Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New to triathlons or running? Basic gear to get you started...

I've had quite a few people ask me lately about my gear for running/triathlons so I figured here would be the best place to throw together some of my favorites..

-good shoes! I can't stress this enough, go to a specialty running store and have them help you find the perfect fit for your foot/ me, it will be worth the extra $$$
-a headband that ACTUALLY holds your hair and won't fall off or slide...I've tried tons of these, every company claims that they have the miracle product, but truth be told my absolute favorite has to be this velvet headband from Suddora.  It doesn't give you a headache and it really does stay on (trial tested by myself on various runs)  PLUS right now they're doing a special promo through the end of February, if you use the code SUDDORA5 you'll get 50% off (reg price is $6.99 so this is seriously a steal!)
-socks, I prefer compression socks of various heights depending on the race but my favorites are Swiftwick and PRO Compression.  I'm part of the Switftwick sock of the month club which lets me try a wide variety of their selection and I have loved every pair.  For the PRO Compression socks I tend to buy them from The Clymb because that's where I've found the best deal on them.

 -bike, for beginner triathletes you don't need to go out and buy the fanciest bike out there.  I went with a moderately priced hybrid and it worked just fine for my races.  Is it the lightest thing out there? no, but it gets the job done and it's still leaps and bounds ahead of a mountain bike.
-helmet, it's the rules must have an up to date helmet (you can check the rules for specifics but really I would hope you would want your head to be safe)
-water bottle/cage, you will get thirsty on your ride and this is your best chance to refuel.  I also keep a fuelbelt strapped to my bike so I can eat some cliff blocks as needed during this portion of the tri. 
-gloves, if your hands get sweaty or you need some extra shock absorption gloves are great.  If you sweat a lot you might also want a towel on hand somewhere to keep you dry

-goggles, these don't have to be super fancy but you want something that won't fog up and fits your head well. 
-swim cap, you will get a TON of these with each race you participate in so my advice is if you know there is a seasoned triathlete where you train or maybe even a group, ask them if they would mind letting you borrow one...most likely they have an overabundance of them and wouldn't mind just giving you one of theirs. 
-tri suit, I'm sure there's plenty of debate on this but if you're like me and don't want to be fussy about changing at each transition the tri suit is a simple, easy way to get through the race.  I wouldn't recommend using it for training in a pool, but it's great for outdoor swims and I loved mine on race day. 
-wetsuit, now this isn't a must but if you live near a body of water that is generally cold you might want to invest in a wetsuit.  Not only will it keep you warm but it will also help you float and move through the water with less resistance.  If you do choose to go this route, I might also suggest some body glide to help get the suit on and off

Obviously this is just a super basic, bare bones list but it's a good place to get started.  You don't need all the bells and whistles to get started, just a few basics will be enough.  Hope this helps the newbies out there :) 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BLRW Mobile Half Marathon Race Recap

Normally when I finish a big race I'm left with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  As I approach the finish line I begin to tear up a bit and when I finally have that medal placed around my neck I feel unstoppable.  Sadly, I didn't feel any of that at The Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Mobile, AL this past weekend.

Sunday morning I went through my normal pre-race routine and headed out to the race along with my aunt and a fellow running buddy Heather from my running team, The Midwest Vikings. As we lined up to start the race I took a glance around and realized that this was probably the smallest race I've run in.  Overall there were only about 400 participants in the half marathon event.  This was when I realized just how much the size of a race can change your perspective.  I didn't have that excitement building like usual, it didn't even seem like the race was a big deal.  I guess you could say that running in Chicago has made me a bit spoiled.

My first 3 miles were strong, I was holding onto a good pace and feeling great.  Around mile 4 our course met with the 5k pack and I got to see my aunt for a minute before the trails split again.  This was when I started feeling an annoying twinge on my pinky toe.  By the time the race was over virtually my entire pinky toe had become one massive blister.  (it still hurts by the way) I sucked it up and tried to make the best of the race anyway.

My aunt and I after the race
Post Race obligatory selfie
A few more miles and my body just gave up on me.  Each time I took a break to walk or adjust my toes to feel less pain it became even harder to get started again.  Now, in other half marathons I've run this is where I would run past a large group of cheering volunteers that would give me the little boost I need to keep on pushing.  Sadly, there were no cheerleaders along the entire stretch of 13.1 miles.  I kept hoping that maybe something would help give me the nudge I needed to kick in the after burners but I just kept chugging along, dragging as I went.

Fresh skrimps from the bay and my aunt's homemade hooch

Needless to say it was an ugly race for me.  I definitely didn't bring my A game and the atmosphere did nothing to give me any kind of assistance.  As I reached the final stretch all I wanted to do was end the misery.  I took a deep breath and pounded the pavement until I finally crossed the finish line.  All I felt was relief.  This was truly a humbling experience for me.  I had been living in this dream land where races all felt great, filled with sunshine and butterflies.  This was Mobile's inaugural Biggest Loser Half Marathon so perhaps as the event grows the excitement will grow as well, but I can't see myself ever doing this race again.  In fact, I might not take on another small race for quite some time.

On the plus side, here are a few of the highlights:
-smaller race means higher ranking, I was #18 in my age group!
-Mobile is beautiful, scenic and rich in history
-spending time with family I don't see that often
-a pretty sweet glittery medal and fancy tech shirt
-LOTS of GU (they basically poured a whole box of it into Heather's bag which she generously shared with me after the race)
-delicious fresh seafood from the bay