Warning – abundant wordiness and truthiness to follow. Marathon #2 training officially begins today, so I’m marking the occasion with my unscientific yet abundantly compelling opinions about my assorted running gear. All of the stuff below I bought by squeezing a little more life out of my own credit cards, so these are unbiased reviews based on my own real-world experience. Nobody is sponsoring me, although I think my orthopedist may be quietly considering it, and nobody has sent me any of this stuff to review, although I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that and am willing to try most anything once. However, I’m fairly confident a running skirt would make my hips look big, and if I find myself needing a sports bra then something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Today is Day 1 of the 120 days of training planned for the Outer Banks Marathon. It’s a little less exciting than being at this starting point back in November for my first marathon, however, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to handle the distance than I did then. I’m also considerable less clueless when it comes to some of the essential gear to optimize the odds of get through a training cycle in one piece. Since I like to read blog posts about what folks are actually doing and using in their training, along with real-life experiences rather than marketing glitz, I thought I’d share my current collection of essentials (stuff I use on almost every run):
Shoes: Asics Gel Nimbus (11 and 12)
I’ve used the Nimbus shoes going back to the Gel Nimbus 8, and have had pretty good luck with them. Admittedly, I haven’t really strayed from them, so there may be some better options for me out there. I’m a fairly neutral runner, and usually fluctuate between 190 and 200 pounds, so I need a fair amount of cushioning. My recent issues with Plantar Fasciitis have me doubting the Nimbii a bit, but I went ahead and ordered the 12s, which finally showed up on Friday and got their first outing yesterday. The Nimbus 11 has worked out well for me in terms of tread life, nothing causing any blisters, and keeping my feet cool and well-cushioned. My only issue is that where the mesh meets the front of the shoe tends to wear thin and/or through above my big toe after about 150 miles. This is probably a function of how I hold my foot in the shoe, since it only seems to happen on the right shoe. As far as the Nimbus 12s go, when I took them out of the box and gave them a run yesterday, it was like running on rainbows with my feet wrapped in clouds being pulled by unicorns. Actually it’s too soon to really tell anything or compare them to the 11s based on how they perform. No blisters from the first run, which is always a good thing. There’s nothing that feels significantly different than the 11s, which is a plus in my book. After I’ve broken them in a bit I’ll share my thoughts in a later post. After I’ve broken in the shoes that is … not my thoughts.
Insoles: Superfeet Green
For all of the marathon 1 training I used Softsol Airr insoles, which seemed to work just fine. In response to the PF issues I decided to switch to something with a more rigid arch support. The Softsol insoles are VERY comfortable and VERY cushiony, but don’t offer much in terms of arch support. I tried the Powerstep Pinnacle arches, but found the arch to be a bit too high, and a bit too far forward (towards the toes) than I wanted. The Superfeet seem to be much closer to matching the shape of my feet, and the arch support is a bit less pronounced. My feet still seem to be adjusting to running with them, since the reduced cushioning means a bit more overall pounding. I’ve put the Superfeet in 5 different pairs of shoes at this point, so I think we’re committed for the long haul.
Socks: New Balance Unisex Lightning Dry Lo-Cut, RoadRunner Dryroad Elite No Show Double Tab
Wore these New Balance socks for every run for marathon 1 including the race, and all runs since marathon 1, and haven’t had any issues with blisters or chafing. Thus, since I’m an idiot, I’m trying out a different sock to see what I think. I’ll still wear the NBs, but they’re showing some wear so I’ve added the RRS Dryroad Elite No Show Double Tab socks to the rotation, in a spectacularly ugly black/orange color. I got some great suggestions for potential socks in the comments from a prior blog posting, and I’ve saved them all in my training log. If the RR socks don’t work out, I’ll give some of the others a try, but these were a little less expensive than the suggestions I got, and I need to start governing my running-spend a bit better. For me, the sign of a good sock is not knowing it’s there, kinda like a good referee or an adult diaper. Based on 3 runs (5, 5, and 8 miles) I’m pretty happy with the RR socks. Compared to the NB socks they feel like putting gloves on my feet. There is no slippage or bunching when I run, but I didn’t have any issues with that using the NBs either. They have a nice, subtle arch compression/wrap built in, which can’t be a bad thing when wrestling with PF. Overall I’d recommend both of these types of socks, mostly dependent on if you want something other than white (which seems to be the only NB color) and how much you want to spend – the NB socks are considerably cheaper.
Compression Shorts: 2XU Men’s Performance
I gave compression shorts a first try last Spring when recovering from a pulled hamstring. I trained for marathon 1 primarily using a pair of compression shorts from Shock Doctor, occasionally mixing in a pair of Under Armour compression shorts. I didn’t really care for the Under Armour shorts as they didn’t seem to differentiate the physiology of the body between the knees and the waist. It just felt like I was cramming my body into something tight and I didn’t feel a big benefit versus running without compression shorts. The Shock Doctor shorts worked fine, but they were made to accommodate a cup, and I figure if I need to wear a cup running then I need to find a new neighborhood in which to train. I used the 2XU calf compression sleeves during my M1 training to deal with a calf strain, and they worked great, so I bit the overly-expensive bullet and bought the 2XU shorts soon after M1. They are much more comfortable, much lighter, and seem much more well-made than the other shorts I was using. They also have a drawstring waist so I can control how much I want to feel like I’m being eviscerated, and they have silicone leg grippers that keep them where they should be, even when stretching. They also feel like the panels are put together to reflect the way the body is typically put together. Kinda like the difference between a tailored or untailored article of clothing. I’d say they look pretty cool too, but if somebody sees them then I’ve most likely forgotten to put my shorts on before leaving the house. Again.
Hydration/Fuel: Fuel Belt, Accelerade, Hammer Gels
Got the Fuel Belt early during the training for marathon 1, and was admittedly not entirely enthusiastic about the idea, but now I wouldn’t want to do a long training run without it. I considered going the handheld route, but back in the day I ran with a Walkman in my hand, and I was thrilled when I got my first MP3 player and could strap it on my arm and run with nothing in my hands. I didn’t want to go back to holding something again, so I went with the Fuel Belt. I’m a big fan of having hydration, gels, food, etc. available whenever I want them, so much so that I ran the first half of M1 with the Fuel Belt, and passed it off to my wife when I passed my family at the mid-point, then relied on the water stations for the rest of the race. For M2, I’m going to wear it the whole way, and hopefully talk my wife into passing me four filled bottles to reload at the halfway point. I hardly even notice that it’s there when I run, and I like to be able to hydrate and or eat whenever my body seems to need it, rather than at a set distance interval. I’ve just recently starting using Accelerade for pre and during run hydration. So far it seems to be working well, and does seem to help out with sustained energy. The flavor (orange) isn’t something that I would call good, but it’s not terrible either. It’s a little on the chalky side which I assume is because the protein doesn’t break down terribly well during mixing, but if it works I can live with a little chalkiness. I’m on the verge of trying out some recovery powders, but haven’t quite gotten there yet. Hammer Gels are the sponsor for the OBX Marathon, so I’ve switched from Gu to Hammer for this training cycle. I haven’t gotten into long enough long-runs to really call for gels yet, but I’ve been trying them before my morning runs to see what I think of the flavors. So far, the vanilla was pretty tasteless, but the Apple Cinnamon, Raspberry, and Montana Huckleberry were all pretty tasty. No issues with any stomach upset, but that wasn’t a problem with the Gu either. Looking forward to hitting the distances where I need these. Knock on uninjured wood.
The Rest & Coming Soon:
Nothing special in the way of technical shirts. 3 Under Armour shirts and 3 C9 shirts from Target. Unfortunately I didn’t discover the C9 shirts until I had already bought the Under Armour shirts, since the 3 from Target cost about the same as 1 Under Armour, and I don’t see a big difference between them. Target is my friend. Regularly sport Oakley sunglasses that I love, but don’t remember the model. They are very comfortable, and don’t squeeze my big melon at all when I run, even after 4 hours of marathoning. They’re entirely too expensive, but Oakley has GREAT customer service, so I’m a customer for life. I’m all about customer service. Body Glide on every run. The stuff does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and chafed nipples are angry nipples. Only needed to learn that lesson once. Don’t have a running hat yet, but need to get one soon to keep that big melon from cooking. I currently either run without a hat, or with a bandana wrapped around my head, which inevitably means I get mistaken for an exceedingly sweaty pirate, or risk getting caught in a drive-by for flashing the wrong gang colors. It’s all about thug life on the rough streets of suburban North Carolina. Also need to get myself some good sunscreen, since the Coppertone Sport tends to get in my eyes. Scape seems to be the hot product on the block, so I’ll probably be picking some up soon.
Of course my Garmin Forerunner 305, henceforth referred to as Lil’ G, goes running whenever and wherever I do. You certainly don’t need a GPS to train for a marathon, but it makes it a WHOLE lot easier to track the progress and ensure the distances and the timings are lining up with your training plan. Hard to beat the 305 for the price. Packs more features than I will probably ever use. Lil’ G got mad skillz.
Have to go down some gels, as all this typing has my fingers cramping. 1 day down, 119 to go.