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My old favorites: the Nike Air Structure Triax. This picture is of the old model, the 12. I’m on a 13 or 14 model now, and I have to confess, I don’t love them. They’re heavier, and I swear I run flat-footed in them. Sadly, I’ve only got 125 miles on them, and I’m already thinking I can’t wear them to race on, or for long runs. They’re just unreliable, and make my feet feel heavy–the cardinal sin, in my eyes. And, to add insult to injury, they’re ugly.

Meanwhile, the Brooks Adrenalines have improved over the years. While the 8 and 9 models were doubtful for me in terms of fit and comfort, the 11 and 12 are fantastic, and I actually like them more now than the Nikes, and will probably put the bulk of my training miles on them this year until I see how Nike does with the Structure next year. How ’bout the name for brilliant marketing? This from the same company that names another of its shoes the Beast, though. Gotta wonder. I don’t get very much mileage out of these shoes, but that’s no different than any other model shoe, for me.

I trained in Mizuno Inspires when I was preparing for each of the marathons, and they seemed to hold up fairly well, having  a good balance of light weight and support. Unfortunately, post shinsplints of 2010, they have not been an option, simply because they aren’t deep enough to accomodate my necessary arch supports. I may try this year’s model or next’s to see if they have enough room, just because they are a great go-to shoe, and I always prefer to have a second shoe model to rotate in my training.

Ah, yes, the essential training tool–the Garmin Forerunner 205. Tells me distance, pace, time of day, hill grade, sunrise, sunset, and how far behind myself I am from the last time I ran the distance or the same course. Fantastic little tool. I’m not as yet anxious to upgrade, either to the 305, which would give me a heartrate monitor (I’m not that interested yet in another piece of data about my running) or the 410, which I hear is a little bit hinky. The 205 is just what I need. In the last race I ran before getting it, I went out way too fast and crashed at about mile 2. Garmie (and experience) will keep me from ever doing that again.

This half-ounce light is made by FunSource in several colors, including orange, green, and purple. Mine is clear plastic but flashes red. And what a flash it is! This tiny light can be seen from quite a distance in any of its three patterns–circling lights, flashing, or steady. It is powered by two cell batteries that will be easy to replace when the need arises.

I bought the hat first: the Boss bought it for me when we went to our last tennis tournament. I just got the visor, and I love it! The Feather Light visor reflects light, which is great for those of us, who, by choice or force, are part of the predawn patrol. It also does a good job of keepling sweat off my brow on those long runs when the sun rises at mile 8–in Florida, that can happen year-round.

I experimented with Sport Beans for the first time the summer of 2008–my first summer of true distance running. Water alone is insufficient for 10+ miles of running in southeastern Florida during our hot and humid summer months. These small packs of jelly beans are great–easy to carry and manage, and also easy to consume as you can have one every once in a while and munch while you run. Good distraction, too. Unfortunately, while they are great during training runs, they’re not ideal for racing, at least for me, since I can’t chew and run at the same time. These have been shelved as a training aid for me.

Because the Sport Beans were not practical for race-pace runs, I had to experiment with some other form of fueling in the fall of 2008. I know some of my running friends who can take solid food while they run hard, but my system isn’t that well-oiled yet, and I suspect it never will be. For my first “racing” half that year, I experiemented with Gu, which worked great. I liked the Chocolate Outrage flavor because, warmed in the hand for about a half mile or longer during the run, it was really almost indistinguishable from yummy delicious chocolate syrup. Though I thought I might have trouble digesting it, I did not. I used the Gus during my marathon in 2009, and though I seemed to handle it fine, I wondered later if some of my late-mile issues weren’t caused by a sugar crash because of the composition of the Gu. Because of that, late in the 2009, I made a strategic nutrition change.

Starting with my 2009 fall racing season, I’ve used Hammer products to fuel almost all my efforts. Their flavors are much milder, which makes them easier to ingest, especially during the later portions of a run. The composition is also different, so that the energy is more evenly distributed to avoid sudden energy crashes. I don’t understand all the science of it, but I know I do much better on my long runs since switching over. I also use their recovery product, Recoverite, which I mix into my water and Gatorade at the end of long runs and races, and their mineral-replacement product, Endurolyte, which I take during almost all hard efforts, especially in hot weather, to prevent exertion-fueled migraines. Hammer does a great job trying to educate athletes about the science behind their products, so visit their site or find them on Facebook to find out more about their line of nutritional aids.

The Race-Ready shorts were an experiment initiated as part of my long-term plan for marathon training. I knew long long runs would require carrying some kind of fuel. I thought about a water-bottle fuel belt, but they all seemed very uncomfortable. Besides, my long run route is also extremely well hydrated, as are most races, so all I really need is pockets. I wore these for the 2008 13.1 Fort Lauderdale, and they were adequate. However, I don’t wear them much anymore–the rise is uncomfortably high, which means I have to fold down the waistband . . . but if you do that, the pockets are inaccessible. Better off with a fuel-only belt (one without room for water bottles).

Instead, for most of my daily runs I now wear one of the running skirts from Target’s C9 line. They’re a little shorter than is altogether appropriate for daily life, but they’re perfect for running. They have shorts underneath that do not ride up on me, and meanwhile I feel like I’m wearing these pretty skimpy bottoms that allow me freedom of movement without exposing or highlighting my big Hispanic seat. They also all have a key pocket–nothing big enough for an mp3 player, but certainly adequate for a house key. I pair them with a belt for longer runs.

Now deserving of mention, KT tape has become a trusted part of my preparation and recovery with my balky knee. It offers less support than a restrictive brace but still holds my knee on bridge runs or long excursions. The company is preparing to release KT Tape Pro in the spring of 2012, and I’m very excited. I received a free sample of this new version in the mail a few weeks ago, and I absolutely love it! It has reflective ribbons in it, and the adhesive is actually improved. And though their instructions were always simple to follow, the company is adding new applications every day, and their mobile site gives easy access to videos for all sorts of taping applications. If you have an ache or injury that you need to stabilize before setting out, pick up a roll of KT Tape. You won’t be sorry.

You don’t have to be a 400-pound candidate for The Biggest Loser to have some uncomfortable skin rubbing while you run, especially if you are beginning to extend your distances. You could use diaper rash creme, which I suppose has some properties to protect your skin, but why do that when a product exists to specifically address this problem–in adults? BodyGlide is odor-, color-, and, for me, so far, stain-free, though I’ve heard of instances where it has not been, so use at your own risk. In case you have this problem and don’t want to say this out loud, go to your local running store and pick up a stick. Glide it anywhere you might see fit–legs, underarms, bra line, feet. Slick is better than not slick and painful. Just sayin’.

The Long and Lean tank from Target’s C9 line by Champion is my new go-to choice on most training days. It took me a while to make the transition to these tanks, mostly because I’m fairly modest and these tanks are fit fairly snugly. Because of this, though, they do wick sweat well and offer little wind resistance on those all-too frequent windy days here on the coast. In our not-too-cold winter, they make a great base layer because they fit so close to the body. I believe they’ll make great race-day wear, too, though they haven’t as yet been tested under race day conditions. The picture shows their most garish color, great for predawn runs, but the tank is also available in less neon shades.

Target also sells these running tights by C9. They come to the knee and have small reflective strips the color of the tank shown above. The tights have a small zippered pocket at the back that would hold a car key or a couple packets of Gu (and maybe even both). As evidenced by the picture, the rise is mercifully low, and though Target’s inseam selection in their regular clothes is woefully slim, they somehow saw the light in their athletic department and saw fit to offer these tights in a petite size. The small runs a little large in the waist for me, but I hate tight-fitting running clothes, so it ends up being just right. In our corner of the woods, my coolest runs are in about the upper 40s, sometimes into 15-20mph winds, and these tights, paired with long-sleeve tech tees, have been just the thing.

I discovered  the SpiBelt at the expo for the Marathon of the Palm Beaches in 2008. You know, I didn’t really believe the hype when I read the advertising saying that you could put stuff in it and it wouldn’t bounce and ride. I mean, really. I’ve had bad experiences with fuel belts, and everybody knows that fanny packs stink. But this thing is genius. It’s built with pleats, so it stays flat if you pack light and grows if you stuff it (and I’ve stuffed it). And it does not bounce. I put my ipod in it frequently, and have stuffed it with gels, too. When necessary, I can clip my blinky light on its stretchy belt. Fantastic. The company has also created a double-pocket belt now, and on longer runs this is often my fuel belt of choice when I need to carry both fuel and my phone.

My handheld water bottle from Fuel Belt, the 10-ounce Sprint, is a new must-have for the summer months. I’ll confess that as the temperature begins to soar, I go through the 10 ounces quickly, in about six miles, so I need a refill or a bigger bottle. I’m reluctant to explore the second option because this one fits my hand just right. The two pockets are fairly large, considering how comfortable and lightweight the entire contraption is. Two thumbs up.

Another new favorite–the Lulemon Athletica luon hat. It’s fantastic! My running friend M gave it to me around Christmastime 2011, and it literally saw me through the winter. It was an unusually cold one here in southern Florida–we had a stretch of 12 straight days with lows under 45 degrees, and more than 5 with highs that barely hit 60. Now I know that’s not cold to you Northerners, but I’m not used to running in the 30s and 40s and would have been miserable, or much more likely to ditch running at all, if I hadn’t had this lifesaver of a hat. It has a ponytail hole in the back.

My other Christmastime gift that year was this reflective vest from Little G. I wear it on almost all my runs now, and was complimented on “my lights and reflectors” by a passing dog walker the other day on one of my pre-dawn runs. Anything to make me more visible in the early-morning dark! This vest is from Brooks, though I’m sure other companies make similar items.

I ordered a pair of compression socks this fall to see what all the fuss was about and have to confess that I absolutey love running in them, and wear them now for all my long-distance runs. I love how they hug my calves and ankles, and am especially loving how they hold in my duck arches so I don’t have to worry that they’re collapsing inward, as they’re wont to do. They can be very expensive, so I was blessed to get them on a fantastic sale from one of my favorite online retailers.

When I don’t wear my socks–I won’t wear them for every run since I only have one pair–I often wear my Zensah calf sleeves. I have two pairs of these, one in black and one in red. Like the compression socks, these are great at supporting my legs and making me feel like I’m getting some continuous blood flow while I’m running. When I don’t wear them on the run, I come home and wear them for recovery after the run.

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