Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lucky Foot. I love that guy!

There's a great local shop for running shoes, attire, gear, fuel and superior customer service in RVA:  

Lucky Foot!!

Lucky Foot is a small locally-owned and operated footwear and running-gear store on Rittenhouse Drive in Midlothian. They hosted packet pickup for the Instant Classic events, so I stopped in to grab my race bib and swag-bag. I left with my gear AND a new pair of perfectly-fitted Saucony kicks. My experience was so great, I have to share.

I've had a pretty tough time finding the right pair of running shoes to meet my needs on both trail and (occasionally, blah!) asphalt. I've gone through 5 pairs of shoes in the past year and a half, due mostly to poor footwear choices; only partly to high mileage. I've been battling some quirky foot injuries and I'm pretty sure that most of them have occurred because I've been wearing the wrong shoes. (OK, so I did break my pinky toe during an intense game of Hide & Seek with Lucy; that was a my bad!)

My feet are weird; they are super wide with extremely high arches. Those factors alone make it challenging to find the right running shoe; throw in the desire to have good trail traction (and a now-deformed pinky toe) and you've got yourself a tricky search. My prior shoe was the Brooks' Ravenna 4, chosen because of the great traction and "comfortable enough" rating after a spin around the block. After a few months, I started to have some discomfort in my forefoot, which turned out to me a Morton's Neuroma, a swollen nerve aggravated by a shoe that wasn't wide enough.

About 3 weeks before the marathon, my foot was really bothering me. I thought it was probably too late to buy new sneakers ("they" say you shouldn't run a race in a new pair of shoes), but I knew I wouldn't be comfortable in the Brooks for 2 miles, let alone 26. Unsure of what to do, I started running in my trusty kick-around shoes, a pair of Saucony Cohesion 6 sneakers. Almost immediately, my pain lessened and I kicked my Brooks to the curb (it's not you, its me...). It was looking like I'd be running my first marathon in a old pair of shoes that were very comfortable but already had over 400 miles on them and been used most recently for raking leaves and chasing Lucy around my local Target ("NO, you can NOT have more sweet tea!")

Jump to Tuesday, marathon week....I ran on the treadmill for about 2 miles and it seriously felt like my shoes were going to fall apart on my feet, right in the middle of the dang YMCA. Great. Wonder how they'll hold up over 26.2 in, like, 4 days? Hmm...this could be a problem.

Cue Friday, packet pick-up day and less than 24 hours from the start of the marathon. Great time to buy a new pair of shoes.

Luckily, I found myself at Lucky Foot, my new favorite place to buy shoes and maybe my new favorite place in the world (other than Total Wine, of course). I'll start with how convenient their location is; close to 288 on Hull Street in Midlothian, right next to one of my other favorite places, ROSS! Finally, I don't have to cross the river to go shoe shopping! My husband is really gonna love saving that toll money.

Secondly, their shop is really great for parents who have tiny toddler tag-a-long terrors (say that 5 times fast) with them on their shopping excursion.

What's that I see? A play area for the kiddos stocked with trucks, blocks and trains? Brilliant!

Now my kiddo might not run amuck in your (very neatly organized) store and drive me so crazy that I end up leaving without buying a single thing, toting her like a sack of horse feed straight to the car. SIKE! You know she'll still get into trouble but at least you've provided some toys to keep her occupied for at least a few minutes. Genius!!

After shoving Lucy off to the play area (where's the EXIT? haha), I started chatting with one of the shoe pros in the shop. Didn't get his name (way to go, loopy), but I think he may have been the owner. Anyway, he was extremely knowledgeable, patient and professional; exactly what I'm looking for in the customer service department. He measured my feet, old-school style with the silver measuring tool, then offered to analyze my gait.

I'm sorry, what?! You betcha!

I jogged a little, back and forth, as Lucy sprinted behind me laughing hysterically (you can lead a horse to water...)

He categorized me as a "neutral" runner, meaning I don't really over or under-pronate (news to me). Also, he said that I definitely need to be wearing size WIDE shoes. The Brooks shoe I was in was not only too narrow, but is also not made for runners with a neutral gait. Looks like I've been doing it all wrong, man!

I've been wearing a size 9.5 for years, so when he brought out a pair of 9 WIDE Saucony Ride 6, I was really expecting them to be too small..........And its a perfect fit! 


This guy knows his stuff! Not only did he fit me perfectly (for maybe the first time, ever), he gave me 10% off that day, a coupon for a future purchase and told me to come back and pick up my 26.2 magnet on the flip-side of the marathon. 

I ended up wearing my shiny new Saucony Ride 6 sneakers for the marathon and they felt awesome. Although they aren't technically trail shoes, they gripped well enough and I'll pick comfort over traction every time when the fit is this good. I'll definitely be heading back to Lucky Foot the next time I need a new pair of kicks, and of course I dropped back in to grab that cute little green magnet.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Instant Classic Trail Marathon

Best. Day. Ever. !!

After a giant and amazing meal Friday night (sweet potatoes, guacamole and salad, accompanying a very tall and juicy veggie burger), I attempted to go to bed early. Nice try, champ. I finally told my brain to shut it! around 12am. 5 hours later, my friendly iPhone alarm told me it was go-time. The herd of butterflies that had been residing in my belly the day before were surprisingly MIA. Deep breath, a little prayer to The Man upstairs, and up and 'at-em. Its Marathon Day.  

My first sign that it was going to be a great day came when I pulled on my sneakers. Sliding my foot in, I felt a weird something in my shoe. Flipped the shoe upside down, gave it a little shake shake. Looks like Lucy left me a couple of little good-luck charms: some of my sparkly earrings; one in each shoe. Hard to take yourself too seriously when you've got a little toddler bandit leaving you tiny surprises in the most unexpected places. Thanks, Lu  ;) 

I got to Pocahontas around 7am, just in time to see this gorgeous sunrise.

As my good friend Dr. McDreamy might say, "Its a beautiful day to run 26.2 miles."

8am came around quickly. Here we go! Here's a quick play-by-play.

Miles 0-5: Ran alongside a couple of super nice chicks from Northern Va. Kept ourselves entertained and semi-distracted by chatting about our husbands, kids and an upcoming Costa Rican vacation. No, of course I'm not the one going on vacation. As if!

Miles 5-11: Nice (and wonderfully familiar) rolling terrain. Had to ditch my NorVA friends. I really do better going solo when the mileage starts racking up. But, it was awesome to have so much company out on the course; I've gotten pretty used to those trails being basically deserted during the winter months. For once, I wasn't worried about getting ambushed by a pack of coyotes or stumbling upon a hibernating bear. Stay in your cave, Smokey!

Mile 11- Hit the turn-around point for this portion of the course at the Swift Creek Dam. I was pleasantly surprised at how great I was feeling; took a minute to soak it in and enjoy the scenery. Pocahontas really feels like "home" to me; I said a little prayer, thanking God for blessing me with the ability to even attempt this feat and for the incredible weather. You The Man!

Miles 12-17- At this point, I was heading back toward the Start-Finish, where the course led over to the other side of the park for a loopy-modified out & back. I made mile 17 my immediate goal and trekked back up Fendley Station, unable to wipe a goofy grin off my face. This is awesome! 

Marathon Map

Miles 18-20- Now here's where things got a little ugly. As I crossed the bridge and the Start-Finish area, heading to the other side of the park, it hits me: I still have to run 7 more miles. At that moment, 7 miles felt like 17. My legs were starting to fatigue, I knew the next few miles would be some challenging terrain and I had to pee. Goofy grin= poof! I got myself together, took a quick potty break, sucked down a Gu gel and gave myself a quick pep-talk. I miss my music! 

Miles 20-23- On the 20-mile marker, someone had written "The hardest miles are behind you." That little reminder was very well-timed, indeed. Since I didn't have my music with me, I started thinking of songs that I could sing in my head. Katy Perry's California Gurls. That'll do. I'm still singing that song today (I can NOT get it out of my head!), but it kept me company on those crucial miles.

Miles 23-26- Holy crap, I'm actually gonna do this.

My sweet niece at the Finish Line
Hubby's view from the sideline. Running away from him, as usual. HAHA!

Mile 26.2

 I had quite a cheering section at the finish line, which meant more to me than they all know. I could not have completed this marathon or the hours of training that led up to it without the support of my family. Having them there to celebrate with me was priceless.


Instant Classic Trail Marathon
Time: 4:40:03
Average Pace: 10:41 min/mile

Place: 40/94 overall, 7/24 for the women, 3rd in my age group

My favorite cheerleader

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Getting Antsy

Days 'Til Marathon- 2

This tapering stuff isn't easy! I'm getting really jittery and ready to do this already! My last real long run (21 miler) was almost 3 weeks ago; it feels like its been 3 months! After a 12-miler 2 weeks ago and last weeks' 8-miler, I'm super rested and all this waiting around is making me nervous. I've never done a 3-week taper before; I usually can't sit still that long before a big race. But, this is my first marathon, so for once in my life, I'm taking the "listen to other people's advice" approach. Hmmm...it's hard!

On Tuesday I took Val for an easy 30-minute jog over at Larus Park, a Richmond City park near the Old Stony Point shopping center. What a hidden little gem that is! My brother lives close-by and has been telling me about that park for a while, but it took me about a year to finally get over there (did I mention I sometimes have trouble listening to advice from those who love me?). Anyway, it was such a fun little run and Val had a ball. Lots of water to splash around in and plenty of squirrels and birds to terrify. Score.

Since it was my first time exploring those trails, we did a lot of out and backs, but really enjoyed the terrain.

Here's a link to the Park info and trail map:  http://rvamore.org/trails/other-city-trails/larus-park/

Trail Mutt @ Larus Park, RVA

Yesterday I took resting very seriously. Here's my to-do list (like anyone cares about that!?):

1. Eat breakfast. Coffee & bagel. Check.
2. Light Cross-training.  Nice walk with BFF. Exercise time and girl-talk. Check.
2. Play with Lu. Ponies and Monster Trucks. Check.
3. Watch Teen Mom 2. Those bitches be crazy. Check.
4. Eat again. Humongous (and delicious) baked potatoes with a giant salad. Yum. And check.
5. Take a shower. Dang, I knew I forgot something.
6. Go to bed early. Movie night (Super Bad, SO funny) ice cream and lights out. Check.

Now you can see why this part of my training schedule is challenging. How lazy can you get?!

I must admit, I'm starting to understand this whole 3-week taper thing. I feel rested, fueled, focused and ready to rock & roll. The weather looks perfect for Saturday, sunny and 61. Tomorrow's agenda: pick up race swag and eat a giant plate of pasta. I think I can handle that.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Balance has always been a tricky thing for me. When I'm "in," I'm ALL in; and when I'm "out," I'm far, far OUT. The more fellow runners and athletes I talk to, the more I see that this is an obstacle for a lot of us. I'm improving with experience (older and wiser, eh?) but I still struggle to find that perfect balance between passing out on the bathroom floor at Caddy's every weekend and living on Tofu and Chia seeds.

I'm not someone who does things halfway or moderately. If I'm gonna go, I'm gonna go all out.

One Spring Break, I read the book The Face on Your Plate, a lovely story about the torture and murder of billions of innocent critters for our own human consumption. That was the day I became Vegetarian. Well, actually, I became Vegan; that lasted until I got pregnant and could not live without cheese and Coconut Shrimp. Now, we are very happy Pescatarians (sorry, Nemo).

A few years ago I got really into Yoga. Super, duper IN. I'm talking every day, standing on my head for at least 30 minutes, practically living on Green Tea and wearing more hemp and bandanas than I care to remember. My "Yoga Year" happened the same year I got knocked up, after which I ditched my "OMMM" in favor of shopping for a lot of baby gear and staring at sonogram pictures for hours at a time. I still love Yoga (Namaste, ya'll), but on a much more moderate level.

Anyway, my point is, I go all the way. For better or worse. 

Moderation: My Achilles heel. 

So, the flip side of this Balance coin is a tricky little jerk. Its the side that's left me hungover, fat & miserable. If I'm partying, I'm really partying. If I'm not giving a damn that day, I'm really not giving a damn that way. My go-to's for misbehaving: Red Wine, Van Morrison, a giant plate of Cheesy Nachos and sometimes even a smoke or two (the horror!!!) This negative side to my personal struggle for balance has diminished so much during my Marathon journey. I'm so grateful for the balance, motivation and focus that I've gained from this training process; I'm excited and looking forward to seeing it through to the finish line. In 8 days!!!

Of course, I'm still a work in progress. I'm (admittedly) almost always the last person to leave my monthly girls Wino Wednesday night and I still struggle with being too wrapped up in my training. 

Who will I be today? The slightly-too-tipsy chick dancing and singing karaoke until way past midnight or the crazed exercise freak who can NOT miss a day of running? Turns out, the best answer lies somewhere in-between. Ultimately, my path to the Marathon has also been my path to finding Balance. She's an elusive little minx.