Seven Ways to Get Back on Track

If you’re anything like me, the start of a new school year throws your schedule completely off. I missed my run today and had candy for lunch. I’m sure this isn’t the best strategy for running success. Luckily, I have a few tried and true strategies to get my training back on track, which I’ll share in today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom. Here they are – Seven Ways to Get Back on Track (that I should start immediately!):

  1. Get dressed to run. This strategy is along the lines of “fake it until you make it”. When I’m not feeling all that motivated to run, I put on my running clothes and shoes and wander around the house for a while. If I still don’t feel like running, I’ll head out for a “walk”, or “just one mile”. For extra motivation, I’ll bring Lucy, my running dog, with me. She always love to run. Usually, just getting outside is enough to motivate me. And, if not, at least I got in one mile.
  2. Run a race. Nothing jump starts my motivation like a race. I often sign up for races on impulse, joining friends, or finding a unique race that sounds like a good time. I love the atmosphere at races and being in that I-love-running environment makes me remember that I love running, too.
  3. Review your goals. Sometimes running slumps are the result of goals that are aimed too high or too low. Take a look at your running goals. Do they still make sense given where you are now? Do they need to be adjusted? Would setting a more short-term goal make more sense? I try to review my goals monthly to keep myself on track.
  4. Remind yourself of past running joys. I love looking at pictures of past races and fun runs when I’m off track with my running. Reliving the fun I had in the past helps to rekindle my love of running – and never fails to get me excited to run again.
  5. Join a friend. There’s nothing more motivating than knowing my friends are waiting for me in the pouring rain at 6:30am. Making a commitment to another person to run in a given place at a predetermined time never fails to get me out the door and ready to run. It doesn’t hurt that the run gives me time to complain about the things that have been distracting me or catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.
  6. Try something new. Stuck in a rut and bored? Try a new trail, a new workout, or a new group. Freshen up your runs with something new and exciting to challenge your body and mind.
  7. Buy a running treat. Whether it’s a new piece of running gear to add to my wardrobe or a fresh packet of Sport Beans, sometimes a running treat is just what I need. Wearing something new, or trying a new fuel is fun – and I have to be running to do it.

Happy running!

Hood to Coast – A Recap, Part 2

Read on for the second installment in my Hood to Coast Recap. Part 1 is here.

Saturday, 2am

It’s nearly time for me to run. Two faithful (and awake) runners get out of the van in the cold to wait at the exchange with me. I’m so grateful for the fleece Delta blanket a teammate has stolen from the plane. Everyone tells me to hurry. The sooner I am done running the sooner we can get to the next exchange, and designated sleeping point. Leg 18 doesn’t have van support – the vans go a different way to the exchange – so I bring my water bottle. My leg starts out in an area dominated by mini-mall and gas station sprawl. It’s completely dark and oncoming cars have their brights on. I am blinded by the changes in light and grateful when I turn into a neighborhood. The neighborhood gradually deteriorates. Someone on the corner offers me “something to help with the pain”. Yikes. I run faster. A few people pass me, but they’re moving so fast that their lights fade quickly in the darkness. I curse my headlamp. It is not bright enough. I can’t see anything and the road is a bumpy mess of potholes and patches. The course winds through the neighborhood and into farm country. I see the glimmering eyes of animals in the woods staring at me. Creepy! I run on, uphill. The hill changes to gravel, but keeps going up. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, I hear cheering and see the distant glow of the exchange. It’s like a mirage. I sprint to the exchange. I am so, so glad that creepy run is over. The teammates who have met me usher me across the field and into the van. We are all eager to get to the sleeping spot. On the way one teammate is so tired she curls up in the footwell of the back seat, trying to get comfortable. I am too awake to sleep. I’m starving, but too tired to eat.

Saturday, 3am

We arrive at the major exchange. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Hundreds of vans are parked in every available spot in a giant, grassy field. Thousands of runners, bundled up in blankets, coats, and hats mill around. The line for the Honey Bucket porta potties is at least a hundred people long. I have to pee but am horrified by the state of the porta potties and the idea of having to use one in the dark. We pull into a spot and have to stop sharply to avoid running over the people who are inexplicably sleeping in sleeping bags in the middle of the field. There are tents and sleeping bags everywhere. It’s what I imagine a runners-only refugee camp looks like. We all try to sleep.

Saturday, 5am

I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept at all. My neck hurts and I’m cold. One van-mate is awake. We give up on sleeping and head outside to check out the area. It’s early morning and we see that about half of the vans have moved on in the night. It’s foggy and cold. We use the porta potty and wait in line for coffee for our van. Back at the van, we all brush our teeth and eat breakfast. I feel cleaner with brushed teeth. I know that this is crazy – I haven’t showered and have been in a van overnight, but I feel better. At least I changed my clothes and used a baby wipe to clean up. I’m sure to a stranger we are disgusting, but I feel practically fresh.

We are all surprisingly upbeat considering the lack of sleep, lack of food, and sweatiness. Despite our state of exhaustion, we rally and get out of the van to cheer on the van 2 runner coming in. Cheers and high fives. Seeing our team is wonderful and we’re all awake and happy. The sun starts to come up and burn off the fog and we’re energized.

Saturday, morning

Everyone is running their last legs and the pain of the previous two is the topic of conversation. No one can move. Our van smells like a medicine cabinet exploded. We have muscle rub, Tiger Balm, and Biofreeze. We apply all of it. We use the Stick. We take advil. The overwhelming minty smell is probably a good thing. I don’t want to know how bad our van smells without it. We make an effort to clean out the van at the next exchange. It’s a lost cause. We’re gross, the van is covered in dust, and our stuff is everywhere. No one cares.

Saturday, noon? I don’t know – I’ve lost track of time

It’s rapidly approaching time for my last leg and we are stuck in a traffic jam at the bottom of the biggest hill I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I didn’t have to run over that hill. Another runner and I leap out of the van to run to the exchange. A volunteer yells at us.

Everyone is cranky. I wish I had eaten something other than another banana and more Fig Newtons. Finally, it’s time for my last leg. It’s billed as “mostly downhill”. Good joke, Hood to Coast staff. As I climb up yet another hill, I curse the course designer. My legs feel like sticks. I’m sure I look like Frankenstein running. But I run on, and suddenly, I’m overtaken by feelings of great joy. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful! I’m running outside, along a gorgeous trail, and I have friends waiting for me in a few miles. This is great! Euphoria lasts approximately one mile.

We are done and head directly to the bar. We have a drink. Everyone is tired and cranky. I don’t want a burger, and another teammate wants a salad, so we move on. I change clothes in a port potty. I’m getting quite adept at maneuvering in porta potties. Some time later, we arrive in Seaside. We’re all happy and already feeling nostalgic. We head for the ocean and dip our feet in. No one is brave enough to go in.

And, before we know it, it’s over. The announcer is calling our team to meet our last runner and we run over the finish line together. We pass out medals, we take pictures. And, suddenly, it’s over. There are hugs and high fives and stories of battles with hill and exhaustion. We are happy. We are a team. And I realize that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done as a runner.

Hood to Coast – A Recap, Part 1

This weekend I had the incredible joy of running in the Hood to Coast relay in Oregon. It was truly an amazing experience and I struggle to really capture its awesomeness in this recap, but I’ll try. The strange thing about Hood to Coast is that it is a bit of a time warp, or an alternate dimension, where it’s difficult to keep track of time and everything blurs together. I have bits and pieces of memories, but some stories seem out of order and whole chunks of time have been lost to sleeplessness and exhaustion. I’ll try to piece together a recap that makes sense…

Thursday

The team is finally together having arrived on various flights. We meet up at the team’s main hotel to go grocery shopping, sight seeing, and touring.

First, we headed to the store. What an adventure. You’d think it would be easy to shop for a day and a half in a van. Turns out 12 runners eat 12 different things before runs. What makes one person sick is the best food ever to another. We end up with cookies, pudding, Fig Newtons, Cheerios, apples (two kinds), bananas (5 pounds), and tangerines. We are sure it’s too much food. Next, we decided visit Multnomah Falls, a gorgeous waterfall.

It seemed like a good idea to walk the one mile to the top. Turns out that one mile is straight up. Half of the team pushes onward, thighs burning. We make it to the top, realize it isn’t that exciting, and was probably a bad idea, and head back down. We all pile into the van and drive to the Pearl District for some shopping. Fun!

Friday, morning

We have a great start time – 11:15am, so we can sleep in and leave at 9am. I’m sure this is the last sleep any of us will get, but I’m wide awake at 6am. The team starts the trek up the mountain and we’re all instantly fired up when we start to see runners coming down the mountain. We’re listening to music, talking, taking pictures. We pass the Safeway in Sandy and I realize that’s where my first leg will end. It sure doesn’t seem as flat as the elevation chart in the booklet. We keep climbing. Our first and second runners start worrying. Their legs are really straight down. Another teammate who has run HTC before warns – you can’t stop even if you want to. Yikes.

We make it to the timberline, the location of the start. We take lots of pictures and get into place. Our first runner starts her quad-shredding free fall down the mountain. The first few legs are exhilarating. We’re all so excited to be running that we chat non-stop between legs. When we pass our runner we all lean out the van windows screaming and cheering. Everyone gets out of the van and waits to cheer our runner in to the exchange. We get the first inkling that the legs may be harder than we anticipated. Everyone’s legs are shot.

Friday, noon-ish

I’m hungry. I realize that my plan to eat a huge breakfast and store food like a hibernating animal has failed. I eat some Cheerios, Fig Newtons, and a banana. The runner before me sets off on his “very hard” rated run. We drive down along the same route. I think very hard is an understatement.

Friday, afternoon

Time for me to run and finish the first set of legs for Van 1. I’m runner 6. I have to run along “rolling hills” and into the town of Sandy for a van exchange at the Safeway. It’s 86 degrees and sunny. There is no shade anywhere on my route and the heat waves coming of the blacktop are visible. A fire company hands out water and a gas station owner sprays me with a hose. I think he’s an angel. The hills, marked as “hard”, seem gigantic. It’s punishing, but I race down the mountain, knowing my team is waiting for me. I can hear the cheering from at least a quarter of a mile away. At the exchange, vans are everywhere, people are milling around, some cheering, some shopping, some resting. It’s total chaos and it’s amazing. I feel such a camaraderie with the other runners and it’s great to see my teammates in Van 2.

Van 1 decides to head to the hotel in Portland to eat and shower.

Friday, 6pm

Van 1 arrives at the hotel after sitting in traffic for some time. We are delighted to make it to happy hour in the hotel bar. Everyone eats real, hot food. It’s delicious. We all take showers and have an hour or so to rest. I can’t sleep. I write a blog post and send some texts instead. I’m sure this is a bad idea. Sleep would have been better, but I’m too excited and on an endorphin rush.

Friday, 9pm

We arrive at the second major van exchange, and park in a dirt lot. We walk to the exchange point, a park in the middle of the city near the water. It’s pitch black, but we somehow manage to locate our team and, together, we wait in the dark. We share stories of our legs and talk about the scenery. It’s beautiful. The weather is perfect.

Our first runner sets off on Leg 13. It’s kind of creepy. She runs over a bridge and along some railroad tracks. I’m secretly glad this isn’t my leg. The next two legs seem worse. It’s like psycho killer territory – old industrial areas, train tracks, and scary warehouses on the edge of Portland. Everyone in the van worries about how mentally hard these legs will be for the runners. We begin to move out of Portland and to an area that seemed like a road to nowhere. It’s dark, uphill, and boring. Leg 15 seems so miserable that we wait in the van at the halfway point to cheer for our runner. We make it to the next exchange, an abandoned weigh station. It’s late, dark, and everyone is tired. Everyone isn’t getting out of the van at every stop anymore. I eat more Fig Newtons. I think a midnight snack will help. Word of the tire store fire and associated lengthening of leg 17 is spreading. Our leg 17 runner takes the news of the mile addition with grace. He’s not ruffled. We are all tired, but we press on. It’s still fun, but maybe not as energetic as before.

To be continued…

Hood to Coast! Van 1, Session 1

Where is the world is Rachel? Somewhere in nowhere Oregon, running Hood to Coast.

This morning my team and I set off on the 200 mile voyage from the timberline at Mt. Hood to the beach. Van 1 is done with our first running session and, boy, was it crazy.

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Our session started with some major, quad shredding downhills. Then, three legs into the session, it evened out for a bit. After that came the brutal 5th and 6th legs. The 5th and 6th legs were rolling, with several severe uphills, and full-on sun. It was HOT on the course. I ran leg 6, running last in our van. I swear I nearly melted on the course. The humidity is very low, but the sun in these high altitudes is hot and bright. It was unrelenting. There wasn’t even so much as a stick to use for shade. Despite the hot, hilly conditions, I ran well. 6.75 miles in about an hour. Whew!!

Now, Van 1 is at the hotel. We were close enough to come back. We had hot showers, hot meals, and a short dip in the giant ice bath (outdoor pool). No time for sleep – we have to get back out there for our nighttime runs.

There will be a major update when all is said and done. This is an incredible experience!

Connecticut Race Report, Late August

In this Connecticut Race Report (also featured on Pace Per Mile), I’m highlighting some great events in Connecticut in late August. It’s hot, hot, hot, and the kids are back to school, so there aren’t many races, but here are a few you might enjoy:

Running Events:

X-Treme Scramble #3HMF Extreme Scramble #3, Hartford, CT, Thursday, August 23, 2012, at 6pm – In this third installment of the Hartford Marathon Foundation’s summer series of X-Treme Scrambles, country music will be the focus. The course will be unpredictable but you’ll get Harpoon beer and Moe’s burritos at the finish line. The entry fee is around $30 and awards will be presented to age group winners. Full disclosure – I’m still mad at HMF for the 3.9 mile X-Treme Scramble #1 of 2012. These races are usually fun, but buyer beware – they are notorious for mis-measured courses and poorly marking the courses. If you run, be prepared.
Westport Road Runners Summer Series 9.3miWestport Road Runners Summer Series 9.3 mile run, Westport, CT, Saturday,  August 25, 2012, 8am – This is part of a 10-race Grand Prix Series hosted by the Westport Road Runners. The race is a bargain at $5 for Westport residents and $8 for everyone else. There is Grand Prix style scoring, so no prizes for individual events. The organizers promise a well-marked, interesting course with water stops.
Brooklyn Fair 5K Road RaceBrooklyn Fair 5k Road Race, Brooklyn, CT, Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 8am – Benefitting the Brooklyn School Cross Country Program, this race is part of a country fair. You can’t beat a fair for family fun. Come to run the race and stay all day to enjoy the country charm. Race entry is $14 in advance, $17 race day. There will be professional timing and post-race snacks. More information about the fair, along with a complete schedule of events, is here. 
Multisport Events:
Trifitness Women’s Triathlon and DuathlonTriFitness Women’s Triathlon, Duathlon, Norwalk, CT, Sunday August 26, 2012 at 6:30am – This great multisport event features several races suitable for everyone from seasoned triathletes to beginners. There is a Sprint Triathlon with a .5 mile swim, 11 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run; a Duathlon with a 1.5 mile run, 11 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run, and a relay option for the triathlon. Pre-registered athletes will get a women’s specific t-shirt and there will be awards and food post-race. The du is $55 and the tri is $65 in advance. Relay teams are encouraged and more information is on their website. Sorry, guys – this race is women only.
I hope you’ll consider one of these great events. If you’re looking for something else in the New England area, check out The Race Robot, a great site by athletes for athletes.

Nine Running Quotes

As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners. Today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Nine Running Quotes to Keep Motivated:

  1. “In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”  -Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder
  2. “Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.” – John Bingham (The Penguin)
  3. “We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves…The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.” – Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile
  4. “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.”  – Bart Yasso
  5. “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan
  6. “We have all learned everything we know physically—from walking to running a marathon—by trial and error, so there’s no reason to become our own worst enemies when we suffer a setback. From time to time everyone falls short of their goals. It’s an illusion to believe that champions succeed because they do everything perfectly. You can be certain that every archer who hits the bull’s-eye has also missed the bull’s-eye a thousand times while learning the skill.” – Amby Burfoot
  7. “That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.” – Kara Goucher
  8. “We’re all slower than somebody. There’s nothing to be gained from belittling yourself over how fast you can run; banish all thoughts of ‘Oh, I’m so slow, what’s the point?’ People get lapped even in world-class 10Ks on the track. There wil
    l always be lots of people faster than you. That fact detracts not a whit from your efforts to get faster and the meaning you can find in that pursuit. Any thoughtful runner who has set performance goals and worked hard to reach them will respect any other runner’s quest to do the same. Your effort, not your pace at that effort, is what really matters.” – Scott Douglas
  9. “Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” -Richard O’Brien

Want more great quotes? Check out Gibson’s Daily Running Quotes on Facebook or the super fun 1,001 Pearls of Runner’s Wisdom book.

Packing for Hood to Coast

In less than 24 hours, I’m leaving on a jet plane, and heading to Oregon for Hood to Coast. Hood to Coast is the mother of all relays and I can’t wait to run it. It’s a running lifelong dream. Here’s how it happened:

Months ago, some running friends mentioned that they were thinking of applying to the Hood to Coast lottery and asked me if I would like to run. I have wanted to run Hood to Coast for years, and I finally had found a team of people who wanted to run and wanted me to run with them. Yay! Our fearless leader put in the application. I couldn’t believe it when she told me we got in. We were going to Oregon! It seemed so far away. Now, the time has come. And I have to pack!

As one of our team’s officially designated highly organized teammates, I prepared a packing list. Here it is:

Three sets of running clothes plus a spare set just in case, rain shell, long sleeve shirt or pullover, hat, sunglasses, five pairs of socks, reflective vest, wind jacket, headlamp, flashing light, camera, Garmin, iPhone, chargers for camera iPhone and Garmin, clothes to wear in the van, warm up pants, flip flops, two pairs of running shoes, sweatshirt for the beach, The Stick, Biofreeze, handheld water bottle, compression sleeves, arm warmers, and snacks.

Turns out that’s  lot of stuff! What a mess!
Yikes. I’m not sure all that stuff will fit in one bag. And, is that really all that I need? This is my first relay and this is a big one! I got some great advice to put my running clothes in baggies to keep the parts together and organized.
I love anything that makes travel more organized. The big question remains – did I miss anything? Relay veterans – what would you add or subtract from my list?
Stay tuned for updates and reports from the race. Hood to Coast, here I come!

The Case of the Accidental PR

This post will not only chronicle a strange mystery – the case of the accidental PR -it will give a race recap for the Providence Rock N Roll Half Marathon. Read on for Rachel’s strategies for breaking all the pre-race rules and still running a PR.

On Sunday, August 19, 2012, I joined about three thousand of my closest friends to run through the streets of historic Providence at the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon. I signed up for this race months ago, thinking it was a great idea. I would be in full training mode, I like Rock N Roll races, I hadn’t run Providence, and it would be a great tune up race for Hartford. Fast forward four months. My mileage is high, but my long runs have been two-a-days so I haven’t run longer than 10 miles at any given time in at least six weeks. The day before Providence I rode in a 35-mile charity bike event in the pouring rain. Then, I ate lots of Mexican food and went to bed.

At the insane hour of 4am I left my house for Providence. I arrived at the Providence Place Mall, the designated race parking area, at about 5am and ate some Fig Newtons. Being insanely early, the sun was hardly up and the volunteers were just setting up the finish line area.

At race start, it was about 72 degrees, partly sunny, and gorgeous – perfect running weather. I was joined in corral 6 by two friends. The only two people I knew who were running the race just happened to by in my corral. Yay! Corrals were sent to the starting line in 30-second intervals so, despite the large size of the race, the running was smooth and easy, even early on. The other notable member of Corral 6 was Patrick, the winner of Biggest Loser Season 10. I chatted with him during the first mile and he seems like a lovely person.

The race course was gorgeous. It meandered through adorable historic areas of Providence, along the waterfront, and into the center of the city. We ran through parks, across bridges, and all over the beautiful city of Providence. It looked exactly like what I imagined New England looked like before I lived here.

The course featured rolling hills and traveled along several really scenic roads. As is usual for a Rock N Roll event, there were helpful volunteers everywhere. At every corner and every water stop there were cheering fans and volunteers. All the roads were closed and police officers and a huge team of security personnel were guarding the crossroads. The race was well marked, and fun bands lined the course. The fuel stops were well organized and there were multiple flavors of Gatorade and Gu for runners to enjoy. The course was easy to enjoy because the race was so well organized. Rock N Roll knows how to put on a good race.

Since I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about my ability to race well, I approached the race with leisure. I ran fast when I felt like it, not so fast when I didn’t. I drank water from every water stop. I looked around. I listened to the great bands along the route. Heck, I even stopped and waited 3 minutes in a port-potty line to pee (thanks to too much water at those water stops). Put simply, I didn’t race. The miles slipped by and I remember something Kara Goucher said about the marathon – that it was good early on to save mental energy, to find a rhythm and let the miles pass. Awesome. I was running like Kara.

I was feeling strong. The miles were floating by! Around mile 8 I checked my Garmin. I couldn’t believe it was mile 8. I thought I might be misreading the data. I felt great! I decided it would be ok to not stop at every single water stop and to pick up the pace just a bit. When I hit the 10 mile mark I looked at my Garmin again and saw something shocking. If I didn’t stop, or go really, really slowly, I would PR. I was 10 miles into a half marathon I hadn’t raced, hadn’t prepared for, and generally ran aimlessly, and, barring any unforeseen problems, would PR without trying. I was on my way to an accidental PR.

The new of my pending PR inspired me. I ran like the wind for the last 5k. It was hilly and definitely challenging, but I sped along, buoyed by my possible PR. I ran my last mile in record time. Not just record for the last mile of a half marathon, but seriously fast, and close to my pre-surgery pace per mile. The official race photos are terrifying. I look like rabid dogs are chasing me, but I was determined to make something of a race I hadn’t taken seriously. I races those last three miles.

And then it happened. I PRed. Accidentally.

I was delighted, but perplexed. How had it happened? I violated several rules of racing success. I hadn’t run long in weeks. I didn’t taper. I worked out hard the day before; my legs were tired going into the race. I ate junk the day before. I got barely 5 hours of sleep. I sacrificed sleep to drive to the race on race day. I didn’t eat my usual breakfast the morning of the race. I meandered through the early miles. I stopped at a porta-potty. Yet, somehow, despite the odds, I ran the fastest half marathon I’ve ever run. It’s hilarious and sad at the same time. I wonder what I could have run had I taken the race seriously. But, what if my leisurely style is the reason for my success…we will never know.

I stumbled through the finish line chute, picking up my orange, banana, and water. I got my medal. I even managed to find my friends and reconnect with them for the amazing Karmin concert at the finish line. It was a great race and a great day.

Overall, I loved the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon. It was well organized, wonderfully run, and had a really special, gorgeous course. I will definitely run with Rock N Roll again and I will be at Providence next year, hopefully ready to race.

Want to catch a glimpse of the glamorous life of a runner of the Providence half? Check out this great, 2-minute video my friend Ray made. It’s on YouTube: Ray’s Behind-the-Scenes Look at Rock N Roll Providence (and is work safe). Learn more about Ray and his running adventures at Running Ray, his blog.

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Run: Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve shirt, Lululemon Turbo Run shorts, Nike Free 2.0 shoes, CEP hat I won in a Twitter contest (it’s a Head Sweats hat), cool finishers’ medal.

How To De-Stink Your Running Clothes

Let’s face it. Running clothes get stinky. Yes, ladies, even our running clothes get stinky. Yuck. I’ve seen lots of discussion online about stinky running clothes and a general sense of horror at the level of stinkiness some clothes can achieve. These discussions inspired me to share my strategy for keeping clothes smelling fresh. It’s simple.

First, a little primer on why running clothes stink – and why they maintain their smell even after washing. When we sweat, we not only sweat out water, but salts, oils, fats, and other organic compounds. We also sweat off whatever it was that was on our skin to begin with, including lotion, deodorant, and the like. While the water part of sweat, and most of the salts, are easily washed out, the other compounds can cling. Ew. Fabrics have pores and the pores in fabric, just like pores anywhere else, get clogged up with these yucky bits. When the yucky bits begin to break down, they stink. The clogged pores also capture more junk, compounding the problem and the smell.

Pre-wash

Immediately after wearing, and stinking up, running clothes, either wash them or hang them to dry out. It is critical to long-term smell to not let the clothes mildew or sit around sweaty. I keep two cheap plastic hampers in my basement near my washing machine to use as dirty clothes drying racks. I hang the wet clothes around the edges of the hamper. Then, when they have dried, I just push the clothes into the hamper to await their turn to be washed. If you’re tight on space, try a cheap round hamper on top of the washer. Even less space, hang them outside, or off the shower rod for a few hours. The drier your clothes can be pre-wash, the better off you’ll be.

Dr. Rachel’s actual dirty clothes, hanging to dry.

Synthetic fabrics

Synthetic, wicking, fabrics are fantastic. But, the same thing that makes them wick makes them stink. The little pores that transport moisture away from the skin are also likely to get clogged. When the pores clog, the clothes stink. To wash, and successfully de-stink your synthetic fabrics, you need two things. First, you need a powder-baed laundry enhancer. I like Oxy Clean, but I’ve had equally good results with Borax. Next, you’ll want a laundry detergent that’s up to the task. The best laundry detergent for synthetic workout clothes is Win High Performance Sports Detergent (use coupon code WIN-ICXZ-EQBV to get $5 off your order!).

I love this stuff! It has a special ratio of cleaning agents to work best on synthetic fabrics and a nice smell (and it’s HE safe for you people with fancier washing machines than I). I wash with WIN every load, every time for workout clothes (and gross towels, too). Wash your clothes in warm or hot water (personal preference, I use warm) with the amount of  detergent required for your load size. For best results, use more water than you think you need. This strategy will ensure that the clothes have sufficient room to move around, swishing the water through the pores. What if you have one of those fancy new load sensing washers, you ask. Trick the machine into adding extra water by using the add clothes feature or by adding water manually. Once your clothes are clean and fresh, air dry or dry in a very hot dryer. I air dry to make up for all the extra water I use. If things are EXTRA stinky (think football gear and the like), add a dash of OxyClean or Borax. Honestly, WIN does the job for nearly all my loads. I can’t say enough how much I love it!

One important note – never, ever use fabric softener of any kind (including dryer sheets) with synthetic fabrics. Fabric softener clogs the pores and will trap stink in the fabric. What if you already used the softener (gasp)? That’s ok. Follow the instructions for cotton, below, then wash with WIN and hot water to remove any reside. Your fabrics will be fine once you remove the softener from the pores.

Cotton

My running husband still runs in cotton t shirts (I know!) and I can tell you it’s much harder to de-stink cotton, but it can be done. I find that drying them completely before washing helps. I routinely wash my husband’s cotton shirts in warm water and Tide (Cold Water, or the kind with color-safe bleach) with Oxy Clean and dry them in a very hot dryer. Once a month or so, I perform a de-stinking procedure on the worst offenders. To de-stink cotton, you only need regular, household vinegar. Get yourself a gallon jug of vinegar and, for each full load of stinky stuff, add approximately two cups of vinegar to a “soak” cycle. If your machine doesn’t have soak, let it fill and run though half of a wash cycle with the vinegar, then drain it. After draining the vinegar water, wash the clothes in warm or hot water (personal preference) with a powder-based laundry additive and detergent of your choice. Win is safe for cotton, and works well. I also like ordinary Tide. As with synthetics, stay away from fabric softeners, and even the Tide with Febreze in it. Dry the clothes in a very hot dryer.

There you have it – my tips to stay smelling fresh, even if it’s just at the start of your runs. Want to try the best detergent ever? Buy WIN here, using coupon code WIN-ICXZ-EQBV for $5 off!

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Race Recap: Rubber Chicken 5k

On Thursday, August 16, 2012, I ran in the second annual Oddfellows Rubber Chicken Run 5k. This unique event features a cross country 5k, walk, and children’s race. Proceeds from the race benefit the Oddfellows Playhouse, a community theatre project that provides educational and social theatre programming for young people. The 5k race featured a team division, which some friends and I entered. In the team division, teams of five people averaged their times for one group time. The walk was non-competitive and open to all.

Check in was well managed. I waited only a minute or two to get my number, a pretty cool technical t-shirt (with gender-specific sizes!), and a bag. With such a small entry fee, I was surprised at the high quality of the race goodies. The shirt is really pretty fun – one I will wear with pride.

It was approximately 84 degrees and humid for the 6:30pm race start. The race course was unusual. It was a bit of a loop course, but the loops shared a central alley. Perhaps it is more aptly described as a concentric circle course, with one loop run in one direction and the second loop run in the opposite direction. The course was a true cross country course, complete with grassy fields, dirt paths, crushed stone paths, and single track with roots, rocks, and hills. Overall, the hills were mostly rolling and gradual, save for one uphill on single track fringed by poison ivy (so no passing, much to my dismay).

Helpful volunteers were on hand to point the way at tricky intersections and there were two water stops staffed with cheering volunteers. The course was easy to follow, with a helpful white spray painted track. In fact, parts of the course had a continuous spray painted line with arrows, so it would have been quite difficult to get lost. I have run lots of trail races and I must say that this on was possibly the best marked of all.

There was professional timing provided by Start Liner Race Services and a festive finish line. After the race there was great pizza, breadsticks (individually packaged!), and the best cookies EVER. Seriously. I loved the cookies.

Age group winners were announced and received rubber chickens as prizes. In the team category, the top three teams were announced. Winning teams got one rubber chicken, and five certificates for two tickets to a Oddfellows production. I’m proud to say my team, Team Rooster, won third in the coed division and two of our team members placed in their age groups.

Overall, I loved the Rubber Chicken Race. It was highly organized, well managed, fun, and fast. Times were good overall even with the heat and the course was enjoyable to run. I would highly recommend it!

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Cool Racerback tank in Blazer Fossil, Janji Run for Kenya shorts, super old men’s Nike running hat.