Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hate the chafe? Then do I have the product for you!

Look, if you're an athlete you know about chafe. No, matter how great the clothes are or how fit you are, eventually you're clothing is gonna bind up or pinch or you're going to fill your clothes with so much salt that pursuing your desired activity will be an effort in how long you can feal with wearing sandpaper. Base of the neck, nipples, groin and your naughty bits will all eventually succumb to the chafe monster. Now we all have been told by that "best buddy" how to deal with chafe: band aids, baby oil, vaseline or just "suck it up". None of those options work particularly well and because of that fact I've been on the hunt for ANYTHING that could help me out. I suffer the double indemnity of never finding clothes that fit me so well I won't chafe (I could run in spandex but really, who wants to see that?) and I also sweat salt by the tons. So I recently stumbled across this product made by Everstride.

Now at fist glance, or use, it might remind you of another popular anti-chafe stick on the market, Bodyglide. Here's the issue I have with that product: it feels greasy and cakey (is that even a word? well, it is now). Its hard to put on and is very difficult to clean off/out. Bad enough when its on me or my clothes but as a triathete I need this stuff everywhere and the gross build up of it in my wetsuit, cycling and running shoes eventually led to my having to throw them away. No such issue with Everstride's stick! Easy to put on, it goes on dry with a nice firm stroke, no mess NO chafing and SO easy to clean up. I use it on me, my clothes (yup, on the neck if shirts and along the pesky seams of shorts) on the openings of both cycling and running shoes and on my wetsuit. This stuff is FANTASTIC! I keep a stick with me all the time and getting caught on a windy, dry day for a 10k in New Mexico I even used it on my face and lips! I really can't endorse this product (and to be honest, all of Everstride's products) enough. Its obvious that this is a company that cares about and creates products FOR athletes.

I want to share the love too so if you comment on this post you'll be entered into a drawing for an Everstride gift pack. Tweet the link to this post and 'cc me "@rangerdutch" and you get 2 entries. Its just that easy. Good luck!

*update* I just realized that in my excitement to share the greatness that is Everstride's product, I didn't put an "end date" on this contest! Ok, so this contest will end on the 31st of January.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winter Classis 5k...where I was classic me...

Year two of running the Winter Classic 5k in Cambridge but I really like this course. Its a pretty flat out and back loop. I don't know why I'm such a fan of doubling back (ONLY for 5ks of course) but I really like seeing more runners. I play the head game that they'll never catch me and I turn up the pace.

So, after finding and acutal parking space on a side street (who's not paying $20 for parking for 2 hours in downtown Cambridge? THIS guy!), J and I headed to packet pick up. Now one of the cool things about this race last year was that on top of getting a race shirt you also were also randomly chosen to either win a cool embroidered head the spirit of the season...a piece of coal. I thought that was hilarious! I of course got the head warmer last year and J got coal which I found to be even MORE funny but no such merriment this year. It seems that people were offended by getting coal last year and the race stopped doing it. Really peope? I mean REALLY?! Geez, lighten up a bit!

I did finally meet twitter friend Danielle. A wicked cool, chick totally deck out in her best Christmas apparel for the race (see pic below) and we milled around the start. Ah yes, the start. I told myself that I had no intentions of "racing" today or setting a PR but as race time got closer I found myself magically pulled toward the front and calculating pace times in my head (classic me). And while I was crunching numbers I heard the gun go off. Now I've been trying a different approach to racing the last few races. Rather than get so fixed on the pace on my Polar RCX5G5, I'd just hang with the "lead" group of the race and try to settle in. I read an article a few months ago that one of the reason Ryan Hall was having an issue at races was his watch said he was going too fast so he would layoff and then eventually not be able to bridge the gap back to the leaders. Yes, I k,ow I'm NO Ryan hall but it does make sense. Your body performs differently on race day and if you can hold a pace, you should. Don't let your mind work against you.

We went out at a good pace. And by "we" I mean the 2nd lead group after the gazelles that take off at a 5k. We hit the 1st mile marker on a 6:20 pace. Not fast but not slow either. Now 5ks are an interesting race. Or at least to me they are. Unlike a 10k or greater distance, there's no "blowing up" on a 5k, just run as fast as you can and then at the halfway point or or 3 mile marker, turn on the jets. Well, due to my extreme concentration...or whatever...I totally missed seeing the 1 mile marker. As we hit the turn, I knew that we were moving pretty fast but we're headed home so I needed to turn up the speed. Now I also had motivation to continue pressing the pace. This tiny (like sub 5 foot) girl with a gymnast's build was right on my shoulder the whole way. Now, I don't like having ANYONE on my shoulder for a race but I dislike it even more when its a cute little girl who looked to be in her mid 20's there. There's no way she's getting by me so I need to step it up. I will say I took great pride in passing people wearing local runner's club kit. They looked like runners and here this broken old guy was passing them (insert smile here).

The crew post race
We hit the 2nd mile marker and I was a little tired but there's only 1.2 miles left so I need to get my butt in gear. I leaned forward, started to pump my arms and frantically pushed to get separation from the gymnast girl. There's a right hand turn into the finish with a cop car, lights flashing to mark the turn. When I saw it from about a 1/4 mile away I just gave it all I had. As I made the turn I could see the clock. It was in the high 19's. Are you kidding me?! My 5k PR is 19:54! For a race that I wasn't "racing" I was close to my PR?! Running I did some math (which if you know me you know tapped all of my mental reserves) and realized even running wide open at this point I'd finish around a 20 flat. Damnit!

Sure enough I crossed the line with 20:08...14 seconds off my PR. Yes, I know its still a good time, but to know I was that close while still feeling "good" during a race is a little frustrating. Good take away was that my pace was constant between 6:20-6:25 throughout the race. Unlike the 5k PR race I had where I went out at a 5:45 first mile and spent the rest of the race trying to hold on. That race was a year ago and here I am a year later (and older) and I came close to that time with little train up. I also knocked 90 seconds off my time from last year's race on the same course. So not bad and good learning points, so much for not "racing it". Luckily I could drown my thoughts in a GREAT post race breakfast at Friendly Toast afterwards...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Hot Chocolate 15k...there was NOTHING hot about it...

Normally I go into most races with some level of anticipation or agitation (um, have you met me or have you read this blog?) but this was an event that came up that seemed to be one of those just "neat" things to do. I don't know of many 15k's, it was in DC (hello, I love DC) and it was sponsored by Ghirardelli (um, hello I love chocolate even MORE!). So, kind of a no brainer. Fly down, have a great race, take in some sights, easy right? Um, NO!

We can start with packet pickup. I had no idea where the National Harbor was. Its about a 30min cab ride from the airport is how far. Holy moly, in the middle of nowhere much?! J and I finally get into the packet pick up tent to get our numbers and jackets. Yes, instead of your run of the mill cotton tee or a performance tee, this race offered water/wind proof running jackets as your schwag. I have to admit...THAT is great race schwag. Now we were told if we registered early, we'd get our names on the race numbers and if you could provide proof of times from prior races you could actually qualify to be placed in specific corrals (which would also be on the race number). I submitted my time from the Army Ten Miler which qualified me to be in high corral AND I received an e-mail from the race that my time qualified me to be in placed in Corral A. Sweet! I pull my race number from the name and not the corral I was told I was in. Ugh. Okay, I head over to the "customer service" table with my number and I was greeted by a peppy young girl who before I could open my mouth asked "and what corral do you want to be in?". Really? We're just willy-nilly sticking anyone in corrals because they want to be now? Crapballs! Ok, well I figure most people won't be in A because they would be concerned about being up front and I had Coral O on my bib so slap that "A" on there lady. Quick walk through the "expo", and I say "expo" with the quotes because it was really 6 tables of discounted gear for sale and an area to buy Hot Chocolate branded clothing, and back to where we're staying. Time to focus on having a good carb load meal, getting off the legs and getting some rest.

The crew pre-race trying to stay warm
Race morning meant getting to Crystal City to hop on a bus out to the venue. You'd think the driver would know where to take us right? RIGHT? Wrong! The bus driver, driving a chartered bus the size of a city metro bus, didn't get lost once...but TWICE on the way to the race start! Ever seen a bus that big trying to make a u-turn? It is not pretty my friends, not fun either. It got to the point where the local area folks that were sitting up front were telling the driver how to get the race venue. Something in me should've thought this would foreshadowed the day's events but I sat and continued to sip water and stay hydrated and more importantly enjoy the warmth. Oh ya, I guess I forgot to mention that while it was a balmy low 50's day on Friday, it plunged down into the 30's on race day. Just outfreakingstanding! The bus finally arrives at the drop off point and we walk up to the staging area. Now, there are tents that are heated where people are setting up hot chocolate and the food for after...but nothing for the ten thousand people showing up to race. We're all just forced to stand in this open parking lot freezing out butts off. One highlight was finally getting to meet one of my fav Twitter buds Bo and in turn also met Mary and Elyssa. Misery loves company and we were providing each other ALOT of company.

For some reason the race decided it would be better to start and end the 5k before they STARTED the 15k. So, after sitting around all morning shivering in the cold...we got to do it for ANOTHER 30 minutes AFTER being put in our corrals, waiting for the 5k to finish. Honestly, by this point most of us were so mad we were warm from the anger! And the whole time the announcer keeps saying how we can bathe in chocolate when we're done because there's so much of that's worth the wait (more on that little crock of crap later in the old blog).

Well, at least I look fast
Finally we hear the gun and we're off. Within the 1st 1/8th of a mile the course is already turning back on itself on our way to not one but 4 turns to retrace our run in order to get the 15k mileage. Look, long distance runs are boring by nature but when it's over the same run course over and over again...during a race no less..count me out. Oh and this race just gets better. My favorite part was coming up on the first water station to volunteers pointing to and yelling "water/Gatorade on the table" as they sat on the side of the road!

To be honest it didn't get much better for the rest of the race. Most of the race entailed running down hills to then turn around and run right back up them. The best part was the turn around that happened in a gravel parking lot in the middle of nowhere...ya, good times.

Ok, crossed the finish in 66:23 averaging a 7:08 pace. Not bad I guess. I would've liked to be faster but to be honest, at mile 3 or 4 I just wanted the race over so I bit down and pushed through. I mean this blog was gonna be named "fueled by anger" afterall.

Once again, I did not put together a "smooth race" bouncing around with 7:16, 6:54, 7:04, 7:19, 7:37, 7:02, 7:32, 7:12 and 7:36 for my mile splits which ended up giving me a 7:08 overall pace. I attribute most of that to the terrain. The course was just never flat long enough for me to get into any kind of rhythm. So, race done, linked up with the crew and headed to the much sought after chocolate. Another disappointment. Not only did we not get unlimited chocolate as promised (a small plate of a pretzel stick, a marshmallow, a little rice crispie square, 3 pieces of apple and a small cup of hot chocolate was all we got) but we were herded by megaphone wielding people telling us to "not stop and gather" and "keep moving". Really? We just got done running a poorly executed race while you stood around and now we can't even enjoy the after race party?!

Goodbyes said it was time to get back to where we're we staying. The shuttles to get back had a line with a 2 1/2 hour wait and DC suspended bus service to the area so the only way back was $40+ cab ride back to Georgetown. Just so you know it's not just me, you can find articles about the race here and here. It was so bad it made the D.C. press! As of yet the organizers haven't offered a refund or taken responsibility for a terrible event (oh ya, I forgot to mention that traffic and organization of the event were so bad that even starting an hour late some people were still stuck in traffic and unable to make it to the start!). I'm up to try another 15k race but it will never be by one sponsored by Running Away Multisport (ironic name I know).