Milestones Every Serious Runner Should Reach (Or so They Say)

After reading an article on Active titled 13 Milestones Every Serious Runner Should Reach I started to think about it. For those of you that don’t want to read the article, I’ll break down the thirteen steps.

  1.  Finish your first 5k
  2. A double-digit run
  3. Your very first gel
  4. Your first black toenail
  5. Completing your first half marathon
  6. The sub-2 hour half marathon
  7. Your sub-7 minute mile
  8. Your first run in bad weather
  9. Hitting 40 miles in a week
  10. Your first 20 mile run
  11. Your first race bonk
  12. Crossing the finish line of a marathon
  13. A BQ (Boston Marathon qualifying time)

I’ve done all but the last one, earn a BQ. My one and only marathon was a disaster and by no means was I anywhere close to a BQ. I also had no desire since then to run another marathon. My body just isn’t made to run marathons, nor do I have the time nor am I willing to make the time to train for a marathon.

Does it make you any less of a runner if you don’t run a marathon or even a half marathon? What if you run for an hour five days a week faithfully for years but never enter into any races- are you not a serious runner?

What does “serious” runner mean anyway? Apparently to the author who made up the above list, a serious runner is only one who runs marathons and runs them fast at that. Or do you have to only complete some of these from the list to qualify as a “serious” runner? Maybe if you’ve done most of them, you’re a serious runner. But then that would mean the slower runners wouldn’t be serious. I’ll bet if you ask anyone who has run a few marathons but hasn’t finished even close to a BQ, they would tell you they’re a serious runner for sure!

I guess I consider myself a serious runner. Running is a big part of my life and like I said, while I’ve only ever ran one marathon, I run a few half marathons a year and am approaching my 43rd half marathon. When I was training for my marathon, I ran 40 miles in a week, ran 20 miles in a training run, and bonked because of the extreme heat at the marathon, but I did still manage to cross the finish line. Now that I train for half marathons, I don’t or won’t ever do the last five items in the list. I don’t think that makes me any less of a serious runner.

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My one and only marathon, the Long Beach Marathon

Many of these items on the list are possible “one and done” kind of things. Does simply completing a 5k, half marathon, and marathon (which means by default all but numbers 6, 7 and 13 would likely also happen and quite possibly number 3 as well) make you a serious runner? Does that mean once you’re a serious runner and you can tick off the majority of items from the list, you’re always a serious runner? Or does that status go away if you’re not running half marathons and marathons and qualifying for Boston?

I know I’ve asked a lot of questions and haven’t answered many of them. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what my list would be for a “serious” runner. I think it varies for everyone. Some people are never going to run sub-7 minute miles and that’s just a fact. I don’t think that makes you any less of a serious runner because of that. Likewise, many people are never going to run a sub-2 hour half marathon and even more are never going to run a BQ marathon.

I think if you just finish a marathon, you’re a serious runner (assuming you’re not walking the entire race of course). It takes huge amounts of effort and time to just train for a marathon and anyone who doesn’t agree has never trained for a marathon. Also training for a half marathon takes huge amounts of time and energy.

So no, I don’t agree that every runner “should” reach these milestones to be considered a serious runner. I agree that these are indeed milestones that some runners reach over the span of their running careers, but I don’t agree every runner needs to do these things. I think to say that somehow makes the efforts of people who are out there running, doing the best they can, but not running 6 minute miles or going out for 20 mile runs seem less worthwhile than runners going faster or further. It says what they’re doing isn’t good enough. I’ve always said, you’re racing against yourself and that’s all that matters. I use the term “racing” loosely too, meaning, training runs, during a race, or even just out by yourself for a run with no race in sight.

However, I can go the other direction, too, and agree that most people wouldn’t call someone who goes out and runs for a mile or two at a light and easy pace a “serious” runner. So I guess you might say “serious” to me at least implies someone who goes a bit above and beyond the everyday runner. Still, I don’t want to demean someone who goes out for short easy runs and never runs a race. Just because you’re not a serious runner doesn’t make you any less of a runner. Certainly not everyone should be or in some cases is able to be a serious runner.

Milestones should be very personal for each runner. A milestone for one person may not be a milestone for another. So I ask you all:  what are some of your running milestones?

 

 

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How I Attempt to Balance Work, Family, and Running

I currently work full-time, have a husband, a twelve-year-old daughter and the best dog ever, and I’m in the process of running a half marathon in all 50 states (I am training for state number 41). Oh, and I’m also the leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. It’s definitely not been easy juggling all of these things through the years, and I’ve learned a ton from others and from my own experiences.

By no means am I saying here my life is perfect. Note in the title I said “attempt.” I don’t have the perfect job, family, and win races all the time. I do the best I can, though, and I’m good with that. Sometimes my family and I even have hot dogs for dinner and I’m perfectly fine with that. ; )

Probably the biggest single factor in enabling me to manage to do all of these things somewhat successfully (I think) is my husband. He supports me in all aspects of my life from my career to running and training for my races to spending time with our daughter. If he was the type of husband to complain about me going out for two hours for a run or going to yoga class or spending time doing the myriad other active things I do, it just wouldn’t work. Quite simply, something would have to give and that would either mean my marriage or my active lifestyle. I don’t even want to imagine a non-active lifestyle, so I’m grateful for his support.

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My husband, my hero

My daughter has always been my biggest cheerleader when it comes to running. She was never the type of child that whined or complained when I told her I was going out for a run. I think she grew up seeing me be active and to her, that’s just what her mother does. She’s always told me, “Have a good run!” when I head out the door, or given me big hugs before a half marathon, even when it meant getting up before the sun even rose to get me to the start line in plenty of time. She’s never once made me feel guilty for running or doing any of the other activities I do, and honestly she’s such an active child I don’t think that would even cross her mind to behave that way.

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My daughter, 2nd place AG finisher at a recent 5k

Finally, in my list of supporters is my boss and work place. Although he’s “getting up there in years” at this point, he was an avid runner in his younger years, and he ran the Boston Marathon multiple times. He continued running seven days a week for many years and only when he was in his early 70’s did he cut back his running. As a runner himself, he fully understands the need to go for runs during downtime at work sometimes, in order to get the miles in. I’m also lucky that I work with several other runners so they don’t look at me funny when I come back from a run all sweaty before I cool off and shower. I’m also lucky that my work place has not one but two places to shower and a small fitness center with treadmills, stationary bikes, weights, and instructor-led classes.

So what do you do if you don’t currently have support from family and/or your boss at work? Ask for help for starters. There’s absolutely no reason you have to do it all by yourself- clean the house, cook dinner, run errands, take care of the kids, and work a job outside the home. Even if you didn’t run, it would be exhausting to do all of that on your own. If you’re married, ask your spouse to help with responsibilities around the house and beyond that, ask for specific things you’d like help with. Give your kids lists of things they should be doing to help out such as picking up their toys when they’re done playing or washing their own clothes when they’re old enough. Ask your boss if you can work a flexible schedule- maybe come in for a few hours on the weekend in exchange for leaving early or coming in late to get some runs in.

Aside from the people in my life that help support me, I’ve also found ways to squeeze in a run over the years. When my daughter was younger and played soccer for the town team, I’d run when her team was practicing and before games started. After a few years, she decided soccer wasn’t for her and joined a year-round swim team, and I’ve often run the neighborhoods around her swim facility when she’s been at practice more times than I remember.

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Running before soccer practice or games was a great way to sneak in a run!

When my daughter was really little, I ran with a jogging stroller. She loved going out in the stroller and never once didn’t want to go or asked to go back home. The only downside to that is it was hard pushing all that weight between the stroller and her. I think I did that from when she was old enough to sit in the stroller until she was about 2 years old. That’s when she decided she was done with any and all strollers and wanted to walk on her own.

Although I’ve never done it, another option I know some people do is run to work. I’ve always lived too far from work to do this but if I was training for a marathon, I’d definitely consider it. You’d need to have a stash of work-appropriate clothes at your desk or office and a way to clean up after your run. A shower would be ideal but if it wasn’t extremely hot out, you could possibly get by with wipes, powder, and deodorant. Don’t underestimate the power of these three items. They go a long way to cleaning up if all you are is a bit sweaty, believe me.

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Some wipes, powder, deodorant, change of clothes and I’m good to go!

Finally, a great thing to do and I know many runners do this is prepare your meals for the week ahead of time, ideally on the weekend. Instead of making one casserole, make two and freeze one for later. This is something I’ve done over the years but lately have been slacking off a bit. It’s truly a huge time saver, though. Let’s not forget the almighty Crock Pot either. They’re great for just putting in something in the morning before you go to work and you’ve got dinner waiting for you when you get home.

How do you all manage to somewhat balance running with your life? Any tips you’d like to share? I love hearing tips like these from other runners!

Happy running,

Donna

Photos of My Running Route

Other than a couple of random shots here and there, I’ve never really posted many photos of where I run. I feel fortunate to live in an area full of running/walking/biking trails that are along areas with trees for some shade but are close enough that I don’t have to drive to get to the trails. Honestly, there’s something for everyone with the diversity of trails in my “neck of the woods,” and I thought I’d share some of them with you all. I know Paula from Neveradullbling and Slowrunnergirl often have photos of their running routes, so the inspiration for this post comes from those ladies. Check out their blogs sometime if you don’t already!

Without further ado, I’ll show some of the places where I get to run and some of what I see along the way. I hope you enjoy!

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This part is nice going down, not so much going back up!
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Another hill, but at least this part is usually shady
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#spottedthebunny
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One of my water views
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One of several bridges I run over
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One of the creeks I run over on a bridge. The water is really low right now!
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I love this strip of trail with all of the yellow flowers
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An early morning water shot

There’s more of course but you get the gist of it. I have some lovely greenways to run along and feel fortunate to live in an area with miles and miles of greenways to run, bike, and walk on. I could literally choose a different route for every one of my long runs for months, only I would have to drive a short distance to some of them.

I think the thing I like best about my running routes is the trees. We have a nice variety of different trees around here so the scenery changes along with the seasons. In the next few weeks or so the trees will be lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red, mixed in with the evergreens. Hmmm, maybe I should have waited to have taken these photos. Well, I still think the green leaves are still beautiful!

What’s your favorite thing about your running routes?

Happy running,

Donna

Review of Arctic Cool Shirt

Disclaimer:  I received a shirt from Arctic Cool. I was intrigued by the technology and asked for a product to try, and was happily sent a shirt. How cool is that (I couldn’t resist the pun)? All opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

OK. I saw Arctic Cool on Twitter and was intrigued. A shirt with cooling technology? I’ll admit I’m a heavy sweater, so the idea of a running shirt that would help keep me cool sounded like something I needed to try. I wrote to them and asked if they would consider sending me one of their products, thinking they would send a towel or headband, but no, they said they would be happy to send me a shirt. Yes!

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When I received the shirt in the mail, I wanted to go run in it that very day but my next long run was only 2 days away, so I waited until then. First impressions of the shirt were that it seemed like an ordinary running shirt by all appearances. It’s made of 94% Polyester amd 6% Spandex. The difference is in the “Hydrofreeze X Technology.”

How does all of this work? According to Arctic Cool, the material wicks moisture from skin, moisture is dispersed, Hydrofreeze X activates, and the fabric keeps you cool and dry. One little tidbit I missed before my run is it says to activate cooling with a spritz of water and recharge as needed.

For my first test, I ran 7 miles and even though it was a bit cooler out that day than it had been, I was still sweating like crazy. Like magic, though, my shirt was mostly dry even at the end of my run. I did spill some Nuun on my shirt accidentally, so if you see moisture on the front, it’s most likely from that. You can see sweat on my face and neck, though.

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After test 1:  long run

Similar to my previous run, I still felt like I was sweating quite a bit but I also felt like the shirt was getting cooler, the hotter I got. It reminded me of a slogan I think I heard a long time ago, “We work hard so you don’t have to,” or something like that anyway. I definitely like this shirt. While it won’t stop you from sweating, especially if you sweat a lot like I do, it does help cool you off. Normally when I get home from a run I take off my wet, sweaty running shirt, but I left this one on for a bit, to let it help cool me off.

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After test 2:  hill repeats

I was intrigued about what would happen if I were to wet this shirt entirely and then put it on for a run. Before I did speed work on the treadmill, I wet the shirt under the faucet then put it on. It was wet but not dripping. It turns out this wasn’t a great idea. I don’t think the shirt is meant to be that wet before wearing and I didn’t feel like it helped cool me off any better. In fact, I felt like the best was when I flicked the shirt with some water and ran hill repeats.

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After test 3:  speed work

Arctic Cool also has long sleeve shirts, hats, headbands, towels, and shorts for men (alas no shorts for women). I’m seriously thinking about buying a few of these shirts for my summer running shirts. A hat would be great too.

Here’s the link if any of you would like to try Arctic Cool for yourself. Unfortunately I didn’t even think to ask for a discount code to pass along to you guys so I don’t have one. Their stuff seems very reasonably priced, however.

Happy running! Donna

Running in Charleston, South Carolina

I began training for my next half marathon while on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. The first morning I ran in Charleston, it was 84 degrees with 87% humidity around 8:00. I couldn’t have run earlier because there were thunderstorms. Because of the high humidity, I was drenched with sweat pretty quickly.

Never in my life have I seen so many people out exercising on a Monday morning. I saw numerous people of all ages running, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, and playing tennis. Typically, people in the deep South aren’t that active, but obviously the Charleston area people are an exception. I even saw many people out running and biking in the middle of the afternoon, when it was near 90 degrees.

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I always love running by the huge Southern style homes with their beautifully landscaped lawns and seeing the gorgeous trees in this area. When I’m on vacation, I adore going on a run because I notice things I never would have if just riding by in a car. I also get a feel for the lay of the land better than if I’m in a car.

Despite the heat and humidity, my run felt really good. Charleston is a really flat area, so there were no hills of any kind. I know a lot of people run up Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, which connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, but I didn’t run the bridge, at least on this run. I’ve run across the bridge on previous visits to the area, and it’s pretty challenging because the bridge is so steep.

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Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge

Another great place to run in historic Charleston is Battery Park. There’s a path that runs along the water so it’s scenic, although at times it can get a bit crowded. I love this area of Charleston, and most of the time running here isn’t a real issue, especially if you get out early to try to beat the heat.

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Battery Park

One thing about Charleston I should mention is the heat and humidity. If you’re not from a hot area and aren’t already somewhat used to this kind of weather, you probably wouldn’t want to come here during the hottest summer months of July and August. October or even November would be great times of year to come here, even if you’re going to the beach. It would still be warm enough to get in the ocean and enjoy the beach but the humidity would be lower and it wouldn’t be so hot you have to take two showers a day like you do in the heat of summer. Although I’ve never been to Charleston around Christmas time, I’ll bet it would be lovely, but definitely too cold for the beach.

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Because there are so many active people in Charleston, there are running paths all around the area (or maybe because there are paths everywhere, there are so many active people), so it’s not hard to find a good place to run. I’m not a big fan of running on the sand at the beach, so I didn’t do this here. I find the sand to be either too uneven, or too hard, or it’s too windy, but what ever the case, I just don’t find it to be enjoyable so I don’t even bother with it anymore no matter where I am.

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I just love all of these old trees in the Charleston area neighborhoods

This area is so beautiful, I find just running through neighborhoods to be fun. I always like to look at the houses I run by no matter where I am, and here it’s particularly fun because the neighborhoods are so nice. It definitely makes my runs go by quicker and I’ve often ended up running farther than I was supposed to, just because I got lost in the scenery. Isn’t that the best?

Do you guys like running on the beach? Do you like running on vacation?

Also, I have a discount code for Nuun if any of you need to re-stock your supplies: enter code fandfhydration17 to get 25% off your purchase valid through Sept. 1, 2017 Nuun website or website for Nuun Canada

Running During My Off-Season

I’m in-between half marathons currently, which means I haven’t been doing a whole lot of running. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been active, though. My last half marathon was in New Jersey and was my 40th state. Given that my next half marathon isn’t until November, that leaves a big chunk of the summer with no training plan. I’ll start training for my next race in a couple of weeks.

Now that I’m down to the final 10 states on my quest for a half marathon in all 50 states, I’ve gone from running a race every season to a race in three out of four seasons. After my race in November, I won’t have another race until May, which means my off-season will be during the winter months for the most part. Last year, I was training during the winter for my race in Utah in February. I was cursing my decision when I had to run my long runs in the cold last January and February, but I’m sure next summer when I’m training for a half marathon in August and have to do my long runs in the heat and humidity I’ll be cursing my decision to do a summer race.  Oh well!

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Although I haven’t been running a ton, I’ve been having fun biking with my family- here’s my daughter on a recent family ride

OK.  Back to my point, which is it’s kind of different having such a long break off of serious miles. Sure, I’ve still been running here and there, but the longest run I’ve gone on since the race in May is 4 miles. I’ll run 5 miles this weekend, but still, this is what many of you runners are doing for your mid-week runs. I’ve been working on strength training and some other things as well during this time off of race training, so it’s been a good time to do some other things like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which I’ll ease off of when I’m in the double digits for my long runs.

There’s also a mental aspect of taking a break from half marathon training. Running is such a big part of my life, when I’m not doing so much of it, I have kind of mixed feelings. I’m enjoying having extra time in my day but I also miss my time out on the roads and trails. I’ve been running my long runs on the same trail for the past couple of years and it’s quite scenic and not crowded, so I feel a sense of peace when I’m running. Even though parts of the trail are close to neighborhoods, there are enough trees and wooded areas that you feel miles away from everything at times.

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I haven’t missed this hill from my long runs!

Until recently I didn’t really have an “off-season” from training. I’ve always taken a solid two week break from every half marathon I run, sometimes a little more if I feel like I need it, but my next race was never more than 2 or 3 months away usually. I suppose I could have ran shorter distance races this summer, but honestly the idea of running a race in the heat and humidity we have here in North Carolina doesn’t appeal to me. That could be an option for next spring during my long break between races, though. I haven’t ran a 5k by myself (I ran one with my daughter a couple of years ago) since I first started running races so it would be interesting to see how I’d do.

How about you guys? Most of the running blogs I follow make me look like a slacker when it comes to running races! Do you guys ever take an off-season from running and/or racing?

New Shoes!

And when I say new shoes, I mean NEW shoes! I did something I wouldn’t advise anyone else to do and I’ve never done it myself before. I bought a pair of running shoes online in a brand I’ve never ran in before, heck never even put on before.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing my long runs in Asics Nimbus. I remember having Nimbus 9’s and now I have Nimbus 18’s so it’s been at least 10-ish years given that they increase the number each year. These have been my go-to running shoes, my never-give-me-any-problems running shoes. Even though I like to mix up my second pair of running shoes, varying brand but lately sticking to fairly flat ones, I haven’t altered my long run shoes, until now.

So what did I go with? I bought a pair of Newton Fate II’s. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good shoe sale, and these were on sale for $69, while the new Fate III shoes are $135 and new Nimbus 19 shoes are $160. I thought why not? If they suck, I can always return them and buy some Nimbus 19’s. Probably the bigger question is why did I switch after all these years?

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After being pretty disappointed with my last two half marathons, the one in Utah but even more so my latest one in New Jersey I decided I need to make some changes. Sure, these courses were crazy hilly, but still, I felt like I should have finished stronger than I did. While I ended up 6th in my age group for the race in Utah, I felt like the one in New Jersey wasn’t representative of what I could really do. I felt like it was time to shake things up a bit.

I decided to do a 30 day plank challenge, but this was in-between the races in Utah and New Jersey and that didn’t help me with the hills in New Jersey. Even though I used to detest squats and lunges, I started doing them to strengthen my glutes and help with Dead Butt Syndrome. I read Runner’s World ‘Train Smart Run Forever’ and was reminded of other exercises I need to be doing, besides squats and lunges, plus other things in general I need to be doing, especially as a “masters” runner. The latest thing I’ve added into the mix is to do a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout once a week.

So back to the shoes. When I first put them on, I thought, “Wow! These really feel different!” Newton shoes have “Action/Reaction™ Technology” using five lugs across the mid foot that are supposed to provide quicker bounce back and lose less energy than traditional foam-core running shoes. I’ve never had any kind of running shoes with this kind of technology, so it was definitely new to me.

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I didn’t want to over-do it on my first run on them so I decided to just go out for a couple of miles and see how it went. The shoes felt pretty good, with plenty of room in the toe box but not too much, nice fit all-around, but they didn’t feel quite as “springy” as my previous Nimbus shoes, especially in the mid foot. This was a surprise to me, honestly, but not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve felt like I need to strengthen my feet and Achilles a bit anyway, so maybe these Newtons will help me do that.

Let’s do a little comparison of Nimbus 19 versus Newton Fate III shoes (don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief). The Nimbus 19 weighs 9.6 oz (size 8) and has a stack height of 32 mm (heel), 19 mm (forefoot). The Asics Nimbus cushioning system uses a silicone based gel and an injected top layer of lower density cushioning in women’s models. The Newton Fate III weighs 7.7 oz (size 8) and has a stack height of 27 mm (heel), 22 mm (forefoot). The Newton Fate has “Newtonium foam,” lugs as part of their action/reaction technology I mentioned before with P.O.P. 2 technology and air-filled chambers, and a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate in the forefoot that allows you to feel the ground, for constant sensory feedback.

I think the sensor plate is why I didn’t feel like the Newtons are quite as springy as my Asics, because I definitely could feel the ground more in my new shoes, which I think is a good thing. I’m also interested to see how the difference in stack height effects my running. The Asics Nimbus difference from heel to forefoot is 13 mm but only 5 mm in the Newton, which is a considerable difference.

On my second run, I went slightly further out (about 3 miles) but ran on some trails that have some pretty steep hills. Everything seemed to feel good and I didn’t have any issues, with one minor little thing. One of the trails I ran on had some small rocks and apparently one of the rocks got wedged in-between the lugs. When I got back to a paved trail, I felt something stuck on the bottom of my shoe so I stopped to pull out the rock. Hopefully this won’t be an issue.

So far, I have high hopes for these shoes. Along with all of the other things I’ve been doing, I hope these shoes help me have a better race the next go-around in November!

Have any of you ever bought a new brand of shoes online without trying them on first?