Gear Check: Face Balm

Don’t hide from the cold, protect yourself!

I have extremely dry skin, so I cannot run in cold weather without a thick protective layer of balm. If I do, I come back chapped and sad, and I don’t have time for that. I have tried a lot of them, and here’s how they measure up:

The Honest Company Healing Balm
Price: $3/oz
Texture: Thick, sometimes grainy (when cold)
Scent: Light and earthy
Effectiveness: This stuff feels great and stays put. It’s a little greasy, so if you are already oily, you might want to avoid this one.
Bonus Feature: It’s all natural, so that feels good.

Skinceuticals Hydra Balm
Price: $6/oz
Texture: Extremely thick
Scent: None
Effectiveness: This is my all-time favorite balm. It isn’t greasy, it stays on for hours, and it’s extremely protective.
Bonus Feature: This product is commonly recommended by plastic surgeons, it’s just that good.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
Price: $0.40/oz
Texture: It’s jelly! A little thinner than the others.
Scent: None
Effectiveness: In a pinch, Vaseline is great. It doesn’t stay on as long, so use it for shorter runs.
Bonus Feature: It’s very affordable, and most people already have it on hand.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Price: $2/oz
Texture: Thick, and it doesn’t become more malleable when applied.
Scent: None
Effectiveness: Very protective, and a great option for longer runs.
Bonus Feature: It’s also affordable and easy to find in stores.

I use the Skinceuticals Hydra Balm because I find that it works the best for my skin. In fact, I use it as a night cream in the winter because it’s the only product that still feels hydrating by morning. It’s not cheap, but it works — and that’s normally the case, isn’t it?

Winter is in full force, but don’t let the wind chills keep you from enjoying running outside. Just layer up to stay warm and protect your skin with a soothing balm. Hang in there, Angels, spring is only 71 days away. — Amie

 

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Gear Check: Hands Free Hipster Dog Leash

Batman's belt ain't got nothing on all these features.

Batman’s belt ain’t got nothing on all these features.

My dog, Presley, is one of my favorite running companions (even if she is getting old and slow — hey, who isn’t?), so I’m always on the lookout for stuff that bolsters our running relationship.

When I got the Hands Free Hipster Dog Leash, compliments of Dog Fence DIY, I was excited to give it a go.

The “leash” looks more like a fanny pack than a leash, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s got plenty of pockets for running essentials such as gels, car keys, poop bags, etc. It’s bright green, which makes us easy to see from a distance, and the leash is easily detachable from the belt. Also of note: the leash itself features a loop near the top that you can grab if you need your dog to heel closer, which especially comes in handy on the trail, where we’re passing other runners, bikers, walkers and fellow canines quite frequently.

Test run.

Test run.

My main gripe with this contraption is that when I adjusted the belt for my waist, the excess adjustable straps were just kinda bouncing when I ran (check out the action shot and you can see one of the dangling straps). Slightly annoying. I wish there was some way to tuck them away or secure them.

My favorite feature is that the entire back of the pack is made with elastic. So, unlike my Buddy System Hands-Free Leash, it’s more comfortable as I move and run (and as my dog moves and runs). It also helps the belt fit securely on my waist, which keeps it in place pretty well.

Overall, I’d call this belt a success. It’s only a couple of bucks more than my other leash, and it has about a million more perks. If you’re on the look for dog-cessories to add to your running arsenal, give it a go. Woof! — Aidz

 

There’s the Rub

Screen-Shot-2014-07-28-at-9.41.28-AMSooooo, I have a confession to make.

My thighs rub together when I run.

And no matter how many miles I run, my thighs will always rub together. That’s just the way I’m made. And eventually, after enough miles, my pants start to go threadbare at the inseam.

This is frustrating, on many levels. And the odds are, you have this same problem too!

But here is something awesome: You don’t have to throw away your favorite running tights when the inseam gives way. You just have to get them repaired. Really! And here’s the best part: if you bought your tights at Lululemon, they will fix them for you. For FREE!

So march your favorite tights/shorts/capris right back to the store filled with the swell of pride of knowing you ran so many miles in those babies that they’re literally going to have to sew them back together. And since you don’t have to splurge on a new pair of tights, you can treat yourself to a little something in the store. (Because, come on, be real, who really has the will power to walk out of Lululemon empty handed?) — Aidz

Gear Check: Knits by Blanca

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 2.19.48 PMJust in time for the winter weather — and holiday gift giving season — I happened upon Knits by Blanca. This knitting runner, with both Facebook and etsy pages, makes custom creations that celebrate every step of your running journey.

The hats are just $20 (which includes shipping) and come about a week after you order them (which is pretty speedy considering they’re made-to-order).

1891283_10100603128817144_5785431976753213698_nI went ahead and got myself a stocking hat (complete with a hole for my ponytail) and took it for a test run on a chilly 15-degree afternoon. My ears were warm, and my hat was adorable. And, I can’t wait for the runners on my Christmas list to unwrap their knit-tastic gifts. — Aidz

(Shoe) Decisions Are Hard

If it ain’t broke …

Inevitably, a week or two before every half marathon I run, my shoes crap out at about 300 miles. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But when your shoes are done, you KNOW. And I always know right before it’s race time.

This is a frustrating thing because a few weeks before you race is not exactly an ideal time to be breaking in a new pair of shoes. For this reason, I’ve been switching to a new pair of the same model of shoes for a couple of years now. And those shoes — my beloved Brooks Pure Cadence — have been very good to me.

Until recently.

The last pair of Pure Cadence I got felt lovely on first run. I met my spring half marathon goal wearing these shoes, and even PRed at the Bix with these cranberry kicks. But there’s also an ugly secret. My poor, poor toenails have been black and blue since May.

Houston, we have a problem.

Houston, we have a problem.

So when my Nike+ told me we were nearing the mileage capacity for my shoes three weeks out from half marathon time, I was faced with a tough decision. Should I get another pair of Brooks Pure Cadence … or *gasp* try something new?

So off I went to the running store. I found a helpful employee at the local Cincy Fleet Feet and launched into my diatribe. I rapidly rattled off my laundry list of foot issues, running history and other neurotic things that probably made said employee wish someone else had asked to help me first. Then, I tried on no fewer than 12 pairs of shoes. With each pair, I went for a short jog outside. After about an hour and countless short sprints outside of the store, we had whittled down the pile to a new pair of Brooks Cadence (the devil I know) and a pair of Nike Zoom Structure (the wild unknown).

DECISIONS ARE HARD!

But why are they so much harder when it comes to running shoes? I toil and torment and hem and haw over which pair to get. And if I think about it, they’re not all THAT different, and I’m going to need a new pair in a couple of months, anyway. So why do I stress so much about which pair to get?

They’re JUST SHOES.

But they’re not. Running shoes are so much more than just shoes. After all, the wrong running shoe could lead to discomfort, blisters and sometimes, injury. And the right running shoe can make running easier, more effortless and, by extension, more enjoyable. That’s a lot of pressure for one measly pair of shoes, isn’t it?

It almost feels like my running hopes and dreams are figuratively tied into the laces of my shoes, both physically and mentally.

Happy feet.

Happy feet.

So what did I choose? Tried and true (and toenails blue)? Or uncharted territory?

Well, friends, I got crazy and went with something different. I wore my old shoes for the last long training run of the season and broke in the new guys slowly over short runs before the race. And you know what? Different can be good. — Aidz

 

Gear Check: The Running Buddy vs. The Bandi

Marathon training isn’t just about running the miles. You need to test gear, fuel, shoes, music and whatever else you’ll use on race day.

I’m always looking for a way to carry my Shot Bloks without having to wear a water belt since water is provided during the race. For my last two marathons, I just safety-pinned a Ziploc bag inside my shorts, which is not a great option because the last thing you want to be doing at mile 18 is fishing around for fuel in a sweaty Ziploc. Ugh. I’ve seen a lot of ways to carry food in my running group, so I set out to find another way.

Here they are, side by side. Phone placed for scale.

Here they are, side by side. (iPhone placed for scale)

First up, the Bandi. The fabric is extremely soft, making it super comfortable, and it is completely adjustable. The pocket is easy to navigate and is surprisingly large enough to carry your food, your phone and your key fob. It worked great until mile 14 when I realized it was up under my boobs. Not great. The soft fabric tends to cause slippage through the adjustable buckles, which loosens it just enough to start moving around. Again, you must eliminate all annoyances or you will lose your mind in the final miles of a marathon. (I’ve thrown gear at spectators; sometimes you just can’t help it).

Large pocket that expands for all your stuff.

Large pocket that expands for all your stuff.

Next up, the Running Buddy. I bought this after I was served an ad on Facebook. It was only $20, so I thought, what the heck? When it arrived, I was taken aback by its size. It seemed very large for an extra pocket, which it essentially is. It’s a magnetic pouch that doesn’t require any sort of belt, it just fits onto your shorts and holds a ton of stuff. Again, I thought it would bug me, but I put it on, ran 6 miles and returned home unfazed. In fact, it was so comfortable that when I went to throw my clothes down the laundry chute, I accidentally sent it with my shorts. It comes in different sizes, mine being the largest, so I might size-down for the race.

Magnetic, so it stays put.

Magnetic, so it stays put.

Overall, I would chose the Running Buddy over the Bandi. I am not a huge fan of belts in general, but I thought the Bandi would be different, due to its softness. Not so much.

What’s your favorite way to carry food on the long run? I’m always on the prowl for great solutions, especially if it keeps my sanity in tact at the end of a hard race. — Amie

The Co$t of the Marathon

“Running is a cheap sport. All you need are shoes!”

Um, yeah, right. We runners know better than that. We have STUFF. Lots of it. And when it comes to training for and running a marathon, it definitely ain’t cheap.

Here’s a look at the costs associated with my Chicago Marathon training, which essentially began in February, and the race itself:

This giant pile of neon represents the clothes, gear and whatnot I've purchased this year for marathon training (*dog not included).

This giant pile of neon represents the clothes, gear and whatnot I’ve purchased this year for marathon training (*dog not included).

Chicago Marathon Race Registration: $185.00

Shoes (3 pairs): $300.00

Training (Chicago Endurance Sports): $229.00 FREE! (with my American Cancer Society charity team)

iPod Shuffle: $50.00

Headphones: $20.00

Garmin Forerunner 110: $120.00

Shot Bloks: $32.00

Clothing (1 pair of compression socks, 1 pair of compression sleeves, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of tights, 1 pair of capri tights, 4 sports bras, 4 tank tops, 2 long sleeve tops, 4 pairs of socks): $600.00*

Other Races (Chi-Town 10K, Madison Half Marathon, PAWS 8K w/ GROUPON, Bastille Day 5K, Rock n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, Bix 7, Rock the Night 5K): $375.00

Body Glide: $9.99

Yoga for Runners Classes (20): $200.00

Gym Membership (9 months): $179.91

Massages (6): $550.00

Swag at the Marathon Expo: $100.00*

Parking at the Marathon Expo: $10.00

Marathon Race Day Transportation: $40.00*

TOTAL COST: $2,771.90

* estimated; also, I THINK that’s all of the running clothes I’ve purchased since February — and most everything was on sale.

Now, keep in mind that I don’t have to pay for a hotel room or a plane ticket. I also didn’t include costs for traveling to the Madison Half Marathon or the Bix 7 because I consider those vacations. And of course, I already owned a lot of gear and clothing heading into this venture.

Still, all told, since February, I’ve spent almost three grand on running and training. Wow.

But guess what? It’s been worth every penny. — Mags