Not a Gift Guide 2019
|January 26, 2020||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
Yeah, it’s late. But since these posts are not a gift buying guide, is it really seasonal? Or is it just an excuse for me to share the things that have made me really happy in the past year and you might need in your life too?
For those of you new to my blog, this is NOT a sponsored post. These are not sponsored products. I researched and purchased these products on my own initiative, with my own money (or at least, they were gifts from close friends and family). Some of them cost a lot of money. Some of them are free. The connecting thread between everything in this post is the happiness I feel when I use it. None of the links are affiliate links – I don’t earn a commission if you click-through and buy, and I’m not endorsing any particular merchant. Don’t we have enough of that going around in our digital lives? The links are provided to give you a starting point for your own research if you are interested.
Here’s the 2019 Not-a-Gift-Guide!
I never said it outloud, but I silently judged all-you’all that wore gaiters for running. Yay…one more piece of gear to get dirty, to somehow rub and chafe, and to spend money on. I’ve run plenty of races that recommended gaiters and I was fine without them. I totally bought into all the negatives without actually trying them myself. I’s so hard to re-tie your shoe laces with gaiters. What about trying to do a shoe change? Crap gets in your shoes anyways, so what’s the point? If they get wet, then you are going to have soggy little fabric anklets. Sounds miserable.
I never said how dumb I thought gaiters were out loud. I’ve learned at least that much over the years of endurance sports. Disparage some piece of gear or philosophy and it practically guarantees that will be the next essential piece of your training.
But pretty little spandex anklet things? Nah. Don’t need them, don’t want them. Let’s not make this “simple” “cheap” sport of running any more ironic than it already is.
But then….I signed up for Rocky Raccoon 100. My friend who ran it last year highly recommended gaiters. She doesn’t usually wear gaiters either. And then I talked to someone else that also recommended gaiters. It really helps with the pine needles on the course.
I asked for gaiters for Christmas.
Then I wore them for the first time on a long trail run.
I FREAKING LOVE WEARING GAITERS.
Let me tell you why gaiters are awesome.
- Dirt doesn’t get between my heel and my sock. Which irritates the skin over my achilles, which my body interprets as achilles pain.
- I can wear my favorite model of sock which only comes in a stupid low ankle version that lets even more dirt around my heel, instead of being forced to wear a slightly less desirable sock that comes up higher.
- My shoes actually stay tied BETTER because they weren’t catching on stuff on the trail. If I do need to retye, it’s just one little hook that I need to unfasten in order to tie or take off my shoe.
- My feet stayed drier during a rainy run.
I don’t need to wear gaiters on every run, but at least for now they are here to stay on my long trail runs.
Salomon Advanced Skin 8 Set Hydration Vest
My red Salomon pack has consistently made the list of my favorite things since I first started putting these posts together in 2016. It’s still an awesome vest, but at 3L it can be limiting for long self supported runs, or races where I have to go 3.5+hours between aid. I needed a vest that could handle a bladder if needed, up to 5 or 6 hours of food, and accommodate some emergency gear such as a light jacket.
The 3L red rest has held up well, but if I’m being honest, after 4-5 years of hard use it’s finally starting to show a little wear. Specifically the fabric , lining is losing some of its softness and will rub my collarbone bloody unless I wear t-shirts with a higher neck. Lastly, it was designed for the very narrow soft flask water bottles and while I can force a standard sized 500 ml flask into the front pockets, it’s a tight squeeze and something I get tired of doing by the end of a 100k or 100 mile race.
I got some brand and model recommendations and tried on a few different vests, but in the end the newer Salomon felt the best and it went on the Christmas list. I had originally planned on asking for a 12L vest, but after using a 3L for so long the 8L felt like more than enough space. The front pockets come with shaped “women specific” bottles but will easily accommodate the standard 500 ml bottles I use, the pack is comfortable with or without a bladder, and I can now lean over and tie my shoes without food spilling out of overstuffed pockets.
I’ve used it on a handful of runs this month and it’s just fabulous. It doesn’t bounce at all despite being heavier and bigger than the 3L vest and it’s so much easier to get gear in and out. I don’t **need** the extra space for Rocky Raccoon, but it’s so tempting to use it instead of the 3L. I’m bringing both and I’ll see how I feel on race day.
Here’s a link to the specific model I got. Note that the stems on the water bottles can be shortened, or eliminated.
New Hydropak Soft bottles
I don’t realize how beat up my bottles have gotten until I get to crack the plastic on some new ones. What a luxury to have new bottles! Treat yourself by replacing some of your beat up gear that has reached the end of it’s useful life. I had forgotten how nice it was to have bottles that don’t leak and whose bite valves were gloriously clean. Getting new bottles is like slipping on a brand new pair of your favorite socks or shoes. So familiar, yet so much better than you remembered.
Spring and Huma gels
I disparaged gels in my “what to eat during an ultra” post, and then naturally immediately decided they were the answer to a problem. See notes in gaiters. Do not every definitely have an opinion on anything is obviously the lesson to be learned.
Here’s the deal. Way back when I first started running and decided that marathons were the end all and be all, there were three things that were vogue – giving yourself hyponatremia, carbo-loading, and fueling yourself entirely on lemon-lime Gatorade and Gu’s. The secret to the Gu’s was to start using them when you absolutely had to, usually around mile 15. Once you started eating them, you then had to continue to consume them every 30 minutes or risk crashing and burning epically. Two hours later, after running the last half of the race on 3-4 Gu’s, you had permission to puke after crossing the finish line, muttering “Gu stomach” while receiving sympathetic nods from the other runners around you.
I didn’t touch another Gu or Gel product for a decade or so, having turned to the dark side of trail running and promptly forgetting about the rather delicious Gu’s (available in plain, chocolate, and vanilla back in the day) in the abundance of proper FOOD available at trail runs (Pizza! Burritos! Sandwiches!).
A couple of years ago I swept an ultra with a friend and the aid stations pickings were slim, so out of desperation of not wanting another m&m or handful nut mix I tried a gel again (Gu brand). It didn’t go well. Went down deliciously but then took my GI tract about an hour to stop being unhappy.
Oh well. I don’t need gels to run ultras.
When it takes you 29 hours to do 100 miles, that’s FIFTY-EIGHT times that you have to eat something.
I love food and I love eating. But. Even I’m sick of eating the fortieth time my fuel timer goes off in a race. It’s not even that I don’t feel well. I’m just tired of eating. And even if I’m not tired of eating, I’m tired of all the food I have been eating for the last twenty hours.
What if I could use Gels to get me through this? I actually really like the taste. If I could get them to be OK in my stomach, alternating between a delicious gel and delicious food for my food timers might be a good strategy to get through the last 12 hours of a race.
I did some research and decided to try Hammer Gels, which have a main ingredient that is easier on sensitive stomachs than Gu’s. I set up a test course at home a couple weeks after Rio.
The goal was to do four 4.5 mile loops, starting each loop at the top of the hour. Sort of a home-made 4 mph challenge. It would keep my effort nice and even without any incentive to go fast, and giving me an opportunity to practice fueling, and also crewing/resetting at an “aid station” (which I set up at my front door).
The fueling plan was to eat a gel half way through the loop at the 30 min point, and then eat real food at the aid station 30 min later and then restart a new loop….eat a gel 30 min in etc.
A fair test in the “best” of circumstances. If my stomach said no during this, then it would be a problem during an ultra.
(let me summarize….blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, the hammer gel didn’t work out)
The first gel on the first loop was OK. Not delicious, but didn’t cause problems. On the second loop I didn’t like the idea of eating the gel, but I ate it anyways. Lots of water, swish swish swish, just like the directions said. I felt a bit off and struggled to maintain pace the second half of the loop, but started to feel ok again when I got back home at the hour mark and ate food. On the third loop, a gel sounded revolting. I ate it anyways. I had to walk. My GI tract wasn’t cramping like it had with the GU’s, but it was NOT happy and it was definitely the Hammer gel. Thirty min after the gel, with “aid” in sight my GI started to come on line again. I didn’t feel well enough to do the fourth lap.
Hammer was out.
That was my cheap option.
When I was asking on a running group for gel recommendations and I described what I wanted them for, there were two brands that came up over and over: Spring and Huma.
Both of them advertise a “real food” spin on a gel product, and many people who can’t handle traditional gels reported they use them successfully.
So I found a local running store that stocked them and gave them a try.
Guess what? THEY WORKED. They are delicious, easy to eat, and give me NO GI distress. I tried both of them on two almost-20-mile-runs and both brands really rocked.
I just wish they weren’t $2-3 EACH.
But, considering if some sort of fairy godmother swooped down at 3am while I was running and offered to give me a delicious food product that digested well for the price of $2.50 an hour for the next 6 hours…I would probably throw my bank card at her and give her my PIN number while sobbing in gratitude. So….perspective?
So, that’s the plan for Rocky Raccoon. Eating real food just like I’ve done at all my other ultras until around 10pm, or whenever eating becomes really annoying, and then alternative these little packets of goodness with my other food.
Fingers crossed I can get them through TSA security without checking a bag….
I talked about this last year, so you probably don’t need another three paragraph love letter ode to the joys of bullet journaling. Sufficient to say that I’m still doing it, have of course refined and evolved over the years to fit my life as it inevitably changes, and still remains one fo the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time. Which brings me to something else that is probably THE positive impact on my life for the next year…
Me, the person who hates yoga.
I did pilates for a long time in my 20’s. Yoga was the boring stepchild to pilates as far as I was concerned. Not enough movement, not enough toning, and way too easy.
And then I turned 35.
I’ve been getting less flexible, but DAMN have I noticed a decrease in my range of motion over the last two years. WHAT HAPPENED??????????
I mean, I knew I should probably just make friends with the extra five pounds that introduced themselves about a year ago, but WHY AM I GRUNTING WHEN I PICK SOMETHING OFF THE GROUND?
Here’s the other thing I should tell you.
I’m inherently lazy. Which is weird, because I love to push my body, especially when I’m running or outdoors. But, I can’t get myself to do strength training or any sort of mobility training on a regular basis because I’m either bored, or it seems like too much work. I know, there’s no making me happy.
I can run the same route a million times and enjoy it just as much today as I did yesterday, but I can’t do the same floor routine more than 1.5x before getting profoundly bored.
I’ve been to PT for various things over the years and I KNOW that I need to keep everything strong and flexible to prevent injury. I KNOW.
The tipping point was signing up for a 100 day workout challenge with the local triathlon club. 100 days of working out starting January 1.
I’m certainly not going to run every day. I’m not *that* crazy. Walking the dog seemed like a cop out. Other people claimed yoga as their work out, so I tried it one day.
I searched “yoga” on YouTube and did the first video that popped up.
It happened to be Adriene.
I’d never heard of her.
I don’t know if I love Yoga, but I love Adriene. 25-30 minute videos. Different every day. A perfect mix of movement and stillness, hard and easy. She says such beautiful, affirmative things. Things I need to hear someone tell me every single day.
It’s not repetitive, it’s not painful. Because of PT I’ve finally gotten it through my brain that it isn’t twisting yourself into the final goal shape that matters, it’s the biomechanics of how you get there, so I’m deliberate and correct in my movements in a way I wasn’t a decade ago.
It’s enough like the pilates I did in my 20’s that I’m often surprised “I can’t do that any more.”
But here’s the deal. I’m not noticing that the yoga is getting any easier, but after just a week of doing it, in my every day life I was suddenly was moving better. Things don’t ache when I got up out of bed. My hips don’t twinge anymore after sitting. I can stoop and bend without feeling stiff. I can look over my shoulder while driving or biking without everything feeling tight. I can sleep on my stomach without pain.
All this simply because I’m moving through my range of motion every day.
I was good at pilates and yoga moves in my 20’s but I don’t think I needed it. Now, at 35 I think I found it just in time.
Sign up at Mewe.com. It’s an alternative facebook type social media that is ad free, privacy oriented, and doesn’t sell your information. I didn’t know how much the targeted ads bothered me until I started using Mewe. My brain is so much quieter when I use Mewe. It takes a larger toll on my brain than I realized to sort through ads versus relevant posts in my feed. Multi-tasking is bad for our brains and having to make micro decisions between ignoring ads increasingly designed to personally catch my attention versus my friend posts takes a toll that I did not acknowledge until it was gone.
In the end, when a large enough population of people get fed up with the games facebook plays with our privacy and our digital lives, they will move to some other social media platform. It remains to be seen if Mewe will be the one ready with open arms to receive them, or if some other yet to be developed company is the one we throw our lot in with next. Mewe is not as intuitive as facebook is. But, for now Mewe is the best facebook alternative that I’ve found and I’m enjoying the simplicity of being able to connect with “my tribe” without distraction or feeling manipulated.
Remember – social media is a business. It is not a public service. Make it work for you and do not succumb to the illusion that you can somehow control a different experience than the company intends. It’s OK to try something new. It’s OK not to depend on one particular business for your entire digital life. It’s OK to not have an “all or nothing” stance. You can shop at Walmart AND Target – you can interact on Facebook AND Mewe. Just because you are exploring some other platforms doesn’t mean you have to walk away from Facebook and leave behind the currently wonderful groups and communities that exist there.
For example…I don’t have any plans to leave facebook, although I find my usage is changing. Right now most of my facebook time is spent in the groups – which is one of the most compelling reasons to stay in the facebook community. But, I find myself doing more of my close friends and family interactions on Mewe where I can talk with my mom without the ads in my newsfeed immediately reflecting the keywords of my last chat, and I can scroll through my newsfeed and not wonder whether I’m going to miss a post from a close friend because of a quirk of an algorithm.
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad……