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.

Publix Savannah Women's Half & 5k

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).

New Balance 806v7

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!)

Advertisements

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.

10395826_10101776714332046_5457798285377828513_n

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.)

IMG_1362

“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.

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).

photo 2photo 1
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.”

photo 4

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.

The Incredible Shrinking Running Shorts

For every year that I run, the hem of my shorts seems to rise about a quarter of an inch even though I stopped growing about two decades ago. In fact, you can date my racing pictures by the length—and cut—of my shorts. First it was the knee-length, drawstring mesh shorts, then the oversized Umbros rolled at the waist which paved the way to the more revealing Nike tempos—about as “revealing” as ankle socks.

Unknown

Oh, you remember.

Today, I opt for the barely there feel of silky, wicking fabrics—just enough to cover the tan lines. Because even a 4” inseam in 100% humidity can feel like a parachute in a rainstorm. It’s not because I’m trying to show off my goods. It’s because I’m trying not to drown in my shorts.

At this rate, I’ll be running in my underwear by the time I’m 45. At which point I will stop running altogether.

My friend Claudia, a Lululemon Ambassador and fan of the minimalist movement (doesn’t hurt she’s 30 and built like a stick bug), suggested I try the Lululemon Speed Short, which at 2 ½” is a touch shorter than the 3” I’m used to, but since we were sliding into 2016 it only made sense to raise the stakes—and hemline—once again.

I’m a pretty diehard New Balance fan, having just bought three pairs of the Impact Short after I ran a marathon entirely chafe-free, which is like saying you ran a marathon without getting tired. But I can’t turn down anything free. St. Jude’s hand sanitizer. Kroger lip balm. Publix colander (true story). I got ‘em all. So when she offered me a pair of $54 running shorts in return for an honest review, I snatched them up faster than a University of Phoenix koozie.

I slipped into the size 6s and stood before the mirror to evaluate. From the back, they were good. Roomy, and no low-hanging cheek to speak of. But from the front, I noticed some hip clingage, some fabric strain, and let’s just say it’s a good thing I shaved.

Not perfect. But passable? If you have to ask…

“Are these too tight?” I asked my husband, who immediately looked panicked. There is no good answer when we all know the answer in the first place. If he lies, I go out into the world and people say “Bless her heart,” behind my back. If he tells the truth, I go out into the world husbandless.

“They aren’t like the ones you normally wear,” he offered gingerly.

“But are they hideous?” A trick question because if he says “yes” it actually means I look hideous because we know there’s not a damn thing wrong with the cute $54 shorts.

He didn’t take the bait.

“No, but you might as well try the next size up just to see if you like them better. Then you won’t wonder.”

Ahhhh—the discerning consumer approach. Well played, Ray. Well played.

Claudia swiftly made the exchange and when I stepped into the size 8s, little running angels sang. A perfect fit—slightly more room at the hips and I could go a few days before a shave.

Lululemon Speed shorts

Lululemon Speed Shorts

It makes sense that the shorts fit well; they must fit everyone pretty well because I see Lulu-ites everywhere I go. “I like your shorts!” girls at the gym chirped with a knowing wink. They were all wearing the same shorts just in a different color and pattern. It’s like the shorts bought me membership into a club I didn’t know I wasn’t a part of—until I was.

With a wide, low waistband and soft as Charmin (the double-layered kind), they really don’t feel like I’m wearing anything, which is the best kind of short: it feels invisible but is decidedly NOT invisible. I just recommend that you suck it up and size up.

As far as the long-distance chaffing challenge, the shorts threw in the towel (or did they wave a white flag?) at mile 9, but if I’m being honest with you and myself, that probably had more to do with me than the shorts. Bless my hips.

 

The Right Stuff: What every runner needs in her stocking

No one wants to see you hobble across the finish line, barely holding up your head and barely holding down breakfast. Nope, you’ve got a quarter of a mile to the finish line–so it’s time to pick up the pace and finish strong.

I’m talking about Christmas, of course. It never fails that in the final three days, I’m scrambling to get those last-minute items that tell everyone just how much I love them: enough to shop at Walmart at 11:30 p.m.

That is love. It’s also a form of insanity.

So in the giving spirit of the season, let me see if I can’t at least help you out by sharing what I think are 12 of the best gifts for runners. And maybe you can pay it forward: help loved ones out by sharing this list with them. I’ve already pinned it to my husband’s forehead.

  1. Tickets to the Show. What better way to light a fire under your runner’s uninspired andrealogoass than to sign her up for a race? A great one for seasoned vetrans or those just starting to lace up is the Publix Women’s Half Marathon and 5K on April 2nd. Use the code ONTHEROAD10 from yours truly to score a discount at checkout. Just know that race entries are neither transferable nor refundable, unless you pay a small fee for race insurance.
  2. The Garmin Gods. I’m still shocked when I discover som11095581_10206455380369147_7970270689607647080_oeone is out there moving in a forward direction without the assistance of a GPS watch. I’ve heard people say, “But those are for serious runners.” That’s like saying toothbrushes are only for dentists. Everyone needs to know how long they’ve been going in any one direction whether walking, running or crawling. I’ve had my first-generation Garmin for years, never updated it and it still functions, though admittedly it looks a bit more VHS than Blu Ray these days.
  3. New Kicks. Runners love their running shoes. But not just any shoe will do. I used to ask my mom specifically for my New Balance 860s, size 9.5 and she’d complain that I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t want to be surprised by my running shoe; I want the “responsive cushioning and essential stability that my beloved gives me. Picking out someone else’s running shoe is like picking out someone else’s spouse. It can’t be done. Or, if it can, then you are some sort of freakish wizard and you should use your powers for something greater.
  4. A Shot of Energy. From gluten-free to caffeine-laced, there are so many running fuel options on the market, all of which make great stocking stuffers. Give Jelly Belly Sports Beans for the kid at heart, Chia Energy Gel for the hipster, honey sticks for the purist, and Salted Caramel GU for the toppings lover (and one of the few flavors I can vouch for). Variety goes a long way during a training run.n-RUNNING-FUEL-large570
  5. Rub it Out. The TP (trigger point) Massage Ball falls somewhere between a tennis and a lacrosse ball, and perhaps becaUnknownuse of the complex science behind cross-breeding, it’s also a ridiculous $20. But stick this ball into that knot just under your scapula and it’ll feel like a baby T-rex is hatching from your skull. Hurts so good.
  6. Actually Rub it Out. Because let’s be honest, a ball can only do so much. Unless you’re like my husband and would rather be set on fire than lubed up with oils and touched by human hands, this is a great gift. For the touch-free folks like my husband I give the an electric massage chair and wonder if they even have a soul.
  7. Sock it to ’em. The Italians were right about many things, including pasta, cheese, facial hair (is that just me?) and running socks.
    My adored Balega socks are not cheap, but cheap never kept blisters at bay.
  8. Slick as snot. No, chafing doesn’t mean you’re fat. It
    means you have skin. So lube it up with Body Glide and let things fall/rub/shake as they may.
  9. This Blows. Running gloves– AKA “the hankie”–are a must have. Give them in a variety of thicknesses but always in rs.phpblack.
  10. Air it Out. Think of arm sleeves as AC for your armpits. I like the Brooks  seamless version that is incredibly lightweight and, let’s be honest, adorable. If I get to hot, they transfrorm into wrist-warmers.
  11. Beat the Bump. The FlipBelt is the only running belt I’ve found that keeps my iPhone from thwacking my booty like an impatient jockey. More important, it looks more like a high waistband than a fanny pack. Still not “cool,” but a certainly passable in the name of function.Belt-Close-Up
  12. Magic Tape. I don’t know how KT Tape works, I just know it does. Everywhere.Unknown-1.jpeg

What have I forgotten? Share it here. Better yet, put it in my stocking.