Review: LEGEND Compression Performance Socks

Well, hello again! I will spare you from my now traditional opening paragraph of blogger shame – it would say basically the same as my last post, so if you feel the urge, you can read that one – in the interest of just getting on with it. Shall we?

Disclaimer: I received a free pair of LEGEND compression socks as part of being a LEGEND Ambassador. This review was not solicited, and opinions are my own.

I’ve been dabbling with compression socks/sleeves for a while, ever since my first major attack of the shin splints a few summers ago. I didn’t have a lot of luck with the sleeves – they didn’t really seem to help much – but the socks seemed to do the trick. Thanks to a few grab bag clearance sales at ProCompression, I was able to get a few pairs for much cheaper than the usual going rate ($50 per pair), and rocked them at various races:

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Marvel at my MS Paint skillz!

While I enjoyed the funky designs (especially the shamrock ones!) and the fact that wearing them helped my shins feel like they weren’t about to eject themselves painfully from my calves, I found that I couldn’t wear the socks for very long, as the elastic band at the top would start squeezing me uncomfortably. Then, the one time I tried to wear them for recovery, I had to pull them off in a slight panic (no easy feat, as compression socks are no joke to get on and off!) after an hour or so, as my legs started feeling a bit tingly like the circulation was getting cut off.

I didn’t bother to experiment with other compression brands, given the steep price tag of all the products, and just assumed that if I wanted to rock compression socks, I’d have to make sure I didn’t wear them for too long.

When LEGEND contacted me about becoming an ambassador this past summer, I was intrigued. For one, it meant a free pair of socks, which meant I could give compression socks a go again without breaking the bank (hooray!). For another, their slogan of “Right not Tight” made me think that perhaps I could get the benefits of compression without the loss-of-circulation feeling and squeezy sensation under my knee. I opted to try out a pair of their Performance Socks, and eagerly awaited mail day.

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Mail day! I love this color.

When the socks arrived, I tried them on right away and wandered around my house in them for a while. They were slower than your average socks to pull on – just like other compression socks I’ve tried – but once they were on, they were so comfortable. I didn’t feel squeezy at all. But, to be fair, this was just a trial run in my house… the real test would come later!

Okay, quick break from my personal tale to share the deets of these socks from the LEGEND site:

LEGEND® Compression Performance socks are designed for all sporting activities to enhance power and endurance while supporting the shin, ankle, achilles, calf and arch of the foot. The product design and manufacturing process of our sports compression socks make them among the best performing socks on the planet. These sports compression socks were developed through extensive research in the compression industry. These socks are unique because they implement design aspects that our LEGEND® team pulled from its years of experience with medical grade compression products. By applying those medical learnings to our Compression Performance Socks, we were able to create a graduated compression product that we believe is the best on the market. Featuring 15-20 mmHg of graduated compression it provides everything you need to perform at your best.

KEY FEATURES AND BENEFITS:

  • 15-20 mmHg Graduated Compression for improved athletic performance
  • Compression Performance socks for all sports
  • Greater power output
  • Enhanced Endurance
  • Faster Muscle Warm Up Pre-exercise
  • Increase oxygen levels and blood circulation
  • Faster recovery time
  • Seamless toe and terry sole construction
  • Promotes circulation for muscle performance
  • Reduction of lactic acid
  • Improve muscle support and injury prevention
  • UV protection
  • Moisture wicking
  • Achilles and arch support
  • Open ventilation and breathable design for comfort

(There’s a whole bunch more information on the website that I won’t copy here, but if you’re curious, check it out!)

Test #1:

So, with promises of these socks providing “greater power output,” “increased endurance,” “decreased shin splints and calf cramps,” and “improved recovery time,” I put them to their first real test at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K. I hadn’t run a lot before that race, and I didn’t really warm up at all due to my desire to be social rather than a responsible runner, and these things are usually a recipe for shin splints, sore calves, and DOMS in my legs for a few days after the fact.

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How were they? Well, I’ll refrain from calling them miracle socks for fear of hyperbole, but, reader, they were awesome. I put them on around 5am, stood around in them for quite a while before the race, ran in them for an hour and 20 minutes, sat around in them for at least an hour, then walked another 2 miles in them before taking them off. All told, I’d had them on for probably 7 hours. And there was absolutely no squeezy or loss-of-circulation feelings. My legs felt totally fine. I had no blisters (full disclosure: I did Body Glide my toes before the race). My legs weren’t even that sweaty, considering the socks are long.

But maybe the best part? Remember how I said I hadn’t warmed up at all before the race? When I neglect to warm up, I usually spend the first mile of a race battling shin splints before they calm down. I had zero shin splints at B2B. My calves felt fine. And I had absolutely no residual soreness in my legs at all afterward… not that afternoon, not the next day, etc. It was weird (for me), and I liked it.

Test #2:

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In case B2B had been a fluke, I figured I should test the socks in another race before reviewing them. Fast forward a month to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K. Once again, I donned the socks early, wearing them for a while before running for an hour and a quarter, then stood around/rode the Tube in them. And again, no discomfort or squeeziness. And, once again, despite my not having run in the month between races as well as doing a paltry warm-up, my legs felt fresh after the race and didn’t get sore at all. (I had been a little worried about DOMS given that I had two flights home the day after the race, but my legs felt totally fine!)

Test #3:

(This was a bonus test, since I got lazy with blogging and didn’t get around to writing a review until now.)

So, I’m pregnant. One of the common side effects of pregnancy is swollen legs/feet/ankles as all the extra blood in your body has a tendency to pool at the bottom if you’re not moving around too much. At an appointment a few months back, my midwife suggested compression socks for the days when I knew I would be mostly stationary. At the time, I was being pretty good about taking lunchtime walks – plus all the nearest ladies’ rooms are small epic quests away from my cubicle – so I didn’t really have a need to try them out.

That is, until the day of the Massachusetts Speaks Out Against Hate rally in Boston. Figuring that I’d be standing around for a while without a place to sit, I thought I’d give my socks a non-running go. And you know what? They didn’t let me down. I wore them all day, standing mostly still in them for an hour or two midday, and once again they were nothing but comfortable. And my preggo feet and ankles were happily not swollen when I took them off that night – huzzah!

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Can you see my socks under my massive belly?

The Verdict:

I love these socks. I love that they’re compression socks without the squeezy feeling. I love that they don’t make my legs all sweaty and gross, even when worn under long trousers. I love that they’re comfortable to run in, and that they seem to magically rescue my legs from post-run soreness.

But wait, you may be asking… what about the promises of increased endurance and power output? Good question, reader. In all honesty, I can’t really answer that. To give a fair review of those aspects, I feel like I’d have to try them out when I’m at least a little bit fit. Since I ran in them in races I didn’t train for, when my fitness was diminishing thanks to the growing presence of my new running buddy, it wasn’t easy to compare my power or endurance to previous non-sock experiences. Once the wee bairn arrives and I get out there running again, I’m going to take them on more test runs to see what effect they have (or might not have) because I’m curious too. Watch this space!

Want to give LEGEND Compression Performance Socks (or maybe one of their other products, like sleeves or recovery socks?) a go? If it’s your first time buying LEGEND gear, follow this link to get $15 off!

Not your first purchase but want more gear? Use the code AmbFriend2016 to get 15% off any LEGEND purchase!

How I Fell Off the Running Wagon

Hello there! Apologies (yet again) for a lack of posts lately. Same excuses as last time… busy at work, busy with homework, battling ever-present exhaustion, and less mental capacity for the whole blogging thing… both writing and keeping up with reading the blogs I follow, as well as keeping up with social media. I admit that I am a deviant, and I’m sorry.

Now that that’s out of the way, the one blog post that’s been vaguely bouncing around in my brain for the last few months is about how being pregnant has affected my running. I’m going to attempt that post now… it might border on TMI, and will probably be rambly, so feel free to run away now if you’d just rather not!

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Happily(ish) embarking on some preggo running back in September

When I first found out I was pregnant (early June), I was determined to keep running. I had several races on the horizon that I was looking forward to, including a half marathon that I was feeling very unprepared for… as you may remember. I was doing so much better in 2016 in terms of *not* DNSing (2015 was my year of the DNS), and I wanted to keep up that trend, if possible.

I was lucky enough to have a doctor who was also a runner, who gave me lots of advice along with encouragement to keep it up. Since I had recently dove back into a training plan (sort of), she didn’t see a problem with my continuing to run regularly, so long as I stayed hydrated and took it easy. Her number 1 rule was “listen to your body!” and since I tended to err on the side of that anyway, I figured I was good to go.

 

Now, as I type this, I’m teetering on the edge of my third trimester (!!) and I haven’t run at all since the QEOP 10K at the beginning of September. Prior to that race, I hadn’t run once since Beach 2 Beacon, a full month earlier. What happened? How did I fall off my gung-ho running wagon?

For one, running while pregnant is hard, man. Heck, walking – or even putting on my socks, some days! – leaves me out of breath and with a pounding heart.

(Although, I do have to admit, finding out I was pregnant made me feel a lot better about the runs I did in May that felt so incredibly hard, yet were so incredibly slow. After PRing in both 5K and 10K races earlier in the year, I found these runs and my lack of fitness/speed to be particularly frustrating… just when it looked like I was improving, suddenly I was slowing down and tiring so easily and I couldn’t figure it out. Seeing the positive pregnancy test was an a-ha moment!)

At least in early June I had immediate goals to work toward – the Worcester Firefighters 6K and the Worcester Half Marathon. The half especially, and my lack of training leading up to it, kept me motivated to keep running in the early days. Somehow I managed to pull off a PR in the 6K, and, despite a hot day, lots of hills, and my purposely taking it easy during the half, I somehow came within a few minutes of my PR. You’d think those feats would have motivated me to keep going, right?

Another problem? This summer was hot. Like, in-the-top-10-hottest-on record-in-Boston hot. I don’t do well running in the heat when I’m 100%, let alone when I’m building another human, so I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to pound the baking asphalt. I went to a few speed workouts with the Shammies, but those didn’t go so well; I either ran like crap and got frustrated, or I had to put the brakes on when my body started protesting, either from the heat or from fun things like round ligament pain.

Speaking of pain, there’s reason #3 I fell off the running wagon. My fellow-runner doctor urged me to stop anytime I felt any kind of pain, which I was experiencing with more frequency as the weeks ticked by. Partly due to the aforementioned round ligament pain, partly due to some cysty business, it would hit me more often than I would have liked while running, causing me to stop a lot. I’d be sitting in the grass, watching the Shammies run sprints and do other things I wanted to do, and it just got frustrating. Sometimes I’d go to workouts and walk, but it was hard not running when I really wanted to. So I just sort of stopped going.

Related to pain, reason #4 is general discomfort. I look back at my Worcester races in June and sigh wistfully about how good I had it back then. Sure, I tired more easily, but that was pretty much it. By the time Beach 2 Beacon rolled around, I had gained 10 pounds and certain parts of my anatomy were more, um, jiggly than they had been before (see below). Plus, there was the whole bladder situation that wasted about 10 minutes of my race and made the whole thing pretty uncomfortable.

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Left: June 19; Right: August 6. Same singlet, a bit more stretched out on the right. (Please ignore the bird I’m flipping on the right… it was accidental!)

By the time I was running the QEOP 10K in London a month later, I had graduated to my singlet that’s two sizes larger than the one pictured above, and cursing myself for not having bought a new sports bra that a) fit better, and b) supported things better. By that race, not only was I still dealing with round ligament pain and an almost constant urge to duck into a portaloo, but I was also dealing with bits that had gotten even more jiggly to the point of being painful. If I hadn’t been holding my phone and a bag of gummy fuel, I probably would have been holding myself as I went.

Right, so, where does that bring us on the list of my excuses for why I’m not so much running anymore?

  1. I tire more easily/get out of breath quicker
  2. It was too hot (hot damn!)
  3. It hurt
  4. It was uncomfortable

Number 5 is a combination of lack of time and general exhaustion. I know I mentioned tiredness in my first excuse, but that was more of a getting-tired-more-quickly-while-running situation. This is just straight-up tired. All. The. Time. During my first trimester, I felt levels of tiredness that I didn’t even know a human could experience (and I haven’t even reached the sleep-deprived newborn stage yet!). I’d be so tired, I’d literally crawl under my desk at work and curl up on the thinly carpeted cement floor and fall asleep.

By the time I’d get home from work, it was all I could do to put dinner in my face before dozing on the couch before then slinking off to bed at 8pm. The thought of running (or blogging!) after work went right out the door, as did thoughts of getting up early to beat the heat on the weekends. I really wanted to try a prenatal yoga class, but the most convenient one to me was at 9am on Saturdays and even that was too early.

Although I got slightly less tired during my second trimester (allegedly the “honeymoon stage” of pregnancy when you’re supposed to have all kinds of energy – ha!), I was still exhausted all the time, and somehow my life got super busy. Drew and I were either traveling every weekend or running around like mad to do errands, visit family, and do other things we couldn’t do while traveling. Then I had the brilliant idea to sign up for a graduate-level history class, which has eaten up most of my free time since early September, and which goes until right before Christmas. I should be doing homework now, actually, but alas.

So there we have it. Those five things have conspired to derail my running-through-pregnancy plans. Could I have beaten them all with an ironclad will? Sure. But anyone who’s read this blog knows that’s not really my style. I know women who have run through their entire pregnancies, and I think that’s awesome. Part of me wishes I had muddled through and done the same. The other part of me lays on the couch with a cup of tea and my feet up thinking “I’m listening to my body!” The more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂

In the meantime, I’ve taken advantage of Old Navy and Primark clearance sales and bought myself some maternity-size workout clothes, and I still have good intentions. I try to go for a walk every day at work during my lunch break, and one of these days I’ll join Drew at the gym instead of doing homework. I signed up for a prenatal yoga class that happens in the evening. I’ve researched and registered for a jogging stroller. I’ll climb back on that running wagon… someday.

Have you ever fallen off the running wagon for any reason? How did you climb back on?

Any running moms out there – did you run through pregnancy? How did it go?

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K, 3 September 2016

What: 10K

Where: London, UK (course map*) aka, my first international race!

*This wasn’t the exact course we ended up running, due to another event being set up for later in the day. We ended up going down by the stadium on the “Old River Path” a few times.

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 1:17:49

Splits: none, because Simon failed me, losing all memory of the race as soon as I paused him at the end. Boo.

Note: This recap is way overdue. Please see my last post for excuses!

Background

You may be asking, “What the heck were you doing running a race this far afield? London??” That is a good question, observant reader(s). A few days prior to this race, I was attending a conference for work in Wembley…

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Quick pause for a Wembley Stadium selfie!

Having attempted to run an international race a few years back but being thwarted by a race cancellation, I really wanted to fit one in this time around. However, I didn’t want to take over an entire day of sightseeing or what-have-you just so I could get some foreign bling, plus I wasn’t sure how ever-more-pregnant me would handle a 10K. I figured I’d see how Beach 2 Beacon went, and would decide then. Since B2B went quite well, and with Drew’s supportive “you never know when you’ll get another chance to run a race in London… go for it” in my head, I searched for races and landed on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10km Series.

The race sounded pretty cool – running around a park where Olympians roamed four years ago?? – and came with bling and a goody bag, so I was won over pretty easily. I signed up, found a hotel close to the Overground which would allow for easy transit to the race, and eagerly awaited the big day.

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A view of (part of) Olympic Park

Pre-race

After I carboloaded with some tasty ramen the night before, race day dawned not-so-bright and early. I was pleased with the overcast sky that looked like it would spit rain at any moment… at home it was still in the high 80s and I had been looking forward to cool race weather!

Drew and I hopped on the Overground and made our way to Hackney Wick, then strolled to and through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We had stayed nearby a few years ago, when the park was still at the early stages of reconstruction, so it was fun to see all the work that had been done since. We had the ArcelorMittal Orbit (the weird reddish tower in the above photo) as a homing beacon, and it led us to the race start area and packet pickup. Pickup was super easy and quick, and I spent the rest of pre-race time trying to both stay warm and poke my own pin holes through the bib, which didn’t come with any pre-made.

After a very half-hearted warmup on my part, a man with a megaphone (who shall henceforth be referred to as Megaphone Man) started strolling through the crowd of runners, reminding us all to double-knot our laces and treating us to witty banter in a Cockney accent. He then led us all in a group warm-up:

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(Note the not-so-overcast sky in those pictures… I was beginning to regret not bringing a hat or sunglasses at this point.)

After some butt-kicks and jumping jacks and sky punches, we made our way over to the 2012 Walk, where the start/finish line was. It was nice and shaded, and looked charming, and I had hope in my heart that it would be a lovely race:

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The start from Drew’s point of view…

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…and from my point of view at the back

The race

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Drew caught a picture of a bunch of charity runners dressed as monkeys

I wanted so badly to take off with most of the rest of the pack when the starting gun went, but I forced myself to hang back and take it easy. Though B2B had gone well, a month had passed since that race, and I was now carrying more baby weight and was unsure of how my body would handle running 10k.

The first little portion of the race was decent – down the shady flat path, marveling at the fact that I was actually running a race in another country – and both Drew and the race photographer caught me looking chuffed to be running:

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Photo: Drew

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Photo: Basil Thornton

Not long after those smiley pictures, however, things went downhill. It was hot. And sunny. I was thoroughly unprepared for hot and sunny. I hadn’t hydrated enough (surprise!), hadn’t brought water like almost everyone else had, and hadn’t brought sunglasses or a hat, so I was squinty and worried about sunburn. Plus, I was really feeling the extra baby weight. Things were more jiggly and, as a result, quite sore, and I also got out of breath very quickly. I had to stop to walk before the first mile clicked by.

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Stopping to walk meant I could take pictures!

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And then I started to run so I could take a running selfie. I was all ready to be done!

The course was mostly exposed to direct sun, so I was hot and red and sweaty and unhappy pretty quickly. There were also more hills than expected; the race description mentioned “slight undulations” but we had to scale some steep ramps to get onto bridges, and our detour included more hills than the usual route. I walked a lot, more than usual (with my midwife’s “listen to your body, stop whenever you get any pain” echoing in my head), and found myself soon getting lapped by the lead runners.

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About to get lapped by fast people

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Trying to muster a smile for Drew

Right after the above picture was taken, the course took us past a huge crowd of cheering people. Drew later told me that Megaphone Man had rallied a bunch of random passersby together so that we could have a cheering section! That was a fun little surprise.

The first water stop wasn’t too long after, and I savored my drink as I took a slow walk break in the shade. I had two laps to go, and I was mentally and physically done already. I strongly considered stopping, since I knew Drew was close by, but then I thought of the finisher’s medal and how I didn’t want to have my first international race also be my first DNF. So I soldiered on.

I started to hate the scenery. Three laps of the same thing gets very old when you no longer want to be running, no matter where you are. I kept taking frequent walk breaks, pausing every now and then to shove a Percy Pig – my chosen fuel – in my gob. (While tasty, those little suckers are hard to chew while walking, let alone running! I missed my Honey Stingers.)

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Struggling up a hill on the last lap

Two of the course marshals helped me carry on – one saw me struggling during the first lap and yelled out encouragement, then remembered me on subsequent laps and kept saying awesome things to me. The other saw the Shamrock on my singlet and said things as I struggled past, but her Irish accent was so thick I couldn’t make out her words! They sounded friendly though, and I like to think she was looking out for me especially because of the Shamrock. Seeing Drew at the end of each lap was a huge help too!

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Struggling up the last hill!

I can’t even express how happy I was to crest that final hill, knowing the finish line was close! I considered trying for a sprint finish, but the worrywart in the back of my head didn’t want to overdo it.

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Nearing the finish!

And then Megaphone Man appeared. I was a little ways behind the lady in front of me, and as he saw the two of us approaching, he started yelling that we should “make it a race!” and have a photo finish. The other lady had earbuds in and didn’t speed up at all, despite his goading her:

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Megaphoning into her ear

So he turned his megaphone on me and started shouting encouragement, urging me to beat the lady in red. So I thought, what the heck? I enjoy the first picture in this next series (all courtesy of Basil Thornton), because you can see the exact moment I tried to kick it up a notch – arms flailing and goofy look on my face:

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Clearly I didn’t beat the lady in red (she was going just a little too fast for me to catch up, though I did get close!), but I did manage to remember what Megaphone Man told us all we had to do at the finish – put our hands up. He joked that results wouldn’t count if our hands weren’t up, and that made looking through the race photos pretty fun – almost everyone has their hands up!

I made a bee-line for the water table, sucked down a couple cups’ worth (I was one of the last finishers, so didn’t think taking multiple cups was bad), and then stumbled off to get my goody bag and bling.

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So red, so sweaty, so tired… so happy to be done

I then made Drew hang out for a bit so I could hop up on the podium they had set up. Clearly I hadn’t won anything, but other people were leaping up for photo opportunities and I decided it would probably be the only time I’d have a podium picture, so darnit, I was going to make it happen:

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I can almost safely say that I was indeed the first place preggers American!

Mission accomplished, we set off for Stratford tube station, making a quick stop at Marks and Spencers so I could get some food to refuel (the recovery drink in the goody bag had sucralose in it – boo!). I got some interesting looks as I stood in the corner of the mall between M&S and the tube station, sweaty and wearing tiny shorts while pounding a milky coffee beverage and shoving chocolate in my face, but whatever – I had just finished my first international race despite really wanting to DNF, and was enjoying my runner’s high.

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Bling

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Goody bag contents

In the end, I’m so happy I opted to run a race while in London, even if I had been cursing myself while running the thing. I may have finished 313th out of 327 runners (91st out of 99 ladies), but I finished! And, once the runner’s high kicked in and my body forgot about the pain and exhaustion, I realized I’d even had a bit of fun too. It was a cool experience to run through an Olympic park, let alone experiencing an international race for the first time, and it will be fun to tell my wee running buddy about it someday 🙂

A New Running Buddy

Well hello there!

It’s been ages since I last posted… almost 2 months… which may be the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog. Perhaps. I can’t really remember.

Anyway, why the lapse in posting? I’ll get to that. But first, I want to tell you about my new running buddy! I haven’t talked about him much, but he’s been running with me pretty regularly since May, and has run every race with me since then:

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He ran the Worcester Firefighters 6k with me…

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…and the Worcester Half Marathon…

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…and he ran Beach 2 Beacon with me and E.

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He even ran the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10k I ran at the beginning of the month… which I am overdue with writing a recap of!

He’s a little hard to see in those photos, especially the early ones… and the number bibs do a pretty good job of hiding him in the others. But, for the past few weeks at least, he’s been pretty hard to hide:

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Making an appearance on our anniversary trip to Maine

My new running buddy will be making his official appearance early in 2017, and his impending arrival has made running and blogging take a bit of a backseat. Running because it’s been SUCH a hot summer, and running is so much harder now, plus the tiredness… oh, the tiredness. And blogging? Well… pregnancy brain is real, my friends. In addition to perma-exhaustion, I can barely keep my brain working for a workday, let alone anything before or after. So apologies for that!

Now that the weather has finally cooled off (we went from upper-80s to mid-60s with lows in the 30s in what felt like record time), I’m hoping to hit the pavement once again, albeit slower than ever. I’m also finally clearing through some of my ill-timed glut of work that’s kept my semi-functioning brain busy, so I’m hoping to get back to posting at least semi-regularly again soon. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of preggo-running misadventures to share with you! Til then…

How have you been?? What have I missed in the blogosphere these past few months?

Beach to Beacon 10K, 6 August 2016

What: 10K

Where: Cape Elizabeth, Maine (course map)

Who: Me and a bunch of Shammies, with moral support from Drew

Time: 1:22:40

Splits: (according to Simon)
-Mile 1: 11:13
-Mile 2: 15:49*
-Mile 3: 15:24*
-Mile 4: 12:06
-Mile 5: 11:36
-Mile 6: 13:13
-Mile 6.2: 3:22

*These two mile splits include porta-potty stops:

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Two giant canyons in the first half represent long, long porta-potty stops. The other dips are walks up hills.

Check out my race review on BibRave!

Running in the footsteps of giants:

Two quick points about this race, to set the stage:

  1. It’s Joan Benoit Samuelson‘s race, and the course apparently follows her training route. That’s pretty stinkin’ cool.
  2. History was made this year, as native Mainer Ben True became the first American to win the race in its 19-year history. (Note: his winning time, 28:17, is faster than my best 5K time. Mind = blown.)

The background:

Beach to Beacon has been on my radar ever since I joined the Shammies. A contingent of the club heads north every year to run, and I’ve heard so many stories about what a great race it is, how fun it is, how you get to run with elites and sometimes even see Joanie, etc.

The more I heard, the more I wanted to run. The only problem is that it’s a notorious race in terms of getting in; this year, general registration sold out in less than 4 minutes! Most Shammies end up getting in by entering the team lottery, but it’s not always a given that they’ll get to run.

Well, luckily for me, general registration opens at 7am, exactly when I’m usually standing at my bus stop killing time on my phone. On that fateful day in March, I was stood on the sidewalk with my phone poised, and I somehow squeaked in within that 3:43 window. It was the second time the magical race gods were smiling upon me, and I was pretty smiley myself!

The expo:

Drew and I left work early on Friday to attempt to beat weekend traffic, but still wound up sitting on the highway for 4+ hours (it usually takes about 2). We still managed to arrive in Cape Elizabeth in time to hit the expo, which I was pumped about. With the exception of the Boston Marathon expo I sneaked into during a volunteer stint, I’d never experienced a race expo before.

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Inside the expo at Cape Elizabeth High School

Granted, it wasn’t very big, but I was still nerdily excited to be at my first expo! Bib pickup was well organized and quick (other Shammies said it took forever earlier in the day), and my bib came with a nice Nike Dri-Fit t-shirt and a car magnet. More goodies came in the expo, too: gift cards to LL Bean, Olympia Sports, and Dunkin Donuts, as well as free reusable grocery bags and snacks provided by Clif Bar and a local pasta place. Not too shabby! There were vendors and run clubs there too, but by that point Drew and I were hungry and wanted to eat an actual meal.

After a tasty, tasty dish of homemade gnocchi at Enio’s (go there if you’re ever in South Portland!), we returned to our Airbnb and settled in for an early night’s sleep.

Pre-race:

We were up with the sun, literally, on race morning:

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Sunrise over SoPo

I’ve never run a race big enough to need shuttle buses and such, so I’m not used to crazy-early wake-ups. 5:20 felt way too early! I stumbled around, donned my kit, shoved some mini stroopwafel (thank you, Kennebunk Service Plaza for surprising me with those treats!) and water down my throat, and then Drew was driving me to a shuttle point.

Another first for me – a point-to-point course. I’ve always run loops or out-and-backs, or point-to-points where the start and finish are so close that they’re not even considered point-to-points. So this made logistics interesting in terms of getting to the start, finding Drew at the finish, and the like.

Anyway, I squeezed onto the 6:20 shuttle (a good, old-fashioned yellow school bus) and we trundled down lovely wooded back roads for 5-10 minutes before arriving at the start area. And what a start area it was! I’ve never seen so many porta-potties – with every 4 alternating which way they were facing so all the lines weren’t on one side – plus there were so many volunteers! Some were staffing water and snack tables, which also had Gatorade and coffee, and some were loading up gear bag buses. I felt like I was in the big-time!

I was supposed to meet up with the rest of the Shammies at 6:45, so I had some time to kill. I ate the Clif Bar I’d gotten at the expo, wandered back to the tables to get some Gatorade, and pretty much just people-watched until I saw a bunch of green singlets coming my way.

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I love these ladies!

I also shoved a Honey Stinger waffle in my face (which is why I look so goofy in the above photo – I was chewing), not because I wanted to eat it, but because I didn’t want to carry it and no one else seemed to want it. Oh well, one can never have too many pre-race waffles… right?

We chatted and killed time until we heard the national anthem, then we walked over to take our various places at the starting line. Shammies E and K hung out with me near the back of the pack; it was going to be a hot day (“sneaky heat,” as one article called it later, due to high humidity and dew point) and we wanted to enjoy the day and each other’s company without needing a trip to the medical tent.

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View from the back(ish) of the pack… you can just make out the balloon arch where the starting line was

The race:

The wheelchair athletes had started around 7:30 (I think), and the elite women took off at 8 on the dot. Elite men and the rest of us (who were a respectable distance behind the elite corral) got our start at 8:12. It took us about 8 minutes to cross the start from when the race actually started.

The first mile was nice and chill. E, K, and I were going fast enough that my conversation was broken up with lots of breathing pauses, but not so fast that it was uncomfortable. All of a sudden, we saw balloons up ahead signalling the first mile – huh? E and I were both having some race nerves and decided to pull over at the porta-potty, and K ran off with a fellow runner who she had started chatting with about his t-shirt. We stood in line for about 5 minutes, realized we didn’t really have to go after all, and carried on.

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Looking relatively fresh and happy when the first photographer appeared

Mile 2 flew by as quickly as the first and, again, I made the decision to pull over at the aid stop’s porta-potty. E was being a trooper and running my race with me, so she grabbed us some waters and waited. It was another long wait, and my nerves were still playing tricks on me, so we set off once again.

Honestly, the rest of the race is a blur. Thanks to those epic porta-potty stops, I ran my personal worst time-wise… though it’s heartening to know that if I shaved those ~10 minutes off, I would have ran about my usual time in spite of the heat. So that’s cool! But despite the slow time, it was seriously the fastest race ever. The mile markers were flying at us, and E and I kept saying how quickly the race was going. It must have been the great company! We chatted up a storm the entire way.

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There were at least 4 photographers at Mile 5, where there’s a gorgeous ocean view behind the runners, but unfortunately we’re in focus, not the view!

The awesome crowds and scenery helped, too! I’ve never run a race with so many spectators, and they went all out to cheer for us. Though my name has been on bibs before, this was the first race where people actually cheered for me by name (such a cool feeling!), and people were ringing cowbells, holding witty signs, blasting motivational music (I remember E and I singing along to the Rolling Stones as we crested a hill), and even passing out bacon (Beach to Bacon, get it?). I truly felt like a rock star… a very red, tired one with a sheen of sweat, but a rock star nonetheless.

The course ends with a few steep hills, one of which is in Fort Williams Park. That part of the race was a little disheartening… you run into the park and up the “final hill,” and I sort of expected the race to end there. But no. We wound through a section of the park, curve after curve, with the end nowhere in sight. It was such a relief to finally see the balloon arch in the distance, and I zeroed in on it. Little did I know Drew was practically right next to me, shouting my name! E spotted him and posed for a silly picture as I stared off at the finish:

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At last we victoriously crossed the finish line. The Shammies had warned me that it would be a while before I could get my hands on some water (seriously, one of my biggest race pet peeves), so as soon as I crossed the line I had my eyes peeled for the far-off land of water tables. I was so focused that I jumped a little when E said “Thanks, Joanie!” and when I looked in front of me, there she was! Less than an arm’s length away – Joan Benoit Samuelson! I managed to say “Thanks, Joanie!” and she looked at me and smiled as I lurched past, wondering if it would be improper to take a picture with her. (I decided not to, even though I kind of regret it now!)

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Here we come -the finish at last!

Post-race:

E and I kept walking down the finishing chute, up a steep grassy knoll, and at last reached the far-off water tables. Drew found us, and together we all walked through the park to find the chocolate milk – our designated Shammies meeting point. We found the chocolate milk stand (unlimited free, ice cold, local chocolate milk!) and the rest of the Shammies, and I collapsed into a heap on the grass. There was a massive food tent with crackers, cheese, yogurt, blueberries, granola bars, trail mix, etc. etc. etc. as well as vendor tables, but I was so tired I couldn’t bring myself to traipse around anymore. And anyway, Drew was carrying a paper sack full of goodies from Scratch bakery, so we tucked into a raspberry coffeecake.

Despite my lethargy, Fort Williams Park was a really cool place to end a race, with a huge expanse of grass to splay out on, bits of old forts to climb on, a little beach with some Atlantic Ocean to cool off in, and Portland Head Light, the beacon we ran to:

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Photo credit: Drew

We sat around, chatting and eating snacks and comparing our race experiences (which ranged from our fastest getting 7th in his age group – in a race with 6,600 runners – to E and I hitting personal worsts) for just under and hour, and then set off for some much-needed showers. The Shammies did what Shammies do and hit downtown Portland for some well earned beers, while I attacked one of Scratch’s famous Super Duper Cinnamon Rolls:

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Freshly showered with a cinnamon bun the size of my head

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Now that’s what I call recovery!

Overall thoughts:

I absolutely adored this race. Despite my personal worst, despite my pet peeve water situation, despite lack of bling, this is a race I want to run every year for the foreseeable future! The course, the scenery, the crowds, Joanie!, and all the little details made it a fantastic race to run. It’s clear that it was a race created by a runner, and it’s also run by the same race director who runs the Boston Marathon. These people know what they’re doing, and know how to put on a good race! The registration fee is a little steep at $50, but for what you get, I think it’s worth it. I mean, the gift cards from the expo make up half that cost, plus there are plenty of 5Ks around Boston that cost $35-$40 and all you get is a pint glass. B2B is the race for me!

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My dodgy gait and I love this race!

One final thought:

Drew and I opted to walk the 2 miles back to our Airbnb from the finish line, since traffic was ridonk. However, after all my failed pit stops during the race – and no thanks at all to the most disgusting porta-potties I’ve ever seen after the race – it was an uncomfortable walk back, to say the least. Enter The Cookie Jar, a lovely little bakery on our route. They let me use their gloriously clean real bathroom, and we returned the next morning for breakfast as a thank you. People rave about Holy Donut in Portland, but seriously – if you’re ever in South Portland and like donuts, you must stop at Cookie Jar! Maple glazed donut + Maine blueberry coffee = excellent way to cap off an excellent race weekend.

Review: Armpocket Aero i-10

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Aero i-10 image from Armpocket website

(Disclaimer: I wasn’t asked to review this product or given one to review; I bought it for my own use and decided to review it here. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of other users of this product.)

Once upon a time, I was running my favorite route by the pond. I was holding my phone in my hand as I ran, partly so it would be at the ready for photo opportunities, and partly because, well, I had no other way to carry it.

My phone, which I had never dropped while running, suddenly squirted out of my hand and crashed to the asphalt. I suppose it was inevitable, but I was seriously bummed. My phone, which I’d had for more than 2 years and had kept miraculously uncracked, now had a chip in its screen. I was sad.

I decided then and there that I needed a better way to carry my phone with me while running. But what? I had tried an armband holder a few years back, only to have its Velcro fail after a mere couple of uses – at the start of the B.A.A. 5k, leaving me to hold the thing for 3 miles. My Nathan water bottle has a phone pocket, but, well… I don’t love that bottle, to say the least. It regularly leaked into the phone pocket, as well as all over me. Plus, having something in my hand, even if it has a nifty little hand strap, tends to make me feel a little off-balance.

When I got home, I hopped on Running Warehouse and scoped out their products. I’ve been a bit wary of hip belt thingies, not knowing how much they’d bounce or how comfortable they’d be. And all the armband products were for phones newer and bigger than mine. Cue some googling and that’s when I found Armpocket.

Right off the bat, I loved Armpocket’s website, specifically the “fit my phone” feature. You choose the make of your phone, then whether you have a case and, if so, how big it is, and then Armpocket shows you which of their products will fit your phone. No guesswork needed! So easy!

My phone and its case yielded two results- the Racer, which is sleek and only holds your phone to allow for a lighter, more aerodynamic experience while racing, and the Aero i-10. Since I liked the idea of having a place to stow cards, keys, money, and fuel as well as my phone, I selected the Aero i-10.

My shiny new Aero i-10 in the flesh!

Description from the website:

Sleek, durable, convenient. The Armpocket Aero i-10 protects your mobile device whether you’re running errands or just plain running. The armband’s slim design allows you freedom of movement, and its extra interior compartment stores keys, ID, and more.

Featuring a double-zipper pocket, this sleek sports armband fits all devices and cases up to 5” (12.7cm), including the new iPhone SE, iPhone 5 and iPhone 4.

Another reason I’ve been hesitating to buy another armband after my Velcro disaster with my last one, is that they tend to cost more than I want to spend. (My first one was cheap… maybe that’s why it fell apart so fast!) The Aero i-10 costs $29.95, which isn’t bad but not the $15-20 I was hoping for. However, shipping in the US is free, and Armpocket was offering a deal at the time where first-time buyers got 10% off their purchase. Sweet!

On top of the decent cost, Armpocket products have a 2-year warranty, are water- and mud/dirt-proof, are machine-washable, and have apparently passed a military-grade drop test. Sounded good to me!

So, after that long preamble, how has my experience with my new Armpocket been? TL;dr I’m a fan!

Purchase: It was quick and easy to buy the item on their secure site. After that, Armpocket was great with communication, sending emails when the product shipped and was delivered. Sometimes I get no feedback like this and don’t know how long to wait for my purchase, but Armpocket was all over it.

Mail day!

Mail day: I loved the smiley face sticker on the package, and appreciated the personalized note inside. This company seems to really care about their product and making sure that buyers love the product too!

First test: I took it out for a quick 2-miler around the neighborhood. My phone fit perfectly with its case still on, as promised, and there were little pockets for my keys and cards/money, as well as plenty of room for fuel.

The inside: two pockets at the back and an elastic strap at the front to hold your phone against the clear plastic front, which makes it so much easier to use your phone while it’s inside the case!

It took me a bit to get used to having the thing on my arm, first to get the strap to fit right so that it wasn’t either too loose or cutting off circulation. Once I found the magic spot, it was great. A little weird having a bit of weight on my arm, but I soon got used to it and it was so much better to have my hands free! I took it on another quick run with the same results.

Big test: I wore this puppy during my half marathon last month. I had carried my water bottle (sans water) in my first half, and it worked okay other than the aforementioned off-balance feeling. I was looking forward to not having to carry anything in this hot race, and was also looking forward to trying it out as a music carrier, since this was going to be my first race rocking a motivational playlist.

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Ready to rock

For the most part, it was fantastic. Again, once I found the right strap position it felt fine on my arm, and wasn’t hot and sweaty… or at least, no more than I’d expect. It was a really hot race, and my arm was a bit damp when I took it off, but during the run it wasn’t uncomfortably warm/sweaty and didn’t chafe.

The back of the Armpocket, which is surprisingly non-sweaty. (Ignore the little sunscreen stains!)

It passed the waterproof test, too, when a neighbor of one of the water stops sprayed me and some other runners with his sprinkler. My Armpocket took a direct hit, but my phone and everything inside stayed lovely and dry.

The only two problems I had were:

  1. Only one pouch of Honey Stinger chews fit inside. I was hoping to take 2, but 2 wouldn’t fit with my phone in there too. Maybe if I’d taken the chews out and combined them in a ziploc bag they would have fit, or if I’d used different fuel, but what I had chosen didn’t work. I ended up running out of chews 8 or 9 miles in, but was saved by gels at an aid stop.
  2. My headphone cord was a pain to fit in the Armpocket’s cord slot. I struggled for a while to get it to fit and align with my headphone jack, and ended up surrendering it to Drew (who studied engineering and is better at these sorts of problems). He found that if you shove the cord through the slot before sliding the phone all the way down, you can the align the cord using the clear window. This whole problem might have stemmed from the fact that my headphones have a square plug thing, and maybe this wouldn’t be an issue with normal, round ones.

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Little velcro thingie that holds headphone cords and zipper danglies in place – love it!

Other than those two hiccups, I’ve loved my Armpocket, and am so glad I relented and got one. I love the happy bright color, I love the zipper/cord holder so I’m not driven mad by flapping cords or hanging zipper pulls, and I love that I can finally tote my stuff around on runs without having to hold everything. Huzzah!

What’s your preferred method of carrying your stuff while you run?

I am Legend

Hello and happy Wednesday!

I’m wicked excited to share with you that I’ve been chosen to be a 2016 ambassador for LEGEND Compression Wear!

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LEGEND was launched in 2015, on a mission “to improve the performance of every athlete – from the casual jogger to the competitive triathlete.” In addition to traditional athletic compression gear like performance socks, leg sleeves, and recovery socks, they also offer socks for hiking, golf, and even business socks and stockings.

One thing that really caught my eye about LEGEND is their commitment to the long-term health of their customers’ legs, in addition to their athletic performance. The compression level in their performance socks is medically designed to be just right, and not too tight. As someone who’s tried other compression socks and sometimes struggled with a too-tight, constricted feeling, the #rightnottight movement definitely appealed to me.

You know what else is awesome? As a LEGEND ambassador, I get a discount code that I can share with my readers! (I know this will make me sound like a huge dork, but I’ve always thought it would be cool to be one of those bloggers with a “use X code to save Y% on this cool product!”splashed across the blog. And now I can do that! Woohoo!)

Use the code AmbFriend2016 to get 15% off any LEGEND purchase!

Have you used compression gear for running or recovery? What brands have you tried?