Sunday, March 24, 2013

You Say "Saw-CONE-ey," I Say "SOCK-a-knee"

One thing that I quickly found out when I embarked on this running thing is that you can spend a lot of money on gear, gadgets, and garb.  I know, you're thinking, "It's just running.  What do you need besides a decent pair of shoes?"  And it's a legitimate question, because the truth is, you really don't need anything else.

But want is another question entirely.

For example, it turns out that I'm a bit of a clothes freak, and I have this thing about making sure my shorts and shirts aren't mismatched (at least not to a horrible degree).  So naturally, I've gone ahead and picked up Dri-Fit shirts in an array of colors and styles, several pairs of shorts, and a light pullover jacket for cooler mornings.  Also, it turns out that normal cotton socks tend to cause blisters, so I had to get a few pair specific to running.  They're quite comfortable, actually, although they don't come in argyle.

Moving on to technology, among the first things I did once I got a few runs under my drawstring was to download the Nike Plus app for my iPhone.  The app taps into my iTunes app, so I always have an energetic playlist going during my runs.  Also, Nike Plus tracks my time, pace, distance, calories burned, personal records, and the GPS stores the actual course that I ran on any given day.  The information then syncs up with the Nike Plus website, so I have (mostly) accurate data available at all times.  For a sports/statistics nut like me, this is a really cool thing to have.

But I've also noticed that the Nike Plus app is not entirely accurate.  For example, one afternoon it showed that I ran at a 4:30 mile pace.  While I'd like to believe that was true, it also showed (on the map) that I ran that pace across a lake.  Since I'm not exactly Speedy Jesus, there's clearly a glitch in the program somewhere.

So naturally I had to upgrade to a Garmin Forerunner sports watch.

This does basically the same thing as the Nike app, only without the music.  So now I use both the watch and the app when I run, and it turns out that the Garmin is far more accurate.  Fortunately, there's a "calibrate" feature on the Nike app so I can tweak the Nike distance to match the Garmin distance.

Okay, so now I've had to purchase clothes, an armband for my iPhone, and a watch.  But wait, there's more.

On my longer runs, I definitely need to have water, Gatorade, and energy gels available since there are no "pit stops" in my neighborhood like there are during official races.  To meet this need, I of course went to our local REI store and got what's called a Fuel Belt (kind of sounds like something Speed Racer would have, doesn't it?).  This is more or less a glorified fanny pack with a couple bottles that clip to it.  I fill one bottle with Gatorade (I like the green) and one with water and that usually gets me through 15 or so miles.  The pouch holds about four or five gels.

What are gels?  Glad you asked.

To provide carbs, calories, and energy during a run, and since carrying a plate of spaghetti and meatballs would be messy, runners use a variety of semi-solid supplements.  I've settled on GU Energy Gels, which are pretty much what you'd imagine.  A foil packet filled with flavored goop.  Most of the flavors are pretty good -- Jet Blackberry, Mandarin Orange, Vanilla Bean, etc.  The chocolate, however, leaves something to be desired.  I suck down one of these every four miles or so, for a quick jolt of energy and some quick nutrition.

So now we're at clothes, a watch, an armband for my iPhone, a fuel belt, and a continuous supply of GU.

And now let's talk shoes.

The first pair of actual running shoes I purchased was a pair of New Balances for about 90 bucks.  They were extremely light, kind of comfortable, and when I ran with them, they made the second toe on my left foot turn black and raised a couple of wonderful blisters on the tops of both feet.  Not wanting to end up footless, I did some online research and discovered that the general consensus on "best" brands of running shoes are, in no particular order: Asics, Brooks, and Saucony.

When making my decision, the first question that occurred to me was, "How the hell do you pronounce Saucony?"  The last thing I needed was to walk into Big Five Sporting Goods, ask for a nice pair of size eleven "suck-CONE-ee" running shoes, and have the shoe expert start laughing hysterically.  A bit of web-browsing took me to the correct pronunciation, which is, "SAWK-a-knee."

Glad I looked it up.

After trying on a few pairs of Asics and Brooks, I decided to go with a pair of Saucony Phantoms (which kind of sounds like an Australian soccer team, when you stop to think about it).  And, oh my freaking goodness, what a difference a decent pair of shoes makes.  Suddenly, my feet weren't threatening to go on strike after every run.  Blisters went away, my black toe returned to its normal pasty white color, and I can run long distances in relative comfort.

Next time: Bloody Nipples.  Not the name of a British punk band.

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