a politeness battle with a car trying to cut across the course. Once the ‘you go’/’no, you go’ ended with some help from the awesome police department we got back on track.

Continuing onto the course’s westerly loop for Miles 10 and 11, we were dead on to hit 1:54 and change.  Two little jogs had us through Mile 11 as we were right on track heading into the final 2400M.  Somewhere in those last miles we picked up almost an extra 200M and I ended up coastal delaware half marathoncheering him on as he surged for a strong finish as I rolled alone in a few seconds late.  As I crossed the line four of my group were waiting for me and it was an honor to shake their hands and hear their ‘thank you’s.  Several hit new PRs way under 1:55, from 1:52 to 1:54.

We all received stained glass medals, bottled waters and granola bars before heading to the post race beach party and grabbing mimosas.  I wish I could have stayed for the post-race party, it looked like it would have been a great time.  Instead, I grabbed the constantly running free shuttle bus back to the parking lot, about 3/4 of a mile away, so I could shower and get on the road.

The course is flat and fast, a good opportunity to PR and/or BQ as long as you don’t mind a complete lack of crowd support or a missing water station.  Held in the town’s off season, there aren’t many spectators out there supporting until the finish line.  If you want good swag though, the Coastal Delaware Half Marathon’s is fantastic.  Not only do you get gender specific tech t-shirts, a medal with stained glass and a post race beach party, this year we also received a Tervis brand race logo tumbler.  I love my Tervis gear and was so happy.  The gift might be different next year but this well organized event is definitely a race worth checking out.

Meredith

Have you run in Delaware?  How do you use Tervis gear and do you love it?

2016 ODU Big Blue 5k Recap

Meredith’s Month of Racing rolled on this past weekend with the ODU Big Blue 5k.  In it’s second year, J&A put together another well organized event on a just about perfect day.  With only one speed work session behind me before race day I didn’t have very high expectations heading in but still wanted to get a good workout and possibly an age group award.

With a 10:30 start, this is a great race for those who like to sleep in.  I had an easy morning and after a 25 minute drive to ODU’s campus slid right into the free garage race parking.  It was filling up quickly, making me glad to arrive 90 minutes before go time.  Race day packet pick-up was crowded but moving quickly and there were plenty of Port-a-Potties in the start area.  With my number in tow, I took my gender specific tech shirt (which I easily swapped out for a men’s to give to Doug since I knew I’d never wear it) back to the car, rearranged some things then headed back to the start for some warm up.

A 1k kids race was going on making it was tough to find a good spot to run more than a few meters but eventually I managed to get in a little over a mile.  The starting corrals line up down a odu big blue 5knarrow street though the race’s small size prevent them from feeling very cramped.  The start was right on time and the day was warmer than I had expected.  Without any real goal for the race my watch jumping all over the place (I was definitely not running a 4:47 or 9:22 mile at any point) didn’t bother me too much as I settled in.

A quick right turn after the start lead to wider roads and more running room.  I got into a groove that let me know I was going to get that workout I wanted taken care of but nothing more.  The super flat ODU Big Blue 5k course weaves through ODU’s campus on roads of various width and some wide clean sidewalks.  In the end, there were a few more turns than I would have liked and the about face around halfway definitely cost me a few seconds.  But it did for everyone else, too.  There was minimal crowd support on a Saturday morning college campus except for at the well staffed water stop.odu big blue 5k

One of the race’s biggest highlights is finishing on the 50-yard line.  It was neat but be ready for the surface change.  The field is bouncy and also not as flat as I expected, kind of bumpy in fact.  I cruised through the finish feeling pretty good about the run I had.  I ran 22:19 and was 7th female, the 77th finisher overall and second in my age group.  I think the late start messed with me a bit since I’m a get-up-and-goer.  My legs could have performed better and my head just wasn’t in it but I successfully accomplished what I wanted for the day.  A solid workout and a bonus age group award.

In the finish chute I received an ODU Big Blue 5k bottle opener medal and a bottled water before heading to the post race party.  The beautiful day was a perfect chance to enjoy my three complimentary beers and chicken burrito from Moe’s.  There were also food trucks, massive Jenga games and multiple sets of cornhole boards for everyone to enjoy.  Another well organized event put on by J&A Racing, this is a fun, family friendly race that I really enjoyed.

Meredith

Want more?  Check out my review on BibRave.