Gifts for Runners – On Any Budget

Is there a special runner in your life? Looking for a gift for a runner? I love my gear and I love running, so I’ve prepared a list of great gifts for the special runner in your life.

Under $25

Thorolo Experia Socks – Available in men’s and women’s sizing and cuffs ranging from no-show to mid-calf, these socks have an option for every runner. Coolmax fiber and padding on heels and toes ensures a comfortable fit. $14.99 and up

Road ID – Road ID keeps the runner in your life connected to loved ones in an emergency. Interactive options direct emergency personnel to a website; the original option allows owners to print several lines of text. We all hope we’re safe on the run. A Road ID is there for you in an emergency. Gift certificates are available if you aren’t quite sure what to write. The classic slim is $17.99 and a nice shoe tag option is $19.99. For furry runners, consider the Scout ID $17.99.

KT Tape – KT Tape offers targeted pain relief for a variety of conditions. It’s stretchy, reflective, and stays put for days, even in water. KT Tape can give muscles, ligaments, and tendons the support they need for healing and recovery of soft tissue injury. $19.99 for a roll of pre-cut strips.

KT Tape for fibula

Training Journal – The Believe I Am Training Journal is my favorite, feminine training journal.  This beautiful journal has original artwork and inspiring quotations on each page. Designed by professional runners, the journal tracks workouts, races, and has blank pages for sketches, clippings, and other details. For a unisex option, consider the Runner’s World Training Journal. Both are $19.99.

Believe I Am Journal

Bib Coasters – Reproduce a runner’s favorite bib on a set of tile coasters. Thoughtful, easy, and a way to commemorate an important race. $19.99

Lock Laces – A great option for keeping shoes secure. Check out my review here. $8.99 each or three pair for $19.99

SPI Belt – Need to carry gear with you on the run? The SPI Belt is perfect. It doesn’t bounce, comes in a great selection of colors, and fits everyone. I love mine so much I reviewed it. The original version is $19.99

SPI belt

Under $50

Saucony Ulti-Mitt – I describe these mittens/gloves as the best mittens in the history of mittens. I love them so much I have them in multiple colors and have recommended them to everyone. I even wrote a review and added them to my favorites. With a wicking glove base and a wind-resistent shell, the Ulti-Mitts are simply the best for cold weather running. Unisex sizing, so ladies, order smaller. $45

Ulti-Mitt

Run with Me Toque for her – This amazing hat is made of cozy, soft, cottony Rulu, one of Lululemon’s signature fabrics. It’s perfect for cold runs and running around town. The brim can be folded up for a close fit, or down for a floppy look. A ponytail hole at the back lets  hair fly free. $32 For men, consider the Sprint Beanie ($32) or Brisk Run Toque ($28). Same great hat, but a more masculine look.

The Stick – The Stick is a fabulous invention! With little bezels on a long rod, the Stick is ideal for self massage. Options range from a smaller travel version to the Stiff Stick. $34.99 and up.

Add a Day Roller – The Stick on steroids, this amazing self-massage roller is more intense. It features an extra-stiff rod and oddly shaped knobs that simulate the pressure of an elbow. I love mine! Retail prices vary, around $40

Add a Day Roller

Under $100

Base Runner Half Zip – Made of ultra-soft Rulu (a Lululemon fabric), this wicking pullover is crazy warm. With thumb holes and a high neckline, it keeps me warm on the run. An offset zipper adds interest and keeps my neck chafe-free. $98

Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve – This Lululemon classic is great for every run. It can be used as a layer or worn alone. With an amazing array of colors, it’s perfect for every runner. $68. The men’s classic long sleeve, the Metal Vent Tech Long Sleeve is a great option for the lucky man in your life. $74

Swiftly at Cape Cod

Endorphin Warrior Bracelet – Endorphin Warrior cuff bracelets feature inspirational statements stamped in sterling silver. For women ($98) and men ($108) the bracelets are not only beautiful but inspiring. A leather-and-steel version is $20.

Allied Metal Display – The original stainless steel metal display company makes an assortment of metal medal racks. Custom racks are also available in any finish, pattern, and style. Prices vary and there’s an option for every runner to display his/her race medals.

$100 and Up

Fluff Off Pullover – With down filling, cuffing, and a water repellent shell, this pullover is perfect for whatever winter weather has to offer. Stretchy side panels ensure the pullover moves with you on the run. $158

PNW Jacket – (Men’s) Softshell fabric exterior and brushed interior make this jacket perfect for winter’s worst weather. Thumbholes and a hood keep hands and head cozy warm. $198

Happy holidays!

 

Race Recap: Harrisburg Marathon

Recently, my running friend and I were discussing marathons. Both of us were craving another marathon. We discovered our schedules were similar and started to look at marathons we might run together. I found the Harrisburg Marathon and we  immediately signed up and started planning our trip to Harrisburg.

I knew that the trip to Harrisburg would be a quick one. I would be nearing the end of my crazy travel and running extravaganza. In fact, I would leave directly from the airport following my trip to San Antonio and head right to Harrisburg. Luckily, a last minute change in my flight schedule let us get an early start to Harrisburg. It was a pleasant drive through lovely countryside. We got to Harrisburg around dinner time, checked in to our amazing hotel, and headed to dinner. We stayed at the Raddison Harrisburg. For anyone planning a trip to Harrisburg, consider the Raddison. The staff were wonderfully kind, the hotel was clean, the beds were comfy, and they hotel staff offered to let us stay as late as we liked on Sunday after the marathon. We couldn’t ask for a better hotel. After dinner, we decided to ride down to the race start to get a sense of parking and race-day organization.

Harrisburg night

It was gorgeous. The race start was at the foot of a pedestrian bridge that lead from City Island to city center. The capitol was lit up for the night and the whole scene was lovely.

Race day morning dawned bight and early. It was clear, sunny, and really hilly at 35 degrees. Packet pick up was in a large building on City Island. Thankfully, the building was heated by huge heat fans. Food and drinks were plentiful and the volunteers were friendly.

Harrisburg Marathon check in

The race was small and runners gathered inside awaiting the start of the race. Professional pacing was provided by MarathonPacing.com.

The race began on City Island and moved across the bridge to the city center. The course wound briefly through the city center, through a small park (a half mile or so were on a gravel trail) and paved trail along the river. Then, the course went across the Market Street Bridge back to City Island. The early miles of the course were lovely. The bridges are charming and the sun was shining. The course was well-marked.

Harrisburg bridges

The weather was fall weather at its finest. Unfortunately, the bliss of the early miles would fade. A few miles later, the course would curve along the river and the weather would turn. The sky clouded, the light darkened, and the wind picked up. What was pleasant, 45 degree running weather quickly turned into 35 degrees and cloudy with a significant windchill. The course went along the river for a while and then into a neighborhood. The residents seemed a bit perplexed as to why we were running through their neighborhood, but volunteers were on hand to direct traffic and help the runners move smoothly through the course. I had been running along well, hanging with a friend who was pacing for the race. We had a nice time chatting, and I enjoyed her group.

Unfortunately, things started to deteriorate around mile 15. Near the end of the neighborhood section, I had to visit the port-a-pottie. Not good. I wasn’t feeling the best and slowed my pace a bit. Around mile 16, the course moved into an industrial area. The industrial area was unpleasant at best. The road was bumpy, the scenery was terrible (distribution centers, barbed wire, and tractor trailers as far as the eye could see), and I struggled mentally. I knew some late hills were coming, so I conserved my energy and moved along at a steady pace. The course then passed into a community college parking lot. This part of the course was inexplicable. I don’t know why it was necessary to run through such an unpleasant area. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, we turned into a park. I was delighted. A park! Sadly, the joy was short lived. At mile 18, the hills began. And they were hills. With hills at the worst possible time, I struggled. I was freezing cold, mentally spent, and physically exhausted. The hills seemed relentless. Finally, at mile 21, we left the park and headed back to the neighborhood. I was done. Mentally, I was worn out. Finishing the rest of the race was a struggle. It was a lesson in the importance of

As we turned back along the river and the steady wind blew me around, I tried to stay positive. I was running a marathon and enjoying a fun trip with a friend. The course was challenging. Those hills just ate me up. It was difficult mentally. All in all, I struggled in this marathon. I enjoyed it, but it was difficult.

Overall, the race was well done. The organizers sent multiple emails before the race, outlining aspects of the race that are critical to runners. The pre-race food was nice, check in was organized, and bag check was easy to use. The course was well marked and the aid stations were well stocked. At the finish line, cheering fans greeted the runners. Each finisher got an attractive finishers’ medal and a mylar blanket (best blanket ever!) and was ushered into the warm building. In the post-race building, there was ample food and drink. There were sandwiches, chips, fruit, and candy. It was a nice spread.

With the excellent organization and big-race amenities and a small race field, the Harrisburg Marathon was a nice event. The course was challenging and I’m not sure I would run it again. I would have loved to have some of the race run through Harrisburg itself. It looked like a cute city with friendly people and clean streets.

Harrisburg

San Antonio Shuffle

I got to check another new city off my travel life list when I went to San Antonio for a work conference. It was a quick trip – I flew in for a meeting and a presentation and then went home. Though I only had a little bit of time to spend in San Antonio, I tried to make the most of it.

I started my first morning in the city off with a run on the River Walk. The River Walk goes along a canal in the center of the city. It’s a lovely path, paved and clean. The best thing about the River Walk is the scenery. The path is lined with gorgeous vegetation – plants, flowers, and trees. I loved seeing palm trees in November and running past flowers and colorful shrubs.

River Walk

The River Walk was so nice I ran the entire length of it, out to a museum, past a golf course, all over town. I enjoyed seeing the restaurants and bars and got to watch staff on boats clean up the riverfront. The weather was perfect and the run was great.

Later that day, I decided to visit The Alamo. I toured through the building itself and all over the Alamo grounds.

Remember the Alamo!

Remember the Alamo!

I ate lots of Mexican food at local places.

Mexican food

All in all, I had fun in San Antonio. It was a great city for running and an event better city for enjoying local food.

Planes, Training, and Automobiles

The last month or so has been crazy! I’ve been traveling all over and getting in lots of fabulous fall races. As my whirlwind month winds down, I’m reflecting on the good, the bad, and the training.

It all started the last week in September with the back-to-back races. On Saturday, I ran the West Hartford Relay. The West Hartford Relay is a local event that lets teams of runners run through the pretty neighborhoods is West Hartford. Never one to pass up an opportunity to run and hang out with my running friends, I happily joined team Lululemon Athletica. We had a great time and enjoyed some lovely fall weather. Sunday was the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon. I had a great time, got a shiny new PR, and enjoyed Providence. This was the race I had planned as my peak race, so I was thrilled to know that my training was successful. My race went well and I felt fit and strong throughout the race.

The very next weekend I paced the Wineglass Half Marathon in upstate New York. I had an amazing time, met fun new running friends, and drove 12 hours in a 2-day period. I tried Air BnB for the first time (cool, I recommend it), and even ran in an impromptu local 5k.

Columbus Day weekend in Connecticut means Hartford Marathon. Cementing my crazy-lady status with non-running friends, I changed my registration at the expo from half marathon to marathon (!).

Marathon upgrade

I made the change for lots of reasons. Mostly, I just wanted to run the marathon. I had been considering it since I decided to train with a friend running it as her first marathon. I went through the 16/17 mile run with her in my prep for Providence and felt fit. I knew that I could finish the marathon and, in a fit of impulse, signed up for it. I had so much fun that I was probably bordering on manic. I was the runner no one wants to be with at mile 20 (“we’re running a marathon – how amazing is that?!!?!?!?!?!?”). Everything I said and did had lots of extra exclamation points. I joyfully trotted across the finish line and felt so amazing I annoyed those around me (“aren’t marathons amazing!!”) for days to come.

Hartford Marathon 2013 finish

The next week it was off to Portland, Oregon for a work trip. Portland was lovely and a true running city, so I got in lots of miles and some good recovery/training for my next events.

After a few days at home, it was off to Florida for mom’s first half marathon – an adventure and a great experience. I ran a few miles, but mostly walked with mom. I enjoy every moment we spend exercising together and considered all the miles of walking great time on my feet training. I made it home in time to celebrate Halloween and worked on getting organized again.

Halloween dog costume

Last weekend, I ran the Commercial Services by Glass America Half Marathon put on by my friend at Ocean State Multisport. It was my first real fall race, with temperatures in the low 40s and a steady, chilling mist. Having just returned from Florida, I was frozen throughout the race. It was a the first hint that my racing season might be coming to a close. That motivated me to enjoy the race and the New England scenery. As usual, the event was well organized, and carefully planned. The course wound through neighborhoods and farmland, over bridges, and past fields cleared for winter. Gary and his team always do a great job – the volunteers are plentiful and friendly and the race course is well marked and nicely planned. Local police drive the route repeatedly, keeping motorists attentive. I struggled in the race, but had fun and was fairly pleased with my finish. Gary greeted finishers with pizza, fruit, and Kind bars (my favorite!).

For those of you keeping track that’s 7 races in 5 weeks. I admit it, it’s crazy. There’s just one more to go. When I get back from this work trip (yes, I’m on a plane as I write this), I will run the Harrisburg Marathon to close my season. It’s been a great season, but I think I’m ready for some rest, time at home, and a return to normal training.

Trust the Training

Trust the training. As a running coach, this is often one of the last pieces of advice I give my runners before a big race. Trust the training. Simple, right? Trust that the training is enough. That you’ve followed the plan. That your body knows what to do. That you’re ready. I repeat this mantra over and over to myself in my own races. Trust the training.

So why is it so hard to trust the training? In a recent half marathon, around mile 9, I had an epiphany.

As is typical for me in the later stages of a race, I was doing my check in. I examined my form – good. I thought about how I felt mentally – strong. And then I checked in with my body and my perceived exertion. I was working hard. Tiny little tendrils of panic began to spiral up. I was working hard and moving into the early stages of a complete mental meltdown. Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “of course she’s working hard – it was mile 9”. When I read what I wrote over to myself I think the same thing. Of course I was working hard. It’s ridiculous to think that I would be racing and doing anything other than working hard at mile 9. I was working hard, but I wasn’t working that hard. There was no reason to worry. Yet, the little wispy tendrils of worry had become dread. In the space of about 400 meters I had gone from strong, easy running to “did I go out too fast”, “there’s no way I can keep this pace”, “I’m going to DNF” disaster. My pace deteriorated, my form became a mess, I thought about calling my mommy. Why do I even run, I thought.

Dr. Rachel Winni

And that’s when it dawned on me. This same sense of dread is the mental nemesis I battle every time I race. Deep down, I worry that the training isn’t enough. That I’m not ready. That I’m not enough. I love running. But racing draws out my mental demons. I run in a lot of races, but friends will tell you I don’t often race. I keep my expectations low for most of the events I run. I realized, around mile 10, that when I don’t race because I’m afraid of failing, not because my training plan dictates that I don’t race, that I’m feeding the little monster that says I can’t.

Since the race, I’ve been thinking about this epiphany. When did working hard become something to fear? I enjoy working hard. I like pushing myself. So why is it that when the sensation of working hard hit me in a race that it triggers self-doubt? It makes no sense. Yet there it is – my mental battle.

I don’t have a great solution yet. I’m still working this one out, but I reckon this is a feeling most runners have struggled with, so I’m sharing in hopes that we can draw together as brothers and sisters with tiny, hidden monsters who talk to us when we run.

Mom’s First Half Marathon

This weekend, my mom completed her first half marathon. I couldn’t be happier for her! What’s even better is that I got to complete the whole thing with her. Being together every step of the way for her first 5k, then her first 15k, and now her first half marathon has been one of my greatest running joys.

More than my own PRs, seeing my mom finish her half marathon and cross that item off her bucket list has made me proud to be a runner. It all started a few months ago. While at the Gasparilla Distance Classic race festival, we saw a little booth for the Frankenfooter races put on by Big Dawg Runnin’. My mom was instantly interested in the medals (seriously, they’re cool) and confessed to me that a half marathon was on her bucket list. We walked by the booth and mom admired the medals. We walked on by. At the end of the row of booths, we turned back. Mom wanted to do the Frankenfooter but was worried that, as a race walker, she might be too slow for the race cutoff times. The race director was at the booth and said she would be sitting at the finish line until the last runner crossed – no matter how long it took. That’s all we needed to hear. Mom said that if she survived the 15k that we would do the Frankenfooter. The next day my mom crossed the finish line of the 15k at Gasparilla feeling strong. We signed up for the Frankenfooter the next day.

I always love a good race festival. Why do just one race when you can do multiple races in one weekend? Mom agreed and we signed up for the Living Dead 16.2 Challenge – a 5k Saturday night and the half marathon Sunday morning. Mom started on her training plan and I counted down the days until another Florida trip (shameless plug – if you want me to coach you as your train for your first half marathon, check out my “coaching” page).

Race weekend, we headed over to New Port Richey. Packet pick up was at a small marina on a little river that connected to the Gulf of Mexico. Packet pick up was no-frills – just one person sitting behind a desk, the race director next to her, and a few bags full of shirts. No line. No fuss.

The Bride of Frankenfooter 5k course wove through a local park and down the city streets in Port Richey. As one might expect in a costal area, the course was completely flat. The course left the park, went along a back street, then along a little spit of land stuck out in the Gulf of Mexico. It was gorgeous. Never ones to pass on an opportunity to run in costume, mom and I went as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (complete with spinning propellor hats).

Frankenfooter 5k

We had fun at the 5k and headed back to the hotel early to rest up for the big day in the morning. Race morning dawned cool and clear, with temperatures in the 60s to start. Race day temperatures were expected to be around 80 degrees, so we dressed for a warm race and headed to the start line.

Frankenfooter half marathon

After a delay and some lengthy course instructions (honestly, it seemed we were all waiting for the timing company to get set up), we were off. The completely flat course ran along back roads in Port Richey. The race course was really what I consider “old Florida” – older homes, some not-so-great areas, but lots and lots of Gulf views.

Gulf View

Mom and I walked along at a good clip as the course looped around a park, then back the way it came, past the start/finish and then on to the 5k course from the night before. Mom and I had fun, talking and enjoying the view the whole way. We saw a cool historic site – one of many mounds across Florida – and I took lots of pictures.

Mound

Around mile 8, mom started to feel the effects of the race. I don’t know about all of you, but I remember mile 8-9 of my first half marathon vividly. I was in a lot of pain and swore the suffering would never end. Mom might have been in pain, but she persevered. Around mile 11, poor mom had terrible calf cramps. It had been hotter and sunnier than we expected, so I don’t think either of us took in enough fluid. Despite the cramps, mom soldiered on. She was completely amazing!

Mom wearing Lock Laces

We crossed the finish line together. Mom is a half marathoner! We found the nearest chair, a padded deck chair (and possibly the best chair in the history of chairs) and mom had a few cups of Gatorade (the best drink in the history of drinks) and we went to the finish line party. There was food, music, super interesting awards, and really cool medals.

Frankenfooter Awards

Frankenfooter medals

Overall, we had a great time at the Frankenfooter. In the interest of full disclosure, there were some things about the race that could be improved. First, the wait at the starting line for both races was frustrating. Both races started about 10 minutes late. It isn’t too much of a problem in Florida, but could be improved. I know some Floridians were freezing in the 60 degree temperatures. I did not like running past the finish line at mile 9. With my mom, we passed the finish line at a time when lots of people were finishing. To be in pain, with 4 miles left to go, passing the finish line was not ideal. Finally, the traffic was a problem. I don’t usually mind open roads during a race when I’m expecting it. I realize that smaller races just don’t have the resources to close roads and that’s ok. What bothered me at this race was that the traffic was NOT runner-friendly. One car actually swerved toward us, with the driver laughing. A couple cars honked at us to get off the road and one driver gave me the finger. During a race. The local community just didn’t seem supportive of the race and that makes for a difficult situation, safety-wise. The parts of the race that had police support were much better. I would suggest that the race director arrange for more police presence to keep some of the jerks in check.

Despite a few snags, this was a well-run, nicely organized race. The perks were excellent – races got a great shirt and a really cool medal, and the post-race food and drink was tasty. There was plenty of food and plenty of space and no line for anything. I could tell the race director is a runner herself and she certainly thought of all the details important to runners. Overall, a nicely done race that I would definitely recommend for someone looking for a flat, fast course with a small-race atmosphere.

Details for Rachel’s (and mom’s since we match) outfits, above:

Note mom’s awesome Lock Laces. Want to win some? Check out my giveaway here. 

Tweedle Dee: Tweedle Dee shirt from Raw Threads (love them!), Brooks Visor, Tifosi sunglasses.

Cat: Lululemon Run: Swiftly Short Sleeve in pop orange, Lululemon Groovy Run Short in black.