Thursday, May 23, 2013

Running in Nashville: Where to Run in Nashville

Nashville is a great city for runners. Sure, the summers are hot and humid and the winters are moderately cold and wet, but the city has invested in being foot friendly. It’s paid off in some beautiful runs.

Trails: The Cumberland River Greenway trail from North Nashville, past Germantown and into downtown is nice. I like it because you can make it long – about 10 miles out and back – and it gently rolls. As the name hints, it’s along the river, so the view can be pretty. The only downsides are: lack of shade and a few slightly dodgy parts. I wouldn’t recommend it to women for a night run.

Pre turtle sighting
HOWEVER, my new favorite trail is the Shelby Bottoms Greenway in East Nashville’s Inglewood.
“SB,” as the signposts call it, is mostly a flat, two-way path with short loops at each end. The loops plus the two-way bit add up to an absolutely luscious 8-mile run.

Shelby Bottoms Greenway isn’t just a trail without street crossings. Its path is set back in a long, wide greenbelt, so you don’t even hear car traffic. The quiet path is perfect for runners, cyclists, deer, rabbits and even turtles. Similar to the Greenway trail, much of SB has a view of the river.

Nose & Notes: You won’t have to stop and smell the flowers on this run. Thanks to honeysuckle and berry bushes in bloom right now, the air smells like sweet jasmine tea. Forgot your music? Cardinals rule these roosts, providing flashes of crimson and a steady accompaniment of song. Just watch where you step. The turtles don't even try to get out of the way.

This handy map shows Nashville's trails, parking and entrances. As the map shows, both of the runs I've mentioned here have off-shoots. Shelby Bottoms, for example, also connects to a local park and  golf course trail that can add miles to your run/ride, if you’re really committed.

Races: I can only speak on Nashville’s Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon and the Boulevard Bolt (a Thanksgiving tradition). Both fun. They each have their own character. 

Two of the 10 sumo suit shimmiers
Nashville's marathon in April is seriously rockin’. After all, this is Music City! Every block,
practically, comes with its own soundtrack. Sometimes it's as basic as a bunch women in sumo suits playing a boom box and dancing. In other spots, you get a live band. Both are guaranteed to help keep your feet moving, in a good way!

The Thanksgiving Boulevard Bolt is an entirely different affair. It’s a 5-mile roundtrip walk/run festooned with turkey costumes, pilgrim hats and a few of Santa's elves. While the owners of the fancy homes lining Belle Meade Blvd sit outside, drinking hot cider, mimosas and spiked nog, the real pep comes from the participants. Cheering, chatter and cow bells are common. 

After the race, one or two of the homes host brunches on their lawns. It’s hard to tell if these are open to all, but they sure look inviting when you’ve gotten up early and haven’t had your turkey yet.

Happy running in Nashville!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Should I Wear My Race Shirt on Race Day?

When it comes to running, one size does not fit all. This is especially true about the free shirt you might get when you run a race. Here's some things to consider when debating if you should wear the race's shirt on race day:
  • Quality - is the shirt a brand you trust? If not, don't wear it. The shirt might be great but you don't want to test it on "the big day."
  • Temperature - some race swag is bought because it's cheap, not practical. Given a t-shirt for a winter run in Chicago? Handed long sleeves in Death Valley? Wear the right sleeve length for the race temps, not the race director.
  • Distance - I might wear new shoes, socks or a shirt for a short run but will fall back on proven favorites for longer races. Think about how long you would be ok being uncomfortable and then decide if you want to try something new or broken in.
  • Team spirit - are you running with or for a team? You might need to suck it up and wear the shirt. Or have a reliable friend give you the team shirt at the finish. That way, your finisher photos rep the team and you stay comfy.
Non-wicking, too-big race shirt
You may be asking, what could possibly go wrong if I wear the race shirt for a little 5 or 10k?
Probably nothing major BUT, if the fabric doesn't breath, like this shirt I got in 2010, you may overheat and be slower than you like. If the seams under your arms are too tight, the fabric too bunchy or the shirt poorly crafted, you may take home some chafing along with your medal.

No matter what you wear, enjoy the race and pray for good swag!

Happy running!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Running Music: Running without Music

Like most everyone I know, I usually workout to music. It seems inspiring and motivating but I wonder if it might also be a bad distraction that gets in the way of really absorbing the work I'm doing on my body. So, this month (May), I'm working out without music.

The 1st three workouts were unremarkable. Just a couple of quiet runs and a quick weight-lifting session. I thought a lot about running shoes and form. At the end of one of the runs, I had one of my usual running songs playing in my head. I guess an empty brain will fill itself with the familiar.

Today, I had planned to row and lift at the gym. I expected to zone out to TV instead of music but these three older gentlemen befriended me and one of them chatted all 20 minutes that I was on the rower. At first, I resisted. I'm so used to zoning out, I didn't want to engage. But then I thought, what's the point of taking away the music if I don't accept whatever fills its place? So me and Carl, the awesome octogenarian, had a great talk about racism, guys in the Navy getting "the clap," sports and whether or not I should get my tubes tied. Yes, really, He also shared that he had a vasectomy when he was in his 30s and that it didn't even hurt.

Carl made my workout go faster than any music ever has. Thanks, man!

Friday, May 3, 2013

What to Wear Running: Puma Faas & Puma Running Gear

About three years ago, Puma Running sent me some gear. I'd never run in Puma before, so I was interested to see how it compared to my old standbys. I was looking for a few things, including comfort and durability, which is why I'm doing another blog post now, years later.

Nike top from circa 1999
When it comes to gear, I've always loved Nike. Their stuff just lasts! I've had this red top since 1999. Seriously, kids running in my last 5k are younger than this shirt! But, it still looks good, wicks sweat and lets my skin breath. I knew Puma looked fresh and was interested to see if it stayed that way (I had heard rumors that it falls apart).

Three years later, I still LOVE this blue tank. It looks great on - I get compliments
Puma top 2010
when I wear it. The two layers of silky fabric are comfortable up to 80 degrees. The built-in sports bra has silver threads that haven't popped and (hopefully) help prevent stinkiness. The pleats around the neckline hide "poke through" when I'm chilly. And, the sports bra is strong enough for serious runs if you're an A or B cup. Most importantly, as I shift from being a runner to a multitasker, this top has successfully come along for rowing, yoga and cycling adventures.

Puma's running shorts are also holding up really well. The
Purple Puma shorts, another fave top
pockets still zip, the elastic is strong, the lining is hole-free and the style is classic. I have them in purple and black. Current color trends mean the purple ones look modern even though they're a few years old.

For shoes, I became a runner in Saucony back when they were touting stability. Brooks and Asics were my brands when I became a marathoner and wanted something a little fleeter. Now, Brooks Cadence and Saucony Kinvara time share my runs along with the Puma Faas 500.

The first shoes Puma sent weren't a good fit. The 8 was too big and the 7.5 too small so I donated them to charity and gave up on getting to test the brand. Lucky for me, Puma didn't give up and sent me a second pair a year later (about two years ago) - the Faas 500. They sent my friend the Faas 300 to test and photograph. The sizes were right, so we got down to running.

I still love the Faas 500 after two years, uncounted miles of  running, a few trail hikes and South by
Faas 500 Photo copyright: Dana Underwood
Southwest - I was wearing them when I met Jimmy Fallon (it was a Nike event but I still rocked them). What I like: The color is hot. The weight and minimal materials are cool. They hold on gently, so my natural mid-foot strike can flow.  Unlike my Kinvara's, the nylon hasn't split and, unlike the Cadence, they never made my feet cramp. Detractors: As a mid-foot striker, I wouldn't mind if the heel was less built up. That would be a great way to drop weight without losing structure. Also, when I corner, the loose hold of the shoe means it slips a bit around the toe box, so I have less control.

According to my friend, the Faas 300 are really only good for road running. They need to be laced tightly because otherwise they slip if you pronate. If you're looking for a racing slipper, and not something that you can also trail or city walk in, these might be good for you.
Puma Faas 300

Thanks again to Puma for the chance to test. Happy running!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What to Wear Running: Leg Sleeve

Issue: mild achilles burning up into calf on left side only
Attempted solutions:
  1. Not running - calf muscle/achilles still felt hot after 6 months so I returned to running
    CEP leg sleeve
  2. Changed stride - shifted from heel striker to landing on the outside mid-foot then rolling onto the ball. This helped all my other aches (knees, hips) and prevented achilles from getting really twingy but calf was still pesky
  3. New shoes - Saucony Kinvara helped me maintain my new stride. Calf still hot
  4. CEP leg sleeve - honestly, I can't tell if it's actually doing anything but I like it because it makes me think that everything is being held together and, therefore, won't fall apart. It also is a gentle reminder to keep my stride easy, paying casual attention to my delicate tendons.
Recommend? Not in general. If you've got an issue, why not, but if you're just on a gear buying spree, I'd skip the sleeve and buy better socks (Nike or Asics will love your feet like nothing else).