This past year I picked up some new gear that I would now hate to be without. For a sport that really should be quite basic in terms of what you need, it is amazing what you end up buying. Of course need and want are two very different things!
First on my list, and my favourite purchase of the year, is my Sugoi two in one running jacket. This is one of those things where you slap your head and think “I wish I had thought of that!” When I run in cool or cold weather I want layers that are easy to take off. Often even in the coldest of temperatures I start to get too hot in any kind of running shell and I end up having to tie my jacket around my waist. Not any more though. My new jacket has removable sleeves, easily turning into a vest. But what really makes this jacket different is the fact that the sleeves are a single piece, like a balero jacket or shrug, and are attached by magnets. I don’t have to stop and unzip individual sleeves, I just pull the shrug off while running, scrunch it into a ball and slip it into the back pocket of the vest. When I want sleeves again I just pull the shrug back on and the magnets located around the back, collar and arm holes quickly click back together. Couldn’t be easier!
My second favourite purchase – actually purchases since one pair wasn’t enough – was compression socks. I had never worn them before and wasn’t sure I really needed them. But once I knew I would be flying for five hours a couple of days before a half marathon, I decided that at the very least I needed them for the plane trip. Once I tried running in them there was no going back. How can something so goofy looking be so comfortable? I have no idea if they make me run better or make me recover faster, I just know they feel great both during and after a run. I now own four pairs; three regular pairs and a merino wool pair. All have been well used. I admit I used to laugh at the look of knee-high socks, but now I totally get it!
In the number three spot – my Garmin 220. It is light, not too big for my small wrist, easy to use and has everything I need. It is a vast improvement on my previous Garmin, the 405, which I never ended up fully liking but had a hard time ditching since it was still working. A special thanks to my husband for convincing me that I was doing enough of this running thing to deserve a watch I would really like. And my kids aren’t complaining about getting to use my old Garmin!
Not quite making my top three but still a great buy, my first 2 pairs of trail shoes. As I start to do more off road running, both in training and orienteering, I have realized that I need some traction. A little protection from the elements doesn’t hurt either. I love how light these shoes are and I can’t believe the grip. No more sliding around in mud or on snow. My only complaint is the waterproof Climate Shield was not up to the task of snowshoeing for over an hour on a sunny day with the temperature hovering around zero. My feet stayed dry and very warm for at least 45 minutes. But the wet snow stuck to the top of my shoes and snowshoe straps, eventually melting into them, leaving my feet very wet. If I had been running the snow would have been coming off the top of my shoes more easily and I doubt there would have been a problem. On two other occasions when I snowshoed in colder temperatures I had no issue with the snow working its way into the shoes.
As for the year of running itself, what were my favourite memories? It was such a busy year of running, the busiest I have ever had, so the memories, good and bad, are numerous. The following however, did stand out:
- Knowing at the 18k mark of the Vancouver Half Marathon that I was going to blow away my previous PB – which I did by about 6 minutes with a final time of 1:57!
- Running my first 30k race, where I ran a very steady comfortable race and finished in a surprising 3:04. And by the way…that course has hills and more hills in the last third of the race!
- Seeing new cities. Running took me to Vancouver (followed by a car trip through the Rockies) and Philadelphia. My love of travel has been renewed thanks to my love of half marathons!
- Finally running a smart, and fast, Mission Possible Half Marathon. The course had beaten me twice, but the third time was the charm and I finished under 1:57. It may or may not be my half marathon PB. My Garmin, and those of others, measured the course as few hundred metres short of 21.1 km. But, given the hilly, winding nature of the course and the several tunnels we had to go through, I’m not sure how accurate the GPS would be.
If I ignore my very disappointing full marathon in May, this was by far my most successful and fun year of running yet. I surprised myself with faster than expected times in the 10k, 16k, half marathon and 30k distances. In some ways I think I have to prepare myself for the fact that 2015 may not hold as many PB’s as this past year. That said, I do have three very specific time goals for the new year:
- Half marathon – 1:55 or less
- 10k – 52 minutes or less
- marathon (if I choose to do one in the fall!) – sub 4:30
None of these goals are out of reach and in fact should be quite achievable. This year has proven that while I may be a relatively average runner, I can get faster.
Happy New Year and here’s to a successful year of running for all of us!