Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What a difference a day makes!

Today was day 1 of week 4 of c25k. Day 3 of week 3 was really brutal - I struggled a lot and I was really concerned that week 4, with it's longer runs and shorter recovery times, was going to kick my butt. Fortunately, mother nature decided to give me a little help!

On Monday, it was already hot and humid at 6:00am. Walking out my front door felt like stepping into a sauna. B and I were both drenched by the end of the warm-up walk, and I felt like I was breathing underwater. This morning the temperature was in the 60s and the air was much dryer. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze. It was PERFECT running weather! Day 1 of week 4 actually felt good. I mean, it's not like I'm actually having fun, but at least I managed to do the run without thinking I was going to die the entire time.

In other news, my giant running shoe order arrived last night. I am totally bewildered by the huge selection! Even the couple of pair that were too short could be re-ordered a half size larger(!). I'm a bit lost. How do you people with normal sized feet choose? There are so many options.

I think I've ruled it down to three styles:
  • A New Balance runner very much like my current shoes. Designed for the mild pronator, with good support.
  • Nike Pegasus. I owned a pair of these decades ago, but obviously they have changed a lot. They are a VERY cushy, squishy shoe that feels like walking on pillows.
  • A pair of Saucony runners that are sort of a combination of the above - designed for a pronator, but still with a lot of cushioning.
I have no idea how I will make this decision, plus I could reorder the too-small shoes in a bigger size. How to choose?

Monday, June 28, 2010

More foot trouble

So my husband and I agreed that I should get new running shoes sooner than later, due to the fact that my current running shoes are about 5 years old. I made the decision to try the New Balance store - they had always been so great in the past, and I like their shoes a lot.

We made the trek out to the only store in our area, a good 45 minute drive from our house. We arrived at the store and I found a clerk and explained that I was looking for a pair of running shoes in a 12 AA. The last time I went to a NB store, this one in another city, the associate responded, "No problem! I'll be right back with some for you to try on!" This time, I got, "Ummmm, I don't think we have any. Let me see." He typed away on his computer for a few minutes and said, "Yeah, we don't have any."

I was already in kind of a crummy mood, and I probably wasn't as nice as I should have been. I told him that I had purchased shoes from NB stores in the past, and had never had a problem. He told me that this was a franchise store, not a corporate store, and the owner chose not to stock my size. He then said the single worst thing a shoe store employee can say to a woman with big feet.

"We could try you in men's shoes."

Seriously. Men's shoes. Do I look like a man? I hope not. I do not want men's shoes. I pointed out to him that I need an AA width. He said that they did have men's shoes in stock in AA. Now, may I point out that this store is carrying a men's DOUBLE narrow, but they don't have any shoes in my single narrow size.

I digress. I let him bring out a pair of gray (GRAY?!?) shoes, which of course didn't fit at all. I left discouraged.

The good news is that my husband found a pair of Brooks runners at another store that he really likes. I satisfied my need for retail therapy with a new dress watch from Macy's.

I went home and ordered 9 pair of running shoes from Zappos. They should arrive tomorrow - hopefully one of them will be the perfect shoe for me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Be good to your feet

I've had an assortment of foot problems over the years, most of which were caused by being born with problematic feet. When I was about 12 or 13 I started getting searing pain down the center of my foot when I walked. A trip to the podiatrist confirmed that I hyperpronate and needed custom orthotics to treat the condition. I was sent off to a specialist who took plaster molds of my feet and several weeks later presented me with a pair of hard plastic orthotics. These solved the problem so thoroughly that I never worried about it again.

This fall I paid a visit to another podiatrist for an unrelated problem. I mentioned that I wore orthotics and showed him my rather tired pair. Apparently you are not supposed to wear the same orthotics for 17 years. Who knew. He wrote me a prescription for new ones and sent me off to get new ones made.

I finally made it to the orthotics lab on Wednesday. I came prepared to have my feet molded in plaster and have another pair of hard plastic orthotics. Imagine my surprise when the technician took a computer scan of my feet, asked a few questions, and sent me on my way. My new (soft rubber) orthotics should arrive in the mail in a few weeks.

Technology is amazing.

For the short term, the tech gave me a pair of off-the-shelf orthotics - apparently mine were not fit for even a few more weeks of use. Today was my first morning running with the new pair, and while it was weird, it was definitely better. I'm hoping that the custom pair are even more comfortable.

On the subject of shoes, B and I have decided that, while a new pair of shoes would be a fun reward at the end of the c25k, I really should have a pair now. So this weekend we're off to the New Balance store to find me the perfect pair - and maybe him as well. Wish us luck!

By the way, today was Day 2, Week 3 of c25k. I'm actually finding week 3 to be easier than week 2. I'm hoping this trend continues! I'm also noticing that while I don't necessarily feel great while running, I feel really good for the rest of the day after I run. Is this what all of your runners talk about?

Monday, June 21, 2010

A word about stuff

I've heard it said that all a person needs to start running is a pair of shoes. (I'll argue that whoever said this was a man, because any woman will tell you that a good sports bra is just as important as a pair of shoes.)* While shoes (and the bra) may be all you need, there is SO much cool STUFF out there!

I've never been much of an athlete, but I do love to shop. This means that typically the most exciting thing about a new sport, for me, is getting the accessories. When I started skiing I bought a second-hand jacket in case I hated skiing. As soon as I discovered that I loved it (and for reasons I still can't figured out I seem to be naturally good at it) I bought a good jacket, ski gloves, and a really cute hat with ear flaps. The day I walked into the dive shop for my first day of scuba lessons, I rubbed my hands together with glee when I saw all of the cool dive accessories. Since I know I love the stuff, I'm using it as a motivator. I will allow myself to buy running stuff as I reach goals. The ultimate? A new pair of running shoes when I finally hit 5k. I know that fit is 100% the most important thing in choosing running shoes, but I really hope that these turn out to work for me.I may have to get them for myself anyway as casual shoes, even if they don't turn out to be the perfect runner. I mean, they're pink!** And part of the proceeds benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation.

This brings me to the real topic of the day, running shoes. Obviously, properly fitting running shoes are really important to running in comfort and preventing injury. I want to be sure that when I fork out the $100+ that I get the right shoes for me (even if they aren't pink). I've been told by many runners that I should be fitted for running shoes at a running or athletic shoe store, where the people really know their stuff. Well, I wear a size 12 N in a running shoe. I've called every store in the area, and they all say the same thing. "I think we might have a pair of women's 12s in the back - I'd have to check. Isn't the point of going to a specialty store to have a lot of selection in exactly what you're looking for? What are the chances that if I went to one of these stores, I would be told that the one pair of 12s in stock is the right pair for me?

I've had luck at New Balance stores in the past - they actually carry 12N in stock in quite a few different styles. But of course if I go there, I will leave with a pair of NB shoes. Don't get me wrong, I love my NB shoes and have worn them for years, but what if Brooks or Asics would be a better choice for me? I'll never know if I go to a store that only carries one brand.

I usually buy shoes from, a huge online shoe store that offers free shipping and free return shipping. I'll order a ton of shoes, try them on, and return what I don't like/doesn't fit at no cost. It's a great system, and they have a huge selection of running shoes in my size. But then I lose out on the advantage of the expert fitter.

My final option is to wait until I make my next trip home, and to go to Reyer's, the world's largest brick and mortar shoe store. They have great sales people who really know shoes, and I'm pretty sure they would have my size, as they specialize in hard-to-find sizes. But that's nearly a two hour drive from my parents' house, which is a five hour drive from my house. Hmmm.

Runners, what do you think? Should I order shoes online or wait and go to the real store? Any recommendations for running shoes that you love?

*More on that later - sports bras deserve their own entry.

**I'm not really that into pink. But I used to have to wear men's athletic shoes because my size was not available. It makes me happy to buy women's shoes in pretty, girly colors. Don't get me started on how excited I was to find socks to fit that were actually intended for women.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I don't know how to run.

So running didn't seem like something that would require a huge skill set. After all, my nieces (1 1/2 and 4) manage to do it all the time. Humans just know how to run.

Or so I thought.

Apparently, according to my expert-runner husband, I don't have proper form. This is amazing to me - isn't running just walking sped up? Apparently not.

It turns out I'm a heel-striker. This means that when I run, I land heel first. I thought you were supposed to do that - after all, I walk heel-toe, why shouldn't I run heel-toe? Apparently coming down hard on your heels is what leads to shin splints, and to the pain I was feeling in my shins after week one of running. When I did a search for "heel strike," I even found a forum post where someone threatened to punch the next person he saw heel striking. I'm going to hope he doesn't live in my neighborhood.

It seems that the reason most of us run heel-toe is because we wear shoes. Take a look at the running shoes in the store - most have a really built-up heel, which cushions you from the impact of crashing down on the heel of your foot. Barefoot runners land more on the ball of the foot, as landing on your heels without any cushioning would hurt like crazy. This is the way our ancestor ran back before someone invented shoes. There is a resurgence of barefoot running now, and some crazy looking running shoes designed to help your run more like a barefoot runner but still protect your feet from hot sidewalks, broken glass, etc. You may have seen people in these shoes, Vibram Five Fingers.

I'm not ready to trade in my New Balance yet, but I do want to try and run "properly." Let me tell you, if you've never run this way before, it does NOT feel natural. As if I needed something else to think about while I'm running! I'm concentrating on not passing out, breathing, not running into parked cars, low hanging trees, and adorable neighbor's kitties (who I would definitely stop and pet if I weren't doing this cursed running program), various aches and pains, and whether or not my running gear is working the way it should.* I really do not need something else to think about. But I don't want to get the dreaded shin splints, nor do I want that guy from the running forum to see me running and punch me, so I'm trying to run with good form.

Today was Day 2 of Week 2 of c25k. It's harder than I expected, since Week 1 was pretty smooth sailing for me. Week 2 is really reminding me of all of the reasons I hate running. But I'm committed, and I have my wonderful husband by my side, cheering me on and telling me he adores me, even when I'm sweaty and red-faced. I'm not giving up. Yet.

* As much as I dislike running, I LOVE running accessories. There will be plenty of gear-review posts in the near future

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hi, and thanks for reading! I'm not only new to running, but also to blogging, so please know that my blog will continue to look better as I learn more (I hope).

So why am I here? Well, at 30 years old, after hating running most of my life, I decided to give it another shot, this time with the goal of being able to run a 5k, something I have never done. I decided to post a blog about the experience, so that I can get some fans to cheer me on and maybe to inspire someone else.

So let's set up this little story, first with the characters.

The Runner:

Laurel, 30 years old, and in relatively good shape before starting this running thing. I'm not trying to lose weight in this process, just generally firm up and be healthier. I've always hated running, and had a lot of bad experiences in PE class as a kid. I was diagnosed with mild asthma at 25 and suspect that this is what made running so hard as a kid. I started running shortly after my diagnosis, but lost enthusiasm after I managed to run my first mile.

The Supportive Husband:

My wonderful husband of one year, B, is a major player in this goal. A former distance runner turned distance cyclist due to bad knees, he is running along with me until I hit 5k or his knees give out, whichever happens first. While I wheeze, gasp, complain, and cry, he calmly jogs along beside me and cheers me on without breaking a sweat. It's a little disgusting.

(OK, there aren't really a lot of characters right now. But it could still be a good story.)

The Setting: The Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Sometimes referred to as NoVA

The Plot: So why did I decide to start running again? It began at the DC Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a 5k which I walked this year. About 40,000 people showed up at the National Mall for the Race - it was inspiring, amazing, and raised a ton of money for a great cause. As my friends and I made our way to the walker starting area, we went past the runners' starting line. As I looked out at the nearly 7500 people who ran the 5k, I was jealous. I can't entirely explain why, but I wanted to be them. I wanted to be one of the elite few who ran this race instead of walking. I still don't know exactly why. But I do know that that's where my quest to run a 5k began.

I also have several marathoner friends (including one who holds the world record for joggling a marathon - that's running the marathon while juggling the entire time). I figured if these friends could run 26.2 miles, I should be able to do slightly more than three.

There's one more factor - embarrassment. I apparently look like a runner - I'm tall and slim, and people tend to assume I run. When I mentioned to a co-worker that I had started running, he said, "Oh, did you have an injury or something and are just getting back to it?" The idea that I had never been a runner didn't occur to him. I'm always a little ashamed to admit that I can't run more than a few hundred yards without stopping. I'm going to put an end to that.

I was fortunate to get turned on to the Couch to 5k (sometimes referred to as c25k) program by a marathoner friend. I'll reference it a lot. You can check it out yourself. The program, and Robert Ullrey's c25k Podcasts, are available for free at (You can also get the Podcasts on iTunes.)

So that's probably more than enough for now. Thanks for reading, and I'll do my best to keep you posted on my progress!