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In Like A Lion

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb 

March roars in like a lion
So fierce,
The wind so cold,
It seems to pierce.
The month rolls on
And Spring draws near,
And March goes out
Like a lamb so dear.
~ Lorie Hill

It isn't yet March, despite recent spring-like temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic area that suggest otherwise. And on the last Saturday in February, Winter made one last valiant effort to assert itself, giving us a day that felt distinctively like blustery March. Anyone who was outdoors that day would agree it roared like a lion. 

The wind was the story of the day -- sustained and gusty, featuring headwinds, crosswinds and tailwinds. There were clouds, some warming sun, and even brief snow flurries.

I was certain I had overdressed and expected to peel off my gloves, hat and lightweight shell as soon as I warmed up. Turns out I needed them all day. I gave the zipper on my shell quite a workout in sunny sections which were sheltered from the wind, but I never removed it. 

Thankfully, there were no icy sections on the course this year, but some impressive shoe-sucking mud and frigid stream crossings kept it interesting. The trees groaned and creaked in the wind but it seemed all the tree limbs that were going to fall had already come down. Of course there were the hills, nothing too steep or long but good for a total of 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Runner enjoying a sweet downhill. Photo by Alan Gowen.

I must take a moment to praise the amazing volunteers who stood out there in that cold and wind to offer us hot food and cheer us on. Saints, all of them.

I took the first loop nice and easy, chatting with friends and new acquaintances along the way. On the second loop, I wanted some time to myself on the trail. It was a good decision. I needed to set my own pace, push up the hills and pay attention to what I needed to do to keep myself fueled and my thoughts straight.

Ever heard the statistic that most automobile accidents occur within a few miles of your home? I caught my toe on the smallest tree root on the course and sprawled all out -- in the last hundred yards of the trail, naturally. Pick up those feet! 

Typical trail section at Hashawha. Photo by Alan Gowen.

All in all, I had a good day out there. I set a new PR by almost 40 minutes as a result of both the course conditions and my body being in better shape this year. 

I feel like I'm back in the swing of my trail running. It's a good place to be.


First Ultra of The Year

I'm headed up to Westminster, MD to run the Hashawha Hills 50K tomorrow.

I enjoyed this race last year even on a very bare minimum of training. It was a symbolic comeback from my back injury. It was a runnable course, two loops, with typical late February elements: ice, snow, mud, and stream crossings. The wonder of compression tights was revealed to me as the miles rolled by and my legs kept moving long after I expected them to refuse to continue.

Runners cross a field on the Hashawha Hills 50K course in 2011. Photo by Alan Gowen.
I'm looking forward to running this race again. I say "running" because I'm not in racing shape. I'm okay with that. The first ultra of the year for me means:
  • kicking myself in the pants
  • getting back in the groove of running for hours on trails
  • pushing the pace
  • managing my calorie intake  
  • most important, getting my mental game in order

I'm hoping to PR. This is based solely on the fact that the course will be in better shape and compared to last year, I am too. 

I'm also curious to see this course again. Based on the buds and blooms here in DC, I'm guessing it will look a little more green this time. Winter, we hardly knew ye.

Hashawha Hills course in snowy 2008. Photo by Alan Gowen.

A Run for Sherry

On a cold, cloudy Saturday, I ran for Sherry Arnold.

I met up with friends Kris, Yonas and Merhawi at Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot. We pinned on our bibs, talked about Sherry, and started our run in her memory.

Yonas, Kris, Me and Merhawi
As we ran, we chatted, but Sherry was in my thoughts. I thought about her family and friends. About how unfair it was that a morning run ended in tragedy. I thought of how much it sucks that women still, and always will, have to worry about their safety. There's no way to guarantee that something bad won't happen to us, even if we never leave the safety of our home. 

I decided that being friendly, open and trusting is better than living in fear. 

I took a moment to offer up my gratitude to people like Sherry -- women, teachers, mentors, runners -- who have had a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others.

I thought about what Sherry's cousin Beth (Shut Up and Run) said about this run:  "Despite the circumstances that will bring us together, smile because we are collectively doing something that symbolizes compassion and connectedness." 

I was glad to share these miles for with friends. It was comforting and reassuring and life-affirming.

Kris and I, post-run

Zensah Capri Tights Review

And now, for something new. A running gear review!

Zensah capris during a run in the city
I was recently asked by Zensah to test and review their 3/4 High Compression Capri Tights. As a huge fan of their calf sleeves, I was ecstatic to give these a try. Zensah sent a pair in my size, gratis, and I got busy running.

FIT. First, and most important, is whether a piece of clothing fits my body. Everyone's physique is different, and what works for one person may not work for others.

These capris go on pretty easily, no prolonged wrestling needed. The waist is high enough to cover my derriere and a good bit of my stomach (a very good thing).

front view
back view
FUNCTION. I've worn other compression capri tights that tended to creep down during a run. I feel the need to tug them up in back frequently. I was pleased that I had no such trouble with the Zensah capris, even on my longest runs. They fit well the entire time, even after one rather impressive Superman-style dive on the trail. I only made two minor adjustments during a 5 1/2 hour run, and not as a result of them creeping down.

The compression itself I would rate as satisfactory. The capris provided adequate support without feeling super tight. I've worn full tights that provided greater compression, but the trade-off is that it takes ten minutes to get them on or off.  I'm a size 6 and I chose the small/medium in the Zensah capris; if I wanted more compression benefits I would try to squeeze into the next size smaller. I kind of liked having the best of both worlds with these.

I also liked the pocket in the back. It compressed whatever I put in there and though there's no zipper, everything stayed in. Even better? My keys didn't bounce around, hit me or jingle!

I really liked the functional pocket

FEEL. My favorite thing about these capris was the way they felt. Wearing them, I didn't  worry about the potential effects of having circulation in my sensitive areas cut off. The waist sits high enough to give plenty of room in the crotch. Of course if you wanted compression/support there, you can simply pull them up so the crotch fits more snugly.

The capris are medium-weight and cozy. For my first test run in them, I hopped on the treadmill. After 10 minutes I was fighting the urge to rip off my shirt or head outside to finish my run. These capris are warm! 

On my next few runs, I braved the cold and they felt great. I loved them for running outside in chilly weather. My thighs never got cold despite 30 degree temperatures. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to try them in colder weather since Real Winter failed to show up this year. They're probably a little too warm for a run if the temperature exceeds 50 degrees, unless you balance it out by running in short-sleeved shirt.

Additionally, they're really comfortable. On days where I got dressed to run and ended up putzing around the house for hours instead, these tights were comfortable enough that I wore them all day.

LOOK. The fabric has a ribbed pattern, unlike the Spandex style you might be used to wearing. It has a cotton-y feel versus smooth and silky. Zensah's capri design isn't unattractive, it's just different than what I've worn in the past and it took some getting used to. I'm glad I had the opportunity to test these, because I'm not sure I'd have chosen them solely for the way they looked on me. The running gear I end up wearing over and over isn't always what looked the most flattering in the store mirror. Which is unfortunate, because all too often the cute outfits I've chosen end up being useful only on very short runs, or to change into for the post-run party.

I'm including some self-portraits so you can see for yourself. Full disclosure: If you drink even slightly less beer than I do you might find them considerably more flattering on you!
   Zensah is not responsible for my beer drinking habit
Zensah is also not responsible for your loss of eyesight from looking at this photo

OVERALL. These have become my go-to gear this winter since I started wearing them. They perform well, fit comfortably and keep my legs warm. If I need full leg compression I just add my Zensah calf sleeves.

Would I recommend them to others?  Definitely. Of course, it's always a plus if you can try them on at your local running store to ensure you get the right size and fit for your body. Plus, that's where I always stumble on a cute outfit that's perfect for changing into just for the post-run party.

Cute running outfit, better suited to post-run posing