Mar 28

This Runner’s MAD – This Weather is KILLING me!

Yeah, I’m thinking of changing the name of the blog to This Runner’s MAD if the weather doesn’t turn around soon. I am done with it, all of it. It’s freakin’ March and I ran in weather today that was unseasonable for January. Seriously. I wouldn’t be so aggravated if this wasn’t the same old story every weekend. This morning I ran 10 “marathon pace” miles in freezing temps. Garmin said it was 19 degrees with a real feel of 11. However Weather Bug said it was 16 with a real feel of 1. Either way, it sucks. The OutSider App that analyzes how the weather will impact your run said this morning’s conditions were a 1, a 1 out of 10. You get the point.

route

Every…single…weekend during this training cycle has sucked big time! If it wasn’t 4-6 inches of snow, it was icy rain, below freezing temperatures or wind that could blow me over. Freakin ridiculous. I mean, we can’t catch a break. I’m sick of the million layers I have to put on every single time I want to go outside to run. I mean, here is what I put on this morning:

  • Jog bra, base layer tank, Level 2 Under Armour, Under Armour base layer, another layer for the hell of it, and a wind breaker. Underwear, Base layer thin pants, cold gear pants, wool socks, a hat, gloves, and hand warmers. And of course my shoes.

I had 14 things on. 14. when the sun came out, for the total of 4 minutes today, I felt warm, but as soon as it went in and the wind blew, I got chilled. The hand warmers did nothing. But of course, even in these temps, I sweat. So, these things get wet, and heavy. I actually came home and tried to weigh the pile. Then I got mad because my stupid bathroom scale won’t pick up that small of a weight, I needed a food scale or something. But trust me, the crap was heavy.

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Trying to eat GU in this weather is like trying to swallow a golf ball. I gets really hard and thick and makes you gag. I attempt to hold it for a mile before I ingest it in my freezing cold hands to try and warm it up and make it more “liquid”. If you carry a water bottle, the water freezes and doesn’t help the cold factor when you have to carry around a block of ice.

I can’t breathe in this weather. The dry cold air cuts through my lungs, but I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s the thing, this is Pittsburgh and you know what happens here. It doesn’t gradually get warm. All of a sudden one day we’re going to wake up to run and it will be 78 and humid. Everyone will dehydrate because no one will know how much to drink, we’ll all be over dressed and then keel over because our bodies over heat, as soon as we open the GU, it’ll squirt out all over the place because it will be melted and we’ll all have to acclimate to the weather again.

Then we’ll all be complaing about the stinking heat.

Welcome to season round marathon training.

A cup of warm tea, that’s what I need. Ahhh.

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Mar 27

What Marathon Training is REALLY Like

262You signed up for what? A common reaction when you share with people that you’ve signed up to run your first marathon. You’re excited, a little nervous, but most likely the event is so many months away that it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. That’s how I was when I signed up to run my first marathon, the Pittsburgh Marathon, in 2011. Just clicking “register” made me feel like such a bad ass. I was going to be one of “those” people, the few crazy enough to run that distance.

I didn’t know very many people that ran marathons and had no one to turn to for a training plan, hydration or fueling plans, or even anyone to tell me what to expect. I was flying blind on the simple desire to complete one. I downloaded the Runner’s World smart coach app, picked how many days a week I wanted to run, how many miles I wanted to max out at and hit “create plan”. It spit something out and I followed it. There was no speed work, no hill work, no easy days, I just ran. A lot.

6 marathons later, and training for my 7th, I’ve seen runners come and go. In other words many start the training, but not everyone finishes. I’m not going to say that running the marathon is the easy part, but it kind of is. The weeks leading up the marathon is where the true work lies. Here are some of my thoughts on what it takes mentally and physically to train for a marathon and the many, many road blocks along the way.

MARATHON TRAINING IS TIME CONSUMING:

The biggest reason people typically back out of training for a marathon is that it’s so damn time consuming. If you’ve trained for a half before, you know it takes time. Training for a full marathon is a totally different beast all together. Here is a typical mid training cycle week:

  • Actual running: Let’s say I have a 45 mile week and I run those miles at around my average pace for the week – 9:15. The running alone will take 7 hours.
  • Stretching and rolling: 10 – 15 minutes a day for 5 days – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Packing and unpacking my running bag 5 times a week – 1 hour a week
  • Driving to and from running twice a week – about 4 hours.

Total time: 13 – to 14 hours a week TRAINING!

To manage my training time, I typically look at my running plan for the week and block the time I plan to set aside for running on my calendar. Then, I guard that time. Early mornings typically work best for me, but some days I’m running in between meetings at work, after work or in the evenings to get fit in what needs done. Some quick time tips that work for me:

  • Always have your gym bag ready to go. I keep basics for running in there all the time and if I will be showering elsewhere, it’s just two additional toiletry bags to add.
  • I gave up cooking every night. I am bad at preparing meals ahead of time on the weekends (cause I’m always running) but I will bring dinner home. Most grocery stores today carry pre-made, healthy options that are worlds better then ordering a pizza or stopping for any other fast food.
  • Eliminate unnecessary tasks (like cleaning my house) LOL, just kidding, but not really. I’ve cut my expectations down on how clean things really NEED to be around my house and live with the new standards. I try to bulk errands together and/or do them on my way home from work to avoid having to go out again in the evenings.
  • Share your schedule with your family so they know when to avoid social outings. Its not that big of a deal to go out the night before I have to run 10 miles but if I have a 20 mile run on the calendar, I typically alert my husband to the fact that I would rather NOT go out the evening before.

DISCIPLINE IS REQUIRED

I like to say that I love every run and can’t wait to get out there every day and kick butt, but the truth is, none of these runs are very glamorous. For winter training, it’s 4:30 alarms during the coldest,  darkest months of the year. It sucks getting out of bed, it’s the last thing I want to do most days. Then the weekends come and sleeping in is a distant memory. It’s up to run some ridiculous amount of miles that takes hours to complete. They say getting out the door is the hardest part, for me it’s just getting out of bed. :) If this is something you really want to accomplish, give yourself some time to get into a routine. The first few weeks may shock the system, no matter when you’re running, but after a while, running and training will just be something you DO

mornings

I’ve been training almost year round for 2.5 years now and honestly, it really has become habit.

IT TAKES TIME TO SEE PROGRESS.

The training cycle is called a cycle for a reason. If you’ve picked a good plan, and hopefully you did, you have a variety of runs that each serve a purpose. My most important runs are my speed sessions, marathon pace runs and long runs. The other two days are filler miles. Experts say it takes 7 days to see the benefit of a good workout. I can’t say if that’s true or not but what I can say is that one day things just start to click. This may happen several times during the 16 week cycle, but it does happen. If you’re struggling (and I know way too much about that), give it time. Stay the course and you’ll start to feel better, stronger and more confident.

YOU WILL EAT LIKE A LOT OF FOOD!

Honestly, I remember feeling this way when I first started training for marathons, but I don’t notice it so much anymore. Either my appetite has just balanced out or eating a ton of food is just normal now. One critical thing to remember is just because you’re burning a lot of calories, doesn’t mean you can start putting a bunch of junk in your mouth. Make the calories quality calories. The better you eat, the better your body will process the food and perform. Stick to whole foods, lean proteins and keep your overall sugar intake to a minimum.

eating-three-will-ferrell-

YOU WILL GET CRANKY

Yes, it’s true, I get cranky. For no other reason than I’m just really tired. All these miles start to wear you down. Packing and unpacking, piles of dirty running clothes, eating, stretching, rolling, ahhhhhh! Over and over every day. It gets to be one wild ride let me tell you. So, try to be patient with others – they don’t understand your journey.

dog

I’m making it sound brutal. It’s not all roses and rainbows that’s for sure. So why do I keep doing it over and over? I do it because there are so many rewards that outweigh the difficulties:

  • An overwhelming sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
  • Working towards a goal makes me feel ambitious
  • I’ve built a fitness habit that should last a lifetime
  •  This practiced self discipline has been applied to other areas in my life
  • The running friends and network I’ve created is priceless
  • A time and a medal that says I accomplished something that many people won’t even attempt is mine forever.

So, congratulations on becoming one of the few who take the plunge and work towards a marathon finish. The journey is long and tough, but so worth it in the end.

Good luck, marathons are addictive! ;)

Mar 17

Count All Accomplishments – no matter how small

progressIn my last post I really pulled the running skeletons out of the closet. Admitting that I was mentally weak and stopping during my runs when they got hard wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it has really help me see the flaws in my running. Since then I’ve made an effort to push through the tough moments and bad miles and I have to say, I actually feel somewhat proud of myself.

When I look at my paces on paper, they are a little slower as a result. However, I know the reason they were faster before was because I was taking breaks, so I’m not upset about it. Comparing similar routes and distances this training cycle against last year and even this past summer, there’s really no comparison, I’m getting stronger as a runner. Every time I feel like stopping and I don’t, I consider it a small victory. I actually put myself in the marathon at mile 23 and remind myself “you will feel worse than this, but you have to keep going”. It’s been working so far, and I’ve been celebrating a lot. :)

Here’s an example: on Thursdays, I typically run in the mornings, but I saw the weather forecast and it looked like it was going to get so nice in the afternoon so I decided to push my run to the evening (thank you daylight savings). I ran from my house, around the high school a couple times and back to get 5 miles in. This has always been a challenging route for me in the past because the ENTIRE mile coming back is uphill. It is a 164 foot climb over one mile, or 3.1%.

To figure out % Grade: look on your Garmin or use Map My Run

Look at the Starting and ending elevation and the distance of the hill.

Use the Grade Percent Incline Calculator to calculate grade %.

I have NEVER run all the way up this hill.

UNTIL THIS RUN.

It hurt, and I wanted to stop, but I didn’t. I know I’m making it sound like I ran some great distance or incline, and maybe I am celebrating a little too much, but these are the moments that make me love my sport. The moment I see progress, feel progress, and that all the work I’ve put in to this point is paying off. Thank the lord too because a few weeks ago I was ready to burn my running shoes. Trust the process. :) You would think after 5 consecutive training cycles I would get this concept.

I like the feeling of accomplishment so much that I decided I am going to set a small goal for EVERY run. Whether it’s hitting a 7:45 on one of my mile intervals, tackling another big hill, or running the last mile the fastest, I am setting a goal and trying to hit it.

I’m always so focused on the end game, the final result that I forget to celebrate along the way. That in itself is another goal.

Hope everyone’s training is going well!

Mar 09

Monday Motivation

 

pain

 I sure hope so!

Mar 04

Building Mental Toughness – are you fooling yourself?

 

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If you look at my Monday Motivation this week, it’s a quote about mental toughness. No matter how many miles you run, how many weights you lift, or how good you eat, if you’re mentally weak in the end, the brain will shut that finely tuned, well fueled body down. No….doubt….about….it.

The past few years I have been working on building a superb base. I’ve run more miles year after year, completed 6 marathons, 7 half marathons, gotten really good at the nutrition and fueling piece, but I’ve lacked in the mental toughness area. At this point, it’s the last piece of the puzzle that will get me the three extra minutes at the Pittsburgh Marathon in May needed to qualify for Boston. I have to believe right?

I’ve talked about what a slow start I had at the beginning of this training cycle. I talked about how I’ve struggled to stay motivated, pick up the pace and feel good about my runs. I was analyzing every piece of my training and even comparing it to last year’s training. I built a small table that tracked my weekly mileage against last year at this time and compared the average paces. I was upset to see that my average paces were a lot slower this year. I couldn’t understand how I could be going backwards after all these miles.

pace compare

I was talking to a running friend about it and expressing my disgust at getting slower. In an effort to see the whole picture, they took a look at the run history on my Garmin and exposed a shocking truth. Okay, I guess it wasn’t that shocking since I lived it, but it was definitely “exposure”. This is not easy to share.

I was completely fooling myself.

I was stopping a ridiculous amount of times during my runs. (You know you can see your stops on your Garmin run summary right?) Stopping to rest a minute, stopping to catch my breath, stopping for who the hell knows why. Oh, wait, I stopped because I was mentally weak. It got hard, uncomfortable, and I stopped.

So, taking the same number of miles this year, I tracked, once again, the amount of stops. Huge improvement. So, my paces are slightly slower, but I’m getting mentally tougher. I’m a stronger runner than I was last year. It’s right there on paper. I’m not stopping when it gets hard but teaching my mind and body to push through those uncomfortable moments. Now, my goal is to keep running no matter what. Slow down if I have to but KEEP MOVING.

stops

This past weekend I ran 16 miles through snow, freezing slush and icy conditions. My feet were frozen, my face was frozen, I was miserable. I stopped twice. One bathroom break, one water stop. Twice. Last year, I would have stopped literally 33 times. I was exhausted and spent, but I kept going.

16miles

Yesterday morning I ran an 8-mile course that I’ve been having trouble with mentally. I run it all the time and typically stop a lot. I just didn’t realize how much.

Yesterday morning – NO STOPS average pace – 9:21

Today

I took an old 8 mile run (same course) and compared it to this yesterdays.

March 14, 2014 – Did I mention you can see your stops on your Garmin history? Each of those white lines on the pace chart below are stops. There are 32. 32 in an 8 mile run. Unreal. What was I thinking? My average pace for this run was 8:52. But I mean, really, what is it worth?

March 14.2014

This is why tracking runs and reviewing them is so helpful. If I hadn’t really looked at the details behind what I was doing, I would have never realized how much I was fooling myself. And really, in the end just hurting myself, my training, and the potential to reach my goals.

If you’ve run a marathon, remember how you felt at mile 22? Yeah. Spent. If you haven’t run one yet, prepare for it. You will feel like stopping. Your body will scream STOP, but training your mind now to be mentally tough and push through will be worth it come race day. Your mind will take over the body force you to put one foot in front of the other until you cross that finish line.

My focus (or one of them) for the next 60 days is to train my mind as much as my body and teach it to get tough. Obviously, there may be times when stopping is necessary (use common sense here), but no more stopping to rest, no more giving up. Pain is temporary and it will pay off in May when it really counts.

 

Mar 02

Monday Motivation

Champion

Feb 25

Training plans are not one size fits all

 

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If you are signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 3rd, no doubt you’ve already started training. You’re probably knee-deep in training by now. You may have already realized that marathon training has many ups and downs. If you’re working through a specific training plan, you may find that you have a difficult time following it to the letter. I’ve followed a strict training plan for my last two marathons but for some reason, I was having a hard time getting going this cycle.

Over use issues had me running very little during December and I ended up gaining a few unwanted pounds. When training started in January I felt slow, sluggish and out of shape. With my work schedule, ski schedule :) and less than favorable weather, I found I was just running myself ragged trying to keep up with my runs. I would fit the miles in but without enough rest in between, they were less productive. I wasn’t always hitting my required paces per run and it was stressing me out. I felt like I was never going to catch up.

plan

Then I had a “breakdown”. One Tuesday, during a dark, very cold, 8 mile morning run, I broke down crying. I had slept very little, and was just worn out from trying to keep up with life. I wasn’t hitting my desired paces and despite the fact that I was working hard, my watch said I was slowing. I literally stopped, got down on my hands and knees and started sobbing, on the side of the road! I felt like I was failing. This gives you an idea of the kind of pressure I place on myself. I ended up only running 5 miles and honestly felt like I wanted to quit training for the marathon. QUIT TRAINING FOR THE MARATHON!

How I turned it around

After consulting some much more experienced runners, I was told that trying to follow a plan that closely was ridiculous. WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. I shouldn’t expect my body to perform to perfection every run. And If I stepped back and looked at my training so far, I’d probably find that I’m really not off from where I want to be. I was also told that changing up my workouts is perfectly fine as well.

Some Suggestions

  • Instead of straight marathon pace runs, try tempo runs that allow for a warm up before trying to run at race speed.
  • Trying moving the miles around so one morning, I’m not forced to complete 8-9 miles before 7:00 am.
  • Use a heart rate monitor to rate your effort level, not the time on the watch
  • Run without a watch for some runs so there isn’t as much stress about pace
  • Skip runs when you absolutely need to if your body feels runs down.
  • Focus on Quality runs over Quantity
  • Most importantly – BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Just because a running slump seems to be sticking around longer than usual, it doesn’t mean you suck now!

Basically, to sum this up, run more on feel than what’s written on the paper. The last piece of advice is huge. Sometimes I overlook the fact that I’m a seasoned runner. I’ve run 6 marathons, 7 half marathons and have thousands of miles under my belt. I can run 10 miles without blinking an eye. I have to become a lot more “full of myself” for lack of a better phrase and know that I CAN hit these times and paces, I CAN get quality runs in over quantity.

With this new attitude and the pressure that if I miss a mile/pace here and there, It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, I’ve had a new sense of empowerment. I can control my runs with my positive attitude and a better rested body. I’ve been using a heart rate monitor off and on and I’m learning that some days a really hard effort may only be a 9:30 pace and that’s okay, I’m still working.

Last week, my new empowered, less pressured self ran great. I had three solid runs including speed work and a marathon pace run.

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So, as for the running this week….it is non-existent. However, I’ve been doing some major cross training in Breckenridge, Colorado. Skiing for three straight days in elevations over 10,000 feet will keep you in shape. With all the running I do, I was amazed how hard it was to go up a flight of stairs here. There is so little oxygen in the air. That’s probably why they sell signs in every store that say “Got Oxygen?”

This picture was taken at the top of Imperial Chair, that highest lift in North America, hitting 12,840 feet. From top to bottom, hitting double black diamonds and black diamond trails, it took us 40 minutes! We skied about 5 hours a day and my total for the trip was 32,836 vertical feet. My legs got worked to say the least. But I loved every minute of it.

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When I get back to Pittsburgh, I’ll be ready to hit training hard again. 67 days until the Pittsburgh Marathon!   Wow – when you say it that way, it’s right around the corner.

If you’re following a training plan, feeling pressured or feel like giving up, try giving yourself a break.  Re-arrange some of your runs. Focus on the few that really matter (i.e. long runs, speed) and remember, this is supposed to be fun. :)

I’m so excited to be an official Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Blogger again this year. I’ll be back weekly with tips and suggestions for training, hydration, nutrition, and real stories about the ups and downs of preparing for the 26.2 mile journey to the finish line. #GameOnPGH

Question: Do you follow a specific training plan or do you “wing” it? 

Feb 10

The truth about running in the cold

cold thermWinter training in Pittsburgh is, well, what can I say, it’s freaking cold. If I had to choose between very hot and humid or cold, I’d still choose the latter, however there is a certain threshold at which it begins to just plain SUCK!

I’m a morning runner. It works best for my work schedule and my home schedule, but it does have some drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is that I’m typically running during the coldest, let alone the darkest part of the day. I never really thought that much about the negative impact it has one my performance until recently when I started to notice a trend. A not so good trend. The start of every training week starts on Tuesday with a semi-long run at medium pace. Mine happens to be 9:05-9:20.

This morning I had 8 miles on the schedule at the above mentioned pace. It was 19 degrees with a real feel of 16. I’ve run in these temperatures before, but recently, since I’m full into my training cycle, I’m a little more conscience obsessed with my pace. I did okay for the first three miles but I started to slow. Since I was trying to hit a particular pace, I started to get upset. I was focused on how hard I was working and that led me to think about how cold I was. My legs were numb and weren’t doing what I wanted. The entire run spiraled downward from there. Not only did I not run the entire 8 miles, I was disgusted with my performance and now had a new dent in my confidence.

The cold could have very well played a part in my bad run this morning. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time. I could have taken some of the pressure off myself to continue to hit a certain pace. So what is the impact exactly?

1. First off – Ideal running temperature is right around 50 degrees. Amen, I couldn’t agree more. The chart below shows the slow down by drop in temperature for an athlete who typically runs an 8:00 pace. Based on the chart below, I should have expected to run 17-26 seconds slower than my normal 9:05 pace, or 9:22-9:31.

Temponpace

2. Feel like you’re breathing harder in the cold? It’s not your imagination. In cold temperatures, your body is less efficient at using oxygen than it is in less than ideal conditions.

3. The body uses carbohydrate stores faster in cold weather, increasing lactic acid in your muscles. Feelings of sore legs and muscles is also not your imagination. I experienced that this morning.

4. Just the process of your body trying to stay warm uses extra energy that would otherwise be used for running.

5. If you’re like me you probably put about 85 layers on to stay warm, which in itself is cumbersome. :(

With all of these things to consider, I should have given myself a break this morning on my pace and just finished the miles at whatever pace felt comfortable.

My recommendations for running in the cold are the following:

  • KNOW YOUR THRESHOLD. Not everyone is the same and some people are more tolerable of the cold weather than others. For me, when the temperatures start dropping under 20 degrees, I start to see a negative impact on my performance.
  • Take other conditions into consideration. Wind is going to obviously make it feel colder whereas a nice sunny day at 20 degrees may feel much, much warmer and tolerable.
  • Dress accordingly. I have a lot of cold weather gear (pants and tops) and prefer to wear several layers accompanied by gloves (sometimes hand warmers), a hat that completely covers the ears, a buff around my neck that I can pull up over my face and breathable wool socks. This would have more suitable this morning:

Randy-Snow-Suit-A-Christmas-Story-2

  • Embrace the treadmill when you need to. Sometimes runners have a negative attitude about running on the treadmill. But I have learned that running on the treadmill may be better than suffering through a really cold morning run or skipping it all together.

Judging by the expected high of 8 degrees on Sunday, long run day, I may need to make a decision about running outdoors or in. I’ve gone 16 miles on the treadmill before, but it’s NOT my first choice.

Stay warm runners and give yourself some slack in the cold. :)

Feb 09

Monday Motivation

motivation

Jan 29

Airia One Running Shoe Review

IMG_2797-1.PNGA while back, after the Indiana Veterans Marathon, I was contacted by Airia Running wondering if I was interested in trying out their running shoes. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, but as you know, I had some over-use issues that prevented me from running on a regular basis. I was trying to maintain some kind of fitness level and at the same time heal from injury. That’s not the best time to try new shoes.

Finally, this past weekend, I was able to test them out. After my 12 mile run, I slipped them on and ran a mile, slowly trying to get a feel for them.

Before I tell you what I thought of the shoes, I’ll give you a little background on what they claim on their website. The company is based out of Sweden and claim to have created shoes that will make you run faster. In short, the shoes force you to run “the way we were meant to run”, which I will get into later in this post. As  a point of interest, these shoes took 12 years to perfect!

When I first got the shoes and opened the box, i thought, man, are these things going to get dirty fast. I suppose they will go with everything, but the bright white won’t last for long especially if your running through Pittsburgh’s raining seasons, which I do. So, if you’re fanatical about keeping your shoes clean looking, this may be one downside. I was also thrown off by the way the toe box angles up, but when you run, this isn’t really that noticeable.

One of my favorite things about these shoes is how darn light they are. I typically train in Brooks Adrenalins (stability shoes) and they are heavy, even by normal running shoe standards. These are even lighter, or feel lighter, than my Brooks Pure Flow racers.  I consider that a bonus.

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When I first put them on, they felt too big. I tried to walk around in them despite the fact that the website very clearly states – THESE SHOES ARE NOT FOR WALKING IN. Clearly, because they feel very awkward to walk in. Amazing, when you start running, they don’t feel awkward anymore – they feel kinda normal. They didn’t feel big when I started running either.

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I didn’t run that far in them, but enough to notice a difference in my running mechanics. The biggest thing I noticed was a fatigue in my calves. They do claim to change the way your body works while running and may cause muscle soreness in unusual places until you get accustomed to them. As a matter of fact, they recommend running several shorter runs before attempting anything as long as even a 10K. They also DO make you run the way you’re supposed to run. Strike on the ball of the foot and roll off the big toe.

I liked these shoes when I ran in them a little more then I originally thought I would. But like most runners, have a “fear” of trying new shoes and messing with my stride. I’m having a hard time figuring out when I’m going to give these shoes a real chance. I’m in the middle of training and trying to adjust to new running mechanics sounds a little scary. But when the marathon is over, I may give these a serious chance. If they really can make me run faster, why not.

The shoes retail for $190, so slightly higher than your run of the mill running shoes, but not a ridiculous price. If you want to research and read more about these, visit the website Aria Running.

Looks like more snow is in the forecast this weekend runners. I better get those Yaktrax ordered!

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