Monday, November 24, 2014

{Guest Post} Cold Weather Running Essentials

As cold weather is hitting everywhere else in the US (except, you know, Southern California), I asked a few Sweat Pink sisters to share their favorites, tricks and tips for beating the ice and still staying on top of their fitness game in the winter. They'll be featured here this week! 

First up... Tiara, from Ice Cream and French Fries (two of my favorites)! 


Hello Ladies! Tiara here -- you can typically find me blogging over at Ice Cream and French Fries about food, fitness (most recently fit pregnancy), mountain life and anything that strikes my fancy.

Moving from Southern California to Lake Tahoe nearly eight years ago was an adjustment. I quickly learned how to train outside during the winter. Today between November and April I split up runs between the treadmill and outside. My rule of thumb -- if the snow is flying it's a treadmill day. Let's be honest I'm probably snowboarding instead.

Today I'm sharing what I look for when buying winter running gear. Plus, a few of my favorite pieces.

1. A good pair of shoes. If you don't like your shoes then you probably wont last long. The Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra CS WP Trail Running Shoe is a great place to start. There are a few key components that make these great for running on snowy/wet trails/roads:

  • ClimaShield membrane -- waterproof and breathable. Ideal balance of weather protection and breathability.
  • Molded EVA, EVA shaped footbeds, and Ortholite technology supply solid comfort, support, and cushioning while you push it on the trail. Solid traction on uneven and sketchy terrain.
  • Protective rubber toe caps, mud guards, and gusseted tongues protect your feet from trail debris.
Happy Running!
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What other essentials would you add to this list?
Along with shoes you'll want a nice pair of warm socks. I personally like Smartwool and own a variety for different activities i.e., snowboarding, walking the dog, snowshoeing, etc. Please note I'm not a fan or advocate of running on ice. Trust me your knees will thank you later.

2. Cold weather tights. Sorry normal running tights wouldn't cut it. Remember I said I'm in the mountains. Which means it's probably 30-40 degrees or colder outside. I tend to gravitate towards The North Face, but love these Patagonia tights. This is a personal preference because of fit, but you can't go wrong with any winter running tight from The North Face, Under Armour or Patagonia. I suggest trying on a few pairs.

3. A warm jacket that isn't bulky. You'll want a few jackets for different temps and distances. This season I bought the The North Face Women's Animagi Jacket. So far so good. When buying a winter running jacket I always look for something lightweight, breathable and wind proof. Tip: wind chill can drop the temp by 10 degrees sometimes!

4. Don't skip on layers. One layer is typically good. The North Face, Patagonia and Under Armour are my go to layers for winter running. Look for layers that are form fitting, moister wicking and breathable.

5. Accessories. Think gloves, headband, ear warmers, beanie or neck gator (optional). Depending on the person and distance you many not wear these items the entire run, but trust me you'll want them. The ear band is your best option. It will keep your ears warm without overheating.

Although gear options are endless the key is finding pieces that work well for you, your climate and budget. These are just a few items that I couldn't live without during the winter. Over the years I've bought off and name brand running gear and have found it's worth spending a little more on gear. They just seem to last longer as well as fit and perform better.

Make sure you visit Tiara at Ice Cream & French Fries:

What other essentials would you add to this list?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Favorites: Santa Hustle Half Marathon

I'm starting a new Friday Favorites series, featuring some exciting upcoming races to show off, things I'm loving lately, and the like. The Santa Hustle (Buena Park edition) is just three weeks away, so I'm excited to talk all about this one and convince you to come run with me!

I've wanted to do a Santa Hustle race for forever - the Tennessee race was on my list for what turned out to be my last winter in Georgia, and I'm bummed I didn't make it happen (mostly because then I could have crossed Tennessee off the 50 States list, but also because I love love love all things holiday and running related). So when they finally announced that they were expanding westward (all other races are in the midwest/south), I was beyyyoonnnddd excited - count me in!

The race offers both a 5K and a half marathon, with similar perks for both, and then some additional goodies for the half marathoners:

  • Dri-fit hoodie
  • Santa beard
  • Santa hat

Half marathoners also receive a medal and one admission ticket to Knott’s Berry Farm included in the price, good for any three (!) days from December 11th-15th. 5Kers can reveive admissions tickets via their registration page at a discounted rate, too. 

To boot, the courses are fast, flat and awesome - the 5K weaves through Knotts Berry Farm for almost the entire first mile, then comes out of the park and runs through Buena Park back up to the start. 

The half marathon starts at the same location as the 5K (fnishes too), but exits a different place out of the park just after mile 1 and into the city of Buena Park. The middle miles are all city streets, but knowing the area are super flat, and fast and super PR-able for us all - perfect Christmas presents! 

Both courses also feature cookie and candy cane stations! Hi, hello, what more could you want from aid stations? I'll take cookies anyway (#willrunforcookies) and am pretty excited to see what they've gotten in store for us on December 14!

Registration is open through December 12, but the prices go up in just two weeks, so make sure you get in sooner rather than later!

$45.00 Oct. 1- Nov.29
$50.00 Nov. 30- Dec. 12
Half Marathon
$95.00 Oct. 1- Nov.29
$100.00 Nov. 30- Dec. 12
Use code MEGJOHNSTONBP for $5 off either the half OR the 5K - and let me know if you'll be there! Sorry, easterners, the code is only good for the 2014 Buena Park race. 
While you're busy planning your holiday race outfit, you can also visit the Santa Store and check out some things that might contribute - I'm eye-balling those striped socks and can't wait to get my hands on them! Bonus: you can order their past-year Santa dri-fit long sleeve shirts for just $5 a pop. If I can convince Doug to go as Santa, it's totally happening. 
Are you a holiday race lover just as much as I am? Will I see you in Buena Park?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2015 Winter Running Plans

Something really awesome about California is that while the rest of the country's race season has come to an end, we're still in full swing! It's certainly not icy and snowy here, but plenty cold enough to give us some gorgeous and cold mornings - perfect for races!

So I've got a full agenda and am pretty excited about it, so I thought I'd share all the upcoming fun. Let me know if you'll be at any of them with me!

December 6 - Reindeer Romp 5K (Chino)
We ran this one last year, and upon discovering that every year they change the highlight color and reindeer of the year, we knew we had to do this one again. It's a local race, decently priced ($30), and supports our local YMCA. To boot, the medals are ornaments and come with adorable long sleeve shirts. Throw in a super flat, super easy 5K course, and you have yourself a deal!

December 13 - Lexus Lace Up 5K
I really wanted to do the half, but couldn't convince myself to fork over the money, even though at one point I had a 40% code and the price would have been like $55. You snooze, you lose. BUT the 5K showed up on GroupOn a few weeks ago so both Doug and I are running the 5K for a total of $39.20. Win.

December 14 - Santa Hustle Half Marathon
This is a new race coming to Southern California this year. I actually found out about the series while I was living in Georgia, and desperately wanted to go run their Tennessee race but couldn't ever get up there. So when I heard they were headed to the west coast, I was beyond excited! I'm serving as an ambassador for them this year (more on that on Friday) because I'm that excited. Doug will be doing the 5K while I run the half - through Knotts Berry Farm! - and then we'll stay and play at the park all day.
Use code MEGJOHNSTONBP for $5 off the 5K or the half! 
January 3 - New Year's Race Los Angeles Half Marathon
Doug's first half marathon! Enough said. Excitement abound. As I am also serving as an ambassador for the amazing NYR, I was given an additional free entry (I was already registered). This is a nighttime race under the lights and stars of Los Angeles just after the new year and it'll be such an awesome way to kick off 2015, with my guy by my side for his first 13.1. Woo!

Use code NYRMegan15 for $15 off the half marathon!
January 10 - Citrus Heritage Half Marathon
After the beating that this race gave me last year, but upon being offered a sweet early-sign up rate, I signed up for this again and will be a legacy runner for this half! All I am hoping for is to do a little better than last year - which, given lately, should (hopefully) not be too much of a challenge given that I am currently already in far better shape - ready to beast this course!

February 1 - Surf City Half Marathon
This is the one I haven't signed up for (yet), but have every plan to so I can get in race #2 of the Beach Cities Challenge. Further, this is home of my first full marathon and while the marathon is a little mentally beating by double-backing (twice!), I'd much rather run the half again. Monica asked me to pace her to a sub-2 for the first time, soooo.... challenge is on! Surf City, here I come!

This seems like a lot of races, never mind the fact that the first two are 5Ks, so I'm okay with that. Further, these put me smack through the middle of marathon training (more on that soon!), so what's better than rewarding long run days with medals since I'm at it anyway? Right?

Alright... do I get to see you at one of these? Let me know where!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lessons in (Half) Marathons

I've run a half marathon or two... or five... or seventeen. As I've been pushing and working hard lately at maintaing training runs at race pace to ensure I'm racing my best and can achieve my goals, I've been thinking a lot about where I've come from when I first started running to where I'm at now.

Looking back at some old recaps, it's pretty mind-blowing to see how far I've come, from that first half all the way up until Fontana this past June. There's been a lot of miles, a lot of shoes, a lot of crying (that's not surprising), and a lot of things I've done that I never thought I would. I've posted before a list about things running teaches you in life, and after recapping so many of these races, it's amazing how many have come to fruition for real.

You can do anything you put your mind to.
I mean this, whole-heartedly, and it's truly not just about running. You want to ride a century? You want to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail? You want to see all 50 states before you're 30? Go for it, put your mind to it, and you'll do it.

I set out to run a half. I set a time goal (2:20), but really just wanted to see that I could do it. I trained for about three months, got angry at Nike+ because it sucked and its distances were far from accurate, but I did it. Callaway Gardens was a gorgeous half marathon and I'm so glad I chose to do it - a small race, but it made my first big race all that much more exciting! I did it - with 8 seconds to spare. I put my mind to it, I did it.
Half marathoner!
Stubborness can pay off (sometimes). 
I'm stubborn. I acknowledge that fact. When I ran ZOOMA (#2), I ate asphalt at Mile 4. Especially since this was only my second half, this was particularly hard on my confidence. I got up, shook it off, because that's what I would have done as a soccer player too, in a past life. I was bleeding, and the road rash on my knee stung every time I moved, but damnit, I was going to do this.

At Mile 10, the paramedic asked if I wanted to stop, and I said there was no way, but that I'd see him at the finish to get cleaned up, and sure enough, I did. I wasn't going to let some road rash and bloody fingers stop me from getting to the end. To this date, there really hasn't been anything that has stopped me, and for that, I am grateful.

Note: Don't always do as I do. Sometimes, there are medical needs and times your body will make you stop. Listen to your body, know your body, and if it's appropriate and necessary to stop, stop.
Half #2, Georgia race #7.
Anything with friends makes the adventure worth it.
Sub-lesson: helping others achieve their goals is just as great as achieving your own.

Heather signed up for Wine and Dine (#5) as her first half, nearly six months in advance. For me, it was third in a streak of what turned into four halfs in a span of just 9 weeks. Her goal: finish. My goal: a) have fun and b) get Heather across that final timing mat. Both goals were achieved, Heather made it. Despite it being my worst half marathon time ever, helping my friend get to the end and see her goal come to life was beyond worth it. I'd never felt that sore the next morning, but every time I go back and look at my first (and currently, only) Disney race, I get this stupid big smile and remember what it was all about.

The double kicker to this was meeting a long-time online blogger friend, Alicia. On multiple blogging platforms since 2002, it was high time I got to meet her and run with her at the same time. An amazing weekend getting to meet a longtime friend!

Since then, adventures with friends have taken me to DC, Vegas, Phoenix, and in plenty of other non-half running adventures. It's not always about you, but about everyone else you get to run with!
Alicia, me, Buzz, Heather.
Sometimes you just need to run. 
Run for the sake of running. After a particularly horrible race and experience at Rock 'n Roll Las Vegas (#11), I wanted to run Arizona (#13) freely. No time, no pressure, no out-of-reach goals for the lack of training I'd had under my belt at that point. And I ran.

PF Chang's sponsors a team of runners to run as the dragon - you beat them, you get a prize. I saw them at Mile 5, passed them at Mile 6, and never saw them again. I still don't know what the prize is, but the sheer goofiness of the endeavor, the kick-ass-ness of their support tent at Mile 9, and the overall crowd support of the entire race, made me remember why I love racing and running. It's supposed to be freeing, it's supposed to be enjoyable, and sometimes you just need to have a race to remind you of that. Side note: I wore a 2:15 pace band, just for kicks. Finish time, 2:13. Ecstatic.

Desert Double Down done! 
It's not always going to go as planned. 
Fact. And like all lessons, this is far from just about running. My goal, race magic #10, was the inaugural Nike Women's DC race. Fast, flat course and in the height of my training with the Athens Road Runners. I was ready. This race was mine.

I was knocking the run out of the park - splits perfect, timing perfect, all up until Mile 7 when my shoes rubbed so hard on my ankle I couldn't take anymore and stopped for 90 seconds at the first aid tent to get wrapped up. 93 seconds is what I missed my goal time by, all for a bandaid. I was crushed. I hobbled to first aid because I didn't want to face anyone yet, waited for my sister to come to me, and at least reveled in my prett new Tiffany's necklace. And cried. And it took a long time to get over it, re-focus, celebrate a monster PR, and find the energy and motivation to move forward and find a new goal race.
At least the blue box will always cheer you up. 
You are so much more capable than you think.
I think this is one of the best things I've gotten out of running - goals have been missed, goals have been made, but ultimately it really teaches you so much more about seeing what you're made of. When I won an entry to the Allstate Atlanta 13.1, I hadn't run a half in almost six months, since that ego-crushing ZOOMA race. I was just a week into marathon training and had scheduled another half for just two weeks after, so wanted to go easy at this one and see what I could handle.

I remember about about Mile 10, I passed the 2:15 group, amazed an in awe, and realized that that was what I was made of. I never saw them again, and went on to PR by just over 6 minutes. I ran solid at that race, walking only once at Mile 12, and ran to push myself to see what I could do. (And then I PRed again two weeks later). It's when you allow yourself to get there that you'll see what you're made of - usually more than you think.

There are so many more things I know I've gotten from this sport - and I'd probably take another five posts to tell you, but I think these are the biggest. Now almost 17 half marathons in, I know I'm tougher than I think, more capable than I realize, and more determined than ever.

What lessons have half marathons taught you?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up

I haven't done any of these Weekend Wrap Ups in awhile forever- mostly because my weekends aren't terribly exciting on the norm... but somehow this weekend turned into a freaking (exhausting!) blast! I promise to get better. Or at least try more than once a year. Where do we start? My favorite part, Friday.

My bestest, Tina, and her family were down in Oceanside (about 80 miles from me) for the weekend and after much hmming and hawing, I decided to not sign up for the 5K she was doing on Saturday - I know, me, not race?! - but decided to head down on Friday instead since I didn't have much else going on.

I wish with all my heart I could show off her precious little babies - I haven't seen the twins since January when I was in Phoenix for RnR Arizona and we all know that babies change a lot in 10 months! Holy moly. The first time I met them was in January, when they were hardly five  months old and are now busy toddling-around 14-month-olds. And they are precious and I wish I could see them more than once every ten months. I made a promise - I'll be back soon kiddos! At any rate, we went out to lunch, I was way too entertained with how much babies find things like paper coasters entertaining (if only it were that simple again, right?), and generally enjoying all things baby (shocker for me, seriously). I loved getting to see them and despite a fairly short drive between LA and Phoenix, I wish it were even shorter. Love you guys. <3

Saturday, I hauled my butt out of bed early for my run with the IERC. I seriously joined Labor Day weekend and this was my third or fourth weekend there. I need to focus and committ to Saturday mornings with them, but especially considering I'm not even registered for LA yet, it's hard... it'll come. But I'm enjoying getting to know new folks and having groups to run with for these long runs! 11 miles tackled on Saturday, and 12 more to go this coming weekend!

I spent the rest of Saturday lounging, watching some crazy college football games, and generally doing nothing. Doug was out with the boys, so I got to tag along with my parents to dinner and a trip to the craft store - what 29-year-old's dream! I kid. I love my parents, and am eternally grateful for them taking Molly and I in when I lost my job in June. Not all parents would do that, nor be as accomodating as they have been. And I generally do enjoy my time with them, even on a Saturday night. :)

On Sunday, mom and I gathered up the crazy idea to check out the TOMS warehouse sale that was going on near us - mind you, I've always wanted a pair of TOMS, have never wanted to pay full price, even though they go to a good cause... but you know, had other important shoes to buy. Because duh. So we figured a warehouse sale was a great chance to check 'em out and/or stock up on Christmas presents. Well, Christmas present fail but my mom walked out with two pairs and I got a pair of wedges that I'm super stoked about.

Considering the store was literally in just a giant, empty warehouse (as you can see above) and just organized in boxes, it wasn't actually all that chaotic. I am actually super impressed. When you get in line, you're given a colored wristband (lime, in our case). Once you're inside, there's another small line and a final check point where someone lets you through. They give so many people the same color band, so when they let you through they say, "Lime green! You have 30 minutes and then you're done," so they can keep the flow. It actually worked quite well - again, impressed. We were in the outside line at 8:35 and back to the car by 9:50. Not bad at all. Considering my mother a) hates shopping, b) hates lines, c) was in line for shoes she didn't even know about until Saturday night, we did pretty well for ourselves!

Happy weekend - and a busy one! Looking forward to a mellow week, but spending some time next weekend working the Avengers Expo at Disneyland, running 12 miles, and then working Avengers again! Woo hoo!

How was your weekend? Anything exciting?