Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Race Report: Napa Valley Marathon

Soooo....I ran this marathon on Sunday, and it was weirdly...fine/good/NBD? In a good way?

(A bit of background in case you're new 'round these parts --

So this wasn't an all-out PR attempt or anything--just a chance to complete 26 miles at a comfortable pace and give me a chance to see a) what all this base training has done for me and b) what kind of shape my right hip (which is much improved, but still touch-and-go-at-times) is in when it comes to that distance.

Our plan had been to drive to Napa, hit the expo, do some wine tasting, have dinner at Morimoto, then drive to Calistoga & crash. Which still basically is what happened except that a) we needed more sleep Saturday morning than we'd anticipated so got up late, b) someone was blocking our driveway so we had to deal with that, and c) traffic from SF to Napa was utterly horrendous. So we rolled in around 3pm ready to gnaw our own arms off & FINALLY made it to the expo (which was pretty much par for the course in terms of small, boutique-y, wine country races).

(Sidenote: There wasn't really time at this point to do much proper wine tasting, so I give you: Most Bang for Your Buck in Downtown Napa:

  • The Vintner's Collective. A bit pricey at 3 tastes for $15, but they have a massive selection, staff who know the wine really well, and everything we had was delicious.
  • Smith-Anderson Wine Group. We went here because they were right across the street from VC. Not quite as good, but they had some tasty things, and it was less crowded & slightly cheaper.
  • Oxbow Market. Kind of the Ferry Building of Napa. I particularly recommend a visit to Napa Valley Distillery, which I promise has the largest collection of bitters you will ever encounter in your life.)

Napa Valley Distillery's bitters collection at Oxbow Market.

Morimoto was indescribably amazing; borderline uncomfortably full and VERY happy our dinner reservation had not been any later than 6:30, we drove to Calistoga, I did my usual pre-race OCD bib-man ritual, & tried to sleep (which....didn't work out so well. Sigh.)

My memory was that the hotel was about a mile from the start, but Google Maps said .7, and when I jogged over Sunday morning, my Garmin clocked less than .5. So, if you run this race & decide to stay in Calistoga instead of Napa, you could do worse than the Sunburst Hotel. (Be warned, though...while this was a cheaper option, nothing in Calistoga is ever cheap.)

I dropped my bottles into the labeled crates (surprisingly few people seemed to be using them -- maybe 50 or so out of a field of 3,000?), jogged a super easy mile or so to get warmed up, finally shed my jacket, checked my bag, & tucked into a warm pocket of people behind the starting mat.

As expected, the beginning of the race was cold, but maybe because I'd been mentally preparing myself to feel utterly miserably cold, it wasn't horrifically bad. (Mostly, I really, really wished I had gloves.)

I intentionally didn't set any time/pace goals for this race because I wanted it to really, truly feel like there was no pressure, the only caveat being that I didn't really want to be out there on my feet for much over four hours. In the end I didn't go so far as to cover my watch, but I didn't pay much attention to it except to glance at mile splits (mostly out of curiosity; the beauty of not having a time goal is not feeling like you have to do anything in response to splits).

Lately my long runs have mostly been in the 9:30-10:30 range lately, so mentally I'd sort of roughly estimated 10:00 miles for the first hour, 9:30 for the second, 9:00 for the third, & 8:15ish for the fourth, hoping I'd be able to speed up & clock some GMP miles at the end. (Fast finish long runs & all that.)

(I'll be honest, though - originally I'd typed "8:00/mile" for hour four, then changed it to 8:15, remembering how running 10 miles at 8:00 pace at Foster City had been tough, and that was *without* an 18-20 mile long run first.)

Nothing much of note happened in the first handful of miles. Mostly, I spent the first couple feeling uncomfortably cold & desperately wishing I'd worn throw-away gloves, & kept reminding myself that as much as I envied everyone around me in tights and knee socks, the tables would likely turn before too long given the forecast. It was also slightly demoralizing that my watch ticked off mile 1 about .05 miles before the marker, an interval that would only get longer and longer with each one. Sigh.

In mile 3 I happened upon a phantom aid station which totally threw me off for a minute because I didn't process that the first official station wasn't until 4.2. There was no special drinks table & the volunteers handing out water & Gatorade looked at me like I had seven heads when I asked about it. I spent maybe 45 seconds trying to make sense of what was going on, then gave up, took a cup of water, & moved on. It threw me off for a minute or two (mostly because I was afraid I had misunderstood how the bottle situation worked) but I got over it. Gel-wise, I just decided for simplicity's sake to do one every three miles regardless of my pace.

    Mile 1: 9:41
    Mile 2: 9:31
    Mile 3: 9:58 (phantom aid station confusion)

Official aid station #1 appeared around 4.2, exactly where it was supposed to be. The special drinks were on a little table at the far end of the aid station, and since there were only maybe 15 bottles on it at that point, it was super easy to spot mine & grab it. (Clearly the majority of people using the special drinks option were running a lot faster than me, which makes sense.)

The next few miles passed uneventfully. I ran at a completely relaxed and comfortable pace on the flats and downhills, tried not to push too hard on the occasional short uphill parts, and mentally broke things up into three-mile chunks with my tangy little dollop of motivational sugar at the end of each one.

I also really liked the way the six-ounce Gatorade bottles worked out. They were small enough that they were light and easy to carry, but contained enough liquid that I could make it last a good, long while (sometimes up to two miles). I also liked being able to sip whenever I felt like it, vs. grabbing two cup from a volunteer & frantically trying to guzzle both without choking or pouring it all over myself instead of into my mouth. It also eliminated the aid station panic I get sometimes if I don't carry my own bottle (OH GOD OH GOD HOW LONG TO THE NEXT ONE). I found it to be a VERY civilized way of getting fluids & am already plotting to see if I can convince other races to let me do this in the future.

    Mile 4: 9:08
    Mile 5: 9:11
    Mile 6: 9:14
    Mile 7: 9:00
    Mile 8: 9:00
    Mile 9: 9:02

By hour 2 I was already thankful that I hadn't worn extra layers. The temperature was cool with a light breeze, but no longer cold, and the sun was climbing higher.

Somewhere in there was when I had my first hint of "Oof, this is starting to feel like more than zero effort." I had a brief moment of panic as I flashed back to my recent 20 miler where my legs started feeling mushy at mile 11, but in retrospect, I think this was probably just a matter of paying excruciatingly close attention to every teeny tiny sensation anywhere in my body (like you do in a marathon or other goal race) and blowing that first inkling of "Hey look, there's kind of work involved now!" a bit out of proportion. I let myself stay relaxed and comfortable, though, and it really didn't get any harder than that.

    Mile 10: 9:22
    Mile 11: 8:57
    Mile 12: 9:16
    Mile 13: 9:10
    Mile 14: 9:11
    Mile 15: 8:54

I got a little mental boost when I passed mile marker 16 because I could now count down from 10. It was also the first point at which I let myself consider that I felt really good and pretty strong still, and maybe I could let myself run a little faster and not regret it at mile 23. Don't get me wrong, there was definitely effort involved, but I didn't have even the faintest inkling of fatigue or dead legs or any of that. Still, I didn't want to push too soon, so I made a deal with myself that I had to keep it in the super-easy-relaxed zone until mile 20, and after that I could do whatever I wanted.

    Mile 16: 9:11
    Mile 17: 8:55
    Mile 18: 8:28
    Mile 19: 8:40
    Mile 20: 8:48

STORY TIME: Back in grad school when I played polo, our team had a string of maybe 30 ponies, which ranged from utterly lethargic (the Volvos) to high-end, well-trained ones on loan from or donated by local pros (the Lamborghinis). Only a few of us were allowed to ride the Lamborghinis because as soon as you got on, you could feel this creature who loves nothing more in life than chasing polo balls practically vibrating underneath you, ready to spring the second you shifted your weight. With these horses, it was not so much a matter of urging them to run as it was a matter of holding them in check, and the second you turned them loose, you'd better hold on.

This was how I felt approaching mile 20. I had three hours and two minutes of comfortable, restrained jaunting behind me, and while that had been pleasant enough (like, more pleasant than any long run ever), I was done with that business. The closer I'd gotten to the 20 mile mark, the more jittery and desperate I felt to just cut loose and tear it up on these last 10K between me & the finish.

Part of me wanted to go back to my original, secret goal of attempting to crank them out at sub-8:00 pace, but I had no idea if that was realistic, and I didn't want to try it & then end up crawling the last two. So instead I just sped up to a pace that was comfortably hard and fun but that I still felt pretty sure I could hold for six more miles. I didn't look at my watch until it ticked off mile 21, and when I saw 7:59 for the split, I knew I had a realistic chance.

It was quite warm & sunny at this point & as I passed scores of runners in black tights and jackets and long sleeve shirts, I felt incredibly grateful for my clothing choices. It never felt miserably hot, but I still appreciated the man standing out front of his house with a garden hose spraying down anyone who asked (and I totally did).

Those last miles were just a blast. I mean yes, they were hard because I was pushing myself, but only because I felt good & really wanted to shoot for doing it at a sub-8:00 pace. The closer I got to the finish, the harder I let myself run, passing people like they were standing still at this point. When I came around the corner towards the finish, I saw that I was running at 5:xx pace according to my watch. (Garmin says I hit 3:39 at some point in there but that really just strikes me as utterly absurd. I mean come on now.)

    Mile 21: 7:59
    Mile 22: 8:08
    Mile 23: 8:01
    Mile 24: 7:53
    Mile 25: 7:54
    Mile 26: 7:44
    Mile .2: 1:16 (6:17 pace)


1) Leap into the air as I crossed the mat:

2) Pose for these:

3) Cry.

Seriously. Generally I am not a cryer, but so much of me was like, Holy shit, what the f#@$ just happened?!?!? Regardless of my pace or how well my race is going goal-wise, I've always been one of those people at mile 21 who's like, "If someone could just kill me now, plzthnx." Every single time, at mile 18-20, I've found myself thinking, "What kind of sick joke is it that I still have nearly AN HOUR to go???" There was even once where I remember thinking, "If I ever find the effing bastard who decided 25 miles wasn't good enough I will goddamn effing murder them in their sleep."

And I think part of me has just internalized those feelings & secretly thought maybe they were inevitable, that maybe it was just part of my genetics, to be someone who can run reasonably fast and strong for 13-15-18 miles and then dissolve into an emotional and/or physical puddle of Jello.

But that didn't happen. Like, not even close. I felt great the whole way. Not passably okay, not just hanging in there until it was over. I felt better than I ever have at mile 20 (even on slower long runs) and enjoyed the heck out of the last 10K. I could have run it faster. I could have gone farther. I haven't even been sore.

And I get it if you're like, "Uh, DUH, Angela, you barely even tried for the first 20 miles." Which yes, I get, but at a 9:08 average pace, those 20 miles were still considerably faster than any long run I've done in the last six months, and way, way easier. But then, on top of that, basically running the same six-mile GMP workout--faster, actually!--that I've been doing almost weekly for months and has still not become reliably easy when I do it not after a 20 mile long run?? It was still so, so far beyond anything I had expected I would be able to do.

Which is why, on the one hand, it felt like a huge, amazing, landmark type deal. I am not genetically programmed to suck at all marathons all the time! And why, on the other hand, the running of the race itself felt like no big deal. I just kind of did it, waited for the abject misery, which never came, and then before I realized it, it was over, and I still actually felt pretty human.

    Official: 3:52:35/26.2 miles/8:53 pace
    Garmin: 3:52:38/26.39 miles/8:49 pace

I think it can be trouble to try to pinpoint exactly what causes specific races to go really well or badly, because there are just *so* many variables, both from training cycle to training cycle and from day to day. But, I also think it can be useful to do some kind of reflecting about it, so if I had to guess at why I finally had this one awesome-feeling (if not particularly fast) marathon, here's what I've got:

1) SERIOUS BASE TRAINING. I was just reading something recently by Greg McMillan talking about how his younger athletes are often surprised at how well they can run just on half-decent base training, and that's kind of how I felt about this. I was hoping I might be able to negative split, but up until a few weeks ago I was 100% just planning to do this race at maybe slightly-faster-than-long-run pace & finish in the 4:15 range because that's all I realistically thought I had the training for. I solemnly swear to never, ever let my aerobic base training lapse ever again.

2) Longer runs, more rest days. I made this decision on my own because I've just found that a six mile easy run and a ten mile easy run beat me up physically about the same amount, but having more rest days lets me recover faster. So I've been doing about the same mileage as usual but with more rest days. But, I think there was an unintended bonus, which was doing 9-10 mile runs significantly more often than I have in the past, and I think that I've gotten more benefit endurance-wise from running weeks that look like rest/10/rest/8/10/rest/18 than from ones that look like rest/6/4/6/8/4/18.

3) Train low/race high. This, I learned from all the Racing Weight books. Matt Fitzgerald talks about training your body to use more fat & less carbs for fuel on long runs (limited carb storage being the relevant factor when it comes to bonking/hitting the wall) by doing at least some long runs with no fuel or limited fuel. Honestly I've never found that fueling on training runs has been all that critical for me, so one of my "fake training" experiments was basically never taking any types of carbs whatsoever (with one exception, one time) on any runs, even very long ones. And then on race day, I effing mainlined that shit. I learned last summer that I can tolerate 50-60g per hour pretty well, which is exactly what I did for this race, which did not make me sick and very well may have made a big difference in how strong I felt, particularly at the end.

4) Good weather. Not that I can take credit for it, but still. I don't think I would have had the race I did had it been super hot/windy/muggy/pouring rain/etc.

PHEW! That is quite enough for one blog post, wouldn't you say? I'll post something about all the logistics in a day or two.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gearing Up......

I actually did not intend for the title of this post to be a pun, but I suppose sometimes you just have to go with it.

Don & I are packing up & about to head to Napa, where we will do as much wine tasting as is reasonable for a person running a marathon the next morning, have a pasta dinner in Calistoga, & crash in an obscenely overpriced hotel room about a mile from the start of NVM. The plan is for me to jog to the start & then for Don to meet me at the finish in Napa around 11am. (I don't explicitly have a time goal, but three hours and fifty minutes is the absolute longest I have ever run non-stop and, honestly, I don't really want to finish much past four hours.)

**(Update: Um. So I just found out that apparently Don got us a reservation at Morimoto instead. Not exactly sure how he managed it, but I am beyond thrilled. :) )**

For all that I'm taking it easy with this race, I'm still kind of excited about it. Assuming there are no catastrophes (fingers & toes crossed), I feel like just finishing 26 miles at any pace will be getting over a bit of a mental hurdle for me.

The weather looks good so far, 43ish at the 7am start in Calistoga & only 60ish in Napa by 11am, a light breeze, & no precipitation in sight.

The only downside is that they are predicting full sun, so I'm still planning to treat it like a hot race. (I've run part of that course in full sun between 8 & 10ish, and it definitely felt significantly warmer than it was.) Still, NVM has had its share of 80+ temps and pouring rain in the past, so I'm feeling pretty lucky with the current forecast.

Having been running in Kinvara 5's now for 8-9 months, I've learned a few things about them.

    1) They're the best long run shoe I've ever worn, bar none;

    2) they'll go 500+ miles (for me) with no problem, BUT

    3) they're only really comfortable for 2+ hours for the first 200 miles or so, & after that it's just too much pressure on the ball of my foot.

At this point I now have three pairs: A pair with 500+ miles that I only wear for easy runs up to 5-6 miles, a pair with a little over 200 miles that's fine up to say 10 miles, and a brand-new pair that I bought last week because I was just having too much ball-of-foot discomfort with the other ones & didn't feel good about spending four hours in them on Sunday.

(I did run in them all this past week just to make sure there were no weird surprises.)

Oh, and since they only make these shoes in three color schemes, all of which are pretty hideous, I've been working my way from least to most offensive & now own a pair in every vomitous hue.

If Saucony screws up version 6 when the inevitable update comes and I am forced to buy up every pair of the 5's I can find in my size, I may actually cry. (Thankfully, word on the street is it will most likely be just an upper update so YAY.)

I've been doing my long runs in my Oiselle Distance shorts (I know.....but they work really, really well and have a metric shitte-tonne of pocket space). In the past I've suffered some real angst about where to safely & comfortably store enough gels for getting me through a marathon, but for my birthday a few days back my sister sent me this cool thingie called a FlipBelt, which I had never heard of:

Now, my sister is not a runner & suffers her own constant angst around finding suitable gifts for me, so she was like, "I dunno, it looked like a thing you could use, you can return it if you want!" I took it on a long run fully packed up with gels to see how it worked, though, and I was kind of amazed.

It was comfortable, stayed in place, & because there's no zipper or anything, getting gels in & out of it was super easy. (Actually, it was so comfortable that I eventually forgot I was wearing it.) Even filled up with gels, it doesn't even give you any weird spare tire look!

So I think it's going to be four gels in the pockets and six in the FlipBelt on Sunday. (Plus, it made my sister really happy that I liked it.)

Friends, I will catch you on the flip side of this bitch. Wish me luck! :D

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NVM WEEK 15: "Two weeks out = suck, marathon = good luck?" That's what they say, right?


You probably can't even remember what your life was like this long ago. It doesn't matter, though, because it's not that remarkable. My entire work has been blowing up with fires lately so *I* can barely remember what my life was like from day to day lately.

[Related: All Apple products, please go die in a fire, plzthnx.]

~*~*~NVM WEEK 15 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 40 miles

    * 27 easy
    * 13 long

Plus 2 x 0:45 strength work (and a couple of quick ones here & there where I could fit them in. One of these days I seriously have to do a post about the work that AT has me doing, because I feel like it's the first strength-related stuff I've done in a while that's actually challenged me.)

Monday: a.m. strength work / p.m karate

Tuesday: 6 easy

    Yet another day of feeling not-quite-sick but not quite 100% either. I was going to run 10 miles, but we had early dinner plans with Don's parents & I didn't work out my timing exactly right (seems to be a theme lately) so I was going to just run 7-8. But then I felt super shitty & sloggy & decided it was smarter to settle for 6 & see if I could get a few more in on Wednesday. On the other hand, this run tied for my best run yet in terms of miles per heartbeat since I started this whole base training thing. Soooo there's that I guess???

    (BTW, I have a whole *thing* about this. When is "Ugh, I feel like death, cutting it short" the smart thing to do training wise vs times when pushing through, no matter how miserable, actually makes you stronger in an objective, physiological sense. I am not always 100% sure I know the difference. Maybe there's a whole blog post in there somewhere....)

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 4 easy / p.m. karate

    I had my first session with the new massage therapist Wednesday afternoon, after which I felt like i could probably use a few easy shakeout miles (which worked out well mileage-wise, considering Tuesday's aborted 10-miler). I felt sick and gross and like you could not have paid me enough to go further than four miles. #wtf

Thursday: 2 easy / 6 @ GMP / 2 easy 8 easy

    Uggggh lord. At this point I thought I should probably be recovered enough for one last GMP run before NVM, but no. My warm up felt like crap, but I dutifully gunned the engines after that for about half a mile before my absurd heart rate and pathetic pace made it quite clear that for whatever reason, it was #nothappening. If I was still a few weeks away from a marathon I might have pushed through just based on effort, but given that I had only 1.5 weeks left, it seemed smarter to cut my losses & take whatever I could get. This run did NOT rank high on the "miles per beat" scale. Not even a little.

Friday: 9 easy

    This day got off to a bizarro start with an early-morning medical procedure that required 8 hours of fasting. It was outpatient but still required general anesthesia, so I'd been fully prepared to be completely out of it all day (we all remember this incident, amirite?) & end up with a big fat zero for the day in terms of mileage.

    NOT SO!! At long last the universe saw fit to reward my diligence with a Garmin-less (forgot to charge, oops) yet lovely run on a gorgeous afternoon. Originally this week called for 8 this day & then a 12 mile "long" run on Sunday for a total of 38, but I felt so good that I decided to tack on one more. Who knew anesthesia could be so performance-enhancing?

Saturday: Rest

    Another delicious, wine-filled day with the un-laws.

Sunday: 13 long

    A 38 mile week I can deal with, but 39?? Seriously, who does that?? I can only assume that anyone who wouldn't tack on just oooonne more mile has no soul.

    At this point 13 doesn't really feel like a proper long run, but that is the magic of kinda-sorta-tapering, right?

    (Seriously, though. With as little as I've run these last few months and the sheer percentage that's been nothing but long, slow, easy miles, I barely feel like a taper is even warranted.)

    Afterward, I came home and had another--you guessed it!--good ol' green smoothie.

    This picture is for Grace, who felt my previous green smoothie
    picture was sorely lacking. (Still working on those oatmeal pics. ;) )

    Don't worry, I had this croque monsieur after to balance things out.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fueling for this Marathon I keep forgetting I'm running......

[Stock warning about how this will be a seriously nerdy post that is mainly me just talking to myself about carbs so that I know I've actually thought about it at some point & wrote it down somewhere that I can potentially locate on Feb. 28 when I have to drop off my bottles.]

March 1 is Napa Valley Marathon, & for all that I'm not "race"-racing it, I am planning on some kind of fueling situation because I see no reason to make things more unpleasant than they are already likely to be. I've been doing the "train low" part pretty faithfully, so I suppose now it's time to "[fake-]race high."

Last summer when I was training for Santa Rosa, I did most of my long runs on 50-60g CHO per hour, which seemed to work out fine, & that was what I did for the 14.5 miles of the race that I ran. At 8:05-8:10ish pace, that worked out to one gel roughly every 3-4 miles plus a cup of Gatorade at every aid station. I'm totally content to stick with that timing; what makes it slightly trickier is that I'm not planning on running at a specific pace, so it's harder to plan around aid stations.

Something unique about NVM is that you're allowed to drop your own bottles of whatever you want at whichever aid stations you want. According to the course map, there are aid stations more or less at miles 2.5, 4.5, 6.5, 9.3, 11.8, 14, 16, 18.5, 20.8, 22.2, & 24.5.

I might change my mind but right now I'm leaning towards wearing my watch for the data but either covering it completely or setting it up to show only heart rate & distance & maybe time of day. Pace-wise I feel like it makes the most sense to start out at an easy long run pace, then gradually speed up to whatever still feels reasonably comfortable, and if that goes well see if maybe I've got some 8:00 miles left in me for the end. No idea how this will work out in terms of finish time, but let's say maybe it goes something like this:

  • Hour 1 - 10:00/mile (6 miles)
  • Hour 2 - 9:30/mile (6.4 miles)
  • Hour 3 - 9:00/mile (6.7 miles)
  • Hour 4 - 8:15/mile (7.1 miles)

So that would put me finishing roughly around four hours. I'm not wedded to sticking to those exact numbers; all I really need to do is get a sense of roughly when I'll be hitting which aid stations, and I feel like it's probably reasonable enough for that. So then, fueling maybe looks something like...

    Pre-race: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 2.5: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g
    Mile 3: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 4.5: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g

    ***Hour 1 = 60g***

    Mile 6: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 6.5: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g
    Mile 9.3: water
    Mile 9.5: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 11.8: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g

    ***Hour 2 = 60g***

    Mile 13: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 14: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g
    Mile 16: water
    Mile 17: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 18.5: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g

    ***Hour 3 = 60g***

    Mile 20.8: water
    Mile 21: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
    Mile 22.2: 6 oz Gatorade -> 12 g
    Mile 24.5: water
    Mile 25: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g

    ***Hour 4 = 48g***

    ***Total = 228g***

Here is what I like about this plan:

  • It gives me the option of getting my best-case-scenario 60g of CHO per hour if I want it & am tolerating it well. (Since I won't actually be running marathon pace, at least not until the end, this shouldn't be a problem.)
  • If I get the sugar stomach or start not tolerating it so well, I can sip as little as I feel like & ditch the rest, or just skip a bottle altogether & grab a cup of water instead.
  • If you have a small bottle you can carry with you for a quarter-to-a third of a mile or so, six ounces of liquid is a reasonable amount to finish without getting a sloshy belly (basically the equivalent of two little paper cups).

Also, I found these convenient little eight-ounce bottles on Amazon, which handily come in packs of four:

Realistically, I will probably just carry nine or ten gels & pop one before the race plus one every half hour-ish (plus one to spare), & grab my bottles at those eight stations whenever I happen to get to them. That seems like not a disaster waiting to happen, which is really kind of all I'm asking of this race.

Friday, February 20, 2015

NVM WEEK 14: Escape from SoCal (barely)

Guh. My life has been insane lately, mostly just due to work & mundane stuff & really not anything that is much worth talking about here.

I spent Week 14 in San Diego for work, which I was kind of excited about because warm weather & sunshine!

Yyyyeahhh....Things didn't quite pan out that way. In fact a lot of things about this week didn't pan out the way I'd planned.

My flight was Monday afternoon. The school site I was working at was a 4 minute cab ride from the airport, as was my hotel. Then, as I was walking out the door for the airport, I got an email from the project director saying they'd changed the site and now instead of meeting in San Diego we were to meet in San Marcos, over an hour of Southern California freeway north.

Much cursing ensued. I frantically researched San Marcos hotels near the new site, made a reservation, and also reserved a rental car. Also I cancelled the old hotel reservation & learned that SURPRISE!!! Cancelling day-of means you get to pay for the first night plus cancellation fee. GOOD TIMES!! :D (Hey, at least it wasn't my money.)

Also, I decided to be daring & reserve a Smart Car. I cannot remember now why this seemed like a good idea.

NOOOOOO don't do it no good very bad

Once in San Diego, I picked up my Smart Car & was deeply into the process of regretting my choice after less than a quarter mile. I regretted it even more intensely once I got on the freeway.

I will now list the reasons why no one should drive a smart car, ever.

  • The transmission is like riding in a car with a manual transmission with someone who does not know how to drive it.
  • You try accelerating onto the freeway (in SoCal!!!) on two cylinders.
  • I once drove a car down A4 along Loch Ness in Scotland with no power steering. This wasn't quite that bad but it was close.
  • The thing is so light that the faintest of breezes buffets it all over the freeway. A couple of times cars whooshed past me at give or take 100 mph & I'm pretty sure I felt the wheels come off the ground.

Basically, every minute I was in the effing thing, I felt certain I was going to die. My only consolation was that the hotel was three minutes from the school, and other than driving back to the airport at the end of the week, I wouldn't have to spend a ton of time in it.

Ha. Haha. Ahahaha.

Tuesday morning I made the three minute drive to the new site in San Marcos. No one there knows who I am or what I'm talking about. Because the universe is not without a sick sense of irony, I check my work email just in time to receive another email from the project director that OOPS! Just kidding. It wasn't San Marcos; it was Chula Vista.

Yeah so Chula Vista is basically in Mexico.

I wanted to be like, "Dude. For all intents & purposes, you've sent me to the wrong country." But I am a professional and so instead I got in my little smart car death trap & drove the 1.5 hours to the border Chula Vista site & did what I could do in the remaining time.

At this point I really couldn't justify changing my hotel again, so I just drove back & forth between Chula Vista and San Marcos all week. On top of this, there is basically no good food anywhere in this area (with the exception of a couple of Lebanese/Mediterranean spots, & you can bet I found them ALL) and it is Southern California so god forbid someone give you takeout that doesn't come in nineteen giant styrofoam containers. Also any and all salads are pretty much just a shredded head of iceberg and/or Romaine. My Greek salad had carrots and pickles in it. The wine selection was not much better.

Sometimes I kind of joke about having been ruined for food & beverages by San Francisco, which is all fun & games until somebody gets sent to Southern California for a week & suddenly I'm spending my evenings weeping quietly into a styrofoam box of Romaine and warm pickles.

This is the one edible type of meal in the greater San Marcos, CA area.

I may have cried a few tears of joy when I got off the plane at SFO.

~*~*~NVM WEEK 14 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 33 miles

    * 18 easy
    * 15 long

Monday: Rest / fly to San Diego

Tuesday: 7 easy

    I'd planned to do an 8 miler outside as soon as I got done with work on Tuesday, but a) two hours in the death trap had left me an exhausted mental & emotional wreck & b) it was still 90° at that point and there was just no way THAT was happening. By the time I felt semi-human it was dark which I didn't feel great about, so treadmill it was. Which mainly just served to remind me how much I hate hate HATE treadmills. At six miles I felt pretty crappy but decided to try to keep pushing; at 6.75ish my body was waving the big red NOPE flags (all the pains in right hip/feet) so I called it good at 7.

Wednesday: Rest

    This was my worst day. The sheer depression of being alone in a southern California food desert with naught but a death trap of a clown car in which to travel anywhere really got to me psychologically. I could not rally myself to run in the 90° heat or drag myself anywhere NEAR that treadmill for a second time. So big, fat fail.

Thursday: Work/fly home.

    When I went to bed Wednesday night I was feeling slightly less sorry for myself & was all like, "I AM TOTALLY GOING TO GET UP AT 4:30 AM & RUN AT LEAST SIX MILES." Guess what did not even remotely come close to happening.

    It was still 90° & I was missing SF Beer Week, so I def needed a smoked
    porter while I waited for SFO to let our plane finally leave. THANKS OBAMA.

Friday: 10 easy

    The start of this run was not promising. I felt like I was landing hard and wobbling all over the place & just generally not hacking it. Things finally settled in around mile 6, but ugh. Before then, not pretty. Plus, it was hot. And by hot, I mean San Francisco hot, so like 75°. But full sun!

    Also, Friday was awesome because we went to see my favorite band in Berkeley, a little husband-and-wife duo from Ohio called Over The Rhine. They were amazing as always.

Saturday: Rest

    I went back & forth on Saturday about whether I should try to run. I felt fine, but kept getting all hand-wring-ey about how Saturday rest day + Sunday long run has been working really well for me, & in the end I decided not to chance it. Don's parents got in that afternoon & we went down to their hotel at Fisherman's Wharf & had fresh crab legs & fantastic wine for dinner.

Sunday: 15 long

    I woke up feeling crappy & did not want to do this run at all. We had afternoon plans with Don's parents so I had to get up early to do it. Really I was suppose to run 18, but I miscalculated time-wise and 15 was all I had time for. (Which, honestly, I was not that crushed about considering it was, again, about a billion degrees out & full sun. Okay like 80°. BUT STILL!)

    Conservatory of Flowers, looking resplendent as always.

    Also picking up more downed trees from last weekend's crazy wind storms.

    This one is just because this blog was getting dangerously low on green smoothie pictures. I understand if you were on the brink of not coming back. If you want the recipe, it is "Put some fruit & yogurt & green shit in a blender." You are welcome.

So, yeah. Not a total waste of a week, but about 10-12 miles short of what I'd planned on. Good thing this is still fake-training? I guess?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

NVM WEEK 13: 20. (or, 'Pain' vs. 'Difficulty')

According to my schedule, I was supposed to run 20 miles two weeks ago, but that was before my right foot decided to have a complete spaz attack. So, after a week of travel & rest, I had a re-match with that sucker scheduled for this past Sunday.

You may recall that I have kind of an ambivalent relationship with runs in the 15+ range. Up to that point, I can face the number head-on and not blink. I don't have to lie to myself and perform mental gymnastics in order to trick myself into getting out the door. It's been a long time since I was afraid of running 12 or 14 miles. I'm not sure I've ever gotten over the utter demoralization and dread of running for 2.5+ hours at a stretch.

And, since I want to run more marathons and have them not be completely miserable experiences, I've been trying to deal with that by running long (read: 16 miles or more) every single weekend that I possibly can (knowing there will occasionally be days when it doesn't work out).

No joke, as soon as I woke up Saturday morning, my first thought was, "I have to run twenty miles tomorrow." And immediately my stomach was in knots. (<= THAT is the feeling I am trying to get rid of.) I thought about it during my Saturday morning strength session with AT, while Don & I were running errands that afternoon, & eating dinner that night. I thought about the shin splints that had been kinda-sorta bugging me ever since the move and about my stupid right hip and my recurring stupid right foot pain (not the random metatarsal thing, but the inner arch thing that seems pretty clearly related to my messed up hip). I thought about all the asthma problems I've been having and how I haven't had a fully functioning respiratory system in over a month. I thought about how, up until the last couple of months, I haven't been able to run over 17 miles without injuring myself since 2012.

What I'm saying is, it's basically a miracle I slept at all Saturday night.

Sunday morning, I woke up to pouring rain and howling winds rattling the ancient windows in our house. "No way I'm running in this," I thought to myself, and rolled over & went back to sleep. That happened at least two more times before we finally got up. Thankfully, by then it was warm and sunny without much wind at all.

I had barely climbed out of bed, though, when I realized I had made a grave tactical error.

You guys, every muscle in my entire posterior chain--glutes, hips, hamstrings, the whole kaboodle--was thoroughly trashed. My butt muscles in particular cried out an anguished lamentation as I hoisted myself out of bed.

I hobbled (almost comically, I'm sure) into the kitchen, cursing myself the entire way. The same thing had happened to me twice before the day after my sessions with AT. How could I have let this happen? How had it not occurred to me that scheduling one the day before my first real long run in three weeks was *epically* stupid?

Part of being a distance runner, though (in my opinion) is learning to lie to yourself when necessary. "It's okay, just run for as long as you can," I told myself, while another part of my brain was laughing with grim incredulity at the entire situation.

By 2:20 I'd run out of preparatory tasks with which to stall (body glide, gel-stashing, changing shirts, sunscreening All Teh Parts, hunting down arm band phone case & head phones, setting up Garmin & heart rate monitor, hat selecting, changing shirts again, etc.) & dragged myself out the door.

"If I'm not back by midnight, send a search party," I said to Don.

"Um. Okay. How many miles are you running, again?"

"I don't know. Like, a billion?" For some reason, I've gotten to the point that 18 sounds long but reasonable, while 20 still feels essentially undistinguishable from a billion in every way that matters.

I had no plan except to just start running & try to trick myself into getting as far from home as possible before turning around so that I'd have no choice but to finish the full twenty. And the first few rolled past unremarkably enough. My legs and butt were sore but not quite as painful as I'd been expecting, and for a while I cruised effortlessly along, feeling pretty good, actually, and enjoying the lovely weather. Instead of running right down through the Park along JFK to Ocean Beach, I meandered aimlessly through the side trails in the Park, mainly just trying to mindlessly rack up as many miles as possible before things got hard.

Eventually, though, I started having a harder and harder time breathing, and while I really would have preferred to just keep doing laps in the relatively traffic-light-free haven of Golden Gate Park, I knew that considering I was now six miles from home, the smart thing to do was head back right away and grab my inhaler, then finish the last few miles. Running still felt easy at that point; I just couldn't breathe, which was causing my heart rate to skyrocket. (Plus, I had to run back uphill to get home.)

I'd calculated I'd get back home with a little over twelve miles under my belt, and it was around eleven-ish that running started to feel alarmingly hard. Part of my brain started to panic: "What the hell is THIS?!?!" Under no circumstances except an all-out half marathon should mile eleven feel hard. By the time I was a couple of blocks from home, my legs felt like some horrific combination of lead and Jell-O.

Not good. Decidedly very, very not good.

"You're back!" Don greeted me.

"I'm not done," I sighed.


I had a feeling the sudden and unusual wall I was hitting was some combination of not being to breathe and also quickly burning through what was left of the non-trashed, functional muscle fibers in my glutes and hamstrings. I've actually been doing pretty well not fueling or barely fueling on my long runs, but I figured maybe this was not the worst time ever for a few extra carbs, so I while I waited for my inhaler to kick in, I sucked down a strawberry gel with protein & caffeine & also had a big glass of milk. (I like skim milk for refueling post-run because water + carbs + protein.)

And then, I walked back out the door and tried to pretend this was just a routine week-day eight miler, no big deal, and like I hadn't just run twelve miles on semi-trashed legs.

This was where things got interesting.

I felt refreshed going into the first (13th) mile; suddenly running felt pretty easy again, in spite of the fact that my heart rate had not dropped back down to normal after taking my asthma medicine. Pretty quickly, though, it started to feel like work again; in particular, on a flat stretch I'd be, "Eh, this is okay," and then I'd hit even a moderate uphill & suddenly I had nothing.

Well; not nothing, actually. It hurt more, yes, but, oddly enough, it didn't get any harder. Part of my brain would say, "WOW, this sucks," and another part would say, before any thoughts of slowing or stopping could be entertained, "Yeah, but this is what we're doing right now, so move it along plzthnx."

Mentally I'd broken these last eight miles up into sets of two, because running two miles is easy: "Two miles and you're halfway to the turnaround. Once you hit the turnaround, the worst part is over & all that's left is to get back home." Still, I hit that first two-mile mark & was like, "OMG, I can't even deal with the fact that I'm only halfway to the turnaround." And then the other part of my brain, not even for a second tolerating the slightest hint of loss of morale, "If one thing is certain, it's that 'miles left' has nowhere to go but down."

I think this is a big part of the mental training of endurance athletes, particularly those who compete in 3+ hour events. In any more-challenging-than-usual effort, there's always a point at which you have a choice: You can go to the dark place and focus on how hard this is and how much it sucks and generally feel sorry for yourself, or you can dig your nails into the bare rock and just tell yourself, "This is what's happening right now, do it the best you can, and the better you do it, the sooner it will be over." I have been to the dark place plenty of times, and while digging into the rock and refusing to fall in is hard, eventually the dark place gets old you and you realize that a) going there only makes what you have to do anyway harder, b) you actually can choose not to go there, and c) the more often you dig in and refuse to go there, the easier it gets.

So that's where I was in that second and third mile, going uphill, every muscle in my butt and hamstrings and now my quads pretty much hamburger. One part of my brain goes, "Ugh, this sucks," and the other part goes, "Yep. Deal."

And here's the other thing. In spite of the fact that it was painful and I was suffering, it wasn't getting harder. My very first 15+ marathon training runs back in 2011 got markedly harder towards the end. My pace would slow and I would struggle to hold good form, which would cause more aches and pains, and I even remember my very first twenty-miler and how I ran the last two miles in plodding, quarter-mile stretches because that was all I could do.

Not this time. My body hurt, but I was running well and holding good form just fine. In fact, I was running faster as I went, on trashed legs and one gel and one glass of milk.

With one mile left to go until the turnaround, I had a decision to make. I've been finishing all my long runs with three goal marathon pace miles and two easy cool-down miles, and if I was going to do that this time, that meant that when my watch ticked off mile 15, I would need to speed up to 8:00 miles through mile 18, and then run the last two easy. Initially I'd been thinking that that was kind of unreasonable given that I was starting this run with all my major running muscles fairly well beaten to a pulp, but as I got closer and closer to that point, I kept thinking back to an article by the incomparable Greg McMillan I'd stumbled onto the day before, completely by coincidence:

    "You can have your nutrition dialed in and your legs can be strong, but if your mind isn't ready for the type of fatigue that occurs in the marathon, you won't race well...Most runners are used to the fatigue in a 5K, 10K or half marathon, but the fatigue in the marathon is an entirely different beast. It's not a problem with breathing. It's not a problem with lactic acid buildup. It's simply a problem with fatigue, physical and mental. Unless you insert some workouts in your training that mimic this type of fatigue, you won't be ready for the marathon."

I mean make no mistake, I really really REALLY did not want to run three 8:00 miles at this point. I knew I was doing fine and I would make it with no problem, but I would have been quite content to continue cruising along at my now-9:40ish pace. (Sidenote: These days, that is FAST for me for an easy run!)

But mentally, I kept coming back to a) well, yeah, I know I can probably do it (sigh), and b) if I do it, it will make me tougher. The next time I run a PR-effort marathon, it's going to suck major, hella ASS by mile 22 so I might as well get used to that feeling now.

Mile 15 ticked off and I sped up. I didn't look at my watch, because I felt so tired and my legs were so trashed that I didn't think I could bear the thought of running what I thought was goal marathon effort and seeing I was half a minute or a minute too slow. I figured instead I'd just run each mile at what felt like the right effort level, and if it wasn't quite 8:00 when my watch beeped, well, I could at least say I was putting in the effort.

But no, mile 16 ended up being 8:04, and better yet, did not feel abjectly awful. Painful, yes. Exhausting, yes. But almost without any conscious effort from me, my legs just kept churning along like that was their job and it never would have occurred to them to do anything different.

I finished miles 17 & 18 in much the same way. I would have preferred to slow down, sure, but it was as if once my brain had made the choice that this was what we were doing and this was what was happening, my body went, "Whatever you say, chief." Some of part of me took the discomfort of running that faster pace on abso-effing-lutely trashed muscles and put it in a box and set it over in the corner. It was there; I could see it out of the corner of my eye, but it didn't really concern me all that much. It wasn't my focus. Those last miles were painful, but weirdly, they weren't hard, which is a distinction that I don't think has ever occurred to me before.

By the time I finished the last fast mile & was down to the last two easy ones, I almost didn't want to stop (mostly because running them fast would mean I was done sooner). My form was still good. I wasn't slogging, and I didn't need to slog. Even at what felt like a fairly easy effort, those last miles were still sub-10, and only not faster because I was restraining myself.

It may seem a little strange to count as a win a twenty-miler that got hard at mile 11, but I am counting it that way, for a bunch of reasons:

  • The weird metatarsal pain never came back.
  • The usual inner arch pain in my right foot was super subdued; it's usually worse than that even after only six or eight miles.
  • I didn't bonk, even though this was BY FAR the least amount of fueling I have EVER run 20 miles on (one gel and a glass of milk, vs. like six gels in the past).
  • Even when things got painful, I never blew up--I kept good form and actually increased my pace toward the end.
  • I ran three GMP miles on absolutely fried legs.
  • I wasn't even sore the next day.
  • I never once went to the dark place.

I mean, yeah; there's clearly still a long road left to go in terms of being ready to run 26 eight-minute-miles in a row vs. three, even if it was on trashed legs & almost no fuel. But this run gave me a lot of confidence in terms of feeling like I've been doing the right things. I don't feel fast yet, but I do feel stronger, both physically and mentally, than I ever have before while training for a marathon, and I'm not even really training yet.

~*~*~NVM WEEK 13 OF 16~*~*~

Hey, look, a semi-normal week with no disasters or crises!

Grand Total: 50 miles

    * 24 easy
    * 6 goal marathon pace
    * 20 long (including 3 @ GMP)

Plus 3 strength workouts.

Monday: 4 easy / karate

    I kind of thought maybe this run might feel good, given that I hadn't gotten much physical activity in the last week, but no. I felt like garbage the whole time. My body straight up felt like I'd been in a car wreck. I'd been half thinking, "Hey, if things feel good, maybe I'll do five or six." Hahahaha no. Four was plenty.

Tuesday: 10 easy

    I really did not think that this would be a big deal, given that I've been doing plenty of mid-week 8-10 mile runs & even several with GMP miles. But WOW, my body was unhappy. Not even joking that every mile some part of me was like "WHYYYYYYYY are we STILL DOING THIS, god, WHYYYYYYY?????" The right foot that gave me so much trouble last week seemed fine, but lest things get TOO easy and boring, the outside of my left foot was giving me eye-watering levels of pain from about mile 6 on. Also, my never-completely-reliable right thigh/hip started making some awfully concerning grumblings the like of which I haven't felt since 2013 when I ended up on crutches for a month. If I had it to do over, I think I probably would have done six instead of 10. C'est la vie.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

    Thursday: 2 wu / 6 GMP / 2 cd = 10 total

      Friday: 6 easy

        OH MY GOD IT POURED. I mean, not like it poured that time in December, but it was VERY wet and VERY windy and the city was pretty much choked with emergency vehicles clearing fallen tree branches (sometimes from on top of cars).

      Saturday: Rest

      Sunday: 20 long

      I haven't really been running enough or doing hard enough workouts to justify a three-week taper, so most likely I'll try to run in the mid-to-high forties this coming week with, say, an 18-mile long run (give or take), and then taper for two weeks before NVM on Mar. 1. Seems reasonable enough, right?

      Stuff I'm Loving Right Now

      (Because I know you're dyyyyying to ask, I have no relationship with any of these products/companies and no one has asked me to say nice things about them or compensated me for it in any way. I'm genuinely loving all these things!)

      Mio "strapless" heart monitor, but what else is new.

      Amazon Prime. There are certain things I have ethical objections to buying on Amazon (media, mostly) because I like to support my independent, small neighborhood businesses when I can. But I just moved into a new house and there is a lot of shit I need that is just not covered by the mom-and-pop shops near us. Also, actual physical IRL shopping where you, like, travel to a brick-and-mortar building via car or public transit is just not something my life is optimized for. (See: the parking situation, the amount of time I spend commuting already, and my extremely limited free time.) Am I going to drive my ass to Target and spend ten minutes trying to park and unpark and half an hour in between navigating the domestic hellscape of screaming children and shopping cart-inept adults because I need a fruit bowl, and a French press, and a dish drainer? HELL NO! Ain't nobody in this house got time for that. I'll take ten minutes of perusing dozens of (better) options and having that shit brought straight to my door 36 hours later any day of the week and twice on Sundays. (There are also apparently a bunch of other benefits like free movies/music, free cloud storage for photos, etc., but I never use them.) See also: Prime Pantry.

      Dollar Shave Club. Have you heard about this? Oh my god. It has changed my life. Basically all razor/razorblades are a ripoff and lady razors are even worse because of the Pink Tax. About a year ago I decided I hated my current razor & refused to buy new blades because I wasn't going to keep using it. But then every other one I looked at also seemed to be a racket. I was about to look into some sort of Amazon Subscription situation when I stumbled across Dollar Shave Club. How does this work? 1) You sign up and choose from their three types of (unisex) razors (basically "cheap," "middling," and "fancy"; I went with the middle option). 2) You decide how often you want them to send you a new four-pack of razors (every month or every two months). 3) They bring that shit straight to your door. And how much, you might ask, will this set you back? $1/$6/$9 per shipment, depending on which level of razor you get. The first razor is free. Shipping is free. An extra razor cost me I think $4. I now spend $36 a year on shaving. Basically, it's genius. (Full disclosure, that link is an invite-your-friends-type link. If people click on it and join, I get $5 credit, but I did not actually know that was a thing until I'd already written this. I really do love it!)

      Audible. Probably two-thirds of the books I go through are audiobooks. Originally, I got into audiobooks when I started my current job in 2012 & knew I'd be spending 2+ hours a day driving. I did almost the same commute for five years when I was teaching in the mid-aughts, and the sheer amount of time I felt like I was utterly wasting ate away at me every day until I started feeling sick to my stomach every time I got in the car. With my audio books (also, let's be real, the flexibility I have in my current job to not drive during rush hour), it's a completely different story. I actually kind of look forward to a relaxing hour of just zoning out and listening to whatever book I'm currently plugging through. And even if I do hit traffic, oh well, I'll finish it that much sooner! Since then I've also started listening to them at the gym and while running (a single person talking doesn't drown out sound the way music does, so it feels pretty safe), and it's made my life so much better. Yes, it's money (they have a range of plans; the one I have is $22.95 a month, which gets me 2 book credits per month plus 30% off anything else I buy, and they're also having coupons and sales and 2-for-1 deals all the time), but I feel like there are certain situations in life that can be significantly improved by throwing a little money at them, and for me, this was one.

      Coconut Oil. A few years ago when I found myself dealing with some terrible skin allergies, I read up on the chemistry behind health and beauty products and was absolutely horrified by what I learned. The 10 second story is that the US allows all kinds of chemicals in our health/beauty/cosmetic products that are banned everywhere else in the world, and because the health & beauty/cosmetic lobbies are rolling in money, the FDA can do nothing about it except "strongly recommend" that companies stop using certain chemicals (which most don't). When I threw out just about everything in my bathroom & started over from scratch, plain old coconut oil replaced lotion, shaving cream, and makeup remover, and works better for all three than any other product I've ever used for those things. (Re: lotions, if the first ingredient in your lotion is "water," it's basically a scam since, ironically, nothing dries skin out faster than water.) It's light, rubs in quickly (so doesn't feel greasy), and comes in unscented versions if you don't like the coconut smell. Best of all, a $6 jar from Trader Joe's lasts me a year. When I first started using it, Don was like, "You're a weirdo hippy freak." Now it's all he uses & he won't travel without it.

      ThinkSport Sunscreen. ICYMI, I'm a sunscreen evangelist. Do not try to talk to me about the Vitamin D deficiency "epidemic." A) Your body can only produce a certain amount of Vitamin D per day, and you max out on it with a pretty small amount of UV exposure. If you are an outdoor athlete, I guarantee that you are not at risk, even if you wear sunscreen. B) You can take a pill to fix vitamin D deficiency; you cannot take a pill to fix skin cancer. So, when it comes to sunscreen, I have Standards (which you can read more about in that first link). First, physical screens only (preferably zinc oxide). Second, no dangerous ingredients. Third, SPF 30 minimum (SPF x lets through 1/x of UV rays, so SPF 30 blocks ~96.7%). The nice thing is that there are plenty of products out there these days that qualify. The sad part is that many of them are gross-feeling or have other consistency issues. Since I'm always open to trying new brands, I picked up ThinkSport at REI before we went to Mexico, and it is without a doubt the lightest, smoothest-feeling, best-smelling sunscreen I've ever been willing to use. Would buy in bulk!

      WHAT DO YOU HELLA LOVE RIGHT NOW???? I promise I'm not just being a douchey blogger; I seriously want to know.