Gear Review: Pace Crops

Spring is here! I experienced one of my favorite springtime traditions recently – the switching of the running clothes. I keep out of season gear in big boxes in my basement, and, twice each year, that means that I get to switch seasons of my athletic gear. The switch almost always leads to the purchase of a few new items to add to my collection.

Given my deep an abiding love of all things Lululemon (and, full disclosure, my Ambassador status), Lululemon was the logical destination for new gear. I am in love with the Pace Tights and decided to try their sister crops, the Run: Pace Crops. I bought the black/frond pair and have now tested them on a number of runs (and one race!).

Pace Crops

I like these crops. Honestly, I was a bit confused by the crops the first time I wore them. I expected them to fit and feel like their Pace Tights sister, but they’re more like distant cousins. The Pace Crops fit differently and look distinct from the tights. But, the fit and feel are great. They are primarily Power Luxtreme, with a very lightweight feel. The back of the knees has Circle Mesh venting. I like the added touch of the Circle Mesh. It keeps the material from bunching behind the knees for a comfortable stride. The crops have two gel pockets in the front waistband and a zipper pocket in the back waistband. The inseam is 17 inches, or just below knee length.

I have worn these crops on several runs. In the cool and humid conditions that are typical in the spring in my area, the crops were just the right weight for running comfort.  The lightweight feel of the material was perfect for the soggy weather. The Power Luxtreme material was quick to dry and stayed comfortable, holding its shape even when wet. The waistband felt secure and the circle drawstring enabled me to get a good fit around my waist. The flat seams ensured that my skin was chafe-free. I appreciated the small, reflective strip on the side of the leg. It was just right for lower light running. Overall, I love my Run: Pace Crops. They fit well, they’re lightweight, and they perform in a variety of conditions.

Grade: A

Suggested Retail Price: $86 on the Lululemon website (Direct link here) – and they now come in adorable, bright colors!

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon pullover in frond (they don’t make this one anymore – sorry), black Lululemon Speed Demon Run Hat (I LOVE this hat and its sister, the Shady Lady Run Visor), Brooks Pure Flow shoes. And, don’t worry. I’m not going to die in the picture, I’m just squinting at the finish line clock.

Ragnar Cape Cod 2013

You know what’s fun? Cruising around in a van with five friends on Cape Cod, one of whom occasionally hops out to run. That’s the basic premise behind Ragnar Relays and I love them!

A few friends thought Ragnar Cape Cod sounded like fun. I was quick to sign up, having loved Hood to Coast. The camaraderie, running fun, and adventure makes an overnight relay totally worth the lack of sleep. We planned and organized, rented vans and a house, and, finally, Ragnar was upon us. I packed using my super awesome Hood to Coast packing list and was ready to run the (slightly cooler) Cape Cod relay. I headed up to our rental house on the Cape the night before and met my team. Though I sort of knew most of the runners, it was pretty much a friend-of-a-friend situation and I had signed up to spend two days in a van with total strangers. Luckily, they were awesome and we became fast friends. Friday morning dawned bright and early, with Van 1 heading up the to start at Hull, MA.

Ragnar Cape Cod Course

It was freezing! We’re talking 45 degrees, cloudy, and 40 mile and hour winds. We underwent our safety check, flag distribution, and safety briefing and it was time for our first runner to start. Everyone else loaded into the van and I drove us to Exchange 1. Excellent. Ragnar was underway. I had 7 miles (which turned out to be 6.4 – the Rag Mag gave an update of the course that didn’t totally match what was online) of “very hard” running ahead of me. It turned out to be an amazing day to run. I loved it. I cruised along at a decent, but conservative, clip and finished my miles in what seemed like no time. I was having a great time!

Ragnar Leg 2

After my run, it was time to hop in the van and cruise around some more. There was singing along with the radio – our van had XM!

Ragnar Fun

Generally, we had a good time and made it to the first major exchange upbeat, happy, and bonded in the way only strangers trapped in a van together can bond. We decided on a trip to a nearby mall and dinner for our first van break. I bought gardening gloves because my hands were freezing. A teammate got some new tights. We were suited up, hydrated, and ready for dinner. A quick stop at a chain restaurant and we were back on the road. My view was pretty much the same.

Ragnar Van

Run two was a night run, so headlamp and vest were required. I suited up and headed out on a run that made our local runner shake his head. Never a good sign. I asked if it was flat and he snorted an evil laugh. Apparently there was some massive hill in the middle of my 6 miles. I got running and the course started going up around mile 2. “This isn’t so bad”, I thought. And then, in the distance, I saw the headlights way, way above me. As I got closer, I heard the steady stream of vans shifting into a lower gear, struggling to get up the hill with the cargo of runners. Let’s just say it isn’t terribly encouraging to know that vans are struggling to get up a hill you’re about to run. In the dark. I think the darkness might have helped. I couldn’t see how high or steep the hill was, only the tiny patch in front of me, so I put my head down and pushed up the hill. I passed a lot of people. Seeing their little blinking lights ahead was highly motivating and I cruised along into a town. After a quick run past some office buildings, my second run was done. Hooray! Time to sleep! Our van decided to head back to the house and sleep in our own (rental) beds and shower. It was a great idea. I plopped down in bed and was asleep right away. I got a whole hour of sleep. Actual, in-a-bed sleep. Then I woke up, took a hot shower, ate an apple, and got back in the van, ready to run.

My last run was supposed to be 5 miles, moderate. I was sore, but not terribly sore, so I trotted along and tried to focus on the rising sun. It was kind of pretty – being in the middle of nowhere and listening to the birds. I came up over a hill, and there was the exchange, 2 miles too early. My first thought was that I had blacked out. No. Not the case. My second thought was that I would just run through. There was no way my team would be there since I was only 20-something minutes into a much longer run. Imagine my surprise when I came up and found my teammate not only there, but ready and excited to run the extra two miles (making his leg 9!) that were added due to the change in exchange. I still don’t know why the exchange was moved, and I was a little sad I didn’t get my full mileage. Now that I’ve just written that I’m thinking – what a weirdo. I was sad to be shorted 2 miles in an overnight relay. I wanted to run more. Clearly I’m a crazy lady. Anyhow, I was overjoyed to be done.

Done with Ragnar

My team made a morning stop at the most amazing French bakery ever. We had what I refer to as the French Food Orgy. We were all so hungry, and so tired, we ate pastry like animals. It was amazing. Before we knew it, it was time to head to the finish line at Provincetown and climb the memorial to the pilgrims. It was a gorgeous day, a well-organized course, and an overall fun adventure. I had an amazing time, met great new friends, and ran a little. If you have 11 friends, two vans, and a weekend, run a Ragnar. It’s an amazing experience!

P-town

Cox Providence Half Marathon 2013 – updated

Updated! I added the elevation profile, by popular demand.

Today, I ran in the UnitedHealthcare Cox Providence Half Marathon. It was not a great day. It was one of those runs were nothing works – it’s just too bad it happened during a race.

The day was dark, cool, and rainy. At race start it was 60 degrees with 100% humidity. It was foggy, grey, and sprinkling off and on. I appreciated the cool temperatures and overcast sky, but wasn’t very excited about the rain. High humidity is asthmatic hell, so I knew it would be a tough race. I got to the parking area bright and early and headed for the “Exchange Terrace” area, a little street across from a park where they have an ice skating area in the winter. According to my pre-race email and attached instructions, packet pickup was on Exchange Terrace. I wandered around for a little while, totally lost. There were lots of people, but not a volunteer in sight. There was no one to ask for help and no sign of an obvious packet pick up area. Finally, I saw someone with a goody bag and asked. Packet pick up was in the ballroom of the Omni Hotel, a block away. I walked on over to the Omni and waited in line. Wrong line. I waited in a second line and got my bib. When I got to the t-shirt station, a not-that-friendly volunteer barked “Only larges left. You want one?” Resigned, I accepted my large, men’s shirt. Not quite the extra small I was hoping for. Everyone around me milled around in a state of confused disappointment. No one got the shirt they wanted and all of us were lost. There were no volunteers to help. I pinned my bib and followed the crowd, hoping they would lead me to the starting line. They did and I got there with 15 minutes to spare until the 8am race start. It’s definitely a post-Boston world. I noticed lots of security staff. Men with huge guns wandered in the crowd, police were stationed on rooftops.

Cox Providence Police

8:05 passed, then 8:10. There was no sign of an imminent race start. At 8:13 someone sang the national anthem. The crowd was getting restless. All of the pre-race materials had said 8am start. Thousands of people were standing in the rain. Finally, at 8:17 (?) the race was underway.

The first four miles went well. I was cruising along and feeling soggy, but fine. I’ve been having some trouble with my knee (the had-surgery one) and it began to stiffen up. It doesn’t like the rain, and really doesn’t like changes in atmospheric pressure. The front rolling through was not a friend to my knee. My poor knee was stuck in a half-bent state, totally stiff and not straightening well in the forward part of my stride. I didn’t think it was too much of a problem until mile 7, when my calf and hamstring started cramping. Not dehydrated cramping, but weird muscle spasm/charlie horse cramping. I resolved to slow down and start walking the water stops. A side note on water stops. What a mess! The pre-race guide said water stops would be every mile and a half. No such luck. There didn’t seem to be much of a pattern to the water stops, only that they were about 2+ miles apart. Most were understaffed, a volunteer or two per table, so runners were pouring their own water. There was no pattern to the Gatorade/water distribution. Sometimes Gatorade was first, sometimes not, and sometimes it was all mixed together with both in one area and in the same style cups. The cup styles weren’t even consistent so there was chaos at every water station. Runners were coming to a full stop to search for and find a cup that had the right liquid in it. It was a volunteer staffing and organizational problem.

I felt wheezy and asthmatic. The humidity was not kind to my asthma or my knee. The wheels fell off at mile 9. My leg muscles were firing at all the wrong times. I couldn’t seem to get them to coordinate with the bending of my knee. I felt like Phoebe from Friends when she runs in the park. I’m sure I looked normal, but I felt miserable. I trudged along. I’m sad to say there was a lot of walking while I tried to get things under control and avoid running with a limp. This race wasn’t worth an injury, or angering my funny IT band attachment point, so I slowed WAY down to avoid limping.

The course itself was well-marked, but poorly staffed. There were no medical tents or personnel along the course. The few volunteers I did see at points in the course other than the water stops were children. Children young enough that I began to wonder where their parents were and why their parents were letting them stand on a street corner on a race course in arguably questionable neighborhoods. There were plenty of police offices at major road crossings, but few volunteers. The course itself was winding, and passed through a few attractive, and a few unattractive areas of Providence and Pawtucket. Compared to the Rock N Roll Providence course, this course was more older neighborhoods with less gentrification.

Finally, mercifully, the race course curved past the river (there were swans!) and toward the finish line. I was grateful for the race to be over, but sorry to see the report from my Garmin (thank goodness I had my Garmin since the clocks were all set to the marathon time, not half). I was headed to a Personal Worst. Now, I’m always happy to run a slow race and pace a friend, or be sensible when I’m undertrained, but this PW hurt. I am fit. I tapered. I ate well. I got plenty of sleep. I don’t know what went wrong. Other than a perfect storm of bad weather + asthma + knee stiffness + muscle problems, I don’t have an explanation.

Cox Providence Start

I’m still a little sad about the race. I don’t know what went wrong. I’ll go back to my training log and look for a lesson, but this just might be one race in which the lesson is that sometimes running is random. Sometimes a run just doesn’t work. Today was one of those days.

The look of resignation. A PW.

The look of resignation. A PW.

Updated – here is the elevation profile.

Cox Providence Rhode Race Elevation Profile - Half Marathon

Cox Providence Rhode Race Elevation Profile – Half Marathon

 

Ragnar on the Run

I’m writing from Van 1 in the midst of a Ragnar Relay. We are just about done with our second set of runs in Ragnar Cape Cod. A full review will come later, but here’s what I know so far:
– The difference between a “very hard” leg and a “hard” leg is indiscernible.
– I can get lost even with flashing lights identifying every turn.
– A kids’ meal burger will taste amazing for dinner but may be a source of regret later.
– It is possible to join a van with only one person you know and make fast friends with four strangers.
– Night time pictures have a cool Tron effect.

So, in sum, we are having a great time and enjoying a total adventure!

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