Category: Running

Running: things I actually use

When I started getting into running, I went through all sorts of gear. Shoes are the big things you think about – and I went though several pairs to find the right fit. Then you have clothing – it should keep you cool, keep you warm, and keep you dry – while you are generating a ton of heat and sweat, running through highly variable conditions. Sure, you can wear a cotton shirt and shorts, and will make it some distance, but it’ll result in discomfort. I’ll occasionally throw on an old shirt and hit the pavement barefoot for a few miles, but that’s about as far as I want to go that way. Beyond that, the difference of modern textiles really starts to become apparent. Aside from clothing, you have gear. For longer runs, you need to carry water and food. Sometimes, you’ll need to carry additional layers or places to stuff layers you remove. Whatever you use for storage, it shouldn’t encumber your movement in any way or add a significant amount of weight. Runners tend to measure things in grams, and the lighter the better. I’m not that peculiar about my gear, but still don’t want to run with my GR1 backpack that weighs nearly 4lbs when completely empty unless I’m doing so for a specific strength workout (the GR1, for example, has a compartment for weighted plates during Goruck sponsored races). After running for several months, I’ve found a rotation of gear that I actually use and a pile of gear that I rarely take with me. First, shoes. Shoes are probably, by far, the most personal choice of all running gear. What works for me may not work for you – feet are highly variable. That being said, I love my Salomon Ultra Pros and have 276 miles on them at the time of this writing. Somehow, if I clean the mud off of them, they look almost like new despite being beat, dragged, and scraped through all sorts of terrain and a couple hundred miles of asphalt/ concrete. I first bought Salomon shoes because they’re a big name in trail running, but it took a few different pairs for me to find the right fit. My Sense rides are nice but a little tight in the toe box, my Ride GTX shoes have a different midsole that gives me hotspots, and they don’t breathe as well. Neither seem to be wearing as well as these do. Socks are interesting one. I was skeptical about buying $15/pair running socks, and instead bought Saucony running socks that were a six pack for that price. At some point I started having issues with blisters on longer runs and bought a couple pairs of Darn Tough Vertex socks to try out. I now have six pairs of those and a pair of Injinji toe socks in my rotation – the difference is apparent once you start pushing past five or six miles at a time. I haven’t had blisters since the change, except for the occasions where I’ve grabbed the cheap Sauconys or other old socks from my drawer on laundry day. I have quite a few fancy water bottles and a very fancy hydration pack that includes a hydration bladder, but don’t really use them. If I’m running for less than 10 miles, I’ll use a Flip Belt (zipper model) instead. If running under 7 or 8 miles, I often won’t even take water. The Flip Belt is an elastic, tight fitting belt that has “pockets” you can stuff things into. I’ll use it to carry my phone, a couple gels, a Larabar, and sometimes the 10oz water bottle the company makes. On runs longer than ten miles, I’ll grab my hydration pack but pull the bladder out of it. I’ve found that the 10oz FlipBelt water bottle fits perfectly in the strap pocket, stays out of the way, is big enough for unsupported half marathons, and is more convenient than having to deal with the bladder. I’ll probably use the bladder on longer trail runs, though. For clothing, I rotate out three pairs of Nike HyperCool and three pairs of Nike HyperWarm (depending on the weather) running tights, under Nike Breathe 2.0 running shorts. Similarly, I rotate four Nike DryFit short-sleeve tops and three long-sleeve that I choose based on the weather. I layer on a Arc’teryx Incendo shell on damp runs in the 40s to mid 60s, a Nike hoodie on dry runs in the high 30s to low 50s, and a Arc’teryx Argus for damp runs in the 30s to 40s, and definitely anything below 30. I either choose Buffs (I have real ones, but also a ton of knockoffs from Amazon that are 90% as good for 10% of the price) or a Salomon running hat – and I do find value in that hat over others, even my Nike one. It’s vented just right and the material is really nice. On cold runs I’ll stock up on Buffs – I might wear one around each wrist, one on my neck, and a couple on top of my head. They’re incredibly versatile. On those colder runs, I’ll often throw in a pair of thin gloves to keep my fingers warm. Actually – I’ll do that in the mid 40s and below. At some point I switched back from wireless to wired headphones. They are cheap, far smaller and lighter, and don’t hurt my ears as much when bouncing around for a few hours at a time. My ears were getting sore with my beloved Sony WS625s, but I’ll still use them on runs 10K or less. I have a few headlamps, and I choose the lighter/simpler ones for shorter runs and my Nao+ for longer ones. But really, if I can run by moonlight alone, I usually will just do that. Running at night with the trails all to myself is beautiful. I use my Roll R3 and Roll R8 far more than any foam rollers and fancy massagers, though not nearly enough. That being said, I wouldn’t want to be without them. The R3 is amazingly able to eliminate PF symptoms overnight, and the R8 is far more convenient than a foam roller. That’s really about it – all I use (aside from my Garmin HRM-Tri and Fenix 5X+) on a regular basis. YMMV, but that should be all you really need. Edit on Feb 22, 2019: after a few days, I realized that I should have covered a couple more things. Summer is coming quickly here in Austin, and I don’t want to contend with sunburn or heat while running. I usually wear Nike HyperCool compression tights under my shorts, and will continue to do so through the summer – but the ones I own are all 3/4 length, leaving my calves and ankles exposed. In the future I will buy full length, so I don’t have to deal with applying sunscreen to my lower legs. On a similar note, I want to find a nice, thin, cool, moisture wicking and sun protecting long-sleeve shirt to buy several of for summer. I’m not a fan of sunscreen and want to minimize use. I’ve tried a ton of different sunscreens, and the one I like the best is called Thinksport SPF50 Plus – but it’s expensive, and takes time to apply, so I’d rather just save it for my face and hands.

Foam Rolling & Roll Recovery

We haven’t had much to post about lately, as we’ve been getting through the holidays and getting back into the groove of normal life. Things have been both dull and busy – a lot of monotonous catching up to do, mainly, with a few short memories sprinkled in, like spending new years with some great friends of ours from out of town. Kelly’s ankle is healing up nicely and she’s back to riding regularly and starting to jog again, and I’m still working to tick off at least 24 miles per week. My running coach has been after me to start foam rolling and focusing on recovery for a while. We have all the gear required for foam rolling, which consists of a few foam cylinders in different sizes and some lacrosse balls. Despite my best attempts, I can’t seem to make a routine of it. You have to get on the floor, or maybe a mat or blanket, and roll around while supporting yourself and manipulating your body to put pressure on sore areas – something that can be a substantial and time consuming, not to mention painful, workout itself. Roll Recovery makes an alternative solution that accomplishes the same thing. Touted as a “self-massage tool [that] takes the extra effort out of an intense foam rolling session“, it basically is a vice that you clamp your limbs into move along the length of them. It doesn’t address the last complaint I made about foam rolling – the pain, possibly even being worse – but does a great job of reducing the effort and time required. The R8 seems to have a cult following and a lot of obsessed users, so I figured I’d try it for myself. So far, I’ve found I pick it up when idle throughout the day and use it while watching TV or even listening to phone calls (meetings). That sure beats blocking out a 45min window to toss around on the floor while being able to concentrate on nothing else. Kelly is making similar habits with it. We also picked up the R3 and their stretch mat. The R3 is a foot roller, specifically designed to address plantar fasciitis, something I’ve recently began to experience, and the mat is a gimmicky number that gives you a platform you can stretch on without falling off of – something that may work for Kelly, but doesn’t seem to work for my 6’0″ frame. Despite that it may be a tad too small for me, and that I don’t mind sitting on the ground most of the time, it seems perfect for throwing in the truck and taking to the lake or trailhead with me. To date, as you probably assume, I haven’t been great about massage or rolling or recovery. I don’t have enough previous recovery experience to compare with, but what I can say is that my run yesterday (after two days of using the R8) was one of the best ones I’ve experienced in a while.

Tyler State Park

Both of us have family in the Tyler area, so we go back to visit from time to time. A couple years ago we stayed at Tyler State Park, but have avoided going back there because it was really tight to get our rig in and out of the campground. When recently looking at the map, I realized that was due to the camping area we stayed in – Cedar Point. So when it came time to book a trip to East Texas for Thanksgiving, we gave Tyler State Park another chance and reserved a site in the Big Pine area. The park itself is beautiful woodlands, and this year was exceptional – the trees turned bright colors like they do up north, and leaves fell to the ground. The camping area we chose had plenty of room, all pull-through sites with full hookups, and ran $24/night. We consider that a good deal. What led me to looking at the Tyler State Park map in the first place was an ultramarathon called Running the Rose. I’m not ready for an Ultramarathon yet – in my training, I might be able to complete – but not be competitive – a half marathon at the moment. But Running the Rose follows an eleven mile course through the park, allowing you to exit at one, two, three, or six loops depending on your fitness level and dedication. I wanted to run the course, once, just to see if I could make it. I mapped out the course in GAIA GPS, and uploaded it to my watch. The course looks like this: Upon arriving, we found our spot and set up camp. Since we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, we had most of the park to ourselves. The site was spacious, though not at all level, and had full hookups. Fortunately we just about have setup down to a T, and I was able to head out for my first trail attempt within an hour of arrival. I hit the trail around 4:30PM, and shortly after five it was so dark under the tree cover that I couldn’t see the ground. I pushed through about 8 miles before my headlamp died, and after tripping over a bunch of tree roots, pulled out my phone for enough light to get back to the campsite. I clocked just over 9 miles, and kicked myself for getting so close to my goal and not reaching it. We had a friendly little visitor come that night, as well as a opossum and some squirrels. We spent the next few days hiking the park and visiting family. We grabbed a few good photos, and had my parents out for a campfire. Kelly brought out her bike for a few rides. The weather stayed really nice. On Thursday, I made another attempt at the 11mi run. I was able to complete it, but it took longer than I had hoped, clocking in at 2h32m and an average pace of 13:45/mi. I didn’t really feel up to running that day, and think if I were feeling better I could have knocked a couple minutes off that time. C’est la vie. On Friday, Kelly and I went on a run on the trail around the lake and she caught her foot under a tree root and pulled. It caused her a pretty nasty sprain that will take a few weeks to recover from. We got her back to the site and settled in, then I resumed my run. Overall, I was able to clock 32.5 trail running miles on the trip, plus several miles of hiking. Tyler state park is definitely a place we’ll be returning to. I’m contemplating an actual attempt at Running the Rose, when it takes place on January 26, but due to how soon that is, probably won’t commit to it. We have family there, so there are always reasons to go – but there are other places in Texas we want to check out before the next time to visit.

Fresh Start

Since starting this blog back in May 2016, we’ve accumulated some 206 posts. That comes to average one post every 4.5 days, which seems impossible – we must have gone through a few periods of heavy posting to offset the periods I remember more clearly… the periods of not posting at all. Over those two and a half years, which were kicked off by the purchase of our new fifth wheel RV, and the beginning of the process to modify our tow vehicle to meet our expectations, a lot has changed. We briefly got into crypto, made bit of money, and cashed out just in time to beat the market crash. We bought and restored a boat, only to find we’re not comfortable using it (too large to launch with one person, too unwieldy for small, usually low, lakes we like to visit) and are contemplating selling it to cash out and possibly downsize. We went through numerous phases that eventually faded to an end, such as trying to turn our suburban lot into a sort of homestead (not practical with HOA regulations and less than a quarter acre), fairly extensive DIY home renovations and updates (enough is enough), ham radio (still using VHF, but have sold our HF gear because we gave up on antennas here), and many more. In the last six months or so, we’ve discovered new fitness activities, and they’ve moved to the forefront of our lives. Kelly has really fallen in love with endurance cycling, which is big change from the years that she’s spent embracing and evangelizing ToneItUp. I’ve gotten off the couch and found endurance trail running and aspire to at least cross the finish line of a fifty mile or longer ultramarathon one day. We cross train in each other’s sports to spend time together and better grasp our own. My health has improved to the point where I feel like spending extensive time outside the house – doing things I love, like backpacking – are on the table again. These things take focus, dedication, time, and yes – changes to almost every aspect of your every day life. Going back through old posts, we saw a lot of fruitless endeavors, and very few posts about the things we created this blog for. We wanted to document our RV adventures, to record where we went, what we thought, how we’d change things and spend time differently; what sites we might request — if we visit those places again. We planned to take and post lots of photos (something we never do – we have DSLRs and drones we always plan to use, but we fall back to easy-access cell phones all too often if we remember to take photos at all) of the nature we witness and how places vary as you travel throughout the country. That is why we called this LifeEnRoute – it’s to document our life traveling in the RV, not the life of gadgets and gizmos and gear that really seem to fill all the posts we’ve made. So moving forward, we decided to archive them. They’re hidden, but still available for us to pull occasional content from if we so choose. We are, at some level, gear heads – and I mean that in both the conventional ways that phrase¬† is used. We love all sorts of vehicles, all sorts of technology, all sorts of modifications — pretty obvious if you look at my truck –, and we love a lot of the latest and greatest gear and technology¬† — pretty obvious if you look at our running and cycling gear (for example). But we’re chipping away at the contents of our closets and garage and finding the things that don’t matter so much now that we’ve had them, and unloading them to new homes via Craigslist, Offerup, and Ebay. Some time in 2019, we may do something a bit drastic. We may sell our house, store our furniture, unload our clutter, and embark on the journey we dreamed about back in May 2016. In our early 30s, and able to work 100% remotely, we have the rare opportunity to tour the country and take in all it has to offer. It’s something that a lot of people aspire to do, but most have to wait to retire to experience. With our new fitness aspirations, came new motivations and goals – as a trail runner, for instance, I know of tons of trails I would love to run and places I would like to train, that are scattered all over the country. We can target our travels to tick them off, one by one. It’s not a permanent lifestyle for us, but it seems like we can fit it between our starter home and forever home, which is a jump we will inevitably make. 1350 square foot and a a fifth of an acre aren’t what we’re looking for anymore. And we think if we do it, despite our few remaining reservations about it, we’ll find it to be great.

Scroll Up