Anybody who follows my blog, even if you have only ever read the title, knows that I am more about the process than the outcome. I am all about the effort, and very little about the gear. Not sure if it was my modest upbringing on the rugged east coast of Nova Scotia, where—twenty years before the invention of good trail shoes– I used to have to layer plastic bags in my running shoes in the winter in order to keep my feet warm while jumping snowbanks, or simply the fact that to be a lifelong athlete, you have to—at some point—get over the need to win every race and accept that the journey is the goal.
Sport was very much an emotional process for me: I am used to digging deep, going beyond the necessary effort and finding some true grit inside. Proving every time I went out the door that I had 110% to give…that seems to have been my mantra for many years. I once wrote in my journal “Transcendent moments in sport seem to be effortless, yet without years of diligent effort, they can’t happen.”
I wrote that apparently, after reading a quote by Ken Ravizza in Andrew Cooper’s book “Playing in the Zone”…”Transcendent moments in sport seem mystical and difficult to duplicate at will…you can only prepare the ground for it to happen. Enlightenment is an accident, but some activities make you accident prone.”
If that is the truth, then that’s probably why I still run and race. These small accidents of enlightenment keep on happening. And it’s not always an elegant process.
Recently I had go into this huge Rubbermaid bin, to haul out all my journals in order to find some fact verification about the 2001 World Duathlon Championships. This was a race that took place less than a week after the events of 9/11, and in fact Lance and I were in a jet, in the air over Italy and about to land in Bologna, when the twin towers were hit. The week’s events are a blur, not only because of the ensuing blanket of emotional grief and collective shock, but because of the jet lag and being up all night with an 18 month baby coupled with the concentrated nervousness of getting ready for a World Championships that was put on hold for 48 hours. Needless to say some of the facts of the week are a little fuzzy in my mind, even the part where I showed up in transition the morning of the race and the official noticed a crack in my helmet and told me I had to find a new one…one hour before the race was to start. I sort of remember running back to the little hotel, bursting into the breakfast room where the age groupers that had races the day before were relaxing over coffee and toast and asking very loudly if anybody could lend me a helmet. I found one, it fit ok. I was allowed into transition. Not elegant.
I actually haven’t found the journal of 2001 yet so I didn’t get to check these facts out, but it did get me to thinking about things I actually love, things that make my sport easier, better, more enjoyable. Concrete material objects. Yes, my journals are one thing.
In Pursuit of Excellence, by Terry Orlick. I love this book, partly because Terry Orlick is a Canadian and a brilliant sport psychologist, and because it is so readable. This was the first sport psychology book I ever owned, and I am not sure where the original copy is because Lance and I loaned it out so many times. I have the new edition. I loved it as a young athlete: it really helped me organize and use my mental capabilities as an athlete to a great degree.
I have been sponsored by New Balance for a couple of year now, and have settled into my new favourite running shoes, hands down the 890 Barringer/REVlite. I love this shoe. It is lightweight enough to race in, and well, I race in it, run base in it, run tempo in it, run track in it, and wear it around with my jeans. The 890 is an awesome shoe if you are into a lightweight neutral shoe with a minimal but highly responsive cushioning and a great ground feel. I can’t describe it any other way, but I love a shoe that feels both a little cushioned (but not squishy) and well behaved in the movement department. The new REVlite midsole are responsible for the lack of heft; it’s sort of like wearing low profile tires on your feet. Just enough tread to get around corners super fast but with lots of room for feel. New Balance has produced the shoe in lots of awesome colours too, which is just plain fun. OK, so I do love the cross country spikes and racing flats too….
I also love my PowerBar sponsorship. I have been sponsored by PowerBar since 1996 which is a fairly long time in the world of sport and I think that it just goes to show that community and partnerships can be strengthened and built over time. I can’t imagine training and racing without PowerBar gels and sport bars. How many times have these little bursts of energy saved me, saved a training day or a race? And more importantly, I distinctly remember training before PowerBar came along. I would honestly die in the last hour of every single session, or I would be dizzy and lightheaded from lack of calories. It’s amazing really, how much that small package of nutrition has done for my training. PowerBar is as much a staple of my athletic lifestyle as my shoes and my bike.
Now, I know that not just a few runners and triathlete really like compression garments. I wear compression socks when I travel but they have never really done anything for me in training or racing. Maybe I am just too tame to be seen wearing long pink socks in a race, or my claves are too puny for it to make any difference. Back in my twenties, I used to wear the same pair of lucky underwear every time I raced so I can understand the psychological pull of compression socks.
But recently I did try a new compression garment. A company called Intelliskin asked me to try out their new sports bra: the IntelliSkin’s Empower PosturecueÔ Sports Bra.
Posture and efficiency are closely linked in distance running. Having the correct posture helps you run tall and with improved biomechanical efficiency: this reduces fatigue over the course of a long run. The longer you can run, well, the faster you will go and your chances of injury are reduced.
I am happy with this product for 2 reasons: it has great functionality as a posture supporter and for cueing me to running tall and well and it works great as a running bra. Not all sports bras make great running bras…running is a highly dynamic activity with lots of arm, torso and shoulder movement. You need a comfortable sport bra that fits well without binding, chafing or constricting.
What I really liked about it though was the support it offers for posture and keeping the shoulders back while running, thereby reducing neck strain and overall fatigue. Throughout my training runs I was reminded to run tall and relaxed, two cues that create optimal biomechanics for running fast. You can look at it here:
This garment would be a great support to wear while travelling or while working at the computer, helping cue to correct posture and reducing the fatigue of sitting.
Of course, now that I have started there are a gazillion other things–material and emotional–that I love about running and triathlon. My Blue bike, coffee, muffins, chocolate, finishing a hard session, funny posts from the athletic community on facebook, getting muddy and wet, having a shower after getting all muddy and wet, and the smell of grass, travelling, poetry.
For now, I will leave you with this other not-quite-a-poem I found in my journals when I didn’t find what I was looking for:
A journey taken spontaneously,
Started when there didn’t seem to be a choice to NOT run
Running found me, seeped into my bones one year
And spread itself up into my heart.
What’s on your list?