Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Race Report: SF PrideRun 2012

SF PrideRun 5K & 10K

Location: San Francisco, CA (Golden Gate Park

Date: Late June (June 23, 2012 this year, at the end of SF Pride Week)

Price: $30 by June 15, $35 after (same price for both races)

Deadline: 6/20 to register online; race day registration starting at 7:30.

Sellout Factor: Unlikely; it's a pretty small event.


(Cribbing off of last year's race report)

Parking is plentiful & mere yards from the start. Bag check if you want it, but parking is so close & easy that I just left my stuff in my car. Free brunch post-race (which my co-worker Jimmy perennially helps prepare!) plus a few sponsor goodies (Fuze, chocolate milk, massages, See Jane Run coupons, & a dude giving out candy for spinning a wheel; I missed where he was from). Dj O Miestro was again spinning both before & after. (Which reminds me, I finally get all the "Call Me Maybe" references. Don't hate me, but I don't really see the appeal.) Park bathrooms super close to the start, plus a couple of extra port-a-potties near the finish.

The Course

Moderately hilly and USATF certified; mostly on roads & sidewalks, but there is one section going up JFK drive that's mostly dirt (and no small number of rocks, so look out for that). Actually, I don't know if I'd really call it 'hilly' so much as just not flat. It's nicely downhill in the 1st mile, then you get to spend the next mile slogging up that one stretch of JFK. It's not that it's particularly steep (maybe 3-5% grade? I'm bad at grades), just that it's a noticeable positive grade that goes on for a freaking mile. The third mile has a few modest, short ups & downs (and also one dramatic down). Last year the weather was perfect for running (55, overcast, & no wind); this year it was slightly warmer, but also sunny and beautiful.

My Race:

Here is a summary of my attitude about this race over the last few months:

January - WOOOO, I am super-pumped to race ANYTHING and EVERYTHING this year and I am TOTES RUNNING this AWESOME RACE again that I LOVED!!11!

May - Whew, I'm kind of worn out after 5 months straight of training / building mileage, but PrideRun will be a really good fitness gauge for me after chilling out for a bit in June.

June 9 - Oh hello, four jobs and zero time to run. How YOU doin'?

June 16 - I am totally not wasting money on a race that I am in no way prepared to run well in. Eff that noise.

June 18 - Ehhh....I should be a good sport and run it. It's for a good cause.

June 20 - I feel like crap.

June 22 - Double crap. Plus my legs hate me. But I should still be a good sport.

June 23, 7 a.m. - Someone just kill me. Hey, maybe the 5K will hasten my demise!

So that sealed it. I ate breakfast, threw on some running clothes, stopped to get enough cash to pay for the race, & drove to the polo fields. (Seriously, I felt completely hung over, and while that's never a good sign, it's a particularly bad one when you haven't been drinking.)

After registering, I was feeling thirsty & couldn't find water anywhere. Then I remembered I had soda water in my car, which made me feel a) less thirsty as well as b) more craptacular in the tummy region. After that I shuffled off on my warm-up. No sooner had I turned on my Garmin than it began flashing a LOW BATTERY warning at me.

Really? Et tu, Garmin? I charged you last night specifically because I knew you were out of battery. Argh. (Does the number of potential points of failure in the Garmin 305 power supply system strike anyone else as a little absurd?)

Fine. I jogged my mile & a half (more or less) Garmin-free, & figured I'd use the last little bit of charge to make sure I set a reasonable, non-death-inducing pace in the first half mile of the race.

My warm-up sucked, by the way. While I stretched, I brooded about how I'd been so excited to run the 10K here last year and how little enthusiasm I'd been able to muster today. Poor, poor Angela. Your life is a hard one.

New for this year at PrideRun were--TA-DA!!--pacing corrals! By which I mean boxes drawn on the ground with chalk & labeled with paces. To stand in (on?) the first corral, your mile pace only had to be sub-7, which I was still pretty confident I'd be able to do. In addition to maybe 10 dudes, there was only one other woman in that corral, so I figured I'd maybe just try to keep her in sight.

(Do you want to know what I was thinking as they counted down to the gun? "When this is over, I am sooooo going back to bed." Not kidding.)

The horn went off and it became abundantly clear that I would not be keeping the other corral 1 woman in sight, at least for now. She was past me & gone in 30 seconds. On the other hand, no other women passed me, so I just tried to find the men that were going about my speed & stick with them.

Using the Garmin to set up my pace proved tricky since the first mile was downhill, so I ignored it until we got to the uphill section and I went from seeing numbers in the 5:30s to ones in the 7:15+ range. This was equally unhelpful, so I resigned myself to pretty much running by effort for the rest of the race.

By the time I was most of the way up that hill, I was remembering vividly how much it had SUCKED last year & how sad I'd been about the fact that I had to run it again (10K does two laps of the 5K course), and feeling soooooo glad I was running the 5K instead this year. But I was also starting to feel new levels of physical terrible-ness, and won't deny that there was a tiny voice inside of me going "Maybe we could just stop here & go home? I mean, actually finishing races is kind of passe...". Another woman passed me on JFK, but at that point there was no question of trying to speed up & chase after her. I'd have to get her later or not at all. And truly, I thought I was doing pretty well, all things considered, to be 2/3 of the way through the race & only have two women ahead of me.

In that last mile, all I wanted to do was finish strong. I caught up to the hill passer & stayed right with her for a while, but soon she started to drop behind me so I was solidly in second again. I ran, you know, hard-ish, but was definitely not trying to kill myself and definitely not feeling up to the whole last-10%-of-the-race-kick-it-into-5th-gear thing. When I rounded the last corner & saw 21:30 on the clock, I more or less just coasted in, since finishing under 22:00 had been the closest thing to a goal I'd had going into it. (My official time was 21:36, just *barely* squeaking in under a 7:00 pace!)

Unfortunately, the impression of "just coasting in" was not the one I gave. My stomach had been unhappy pretty much the whole race, and as soon as I crossed the line I could feel myself about to dry heave. There may or may not have been just a teensy bit of projectile vomiting in the finish chute. This brings my finish line heaving streak up to 2.

I knew I'd been second overall; then, sure enough, it turned out the chick who beat me was in my age group, so second in the F 30-39 group as well. As I've noted over and over again, the thirty-somethings can hustle! (I think she was maybe 21:10ish, so it was nice to find out I hadn't been epically crushed.)

The Moral of This Story:

1) When you are under-trained, in less-than-great shape, and feeling shitty, you should *definitely* crash that race you were feeling iffy & unenthusiastic about, because you will probably podium.

2) Sometimes races surprise you. Even once I was in the car on the way to the race, I was still having trouble figuring out why I felt so strongly that I should run it, even given all the circumstances. I kept coming back to "I should be a good sport and not be a diva who insists on only racing when I know I'm in top shape." But I couldn't figure out why I felt that way until later.

Honestly, I think it's because I always get something out of racing. Sometimes something surprising. Today, what I got out of it was an appreciation for how far I've come even in the last two years. In August 2010, I gave 110% on a completely flat course when I was well-trained and feeling great and got a PR of 22:00. Today, in June 2012, I ran under-trained and feeling terrible on a tough course with basically no Garmin and coasted the last half mile or so for a 21:36 finish. Just imagine -- if I hadn't run the Big Bear 5K in May, this would've been a new PR! Now that is kind of awesome.


I didn't pre-register so I didn't get the sweet logo tech shorts or the neon orange drawstring goody bag (stuffed with samples & coupons, of course), but they looked pretty awesome. You can kind of see them here:

I doubt I would've worn the shorts much (I'm really picky), but I really like the shirt from last year so if there was a shirt again I would probably pre-register.

Like last year, lovely medals three deep in each age/gender group by decade as well, plus a little extra swag for top three male/female overall.

For coming in second, I got gift cards for Road ID & See Jane Run, & also $50 cold hard cash, which recoups my reg fee plus $15. This race also brings my winning-practical-things streak up to 2, which is a little more exciting & classy than the other streak I mentioned.

Yes, the course is kind of tough, but I really like this event and I will probably run it again in the future (hopefully in better shape next time). :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Week in Review: June 18 - 24

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

SF Pride Run 5K Race Week!!

7 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

10 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

So there were miles run this last week, which makes it, y'know, different from / an improvement over the previous one. Plus I ran a 5K on Saturday that I was waffling & being whiny / dramatic about and managed to not totally embarrass myself, so win.

Grand Total: 20.6 miles

* 15.25 easy
* 2.25 speed
* 3.1 race

Monday: Karate + strength work

Tuesday: 6 easy. Dagnabbit, I was going to get a run in Tuesday if it killed me. When I'm feeling icky about my mileage or worried about finding time to run later in the week, I know I have a habit of trying to compensate by running farther and/or faster than I really should. In a rare moment of self-knowledge and foresight, I made a conscious decision beforehand to run only my usual six-mile loop and to keep the pace nice & easy. I will admit that I was unreasonably, irrationally relieved to find that my "easy" pace had not magically slowed by two minutes after my 9 day hiatus. Yes, the heel pain was back post-shower, but at least it stayed away during my run.

Wednesday: Karate. Unfortunately fire on the Embarcadero -> shit show on the Bay Bridge -> got there late & missed strength work.

Thursday: 2 wu + 3 x .75 @ 5K pace + 1.75 cd = 6. Whaaaaah?? Angela actually did a speed workout for the first time since [muttersindistinctlyunderbreath]?? The hell you say. Seriously, this was my first trip to the track in over a month, and WOW, there is no part of me that is even remotely in 5K shape. I did run them all at more or less the pace I ran at Big Bear Run a month & a half ago (6:41, 6:39, 6:34), but let me assure that there is no way I will be running that pace on Saturday. I had no illusions that any of this would make me faster by then; I just wanted a few short intervals to remind my legs how to go fast.

Friday: 4 easy. Not surprisingly, I was still feeling sluggish after the speed work, but I really wanted to get a few miles in for the sake of consistency. Plus I had some new kicks to take for a spin:

Thanks, Mom. ;)

Saturday: 1.5(ish?) wu + 3.1 race = 4.6 total. On Saturday I ran the PrideRun 5K in Golden Gate Park, which was awesome / terrible, depending on how you look at it. (Either way, better than expected.) Race report coming soon.

So running, in any amount, has been incredibly difficult to fit in these past few weeks. When the last of my contracts finish in August & I finally start my normal person job full-time, I think it will be easier. Right now I am driving for 2.5 hours every day in order to make it all work, which will only be the case through the end of July but pretty much means that if we have any sort of evening plans at all, there is literally zero time in the day for a run unless I'm willing to head off into the dark at 10-11 pm or give up a precious hour or two of sleep & get up early. Part of me really wants to get all WHATEVER-IT-TAKES-ish & just make it work, but I am already doing that with my three jobs scattered around the Bay Area and I'm not sure I can be that hard core about more than one thing at a time. So I'm trying to do what I can, and not panic too much about the fact that I may lose some fitness this summer and (*sigh*) Santa Rosa may not end up being the USATF-certified sub-1:40 I had hoped it would be. At least through July, I sort of feel like if I can manage to run 20 miles a week, that'll be doing pretty darn well.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shoe Review: Newton Motion / Motus (old model)

For the last couple of years I've done the bulk of my running in Brooks Adrenalines, which I totally {heart}. (Spoiler - my mother just gifted me a pair of 12's, which I am super psyched about!) They are sturdy, reliable, comfortable, and serviceable for just about anything from intervals on the track to marathons. I have a feeling that no matter what other fancy makes & models may find their way into my little stable, I will always keep a pair or two of these around. (Unless they end up going the way of the Launch, that is. Cold, Brooks. Cold.)

That said, I've been on the look out for a slightly lighter shoe that falls somewhere between the Adrenalines and racing flats and still has a little stability to it. There are many, many intriguing candidates, so mostly I've been going on recommendations from folks I trust and looking for good deals. I know a lot of people who have been super happy with Newtons and read countless other positive reviews, but Newtons don't come cheap, so I'd been reluctant to take the plunge. But when the new model of the Motion (or Motus, as it's called in some places) came out, the price dropped on the old one, I had few other discounts up my sleeve, and the only remaining (reasonable) size in stock was one I could wear, I took it as a sign.

Some basic info about the shoe:

At 7.7 ounces, Newton doesn't actually consider the Motion a light-weight trainer; in that category, they offer the Distancia (neutral light-weight trainer, 6.8 ounces) & the Distancia U (universal light-weight trainer, 7.0 ounces). The descriptions of the two are basically identical, so hell if I know what the difference is, or what is meant by a "universal" trainer. (If you know, please share in the comments!) The Motion is still lighter than anything else I own that's not a racing flat, though, and Roadrunner Sports where I bought them classifies them as "performance stability."


On the website, the uppers are described as made from "highly breathable, fast-drying, open screen mesh," which is true. They are also described as having "minimal anatomical support strapping" and "metatarsal stretch panels." I have no idea what those statements are referring to, so I can't remark on them. (Again, if you know, please comment!) I can tell you that the insoles & outer soles felt surprisingly solid the first time I slipped them on, given the weight of the shoe.

Another reason I've been interested in checking out Newton's is the company's reputation for socially responsible manufacturing. The shoe also has a number of green features, including 100% recycled yarn shoe laces, webbing, insole topcover and 10% recycled outersole rubber.

I have heard rumors here and there that Newtons can last up to 2000-3000 miles, but thus far I've been unable to find anything that substantiates these claims, and the official website claims only that if you take care of them well, "you should expect to get the same amount of mileage out of your Newton shoes as your current running shoes." The "Science" section of the site does describe the shoes being tested up to 1000 miles for the purposes of examining how the materials hold up, but they include a note that the reason for going up to 1000 miles was that it was so far beyond what they'd reasonably expect someone to put on a single pair mileage-wise that any problems would be guaranteed to show up.

Re: the technical details, one of my pet peeves about running shoe companies is when they list a whole bunch of high tech-sounding features but don't explain what any of it actually means or why we should care. For example, the Motion offers you:

  • Biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate
  • Dual-density medial posting to forefoot
  • Met-flex enhanced forefoot flexibility

Does anybody who doesn't work for Newton actually know what any of that means? Every time I see this kind of thing, I have a sneaking suspicion that the company in question is just hoping that all the fancy words will impress people enough purely by virtue of their fanciness that they will just buy the shoes. Just to be sure these weren't specialized running shoe industry jargon with which I just happen to be unfamiliar, I googled all of these terms, & in every case the top 50 or so results were from the Newton site or articles about Newtons, usually as part of a list of features with no explanation. So Newton, if you're reading, please explain this stuff. Using jargon no one understands to sell shoes is hella sketch.

(Update- I did find a Runner's World review of a different Newton shoe that described the biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate as "essentially a triple layer of plastic plate, foam plate and sockliner." Feels a bit anticlimactic, no?)


The Motions were quite comfortable right out of the gate. By far, the most unusual thing about these shoes are the "external actuator lugs" under the ball of the foot. These puppies are why this shoe doesn't actually look like a minimal drop shoe; the heel looks the same as most running shoes, but the lugs lift the forefoot so that the insole is almost level. Sure, the sensation was a little weird at first and took some getting used to, but wasn't uncomfortable.

External actuator lugs.

Quoth the Newton website:

"When your midfoot/forefoot LANDS on the ground, the technology's four external actuator lugs are pressed into hollow chambers inside the shoe's midsole via an elastic membrane (ACTION). This movement absorbs shock. As you LEVER inside the shoe, the lugs release their stored energy and propel you forward through a burst of energetic return (REACTION) from the Action/Reaction Technology™. You then LIFT your knee and begin a new stride."

I am always suspicious of shoe construction gimmicks that claim that something about the way the shoe is built can actually make you run faster or more efficiently than you would in another shoe of the same weight, but then again I definitely don't claim to be an expert when it comes to the construction of running shoes so who knows. For me, these claims alone would not be a convincing reason to pay triple digits for shoes.

The instructions that came with the shoes suggested limiting runs to a mile or 10:00 of running every other day in order to adjust to "the Newton way of running," but as far as I can tell, "the Newton way of running" really isn't all that shockingly differently from the way many folks have been running for years. Yes, if you've been running in shoes with a 10-15mm heel drop, you will probably want to ease into these guys, but that's not about wearing Newtons; it's about wearing any low drop shoe. (Also FYI, you can heel strike in Newtons without a problem. The heel is maybe not quite so built up as in more traditional shoes, so that may wear them out faster, but you can certainly run in Newtons easily without converting to a mid/forefoot strike.)

If I'd been running solely in Adrenalines, starting out with a 10 miler in these probably would have been too much too soon, but I think the modest heel drop in the Mirages (5-6mm?) & various racing flats (4mm) over the last six months to a year prepared my calves & Achilles for this shoe pretty well. I could definitely feel that my feet had been doing some extra work (which is good; I'm trying to make them stronger & gradually wean myself off of the orthotics altogether), so I personally would probably not run a 15-20 miler or a marathon in these without building up to it, but they are totally solid enough for that & more.

(**A quick note, because I can see it coming up & it's a fair question -- My bizarre heel pain has been going on since February, long before I started trying to transition out of the orthotics or do any significant amount of running in anything other than Adrenalines, so I don't think it's shoe-related.)

In terms of footstrike, I've probably been a 75/25% forefoot/midfoot striker for something like ten years, but in the last few months I've been having some discomfort in my left forefoot that almost feels like bruising. This was where the big squishy lugs came in really handy -- thanks to all the Action/Reaction Technology™, I could barely feel the road. This was the first time in a long time that I can remember running on concrete without my left forefoot feeling tender every time it touched the ground. My main issue with attempting anything longer than a 10K in racing flats is the lack of forefoot cushioning; I can totally see racing a half marathon in these, even without orthotics.

The top of the shoe rubbed uncomfortably against my big toes a little at first, but that went away as I broke them in.


The website describes the Motion as having a "variable fit," which I don't understand. (A variable fit seems like something you'd want to avoid, no?) With a new shoe, I generally get a size 8, and sometimes find that I need to go with a 7.5. Based on my first run in them, I would probably go with a 7.5 instead of an 8 if I were to get them again. They felt a little big, and with this shoe in particular (and maybe all Newtons?), I think you *definitely* want to avoid too big -- those giant actuator lugs need to sit perfectly & snugly under the ball of your foot, and if you're sliding forward in the shoe, they can end up pressing against the part of your arch just behind the ball of your foot, which is uncomfortable and I'm guessing probably not good for your feet in the long run. They also felt a bit big all around. I feel like I have slightly wide, slightly thick feet and thus usually don't have to lace my shoes up very tightly (or sometimes actually have to loosen them). With these, I had to cinch the laces up pretty ridiculously tight to keep my foot from sliding around in the shoe. All that said, the 8 is totally functional for me.


Like I said before, for a shoe that's advertised as promoting a "natural" running style, I was surprised at how hard & solid the Motions actually felt when I first slipped them on. I spent the first day just walking around to get a feel for them, and found myself shaking my head at the absurdity of some of the statements on the website. For example, "Newtons allow your foot to feel the ground as if you were running barefoot." Sorry; no. Not even close. What Newtons allow your foot to feel are the giant slabs of rubber between your foot and the ground. You can argue that they make it a little easier to land on the ball of your foot, and that the lugs make doing so nice and comfy without having to suffer through the toughening up process that you might have to endure with minimalist shoes like Vibrams or Merrell Dash Gloves. You cannot argue that running in Newtons lets you feel the ground as if you were running barefoot. In these puppies, the ground is a distant dream.

They do feel SUPER light for such a solid shoe, though, for which I suppose we have the "highly breathable, fast-drying, open screen mesh" and some of the mysterious jargon above to thank.

In terms of flexibility, the Motions remind me a lot of my Saucony Mirages, but to a lesser extreme. Both shoes are decidedly more flexible than the Adrenalines, but less so than either of my racing flats. The Mirage is slightly more flexy than the Motions -- that, I can't run more than a few miles in without orthotics and have to pay very close attention to every foot strike. The Motions, I ran 10 miles in without orthotics right away, with no problems. (I think the extra cushioning from the actuator lugs helps a lot there.)

Eventually, I would like to be able to run longer distances in a shoe where I can feel the ground (I really enjoy this on the track and in shorter races), but for me right now, the Motion seems to be a good compromise -- light & fairly flexible, but still with cushioning & enough stability where I still need it.

Bottom Line

I like these shoes, both from a practical and philosophical standpoint. They are light and comfortable, feel great, and I am willing to pay a premium for socially & environmentally responsible production. I do not care for the cult-like vibe of the website and the amount of Kool-Aid they seem to be pedaling. Sorry, Newton; you are not the first company to create light, low/zero drop shoes or to promote mid/forefoot running. I would totally recommend these to a runner friend, but you will not see me pushing Chi Running books or Pose Method seminars. As far as I can tell, this shoe would probably work equally fine for just about any running technique or style.

4.5 / 5 stars

Monday, June 18, 2012

WeekS in Review: June 4 - 17

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

1 week to SF Pride Run 5K

7 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

10 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

I am combining these two weeks because there is really no point in writing two separate posts. My running activity for the last two weeks consisted of exactly three runs:

Monday, June 4: 5-7 easy Karate + strength work. After not running Sunday, I really, really wanted to get some--really, any--amount in on Monday, but Don & I actually both started new jobs that day, & with trying to work out our transportation arrangements & get ourselves to karate, there was just no time.

Tuesday, June 5: 5.7 easy. Ugh...You can read about this horror story of a run here if you want. That's really all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, June 6: Karate + strength work. I think it's safe to say that from here on out, there will literally be zero time for running on Mondays or Wednesdays in the foreseeable future unless I skip karate.

Friday: 3 easy + 4 HM/LTish pace + 1 easy = 8. I really had no plan for this run; all I knew was that I was getting that twitchy, anxious feeling I get when I haven't been able to run much, so even though I was physically exhausted when I got home, I headed out. For most of the first mile, I debated how far I would go and at what pace (four miles? Ten? Six? Eight? All easy? Some HM paces miles? A few speed intervals?). In the end I decided not to overdo it, but to try to pick up some of the middle miles & just run at a faster pace that felt good. Miles 4-7 ended up being 7:27, 7:28, 7:09, & 7:21, so somewhere between LT & HM pace. Ultimately a good run (and no asthma or hives, which was a great relief after Tuesday), though the pain in my left heel came back after I'd showered, changed, & relaxed on the couch for a while. :P

Saturday, June 9: 10 easy. I don't know if there's a "wait an hour after champagne / cheese / cheetos" rule when it comes to running, but if there's not, there probably should be. I spent Saturday afternoon celebrating Courtney's birthday in Golden Gate Park, which led to ingesting the above. As glorious as it was, my stomach was NOT happy afterward during the run, which I suppose I should've foreseen. I'd (kind of half-heartedly) planned 14, but there was just no way it was going to happen. I was quite proud of just getting to double digits

June 10 - 18: No running. No karate.

So yeah. That whole 200 mile June thing? Apparently the part of my brain that keeps my work schedule forgot to communicate with the part of my brain that sets my running schedule as I've basically done nothing but work and drive since that last run.

In addition to not running this past week, I've also been skipping karate and eating the free breakfast offered at my morning job:

Oh hai, empty carbs!

Not because it's good or I like it, but because it means less work for me in the morning. (Key, because this job has me getting up a bit earlier than I'm used to.)

So yeah. Between all these things, it's been kind of hard to get excited about PrideRun this Saturday. It's gone from no-pressure-almost-a-fun-run to dear-Jesus-just-please-don't-let-me-embarrass-myself. In the end, though, it's for a good cause, and, hey, at least it means I'm guaranteed to get in 3-4 miles this week, so I'll probably still do it

Besides, taking a little break this might not have been the worst idea I ever had. In the last few months, I've started having weird pain in my heels. It started in the right, around the sides (ie, if I put my index finger & thumb around the back of my heel & squeezed, it felt tender), then gradually appeared in the left as well. My first association when it comes to heel pain is always plantar fasciitis, but I've never had it before and everything I've ever heard/read about that has described the pain as more on the bottom of the heel, towards the arch. The only other thing I could find that sounded even remotely plausible was a calcaneous stress fracture, but stress fractures are generally MUCH more painful that this and don't show up symmetrically, so I dismissed that pretty quickly & just kind of hoped the pain would just go away on its own. (Hey, sometimes it really does.)

But in recent weeks, it hasn't gone away. The pain in the right heel is still there but much milder than it used to be, while the left has gotten much worse. Also, the pain has worked its way down from the sides of my heel to underneath it, which brought me back to the possibility of PF. But again, everything I've read about it says the pain is usually more towards the arch and sometimes up into the arch, and mine isn't at all. It's mostly on the outer edges of the heel part of my sole, with some tenderness right in the middle. After 9 days off, they feel a little better, but the pain is still distinctly there even just walking.

So that's kind of where things stand. Part of the trouble with the last week was that I was trying to juggle four jobs simultaneously, but now that one of them is done, I'll hopefully be able to get at least *some* amount of running in this week. I mean, it would be good if I showed up to PrideRun actually remembering how to run a 5K, right?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Shoe Box Graveyard

So, about two months ago I spent probably a grand total of 16 hours cleaning/de-cluttering/organizing my bedroom. How and why is a whole other post (which I may do at some point), but at the end of this whole process I found myself with an amazingly clean and well-organized bedroom, about eight bags of stuff to take to Goodwill, and a giant stack of shoe boxes I didn't need. (This was after re-purposing maybe half a dozen for storing tools, spare kitchen utensils, stacks of non-digital pictures, closet shelving, etc.)

I had hoped I could foist at least some of them off on my friends. No such luck. It would appear my friends all have plenty of shoe boxes of their own for storing tools and pictures and such, thank you very much. I can't bring myself to toss them all into the recycling, so I decided to ask the Internet. The Internet knows everything, after all.

Of course, I should have anticipated that the first 57 suggestions would all involve making dioramas. I had a bad experience with a diorama in the third grade, so I revised my strategy:

The results were shall we say interesting at the very least. Without further ado, I give you some suggestions for what to do with old shoe boxes.

Suggestion 1. Make a duct tape suitcase.

Please don't ask me to explain what you're supposed to do with a duct tape suitcase once you've got it. I would not know as I have real suitcases that I purchased in a store.

Suggestion 2. Make a ribbon storage box / dispenser. I do not have a lot of ribbon that needs storing, but I have to say this is one of the more useful / non-crazy sounding ideas.

Suggestion 3. Make a scanner to digitize your old negatives. This seems legit, but hard and complicated. Also I am probably not hip enough to do this.

Suggestion 4. Keeping with the multimedia theme, make a DIY "film projector" using old comic books.

Points for creativity, but I am maybe less excited about this project because we already have a "film projector" of sorts, which we call a blue ray player. Only instead of old cut-up comic books, it plays actual movies, purchased from a store / reputable internet purveyor.

Suggestion 5. Make a shoe box & rubber band guitar. I suppose if you have small children maybe this is a reasonable idea but as I barely touch the actual non-shoe box guitar I have, I can't imagine creating one with rubber bands is really going to solve my problem. Instead of a stack of old shoe boxes, I would probably just have a stack of shoe box guitars.

"The shoe box guitar belongs to the string family." True fact; I have a music degree so I would know.

Suggestion 6. Build a whirligig. (Bonus points if you knew what a whirligig was without looking up. I didn't.)

Alas I do not possess the patience to build a whirligig. Also I am not sure what one does with a whirligig.

And finally, the coup de grace of shoe box crafts...

Suggestion 7. Make a whelping box.

That's right. If all else fails, try to find some small animals about to give birth, and let them give birth your shoe boxes.

If you are unable to find an animal small enough to fit in your shoe box, try to find one whose babies will fit. You can then put the new ones in the shoe box as they come out.

(I am not making this up. This was an actual suggestion from a real person about what to do with old shoe boxes.)

* * *

I hope you've learned an important lesson today, and that is that there is nothing funny about having a bunch of leftover shoe boxes that no one wants. In my desperate internet searches for uses for the damned things, I ran across a suggestion from one woman, which was to kindly ask your shoe retailer to keep the box themselves and only take your shoes home, thereby making it their problem and not yours. This is a great idea for shoes purchased in person which I will probably attempt at some point, but I still buy shoes online often enough that this still won't solve all my shoe box-related troubles.

Now, I will ask you some questions in bold Italics, designed to draw your attention to them. Sorry for the cliché, but I really want you to give me your answers. (Like really.)

  • Do you often find yourself with an abundance of unwanted shoe boxes? What do you do with them?
  • Have you ever made a whelping box or a whirligig, either with a shoe box or some other type of found materials? Do you often find yourself in need of whelping boxes & whirligigs?
  • Do you make your shoe retailers keep their own damned boxes?
  • What am I missing here about the duct tape suitcase?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mistakes May Have Been Made.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?
See, here's the problem with setting a hard core mileage goal & then having your run foiled twice in two days. It makes you reckless. You get all GOD-DAMN-IT-I-am-getting-a-GOD-DAMN-RUN-IN-if-I-have-to-FREAKING-MURDER-SOMEBODY. You make poor decisions and justify them at the time by telling yourself that you are being hard core and boss-like.

After having feet too achey to run on Sunday & then not having a spare second on Monday except to pee, I spent Tuesday morning looking down the barrel of my week and feeling a little disheartened by how hard I was going to have to work to fit my runs in. So when I got home that evening, I immediately threw on running clothes. I wanted to run 10 miles, totally felt like running 10 miles, & was fully prepared to just get it done & make a big fat deposit into the First National Bank of Mileage.

In retrospect, I blame the Garmin. That bitch looked for satellites for nigh on fifteen minutes. I restarted it four times, and every time, the little bar rapidly filled to 99.9% & froze. At the height of my frustration, just as I was about to say screw it & go without, it *finally* locked in & I headed off. Only a few seconds later, I realized I'd forgotten to take my inhaler before I left. Ordinarily I would have gone back, but I was too irritated, and hell if I was going to wait for the damn watch to pick up satellites again.

Less than half a mile later, I knew I'd made a mistake. In retrospect, the most logical course of action would have been to jog back, take my inhaler, then do a 4.5 out-and-back. But noooOOOOOooo. I was all, "I'm hard core. I don't let dumb little things like oxygen deprivation get in my way. I've lost track of the number of runs I've finished with asthma. I ran a freaking MARATHON with an asthma attack. Going back for asthma medicine is for pussies."

But it kept getting worse.

Mile 1: "You know, there's really nothing wrong with 8 miles. 8 miles is still good."

Mile 1.5: "Or 7. 7 is completely respectable."

Mile 1.75: "Okay, this is actually kind of bad...Maybe we should just turn around at 2? That would be the smart thing to do."

Mile 2: "Ehh, what's one more mile? Then we'll turn around. We can make it through 6; NBD."

Now, here is the thing about running a lot, and pushing your body really hard, and getting mentally good at ignoring physical suffering. That is all fine and good when it's just your body being like "Ughhhhh, this is HAAAAARD...." But it turns out that this is a double-edged sword that actually works on serious physiological problems that you should probably be paying attention to. Not being able to breathe, for example. I just kept running & being all, "Hey, no big deal. We've done this before. Just slow down a little. It'll be over before you know it."

During that third mile, I repeatedly found myself thinking things like, "WOW, this is hard. Ugh. This feels TERRIBLE," and "I would really, really, REALLY like to stop running now." The problem is that I've had those thoughts so, so, *SO* uncountably many times while running that they don't really mean anything anymore. When normal people have thoughts like these, they stop what they're doing. Athletes used to enduring reasonably significant suffering on a regular basis, not so much.

It was as I approached the turnaround at the end of the Panhandle that it started to get really bad. I found myself feeling lightheaded, which has never happened before when running with asthma. I started having waves of nausea and feeling like I was about to throw up. I'd be like, "Okay, when you get to that stop light, you can walk." But then the light would turn red, and I would get a few seconds to rest, & then I'd be like, "Nevermind, I'm all good now." Even though at that point I was very, very far from good. The lightheadedness got worse. The nausea got worse. My legs felt wobbly & I couldn't control my foot strikes, so that the impact of every elephantine step made everything that much worse.

Not long after that, I finally reached the point where the magnitude of my suffering outweighed my mental ability to lie to myself about it. That was the point where

  • If I'd been on a treadmill, I would have stopped.
  • If I'd been less than a mile from home, I would have walked the rest of the way.
  • If I'd had my phone, I would have called Don to come get me.

But I wasn't, and I didn't, and frankly being without my inhaler for the amount of time it would take me to walk 2.5 miles home seemed scarier than trying to keep running. So the rest of the trip home became a delicate balancing act wherein I would walk a couple of minutes until I felt like I wasn't about to die, jog until I was legitimately afraid I might pass out and/or puke, wash/rinse/repeat. This was also when I first noticed that I was having trouble swallowing.

By the time I was a mile from home, I was truly worried about not making it & started considering going into a cafe or coffee shop & asking to borrow their phone. Ultimately I pressed on & finished with 5.7 miles of actual running. Which, for what is definitely in the running for the honor of Worst Run Ever-Ever-Ever in 20 years of running, is not too shabby. I stumbled inside, fumbled with my inhaler, satisfied myself that I could in fact move air in & out of my lungs again, & grabbed my shower towel. My hands were shaking, my stomach was cramping up, and I was still having trouble swallowing. This concerned me a bit, being not typically symptoms of asthma.

After I turned on the water, I noticed that my bottom lip felt kind of swollen, like I'd bitten it really hard. Once in the shower, my thought processes went more or less like this:

"Wow, my legs are really itchy. And my shoulders too."

"Um. My lip is really swollen. Also my top lip feels kind of funny."

"Whoah, there, heart rate! Take it down a notch."

"My face feels like a balloon."

"I can't feel my tongue."

So you can imagine what all this did for the feeling of relief I'd gotten once I could breathe again. Once out of the shower, I confirmed that, yes, my face was definitely swollen. I still couldn't swallow well, my heart was still racing, and I was having trouble catching my breath (which is not the same thing as asthma). Also, this is about when every square inch of skin on my body started to feel as if I'd fallen into a bed of stinging nettle. (I know how this feels because I actually did it once.)

At this point I was having trouble staying vertical. Don got home from work right about the time I got out of the shower; our conversation basically went like this.

Don: "Hello!"

Me, kind of frantic & basically in tears: "Something is really wrong with me."

Don: "Um, yes, but which thing were you thinking of?"

Me: "No, really. Something is really, really wrong. My face is all swollen and everything itches and my heart is going really fast and I can't swallow--"

Don: "Um--"


Don: "Um. Why don't you put real clothes on."

So I did. In the process I discovered that most of my body was covered in tiny red whelps.

This did not improve my affect. If you are familiar with my general terror of all things health problem related, you can probably understand why.

For a while I sat curled up on the couch, had a massive little freak out, tried not to scratch my skin off, and frantically debated the pros and cons of possibly doing something medically responsible like going to the emergency room or at least calling my doctor.

Me, utterly terrified: "Am I going to die?"

Don: "Pretty sure no, but all the same, maybe you just stay there on the couch."

Me, weeping softly about the possibility of my life being epically, tragically cut short: "Okay..."

Poor Don, I thought. You can't bring yourself to accept the fact that your girlfriend is about to epically, tragically die. Now you'll be all alone in the world.

In the words of Miss Ally Brosh:

Long story short, we reasoned that I was clearly having some kind of allergic reaction. To what was kind of a mystery. I have no known allergies, I hadn't eaten anything weird, been bitten or stung by anything, or really been in any kind of contact with anything even remotely unusual. Being the more sane and rational one at that particular moment, Don fed me Benedryl, decided I did not in fact seem as if my life were in danger, went to work in the garden, and instructed me to come get him if things got any worse (ie, it seemed like I might really, actually die).

And you know what you do when you have a health issue and are left alone on the couch in arm's reach of the internet.

I learned that I was either dying of cancer, about to go into anaphylactic shock, or suffering from MSG poisoning.

Or, I was having this:

Pretty freaky, no?

As expected, all the symptoms went away within a couple of hours and I've since felt normal. I am 99% sure that I don't have one of the chronic cases they're talking about, as this is the first time I've ever happened to me. Yes, I've run through pain and suffering and even asthma, but this was really the worst I can ever remember it being. This was the first time that I pushed it that far, that I really got to a place during the run where I was actually concerned about my health. I'm guessing that the physical stress combined with the additional stress of worrying about it was enough to set off the weird parasympathetic histamine reaction, and then taking a hot shower made it worse.

Still. I'm just warning you that if I turn out to be one of those chronic people, I am going to be all kinds of royally pissed off as I *really* don't need another obstacle to make running difficult for me.

I mean, can you imagine? Being allergic to running?

I gotta tell ya; if it comes to that, I may just throw in the towel. That is a Sign from the Gods if ever I heard of one.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Week in Review: May 28 - June 3

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

3 weeks to SF Pride Run 5K

9 weeks to Summer Breeze 10K

12 weeks to Santa Rosa Half Marathon

Grand Total: 34 miles

* 14 easy
* 4 HM pace
* 16 hiking

This week was a little bit of an anomaly because it is the first time I have ever counted something other than actual, literal running towards my mileage total. I hadn't planned on doing that all, but some of the hikes we did were really, REALLY hard! Obviously training was not the point of the trip (or something I was at all concerned about, actually), but I feel certain that the aerobic benefit was at least equal to what I would have gotten from running the same number of miles at an easy pace. Probably more in some cases. The actual number of miles we hiked was more than this, but I only counted the ones where I really struggled & had to work hard.

Monday: 2 wu + 4 @ HM pace + 2 easy = 8. Wanted to get a quality run in before heading to Yosemite. Felt okay but not great. 7:48, 7:40, 7:38, 7:23 for the HM splits.

Tuesday: 4 mile hike up to Vernal Falls & back. I always forget how hard hiking is until I'm doing it. I'm like, "Pffftt, 4 miles. 4 miles is NOTHING!" and "Hills? Bitch, please. I eat hills for breakfast." Then I go on a really tough hike. And then I'm like, "Oh, holy Jesus. Just freaking kill me now." If they're strenuous hiking miles, 4 miles can be srsbsns. Also, holy altitude!!! Curse my sea level lifestyle.

Totally worn out by the time we got to the falls. We were also trying to keep up a good clip because it was getting dark, which made it even tougher.

Wednesday: 7 mile hike to Upper Yosemite Falls & back. Holy BALLS, this was a tough climb. And I've hiked the Harding Ice Field in Alaska. While the top half was still covered in snow.

At the top of Exit Glacier; Harding Ice Field, Seward, Alaska. I know a thing or two about challenging hikes.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the first two miles of this hike were harder than running a marathon. The last 1,000 feet up to the top might've been harder than two marathons. (I think the unusually extreme heat & the elevation were probably mostly to blame for this. Otherwise it might have only been as hard as, like, 1.5 marathons. I like the idea of using marathons as a unit of physical difficulty.) Don keeps trying to convince me to hike Half Dome with him (which he did with friends several years back), but frankly I am not convinced that that particular trek is for me.

Top of the Upper Falls. Worth it, but sooooo hard. Also, HOT.

Also, these fools are crazy. Just *crazy*.

Thursday: 5 mile hike around Mariposa Sequoia Grove. We did several smaller hikes on Thursday, but this was the only one I felt was strenuous enough to count as mileage. I had *no idea* it was going to be as steep and hike-y as it was.

Friday: 2 wu + 3 x 10:00 @ 10KP + 2 easy Recover from aforementioned hiking. As of Thursday evening, my calves were officially hamburger meat. Other parts of me weren't doing so great, either. I couldn't have run a step if I'd wanted to.

Saturday: 10 easy. By Saturday afternoon I was really itching for a solid run, and also wanted to take these bad boys for a spin. It felt great, but I think it was probably a little too much, too soon for my hiking-busted feet. I'd planned on another short, 5-6 mile run on Sunday, but my feet were just too sore & achey. I decided it was probably smarter to switch my Sunday run & Monday rest day.

So, you know. Respectable.

Other things I accomplished this week include signing up for the Santa Rosa & Healdsburg Wine Country half marathons, so both of those are officially on the calendar. June is going to be kind of my "base-building" month before I start training for Santa Rosa. I'm still planning on throwing in some faster paced miles here & there just to keep my turnover in good shape, but mostly want to just focus on getting lots & lots of miles in without worrying about formally scheduling track sessions / tempo runs / etc. The goal for June is 200 miles. This will be the most miles I've run in a month in a looooong time, so please nag me & help hold me accountable!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen

(Do you remember that song, btw? I do because I actually was Class of '99. Was it not so embarrassingly fake-deep and horrible that you shuddered and had to change the station every time it came on? I'm pretty sure the only good thing that came of it was Chris Rock's parody "No Sex in the Champagne Room.")

So Runner's World posted this article recently that had to do with wearing sunscreen when you run outdoors. In the article, it said that a 2005 study reported that 85% of outdoor athletes didn't use sunscreen at all.

WHAT??? Seriously??

This was as flat-out unbelievable to me as when I heard that the average American wedding cost $28,000. (Then I talked to a bunch of my recently wedded friends who all shrugged & were like, "Sounds about right." I guess we're having cocktail weenies for dinner at my wedding.)

I mean yes, I know that there will always be people who for whatever reason refuse to take basic health/safety precautions no matter how quick and easy they are (ie seat belts, bike helmets, etc.). But I really expected this number to be more in the 15-20% range. 85%, not just of average people, but outdoor athletes, don't use sunscreen at all?

The mind boggles. Or mine does at least.

So this is my mama hen sunscreen post, on the off chance that any of the seven people who read my blog are among that 85%.

Now, you may be asking, "What makes YOU such a smarty-smarterson about sunscreen?" A fair question. Nothing super-formal, I'll admit; the majority my knowledge of all things sunscreen / skin damage comes from a few sources:

  • Truly ludicrous levels of paranoia. I do this about most things health-related. Sometimes I can't sleep at night because I think about all the different types of cancer in the world and I feel sure that statistically one of them must be eating me from the inside out & I won't know about it until it's too late. Skin cancer, on the other hand, seems like something I can actually do something about and mostly prevent with enough vigilance. So I've done a lot of anxiety-driven research on my own
  • I have some nasty skin allergies, which has resulted in learning a lot about skin care in general from doctors / allergists / the internet. Some of that is relevant to sunscreen use.
  • Don has a chemist friend from school who started his own organic skin care business some years ago, and he has educated us both substantially, particularly around sunscreen & skin damage. We use a lot of his products, which are especially good for me given my super sensitive skin. Also they are apparently in Whole Foods now, which is exciting!

Running & Sunscreen

(You can probably skip this part if it is painfully obvious to you why you should slather yourself in sunscreen before running outdoors.)

There are nearly 1,000,000 new cases of skin cancer and 60,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year. Statistically, probably a lot of those people spend more time outdoors than average. But plenty of them, like most people, are folks who get the bulk of their sun exposure casually, while out running errands, driving, etc. Contrary to what a lot of people think, you don't have to be a sun worshiper to develop skin cancer. The cumulative effects of normal exposure over time are absolutely linked to melanoma and other forms of the disease. Even people who spend most of their time indoors can be at risk if they don't wear sunscreen regularly when they are out.

As runners, most of us spend many additional hours out in the sun every week, putting us at an elevated risk. (Those of us running between 10am - 4pm have it the worst.) Deena Kastor once wrote on her blog that in six years of dermatologist visits, she had only walked out of the office once without having some form of cancer biopsied or removed. (Deena has extra-fair skin & so has been in the habit of getting regular skin cancer screenings.) Sweating makes us even more susceptible to UV rays. An Australian study also found marathoners to be at higher risk for "atypical moles, age spots, and other lesions that increase the risk of developing skin cancer."

Choosing a Sunscreen

Come down to it, sunscreen is a little like birth control -- whatever you're most likely to use consistently is the best, and something is better than nothing. That said, they're not all created equal. When you shop for sunscreen, look for...

Broad spectrum. UV rays come in two flavors, UVA & UVB. Look for one that protects against both. UVB causes sunburn; UVA causes premature wrinkles / aging. Both play a role in the development of skin cancer. These days more and more screens are broad spectrum, but it's still smart to double check before you buy.

SPF 20-30. SPF or Sun Protection Factor is a measure of the amount of UV your skin absorbs. For example, wearing SPF 15 means that your skin will absorb 1/15th (or 6.7%) of what it would absorb without any sunscreen at all, so 93.3% of UV rays are blocked. SPF 30 means your skin absorbs 1/30th or 3.3% of what it would bare, meaning 96.7% of rays are blocked. Most dermatologists say that if you apply SPF 20-30 correctly and re-apply as necessary, you're doing just fine. Yes, SPF 50 and 60 screens are out there, but since the functional difference between blocking 96.7% of UV rays and 98% is negligible, this is usually more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. In fact, SPF factors this high can actually cause people to suffer more skin damage sometimes by giving them a false sense of extra security (so they apply less, re-apply less often, etc.).

Here is a graph from Erik's site that shows SPF vs UV rays blocked:

Look for a physical sunscreen. Sunscreens come in two types: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens sit on the top layer of your skin and deflect or block the sun's rays. Chemical ones actually bond chemically with your skin and absorb rays. (Some chemical filters do some amount of scattering, but mostly it's just absorption/filtering.) You want the physical ones. Once physical sunscreen is on your skin, it is effective until it is removed (by washing, sweating, rubbing/toweling off, etc.). Because absorbing UV rays breaks down chemical sunscreens, they must be re-applied periodically, even if they haven't come off.

Chemical sunscreens are also more likely to irritate skin & cause allergic reactions, and (ironically) some generate free radicals which can actually cause UVA sensitivity and skin damage (PABA was one, but the jury's still out on several others that are still in use). Some (like oxybenzone) are endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen, which can have all kinds of nasty effects. Finally, physical sunscreens are more environmentally friendly because they are basically inert, whereas some ingredients in chemical ones (cinnimate, benzophenone, parabens, and camphor derivatives, mainly) have been found to harm ocean life, particularly coral.

Determining whether a sunscreen is a physical one is quite easy, since there really are only two. Under 'active ingredients,' look for Titanium dioxide (TiO2) or Zinc oxide (ZnO). Common chemical screens include avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone, and uvinul, but if it's not TiO2 or ZnO, it's a chemical screen. Zinc oxide is preferable because it offers broad spectrum protection on its own, whereas Titanium dioxide protects mainly against UVB rays and needs to be paired with a chemical like mexoryl, helioplex, or avobenzone in order to provide UVA protection.

Green Screen (zinc oxide) with a bit of bronzer (powder) on top. Look ma, no ghostly white film!
Some people don't like to use physical sunscreens because they tend to be thick, harder to wash off, and due to the white color of the active ingredients, can give you kind of a ghostly-white pallor. (Chemical screens can be thinner, invisible, and more lotion-like.) However, physical screens with various shades of skin-colored tinting are becoming more popular. Erik's company makes a tinted one which is my go-to screen, and although on its own it can still make me look a little paler than, for example, tinted moisturizer, it looks pretty decent with a little powder or bronzer on top. (Obviously I don't bother with that when I'm just going out for a run, but at, say, a picnic or BBQ, this works great in place of actual make-up.) They also now have one made to match darker skin tones.

Avoid carcinogens, neurotoxins, & endocrine disruptors. This is less about sun protection & more about keeping nasty substances out of your body. Some of the most common ones you want to steer clear of include oxybenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, PEGs / polyethylene / polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, retinyl palmitate, quaternium-15, triethanolamine, diazolidinyl urea, methylparaben / propylparaben, disodium EDTA, & anything with the generic ingredient 'fragrance.' Looking into why these chemicals are maybe not things you want to be smearing all over your skin is left as an exercise for the reader as that is a whole other bucket of worms.

Applying Sunscren

Did you know most people do it wrong? This is something else I learned from Erik.

Every day, year round. Yes, UVB rays (which cause burning) are strongest during the summer and in the middle of the day. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if you're not at risk of burning, you're not accumulating UV exposure, though. UVA rays (the wrinkle/aging rays) are present all day and year-round, even on cold or cloudy days. Even 10 minutes of UVA exposure a day can cause significant damage in as little as 12 weeks. Most of us get that simply running our daily errands. Yes, it's an extra step in your morning, but it's such a small trade off to make in terms of your health & peace of mind (just ask Deena Kastor).

2 tablespoons, head to toe, & 1 teaspoon for your face. One of the main problems with sunscreen is that people generally don't use enough. If you're using SPF 30 and you spread it on too thin, you can end up only getting SPF 5-6 protection. So don't be shy! Apply liberally. You'll go through it faster, but again, it's such a small price to pay.

Be thorough. Most of us are pretty good about slathering up our faces, backs, chests, and shoulders. Don't forget commonly overlooked areas like ears, forehead, backs of hands & arms, lower legs, and lips (I have Erik's SPF lip balm, which I need to be better about remembering to use).

Apply chemical screens 15-20 minutes before exposure. Because physical screens sit on top of the skin and actually block UV rays, they are effective immediately. Chemical screens must bond with your skin before they are effective, though, so they will not offer protection until 15-20 minutes after you put them on.

Reapply, reapply, reapply. If you're doing something relatively tame, not sweating, and not touching your skin, a physical sunscreen will last you all day. The reality is, though, that we're active, we sweat, touch our faces, wipe/towel off our skin, etc. Some sunscreens are water/sweat resistant, meaning they retain their UV protection when wet, but there is no such thing as water/sweat PROOF sunscreen, and in fact as of June 2011 the FDA does not allow sunscreens sold in the US to be labeled as such. Even so, as soon as you wipe or towel off, all bets are off.

Pre-2011 sunscreens I have stopped using because of the many possible carcinogens / neurotoxins / endocrine disruptors they contain.

Reapplying at least once every two hours is recommended; when I am running and sweating a lot I probably reapply more like every half hour or so, but as I mentioned, I am super paranoid about these things. (I know this can be tricky with running -- I'm better about reapplying when I'm at the track & I can just dump my bag in the stands, but if I'm going on a longer run, I try to do loops past my house or car where I can reapply, or carry a travel-size bottle with me. Erik makes 1 oz bottles that are perfect for this. At this point he should probably be paying me for this post, don't you think? ;) )

If you're using a chemical sunscreen, reapply every 1-2 hours no matter what, because the protection will break down as it absorbs UV rays, even without wiping/toweling/etc. Also do your best to dry your skin before reapplying -- both physical & chemical screens are more effective on dry skin, but chemical screens in particular really need skin to be dry in order to bond with it.

Consider applying under clothes. Many people erroneously believe that clothing protects your skin like sunscreen. Generally it doesn't; a light-colored shirt, for example, probably offers ~SPF 5 protection. If you're going on a sunny run and you aren't wearing SPF-rated clothing (which is AWESOME, by the way!), applying underneath is a smart move. (The RW article I mentioned up top talked about a guy who used to never wear sunscreen, got skin cancer, & now religiously wears sunscreen under his clothes every day.)

A Few More Tips

Personally, I think wearing a good sunscreen regularly & applying it correctly is a HUGE step in terms of sun protection. But there are even more things you can do if you're so inclined.

Sun protective duds. I love this stuff! I will admit to not having a ton of it, but still. I love that it exists. I just did a quick google search & found this, this, and this.

Wear a hat. Exposed parts of the scalp are another oft-overlooked spot when it comes to sun damage. Wearing a hat is easier than sunscreening your part! A hat with a visor will also provide additional protection for your face.

Avoid peak UV hours. Those of us who are not professional runners don't always have a ton of flexibility about when we run, but if you're able, try to run before 10am or after 4pm in the summer when UVB rays are at their worst.

Wear sunglasses. It's not your skin, but UV rays can still damage eyes and even cause cataracts.

Alright -- I am done nagging you for the day. Go forth and run (or whatever) in health!!