Confessions of a Sandbagging Half Marathoner: A Richmond Race Report

If you run an exciting new half marathon PR, but your name is nowhere to be found in the official race results did that exciting new half marathon PR really happen? Unfortunately, this is not a rhetorical question. It is what happened to me last weekend at the Richmond Half Marathon, my goal race for the fall season. The nice people at Sports Backers, the organization responsible for the timing of the Richmond race assure me that they are hard at work resolving this issue, so I’m optimistic that someday there may be official documentation that my new half marathon PR does actually exist. In the meantime, I will regale you with a little Richmond race report according to my personal recollections and the data on my Garmin.

Photographic evidence that I did in fact run the Richmond Half Marathon, and that I sometimes run with my eyes closed. I thought the word "proof" stamped across the pictures was a nice touch.

Photographic evidence that I did in fact run the Richmond Half Marathon, and that I sometimes run with my eyes closed. I thought the word “proof” stamped across the pictures was a nice touch.

But First, the Back-story…

I settled on a half marathon for my goal race this season for several reasons: Most importantly, I have a serious marathon bad luck streak that needs to be broken. Yes, in case you missed it, my 2012 fall goal race was the New York City Marathon (cancelled), and the A race for spring 2013 was Boston (bombed). I figured I would do major marathons everywhere a favor and take a season off in hopes of eradicating the Ellen-signs-up-for-a-major-marathon-and-bad-things-happen phenomenon once and for all. I sincerely hope it worked, because if all goes according to plan, I’ll be toeing the line in Hopkinton again this April. And speaking of Boston, since getting over the qualifying hump turned out to be a little tougher than I anticipated, I’ve spent the last 3 years training for marathon after marathon as I chased the BQ and finally checked the world’s oldest annual marathon off the bucket list. Needless to say, my body and brain were probably due for break from marathoning. So I set my sights for fall 2013 on blowing the doors off my old 13.1 PR of 1:32:58. I settled on a goal time of 1:29:59 because being able to say “My half marathon PR is 1:29: xx just sounds waaaayyy faster than saying “My half marathon PR is 1:30: xx.” Also, I felt that breaking 90 minutes seemed ambitious, but not unattainable. And thus “1:29:59 or bust!” has been my battle cry for this season’s training.

This is horrible. I mean… What a great challenge!

When we woke up on Saturday morning it was raining. A lot. This was weird because various weather apps on 4 different smart phones assured us that there was ABSOLUTELY ZERO % CHANCE of rain in the area at that moment in time, and yet it was undoubtedly falling from the sky. This threw a major wrench in the warm up plans for the Durham Oiselle Team/ Bull City Track Club contingency. As the intensity of the rain increased we eighty-sixed our warm up/ bag check strategies all together and huddled up in a little coffee shop near the start line with a new goal of staying as dry and warm as possible until time to go. “This is horrible!” exclaimed my (almost) always-optimistic teammate Jen as we watched what was now nothing short of a torrential downpour drench the hoards of garbage bag and plastic poncho clad runners that scurried by outside our coffee shop window. I got a few good LOLs as Jen quickly corrected her negative statement with “I mean… What a great challenge!” At about 15 minutes until gun time we decided that we could no longer postpone the inevitable, so we left the coffee shop and set out for bag check and the most frenzied warm-up jog ever. It was an action-packed little shake-out run that featured exciting guest appearances by @FoodosaurusRex, one of my favorite Oiselle Team tweeters, Kim Chapman Page, who is the coolest boss ever because she recently allowed me to launch (and also participated in!) a wear-your-prom-dress-to-work-revolution, and Nan Lujan who is essentially the esteemed president of the Bull City Running Co. women’s running community. I finally made my way to the corral towards the end of the National Anthem, and even had time to make friends with some people wearing Raleigh/ Durham race shirts before the gun went off.

The Part Where I Actually Tell You about the Race…

To run 13.1 miles in 1:29:59, one must maintain an average pace of 6:52 per mile. I’m not gonna lie, the thought of running that many miles at a sub-7 pace scared the shit out of me as I stood on the start line. I had a mostly great training cycle that yielded new PRs in all sorts of shorter distances from the mile to the 10K, and I’d been hitting paces in my Vo2max and Lactate Threshold workouts like a boss. However, I did little to no sustained mileage at half marathon goal pace and running 6:52 for the entire distance seemed pretty daunting. My plan instead was to go out at around 7:00 min pace, maintain it through the 10K, and then think about hauling ass. This way, barring any severe blow up or crisis, I would be set up for a new PR, even if I didn’t hit the stretch goal. This was the plan that I advertised to anyone who asked, anyway. But in my mind, going out 7:00 pace, and more importantly having to speed up after running 7:00 pace for 6.2 miles still seemed intimidating. So I secretly told myself that I could live with it if there were a couple of 7:05 or even 7:10 splits up in the mix, although I resolved that anything slower than 7:15 was absolutely unacceptable. I knew if I could make it to 9 miles feeling good I could bust out 4 miles at my LT pace (6:40 ish) like it was no big deal, so I started conservatively and hoped for the best.

I cruised through mile 1 in precisely 6:52 and congratulated myself for nailing the goal pace right off the bat. I also spotted Allie somewhere in that first mile and waved enthusiastically while I swore to her that this would be the only time today when I would wave. Prior to the race I received stern talking-tos from pretty much every running coach/ mentor/ guru-type-person I know who has ever observed me running race with explicit instructions to curb my spirited spectator interaction habits in lieu increasing my focus on running and executing my race strategy.

Looking fast and fab at mile 1. These are the only pics you'll see of me waving at this race, I swear.

Looking fast and fab at mile 1. These are the only pics you’ll see of me waving at this race, I swear. (Photo Credit: Allie Bigelow)

Somewhere in mile 2, one of my new Raleigh running friends from the start line pulled up to me and struck up a conversation. This caused me some minor feelings of anxiety and moral dilemma because there is absolutely nothing I love more than talking while running, and conversing with friendly random strangers has historically been among the things I enjoy most about racing. (Or perhaps I should say it has been one of the things I enjoy most about participating in races.) The problem was that I had promised all of those same people who got on my case about the waving thing that I would also refrain from chatting my face off during the race so I could just get shit done. My new friend asked what my goal for the day was and I sheepishly told him I was hoping to break 1:30 as a 7:10 mile split flashed up on my watch. I reminded myself that this pace was the absolutely slowest I was allowed to go today, and recited the Team Shittens motto a few times in my head as I dropped my mile 2 BFF with as much subtly as I could muster.

Channeling this little nugget of motivation from Kara at mile 2.

Channeling this little nugget of motivation from Kara at mile 2.

Shortly after clearing the third mile in 7:11 (Yikes!) yet another fellow runner pulled up and asked me if we had gone through mile 3 yet. I told her that we had, and when she asked what my goal was I mumbled something about 1:32 to 1:30 ish, already starting to let go of the dream and feeling strangely annoyed by my popularity on the course thus far. As it turns out, my 2nd new friend of the day, Maria, was also hoping to run something in that ballpark, and she announced that she would just tag along with me for a while since we had compatible goals and I was highly visible in my cheery yellow arm warmers and bright orange compression socks. Again, this made me feel a little anxious, since my primary objective was to stay mentally focused, but I liked Maria’s eye for style and I figured with the way things were going so far I might be needing some company to keep my mind off the suffering later. As it turned out, Maria was a perfectly delightful ball of energy from Richmond who knew the course like the back of her hand. I was very grateful for her mile by mile “what to expect when you are running the Richmond Half Marathon” commentary. And apparently she is kind of a big deal in the local running community because she got all the cheers and side fives as we ran by. I imagined that we were in Durham, and that her fans were my fabulous local running community cheering for me.

At mile 4 the course did this out and back thing where you could see the lead pack coming down the other side of the street. I yelled heartily for Heidi and then Jen as they sped by (Whoops. I temporarily forgot that no yelling was also a critical part of my race strategy), and Maria commented on how strong and speedy my friends looked. I ran 7:04 for mile 4 and 7:08 for mile 5. This was the part where I told myself that I needed to start working a little harder or 1:29:59 most definitely would not be happening. I let Maria go for a little bit, and I guess this helped me find a little more focus because miles 6 and 7 were 7:01 and 6:59 respectively. That’s more like it.

But then we hit the only significant hill on the course to speak of and I ran another 7:09, convincing myself once and for all that today was not my day to break 90 minutes. I figured my pace was crap, so I might as well shift the focus to having as much fun as possible, which meant…you guessed it…time to chat up more random strangers! Conveniently, I spotted the other half the Raleigh couple from way back at the start line. I pulled up to her and struck up the standard “What local races have you done recently?” convo, but she politely announced that she needed to drop back, which may or may not have been a nice way to say “Please leave me alone, I’m trying to run an effing race here.”

In any event, that Raleigh gal did me a tremendous favor by deflecting my chatting attempts, because that was when I had a major epiphany. I realized that I had made it to mile 9, the mile where I was supposed to drop the hammer. I was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that 1:29:59 was officially off the table, but I figured I might as well not run the last 4 miles of the race like an utter lazy douche bag, so I reverted back to my original game plan to pick things up. I clocked a 6:57 for the 9th mile split. Sigh. Still above goal pace, but at least it was sub-7. I decided that owed it to myself and all the people who put time into sharing their training expertise with me this training cycle to at least take a shot at running the last 3 miles at goal pace. Furthermore, as I began mile 10 I realized that despite (or perhaps because of) many miles of piddling and lollygagging I was suddenly feeling pretty awesome. I nailed the 6:52 for mile 10 and continued to gain momentum in mile 11 with a 6:46.

Allie was waiting for me at mile 12 holding the sweetest, most thoughtful sign made for me by her son, who is my 8 year old BFF. This little display of support boosted me to a 6:33 split for mile 12. I was feeling pretty unstoppable and not at all like shit at this point, and friends, that is the surest sign that you didn’t run the first 9 miles of your half marathon anywhere near fast enough.

The best sign, held by the best support crew/ best sign-maker's mom.

The best sign, held by the best support crew/ best sign-maker’s mom.

The best sign-maker, my fellow thumbs up photography enthusiasts, and  8 yr old BFF, Zachary Bigelow.

The best sign-maker, my fellow thumbs up photography enthusiast and 8 yr old BFF, Zachary Bigelow.

Now I was on a mission to make up as much time and stay as close to the original goal as possible. I had definitely missed the sub-1:30 boat, but maybe, just maybe I could at least keep it sub-1:31, and update my 13.1 PR to 1:30xx. The final mile was an all-out effort, and under any other circumstances I surely would have blown up in the first 800m. But by the grace of God, the last 1200m or so of the Richmond Half Marathon is a crazy-steep, raging downhill. I still don’t even understand how this happened, but somehow my shell-shocked quads managed to keep me upright and moving forward for an unheard of (at least for me) 5:57 for the final mile! (This may not sound like a big deal to you, but that is by far the fastest mile split my watch has ever seen in a race longer than 1 mile.)

I stopped my Garmin at 1:30:52 and 13.22 miles. Interestingly enough, my average pace for those 13.22 miles was, wait for it… 6:52. Aka, exactly the pace one must average for 13.1 miles in order run 1:29:59. I suppose we may never know for sure what my chip time was, and I am admittedly bummed at the thought of not being able to claim the new half marathon PR that I trained my arse off for on Athlinks, but I am also generally happy with my time, especially given my poor execution of the first 3/4’s of the race. I collected my swag, a lovely finisher’s medal and this totally bitchin’ Anthem Richmond Marathon fleece blanket, and headed out of the chute where my sweet Richmond-dwelling freshman-year-of-college roommate Cortney T. was waiting for me! (So, so fabulous to catch up with that girl!) We hung out and watched all my new half marathon besties, Maria and the cute, nice couple from Raleigh finish and then gave them some hugs and high fives. Somewhere in the midst of all of this we were reunited with Allie, Jen and Heidi. Fast, successful races were had by all at America’s friendliest half marathon!

Fleece blankets make for excellent race swag!

Fleece blankets make for excellent race swag!

My fab former roomie, Cortney T! She's the sweetest and the cutest!

My fab former roomie, Cortney T! She’s the sweetest and the cutest!

Lessons Learned…

My #1 take-away from Richmond is that I am fit enough and strong enough to break 1:30 in the half marathon. Everything about my training leading up to this race indicated that this was true. Sadly, when race day arrived I lacked the confidence to believe it. I ran an overly conservative race (at least for the first 9 miles), and (this part is tough to admit) purposefully distracted myself from the goal because I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I am 100% prepared to get yelled at by a lot of people now that I have confessed this on the internet. It worked out pretty well in the end, but I suspect I would have run a significantly different (and by different I mean slower) time if it hadn’t been for that ridiculous downhill final mile. But the time that I did run indicates that the time I want to run is well within my capabilities, and fortunately my winter/ spring race calendar includes two more half marathons (Charleston, SC in January, and Virginia Beach in March.) I am really excited to see what I can do next with my new found confidence in my ability to hold a sub-7 average pace for 13.1 miles, improved race strategy execution, and maybe a few workouts that include sustained mileage at half marathon goal pace. And yes, I’ll probably also need some duct tape so I can keep my trap shut for the next one.

Also, I would highly recommend the Richmond Half Marathon to anyone who is looking for a fast, fun, congenial road race. The course allows you to run fast (if you can convince yourself to stop talking and just let your legs do the running), but the terrain is varied enough to avoid over-use of any particular group of muscles until you get to the last 800 to 1200m, which are a bit of a quad shredder. But don’t sweat it, that crazy downhill finish all but guarantees the fastest finishing mile splits of your life. Additionally, the race is large enough and competitive enough that I was surrounded by people at all times in the 1:35 to 1:30 pace group, but not so large that it ever for one moment felt crowded, stressful, or overwhelming. The course was also well-supported and well-spectated despite rainy weather. So if you live in the upper southeast or the lower mid-Atlantic and/or you are looking for a more low-key alternative to those wild and crazy major marathons next fall, sign up for Richmond! You won’t be disappointed.

Other Exciting Weekend Highlights…

Fantastically fun, highly efficient marathon spectating: After our merry band of half marathoners finished the race, snagged some free pizza, and orchestrated a large-scale clothes changing operation that involved and intricate network of “changing forts” fashioned out of fleece finishers’ blankets, we high-tailed it out to the marathon course in hopes of catching a glimpse of a few of friends who took on the 26.2. And boy, did we time that shit to the tee! In the brief 20 minute existence of our Shittens-themed cheer station at approximately mile 22 we spotted the following marathon super-stars…

  •  Morgan: My pre-school/ high school buddy who crushed his marathon debut, as well as his stretch goal of beating my current marathon PR.
  •  Sarah K.: My darling little Bull City Running Co. co-worker, who ran a sweet new sub-3:30 PR which doubled as a Boston Qualifier! Booyah!
  •  Rich: Bull City Running Co. Marathon Training Program alumni, and creator/ wearer of what was bar-none the most hilarious custom race bib I’ve ever seen. #nosharting

And as if all of this wasn’t enough to constitute the greatest marathon spectating experience ever, we also met a cop who loves Shittens, and this happened… Winning!

EVERYONE loves Shittens! Even cops!

EVERYONE loves Shittens! Even cops!

Watching Bigs race with the big dogs: On Sunday I had the pleasure of cheering Allie to a 2nd place Master’s Women finish at the .US Road Racing National Championships in Alexandria! We celebrated her national championship level success with a trip to IKEA on the way home to NC.

Bigs races her way to age group national championship victory and earns herself a trip to IKEA!

Bigs races her way to age group national championship victory and earns herself a trip to IKEA!

Cheering the Pros to some new world records: While Allie was hard at work out on the race course, I was busy cheering the elite super-fasties to new world record victory. So thrilling and inspiring to watch Molly and Shalene (both of whom we got to meet the day before) KILLING IT down the home stretch! Holy crap, those gals can FLY!

Molly is chasing the world record (spoiler alert: she caught it!), and Shalene is chasing Molly.

Molly is chasing the world record (spoiler alert: she caught it!), and Shalene is chasing Molly.

That time when Shalene Flanagan was sitting in the booth behind us at Bertucci's and we took a stalker-riffic photo. That's me, but my face has bee obscured to protect my identity and to spare you the very unflattering chewing face I'm making underneath that black blob.

That time when Shalene Flanagan was sitting in the booth behind us at dinner and we took a stalker-riffic photo. That’s me, but my face has been obscured to protect my identity and to spare you the very unflattering chewing face I’m making underneath that black blob. (Photo Credit: Allie Bigelow)

Shout out to Jeff Caron, legendary Saucony tech rep to the stars for the casual-cool hotel lobby Molly Huddle introduction, and sorry we interrupted your dinner at Bertucci’s, Shalene.

All things considered, last weekend was pretty much the perfect little Virginia running road trip get-away! It was so much fun to run with, cheer for, and catch up with so many great people! Many thanks and much love to all of you who were a part of it!

Did YOU run a big, exciting goal race this fall? Tell me all about it! I bet you kicked ass and it was awesome!

Advertisements

Hot Dog! We Have A Wiener!!!

Who knew that all you had to do to have a successful internet giveaway contest was embarrass yourself on the Internet for all of eternity?! You guys and gals definitely out-did yourselves with the caption contest and, as much as we would love to keep the free pair of Oiselle Flyte Shorts for ourselves, we sadly have to anoint a winner.

BUT FIRST! There was that little head-to-head contest between Grumplesiggy and RunFastandFab over who rocks the Flyte Shorts better. And man, was it a close one. RunFastandFab pulled out to the early lead, but Grumplesiggy valiantly fought his way back to within a few votes. With a final push on Monday afternoon, while Grumplesiggy was recovering from a long weekend of cheering on 50,000 of his closest friends at the NYC Marathon, RunFastandFab ran away from her male pursuant with a final tally of 69-49. Even though Grumplesiggy lost, we’re all fairly certain that he isn’t too torn up about having to buy RunFastandFab another pair of Flyte Shorts. I mean, she did look pretty good in them, right? As always, in the battle of sexes, women rule the day.

And now (drumroll please) the caption contest. Who will win the coveted pair of Flyte Shorts to show off his/her LBA to the world at large?? After much deliberation between Grumplesiggy and RunFastandFab (seriously, there were even threats of *gasp* phone calls!), the winner is:

“Did some say in-Flyte entertainment?”

Because, really, who doesn’t love a good pun? Congratulations @onplanetjenny for the huge win. One quick caveat here: as part of your victory, you’re gonna have to snap a few model poses and send them along. Because it’s not the Flyte Short Revolution unless everyone is embarrassing themselves. RunFastandFab will get in touch for you to receive your prize.

Thank you to everyone who participating in the Who Wore It Better poll and in the caption contest. And a HUGE thank you to Oiselle for providing some swag. Until the next time we decide to make a [blog] baby…

Yours in LBA,
RunFastandFab & Grumplesiggy

The Great Flyte Short Walk-Off: RunFastandFab vs. Grumplesiggy

Great news, fans and friends! Your two favorite Oiselle shorts bloggers, @grumplesiggy of  ”A Siegfried Runs” and @RunFastandFab of  ”The Fast and the Fabulous” have joined forces to bring you the most fantastically amazeballs blog giveaway contest in the history of social media! Read on to find out how enter to win awesome Oiselle swag, and get pumped! This is guaranteed to be life changing.

The Back Story, In Case You Missed It:

Grumplesiggy and RunFastandFab ”met” several months ago on the Internet when they wrote parallel blog reviews of the Oiselle Stride short (aka Spandex Shorts Nirvana). Instantly they became blog BFFL, and today they own practically identical Oiselle wardrobes**. In the unlikely event that you haven’t already read the posts that brought these two crazy Oiselle shorts super-fans together, you can check out her’s here and his here.

RunFastandFab has been rocking her scrumptiously comfortable, hella-sporty, shorty-short Flyte shorts for fast races and workouts all over town for quite sometime now. Grumplesiggy, on the other hand, hemmed and hawed on these for awhile, pulling the old “come on I’m a dude!” excuse for weeeeeks, but finally pulled the trigger on joining the Flyte Shorts Revolution (#FSR; review forthcoming!). We wanted to celebrate our new discovery (ie. that fact that we now officially own all the same Oiselle shorts), but we couldn’t quite put our finger on how. Then we heard that superwoman (and Oiselle Founder/CEO) @oiselle_sally was heading to NYC, with Oiselle corp dev queen @drlesko in tow. We were really sad at the thought that they’d be in NYC with no fashion show to speak of this time around. We knew what we had to do: IT’S A WALK OFF!

v=WzCZfJlSWEM&t=10m42s

Our little contest celebrates and commemorates many things… Taking pride in embracing our lower butt areas (#LBA), Oiselle’s groundbreaking fashion show at NYC Fashion Week, and the return of our running style icons, @Oiselle_Sally and @drlesko to The Big Apple this weekend to take on the NYC Marathon and Dash to the Line 5K, respectively (barring any last minute cancellations, of course). Being Superwoman, Sally has been raising money for Every Mother Counts through her NYC Marathon training. You have, oh, 48 or so hours left to donate, so before you keep reading, go over there and donate to this amazing charity: http://www.crowdrise.com/EveryMotherCountsNYC2013/fundraiser/sallybergesen

OMG, How Do I Enter this Blog Giveaway Contest of the Century/Millennium???

Since you seem to enjoy our blogs, you are most likely an avid US Weekly reader and probably even vote in their Who Wore It Better feature. With that in mind, here’s how our walk off will work: We (RunFastandFab and Grumplesiggy) spent the weekend (embarrassingly enough) building our portfolios and snapping our best Flyte Shorts modeling shots. Below you will find 3 pairs of mind-blowingly hilarious/awkward/offensive-to-our-readers’-eyeballs photos of us in our respective Flyte shorts.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it is to write a clever, witty, generally fantastic photo caption telling us Who Wore [the shorts] Better. You may respond in the “comments” section of this blog post (which is cross-posted on both blogs; commenting on either one will work), or via Twitter to @RunFastandFab and @grumplesiggy (hashtagging it with #FSR). The writer of the most brilliant caption that makes us laugh the hardest will win…wait for it…drum roll…… THEIR VERY OWN PAIR OF DELICIOUSLY COMFORTABLE, BORDERLINE SCANDALOUSLY SHORT, BUT IN GOOD WAY (seriously, see below) FLYTE SHORTS, courtesy of Oiselle!!! Boom! That just happened!

You have from today (Thursday, 10/31) until Monday, 11/4 to submit your phenomenal photo captions. By all means, get creative and definitely push the limits of appropriateness, but keep it smart and classy. Please don’t submit anything that is overtly vulgar and tasteless, or mean stuff that might make us cry (we’ll probably just delete it). Also, don’t forget to specify which photo your caption goes with, #1, #2, or #3. A single winner will be chosen on Wednesday, 11/6. You’ll be running in your Flyte shorts in time for your Turkey Trot.

We also have our own little contest, to be decided by you. We actually want to know who wore it better, loser buys the winner a pair of (Oiselle) shorts of his/ her choosing. So after viewing the pictures, vote in the poll at the end of the post. Was it RunFastandFab with her sultry calves or was it Grumplesiggy and his self-confidence while wearing what can only be described as women’s booty shorts?

Many thanks and much love to all of our fabulous readers and contest participants. We seriously love these shorts, so go buy a pair here, and please please please thank Sally for creating such a badass company by DONATING TO EMC.

May the best caption win!

#1

#2

#3

**RunFastandFab still leads the race for ownership of the most Oiselle sports bras, but Trials hoodies and shorts of all kinds are pretty much a dead tie. With winter coming, there’s a mad dash to see who will win on the arm-warmers front.

Everything is Fine… A Ragnar DC Odyssey.

Hey there, fast and fabulous friends! It’s been a while since I wrote a race report for you guys. I have been doing little races here and there all along, and some of them even went pretty well, but nothing really seemed like Fast and Fabulous caliber… Until last weekend when 11 of my favorite running BFFs and I, armed with a lifetime supply of Shittens, made awesomeness and glory rain down on Ragnar DC all the way from Cumberland to National Harbor. Before we go any further, you should know that I had been looking forward to this race for as long as I can remember, and it was everything that I dreamed it would be and more. Pair that with my affinity for writing borderline inappropriately long, adjective-intensive blog posts, and you’ve got yourself one long-ass race report. So hold on to your plush turkey  hats. You’ve been warned.

Clearly our reign of awesomeness and glory began long before the starting gun went off.

Clearly our reign of awesomeness and glory began long before the starting gun went off.

Showing our esteemed sponsor a little love in front of the Shittens-mobile, plus the obligatory jumping pic. (Not my best work, I know.)

Showing our esteemed sponsor a little love in front of the Shittens-mobile, plus the obligatory jumping pic. (Not my best work, I know.)

There are many moving parts to our #TeamShittens Ragnar DC Odyssey, but we’ll start with the running…

 Leg #3: 7.8 miles, 4 Road Kills, 1 Sweet New Belt Buckle

Holy balls, guys. This was a tough one. When we arrived to check in at the start line  all the volunteers were like “Who has leg #3? Oh, bless your heart!” I wondered if I should be legitimately concerned by this. Leg 3 was definitely advertised as being the toughest one of the race. It was rated “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” on the Ragnar Relay scale of “Easy” to” You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. As it turned out, this leg  was, in fact pretty dang tough for a number of reasons.

Reason number one being that it was effing hot as balls. For reals. It was undoubtedly 85 degrees or warmer. And just to make it extra fun, the first 2.5 miles or so of “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” were on a most un-scenic, freshly re-blacktopped, shade-free road which was littered with cigarette-smoking construction workers. Awesome. I was very interested to notice that this road seemed to parallel an interstate, seeing as there was very little interstate to be found the day before on our drive from Durham to Maryland. I also noted that my impressions of Maryland so far were that it was hilly and reeked of cows and road kill (and I don’t mean the good Ragnar kind of road kill, although I did score a few of those on this leg) but I digress…

Anyway, just when I thought this leg couldn’t get any suckier, the blue Ragnar directional signs sent me onto a remote dirt road and so began the great dust bowl of 2013. The heat got hotter, the hills got hillier, and the splits got hella-slow. I channeled Sheryl Sandberg as I leaned in to the hills and repeated our team mantra in my head. (I will refrain from actually writing the team mantra, as it contains adult language, but I’ve included a photo below that might help you figure it out.) Just as I started to long for my fuel belt, despite its decided uncoolness according to the survey from my last blog post,  a nice team hanging out at a turn off at the base of particularly gnarly hill offered me a bottle of water. I gladly took it, but after drinking a few sips, I regretted having this extra accoutrement to lug around. I strongly considered ditching the bottle, but just as I was about to chuck it, I spotted a sign that read “Littering: $1,000 Fine”. I thought $1,000 seemed like an extremely high price to pay for empty-handed running, so I soldiered on with the bottle. Shortly after the littering sign and just as my Garmin chirped off a mile split that started with a 10 (*cringe*), I crested a particularly heinous and dusty hill to the glorious sight of our Shittens-themed van and my fabulous cheering teammates. I felt like utter hell, but I managed to muster up a hearty fist pump, a mile split update, and a that’s what she said joke (you know, something about it being really hard), so I guess things could have been going worse.

Our team motto... BTW, no Oiselle 50/50 tees were harmed in the making of this shirt.

Our team mantra… BTW, no Oiselle 50/50 tees were harmed in the making of this shirt.

Feeling rough, but rocking the fist pump and refusing to give in to the evils of littering.

Feeling rough, but rocking the fist pump and refusing to give in to the evils of littering.

After another mile of climbing, I finally found the downhill I was so desperately seeking. I tried with all my might to get those last couple of miles down into the lactate threshold pace zone, both to make up time lost on that big ass climb, and because my running guru, Coach Bigs had prescribed at least 10 minutes at LT pace (which is 6:45ish for me) per leg. I successfully made up some serious time, and even added a couple more road kills to my total for the leg, but it wasn’t until the final flat .8 into the exchange zone that I managed to get a split that started with 6 on the watch.

I knew I was way off my goal time based on the 10K pace I had submitted for time projection purposes, and I was feeling a little down on myself as I handed off to Brittany.  But my spirits were instantly lifted by the encouraging words of my teammates, who lovingly wiped the copious amounts of dust from my face and limbs with Shittens while showering me with compliments. (Let me tell you friends, it just doesn’t get much better than being showered with Shittens and compliments at the same time!) And then a nice volunteer presented me  with a delightfully tacky Ragnar DC belt buckle for completing the hardest leg of the race! #Winning! Legs 2 and 3 promised to be much easier, so this was a tremendous relief! Go Team Shittens!

The dustiness, and the soul soothing Shittens shower that followed.

The dustiness, and the soul-soothing Shittens shower that followed.

Sporting my sweet belt buckle swag with my fab Van 1 teammates.

Sporting my sweet belt buckle swag with my fab Van 1 teammates.

Just in case you didn't believe me when I said it was dusty out there, here's and amazing picture of Sarah's teeth post-1st leg to prove it.

Just in case you didn’t believe me when I said it was dusty out there, here is an amazing picture of Sarah’s teeth post-1st leg to prove it.

Leg #14: 4.8 Miles, 8 Road Kills, 1 Kankle-Inducing Ankle Roll.

Go time for Leg 2! After a little down time which included but was not limited to a hearty rural West Virginia dinning experience filled with fascinating/ horrifying people watching, an after-dark photo shoot, and a fun chance meet up with Oiselle Teammate Steph G., I was ready to rock and roll all over my 2nd leg. The description read that it was essentially flat and easy, so I set out to make up some of those lost minutes at LT pace from leg 1.

You know, just keeping it real while we wait around for round two.

You know, just keeping it real while we wait around for round two.

Looking hella #flystyle as I contemplate the ass that is about to be kicked and the names that are about to be taken. Let's do this, leg 2!

Looking hella #flystyle as I contemplate the ass that is about to be kicked and the names that are about to be taken. Let’s do this, 2nd leg!

I warmed up with a couple of 7:20-something splits and then settled into some close-enough-to-LT- pace-for-me miles for next 2.78 (6:49, 6:45, 6:46 for the last .78). There is no doubt that those tempo-ish miles felt like work, but whateves. They’re supposed to feel like work, not to mention the fact that I had run through an epic uphill dust bowl just a few hours earlier,  as well as the fact that this run started at 11:11 pm, which is a far cry from my typical run time. (I know a lot of you people out there get pretty excited about those kind of numbers, so #omgiheartnumbers to that!)

Anyhoo, despite my higher-than-ideal rate of perceived of exertion, I started to feel like an awesome badass for mentally keeping my shit together enough to maintain something akin to my goal pace despite the bizarre relay circumstances. As a runner who historically struggles with the mental game side of training and racing this felt like a big win for me. My ego continued to inflate as I opened up a sizable gap on this dude who was clearly bound and determined that he would not be chicked by me. We had been engaging in a little back and forth passing game for the better part of a mile or so when I finally wore him down, crushed his dreams, and broke his spirit as I added him to my growing list of road kills. I must have lost focus while I was high- fiving myself and signing Queen’s “We are the Champions” and that “All I Do is Win” rap song  simultaneously in my head, because shortly after leaving Mr. I-would-sooner-die-than-get-passed-by-a-girl in the dust I rolled the ever-loving crap out of my ankle on a rogue littered beer can. I couldn’t help but feel super-annoyed by this since I had gone to great lengths to maintain good anti-littering karma during my previous leg, but I suppose I was due for a great moment of humility. I’ve done enough rolling of the ankles while running to know that there are two types of ankle rolls: The standard kind that are like “Oh, no big deal. I’ll just take a few seconds to walk this off and it will be fine,” and the far less common “Yikes, my ankle is going to be the size of my face tomorrow!” variety. I knew right away that this was the latter, but there was no effing way in hell that I was going to let that guy reclaim my hard-fought road kill victory. You best believe that my freshly minted kankle and I continued hauling arse towards the exchange zone, maintaining our sub-7 pace like it was our job, because that’s just how we do here at Team Shittens.  In your face road kill dude!

That's the knakle finishing up our second leg like a boss, and then being a whiny little you-know-what after the race.

That’s the knakle finishing up our second leg like a boss, and then being a whiny little you-know-what after the race.

Please let my Ragnar DC second leg experience be a reminder to all of you that littering is bad for many reasons, one such reason being that it could contribute to the kankling of perfectly innocent, well-meaning nighttime  runners. Don’t do it!

Leg #26: 3.2 Miles, 4 Road Kills, 1 Frustrating Traffic Stop.

After a rest period that included all the ice packs, ibuprofen and compression socks,  a few hundred trips to the porta potty, a sleeping-turned-unintentional-spooning session in a wet sleeping bag with my college BFF , and some life changing photo booth shenanigans it was time for the 3rd and final leg of Ragnar DC. And you bet your Shittens I was ready for it.

Legendary 5 am photo booth shenanigans!

Legendary 5 am photo booth shenanigans!

My ankle was definitely swollen, but not to the point of severe alarm. Since it didn’t hurt to put weight on it, my plan was to take it easy and do only what I had to do to get through it so I could be done once and for all. When my spooning buddy Cat hauled into the exchange zone and handed off to me I took off and quickly decided that the kankle was not effecting my running game. Instantly my new goal became to get this over with as fast as humanly possible. I rolled through the 1st mile in just over 7, and mile 2 was my fastest of the entire Ragnar experience at 6:37. The final mile of my 3.2 mile leg was slightly uphill, which slowed me back down to 6:57. Then I very nearly threw a temper tantrum when I was stopped by a crossing guard at the last busy intersection separating  me from the final .2 of my leg and the exchange zone. I was made to stand still for several minutes in clear view of the finish  waiting for the light to change. (Seriously, whose brilliant idea was it to put the exchange zone on the far side of a busy intersection anyway?!) These were the longest several minutes of my life. I asked the crossing guard when the light would be changing and if I could go yet at least once every 5 seconds. (Very adult and rational of me, I know.) At long last that glorious little white stick figure guy popped up on the crosswalk sign and I bolted across the street and into the exchange, but not before  my average pace for the whole leg slipped from the 6s into the 7s. Thanks for nothing, DC area traffic. But it was oh-so-fabulous to be done, and the kankle didn’t seem to slow me down, so all is well that ends well.

Van 1 celebrates being done with hugs, jumping pics, and a rad new Speedo-wearing friend.

Van 1 celebrates being done with our share of the running with hugs, jumping pics, and a rad new Speedo-wearing friend.

An infinite number of laughs, photo shoots, pretzels, Swedish fish,Tums, Gatorade, Picky Bars, and Shittens later our final runner crossed the finished line at National Harbor with  24:41 on the clock and enough road kills to bring our team total to over 200! I take great pride and joy in reporting to you that this was good enough to clinch the win in the Regular Women’s Open division, and an 11th place finish overall! Victory, all the bragging rights, and those sweet golden Ragnar batons that they mail out to the winners are ours! In other exciting and possibly less surprising news, we also won the team spirit award thanks to all of that great social media hype that you surely enjoyed experiencing during the race, and of course, our hilariously novel yet highly functional miracle product sponsor, Shittens.

#TeamShittens crosses the finish line in yet another blaze of awesomeness and glory.

#TeamShittens crosses the finish line in yet another blaze of awesomeness and glory.

Celebrating all the road kills with all the pizza and beer.

Celebrating all the road kills and all the winning with all the pizza and beer.

Other Cool Ragnar DC Stuff Worth Mentioning…

A Shittens Shout-Out: Before I conclude this post, I would like to send out a big mitten-shaped wet wipe-clad high-five to the awesome people who created Shittens. Our our unbelievably organized and on-the-ball team captain, Kara discovered this little gem of a bathroom product on a hilarious celebrity gossip blog by the name of Dlisted. Our running group was so enamored by the concept of Shittens that we sent their customer service department a compelling email about our platform for promoting their product in the running community. And lo and behold, they sent us AN ENTIRE CASE to use and distribute to the masses at the race! Talk about awesome swag win of the millennium!

As it turns out, Shittens really are  well, you know… the shit. We found myriad uses for them on our Ragnar DC adventure from errrr, their intended purpose to shower substitutions to cleaning dust and marker off the van post-race. And their fresh, lemon-y scent is truly divine. Visit getshittens.com and checkout the fun little jingle below to learn more about this versatile, ingenious, hilarious product!

Showcasing Shittens' versatility and sharing the mitten-shaped wet wipe gospel with our fellow Ragnarians. Obviously everyone agreed that Shittens are the shit.

Showcasing Shittens’ versatility and sharing the mitten-shaped wet wipe gospel with our fellow Ragnarians. Obviously everyone agreed that Shittens are the shit.

If You Haven’t Done a Relay Race, You’re Doing it Wrong: Speaking of things that are the shit, I really just can’t say enough about how much freaking fun these overnight relay races are. For reals y’all, whether your are in the company of people who are already your BFFs or that of perfect strangers who you only previously knew from Twitter, nothing brings people together like the folly and animated discussions of bodily functions that happen when you put a bunch of runners in a van, feed them only bagels, bananas, and Immodium, and deprive them of sleep for two days. To quote the wise and profound Taylor Swift,” it’s miserable and magical.” But mostly magical. I honestly do not have the words to describe all the love I have for my fabulous, hilarious, witty, inspiring, beautiful Team Shittens teammates and how much epic fun we had together. All the hugs and high fives to you, Kara, Caren, Sarah, Cat, Brittany, Kate, Kim, Liz, Jennifer, Gretchen, and Kathryn!  We totally rocked the Shittens out of that race, and I can think of another group of people I would rather spend 24 + sweaty, shower-less hours in a van with! Let’s do this again as soon as possible!

Thanks for a most amazeballs weekend, Team Shittens! Xoxoxo!

Thanks for a most amazeballs weekend, Team Shittens! Xoxoxo!

Also, much love to all you Oiselle birds I ran into out there! It’s pretty cool when someone just walks up and hugs you because the two of you are wearing matching outfits, and that happened several times at Ragnar DC. It was such a treat meeting Steph G., Steph D., and Michelle, and I was super-bummed that I missed Nicole, but proud of her for nailing some serious finish line jumping pics in her fly pink tutu!

Feeling the Ragnar DC Oiselle love! (Photo Credit: StephD. and Michelle.)

Feeling the Ragnar DC Oiselle love! (Photo Credits: StephD. and Michelle.)

And mad props to the people at Ragnar for putting on a great race! I shutter to think about what a logistical nightmare it must be to coordinate an event like this, and this specific race was further complicated with last-minute route modifications thanks to the government shutdown. Through it all the Ragnar staff and race volunteers remained friendly, upbeat, organized, communicative. I have done several other relays races of this sort, and this was certainly one of the most organized and congenial I have ever encountered. Cheers to Ragnar DC’s party atmosphere, its baller bottle opener finishers medals (I think these may double as some sort of ninja weaponry?), and the fact that was there was plentiful pizza, beer, and general merriment for all at the finish line. If you have not yet checked the overnight relay race off your running bucket list you need to stop doing it wrong and sign up for one post-haste! You surely will not regret it! Only 2 weeks and counting until the next Ragnar adventure! Hold on to your Shittens, Team NUUNapalooza! Ragnar Tennessee is sure to be a wild ride!

To Fuel Belt or Not to Fuel Belt? That is the Question.

Howdy y’all! It’s that time of year again… Fall marathon training is in full swing, but the summer heat and humidity haven’t let up and (at least where I live) they most likely won’t for another month or so.  As your mileage creeps up, how are you going to stay hydrated? I think it’s high time we addressed the general fastness and fabulousness (or lack there of) the fuel belt in order keep you not only well-hydrated, but looking as cool as possible in those final long running of your fall training cycle.

My Personal Fuel Belt Story:

There  was a time not so long ago when I subscribed to the fuel belt doctrine. As a well-established part-time running store employee I am accustomed to having every possible running accessory under the sun at my disposal, and I honestly thought the fuel belt was just another legitimate essential of marathon training. I trained and raced with it regularly without giving it a second thought. I never considered my fuel belt to be particularly comfortable or stylish, but I did fancy it to be a means of liberation from utter dehydration, the dreaded “wall”, and congested race course water stations. After completing two marathons with what I felt to be two decently mediocre times, my fuel belt and I decided to take on qualifying for Boston. When I missed the qualifier in two consecutive attempts, my amazing, much-faster-than-me running friends  from near and far joined forces and cooked up a large-scale marathon intervention to make sure I got the BQ once and for all.  Needless to say, their master plan involved pacing me, which meant being seen running with me in public. And that is when they set me down and lovingly gave me what will forever be known as “The Fuel Belt Talk”.

That's me rocking the fuel belt in marathons gone by, and making it look damn good if I do say so myself.

That’s me rocking the fuel belt in marathons gone by, and making it look damn sexy if I do say so myself.

My goal for race day was not just to hit the BQ, but to beat it by 5 minutes in order to increase my odds of actually securing a spot at Boston with the 5 minute priority registration cushion. For me this meant running 3:30. On the eve of my third-time’s-the-charm BQ attempt, my dear friend and esteemed running mentor (who just so happens to be a total running bad-ass and 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon finisher) pulled me aside for a little pre-race debriefing. She put her hand on my shoulder, looked me square in the eye, and said to me in a gentle, yet firm voice “Ellen, people who run 3:30 marathons DO NOT wear fuel belts. And NO ONE was wearing a fuel belt in the Olympic Trials Marathon.” I recall looking at her wide-eyed with surprise and thinking to myself ” How the eff did the entire field of the Olympic Trials Marathon make it through 26.2 miles without withering into dehydration despair if they weren’t wearing fuel belts?”  Up until this moment I had honestly assumed that hydration belts were a universal truth of marathon training for everyone from the 6 hour marathoner all the way up to Kara and Shalene.

I know that in marathon training and in life, it is above all important to know thy self, and to avoid comparing yourself to others (especially when you run 3:30 marathons and “others” are people who competed in the Olympic Trials)”, but I am here to tell you that the moment those fateful words rolled off my wise and speedy running idol’s tongue I swore off racing with the fuel belt forever and never looked back.  To think that I had been running around for all this time looking like a total marathon newb! I still cringe a little when I think about it…

Bring home the BQ and a big, shiny new PR in my first marathon sans fuel belt!

Bring home the BQ and a big, shiny new PR in my first marathon sans fuel belt!

Since “The Fuel Belt Talk” I have belted up on a few particularly hot, humid, extra-long long runs here and there, but with time my once faithful hydration sidekick has faded into near obscurity in my training as well. This leads me to wonder how the general running public perceives and embraces the fuel belt, and what is thought to be the least lame/ most social acceptable means of long run hydration these days.

Survey Says…

And so I took it upon myself to poll my trusted running community. With help of a Survey Monkey savvy friend, I whipped up the  fun little “Feelings About Fuel Belts” survey below and mercilessly pestered the runners of my social media feeds and local run club email distribution list to complete it. As you review the results below, keep the following things in mind…

A Few Disclaimers First… 

  • This was an anonymous survey that did not define participants’ gender, running abilities or the duration of their long runs.
  • As I write this post, a whopping 61  people have completed this survey. (That might not sound like a lot to you, but I was actually pretty pumped about this response. I figured I might get 12 responses if I was lucky.)
  • I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty dang confident that the results below reflect the views of a cross-section of runners that includes 2 hour + half marathoners, sub-3 hour marathoners, ultra-marathoners, and plenty of paces and abilities in between.
  • In all likelihood, the majority of people who completed this survey live and run in the hot, humid Southeastern US.

The Findings:

Question 1:  Which of the statements below best describes your general feelings about fuel belts…
  •  6.78 of survey participants  answered (A) My fuel belt is my favorite training BFF! I almost never run without it!
  •   35.59% of survey participants answered (B) I appreciate my fuel belt’s functionality and the hydration liberation that it offers. I don’t take it on every run, but it is clutch for any and all of my longer distance stuff!
  • 25.42% of survey participants answered (C) My fuel belt is kind of drag, but every now and then I have to swallow my pride and bust it out for really super-long and/ or super-hot running activities.
  • 32.20% of survey participants answered  (D) Fuel belts are effing lame and I would sooner die of dehydration and shame than be caught wearing one.
 Question 2: If you do believe in fuel belts, what distance, temperature, or combination of the two warrants using one?
  • 38.71% of participants who answered this question would wear a fuel belt on runs as short as 5 miles IF the temperature was 90 degrees or greater.
  • 38.10% of participants who answered this question would rock their fuel belts on 10 + mile runs, regardless of the temperature.
  • 51.43% of participants agreed that the fuel belt is a must for runs longer 15 miles, no matter the temperature.
  • 66.67 % of participants who answered this question indicated that no distance was long enough to warrant the shame of the fuel belt.
  • 50% of participants who answered this question selected “I don’t care if I am running on the surface of the sun. I am NOT WEARING a damn fuel belt.”

*I got a little crazy with the Survey Monkey and made this question a multiple choice matrix something-or-other. It allowed people to choose more than one answer, which they clearly did and/or I got all confused in interpreting the results (understanding numbers has never be my strong suit), as all the percentages listed here obviously add up to something greater than 100%.

Question 3:  Would you wear a fuel belt in a race or only for training?
  • 33.90% of participants who answered this question chose (A) Both! Ain’t nobody got time for those crazy congested water stops at crowded races!
  • 42.37% chose (B) Only training! Racing in a fuel belt is so Busch League!
  • 23.73% chose (C) Neither! I already told you that fuel belts are lame!
Question 4: For all you hardcore fuel belt haters out there, how do you avoid utter dehydration sans belt and where do you stash all your other crap? (i.e. car keys, gels, etc.)
  • 63.16%  of participants use a handheld water bottle in lieu of the fuel belt.
  • 31.58% use a hydration pack. (Shocking! I always thought those were only for mountain biking and adventure racing!)
  • 47.37% plan routes with water stops/ water fountains so they can leave the fuel belt at home.
  • 10.53% stash gels and small personal items in their sports bras. (I think this percentage may be a little skewed because some people who completed this survey were most likely dudes.)
  • 5.26% pin gels to the inside waistband of their shorts for long runs and races.
I took the liberty of showcasing a few socially acceptable fuel belt alternative options just for you!

I took the liberty of showcasing a few socially acceptable fuel belt alternative options just for you!

In Conclusion…
I’m not gonna lie, I thought that most everyone who filled out the survey would be all like “Hell to the no, I don’t use a fuel belt! Those are for losers!”  And don’t get me wrong, this sentiment was certainly present in my findings, but as it turns out, despite the fact the fuel belts are shunned by elites per my Olympic Trials friend, the majority of my surveyed population agrees that they do have a place in one’s training program.
Furthermore, it seems safe to assume that fuel belts are generally considered to be more socially acceptable for training  as opposed to racing use, although use in races is not out of the question for particularly crowded races, particularly hot races, and/or runners with specific nutrition sensitivities.
The handheld water bottle seems to be embraced as a less dorky, more fashion forward, and less annoying hydration alternative to the fuel belt for longer, hotter runs and races. The hydration pack was also a surprisingly socially acceptable fuel belt alternative.
Also, Survey Monkey is the bomb, and surveying your friends is a great reminder of how smart, witty, thoughtful, and hilarious they are. I highly recommend it!
In the end, I suppose it all comes down to this: If you are doing any sort of long distance training you will eventually encounter some runs the require carrying some means of hydration. If you are down with the fit, feel, and fashion of the fuel belt, well then, get out there and rock that shit! The little cross-section of runners that I surveyed finds fuels belts to be marginally social acceptable! Not to mention the fact that hydration belts are becoming more fashionable all the time! Just look at this veritable cornucopia of styles and colors available at Bull City Running Co.!
Just look at all these fast, fabulous hydration belt options!

Just look at all these fast, fabulous hydration belt options!

  (However, you will most certainly face judgement  should you dare to wear a fuel belt in the Olympic Trials Marathon, and I personally recommend avoiding them for all distances shorter than the 1/2 marathon as well.)   On the other hand, if you think fuel belts are hideous, uncomfortable, and just all around sucky, you most certainly are not alone in this opinion either, and thanks to this little post, you are now privy to some great, simple fuel belt alternatives that are sure to keep you hydrated AND looking and feeling fast and fabulous!

As it turns out, my running community has plenty of room for both lovers and haters of fuel belts. After all, it takes all kinds!

As it turns out, my running community has plenty of room for both lovers and haters of fuel belts. After all, it takes all kinds!

A Few Words of Gratitude…
First and foremost, major thanks to all of you kind souls who filled out my little survey! You guys all rock, your comments were fantastic, and I loved hearing from you! I am sending out some serious love to my favorite blogging consultant and Survey Monkey mentor, Mixmaster J, and also to my lovely friend Sarah who saved me from a life of eternal newb-dom by giving me The Fuel Belt Talk. And kudos to my BFFs at Bull City Running Co. for permitting my use of the store’s entire hydration inventory in a large-scale iPhone photo shoot, even though they will probably never stopping making fun of me for doing this. Thanks to Bigs for being my loyal official iPhone photographer, and most importantly, thanks to all of you for reading!
Click here to take the “Feelings About Fuel Belts” survey for yourself!
What is your favorite hydration accessory and at what distance and/or temperature is it non-negotiable?

A Shorts Story: Comparing the Oiselle Flyte and Stride Shorts

So, as many of you know I am a brand ambassador for Oiselle, a fabulous women’s  apparel company that shares my passion for fashionable, functional running gear. And that is only one of the many things that makes this little company awesome. In addition, Oiselle is passionately committed to growing a vibrant, diverse sisterhood of women runners, and supporting and advocating for the sport of track and field and its athletes. I could probably gush all day about how great Oiselle is, how inspiring it is to be a part of the amazing community they have created, what an awesome job they have done of building a presence for themselves in the world of elite running, how their visions of combining style and sweat align perfectly with my personal zeal for fitness fashion and the concept for this blog, and  so on, but that is a post for another day. Instead, today’s post is intended to tell a shorts story. So here we go…

Once upon a time, just last week, actually, Oiselle released their new seamless Flyte series. Since that fateful day I have  noticed quite a bit of buzz on the interwebs questioning the differences between the Flyte Short and the tried and true go-to race day Stride Short.  Lucky for all you Oiselle fans out there (but to the great chagrin of my credit card) I have this habit of buying all the new Oiselle stuff as soon as it is available, so it took me no time at all to acquire and wear test the Flyte short. I will spend the next few paragraphs comparing and contrasting it with the Stride Shorts in hopes of giving you the education that you need to choose the Oiselle shorts that will best meet your personal race day needs!

We’ll start with a little comparison of the specs…

Stride Short vs. Flyte Short:

  • Inseam: 4″ for the Stride Short vs. 2″ for the Flyte Short
  • Pockets: 1 front zipper pocket for the Stride Short vs. no pockets for the Flyte Short.
  • Fabric: High compression 90% mircoploy/ 10% spandex blend for the Stride Short vs.  Seamless construction poly/nylon/spandex blend for the Flyte short. (Specific percentages for the Flyte Short blend are not listed on Oiselle’s website.)

*Additionally, Oiselle advertises the Flyte Short as being “wicking and antimicrobial” as well as “no-see-through” weight.

Now that you know a little about the physical differences between these two shorts, I will share with you my personal experiences with each of them, for what its worth. Let’s get this shorts party started with a closer look at the Stride Short…

Behold the no-nonsense full butt coverage sensibility of the Stride Short!

Behold the no-nonsense full butt coverage sensibility of the Stride Short!

What I LOVE About the Stride Short:

The Perfect Blend of No-nonsense Functionality and Optimal Butt Coverage

Perhaps the thing I find the most endearing about the Stride Short is its simplicity. It’s clean, flattering lines and compression-y, ride-up free fabric make it my go-to race day short for all distances from the mile to the marathon. I appreciate how it’s 4 inch inseam falls in a spot that feels short enough to be fast and sporty, but long enough to keep me believing that come what may, be it excessive southern sweatiness,  monsoons, tsunamis, etc, the Stride Short has always got me (and my butt in its entirety) covered. I’m also extra-pumped that the update to the Stride Short for Spring/ Summer 2013 includes a handy little front zipper pocket. It’s new ability to stash energy gels and/or car keys makes it more appealing than ever before for longer training runs and races.

My Personal Challenges with the Stride Short:

Sizing is Everything

It took me a couple of tries to get the sizing right on the Stride Short. As it turns out, even the most compression-y ride-up free fabric WILL ride up if your shorts are too big. Although I do technically fall within the measurements of a small according to Oiselle’s size chart, I must confess that I have a strange, irrational fear of ordering spandex garments in the small size.  At  5′ 6″ and roughly 130 lbs, I consider myself to be of “average” size, at least relative to most of the other female runners I know, and thus I tend to gravitate more towards size medium when it comes to spandex shopping. But when I took my medium Stride Shorts out on one of my final long runs of last fall’s marathon training cycle in hopes that they might win the title of my marathon race day short, I quickly found myself on the Ride-up Express, destination Chaffingville. Fortunately, this issue was resolved with a simple size switch.  As it turned out, my fall marathon got cancelled and I never got to take the Fall 2012 Stride Short out for a 26.2, but I have raced in them at pretty much all distances from 5K to half mary and they have not chaffed me one iota.

But that is not the end of my Stride Shorts saga. When spring marathon time rolled around I ordered myself a new pair of updated-with-zipper-pocket size small Stride Shorts for race day. Sure, I already owned a perfectly good pair of Fall 2012 Stride Shorts, but I felt like being able to stash a couple of extra raspberry Hammer Gels in that snazzy new zipper pocket warranted an upgrade. From what I had heard, I would probably be needing those extra gels to get me up and over those Newton hills anyway. I completely disregarded the widely acclaimed marathon race day adage “No new is good new” and kept my new Stride Shorts pristine for race day. Although I can’t find any confirmation of this anywhere on the all-knowing world-wide web, I swear on my Boston Marathon finisher’s medal that the size small Spring 2013 Stride Short is larger than the size small Fall 2012 Stride Short. The photographic evidence below proves this, and sadly, so did the chaffing on my inner thighs after Boston, despite liberal preemptive Body Gliding, just in case.

Obiviously, there is just a little more of the Spring 2013 Stride Short (black, bottom) than there is of the Fall 2012 model (Indigo, top).

Obviously, there is just a little more of the Spring 2013 Stride Short (black, bottom) than there is of the Fall 2012 model (indigo, top).

Despite these sizing struggles, I still think the Stride Short is pretty baller and I would highly recommend an appropriately sized pair to anyone who is seeking a sleek, flattering, full-coverage short tight. Although I personally have not and probably never will come to terms with the notion of purchasing spandex in SIZE XS!!! (Gasp and shutter!!!), you may consider sizing down if you dare.

Now, on to the Flyte Short…

The scrumptiously soft and comfy, super-sporty Flyte Short.

The scrumptiously soft and comfy, super-sporty Flyte Short.

What I Love About the Flyte Short:

Absolutely Delicious Fabric Feel

Holy balls, y’all, this short is almost as comfortable as NOT WEARING PANTS!!! Seriously, it’s soft, seamless, never see-through fabric feels AH-MAZING, and I love it. Thus far, I have found the delightful comfiness of the Flyte Short to be quite magical in both the running gear and sleep wear arenas, and I just can’t say enough about the stellar tactile pleasantness of this piece!

A Few Flyte Short Peculiarities:

I was intrigued to give the Flyte Short a go because (a) Just days before it’s release I got to try on a sample of it at the showing of the 2014 Spring Oiselle line at the store where I work. I thought it felt like a little slice of shorts Nirvana and was reluctant to take it off. And (b) with a race calendar filled with plenty of shorter races and big aspirations of getting faster, I rationalized that now would be a good time to add some shorter, faster shorts to the race day rotation. I thought the Flyte Short’s 2″ inseam sounded short, but not obscene, so I hopped right on the bandwagon and ordered myself a pair post-haste!

WARNING: Some Flyte Short Wearers May Experience Mild Amounts of Lower Butt Area Exposure

I’ve never been one to shy away from spandex. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I regularly embrace it as business casual attire!  (Don’t be frightened by that statement. I am a full-time fitness specialist and a part-time running store employee.) However,  as it turns out the 2″ inseam hits my slightly taller side of average frame in such a way that it ever so subtly reveals my lower butt area (LBA). We all have areas/ parts of our bodies that we do not feel super-great about, and for me, the LBA is one of those places. I totally get that the Flyte Short is intended be shorter and more competition focused than other shorts in Oiselle’s line, and I’ve got nothing but mad respect for all of you pretty young things out there who feel confident letting the I-feel-good-about-my-lower-butt-area flag fly, but for me this is definitely an area in which the Stride Short wins out over the Flyte Short. (Maybe we could throw a 4″ inseam Flyte Short into the Oiselle Spring 2014 line? Pretty please?)

I think we'll all be better off if I just keep my lower butt area to myself.

I think we’ll all be better off if I just keep my lower butt area to myself.

Unconventional Inseam to Waistband Height Ratio 

Despite my feelings of hesitation at the lack coverage of the Flyte Short’s shorter inseam, the second thing I find peculiar about this piece is its higher rise about the waist. I feel like we are living in a fashion world that is dominated by low-rise hip hugging everything, and yet the waistband of the Flyte Short oddly comes all the way up to my bellybutton. I suppose that isn’t necessarily a bad or uncomfortable thing, but for whatever reason, I just feel very aware of the higher waistband. I suppose it is possible that it may serve some sort of functional purpose (control top race shorts, perhaps?), and I have found that it can easily be addressed with a simple waist band fold-down, but at the end of the day I think this piece would just feel a little more natural to me if it had more fabric at the bottom and less at top. All things considered, it’s still a fantastically comfortable short and that’s what really matters, but I cannot deny that I am just ever so slightly perturbed and befuddled by its mild disproportionallity.

The Flyte Short is just ever so slightly oddly high-waisted in my humble opinion.

The Flyte Short is just ever so slightly oddly high-waisted in my humble opinion.

Mediocre Southern Summer Humidity Performance Rating

For all you sisters out there who are sweating it out in the south with me this summer, I think it is important to point out that the luxuriously soft fabric of the Flyte short is sadly noticeably more absorbent than the more traditionally spandexy fabric of the Stride Short. Not only have I observed that they Flyte Short seems much quicker to become completely saturated by my copious amounts of southern summer sweat, it is also dramatically more inclined than the Stride Short to stretch and expand upon reaching the point of saturation.  But there is a silver lining to the high absorbency and expansion properties of the Flyte Short: Its coverage of the lower butt area improves tremendously the more you sweat on it! Even so, I still have to give the higher southern summer humidity performance rating to the Stride Short.

In the end, the Flyte Short remains the most deliciously comfortable of all the running shorts in my vast collection, and I highly recommend it for shorter, faster races and workouts where feeling as speedy as possible is important. I also especially recommend the Flyte Short for women who feel good about their lower butt areas and live in arid climates. But if you are someone more like myself who prefers to keep your LBA to yourself and must endure heat humidity of the southern summer, then the Stride Short may be a better bet for maximizing LBA coverage and moisture management.

Let’s revisit the key differences between the Stride Short and the Flyte Short with a little side-by-side comparison photo essay re-cap…

A general rear view side-by-side comparison.

A general rear view side-by-side comparison.

Note the difference in the length of the Stride Short's 4" inseam (left) & the Flyte Short;s 2" inseam (Right) while you become better acquainted with my backside.

Note the difference in the length of the Stride Short’s 4″ inseam (left) & the Flyte Short;s 2″ inseam (Right) while you become better acquainted with my backside.

Note the lower waistband rise of the Stride Short (left) vs the all-the-way-to-the-bellybutton rise of the Flyte Short (right).

Note the lower waistband rise of the Stride Short (left) vs the all-the-way-to-the-bellybutton rise of the Flyte Short (right).

In conclusion, I think that the Stride Short is still the short that best aligns with my personal training and racing needs as well as my LBA comfort level, despite the OMG-I-never-want-to-take-these-off comfiness of the Flyte Short. But we must remember that there are many different fabulous women runners out there in many different shapes and sizes, with many different feelings about their lower butt areas. We all have unique shorts needs and preferences and that is why it is super-cool that Oiselle makes a great variety functional, flattering, fashionable shorts to accommodate a wide range of tastes and body types. I hope my little shorts story has been useful in helping you zero in on which of these fast, fabulous short options best suits you and your training and racing needs.  (And if spandex is not your thing the Roga Short and the Distance Short are great non-spandex Oiselle options!)

So cheers to Oiselle and to awesome shorts for all! I would also like to throw out an extra big shout out to my fantastic running bud Kara for helping make this post possible by graciously taking about a million close-up photos of my butt. (All in the name of consumer research, of course!) Friends like that just don’t come along everyday, y’all. And as always, many thanks to all of you for reading!

What’s your favorite race day short and why?

*Please note that all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

A Fast and Fabulous Guide to Your Most Awesome Race Photos Ever!

So you might have already guessed from reading my race reports that I am the kind of runner who sets goals based on personal improvement rather than competition. I am not, never have been, and probably never will be the runner that wins the race, although I might occasionally score a nice little age group award pint glass or a Starbucks gift card on days when no one fast shows up. I’m totally cool with this. There is no doubt in my mind that what I lack in speed I make up for in fun. All that said, there is one aspect of racing that I ALWAYS dominate…the photo shoot. That’s right friends, whether it’s a mid-race action shot or an after-party team photo, I guarantee you I’ve got  a facial expression, theme, or pose that’s  so ridiculously over-the-top enthusiastic you won’t be able to resist hitting the “like”, “share”, and/ or “retweet” button when it shows up in your newsfeed. And guess what? I have put together this handy little guide with a few tips for adding a little extra awesome to your running pics. Sit back and enjoy the ride if you will…

You’re Doing it Wrong”: Common Race Pic Faux Pas

Before we delve into to strategies for nailing a fabulous race pic every time, let’s talk about common bad race photo scenarios to be avoided at all costs…

The Narcoleptic Marathoner

The Narcoleptic Marathoner

Seriously, how do you fall asleep while you’re running?!?

The Zombie Apocalypse

The Zombie Apocalypse

The T Rex, also known to some as "Mixmaster J".

The T Rex, also known as “Mixmaster J”.

As it turns out, T Rex not only hates push ups, he also hates the final miles of a half marathon and/ or 8K.

"What do you mean this isn't a RACE WALKING marathon?!?!"

“What do you mean this isn’t a race walking marathon?!?!”

Come on folks, at least make an effort to actually be running for the race photographer.

Holy crap, this race is full of shit!

Holy crap, this race is full of shit!

Ok, so the “Holy crap” one is actually pretty unlikely unless you are, in fact, running a race involving giant piles cow dung, (and yes, that’s really what’s happening here.) But seriously y’all, how awesome is this photo?!?

And just because you've crossed the finish line doesn't necessarily mean your safe from bad the curse of the bad race pics.

And just because you’ve crossed the finish line doesn’t necessarily mean your safe from bad the curse of the bad race pics.

Yes friends, this amazing photo was captured by the official race photographer. Apparently he was so enamored with how fantastically  hilarious my teammates looked that he neglected to snap a pic of me crossing the finish line. This was all  for the best because (a) this picture is possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen. Ever.  And (b), this turned out to be one of those yak-all-over-the-finish-line type of days for me.  So be grateful that you were spared THAT unfortunate race pic!

Tips for Stepping Up Your Race Pics Game

1. Abandon All Hope of Looking Normal, Natural, and/or Pretty.

Instead I recommend the over-the-top, hyperbolically enthusiastic, this-race-is-the-best-effing-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me face, which is best served up with some sort of enthusiastic, always (mostly) HR appropriate hand gesture.  Here are some super-excited-face/ hand gesture combos that I have found to be particularly clutch for pulling off the extra-awesome race day snaps…

The Double Thumbs Up…

The Double Thumbs Up...

The Double Thumbs Up…

Far too cheesy to be unflattering.

Furthermore, the double thumbs up has the power to make you look like you are having tons of fun even after only barely surviving the most epic marathon blow up of your life.

Furthermore, the double thumbs up has the power to make you look like you are having tons of fun even after only barely surviving the most epic marathon blow up EVER.

The above photo was taken immediately after I crossed the finish line of the most heinous running experience of my life.  For reals, it was one of those days when I would frequently stop and sit in the (sketchy Eastern European) porta-johns just because that seemed like a more pleasant thing to be doing than running. At approximately mile 25 I watched myself  progressively vomit up EVERYTHING I had eaten in the last 48 hours. I can’t think of another time when  I have experienced such utter physical bodily rebellion against the act of running. But you would never in a million years guess any of that when you look at this pic because everything about my facial expression and body language says “That was  more fun than hugging 50 puppies!!!”. This picture is perhaps my greatest personal victory of that vile marathon experience. The double thumbs up is truly a powerful thing.

The Victory Arms…

The Victory Arms...

A fabulous montage of The Victory Arms in action.

Use The Victory Arms in your action shots to convince your race photo viewers that you are surely winning the race, even if you are actually still miles from the finish line.

Your Very Own Official Team Hand Gesture…

Show love for your local running club/ team with an official team hand gesture.

Show love for your local running club/ team with an official team hand gesture.

I live and run in Durham, NC, affectionately known to it’s residents as “The Bull City”. Furthermore, I work at Durham’s favorite local running store which is appropriately named Bull City Running Company. Thus, the store’s racing team’s official trademarked team hand gesture is the legendary “Bull Hands” pictured above.  It is easy to see that this official team hand gesture adds significant extra fun and badass-ness to our race photos. Because it is so intimidating (and probably also because we’re from Durham) people sometimes assume the Bull Hands represent some sort of gang affiliation. I like to believe that striking fear in the hearts of other local teams only stands to give us an extra competitive edge. So get out there and have fun coming up with your own custom group hand gesture. From time to time you my get some “WTF?!?” looks from your fellow runners, but don’t sweat those haters. You are absolutely having more fun than they are and you can rest assured that your race snaps are infinitely more exciting than theirs.

Haters gonna hate, but there's no denying that this is awesome.

Haters gonna hate, but there’s no denying that this is awesome.

2. Accessorize.

Accessories play a key role in setting you apart from the crowd.

Accessories play a key role in setting you apart from the crowd.

I think it’s pretty obvious that if you want to have awesome race pics, you are going to have to put a little effort into quite literally covering yourself with awesomeness. Accessories play a key roll in setting you apart from the crowd in your photos. My list of standard must-have high-visibility accessories includes brightly colored compression wear, Shwings (which are wings for your shoes), thematic nail polish (I have a mandatory two color minimum), my Picky Bars sweat band (Lauren Fleshman took it off of HER OWN WRIST and gave to me, y’all!), all things sparkly, and as many temporary tattoos as possible. It is important to note that there are no temporary tattoos featured in the photo of my favorite accessories above, because I used up the last 19 I had in my recent 4th of July 5K.

Remember, when it comes to temporary tattoos, spare no expense!

Remember, there is just no such thing as too many temporary tattoos!

I also try to add additional themed accessories to my race day outfit whenever possible. So far my favorites are the tutu with matching head piece and the patriotic fascinator (pictured above along with some of my 19 temporary tats). More on the importance of themes in the paragraphs to come… So don’t get lost in the crowd. Stop what you are doing right now and get yourself down to the nearest Claire’s and/or Michael’s to buy up all the sparkly, tacky goodness so you can stand out like the superstar that you are!

3. Pick  a Theme…

I have always loved a good themed event. A younger, cooler, more fun version of myself was notorious for throwing kick-ass theme parties on the regular. The debatably “more grown up” me (who uses the term “more grown up” very loosely) is considerably less inclined to throw a raging Golf Pros and Tennis Hos party, but still incorporates the element of theme into her race photos on a regular basis. (At no other point in this blog post will I refer to myself in the third person, I promise.)  So here is a little theme inspiration for you…

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Someone Else’s Theme Your Own…

Sometimes it is easiest to simply borrow someone else’s theme. This is why I generally make it a point to have my picture made with anyone dressed in an extravagant costume at a race. *Note: Do not be shy about approaching people who are thematically dressed for photo ops. They are dressed up because they WANT people to ask to have their pictures taken with them. You are only bringing them joy and validation in making such a request. Don’t think of it as approaching oddly dressed strangers. Instead, seize the opportunity to be spontaneous, make new friends, and most importantly, score some fantastic race pics.

 Here are some of the better dress-up themes I’ve encountered over the course of my illustrious career as an amazing race photo connoisseur…

'Merica!

‘Merica!

Mr. Go America here ran an entire 5K  on the 4th of July in South Carolina (not exactly a state know for its cool and comfortable 4th of July temperatures). Mad respect, dude! ‘Merica done be proud!

Pirates vs. Marathoners

Pirates vs. Marathoners

Who doesn’t love a good pirate themed marathon?!? I am on the hunt for a good ninja themed marathon to balance it out. Holla if you know of one.

Turtle Power!

Turtle Power!

Speaking of ninjas,these heroes in a half shell may have us in the creative dress department, but they didn’t stand a chance against us in the race! Next year we will be sweeping both the running part and the costume contest. Say your prayers, Ninja Turtles!

Theme Park Races…

You may also want to try doing a race in a THEME park. In my (limited) theme park racing experience it seemed that people who were not heavily accessorized and/ or dressed utterly ridiculously were in the minority. Let it be known that this was probably the thing I loved the most about theme park racing. I also found that wearing a tutu and tiara and being surrounded by a sundry Disney characters and fantastical landscapes inspired an exceptionally richly creative post-race photo shoot. Here are some of our best theme park race shots with their respective sub-themes…

"Damn, it feels good to be a gansta."

“Damn, it feels good to be a gansta.”

You know, just living the thug life in the happiest place on earth.

"Pretty Princesses" (It's a no-brainer, I know...)

“Pretty Princesses”

What can I say. When in Rome…

And my personal favorite "Impersonations of popular Olympic athlete's signature photo poses."

And my personal favorite “Impersonations of popular Olympic athlete’s signature photo poses.”

See! I TOLD YOU all the cool kids have their own signature photo shoot  move! 😉

Get Creative…

Don’t sweat it if you don’t live close to a theme park and/or ridiculously dressed race participants kind of creep you out. It is still perfectly acceptable, and in fact, encouraged to get creative and come up with your own photo themes. These themes can be as simple or as complex or as wacky and random as your heart desires! Here are some of my favorite classic race pic themes…

The Animal Kingdom:

Snapping pics like a boss with the King of the Jungle.

Snapping pics like a boss with the King of the Jungle.

It's ok to go a little buck wild every now and then.

It’s ok to go a little buck wild every now and then.

Beer:

Show a little photo love to real reason you paid money to get up early to run a long way... FREE BEER!

Show a little photo love to real reason you paid money to get up early to run a long way… FREE BEER!

Fun with Fountains:

Add a little fountain flair to your race photos!

Who doesn’t love a little fancy fountain flair?

Synchronized Jumping:

When it comes synchronized jumping pictures, we're kind of big deal!

When it comes synchronized jumping pics, we’re kind of big deal!

Generally, I am not all that into tooting my own horn, so forgive me for what I’m about to type next, but  my friends/ teammates and I pretty much wrote the book on awesome synchronized jumping pictures. Don’t hate us because our jump shots are more syched up than yours.  I think the amazing montage above and the impressive synchronized jumping multi-tasking feat documented below really speak for themselves.

We at Oiselle Team NC have perfected the synchronized jump pic...

The lovely ladies of Oiselle Team NC are especially skilled in the ways of the synchronized jump shot…

Oiselle Team NC Jump with Burger

So much so that we execute it flawlessly, even while enjoying these hearty and delicious Morningstar spicy black bean burgers!

Here’s a little insider tip from the synchronized jumping pic pros: Count up from 1 and JUMP on 3. Instruct your photographer to begin the act of snapping the picture between the numbers 2 and 3. This strategy has afforded me many successfully jumping pics using the cameras of both the iPhone 4 and 5.  Good luck, have fun, and may your jumps be ever synchronized!

My Point, and I Do Have One…

As I conclude this silly little post, you may be wondering if there is a point to it and if so, what that point might be. Well friends, I suppose it is this:  In running and life we should dream big, train hard, get out of our comfort zones, and leave it all out there whether our goal is to win the race or simply to make it to the finish line. Just make sure that it’s not all work and no play. I believe  it is of absolute paramount importance to leave a little room to have some fun, and also to celebrate the hard work, dedication, discipline and accountability that it took to get you to both the start and the finish of whatever race you may be running.  I guarantee that if you implement my proven strategies for race photo enhancement listed above you WILL experience copious amounts of pure, unadulterated kid-on-Christmas-morning-esque fun and celebration which will surely facilitate wonderful and hilarious memories as well as friendships that will last a lifetime. Furthermore, everyone in all of your various social media feeds will most likely want to be you, and that is always a nice perk. You only live once after all, so don’t waste any more time. Get out there and start hamming up those race pics and celebrating your general awesomeness as soon as possible!

Shout Out to My Peeps…

Many thanks to my terrific,  admirably self-confident and secure friends for boldly offering up their least flattering (but most awesome) race pics for use in this post. If that doesn’t epitomize fast and fabulous, well then I do know what does. And even more thanks to those very same friends for making my race photos and the experiences that they represent so truly fantastically fun! Oh, and extra special thanks to the one and only Mixmaster  J and the equally baller Jen D. for inspiring this little race photo anthology. Cheers to many more awesome race pics to come!