Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Things We Carry

As I have evolved from a newbie to a recreational runner to a full on crazy run addict, a lot of things have changed from my shoes to my clothing to when I run to how I run. I've also noticed that the longer I have been doing it, the less inclined I am to carry crap along with me on a run.

When I first started, my iPod was a crutch. If I did not have my iPod or it died during a run, I would melt down and then really have to convince myself that I could in fact go out/finish without the music piping constantly in my ears. Now, the only time I run with music is if I am stuck on the dreadmill. I don't even use it when I'm running by myself or during races. The jury is out on whether I will take it along for the marathon, but right now I'm thinking no.

I've also shedded clothing. At first I wore tee shirts, big floofy shorts, and layers. These days, I try to run in as little clothing as possible and I'm even considering running in only a sports bra and compression shorts once it gets super hot this summer. I haven't decided whether I can pull that off or not, so it hasn't happened yet, but I think it probably will. Even during the winter, I'd rather be cold for the first few miles than wear a jacket or long sleeve that will end up tied around my waist (and drive me nuts). I also hate wearing hats, which just feel like way too much material on my head.

While training for my first half, I became convinced that I needed to carry water with me for my long runs. I bought a hand held camel bak and took it out for anything over 6 miles. I carried the handheld during the Shamrock Half because I didn't want to have to deal with water stops... but it really got on my nerves and in the end, I'm pretty sure that the imbalance of carrying the water in my left hand threw off my gait and made my left quad/hip cramp. I haven't carried it since, instead dealing with water stops at Cherry Blossom and the 10k without it really impacting my performance.

My shoes have gotten lighter too. I ran my first 10k in random New Balance sneakers, then got analyzed/fitted and moved on to Brooks Ravennas. A year later I was jumping on the minimal bandwagon at the recommendation of Steve, and now run in PureCadence which get lighter with every new model. When I run in my Ravennas now (I use them for trails), they feel like bricks.

And then there is the cell phone. I know it's impossible to fathom, but I do not carry my phone with me when I run. It doesn't fit into any of my pockets and I find it annoying to wear a gear belt  (I can barely stand wearing one during races). I have also tried the arm band things, which I found to be insanely irritating.

But beyond all that, I don't neeeeeeeeeed to have the phone with me. Not having it and being unreachable for a few hours is actually quite wonderful. Like most, I am far too addicted to my smart phone and find myself reaching for it every time I might be bored for 5 minutes or less (at stop lights, waiting for an  appointment or meeting to start, waiting for a server to show up in a restaurant, etc). To me, this is a dismaying habit and separating myself from the iPhone for a few hours a week is a great thing.

I can already hear the chorus of concerns about safety. Here's the thing: I always run in well populated areas during daylight hours. We're talking city streets lined with houses, businesses, traffic, and other pedestrians/bikers/runners/walkers. Most of the time I am running with at least one other person. If I am not running city streets (the flood wall or James River Trails, for instance) I am always with another person.

I'm not very concerned about being abducted, though of course I am always sure to make myself as aware of my surroundings as possible and be on the lookout for suspicious characters or situations that make me feel uneasy.

If I were to fall or get hurt (which I have been known to do), I'm confident that my running partner - or in the case of solo running, a passerby - would be able to assist me. If my injury were such that I needed instant attention, odds are that I probably wouldn't be able to be making a phone call anyway (I'm thinking hit by a car/knocked out/broken limb and excruciating pain) or that my phone would be effed up by the fall or impact. For instance, had I been carrying my phone in a front pocket a few weeks ago when I fell at MTT training, it's likely would have been the biggest casualty since I landed face down on the pavement. Worse still if it had been in my hand. And I would have been 100 times more PO'd about my fall.

Also, don't worry - I do wear a Road ID so that at least if I were found passed out on the pavement, people would be able to figure out who to call.

For me, the benefits just outweigh the risks. Maybe someday I will eat my words but for now even carrying my car key feels like a hassle.

This has been a rather long-winded introduction to the real reason for this post -

After three years of minimalizing the number of things that I carry on a run, I have come to accept the fact that it is probably going to be wise for me to suck it up and invest in ::gulp:: a hydration/fuel belt. This has been something that I avoided for a long time. To me there is no piece of running equipment that is dorkier than a fuel belt.


Not even reflective vests or visors with headlamps.

Aside from that, as I mentioned above, I hate running with a belt. Previously I have used the Amphipod race belt to hold my race number and my phone. Yes, I begrudgingly do take it with me when racing but only to facilitate meeting up with people after the finish. When the Amphipod belt is not bouncing like crazy (which is hardly ever), it's riding up and I spend half the race shoving it from my ribcage back down to its proper place at my hips. I despise the thing, but I despise safety pin holes in my clothes more (OCD alert), so I deal with it.

Last year it became apparent to me that for the sake of my sanity, I was going to have to invest in a new non-bouncy belt for the marathon. I also realized that a fuel belt and hydration plan are massively important to the successful completion of a marathon and that getting those ducks in order as soon as possible would be a good idea. I had done some preliminary nosing around but had never gotten around to ordering one - my foot broke first.

This year, I still had been putting off commiting to a belt. After lots of research and reading of reviews, I finally elected to order the iFitness Hydration Belt. To illustrate my level of reluctance: I researched and selected the belt on a Saturday morning, then located the best deal from an online retailer, then proceeded to put the item in my shopping cart and leave it there... for more than a week. Finally, I ordered it. I received the belt in the mail on June 15 and have yet to use it. Every week I delay the inevitable with some excuse: "I'm waiting for double digit runs" or "Once it hits 80 degrees in the morning" or the simple, "Maybe next week."

Next week hasn't come yet, but one of these days I really will have to put the darn thing on and take it out with me so I can start practicing this whole "hydrate while running" thing.

I've been meditating on why I hate carrying stuff with me lately and come to the conclusion that I just hate having to rely on anything but myself while I'm on a run. Whether a cell phone, iPod, or a bottle of water, it just takes something away from the experience for me. I feel invincible when it's just me getting it done and that is why I loathe the idea of a hydration belt.

Well, that and the fact that there is no way to make a hydration belt look cool.


  1. Haha. I just bought my first dork-belt last Saturday and will be sporting the ridiculous looking thing on my scheduled 11 miler this Saturday. I’m planning to wear it backwards of how yours is positioned in the pictures, but we’ll see how that goes. I sweat way too much (and salty) to not carry water with me. Total agreement on the phone by the way. I NEVER take it with me. Good luck with your new gear.

    Also, thanks for the suggestion that the hand-held might be related to hip discomfort. Obviously hard to explain to some people, but I’ve been dealing with weird hip/glute tightness on the side I carry my water on. I’ll be curious to see if any of that goes away as I use the belt. You’re pretty smart.

    Still looking to get up there by the way. Just a few too many things going on right now. And as miles ramp up, will have to plan a little better. I’ll be in touch. Happy Training.

  2. Glad you have come over to the dark side for hydration. If you can find the right one and have it tight enough, it shouldn't bounce. I do take my phone, but only for solo runs.

    Good luck with trying it out.