Month: July 2017

The “Two-Body” Problem

The “Two-Body” Problem

“In classical mechanics, the two-body problem is to determine the motion of two point particles that interact only with each other”.  In academia, the two-body problem (career) refers to “the difficulty of both spouses obtaining jobs at the same university or within a reasonable commuting distance from each other”.  So what is the two-body problem for runners . . . other than the motion of two people that interact only with each other?

When both partners are runners and compete and train together, there are a number of dilemmas that can develop.  In this post, I will address the challenges and triumphs of having two runners that run and train to compete in the same  ultra/endurance events.  Let’s start with the frivolous:

1.)  With both partners intensely training for ultramarathons, the level of laundry that is produced and needs to be completed each day is astronomical.  And don’t get me started on the water bill associated with long hot showers/baths.

2.)  The cost, that equates to two sets of EVERYTHING.  Two sets of fancy shoes, wool composite socks, hydration packs, tech shirts, moisture wicking shirts, race entries, goo, gels, hats, sunglasses, liters of sunscreen  . . . the list is infinite.

3.)  The chores get away.  Nobody likes chores.  No matter how many blisters I have, I will always prefer a run to mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom.  My husband is the same . . . the lawn sometimes gets scary and we may have misplaced one of our dogs last summer.

Now let’s dig a bit deeper.  How does running and training affect the marriage/relationship?  I think if both halves have the right mind-set, then the value add of sharing racing and training can be enormous.  But if either partner loses focus on the relationship, then things can become dicey.

First, the good:

4.)  Running together can produce endorphins, which leads to arousal, which is definitely good for a relationship.

5.)  Sharing a victory or a tough race builds memories and teamwork for us, particularly on challenging races where the possibility of failure, injury, or getting lost is very real.  We have had races where we work together to stay on course, help an injured runner, or just plain survive the nastiness of blackberry thorns, muddy ATV-shredded hills, and cold, dark night runs.  Those are the races we always remember the most fondly.

6.) We bear witness to the essence of our partner. Susan Sarandon’s character in Shall We Dance states, “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”  Running allows us to bear witness to both the greatest triumphs and failures of our partner.  I have DNF’d while my husband has run the greatest race of his career.  We have shared bruised ribs, debilitating blisters, chaffing of parts unspeakable, dry heaving, and conquering races that have tested our limits as people and runners.  In these moments of triumph and spectacular failure, I know my husband and he knows me.  We know each other at our most glorious and most unlikable.  So be assured, when life throws us curve balls of sickness or lost jobs, debt or despair, we know how the other will react, and that we will handle whatever comes our way with dogged determination.  That knowledge of the solidity and resilience of our relationship is a gift.

The not so good:

7.)  Competition.  A little bit of spousal competition is good.  It breeds more focus and determination and training, which leads to subsequent excellence.  But too much competition and things can turn ugly.  In a marriage, to compete with your spouse is to know that by you succeeding, your spouse is failing.  In racing or in life, I never want my spouse to fail.  When he fails, we fail.

8.)  Misguided expectation.  When couples don’t set reasonable expectations for a race or training run, there can be resentment.  If one person expects the other to stay with them no matter what . . . and they get dumped halfway into a run, it can get ugly.  My husband and I always try to set reasonable expectations.  If my husband is running well, I want him to drop my like I’m hot and run.  I want him to run without consideration of how I will feel without him.  I want him to run his race.  I also want him to give me the same freedom to run unencumbered and without obligation when I hit my stride.  By letting my spouse run the race he has in them that day, we allow ourselves the ability to be our best.

When in the course of human events . . .

When in the course of human events . . .

As the sun begins to set on this, our 241st year since the declaration of our independence from the tyranny of Great Britain, I ponder the meaning of this great document and of course, its relevance to runners.

While I am trained as a scientist, my hobby is history as my father drug his young children to every historical site , both Revolutionary and Civil, on the eastern seaboard.  There was no magic kingdom in our Summer vacation plans, but how about the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War?  So a brief history lesson.  The United States ratified what we now know as our Constitution in June of 1788 but before any of that, was the Declaration of Independence.  The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and voted to declare independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.  The Declaration of Independence was the justification for their action and was ratified two days later on July 4th, our “Independence Day”.  So why the attraction to the Declaration?  The Constitution is what defines our rights as Americans and lays the foundation for our government and legal systems.  The answer seems easy – straight American audacity.  We, a budding group of colonial upstarts declared that we were free and in words so powerful that they speak to the soul of every American hundreds of years after its writing:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  This one sentence is the moral standard to which we Americans aspire.

This morning as I pushed through the last mile of our yearly 4th of July race, Four on the 4th, I pondered the deep connection that the running community has with this moral standard.  We as runners believe we are living most fully when we run remote trails or pound the pavement.  We feel truly free as running allows us to take a brief respite from our daily cares of bills, health issues, and work stresses.  And when we fly along the trails with a gentle breeze and a beautiful vista unfolding in front of our gaze, we find our happiness.  Our community calls to everyone: “Come join us!  You don’t need expensive watches or shoes.  We don’t care your profession or level of academic achievement.  Who cares if you own a mansion or rent 1-bedroom apartment and live off of Ramen noodles.  Your last name, country of origin, or the faith you chose is irrelevant.  There is room for us all on these paths.  Find the happiness, freedom, and fellowship that we have found on the journey.  Come join us!”

So as the sun sets today, God Bless America, a country where we are able to run free.

Put on my Blue Knit Shoes

Put on my Blue Knit Shoes

Time for a another gear review.  In the interests of full disclosure, I am NOT an ambassador or otherwise connected with the Altra Brand, but I DO like their shoes.  Today’s review will feature the Altra Escalante road shoe.  I decided to check out the Altra Brand after my first 100 mile race.  I wore Hokas for my training and for the race and I love the padding which protects my feet after miles of pounding on the roads.  On the down side, even when I sized up, the toe box of the Hokas was too narrow, and my feet swelled so bad that I was tempted to cut the toe box out of the shoe by mile 75.  I saw several runners on the course with this latest “fashion idea” but something galled me about destroying a $130 pair of shoes.  Enter the Altra which has a very wide toe box design to allow plenty of room for your toes to wiggle and move.

Design – the shoes are light weight with a knit upper to allow for a sock like fit/feel.  I love this because it makes the shoes very breathable so my feet don’t feel soaked after miles on the asphalt.  Another staple of the Altra brand, beyond the wide toe box, is a zero drop.  Zero drop shoes are shoes “that allow the foot to sit level to the ground without a slope from the heel to the forefoot (check out this Runner’s World article for more information on Zero drop pros/cons).”  For me, the zero drop prompts me to run more “fore footed” and helps me focus on feedback from my feet to promote better form.  The shoes are also very light, coming in at 8.2 oz for the men and 6.5 oz for the women.

Ride – the wide toe box and zero drop give the illusion of a more barefoot running experience.  I wear these shoes and feel fast and “zippy”.  It feels like I’m fast at toe off and can pick up speed quickly.  There is a caution that comes with the shoe design, if you are not used to zero drop or more minimalist style shoes, ease into these kicks.  I have run in more minimalist shoes in the past with no problem but I know folks who have complained that with a more forefoot strike, as promoted by these shoes, they can get achy calves and Achilles.  So if you can’t resist this new shoe technology, at least take it slow.  I have had stiff calves the next morning after longer runs with these shoes.  I’ve worn my Escalantes for both half-marathon and marathon distances with no problems.

Overall 5 out of 5 stars. I love this shoe.  My husband got a pair and I saw how much fun he had on weeknight runs, so naturally I had shoe envy and had to get a pair for myself.  Pros, smooth ride, light weight, makes you want to fly on a run.  These shoes also feel great for scaling hills!  I think I get more from this shoe than what was intended by the designers.  I can take these on long road runs and not feel the fatigue and get both tempo runs and longer slower runs from the same shoe.  No hesitation in wearing these for races (e.g. The Dragonfly Jackal Marathon).  Cons – The shoe runs a bit big because of the roomy toe box – I normally wear a 9.5 which is VERY roomy in these shoes but not so much that I trip.  I could however have done a 9.  Make sure to get fit correctly.  The price is also a bit less sexy with shoes retailing at $130.  I have already put about a 100 miles on my shoes and they still feel/look new so we will see how well the wear for the price.  Lastly, I wear these for 5K to Marathon distance but would not use them for track work.  For me, the wider toe box doesn’t let me dig in in the same way as a racing flat or spike for track work, sprints, or repeats.

Dem’ Britches

Dem’ Britches

Being part of the ultra-running community means that we log a lot of miles. Which also means we do a ridiculous amount of laundry and go through a ton of shoes and clothes every year. On the plus side, this means we have an opportunity to put a product through its paces and form a list of products we like and dislike. We will post regular gear reviews of everything from shoes to hydration packs and underwear to headlamps in the hope that someone will find a product they can use without wasting time or money on things that do not meet their needs.

First up on the gear review is the InknBurn 6″ shorts. As an InknBurn Ambassador I will occasionally review the best in class products that I have used but will also try to keep the reviews balanced as I understand that every company who wishes to excel must continue to innovate and develop. So here I go with our first gear review.

As of summer 2017 InknBurn has produced 5 different designs for their 6″ shorts (Mejiro pictured in the attached photo).  Visit their website for the availabilities of the different styles.  The shorts are made of a synthetic blend of fabric that is stretchy, soft, and moisture wicking (mostly, see below).  The shorts come with standard features of two front pockets on the thigh, drawstring to adjust fit, triangle crotch, and super sick bold patterns.  Now let’s talk details:

Fit – most folks can do two sizes of these shorts.  I wear a 4 in their standard shorts but can do a 4 or 6 in the 6″ shorts.  Both sizes work for me.  The big difference in fit for me is in the waist.  Sometimes on super long runs I hate feeling any pressure on my waist so I size up.  There was also some concern on the forums that if you went with a smaller size, the shorts would be “see through” and there would be “wash out” of the pattern.  This is true of all my running tights and a fair critique of this product.  For me personally, I always wear a solid color “boy short” cut of underwear or compression shorts (if it is cold) under these shorts.  I know triathletes will also wear these with their bike shorts underneath.  For me, this was not a deal breaker.  The bigger concern was if the shorts would ride up during use on my “soccer girl” quads.  I was pleased to find that regardless of the size, the shorts stay in place and do not require readjustment on the run.

Features and Care – the shorts are fairly low maintenance.  I wash in normal or “sports” detergent, no bleach or fabric softeners.  Personally, I line dry my InknBurn gear because they dry fast and I don’t have to go on a “treasure hunt” in the dryer to find my clothes for the next run.  I wash these shorts with my normal laundry but am sure to remove any Velcro products from the load (e.g. my husband’s running hats).  The Velcro will catch on the fabric.  The pockets in the front are spacious and will hold your average smart phone, gels, or a key.  My only critique is that I wish they could add a zipper pocket in the back of the waist band.  My single greatest fear as a trail runner, besides getting lost, is running a ton of miles on the trail and staggering back to my car only to find I lost the keys in the woods.  So let’s hope they add a security pocket for the paranoid among us.

Overall review – 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The shorts are fairly close to being perfect for me.  I wore a couple of these shorts during the Jackal Marathons, 5 marathons in 5 days, during the heat of June in Tennessee.  I never had problems with the shorts in terms of needing to readjust, no chaffing, and they looked sick.  Some of the designs look like jean shorts and I always laugh when people think I’m crazy enough to run in jean shorts until they get close to see the actual material.  I get a lot of compliments.  The only thing I didn’t like and I am not sure I could have solved the problem with any of my other gear, is that at some point when the humidity is 95% and you are sweating something fierce, the shorts get saturated beyond their ability to wick moisture.  Then you are stuck just being soaked . . . everywhere.  The shorts do become a bit more noticeable to me with the added water weight but still not a deal breaker.  So my plea to InknBurn and any other running short manufacturer is to find the magic material that can withstand the heat and humidity of the South.

Cheers to the runners

Cheers to the runners

Whenever you begin a new journey (or run) there must always be a first.  A first step.  A first introduction.  A first foray out into the unknown.  This year has led to many firsts for my husband and I.  We have run our first multi-day event (the Jackals Marathons – 5 marathons in 5 days), this will be our first year as official Marathon coaches for our local running store, this is my first year as a manager, and my first year as an InknBurn brand ambassador.  And more pertinent to this moment, a first blog post.

My husband and I have shared many wonderful and daunting moments in the 6 years we have been married and through it all, our old friend “running” has kept us moving forward and connected.  We hope to use this blog to share some of the comedy and crazy that comes when you have two ultra-runners sharing the journey together and how sharing thousands of miles  and bearing witness to the other’s life on our journey has led to a connection beyond any  we could have imagined.  So on this, our inaugural blog post, we propose a toast:  “Cheers to the runners, a community like no other.  You have given us far more than we could have thought possible and have taken us to places both physical and mental that we did not know existed.  Bring on the miles and the smiles as we begin another foray into the unknown.  Cheers!” Continue reading “Cheers to the runners”