Problem Solved; For Now

I can’t believe I’m finally able to type this: I HAVE FOUND RUNNING SHOES THAT WORK FOR ME! Hallelujah, strike up the band, people! It’s been over a YEAR since I started looking for replacement running shoes, and I have finally, finally found ones that work.

The Altra One 2.5’s are my new go-to’s. I have now put about 45 miles on them, including several “long runs” and two 5k races, and things feel great. My toes aren’t rubbing and I’m not feeling any weird pain or anything. Obviously, I’m delighted.

The bad news, however, is it looks like the One 2.5’s I’m currently loving have literally just been replaced by One V3. We all know that new versions of our favorite shoes aren’t necessarily the same, and can even be different enough to make them unwearable, so obviously I am annoyed.

It seems like I just can’t catch a break. I’m planning to buy at least one pair of the limited One 2.5’s available as a backup, and I’m willing to try the V3 because of Altra’s generous 30 day return policy, but COME ON, man! Can’t I just have a shoe that’s available for longer than a year?

When you find a good running shoe, do you hoard them like I’m about to?

 

Friday Free-For-All – 04/28/17

Photo Jul 14, 10 05 37 AM

My acne has come back with a vengeance since I went off hormonal birth control. The only reason I went on birth control at age 18 was because I had terrible acne that didn’t respond to ANY  over the counter OR prescription meds, and I was desperate. The pill helped some, and I eventually did Accutane, which REALLY helped (and was also AWFUL for me), but I’ve never had what I would consider good skin. The last few years, though, I finally sort of figured out what worked for me and only had occasional breakouts. But now that I’m off the pill, all hell has broken loose again and I don’t know what to do with myself. My self-confidence is in the absolute pits right now. It’s also hard because I’m trying to switch to using more natural, cruelty-free products, and I’ve found those to be much more expensive than run-of-the-mill drugstore products. Ugh.

Ben is currently on spring break and I am positively green with envy. It has been SO HARD this week getting up and going to work while he’s still snoozing away. I know I should just get over it, because this is going to be my life from now on and summer is coming, but it stinks.

I have been something of a social butterfly this week. On Tuesday, I hung out with my friend Stacy who is moving to Albany after this week. On Wednesday, Ben and I went to a dinner party at our friend Erik’s house. Last night, we went out with some of Ben’s coworkers. Tonight, we’re going to a “Fundue” party. And tomorrow, Ben’s aunt Karen is coming up from New York and we’re having family dinner together. While I LOVE seeing our friends and doing fun things, all of this socialization really takes it out of me. I’m looking forward to a quiet, lazy day on Sunday to recuperate.

I bought some Vega Protein and Greens powder and a shaker bottle. Because I live 45 minutes away from my CF box, it makes getting a decent snack in me within the “optimal protein window” pretty difficult. And I’m usually RAVENOUS by the time I make it home, meaning I end up eating too much at dinner. I’m hoping that by mixing up a protein shake to drink on the way home after class, I can curb my overeating and maybe start to lose some of this extra weight I’ve picked up. A girl can dream, right?

The Altra One’s have arrived! I ordered them in 9.5 and 10 because I wasn’t sure which size I needed. I ended up keeping the 10s because I felt good about the extra room. So far, I’ve run a 5k in them. It’s still way to early to tell if I’m happy with them, but the good news is, there was nothing immediately bad about them, as was the case with the Hokas. Fingers crossed!

Have you ever struggled with acne? What products work(ed) for you?

The Return to Running

Five months is kind of a long time to take off of running. I didn’t plan to take a specific amount of time off, I just didn’t want to push myself back into something that had become a bit of a chore. Marathon training WHILE rehearsing for a show and then having a DNF, and having another weather-related race disaster with the 100 on 100 relay, I just WAS NOT FEELING IT.

Recently, I’ve been easing back into running with a couple of short runs a week. It’s been nice, and dare I say, not as challenging or awful as I thought it would be (thank you, CrossFit!). Of course, now that I’m back at it, it’s hard not to want to be exactly back where I was, running PR 5k races and putting in all the miles. It’s hard to look back at where I was this time last year and not be disappointed in my mileage and paces. I’m just trying to remind myself that I did, in fact, take five whole months off. And that this time last year I was nearing the end of marathon training, so it’s not fair at all to compare now to then. Running again feels good, for the most part, so there’s no need to let it make me upset when I’m just getting back to it.

But the shoes. DEAR GOD THE SHOES. Will my shoe saga never end? I’ve been hunting for my perfect running shoe for over a year now, and it’s hard not to feel like there may never be an answer for me. I’ve put in so much time and effort, not to mention MONEY, with zero success.

The Hoka Claytons are officially dead to me. I’ve put in about 40 miles in them over the last 9 months and still can’t go more than one mile without horrific blisters on my insteps, no matter how much anti-chafe product I slather on. I’d post pictures, but I don’t want to make anyone puke. I had to throw my blue Mirage 4s away this week because the heels were ripped out so badly that it was causing blisters on my heels. And my orange Mirage 4s (my original pair), are over 3 years old and completely shot. Which means, I’m effectively running shoe-less.

I am biting the bullet today and ordering the Altra One 2.5s in two different sizes, so I can try them on and see if they even remotely might work. I’ll keep the ones that fit the best and try them out for 30 days. Altra has an AMAZING 30 day guarantee, so I’m hoping that these might finally bring an end to my shoe woes and get me back out and running comfortably.

I really hope I can get my shoe situation together before the racetastic month of May. I’ve got FOUR races, and if I don’t have good shoes, I’m going to be a very sad panda. If I have to put in any more miles with those damn Hokas, I may quit running altogether.

Anyone in the market for a lightly used pair of Hoka Claytons? 

So, I Ran Last Night

Last night I went to my local Planet Fitness and ran on the good ole treadmill. It was three miles, and it actually felt pretty good. You may remember that I actually like treadmill running, so getting back to it was nice. I watched trashy reality TV and just tried to remember what running feels like. I’m hoping to slowly slide more easy running back into the schedule as things get less busy this winter.

Unfortunately, my shoe struggle is still ongoing. The Hoka Claytons are the best that I’ve tried in a while as far as comfort for my weird toes, but no matter what socks I wear or how much Body Glide I apply, I get really painful blisters on the bottoms of my arches where the upper meets the sole. Every. Single. Run. I had hoped that I would eventually develop calluses, but so far that hasn’t happened. I’m going to continue to try to wait it out and hope for some callus action, but for now, it’s a struggle.

My next and possibly final option is to order some Altras online. I think the foot-shaped toe box and zero drop structure would be good for me. I just have to hope and pray that they won’t give me blisters like the Hokas. I’ll probably order several pairs/sizes to find the best fit, and then send back the others. My coworker has a Zappos account with free overnight shipping that I can abuse, so the shipping costs won’t break the bank. If the Altras don’t work out, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I feel like I’ve tried just about everything at this point, and I’m getting pretty discouraged.

How do you feel about treadmill running? Yay or boo?

I’ve Got the Running Shoe Blues

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months, you know that I’ve been going through some Running Shoe Blues. Here’s a quick recap:

  • I had been wearing Saucony Mirage 4s for two years, but they were becoming scarce, so I decided to try something new
  • Local Fleet Feet fitted me with Saucony Guide 9s, which gave me horrible blisters
  • Tried to exchange the Guide 9s, but didn’t get much help in the store. Decided to have them special order the Saucony Mirage 5s.
  • After two weeks of no communication from the store, called them only to find out that the shoes had never been ordered. Finally actually ordered them.
  • When I finally got the Mirage 5s and started wearing them, I ended up with a quad strain and pain in my right foot due to not enough room for my toes
  • I have been training ever since in my old Saucony Mirage 4s and dreading more forays into shoe shopping.

A couple of weeks ago, Fleet Feet emailed me that they were having a sale where if you brought in an old pair of running shoes, you’d get $20 off a new pair. Now, I know I said I didn’t think I’d shop at Fleet Feet again after the above saga, but it was a good deal, and a good opportunity to get rid of the Mirage 5s, which I had definitely worn too much to do a full return.

I went in on a Saturday, and started from scratch–I was measured and observed by a staff member (who couldn’t have been more than 18 years old), and she determined that I could wear neutral shoes, which I pretty much already knew. I tried on 7 or 8 different pairs, with a big focus on trying to find something with enough room in the forefoot/toebox that my big toe wouldn’t rub like it did with the Mirage 5s. The two pairs I liked best were Brooks Launch 3s and Nike Zoom Vomero 10s. I chose to go with the Nikes because the material in the toebox was much more flexible, whereas the Launches were a bit more stiff, and I was worried about my toe rubbing.

After having put about 13 miles on the Nikes, I’m already pretty sure they won’t work out. After every single run in them, I’ve had varying degrees of pain and tightness in my right Achilles and calf–especially after my 5 mile leg of the 100 on 100 Relay. I think this can be attributed to the fact that for the last 2+ years, I’ve been running in a shoe with a 4mm heel-toe drop, and the Nikes have almost a 13 mm drop. I probably should have factored that in more closely when trying shoes on, but I was just so happy to have enough room for my toes that I didn’t really think about anything else.

I’m planning to go back this week or next and exchange the Nikes for the Launches, which still have a higher heel-toe drop than I’m used to, but smaller than the Nikes. I also remember distinctly feeling like there was less under my heels in the Launches. I just hope that my toe doesn’t end up rubbing.

I’m just so frustrated. I feel like back when I was only running 10-12 miles a week, shoes didn’t make so much of a difference. I just bought a pair of Nike Frees at Olympia Sports and ran in them. I didn’t know anything about cushioning or heel-toe drop or minimal vs. maximal and I was FINE. I didn’t have any injuries or pain for the first year I was running regularly. I have to wonder how much of my shoe issues this year are due to overthinking things. Like, is it really the shoes that are the problem, or is it my over analysis of the shoes’ potential impact on my body that’s messing with me? Somehow it feels like having more knowledge is actually more of a burden than just being clueless and buying some random shoes and going with the flow.

How long did it take you to find your “perfect” running shoe?

Friday Free-For-All – 05/13/16

FFFA (1)

We’re house-sitting for Ben’s parents this weekend. This means we’re back at our old stomping grounds in Underhill. Which means I’m commuting 45 minutes into work each way. This time of year, though, it’s not so bad. No snow means it’s faster, safer, and a lot prettier to get back and forth. Plus, Ben’s parents have 2 dogs, 3 cats, a horse, and chickens, so we have lots of animal friends to snuggle and play with. It’s also quiet out there, and dark, so I’ve been sleeping pretty well, which is a nice bonus.

I ran the 5k last night with ZERO foot pain! I took it easy and was hyper aware of my foot the whole time, and I didn’t feel anything. Woohoo! I will obviously continue to be super conscious of it, and play all of my runs on the safe side. No more racing until after the marathon! I’m hopeful that with continued rest and rehab, my foot will be 100% ok by May 29.

My parents got me a $50 giftcard to Dick’s Sporting Goods for my birthday. In addition to all the other stuff they got me already! I think this weekend (as long as my foot is feeling ok), I’m gonna head over there and just dedicate some time to trying on new and different shoes, to see if I can find a good alternative. At this point, I’m pretty much committed to wearing my old Saucony Mirage 4s for the marathon, but I’m going to need something new soon, and I think since I’ll mostly be running shorter distances this summer, I can try something more minimal like Nike Frees. I used to run in Frees all the time and LOVED them, so that may be a good option for me. Fingers crossed!

Do you have to drive to work everyday? How long is your commute?

Friday Free-For-All 04/08/16

FFFA (1)

I’m heading into the home stretch for Mary Poppins. We have a show tonight, two shows tomorrow, and a matinee on Sunday. Then, we have to tear down the very extensive set, which will likely take all day and night on Sunday. And then I’m FREEEEEEEE!

freedom

I took Monday off, and I can’t decide if I’m going to just lounge around all day or try to be productive and do all the shit I’ve been neglecting these last few weeks… Probably a little bit of both. And it will be glorious.

I’m a little bit nervous about jumping back into “real” marathon training. These last few weeks, I’ve been so busy with the show that I haven’t really been keeping up with training the way I should. I’m about to head into my peak weeks, and I’m also going to be on vacation during that time, so I’m not sure how all this is going to work out. I’m trying to stay calm and remind myself that with Coach Suz, I can handle anything. But it’s still a little nerve-wracking.

Still. No. Shoes. If you’ve been keeping up with the shoe saga (read about it here and here), I was told by the associate I spoke to on the phone on Monday that the shoes should be in by Thursday. Well, here we are on Friday, and so far, nada. I’m trying to be patient because he didn’t actually guarantee that the shoes would be in by Thursday, but still. If the shoes aren’t in by Sunday, I’m just going to return the Guides for store credit and go buy my shoes elsewhere. This whole thing has been a huge headache and I just want it to be over.

Who’s got fun plans this weekend? What are you up to?

The Shoe Saga Continues

To recap: I went to Fleet Feet for some new shoes, and after running 30-some miles in them, I decided they weren’t working for me. I went to exchange them and didn’t get a lot of help. Eventually, they told me they had ordered the newer model of the shoe I had been wearing, but I didn’t have any choice color, and that they’d call me when they came in. A week went by, and I didn’t hear anything. Two weeks went by and I started to get impatient, but because I was so busy with Mary Poppins rehearsals and shows, I didn’t have a chance to call them until my lunch break yesterday.

Associate: Thanks for calling Fleet Feet Essex Junction, how can I help you?

Me: Hi, my name is Rachel Drew. I was waiting for a pair of shoes to come in, but it’s been a couple of weeks and I haven’t heard anything, so I thought I should check in with you.

Associate: Oh, that’s strange, let me take a look… *typing noises* Huh, I see that you came in in February and got some shoes… is that what you’re waiting for?

Me: No, I got the Saucony Guides in February, but they weren’t working for me, so two weeks ago I came in to do an exchange. We weren’t able to find something in store that worked for me, so the associate said he’d order the Saucony Mirage 5s for me.

Associate: Yeah, I don’t see that at all. Hmm. Oh! I see what happened, the Mirage 5s have been discontinued, so we couldn’t order them. I’m sorry no one called you.

Me: ……… Huh. Ok then. That’s weird, cause I’m looking at the Saucony website right now and I see that they’re available in my size.

Associate: Oh, ok, let me check on that. Oh yeah, my supplier does have them. 

Me: Do they have size 9.5?

Associate: Oh, hahaha, yeah, I should probably check. Ok, yes they do. There’s only one color available, it’s gray and coral, is that ok?

Me: Yes, that’s fine.

Associate: Ok, so those will be here by Thursday. Sorry about that!

Needless to say, I’m angry. Firstly, of course, I’m still angry with the original scenario of how I ended up in this situation. I should have just ordered new shoes online because I know the Mirages work for me, and back in February, 4s were still available online in my size. I’m angry that Fleet Feet seems to let their personal bias regarding extra cushion shoes affect their customers negatively. I’m angry that the associate I worked with two weeks ago TOLD me that he had ordered the shoes when he obviously didn’t, and completely failed to record my visit and order in the system. He straight up lied to me and then completely dropped the ball.

Secondly, I’m angry with myself for waiting so long to call them. I had a feeling after the first week that something was wrong, and if I had just called right away, I’d have new shoes by now. I’m also angry with myself because I didn’t really stand up for myself at all during the phone call yesterday. I get it, sometimes things happen, but I’ve been waiting for these shoes for two freaking weeks, and now that the shock has passed, I feel like the least they could have done was to offer me a discount, because it’s their fault I’ve been without good shoes for two weeks.

I’ll tell you one thing: if those shoes don’t arrive by the weekend, I’m going to throw a hissy-fit. And I can guarantee that I will absolutely never buy shoes from my local Fleet Feet again.

I’m having a frustrating day, so tell me something good that has happened to you this week!

 

Frustrations in Shoe Buying

A few weeks back, I went to my local Fleet Feet because it was time to replace my faithful, electric blue Saucony Mirage 4s. I’d put about 330 miles on them in nine months, and I wanted something fresh for the remainder of marathon training.

Normally, I’d just buy a new pair of 4s online, but supply is becoming scarce because there is now an updated version, the 5. I’ve worn Mirage 4s continuously (2 different pairs) since May of 2014, so this was a little upsetting. I was open to a new shoe, but I liked having the Mirage 4 as my safety shoe.

I showed the sales associate (who I’m pretty sure is also the owner/co-owner) my shoes and said that’s what I’d been running in for 2 years. They don’t carry the Mirages at my local Fleet Feet, but she brought out several pairs of shoes that she said were similar. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I ended up with another pair of Sauconys, the Guide 9s. I tried on several different brands, and the Guides felt most similar to the Mirages. I have feet that get wider at the toes, like duck feet, and Sauconys have nice, wide toe boxes.

As I said, I was open to something new, and fully committed to giving the Guides a fair shot. From the outset, they were… weird. The Mirage, while technically a Guidance shoe, has a very natural ride, with only a 4mm heel-toe drop. The Guide has an 8mm drop, so already, there was a lot more shoe involved. And the Guide also has much more cushion than the Mirages. Historically, high cushion shoes have not worked out for me (see my experience with the Asics Gel Kayano and Mizuno Enigmas), so I was concerned on that front as well.

compare

Still, I tried. I put about 35 miles on the shoes, wearing them for ever-increasing distances. I often found my feet scuffing the road or treadmill belt, because the extra few millimeters meant that I needed to pick my feet up higher than I was used to. Some runs I could feel my right big toe rubbing on the front of the shoe, but other runs, it was totally fine. After most runs, my calves and feet were a LOT tighter than they usually are, but I just attributed this all to being normal adjustments to a different shoe.

Last Saturday, I wore them for a 10 mile long run. Only 1 mile in, I already knew I was in trouble. I felt blisters forming on the bottoms of my arches. By the time I got home, I had silver dollar sized blisters on the bottoms of both feet, which made walking and running very challenging for the next few days. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back; in combination with the issues above it was clear that I couldn’t continue to wear the Guide 9s, especially as I move into higher mileage in my marathon training.

I think the people at Fleet Feet (or at least my local store) have a tendency to put people in a higher cushion shoe than is necessary–they’re huge on Hokas. This same issue happened the first time I got fitted there two years ago. I had been running in minimalist shoes (Nike Frees), and they put me in a maximal support and cushion shoe, which I later had to return for the more “natural” Saucony Mirage 4s.

I am forever grateful to Fleet Feet for having an excellent customer satisfaction policy, but my experience there when I went to exchange the Guides this Saturday was less-than-stellar. I brought them back and explained the issues that I was having. The woman who had originally put me in the Guides was there, and seemed sort of skeptical about my reasons for returning them, which annoyed me. Another associate ended up helping me, and brought out two other shoes to try that he said were similar to the Mirages. Neither shoe was a good fit for me, and when I said as much, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, that’s all we have that’s close to what you were wearing.” I just looked at him and said, “OK?” As in, ok, so what’s next? Re-measure my feet and check my gait to see if something else might work? Try some other shoes just to see?

In the end, he offered to order the Mirage 5s online and have them shipped to the store for me. While that’s a decent compromise, I could have done that myself (and probably for less money) without ever having stepped foot in the store. The associate went out back, presumably to check on ordering the shoes, and then he came back out and told me that he’d call me when the shoes came in. I asked if I could see the colors available and pick what I wanted, and he said no, that he’d already ordered them and had no idea what color would be coming. Thanks a lot, guy.

In the past I’ve been very pleased with the service I’ve gotten at this store, but this experience left a sour taste in my mouth. I could have easily ordered the Mirage 5s myself online, but I wanted to support a local business. At both of my recent visits, they based all of their assumptions on my old shoes, rather than doing another measurement and gait analysis. Then, when I went back to exchange the Guides, they gave up pretty easily on trying to find a shoe in stock that would work for me. And then to just order whatever color shoe without even checking to see if that was what I wanted really upset me. I know that at the end of the day, it’s the fit that counts, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be able to choose the color if possible.

I probably could have demanded to try on some more shoes, or at least expressed interest in other specific shoes (for instance, the Saucony Kinvara looks somewhat similar to Mirage), but I kind of suck at asserting myself. I think in the future, I will probably just go to a big warehouse type shoe store where I can try on whatever I want and not have a sales associate’s opinion of what I should or shouldn’t be wearing affect my potential choices. They may not have a huge selection, but at least that way if I end up with something that doesn’t work, I only have myself to blame. And anything that I do buy will generally be cheaper regardless. Having a great return policy is only helpful when I can find what I’m looking for without feeling like I’m inconveniencing someone, or getting attitude.

How do you shop for running shoes? Do you take “expert” advice, or try things out yourself?

 

Manic Monday – 02/29/16

Photo Feb 29, 8 13 05 AM

Vermont City Marathon Training Week 7

What Was Planned vs. What Happened

Monday 02/22/16: 30 Min. Easy Run | 30 Min. Easy Run
Nothing much to say about this run. It was quick, easy, and painless, and I did some planks and other core stuff afterwards. I’m trying to be better about adding in a little bit of strength more often!

Tuesday 02/23/16: 4 x 8004 x 800 With W/U and C/D
I ran a mile to warm up, then banged out the prescribed intervals at about my 5k pace, with 400 recovery in between, and a half mile cool down. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I LOVE intervals. They always make me feel badass and strong, and this run was no exception.

Wednesday 02/24/16: Spin ClassSpin Class
This was my first class in several weeks, and I was really happy to be back. It was a great workout. The best part, though? The sun was FULLY UP when I left class. Spring is coming!!

Thursday 02/25/16: 45 Min. Moderate Run45 Min. Moderate Run
I did a 10 minute warm up and then got down to business. For whatever reason, it took me a long time to settle in, and I was watching the clock A LOT on this run. After about 30 minutes I found my groove, and this was a pleasant run overall. The gym was a bit crowded, but I still got one of the good treadmills (right in front of the AC vents), and my audiobook was good company.

Friday 02/26/16: RestRest
I don’t know what happened, but shortly after I posted this nice, relaxing picture:

shit went south, fast. My stomach started to cramp up and I had to RUN to the bathroom. I spent the rest of the night writhing around, trying to get comfortable, and eventually fell into a fitful sleep.

Saturday 02/27/16: 12 Miles Easy12 Miles Easy
After Friday night’s stomach troubles, I wasn’t sure this was going to happen. I slept in a bit, and took my time getting ready, hoping that whatever residual badness was in there would work itself out before I left. To be on the safe side, I opted to do 4 mile loops around my neighborhood instead of attempting an out and back. Loop 1 was pretty bad, and I wasn’t sure I’d finish. Loop 2 was surprisingly ok; I felt decent, my stomach was holding up, and it was a pretty nice day. Loop 3 was awful. My stomach started to cramp up again and I was tired, but I finished.

Sunday 02/28/16: YogaDance Rehearsal
I don’t know why I have such a hard time following through on Sunday yoga, but I do. I did a few strength exercises and danced my butt off at rehearsal, but no yoga. I also bought new shoes!

I tried on lots of different options, but ended up back in Saucony, the Guide 9s this time. The heel-toe drop is a bit higher, and the cushion is a bit more than what I was running in, but Sauconys seem to have the widest toebox around, and my big fat duck feet need that extra room.

Weekly Mileage: 24.5
Total 2016 Mileage: 128

That was my highest mileage week ever, and February will be my highest mileage month ever–almost 90 miles! Crazypants! My goal for the next few weeks is to prioritize recovery efforts, specifically, rolling. I always stretch well after every run, but I tend to let rolling go by the wayside, and I know I need it. My calves are crazy tight, and my legs are starting to feel some general fatigue that I’m sure can be mitigated with some loving from my Addaday and foam roller.

How often do you roll out your muscles? Do you find it makes a significant difference?