New Balance Zante v3 Review: My “Metro Shoe”

The day before the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & and 5K I got to work a shift at the “Solutions Desk” at the race expo. This is my favorite station because I get to solve problems for a group of my favorite people: runners. I also get to meet runners visiting from out of town and first-time racers. There’s anxious, adrenaline-fueled chatter about the weather, course, pace, gear and training setbacks. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, almost apologetically, “But I’m not fast,” I could’ve bought a new pair of running shoes.

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Me, solving problems.

Oh wait, I did.

My beloved New Balance 860v7s were beyond wear. My Garmin told me I’d logged 770 miles in them since July and considering I didn’t wear my watch on every run, these wheels were clearly overextended. So, two days before the race, I went to Fleet Feet and picked up another pair of 860v7s in a new color.

New Balance 860v7

So pretty.

“But you just got a new pair,” my husband complained. Oh, silly, silly Ray.

Last week, as a Publix Savannah Women’s race ambassador, I was given a pair of the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante version 3s to review. As a die-hard NB fan, and owner of last-year’s version, I already knew I’d love these. They’re incredibly lightweight, sport a low profile, contour fit and an accommodating toe-box, and are the perfect complement to my joggers, which have become what my husband refers to as my “giving-up pants.”

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3

Joggers + Zante = Giving up (in a good way)

But run in them? Not so much.

It’s not them. It’s me.

See, there are three things I’ll never cheat on: my husband, a race or my running shoes. I’ve worn the New Balance 860s for about 20 years now, and I’m not changing anytime soon—not even going to dabble. So, while many people have said the Zante is an ideal, lightweight racing shoe, it has been designated as my official “metro shoe.” It’s the shoe I wear post-race, when anything else would feel like a pair of strappy Payless 4-inch stilettos made exclusively from man-made materials not unlike plastic zip-ties pulled taught.

This not only gives my feet the support and kindness they deserve, it also gives my 860s a needed break to air out and maybe even extends their life. They work as a team, my 860s and my Zantes. They’re like Sonny and Cher, prosecco and OJ, left foot and right foot.

Plus, there’s something cool—something a little Mr. Rogers—about having specific shoes for specific activities, and going through the ritual of changing shoes from running 6 miles to running errands. And having something you call your “metro shoes” is inherently hipster. (At almost 40, those opportunities are few and far between.)

I didn’t wear my new 860s for the race. That’s what is called a “rookie mistake.” Instead, I beat out whatever pulp was left in my old shoes and ceremoniously retired them after a respectable 1:47 half-marathon finish (in my book).

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RIP my good friend.

Then I promptly showered, slipped into my joggers and Zantes, and gave up.

(You can get your Zante V3s at Fleet Feet Savannah, which retail for about $99. How you use them is up to you!)

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Easy, Pretty and Healthy: I’m talking about a recipe, silly.

As you may recall from last year’s cooking experience, I don’t cook. Or at least I don’t enjoy it. I prefer to stand by, observe and eat. Which also means that I have to rely on my more capable friends to get the job done.

This year, I leaned on my running partner Robin, who also happens to be a dietitian. These are good friends to have. These are the people who gently discourage you (me) from engaging in high-risk eating behavior (i.e. ordering seafood after a power outage). They’re also the people you call when you (I) took a supplement called “Neuro Shred” for an energy boost and thought either your heart would beat out of your chest or your skin would crawl off your body.

Robin’s sage advice: “Stop doing that, Andrea.”

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So Robin sends me a grocery list to create “Zesty Quinoa Salad,” a dish she found on allrecipes.com, and off to my neighborhood Publix I go.

As it turns out, Zesty Quinoa Salad is super cheap to make, which left me enough dough to invite a bottle of my good friend Kim Crawford to lunch with us.

I mean, just look at these ingredients:

1 cup quinoa (Robin likes the Inca Red version from Ancient Harvest)

2 cups water (free!)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 limes, juiced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

1 ½ cups halved cherry tomatoes (we used grape tomatoes)

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

5 green onions, finely chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

salt and ground pepper to taste

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The only things I had to buy were the tomatoes, limes, green onions and cilantro. So, what is that? Like $6? I should’ve bought a case of Kim…

You’ll also notice there is nothing “bad” in this recipe. I bought everything from the healthy perimeter of Publix. Robin likes the dish because it’s this medley of nutrition—you’ve got protein, antioxidants, iron, vitamins and flavor. She also likes it because it’s gluten-free. Robin, who has celiac, for reals can’t eat gluten, while I avoid it because it doesn’t like me. Or rather, it doesn’t like me at about mile 3 of a run when it hits my lower GI like a volcano: sudden and violent.

And while I hate it when people tell me recipes are “so easy,” I swear this one is. (And even easier when Kim is there to assist.)

It’s just chop, chop, chop. (Yes, I’ve learned you can’t shoot video vertically…)

Juice, juice, juice.

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Pour, pour, pour.

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Then stir, stir, stir. (As demonstrated by Robin’s daughter, Morgan, who’s more capable at cooking than I.)

I think I’m going to rename it the Super-cinco Salad: super cheap, super easy, super fresh, super tasty and super pretty. (Damn I’m clever.)

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Check out those colors!

For a full-on meal, I added chicken. And it also gets better with time, so the longer it sits, the better the flavors incorporate, which I can attest to because I ate it for 3 days–before and after long runs (just not during–never during).

Now, share this post by Wed. 3/29 and get in a drawing for a $25 Publix Gift Card!

Nourish: Pampering Products for the Runner’s Body and Soul

I know that I should stretch, wash my water bottles regularly and not pour that next glass of wine. But what we should do is so not fun. In fact, most things that are “good for us” are miserable, like flossing and flu shots.

Can something be good for me and fun? I mean, I like running and working out. I like to eat fruits and vegetables. And I drink wine—wine is good for me, right? (Someone said something about “moderation” but I stopped listening, so I don’t know what the hell that was all about…)

But everything else that’s awesome—bubble baths, massage, naps—those fall under the category of “pampering,” suggesting they’re an indulgence, not a fundamental need.

Then I met my friend and running partner, Lindsay. Lindsay treats pampering like it’s her job. I once touched her arm and was so taken by the luxe, velvety feel of her skin, I thought she was magic.

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So relaxed. So pampered. So smart.

“You’re so soft!!!” I exclaimed, self-consciously rubbing my berber carpet-like arm.

“I exfoliate,” she replied, as if she just explained how brushing makes your teeth clean.

I bought a loofah that very day.

When I was sidelined by an IT-band injury, Lindsay suggested a massage.

Up until that point, I had only gotten a massage when my parents gift-certificated me a hot-stone session, and I had to force myself to stay awake for fear I’d miss the bliss. It was, indeed, an indulgence.

But 30 minutes whimpering under the powerful hands of Lindsay’s Russian massage therapist at the local YMCA, and I realized massage was neither Swedish nor relaxing. It is Russian and 100% necessary.

I let Lindsay be my guide dog for all-things good for me, and she was the one to introduce me to Nourish: in the form of hand-made, rosemary-scented bath salts to soak my weary muscles.

Nourish Natural Bath Products

Nourish creates some of the best natural bath products I’ve ever encountered. From salts to soy candles, this family-owned business produces some of the best, chemical-free bath boosters you can imagine. (I grew up with my mother warning that Mr. Bubbles was going to work his way into my “parts” and wreak havoc. Mom, you can relax knowing I’ve gone all natural.) Nourish also gives back to the community; they’re one of the sponsors of Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K.

Because I’m a race ambassador, Nourish sent me some products to review and give away, which I’m more than happy to do for a company I’m already obsessed with. Because the more runners who know about Nourish, the better equipped our bodies are to survive the toil we put them through.

After my 9-mile training run (yes, for the upcoming Publix Women’s Half!), my hips and low back felt as if a welder was holding a blow torch to them, trying to fuse them back in place.

I channeled my inner Lindsay—who I can bet was already steeping in her own fragrant bath complete with candle, face-mask and cabernet—and turned on my tub. My husband came in and asked, disgusted, “What are you doing?” as if I were skinning a cat.

“I’m running a bath.” He looked perplexed.  “Because I’m sore.” (i.e. Not because I’m indulging myself).

Ray refers to baths as “human stew.” He claims I’m “simmering in my own funk.” Consequently, this also revokes his ticket to watch. (I win.)

But not the cat. The kitten stands on the ledge of the tub, fascinated by this process. In fact, she’s so fascinated that I shield myself from her judging stare. (The hair-full always mock the hairless.)

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“What are you doing, strange human?”

As I loofah and bath gel my way to happiness with the Lemongrass & Rosemary Moisturizing Wash, I wonder why I don’t do this more often?

Lemongrass and Rosemary Moisturizing Wash

I smell like a delicious lemon drop.

Why is a bath accompanied by salts and fizz not regarded as simple maintenance? I mean, B.L. (before Lindsay), I’d run a bunch of miles, swallow an Advil and call it a day. Today, A.L., I know that my body is me. Not something I reward with a massage or a fragrant dip. This body and me, we’re one and the same. And to take care of me, means to take care of this body. This vessel—this physical expression of “me.” (Whoa, that got existential for a minute.)

A soak, a massage, a candle—these things aren’t extravagant. They aren’t indulgent. They’re the necessary ways in which we tell ourselves we’re worth the trouble. And ways in which we tell ourselves “Thank you.” And “Please keep going another day.” And another day. And another day.

Lindsay’s got it figured out. She—her skin, her soul, her mind, her heart—is nourished.

Not “just another half marathon”

The week of the Crites Tybee Race Fest, a 2-day, 5-race festival with a cumulative distance of 26.2 miles, I came down with a cold. Because, well, of course I did.

No one else was faring much better. Lindsay had been fighting all sorts of sickness and Robin wisely decided to give her knee a rest after our Charleston Marathon. So I’d have to run by my lonesome. And if you know me at all, you know I don’t like to be alone. Like, ever.

So I decided to race “just” the half-marathon, which compared to the marathon a couple weeks ago, should be no problem.

At the 11th hour, my friend Jodie decided to join me for the race.  Jodie claims she’s “not a runner” but she’s pretty much whatever she wants to be. A salsa dancer? Sure! A Gladiator? No problem! A human fork-lift? I mean, have you seen her arms?!

And she can decide at a moment’s that she’s going to run 13.1 miles.

But Jodie won’t run with me. See, Jodie doesn’t like to talk and run. And I pretty much run to talk.

Jodie also doesn’t like the cold, and by cold I mean anything sub-78. In the middle of summer, when it’s 100 degrees and 100% humidity, you’ll see her running at 2 p.m. By choice.

This morning, it’s barely 40 with wind gusts up to 20 mph. And Jodie is not happy.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” she grumbles, pulling her jacket tight around her body in spite of the fact that we’re inside a heated car.

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Not happy.

We both know I didn’t talk her into this. A few months ago, Jodie decided to run the Key West Marathon in support of her dad, who’s fighting cancer. A few days before the race she came down with the flu and decided to run the half, fueled by fever, chills and a promise she made to her dad.

She finished the half, but the fact that she was still 13.1 miles short of her promise haunted her. Which brings us to the Tybee Half.

“This is just God’s way of punishing me for not running the marathon,” Jodie continues to lament at the race start line, her entire body trembling with the cold.

Neither of us have any expectations for this race; we’re going for the finish where we have VIP passes to the Savannah magazine tent and the promise of bottomless mimosas.

At the gun, we disappear into our individual playlists and race. It takes about two miles for my feet to thaw and I’m holding a pretty steady 8:15 pace. If I can keep it up, I’ll have a good finish.

Of course, I can’t. Not only because the wind pushes me backwards, but also because I’m mentally weak.

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Running (fake) happy.

Why do I do this? I ask myself, the beginning of a series of self-defeating rhetorical questions.

Why am I so slow?

Why am I so old?

Burp.

Why did I eat Mexican last night?

Then I turn the corner and run with the wind and all is right again.

Why does this feel so easy?

Another switchback.

Why does this suck so much?

Like all things, the race eventually ends. I somehow muster what I think is a sprint to the finish, but probably looks more like an angry orangutan scaring off a would-be predator.  I know this because spectators avert their eyes as I bear my teeth and emit very un-humanlike sounds.

I finish in 1:48, a respectable time but not a PR, gather myself and cheer Jodie in, who bounds along like she could run another 10 miles. Because she could.

Crites Tybee Run Fest

Jodie immediately wraps herself in “Grandma’s coat”—her affectionate name for the warmest, if not the most hideous, jacket—and we bee-line to the mimosas.

“Go easy on the orange juice,” I instruct the bartender. He pours maybe a half-teaspoon into my complimentary travel cup before I stop him. “Whoa—leave a little room for the champagne, buddy.”

We want to hang around to test the bottomless-ness of our cups, but the wind and cold is unbearable, so unbearable that even the free drinks aren’t worth the discomfort (a sentence I never thought I’d write).

Crites Tybee Run Fest

Actually happy.

As we flee to our cars, we congratulate one another on our accomplishment: finishing. Only it was a little sweeter for Jodie because finishing also meant honoring her dad by engaging in an activity they use to enjoy together.

For me it was “just another half marathon,” but at the same time there’s no such thing as “just another half marathon.” It’s always a struggle, always an accomplishment, and never should it be something we take for granted. To be healthy, to be active, to be able to run, to have friends to cheer us on, these are gifts we work for, but they are not forever.

I’m grateful I had them today.

Sometimes, Just Finishing is Enough (File this under things I never thought I’d say)

 

 

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Two weeks leading up to my fourth marathon, I started to believe I was cursed. My running partner, Robin, got suddenly sidelined and the doctor said she may never run again. Lindsay’s father-in-law went into the hospital—then her mother-in-law—and so she pulled out of the girls’ weekend she was going to share with us. My foot ached, my car broke down, my retainer fell out, I smashed my nose on the door (my husband says I need whiskers), my throat was starting to feel scratchy and the grocery was out of beets.

During my last 8-miler before the race I nearly face-planted while crossing the highway. Like, arms windmilling frantically, feet flailing behind me in big loping strides so as not to crash into the pavement with my recently un-retained teeth.

“I can’t catch a break,” I complained to my husband when I got home. “I’m having the worst luck.”

“Or,” my husband began, “maybe you have good luck.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, you didn’t fall, did you?”

Usually I’m totally a glass is half-full kind of girl, but when you’re about to do something as crazy as run 26.2 miles, you look for anything as a sign not to do it.

The day before the marathon—on Friday the 13th nonetheless—the stars aligned a bit.

Robin was treated and cleared by a super-awesome sports PT to run. I didn’t come down with the flu, didn’t break my leg, my foot miraculously healed, and I settled for a jar of pickled beets.

Robin and I checked into our hotel and it was surprisingly nice for the price. The expo was a breeze, we had a great dinner, got to bed early and I actually managed to sleep a few hours.

The next morning, I felt good. Like, really good. Like, Boston-qualifying good.

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Race morning!

I got to the start in plenty of time with my satellite secured and my intestines emptied. I pushed my way to the front so as to avoid getting caught in a crowd of runners. And then I was off.

By mile 8, I had already built a three-minute buffer into my qualifying time. It felt easy. Like I could hold an 8:20 pace forever.

Or at least until mile 11.

The drop was sudden. Without any warning, my body announced, “I think this is as far as we’re going to go today.”

I know all too well that mile 11 is much too early to encounter “the wall.” And yet, there it was, an impenetrable concrete metaphor standing firmly between me and my Boston qualifying time. Maybe even between me and completing the race altogether.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop running. I did both.

Then I thought about Robin, running her first marathon. And Lindsay, watching my pace from home, cheering me on. And the $100 I spent to run 26.2 miles, which really stung.

I pulled myself together best I could, gave myself permission to let go of the goal I’d work 5 months to reach, and just tried to put one foot in the front of the other for 15 miserably long, hot and humid miles.

Because when there’s nothing else to do, you might as well just finish.

Finishing that race as a biped was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After crossing the finish at 4:19, I flopped down on the ground in complete exhaustion. The sun beat onto my worn body until I caught a glimpse of Robin heading toward the finish. I rose as awkward as a newborn colt, trying to gain my balance on cramping legs. And then I forgot everything—about my curse, my missed goal, and my crappy race. In short, I forgot about me and cheered Robin in to her very first marathon finish. She was beat. Broken. Humbled. Exhausted. She was absolutely amazing.

That, after all, was the real reason I had to finish.

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So proud of her!

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And…that’s a wrap.

I lost my running partner today

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No, she didn’t die, thank God. But the loss and the grief is real nonetheless.

Robin first joined Lindsay and me less than two years ago when I coerced her into a run.

“I’m not really a runner,” she replied.

“But, you’re going for a run,” I said, looking down at her fully laced shoes.

“I’m more of a jogger.”

First, sorry Jim Fixx, but I don’t believe in jogging. If you’re going faster than a walk, you’re running. You’ll recognize it by the ache in your joints, the panting in your chest and the jostling of your breasts. In short, you’ll know it when you feel it.

Robin and I were already friends so it was only a matter of the time that my pestering would cause her to cave. And here’s the thing non-runners or self-proclaimed joggers should know: runners live to recruit other runners. It’s not because we want to watch you suffer or mock you for your inexperience—that would make me a bad runner (as well as a terrible person). It’s because we want you to love (and hate) it as much as we do, and we want to do this together. Misery likes company, or something like that…

Fast-forward 18 months and Robin, whom I discovered is mentally and physically pretty damn tough (a perfect running recipe!), went from running 3 miles at a 10-minute-plus pace to double-digit miles, speed work, running and placing in races, donning KT Tape and falling into a puddle of murky sadness if she missed a run.

Robin became a “real runner.”

As we trained for the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this past November, I started to scheme how I would convince Robin to run a marathon with me. I’d already failed with Lindsay, who, true to her stubborn Southern roots, can’t be convinced to do anything she doesn’t want to, but Robin—a congenial Midwesterner—was an easy target. Also, I totally knew she could do it.

 

I didn’t even have to get her drunk to get her to sign up for the January 14th Charleston Marathon while at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo. And after earning her half-marathon PR the next day, we began our 20-week training program.

Watching Robin hit milestone after milestone during our training runs (Her fastest mile! Longest run! First GU shot!) was oddly exciting for me. I’m hardly a seasoned veteran, but with three marathons under my belt, I totally get the exhilaration…and the struggle. And I not-so secretly congratulated myself for sucking her into the adventure.

Two weeks before the marathon and 9 miles into on our 20-mile run, Robin suddenly stopped.

“Ow.”

“What is it?”

“My knee.”

And for the next three miles we ran-walked while her knee locked up every quarter mile. She told me to go on without her and that she’d rest—probably just an overworked IT Band. So, I finished out the miles and later learned that she did too, because that’s what real runners do, as stupid as it may be.

For the next week, she tried unsuccessfully to resume running, her knee incapacitating her each time after just a few miles. She tried tape, massage, ice, rest—and then called in the ortho guns.

After her appointment, she called me with the news.

She said something about x-rays indicating that her body alignment was off and that she had to take 8 weeks off or risk a fracture.

“He said I can’t run the marathon and it’s likely I’ll never be able to run one,” she explained, her voice wavering. “And after 8 weeks, if it still hurts, I might just have to do something else.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” I replied, a friend unwilling to lose her running partner. Unwilling to accept that this next weekend’s marathon wasn’t going to happen for both of us.

Robin was taking in the diagnosis. I was refuting it.

“I don’t accept that. You need a second opinion. Is this ‘doctor’ even a runner?”

I’m sure the orthopedic doc is more than qualified, but in my anger, I doubted all of his credentials—plus, I’m 100% sure a runner would never tell another runner that she may have to “do something else.” Like what? Water aerobics? Step? Nothing wrong with that—unless you’re a runner. Then everything is wrong with it.

I remember years ago a doctor telling me that “women weren’t physiologically designed for running.” I get that we may be predisposed for certain injuries, but not designed for running?  There are a lot of things I’m not “designed” for: science, cooking, remembering to put out the garbage. Only cheetahs are designed for running, and even then, they can’t go very far.

Robin put on a brave face while I swiftly sunk into the 5 stages of grief—or at least the first three. Denial and anger came fast enough, followed quickly by bargaining, or what I would call “suggestion.” I polled my “experts”—Lindsay, and then her husband and my husband (neither run, but whatever) and concluded that the diagnosis was not only ridiculous, but also unacceptable.

Lindsay—always the friend—gave me permission to grieve even though Robin’s injury certainly isn’t “about me.” But it kind of is. What excited me most about the marathon was the thought of the shared pre-race nerves, the deliberating over what to eat and drink, the lack of sleep the night before and, most important, seeing Robin cross that line with all the emotions pouring over her. Seeing that look of complete exhaustion and accomplishment. And then later re-hashing each mile of the race together for the next 24-hours like only two people who experienced it together could.

Now it’s just me and 26.2 long miles. Which begs the existential question: if you run alone and no one does it with you, does it really even happen?

Pardon the drama, but I’m in a dark place.

Thankfully, Robin isn’t blindly accepting her fate. She’s made an appointment with a guy I consider to be our city’s running guru. He’s an Ironman competitor. A sports therapist. A real runner. Basically, a god to the injured runner.

I pray to the running gods—and really anyone else who will listen—that Robin will run another day, and preferably on January 14th.

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Another (rough) race is in the books

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Just Sluggin’ Along

So this has not been my best racing year. But instead of letting that discourage me (as it did after the Rock ‘n’ Roll debacle in November), I’m looking to the bright side, asking myself, “What can I take from this experience?” And hopefully, next year, the high-price I’m paying for this data collection will turn into a Boston qualifying time as a 40-year-old even though I will not be 40. I repeat, I will not be 40. Yet.

I knew going into the Publix Women’s Half-Marathon that I wasn’t prepared. Not to top last year’s PR, anyway. I have been running regularly, but hadn’t gone further than 7 ½ miles. And yet, when I stood at the start line, the plan to start slow, run by feel and finish strong, disappeared along with all my best judgment. You know, that thing that tells you not to eat Mexican food the night before a race? (Which I also did.)

As always, the first mile was great, except that I was alone. That morning my running partner, Lindsay, called to say she wasn’t going to race because the forecast promised a downpour. Lindsay doesn’t run in the rain, in the wind, in temperatures below 48 or above 78, or on Fridays. Some would call her a finicky runner, but I prefer “particular.” She also told me that she’s also never going to race again.

“What?!” I’m pinning my big for the 10th time, trying to get it “just right.”

“I just don’t think it’s for me,” she said. “I get too anxious.”

I had already retied my shoes twice, visited the bathroom three times and re-checked my Garmin’s charge at least a dozen times. Racing makes us all anxious.

It’s true that there’s a lot of pressure—pressure we put on ourselves. I know I’m probably not going to win a race unless it’s made up entirely of 3-legged Chihuahuas, but I do want to get faster, beat my best time, maybe even snag an age-group medal. I don’t pay upwards of $25 to race for fun; I’ve come to accept this about myself. Many people can and do, and a part of me admires that—that 1% of me who says things like, “Just do your best.” But the other 99% of me might be a little competitive (and my sister just rolled her eyes at my use of “might”). And in age-group racing, our biggest competitor is always our self.

My self was fast last year.

This year, my less conditioned self went out too fast. I managed to hold pace for nearly 3 miles, somehow forgetting that there would still be 10 to go. I slowed considerably, and then, around mile 6, I retched. The retching continued for the next three miles, fist to mouth, trying to keep what I imagined to be a flaming, devil-faced fajita from coming up. I was thirsty. My head ached. I considered the medical tent, but knew as soon as I stopped I’d feel fine and the medics would be all, “Oooh, are you tired? It’s a race, you’re supposed to be tired.” (OK, a medic wouldn’t say that, but I would.)

On the switchbacks, I could see I was losing distance. When the 1:45 pacer passed me, it would take everything I had to stay under 2:00. About 2 miles from the finish, I saw one of my daughter’s 4th-grade classmates working the water station.

“Mrs. Goto!” she yelled out enthusiastically, waving her arms. I pulled myself together, because while it’s cool to be a mom who can run a half-marathon, it’s totally not cool to throw-up on your daughter’s friend. In fact, it’s social suicide.

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14th Age-group, 1:54:11

Faking that you feel good always helps. I smiled big, took a swig of water and headed toward the finish. Shortly thereafter, I heard the sweet twang of Lindsay’s voice cheering me on. She ran alongside me for about a tenth of a mile, and those were the best steps I’d taken all day.

I didn’t fling my fajitas. I finished strong. I also finished 14 minutes off last year’s time, but still under 2 hours. See, that’s what you have to do to reconcile a bad race. You have to consider the worst-case scenarios and appreciate how they didn’t happen: At least it stopped raining. At least I didn’t fall down. At least a 3-legged Chihuahua didn’t beat me.

 

 

But here’s the real takeaway: train for the distance you want to run.

Today, Lindsay and I began training for the Azalea 10K with a clearer purpose. And yes, we’re going to race together again…weather permitting.

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My other running partner, Robin, got a PR–without training. But I don’t like to talk about that.

Apparel You Can’t Miss at the Savannah Publix Women’s Half and 5K Fashion Fitness Expo

Years before I was ever honored to be a race ambassador for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, I was a already a New Balance groupie. I’ve worn the NB 860s series for the duration of my running “career” (unpaid, but with hopes of grandeur). So when the race’s title apparel sponsor sent me their newest collection of bolds and brights to review, I couldn’t wait to log some long miles in them.

First, you should know that I don’t “do” color. As a Northwest native, black is the new bright and evergreen feels like neon. I come from the land of “don’t-notice-me-just-appreciate-my-intellect.” We grocery shop in fleece. We dine in fleece. We sometimes even get married in fleece. Fleece in a wide array of grays, browns and neutrals.

It took years of being in the South before I traded in my white and navy running shoe for—gasp—a barely-there turquoise. I thought everyone was staring at my feet as they called out for recognition. No one did. Except me. And yes, I fell face-first on the path around Forsyth Park.

Sixteen years later, I pray each year that the latest version of the NB 860s will be bolder and brighter. Not because I want to overcompensate for a waning intellect, but because my sense of running style has finally caught up with my (sometimes) sharp mind (except at mile 20—at which point I turn into the cerebral equivalent of an amoeba). Simply put, bright = fast. Show me a sprinter who wins in all-whites and I’ll show you the pig that just flew by.

This year I was delighted by the bright purple 806 V6 kicks I pulled from the box, their rubbery delicious new-shoe smell pouring over me. I actually inhaled, deeply, and got a wee little new running shoe high. And the clothes are equally as fantastic. The shirt is what I would call a 7-minute miler, complete with SPF, this adorable back-vent and supreme wickability (yep, I’m making that a word).

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Last year, the Impact 3-inch short was released in a somewhat conservative (my jam) line-art pattern and I bought two pair because I loved them so much. NB quickly followed up with a more organic tie-dye pattern, which I also bought, channeling my inner Woodstock. This year, they’ve gone balls-to-the wall with color and pattern but still offer a subtle Seattle-gray option. Whatever color I opt for, I’m going to run chafe free, because that’s the true magic of these shorts which I will continue to buy until my bones crumble and my plantar fasciitis compels me to crawl. But honestly, even then I’ll crawl along in some cute just-long-enough-to-be-appropriate-but-not-too-long-to-be-“mom shorts.”

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This Thursday, I’ll get to “model” (i.e. walk awkwardly and make duck-lips) some more of New Balance’s latest line of running gear at Fleet Feet Savannah’s Ladies Night Out event at 7 p.m.. And when I hit the Publix Savannah Fashion Fitness Expo on Friday,  April 1 (no joke) you can be sure I’ll have my debit card in hand. This year promises to be even better than last, offering an incredible inventory of race wear made for discerning women runners. Sure, I’d love for you to race, but you don’t need to be a registrant to attend the expo on Friday. Just stop in, say “hi” (I’m working the registration from 5-8) and get some great swag and catch the fever, and, the color.

A Perfect Pre- and Post-run Recipe for Runners—and a Publix Gift Card Giveaway!

I’ve never met a fish taco I didn’t like. But I’ve also never met one I could make. Until now.

There are two reasons why I love everything my friend and trainer, Jodie Kofod, cooks. One, I didn’t make it. Two, Jodie’s meals are healthy without tasting healthy. Dress tofu up any way you want, but it’s still a protein sponge. See, my rule is if you have to marinate, deep fry, bread or baste something just to make it edible, it’s most certainly not good (I’m talking to you, fried alligator bites).

So when Publix asked me to share a quick, healthy meal for runners, I knew I had to call on Jodie–who holds certification from AFAA NETA ACE, Johnny G Spin, TRX and kickboxing, as well as nutrition certifications–and my other girlfriend and workout buddy, Alli. In addition to being more fun than a bottle of tequila on a bus with the Rolling Stones (Jodie knows from actual experience), Alli owns a beautiful home that, unlike mine,  has “things to cook with.” Things like pans, bowls and salt.

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The motley cooking crew: Alli, Jodie and me.

My parameters for the recipe were simple:

  • It has to be easy (for obvious reasons)
  • It has to be quick
  • It has to taste good
  • Everything has to be readily available at my Publix
  • It has to be gluten-free, not because I have celiac disease, but because gluten sends me dashing into the woods about every two miles, but that’s another post for another time.

“How do fish tacos sound?” Jodie offered.

I love fish tacos. Perfect.

“So, corn tortillas, fish and salsa?” Cool, I can do that.

“Not exactly,” she replied, looking at me like I just blew my nose in her gym towel.

She texted me the grocery list (I’ve added the price points):

  • Fresh fish, do not attempt alone—ask woman behind the counter ($18.32, I’ll explain)
  • 2 Publix canned black beans ($1.70)
  • Sriracha ($2.99)
  • Margarita mix ($4.09)
  • Publix fresh salsa ($3.49)
  • Romaine lettuce ($1.99)
  • 2 Limes ($1.00)
  • Avocado ($1.00)
  • Cilantro ($0.99)
  • Corn tortillas ($2.15)
  • Plain Greek yogurt, large ($3.00)
  • Sauvignon blanc, obviously ($11.99, don’t judge)

Total damage: $52.71, plus whatever the government wants.

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The helpful woman behind the Publix fish counter suggested tilapia for fish tacos, but I recently had a bad run-in with the species when I attempted to make it at home without supervision. So I asked what else would work. She recommended “any sturdy white fish,” and pointed to a large fillet of something called “corvina” from Argentina. It was about $10 pricier, but hey, it wasn’t tilapia.

When I got to Alli’s, the cooking lesson commenced. But first thing’s first. Pour the wine.

From there, Jodie instructed us to poach the fish. Since I thought poaching meant killing a protected animal, I just stared at her.

“Put the fish in a microwave-safe bowl and pour in a bunch of the margarita mix,” she explained. Then we salted it, snipped some cilantro on top, covered the dish with plastic wrap and popped it in the microwave. No measuring and, yes, the microwave. Totally my jam.

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The cooking time depends on the size of the fillet, so we put it in for a few minutes, checked it and kept blasting it with radiation until it flaked apart—all in all, less than 15 minutes. During that time, we made this crazy-delicious sauce, mixing equal parts plain Greek yogurt and Sriracha and squeezed the juice of two limes. Sounds disgusting, looks like flesh, tastes like Heaven.

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Thing got wild when the knives starting flying–into Alli’s new floor.

We flaked the fish into doubled-up corn tortillas, topped with rinsed black beans, slices of avocado, more cilantro, Sriracha, romaine, the pre-made salsa and a dollop of the not-so-secret-now sauce. I think I ate five. But this recipe could easily feed four to six normal human beings.

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Then Jodie started to riff on the recipe. “You can actually make them three ways,” she said. “You can wrap them in tortillas, like we did here, or you can put them in lettuce wraps or little baked corn-tortilla cups.”

We pulled long leaves from the romaine and assembled the tacos sans tortilla. Then Jodie showed us how to make the “bowls” by flipping over a muffin tin, coating it with cooking spray and tearing and stuffing the tortillas into the negative space between the muffin forms to create bowls. She baked them on low for a few minutes until they were just starting to lightly brown on the edges. I preferred the soft-corn tortillas for no other reason that it was the easiest; but variety is cool, too, if you’re an overachiever.

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I am not. But Mom, now I can make a pretty bad-ass fish taco, three ways.

Oh, and there’s video, too. So check back in two days and prepare to be…something. Amazed? Appalled? Embarrassed for us? Probably all of the above.

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Speaking of embarrassing…we each have only-children–can you tell?

And here’s the 2-step bonus: (1) Follow “On the Road” on Facebook and (2) find and share this post, and you’ll be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Publix (and if you buy the tilapia and even cheaper wine, you’re covered). Drawing will be Monday, March 28, just in time for you to whip up this pre- or post-race meal for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K on April 2nd! See you there!

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Your moment of Zen: “Is there something in my teeth?”

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Jodie’s Taco Bar

What I Gained from the First Race I Didn’t Race: Another Perspective

I set myself up for success by setting myself up for failure. No really, hear me out. By not training for the Critz Tybee Run Fest—all 5 legs which equal 26.2 miles—I couldn’t even worry about racing. I told myself my only goal was to finish. And I was only halfway committed to that goal. If it was raining, I wouldn’t show up. If it was below 30, I wouldn’t show up. If I had a bad dream about snakes, if my floss broke, if I sneezed…

I kept an eye out for every omen to tell me not to do it, but nothing revealed itself but a big ol’ green light welcoming me to the start line of the 5K on Friday night. I hate 5Ks. The distance, while short, is just over 22 minutes of absolute hell. I’d rather run 20 miles at a comfortable pace than “just” 3.1 miles at breakneck speed. I’m not one of those people who say, “Just pull the Band-Aid off quick; it’ll hurt less.” No, it won’t, and you’ll spend another week trying to grow back a 3” strip of dermis. Pull it slowly and you lose a few hairs you should’ve shaved off anyway.

But I knew I had to take it easy because at 7 the next morning I’d have to run a 10K and if I still didn’t dream about snakes or sneeze, I’d chase it with a half-marathon, a 2.8 beach run and a 1-miler.

No big deal—I wasn’t racing.

But dammit if I didn’t race.

About a quarter of a mile in, my body felt good. My feet were turning over to one of Taylor Swift’s songs with 96 BPMs (don’t judge) streaming from my new Plantronics BackBeat Bluetooth headphones (I’m only including this detail because tech tends to fails me, but these are an exception–they’re awesome and you must get them). I glanced at my Garmin, which revealed a 7:15 pace. Much too fast.

I dropped to about 7:30 which made me feel even better. At that point, I decided to see what would happen.

Here’s what happened: I almost ran a PR. I got third place in my age group. If I felt uncomfortable, I’d pull back just a bit because if you recall, I’m wasn’t racing. The last 500 yards I sprinted, which I never do. And I didn’t retch at the finish. Which I always do.

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Third Place in the 5K!

 

About 5 seconds after crossing the line, I texted my running partner who signed up for the next morning’s 10K—and was waiting for me at dinner.

Who you text immediately after a race says a lot. It’s the person who won’t reply to your “I just ran a 22:28” with “Is that a good time?” or “Cool. When will you be home?” Lindsay gets it like only a running partner can—she knows my splits, my PRs and my bad hip from my good one.

I got my medal, hustled to dinner, drank too much wine (again, because I wasn’t racing) and crashed with Lindsay and our other friend, Robin, at a beach house just a mile from the next morning’s start line.

I woke up energized. My floss didn’t break. My toast didn’t burn. I was ready to race—er, I mean, run.

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Lindsay and me having just survived the 10K

I paced Lindsay on the 10K even though I said I would rest up for the half. As we crossed the finish, I had 30 minutes to change my socks, use the bathroom and eat before the next race. The point is, I didn’t have time to give myself a reason not to run again. In fact, I kept encountering reasons to press on. Robin, who just ran the 10K, decided she would join me for the first six miles of half, for which I was eternally grateful (she ended up running all 13.1 miles). By mile 3 I felt like hell and couldn’t stop thinking of hamburgers. But I popped some Stinger chews—a far cry from the quarter-pounder I craved—and got a surge of energy.

There were other inspirations along the way—sharing a couple of miles with some running friends I hadn’t seen for awhile, seeing Lindsay, showered and rested with a glass of wine sitting in a folding chair at mile 10, and being cheered in by my Savannah Striders friends and the finish. I was about 12 minutes off my half PR, but I had just run 19 consecutive miles. And I wasn’t racing.

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Staying warm post-half, pre-beach run.

I was on autopilot for the final two legs. Luckily, another friend, Christine, was willing to keep me company, even after she had already accomplished her goal of running a 10K PR.

I survived. I sat in the car for about 15 minutes texting Lindsay, Robin and Christine all the results (19th woman overall!) and gushing about how I couldn’t have done it without them as if I was on my third glass of wine rather than my third pack of energy chews.

As I drove the 10 minutes from the island back to my house, I felt incredibly accomplished (and wildly hungry). But more than that, I felt really, really loved.

In the couple of weeks that have passed, I don’t remember much about those few solo miles of the race, but I can vividly recall every mile I ran with one of my girlfriends. Because it was fun.

Let’s face it, racing isn’t fun. It’s what I image it feels like right before you die, except you stay that way for hour and you never die.

I pushed myself during the races, but I didn’t push myself over the edge because I wasn’t sure what I could do. I found out I could do a lot more than I imagined. But I don’t think I could’ve done it without my running partners.

Either way, I wouldn’t have wanted to.