Review: SLS3 neon running socks

Suddenly, socks.

I’ve gotten to test out a couple of SLS3 products over the last year or so, but since a lot of their gear is for triathletes, not everything is up my alley. When they asked me if I wanted to wear-test and review their neon running socks, though, I agreed. Who doesn’t need socks?

I’m picky about socks. For years I wore basic Under Armour technical socks that came in a big package from Academy. Reasonably-priced and comfortable, although they tended to wear out quickly. Then I got a pair of Swiftwick socks in a race swag bag and quickly became a convert. For the last year and a half, 99% of my runs happen in Swiftwick socks. So these SLS3s have some, ahem, big shoes to fill.

My feet are weird–I wear a size 7.5 shoe, but my toes reach nowhere near the end of the toe box. I need the larger size to accommodate my wide feet. So even though my shoe size is on the higher side of average (especially for my 5’2″ height) I generally wear a size small sock when given the option of sizing. And that’s what I ordered from SLS3.

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They’re a soft technical material–nylon, polyester, and spandex–sort of a hybrid between the feel of my Swiftwicks and Under Armour. They have a tab or flap at the back of the ankle, I guess to keep them from slipping down into your shoe.

I first wore them for hill repeats in 95* heat. Before I started I had to tie my shoes a little tighter because the socks are a little thinner than the ones I usually wear, but after that I never noticed them at all. Which I suppose is as good a sign as any!

Since then I’ve worn them in some drizzly rain and in regular summer (AKA hot) temperatures. They are comfortable and don’t slip or slide around in my shoes. Definitely a viable option for me.

If you’d like to order your own, please go to amazon.com and enter the code DKJIJERK for a $5 discount on a three-pack!

Disclaimer: I received these socks for free in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

L8

Remember when Friday nights were for parties and concerts instead of old-people bedtimes to prepare for early Saturday morning runs?

Well this weekend I tried both.

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The view from the cheap seats

Last night we went to a concert at the Austin360 Amphitheater (part of Circuit of the Americas F1 complex), and it was technically Saturday morning by the time we got home. Four hours of sleep is insufficient preparation for running eight miles, in case you’re wondering.

But we had a good time–$25 lawn seats is totally the way to go at this venue–and I managed to slog through eight slow, humid, sweaty miles this morning.

As the song goes, “I’m hot, sticky sweet/from my head to my feet.”

 

What the hill?

August weather is usually pretty easy to predict around Central Texas. We joke that the weather forecasters sit in their jammies at home, literally phoning it in. Low 80, high 100. Wear sunscreen and avoid the outdoors during the hottest part of the day. Repeat.

Except not this week.

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Did we jump ahead to October??

Thursday after work it was 82*, and that’s the warmest I’ve seen since Saturday. No wait, I think it was 87* at lunchtime. But Monday through Wednesday, the high was only in the upper 70s, and it’s been raining all week–6-8″since Sunday.

 

 

So this week I’ve run more than usual because I just can’t pass up these conditions. Rainy 4.25 miles on Sunday, rainy three miles after core class on Monday, overcast for a two-mile time trial (plus a mile each way, out and back) on Tuesday, and overcast again for three miles around my ‘hood Wednesday. That leaves Thursday: hill day.

I parked at the middle school at the top of the hill. I ran the same sequence as last week–down and up the short hill (half-mile each way), quick water break at my car, then down and up the long hill (one mile each way). But because it was 25+ degrees cooler than last week, it felt a little easier and I hardly stopped for water at all. And I ran the long uphill straight through with a little pickup the last quarter-mile.

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Let’s hope the weather gods continue to smile on us for our eight (nine?) miles on Saturday morning. And by smile I mean give us more cloudy, drizzly skies.😉

Galveston Sand Crab: summer’s last hurrah

Rain, Wind, and Sand. 

Sounds like a 1970s R&B band, but actually it describes Saturday night’s Galveston Sand Crab 5K.

All afternoon, we watched the skies turn grey and the wind kick up choppy waves.


And when we arrived at Apffel Park around dusk, the wind blew little sand tornadoes across the beach and into my eyes.

We had some time before the race, so we walked toward the water to scout the beach conditions. Last year the first (and therefore last) .20 of the course crossed fluffy, loose sand that made running difficult. But the sporadic raindrops that had dotted our windshield on the drive in now turned into heavier drizzle. This was actually good news–rain meant cooler air, plus the sand might be more compact, less powdery.

As we waited for the start, lightning flashed from cloud to cloud in the distance and the drizzle remained steady. I don’t know if it was rain-related but the atmosphere was strangely quiet–no working PA system, no music. The crowd had counted down the start of the kids’ race earlier; I couldn’t hear the race director’s countdown for the 5K/10K so I just followed when everyone else started moving.

I tried to stay on the compact sand, although that’s much more difficult when running in a crowd. But I made it to the water’s edge and … then we ran right into the rain and the wind that had been kicking up those choppy waves all day. A mile and a half seemed to take forever. A mile or so in I got a side stitch and took some deep breaths, and later I waved at M and B already on their way back. I could see flashing lights of a police car in the distance and assumed it was the 5K turnaround. Just run to the lights. 

I reached the water stop and thought maybe water would alleviate that side stitch. It was pretty much serve-yourself so stopping cost me a few seconds, but I felt better. Especially when I realized the water stop, not the flashing lights, was the turnaround!

Now I had the wind and rain to my back, and I tried to pick up the pace. I was slightly nervous about sand castles and moats that might trip me up, so I kept my headlamp trained directly in front of me rather than looking ahead. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Lightning became more intense, occasionally illuminating the whole beach.

Then finally off to the left I recognized that pavilion where we’d started, and the flashing light indicating my turn away from the water to the finish.

The sand got fluffy again, and it slowed me down. A woman I’d passed earlier ran by me. After I cleared a row of wooden posts, the finish line maybe 100 yards away, the sand flattened out again and I sped up. I knew I had to pass her. And about halfway down the stretch I did it, finishing alone and smiling.

It was easily five minutes off my 5K PR time from May, but considering the sand I never expected to PR anyway. I had a modest time goal in my head, and I beat it by about two minutes. Know what else I beat? The monster thunderstorm that hit not long after I finished and sat down in the pavilion with a snow cone. Now I was really glad I hadn’t run the 10K–most of those people were still out there.

Because of the storm, we hung around longer than we usually do after a race and kind of listened to the awards. Good thing too, because B won second in his age group!

 

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I’d say that was a pretty successful evening. My last summer hurrah before returning to work this week.

Sunday Funday

What’s a person to do to recover from a miserable long run?

Why, kayak on the lake, of course.

Sunday morning B went to hang out at a friend’s house. We originally thought we’d go biking, but I thought maybe that would bother my back, not to mention my tired legs. So we decided to go with an upper-body exercise instead.

Growing up in Austin, there weren’t many opportunities to actually get into the water of Town Lake, the part of the Highland Lakes chain that runs through downtown. Lake Austin was for waterskiing and Lake Travis was for sailing. But Town Lake (now officially renamed Lady Bird Lake but no one from here calls it that) is a major part of Austin’s drinking water supply, so swimming and boats with motors are banned. In the old Aquafest days, once a year folks would build homemade rafts and float them in front of Auditorium Shores for the K98 Raft Race, but my friends and I were more spectators than participants. You could rent a canoe from Zilker Park and paddle down Barton Creek to the lake, but that was it.

Only recently have stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking become popular, and wow–yesterday ours was not an original idea. But with three major rental operations (SUP paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes) plus the original Zilker canoes, there’s no shortage of boats.

We went to Texas Rowing Center on the north side of the lake, accessible from Austin High’s parking lot. We waited in a short line, paid for 2+ hours, left our car keys for collateral, then selected our life jackets and paddles and we were on our way in a two-person kayak. Stand-up paddleboards seemed like more work than I wanted to put in and I thought maybe rowing a canoe would be hard on my back. So kayak it was.

I’m 5’2″, and the front space was perfect for me. I could completely extend my legs and lean back on the seat back. M is 6′ and was slightly less comfortable. It also took a while to synchronize our paddling so we didn’t smack each other.

We first went west under the Mopac bridge, then turned around and let the current carry us east, under the Lamar bridge, the pedestrian bridge, the train bridge, First Street bridge, and the Congress Avenue bridge. That last one, we didn’t dillydally–we could hear the famous Congress bats squeaking and it reeked of bat guano.

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We floated around for a while, then eventually turned back. The wind had shifted, so not only were we paddling upstream, we were also traveling into the wind. My arms were jelly by the time we returned to the dock.

In hindsight, two hours was probably an hour too long. But our rental choice was one hour or unlimited, so we went with unlimited because I didn’t want to have to worry about time. But unlimited meant I wanted to get my money’s worth, dammit.😉

For the second time in three weeks, my sunscreen was more sun and less screen (even though I was diligent about applying and re-applying) and now my chest and shoulders are a tad pink red. So far my arms feel okay, but often that muscle soreness is delayed–tomorrow I might have trouble washing my hair. Or I might not. We shall see.

Still, it gave my legs a rest and was way more fun than my miserable run the day before. And it beats flopping around in a homemade raft from 1980-something.

Run from Hell

When the sports medicine clinic hosting the run gives out free samples of Aleve along with the Clif Bars at the end, you know it’s a tough course.

And indeed it was.

My back hadn’t bothered me in weeks, but of course this morning I woke up with some pain. I crossed my fingers that it would loosen up the first mile or so.

It didn’t.

The first mile was flat, then we turned onto a path that eventually crossed over the highway. It was dark and I had fallen behind a bit–another runner was attacked this week, so I was mildly concerned. Even moreso when I took a wrong turn. But I made it to the bridge unscathed and caught up with the others as they waited for the light.

Just past two miles, at the bottom of the Far West hill, we reached the first water stop. Even though it was still dark, it was almost 80* and humid. I probably poured as much water over my head as I drank. Only two miles in I was already miserable, both from the humidity and my sore back.

I walked most of the way up the hill, then dodged road construction as I ran-walked to the next intersection. A block later we turned back downhill again, and I ran most of it. Then more downhill, winding our way around and eventually back up. I ran-walked this part too.

My watch beeped four miles as I reached an intersection where I’d expected water but found none. I sat down on the curb and got out my map. Should we keep going to the next water stop (and how far away is that, anyway?) or turn around here? As we pondered our choices, a truck with water coolers in the back pulled up next to us and asked if we were okay. Clearly my sitting on the curb did not project confidence. Anyway, it was one of the Rogue owners, and he suggested we get water from him, then take a hill-avoiding shortcut back to Far West.

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At this point, the worst of the course was behind us. Well, worst for the distance we were running–many others had to tackle a massive hill that sucks the soul out of even the strongest runner. I think if that one were in my plans today, someone would’ve had to uncurl me from the fetal position and pick me up from the side of the road about 1/3 of the way up. Not. Happening.

So the rest of the way back was pretty flat, but I still found myself run-walking it. It was frustrating–when I was running, my legs felt good and I held a respectable pace, but my back just wouldn’t let me keep it up. My overall pace looks pretty pathetic thanks to the walking segments, not because I ran slowly. Not that it matters in the end.

Anyway, taking the shortcut dropped about .25 from our total distance, but I had no interest in making it up by running around the block or the parking lot or whatever. I was happy to stop my Garmin at 7.75. I had run out of fucks to give.

Icy towels and massage therapists greeted us on our return. I took advantage of both. And the aforementioned free samples of Aleve.

I wanted to quit. I wanted to cry. I hurt. I was tired. I had to walk some of it. But it’s done, and next time it will be easier.

Character_Building

 

Get over it

The bridge will not get me this year.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Army Ten-Miler. I love that I meet up with some of my best friends. And I love that the first seven miles run around D.C’s major monuments, water stops are staffed by active duty military, and thousands of runners are either service members or are running on behalf of injured or fallen loved ones. And some struggle to complete ten miles on new artificial limbs. It’s humbling and inspiring.

But I hate the last three miles when the course turns onto the 14th Street Bridge across the channel, then the Potomac River.

ATM course map 2016

This stretch, as you can see, is about 1.5 miles long. No water stop, very little crowd support, and what feels like an unending bridge. You get over the channel and think, oh that wasn’t so bad, and then you realize that wasn’t even the actual river.

Thomas Jefferson creates a brief distraction off to the right, but then the “real” bridge appears, and it sort of sucks the motivation out of me. Trudging up a gradual incline, seeing nothing ahead but a long expanse of bridge does not do good things to my mental state. And to pour salt into the wound, at about 8.5, the course rises up a steep overpass, then turns left–AWAY from the Pentagon and its finish line sounds.

I don’t usually listen to music during this race–I love immersing myself in the race atmosphere and don’t want to miss anything. But last year I created a playlist called “ATM Bridge You Asshole” to fire up just for that last section of the race–distraction, motivation, whatever. This strategy didn’t help, however–mile nine was my slowest, and that alone is what kept me from my goal.

So this year, to improve both my physical and mental game, I’ve decided once a week to run my second most-hated hill, repeating it twice each direction. It’s a gradual incline about a mile long, very little shade, nothing much in the way of visual distraction.

Last night was my first attempt.

I parked at the middle school at the top, figuring I’d do it the hard way, down then up. I’d brought extra water so I could take a break between repeats. I’d also brought a water bottle to carry–two miles is a long way to go without water when it’s 95*.

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The first leg was pretty easy–flat, then a gradual downhill, then flat. I stopped at the bottom for some water, then headed back up. Definitely harder, but I ran the whole thing. My pace was decent and I felt okay while I was running, but when I returned to my car for more water, I had trouble cooling down.

After ten minutes or so, I started again. This time I crossed to the other side of the street–it was shadier, and it offered a slight change of scenery from the first lap. My pace was slower even though it was downhill, and my return pace was even slower. I had to stop three or four times for water on the way back up. I would have stopped again, but I’d run out of water.

It took me 47 minutes of moving time (more than an hour including water breaks) to finish the whole four-mile workout. And I don’t foresee it getting any easier between now and the beginning of October, but that’s okay. It means that the bridge–half the distance, half the temperature–will feel like a walk in the park, comparatively.

It won’t get me this year.