As influencer marketing becomes more and more prevalent, it’s become tougher to figure out what top bloggers are actually obsessed with and use daily. How many products can you veritably claim are your absolute favorite, ‘seriously the best ever’, of the 12 you shared in the past 4 days that you’re ‘absolutely obsessed’ with and are, of course, *the* softest EVER?
(Side note: I watched Ingrid Goes West this weekend… total social commentary about exactly THAT type of thing.)
I try not to engage in too many of those OMG antics and give it to you straight about what I feel is pretty great and what’s not so much. I don’t want to use something once and claim it’s fantabulous, only to have it start chafing or falling apart after 3 weeks of regular wear & tear.
I’ll be the first to admit the obvious, it’s been a quiet year so far on the blog. While I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time in recent months to weekly retail recaps, I fully intend to grab my running shoes and share my training for the Seawheeze Half Marathon again in 2018.
Seeing that my first SW in 2016 was a hot mess, I shared the 6 Lessons I’d Learned the Hard Way before kicking off my 2017 training cycle. After a full year of vetting out which gear and nutrition my body likes, it’s time to share my tried and true favorites that I won’t start training for 2018 without.
Shoes & Gear
Shoes: Brooks Ravenna 9 ($110) – Last year I went with the Brooks Ghost 10 for long runs and race day, and rotated in the Brooks Launch 4 for shorter jaunts. The Launch was too light for my tastes, but this spring the Ghosts have felt a bit heavy. The Ravenna is a happy medium between the two, and I’m excited to put some mileage on them.
Socks: Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Ultra Light Micro Socks ($15.95) – Too much cushion led to hot spots for me, and lululemon’s tech socks also gave me hot spots on the bottom of my feet. The Smartwools do well in both compression and breathability. Pricey, though, so I only have two pair.
Crops: Lululemon Fast & Free Crop II ($118) – They’re the only crops I’ve got (and I have a lot) that don’t move around on a long run. I have 3 pair and will likely train in them exclusively this season.
Tank: Lululemon Sculpt Tank II ($58) – Although I’ve been an original lululemon Cool Racerback loyalist for years, they’re actually a bit heavy. On the longest and hottest runs, I learned to embrace looser and lighter options like the Sculpt. Not only are they incredibly breathable, more ample fabric helps with sun protection and chafing protection in case you choose to wear a backpack-style hydration pack.
Accessories & Hydration
Gear Stash: FlipBelt (~$28) – What I like about the FlipBelt is that it’s one continuous compartment that lays flat, as opposed to having a larger pocket on a strap that can bounce. I’ve been training with one for about 3 years and have no intention of switching.
Sunglasses: Oakley Break-Up (Discontinued) – My point here is to advise you to invest in a good pair of wraparound shades. They’re not the most fashionable (I’ve been accused of wearing ‘cataract glasses’ before), but cutesy shades aren’t crafted with sweat and bouncing in mind. If you’re on Team “I don’t buy expensive sunglasses because I always lose them”, you may actually pay more attention and NOT lose them if you spent more than $8. 🙂
Short/Mid-Distance Hydration: Amphipod Hydraform Jett-Lite Thermal 20oz HandHeld Water Bottle ($29.90) – I can get 5-6 miles out of this ergonomically shaped little guy in hot weather. The neoprene sleeve doesn’t get swampy, and the pocket is roomy without being bulky.
Long-Distance Hydration: Osprey Raven 14 Hydration Pack ($105) – Seasoned runners reading this may say this is a bit overkill, and you’re right. I bought the 14L for capacity on day hikes and bike rides, it also comes in a 10L capacity option. I have gone for an incredibly sweltering 12-miler on which the full 100oz bladder was GONE by the time I was finished, and I can happily report that the waist strap helped keep the bounce factor to a minimum on what will go down unquestionably as my WORST training run of 2017. I cried no less than 4 times that day. Osprey held up tho.
Nutrition: Nuun Electrolyte Drink Tablets, Citrus Berry Mixed Flavor Pack ($18) – I was first turned onto Nuun thanks to the runner’s gift bags from SW2016. I’ve experimented with water, Nuun and Gatorade. Gatorade is too sugary and will stop me in my tracks with incredibly painful cramps, but sometimes I need more than water on those hot days. I am goldilocks (literally) and Nuun tablets are just right.
Flexible Fabric Band-Aids & Foot Glide Anti Blister Balm ($8) – Even though sizing up a half size on my distance shoes has significantly helped, feet inevitably sweat on long runs. Friction happens. The Bandaids go on my second & third toes for prevention and stay put for a couple days. The Foot Glide has worked wonders to prevent from hot spots that like to creep up around Mile 8.
Body Glide For Her ($9.99) – After dropping over 10lbs training last year, my bra size went down. Some of the 8’s were still a big snug at first, and this saved my under arms on some humid days, BIG TIME.
The Muscle Stick Massage Roller ($14.99) – While I managed to grab mine for $8.99 last year, the current price is still half that of the OG The Stick. I experienced lots of IT band pain in 2016, and taking this to my legs before every run last season helped so that I had no IT issues in 2017. Win.
Audio: Jaybird X3 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones ($99.49) – I’ve had these since before Apple AirPods were a thing. I also have those, but I definitely prefer the Jaybirds for running. They come with 6 different types of earbud covers/sizes to make sure you get the right fit, along with silicone fins to help make sure they stay put.
There’s a clip on the cord which I often like to attach to my headband for an extra level of security. Sound is rich, not muddy. The accompanying free app gives you the option to adjust EQ to achieve a sound style you like, and I also appreciate the robot lady’s announcement of the battery’s level when I turn them on, so I don’t head out for a long run on 32%.
Wearables: Garmin Forerunner 235 ($249.99) + Garmin Premium HR Monitor ($42.99) – After MapMyRun royally f*cked me over for two consecutive half marathons, I invested in a GPS watch and am so incredibly happy that I did. My only gripe was that the wrist based heart rate monitor can’t take an accurate read when wearing wrist wraps at CrossFit, so I missed out on a ton of data for metcons. I gave Orangetheory a try once over the winter, and didn’t even notice wearing the pod during the workout. After that, I decided a chest strap wasn’t so dweeby after all, and maybe I should use one. I opted for Garmin so that I knew it would be compatible with my watch.
Activity Tracking App: TrainingPeaks – I learned about the app through Joanna, who uses it when coaching far more badass endurance athletes than my mediocre self. However, being a data dweeb I absolutely LOVE the amount of metrics you can track your progress with.
One of my favorite parts is that it factors in fatigue and fitness to figure out how taxed you are. It’s kind of like a WHOOP, but it uses the data you manually enter in or sync with a number of compatible devices (like my Garmin). It also allows you to keep track of your equipment, which is something I didn’t do before last year. Instead of guessing if my shoes were shot, it has been helpful to see how many miles I’ve put on them so I know when it’s time to consider a new pair.
Giving this post a once-over before hitting publish, I realized that there are a lot of price tags here. It doesn’t seem right to call this list of essentials, as I originally named this post. Let’s call a spade a spade, some of these are luxuries.
Good shoes and no blisters are essential. GPS Watches and fancy hydration packs are helpful. Some people run without music, others can’t go 10 steps without it.
At the end of the day, training for long distance races takes place as much as it does in between the ears as it does on the pavement. I personally have an analytical mind that thrives on data and will get in its own way without a distraction. The Forerunner & TP are my two most useful items. I’ll run without music before I run without a GPS watch because it keeps me on track.
If you’re running a race to simply finish, who cares if you’re running a 9:07 or a 13:04 mile. No need for the watch. If you like to listen to your breath, leave the headphones at home. At the end of last year, one of the best things I’d learned to do was know my body and trust my training. As a nervous wreck before games and races constantly throughout my athletic career, last year’s race was the first time I did NOT have butterflies before the gun.
I’m training for my 4th half, so I guess I can’t consider myself a super n00b anymore. One of the most valuable things you can do is spend some time within your own head and figure out what’s the most difficult part of training for you.
Trouble focusing? Invest in some tunes.
Distracted by your gear? Invest in a quality outfit and get fitted for the right shoes.
Pain & Fatigue? Focus on mobility, massage, nutrition, and self care.
Accountability? Find a coach (digital or human), maybe join a run group.
There are so many ways to tweak your training regimen in order to prepare yourself for a successful race, all you’ve got to do is commit to the bit, pick and choose the right aids for you and (in honor of the Bachelorette premiere this evening)… do the damn thing!