Detroit Marathon: Week 18 training recap

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Well, here we are — 18 weeks down, and just a few days to go! The bad news is that my calf has been acting up this week (aching after Monday’s treadmill run), but the good news is that I’m at peace with my game plan for race day, which is “slow and steady.”

After training took a turn for the worse in the past two months, my first objective was to heal up enough to get to the start (check!). Now it’s time to focus on getting across that finish line on Sunday.

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Here’s what the past week looked like, according to the original training plan:

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And here’s what I’ve actually been doing, as per my run coach’s recommendation:

  • Monday: Run on treadmill (30 run/1 walk x 2), PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Elliptical (45 mins), strength training, PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Run (45-60 mins), OFF, PT exercises
  • Thursday: Recumbent bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Friday: Run (30-45 mins), Elliptical/bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Saturday: OFF, PT exercises
  • Sunday: RACE DAY!

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As far as race prep goes, I’m treating it more like an ultra and aiming for stamina over speed. This means I’ll be carrying a hydration pack with some essentials instead of going for the usual less-is-more approach to race day.

Since I also lost some endurance during my time-out from training, I’ll need to fuel early and often to avoid the inevitable “wall” as long as possible. So I’m packing salt tabs, TUMS and both water and Tailwind flavorless electrolyte beverage in order to be self-sufficient on the course (this is helpful both physically and mentally, at this point).

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Also in my Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta? A few Bonk Breakers, Picky Bars and Hammer Gels, along with my cell phone for emergencies (i.e. worst-case scenario = DNF), which I’m hoping I can avoid by skipping this week’s runs so I can rest up my legs and get my calf calmed down.

I’m hitting the expo on Saturday to get my race packet, but will be taking it easy other than that. It’s an odd feeling worrying less about time/pace and more about my ability to finish, but I’ll be following Coach’s orders and doing a 10-min run/1-min walk ratio to try to get ‘er done as swiftly — and safely — as possible.

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Stay tuned for race updates via social media, and I’ll be posting my race recap Monday. Any positive vibes & healing thoughts much appreciated in the meantime so I can finish healthy and strong; thanks very much!

Making a game plan for the Detroit Marathon

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It’s no secret that things haven’t gone as smoothly this training cycle as I would have liked. But rather than getting angry at my body and blaming it for not being able to hold up to the rigors of a tough running schedule, I’ve accepted responsibility for a combination of faulty mechanics and inattention to the finer points of injury prevention.

As such, my original goal time of 3:50 — which seemed well within reach based on my pacing prior to injury — is pretty much a pipe dream at this point. After taking a month off from running to heal my medial tibial stress response (aka almost-a-stress-fracture), I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’ve got to reset my race-day expectations.

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Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what will happen between when the gun goes of and when I (hopefully) cross the finish line, which both excites and terrifies me. Why? Well, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles.

But after giving it some thought, I’ve made the following goals for Sunday’s race to keep myself motivated and moving forward:

1. Good Goal: Cross the finish line, healthy and injury-free, regardless of time

2. Better Goal: Finish somewhere between four and five hours, depending on how the run/walk ratios go

3. Best Goal: Finish with a new personal record (anything under 4:07:46). Yeah right, but a girl can dream?!

Although my run coach and I have been discussing strategy this past week, I’m still digesting his suggestion for a 10 run/1 walk ratio. There’s a delicate balance between taking it slow and taking it too slow, so I’m trying to figure out the right mix of pacing and duration of runs to get me to the finish line as quickly as possible and in one piece.

Overall, though, I think I’m going to treat it like an ultra — over-prepare and find a steady pace so I can finish strong. My plan is to see how my final runs go today and Friday before finalizing the run increments, which I’ll probably end up tweaking during the race based on how my legs and lungs are holding up.

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Am I bummed about not being able to “race” this race? YES. But there comes a point where you have to not only deal with the reality of a situation, but also be appreciative of what you can do instead of what you can’t. Plus, three things have really changed my perspective on this race in the past few weeks.

First, one of Hubby’s and my most beloved friends passed away late last month. To describe him as the successful businessman, doting husband and loving father he was just doesn’t do him justice, however; he was one of those one-in-a-million people who made an impact on the life of everyone with whom he crossed paths.

So I’m dedicating this race to Burt Baptiste. And to his beautiful family — his wife, Danielle, and their two daughters, Milla and Emme. Their strength, poise and positive attitudes in the midst of tragedy have inspired so many of us, and I hope that I can have some small part in helping to make sure that his memory is never forgotten. #RIPBB

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Second, one of my running heroes, Kara Goucher, wrote a terrific blog post on handling setbacks with grace, patience and perseverance. The entire piece hit home with me (well, aside from the whole ‘professional athlete’ part), but one line in particular struck me as she was describing her injuries, disappointments and what has been a long road on her return to racing:

“Instead of stressing about how far behind we are, we need to focus on the progress we are making and continue to make….I may not be where I want to be, but I am so grateful to be here at all.”

With a laser focus on planning, training and prepping for a goal race of the season, it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. But even with our setbacks, our injuries, our derailed training plans, it’s important to keep things in perspective and find joy in the journey because you never know exactly where it’ll lead — or what you’ll learn in the process.

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Third, my friend Doris Steere has unknowingly served as inspiration by example while she’s been on her own journey this season. After dealing with similar calf issues eight weeks out from her goal race, she proceeded to break a rib three weeks out. But rather than give up, she hit it hard with rehab work and ended up at the starting line of Augusta 70.3, saying:

“I make no promises for race day except to try and do my best with the hand I’ve been dealt….without quality training sessions to look back on, I’ve got to rely on muscle memory, experience, determination and pure grit.”

And she did just that, managing to nab a new PR despite a blown-out tire, poor road conditions and an aggravated rib on race day. Now, if that isn’t motivation enough to keep on going when the going gets tough, I don’t know what is.

d5042a196e8f155d502ee76d8c240fe0So, final thoughts going into the race this weekend? Getting to the start line is victory enough this time, and even though I’m not sure exactly what shape I’ll be in when I get there or how the race will go, I do know the way in which I want to finish.

My week 18 recap will go up Friday, and I’ll be posting race updates on social media this weekend before the official recap goes up Monday. Thanks, again, for following along…here goes nothing! 

Recipe: Paleo-friendly banana bread

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Eating healthy can be tough when one of your favorite fall activities is curling with a hot pumpkin-spiced latte while something yummy bakes in the oven. But after watching the eye-opening film Fed Up (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a must-watch), we’re making a concerted effort to cut down on sugar, forgo processed foods and make smarter tweaks to our favorite recipes.

Like this one I found for banana bread — it seems like we’ve always got a few over-ripe bananas that need to be used. They add natural sweetness, and using coconut flour in baked goods is an excellent lower-carb, high-fiber and gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.

The best part, though? Due to the higher fiber content, coconut flour doesn’t spike your blood sugar as quickly as grain-based flours — i.e. you won’t have that inevitable crash that comes post-sugar high. So you can have your cake…er, banana bread…and eat it (guilt-free), too!

Paleo-Friendly Banana Bread

(Recipe adapted from CivilizedCavemanCooking.com)

Ingredients: 

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • pinch sea salt

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Combine bananas, eggs, nut butter and butter in a mixing bowl
  3. Once wet ingredients are blended, add in coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, agave syrup and sea salt and mix well
  4. Grease or line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper before pouring in batter
  5. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  6. Remove from oven and flip bread out onto a cooling rack
  7. Slice and serve!

This was my first time experimenting with coconut flour, and I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed. The texture and consistency seem similar to whole-wheat flour, which will make your baked goods slightly more dense.

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Not so dense, though, that you lose the cake-like quality of a good banana bread. And surprisingly enough, we didn’t even need butter; it was perfectly delicious and moist enough to munch on straight out of the oven!

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How do you feel about making over your favorite recipes with healthier ingredients? 

Detroit Marathon: Week 17 training recap

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Marathon training while crunching through fall leaves — even though this season’s program hasn’t gone exactly as planned, I can’t complain!

As you can see, the Hanson’s program doesn’t do a heavy taper in the final two weeks before the race (49 miles?!), which is good because I’m also slowly adding mileage to get my body acclimated for a few hours of activity at once.

Here’s the original schedule:

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And here’s my adapted version:

  • Monday: Revocycle class, strength training, PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Run outside (10 run/1 walk x 6 = 66 mins)
  • Wednesday: Elliptical (45 mins), PT exercises
  • Thursday: Run outside (20 run/1 walk x 3 = 63 mins), PT exercises
  • Friday: OFF, PT exercises, stretching & foam rolling
  • Saturday: Run outside (25 run/1 walk x 3 = 78 mins), PT exercises
  • Sunday: Elliptical (60 mins), strength training, PT exercises

I’ve got some new scenery this week, too, because I’m home in Michigan, visiting family and working remotely while I’m squeezing in my final workouts before race day. There’s still a whole lot of green in this picture, but the leaves are starting to change, so it’s a great time of year to be here.

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And my workouts are going pretty well! The upside is that I haven’t lost a lot of speed and I have been able to maintain some good endurance with my cross training.

But the downside, as I’m finding out, is that I must be compensating ever so slightly on my left side to favor my right. I’m feeling a few aches and pains in my left hip, hamstring and knee, so I’ve got to be careful.

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It’s also going to be tough to rein myself in on race day. I’m still mulling over my final goals because — as you can see from the pacing below, which was from my recent 20 run/1 walk workout — I could potentially make a run for it because it’s a flatter, more forgiving course than my last one.

But I don’t want to injure myself too badly in the process, so I’m going to see how the next few workouts go before making an official game plan. As much as I want to push myself, it’s not worth another round of rehabbing at the PT, so the toughest battle come race day could actually be the mental one.

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In the meantime, though, my coach has me sticking to my PT work, foam rolling some Trigger Point release techniques in order to keep things loose and functioning properly through full ranges of motion. The goal is to work up to a 60-minute run with no walk breaks next week before we bring mileage down toward the big day.

Onward to week 18; thanks for following along!

Fave Fix: FlipBelt running belt

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Running is a constant game of trial and error. Sometimes you strike gold with a shoe that complements your stride or a gel that sits well on a sensitive tummy. Other times you strike out, be it a chafe-y short, a hat that overheats…or that time I tried to outsmart myself during a half marathon and store two gels in my sports bra (long story short, it ended very badly for both ‘girls’).

So I’m always on the lookout for gear that allows me to take any element of chance out of runs, particularly the long ones where there’s A) a higher risk of something going awry, and B) decent odds that I’ll be a good distance from home when it happens. And bonus points if it allows me to go hands-free, because we all know that the amount of “stuff” you have to carry is directly proportional to your mileage — meaning, mo’ miles, mo’ problems juggling my keys, phone, headphones, gels, water, etc.

Enter FlipBelt, which is one of those so-simple-it’s-brilliant products — literally, it’s a tubular fabric waistband in which you can tuck all your must-have items while exercising (click here to see it in action). And to keep everything even more secure, all you have to do is flip the belt inward, effectively “locking” the openings against your body so nothing pops out.

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Easy-peasy. But does it work?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had notoriously bad experiences with products that sit around my hips while running. Be it my mechanics, anatomy or just personal preference, I get super annoyed when anything slips, bounces or is at all noticeable (again, like that time I tried a hip hydration pack and ended up having to strap it — mid-run — around the lower half of my butt to keep it from jostling around = #RunningFail).

The shot above is of me in the FlipBelt with six gels in it, plus my keys (there’s even a handy little lanyard key clip if you’re especially OCD about losing them, like I am). I took it for a few test runs during some of my recent treadmill workouts, so it got put through the paces thoroughly at both a walk and a jog.

My verdict? It didn’t budge, bounce or otherwise both me. Success!

The only con I can see is that it isn’t waterproof, but that’s probably so you don’t end up with a big, hot ring of sweat around your waist. And if you want to store your phone in the FlipBelt and keep it from getting wet, there’s an easy fix: just slip it in a waterproof Ziploc bag, and you’re good to go. When you’re using it to play music, however, or want to access it more often, like I do, then you may want to opt for an armband for regular access.

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Not only is it easy-care (the fabric is machine washable), but it’s also so easy-wear that I’m even considering breaking my “nothing new on race day” rule and using it in my upcoming marathon to tote all the essentials — nutrition, phone and keys — for 26.2 miles.

For more information or to order one of your own, visit FlipBelt.com.

This post was sponsored by FlipBelt through their partnership with Fit Approach. I was not compensated monetarily, but was provided a FLipBelt for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Guest Race Recap: Hubby takes on the Portland Half Marathon

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Since I’m sidelined from racing while I prep for Detroit these next two weeks, I thought I’d hand the reins over to Hubby to let him share his race-day experience from this year’s Portland Marathon Half.

Although his pre-race plans are, ahem, “unconventional” (sorry, hanging out in a bar and drinking beers the day before the race does not count as carb-loading, hon), he did managed to fight for a strong finish and snag a shiny, new PR.

Here’s how it went down, in his own words:

Portland Half Marathon 2014

With Jen getting back into the swing of running, but not wanting to push it too much leading up to her Detroit Marathon, I ended up running the Portland Marathon Half myself yesterday. I thought, why not just run it for fun? But of course, once race morning came, I figured I’d push it a little. Having done the Portland Triathlon two weeks ago, I still had the competitive juices flowing.

The Start

Yesterday morning could not have been more beautiful. I am an Oregon native and always remember Indian summer in October, but it has been an exceptional last week. With a Saturday filled with watching Beaver football and Timbers soccer, however, you might say I didn’t really prime myself with an agreeable “diet,” although I did rest my legs.

I woke up early, put on my gear, decided to run in my new Hoka Conquests, and ran the mile or so to the starting line. I got in the corral and almost immediately the race director announced we would be singing the national anthem — only someone would start us off, and the crowd would finish the song ourselves.

I stood next to a older guy in orange and black, and assumed he was a fellow Beaver fan; he was hoping to get a 1:45, and I thought I’d try to do the same. The gun went off, and away we went.

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Miles 1-5

This was essentially the only uphill portion of this race. Compared to the last half I did in SF (Rock ‘n’ Roll), it was nice to only have a couple small hills and, really, the rest was pretty flat. I took off a little quicker than expected, around a 7:30 pace.

I will say that these are some fun miles with bands playing, high-fiving pirates, signs encouraging “cropdusting” and a picturesque loop up towards OHSU and above south waterfront. The climb was worth it, though, for the early morning views of Mt. Hood off to the right on the way back into town. My favorite parts were the bands playing music on overpasses and forklifts.

Then the route headed down towards the Willamette waterfront, and I could see our apartment building as we started a long straightaway up to mile nine in north Portland.

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Miles 5-9

These were miles where I could definitely feel the dehydration start to set in. It’s a long, pretty flat stretch that seems to never end. I downed Ultima at pretty much every fuel station and had a few gummy bears, which helped a little but seemed to upset my stomach a bit.

I decided at about mile eight to just do water from then on. I think this helped, although I could feel my pace slowing. My friend from the start passed me, and I stayed on his heels until about mile 11.

What I enjoyed most here was being able to run my first half along with full marathoners. It was inspiring to see these people make the turn around mile 10 toward the East side and still have another 16 miles that, thankfully, I didn’t have to run.

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Mile 10-13.1

I would call these the wish-I hadn’t-“dehydrated”-myself-yesterday miles. About mile 10 my legs started to feel really heavy, and I felt really thirsty. Just when I felt I needed a fuel station, there wasn’t one for about a mile and a half.

Around 11 miles in, I walked through the fuel station and drank two glasses of water, gave myself 30 seconds to walk and then started to plod along again. My pace had slowed considerably to about 8:45ish per mile as I got back into town and started the final stretch.

With the announcer congratulating me on a strong finish, I pushed across the finish line. My unofficial time was 1:50:27, which was about five minutes slower than I wanted, but still a PR and a fun morning run in my favorite city.

Final Thoughts

Today was one of those runs where I never felt like I got “in the zone.” I was also a bit frustrated with the last three miles, as this has always been my weak part of each half. A lesson learned today is that I need to prep my body the day before with something other than the fantastic Oregon IPAs and Moscow mules.

I was tasked to take a couple of pictures along the route, which I didn’t do a great job of. But I did get a picture of a girl’s tattoo that I though Jen would love. It’s a Dairy Queen ice cream cone — which, come one, we all love — and the word “Hustle.” Side note: My first job was at the Dairy Queen in Corvallis, Ore., where I unofficially invented the mint Oreo blizzard (Jen doesn’t believe this story, but it was corroborated recently by someone I worked with at DQ).

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All in all, it was a great day, and I wish I could have had Jenny there by my side, but I know she was there in spirit. And I was happy to have earned my Besaw’s Eggs Benedict and an afternoon of watching football and napping in the park.

Next up for me: the Silver Falls Trail Run half marathon on Halloween weekend with some great friends from the Bay Area. Uh oh, I have a feeling I may be “fueling” in the same manner as I did before this one, too. And can’t wait till next year’s PDX half…or maybe full???? I still don’t know how Jenny does it!!

Congratulations to all Portland Marathon participants, as well as anyone else who was racing this past weekend!

Detroit Marathon: Week 16 training recap

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Normally the two weeks before the race are all about tapering — i.e. decreasing mileage and intensity in order to make sure your body is as rested as possible so you can maximize your potential. But since I haven’t run much in the last month, things are a lot different this time around; I’ll actually be trying to slowly (and safely) ramp up in mileage in preparation for race day.

Even though I’m technically out of the woods with my injury, I can’t just jump back in from where I left off because if I bite off more than my body can chew, it’ll only set me back. So I’ve got to slowly start building again to raise my level of cardiovascular fitness, continue to work on my weak links and develop the strength and stability to prevent future injury.

Of course, this makes it interesting when you’ve got a marathon in two and a half weeks…but more on that later.

Here’s what was on the schedule this week:

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And here’s how my actual workouts are panning out:

  • Monday: Elliptical (45 min), plyometric & Bosu stabilization exercises, physical therapy
  • Tuesday: Revocycle class (45 min), PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Swim (30 min, ~1300m), strength training, treadmill run intervals (2 min run + 1 min walk x 10 = 22 min), PT exercises
  • Thursday: OFF, Bosu stabilization exercises, foam rolling, PT exercises, run coach strategy session
  • Friday: Treadmill run intervals (10 min run + 1 min walk x 4 = 44 mins), PT exercises
  • Saturday: Aerobic recovery (long bike ride, 1.5-2 hours), massage, PT exercises
  • Sunday: Treadmill run intervals (10 min run + 1 min walk x 5 = 55 mins), PT exercises

Three things of note this week:

First, my PT “graduated” me; I’m feeling strong and was able to run for 15 minutes without pain last weekend, so she referred me to a running coach at the training facility to make a plan for getting up to 26.2 in a matter of weeks. Frankly, I haven’t a clue on how to go about that, so I’m glad to have help.

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Second, I spoke with the coach yesterday, and together we made the call  for me to officially bow out of the Portland half marathon this weekend. His thinking is that it won’t help me, fitness-wise, at this point and could only potentially hurt me. I totally agree. But I’m still disappointed — and, frankly, a bit scared — being this far behind so close to the marathon.

Third, and along those lines, we had a really open, honest and difficult discussion yesterday. Although I’ve got a good base of fitness and have been racing regularly this year, the fact is, I’m running out of time. To jump into too many miles too quickly might injure me again before race day, yet to not do enough mileage in advance might be damaging to my body when I’ve suddenly got to run 4+ hours on race day.

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We talked about potentially backing out of the race altogether and focusing on another one in the spring…but after a long year of racing, my body needs a break and, mentally, I was hoping to switch things up and focus on getting faster at shorter distances and getting back on the trails. So a slow, steady and cautious build it’ll be in these last two weeks in order to try to complete the Detroit Marathon on October 19.

Notice I said “complete:” I had a rough day yesterday coming to terms with the fact that racing this event simply wouldn’t be a good call. It comes down to staying healthy and strong, advised the coach, rather than digging myself into a deeper hole that I have to spend all off-season getting myself out of. It helps to try to keep perspective in these situations — there will be other races — but it’s still a process of mourning having to let go of a goal you’ve been working toward for six months.

It sucks. I’m angry — mostly at myself for starting an aggressive training program when I wasn’t 100 percent. I know better, but I let my excitement get the best of me. So I’ve got to accept it, learn from it and move forward. And I know if I’m able to run another marathon in the future, it’ll be as a stronger, smarter runner. Which is the cruel irony of this sport!

On a lighter note, one exciting part of getting to run again is trying out new running shoes. I’ve been a longtime fan of my Asics Gel Kayanos, but since my PT was thinking they’re a little too stable for me, I’m taking a new model for a spin: Hoka’s Conquests.

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They may look like a beast of a shoe (seriously, the outsole is huge), but the beauty of them is in their state-of-the-art weight-to-resilience ratio and cushioning. Billed as being “fast, highly-responsive” shoes, the Conquests are light as can be and promote accurate foot roll through the gait cycle — not to mention they’ve been comfy as hell as I’ve been slowly breaking them in.

More time — and mileage — will tell, but I’m excited to see if these might be my new “sole” mates on the road. Between now and next week’s recap, I’ll (fingers crossed) be able to break them in a bit more.

Stay tuned for week 17; thanks for the kind words, encouragement and for following along!