Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Evolving Review: Ryders Eyewear VTX Sunglasses

I think it would be fair to say that I can get stubbornly attached to a pair of sunglasses.  I can recall ordering a pair of sunglasses from J. Crew the summer before I went to college, and wearing them all through college, and several years after college until my wife finally staged an intervention and begged that I get a new pair that had at least been stylish within the current decade.  I complied with the request, as any wise husband would, but rest assured those glasses are in a box in my closet waiting patiently for the day they come back in style.  That assumes that they ever were in style, which is a risky assumption at best.

I’m slightly more stubborn with regards to workout eyewear, since they have high potential to fall off, rub, squeeze, irritate, or fail to properly block the sun, which is not something you want to be dealing with multiple hours into a long run.  I’ve tried several cheaper versions of athletic sunglasses, with poor results, and for the last 2 years or so have been running with a pair of Oakleys that I’ve generally been happy with.  Don’t recall the model name, but thanks to Quicken I do recall the price tag.  Ouch.

My new best friend Devon from Outside PR was kind enough to set me up with a pair of Ryders Eyewear VTX sunglasses to put through my Marathon 2 training cycle, and see if they could unseat the aging Oakleys as my go-to shades for training and races.  Admittedly I was a bit skeptical, but in the interest of continuing the spirit of trying new things during this training cycle, I gave them a go.

My Oakleys are black, with black lenses.  Pretty par for the course in terms of my history of very little color variety in my attire.  When I opened the box for the Ryders I was greeted with metallic red frames with brown lenses.  Not something I would have ordered, but immediately I liked the splash of color in my workout gear.  Baby steps …. Baby steps.  They also come in a gloss black frame color, and a metallic white frame color which I covet in a big way.

Unfortunately I’m not a sunglasses terminology expert, so I’m not sure of the proper terms here, but the things that sit on the bridge of your nose, and the tips of the frames that extend beyond your ears are both adjustable, which allows for a nice custom fit to your particular melon shape.  This is a nice advantage over the Oakleys, where nothing is adjustable, other than a major adjustment in your credit card balance after making the purchase.  They also come with three sets of interchangeable lenses, with the lens colors varying based on the frame color.  These came with the brown lenses, a set of orange lenses, and a set of clear lenses, in case you find yourself needing to operate a table saw after crossing the finish line.  In fairness, I can envision using the clear lenses while running in the winter to shield my eyes from the wind, snow, etc. on early-morning runs before the sun comes up.  Although I may wear my sunglasses at night … so I can …. So I can … keep track of the visions in my eyes, I typically don’t wear them in the morning.  Minor gripe regarding the interchangeable lenses in that they don’t include instructions with the glasses on how to change them out.  A simple search of the website shows the easy 3-step process, but if the product is not by definition associated with computer or internet usage, there shouldn’t be an expectation that the buyer has to go online for further instructions.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m all about customer service and user experience.

So how do they perform?  In a word …. Great.  Once I adjusted the adjustable parts to fit my face the fit was great, and they really never moved during a run, despite some brutally sweaty affairs in the peak of the summer.  They look great, even getting a compliment from a cyclist in a parking lot at the end of a run, and they do their job well in terms of blocking the sun, wind, etc.  I haven’t been particularly hard on them, but they show no signs of wear on either the lenses or the frames after a few month of use.  Admittedly, much of my training happens before the sun comes up, so most of the wear these have gotten have been on the longer training runs, but that’s really the best testing grounds.  They didn’t feel like they were squeezing my head, and didn’t bounce at all.  In fact, I mostly forgot they were there after a couple of miles, which is exactly what I’m after in sunglasses when I’m running.  One potential downside to the adjustability of the ends of the frames.  My longer runs typically start while it’s still dark, so I’ll usually rest the glasses on the brim of my hat, still wrapped around my head, and then take them off my hat once the sun comes out and wear them the rest of the way.  On one run I did end up inadvertently adjusting the arms when I took them off my hat and put them on my head.  It was a minor tweak, and more a function of me flailing with them while I had a handheld bottle in one hand, but in the interest of full disclosure I thought I’d mention it.  They’re pretty rigid despite being adjustable, and I didn’t have this issue on any of my other runs.

I would definitely recommend these glasses as a stylish, highly functional, well constructed, and MUCH less expensive alternative to the more well known big names in performance eyewear.  These have officially replaced my Oakleys in my marathon gear, and I’ll be wearing these in 3 weeks in the Outer Banks Marathon.  In fact …. I like them so much that I want to spread the love and give some away to my fellow bloggers/runners to enjoy.  Not quite ready for the giveaway yet, but stay tuned …. it’s coming soon and involves some of this:

and a whole lot of this:

Last, but certainly not least, I subjected them to the most important test of all, the Kelsey test.  If it’s something I wear, it has to get the daughter’s seal of approval considering her authority on all things fashionable and/or socially acceptable.  The verdict….

What more can I say?

(Disclaimer:  Outside PR provided these glasses for me to review free of charge.  Muchas Gracias Devon.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Throwback Training Tunes vol. 9 – 1989 & 1990 edition

Adding entries for two more years to the list in today’s post.  After checking in iTunes, and briefly (aka lazily) checking into other sources, some of today’s suggestions seem to be a little difficult to find via the legal well-known online music sources.  With a little initiative you can most likely locate them via illegal lesser-known file sharing routes.  I certainly wouldn’t advocate anything illegal, especially something as heinous as trying to find a hard-to-find song.  Could there be any greater crime against humanity?

If you’re still playing along at home, and are interested in the songs that I indicate are hard to find, shoot me an email and I may be able to offer some help locating them.

Quick reminder of the ‘rules’ of the throwback:
  • Building a playlist with running songs from each of the last 20 years of the 20th century (1980-1999)
  • None of the songs in this list can be in any of the existing playlists on my iPod.  As much as I love all the blogging runners and running bloggers out there, this list is for me too.
  • Mainstream to alternative, well-known to abundantly obscure, anything is a potential candidate
  • I’m test-driving anything I post with a listen during at least two training runs
  • Trying to link to a video or audio-clip of the songs

Prior Throwbacks:

Today’s Throwbacks:

Always Saturday – Guadalcanal Diary (1989) – I have to laugh at the irony of songs like this one.  When alternative music was moving more and more into the mainstream in the late 80s, bands like Guadalcanal Diary would put out albums of their normal disenfranchised music, but they would typically include one pop-ish tune in the hopes of it becoming popular, so they could then wallow in the irony of one of their songs going mainstream, and put out a smarmy, sarcastic video where they basically mocked anyone that would like the song.  The irony is that 20+ years later, the only songs of theirs that are worth listening to, and are even remembered, are usually the pop songs that they included due to their disdain for mainstream music listeners.  Whatever the motivation behind the song, this one is a nice diversion during a run.  Kinda laid-back, with lyrics that make you think of lazy weekends.  Craptastic and bizarre video as well, which doesn’t do the song any favors with first-time listeners.

Slide – Flesh for Lulu (1989) – This was a favorite band during the college years, that had two great albums (‘Long Live the New Flesh’ & ‘Plastic Fantastic’), and then faded away.  Saw these guys in concert at a small club in D.C. and it was probably the best live show I’ve ever seen.  This is a GREAT song for getting you pumped up during a run.  I like a lot of their songs, but this is definitely the best of the bunch for a running playlist.  This one appears to be fairly hard to find, but I would HIGHLY recommend it. Couldn’t find a video for this one, but while looking for a video discovered that this was on the soundtrack for the movie ‘Uncle Buck’ with John Candy.  Not an association I would have come up with in a million years.

Head Like a Hole - Nine Inch Nails (1989) – Angry, angry song, from an angry, angry band … but sometimes you need a little angry.  Never really been a bit fan of NIN, but this song gets the blood pumping.  Similar effect during a run as the handful of Eminem songs that seem to pop up on many of the running playlists that folks post.

Forgotten Years – Midnight Oil (1989) – These guys made a living off of being political and preachy with their music, and I like several  of their songs, but I found the ultra-political angle a little tiring after a while.  This song is from the ‘Blue Sky Mining’ album, which I recall really liking during college.  This song is a little preachy as well, but it’s a positive message and is set to some really good music.  Strong chorus that’s really helpful when the legs are getting a bit weary.  And who doesn’t love any song from a giant bald man?

Stone Cold Yesterday – The Connells (1990) – This may be the band that I’ve seen in concert more times than any other.  LOVED this band during college.  Interestingly, interesting to me anyhow, these guys are from right here in Raleigh, and the lead singer worked in the UNC music department for a while.  I think they may still be making music, but the band lineup has changed several times, so I don’t really know what they would sound like today.  This is the title track from the ‘Stone Cold Yesterday’ album, which has a great guitar-driven sound and a strong chorus.  This one seems hard to find as well, which is a shame.  I’d highly recommend checking out any of their first 5 albums, especially ‘Fun & Games’.

Rush - Big Audio Dynamite II (1990) – How to describe this song?  The more I listen to it, it’s kind of a cross between the Clash and an alternative incarnation of the Black Eyed Peas.  I know, that’s a hard picture to paint in your mind.  You’ve probably heard this song at some point in time, and may not realize it.  Just a fun, quirky song with lots of changes in beat and pacing that takes your mind off the running at hand for a while.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If It Ain't Broke ... Break IT

Thus summarizes my general approach to life.  Not quite sure why it works out this way, but I’m notorious for it.  I’m in the process of applying this ass-backwards approach to my marathon training.  Not going to share the details, since I know it’s a high-risk change I’m making and the vast majority of you would tell me to remove my head from my arse and stick with what I’ve been doing.  And yes, you’d probably be right.  Such is the result on those occasions when the two drunk monkeys rattling around in my head wake up and decide to take control of the reins.
Knocked out my 23-mile longest long-run Saturday morning, and was really pleased with the results.  Average pace was 9:10 for the run, and stayed pretty consistent between 8:45 and 9:15 pace throughout.  From a fitness standpoint I really felt good.  Not saying I didn’t get tired, but I feel like I’m in much better shape a month out from M2 than I was a month out from M1.  My knee felt pretty good throughout as well.  However ….. much anger from the bottoms of my feet (my heels) from about mile 10 onwards.  That seems to be the magic mile number at which point the Fasciitis monster wakes up and decides to make itself known.  The foot woes are what prompted the change alluded to above.  We’ll see if I can tame the beast in time for OBX.

As far as soreness goes, I fared MUCH better than I thought I would.  I’m chalking that up to a combo of better overall fitness, and some quality ice-bath time.  Got out and ran again this morning, and nothing had that post-race feeling I was expecting since I danced pretty close to the marathon-distance with this training run.  I think I’ve got my hydration/fueling nailed down as well, although I froze my FuelBelt bottles before I ran, like I’ve done all summer, but the stiff wind and 48 degrees meant that my first bottle was still frozen when I tried to drink it, and the second bottle was more of an Accelerade slurpee.  Lesson learned there as well.  Only freeze 2 of the 4 bottles for race day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Scene of the Crime

For those that recall the Fantasy Football Draft fueling fiasco from several weeks back, I'll be returning to the scene of the crime for the weekend and hanging with the same bunch of folks, plus some extras that I haven't seen in at least 20 years.  As much of a gastrointestinal assault as that weekend was, this weekend promises to step it up a notch, since the distraction of Football won't be standing in the way of drinking/eating.  As luck would have it, this weekend also marks the longest run of my training, 23 miles.  Despite the success I had on Draft weekend with running after throwing a grenade on my liver, that was only 6 miles.  This time it's a different story.

I've switched up my weekend and plan to run the long run early Saturday morning, then mainline some ibuprofen and Accelerade while chilling my parts in an ice bath, then head straight to the debauchery.  Should make for a hell of a weekend, but on and off the running trails.

For those about to race this weekend .... I salute you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Long A Long Is Too Long?

Long run that is.  I know where you were heading.
This Sunday will be one month until marathon #2, and also marks the longest of my long runs for this training plan, 23 miles.  I’ve done a 20 and a 21 as part of this plan, so I’m not worried about being able to get it done.  I am wondering, however, if 23 miles is too many miles for a training run.  The aftermath of 20 and 21 wasn’t terrible, but after the 26 for marathon 1, I ended up in PT for ITBand issues.  My IT Band has held up pretty well, and my Plantar Fasciitis seems manageable right now.  I like the idea of 23 miles as a better way to get my body ready for the race-day reality.  However, I’ve read several articles questioning the marginal return of training miles beyond 20.

I know I’ll get out there and go for 23 regardless of any doubts, since I refuse to stray too far from the training plan that so far has served me well.  Mostly wondering if anyone has any practical and/or scientific insight into the point at which the return on the miles doesn’t necessarily justify the abuse on the body.  One bonus is that I’ll be out-of-town for this run, so some new scenery will break up some of the monotony around my usual long-run course.  For those of you in the Northern Virginia area, I’m tentatively planning 5 laps around Burke Lake, which should put me just over 23 miles.  I’d be open to other suggestions if anyone has any.

Decided the best way to break out of my running mini-funk last week was to throw in a tempo run targeting 7-ish minute miles for 4 miles.  Was able to hit the pace goal, and break the funk:

Tempo runs have probably been the best discovery for me during this training cycle.  I’ve really enjoyed the couple time I’ve been able to do track work as well, but don’t care for having to feel like I’m breaking into Fort Knox just to be able to use the local tracks.  Abundantly frustrating to have to jump the fences that my tax dollars built to trespass on a track that my tax dollars built at the school my son attends that my tax dollars (and my straight-out-of-the-wallet dollars) support.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Throwback Training Tunes vol. 8 – 1987 & 1988 edition

It’s been a long time since I’ve added any tunes to the throwback training playlist.  Been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely … time.

Life got a bit too busy, and I had other fascinating and insightful topics I needed to share on the blog, so the throwbacks suffered.  For those still interested, I’ve got 5 songs to add to the list today, and will try and add additional songs more frequently in the next few weeks leading up to my marathon.  Quick recap of the ‘rules’:

  • Building a playlist with running songs from each of the last 20 years of the 20th century (1980-1999)
  • None of the songs in this list can be in any of the existing playlists on my iPod.  As much as I love all the blogging runners and running bloggers out there, this list is for me too.
  • Mainstream to alternative, well-known to abundantly obscure, anything is a potential candidate
  • I’m test-driving anything I post with a listen during at least two training runs
  • Trying to link to a video or audio-clip of the songs

Prior Throwbacks:

Today’s Throwbacks:

’Heartbreak Beat’ – Psychedelic Furs (1987) – Most well known for ‘Pretty In Pink’, the Furs actually have a lot of good songs out there, and I’d highly recommend their greatest hits album.  This song has a great chorus, and an interesting mix of instruments, and is good for a pick-me-up during a long training run.

‘Rain in the Summertime’ – The Alarm (1987) – Really like the Alarm, a great band from Wales that was unfortunate enough to continually get crushed under the weight of U2.  They’ve got a number of good running songs, and the live versions of their songs (especially from the ‘Electric Folklore’ album) are packed with energy both from the band and the audience.  This link is for the studio version of ‘Rain in the Summertime’, one of their bigger hits.  Major bonus points for the abundance of hair in the video.  These guys had to keep touring to cover their hairspray bills.

‘Mandinka’ – Sinead O’Connor (1987) – Unfortunately Sinead O’Conner didn’t do a lot during her career to make people like her as a person.  Controversial and unapologetic, but she was definitely talented.  This is the first song of hers I ever heard, and I still like it as much today as I did 20+ years ago.  Great beat, great chorus, excellent song for running.  She had considerably less concern with haircare products than the boys from The Alarm.

‘Crash’ – The Primitives (1988) – This song had a bit of a resurgence when it was remixed for the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack, but I much prefer the original version from ’88.  The newer version is heavily overproduced, and loses some of the basic appeal of the original.  Unfortunately none of their other songs seemed to live up to the promise of ‘Crash’, but this song still rocks.

‘Don’t Look Back’ – Fine Young Cannibals (1988) – Not really sure what it is about this song, and didn’t have high hopes for this being good for running, but for some odd reason it really works for me.  Fair to say the lead singer for FYC has an unusual voice, but this is a good song with a good beat and chorus.  Not one of my strongest recommendations on a relative basis, but I’ve listened to it on several runs, and it hasn’t gotten tired yet.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grinding It Out

Back from a much-needed island cruise, and into the last 6 weeks of training for M2.  As much as I hate to admit it, I feel like I’m going through the motions right now with my training runs.  I’m not missing any, and I’m doing the miles that are needed, but I’m just not feeling it.  Kinda tired of my playlists, tired of the same routes, tired of being tired (4:45AM every day is taking its toll, especially when it’s still crazy dark when I’m finishing my runs), and really tired of my feet being sore all the time.  I suspect the malaise will pass quickly, and I know I’ll continue to get all the training done since I’m stubborn as a mule about my training plan, but for the time being I’m in zombie-runner mode.

As for the cruise … good stuff.  Didn’t realize how much my wife and I needed to get away from everything for a while until we were out to sea.  The beauty of it was we were truly away from everything.  No kids, no dog, no cars, no cell phones, no computers.  Felt a little naked without all the electronics, but in a good way.  The Bahamas were very nice, and the cruise itself was pretty good, but I wouldn’t say I fell in love with the cruise experience overall.  I think I either need a lot of activity on a vacation, or basically no activity at all, and this sort of fell into a gray area somewhere in-between, depending on the time of day.  People watching opportunities were plentiful … perhaps a little too plentiful at time.  Major thumbs-down for the quantity of smokers we encountered everywhere we turned.  The casino was a smokeapalooza, which was unfortunate because it was the most popular haunt for the folks we were cruising with.  Apparently the cigarette industry is still doing quite well.

The question for the weekend was if I could manage to get in my training runs in between buffet trips, martinis, and second-hand smoking.  Good news is I pulled it off.  The workout room had 8 treadmills lined up in front of a glass wall looking out over the ocean.  A wonderful setting for running to stand still.  Two problems:  1.  I don’t really like running on treadmills, and 2. The smell in the workout room was unlike anything I have experienced before.  I didn’t think humans were capable of creating that kind of odor.  I’m fairly confident most animals couldn’t create that kind of odor.

This left the onboard track as the other option, and thankfully it worked out very well.  The track was slightly longer than a quarter mile (3.5 trips around the track equaled a mile), and not very crowded in the early AM when I was using it.  I did wear the Garmin when I ran, but parts of the track were enclosed, and all of it had overhead obstructions, so satellite pickup wasn’t great.  Garmin filled in the blanks where it could, with varying results.  Saturday morning I did a 4-mile run to see how the track was going to treat me.  We were in the process of docking at Nassau, so the boat wasn’t moving much, and thus wasn’t rocking much.  Here’s how the Garmin saw things:
Longer range view for an idea of where we were:

Sunday morning called for 14 miles.  Things were going well, if a bit monotonous, for the first 9 miles or so.  Sunday’s activity was going to an island that Norwegian Cruises owns, so once again we weren’t moving much while I was running, so the track was fairly level.  As I came around the corner just after the 9-mile mark, I was met with a rope across the track with a ‘section closed’ sign.  They were doing maintenance on one of the lifeboats, which were suspended above the track.  With a wall on one side, and lots of ocean on the other, once a section of the track is closed there aren’t a lot of options unless you’re Spiderman.  Turned around, ran up the stairs to the workout room, and hopped onto the treadmill for a final 4 miles while the odor singed the hairs off my arms and legs.  Net result was somewhere between 13 and 14 miles, which falls into the ‘close enough’ zone.  Here’s what the on-track portion looked like:
Longer range view:
All in all a successful weekend both in terms of running, and life.  Weather has turned decidedly cooler here, at least for this week, so my morning runs have been in the 40s.  It’s been a nice change, but I’m going to need to shift to some evening runs so I stay trained for the heat, in case it’s hot on race day.

Just writing this post has actually lifted the running funk a bit, which is good since my longest training run is only 10 days away.  23 fun-loving miles.