Friday, November 30, 2012

Love Those Fancy Pants! Women's Salomon EXO IV 3/4 Tights - Review

I am lucky enough to be a team member of a fantastic Canadian store called Running Free.  When I became a member they only had one location in Markham but they have now expanded all over the GTA.  They have stores in Orangeville, Newmarket, Milton, Ajax & Barrie.  If you're an athlete and you live in Southern Ontario, then I highly recommend a trip to one of their stores.  It's like a giant candy store.  One of the many perks of being on this team is that once and a while I get to test out new gear.   Most of the time you get something through the team lottery system (sometimes you don't get anything).  The lottery items are provided by our team sponsors which include, GU, CW-X, Salmon and Mizuno to name a few.  Not too shabby! If you accumulate enough points to get to the "Pro" level you get to actually pick what you'd like test out.  Since I raced my face off last year (14 races between March and November!) and actually did fairly well in the races I entered, I managed to gather enough points to get me to the Pro level. 

I’m a sucker for all things compression, especially now that I’m getting older and I’m finding that my recovery needs a bit of outside help.  I remember when Salomon brought these 3/4 tights out.  I thought they looked so cool.  I really wanted a pair but never managed to justify the hefty price tag ($149.99).  I was finally due for some new running bottoms and got the opportunity to choose the item I wanted to review so naturally, I chose these tights.

I had to wriggle into the small but it didn’t feel like other compression gear I had worn before.  I didn’t feel like a sausage!  You know when you squeeze yourself into some compression gear and it is so tight that it gives you lumps in odd places?  This didn’t happen with these at all.  I actually wondered if I was in the correct size.  I re-measured my thighs to be sure and according to their sizing chart, I was.  Sizing is of the utmost importance with any compression garment.  If you’re in between sizes then size down.

The first thing I noticed about these tights was the built in underwear.   I wasn’t sure I was going to like them but I have to say after numerous long runs in them, I’ve only had a chafing issue once (a combination of no body glide and being slightly overdressed).  They actually stay put and they are quite comfortable.  Kudos to Salmon for that nice little detail.

The waistband is a bit higher than normal tights on me but given it’s structure, I don’t actually notice it.  It’s constructed of a lightweight mesh type fabric with a drawstring.  The band is actually fairly wider than normal tights as well and I think that’s why it feels so comfortable.  Another nice touch.  The other thing I quite liked was the length and the fact that the tights stayed put on my calves.  I have several pairs of 3/4 tights and the majority of them ride up my calves.  These didn’t budge.
The compression factor itself is subtle.  The tights are incredibly comfortable, supportive and light weight.  The tights are made with Salomon’s Smart Skin EXO fit technology.   Their Smart Skin technology claims to “apply the right technical material in the right zone for optimum performance” and the EXO Sensifit claims to allow for “better alignment of your body to run easier uphill, downhill and on uneven trails”.  As with most compression gear, it also claims to help you run longer by reducing cramping and muscle soreness and of course it is supposed to help you recover better but improving recovery time.   I can’t dispute any of these points.  I’ve worn these tights on many long runs, some hilly and some flat and my legs have always felt good even towards the end.  I’ve also used them for recovery after long tempo runs and I found they worked just as well if not better than my Zoot 3/4 compression tights.  They are definitely more comfortable.  It doesn’t hurt that they look way cooler too.

One last detail I noticed was the quality of workmanship on these tights.  They are very well constructed.  The seams are flat-locked and strong.  I have looked at other Salomon gear and I’d say the same thing about all the other pieces I’ve looked at.  Definitely a very well made brand.
Now that the cooler weather is here, these have become regulars in my workout wear rotation.  So much so that I may actually buy a second pair.  I know Salomon makes these in a full length tight as well so I’m going to be on the lookout for those this winter as well as some other Salmon gear.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of 3/4 tights, I’d highly recommend giving these a go.  They’re definitely worth it.

Have you tried Salomon products before?  Did you like them?  This was my first experience with them and I'll definitely buy more.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Playlist Thursday - Zoning Out

Once again, it's Playlist Thursday!  What do you think of the new logo?  The ever generous Pavement Runner designed a whole bunch of logos in different colours so you can pick one to match your blog colours (scroll down to the bottom of the page).  Love it! Don't forget to check out the catalog page for all the other Playlists as well!

This weeks theme was a suggestion from Anna at  Apparently she is in the middle of studying for mid-terms (those were the days!) and needed some songs to zone out to. 

For those of you stopping by for the first time, here are "the rules" of Playlist Thursday.

Something Old: Songs that are at least 5 years old. (I know that isn’t too long to be considered old, but music turnover happens quickly.)
Something Current: Songs that have been released within the past year.
Something to Consider:  This is the wild card category. Feel free to list any song: old, current,guilty pleasure, whatever floats yer boat.

Something Old

Artist:  Chris Isaak
Title: Walk Slow
Notable: I love this song.  In fact, I love Chris Isaak.  All his music makes me zone out, in a good way. 
Quotable: "And there's so many many things I wanna tell you. So many many things I didn't say"

Something New

Artist: Atlas Genius
Title: Trojans
Notable:  I featured these guys on last weeks Playlist Thursday and I'm bringing them back again.  They released an EP this year that I absolutely love.  This was the first song off of it.  I can't wait for a full length album. 
Quotable: "Change the locks, change the scene, change it all but can't change what we've been." 

Change the locks, change the scene Change it all but can't change what we've been

Change the locks, change the scene Change it all but can't change what we've been

Something to Consider

Artist: Keane
Title: Spiralling
Notable: From the band that brought you Somewhere Only We Know, another great song to zone out to.  I really like the poppy beat, it's catchy and makes for some good background noise.
Quotable: "I'm waiting for my moment to come, I'm waiting for the movie to begin, I'm waiting for a revelation, I'm waiting for someone to count me in"

Have you got any favourite zone out songs you'd like to share?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

'Tis The Season

I know I've been absent from cyberspace for the last week.  Nothing is wrong, I've just really been enjoying my "down" time.  Although looking at my training from last week, I'd say it was anything but an "easy week".  I did some form of physical activity every day for 9 days in a row.  Granted most of it was swimming but still.  9 days!  And I wonder why I'm lying on the couch feeling like a sack of hammers right now.  Uh right, 'cause I'm not 20 years old anymore.  Oh and I had a late night of overindulging on Saturday.  'Tis the season.

Speaking of which, I just noticed how the season of overindulgence seems tie in directly with my off season.  Funny how that works.  I usually keep my eating pretty clean but this time of the year I cut myself some slack.  I truly love the holidays and everything that comes with it, including the huge basket of homemade cookies from our neighbour.  From my mother in laws Christmas brunch, to my family's turkey dinner and our new Boxing Day tradition of having both of our families over to our place for dinner, I love it all.  It's two jam packed days of busy-ness but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  It's also usually a crazy time of year for me at work but with some Christmas tunes playing and some peppermint hot chocolate, I can usually make it through the insanity relatively intact.  By the time New Years actually rolls around, I've already wiped my slate clean and started again. 

But before I jump into the holiday insanity, I am going on a little jaunt to Paris.  NYC and Paris all in the span of less than 4 weeks.  I feel like such a glamorous jet setter.  Ha.  If only.  G is going to Paris for work so my wonderful boss told me I had to go with him.  Seriously.  She even texted me that night to tell me I absolutely had to go.  Ok.  You don't need to tell me twice.  We're heading out on Friday night and landing on Saturday morning which means we'll have all day Saturday, Sunday and probably a bit of Monday to hang out together and explore.  I then have 3 days on my own to explore the City of Lights (good thing I bought a guidebook) and then G and I will have Friday and Saturday to hang out again.  I guarantee that at least one of my 3 solo days will be spent in a museum.  And I definitely guarantee that I will go for several runs while I'm there.  And am 150% sure that I'll be Instagramming pretty much everything I see.  Ok, maybe not everything.   Find me on IG here and come along for the ride.

Speaking of Instagram, the lovely Kate over at Run with Kate has teamed up with several of her favourite twitter friends and bloggers to create a December challenge.  I love these sort of challenges but I never seem to be able to be able to make it to the end.  I'm going to try my darndest to make it to the end of this one.  This one is called Holiday a Day.  Here's how it works;  take a photo each day in December that fits the day's theme.  Tag it with #holidayaday and the theme (e.g #drink or #santa etc) and you're in.  Let the snapping and tagging begin! 

In the meantime, I need to start packing!

Do you have any holiday traditions that you love? 

Ohhh la la, I cannot wait.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Playlist Thursday - A Whole Lotta Thanks

Finally!  I'm back on the Playlist Thursday bandwagon.  I've been M.I.A for the last couple of weeks and it looks like I missed out on some good ones.  It's US Thanksgiving today so today's Playlist Thursday theme is, appropriately,  "Songs that remind you to be thankful."

Check out Pavement Runners  catalog page to see what songs his other readers have put on their playlists.

Something Old

Title:  Beautiful Day
Notable:  Every single time I hear this song, I smile.  I associate it with two big events in my life;  my wedding day (it was our "entrance song") and my first Ironman.  I will always remember standing on the beach at Mirror Lake, trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach while I was waiting for the race to start.  They played this song just before the countdown and it made me cry.  I remember standing there thinking about just how grateful I was to have made it to the start line.  Every time I hear this song, it's a little reminder to me to take the time to be thankful.
Quotable: "It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away"

Something New

Artist:Atlas Genius
Notable:  There is something about the arrangement of the music and the harmonies in this song that just makes me happy.  When I'm happy, I'm always thankful. 
Quotable: "So, sweet little lover won’t you let me know? Like a circle round and round we go."

Something to Consider

Artist: Dido
Title: Thank You
Notable: This song needs no explanation, the title says it all.  It was the song that my hubby and I had our last dance to on our wedding day.  It always reminds me of just how much I have to be thankful for.
Quotable: "Ohh, just to be with you is having the best day of my life."

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Gets You Out of Bed?

Things have gotten a bit quiet around here as of late so I decided to use the time to start cleaning up my office.  This is a pretty big task since my office seems to be a dumping ground for left over props and other assorted things from shoots.   Some of these things get put to good use (see below) and some just end up in a pile gathering dust. 
This is a hard metal chair made more comfortable and cozy by the addition of fun fur.  
While I was cleaning up,  I discovered my old Ironman Switzerland Inspiration Board from 2007.  It was a bulletin board I hung in my office with a few bits of inspiration for my 10 month journey to the start line.  On it, I found this list.  I had to laugh when I read it because almost everything on here is still somewhat applicable (with the exception of #8, damn aging metabolism).  The list has definitely grown since I wrote this but I can safely say that these are still many of the things that get me out of bed and keep me motivated to stay active. 

What keeps you motivated?  Anything on this list that sounds familiar?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hitting the Books & The Empty Miles

It's officially off season.  At this current moment in time, I have no more races on the calendar.  G and I are talking about doing a 5km New Years Eve race but that's just talk at this stage of the game.  We'll see if that actually materializes into anything.   I'm sure if I pester him a bit, we'll end up toeing the start line of that race in December.  I think it would be a fun way to close out the year.  In the meantime, I'm slowly easing back into some semblance of a routine.  I am one of those people that can't function without some sort of routine.  I have a hard time just winging it.  I have a basic schedule that I follow in terms of what I do on what days.  My swim and run clubs dictate most of that schedule so I fill in the other days with either rest, weights or cycling.  Now that the off season is here, I think it's wise for me to back off the intensity in my running and log a few more empty miles vs. dedicated speed workouts.  I will probably drop my Tuesday tempo workouts in favour of an easier mid-paced run.  I also need to really work on sorting out my bio-mechanics.  My ankles and calves are in rough shape.  I'm hopeful that my weekly PT appointments will get me sorted out sooner rather than later.  There has been huge improvement in my ankle mobility on my left foot but now my right foot and calf are causing me some minor problems (mostly due to a massive calf cramp I got while trying to do a flip turn in the pool.  Note to self:  stop trying to do flip turns, you'll only continue to hurt yourself).  So frustrating. I guess that's just my body's way of saying "Slow the *bleep* down!".  

I'm working on addressing some of these issues in the gym.  This is one place where I really have no idea how to formulate a training plan.   I know I like to lift weights and I know the basic exercises that I should be doing as a runner but, there is so much more you can do in the gym and I think it's good to dice up your routine.  Your body needs that kick in the pants sometimes to get to that next level of strength or leanness.  So I turned to the man that many gym rats have turned to:  Alwyn Cosgrove.  He designed the workouts in a book by Lou Schuler and Cassandra Forsythe called The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I started reading this on Sunday and to my delight, it's funny and easy to understand.   There is a strong emphasis on functional weight training as well as working those lesser known muscles.  The workout program in here is a comprehensive one.  And best of all, stage one only had me doing 5 different exercises!  I was done my main workout in 30 minutes so I got in a good solid cool down with stretching and foam rolling.  I like!  Of course the first few stages are the easier ones.  As the program continues, the stages get a little more difficult.   There are 7 stages in total.  The first 5 stages are 4 weeks each.  Stage 6 focuses on strength building and it will be roughly 5 weeks (I only lift twice a week vs. 3 as they suggest).  Stage 7 is 6 weeks if you workout 2x a week.  Stage 7 is called the Final Cut. According to the description in the book, it's designed to be "one last assault on whatever body fat you still want to shed."  I'm not sure I'll even need to do stage 7 but it might be fun to give it a try.  It will all depend on where I'm at in my marathon training schedule.  The best part is that this will give me at least 6 months of weight workouts! YES.

I also picked up a couple of other books.  One is a guidebook to Paris, which I figured would be handy for our upcoming trip and, the other one that I'm SUPER excited about is the Run Less, Run Faster book that is based on the F.I.R.S.T training program.  This will probably be my in flight reading.  I'd like to get through it before I actually start training for Boston so I can effectively design my training plan and not wing it like I did with NYC (one more reason I'm grateful I didn't actually get to run it, I'm sure it would have been ugly).

Good thing it's off season.  Looks like I've got a lot of reading to do.

They had me at "Lift Like A Man, Look Like A Goddess" - how could I NOT buy it? ha ha.

Have you bought any fitness related books lately?  If so, what are they?

Friday, November 9, 2012

An Impromptu Run In Central Park: NYCM 2012

I started this post on Sunday evening but didn't have the mental capacity to actually finish it.  There were too many thoughts running around my head.  That and I was pretty freaking tired.  Now that I'm back home and somewhat back into my routine, I've had the chance to reflect a bit more on my time in New York.


This time last week I had hoped to be basking in the afterglow of running one of the world's greatest marathons but the devastating events of this past week altered those plans.  From the get go this race was never going to be about time for me.  It was going to be all about the experience.  Given the events of the week leading up to the race and the big divide in public opinion in regards to the race, I wondered just what kind of experience I would have.  Probably not the one I hoped for.  I was surprised when Mayor Bloomberg had said that the race was going to go on.  The devastation that we were seeing on the news was pretty bad.  I wondered if we'd even be able to get to New York, let alone run.  But New Yorkers are a tough bunch of people.  By Thursday their airports were open and flights had resumed.  Transit service had started in some parts of Manhattan.  We called Porter Airlines on Thursday morning and they were back on schedule.  I had thought about cancelling the entire trip altogether but as G said, we had booked the time off and we'd be lucky if we could re-coup any of our costs.  So we were going regardless of what was happening on Sunday.  Mentally I was ready to race.  I had finally gotten my head into the right place.

It wasn't meant to be.  When we got in from the race expo and sat down to relax a bit before heading out to dinner, we saw the breaking news:  The 2012 ING New York City Marathon was cancelled.

My heart sank.  I felt a range of emotions from anger to disappointment to sadness. Anger that they waited till 36 hours out, disappointment that I wasn't going to cross that finish line, sadness that I wasn't going to be able to experience what I came to New York for.  All purely selfish reasons and ones that are incredibly insignificant given what has transpired in NYC.   But training for NYC had been my reality for the last 16 weeks so for that goal not to come to fruition was a disappointment.  I ended up having that beer that G had offered earlier. We then went out and had a late dinner and I drowned my sorrows in a couple of glasses of red wine.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling a lot better about things.  Mayor Bloomberg made the right call.   I don't know if I could have run 26.2 miles knowing that the borough we were starting in was the hardest hit.  The last thing they needed was 40,000 + runners invading their decimated island.  I get the wishful thinking that perhaps they could have pulled it off but realistically they should have
cancelled this right after Sandy hit.  Period.  No questions.  I had brought all sorts of things with me to keep warm at the start line so donating all my clothes and the blanket I brought to a local collection for victims just seemed like the right thing to do.  A marathon seemed so trivial in light of what was going on.

Once I heard that the race was cancelled I had decided that I was going to go for a run on Sunday in Central Park regardless.  Apparently I wasn't the only one that had that thought.  There were some hardy souls that were going to run the 10km loop in Central Park 4 times just like it was done in the old days.  I wasn't going to do 4 loops but I figured I'd run at least 20km.  G decided to join me for 10 of it.  I was amazed when we got into the park.  It was literally packed with runners.  I'd estimate there were about 20,000 people.  Many of them wearing their official NYCM shirts, their race bibs or their country colours.  It was spectacular.  There were even people cheering with homemade signs.  On my second loop I passed an impromptu water station.  Sure the crowds were small but they were there none the less.  And pretty much every runner I saw was smiling.  Sure we might not have crossed the finish line or gotten a medal but we were all doing what we loved to do, together.
20,000 runners enjoying a beautiful day in Central Park

You and I have a date next year.
I know I ran almost every step of those 2.5 laps thinking of the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  I'm sure that many of the other runners out there were thinking the same thing.  It was only afterwards that I found out about the large group of people that had actually gone to Staten Island that morning to volunteer their time.  Simply amazing.  And people were saying that runners are selfish?

Part of me is disappointed that I didn't get to run the actual race but I'm sure once the NYRR re-groups and figures out a plan of action we'll get an opportunity to participate next year.   The other part of me is kind of glad that it didn't happen because if it did, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn't have explored the city like I did.  It was my first time in New York and there was so much I wanted to do while I was there.  So while I may have missed out on one experience, I certainly made up for it with others.  Had I raced, I probably would have spent the rest of the day hobbling around the apartment.  But instead, we spent that afternoon walking in the sun along Museum Mile, exploring the Guggenheim and window shopping.  I may have only run 25km while I was in NYC but I know I walked at least 50km.  On the Monday, we walked from Battery Park all the way back up to our apartment at 92nd and Central Park West.  10 miles.  10. Freaking. Miles.  And that was only one of the 5 days we were there.  I think we walked through pretty much every neighbourhood on the west side of the city.  It was a wonderful trip.  I'm looking at it like a trial run for next year.  I know where the race expo is.  I know where I'll need to catch the bus on race morning, I know where I'll want to stay next year and most importantly, I know what to expect in those last 3 miles.   I suspect I'll go into next year's race feeling much more relaxed about it all and that can never be a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

I'll see you next year, for reals.
I had planned on scaling back on my running and letting my body heal after the marathon.  That plan hasn't changed.  I took this entire week off and will probably head out for a nice easy hour long run on Saturday-my first in almost a week.  I'm missing the miles, the sound of my breath and the joy of moving my body.  I can never stay away for too long.   As for my race season, I think it's done...I'll see how I feel after Paris in December.

Happy Trails.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Playlist Thursday: Race Day Tunes

This week's Playlist Thursday couldn't be more appropriate for me as I am set to race NYC on Sunday.  Turns out Brian (aka Pavement Runner) is also racing this weekend and he's got a kick ass goal so he thought it would be great to a Race Day Playlist.  He's going to post his entire race day playlist on his blog but has asked us to list our top 3 must have songs for our race day playlists.  This is a tough one for me.  Every song on my race day playlist has a place.  I am going to veer away a bit from Playlist Thursday tradition and give you 4 songs I've chosen to set the tone for the beginning, middle, the proverbial wall and end of the marathon.  

Check out Pavement Runners blog for his entire race day playlist and the catalog page for other readers must have playlist songs.

The Start

Artist: Sam Roberts
Title:Graveyard Shift
Notable: This song made it as an honorable mention in my Canadian playlist but I'm bringing it back again.  It's the perfect song for the beginning of a race because it's pace is steady and not too fast.  I listened to it on repeat for the first 15-20 minutes of my A-race last year.  It set the tone perfectly.
Quotable: "Now here it comes, it comes the setting sun, time to dig down and see what side you're on"

The Middle

Artist: Chris Cornell
Title: Time
Notable: When Chris Cornell paired up with Timbaland all hell broke loose in the heavy metal / alternative universe.  He got completely dissed by his fans for going down "that" road.  Honestly, I think it shows an incredibly talented and courageous person to step outside your musical comfort zone and try something different.  I really enjoyed this album when it came out and there are still several songs from it that are on my playlist.  This being one them.  It's a nice reminder that while I may be halfway through the race, I still have plenty of time that I need to spend on the road.  Plus I like the beat as well.  Steady enough that I'm not pushing the pace just yet.
Quotable: "We gotta know, know when to fight, know when to hold, and when to let it go."

The Wall

Artist: Muse
Title: Uprising
Notable: Another song that has appeared on my Playlist Thursday but again, I'm bringing it back because it is one of those songs that will pump me up and get me through the tough times.
Quotable: "Rise up and take the power back, it's time the fat cats had a heart attack"

The Finish

Artist: Rush
Title: One Little Victory
Notable: Yet another song that has appeared in a Playlist Thursday post but for good reason.  This song always gets me going in the last couple of miles of a race.  It's what I hear when I picture the finish line.  Every race I finish is one little victory. 
Quotable: "Celebrate the moment, as it turns into one more, another chance at victory, another chance to score"

What songs get you through the beginning, middle, the Wall and the finish?