Help Me Help You

Hi. My name is Megan, and I’m a running geek.

I also know a thing or two about running shoes. I work at this great store called ZombieRunner. There is no better way for a runner/student to pay the bills (especially the running-gear bills!) than to work in a store like this.

This post is dedicated to the reader who’s looking to buy a new pair of shoes. The part of my job I love the most is the problem solving part. I like getting to know the customer and figuring out what shoe will be perfect for his or her needs. However, as a customer, you have to do some of the work too. You can’t just come in and say, “Gimme your best shoe!”, or, “Analyze me and tell me what I need!” There is a little bit more involved in the process.

The following are a few helpful tips for the next time you go in and buy shoes. Help me help you!

1. Have an idea of what you want. If you prefer a lot of cushioning, tell me right off the bat. If you like lightweight shoes better, let me know. There are many options for both, and it’s important to get to the point right away to limit the choices. Most shoe stores carry something like 80 or so models of shoes, so it’s nice to be pointed in some direction, even if it’s vague.

2. Only ask for an analysis if you really want it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a gait analysis to someone, recommended several models of shoes, explained how the shoes will help meet their needs, only to have them tell me they’d prefer the pretty pink shoes that are the opposite of what they “need”. It’s OK if you don’t get the shoe I’d recommend. But don’t feel like you have to get analyzed because a friend told you to. If you just want a cute shoe to wear to the gym, almost anything will work.

3. Be honest. If you have NO IDEA what you want or need, that’s ok! It helps me to know that. Then I can give you options to narrow down. If a cute shoe is a priority, that’s ok! I like cute shoes too, and I’m sure there’s one that’ll fit your needs. Don’t be afraid to speak up. I am meant to help you find the right shoe, but it’s not like a doctor prescribing a medication. There is some amount of leeway.

4. There is no exact science. There can be two people with the exact same running gait who do well in two completely different types of shoe. It is hard to find the “perfect” shoe because there is not always one out there. Some people who need a lot of support end up doing alright in a minimal shoe. There is a certain amount of trail and error in finding the right shoe. Be open to suggestions, and trying things you might not be sure about.

5. The shoe isn’t a miracle worker. Kind of like I said in #4, a shoe won’t solve all your problems. A lot of running related issues can be solved by having the proper form. Go to this website for some great and simple advice. Be patient. It might take a few months or even a year to become natural at running with good form, but it’ll be well worth it.

I have a feeling this post will end up being a part 1 of many. :) Buying shoes can be a stressful process to a lot of people!

While my weekends are usually filled with running, races, and helping people in need of shoes, this weekend will be filled with wedding shenanigans. The last time I attended a wedding, this happened:

Can’t wait to see what this weekend has in store for me! Congrats Victoria and Drew :)

Racing as Training

I’ve learned over the last few months that using shorter races as training runs for longer races can be very useful and effective. For example, people training for their first marathon may do a few 10k’s and a half-marathon sometime during their training cycle. As the distances go longer, it becomes harder and harder to gain motivation to do a long run, especially if you run by yourself like I do. (Seriously thinking about joining an run club for crazy ultrarunners.) Before my first 50 miler in April I had run 3 50k’s and one marathon during training. For my next 50 miler, I’ve done 2 50k’s so far, and several long-ish trail runs.

Since running has been taking over my life, I decided that rather than do some of the 50k’s I was thinking of signing up for, but that take place on the weekends, I would just try to do some longer runs by myself on my other days off.

Tuesday I attempted to do a solo 30 mile run.

It fell short to about 21 miles. I woke up too late, wore too much clothing for the 80 degree weather (you lie Weather.com!!!!), and didn’t pack enough food. If I run 20 miles in a marathon training cycle (where most training runs would be on the road), it would take me about 3 1/2 hours, and I would eat about 3 GU, or 300 calories worth of food. This is NOT sufficient for a 21 mile trail run. Climbing 5,300 ft. takes a lot of energy, and I suppose I underestimated my necessary food intake. Vastly. Towards the end of the run, the heat and hunger were getting to me. I started to hallucinate, and I imagined I saw wild turkeys on the trail.

I also hallucinated water. Sitting on a throne. Weird.

All in all, it was a tough run. I got a little lost on the trail and became discouraged. I definitely didn’t push myself as much as I could have.

Here are my conclusions about using races as training runs:

PROS:

-Well stocked aid stations

-Other people on the course=competition to push yourself, and company to talk to when the going gets tough

-Conveniently placed colored ribbons so you do not get lost

-You’re forced to get up early! Good thing if like me, you’re not a morning person

-A cool coaster (or medal as the case may be) and a t-shirt

-Lovely race photos

-You have to get it done or your record is tainted with a DNF (did not finish)

CONS:

-Races are usually farther to drive to than you’d go for a training run

-I like my $$ and don’t enjoy parting with it

-Most races are on the weekend. Sometimes you have to sacrifice social plans. (Pro is I’m not that popular :))

-Competition is not always good when in training. If you push yourself too much you can get injured or just take much longer to recover. Not the purpose of a training run.

-“Lovely” race photos

So although races are convenient ways to get long runs in (especially when those long runs are 30 miles), I don’t think I will be racing until the big one. I have about 2 more weeks of pushing myself and doing long runs until my favorite time of training: taper time!

I will conclude this post with a link to an article about chicking. It’s a cool article, but the comments are the most interesting. Who knew this was such a controversial and hot topic?? Ellie Greenwood is a rock star and she’s gonna kill it at Western States this weekend. She’s ultra-runnings’ Kara Goucher. Go Ellie!

Since I “chicked” several guys at American River 50, here’s a photo of me “chicking”:

(those are my glasses in the eye holes)

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer thus far :)

Week Off is Over

Last week was basically a week off of running. I was burnt out mentally, and had other things in my life to tend to. All I did was: 1 hour bike, 5 miles on the treadmill, 5 miles walking outdoors, and 3.2 sorry miles in 90 degree weather (<—my brother and I peer pressured each other to turn around early).

I asked the ultra-gurus a.k.a. The Zombies a.k.a. my bosses and owners of ZombieRunner what the repercussions were of taking a week off of running in the middle of training for a 50 mile race. Their response was unanimous: it can only help. The Zombies have a few hundred ultras between them and it’s their job to know ultrarunning, so I’m gonna go ahead and believe them. I’m pretty lucky to have them as my quasi coaches.

So last week I didn’t stress about not running. And this week, I’m back at it. Yesterday (Monday) I hit the local mountain during the 90 degree weather and had a great 6 mile run/hike. Elevation gain was about 2,000 ft and it all felt great. (I have no idea why heat affects me one day and not the next. I should probably start paying better attention to these things.)

Today felt miserable, but I managed to eke out a 15 mile run/hike with 3,912 ft gain in elevation. I don’t normally keep track of elevation, but I’m trying to do as much as possible since my upcoming 50 miler will have about 9,000+ feet of elevation gain and loss.

Don’t let the smile fool you. I was NOT feelin’ it. I’m not sure why today was miserable, but it probably was several factors including heat, hydration, and fueling. However, I did it, and that’s what matters most. It was good practice for mentally pushing myself and just getting the job done. I took it easy, and stopped to enjoy the scenery, and took some pictures like a good blogger.

And last photo of the post, a memorial to Catra Corbett’s dog Rocky Ridge. He’s such a cutie. And she’s an amazing local ultrarunner who is such an inspiration.

So hopefully I’ll have a good running week. I am planning on doing another 50k this Saturday. It’ll be a doozy-7,000+ feet of elevation gain. Torture, but good preparation for TRT50. :)

Frustrated

WARNING: This post is not informative nor entertaining. I’m about to whine my butt off so read at your own risk. It’s 5 minutes of your life that you can’t get back.

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This week has been a horrible training week. Not an exaggeration. The last four weeks, I’ve had the following weekly-mileage totals: 45, 40, 40, 52. (Give or take a mile, don’t have my training log with me.) This week, as of today–Friday–I’ve run 5 miles. On the treadmill. And the thing is, I don’t really have an excuse! It’s like a have runners-block. There isn’t any injury or time commitment that is preventing me from running. However, my motivation has plummeted, and minor annoyances have been serving as excuses not to run. Today for example, I have a cut on the back of my heel that’s irritating no matter what running shoes I wear. How did I get it?? By wearing stupid wedge shoes that cut into the back of my heel. And chances are I won’t get a run in until it doesn’t hurt.

I know there is not much fitness I can lose in a week. I know it’s good that I’m cycling and doing some strength training. I know that I ran a 50k PR on Sunday and that I should be giving myself a break. BUT, I’m not sore at all from the race, so that isn’t a good excuse either. I am frustrated because this is NOT the way one should train for an intense 50 mile race at altitude. I should be giving it my all every day, making my heel bleed and throwing up on the trails when necessary. If I’m not injured, there’s no excuse to “give myself a break.”

*sigh*…..

That is why I’m frustrated. I know come July 21st, I’ll be mentally kicking myself if I’m not prepared. As it is, I’m training a lot less that most people would. And as it is, no matter how prepared I am it’s going to be a tough run. So maybe the best thing I can do is to mentally prepare myself for extreme discomfort.

I plan on playing it by ear to finish off this week. I know that I’m burnt out and being a big baby. However, I don’t want to push myself and cram a bunch of miles into this weekend. If I do that, I might tear up my heel more and might end up injuring myself. Hopefully I’ll fit in 10-20 miles, but if not I’m just gonna write it off as a freak-week and pretend like it never happened.

I promise my next post will be filled with rainbows and lollipops and sunshine and daisies and most of all, a nice, successful run. :)

Canyon Meadow Shenanigans…and a PR!

Yesterday I ran the Canyon Meadow 50k at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. As you all know, I don’t do the typical race reports, since I don’t want to spend the time rehashing every mile. However, here’s a summary of what I can remember.

The day started off well. It was overcast, but not too cold. The last time I ran this course was March 17. During that race, it had threatened to rain the entire day, and while it never ended up raining, the whole course (save for the paved roads) was covered in mud up to a foot deep. Not fun nor easy to run in. This time however, the weather was dry and the course was 99% mud free. This mad a HUGE difference in the runnability (I love making up words) of the course.

Since I was familiar with the course, I knew how hard to push myself. There were a few long climbs, but mostly it was rolling hills which meant that I was able to run almost the entire time. Like many Coastal Trail Runs, this course was 2 large loops (13.1 miles each) and one smaller loop (5 miles). After running the first loop at about 2:36, I knew I was going to beat my previous time on this course which was 7:25. I also was fairly certain that I would get a new 50k PR. This made me very excited; I have been training harder lately and have been working on my climbing and my speed. Given that this was one of the easier courses I’ve done, I knew it’d be ok to push myself. The weather was sunny, I was hydrating and eating well, and overall feeling great.

So push myself I did. It wasn’t an all-out race effort, since I wanted to limit my recovery time, but I did feel comfortable running fast. In fact, I found myself flying down the descents. I was really enjoying these downhills, not a care in the world. Until…….SMACK! Bit the dust. My first thought after falling was Oh gosh, I hope I’m not hurt because I sure as heck want this PR. Thankfully, I fall like a ninja and managed to roll in just the right way that I did not get cut nor did I bruise any important body part. This occurred a little more than halfway through the course (at around mile 18) so I continued on, covered in dirt. The one annoyance I had with this fall was that I got so dirty. The dirt mixed with my sweat and before I knew it I had mud aaaall over myself. Not cute.

Towards the end of the second big loop, I was passed by a couple. They looked so fresh and great! I hate being passed, especially since I pace myself so well, but I had to hand it to them for looking so strong towards the end of the race.

After completing the second big loop, I set off for the last five miles. All 3 loops started by climbing a big hill. As I hiked up the hill, I saw the same couple up ahead. They kept looking back at me, and I’m guessing they had a little competitive spirit in them. I closed the distance, but was a little hesitant to pass them. There’s nothing more annoying than leap-frogging with someone towards the end of the race. I don’t like the unnecessary competition, but I found it hard to ignore. Finally, I decided to pass them and told myself that the only thing I cared about was my PR and not¬†about how many people I passed/passed me along the way.

4.5 miles into the loop and I’d passed the couple, 2 more women, and a guy. I figured it was smooth sailing from here on out. I felt great, my legs felt fresh, and I was running at an 8:30 mile pace. With confidence, I sped up a little and enjoyed the breeze blowing through my hair and…..BAM!!!! I fell again. This time a little more spectacularly. I had to look around to make sure I still had my sunglasses on my head.¬†And I had an audience. The way this family rushed towards me made me realize that the fall looked bad. I assessed myself: strained neck, probably pulled butt muscle, but no cuts or sharp pains. Still good to go. “Are you ok? Do you need any help?” they asked. “Nah,” I said, “I’m fine. Not the first time I’ve done this today. I’m almost done anyways!” and I ran off, not wanting to be passed right before the finish.

Needless to say, it was an eventful day in many ways. I finished with a PR of 6:13. It was also the first time I finished a 50k within the first half of the group! So now I can consider myself a front-of-the-middle-of-the-packer.

Since I’m not so great at incorporating pictures into the story, here are a few to end this post.

Dirty legs:

Scratched Garmin (distance/time is off because I started it late):

Glorious race photo:

And a photo from Napa Valley Marathon to prove that I don’t always look like a doofus when I run:

Any readers PR this weekend? :)