Running Inspiration

Training

We just welcomed 6 new runners to the Oiselle team! I love putting up the new profiles online because they are so inspiring. They answer questions like why do you run? Do you have a quote that inspires your running? What's your favorite post-race treat? Here's a few answers (quotes) below to inspire your running.

Do you have a quote that inspires your running?

I am strong enough, I am fast enough, and I am ready for this.

(Hannah Sydnor-Greenberg's profile)

Here's a real collective: Jen Bigham's racing photo, Susan Empey's favorite quote from Livestrong.

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December 16, 2011 — sarah

Put Some Gu Under the Tree

Social

What to give that special someone, the runner? Yes, shoes are always good. But I think the best gifts are those things that your runner wants but doesn't always treat themselves to. Like the following:

1. A Backup Supply of Energy Bars, Gels, Chews, Chumps, Nuun...
Yes, runners will buy themselves a gel or two, but spoil your runner with a big backup of all their favorite (slightly overpriced) energy snacks and drinks. **Bonus points for creative presentation.

Beth (@Boston2Berkley) created this fabulous Christmas Tree of Energy (as seen on her running blog: Boston To Berkley)

I also love this GU Lei created by @frayed_laces (as seen on her running blog: Frayed Laces)

2. Bib Number Coasters (from ElegantElliphant on Etsy)
So many races, so many numbers floating around the house. Declutter and give your runner bragging rights on the coffee table.

3. Massage, Physical Therapy, Chiropractic Adjustment, Graston
This is especially thoughtful if your runner doesn't have health insurance that covers these services. Treat your runner to preventive care, and an injury free 2012. Less injury = happy runner.

4. Self Healing Super Powers
Give your runner the gift of self masage with a roller, travel roller, or "The Stick".

5. Running Apparel
Especially if you see your runner heading out in Champion cheer shorts... hook them up with real running gear and apparel that will keep them motivated (dry and warm) all winter and all year.

6. Rundies

Need we say more? You'll get a laugh out of any runner! Buy Rundies here.

Good luck shopping for your runners. Don't worry you still have time to get your gifts in the mail. If you order at Oiselle.com by 12/16 we promise to deliver (via USPS) by 12/23. We also offer 2 day Fedex in case time gets away from you. Other online stores have similar shipping options - and be sure to show your local runner store some love!

behind-the-scenes
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December 15, 2011 — sarah

The Running Event 2011 - Day One and Two

Social

After at least six months of meticulious planning (done by our sales rep... Christy) and creative vision (Sally) and 2 weeks of busting-it-out-in-the-knick-of-time work on Oiselle HQ's part Sally and I boarded a plane to Austin Texas. We arrived on Tuesday night. The Expo began on Thursday night. We had lots of work to do in the next 36 hours or so.

But first things first, right after touching down in Austin we headed over to the BettySport customer holiday party. There was amazing food (hello goat cheese stuffed jalepeno pepper), and it was a kick to see the store. It's super luxe fitness and lifestyle wear. Oiselle fits right in, naturally. Our Texas sales representative, Sara Stewart Stevens (triple S), works there part-time merchandising while completing her graduate degree in fabric**. It was great to finally put a face with name. A bright-eyed girl with a huge smile, dropping adorable ya'lls all over sentences.

After that we went out on the town... I mean, we crashed as soon as possible. After the party, we headed to Sara's house to load up a minivan full of expo booth stuff like a full body mannequin and then found our digs. We were staying right across from the Convention Center in a condo. It was nice to have that 'home base' feeling. A full kitchen, two bathrooms, a living room etc.

The next morning we planned to run at 7am, with the time change this was harder than it should have been. I laid in bed listening for any waking up sounds from Sally's side of the condo while obsessively checking the weather on my iPhone. 28 degrees. Right? Finally I kicked the sheets off and got going. We headed out the door at 7:30 to run on the river trail for 30 minutes. It was a beautiful (frigid) morning.

The expo floor opened at 11am, and we were there right on time ready to bring the booth we'd envisioned for half a year to life! We had 12 unique frames to hang, simple and elegant curtains from Pottery Barn as a backdrop. If you've ever seen the booth they give you at an expo you know how creative you'd have to get to figure out how to make a the pole frame and tacky drapes into something sophisticated yet playful, fashion-forward and fit inspired. Something that says we love running, freedom and flight, color, style and fabulously luxe, performance fabric...a booth that screams we are OISELLE!

Anyway I think our vision and resourceful creativity plus lots of Starbucks created an awesome booth! Take a look at the booth coming together:

Early birds! No one is set up yet.

One curtain up, time for a coffee/camera break.

I really was helping (I was the cut and hook part of the process).

Aaaand ta-da! I got cranking on hanging the frames and lights and we were done!

The team arrived and the event was off!

events
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December 12, 2011 — sarah

Getting Ready for The Running Event 2011

Social

Oiselle HQ is buzzing! Sally and I leave for The Running Event tomorrow! I'm so excited to check out this event for the first time. If you aren't familiar with The Running Event then we have something in common! I'm only sort of kidding. Basically it's a huge running industry expo where brands are showing off the latest and greatest in running apparel and gear. Oiselle will be showing Fall 2012! (Always living in the future).

Not only will we have a booth at the expo, we are also gathering our reps from across the country and meeting in Austin. The Oiselle flock is sharing a couple condos, it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm excited to meet everyone I haven't yet!

I'll be blogging from the event, so stay tuned for all the running industry gossip ;) and the results from the much anticipated Indie 5k!

 

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December 05, 2011 — sarah

Diary of a Wimpy Winter Runner

Training

I have two runners inside of me. That sounds creepy. But let me explain, there is Summer Sarah and Winter Sarah. One is a lot more fun and inspiring than the other...

Summer Sarah
Beeep! 5:03am my alarm goes off. I’m out of bed! I pull the running clothes on that I’ve left outside the bathroom, slurp down and PowerBar Gel and some water I’m and on the road by 5:15.am. I finish up 8 miles before 6:30am, make a smoothie and head to work.

Winter Sarah
Beeeep! 5:03am the alarm goes off. I turn it off and roll over. I sleep until 6:00am when my fiancé gets up. I hear the shower turn on. I lay there.  I think about how warm I am. How I don’t really need to run today. Or maybe I’ll do it after work. I bargain with myself. If I sleep until 7am I’ll run 8 miles after work. Then I realize that won’t happen. Then I bribe myself with things, warm shower, Starbucks… then I check the weather on my phone about 3 times. Then around 6:22am I drag myself out of bed. 

I shiver through the first mile, then without fail I warm up, wake up and start loving the run. I wonder why I was such a wimpy baby. I tell myself to remember this for tomorrow. That’ll get me out of bed for sure…

Next day, Beeeep! 5:03am the alarm goes off….same story….6:22am I’m out the door.

Winter running is not my gig. I love it about a mile in, but it’s hard to kick my butt out the door. Really hard. And I’ll say it, sometimes it doesn’t happen. But 99.9% I get it done, with the same stutter start because I know I’ll be happy I did and I know there is hot coffee waiting at the end.

 Do you have trouble keeping your training up in the winter? What do you do to keep the love alive in the winter?

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November 22, 2011 — sarah

Meggie in NYCM Part Two: Running Celebs

Racing

Meggie Smith is a Oiselle racing team member. When she's not running she's blogging about it (and much more) at her blog, The Thinks I Can Think. Meggie will be running the New York City Marathon tomorrow! She's going to rock it! Here is her checklist for getting race-day-ready. (written by Meggie Smith)

Read more blogs by Meggie on Oiselle: Meggie's Marathon Checklist

 

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While I wish I could write a blog for Oiselle outlining the finer points of successful marathoning, there are Oiselle women far more experienced, not to mention much faster, who could do a much better job at that than I. So, instead of giving you a play by play of the NYC Marathon, I’ll tell you about all the cool people I met making the NYC Marathon, truly, an experience of a lifetime.

If you read my personal blog, you’ll know that I’m Picky Bars #1 fan. So, of course, I jumped at the chance to help them with a few events around the city. I like to think they asked me rather than me forcing myself upon them. Either way, I got to meet Lauren and Jesse “in real life,” which was fun since, previously, I had only known them as email addresses in addition to their rock star status landing them on TV and magazines for winning races and such. Helping them also solidified that I know way too much about Picky Bars and am way too enthusiastic about forcing samples upon unsuspecting people.

One party I didn’t crash was an Asics breakfast that I was invited to by a friend who knew the person that did the PR for Asics (or something like that). I got to meet Ryan Hall (sorry, no picture) and Deena Kastor. Deena not only noticed my hair feathers, but she also told me she liked them. Deena just gets it.

Deena also told us about this French toast her husband makes and, man, do I wish I lived in their house. That French toast sounded divine. I should’ve asked her if she needed a babysitter so I could get in on that French toast action. Missed opportunity.

Of course, being the Picky Bar enthusiast that I am, I couldn’t not hang with the other dynamic duo, Steph and Ben, who complete the Picky Package along with Lauren, Jesse, and Jenn. I got some quality time with Steph, who is also my “RC,” which stands for running coach, as well as her fiancé, Ben, who were both in town to run the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K. The abbreviation “RC” isn’t catching on like I envisioned it would, but I’m still hopeful. In addition to being my running brain, Steph knows her caffeine and introduced me to my new favorite drink: grande Americano with 2 pumps of mocha. Try it - you won’t be disappointed. (I did add some milk to mine, in case you’re curious).

Even better, when I was with the RC, I spotted Sally Kipyego. I probably scared the poor girl when I screamed, “Oh My Gosh! It’s the girl from Flotrack! I loved your interview! Congratulations! You are amazing.” I’m really good at playing it cool.

Finally, a few days after the marathon, I got to meet Sally, the inventor of not only rundies, but my favorite shirt on the planet, the “running is elemental” shirt! I was so appreciative that Sally took time out of her busy schedule to meet me for coffee and tell me about all of the awesome stuff Oiselle is scheming up. I’m training my fingers to be ready for clicking action once the goods become available for sale. That way, I won’t miss out on something the first time around (ie Rundies) or something that sells out (orange burke jacket). I’m still not over not having an orange burke jacket, but I guess I’ll get through the winter without it. 

Before I go, I’ll give you a few tips on the NYC marathon or long races in general that do not necessarily pertain to running faster, but that I feel are important:

  • Wear the Oiselle distance short for a marathon. I’m partial to the orange. Plenty of room for all of your gels or chews. I also was able to put my ipod shuffle in one of the pockets. I wanted my ipod for the corrals, but not for the actual race. The distance shorts are like Mary Poppin’s magical bag – they will fit everything you need and more.
  • If it’s a marathon like NYC, where you have to wait in the corrals for about an hour before the race, bring an old mylar space blanket and toilet paper for emergencies.
  • There is a hill at mile 8 when you turn from 4th Avenue onto Lafayette during the NYC Marathon. No one told me about that one.
  • Smile and wave to your friends cheering you on. I’ve found friends take better pictures than Brightroom.

A bientot! (See you soon!)

racing
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November 15, 2011 — sarah

Erin Ward at NYC Marathon in Three Parts

Racing

Erin Ward is a runner on the Oiselle racing team. She lives and trains in Minnesota. Her nickname is Jungle Chicken and she is a self proclaimed "crazy cat lady" for her two cats: Stanley and Harvey. She enjoys snowshoe racing, reading and champagne. Not in that order.

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Erin Ward's Blog: NYCM Recap Part One "My Jog Along the Streets of New York City"

*

 (Reader be warned: In the likely event that this lengthy and narcissistic recount of my experiences over the last four days at the New York City Marathon begins to bore you, I will start off with highlights and lowlights, and you can skip the rest.)

Highlights:

(tie)

My roommate, Firehiwot Dado, won the race. She won the New York City Marathon.

On Monday morning I spent $157 at m&m’s World in Times Square.

Lowlights:

Miles 11-26.2 of the marathon (with a few exceptions, to be outlined herein).

-------------------------------------------------

Thursday, November 3

 I arrived in New York City around noon and was instructed to take a van from the airport to the Hilton hotel where I was being housed courtesy of the ING New York City Marathon (I like to pronounce the ING as if it were the ending of a verb, as in runn-ing, rather than as the separate letters I-N-G. People look at me with pity, like “you poor ignorant Midwesterner.” But I play up to this stereotype because it’s fun.) I was told by the woman at the desk that the van would arrive within 15-20 minutes. After waiting 45 minutes and seeing everyone who had arrived after me boarding a van, I finally asked if my van was coming. At this point someone called my van to pick me up. This was my first lesson that my patient, passive, pensive personality would not fly in New York City. It was time to man up and get a little aggressive! Unfortunately, this realization didn’t really change my personality, as you will see over the next few days.

I arrived at the hotel and had a little trouble checking in. The room had been reserved in the name of my roommate, Firehiwot Dado, and to make matters worse, she had used a different name to reserve the room. The Africans often have multiple secret names, in my experience, and we Americans are not privy to many of them, because we won’t pronounce them correctly anyway. I also use two different last names, one my maiden name and one my previously married name, so between me and Firehiwot, we had about 200 total pounds of runner but five or six different last names in the room. Finally I went up to my room on the 14th of 44 floors. I walked in and saw a small pile of Ethiopian runner laying on the top of her covers in her bed. Firehiwot!!

We hugged and said our names, and then we stared at one another because we had run out of words that meant anything to one another. The funny thing about Americans, or perhaps English speakers more generally, is that when someone else doesn’t speak our language and we know this to be the case, we persist in trying to explain things by using gestures, which may be somewhat effective, and also by using English words! I probably did this a hundred times over the four days. In contrast, Firehiwot never once tried to speak to me in Amharic, as though by now even an idiot would have obviously picked up at least a few words of Amharic, for goodness sake! I brought out the wrapped Oiselle shirt that I had brought for her as a goodwill gift, and she opened it very carefully and hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks.

Firehiwot had just arrived that afternoon as well, but from 17 hours of travel. So she went to bed at about 5:00 p.m., and I had very little choice but to do the same. I didn’t want to wake her up—she needed to rest. She had one of the biggest races in the world to win in a few days.

Friday, November 4

Firehiwot’s coach, Haji, called before 7:00 the next morning to get her up for a run. He asked me if I’d like to come along and was surprised, I think, when I politely declined. First of all, I don’t tend to run before noon, and second, I don’t tend to run with the best in the world, at least two days before a major marathon. Haji and I had an interesting talk later that afternoon. He coaches a large group of elite runners in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and among these are eleven sub-2:28 marathon women and eight sub-2:08 men. He asked me for my marathon time, and I said, sheepishly, 2:45. He took this information in and asked me a very simple question: “Why?”

The answer is more complicated, though…. It is hard to explain to someone why you are so slow. He then said, “Your body is good,” meaning, I suppose, that it is very hard to fathom why someone who is not carrying at least 50 extra pounds would still run so slowly. It is an interesting question, and one I will continue to ponder over the next few post-marathon weeks. Why? I’m a little old. I’m a little lazy. I am fairly weak. I tend to allow negative thoughts to creep in. I eat way too much candy and drink way too much Red Bull and a little too much wine, but I’m not the poster girl for sloth or gluttony. I train well, and smart, and get a lot of (too much?) sleep. But wait… 2:45 is not slow! I totally forgot. This crazy shifting of perspective and comparison was one that I had to fight continuously all weekend. Every time someone said to me, “Your agent will help you with that,” I thought, “My agent?” I am going to create a fictional agent next time I do something like this. His name is going to be Slick McCool, and I am going to refer to him often. In fact, he is going to be my new best friend, and I am going to seek his assistance in all manner of difficult circumstances.

Friday otherwise passed in a sports-drink-induced-haze of elite athlete sightings and Ethiopian soap operas. I spent a solid 90 minutes trying to help Firehiwot call her husband back home from my cell phone without it costing me a hundred dollars. In order to place a call we had to dial an 11 digit toll free number from the phone card, then a 10 digit PIN code, then the international code, country code, area code, and number. But somehow we had one number too many in the sequence, and I could not communicate this to her, so I ended up trying pretty much every permutation and combination of numbers possible, all after entering the first 21 digit toll free and PIN digits. I wanted to cry. And then the soap operas started. If you want to know what the winner of the -ing NYC Marathon does to pass the time pre-race, google Dire Tube and Gemena 2. And then ask your friendly, endlessly compliant, eager-to-please Midwestern roommate to download episodes 1-25, one episode per 20 minutes. When that roommate tries to leave the room, look sad and point to the computer and ask, “How?”

In order to get away for a couple of hours and to clear my head, I was forced to walk to the marathon expo and spend my expected race winnings in advance in a frenzy of crowd mentality spending. Now that is what I’m used to—manic materialism! At last I felt at home. After gathering my loot, which weighed about as much as Firehiwot, I decided that I should try to hail a taxi to save my legs rather than risk the two mile walk back to the hotel. But, once again, I am not as aggressive as I might like, and after a few failed attempts I decided to just suck it up and walk back.

Saturday, November 5 (day before the race)

An odd and disturbing thing happens to me when I’m around free stuff. I’m not a wealthy person by any means, but I can certainly afford to buy beverages when necessary and don’t need to steal my food on a daily basis. But when food is free, as it is in the elite athlete hospitality suite, I suddenly become a hoarder. Gatorade is free? I’ll have three in each flavor! Power Bars are available? I don’t really like them, but they’re not cheap if you have to buy them, so I want a box!! And if I eat four for dinner, I can save my per diem allowance and actually make money!! What is that about? And heaven help me if there is free alcohol…well, that’s another blog post for another day. It is titled: Lemon Drop Martinis and Erin Drops to the Floor.

Another odd and disturbing thing happens to me when I’m in an unfamiliar and somewhat intimidating environment. I start to get this running commentary in my head about what is happening; I think it is my mind’s attempt to explain the situation to myself as if I am reading about it happening to someone else. This phenomenon in and of itself would be okay, perhaps even adaptive, but I think sometimes this commentary is not entirely in my head, but rather comes out of my mouth. Did “I just stepped into an elevator with Paula Radcliffe” just pop into my head, or did I actually say it? In order to make this less weird, I am going to start addressing these observations and narratives to Slick McCool, my new agent. I can hold up my cell phone as if I am actually talking to someone. Yeah. That would seem way more normal.

There is a saying that scares me that goes something like this: Sports don’t build character. They reveal it.” I’m pretty sure that it’s a bogus statement, because there is no way that I am a quivering, neurotic, self-conscious hoarder. Right, Slick? I have seen some odd behaviors from some of the pro athletes out here, though. For the most part, the world-class runners seem incredibly down-to-earth and friendly. I met Lauren Fleshman, and she could not be more personable and charming. Deena Kastor hugged me in the lobby, and I met her a couple of years ago when I stayed in her rental condo on Mammoth Lakes. She would have no reason to remember me. I did, however, overhear a runner pleading with a member of the race staff that, “I have very special needs.”

End of Part One

(photo credit: Miz Moo blog)

I thought this woman had to be kidding—surely she was being sarcastic. Nope. She really meant it. I immediately sent a text message of this little episode to my friend back home saying, “These are not my people.” I felt out of place, intimidated, and a little shy. And I don’t get shy. She wrote back, “That is why you need to qualify for the Trials. We need as many of our people out there as possible.” I felt safe and loved again. Friends are great, aren’t they?

Pre-race day always brings two mainstays of the elite marathon runner: the preparation of the water bottles to be put out on the course, and the elite athlete technical meeting. The former I love, and the latter I despise. I had brought out some special paint-spattered duct tape given to me by my buddy to decorate my water bottles, and (warning: product endorsement here) I can only put Nuun in them, an electrolyte beverage with no calories, because anything else makes me barf. In fact, at the expo the day before I had gone to the Nuun booth and told my pathetic barfy story to the woman working there, and she gave me a free Nuun bottle and a pack of 12 tablets in their new flavor, lemon tea, which has caffeine. I love Nuun! So I prepared my bottles, adding little foam jungle animal stickers to spice them up, and schlepped them up to the 43rd floor of the Hilton to turn them in. While waiting in a short line to check them in, I chatted with a guy who turned out to be a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was writing an article about the whole process of elite athlete fluids. I may at this point have shamelessly tried to say something erudite in order to get my name into the WSJ, but I must have failed, because the article ran without any mention of the Minnesotan with the cute jungle animal stickers on her bottles.

The next step was to go back to my hotel room to rest before the technical meeting. This was easier hoped for than accomplished, however, because Firehiwot’s people kept calling the room to make sure that she had turned in her bottles. First her coach, then her agent, then a stream of random Ethiopian dudes stopped by the room to make sure that she had turned them in. I am super jealous that she has people who check on this type of thing for her, because I have arrived at the starting line of races without my chip, without my number, and with two left racing flats. So next up: the technical meeting. I really wish that I could just send my agent, Skip, to these for me; the reason that I don’t like them is that they make me tremendously nervous and strip me of any confidence that I may have ever had about the upcoming race, which is historically quite low to begin with. Here’s the problem: these events are usually the first opportunity that you have to see what/whom you’re up against. In this case, I was up against the best in the world. The New York City Marathon technical meeting magnified this by a power of ten, and I suddenly felt very slow, very fat, very tall, and very white. And not just white compared to the Africans, which is to be expected, but also white compared to the Americans, Brits, Kiwis, et al who are supposed to be white. I live in Minnesota and don’t get much sun, and I had bleached my hair in an effort to be noticeable to my friends and family for the first 30 seconds of television race coverage. The other problem that I run into at the meeting is that I can sometimes convince myself in the days before big marathons that I have received an all-expenses paid vacation because I am so charming and witty, a real down-to-earth rock star. My fantasy is shattered when I go to the technical meetings and realize that I am expected to compete in a very long, grueling race as payback for the generosity of the race organizers. This is always the moment that the weekend rudely shifts from pleasure to business.

This business aspect of the weekend was further evidenced as I went to the pre-race dinner, which surprisingly offered neither alcoholic beverages nor candy corn. How did they expect me to calm my nerves? Well, I thought, I’d get something healthy in me and head back to my room to call some friends, maybe order a movie on TV, or read a little. First, though, Firehiwot requested that I administer a little physical therapy on her hamstrings in the form of applying kinesiotape, a fancy form of athletic tape, for those of you unfamiliar with the latest in expensive but well-marketed placebo therapies. I’m a big fan, so I had brought with me a roll of camouflage tape. I was a little concerned about playing doctor with one of the world’s fastest runners, but as it is non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical, I figured I couldn’t do too much damage. I did have an opportunity to do a lot of damage later that evening, however, when Firehiwot produced a sheet of what looked like over-the-counter pain medication pills and said, “One? Two?” and then pointed at her hamstrings. Oh boy. Had I been an equal competitor, I could have ruined her race by saying, “All of them. Twelve.” But as it were, my PR is 20 minutes slower than hers, so I had no reason to sabotage her race. So I told her to take one, and possibly one later if the pain persisted. I’m sure she had no idea what I was saying other than the number one, but dang! I should not have been the one to answer such a question. She took one, and then crawled under her covers and said “Goodbye,” which was her way of saying goodnight. It was so sweet, except that it was 6:00 p.m., and now I had hours to kill in the darkness before I could get to sleep. In fact, it was the night before Daylight Savings, so it was actually the new 5:00 p.m., a full 12 hours before we needed to wake up.

Or so I thought. At about midnight the light went on and I heard water from the faucet gushing and what sounded like water bottles being mixed up with the powdered sports drink that Firehiwot had brought in little baggies from home. Uh oh—I feared that this was when Firehiwot woke up for her major races. What did I know of her pre-race habits? We couldn’t talk to one another, so maybe this was the end of her night of sleep? Now I am a peace-loving girl, but I was not getting up for good at midnight, and so I was ready to fight. I got out of bed, turned out the bathroom light, and looked at my roommate sitting on the edge of her bed. She pointed at the little digital clock on the side table and said, “How many?” I don’t know what she meant, exactly, but I said, “Five more hours to sleep.” Again, I like to speak in English to people who don’t know English. But I also held up five fingers and made the international gesture for sleep (you know it—the hands together in prayer-like form with the head resting on them), and she went back to bed. Crisis averted.

Sunday, November 6 (RACE DAY!!)

The sound of the alarm clock on marathon morning brings the most intense and mixed emotions for me. Anything can happen—anything is possible! I got out of bed, cracked open a Red Bull (I know that my writing is laden with sarcasm, but I really did crack open a Red Bull), ripped open a Clif Bar, and began to get in my zone. And by “zone” I mean terrified stupor. I took a quick shower and put on my cute Oiselle outfit, which included a short-sleeved shirt that would set me apart from all of the other competitors who would be wearing either bra tops or singlets, at the most. But I always get cold, so I felt confident in my choice. My bib number, for the first time ever, had my NAME on it and not a number, and I was exceedingly proud of and excited about this. As Firehiwot got ready, she put on her brand-new bra top from Nike and found that the elastic around the ribcage was too tight. She elicited my help in cutting this elastic, first with a plastic knife with peanut butter residue and then with my fingernail clippers. Whew—close call on the wardrobe malfunction. Then she asked me by pointing if she should wear just her bra top, or her bra and a singlet. It was so bizarre to me that she was asking for my help in making this somewhat crucial decision, so I brought up the weather forecast, switched the scale from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and she still looked at me as if to say, “So what should I wear?” I thought at this point that an executive decision needed to be made, so I said “This,” and pointed to the singlet as well. And so, as evidenced by her soon-to-be-historic photos as she won the New York City Marathon, she wore both.

We headed down to breakfast at 5:45, and I plunked myself down next to Meb Keflezighi. Best move ever! This guy is truly a great man and a worthy hero and role model for all runners. He was friendly to everyone, chatting with us and seemingly relaxed about the upcoming race. Because the women’s elite race starts 30 minutes before the men, any woman running over 2:35 could look forward to getting caught by the elite men at some point. I told Meb that I would cheer for him as he passed, and he said that he’d cheer for me. I thought he was just being kind, because of course he would be too caught up in his race to notice the stragglers from the women’s race, but, as it turned out, he was sincere (foreshadowing…). He asked me what my uniform looked like so that he could look out for me, and I pointed at my shock blonde bleached hair and said, “You’ll recognize me by my hair.” He then smiled and pointed at his own bald head and said, “You’ll recognize me by my no hair.” If I wasn’t in love with Meb before, I certainly am now!! He has replaced Ryan Hall as my not-so-secret crush

We boarded the buses at 6:10 a.m. and I sat down next to Devon Crosby-Helms, whom I had met the night before at dinner. She is a famous ultra runner (and one helluva fun girl) who was slumming it with the marathoners for this race. In front of us sat Tyler Stewart, a wicked good triathlete, who also was competing in the race to see what it would be like to do a marathon without swimming and biking for the better part of a day beforehand. Across the aisle was Molly Pritz, who would debut at the distance in impressive fashion, establishing herself as a possible dark horse at the Olympic Trials. And then there was me, Erin Block Ward, an ACT and SAT tutor from Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am really good at math. Not so relevant in my present situation that morning, perhaps, but I was struggling to save some shred of self-confidence and worthiness.

The elite athlete warm-up tent was unreal. Hello Lauren Fleshman. Hello Jen Rhines. Hello Mary Keitany. I had promised myself that I would soak in the experience as much as possible, and not just sit there and freak about my race. At about 8:45 the race staff gathered us together and marched us to the starting line on the bridge. I was in utter awe of the magnitude of the event, and I was excited! When I got to the starting line area I saw my good friend Carrie Tollefson, a 2004 Olympian in the 1500m and my neighbor, who was doing broadcasting for the New York Road Runners. It was great to see a familiar face. I warmed up a little with Devon and Tyler, my new BFFs, and tried to remain calm and soak it all in. I stood on the starting line with all of these talented runners from all over the world and felt truly blessed. That feeling would last about two miles.

THE RACE:

The gun sounded and we were off! Lead vehicles and photographers on motorcycles led the way, and I tried to remain in contact with a group as we climbed the bridge. The first mile is entirely uphill, and we passed the mile marker in 6:22. Perfect. The only problem was that I had a fairly significant side cramp. I only get these in races, never in training, and only when I am particularly stressed. I prayed, actually prayed, that it would go away, because I couldn’t run with that thing stabbing me for 26 miles. It did go away around mile three, but those miles should be fun and relaxed, and instead I was focused on my breathing to try to ease the cramp. We ran mile two in about 5:50, but it is entirely downhill, so it was effortless. And that’s when I realized that I would be running solo for this race. I went through the 5K much faster than I should have, but still I was all alone. The little pack that I had been with was running too fast for me, so I wisely let them go, but I was a little sad to be alone. It is so much easier and more relaxing to breeze through those early miles with another runner or a pack of runners, but I tried to focus on the crowds and the cheers of “Go Erin.” I know my name was written on my bib, but still I felt that I had a special connection to the crowds, as though they were my friends. As each mile split came and went, I calculated (I told you I am good at math) how far under pace I was. It was frightening. I flew through the 10K, and then the 10 mile, in splits that I would be happy running for those distances alone, rather than as splits in a marathon, early in the season. It was at around the 10 mile mark that I realized that starting out so fast would end up being a pretty tragic error. By the time I hit the halfway point in 1:22, I knew that my dreams of qualifying for the Trials were over. While I was, at that point, a full minute under pace still, my body was already starting to shut down. I had my first thoughts of, “Oh, this might be difficult to finish.” Around mile 15 the course goes over another bridge, and it is dark, windy, cold, and lonely on this stretch. Spectators are not allowed on the bridges, and apparently neither was my will nor my soul. I felt like I was crawling. I felt cold. I felt disappointed, and mad, and weak. I felt like giving up, and I had ten miles to go. And then, nearly the end of the bridge, I could hear the faint beginnings of what would be a life-saving roar from the crowd. I had promised myself two things pre-race, that no matter how bad things got out there, I would: 1) finish the race, and 2) appreciate the crowds. As I turned the corner off the bridge and saw the cheering hoards, I waved in both directions and smiled my most grateful smile. And the decibel level doubled. And I was once again a happy runner. I was slow and happy, but happy. Thanks, New Yorkers.

End of Part Two (it’s almost over, I  promise!)

I was embarrassed and felt like I let down the race organizers who paid my way out and gave me a free room and all of those free Gatorades, Power Bars, and kittens. And then David said something that meant the world to me: “Thanks for finishing, Erin.”

I really like that last line as the final sentence in the story; I feel it’s a powerful way to end this little journal. It’s a nice summary statement, isn’t it, for running and life? But then I would leave out the best part of my weekend. After being helped to the heated finishers’ tent, I sat on a chair and felt my legs cramp and my body lose heat for about five minutes while I stared into space and contemplated whether I could get my pants on by myself or would have to summon additional help. With the will that I had been desperately trying to summon over those final miles, I managed to put on my pants and my jacket. Yeah, that’s right—all by myself. Victory! I hobbled out to the van that took us back to the hotel, hearing stories of victory and defeat. I sat next to German Silva, who is past the racing prime of his youth but once, as legend has it, used his race winnings to bring electricity to his village back home. I also commiserated with another American guy who said, “I honestly don’t know why I bother anymore.” Humans have all manner of strengths, and all manner of weaknesses, and a marathon shows a tiny part of this essential struggle. We convince ourselves that it is the end-all-be-all of who we are (or at least we do if we are neurotic like me), but it is actually a laughably inconsequential part of who we are. In fact, I don’t know why we bother anymore. But I know that after my typical two or three weeks of post-failed-marathon temper-tantrum retirement, I’ll start looking around for my next big race. I’ll ask my coach to write up a training plan, and I’ll get excited about it. One of my best friends says that she thinks we run because we’re just not creative enough to think of anything else to do. But it’s probably more that we can’t think of anything we’d rather do.

But the best part of my weekend? I got back to my hotel room and flopped onto the bed, completely drained of anything strong or courageous or good that I had in my body. (No, that’s not the best part…wait for it.) I called my friends and my family to complain, and to struggle to explain, more to myself than to them (because, really, they don’t care that much about the difference between a 2:45 and a 2:55), what in the world had gone so terribly wrong. And then there was a noise at the door and Firehiwot walked in. I threw down my phone in mid-whine and ran to my roommate, picked her up in a big hug, and screamed and twirled us around the room! About an hour before, I had received a text from one of my friends back in Minnesota with the news: “I was just on my way out the door to work when I saw that your roommate won the race.” That was the first I had heard of it, because she had already been whisked away to press conferences by the time I finished, a full thirty minutes after her. I was thrilled for her, and so happy to celebrate her victory; to see her shy excitement was an indescribably fulfilling experience. She kept saying, “Thank God,” over and over again as I showed her the photos that had already been posted on the internet from her victory. NBC was playing a two-hour highlight show from the race, and I was glued to the coverage of her, but she didn’t appear to be too interested. I guess she knew the outcome. About an hour later she pointed to her head and made a sad face: headache. She laid down on her bed and turned out her light, so I turned off the television where she was about to win the NYC Marathon on the big screen, turned off the rest of the lights in the hotel, drew the curtains, and left her to sleep. I headed out to find a Red Bull, call a few more friends, and see Times Square.

The next morning when I woke up, Firehiwot’s gold medal was sitting on the bedside table next to my empty Red Bull can and our running watches. We had been through quite an adventure, and today was a new day.

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November 09, 2011 — sarah

Meggie's Marathon Checklist

Racing

Meggie Smith is a Oiselle racing team member. When she's not running she's blogging about it (and much more) at her blog, The Thinks I Can Think. Meggie will be running the New York City Marathon tomorrow! She's going to rock it! Here is her checklist for getting race-day-ready. (written by Meggie Smith)

 

 

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While a training plan for the 3-4 months leading up to a marathon might be deemed the most important aspect of marathon preparation for some, for me, a “checklist”the most important aspect of marathon preparation for some, for me, a “checklist” of things to do helps for the all-important last week when I start to become emotionally unstable. Here are a few things I’ve done this past week to prep for the NYC Marathon.

Meggie’s Marathon Checklist:

PHYSICAL:
- Sleep: From what I’ve been told, your running the week before a marathon is somewhat superfluous. Seeing as I haven’t been able to run this week because my IT band, I figured the next best thing I could do was to make sure I slept enough. Sleep is restorative; it’s when your body releases growth hormone and is critical for recovery. I like to think that sleep is when my body absorbs all of my training. So, I’ve slept upwards of 8 hours every night.
- Realize your body is most likely lying to you: In this last day before the marathon, my IT band has decided to remind me that it’s not happy. I’m trying my best to ignore as, before other marathons (ok, only 2), my legs have always felt heavy or I may feel like I’m getting sick. I distract myself with mindless TV shows.
- Look over all of the training you did: When nerves start to get the best of you, it’s sometimes easy to forget all the good workouts and long runs you had and, instead, remember the bad ones. I like to look back through my log or my personal blog and read about all of the particularly good training runs or races I’ve had along the way. It calms me down.

MENTAL:
- Write a letter to yourself: I got this idea from World and NCAA Champion gymnast, Anna Li, who wrote a letter to herself before her final NCAA season outlining how she would like to feel at the end of her senior season. I did the same thing a few weeks ago and plan on doing that tonight. I was surprised that when I wrote it, my most recurring thought was that I hoped I had a good experience and was “smiling across the finish line.”
- Draw your marathon mentality as a garden: I somewhat stole this idea from Lauren Fleshman and her Believe I Am training diary. In the training diary, there are cryptic flowers that actually spell out words, such as “joy,” “strong,” and “calm.” Further, in the diary’s “Map to Believe,” Lo and Ro (the co-creators of Believe I Am) instruct to “pull weeds,” meaning negative thoughts and “plant flowers,” meaning positive statements and mantras. I’ve focused on this a good bit in my training, and even drew a garden of flowers and weeds representing my “marathon mentality.” And, trust me, I’m not artist. It’s on the level of a 3rd grader’s drawing.
- Watch “The Rachel Zoe Project”: Watching Rachel freak out over being dress-less for the Golden Globes in Season 2 reminds me that everyone freaks out over something that is important to them. It may be a marathon or it may be styling Cameron Diaz for the Golden Globes. It’s normal to be nervous over something that is important to you.

FASHION:
- Spend several weeks contemplating outfit choices: I like all of Oiselle’s shorts, so this was a dilemma for me. My “good luck” shorts are my black Lori shorts. However, I needed more pockets for all of my gels. So, I’m going with the orange distance shorts. I’m hoping the orange will stand out to all of my “fans.” All of those people watching tomorrow are coming to see me, right?
- Paint Your Nails: For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’m passionate about nail color choices. I spend far too much time debating between which brand of polish is better – Essie or OPI? For the NYC marathon, I went with a deep blue (“Baubing for Baubles” by Essie) on all of my nails except for the ring finger, which is orange (“Vermillionaire” by Essie). I call any blue color for a race, “belief blue,” and consider orange my lucky color. Hence, I went with both for the marathon.
- Wear something sparkly: Personally, I’m going with a sparkly orange headband. There’s something about a sparkly headband that just makes me feel better about life.

Good luck to anyone racing! I’ll see you on the other side of 26.2, most likely after indulging in something terribly unhealthy.

racing
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November 05, 2011 — sarah

Everybody Poops (And Good Luck to NYC Marathoners)

Racing

This morning I found myself reading an article on ESPN.com about Lauren Fleshman’s marathon debut in New York this weekend.

The article talks about her accomplishments, training, entrepreneurial ventures … and then all of a sudden it talks about poop. Basically her fear of “tummy issues”.  And there in lies why I love Lauren Fleshman. She’s like the section of US Magazine, Stars: They’re just like US! Except she’s not teetering around on 7 inch stilettos picking out a cantaloupe at Whole Foods, she talking about running on a real level. Really real.  Poop-level real.

Her poop talk is reason #324 why the running community is so awesome. I worry about poop! Lauren Fleshman worries about poop. And so do you. Admit it.  It’s all part of being a runner, along with waking up early on Sunday to run 20 miles instead of brunch, experimenting until you find the right energy gel, making sure your lucky sports bra is washed and ready for race day, adding up weekly mileage, doing crazy stride drills in public, using the word 'fartlek', obsessively checking race day weather…all that good stuff.

It's great to be a part of this (big, bizarre) running tribe. And to you fellow running tribe members racing New York: Revel in the community of runners. Enjoy your moment and all the work you've put in to get there. Soak up the experience for everything it is. (Map out the porta-potties) And of course: GO FAST. TAKE CHANCES.

(That means you Meggie Smith, Elizabeth Bailey Weil and Erin Ward!!!)

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November 03, 2011 — sarah

Power of 9 - Design Contest Submissions

Style

Hey, hey, a couple of months ago we announced an exciting new project we're doing with Title Nine...a new collection of tees that will be sold next year, the 40th Anniversary of the Title IX Enactment that brought widespread equality in sports for women. We asked you, and the Title 9 community, to throw their hat in the ring...to create t-shirt designs that embodied the spirit of IX.

The result was a full in-box! And a lot of very cool artwork, all revolving around this big idea of equality in sports and what it means, past and present. Ultimately, there were four winning designers who produced 8 designs. We can't wait to share them with you, beginning in February -- available for sale exclusively through Title 9 and Oiselle.com.

In the meantime, a huge shout out and thank you to the designers who submitted ideas. Please learn more about them, and see their designs, on our Facebook page. Beautiful ideas from creative people! Thank you, thank you!

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October 28, 2011 — sarah

What to Wear for Fall Running

Style

Despite my 17 years of running experience, I still struggle with what to wear as the temperatures drop in the fall. The first couple of chilly mornings I wear way too many clothes. I end the run with shirts tied around my waist, and hat tucked in my waistband, drenched in sweat. Here are the rules I've learned to follow over the years:

  1. You should be slightly cold until around mile one. Seriously, like clockwork right at mile one, you'll notice you warm up.
  2. Dress as if it 20 degrees warmer and you're headed outside to stand around. What I mean is if it's 48 degrees, imagine it's 68 and you're getting dressed to watch a parade. You'd wear a tee or light long sleeve tee and shorts. So wear a tee and shorts to run. Maybe add gloves. If it's raining or windy add a light top layer, maybe a vest. 
  3. Layers! Every runner should be armed with a wicking base layer, a running vest, a light and heavy jacket, capris, and pants. Mix and match to run comfortably all winter, no matter what. 
  4. Know your "no shorts" temperature cut off. Mine is 43 degrees. Yes, seriously. If it's 42 degrees it's a capri or pants situation. Find your temperature. But anything under 35 degrees is a no-no for 99% of people unless they're racing.
  5. And finally it doesn't matter how cute you look if cars can't see you. Headlamp, flashlight, blinking arm band... or have your cake and eat it too with stylish reflective detailing. Obviously Oiselle has you covered there. Because we love cake... I mean reflective detailing.

Now that you've got the basics, lets get down to it with a fall weather pop quiz.

It's 6:17am, 39 degrees, a slight wind from the north laced with drizzle. What do you wear!?

If you said a base layer with a running vest, shorts or capris and optional gloves - You're right!

1. Base Layer Top

2. Gilman Vest *wind, water resistant AND reflective.

3. Lesley Knicker

This is easy to adapt to a colder day, (say 33 - 28 degrees) simply swap the Lesley Knickers for Onyx Tights and the Gilman Vest for it's full body counterpart: the Burke Jacket. Add a hat and gloves.

1. Base Layer Top

2. Burke Jacket

3. Onyx Tights

What are your fall and winter 'what to wear' rules?

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October 18, 2011 — sarah

Oiselle Orders Now with 100% More Nuun

Social

Oiselle HQ runs on Nuun. Seriously, our office is fully stocked. It's so easy to have on hand in its adorable little tube. And with our water situation - tap water - it's a great electrolyte solution. Just plop a tab in plain old water and ta-da, super water! Water with the perfect balance of electrolytes, sodium, potassium and light refreshing flavor. (We love Strawberry Lemonade)

Nuun is a neighbor business here in Seattle. But even more so, like a cool older sibling. A start-up that, like Oiselle, has benefitted from our city’s very active angel investor community; people who, being athletes themselves, get the big, beautiful picture that is the sporty, competitive lifestyle. Living proof is Mason Reay (@runhydrated), President of Nuun. He doesn’t just lead an active company, he lives it. For evidence, look no further than this year’s Hood to Coast madness...you may have seen him in a Sparkle Skirt, as he was a van driver for one of two rad, all women’s teams that Nuun sponsored (including some of our favorite bloggers!)

Photo credit: Team Sparkle member Emily who blogs as Sweat Once A Day.

Also from Sweat Once A Day.

Mason stopped by Oiselle HQ last Friday to run with us, and brought us hundreds of single serve Nuuns. Obviously we could drink all of those in days flat. But since we've been wanting to introduce everyone to Nuun, we decided to include Nuun in web orders until supplies run out. Okay, that was our plan the whole time. :)

Rejoice thirsty runners of the world! Oiselle orders now with 100% more Nuun!

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October 17, 2011 — sarah