Gear Feature: ProCompression Marathon Socks

Sporting PRO Compression @ Huntsville Half
As someone who has struggled with a lot of lower leg issues over the years, I've spend a significant amount of money on various therapies and products to try to take care of my stems. In this quest for my "holy grail" of lower leg health, I've tried several different brands of compression socks. I won't go into the scientific background of compression socks, but if you're interested, you can click HERE to read a breakdown on the topic by Steve Magness.

Anyway, back to my chronically grumpy achilles (and, more recently, posterior tibial tendon)... When I first started wearing compression socks about 5 or 6 years ago, there weren't a ton of options. CEP was the big name, along with a few other options. I really liked the support that I felt like CEP provided, and I did notice a reduction in lower leg fatigue and soreness post-workout. What I didn't like was the battle to get them on or off because they were soooo tight. I understand that's kind of the point, but I shouldn't have to worry about falling off the bed or straining an ab muscle to get my socks off after a run!

When I was sponsored by a particular company after college, I wore their compression socks instead of my old CEPs (which, by then, had developed some unsightly holes where I tended to kick my ankles). They were FAR easier to get on and off, but I realized they probably weren't providing as much benefit when they fell down to my ankles about 2k into a 10k race. Compression? Not so much. Bummer.

When my contract with that company wasn't renewed after my first year, I started exploring my compression options. A lot of running gear isn't super affordable, so I spent a lot of time perusing various discount sites. On a whim, because they were on sale for less than $20, I decided to try PRO Compression. And you know what? My compression life changed!

PRO Compression Marathon Socks - I won't admit how many pairs I currently own, because some people would undoubtedly find the number "excessive" - are really unique among the many brands I've tried in that they provide a nice, snug amount of compression (which I affectionately think of as "a hug for my legs") but they're SUPER easy to get on and off. Yes, they're tight, but they're also really stretchy. No more falling off beds or straining ab muscles. Jackpot! They also come in some pretty fun colors and patterns. If you, like me, enjoy matching all the components of your outfit together, these socks are great for that too! My achilles and PTT also are huge fans of their mid-height PC Racer Socks. (They also have "low" socks and compression sleeves, but I haven't tried those yet.)

Bottom line: I love my PRO Compression socks. I wear them for every run I do: workouts, long runs, races, shake-outs... Everything. I highly recommend you give them a try: you'll get the benefits of the compression without getting injured everytime you need to put them on or take them off. And that's pretty awesome.


Race Recap: Le Cours de l'Amour 5k

Continuing with the plan of racing nearly every weekend, I went down to Denver City Park for Le Cours de l'Amour 5k, a Valentine's Day run. Normally, races start with the firing of a pistol. Appropriately for the holiday, this one started with the dropping of rose petals from above the starting line! Yep, for real. 

Following last weekend's major struggle through a windy half marathon and still trying to get back in shape after spending so long in a boot, I really just wanted a solid effort and to see some improvement over the 5k I ran a few weeks ago. I didn't have a particular time goal in mind, for once in my running life. My plan was to keep it comfortably hard and see what happened. I really had no idea what that would mean in terms of finishing time or place.

The start was really crowded because they started the 5k and 10k at the same time AND they invited everyone running as a couple (they had a special award for "fastest couple") to start in the front. A few girls went out HARD, but I settled into a comfortable pace, took the lead around the half-mile mark and hit the first mile in 5:53. Okay, good. I can hold this. 

At that point, I think there were about 6 men in front of me and I made it my goal to start picking them off. Of course, I had no idea how many of them were running the 5k and how many were actually in the 10k and I wouldn't know that until the finish line when the 10k runners passed the finish line and headed out for Lap #2 of the 5k course.

Most of my workouts lately have been fartleks where the longest segment of "hard" running has been 3 minutes, so I'm a little out of practice when it comes to focusing for a 5k. In the second mile, I just tried to stay engaged and keep pushing through the little inclines and a hairpin turn that threatened to throw off my rhythm. Mile 2 - 5:54, still leading the women and about 4 men in front of me.

Still feeling surprisingly comfortable and pretty solidly locked into that pace, I just held steady until 2.5 miles. Because I haven't been doing hard efforts longer than 3:00, I was nervous to push the pace too much because I didn't want the finish to be ugly. I was chomping at the bit, my legs ready to go, but there was some fear and anxiety there. At 2.5 miles, I felt reasonably certain that I could push harder for one last kilometer, so I started to move. Mile 3 - 5:48 (the fastest mile I've run since September), and only 2 men ahead of me.

I saw the first man peel off to the left as we approached the finish - a 10k runner. I could see the 1st place 5k man. So. Freaking. Close. I tried to catch him, but there just wasn't enough space. He crossed the line about 8 seconds before me, but I'm still happy to have won the women's race in 18:17. More importantly, I felt strong and I felt like I could have gone faster if I had been able to push aside the fear about blowing up.

But, now I know where I'm at and I think I'm in a place where the real training can start. Let's do this!


A New Start

I've had a blog before. I started writing it in college, and I wrote pretty regularly for the first few years. After a while, life got busier and I wrote less. In October of 2013 I stopped writing because I got so sick of writing the same "Oh, I'm injured again" or "I ran another crappy race" posts. It's no fun to write the same post over and over, and I'm sure it's no fun to read either. So I took a step back from blogging.

In the more than a year since then a lot has happened. I started a new job working for a veterans' attorney last February and it is, by far, the most fulfilling job I've ever had. I've also gone through a couple injuries and decided to take an extended break from running steeplechase. After so many years on the track, the repetitive turns and the stress hurdling put on my body had really taken a toll on me. 

Up a Black Diamond ski slope!
Running on Thin Air @ 8,000ft

Unsure of what to do next, I hit the trails. And I fell in love. It turned out that I was actually not too bad at trail running, as I finished 5th in the GoPro Games 10km in Vail, CO. I missed the US Mountain Running Championship with an ankle injury a few weeks later, but returned to the trails in the fall with an overall victory and course record at the Running on Thin Air trail half marathon in Red Feather Lakes, CO.

I made a few attempts at a marathon debut, but the first had to be canceled when my wisdom teeth decided they needed to come out ASAP. I ended up canceling my "back-up" marathon as well, when I severely injured my achilles during my tune-up half marathon.

I took the longest break from running I've ever taken, spending 8 weeks in a walking boot and swimming & biking to try to stay in shape. It honestly wasn't all that terrible, and it was kind of nice to get to mix it up a little. I even went for a 53 mile ride to celebrate my half birthday. So, it wasn't ALL bad. The day after I finally got out of the boot, I was riding my bike home from work, hit a curb, and flew over my handlebars. Thanks to some nasty roadrash and a banged-up knee, my return to running had to wait another week and a half. When I had gotten injured, I was in the best shape of my life and on my first day back I barely made it two miles at a very slow pace. It was humbling, to say the least.

A few days later, I was getting off work when my dad called: "Your mom is on hospice care and won't make it to Christmas. You need to come home." The next morning, a Saturday, my boyfriend Alex and I made the 7 hour drive to Lincoln, NE with my cat curled up in the back seat. I don't think I could've made the drive without him. Alex flew back to CO on Tuesday. By Thursday my mom couldn't get out of bed. On Saturday morning, December 13th, she was gone. Just like that. I did the only thing that seemed to make any sense in that moment: I laced up my running shoes and ran out the door.

I'll write more about that in the future. It can't be avoided. That week completely changed me and there's a lot that needs to be said. But not right now. I'm simply not ready.

After helping my dad around the house for a few days I came back to Boulder. Because I couldn't afford to take even more time off work, Dad came to Boulder for Christmas to spend
a few days with me, Alex, and Alex's family. It was nice to have everyone together, but celebrating anything at that point just felt wrong. It still does.

Determined to keep myself busy, I enrolled in a class at the University of Colorado: Suffering and Care in Society. Depressing? Perhaps. Cathartic? We'll see.

Stout Month!
I'm again training toward a marathon debut, but this time the goal is just to make it to the starting line healthy. I'll worry about running fast the next time around. Because I now have work AND school on my plate, fitting in two workouts during the week is nearly impossible, so I've been racing every weekend as my 2nd workout. I'm not in the greatest shape yet, but I've been having fun. And that's what this year is primarily about for me: doing what gives me joy. What that means will probably evolve over the year, but right now it means racing a lot, playing on as many trails as possible, and sharing adventures with my Alex.

As for why I felt the need to start a new blog instead of revitalizing the old one? Simple: I'm not the same person as I was then. I'm still learning who this new "me" is, and I invite you to join me on the journey.