Monthly Archives: March 2015

60. Dem bones and socks.

Running tip #60


Socks matter.  More often than you think, it is poor sock choice that begins a cycle of injury.  For example, a too-thin sock (like the polyester pair you hurriedly grabbed out of your dress-sock drawer) that causes you to slip around inside your “professionally fitted” running shoe, can make your plantar fascia work overtime – micro-gripping with every step to hold your foot in place – which can then make your achilles tendons tight, which can then cause your calve muscles to pull too hard where they are attached to the shins, etc (just like in the Dem Bones song  … the ankle bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone … ).   The slippery sock can also force your stabilizing muscles to be overused, resulting in potential i.t. band inflammatory issues at both the knee and hip attachment sites.

A too-thick sock, which essentially makes your shoe a quarter size too small for your foot, has its own set of problems:  bruised toes, Morton’s neuroma, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, and general tightness from shortening your stride length to accommodate the lack of room in your toe-box with every foot-strike.

For running tip #60, I say choose your socks wisely and rotate them with intention.  Though pricey, I prefer Balega socks over all others and if you switch your left and right socks back-and-forth each time you wear them, you can extend the life of those expensive socks to prevent a hole in the toe or an injury in the making.


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61. Keeping count

Running tip #61


Yesterday, I drew in the snow during my workout … not a lovenote (^) but a series of hash marks to count to 12.   Often on a Sunday evening, I try to come up with short-and-sweet workouts to dash off before dinner.  I let the terrain and my mood determine what I run, so last night I opted for a 25-second stretch of gravel road that ended in a field of snow.  My plan was to use each 25 second burst to work on my form (or, rather, to reinforce my already-good form from 40 years of competitive running).  After the first few sprints, with jog back to start recovery, I realized the cold air and lack-of-oxygen from anaerobic work might cause me to lose track of how many I’d run, so I drew vertical lines in the snow after each interval to keep count.


On not-so-snowy days, rocks may also be used for counting.  Start with as many rocks as you plan to run intervals. For instance, if you are doing 8 X 700m, then you’ll need 8 rocks.  After each 700, toss a rock aside.  Later in the workout, when you are oxygen-deprived and rapidly losing your ability to do simple math, you will know how many intervals you have left by glancing at the (decreasing) line of rocks.


p.s. Warning!  If you happen to be a young mother with a mischieveous kid waiting on a park-bench as you run round and round each loop, that line of rocks may mysteriously change from 4 to 5 after you thought you were half-way through.

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62. Napkin dreams

Running tip #62


An airplane window seat on a cross-country flight is the best place on earth for setting long-term goals.  Correction: you’re not actually ON the earth in an airplane, but above it … which is literally what allows you to have the necessary distance to dream.  I’ll never forget the flight home from a disappointing “also-ran” performance in 1994.  I was alone (because I was self-coached) and staring out the window … sort of feeling sorry for myself, trying to figure out what went wrong … when I started doodling on the American Airlines napkin [tip #62-B is always travel with an ink pen] while pondering:

How was I going to run faster?  

What changes did I need to make in my training (and in my attitude) to get there?  

What was it going to take?  

I knew the first-ever women’s 5,000m was to be held at the World track & field championships in 1995, so I started playing with numbers to “cipher” out exactly what would be required to make that world team.  Here’s a photocopy of my napkin:


You can see I settled on 74 as the magic number.   To have any shot at running 15:25 for 5k (the time I believed would make the world team) I needed to find a way to maintain 74 seconds per 400/3:05 per 1,000m for 12 and 1/2 laps.  I decided then and there that I would never run an interval on the track slower than 74-second pace in any workout. Never.  On that little 3″ X 4″ piece of tissue paper lay all my hopes and dreams with a precise action-plan to get there.

I did go on to run 15:24.68 that spring … but I missed making the world team by .3 seconds (which proves I’m better at dreaming than ciphering).

and the Hebrews 12:1 … in the upper right-hand corner?

Whether you’re religious or not, you have to appreciate the purport of  “a cloud of witnesses” out an airplane window!

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”


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63. smoothie a go-go

Running tip #63

It’s March … so spring is coming!  For today’s tip, let’s break out the blender in celebration.  Here’s a groovy personal blender from Oster that I love for my post-workout smoothies.  You simply put all the ingredients in the convenient to-go container that has a screw-off blade attachment and a screw-on lid.

.  BLSTPB-WBL-000-1

This quick-n-easy recipe is very berry good:

fill the container 2/3 full with mixed frozen berries 

add vanilla yogurt (for the other 1/3) to fill the container 

pour orange juice over all until it covers the berries

make sure everything is loosely packed … then blend thoroughly


Eat with a long teaspoon while soaking in the tub … or use a straw for a smoothie-on-the-go.


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64. flannel running gear?

Running tip #64

The other day I was out running on the trail and some dude blazed by me in a total hipster outfit.  Imagine this guy in running shoes, not hiking boots …


It got me to wondering, how come they don’t make running clothes in flannel?  Or do they?

[Readers please post a comment if you know of such a thing.]

It also got me to remembering a great tip from an old friend of mine.  If you’re having one of those days when you just can’t get out the door because changing into your running clothes feels like too big of a hassle, then don’t change your clothes.  Simply throw on some sneakers and head out in your “street clothes” (your khakis and oxford button-down, jeans and a dress-shirt, a skirt with tights … whatever you’re wearing) to liberate yourself from the tyranny of “proper” running attire.

I think my dude in flannel must have been having one of those days.  Or maybe he was running to Beer Study. because the roads were too icy for his fixie.

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65. Sock options

Running trick #65

Back in the day, the “cool” runners all wore cotton gardening gloves in the winter because they were breathable, washable, and practically disposable.   Guys wore the plain brown ones:


and we ladies preferred the floral prints:


Nowadays, with all the newfangled technical dri-fit/wickaway/cool-max products on the market, the humble cotton glove is rarely seen on our fellow harriers’ hands … but, there is still a need for a less expensive hand-warming option.  My cheap frugal better half , Dave (who quotes Lonesome Dove‘s Augustus McCrae, “I’m not one to give up on a garment just because it’s got a little age.”) uses his socks for gloves with the following temperature-tiered system:

Very cold:




Sorta cold:


Fully warmed-up but still has to carry his sock-gloves:


p.s. Dave is a stock trader, so I couldn’t resist the title of this post!

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66. Presto chango!

Running tip #66

If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t buy a monkey or a green dress (“that’s cruel”) … I would treat myself to a massage every single day by world-class track & field massage-therapist, Carolyn Levy.  But I’m not rich, so I have to save my massage indulgences for when I really need them.  Now, as an avocational runner, I use massages for healthy body and soul maintenance (good ‘ol stress relief) but when I was a serious athlete – when running was my vocation – I needed Carolyn’s professional expertise to add the final ingredient (dare I say “the final touch”?) for training and racing success.  Carolyn’s magic hands made my left leg (ahhh, track-intervals and all those left turns!) soleus tightness disappear:


and I always felt like my muscles were perfectly aligned and ready to race when I got off of her table. Presto!

For tip #66, I say do some research and find the best sports massage therapist in your town (word-of-mouth with other runners is always best) and schedule appointments for the Tuesday before a Saturday goal race.  This gives you the requisite 72 hours to flush out any soreness with plenty of water and gentle running as you peak.

If your search comes up empty, find a friend/partner/family member to help you Do it Yourself:

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67. Janice and George

Running tip #67

Today’s trick is one I would put in the “last resort” category.  We’ve all had those days in training, those low-ebb periods that miler Jim Beatty refers to as “down cycles,” where the thought of a 10-mile run makes you want to crawl back under the covers on a Sunday morning and eat sticky buns.


All of your normal running routes seem blah and boring and you know you’re going to feel-i-shi the whole time (that’s my made up word for when I’m having the worst run EVER … Ifeelishi … pronounced eye-fill-ahh-shee, one word).  If this happens and you can’t take the day off  (b/c you only get ten buckets a year, remember?),  that’s when you need to call in the reinforcements.  Find someone to drive you 10 miles out of town and drop you off so you have to run home.  I told you this was a last resort tip!  Preferably, your cabbie will stash a bottle of water for you at the 1/2-way mark, but you can always choose a route that runs by a gas station or park water fountain.  It’s also a good idea to have those above-mentioned sticky buns waiting for you upon return. 

My friend, Janice, used point-to-point runs every Sunday.  She lived in Durham, NC but her favorite biscuit joint (Time-Out Restaurant) was in Chapel Hill, so every Sunday morning her husband, George, would drive to Time Out to read the paper and Janice would run 13 miles to meet him for breakfast.


And I know for a fact, that George dropped water-bottles half way.a-little-heart

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68. Dare yourself into the distance.

Running tip #68

My daughter, Lizzie, told me I should do a post on “pump up songs,”  but music, to me, is so personal and immediate that I don’t feel comfortable offering suggestions for what to listen to before you race.  We’re all snowflakes, ya know?  Singular, original, unique … no two of us could possibly have the exact musical taste.   My favorite song changes almost daily.  Like today, when I was in the Open Eye cafe  having an espresso shake on an unseasonably warm afternoon in March, the baristas were playing Neil Young’s Harvest and I thought THIS is my pump up song today, right now … A Man Needs a Maid … because of these lyrics:

To give a love,
you gotta live a love.
To live a love,
you gotta be “part of”

…  because the song was playing while I was meeting the new captains of my high school XC team.  I am a “part of” their lives now; they are a “part of ” me.  I almost cried right there in the coffee shop.

This happens in every phase of our lives as human beings.  We love and are loved … and if music can capture our emotions, our “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (as Wordsworth says in his preface to Lyrical Ballads) then Lizzie is right, pump-up songs are a tip worth sharing.

SO, for tip #68 give a listen to my current favorite pre-race (pre-life!) song by Oberlin College rising freshman, Sam Bailey:

Dare yourself into the distance

I hope this inspires my XC girls to dare themselves into NXN!


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69. Lessons from the Geese

Running tip #69

Today I am implementing  The Urban dictionary definition of “punt” in order to not miss a day in my 365 running tricks. Oh, the wonders of copy and paste!

(I really do love this poem/reading for cross-country teams, so it IS  a real tip … just a lazy one).

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.30.59 AM



By Robert McNeish, former Assoc. Superintendent of Baltimore Public Schools, 1972

We live in an area where geese are very common. We see them coming in the Fall and leaving in early Spring. Their migration is an awesome sight.

There is interdependence in the way geese function.

FACT:   As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an “up lift” for the bird following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

LESSON:  People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

FACT:  Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, it quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the “lifting power” of the bird immediately in front.

LESSON:  If we have a much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.

FACT:  When a goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies at the point position.

LESSON:  It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. People, as with geese, are interdependent with each other.

FACT:  The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

LESSON:  We need to make sure our “honking” from behind is encouraging, not criticism or something less helpful.

FACT:  When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation to follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or dies. They then launch out again and join another formation or catch up with their flock.

LESSON:  If we have as much sense as the geese, we will stand by each other.

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