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Thursday, June 18, 2009

TIART: Summer Gear

This week's Take it and Run Thursday theme is ... Gotta' Have It - Summer Gear and Tips!  Tell us about your must have summer gear to get you through hot runs, long runs, and your favorite races.   Running is a simple sport made more enjoyable by shirts that keep us cool, hats that keep the sun out of our faces, bottles that don't bounce, and your personal tricks of keeping cool.   

I hate running in the heat, I really do.  I've said this before.  I want to someday live in Florida and the only really really bad thing that I can think of about living in Florida has got to be the heat.  Winter running is great!  Still, I do have some tips to help with keeping cool.

Clothing is the biggest thing.  Dress for comfort, not for style.  Don't wear cotton!  Cotton absorbs water and sweat and holds on to it.  What you need to make sure you do is dress in breathable, technical fabrics so that sweat and moisture is wicked away from your skin, allowing you to keep cool.  This is kind of a basic running "law" that few people who run regularly break.  I know it sounds weird, and I'm not going to agree or disagree, but when someone sees you on the trail wearing a cotton t-shirt, you stand a high risk of not being taken seriously as a runner, and you might just get some comments.  So, it's almost like it's not just about keeping cool.

I used to be really sensitive about covering my thighs and arms so that people wouldn't see my fat jiggling.  That all changed in the summer of 2006 when suddenly I was doing much longer mileage in much higher temps and humidity.  I dress for comfort now, and I realize that those that I run with have their own jiggles and don't judge me based on how fat or not fat my thighs are.  For this reason, running has really helped my self esteem (and I love my running group!)  :)  So, my next word of advice is to not worry about looks and dress for comfort.  The only people who might say something about your thighs are probably at home still in bed, anyway.

The next thing to have is a way of getting water.  Personally, I prefer the Amphipod belts, and I have this one.  I've had it since 2006, and I'm thinking of trying out a new one soon, but haven't decided what (money is tight and I have a perfectly fine water belt, after all).  What I like about it is that it has 4 bottles that clip on, and the clips can be removed so that you can add on more or less bottles, or add on more or less pouches for carrying things (like gu or cell phones, or a camera for a big race, or some wet wipes).  What I dislike about my water belt is that it can be difficult to clip the bottles in during a run when you have sweaty hands, especially if you purchase the bigger bottles that don't fit quite so easily.  For shorter runs, I will sometimes carry a hand-held water bottle (like this one).  I don't necessarily like having the water belt around my waist, so it's nice to have it in my hand for a run that is short enough that I can stand carrying a bottle that long.

As far as non-gear suggestions go, I prefer running in the morning when it is hot.  I find it so much more comfortable to be outside at 7am rather than 6pm.  When it gets really hot, I stay inside on the treadmill.  And if it's a long run day, I will find a way to park a car with a cooler in it at the halfway point of the run.  It's nice to be able to freshen up with cool water or gatorade, and some snacks.  Try salty snacks to help replace salt that is lost from sweating.

Finally, on long runs - and my running group HATES me for this - start running in the dark.  5:15am is about as early as we go, but by the end of the season, the sun isn't rising until 6:30 and we often aren't turning off our headlights until we're at our water stop.  There are a lot of reasons why I put my group through this.  The biggest is safety.  We run on a trail that is popular for cyclists and families, and it is nice to be off the trail before a lot of the cyclists start their rides.  We are a big group, and we can be hard to avoid for a guy on a bike going 17 mph.  On 5:15 start days, we often won't see a bike for the first 2 hours of our run, and that is the safest way to be.  Also, the heat and sunshine won't bother us in the dark.  And the most awesome advantage to starting so early?  Running in the dark is fun!  When you're heading back to your car, it's like you haven't seen that part of the trail yet.  It's important to have a headlamp or flashlight if you're going to do this (I don't like flashlights because they tend to get waved all around and the bouncing light makes me nauseous).  Or, if running in the street in the dark, you should have reflective gear.

I hope someone finds these tips useful, enjoy your summer running!
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